Category Archives: Atonement/Christ’s Sacrifice

Do Your Worst!

Edmond Dantès, portrayed by James Caviezel

“For the happy man prayer is only a jumble of words, until the day when sorrow comes to explain to him the sublime language by means of which he speaks to God.” [Alexandre Dumas in his masterpiece, The Count of Monte Cristo (completed in 1844).]

For some, sorrow is the teacher of this sublime language; for others, a storm is the teacher. Some in our family have been taking major tests and qualifying exams this year. For some, success is quick. For others, success will come later than expected or preferred. For everyone in our family, life has explained to us in new ways the importance of this sublime language. Here are more of the words in the language to which Dumas refers:

Albert Mondego (Albert de Morcerf), portrayed by Henry Cavill

Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome, Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you, as Albert Mondego, the man.

Storms teach. But the master teacher is what we see as we look into the storm.

Quote from Time 1:00-2:03 of a clip of the birthday toast from “The Count of Monte Cristo” (2002), on YouTube below (or entire movie, with or without subtitles.) :

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Mercédès Iguanada, portrayed by Dagmara Dominczyk

Mercédès Iguanada, portrayed by Dagmara Dominczyk

WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Header, Ukiyo-e Woodblock Print, “Great Wave Off Kanagawa”, Hokusai (1829-32)—en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2.jpg, with further info at en.wikipedia. org/wiki/The_Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa
  • Bonus photo, “Edmond Dantès (Jim Caviezel) And Abbé Faria (Richard Harris), Imprisoned In Château d’If” —www. imdb.com/media/rm1540921600/ch0010200
  • Photo, “Edmond Dantès, portrayed by James Caviezel”—www. pinterest.com/pin/105764291222980072/
  • Photo, “Albert Mondego (Albert de Morcerf), portrayed by Henry Cavill”—henrycavill.org/en/filmography/best-known-as/perfect-book-boyfriend
  • Photo, “Mercédès Iguanada, portrayed by Dagmara Dominczyk”—fanpix.famousfix.com/0671183/012040677/the-count-of-monte-cristo-2002-picture.html
  • Photo, “Until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words—Wait and hope.”—www. pinterest.com/pin/120541727497864394/

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“Until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words—Wait and hope.”

“Until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words—Wait and hope.”

Pains, Crucibles, Results

What is our mission in life?

When God provides what we need (even when painful), so that we start to see things as He sees them, He may stress and stretch our vision.

What will be our ability to make these changes?

Will it stretch us, break us, or shape us into a beautiful iron rose?

Kim Martin: “The greater our sorrow is, the greater our capacity is to feel joy.”
Spoken by an iron rose who knows.

My two older sisters have each passed away in the past month. The pain for those of us who remain is excruciating. It puts us to the test. Where we go from here will try our mettle. It helps us to see our mission in life…

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nephi-fashioning-the-plates

As he passes through a crucible of his own, Nephi uses fire to fashion metal plates for scripture

Bonus Materials:

Read, watch or listen to James E. Faust, “The Refiner’s Fire”, Apr 1979 LDS General Conference. “You are discussing a matter you know nothing about… I knew then that the angels of God were there.”

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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Photo, “As he passes through a crucible of his own, Nephi uses fire to fashion metal plates for scripture”—www. lds.org/media-library/images/nephi-fashioning-the-plates-447330?lang=eng&category=
  • Photo, mormonad-cool-it–it-is-in-your-hands—www. lds.org/media-library/images/mormonad-cool-it-1118404?lang=eng&category

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mormonad-cool-it--it-is-in-your-hands

Grief and the “Sting of Death”

From my journal: 18 February 2014

I got an email from Aunt Carol today updating us on Grandpa.  Grandpa’s body is failing.  It’s been true for weeks.  He can’t get enough oxygen even with the O2 levels at 100%.  He’s being moved to a hospice center for rehab.  He has a clot in his lungs.  He sleeps most of the time and tires easily.

I think of Grandpa often these days.   I remember things like being pulled off my feet by his big hands placed over my ears: compress and lift!  I remember sports and newspapers.  I remember an underwhelmed reaction (to say the least) at his first and only viewing of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

I remember a spiritual presence. Always…when I think of Grandpa’s life I think of constant, quiet service…”  Grandpa passed away 2 days later.

