Recently I’ve seen lots of friends requesting favorite Instant Pot recipes. I’m going to guess that many of my friends (like me) got an Instant Pot for Christmas and are still learning how to use it. I always want to respond to my friends but my response (surprise, surprise) is longer than I really want to type out in a Facebook comment. So tonight when I pulled out my Instant Pot to make my favorite chicken tortilla soup I decided that I would share that recipe (because it’s yummy) as well as some of my other adventures in Instant Pot-ing in hopes that it might help someone else find good uses for theirs! (skip to the bottom if you just want the chicken tortilla soup recipe)
So I sorta knew that I was getting an Instant Pot for Christmas because… it was the only thing I asked Eric for, and I even sent him an Amazon link to it when it was on sale. It wasn’t a demand… but I hadn’t given him a lot of other ideas so it seemed like a likely guess 😉 I have a hard time coming up with things to give Eric for Christmas though because most of the things he wants are technology – and he knows what he wants better than I do. So I make him put together an Amazon wish list, but since I don’t work outside the home it feels a little arbitrary to buy (or not buy) things from his list, with money he earned. Just my own weird hang up. Anyways, because of that I try to find things that I can give him for Christmas that really are more from me – gifts of the heart if you will. This year I decided that something I could do for Eric that he couldn’t do for himself was find a recipe for his favorite soup that he would eat all the time on his mission in Taiwan, and the ingredients for it… that could be made in the Instant Pot 😉 So, here’s the recipe I came up with – https://www.tablefortwoblog.com/instant-pot-taiwanese-beef-noodle-soup/ . It’s kinda like pho … But yummier I was really glad that I came up with this as a Christmas present for Eric because it forced me to pull out the Instant Pot immediately and not let it languish in its box until I got the nerve up to pull it out 😉
Eric also got me this cookbook as a supplement to go with my Instant Pot! So far I’ve made the chili and cornbread. The chili was really good – and done super fast which was amazing. The cornbread was fine, but nothing to rave about, and it was tricky finding a pan that fit inside the instant pot to make it in. I’d probably skip using the Instant Pot for that. I’d recommend the book, but I won’t share those recipes here since that’s someone else’s copyright.
I also used it to make tri-tip, and the kids have requested it frequently since (I mean, it’s tri tip, who can blame them). I just put the frozen tri tip in with salt and pepper and ran the meat cycle twice and served with bbq sauce – SO good! I made fajitas once using this recipe – it was easy and yummy but there was a LOT more liquid than I expected that I didn’t want to drain because it had all the flavor. I’ll probably try it again but try draining the tomatoes first or something to see if I can get up to pressure without so much liquid. Finally I used my Instant Pot to make pulled BBQ chicken vaguely following these instructions – although really I just put as much chicken as I could reasonably fit in the instant pot with a bottle of BBQ sauce and used their cooking times, but it worked out great.
As far as basic things, I’ve used my instant pot to make rice and felt like it wasn’t any faster than my rice cooker, and the rice didn’t turn out as good (but I was cooking more rice than I probably should have been). I think if I was cooking brown rice it might have been faster, but for regular white rice, I’ll stick to my rice cooker. However I’ve used it to make hard boiled eggs and it was AWESOME! I used these instructions and it was super easy and fast, and most importantly the eggs peeled SO cleanly and easily. I’m a fan for sure.
So, there’s my full report so far of things I’ve made in my Instant Pot! I’m sure there are many fun adventures ahead. The thing I’ve found I like the Instant Pot for most is making slow cooker meals at the end of the day. I’m really good at planning slow cooker meals, but I’m not always as good at actually putting everything in the crock pot at the beginning of the day… and when I realize at 2pm that I meant to do that in the morning… it’s a little late. I like having the option to resurrect my plans just before dinner time 😉
That’s basically how this chicken tortilla soup recipe came to be. This is my favorite crock pot soup, but with the times adjusted for an Instant Pot. I love this recipe because not only is it so yummy but the prep is really simple – dump several ingredients into the pot and let it go. The only real “prep” is chopping up an onion and rinsing the black beans.
Pretend there’s a can of enchilada sauce in there too… I forgot about it until after the picture was taken and didn’t have an extra can just for the picture, hopefully you have a good imagination 😉
I was going to post that my kids really like it too, but let’s face it, it’s not pizza so it’s not their favorite 😛 But they will generally eat it and enjoy it – especially if they can eat the tortilla chips. Sam though was disappointed last night that it wasn’t fajitas and told me, “well it’s not my favorite, so you can’t expect me to eat it un-pickily”. Danny was not excited about the soup either until he started to actually eat it, then he said, “Oh! This isn’t that spicy soup (chili)? I like this soup!” They all ate a decent amount of soup and were pretty happy with it. I asked the kids to pretend that they liked the soup and smile for me to take a picture… this was as close as we got in a few attempts 😛
Regardless of my kids’ reactions, I really like this soup and I’ve served it several times to other people with positive reviews. If you’re looking for a good excuse to bust your Instant Pot out of its box give this a try!
Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup
Recipe Type: Instant Pot
Serves: 8 servings
1-3 frozen chicken breasts
1 (15 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce (red or green, both are yummy 🙂 )
It’s Christmas time! My 3 year old has been trying to convince me every morning that *today* is in fact Christmas and she should be able to open her presents now but so far I’ve been able to hold her at bay (I’m not sure if that will be true once the snow actually comes). However, I really want my kids to get into the meaning of this time of year and to focus more on giving than getting. We decided that we wanted to do the challenge that our church had set out to #LightTheWorld. They have 25 ways for 25 days to celebrate Christ’s life and follow his example.
I decided that I really needed a good way to organize what it was we wanted to do. I knew that some of these challenges would take a little bit of planning to work them into our schedule or to come up with what I wanted to do. So I went through the website and compiled each of the days challenges, with their ideas for possible into an Excel spreadsheet. Now I can easily go through and pick what we want to do for each day and make sure that we have it scheduled in so it’s not too overwhelming. I’m also thinking that I might move around some of the days in ways that will better fit my schedule. Additionally, knowing that I live in Utah where lots of other people are going to be doing this challenge I want to put some of the challenges to work on different days than other people will be. I don’t want to be showing up to the blood bank on the same day as everyone else (although, to be fair, since I’m nursing and have a terrific phobia of needles I wasn’t going to the blood bank personally anyways… but you get the idea).
Ok friends I’ve been seeing these going around on Facebook recently and felt like it needed to be addressed. Let’s start by explaining what this is – a friend posts that they’re looking for people to participate in a gift exchange. The idea is that you just buy 1 gift (in this case valued at $10+) and send it to a particular person, get 6 friends to participate and in return you’ll get 36 gifts from other people! Totally reminiscent of those postcard chain letters that we’d do back in the 80’s & 90’s, and it sounds harmless and fun right?
It sounds great, but let’s think about how this works. You send your gift to your friend’s friend (whoever included them in the gift exchange) and you’re now out the $10 for the gift. You now have to find 6 friends who want to send a gift to your friend, and they’ll find 6 people to send a gift to you. Easy peasy.
So, I did some maths (ok, so Microsoft Excel did some maths… I just entered in a formula) – for the first person there obviously just needs to be 1 person to decide to start the chain. For the second level there are that person’s 6 friends. They need to come up with 36 people. Those 36 people then come up with 216 people, and so on and so forth. I put this in a visual format. We’re going to pretend that you did not initiate this “gift exchange” and that you aren’t friends with the kind of person who would initiate this – remember: the first person didn’t give *anyone* a gift… they’ve just decided that they ought to receive a gift from 36 of their friends friends just for sheer awesomeness. So I’ve put hypothetical “you” at the second tier. I’m not sure whether that makes you really lucky to be so high up in the pyramid (and more likely to have a non-exhausted list of people who would participate, or really unlucky to be so closely connected to the kind of person who thinks scamming their friends for their gain is fun. You can decide. I put in the number of people who would have to be participating at each level to sustain the exchange, and some interesting comparisons for what that number of people means to the right.
Sorry, I’m no graphic designer, but the numbers are staggering. For there to still be 36 participants at the level that would send gifts to you there would have to be more people participating than were killed in the sinking of the Titanic. For those people to receive the promised gifts would take more participants than would fill Yankee Stadium. It only takes 11 tiers to exhaust the total US Facebook user population, and another couple tiers beyond that and it would take more than double the world’s population to fulfill the promises of 36 gifts being sent – and neither of those lower two tiers would receive any gifts.
The entire success of this “exchange” is built on the fact that the majority of people who participate will get nothing. There’s no way for you to get 36 gifts for just sending 1 gift without 35 people sending gifts and not getting any gifts. Hopefully that helps you understand why these are a bad idea. Beyond which, they’re actually illegal. So please friends, just say NO! to these gift exchanges! If you want to get into the holiday spirit how about spending that $10 on buying supplies for refugees, or if you really want to send someone a gift you can always check my Amazon wish list 😉
On Facebook I frequently see people looking for book recommendations. My response is always – well what do you like to read? My personal reading range is all over the map, so I need something to zone in on before making recommendations – or else my Facebook comments become crazy long. However, most of the time people say “oh I like reading whatever”… which doesn’t help. Finally, someone was looking for Audible book suggestions in a homeschoolers group that I’m a part of. For whatever reason that time I spent spent a lot longer than I should have putting together this (non-exhaustive) list of some of the books that I’ve really enjoyed listening to on Audible in every genre. We’ve had an Audible membership for about 7 years now and we have around 400 books in our library. I went through and picked out some of the ones I’ve really enjoyed to compile this list – there are more but here are the ones that stuck out to me for recommending. After posting that as a crazy long comment I copied it and reposted it to my own Facebook page as a status message. I found that I was going back to find that status super frequently still so I finally decided to put it together as a blog post so that I didn’t have to copy and paste it anymore 😉 I’ll probably update this from time to time or post additions as new posts, but this is a good start! But here are my recommendations for books to read, based on my Audible library – I tried to group them vaguely by category, but it’s not the most organized.
