By Study and Also By Faith

An LDS (Mormon) blog representing a search for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Rainy Days and Mondays

It is rainy today in Oklahoma. And cold. On top of that, it's Monday. On top of that, I have the flu. I've had it all weekend, but thought I was getting better last night. However, I've had a bit of a relapse, so I stayed home from work so as not to inflict my germs on my co-workers. Not to mention I don't think I could have sat up all day.

Now, as if all that weren't enough, today is my birthday. I tend to get introspective on my birthdays, thinking about all that is wrong with me and what I need to do to fix it. So with that depressingly long list staring me in the face, you can imagine what a miserable little lump I am today.

Or, rather, what a miserable little lump I would be if I weren't so optimistic. So while it is true I was in pretty bad shape earlier this morning, I am actually starting to perk up. After all, I won't be sick forever, nor will it be cold, rainy, and a Monday forever. And although I do have an awfully long list of things about me that I need to fix, I can fix them (if I just will).

I have certainly been praying my little heart out today, trying to get a handle on a lot of things. But the prayer time is comforting, too. To have a Heavenly Father who will patiently listen as I pour out my heart and mind to Him is a wondrous gift. Not only do I feel listened to and comforted, but I am starting to get an inflow of ideas and the determination to keep trying, to keep working at this life that is mine.

If there was one thing that I wish I could package and give to everyone, it would be this gift of optimism, of feeling that life is indeed worth living and the trials and afflictions are opportunities to grow and become what Heavenly Father would have me be.

I'm not up all the time, but I find that the periods of discouragement and self-pity and depression don't last very long anymore. I'm not perfect, but I can do things to improve. Hope springs eternal...!

How about some reverse birthday wishes? On my birthday, I wish all of you a lovely, wonderful day, full of joy and optimism!


Saturday, November 27, 2004

St. Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis

I started writing about Papias, an early church father, but the paper grew unwieldy as I found myself adding in other church fathers. I have now cut back to Papias only and will occasionally post some of the other comments later.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI, Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company, Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight) entry on St. Papias at New Advent :

Bishop of Hierapolis (close to Laodicea and Colossae in the valley of the Lycus in Phrygia) and Apostolic Father, called by St. Irenaeus "a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp, a man of old time". He wrote a work in five books, logion kyriakon exegesis, of which all but some fragments is lost. We learn something of the contents from the preface, part of which has been preserved by Eusebius (III, xxix):

"I will not hesitate to add also for you to my interpretations what I formerly learned with care from the Presbyters and have carefully stored in memory, giving assurance of its truth. For I did not take pleasure as the many do in those who speak much, but in those who teach what is true, nor in those who relate foreign precepts, but in those who relate the precepts which were given by the Lord to the faith and came down from the Truth itself. And also if any follower of the Presbyters happened to come, I would inquire for the sayings of the Presbyters, what Andrew said, or what Peter said, or what Philip or what Thomas or James or what John or Matthew or any other of the Lord's disciples, and for the things which other of the Lord's disciples, and for the things which Aristion and the Presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, were saying. For I considered that I should not get so much advantage from matter in books as from the voice which yet lives and remains."

I have seen Papias mentioned in a number of Early Christian histories, but only briefly. Very little remains of his writing, sadly. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have access to those five volumes?! Even if they were not considered reliable enough to become scripture, they still would likely have provided us with much information about the teachings of Jesus Christ.

From the quote of Papias’ preface above, which is from Eusebius of Caesarea’s (c.260-c.340) Church History (which can be found also at New Advent under “Fathers” where they have the writings of the Church Fathers), it certainly sounds as though Papias put in a great effort to be accurate and to write only those teachings that came from men who were close to Jesus and would have heard Him speak directly, or from men who were taught by those direct disciples. Papias states that he includes his interpretations, but since he also wrote the teachings themselves, it would have been a most useful book.

Eusebius himself apparently didn’t think too highly of Papias, because he said:

I guess he got these ideas from a misinterpretation of the apostolic accounts. For he did not understand what they said mystically & in figurative language. For he obviously was a man of very little intelligence, as one can tell judging from his sayings. Nevertheless, it was due to him that so many churchmen after him adopted a similar opinion, basing their position on the fact that he was a man of the earliest era. (Eccles. Hist. 3.39.12-13).

