Saturday, December 31, 2011

Return Strong

The fireworks fired. The odd half-moon shone down like a large light bulb, then quickly hid behind misty clouds. Folks in the complex hollered. Some lady screamed a bit.

My bemused thoughts considered the celebration of time passing: an arbitrary point that has been reset and recalibrated throughout recorded history; an excuse for a party; a time for loving kisses; a moment to consider the past and ponder the future.

Musings mused, I returned to the task at hand, perusing old compilations of New England family history records. I click the link to the Griswolds. Yup, that's one of my lines. I follow the line towards me and come across an unfamiliar name: Azubah Griswold. She married John Warham Strong. Their descendants merge with the Burrs, Hungerfords and Warners eventually arriving in Utah, settling in Millard County.

Funny thing: I have Azubah's ancestry sketched out (when did I harvest that info?), but nothing for John Warham Strong. Seems a unique enough name to find something about, so I ask her to google him. The first listing is for a John Warham Strong who settled in Detroit in 1832. Too far down the line. My guy is born in the early 1700's. So we look on.

Next record, John and Azubah with their kids and record of their parents. Hers are the same as the names listed in my database. His? Return Strong, son of Return Strong, son of Elder John Strong. I already had both Returns in my database, so a couple of keystrokes later, I have connected John W. with his father and mother, Elizabeth Burrell.

Timing is everything. Half of a miracle is it's timing.

The Hebrew word for Return is Shuv (shuhb, shub), which is also the word for repent. A new name for a new year. A charge and a challenge to me. More sets of grandparents, turning their heart my way as I turn mine towards them.

Marvelous thoughts to start the next time period with.

Mazel Tov.

Monday, October 17, 2011


It's only money.

The words reverberate in my head as the repair shop technician lists the possibilities, the least of which is a 5-700 dollar fix, the most of which is replacing the engine or buying another means of transportation.

Only Money!

At best, the lubricant that smooths our interaction in a complex society. At worst, desire for more than enough is the root of ALL evil. All is pretty inclusive.

Through it all, the inconclusive testing, the waiting, the discussions with the tech, the subsequent discussions with her, the Spirit is burning.




It's okay.

He's mindful of you.

They Love You!

So I won't worry. I trust my Lord. I'll spend more money that banksters made plastically available to me by contract years ago. I'll pay it off as fast as I can, paying the expected usury fees along the way.

Things teeter economically. Not just for me.

The Occupiers are gaining a broad following. Their message is very similar to the Red Revolution back when. Hate and anger aren't the way to work things through, but still the Spirit whispers.


It's okay.

Things are going the way they are supposed to.

Be aware.

Set your house in order.


I expect and pray for the prophesied servants to arrive and begin the cleansing. Because it's all out of order. Not just my car. All of it. Every organization, from top to bottom, from bow to tail light, left and right, in and out. Governments, economies, religions, churches, families. All of it. Out of order. Corrupted. Filthy.

Everyone, to one extent or another, knows it. We all feel it. Many are tired of feeling it. Hence the growing popularity of the Occupy movement. My job is to know where I can reach out. Which ark is mine to steady. Which pretty much means, me and mine.

I will be an active, opinionated witness until I am told otherwise.

Meanwhile I will work on my own receiver. Ensure all connections are secure and clear. Attend to those around me. Make sure that my home is fit and clean. Become a hollow bone. And stand ready.

Eventually it will be my turn to move.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Nail of the Tent