Disclaimer: The links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I get a very small commission if you purchase anything from those links. It doesn’t cost you anything but it does help me cover the costs to maintain this site and give me some motivation to continue to post content (beyond just that I enjoy writing it 😉 )
I’ll start with the obvious – Harry Potter. SO worth an Audible credit, the narration is amazing, the books are awesome – I don’t think I need to explain why these should be in everyone’s Audible library 🙂 Jim Dale is the most incredible narrator I’ve heard, I’ve always loved the Harry Potter books, but he brought them to life in a whole new way again. I can’t recommend it enough!
My most recent favorite has been the Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians series by Brandon Sanderson. They were totally off the wall and SO much fun! My 8 year old has read through them on his Kindle and enjoyed them a lot. My 6 year old has just discovered them and has been listening to them as he goes to bed at night and thinks they’re amazing – which is really saying something as he’s not much of a reader. They were definitely a series that I was sad to get to the end of!
I used to read a lot of historical fiction but for some reason I haven’t really read a lot in the last several years until my friend and I started a book club in our neighborhood this year. We read These is My Words – which was totally different from what I was expecting for some reason, but awesome. It made me feel ALL the feels and it was a great glimpse into a different time period. A lot of people don’t know that it’s actually the first book in a series, but there are two more books – Sarah’s Quilt and The Star Garden both of which I highly recommend. We also read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which had been on my “To Read” list for a LONG time but I’d never gotten around to it. It takes a little bit to get past the letters back and forth format, but a few chapters in you get into the rhythm of it and it’s AMAZING. I can’t believe it took me that long to get to reading it.
Another book club pick that I really enjoyed was The Orphan Keeper. It’s an incredible story and based on real events. I was a little annoyed afterwards to find out how much they had changed the story to fit a nice narrative arc when the true story is already pretty incredible. But it was still a great read and I would highly recommend it.
For younger kids in the learning to read process I would recommend getting kindle books with whisper sync and let them listen and read along on a kindle. Most of these books though are cheaper if you buy the kindle version first and then add on narration – and cheaper to buy both than just the audible book, so definitely check those out. Recommendations for those – Stuart Little, Winnie the Pooh, Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know, Just So Stories… there are lots of good ones out there, but I’ve mostly been limiting myself to the ones I could get for free with Prime shipping credits 😉
I’ve listened to Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz with my kids and they enjoyed them. Peter Pan was a little more intense than I was expecting though, and The Wizard of Oz was good, but I felt like Ann Hathaway’s voices were a touch overdone and little distracting – but it did make it easy to tell characters apart so there’s definitely give and take there.
For some good humorous books I highly recommend Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat and Food: A Love Story – both had me laughing so hard I cried. They’re especially great for long road trips if you need to stay awake 😉 Also if you like Garrison Keillor his books are awesome, especially because he narrates them!
Last year I read A Series of Unfortunate Events and it was fantastic! It might be a little dark for younger kids, and I don’t know that they would enjoy all of the dry irony of many of the situations, but I absolutely loved them.
Anne of Green Gables is awesome as well, but know that you’re going to have a couple holes if you purchase them through Audible (maybe it was just one) as there are some of the books that aren’t in public domain yet. I ended up just purchasing that book and reading it on a kindle but I’m sad to not have the whole set in the same format. But be picky on the narrators! I returned a couple that were VERY poorly narrated.
We’re huge Orson Scott Card fans in our household so a lot of our books are done by him. Anything narrated by Stephan Rudnicki is amazing – seriously you can listen to his voice all day long and be very content 🙂 But if you’re looking for Fantasy I’d recommend Enchantment for sure (but not for the kids). And all of his other books are great too – I won’t bore you with a play-by-play but he writes some great things, you should check them out.
If you like YA literature I’d highly recommend The Selection series, also the Matched series by Ally Condie. Oh! And the Defy series by Sara B. Larson. Obviously The Hunger Games if you haven’t read those yet are also fantastic.
Somewhere between those two categories – popular psychology? – is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and also The Color Code. Both of those I feel like have helped me so much with my relationships with different people – particularly my husband and kids!
I have more classics than this in my library, but the two I’ve made it through recently were Jane Eyre & Great Expectations and I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.
