Tag Archives: history

Steampunk alternate Mormon history fiction

I’m running a d20 Modern campaign. For those not well versed in geek lingo, it’s basically like Dungeons and Dragons except with a rule set for modern times. So every week, a group of us get together, sit around, eat snacks, roll dice, and make up stories based on set dice. It’s loads of fun.

This time around, I am running the story as the Game Master (GM); basically, I run all of the background characters, devise the world, and interpret the dice results into narrative fiction. I’ve done this for a while now, since I was roughly 19 years old, so I wanted to do something I had never done before, especially since my group was all Mormon.

I weaved a world based on my religion.

Well, sort of. The world that my friends delve into every week is steampunk alternative Mormon history. Basically, I ran with the idea of “What if Joseph Smith had successfully fled to the West instead of being martyred in Carthage Jail?” Suddenly, it’s the year 1899, and the Northern American continent has split into three basic political entities — the Federal Union, the Confederacy, and the Mormon Territories (during the Second War of Independence). Joseph Smith is still the prophet, operating out of Deseret, the capital established next to the Great Salt Lake, while Brigham Young is the governor of New Nauvoo, west of the Mississippi (the ruins of old Nauvoo lie just across the river). The two major Mormon cities are connected by a network of dirigibles, called the Mormon Line. Also, there’s magic, swashbuckling adventure, and sweet steampunk goggles and gears and stuff.

I’m planning on running strong themes of order versus nature, freedom versus security, justice versus mercy, the law versus the Spirit. In the background are the two gleaming diamonds of Mormondom — the alabaster, orderly, cosmopolitan city of Nauvoo and the dusty, rough-and-tumble, frontier city of Deseret. Two political leaders, the charismatic Joseph and the managerial Brigham, will butt heads as they both grapple with problems both mundane and fantastical and wonder what to do. In the midst, our plucky hero-adventurers will make decisions that will alter the course of alternate Mormon history forever.

When I ran this idea excitedly past my wife, she seemed reluctant. “Your friends are pretty liberal when it comes to Mormonism, and they’re pretty used to your blasphemy by now,” she warned with a wink, “But this might be crossing the line.”

“There’s a line?” I replied. Of course, I knew there was a line. This unsaid line runs deep through Mormon culture, separating the wheat from the chaff, the wholesome media from the seditious, libelous, faith-breaking, irreverent material deemed unfit for goodly Saints’ eyes and ears. A conservative, faith-promoting portrayal of Joseph Smith in Gerald Lund’s series, The Work and the Glory is appropriate. But a gun-toting, charismatic-but-too-trusting, Wild West Joseph Smith who wears steampunk goggles and swoops about in a steam-driven mini-glider shooting down invading Danite dirigibles? That’s too, well, irreverent.

But why is that? There’s a pretty fine line between parody and homage. One is lampooning, and the other is sincere respect. Sure, there can be elements of both in either, but I had considered this fantastical world I cooked up an homage to Mormon history, of which I have a deep appreciation for. And in every audience, in every niche, the fans’ parody-homage meter is finely tuned; we can’t explain it, but we can tell when someone is laughing at us, or smiling with us. Somehow, however, our parody-homage meter in Mormon culture tends to be hyper-tuned towards parody. If it doesn’t read like a Sunday School manual, you’re making fun. Or hurting the Church. At the very least, you could destroy someone’s testimony. Harsh consequences abound for any writer who decides to take liberties with Church history.

It could be because we’re still young, and we still take ourselves way too seriously. It could be because we’re still somewhat ashamed and confused about our own history and self-identity. It could be that we’re still too insecure about ourselves as a culture, afraid to appear fractured or to appear less than perfect. Maybe we just need time to mature, to mellow out, to realize that it doesn’t matter what the world says because the world will never like us anyway so we might as well have some fun at the expense of ourselves because we’re not really that perfect either.

