Friday, February 12, 2016 0 comments

The friends of Jared and his brother

And the friends of Jared and his brother were in number about twenty and two souls; and they also begat sons and daughters before they came to the promised land; and therefore they began to be many. (Ether 6:16)

This verse comes at the point where Jared and his brother and their friends and families have made it across the ocean to the promised land.

I read that bit about them having 22 friends, and it struck me just how extraordinary that was that this group of friends was so large and stuck so closely together through thick and thin.  It makes me think of my group of friends I had in high school; there were 10 of us who got together at least twice a month, even though six of us lived 20-40 miles away.

We were good friends, but I don’t know if we would have been close enough to go all together on a long journey across land and sea and so forth.  This group of friends Jared and his brother shared was very special because they were so close and loyal to each other.

It is also fascinating that it was such a large group. Twenty-two friends!  Can you imagine having twenty-two close friends like that?  It makes me wonder how they maintained their closeness over such difficulties they went through while they started families and had their attention pulled in different directions.  Did they make decisions as a group, or were they so devoted to Jared and his brother that they would follow the wherever they went?  Maybe they had a sociality that we have not attained yet.  How much might our individualistic, distracted, technological society get in the way of us having friends like this?

Maybe this is something that takes work. Maybe it is something that can still be attained. Maybe we can set a brother-of-Jared friendship challenge for ourselves and strive to cultivate at least twenty-two close friends.  Who knows what wonderful blessings it will bring into our lives?
Wednesday, February 10, 2016 0 comments

The brother of Jared makes his own good weather

I was reading about the long stormy time that the brother of Jared and his people spent crossing the sea and all the difficult conditions they endured for so long. I found myself wondering if I could endure 344 days of stormy sea crossing.

5 And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.
6 And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.
7 And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.
8 And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.
9 And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.
10 And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.
11 And thus they were driven forth, three hundred and forty and four days upon the water. (Ether 6:5-11)

When I read about the brother of Jared praising and thanking the Lord continually and how they sang praises to the Lord, I wondered how they kept that up for so long. Wouldn’t they get tired of it? And with all that stormy weather, it was a really rough ride, so how could they keep up the gratitude and praise for so long?

Eventually I realized that the thanks and the praise and singing was actually their best weapon for keeping their spirits up during all the storm.

When you think about it, there was much they could have worried about.

--Why is this storm lasting so long?
--What if our barge never come to the top of the water again?
--What if those whales and sharks run into the barges and break them open?
--What if we never find land?
--What if the lights suddenly go out?
--What if the food and water runs out?
--What if we get swamped by a wave when the hatch is open?

There are lots of things they could worry about, and yet they were at the mercy of the wind and waves and the direction the wind would take them. They didn’t have control over their direction at all. All they could do was simply cope by means of the preparations they had previously made. (How do you and I deal with a loss of control?)

The brother of Jared knew he could do nothing about their surroundings except pray. So rather than give in to the natural doubts and fears and worries that would arise, he chose to take responsibility for his own attitude. He couldn’t control the weather, but he could control his attitude and response to it. By his continual prayers and thanks and praises to God and singing he made his own weather for himself and his people.

We also get a hint through Moroni’s abridgement of how the brother of Jared chose to look at the dangers they faced.  With each difficulty recorded there is also attached some sort of mitigating factor that helped.

Sure, there were mountain waves that broke upon them (and they had to see those waves to know they were mountain-sized), but no water hurt them.

Sure, they were buried in the sea (and they had to open the hatch and have water come in to realize that), but their vessels were tight like a dish and like the ark of Noah, so they didn’t leak.

Sure, the wind blew the entire time and raised great and terrible tempests, but it always blew in the same direction, which had to be toward the promised land, otherwise the Lord would not have had them go to sea where they did.

Sure, there were sea monsters and whales gallivanting all over and battering into their barges on occasion, but no damage was done.

Sure, the barges were dark, but the Lord had prepared shining stones for them to have light all the time.  (And we can also realize that their stones didn’t need fuel and didn’t need to be tended and fed like a fire.  They weren’t dangerous to touch, and they didn’t make smoke in their  little enclosed barges.)

Hmm. I’m thinking I should take that as a example for writing in my journal. If I record a difficulty I’m having, I should also look for a blessing the Lord is giving me to help me with it.

Today let’s make our own weather in response to the difficulties we have to go through but can’t control. Let’s combat worries and fears with prayer, praise, thanks, and song and see if that makes a difference.