If you want something a little bit light and fun in a British humor sort of way I’d recommend Good Omens or Stardust (the movie version of Stardust is also fantastic – but doesn’t follow the book exactly for better or worse). Good Omens is perhaps a bit irreverent – I think to appreciate it you need to have liked both C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – a random conglomeration to be sure but if you liked both of those I think you’d enjoy Good Omens. (Oh and I’d recommend Screwtape Letters & Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy too 😉 )
These other books don’t really fit into any other category, but these were some other books that I enjoyed. Honolulu by Alan Brennert was fantastic, and his book Moloka’i is supposed to be even better. I listened to that one on our trip to Hawaii earlier this year and it really made the trip so much more fun because I felt like I better understood the history and tensions of the area. I also really enjoyed I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 – as a tech nerd/enterprenuer. Another cool one was The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg – it was interesting to see another side of WWII even from a fictional (though based on some real events) perspective. Finally, if you like science fiction you should definitely listen to Redshirts by John Scalzi – it was a really fun, not too serious view on the genre.
If you stuck with me for all of that kudos to you! Hopefully you find something you like in all of that!
I’ve been asked several times how our family sets up tech in our van when we’re on long trips. We’ve come up with a pretty awesome solution that keeps the kids very happy for the long trips, without fighting, and without spending a fortune.
So what we’ve done is purchased Kindle Fire Tablets (http://amzn.to/2taMVqj) for each of our kids. The Kindle Fires are relatively inexpensive (around $50 a piece) particularly when compared with say Apple iPads ($250 – on the low end). It’s SO nice because each child has their own device and doesn’t have to cooperate with anyone else or watch what anyone else is watching. Oh, and did I mention that the device they have is not *my* device, so I can still navigate/listen to my book/play Pokemon Go? Everyone wins 🙂 We really like the kids cases that have the handles – they’re cheaper than the ones that Amazon manufactures, they’re more functional, and I think they protect the kindles better. We haven’t had any problems with damage to our kindles inside these cases – except when our kids have poured sticky things in the ports (you can only do so much right?). Here’s a link to one of the cases we’ve liked, but there are similar ones available through a lot of different sellers – http://amzn.to/2v9Ugrm
The Fire tablets don’t hold a ton of media on them (although you can upgrade with micro SD cards very easily), but what we’ve done is purchase a portable hard drive that also acts as a wi-fi hotspot within the car – like this one by Seagate Media that will hold up to 2 Terabytes of movies – http://amzn.to/2taIOdQ! We’ve put all of our movies on there and all the kids can access whatever movies/TV shows they want – and we don’t have to worry about whether they have *the* show they want already on their device. It is also great if the boys want to play Minecraft together – they can use the wi-fi to play local games together (they don’t have internet access obviously, but we don’t let them play online anyways).
We’ve also gotten these headphones for our kids and been happy with them – http://amzn.to/2t0YgxH . They’re comfortable and don’t have pieces on them that are easy to break. Plus the kids look super adorable with animal headbands 😉 I’m not convinced that the volume goes up as high as they really need to overpower the road noises, but my younger two haven’t complained yet so for now we’ll keep doing what we’re doing 😉
So, that’s how we keep our kids occupied on long car rides. We’ve set the rule in our household that the kids don’t get electronics for car rides that are under 30 minutes (you’d be surprised at just how many 29 minute car rides we’ve gone on 😉 ) and this whole set up was MUCH cheaper than installing a DVD player in our car – and we get a lot of use out of everything outside the car too! I hope someone finds this useful!
One of my parents’ engagement pictures in 1982. If they’d known then what the future had in store for them…
I know on Mother’s Day we’re supposed to really focus on just our mothers, however today I want to pay a quick tribute to both my mom AND dad. In addition to today being Mother’s Day, today my dad was released as the bishop of my family’s home ward. He has served in that calling for 6.5 years. Before that he was in the Stake Presidency, following the shortest stint as the bishop (only 9 months) of the same ward, and prior to that he was in the bishopric of our stake’s single’s ward. My dad has been in consecutive leadership callings in our stake for longer than my youngest brother (who turns 19 in August) has been alive. Before that my dad served in the bishopric in our ward in New York and other callings.
My mom has had many callings of her own – YW presidency, Primary presidency, Sunday school teacher, Early Morning Seminary Teacher to name a few – but through all of those callings she has also been supporting my dad in his. Many nights of not knowing if/when my dad would be home for dinner, helping those in the ward who were secretly struggling, getting 5 kids ready for church more or less on time on her own each week (a feat that I’m sure was infinitely easier once her oldest child left the house 😉 ), allowing other families’ needs to intrude on our own family time, and countless other small but significant sacrifices through the years. I know there have been times when the load seemed heavy and probably even too much to bear, but through it all both of my parents have been cheerfully – and sometimes tearfully – willing to sacrifice and serve.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with our faith, these callings represent many hours every week – including most of the day on Sunday – with absolutely zero pay, it is done on a completely volunteer basis. Although volunteer suggests that my dad would have gone to someone and requested these assignments – the opposite is true. For each of these callings someone else in our church leadership would have called my dad in to a meeting and asked him if he would be willing to do this regardless of what other plans my dad might have had at the time. He has continued to hold a full time job to support our family while giving up his nights, weekends and vacation time to serve those in their area willingly.