Whatever the reason (and I believe it’s a complicated ball of cultural neuroses that would be fun to dissect but would turn this blog post into a dissertation), I ran the game, and afterwards, despite the skeptical looks, everyone had fun and look forward to see where the story goes. So far, nobody wants to burn me at the stake for heresy (talk about an awkward end to a get together). And I’m 85% confident than when I die and go to the Spirit World, Joseph Smith will come up to me, dice bag in hand, and say, “You know Brother Ted, I’d like to play in that steampunk alternate Mormon history game you ran several decades back. Pull out your campaign notes.” And I would, because we would both understand that we’re smiling together.

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Pronunciation wars

Alternative subtitle: Why All the Grammar Nazis Are Wrong, but You should Learn Your Grammar And Pronunciation Anyway

One of my favorite Shakespeare plays (dare I say, all time favorite?!) is Love’s Labour’s Lost. On top of being a hilarious comedy with a subverted trope ending and puns (lots and lots and lots of wonderful, delicious puns), the basic theme is a loving lampooning of sheer intellectual snobbery, a vice of mine I hold dear to my heart.

In the play, Holofernes, a pretentious school teacher, begins to mock an equally pretentious Spaniard who has learned English, about his pronunciation:

He draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument. I abhor such fanatical phantasimes, such insociable and point-devised companions; such rackers of orthography, as to speak dout, fine, when he should say doubt; det, when he should pronounce debt, – d,e,b,t, not d,e,t: he clepeth a calf, cauf; half, hauf: neighbour vocatur nebour; neigh abreviated ne. This is abhominable, – which he would call abbominable: it insinuateth me of insanie: anne intellegis domine? To make frantic, lunatic. (Act V, Scene I)

“Wha-?” modern readers will exclaim. Who the heck pronounces debt with the actual b? Or actually says “ab-hom-inable?” (We should totally bring back that pronunciation. It just makes you sound so haughty. Try saying it out loud sometime).

This made me scratch my head, too. Is Holofernes totally wrong and Shakespeare is making fun of pronunciation Nazis or elitists at his expense, or was this actually how they pronounced words back then?

Robin Fox, in “Pronunciation: Shakespeare, Oxford and the Petty School Question,” says:

He was taking a position on a great intellectual issue of the day: the correct pronunciation of English and the classical languages. For Holofernes (“the Pedant”) English should be scrupulously pronounced as spelled. In the grammatical language of the day Prosodia should conform to Orthographia. But to such luminaries as William Bullokar, Richard Mulcaster and William Kempe, redundant consonants should be ignored, and their advice (and Armado’s practice) has prevailed.

Who knew! The history of the English language is, as always, absolutely fascinating. Still, this brings up the question — how does one act Holofernes on the stage? Should they pronounce all of his words so that the Prosodia conforms with Orthographia? Fox says:

Should he then be pronouncing words like this throughout the play? Only at the cost of being totally unintelligible.

I am, at heart, a grammarian who invokes Godwin’s Law far too often for his own good, but even I understand that language is rarely static but constantly evolving. Times change and languages change with it, and if we continue to hold to the “true” way of writing and speaking English, we would be “totally unintelligible” to anyone, thus canceling out the very purpose of language — to communicate. One could hold to the old, true rules of English (true according to their own view, in any case), but it will be a very lonely world indeed.

Still, don’t take this as an excuse to not learn the comma rules. Until we come up with something better, the basic comma rules are incredibly important and if you continue to neglect them, so help me I will start to ignore you because your text has been rendered illegible. And just like the grammar Nazis, you pose the threat of miscommunication.

And people say my writing looks like a giant wall of text.

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Society, polygamy, obsession and growing up

I still carry scars from middle school, a traumatic time of my life. I had just moved to a new school district, and I had to make new friends. I was young, naive, awkward, socially inept, too smart for my own good, arrogant, and scared out of my mind. I did a lot of really stupid things, a lot of really embarrassing things, and a lot of really awkward things that I replayed them in my mind over and over and over. For the longest time, I felt like my life after middle and high school was to shake off my uncool past and become even cooler than anyone could imagine. I oscillated between smug self-acceptance (“they just don’t understand what real cool is, the unwashed masses”) and self-hatred (“I am the most uncool person in the world and I must totally remake myself if I’m ever to overcome my horribly uncool past”).

