Oh what shall I ask….

I feel like I’m still pondering about THANKSgiving.  I’ve been thinking back on an experience I had around 10 or 11 years ago.  I was participating in the “Know Your Religion” program back then, and I’d do a LOT of driving, so I had time for a LOT of thinking.  On this particular day, I was driving along in the beautiful desert between Safford and Globe in Arizona, and I was singing along with the Tabernacle Choir.  We (ha ha: “WE!”) were currently singing “The Lord is My Shepherd.”  I began thinking about one particular phrase: “O what shall I ask of His/Thy providence more.”  Wow.  That is such a good phrase and question!

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Providence.  Provide.  Provisions.  Provident living.  Good, huh.  Good stuff.

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One of my favorite Church handbooks has always been Providing in the Lord’s Way.  There’s a lot in there about providing.  To provide is to look after or attend to.  To be cautious and careful.  Provident living would be to guard and carefully use all that comes within our stewardship – all resources and blessings (once you start listing or naming them, you can hardly stop).

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To provide is to make provision or adequate preparation.  I love a quote I found somewhere and wrote down: “In time of peace, provide for war; In time of war, provide for peace.”  Ahead of time, beforehand, we make provision for possibilities.  And if we are prepared, we need not fear (see D&C 38:30).

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To provide is to do our best to see that nothing that is needful is lacking.  Even with the best we can do, we would be lacking if we didn’t have a loving Heavenly Father and Savior to add what we can’t provide for ourselves.  How often have you heard the phrase, “God doth provide,” or “God will provide.”  He does and He will.

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No want shall I know, because the Lord is my Shepherd, and it is His purpose to provide for me and the rest of God’s family.  He created the earth and everything in it – it all belongs to Him – and He wants to help provide us with what we need, and much of what we want (see D&C 104:13-18, and D&C 59).

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Because of Him we rest safely in green pastures, we are restored and redeemed, and even when we are near death, He is there to keep us from evil and fear.  Even in our affliction, we have blessings too abundant to measure or count.

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Oh, what shall I ask of Thy (His) providence more?  I can think of nothing.  All that comes to my mind is being increasingly thankful – increasingly aware of all that has been provided for me….

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FEED MY SHEEP

Around 20 years ago I met a wonderful soul named Jayne Malan.

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She was helping to put together some videos to highlight some of the things being done in Nigeria, West Africa, in the child health project which I was part of in 1984-85.  We became good friends – I had so much love, respect, and appreciation for her.  She was a counselor in the Young Women general president for several years and was so creative and fun.  We found a “small world” connection – that was a sister to one of my Dad’s medical partners during our years in Cedar City.

In the October 1989 General Conference, she shared a story you might remember – “The Summer of the Lambs.”  I love the way she shared her experiences, and the lesson that she learned (and shared with us).

I miss Jayne.  I look forward to seeing her again. Look her up when you get Over There – she’s a great, good soul.

THE SUMMER OF THE LAMBS (Excerpts)  By Jayne Broadbent Malan – Ensign October 1989

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The day school was out at the beginning of each summer, our family went to our ranch in Wyoming. It was there with my parents and brothers and sisters, and a few cousins mixed in, that I learned about family loyalty; love and concern; birth and death; that one must finish a job once it is started; and, to quote my father, “There are only two things important—the family and the Church.”

One year my father was waiting for us as we arrived. He said he had a big job for my brother Clay and me to do that summer. I was about twelve at the time, and my brother was two years older. Pointing to the field by the side of the house, my father said, “Do you see all of these lambs in that field? I’ll share the money we get for the ones you raise when we sell them in the fall.” Well, we were excited. Not only did we have a significant job to do, but we were going to be rich! There were a lot of lambs in that field—about 350 of them. And all we had to do was feed them.

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However, there was one thing that my father hadn’t mentioned. None of the lambs had mothers. Just after shearing, there was a violent storm that chilled the newly shorn sheep. Dad lost a thousand ewes that year. The mothers of our lambs were among them.

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To feed one or two baby animals is one thing, but to feed 350 is something else! It was hard. There was plenty of grass, but the lambs couldn’t eat the grass. They didn’t have teeth. They needed milk.

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So we made some long, V-shaped feeding troughs out of some boards. Then we got a great big tin washtub, ground up some grain, and added milk to make a thin mash. While my brother poured the mash into the troughs, I rounded up the lambs, herded them to the troughs, and said, “Eat!” Well, they just stood there looking at me. Although they were hungry and there was food in front of them, they still wouldn’t eat. No one had taught them to drink milk out of a trough. So I tried pushing them toward the troughs. Do you know what happens when you try to push sheep? They run the other way. And when you lose one, you could lose them all because others will follow. That’s the way with sheep.

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We tried lining up the lambs along the troughs and pushing their noses down in the milk, hoping they’d get a taste and want some more. We tried wiggling our fingers in the milk to get them to suck on our fingers. Some of them would drink, but most of them ran away.

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Many of the lambs were slowly starving to death. The only way we could be sure they were being fed was to pick them up in our arms, two at a time, and feed them like babies.

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And then there were the coyotes. At night the coyotes would sit up on the hill, and they’d howl. The next morning we would see the results of their night’s work, and we would have two or three more lambs to bury. The coyotes would sneak up on the lambs, scatter the herd, and then pick out the ones they wanted and go after them. The first were those that were weak or separated from the flock. Often in the night when the coyotes came and the lambs were restless, my dad would take out his rifle and shoot in the air to scare them away. We felt secure when my dad was home because we knew our lambs were safe when he was there to watch over them.

Clay and I soon forgot about being rich. All we wanted to do was save our lambs. The hardest part was seeing them die. Every morning we would find five, seven, ten lambs that had died during the night. Some the coyotes got, and others starved to death surrounded by food they couldn’t or wouldn’t eat.

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Part of our job was to gather up the dead lambs and help dispose of them. I got used to that, and it really wasn’t so bad until I named one of the lambs. It was an awkward little thing with a black spot on its nose. It was always under my feet, and it knew my voice. I loved my lamb. It was one I held in my arms and fed with a bottle like a baby.

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One morning my lamb didn’t come when I called. I found it later that day under the willows by the creek. It was dead. With tears streaming down my face, I picked up my lamb and went to find my father. Looking up at him, I said, “Dad, isn’t there someone who can help us feed our lambs?”

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After a long moment he said, “Jayne, once a long, long time ago, someone else said almost those same words. He said, ‘Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep. … Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:15–17.) Dad put his arms around me and let me cry for a time, then went with me to bury my lamb.

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It wasn’t until many years later that I fully realized the meaning of my father’s words. I was pondering the scripture in Moses that says, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of [all mankind].” (Moses 1:39.) As I thought about the mission of the Savior, I remembered the summer of the lambs, and, for a few brief moments, I thought I could sense how the Savior must feel with so many lambs to feed, so many souls to save. And I knew in my heart that he needed my help….

It would have been far easier to save our lambs if the mothers had been there to feed them. Young women, you are the mothers of tomorrow. Young men, you are the fathers….

Our prophet, President Benson, has said, “The symbolism of the Good Shepherd is not without significant parallel in the Church today.” The sheep need to be led by watchful shepherds. “With a shepherd’s loving care, our young people, our young lambs, will not be as inclined to wander. And if they do, the crook of the shepherd’s staff, a loving arm, and an understanding heart will help to retrieve them.” (Regional Representatives’ Seminar, 3 Apr. 1987.)

Parents, priesthood leaders, teachers, advisers, be “watchful shepherds”; and you, our noble youth, band together in the strength of the Lord and lead out in righteousness. Reach out with loving arms and understanding hearts to those who are weak or wandering. Help bring them back to the fold, where they can learn of the Good Shepherd and grow close to him. And please choose carefully the paths you walk, for others will follow. That’s the way with sheep.

Of our little flock, we saved only one-third. And what of the Savior’s flock? He has said, “Feed my lambs. … Feed my sheep.”  This I know: He needs our help. With more people to help, more lambs will be saved. A simple fact, but true. Of this I can bear testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

The Good Shepherd

 

 

BLACK FRIDAY

Yep… it’s “BLACK FRIDAY.”