My mom has told me that the very best thing she could have done was to make that sacrifice to allow my dad to serve in these callings. She has told me that by supporting my dad in these callings she has in turn received a husband who is more compassionate, closer to the spirit and more fulfilled than had she selfishly kept him at home to help her with dressing kids for church and the other things that I know she would have appreciated his help with. She’s told me how she’s heard other women tell their husbands that they couldn’t accept these callings that require so much time and effort because they needed the help at home. She doesn’t belittle these concerns – she knows firsthand how legitimate they are – the sacrifices are indeed significant. But she’s testified to me that while it’s been hard – she has gotten more in return for her sacrifice than she would have received any other way.
So, today I want to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to BOTH of my parents. Thank you for teaching me the value of service and sacrifice. Thank you for teaching me that there is no better way that I can bless the lives of my family than by serving the Lord. I know that their service will not end here – soon enough they’ll find somewhere else to be made useful in serving and loving those around them. They won’t be happy sitting still for long. They know all too well that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God,” and I know they won’t be satisfied not having a way to use their time and talents to serve God. That’s the best example I could have asked for, and I hope that I follow that example in my own live. I love you Mom & Dad!
I know, I’ve fallen way off the boat with my “Why I Believe” posts, I’ll fill in more someday. I was asked to speak in church on Sunday about the Book of Mormon. At first I thought I’d end up just reading what I wrote in this blog post… but as I wrote my talk this came out instead. It turned out to be part of the series that I hadn’t gotten to writing yet. I guess sometimes I just need a little encouragement – thanks Bishop!
Our bishop gave us Elder Holland’s talk “Safety for the Soul” for a topic. I sort of feel like being given a talk from Elder Holland to speak on is like throwing down a gauntlet – here take this amazing talk and find something you can add to it, I dare you. Seriously, Elder Holland’s talk is amazing and I would definitely invite you to stop reading my post and re-listen to his talk So a little known fact about me – although my career has been in computers I actually majored in Linguistics in college. If you’re not familiar with what linguistics is – basically it’s the study of language – not any particular language but the study of the mechanics, building blocks, and psychology of language. So when I heard aboutthis linguistic study that was done on the Book of Mormon I thought was intriguing.
So linguists have found that every person has a unique “wordprint” – basically a fingerprint of their particular writing style. Every person has subconscious patterns of usage for non-contextual words – words like that and, the and, and and, to – they’re words that we use without really thinking and it’s nearly impossible to break those habits. They’ve found that even people who are very conscientious about trying to imitate another person’s style still actually maintain their own wordprint.
The Book of Mormon presents an interesting case because it’s a book that has 100 individual speakers if it was translated and should therefore have 100 different wordprints. So they took a sampling of texts from 24 Book of Mormon speakers and 9 texts from other speakers, including people like Joseph Smith who would be supposed alternate authors for the Book of Mormon. Sure enough, they found unique wordprints for each of these different authors. This is fascinating as it would be nearly impossible for a single person to really write in that many voices without their own wordprint bleeding through.
(Sidenote: there were some other fascinating discoveries in that study so if you have some time I’d highly recommend reading it)
After reading about this study I have been more attentive to seeing these stylistic differences between authors and it is interesting to me to see that each speaker in the Book of Mormon truly has their own unique style and personality similar to the modern Apostles in their conference talks. You start to get a feel for each of the individual Book of Mormon prophets as you separate out their writings and it’s fascinating to me to get to know them in this way.
I think this is such a blessing, even if you might not connect with what Nephi has to say, you might find that you really love the words of Alma or maybe King Benjamin. I was thinking recently in a sacrament meeting what a blessing it is that we have a church where we get to hear different people speak each week and get a different perspective on the gospel rather than having a single pastor. While I’m sure Bishop Peters could give us an excellent sermon every week I love that every person here has their own experiences with the gospel and different things that stick out to them and that we get to hear those perspectives. I think this helps the gospel to be richer for all of us as we gain different insights through the eyes of different members of the ward each week. It’s awesome that the Book of Mormon has this same plethora of perspectives to share with us rather than just one person’s interpretation of the gospel.
Every person you meet will have a different take on the gospel. One of my best friends in college once put together a notebook for me that she filled with some of her very favorite quotes. It was one of the sweetest gifts that someone has given me. But when I got it I noticed something interesting – the quotes that spoke to her didn’t speak to me in the same way. She had selected a lot of quotes that were lovely – they talked about things like you’re loved and beautiful and special – which is great. However the quotes that I tend to take note of are really bold quotes – “the standard of truth has been erected, no unhallowed hand shall stop the work” type quotes. Even though this was one of my very best friends the things that spoke to her and the things that spoke to me were very different. When you read through the Book of Mormon you find so many different styles and messages. Just like it would be hard for Elder Holland to write an Elder Scott talk, I have a hard time believing that one person was able to come up with so many different spins on the gospel and craft such a detailed work.
