Friday, 31 July 2009

Gap Tooth Grin!

At last! After four whole weeks of waiting patiently, Joshua's first wobbly tooth has finally fallen out. We were all snuggled up in the girls' room reading Anne of Green Gables when he said urgently "Mummy, there's blood in my mouth, and my wobbly tooth..." I grabbed a wipe, asked him to open his mouth, and there it was, leaning over completely.

Look at that giant gappy grin!(Don't worry, the sample container hadn't been used before.)He played around with my reading light for a while. His "poison tooth":
Jeff was out last night at the first session of a Trinity@Night short course on Revelation, with Allan Chapple, so he missed the initial excitement. I didn't breathe a word of Joshua's news when he got home, but this morning I put the music on a touch early and sent Joshua in to our room to tell - and show! - Jeff his wonderful news. Jeff was appropriately excited for our (once) little boy who is growing up so fast.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Getting Up

Neither Jeff nor I are morning people. I used to think Jeff was, but the truth is, it's just in comparison to me. If I had no job and no kids and no conscience, I would be happy to stay in bed until after noon every single day. The problem is, three of our four kids love to be up early.

So we are trying out yet another new method for keeping them in bed longer in the mornings. I am sure if we had been diligent in teaching them to stay in bed in the mornings when they were younger, this would not be a problem now. But the truth is, we like our morning snuggles with whoever climbs into bed with us. And no matter how many mornings we are woken up at 6:40am, they are worth the snuggles. But we still need a method of letting the non-snugglers know when they can get up and about.

Since we are not about to get wall clocks (their rooms are too dark in the morning to read them, it being the middle of winter) nor spring for digital alarm clocks, I have decided to be their alarm clock for them. I am putting on a CD each morning at 7:30am, which is the latest we can get up and still get Joshua to school on time. I have told them that whenever they wake up, they are allowed to go to the toilet, but then they have to go back to bed, unless they can hear the music. If they can hear our morning song, they can put on their clothes and come out for breakfast. The wake-up signal is easy to recognise, hard to ignore, and difficult to argue with. So far (two mornings down) it seems to be working. This morning, Samuel even stayed in his room!

The first song I play a few times. It is a tune they all know from the BSF Pre-School program: "Good morning, God". The words are very simple:

"Good morning, God. This is your day.
I am your child. Show me your way."

It is a lovely way to begin our day.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

CCOWA Perth Women's Convention

The CCOWA Perth Women's Convention is on again this year, on Saturday 15 August.

The speaker this year is Claire Deeves, who spoke well from the Book of Joshua at the Trinity Women Enrichment Day earlier this year. At PWC, she will be speaking on Discovering Jesus in the pages of Micah.

I am looking forward to it. Will you be there? If you are interested, you can register online here. Registrations close Monday 10 August.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

A Fantastic Thursday

In the morning
Today was the first day back for our church Women's Gathering. We began the term with seven women present and another four women absent on the day for one reason or other. We studied Acts 9:1-18, the story of Saul's conversion to Christianity. We had a fantastic conversation about the story, considering questions such as Who caused Saul to become a Christian: Saul, Ananias, the Lord Jesus, or the LORD God, or someone else not mentioned in the passage? Give a reason for your choice. In our (newly assigned) prayer triplets, we prayed that we will be prepared to tell other people about Jesus, ignoring our own assumptions about how they will respond.

Each week, I give the women a page of Taking it Further questions for optional homework. This week, one of the sample questions connected Acts 9:17-18 with a passage later written by Paul in one of his many letters: Read 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6. What does this passage tell you about the reasons people resist the truth about the only way to salvation (through Jesus Christ)? Take time to pray for those people you have known for a long time, who have always seemed unable to understand or accept what you have told them about Jesus. Ask God, by His Spirit, to give them saving faith in Jesus Christ.

The thought of Saul's dramatic turn around, from one of the foremost persecutors of the Christian church, to one of the church's most prominent promoters, stuck with me for the next few days. I found myself thinking, as I later wrote in an email to a friend, how Saul must have seemed like such a lost cause (in terms of conversion to Christianity) and yet Jesus reached out and met him and then SNAP! He was totally on fire for God! I was left wondering how many other potential Pauls are out there, arguing themselves blue in the face against God, following Allah or Isis or atheism or whatever other idol they have, and God might be just about to touch their lives through some simple confrontation with the gospel at its plainest - “You are persecuting Jesus Christ, the Son of God, when you reject Him, yet He wants you to do what He says, He has a plan to use your life for God’s glory, and He has already laid His life down for yours.” How many of these potential Pauls are in my street and suburb? How many are waiting to hear this gospel message from me?

God, you amaze me with what you do in the life of each and every believer on the particular day when they come to faith. Such grace! Such perfect, infinite grace!

At lunchtime
I met up with one of the women who hadn't been able to attend the Women's Gathering, who usually comes. We went to a nearby shopping centre for lunch, while Jeff took the kids home for lunch and a nap, giving me one hour with C.C and I spent about 20min eating lunch and catching up on each other's news; 20min talking about our hopes and dreams for the women in our congregation, and how we might reach out to other women who live nearby with the gospel; and then spent the final 20min in a wonderful time of prayer together. We prayed for our church's elders as they lead our congregation according to God's guidance; for the wives of these elders as they support their husbands in their ministry to the congregation; for the women who come to our church, whether single or married, old or young, working or at home, that they might grow in their faith in Jesus Christ; for the women who are not of the church, but who one day, like Paul, will come to know Jesus as their Lord. We also prayed for ways to disciple women in the congregation to a deeper faith in God (and for them to desire that for themselves); for the women of the church to serve each other in this way, edifying the other women; for ways to reach out and share the gospel with women in our local area who do not know Jesus; and for other women in our congregation to desire to reach out in this way. It was very very encouraging to sit with another person and pray aloud, yet quietly, in the midst of the chaotic shopping centre, for the glory of God to be extolled in the people of our congregation.

