Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Book Review: Steelheart

I finally jumped on the band wagon and read a Brandon Sanderson. I know I’m super late to the party!

A review almost seems unwarranted. Everyone knows what a great writer he is but here goes...

Despite all the superhero movies and tv shows that are everywhere nowadays, Steelheart feels fresh. The main character, David, is every kids’ kid. He has a tragic background and wants to right the wrong he survived. He is daring, smart and resourceful and he won’t give up.

Setting the story in a future filled with super-villains yet void of super-heroes is awesome. What greater odds can you face? It turns the super-hero trope on its head and sets the stage for an amazing underdog story.

The characters and setting are believable. The story is intriguing and the action never stops. The twists and turns along the way kept me engaged the whole way through. And its a series so the fun doesn’t end here.

This is a great series for the summer. Anytime really.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Gospel Doctrine OT c24: Fall of King David

Gospel Doctrine OT c 24 The Fall of King David
2 Samuel 11-12, Psalms 51
Read 2 Sam 11:1 : "And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem" (11:1).
No explanation is given as to why David did not personally lead his armies. But it is clear that the way this verse is written, the reader is to take David's inactivity in a negative way. The reason becomes obvious after reading the chapter: David's fall is tied directly to his careless manner in performing his kingly duties. Had he been on the battlefront, he would not have been home where the seduction of ease and complacency beguiled him.
?Why do you think David didn’t go to battle? What were his reasons? What did he tell himself?
With the battle front a great distance away, David must have felt at ease in the peace and prosperity of Jerusalem, where he had everything he needed. It is human nature, however, that when we feel that "all is well in Zion," we becomes careless and lax in the things of righteousness.
Read 2 N 28:21: "And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well--and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell"
Of this, Harold B. Lee, taught: "It is frightening to observe that in places where there is the greater prosperity, there is the unmistakable evidence that, like the peoples of other dispensations, when the people prosper they forget God" (Stand Ye in Holy Places: Selected Sermons and Writings of President Harold B. Lee [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1975], p. 82.).
?Do you see this happening? How do you combat it?
Sensing little danger, it is easy to remove the armor of God for a brief season. Our relationship with God becomes more casual and less intense. Yet sadly, when the armor of God is removed, we open ourselves to the "fiery darts of the adversary." Thus, it was with David. Paul warned that to protect ourselves against these forces, we should take upon ourselves "the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Eph. 6:12-13). (Bruce Satterfield, Meridian online magazine, June 3, 2014)

Let’s talk about how to put on the whole armour of God so that we can withstand evil, especially in the context of King David and immorality.
We must continually be on the look out for the ways God has provided to escape the temptation. Regarding this, Neal A. Maxwell has given this counsel: "As to our circumstances, the Lord has promised He will either make a way to escape or a way to bear adversity (1 Corinthians 10:13). As to temptation, most of the time there is an obvious way to escape, but prevention--not being enticed in the first place--is more sure and is part of having sufficient faith" (Not My Will, But Thine [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988 ], p.75).
“What To Do” chart
Thoughts               Fill your mid with uplifting thoughts
Media                              Choose media that inspires. If it doesn’t inspire, it might not be worth ( tv,                                        your time.
People                    Don’t flirt w/ others after marriage, love your spouse with all your heart, continue to “court” (develop your relationship with) your spouse.
Place                      Ensure that the places you go and the activities you participate in will enable you to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Pornography, though billed by Satan as entertainment, is a deeply poisonous, deceptive snake that lies coiled up in magazines, the Internet, and the television. Pornography destroys self-esteem and weakens self-discipline. It is far more deadly to the spirit than the rattlesnake my father warned me not to pet. The Bible records that King David was gifted spiritually, but he stood where he should not have stood. He watched what he should not have watched. Those obsessions became his downfall. (David E. Sorensen (presidency of 70), April 2001Gen. Conf., “You Can’t Pet a Rattlesnake”)
The rest of the story: Bathsheba was with child. David tried to hide his sins. He brought Uriah home from the war and encouraged him to lie with his wife. He would not. He knew where he should be and what he should be doing. He should be with his men at war. Here we see the contrast between David and Uriah. David tries a second time, gets Uriah drunk and encourages him to lie with his wife. Again, Uriah wouldn’t return home. So David sends Uriah to the front lines of the battle, orders the others to stand back and Uriah is killed.
?How and Why do people try to cover up sins today? What happens when we try to cover our sins? Use example of trying to cover a mound of dirt. Covering sins doesn’t work.
Elder Richard G. Scott said: “Do not take comfort in the fact that your transgressions are not known by others. That is like an ostrich with his head buried in the sand. He sees only darkness and feels comfortably hidden. In reality he is ridiculously conspicuous. Likewise our every act is seen by our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son. They know everything about us. …
“If you have seriously transgressed, you will not find any lasting satisfaction or comfort in what you have done. Excusing transgression with a cover-up may appear to fix the problem, but it does not. The tempter is intent on making public your most embarrassing acts at the most harmful time. Lies weave a pattern that is ever more confining and becomes a trap that Satan will spring to your detriment” (Gen Conf, Apr. 1995)
“If you or someone you know has been poisoned spiritually, there is a spiritual snakebite kit. It’s called repentance. 12 And like the remedy for temporal snakebite, it is most effective if applied quickly and early. It can combat even the most venomous spiritual poisons.” (David E. Sorensen (presidency of 70), April 2001Gen. Conf., “You Can’t Pet a Rattlesnake”)

