All posts by jeppster

Neal A. Maxwell’s 1989 talk “A Wonderful Flood of Light”

At a BYU devotional on March 26, 1989, Elder Neal A. Maxwell gave a talk entitled “A Wonderful Flood of Light.” You can watch it here:

It has no written version, so I snagged the closed-caption feed from youtube and transcribed it myself as I watched. It’s a fascinating talk about the importance of the doctrine of pre-mortal life and well worth your time to read or watch it. Please forgive any punctuation or grammatical errors as I was working as quickly as possible. Paragraph separations are all mine.

“A Wonderful Flood of Light” by Neal A. Maxwell

Coleen and I feel privileged to be with you tonight, brothers and sisters. We appreciate joining with you in that prayer, and as we shall sing again together, O My Father, if I fail at my task tonight, the hymn will take care of the necessary theology. My remarks are entitled, “A Wonderful Flood of Light,” words taken from a 1909 First Presidency statement on the doctrine of premortality. I hope and pray this will be a fitting doctrinal focus on an Easter evening, as we celebrate the central event in the triumph of God’s plans and purposes.

Describing poetically our coming to Earth while trailing clouds of glory is evocative imagery. Another writer, uninstructed by true doctrine, mused “How everything is arranged in this life, as though we had entered it carrying a burden of obligations contracted in a previous existince. Obligations which seem to belong to a different world, founded upon kindness, which we leave in order to be born into this world.” C.S. Lewis declared, “Disgraced man may be, yet is not dethroned and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned.” However, so much more important than the faint glow emanating from such expressions as these is the striking and illuminating brightness of the Restoration’s revealed truths. It could not be otherwise, brothers and sisters, for as the prophet Jacob declared, “No man knoweth of God’s ways save it be revealed unto him.”

The same previous First Presidency further stated, “The doctrine of preexistence revealed so plainly, particularly in the latter days, pours a wonderful flood of light upon the otherwise mysterious problem of man’s origin.” The doctrine of premortality declares, brothers and sisters, that before his mortal birth, man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made neither indeed can be. Therefore, as identifiable individuals, you have been you for a long, long time. Furthermore, with important details as yet unrevealed, certain spirit elements of man are eternal and have no beginning since intelligence or the light of truth was not created or made, neither indeed can be. This spirit of man, said Joseph Smith, is not a created being; it existed from eternity, and it will exist to eternity.

So, whether as a spirit son or daughter of our Heavenly Father, you were sent here from your first estate to undergo this joyful, yet stressful, mortal second estate. Being the literal premortal spirit of children of the Father, you and I can, by going from grace to grace, eventually receive of the fulness of the Father as Jesus did. In addition to being resurrected, we can become perfect, or in one set of meanings from the greek, finished, completed, and fully developed, but only if we worship God and truly follow the example of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. After all, brothers and sisters, the ultimate adoration is emulation. Small wonder the prophet Joseph Smith taught that “if men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.” However, such comprehending clearly requires an understanding of the doctrine of premortality.

Therefore, we really are God’s spirit children, indeed. And we really do come trailing clouds of glory, which contain dim flakes of fire, still pulsating with borrowed light from our eternal home. In one form and degree or another, the vital concept of preexistence is found in the Holy Bible, in early Christian documents, in Greek and Jewish literature, and in other sources as well. However, once again, only from the restoration, with its confirming, clarifying, and elaborating revelations, do we get the clear and definitive truths about man’s origins. Thus, the plain and precious doctrine of premortality, in President Harold B. Lee’s words, “Can provide an awakened realization of who we are.”

Brothers and sisters, think of yourselves, not only for what you now are, but also for what the possibilities you have to become. President Joseph F. Smith said, “Through obedience, we often catch a spark from the awakened memories of the immortal soul which lights up our whole being as with the glory of our former home.” Then, President Smith further instructed us by saying, “Notwithstanding the fact that our recollection of former things was taken away, the character of our lives in the spirit world has much to do with our disposition, desires, and mentality here in mortal life. This spirit influences the body to a great extent, just as the body in its desires and cravings has an influence on the spirit. Environment and many other causes,” said President Smith, “have great influence on the progress and destiny of man. But we must not lose sight,” he said, “of the fact that the characteristics of the spirit, which were developed through many ages of a former existence, play a very important part in our progression through mortal life.”

Someday when the obscuring dust of history settles, we shall see much more clearly that gospel fullness existed in Adam’s time, including the doctrine of premortality. This precious doctrine, along with other doctrines, suffered later diffusion and distortion. President Joseph F. Smith observed again, “Undoubtedly the knowledge of this law, and of other rights and ceremonies, was carried by the posterity of Adam into all lands and continued with them, more or less pure, to the flood, through Noah, to those who succeeded him, spreading out in all nations and countries. Adam and Noah, being the first of their dispensations, to receive them from God. What wonder then,” continues President Smith, “that we should find relics of Christianity, so to speak, among the heathens and nations who know not Christ and whose histories date back beyond the days of Moses and even beyond the flood, independent of, and apart from, the records of the Bible.”

In developing real faith, the doctrine of premortality is a fundamental building block just as is the doctrine of postmortality. This doctrine of premortality represents a profound response to man’s search for meaning. Without understanding premortality, this life may seem puzzling. Some regard it as the inexplicable human predicament. Without knowledge of the preceding there and then, the injustice and the unevenness of the here and now cause some to call into question God’s justice along with his cosmic competency. Without an understanding of premortality, mortals often fail to make adequate allowance for the proving and tutoring dimensions of mortality. Life’s trials are then used by some as an argument against God instead of accepting these trials as something common to man or as the needed tutorials which last but for a small moment. Without the perspective of premortality and instead of understanding that all these things shall give thee experience, we can become drenched in doubt and wrenched by irony and adversity, lamenting “why me? why this? why now?” Without the perspective of a purposeful mortality, and of long-standing covenants between God and certain peoples, Israel’s wanderings in Sinai would be a senseless sojourn. Yet instead, however, God really has plans for us mortals.

