Minor Rant About Scripture Mastery

On a whim I started having the kids memorize a scripture. I think it happened because we were trying to do a faster version of bedtime one night, which sometimes involves reciting a scripture rather than reading. The kids seemed to like it, so we started saying it every night to practice. Most of my best parenting ideas have their origin in laziness.

The scripture that we’ve been working on is John 3:16. At this point they’ve actually got it down pretty well, so we’re working on verse seventeen too. I picked the verse because it was the first one I thought of. On further reflection, though,  I think it’s a very appropriate verse for first one that the kids learn. It encompasses the central idea of Christian belief. If you only know one scripture, that’s not a bad choice.

Since this little habit has been going well for us, I’ve decided to continue it and have been looking for a nice list of scriptures which I could use to get good ideas for memorizing. Naturally, having participated in the seminary program, I thought of the scripture mastery verses. I looked them up, all ready to cross off our first one.

Unfortunately, John 3:16 is not a scripture mastery verse.

I’m sure there are reasons that this verse was omitted, but I found it extra strange because there is another verse in John 3 that did make the cut:

John 3:5 – Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

It’s a fine scripture, but it seems like it was included because it’s a scripture in the Bible that can be understood as saying that baptism is necessary. Not even everyone will read it that way (quick story, on my mission I brought up this scripture with a guy and he viewed it as meaning that your actual birth was being born of water, and your acceptance of Jesus was being born of the Spirit. Based solely on the text, that’s not an unreasonable interpretation.) Here’s the thing, there are much clearer scriptures about the necessity of baptism. How about this one:

2 Nephi 31:17 – Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

This one is not a scripture mastery (though to be fair, nineteen and twenty, which talk about enduring to the end, are). It’s obviously a lot more clear than the one in John.

If that’s a little long for you though, here’s another:

Doctrine and Covenants 33:11 – Yea, repent and be baptized, every one of you, for a remission of your sins; yea, be baptized even by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.

Short, to the point, and almost unmistakable in what it is saying.

It seems like the only reason to include John 3:5 is so that missionaries know a scripture in the bible that more or less says the same thing, so they have something to point at when dealing with other Christians.

This might be (probably is) me projecting my own issues onto everyone else, but I feel like I would have been a much better missionary and person if I had thought a little more about John 3:16-17 (like the part about not being sent to condemn the world, for instance) and a little less about John 3:5 and convincing people that their understanding of the Bible was flawed. If you can convince them to read the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony of it (admittedly that’s a really, really big if), then it doesn’t matter where the scripture that you’re using comes from.

In the grand scheme of things, the inclusion or exclusion of specific verses in the scripture mastery list is not really a big deal, but this seems like a microcosm for a problem I see in the way that we sometimes approach members of other religions. We’re too quick to look for doctrinal difference, and too slow to look for shared ground.

Well, as for me and my kids, we’re going to stick with John 3:16-17 for a while. Don’t hold your breath for John 3:5 to come up.

“‘Give,’ Said the Little Stream” and chores

“‘Give,’ Said the Little Stream” is one of my favorite primary songs. In the back of my mind I have this thought that my mom doesn’t like it, but I don’t remember why. Regardless, I love the simple way that it teaches important principles, in particular the idea that you should make your surroundings better.

I’ve been thinking about it because it connects to a conversation I had with Bonnie a few days ago about chores. Philosophically I’m having some issues with chores the way I usually see them implemented. Frequently people give their child a responsibility which they have to take care of at a specified time (i.e. clean the kitchen on Saturdays).

Here’s my issue: I worry that it might encourage a sense that once you’ve done your chores then you’re done with helping out around the house. Or more broadly, once you take care of yourself then your job is done. I can remember lots of times as a kid when one sibling or another was still working on their Saturday job while the others were already done. There was never any inclination (at least on my part) to help that person out with their job. I’m admittedly not the most compassionate person, but even my siblings who are nicer than me (all of them) didn’t usually help that I can remember.