We read about a repentant King David in Psalms 51.
Read Psalms 51:1-3, Similar to Alma the younger’s experience (Alma 36:17-19).
Read Psalms 51:8-17 – ?What imagery is used to depict repentance?
?How does that help you better understand repentance?

It all comes down to this. Where are we standing? What are we doing? Where are we looking?
“Oh, how we must look to Christ and live.
The direction of our look is critical. From the rooftop King David “saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon” (2 Sam. 11:2). He looked across the way, and his heart was filled with lust. He looked; he fell.
Judas Iscariot fixed his eye upon thirty pieces of silver. Greed overcame his righteous desires. His misplaced look cost his life, his soul, and the thirty coins. (See Matt. 27:3–10.)

Our looks must not be allowed to wander across the way or to become fixed upon the perishable things of the world. The eye, “the light of the body” (Matt. 6:22), must be trained to look upward. We must look to God and live!” (Carlos E. Asay, Oct. 1978 Gen. Conf., “Look To God and Live”)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Book Review: The Kitchen House

"The Kitchen House" by Kathleen Grissom is a great “escape” read. You will be transported and completely immersed in the story. But its also an intimate look into the life or death details of living with slavery.

“The Kitchen House” follows the life of a young Irish orphan, Lavinia, who is made a slave to a wealthy plantation owner in Virginia.

The colored slaves take her in as one of their own, even though they know she can never really be one of them because she is white and that is enough to make a difference. But she grows up blind to the difference of skin color. And therein lies the crux of the story. Society eventually tries to separate her and teach her where she belongs but nobody is quite sure where that is.

She feels a deep kinship with her slave family and they for her. But she is eventually assigned to the house to care for the ailing mistress. The master is a kind man but is often absent, leaving responsibility for the house and slaves to an abusive field manager, and his children to an abusive tutor. 

The characters are compelling. Every one of them. There is a large cast, running the risk of stereotypes which does happen to some degree. There is enough character growth in the main characters to forgive the flat characters. 

By the end, it almost begins to feel like a soap opera with all the inter-connections of slaves and owners and the traps of misunderstanding and crossed paths. And perhaps it really was that way?

One of the most painful parts for me to read was how trapped everyone was in their roles. Even with good intentions, good peopled were forced to be silent and pressed to inaction. And the evils of slavery persisted. I found myself even feeling sympathy for one of the antagonists. That’s good storytelling. And its tragic and heart wrenching and hard to put down. 

I really enjoyed thinking about and trying to understand the motivation of the characters, why they chose to do certain things. What would I have done in the situation? Would I be strong or weak? And what really is strong or weak when faced with a situation like they were in? Being led to these reflections and discussions with friends in our book club is what made this book so great!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Gospel Doctrine OT C23: David, Jonathan and Saul

What is the 10th commandment? Thou shalt not covet.
What are other words for covet? Jealousy, envy, coveting.

Saul-1 Sam 9:2 – there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he [Saul].
David- 1 Sam 18:5 - Just killed Goliath and is now set over Saul’s armies
Jonathan- 1 Sam 18:3-4 - Saul’s son, also a valiant soldier and putting faith in God (like David)

1 Samuel 18:6-9
???What did Saul let ruin his friendship and love for David? Jealousy, envy, coveting. Also the spirit of the lord departed from Saul and an evil spirit troubled him. (1 Sam 16:14).

It is interesting to see the behavior of Saul and David at this crossroads.
David’s behavior: 1 Sam 18:14-16

Brigham Young said something about behaving ourselves wisely when others speak and think evil of us. He was giving instructions to departing missionaries in 1861. He said:
“You will have all manner of evil spoken against you, and all I ask of you and all that God or angels will ask of you is that not one word spoken against you shall be true; and I want you for my sake and for your own sake and for the sake of Christ and the Kingdom of God to live so that the wicked shall have no cause to speak evil against you” (cited in Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors, pp. 412-13).

