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
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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
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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.

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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.

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols — December 24, 2017

a5d46-kingscollegechapelSince 1918, a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols has been a special Christmas Eve service held in King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England. Now in it’s 99th year, it is broadcast to millions of people around the world. The service is always opened with “Once in Royal David’s City” followed by many other traditional carols, interspersed by Bible readings.

Construction on the chapel began in A.D. 1446 under King Henry VI, and was opened in A.D. 1515 under the reign of Henry VIII.

You can read more about it here and listen live here (8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. MST, December 24, 2017).

Free Audio Recording of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol

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Not long ago, I discovered a free, dramatic reading of one of my favorite books, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. (I wrote about A Christmas Carol in a previous post.) The award-winning Carol was produced by Mormon Channel and is narrated wonderfully by Bruce Newbold, with Bryce Chamberlain playing a convincing Scrooge (Chamberlain plays the father in the original 1964 version of Man’s Search for Happiness).

I listened to the whole thing in one day (it’s 3 1/2 hours long). It’s downloadable by the way. I laugh out loud and cry every time I read or hear this book read. It’s an undeniable classic.

Second Coming: 16 Questions about the Last Days and the Coming of Christ

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I’ve listed here a few yes-or-no questions about the last days and Christ’s Second Coming based on Matthew chapter 24 and other scriptures. How many questions would you say deserve a yes?

The yeses are a strong indication of how close we are getting to the actual winding up scene. I’ll let you be your own judge, but I think it’s safe to say were getting really close. What does that mean in terms of days, months, and years? I don’t know. But I do know this: Now is the time to get ready.

  1. Are you hearing of wars and rumors of wars? (Matthew 24:5–6.)
  2. Are there famines, earthquakes, pestilences, tempests, and waves themselves heaving beyond their bounds (tsunamis) in various places? (Matthew 24:7; Doctrine and Covenants 88:89.)
  3. Have false Christs and false prophets appeared, deceiving people, including the very elect? (Matthew 24:5, 11, 23, 24.)
  4. Are the saints hated in all nations for His name’s sake? (Matthew 24:9.)
  5. Are there many who are offended, betraying one another, and hating one another? (Matthew 24:10.)
  6. Does iniquity abound? (Matthew 24:12.)
  7. Has the love of many waxed cold? (Matthew 24:12.)
  8. Has the gospel been preached in all the world as a witness? (Matthew 24:14.)
  9. Has the “abomination of desolation” appeared—the pollution of the holy temple and likely the setting up of an idol therein? (Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11; Matthew 24:15.)
  10. Has a great tribulation appeared, “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time”? (Matthew 24:15.)
  11. Are there signs in the heavens? (Luke 21:11.)
  12. Has the sun been darkened, the moon refused to give her light, and the stars fallen from heaven? (Matthew 24:29).
  13. Has the earth reeled to and fro as a drunken man? (D&C 45:48; 88:87.)
  14. Has the antichrist, the Son of Perdition, been revealed? (2 Thessalonians 2:14.)
  15. Have the angels sounded their trumpets for all the world to hear? (Matthew 24:31.)
  16. Has the sign of the coming of the Son of Man appeared? (Matthew 24:27, 30.)

I give about half of these questions a yes, and believe in my heart that the other half could happen pretty quickly, as a “thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10; Doctrine and Covenants 45:19).

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. (Mark 13:32–37.)