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I’ve always wondered why they chose black (rather than yellow, green, red, purple, apricot, or ash grey…)  And why not turkey-brown Thursday, plaid Wednesday, fuchsia Tuesday… (I’m getting carried away… I can tell, and YOU can tell too). Anyway, this is black Friday, and many stores resemble ant hills.

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Is it REALLY like this??? (I’ve never done it, and I think I never will).

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And I always thought it was mostly women….??

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I hope everyone survives!

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It’s also that time of year when a zillion catalogues suddenly appear in your mail box, right?  Stores and places you’ve never heard of (at least not since last year at this time).  Uncle Pete’s Spoon and Fork Store.  Madame Meloni’s Lotion Gallery.  Fred’s Fish and Fry Factory.  Berniece’s Pillow and Plate Palace. Grinch Gulch.  A Million Medicines and More – One for every ailment you’ve never heard of. OK, OK… Let’s move on. BLACK FRIDAY!  Oh boy!  Oh Boy!

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But WAIT!  You have  not yet heard about most wonderful over-priced (as in OVER THE TOP) gifts.  One of these could change everything (like how much you owe on your credit card bill)!  Knowing you probably won’t choose it, I’ve even left the expensive wine in the list.  You may know someone who’d really love it!  Maybe next I’ll see if I can find a list of the Top 10 cheapest gifts. Stay tuned. Oh boy!  Oh boy!  ….  Alrightie… we’re going to start at # 10 and work our way to # 1….

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  1. CLIVE CHRISTIAN NO 1 FOR WOMEN, 50ml

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For something that’s billed as “the world’s most expensive perfume” it’s disappointing that this is almost affordable. A 50ml bottle in Fortnum & Mason will set you back just $750 – for some people, that’s the cost of one meal! Granted it’s not a huge bottle, but you expect to pay more for even a drop of the world’s most expensive perfume. Even more disappointingly, there’s currently a bottle on ebay that’s starting at $9.99. That doesn’t really reflect all the “rare and precious ingredients” that go into it now, does it? Still, the shiny gold bottle will totally impress the woman in your life and make her think you spent a year’s salary on it.

  1. GINA COURTS

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Another venerable British department store provides the next item, and that’s the Gina court shoes, available at Selfridges for just $2100. Like the perfume, they are gold, to show off just how expensive they are, and they are tastefully decorated from wedge-heel to peeptoe in hundreds of Swarovski crystals in red, green and gold. They would make an excellent Christmas present because, let’s face it, when else in the calendar can you get away with wearing gold, red and green together? Especially in an unyielding wall of bling? Selfridges says they are a “walking style-statement”. I say for that kind of money you’d expect a more comfortable looking insole and a less plastic-y heel tip. But maybe that’s just me…

  1. GLOBE CLUTCH

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And it’s on to Harrods for our third ridiculously bling-y item. You might think that $6,750 is fairly modest for a high-end luxury handbag, but for that much money, wouldn’t you want something you might want to be seen leaving the house with? Not an over-the-top embellished child’s toy? Pity that whichever buyer signed off the Globe Clutch didn’t feel the same way. It’s impressive, in a “that’s a lot of gems” kind of way, but it’s also hideous. This is what happens when the worlds of luxury and novelty collide and it’s not pretty. The only person I can imagine wanting this is a 10-year-old boy who’s really interested in countries of the world. And even he might wish it was a bit less sparkly so he could actually focus a bit more. And it doesn’t even have the country boundaries in the right place (why is California a different color than the rest of the country?) Sheer madness….

  1. CRISTAL LOUIS ROEDERER CHAMPAGNE JEROBOAM 2012 (Notice that it takes two people to hold it; if it should fall . . . .  heads would roll!)

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Of course, if you want to impress someone but you’re not sure of their personal tastes, shoes and handbags are a risky choice. Far safer to go with some lovely champagne, and with a covering handcrafted by master goldsmiths, the Cristal Louis Roederer Champagne Jeroboam 2012 is sure to impress. The champagne comes wrapped in ribbon that has been dipped in 24-carat gold, and there are only 400 bottles made, so you can be fairly confident that no-one else will get the same thing. It’s said to have an intense taste with “hints of white flowers, citrus and fruits, followed by warm notes of toast and wood”. You might think there are far cheaper ways of tasting toast and wood, such as making a piece of toast and nibbling on a table, but this is the most impressive way. Oh, and it’ll cost you $26, 000.

  1. RALPH LAUREN ALLIGATOR RICKY BAG

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We’re back to Harrods for another tasteful bag, this one in unambiguous gold – the color of “look how much money I have”. Priced at a hefty $28,000 it is made of alligator skin and named after Ralph Lauren’s wife. According to the product description, it is also “extremely practical”, thanks to its multiple strap configurations and roomy inside pockets. Practical, that is, as long as you’re happy carrying around something that costs the same as a small car. Further proof that Harrods customers probably don’t inhabit the same world as the rest of us do – theirs is probably a world where the sea sparkles and California is picked out with orange gemstones…

  1. MILLAGE FLYING TOURBILLON WATCH

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Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s only high-end retailers that stock hugely overpriced gifts. The next three are from Amazon, that most universal of retailers. Whether it’s due to Amazon’s strange auto-pricing system that pushes the price up if stock is low, or whether you could genuinely spend the price of a house on a website best known for books and CDs is unclear, but should you want to do the latter, why not start with the Millage Flying Tourbillon watch  – currently priced at $99,000 (you read it right). It comes in several colors, has a watch made from alligator leather (what did these alligators do to the makers of luxury goods?) and a 7-year guarantee. The reviews may be somewhat cynical and possibly not entirely true but don’t let that put you off if you’re looking for something very, very expensive to put on your wrist.

  1. STEINHAUSEN LUXURY ACCESSORY CASE

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So, where to put your very expensive watch? Why, a very expensive watch box of course! It holds 20 watches and is retailing on amazon.com right now for $99,999.00, just a thousand dollars more than the watch it’s designed to hold. Sadly, a peek on Steinhausen’s own website reveals that the box is actually worth more like $250, which puts it into the luxury range but not the “need a mortgage” range. So, it looks like it might be a victim of a rogue Amazon pricing algorithm but still, if you wanted to buy it today there is the option of spending $100,000 on it (and still getting a dollar in change!) (“Oh Amazon, Oh Amazon, we bid thee farewell…”)

  1. AUDIOQUEST SPEAKER CABLE

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For our last Amazon item – nothing quite says “I love you” like a speaker cable, does it? And if you want to really spoil the audio-lover in your life, there’s a piece of cable on the UK Amazon site right now for $175,000 as shown in the screen shot above. The reviews say it’s a very good cable and definitely worth paying the extra money for but again, we’re getting into house-buying territory here. You may admire its “SOLID 100% PERFECT-SURFACE SILVER CONDUCTORS” (sic) and “MULTI-LAYER CARBON-BASED NOISE-DISSIPATION” (sic) but you may want to invest your money slightly more wisely.  (Only slightly??)

  1. COBBLESTONE YELLOW DIAMOND BRACELET

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There are no mistakes on this next item, by luxury jewelers Tiffany. The price isn’t even on their website, presumably going by the mantra “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it”. But a little digging reveals that this rather bling-tastic bracelet is a cool $1.3 million. It has 59 yellow diamonds, and the rest of the platinum bracelet is filled in with boring old white diamonds, bringing the total carat count to over 100. It’s also, as you might be able to see, a bit ugly. It’s garish and heavy-looking and breaks the cardinal rule that gold and silver shouldn’t be seen together. But still, if you really want to impress someone just buy this and show them the receipt. They’ll have to love it, even if they don’t like it.  (They didn’t say how much it weighs)

AND NOW FOR # 1 !! (DRUMS, TRUMPETS, TUBAS and HARMONICAS in the background!)

