Sunday, July 5, 2015

Nephite Coins: Reading our preconceptions into the text

I didn't intend to write this much on this topic but I just keep thinking about it. Previously I wrote about how, taken out of context, a single verse could be used to argue that there should be no trees on temple grounds. That misconception was solved by gaining a little more understanding of the culture and language of the Bible. Then I wrote about the peculiarities of calendar systems and how that relates to understanding the scriptures. The point of these posts is to show how simple misunderstandings, mistranslations and preconceptions create problems that left unaddressed may begin to undermine a believer's faith.

The problem arises when a preconception or a misconception meets an inconsistency. For some this inconsistency precipitates a crisis in faith that leaves the believer wondering, "Is there anything else I was mistaken about? Perhaps everything else I was sure about is also false?" In the most extreme cases a person is left to doubt everything they once knew even if their ponderings can easily be mistaken for mental illness. But fortunately most people never get to that point and stay grounded in the realms of rationality.

At one point or another everyone will encounter something that does not fit with what they thought to be the case. There is not time enough in the world for me to address every single possibility. Ideally I should offer a surefire way of addressing each problem as it come up, but that is best learned by experience. What I can do is point out some common mistakes and how to resolve them.

The problem of Nephite coins is quickly becoming a classic example of how projecting our cultural preconceptions onto a text lead to problems. In Alma 11 Mormon pauses in his narration to explain the Nephite monetary system. It involves different denominations of gold and silver, all related to each other and to measures of grain. For years members of the Church, including Church leaders, have assumed that it referred to series of gold and silver coins. The chapter heading for Alma 11, written in the 1920's, mentioned Nephite coins, but in the latter half of the 20th century several Book of Mormon critics pointed out that coins were not used used in pre-Colombian America.

This prompted a reaction by some Mormon apologists to go looking for any evidence of coins in Mesoamerica. I remember a roommate, as recently as 2001, insisting that archaeologists had found metal disks "that are clearly coins". But despite the discovery of these metal disks no evidence of them being used as money (i.e. as coins) was ever found. Other evidence also indicated that pre-Colombian Americans never used coins, though they did use precious metals as money, just not in coin form. At about this time someone, I don't know who, took a long hard look at the text of the Book of Mormon and realized that Alma 11 never actually mentions coins.

Alma 11 only mentions various weights of gold and silver and never actually says that they were coins. For a bunch of people of European stock it was an easy enough mistake to make. The text talks about gold and silver in different amounts that are used as money and they thought, "gold and silver money == coins". It was a case of casting our modern preconceptions onto the text which resulted in Church member receiving yet another criticism from critics. In recent updates to the Book of Mormon the chapter heading to Alma 11 has been changed to bring it into agreement with the text.

But you can still find anti-Mormon websites who trot out the coin criticism. It is by far one of my favorite criticisms because it is such a beautiful example of a fallacious argument. Usually the argument begins by quoting an LDS scholar (John Welch and Daniel Peterson seem to be their favorites) who unambiguously stated that no pre-Colombian coins have ever been found in the Americas and then they say, "Aha! Even LDS scholars admit that the Book of Mormon is wrong!" But, as noted above, the text never actually mentions coins, so admitting there are no pre-Colombian coins does not mean LDS scholars are admitting the Book of Mormon contains an anachronism. Despite this, anti-Mormon websites try to milk it for all its worth, though some of the more "current" criticism ignore it since they realize it is a non-starter.

We can learn from this little adventure that when we read the scriptures sometimes we insert our modern biases into the text without realizing it. Then when it doesn't match with archaeological or other evidence we run into problems. We can avoid these types of problems by learning to read the text critically and pay attention to not only what it says, but to what it doesn't say. Another brief example, which I won't go into here, is that the Book of Mormon never actually says Ammon was herding king Lamoni's sheep. It just says "flocks" which doesn't necessarily mean sheep. There's something to think about.
A possible update to Arnold Friberg's painting. By the way, Arnold Friberg is a serial offender when it comes to anachronisms. Beware the "gospel art" and don't take it for the "gospel truth".

