Thursday, July 24, 2014 0 comments

Apollos is Taught More Perfectly

24 ¶And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. (Acts 18:24-26)

This block of verses gives us a little snapshot of Apollos, convert in the former-day church.  He is described as:
·      An eloquent man
·      Mighty in the scriptures
·      Instructed in the way of the Lord
·      Fervent in the Spirit
·      Teaching diligently, speaking boldly
·      Knowing only the baptism of John

He had so much going for him even when he only knew a portion of the gospel.  He was clearly living according to the light he had.

Aquila and Priscilla took him and expounded things to him more perfectly.  I like this because it shows our responsibility to those who have a part of the truth and are sincerely trying to live it and teach it.  We have to try to give them the bigger picture.  Of course, they choose whether to accept it or not.

I also like to look at this story from Apollos’ perspective.  He’s doing his best and this couple comes to him and starts sharing more.  It might have been easy for him to say, “But I’m doing just fine with what I have; I don’t need more.”  He might have been insulted.  But he chose to listen and ponder it.  No doubt he searched the scriptures looking for evidence that what Aquila and Priscilla told him was true.  And his open heart received the witness of the Spirit.

Apollos’ story reminds me that no matter what stage I am at, I can still be a learner and have things expounded to me more perfectly.

Apollos’ great qualities also give me a wonderful picture of what a good member of the church looks like: eloquent, mighty in the scriptures, instructed, fervent, diligent, bold… and teachable.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 0 comments

A Family History Research Fieldtrip and Dealing with Feelings of Just Wanting to Find People to Take to the Temple Without Having to do All That Annoying Research Stuff

I went on a research fieldtrip to the Mesa family history library last Friday with my awesome visiting teachers.  All three of us had problems we needed extra help with and only 2 hours to get it.

As we planned ahead of time, I thought, “What do I do when I only have a limited time at a family history center?”  I realized I would have to have laser-focus and make it as quick and easy as possible to bring other people up to speed on my problem.

Laser-focus means you concentrate on one person or one couple.  That gives you direction.  You also decide what you want to know about them.  (Yes, you want to find as much as possible, but choosing a few things helps you focus further.) 

To efficiently bring consultants up to speed, it helps to create a summary sheet of everything you have found out so far about the person or couple of interest.  Take this summary sheet with you and use it when talking with the consultant as you describe your problem.  List birthdays, death dates, summaries of censuses, and even name variations.  It will be a helpful visual aid for yourself and the consultant, and it will also be a place to scribble down things you discover and ideas for other places to look.

I had my little summary of data about John Schafer and Elizabeth Albert.  My summary had their data from the 1860 and 1880 censuses and where the censuses were from and occupations and things.   That made it really easy for me to talk to the consultants, especially since I talked to three different ones.  It made it easy for them to think about where to search and I noticed it helped me so much that I think from now on any time I go there I should take summary data with me.

As I said, I talked to three consultants.  The first one got called away to help someone else before he could finish thinking of a search strategy for me.  The second one seemed a bit uncertain about where to search next, and he called in a third to help.  The third guy seemed to have a lot of experience searching for different kinds of documents, so his involvement was very helpful.

Does this mean that 2 out of 3 consultants at family history centers aren’t going to be able to help?  No.  It just means that in my case I had already exhausted the easily findable sources and I really needed help.   And I got it.             

So what did we (I and the consultant) find? 
·      We found the Schafer-Albert couple in the 1870 census with yet another instance of a wacky-spelled last name—Scheafer.  (Michaela rolls her eyes.)  We knew it was them because it was the right people at the right ages in right place at the right time.
·      We figured out that vital records didn’t go far enough back to find any birth records for Elizabeth.
·      We figured out that Elizabeth Albert’s mother was from “Elsis” according to the 1880 census and that was an attempt to write “Alsace” from France.  (I had no idea what “Elsis” was, so that was a big help.) 
·      We also figured out that John Schafer probably owned land, and we searched for and found a microfilm to order which would tell us which of another set of microfilms to order to find his land records.

I’d say that’s quite a bit of progress for a single two-hour session with the last consultant of three that looked at my case.

How did my visiting teachers do?  One of them was excited because she found two people in her family that she didn’t know about.  The other didn’t find anything, but could see that she was going to have to do more personal preparation in order to make progress.  She spent the time trying things out in Familysearch and learning to navigate the site.
           
I feel pretty good about this fieldtrip.  I’m happy that we could support each other and pull each other into it.

One of my visiting teachers was a little discouraged because she just wanted to find the people and take names to the temple.  The research aspect didn’t interest her at all.  But I can totally see why she felt that way.  In fact, I remember feeling the very same way about five years ago while I was taking a class from ASU on “Writing Family History Narratives.” 