These words from Deuteronomy, “And thou shalt remember all the ways the Lord thy God led thee these fourty years in the wilderness: to humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, and whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no.” God’s divine designs in mortality include to prove us herewith. Not so informed, however, then doctrinally deprived mortals, in Nephi’s words, “stumble exceedingly.” For instance, a severe stumbling, a major misreading of reality, is evident in the attitudes of hopelessness on the part of those who say, “mankind is destined to extinction, there is nothing we can do.” Or as another wrote, “We have no personal life beyond the grave. There is no God. Fates knows no wrath or compassion.” Such mortal lamentations as these bring to mind in contrast the great and reassuring lines of Jacob concerning the precious perspective of divine truth, “The spirit speaketh of things as they really are and all things as they really will be.” Truth also includes a knowledge of things as they were; thus, as we sing, “truth is the sum of existence.” Jesus said gaining eternal life requires us to come to know God and His Son Jesus Christ. Then, so knowing and so worshiping them, we will genuinely strive to become more like them and to partake of their fullness. For now, however brothers and sisters, we mortals are merely errand embryos. We possess certain underdeveloped possibilities and qualities, qualities such as love and mercy and patience and meekness and spiritual submissiveness, though enormously less spiritually developed than Jesus, nevertheless we too were with the Father in the beginning. Many of our Christian friends sincerely hold with the traditional views that each individual is created out of nothing, either at conception or birth. This is so different from knowing that as differentiated individuals we were with God in the beginning in the premortal world. Thus, there is contained in the simple hymn that we have sung, “I am a child of God,” more true doctrine on this matter than in the communicades of various synods of centuries past. Deliberation and discussion are not substitutes for revelation.

How and when did this precious doctrine of pre mortality become lost or distorted? We do not know precisely. Some things the scriptures say were kept back and others taken away from that which much later became our treasured Holy Bible. However as your own professor Stephen Robinson has written, “one needs to realize that by the time the dispute arose over the origin of souls, the scriptures that answered that question had already been excised. Therefore, those who deliberated were left to sift through their conflicting traditions without benefit of Scripture on this point.” Whatever the particulars, this plain and precious doctrine was stilled for centuries. Then, one false doctrine usually leads to another. The more spiritually significant the doctrine, the more quickly it is discarded when apostasy occurs. By way of example, pre mortality, the reality of the physical resurrection which we celebrate today, and the concept that man can become a god are early casualties. False doctrines, by the way, almost always seem to cause a lessened sense of personal identity, a lessened sense of personal accountability, and a lessened sense of personal joy. Furthermore, mistakened beliefs often lead to a heightened sense of hopelessness about the human circumstance. Thus, the doctrinally deprived really do stumble exceedingly.

Another severe example of stumbling because of a false doctrine is seen in the doctrine of predestination. Why worship a God who is capricious and unjust? Before predestination grip had faded, it helped to set the stage for a succeeding falsity, “pervasive irreligion” which like a flood covers the world today. Ironically, other mutant secular beliefs postulate their own forms of determinism: economic determinism, historical determinism. Whatever the form, however, false doctrines diminished human understanding of the reality that we mortals are free to choose. Historically, too, a general lack of understanding about God’s plan of salvation added to the ebbing sea of Christian faith. Described by Matthew Arnold with “It’s melancholy long withdrawing roar, retreating to the breath of the night wind, down the vast edges drear, and the naked shingles of the world.” Remember, one of the purposes of the restoration the Lord declared was to increase faith in the earth.

When the restoration, came the absence of these vital truths began to be remedied. Appreciation and understanding of these doctrines was not always widespread in the church nor immediate among church members. Sequentially, though not then fully recognized by all, the precious truths concerning the doctrine of premortality, in accordance with the line upon line pattern of Revelation, were unfolded in the restoration in April or May 1829, Alma chapter 3. Much more in 1830 while Joseph was translating Genesis and received the Book of Moses. More came in 1832, 1833 and so on. Still more came in 1842, when the Book of Abraham was published. Most recently in 1918, we received what is now section 138. Joseph Smith began to preach a portion of the doctrine of premortality publicly in 1839. Later, just prior to his martyrdom, there came the soaring King Follett sermon. Whether this gap between early revelation and later recognition and articulation reflected imperfect record keeping, the Lord’s timing, Joseph’s degree of disclosure, for he did not tell all he knew, the people’s readiness to receive, or all of the above, we do not know. In any case, the revelations came incrementally, and Joseph’s understanding and articulating apparently came likewise. But back to us and this powerful stunning doctrine.

Presently, we may puzzle over those occasions when we sense that we belong to another place which is somehow imprinted upon us. In pondering these emotions, we can only speak the smallest part, which we feel. There is certainly no sustained surf of recall, only the delicate mists of memory. These evaporate quickly under the baking heat of the mortal day. But only after evoking, however briefly, an unmistakable longing in us, though estranged, we hunger for reunion. Meanwhile, only a few come to this mortal experience with substantial ? already intact. Rather, our individual best is but the bud of possibility. Even so, these buds of possiblity are unmistakeably there. While unfolding and enlarging over time, these key qualities should also grow together to produce full felicity. When you and I experience these celestial qualities in others, even though not fully developed, we rejoice. We rightly associate these traits with greatness, whether in neighbors, friends, or those of high station. The selflessness of Mother Teresa speaks for itself, so did the meekness of that remarkable George Washington.
Since our individual identities and personalities did not begin here in mortality, there emerges, too, a more glorious appreciation of the Atonement as inwardly, and reverently, we conjoin the Scriptures pertaining to the Atonement with the things of the Holy Temple. The impending real reunion and real reconciliation have so much greater meaning. In theological fact, brothers and sisters, the more complete our understanding of the great Atonement, the more it is linked to the premortal world, just as Professor Hugh Nibley has so thoughtfully expressed.