I’d rather that my kids develop a habit of always helping out with everything. If there are dirty dishes, then we all do them, since we’re all part of the family and we all try to contribute. When we’re cleaning the house, I rather that we all just clean until it’s done. Like in the song, I think the kids should adopt an attitude of “wherever I go the grass grows greener still.”

On the other hand, I also want them to learn to take care of their own responsibilities and not be a burden on others. I think traditional chores actually do a decent job of giving kids a sense of responsibility and a sense of taking care of a job. The two ideas compete with each other a little bit. Is it better to teach a kid about their independence or their interdependence? I’m leaning toward the latter, but most people I know seem to (most likely unconsciously) choose the former.

Bonnie suggested that instead of specific responsibilities we just have everyone work for a certain amount of time. I think that’s moving in the right direction, but I worry that it just substitutes one problem for another. Instead of feeling “done” when you finish your room, you’ll just feel “done” when the timer runs out.

Clearly I don’t have any right answers, but I’m really interested in developing this habit in my kids (and myself to be honest–I could probably walk into the house and step over a dead body and not notice or think twice if I didn’t put it there). How do you teach someone to just be aware of their surroundings and to act to improve them without being asked? That habit has a much broader application than just simple chores, and I’d really love for my kids to learn it. Any suggestions, O wise internet people?

Fine then, I guess I won’t be mad anymore

Hymn book

The other day I was super annoyed at someone. Actually, I was beyond that. I was furious with them. My rage burned with the heat of a thousand suns. I was mentally plotting ways to shun them and cut them out of my life.

Sunday morning rolls around and I quickly threw in something in my prayers about helping me forgive this person. Ask and ye shall receive, right? The last song in Sacrament meeting rolls around, and it was one of the few that I can’t immediately hum the tune: “Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses.”

If you’re like me, you’re sitting there thinking, “I’ve seen the title of that before.” I was expecting something like “Oh Say, What is Truth?” with a sort of huzzah for the Restoration theme. Not so. Here is the first verse to this obscure hymn:

Truth reflects upon our senses;
Gospel light reveals to some.
If there still should be offenses,
Woe to them by whom they come!
Judge not, that ye be not judged,
Was the counsel Jesus gave;
Measure given, large or grudged,
Just the same you must receive.

I sort of missed the first verse while I was distracted by kids, but I caught the last few lines and skimmed the rest, while singing verse two:

Jesus said, “Be meek and lowly,”
For ’tis high to be a judge;
If I would be pure and holy,
I must love without a grudge.
It requires a constant labor
All his precepts to obey.
If I truly love my neighbor,
I am in the narrow way.

And, since I’m dense and tend to resist relatively clear messages from Deity, there are three more verses:

Once I said unto another,
“In thine eye there is a mote;
If thou art a friend, a brother,
Hold, and let me pull it out.”
But I could not see it fairly,
For my sight was very dim.
When I came to search more clearly,
In mine eye there was a beam.

If I love my brother dearer,
And his mote I would erase,
Then the light should shine the clearer,
For the eye’s a tender place.
Others I have oft reproved
For an object like a mote;
Now I wish this beam removed;
Oh, that tears would wash it out!

Charity and love are healing;
These will give the clearest sight;
When I saw my brother’s failing,
I was not exactly right.
Now I’ll take no further trouble;
Jesus’ love is all my theme;
Little motes are but a bubble
When I think upon the beam.

The moral here is that you shouldn’t pray for things you don’t want.* Also for you ward music directors there, pick a weird hymn once in a while. Sometimes if we haven’t heard it a million times then we’ll be more likely to listen to the words.
*Technically I did want to forgive this person, just not right away.

The Future is Bright

Allison familyphotos 0614 018Tonight I’m sitting here in Palmyra. It has been a series of long days. On Saturday, we were packing, but a friend also took some nice pictures of our family. I picked that one of R, because I doubt most of us can remember the last time we were that happy and excited.