In the afternoon
Jeff got the three younger kids to play at being polar bears, while Joshua pretended to be a wildlife photographer. They even caught and ate a "seal", a toy puppet dolphin. Then, of course, they had to sit and watch the "movie" Joshua had made, really, a National Geographic DVD we have on life in the Arctic.Jeff was a really big polar bear in his fluffy dressing gown, and you can see Joshua's "hide" in the background, covered over with a white blanket of "snow".
In the evening
I went out to a Big GEMs meeting, to get my regular fix of motherhood encouragement.The speaker was Mel Hayde, author of Terrific Toddlers, who spoke on the topic of Self-Control: Training Toddlers to Teens. It was a great encouragement to me and just what I needed, given how some of the kids have been behaving lately and my growing realisation that my recent parenting choices are as much to blame as their sinful hearts.

It was also a treat to meet some other mothers whose kids go to the same school as Joshua, and find that there is local interest in starting up a monthly Small GEMs group near where we live now.

I went home very, very happy. It was a fantastic day. Thank You, God, for days like this.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Holiday Snaps

Joshua at the Boys' Brigades Father-Son camp:Anna singing and dancing in the play room:Duplo:Joshua showing off a connector creation:Dressed up for a wedding:With Jeff officiating:Anna reading Practise being Godly by Colin Buchanan, listening to the audio on CD:Abi and Rabbit have a picnic party:Anna and Sam join Abi for the picnic party:

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


Jeff and I now have a facebook identity that we share. If you read this and know me in "the flesh", you probably know our email address, which should be enough to find us. So if you use facebook, feel free to search for us and ask us to be friends.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Dear Granny

D|g [Dear Granny wouldn't fit in] I luv y grane
veree muhc
I louv u loss
and louv y loss

"Dear Granny I love you Granny
very much
I love you lots
and love you lots
kisses and hugs"

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Sunday Sermon

This morning I am not having church with our family in Christ at BCC. I, and our four children, are stuck at home, miserable with severe colds. This is the third time I have missed gathering with BCC since Jef began as Pastor there in February. The other two times I was visiting another church (for the Brigades' beginning of year service) or visiting family in Albany. Somehow, being sick seems like a poor excuse, especially since I am so excited about listening to and learning from our present sermon series, spending eight weeks on Ephesians.

Of course, I have an advantage that everyone else in our congregation doesn't. I'm married to the Pastor, and he's the one preaching on Ephesians 2 this morning. Normally, if I miss a sermon because I am helping with Sunday School or whatever, I can listen to it on CD later on. But last night I had the privilege of listening to Jeff practice his sermon. Jeff and I enjoyed a conversation about it as well. This morning, as I lay in bed and watched Jeff get into his "preachin' garb", I was filled with thankfulness. Why would God be so merciful to me as not to punish me for the apostasy of my rebellious years, when I rejected everything that His Word had to say? Why would God be so gracious to me as to provide me with a husband who would one day be led to study that same Word intently for three years at theological college, in order to become a Pastor who preaches and teaches from that Word, the Bible, almost every Sunday? It is not just my salvation that I have to be immensely thankful to God for! It is His providential loving kindness to me that has granted me a husband who teaches me, leads me, and edifies me as we seek to follow the LORD our God together.

So this morning I am spending time with my Bible open, thinking about Jeff's sermon, while the kids attend "TV Church", (as Mrs Smith calls it,) in the room next to me, watching Matthew on DVD.

Ephesians 2 provides a before and after picture of Christians:
1. Before, we were dead in sin; now, we are alive in Christ.
2. Before, we were far from God; now, we have been brought near to Him in peace.
3. Before, we were divided, Jew from Gentile; now, we have been made one, unified as the people of God.

Yet, as we know, our lives often do not look like the after image here. We ask ourselves,
"Why do I still give in to sin?"
"Why do I not feel close to God?"
"Why don't I get on better with other Christians?"

Jeff likened this situation to that of a newly qualified teacher, who has their BEd, and their Teacher's Certificate, but has yet little experience. While they are a real teacher, they are not a mature, effective teacher. The same is true of us. If we are Christians, who trust in Jesus Christ and follow Him as our Lord, accepting that He has died in our place for our sins, then we do live in the after scenario of Ephesians 2. However, this scenario relates to our standing in Christ, which has been bought for us; not our sanctification, which reflects our gradually increasing likeness to Christ. We are still a work in progress.

Philippians 2:12b-13 tells Christians to "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." Salvation is hard work, even while it has been achieved for us already! A bit of a conundrum, that. James said it in a different way, when he warned (James 2:14-26), "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him? ... faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. ... faith without deeds is useless... You see that [Abraham's] faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. ... You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. ... As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."

Of course, "works" or "good deeds" are unable to achieve salvation in and of themselves. That is not what Paul and James were exhorting Christians to understand. CH Spurgeon explained this eloquently. Although his language of 1914 may sound archaic to our modern ears, the truth of his statements remains, as he titled the sermon that contains them, "an unalterable law":

"It, beyond question, is your duty to repent of your sin. If you have disobeyed God, you should be sorry for it. To cease from sin is but the duty of the creature, else sin is not the violation of God's holy law. But be it known unto you, that all the repentance in the world cannot blot out the smallest sin. If you had only one sinful thought cross your mind, and you should grieve over that all the days of your life, yet the stain of that sin could not be removed even by the anguish it cost you. Where repentance is the work of the Spirit of God, it is a very precious gift, and is a sign of grace; but there is no atoning power in repentance. In a sea full of penitential tears, there is not the power or the virtue to wash out one spot of this hideous uncleanness. Without the blood-shedding, there is no remission.

But others suppose that, at any rate, active reformation growing out of repentance may achieve the task. What if drunkenness be given up, and temperance become the rule? What if licentiousness be abandoned, and chastity adorn the character? What if dishonest dealing be relinquished, and integrity be scrupulously maintained in every action? I say, 'tis well; I would to God such reformations took place everywhere--yet for all that, debts already incurred are not paid by our not getting into debt further, and past delinquencies are not condoned by future good behaviour. So sin is not remitted by reformation. Though you should suddenly become immaculate as angels (not that such a thing is possible to you, for the Ethiopian cannot change his skin, nor the leopard his spots), your reformations could make no atonement to God for the sins that are past in the days that you have transgressed against him."

