The Age of Accountability

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THE LORD: Wherefore, they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me.

HOLLY: What?!

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Peter knocked down Heidi’s tower, so she knocked him down.  Looks like temptation and sin to me!

This scripture didn’t seem right, so I studied the doctrine of the special status of children.  I am amazed at how much I learned, which was enough to motivate me to treat my children differently.  Do you remember when President Packer said that a study of doctrine changes behavior faster than a study of behavior changes behavior?  He was speaking about how we treat little children!

The Guide to the Scriptures says that temptation is “A test of a person’s ability to choose good instead of evil; an enticement to sin and follow Satan instead of God.”  Satan offers a choice (which is wrong, but the child hasn’t truly internalized that yet.)  If the child makes that choice, she did not make it knowing she would be following Satan.  Temptation is not “the desire to do something wrong.”  I’m pretty sure children have the desire to do something wrong.  But it is not sin because they didn’t know who was offering it.  Little children cannot sin. (Mosiah 3:16)

Have you ever tried to get small children to say they are sorry?  Little children cannot repent.  (Mormon 8:19.)  If you ask my Peter a question, he always answers, “Yeah.”  If you ask him which of two he wants, he always chooses the second.  Do you feel Godly sorrow for your sins? Yeah.  Are you glad you committed them? Yeah. Do you want to follow God or Satan? Satan. Do you want to follow Satan, or God? God.happy smile

Lawrence Kohlberg theorized that humans progress through six stages of morality.  Most adults are in stage three or stage four and small children are in stage one. Stage one people just try to avoid punishment. Wrong is what will get you punished. (Infants haven’t even gotten this far.) Stage three and four dwellers do right and avoid wrong to preserve social order. However, I believe that godly sorrow doesn’t come into play until stage six, which uses universal ethical principles. Stage six people do right because it is right, and they avoid wrong because it is wrong. Kohlberg said that he found it difficult to find people who consistently operated at this level. If many adults never get here, to stage six, it is pretty unreasonable to think my three year old should.  If repentance requires godly sorrow, and children aren’t fully capable of it, they are not capable of repentance, either.  (What does this say for adults who don’t get to stage six?  I don’t know.  I think that gospel teaching pushes people higher in the stages of morality.  Also, maybe part of repentance is climbing up to stage six in a certain behavior.)

In mortality, and especially before the advent of modern medicine, infancy and childhood are extremely dangerous.  (I think) God has decided which spirits will die as infants or as children.  But this means that God has chosen which spirits will grow up enough be able to repent, and therefore be saved.  This doesn’t make sense, at least without the Atonement. “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God” (D&C:93:38). God is not a respecter of persons. (Mormon 8:12)

Little children can do bad things, but they are not accountable before God for them.  They are accountable to their mothers, though.  I know which principles I have taught my children, and I know about how well each understands them, and I estimate what behavior I should be able to expect.  If my children give me less than that, I can hold them accountable.  However, if I cannot deal with the bad behavior without exhibiting it myself, it’s better that they get away with it–they are not accountable before God.  If I stop kids from yelling by yelling myself, what have I accomplished? I have now sinned, and they have not.  And if my words say, “You should not yell,” but my yelling tone of voice says, “You should yell like I do,” what will that teach? Actions speak louder than words.

And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers. (D&C 93:39)

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19)

Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children. (Moroni 8:10)

Moroni 8:8: “The curse of Adam is taken from them in me.”  What is the curse of Adam? It has to be something that was given to Adam but taken from little children. I hypothesize that when knowledge of good and evil was given to Adam (and Eve) they also received accountability, or responsibility.  This is a curse, because Adam would inevitably sin, and thus inevitably would be cut off from God. “Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man” (D&C 93:31).

When, during their first eight years, they take bite after bite of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (or when they start learning through experience right from wrong) they assume the curse of Adam.

But I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins. (Mosiah 3:16)

I am cursed, because mortality ensures that I will fail (preschooler + toddler + pregnant with #3=crabby). However I am blessed because of the mercies of my Savior.

When Boyd K Packer spoke to those who needed to be kinder to small children, he said it was possible to change:

It is contrary to the order of heaven for any soul to be locked into compulsive, immoral behavior with no way out!

It is consistent with the workings of the adversary to deceive you into believing that you are.