  1. RANGYAI ISLAND

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But if you’re going to splash out in true billionaire style, there’s nothing quite like buying someone their own private island. When you look at the islands available, you might be surprised to see that they were less than a modest-sized London property – in fact, they start around $27,500 which wouldn’t buy you a garage in London. Mind you, they are the kind of windswept rocks off the coast of Canada that no-one really wants to live on. For real style, you need something like Rangyai Island, Thailand which is currently on sale for $160,000,000. It’s said to be a holiday paradise, with “beautiful white sand beaches and lush tropical forests” and comes with its own electricity generator and fresh water supply. It’s even close to Phuket Airport, for jetting in between meetings.  The drawback is that foreigners aren’t really supposed to buy Thai islands, and there are a few loopholes you might have to get through before being able to set up your summer house. Marrying a Thai national might do the trick but that might upset whoever you bought the island for. It might be best to stick to that handbag after all…

And that’s it!  WHEW!

I THINK I WANT TO GO BACK TO THANKSGIVING, GRATITUDE, CONTENTMENT, AND ALL THAT BRINGS PEACE TO THE SOUL!…  BUT IT WAS FUN TO CHECK IN ON “BLACK FRIDAY” WITH ALL Y’ALL (I’m still in the South).

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Happy Thanksgiving

 

I’M SO GLAD MY FRIEND ANN SENT THIS POEM TO ME.  ENJOY!!

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WE PLOW THE FIELDS

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We plow the fields, and scatter
The good seed on the land,

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But it is fed and watered
By God’s almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter

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The warmth to swell the grain,

The breezes and the sunshine,

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And soft, refreshing rain.

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He only is the Master
Of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower,

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He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey him,

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By him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, his children,
He gives our daily bread.

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We thank thee, then, O Father,
For all things bright and good,

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The seed-time and the harvest,
Our life, our health, our food.

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Accept the gifts we offer
For all thy love imparts,

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And, what thou most desirest,
Our humble, thankful hearts.

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–Matthias Claudius (1740-1815)
translated by Jane M. Campbell

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HERE’S THE WHOLE POEM, WITHOUT “INTERRUPTION”

WE PLOW THE FIELDS 

We plow the fields, and scatter
The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God’s almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft, refreshing rain.

He only is the Master
Of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower,
He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey him,
By him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, his children,
He gives our daily bread.

We thank thee, then, O Father,
For all things bright and good,
The seed-time and the harvest,
Our life, our health, our food.
Accept the gifts we offer
For all thy love imparts,
And, what thou most desirest,
Our humble, thankful hearts.

–Matthias Claudius (1740-1815)
translated by Jane M. Campbell

On THANKSGIVING EVE

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ON THANKSGIVING EVE . . . I’ve been thinking about all that I have for which I’m very, very thankful.  The list is long, and the more I think, the longer it gets.

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I’m pretty sure you know what I mean.  When I offer prayers with only gratitude in them, things come up which I haven’t expressed thanks for in way too long.

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I want to share some thoughts about this idea of THANKSgiving – of giving thanks – of being grateful.  I hope something that is shared will be meaningful to you at this time of year.

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Gratitude has been called “the Mother of all virtues.”  Some have called gratitude the “wonder drug,” probably because people who are genuinely grateful tend to be a lot healthier.

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Many studies and lots of observation have shown that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being.

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Gratitude leads to the wonderful feelings of happiness and contentment, and to peace of soul.

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Here’s a little story that caught my attention:  A man owned a restaurant that was open six days a week for lunch. The food was great and fairly priced and his restaurant became very popular.  The owner was able to work during the day and be home with his family on Sundays and all evenings.  A wealthy business consultant ate there one day.  He asked to speak to the owner and told him that his restaurant could be a gold mine.  He suggested that by staying open for dinners, he could triple his profits and become very wealthy. The restaurant owner said, “I don’t need more profit.  I have enough.”  The man was astounded by his answer and replied, “You don’t understand how wealthy you could be?!”  The owner replied, “You don’t seem to understand that I have enough.” 

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From the Wall Street Journal:  “Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They’re also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.”

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One of the best cures for materialism is to help someone be grateful for what they have.

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Counting our blessings can actually make us feel better, especially if we “name them one-by-one.”

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There’s a hymn which we usually only sing once a year – at Thanksgiving time.  Think about the words.  NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD  (Hymn #95)

Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things hath done, In whom his earth rejoices;

Who from our mothers’ arms, Hath blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.

Oh, may our bounteous God Through all our life be near us,

With ever-joyful hearts And blessed peace to cheer us.

And keep us in his love, And guide us day and night,

And free us from all ills, Protect us by his might.

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Psalm 92:1 – It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.

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I feel we need to devote more of our prayers to expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving for blessings already received.  – Ezra Taft Benson

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It is perfectly evident from this scripture (D&C 59:7) that to thank the Lord in all things is not merely a courtesy.  It is a commandment as binding upon us as any other commandment. – Marion G. Romney

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PRESIDENT DAVID O. MCKAY said that: The secret of happiness consists not of having but of being; not of possessing but of enjoying.  It is a warm glow of the heart that is at peace with itself.  (The Instructor, Nov 60)

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One of the evils of our time is taking for granted so many of the things we enjoy.  Ingratitude is self‑centeredness and is a form of pride.  YOU CAN NEVER GET ENOUGH OF WHAT YOU DON’T NEED, BECAUSE WHAT YOU DON’T NEED NEVER SATISFIES.

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WANTING LESS is likely a BETTER BLESSING than HAVING MORE

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“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”   ‑ Melody Beattie

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There is enough for every man’s need, but not for every man’s greed. – Gandhi

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“I believe there is a definite link between gratitude and spirituality. Those who are unaware of their blessings miss the opportunity of rejoicing in the goodness of God, [and] the richness of life. I believe that personal peace and increased humility often follow our expressions and feelings of gratitude.” – Elaine L. Jack

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One thing you could do with your family is to play “ALPHABET GRATITUDE.”  Start with the letter “A” and see if everyone in the family can think of something for which they’re grateful. Then go to “B” and so on.  Help those who can’t think of something (but give them time to really search). EXAMPLES:

A: abundance, air, ancestors, angels, animals, answers, autumn, awe / B: babies, balance, beauty, birds, breath, brothers, butterflies  / C: care, calling, challenge, change, children, clarity, comfort, compassion / D: day, delight, details, determination, devotion, dew, dignity, divinity  (You might decide to skip Q and X… although….)

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LIVE SIMPLY SO THAT OTHERS MAY SIMPLY LIVE

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APPRECIATE MORE THAN YOU EXPECT

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Hymn # 241 – Verse 3: When you look at others with their lands and gold, Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold. Count your many blessings; money cannot buy Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.

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What are you thankful for RIGHT NOW?

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Here’s an interesting “homework assignment” (but if you decide not to do it, your grade won’t be affected).  Find time (maybe when you’re walking, folding laundry, driving back from dropping the kids off, while your little one is taking a nap, early in the morning before anyone else is up yet) to offer a prayer of thanks – thanking Heavenly Father for everything you can think of.  (You might have to do it in “sections” – you may not be able to do this in just one prayer).  After that, think of things you may have forgotten, and ask yourself what your life would be like if you didn’t have those things.  (And then include them the next time you’re counting your blessings and thanking Heavenly Father).

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Here’s a “new word” we can practice together in this month of giving thanks.  It’s THANKSgiving (rather than thanksGIVING). It feels a little strange at first, but the more you practice, the more it will seem like the right way to say it.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

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Joshua Bell’s experiment

I ran across a story several years ago which got me thinking about how much I’m missing as I got through too many of my days as if plowing through the middle of important experiences and opportunities and beautiful reminders of a loving Heavenly Father and a Beautiful Savior.  Perhaps this story will be a reminder for you, too.

