Compelled to be humble
(a svithe)


Being humble is not my forte. Or, rather, pretending to be less awesome than I am has never been my forte. Which is not how I define humility, though, in my observation, that is the most commonly used definition of the word.

Humility (in my definition) is keeping one's by-virtue-of-being-a-child-of-god awesomeness in perspective. Or, in other words, most people are at least a little awesome some of the time and --- strikes me as likely --- the parents of all this awesome must be awesomer still.

None of which is what I mean to be writing. As per the title, circumstances are compelling me to be humble. Which leads closely to my second definition of humility: placing one's awesomeness higher than such things as faith hope and charity. This is a crime I am quite adept at, as hinted in that initial hyperlink.

And therefore, the vital question posed for me is what's most important.

What is most important.

this post as a thmusing
last week's svithe


Embodied svithe


Today we spoke of Ruth who used her womanly wiles to do something good.

See? Sexuality ain't evil.

this svithe as a thutopian
previous svithe


Heart, might, mind and soul (a midweek makeup svithe)


I've been getting to bed at 2am more nights than not the last two weeks which has made me cranky and scattered and so, while I have thought about what I will be teaching in elders quorum this Sunday, I have not connected the dots. And I would love to get your input on this because odds are my cognitive capacities will not be restored by Sunday.

When Lynsey and I lived in Provo, I remember one meeting at which spoke a member of the stake presidency. As he began to segue from talking about his former mustache to his topic, it quickly became clear that it was time for a discussion on porn, much like that my ward had with the bishop last week. But he surprised me. Most of the counseling issues in our stake, most!, were because newly married men were neglecting their wives in favor of video games. You heard me right. Video games were winning the race against nubile young wives.

That's dot one.

Dot two is a terrific article I just read about Brigham Young's take on novels (hint: he hated them).

Dot three is something that sounds very similar, but this time it's our own Elder Bednar tchtching my Twitter habit

Then, just last night as I was brushing my teeth, I read a great article on the world's cognitive surplus. People have donated 100,000,000 hours of time to Wikipedia. Isn't that incredible? And, flipside, Americans watch 2,000,000,000 hours of tv every year. Isn't that incredible. Cognitive surplus. What are we doing with the talents with which the Lord hath given us amble time to magnify?

Which leads to another apostle, Elder Ballard this time, and his take on the digital world.

These are our texts for elders quorum. And, I submit, the issues raised here are of significant importance to everyone --- to both our success as human beings, and our eventual salvation (particularly if we're interested in trading up from salvation to the salvation/exaltation package deal).

Please. Help me connect the dots.

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Svithey toves outgrabe


The great desire of postenlightenment minds seems to be clarity, but sometimes religion does not easily provide that. In reading Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee this week, I came close to "understanding" the divinity-directed genocides in the Old Testament. And, as I think pretending they don't exist is a mistake, surely therefore working to understand them is a virtue? But is something so . . . that . . . possible to fully understand? And if not, is it worth wasting brains on? And if not, then am I a head-in-the-sand religionist?

To be a postenlightenment religionist is to grapple with these question.

So. How shall we grapple?

this svithe in thutopia
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Today I heard a simile from Carlos which, he alleges, originates from Richard G. Scott. But I am too lazy just now to confirm.

Here it is:

The Holy Spirit is like a grape, a soft and sweet taste.

In our plugged-in world, with all our zangwow, we are trying to taste the grape while simultaneously eating a jalapeno.

Not easy.

this svithe in thutopia
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the Happy-Heavenly-Mother's-Day svithe


Of all the mysteries in Mormonism, perhaps the most perplexing is the seeming absence of the requisite Heavenly Mother. I don't have an answer to that question, nor am I choosing to let it bother me at this moment, but it does remain a source of curiosity.

So happy Mother's Day. A day of mysteries.

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A special svithe for Berkeley Warders


I am currently a regular substitute teacher in our ward's Sunday School. But I will be late this week. These are my notes for whoever takes my place those first few minutes, to get things started:

    Here is a well known story ending in a moral we often like to cite, Numbers 11:24-29 (have someone read)


    Moses chooses 70 men to assist him and the Lord sends his Spirit. Then there are these two other guys. (A slightly clearer translation (NIV) of verse 26: "However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.") Why do you suppose they still received the Spirit even though they missed their meeting?