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Aside

Preparing for a Natural Birth

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Bryan and I took a childbirth class before each of our babies.  He really enjoyed each one.  ;P

Our first was given by a labor and delivery nurse.  Natural birth people say those classes are to just teach you how to be a good patient and accept all the interventions They want to throw at you.  In Their defense, They do a really good job of maximizing positive health outcomes with their interventions.  South Sudan loses 2054 mothers for every 100,000 live births.  The United States loses 21  (CIA World Factbook).

Our second childbirth class was taught by a Hypnobabies instructor, in the very room that she gave birth to her daughter.  Bryan especially enjoyed this class.  In my Hypnobabies class materials, they give lots of reasons why you shouldn’t accept interruptions to the natural birth process, and they can make it seem compelling. Waiting to deliver past 42 weeks isn’t THAT much of a risk, MOST babies don’t need their vitamin K shot, and tearing is MUCH better than an episiotomy.  Doctors apparently just want you to have that baby as quickly as possible so they can charge as many delivery fees as possible in one day, and they don’t want to be sued, so they will intervene quickly to eliminate all risk.

So in preparation for baby #3, I wanted to research common childhood practices carefully, for myself. So I started at Wikipedia and took several days to read the articles relating to childbirth.  I took the time to actually click through the citations to the online medical journal articles.  Reading only the abstracts, Googling unfamiliar words, throwing out out-dated articles, reading lots of articles on the topic, taking notes, and saving citation information led me to my decisions.

I discussed the epidural in my last post on birth.  Before I ask for one, I want to exhaust all my non-epidural-or-narcotic options.  I’ll practice Hypnobabies self-hypnosis again, doing things a little differently this time.  

One problem I had with Hypnobabies was that they tell you to go limp with every pressure wave.  I understood it to mean I couldn’t use any of my muscles to support myself, so I wanted Bryan to hover next to me the whole time and hold me up.  I want to avoid that situation this time, so I have created an exercise routine that combines yoga with pushups and tricep dips and squats and such so I can be strong enough to hold myself up.  At least, I will have put in the time so that I believe myself when I tell myself I am strong enough to hold myself up.

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I intend to do this sequence every day.  (Today, however, I gave horsie rides while doing cat/cow, there was a little triangle under me when I was in triangle pose, and later on I was visited by a tree-hugger.)   When I start Hypnobabies, I’ll practice staying in hypnosis while doing my routine and talking to them.

I wanted to hire this doula.  Bryan really doesn’t enjoy birth.  I thought that if someone else was there to help me, he wouldn’t have to keep talking about my cervix to people or help me deal with birth goo.  But she costs $850.  We are thinking we can buy a lot of massagers, hot and cold packs, and aromatherapy oil for that much.  I searched on Pinterest for “doula bags” to see what real doulas bring with them, and am planning on getting some of the same things.  Additionally, there is a lot of information on the internet about natural birth comfort methods.  I checked out this book from the library, which has been really helpful and not too gooey.  I read reviews on the other go-to natural birth books.  (I think I’ll pass on those.)  I went through the scriptures and found verses that I think will help me, like Ether 12:6, 2 Nephi 4:33-35, Alma 7:11-13, 1 Nephi 17:50, 2 Nephi 31:20, Ether 12:26, and others.  I printed them out on notecards.  I’ll create a playlist of my favorite arrangements of comfort hymns to alternate with Hypnobabies tracks.  Also, I found a really good series of pain-coping techniques on youtube.  This video introduced an interesting concept to me, and all of her other videos were really helpful too.  Here is my cheat sheet for labor.

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Now that I’ve gotten all that out of my system, maybe Bryan can stop hearing about it every day. 

Why I want a natural birth

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Heidi was born at 40 weeks (which happened to be exactly 37 months ago today), after a Pitocin induction and an epidural.  Peter was born at 41 weeks (which was 20 months ago, today), after a Pitocin induction, attempt #1 at a Hypnobabies natural birth, and an epidural.  Both were great.  I successfully brought a child into the world each time.  But natural birth continues to be compelling to me.  I’m not concerned about the risks of the epidural, and I have no problem with drugs.  I plan on being comfortably medicated after the delivery.  Here are my two reasons:

1. This birth, I want to do it myself.  I’m thinking of it as my job to give birth to my baby.  Not the doctor’s.  It’s my doctor’s job to keep me and the baby safe.  If I get the epidural, it will limit my ability to do it by myself.  I don’t judge women who get c-sections or have instrument-assisted deliveries: I’ve gotten two epidurals myself, and I know that the birth process is unpredictable and the future unforeseeable. But I want to try to do it myself.  (I’m thinking about telling myself that I can get an epidural after twelve hours of labor.  Neither of my previous deliveries were longer than that.  Being in labor for days sounds miserable.)