King Saul’s behavior:  1 Sam 18:11 (javelin). Also as a trap to get David killed, Saul offered his daughter Michal in marriage. In exchange for dowry, David needed to kill one hundred Phillistine’s. He killed two hundred and married Michal. Saul continues to seek David’s life. Threatens with the javelin again. Michal saves him by letting him out the window to escape and putting a dummy in his bed. (ADD MICHAL’S NAME BY JONATHAN) David flees to Samuel, the prophet. David continues to run. Saul kills priests who help David and eventually threatens to destroy a city. He is completely consumed by envy, jealousy and pride.
And so begins the tragic story of King Saul.
???Where do we see a lot of envy and jealousy? I’ll also add pride to the list. Why is it so destructive?

Saul’s tragic flaw was pride, often manifested as a fear of criticism and a love of popular approval.
“As the newly anointed king of Israel, he was actually a substitute. Jehovah was the true king of Israel. … He was to be the civil representative of the true king, Jehovah.” (Richard Elliot, “The Tragic Dimensions of Saul”, Ensign, June 1990).
David was to take Saul’s place as King of Israel, as prophesied by Samuel. This is seen as Saul turns away from the Lord, he also turns away from David, creating enmity with both. David takes the figurative place of Jehovah as Saul rejects them both.

Moroni 8:27 – ‘Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction.’
C.S. Lewis – “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952)

Benson- Saul became an enemy to David through pride. He was jealous because the crowds of Israelite women were singing that ‘Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’
“The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment. ‘What will men think of me? weighs heavier than ‘What will God think of me?’
“Fear of men’s judgment manifests itself in competition for men’s approval. The proud love ‘the praise of men more than the praise of God.’ Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest. Jesus said He did ‘always those things’ that pleased God. Would we not do well to have the pleasing of God as our motive rather than to try to elevate ourselves above our brother and out do another?
“Some prideful people are not as concerned as to whether their wages meet their needs are they are that their wages are more than someone else’s. Their reward is being a cut above the rest. This is the enmity of pride.
“When pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world and deliver our freedoms to the bondage of men’s judgment. The world shouts louder than the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. The reasoning of men overrides the revelations of God, and the proud let go of the iron rod.”
“Disobedience is essentially a prideful power struggle against someone in authority over us.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” April 1989 Gen Conf).

Holland- “Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.
“Furthermore, envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment! To say nothing of the chagrin in the end, when we find that God really is both just and merciful, giving to all who stand with Him “all that he hath,” as the scripture says. So lesson number one from the Lord’s vineyard: coveting, pouting, or tearing others down does not elevate your stand, nor does demeaning someone else improve your self-image. So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Laborers in the Vineyard,” April 2012 Gen Conf).

Holland- Who is it that whispers so subtly in our ear that a gift given to another somehow diminishes the blessings we have received? Who makes us feel that if God is smiling on another, then He surely must somehow be frowning on us? You and I both know who does this—it is the father of all lies. It is Lucifer, our common enemy, whose cry down through the corridors of time is always and to everyone, “Give me thine honor.”
“It has been said that envy is the one sin to which no one readily confesses, but just how widespread that tendency can be is suggested in the old Danish proverb, ‘If envy were a fever, all the world would be ill.’
“As others seem to grow larger in our sight, we think we must therefore be smaller. So, unfortunately, we occasionally act that way.”

“One observer has written: ‘In a world that constantly compares people, ranking them as more or less intelligent, more or less attractive, more or less successful, it is not easy to really believe in a [divine] love that does not do the same. When I hear someone praised,’ he says, ‘it is hard not to think of myself as less praiseworthy; when I read about the goodness and kindness of other people, it is hard not to wonder whether I myself am as good and kind as they; and when I see trophies, rewards, and prizes being handed out to special people, I cannot avoid asking myself why that didn’t happen to me.’ If left unresisted, we can see how this inclination so embellished by the world will ultimately bring a resentful, demeaning view of God and a terribly destructive view of ourselves. Most “thou shalt not” commandments are meant to keep us from hurting others, but I am convinced the commandment not to covet is meant to keep us form hurting ourselves.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Other Prodigal,” April 2002 Gen Conf).

???How do we overcome envy?

Holland- How to overcome envy? Start making your way back to the Father. Count your many blessings. Applaud the accomplishments of others. Serve others. (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Other Prodigal,” April 2002 Gen Conf).

Throughout all of this, Jonathan is a true friend to David. 1Sam 18:4 indicates that Jonathan may have even known that David was anointed to be king. He tried multiple times to convince his father, Saul, to not kill David. (1Sam 20:2-4, 13-17, 23) (1Sam 23:16-18)
???What made their friendship so strong?
???What is the value of good friendships?

