Friday, April 20, 2007

All Good Things

Three and one-half months ago, students stayed up till all hours of the night packing, trying to figure out what to take with them to Jerusalem. A few had lost the packing list, so they were left to their own devices and a little bit of luck. Well, last night, students stayed up till all hours of the night, trying to figure out what to take home with them. The amazing thing is, this is my last blog entry on the Jerusalem Center. It has been a wonderful experience, and it's been fun lettin you know about it as well. The memories constantly flood into my mind, the visit to Haram-es-Shariff, the beautiful view from each balcony of the Center, the peace of Galilee. So, while I am writing this from my home computer, I will do my best to not make it melancholy. The experience was too wonderful to end it off that way.
I thought that, since I'm sure that future JC candidates are reading this page, I will focus on a few things that will be important to them. First of all, never go into a shop like an uneducated tourist and say, "Now, is this one of those shops where you bargain for things?" It gave me pain to see an elderly couple from the States walk in and say that. Invariably the shopkeeper will suppress a smile and say, "No, no, I give you good price here. No bargain." Just know that, except in grocery stores and the mall, price is always relative.
Second, yes, the food really is that good. Just beware of a few things, "Beef Tang" is incorrectly named, but surprisingly good. Use your imagination to figure out what it might be, then comment on it. :) The mixed grill is also quite good, as long as you don't contract the dreaded "Liver Shiver," or "Chicken Heart Bop," both coveted moves on a dance floor, not in the cafeteria. Aside from those two menu items, the rest is perfectly normal and, in my opinion, quite excellent. The showers...Wow. I hopped in the shower at my parent's house this morning and was sorely disappointed. The water pressure at the JC all but left me completely bald. Don't turn it on all the way the first time, ease yourself into the best showers anywhere.
You're going to be spending a lot of time with these people. I absolutely love everyone that was there with me and hope to be their friend for life. However, there were times that I needed to get away. Take those times. Go out on the lawn by the second level. Spend time in the Dome or the Biblical Garden. Hide out on your balcony, play your harmonica in the bomb shelter (that's what I did). You'll find that if you don't you'll have a much harder time being happy with all your friends. After you take that time, take the time to do things for the other people in the group. If they need to go somewhere, accompany them so they can. It may be hard at times, but you'll never regret helping a friend out.
Breanne White is credited with this idea. Every night at dinner she took the time to tell everyone at her table an attribute or trait that she admired about each of them. I personally think that it's a tradition that needs to live on. Breanne rarely missed a night, and we all benefited from it.
You'll hear this fifty times before you leave, but if there is one bit of advice that I'd give you, it would be to hold of on judgement of the local cultures and people. Don't base your opinion of different groups on the actions of a few individuals. My opinion of different groups there has changed drastically. I love Jewish people and they have been through trials a pain throughout the centuries. They have been misrepresented, but the greatest misrepresentation of today is that which is directed to the Arab people. I don't know if it is possible for me to love a group of people more than I do them. I admit that once or twice I may have had a bad experience with a few, but I can't even believe what I thought before I left for Jerusalem.
Most of Jerusalem is underground, and I mean that literally. Many of the stones that you walk on today are 12 to, in some cases, 50 feet above where people walked in the times of the Old and New Testament. Enjoy those trips to the different sites and be sure to take good notes. You'll thank yourself later. Some people hated the "Field Trip Notebooks," but I can't think of anything more useful than an entire notebook dealing with facts, scriptures, and personal impressions from each site.
The Jerusalem Experience is life-changing. I know that for me, quite beyond the changes in the social scene and ideas concerning current events, the most significant changes have come in my understanding of the scriptures. Ideas and concepts in the scriptures come alive when you see the land where they were written. You gain different insights that simply amaze, but more importantly, you gain a greater understanding and testimony of Jesus Christ as God's divine Son, our Savior, and our Redeemer. You also come to realize just how blessed you are to be a member of His church. You come to realize that you have a certain light about you that people immediately recognize. So my final advice is to go, learn, do, serve, and love. Your life, if you let it, will never be the same.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Easter to the Tune of Prayer Calls