    Why even have a meeting if you could skip it and still get the blessing of the Spirit?

    Regarding verses 28 and 29..... 

    Why was Joshua alarmed?

    Why wasn't Moses?

    Do we feel more like Joshua or Moses?

    What is the lesson here?

    Now let's skip ahead to the next chapter. Aaron and Miriam (but especially Miriam) get in trouble for talking bad about Moses. Even though they've been kind of emergency backup prophets in the past. Now notice how God phrases his displeasure with them in Numbers 12:6-8 (again in the slightly clearer NIV):
    [God] said, "Listen to my words: 
           "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, 
           I reveal myself to him in visions, 
           I speak to him in dreams.

     But this is not true of my servant Moses; 
           he is faithful in all my house.

     With him I speak face to face, 
           clearly and not in riddles; 
           he sees the form of the LORD. 
           Why then were you not afraid 
           to speak against my servant Moses?"

    And then Miriam has to be leprous for a week to learn a lesson.

    My question is this: Is God's take on our chapter 11 discussion more akin to Joshua's or to Moses's? Explain.

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    Svithe: Thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom


    I'm taking this line out of context, so I'm not giving a reference, but it's scriptural and you can find it yourself if you want. Suffice it to say that although I am misinterpreting scripture, I'm pretty sure I'm actually wresting it to my salvation.

    Thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom.

    While I am trying to make more efforts to swing my pendulum from the God-expects-me-to-do-things-myself extreme to the God-expects-me-to-listen-up-and-do-what-he-says extreme (or, more accurately, to find some accurate middle ground), I will never stop believing that a successful pass at mortality requires figuring paths out and executing them on our own volition. Not separate from God, mind you, but through our agency. Our own ability to think and to choose.

    Which, as a writer, explains why I like that line so much.

    Thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom.

    Because it's a slothful and not a wise servant who has to be compelled in all things.


    Thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom.

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    Moses und Aron (a svithe posted to late to attract much response)


    Exodus 7:1 And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.


    Moses und Aron

    by Will Bishop
    (in The Fob Bible)

    And so it was that God gave us Aaron
    for Moses was slow of speech
    and didn’t look right in a business suit,
    for we yanked on his bulrush-bred beard
    and mocked him,

    mocked him, the man who would that we might meet God,
    lab-coated, sulfury-smelling and steaming-mad down from Mount Sinai.
    The master of the shape-shifting serpent pen—
    rejected, returned the manila envelope,
    advised to apply at the library.

    And so it was that God gave his genius to Aaron,
    the great dilutor, p.r. man of the Pentateuch,
    to trim that burning bush into topiary
    and punch-up the prose with a little sports metaphor,
    and a little golden calf.

    And so it was that we came to prefer the spokesman
    while the prophet was buried in an unmarked grave
    and was not permitted into our Promised Land,
    where we would burn the fat of rams
    and would ask God for a king.


    What's the deal here?

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    I'm caught totally off guard by President Monson speaking before a second song. Slow down, there!

    He's talking about new converts and helping in disasters et cetera. Humanitarian Aid as part of the welfare effort.

    I'm forced to wonder if this is a response to Glenn Beck....

    Also, more temples. Payson Utah doesn't have quite the same ring as Bolivia, does it?


    Temple ordinances.

    Francis's broken hip.

    The story of the Monson who converted her parents.

    Wow. He's really waxing nostalgic today. He's even breaking character.

    Boyd K Packer
      Correlation as function of priesthood--? 180 years since priesthood restoration, and still a tiny fraction of the Earth's billions. "I include the sisters because everyone needs to know what's required of the brethren"? I think I smell this conf's controversial quote. Boy headed to Vietnam who went away sorrowing, yet did what the prophet said. Nice tale. Abbreviated ending. (I'm engaged in preventing my children from throwing playdoh around the house.) I the lord am bound when you do what I say . . . . The adversary more interested in attacking the home than church meetings.