Stories from the life of Abraham, our father:
Jasher 21:22-48
  1. And in some time after, Abraham said to Sarah his wife, I will go and see my son Ishmael, for I have a desire to see him, for I have not seen him for a long time.
  2. And Abraham rode upon one of his camels to the wilderness to seek his son Ishmael, for he heard that he was dwelling in a tent in the wilderness with all belonging to him.
  3. And Abraham went to the wilderness, and he reached the tent of Ishmael about noon, and he asked after Ishmael, and he found the wife of Ishmael sitting in the tent with her children, and Ishmael her husband and his mother were not with them.
  4. And Abraham asked the wife of Ishmael, saying, Where has Ishmael gone? and she said, He has gone to the field to hunt, and Abraham was still mounted upon the camel, for he would not get off to the ground as he had sworn to his wife Sarah that he would not get off from the camel.
  5. And Abraham said to Ishmael's wife, My daughter, give me a little water that I may drink, for I am fatigued from the journey.
  6. And Ishmael's wife answered and said to Abraham, We have neither water nor bread, and she continued sitting in the tent and did not notice Abraham, neither did she ask him who he was.
  7. But she was beating her children in the tent, and she was cursing them, and she also cursed her husband Ishmael and reproached him, and Abraham heard the words of Ishmael's wife to her children, and he was very angry and displeased.
  8. And Abraham called to the woman to come out to him from the tent, and the woman came and stood opposite to Abraham, for Abraham was still mounted upon the camel.
  9. And Abraham said to Ishmael's wife, When thy husband Ishmael returneth home say these words to him,
  10. A very old man from the land of the Philistines came hither to seek thee, and thus was his appearance and figure; I did not ask him who he was, and seeing thou wast not here he spoke unto me and said, When Ishmael thy husband returneth tell him thus did this man say, When thou comest home put away this nail of the tent which thou hast placed here, and place another nail in its stead.
  11. And Abraham finished his instructions to the woman, and he turned and went off on the camel homeward.
  12. And after that Ishmael came from the chase he and his mother, and returned to the tent, and his wife spoke these words to him,
  13. A very old man from the land of the Philistines came to seek thee, and thus was his appearance and figure; I did not ask him who he was, and seeing thou wast not at home he said to me, When thy husband cometh home tell him, thus saith the old man, Put away the nail of the tent which thou hast placed here and place another nail in its stead.
  14. And Ishmael heard the words of his wife, and he knew that it was his father, and that his wife did not honor him.
  15. And Ishmael understood his father's words that he had spoken to his wife, and Ishmael hearkened to the voice of his father, and Ishmael cast off that woman and she went away.
  16. And Ishmael afterward went to the land of Canaan, and he took another wife and he brought her to his tent to the place where he then dwelt.
  17. And at the end of three years Abraham said, I will go again and see Ishmael my son, for I have not seen him for a long time.
  18. And he rode upon his camel and went to the wilderness, and he reached the tent of Ishmael about noon.
  19. And he asked after Ishmael, and his wife came out of the tent and she said, He is not here my lord, for he has gone to hunt in the fields, and to feed the camels, and the woman said to Abraham, Turn in my lord into the tent, and eat a morsel of bread, for thy soul must be wearied on account of the journey.
  20. And Abraham said to her, I will not stop for I am in haste to continue my journey, but give me a little water to drink, for I have thirst; and the woman hastened and ran into the tent and she brought out water and bread to Abraham, which she placed before him and she urged him to eat, and he ate and drank and his heart was comforted and he blessed his son Ishmael.
  21. And he finished his meal and he blessed the Lord, and he said to Ishmael's wife, When Ishmael cometh home say these words to him,
  22. A very old man from the land of the Philistines came hither and asked after thee, and thou wast not here; and I brought him out bread and water and he ate and drank and his heart was comforted.
  23. And he spoke these words to me: When Ishmael thy husband cometh home, say unto him, The nail of the tent which thou hast is very good, do not put it away from the tent.
  24. And Abraham finished commanding the woman, and he rode off to his home to the land of the Philistines; and when Ishmael came to his tent his wife went forth to meet him with joy and a cheerful heart.
  25. And she said to him, An old man came here from the land of the Philistines and thus was his appearance, and he asked after thee and thou wast not here, so I brought out bread and water, and he ate and drank and his heart was comforted.
  26. And he spoke these words to me, When Ishmael thy husband cometh home say to him, The nail of the tent which thou hast is very good, do not put it away from the tent.
  27. And Ishmael knew that it was his father, and that his wife had honored him, and the Lord blessed Ishmael.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Joseph in Egypt

For the past several months my daughter has worked on the tech crew for a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. For some reason, the church-goers whom she works with are rather unfamiliar with the story of Joseph ben Israel. They regularly expressed surprise when she would tell them "more of the story". One co-worker, a student of history and member of the church my daughter attends, stated that there is no record of Israel in Egypt and that the Bible is myth, or words to that effect.

