Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 12 Commentary

This is part of a series examining the Tao Te Ching from a Christ-centered, LDS perspective.

Chapter 12 of the Tao Te Ching once again reminds us to focus on the basics and not get caught up in material things.

The text reads:
The five colors make one blind in the eyes
The five sounds make one deaf in the ears
The five flavors make one tasteless in the mouth 
Racing and hunting make one wild in the heart
Goods that are difficult to acquire make one cause damage 
Therefore the sages care for the stomach and not the eyes
That is why they discard the other and take this

The Senses and Deception

Image here.
The first stanza of this chapter allude to a theme common in religious texts: that the things of this earth--the sights, sounds, tastes--are illusory and can blind us to the things that are truly important.
1 Samuel 16:7 refers to this idea when it points out that while men look at external appearance, the Lord looks on the heart. Matthew 6:19-20 refers to this idea when it exhorts us to keep our focus on heavenly things instead of the things of the earth. As Matthew 1:35 points out, heaven and earth--the things of our senses--will pass away, but God's word will not pass away.

The TTC and the Bible and other Christian scripture exhort us to pass on materialism and make our focus the things of a better world (D&C 25:10).

Avoiding Goods That Are Difficult to Acquire

Chapter 12 of the Tao Te Ching recommends against seeking material goods that are hard to get--hunting for these things makes a person "wild in the heart." Wildness in the heart is not a good thing--the prophet Brigham Young taught in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1997), 204:
“The [body] must be brought in subjection to the spirit perfectly, or your bodies cannot be raised to inherit eternal life. . . . Seek diligently, until you bring all into subjection to the law of Christ.”
If we place our heart's priorities on material goods, we are evidencing that our bodies are not in subjection to our spirits.

Care For the Stomach and Not the Eyes

This reminds me of how the word of God is compared to food in both the scriptures and the temple. We are to "feast upon the words of Christ" (2 Nephi 32:3). The symbolism of the Word as food is a reminder to us that just as our body constantly needs more and more food to sustain itself, so does our spirit need constant nourishment from the scriptures and word of God.

When the sages care for the stomach and not the eyes, I like to think of them caring for both the physical and the spiritual stomach--focusing on the important jobs of keeping both the body and spirit properly nourished, rather than wasting resources like time and money on the unimportant trivialities of the flesh. The sages discard materialism and choose spiritual enlightenment instead.


Both the Tao Te Ching and Christian scriptures agree: avoid materialism and instead place your focus on the things of the spirit. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 11 Commentary

This is part of a series examining the Tao Te Ching from an LDS, Christ-centered perspective.

Chapter 11 of the Tao Te Ching is another chapter that extols the virtues of emptiness. Here it is:
Wheel with spokes. Image here

Thirty spokes join in one hub
In its emptiness, there is the function of a vehicle
Mix clay to create a container
In its emptiness, there is the function of a container
Cut open doors and windows to create a room
In its emptiness, there is the function of a room 
Therefore, that which exists is used to create benefit
That which is empty is used to create functionality

 In emptiness is function

A major point of this chapter is the idea that emptiness is functionality. A wheel is nice, but it's useful because of the hole in the middle that lets it be attached to things and used. A pot is nice, but it's useful because its emptiness can be filled. A room is a room because it is an enclosed space--the emptiness of it allows it to be useful.

This is another explanation of the concept of yin and yang. The concluding couplet of this chapter explains that the yang aspect creates benefit, and the yin aspect creates functionality.

To examine this from the masculine-feminine perspective, in a scriptural context, the chapter that comes to mind is Section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants. This special chapter is one given to Emma Smith.

In this section, Emma is counseled to empty herself. Empty herself of jealousy and skepticism of her husband (verse 4), and empty herself of desires for the things of this world (verse 10).

Emma Smith. Image here.
As she empties herself, she is eligible to receive new callings and assignments, as far as preaching and organizing the hymns. She is better able to follow the divine counsel to "delight in her husband" and support him.

Of course, men are also counseled to empty themselves of things like sin and pride and so forth, and the Tao Te Ching is clear in encouraging both men and women to adhere to the feminine aspect in this regard. Empty is important. At the same time, "existence," as this chapter calls it, is needed for benefits as well. But emptiness and existence create each other, support each other, illuminate each other.

Like in this scriptural example, as Emma empties herself, she has more opportunities for "existence," or action. As she becomes a different person (being--a yin aspect), she is able to do more (doing is a yang aspect). When she empties herself of the things that should not be there, she is given more assignments of things to do.


When we empty ourselves of the things that don't belong in us for our highest good, we become a different person who is able and expected to do more.

Therefore, that which exists is used to create benefit
That which is empty is used to create functionality

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book of Jarom and the Plan of Salvation

My scripture study this morning was in the Book of Jarom. The following few verses really stuck out to me (emphasis mine): 
Jacob and his father, Enos. Image here.
2 And as these plates are small, and as these things are writtenfor the intent of the benefit of our brethren the Lamanites, wherefore, it must needs be that I write a little; but I shall not write the things of my prophesying, nor of my revelations. For what could I write more than my fathers have written? For have not they revealed the plan of salvation? I say unto you, Yea; and this sufficeth me. 
3 Behold, it is expedient that much should be done among this people, because of the hardness of their hearts, and the deafness of their ears, and the blindness of their minds, and the stiffness of their necks; nevertheless, God is exceedingly merciful unto them, and has not as yet swept them off from the face of the land. 
4 And there are many among us who have many revelations, for they are not all stiffnecked. And as many as are not stiffnecked and have faith, have communion with the Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith. 
5 And now, behold, two hundred years had passed away, and the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land. They observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord. And they profaned not; neither did they blaspheme. And the laws of the land were exceedingly strict.