Another interesting note is the geography of the Book of Mormon. A few years back my mom read a book called Mormon’s Map which focused entirely on the geographical clues of the Book of Mormon. As you read the Book of Mormon there are lots of references to different places and how people travelled between the places etc. In making up a story it’s difficult to keep all the different places in the same places on a map consistently – honestly I’m very directionally challenged and I have a hard time keeping straight where real places are, let alone fictitious places. My parents joked when I started driving that they couldn’t send me to drive up to BYU on my own because they’d get a call from me saying, “Mom, why are all these people speaking French? I don’t remember having to cross the border to Canada to get to Utah?” They were only halfway joking, I’m really that bad with directions.
Anyways, if you read the Book of Mormon and find all of the contextual clues for distances and locations you can actually plot out all of the locations on a map with some accuracy and it stays consistent. So if from Zarahemla to Bountiful is a day’s journey for a Nephite, it stays that distance through other comparisons. If Sidon is east of Zarahemla it stays east throughout the entire book. When they use the terms up and down to refer to elevation then the one city stays up and the other city stays down.
This sort of consistency would be nearly impossible to do consistently unless the places actually exist and in writing you don’t have to remember an invention but you’re just referencing where things are. It’s natural to say something like “I went down to Provo” or “up to Salt Lake” because we know where those places are. But if you were working off of places that you weren’t familiar with or were invented you would probably be less inclined to use those sorts of terms and would instead say something more like “I went to Bora Bora” which would still sound natural but you wouldn’t have to think through the details.
My mom decided after reading this book to try doing the study for herself – she found that there were SO many geographical tidbits woven into the story that she tried to keep up with them in a Google Document but found she couldn’t keep up through the whole book. To have that many little details AND keep them consistent is pretty remarkable.
Elder Bednar shared an experience in a religion symposium at BYU Idaho. He told about how as part of his work as a business professor he wrote books. One particular book that he wrote was written with the help of a colleague. He and his colleague were both highly educated and put tons of research into the book. It was 650 pages long and between the two of them took 2 years to write. He said this about that experience –
“With eight years of university training, with two years of very dedicated work, with an editorial staff, with personal computers, with spell checkers and thesauruses on-line, with the Internet and the other resources that are so readily available, when I picked up the book that I had written and opened it up, I still found mistakes….
Brothers and sisters, you could take a team of the brightest people on the earth, as large a team as you might want, with all of the support staff, all of the computer technology, and all of the assistance that you can imagine, and such a team could not produce one page of a Book of Mormon.”
I haven’t done any writing in my time that could anywhere near rival writing a book, however I love writing in my blog. I know that for every post that I write I write it, and then I go through and I rewrite it a dozen times before I’m happy enough with it to publish it. I consider my personal experience with writing to be just a glimpse of what it would take to write a book like the Book of Mormon. Then consider Emma Smith’s personal testimony of the Book of Mormon –
“I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, [Joseph] would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.”
To keep all the details of a book as complex as the Book of Mormon straight in your head, as well as to be able to remember exactly where you left off in telling it aloud would be impossible. To do all that without having to go back and revise things is a pretty strong testimony of the veracity of the Book of Mormon. As you read the Book of Mormon and notice all of the intricacies of the text and consider the ways it fits in with the Bible and other styles and histories – it’s pretty remarkable. In April conference of 1996 Elder Dallin H. Oaks said –
“Overarching the Prophet Joseph’s entire ministry were his comparative youth, his superficial formal education, and his incredibly rapid acquisition of knowledge and maturity. He was 14 at the First Vision and 17 at the first visit from the angel Moroni. He was 21 when he received the golden plates and just 23 when he finished translating the Book of Mormon (in less than 60 working days).”
I’ve tried at times to really reason through the Book of Mormon and see if I can come up with any theory that adequately explains it – and even with vast conspiracies or anything else I’ve come up with – the only answer that makes sense is that Joseph Smith received the book in the manner he says he did. As Joseph himself said of the book, it is the keystone of our religion. If The Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet and every other aspect of the gospel falls into line as being true. If it’s not true, then nothing else in the gospel holds up and the entire work crumbles.
Elder George Q. Cannon said of the Book of Mormon, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.” I love this quote because it accurately describes how I feel about the Book of Mormon too. I don’t know how to explain a book that claims to be of divine origin, a book that contains so much truth and changes lives for the better – without it actually being of that divine origin.
It’s similar to how I feel about those who say Jesus was just a good wise man, but not the Son of God. You cannot accept Christ’s ministry without accepting his divinity. If He was not indeed the very Son of God, then he was a deranged and very confused man for saying so and neither good nor wise, but evil for trying to deceive people. If the Book of Mormon is a good book then it has to be of good origins.
