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"...Choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices...Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable."
For The Strength of Youth

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Most Recent Stories
Little Miss Liberty
    Steven O'Dell
The Christmas Dog
    Steven O'Dell
Barnaby and the Zilligong
    Steven O'Dell
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Most Recent Chapters
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 58 -- On Wings of Angels
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 61 The Music Within
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 60 -- Lamb and Lyon
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 59 I Hate Christmas
The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Steven ODell on 7 May 2013 - 12:53pm. | | | | | | | |

Little Miss Liberty
(C) Steven G. O'Dell 2010

Little Miss Liberty sat on her tuffet, with not in the world a care. Along came a spider and sat down beside her; she thought it no reason for scare.

"I see," said the spider, "that you have no silk to adorn yourself and look grand. If you wish, I could loan you some of my own. I suggest that we start with one strand."

Miss Liberty saw how it shone in the sun, how it glistened and glimmered so bright. She thought, "There's no harm, as he says it's a loan, and I'm not sure that now I look right."

So, accepting his offer, she willingly wound the strand about herself. Indeed it glistened and glimmered and shone, but she thought that a few more might help.

And putting aside all her conscience and pride, she asked if he'd spare her some more. The spider exclaimed, "It would be such a shame to hoard what I have in store."

And being a kind and giving soul, he gladly did bestow, one shining silk thread after another-- row after brilliant row.

How grand she looked, how glorious, how marvelous indeed; but then she noticed her arms were bound and she could not move her feet.

"Just one thing more," the spider said, "to add the crowning glory." Then tightly he wrapped her face and her head and ended her life's story.

Perhaps you see a moral here, that you could learn from, too. A man from the bank or the government may one day approach you.

An offer may be made to help; a loan, a gift or grant. Your liberties required in turn, but you should say, "I can't.

"The cost for what you give is high; your gift is one I fear. I will not sell to anyone--my freedom is too dear."

Believe life's struggle keeps us free--take not the easy road. Resist dependence on another, make freedom your abode.

Submitted by Steven ODell on 14 March 2011 - 12:35pm. | | | | | |

The Music Within
(C) Steven G. O'Dell 2011

The old craftsman set the final piece of exotic wood inlay into the lid of the music box and smiled with satisfaction. Once the glue was dried, he would oil the wood and polish the entire box with loving care and then give it to his sweetheart for her sixtieth birthday. He closed his eyes and thought of how it reflected her own qualities. He had put every ounce of love and skill he possessed into this particular piece and hoped she would love it as much as he loved her.

~~~///~~~

Linda was feeling 'one of those days'. Hard to explain, but even harder to experience personally. She felt old and useless. She was tired, weak and thought of herself as crippled by age. She had ceased nearly entirely to see her talents and value as a woman and a human being. She was as worn out inside as she thought of herself on the outside. The day was overcast, gloomy and cold as she walked about in a daze. She was supposed to meet someone soon; someone who loved her deeply. Linda wasn't sure she was in the mood right now for meetings, even with someone who loved her, but she would 'bite the bullet' and proceed.

The antique shop seemed to call to Steven in some strange way. Although he liked old furniture and impeccable craftsmanship, antique shops were not the kind of places he was wont to frequent, yet there was something in this one that beckoned him to enter.

On the surface, it seemed much similar to any other antique shop, but there was still this feeling that somewhere, somehow, a hidden treasure awaited him. Wandering from aisle to aisle, Steven inspected each article he passed, admiring the fine workmanship and care that had gone into the making of them. He reflected on the fact that with the advent of the industrial revolution had come the apparent demise of quality and pride of workmanship. How sad for the world, he thought.

It was in the last aisle that he saw it, with a fine layer of dust, sitting alone on the top shelf. There was no reason it should have caught his eye and yet it did, oddly. As he reached overhead to pull it from the shelf, he felt a warmth rush through him from head to toe. Holding the old music box in both hands, Steven admired it and recognized the fine detail and care that had gone into its making. Every part fit like a glove to a hand, every inlay cut perfectly and placed carefully, with no gaps or hint of misalignment. The craftsman who had made this box was a true master. Wiping the dust from the lid, he took it to the front window, where it could catch some natural light and just as he did, the clouds seemed to part and the sun shone brightly through the window and onto the box, causing him to catch his breath and hold it for a moment, admiring what he knew instantly to be a real treasure.

"Ah, I see you know fine workmanship when you hold it." It was the owner of the store, who had come in quietly from the back room.

"Yes, sir, it's wonderful. A lot of love went into its making."

"Shall I tell you it's story?"

"It has a story?" Steven raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"It certainly has. A wonderful story at that. It was made by a real craftsman, a master at his art, which you can easily see. What you cannot see is why it was made. The master craftsman was a man who was deeply in love with his wife of sixty years. He made it for her sixtieth anniversary and presented it to her over a special dinner at her favorite restaurant. She was thrilled with it, of course. It plays her favorite song."

"How wonderful that must have been."

"Yes, it was. They had another ten years after that night. She passed away on their seventieth anniversary. He was heartbroken, but had the years of memories to console him for the last few years of his own life. The music box came into my possession about seven years ago. Since then, it has been up on that shelf, waiting for the right person to find it and recognize its worth. Are you that person?"

Steven paused without words. He looked at the owner for a moment and then again at the music box and smiled with a joy he hadn't felt in some time. He knew exactly who would be the recipient of this very special gift.

~~~///~~~

"I found it. At the last minute, I found it for you." Steven smiled across the table at Linda and waited.

"Found what?"

"The perfect gift to show my love for you and to convince you to marry me."

"We've been through this before. I'm getting old and my helath isn't what it was. You would be getting a broken woman, an imperfect package."

"I know what kind of package I would be getting, better than you know it yourself." He reached down beside his chair and picked up a gift for her. "This is for you...and it is a lot like you."

Linda carefully unwrapped the gift and found the music box to be a thing quite beautiful. It was immediately apparent why he had chosen this box. Everything about it was exquisite and outstanding. It had been freshly oiled to bring out the grain of the woods and the pearlescent inlays complemented the various exotic wood inlays.

"It's gorgeous."

"As are you. I only wish you could see yourself as I do. You are a daughter of God and loved by Him more than you could ever imagine in all your days. You see only the frailties you suffer. Like the wood that needed to be treated with oil to bring out the beauty of the grain, you need the gentle oil of love to bring out the beauty within yourself. Like the sparkle of the shell inlay, you will shine with the affection I will give you freely. And like the song within the music box, you will have a heart that sings with the love you will feel once you let yourself go to be the woman you were meant to be from the start."

Gazing into his eyes, she saw that he meant every word. She saw, perhaps for the first time, the depth of his love for her. A tear was forming in his eye and that told her everything she needed to know. Breaking eye contact, she opened the lid of the music box and within seconds her breath was taken away.

"I can't believe it...that's my favorite piece of music ever."

"I know. I was led to this box this afternoon, just as I was led to you, Linda. We were meant to be together, just as you were meant to have this music box. I see the beauty within you, not just the exterior, which I think is beautiful, too, by the way. I know there is a song within you that is aching to come out and be sung. I want to be with you when it is sung. Is that so wrong?"

She shook her head, crying silently.

"Then I ask you this one thing as I give this gift and I will never asked another thing of you. Will you please marry me and let me bring out that beautiful song I know is within you?"

Again, all she could do was cry, but with a gasp she reached across the table and took his hand, smiled and nodded her consent.

The song would finally be sung. The music within would be set free at last.

Submitted by Steven ODell on 25 January 2011 - 5:03am. | | | | | |

Lamb and Lyon
(C) Steven G. O'Dell 2011
"...and the lion shall lie down with the lamb...."

The year was 1893. The place was England. The debate is endless.

"Brother Lamb...."

Elder Charles Lamb looked up from his desk. The voice was that of Brother James Lyon, also an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

"Oh, hello. I didn't hear you come in."

"So I noticed. Deep in thought."

"Yes, I suppose so. What brings you here?"

James Lyon smiled as if at a private joke. "A challenge. A personal challenge."

Charles grinned in return. "Okay, you've got my attention."

"Good, because this challenge concerns you, as well."

Eyebrows raised, Charles' mouth dropped open a bit. He knew his friend could be a scamp at times and couldn't help but wonder what he'd gotten into, while dragging him along for the ride. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes.
The challenge had come from the Pastor of St. John's Church. It seems he had a personal vendetta against the 'Mormons' and he couldn't let it go, having accosted James on the street and claiming he could defeat him in a debate. He made it clear the offer stood open at any time and that his pulpit would be open to any response James cared to offer. It was also implied, in a condescending manner, that a real man would take up such a challenge.

"So, I would like to accept that challenge and I want you to accompany me."

"And by 'accompany', you mean that I should take part in the debate?"

"What would a 'real man' do?" He grinned widely and patted Charles on the shoulder.

"Alright. Not that I appreciate you drafting me into your service...."

"Not my service, Charles. The Lord's service." His expression grew serious, but was kind.

"You're right. My apologies. I did take a vow to defend the faith."

"Good man."

The day came for the meet at St. John's. Elders Lamb and Lyon had fasted and prayed in preparation for the day and covenanted with the Lord to speak His will and word, as led by the Spirit to do. They had prayed for the men and women who would attend, desiring that their hearts would be softened and their thoughts made clear. They had prayed that their own spirits would be in tune with the Holy Ghost. They had prayed to be led to the verses they would need to confound the Lord's enemies and to convince the deluded of the truth of their words. In short, they had prepared in every way they possibly could. All that was left was to be reliant upon the Lord to bring all things to their minds in the hour of need.

The Pastor of St. John's stood and faced his congregation, raising his hands to get their attention and calm the chatter. When all had quieted sufficiently, he proceeded.

"Good people of St. John's Church, I welcome you on this special day. It is always good to meet to worship the Lord, but on this day we have the opportunity to expound upon his word. We have with us today a gentleman whom I have invited to defend his beliefs in the Mormon church. May I introduce you to 'Elder' James Lyon, who has seen fit to bring with him either reinforcements or a bodyguard. I know not which it might be."

The Pastor snickered and was joined in laughter by many in his congregation.

