Sunday, December 29, 2013

Samoa in Church History

Mataafa Iosefo
Henry L. Bassett, a Mormon missionary to Samoa in the early 1890s, writes of the time when his knowing the Samoan language likely saved his life.
In the night we rode through the village of Malie where Mataafa the rebel chief with his followers were encamped. As we entered Malie in the darkness of night two armed men sprang forward to the trail side and pointed their rifles at us at a distance of only about eight feet. I called out the greeting, 'Talofa alii,' upon which one native warned the other, 'Don't shoot. These men are not government men from Apia but probably faifeau (missionaries) as they speak our language so well.'

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Samoa in Church History

Henry L. Bassett records how he spent Christmas of 1891 in Samoa as a Mormon missionary:
I rode up to the German plantation to see Capt. Hufnagel to deliver a Christmas present from Louie Lee to the captain's wife. Returned and had our Christmas dinner, consisting of roast veal, mashed potatoes, gravy, cake and custard pudding. It was indeed a treat for us. Later we all went into the sea for a swim. We had some diving contests and as to the winner, modesty forbids me to mention him. We had been out quite a way, in fact too far from shore when one remembers the number of sharks infesting these waters. On our way back to shore our boat capsized but as we had reached shallower water we were able to empty it and float it again.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"Christmas Comfort"

My last post I took from a talk I gave at our Christmas program at church this past Sunday. I also shared it with our family and in reply a brother-in-law pointed me to this post of a devotional given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an Apostle, reminding us,
You can’t separate Bethlehem from Gethsemane, or the hasty flight into Egypt from the slow journey to the summit of Calvary. It is of one piece. It is a single plan. It considers the fall and rising again of many in Israel, but always in that order. Christmas is joyful not because it is a season or decade or lifetime without pain or privation, but precisely because life does hold those moments for us.
Elder Holland's talk is well worth reading, a much-needed reminder of the perspective we need during this most blessed of seasons.

(A quick search also turned up the original video of Elder Holland's devotional talk, given 1 December 1998, at then Ricks College, now Brigham Young University-Idaho.)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Samoa in Church History

Joseph Harris Merrill (1868-1961)

Lately, I’ve been reading from a couple of journals and memoirs of some of the earliest missionaries to Samoa from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So far, the accounts I’ve read have been from the early 1890s, just a few years after the mission was established.

Two of these missionaries were Elder Joseph Harris Merrill, of Utah, and his new bride Katie Eliza Hale Merrill. Less than two months after they were married for time and all eternity in the Logan Utah Temple, they received the call from the First Presidency to go to Samoa to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and establish the Kingdom of God.

The call came on Christmas day, 1890, and Joseph writes that he "accepted [it] without reservation."

Even before they sailed for Samoa, Katie would have known that she was expecting their first child. How hard it must have been for her to know that she would be far from family, living in a strange land with few modern conveniences (well, modern for the 1890s) when she gave birth.

After some months of preparation and a trip over land to San Francisco, Joseph reports, they "sailed . . . on 7 March 1891," and arrived at Apia on the 23rd. "The mission boat was not in," he writes, "so we walked the three miles to the Mission home at Fagaliʻi," no small feat in the hot Samoan sun.

There to meet them at Fagaliʻi was their mission president, William O. Lee, his wife Sister Lee, and some other missionaries. Those "first few months" at the mission home found Joseph and Katie "studying the language" and making themselves useful.

Katie "helped Sister Lee and sewed coats for the missionaries," while Joseph "built a veranda around the three sides of the Mission Home with a bedroom, a store room and a large galvanized water tank for our culinary use."

"I also made plans for and, with the help of the Elders at times and the natives," he writes, "built a Falesa [or church building] 20' x 40' near the Mission Home to house visiting people and for our meetings."

On the 22nd of May, just two months since their arrival in Samoa, Joseph notes in his journal that his wife, Katie, "is feeling quite bad this evening with a severe headache, having taken a slight cold."

For the next month, Joseph carefully and tenderly records the details of his wife’s condition. At first, he thought that she merely suffered from "the regular American Lagripp," or influenza, which made her head ache, "fit to burst," with "every bone and muscle in her body . . . sore and aching." Later he would receive the official report from a Dr. Funk, stationed in nearby Apia, that she had Typhoid fever.

Joseph and his fellow missionaries exercised mighty faith on behalf of Katie, ministering to her several times by virtue of the priesthood and giving her the best remedies they were aware of to ease her discomfort. Joseph writes that one afternoon after their Sabbath meetings, he "took a walk up to the banyan tree" nearby the mission home, where he "call[ed] on the Lord in fasting and prayer for his holy spirit to heal my companion."

At times it looked like she would recover, but soon after her condition would take a turn for the worse. In spite of this, and his own occasional health challenges, Joseph would write, "In all I am the most blessed now, than in all my life. I know my redeemer lives."

Six days later he comments, "We acknowledge the hand of the Lord in keeping her as strong as she is at the present and believe he will restore her health." But it was not to be. Katie’s health steadily declined while the little missionary band continued to minister to her with little lasting success.

Finally, on June 26th, Katie was "taken with false labor pains," which continued intermittently until the next day. True labor then set in and "at 2 o’clock p.m. [on the 27th] the child was born."

"At first we thought it was dead," writes the new father, "but soon it showed signs of life and began to breathe. It is a boy weighs 3 lbs. The Doctor says that it is not yet 7 months old and does not think that it can live, but we hope for the best."

After five weeks of severe illness, Katie was in grave danger of dying. "Only the goodness and blessings of God will save her life with our most skilled nursing," her husband notes. "We put our trust in God and fast and pray and do all we can."

According to his wife’s desires, Joseph blessed their son and gave him the name of Joseph Aroet Merrill. "He is strong and fat and well formed and a complete child, but he is not old enough to nurse or eat, and we don’t have much hopes of his living."