If as some sincerely but mistakenly aver, we had been created here out of nothing, whether at conception or birth, how could we really be going home to a place we never knew as individuals? How could there be real, individual reconciliation with a father whom we did not know before our birth as individuals. Actually, we were nurtured near God’s side, and then came here for a wise and glorious purpose. This all points to a time when the faithful shall regain God’s presence in resplendent reunion. No wonder the Prophet Joseph Smith could speak of the gospel of reconciliation. We know almost nothing about ourselves or about our conditions before our spirit birth. But whatever existed, or whatever we were before our spirit birth, this was incorporated into Father’s merciful plans. We became his literal spirit sons and daughters, thereby being ushered into our first estate. Even in the premortal there and then, Heavenly Father left his children free to choose. Hence, the ideological war in heaven.

During this stressful sojourn on this earth, we should make no mistake, therefore, about who we and others really are. Amid our budding possibilities, in the words of CS Lewis, we are “in a society of possible gods and goddesses in which there are no ordinary people. We have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations, these are mortal and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snug and exploit.” When you and I begin to know who we are, brothers and sisters, then we also know much more clearly what we might become and also how and when. The gospel thereby emancipates us from uncertainty as to our identity. But this precious perspective also brings with it an intensification of our personal accountability. While man is that he might have joy, other scriptures repeatedly tell us, for instance, that the natural man clearly prefers perishable pleasure.

With this heightened accountability, for instance, how can an eternal entity on leave from the Royal Courts on high treat another individual as an object of sexual pleasure? Do child abusers realize whose child they have abused? Since Jesus descended below all in order to lift us all up, why are we so busy putting each other down? With regard to poverty and to disease, even if people have actually brought upon themselves their misery, how can we withhold since we know who they really are? Inasmuch as we were all with God in the beginning, and can be with him throughout eternity, how childish it is to take advantage of another human, whether in dating in business or in politics? Since God lends us breath from moment to moment, how wrong to use any of that precious breath to lie, to bear false witness, or to dig a pit for one’s neighbor. Knowing we live in eternity, how can we say we have no time for children? Furthermore, may not the many wounded, strewn along life’s way, justifiably expect us Eternals not to be in too big of a hurry.

Even after all the premortal tutorials, including for the noble, who were called and prepared from the foundation of the world, we were placed in a mortal environment amid real challenges because it was the only way to tame the raw self further. President Lorenzo Snow said “I dare say, that in the spirit world when it was proposed to us to come into this probation and pass through the experience that we are now receiving, it was not altogether pleasant and agreeable. The prospects were not so delightful in all respects as might have been desired. Yet, there is no doubt that we saw and understood clearly that in order to accomplish our exaltation and glory, this was a necessary experience, and however disagreeable it might have appeared to us, we were willing to conform to the will of God, and consequently, we are here.” It’s a nice quote to offset the scripture we use often, and I think justifiably, about people shouting for joy at the prospect of coming here because there are days, as all of us know, when we might wonder what all that shouting was about.

Free to choose between liberty and life and captivity and death, we now experience firsthand the bitter and the sweet. It is a process of polishing even for those souls already significantly spiritually submissive. There will be little spiritual achievement, however, by reluctant embryos who are unwilling to participate in the requisite learning in order that their performance can be consecrated for their own good. Yet, even now, brothers and sisters, the power is in us to do much good if we but will. God’s work will truly become our own, only as we strive to become more like him by accessing the powers of heaven through increased personal righteousness. Besides it’s no use craving more of God’s power without first having more of his love. This is what so much of our mortal training is all about: coming to an understanding through experience of how vital the cardinal Christian virtues are.

Coming here not entirely in forgetfulness, our present drives for status and power and recognition and ascendancy may ironically involve twisted muted memories of glories and dominions we witnessed before we came here. But how can one wisely exercise any extensive dominion without first developing dominion over himself? We may desire to have spiritual glory and power, but we cannot without emulating God’s qualities and attributes. Besides, real glory requires real humility. Moreover, a larger future glory finally involves larger future service to others. Isn’t this obvious from the declared purpose of God’s own work and glory. It seems that regal repose and idle indifference are out of place in the celestial kingdom. During all of our protracted developmental process we are very dependent on God’s long-suffering which provides us with the much needed time and space in which to repent and to grow. If we fail to learn who we are, however much under information we acquire here, we shall be ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth. Without the key spiritual truths, such as pre mortality, learning even in the best of institutions will be a Sisyphus-like process in which all ignorance toboggans into no and trudges back up to ignorance again.

With, however, the acceptance of knowledge about pre mortality, there comes a greater realization of what it means to be true to ourselves and to our possibilities. We can even understand better the role of life’s disappointments and of opposition, the full shock of wish we will still feel at times, but within the absorptive framework of faith. With the true doctrines, we are not only made aware of many more things in our lives which need to be put right, but now there are real reasons to put them right. With us, other mortals are actually members of an eternal community. Our obligations and ethics in that community transcend that which is merely mutually agreed upon for the moment. The devastating weakness of situational ethics is their failure to take into account man’s real and full situation. Only the gospel gives us that. So illuminated by true doctrine, no wonder life’s process must be so relentless. There is so much to be done in so little time. Thus a blessing is often quickly succeeded by a soul stretching. Spiritual exhilaration is soon followed by frustration or temptation. Reveries are followed by adversities. Since left too long in extended spiritual reveries, we would quickly forget others in need. We must get on to the next challenge. Life is thus largely what we choose to make of it and of our inborn talents. The same musical scale was available to Beethoven for composing his fifth symphony as to the composer of chopsticks. These compositions even share several opening notes, but what an enormous emerging difference.