    I think I'm skipping Twitter this year. It's overpopulated by #ldsconf-hashing. Can't possibly keep up and still even half-listen.

    Sister Beck
      I love Sister Beck. Mostly because she's good at starting discussions online. We need to avoid the desire for greater ease. Alas, I fear that is true. Listening and reacting to the Spirit the greatest thing to learn in this life. Important to be daily with scriptures and prayer. (I really need to do better at revisiting these talks after the weekend. It's hard to type and listen and parent small children all at the same time.) as the women of the church as seen as distinct in happy ways.....

    Bishop McMullin
      Discord and Disaster Are Everywhere! I forgive you, brother! I cried, With all my heart! I had never known God's love as intently as I did then. How do we know our path of duty in time of Crisis? We pray. Pray always lest you play into temptation. (I think my quoting ability is pretty shabby today.) It's as important to be guided by the Spirit when praying as to be guided by the Spirit in receiving answers.

    Wilford Anderson
      Parley Street in Nauvoo. Quotes from the happy hopeful homeless as they walked through horrors. (Been reading a lot about happiness research lately and it's true: the obvious things aren't the things that make us happy.) products of faith in the lord HOPE faith comes from obeying the commandments "Does anyone in this room have a problem with the plan of salvation? Well? Do ya punk?"

    M Russell Ballard
      Lots of girls in the Ballard family. Girls, your mothers adore you. Even if they don't have a Facebook page. Listen to your mother, trust her, respect her, etc. Untie her.... Throughout the history of the world, women have been instructors of moral values. consistent message whether mother/daughter or father/son

    Pr Eyring
      The Perilous Journey Home needing rescue as teenagers / need for a strong spiritual foundation doesn't take a formal calling in primary our youth can be brought to heaven . . . in a noncreepy way


    Elder Perry
      preparation from overpreparation never wasted parenting among the most powerful things for the good of society home as insulation from the outside

      Oct 6, 1536 - Tyndale killed for translating Bible (Lost some stuff. Safari crashed (Apples......) and Large S threw a big tantrum. But I'm back now.) bringing the gospel to all people in their own language

    Elder Aoyagi
      (Thank you, Twitter, for supplying that spelling.) (so much chaos at home right now I'm catching very little of this) His conversion from Buddhism. popcorn seeds in a bottle

      pilot crashes into the lake about 100 yards from where he crashed last year as they keep the commandments, blessings will follow interesting how many examples of lousy older brothers and excellent younger brothers are in the scriptures --- how do we interpret this in terms of directing us to THE Elder Brother?

      word choice in the Word of Wisdom Invite children as gospel learners to act and not merely be acted upon. Clarity of BofM's teachings. plainness that they may learn discussions on BofM let parents listen to observe and teach children youth of all ages --- even infants --- respond to BofM; I have baby; will test Here are this three main points (thx again to twitter): 1. Reading and talking about BoM, 2. Bear testimony of gospel truths spontaneously, 3. Invite children to act and not be acted upon Parents need to be ready to catch spontaneous opps to teach Now we're getting to inviting kids to act. We are agents to act, and not merely be acted upon. Parents are not in the business of handing out fish. Which is why on take-your-kids-to-work day, I let them go and I just stay home. Good FHEs not caused by people who package crap for sell. spiritual discernment and inspiration from these three habits are something --- good I presume

    Elder Holland!
      The Pornography Talk Sure hope I don't have a porn problem since I spent this whole talk stopping fights and changing diapers. "The only real control in life is self control." A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. So. Watch your step. "You shouldn't be serving tea anyway." Best conference joke of recent memory. Why? Great setup. Remember the symbols you take with you. Let's work a little harder at always remembering him. Like, that he hath borne our griefs. charity comes from the grace of Christ himself "el diablo" --- to connect to "the diabolical one"? to take the edge off the naming for a primarily English audience, but still with a word they are apt to recognize?



    Pr Uchtdorf
      Bombing a statue of Jesus. I think I can smell some Easter symbolism coming up. "You are my hands." Not what I expected. Very nice. Humanitarian aid Tasting the sweetness of the gospel led canned-food Saints to being saved also In our zeal we can confuse sin with sinner. (And preference with sin, I might add.) talk and poetry and song means nothing till accompanied by action Christ removed himself from the crowd.