You may think this is kind of hilarious, and it really kind of is, but at the time, from the age of 12 to 24 and beyond, I struggled with this. I moved away, and, out-of-touch with any of my old school friends, I replayed those uncool instances, which only became more and more uncool, which sent my brain into feverish justification mode for my uncoolness in an attempt to spin it into a better type of cool, or I just hated myself. This drove a lot of my mentality, especially in social situations.

Then, I got married, I had some hard life lessons, and I moved back home. Despite a still-haven’t-graduated-from-college status and unemployed-except-for-freelancing-work-here-and-there-because-my-wife-encourages-me-to-pursue-my-dream-to-be-a-writer status, my old school friends, ranging from med students and doctors to non-profit social workers and teachers, welcomed me with open arms, accepting me for who I am, and being the nicest bunch of people to my wife, who they had never met before. Sometimes, when we sit around and talk, an embarrassing story of me crops up — and like everyone else, I just laugh. Suddenly, in the light of day, they aren’t as bad as I thought, and I realized that even though I did some really bizarre, awkward things as a kid, that’s just what they were — bizarre and awkward and embarrassing. They were no real blemish on my character, or some kind of moral deficiency that created a sense of uncool. I realized that everyone does some really weird things, and you know, it’s okay.

I tell this story because our Church is still growing up when it comes to polygamy. Try it. Mention polygamy around a faithful Mormon member. Watch their face turn red. Watch their eyes narrow or bulge. Their mouth will begin to motorize into overdrive mode while their brain frantically pulls out all of the justifications for why it happened:

Ohmygoodnessareyoustillalluponpolygamyitwasbannedin

1900over100yearsagoandwedon’tdoitanymoreexceptforthe

FLDStheyarenotmormonbyanymeansandyouneedtolayofftherewere

lessmenthanwomenandalotofmendiedduringthemobattacksand

itwasonlyasmallpercentageofthepopulationandit’s

biblicadon’tyouknow

Whoa! Chill out, my Mormon brothers and sisters!

Sadly, the polygamy issue is still on our American society’s zeitgeist, mostly due to things in the news (FLDS compound raids), media (Big Love and Sister Wives), and literature (The Lonely Polygamist). And you know what? That’s okay. Because, let’s all say this together, polygamy was a part of our past.

There. Okay. Breathe. And say it again.

Polygamy was part of our past.

Good.

Polygamy is very much a part of our past, a part of our culture, and even a part of our doctrine still today. It permeates almost everything, from our genealogy to our temple covenants. Most Utahn and Idahoan Mormons claim polygamous ancestry. My wife does not have to trace her line very far before she ends up becoming related to them. At least four of our prophets were polygamous. Even some of the house architecture in Utah still reflects the polygamous mindset.

A lot of people are uncomfortable with polygamy because it is weird. Many feminists don’t like it because it can perpetuate abuse. Conservatives don’t like it because it conflicts and competes with the standard nuclear family concept. And yet, there it is. The more we deny it, the more we look like ostriches with our heads in the sand. The more we run circles and try to rationalize and distance ourselves from it, the greater our angst towards polygamy and our own Mormon identity grows.

The minute someone says, “Oh, you’re polygamous, right?” many Mormons think smugly, “Oh, how ignorant of them.” This, I repeat, this is a defense mechanism. You put yourself above the person so that you cannot be touched by any of their possibly hurtful comments, no matter how flippant. But this is wrong. We are left with two choices with this kind of thinking — straight up denial (which is not truth) or running away from our heritage (which we can’t unless we are truly prepared to scrub all traces of polygamy from our Church, which I don’t see happening anytime soon). But there is a better, third, middle way — acceptance.

Polygamy is a part of our collective history. It might be embarrassing. Maybe it’s even painful to recollect. But it’s there. The longer we deny it or try to change it, the longer we  as a Church will continually bob back and forth between self-hatred (and try to recreate ourselves as a completely anti-polygamous group and hate on others who practice it, which is dangerous, uncharitable, and disingenuous) and smugness (and try to label anyone who brings up polygamy as ignorant and laugh haughtily at their stupidity and discount anything they say, which is dangerous, uncharitable, and disingenuous).