"You may know that these men claim that an angel came from Heaven and appeared to a young farm boy in America, whereupon the ancient church was 'restored', as it were. They claim that Christ's church was lost from the earth long ago and that none of the modern churches have claim to being legitimate."

Again came the laughter, which the Pastor made no effort to calm.

"They also claim that this young farm boy received a golden Bible and translated it, being that it is supposedly new revelation from God. After that came many more visitations from apparent angels, lending credence to this boy's station as a prophet of God."

There were not so many chuckles this time, but had been replaced with glares of disgust, aimed at Elders Lamb and Lyon, who offered silent prayers to the Lord for guidance.

"Further, we are to believe that their church is the only path to salvation, that our baptisms are illegitimate, that our authority is null and void, that none of our ordinances are recognized by God."

The stares from the congregation now bore a resemblance to either incredulous disbelief or true hatred. James Lyon simply took notes. The Pastor was doing his utmost to ensure that nothing the Elders would say would be heard by the congregation. When he finally turned time over for response, Elder Lamb wondered if he should simply excuse himself and leave. He turned to look to his friend for reassurance and Elder Lyon smiled confidently, then leaned over and whispered in his ear. Then Elder Lamb stood and walked to the podium, looking quietly out over the congregation for a long moment before speaking.

"My friends...my brothers and sisters in Christ...my companion and I wish to thank you for allowing us to visit your congregation today. I am Elder Charles Lamb and this is Elder James Lyon, who was invited by your good Pastor to explain our beliefs to his congregation. I have been asked to accompany him, because, as you are surely aware, the Lord himself has set the guideline that all things must be established in the mouths of two or more witnesses. And he has also stated that the spirit of contention is not of him. Therefore, with your permission, to alleviate any concerns that we are here to contend and cause dissension, please allow me to pray for the Spirit of the Lord to be amongst us."

He then bowed his head without further delay, not waiting for acknowledgment or for the surprise to pass.

"Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Great are thy works, oh Lord, and endless thy mercy. We ask humbly that thy Spirit be with us in this meeting and that our hearts and minds be opened to thy word and thy will. We ask that thy Spirit enlighten our minds and soften our hearts, that we may be in tune with thee always. Let us set aside our preconceived notions, our biases and opinions, leaning only to thee for truth. And may thy blessings be poured out in rich abundance upon the humble amongst us. In the name of Jesus Christ, thy Son and our redeemer. Amen."

The change in spirit amongst the congregation was markedly different from a few moments before. Some were confused, some were humbled and the Pastor appeared to be disarmed for the moment.

"A number of claims have been made regarding us and our beliefs, as you know. Some are true and some have been distorted, whether through repetition or intentionally. We simply wish to clarify and establish truth, letting you good people decide for yourselves after. It is between you and God what you do with the information.

"I wish to establish from the scriptures...the Bible, which we share a belief in...that Christ knew his church would not remain untouched, unscathed and permanently upon the earth. He warned of such when he said that greivous wolves would enter in, not sparing the flock. He warned through the Apostle John that the written record should not be altered, seemingly predicting that men would do exactly that. He said that false prophets would come and that there would even be false Messiahs. Is this to mean that there would be no prophets after his time, ever again? To determine that, we need to turn to his words through his chosen. We are told that his church was built upon a foundation of Apostles and prophets...seers, revelators...and would be so until we came together in a unity of the faith. I ask you simply, has that day yet come when we are united in faith as regards our scrirptures, our Lord and our faith? Has history shown us, in nearly two thousand years, that man can agree upon even the Prince of Peace and his word? Or did the Lord foresee the need to again send prophets in a day when men would not only disagree regarding his doctrines, but on the very divinity of Christ himself in some instances?"

The Pastor was visibly uncomfortable now, aware that he had already lost control of his rapt congregation and that a pacifying spirit now reigned over them. He tugged at his collar as Elder Lamb continued softly.

"As Christians, we in the odern world often make the mistake of thinking we are too sophisticated to believe any longer in the miracles of ancient times. Is that why we no longer have miracles amongst us? Did not Christ say that even he, the greatest among them, could do no miracles where there was no faith? God will not force miracles upon anyone. He is too much the gentleman. Signs do not make for lasting conversion. Conversion comes only from the witness of the Holy Ghost to our souls. Each and every one of us has been given the promise that we can know the truth for ourselves, leaving no doubt whatsoever. We no longer need to take the word of men, accepting their interpretations and opinions as to the truth. We have the sure witness of the Spirit of God to teach us. May I quote from James.

"'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.' I think that is fairly clear, don't you?"

Heads were nodding in agreement. Eyes were glued to the speaker.

"He further states that we are to ask in faith, nothing wavering, and that he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, tossed about with every wind of doctrine and shall receive no answer. As adults, we like to think we are rational and perceptive, able to think things out on our own. But God has clearly said that we are to ask him. We are to be as children. Why does he say we should be as children? Because children do not doubt and waver. They take God at his word. Samuel, the boy prophet, did so. David, the boy prophet, did so. Jesus, as a boy, did so. He grew in wisdom, knowing what his Father would have him do, because he asked and received. Can you imagine what it feels like to have God tell you personally what his will for you might be? If there are no miracles amongst us, it is we who have failed, not the Lord. God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. And he is not the author of confusion."

There were tears in the congregation now and some were wiping their eyes and sniffling. Even the Pastor seemed more serene now.

"David, Samuel and Christ were by no means the only young men who trusted God to keep his word and answer their pleas for wisdom. As you have been told, a young American farm boy also put to the test the very words of James. He did not doubt he would get an answer. He knew that God alone could settle the questions he had in his mind, for he saw that the several cghurches could no longer agree on doctrines or even the nature of God. There was only one solution to his problem, if he was to ever know the truth, and that was to go to the source and ask his Father in Heaven for the truth.

"The young Joseph Smith did just that, kneeling in private in a grove of trees and implored his Father in Heaven to impart knowledge to him. What he received in answer to his prayers exceeded his wildest expectations. For thousands of years, men had debated the nature of God. They argued over it and accused one another of the meanest of things. They abandoned their very Christianity in many instances, all the while proclaiming their acts to be in the service of God. Those in the days of young Joseph Smith did not stop even from attempting to take his life, thinking themselves to be doing God favor in their acts. All the while they labeled him a non-Chrsitian, a cult leader and worse, they themselves were acting in the most unseemly and un-Christian manner.

"What young Joseph proclaimed, along with the Apostle Paul, was. 'He, whom ye ignorantly worship, declare I unto you!' To the various creeds and sects of so-called Christianity, young Joseph proclaimed that not only did God and Jesus Christ exist, but that he had seen them and that they keep their promises to mankind. He witnessed that God is still a God of miracles, to those who believe. He said, along with the prophet Stephen of old, that God sits in the Heavens and that his Son, Jesus Christ, is a separate and distinct being and that Holy Ghost is a third personage, of spirit and not of flesh.

"These were claims that any one of them could have substantiated for himself, by the same methods God laid out to be followed. To ask for wisdom, believing God would answer and give it it man. Sadly, relatively few would put it to the test, but leaned unto theit own understanding. The ministers of the day, those who were to defend the flock, chose instead to persecute the young boy. These scholars, the wise men God had warned would be confounded by the unlearned, chose to ignore the God of miracles and attempt to silence his chosen prophet, just as their predecessors in ancient times had done.

"This boy, too, grew in wisdom and stature. And in persecution. But he also learned more each day to trust his Father, the God who had created him. He received the visitation of angels, just as the ancient Saints had done. He healed the sick, via the restored priesthood, just as the ancient Saints had done. He received revelation and new scriptures, writings which attested to the truth of the earlier Jewish scriptures, which modern man was beginning to doubt, labeling them to be a mixture of fable, legend and allegory. He proclaimed that there had been a remnant of the house of Israel that had been preserved, just as promised by God, and that they had kept and buried records to be found in our day -- that truth would spring from the earth and that the Stick of Judah, the Bible, would be one in his hand with the Stick of Joseph and his remnant.

"As with ancient prophets, he sealed with his blood all that he had attested to, witnessing that he would proclaim it to the end, even under threat of death, which he did. Those who claimed to be good men of faith were among those who persecuted him relentlessly and took his life by violence. His witness stands for all time, sealed with his blood, which cries out to the Lord God.

"I bear you my own witness that I know these things to be true, having tested the words of James, not leaving to chance my own salvation to the whims of men and their opinions. I have received the witness of the Holy Ghost that the things I have told you are true -- that and more. Marvelous things to lift the hearts and spirits of the faithful. I bear you witness that you can receive the same testimony of the truth, as I have, as my friend has, as countless others have. Only you can say what you will do with the opportunity. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen."

At this point, Elder James Lyon stood and took the podium. He smiled as he looked out over the faces that waited expectantly and without enmity.

"My friends, my brothers and sisters, we are all children of the same God, are we not? He has said that Adam was his son. We, as descendants of Adam, that first man, are also of divine lineage. Reason alone would tell us so, but God has not left that to the reason of man, but has told us the sure means by which we might know the truth of all things. He has said, regarding his newly revealed word,

"'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. 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. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.'

"The very same guidance given to and through James, the Apostle, was given to the escaped ancient remnant of Israel on the American continent. That exhortation has now been passed to us. Will we ask God, the Eternal Father, whether there be a restored church in the latter days, in the times of refreshing the Lord spoke of? Will we ask him if the ancient priesthood has been restored, allowing men to act in the name of God by the laying on of hands, with a direct abd traceable lineage to those of old, and not just through a document given by a school of divinity?"

The Pastor winced visibly at this, but kep this peace as several shot glances toward him.

"Will we lean unto our own understandings or to the God who created us, trusting that his arm is not shorten or his power diminished? Will we put our souls in jeopardy by choosing to disregard, disbelieve and dismiss his chosen prophets? Or will we humble ourselves and hear his word and will for us, proving the truth of these claims by the prescribed method that has always been God's way for mankind? Will you humble yourselves and see that God is still a God of miracles today? That he keeps his promises of old and still takes interest in the fate of his children?