Eyring- “The promise we made in the waters of baptism “to bear one another’s burdens’. It is to be a friend. … All of us will be tested. And all of us need true friends to love us, to listen to us, to show us the way, and to testify of truth to us so that we may retain the companionship of the Holy Ghost. You must be such a true friend.”
--John 15:12-15- “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servant; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”

Hales- “There’s a marvelous lesson to be taught by those who live in the islands. When they catch crabs, they place them in a small, flat basket. If you place one crab in the basket, it crawls right out. If you place two crabs in the basket, every time one crab starts to crawl out, it is pulled back in by the other crab. Does that tell you something about your friends? What is the definition of a friend? Friends are people who make it easier to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. If they deviate from the path and lead you away, it does not matter what kind of cars they drive, who their parents are, how effective they are on the football field or the basketball floor or the baseball diamond. You have to ask yourself, ‘Do they make living the gospel easier? Do they help me out of the basket? Will they go with me?’” ( Robert D. Hales, “This is the Way; and There is None Other Way,” BYU speech, Jan 10, 1982

Hales-“We need to measure very carefully who our true friends are. The measure of a true friend is one who will not have us choose between his way and the Lord’s way. A true friend makes it easier for us to live the commandments of the Lord. A true friend will not let us do anything we want. True friends will correct us when we do something wrong and bring us back on the straight and narrow path that leads to exaltation.” (Robert D. Hales, “Return with Honor,” Ensign, June 1999)

Scott- “I wish to share with you some of my most treasured friends,” Richard G. Scott, Oct 1988 Gen Conf). He then says two of those treasured friends are the prophet (at the time, Pres. Benson) and the Book of Mormon. “I offer you the Book of Mormon, a precious friend provided by a loving Savior. Within its pages is truth that brings comfort, guidance, peace, and yes, the companionship of the other true friends. Between its covers you will find the friendship and worthy example of Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Benjamin, Alma, Ammon, Helaman, Mormon, Moroni, and so many others. They will rekindle courage and mark the path to faith and obedience. They will ehlp you overcome the bitterness and anguish of transgression. More important, all of them, without exception, will lift your vision to the perfect friend—our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus the Christ. … I cannot comprehend his power, his majesty, his perfections. But I do understand something of his love, his compassion, his mercy.
“There is no burden he cannot lift.
“There is no heart he cannot purify and fill with joy.
“There is no life he cannot cleanse and restore when one is obedient to his teachings.
“Let my other friends guide you to him, but find him yourself through humble, sincere prayer, obedience, and faith.”

“[God] is your Father; pray to him. If your life is in disarray and you feel uncomfortable and unworthy to pray because you are not clean, don’t worry. He already knows about all of that. He is waiting for you to kneel in humility and take the first few steps. Pray for strength. pray for others to be led to support you and guide you and lift you. Pray that the love of the Savior will pour into your heart. Pray that the miracle of the Atonement will bring forgiveness because you are willing to change. I know that those prayers will be answered, for God loves you. His Son gave his life for you. I know they will help you.” (Richard G. Scott, “True Friends That Lift,” Oct. 1988, Gen Conf)

BE ONE—eternal friendships
Proctor- “In the same way that our bonds with our cousins might be built upon the stronger relationship of our parents as siblings, so a friendship nurtured in this world is stronger if founded upon the eternal relationship we have with our Father and his Son.
“The implications of this potential friendship are enormous. It demands that we rise above the limits of common friendship and grasp the higher values that the gospel has been teaching us. A friendship in this world usually develops because we share similar backgrounds, interest, goals, abilities, or traits. yet these can be tenuous, or in a word, temporary, temporal, not eternal.
“If instead, we start with the background of having the same eternal parents and the objective of eternal life, the bond is definitely more powerful. If we can move beyond the petty boundaries that eventually seem to plateau friendship in this world and replace envy, jealousy, and strife with faith and charity, we have a chance at forming here on this imperfect earth an eternal relationship.” (Maurine Proctor, Meridian Magazine, June 4, 2018_)

Maxwell- “Can one expect human relationships to be deep and lasting sources of purpose and meaning without having truth at their center? Can there be friendships such as the friendship of Jonathan and David outside the context of absolute values?”

Holland-  Paul “reminds us we are all the body of Christ, and that all members, whether comely or feeble, are adored, essential, and important. We feel the depth of his plea that there be “no schism in the body, but that the members … have the same care one for another. And [when] one member suffer[s], all the members suffer with it; or [when] one member [is] honoured, all the members rejoice. That incomparable counsel helps us remember that the word generosity has the same derivation as the word genealogy, both coming from the latin genus, meaning of the same birth or kind, the same family or gender. WE will find it easier to be generous when we remember that this person being favored is truly one of our own. (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Other Prodigal,” April 2002 Gen Conf).