When I see us backpedaling and running around trying to tell the world that “Oh my GOSH we are NOT polygamous OKAY?!?!?!??!?!!!”, all I see is our own angst and embarrassment, exposed for everyone to see. It’s clear that we as Mormons are more uncomfortable with our polygamous past than anyone else, and it makes us look kind of guilty, guys.

I remember a friend writing a play, and in that play one of the characters was obsessed with people thinking he wasn’t gay. And so, in response to every inquiry, he would shout, “I’m NOT gay!” In one of the funniest parts of the play, his roommate during a gathering of friends asks him for a sandwich, to which he yells, “Guys, I’m NOT gay, okay?! Geez, lay off!” Silence. And then, a friend meekly asks if he’s gay. Because when you deny it that much, when you become obsessed with the idea that people might think you are, people start to wonder if you really are. In a way, we might actually be perpetuating the idea ourselves with our incessant insistence, even when the topic of polygamy comes up as a matter-of-fact statement (like the weather) and not an accusation.

One of the owners of the company my wife works for just recently found out she’s Mormon. Upon hearing this, he asked her, “So, are you a first-wife?” When he saw her puzzled expression, he turned to one of the other owners and asked, “Mormons are polygamous, right?” My wife laughed.

“No, we were once, but we’re not anymore.” No angst. No rationalization. No backpedaling. Imagine instead if my wife tried to explain men to women ratios or Biblical patriarchs or something about having to restore all things in a restoration or (more commonly) angry, hostile reactions of “Oh my goodness, how stupid can you be?” A simple statement, a laugh, and crisis averted. Nothing here to see, people. Move along.

Corrected, they shrugged. It made more sense that way anyway.

My hope is that with all of this gay marriage stuff and the inevitable trend of our society’s normalizing and accepting it, polygamy will also follow suit. And then, finally, we can set it behind us as just another fact in our collective history and let it go and, as a people, move on. The problem is, when that opportunity comes, will we drop the burden and give a sigh of relief, or will we hold onto that burden tightly, unwilling to drop it because for such a long period of our culture’s history, it has provided us with some sort of co-dependent purpose and identity?

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Literalistic imagery

Most people know the story of Prometheus. He took pity on mankind and so he stole fire from the gods and used it to teach man, especially in technology and the sciences. For this, the gods chained Prometheus to a rock where his liver was picked apart by birds everyday. Because Prometheus was immortal, he suffered immense pain, but could never die. And thusly he suffered until a Greek hero named Heracles rescued him.

Prometheus also becomes a time-traveling robot who helps save the world and eventually sacrifices his life in a vain attempt to stop Fate from taking over humanity's destiny.

Prometheus also becomes a time-traveling robot who helps save the world and eventually sacrifices his life in a vain attempt to stop Fate from taking over humanity's destiny.

Prometheus plays a proto-type trickster figure, representing both the good and bad of humanity. He became a symbol of technology and progress, willing to defy the very gods in order to improve the lives and lots of common humans everywhere. There are symbols and imagery within this myth, rich and glorious, which convey important lessons and warnings to future generations.

There’s much in the Prometheus story for the modern-day reader to swallow in order for it to be true. For one thing, Prometheus was a titan, and we’re pretty sure titans don’t exist. Also, supposedly, the gods lived on Olympus, but we’ve had people hike up the mountain and have not found any pantheons yet. There’s not a lot of scientific evidence for it, even though we know many people back then believed this story to be factual. We try not to fault our ancestors too much for believing such an outlandish story, but if someone said they truly believe the Prometheus story to be absolutely factual, we would laugh. Still, despite the fact that this myth is not true, we can still derive much from it. The fact that this story is fiction does not take away from its timelessness or lessons taught.

So how come when somebody tells us that Noah’s global flood is probably not factual, that the Abraham sacrificing Issac story makes no sense within the Abrahamic narrative and could just be made up, or that Job might not have been a real person or Jonah probably didn’t actually spend three days in the belly of a whale, we as members of the Church become defensive about it? Like Prometheus, a lack of factual evidence certainly doesn’t detract from the morals of the story – such a parameter for usefulness would have rendered Aesop’s famous fables completely void.