On Monday we were finishing up packing our house and trying to get on the road. Things took way longer than planned, so we drove until  2:00am on Monday to get to Cleveland, and then dr0ve a bunch more today. I’ll post about the trip more as I go along, but first I want to write this down. On Sunday, sacrament meeting went a little short. When that happened, Bonnie leaned over to me and said, “well, you’re up.”

At first I laughed and said, “yeah, right,” but sure enough Bishop Francis called on me and a few other people to share our testimonies. Sharing my testimony in sacrament meeting is my favorite. If by favorite you mean something I hate.

I really do enjoy talking in front of groups, but for some reason I don’t enjoy sharing my testimony in the big, formalized setting of sacrament meeting. Happily, I had been thinking about some worthwhile topics already, so I had some ideas of what to say. Here’s basically what I said:

[Disclaimer: I tell some stories that may or may not be strictly true. For me, that’s okay. Much like the scriptures, it’s sometimes more important to get what you’re supposed to get out of a story than to worry about if it happened exactly that way or not.]

I’ve been thinking about my first mission president a bit lately. His name was Walter J. Plumb III. He was a great man. He was a little crazy. And he was rich, so he could indulge some of the crazy, but he was also a fantastic person.

To help you understand the kind of person that he was, I’ll tell a few stories. First, he loved cars. His car of choice was a Porsche 911 Turbo. He saw a scene in some movie where a fast car went up a steep hill and got some air. He decided to try it, so he took one of his Porsches to a really steep hill in Salt Lake. He gunned the engine and got some air at the top, but when the car came down all the guts fell out of it and it was totaled. Seeing how wrecked his car was, he just called a tow service, took it to the dealer, and traded it in for a new one the same day.

He was also very generous with his money. One Christmas he took the mission van with the trailer hooked up and went to a toy store. He grabbed an associate and said, “just fill up the car with  one or two of everything.”

After the car and trailer were filled with toys, he took the AP’s and said, “Elders, where are the children? Let’s go find them and give them some toys.” He then spent the rest of the day handing out toys to kids in Rochester.

He was also famous for having a bunch of sayings that he would repeat. For lack of a better word I’ll call them catch-phrases. “Elders, where’s a gym? Anywhere you are. Just do some push-ups on the sidewalk.”

Of course, the most important and famous saying of his was “The future is bright.” which sometimes got expanded to something like, “Elders, future is so bright it’s practically blinding.”

The further I’ve gotten from that experience, the more I’ve realized how true that statement is. The future is bright. No matter what happens to us, no matter what trials and hardships we face, the future is bright. Pain and sorrow will be healed. Wrongs will be righted. We will be made whole again, because of the Atonement of Christ. He suffered so that he would understand us and be able to comfort us in our trials. Christ is our future, and that future is bright.

Thankful Thursday 1 (Friday Edition)

IMG_20131127_165956155After yesterday’s downer of a post, I thought I’d do something more positive today.

I used to have a blog where I would try and write something that I was thankful for every day. My history of failures with topical blogs is something I’ll talk about another day, but with this blog I very quickly ran out of original ideas. It’s possible that I’m an ingrate, (I wouldn’t rule that out), but coming up with something insightful or clever or interesting to be thankful for every day just wasn’t in the cards for me. That blog really jumped the shark when I started trying to use things that I was learning about in school as posts. (“I’m thankful for polymers because they make life possible…”)

The truth is that the things that I’m thankful for don’t change all that much day to day. I’m thankful for Bonnie and the kids, I’m thankful for my house, for the country I live in, for my chance to attend IU. I’m thankful for Christ and the gospel and the scriptures. I’m thankful for books and learning, for a naturally curious disposition and for all my great teachers. I’m grateful for a supportive and loving extended family, ward, and community.

Even though a daily gratitude blog isn’t in the cards for me, I think it’s still worthwhile to take some time and express my gratitude for the many, many good things in my life. Therefore this is the first installment of what I will call “Thankful Thursday.” Yes, I know it’s Friday. Stop being so literal. Now, knowing how I am, there will probably not be a gratitude post every Thursday, but I’ll make it a somewhat regular thing.

Probably.