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On a cold January morning in 2007 at the Washington DC Metro Station, a man posing as a “street musician” gave an incognito performance to morning commuters.  It was actually Joshua Bell, a virtuoso violinist who is recognized as one of the greatest violinists of our time. He’s received Grammy awards. He performed beautiful, complex music on an instrument he had purchased a few years earlier, worth $3.5 million (handcrafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1713), and he opened his violin case for tips.

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He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.  During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.  After 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing.  He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.  4 mins later, the violinist received his first dollar – a woman threw the money in the case and, without stopping, continued to walk. 6 minutes later, a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

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At about 10 minutes, a 3 year-old boy stopped as if wanting to stay and listen, but his mother tugged at him.  He still listened and watched.  Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced them to move on. For 45 minutes he continued to play.  Only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.  No one knew that they had walked by one of the best musicians in the world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a Stradivarius violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

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From a newspaper article:  “No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities — as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend? Journalist Gene Weingarten was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for his outstanding and thought provoking analysis of the experiment.  Weingarten discussed the ramifications of Bell’s subway experience. What role does context play in our artistic perceptions? To what degree is our perception of beauty influenced by our mindset at the particular time we perceive it?  In a common-place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context? One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be:  If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments …. HOW MANY OTHER THINGS ARE WE MISSING?  It’s a great question, and I’ve thought a lot about it since reading about this experiment.

Joshua Bell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM21gPmkDpI

Joshua David Bell was born in Bloomington, Indiana, on 09 December, 1967, the son of a psychologist and a therapist.  He began taking violin lessons at the age of four after his mother discovered her son had taken rubber bands from around the house and stretched them across the handles of his dresser drawer to pluck out music he had heard her play on the piano. His parents got a scaled‑to‑size violin for their then five‑year‑old son and started giving him lessons. A bright student, Bell took to the instrument but lived an otherwise normal midwest Indiana life playing video games and excelling at sports (tennis and bowling), even placing in a national tennis tournament at the age of ten.  Bell studied as a boy first under Mimi Zweig, then switched to the renowned violinist and pedagogue Josef Gingold after Bell’s parents assured Gingold that they were not interested in pushing their son in the study of the violin but simply wanted him to have the best teacher for his abilities. Satisfied that the boy was living a normal life, Gingold took Bell on as his student. By 12 Bell was serious about the instrument, thanks in large part to Gingold’s inspiration.  At the age of fourteen, he appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Muti. He studied the violin at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, while managing to graduate from Bloomington High School North in 1984 – two years ahead of schedule. In 1989, Bell received an Artist Diploma in Violin Performance from Indiana University. His alma mater also honored him with a Distinguished Alumni Service Award only two years after his graduation. He has been named an “Indiana Living Legend” and received the Indiana Governor’s Arts Award.

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He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985 (at 18) with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. He has since performed with almost all of the world’s major orchestras and conductors. As well as the standard concerto repertoire, Bell has performed new works — Nicholas Maw’s violin concerto is dedicated to him, the recording of which won Bell a Grammy and gave the world premiere of the work in 1993. He performed the solo part on John Corigliano’s Oscar‑winning soundtrack for the film “The Red Violin.”  He also made an appearance in the movie “Music of the Heart,” a story about the power of music, with other notable violinists, and he collaborated with film composer Hans Zimmer by providing violin solos for the soundtrack for the 2009 film, “Angels and Demons,” based on Dan Brown’s 2000 novel.

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Bell’s instrument was made in 1713 during what is known as Antonio Stradivari’s “Golden Era.”  Bell had seen the violin and came across it again, only to discover that it was about to be sold to a German industrialist to become part of a collection. Bell was reportedly “practically in tears.”  He sold his current Stradivarius for a little more than two million dollars and made the purchase of the more valuable violin. His first recording made with the Gibson ex Huberman was Romance of the Violin in 2003.  It sold more than 5,000,000 copies and remained at the top of classical music charts for 54 weeks.  Bell was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize on April 10, 2007, at Lincoln Center in New York City. The prize is given once every few years to classical instrumentalists for outstanding achievement.  He has a son, Josef Matricardi Bell, born 31 July, 2007.

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Joshua Bell performed in Union Station in Washington, D.C. on September 30, 2014, over 7 years after he posed as a street performer in the Metro, and nobody noticed him. On this day in 2014, he made sure everyone did.  At first glance, his performance bore no resemblance no resemblance to his famous subway performance seven years earlier. Hundreds of spectators packed into the main hall of Union Station, sitting on the hard floor, trying to squeeze close to the front along the edges of the room, and some even climbing on construction scaffolding to see over the mass of people.  He played with nine students from the National Young Arts Foundation.  It was said that “this is a lot better than the first time. A lot better, trust me.”  Better, that is, because people were actually paying attention. This performance was “a do-over for the people in Washington, not a do-over for Bell.”  The one greeting everyone said “We accept your apology.”  After the 2007 performance, there were a few moments which Bell found particularly painful to relive: “The awkward times,” he calls them. It’s what happens right after each piece ends: nothing. The music stops, and the same people who hadn’t noticed him playing don’t notice that he has finished. No applause, no acknowledgment.

But this time, after first movement, the station echoed with booming applause, whoops and cheers. Bell beamed as he said, “This is more like it!” Then, looking out at the impressive crowd, he says, “The only thing I regret is we don’t have an open violin case for tips this time.”

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He didn’t consider this performance “redo;” it was a reimagining. Bell didn’t like the answer he found last time, so today he created a different one. He wanted to prove that art could transcend, if only you give people a little nudge. “I think the whole idea is that if you give people a chance to listen to music and let them concentrate, then it means something,” Bell told TIME afterwards. “And this shows even in a train station that people can be totally focused.”  Finally, almost a decade later, Bell got the answer he was looking for when he first donned his baseball cap and descended into the Metro.  “I thought of it as closure,” he says. “It was a perfect end.”  Then he laughed: “I don’t see myself ever doing this again.”  Following the performance, Bell said, he would hop on a train.

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Our Identity and Our Destiny

I heard Elder Callister give this incredible talk during Education Week at BYU in 2012 (14 August). It has impressed me so much in the reading and re-reading and pondering of it.  You may find answers to some of your questions, or some very effective ways to respond to the questions others might ask you. Or just a LOT to ponder. I hope you’ll find it meaningful on this beautiful day (or whenever you might have a chance to read it and think about it). He is now president of the Sunday School, so I guess he’s President Callister (but he was Elder Callister when he gave the talk).  I just want to add that his book, The Infinite Atonement, is one of the best books I’ve ever read.  HAPPY SABBATH!

OUR IDENTITY AND OUR DESTINY – Elder Tad R. Callister

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In keeping with the theme of this week, I would like to discuss with you a vision of who we are and what we may become. At a recent training session for General Authorities, the question was asked: “How can we help those struggling with pornography?”   Elder Russell M. Nelson stood and replied, “Teach them their identity and their purpose.”  That answer resonated with me, not only as a response to that specific question but as an appropriate response to most of the challenges we face in life. And so today I speak of the true nature of our identity and a correct vision of our divine destiny.

FIRST, OUR IDENTITY. There is a sentiment among many in the world that we are the spirit creations of God, just as a building is the creation of its architect or a painting the creation of its painter or an invention the creation of its inventor. The scriptures teach, however, a much different doctrine. They teach that we are more than creations of God; they teach that we are the literal spirit offspring or children of God our Father.1

What difference does this doctrinal distinction make? The difference is monumental in its consequence because our identity determines in large measure our destiny. For example, can a mere creation ever become like its creator? Can a building ever become an architect? A painting a painter? Or an invention an inventor?  If not, then those who believe we are creations of God, rather than His spirit offspring, reach the inevitable conclusion that we do not have the capacity to become like our creator, God. In essence, their doctrine of identity has defined and dictated a diminished destiny.

On the other hand, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that we are the spirit offspring of God with inherited spiritual traits that give us the divine potential to become like our parent, God the Father. As to this identity, President Packer has written: “You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!” 2  It is this doctrine of identity that defines our potential destiny of godhood. If one does not correctly understand his divine identity, then he will never correctly understand his divine destiny. They are, in truth, inseparable partners.

