Thursday, March 27, 2008

To Nathan

Am I writing this post to myself? No, I'm strictly Nate, but one of my readers named Nathan asked me if I'd suggest some Samoan language texts to help him learn the language before he moves to Samoa for work and while he's there. I don't have Nathan's email address and any other readers interested in learning Samoan should benefit from a general post in answer to Nathan's request.

For the neophyte, Galumalemana A. Hunkin's Gagana Samoa: A Samoan Language Coursebook is an excellent place to start. However, I couldn't find it in stock through Amazon.com or Half.com so you might check your local library.

If that doesn't work, then Samoan for Missionaries is an excellent resource if you can purchase one through the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. And for the diehard linguist, I suggest picking up Spencer Churchward's Samoan Grammar.

As far as dictionaries go, R.W. Allardice's Simplified Dictionary of Modern Samoan is a good start; it has a little bit of grammar instruction in one of its appendices. I prefer, however, G. B. Milner's Samoan Dictionary; it gives a lot more etymological information about each word and many example sentences using the words. Once you reach Samoa, you may want to find a copy of the Reverend George Pratt's Grammar Dictionary and Samoan Language. The beginner will find it a little musty and difficult to navigate, but it still remains one of the best possible resources.

Also, check out the online literature section on Samoan Sensation, there are some reads there that should prove enlightening.

Of course, if I had your email address, I could email you a nice Samoan language and culture packet that I've put together over the years. Alas....

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thesis Blues

For any who may be worried that I have quit the bloggin' business, let me put your fears to rest. I have been incredibly busy with school, work, and more school, namely, my thesis.

In truth, after this semester ends in April, all I have left until I graduate is my thesis. The problem is I don't have a working project up and running yet, and I want to graduate in August. For any who may read this who are also contemplating pursuing a master's degree, opt for the non-thesis option. If only I could have foreseen this...if only.

I will work on a new, substantial post but it won't be another few days before it goes up.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jesus Christ and Atonement

Today, Elder Richard G. Scott, an apostle of Jesus Christ, spoke to the Brigham Young University community at the Tuesday morning devotional. Elder Scott challenged all his listeners to make a serious study of the atonement of Jesus Christ—that in doing so, all other studies in which we are engaged would be enriched. More than that, however, a study of the divine Sonship of Jesus Christ and His infinite atoning sacrifice draws a person unto God, Christ, and, ultimately, eternal life.

In beginning, not for the first time, my study of Jesus Christ and the atonement, I feel terribly inadequate. Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was one of Jesus’ modern-day apostles until his death in 2004, once said, “Humility…is the sober realization of how much we are valued by God.” (Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, p. 165) As one studies the doctrine of Jesus Christ and His atonement, one comes to know a little better how much we really are valued by God and Jesus Christ; in time, one becomes humble.

"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance. And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!" (D&C 10:10-13)

When we realize that our sins—our disobedience to God’s lovingly given laws and ordinances—estrange us from God, cut our spiritual connection to Him, and plunge our souls in the depths of suffering, we feel to cry out with Paul and with Nephi: O wretched man that I am! (Romans 7:24; 2 Nephi 4:17)

And yet, despite our anguished plea for mercy, if there were no propitiation for sin, we would be the most miserable of all men. Why? Because in knowing of the estrangement of God and man caused by sin, we who are sinners—for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God—know that without atonement, without expiation, without redemption, our hope for a happy afterlife is vain: Justice cannot be denied.

But Jesus Christ is given: the Lamb, chosen and slain from before the foundations of the world. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

I love Jesus Christ. I know that through Him we can be clean and free from sin. All that He requires is obedience to His commandments, not the least of which is repentance. May we ever seek after this Jesus who is called Christ is my prayer.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles

Roughly 2000 years after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem, the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement affirming the divinity of this Jesus, who is Christ. In the spirit of Easter, here is the full text of their statement:

As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.

He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New. Under the direction of His Father, He was the creator of the earth. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.

He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.

We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.

He rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10).

Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:

“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:3–4).

Of Him the Prophet also declared: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).