Then, "at 1 o’clock" in the afternoon the next day, he writes, "I witnessed the death of our baby." "After the baby died I went for a walk to console myself, not wishing to disturb Katie as I thought she may notice my grief and upset her. She asked Sister Lee where I was, said they had come for her and she had to go."
One of the Elders came and said Katie was asking for me and I returned to her side. She said, ‘Dear, don’t feel bad, all is right. they have come for me and I must go’. I thought possibly she could recognize some of them and asked who had come for her, to which she said ‘Can’t you see them? They are all around you.’ She gave me her last kiss, closed her eyes and was gone.
Our faith and prayers, our blessings and all we could do were not enough to ease her suffering and keep her with us . . . We buried her on the brow of a slight elevation about 30 rods from the sea shore at Fagaliʻi. She was a bride, missionary, mother, and corpse, all in eight months time.
"It is all I can bear," he continues,
We left home so happy being called of God to the work of the Ministry, and now I am left alone, forsaken of God, bereft of all my earthly joys. I care not to live, but for others. Thus are my afflictions heaped upon me almost more than I am able to bear. I care not for Samoa. I care not for earthly pleasures. I care not to live.
Unless I can overcome the sorrow and trials that are now heaped upon me I am crushed. All my earthly hopes are gone, I live only for the future.
Then, in the midst of great anguish over his losses, Joseph envisions the future he is living for:
We will meet in heaven after the toils of this life if I am faithful . . . God took her because she was perfect and pure as gold 7 times tried in the furnace. We lived together happy as love could make us . . . But will continue to live together through all eternity just as happy. If I am only pure and faithful until the end of my days.
It seems cruel that we should be parted in this far off strange land. But we can not judge the workings of the Lord for he moves in a mysterious way his purposes to perform. Our days are numbered and we know not how long any of us may be permitted to sojourn here upon this mortal earth. And if we all live so that our future is sure then we have no need to morn, though our loss is great.
"Torn as to leave for home or stay and finish my mission," Joseph writes, "I decided it was here the Lord wanted me to be and I made the decision to stay."

On Christmas day, 1891, one year after he received his mission call to Samoa, and almost six months since his loved ones had passed, Joseph writes in his journal that he had "been tried to death" yet had "received power through the Holy Ghost to bear up."
I have been blessed beyond comprehension . . . I have the hand of the Lord made plain in many instances. I have had visions and dreams and received the ministration of angels. My heart is full of thanks to God on this day, and acknowledge his hand in all things.
Joseph’s experiences, bookended as they were by two Christmases, highlight the importance of the message of Christ that this season celebrates. "Bereft," for a time, "of all [his] earthly joys," Joseph Merrill took comfort in the promises made to the faithful that if they would obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, culminating in the ordinances of the temple, and endure to the end, they would inherit eternal life with their loved ones.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Samoa in Church History

Early Mormon missionaries to Samoa.

Elder William O. Lee also tells of a run-in he and his fellow missionaries had with a missionary of another denomination,
It was during this time that Mr. Clark, the senior member of the London Missionary Society, hearing of our work on [Aunuʻu], came from Apia to investigate the new religion on the islands.
One day we received a call from him, and, naturally, our conversation drifted onto religious matters. Before going, he asked the question, 'Do you expect to establish your Church here?'
To which we replied, 'Most certainly; we have come five-thousand miles for that purpose.'
'Then,' he said, 'I have come ten-thousand miles to stop you.'
He had recently returned from his vacation in England. We met Mr. Clark many times after this, and each time we had more converts, more branches, of The Church; and, lastly, our headquarters was established on the island of Upolu, within three miles of his own.
Image courtesy of the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"Proof McDonald's Isn't so Bad After all"

Ever since the 2004 release of Morgan Spurlock's documentary of the "effects" of eating exclusively from McDonald's for one month, the fast food franchise has been the poster child of an evil empire conspiring to destroy our nation's health.

(I used scare quotes above because Spurlock's work doesn't actually document the effects of eating fast food for a month, or even a lifetime, only what happened to Spurlock when Spurlock did what he did. Spurlock has been criticized, most humorously in comedian Tom Naughton's Fat Head, for not making public his food logs.)

But an interesting infographic provides necessary perspective by comparing how much McDonald's food someone would need to eat to match the energy in any one of five of the Cheesecake Factory's notoriously calorific dishes.

Note, however, that I'm not endorsing McDonald's over the Cheesecake Factory. My budget constraints certainly leads me to choose the former over the latter in ever case so far. But I did once go to Cheesecake Factory on someone else's dime and probably ingested 4000 or so Calories and it was delicious (much more so than McDonald's). And it seems that I'm no worse for wear.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

(Samoan) Women vs. (Samoan) Men

Of late I've been enjoying Henry L. Bassett's Adventures in Samoa, memoirs of his mission to the islands.

In it he humorously notes a significant difference between Samoan men and Samoan women:
A young man in the fale next lot to ours disturbed us somewhat by his cries and groans as he was being tattooed, while a woman named Sitoni gave birth to a child and we knew nothing of it until so informed.
I used parentheses in the title because I don't think this difference is all that unique to the Samoans.

(BYUTelevision's Studio C depicts the likely outcome should a man have the chance to feel a woman's pain during childbirth. It's worth the watch. Then, try not to stay up all night watching everything else Studio C has made.)

Samoa in the News

"Open Happiness"

Apparently, sea cucumbers are being overfished (overcucumbered?) in American Samoa, prompting a moratorium on harvesting them.

I'm no fan of the idea of eating sea cucumbers or their byproducts. I say idea because happily in my two years' time in the islands, I escaped without so much as touching my lips with sea cucumber, largely because I was virtually never directly offered them. (Otherwise, I would have been forced to oblige, as I did when offered tuitui, sea urchin.)

Folklore has it that one dish, sea, or sea cucumber entrails stored in a sort of sea water brine, is processed by toothless old Samoan women who suck the guts out of the hapless invertebrates, then spit the guts into a Coke bottle, the preferred container, it seems, for later sale on the roadside or at town markets.

(Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, shows what the sea experience is like from a Western perspective. His cultural insensitiveness and linguistic ignorance—in Samoa, at least—are perhaps topics of another post.)

But the idea of a moratorium to conserve resources is not a new concept for the Samoan islanders. Early missionaries to Samoa noted the practice of the faʻasā, which, according to Mormon missionary William O. Lee, writing in 1899, "is a forbidding of the use of any particular article in the time of scarcity until it becomes plentiful again." "A valuable lesson in retrenchment," Lee calls the practice, recommending it to his readers back home.

