Come Follow Me: Alma 36-38

My post on Come Follow Me: Alma 36-38

Discussess Alma’s final words and blessings to his sons Helaman and Shiblon. Here’s a sample:

Helaman is the oldest son of Alma. His name may be a form of Egyptian for “Her Amun – In the Presence of Amun” or “In the Presence of God.” The Semitic letter “L” is made into an “R” in Egyptian, so Helaman and Her Amun are cognate names. Vowels were not used in the earliest Semitic languages, so Ammon could also be spelled Aman, Amon, or Amun. Amun Re was the chief god of the Egyptians, while Alma’s close friend, Ammon, was the chief leader of the Ammonites. It seems fitting to name his oldest son after his friend, Ammon. Helaman’s name is also important as we discuss chapter 36, when Alma himself is in the presence of God, perhaps naming his oldest after this experience.

Family vs the “Other”

In philosophy, Edmund Husserl identified the “Other.” This is as opposed to the “Self” or “Us.”

Consciously or subconsciously, we all separate the “Us” vs “Them.” It is recorded in scripture, as Israel separates itself from the world. Nephites exclaim they are better than the Lamanites, the “Other.” When Ammon and his brethren seek to go on a mission to the Lamanites, the Nephites mocked and ridiculed them, for the Lamanites were savages that loved to hate, were lazy, and were forever lost.

Interestingly, God sees it differently. He sees us all as family. He doesn’t distinguish between us. He doesn’t have favorites. He doesn’t separate us. God didn’t cast Satan out, Satan’s actions divided and separated him from God. Satan sought for “Self” and in doing so, turned God and his followers into the “Other.”

In God’s view, “US” includes everyone. God established us as a family, and the only thing that can end that relationship is if we choose to separate ourselves. The Prodigal Son decided that the family was the “Other” and sought his own fortune among his own. Still, God didn’t cast him off forever. God did not make him the “Other.” The Father stood watching, until the Prodigal was ready to return to the family. When he was ready, the Father ran to him, wrapped him in royal clothes, and killed the fatted calf.

We focus and hope on the tender mercies of God that he will retain us in his love and family. In doing so, Book of Mormon prophets frequently remind us that as we gain forgiveness, to not forget the poor, needy and stranger. They are not the “Other” to God, and for us to be in the family means we must also accept them as family.

In making someone or some group “Other,” we are putting them in a category that justifies us in keeping them separate. Whether it is an issue of wealth/poverty, race, religion, political philosophy, fat/skinny, healthy/sick, LGBTQ/heterosexual, etc., we tend to place people in categories, so we can justify ourselves before the “Us” and before God.

God hates sin. Yet, he loves the sinner and always has his door open for them. No one has gone too far that the Atonement of Jesus Christ cannot reach them.

So, do we separate ourselves from God when we refuse to embrace his children, because we’ve placed them in the “Other” category? This isn’t to say that we accept all viewpoints, but instead that as we disagree on issues, we see the person as part of “Us.” We are family, unless we cast ourselves out of the Promised Land by rejecting to embrace God’s children, regardless of who or what they are or believe.

This gets to be challenging as we consider the Hitlers in the world. How do we hate their evil works, yet still see them as our brothers and sisters in need of repentance? Do we wish Trump or Biden (pick your poison) or someone else dead, because their politics are different than our own? Or do we pray sincerely for both of them, as they are children of God in need of our prayers? Do we seek to love them as God loves them? Or do we justify our distaste, because we have made them the “Other?”

How did the Nephites become one people in 4 Nephi? There were no more Nephites, Lamanites or any other “-ites” but were one people in Christ. Are we seeking that kind of unity? Will we as Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc., happily and lovingly work together to build Zion? Or will we keep Zion from being built because we are focused on destroying the “Other?”

Does “love your enemies” mean anything to us? Do we seek to listen, truly listen to them, even if we end up kindly and lovingly disagreeing? What things do we agree upon? How can we reach out to them and lift them up, even if they remain in sin or with a separate philosophy than us? Can the Church work with other religions and communist nations to bring about good, even while disagreeing on key concepts? Yes. Can we do the same? I hope so.

What can we do to eliminate the “Other” category of those around us, and invite them to become part of the “Us,” part of the family of God?