Another excerpt 13 August 2014

Yesterday I received a call midday from Anne [Brendan’s sister].  The police had called her.  Ben [Brendan’s brother] was found dead in his car by a self-inflicted gun shot.  Ben is dead…Anne wanted to talk to Brendan and was having trouble getting a hold of him.  I gave her his direct line and told her to tell them who she was and that it was an emergency concerning his brother.  She got through and I heard from Brendan a few minutes later.  Everyone’s reaction has been shock.  No one knew.  It seems no one ever knows with suicide.  So lonely.  So much despair that you feel the best option is death.  So difficult. … I pray for Ben.  I’m grateful for [the Grandparents] that are there to nurture Ben.  I’m grateful Heavenly Father knows all and takes into account the extraneous circumstances that lead us to despair.  I’m grateful for the Atonement which covers our griefs and sorrows.  I’m grateful for Mercy…

Another excerpt 03 January 2015

…Aunt Becky passed away the morning after Kev’s wedding.  Honestly, all I can feel is relief! For Becky!  For the first time her suffering mind will be at ease.  She’ll have her own thoughts and control over every single one!  She and Grandma can sit and chat in ways that were simply impossible during their lifetimes.  Uncle Bill spoke of Becky’s endurance of her trial in this life and how well she bore it.  I have to agree with Bill.  The imprisonment of schizophrenia is something I cannot fathom.  But for years (maybe 40?), with medication she lived in her own apartment at a living center, managed her own money, made some of her own meals, sewed her own clothes, took classes at the local community center and endured well!  I’m sad that Brendan and my kids never knew her as I knew her growing up.  My Dad pointed out that none of us ever really knew Becky except her Savior and Father in Heaven.  And now Grandma too.  That makes my heart happy. “Deep peace in Christ!”- A Gaelic Blessing Grandma’s favorite and what we sang at Grandma’s funeral a few years back.

One more excerpt  4 Januray 2015

Aunt Meg [Becky’s and my Dad’s sister] passed away this morning…my heart feels heavy.  I feel very tired.  At least Meg, Becky, and Grandma are having a glorious reunion.

My mind and my heart have been greatly weighed with grief in all sorts of ways.  I feel sorrow at Grandpa’s absence. I feel anger at the circumstances of Ben’s life that, in my grief, I am blaming for his death–there is no way to know whether this is true, but grief is not always rational or compassionate.  I feel relief for Becky and great sorrow for her dad, my still living Grandpa.  I feel weariness and sorrow at Aunt Meg’s passing.  Sorrow for Uncle Ken and my adult cousins.  I can’t imagine loosing my mother whom I still need so desperately even though I’m supposed to be a grown-up.  And great sorrow for Grandpa who lost two children in a week’s time.

I have spent a good deal of time studying my scriptures and contemplating death.  I hope to relay the impression I have felt as it has brought me peace and will carry me through my grief.

I have been particularly touched by this scripture “But there is a Resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ” (Mosiah 16:8)  The Atonement of Jesus Christ comprises two parts 1) an atoning for our sins-our spiritual death and 2) the conquering of death-The Resurrection-the restoration of our physical bodies, then perfected, with our spirits.  Both are essential to our eternal salvation.  Because Christ rose again and conquered death we will live again.  Grandpa will live again.  Ben will live again.  Becky will live again.  Meg will live again.  Their spirits will no longer be trapped by an imperfect body but liberated by a Celestial, physical body. They will be whole.

How can this not speak peace to my mind?  It brings me such peace and comfort in my grief.  Because let’s face it: death stings.  Death stings when you think of something you want to share with a loved one who is no longer there to call.  Death stings when you go to family gatherings and someone is missing.  Or there is an empty chair you know should be filled.  Death stings when you go to a wedding in the same place you were married and Grandpa isn’t there to perform the ceremony anymore.  Death stings when the family is singing in the living room and no one is jamming out a symphony on the piano. And no one is harmonizing.   Death stings when you have a question about your family heritage and the one with all the answers is now a part of that heritage.   It stings at the family reunion where the family patriarch is absent.  It stings when you put on your brothers tie for church on Sunday.

Death stings.  And I cannot express how grateful I am that “the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.”