    Richard G Scott
      I remember the last time Easter and Conference coincided --- 2001 or '2 --- and there was very little directly on Christ Jesus proper. This time, we're off to one two. vital that we learn what we can about the atonement family again; teaching therein seems to be the theme this time around He Lives

    Donald Hallstrom (possibly two Ls)
      Uh oh. Dead baby story. Uh oh. Revenge story. Destruction of the entire family's spirituality. Uh oh. More dead babies. And the mother. This time grief turns them to the Lord. Wow. Lots of dead babies in this talk. Without sorrow we cannot know joy. Implication: it's worth it. guy who fell away because his name was spelled wrong v. those in Liberty Jail the very jaws of hell . . . shall give thee experience and be for thy good Joseph's confidence in overcoming constant opposition based in his somethingsomethingsomething the Lord

      (sounds like Megan Mullaly) another talk about the responsibilities of parents to teachers teach the children we as parents the angels sent to teach the children (ahhh)

    QL Cook
      holiness of sacrament meeting tsunami in Samoa

    Thomas S. Monson
      of all the facts of mortality, none is so certain as its end If a man die, shall he live again? man with a brain and a mind and a soul --- should come to an end to understand the purpose of death, we must understand the purpose of life from our preexistant state onward the perfect example for us to follow telling the story of the final hours of Christ's life ------>story, even oft repeated story, is still great teaching So if a man die, shall he live again? He shall. We know by the light of revealed truth. darkness of death etc can always be dispelled by the light of revealed truth Jason opened his eyes and sat up and said NEVER in a loud resolute voice. called to serve their missions together on both sides of the veil in our hour of deepest sorrow we can receive profound peace he is not here for he has risen (I thought the both-sides-of-the-veil line was cheesy, but apparently it was a hit)

    direct a smooth segue into the choir singing He Is Risen


    Elder Nelson
      more family more Jesus (POWER OUTAGE) striving to make a family tree for all God's children

    Elder Hales
      re:theyouth duty to rising gen influence of parents who understand the hearts of their children it's not the food but the interaction that feeds the soul (family dinner) youth cannot walk on borrowed light long

    Bradley Foster
      mothers...... (if you only read one story from conference......)

      happiness dependent on how we react to adversity immunizations as metaphor for earthly tribulation

      redeeming Martha making priorities leaving the Holy Ghost on the shelf

      Haitians v Nephites

    Anderson o' the 12
      the is the age in which the devil has a big budget so do our kids know Jesus's message as well? spirit of the lord accompanying late-night conversations (feel free to use this out of context) his name be praised for ever and ever

    President Monson
      We're all here because we love the Lord, we want to serve him. we leave more determined than we came Study the messages in the month to come. Thanks, folks.

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    General Conference Svithetaculars at The Weekly Svithe
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    A note on next week's svithetacular


    It is looking like, that, for the first time since beginning svithetaculars in 2005, I may not be able to catch every session. In fact, I could miss as many as two sessions on Saturday. And so, this week, for my svithe, from me, a plea to please take notes and either send them to me (email to theric[]thmazing[]com) or post them and I will then post or link your notes in lieu of mine (or in addition to or something).

    This only comes twice a year and darn it if Thutopia doesn't have a record, it will be like it never happened. So please help!


    General Conference Svithetaculars at Thutopia
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    General Conference Svithetaculars at The Weekly Svithe
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    Sexy Svithe


    This week we have three women with wiles in starring roles: Tamar, Dinah and Potiphina.

    I'm most interested in Tamar, but in passing let me see that Potopher needs to accept some blame for his wife's actions and that I'm far from convinced that Dinah was raped.

    Tamar is, of the three, the most rounded and self-directed character. And while all three stories involve sex, only Tamar's sexual activities are in accordance with religious law. And while seducing your father-in-law is generally looked down upon these-a-days, Tamar's actions were, with validity, a means to save her father-in-law from his own sins. And thus, in a way, she is a type for Jesus. Who is born through her line.

    Something to think about.