What, then, has God revealed to us about our destiny? He has spoken clearly and frequently and forthrightly on this subject from the very beginning. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, they lived in a state of innocence—meaning they only had a limited knowledge of good and evil. Lehi described their condition as follows: “Wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (2 Nephi 2:23).

Suppose for a moment my wife and I invited one of you good Saints from California to drive to our home in Utah. Further suppose I asked you to drive in neutral.  You might smile and respond, “That’s not possible.”

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What if I further replied, “Just push the accelerator all the way to the floor—you know, as they say, ‘Push the pedal to the metal.’”  You might respond, “That would make no difference. I cannot reach your destination until I put my car in gear.”  So it was with Adam and Eve. They were in a state of spiritual neutral and could not progress toward their divine destiny until they were cast out of the garden and thus put in spiritual gear.

When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, they traded their innocence, meaning a lack of knowledge of good and evil, for the prospect of perfection—that was the deal. Innocence and perfection are not the same. An infant may be innocent but certainly not perfect in the sense that he or she has acquired all the attributes of godliness. Once Adam and Eve were cast from the garden, we read in the book of Genesis that God Himself said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us [meaning like the gods]” (Genesis 3:22; emphasis added). How could that be? God then tells us why this new destiny was possible—because men now “know good and evil.” Being immersed in a world of good and evil, having the capacity to choose, and being able to draw upon the powers of the Atonement resulted in man having unlimited opportunities to progress toward his destiny of godhood.

We learn a great doctrinal truth in these series of events surrounding the Garden of Eden: unfallen man would have remained in a state of innocence—safe, but restricted in his progress. On the other hand, fallen man ventured into a heightened arena of risk, but, blessed with the Atonement of Jesus Christ, he gained access to unlimited possibilities and powers and potential. Speaking of the effect of the Atonement on fallen man, C. S. Lewis remarked: “For God is not merely mending, not simply restoring a status quo. Redeemed humanity is to be something more glorious than unfallen humanity would have been, more glorious than any unfallen race now is. . . . And this super-added glory will, with true vicariousness, exalt all creatures.3

Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, God can exalt all His children—meaning empower them to become like Him.  But one might ask, “Why does God want us to become like Him?”  In order to answer that question, one must first understand why man exists. Lehi gave the short and simple answer: “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). President David O. McKay confirmed that fundamental doctrinal truth: “Happiness is the purpose and design of existence.”4 If I were to ask you who is the happiest being in all the universe—the one with the most joy—you would no doubt respond, “God.” Accordingly, God wants us to become perfect like Him so we can experience His quality of joy and thus best fulfill the measure of our existence. That is why His plan for us is sometimes called “the plan of happiness” (see Alma 42:8, 16).

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OUR QUEST FOR GODHOOD

In spite of God’s altruistic aims on our behalf, perhaps no doctrine, no teaching, no philosophy has stirred such controversy as has this: that man may become a god. It is espoused by some as blasphemous, by others as absurd. Such a concept, they challenge, lowers God to the status of man and thus deprives God of both His dignity and divinity. Others claim this teaching to be devoid of scriptural support. It is but a fantasy, they say, of a young, uneducated schoolboy, Joseph Smith. Certainly no God-fearing, right-thinking, Bible-oriented person would subscribe to such a philosophy as this.5 While some of these advocates are hardened critics, others are honest and bright men who simply disagree with us on this doctrine. So wherein lies the truth? Hopefully the following will invite the Holy Ghost to whisper the quiet but certain truth to all those who honestly seek it.

For our search of truth, we will turn to five witnesses—first and foremost to the testimony of the scriptures; second, to the witness of the early Christian writers; third, to the wisdom of those poets and authors who drink from the divine well; fourth, to the power of logic; and fifth, to the voice of history.

SCRIPTURES

First, the scriptures. Did not an angel appear unto Abraham and extend to him this heavenly mandate: “Walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1)?   “That is true,” interjects the critic. “Perfect as compared to other men, other mortals—certainly not perfect as compared to God. The word was used in its relative, not absolute sense.”  “Is that so?” comes the reply. “Let us then pursue the use of the word perfect as used by the Savior Himself.”  It was in the Sermon on the Mount when the Savior declared, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48; emphasis added).6 Was the Savior inviting men to be perfect as compared to other men—other mortals—or as compared to God Himself? This command was consistent with the Savior’s high priestly prayer. Speaking of the believers, He petitioned the Father:  That they may be one, even as we are one:  “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one. [John 17:22–23]

In accord with that request for perfection, Paul taught that a critical purpose of the Church was “for the perfecting of the saints . . . till we all come . . . unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12–13; emphasis added). Note the measuring rod: not man, not some form of mini-Christ or quasi-God, but rather that we should become “a perfect man, [and then he gives us the standard we should strive for] unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Does that sound relative to you?

The critic is momentarily quiet. Sheepishly he responds, “Certainly those scriptures must mean something else.”  The scriptures supporting this doctrine, however, continue to roll forth with repeated and powerful testimony. At one point the Savior was about to be stoned by the Jews for blasphemy. He reminded them of His good works and then asked, “For which of those works do ye stone me?”  They replied that they were not stoning him for good works “but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.”  To this He readily acknowledged that He was and declared that they should be likewise: “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:32–34; emphasis added).

In other words, He said not only am I a god, but all of you are potential gods. He was referring to His own Old Testament declaration, with which the Jews should have been familiar: “Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Psalm 82:6). The Savior was merely reaffirming a basic gospel teaching that all men are children of God, and thus all might become like Him.  Paul understood this principle, for, when speaking to the men of Athens, he said: “Certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). Paul knew the consequences of being the offspring of God, for, while speaking to the Romans, he declared: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” [Romans 8:16–17; emphasis added; see also 1 Corinthians 3:21–23 and Revelation 21:7]

Not subordinate heirs, not junior, not contingent, but joint, equal heirs with Christ Himself, to share in all that He shall share. After all, is not that the same promise made by the Lord to the Apostle John? “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21).

Is it any wonder that Paul should write to the Saints of Philippi, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Paul, who understood so very well our destiny, was striving for the reward of godhood. Peter, who also understood this doctrine, pled with the Saints that they might become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), meaning recipients of godhood. That is exactly what Jesus ordered when speaking to the Book of Mormon Saints: “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27; see also 1 John 3:2). And it is exactly what the Savior promised in this dispensation for all faithful Saints: “Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them” (D&C 132:20; see also verse 19; see also D&C 76:58–60).

The critic, still shaking his head, responds, “But such a concept lowers God to the status of man and thus robs Him of His divinity.”  “Or, to the contrary,” comes the reply, “does it elevate man in his divine-like potential?”  Paul well knew this argument of the critic and silenced it once and for all ages ago. Speaking to the Saints of Philippi, he said: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”  [Philippians 2:5–6; emphasis added]  The Savior knew that for Him to be a god and for us to be thus minded would not rob God of His divinity. That makes good sense. After all, who is greater: that being who limits or that being who enhances man’s eternal progress?  One might ask, Who can give greater honor and glory to God—a creature of lower or more exalted status? Can an animal offer the same honor or worship with the same passion and intensity as a human?  Can a mere mortal express the empyreal feelings or exercise the spiritual fervency of a potential god?  One’s capacity to honor and worship is magnified with one’s intellectual, emotional, cultural, and spiritual enlightenment. Accordingly, the more we become like God, the greater our ability to pay Him homage. In that process of lifting men heavenward, God simultaneously multiplies His own honor and glory and thus is glorified more, not less.

Brigham Young addressed this issue: “[Man’s godhood] will not detract anything from the glory and might of our heavenly Father, for he will still remain our Father, and we shall still be subject to him, and as we progress, in glory and power it the more enhances the glory and power of our heavenly Father.” 7  That is the irony of the critic’s argument—godhood for man does not diminish God’s status; to the contrary, it elevates it by producing more intelligent, more passionate, more spiritual Saints who have enlarged capacities to understand, honor, and worship Him.