Monday, February 8, 2016 0 comments

Painting and life lessons

Recently I got an idea to use a paint program called Procreate on my ipad to try to duplicate what Bob Ross painted on some of his videos, which are posted to Youtube. I thought if I could watch his videos and pause them from time to time I might have a chance of copying his technique.  

Truthfully, I went into it with pretty low expectations. I'd played with the program before, but I didn't know enough to do anything good.

Imagine my utter astonishment when I end up with something like this..

Or this...

Or this..

There are some neat things about painting on this ipad program that remind me of life lessons and the gospel.

First of all, I love that there is an Undo button.  Being able to undo mistakes on a painting means that I can learn and do a little experimenting when I’m not sure what will work best.  It reminds me how wonderful repentance is.  Just think what a mess our lives would be without repentance!

Second, it is so much easier to learn to paint when watching an example and trying to duplicate what the expert does. (Likely some particularly skilled painters will argue with my labeling Bob Ross and expert, but to my ignorance, he is.)  I feel like I picked up a whole bunch of skills that I never would have learned if I hadn’t been able to see them used and hear them explained.  The power of his example reinforces to me how neat it is that we have Christ’s example in the scriptures and the example of so many prophets explaining principles for us to live our lives better. 

When I’m watching an instructional video for a painting, I like to stop the video every few minutes to give me time to try to duplicate what was done in the example.  This reminds me a lot of that principle of line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept.  If I was trying to do it all perfectly, all at once, I would get overwhelmed. 

Paintings start out so rough and plain, but they gradually get more and more detailed.  They start with large sweeping strokes, and get smaller and gentler as time goes on.  That teaches me about gradual refinement. 

Another thing I’ve noticed is that when I have done an awesome job on a mountain in the background, frequently the next stage of the project requires me to be brave and paint something over part of what I’ve just worked so hard to do.  This has taught me something about sacrifice.  There are points in life when we have to sacrifice something we’ve worked hard on in order to progress. Sometimes it seems like the thing we’re sacrificing for is not going to be that great.  (The beginnings of my trees that I paint over my backgrounds don’t look nice to begin with.) But total commitment will eventually make something beautiful and wonderful of our lives.

I’ve done a few paintings that started with nearly black backgrounds and then had colors put on them.  The light colors show up so well, and the whites really zing.  This reminds me of how brightly good people can stand out in a dark world. 

Well, that’s enough for now. I imagine I’ll probably think of more points of similarity as I get better. 
Friday, February 5, 2016 0 comments

The Brother of Jared’s Observation of how Men Perceive the Power of God

When the brother of Jared is praying to ask the Lord to touch the stones to make them glow so they can have light in their barges, he says some things about the power of God that are very perceptive.

4 And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.
5 Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men. (Ether 3:4-5)

The brother of Jared notes that God is able to use great power, which can look small to men. He probably was thinking about his request to make the stones glow and realized that he might think it was a small and simple thing because he didn’t know what was required to do that, and maybe the thing he was asking for was more complex and required more power than he thought it would.

It shows us that we really don’t have much of an idea of how much power or effort it takes for God to do anything. We just know He has all power, and we just hope He will do for us the thing we ask. But maybe spending a little time thinking about what goes into granting us our petitions will help us appreciate the power of God more.

Another thing that comes to me is how easy it is to dismiss God when His power looks small to us. Yet we should know appearances are deceiving, and we are simply ignorant of His ways and means.  It’s like people who have never programmed a computer saying, “Yeah, programming that operating system should be no big deal.”

On a slightly different note, I like the type that is suggested in the brother of Jared’s request, “touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness.” It’s very much what we should be asking for ourselves. Touch me, Lord, with thy finger and prepare me so I can shine forth in the darkness of this world.  Or, if we are going into a place in our lives where we can’t see the way, we can pray for the Lord to touch someone and prepare them so they can shine forth in our darkness so we can have light.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016 0 comments

I Will Make All My Mountains a Way

Here in 1 Nephi 21, Nephi quotes Isaiah 49, but I want to look at some verses in the chapter that speak in imagery about latter-day temple work.

9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners: Go forth; to them that sit in darkness: Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.
10 They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.
11 And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. (1 Nephi 21:9-11)

It is probably easy to see that temple work is the means by which we bring freedom to the spirits in spirit prison, but there is other imagery that tells us of the benefits of temple worship here.

