Later that Day at Liberty Jail (a svithe both lazy and late)


With the bounty of illness and neardeath at the Thteed household over the past week, it's a miracle anything ever happened. One thing that did not happen was my svithe yesterday. So to make up, I'm including an essay from a book I wrote which never appeared in print. That book is now up on Thmazing.com (more about this later), and this is an excerpt. An exerpt about too little too late. Quite appropriate for this Monday svithe.

    Later that Day at Liberty Jail

    President Monson tells a story of failing to respond to the spirit quick enough. The spirit told him to go Now, in the middle of his meeting, but he waited until the stake president was through speaking. Then he ran off to the hospital to enquire of a friend. But his friend had died—asking for Bishop Monson, his bishop, till the very end.

    Even stripped down to the barest of detail, it is a painful story. Can you imagine the emotion that must have come over him? Although I understand death is not the end, death is still A end. Death does have finality.

    Even though I do hope to experience death someday (it is, after all, one of those once-in-a-lifetime-things), I suspect there will still be a frightening aspect to its arrival. Imagine you are dying. Maybe it’s like a roller coaster—you know you’ll live through it (so to speak), but doesn’t the long tow to the first drop still terrify you? It can me.

    But I doubt it was death that caused Brother Monson the worst pain. I imagine it was something else. He has said he has never failed to immediately follow a prompting from the Spirit since that day. Never. I believe him. I would do well to follow his example.

    I thought I learned this lesson myself while I was on my mission. I though for sure I had learned it when I did an incredibly bizarre thing under the instruction of the Spirit. I was a missionary, and my days left in the field could easily be counted on fingers and toes—even after a moderate-to-severe thrashing machine accident. The night in question, my companion and I were teaching a young lady named Sooyoon. Sooyoon’s sister was a recent convert and happy to be there with us. Also with us was Brother Ahn, a twenty-year old member of the branch presidency. By age, I was the oldest, Sooyoon the youngest. She was just two years younger than I was.

    We were teaching the fifth discussion. (The number of fifth discussions I taught as a missionary can also be easily counted on fingers and toes.) The Spirit told me to give Sooyoon my CTR ring.

    “Hahaha!” I replied. “I’m a missionary; I’m not giving any girl my ring!”

    The Spirit insisted. And insisted. And insisted. Finally, as the discussion ended, I obeyed. I explained what CTR stands for, gave her the ring and had her promise to wear it until her baptism.

    She was not baptized, as I had hoped, before I went home. My time ran out and suddenly my responsibility was just to begin my new, American lifestyle. Then, Christmas Eve 1997, I received a letter from Sooyoon. She was baptized. And she was so happy! She said the ring had helped her so very much.

    And so I was even more glad I had obeyed. After the discussion, I had felt almost as if I’d sinned. I was worried—what if that unmissionarylike act had set the Work on Cheju Island back six months? But no, the Lord’s hand was in it.

    After my mission, I figured I was ready to follow the Spirit, without fail, for the rest of my life. If I could obey the Spirit (and see the fruit) in doing one of the most absurd things I can even imagine doing on a mission, then it should not be a challenge to do what I’m told ever again, right? You wouldn’t think so . . . .

    Liberty Jail is called the temple-prison. Temple, because of the outpourings of the Spirit to Joseph Smith there (just see sections 121, 122, 123, if you doubt me, you silly gus). Prison because it was a prison—dark, smelly, moldy, rotten, cramped, dirty. Foul. It was a rank and disgusting prison without even room to stand up straight.

    The Church has built a building over the original site, which reminded me—appropriately I think—of the Dome of the Rock. Inside the outer sections of the building is a collection of rather unextraordinary visitors’ center stuff. (There, do you see the bust of Christ, like in Carthage? There’s the gold plates replica. And look, there’s a small spot with benches set aside for discussing the site’s story.) I was in danger of turning into a visitors’ center snob.

    The sisters did a fine job with their introductory bit, and I was ready to go, if you will, into the inner sanctum—this temple-prison’s Holy of Holies. In the center of the building, in a large somber room, is the restored jail. One wall of the jail has been removed/left off so you may see inside. On the dark gray stone walls surrounding the jail are carved powerful words, snippets of the Liberty experience as recorded in the D&C.

    The lights dimmed and a soundtrack played. The horror of imprisonment, the loneliness of confinement, the fear of isolation and the power of God’s grace struck us all. The representative figures of Joseph and the others seemed to suffer, and we felt it. We were quiet.

    Then Brother Dahl spoke a few words.


    Greg recited some pertinent parts from the D&C.


    Many read from the scriptures in the quiet. Many pondered. The Spirit was present and powerful. I was moved upon to bear my testimony.

    But who am I? I am Theric, the goofy kid.

    Bear your testimony.

    But I’ve never broken such a profound and sacred silence.

    Bear your testimony. There is someone here who needs to hear of the divinity of Christ from you.

    But I—I am no one. Just Theric. Just the fool.


    Several times I moved my lips, but sound never came out. My diaphragm was frozen; I was afraid to obey. I was given the exact words and plenty of time, yet I was afraid to obey.

    “We have another group that’s about ready to come in,” a sister missionary informed Brother Dahl. Though a whisper, we could all hear it plainly in that stone room.

    “Let’s go, “ Brother Dahl said, “C’mon—we need to get to our hotel.”

    I despaired that night. I was given a simple, painless—even joyful command, yet I had failed. It had been such a beautiful experience; the spirit had been so strong. Yet for me, there was an abyss. And perhaps because I had failed to open my mouth,1 someone else was feeling empty as well. What a terrible burden.

    I pray that experience was enough for me. I pray I have finally learned my lesson. And to my friend that I failed to testify to that night, let me just say that I know Christ lives. He loves me and he loves you. I believe you know that. I’m sorry it took so long for me to share my conviction with you. I hope you can forgive me. Let’s pray for each other.

