Rootstech 2016 Giveaway (3-Day Pass)

Yes, I’m about to offer a free pass to the 2016 Rootstech 3-day conference. But first I’d like to tell a little story about my last experience with Rootstech.

I’ve been working on genealogy since I was a teenager. It was right after Personal Ancestral File went from low-tech black screen and white (or green, in some cases) words to “high-tech” blue screen with white words. I was just getting my feet wet when I came across some fascinating tidbits.

First, Benjamin Franklin was my great-great-g-g-g-g-g-whatever grandpa (found out later he was actually a g-g-g-g uncle, but still…), and second, that I had royalty in my family line–namely, Prince Hathaway. It was only after much searching that Prince Hathaway wasn’t a prince at all. Prince was his name, and after further misleadings, I learned that Prince was down a different line than mine–that we’d been following the wrong line.

Anyhow, I’ve learned a lot since then, and have come to discover that every person in my family line is fascinating. They were pioneers, shop owners, parents of a dozen kids, farmers, miners, toothbrush makers, people of faith, people of music, people of industry, people of creativity, people of passion, people of faith. Whatever they made of their life, every tidbit of information has become like gold to me.

My first time attending Rootstech a few years ago, I was doing a presentation on self-publishing your family history. The class went well, but the moment things got really interesting was when a man approached me after class and introduced himself to me. He shared my last name, and as I thought about it, I realized we’d conversed online. Kent and I are something like 3rd cousins twice removed–I haven’t figured it out exactly, but Kent was a gold-mine of information about the branch of my family that includes Prince Hathaway (which, I might add, turns out I probably AM related to–it just keeps getting more exciting as we go along!).

Kent had even done DNA testing, visited the birthplaces of our shared ancestors, and spent literally decades in research on the individuals that leave the most mysterious shadows on my family tree. Never could I have expected that.

We actually spoke several times throughout the conference, and both he and his wife Jaelynne were both fascinating and informative to speak with.

I was also interested in the booths representing the plethora of websites, companies, organizations, guilds, and technologies available to family historians and amatuer genealogists.

The beauty of the whole experience for me was the discovery of how many allies we have to our family history efforts. Sometimes the hours behind screens, old books, and endless wanderings up and down aisles and websites can feel quite lonely, but that’s only an illusion. There are so  many people and resources ready to help. There are even people researching branches of your family history already, and never in history has it been easier to team up with them.

Okay, so you heard my story, now you get the goods. I’m excited to announce that I am a 2016 Rootstech Ambassador, which basically means that in exchange for my helping to get the word out about the conference, I get to offer someone a free 3-day pass to Rootstech 2016. So here are the rules:

  • Share this link on your favorite social media (Facebook, Twitter, blog, whatever)
  • Comment here, sharing something about an ancestor of yours.

I’m going to trust you on the first rule, so by commenting about an ancestor of yours, I’ll be assuming that you have shared a link to this contest. The commenters will be entered into a drawing to win. That way you can know how good your chances are by counting the number of comments. If you’re the only commenter, you’ll win by default. Seriously, folks, you’ve got nothing to lose–other than three days of your otherwise boring life to an exciting, fulfilling, fun, and incredible family history experience.

Here’s the real clincher. You have ONE week. The comments will be tallied one week from today (September 21), so get sharing and typing!

1 Nephi 1:3 – Nephi Knows

It takes a lot of confidence to say, “I know I’m right.” In fact, I’d have to say it takes more than confidence – it takes spiritual conviction. Even the accomplished scientist won’t say, “I know this theory is true.” So what is it that gives Nephi the right to say that he knows the things he’s writing is true? Some would call this blind, naïve, or delusional. But that’s assuming that Nephi is wrong. But he’s not wrong, and he knows it.

1 Nephi 11:16-17

And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

2 Nephi 4:35

Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

2 Nephi 25:7

But behold, I proceed with mine own prophecy, according to my plainness; in the which I know that no man can err; nevertheless, in the days that the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass.

8 Wherefore, they are of worth unto the children of men, and he that supposeth that they are not, unto them will I speak particularly, and confine the words unto mine own people; for I know that they shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them; wherefore, for their good have I written them.

2 Nephi 31:1

And now I, Nephi, make an end of my prophesying unto you, my beloved brethren. And I cannot write but a few things, which I know must surely come to pass; neither can I write but a few of the words of my brother Jacob.

