Tuesday, May 30, 2017

To know Him

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session from the April 1976 Conference.
Several years ago as I was preparing to teach a lesson on the Godhead to the Young Women, I suddenly wondered, "How do we come to know Jesus Christ?" I knew that Christ should play a central role in our lives; that His atoning sacrifice made repentance possible. And I knew the statement that "this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)

But HOW to know Him? I felt that I was getting to know the Father by talking with Him in prayer. I felt that I was getting to know the Holy Ghost by learning to recognize His presence and follow His promptings. But where did my interaction with Jesus Christ occur? When and how should I come to know Him?

I started looking up talks about the subject, and almost immediately I discovered, to my horrified surprise, that the subject was "controversial."1 I didn't want controversy! I didn't want to take sides or criticize people or sort out some complex doctrinal problem—I just wanted to know how I should follow the commandment to "know Jesus Christ"! But sorting through the different viewpoints wore me out. So, in confusion, I just kind of…gave up on the whole idea!

Recently, after hearing President Nelson's talk in the April 2017 conference about drawing the power of Jesus Christ into our lives, I've been thinking again that "knowing Christ" is something I should be trying to do. But I still struggle with figuring out HOW to do it! President Nelson specifically advised us to read the words of Christ in the scriptures, and to study The Living Christ, and I'm trying to start doing that. Then, this week, I ran across two relevant phrases in the April 1976 General Conference. The first (from this talk) was just a forceful reminder not to give up on the attempt to know Christ:
To know God the Father and his Beloved Son Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior, is life eternal. Do men truly know them—their attributes, characteristics, and powers? Surely such knowledge can be had: otherwise, our Savior would not have made this statement. 
To me, that says that my discouragement in the whole idea a few years ago was premature. This IS a worthy and possible effort. It will just take time.
And the second phrase (from this talk) stood out to me so powerfully that it's almost funny—because it doesn't SEEM like a new idea. It probably seems completely obvious to everyone reading this. But it astounded me.
Do you know him who was called Jesus?…To know him is to keep his commandments
I know, it's so simple! But I can't stop thinking about it. Sometimes the "what would Jesus do?" test just seems so inadequate, because I lack confidence about what He actually WOULD do in so many situations! There are so many things I don't understand about how God does things! And I know his ways are not our ways and some of it is beyond our comprehension. But how much of that will be resolved as I just…keep His commandments? Maybe in those moments of doing what He has told me to do, some of His reasoning will become clear to me as well, and I will begin to understand Him.

It doesn't solve the whole difficulty of how to follow Christ in every single situation. But there are plenty, even a majority, of situations where I DO know exactly what the commandments are and how I should be acting. And it's encouraging to think that every time I follow through and OBEY those things I know, I will be coming to know Christ a little better. Maybe gaining insight into how and why He does what He does! And thus preparing myself to be a better Christian even in the situations that now seem baffling to me—because I WILL know "what Jesus would do."

"To know him is to keep his commandments." "Surely such knowledge can be had"!

1 And having looked into it more, I don't even really want to dignify the whole thing as a "controversy." I honestly think it was all sort of a problem with semantics…and context…and it's been blown out of proportion by people who WANT to find arguments and dramatic situations within the church. But, I realize now I've brought it up, I should at least explain what I'm talking about. Basically, the idea of a "personal relationship with Christ" had been talked about by a lot of people, including in this talk at BYU (which you can still find at lds.org), and then Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave a talk which seemed really (maybe unduly) critical of that idea—except that I think he was actually responding not to the whole idea of "a relationship with Christ," but to some specific concerns he had about ways people were taking it too far. This post and this short item do a good job of explaining it, I think. And talks like this one, given after Elder McConkie's, show that there is nothing wrong with the idea as such.

Other posts in this series:

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Botts' Dots, and other random California things

We were quite excited to find so many Botts' Dots in California. You know we keep up on these sorts of things. (Although this news was a bit disturbing!) Sebby found half of a broken Botts' Dot in a parking lot and kept it as a souvenir. Wonderful boy.
Bougainvillea! (Goodness, that's hard to spell.)
Monarch caterpillars in Philip and Allison's yard
Since Sam had one paid for, we stayed with him at a hotel for two nights. The kids always love that.
We flew kites one windy day. Philip did quite a bit of doctoring to get them working. But then they stayed up for a long time!
Malachi with some guy's Lamborghini that was parked by a playground we were playing at. The car owner saw Ky eyeing it and volunteered to take this picture for him. Who ARE all these kind Lamborghini owners?? I would never have expected it.
These orange balloons made Junie's birthday the best ever. And Allison made a dinner full of her favorite orange-colored foods, too. So great.
Birthday lemon bars!
One of many parks we played and picnicked at
Cozy Teddy in the pack-n-play
Adam and Daniel in their tiger and leopard suits
We had a fun Saturday evening at Irvine Regional Park. 
Goldie, being a monster.
Teddy spent most of his time running up and down this hill.
There were wild parrots flying around and screeching!
This gulley was a nice wild place to explore. The twins were quite worried about potential owls.
Teddy time-out. Poor, poor little man.
This was a pretty wetland area we walked by on Sunday evening.
We saw several little bunnies hopping around! I wanted to get closer to this one, so I talked to him and told him I was a friend of Nutmeg, King of the Bunnies. He seemed impressed.
So he let me get right up close to him, and we walked together for a while! I'd get about this close, and then he'd hop forward and wait for me to catch up, and then hop a few feet ahead again. It was a pleasant little bunny walk!