2. It is an experience I want to have.  I want to know what it feels like to give birth to a baby.  Every generation of women between Eve and myself successfully delivered their babies, and only the last one or two avoided feeling the full discomfort. My husband is a marathon runner, and I use that analogy to explain it to him.  He could either drive a car for 26.2 miles, or he could run as fast as he can.  For hours.  Enduring pain and fatigue.  Just for the experience.  Even when modern technology has developed a way to avoid it.

When Eve was choosing to eat the fruit in the Garden of Eden, she chose mortality, pain, and childbirth so that she could have knowledge.  Satan said she wouldn’t die and that it (experience?) was desirable.  Satan didn’t tell her that she would die physically eventually, and possibly spiritually also if she didn’t repent.  He also didn’t tell her that experience is not always sweet.  However, he did say that you need to taste pain in order to be able to taste pleasure, and that you need to comprehend sorrow before you comprehend joy.

I think by having this experience of natural childbirth, I will be able to understand joy more fully.  This winter as been a tough one for me.  My kids have been sick so often, which makes me feel like I should keep them home away from my friends, which kills me.  When we do manage to get out, I go through a monstrous ordeal putting on coats on bodies that may or may not want them on, shoes on wiggly feet, and gloves on twenty fingers.  I have no guarantee that any of these items will stay on.  When I do happen to catch a moment when all articles of clothing are on, it’s like herding cats through three doors, two flights of stairs, and a long walk to the car. Then it’s like wrestling piglets into pajamas to buckle each one in their carseats, especially because I prefer to take off their puffy jackets and put a blanket on over the seatbelt.  And then it’s that entire process to come home again.  So when last week the birds started singing and when today we went for a walk to the playground, it was one of my “beautiful mornings.”

If it was always summer, we wouldn’t turn our faces up to the sun in joy, and if the birds always sang, we wouldn’t pause and listen to their song.

But who would choose to turn off the sun and the birds?  Well, Heavenly Father chose to turn them off for us in the winter, maybe so we would get so much more joy out of his creations.  I’m choosing to experience all the sensations of childbirth, and am hoping to comprehend… something… better.

At any rate, it should make a good story.

The Scriptures Are Written by Men, About Men, For Men

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Except for all the times they are about women.  One of my favorite blogs, WomenInTheScriptures.com, chronicles in detail every time a woman is mentioned in the scriptures, and there are a lot.

They are mostly in the Old Testament, though, and occur less frequently in the New Testament and in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

I recently re-discovered Daughters in My Kingdom.  Which is scripture written by women, about women, for women.  (Except all the times when it may have been written by men, about a few men, for the good of men too.  Which can be a lot of good.)  I suppose it has not been technically canonized, but it was given by inspiration and is wonderful.  I was listening to it today from my pocket (Gospel library app, “listen” feature) and  I was surprised at how many current arguments about LDS women’s rights were answered well.  This was created years ago, and is certainly timely.

My Family History Philosophy

The Lord’s mandate given in section 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants has not changed: “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? …

“Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple … a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.” (D&C 128:22, 24.)

I don’t know if you ever saw Temple Ready.  Or if you saw the New Family Search.  But those are almost curse words to me and my mother (who started me in family history). That is an exaggeration.  (At least it should be.)  I never actually heard her curse while using Temple Ready, but I did witness several, hours-long, hair pulling sessions, full of frozen computers and deleted work.

Let’s just say that the original temple file cards, the Computer File Index, the International Genealogical Index, Temple Ready, and the New Family Search were all big, important steps in their time, without which we wouldn’t be where we are today.  But I would never call them a “Book Containing the Records of our Dead, Which Shall Be Worthy of All Acceptation.”

