The Prince of Peace

The Prince of Peace

In the midst of the modern world’s turmoils there is one dependable source of peace for the world, for nations, for families, and for the soul. It is the Prince of Peace, our beloved Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. With Easter approaching, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has produced a lovely, short, and inspiring video message about the Savior. It is well worth watching:

https://www.mormon.org/?cid=HP_SU_2-4-2017_dPFD_fMORG_xLIDyL1-C_

 

 

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Art Garfunkel, Bridging the Waters

Some very dear friends kindly took us to Art Garfunkel’s recent concert at the Pantages Theater in Tacoma, WA. It was a delightful, very rewarding evening. His was the clear tenor voice that made possible the wonderful Simon and Garfunkel music that those of us of a certain age associate with our high school and college years. But this was not simply a series of old songs re-sung; this performance included newer songs with old favorites, interwoven with the artist’s delightful commentary on life, often in poetic form. (He protested applying that high-sounding term, poetry, to his writings, but since the English Department includes free verse under its definition of poetry, we will too.)

There is a spirit of mature melancholy in Garfunkel’s music and musings. Not the adolescent angst we knew so long ago, but the reflective thoughts and feelings of one who has experienced life, known great success and great loss and success returned again. “Artie” lost his voice in 2009 and labored diligently to regain it. He succeeded well. The result is not only a beautiful voice, but the sense of a great artist who is also humble, a rare and wonderful thing in our age of self-promoting demagoguery.

The greater losses, though, were of loved ones lost in death’s dateless night. Here Garfunkel revealed his love of family and friends: his beloved wife and children, also his intermittent relationship with childhood friend and youthful collaborator, Paul Simon. He also revealed his faith in God and devotion to the more important things of life. As a boy he served as a cantor, and included in the concert a too-brief excerpt of Hebrew a cappella. Even without the touch of echo added by the sound engineer, it was heavenly, an angel’s song.

Garfunkel’s concluding number was a rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Waters which he characterized as a “rehearsal” of a work-in-progress. There was no piano; all his accompaniment was by a very fine guitarist. Nevertheless, this adaptation of an old favorite was simply outstanding, very fine. Standing ovations generally are over-done, but in this case, I was happy to join the crowd in standing for a great artist in the humane tradition. Long may he perform.

Here is a link to his website where you may be able to find a performance near you:

http://www.artgarfunkel.com/

 

Best Wishes.

Imitating Christ

We will soon commemorate the Atonement and Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, by celebrating Easter. As Christians, we recognize Him not only as “God the Son”, but also as “The Perfect Man” and are committed to trying to be more like Him. Because we did not live with Him in mortality, our view of what it means to be like Him is limited by the accounts we have. My favorite summary of His life is the scripture that says, “He went about doing good.” And that is what we aim to do, as best we can. Often our best efforts at becoming more like Christ are when we try to imitate others we know who exemplify Christ-like traits.

It has been a great blessing to serve in the Church with many who have exemplified righteous leadership, men such as President Almond and President McCoy in the Graham Stake, Bishop Orgill in Orting Ward, and now Bishop Cain and Brother Lee in Sequim. I think, too, of great men I have known earlier in life: Bishop Waddell and President Don Wood in the old Portland 15th Ward, who tutored me as I came into church activity as a teenager; Brother Kent Duke, who was one of my fine missionary companions in Austria; and Bishop Giacalone of the Gateway Ward in Portland East Stake and Bishop Adams of the Pullman Ward in Moscow Idaho Stake, who mentored me as their councilor. I am thankful for each of them, and for many others who have touched my life.

But the best man I ever knew was my father, Edward Saxey. The army trained Dad as an x-ray tech, which enriched his education as a biochemist; he spent most of his professional life running a large medical laboratory. He loved living things, working the soil of his garden or raising sheep and dogs and cats and horses and cattle and geese and chickens on our farm in Sunnyside, Washington. He always had sheep, from when he was a young child until he died, but he didn’t herd them. He made a trilling sound in the back of the throat, very Germanic, and they came running.

Similarly with the dogs—he and Mom bred beautiful German Shepherds back when the breed was large and noble looking. They had the top-winning kennels in the Northwest in the late 1950s and early 60s. He would look deeply into the dog’s eyes and talk to it softly, then reward its good behavior, and they loved to obey him. He used to say that any dog could be trained if only it will look you in the eye.

Dad was a soft spoken man, which is not to say there was not a fair amount of “whoopin’ and hollerin’”, as he would have said, when we were little. But he usually had few words, carefully chosen, not wasted.