Fighting Lamanites. Image here.
The Book of Jarom and I have a really nice history. Early on in my life I was very in favor of the so-called "War on Terror" (what does that even mean, anyway?), but after a very intense study of the Book of Jarom, I changed my tune. The whole book is only one chapter, so you can also do a very intense study of the book in not a lot of time. In the chapter, we learn about the Lamanites who "loved murder and would drink the blood of beasts," and how they "came many times against us [...] to battle." Sounds like modern-day terrorists to me.

Except the "kings" and "leaders" who "were mighty men in the faith of the Lord" did not go hunting the Lamanites out of existence, and did not take the war to them, and did not invade their lands. Instead, these mighty men in God's wisdom prepared for war by "fortify[ing] [their] cities," making "weapons of war," and "diligently exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence [...] persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him."

Verse 12: "And it came to pass that by so doing they kept them from being destroyed upon the face of the land; for they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance."

Anyway, I read all of that and thought--gee whillickers! THAT is how to withstand modern day terrorism! Fortify your lands, prepare for war, and repent repent repent and keep the commandments. Bam.

But today, those first five verses really stood out to me. I feel like my life now--and probably many of your lives now--is characterized by a lot of revelation. I feel like almost every day I'm learning something new and amazing about something, whether it is a revelation about the nature of the universe, or about the human body, or about my specific life, or about the lives of my clients. I spend a lot of time now enjoying direct tutelage from the Spirit, and I love it.

So I really super love what Jarom teaches in verse 2. There he is, a man of revelation, having received lots of revelations, but when it comes right down to it, he opts against sharing the things that have been revealed to him, because they all pale in comparison to the importance of the Plan of Salvation.

This is so, so true. At the end of the day, all the other things we learn from the Spirit are minor in comparison.

Jesus the Christ. Image here.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so amazing in this regard. On the one hand, it is complex enough that you can receive spiritual downloads about it every day and still barely scratch the surface of its immense complexity. There is so much to learn about how it all works!
And yet, it is so simple that a child can understand.

One reading of the Book of Mormon, and every major question you ever had about life's purpose is answered.

One discussion of the Plan of Salvation can utterly change your life.

Just yesterday I was reading about a Holocaust survivor who had some serious questions about God after his experiences--can you imagine if he and his rabbi had understood the Plan of Salvation? What a huge relief and comfort it would have been. What peace it could have brought. From the interview:
Eisenhower liberated me in concentration camp. He came with his other general, and they saw the piles of bodies that they couldn’t burn. The Jews were on the bottom, and I was the only guy because the Czechs, they didn’t march me to death because of my Czech friends. They said you are a Czech. You’re not a Jew. Stay with us. So I was the only Jew the rabbi found. He was looking for a Jew. He said, “I’m a rabbi. Are you Jewish? I’m looking for a Jew.” I said I’m a Jew. I’m a Jew. Come over here, talk to me. So he came over and talked to me. 
I said you’re not a rabbi. You’re Jewish. You’re a soldier. He says no, I’m a soldier rabbi. So I’m asking you one question. Can you do me a favor, not for me, for my 4-year-old brother that I know now that he was burned? Where was God? Not for me, because I might have sinned. Maybe I deserved to be here, but my four-year-old boy had no sins whatsoever. He didn’t live long enough. He could have been a rabbi like you. Why didn’t God help him? 
He says I can’t answer you because I’m not prepared to answer your questions, so I started crying. I started crying because I said to him who am I going to ask? You’re the rabbi. You’ve got to help me, thinking because I believe in God, save me. So I’m not asking for myself. My brother could have been a rabbi like you. You don’t know what he would have become. God didn’t know yet because he didn’t sin yet. All of us maybe have a little sin. Whatever happened, God is a busy man. I understand that.
Reading that just broke my heart. For so many reasons, but especially because no one involved here understood the plainest part of the Gospel:

That we are God's children.
Image here

That He loves us.

That we lived with Him before our mortal birth.

That we all agreed in a Council in Heaven to come to earth to learn to be more like God.

That we understood we would be tested and tried and be given growth opportunities, opportunities for growth that couldn't have happened any other way.

That that we knew we would all fail.

That God promised He would send us a Savior, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins and enable us to repent  and heal and come home after our mortal probation.

That everything in life is for our ultimate benefit: even that hard stuff, even the indescribably hard stuff, even the stuff that seems unfair and that doesn't make sense.

That even when things seem unfair, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, everything is fair--and merciful.

Can you imagine if that rabbi had had access to that knowledge?

Or if either of them had had access to a scripture like D&C 121? Even when I was a small child, D&C 121:7 brought me so much peace. I remember being a kid and thinking of it as I struggled with physical, spiritual, and emotional health problems. What a huge comfort it was. And is.

The Plan of Salvation is the most important thing.

So I guess in keeping with my Jubilee preparedness blogging: spend some time today with the Plan of Salvation. If you've never heard of it before, read up. If you are familiar with it, spend some time feeling grateful for it, praising God for it. This is the most important thing we can know.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Life support: my story is up

A story of mine is up on Progressive Prophetess's blog. Go check it out! It's about the breath, and how my awakening began after I decided to breathe more deeply. Breath is incredible.

Instead of reading a blog entry for the next 5 minutes, I challenge you instead to just breathe intentionally for five minutes instead. Notice how you feel inside your body, breathing in light and peace and breathing out toxins and junk. Breathe in relaxation, and exhale out all the tension in your body.

Do it again.

And again.

And again.


Image here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 10 Commentary

This series examines the Tao Te Ching from an LDS, Christ-centered perspective.

