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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Literary Geek-Out!

Alright, class!  Today we're going to learn about one of the coolest things ever--literary devices!!  Aren't you STOKED?!  You should be.

(**NOTE: As an English major, it is my privilege and honor to work in the medium of words.  I don't know how to sculpt or paint; I don't know a thing about electrical, plumbing, or auto-mechanics; I work in words.  So when I discover something fun about words or something I've read, I get all giddy inside and can't help but share it with everyone so they can enjoy it too!  Right?**)

Today's literary device is the elusive chiasmus (keye-AZ-muss)!  It is a syntactical structure following an ABCBA format, adding emphasis to a certain concept by placing related words and/or phrases in a reversal pattern around the crux.  Confused yet?  Think of it as an ice cream cone with a chocolatey filling at the bottom--you work your way down on both sides until you get to the center.  Let me give you an example.

I was reading in 2 Nephi 2 (Book of Mormon pg. 57) this morning, which outlines in great detail the role of Jesus Christ's sacrifice in our eventual returning to live with God (you'll have to read the whole thing on your own to get the full picture.  Facebook message me when you do so we can talk about it!).  I only got through the first 11 verses because it was so chock full of great stuff I ran out of time!  Verses 5-9 talk about how we are utterly dependent upon Christ to be able to be redeemed from our mistakes because when we sin we are unclean and no unclean thing can dwell in God's presence--that's the law.  God is perfectly "just" (think "justice") and also perfectly "merciful".  What Christ did fulfills that law by His shouldering the burden of justice and thereby satisfying the claims of mercy as well (by allowing us to repent) so God can continue to be both perfectly just and perfectly merciful.  Ya dig?

OK.  Here's the chiasmus in verse 10:

A   Wherefore, the ends of the law (we can't be saved without Christ) which [God] hath given...
      B unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed...
          C in opposition to
     B that of the happiness which is affixed
to answer the ends of the atonement (Christ shoulders the burdens of our sins so we can be redeemed)

The crux, the central focus and operative word in all of that is the word opposition.  In verses 11-16, Lehi goes on to explain that without hard things in life, we could never appreciate the sweet things in life.  How could you know what a good day feels like unless you've had a few bad ones?  How can we know to avoid sin and stupid choices unless we feel bad when we make them, so we'll know to make good choices instead?  Opposition is critical for our learning; we would never grow if we never faced challenges.  This chiasmus teaches us that the law is fulfilled by the Atonement, happiness is opposed to that punishment, and when we go through opposition, we are able to access the healing power of the Atonement by drawing closer to Christ, our only hope in having the demands of justice and mercy both satisfied on our behalf.

My friends, let us not "curse God and die" when we are faced with difficulty.  Christ has overcome all and will grant us "the happiness which is affixed" when we come unto Him, repent, and endure our opposition--our trials, bad consequences, sicknesses, etc.-- with faith in Him and in our Father's Plan for us.

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

PS I hope that all made sense!  Seriously, message me on facebook if you want to discuss more!  :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Pearl of Great Price: Part IV

For the first two months or so, I traveled entirely alone (save the few times the Benevolent Wanderer had chanced upon me).  I must confess, it was quite lonely, having no one to speak to for days and days on end.  Sometimes I would sing the familiar songs of my childhood to myself, other times I would speak to the bleakness or to some imaginary companion; often I would speak openly with God, asking for His blessings and safety.  Truly I missed the human-to-human interaction that of necessity constituted my daily life at home--haggling some merchant who was charging me too much for cattle feed, laughing with my boyhood friends, conversing with the elders about the pearl and the Promised Land, seeking advice from my parents and kin.  I missed that.  It was a lonely time indeed.

The gap was partially filled by the love and joy I felt when I had met the Wanderer those brief, dire moments.  I knew at least there was someone out here in this waste who cared about me.  His bread, water, and light comforted me and at least took away the strain of survival from my mind so that I could focus on where I was going and try to make it as safely as possible.  I was filled, it was true, but somehow it seemed something was missing...