They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. – The image is of a flock of sheep that is feeding “in the ways.” We may have seen images of sheep crossing roads, but this has a twist to it. The sheep are sticking to the road. This is unusual because in that day the roads were not a good place to pasture. All the foot traffic would beat down the grass and plants. But in this image, the sheep are feeding in the ways, so the road has the best grass. What does that teach us about the gospel as the way?  The gospel has the best spiritual nourishment.

their pastures shall be in all high places – Do the tops of mountains have good pasture in them? (Any sheep farmers out there who read this could probably tell me.)  You’d think the best grass would be in the meadows and valleys, so it’s probably symbolic.  The high places in Isaiah’s day used to be shrines of worship. When Israel was righteous these high places were essentially temples to Jehovah.  So when Isaiah tells us there shall be pastures in all the high places, he’s saying in the latter day the house of Israel would find nourishment at the temple.  That he mentions high places (plural) is a hint of multiple temples, and we can see that is fulfilled today. And it is true that we are nourished and made stronger through the Lord’s grace as we participate in temple worship.

Verse 10 continues the imagery of the flock of sheep and tells us that these sheep will be very well taken care of as they travel from place to place.  They won’t be hungry or thirsty or get heat stroke, but the way they go by (the one that has grass growing in it) will also have springs of water running along it for them to drink from. Really, this tells us the shepherd is totally awesome, since he’s found this excellent way for the sheep to go. If you stick with this shepherd, you are blessed; you won’t have anything to worry about. And we know who this Good Shepherd is, don’t we?

And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.  – We know what “my mountains” are. These are the Lord’s temples. So the temples become the way. They become a clear part of the gospel path, as the way the sheep (the house of Israel) is exalted. The temple leads to a higher way of living, and it exalts the sheep.

Gotta love Isaiah. He knew what he was talking about.
Monday, February 1, 2016 0 comments

God shows men that they were lost so they need repentance

And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents. (2 Nephi 2:21)

Here Lehi is explaining the probationary period of life to his son Jacob. I was reading that last bit and it kind of rubbed me wrong: “for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.” 

It sounds like what he says is all parents’ transgressions cause their children to be lost spiritually. But I don’t think that’s what he means.

Actually, what I think Lehi was trying to say is that all men are lost, and the account of our first parents’ Fall (Adam and Eve) is the tool God uses to show us this. 

The account of the Fall shows a commandment being given, the commandment being broken through the enticing of Satan, the shame of guilt, the confrontation over the commandment, and the consequences of spiritual death.  (Of course, in the temple we also get the providence of a Savior, additional commandments to keep, and the promise of being reclaimed from the Fall.)

Without an account of God directly confronting people over their sin and giving consequences, how would we know sin is offensive to God and that He punishes? The thing that gives the story such power is that it makes a direct confrontation by God over sin a real possibility. It is a type and shadow of judgment and also a type of the experience we have when we yield to Satan’s temptations. We know what yielding feels like. We see the guilt is real, whether one yields by one’s self or yields because of other people’s enticing.

When we read Adam and Eve are confronted over eating the fruit, we know God would also confront us over our sins and there is no hiding them. When we read of Adam and Eve cast out of the Garden of Eden as consequence of their sin, we know we face real consequences for our sins that have a real impact on us and make things hard.

And the rest of the Bible gives us plenty of types of God’s efforts to reclaim people from their sin, types to teach us to believe in Christ as the Savior of the world who would intercede for us.

So, because of the story of the Fall we know to expect to be confronted by God over our sins, whether in this life or in the afterlife. And in the time we have before then, we can repent through faith in Christ to save us.
Saturday, January 30, 2016 2 comments

Revelation 10: The Angel Standing on Sea and Land

1 And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:
2 And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,
3 And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.
4 And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.
5 And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven,
6 And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:
7 But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets. (Revelation 10:1-7)

One of the odd bits of imagery in this chapter is the glorious angel who sets his right food on the sea and his left foot on the land. This angel holds the little book that John ends up taking and eating.

The detail about the angel standing one food on sea and one on land is repeated three times, in verses 2, 5, and 8, which is a little clue that it holds meaning that must be understood.

I had previously thought that the angel standing on both the sea and the land represented the sovereignty of God over the whole earth (and many other commentators think similarly), but this time that interpretation didn’t quite satisfy me.  Why should God’s sovereignty be represented by an angel standing on sea and land holding a book and not an angel sitting on a throne?  There has to be something different going on here.