Selfless Gifts, Simple Gifts

When I think of Christmas stories of being selfless, I don’t have any personal stories of great import. That may be a good thing. I think of fairly normal things. Like when I was in college and got a bunch of friends together to walk the halls of retirement homes singing Christmas carols and sharing cookies, simply because my family had always done that, and I missed it. Service was just a part of our upbringing.

Or my first Christmas when I lived in Argentina, and the culture was so different — December falls in summer on the other side of the equator, so I had a decision to make. Would I choose to focus as did many North Americans on the fact that there were no Christmas colors (such as red & green), no carols, no decorations, few Christmas trees, no gift giving (since gifts are given two weeks after on Day of the Three Kings, January 6), few Christmas stories, just beer and fireworks? Or would I instead choose to focus on the fact that Argentine culture simply differs from mine, that people celebrate differently than I, that I should go and enjoy the dancing, learn to love polkas and chacareras as much as they, see beyond differences between Papá Noel and Santa Clause to see the similarities their roles represent, and just sit and enjoy the eating and talking and eating and talking ’til the wee hours of the morning? Enjoying cultural differences was just part of my upbringing. So was deciding to love other people as they are. As I made the less fleeting decision, I made their experience my experience, made Argentines my family, made their stories part of my family story. And now I miss those times, actively miss the differences, sorely miss the people.

I think one of the best things I can do at Christmas is to learn to get outside of myself and make the season not about me but rather about the people around me. If it’s about me, the season may be frenzied and unsettling. If it’s about others, I may find my days merry and bright.

My mental and spiritual state can be independent of the culture, the geography or the weather. I can bring my own mental snow, mental flocking, mental glowing white candles. I have learned that a white Christmas isn’t just an ideal; it’s a state of mind.

 

Other selfless Christmas stories below. Enjoy!

A young boy gives selflessly to another child in need:

 

John Rhys-Davies retells the story of Luke Chapter 2:

 

John Rhys-Davies explains the importance of the Christmas story:

 

Cloverton Hallelujah: Love the chords, and I applaud the holiday lyrics which magically upgrade this gorgeous ballad with Cohen’s discordant words into something we love to sing. Thank you, thank you, Cloverton, for the wonderful music!

Here’s the audio:

Here’s the video with audio muted:

I love the changes in the lyrics, and I find this verse particularly meaningful:

I know You came to rescue me
This baby boy would grow to be
A man and one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in You
That rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah
Hallelujah

 

The first gift of Christmas wasn’t from a store. What does love mean to you? Life? Peace? Or hope?

(Or watch/download same video at mormon.org link.)

 

From our family to your family — This season and always, may you have many selfless moments and simply find magic in these moments!

-Dave and the MormonPanorama Family

 


Miracle Roots

bus-stationMy son, Mike, worked a miracle in a woman’s life. While living in Portland, Oregon, he knew a woman whose boyfriend abused her physically. She was personally at risk. She had tried other solutions, all of which had failed. Mike and a friend helped her to leave her situation, get on a bus, leave town, save her life, and start a new life elsewhere. She was free as she hadn’t been in some time. The dictionary defines the term ‘miracle’ as “a wonderful or surpassing example of some quality.” My son, Mike, is miraculous (“having or seeming to have the power to work miracles”). His actions impacted this woman’s life for good.

I’ve noticed that not just Mike but many people may have a deep impact for good. It is my experience that we can be a miracle in the lives of others.

Basket Of Tepary Beans As An Important Source Of FoodFarmers in the hot, dry, desert area of northwest Mexico plant seeds and grow varieties of corn and beans that are unusually hardy and resistant to drought. While other plants would wither and die in a harsh climate, these varieties survive and flourish. The white tepary bean is one of these plants. It sends its roots as deep as six feet into the rocky, sandy earth to find the moisture it needs, even when very little rain falls. It can flower and fruit in the 115-degree (Fahrenheit, or 46-degree Celsius) desert temperatures with only one rainfall each year. Its leaves remain remarkably green, even in the heat of mid-July. (See Gary Paul Nabhan, “Seeds of Renewal,” World Monitor, Jan. 1989, Pages 17–20.)

Joseph Wirthlin applied this concept to our own behavior:

Perhaps members of the Church could emulate the example of these hardy, sturdy plants. We should send our roots deep into the soil of the gospel. We should grow, flourish, flower, and bear good fruit in abundance despite the evil, temptation, or criticism we might encounter. We should learn to thrive in the heat of adversity.