I only recall one spanking, though no doubt I deserved more. The whole family had gotten up early, before the sun, to harvest asparagus, a dusty, back-breaking business. We had a nice cup of postum to warm us before going into the cold. My parents and brothers filed out to the field, but I lingered in the kitchen, enjoying the warmth of the big coal stove. After a half hour or so, Dad came back in, dirty and dripping sweat. As he put me over his knee he said, “you’re not going to just sit around doing nothing while the whole family is out working.” Then he gave me a good spanking and I ran out to the field while my older brothers laughed. They stopped laughing when Dad caught up.

Dad did not need to spank us much because all he had to do was say a few words about how disappointed he was at our bad behavior, or worse yet, say nothing at all and shake his head. I love him so. To disappoint him was worse than any punishment could be.

He and Mom served in a variety of callings in the Church including many years as workers in the Portland Temple. Dad exemplified righteous, Christ-like behavior characterized by patience, persuasion, gentleness, and love. Whether calling sheep or training dogs or disciplining children, Dad obtained obedience not through force or fear, but through love: obedience was a choice.

It is no coincidence that the War in Heaven hinged on this principle of coercion versus agency. It is no coincidence that the continuation of that conflict in mortal life hinges on the same principle, and we see it over and over again in the conflicts of nations, in politics at all levels, in our families, and in our personal lives. To return to Him and receive His greatest blessings, our Father in Heaven requires complete obedience, but it must not be based on fear, but obedience based on our growing love for Him, mirroring His infinite love for us.

Let’s go back over a few things we know about the character of God, both Father and Son:

1. God works through councils; He is not arbitrary or secretive;
2. He is patient and long-suffering;
3. He is self-sacrificing on behalf of His loved ones;
4. He can speak in thundering tones if necessary, but His voice is usually soft, still, and small;
5. He is generous and kind, sending both rain and sun on the just and the unjust, for we are all His children;
6. He always keeps His objective in focus, namely, preparing His children to return to Him and inherit eternal life.

May we emulate the best examples around us and strive to incorporate principles of Christ-like behavior into our daily lives. As we do so, we will, little by little, become more like our Beloved Savior, and our Easter celebrations will become increasingly meaningful.

How the Great Father Created Happiness for His Children

My undergraduate major at BYU was Anthropolology; one of my favorite topics was folklore, which for our purposes here means simply “oral history.” If the religious doctrine known as the Plan of Salvation were retold in traditional society, it might have the title cited above. These are a few notes about that plan.

Eliza R. Snow wrote, “I had learned to call thee Father, thru thy Spirit from on high, but until the key of knowledge was restored, I knew not why.” One of the most important of the “plain and precious” keys of knowledge that have been restored is the Plan of Salvation, also called the Plan of Happiness. Bits and pieces are scattered all through the scriptures and especially the apocrypha, but they are brought together into a coherent whole through Joseph Smith. As described anciently, they form a sort of Three Act Play:

Act I–Pre-mortal life, Pre-existence (Abr 3:18, gnolaum)
The Grand Council
Two Plans—the War in Heaven (Abr 3:27 and Moses 4:1-3)
Agency—“sons of god shouted for joy” (Job 38:7)

Act II–Mortal life—central role of the Savior (Alma 11:38-43)
Creation (Abr 3:22-26)
The Fall (2 Ne 2:25-27)
The Resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-22)
The Atonement (D&C 19:15-20, chiasm center on v17)

Act III–Post-mortal life, The Next Life
The Spirit World (Eccl 12:7)
An Anapausis (intermission) (D&C 138, esp 57)
Temple work (D&C 138:48 and 58)
Judgment (Alma 41:2-6 and Alma 12:14—words, works, thoughts)
The Degrees of Glory (1 Cor 15:40-42—sun, moon, stars—D&C 76)

One key to understanding The Plan is to better understand the nature of God. What is it that makes our Spirit Father, God?
All power? (might makes right?)
All knowledge? (a giant hard drive in the sky?)
Immortality? (He just keeps going like the Eveready bunny?)
Surely not!

He is a god of body, parts, and passions—Enoch, for instance, was puzzled to see that God weeps (Moses 7:28-40). Therein lies a clue.

John wrote:
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might alive through him.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
(1 John 4:7-11)

So what was it that caused God to weep in front of Enoch—that His children did not love one another or Him. It is that quality of love that gives meaning and purpose to everything else, and accounts for His Great Plan of Happiness. (Moses 1:39) God wants us to freely love one another and Him as He loves us. I wrote earlier that “It’s all about liberty.” True enough, but the principle that underlies that principle is another sweeping statement: “It’s all about love.”