While our actions cannot achieve our salvation, we are still called to live a godly life. We must live out the faith we profess. We must choose, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to act in ways that are compatible with our spiritual condition. In Ephesians 2, this duty of Christians is based in what Paul wrote in (one of my favourite verses) Ephesians 2:1, which says, "For you are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do." Paul says that our response to the gospel, choosing to live in ways that are good, for God's glory not our own, is one purpose of our renewal through Christ.

Given that Paul has written of our unity under God as the body of Christ, the church, Jeff chose to focus the application in his sermon on our unity in the church. We perform "good works" when we take on an attitude of ownership and claim for ourselves a sense of belonging in the local congregation where God has placed us. These people (for me, at BCC) are our spiritual family. We belong here (God has not made a mistake in having us come to this congregation) and we need to choose to put in effort, be humble, persevere, and interact in ways that deliberately foster our family bonds. We should not think of ourselves as people who come along and consume, but do not contribute to the church. Even if we have only been coming to this congregation for a short time, or are new Christians, we should ask ourselves,
Do I acknowledge and accept my responsibility to serve my brothers and sisters in Christ here in this congregation? Do I do what I see needs to be done?
Do I ask for help if I feel unable to meet a need myself? Do I desire and seek to be empowered to serve?

One thing that everyone can do, whether we are old or young, speak English well or not at all, have been a Christian for years or just a few days, is to pray for others. We should all be praying for our congregation's elders, our pastor, our musicians, our Sunday School workers, the welcomers and those who work behind the scenes preparing the facilities and refreshments. We can pray for those people who are in the congregation with us on Sunday and those who usually are, but are not today. We can follow up these prayers by letting these people know that we have been praying for them, and seek to encourage them and build them up in their faith. These prayers and actions will demonstrate and build the unity between the believers in our congregation.

We should also be praying for those who God will bring to this congregation, who are not yet part of our family in Christ. We should pray that through some means, they will come to this church - and as we pray, we may well be moved to invite our friends and neighbours; and to speak to acquaintances and even strangers of the gospel and our church where they can learn more. We should pray that when they come, people from our congregation will make them welcome, and tell them plainly of the hope that may only be found in Christ and His completed work upon the cross - and as we pray, we may well be moved to act as witnesses to these people, telling them the story of how we came to a saving faith in Christ, and imploring them to place their trust in Jesus, also; and to open our homes and our lives to these people so that they can see the fruit of the gospel in us. We should be praying that new Christians will be discipled faithfully so that they grow in their faith and sanctification themselves - and as we pray, we may well be prompted to invite someone to pray with us, to read the Bible with us, so that we may grow in Christ together; and we may desire to share with another what we have been learning from our private devotions; and we may choose to ask another of what they have learned, so that they will be able to share with us and build us up.

Our lives must be a testimony to the reality that we live in, now that we are Christians.

We must know the basis for our standing in Christ. We must consciously take responsibility for our own growth in sanctification. And we must act as Christians: who have been saved by God's free gift of grace, through faith in His Son, and have become indispensable members of Christ's body, the Church.

We must deliberately and with determination live out the faith we proclaim.

Friday, 17 July 2009

TwiSaga: My Favourite Quotes

My Top 3 Quotes from the first chapter of Twilight, "First Sight"

#3: "it was one of those solid iron affairs that never gets damaged - the kind you see at the scene of an accident, paint unscratched, surrounded by the pieces of the foreign car it had destroyed."
[pp7-8 Twilight Stephenie Meyer]

This is Bella describing her first sight of the "new - well, new to me" truck her father bought her. I love this sentence for its poetic yet pragmatic description. I also like it for the premonition it gives of a critical event in the storyline, where Edward saves Bella from a car crash, revealing his supernatural speed and strength in the process. The truck, Bella mentions later, is virtually unscathed, while the other car is written off.The safety and solidity of the truck also provides a metaphoric prefigurement of Bella's need to be protected in her stumbling, human vulnerability - a role which Edward takes upon himself with never a scratch to show for his efforts, given his own granite-like, immortal immutability.

#2: "It couldn't have anything to do with me. He didn't know me from Eve."
[p21 Twilight Stephenie Meyer]

This one is Bella, wondering at Edward's reaction at his first sight of her. It uses an interesting twist on the traditional quote, which says "He didn't know me from Adam," thus prefiguring the major role of temptation in the TwiSaga storyline.

#1: "I can do this, I lied to myself feebly. No one was going to bite me."
[p13 Twilight Stephenie Meyer, emphasis mine]

This is my favourite quote not just from this chapter or book, but from the entire series. Oh, the delicious irony! This quote contains Bella's reaction at her first sight of Forks High School, and her first sight of Edward's car in the school car park. It prefigures the revelation that Edward, whom Bella would fall in love with, will later be revealed as a vampire. And that Bella will come to yearn for Edward's bite...

(I did mention that I believe Meyer is a very accomplished author. This commentary on "First Sight" will, I hope, add evidence to my argument.)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Abigail's DIY Haircut - My Grump

Yesterday while I was in the shower, Abigail cut her hair. Only the hair on the left hand side, because the scissors were in her right hand. As soon as I got out of the shower, Anna ran in to tell me. Aargh!

I was particularly annoyed because Joshua cut Anna's hair a few years back (right down to her double crown) and we have since been very specific and clear that kids are not allowed to cut hair in our family. I know that Abi remembers the rule, because she tried to do it a little while back (after I had left it too long to cut her fringe) and has been growing out two side snips for the last few months. I remind her about it every time she complains that those bits won't stay in her plaits: it's her own fault that they aren't long enough.

I've had a very recent conversation with a dear friend about the vagaries of children's behaviour and how easy it is to respond with anger and a lecture. So this time, I was prevented from responding in quite the way I had after Anna and Joshua's escapade with the scissors - I think the description "volcanic" would probably best describe my reaction then, much to my shame. So while I calmed down enough to deal with the situation properly, I sent Abigail off to bed and rang Jeff. He'd taken the boys to the shops & I arranged to meet him there so we could decide how much needed to be cut off by a professional to make dear Abigail presentable again.