So brothers and sisters here we are in Eden, and Eden become Babylon. Perhaps we have grown too accustomed to the place. Even if we leave Babylon, some of us endeavor to keep a second residence there or we commute on weekends. Quoting President Romney, “Some go on trying to serve God without offending the devil.” Furthermore, Babylon does not give exit permits gladly. An ironic implementation of that ancient boast, “one soul shall not be lost.” Babylon is also a noisy distracting place. No wonder, therefore, some who live therein are called many times and would not hear. No wonder Jesus’s marvelous invitation to leave Babylon slums and join him in the stunning spiritual highlands goes largely unheeded. There, however, redeeming Jesus waits with open arms to receive us. Meanwhile, we do not as some say, live in a unsponsored universe, or in an empire of chance, rather we live amid the divine design which characterizes the enveloping empire of Elohim. Him about whom we shall see shortly.

With an understanding of the fullness of the gospel, we can see our lives here as part of a continuum rather than being deceived by the philosophy of eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Gospel fullness, likewise, replaces the algebra of agnosticism with its one known factor, all others being unknown. The gospel also refutes human-isms, “no deity will save us, we must save ourselves.” Eliza Snow lyracized about your and my yearnings, saying it was not until the key of knowledge was restored, she knew why, that key of knowledge is the fullness of the scriptures. The religious establishment of Jesus’s time not only wrested what scriptures they had, but they lacked the key of knowledge, the plain and precious things.

Many weeks ago, when this talk was essentially prepared, I pondered how the very preciousness of the restoration makes it unwise for us to tamper with its truths, to attempt to dilute its doctrines, or to misuse its authority. I reflected further how I, for one, would not want to belong to a church which I could remake in my image. Rather it is the Lord’s image I should come to have in my countenance. The doctrines are his, not mine. The power is his to delegate, not mine to manipulate. Those who want to shape and remake things to their own liking have ample and legitimate opportunities to do so in political parties and mortal organizations. Our spiritual task, brothers and sisters, is to make God’s work our own, not the other way around.

There are those, in this second estate, whether consciously or otherwise, who try running away from God. Running away from God, mind you! God who has created worlds without number, and yet who notices the fall of every sparrow. Such runaways cannot even make it unnoticed off the front porch, let alone into the suburbs. Besides returning prodigals, those who have been all over the world, and some parts of Santaquin, soberly but gladly confirmed that it is impossible to run away from God’s love or beyond his redemptive reach. God’s love for us is of even greater duration than we now realize. Suppose, brothers and sisters, given any ancient or inherent individuality on our part, and given our opportunities to choose, suppose as God is doing the best even he can do in those circumstances. The marvel is that he persists and pursues his plan of happiness for us while preserving our freedom to choose. Seeing the great distance we had to travel, seeing our flaws and nevertheless commencing his work with whatever was before our spirit birth. Yet, God loved us enough to initiate this divine process over measureless periods. God our Father is truely and organizing as well as a loving father. Back of the beyond, he saw what was but he also saw what could be. There appears to have been no other way for him to increase our happiness and our joy. What long-suffering love! What true fatherhood! And all of his works are designed so that you and I can be added upon and thereby enjoy greater happiness and pointing us to the day, when if faithful, we might partake of all that the Father hath.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us that God even comprehended our perspective errors long ago: “The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth pertaining to the plan of salvation before it ever rolled in to existence or ever the morning stars sang together for joy. The past, the present, and the future were and are with God one eternal now. He knew the depth of iniquity that would be connected with the human family, and he has made ample provision for their redemption.”

I stand all amazed, not only at the love he offers me, but at the ample provision he has made for the human family. He was willing to allow the sacrifice of his first born spirit son, his only begotten in the flesh, in order to exemplify for us and to atone for us. Our father’s intelligence and his power are unfathomable, but even more staggering brothers and sisters, is the felicitous fact of his perfect love. Even as you and I come to love him, as the apostle reminded us, God loved us first. All the while he endures our insensitivity, our ingratitude, and our relapses. All the while, he honors our individuality. Things are to be done in God’s own way. Someday, probably at or near the resurrection, we will get our pre mortal memories back. These memories will give us even more abundant reasons to praise God forever.

Little wonder when Judgment Day arrives, and all mortals kneel and confess before him, each will openly acknowledge that God’s love, his justice and His mercy are perfect. In my opinion, brothers and sisters this grateful collective acknowledgment will pertain not only to this second estate but to all of our remarkable relationship with him. He does nothing save it be for our benefit. Oh it is wonderful! God the Father was redemptively at work long before mortal time was on this earth, and he will still be at work even after mortal time is no more. My beloved brothers and sisters, the doctrine of premortality is among what Paul called the deep things of God which God has revealed to us. For that divinely dispatched wonderful flood of light, which illuminates this deep doctrine, oh my father, I give you my deep gratitude, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Nonsense Rationalizations and the U.S. Senate

Last week, I wrote my two U.S. senators, Sen. Jim Inhofe and Sen. James Lankford, regarding the Republican-controlled Senate’s unwillingness to hold a hearing for newly-nominated Judge Garland. Here is the response I received from Sen. Inhofe and my reply back to him. I really don’t understand how they cannot see that their rationalizations can be extended out to absurd levels. Yes, I think they are acting within their Constitutional rights, but they could technically defer their “advice and consent” indefinitely and still be within the technical bounds. It’s so frustrating to me!

Sen. Inhofe:
Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the vacancy on the Supreme Court and the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the spot. As your representative in Washington, I appreciate hearing your concerns.

Since the devastating loss of Justice Antonin Scalia in February, much controversy has surrounded who his successor will be. On March 16, 2016, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the position. Judge Garland was an exemplary model of justice when he oversaw the prosecution of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. As an Oklahoman, I am forever appreciative of Judge Garland’s actions on behalf of our state. I have spoken with Judge Garland since his nomination announcement and made it clear that this is about the process and not about him personally. It is important for the upcoming presidential election to be about citizens like you deciding the direction the Court will take.

