Unanswered Prayers

Tragedy is everywhere.  It affects us as communities and individuals.  It is the result of natural catastrophes and mankind’s wickedness.  But in every case the first instinct many of us have is to turn to our Heavenly Father for help and comfort.  In other words, we pray.  Sometimes our prayers are answered in obvious and miraculous ways and sometimes they aren’t.  

In order to better understand prayer I’d like you to imagine a park filled with children.  Sitting on a bench is a line of fathers watching their kids.  As is often the case when children play, issues begin to arise.  Here a boy falls and cuts his knee, there a girl cries because she is left out of a game.  An argument breaks out between a group of children playing tag while another child sits alone wishing for a friend.  

Each of the dads reacts in a different way.  The first father, let’s call him Indulgent Dad, jumps in immediately every time his daughter cries for help.  He pushes her on a swing, heals every bump or bruise, protects her from any possible conflict with other children, and gives her only the best toys.

Meanwhile, the Uncaring Dad does absolutely nothing.  He sits on the bench idly playing on his phone while his son races around the playground.  He doesn’t look up when his child shouts for joy or cries in pain.  Nothing his son does interests him in the slightest.

Sitting next to the Uncaring Dad is the Incompetent Dad.  When his son falls down, the Incompetent Dad races into action.  Unfortunately, as his name implies he is unable to complete even the slightest action successfully.  While running to help his son out of a mud puddle he trips over his own shoe laces.  When his son is taunted by another child, the Incompetent Dad comes to the rescue only to find that he is too late to make a difference.

Finally we have the Vengeful Dad.  A stickler for the rules of the park, he immediately intervenes whenever someone commits even the slightest transgression.  Cutting in line at the slide – immediate expulsion from the park.  Arguing on the soccer field – a permanent ban from the game for everyone involved.  When his daughter is stung by a bee he goes so far as to rain down immediate destruction on the offending insect.

Now each of us as earthly fathers have fallen into one or more of these roles at various times in our lives.  But where does our Heavenly Father fit into this story?  Obviously, He is not any of the fathers mentioned.  With perfect love and infinite power, He watches over all of the children on the playground.

He is the Father who wasn’t seen.  Always close behind each of His children, He stays just out of their sight.  When they fall He does not immediately lift them up.  When they argue, He often allows it.  When they feel alone He does not always intervene.  He does all of this not because he doesn’t love His children or because He doesn’t have the power to help them, but because he knows that the only way for them to grow is to face these challenges.  He knows that this playground is just the beginning and they must learn to work together and help one another.

Sometimes His children need help.  A daughter falls off the monkey bars and scrapes her knee.  She cries in pain and wonders why her Father doesn’t help her.  Of course, He is standing nearby and hears her cries.  What she doesn’t see is that He is holding up the monkey bars, preventing the rickety structure from falling over on her and causing far more pain and harm.  

Nearby a lonely boy looks on with sadness as the other children play together.  He wishes that he could take part in their game.  He looks for his Father, hoping for comfort.  Instead the Father gently prompts another child to go to the boy’s side.  Even when the children misbehave and even curse their Father, thinking He is not present or wishing that He could be like the other dads on the playground, He stands quietly nearby doing only what is best for each and every one of His children.

We, of course, are the children at the park.  As we go through this mortal life we laugh and we cry, we feel joy and pain.  We pray for help, we pray for comfort, we pray for healing, we pray to know our Heavenly Father is there.  So why do some of our prayers go unanswered?  In order to understand this we must first understand the purpose of prayer.  The Bible Dictionary tells us “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”

The first reason our prayers go unanswered is that we pray for the wrong things.  The Bible Dictionary continues, “We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ—when His words abide in us (John 15:7). We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent His mind but spring out of the selfishness of man’s heart.”

Sometimes we want answers and blessings but aren’t willing to put in the necessary work.  Again from the Bible Dictionary, “Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.”  The prophet Joseph Smith revealed that, “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—  And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:20-21).

Other times we are forced to wait for an answer to our prayers in consequence of our own previous disobedience.  The early Saints of this dispensation were chastened for their transgressions.  “They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.  In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.  Verily I say unto you, notwithstanding their sins, my bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath I will remember mercy” (D&C 101:7-9).

Sometimes our lack of answers to prayers is simply a matter of timing.  Our Heavenly Father knows perfectly not only what we need, but when we need it.  He also trusts us enough to make our own decisions and knows that immediately confirming every choice we make would not develop the faith He wants us to have.

