Sunday, October 25, 2009

The smell of paper and change

If I lived 100 years ago (or 200, or 300, or 400. Take your pick.) I would have wanted to work at a printing press. The crisp, musty smell of new paper, the thick, honest blackness of home-made ink, and the sounds of the press hard at work have an unmatched romance for me. I could get lost for hours in the methodical organization of setting type, and would grow strong pulling the levers of the press and inking the machinery. But most of all, I'd be in it for the feeling that my work mattered. I'd be helping spread new ideas and bringing the world together in a community of readers. I remember learning in elementary school about the lives of children my age in earlier centuries. I was shocked to hear that young boys had to choose their trade young, sometimes as early as 9 or 10. "How can you decide your life's work that early?" I wondered. Famously indecisive, I spent most of last semester worrying about what I would major in, and now that I've declared, I still have freak-out moments where I question my decision. But now I know: if I lived "way back then," (whenever that was) I would choose printing as my occupation. Hands down.

At the Crandall Printing Museum last week, I learned about two admirable printers: Johannes Gutenberg and Benjamin Franklin. Gutenberg, the inventor of the movable type printing press, spent 20 years perfecting his creation: experimenting with ink recipes, inventing a hand mold for casting type, and creating the machinery. I really admire his persistence and dedication to making the printed word more accessible. His efforts enabled the widespread printing of the Bible, bringing the word of God to more of the world. Further, he revolutionized the way people communicate and share ideas by making books more accessible.

Benjamin Franklin was a man of many occupations: inventor, philosopher, postmaster general, writer, and politician. But, as I learned from the good folks at the Crandall museum, our old friend Ben considered himself first and foremost a printer. As proprietor of the "Pennsylvania Gazette," he used the written word to spark thoughts of revolution, and encouraged the use of the printed word as a weapon for freedom. An epitaph he wrote for himself at 22 read:
The body of
B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.

I guess knowing that one of my heroes of American history shared my love for the written word just excites me and makes me feel a little more connected to the past.

And that's what the printed word does, isn't it? Connecting past generations to future, culture to culture, across time, nationality, race, class, and gender? We would be nowhere without this integral aspect of our culture and society. Thank you Gutenberg, Franklin, and all other unsung heroes of printing's history.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Away in a Manger (New Testament Blog Post)

So, about two weeks ago, I walked into my apartment to Michael Buble singing "Let it Snow," followed by Christmas song after Christmas song. For my roommates, the Christmas season evidently starts at the beginning of October. This irritated me at first, but as I've thought about it, I realized, why confine the joy we feel at our Savior's birth to one month of the year? We owe Him gratitude and praise every day of the year, not just during December. So along those lines, here is my blog post for today.

Looking at the two birth narratives in the New Testament (Matthew and Luke), I found it interesting that neither narrative contains “the whole story” as we commonly hear it. The main elements of our Nativity story seem to be split fairly evenly between these two books. Matthew starts with Mary becoming pregnant by the Holy Ghost, (1:18) and Joseph’s reaction to this. I really admire Joseph’s behavior in this story. First, when Joseph discovers his fiancée is pregnant, instead of making “a publick example”, he determines to “put her away privily” (Matthew 1:19) so that her life and reputation won’t be completely shattered. Then, when the Lord’s angel tells him of Jesus’ parentage and commands him to wed Mary, he immediately obeys, disregarding any personal cost to himself.

Next Matthew tells the story of the wise men. In Matthew 2, the Wise Men come to Herod and ask, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:3). Herod sends them to Bethlehem, where they find Jesus and his mother, bringing the famous gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, (Matthew 2:11). The Lord warns them not to return to Herod, and tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to save Christ from Herod’s slaughter.

Luke’s birth narrative describes the births of both Jesus and John the Baptist, alternating descriptions of each. Luke shows Gabriel’s announcement to Zacharias and then to Mary, demonstrating Zacharias’ unbelief and Mary’s strong faith. He shows the visit of Mary and Elizabeth, when Elizabeth declares the holiness of Mary’s unborn child and Mary praises the Lord for her blessings (Luke 1). Then, Luke tells of John’s birth, and his naming. In Luke 2, we read the famous Nativity story: Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem for their taxes, but since there is “no room for them in the inn,” (Luke 2:7), they stay in a stable, where Mary gives birth. The angels announce this glorious news to shepherds, who come “with haste” to worship their newly born Savior” (Luke 2:16).