At about the time that the production was beginning, I happened to have been re-reading books to tie up genealogical threads, and two of them happened to discuss the same things: the Israel Stella and Joseph in Egypt. I let my daughter know of the things that my extra-biblical studies had uncovered. She asked that I send her a summary of my findings. I finally responded on September 7th. I include my response here for review:

The Merneptah Stele was discovered in 1896 by Flinders Petrie in Thebes. It includes the earliest known reference to Israel as a people (ca. 1210 BC) and the only reference to Israel in Egyptian collections. As such it is highly controversial and usually dismissed by revisionists. The wikipedia article presents a fairly balanced look at the Stela. It is also known as the Israel Stela and is located in the Cairo Museum.

Where I first learned about the Stela was in a 1996 book by Dr. Lyman Platt, The World Book of Generations (attachment WBG1.jpg). It is also discussed in Laurence Gardner (1943-2010), in his 1999 publication, Genesis of the Grail Kings (attachment GGK.jpg). Laurence Gardner has generally been dismissed as a conspiracy theorist and proponent of pseudo history.

Both of these books reference the works of Ahmed Osman (1934-):
  • Stranger in the Valley of the Kings, 1987
  • Moses - Pharaoh of Egypt, 1990
  • The House of the Messiah, 1992
The World Book of Generations quotes Osman extensively in its discussion of Joseph and Moses. Osman has a Master's degree in Egyptology and follows the thesis presented by Sigmund Freud in Moses and Monotheism, that Moses was also know as Pharaoh Akhenaten. Genesis of the Grail Kings also devotes two chapters to the discussion of Joseph and Moses, relying on Osman's works for their outline.

It is proposed in the above listed works that Joseph, son of Jacob (Israel) was known in Egypt as Yuya, Vizier of Egypt under two pharaohs (Tutmosis IV and Amenhotep III), father-in-law of Amenhotep III, grandfather of Akhenaten, father of Pharoah Aye, great-grandfather of Tutankhamun.

Because you are currently involved in the production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I include the following excerpt from Stranger in the Valley of the Kings:
Although the tomb of Yuya and Tuya [Yuya's wife] was the most complete one to be found before that of Tutankhamun, nobody thought that Yuya personally was of any great importance. Davis wrote his account of the discovery, with an introduction by Maspero, in 1907: Naville published his study of Yuya's Book of the Dead a year later. Nothing much has been done since, other than some studies of different pieces of the funerary furniture and its texts. Yet in the case of Yuya there are enough curious facets to make it surprising that his origins were not the subject of more detailed investigation, either at the time or in the intervening eighty years.

... he is the only person we know from the time of the Hyksos kings onward to bear the title it ntr n nb tawi - the holy father of the Lord of the Two Lands (Pharaoh), the same title claimed by Joseph - and, although not apparently of Royal blood, he was buried in the Valley of the Kings rather than in the Valley of the Nobles, close to the village of Sheikh Abdel Korna. Furthermore, unlike the tombs of other nobles, Yuya's was neither decorated nor inscribed; his name, found on his sarcophagus, the three coffins and other pieces of funerary furniture, is not Egyptian and had not been discovered in Egypt before that time; unlike the ears of most Royal mummies of the New Kingdom, Yuya's were not pierced, and the position of his hands, the palms facing his neck under the chin, is different from the usual Osiris form in which the dead man's hands are crossed over his chest. Yuya, as far as is known, is the only Egyptian mummy to have been found with his hands in this position.

Yuya bore an impressive list of titles in addition to 'the holy father of the Lord of the Two Lands':

Father of the God, or Holy Father (This was a common priestly title which might be said to correspond to the 'Father' of the Roman Catholic Church and the High Church of England or the 'Padre' of the armed forces),
Master of the Horse,
Deputy of His Majesty in the Chariotry,
Bearer of the ring of the King of Lower Egypt,
Seal-bearer of the King of Lower Egypt,
Hereditary Noble and Count,
Overseer of the Cattle of Min, Lord of Akhmin,
Overseer of the Cattle of Amun,
Favourite of the Good God (Pharaoh),
Confidant of the King,
Confidant of the Good God,
Mouth of the King of Upper Egypt,
Ears of the King of Lower Egypt,
Prophet of the God Min,
Sole Friend (Unique Friend),
First of the Friends,
Great Prince,
Great of Love,
Plentiful of Favours in the House of the King,
Plentiful of Favours under his Lord,
Enduring of Love under his Lord,
Beloved of the King of Upper Egypt,
Beloved of the Lord of the Two Lands,
Beloved of God,
Possessor of Favour under the Lord of the Two Lands,
Praised of the Good God,
Praised of his God,
Praised of his Lord,
Praised of his Lord Amun,
Praised of the King,
Praised of the Lord of the Two Lands,
Praised One who came forth from the Body Praised,
One made rich by the King of Lower Egypt,
One made great by the King of Lower Egypt,
One made great by the Lord who does things,
First among the King's Companions,
The Wise One,
He whom the King made Great and Wise, whom the King has made his Double.