Chapter 10 of the Tao Te Ching asks us to examine our steadfastness, our trust, our honor, our yin energy, and our wisdom. Here it is: 
Heavenly gate. Image here.
In holding the soul and embracing oneness
Can one be steadfast, without straying?
In concentrating the energy and reaching relaxation
Can one be like an infant?
In cleaning away the worldly view
Can one be without imperfections?
In loving the people and ruling the nation
Can one be without manipulation?
In the heavenly gate's opening and closing
Can one hold to the feminine principle?
In understanding clearly all directions
Can one be without intellectuality? 
Bearing it, rearing it
Bearing without possession
Achieving without arrogance
Raising without domination
This is called the Mystic Virtue

Six Virtues 

Here we find a list of virtues that Lao-Tzu (the writer) asks us to examine in ourselves. We are to be:
1. Steadfast in holding our soul and achieving "oneness," or, one might say, "union," the meaning of the word "yoke" in Matthew 11:29.
2. Childlike in our concentration and trust in the Lord (Luke 18:17).
3. Perfect in achieving an eternal perspective (1 Corinthians 13:11-12).
4. Guileless in love and governance (Revelation 14:5, John 1:47).
5. Submissive (feminine) with regards to God's will for us in His opening and closing of "the heavenly gate" (Mosiah 3:19).
6. Clear in our spiritual understanding without being nitpickingly intellectual (John 1:48-51).
Each of those virtues could have had like fifty scriptures linked to it, but I just picked one or two each. I had to use the story of Nathaniel twice because I love Christ's tribute to his purity and lack of guile, and I love how the story of him and fig tree portray trust. In the story, Christ comes up to Nathaniel, and praises him for having no guile. Nathaniel asks Him, basically, "Um, how do we know each other?" And Christ responds by referring to a secret, possibly sacred time when Nathaniel was alone under the fig tree. Rather than responding with suspicion ("How could you possibly know that???"), Nathaniel responds with trust: Rabbi, thou art the Son of God. Thou art the King of Israel.

In its way, this first part of Chapter 10 of the Tao Te Ching reminds me of a condensed version of Alma 5, kind of a series of guided questions for improving one's relationship with God.

Raising without domination

As a woman, I read the second part of this chapter in the context of children, bearing and raising children without domination, without arrogance, without possession. Our children are not ours; they are our stewardship. We do not possess them; we have only a brief time to teach them and raise them.

But this goes not just for children but all sorts of things. We don't truly own anything on the Earth; everything is God's, because He made it. He just loans us stuff. This was one of the points of the famous "Render Unto Caesar" speech in the Bible (Luke 20:25).

In this story, priests come up to Jesus to try and trick Him. They ask in Luke 20:22 if it is lawful for them to essentially pay taxes.

The tribute penny. Image here.
In verse 24, Christ asks the priests whose inscription is on the penny. They explain that it is Caesar's name and inscription. What the Bible leaves out is what the inscription actually says: on the penny, the denarius, it says, "Ti[berivs] Caesar Divi Avg[vsti] F[ilivs] Avgvstvs” (“Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus," claiming that Caesar is actually a god.

The question was: is paying tribute to Caesar an acknowledgment of another god? Is using this coin breaking the commandment to put no other gods before the God of Israel?

Christ's response is to "render unto Caesar's what is Caesar's, and render unto God what is God's." There have been many interpretations of this over the years, but my inclination is to accept the teaching that everything is God's--see Colossians 1:16, or even just the story of Genesis. God made the world and it and everything in it are His. We are just stewards.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn the importance of good stewardship over the things God is lending us. D&C 121:39-42 in particular cautions against unrighteous dominion, specifically in the context of priesthood leadership, but the same caution can apply to anyone.

The Tao Te Ching cautions against unrighteous dominion, against taking pride in or credit for our alleged accomplishments. All things are God's, anyway.


Chapter 10 of the Tao Te Ching echoes many sentiments from the Christian scriptures.

Friday, November 14, 2014

prepare: galvanized wash tubs

One thing I recently ordered for my preps was galvanized wash tubs and metal washboards. The pictures are links to the ones I bought.

I bought them sight-unseen, beyond what you see in the pictures, but when they arrived I was pleased at how large and sturdy they both were. I bought two of each--although now I'm thinking I should get at least two more washtubs. They will be useful also for washing dishes. They are just very sturdy things.

Once you have those things out of the way, you'll also need a laundry soap to wash your clothes with. Sometimes I make my own homemade laundry detergent, out of Borax, washing soda, and whatever grated bar soap I have on hand. I use cleaned kitty litter buckets to store my homemade laundry detergent. This is the recipe I use for homemade laundry detergent.

Having clean clothes will become a very serious issue--mostly for women (feminine hygiene may be significantly less hygienic) and children (diapers and potty accidents). Right now laundry is kind of more of an annoying chore, but if/when Things Get Bad, it can become a matter of life and death. You don't want to run out of clean pads or clean diapers. And in the case of plagues or sicknesses of whatever type, if someone barfs on you or you're stuck cleaning up after someone who is contagious, you will need both your skin and clothes washed.

Right now I've been focusing more on laundry, but getting a galvanized tub suitable for a bathtub has been on my backburner as something I might consider ordering in the future.

Any of you have laundry-related preps you are up to?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Prepare: muffin mix recipe

I started out my food storage packaging straight up flour--but then I realized, there's not much a person can do with just plain flour--particularly if you can only bring one container of stuff with you wherever you are going.

So now I am making and packaging my raw ingredients together, as biscuit mix and muffin mix. I write the ingredients on each bottle and instructions on how to mix everything up. I feel so much happier when I look at bottles of muffin mix than when I look at bottles of flour. I love that I can just pour it out and mix it up and not have to worry about finding where I put the baking powder or anything. It's all ready to go!

I try and make it as easy as possible on myself, so my recipes are based on 5lbs of flour (that way I can just pour in one whole bag of flour and get started--no measuring that, at least!