And sometimes He does not answer our prayers or remove our hardships because they are a result of our own actions.  Like a child at a park foolishly playing near a beehive, He allows us to feel the sting of conscience or consequence for two reasons: to help us learn to avoid evil and to encourage us to warn others of the danger.  Without these early warnings we would be left to kick against the pricks in a self-destructive journey to taste the rancid sweetness of the poisoned honey of iniquity.

The previous reasons for unanswered prayers are simple and straightforward.  But what of the times when we are living worthily, when our desires are righteous and our motives are pure?  Why then do the heavens remain silent?

Perhaps we must undergo a trial of our faith.  If all righteous prayers were answered immediately and in the affirmative the need for faith would be done away.  In the furnace of our own afflictions, we must stand alongside Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, believing that God will deliver us, “but if not” then we must still be faithful.  (Dan. 3:17-18)

And the “but if not” moments seem to come far too frequently than we would choose.  Although Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were miraculously saved, the three virtuous young women we read about in the book of Abraham were not (Abr. 1:11).  They too were righteous.  They too refused to bow before idols.  And I am sure that their prayers for release were just as fervent.  And yet God did not preserve their lives, instead He chose to bring them home to Him.  Although the scriptural account does not preserve the names of these righteous young women, their example of truly enduring to the end inspires us as we go through our own trials.

Seeing our own prayers go unanswered is difficult enough, but seeing those we love pour out their souls without apparent heavenly aid is heartbreaking.  This pain is compounded when we watch as the Lord answers the prayers of others, sometimes in miraculous ways.  With healing in His wings He swoops in to lift their burdens.  We are left to wonder why we are not part of that celestial flight plan.  Other times we see the woman of faith who needed but to touch His clothes to be healed while we are pushed back by the crowd, praying for longer arms that we too might touch the hem of his robe (Mark 5:25-34).

We may not understand why our Heavenly Father does all that He does, but we should take comfort knowing that He loves us perfectly.  We can say, as did Nephi, that although we do not know the meaning of all things, we “know that he loveth his children” (1 Nephi 11:17) and that “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world” (2 Nephi 26:24).

Although the knowledge of His love brings comfort it does not alleviate all suffering.  Oftentimes the hidden pains are those that hurt the most and yet take the longest to heal.  Those who have struggled with depression or mental illness have faced those nights of seemingly unanswered prayer.  Those endless hours in which hope weakens.  When healing seems impossible and we pray that He who told the man with the palsy to “take up thy bed, and walk” will simply give us the strength to get out of bed and struggle through another day (Mark 2:9).

And yet when we feel thoroughly trampled underfoot we are in the company of the Holy One (1 Nephi 19:7).  These moments should remind us not only to reach out to those feeling the same, but also to be more careful where we place our own feet.

Counterintuitively, the times we feel most abandoned, when we feel unheard and unloved, those are the times we approach our Savior the closest.  For he was abandoned and denied by His friends and betrayed by those closest to Him.  During the darkest moment of His pain-filled life – at a time when He was mocked by those who should have knelt before Him in humble worship – Jesus Christ cried out for His Father.  In this moment of agony He too felt forsaken.  There are no words more heart wrenching in all of history than those uttered by our Savior in that moment, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  (Matt. 27:46).

He who committed no sin had to go through a moment of feeling forsaken – a moment though short in duration, yet infinite in intensity.  And if Christ had to endure it, then why not us?  (D&C 122:8)

In His great intercessory prayer, Christ said “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).  If we are to have eternal life, we must know Him.  And the only way to truly know Him is to walk a mile in His shoes and to kneel an hour alongside Him in our own Garden of Gethsemane.

As we become like Him we become better equipped to help others.  If the Son of God needed to bear all infirmities in order to know how to succor His people then we too need the spiritual tutoring that suffering can bring (Alma 7:11-12).  In fact, the Apostle Paul teaches us that Christ learned “obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8).  How could a loving Heavenly Father answer a prayer requesting the removal of the very suffering that will teach us the obedience necessary to achieve celestial glory and eternal happiness?

Although we may understand His reasons for not immediately answering our heartfelt prayers, it does not always ease the burdens we carry.  It is at these moments that we feel crushed by care that we have a choice.  We can sit in our rooms calling for help – and it will come, in the Lord’s time and in His manner.  He who notes the fall of every sparrow is more than willing to make house calls.

But if we truly want to see the Master Healer in action we should go to work at His clinic.  There we begin to understand the perplexing paradox that we must lose our life if we wish to find it (Matt. 10:39).  We learn that we should help others when we ourselves need help.  As we busy our hands healing others we see His hands at work, quietly binding up our own wounds while we tend to those of others.  Only then do we realize that He is answering the prayers of others through us.  Only then will we understand that not only is He really there, but that He truly hears and answers every child’s prayer (Children’s Songbook, pg. 12).