The Savior’s soul-stirring and thought-provoking injunction to “be ye therefore perfect” was more than the sounding of brass or tinkling of cymbals (see 1 Corinthians 13:1). It was a divine-like invitation to rise up to our full potential and become like God our Father. C. S. Lewis, as a rampant advocate of this simple but glorious truth, wrote: “The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. . . . The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.” 8    Could it be any clearer?

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EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITERS

Second, early Christian writers likewise wrote of our divine destiny.9 As early as the second century, Irenaeus (A.D. 115–202) noted: “We have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods.”10 On another occasion Irenaeus clarified that exalted man would not be relegated to some type of glorified angel but literally become a god: “Passing beyond the angels, and be made after the image and likeness of God.”11   Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 160–200), a contemporary of Irenaeus, spoke of the reward of godhood that followed long preparation: “Being destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Saviour.”12 This same Clement of Alexandria then added this unequivocal statement about the man who lives a righteous life: “Knowing God, he will be made like God. . . . And that man becomes God, since God so wills.”13   Hippolytus (A.D. 170–236), bridging the second and third centuries, spoke of the unlimited potential of faithful Saints in this life: “And thou shalt be a companion of the Deity, and a co-heir with Christ. . . . For thou hast become God: . . . thou hast been deified, and begotten unto immortality.”14   Cyprian (A.D. 200–258), a well-known Christian leader of the third century, reaffirmed that men can become like Christ: “What Christ is, we Christians shall be, if we imitate Christ.”15   Origen (A.D. 185–255), also of the third century, wrote: “The true God [referring to the Father], then, is ‘The God,’ and those who are formed after Him are gods, images, as it were, of Him the prototype.”16   And in the fourth century St. Athanasius of Alexandria (A.D. 295–373) explained that “[God] was made flesh in order that we might be enabled to be made gods.”17

For several centuries this doctrinal truth survived, but eventually the Apostasy took its toll, and this doctrine in its purity and expansiveness was lost.  The doctrine of man’s potential for godhood as taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith was not his invention— not his creation, not conjured up by some fertile mind. It was simply and solely a restoration of a glorious truth that had been taught in the scriptures and by many early Christian writers of the primitive Church.

POETS AND AUTHORS

The third witness—inspired poets and authors. We may look to the wisdom of selected poets and authors who are men of integrity and spiritual insight. It was C. S. Lewis who again and again reaffirmed this divine proposition: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which . . . you would be strongly tempted to worship. . . . There are no ordinary people.” 18  How right he was. There are no ordinary people, only potential gods and goddesses in our midst.

It was Victor Hugo, that masterful author, who said, “The thirst for the infinite proves infinity.”19 What a powerful and sublime thought. Perhaps the thirst for godhood likewise proves godhood. Would the God you and I know plant the vision and desire for godhood within a man’s soul and then frustrate him in his ability to attain it? Shakespeare had a flash of this insight, for, when speaking through the lips of Hamlet, he said: “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god!” 20

Robert Browning’s vision that so often pierced the mortal veil did so once again in these lines from his poem Rabbi Ben Ezra:  Life’s struggle having so far reached its term.  Thence shall I pass, approved  A man, for aye removed
From the developed brute—a god, though in the germ.21   This insightful poet saw the seeds and germ of godhood in every man.

LOGIC

The fourth witness is the power of logic. Do not the laws of science teach us that like begets like, each after its kind? Science has taught us that a complex genetic code transferred from parent to child is responsible for the child attaining the physical attributes of his parents. If this be so, is it illogical to assume that spirit offspring receive a spiritual code giving to them the divine characteristics and potential of their parent—God—thus making them gods in embryo? No, it is but a fulfillment of the law that like begets like. This is the same truth taught by the prophet Lorenzo Snow:

We were born in the image of God our Father; He begat us like unto Himself. There is the nature of Deity in the composition of our spiritual organization. In our spiritual birth, our Father transmitted to us the capabilities, powers and faculties which He possessed, as much so as the child on its mother’s bosom possesses, although in an undeveloped state, the faculties, powers and susceptibilities of its parent.22

President Boyd K. Packer told of coming home one day and helping his children gather new chicks in the barn. As his little four-year-old daughter held a baby chick in her hands, he said something like, “Won’t that be a beautiful dog when it grows up?”  His daughter looked at him in surprise.   And then he said something like, “Or perhaps it will be a cat or even a cow.”  His little daughter wrinkled her nose, as if to say, “Daddy, don’t you know anything? It will grow up exactly like its parents.”  Then he observed how this little four-year-old girl knew, almost instinctively, that the chick would grow up to follow the pattern of its parentage.23

The Gospel of Philip, an apocryphal book, makes this simple statement of logic: “A horse sires a horse, a man begets man, a god brings forth a god.”24 The difference between man and God is significant—but it is one of degree, not kind. It is the difference between an acorn and an oak tree, a rosebud and a rose, a son and a father. In truth, every man is a potential god in embryo, in fulfillment of that eternal law that like begets like.

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VOICE OF HISTORY

Fifth, and finally, the voice of history will likewise verify this truth. I recall the story of the large milk truck that drove past the pasture of cows. Written on the side of the vehicle in large letters were the words “Homogenized, Pasteurized, Vitamins A and D Added.”  One cow looked at the sign, turned to the other, and said, “Makes you feel kind of inadequate, doesn’t it?”

I admit that is how I feel when I look at the distance between God and me, but I take comfort when I contemplate what is accomplished in the short space of a mortal life. I paraphrase these thoughts of B. H. Roberts: “From the cradle have risen orators, generals, artists, and workers to perform the wonders of our age. From a helpless babe may arise a Demosthenes or Lincoln to direct the destinies of nations. From such a babe may come a Michelangelo to fill the world with beauty. From such a beginning may come a Mozart, a Beethoven to call from silence the powers and serenity of music. From such a helpless babe may arise a Joseph Smith to give light in a world of darkness.” 25

Contemplate for a moment what can be accomplished in the short space of a mortal life. Suppose now that you were to remove from man the barriers of death and grant him immortality and God for his guide.  What limits would you then want to ascribe to his mental, moral, or spiritual achievements? Perhaps B. H. Roberts expressed it best when he said: “If within the short space of mortal life there are men who rise up out of infancy and become masters of the elements of fire and water and earth and air, so that they well-nigh rule them as Gods, what may it not be possible for them to do in a few hundreds or thousands of millions of years?”26   A glimpse beyond the veil tells us that the records of history do not end at death but continue to mark man’s unlimited achievements. Victor Hugo, with an almost spiritual X-ray, saw the possibilities after death:  “The nearer I approach the end, the plainer I hear around me the immortal symphonies of the worlds which invite me. . . . For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose and verse; history. . . . I have tried all. But I feel I have not said a thousandth part of what is in me. When I go down to the grave, I can say, like so many others, “I have finished my day’s work,” but I can not say, “I have finished my life.” My day’s work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. . . . My work is only beginning.” 27   Perfection is a quest on both sides of the veil. The scriptures remind us, “Wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected” (D&C 67:13).

THE DIVINE POSSIBILITY BECOMES A DIVINE REALITY

The scriptures, early Christian writers, poetry, logic, and history testify not only of the divine possibility but of the divine reality that man may become as God. The Doctrine and Covenants refers to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, declaring, “And because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, . . . and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods” (D&C 132:37). For these men the divine possibility became the divine reality. This does not mean they became gods who replaced our Father in Heaven but rather exalted men who have enlarged capabilities to honor and glorify Him. Our Father in Heaven will forever stand supreme as our God, whom we will love and revere and worship, worlds without end.

But how is it possible that you and I, with all our faults and weaknesses and shortcomings, could ever become a god? Fortunately, a loving Heavenly Father has given us resources to lift us above our mortal restraints and propel us to divine heights. I mention but two such resources, both made possible because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, whose crowning aim is to assist us in our pursuit of godhood—so that we might be “at one”—not only with Him but also “at one” like Him. First, I mention the saving ordinances of the kingdom.