Unlike his wife, Tuya, who had conventional Egyptian looks, Yuya was remarkably foreign in appearance, as Arthur Wigall recorded in his book The Life and Times of Akhenanten, published in 1910: 'He was a person of commanding presence, whose powerful character showed itself in his face. One must picture him now as a tall man, with a fine shock of white hair; a great hooked nose like that of a Syrian; full, strong lips; and a prominent, determined jaw.'
There follows a wonderful discussion of the name Yuya and its relationship to the name Joseph. I won't take the time to copy that now. I find the whole intriguing. If Yuya wasn't Joseph, Yuya did "become a star" as the cast at Hale Centre so ably sings every night.

If you need anything more, holler!



The day after I sent that message to my daughter, I took the day off to attend the funeral of a good friend. After the funeral and a wonderful lunch with my wife and another good friend, my wife spotted a new location of a used book store. We stopped in to see if there was anything of interest.

To my surprise, I found a work by John Romer, Valley of the Kings, which is a history of the archaeological findings in said valley. I flipped the pages to the table of contents and saw there was a chapter describing the discovery of the tomb of Yuya and Tuya. When I turned to that section, I was astounded to find the following pictures on page 201:

Here, to my delight, are pictures of my 3,000 year-old ancestors! The fact that Yuya looks like a New England farmer is only icing on the cake.

For years I have wondered about these two. Their love story has intrigued me. How did a prophet of the Lord find a woman willing to join him and forsake the teachings of her fathers? The spirit whispers that Joseph and Asenath really are my ancestors.

My database is just about to the point where I can link directly to them. I imagine that they'll be roughly 120 generations from me. I've recently brought my studies to the point that I am adding genealogical data from the biblical source. It is my opinion that a very large majority of people alive today share the blood of these two people, part of the blessing of the their ancestor, Abraham.

This episode humbles me. The synchronicity thrills me.

The work, wading through disinformation, separating the wheat from the chaff, is paying off. Still, questions remain. When any genealogical question is answered, at least three more are raised, so questions are okay. They point the way to further study.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


As I was putting on my suit coat to leave for church this morning, loud, obnoxious crow calls joined the peaceful chirping of the small birds around the apartment complex.

I bid her farewell (she was glad to see me go, too - I'd interrupted her genealogical train of thought...), walked down the stairs and onto the front walk. Two huge crows swept over my shoulder about 15 feet up. They flew ahead, crossing to my left, cawing all the while, their calls slicing sharply through the normally peaceful morning.

Stopping on the sidewalk, I looked back up toward my apartment. To my surprise, I saw two more enormous birds sitting on one of the chimneys above my front window. They began calling to the other two, who soon returned, settling, with some seating disagreement, on a chimney above the neighbor's apartment. One of the birds was chased off for a bit, perhaps his breath disagreed with the others...

Pondering a bit if there were any symbolism, hidden message or meaning in the unexpected Sabbath visit by those noisome dark birds, I continued on my way. Stephen King's The Stand came to mind, with it's use of the crow representing the evil antagonist, as well as the well-documented Paiute belief that visits by owls generally portend imminent death. Thankfully, neither thought seemed to fit the morning's activities. I walked through the complex and out the back gate, the loud calls clearly audible, but fading as I proceeded.

A little more than a quarter-mile later, the crow calls suddenly became louder. A crow flew over me again, proceeding East-northeast as he voiced his unintelligible opinion. Shortly, he was followed by a noisy companion, traveling to an unknown destination.

My eyes followed their flight, and again my thoughts turned inward, looking for further meaning, at the same time wondering how long she would have any not-so-peaceful sentinels perched above her on the chimney.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Variant Readings

As I neared the end of the Book of Mormon, I took things slower than normal this time. I usually zoom through Moroni's scrapbook, rushing through the officially recorded ordinances, the letters and his challenge, most often finishing the whole book in an hour or less, reading time.