In the end, the hairdresser cut off about three inches. There is still a big chunk about two inches shorter than the rest that needs to grow out, but if we cut it all to that length, Abi's hair would be too short for plaits. That would annoy her (and me) no end, because her hair is quite fine and flyaway. If it is going to be longer than a bob, it needs to be long enough to pull back, or it will get very tangly, very quickly. And I'm not ready for her to have short hair.

So here are the before and after pictures. The first was taken on the weekend, while Abigail was dressed up to play bridesmaid for Anna as the bride.

One of the things this incident has taught me, or at least reminded me, is how much of my heart I have invested in my children's lives. In such an insignificant thing as their appearance! I know that most of the reason I want my girls to have long hair is that I didn't have long hair as a child, although I wanted to at times. It wasn't until I was in senior high school that Mum let me grow it longer, when I was old enough to take care of it completely myself. I have tended to fluctuate between long and short hair since then. Perhaps I need to grow my own hair again (last time it was long was three years ago), so I can stop living vicariously through my daughters.

But it is more than that. I needed to remember that, no matter how much effort I put into my children's lives, they won't be able to live up to my hopes for them... not all my hopes, dreams and aspirations, anyway. It is good to have hopes and even goals to help my children achieve, but ultimately, it is their lives, not mine. I wouldn't want to become like this mother, who "posed as [her] daughter to become a cheerleader"! There is only one person whose life I may lead, and that is mine.

God wants me to live my life in a way that brings Him glory, and making an idol of my daughters' long hair (or anything else) is not the way to do that!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Can a 2yo OD on de-worming medicine?

Last night, I gave the children de-worming medicine just before putting them to bed. We use the type that comes in little chocolate-flavoured squares. Now, we don't normally have a problem getting our kids to take medicine. But with chocolate medicine, I had them lining up for their turn to take it.

It was only when Jeff and I took our doses just before bed that Jeff realised that he had given one of our kids an extra dose. When the particular child came to him and asked for his medicine, Jeff thought he had just been too slow when I was handing it out. I told Jeff I had given each of the four kids one dose, and asked who had come to Daddy for a second square.

It was Samuel, of course. Apparently the thought of chocolate was too much for him to resist, even if it was medicine.

Thanks, Combantrin!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Could "bad writing" be a sign of a very, very accomplished author?

While the fans of the TwiSaga, known as "Twilighters" or "Twi-Hards", may be overwhelmingly characterised by post comments such as OM*!!! Edward is so totally awesome! The anti-fans can be easily identified by the burgeoning number of WT*??? Edward is totally a stalker! comments on their sites. I would like to think that I have a slightly higher level of functional literacy skills than comments such as these require, so you won't read either of these statements again in this post. But I do want to posit that although Stephenie Meyer's use of adjectives in the TwiSaga books may legitimately be characterised as poor, Meyer is perhaps the most canny writer whose works I have ever read.

There is no shortage of people on the internet willing to claim that Meyer's writing is bad. Here's one, which says the writing is "arduous to read"; here's another, where most of the commenters seem to think the last book is an extreme Mary Sue story; and here's a third, from a Mormon source. So what are we to make of all this negative criticism?

Let me ask you, if you were dreaming of being an author,

1. Would you rather:
A) Be listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the top-selling author in the world? or
B) Have your unsold books remaindered after your death?

2. Would you rather:
A) Be earning $250 million from one book alone? or
B) Be writing semi-autobiographical novels based on your life in poverty?

So, would you rather be an "A-class" author, like prolific romance novel author Barbara Cartland and airport novel writer Dan Brown, or a "B-class" author, like Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte?

The truth is, critical responses decrying certain authors as "bad writers" are not necessarily a sign that the books themselves are not going to be popular, and well liked by their target audience. They just don't fit a literary ideal. Furthermore, books that are considered classics of literature and authorial gems nowadays were not necessarily well received initially.

Here's what Meyer has to say on the subject (at her website):
It's inevitable that the bigger your audience gets, the bigger the group who doesn't like what they're reading will be. Because no book is a good book for everyone. Every individual has their own personal taste and experience, and that's why there are such a great variety of books on the shelves. There are lots of very popular books that I don't enjoy at all. Conversely, there are books that I adore that no one else seems to care about. The surprise to me is that so many people do like my books. I wrote them for a very specific audience of one, and so there was no guarantee that any other person on the planet besides me would enjoy them. ... If I could go back in time, knowing everything I know right now, and write the whole series again, I would write exactly the same story. (The writing would be better, though—practice makes perfect.)

Stephenie Meyer has written books that probably fit closer into the "A-class" category above than the "B-class". In terms of sales, the four TwiSaga books took our four of the top ten book sales figures for 2008 in both the US and the UK, and she was the top selling author in the US last year as well. So despite originally writing Twilight for "an audience of one" (that is, for her own pleasure), and her own admission that the writing was less than sterling, Meyer's books obviously fit her reading audience's preferred writing style precisely, if not that of the literary critics.

Every time I read the word "gotten" in the books (it was there at least once in all of them), I cringed. But I have to admit, each time it was there, it was part of a conversation or internal monologue of a character whose age, education and maturity made the choice of word an application of the character's identity, rather than a reflection of the author's grammatical deficiencies. Here is the first such instance:

Charlie had really been fairly nice about the whole thing. He seemed genuinely pleased that I was coming to live with him for the first time with any degree of permanence. He'd already gotten me registered for high school and was going to help me get a car.

As I said, internal monologue. And this one example also provides an instance where Meyer has replicated such a monologue quite realistically. Bella is ruminating over the circumstances of her move. Her thoughts flow from considering her father Charlie's reaction to her imminent arrival under his roof, to recalling his actions that provided evidence for her interpretation of his emotions. I find this scenario completely believeable.