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

SANTIAGO chapter 1

This is my chapter that won 2nd place in Adult General Fiction at the Storymakers Conference contest 2018. I'm very pleased with it and excited to share it with you!

Chapter 1       
            Santi pulled his blanket over his shoulder and shrugged it up to his chin. It was October and even in Fairfield, California, the mornings were beginning to chill. The apartment floor provided little comfort, but Santi was too tired to care. With his eyes closed, he turned to lie flat on his back. Careful not to bump any of his cousins sleeping like sardines in the small bedroom, he reached his hands over his head in a long stretch. The rising sun teased the window curtains with the promise of morning.
            Strawberries were the worst to harvest, he decided. Bending at the waist, row after row, was painful, even with the advantage of being nine years old and closer to the ground. Santi and his cousins would often lie down on the dirt between the rows of strawberries just to give their backs a break. But when Mama and Aunt Concha gave the order, they were up and picking again, with barely a siesta in between. Santi didn’t mind the hard work too much though. Being with his cousins was worth it.
            The door opened to the small bedroom where he lay, and a shaft of light slipped past the figure in the doorway. Dust danced around Aunt Concha, stopping at the dark outline of her wide hips and sloping shoulders.
            She tiptoed over sleeping cousins and put her hand on Santi’s leg. Motioning to the door, she reached out to help him from the floor. Aunt Concha was a worker, and a good one. She could have lifted Santi’s nine-year-old body up and carried him across the room with one hand if she’d wanted to. Every fall she and her children worked the harvest in Fairfield for extra money. And every fall she opened her home to Santi’s family to join in too. Santi followed his aunt through the minefield of sleeping bodies into the living room.
            Aunt Concha cupped his face with her hands. “An officer is coming to take you to your grandfather. Don’t worry, Santi. I’ll pack you some food.”
            “What’s wrong?” He pulled back. “Are the officers taking us away?” He was scared. He’d seen enough of his friends and their families deported back to Mexico.
            “No Santi. It’s not immigration. We are legal citizens.” She pulled him into a bear hug. “You are needed at home.”
            Aunt Concha was not an affectionate person, and Santi pulled against this sudden change in behavior. A knock at the ground level apartment door released him from the suffocating hug.
            “Officer,” Aunt Concha greeted.
            “Ma’am.” A police officer stepped through the front door. His hat was in one hand and the other hand was raised to his face where his fingers fiddled with a bushy mustache. He was tall and thin with a pronounced slouch.
            Santi looked around for his mother and then remembered she had gone home during the night to pick up some more clothes and other items they needed. Mama would be home when he got there and everything would be fine. He reached for Aunt Concha’s hand.
            “Santi, this is Officer… What was your name again?” Aunt Concha held Santi’s hand like a kite string in a strong wind. He tried to adjust his pinched fingers.
            “Uh, Officer Roberts.” The policeman traded his hat back and forth between his hands. His skittish eyes darted from Aunt Concha’s to the floor and back.
            “Officer Roberts is here to take you home.” She released her grip on Santi and turned to the kitchen.
            Officer Roberts raised a hand and motioned as if to speak to her as she left. His lips mumbled a silent conversation with himself and he shook his head, his hat still spinning in his hands. Aunt Concha returned with a brown paper bag bulging with the round outline of an apple and a water bottle. If Santi was lucky, she’d have thrown in one of her secret-recipe empanadas. She thrust the bag into Santi’s hands and pushed him toward the officer.
            “I’m leaving now? Alone?” Santi looked at his aunt, confused. She bit her lip and nodded.
            “You’ll be okay. Go with the officer, Santi.” She ran her fingers through Santi’s hair and gave him a final squeeze then nodded to the officer. He reached for Santi and directed him out the door. As the police car pulled away, Santi watched his aunt through the back window. She stood in the open door, hands clenched over her chest.
            It was a long drive and the sun burned through the car window. His cousins would be hard at work in the fields by now and Santi envied them. By the time they crossed the Sacramento River, Santi had already seen enough field and asphalt to put him in a scenic coma. Everything looked the same but he knew something had changed. Every dashed line on the road seemed to whisper “What’s wrong? What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”
            When Officer Roberts pulled into his neighborhood, Santi released his seatbelt and sat up next to the window. He pressed his nose and forehead into the glass until it fogged up. He wiped and pressed again. The car slowed to a crawl a couple of houses before Santi’s.
            “My house is further up there.” Santi pointed and knocked on the back of the driver’s seat. They were so close and all he could think about was seeing Mama. Then things would feel right again.
            “Yeah, so, we can’t get too close. I’m just going to park somewhere around here.” Officer Roberts picked up the speed a little and weaved between a few of the neighbors’ cars parked on the street until they were one house away. Then he pulled over and parked behind another police car.
            Santi squinted and stared. There had to be ten other police cars parked all over the street and in his driveway. He opened the door and stepped out, eyes trained on his house. Yellow ‘caution’ tape stretched from the back of his house, across the front and up the driveway on the other side. The house looked like the center of a boxing arena.
            “Hey, kid. You stay here in the car and I’ll be right back.” Officer Roberts walked away, his voice trailing behind him.
            Santi stared through the window like it was a movie screen. A man in a suit greeted Officer Roberts and they both walked into the house through the front door. Santi waited until the door closed and then climbed out of the car and followed the yellow tape up the driveway. At first he didn’t dare walk too closely to it. Stay away, it warned. Danger. But Santi had never been able to stay away from trouble, even when he tried. He reached out and touched the tape, muscles tense. The tape felt like wet plastic and he realized his hands were sweating. He trailed his fingers on the tape as he continued up the driveway.
            Closer to the house now, Santi heard a buzz of activity from inside. It sounded like the hornet nest he had found with his brother in one of the dirt baseball fields last summer. Santi knew what might happen when he threw a tomato at the hive but the air attack that followed was enough to scar him for life. Santi was a fast runner but his younger brother was not. Pushing Luis in front of him, he could not stay ahead of the mass of hornets. By the time they reached home, Santi’s back was a bumpy mass of swelling stings and his breathing was no more than a wheezing gasp. Although he was back to playing baseball with the neighbor boys the next day, he never touched another hive.