    Tamar by Horace

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    At home with three sick kids (a svithe)


    Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

    I guess that means I'll keep wiping noses and cease the strangling. But I have to tell you. The immediate cessation of that snotty breathing sounds pretty danged good.....

    this svithe on thutopia
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    Abraham and Isaac (postview svithe)


    As I mentioned last svithe, my Abraham and Isaac thought for Sunday School were inspired by a list of art Bored in Vernal provided over on Mormon Matters. I ended up not getting into much of the art, although many of the rabbinical traditions surrounding the story and alternate versions came up in our discussion. (Note that some of those came up in the MM posts's comments and not the post itself.)

    One thing I had not intended to bring up but very nearly did because it was apropos (but telling it would have been much like sharing This Funny Thing happened when You Really Had to Be There) was this:

    Something I printed off and had with me but ended up not using was this from Woody Allen:

      And Abraham awoke in the middle of the night and said to his only son, Isaac, "I have had a dream where the voice of the Lord sayeth that I must sacrifice my only son, so put your pants on."

      And Isaac trembled and said, "So what did you say? I mean when He brought this whole thing up?"

      "What am I going to say?" Abraham said. "I'm standing there at two A.M. I'm in my underwear with the Creator of the Universe. Should I argue?"

      "Well, did he say why he wants me sacrificed?" Isaac asked his father.

      But Abraham said, "The faithful do not question. Now let's go because I have a heavy day tomorrow."

      And Sarah who heard Abraham's plan grew vexed and said, "How doth thou know it was the Lord and not, say, thy friend who loveth practical jokes, for the Lord hateth practical jokes and whosoever shall pull one shall be delivered into the hands of his enemies whether they pay the delivery charge or not."

      And Abraham answered, "Because I know it was the Lord. It was a deep, resonant voice, well modulated, and nobody in the desert can get a rumble in it like that."

      And Sarah said, "And thou art willing to carry out this senseless act?" But Abraham told her, "Frankly yes, for to question the Lord's word is one of the worst things a person can do, particularly with the economy in the state it's in."

      And so he took Isaac to a certain place and prepared to sacrifice him but at the last minute the Lord stayed Abraham's hand and said, "How could thou doest such a thing?"

      And Abraham said, "But thou said ---"

      "Never mind what I said," the Lord spake. "Doth thou listen to every crazy idea that comes thy way?" And Abraham grew ashamed. "Er - not really … no."

      "I jokingly suggest thou sacrifice Isaac and thou immediately runs out to do it."

      And Abraham fell to his knees, "See, I never know when you're kidding."

      And the Lord thundered, "No sense of humor. I can't believe it."

      "But doth this not prove I love thee, that I was willing to donate mine only son on thy whim?"

      And the Lord said, "It proves that some men will follow any order no matter how asinine as long as it comes from a resonant, well-modulated voice."

      And with that, the Lord bid Abraham get some rest and check with him tomorrow.

    I want to step back here and point out that, usually, I feel very strongly that lessons should be grounded in the actual scriptures under discussion. In fact, I started the lesson by reading the entire darned Genesis account. But this story is horrifying and demands more effort than that. The Bible, Nephi tells us, is missing many plain and precious parts. And this story seems to be one example of that. The popular interpretation that the sacrifice of Isaac represents the sacrifice of Jesus is extrabiblical already, so why not go even farther abreast.

    When I was pressing the class to decide what the story means to them, someone through the question back at me. I started by talking about Master Fob's "Abraham's Purgatory" (note, it's not unsvithey to suggest you buy a Fob Bible as all proceeds go to LDS Humanitarian Services) and how in researching this lesson I learned that in many traditions, Abraham was not intended to sacrifice his son at all. Perhaps he got the wrong idea in his head, perhaps God expected him to say no (thus fulfilling the promise of Knowing Good and Evil) --- but the point is, perhaps he was never supposed to accept that he should through with it.

    That version of the story has a lot of meaning for me. Granted, verses from the Book of Mormon and D&C (which we read) suggest that is not the true version of events, but it seems a version that has more applicability in my life. I have the power to say no --- to live my life in a way that can take Isaac off the alter. (Of course, no matter how well I live my life, I cannot take Christ off the cross --- I still need grace. But I'm sure you get the point.)