Nevertheless, I picture Papias as an earnest little man, trying his best to preserve the true teachings of Jesus Christ. I think that is why he has caught my attention, for although he is mentioned in the writings of Eusebius and Irenaeus and in some modern works, little is known about him and his writings overall. It is too bad that these and many other writings have been lost. Still, discoveries are occasionally made and can be studied. We get a little of what Papias wrote in Eusebius’s Church History (Ecclesiastical History).

I find myself fascinated by all the writings that were preserved and how far back they go. There is definitely a lot more to Early Christian history than I had first thought.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Thanksgiving, Family, and All Kinds of Things

We here in Oklahoma are seeing the sun for the first time in days and days. It's been rainy and we even saw a few snowflakes this morning. Our new office location is surrounded by trees and so I am able to enjoy the beautiful colors of autumn outside the windows. The colors are especially vibrant this year--red, gold, and orange mixed in with the evergreens. I am glad the weather will be nice tomorrow because it is a two-hour drive to see my brother and his family. My sister-in-law's family gathers us in for their big holiday dinners, for which I am grateful.

I have been working on a piece for my blog, but it keeps getting longer and longer! I think I may cut it into two or three parts! Or ditch it and try something else! In addition to losing control of the length, I have been unsettled by the fact that the company I work for has moved to a new location. Once I've had a little adjustment period, though, I usually enjoy changes and am refreshed by them. Meanwhile, I will post a little rambling to my blog.

It seems like the presidential election has turned my mind to politics more than usual. Even now, 3 weeks later, I notice and read political writings, whereas that is something I had paid less attention to for some years. It seems that liberal and conservative viewpoints permeate all our lives--not just the political aspects. I notice it in religion, in science, in culture. It is a good thing for people to think for themselves and to read and study and come up with all sorts of conclusions. We can pool our resources, then, and come up with some helpful ideas and solutions. There is a negative aspect to it, though. I've noticed that each side thinks itself superior in some way to the other side. The liberals think the conservatives are ignorant, uneducated, fearful, threatened. The conservatives think the liberals have lost their faith in and abandoned the old-fashioned, tried-and-true virtues and values. It is difficult to have a conversation with someone whose view is very different from your own. Still, we have to keep trying. And as a fairly intelligent, educated, and not-much-afraid-of-anything conservative, I hope we can back off the judgmental and critical conclusions we sometimes leap to. On both sides. This has really been bothering me lately (surely it has nothing to do with getting older and crankier!) as I see people implicitly and explicitly questioning the intelligence, the integrity, and everything else of those with opposing views.

That is my rant for the day. I plan to continue to read and study and think and I want everyone else to do the same. Have a wonderfully Happy Thanksgiving!! Don't forget to do some actual thanking (of family, of friends, and most of all, of God) during the course of the holiday!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Well, That's Disheartening!

I just typed an incredibly clever post for my blog and it just disappeared! As sure as I try to recreate it, the original will show up and I'll have two saying basically the same thing. So rather than have that happen, you will just have to imagine what I wrote!

Ah, computers! They are wonderful and they give us headaches--all at the same time.

One thing I did touch on in the Post That Disappeared is Alma 5 and the mighty change of heart. I love that chapter in the Book of Mormon! One can give oneself an evaluation interview by answering all the questions in that one chapter. It speaks of having the countenance of God. I think that is a wonderful thought. As we grow in the gospel and in doing good and righteous works, we will become more and more like our Heavenly Father. We will experience the mighty change of heart that signals true conversion. What a wonderful goal for ourselves!

There are so many things in the scriptures that teach us about life and what is good and what we should strive for. No matter what questions we have or what might be troubling us, we can seek the answers in the scriptures and, what is more, we can find them!

I think that the biggest stumbling block for me is applying what I learn. It is only the first step to learn the gospel. We must go on to apply it to our lives. We must do our part. We must have the faith to act. To act and not be acted upon.

I suppose that I am just as bad as my computer! I lose things--the ideas, the motivation, the determination. Still, the scriptures also talk about persistence and diligence, so that is what I will do--persist and be diligent.

I still haven't figured out how to keep from scattering myself among so many interests. I know I need to set priorities and goals, but even then, I don't want to leave anything out. The struggles of human life!