            Santi stepped away from the tape, shaking. His breath was quick and shallow. Feeling dizzy he turned away and bent to balance his elbows on his knees. The buzz from the house echoed in his head. Danger.
            “Santiago,” someone whispered.
            Santi looked up and saw his neighbor, motioning for him to come to the far side of the driveway. She was the neighborhood Abuela, hard of hearing and nosy, but always sincere.
            “Santiago. What’s going on? What happened?” Stooped with old age, she was nearly the same height as Santi.
            Santi didn’t know how to answer. Something had happened but he didn’t know what. All he knew was that his house was buzzing like a hornet’s nest and he didn’t want anything to do with it.
            “They will ruin your mother’s flowers. They search all through them. And the noise. They make so much noise.” Abuela clicked her tongue and motioned again for Santi to come closer.
            Just as he stood to move toward her, Officer Roberts appeared at his side and pulled on his elbow. “Come with me, boy,” he said. The officer hustled back to the house, dragging Santi behind. Together, they ducked under the tape and entered through the back door, leaving Abuela shaking her head after them.
            The kitchen was cast in shadow as Santi’s eyes adjusted from the outside morning light. He made out the shape of the dining table through the doorway, in the dining room. The vase of fresh flowers his mother always kept was missing. That made sense though, because she’d been with Aunt Concha and the rest of us for a week. The flowers would have wilted by now. Mama probably tossed them out when she came home last night to pack a few more clothes and things. Where was Mama? Santi rubbed his palms on his pant legs. He looked behind him. Two men in suits were talking, making notes on small pads of paper.
            In place of the flowers were a bunch of grapes and a bundle of asparagus. Two shades of green contrasting with the wooden table. Next to the produce was another pile. Also green. Santi squinted and stepped forward. It was money. Piles of it. Bundles of bills falling off of each other like a landslide. Santi had never seen so much money in his life, except in the movies. Is this why they called for him to come home? Had they found a treasure or won an award? Maybe he had it wrong and this feeling he had, like a bomb ready to explode, was because something good had happened.
            Santi stepped forward. He had touched the tape. He had entered the buzzing house. And he was still standing. He stepped into the dining room and reached for the money. With the next step, his foot slipped and Officer Roberts grabbed him under his arms before he fell to the floor.  Santi looked down to see his foot in a pool of red. He slid his toe back, revealing a streak of linoleum before the blood pooled back together. Instantly the smell hit him. Not the coppery smell, like when he cut his finger helping Abuela with dinner or banged up his knee in a bike crash. It smelled like body odor only worse—rancid and dirty.           
            His stomach turned and he pushed his way through the door into the dining room. His arm burned as he twisted out of Officer Roberts’ grasp. Reaching for the table, he held on with all the strength he had left. The officer followed him. Everyone stopped talking and the hive went silent, noticing him for the first time. Santi focused on the green; the asparagus, the grapes, the money in front of him on the table. But all he could see was red.
            “Jeez, kid. Hold on,” said Officer Roberts.
            Santi turned to stare at the officer. He screamed in his head. Why did you bring me here? Officer Roberts avoided eye contact and stood over him, like a sorry excuse for shelter. He glanced at the wall next to the doorway. Santi followed his gaze and saw two names written on the wall in fat, black marker. Rosa and Maria. Mama and Abuela. Beneath the names the wall was streaked with blood. The room spun and Santi stood still, fixated on the wall. Nothing made sense.
            “Roberts!” A man in a suit stood between Santi and the officer, blocking the view of the wall. “What in the…” he glanced at Santi and cut his curse words short. “When I said bring the boy in, I meant to the office where his grandfather is waiting. Get out of here!” He shoved Officer Roberts toward the door then kneeled in front of Santi.
            “What’s your name, young man?” he asked.
            “Santi. Santiago Juarez, sir.” Santi looked around to see who else might be talking because the voice that came out of his mouth did not sound like his own. It warbled and echoed in his ears.
            “Santiago, I’m Detective Allred. You should not be here. I’m going to send you to see your grandfather.” He waved a hand in the air and another policeman rushed over. “This officer will drive you.”
            Santi nodded. “What about Officer Roberts?”
            “Officer Roberts is no longer working this case.” The detective shook his head and stood. He placed a heavy hand on Santi’s shoulder. “Let’s get you back with family.”
            “What about my mom?” As Santi said the words his stomach turned and his throat went tight like he was choking. “And my dad?”
            The new officer looked at the detective, his mouth stretched across his face so tight it might break. Detective Allred knelt again and stared at Santiago. “This officer is going to take you to the station. You should ask your grandfather these questions.”
            At the police station, Santi walked past cubicles like he was on parade. On-looking officers stood to see him and whispered behind their hands. He lowered his eyes and trudged ahead. Grandfather stood in the middle of a glass room at the end of the hall, rigid as a brick wall with his back to the door. Mama’s two brothers were sitting around a table. One held Santi’s little sister on his lap and the other had his arm around Santi’s brother, Luis.
            The officer stood in the doorway and cleared his throat.
            “Mr. Juarez…”
            Grandfather turned and looked at the officer. His eyes were wet and swollen. “Any more news?” He held his hands out as if to receive something and they shook.
            “No.” The officer shook his head. “Santiago is here.”
            Santi took one step forward, hoping his legs would carry him all the way to his Grandfather’s arms before he fell. He scanned the room, trying to make eye contact but all eyes were on the officer and Grandfather. It was like no one knew he was there.
            “Santiago Juarez is no longer my family.” Spit laced Grandfather’s words and his eyes bore into the officer.
            The officer raised one hand to calm the old man and clarify. “I’ve brought your grandson, Santi.” Santi walked into the room and his brother and sister surrounded him with hugs. His uncles sat at the table, thrumming fingers and watching through lowered eyes.
            “Thank you, officer,” Grandfather said.
            When the siblings finished hugging, Santi turned to his Grandfather. ”Where is my dad?”
            “You won’t ever see him again.” The blood vessels on Grandfather’s neck bulged and pulsed. “He’s dead.”