1 Nephi 3:7

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

So anyway, there’s a few of the things Nephi knows. So I guess the next question is, how does he know? Well, since Nephi’s the one we’re talking about let’s see if Nephi can answer that for us:

1 Nephi 10:19

For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.

2 Nephi 32:4-5, 8

Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.

For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.

And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.

It kind of sounds like he’s saying, if you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you. But he doesn’t stop there. He says that you need to seek the answer from God. If you don’t know the gospel is true, or you don’t know what to do to get real solid answers to your prayers, ask God, and seek an answer. Truly seek. Beg for it. Listen for it. Humble yourself to receive whatever answer he gives you. God really does want you to know, but He’s not going to force it on you. You have to ask. You have to seek it. Really seek it.

Reformed Egyptian

1:2 “the language of the Egyptians”

I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.

That sounds to me like Lehi wrote in Hebrew style, but in the Egyptian language – well, some kind of Egyptian language. Obviously Lehi would be fluent in Hebrew, but why would he speak or at least know how to write in Egyptian?

“We don’t know what Lehi’s occupation was, but since he was conversant in the Egyptian language and he seemed some-what familiar with the ways of the desert, it is logical to assume that he had some occupation or some previous experiences that utilized both skills.”

H. Donl Peterson, “Father Lehi,” in First Nephi, The Doctrinal Foundation, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1988), 55–66.

Okay, so I guess Lehi probably did work that was facilitated by a knowledge of the Egyptian language. I looked up in some commentaries to see what Judah’s relationship to Egypt was like at the time, and here’s what I found. I would summarize, but it would take me more words to say what they did:

1Nephi 1:1–3 . The Book of Mormon Language

In Mormon 9:32–33 , Moroni indicates that the plates were written in reformed Egyptian that had been altered by the Nephites according to their manner of speech. Some scholars believe that reformed Egyptian was a type of shorthand. Moroni explains that if the plates had been larger they would have been written in Hebrew, and then the record would have been without imperfections (see v.33 ). This suggests that reformed Egyptian must not have been as precise and accurate as Hebrew, and it must have required less space to write reformed Egyptian than to write Hebrew. Knowing this gives us a greater appreciation of how efficient the reformed Egyptian language must have been.

The Hebrew language is very compact when compared to English and many other western languages. A typical English sentence of fifteen words will often translate into seven to ten Hebrew words. We have no indication of the size of the characters Mormon and Moroni used, but if they rejected Hebrew because the plates were not “sufficiently large” ( v.33 ), then reformed Egyptian must have been a language remarkable for its ability to convey a lot of information with few words.

Book of Mormon Student Manual Chapter 2 – 1 Nephi 1 – 5

The language seems to have had some changes over the course of the thousand years that the Book of Mormon covers. The native Nephite language was Hebrew, which was also altered over time by the Nephites. The Book of Mormon was written in reformed Egyptian because the Hebrew characters are too large. See verse 33.

Also, See footnotes to the Title page for possible reasons for the record to be engraved on gold (rather than some other substance), though it is not certain whether the plates were made of gold, or just a gold-colored metal. Here are the verses mentioned in the last quote:

Mormon 9:32-34

32 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.

33 And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record.

34 But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.

Don’t ask me why this is so interesting, but I think it is. Not only did they write in an obscure language, but they wrote in a language that no one understands by now. Wouldn’t that be cool to write in a language NO ONE can read without God’s help?

Maybe I’ll start keeping my journal in a language no one can read…

Wait, with my handwriting I guess it kind of already is.

Just kidding. I went digital a few years ago and I’ll never go back! But I could print it in Wingdings.

Nah…

My First Book is Out!

My first book is finally out!!! It’s taken about five years to write, revise, cleanup, format, edit, and publish, but Giraffe Tracks is available as of today! I’ll have it on its own webpage soon, but the webpage isn’t ready yet, so for now I’m linking to straight the store from my blog.

So far, it’s available in:

Softbound book

Hardbound book

PDF download

Kindle book

or you can Read a Sample

I was hoping to release the audio book at the same time as the book release, but couldn’t have it ready in time.

If there is a format that you would want to buy it in that is not listed above, let me know. I’d like people to be able to buy it in whatever format they want, even if it’s .doc, .jpg or even .mov (that would be interesting). If you’re willing to buy it in a certain format, I’ll make it in that format and sell it at the same price as any digital text format.

