Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tis the season to spend your money.

This is the season, beloved of the year .. by the retail and postal industries.

What will you be getting for Christmas?

How about a phone charger of the green variety:  A grass charging station.

How about a Solar Queen, who royally waves when in the sun.

You could also go for the battery-powered remote control pillow.  Yup. 
Snuggle down with that remote and flick away.

Then you can wrap your presents up in delicious calorie-filled premium wrapping paper.

And guess what.

I still haven't opened my three packages ... and we received another package in the mail yesterday - a surprise from my family. 

Can't wait for Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Hello.  It's almost half past 11 pm here.  I thought it was something like 9pm.  But it's not.

I've been watching my favourite TV show.  I mentioned what it was back here.  I also mentioned there that I love the series so much that I don't want it to end .. so I stopped watching it.  That way, it didn't come to an end. 

That was several years ago.  Yup, seriously
I've since gone on a mission, married a nice chap, and finished my masters.

Thanks to my nice chap of a husband, I finally buckled down and watched several episodes.  And then several more.  It's addictive stuff, and now tonight - this very night - there is just one episode to go!  Ever!!

And I can't bring myself to watch it. 

I'm putting it down to the time - 11:30pm on a Saturday night means the Holy Ghost is about to go to bed and I need to be a spiritual being.

But really, it's because I don't know what to do once I'm done with it. 
Start watching it again from series one?  Should I pray about it?

Hmm.  Okay.  Goodnight.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thought for Friday.

I'm going away for a bit, then returning to a bazillion Christmas events and musical stuff to organise.

But for now, know this:  YOU are a child of GOD.

I love this video :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Man from Beijing.

A few months back, I came across the Swedish crime writing of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

Now I am discovering the world of Henning Mankell.  Another Swedish author of crime/thriller.

The Man from Beijing.

This book was fun.  In a creepy thriller kinda way.

Thrillers - usually involving murder, corruption, cover-ups - possibly my favourite genre of book. 
And this book did not disappoint.

It begins immediately with crime and chaos on a massive scale.  An eerie beginning in a small Swedish hamlet, where most of the occupants and animals are dead. And not in a pretty way.

What makes this story interesting, and perhaps more complex, is the interweaving of past and present.  And by past, I mean 150-odd years ago.  The crimes in this book are all about power and revenge, stemming from events over a century ago. 
As a reader, you are shifted from present, to past, and back again, with darting references to a history you are not shown completely, as well as being shifted from country to country.  In fact, it was Mankell's own commentary on the social and political movements in China and Africa that really beefed up the storyline. 

And the product is not a simple tale of crime.  Instead, you are reading a heartbreaking family history, a tale of political upheaval, and the suspenseful journey of a women who was intrigued by the truth.

One sentiment spoken in this book rings true:  "The truth is never simple".  "It's only in the Western world that you think knowledge is something you can acquire quickly and easily.  It takes time.  The truth never hurries."

I'm now reading Mankell's The Eye of the Leopard, another thriller set in Africa. 

So far .. it is nowhere near as captivating.  I'm in chapter five, and so far it is all character-building monologues of dreams, memories, and really vague undertones of a past ..

Monday, December 12, 2011

Testimony meeting.

This is a topic I have been wanting to write about for a long, long time.  It is a topic close to my heart - what not to do during testimony meeting.

Seriously,  I become an overly anxious soul during testimony meetings.  The potentially-ever-painful monthly thank-timony meeting.  And having these meetings coinciding with Fast Sunday doesn't help either.

We have been instructed what this meeting is for, and how to appropriately speak during it.  We have also been instructed on the importance of brevity and conciseness when bearing testimony.  [1] 
Elder Jensen once told us (and I summarise):  [2]

A testimony is not an exhortation. And it’s not a sermon or a talk. Don’t you be banging your fist and calling me to repentance. That just offends me and the spirit.
A testimony is not an experience. Sure you can share a short experience to illustrate your belief. But don’t be giving me the long-winded version of what you did that week.
A testimony is not an expression of gratitude or love. Are you shocked? Again, it may be appropriate to include some gratitude or love in there, but that is not the point of a testimony or the meeting.
A testimony is not a public confession. Enough said.
A testimony is not a long explanation of how you know, but rather what you know.

And yet, this is what I regularly hear:
1. I'd like to thank that mystery person for delivering cookies to my door when I really needed them.  I like cookies.
2.  I love this ward.  You guys are great.  My last ward wasn't nearly as friendly, but you guys are great.  And I love my family - I don't tell them nearly as often as I should. 
[Elder Bednar once said these comments make him silently squirm in his seat.]
3. I'm so grateful for the birds in my backyard.  They are nice and chirpy, and remind me of the time ...
4. I really like Young Women's.  Yeah, it's way fun.  But I don't like getting up for seminary much.
5. This week I did this, and this; and then this happened; and then my grandson called and this happened; and then I planted a tree, and watched it grow.  I like trees.