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Work of God and Man

The difference between the work of God and the work of man is
the work of God does not end with death.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Web comics that I like

I have always enjoyed reading comics, some more than others, but I haven't had a regular newspaper to get my comics for several years. But I was overjoyed when I found that I could read the daily comics online which I have been doing for a few years now.

Somewhere along the way I branched out and got into reading a few web comics. These are comics that do not (typically) appear in a newspaper, but are published online. Someone I know once mentioned that if I like the work of a particular author then I should share their work with people I know so that they can continue to write. So on that note, I present this incomplete list of the web comics that I read (in no particular order). I say "incomplete" because there are several (~30-40) that I read in addition to the ones listed here but they don't rise to the level of "I would definitely recommend this." There are a few others that I would recommend but they have been on hiatus for more than a year and may never come back.

Schlock Mercenary
I stumbled across this web comic about three years ago when someone made a reference to The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates (now known as The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries), I looked it up and discovered Schlock Mercenary. The comic is written and drawn by Howard Tayler, and has been running daily since June 12th 2000. It is not your typical daily comic strip where you can start at any point and just pick it up as you go along. It actually has a (rather complex) story with many characters. Because of this it is described as a comic "space opera" (think "soap opera", but a lot less cheese and more space, and interesting characters). Even though this web comic started out as a side job it has since become the author's full time job, which means he is good enough at it that people are willing to pay him for it. That right there says something about the comic. Following this comic is like reading a long novel that only comes in daily doses. But it is interesting enough to make me want to keep reading it. It is also peppered with my style of humor.

This is actually a collection of related stories. Each one can be read independently, but there is a central story to them all. It is set in a world with magic in a mostly 1800's type world. The story has humor and action and interesting characters that are very likable.

This is another comic that I randomly came across. This one is drawn in black and white in graphic novel format, and updates about once a week. The tag line is "Life. Love. Hyperspace." and it mostly lives up to that by being a rather mellow drama set in space (that's mellow drama, not melodrama, as in it's mellow and it is a drama). I'm not one to read romance anything so that should be some indication as to how much "Love" there really is in this comic (i.e. very little relative to the rest of the story). When I first came across the comic I actually didn't read very much of it before I lost interest. But about two weeks later I came across it again and I read a little more and it hit just the right spot so I went back and read the whole thing from the beginning.

One on the things that I like about this comic is the artwork. The artist does a very good job with her characters. I find them to be very unique (both visually and character wise) and I think that is what got me reading this comic in the first place. The style of art is very distinct, but very expressive. The other thing is that the characters actually look like normal people, that is, they are average height and weight, unlike so many other comics (especially manga and anime) where the people are impossibly thin or super-model-ish. I think that helps make the story more believable.

PhD Comics
What can I say. I'm in grad school so of course I read PhD comics. It's one of the basic requirements to get into grad school. I first saw this comic years ago as an undergrad. At the time it didn't make any sense and I didn't think it was funny. But as I got closer to going to grad school it got funnier and funnier (and not because the comics changed, but because I actually stated to understand. I started to actually have that stuff happen to me.). Now that I am in grad school every time there is a new comic I have to resist the urge to print it out and go tape it to the door of my office since I know that there is already someone somewhere in the department doing just that. Just about every other office door has a print out of a PhD comic on it (that or xkcd, which is next).

xkcd is drawn by Randall Munroe, and it is perhaps the most famous webcomic in the world. It especially became well known after the Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster when Randall posted a radiation dose chart to explain the radiation levels around the reactors. This got him noticed beyond the science/geek/engineer/slashdot crowd. His stuff is mostly stick figures with many references to science and computers. He also includes some strong language and *ahem* questionable content occasionally, so not for everyone. The comic comes with the following warning at the bottom:
Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).
Girl Genius
In terms of online web comics this one sets a high standard. It has won the Hugo award several times. This was perhaps the second web comic that I started reading. It updates three times a week with a full page color spread. It a fantasy/steam-punk comic with some humor thrown in. The story is complex with a rather large cast of characters. The only one who has them beat in terms of number of characters and extent of story is Schlock Mercenary.