Back to School

I’ve been communicating with a friend about God’s plan of salvation and I’ve been thinking about the best way to explain it.  Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher, but I think it helps to look at God’s plan in terms of a classroom, particularly a chemistry class – given that chemistry is simply heavenly  🙂

God is the perfect teacher and we are His students.  His goal is for us to come to this life and learn the many lessons He has for us.  He wants us to become more like Him, but in order to do so we need to learn about Him and develop our attributes and skills as we strive to follow Him.  There are a couple of attributes we know about God that vital to this discussion: He is perfectly just, perfectly merciful and is no respecter of persons (which means He will provide every person with the opportunity to receive the blessings available through His plan).

There are several ways that this classroom could be set up, so let’s try thinking through each scenario to see what the results would be.  Let’s assume that in every scenario the teacher is clear about what the goals are (to learn the material and develop necessary attributes).  The teacher also gives a clear syllabus outlining what is a passing grade and what is a failing grade.

There are two basic conditions that must be met in order to get credit for this class: first, the students must have gained the essential knowledge, attributes and skills (as evidenced by a passing grade); second, the students must be able to pay the tuition bill which comes due at the end of the semester.  If either of these conditions is not met the student can not receive credit for the course.

The teacher has also given each student an amazing scholarship which will not only cover the tuition bill at the end of the semester, but also the cost of textbooks and even living expenses.  The scholarship is basically limitless when it comes to funding, but such an amazing scholarship is challenging to keep.  In fact the students are clearly told that in order to keep the scholarship they must maintain a perfect score throughout the semester.  In other words, the first time they make a single mistake they forfeit the entire scholarship immediately.

So, how could the teacher set up this course…

Classroom #1 – Obedience by force
The teacher decides to force each individual student to do the right thing every time.  This means the teacher literally takes a student’s hand during an exam and forces them to choose the correct answer.  During exercises and lab activities the students can do nothing of their own free will.  Instead the teacher forcefully guides each movement.
Results: Although the students have never answered a question incorrectly or made a mistake of any kind it’s clear that they have not learned a single thing.  As a result the teacher has failed.

Classroom #2 – No mercy
The teacher sees that the students make mistakes often, in fact by the end of the semester every student has messed up somewhere along the line.  Therefore, every student loses their scholarship and no one receives credit for the course.  This is a pity because some students were making some real progress with their learning and lab skills.
Results: The teacher has been just.  The teacher set the standard and the students didn’t live up to it.  Also, the teacher has not been a respecter of persons – they have applied the rules equally to every student.  The problem is that there in no mercy in this situation and therefore no hope for the students.  The teacher has failed.

Classroom #3 – Only mercy
Again, the teacher sees that every student makes mistakes often.  But the teacher feels bad for the students and therefore changes the rules and allows every student to keep their scholarship and pass the course, despite their flawed performance.
Results: The teacher has been merciful, but not just.  They saw flaws in the students, but instead of correcting those flaws the teacher instead let every student pass the class.  Again, all students have been treated the same and so the teacher is not a respecter of persons.  But the students haven’t learned the material and haven’t developed the necessary attributes and skills and therefore the teacher has failed.

Classroom #4 – Some mercy
The teacher sees the students making mistakes and, once again, feels bad for the students and therefore chooses some students who will be allowed to pass, despite their flawed performance.  The remainder of the class receive no credit for the class based on the rules.
Results: The teacher has been merciful to some students, but not perfectly merciful to all.  The teacher has also been just to most of the students: the students weren’t perfect, so they received no credit for the course.  But the teacher has not been perfectly just because they have allowed some students to pass despite their mistakes and therefore breaks the rules written by the teacher.  Many of the students that passed still haven’t learned the material and haven’t developed the necessary skills and attributes and therefore the teacher has failed.  Besides the teacher has discriminated against the remaining students because they weren’t given the same opportunities, making the teacher a respecter of persons.

Classroom #5 – Mercy & justice
As before, the teacher sees the flaws in the students and feels pity towards them.  The teacher knows that no one will pass the class by their own merits (based on the demands of justice), but at the same time the students should be given a hope of passing the class (as dictated by the law of mercy).  The only way to achieve this is for the teacher to introduce a star pupil.  This pupil will undergo the same tests and trials as the rest of the students, but is perfect in every way.  This means he will never make a mistake in class and therefore will pass the class and receive credit for it on his own merits.  But the star pupil also goes out of his way to help and tutor the other students.  The students can model themselves after this star pupil and begin to improve thanks to his guidance.  They are still not perfect, but they are learning the material and improving their skills and attributes along the way.