To me, Matthew’s account seems to focus mostly on Christ’s kingly and Davidic origins and His role as King of the Jews, especially the story of the Magi and Herod. Luke’s account seems to center mostly around Mary and her reaction to the birth, as well as the reaction of common people (the shepherds, Simeon, Anna). However, both narratives assert the divinity of Jesus Christ. Matthew quotes Gabriel as saying, “He shall save the people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Luke records Simeon’s words, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32). Though Matthew and Luke emphasize different events in their respective narratives, both make it clear that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.

Playing is its own reward

A wise friend told me this story last week. It really helped me put a few things in perspective.

Once there was a clever old man who lived in a suburban neighborhood. One day, this old man was in his sumptuous study, trying to take a nap, when the sounds of children playing on his front lawn woke him. This had been a recurring problem, and the old man decided to put a stop to it. Now, an ordinary ornery old man would have run out waving his cane and chased the kids off his property, but this ornery old man was clever. He stepped out his door, identified the ringleader, and said to him, "Oh, you children. The sound of your playing brings me such joy. If I pay you each a dollar, will you come back and play on my lawn tomorrow, just as loudly as you are today?" The boy agreed, and the children all came and played on his lawn the next day. Every day that week the children came and played on the old man's lawn, and every day he paid them each a dollar. However, when the next week came, he only gave each child 50 cents. The children came and played, but their fun became less boisterous. Over the next week the old man gradually paid them less and less, until one day, the children complained. "We're playing as hard as we can," said the ringleader, "and all you can give us is 5 cents a day?"
"I'm sorry," said the old man, "I'm only a poor old man. That is all I can afford."
"Well, then this isn't worth our time," said the boy, as he led his gang of children away from the house."
And the old man never had a nap interrupted again.

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Testament Post

Who was Luke?
Luke was the author of the Gospel According to Luke and the Book of Acts. The Gospel of Luke chronicles events in the life of Jesus: his birth, ministry, miracles, teachings, death, Atonement, and Resurrection, and contains valuable information not found in the other Gospels. It is from Luke that we gain the most detailed account of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth and childhood. Without Luke, we wouldn’t have the story of the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, the birth of the Savior in a humble stable, or the announcement of Christ’s birth to the shepherds. Luke tells us about of Jesus as a 12 year-old boy, “going about his Father’s business” by teaching the doctors in the temple (Luke 2). Additionally, Luke’s gospel has more of a focus than the other gospels on Christ’s interactions with His female followers, such as the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Acts, a continuation of the Gospel, chronicles the events of the early Church after Jesus' Ascension. This book mostly chronicles the teachings and travels of the Apostle Paul.
In Colossians 4:14, we learn that Luke was a physician. This could explain his interest in Jesus' healings. Also, it would explain the thoroughness and historical focus of his Gospel. Luke clearly interviewed several sources, including some from Jesus' immediate family, from which we gain intimate details about Jesus' life, especially His early childhood. As Dr. Holzapfel pointed out in class, doctors tend to be interested in cause and effect, in the history behind a medical event. So as a physician, Luke would be drawn to researching the history behind Jesus' life.
Luke was one of Paul's traveling companions. He traveled with Paul to Macedonia (Acts 16:10), Ephesus, and Caesarea (Acts 20). He pleaded with Paul not to return to Jerusalem, where he would surely be arrested and killed, but, in hearing Paul's testimony, demonstrated his faith by saying, "The will of the Lord be done" (Acts 21:14). He followed Paul to Jerusalem, where Paul was tried, persecuted and arrested (Acts 21). He then accompanied Paul to Rome (Acts 27) to appeal to Caesar. On the way, Paul, Luke, and their companions were shipwrecked for weeks. (Acts 27) before finally reaching Rome. Luke was Paul's sole companion for at least part of his second imprisonment (2 Timothy 4:11), possibly until Paul’s martyrdom.
I think, however, that the most important description we can give Luke is the one that He gives himself. In the Joseph Smith Translation of Luke 1:1, Luke says, “I am a messenger of Jesus Christ.” Luke’s purpose in writing His gospel was to testify of Christ, that those who read, “mightiest know the certainty of those things” (Luke 1:3). A true disciple of Jesus Christ, Luke testified of His birth, ministry, Atonement, and Resurrection, bringing others to the Savior that they might have eternal life. I am so very grateful for his testimony and the additional insight it gives me into the life of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I'm not waiting for my ship to come in, I'd just like the bus to be on time.

