Monday, October 26, 2009

The Last Piece of the Puzzle is the Best

Provo, Utah has something called the Crandall Printing Museum. I was able to take a tour through it last semester, and it was so interesting, I went through the 2-hour long tour and then stayed a long time after to talk to the staff. The museum has three main exhibits—three printing offices, each holding one of the following: the Gutenberg Press (a replica of the same press used to print the first Bible), the Benjamin Franklin Press (also known as the “free press”), and the Ramage Press (the first press used to print the Deseret News in Salt Lake Valley).

The entire experience was quite impressive, educational, and personally spiritual. The tour guides went through and explained the entire process of printing a page of text. The fact that Gutenberg spent the time to figure out this method of casting each and every letter, setting each letter in the correct order, and experimenting to find the right ink to print this text, is an enormous feat. His work had great repercussions throughout history and impacted the course of many religious lines. The change his work wrought on the accessibility of the Bible to the common man is something to be celebrated every time I pick up one of the many Bibles laying around my house, and any other book I use to further my education and awareness. This increase in the distribution of the Bible, and this expansion in the demographic who was able to access it led to much religious discussion, debate, and reformation. People could now see the doctrine for what it was, and interpret it using their own intellect and life experience.

As a side note, one of my favorite features about Bibles from this time period, which was also exhibited at the museum, is the decorative art that the monks added in by hand once the text was printed. I can’t get enough of the hand-painted art in old Bibles. I find it touching that these men spent such a great deal of time making the holy texts as beautiful as they could.

The scriptures are a great blessing that our Heavenly Father gave us through the work of many inspired and divinely motivated men. Gutenberg and others spent hours upon hours setting text to print the holy words; the monks of the time spent hours upon hours hand-painting a single page of the Bible to make the text as beautiful as it is holy. I often don’t take the time to pour over a passage of scripture as these men did. I left the museum shocked at the amount of time and effort that had to be put into reproducing the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon as Joseph Smith brought it forth during the restoration. I realized how blessed I am to have these inspired, hope-filled words of my Heavenly Father to guide me through the test of life. I left with a newfound resolution to value these texts with a greater devotion to their words than I have before. I know the Bible and the Book of Mormon are the word of God, and I thank all those who came before me and ushered in a time where these words can be read by all of God’s children.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Lover of Seasons and Overcast

Section 37 of the Doctrine and Covenants is the first commandment issued from the Lord concerning a gathering. He commands the saints to gather in Ohio because of the persecution of the enemy, and so they can receive the law (Section 42).

The geographical gathering that occurred throughout church history has had a huge impact on where I am in life today. Many of my Brimhall ancestors were pioneers and participated in this gathering—all the way to Salt Lake City and then to Arizona. All my relatives remain in the western U.S., and if it wasn’t for this command to move early in the church, then my parents wouldn’t have grown up where they did, and I wouldn’t have been raised in the area I was. This situation is similar for many kids in the area I grew up in—Mesa, Arizona. There is an outrageous amount of members in my neighborhood, and I was blessed with in-school seminary and an amazing amount of wards and stakes in such a small distance. The many commands in early church history for the saints to continue moving west has profoundly impacted the path my family has gone down, and the influence of the gospel in my life.

Today the Lord continues to issue a command to “gather.” We are to gather in our wards and stakes, and to lift where we stand. I cannot express how powerful my home ward is. I was taught by Sunday school teachers and Young Women’s leaders that took a great interest in my life and my spiritual needs. I was prepared by an army of leaders who wanted to send our youth into the world, equipped and ready to face the tactics of Satan. There was constant gathering occurring in my ward as I grew up. Ward members were always reaching out to other ward members and neighbors of other faiths. We visited each other, we looked out for each other, we lifted each other in the gospel. It was a ward where the members tried to emulate Christ and give momentum to the Father’s plan through constant love and gospel teaching. I was spoiled as a youth. In my particular circumstances, the gathering impacted my growth in the gospel profoundly. I was surrounded by a strong body of saints who shaped me into who I am today, and despite the cultural disadvantages that can arise, I wouldn’t trade that kind power that comes with a gathering of saints for anything.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Forging An Acceptance Letter To Hogwarts

Doctrine and Covenants, section 25, was a revelation directed to Emma Smith in July of 1830. In my D&C class with Dr. Holzapfel, we literally dissected this revelation verse by verse and it opened my eyes to the several profound, underlying messages that the Lord conveys while speaking to Emma. This section has incredible historical, organizational, and doctrinal significance for the church.