So what does it mean when an angel has one foot in the sea and the other on land and he holds a book? It seems like he stands right on a transition point between sea and land, a point of change.  (In real life, the transition point between sea and land is a bit indefinite because of tides and wave action and so forth, but in John’s vision, the transition point is so stationary that the angel can straddle it like a line.)

So I think we are to ponder what makes the difference between one condition represented by the sea and another condition represented by the dry land.  How are they different? Sea is fluid and fluctuating and unstable.  Land is solid and permanent and stable.  So perhaps the sea symbolizes chaos and disorder, while land represents order and firmness and security. 

Perhaps the angel standing between sea and land represents a point of change between chaos and order, between instability and steadfastness.  The book he holds in his hand is held right over the dividing line, representing the thing that makes the bridge between the two. The book is the thing that will allow people to escape the chaos and come to order and certainty and security in their lives, which, based on the events of the previous chapter, have devolved into awful anarchy, insecurity, and warlord-ism.

What is this book?  It is eaten by John, and it is essentially his witness and testimony to the world about the gospel.  So the witness and testimony is the thing that can help move individuals and peoples from chaos and anarchy into order and a firm foundation to stand on. That will take faith for people to accept in a time of chaos, but this is shown us so that we can know it is true.

I also think this is an important principle for our lives today. If we feel our lives falling into chaos, we can take a look at how well we are living according to our testimony of the truth. If we can live by our testimony, we will find firm ground and a firm foundation in Christ. Then we’ll be better able to sort out the chaos and impose order in our lives. We'll be able to live with certainty even in the middle of upheaval.

Let’s move on to what else happens in this block of verses.  In v3-4, the angel who straddles the transition point between sea and land cries with a loud voice, and seven thunders utter their voices, and the things said are forbidden that John should write them.

This leads to the question, what did they say?  And further, why go to the trouble of telling us this happened if we are not to be told with the angel and thunders said?

There’s a very simple answer, one that will sound like a cop-out at first, but it is true and there is something we can learn from it that will actually give us hope.  Answer: Those things are MYSTERIES.  We are not told what they are in this vision in order to emphasize their mysterious nature. It even tells us in v7 “the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”

Further, we are to know that the things not told us here are mysteries of God. We can know they are of God because they are spoken by an angel and seven thunders. (Thunders are also from heaven, and might be symbolic of heavenly voices of authority, possibly general authorities). 

However, even though the things said are mysteries to us now, we can find hope in the implication that ultimately these mysteries will be made manifest in their time, as is represented by the fact that the angel cries with a loud voice and the seven thunders… well,, they thunder, and thunder is pretty noisy and public. Of course, the thing about mysteries of God is that no matter how public they happen to become, only the spiritually prepared understand them and obey their instructions. 

I think it also has to be mentioned that this stuff with the angel and the thunders is in direct contrast to the chaos happening at the same time among the wicked, as shown in Revelation 9 in the latter half.  This all happens after the sixth angel sounds his trumpet within the seventh seal. I think this is showing us that even though the righteous are greatly afflicted by the wickedness in the world, they will have compensatory blessings of great revelations from heaven to help them through their difficulties, revelations so great they were not to be written by John at that time. This gives us much to look forward to and prepare for.

Moving on.

In verse 5-7, the angel swears there will be time no longer and when the seventh angel sounds the mystery of God as declared by the prophets will be finished.  Now, for the longest time I thought that oath about there being time no longer meant that all measurement of time was to be done away with and eternity was to begin at that point.  However, this time I realized it was more likely an announcement about the probationary period before the second coming--that the end was getting very close and there was hardly any time left for the wicked to repent.  To use a vastly inadequate analogy, it reminds me of the five minute warning my mom gave before the TV had to go off.  But unlike that five minute warning, this is a message of extreme urgency with each individual's prospects in eternity at stake. Everyone has to repent because the day of grace is coming very quickly to an end.

It so happens that the terms by which the angel swears also encapsulate reasons and justification for the oath.  The angel swears by God who lives for ever and ever, and by God who created everything in earth, sea, and heaven.  To swear by God as one who lives forever should remind us He has an eternal perspective, and He can see when evil is ripe for destruction. So when He says time is almost up, He means it. To swear by God as the creator of all should remind us He also has the ability to destroy what He created. So when time is up, the wicked will be destroyed, and He has full power to do that.