We have seen time and again that when President Obama is unable to get his liberal agenda through Congress he has turned to executive actions and agency rulemaking to implement his priorities. These regulations and actions are now making their way through our courts, and many of them will be heard by the Supreme Court within the next year or two.

The President and Senate Democrats want the Senate to confirm someone who will uphold these executive overreaches, but the American people elected a Republican-majority Senate to oppose President Obama’s policies. With the balance of the Supreme Court now at stake, the choice to fill this vacancy will shape our nation for at least the next generation. Americans just like you are the ones who will bear the burden of these court decisions; therefore, you should have a say on who fills Justice Scalia’s vacancy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have made clear that the Senate will not hold hearings on a nomination until the next president has been elected. While the president has a Constitutional duty to nominate a justice, the Senate also has the Constitutional duty to provide “advice and consent,” and it is fully within the purview of this body to withhold that consent while completely fulfilling our Constitutional duties.

My response:
I appreciate your respect for Judge Garland.

You assert that “the American people elected a Republican-majority Senate to oppose President Obama’s policies”. I disagree and think that it is just as likely that several other factors contributed more heavily to the swing in party majority. In either case, I think we can both agree that the current Senate composition is the most recent representation of the American people.

If so, would it not be best for the Senate to hold a hearing for Judge Garland since they are the current, best representation of the American people? What if Americans elected a Republican president in November and swung the Senate back to Democrat majority (complete hypothetical; I don’t even know if the right numbers of Senators are up for re-election)? Should the now-Democratic Senate say we should wait four years until the American people have their say again? Can’t you see how this can be rationalized infinitely?

I can understand how you consider it in the purview of the Senate to withhold the consent. Please consider how that is a slippery-slope. No other Supreme Court vacancy has been handled in this way. Yes, Joe Biden made the argument many years ago for what the Republicans are doing right now, but the Democrats never followed through on that. Who is to say the precedent doesn’t get stretched further down the road? What is the cutoff for how long the Senate can wait? Can it be two years? How about three? Following the rules strictly, the Senate could wait until we had fewer than six justices (since that constitutes a quorum). You could do that, but can’t you see that it is a ridiculous notion? This current rationalization is ridiculous in the same vein.

I appreciate your response. I am a registered Republican and have only ever voted for Republican Senators in my lifetime. I value Conservative ideals, but I value common-sense much more. This behavior by Senate Republicans is complete nonsense, and I hope you can come to see that and fight for common-sense in our legislative branch. Thank you.

Continue This Story – Revisited

It’s almost been a whole year since we posted! Yikes, better fix that quick.

I was just going back through old posts and found this one about a fun little story Jessica and I wrote progressively back and forth. The link has long since been dead, but I found it at the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine! I’ve copied the text here to live forever. My paragraphs are in italics; Jessica’s are normal.


The Little Boy That Couldn’t

Joe had troubles doing anything. He’d try to ride a bike and would end up falling down. He’d try to kick a soccer ball and would end up falling down. He’d try to fly by jumping off his house and…well, you get the idea.

Then one day he met a girl with the same trouble. Cindy could not roller skate without scrapping her knees. She couldn’t braid her hair without getting it tangled in knots. She met Joe the day he tried to fly off of his house.

Joe landed on Cindy squishing her flat, but not too flat, as she was able to get up. Cindy said, “Hey, aren’t you Joe, ‘the little boy that couldn’t?'” Joe just hung his head in embarrassment. Feeling awkward, Cindy didn’t know what to say.

So, instead she decided to introduce herself. “Hi, my name is Cindy. I’m the Little Girl that Couldn’t.” Joe feeling slightly braver, asked Cindy, “Are you okay?” “I’m fine, thanks. What were you doing up on the roof?” “Oh, I was just…uh…

“…I was just testing my roof’s resiliency,” Joe said, “Everything seems to be in order. What were you doing in front of my door?” Cindy didn’t know how to explain that she had just been getting ready to knock on Joe’s door.

“Well,” she started. “I was actually coming over to talk to you about…something. Since I see that your busy, so I’ll just be on my way.” As she turned to run, Joe stopped her.

“You know, two negatives equal a positive. I mean, two ‘couldn’t’s would equal a ‘could’, right? So…let’s be friends!” With that, Joe and Cindy were best of friends from that day on and could do anything they wanted as long as they were together.

What Aspergers Means to Us

Hey, Adam here. So, I have Aspergers Syndrome (AS). Just thought I’d get that out there. I was diagnosed last spring, ten months after Spencer was diagnosed with AS. We had not told any people about my diagnosis because it never really felt relevant. Since then, I’ve read a bunch about adults with AS. Research shows that the presence of autism in older generations is roughly equal to kids being born now. That means that the “autism epidemic” you often hear reported is nothing new. We are just better able to recognize it now. It occurred to me a couple days ago that I likely have at least one or two friends with AS/autism and don’t even know it. It has benefited me greatly to understand my place on the spectrum, and I’d like to shine light on it so that if any of those who know me are on the spectrum, some of this might resonate with them. Hence, this post.

For a couple years prior to my diagnosis, I had been trying to find an answer to why I had been having difficulties coping with life in general ever since Spencer had been born. I searched and searched all I could trying to figure out why I would have mental breakdowns just because there were dishes to do. Why mentally scheduling a few tasks for a Saturday literally (and I mean that literally) felt as impossible as calculating higher-order derivatives without a pencil and paper. Why more nights than not, I dreaded spending time with my family after work. Why I got moody and grumpy every weekend before church or any social event and felt immense relief whenever such events were over.

Eventually, thanks to Spencer’s diagnosis, I was able to match up nearly every single one of my struggles with those typical of someone on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum. I’d like to go through three specific aspects of how AS has negatively affected my marriage/family life and how learning about AS has shifted it in a positive direction.

