Axe & Svithe

Swing that gospel axe

Usually of course, in this svithes I apply artistry and subtlety, but this week I'm in a rush and so will instead follow in the holy tradition of Butch Yelton and I will swing that gospel axe!

Watch your head!


Don't kill people!

Give to the poor!

Don't steal!

Don't covet!

Including your neighbor's wife/ass!

Render unto unto God the things that are God’s!

Be nice!

Love your neighbor!

Something about fish on Fridays or something!

I'm not sure!

Anyway, no wickedness!

Righteous only!

Peace out.


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Svithing Sharing Time


Today I and my coteacher and a bunch of seven-year-olds are doing Sharing Time. What follows is the outline we will be working from. Copout? Maybe. Just use your imagination.



Gift: Book of Mormon

President Ezra Taft Benson: “This is a gift of greater value to mankind than even the many wonderful advances we have seen in modern medicine. It is of greater worth to mankind than the development of flight or space travel” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, p. 4).

What is it?

(open it)

What is it?

What is its full name?

Who is it about?


So the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ. Let's see how well it does its job.

(reveal jar)

What is all this candy?

Well, Alma said this: "Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me."

As we get a testimony of Jesus, Alma says it is delicious. So we're going to pretend that these candies are delicious seeds and that each candy represents one time that Jesus is mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

How many seeds do you think there are? How many times is Jesus referenced in the Book of Mormon?


Okay, keep thinking about that because we're going to come back to it.


We have here today (#) of the many, many prophets who, in the Book of Mormon, prophesied of Christ.

They are going to share with us what they taught about Jesus and we're going to figure out who they are.

Nephi: "For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
2 Nephi 25:19

King Benjamin: "For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases."
Mosiah 3:5

Abinadi: "I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people."
Mosiah 15:1

Alma the Younger: "And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God."
Alma 7:10

Samuel the Lamanite: "Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name."
Helaman 14:2

Isaiah: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
2 Nephi 19:6

("Hello, Hello" for Nephi, Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma, Samuel and Isaiah.)


Okay, between them, our six prophets mentioned Jesus 17 times! In just six verses!

Nephi said he would be called "Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

Isaiah said he would be called "Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

What are some other things Jesus is called?

(Savior, Redeemer, Creator, Elder Brother....take all they say and slip in a few more)

Why does do we call Jesus all these different names?

(take answers and discuss some of the others on the board)

Jesus is important for all the reasons we've mentioned--even when we talk about him this much, there is still more to learn. (refer to jar) This is why the Book of Mormon mentions Jesus so many times.

If each one of these candies is one mention of Jesus, then we have talked about Jesus about 3,875 times.

And that's why the Book of Mormon is so important--it really is Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and there is no better way to learn about him than to read the book that mentions him all these times.

Mormon, who put the book together, wrote, "I write unto you . . . that ye may believe the gospel of Jesus Christ . . . ."

Mormon thought that every story he put into the Book of Mormon would help us understand the gospel better. Our prophets who spoke to us earlier are now going to tell us a short version of their favorite Book of Mormon story and then we'll talk about how it teaches us about Jesus.

(those who will tell their favorite story, bear testimony)

(closing testimony of Book of Mormon as testament of Jesus Christ)


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Who wants easy?
(a svithe)

      Terry Givens

      The main difference in the case of Joseph Smith is that he had something concrete to show for it: It was the Book of Mormon. It always came back to the Book of Mormon. And the most important function that the Book of Mormon served in the early church was not that it introduced new teachings . . . it was the mere presence of the Book of Mormon itself as an object . . . a visible, palpable object . . .

      Joseph describes the plates . . . as a connoisseur describes a fine book in his library collection. There's a kind of attentiveness to the detail -- the physical detail, the craftsmanship of the plates, the nature of the writing, the thickness of the total package -- that is very, very striking, because right away what he is doing is he is turning our attention to the absolute physicality.

      What Joseph does there, see, he takes a very important step from which he would never, never retreat, and that is that he creates a foundation from which it is virtually impossible to mythologize or allegorize the foundations of Mormonism. What that means is that it puts the Book of Mormon in a position in which it is very, very hard to find a middle ground, because [with] many of the stories of the Bible we can say, "Well, we don't know that God really wrote with his finger on the tablets of Moses," or, "We don't know that Moses really spoke face to face with God." One can take a kind of distance and say it's the message of the Bible that's important; that God has become incarnate in Jesus Christ, and salvation is through him . . .