Late in the afternoon one particularly hot and unpleasant day, I spied a small, dark figure far out on the dunes ahead of me.  I couldn't exactly tell what it was at first; it lay motionless on the sand.  As I drew closer, I realized it was a person!  I ran to his side.  He lay unconscious, his breathing shallow, his face bright red.  As I looked him over, under his desert garb I could see he was emaciated and starving.  Immediately, I slung one of the Wanderer's waterskins from my shoulder and sprinkled a few drops on his forehead and lips.  His eyes moved under their weary lids, and slowly he opened his red and exhausted eyes.  I was shocked--they were such piercing blue, and so familiar-looking...  I gazed at him for a moment, then remembered he was dying.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Pearl of Great Price: Part III

Over the next several weeks, I pondered on the singularity of the events the night of the sandstorm.  What strange events they had been indeed.  How could it have been that I would have chanced upon such a marvellous person as I had?  And how had he bested the storm enough to have reached out in love and compassion toward me?  Surely, I thought, there must be a way to overcome as he had, to reach out and think not of yourself in the perilous times, to not take only, but to give.  Though I had encountered him but once, this man, this friend inspired me as a great mentor.  I hoped to God I would meet him again.

A word about survival in the desert:  if ever you should venture out as I did, remember that food and water are very scarce.  I know that sounds obvious, but you really don't grasp that concept until you have to go days without restocking your supplies.  It was about three weeks into my journey that I realized I would probably be without water for a few days; prior to that, small rivulets or streams had zig-zagged across the sparsely vegetated desert floor, providing for my thirst.  However, as I ventured farther and farther into the barrenness, the streams no longer flowed the direction I knew I needed to go and I found myself drawing solely upon the water I kept in reserve in my animal skin, which, I realized to my utter disappointment, was not entirely full.  How foolish I had been, when the water was plentiful, to not fill my skins with all the water I could carry!  I remember thinking to myself, "Well, the little streams will run along for another while, I'll be alright.  Besides, water is heavy!  why carry it when there is an abundance?"  Indeed I had played the fool.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Of Sacrifice and Octupi

Uh Oh...
I was thinking recently about giving things up--whether it be addictions, things that just hold us back from who we want to be, or whatever--and in my often-runs-amok imagination, I thought what it must be like to have an octopus stuck on your face.  That would really suck (pun most assuredly intended)!  Even if you got a few of his tentacles off of you, he's still got 6 more legs to latch back onto you.  Not good.  Giving things (or people, or habits, etc.) up that we've become really attached to (or that have really become attached to us) can be difficult, especially when we don't necessarily want to give them up but we know we need to.  But every time we give something up that is holding us back from a closer relationship with God or with doing His will, no matter how hard it may hold on, no matter how difficult it may seem, we can and will be strengthened.

Think for a moment about the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  This little boy has 2 loaves of bread and a few small fishes.  That's all he had.  By himself, he couldn't have done what was needed.  But then he gave it all to Jesus, and Jesus did what no one else could do.  Think for a second about the faith of that little boy.  He didn't just give some of the bread and a couple of the fishes to Jesus; he gave all that he had--that's when the miracle happened. 

Pause and think about that in terms of you trying to be better, to "be ye therefore perfect", as Jesus' injunction goes.  Can we do it all on our own?  Heavens no!  We don't have nearly enough to get to where we want to be!  But when we give all that we have, Jesus takes our meager offering and multiplies it until the job is done.  So don't worry if your present situation sucks like having an octopus on your face.  Do your best, He'll do the rest.

Much Love,
Elder Spendlove

PS here's a cool talk about Christ's all and our all.  Might help illustrate this better.

Jesus and boy: https://net-at-hand.s3.amazonaws.com/sites/10732/images/15191_full.jpg
Octopus image: http://www.dinosaurtypes.org/images/other_prehistoric-creatures/sea_creatures/Giant_Octpus/Giant_octopus.jpg

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Pearl of Great Price: Part II

The more I studied the more I knew.  And the more I knew, the more I knew I didn't know (funny how life's ironies seem to accompany the thing we want most).  But that didn't quell my determination; rather, it seemed to me that I would discover, through the experience of it all, how to find the best way to this Promised Land.  What intrigued me the most was that the records all indicated the presence of a Desert Guide--a benevolent Wanderer sent by God to assist weary travellers in their journey.  The prophecies were unfortunately vague and gave no indication at his name or figure--I was thus left only to hope for some Godsent boon if I were indeed to meet such a one as had been spoken. 