However, the teacher (and the star pupil) know that at the end of the semester the rest of the students (even those making the most progress) will not receive credit for the course because they will not be able to pay their tuition bills.  Remember that all have lost their scholarships because the scholarship requires maintaining a perfect score and they have all made (and continue to make) mistakes.  The star pupil, however, has kept his scholarship (with its limitless funding) and thus is able to step in and pay the tuition bill for the remaining students, giving them hope of still receiving credit for the class.  The star pupil suffers the punishments of justice for each and every student, but the students must still choose whether or not to accept this sacrifice.  The star pupil sets requirements (forming study groups, working on the assignments instead of slacking off in class, etc.).  The terms are difficult, but not impossible.  All of the requirements are necessary, not for some arbitrary purpose, but to help the students learn what they need to learn by the end of the semester.  Some students choose to follow the star pupil and spend the rest of the semester striving to meet his requirements (and find it is easier to learn the material thanks to his help), but other students choose not to.  Some students begin to follow the requirements, but decide not to follow through because it’s not easy and they see many of their classmates goofing off.  At the end of the semester, some students meet the requirements set by the star pupil and thereby pass the course and receive credit for it and some students fail the course.

Results: The teacher has been perfectly just.  The students lost their scholarships (as dictated by the terms of the scholarship), but the tuition payments have still been made.  The punishment demanded by justice has been met by the only person who could suffer the punishment for others – the star pupil.  The students that followed the guidance of the star pupil and met his requirements were able to receive credit for the class, not on their own merits, but due to the star pupil.  But in the process they have been able to learn the class material and were able to improve their skills and attributes.  That was the point of the course and therefore it makes sense that they should pass.  Those who were unwilling to follow the star pupil’s guidance did not learn the material and therefore it makes sense that they should fail and not receive credit for the course.  Mercy has also been satisfied.  Mercy was extended to each and every student, but it was still up to the individual to accept the mercy and spend the rest of the semester working to learn and grow.  The teacher is no respecter of persons since all students have been given the same opportunities.  The teacher has succeeded.

Classroom #6 – Stacking the deck
The scenario above leads to an interesting scenario.  If the teacher knows everything, including which students will pass and which will fail (based on the star pupil’s requirements).  The teacher could “stack the deck” by only allowing “good” students (those who will pass) into the class.  If no “bad” students are allowed into the course, the teacher will have a 100% pass rate and no one will have to fail, right?
Results: The results are subtle, but damning.  The teacher will have no need to create a failing grade because no students would fail.  The teacher is perfectly honest and couldn’t deceive the students into thinking it’s possible to fail so this would be shown on the syllabus.  Imagine what would happen on the first day of class: students would look at the syllabus and see that it is impossible to fail the course.  The only possible grade is a passing one.  Therefore there is no need for the students to struggle to learn the material and better themselves.  The teacher would be forced to pass the students (given that their is no failing grade anymore) and yet the students haven’t learned anything and therefore the teacher would be a failure.  Without a chance of failure there can be no true success.

Classroom #7 – Incompetent students
In this scenario the students are truly incompetent.  Not a single student has the capacity to get an answer correct (even by random guessing) ever.  This means that during the entire semester the students not only fail each and every test, but fail each and every question on those tests.  The teacher knows how incompetent the students are and therefore introduces the star pupil (as in scenario #5), but this does not completely solve the problem.  The star pupil can take the punishment and pay the tuition bills, but the students are incapable of learning anything.  Therefore the teacher decides to force some of of the students to do the right thing.  As in scenario #1 the teacher takes control, but only of some of the students.  Those students suddenly do fabulously well from that point on in the semester and receive passing grades.  The rest of the students fail, based on their own incompetence.
Results: This combines the downfalls of several of the previous scenarios.  Because the teacher has to force some of the students to do the right thing those students learn nothing from the class (since they didn’t actually do it themselves) and therefore the teacher has failed even though some students have passed the class and received credit for it (thanks to the sacrifice of the star pupil).  To make matters worse, the teacher has not treated all the students in the same manner and is therefore a respecter of persons.