            Santi’s face flushed and the room swung around him like a giant bell. “And Mama and Abuela?”  He knew the answer but didn’t want to hear it. As his Grandfather ranted about death, hell and Santiago Juarez, Santi covered his ears and crawled under the table with his siblings. He held his brother and sister on either side and rocked as his. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Gospel Doctrine OT c22: Look On the Heart

Gospel Doctrine OT c22 Look on the Heart
1 Samuel 9-16

Israel wants a King. Samuel tells them it is not God’s way but they want one anyway. God gives them a king: Saul.

Who was Saul?
1 Sam 9:2- a choice, young man, goodliest of all and head and shoulders above all others.
9:21- not of high standing or prestige
Seeking his father’s lost livestock, he goes to Samuel the prophet for counsel (9:6).
The Lord told Samuel the day before that Saul would come. The day Saul arrived, Samuel was expecting him (9:17).
Samuel anointed Saul (10:1). He was accepted as king (10:24). There were those who despised him, but Saul held his peace (10:27). Saul went away with a changed heart (10:9).

Focus of the lesson is the HEART.
??What is God’s concern with the heart?? What is it about the heart that is so important??
            Physical implications- it keeps us alive, constant, strongest muscle
            Spiritual implications- true desires, spirit speaks to it/through it, capacity to love

Marvin J. Ashton- “When the Lord measures an individual, He does not take a tape measure
around the person’s head to determine his mental capacity, nor his chest to determine his manliness, but He measures the heart as an indicator of the person’s capacity and potential to bless others.