When my wife tells me that she doesn’t believe the Garden of Eden is a factual situation but is instead an allegorical representation of every human’s experience being cut off from God’s presence, why does it bother me? I know that the fact that it might have never happened doesn’t take away from the spiritual significance of the story; it certainly doesn’t bother my wife. In fact, I’ve had spiritual experiences which tell me that such an interpretation is not only fine, but commendable. So why does it nag at the corners of my prideful, foolish heart?

"Guys, you should totally think about maybe wearing some clothes sometime - oh, never mind. I'll tell you about it when you're older."

"Guys, you should totally think about wearing clothes sometime - oh, never mind. I'll tell you about it when you're older."

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Sociological vs. Anthropological

I seriously want this guy's beard

I seriously want this guy's beard.

One thing I’ve discovered during my sociology classes: I am intrinsically Marxist.

This isn’t Bellevue College’s fault. It’s really just my own fault, I suppose. My teacher is schooled in and promoted the symbolic/interaction perspective (viewing microcosms and small, close relationships), and also promoted the feminist perspective. Some students resonated with the structural perspective (viewing society as parts of a machine). But me? I’m Marxist, to the core. Almost every society can be defined by conflict.

Whenever I view the Church in a sociological lens, therefore, I cannot help but view the Church rife with conflict – Utah culture vs. Non-Utah culture, the US church vs. the global church, women vs. the priesthood. And it’s all there; we just choose to ignore it or simply remain unconscious to it because the implications can disturb us.

And it disturbs me, I’ll admit. I’m to the point where I can view this without any implication to the Church’s truthfulness, which is a potential sign of (yay!)  maturity. But it still doesn’t solve the problem that comes with Marxism (and the core of my personality) – sociological research does nothing if it doesn’t try to fix the problems it discovers. But what can one person do in a Church with such a hierarchical, patriarchal structure? Out wait everything? Watch for slow, gradual change? The Church does evolve over time (and when looking back, the changes are drastic – Brigham Young would be horrified for sure). But it can still embitter me to certain elements and I just don’t like feeling bitter. It’s not a great feeling. It’s not very healthy.

I’ve been shifting my focus on the church towards a more anthropological approach. The Church is made up of people – imperfect people who try their best (or don’t try their best) to do what’s right and to protect what they have while trying to improve upon it. Suddenly, the Church culture isn’t something I have to incessantly fix. I can collect stories and folklore, examine some of our myths and I don’t have to pass judgment. I don’t have to fix anything. I just record. I love it.

When you've got stuff like this happening in your folktales, you're never bored.

When you've got stuff like this happening in your folktales, you're never bored.

I’ve been reading a lot of folklore lately – I spend some of my birthday money, and three out of the four books (The Bhagavad  Gita; Folklore of the Holy Land: Moslem, Christian and Jewish; and Irish Lore and Legends) are collections of folklore. I reluctantly left behind another tome of Jewish tales as well as books on Indian and Chinese folklore, simply because I didn’t want to spend all of my birthday money in one place.

I love folklore. For one, it’s been supporting the change in my attention span; the studies are probably right – the Internet is shortening my attention span. I don’t have patience for huge books on one subject and I prefer things to be short and dense. Folktales are like tweets – they’re usually pretty short, and the good ones have a lot of things to think about. Whenever I read regular books now (non-fiction) by the halfway mark I stop because I’ve learned all that the author usually has to say and the rest is just fluff. And because they’re short, I can devour pages upon pages of them. It’s seriously very addicting.

And my goodness, Church history. It’s awesome. Really. It’s like a religious soap opera and I love every part of it. And our folklores are just as good as any. We just need to start recording them and stop treating them like doctrine but as just that – tales with ambiguous sources. Ask any Jew if he or she really believes that you can use the Word of God to breathe life into a golem and they’ll laugh (unless they are seriously orthodox). But the stories of golems are not worthless – they’re a deep insight into the Jewish psyche and their desperate need for a physical protector in times of horrible distress and calamity for their culture. And sometimes folktales poking fun at religious authorities are necessary – not to disrespect them, but to remind ourselves that even the prophet is not akin to God, and as humans, we’re all subject to foibles and mistakes. We can develop a healthy, positive outlook towards the more negative aspects about who we are, and that, I can assure you from past experience, can bring about a very sweet peace of mind.