After years of preparation--both physical, mental, and emotional--and countless hours of diligent study, the dawn of my venturing-forth came (as it is not my intent to focus on my home life, but rather tell the tale of my quest for the pearl, I will spare you the unimportant details).  As I rose to the door of our ancestral yurt that morning, I breathed in the scents and emotions of my village life.  I would certainly miss the regularity of my childhood, the certainty of shelter and food, and the familiarity and friendship of those whose faces had smiled on my youth.  Indeed it would be a perilous journey, each day filled with hardships I could not then comprehend.  I would face the unabated brutality of a barren waste, with no respite from wind, sun, and the dangerous creatures of the sands. 

Notwithstanding, it was indeed time for me to embark on the journey I knew I was born to take.  I gathered my sparse accoutrements (not much more than a traveller's tent, rations, copied portions of the records of the ancients, a knife that belonged to my grandfather's grandfather, and all the hope I could muster), bid my incredulous and reluctant friends and kinsfolk farewell, and set out in search of the treasure I knew with all my heart was waiting for me. 

I was on my way.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day One

**Note: this is not a continuation of "A Pearl of Great Price".  Your regularly scheduled blog will return after these short messages.

I was sitting in church on Sunday pondering over the many changes I've undergone--definitely in the last year-or-so I've been a missionary, but more so in the last two or three weeks--and how much I've been learning about our life here on Earth.  We have SO MANY things we always "have to do", it can get a little overwhelming at times and we don't spend enough time "sharpening the saw", taking care of Number One, and focusing on our personal growth.  Like I said, these last two weeks have been really tough for some reasons, but very rewarding for many others, and I couldn't help but marvel at the chance I have to choose a change every day.  I was lost in thought (as happens on a fairly frequent basis for me).

So there I am, pondering away, when this good brother stands up (it was a testimony meeting where members of the congregation can go up to the podium at will and share their statements of belief) and says he's been struggling with something which he can't seem to beat.  He made a remark that really struck me, which I hope stays with me forever.  He said, "I am so thankful for these two days I've been free from this addiction.  But I imagine I'll mess up again.  Yesterday was day one, today was day two.  I am thankful for all the day ones God gives me--where I can try and try again." 

That hit me really hard.  How many times have I been impatient with someone who may be struggling with heartaches I can't see?  And yet I turn around and ask God to be merciful and patient with me and give me another "day one"... how can that be?

I know I have flaws.  I know I have things I should be able to overcome but just don't.  But God knows I'm trying.  He knows that if I mess up, there will always be another "day one" for me to try, try again. 

That's the promise of Jesus Christ, too!  In the Book of Mormon, we read the following invitation:

Come and fear not, and lay aside every sin which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down...yea come and go forth... (Alma 7: 15)

We all mess up.  We all need Christ to untangle us from our mistakes.  He will give us another "day one".  And I love Him for that.

Much Love,
Elder Spendlove

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Pearl of Great Price: Part I

They told me I was crazy to even attempt it.

Everyone who's ever lived has heard the stories--our ancients and elders speak of a far away place beyond the brutal desert sands, out past the remotest oasis, and beyond the edge of the Known where there springs a fountain of everlasting life; where grows a tree of the sweetest fruit, which is said to fill one with intense joy; and where each weary traveller is rewarded a "pearl of great price", a prize most desirable above all.  The elders spoke of this land from the records of our fathers.  They spoke of those who had come before us--how many a wide-eyed wanderer had set off on the journey, fully- (if not over-) confident in his or her abilities to best the desert's perils, to traverse the sands by his own strength and to reach the blessed home, only to return dejected, battered, and spent. 
Far worse, we knew, were the tales of those who encountered the ruthless bandits who hid amongst the dunes and rocks, waiting for unsuspecting travellers to fall victim to their insatiable lust for carnage and treasure; only a few survivors ever returned to tell the tragic stories of their less-fortunate friends.  Truly it was a perilous journey, one fraught with danger and uncertainty--who was to say if any of the travellers ever actually found the place of legend, where they could rest from all care and sorrow?

Thus, you can understand when my friends and relatives balked at my announcement that I, too, wished to brave the desert, to embark on the quest to find the pearl of great price.  They asked me to reconsider:

"It will be dangerous!  Have you not heard the tales?"
"How can you be so certain such a prize exists?  No one has ever returned to show us the pearl or give us of the fruit!  You'll die in the desert chasing after a fantasy, a disappointed, unfulfilled wretch."
"Life here in the village is so much more fulfilling than getting chased by bandits and snakes and eating cactus and bugs.  Now go clean out the cow stalls--they stink."


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