    Anyway. Even though it wasn't as wild and crazy as threatened*, it turned out well and I at least learned a lot during the lesson. I hope it worked out okay for others as well.


    * I don't usually post these, but three or four lessons a month and every other lesson for Sunday School (as long as I'm doing it --- it's still not my calling or anything) I shoot an email off to the ward as a preview of coming attractions. The reason I'm posting this one is because for the first time people talked to me about it. So I'm using that fact to think about how to write future emails.

      Dear Brothers and Sisters:

      This Sunday please be prepared to sacrifice one of your children to the glory of almighty God. Bring your own materials for building an altar, as well as a knife and wood for burning the offering afterwards in the ward parking lot. Consider fasting for at least two meals beforehand that you might better be prepared to worship through this ancient and holy practice.

      In choosing which child you will sacrifice, consider how you distribute your love and affection among your children and be sure that you give unto the Lord that which you deem your best.

      If you do not have a child or your children are no longer living at home, bring a pet. If you have no pets, I'm really not sure how you intend to stay on God's good side.

      Upon completing the sacrifices and watching the sweet odours drift heavenward, we will return to the chapel and discuss Father Abraham's experience with our new understanding.

      See you then.


      ps: should Sunday be declared a Spare the Air Day, we will instead eat Twinkies in holiness


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    Abraham and Isaac Preview (svithe)


    This is one of the Old Testament's most terrifying stories. Sure, sure, filtered through a New Testament lens it makes some sense, but Abraham and Isaac is --- awful. Admit it. (And really, if God the Father is standing above us with a knife --- is that really the image of him we want?)

    I'll be teaching this story in Sunday School next Sunday and I've been struck by the list of takes on the story by Bored in Vernal at Mormon Matters (note the comments also).

    One of the stories she mentions, Master Fob's "Abraham's Purgatory" has proven to be one of the most thought-provoking bits of Bible-based fiction I've ever read. It started me on the path of thinking on all this.

    I'm still just percolating how I will approach this topic, but I am definitely planning something more like BiV's list than the traditional way of looking at the story.

    Your suggestions are welcome.

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    Svithing the Quadrennial


    Four years and two days ago, I posted my first svithe (thutopia, weekly svithe. Four weeks later I explained what my svithing was all about (thutopia, weekly svithe):
      I did not make up this idea; I took it from the Sabbath--the one day in seven dedicated to God. . . .

      I maybe might just maybe be addicted to blogging.

      Part of my redemption is this svithing. Every Sunday I write a post that is intended to be godly.

    Lately I've been observing a shift in the blogosphere. I think we can blame the lessened audiences on Facebook and Twitter. It's about impossible for me to get conversations going in the comments section anymore --- if a conversation about one of my posts happens, it happens on, wait for it, Twitter. What do you know.

    What's the implication for svithery? Is it still needful? Should I just try to be, I don't know, a holy tweeter?

    Who knows. It may be broke, but that diagnosis isn't certain yet.

    So I'm going to keep svithing. Shall we not go forward in so great a cause, etc.

    It's not like I'm doing anything more important.

    Ah, the littleness of a person.

    There's religion in here somewhere. We don't have to look hard.

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    Happy Valentine's Day, Abraham! Have some virtue! (a svithe)


    1. The sociologist suggested today that perhaps we call it the Abrahamic Covenant for similar reasons to why we call it the Melchizedek Priesthood. I find this a very striking possibility and I will leave you to ponder it.

    2. From Ben Crowder:
      D&C 121:45 says to “let virtue garnish your thoughts unceasingly.” You know, I looked at that verse and thought, “What in the heck does that even mean?” In today’s English, “garnish” means “to decorate (a dish) for the table.” As in parsley. Okay, I’m thinking, we’re supposed to let virtue decorate our thoughts, adorning them with beauty and loveliness.

      But “unceasingly”? Unceasingly means not letting up — it means urgent, important. I don’t know about you, but decorating doesn’t seem to fit with urgency. It doesn’t make much sense.