"I bear witness, with Elder Lamb, that what you have been told is true and that you can know for yourselves the truth of it, by the witness of the Holy Ghost. You can have your own witness, not relying on any other for the truth. IS this not what Peter did, gaining the sure knowledge that Jesus was the promised Messiah? Peter did not rely on man to tell him this, but his Father in Heaven told him so. Is this not preferable to speculation, to blindly trusting men or their interpretations? Is this not God's way?

"And now, the next step lies with you; with each of you individually. Your relationship with God is personal. The responsibility lies with you to advance or retreat in that relationship. It can grow and blossom or you can let it stagnate and die. Which will you choose? Look to God and live, my brothers and sisters. Look to God and live. In Christs Jesus' most precious name. Amen."

When Elder Lyon sat down, there was complete silence for a time. No one moved a muscle. Now and then, a sniffle could be sensed, more than heard. Heads were down in prayer and reflection, eyes were closed, hands clasped together or over mouths and faces to isolate their owners from their surroundings and to mask tears. Souls were turned to God for the first time in life, in many instances. And then the sobbing began. Softly, at first, then louder, as others were swept away in the emotion. The Spirit of God began to be poured out in great abundance upon the assembled. Hands were raised to the heavens, shouts of 'praise God' and 'hallelujah' rang out. Some cried out, 'thank you' to the two Elders. The Pastor quietly got up and left the room, accompanied by a few still faithful followers.

As Elders Lamb and Lyon stepped won from the podium, throngs of people surrounded them to shake their hands, to ask where they might learn more, to seek clarity in scriptures they had never before understood. Many were already convinced and sought baptism under the true and restored priesthood of God. All had felt the power of God in the words that had been spoken; even those unwilling as yet to obey.

The next Sunday meeting at the small building attended by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it was more full than usual, many new and eager faces welcomed warmly into the fold. Lamb and Lyon had together spoken the word of the Lord, witnessed to the truth, had fulfilled their duties and obligations to God and their fellow man. There would be peace now and long-needed answers in the hearts of more children of Heavenly Father. A new generation of believers was being born...and born again.

Submitted by Steven ODell on 24 January 2011 - 1:48am. | | | | | | |

"I Hate Christmas"
Steven G. O'Dell (C) 2010
There are some things only Christmas can heal.

"Why won't you come have Christmas with us?"

Widowed Melanie Mortenson was puzzled by Ralph Hansen's response to her simple request to join her family for Christmas. He was alone, as were some of the others in the neighborhood. She was alone, too, except for a daughter and her neighborhood friends. It made sense to her to have a get-together so no one would have to sit alone and mope over the holidays.

"Because I hate Christmas."

Something in his manner belied the words themselves.

"I don't believe you, Ralph."

"What?" He looked stunned.

"You heard me. I don't believe you."

Her hands were on her hips now and she looked genuinely perturbed.

"How can you...."

"Oh, stop it, Ralph! You're just shy, that's all. You don't hate Christmas."
Now it was his turn to appear perturbed.

"How can you know that? If I say I don't like Christmas, then I don't like Christmas; that's all there is to it. Now, if you'll be so kind as to leave me alone...."

He moved as if to suggest he was escorting her to the door, but she made no effort to follow. Her hands were still planted firmly upon her hips.

"Ralph Hansen, I am shocked and disappointed with you. How can you say such things? Didn't anyone ever teach you it's wrong to lie?"

Ralph opened his mouth to speak and abruptly closed it again, not knowing quite how to respond to her last comment.

"Sit down, Ralph. We're going to sort this out once and for all." He didn't sit immediately and she became more insistent, pointing firmly and abruptly to where she expected him to light. "Now!"

That did it. Ralph sat, knowing he would have to listen to whatever tirade Melanie was about to level at him. It was well known she was a strong-minded woman, having necessarily become so upon the death of her husband. There was nothing but to tolerate her lecture and then get on with his life, making some excuse that might be more acceptable to her. He stared at the floor, waiting for the condemnation to come.

"Ralph, you can't expect me to believe you don't like Christmas, let alone hate it. I know better. I've seen you in action."

He shot her a puzzled look.

"Yeah, you've been found out. All year long I see you doing for others. When I brought you brownies, I found you in my front yard a few evenings later, picking some weeds before they got too large for me to deal with. You thought it was too dark to see you."

His face reflected a sheepish embarassment now.

"Then there was the scraping and painting you did for Helen while she was in the hospital. You hoped she wouldn't know who did it."

"You didn't...."

"No, of course not! What kind of person do you take me for?" She shook her head in disbelief. "And I saw you fixing that bicycle for Tommy Nolan. Then you made sure that Dale's paper was off the sidewalk where the boy tossed it and that it was up on the porch so Dale wouldn't have to chance a fall by coming off his porch. You can't tell me I'm wrong about that."

"Well, no, but that has nothing to do with Christmas, now does it?" He did his best to appear stern and resolute.

"Oh, pish-posh! It's the same spirit of kindness all year long and you have it, Ralph Hansen, in great abundance. And don't you deny it. either. I know your heart. There isn't a mean bone in your body. So, what's the real reason you claim to hate Christmas? Tell me." Her voice became suddenly more tender. "And tell me the truth."

Ralph's eyes began to fill with tears and he found it hard to breathe.
"Christmas was the favorite time of year for me and for Jeannie. I haven't been able to stand the reminder since she passed away." And now he broke down and began to cry for real, burying his face in his hands. Melanie stood and placed a hand on his shoulder to comfort him.

"We all loved Jeannie, Ralph. How could we help but love her? Still, what would she think of you sitting here alone on her favorite holiday? Do you really think she would approve? I don't. She was always out seeing neighbors and wishing them happy holidays and singing carols and baking cookies and whatever elese she could think to do to make Christmas the most special time of the year. She would still be doing that if she were alive...and so would you."

He nodded his head in agreement. It was true. Jeannie would be ashamed of him being such a hermit.

"Alright, then, is it settled? You'll join us?" She raised her eyebrows in anticipation.

Ralph started to shake his head gently, but Melanie tilted her head in a disapproving manner and he recanted reluctantly.

"Good. Ralph, you are a good man and it wouldn't be right for you to be miserable on Christmas. Nor would it be right for you to deprive others of your company. Not only do we miss Jeannie, but we miss you, too, ya' know." Her smile told him it was true.

Once Melanie left, Ralph sat for several minutes with his eyes closed in silent prayer. You could hear a pin drop as he thanked his Heavenly Father for such wonderful friends and neighbors. And then he waited patiently for an answer to a question. When it came, he smiled broadly in appreciation and closed his prayer. Then he got up and began to gather the necessary materials from his backyard and garage to make several gift wreaths for his neighbors' doors. He could feel Jeannie's spirit with him and it made him smile all the more. It was time to heal and time to feel again. And what better time to do so than Christmas, Jeannie's favorite holiday?

Submitted by Steven ODell on 21 January 2011 - 10:08am. | | | | |

On Wings of Angels
(C) Steven G. O'Dell -- 2011

"Who are these that fly as the birds from the window sills...."

In stark contrast to how he had been lulled to sleep by the constant thrum of the jet engines, Hu Ming Lao had been awakened with a start by an unusual dream. Two young men, dressed in dark suits and looking very proper, stood waiting for him in an airport terminal. They were not at all like the typical Americans he had seen in films, but had a defined air of seriousness and purpose about them. He had marked it off to being a by-product of his first trans-oceanic flight. But now, as he entered the San Francisco terminal, here stood two men nearly identical in appearance to those he had seen in his dream. How was this possible?

As Ming Lao walked past them, he felt a sense of heightened awareness unlike anything he had ever felt before. There was something about them that made him want to stop and talk to them, but he had to get to his parent's home as soon as he could. Aside from visiting them and attending to the business he was assigned to by his company, he had precious little time to himself. His stay would be short enough without wasting time in such idle pursuits as talking to strangers in an air terminal.

Gathering his baggage, Ming Lao went directly to the loading area in front of the terminal and hailed a cab to take him to his parent's home. His mind was out-of-sync from the drastic time zone change and all he wanted was to rest, but thoughts of work pressed themselves upon him. There was much to do in the short time he would be here. He must make the best use of his time.

As the sights flew by the cab, there appeared quite suddenly two young men on bicycles, dressed in suits, just as the men he had seen in the terminal. He craned his neck to watch them as long as he could, wondering who they might be and now beginning to think that perhaps there was some significance to the dream he had experienced. He was not a superstitious man, but Ming Lao was also not a foolish man and he now pondered the meaning of his dream. But soon enough, he was at the home of his parents and sister, who had moved to America a few years before. This was the first time he had seen them since their relocation to the States and the excitement was palpable for all. Exchanges of hugs and greetings were made and the honored son was ushered into the home of his forebears.

"How have you been, son?" His father smiled proudly at his progeny.

"Very well, thank you. I could scarcely wait until I arrived to see you."

"We are so proud of you, Ming." His mother wiped a tear from her eye and she smiled all the more widely. "You have studied hard and done well for yourself and you will make a great contribution to the world in your efforts."

"I will do my best, Mother."

The questions and answers flew rapidly back and forth and eventually settled upon the subject of his sister and her new pursuits. It became known that her parents were concerned by the fact that she had been meeting with some unusual people and learning of a religion entirely foreign to their own beliefs. Ming titled his head at this, wondering what manner of philosophy they must teach. He was to find out soon enough, for that very evening his sister invited him to join her in a discussion with these mysterious strangers.

Ming was first struck with the appearance of these young men. They were again apparently clones of those he had seen twice before since arriving in America, and identical in dress to those he had seen in his dream. Now Ming was shaken as to the meaning of the dream. Was it a warning? Was it a sign to direct him to or away from these men? But he listened intently until he could know for certain.

"We know that this teaching is entirely new to you and differs from your own traditions." He who spoke, addressed Jin directly. "And yet it is of such importance that we must share it with all who are willing to listen."

The feeling of sincerity was unmistakable, but Ming knew that sincerity alone was no substitute for being correct.

"Do you honor your ancestors as we do?" The question was direct and would tell Ming a lot about the philosophy of this religion.