This is all good news for the righteous because it means vindication and reward quickly approaches too.

There are times when I kind of wish I could redo the chapter breaks in Revelation to better group the things that happen together. I would put the contents of Revelation 10 right on the back of Revelation 9 to make it clearer that 10 is not an unrelated interlude, but is happening concurrently with the madness at the end of 9.  I think we are meant to see a contrast between what happens among the wicked versus what happens among the righteous all the way up to the second coming.  It truly will be “the best of times and the worst of times,” to borrow words from Dickens.

Thursday, January 28, 2016 0 comments

What does a culture say about sin?

I ran across this interesting bit from Hugh Nibley that I thought was worth sharing.
Incidentally, it is an interesting thing that repentance is missing from all the ancient religions except the Old Testament. The word repentance doesn’t exist for the Egyptians and the others. I have been reading a lot of Egyptian wisdom literature, and the idea that you should repent [doesn’t exist there]. What you want is luck. They never connected what you have done in the past with your moral behavior. You’ve done what you’ve done, and that’s that. It’s an interesting thing that there is no word in Egyptian for sin.  And in America today sin is having the wrong ideology. It’s being on the wrong side. The Ten Commandments are only fifty percent binding. They bind us but they don’t control our behavior toward bad people. We shall not kill, we shall not lie, we shall not steal from good people. But you can do it with bad people all you want [according to this philosophy]. And they do it everywhere else. We call that revenge because they have been bad. (“Teachings of the Book of Mormon,” semester 2, lecture 52, Alma 19-22,
Really, as a social commentator, Hugh Nibley was excellent.  To distill so many impressions of practical American morality (or lack thereof) at into such a succinct summation is incredibly perceptive.  

Once you know where your culture’s blind-spots are, you can repent and rise above it.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016 0 comments

Unconquerable spirit, or not?

31 And it came to pass that before the Lamanites had retreated far they were surrounded by the Nephites, by the men of Moroni on one hand, and the men of Lehi on the other, all of whom were fresh and full of strength; but the Lamanites were wearied because of their long march.
32 And Moroni commanded his men that they should fall upon them until they had given up their weapons of war.
33 And it came to pass that Jacob, being their leader, being also a Zoramite, and having an unconquerable spirit, he led the Lamanites forth to battle with exceeding fury against Moroni.
34 Moroni being in their course of march, therefore Jacob was determined to slay them and cut his way through to the city of Mulek. But behold, Moroni and his men were more powerful; therefore they did not give way before the Lamanites.
35 And it came to pass that they fought on both hands with exceeding fury; and there were many slain on both sides; yea, and Moroni was wounded and Jacob was killed.
36 And Lehi pressed upon their rear with such fury with his strong men, that the Lamanites in the rear delivered up their weapons of war; and the remainder of them, being much confused, knew not whither to go or to strike.
37 Now Moroni seeing their confusion, he said unto them: If ye will bring forth your weapons of war and deliver them up, behold we will forbear shedding your blood. (Alma 52:31-37)

In these verses, something that sticks out to me is the description of Jacob the Zoramite leader, who is characterized as having an “unconquerable spirit” (v33). It sounds pretty admirable, and its surprising praise to an enemy, but I wonder if it was really meant that way. “Unconquerable spirit” certainly sounds a lot better than “everlastingly stubborn and mulish.”

Also, consider that if “unconquerable spirit” had been applied to one of the good Nephite leaders, we would not hesitate to quote the verse and moralize on it, much as we do about Captain Moroni and “if all men ever were and ever would be like unto Moroni…”  But “unconquerable spirit” is applied to a dangerous enemy, so we are reluctant to say much about it, even if we might admire it a little as we read across it.

So, I want to take some time to look at this “unconquerable spirit” and its effects and deconstruct it a bit.

First question – Was Jacob the Zoramite really unconquerable? 

The answer is no. He got himself killed in this battle. Maybe his spirit was unconquerable, but his body certainly wasn’t. His body was vulnerable. And it was even more vulnerable because of his and his army’s long march chasing after Teancum.