Easter in the Holy Land. I never thought this would happen to me. There were a lot of beautiful moments during the Holy Week. My favorite would have to be going Thursday night to the Garden of Gethsemane and reading all four gospel's accounts of the events in Gethsemane. We then read D&C 19 and some Book of Mormon accounts of Christ's suffering. After about an hour of scriptures, prayers, hymns, and meditation, the five of us that went came back to the center just before dark through the Orson Hyde Park, just a stones throw away from the Garden. It was beautiful being there on the anniversary of the exact night when Jesus took our sins upon him.
The next day, tens of thousands of people thronged the streets as the cross was carried along the traditional orthodox "Via Dolorosa." These pilgrims were then complemented by the thousand of Muslims getting out of morning prayers. These two groups were then complemented by the orthodox Jews that were in town for passover, heading all over the place, but principally in the area of the western wall. As I was walking back from the Ophel Archaeological park on Thursday, I counted 49 double-length busses bringing Jews from all over to the Western Wall. Suffice it to say, it was jam-packed.
My experience with the crowds came the next day. A few of us decided to go to the "Lighting of the Sacred Fire," a Catholic ceremony where the priest enters the Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and, supposedly, his lantern spontaneously lights. The amount of pilgrims was suffocating. Our group managed to be at the front of the crowd near the police officers and it was a good thing. There were a few people from the back that were constantly pushing forward, trying to break through the police line and get into the church--the police were trying to get everyone out before they let anyone else in. I, myself, being caught in the middle of push and shove started to feel seasick. :) I'm merely grateful that I stand head and shoulders above many there, as I got the occasional whiff of cool air. We stood there crunched-in for at least 45 minutes. I no longer have a personal bubble. It was funny when a guy in our group, who has an inch and 40 pounds on me, finally had enough with the people pushing from that back. He turned around and helped the police with a little crowd control. He honestly created about 4 feet of breathing room around him where there was no space to begin with--all with his football-like tactics.
Our last stop was the sunrise service at the Garden Tomb. For someone who has never been to an evangelical service, it was an eye-opening experience. All in all, the timing was right, and I think I could probably make a good evangelist, I can rock with the best of them. :) One interesting comment. It is interesting to note how different translations of the Bible imply completely different concepts. My KJV teaches some amazingly profound doctrine with regards to man's origin and destiny, but the Bible that the pastor uses completely changes the wording so that all the symbolism that I have come to cherish is lost. I'm so glad that we have leaders that are inspired of God to help us understand the scriptures and that we have additional scriptures to help clarify the plain and precious truths that Christ and his prophets taught.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


A wise teacher once told me that responsibilities are like juggling a bunch of balls. Some are made of rubber and some are made of glass. Some you can drop every once in a while, and some you absolutely can't. I figured that the finals that I just took today, plus the end of semester projects, were balls that I couldn't drop. So for those of you that feel like you've been bouncing up and down because I haven't done an entry in a while, just know that the rubber ball is back in circulation again. :) Honestly, I'm sorry I haven't had time to write more. It's always on my mind.
Well, I'm going to finish the Galilee field trip with a few comments on Caesarea Phillipi. For those of you that don't have an LDS King James Bible, I've included a picture of the headwaters of the Jordan located at Caesarea Phillipi. If you look at the picture, you'll see hundreds of gallons of water spilling over the different terraces. Just know that the wall you see along the back, plus some areas that are to the left out of the picture, is where all that water is coming from. The water literally emerges from the bedrock. It melts from the top of Mt. Hermon and flows underground for...well...I don't know how far. But it hits the thick layer of bedrock and just comes gushing out of the ground. Something similar happens at Tel Dan, several miles away to the northwest.
This area was once the capital of Herod Phillip's tetrachy in the North. When Herod the Great died, just shortly after Jesus' birth, his kingdom was divided between his three sons, and Phillip was given the Galilee. If you look in the background of the picture, you will see a large cave where, previous to a large earthquake, the water used to come from. Phillip built a temple to Caesar over the flowing water. He also built one to Pan, the little goat god with the pipes(He's the god of war), one to Nemesis, the goddess of divine retribution, and to the sacred dancing goats...ummm...
Well, for those who would like to know why we went here: it's really pretty. But this is where, in Matthew 16, Peter declares "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." It is interesting to see the huge bedrock and hear Christ declare that the rock of revelation is what his church will be built on. From this rock of revelation flows huge amounts of living water. The imagery is amazing.
I will decline to comment on the bonfire that some students built our last night there, but I was the naysayer in the whole affair. Luckily it turned out okay, as my frantic babblings were swiftly ignored. :)
Anyway, after Phillipi, we dropped by Acre and a few other places, but unfortunately Caesarea (not Phillipi) closed early for Passover. Caesarea is a huge city down on the coast about 30 miles north of Tel Aviv. Herod the great built it and, much to his Jewish ancestry's chagrin, here established the first example of emperor-worship, as the Romans worshipped their emperor. He also established an amazing port city that rivaled even Rome in it's splendor. We took some time in the bus outside the gate and enjoyed some little bit of the scenery.
When we got home, Jimmy was waiting there with the favorite meal here, chicken with some great barbecue sauce. He also managed to have some "chocolate pillow" cereal, as some people here would probably go into a coma if they didn't have it. :) Then we all managed to crash into bed.