However, that is what I am trying to create. I started with my immediate family, gathering the records that would concretely link me to my parents.  Then I gathered the records that would concretely link them to their parents, and them to their parents, and them to their parents.  (I am currently working on the first line of those great-grand parents. I’m doing great.)  I am looking for good sources. Then I am uploading those sources to Family Tree.  (No, I have not uploaded sensitive documents regarding the living.)

It is, after all, to be a book containing the records of our dead.

I wouldn’t say Family Tree is perfect.  I’m currently blogging because the website isn’t loading properly. But I would say that Family Tree is beautiful and everything I could ask for (with the exception of right this minute.)

I am looking primarily for vital records (birth, marriage, and death), sharing those records, and I am taking my time. I am looking at documents and dates that have already been “done.”  I make sure dates and places and family members line up with sources.  I draw the line at vital statistics.  Many scholars spend their entire career researching one historical figure.  On the other end of the spectrum, some family historians work so quickly that family lines veer way off course and family members fall through the cracks.  My family history teacher says that each family group sheet contains an average of 25 errors per page.  So I focus on finding accurate vital records and reasonably certain links between generations.  Then I move on.  If I happen to find interesting personal information (of long-dead ancestors), I will collect it and upload it to Family Tree.  But I think there is enough work for me to do in finding and verifying vital records of my family members.

I also make sure that all the information I have is available on Family Tree.  Why would I keep it to myself?  I don’t want to do all this work alone.  So I share what I have, and allow others to add and subtract from it. If the sources are uploaded, they can speak for themselves.  I want one person to do the work to find each source once, with the process and results easily visible.

I am conflicted about one point, though.  [If you don’t want to read through my internal deliberation, skip down to the TLDR section below.] With only a few exceptions, I have done all this work using the free internet, from the comforts of my own home.  Once I exhaust all the resources available to me for free, then I will spend money on things like Ancestry subscriptions or genealogy field trips.  At that time, I’ll probably have more money than time.  So far, though, (with a few exceptions), I have found everything I need for vital statistics online, readily available, free.

There are some primary sources which aren’t available for free. There are some collections of records where there is an online index of names and associated dates, and they will send you a copy (sometimes an official copy) for a fee.  The church and other organizations are working hard to make images of the records available free online, but there are virtually infinite records and not infinite volunteers. There must be some importance to having an image of a record, because the Lord is calling missionaries to collect those images, and authorizing use of sacred funds for digital capture and storage equipment.

So how much is enough for a Book Worthy of Acceptation?  Do I need an official copy of all primary source documents of all my ancestors stored in my house? Can I upload a picture of a primary source?  Can I link to a picture of the primary source hosted somewhere else?  Can I link to an index of a primary source?  How much do I have to pay to obtain a picture of the source?  My grandparents’ birth certificates are available if I send $24 to a lady in Omaha.  A copy of their marriage license is available if I send five more dollars.  I already have all of the information that I would obtain from looking at them.  I would just pay for the privilege of uploading a real picture of the document instead of copying the text found on the document.

Thus far, I have been uploading images of documents if I have them, linking to the images if they are elsewhere on the internet, and copying the transcription if nothing else is available for free.  Will the Lord accept a transcription of a record?

I’m going to make a judgement call.  You are welcome to make a different call in your own work.  The Lord doesn’t want a book containing a paper copy of all the records of our dead.  We already have that collection.  It’s called the earth.

Maybe it would be sufficient to have a book containing our dead, linked in families and linked to their records.  The book would say, “these are our dead, and their records are to be found here.”

I think we can take a lesson from the way the church’s recorder of temple work operates.

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning your dead: When any of you are baptized for your dead, let there be a recorder, and let him be eye-witness of your baptisms; let him hear with his ears, that he may testify of a truth, saith the Lord; (Doctrine and Covenants 127:6)

Apparently it’s Steven E. Snow, and he’s called the Church Historian.  However, it is unreasonable for him to observe every ordinance, so they call local recorders, who are supposed to be “very particular and precise” in their work.  Then the general recorder is supposed to certify “with his own statement that he verily believes the above statement and records to be true, from his knowledge of the general character” of the local recorders.

