Monthly Archives: February 2024

CFM Thoughts (1/29-2/4): Other Ships We Need to Build

Nephi and his brothers building a ship (from the Book of Mormon Stories Chapter 7)

This wasn’t my thought, but it was one that was shared in Sunday School last week that I thought was profound enough that I wanted to share it. We were discussing chapters 16-22 of 1 Nephi, which included part of the story of Lehi’s family building a ship to sail from the Arabian peninsula to the Americas. As an engineer with a manufacturing background, the thought of trying to build a ship capable of oceanic travel, with just one extended family and no infrastructure, out in the middle of nowhere is fascinating. I can get why when Nephi’s brothers heard what he was trying to do, they thought their brother had cracked.

But the comment that someone made is that the challenge most of us face in life isn’t building a physical ship to sail across the ocean, but building other types of ships, that frankly can seem just as daunting at times: building friendships, family relationships, and discipleship.

Given how flawed most of us are, and how imperfect our family or work relationships may seem at times, figuring out how to build them into something that can last is something that can seem like an impossible task. I think Nephi’s example of faith, prayer, and trusting that if the Lord asks us to do something that he can prepare the way are all relevant in our daily efforts to build these other types of ships.

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CFM Thoughts (1/15-1/21): The Iron Rod as a Via Ferrata

Lehi’s Dream by Steven Lloyd Neal

For my first Come Follow Me Thought, I wanted to share an idea I had that came out of a Sunday School discussion a few weeks ago, while we were discussing Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life from 1 Nephi 8. This was a fascinating vision the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi had, shortly after his family fled Jerusalem shortly before the Babylonian captivity. There are so many interesting lessons you can take from this vision, but I wanted to focus on one new idea I had that relates to one specific element of the vision — the “iron rod” that led along a strait and narrow path leading to the Tree of Life, which is a representation of the love of God.

During our lesson, one of the other members of the ward pointed out that the word used to describe the path isn’t straight with a -ght ending, but strait, which means something very different. Using Webster’s 1828 dictionary, strait means narrow, tight, difficult, confined, strict. As a noun, a strait is a narrow pass or passage, either on a mountain or ocean, between continents or other portions of land. I had heard this thought before, but as I was thinking of the strait and narrow path as being a winding, tight, and difficult path, I remembered a type of hiking trail I had learned about a few years ago called a Via Ferrata.

Via Ferratas

To paraphrase the Wikipedia article on the topic, Via Ferrata (which is Italian for something like Iron Path or Iron Way) is a type of protected hiking trail/climbing route that has metal cables, rungs, or rails anchored into the rock along the path. The anchored metal fixtures allow someone on the path to clip into them using a pair of leashes attached to their harness, which limit any falls that could happen. I found out about them while trying to plan a trip to Banff National Park in Canada. Here’s a few pictures to give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

Mt Norquay Via Ferrata at Banff National Park
Also from the Mt Norquay Via Ferrata
Via Ferrata in Switzerland (from the Wikipedia page on Via Ferratas)

The Iron Rod and Strait and Narrow Path as a Via Ferrata

Anyhow, I think a Via Ferrata is actually an amazingly good metaphor for the Iron Rod from Lehi’s Vision, which Nephi later explained was a symbol of the word of God:

  • Via ferratas allow you to safely travel what could otherwise be a very perilous path. Allowing even relatively less-skilled climbers to access places that would otherwise be unreachable.
  • Via ferratas provide their safety by being firmly anchored into the rock of the mountain.
  • While I wouldn’t recommend trying it, a Via ferrata could probably allow you to safely reach your destination even if you were caught in a sudden storm, fog, or were caught out after dark.
  • Using a Via Ferrata properly, you are always connected to the fixtures through at least one of your two leashes. To transition across say a cable anchor point, you unclip only one leash, and then reclip it on the other side of the anchor, and only then do you unclip the first. By always keeping at least one leash clipped to the fixture, you’re always protected from accidental falls.
  • While a Via Ferrata protects you from falling, you still have to keep going on your path in order to reach your destination.

I still have never had the chance yet to use a Via Ferrata in real life, but I hope to some day try the one of the ones in Banff. I’m a bit of a coward when it comes to heights, but there’s something reassuring about knowing that you’re being protected by a system that if you follow its rules and keep going, you know you’ll safely reach your destination. It’s hard to think of a more apt metaphor for the iron rod from Lehi’s vision.