A million museums

We had so much fun going to a bunch of museums while we were in California! I'm posting about them here for Sam's benefit, since he was busy giving his workshop all day most of these days, meaning he didn't get to come with us! But somehow we managed to carry on without him. :) It was nice that Allison and her kids got to be with us at several of these places, so I didn't feel like I was managing everyone by myself—and the older children were mostly great helpers too.

This museum, called Pretend City, was so much fun for the little ones. There's a little grocery store, a restaurant, a theater, a bank, a police station, a library, and so forth, all with dress-ups and working parts and lots of toys. The little girls loved it. One of the "facilitators" in the grocery store told Daisy, "Wow, you're working so hard you should be a manager!" and after that, Daisy took her responsibilities even more seriously. She stayed there for the better part of an hour, checking people out and putting things away when people left them in their carts. "I'm the manager," I heard her telling everyone importantly.
I don't know how these hoodlums got in here. At least they're crossing at the crosswalk.
Abe having some dental work done
X-ray technician
Dr. Junie
Marigold loved dressing up and dancing on this little stage with the theater lights shining on her, but she was a little shy about it, too. I think she felt like it was a REAL stage and she wanted to make sure she didn't make any mistakes!
She had this sort of bashful look on her face most of the time
She also really liked being a chef in the Italian restaurant
I escorted these troublemakers into the jail every time I could, but they kept getting out.
Goldie in the little pretend house
Teddy stayed in the cars almost the ENTIRE TIME. He switched from car to car occasionally, but that was as far as he'd go. He's never been in this kind of car before (!) and he LOVED it!
Like Goldie, he looked a little bashful about doing such big, important things
Some people tried to wedge themselves into cars that were too small for them.

The little ones weren't the only ones having fun: later that day, the older kids got to go to this Car Museum. It displayed mostly Ferraris, Abe's favorite, so he was happy.
Daisy had to pick a favorite car too. :)
At this museum (but not an official part of it), there was a man driving a Lamborghini, and when he saw the boys looking at it with interest, he let them sit in it and pretend to drive! I couldn't believe he was so nice.
Another day and another children's museum: Kidspace in Pasadena. The stained-glass entryway was really pretty.
This museum had a large outdoor area with a lot of fun things to do. The ball tracks were a big hit, and Teddy spent a long time just rolling balls down this one section over and over and over.
The kids also really loved the trike-riding area. It seems funny that they loved it so much, because of course they ride their bikes and trikes all the time at home, but I guess when you are riding on "real roads" with traffic signs, it makes it even more fun. And they did love the double-seated trikes.
There was a photo booth where you could take photos and email them to someone, so you can bet I got about 2000 of these treasures in my email from my little darlings.
The inevitable Teddy time-out
Every time we visit Philip and Allison we try to go to the Orange Balloon, which is a big tethered helium balloon with a basket you can ride in, above a park. But every time, it ends up not going up because of high winds! And this time was no different. Someday we have hope that we'll actually get to ride in the balloon, but this time it was great because we bought an all-day pass to the carousel and then just rode it over and over for about two hours while we waited to see if the wind would die down. There was no one else there, so the kids took their pick of the animals, and had the time of their lives!
It seems like carousel pictures never turn out very well. They're usually blurry with movement and the light is always tricky because you're under a canopy. But there's something I love about them all the same. Kids riding on animals are just inherently cute, I guess?
Junie finds her destiny
Teddy was pretty apprehensive about the whole thing at first.
But he had plenty of time to learn to love it!
Since we were going to be in Carlsbad for the Flower Fields one day, we set up field trips at the Gem Institute and the Museum of Making Music while we were there. Both places take homeschool group tours, but you have to schedule them in advance. At the Gem Institute you have to go past the guard booth and show your ID, which makes you feel kind of important. The tower on the front of the building has this beautiful sparkling crystal in the top.
It's not a huge museum, and none of my pictures are very good, but we loved seeing all the beautiful minerals and gems! This crystal pendant was hanging in the front window, and what you can't tell from the picture is that it's HUGE—probably as tall as Daisy. There are beautiful colored inclusions in the quartz, and when the sun comes through, it makes rainbow patterns on the walls and floor.
They did have some things the kids were allowed to touch. Hooray!
There were some interesting works of art made from gemstones—carved pieces like these, and others.
One of my favorite things was this display of orchestral instruments, all carved from precious stones.
I loved this. It's called Ametrine, and it's only found in one area of the world, where the quartz minerals amethyst (the purple one) and citrine (the yellow one) occur naturally together. The sign said that at first, gemologists usually cut and faceted the stones with yellow on one side and purple on the other, but now they've found ways to cut them where the two colors join and blend, to give a more modern, free-form look. Aren't they all beautiful?
We always love malachite!
The display of opals was really beautiful. The museum had a birthstone exhibit of which these were part.
A rainbow of gemstones! I'll take one of each, please.

Our next stop, the Museum of Making Music, was great too. We had a whole tour and class, led by Mr. Bill (or Mr. Bob? or something like that) who was such a nice, friendly man. (He seemed greatly disappointed in us when none of the kids had heard of Elvis Presley, though.) First he had us sit in a drum circle and let the kids take turns conducting us. Adam LOVED that, as you can see.
So did Ben.
So did Daisy!
And at the end of the museum tour, there was a room with a whole bunch of different instruments the kids could try out! It was a little nerve-racking for Allison and me, keeping track of all ten of them and making sure no one dropped or broke anything, but the kids loved it!
Note Teddy in background, waving a zither or some such thing around