As Christ himself said both to the Israelites and the Nephites, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth for evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” (Matthew 7:16-18)
What fruits has living by the Book of Mormon brought forth in your life? Have you tried the experiment on the word? Have you tried Alma’s challenge of “mourning with those that mourn” and “comforting those who stand in need of comfort”? Have you stood up in seemingly impossible situations like the Sons of Helaman and found yourself protected? Have you prayed to the Lord for direction in your life like the Brother of Jared and received an answer? What results have you seen from living by the teachings in the Book of Mormon? The wisdom of the Book of Mormon is not simply philosophies of men wrapped up in stories and fables. The Book of Mormon is true, and it came forth the way Joseph claimed. The result of living by its teachings is peace, direction and light, and results like that can only come from truth.
I want to share this excerpt from Elder Holland’s talk. He shared the scripture that Hyrum Smith marked from the Book of Mormon as the last thing he read to his brother Joseph before their martyrdom. Then followed up with this declaration –
“As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?
Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator.”
Seriously, passages like that are why we love Elder Holland. 🙂 I like Elder Holland’s note that this is “one of a thousand elements of [his] own testimony.” The research and studies and reasonings that I’ve shared with you are not my testimony of the Book of Mormon, they are simply small facets of my testimony. In order to have a testimony you can’t stake your whole belief on one small aspect of the gospel, you have to dive in so that you have a thousand different pieces that make your faith immovable.
I went to high school in Southern California, where obviously Latter-day Saints are not the majority. One day I was talking to one of my friends about some aspect of the gospel (I couldn’t even tell you what it was now) and afterwards I was thinking about what I’d just told her and I thought, “are you telling her things that are really true, or are you just mindlessly repeating things that other people have told you are true?” The thought gave me serious pause. I take my integrity very seriously – I didn’t want to be spouting off things that I didn’t know were true. Almost immediately I realized – of course it is true. I’d read the Book of Mormon, gone to church, studied the gospel and tried to live it – I could see how much happiness, peace, direction, and joy the gospel gave me and those who lived it, and how much of the opposite came from not living it. I had tried the ‘experiment upon the word’ and I could see that it brings forth good fruit.
Like Elder Holland these are some of the thousand elements of my testimony – I know that the Book of Mormon is true. Beyond academic analysis I know the Book is true because I’ve read it, I’ve tried to live it. I’ve asked, as it says at the end of the book, if the words were true, and I have felt that witness for myself. I know that as Joseph Smith said we “can get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book.” As I live the things I’ve learned in the Book of Mormon my life is enriched and I’m better for it. The blessings of the gospel are not coincidental. If you haven’t read the Book of Mormon and taken Mormon’s challenge yet – then do it. Start today and get through the book. The testimony and strength that you will gain from it will be priceless to you.
If you’re struggling with your testimony I would encourage you to go back to the Book of Mormon – re-read it. Pick one thing that you want to add as a part of your testimony and study that. As your testimony of the Book of Mormon is strengthened your testimony of other parts of the gospel will be strengthened. Even if you don’t get the answers to the questions that you might be directly seeking, as you understand the gospel better as a whole you can let your worries wait until you’re able to get the answers you’re looking for. for. When I’ve had questions I’ve stopped and taken a step back and looked at the big picture of the gospel rather than focusing on whatever thing might be troubling me. As I’ve started from an overall position that our Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be happy, and re-examine the plan of salvation and work my way down to the problem I generally find that things fall into place. And if they don’t, I at least feel like I’m starting on solid ground and I can be patient and wait for those things to fall in place.
I bear testimony that Joseph Smith is a true prophet that the Lord sent to open this last dispensation and that through him the Book of Mormon has been delivered to us. I know the Book of Mormon is true. Take the challenge today, read the book and let it bless your life.
Recently I was thinking about the Sabbath and trying to figure out why it is that we observe the Sabbath on Sunday in Christendom rather than on Saturday like the Jews. I’ve always been taught that we have the Sabbath because on the 7th day God rested from his labors of creating the world and so we take that same 7th day to rest from our labors. However, that doesn’t explain why our Sabbath is on a different day than the Jews’ – our religious traditions come from the same source so ostensibly 7 days from the beginning of creation should be reckoned the same in either faith. In America we don’t even pretend that Sunday was the 7th day and it is on our calendars as the first day of the week rather than the last. I’ve often wondered why we couldn’t just agree as a global community that the Sabbath is either Saturday or Sunday and everyone could observe the same day worldwide and make it easier to live together. It seemed like an arbitrary distinction to me anyways – so long as we were observing one day out of seven did it really matter which of those days it was?
I was pondering this while taking the sacrament a few weeks back and realized that what I’d been told about why Sunday is the Sabbath all my life was wrong. On Sunday we’re not resting to recognize the 7th day of creation when the Lord rested – clearly that happened on Saturday and the Jews continue that tradition to this day. There must have been a completely different reason for this and I wanted to share my opinion on what that reason is.