Lee writes elsewhere that
the village council . . . puts a faasa-taboo on cocoanuts, taro, pigs, chickens, etc., that none shall be eaten or sold in time of scarcity, until they are plentiful again, a custom, by the way, which we are pleased to acknowledge is a valuable lesson in economy.
It's good to see that the Samoans are using their traditions to manage their resources in the 21st century.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Samoa in Church History

German Gunboat Adler, destroyed in the Apia cyclone of 1889

The first official Mormon missionaries to Samoa arrived at the islands in 1888. This was a tumultuous time in Samoan history, with three of the world's super-powers vying for control over the archipelago and its resources, and civil strife amongst the native factions backing either Malietoa Laupepa or Mataafa Iosefo for king.

Elder William O. Lee, one of the earliest to serve in Samoa, briefly noted some of his fellow missionaries' narrow escape from a savage cyclone that hit Apia on 15 March 1889, with devastating effects.
Here it was that we witnessed the destructive hurricane of March, 1889. Elders Dean, Wood and Beesley were on a trip to the island of Upolu arriving at Apia in our little boat, the 'Faaliga,' on the day before the hurricane. We were, therefore, eye witnesses of the effects of that terrible typhoon on the lives of the sailors, and on the vessels of the United States and German navies.
Historian R. Lanier Britsch elaborates in his history of the Samoan mission:
It was while the elders were at Apia that a great hurricane struck, placing them in dangerous circumstances. A man named Moorse housed them in the loft of an old barn and slaughterhouse near the harbor. When the storm came, they had to remain in these quarters until it ended. The barn was so full of holes that they could hardly keep a candle lit even before the storm, but perhaps the flimsy construction helped the building to remain standing through the entire storm. Elder Wood later wrote that he stood at the window most of the day and night watching the ships in the harbor meet destruction. There was nothing anyone could do. But when the storm ended, 'the beach was swept clear of its row of buildings, only one small building stood, buried in the sand to the roof, which alone had saved it from total destruction.' Inside were Elders Dean, Beesley, and Wood.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Samoa in Church History

Many Mormon missionaries mingling under a mango tree

In his memoirs, Henry L. Bassett, a Mormon missionary to Samoa in the early 1890s, explains the motivation behind missionary service:
You, dear reader, will no doubt want to know what is the underlying principle that exerts such a powerful influence over a young man that he will leave home and family and friends and go to a new and strange country and endure privation and almost daily dangers on land and sea; must learn to eat food sometimes very distasteful and often indigestible; must learn a language, not merely as the average trader or the beachcomber would speak it, but learn to speak it properly so that he can explain things intelligently to his listeners. It is a fact, too, hardly understood by many and disbelieved by some, that these young men (and I one of the number) go without money and without price to the ends of the earth wherever called, no salary asked nor received, the reward offered being only of the consciousness of having spent the years, as the case may be, in trying to better the conditions of the people met with and teaching them the ways of truth and Right Living as taught by God's representatives on Earth.
The same thing can also be said of the many young women and senior couples who serve missions today.

Image courtesy of the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

O-Class vs. A-Class Samoan Nouns

Talking chief Lauaki Namulauulu Mamoe implores you to learn Samoan

If you take another look at the table of Samoan possessive pronouns I recently posted, you'll see that the fourth column from the left classifies possessive pronouns as either being o-class or a-class. The concept of noun class is a bit confusing for an English speaker, since English doesn't have an equivalent concept—so far as I am aware, at least.

There are many places that explain this concept as it relates specifically to Samoan—for instance, here, here, here, here, and here—but for the sake of this post, I'll draw from explanations of a cognate language, Hawaiian, that I have found particularly useful when applied to—and in some cases adapted for—Samoan.

Hawaiian language scholar Albert J. Schütz, in All About Hawaiian, observes on page 26 that, like Samoan,
Hawaiian also has two ways of saying 'my' (or any of the other possessives), depending on the kind of relationship between the possessor and the possessed. In one type, called INALIENABLE, the possessor has no control over the relationship, in the sense that he or she can neither begin it or end it. Inalienable relationships (marked within the possessive word by o) often involve body parts, innate qualities, parts of a whole, and kin at your own level (brother, sister, etc.) or above (parents, grandparents, etc.) . . .
Other than a few items of cultural importance (such as land, house, or canoe) or those that you have a spatial relationship with or close connection to (such as boats, vehicles, houses, or clothing) the relationship one has with most objects is ALIENABLE. Children, spouse, and grandchildren are also alienable, all marked by a or ā. [In Samoan we just use a.]
In Ka Lei Haʻaheo: Beginning Hawaiian, Alberta Pualani Hopkins further elaborates on page 74 that,
'O-category' things
1. If you have no control over possessing something, it is an 'o' thing: for example, older relatives, siblings, emotions, body parts. Note that nonliving things have no choice about owning things so they usually possess everything with 'o'-possessives.
2. If you can get in, on, under, behind, or wear something, it is an 'o' thing: for example, buildings, means of transportation, chairs, clothes.
'A-category' things
Anything that does not fall into 1 or 2 above is an 'a' thing. We talk about possessing 'a' things by substituting ā for o in the possessives you have learned . . .
There are many 'a' things: for example, husband, wife, children, grandchildren, teacher, student, book, food.
So, to take a few of the specific examples that Schütz and Hopkins give we can construct the following list of o-class and a-class nouns:

O-class NounsA-Class Nouns
my arm - ʻo loʻu lima
my brother - ʻo loʻu uso
my mom - ʻo loʻu tinā
my house - ʻo loʻu fale
my car - ʻo loʻu taʻavale
my shirt - ʻo loʻu mitiafu
my wife - ʻo laʻu āvā
my book - ʻo laʻu tusi
my pencil - ʻo laʻu penitala
my dog - ʻo laʻu maile
my friend - ʻo laʻu uō
my cell phone - ʻo laʻu selefoni

There are some few notable exceptions to the above rules. For instance, in Samoan a man's children are all o-class, whereas a woman's children are all a-class. A man's beard is also a-class, presumably because it's easily removed, though, curiously, the same isn't true for hair on the head, which is o-class.