And to me, believability is the key to Meyer's success. Although she has written a fiction series that fits neatly into the fantasy genre, each of her books present completely believable characters. Bella's thoughts of Edward in Twilight surely held little appeal for those who criticised Bella as interminably whingy - but then, I imagine those same people would have very little patience were they to meet any real teenager in the middle of their first serious romantic crush. I remember my own teenage years quite clearly. I've also been a high school teacher. The little glimpses of teenage thoughts one gets from teaching are enough to tell me that this book captures perfectly the thoughts, experiences and actions of many a young girl falling in love for the first time. Yes, the early chapters Twilight at times read like a relationship anecdote from Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. But then, the disparity between the sexes and their miscommunication is a major cause for real-life teenage hormonally-driven melancholy. Perhaps some of what critics do not like in the novel is the same thing that attracts their target market: the perfect depiction of an average teenage girl's emotional experiences.

Interestingly, some critics find that the last book of the TwiSaga falls down in the believeability stakes. They complain that Breaking Dawn degenerates into "Mary Sue" writing, where Bella displays "overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws ... primarily functioning as [a] wish-fulfillment [for the] author" (according to Wikipedia's definition). Now, given that Meyer has repeatedly stated that she writes her books with her own enjoyment of the story in mind, not others, the suitability of the latter part of the definition was never in dispute. In response to the former part of the definition, I have to wonder whether any of the critics who commented on the post linked above have ever heard of the ancient classical rhetorical device called hyperbole. According to Wikipedia, hyperbole is "a figure of speech in which statements are exaggerated. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is rarely meant to be taken literally." Now, Meyer is writing fantasy fiction, so she can't be expected to produce writing that finishes with the sort of "that's too bad - that's life" ending of many (disturbingly popular) chick lit novels for adult women nowadays. I wonder if the women who read these novels do so in order to confirm to themselves that even in books the perfect ending isn't going to happen. Whatever their reason, this type of Byronic ennui is inappropriate for an author writing for young adults.

Furthermore, since, IMO, Meyer was writing a series that functions perfectly as a religious allegory and pre-evangelistic marketing tool for her religion (Mormonism), an idealistic ending for the newest members of the perfect Mormon family, as epitomised in the Cullen coven, is only to be expected.

One last question.

3. Would you like to be known as:
A) An author whose gently religious allegorical tales for children are enjoyed by millions (but not by your close friend), then made into movies that become a box office smash? or
B) A school teacher whose blatantly anti-Christian children's books are controversial (yet win awards), and are made into movies that bomb at the box office?

In case you didn't know, The A author above was CS Lewis, whose book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (from the Chronicles of Narnia) is an allegory of the Christian gospel. It was made into a movie a few years ago and reached "the Top 25 of all films released to that time (by revenue)." [See figures here.]
The B author was Philip Pullman, whose trilogy His Dark Materials was apparently written as an atheistic rebuttal of Lewis's Narnia series. The movie of the first book grossed only a touch more domestically in its entire run than the Twilight Movie did in it's opening weekend.

Meyer's books have had a very mixed reception from those who share her religious faith. She has more in common with Lewis, whose friend JRR Tolkein "was not enthusiastic about the Narnia stories," than Pullman. What is certain, is that like both Pullman and Lewis, she has written a story with a strong religious message. I will explore the connections between the TwiSaga books and the LDS religion in another post.

And once again, to thank you for getting to the end of a very long post, here's something to amuse you. But be warned, it contains swearing (written, not spoken), so I have taken down the video. Apologies for the lack of warning previously, Amy.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Sunday Moments

As usual on Sunday, I walked to church with the kids twice: once for morning church and once for evening church. Do you think I am being disrespectful to God if I go to evening church in my ugg boots?

On the way to morning church, I had a wonderful God Chat with Anna. It went something like this.
Anna: "Mummy, did you know that I love you?"
Me: "Yes, Anna, I did know that. I love you too."
Anna: "But Mummy... did you know that... I love God more than I love you?"
Me: "I'm glad to hear that, Anna. I love God lots and lots, too. But you know what? Sometimes I don't love God as much as I know I should. And I don't worship Him or obey Him as well as I want to, either."
Anna: "Don't worry, Mummy. We are all sinners, and none of us are as good as Jesus."
Me: "You're right Anna. So I am glad that when God looks at us, He doesn't see our sin, but instead he sees Jesus' goodness and righteousness."
Anna: "Mmm."
Me: "Remember the Colin song, Big Words That End in SHUN? There's that word in it: Imputation." (Sings a line from the song.) "Imputa-SHUN, Jesus' righteousness made mine."
Anna: "Oh, yeah, I remember. That is good, Mummy."
Me: "It sure is."

I am very grateful for the wonderful Christians who make music that helps me to teach my kids about Jesus Christ, and what he has done for us, such as Colin Buchanan and EMU Kids Music.

It was really exciting to hear one of our elders preach this Sunday, completing a five week sermon series expanding on the elders' vision for our church in the future, and how we shall (by God's grace) bring glory to the LORD. One of the best bits was officially hearing that the elders would like to employ a full time, theologically- and educationally-trained person as a Children's Worker, to develop a Bible-based Sunday School program for use with the children in our church; to train our Sunday School teachers so that they have an easier time helping disciple our kids; and possibly even to extend the children's ministry of our congregation through holiday or after-school programs so that more children from our local community can hear the word of God. This is very exciting stuff!

On the way to evening church, I had another wonderful God Chat, this time with Joshua, who had been on a Boys' Brigades camp overnight with Jeff. Here's a paraphrase.
Joshua: "Mum, why do some people like to listen to scary stories?"
Me: "Well..." (Pause for thinking; perhaps now was not a good time to get into a discussion about how people's sinful nature makes it enjoyable for our thoughts to dwell on evil; this might be a little beyond him - he is only six, after all.)
Me: "I guess it is partly because some people don't like to think that what the Bible says about what happens after we die is true - that people who have believed in Jesus Christ and trusted Him, putting their faith in Him only, will go to heaven, but those people who haven't put their faith in Jesus will go to hell, forever. Lots of people want to believe that something else might happen instead, like we become ghosts, or something. So they make up spooky stories."
>Joshua: "Ah."
Me: "And I guess one good thing about scary stories is that we know we really can believe what the Bible tells us about what happens when we die, and when we hear those stories we might get an opportunity to tell our friends the truth. It is pretty important that people get to hear the truth, so that they don't believe that ghosts and other made-up things are real."
Joshua: "Yeah, Mum, you're right. ... Mummy, are you sure Drop Bears aren't real?"
Me: "Yes, Joshua, I'm sure Drop Bears aren't real."