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More personal history: One by One

This post is a transcript of another one of my mission letters, dated for the week of “28 Nov 2005 – 4 Dec 2005.” The following week had been the low point of my mission coupled with one of the most humbling experiences in my entire life. I had been in a considerably difficult area for the past four months and felt incredibly frustrated and angry. The Assistants to the President (APs) had been sent to see what was up with an area that seemed lackluster and wilting. I had spent months in the attitude of Jonah preaching to the citizens of Nineveh that the great city would be destroyed unless they repent – and relishing in the idea of the Lord nuking it. The lesson I consequently learned only through tears and disappointment has helped shape my theological mindset and my spiritual world view and continues to do so today.

Dear President,

This week, I have felt a lot like Peter in the sense where I said, “Though I shall die with thee, yet will I not deny thee,” only to look back and see the faithlessness, causing me to weep bitterly. The training visit with the APs have caused me to re-evaluate a lot about how I’ve been doing missionary work.

This area has been a large growing process and I have felt that I had been working hard. I am, by the natural man, fairly lazy and so I have been surprised by my own dilligence[sic] in going out and getting shut down numerous times every day. Any other place I would have become discouraged a long time ago but something kept me from giving up and continually trying to improve this area. I had been praying and fasting for answers on how to get this area to catch on fire. Many ideas came together, but it was still producing meager results.

At the peak of my frustration and despair, the answer came to me thrice (the Lord always uses the magical number of 3). The first time, it was in sacrament meeting where a member spoke on how Christ deals with us not in the mass, but one on one. How nice, I thought, but I felt that message was more for the members. Then, in our interview, you said, “The genius is said in so little by Elder Holland – Just chat! The gospel will come up,” speaking of the CTI. Again, I thought, ah, that is nice. But again, I denied it as advice for me and I felt that advice was more for the members.

Then, at the training visit with the APs, as we contacted, Elder Dennis said, “You know, you can make more friends in 2 months caring about them than you can in two years trying to make them care about you.” I then realized what was missing. The Spirit quickened my mind and it all snapped together. I had been trying to deal with the UCO student body in mass, trying to invite as many as I could a day, always in a rush, not bothering to know them one by one, as Christ would. I failed to follow the counsel of our apostles in just chatting and instead tried to bludgeon people with the gospel. And I had failed to care about other people, instead trying to get people to care about me and the message I had. That night as we saw the success Elder Case and Elder Chang had on campus, (Elder Dennis & I spent some time contacting less actives and trying to invite them to the baptism) indeed that night I “went out and wept bitterly.” I wondered how I could have been so blind and insensitive to the Spirit, who was trying so hard to teach and loosen an inflexible and fossilized servant. I felt I had wasted the 4 months of the Lord’s time and even wondered if my paltry sacrifice on the altar was even acceptable to the Lord.

But thank goodness for the atonement! How I love it and appreciate it more and more each passing day. Elder Chang and I discussed what we were doing wrong and commited[sic] to implement this concept of caring, of having charity, into our missionary work. It works! We had much more success in contacting people and setting appointments. And I felt lighter and happier, more unburdened. Indeed, the difference is as stark as night and day. I felt this small thing is the one degree difference…

My regret is to not be able to bring back those 4 months…How I wish I could stay another transfer or two to undo the damage I have done. But I have learned a long time ago to not try and change the Lord’s mind.

Elder Chang and I strive to keep the commandments and the mission rules. Now that the light at the end of the tunnel is visible, there is an increased incentive to be exactly obedient. It’s not all roses and fun, I know, but the yoke of Christ is easy, I have found…

Thank you for all you do, president. You are a help for us all. I’m sure it goes unappreciated, but I am grateful that you demand so much from us (and I know that it isn’t you, but the Lord who is asking for it). And I am grateful for your faith in us. Thank you for not letting us settle for mediocracy[sic]. We love you and we’ll see you this Christmas (or sooner)!