I remember being taught by my parents (now translated) that I should get up and say one or all of the following only
I now pass this on to you. 
When you share, bare, or even expose** your testimony to others, you should say one or all of the following only:

1. Your belief in God, our Heavenly Father.  You could extend this to your belief in the Godhead - God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
2. Your belief in Jesus Christ and His atonement for us.
3. Your belief in Joseph Smith being a true prophet of God, and in his role in restoring Christ's church.
4. Your belief in the current-day prophet, leading and guiding Christ's church.
5. Your belief in the Book of Mormon, being scripture alongside the Bible.

Some also teach that a belief in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon is actually the same, allowing for a belief in the temple as number five on the list.

** I once heard a special someone get up and say:  I don't just want to bare my testimony.  I want to expose myself.  No joke.

These five basic principles should be the foundation of your testimony, and what you say during testimony meeting.  They are the foundation of a testimony.  We should say the things which set us apart from others, the things we believe to be true.  We can expand on other principles of the gospel we know to be true and our appreciation for them, e.g. your knowledge that Heavenly Father loves you and how you appreciate that love;  your knowledge that Jesus Christ lives;  your knowledge that tithing is a principle from God because you exercised it and now understand it.

This parental advice was echoed by Bruce R. McConkie, who wrote the three great truths that must be included in every valid testimony were:
1. That Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Saviour of the world (D&C 46:13);
2. That Joseph Smith is the Prophet of God through whom the gospel was restored in this dispensation; and
3. That The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the ‘only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.’ (D&C 1:30). [3]

Note:  I understand that testimony grows through experiences.  Our knowledge of what is true will gradually increase as we exercise faith and practice what we know, but the pulpit is not the time and place to elaborate for 5-30 minutes.  We do have other opportunities to share our testimony - usually during Relief Society meetings, Sunday School meetings, etc.  If you don't have those opportunities to share your testimony-building experiences, ask for them.  Or hold a Family Home Evening dedicated to testimonies.

The following are examples of how testimonies should sound like from the pulpit:
1. "I know the Book of Mormon is true."
2. "I believe in God.  I know that President Monson is our prophet today."
3. "I know Jesus Christ died for me.  I understand the atonement more fully from my recent scripture study, and I know it to be true."
4. "I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.  I know he restored the fullness of the gospel, and that the church is the same as it was in the days of Christ.  I also know we are led by a living prophet today, and that we are able to know of these things for ourselves."

Do I need to bring out the Testimony Glove?  (Oooh! It's currently on sale ....)

Want to know what puts me on edge in Sacrament talks? 
Read my post on what not to do when giving a talk in Sacrament meeting.

[1] First Presidency letter, May 2, 2002; see also M. Russell Ballard, “Pure Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 2004, 40–43
[2] Jay E. Jensen, ‘Bearing Testimony’, Ensign, Oct. 2005
[3] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 785–86

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy.

How's this for a read:  the entire genealogy of Britain's kings and queens.

Starting with King Egbert and his father in the year 784.
Ending with Queen Elizabeth II and her offspring.

I just finishing reading.
And loved it!  Yes.  I'm odd.

This record does not tell stories.
I looked for details of rumour and tale of William Wallace under Edward I and Robert the Bruce.  Proof, perhaps, that Braveheart was highly accurate and that Edward III was indeed Wallace's child.  There was none.
I looked for details relating to the stress and havoc created by Robin Hood under (bad) King John.  The scandal surrounding the princes in the tower (Edward V and Richard, Duke of York).  Any proof of Mary Boleyn and her saucy ways.  And the stuttering language of King George VI.  They weren't their either.

No mention of that royal connection to Jack the Ripper.
And no mention of Camilla Parker Bowles, of course, or Charlie's other woman, "Kanga" - thankfully.

I did learn, however, the following:

1. The majority of kings had A LOT of illegitimate children.  I am sure they were all very devoted husbands who accidentally fell over the occasional woman - sometimes the same women, who they rewarded with title and land somewhere.
2. The majority of royals married .. each other.  Some married their niece.  Most married their cousin.  One was engaged to two brothers (Lizzy's grandmother).  A few were married to royalty several times.  Marriage was clearly a transaction of title and land.  Let's keep it all in the family ...
3. There was no way any of us plebs could become a part of the royal institution. 
4. There was such a kerfuffle when Edward VIII married scandalous Mrs Simpson, because she was twice divorced - and yet so many royals before him were either divorced themselves or married divorcees.  Let me introduce you to King George I, who not only divorced his wife Sophia, but forbade her to ever remarry and locked her up in a castle until she died.  The ultimate backlash from accused adultery.  (Still, a castle ain't bad.)
5.  There were a lot of miscarriages and still born babies.  Queen Anne had it tough .. she outlived all her 19 children. 
6.  I am somehow related to people in the book.  I need to track down the exact link before I can reveal my claim to a throne ... a throne that doesn't actually exist anymore.  But start practicing your curtsy anyway.

This book is a true family history of those that ruled or reigned Britain - both England and Scotland.  Following the succession, it records their names and dates, all their titles (gosh, do they accumulate), and their spouses (sometimes several - and usually a cousin or someones niece), their children (including all the illegitimate ones ... oh, so many!) and their spouses.