Romans 3:21-28 says,
21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

Romans 6:22-23 tells us,
22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

[Ugg boot picture from here. I am strongly opposed to the registration by a foreign company of the word UGG as a trademark in Australia, where the word, with alternate spellings such as Ugh and Ug, has been used for a long time as a generic name for boots made from sheepskin. Registering the name Ugg as a trademark in Australia (or preventing Australian suppliers from selling overseas using this name for their Australian product) is about as ridiculous as trademarking the word slipper, IMO. For more on this issue, see here.]

Friday, 3 July 2009

Wobbly tooth

For real, this time.Last time turned out to be a false alarm.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

TwiSaga: Temptation vs Self-Control

A Guide for Parents and other Discerning Readers: Temptation in the TwiSaga

One of the biggest themes in the TwiSaga is that of temptation. The cover image for the first novel, Twilight, puts the idea of temptation front and centre with the image of hands offering an apple, and the frontpiece quote of Genesis 2:17. Then, Chapter 14 is titled, "Mind over matter", suggesting how the temptation is to be dealt with in the novel. Stephenie Meyer (quoted in Time) spoke of her emphasis on the role of choice in resisting or giving in to temptation in this way: "I really think that's the underlying metaphor of my vampires," she says. "It doesn't matter where you're stuck in life or what you think you have to do; you can always choose something else. There's always a different path." Free will is a critical and highly valued concept in the first three TwiSaga books, yet in Breaking Dawn, Meyer's characters begin to prefer the idea of their decisions being forced, rather than freely made.

Traditional visual interpretations of the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit (from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden) have often rendered the forbidden fruit as an apple. Of course, the biblical text does not use the word apple at all. Rather, it says in Genesis 2, 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Then later, in Genesis 3, 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.The TwiSaga follows this pattern closely, with Bella offering temptation to Edward simply by her presence, as he is drawn in by the smell of her blood. Beth Felker Jones explains, For Edward, the lure of Bella’s flesh and the particular scent of her blood are uniquely tantalizing. So much so that, despite decades of practiced restraint, on meeting her he has to flee to keep from ripping her to pieces in high school science class.
This romance is founded in a visceral impulse to possess and to consume. The relationship unfolds as Edward works to master his desire to guzzle Bella’s blood. ... Bella, for the space of three long novels, literally begs him to bite.

Consider what happens when Edward first smells Bella (taken from the first chapter of Midnight Sun):
Bella Swan walked into the flow of the heated air that blew toward me from the vent.
Her scent hit me like a wrecking ball, like a battering ram There was no image violent enough to encapsulate the force of what happened to me in that moment.
In that instant, I was nothing close to the human I'd once been; no trace of the shreds of humanity I'd managed to cloak myself in remained.
I was a predator. She was my prey. ...
I was a vampire, and she had the sweetest blood I'd smelled in eighty years.
I hadn't imagined such a scent could exist. If I'd known it did, I would have gone searching for it long ago. I would have combed the planet for her. I could imagine the taste...
Thirst burned through my throat like fire. My mouth was baked and desiccated. The fresh flow of venom did nothing to dispel that sensation. My stomach twisted with the hunger that was an echo of the thirst. My muscles coiled to spring.
Not a full second had passed. She was still taking the same step that had put her downwind from me. ...
I tried to focus on the face I'd seen in her eyes, a face I recognised with revulsion. The face of the monster in me - the face I'd beaten back with decades of effort and uncompromising discipline. How easily it sprang back to the surface now!
The scent swirled around me again, scattering my thoughts and nearly propelling me out of my seat.
No. ...
I knew what had to happen now. The girl would have to come sit beside me, and I would have to kill her. ...
In a few moments, there would be nothing left in me that would reflect the years I'd spent with my creator, my mentor, my father in all the ways that counted. My eyes would glow red as a devil's; all likeness would be lost forever.
In my head, Carlisle's kind eyes did not judge me. I knew that he would forgive me for this horrible act that I would do. Because he loved me. Because he thought I was better than I was. And he would still love me, even as I now proved him wrong. ...
I leaned away from her in revulsion - revolted by the monster aching to take her.

This extended quote illustrates the depth of Edward's temptation as well as his revulsion at his fear that he will give in to it, becoming in reality the "monster" that he sees reflected in her eyes when she looks at him across the room. Edward is also confident that his father Carlisle will, motivated by love, forgive him, despite the horror of the offence.

Another snapshot shows how Edward flirts with temptation (from the central chapter of Twilight, the "meadow scene", rather ominously Chapter 13):
And he was in front of me again, standing two feet away, still as a stone.
"As if you could fight me off," he said gently.
I sat without moving, more frightened of him than I had ever been. I'd never seen him so completel freed of that carefully cultivated facade. He'd never been less human ... or more beautiful. Face ashen, eyes wide, I sat like a bird locked in the eyes of a snake.
His lovely eyes seemed to glow with rash excitement. Then, as the seconds passed, they dimmed. His expression slowly folded into a mask of ancient sadness.
"Don't be afraid," he murmured, his velvet voice unintentionally seductive. "I promise ..." He hesitated. "I swear not to hurt you." He seemed more concerned with convincing himself than me.
"Don't be afraid," he whispered again as he stepped closer, with exaggerated slowness. He sat down sinuously, with deliberately unhurried movements, till our faces were on the same level, just a foot apart.
"Please forgive me," he said formally. "I can control myself. You caught me off guard. But I'm on my best behaviour now."
He waited, but I still couldn't speak.
"I'm not thirsty today, honestly." He winked.
At that, I had to laugh, through the sound was shaky and breathless.

While Edward is gradually exposing himself to the temptation of Bella's scent in an effort to fulfil his curiosity for her nature (for more on that, see my overview of Midnight Sun). As an outsider looking in, it is clear to the reader that what Edward calls love would be described by others as an unhealthy obsessive fixation on the object of his desire: Bella.

From her perspective, we see in the above quote how naively Bella welcomes the opportunity to flirt with disaster. She heads to the mountain meadow with Edward alone, having told others that Edward would be elsewhere, in order to provide him with an alibi if he should, after all, give in to his vampire impulses and devour her. While she is clearly frightened, her romantic notions that "love is blind" - and if it is not already, one must provide one's own blindfold, it seems - provide Bella with the perfect excuse to continue to put herself into dangerous situations. In a marked extension of Eve offering the forbidden fruit to her husband, Bella is eagerly offering her own self as a temptation to Edward.

Not too long after the events in the meadow, Edward seems to be confident of his ability to withstand temptation - a confidence that Edward later proves is well placed when he is able to suck another vampire's venom from Bella's blood and still stop before he drinks too much blood and kills her (from Chapter 14, "Mind over Matter"):
"But how can it be so easy now?" I pressed. "This afternoon ..."
"It's not easy," he sighed. "But this afternoon, I was still ... undecided. I am sorry about that, it was unforgivable for me to behave so."
"Not unforgivable," I disagreed.
"Thank you." He smiled. "You see," he continued, looking down now, "I wasn't sure if I was strong enough ..." He picked up one of my hands and pressed it lightly to his face. "And while there was still the possibility that I might be overcome" - he breathed in the scent at my wrist - "I was ... susceptible. Until I made up my mind that I was strong enough, that there was no possibility at all that I would ... that I ever could .."
I'd never seen him struggle so hard for words. It was so human.
"So there's no possibility now?"
"Mind over matter," he repeated, smiling, his teeth bright even in the darkness.
"Wow, that was easy," I said.
He threw back his head and laughed, quietly as a whisper, but still exuberantly.
"Easy for you!" he amended, touching my nose with his fingertip.
And then his face was abruptly serious.
"I'm trying," he whispered, his voice pained. "If it gets to be ... too much, I'm fairly sure I'll be able to leave."

From this moment, the temptation turns to a more ubiquitous one: lust. Not ten pages later Edward and Bella discuss for the first time the possibility of their having sex at some unspecified time in the future. Interestingly, although Edward seems to have conquered his inner monster with regard to his vampire urges, he tells Bella:
"I don't think that ... that ... would be possible for us." ...
"Your human instincts ..." I began. He waited. "Well, do you find me attractive, in that way, at all?" He laughed and lightly rumpled my nearly dry hair.
"I may not be human, but I am a man," he assured me.

This entire conversation only implies that the act of sex is what is being discussed. It begins with Bella asking Edward if, when Rosalie and Emmett are married, their marriage will be the same as it is for humans. Nothing more is said to make the topic of Bella's concern any more obvious (to a naive reader) than that. While in the fourth book Meyer had no scruples providing quite graphic details of Bella's caesarian delivery of her half-vampire offspring, including Edward cutting her open with his teeth, she is extremely careful not to use any erotic language here in this conversation. In general, while sensual elements such as physical closeness are included in the novels, all specifically sexual elements are omitted. Many, if not all, of the sensual elements would go over the head of many younger readers. I must admit, despite many a mis-spent hour reading adult romance novels before I became a Christian, I overlooked many of the sensual elements myself until I went back and re-read certain passages. Consider Edward's actions from the conversation from Chapter 14 I quoted above:
He picked up one of my hands and pressed it lightly to his face. ... he breathed in the scent at my wrist ...
On one level, that was about a vampire delighting in the scent of blood. On another level, it was about something entirely different. But it would probably take someone with sexual experience to identify most of those sensual elements for what they are. For that reason, I would not say that the sensuality of this novel precludes it from being read by impressionable young girls that make up the target audience.

Mind you, some critics would argue that even before the issue of sex publicly rears its ugly head, it is there below the surface. Caitlan Flannagan wrote in The Atlantic, Edward has been avoiding and scorning Bella not because he loathes her but because he is so carnally attracted to her that he cannot trust himself to be around her for even a moment. The mere scent of her hair is powerful enough that he is in a constant struggle to avoid taking—and thereby destroying—her. This is a vampire novel, so it is a novel about sex, but no writer, from Bram Stoker on, has captured so precisely what sex and longing really mean to a young girl.
The erotic relationship between Bella and Edward is what makes this book—and the series—so riveting to its female readers. There is no question about the exact nature of the physical act that looms over them. Either they will do it or they won’t, and afterward everything will change for Bella, although not for Edward. Nor is the act one that might result in an equal giving and receiving of pleasure. If Edward fails—even once—in his great exercise in restraint, he will do what the boys in the old pregnancy-scare books did to their girlfriends: he will ruin her. More exactly, he will destroy her, ripping her away from the world of the living and bringing her into the realm of the undead. If a novel of today were to sound these chords so explicitly but in a nonsupernatural context, it would be seen (rightly) as a book about “abstinence".

Lev Grossman wrote in Time, What makes Meyer's books so distinctive is that they're about the erotics of abstinence. Their tension comes from prolonged, superhuman acts of self-restraint. … It's never quite clear whether Edward wants to sleep with Bella or rip her throat out or both, but he wants something, and he wants it bad, and you feel it all the more because he never gets it. That's the power of the Twilight books: they're squeaky, geeky clean on the surface, but right below it, they are absolutely, deliciously filthy.

There is one further (major) point of temptation in the novels, one which is only resolved (to my mind, somewhat unsatisfactorily) in the second half of the last novel. Bella decides that because she loves Edward, and he will live forever, she wants to live forever as well, even at the cost of her immortal soul. And so she asks him to change her into a vampire as well. Yet Bella's exposure to temptation is insignificant, because while she desperately desires to become a vampire, her desires are stifled by Edward's determined refusals. She has the potential to struggle with temptation, but since the thing that she is tempted with is, in effect, unattainable, she never has to struggle to do the right thing. Actually, the next two novels detail Bella's efforts to coerce Edward into giving her what she wants. So, unlike Edward, she is not exactly a model of self-control. (And in the fourth book she seems to obtain immense self-control without any discipline whatsoever, simply as an odd by-product of her change to being a vampire.)
"Why didn't you just let the venom spread? By now I would be just like you."
Edward's eyes seemed to turn flat black ...
"You don't know what you're asking." His voice was soft; he stared intently at the edge of the pillowcase.
"I think I do."
"Bella, you don't know. I've had almost ninety years to think about this and I'm still not sure."
"Do you wish that Carlisle hadn't saved you?""No, I don't wish that." He paused before continuing. "But my life was over. I wasn't giving anything up."
"You are my life. You're the only thing it would hurt me to lose." I was getting better at this. It was easy to admit how much I needed him.
He was very calm, though. Decided.
"I can't do it, Bella. I won't do that to you."
"Why not?"