Emotional Intelligence
Wikipedia states that “Emotional intelligence (EI) can be defined as the ability to monitor one’s own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.” Did you know that there are actual psychological evaluations to assess emotional intelligence? I’ve taken some of them. I didn’t do very well, and it turns out I’m not alone. Many (most) people on the autism spectrum have a hard time with it. For me, specifically, I can label emotions just as well as anyone else in a removed, third-party setting. Unfortunately, in a live setting, I almost completely lack the ability to monitor, discriminate between and label emotions going on in others and especially in myself.

I’m sure you can guess as to all sorts of marital hazards that can arise from this. They have taken a few forms for us, but I’d like to share one type. When disagreements have come up for us, emotions tend to accompany them. Well, at least they tend to come from Jessica. I definitely feel them, but I have incredible difficulty expressing or even understanding what they are. On top of that, the emotions Jessica is showing are hitting the impenetrable wall that is my brain. It has led to some difficulties in communication. Pre-AS diagnosis, this would often end with her in tears and me wondering what train of bricks just hit me. I would literally have no clue how to interpret all her emotions as anything more than just “sad” or “mad”. They were like a foreign language to me.

One other problem would always accompany such conversations: I would “shut down” in the middle of them. It was never a conscious decision. My emotional center, and also most of my mental faculties, would close for business. I would literally be unable to answer more than yes or no questions. Post-AS diagnosis I have learned that this is a common thing for those on the spectrum. Another term is “overload”. I’ve come to understand that emotions’ (especially negative) affect me in a way very similar to very loud noises. It is much like someone is yelling. And the more the emotion is directed at me, the more deafening. The other night I saw someone crying (happily) and hugging someone else that I knew, and I couldn’t look away. It felt like they were making so much noise and was very, very distracting when it actuality it was very normal for the environment they were in.

Learning about AS has helped us understand that I can participate productively in disagreements or conversations-in-conflict as long as we take the right approach. Jessica is allowed to be emotional with me, even negatively, but I might just save my contribution to that conversation until after everything is cooled down. I am not off the hook, emotionally. I have learned that I need to share how I’m feeling with her, with the understanding that it might not be at “normal” times.

Jessica’s two cents: Once we started to understand how to better communicate with each other and our reactions to one another, we’ve been better able to avoid any overly emotional crying upset moments on either of our parts.  It took some time and a rather steep learning curve, but it has really helped.

Executive Functioning
“Executive functioning” can be simply described as being the CEO brain process that manages and runs all the brain processes that get you through your day. You can read a great write-up of how autism and executive functioning interact here.

One of the most common examples of “executive dysfunction” in my life as a parent has been common household chores. If the dishes need to be done (which they MUST be done, a completely different topic), my brain has to plan it out to the nth degree how to accomplish it. I will automatically start virtually loading the dishwasher in my head and plan it all out. If I can’t get them all in, in my head, that brain process shorts out and tries again. This all happens in less than a second and fires off like that over and over and over again.

This was all well and good when we were married without kids and had all the time in the world to dedicate to things like dishes and vacuuming. After having kids, that all went out the window. Now, I have no time to spend all my brain power analyzing optimal dishwasher configurations or vacuuming patterns or order of operations in bathroom cleaning or even the best order in which to do all of these things. Now, I have children who constantly want my attention and don’t allow for those important thoughts (please note sarcasm!). Pre-AS diagnosis, I (very stupidly) kept falling into the same trap of letting my mind constantly work on all the problems all at once while juggling kids. It always led to a breakdown (meltdown) of one form or another.

Now, post-AS diagnosis, I’ve learned about all this and can deliberately set those processes aside. Yes, I will still have to do the dishes, and you can bet that while doing them I’m still going to be figuring optimal placement (though I’ve learned to distract myself with music or TV so that I don’t burn out my brain). I know now that I have to pick one thing, announce it to the whole family, and do that one thing only. Even if that one thing is “play with the kids”, I can mentally set aside all other tasks. It is admittedly still very difficult, but simply knowing how my brain works is quite enabling.

Social difficulties
Along with my AS diagnosis, I also received a diagnosis of Social Anxiety Disorder (SA). It does fit quite a bit. The AS part of me has a very hard time understanding social and emotional conventions, and the SA part of me gets very anxious about being conspicuous because of that difficulty. It can be very frustrating some times and a negative loop. It is why I generally prefer to have my social interactions in very small groups. I love game nights at my house because I don’t have to focus on so many people at once. Social language is very much a “noisy” thing to me like emotions. When people exhibit some sort of conspicuous social interaction, it is very distracting to me and hard to ignore. When you get a lot of people doing that all at once, it gets overwhelming very fast.

Pre-AS diagnosis, this would result in me shutting down in many social situations. I would be no fun to Jessica because I would be dead weight and possibly ruin what, for her, is something very enjoyable. I also had difficulties transitioning to home life every evening after a socially draining day at work and would not be a pleasant person to be around. Post-AS diagnosis, social situations aren’t necessarily any easier, but I’ve learned some ways/tricks to resetting my brain such that I can “stay in the game”, if you will. Also, I’ve learned that if I just vocalize the stresses from work to Jessica, she can give me space for a while when I need it which goes a long way towards me giving her the one-on-one time that is important for our relationship.

Jessica’s two cents: Adam is not the only one who is aware in this situation. I’ve been able to identify some of the things that indicate Adam is approaching overwhelmed before he gets to that point and am able to better help him or even tell him to take a moment to go reset before it becomes an issue. We are not perfect at this, but we are getting better and more understanding of each other’s needs.

I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture or anything because, ultimately, I am a very high-functioning person and feel blessed to have always had good supportive friends in my life and to have found so easily my wonderful wife. I know a lot of people on the spectrum suffer so much more, in general. But, if we can improve, any of us, our lives with a little more mental health knowledge about ourselves, it can be incredibly beneficial.

