Wednesday, October 30, 2002

OK, I’m not sure what to think of this Halloween thing.

I mean, on the one hand, what’s really going on, here? Ghosts, witches, chainsaw murderers… Is this really the stuff we should be celebrating? Is this really what we want our kids to grow up to be?

On the other hand, what’s the big deal, here? Kids dress up in fake blood and masks, stomp around the neighborhood and get all buzzed out on candy for the next few days.

I remember my father used to not like Halloween. “It teaches kids that they can get something for nothing,” he’d pontificate. I remember thinking to myself, “I thought that was what Christmas was for…”

Of course, I wouldn’t have DARED say that to him. I wasn’t about to cut myself off from TWO cash cows in a single mouth-off! Get real!

As I was preparing to write this, I did some web searches to try and find out the real origins of Halloween. I found out what I expected. There’s a lot of historical, religious, and rhetorical debate. Not everyone agrees. Most seem to lay the “blame” at the feet of the Pagans/Druids/Heathen in Northern and Western Europe before the Christian Era. Others point at the Romans, still others at the Catholics. I imagine the truth is sort of a blurry line in between all of the above.

But all that leaves me with the original question, namely, “What are we celebrating, really?”

I mean, I admit to a certain amount of dogmatic self-righteousness. Witches and evil spirits aren’t exactly the right role-models for my kids.

But that was before I had kids. That was before I saw the look on a kid’s face the first time he does the trick or treat thing. He shuffles up to the neighbor’s door in an ill-fitting mass wrapped up in a winter coat. One of the older kids with him pounds on the door, and suddenly everyone is yelling, “Trick or Treat”. He doesn’t yell with them, he’s still too overwhelmed.

The door opens, and an older lady coos and ahs over their cute and bloody costumes, then drops candy into his outstretched bag. While the rest of the kids are rushing off to the next house, he stands there in total awe.

It worked! He got candy! Suddenly all this weirdness is cool!

And even though the next few days will be spent pulling him off the walls as he works off his sugar buzz, by next year, all we’ll remember is his face and the fun he had.

And I don’t suppose that’s so evil…

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

A while back we were studying Isaiah in our Gospel Doctrine class. Am I too far gone or are there others that are as baffled by this book as I am? Nephi says, "For behold, Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews."

I can relate...

Then a bit later he goes on: "Wherefore, hearken, O my people, which are of the house of Israel, and give ear unto my words; for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy."

And I think, "Ah HA!" That's my problem!" I just need that spirit of prophecy thing... How do I get that? You know, prayer, fasting, righteous living, etc... At least I'm working on it...

One thing I've tried that sometimes works, is to just be really superficial about it. Read each verse like it's talking to me and not read too deep. 'Cause when I read to deep, that's when it rushes over me and I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of obscure images. I like the verses that have simple messages.

Like: "Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." That one's pretty clear, innit?

And the next verse is pretty famous in Sunday School: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

But my favorites since I was a child have always been the ones that I hear music to. The ones that Handel chose for the oratorio "Messiah". I can never read these without singing them in my mind.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."

This one's lifting and haunting melody cuts right through me every time: "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."

And this one inspired a song of my own: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!"

I haven't finished recording that one, but when I do, you'll be among the first to know! I can hear the gospel choirs echoing the chorus in my head. I don't hear voices, I hear music!

Well, even though it can be challenging, I gotta just dive in and read it. Maybe the fact that I don't understand it is kind of a challenge calling me out. "C'mon, Mark, figure me out!" You certainly can't get any better endorsement that this one from 3 Ne: "AND now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah." Nothing like a plug from the Lord himself, eh?

Thanks for listening,

Mark Hansen


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