We declare in words of solemnity that His priesthood and His Church have been restored upon the earth—“built upon the foundation of … apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).

We testify that He will someday return to earth. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5). He will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, and every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him. Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.

We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.

I know for myself that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. This knowledge came through studying the scriptures, praying, and, ultimately, the Holy Ghost's revelation to me. This selfsame testimony is available to all who seek it. God is no respecter of persons; He will reveal to all who diligently seek Him that Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son in the flesh and that Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven whereby humankind may be saved.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Value of Witnesses

Imagine, if you will, that a man is arraigned before a court of law as the defendant in a case. This man is accused of deception and fraud. The man is questioned and maintains the truth of his assertions of innocence.

The prosecution calls its witnesses to the stand and they testify, but their combined testimony amounts to little more than perjurious character assassination against the defendant.

Next, the defense calls its witnesses to the stand, 11 in all, and one by one they give their testimonies. One of the witnesses is the man's father, two are his brothers, and the remaining eight are friends and associates. Each witness is well acquainted with the defendant, with his character and attributes, even with his faults, yet each witness solemnly declares that the defendant is honest and upright and innocent of the charges leveled at him.

Now, imagine that the case has been given to the jury to decide the innocence or guilt of the defendant. What do you suppose the verdict will be? Justice, being blind, will surely rule in favor of the defendant and acquit him of any wrongdoing.

In 1829, Joseph Smith published to the world the Book of Mormon. He did so amidst great opposition. Many sought to destroy Joseph's reputation and credibility by spreading all manner of lies and falsehoods concerning his character and his testimony about the Book of Mormon.

When it was published, the testimonies of 11 men attesting to its truthfulness were printed within the covers of the Book of Mormon.

Following is the testimony of three of the witnesses:

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

Oliver Cowdery
David Whitmer
Martin Harris


Next comes the testimony of the remaining eight witnesses:

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.

Christian Whitmer
Jacob Whitmer
Peter Whitmer, Jun
John Whitmer
Hiram Page
Joseph Smith, Sen
Hyrum Smith
Samuel H. Smith

Though a number of the 11 witnesses later severed their friendly associations with Joseph Smith--some of them even opposed him openly and bitterly--not one of them, not even one, ever denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon and the manner of its coming forth: that it was translated from an ancient record written upon golden plates.

Yet even today, when such irrefutable testimonies should weigh heavily upon our minds, too many people, who are otherwise intelligent and reasonable, pass off Joseph Smith as a charlatan or delusional and the account of the Book of Mormon as a craftily contrived deception or the product of a deranged, though sincere, mind.

The Book of Mormon is available to any person for free. One may read it and find out for oneself whether the book's message is true, or whether Joseph Smith was a liar. All one has to do to find out the truth is study the Book of Mormon and sincerely ask God in the name of Jesus Christ whether or not it is true. If this is done with a real intent to act on the knowledge gained, then God will answer one's prayer by the power of the Holy Ghost; for by the power of the Holy Ghost we may know the truth of all things.

I know the Book of Mormon contains the word of God. It is not given to us to replace the Bible, but to compliment it. Each book bears a unique testimony of Jesus Christ--that He is the literal Son of God and the Savior of the world. Thus, having two witnesses to the truth, we may stand confident that our faith in Jesus Christ is not in vain.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Almost Family

After writing about family in my last post, I realized that I didn't make much mention of a group of really close friends I term "second family". I, like many of you, have had friends and parents of friends with whom I've spent so much time that they have become like family to me.

For example, when I was in the third grade I played YMCA basketball. A school friend of mine, Jared, was on the team, and his dad, John, was one of our coaches. Though I knew Jared at school, our increased interaction on the basketball team helped galvanize our friendship. John often gave me a ride home after practice. In the years between the 3rd and 12th grades, Jared and I became nearly inseparable, like brothers except we didn't fight. Jared's mom, Jeanette was like a second mother, and Jared's brother, Chris, like another brother. Many of my fondest memories growing up involved spending time with Jared and his family.