Mix together:
- 5 lbs flour (20 cups)
- 5.5 cups sugar
- 6.5 tbsp baking powder
- 2.25 tbsp baking soda
- 2.25 tbsp salt
- 3 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 3 tbsp nutmeg

I pour these all into my normal flour bucket, seal it, then toss it around in my arms for a minute or two to mix it all up. It smells SO GOOD.

In total, this recipe would require an additional 2.5 c of nonfat dry milk. All told, the recipe calls for around 26 cups of stuff, so as we divide the mix up, we remember that the ratio is about 1 part nonfat dry milk to 10 parts mix

So for a 16.9oz bottle that stores 2.25 cups of muffin mix, we need to reconstitute a quarter cup of nonfat dry milk when it's time to mix everything together, along with 1/3 cup oil/shortening/applesauce, and 3.5 tsp vanilla extract if you have it. A 16.9oz bottle will make 6 muffins.

When mixing to eat, you can obviously add things like berries or grated carrots or chopped nuts or chocolate or butterscotch chips or whatever else you want to put into your muffins. Whatever you want!

For a 2L soda bottle, those hold 8.5 cups of mix. If you were to mix the whole thing up for muffins at once, you'd want to reconstitute 5/8 cup of nonfat dry milk, and mix with 1.5 cups shortening/oil/applesauce/mashed bananas etc, along with 4 tbsp vanilla extract if you had any on hand.

A 2L bottle would make up about 25 muffins, by my reckoning.

I do not really plan to make these in muffin containers, by the way. In real life, you can just pour the muffin batter into a cake pan or Dutch oven and bake like that--it is like making a coffee cake. So, whew, no need to stock up on muffin tin liners!

I don't think the nonfat dry milk is essential to this recipe, by the way. I'll have to experiment but that's my understanding. Everything can be substituted. So we'll see.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Prepare: commandments and blessings

This was my hookum this morning (a hookum is when you let your scriptures fall open with the intention that the page opened to will be just right for you):
Women in the wilderness.
Image here.

1 And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth. And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness. 
2 And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings. 
3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.
- 1 Nephi 17:1-3 
This was just right for me.

The promise here is that if we keep the commandments, God will work incredible miracles to keep us strong and nourished. If you must live upon raw meat in the wilderness because you are keeping God's commandments, God will use it to make you strong.

If things really did Get Bad, there's no way a year of food storage would be enough. A year's supply for one person is maybe a few months' supply for a family. A family's food supply for a year would be a month or a few days for a community. But the point is obedience. By acting in faith, we show God that we are preparing our hearts to trust Him fully enough to provide for us in the wilderness.

Keep the commandments! Receive the blessings!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Follow the Spirit: learn your baseline

In the Home Healing Course I'm teaching, we spent the past week studying intuition (among other things). A bunch of people commented that they wished they'd known this one technique for their whole lives, so I'm just going to share it here in the hopes that it helps others.

The secret trick: every time I pray with a question now, I have God remind me ahead of time what yes and no feel like.

So the other night, I had this weird experience where I was supposed to go to a social event, and when I got there, I started feeling like the Holy Ghost was telling me not to go. This was basically an enrichment activity involving just a bunch of people from the ward, and so I was very confused. Why would I be told not to go to that?

So I ignored the prompting, got out of my car and headed toward the house, only to be told over and over again not to go, not to go. So I went back to my car and prayed.

Image here.
Fortunately, I had this tool in my tool belt. I prayed for God to remind me what a "yes" feels like, and I allowed myself to feel that for a few moments. Then I prayed for God to remind me what a "no" feels like, and I allowed myself to feel the difference.

Then I prayed again, asking: should I be here? (No.) Should I go home now? (Yes.)

I went ahead and phrased my questions different ways--Can I go in? Should I leave right this minute? Do I need to be at home tonight? Just testing my answers' consistency. When the answers all matched, I ended up turning the car back on and driving on home, just on faith. I wanted to go be with friends but as soon as I acted on my prompting I instantly felt better. When I got home I felt to ask my husband for a blessing, for all my confused feelings. The blessing basically was like, "Good work following the Spirit!" and that was that. So I have no idea what that all was about, but I did have a good time alone repackaging my long-term food storage and listening to Har Hari Haray Wahe Guru over and over on YouTube.

That story is just an example, though, of this principle in action. I believe I was inspired to begin asking God for these reminders of what yes and no feel like. Getting answers to prayers can be hard enough without having to guess if the feeling you're getting is a yes or a no.

So, a challenge: spend some time this week with God just learning what a "yes" and a "no" feel like. Go ahead and take it a step further, if you want, and ask what a "deceptive no" feels like--the most convincing false yes that the adversary could plant in your heart. Practice discerning the difference. Watch how much more easily you will be able to discern the yes-no answers to prayers as you live your daily life. Where it used to take me personally quite a while, sometimes, to understand if I was getting a yes or no about something, now it does not take long at all. I still ask for reminders of yes and no at the beginning of important prayers, but overall I am much more confident at knowing that when I get a feeling, I will be able to recognize it for the answer it actually is.

Yes Feeling Samples
Image here.
Talking to random people who have tried this, "Yes" feelings seem to tend to include:
- feelings of light or warmth of tingling in the lungs and face
- feelings of spiritual expansion
- feelings of energy rising in the body
- feelings of spiritual "smiling"
- open feelings in the heart area

No Feeling Samples
- feelings of being closed off
- energy sinking downward instead of upward
- tingling on different parts of the body (my guts sometimes tingle, or a friend's ears tingle)
- feelings of constriction

False Yes Feeling Samples
- dizziness
- energy moving around, but not in the same way as a yes
- different body parts tingling than you would feel in a yes or a no
Everyone Is Different

It's important to figure out for yourself what your baseline is. You might have the same yes and no feelings that I do, or you might not. I suspect it's like muscle testing. For most people, if they stand up and ask themselves what their name is, their body will sway one direction or another as an answer. But for some people, instead of swaying, their body will make, for example, the right arm tingle or lift for yes, and the left arm tingle or lift for no. That's not wrong. It's just different. There are lots of different ways a yes or a no feeling might manifest for a person, but it's up to you to discover what those manifestations look like for you.