I read it cover to cover.

An excerpt, just for you:

George III is alleged to have married secretly, on 17th April, 1759, a Quakeress called Hannah Lightfoot, daughter of a Wapping shoemaker, who is said to have borne him three children. Documents relating to the alleged marriage, bearing the Prince's signature, were impounded and examined in 1866 by the Attorney General. Learned opinion at the time leaned to the view that these documents were genuine. They were then placed in the Royal Archives at Windsor; in 1910, permission was refused a would-be author who asked to see them. If George III did make such a marriage when he was Prince of Wales, before the passing of the Royal Marriages Act in 1772, then his subsequent marriage to Queen Charlotte was bigamous, and every monarch of Britain since has been a usurper, the rightful heirs of George III being his children by Hannah Lightfoot, if they ever existed.

Taking her 22 years to research this one book, it certainly is a unique reference book.  Alison Weir drew on countless sources and authorities - include scandalous rumour if it had some base - both ancient and modern.  Covering all the royal houses of England, Scotland, and Great Britain, it is both comprehensive and complete.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas is a little early.

A few days back, I ordered some goodies.  From me, to me.

First there was one ...

And now there are two ...

Soon there will be three ...

So the question is ... should I wait until Christmas to open them?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book of Mormon painting eight.

Smack bang in the middle of the Book of Mormon, there are a lot of wars.  I wrote about that here, and how the Book of Mormon was literally written for our day because we learn how earlier disciples of Christ lived with war.

In and around Alma 43 - 46, the Nephite nation was put in jeopardy because of wars, dissension, and much contention – not just from the Lamanites, but from themselves.  Dangerous.

Some were just too eager for power.

The solution (for us too) was to exercise faith in Jesus Christ, and follow His prophets and other righteous leaders – like their military leader at the time, Captain Moroni.  Mormon wrote: “If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” (Alma 48:17).
Right there is a fine role model.  We too can remain “firm in the faith of Christ” in trying times (Alma 48:13).

Captain Moroni came up with brilliant strategies to defend the Nephite people.  And what I love most is that he started fortifying the people and their cities well in advance, as well as seeking the counsel of the prophet, while there was no threat upon them.

Talk about good judgment, as well as obedience to God’s counsel.

And what a contrast to the intentions and tactics of Amalickaih, the wicked man stirring up trouble at the time.  Actually, Mormon plainly lists the striking differences between the two for us – see Alma 48 and 49.

Arnold Friberg’s next painting in his series on the Book of Mormon is of Captain Moroni, after rallying others in a righteous cause, physically displaying his cause.

To do so, he rips his clothing - which was a symbol of making a covenant - and writes on it, making a huge banner for all to see.  He writes:  In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.

Moroni then fastened the 'title of liberty' to a pole, and placed it high for all to see in every tower.
[Alma 46:12–15, 36]

Captain Moroni Raises the Title of Liberty
Arnold Friberg

Moroni, who was the chief commander of the armies of the Nephites, … rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole. …

(And he called it the title of liberty) and he … prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren. (Alma 46:11–13)

“We are reading the thought itself that Captain Moroni expressed on his banner. Now I am supposed to picture how he wrote it. He didn’t write it in English. English was not yet invented. He wrote it in Hebrew. Mormon said he was engraving the plates in Reformed Egyptian because it takes less space. But if Moroni could write it in Hebrew it would be a lot clearer. . . . So I went to the Rabbi here [in Salt Lake City] and asked him to write the message in what would have been the common characters Lehi brought with him. It didn’t look anything like present- day Jewish script [second line of the Hebrew text below]. That squarish letter we now know as Jewish came in closer to the time of Christ. [The first line of the Hebrew text below is more ancient and more correct], so I put it on the flag even though there were those who insisted that I letter it in English.”
(Hebrew writing reads from right to left)   [1]

Sometimes we must stand, as Moroni’s people did, in defence of what we hold dear.  Our liberty, our lands, our families, our peace.

There are times when we must stand up for right and decency, for freedom and civilization, just as Moroni rallied his people in his day to the defence of their wives, their children, and the cause of liberty (see Alma 48:10).” [2]

There are times when, in remembering our “civic responsibility that ‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’ (Edmund Burke). . . . Do something meaningful in defence of your God-given freedom and liberty”. [3]

We read that Captain Moroni caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land … and thus Moroni planted the standard of liberty among the Nephites. (Alma 46:36)

“This is our need today—to plant the standard of liberty among our people throughout [our country].  “While this incident occurred some seventy years B.C., the struggle went on through one thousand years covered by this sacred Book of Mormon record. In fact, the struggle for liberty is a continuing one—it is with us in a very real sense today.” [4]

If you wish to order a free copy, let me know or click here.
Feel free to read or listen to it here.

[1] as quoted in Vern Swanson, ‘The Book of Mormon Art of Arnold Friberg, “Painter of Scripture”, Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Vol 10, 1, 26-35, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2011
[2] Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 2001, 72
[3] Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1988, 51
[4] Conference Report, Oct. 1962, 14–15

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