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe


Easter Svithe 2008


The Christian Church in Iraq may be forced underground after the death of the kidnapped Archbishop Paul Rahho. Dr Suha Rassam, the spokeswoman for Iraqi Christians in Need, said: “The only way for the Church in the Mosul area to survive might be if it goes underground, like it did in the 1st and 2nd centuries. This way, Mass and other services would be held in secret and priests go about their duties clandestinely.”

There were nearly a million Christians in Iraq before the war and about half of them have left the country. Dozens of Christian churches have been attacked, bombed or destroyed and some Christian children have reportedly been crucified by Islamic terrorists. The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was recently kidnapped and murdered. Some Christians left in Iraq don’t go to church for fear of being targeted for death. Some priests don’t wear clerical garb for the same reason.

“The church is much better today than before the attack,” the archbishop said about it. “That violence tested our faith, and in a year we have learned to put into practice values like forgiveness and love, even for those who persecute us.”
    His flock got the archbishop’s message.

    “Mosul Christians are not theologians; some are even illiterate. And yet, inside of us for many generations, one truth has become embedded: Without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live,” said Father Ganni. “The terrorists might think they can kill our bodies or our spirit by frightening us, but, on Sundays, churches are always full. They may try to take our life, but the Eucharist gives it back.”

    “There are days when I feel frail and full of fear,” said the priest. “But when, holding the Eucharist, I say ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold, who takes away the sin of the world,’ I feel his strength in me. When I hold the Host in my hands, it is really he who is holding me and all of us, challenging the terrorists and keeping us united in his boundless love.”

    Father Ganni was shot dead in Mosul last year.

    Now, the bishop he served has joined him.

Paulos Faraj Rahho, the Archbishop of Mosul courtesy of theage.com.auReligions tend to be cliquish--even though most don't intend to be so. And so at the outset, I want to assure you that I don't think a Christian's life is worth more than a Muslims (for instance), but as bad as Sunni / Shi'a relations get, it's still probably worse to be a Christian in Iraq.

Sometimes we pampered Americans can't grasp the implications that come of belonging to a religion born in blood. And not just born in blood--Christianity of all stripes is not lacking in martyrs. And it's my belief that God accepts that holy and faithful sacrifice no matter what rites the soul in question practiced before ending in blood and violence.

But no matter how we add up our own real or imagined sacrifices of blood, we all must yet fall short. Which is why Easter is worth celebrating. Why we remember the Christ at all.

Just a thought.

empty tomb from dk

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe


Mormon Svithe


My brother wrote an interesting post this week. It's all about Mormon and how extraordinary it is that he was a preacher of charity and hope when he lived among perhaps the most debased people in human history.

I've been meaning to send some traffic his way for a long time, so instead of a fullbore svithe from me this week, I'm sending you over to see him. Click that first sentence.

But before you go, let me add my testimony theirs (Schmetterling's and Mormon's) and suggest that we "pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love" and to point out that you've got something on your lip. No, right there--that's it. A little more. Okay, you got it.

Love you!

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe


Bruce Robin, The Chemist, and a couple svithes


Can a woman forget her sucking child,
that she should not have compassion
on the son of her womb?
yea, they may forget,
yet will I not forget thee.

Bruce RobinFriday night I had the most awful thing happen. Doing a quick search on my blog suggests this revelation of my failure will not surprise any of you, but, for all intents and purposes, I had forgotten that the Big O is a twin.

Twin #2 came to me that night, and asked me, "Why do you always call me [Biggo]?"

"Surely, I don't! I call you by your own name! I'm sure of it!"

But as I said this, I wracked my brains, trying to remember this crying child, who looked just like my bonny boy, trying to remember his name, and failing.

Finally, I resorted to finding his birth certificate. Bruce Robin. 'Bruce Robin'? No wonder I couldn't remember it.

"Do you mind if I call you Robin?"

I could tell he didn't care. He just didn't want to be called Biggo anymore.

I woke up, convinced I had a forgotten son, Robin, and panicked, wondering how I could ever make things up to him, help him feel loved again, redeem myself as a father, and return this child to feelings of love and security.

Thank God. Thank him that he never forgets us.


A friend loveth at all times

Circumstances prevented us from visiting with Foxy J this weekend while she was in Davis, so we were delighted and amazed when the fates tossed another dear, dear friend right into our laps.

The Chemist and his wife shared a basement-split-in-two with us back when we were all newlyweds. We shared that dump for two years. Then four years later we were together again in Berkeley. Then off they went to Boston.

Then today, here he was. In town for business.

We won the Have-The-Chemist-Over-For-Lunch contest and reveled in his company until he had to leave for Monterey.

But, as he told us once, with us four--no matter how long its been between visits--we can always pick up where we left off.

Ever since I made the discovery almost a decade ago that God made us social creatures, I've never stopped riffing on the subject. Because it's true. We were built to need each other.

And I'm so happy to have good friends.

Thank you, friends.


this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe


“Zion’s quirky in the East Bay / But at least we’re not apostate”
(a svithe)


My friend Miguel Sanchez () wrote a lovely song for our ward's variety show (world premier: February 29,2008) in which he promoted the virtues of our ward, like men not shaving and girls winning the Pinewood Derby.

I really like our ward.

And today in Sunday School our teacher was even bold enough to discuss some of the most troubling verses in scripture. And for all the clever responses that can be given to explain them away, the best answer is found in a much broader and more universal theme of scripture, which theme is included even in very the same book the above verses come from.

Today's message is simple: God loves all. From the quirky to the queer to the blond to the black to the lame to the lycanthropic to the small to the smirky.

Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men,
for the arms of mercy are extended towards them,
and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe