Easter 1986

Put on the Armor of Light

Courtesy LDS Media LibrarySmoke rose impatiently
through pearly blossoms,
like the prayers of the saints,

and the tonic of flowers
begged him to overthrow
darker persuasions.

From a faded tulip chair, he
looked up at me and said,
“Why seek ye the living among the dead?”

He inhaled the light and fragrant day, and, sitting back, rested mute bones against impossibility.

Michael James Fitzgerald

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The Quiet Day

Courtesy LDS Media Library

The bewildering quiet
brought unfathomed grief.

Pilate, in a chamber alone,
hands in loose tunic pockets,
mulled his wife’s day-old dream
as stale wine.

Exhausted by treason,
he granting a watch
with absent eyes.

Then the Arimthean, silenced by
duplicitous council,
despised the Death he could not stop,
and plotted benevolent revenge.

Mary, raging against her own blind instinct,
denied the Master’s
sudden disappearance

While two angels,
on the outskirts of reason,
waited for the sun to rise.

Michael James Fitzgerald

Ye Have Made It a Den of Thieves

Courtezy LDS Media Library

Here’s we think happened on Monday of Holy Week or the last week of Jesus’ mortal life . . .

As Jesus returned from Bethany to the city Jerusalem with His disciples the following  morning, He saw a fig tree from a distance. He walked up to the tree to see if it had any fruit, though it was far too early in the season for ripe figs. When He found the tree barren, He said, in the hearing of His disciples, “Let no man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.” (Matt. 21:18–19; Mark 12:12–14.)

When Jesus went into the temple of God, He began to cast out all those who bought and sold within the temple’s sacred precincts, overthrowing their tables and chairs, not allowing anyone to carry any vessel through the temple. He said to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer?’ But ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Matt. 21:12–13; Mark 11:15–17; Luke 19:45–46.)

When the religious authorities saw Him do these amazing things, and witnessed the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were very displeased, and said to Jesus, “Hearest thou what these say?” But Jesus answered them, “Yea; have ye never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?’”

Jesus taught the people daily in the temple, but the those of the religious establishment were jealous and looked for ways to discredit and ultimately kill Him. They feared Him, but they couldn’t figure out what to do yet, because He was so popular in the eyes of the people. The common people flocked to Him and were amazed at the doctrine He taught and listened to Him attentively. (Matt. 21:14–16; Mark 11:18; Luke 19:47–48.)

When they passed by the fig tree later, they saw that it had dried up and withered away, just as the nation who was about to reject Him would likewise perish.

Jesus Enters Jerusalem in Triumph

Courtesy LDS Media Library

Here’s what we know happened on Sunday of Holy Week, or the last week of Jesus’ mortal life . . .

A few days before the feast of Passover, Jesus and His apostles approached Jerusalem from the east on the Mount of Olives. They were near the villages of Bethany and Bethphage when He asked two of His disciples to go into a nearby village where, He said, “ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her, whereon yet never man sat: loose them, and bring them unto me.” He went on: “And if any man ask you, ‘Why do ye loose him?’ thus shall ye say unto him, ‘Because the Lord hath need of him.’ And straightway he will send them.”

The two disciples went into the village and did as Jesus asked. There they found an ass and her colt tied near a place where two roads met. As they untied the colt, the owners said, “What do ye, loosing the colt?”
 The disciples then said—with smiles, I think—“The Lord hath need of him.” When the owners heard that, they let them go, as if they recognized the origin of the request instantly. The disciples brought the ass and her colt to Jesus. They laid their garments on the unbroken colt and helped Jesus up onto his back
.

This was significant as riding on a donkey in this way was a sign of royalty. It was all done in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah who wrote, “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” The disciples didn’t understand the significance of this at the time, but after Jesus was resurrected and glorified, they remembered that these things had been written about Him.

As Jesus descended the west side of the Mount of Olives, nearing the Holy City, a huge crowd came out to meet Him. They laid their garments in the roadway and others cut down branches from off the trees and also laid them down in the way.
 Those who had witnessed the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in Bethany, spread this news of Him. For this reason, the people of Jerusalem came out to meet Him, because they had heard that he had done a Messianic miracle.

The multitude started to praise God with loud voices because of the great things they had witness Jesus do, crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the King that cometh in the name of the Lord.
 Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven, and hosanna in the highest!”

The Pharisees didn’t like hearing Jesus receive such praise which indicated that He was the Messiah. They said, “Master, rebuke thy disciples.”
 But Jesus answered, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”
 The Pharisees weren’t happy with this response and said among themselves, “Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.”
 Trouble was definitely brewing.

When he came near Jerusalem, He started to cry. He said, looking at the city, “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.
 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee. And they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”

When He came into city, many were moved and said among themselves, “Who is this?” Some answered, “This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.” He went into the temple and had a look around. As the evening grew on, He went back to Bethany with the Twelve and spent the night there. (See Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:10–11, 17; Mark 11:11; Luke 19:41–44
.)

Patterns in Near Death Experiences

Courtesy LDS Media Library
Elijah Ascending into Heaven, by W. H. Margetson

Over the last year or so, I’ve been studying near-death experiences in depth. I’ve read or listened to books, watched movies, listened to or watched more than 40 NDEs on video, and discovered a repository of nearly 4,500 NDE stories, originating in over 30 languages. And in years past, I’ve met and spoken in depth with several people who have had these experiences themselves.

I’m totally assured that NDEs are real. There’s overwhelming evidence that they are. I can’t write them off as coincidences and “hallucinations” and be honest with myself.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot and have drawn up some notes on the fascinating patterns that emerged from my study. Here are a few highlights.

  • At the moment of death, they almost instantly discover themselves standing next to their bodies or looking down at their bodies from above, and people and activities around them.
  • They often lose interest in what is happening to their earthly bodies.
  • They almost always report an incredible sense of well-being, a complete absence of pain, and little interest in life in the mortal world.
  • They are often greeted by beings of light, some of whom they know personally, some who are vaguely familiar, some unknown. These beings are often referred to as angels or spirit guides.
  • Some encounter beings of darkness, but once the beings of light appear, the dark entities scatter and disappear.
  • As they describe these encounters with other beings, after returning to their bodies, family members often recognize these beings as a relative, such as a grandparent.
  • Many find themselves in something they call a tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, they often see a light and are drawn to it. (Not everyone who has an NDE enters or sees this tunnel.)
  • Once they arrive at the end of the tunnel, they describe the place as heaven or paradise. The unearthly colors are much more vivid, varied, and vibrant than they have seen before. They see gardens, buildings, and streets much like on earth, but much more orderly, clean, and ornate.
  • When they communicate with these beings, there is no need to talk with their mouths. They can communicate through thoughts.
  • Movement is also as easy as thought. They can travel over great distances just by thinking of where they want to go.
  • They find the experience very difficult to describe in words, especially in terms of the peace, joy, and beauty they experience, but often call it the most real experience of their lives and that life on earth is more of a dream.
  • Almost all describe a feeling of absolute love, unlike anything they have ever imagined. This love remains with them throughout their lives.
  • Many but not all come in contact with a radiant, loving being who they identify as Jesus Christ and have conversations with Him. They describe Him as infinitely kind, caring, supportive, accepting, and positive. He never condemns them, but occasionally gently chastises them—and they know they had it coming. Some are amazed by His sense of humor!
  • A good number experience a detailed, rapid life review, something that they view on a screen of sorts. They see all the good and bad they have done to others. A recurring theme is relationships with others, as if that is the most important thing we can accomplish on earth—loving, respectful relationships.
  • Some are asked if they want to stay while others are told them must return. Most are reluctant to leave the place that most feels like home.
  • When their spirits reenter their bodies, it is often coupled with a jolt and a sudden return of pain.
  • Some report instant, miraculous healings from diseases or illnesses upon returning to their bodies. Some healings take longer, but are much more rapid and successful than doctors anticipate.
  • All report a completely changed view of life with no emphasis on material things and great focus on relationships and loving and serving others. Atheists and agnostics can’t continue in their old paradigms.
  • Many, after a period of silence, feel compelled to share their stories of grace, healing, and redemption.
  • A few take on an inflated view of themselves, reject their traditional faith or interpret their experience through restricted, orthodox views. Most are very honest, authentic, and vulnerable about their NDE, but some distort their experience and use it for personal and financial gain.

To me, the evidence is overwhelming: our bodies may die, but our spirits continue; heaven is real and so is our Creator; death is nothing to fear or be worried about.

P.S. I’m currently listening to a book published in 1395 AD. It was written by Julian of Norwich and is called Revelations of Divine Love, the first book in history written in English by a woman. Julian’s “showings” or visions resemble those who have had NDEs.

P.P.S I wonder what Stephen Hawking thinks about the existence of an afterlife and God now? I hope I can personally ask him someday.

Second Coming—Blue, Blood, Super Lunar Eclipse, plus Tu BiShvat

Griffith Observatory Video Screenshot

We experienced a once in a lifetime lunar eclipse this morning (if you live in North America). We’ve not seen an eclipse like this one since 1866. Here’s a brief run down:

  • A “blue moon” is the second full moon in a month. They occur every 2.7 years.
  • A “blood moon” is when red light filters through the earth’s atmosphere, casting a reddish hue on the moon during a total eclipse.
  • A “super moon” is when the moon reaches perigee (when it’s orbit is nearest the earth), making it appear much closer and brighter than usual.
  • Tu BiShvat is the Jewish holiday known as the “New Year of the Trees.” It marks when the fruit-bearing trees in Israel begin their new season of growth.

The Lord appointed “lights in the firmament . . . [to] be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Genesis 1:14). “Signs of what” you ask? Let’s look at what the prophet Joel said:

The sun shall be turned into darkness [August 21, 2017], and the moon into blood [January 31, 2018], before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. (Joel 2:31.)

I’m not saying that we have seen the complete fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. I’m not predicting the end. Other signs will certainly come our way. They must come, as the scriptures mandate. But I am watching the signposts along the road and preparing myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. That’s our job.

Our job is not to perspire on our way to the Second Coming, but to inspire. I’m not getting hung up on dates or the fabulous and varied calculations so prevalent today. I am hanging onto my faith, however, clinging to anything of eternal value. Everything else will likely be left behind. These are the last days, you know.

Farewell, Thomas S. Monson

IMG_4793On Thursday morning, January 11, I was blessed to attend the viewing of President Thomas S. Monson at the Conference Center where he lay in state in the Hall of the Prophets. There was a presence there, a great peace. I “heard” the whispers of unseen angels. It was solemn yet joyful. I loved the feeling so much that I went again at 3 o’clock that afternoon with a friend. It was an unforgettable experience for me.

I’m sad to see President Monson go, but I am also very happy for him and for his beloved Francis who went before him several years earlier. What a reunion that must have been. The doorway of death is, reportedly, not a frightening one but rather one to look forward to. I look forward to it myself, but not until I complete my mission—on the Lord’s timetable. Let’s not rush it.

My wife and I were able to attend the funeral the next day, Friday, January 12, also in the Conference Center. I’ve watched many of these funerals over satellite or on television, the first being the funeral of President Spencer W. Kimball in November 1985. I was deeply moved by the remarks Friday, especially from President Monson’s daughter, Ann M. Dibb, and from President Russell M. Nelson, on whose shoulders the prophetic mantle has fallen as president of the Quorum of the Twelve.

IMG_4794

I’ve been watching some of President Monson’s past conference talks. If you want to listen to a classic, try this one, “Abundantly Blessed,” the closing address of the April 2008 general conference where he was sustained as president of the Church. It is pretty funny and comforting (about 10 minutes long).

President Monson was sustained as a member of the Twelve when I was five years old. I became acquainted with his positive, kind voice when I was 18, shortly after I joined the Church. I’ll continue to miss him, but I am delighted that his mortal trials are behind him, finally.

God bless you, Tom Monson. You’ve been a light and an example to me for all my adult life. The world needed you. I needed you too.