      So I went back to the OED and found that “garnish” originally came from the Old French garnir and meant “to fortify, defend (oneself), provide, prepare.” It’s also directly related to our English word “warn”/”warning.”

      Okay, that makes a whole a lot more sense. We need to let virtue fortify our thoughts unceasingly, defending them with the strength that comes from godliness.

    3. Happy Valentine's Day. Though not even Pope Gelasius I has the foggiest idea who he was.

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    Super Bowl Svithe (a metaphor)


    So I just learned why football is so boring: on television, you only see about 11 minutes of the actual game (this is supposed to make it more interesting --- by adding a story --- but if that's so then the NFL would be fatally boring and lose fans one stadium-full at a time and I can't accept that).

    On the theory that professional football is actually interesting in person, I'm going to make a metaphor about life.

    Life = football in this metaphor and watching it on tv is sitting around watching life pass you by. Actually attending a game and being part of the cheering crowd makes you more involved and less bored and, one presumes, actually putting on a helmet and getting concussions will be less boring of all.

    To svithify this, may I suggest that God put us on earth to play a game and not sit around and watch others play.

    That is all.


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    Enoch's eyes (a svithe)


    Yesterday I taught Sunday School and this is something we did not get to:

      35 And the Lord spake unto Enoch, and said unto him: Anoint thine eyes with clay, and wash them, and thou shalt see. And he did so.
      36 And he beheld the spirits that God had created; and he beheld also things which were not visible to the natural eye; and from thenceforth came the saying abroad in the land: A seer hath the Lord raised up unto his people.

    We were talking about opposites, good and evil, in the world and within ourselves. What I love about Enoch is how he demonstrates that weaknesses can become strengths, etc. (1,, 2, 3)

    The scene above is particularly interesting. Clearly we are meant to read this as symbolic of Christ, but Enoch is playing both roles, Messiah and blind man. Because, being a fallen man, being a child of God, he is both.

    And so are we.

    What a beautiful message.

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    Hypocritical svithe


    Courtesy of Recession Cone, this week's svithe comes from Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age

      "You know, when I was a young man, hypocrisy was deemed the worst of vices. It was all because of moral relativism. You see, in that sort of a climate, you are not allowed to criticise others - after all, if there is no absolute right and wrong, then what grounds is there for criticism?

      "Now, this led to a good deal of general frustration, for people are naturally censorious and love nothing better than to criticise others' shortcomings. And so it was that they seized on hypocrisy and elevated it from a ubiquitous peccadillo into the monarch of all vices. For, you see, even if there is no right and wrong, you can find grounds to criticise another person by contrasting what he has espoused with what he has actually done. In this case, you are not making any judgment whatsoever as to the correctness of his views or the morality of his behaviour - you are merely pointing out that he has said one thing and done another. Virtually all political discourse in the days of my youth was devoted to the ferreting out of hypocrisy.
      You wouldn't believe the things they said about the original Victorians. Calling someone a Victorian in those days was almost like calling them a fascist or a Nazi.

      "Because they were hypocrites, the Victorians were despised in the late twentieth century. Many of the persons who held such opinions were, of course, guilty of the most nefandous conduct themselves, and yet saw no paradox in holding such views because they were not hypocrites themselves - they took no moral stances and lived by none. So they were morally superior to the Victorians, even though - in fact because they had no morals at all.

      "We take a somewhat different view of hypocrisy. In the late-twentiety-century Weltanschauung, a hypocrite was someone who espoused high moral views as part of a planned campaign of deception - he never held these beliefs sincerely and routinely violated them in privacy. Of course, most hypocrites are not like that. Most of the time it's a spirit-is-willing, flesh-is-weak sort of thing.

      "That we occasionally violate our own stated moral code, does not imply that we are insincere in espousing that code.

      "Of course not. It's perfectly obvious, really. No one ever said that it was easy to hew to a strict code of conduct. Really, the difficulties involved - the missteps we make along the way - are what make it interesting. The internal, and eternal, struggle, between our base impulses and the rigorous demands of our own moral system is quintessentially human. It is how we conduct ourselves in that struggle that determines how we may in time be judged by a higher power."