The only scenario that satisfies both justice and mercy and truly allows the students to learn, grow and meet the objectives of the course is scenario #5.  Obviously, in the scenarios above our Heavenly Father is the teacher and Jesus Christ is the star pupil – the Savior of the world.  Through Him we are given hope of redemption, but only upon the conditions He has set.  The road isn’t easy, the path is straight and narrow and we will fall countless times, but through Him we are given hope.  We are given the chance to fall short and learn from our mistakes and yet learn the lessons that God would have us learn and become the men and women that God would have us be.  I am truly overwhelmed by this thought – that God would truly love all mankind (including me individually) enough that He would sacrifice His perfect Son for us.

The Parable of the Oh So Many Trees – Explanation

In this story we are the trees and the leaves are the good works we can do and the good influence we have on others.  Brother Spike represents Satan.  I try not to spend much time thinking about Satan and his mentality, but I think it’s important to understand his goals as well as his tools and tricks.

Satan is jealous of you and wants to destroy you personally as well as prevent the good you might do.  He tries to get you while you are young so that he can prevent all the good you will do in your life.

Even if he can get you just a few degrees off track while you are young you will get further and further away from the straight and narrow path.  This leads to personal apostacy.

Satan’s tools are temptation and sin (some of the most devious of which can be found online).  He also uses distractions and despair.  He will grasp at any branch of your life that he can reach, so we can’t allow ourselves to droop in despair.

Sometimes he will push against our trunks – the main focus of our lives – and try to topple us.  If our roots are shallow we will fall, but if we have allowed our roots to dig deep into a gospel foundation then he can’t bring us down.

Satan knows our weaknesses and he will try to exploit them, bet if we trust in the Lord He will strengthen our weakness (Ether 12:27).  If we stand alone it is easier for the devil to reach us, so it is essential for us to surround ourselves with others that have the same values.  We can support each other.

Remember your divine potential.  Remember that you are never alone.  No matter who you are and where you are in your life, no matter where your life has taken you or what you have done, your Heavenly Father loves you more than you can imagine.  He will strengthen you and help you to stand tall.

The Parable of the Mighty Big Rocks – Explanation

Brother Ike represents each of us.  Our lives are the yard that we strive to maintain and unfortunately we each have myriad sins and habits (rocks) that we are trying to remove.  Through the atonement of Jesus Christ each of us can be free of the burdens that weigh us down and cause us to stumble, but this doesn’t come without effort.  We are expected to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” James 1:22.  Christ changes the person, but only if the person is willing to change.

Most of us truly want to change, but how do we go about it.  Well, we have a couple of tools.  The first is the pickaxe of self-inventory, which allows us to dig deep and uncover not only the sins we may be hiding, but the motivations for those sins.  The second tool is repentance, which (like Herbert the Magnificent) is specially designed to root out those sins no matter how deeply they are ingrained in us.  Repentance never breaks and never wears out.

The wonderful wife in the story represents our Heavenly Father who desires with all of His heart that we change, but won’t force us.  He will cheer us on every step of the way and praise even the tiniest improvement.  He knows that this mortal life is short and that we don’t have much time, but He gives us every opportunity to come unto Him.  He also knows that at some point after this life, we will have to stand before Him and be judged.  We will condemn ourselves if we have chosen not to change in this life, just as Brother Ike would have to deal with the remaining rocks in the yard when it came time to mow.

Just as Brother Ike chose a seemingly small stone to remove, but found it more difficult than expected, we often try to change our lives in seemingly small ways (keeping the Sabbath day holy or trying to stop swearing) only to find that the sins are deeply entrenched and require some real effort.  When we do finally unearth a sin, it’s not enough to leave it lying around in our lives.  We must “roll it to the edges of the wilderness” by enduring to the end.  Just as Brother Ike did, we can use those stones as barriers to prevent ourselves and others from future sins.

As Brother Ike dug in his yard he sometimes found that the stones would overlap.  Often our sins are entangled.  Inappropriate TV or music may lead to foul language.  Indulging in alcohol often leads to immorality.  When we are trying to clear our lives of the sins that we bear, we should remember that even the smallest (the fist-sized rocks) matter.  Unlike stones, sins have a tendency to grow unless they are rooted out.  And when turn away from sin it leaves a vacancy that must be filled (hopefully with something good) or we will slip back into those sins.  Remember when Christ spoke about the evil spirits who were cast out of a house and then returned in greater force?

The swarming mosquitoes represent the many temptations that beset us.  They often distract us and keep us from doing what we need to be doing.  The temptations will always be there, but how do we protect ourselves?  Scripture study, prayer, church attendance, service, etc.  They are called Sunday school answers for a reason- they really are answers.