The last exception that I'll point out is that the Samoan word for spouse, toʻalua, is o-class, possibly because the early missionaries were trying to teach the Samoans that spouses should be permanent or inalienable. The native Samoan words for husband, tāne, and wife, āvā, are both a-class.

And there you have it, a not so brief explanation of the different noun classes in Samoan. Of course, as always, you may leave questions in the comments if you need additional examples or clarification.

(Does anyone know how to center the above column headings using simple HTML?)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Samoa in the News

The new double-five-star destination

If only I spoke Chinese in addition to Samoan, I'd move my family to ʻUpolu—the main island in what was once called Western Samoa—and become a tour guide for all the new Chinese tourists that are expected to descend upon the small island nation in the near future.

China has long had an influence on Samoa and its people. Many Samoans have Chinese ancestry through the immigrant laborers to Samoa many years ago. And no Samoan meal would be complete without some sapasui, the Samoan version of chop sui that often includes either canned corned beef (pisupo) or chopped turkey tail (muli pīpī), and which happens to be one of my wife's favorites.

A little known fact is that the land near Apia that the Mormon temple is built on, as well as the mission and other church offices, and the Church College of Western Samoa, once belonged to a Chinese man named Ah Mu. After he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ah Mu sold the land to the Church for $1.

In the recent past, however, China has pumped a lot of money into the Samoan infrastructure, such that at least Samoa's prime minister favors his nation's relationship with China over the same with the United States, New Zealand, or Australia.

Samoan Possessive Pronouns

Looks complicated, but is actually easy, and more descriptive, once mastered
When I was teaching university-level Samoan language, my students seemed to have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept of Samoan possessive pronouns. It's probably because when all are listed out it ends up as a table like the one above (though even I have simplified things a bit in the table, having excluded the abbreviated forms of some).

But take a closer look at the four right columns and a pattern should emerge: every singular definite possessive pronoun begins with an l, but the l is dropped for every plural definite possessive pronoun; every singular indefinite possessive pronoun begins with an s, but every plural indefinite possessive pronoun begins with ni.

Wow, the above sentence is probably one of the worst ever written!

But what's really going on here? The beginning of our possessive pronouns, whether singular or plural, definite or indefinite, exactly correspond to the way we use the Samoan articles, as I'll show below.

In English we use the articles a, an, and the. In Samoan it's just a wee bit more complicated because the articles can be singular or plural, definite or indefinite. I said complicated, but I think nuanced is a better term for what's going on.

See, in English a and an are without a doubt singular, but what about the? It goes either way; it can be both singular and plural. That's because we don't depend on the the to tell us when a word is plural, we just tag an s (or es) on at the end. So the plural for dog is dogs.

In Samoan, however, every word ends in a vowel, so we can't just add an s or es at the end of the word to make it plural. Maile (dog) can't ever be mailes (dogs) unless you're joking. Samoan depends on its articles to show whether a word is plural.

And here they are: le, --, se, and ni. And here's how to use them:

ʻO le maile means a dog or the dog, depending on the situation,

ʻO maile means dogs or the dogs (the lack of an article I indicated above with the --),

ʻO se maile means a dog,

And ʻo ni maile means some dogs.

"But," you protest, "le and se are being used to both mean a or an!"

Yes, and that's where it gets fuzzier still for us English speakers (who aren't linguists, including me), because we don't spend a lot of time thinking about whether something needs a definite or indefinite article. Sadly, in the years since the early 1800s, when Samoan and English first came into contact, the English way of thinking and using the Samoan articles has all but shoved aside the old Samoan way of doing things; or at least, that's what it looks like to me.

The indefinite articles (and, by extension, the indefinite possessive pronouns) are to be used when the existence of something can be called into question (Is there a dog?), or when the specific identity of something isn't important, as when I ask you for a dog—I don't care which dog you give me, I just want a dog, any dog. In these cases I'd use se maile for a dog, or ni maile for some dogs.

Pretty much in all other cases the definite articles should be used to express the dog or the dogs, le maile and maile (no article for the plural definite), respectively.

So even when I'm referring to a single dog, and in English I'd say a dog, which we normally think of as being indefinite, in Samoan I can use le because I have a specific, existing dog in mind.

There you have it, possessive pronouns with a bonus discussion of the Samoan articles.

Still confused? Leave a question in the comments.

Samoa in the News

Not a real Samoan tattoo
This is a bit belated, but Nike caused a big row earlier this year over its apparent use of traditional Samoan tattoo designs for a line of women's sportswear (see above). After Samoans worldwide complained via social media sites like Facebook, Nike issued an apology to "anyone who views this design as insensitive to any specific culture."

The real deal

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Samoa in the News

Modern Polynesians doing what the ancient Polynesians did best
It's fitting that a museum exhibit on ancient Polynesian navigation would feature the Navigator Islands, or, as they're better known today, Samoa.

Samoa in Church History

Early Mormon missionaries to Samoa
From this Fall 1977 BYU Studies article by historian R. Lanier Britsch on the founding of the Samoan mission:
It is noteworthy that by this time [in 1889, only one year since Mormon missionaries formally opened the Samoan islands for missionary work,] the missionaries had experienced almost every problem Samoa could offer them. They had endured war, famine, a hurricane, and other tropical storms. They had suffered sickness, apostasy, days in open boats, and storms at sea. Rumors had been circulated against them and Protestant ministers had used newspapers and their pulpits to republish all the old lies about Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints. (Although Elder Lee mentioned that the Roman Catholics were to be commended because they did not persecute the Mormons.) Their housing was inferior to their home in Zion, and living conditions resembled a perpetual camping trip. Nevertheless, through all this the elders were in excellent spirits and eager to spread the gospel throughout the islands.
Image courtesy of the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Samoa in the News

Professor Salesa

In what promises to be a very interesting and informative read, Oxford-educated, Auckland-based Samoan historian Damon Salesa is going to take a "bottom-up" approach to documenting 200 years in Samoa.

As reported in Scoop, Salesa's The Transformation of Everyday Life in Samoa (1800-2000) "will research and reconstruct a Samoan history 'from below', a history not just of chiefs, elites and extraordinary characters, but of what Samoans held in common, their shared experiences of 'everyday life.'"

For students of Samoan history, the same grant that is funding Salesa's work is also providing graduate scholarships for students to study with Salesa at the University of Auckland’s Centre for Pacific Studies.