Joseph Smith received a revelation that explained the relationship between ordinances and godhood:  Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.  And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh. [D&C 84:20–21]   In other words, participation in the saving ordinances unlocks and unleashes certain powers of godliness in our lives that are not available in any other way. These powers help refine us and perfect us. The five saving ordinances and the corresponding powers of godliness are as follows:  FIRST, BAPTISM BY IMMERSION (and the corollary ordinance of the sacrament). Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, this ordinance cleanses us from our sins and helps make us holy, thus aligning our life more closely with the Savior’s.  SECOND, THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST. This gift helps us know “the will of the Lord [and] the mind of the Lord” (D&C 68:4) and thus makes possible our acquisition of a more godlike mind.  THIRD, THE PRIESTHOOD. This ordinance transfers to a mere mortal the power to act for God on earth as though He Himself were present. In essence, it is a spiritual power of attorney to be God’s agent and to invoke His power, thus helping us learn how to exercise divine powers in righteousness.  FOURTH, THE ENDOWMENT. This ordinance is a gift of knowledge from God as to how we might become more like Him, accompanied by covenants to inspire us in that endeavor. There is an old saying, “Knowledge is power.” Accordingly, the righteous use of this knowledge received in the endowment ordinance results in more godly power in our own lives. That is why the Doctrine and Covenants says, “I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high” (D&C 95:8).  FIFTH, THE SEALING ORDINANCES. Death, with all its mighty power, cannot destroy those relationships sealed in a temple—which relationships can now continue beyond the grave and allow us, like God, to have eternal increase.

The saving ordinances are much more than a checklist of actions we must satisfy to gain entrance to the celestial kingdom—they are the keys that open the doors to heavenly powers that can lift us above our mortal limitations.  The second resource to assist us in our pursuit of godhood is the gifts of the Spirit. What are the gifts of the Spirit? We know them as love, patience, knowledge, testimony, and so on.28

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In essence, each gift of the Spirit represents an attribute of godliness. Accordingly, each time we acquire a gift of the Spirit, we acquire a potential attribute of godliness. In this regard Orson Pratt taught: “One object [of the Church] is declared to be “For the perfecting of the Saints.” . . . The . . . plan . . . for the accomplishment of this great object, is through the medium of the spiritual gifts. When the supernatural gifts of the Spirit cease, the Saints cease to be perfected, therefore they can have no hopes of obtaining a perfect salvation. . . .

. . . In every nation and age, where believers exist, there the gifts must exist to perfect them.”29

No wonder the Lord commands us to “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31); “seek ye earnestly the best gifts” (D&C 46:8); and to “lay hold upon every good gift” (Moroni 10:30).

President George Q. Cannon spoke of man’s shortcomings and the divine solution. Recognizing the link between spiritual gifts and godhood, he fervently pleaded with the Saints to overcome each manifested weakness through the acquisition of a countermanding gift of strength known as the gift of the Spirit. He spoke as follows:  “If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. . . . No man ought to say, “Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature.” He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them. . . . He wants His Saints to be perfected in the truth. For this purpose He gives these gifts, and bestows them upon those who seek after them, in order that they may be a perfect people upon the face of the earth, notwithstanding their many weaknesses, because God has promised to give the gifts that are necessary for their perfection.” 30

What was the Lord’s response to Solomon’s prayerful request for the gift of an understanding heart? The scriptures record, “The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing,” and then the Lord noted, “Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart” (1 Kings 3:10, 12).   When was the last time we prayed for a gift of the Spirit that would lift us above our mortal weakness and further our pursuit of godhood? Again and again the Lord has both invited and promised,  “Ask, and it shall be given you” (Matthew 7:7).

Why is it so critical to have a correct vision of this divine destiny of godliness of which the scriptures and other witnesses so clearly testify? Because with increased vision comes increased motivation. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “No doctrine is more basic, no doctrine embraces a greater incentive to personal righteousness . . . as does the wondrous concept that man can be as his Maker.”31 And why not possible? Do not all Christian churches advocate Christlike behavior? Is that not what the Sermon on the Mount is all about? If it is blasphemous to think we can become as God, then at what point is it not blasphemous to become like God—90 percent, 50 percent, 1 percent? Is it more Christian to seek partial godhood than total godhood? Are we invited to walk the path of godhood—to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”—with no possibility of ever reaching the destination?   As we better understand our potential destiny, our level of self-worth and confidence and motivation is greatly heightened. Youth will understand that it is shortsighted at best to take easy classes and easy teachers rather than ones that will stretch them toward godhood. They will catch the vision that it is godhood, not grades, for which they are striving.

And what of our more elderly members? They will understand there is no such thing as a retirement farm, no day when the work is done. Like Victor Hugo, they know their work has only begun. There are yet thousands of books to read and write, paintings to enjoy, music to score, and service to render. They understand the Lord’s revelation to the Prophet Joseph: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection” (D&C 130:18).  What about those of us who feel weaknesses in our life? We can take renewed hope in the words of the Lord to Moroni: “For if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).  And what about those who believe they have sinned beyond Christ’s redeeming grace? They can take comfort in His promise: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Or perhaps there are some who believe their lives are shattered beyond repair. Can they not have renewed hope in these words of the Savior: “[I will] give unto them beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3)? There is no problem, no obstacle to our divine destiny, for which the Savior’s Atonement does not have a remedy of superior healing and lifting power. That is why Mormon said, “Ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ” (Moroni 7:41).

How could we not have increased faith in God and in ourselves if we knew He had planted within our souls the seeds of godhood and endowed us with access to the powers of the Atonement? “Godhood?” If not, the critic must answer, “Why not?”  Perhaps we could suggest three answers for the critic’s consideration: Maybe man cannot become like God because God does not have the power to create a divine-like offspring. It is beyond his present level of comprehension and intelligence.  “Blasphemous,” responds the critic. “He has all knowledge and all power.”  Perhaps then He has created a lesser offspring because He does not love us.  “Ridiculous, absurd,” is his reply. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16).  Well, perhaps God has not planted within us the divine spark because He wants to retain godhood for Himself; He is threatened by our progress. He can only retain His superiority by asserting man’s inferiority.  “No, no,” laments the critic. “Have you ever known a loving, kindly father who didn’t want his children to become all that he is and more?”   And so it is with God, our Father.

I testify there are no ordinary people, no ciphers, no zeros—only potential gods and goddesses in our midst. While many witnesses testify of this truth, the most powerful of all are the quiet whisperings of the Spirit that confirm both to my mind and to my heart the grandeur and truth of this glorious doctrine. As Jacob so taught, “The Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be” (Jacob 4:13).   I pray we will recognize our true identity as literal sons and daughters of God and grasp a vision of our divine destiny as it really may be. I pray we will be grateful to a loving Father and Son who made it so. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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NOTES