On masks and obedience

Two months ago my stake presidency in Colorado sent out an email to the members of our stake requesting that all members sign a petition so that an initiative could get on the 2020 ballot banning late term abortion. I happily signed the petition, and this initiative will be on the ballot in 2020, and I plan to vote for a ban on late term abortion.

This post is not about abortion, but instead the issue of obedience to Church leaders. As a general rule, I try really hard to follow the counsel of my local leaders. When we go to stake conference, we are urged to go to the temple regularly, to take our callings seriously, to help minister to those around us. I could go on and on, but you get the drift: I really do try to do what local Church leaders ask us to do.

Now, what are we to think of the people who did not sign this initiative? Are they all apostates? Could it be they did not have time or were working? Perhaps they are in favor of late term abortion because they are generally pro-choice. Are pro-choice people all apostates?

I think we would agree that the people who ignored the stake presidency’s guidance had their reasons. I know people who did not sign these petitions for a variety of reasons, and I guarantee you the people I know are NOT apostates.

Last week the area presidency in Utah sent out a letter urging people to wear masks in public because of COVID-19. I know dozens of people, good friends and family members, who will ignore this request. I also know several people, including people I like and trust, who have argued that this is a wheat and tares moment and that the people who refuse to wear masks in public are apostates. I think this is crazy, and the people making these claims should be ashamed of themselves.

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The Breath of Life

Last month, as I discussed COVID with my sister who is a registered nurse, I mentioned the large number of cases without symptoms. She rolled her eyes, and replied:

All cases have symptoms.

Then she said some medical stuff I didn’t understand.

This week we were talking about our dying parent, whom so many of us have traveled to visit. Reasonably, some were concerned about whether anyone was showing symptoms of COVID. So my sister, the RN, shared about the various positive cases amongst her co-workers and the inaccuracies of the rapid tests.

Given the exposure these medical folk have to so many, the known presence of COVID in their work environment, and the inaccuracy of rapid testing, the nurses have taken to testing the one measurement they’ve seen change for all COVID patients, even those who are supposedly without symptoms:

The amount of the body’s hemoglobin that is carrying oxygen.

We all grew up taking our temperature. Many of us have been taught how to take a pulse. But few of us had a device at home to test how much oxygen was in our blood. But it turns out you can get such a device, a pulse oximeter, for less than those rapid forehand thermometers so many of us have.

Normal is in the 90s. If the reading is only 90 or even less, then your breath is not giving you sufficient oxygen. This is the symptom my sister and these other nurses find to be correlated with true positive COVID diagnoses, even when other symptoms are not (yet) present.

Knowing whether or not your ability to absorb oxygen is compromised doesn’t protect you from COVID any more than a clean STD test protects you from getting a future STD. But it can provide a level of comfort in this uncertain time where COVID infection rates are rising in so many places.

Meanwhile, I recommend taking precautions and obeying local laws, much as you might do to avoid STD infection. You are free to choose what you wish, but you are not free to reject the natural consequences of your choices.

N.B. – %SpO2 stands for peripheral capillary oxygen saturation, an estimate of the amount of oxygen in the blood. Specifically, it is the percentage of hemoglobin containing oxygen compared to the total amount of hemoglobin in the blood measured at your fingertip, detected by the pulse oximeter measuring how red your blood is at its brightest, using infrared light. It gets your pulse by detecting how often the red changes per minute. Alas, since you need infrared light for this measurement, this isn’t something a phone app can measure, since phone cameras only use visible light.

Come Follow Me: Alma 32-35

My blog on Come Follow Me: Alma 32-35.

“In this lesson, we continue the events regarding the Zoramites. As discussed before, they were probably descendants of that Zoram, who was Nephi’s friend. Due to the change in the government from a king to judges, the Zoramites found themselves with no power nor recognition in the new order. While the Mulekites, Ammonites and others maintained their own identity and power through having their own judges, the Zoramites seem to have been left out.
“They developed a religion that opposed the Nephite faith, insisting that only the Zoramites would be saved, while the Nephites, Mulekites, Ammonites, and all others would not.

“For a people who were so frustrated for being neglected, ignored, and pushed to the edge of society, they developed a government that was very oppressive to the poor.”

Read more at my blog.