Friday, November 22, 2013

C. S. Lewis, d. 22 November 1963

Clive Staples "Jack" Lewis

Three excellent articles in the National Review remind us why, on the 50th anniversary of his death, C. S. Lewis  is still so profoundly influential and increasingly relevant.

C. S. Lewis: Why All the Fuss?

C. S. Lewis: Jack the Giant Killer

That Hideous State

Bonus articles: one from the Washington Post, the other from The Telegraph.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Samoa in the News

The manumea or little dodo or Samoan pigeon or tooth-billed pigeon
A brief post on National Geographic informs us of conservation efforts underway to preserve the Samoan national bird so that it doesn't, as they say, go the way of the dodo, its cousin.

Journalist John Platt notes in his Scientific American article on the manumea that "there are far more 20 tālā bills in circulation than there are birds in the wild."

What Platt doesn't tell us when he writes "the bird’s name in the Samoan language, however, is much more colorful: manumea," is that the suffix -mea is used to denote a reddish or brownish color in plants, fish, birds, or other animals. Judging by the image above, it looks like the Samoans nailed it: the bird's name literally is colorful.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Samoa in Church History

From this April 1975 talk by Elder Loren C. Dunn:
I had the honor . . . of being assigned to visit the Samoa Apia Mission and attend some stake conferences in that country. I found the missionaries all well and the work progressing. One afternoon following our meeting, the mission president, Patrick Peters—who is a native Samoan—said, 'Elder Dunn, there is something I’d like to show you.' We drove a few miles from the mission home and climbed the brow of a small hill to a place that was isolated by palm trees and other tropical vegetation. I suddenly realized that we were in a very old graveyard. At the center of this graveyard was a plot that was surrounded by a cement wall low enough to step over. President and Sister Peters told me this was where some of the first missionaries in Samoa were buried. There were eight graves.
The thing that struck my interest was that out of the eight graves, four represented children under the age of two and one was a twenty-one-year-old wife and mother. What role could these have possibly played in missionary work in Samoa?
During the next two days, when time would permit, I searched the history of the mission for an answer. While I was unable to gather information on all of the eight, I did discover the following.
In the early days of the Church it was common for young married couples to be called on missions and some of these young couples were called to Samoa. The first person to be buried in that plot was Sister Katie Eliza Hale Merrill. She and her husband had only been on a mission for three months when she took sick and gave birth to a premature child. The child died the next day. The history says the following: “An hour after the death of the child, the mother called Sister Lee (wife of the mission president) to her bedside and, after thanking her for waiting on her during the sickness, said that she was ‘going to die’ that she ‘could not stay because they had come for her.’ She then talked with her husband, kissed him goodbye, and all was over. The mother and baby boy were buried in one coffin.” After his mission, Brother Merrill took the remains of his wife and infant son back to Utah for burial.
Elder Thomas H. Hilton and Sister Sarah M. Hilton were serving on a mission in Samoa, where they lost three of their children, between 1891 and 1894. Little Jeanette lived less than a year, George Emmett for only seven days, and Thomas Harold for a year and a half.
Of the death of Thomas Harold the record says: “On Sunday the 11th, he was not feeling very well. . . . For two days following he appeared to be improving, but on the morning of the 14th, his mother again became concerned about his welfare. From then until his death, on March 17, 1894, everything that loving hands could do was done for his recovery, but he grew rapidly worse. . . .
'Oh how loath we all were to believe that it was so! How sad to see our dear sister again bereft, and her so far from dear parents and friends who she has left for the gospel’s sake.
'Thomas Harold Hilton was about one and a half years old, a beautiful little boy and very dearly beloved by all the missionaries, as well as the natives who knew him. Much sympathy is felt for the bereaved parents and the blessings of the Lord are invoked upon them.'
At twenty-nine, Ransom Stevens was president of the Samoa Mission when stricken with typhoid fever, which was complicated by a heart problem. He died on April 23, 1894.
His widow, Sister Annie D. Stevens, started for home by steamer on May 23. She reached Ogden on Sunday, June 10, where she was met by President Joseph F. Smith and Elder Franklin D. Richards. On June 11, she had an interview with the First Presidency in Salt Lake City and then went on to her home in Fairview, Sanpete County, arriving at 6:00 P.M.
The history states, 'The greetings by her friends were necessarily brief for Sister Stevens was ill and had to retire to bed early, and at 11 P.M., five hours after her arrival home, she gave birth to a nice boy.' She had gone through the whole ordeal in the advance stages of pregnancy.
Another entry was Friday, March 2, 1900, 'Little Loi Roberts was given up to die by Dr. Stuttaford at the sanatorium [in Apia]. The patient little sufferer was administered to daily, and each time he would get relief. … His parents [Elder and Sister E. T. Roberts] were untiring in their efforts to allay pain and sufferings.'
Saturday, March 3, 'Little Loi died at the sanatorium in Apia in the morning, making another sad day in the history of the mission.' Small wonder that the tombstone contained the words, 'Rest sweet Loi, rest.' He was one and a half years old.
And that brings us to Elder William A. Moody and his bride, Adelia Moody. They were called on a mission from Thatcher, Graham County, Arizona, arriving in Samoa in November 1894. They must have had the same hopes and aspirations of any young couple just starting out. She gave birth to an eight-pound daughter on May 3, 1895. Three weeks later she passed away. The daughter, little Hazel Moody, was taken care of by local Saints while her father continued his mission. Finally, one year later we read the following about a steamer leaving for the United States, whose passengers included four returning elders and 'also Elder Moody’s daughter, Hazel, one-year-old, who will be delivered to loving relatives in Zion.'
A price has been paid for the establishment of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the land of Samoa. It is interesting to note that much of that price was paid by little children. I suspect that there are many obscure cemeteries in many of the nations of the world similar to that little plot in Samoa. They are a mute witness to the trials and suffering that went into the beginnings of missionary work in this dispensation.
Image credit:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Samoa in Church History