That class required me to focus on just the ancestors in my four-generation pedigree chart, finding documents for them and gathering information on them.  I remember resenting all the research I had to do on people so “close” when I just wanted to focus on my treetops on and find new people to do temple work for. 

However, over time, I came to enjoy the searching process, especially when it led to finding new documents.  I came to enjoy the methodology of taking care to record and cite sources.  The main semester assignment to write a narrative for each person in my four-generation pedigree chart required me to take time filling in details and learn about these people more deeply.  When the semester was over and my narrative was finished, I felt much more emotionally connected to those ancestors of mine.  I felt like I knew them better and they felt like real family, not just names. 

We all hope to feel the joy of finding new family names to take to the temple, but I learned that isn’t the only time we can anticipate feeling joy as we do family history research.
·      From that class, I learned that finding traces of my ancestors in documents gives me joy,
·      As each trace adds to the picture I’m building of what they did and what they were like, I come to know them better, which also gives me joy.
·      Building that picture also accumulates evidence with clues about where to find their parents and helps me identify and recognize them with confidence, which gives me joy. 
·      Recording what I found and citing carefully so that others will have an easier time in the future also gives me satisfaction that I am making it easier for others to retrace my steps.
·      Sharing what I’ve found also gives me joy because I’m helping my family know my ancestors too.

Also, I learned that practicing search strategies on people in my tree whom I knew about would help me become a better researcher for the future when it came time to look for people that I didn’t know about.   (This is why instructions for starting family history research always say, “Start with who you know.”)

When the church talks about family history, it always talks about the doctrine and the ultimate end of taking family names to the temple.  The thing is, in order to get to that end, you have to do a lot of research.  And the research is fun (and also frustrating at times). 

But the church doesn’t talk much about the research process except in context of telling miracle stories of how someone finally found their GGGGGGgrandfather.  So we members get the impression that family history research is 1) not worth enjoying for its own sake and that it is 2) something that can be done in a cursory, hasty, perfunctory, sketchy, and brief fashion, like we can find the one magic document with all the names and dates and then move on to search for the next people up the line. And we discover to our chagrin that this isn’t true when we try it.  (I describe these notions because I’ve had them myself.)  Or 3) we get the impression that every effort we make to do family history will be attended by miraculous divine intervention, no matter how small that effort is.

This is like holding the firm belief that an ‘A’ in math is desirable but also holding notions that the ‘A’ should be achieved without taking a class in math, or studying math, or trying to work math problems.  It is like holding the idea that the Lord will help us get the ‘A’ on the Calculus test when we haven’t even learned how to multiply.

Here’s something I’ve realized.  Educating myself about the search process is just as necessary as learning the doctrine and learning the Lord can help me with miracles.

As an aside, I recommend taking a college class on family history for a number of different reasons. 
1) Having an assignment with a deadline attached creates the traction you need to make lots of progress.
2) You’ll have a supportive learning environment and someone to ask for help.
3) You’ll learn about all the different kinds of records that exist which will broaden your horizons.
4) You’ll learn search strategies and strategies for keeping organized.
5) You’ll learn to create your own records with more of an eye toward helping your descendants learn about you.

Taking that college class was an intense experience.  When it was done, I breathed a sigh of relief and didn’t touch family history again for another five years.  But when I started up again, I still had my notes to refer to.  I also found I had internalized principles from the class, which helped me.

In short, doing family history research is a skill that can be learned.  It has best practices.  It has tools.  The church is trying to make their tools easier and faster to use, but we still have to learn how to do it so we can use what we’re given in an intelligent way.

Suppose the church were to talk at length about the research in general conference in ways that might help members get over their hang-ups?  If they did, then talks would become like a how-to research guide.  But there is so much to learn that that information is better delivered by family history research classes and webinars which we’d find if we’d just go look at family history research library sites.  Plus there are plenty of awesome resources at Familysearch for learning the “how.”  There’s a massive wiki on research topics.  There are conferences completely devoted to family history research.  All of this we can find if we go looking.  So, the church keeps the focus on that ultimate end of taking family names to the temple.

If we think about the principle that sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven, then finding miracles are for people who educate themselves on the search process and are working it as best as they can and still get stuck.   Those miracles are for people who would never find what they need because it is hidden in a weird place.  Those miracles are for people who would never know what they need to know unless the Lord sent someone to them who could tell them.

Some Resources:




Sunday, July 20, 2014 0 comments

Jump-start your scripture study


Ben Spackman has three very good posts about how note-taking is the most important, most overlooked, and most easy and most superlative tool in scripture study. 

Part 1 talks about why note-taking is so great.  

Part 2 talks about what kinds of things he takes notes on.  This is helpful for if you have never taken notes before and are not sure what to write if you start.  


From what he shares in these posts, you can tell that Ben Spackman has done an amazing job so far at learning how to learn about the scriptures. 