  1. See Acts 17:28–29; Romans 8:16–17; and Hebrews 12:9.
  2. Boyd K. Packer, “To Young Women and Men,” Ensign, May 1989, 54.
  3. C. S. Lewis, “The Grand Miracle,” Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York: Macmillan, 1978), 122–23; emphasis added.
  4. David O. McKay, Pathways to Happiness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1957), xi.
  5. While I was serving as a mission president, we discussed at a zone conference man’s potential for godhood. In so doing we referred to an oft-cited scripture of the critics, Isaiah 43:10, which states, “Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” Therefore the critics conclude that if there is no God before or after the Father, then man certainly could not become a god. As fate would have it, several days thereafter one of our younger missionaries was knocking on a door. A distinguished man invited him in. The missionaries soon learned he was a theological professor at a local university. The man was polite but stated adamantly that Mormon doctrine was incorrect because it taught that a man might become a god, and, after all, the Bible teaches there is no god before or after the Father. This fine young missionary was not taken back one bit. He simply replied, “Sir, do you know where that scripture is found?” The man hesitated, “I can’t recall exactly, but it is in the Bible.” The young missionary replied, “It is in Isaiah 43:10, but it is also found in Isaiah 44, 45, and 46.” He further asked, “Do you recall the context in which it was given?” The professor could not remember. “Then,” said the young missionary, “let me help you. God was reprimanding the Israelites because they were worshipping graven images and statues made with man’s hands. On repeated occasions the Lord declared in these chapters that none of these images or statues, whether formed in the past or in the future, would ever be a god.” In essence this young missionary explained that these verses had everything to do with the incapacity of graven images to become gods and absolutely nothing to do with man’s capacity to become a god. He invited the professor to learn more about the truth concerning man’s potential, but the invitation was declined.
  6. The word perfect as used in this scripture comes from the Greek word telios. Some have suggested this might be translated as “finished” or “completed,” resulting in a connotation other than moral perfection—perhaps meaning a complete or mature Saint. While this might be one interpretation, the scripture does not preclude a reference to moral perfection. In fact, when read in context, this passage seems to require moral perfection. It specifically delineates the type of completeness or perfection to which it is referring when it makes the comparison “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (emphasis added). God is not perfect like a mature Saint or in a relative sense. He is absolutely perfect. It is of interest to note that both the King James Version and the New International Version of the Bible translate the word telios as “perfect.”
  7. JD 10:5.
  8. C. S. Lewis, “Counting the Cost,” Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1960), 174–75.
  9. Some might contend that some references by early Christian writers to man’s potential for godhood were simply alternative phrases for man’s immortality, and in some cases this interpretation may be correct, but there are certainly multiple references by the early Christian writers to also evidence that these references to godhood were qualitative, not just quantitative, statements.
  10. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses (Irenaeus Against Heresies), book 4, chapter 38, in The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, vol. 1 of Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 522.
  11. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses (Irenaeus Against Heresies), book 5, chapter 36, in vol. 1, The Apostolic Fathers, 567.
  12. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata (Miscellanies), book 7, chapter 10, in Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire), vol. 2 of Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 539.
  13. Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus (The Instructor), book 3, chapter 1, in vol. 2, Fathers of the Second Century, 271; emphasis added.
  14. Hippolytus, Philosophumena (The Refutation of All Heresies), book 10, chapter 30, in Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix, vol. 5 of Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 153; emphasis added.
  15. Cyprian, “On the Vanity of Idols,” The Treatises of Cyprian, 6:15, in vol. 5, Fathers of the Third Century, 469.
  16. Origen, Commentary on John, 2:2, in The Gospel of Peter, the Diatessaron of Tatian, vol. 9 of Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 323.
  17. See Athanasius, Orationes Contra Arianus (Four Discourses Against the Arians), 1.39, 3.34, in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, vol. 4 of A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second Series, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1978–79), 329, 413; see also Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei (On the Incarnation), 54.3, in St. Athanasius, 65. No doubt Athanasius gained this insight from Irenaeus, who earlier had said: “If the Word has been made man, it is so that men may be made gods” (The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology, ed. Alan Richardson and John S. Bowden [Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983], s.v. “deification,” 147; see Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses [Irenaeus Against Heresies], book 5, preface, in vol. 1, The Apostolic Fathers, 526). Martin Luther taught this same truth in his Christmas sermon of 1514: “Just as the word of God became flesh, so it is certainly also necessary that the flesh may become word. In other words: God becomes man so that man may become God. . . . He takes what is ours to himself in order to impart what is his to us” (quoted in Jonathan Linman, “Martin Luther: ‘Little Christs for the World’; Faith and Sacraments as Means to Theosis,” in Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History and Development of Deification in the Christian Traditions, ed. Michael J. Christensen and Jeffery A. Wittung [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007], 191). Luther further taught: “Aye, through faith we become gods and partakers of the divine nature and name, as Psalm 82:6 says: ‘I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High’” (Martin Luther, as quoted in Linman, “Martin Luther,” 198).
  18. C. S. Lewis, “Love Thy Neighbor,” The Joyful Christian (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 197.
  19. As related by Arsne Houssaye, “Victor Hugo on Immortality,” in Samuel Gordon Lathrop, ed., Fifty Years and Beyond; or, Gathered Gems for the Aged (Chicago; New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1881), 325; quoted by Hugh B. Brown in CR, April 1967, 50.
  20. Shakespeare, Hamlet, act 2, scene 2, lines 323–27.
  21. Robert Browning, Rabbi Ben Ezra (1864), stanza 13; in The Individual and Human Values, vol. 1 of Out of the Best Books: An Anthology of Literature, ed. Bruce B. Clark and Robert K. Thomas (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1964), 463.
  22. Lorenzo Snow, in Eliza R. Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow: One of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1884), 335; emphasis added.
  23. See Boyd K. Packer, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991), 289.
  24. “The Gospel of Philip (II, 3),” in The Nag Hammadi Library: In English, trans. members of the Coptic Gnostic Library Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), 145.
  25. See B. H. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1903), 33–34.
  26. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity, 35.
  27. Houssaye, “Victor Hugo on Immortality,” Fifty Years, 324–25; quoted in Sterling W. Sill, Thy Kingdom Come (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1975), 222–23.
  28. See 1 Corinthians 12 and 13; Galatians 5:22–23; D&C 46; Moroni 10.
  29. Orson Pratt, chapter 4 of “Kingdom of God,” Orson Pratt’s Works (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1945), 97; emphasis added.
  30. George Q. Cannon, “Discourse by President George Q. Cannon,” Millennial Star 56, no. 17 (23 April 1894): 260–61; emphasis added; quoted in Marvin J. Ashton, The Measure of Our Hearts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991), 24–25.
  31. Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1978), 133.

 

THANKS TO “EVERYONE!”

The TOFW today and last evening: INCREDIBLE!  Thanks to EVERYONE who helped it happen!  I had a fantastic time!  I feel like if I start thanking individuals I’ll never be able to stop.  How about Jenny and her 4 children… Sheri’s interview of Natalie and Mallory (and some fantastic Studio C clips)… and Mary.  How about Gentri, Lisa, Tim, Hank, and Emily … and the local team … and the extraordinary TOFW HQ team … and the AV folks … and the AWESOME women and girls who came. WOWEEEE!!! How about our wonderful drive Deborah/Debbie (my favorite FriesIen specialist!… hope I spelled FreisIen right).  So many friends and dear ones — California buddies, missionaries I had the privilege of teaching in the MTC, nurses I taught at BYU (I always apologize… I knew so little)… Other presenters who came to support us (THANK YOU!!!)  People I haven’t seen in a coon’s age (and I understand coons live a long time!)  I loved having so many family members there — it’s the most I’ve had come to an event since I started doing TOFW almost 13 years ago!  I think the final count was 9 or 10 (including 2 in TOFG!); we tried to gather everyone for a picture but ended up with those in the attached photo.  It was fun “picking on” Marie, for whom my sister Charlotte and I are visiting teachers — she found me after that and said she was at the back of the room waving her arms (maybe some of you saw her, ha ha); she’s great, and a good sport.  So THANK YOU, SALT LAKE! I wish I could have visited with every single one of you, but I think I’d have turned 80 by the time I finished asking lots of questions and doing lots of listening.  And to those of you who got a magnet: remember to keep it away from hearing aides and other stuff!!!.  HA HA HA HA HA HA  … MUCH LOVE to ALL OF YOU!!!  I’m exhausted… I’m going to bed!  I apologize for anyone I left out or anything I meant to share and didn’t, or spelling errors, etc. etc. etc.  OH!  But before I ride off into the sunset, I want to thank ALL OF THE ABOVE and THOUSANDS OF OTHERS for a FANTASTIC YEAR OF TOFW and TOFG!!!  LOTS of miracles, LOTS of love, and LOTS of LIVING PROOF that we are BELIEVERS and FOLLOWERS.  Let’s keep believing and following, and let’s look forward to next year with ONE HEART, ONE FAITH.  Hope to see MANY of you in 2016!!! And now I really really really mean it.  I’m outta here……….

tofw slc nov2015