    I hereby resolve to celebrate intended high morality, rather than nitpick the inability to attain it. I think the world would be better if we all did as much.

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    Svithe: four levels of interpretation


    Yesterday at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, at one exhibit I learned a bit about a lot of things, all related to the Torah.

    What I want to share is out of the kabbalistic tradition, which suggests there are four levels of interpretation to scripture. I will mostly just state them and invite your comment, rather than comment excessively myself.

    1. Literal meaning.

    2. Allegorical meaning.

    3. Meaning in connection with similar passages.

    4. Kabbalistic meaning; or meaning through inspiration or direct, personal revelation; mystical meaning.

    Now. In studying scripture, how many levels of interpretation are we finding? What can we do to seek more? Or are we being satisfied with too few?

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    Svithe: (the grandeur of god)


    Somebody said that the great hubris of humanity is that we created god in our own image.

    Is it not equally hubristic to deny god that form? Are we so unwilling to have the divine like us?

    It's a significant question.

    These are two radically different forms of worship.


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    Svithing Moses 1


    (I'm posting this early in case you're teaching an LDS Gospel Doctrine class tomorrow and are avoiding preparing your lesson. These are my notes as they stand now. I'll print them off and fill in more, but this is a skeleton built onto the source material.)


    DID YOU KNOW? Joseph transcribed this chapter the same month the Book of Mormon was originally published.

    This is Moses’s intended prologue to the Torah. So it’s useful, perhaps, to consider what the message of this personal story is.  Moses thought it important enough to place it before even the creation of the world.

    THE words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain,

    2 And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.

    3 And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?

    4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

    “My son” appears four times in this chapter, as spoken by God. But the idea of sonship runs deeper than that---Satan calls Moses “son of man” for instance, and God refers to his Only Begotten more than once.

    5 Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth. [?]

    6 And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.

    7 And now, behold, this one thing I show unto thee, Moses, my son, for thou art in the world, and now I show it unto thee.

    8 And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered.

    9 And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.

    10 And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.

    In thinking about why God feels the need to show prophets, now and then, this show, it occurs to me that this epiphany of Moses’s may make him less likely to prioritize himself over God’s purposes. (D&C 123: 12-17 [waste and wear out])

    11 But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.

    12 And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.

    13 And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?

    14 For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely?

    15 Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.

    16 Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not; for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten.

    17 And he also gave me commandments when he called unto me out of the burning bush, saying: Call upon God in the name of mine Only Begotten, and worship me.

    18 And again Moses said: I will not cease to call upon God*, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan.

    3 Ne. 20: 1 (one of the Jesus's-visit ones), 1 Sam. 12: 23 (a sin for a leader not to pray for his charges), Col. 1: 9 (leaders pray for us), 1 Thes. 5: 17 (preparing for Second Coming)

    19 And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.

    20 And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly [2 Tim. 1: 7]; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.

    21 And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook; and Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan.

    22 And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence, even from the presence of Moses, that he beheld him not.

    23 And now of this thing Moses bore record; but because of wickedness it is not had among the children of men.

    24 And it came to pass that when Satan had departed from the presence of Moses, that Moses lifted up his eyes unto heaven, being filled with the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son;

    25 And calling upon the name of God, he beheld his glory again, for it was upon him; and he heard a voice, saying: Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God.

    26 And lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel my chosen.

    27 And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God.

    28 And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.

    29 And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof.

    30 And it came to pass that Moses called upon God, saying: Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?

    31 And behold, the glory of the Lord was upon Moses, so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face. And the Lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.

    Coming up next, an introduction to Genesis:

    32 And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.

    33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.

    34 And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.

    35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

    36 And it came to pass that Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.

    37 And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.

    38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.

    39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

    40 And now, Moses, my son, I will speak unto thee concerning this earth upon which thou standest; and thou shalt write the things which I shall speak.

    41 And in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold, I will raise up another like unto thee; and they shall be had again among the children of men—among as many as shall believe.

    42 (These words were spoken unto Moses in the mount, the name of which shall not be known among the children of men. And now they are spoken unto you. Show them not unto any except them that believe.* Even so. Amen.)

    * A common command in ancient texts that have been found over the last couple hundred years. Why?

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