Saturday, June 19, 2010


One thing I have learned about myself has become apparent in the last few weeks: I despise blogging. Knowing this, I hope you all appreciate this blog that much more.


Valley of Elah, the site of the battle between David and Goliath.

The Philistinian perspective.

This is a popular image here in Jerusalem, emphasizing that Jerusalem was at the center of the ancient world. The city has been conquered a known 44 times (and attacked over 56), which provides for a lot of history.

Home---the Jerusalem Center on Mt. Scopus.

An average day in the Old City.

I went to Dormition Abbey, a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Imagine my surprise upon seeing la Virgin de Guadalupe! A sign underneath her said (in Spanish) that she was in Mexico, but desired to be here in Jerusalem. She and I battled in California for two years.

I was craving pizza one day. The only problem is that the mixing of beef with milk is not kosher, so they don't have pepperoni (Exodus 23:19). Let me spare any of you the trouble on this one: tuna-fish pizza is not good. And green olive pizza is only slightly better.

The Dome of the Rock, built in the 7th century on the Israelite Temple Mount (Haram-al-Sharif).

Non-Muslims are not allowed to go inside. The building covers the area in which Abraham bound Isaac to be sacrificed.

Also on the Temple Mount (a stone's throw from the Dome of the Rock) is the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in the Islamic world. One of the largest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the settlement of this Temple Mount, considered sacred by both sides.

This windmill was part of the first Judaic settlements in Jerusalem since the destruction of the 2nd temple.

Espana! I am pointing at Santander. ¡Que Espana gane la Copa Mundial!

Snorkeling in the Red Sea outside of Eilat. This was absolutely amazing---fish of all shapes, colors, and sizes. And I am very white. comment. :)

These mines were used for cistern plaster during the Roman Period.

This was a funny experience. I was at the house of a Palestinian family when I found myself somehow surrounded by all the men in a circle. This man took of his turban and put it on me---it felt like a ceremonial rite-of-passage of some sort. They were funny people.

One of the security guards hooked us up with a basketball game in Jerusalem. Upon arriving at the gym, we discovered that we were playing a semi-pro Palestinian team! These guys actually get paid to play. It has been really fun. We are 2-0 right now, but they are pretty good.

We had the chance to speak with some of the students at Bethlehem University. This is Omar; to his right is Adam Rogers (A.K.A. "Mr. Rogers"), who served with me in Ventura.


Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

This is taken outside the Temple Institute. These religious zealots are preparing for the time when a third temple will be placed in Jerusalem. They already have all of the clothing and necessary pieces of the temple. This is the golden menorah, completely ready to enter the temple when it comes. However, they have a few issues left to resolve.

1. The Temple Mount is in the hands of the Muslims. Getting the Temple Mount would spark WWIII.

2. They do not have the Ark of the Covenant, although they think it is hidden underneath the Temple Mount.

3. The sacrifice of a red heifer is required to dedicate the third temple (Numbers 19). However, they can't find one! They thought they had found one in Texas, but then they found some white hairs in its tail. They are currently trying to genetically alter heifers to obtain one.

4. They have no high priest. I asked our tour guide how they would get a high priest. She responded that the Sanhedrin would choose one. A bit confused, I pursued the point and asked where they would get the Sanhedrin. She responded by telling me that they did have a Sanhedrin in place in the 2000's, but it had "dissolved." She had no further explanation.

Obviously, there is a bit to work out before their dream comes true.

This is part of the separation barrier, about a 20 minute walk from the center. This was built to stop suicide buildings in the last decade. This conflict is very complicated and interweaving. Both sides have been victimized and struggle to look past it. I can easily see how the traditions of the past centuries form the mindframes held today; case in point, change isn't easy. Roots run deep. However being here as allowed me to see the good in people from each side of the conflict as well.

Garden Tomb

A few weeks ago I had the chance to talk with two Jewish boys, about my same age, studying in a yashiva (a Jewish school). I asked if they ever had doctrinal conflicts in Judaism----they said that conflicts occurred all the time. They explained that they approach conflicts by comparing opposing rabbinic commentaries from various time periods and then basically choose which viewpoint they like better. A pretty crazy way to find truth.

The interaction helped me realize how blessed I am. Knowing that we have a living prophet and that the restoration has occurred significantly affects how I view the world. I pray for the day when these people can share that same knowledge.

Have a good one.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Egypt: There and Back Again

The day before we headed to Egypt, one of our professors presented a short, four-slide powerpoint to help us to prepare for (and survive) the adventure. I'll share the highlights with you.