I'm about to do something revolutionary. I'm going to write a blog post that isn't for my New Testament class. I don't think that anyone really reads this blog, but if you do, listen up kids because this is big news. Well....not really. I just wanted to share some thoughts.
The other day, I was returning from the grocery store. I started for the bus stop carrying my heavy bags of nutritious goodness when I glimpsed, waiting at the stop light, THE BUS! My bus! I started running, but my human legs couldn't keep up, and the bus had soon paused at my stop, and carried on without me. Disappointed, I made my way to the bus stop, groceries in tow, and sat on the bench, only to have the sprinklers turn on. I jumped out of the way and found a place to stand where my groceries wouldn't get wet. As time passed by, doubts crept into my head, "Maybe...the bus isn't coming? No, of course not, the bus always comes. It's just in...BYU game traffic. Oh my gosh, maybe the bus doesn't run on game days. Maybe I should walk home. Maybe...maybe...maybe." I checked the schedule compulsively, wondering if it really had the right times on it. Soon a family showed up to wait at the bus stop, which gave me hope that the bus was coming. After a 45 minute wait, my heart leapt with joy as I saw the bus round the corner, and I could finally set down my grocery bags and settle into a bus seat.
We all spend a lot of life waiting: waiting for love, for our paycheck, for job applications to process, and waiting for answers. Sometimes answers take longer to come than expected. You wait, and wait, and then you start thinking, "Maybe there's not an answer this time. But there's always been an answer in the past...but..maybe...maybe I made that up. Maybe I can't know." Sometimes you see other people getting their answers and you're left waiting and wondering if you've missed your chance. Sometimes, you get drenched by the sprinklers while you wait, as problems with friends, family, school or health bombard you. Sometimes the schedule that you have in your hand doesn't match the one the Bus Driver has. But we can take courage in knowing that, no matter the timing, the bus always shows up eventually, and answers to prayers always do come. We can take hope as we see that other people are waiting for the same answers that we are. And when the bus finally rounds the corner, and we can set down our burdens and rest in the peace of the Lord, the wait will make the final outcome so much the sweeter.
Keep waiting. The bus always comes.

Mark's account of Jesus' death, 600 words or less.

Mark begins His account of Jesus’ death in chapter 14, with the woman who came and anointed His head with spikenard. When the disciples rebuked her for this apparent “waste” of money, Jesus defended her, saying “She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of a memorial of her.” (Mark 14:8-9). This woman understood that Jesus would not long be with them, and chose to honor Him.
That night, Jesus met with the Twelve for what is now known as the Last Supper. At this Passover meal, Jesus predicted His betrayal by Judas (Mark 14:18), His impending death, (Mark 14:23), and the unfaithfulness of the Twelve (Mark 14:27). He instituted the ordinance of the sacrament, introducing it as “the blood of the new testament, which is shed for many,” (Mark 14:24), speaking of the new covenant to come with His death and Resurrection.
Then, Jesus walked with His disciples to Gethsemane, telling them to wait, while He prayed. He took with Him only Peter, James and John and, in Mark’s words, “began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy.” (Mark 14:33) He left His disciples and went on further, completely alone, saying “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death.” (Mark 14:34) He went forth, falling on the ground and praying, “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” Returning, He found the three disciples sleeping, and, after rebuking them, told them to watch and pray. He left twice more, praying the same words, and both times, returning to find them asleep. Following Christ’s sufferings came His betrayal by one of the Twelve, Judas Iscariot, who with a kiss turned on His Lord and Master. As the multitude came to lead Jesus away, all His disciples “forsook Him, and fled,” leaving Him alone to face the ordeal that would follow. He was taken to the high priest and questioned, answering nothing except to declare His divinity. Later, Peter denied knowing Christ 3 times, in accordance with the Savior’s prophesy.
After being questioned by the chief priest, Christ was carried to Pilate, and again answered nothing to his questions, save to declare that He was the King of the Jews. Though Pilate found no fault with Jesus, he went with the crowd’s wishes, releasing Barabbas and sending Jesus to be crucified. Soldiers mocked Him, smiting and spitting on Him. Finally they took Him to Golgotha, where He was crucified between two thieves, with the superscription “The King of the Jews.” The scribes mocked Him, saying “He saved others; himself He cannot save” (Mark 15:30). At the ninth hour, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and then shortly after died. He was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
When the Sabbath ended, several women came to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ. They saw two angels there, who told them that Christ was risen and to tell the disciples. Soon after, Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, and two disciples that He walked and talked with. He appeared to the Twelve, saying “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).
Jesus lived. He died for us all. And He lives again.