Your brother in the gospel,

Elder Ted Lee

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The Second Epistle of Elder Lee to President Bracha

In a recent post, I mentioned my plans on recording some of the documents from my past in order to preserve it for my children and any other bored futuristic people who would want to read it. This is one such example. On my mission, when occasion permitted or I was in a whimsical mood, I would write my letters to the mission president in “scripture form.” The following is a picture of an example of one, as well as its contents transcribed.

The Second Epistle of Elder Lee to President Bracha

New investigator found – The debacle concerning Drew’s baptism – Horrible plagues afflict Elder Lee to the depths of humility – Setbacks in ideas for missionary work

1. Elder Lee, servant of our Lord Jesus Christ assigned to labor among the people of Norman, do send greetings and report the happenings of the fourth week of the fifth transfer of the reign of President Bracha.

2. Behold, on the second day of the fourth week, we did meet with a student named Mike, and we did teach him that glorious message of the Restoration.

3. Yea, and we  did see that the work of the adversary is constant among the children of men to thwart the servants of God, for two of Mike’s friends did sit with us in the lesson to try and confound us.

4. They did ask questions, and did say, behold, the Bible doth teach us that revelation hath ceased, that the work of God is finished, and we have no more need for prophets. And in this manner did they speak.

5. But we did confound them in their words, for we did say unto them, if thou believest the things thou hast said, and claim it to be the word of God, ye do greatly err and fail to understand the scriptures which has been given unto you.

6. Behold, the scriptures testify the need of revelation, and of prophets, and they do show that the work of God is not finished, but that it does continue among the children of man and that God hath not ceased to be a God of miracles.

7. And it came to pass that Mike did retire unto his dorm, and he did read and ponder and did seek us out to teach him more of the doctrines of truth. And when we did hear of this, we did rejoice and did set up another appointment in haste.

8. And now, behold, I do speak of that terrible confusion concerning Drew’s baptism, of which thou didst know of. Yea, I tell you of the happenings which occured[sic] after the confusion.

9. Behold, Drew is strengthened daily by the good word of God and does greatly desire to be baptized, and so we did go forth before the bishop with broken hearts and contrite spirits and did humble ourselves before him, submitting ourselves to his counsel, and we do work as one, and we do plan this baptism as one.

10. And behold, we have been humbled considerably and do seek to bring harmony in our doings and the ward’s doings concerning missionary work and do continue to do so, even until the ends of our transfers here in the land.

11. And now, I also speak of that terrible illness that took hold of my body. Yea, my bowels were wracked with pain and I did spew forth the contents of last night’s dinner through my mouth. Yea, my joints did ache and I did cry out in pain.

12. But behold, I did seek out a priesthood blessing, which did cause a quick and speedy recovery, and I do glory in the greatness of God’s mercy.

13. And I did seek the comfort of the Lord through mighty prayer, and did seek strength and endurance of the pain, and it was granted unto me according to his will.

14. And it was the Sabbath when I did endure this awful agony, and so great was my confidence in the Lord that I did not seek out worldly cures for it was unlawful to purchase things then, and behold I was blessed with a speedy recovery.

15. And thus was my testimony strengthened.

16. Behold, I do bring sad tidings concerning our great plans for progressing the work in the land.

17. We did seek to rent the theater in the Student Union to show movies concerning the Restoration and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

18. And we did seek to give three Books of Mormon to each member in the ward – one for their homes, one for their cars, and one for their bags – to give unto their friends, to seek out the Lord’s elect.

19. But it came to pass that all of these activities did require of us much money that we did not possess. And so we did abandon our designs for the time being.

20. And so we did suffer setbacks in the work, but continue to work unto bringing salvation to the children of the Lord, and do labor greatly to bring about the work of our Father.

21. And this we did in the fourth week of the fifth transfer of the reign of President Bracha.

22. And my companion did dwell in a tent.

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