Sorry about the long post, and if you actually made it this far, you deserve a medal. 🙂

30 in 45 – We’re all tied up

It seems that Adam and I are all tied up with our win -loss records.  Quite an accomplishment for me since I seem to lose a lot, but apparently that’s not entirely true anymore.  I am getting better at some of the strategy games, and since Adam and my brains work very differently, he has a hard time figuring out what I’m going to do next.  I have the same problem, but always have so it doesn’t play as much to my disadvantage.  🙂

September 17th – Small World

Jessica: 80
Adam: 93

Since we learned we had been playing this incorrectly for a while now, we were excited to play it correctly.  It turned out to be a little more balanced.  Well, that is until yon Dragon Master Trolls came and squished everybody in their path and left behind a trail of fortresses that spelled utter DOOM to anyone trying to conquer them.

I hope that conveyed the despair that Jessica felt after I played my trolls because I don’t think she was very happy with me.  I gave her permission to weep.  Still, her Wealthy Wizards bolstered her end-game scoring to a respectable scoring gap.  Ah, yes, it’s good to be a troll.

Thursday, September 20th – Forbidden Island iOS version
A & J –> Lost

Report: Our goal here is to get all the treasures and get off the Island before it all washes into the sea.  We can prevent some of this by shoring up flooded areas, but if a flooded area is flooded again, it washes away.  We thought we were doing really well.  We had gotten two of the treasures we sought, and were almost set to claim another when we drew a waters rise card.  It reshuffled an already flooded Fool’s Landing (our way in and out of the Island) into the flood deck.  The first card that came up in the flood phase was Fool’s Landing.  Thus washing it away and leaving us stranded on the Island as it sunk all around us.

Thursday, September 20th – Ingenious iOS version
A: Lose

Report: The goal of this game is to match colored tiles in such a way that you gain points.  You have 5 colors you are managing.  You want each on to be as high as possible.  The person who has the least amount (in any color) is the one who loses in the end.  You really have to play it to understand, but it’s fun.  This is Jessica’s game that she can usually count on for a win.  She plays it in her spare time while watching TV.  So, she’s pretty good at it.  This round of the game was no exception.

Monday, September 24th – Tobago
A: 61 – Win
J: 51

Report: Adam here.  Wow, 4 days since our last play.  We are going to need to ramp up the pace.  Ok, so you say Tobago, I say Tobago.  I guess that works better out loud.  This is a game of treasure hunting and movement optimization with a little set theory thrown in.  Since at least one of those things is incredibly interesting to me, I love this game.  It was a little slow starting because we had sort of forgotten the rules. When familiar, it would play quickly.  I think I found the first treasure and we swapped back and forth after that with an exclusionary treasure for each of us.  Jessica got cursed once and lost some serious points.  That and a little luck bumped me to the top, and Mr. Red Jeep won the day!

Lord of the Rings – The Card Game (9/25, 27, 28, 10/1, 2 thus far)
We are playing a lot of this game. Look for the LOTR Edition coming up

September 30th – Unity

Adam -Orange –
Jessica- Purple – WIN!

The point of UNITY is the get all the pieces you have on the board in a collection together by strategically picking up and moving pieces around the board. Jessica was still grasping the concepts of this game. It had been frustrating to her in the past, but it seems that she’s got it figured out. It was a rather handy win for her. It did help that when Adam set up the board he let Jessica chose the color she wanted to play, and she chose the group that already had the most unified group to start with. So, it was easier to deal with the rest.

September 30th – Issac

Adam: 52
Jessica: 77

Man alive was Jessica on a winning streak tonight! Issac is a game about strategically laying down varying lengths (and point valued) sticks, and picking up said sticks in such a fashion that gains you the most points. Personally, I think I just got lucky and made some excellent blocks and pick ups that really put Adam in a position to gain fewer points. In the end, I got to pick up at least 3 or 4 more sticks, which resulted in a larger victory. After that win though, Adam didn’t want to play anymore games with me that night. 🙂

Days Left: 19   Games Played: 18

Living with an Aspie: Rebuttal

UPDATE: This blog post was born out of frustration and pain of being misunderstood.  We’ve since talked with the other blogger, and we now understand where each other is coming from.  We are leaving the post the way it is, because this is not an uncommon response from people when they find out our son has Asperger’s.

Adam here. LONG post ahead. You know that feeling when you are reading someone’s blog or some article on the Internet and think “This person is dead wrong! I must correct them!” (relevant comic) But then you remember that it is kind of a jerk-ish thing to do. So you move on. That is almost always the right approach. I remember one particular instance in which I corrected someone on their Facebook page using not so kind words. I sort of lost a friend that day, and I will always regret it.

Well, I’m here to break the golden rule again. I’m going to correct someone on the Internet. I would have left it alone (I promise!), but the individual decided to use my family as an example to prove her incorrect point and managed to insult us at the same time. I’m not going to sit idly by because I feel the need to, um, provide some additional insight. Unfortunately, the blog’s author is a member of our church congregation. It is possible other members of our congregation will identify my family as the one referenced in the blog (though she does not give names, bless her). I cannot simply let it go unanswered. Full disclosure: The blog post I will reference has a lot to do with alternative medicines and diets. Generally, I have nothing against alternative approaches to health (I hope that is the right way to phrase it, if not I am sorry). My sweet sister does a lot in this field, and from what I can tell, it has helped her and her family quite a bit. I am glad for that and wish them health. Wendy, you and your family deserve every good thing in this world.

All right, back on track. Edit: Her blog has been made private now. Since this post contains no personal identifying information, I’ve decided to leave it up. I think it can stand on its own as an information piece about Spencer as well as a promotion of the strength of unique, individual parenting styles for unique, individual children. I will be quoting sections of the post that I wish to address. I will not focus on the post as a whole because much of it is her opinion on her blog and that is fine. I will pick and choose the sections that deal with my family. The general context of the post is that the author feels that society is becoming more unhealthy and is not willing to do anything about it. Continue reading Living with an Aspie: Rebuttal

Matthew Stephen Jeppson

We proudly welcome to the world our newest little baby boy, Matthew Stephen Jeppson! He was born at 1:32pm on May 3, 2012. He was 7lbs, 12oz and 21 1/4″ long. He came out completely calm and very interested in the world. Of course, people felt the need to intrude into all his private business right away, and he was not at all happy about that.