Monday, April 9, 2007


When it rains, it pours. But luckily we haven't seen any rain since we got back from Galilee. It did pour on us the last day, though, when we went to Acre. But, if rain refers to schoolwork, then we've been drowning:). We just took our New Testament midterm, finished our scripture journals, and, well, some of us have finished the research paper (10 pages, so not too bad). I wrote my paper on "The Gates of the City of Jerusalem." It sounds really cool if you say the title in a James Earl Jones-like voice. Go ahead, try it.
Well, sorry about the personal indulgence there. I promised I'd tell you about Galilee, and I'll do it in chronological order. I'll try to make it not sound like a travelogue.
In the New Testament, there are various reference to the Decapolis. Well, Bet She'an is one of those cities, it also boasts one of the best Roman baths in the area. I'd always heard of roman baths, but I'd never really known what they were before I came here. Well, get ready for the history lecture.
The Romans loved to feel clean and they would have huge bathhouses dedicated to just that. In any bath, there would be three rooms, the caulderium, the tepidarium, and the frigidarium. You can tell easily enough what they are from the base words but I'll give a little background. The caulderium was hot, really hot, but they didn't exactly have a hot water heater to do that. The entire floor was built up on little, 4" wide columns that were about 18 inches high. Just outside the room was a huge fireplace that would force hot air underneath the floor and through the ceramic tubes in the walls. Suddenly, with a hot floor and ceiling, just add water and you get a smoke-free sauna. In this room, they would use blunt knife-like objects to scrape their skin completely clean.
After the caulderium, the tepidarium was an intermediate room with warm water. They would have stayed here for a little while to cool down before heading to the frigidarium, where they would take a nice, cold dip to finish off. After that, you could probably get a nice massage, and hopefully no one had stolen your clothes at the entrance.
Near the town of Nazareth you'll find the ancient city of Sepphoris. In the days of Christ this would have been a bustling metropolis, while the town of Nazareth would have had no more that 500 people, according to some scholars. Well the roles are completely reversed now. There is an interesting question that we should ask: "Why did Joseph, who's tribal inheritance was in Bethlehem(and hence, he went there to be taxed), end up in Nazareth, hundreds of kilometers to the north?" Some people have speculated that when Herod Antipas ordered the rebuilding of the city Sepphoris, which was destroyed when the city rebelled, Joseph may have come north for work. It's just a theory, but an interesting possibility. One thing that we learned here is that the actual Greek word for Joseph and Jesus' profession is better translated as "Craftsman" or "Master Builder," implying work in wood, stone, or metal. This especially relates to stone and metal. Since most construction was done in stone in those days, this makes sense.
I'm going to keep loading the new insights on you. :) Peter and Andrew, brothers, were both born in Bethsaida, but they didn't stay there too long. They moved to Capernaum, just a few miles away, and set up shop there. It is thought that between these two cities, on the northwest shore of Galilee, is where Christ issued the call "Follow me." This isn't because of convenience, but due to the fact that there are seven warm springs on a hill in this area. These springs flow down and cause slightly warmer water, which provides more abundant food for fish. We can see why Peter, James, John, Andrew, and other fishermen, would want to set up shop here.
Capernaum wasn't discovered until the 1800's. It is almost entirely built of beautiful black stone, with just a synagogue and what people assume to be Peter's home, built out of a lighter color. It is interesting to think that Christ spoke of people that dwelt in darkness, while the dark interiors of the homes in the area actually mirrored the spiritual darkness that he spoke of. It is here that he did some of the most memorable and important acts of his ministry. He raised Jairus' daughter from the dead. The woman with the issue of blood was healed. He healed the centurion's servant. The 70 were appointed and sent forth. Peter caught the fish with a coin in its mouth for the temple tax. He discoursed on the Bread of Life. The list goes on. But Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Corzin, though they saw great miracles, were slow to have faith in Jesus, and they were cursed for their lack of faith. The evidence shows when you think that each city had at least 15,000 inhabitants, and they were all completely lost for thousands of years.
I'll tell you about Caesarea Phillipi, but there's a lot to do tonight (We have to finish our musical number for tomorrow night's concert). So I'll bid you adieu.
btw, that is my absolute favorite picture of Galilee. It's taken from Mount Arbel, and I think it captures it perfectly.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


Well, my back is red from lovely sun on the shores of Galilee. No complaints, though. Galilee was awesome. If there were two places in the world that could be more polar opposites than Jerusalem and the Galilee, I'd be hard pressed to find them. Less than a week before we left it snowed in Jerusalem, and less than a week after we left I was burned crispy because, for the first time in a long time, I refused to put on sunscreen. The palm trees provided just enough shade for those on land, but I really didn't leave the water much that day.
I'd say that the main difference between the Jerusalem and Galilee is the peace of Galilee as compared with the constant movement of Jerusalem. Where Jerusalem looks almost nothing like it did at the time of Christ, Galilee seems completely unchanged. It was so inspiring it even brought out the poet in had to dig reeeaaaalllly deep.
Our time in Galilee was by no means all fun and games. We had two religion class periods and one NES class every day but the sabbath and the field trip days. It might drive the point home when you realize that you are covering the entire gospel of Luke in two class periods...that means two reading assignments. However, the schedule was purposely set up to give us three entire afternoons free so that we could just spend some pondering time on the shores of Galilee. The New Testament comes to life in Galilee just way the Old does in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. It was amazing to sit on the shore of Galilee reading the account of Christ walking on the water or his different travels around the area and see the exact locations where he would have walked, sailed, and preached.
This is just a teaser entry. It's late right now and I really need the sleep, Elder Holland's orders. I will write again soon, though.