Elder David O. McKay (right) with traveling companion, Hugh J. Cannon
In the early 1920s, Elder David O. McKay, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, went on a world tour to visit the Saints. The following comes from an experience he had while on a ship at Apia, Samoa, in 1921.
I . . . fell asleep, and beheld in vision something infinitely sublime. In the distance I beheld a beautiful white city. Though it was far away, yet I seemed to realize that trees with luscious fruit, shrubbery with gorgeously tinted leaves, and flowers in perfect bloom abounded everywhere. The clear sky above seemed to reflect these beautiful shades of color. I then saw a great concourse of people approaching the city. Each one wore a white flowing robe and a white headdress. Instantly my attention seemed centered upon their leader, and though I could see only the profile of his features and his body, I recognized him at once as my Savior! The tint and radiance of his countenance were glorious to behold. There was a peace about him which seemed sublime—it was divine!
The city, I understood, was his. It was the City Eternal; and the people following him were to abide there in peace and eternal happiness.
But who were they?
As if the Savior read my thoughts, he answered by pointing to a semicircle that then appeared above them, and on which were written in gold the words:
These Are They Who Have Overcome the World—
Who Have Truly Been Born Again!
When I awoke, it was breaking day over Apia harbor.
(Source; image credit:

Friday, November 8, 2013

Samoa in the News

Pittsburg Steelers' strong safety Troy Polamalu writes to educate the citizens of Steel City on the economic plight of American Samoa, "America's southernmost territory."

There are no easy solutions to the problems American Samoans face, but, as Polamalu notes, it will be their values of "community, hard work, perseverance, [and] respect" that will ultimately carry them through.

Image credit:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Star Wars Cabbage

Won bok is another word for napa cabbage

My son asked me the other day for some Star Wars cabbage.

Puzzled as to how I was going to satisfy his request, I told him we were having some Obi Won Bok Kimchee for dinner, then in progress.

That seemed to work.

And he ate it!

Image credit:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Samoa in Church History

From this April 2010 talk by Elder Quentin L. Cook, an Apostle:
I [was] able to meet with the Saints who had lost family members as a result of the tsunami that hit the eastern side of Samoa last September [2009]. The chapel was full, and it was an emotional meeting. [I was] able to assure these choice members that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, they can be reunited with the loved ones they have lost.
The stake president, Sonny Purcell, was driving his car when he saw the enormous wave coming far out at sea. He honked his horn and stopped children on the road walking to school and warned them to run for higher ground and safety as fast as they could. The children followed his instruction. He frantically drove, reached his four-year-old daughter, put her in the car, and then tried to get to his mother. Before he could reach his mother, the wall of water picked up his car and swept it over 100 yards (91 m), where it lodged in a tree. He scrambled to secure his daughter on top of the car and then swam to rescue his mother, who was clinging to a branch of another tree near their house. With great effort he swam with her to the car and safety. Many were not as fortunate. They did not have time to get to higher ground and safety. Many lost their lives, particularly the young and the elderly.
[I] told the Samoan families that members all over the world expressed love and concern and had prayed for them and contributed fast offerings and humanitarian aid for both the members and their neighbors. . . . We do this because we follow Jesus Christ.
As [I] met with the families in Samoa, the significance of spiritually going to the higher ground, living a better life, and clinging to saving ordinances was abundantly clear. The Savior’s example and life teach us to spiritually avoid the low pathway, where the things of this world dominate. As I shook hands with the members after our meeting, one sister told me her family had not been to the temple and they had lost a daughter. She tearfully said their goal now was to prepare themselves for the sacred ordinances of the temple so they can be together eternally.
As I have pondered what this sister said and the current condition of the world, I have felt an urgency to counsel each of us to seek the higher ground—the refuge and eternal protection of the temple.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Another Resource on Religious Freedom

I should also mention that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often called the Mormon church, of which I am a member, has a nice page on its Newsroom website dedicated to explaining the importance of religious freedom.

Championing the First Freedom

Hawaii state capitol building

Right now, the Hawaii State Legislature is in a special session to consider the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions.

Of great concern to many religious people here is whether the religious exemptions in the bill adequately preserve religious freedom. Religious freedom has been aptly termed the first freedom because of its early mention in the Bill of Rights, and as such, it deserves vigorous protection.

At present Senate Bill 1 (SB1) does protect clergy and religious organizations on a limited scale, but those protections do not, as far as I know, extend to church-affiliated schools like Brigham Young University-Hawaii (Mormon) or Chaminade (Catholic), to small business like florists or photographers, to parents whose religious views might conflict with public school instruction on the matter of same-sex marriage and relationships, or to employees of the state who might for religious reasons object to performing a same-sex wedding.

Sadly, the senate committee just recommended that SB1 be referred to the House without any amendments, that is, without any additional religious freedom protections put in place.

If you're wondering why this issue of protecting religious freedom is so important, a good place to start is with the thoughtful commentary by a number of articulate religious leaders of different faiths.

Elder Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, gave a speech in 2009 addressing religious freedom, a second on the fundamentals of the US Constitution in 2010, a third on truth and tolerance in 2011, a fourth on preserving religious freedom in 2011, and a fifth on strengthening the free exercise of religion in 2013.

Elder Holland, former president of the flagship campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, spoke at the annual J. Reuben Clark Law Society Conference in Washington D.C., in February, 2013, on faith, family, and religious freedom.

Elder Cook, a former lawyer, reminded Mormons in their October 2010 semiannual general conference that "it is essential that values based on religious belief be a part of public discourse." He also spoke at Brigham Young University-Idaho on the restoration of morality and religious freedom in December, 2011.

Catholic Cardinal Francis E. George spoke in a 2010 BYU forum on the partnership of Catholics and Latter-day Saints in the defense of religious freedom.

And finally, though undoubtedly more could be listed, just this month, again at BYU, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke on what he sees as a "clear and present danger" with respect to religious liberty, marriage, and the family in the late modern age.

It's important to note that the three denominations represented here, Mormon, Catholic, and Evangelical Christian, do not agree with each other on many important theological points. But when it comes to the preservation of religious freedom, they stand shoulder to shoulder.

Their careful analysis and wise counsel is worthy of careful study by all interested persons, regardless of which side of the line we fall with respect to same-sex marriage.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Becoming Christlike


My wife spoke this past Sunday in our main meeting at church. She did a great job and I enjoyed her talk so much that I thought I'd share it with you, with her permission, of course.