Personal prayer. Image from
And it's so, so important to learn what a deceptive no feels like. The adversary wants us to fail when we seek answers from God. The more important the issue is that we're praying over, the more he will try and influence us falsely. If God's answer is no but the adversary's answer is yes, you need to be able to recognize what that feels like.

Similarly, you need to be able to recognize feelings of "yes" as being from God, because sometimes God tells us answers we don't want to hear. "Yes" feelings for me are not particularly comfortable. So if all I asked was a yes or no question and I got that uncomfortable sensation of yes, that buzziness in my chest, if I didn't know any better I could easily just tell myself that my answer was a no, because what would I have to compare it to? And a lot of times I think people seeking answers expect them to come in a specific way, without asking God if that specific way is appropriate for them or not.

Also, I'll mention that another thing I like to do is specifically pray that God will send me answers in a way that is unmistakeable, that I will fully understand. God will always send us answers, but there's no guarantee we'll understand them unless we ask for that understanding too!

God is not going to lead you astray with this. If you go directly to Him to get your baseline, He'll be happy to give it to you. He wants you to be able to easily discern between yes and no. I believe it's actually one of His big goals for all of His children. So I challenge you to spend some time this week practicing with this. Get on your knees and ask Him what yes and no feel like. Ask Him a question and ask Him to give you the answer in a way you won't be able to misinterpret. Notice the difference in the quality of your prayers.

Believe! Witness miracles!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 9 Commentary

This is part of a series examining the Tao Te Ching from an LDS, Christ-centered perspective.

Chapter 9 of the Tao Te Ching is about avoiding excess and withdrawing the self. 

Cup overfilled. Image here.
Holding a cup and overfilling it
Cannot be as good as stopping short
Pounding a blade and sharpening it
Cannot be kept for long 
Gold and jade fill up the room
No one is able to protect them
Wealth and position bring arrogance
And leave disasters upon oneself 
When achievement is completed, fame is attained
Withdraw oneself
This is the Tao of Heaven

Avoiding excess

The beginning of this chapter is about avoiding excess. Holding a cup in place too long will lead to it overflowing. You can only sharpen your blade for so long.

Once again, this is a suggestion to embrace the yin aspect: resting is the necessary counterpart of work. Trying to do the yang thing for too long is not just impossible (as in the case of endlessly pounding on the blade), it's unwise (as in the case of overfilling the cup).
Sharpening a blade. Image here.

The Christian scriptures teach the same thing, except in the context of the Sabbath. Both the people (Exodus 20: 8-10) and the land (Leviticus 25:4) have a Sabbath--with every period of work comes a rest.

Now, there's a rest every night: sleep counts as yin-time. But even on top of our daily rest, Christians and Jews are commanded Biblically to add in a full day out of seven to rest. In the case of the Shemitah, Jews were commanded to leave the land fallow one year out of seven, to allow the land to rest. The punishment for violation of this law was invasion and displacement from their land (Leviticus 26:34), so that their land could still enjoy her Sabbaths.

Now, the reference to the cup overflowing is an interesting one because in the Tao Te Ching it appears that an overflowing cup is a bad thing--wasteful and messy. In the Christian scriptures, a famous verse uses the same imagery to convey abundance (Psalms 23:5-6):
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Although those verses get a lot of play, cups and how full they are play other important roles in the Bible.

Mark 14:36
36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
Luke 22:20:
20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
1 Corinthians 10:21:
21 Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

Ezekiel 23:33:
33 Thou shalt be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, with the cup of astonishment and desolation, with the cup of thy sister Samaria.

Isaiah 51:22:
22 Thus saith thy Lord the Lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again:
Do a scripture search on the word "cup" and see what comes up. By and large, it seems that the references to cups in the scriptures more often refer to suffering than abundance--and stopping that suffering short seems like a good idea. I like how 1 Corinthians 10:21 explains that the cup reference can refer to both good and evil. An overflow from a good cup can mean abundance for all of one's days--but an overflow from a bad cup would never be a good thing. It is far better to stop short.

Withdraw oneself

Treasures of gold. Image here.
The other part of this chapter extols the virtue of withdrawing--or what Buddhists might refer to as giving up attachment.

No one can protect the gold and jade that fill up the room, this chapter explains; a Christian might phrase it this way (Matthew 6:19-20):
19 ¶Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 
 Chapter 9 goes on to counsel readers to avoid attachment to earthly things like wealth and position, because they only lead to pride and disasters--which completely fits with Christian teachings. Here is Proverbs 16:18:
18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
And here is a list of scriptures that use the words "puffed up," a really interesting phrase for the word "pride." This chapter of the Tao Te Ching in essence cautions against being puffed up, because it only brings disaster on the self. Christianity tends to draw the focus of those disasters on the life to come--the idea that if you sin through pride you will end up paying for it in the eternities--but the Tao Te Ching seems to focus on the disastrous effects of pride in this life.


The Tao Te Ching supports periods of rest, and encourages the reader to "withdraw oneself" as a way of uniting with the Tao of Heaven. These concepts support and are supported by Christian scripture.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Prepare: obtain copper cups

I recently read an article about the antimicrobial, antiviral nature of copper surfaces. I already knew that silver was antimicrobial, but I had no idea about copper. It looks like scientists are still not sure why copper is so effective at killing viruses. But it apparently is.