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Monday, November 08, 2004

An Early Christian

As I read Early Christian history, sometimes I wonder: What if I had been an early Christian? What if I had been there live and in person to see and hear Jesus?

What would it have felt like to be in the crowd when Jesus taught them? Would I have believed Him? Would I have even begun to understand what He was about? Would I have absorbed His words gladly, or would I have been skeptical, or even offended, as the Pharisees so often were?

What would I have thought if I had been in one of the crowds that He fed with a few loaves and fishes? What if I had seen Him heal a leper or give sight to a blind man? Would I have believed or would I have thought it was some sort of trick? What if He had healed me?

What if He had called me to follow Him? Would I have been able to leave my world as I knew it and follow indeed? Or would I have been afraid and pulled back? If I had been the rich, young man, would I have gone away sorrowfully as he did, or would I have sold all that I had and given to the poor and followed Jesus?

What would it have been like to be in the temple with Him? Or to be at the Last Supper? Or to be in Gethsemane or at Calvary? Would I have had even a glimmer of what was happening? And after--would I have believed the first reports of His resurrection? Or would I have doubted with Thomas? What would it have been like to walk the road to Emmaus with Him and listen to Him expound the scriptures? How would I have felt when I realized at last that it was Him and by the time I realized it, He was gone?

What would it have been like to have been in the Land Bountiful at the temple when He appeared to His people in the western hemisphere? Would I have touched the nail prints in His hands and feet and touched His side where the spear had entered in? Would I have bathed His feet with my tears as I realized who He was and what He had done for me? Would I have listened closely to every word He spoke, treasuring it in my heart? Would I have gazed at Him silently, with tears, when it was time for Him to go?

I wonder....

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Thursday, November 04, 2004

I Haven't Forgotten My Blog

No, really, I haven't forgotten to write here. I have just had so many ideas about so many things tossing around in my head that I have become immobilized!

The election is over--thank goodness! I appreciate John Kerry's gracious concession rather than dragging it out. I do hope that we will all continue to keep informed of the issues and watch the events unfold. The more informed the populace, the better. And we are free to contact our representatives at any time to inform them of our views. How many of us do that? I know I haven't. And let the leaders of your political party know what ideas you have for improvement--they need feedback, too.

Aside from politics, from which I am ready to take at least a brief vacation, I have been continuing to read Early Christian history. I have had some questions in mind as I read. For example, did Greek philosophy cause the apostasy or did it come into play later? Why did the church oppose translating the scriptures into the common languages so that people could read them for themselves? Why was the Mass in Latin, which few people understood well, if at all? How many different types of Christianity were there and what did they stand for? What events led to the Reformation?

I also continue my study in medieval history. It is so easy to characterize that entire period as the Dark Ages, but, in fact, there was a lot going on. I like to try to follow the various political upheavals and migrations and what they meant for the ordinary person. I am interested in finding out how information was disseminated in the face of widespread illiteracy. In what areas were discoveries and inventions made? Agriculture? Education? Mechanics? I also like to ponder what led to the Reformation and the Renaissance. When did global exploration get started? When and how did the universities get started and what did they study there?

I have some general answers to many of my questions. After all, I did go to school! But I am looking for more detail and more precision. I am wanting to fit the pieces of the puzzle into the whole more than I have in the past. I think that as I get older I see more of the big picture and wonder more about it.

There are a couple of things that frustrate me in my quest for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. First, that darn daily life keeps intruding! I have to go to work. I have to clean house. I have to do the laundry. I want to be Samantha from Bewitched and be able to twitch my nose (lips, actually--have you ever watched her?) and have it all done instantly! The second thing is that I am interested in way too many things. I enjoy working with the computer. I want to develop my writing. I want to learn languages. I want to improve my grasp of math and science and philosophy. Then, to top it off, there is my beloved history. Oh, and piano. And chess. And....

And I haven't even mentioned the gospel--living it and learning it! So that means I have to greatly improve my time management and prioritization. And money management. And health, as some of my earlier posts alluded to. And then there's remaining alert and aware where politics and current events are concerned. Those things become projects in and of themselves.

I really am pleased to be a person with so many interests, but it does present problems. So I continue to plug away at it all and hope that some of my musings here are of occasional interest to some of you. And if anyone has solved the problem of having time for all these things, please, I beg of you, let me know!

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