In his teachings to the Nephites, the Savior instructed: “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Nephi 27:27) How do we even begin on such a journey?

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught, “To follow Christ is to become more like Him. It is to learn from His character. As spirit children of our Heavenly Father, we do have the potential to incorporate Christlike attributes into our life and character. The Savior invites us to learn His gospel by living His teachings. To follow Him is to apply correct principles and then witness for ourselves the blessings that follow. This process is very complex and very simple at the same time. Ancient and modern prophets described it with three words: ‘Keep the commandments’—nothing more, nothing less.”

The scriptures list many of the attributes of Christ that we should also seek. The Apostle Peter said:

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)

The characteristics Peter presents follow a logical progression. Faith is the first and essential element. We must have faith in Jesus Christ to begin following Him and to seek His help through the Atonement. Next is virtue, we must keep ourselves clean and upright. Third, knowledge - we must learn the gospel and the commandments so that we can actively strive to live it.

The fourth attribute Peter lists is temperance, and this is where I feel it really starts to get difficult. To develop temperance, or in more modern terms, self-mastery, requires control over our own thoughts, temper, passions, and emotions. The Savior exemplified temperance throughout his mortal ministry when he said:

“I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30)

And again as He suffered for us, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39)

Always Jesus sought to do His Father’s will. When we demonstrate righteous self-mastery, we align our will with Christ’s.

Nowhere is temperance more valuable than in our personal and family relationships. In having control over our emotions and temper we make a conscious effort to keep the Spirit in our home by keeping contention and the father of contention out. Satan would have us believe that we are justified in our anger when we have been wronged, but the Savior taught very clearly, “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

To express love for enemies, and blessings for those that curse us, to do good to those that hate us, and to pray for our persecutors requires great self-mastery. It is not easy for us to behave in such a godlike manner. But, we are not expected to do it alone. If we desire the attribute of temperance, we must pray for the Savior’s help.

A very related attribute also mentioned by Peter is brotherly kindness. When I think of brotherly kindness I think of several kinds of relationships. One is my relationship with my own sisters and the affection we share with each other. It is a kindness that translates in to thoughtfulness, compassion, and loyalty. I have three sisters and would go to great lengths to help them.

Another relationship I think of when I consider brotherly kindness is our ward family. You have each done so much for our family in the four years that we’ve been members of this ward.

The final relationship is my own relationship with my Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ. Nowhere is there a person who knows me and loves me more completely.

The Savior went forth, “suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

“And he [took] upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he [took] upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11-12)

Knowing my weaknesses and faults, the Savior forgives. Knowing my imperfections, He strengthens me. Knowing my pains, He comforts me. This is the love and kindness we ought to show one another. Kindness pardons others’ weaknesses; it is sympathetic and gentle. It offers compassion in place of cynicism.

How can we develop this kindness in ourselves? One of the keys, I feel is perspective taking. Assume that the other person is doing the best they can with the knowledge and experience that they have to work with. Seek to see them the way that the Savior sees them. Know that the love that you feel from the Savior is also given to them. Here is a simple and practical example of how brotherly kindness affects everyday actions:

I was once driving down a narrow little street with cars parked along both sides, allowing only one car to pass through at a time. You may be familiar with this street, it’s the one many of us live on. Anyway, I’d had a bad day and was almost home when someone pulled out in front of me, trying to go the opposite direction and completely cutting me off from my destination. I was there first and waited for her to notice and move out of the way. She didn’t. It soon became apparent that she wanted me to reverse up the street so she could get out. We both grew frustrated.

By the time I'd made it upstairs, I was quite irritated. The the Spirit whispered to me, "What if it had been Maile? Or any other of your dear ward member friends? What if it had been your own sister trying to drive up the street? Wouldn't you have cheerfully helped them without a second thought? Isn't that woman also your sister?"

This experience has been a very powerful lesson to me. Though the initial anger was very petty and would have soon been forgotten, many months later I still remember the gentle rebuke of the Spirit, reminding me that everyone is my brother or sister. Or, as Jesus taught in the parable of the Good Samaritan, everyone is our neighbor, and ought to be treated as such.

There are many ways each day that we can work to become more Christlike in our thoughts, words, and actions. The important thing is that we keep moving forward, little by little, each day moving closer to our Savior. President Uchtdorf counseled,

“Christlike attributes are gifts from God. They cannot be developed without His help. The one help we all need is given to us freely through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Having faith in Jesus Christ and in His Atonement means relying completely on Him—trusting in His infinite power, intelligence, and love. Christlike attributes come into our lives as we exercise our agency righteously. Faith in Jesus Christ leads to action. When we have faith in Christ, we trust the Lord enough to follow His commandments—even when we do not completely understand the reasons for them. In seeking to become more like the Savior, we need to reevaluate our lives regularly and rely, through the path of true repentance, upon the merits of Jesus Christ and the blessings of His Atonement.”

Taking steps on the path to becoming more Christlike is also taking steps towers eternal life. President Ezra Taft Benson taught,

"The Savior declared that life eternal is to know the only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ. If this true, and I bear you my solemn witness that it is true, then we must ask how we come to know God. The process of adding one godly attribute to another, as described by Peter, becomes the key to gaining this knowledge that leads to eternal life."

In closing, I'd like to read the words of the hymn, Come Follow Me:

Come, follow me, the Savior said
Then, let us in His footsteps tread.
For, thus alone can we be one,
With God's own loved, Begotten Son.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Samoa in Church History

The David O. McKay Fale in Sauniatu, Samoa

From this 13 November 2007 talk by President Thomas S. Monson, then first counselor in the First Presidency:
Many years ago, on my first visit to the fabled village of Sauniatu in Samoa, so loved by President David O. McKay, my wife and I met with a large gathering of small children—nearly 200 in number. At the conclusion of our messages to these shy, yet beautiful youngsters, I suggested to the native Samoan teacher that we go forward with the closing exercises. As he announced the final hymn, I suddenly felt compelled to greet personally each of these children. My watch revealed that the time was too short for such a privilege, for we were scheduled on a flight out of the country, so I discounted the impression. Before the benediction was to be spoken, I again felt that I should shake the hand of each child. I made the desire known to the instructor, who displayed a broad and beautiful Samoan smile. In Samoan he announced this to the children. They beamed their approval.
The instructor then revealed to me the reason for his and their joy. He said, “When we learned that a member of the Council of the Twelve was to visit us here in Samoa, so far away from Church headquarters, I told the children that if they would earnestly and sincerely pray and exert faith like the Bible accounts of old, the Apostle would visit our tiny village at Sauniatu, and, through their faith, he would be impressed to greet each child with a personal handclasp.” Tears could not be restrained as the precious boys and girls walked shyly by and whispered softly to us the sweet Samoan greeting “talofa lava.” A profound expression of faith had been evidenced.
Image credit:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Samoa in the News

I don't know if many know it, but Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson spent the last few years of his life (1889-1894) in Samoa, where he went by the name Tusitala, "writer of tales." (Some say "teller of tales," but tusi means to write more than to tell.)