"Very much so," replied the second of the two. "We do works for them in our temples that they cannot do for themselves. In this way we bind them to us with a welded link that cannot be broken in the eternities."

Ming sat a little taller and leaning slightly forward, with greater attention now.

"To what type of works do you refer?" His English was sufficiently good to understand what they had suggested.

"Our dead have, in many cases, passed on without being able to do for themselves the works of salvation and exaltation that would allow them entry into the kingdom of God in the eternities. We, the living, have been instructed to perform those works in their names, in our temples. These include baptisms for our dead, washings and annointings for their sanctification, endowment of spiritual gifts, bestowal of necessary priesthood offices and authorities, and the rites of sealings as families and in the covenant of eternal marriage. There we also learn of the creation of our world and of our purpose in it, as well as the necessary signs and tokens to enter the presence of God in the hereafter."

Ming leaned even further forward and took all of this in, as if he were a sponge.

"I know somewhat of the Christian religion, but this seems to differ from the common teachings I have heard of. How do you know these things to be right and proper? How do you know them to be required, in order to please your God?"

Ming's sister smiled faintly at the question. Her brother was truly interested and did not dismiss these teachings easily, although his questions were deep and testing in their nature.

"You are correct. These teachings are unique in the Christian world, but they are the teachings of old, as in the ancient church that Jesus Christ instituted in his own time. They have been restored to us in modern times by a prophet chosen of God to receive revelation for Christ's church and people. That prophet was Joseph Smith, who saw God and his son, Jesus the Messiah, in the year 1820, in New York state. In a brief instant, many enduring questions concerning the nature of God were answered. The world again would know of the nature of God and their own relationship to him as his children."

"Elder, this is of great interest, to be sure, but it is indeed quite a world apart from our own teachings." As he sat back again, Ming's manner seemed to suggest that he would need to ponder such things for a very long time before he would ever commit himself to believing them.

"Not so different as you might think. I have done some research on the traditions of your homeland and have been pleased to find things that would support our own teachings. Perhaps you have heard of the tradition that was practiced in your homeland until the rise of the Communists around the turn of the last century. I refer to the 'Worship at the Gate Ceremony', practiced for thousands of years until it was relatively recently outlawed by the revolution, and signifying the very first man and woman praying at the Gates of the Garden of Eden when they were cast into the world. Even the Chinese characters for this tradition portray the man and woman in a kneeling position at the gates and worshipping a divine being."

Ming had indeed been taught of such things, although it was not in school that he had learned it, but from his grandfather and father, in the quiet and privacy of their home. His interest was again piqued, that this young American would be aware of such ancient teachings from his homeland.

"You suggest that this tradition is in some way similar to your own stories from your holy book?"

"I do. I suggest that it is the identical story, preserved in your nation's traditions over thousands of years, until it was outlawed in the revolution."

Ming thought deeply upon these points. It made sense. He exchanged glances with his sister, who was nodding her head and smiling. It seemed that she was convinced of the truth of this claim, as he was now beginning to be.

"How may I know that this is so, and not just a theory?"

The first Elder again spoke. "The way to know is sure. You have the right to receive your own personal witness from God, by way of the Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead. His specific mission is to witness the truth of such things to your spirit -- Spirit-to-spirit communication, that cannot be mistaken. Will you pray about this to know for yourself that it is true?"

"I am willing, but I do not know how to pray about this."

The Elders smiled in appreciation. "We will teach you how we have been instructed to pray. I know that as you do so sincerely, you will get your answer and know for yourself that it is true."

While Ming's days were filled with matters of business, his mind wandered often to the evenings in which he learned the new and wonderful ways of this God he had never before known. This religion seemed to have answers to many questions he had pondered concerning life and it seemed to place the previously floating pieces of his national traditions into their places in the grander picture. Jin felt as if he were becoming truly aware and informed of his purpose in life for the first time. He knew that his life was changing and would never again be the same. Even his parents had taken some interest, following the lead of their children.

When the time came for Ming to return to China, the Elders met with him again and his sister gave him a book with a blue cover, in which she had written her testimony of the teachings they had been discussing the last week. She cautioned him that he might need to keep the book secret, as best he could, due to regulations in China concerning such foreign philosophies. He vowed he would read it on the plane and digest as much of it as he could, in the event that it were taken from him.

The first Elder offered, "We would like to bless you that you will not have to turn over your Book of Mormon to the authorities. Do you have sufficient faith to believe this?"

Somewhere, deep inside, Ming felt the stirrings of a warmth that assured him things would be right and well for him. He nodded his assent and the Elders sat him down and laid hands upon his head. As they did so and the words were spoken over him, Ming felt as if a flow of cool water had washed over him from head to toe and a peace became infused within him such as he had never known. Somehow he knew without doubt that all would be well.

As he entered the gangway to board the plane, Ming looked back at his mother, father, sister and the two young men in dark suits who had permanently altered his life. It felt to Ming as if he gazed upon angels. He knew that his dream had come true and he would never again be the same. Perhaps when he again visited America, he could see for himself what wonders their temples held.

Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 December 2010 - 1:59pm. | | | | |

And Feel His Shield About Thee
Steven G. O'Dell © 2010

A few seconds of obedience can make all the difference in life.

Linda was a mere nineteen years old and in the summer of 1975, she was alive with the excitement and uncertainty of a cross-country bus trip. She had been an exchange student while in high school and she was now a college student away from home, but somehow this was different. She was not tied to the Provo campus now. She was free and on her way to visit the family of a roommate in Bakersfield, California.

Her trip began with a remarkable coincidence. She had called a cab to take her to the bus station where she would begin her trip officially and the driver, for reasons she could not guess, kept staring at her in the rear view mirror in such a way that she became uncomfortable. She tried to ignore him, when suddenly he spoke to her in Danish. She was then all attention. She had been a foreign exchange student in Denmark and this man, it turned out, was one of the missionaries of her church who had known of her while there. What a small world it could be, she thought to herself. What were the odds?

The rest of her trip to the station was pleasant and the catching up a delight, but now the real ordeal began – long hours of sitting, a virtual captive on the bus until she reached her destination.

The bus had now stopped in a small western states town, unremarkable in most respects. A brief restaurant stop, a chance to use the facilities and she would be on the road again. Linda sat at the table in the main window of the restaurant, which sat above the bus station itself. An unusual situation, the station was reachable from the lower street and the restaurant from the upper street; the whole of the building sitting on an uneven corner of two cross-streets. There was also a staircase that tied the levels together.

The sun was just then rising in the eastern sky and Linda reflected upon how beautiful it was after a long night cooped up in a bus. It was certainly preferable to be here, in this soon-to-be sunlit window, than downstairs with all of the cigarette smoke that permeated the station itself. The serenity of the surroundings made what came next all the more bizarre by contrast.

Having a few moments before been outside on the corner, enjoying the fresh air and the new dawn and breeze, Linda had entered the restaurant and taken a place at the table near the window, where she could still see the sunrise and appreciate it. She had not been there long when she was suddenly shaken from her reverie and to instant action by a voice, internal and commanding, and a feeling as of someone grabbing her by the collar and pulling her from her seat. The intent was that she immediately was to go downstairs to the station. This was the last thing she had in mind, entering that smoke-filled room by choice. The station was grubby in her estimation and there were few places she could sit. But she was already on her feet and going there, quickly, with a sense of urgency she did not yet understand. That was soon to come, however.

Within seconds of arriving at the bottom of the stairs, she heard from above a tremendous crash, as an explosion, and the screaming of multiple voices. Standing in shock, she could scarcely move for a moment and was not sure she wanted to. Something terrible had happened above her, in the room she had just left. The screaming, the crash of glass breaking and the awful crushing sound that over-rode all of it were soul-wrenching in nature. This was one of those events that makes you stand paralyzed with fear, unable for a few seconds to move at all.

There was no way to return by the stairs she had just used and Linda exited the station and took the street to the upper level. What she saw made her physically ill and feeling that she was about to vomit. There were bodies lieing on the floor of the restaurant and an intruding automobile that had penetrated the building to the point where customers had stood in line to order and receive food. The path of the auto was directly through the table where she had been sitting only seconds earlier.

When the details were known, it was clear that a car had been coming down the steep hill and another, from the side street, had crashed into it. The first car had continued, as a missile on its new path, directly into the window of the restaurant and through the seat where Linda had been sitting but a scant moment before. There was indeed a casualty, a man having been run over and killed by the intruding automobile. Linda physically shook with the realization that she would have been in the very seat in the path of destruction, had it not been for the warning voice that had moved her forcefully from her daydreaming.

All the bus passengers were asked to return to the bus and wait, which they did. The full details were not made known to them, but the remainder of the bus ride was very different from the previous portion of their journey. Where there had been movement and talking amongst the passengers, there was now silent reflection upon the event they had all been party to. A sense of vulnerability and mortality, a sense of helplessness hung heavily upon them all. It would be some time before confidence and a feeling of personal security would return to each of them. How the world and your viewpoint can change in seconds. The term 'final stop' took on new meaning from then. Linda hadn't taken inventory of the passengers before and after, but she could not escape the thought that for some, it may have indeed been their final stop in this mortal life.

Linda sat on the bus, shaking physically, wanting to cry, but repressing it. Being a teenager alone, she had no desire to draw attention to herself and appear as vulnerable as she truly was at that moment, having been approached already by strange men with ill intent on this trip. She just kept thinking of how she had been in the very path of the car, had been in the very window seat, had been moved by some unseen force, grabbing her or pushing her from her seat, just seconds before.... It was all too much, overwhelming in its intensity and more than a young girl could handle. She wanted it all to go away. She wanted someone, anyone, to hold her and comfort her and she knew no one on this bus who could do that for her. She dared not make herself more vulnerable than she already was. And so she sat alone, scared and shaken more than at almost any other time in her relatively brief life.

Many years have passed since then and Linda has had time to consider what it takes to be ready for passing from this life. She knows that none of the things you collect in mortality can be taken with you. She knows that it matters not what level of achievement you reached in business, how much wealth you accumulated in life. What matters most is how you lived life. Did you live it to the fullest, did you do good unto others, did you strive to become the best person you could be while you were here? And perhaps most important of all, did you live with the faith and obedience necessary to feel the shield of God about you when you needed it most dearly?

Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 December 2010 - 1:51pm. | | | | |

The Gift of Self
(C) Steven G. O'Dell--2010

Some lessons must be lived before they can be learned.

Charles Edmund Broadbent. The name rolled off the tongue with an air of pompous snobbery. It sounded as if it should be followed by a suffix, something like 'The Third'. And indeed it was. Charles Edmund Broadbent, the Third. That was him. The name, the snobbery and all that went with it; especially the money. Charles the Third had never worked a day in his life. He had no need to do so. His father was rich and had provided all he had ever needed, so long as he stayed out of any real trouble. His college, his car, his clothing and elaborate lifestyle were all taken care of, without question or concern. His grandfather had been rich, too. He had given his own son everything he wanted...and more. Too much, in fact. And that's why things had changed for Charles the Third.

Charles Broadbent the Second had one day experienced an epiphany of sorts and had decided to derail his son's life in a most disturbing manner. Where there had been a life of ease, albeit one lacking any real focus, there was now to be a whole new agenda for Charles the Third. And he wasn't sure he would like it one little bit. The conversation had gone something like this.

"Son, when a man approaches the portion of his life where he recognizes that he could have...when he wishes he had done things differently...he has a choice to make. 'Do I continue to do things as I have in the past, the things that have left me ultimately disappointed, or do I change my path and do it differently, knowing it will change and affect the lives of others, as well?' The answer isn't an easy one to come by, unless you are driven by genuine affection, as well as by logic. You know that I love you, don't you, son?"

"I've never questioned it before. You have me worried now, though, speaking this way. It isn't you. You're being too serious. Are you alright?"

"Never been better, in fact."

"Are you sure, Dad? Referring to reaching 'that portion of your life' makes me wonder about your health." He hadn't bothered to call his father 'Dad' for some time. Now, it was obvious he was genuinely concerned.

"Alright...there's no sense in beating around the bush. Let's get right to it, shall we?" His face took on a state of somber weightiness his son had seldom seen and not since the death of his mother several years before. He took a deep breath before continuing.

"You never knew why your grandfather died. You were too young to understand and the subject was never broached as you got older. He had a rare blood disorder. We never thought it was genetic, but it now appears we were wrong. I have the same disorder. And as of today, there is no known treatment for it."

He took another deep breath, paused and then opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again and stared at the floor.

"Dad, you're worried that I might have the same disorder, aren't you?"
'The Second' nodded slowly and almost imperceptibly.

"Okay, so I may be doomed to the same fate as you and granddad. What do we do about it? Nothing, evidently."

"No, not nothing. Your life is going to be a bit different from now on. It's for your own good."

'The Third' gazed in questioning puzzlement into his father's eyes.
"Not to worry. Like I said, it's for your own good." His smile was pensive, but genuine.

Charles Broadbent the Second had succumbed to his ailment some months before, leaving specific directions regarding his son, via his lawyer. Charles the Third had been quite surprised..no, shocked...when the reading of the Will had revealed that he was to be given $500,000 with the instruction that he was to give it all away to those he deemed to be in genuine need. There was no time limit to accomplish this task, but he was to get no other funds from the estate until he had done so.
What was his father trying to accomplish with this decision? It seemed a waste of time and resources to wander about distributing half a million dollars. There had to be better uses for it, he thought. Additionally, he was concerned what would happen once the word got out that he was passing out free money. Every indolent in the country would beat a path to his door.

Finally resolved to his fate, Charles knew that if he were to move on with his life, he would need to find people in need of help--his help. He had no idea where to begin. All his life he had been self-centered. Not that he was a bad person--he had just not taken much notice of the needs of anyone outside his own family. Now, totally out of his field of expertise, he needed to gain personal experience at crash-course speed.

The local homeless shelter seemed a logical place to begin. What was he to do, though, buy a home for each of the present tenants of the homeless shelter? Even half of a million dollars would be gone in short order, but he inherently felt that was not the intent of his father's Will.

Instead, Charles arranged for apartments, paid up for six months each, for all who showed interest in ending the downward cycle they'd found themselves in. He then contacted several local firms to discuss entry-level employment for those he had rented apartments for. A number of the firms were positively intrigued by his project, as they called it. Over half of them agreed to be part of the experiment. Charles felt a tingle of excitement somewhere deep inside. He hadn't felt that for some time and didn't have a clue why he was feeling it now. He only knew he felt good.
Next, Charles went to a few local charities and asked them to recommend families they thought he could assist in a meaningful way. The first thing that struck him deeply was the suggestion reagrding a family with a child that was ill and the father out of work for losing time due to his child's medical concerns. That would be his target of choice then. He might not be able to help himself, but he could help this family.

Arrangements were made to take care of house payments for six months, medical bills were brought up to date and an estimate made of required funds to heal the child sufficiently to allow the father to go back to work. Again, Charles felt good about what he was doing. Somewhere, down deep, a fire was growing and warming his heart. Or was it that his heart was growing, thereby causing the warmth? It was hard to tell.

Not much had changed, really, in three years. Nothing on the surface, except that his health had begun to run down a bit. Life had gone on relatively the same as before, except for the daily focus on finding those in need. What had started as a chore, had become an obligation and eventually had transformed into a mission. The half million was nearly exhausted and Charles was suddenly surprised to find he was feeling disappointment that his life was again due to change. What would he do after the money was gone? He would be alone in a big house. Then it occured to him this was the same big house he had always lived in. He would drive the same car he had driven before, would eat the same foods he had eaten before, attend the same entertainment venues he always had, etcetera. The only difference would be that he was no longer required to track down the needy. And somehow, that left him feeling empty.

There had been a change in Charles, however. Where he had once complained that the indolent might come pounding on his door, begging for his family fortune, he now understood that he had just as certainly been one of those indolent he had looked down upon. Sure, he had money, but he'd had no purpose or focus, other than to coast through life, thinking of no one but himself. That had changed, however. Charles was surprised and pleased to find that he now thoroughly enjoyed his assignment. Given the choice, he would now rather do some good for a stranger than to attend a theatrical play or the opera. It had become a fun game for him to see if he could instinctively identify those who sincerely needed help from those who simply wanted a handout. He had become quite adept at it in three years. And along the way, he'd learned some valuable lessons about himself.

Charles was no longer self-centered. He was a caring individual with a heart as bright as the gold he'd had to share. When the half million was exhausted, he'd voluntarily wanted to continue doing what he'd previously been required to do. And he was thankful to his father for teaching him a valuable lesson. A conversation with the family lawyer had revealed that his grandfather hadn't learned some of the lessons he had. And his father had learned late in life that thinking only of yourself was unproductive, whereupon he had determined to see that his son would learn the same lesson. It so happened that his son was quite an apt student.

One day, when Charles was visiting a hospital to determine the best course of action for an injured single mother of three, a random conversation ensued and Charles was informed that recent developments in the field of hematology might offer some real hope for his own condition. And it just so happened that a doctor pioneering in the effort was to visit his city in a few weeks to speak and teach. And he was willing to take volunteer patients in order to demonstrate his technique to physicians who were interested in learning. Just hearing of it was like a miraculous and divine event to Charles. He was certainly ready to have his name on that list.

The day had come when Charles was to receive treatment for his condition. He was shivering almost uncontrollably from excitement and from fear. A sense of his mortality had taken over and seemed unable to be shaken. He was cold and stressed. In this condition, only a sedative would help. The problem was that a sedative would skew the results of the treatment. Just as the procedure was about to be canceled and the next volunteer on the list was to be called, Charles suddenly became aware that he was relaxed and no longer afraid. How it had happened, he was not certain. It was simply enough that it had.

It was a week later and Charles was already feeling noticeably better. He had renewed energy. He had his old drive and desire again. And he had a boost of confidence, stemming from the preliminary conversation he'd had with the treating physician. In the course of getting to know one another and sharing details of their lives, Charles had revealed his passion to help others. In response, the good doctor had encouraged him to form a foundation for just that purpose, the continuing assistance to those in dire need. And he had offered to be of help in doing so, even to making a cash contribution if desired. Charles had never considered such a thing before and the thought intrigued him. He vowed to see the family attorney as soon as he could.
In the course of events since the project had begun, Charles had done most of his contributing to the needs of others through the lawyer, who had been the point of contact for those benefiting from his generosity. Now, Charles arrived at the offices of the law firm to find that he had been about to be contacted to pick up a number of personal letters directed to him. What could they be? Requests for more funds? Unexpected complications from his trying to help?

Charles opened the first letter, a curious attorney watching closely. It was from a woman he had helped but two months ago. She'd needed a bypass surgery if she was to survive. She had thanked him before, but now she wrote to say that she had recently felt the need to pray for him; that somehow, something wasn't right and he had need of help himself. After praying, she felt a sense of unsurpassed peace. The letter expressed her wishes that all was better in his life and was a repeated show of gratitude for what he had done in her behalf. She vowed she would pass on his good deed, as best she could, for as long as she lived.

The next letter was identical in purpose and subject matter, as was the third, the fourth and so on. Virtually every letter read the same. How had all these people known the hour of his need and prayed for him at that time? How was it possible? He reflected on that day, when he had been shaking so badly that the treatment had almost been canceled. He recalled how in his greatest despair, a peace had come over him that he could not describe or explain. Now he knew the answer. He had felt the prayers...or at least the results of those prayers. Charles wiped a tear from his eye and looked upward. He was not alone. So long as he lived, he knew that he would never be alone again--not so long as God was listening and answering. Not so long as Charles helped others in need.

Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 December 2010 - 1:47pm. | | | | |

Cast Not Thy Pearls....
Steven G. O’Dell (C) 2010

Cast not thy pearls before swine, lest they turn again and rend you.

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake had struck the city the day before. Hundreds of thousands had been crushed and buried in the rubble. Those who had escaped feared the recurring aftershocks and had assembled themselves in the city parks and open areas where no falling debris could harm them. They had huddled together and shivered throughout the night, most with no food or covering against the chill of the evening. As they discussed what their next move might be, their attentions were suddenly turned to the hillside above them.

“Who among you will hear the word of the Lord?”

The words rang out loud and strong from the two men who stood on the high ground of the city park. It was as if the voice of God had spoken, so great was the effect upon the people who had assembled there after the earthquake. Not only because the words were unusual and unexpected, but there was a power in the words themselves, it seemed. Many felt compelled to listen. Maybe it was the humility that had just been pressed upon them by the recent devastation that caused them to be more in tune or maybe it was the sense of helplessness many felt after losing all they had, but for their lives.The crowds began to gather about the two men, unremarkable in their appearance, but strong and confident in the demeanor.

“The destruction you have just experienced is no accident. It was predicted long ago. The fault is ours. We have not been prayerful to the Lord, nor obedient to his commandments. It is little wonder then that God cannot and will not protect a rebellious people in their sins.”

Many heads began to nod and some broke down in tears. The other man continued, as if on cue.

“God is forgiving and all is not lost, however. Your city lies in ruins, but you still live and may repent and be forgiven. Cities may be rebuilt with mutual cooperation and ruined lives may be rebuilt with the Lord’s help. Ultimately, you are more valuable to God than all the cities of the world.”

“Who are you to tell us what God wants?” The words rang out as strongly as had those of these two men, but the effect upon the soul was diametrically opposed to the effect of those first words.

“We are authorized priesthood representatives. It is our duty to do the Lord’s work and serve his children. And what reason do you have to question our intent?”

“Priesthood?” The man smirked and cast a smug glance at those gathered about. “You call yourselves representative of God and say you have authority to speak to us for him? There are hundreds of churches and they are all different. They don’t even agree with one another. Where do you get such authority to speak for God and why should we listen to you? What makes you any more qualified than any minister of another church?”

“The restoration of the church of Jesus Christ in our day, by and through living prophets of God is what qualifies us to speak in his behalf. Perhaps if you would listen, instead of question, you would know more about this and be able to decide properly whether we speak the truth.” The gaze was intense and there was no intimidation or hint of backing down in the man’s voice. He was about to continue speaking to the crowd when he was again interrupted.

“All you give us is words. What signs do you have to offer? If you have the authority of God, you should have the power of God to act in his name. Show us why we should believe you.”

“You ask for a sign? Are you familiar with the word of the Lord? If so, you know that he has spoken to that point already. And you would know the results of such requests.” He stared intensely at the man and waited for the message to sink in, while the crowd turned their gaze from one speaker to another.

“Yes, I ask for a sign. That’s a reasonable request. You expect these people, after all they have lost, to turn to you for guidance and not question you in any way? I think you are just opportunists who want to feed off these good people.”

Several people now began to murmur amongst themselves and some nodded their heads, apparently taking the side of this nay-sayer.

“You have had your sign already. Should I make it publicly known, here and now?” The intent of the question was somewhat vague to the man and to many of the gathered crowd, but the resolve on the face of this representative of God was unmistakable.

“What sign? I have no idea what you mean. Don’t give us double-talk. If you speak for God, you should be able to show why you should be taken more seriously than any other dime-a-dozen preacher. Otherwise, there is no reason we should take you seriously.” He stood now with his arms crossed in a defensive stance and glared at the men who stood above him on the hill’s crest. His look of confidence was about to be shaken, however.

“Very well. God has said that it is a wicked and adulterous generation that seeketh a sign. That has been reiterated and clarified by a modern prophet.” The speaker now pointed an accusingly finger directly at the challenger and with authority proclaimed, “You, sir, are an adulterer!!”

There was an audible gasp from the crowd and a sense of shock that struck the challenger as all turned to look at him for his reaction. He struggled to gather his wits as a voice from the crowd shouted, “It’s true! I know he is guilty of having an affair with his boss’s wife!”

Another gasp, louder than before, came from the crowd and now the nay-sayer in a frenzy of self-defense, shouted forth.

“That is no sign. I expect to see some miracles, some supernatural sign that no man could do without God’s power. Do that and I will believe you. Do that and all of us will believe you.”

While he may have thought he had gained the high ground, the two men on the hill closed their eyes a moment and bowed their heads slightly, as if in prayer. Meanwhile, the rebellious spirit seemed to gain ground amongst the assembled crowd. Then the priesthood holders opened their eyes, glanced briefly at one another and then at the man in the crowd. When one spoke, it was quietly, with conviction and apparent remorse.

“As you wish. You say a sign of such magnitude will make you a believer. Since you have not felt the Lord’s written condemnation of your wickedness to be sufficient, let this be added. According to the word of the Lord to us, you refuse to hear truth and would prevent others from hearing truth. Your blind eye and evil tongue shall not be allowed to deceive and destroy the souls of those who have suffered such extreme devastation already. Your sign, according to your request, shall be that your eyes, which are blind by choice, and your lips, which speak evil by choice, shall be shut and shall not be opened again until you shall feel to say in your heart that God again speaks to man, through his chosen representatives, his Priesthood holders. On that day only shall you believe. And on that day only shall you see clearly, hear clearly and speak the truth. Let this be your sign, in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of his holy Priesthood.”

The smug and demeaning smile disappeared from the man’s lips as the final words were spoken. As the crowd watched, his legs buckled under him and he moaned aloud as he hit the ground and began to weep in such anguish of soul as had seldom been heard even in the disastrous events of the day before. His hands felt at his eyes and at his throat, his lips attempting to speak and unable to do so. He pulled at his ears and then pounded the ground with his hands.

A circle now widened about this man, the crowd moving back in shock, until a space fully thirty feet across was created. The center of their attention reached out violently in all directions, attempting in his rage to grab someone, anyone, upon whom he might vent his anger. Shock was so apparent on the faces of the assembled that many ran from the park in fear, while others looked in rapt wonder at the two men who stood on the hill above them.

Again came the words, as they had before. “Who among you will hear the words of the Lord?”

The listeners were now far fewer, but the remaining listeners were quite sincere and they listened intently, with open hearts and minds. Many new names would be added to the records of the church in the coming months and the city would slowly be rebuilt upon the same ground as before, trusting to God that it would stand so long as the people were obedient and faithful.

Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 December 2010 - 1:44pm. | | | | |

Other Sheep Have I
Steven G. O'Dell (C) 2010

...their young men shall see visions and their old men shall have dreams.

“Why is Dad acting so weird lately, Mom?”

“It depends on what you mean by weird.”

Ariana crinkled her fourteen-year-old brow a brief moment, then answered. “Oh, you know, all the shopping for camping gear and filling our garage with everything but the car. That stuff.”

“So, you’ve noticed it, too?” Katya smiled playfully as she asked.

“Who could miss it? I mean, you said that he came to America to have freedom and get away from the lack of...everything...in Russia. And now he’s acting like he’s scared to death there will be a famine tomorrow.”

“I know it seems strange, dear, but your father and I have talked about it and he feels very deeply that this is something he must do. He can’t really explain why...just that it is something that he must do.”

“Is he going crazy?”

“Ariana! No, of course not. He had a dream...." She paused and took a deep breath before proceeding. “Actually he’s had several dreams that have led him to this behavior. He isn’t crazy, but he is driven by what he sees.”

“What does he see in his dreams?”

“Frightening things, dear. Frightening things he wants us to be ready for. Are you certain you want to know?” Katya locked gaze with Ariana and waited to read her daughter’s expression.

“Yes...if you think I should.” She appeared unsure.

“Okay, then sit down and we will talk.”

Antonin had another dream and as he awoke, he sat bolt upright, bathed in a cold sweat. He was breathing hard and adrenalin was flowing heavily through his veins. The time was getting shorter, he knew, and there was no doubting that all would come to pass, just as he had seen it. And that is why he feared so dreadfully.

He had seen urban warfare in the streets of America and worst of all, he had seen bloodshed and martial law in his own city. He knew it would be real, as well as he knew his own name and he could not allow his family to be exposed to that. There had to be a way to escape the devastation he foresaw. The answer would come soon enough.

“I am going to the store. Is there anything we need, Katya?” She shook her head and went back to her laundry.

Antonin was becoming more sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit as time passed. He still had vivid and disturbing dreams, but now he would get unmistakable images and urgent messages that would enter his mind in a sudden flash of insight. One of them came as he entered the grocery store.

Antonin stopped suddenly and stood transfixed by the vision of a man with a heavy mustache and an unusual tie. The vision disappeared as suddenly as it had come and he turned again to go into the department store. He had not gone through many aisles before he ran into the very man he had seen in his vision. Antonin again stood still, almost unbelieving, but for the proof that was before him.

“Do I know you?” asked the man with the mustache and strange tie. He studied Antonin’s face intently.

“I do not know, but I have seen you before. In a vision.” He waited for the man to shake his head, dismiss him as a fool and leave. Instead, the man’s eyes seemed to widen and a faint smile now adorned his lips.

“Yes...yes! That is where I know you from. I thought after all this time that I must have imagined it, but here you are.”

“And here are you, as well. Now what do we do?”

“My name is Dominic.” He offered his hand. “How about we get some lunch and talk?”

Of course. It was indeed that simple. It had to begin somewhere.

“Katya! Katya, where are you?”

“Here. What is the fuss?” She came into the room with flour and dough still on her hands.

“I know what we are to do now. The Lord has provided the answer for our next step. We must begin to pack only that which is most important to us...that which is irreplaceable or will preserve our lives. Nothing else.”

Katya’s hands dropped to her sides involuntarily, as her mouth fell open. “What are you saying, Antonin? Do you expect us to leave our home? Our neighbors?”

“I am afraid so. I know it to be God’s will...and soon.” He looked sad, but she knew she could trust him. He loved his family and his neighbors and would never lightly make such a move.

“When?” she asked simply.

“As I said, soon.”

She nodded with resignation, bowed her head and silently turned again to her duties in the kitchen.

Dominic Troiano offered his hand as Antonin’s wife and daughter were introduced. In turn, he introduced his own wife and his teenaged son. Dominic began the discussion after all had been seated.

“This is an important day for us all. We are here because it is God’s will that we meet. It is now our responsibility to determine why. I think it is because each of us may have information or skills that all of us will need to survive what is to come.”

Antonin nodded his head in agreement. “I felt that as well when we first met. May I suggest that we begin with each of us, our wives and children included, writing down our work histories, our hobbies and talents and any education we have received that could possibly become important. Do not discount anything as being too simple to matter. Even the simplest of things may become life-saving to us at some point.”

When the lists were finished and studied, it was clear that many points of compatibility rose to the top. Antonin then suggested that perhaps they should compare lists of any ownership of property. This, too, became a point of interest. Both families had been accumulating camping supplies and foodstuffs for some time, but Dominic held property in a heavily wooded area some distance from the city and had been stocking a small cabin with supplies for some time. He now suggested that Antonin and his family should come to visit that property soon and bring with them anything they might wish to add to the stockpile.

Dominic’s wife, Sarah, twisted the dial on the short wave radio and heard only a few minutes of the latest events in America before she became sickened and turned it off again. Life was by comparison so peaceful in the forest, although it was not easy by any means.

“It’s difficult to listen to, I know. But we do need to monitor it now and then, dear.”

“You can monitor it, Dom, or Antonin, but I have had enough. I want it all to end. We can’t keep living this way.”

“Sarah, you do know that the first colonists cleared land just like this, don’t you?”

“I am not a pioneer, Dom!”

“Neither am I. Sarah. At least I didn’t think so before now.” Dominic laughed at the thought. “And had I thought you were the rough and tumble type when I met you, I may not have been interested in marriage. So, be thankful you aren’t a pioneer. You are thankful, aren’t you? You may have been married to a rich farmer or a logger otherwise.”

Sarah now laughed, too. “Or a dairy farmer’s wife. All the cheese I would ever want.”

“Am I not cheesy enough for you?”

Sarah grinned from ear to ear and hugged her husband with all her might. “Is that a farm girl hug or not?”

“Close enough. Sarah, we are all in this together and God is leading us. Don’t lose your faith, alright? He will not let us down if we will only obey.”

Each day the news became worse. New York City was in flames, Boston had been swept into the sea and blood ran in every major American city, as well as in farmlands, where farmers were forced to fight to protect their crops and livestock or run for their lives. Anarchy reigned supreme. Law enforcement had long since given up trying to do their duty and now only fought for their own defense and existence and that of their families. It was to be expected. Food was nearly non-existent, gasoline was gone in most cities, clothing had all but been totally looted and money was worth nothing in a total financial meltdown such as the country was experiencing. There was little to do but wait it out.

Dominic, Antonin, Ariana and Mark, Dominic’s son, became proficient at hunting to supplement their stored foods. While the men used compound bows to go after big game, Ariana proved to be a deadly shot with her .22 caliber rifle and a lot of small game was taken from her skill. She used the quieter subsonic rounds in order to avoid drawing undue attention to their party.

Winter had been tough and Mark was going cabin crazy by the time spring broke. The news had turned from horrid violence everyday and now reflected a sense of returning order and peace. The nation was slowly becoming safe again. Antonin and Dominic often spoke in hushed tones about how the peace was being restored. Certainly it could not be a pretty scene. Millions were dead from violence, disease, starvation, fires and even suicide. Those who survived often did so by staying ahead of the marauding gangs that combed the land, taking what they wished until they themselves were killed.

The day came when both men awoke to share a common dream they had been shown during the night. Their families knew this was the will of the Lord and eagerly listened for the chance to return to their old way of life, but it was not yet meant to be.

“What we have seen,” Antonin remarked, “is the will of God for our families. We have been spared all the heartache and suffering of the general public. I cannot help but wonder how many had the same dreams as we have had and did not take them seriously. I can only hope that many more did as they were told and lived. These are the ones we will need to rebuild this nation. They are the obedient.”

“They will be the worthy ones, because of their obedience,” Dominic agreed. He turned again to the dream. “What we saw in the dream was our families driving as far as we could, until our fuel ran out, then walking with a large group of God’s people to the state of Utah for a short time. We will spend some years there and then will go to Missouri to build a great city.”

“Yes,” interjected Antonin. “The city is magnificent. It is beautiful beyond imagination. To be a part in building it will be an honor and blessing any man would be proud to have.”

Katya began to cry with gratitude. Sarah, though, was concerned about how far they might have to walk and how much they would have to leave behind as they did. She felt her entire life was slipping away from her and could not easily see the blessings she had been granted.
“Sarah, please...we must keep our spirits high and be grateful for the safety we have been accorded. We have food, we have clothing and shelter. And most of all, we have our health still. Think of how fortunate...no, how very blessed we are. Can you not see that?”

The only thing worse than being corrected by her husband was to have it done in the company of others. She stood and went to the bedroom in tears, closing the door behind her. Dominic excused himself to console her.

“Dad, it won’t be easy, will it?” Ariana asked.

“No, it will not be easy. We will wear out shoes while walking to where we need to go. We will have to learn to make our own shoes at some point. And then other clothes. We will need to hunt along the way, if we can, and we will need to conserve food and water, often doing without for a few days at a time. Many will die in the attempt. But we will make it if we don’t give up, I assure you. God will not let us down so long as we obey Him. He has promised it and I trust Him. I want you to trust Him, also.”

Ariana nodded her head. She would do as required. It would not be fun, but she knew it would be necessary and that she was young and healthy, standing a good chance of arriving alive. And if her father had been assured they would live, she would trust him and then God, for her father had always shown wisdom thus far. Even this retreat into the woods, which she had originally thought to be crazy, had possibly saved them. Add to this the witness of Dominic and there was little way to dispute the truth of it. She would just trust and obey.

Several years had passed and life in southern Utah had been tough, but had built character and skills, teaching what was priority and what was luxury. The people already there, many of whom were called Mormons, had been very kind and welcomed those who were new to their communities. Now, the time was at hand again to trek across the country under direction of the Lord. The major difference now was that a prophet of God would lead them. Antonin and Dominic and their families had all been taught of the restored church of Jesus Christ and had personal witness of the truth by that same Spirit which had led them to one another and had preserved them all those years before. This time, there was a sense of excitement and elation at the beginning of the journey. Even Sarah showed excitement.

After the first trek, most knew what they would need to carry with them, although the prophet gave general guidelines to their stakes, wards and branches. The number of people who would be making the trek was enormous, but was to be broken into ten large groups, to leave three days apart. Many of the elderly and young children would go during the first few departures, making it easier to be picked up by succeeding groups, if need be. Each group would be large enough to protect itself, but close enough to the next group to get some help if required. Wild game might be scarce if the entire number were to remain as a single group, but these few days between would be sufficient to allow some game to return after the previous group moved on. Nonetheless, each group was to rely as much as they could on what they might carry with them, including cattle. What hunting was needed could be done from horseback. Horses would also be valuable to maintain communications between groups, as citizen radios would be in short supply and batteries of limited life.

Antonin scanned the sky for any hint of rain and wiped his forehead. He had not been able to offer his family any water this day, but he knew the Lord would provide for the faithful. He began to sing his favorite hymn, The Spirit of God, and within a few lines he was joined by several voices around him and it spread with each verse. As they sang, their own spirits picked up and each step seemed easier than the one before it. When the last verse ended, smiles adorned the faces of the previously down-hearted. The mood became even more elevated when rain clouds began to form on the horizon.

Dominic and Mark walked on each side of Sarah, helping to support her with their own weakened bodies as they topped a hill and saw below them the group that had previously arrived, already encamped in well-arranged rows and clusters, the beehive flag hoisted on a pole above the camp and flying proudly in the breeze. Even Dominic began to cry as he realized they had reached their destination. He turned with aching muscles toward those dragging themselves up the hill behind him and tiredly waved in triumph to Antonin and his family. The fragrance of campfire cooked dinners greeted their nostrils, but these families would want a drink of cool water before anything else...except maybe a prayer of thanksgiving.

Ariana and Mark stood hand-in-hand on the hill they had climbed when they first arrived at this location some years earlier. The city was indeed just as beautiful as their fathers had predicted. At the center of this grid-planned city was a magnificent temple complex, a House of the Lord and several adjacent buildings, all built by the many native Americans and Hispanics, who had been gathered here, aided by those of other ethnicities that had accompanied them to Missouri. The law of God went out to all the world from this city. Anarchy had been defeated and peace once again held sway.

“I don’t know about you, but I am glad our fathers were ‘crazy’ and had their dreams. If they had not, I would never have met the prettiest woman in the nation.” Mark squeezed Ariana’s hand affectionately.

“Just the nation? Not the world?” Ariana attempted to cover her smile, unsuccessfully.

“That remains to be seen. I haven’t seen all the women in the world yet. But I would guess you are right there at the top of the list and I intend to prove it to you.”

“Oh, really? How, by dating all the other women in the world first?” She gave him an accusing eye.

“Not a chance. By asking you to marry me and be sealed in the House of the Lord, that’s how. My mother donated this ring, just in case you said ’yes’ to me.” Mark held out the ring he had pulled from the pocket of his homemade trousers.

Ariana could no longer speak and simply nodded her head, hugging Mark as tightly as she could. Their parents would that night join in their celebration and the city of God would perhaps grow yet again in the near future.

Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 December 2010 - 1:42pm. | | | | |

In Mine Own Due Time
Steven G. O'Dell (C) 2010

Einstein was correct...time is entirely relative.

Word had gotten around that LeAnne had shaken Gerald from his basic beliefs in science alone and that several others in the building had shown interest in her position also. Nelson Taylor thought it shameful that Gerald had been 'beaten by a girl.' Nelson didn't know how well-informed and well-studied LeAnne was, however. Nonetheless, he was confident he could cast doubt on her claims. He would take a different approach. LeAnne had discussed the cosmos. He would discuss the earth.

"I have some concerns about your beliefs, LeAnne. Mind if we discuss them?"

Gerald was sitting beside LeAnne today and he wondered what would be the outcome of the discussion. He had yet to get an answer to his prayers, but he was actively being taught and was impressed with what he had read in the Book of Mormon, the second witness of Christ. It made sense to him that God would speak to all nations if He spoke to anyone at all.

"No problem. What concerns you about my beliefs?" LeAnne smiled in an openly friendly manner.

"Well, I assume you believe the Bible to be the word of God, right?"

"Insofar as it is correctly translated, yes."

Nelson was surprised by her answer. "Are you saying you don't think it is infallible and the final word?"

"I mean just what I say. I believe it insofar as it is correctly translated. I would be foolish to believe anything that isn't accurately recorded and translated, wouldn't I?"

"Well, yes, I would tend to agree." Nelson was caught off guard already. The answer was totally unexpected.

"What are your specific concerns, Nelson?" LeAnne prodded him from his reverie. Unafraid and confident, she was plowing ahead. Nelson had half expected she would cower a bit, but there was no indication of it.

"All this stuff about the earth being only a few thousand years old, frankly. That flies in the face of science."

"Well, first of all, why would you think I have to believe such a thing?"

Again, LeAnne surprised Nelson with her response. How had he figured wrong? Didn't all Christians believe such nonsense?

"The Bible says one day is equal to a thousand years, doesn't it?"

"This is where proper translation comes into play, Nelson. I don't claim to be an expert in Hebrew or Greek, but I would guess that any proper translation, in order to be realistic and accurate, would have to reflect true science, wouldn't you?"

"Umm, yeah...yes, of course."

"Then we agree on that. In this case, the verse you refer to is an example of a Hebrew poetic style called Chiasmus. They would often restate something in a reverse order. This one says 'One day is a thousand years and a thousand years as one day to the Lord.' That's a perfect Chiastic form."

"Then I was correct. If a day of the Lord's time is a thousand years, you must believe the earth to be only seven thousand years old, right?"

"Wrong."

"Okay, you confuse me. How can it be understood any other way?"

LeAnne smiled again and it bothered Nelson to see it. She didn't look the least bit flustered. He thought he had her with the obvious contradiction she showed. Now he wasn't too sure.

"If you look at it simply as a statement and restatement, it would certainly be confusing. But I have learned that God often does double duty and hides other meanings, much deeper meanings, into a single verse."

"Okay, so enlighten me. How do you interpret the verse?"

"I see it as a mathematical equation. You need to begin at the beginning and follow it all the way through. And you need to understand that the comparison is being made between two categories of time. One is man's time and the other is God's time."

"Okay, isn't that what I said; a day of God's time is a thousand years for man? That would make the earth only a few thousand years old, right?"

"Wrong. Stay with me here. Again, it's an equation. The verse starts by defining the relationship of the two categories of time. You need a place to start and that is it. A day equals a thousand years. Then what would a year of that kind of time be equal to?"

"Three hundred and sixty-five thousand years?" Nelson already appeared to be stunned, as if he was beginning to see where this might be going. Others had gathered about and were leaning in to hear the discussion.

"Exactly. But we aren't done with the equation yet. A thousand years of those years would be...." She paused to let Nelson figure it out.

"Umm, that would be...three hundred and sixty-five million years?" He looked as if the starch were beginning to be drawn out of him.

"Right again. Now we have to remember that this is just one day to the Lord. If you recall, there were six days that He labored and on the seventh He rested. So now you need to multiply that period by seven and if you like, you can add another six thousand years of our own history to it."

"Whew! I need a calculator." Nelson laughed nervously to relieve the tension. No one else was laughing. They were seriously considering the deep implications of this new interpretation of the verse.

"Let me save you the worry. It comes to three point five five billion years, without the extra six thousand tacked on. Now we are talking geological time periods, I believe..?"

"Okay, you are getting closer, but the scientists say the earth is four point two billion years old." Nelson was actually shocked that LeAnne had an explanation that was anywhere in the ballpark. Still, he felt compelled to corner her and make a point.

"That would make a difference of...point six-five billion years. Tell me this, Nelson; how long do you think it would take for a hot planet to cool off before it would sustain water without boiling all of it off? It might need to be hot enough to form a water canopy around the earth, as evidenced by the huge plants and animals early on in the world's history, but could not be so hot as to be allowed to boil it off entirely, if any life were to be supported on such a planet."

Nelson didn't know how to answer. It seemed he wasn't doing any better than Gerald had. And he had the same audience they had gathered previously. They seemed quite impressed with LeAnne's logic, judging by the nodding of heads and the comments heard. Yet she seemed humble and unmoved by it.

"I think well over half a billion years seems adequate, don't you? Do you have any other concerns?"

LeAnne spoke as if that were the end of the subject and frankly, Nelson was so stunned and speechless, he had to concede that it most likely was the end. He had to think fast to recall what else he had wanted to talk about.

"Well, uhh...I was wondering how anyone could believe in a worldwide flood that covered the tops of all the mountains. There doesn't seem to be enough water in all the world to do that. And if there was, where did it go afterward?"

"Again, it's a matter of reading it right. There are a few verses connected to the record of the event that are often ignored, Nelson. It says the fountains of the deep were broken up and it says the waters continually came and went. What do you think that means? I still believe the answer must fit the record as well as good science. I don't toss science aside, ever. Science and religion can and must go hand in hand, if they are sound interpretations.

"The reference to the fountains of the deep can mean only one thing in my mind. The Lord had said he placed waters above and below the firmament. The firmament would be the rocks and soil. What water would be below that could well be the layers of the water table and the Artesian springs that come forth. If the waters of the deep break up and come forth, the collapsing rock layers might put tremendous pressure on that water. I have seen scientific recreations and estimates that predict the waters could have shot forth as high as twenty miles into the atmosphere when the rocks collapsed upon them. The water canopy over the earth would have been affected and rains would have likely begun in torrents.The other verse says the waters continually came and went. What does that sound like to you, Nelson?"

"Waves?"

"Not just any waves, but waves big enough to make a special mention of them. Ordinary waves wouldn't be worth such mention. Tidal waves of immense proportions would, however. Imagine waves a mile high or more, smashing into mountain ranges and pouring over them. Imagine tremendous amounts of water rushing across the landmasses and scouring them clean with all the debris carried in the waters. Wouldn't that qualify as a worldwide flood?"

"Well, yes, but what would cause such a tidal wave?"

"Signs in the heavens. What are those signs? Comets, planets, stars, meteors, etcetera. What would happen if a large astral body came very close to the earth? We know our moon can cause large tides in some areas of the world. What would a planetoid do?"

Nelson felt he was losing the debate and could only ask LeAnne to tell him what she thought would happen in such an event.

"It would have a tremendous effect upon the tides, causing waves that would encircle the earth over and over, even after the planetoid had passed and was gone from our solar system, perhaps. And if it were passing close enough, the gravitational pull could actually cause the crust of the earth to split. The result of that would be the fountains of the deep being released, the upwelling of new mountain ranges, floods of lava being released and pehaps even the movement of the continents themselves, due to tectonic plate fracture and shift."

Gerald couldn't remain silent. He was quite impressed by her knowledge. "Where do you learn these things, LeAnne?"

"A little place called the library. But I also like the internet." Her enthusiasm was infectious as she grinned from ear to ear.

"Okay, okay...what about the way the Bible claims Daniel could make a prophesy based on four words on a wall? And two of the words were the same." The sudden change of subject amounted to a concession on the previous subject. Nelson knew it all too well, but hoped LeAnne would be too kind to point it out. She was.

"This is another one the Lord has revealed in His own due time. The words were MENE MENE TEKEL PERES. In this record, God again hides two meanings. The words are the Babylonian equivalents of the Hebrew weights and measures known as Maneh, Shekel and the word 'halved' or 'divided'. Thus the pronouncement that the kingdom was weighed in the balance and found wanting. A Maneh was equal to a thousand Gerahs, much like our pound might be sixteen ounces or a dollar is a hundred pennies. The Shekel was equal to twenty Gerahs. Since the Maneh is mentioned twice, that would be two thousand Gerahs, the Shekel adding twenty and the 'half' being five hundred Gerahs."

"How do you know it isn't half of the Shekel and only ten Gerahs?"

"Good question, but the other meaning is totally compatible with the first interpretation and supports that line of reasoning. The interesting thing is that the first interpretation was taken under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost to mean that the Kingdom of Babylon would fall that night and be divided between the Medes and the Persians, as evidenced by the other term mentioned to be parallel to PERES. That term was a play on the word 'Persian". being U'pharsin or pharsin. And if you know your history, you know that very thing happened; the kingdom fell that very night and was divided between the Medes and Persians.

"The other half of the prophecy is a calendar, having to do with two thousand, five hundred and twenty years of coming history. It predicts the future of Israel, both northern and southern kigdoms, and of the restoration of Christ's ancient church and the Kingdom of God in our modern times."

Nelson's head was reeling beyond belief. He didn't know enough about the Bible to argue the point with LeAnne and he had no desire to do so. Nelson asked no more questions, but thanked her and excused himself, feeling fortunate to get away with some small degree of dignity left. This was not going to be easy by any means.

"LeAnne," asked Gerald, "can you share any other prophecies that are hidden, as you say, in plain sight?"

"Yes, one of the most impressive, to me, is the one contained in the fifth chapter of Genesis. In what appears to be a enign record of the lineage of Adam down to Noah, the Lord hides a prophecy so sublime it should be common knowledge. The amazing aspect of this is that the most recognized prophet of the House of Israel to this day has recorded a uniquely Christian prophecy in the very names of this lineage.

"The meanings of names was important to the ancient Israelites, but not so much to us today. And that is why we miss so much when we read the Bible. For example, the name Adam means 'man'. Seth means 'appointed'. Likewise, each of these names has a specific and pertinent meaning.

"The message that results from proper interpretation of this string of names is amazing and beyond coincidence alone. What are the odds that over so many generations a family would name their sons in such a manner as to form this message?

"Man appointed mortal sorrow. The great God shall come down, teaching. His death shall bring the suffering rest."

A few gasps were heard in the general overall silence and little could be added to the discussion from then on, as all seemed overcome with the magnitude of meaning in those relatively few names. LeAnne felt she had powerfully made her point regarding the veracity of the Bible, but she was sorry that Nelson had not been there to hear this last revelation. She had hoped it would provide the means to soften his heart somewhat.

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