Snow by Night
Snow by Night is set in a world that is like an alternate reality of colonial America. It involves magic, spirits, colonial powers, natives and an extensive back story not entirely contained in the comic. The story has been going for five years and shows no sign of slowing down.

This is a new comic. So I don't know where it's going yet, but I read a web comic/graphic novel called reMIND by the same artist and liked it. The artist is also associated with a Bible videos project and has done the art for one of their videos. It's quite good, check it out.

Stand Still. Stay Silent.
This story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a mysterious illness has killed almost everyone. The last vestiges of civilization are found only in the Nordic countries. The artist is from Sweden, has lived in Finland and mixes in many elements of Nordic mythology. The characters are real and engaging. I think that if a Hollywood executive was forced to turn this story into a movie or TV show they would royally mess it up because the characters and monsters don't fit the standard archetypes. That is probably why I like it. It also has perhaps the scariest monsters I have ever seen in a story, and that is saying something since there have only been two of them in the almost 2 years since the comic started. The first monster didn't show up until chapter 3, and that is probably what made it so scary.

This one is special since it is one of the very few that I am actually considering buying the comic in book form. Perhaps in the future when I have gobs of money (ha!) I'll buy the books. The story is set in a world unlike any other I have ever seen. The world, and all the different races, are extremely unique. The story is much more complex than almost any other that I ever read in web comic or book. It is not straight forward and does not do what you would expect. I still remember the exact page where I decided I wanted to buy the books because the character development went from good to exceptional. There are very few stories that can achieve this level of character complexity.

Lady Sabre & the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether
I don't know how to describe this one. It is a mixture of scifi, fantasy, steam punk, western, and pirate adventure. It's been going for four years and it has kept me interested.

This is actually a collection of short stories. They tell less well known stories from the Grimm brothers. They are short and classic. None of the Disney rewrites here. People do get killed and not everything works out by the final song comes around. Sometimes they just end, because, well, that's how the original story is.

This comic is firmly in the magic and fantasy camp. There are wizards, some dragons, people with swords, staffs and horses. The visuals are good and there is enough complexity in the story that it doesn't feel cliche. If it weren't so complex then I probably wouldn't keep reading it.

As the name implies this is about paranormal activity. The story centers on a boy who moves into a town and finds out that he can see ghosts. It is more humorous than scary. It is also shamelessly self referential and poking fun of its more serious aspects. The characters also occasionally critique the artwork of the comic itself which adds an interesting touch.

Chicken Wings
This is a comic in the style of the classic newspaper strip. It is all about airplanes (and some helicopters) so the humor is all flight related. The comic appears in several aviation magazines.

Let me know if you know of any others that are good to read since I am always looking for new and interesting stories.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

When a year is not a year: Calendars and such in the Book of Mormon.

In my previous post I quoted Deuteronomy 16:21 and showed how not knowing the context of the verse could lead us to incorrect conclusions. The example I used was deliberately simple and easy to refute. On Facebook I described it as the scriptural equivalent of a block being pushed across a frictionless surface, which is typical example used in introductory physics classes. A block sliding across a frictionless surface is an idealized case that you would never see in reality, but we use it because it is useful to introduce ideas and to teach certain concepts.

At the end I mentioned another simple misconception from scripture and mentioned that there are others, but I did not elaborate. The thing is, as we move into real examples they get more complex and difficult to analyze. Whenever I am teaching physics there invariable comes the moment when a student actually gets curious and starts asking questions, not because they want to know what will be on the test, but they genuinely want to know how things work. When that happens we have to move into real world examples, and that is when things get complex because all the simplifications and assumptions we made previously now are invalid. Now there is friction. Strings, springs and pulleys have mass. Density is not uniform, gravity is not constant, and we suddenly start talking about things like the Lagrangian, probabilities and distributions.