Jacob the Zoramite seems to have had the idea that disengaging from battle was the same as defeat, and in that I think he was short-sighted. And I think that made him a not-so-good leader as well because not only would he put himself at risk for the sake of defying opponents and all serious danger, but he forced his army to do the same. Captain Moroni began the battle by telling his men to “fall upon them until they had given up their weapons of war” (v32), but if Jacob had an unconquerable spirit, he would never give up his weapons while he still lived, nor would he allow his men to give up their weapons as well. They would have to fight to their demise, or at least until Jacob’s demise. Which is essentially what happened. Thus, many were slain on both sides, probably many more than would have otherwise died if Jacob had been more practically-minded. I think we can say that those extra deaths were Jacob’s responsibility.

Another question – How do you face and stand up to an unconquerable spirit? What does it take?

We get two answers. 1) You have to be “fresh and full of strength” (v31) and 2) be more powerful and not give way before the enemy (v34). You have to have just as unconquerable a spirit (without being fool-hardy) and not give way and be stronger and fresher.

Now we come to the point where I try to make an application to our lives.

What enemies might we have who have unconquerable spirits? The biggest one I can think of is Satan. His hatred and fury and malice are eternal. But he doesn’t have a body, and we do. Because we have bodies we are one up stronger, but only as long as we resist him. We can’t give way at all.

The second thing we learn is the importance of retaining reserves of strength. Moroni’s army had a major advantage because they kept fresh and strong.

So, we need to look for good ways to retain strength and renew it. One way is to focus on our priorities. Distractions sap our strength for the real battles. Another way is to find wholesome ways to renew strength. Going to the temple, taking the sacrament, doing service, praying for strength, getting good sleep and good nutrition, getting good exercise, and wholesome recreational activities (rather than deadening activities) can all do that. Sometimes our spiritual strength must be renewed. Other times our physical and mental strength needs renewing. Sometimes renewal doesn’t require work stoppage, but a change of work type or focus, a little variety.

The major thing that was wrong with Jacob’s unconquerable spirit was that he was on the wrong side. Ultimately, we must align ourselves with Christ, for someday every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. And Christ can heal our defeats and give us power to stand against Satan and resist him to the end.

Today let’s be quick to submit to God and stand more powerfully against Satan. Let’s refuse to give way and be strong against temptation.
Sunday, January 24, 2016 0 comments

Nothing to hinder prosperity but transgression

Once the Nephites had dealt with the threat from the Gadianton robbers, there is an indication that they had major societal reforms.

4 And they began again to prosper and to wax great; and the twenty and sixth and seventh years passed away, and there was great order in the land; and they had formed their laws according to equity and justice.
5 And now there was nothing in all the land to hinder the people from prospering continually, except they should fall into transgression. (3 Nephi 6:4-5)

I really wish I knew in what ways they had great order in the land. Did they organize the use of natural resources so there wasn’t any fights over that? Did they make sure everyone knew the laws so everyone had realistic expectations of their rights and privileges so no one infringed on others?  Did they have societal goals and go about to meet them in an orderly manner?  Did people act orderly without pushing through lines or getting in fights? Did families form properly and in the right way?

It’s hard to know exactly what “great order” means, but at the same time it is broad enough to encompass a bunch of different types of orderliness at every level of society. I guess it can encourage us to try to imagine what great order looks like on a family level, on a community level, on a church level, on an employment level, on an industry level, on a regional, state, and national level.  It also encourages us to imagine what laws on each of those levels helped create that order.

The other impressive thing it says is that nothing could stop them from prospering continually except their own transgression.    Sigh. That’s always the rub, isn’t it? Humanity is astonishingly skillful at self-sabotage. When things get too easy, we tend to forget our blessings, forget to be diligent, forget the Lord, and look for shortcuts. Then we fall and land ourselves in trouble again.

Because of the great order in society, it bred a condition in which there were many merchants, lawyers, and officers in the land. (3 Nephi 6:11)  The prosperity meant there was plenty of surplus with which to buy things, so supply multiplied to meet the demand. Hence the many merchants.  There were still disputes, but solving it in an orderly way meant an increase in demand for advocates and experts in law. Hence the many lawyers.  And keeping order tends to require checkpoints, gate-keeping, bureaucracy, lines, waiting, etc., which helps people know what to expect and when and how, but that would require a great number of officers to oversee. Which is helpful, but progress can seem too slow with all that, and the human mind will then begin to fantasize about breaking the order to get what one wants faster and easier.

My conclusion is that it takes good, patient people to maintain that order over a long time.  It’s also lovely that we have Mormon’s assessment that with just and equitable laws it is only transgression that hinders us from prospering.