He lived inland from Apia in a place called Vailima, meaning "water in the hand," a reference to an old tale of a woman who gave lifesaving water (vai) by hand (lima) to a thirsty fellow traveler. His mansion once housed the Samoan head of state, but has since been restored (by old Mormon missionaries, no less!) and turned into a Stevenson museum.

He is buried at the top of Mt. Vaea, near Apia. I missed the hike to see his grave because I was serving on a different island at the time. But if I ever get back to Samoa for a visit, it'll be high on my bucket list.

Finally, Stevenson has a fitting memorial to him in his hometown of Edinburgh, a statue of him as a boy enjoying a good book and a visit by a beloved canine companion.

"Marriage, The Dynamite of the Soul"

Bombardier Billy Wells

Having been a student at Brigham Young University, where the pressure to marry and be given in marriage is quite high, I'm pretty sure I've had essentially this happen to me at least once, as Wodehouse perfectly describes it below:
Have you ever been turned down by a girl who afterwards married and then been introduced to her husband? If so you'll understand how I felt when Clarence burst on me. You know the feeling. First of all, when you hear about the marriage, you say to yourself, 'I wonder what he's like.' Then you meet him, and think, 'There must be some mistake. She can't have preferred this to me!' That's what I thought, when I set eyes on Clarence.
He was a little thin, nervous-looking chappie of about thirty-five. His hair was getting grey at the temples and straggly on top. He wore pince-nez, and he had a drooping moustache. I'm no Bombardier Wells myself, but in front of Clarence I felt quite a nut. And Elizabeth, mind you, is one of those tall, splendid girls who look like princesses. Honestly, I believe women do it out of pure cussedness.
Of course, now I can look back on that period and laugh, but at the time the feelings were quite acute.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"How Science Goes Wrong"


An interesting read in the Economist on the sheer volume of bad scientific studies being published these days.

Speaking from my own experience, we don't do a good enough job teaching research design, statistics, and how to critically read research.

I once had a graduate level biostatistics course that had no assignments throughout the semester and open-book tests. Guess how long it took for me to forget all that stuff?


Not to mention a waste of time and money.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Samoa in the News

His Highness Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi

"Samoa’s Head of State Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi is advocating for a return of glottal marks for the Samoan language," is the report today from Radio New Zealand International. Since I haven't seen his actual remarks, I can only hope he's also advocating for a return of the macron on vowels, too.

Traditionally, when we relied on printing presses employing moveable type, inserting all the glottal marks (ʻ) and macrons (ā, ē, ī, ō, ū) in a Samoan text was time consuming and costly. The standard in the original Bible was to only include those marks that were absolutely necessary to avoid confusion.

But as anyone learning Samoan as a second language can tell you, without the glottal marks and macrons, everything is confusing. For a while, at least. Then, as fluency increases, context reveals which word is likely the right one, and so on till the perfect day.

At the university where I teach Samoan, we teach these marks as necessary parts of the language, the glottal mark being given equal status with any of the other consonants. We'd never think of leaving out a p, or t, since it would radically change a word's meaning. Then why leave out the glottal mark?

I applaud Tuiatua's advocacy and hope it will catch on in all the Samoan communities worldwide.

Image credit:

Anyone Surprised?

The audacity of nope

What I keep asking myself is, why is anyone surprised that the rollout of Obamacare isn't going as smoothly as we were promised?

It's a healthcare plan intending on covering some 316 million citizens, for goodness' sake! All (potentially) through a single website!

Is there enough bandwidth in the world to cover that kind of traffic?

Giving it a Rest

After some thought, I decided I'd cancel all my social media accounts, excepting this blog, of course.

So between yesterday and today I extricated myself from Facebook, Google+, goodreads, Twitter, and LinkedIn. All fine sites, as far as they go, but not what I want in my life at the moment, and perhaps never.

We'll see.

Of course, lucky for you, all two or three of you, I'll be posting here a little more regularly.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Mormons in Mexico

Early Mexican Mormons

An interesting, if brief, look at the history of the LDS Church amongst the Mexicans.

It's of personal interest because some of my maternal ancestors also lived in Mexico for a time until the Mexican Revolution. Family lore from the period tells of Pancho Villa periodically coming to the family farm to cambio caballo, or change horses.

Instead of staying in Mexico, my ancestors came north and settled in Arizona, where my grandfather was born in 1916.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Treasure Up in Your Minds Continually the Words of Life"

I love the scriptures. I find great comfort as I study the word of God as contained in the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, known to Mormons as the standard works. Two years ago, Elder Richard G. Scott, an Apostle, gave a talk in our semi-annual general conference about the power of scripture. He said,
"Learning, pondering, searching, and memorizing scriptures is like filling a filing cabinet with friends, values, and truths that can be called upon anytime, anywhere in the world.
"Great power can come from memorizing scriptures. To memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship. It is like discovering a new individual who can help in time of need, give inspiration and comfort, and be a source of motivation for needed change."
Since high school I have tried to regularly study the scriptures, with varying degrees of success, and I have been greatly blessed for my efforts. But I have always struggled with memorizing verses of scripture, mainly because I have never systematically set out to do so.

That is, until now. Recently, my wife shared an old friend's blog post about how she memorizes scriptures. Her approach is so simple, and yet seemingly so effective, that we--my wife and I--have implemented it and already seen success. If you're like me and struggle to organize yourself enough to memorize scriptures, or anything for that matter, try out this simple method. You may be surprised at how well it works.