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Come Follow Me Thoughts

My church has a program for church-supported, home-centered gospel study called Come Follow Me. We use it Sunday School at church, in Seminary on weekday mornings for the youth, and also in our home and personal gospel study. If you’re interested, you can find a link to the curriculum here. This year, we’re studying the Book of Mormon, but each year we alternate to a different one of our standard works of scriptures (last year was the New Testament, the year before that the Old Testament, and the year before that what we call the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price). As part of my study this year, I thought I would start a series of blog posts on thoughts I had from either my own studies, or from discussions we had as a family, at Sunday School, or elsewhere. Knowing how inconsistently I am at blogging, I don’t know how frequently I’ll do this, but I figured I’d give it a try.

Just as a reminder for those who’ve recently stumbled on this blog, this blog is focused on things related to my personal/family goals, recipes, religion, philosophy, and if I’m stupid enough I might get into politics and policy thoughts. I have two other blogs that are not dead yet — Selenian Boondocks, which is focused on space technology, policy, and business musings, and which has had a few cobloggers over the past 18yrs, and my Starbright Engineering blog, which is focused on professional writing related to topics such as satellite servicing, etc. As you can probably tell if you check them out, I don’t get a chance to write very frequently. I’m hoping that these CFM Thoughts blog posts can be short enough that I can do them more frequently.

Anyhow, wish me luck. Hopefully someone finds these interesting.

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High Altitude Chocolate Chip Cookies

After experimenting with several recipes for making good Chocolate Chip cookies at Denver altitude, I finally found one that gave the right texture and taste. A couple friends asked me to share the recipe, so I decided to write this up. For reference, you can find the original recipe, with more details, and suggestions on how to tweak other cookie recipes for high altitude here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda1
  • 3 cups All-purpose flour
  • 12 oz package of Chocolate Chips2

Directions:

  1. To have the butter properly softened and the eggs at room temperature, you’ll want to put them out on the counter at least an hour before starting to make the cookies3. This step is pretty important.
  2. Mix the butter and both types of sugar in a stand mixer, Bosch mixer, or mixing bowl, and keep mixing them until the butter and sugars are thoroughly mixed and creamy. Scrape the walls of the mixing bowl with a spatula.
  3. Add the eggs and mix until thoroughly combined. Scrape the walls of the mixing bowl again.
  4. Add the vanilla, baking soda, and 1 cup of the flour, and mix until well combined. Scrape the walls of the mixing bowl again.
  5. Add another ~1 and 1/2 cups of flour, and mix thoroughly. The dough will be pretty tough by this point, so you may want to switch to a dough hook, especially if you’re doing a double or triple batch.
  6. Test the batter at this point, scoop out a little dough and pinch it. It should squeeze easily but not stick to your fingers. If it’s still sticking, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, mix thoroughly, then try again. If necessary, keep adding flour 1-2 Tbsp at a time until it is the right consistency.
  7. Mix in the chocolate chips4.
  8. Chill the cookie dough in the fridge for at least 15-30min while preheating the oven to 375F. Between batches return the cookie dough to the fridge5.
  9. I scoop the cookies out using a 1 Tbsp measuring spoon, but heaping it up about double size (~2 Tbsp per cookie), and then rolling them into a ball. You can fit about 12 of these, evenly spaced, on a normal-sized cooking sheet. I tend to use an aluminum cooking sheet with a layer of parchment paper lining it.
  10. Cook for 9-12 minutes until the knobby parts of the cookie are starting to brown a little. The rest of the cookie might look undercooked, but it will keep cooking a bit after you remove it from the oven.
  11. Once it’s cooled down sufficiently, I then transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack.

There are pictures an a lot more details and suggestions in the original recipe, but I wanted to provide simplified/concisified version here on the blog. Let me know if you have any comment/suggestions in the comment section.


  1. If you accidentally put in Baking Powder, it’s possible to salvage the recipe by adding 2-3x the amount of baking powder (reference). It won’t be as good, but is still decent. Don’t ask how I know. ↩︎
  2. I prefer semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, as it spreads the chocolate out more throughout the cookie. And 12oz works out to approximately 2 cups if you have a bigger package. ↩︎
  3. If you forget to put the butter and eggs out in advance, you can soften the butter using a microwave (say ~20s at 50% power) or putting it in a Ziploc baggy and immersing it a bowl with warm water. The eggs can also be warmed by putting them in a bowl with warm water. More suggestions are provided in the linked original recipe. ↩︎
  4. If you want to add other stuff like chopped nuts or coconut, this would be where you’d add them. My dad goes with chopped walnuts and dried coconut. ↩︎
  5. You don’t have to do this step, but I’ve noticed that by the time you’re done mixing, the butter in the cookies is getting pretty close to melting, and you end up getting harder, flatter cookies. Chilling the dough seems to make it stiffer, and the cookies end up being more chewy like I like them. ↩︎

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