One of our preps, I decided this morning, will be to obtain one handled copper mug per person in my group. The handle will make it so the cup can easily be secured to a belt loop or backpack strap--which reminds me that I should possibly stock up on carabiners.

Copper mugs do not need to be washed--you just rinse them out and dry them. So one mug per person would be perfect. They can keep the mug on their person and use it as needed. The one downside to copper is that it would get very hot if you poured something hot into it--but I believe the antiviral properties of the cup would outweigh that problem.

Copper mugs sell for about $20/mug on Amazon. All of these pictures here are affiliate links to appropriate cups, costing between $18 and $20/cup.

You want to be sure you are getting a mug that is 100% copper. Most of the mugs I am finding have food-grade lacquer on them, but you can get that off with lemon juice or dishsoap and scrubbing. This is one reason why the mugs are not dishwasher safe--the dishwasher gets the lacquer off! In a survival situation, you would want the straight copper, unmarred by lacquer. You want your water and hands to touch the straight up copper surfaces so that the copper can work its magic and take care of pathogens on your behalf.

I'm so glad I discovered this--I'd been thinking I should get some silver, but if copper works just as well, that's way more efficient. Silver costs multiple times more than copper, so if copper gets the job done, I'm good with that!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Food storage prep

In keeping with my focus on preparedness, here's a post about what I'm doing food-wise.

If things Get Bad, I'll have me and my husband, our two kids, my parents, my mom's parents, and likely a few friends and their kids. Overall, I'm planning on having to feed 8 adults and 4 children. Seven of these people have allergies to various common food products such as wheat, nuts, dairy, tomatoes, and so forth. Up until recently I have not been super gung-ho about my food storage, but lately I've been feeling like the pressure is ON! So we are storing food.

My big project right now has been to buy flour at my local Aldi (last week it was only 89 cents for five pounds of flour--today it was $1.29 for 5 lbs flour, but still a good deal). Then I come home and repackage it into 2L soda bottles. Allegedly, the flour can store in there for several years.

Preparing the soda bottles

I prepare my soda bottles for use with water or food storage by scalding them inside and out with very hot tap water, then adding a capful of bleach for a few minutes, shaking it up with hot water, and then draining it and letting it dry completely. I use the soda bottle's cap itself as the measuring device for the bleach so it cleans the inside of the cap as well.

I don't just use two-liter bottles; I also use used water bottles and my mom's Dr. Pepper bottles. The scald and the bleach remove any odors or germs, and then you're left with a container that can safely hold and waterproof about exactly 2 cups of rice. This is a little less than a pound of rice uncooked, which is about the bare minimum of rice a person would need to eat to keep themselves alive for one day in an emergency situation.

The bottles have to be utterly, completely, absolutely and totally dry before you use them. Here is a picture of me drying some bottles with a little bit of rice.

Adding the food

I went out and got a few more funnels today to use for this purpose. I use the funnels to get rice and flour and beans and so on into the 2L soda bottles. With flour, I also use a plastic spoon to kind of help unclog the spout of the funnel. With the rice, I've found the easiest way to get it into the bottle is to fill up the funnel as it is situated on top of the bottle, then use my [very clean] hand to tap the top of the funnel. With every tap, rice shakes free and down into the bottle. It takes a little while to fill up a bottle, but to me it is worth it.

Why this is worth it to me
1. Buying fancy canned flour seems like a waste when in my heart I feel that my personal family will need the flour in closer to 3 years than 30 years. 
2. The paper bags flour comes in are no protection against vermin or the elements. 2L soda bottles can be. Particularly if you dip the cap in wax afterwards or seal it with superglue. One guy I read about online said he'd recently eaten rice he'd stored this way over 15 years ago, and after, yes, FIFTEEN long years in a two-liter soda bottle, the rice cooked up perfectly and was virtually indistinguishable from fresh store rice.  
3. A soda bottle is the perfect size for carrying, for trade and barter, and for charity. If a starving person comes to me, it will be so much nicer to be able to give them a bottle of rice than to have to scoop out a scoopful of it from a giant 6-gallon bucket or something. 
Useful numbers

A 2L soda bottle holds 8.45 cups of whatever. This equals 3.4 pounds of rice, or 2.25 pounds of flour, or 4.25 pounds of water.

A 16.9-oz bottle holds about 2.25 cups of whatever. I just filled up a few of those with rice--each little bottle is enough rice for one person to live on for one day if he or she ate nothing else.

Baking mix

I also recently (this morning) decided to stop packing just plain flour, and instead pack baking mix. 6 cups of flour to 2 tbsp baking powder and 1 tbsp salt. Then you can just pour it out and mix it with the appropriate amount of reconstituted milk to bake biscuits.

Things to store

I plan on storing flour, baking mix, homemade muffin mix, rice, beans, and sugar this way, at a minimum. Now the big deal is finding enough bottles to use...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Dollar Store prep

So, regular readers know that I am into preparedness lately. I personally am preparing for worst case scenarios right now, and so I've been trying to write a little bit more about how I'm preparing that way.

Well, one way I've been preparing is by going to the dollar store.

I know, you say: ridiculous! Well, oh well.

Here is my reasoning:

If things ever get Bad, or "SHTF," as they say, money will be worthless and even gold and silver will be useless. Brigham Young has a lot to say about this in his Journal of Discourses. On page 250 he says, "The time will come that gold will hold no comparison in value to a bushel of wheat." On page 262, President Young mentions a friend's dream:
He dreamed that there was a sack of gold and a cat placed before him, and that he had the privilege of taking which he pleased, whereupon he took the cat, and walked off with her. Why did he take the cat in preference to the gold? Because he could eat the cat, but could not eat the gold. You may see about such times before you die.
Anyway, the point is, food and commodities will trump credit, cash, and even precious metals, hands down, in the case of an economic collapse.