As much as we would like other people to get rid of our sins, that is solely between us and the Lord.  Others can help, but we have to make the choice.  We also cannot simply “buy another house.”  This is your life and your responsibility.  We all have sins, we’ve all made mistakes, but it’s where we go from here that matters.

When the day of reckoning finally comes, we will stand before our Maker to be judged.  Despite our best efforts, we cannot satisfy the demands of justice.  We will have a perfect recollection of all our guilt and we will condemn ourselves.  As an unknown author once said, “Hell is the knowledge of opportunity lost; the place where the man I am comes face to face with the man I might have been.”  But through the grace of Jesus Christ we can be cleansed “after all we can do.”  We aren’t perfect, but we can be worthy.  We can kneel before Him at that day in gratitude and humility instead of crouching in shame.

The Parable of the Oh So Many Trees

Yea, it came to pass in the beginning of the autumn of the year two thousand and twelve that the leaves were just beginning to change colors.  And a man did go forth and did gaze at the leaves; and behold, let us call him Brother Spike Cross, for behold it is fitting.  And it came to pass that as Brother Spike did gaze upon the leaves he was not filled with wonder, but instead was filled with loathing.  For behold, he knew that soon the leaves would fall.  And behold they would not simply fall in a nice pile, but would be scattered to and fro across the whole of the yard and their number would be as the sands on the seashore and as the stars in the sky.

And it came to pass that the thought of this multitude of leaves did fill him with rage; and behold, his anger, yea his fierce anger, did inspire a plan.  And this plan was simple and yet oh so very devious.  For he did say in his heart, “No branches means no leaves.”  And it came to pass that he did say again in his heart, “No trees means no branches.”  And with this thought he did journey forth to the garage to fetch his tools.

And behold, his tools were simple and yet they were cunning.  For he had not a chainsaw; yea, it sufficeth me to say that he had not the permission to purchase a chainsaw of epic proportions.  And yet he had three tools and he did gather them in his hand.  And behold, they were a small set of pruning clippers, a small folding handsaw, and (the most cunning and devious of all, as you shall see at the end of this record) a pocket chainsaw.

And with these tools, nay these implements of destruction, Brother Spike did venture forth into the yard.  And it came to pass that he did take the pruning clippers and did shear off each and every branch that was within his reach.  And behold, he did go forth to even some of the mighty trees in the yard and did jump up and did grasp the branches and did pull them down near unto himself and did cut them until the branches did fall to the ground and did never rise again.

And behold, this was much to the liking of Brother Spike, insomuch that he did spend much time in the yard and great was the destruction to the low hanging branches and small trees and shrubs which did grow throughout the landscape.  And behold, at times there were branches which were too much for the tiny pruning shears to cut through, but behold, did this stop Brother Spike?  Nay, for he did proceed to bring forth the folding handsaw and did unfold it and did lock its blade of many teeth into position and did proceed to slowly but surely hack his way through the limb of any tree which he could grasp.

And it came to pass that the branches did litter the ground and he did desire to burn them, but behold he did content himself to drag them away to the edges of the yard and did throw them in that low and somewhat swampy area of the yard which did serve no purpose but to breed mosquitoes of doom.  And he did gaze upon the yard and did see that there were no more branches within his reach and yet there were an exceeding number of trees, and yea, some were rather small and others were mighty, and yet even the smallest of the trees did exceed him in stature.

And it came to pass that Brother Spike did envy the trees and their loftiness and that they could enjoy the cool breeze and the amazing views from above whilst he did have to drag himself through the dirt.  And behold, he did survey the landscape and did choose a tree to destroy, which was close unto him.  And yea, it was a modest tree of only approximately four inches in diameter.  And he was angry and did push on the tree and to his amazement it did sway and shake before him.  And behold he did smile and did push the tree back and forth until it did topple over and he did laugh for although the tree was twenty feet tall its root ball was exceeding tiny, like unto a volleyball.  And for this reason did it fall before him.

And it came to pass that Brother Spike did glory in his own strength and did find another tree of similar size.  And behold he did tree to push it over as he had the other unfortunate tree, but behold its roots sank deep into the earth.  Nevertheless, he did notice that there was a small hole in the base of the tree and the heart of the tree seemed to be rotting.  And he did see that this weakness might be exploited.  And behold, Brother Spike did grab hold of the tree and did attempt to bend it, and yea, after some time and effort the tree did crack right at the point of weakness and did topple to the ground.