Of course, when she is dying in Breaking Dawn, Edward finds that he can. In doing so he admits that, from his perspective, eternal damnation is better than immortal life, provided that the one you love is eternally damned alongside you. Like I said, I wasn't totally satisfied with the final resolution.

Identifying the Mormon theology

Edward embodies one of the Mormon ideals: he is able to conquer the 'natural man'. According to Michele Harvey (comment #49 on this review): The Cullens become better and better as the series progresses. They essentially triumph more and more over their own nature through their own efforts. ... Edward is darn near perfect, far beyond Mr. Darcy perfect, and Bella becomes nearly perfect when she becomes a vampire. She doesn’t go on a wild rampage of thirst for human blood like other newborn vampires; she quickly masters self-control. In the end, the Cullens are a race of superhumans, instead of being monsters. I may be reading too much into this, but it seems to me that this godlike man, and the family he creates, are an image of a Mormon family, eternally together in “heaven.”

From what I have read on Mormon and ex-Mormon websites since reading this series and beginning to research it, Harvey is correct in her assessment. Jana Reiss, a Mormon, has spoken publicly to Mormon audiences about the Mormon symbolism inherent in the books, and she quotes Meyer's statement that The Book of Mormon had a greater impact on her than any other book, then argues, Her fiction shows this influence. "It is not just window dressing," Riess said.
The theology is embedded within the stories, according to Riess, but it is easy to spot.
One of the strongest Book of Mormon themes in Meyer's novels is "overcoming the natural man." It relates to overcoming sin through redemption.
Adam and Eve became mortal, which was, according to the Book of Mormon, the only way they could have children. It was a giving up of a mere immortality to have eternal relationships with each other, children and God. It would be a struggle to transcend human nature.
"In 'Twilight' the issue of our carnal and sinful nature is embodied and symbolized by the figure of Edward.

Another Mormon review, from the Association of Mormon Letters, came to a similar conclusion: there are no Christ figures in Twilight, but some of the novel's basic underpinnings are some of our most important doctrines as well: the importance of choice in the face of knowledge, and the need to triumph over the natural man.

It may be immature to say this, but these comments have reminded of the Bob the Builder theme song just a little.
"Bob the Builder, can we fix it?
Bob the Builder, yes we can!"

A Christian perspective

As a Christian, I can see that there is something missing in the story of Edward's successful struggle with temptation: the conquering, completed work of Jesus Christ and the regenerating, enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

Philippians 2:12-13 says, 12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Self-control is not up to us. Overcoming temptation is not a battle we face alone, if we are Christians. We do have to make an effort, but it is God who works in us. Self-control is one of the fruit of the Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22-23. Complete victory in battling sin is not something that we may achieve ourselves, in our own power. if this was the case, we would never have needed a Saviour. Romans 3:22-28 makes this abundantly clear:

22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

Romans 6 has a lot to say on this as well, in particular that it is through Christ that we have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. There is no other way to be free from sin, as John 14:6 tells us. Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Beth Felker Jones says that, Meyer portrays the vampire desire for human blood as deep and strong. Yet, it is also portrayed as something that can be defeated. Before Christians claim this as an image of moral courage, we need to remember that human nature is very unlike this vampire nature because it cannot be overcome through effort or will. Human beings are trapped by sin. We need the grace of Jesus Christ if we are to hope for transformation.

Despite Reiss's claim that Bella is a somewhat clumsy Christ figure, I see no evidence that this is the case. Actually, I see her in a very different light (which I will get into in another post). Bella never offers to sacrifice herself for Edward, even when it becomes obvious that she has almost done so completely inadvertently (James tells Bella he has lured her to himself merely as a device to trap Edward). Unless Bella's not-quite-three-days of burning pain when she is changed into a vampire (with Edward's venom), and her enduring this pain without complaint, are to be seen as parallel to Jesus' silence at his trials and time in the tomb before his resurrection. (This may well be. I shall have to ponder further, because even off-hand I can see some parallels.) But even if this was to be the case, Bella in no way can be seen as saving Edward here, because it is Edward who "resurrects" Bella, using his venom to initiate the change. In that case, Edward would be taking the role of the Father (it was the Father who raised the Son to life), and so why would he ever have struggled with temptation? Perhaps what I see as confused and mixed-up Christian theological metaphors are simply Mormon distortions of Biblical truth. I don't have enough knowledge of LDS doctrine to work that one out for sure.

Justin Bruce (comment #18 from this review), argues, to be with Edward would mean that Bella is eternally condemned; she knows the price for having her desires, she doesn’t care, everything in her lusts to have what is forbidden and she will spend an eternity in Hell to get it, as Romans 1:32 says, they know the penalty for pursuing such things, yet they not only pursue, but give approval of all that pursue them as well (my paraphrase).
The other thing is no matter how “good” the Cullen’s are in not killing humans, their nature is wicked; no matter how hard they try, as Edward says, “I am a killer, I am designed to kill”. Two huge points for the depravity of man in both thirsting for sin at all costs, and trying to restrain from sin and be “good” when by nature they are wicked. Both sides, both Bella and Edward, reveal humanities rebellion against God.

Also entirely lacking is any reproof for sin, and while there is the struggle to overcome sin, Edward's repentance for his previous sins is rushed over. Unless one views Carlisle, Edward's father, as representing God the Father, there is also no seeking of God's help in overcoming weakness; there is also little or no seeking forgivenness either. This is in stark contrast to 1 John 1:7-9:
5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

And now, just because it is hilarious, and to reward you for reading this far: