Disclaimer: This blog is a way of expressing my personal opinions thoughts and anecdotes, as well as my personal understanding of the scriptures, and conference addresses. It is not meant as a statement of doctrine, and may not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, or doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

23 July 2015

The Power of Premeditated Prayer, Part II (Gospel Doctrine Lesson 25)

I was realizing that my very first blog post was around this time, four years ago. That post, "the Power of premeditated prayer" was a reflection of thoughts as a learner in Sunday school. This past week, I had the opportunity to cycle back through that particular block of scripture, but this time as a teacher (as well as a learner). 

The significance of the Savior's mission has expanded greatly since that post. I have been able to teach the Old Testament, as well as current Church History, since then. Seeing the power of the faithful covenant-keepers in the Old Testament (as well as those who struggled) and their faith in a redeemer, the Lord's constant desire to draw His people close to him, and the promise of redemption, culminated in the last week of the life of Jesus Christ. The power of the meaning behind the various festivals (discussed in an earlier post) and the love and power that Jesus taught to his disciples are seen in strong relief in the week of the suffering in the garden (initiating the atonement by being reckoned with the transgressors) and the crucifixion.

The prayer in the Garden was a focal point in the lesson, just as it was in looking at it four years ago. I found a few additional points of interest in the process. Peter, who was commanded to strengthen his brethren after being converted, brings questions about what true conversion is, and what the fruits of it are. He finds the trusted three (Peter, James, and John) asleep three times during his suffering in the Garden (known as the place of the olive press, significantly). He asked them to stay awake more than once, knowing that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Before we judge them too harshly, we must ask ourselves what we have slept through when the Lord has asked us to do something. Are not those tasks just as simple in many occasions? "Stay awake and Pray" "stay awake and study My word" and "stay awake and love one another"

There is a recent general conference address called "sleeping through the restoration" and questions similar to the ones above are mentioned. "Awakening and arising" are the first part to true conversion. He calls Peter out specifically in the Garden to stay awake. 

In the original post, the primary focus was on the ability to pray with purpose, and in a place that is familiar, or where one is used to communing with God. This is significant, and an additional insight comes in John 18:2. We can and should be prepared to feel revelation, but the adversary also knows our hopes to commune, and will either prevent us from so doing, or will attempt to attack us in the moment of our hope. Jesus was able to be fortified by Angels (symbolizing the Aaronic Priesthood, caring for the temporal needs) and the Apostles (signifying the Melchizedek Priesthood, or
Administrating the spiritual needs) and through the power of Christ, eventually overcame the adversary, the final enemy being death.

We can gain strength in overcoming adversity as we partake of similar ministering. Honoring covenants given through the Aaronic priesthood such as baptism and the sacrament, and the Melchizedek through following the prompting of the Spirit and the Temple.

17 July 2015

Heroes: More than one superman; universe

Lately I've been confused when people discuss Heroes and other such people and topics. It is as if we can only have one hero at a time. Is it because in the world of comic books, there is only one superman (in most storylines anyway)? What if there was two supermans? "Well, that's just ridiculous!" Two Batmans? "No need!" But wait! There is another "universe" that also has superheroes like Spider-Man and the Avengers, and yet another with ones like Spawn and Youngblood (Image comics)
And yet another with Rai, Archer and Armstrong (Valiant Universe)
, Or what about this guy:

Oh, you haven't heard of them? They must not be superheroes then, right? Not of the same caliber or eschelon at least. Maybe not to you, but to others they are just as super. These remind us of the impossible and discovering that things may not always remain that way.

And this is just one genre of superheroes with multiple universes. What of sports and athletes? Again we have baseball, football, basketball, hockey, and even golf. These are heroes that remind us of goals, overcoming impossible hurdles, and other concepts.

And of course we have heroes who sacrifice for others: Public service such as police, firefighters, nurses, and quiet service such as ministers, bishops, Apostles, and others.

There can be heroes for a cause as well. Civil, religious, social, and otherwise. Whether the cause is publicly acknowledged or shunned, it is nevertheless still a cause. What one may consider necessary and essential, others may consider ridiculous. 

My main point is that it sounds preposterous to say that this person or that isn't a hero because this one is. Why compare  the two? On a national stage, I can understand some frustration, but even then, the hero may not represent your cause but could be considered a hero nonetheless in the eyes of another. 

A hero is not nominated, for we don't have the power to make a hero. A hero stands and represents the principles espoused whether anyone sees it or not. My parents are heroes, but you may not even know who they are. My wife is a superhero but she's not in the daily bugle or heralded in the press. Does that make her less of a hero? Does one go through ranks such as hero, superhero, and god because so many people recognize them? No. They are such whether one person is affected or the whole world.

Don't attempt to reduce someone else's hero because you think there is one better. Share what you know about your hero and get to know the heroes of others. You'd be surprised what you can learn from others. 

10 July 2015

July Tenth, My personal Yom Kippur, Seinfield, and Gospel Doctrine Lesson #24 (NT)

Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord.

Abstract: In the Book of Mormon, specifically in the book of Nephi (19:23) the prophet is discussing with his family some difficult passages in the Brass Plates, or the Hebrew Scriptures (primarily the teachings of Isaiah, as well as Moses). One way that he helps to expound the teachings is with a phrase that they should "liken" the scriptures unto them, that the scriptures may be for their profit and learning (Or a lamp unto their feet as the Psalmist says). This discussion focuses on a verse that I have likened unto myself. I do not claim scholarly expertise in Hebrew, Old Testament literature, or hold a high amount of information on specifics to the rites, ordinances, and feasts in the Old Testament, but I do find them incredibly interesting and useful in many ways, especially as I study the New Testament this year and find the Savior "likening" the Feasts and Ordinances to His primary messages, as in the Feast of Tabernacles when he references Light and Water -- Two symbols of the Feast -- in John 7-9 (See Here and Here for some examples of that). My purpose in writing this is more for personal reflection and likening to myself and less for scholarship and exact understanding of Jewish Feasts, but perhaps in so doing, more ways to liken scriptures will be found.


I have forgotten the day and setting at which I found the verse located above, whether it came from a general reading of the Old Testament, or from a more purposeful study of topics. The latter is more acknowledged, because I was at the time preparing for my mission and going through preparations to go to the Temple for the first time. My "Temple Prep" experience was uniquely inspiring to me, as it primarily involved a meeting with my Bishop wherein he gave me a list of words to study, such as Creation, Sacrifice, Atonement, and other words that held significance to worship in the scriptures. He stated, to my recollection, that if I were to carefully study the words that he gave me, that I 
would find understanding of, and sources to, the Temple experience (Paraphrasing, but it was a helpful conversation to me, as I had graduated Seminary recently and found great comfort in the scriptures, as well as treasures of knowledge). I had received my mission call sometime after that, or possibly before, but the date of my mission was on July 10 (Today being the 13th anniversary of that date). At some point after the call, I saw this verse and the date struck me as significant as the Day of Atonement, purification, soul-afflicting, and an offering of fire. I was and am aware that the calendar recollection is different for the Hebrew calendar (see Calendar to the right). Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement typically occurs in our reckoning in September or October, but in the Seventh Month (Tishri) in the Jewish Calendar. I enjoyed this verse, and others like it when I thought about the day I would leave for my mission. I realize that it was primarily coincidental, but one that gave me a great deal of "likening" for I was about to serve the Lord as an ordained minister as an Elder in His church, going out to the world to testify of the Mission of Jesus Christ and His Atonement and Ministry. I realized then, and even more now, that that was an offering of "fire", and purification was necessary. Not merely purification of the soul, but of temporal concerns, as well as spiritual and emotional ones. A constant prayer before my service as a missionary was that I would be prepared emotionally, spiritually, and physically for the experience. My soul was afflicted through the experience (in good ways) because I was able to become more than I was through that and other experiences. 

 I think that the Pattern in the Calendar listed above is significant as well. While I don't understand all of the intents and facets of them, there is some neat correlations to Christian and more specifically Latter-Day Saint traditions and patterns. For example, the passover relates firstly to the Hebrew Scriptures in reference to Moses:

"And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this self-same day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance forever. …And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.” (Ex. 12:17, 26–27.)

It is later referenced by Jesus as a reference to His resurrection when Death would "pass over" all mankind. President Hunter, a Modern Apostle and well-versed in the Old Testament said:

"I believe it is safe to say that Passover is without equal in the Jewish calendar of celebrations. It is the oldest of the Jewish festivals, celebrating an event in advance of receiving the traditional Mosaic Law. It reminds every generation of the return of the children of Israel to the promised land and of the great travail in Egypt which preceded it. It commemorates the passage of a people from subjection and bondage to freedom and deliverance. It is the Old Testament festival of springtime when the world of nature awakens to life, growth, and fruition.
Passover is linked with the Christian observance of Easter which we celebrate this weekend in this great conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Passover in the Old Testament and Easter in the New Testament testify of the great gift God has given and of the sacrifice that was involved in its bestowal. Both of these great religious commemorations declare that death would “pass over” us and could have no permanent power upon us, and that the grave would have no victory."

In remembrance of His sacrifice, the Sacrament of Bread and Water were instituted. It is taken to remember the covenant of Baptism, and that soon a promised comforter would come. A major manifestation of that comforter would be known as the day of Pentecost. Elder Oaks, another Apostle explains further:

When He introduced the sacrament, the Savior also gave teachings and promises about the Holy Ghost. On that sacred occasion known as the Last Supper, Jesus explained the mission of the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost. The Comforter would testify of Him and reveal other truths. Jesus also explained that He had to leave His disciples in order for the Comforter to come to them. When I depart, He told them, “I will send him unto you” (John 16:7). After His Resurrection, He told His Apostles to tarry in Jerusalem until they were given “power from on high” (Luke 24:49). That power came when “the promise of the Holy Ghost” was “shed forth” upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:33).

The pattern continues, as the first ordinances of the Gospel are Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. 

The Feast of Trumpets (also known as Rosh Ha-Shanah) has interesting history, as it relates the the restoration of the Gospel in the latter-days, and specifically the doctrine of Gathering. The primary symbolism is of God remembering the Covenants and restoring anew from exile. Trumpets signify revelation and a call to Israel (Good articles Here [Quote below] and Here):

Joseph Smith received the golden plates on the Israelite Day of Remembrance (or Rosh ha-Shanah).
Biblical references and interpretation by Jewish sages through the centuries set this day as the day God would remember his covenants with Israel to bring them back from exile. Also called the Feast of Trumpets, this day features ritual trumpet blasts to signify the issuance of revelation and a call for Israel to gather for God’s word of redemption. The day,which is set at the time of Israel’s final agricultural harvest, also symbolizes the Lord’s final harvest of souls. Furthermore, it initiates the completion of the Lord’s time periods, the Days of Awe, and signifies the last time to prepare for final judgment and the Messianic Age. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is literally fulfilling such prophecies of the day.

The principle of remembering does well for the individual just as it does for the nation, as one commits oneself through the covenant of the Gospel. One of my favorite analogies regarding remembering and covenants comes, light-heartedly enough, from Seinfield. 

Making Covenants is not important in and of itself; it is the remembering and keeping of them that truly matter. Thus, after making the initial covenants, we are to remember them after we make them. 

The Day of Atonement shortly follows the feast of trumpets, signifying a purification and readiness once the call has been made. following that, an even greater outpouring of light and water are promised through the Feast of Tabernacles. I have found great strength in studying the New Testament this year and recognizing the format, or conditions of the covenants, as well as the promised blessings of them. For example, the discussion of Jesus with Nicodemus at the beginning of His ministry included a discussion of being born of water and the Spirit, which has many connotations, including baptism of water and the gift of the Holy Ghost, as well as a recognition of following both the conditional elements of the covenants (the requirements) as well as not simply completing them in form only, but truly allowing the ordinance with its accompanying covenants to change the individual, or to become. It is no small significance that at the end of His ministry, he is reiterating similar principles in the Feast of Tabernacles with His I AM statements of being the Light and the Water (as well as the Bread, the True Vine, and so one). John 7:37 references the Last Great Day, but whether this refers to the Feast mentioned, or simply the last day of the Prior feast is unknown to me at this time. It shows a completeness and fulfilling of covenants when Jesus asks them to come unto Him and partake of a lasting Peace, rather than anything temporal, and this is what we are asked to do as well as we prepare for our own "Last Great Day". 

Hanukkah is a sacred Feast day as well, and in my mind associated with a redeemed state, or one that is completed after a final battle. Similar to the feelings of rejoicing after all enemies are conquered, Death being the final one, this Feast recognizes a redemption through action and covenants as well as faith in a Redeemer. 

Purim to me signifies a complete freedom from governments, kingdoms, and other entities that will occur when One comes to govern over all the earth in wholeness and Fulness. Similar to the prior Feast, redemption is at hand, and rejoicing in being able to to governed in purity.

That was a bit of a lengthy discussion, and I appreciate your attention. It is fascinating, even from such a cursory glance to look at the Jewish feasts, how Jesus incorporated then into His teachings, and how overall we can view them as an overarching personal journey as individuals who are seeking to build the kingdom of God through ordinances.