I’m publishing it through Willowrise Press, which is my family’s independent publishing company.

Anyway, please buy it!

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book, so you can get an idea what it’s about:

By the late 1990’s, South Africa was in the midst of heavy political and social turmoil. With the ending of Apartheid in 1994, which was a legalized system of racial segregation which heavily curtailed the rights of the black population, the country was left in a dangerously challenging situation. The white population, who had enjoyed relative wealth, government protection, and exclusive employment opportunities, were now forced to share those resources with the massive majority population of native black Africans.

Native Africans, who had been socially, economically, and physically oppressed for centuries, were now allowed to leave their reservation-like townships and come into the cities and suburbs. Having been held back for so long, black Africans continued to experience severe poverty. As new opportunities were thrown at them, poverty-driven crime rose to a frightening level, leaving sour feelings in the hearts of the country’s general population. It became a time of anger, reunion, bitter feelings, fear, and hope.

Giraffe Tracks is the true story of an LDS missionary serving in the Johannesburg, South Africa Mission only a few years after the ending of Apartheid. Using compelling stories, humor, and spiritual insight, the story demonstrates that even in a land overflowing with crime, poverty, and racial hatred, peace and joy can be found through the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the powers of evil shake the foundations of human society, the truth and light carried in the testimonies of the Lord’s missionaries can change hearts, heal minds, and turn fear and hatred into faith and love.

1 Nephi 1:2 – Thirty Year Old Journal

“therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days”

Sometimes we assume that the book of 1 Nephi is like a journal – that Nephi kept it as he went along. Maybe that’s the case for the other plates he kept, I don’t know, but with the version we have access to, Nephi wrote his record 30 years after Lehi’s family left Jerusalem, and well after the time they arrived in the Promised Land. (see 1 Nephi 19:1-5 / 2 Nephi 5:28-31)

1 Nephi 19:1-5

4 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates, which gives an account, or which gives a greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people. And this have I done, and commanded my people what they should do after I was gone; and that these plates should be handed down from one generation to another, or from one prophet to another, until further commandments of the Lord.

5 And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people.

2 Nephi 5:28-31

28 *And thirty years had passed away from the time we left Jerusalem.

29 And I, Nephi, had kept the records upon my plates, which I had made, of my people thus far.

30 And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: Make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people.

31 Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things.

32 And I engraved that which is pleasing unto God. And if my people are pleased with the things of God they will be pleased with mine engravings which are upon these plates.

33 And if my people desire to know the more particular part of the history of my people they must search mine other plates.

34 And it sufficeth me to say that *forty years had passed away, and we had already had wars and contentions with our brethren.

Why does that matter, you ask? Well, I suppose it doesn’t, really. I just thought that was kind of cool.

1 Nephi 1:1 Nephi’s Record

“therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days”

Sometimes we assume that the book of 1 Nephi is like a journal – that he kept it as he went along. Maybe that’s the case for the other plates he kept, I don’t know, but with the version we have access to, Nephi wrote this record 30 years after Lehi’s family left Jerusalem, and well after the time they arrived in the Promised Land.  (see 1 Nephi 19:1-5 / 2 Nephi 5:28-31)

Why does that matter, you ask? Well, it doesn’t, really. I just thought that was kind of cool.

Then again, maybe you could draw the lesson from it that keeping a journal is not enough, we should write our life history, too.

Okay, so maybe that’s not the intent, but that’s a good lesson, too!

1 Nephi 1:1 – The Mysterious Mystery of… of… Mysteries!

Having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God”

I’m sure you’ve been in church when someone has said something like, “Let’s not dive too deeply into the mysteries,” or, “that’s one of the mysteries that we don’t really need to know right now.”

Of course, they are right. The things which the Lord has not revealed are not presently important for us to have. Things like the how dinosaurs fit into the plan, the precise location of the lost tribes of Israel, and the date of the second coming are all interesting subjects that we’ll someday understand, but don’t need to now. But whenever I read verses like this one (1 Nephi 1:1), I have to question if mysteries is the right word to refer to things we’re not meant to know.

Why do I say that? Well, it just seems like every time the scriptures are talking about mysteries, they’re talking about something we should be trying to obtain.