On that note, this example is a little more complex but still on the simple side.

One criticism of the Book of Mormon is that it gets certain dates wrong. It is very clear that there were 600 years between when Lehi left Jerusalem (during the first year of king Zedekiah) and the birth of Christ. This accounting was not approximate but exact. But as critics of the Book of Mormon like to point out Zedekiah became king in 597 BC and Christ was born in 4 BC (±1), which comes to 593±1 years, not 600.

But here's the thing, calenders are funny things. Not all calenders have 365 days per year. The Jewish lunar calender has 354±1 days per year. And the Mayan calender (the Mayans, and their neighbors, are the closest culturally to the people of the Book of Mormon that we know of, if not the actual people of the Book of Mormon), has 360 days per year. So if we take 600 years according to the Mayan calender we get:
360*600 = 216000 days
Which translates to:
216000/365 = 591.8 solar years
Still not an exact match with 593±1 years but it does line up a lot better. If we use the Jewish calender it comes to 581.9 solar years. But as I pointed out calenders are funny things and how calenders are kept is particular to each culture and people. The problems only arise when we assume that everyone uses a solar calender. We just have to keep in mind that a year may not be year depending on which calender you use.

As an interesting side note, the mesoamerican long count calender is very interesting. The first day on the long count calender is denoted as Mayans use a base 20 counting system. So after 20 days ( it rolls over to the next digit ( The second digit is funny since it only goes up to 18. So follows That means that = 360 days, hence the 360 days per year according to the Mayans. So as we go to higher dates, = 7,200 days and = 144,000 days.

Each of these digits has a name in Mayan. As explained on Wikipedia,
"The Maya name for a day was k'in. Twenty of these k'ins are known as a winal or uinal. Eighteen winals make one tun. Twenty tuns are known as a k'atun. Twenty k'atuns make a b'ak'tun."
So if we wanted to express something like "it's been 420 years since such and such happened", for some strange reason, we would say "it's been one b'ak'tun and one k'atun since such and such happened". Or put another way, = 400 Mayan years + = 20 Mayan years -> = 420 Mayan years. But I should point out that these are Mayan years so according to our calender it has only been 414 solar years.

So when Moroni said that "more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away" what he most likely said was "it's been more than one b'ak'tun and one k'atun". Which could mean that it has been exactly one b'ak'tun one k'atun ( or it could mean that it was anywhere between one b'ak'tun one k'atun ( and one b'ak'tun two k'atun ( depending on how exact Moroni was being. So it could range from 420 Mayan years to 439 Mayan years, which would translate to between 414 and 433 solar years. So even though the Church has tried to be helpful by including the years on the bottoms of the pages in the Book of Mormon, they may be off by several years depending, because we unconsciously assumed that the Nephites used a solar year for their calender.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Should there be no trees on temple grounds?

"Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the Lord thy God" 
-- Deuteronomy 16:21
Imagine that you are visiting some random Sunday School class somewhere in the world. The lesson is on the temple and *that guy* raises his hand, quotes Deuteronomy 16:21, and casually mentions that there are some commandments we as a church aren't keeping since there are still trees around the temple. The lesson is derailed and a discussion ensues that rivals in intensity and lack of understanding the debates about whether or not it rained before the flood.

I do not know of anyone yet who has used Deuteronomy 16:21 to argue that there should be no trees on temple (or church) grounds. But if we were to read that verse literally we may come to the conclusion that we should not plant trees anywhere near the temple. There may even be squabbles about how many trees are allowed (because one or two trees is not a grove so that may be OK). But it would not make any difference since the whole argument rests on a misunderstanding of the actual text of that verse.

The problem is there is one word in that verse which the KJV renders as "grove" but in reality is much more complex. Let us use another translation to illuminate the true meaning of that verse. The New International Version renders it as:
"Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build to the LORD your God"
When the KJV translators were doing their work they had no idea what the word "אֲשֵׁרָה" meant, but from the context it seemed to refer to a grove of trees. So they translated it as "grove" and left it at that. It was not until hundreds of years later that Biblical scholars learned that "אֲשֵׁרָה" is the name of a Middle Eastern female deity commonly worshiped at the time the Bible was being written. Thus more modern translations (and a footnote in the LDS version of the KJV) translate "אֲשֵׁרָה" as Asherah and note the background and context.

Because we have easy access to the history surrounding Asherah we can avoid some of the possible misinterpretations of verses such as Deuteronomy 16:21, which is why we don't have people suggesting that the trees around the temple should be cut down. But if we had no other information about Asherah and all we had to go on was the KJV translation then it would be possible for us to misunderstand that verse and use it as justification for cutting down the trees on temple grounds. This potential misunderstanding is easily resolved but there are others in the scriptures that are not so obvious.

For example the phrase "his hand is stretched out still" which appears several times in Isaiah is sometimes used as a comforting phrase to show the love and mercy of God. But if we consider the phrase in context we quickly see that it does not refer to a merciful, "extended helping hand" but rather to a fist ready to smite in anger. That misunderstanding is rather benign since it won't lead us to go about chopping down trees. At most it will make us think about being kind to others so it's not really a big deal.

But there are other more subtle misunderstandings of scriptural passages which over the years have come to supplant the original meaning. And sometimes ideas that do not come from scripture work their way into our thinking and we mistake them for doctrine even when the scriptures say the exact opposite. That is why it is advantageous to study the scriptures in the context they were written as much as possible. This approach will help us see and understand any misconceptions we may have that we never knew we had.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Knotty Vine

I found this wild wisteria bush near where I live today. That whole tangled mass in the middle are the twisted trunks of wisteria. It appears that a wisteria vine descended from a tree, now long since gone, put down roots, and then had other wisteria plants grow up around it. You can see the old trunk of the original wisteria vine at the bottom of the most twisted part. Almost everything you see in this picture is part of a wisteria vine, except for the oak tree just left of center. All the other branches and "trees" you see, including the one cutting across in front, and the thick on at an angle on the right is part of one massive wisteria vine. It was an impressive sight to see.
For reference this is a picture of the spot I was standing when I took the picture of the wisteria. You can see the tangled wisteria on the left side.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

To Be Pure Before God

[This was a talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting on Sunday, April 19, 2015.]

On Friday I had the opportunity to attend the temple. While I was there I reflected on the preparation we need to go through before we can attend the temple. Unlike our church buildings temples are holy places where only those who are prepared can enter in. For those who were baptized as children they must wait until they are adults before attending the temple. For recent converts they must wait at least a year before entering the temple. This is done so that there may be a space between baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit; and entering into the temple.

The purpose of this preparatory space is to give us adequate time to feel and experience the gift of God’s Spirit which was given to us after baptism, so that when we enter the temple we are sufficiently pure in spirit that we can understand and enjoy the words of eternal life.

In ancient Israel before anyone could enter into the tabernacle in the early days or temple after it was built, they had abide by a stringent list of requirements before they could be declared ritually pure. In the book of Leviticus we can read about the rules governing all types of impurities. In there the people of God are commanded to separate themselves from all things that are impure. This includes different types of food, dead bodies, diseased bodies, and bodily fluids usually associated with sin, death and illness.

If anyone, especially the priests, were to come into contact with these things then they were ritually impure and they were not allowed into the temple, which is to say, they were not allowed into the presence of the Lord. They were unclean, impure and unfit to enter into the presence of God.