Deep Roots

Deep Roots

Each of my adult children is a miracle. Just as my wife, Kim, presided over the birth of each of them, I felt strongly that it was my role, my job as a father, to preside over their second birth. All six of my kids have grown up with roots that go down deep, harboring in their hearts a deep sense of who they are, how they should act towards others, how they should follow God. In doing so, they have not only saved others—They have saved themselves.

Did these miracles happen? Did these happenings constitute miracles? It depends on your perspective:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

Here are some associated thoughts from Harvard Business School Innovation Expert Clay Christensen:

I believe that the reason these remarkable people succeeded in the face of today’s apparent indifference toward religion is that these member missionaries tried to know and follow God’s thoughts and His ways as best they could. I believe that the miracles that occurred in their lives will be predictable in our lives, too—when we follow His thoughts and ways as well. (The Power of Everyday Missionaries, Chapter 16, Pages 145-150.)

I have learned for myself that each of us may work miracles—in others, and more importantly, in ourselves. In order to do so, we must have roots that go down deep, roots that change our lives. For good.

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Bonus Materials:

1. Read, watch or listen to the entire address: “Seeds of Renewal”, Joseph B. Wirthlin, April 1989 LDS General Conference.

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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Photo, bus-station—commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arriva_buses_in_Middlesbrough _bus_station_5_may_2009_pic_3.jpg
  • Photo, “Basket Of Tepary Beans As An Important Source Of Food”
    —www. pricklypearjuice.org/tepary-beans.php
  • Photo, “Deep Roots”—highlyfavored.affiliateshelpdesk.com/page/2/

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Beyond Dirt, Beyond Opposition, Beyond Bullying

Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 by Dorothea Lange

Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 by Dorothea Lange

Bullying begins early, especially when faith is involved. My friend who shoved my face in the dirt was one of many. In elementary school and junior high, when kids learned I’m Mormon, they would often ask how many moms I had. I remember wondering how much they really knew about the birth process.

I have Muslim friends, Catholic friends, Jewish friends, friends of many faiths, all with experience getting their faces shoved in the dust. Gritty, tough, beautiful faces.

 

Dirt and faith go together. Opposition, criticism, and antagonism are companions to truth. Whenever the truth is revealed with regard to the purpose and destiny of mankind, there will always be a force to oppose it.

Faces Of Kevin At 3 Years Old

Faces Of Kevin At 3 Years Old

When our son Kevin was three or four years old, an older sibling had a soccer match after a week of rain. At the side of the field was a narrow 25-foot-long puddle. Kev quickly learned that if he ran and threw his body on the ground in just the right way, he could slide the entire length of the water. Before long, the families around us began to watch Kevin instead of the game. One photographer mom missed her son’s only goal of the season as she focused her lens on Kev. “Gotta set priorities. Look at that face!” she said, kept snapping shots, and gave us copies of her images later that week.

Dirt and Faith on the Mexican Baja

Dirt and Faith on the Mexican Baja

Years later, Kevin’s face was again caked with dirt, this time from the dry dust of Tijuana, made a bit muddy by the ample sweat of his brow. He loved working closely with friends from Mexico as they labored to teach the truth. At one point, weeks of opposition and criticism were taking a heavy toll. His close friends were truly discouraged, and it weighed heavily on his heart. Kev decided to rip his bedsheet in two and scribbled on his Title of Liberty, “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children”, and fastened it upon the end of a pole. He called his flock of fellow laborers together to encourage them and, in his strong voice, shouted in Spanish, “Whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and promise with me that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.” After signing the rent cloth, Kevin invited them to sign. They all did. And their courage was restored. People started really talking with these young men once again, sharing feelings down deep and listening to them, as the weeks of opposition and antagonism evaporated, leaving only the local dust on their tired, smiling faces.

Look for the biggest dust cloud billowing above the most dirt, and you’ll find that it’s being kicked at someone standing for the truth. Sometimes, no one stands with them.

“The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing, persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny many defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited very clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”—Joseph Smith

Bullies will always assemble themselves. Why? Because someone is teaching the truth, and the truth will always be opposed. Time to labor harder, time to work smarter, time to smile that feel-it-deep-down smile…

Two men looked up from prison bars,
One saw the mud, the other saw stars.
—Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

Defying Opposition

Defying Opposition

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Bonus Material:

Many of these thoughts are inspired by Lawrence Corbridge. Read, watch or listen to his entire address, “The Prophet Joseph Smith”, Apr 2014 LDS General Conference.