I have yet to publish some of my drafted work on ebola, but one important thing to note is that we don't need an epidemic to destroy our economy. All we need is enough fear of an epidemic that makes people stay indoors. Can you even imagine? If the papers publish that there are, say, twelve cases of ebola in a certain city, it won't matter if the papers are correct; people will stay home out of fear of plague. With no one going into work, and no one delivering goods, it will only be a few days before things get crazy. Most people do not even store enough food and water for three days in an emergency situation. Try a 21-day quarantine period. Money will not matter then; having food and commodities is what will matter.

So, to get back to the point: the dollar store.

When I get a few random dollar bills now, I go spend them at the dollar store. This is a list of things I buy there and why.
- Gloves of all kinds. Winter gloves for warmth; vinyl and latex gloves for cleaning and dealing with possible contagious people. 
- Shower curtains. I was required to buy these for my homebirth, to spread on the bed underneath an old sheet. Dollar store shower curtains are waterproof and could be used to line beds or other surfaces that a sick person needed to use. Also, my research is indicating that you could use a dollar store shower curtain to line homemade menstrual pads if you had to make yourself some. Overall a useful product to have around in the case of a long-term emergency. 
- Sewing kits. Obviously being able to repair clothing and other textiles will be useful. Additionally, they could make great items for trade or charity. 
- Bleach. Cleanliness will be of utmost importance if our economy ever destabilizes. Also, ebola is killed by household bleach. 
- Candles. I initially had a hard time finding a better deal than those plain white candles that they also sell with Catholic saint pictures on them. I did find a better deal eventually on Amazon: 15 Hour Unscented White Emergency Votive Candles - 144 Bulk

Those may be the biggies I stock up on there. Another thing I get when it's there is chalk, but it's not consistently available.

I also stock up on water there, for better or worse. It seems if you're going to buy gallons of water, you can expect to spend at least $1/gal. Of course, you can always reuse your soda bottles to store water, but my family doesn't drink soda, so we usually end up just buying water for our home storage.

Do any of you stock up on commodities at the dollar store? What do you get and why?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Prepare your spirit

The most important part of emergency preparedness is spiritual.

Sermon on the Mount. Public domain.
We know this from the scriptures, but I was reminded of it during my first time checking in with the energy field of the Ebola virus. When I discovered that a belief blocking immunity to Ebola was "[Survival] is worse than death," I had the most sickening feeling to my body and my spirit as I felt what it would feel like to watch everyone around you die gruesome deaths. And I remembered Revelation 9:6:
6 And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.
That is how I felt as I experienced what it feels like to live when everyone you love has died horrific deaths. I realized: dying gracefully would require a huge amount of faith, but so would survival.

If society ever does fall apart, the most important thing will be spiritual preparedness--faith that is strong enough to sustain a person no matter what. Faith to sustain a person in death, or in a life that could be more miserable than death without the hope that comes from faith in Jesus Christ.
So how does one build the kind of faith that can sustain in times of "great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21)?

The Bible Dictionary defines faith:

Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true (Heb. 11:1; Alma 32:21), and must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvation. To have faith is to have confidence in something or someone. The Lord has revealed Himself and His perfect character, possessing in their fulness all the attributes of love, knowledge, justice, mercy, unchangeableness, power, and every other needful thing, so as to enable the mind of man to place confidence in Him without reservation. Faith is kindled by hearing the testimony of those who have faith (Rom. 10:14–17). Miracles do not produce faith, but strong faith is developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ; in other words, faith comes by righteousness, although miracles often confirm one’s faith.
The entry goes on to further explain that while faith is a gift, it has to be sought after and cultured in order to grow into a strong tree.

Planting the seed

The seed can grow into a tree. Image here.
Faith is often compared to a seed, as in the metaphor above. How do we obtain a seed of faith?

As the Bible Dictionary explained, we have to "hear the testimony of those who have faith." That's why LDS congregations have "testimony meeting" once a month, where members are invited to come up and share their witnesses of Christ's divinity, along with testimonies of other gospel principles, such as charity or tithing. Hearing the testimony of another person is how the seed of faith is planted, and sharing a testimony helps it grow.
An easy way to hear the testimony of people who have real faith is to read the scriptures. The Holy Bible has been inspiring faith in millions, for hundreds of years. Reading the words of Christ as transcribed by people who had faith in Him and personally knew Him is an incredible way to build faith.

The Book of Mormon also contains the words of Jesus Christ--or at least it purports to. The book comes with a promise that is very relevant to this discussion of faith, and this promise is found in Moroni 10:3-5:

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. 
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. 
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
The scriptures. From
The promise is that if you can muster enough faith to A) read the Book of Mormon, B) remember and ponder God's mercy towards the children of men, C) ask of God to know if these things are true or not true, with a sincere heart and real intent and faith in Christ, He will manifest the truth of it to you by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, by following a very simple recipe, a very simple set of instructions, you can actually receive a divine witness as to whether or not the book is true or not.

Reading the book is an act of faith. Asking God about the truthfulness of the book with real intent--meaning, willing to change your life depending on the answer you get--is another act of faith. And then receiving the witness of truth strengthens your faith. It's like a giant cycle of faith-building.

If you don't have any faith, I recommend trying out the test. Worst case scenario, you waste five hours reading a book. Best case scenario, your faith in Jesus Christ strengthens incredibly and your life changes forever for the better.

If you already have faith in Jesus Christ but haven't read the Book of Mormon, the same goes for you: worst case scenario, you learn a little bit more about what other people believe about Jesus. Best case scenario, you feel like you understand the Gospel better than ever and feel a deeper-than-ever

Growing faith
relationship with Jesus.