So here we see that the people of God were separated from the presence of the Lord due to their impurities, that is, because they had been made impure by things associated with death they could not abide the presence of the Lord. Because they had broken the commandment they were forever separated from the presence of the God of Life. As the prophet Alma taught,
“For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.” (Alma 12:14)
“But behold, an awful death cometh upon the wicked; for they die as to things pertaining to things of righteousness; for they are unclean, and no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God; but they are cast out.” (Alma 40:26)

The great sin of this world is Death. Because all men must die we are consigned to this awful state. We not only die with respect to our bodies but also with respect to things pertaining to things of righteousness. The righteous and just must also suffer this death. President Joseph F. Smith saw in vision an assembly of saints who waited for the advent of their Savior. He said,
“I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great. And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just.... For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.” (D&C 138:11-12,50)
They knew that they could not escape from that prison called death, nor could they cleanse themselves from sin. And that is the awful state that we all find ourselves in.

If death were the last and final state of man, and the end of our story then there would be no hope. But in His infinite wisdom, God has prepared a way for us to escape. Because we have yielded to temptation, the Lord has provided for us a savior that we may be brought forth by the power of the redemption and resurrection, and brought back into the presence of God.

In a vision, the prophet Isaiah found himself before the throne of God. Upon realizing where he was he proclaimed,
“Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5)
Isaiah was overcome because he knew he was impure and covered with the blood and sins of his generation. But Isaiah continued his story,
“Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)
In that moment Isaiah was cleansed from his sins and he was made pure. The holiness and purity of God cleansed and purified Isaiah. He was given the Spirit of the Lord, as a gift, and it purified him and made it possible for him to enter into the presence of the Lord. Because of this Isaiah was able to say,
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” (Isaiah 61:1)
Herein is the essential thought. Before we can receive the good tidings of great joy we must first be washed and anointed and cleansed from the blood and sins of our generation. Only then can the Lord bind up our contrite spirits and broken hearts. Only then can those who are in bondage, either through physical or spiritual death, be set free. And herein lies our faith and our hope.

As President Smith saw in vision,
“And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality; And who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God.… They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death…. [when the] Son of God appeared, declaring liberty to the captives who had been faithful; And there he preached to them the everlasting gospel, the doctrine of the resurrection and the redemption of mankind from the fall, and from individual sins on conditions of repentance.” (D&C 138:12-19)
Although we may be unclean and impure, we can become clean through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. During Jesus’s life time he went about touching and healing people who were sick. He did not shy away from those with leprosy. A woman who had an issue of blood came and touched him and was healed. When he went into the room where Jairus’s daughter’s dead body lay, he took her by the hand. When Lazarus had been dead three days Jesus went to the tomb where he lay. In all these cases according to the Law of Moses, Jesus would have been ritually impure, and therefore ineligible to enter into the presence of God.

The only problem was that Jesus was God, and the one who gave the Law. According to the Law of Moses a man was made unclean by coming in contact with death, but if by that contact the dead return to life, is that man still impure? It was the ultimate Jewish legal paradox. In all these cases Jesus was not made impure by the illnesses and death, but rather His purity overcame their afflictions and they were healed. His power and holiness overcame the things of death that separated these people from the presence of God.

By showing us that he could overcome physical ills and death Jesus showed us that He can also overcome spiritual death. There was a man who was paralyzed and his friends brought him to Jesus to be healed.
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately [the man] stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.” (Luke 5:20-25)
So as we prepare ourselves to enter into the temple, we must remember that we must first become clean. And we are “cleansed by blood, even the blood of [God’s] Only Begotten; that [we] might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory” (Moses 6:59)

Each of us must first be baptized by water, and then receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. Then the blood of the Lamb of God, which was offered as a sacrifice for our sins, will cleanse us from the impurity of death, both physical and spiritual. “For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified”. (Moses 6:60)

May we all apply the atoning blood of Jesus Christ and prepare to enter into God’s presence. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.