The Scriptural Definition of “Mysteries” seems to be “Knowledge received through the Holy Ghost” (Except when spoken by a wicked person). The Scriptures say that the mysteries are “that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal” (D&C 42:61). It also seems clear that in order for one to receive mysteries, they must do so by the Holy Ghost. If the Holy Ghost is not the means of making the knowledge known or confirming the knowledge of a mystery, a person cannot receive it.

1 Corinthians 2:4-14

4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Nephi 10:17-19

17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of hold as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.

18 For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.

19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.

Alma 12:9

9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

D&C 8:9-11

9 And, therefore, whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you, and you shall have knowledge concerning it.

10 Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not.

11 Ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate and receive knowledge from all those ancient records which have been hid up, that are sacred; and according to your faith shall it be done unto you.

D&C 42:61

61 If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.

D&C 63:23.

23 But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.

Anyway, you get the idea. I think the Lord intends for us to seek those kinds of mysteries – meaning knowledge that must be obtained through the Holy Ghost, such as testimony and the Spirit of prophecy – stuff like that.

The only problem is, what do we call all the other weird stuff if we can’t call it mysteries? Freaky stuff? Nah, that sound too negative. Maybe just – weird stuff. Or perhaps speculation… yeah, I like that – speculative stuff. The word speculation has a bit of a bad rap already, so I guess it fits.

God’s Favorites. Wait… you mean He has them?

1 Nephi 1:1

“having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days”


Hang on. Did Nephi just say he was favored of the Lord? Isn’t that the same thing as favorite? Does the Lord have favorites, or am I just reading this wrong? What does it mean to be favored of the Lord?

1 Nephi 17:33-36

33 And now, do ye suppose that the children of this land, who were in the land of promise, who were driven out by our fathers, do ye suppose that they were righteous? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.

34 Do ye suppose that our fathers would have been more choice than they if they had been righteous? I say unto you, Nay.

35 Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them, and bless it unto our fathers; yea, he did curse it against them unto their destruction, and he did bless it unto our fathers unto their obtaining power over it.

Interesting. I guess that makes sense. Would the Lord have the Israelites go in and take over the land of Canaan if the native Canaanites had been righteous? Of course not. In fact, the Lord had tried to help them become righteous. He had done all He could for the native Canaanites. But they had rejected all His words, and proven that under no circumstances would they improve their lives. I suppose from the Lord’s point of view, the best chance they had was if He were to destroy them and then work with them on the other side of the veil. Where they stood now, they were getting into deeper and deeper trouble – not to mention forcing their children (by not allowing them to be exposed to the truth) to live lives of iniquity also. That’s hardly fair to the children.

So he had them destroyed so there could again be righteousness on the earth, giving future generations a chance for happiness.

Do you know what this reminds me of? Parenthood. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

Two kids are playing. Kid #1 is playing peacefully with a toy. Kid #2 comes and pushes kid #1 to the ground and takes the toy. Parent scolds kid #2 and gives the toy back to kid #1. Kid #2 complains to parent and throws a temper tantrum, earning a time out. Kid #1 goes on playing, and kid #2 spends the next ten minutes writhing in the unfairness of the whole situation. Why doesn’t he get to play with the toy? Why does he have to go in time out? Why is the parent favoring kid #1? He’s not better than me! Why is he treated like a favorite?

Etc, etc.

Or how about when the two are told by the parent that if they finish their homework, they can stay up late. Kid #1 finishes homework, and kid #2 puts it off and doesn’t do the homework. Kicking and screaming, kid #2 goes to bed normal time, and kid #1 gets to stay up late.

Kid #1 is not ruffled. Parent isn’t ruffled. But kid #2 is bouncing on the floor in fury, ready to call the ACLU.

Alma 28:13

13 And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.

I guess it’s not God who’s making things so unfair down here. It’s us – with the help of ol’ scratch, of course. mr. angry-pants just can’t let an opportunity go to feed us with the claim that if there was a god, he would love us all the same and treat us all the same no matter what we did.

Of course God loves us all. He’s just being a good parent.

The Book Mormon Set to Music: 1 Nephi 1

I thought it might be fun to set music to the Book of Mormon by playing the piano while listening to a recorded reading of it. The tune was improvised on the spot so I could have the mood change with the words. It starts out a little cheesy, but overall  I think it worked okay. Let me know what you think!