During the 19th century, the role of women was quite limited, and her duties and responsibilities were confined to the home and the family. In this revelation, the Lord shatters this 19th century mold and calls Emma to duties that are traditionally masculine. He sets her up on the same level as Oliver Cowdery when he calls her to “be unto [Joseph] a scribe, while there is no one to be a scribe for him…”. She is also called to be “ordained under [Joseph’s] hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church,” and is told “thy time shall be given to writing, and to learning much….verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.” Traditionally a woman would not have time to participate in such affairs, for her time would be dedicated to running the home and raising the family. But the Lord issues a call to Emma, loud and clear, that he wants her to do more. He wants her to be a significant participant in the restoration of the gospel. We see Emma follow the Lord’s will as she puts together the hymn book and is called to set up the church’s Relief Society in March of 1842.

One of my favorite insights in this revelation is the guidance the Lord gives concerning the nature of husband-wife relationships. This portion of the revelation still stands in the church today as an organizational principle regarding the make-up of the family. One of Emma’s most important callings is to “be for a comfort unto my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., thy husband, in his afflictions, with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness.” As I pondered this particular call, I discovered a newfound respect for Emma and the magnitude of her role in the restoration. Joseph’s journey was new and difficult and draining. Emma was the one called to follow him on that same journey and then still have the spiritual strength to give comfort, to soothe, to motivate. On the flipside, the Lord counsels Emma “thou needest not fear, for thy husband shall support thee in the church….” Thus, we see the partnership characteristic that is necessary in a husband-wife relationship. Emma has duties to fulfill as well, and so Joseph has the responsibility to sustain her. Celestial couples are synergistic couples.

One of the main messages from this revelation that we discussed in class was that we are actors in our lives. We choose; we have been blessed with the powerful gift of agency. The Lord addresses Emma in verse 2, saying, “if thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me, I will preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion.” Dr. Holzapfel emphasized the word “if.” This word indicates that Emma is the actor in her life. She is not being acted upon. She chooses whether she will believe and support Joseph without seeing everything he sees. She chooses whether she will “delight in [her] husband, and the glory which shall come upon him.” She chooses whether she will “continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride.” She chose her life’s course, and so can I.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Dub Thee an Apostle in Shining Armor

Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants has been the most copied section of all the revelations, which reflects its great significance in the church and its history. The section, itself, is referred to as the “church articles and covenants,” and was given through Joseph Smith in Fayette in April 1830. Joseph Smith wrote of this revelation: “We obtained of him [Jesus Christ] the following, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation; which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise day upon which, according to his will and commandment, we should proceed to organize his Church once more here upon the earth.”

The section gives a short history of the church/restoration, as well as all the stipulations regarding the organization and governance of the church, from the order of the priesthood to the sacramental prayers. The revelation is so comprehensive that one would be able to replicate the church in any place with this document. The first segment is a historical overview, followed by a description of the articles of faith and doctrine of the church, and then a ‘handbook’ of instruction regarding the order and rituals of the church. The responsibilities of each level of priesthood are given. The conditions of baptism are given. The complete baptismal and sacramental prayers are written out, and the methods regarding voting in the church and giving baby blessings are delineated, along with much more.

Thus, in section 42—called “The Law”—it’s easy to see why the Lord includes section 20 in his “Law of Gospel Teaching.” D&C 42: 12-13 states, “And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fullness of the gospel. And they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them, and these shall be directed by the Spirit.” Missionaries in that day were required to take with them the Bible and Book of Mormon, and a copy of this 20th revelation in order to convey a full sense of the gospel and the Lord’s church in this day. What a statement—to put this section next to the greatest two works of the Lord. That is truly a testimony of its immense significance in the eyes of the Lord and in the lives of church members.