1. Don't drink the water.
2. Don't eat the food.
3. Don't breathe the air.
4. Don't touch anything.

His powerpoint may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but it proves the point. Egypt is a third-world developing country. Much of what I saw there just made me feel....sad. Lots of ghetto and lots of poverty. However, the sites were amazing, so I will focus on that happy note via way too many pictures.

This is five-year old Will and I in our "Batman" poses. He is one of my professor's children. We are on the road.

One of the stops along the way took us to the ancient city of Jerico. The picture shows a monastery above my head that we hiked to on the Mount of Temptations (supposedly). I touched the very rock with which Satan tempted Christ, which they keep in the monastery, if you can imagine that.

We went to the city of Adna, essentially the stomping ground of the first three patriarchs. The city had a gigantic cistern beneath it that we went in.

My first view of the pyramids. They are incredible! I can understand now why people believe that aliens created them, because they are truly indescribable. You just have to see them for yourself. This was taken in Cairo looking into Giza.

Some of these blocks weigh 15 tons.

This is the temple of Queen Hat-Shep-Sut (pronounced "hot-cheap-suit") and is over the mountains from the Valley of the Kings. They wouldn't allow us to take pictures in the Valley, but it was spectacular. Sixty-seven tombs have been found in the valley, some of which are massive. We were able to go into King Tut's tomb as well, which was very small comparatively.

This is looking into essentially what is the Holy of Holies for the Temple of Queen Hat-Shep-Sut.

Pit 33 has the tripod in front of it. This is where scholars believe the papyrus scrolls of Abraham were found with the mummies that Joseph Smith purchased. The Bedouins wouldn't allow us to go near it, but it was still neat to see.

Ok so after a few days in Cairo, we flew south to Luxor (Thebes). The temperature there got up to 50 degrees centigrade one day (like 122 Fahrenheit)! My farmer's tan has reached perfection. Anyways, not trusting the local ice-cream, we ended up at McDonald's. Sad, I know...

My favorite site of the Egypt trip was the Temple of Karnak in Luxor. The temple spans across 32 acres! I found the obelisks amazing----the engineering behind the placement of these 135-ton solid rocks is just mind blowing.

Scenes like these are depicted all throughout the temples. Egyptians believed in eternal life brought about through rituals (ordinances) and correct living, which would lead to deification. I am excited to share more about this.

This is Ramses II and I with his favorite wife, Nefartari, just above my head.

During our time in Egypt, we made use of various means of travel, including plane, train, horse-drawn carriage, taxi, camel, motor boat, and sailboat. This is the horse-drawn carriage.

Overlooking the Nile. Several became pretty sick while on the trip. I did for a bit, but I survived (Gary, tienes churro?). ;-)

This is one of the bazars---truly an experience in itself. But those stories will have to wait for another time.

Muhammad Ali Mosque, the largest in Cairo.

This is the quibla of the mosque, which points to Mecca.

My camel ride, but the girl forgot to get my camel in the picture. I almost got bucked off, but it was fun.

We hiked up Mount Sinai early in the am in order to be there for the sunrise. The hike was no Timpanogos, but the view was just as beautiful.

These last two are from the Sea of Galilee. After returning from Egypt, a member of the district presidency asked me to travel with him to Galilee on the Sabbath to translate the meetings into Spanish. I was especially excited to go because I had just finished reading about all the miracles Christ performed in this area in Jesus the Christ. Surprisingly, several members from both Argentina and Uruguay live there. This top pic is the view from outside the church. The sea is larger than I had expected and a very pretty area. It was a fun experience to translate and went well. Latinos, wherever they are, are funny people. This bottom pic is of Carmen and I, a funny woman from Argentina. I guess you could say we hit it off pretty well. She wanted to take a picture of us with her camera, so I thought I would take one as well. We had a linger longer after the meetings, which was neat. The branch has four postings on the wall for the Hymns: one for English, one for Spanish, one for Hebrew, and one for Russian.

I will finally wrap up this photo gallery with a story. The branch president asked if I would translate an interview between he and a sister. This sister and her family were having severe family problems. The interview was anything but peaceful---it was actually downright contentious (I admit that I did not translate everything quite as bluntly as it was said).

Right after the interview, I walked outside and looked out over the Sea of Galilee and began to think of the many miracles performed there by Christ. It was interesting for me to think of this family, in an area where Christ had healed so many, lacking the faith necessary for Christ to heal them. The atmosphere there was such a contrast for me compared to the one I had just left. It was a peaceful moment.

After all is said and done, aren't we all in need of a good healing in our lives?

Have a great one and God bless.