After his triumphal entry into Jerusalem the disciples prepared for the Passover feast that week. Passover was on Thursday and was observed in what we now refer to as the Last Supper. Judas was excused from the celebration and went to find the men to whom he could betray our Savior. Meanwhile Christ went with a few of his apostles to Gethsemane to suffer for the pains and sins of the world. Just after that the guards came and arrested Jesus on accounts of treason. He was beaten and questioned all that night and into the following morning. On Friday, Pilate asked the Jews if they would have him release Barabbas or Jesus to them. The Jews sentenced Jesus to crucifixion on Calvary and he was taken there and nailed to a cross to die. In the afternoon the Jews were anxious for the men being crucified to die quickly so they could attend to the bodies before their Sabbath began. Their Sabbath began at sundown on Friday and would be observed through sundown on Saturday. Attending to corpses on the Sabbath would be a violation of the Law of Moses. So the soldiers broke the legs of the other two men so they could no longer hold up their weight with their legs and they would suffocate from the weight of their bodies more quickly (truly this was a barbaric way to be killed). When the soldiers came to Jesus they found him already dead. His disciples were given his body so they could hastily attend to his body before the Sabbath commenced. Not to give a full and proper burial but at least to wrap the body and lay it in a tomb until they could attend to it after the Sabbath had finished. On Saturday, the Sabbath, while they were surely mourning greatly for the loss of our Lord, the disciples focused on their worship and day of rest as they always had. It was the last time that day would mark the most remarkable event in the history of the world as the completion of the creation.
The following day – Sunday – it was no longer the Sabbath and so the disciples were able to return to the tomb to finish the burial they hadn’t been able to make on Friday. They arrived at the tomb and found it empty – the Lord had risen. This marked an occasion that surpassed the immensity of the reverence that they had for the creation. I don’t know when the change was made, whether that day or many years later, but at some point the Christians must have realized that this was so momentous that it was worthy of changing the very foundations of our calendar structure. No longer did they stop to worship their Lord simply for the blessing of the creation of the world, but they stopped to worship for his sacrifice and the miracle of his redemption. We stop to remember the price that was paid for our sins, and that through Christ we can live again.
Sunday is the not the last day, it is the first day. It is the first day of new life. It marks the day when our Savior forsook the tomb and rose so that we could live again. We don’t simply rest from our labors on Sunday, we stop and remember our Lord and all that He has done for us. Of course, part of our Sabbath is still to be a day of rest – to set ourselves aside from the cares of the world and focus on higher things. Surely there is nothing wrong with remembering the rest of our Lord after finishing the creation and to feel gratitude for all that we’ve been given. But commemorating the creation is not why our Sabbath is on Sunday. OnI Sunday we remember the Son of God, and that like the sun He is risen, and has marked the path for us to rise again.
On Thursday I saw on Facebook that the 18 month old son of one of my friends had been found face down in her dad’s pool unresponsive. He had climbed out through a doggy door unnoticed. Over the next 36 hours I followed closely on Facebook as updates were posted – he was moved to a children’s ICU and the doctors tried everything they could to help little George survive. During that time his parents posted expressions of their faith with the hashtag #PrayingForEasterMiracle – they knew if it was the Lord’s will that their son could be spared. Hundreds of people from around the globe were praying for that Easter Miracle for this very deserving family. Sadly, this was not to be and George slipped into the eternities on Friday night. Since George’s passing the family has posted an update that two Easter miracles did occur as a result of this tragedy – two of George’s heart valves were able to be transplanted into other children, giving them a new chance at life.
However, as I’ve been watching this I’ve been struck with the thought that the Easter miracle that they are participating in right now is THE Easter Miracle. The miracle of Christ’s resurrection, that because of His sacrifice for all of us He has paved the way so that we can all live again.
The miracle that because this family is sealed they will be together forever.
The miracle that through this darkest of times the Lord will help get them through.
The miracle that because of Christ this is not the end for little George.
He lives. Christ lives today and George lives today. As much as we had hoped and prayed that George would be able to continue with his family, and as real and agonizing as the grief of his passing is, we can say with the angels – “He is not here, for he is risen.” George is with people who love him, he is free from pain, and he is happy. He will be missed dearly on this side of the veil until he can be reunited with his family again – but they WILL be reunited.
This morning I’m giving a guest lecture at LDS Business College introducing CSS. I wanted to post my slides here so the students could have easy access to them for their own review – Intro to CSS Slides.
If anyone is interested in learning CSS here are a couple of websites that I think are invaluable –
CSS Zen Garden – This site really shows the power and capabilities of CSS in designing websites
W3 Schools: CSS – This site is the most complete CSS resource. It has a complete reference of CSS properties and values, tutorials, sandboxes and so much more. This is where I go whenever I can’t remember exactly how to do what I need to with CSS – which despite over a decade of experience is often 🙂
CSS Box Model – This is specifically the page in W3 Schools that teaches about the CSS Box Model.
CSS Reset – This page discusses the need for and development of Eric Meyer’s CSS reset