And behold, there were an exceeding number of trees and yet some were deep in the forested part of the yard and were not easily accessible and so Brother Spike did seek for those trees which were alone or were standing upon the fringes of the forest.  And he did find a suitable specimen which was large, yea, even exceedingly tall.  And yea, it was too large to push over or to break down by hand, and therefore he did bring forth the folding saw again and did begin to cut a notch into the tree so that it might not fall upon his head.  And behold he did set forth in earnest to cut the tree down.  And yea, the sharp teeth of the saw did cut into the base of the tree and the sawdust did fly and yea, Brother Spike became weary after approximately three and one half minutes of sawing.  And yea he was about to give up, but behold he did notice that because the tree was standing far from the other trees it had no support.  And yea, he did decide to use the loftiness of the tree against itself.  And yea, by pushing the tree, behold its own weight did cause it to topple although the cut in its base was relatively small.

And yea, then Brother Spike did bring forth his most cunning tool, the pocket chainsaw.  And as it lay coiled like a serpent in the grass he did think back to how he was able to obtain it with great ease from the internet.  And behold, it did not appear to be a devious implement of destruction, but its teeth were exceedingly sharp.  And its design was exceptionally cunning, for as he did place it against a tree and did pull, much pressure, yea indeed all of Brother Spike’s weight was brought to bear against the base of the tree.  And the pocket chainsaw did rip through the wood with such ferocity that it was near impossible to remove the saw.  Yea, the pocket chainsaw did cut through even large and mighty trees such that they did fall to the earth.

And it came to pass that he did use his cunning techniques to fell several more trees and it was exceedingly quick and easy, such that he did clear many small trees in the course of an hour.  And as each tree fell he did behold that they did take their leaves with them and the knowledge that he would not have to deal with those leaves in the autumn did make Brother Spike exceedingly glad.  And yea, there were still a multitude of trees in the yard and Brother Spike knew that he could not possibly bring them all down, but yea, for those trees which had fallen it mattered not how many were still standing for they themselves would never rise again.

For further reading see The Parable of the Oh So Many Trees – Explanation

The Parable of the Mighty Big Rocks

Yea, it came to pass in the summer of the year two thousand and twelve that the sun did rise extremely early in the morning.  And with the rising of the sun, so arose a man.  Yea, it behooveth me to change names to protect the foolish; therefore let us call him Brother Ike Cross.

And it came to pass that Brother Ike had a yard and within that yard there were contained a multitude, yea, a plethora of rocks of all shapes and sizes.  Yea, and all of them were exceedingly heavy as though they were made from the remnants of a dwarf star.

And it came to pass that Brother Ike did journey forth from his oh so comfortable air-conditioned bedroom and did venture out into the exceedingly hot and humid land round about his home.  And he did carry forth from the garage his tools of manliness, namely a pickaxe and two shovels.  Yea, and one of the shovels he affectionately named Herbert the Magnificent.  And Herbert did have an exceedingly strong blade and metal running more than halfway up the handle, so as to increase its mighty strength.  For behold, Brother Ike was a man of brute strength (and exceeding humility) and had broken another shovel (from henceforth known as Tiny Tim) and therefore Brother Ike’s kind and wonderful wife had given Herbert to him as a tool befitting the job that lie ahead.

Therefore Brother Ike ventured forth, taking with him his tools, and did survey the yard, noting the numberless rocks which did jut forth from the land like the teeth of a fossilized rancor.  And behold, Brother Ike did have a meeting later that morning and therefore had a limited amount of time to complete this mighty endeavor.  But he was not wearing a wristwatch and so his aforementioned lovely wife promised to call him in when his time was up.

And so despite the immensity of the task, Brother Ike began by choosing a seemingly modest and tiny stone, which did only protrude from the earth a matter of inches.  And it came to pass that he used his exceedingly cool pickaxe to probe the edges of the stone and to uncover it.  And once it was uncovered he was sore amazed at the bulk of the stone and did almost abandon his task and return to the comfort and air conditioning of his home.

But behold, Brother Ike knew that this path led only to woe and misery.  For the great day of reckoning was fast approaching in which Brother Ike would be called upon to mow the lawn.  And he knew that the stones would act as immense obstacles to the mowing of the lawn and that he would be forced to maneuver around them at all times or risk breaking a blade on his lawnmower.  And he also knew that this would cause his temper to flare with the brightness of a thousand suns and that he would weep and wail and possibly gnash his teeth.

And so, to avoid this awful fate, Brother Ike did draw forth his shovel, Herbert.  And he did plunge the shovel into the earth thousands of times.  Yea, my heart is pricked because of my boasting and it was possibly only a dozen times.  But nevertheless he did unearth the stone and did pry it loose from the ground and did roll it forth to the edges of the wilderness.  And there he did place the stone as the base of a wall that would separate his land from the wilderness which was infested with ticks and poison ivy and possibly Gadianton robbers.