A Father's Gift, Liz Lemon Swindle

“A Father’s Gift”, Liz Lemon Swindle

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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  • Photo, “Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 by Dorothea Lange”—www2. artsmia.org/blogs/new-pictures/category/mia-photo-exhibitions/
  • Photo, “Dirt and Faith on the Mexican Baja”, from private collection
  • Quote, “The Standard of Truth,” Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, Volume 4, Page 540, from the Wentworth Letter, just before the Articles of Faith
  • Quote by Dale Carnegie, www. goodreads.com/quotes/420532-two-men-looked-out-from-prison-bars-one-saw-the
  • Photo, “Defying Opposition”, from private collection
  • Painting, “A Father’s Gift”, by Liz Lemon Swindle. Swindle tells us that this tender painting portrays the love of three fathers. Our heavenly Father entrusted the twins to John and Julia Murdock. When Julia died after childbirth, Brother Murdock entrusted them to Joseph, who brought them to Emma. Emma had just lost her own twin babies within hours of their birth. Joseph and Emma loved and raised the twins as if they were their own. See www. ldsart.com/p-10603-fathers-gift.aspx. Dave adds: To me this painting is about how a loving God follows opposition and trials by restoring smiles.
  • Painting, “Hope”, by Liz Lemon Swindle.  See www. world-wide-art.com/art/Liz_Lemon_Swindle.html. Peter and John were no strangers to criticism and antagonism, which had cost them dearly. Swindle teaches us about illustrating a tender moment just before their faces learn to smile again:

When Mary came to the tomb, she found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. She ran to the disciples crying, “They have taken away the Lord…and we know not where they have laid him” (John 20:2). Peter and John immediately ran to the tomb.

What did they think as they ran? Were they simply curious to see for themselves? Did they fear, like Mary, that their enemies had stolen the body? Or did they remember His promise, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”?

The decision that faced Peter and John that Sunday morning is the same decision that faces each one of us today. Will we doubt? Will we hope? Or will we know that He lives? I know that He lives.

  • Photo, “Smiles After Opposition”, from private collection

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Hope, Liz Lemon Swingle

“Hope”, Liz Lemon Swingle

 ···oO0···

Smiles After Opposition

Smiles After Opposition

Unthinkable, Impossible, Unfathomable, Unprecedented

In this Easter season, we in our family want all of you to know that we believe in religious liberty, in upholding a strong tradition of civil discourse with people who aren’t like us, and in expressing a heart-felt faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We say these things on our own initiative. We feel them deep in our hearts. They make us who we are. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow everyone the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

Mary With The Resurrected Christ

Mary With The Resurrected Christ

We are glad that the Savior was born in a stable, died and came forth alive three days later with a resurrected and perfect body that would never perish, never go away. It’s because of Him that we live where traditions of religious liberty have thrived. It’s because of Him that we can be a forever family. It’s because of Him that we have the freedoms we enjoy.

“I believe that in time, with patience and good will, contending constitutional rights and conflicting personal values can be brought into mutually respectful accommodation.”
Excerpts from Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ Constitutional Symposium Address 16 April 2014. (Time 5:10.)

It was unthinkable, impossible, unfathomable, unprecedented.
He was a carpenter, a teacher, an outcast, a leader.
Like all who preceded Him, He lived, and He died.
But unlike all who preceded Him, He rose from the dead.
He lived again.
He lives, and because He lives, we all will live again.
Because of Him, death hath no sting, the grave no victory.
We can start again, and again, and again.
Because of Him, guilt becomes peace, regret becomes relief,
despair becomes hope.
Because of Him, we have second chancesclean slatesnew beginnings.
There is no such thing as The End.
Because of Him:

(Or same video at lds.org link.)

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Bonus Material:

1. Our Forever Family

Our Forever Family

2. My Kingdom is Not of This World

(Or same video at lds.org link.)

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WebCredits—List of web resources used in this post but not explicitly credited above:

  •   Photo, “Mary With The Resurrected Christ”—www. .lds.org/bible-videos/videos/my-kingdom-is-not-of-this-world?cid=HPTH041714699&lang=eng

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