      The same is not true in the case of the Book of Mormon. It's not the message in the Book of Mormon which is true; it's the message about the Book of Mormon. If Joseph really was visited by an Angel Moroni and really was given gold plates, then he was a prophet, and he has the authority to speak on God's behalf. That's how the logic worked. One can't take a kind of distance and say, "Well, maybe he was an inspired dreamer; maybe he was an inspired visionary," because from day one he points to the physicality of those plates, meaning that the foundations of Mormonsim are located in real space and time, not in a prophet's interior world . . .

      There's no question that the church rises or falls on the veracity of Joseph Smith's story. Now, as a consequence, some people, for example, the Community of Christ, their president made a statement a few years ago in which he said, "History as theology is perilous." You don't want, in other words, to found all of your beliefs and hopes and religious values on a historical account that may prove to be spurious. To which my reply is yes, history as theology is perilous. If it turns out that the whole story of Christ's resurrection is a fabrication, then Christianity collapses. That's the price we pay for believing in a God who intervenes in human history, who has real interactions with real human beings in real space and time. That makes it historical, and that's a reality that we just can't flee away from . . .

      "Mormonism is so young it has no place to hide." That's very true. I had a friend who was a religious scholar who said that for Christianity to thrive, there must always be an empty tomb where faith can enter in. Mormonism doesn't have very many empty tombs. Every compartment that you open in Mormonism has a physical artifact or resurrected being or historical event that calls upon our faith and ascent. There haven't been thousands of years for interpretations and translations and complicated transmission history to intervene between God's word and our reception of that word. What we have is an unmediated presentation of gold plates to us through one prophet figure . . . It is its strength . . .
        -----Terry Givens

Sorry, sorry, kind of a long quote, I know, but I like the point he's getting at: being a believing Mormon is a hard thing. We have no antiquity to hide behind. We can't wax metaphorical and pretend the metaphor is all that matters. We have to either accept the historicity of our faith or we have to just forget it.

This is good. Too much in life is easy. In America, my wage is considered poverty-level, yet, compared to most of time and space, I live in incomparable luxury: I have an automobile; I have a solid shelter with fancy new 21st-century windows; I have plenty to eat; I have floss and Listerine; I am unlikely to die of my current disease; I live without fear of Visigoths appearing at my door.

Yet it is good for things to be hard.

To get back to Mormon history, being hounded and besieged and occasionally murdered was good. If things had been easy, Mormons would be a footnote in Palmyra history and nothing else. Physical adversity made for a strong foundation.

But today, at least here in El Cerrito, not a lot of tar and feathering in my neighborhood. I don't anticipate being driven across the Bay to Sausalito. All is well.

What a silly thing to say.

This is not an age of faith; it is an age of reason. You hit my reset button and I don't go to faith, I go to reason. The year is 2007. Check a calender. So attrition for such reasons is easy to understand--and not even anything new--but is does not suggest the road should be widened or flattened or eased in any way. What worth is there in simplicity? Why climb Mt Everest if it holds no challenge? Why find the source of the Nile if I can do it in Dockers? Why believe something that does not require the stretching of my soul?

Given my current state of health, I cannot be certain that I am proceeding logically here and I definately don't want to chance explaining illogic with further illogic, but logic is not the point anyway: the point is faith.

To me, svithing has never been, primarily, about proselyting my own faith, though of course it is natural that I would svithe Mormon as often as not. But in matters of faith--any faith--I think it is important to ask how difficult your faith is. If all it requires is your general agreement that the sky is high and blue and there may well be something far beyond it, what good can that do you?

Faith is work. Work is power. Power is the source of true faith.

How hard are we willing to work?

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Special Guest Svither: Jane Elliott
(with commentary by theric)


    I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad--as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth--so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane--quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.

Jane has a good point, folks. When is the best time to make important and difficult decisions? Now in the silence? Or then in the chaos?

As I familiarize myself with her story, it's hard to see why she does not follow her passion. But I think she made the right choice. By following her previous choice.

But sometimes . . . maybe ? . . . perhaps ? - - -


But sometimes . . . maybe ? . . . perhaps ? - - -


But sometimes . . . maybe ? . . . perhaps ? - - -


But sometimes . . . maybe ? . . . perhaps ? - - -


But how can I be sure?

What makes you think you can be?

I need to be sure!


I need to be sure.

There is no surety.

But I need to be sure.

I am sorry.

I know.

We must go on.

We will go on.

Let's go.

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