This time, I paused between chapters. Sometimes for a day or more before going on. I savored the change in tone between the frenetic Moroni who had just started his final project after the trauma of the death of his father and destruction of his nation, and the wise, determined, quiet Moroni who was filling the remaining space on the plates with the things he thought of greatest import.

He started tentatively, with short pieces after his introduction: adding a new quote of the Savior's words, recorded when he set his disciples apart. Ordinances, faithfully transmitted so there would be no further dispute.

When he saw that he still had space left over, he began including longer pieces: the transcript of a sermon his father preached; carefully preserved letters Moroni must have cherished, keeping them with him for decades while he traveled, eluding his enemies.

Finally he concludes with his heartfelt admonition to the future readers of his record. No question that the plates would be found, translated and published to the world. He knew there would be detractors. He felt his humanity and had earlier expressed his insecurity "because of the placing of our words". Now he wraps up with his final firm message: promises and testimony about the things that matter most.

Previously, when I read the list of spiritual gifts Moroni includes, I concentrated on the idea that one person might have this gift, another might have another. Each person having a gift "to profit them". That section concludes with this idea: "they come unto every man severally, according as he will." I'd felt that this reinforces the thought that everyone can have a gift. However, the past several readings of Mormon and Moroni's work have begun to suggest another way of looking at things.

"According as he will", I had previously understood, referred to the Lord. But lately I'm thinking differently (just ask anyone in my family!). I believe that anyone can ask for gifts to be bestowed upon himself, "as he will", or as he desires. I believe that the Lord would have us ask to have gifts of the Spirit, as many as we can use to serve our brothers and sisters. I had thought that we all can only have a gift or two, but that was my finite understanding putting a box around the Lord. Despite my earlier, limiting thinking, he wants us to become like him. And he is the personification of someone who successfully utilizes all the gifts of the spirit.

As my mind has edged ever closer to the realization that I can ask for more gifts and as I have gained daily confidence that the Lord does hear and answer my sometimes silly petitions, I struggled with the idea that it might be selfish to set out to gain all spiritual gifts. The spirit prompts me, though, warmly encouraging, to make the request.

So, my prayers and fasting have changed recently even as my understanding has changed. I want to see as the Lord sees. I want to do the works of the Lord. I am confident that he already knows what I need and what I will ask for. I am sure that he has a course of instruction and "labs" for me to practice and for my edification. He has instructed us all to knock, seek and ask, promising his response. I will put myself in a position to listen for, understand and follow his will.

So that, eventually, "according as he will" will become "according as I will".

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Baker Street

We flew to Switzerland on July 4th. We saw fireworks over Boston far below as we started across the ocean.

After a whirlwind meeting with the Mission President, we were put to bed. Upon awakening we were taken to the Haupt Bahnhof in Zurich. I'm sure there were showers and meals in there somewhere...

Mind in the remains of a jet-lag induced fog, I was put on a train that would eventually take me to Zofingen, in Canton Aargau. There was only one transfer along the way. When I arrived I met my companion, Elder Himmer, and somehow we also met Sister Bischof.

Sister Bischof figured prominently into my stay at Zofingen. An older widow, living alone, she had the missionaries over every Sunday after church. My journal records "she put up with a lot", though I only remember her kind smiles. Maybe my lack of language skill during that time limits my memory of how much "Schwester Schlimm" (as the missionaries called Sister Bischof) actually ever said to me. My companion and I went to her home at least once or twice during that month on weekdays for a lunch or dinner.

It was during one of those meals when just my companion and I were over, that Sister Bischof turned on a radio. Heaven. I'd heard no broadcast music since I entered the LTM on May 4th. It was the first time I heard what I later learned was Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty. After the song was done, I made my way over to the radio and began channel surfing, trying to hear that song again. No luck.

A couple weeks later I was transferred and said goodbye to Sister Bischof and Zofingen. That song stayed with me, though I didn't hear it again until I returned to the States 21 months later. I never saw Mr. Rafferty perform until I saw videos on YouTube commemorating his death this past week.

Even though his touch on my life was light, Mr. Rafferty's music is a continually bright, vibrating memory that still echoes in my soul.

Thank you for sharing your talent, Gerry Rafferty.