Monday, June 13, 2016


Today, my family traveled to Carthage and visited the infamous jailhouse there. This is the site of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and his brother Hyrum.

This is the jail cell where he was first placed in June of 1844.

This is the stairs to the upstairs room where the mob stormed to kill him.

This is the window where he fell after being shot from both the assailants in the room and the mob in the yard below.

A lot has been written about his life and death. Many opinions have been given. What is true and what is speculation is not always clear. I don’t intend to get deep into historical issues here. I believe him to be a true prophet, called of God, to restore Christ’s Gospel. I have read many things, both in his favor and to his condemnation. I still believe him to be a prophet.

A few years ago, I wrote a song about those that sacrifice their lives as a testament to the things they believe to be true. I include the song here:

Here are the lyrics (The first two verses refer to other martyrs, the third verse is about Joseph Smith)

Martyrs by Mark Hansen

The fires rise high on a moonless night
Marked by shouts and cries of fright
The scriptures burning up in ash and smoke
As they throw the scared believers in
Two men think to stop the din
But a still voice whispers, "No", to let them go

They've stood up to the last
Their sorrows now have past
Their souls are rising fast
And I'll join with the choirs and sing
And sing the martyrs home

It's just about 4:00 when the men ride in
The time for the truce is at an end
In the blacksmith's shop the settlers make their stand
The riders surround and open fire
And in the end, when they retire
The blood of eighteen souls is on their hands


In an Illinois Jail, four men wait
For the end of the story brought by fate
One man sings a hymn in the evening sun
A shouting mob rushes up the stairs
Bullets fly and bullets tear
And a prophet and his brother's lives are done


I’ve visited this site several times in my life. It has always been very special to me, as I thought about the things that happened there, and the things he revealed and taught. So, today, I thought I'd share here.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Mark's Other Blog Posts: name post, name post,

Saturday, June 04, 2016

More Thoughts on Scriptures

I just found some fascinating videos as I was wasting time on YouTube. They’re called Tom’s Language Files, and are found here.

In each short clip, Tom talks about a curious and intriguing facet of the study of linguistics. On the surface, that’s cool enough, but it’s really a lot about humans, society, and culture, all as expressed by their language.

It made me think even more about our scriptures. A long time ago, here and here, I wrote about where our scriptures come from and how that impacts how we should use them.

In particular, the video clips from Tom that got me thinking the most were the ones where he talks about the difficulties in translating one concept from one language to another. Like this one:  At one point, he talks about the problems of electronic translation systems:

So, God, in His powerful purity, teaches concepts of Truth to human prophets, who have to figure out some way to write down the concepts in a complicated and messy human language. Sometimes many years later, some other human tries to translate that into another messy human language with a completely different cultural framework, and hopes that somehow it still makes sense. Many of the books of the Bible have gone through several generations of translations to be what we have now.

Now, I want to make it clear. I believe in our scriptures. I believe the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price all are words that came from a loving God, who wants us to use those words to learn how to take care of each other.

I also am learning that as I read my scriptures, it’s not a good idea to get too hung up on words and phrases, and rather than debating the meaning of this verse or that chapter, to focus on a bigger picture of the instructions God is sending to me, personally.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Mark's Other Blog Posts: name post, name post,

Friday, June 03, 2016

Role-Playing Games, Part III

This post is very difficult for me to write, because it’s impossible to set up the context enough for anyone but me and my son to fully grasp.

Really, ya had ta be there.

But I can’t NOT share it. Partly because I set it up so well with the earlier posts on Role-Playing Games (part I here, and part II here), but also because it filled my soul with so much joy. So, I’m going to do my best, in spite of it all.

First, I believe that it is my God-given responsibility to raise my family in righteousness. It is my job to help all of my children learn to understand that their life choices now will impact their lives later, and the lives of those around them. It’s my job to help them learn to make choices that will lead to happiness and joy, as opposed to selfishness and bitterness. Ultimately, within my beliefs, it’s my responsibility to teach them things that will lead them to Eternal Life and Exaltation. This is a very difficult task, and one where I have not always, or even not very often, felt success.

So, as you read in these posts, as my sons started to bug me to play Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games, and as we reworked the game to satisfy my issues, I looked at it at first as a simply opportunity to have some fun and do some family bonding. Some guys take their sons fishing and hunting. In our house, we roll d20s.

Very quickly, however, I realized that I had the opportunity, as the gamemaster, to shape the flow of the stories to be able to teach my kids eternal truths about the nature of good and evil, and how to realize which side you’re on. I saw how I could show that choices have consequences, both good and bad. Standing up for what they believe in, even in the fiction of a game, is important.

This last adventure, over the course of the last few months, was particularly steeped in religious and spiritual imagery. They were grappling with issues of selfishness and darkness vs light and service.

I could spend pages describing the story as the characters chased across the land, even through dimensional travel in search of powerful artifacts known as the “Dona Creatori” (The Gifts of the Creator). The party, in a final climactic battle, entrapped the demon that had come to corrupt and control the high priests of the major church of the land.

At that point, Brendon’s character was faced with a choice. He was in a position to take over. He could easily keep running the church and bask in all the wealth and power that would bring him. Or, he could step back and allow the uncorrupted lower priests to step up and lead the church into a new era of righteousness.

He ended up choosing the latter option, and we wrapped up the loose ends of the adventure and “closed the book”, so to speak.

Today, we were talking about that decision, and he was explaining to me how his character (who started out conflicted and even a bit of a bad guy) ended up choosing the right. He told me about his thoughts through the sessions that had led up to that conflict and as he had interacted with the ghostly Champions of the Creator that helped the party find the Dona. He told me that he had wanted his character to be worthy of the donum, as the Champion had said (again, to really “get” this, you would have either had to be there, or I would have to write the novel).

As he was telling me all of this, I thought to myself: THIS is why we play RPGs as a family. Such a powerful time for both of us to learn, by doing, by living vicariously through our character sheets and our dice. We learn, we grow, and we grow together.

My heart swelled up, and I almost cried as he was telling me. Two years after beginning to make The Hero’s Tale, we arrive at this point. THIS is why I game. THIS is me, being a father.

I guess sometimes, I do get to get it right.


Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his Dutch Oven blog.

Mark's Other Blog Posts: name post, name post,


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