And thus pleased with his initial fruitful efforts, he returned to his tools and did venture forth to find another rock.  And lo, he only had to travel two and one half feet.  And he did smite the earth with his pickaxe and did pry with his shovel, but to no avail.  For the rock would not budge.  And behold, he did notice that there was another stone and he did uncover that stone and found that it did overlap the previous stone.  And it came to pass that as Brother Ike removed the upper stone he found that he had freed the lower rock so that with much effort he was able to remove the stone which had previously bested him.  And these stones were also rolled to the edges of the wilderness to be placed as a barrier.

And it came to pass that as Brother Ike traveled back to his tools he looked and did behold a massive stone, the likes of which he had not hitherto even attempted to move.  But behold, knowing that the day of the mowing of the lawn would soon be upon him and that this stone would present a large and difficult obstacle of doom, he did take it upon himself to remove it from his yard.  And thus he gathered his tools and did begin his efforts.

And lo, he did wrestle with that stone and the sweat did drip from his body.  And behold, he did decide to take a quick break and to pick up several small stones, yea, which were smaller than his fist.  And he was pleased for he was concerned that his wife would ask how many rocks he had moved and that this act would pad his numbers.  And behold, he did return to the rock of doom and did wrestle again and did succeed in prying it loose from the ground.  And oh, what rejoicing he did feel in his heart.  And oh what sorrow he did feel when he realized that although it was now free of the ground, he had not the strength to lift it from the hole which he had dug.

And it came to pass that Brother Ike did proceed to murmur, and oh what a murmuring it was.  And behold, as he murmured he noticed the multitude of mosquitoes and biting flies which did swarm around his head and buzz in his ears.  And he did swat at them with the intent to smite them to the ground, that they might not return.  But behold, his flailing did only cause the swarm to increase in size until it was approximately the size of Brother Ike’s car.  And lo, he did realize that because he had drenched himself in bug spray before venturing forth, the mosquitoes and flies were unable to land upon him to drink his blood and sap his strength.  But behold, this did not stop the annoyance of their constant buzzing.

But lo, Brother Ike did look up and did behold his lovely wife standing in the window.  And he did take heart and did realize that he should publicly thank her for being so fabulous.  And it was so.  And he did undertake his monumental task again, for he did remember that the day of the mowing of the lawn would soon be upon him and that he had no idea how much time remained before he would be called home.  And so he did push and pull and pry with the shovel, insomuch that the fear of a hernia was upon him, but he did not stop.  And behold, his young son who had decided to play in the yard did come near unto Brother Ike.  And Brother Ike did request that his son push down upon a shovel while he did pull the stone from the pit.

And behold, Brother Ike was not an engineer and did not take into account that a child of thirty-five pounds should not try to pry up a boulder of two hundred and fifty pounds.  And behold, Brother Ike’s plans came to naught and he did contemplate buying a different house, one without rocks in the yard.  But he did soon realize that this was impossible.  And he did contemplate burying the rock under a small hill of dirt, but this was of course absurd, for the rock would still be there taunting him.

And behold as Brother Ike did wrestle with these thoughts he did also wrestle with the stone and did succeed in prying it almost twelve inches out of the ground.  And he was attempting to kick dirt and grass under the stone to raise it up from the ground, when to his surprise his young son did throw a Bacci ball under the rock in an attempt to be helpful.  And to Brother Ike’s great amazement this did act as a ball bearing and did allow him to finally, after great effort, remove the stone from the pit.  And there was much rejoicing and high fives.

And it came to pass that upon ever so slowly rolling the stone to the edges of the yard, that Brother Ike was called home by his wife.  And he was sore afraid that she would be ashamed of him for moving only a handful of stones.  But it came to pass that she did not ask the number of stones he had moved, nor the size of the stones.  Yea, she did only compliment him on his unceasing efforts and did praise him for his hard work.

And it came to pass that later in that same week, the day of reckoning was upon Brother Ike.  And he did venture forth to mow the lawn.  And yea, he did see that there were still many stones left in the yard and yet, he did not feel ashamed.  For he knew that he had done all that he possibly could in the time which was given him.  And as he mowed the lawn he experienced joy as he saw the places where he had removed the stones and which would never again cause him sorrow.  And it came to pass that he did mow the lawn, and he did see that the lawn was good for it was his own.

For further reading see The Parable of the Mighty Big Rocks – Explanation