James E Faust, another modern apostle, elucidates on counsel from Joseph Smith regarding being Born Again in this way:

Today I wish to speak about the blessings that flow from covenants with the Lord. As a foundation, I begin with the covenant the Lord made with the house of Israel: “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” 1
This covenant is universal for those of any race being “baptized into Christ.” 2 As Paul states, “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” 3
Covenants are not simply outward rituals; they are real and effective means of change. “Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances.” 4 We should always honor and keep sacred the saving covenants we make with the Lord. If we do, He has promised, “Thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.” 5
I am ever grateful for the covenants I have made with the Lord and my family, and am grateful for the pattern in the scriptures that shows the true power behind the outward rituals. Jesus Christ taught regarding them while on the earth, and continues to do so with His church today. I know that the ceremonies, feasts, and ordinances mentioned are sacred and this was in no way a comprehensive or scholarly approach to how they were performed or their significance anciently, but a recollection and a likening to help my in my personal ministry and understanding.

Feel free to share your insights, approaches, and understanding in the comments below.

[For study purposes, if you click on underlined links of names, it will take you to the full address of the sermon discussed].

03 July 2015

Information that Invites to Action (Applications to Corporate Finance and Sunday School)

Answering a discussion Question:
"Are we calculating time value of money just so we can maximize the use of Excel?  What is the real purpose of doing these calculations?  In some of my experiences, even at universities and other business, the results of time value of money/net present value/internal rate or return are printed on some format but never really discussed in detail. Why is this?"

My Response:
I appreciate your question, as it is very relevant to the discussion at hand. While understanding that the present value of money is important to business decisions, not all businesses (as you mention) treat the information the same. Just as the term value means different things to different people, so to does the combination of time with it. Because debt, investment, and capital instruments are available, organizations need to understand how they work (Bauman, 1965). I have worked within companies that present a budgeting dashboard, but with fleeting fancy and lacking transference of financial acumen to the employees. While Excel and other software provide pretty pictures and an assurance that whoever creates them knows what they are doing, the real benefit to them is the information contained, and the actions taken from them. Information that is actionable can impact managerial decisions in many industries (Scorte & Farcas, 2013).
A key point to the discussion is that information alone is not enough. They must provide invitations to act. While currently serving as a Sunday school teacher, one of the key points of training in such a role is that a teacher is not a source of distilling information, but given three initiatives in such a role: Teach Doctrine, Invite to Action, and Promise Blessings (Sunday School, 2011). While this is true for teachers, it is also true for any dissemination of information, financial or otherwise. Business tools such as dashboards, in and of themselves, are insufficient to provide results – they must be acted on effectively and be quality-driven (Wieder, et al, 2012). Simply having information should not be the end result of financial analysis. Dashboards can be used for simple activities like showing ledgers, accounts payable, and other horizontal processes (Banham, 2009) but from the pretty colors and diagrams must come customizable and effective decisions to lead the organization.
Whether or not organizations utilize the information that analysts provide can stem from a variety of sources, including resource availability (Julian & Ofori-dankwa, 2013), only using them for specific purposes such as marketing (Guiyang & Sundar, 2013), or simply lacking understanding. Other reasons can include the need to reflect regulatory transparency, only wanting to reflect good news, and assisting shareholders understand information (Wasley & Shuang Wu, 2006). Whatever the reason, many companies, teachers, and individuals could do better with not merely having information, but effectively using it as a financial tool.
Banham, R. (2009). Revving Up Dashboards. Treasury & Risk, 38-40.
Bauman, W. S. (1965). The Investment Value of Common Stock Earnings and Dividends. Financial Analysts Journal, 21(6), 98-104.
GUIYANG, X., & SUNDAR, B. (2013). Asymmetric Roles of Advertising and Marketing Capability in Financial Returns to News: Turning Bad into Good and Good into Great.Journal Of Marketing Research (JMR), 50(6), 706-724. doi:10.1509/jmr.12.0278
Julian, S. D., & Ofori-dankwa, J. C. (2013). Financial resource availability and corporate social responsibility expenditures in a sub-Saharan economy: The institutional difference hypothesis. Strategic Management Journal, 34(11), 1314-1330. doi:10.1002/smj.2070
Scorţe, C., & Farcaş, M. (2013). THE IMPACT OF ACCOUNTING INFORMATION ON MANAGERIAL DECISIONS - THEORETICAL APPROACHES. Annals Of The University Of Oradea, Economic Science Series, 22(2), 692-702. 
WASLEY, C. E., & SHUANG WU, J. (2006). Why Do Managers Voluntarily Issue Cash Flow Forecasts?. Journal Of Accounting Research, 44(2), 389-429. doi:10.1111/j.1475-679X.2006.00206.x
Wieder, B., Ossimitz, M., & Chamoni, P. (2012). The Impact of Business Intelligence Tools on Performance: A User Satisfaction Paradox?. International Journal Of Economic Sciences & Applied Research,5(3), 7-32.