And when this is done on the general church book, the record shall be just as holy, and shall answer the ordinance just the same as if he had seen with his eyes and heard with his ears, and made a record of the same on the general church book. (Doctrine and Covenants 128:2-8)

I’m going to apply this principle to the book of the records of our dead.  The local recorders who create my ancestor’s records do their best to be accurate with the data.  Then someone transcribes or scans the image, doing their best to be accurate.  Then I find and interpret and organize those digital records, doing my best to be accurate.  If that means a link to an indexed entry online that matches the family tradition, or if that means an official, notarized copy of each possible document in my possession, uploaded at highest resolution, I just need to be “very precise and accurate,” and able to certify that I believe the statement to be true, from my knowledge of the situation.  Then that record will be just as holy, and shall be worthy of all acceptation, just the same.

TLDR: I need to hunt as long, and pay as much as I need, to be able to certify that I believe the names and dates to be true and accurate.  But I don’t think I should take money and time from the other divine purposes of my life here on earth.   Usually, I am able to be certain using only free sources and a portion of my free time.

To find those free sources, I do a search on familysearch.org/search, modifying search terms until I am satisfied I have found all there is.  Then I go to familysearch.org/ask/researchwiki.  This gives me a list of resources online to check next.

I post every day’s work on my family history journal blog.  When February (or maybe March) is over, I’ll be moving on to a new monthly goal.  Then I’ll have a baby and move to a bigger apartment.  Who knows when I will get back to family history?  And at that time, who knows what I did back in February 2014? My family history journal blog will know!  

I have set up my workspace so that I simply click on my browser, and it opens up all the windows I need to do family history, to the very people I am working on.  [In Chrome, I load my blog to a New Post, Family Tree to the father of my focus family, Ancestry.com to my aunt’s tree, familysearch.org/search, and wikipedia.  I clicked on those three lines in the upper right, then Settings, then On Startup, open a Specific Set of Pages, then Set Pages, then Use Current Pages. Done!]

I don’t currently keep my genealogy data “anywhere.”  I heard that Rootsmagic was the free program of choice these days.  I downloaded it, imported my data to it, but found it was annoying to do everything twice.  My Family History teacher (a professional genealogist) at BYU said you should keep your family data separate in case someone gets on Family Tree and, either maliciously or  not, discards or changes true information.  However, Family Tree keeps track of every change made on every individual, and restoring a past version is as simple as a click of a button on the See All Latest Changes page, just like Wikipedia.

Additionally, I think conflicts will be rare because I am changing nothing without having an uploaded source to back it up, or a note written saying why I think so, even if I just write “family tradition.”   More likely is the case where someone else has the correct information and fixes my incorrect information.

Another reason to keep separate records is in case familysearch.org goes down.  I think this is rare.  I think it is much more likely that my personal computer will go down.

If I do have to re-do my work on a particular person, family, or line, at least I haven’t had to do my work twice on every person, family, and line.

I guess some would say uploading sources for everything is slow going.  It is February 17th, which means that I have used the nap times and bedtimes of two weeks just on one father, mother, and their children.  But at least those pages on Family Tree will be called worthy of all acceptation, ready to be presented to the Lord in the holy temple.

The Most Important Thing a Woman Can Do (It’s not what you think)

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I wouldn’t say the purpose of women is to bear children.  I would say that the purpose of women is to prepare themselves and those around them for the blessings of exaltation.  The blessings of exaltation include motherhood as a very large and central part.

It so happens that part of some women’s preparation includes giving life to children and keeping life in children and making life beautiful for children.  There are other ways to prepare for the blessings of exaltation.  What are they?  Look at the righteous women around you.  They are doing it.

Every woman has a different amount of time before they have children.  Some have their first child at 14, some at 24, some at 34, some later, some even after death.  Consider a woman with ten children, her first born when she was 20.  Is she done having children?  No, “10” is not the same as “innumerable as the sands of the sea.” In the eternities, “0 children” and “10 children” are a whole lot closer together than we think here on earth.  They are certainly closer together than “10” and “innumerable.”  Statistically speaking, we are all childless.  We really have not even begun our eternal work of giving life.

So forgive us if we say that the most important thing a woman will do in her life is raise children.  That is true.  Let’s not forget that life doesn’t end at death.  Neither does it end with fertility. Grandmothers are not “done having children.”  Infertile women are not “done having children.” Women attracted on this earth to other women are not “done having children.”  Dead women are not “done having children.”

Women who are not mothers have not failed at the purpose of their life.

If you are preparing for the blessings of exaltation, you are not failing.