In high school, I met a girl, Shannon, and we became good friends. I came to know her parents, Heather and Kelly, and siblings, and because we spent a lot of time together, they also became as family to me. Shannon's grandma, Gloria, practically adopted me as a grandchild, treating me as one of her own. Furthermore, I became good friends with a number of Shannon's cousins. One of them, Trevor, was my freshman dormitory roommate. I have many great memories of time spent with Shannon's immediate and extended family.

After my mission, I missed the islands and their people. I found out that my next-door neighbor, Josh K., was a Hawaiian. He and I quickly became fast friends. He came home with me for various holidays and was adopted into my immediate and extended families. I went to Hawaii for his wedding and was adopted into his. Thus I have a third set of 'second parents' in Momma and Poppa K. and additional siblings, Adam and Leilani, Josh and Julie, Karyn, and Sean.

My buddy and former roommate, Dave, is more of a brother than merely a buddy or roommate. He is generosity personified. If he were a lot older, I'd almost believe that the Polynesians could have learned their traditions of generosity and hospitality from him. I don't know that I've ever met a more caring individual than Dave. He too has come home with me for holidays, and, like Josh K., he was adopted by my family as an honorary member.

With Dave comes Rick. Before Rick married Janae and I married Deb, and before Rick moved back east, the three of us used to cruise around together all the time. Road trips, sporting events, movies, and more found us having a good time like three long lost brothers.

One friend, Steve, introduced me and my wife. When he came to our wedding, we returned the favor by introducing him to my wife's older sister. We will be celebrating their wedding in just over a week. Thus, of all my close friends who are more like family to me, Steve will be the only one thus far to become literally family.

Lastly, I can't finish before mentioning my Samoan families. I became close with Korama and Ufiata and their children during my mission, and since I came home Soli and Suvi and their children have drawn me into their fold.

I hope I haven't forgotten anyone. Suffice it to say, my life has been profoundly affected by the members of my second family. They, alongside my biological family, have enriched and blessed my life in ways that I couldn't begin to enumerate. Such is the stuff life is made of; such is the stuff that makes life good.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Miscellany

This past week was interesting. First, due partly to the weather changes and partly to the stress of school and work loads, I came down with something unpleasant. The body aches were slightly reminiscent of dengue fever, described in my last post. But today I felt much better.

I'm taking a very difficult endocrinology class right now and I had a major examination to take sometime between last Friday and today. I intended to study well Friday, Saturday, and Monday, and then take the test on Tuesday, but instead I slept most of the time. I didn't feel well. I needed to recuperate; so I did.

You can imagine my concern when I had only Tuesday and part of today to study for my exam, which I took today. Fortunately, the Lord has interest in even these parts of our lives. I knew that I could pray for comfort and strength to face this challenge. The Lord blessed me with both strength and comfort. My test went well.

I wanted to say a few words about family. For starters, the family is the most basic unit of society. The future of our society, at all its levels, depends on the things happening inside the walls of homes with families. When love presides in the home society prospers. When the family falls apart and becomes dysfunctional, society suffers.

I am grateful for my family, both immediate and extended--even my in-laws! I couldn't have a better family. My mom and dad raised me well. I have a lot of loving brothers and sisters. Growing up we lived close to my dad's side of the family so we had ample time with our grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.

Spending time together as immediate and extended family brought us strength that has served us well through the years. We know we can rely on each other when we really need it. At the same time, I learned a great deal about living an independent life from my family. I'm not afraid to be out on my own.

But now I have a new family. I got married last year. It was the best thing I could ever have done. My wife and her family have added many wonderful dimensions to my life. In time, my wife and I will add to our little family by inviting children into our home, thus perpetuating the God-given cycle of life.

When my sweetheart and I were married, we did not make vows until "death do us part." We covenanted with each other and with God for eternity. By virtue of God's power and authority, through the keys spoken of in the Bible to bind on earth and in heaven, Deb and I were pronounced husband and wife for time and for all eternity. We do not live with the fear of the divorcement of death, for there shall be none so long as we keep God's commandments.

So while life is full of struggles and rife with challenges, life is good because it includes family. I should like to close by saying that family is worth fighting for; it's worth protecting. Anything we can do to strengthen our family ties is worth it.