Favorite recent and insightful quote I have read recently:

Favorite quote I have recently read: "The word temple comes from the Latin templum, which signifies an extended open space that has been marked out for the observation of the sky. In what manner is such a space marked out? According to Dr. Hugh Nibley, the word templum, "designates a building specifically designed for interpreting signs in the heavens--a sort of observatory where one gets one's bearings on the universe." The root "tem-" in Greek and Latin denotes a "cutting" or intersection of two lines at right angles, the point where the "cardo" and "decumanus" cross, hence where the four regions come together." Matthew Brown - "The Gate of Heaven"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chile Debe Devolver El Huáscar...

This past week we were treated to a walking tour of old Lima by our friends the Andersons.  They are extremely knowledgeable about Lima, its past and present.  We visited several colonial era homes, or maybe mansions would be a better term including that of Admiral Grau, as well as a beautiful 18th Century Cathedral. We took a few photos to share. Inside the Cathedral of the Virgin de Mercedes, simply known as the Merced Church, there were warnings about not using your cell phone but no proscriptions against photography. The Virgin Mercedes is the Saint responsible for the guns of Peru.  Peru's history has not been an easy one, but rather a violent one.  More than 170 civilizations and cultures have been identified here before the Incan armies swept over the Andes Mountains, highlands and coastal planes prior to the Spanish conquest. We had lunch by a  very pleasant water fountain where only recently Francisco Pizarro's heroic statue had stood. It was removed by Lima's last mayor to another site, less in the public view, by design.  Warfare and conquest are all the people here have known through their entire history up to the start of the 20th Century. A border dispute with Ecuador led to several smaller battles in 1941 and again in 1995. It was only settled by diplomatic efforts of the United States, Chile, Argentina, and Brasil in 1998.
RuthAnn and the Andersons, our guides
It is quite natural then for a church to be located on the Plaza of Arms with a Saint to look after their guns. I have been told that in the War of the Pacific invading Chilenos soldiers fathered a number of babies without benefit of a last name and the Lima white pages today list a number of surnames simply as "Chilenos." The conquest and the occupation of Peru by Chile for a decade still can raise tempers and the ire of more than a few Peruanos. I supposed this would logically spill over to the soccer field and with a little research this was confirmed.  A cup has been created called the Copa del Pacifico for the winner of the The Ecuador, Chile, and Peruvian soccer teams. CNN has noted the competition for the Pacific Cup is among the top ten rivalries in the world, surpassing even that of Utah versus BYU.
Merced Church on the Plaza del Armas
Among the booty of that war was the loss of Peru's flag ship the Huascar and the death of its valiant and honorable Admiral Grau. The Huascar was a "Monitor" Civil War type vessel and was very effective in delaying the invasion of Peru by Chile. Prior to that it was used in the region's rebellion and war of independence against Spain. It took nearly the entire Chilean Navy to stop the Huascar and capture it and its crew.  The Admiral died from injuries sustained in that last sea battle. As a prize of war it was taken to Chile and made a part of their navy until the mid 20th Century.  A number of Peruvians would like it returned to Peru where it rightfully belongs.
Interior of the Merced Church
Later in the week we had a group of missionaries from the CCM (MTC) here in Lima and I noticed one had a lapel flag of Chile on his suit jacket. In my best Spanish I suggested to him Chile needed to return the Huascar to Peru.  My request was greeted by good natured agreement and chuckles from all of his Peruvian missionary friends. They all knew exactly what I was talking about.  This was as they were leaving and picking up their checked cameras at the recommend desk which I was manning for part of the day.
An artist's conception of the Huascar during her fighting days. Note the Flag of Peru on the stern
We continue to be fascinated by Peru's rich culture, its history, and heritage. Troublesome portents are on the horizon for Peru as there is a politician rising in the presidential polls after the manner of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Narco money has been tracked and is found in presidential politics. As noted previously, Peru is the number one supplier of cocaine in the world. Though the economy is growing robustly, only second to China this past year, that wealth is and has not found its way to the poor, of which there are so many yet in Peru.
The Huascar today as it lies at anchor in Chilenos' hands

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

King Herod's Temple Tax

From the Gospel of John, the 2nd Chapter: 

13 And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.

In the days of King Herod's Temple all adult Jewish males were required to pay an annual tax of one silver coin called a shekel, or more accurately in value a half shekel. The equivalent of the coin in today's monetary value is uncertain. Silver in that time period was valued approximately the same as gold due to its scarcity before the influx of New World silver. Much of it from the Inca here in Peru that would come some 15 centuries later.
The Silver Shekel mounted to a tie bar. 
Today, 20 centuries later, I am returning this temple tax or silver shekel to a temple and will do so every day. Gone are the days when the peace of the temple was disturbed by those exchanging Roman and Greek coins for the only approved coin in its day - the Tyrian Shekel. The irony of this is the image on the coin is the chief god of the Phoenicians, known as Baal. Having coins with Caesar's image was deemed to be blasphemous or sacrilegious and rejected by the scribes and priests. The Jews did not mint their own coins until the revolt of 66 CE. Having a coin with Baal's image somehow was less offensive to the Jews. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact Roman silver coins were both inflated and diluted containing only 70% silver while those from their neighbors in Tyre were 90% pure.

Money-changing in the temple for paying the annual tax according to Brother McConkie “involved weighing the coins, taking deductions for loss of weight, arguing, debating, disputing, bargaining, oftentimes using scales of questionable accuracy. Tables piled high with coins of all denominations and nations were the stock in trade of those who charged a fixed fee, and more, in the lucrative enterprise.” In addition to the lucrative business of monetary exchange, animals, birds and other goods and commodities necessary for offering sacrifices were for sale and kept within the outer courts of the temple grounds. The chief high priest Annas arranged to have his sons hold this lucrative franchise. When Jesus upset the tables and drove the animals out he struck at the bulging pockets of the profiteers and ultimately at the chief priest. In three years hence he would appear before Annas with a far different outcome and one very pleasing to the high priest we are certain.

The significance of the the silver shekel, also according to historians, likely this denomination of coin, (actually thirty of them), was paid to Judas for betraying the Lord. The coin I carry was minted in 125 BCE and one can only imagine the numbers of hands it changed and the stories it could tell through the millennia. Now it is here in Lima Peru with me each day. As a high priest I carry it once again to the Temple. Gone are the money changers and merchandisers who profited and gained their lucre by desecrating the Lord's House. This Temple is a place of peace, solitude, and joy for the restoration of that which was destroyed and lost so many years ago.