“Why the heart? Because the heart is a synonym for one’s entire makeup. We often use phrases about the heart to describe the total person. Thus, we describe people as being “big-hearted” or “goodhearted” or having a “heart of gold.” Or we speak of people with faint hearts, wise hearts, pure hearts, willing hearts, deceitful hearts, conniving hearts, courageous hearts, cold hearts, hearts of stone, or selfish hearts. (Gen Conf Oct. 1988)

What was the condition of Saul’s heart?
Based off of what we know from the beginning, his heart was humble. Humble enough to ask guidance from the prophet. His heart was not bothered by those who despised him. He didn’t care about the worldly cares of men.
Was that good enough? Once a good heart, always a good heart?

Saul was a good, righteous and courageous king. He led his people well, protected them and defended them. Nahash the Ammonite came against Jabesh of Israel. Saul waged war and won victory. The people loved him as their king. (C11)

In Chapter 12, Samuel gives a discourse and warns the people about being ruled by a king again. God then shows his great power by sending thunder and rain during the harvest, causing the people to repent and acknowledge God. In response, Samuel says,

12:20-21  And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart; And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.
12:24 Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.

??What is Samuel’s warning and what is his counsel??
Serve with all your heart
2x Turn not aside (after vain things)
Vain things cannot profit nor deliver you
Those two things mean - Keep your heart right and your perspective right.
??What are we turning aside to? How does that affect our hearts?

Battle with the Philistines (C13).
The Philistines were as numerous as the sands of the sea. Israel was scared and began to scatter and hide. Samuel was going to bless and offer a sacrifice by the priesthood power but on the 7th day, when he was supposed to come, he wasn’t there, so Samuel offered the sacrifice instead (13:8-10).

Read 1 Sam 13:10-12
Elder James E. Talmage wrote, “Saul prepared the burnt offering himself, forgetting that
though he occupied the throne, wore the crown, and bore the scepter, [he had] no right to officiate … in the Priesthood of God; and for this and other instances of his unrighteous presumption he was rejected of God and another was made king in his place” (The Articles of Faith, 12th ed. [1924], 185).
?? What is unrighteous presumption? Have you experienced unrighteous presumption?

Read 1 Sam 13:13-14 A warning for us all. God would have established the kingdom on Saul and Israel forever but he lost it all. We have similar great blessings promised to us. We are required to make the same decisions Saul made. What decisions were/ are those?
            Will we turn aside from the Lord and His ways?
            Will we serve with our hearts?
            He was impatient, failed to trust God and disobeyed.
The Lord seeks men and women after his own heart. Just like Samuel counseled in 12:24 serve with all your heart and turn not aside after vain things.

Jonathan and his armour-bearer (14)
14:6 Jonathan and his friend will take on the Philistines on their own
14:7 armour-bearer believes in Jonathan’s heart
14:14-16 they were victorious, they feared not man and knew that god would be with them

Saul turns aside…
(good example of church discipline)
Going to battle against Amalek, Samuel tells Saul – read 15:2-3.
Read 15:9 Saul spared some things.
Read 15:10-11 Samuel is sad about what is coming…
Read 15:13  ?How can Saul be so confident in what he had done?
Read 15:14-15 rationalizing, presuming, pride, not trusting that God is in charge (I know that this is what God said, but it makes more sense if…. I just thought I could still…. But did the prophet think about this….?) I think often we fall into the trap of not remembering who God really is. He is the supreme creator. It is His power that created everything we see and experience. This is God’s church and He is in charge, not us. If we do not accept that, then we reject Him.
Read 15:15-21 Discussion takes place
Keypoint- 15:22-23 - And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and
sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

?What is the value of obedience?
Listen and obey is the best we can give! Stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
?How is stubbornness like idolatry?
Read 15:24-29 And it wasn’t just Saul. He was the leader, the king. People followed him. And when he wasn’t obedient to the Lord, neither were his followers. His influence and example made his actions and his rejection that much more tragic.
We can be at risk of losing our eternal blessings.
15:30-31 Love and open arms are still available to those who repent.

1 Sam 16:1 – And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul? Tender hearted Samuel….

Samuel finds David
God directs Samuel to the house of Jesse to find the new king. Remember when Samuel found Saul, Saul was head and shoulders above everyone else. Maybe Samuel was still stuck on Saul a little.
Read 1 Sam 16:7 – but the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

After seeing 7 sons, Samuel asks Jesse if there are any more.
1 Sam 16:11-12  And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all they children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.  And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and wthal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.

Two final scriptures:
D&C137:9 – For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.
D&C 64:34 – Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days.

The final question for us is found in Alma 5:26 – If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?