Faith grows through exercise. Exercises of faith include but are not limited to:
- Daily scripture reading: exercising faith that studying God's word will benefit your life.
- Daily heartfelt prayer: exercising faith that God listens to and hears you, and cares.
- Service with a loving heart: exercising faith that God blesses those who bless His other children.
- Paying tithing: exercising faith that when we sacrifice a tenth of our material increase, God rewards us with more than what we sacrificed.
- Storing extra food and water: exercising faith that God inspired modern prophets who counseled this.
- Getting out of debt: once again exercising faith in God's prophets who have counseled this.
Bigger exercises of faith might be to turn your fertility over to God, trusting that He won't allow a pregnancy at the wrong time for you or your family, or to trust that all the things that don't make sense that pop into your mind are true. Exercising faith like this actually strengthens your faith so that you can exercise more faith.

The Bible has a great treatise on faith in Hebrews 11, and the Book of Mormon has a great one in Ether 12. The Bible Dictionary, as well as these scripture chapters, teaches that with enough faith, one can heal, command the elements, and do basically anything as long as it aligns with God's will. As Jesus said, faith as a mustard seed can move a mountain.

I don't think He was being metaphorical. Faith is the power to literally move literal mountains.


Growing faith is one of the most important things we can do to prepare for anything. Faith in an ultimately just yet loving and merciful God gives us the strength to forgive others and the world for the wrongs we suffer; it gives us the strength to let go of the outcome and trust that He has everything under control, even if we don't. Faith is what will give us the strength to die with grace or live despite horrors.  Building up a food storage or making other survival plans will be futile without a sufficient storage of faith in God and Jesus Christ that can weather the storms of anything the world has to throw at us. 

Jesus dreams picking up speed

Joel 2:28
28 ¶And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
I just read the most interesting article pertaining to this scripture.

The title of the article is, Rising Number of Muslims Reporting Dreams About Jesus. From the article:
[A]ccounts of encounters with Jesus through dreams and visions increasingly are being reported, according to Pastor Frank Costenbader, founder of Manifold Hope Ministries, publisher of the Isa Dreams website. 
Isa is an Arabic name corresponding to Jesus that is found in the Quran. 
“The number of Isa dreams has seemed to grow tremendously since 2000, and in 2005 it seems to have kicked into another gear,” Costenbader said. “There has been an explosion of testimonies on the Web in the past two years about people encountering Jesus in dreams and subsequently becoming followers of Jesus.”
 The article goes on:
The phenomenon of Muslims coming to a living faith in Jesus is happening every day. This is part of the prophecy of the prophet Joel that in the last days God will pour out his spirit upon all people – sons and daughters will prophesy, young and old men will experience dreams and visions,” Darg said. 
Darg, who is also author of the book “Miracles Among Muslims: The Jesus Visions,” says compiling a record of the visions is difficult because of how often it happens. 
Darg noted some experts say at least a quarter of all Muslim-background believers have experienced some type of supernatural dream or vision about Jesus. 
“When I share my faith with Muslims, I often ask them if they’ve had a dream or a vision about Jesus, and usually they answer positively,” she said.
I don't have super tons to say about this article, except that it seems that things are indeed ramping up for something. Just thought I'd share.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 8 Commentary

This is part of a series examining the Tao Te Ching from a Christ-centered, LDS perspective.

Chapter 8 of the Tao Te Ching is one of my favorite chapters. To me, it perfectly describes the essence of the yin, feminine aspect.

Here is the text:

Water. Public domain.
The highest goodness resembles water
Water greatly benefits myriad things without contention
It stays in places that people dislike
Therefore it is similar to the Tao
Dwelling with the right location
Feeling with great depth
Giving with great kindness
Speaking with great integrity
Governing with great administration
Handling with great capability
Moving with great timing
Because it does not contend
It is therefore beyond reproach

Benefits myriad things without contention

I love the idea that the highest goodness benefits things without contention, being even in places that people don't want to be. Are these not explicitly Christian values?

  • Matthew 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

    3 Nephi 11:29  For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. 

    Because it does not contend, it is beyond reproach.
  • To me, this chapter of the Tao Te Ching is essentially a condensed version of key parts of the Sermon on the Mount. Compare Matthew 5:39-44
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
 43 ¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
What is all this but giving with great kindness? Dwelling with the right location and feeling with great depth? 

Because it does not contend

In the context of eternal marriage, this chapter stands out to me as being particularly relevant for women as they relate to their husbands, and men as they relate to Christ (like in 1 Corinthians 11:3). This is an instruction manual on how to appropriately submit. Appropriate submission involves feeling and giving and governing and speaking, kindness and integrity and capability and administration. And as the chapter concludes, it marks itself with a notable lack of contention--which contention Christ says is of the devil (see 3 Nephi 11:29, quoted above).

The Bible teaches that wives are to submit to their husbands and that husbands are to submit to Christ. This is a brief explanation of how to do that--not necessarily instructions how, but rather an explication of the adverbs involved with the action. Godly submission, this chapter explains, is hardly "giving up" or "being less" or something--true, godly submission is full of work. It is about giving and doing and speaking and being, and all without contention. This is how a house of order can work: the only way a house can be a house of order is if someone is in charge, and someone else submits to the decisions of the guy in charge.

Enjoy this Ensign article on the responsibilities of husbands. It is very clear about the leadership role of the husband in marriage and the submissive role of the wife in marriage. 

Check out Romans 7:4 for another take on marriage and its relationship to Christ. In a symbolic way, believers become married to Christ for the purposes of bringing up spiritual fruit. Understanding the role of the submissive member of a relationship is important for both men and women, because both men and women are supposed to be perfectly subordinate to Christ. 


Chapter 8 gives a pattern for how to submit like water--and be like the "highest good." Submission and kindness without contention blesses myriad things and leaves the actor "beyond reproach."