Let’s back up before we get too far ahead of ourselves. At 5:30am, we showed up at the hospital, ready to get the induction process started. Jessica progressed fairly slowly until her doctor came and broke her water. She got the epidural shortly after as the contractions became much more painful without that watery cushion. I decided to go get some lunch before the big show started, and right as I was leaving, the nurse announced that Jessica was dilated to an 8! They said I still had time and to go ahead.

In the middle of my greasy hamburger at McDonald’s, I get the text that Jessica is starting to feel the need to push. I have never pushed a hamburger into my mouth that quickly (and will never again, ugghhh). I got back with plenty of time, but we got started shortly after. She pushed through a couple contractions to get the baby into place. They then got everything setup for his arrival, and she did a couple more contractions’ worth of pushing and out Matthew came! Everyone marveled at how picture-perfect his birth was and that it should be in textbooks. That made us happy. 🙂

Ok, caught up now. Once everyone left him well enough alone with cleaning and tests, he showed his true colors, that of a mild mannered, hungry little boy. He took to eating right away and never seems to get that fussy at all. He has passed his hearing tests and pretty much everything else they’ve put him through. He has been such an angel for us, and we couldn’t be happier to have him here. Also, Spencer really seems to like him. They gave each other gifts, and it was really cute. Here are some pictures:

Mystery in Tokyo (and USA)

I found this story in a box my mom gave me of stuff from my childhood. I don’t know when I wrote it, but I’m guessing 4th or 5th grade? Anyway, here it is for your viewing. The only thing I’ve edited is putting in paragraphs. My comments will be in bold. I am a little disturbed that I glorified the life of a villain so much. –Adam

Once upon a time in the city of Tokyo it was peacful and quiet (in Tokyo? I guess I thought everywhere in Japan was just one big zen-like place, man) when bang! bang! bang! Everybody looked at the jewelry store, the diamond was gone! (you see, in Tokyo, three gun shots means jewelry robbery) The police looked for days and days and they said that they think his name is Red foot Louie and they say that he’s probably above the ocean right now. Up in the plane there was a detective. His name was Sly Sam, and he saw Louie and punched him and Louie punched him back, then Louie tried to shoot Sam but he shot his hand that was on the bag with the diamond and he fell into the ocean (my hand is ALWAYS getting in the way of my target). Sly Sam thought that Louie was dead……

One day when Sam was in his office a man came in and he said are you Sly Sam and Sam said yes and the man said well I’m Red foot Louie and you’re a goner. Louie knocked him out and killed him. Soon there was a funeral for Sly Sam. He was buried where he was killed (in his office??? I’m trying to imagine what my younger self was picturing in this scene and coming up empty). Soon there was a parade with the chief of police. Louie took a rifle that wasn’t loaded and put Sam’s ring in it and shot the tires (I guess it’s pretty obvious I didn’t know much about firearms; also, wouldn’t it have been cooler to shoot the diamond he stole from Tokyo?), punched the chief (why all the punching?), took $1,000 and ran away. Later that day they were voting for a new mayor and Louie wrote on his paper look behind you or you die and Louie kidnapped the new mayor. (I know I am probably enabling all sorts of would-be kidnappers out there by revealing this fool-proof method for mayor-napping, but it had to be done)

One day Louie was cleaning his gun and the doorbell rang and when he opened the door the police were behind him and they said youre under arest but Louie shot them all (yay for less punching!) then he got in his car and went to the next town but when he was almost in the next town he wasn’t looking at the road CRASH! Louie crashed. Well that’s the end of Louie, or is it? (cue mysterious end music)

The End

30in45 – Adam’s Final Thoughts


How I Learned to Enjoy the Game and Stop Obsessing Over Winning

Dr. Reiner Knizia, designer of many, many classic boardgames, once said “When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning”. So true. I thought I understood this before, but I didn’t. To me, this quote isn’t just about being a good winner/loser; it also encompasses enjoying the journey.

Several times thoughout this challenge I would tell myself before we started a game that I wasn’t going to over analyze my moves to the point of absurdity because I needed to enjoy the experience. Inevitably, I would find myself doing the calculations in my head of the benefits/costs of each possible move such that I hardly even noticed that my opponent was even in the room. I could have been playing against a computer for all the attention I was giving to the social experience.

The social experience, for me, is the most rewarding thing about game playing, but it was too easy to focus on being the winner. Everyone needs to play to win, or it isn’t fun. That’s why games with lopsided rules or unbalanced game play are no fun because both opponents can’t really play to win. My focus was often playing to be the winner; this subtle distinction made for a huge difference in my enjoyment. Once I learned how to actually “play” with others, it became much more enjoyable!

Unfortunately, some games are just bound to fail with specific groups. We found one such game (Call of Cthtulhu) that just doesn’t work with us. We become overly hostile while playing it, and it never ends well. We have learned that games with such overt conflict, where every move is about tearing the other person’s position down, do not work with us. Games are all about gaining the edge, but building up my own settlement/economy engine/zombie horde in comparison to how my opponent is doing is vastly different than simply bringing theirs down to the ground consistently.

It actually relates really well to life. We compete at EVERYTHING. You’ll notice that good things often come about when the “competitors” are building upon/creating their own stuff; in contrast, when we compete by tearing down others to look better ourselves, no one wins. War. Smear campaigns. I-told-you-so matches. We need to make sure that we are enriching ourselves and the world around us.

Anyway, I could probably write on many other things that I’ve noticed as we’ve played so much. It’s really amazing. We have slowed down quite a bit since it has stopped. I’m really grateful to Jessica for doing this with me, and I’m sure she is as well.