The thing that ultimately causes learning to occur is revelation through the Spirit, and the process that Ben Spackman talks about is the work that we can do to prepare our minds and hearts to receive what the Lord wants to give us.  It is also the way that we capture and preserve what the Lord gives us, and it helps demonstrate our gratitude and commitment to live what we’ve learned.

My note-taking on the scriptures started pretty small.  Most of my notes were written in the margins of my scriptures in tiny script.  Naturally, I had to be extremely brief.  From time to time, I would have insights that would not fit in the margins, so I decided to record them in my personal journal. 

Over the space of four or five years, the number of scripture-focused journal entries gradually increased until I realized that the personal history part of my journal was getting crowded out.  I wasn’t quite sure what to do about this.

Blogging helped relieve the pressure because I could record what I learned and share it at the same time. 

In 2010 I took a seminary pre-service class in which the teacher assigned us to read our scriptures daily and record what we learned along with our personal responses to the class reading material.  I was already reading scriptures daily, and I was intrigued by the assignment to write what I learned in one place. 

I learned that I really enjoyed it.  It was an extra step to do, but I felt I was getting even more out of my study than I had before.  I loved being able to put down my thoughts without worrying about structure or worrying if they were profound enough to share.

At that point I started using a scripture journal--separate from my personal journal-- to record thoughts and notes from my scripture study.  My methods aren’t as elaborate or technological as Ben Spackman’s, but I still can tell I’ve learned a lot.

If you haven’t tried note-taking yet, try it for a month and see what you get from it.
Friday, July 18, 2014 0 comments

Jonathan as a type of Christ in 1 Samuel 14


I’ve written before about Jonathan’s bravery in 1 Samuel 14 in my post “The Intrepid Jonathan” back in 2009, however there is a strange story that happens after his exploits result in a victory for Israel.  In this strange story, Saul, Jonathan, and the Israelite army find themselves in an impossible and surreal situation and the best way we can find meaning in it is to see it as a type and shadow of Christ.  It’s not a perfect type, but it is good enough for us to recognize it once we come to the surreal part.

At the same time that Jonathan is doing his thing and wreaking mayhem among the Philistines, King Saul had sworn an oath that everyone should fast. 

And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food. (1 Samuel 14:24)

Saul just says “Cursed be the man,” but you have to understand this means he will execute whoever breaks the oath. 

Jonathan’s success against the Philistines drew everyone into the battle and they had to try to mop things up while suffering from hunger.  Jonathan didn’t know everyone was fasting.  He probably wondered why everyone was so non-energetic.

25 And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground.
26 And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath.
27 But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.
28 Then answered one of the people, and said, Thy father straitly charged the people with an oath, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food this day. And the people were faint. (1 Sam 14:25-28)

The thing about oaths is that you can be sure you will find yourself in situations where they will be tested.  And in this story things are no different.  The very battlefield tests the people whether they will keep their oath.  Honey is dropping from the trees and they are all so tired and hungry.

Jonathan, not having heard the oath, naturally eats some honey.  And it is just enough that he has a sugar rush and gets some vigor back.  Then the people tell him about the oath his father made.  (I have to wonder why they didn’t tell him about it before he ate it..)

How does Jonathan react to hearing about the oath his father made and is holding his people to?

29 Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey.
30 How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely to day of the spoil of their enemies which they found? for had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines? (1 Sam 14:29-30)

Jonathan is pretty out-spoken and rather than supporting his father, he comes right out and says the oath was hurting Israel more than helping them and points out how much better the battle could have gone if Israel was in its full strength.

Well, we don’t know what the people thought about this, but the battle continues..

31 And they smote the Philistines that day from Michmash to Aijalon: and the people were very faint.
32 And the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep, and oxen, and calves, and slew them on the ground: and the people did eat them with the blood.  (1 Sam 14:31-32)

The next capture the people made, they go crazy taking spoil and killing the animals for food.  (Were they persuaded by Jonathan’s little speech previous?  Hard to know, but it could be..) However, they are so hungry they don’t take the time to properly bleed the animals they kill for food like they are supposed to do according to the Law of Moses.  So King Saul chastises them for it.

33 ¶Then they told Saul, saying, Behold, the people sin against the Lord, in that they eat with the blood. And he said, Ye have transgressed: roll a great stone unto me this day.
34 And Saul said, Disperse yourselves among the people, and say unto them, Bring me hither every man his ox, and every man his sheep, and slay them here, and eat; and sin not against the Lord in eating with the blood. And all the people brought every man his ox with him that night, and slew them there. (1 Samuel 14:33-34)

Whatever happened to concern for the oath about fasting?  That’s long gone.  Now King Saul is concerned they are eating the animal blood along with the animals.  He tries to slow it down by making a centralized place in their camp for the animals to be bled so that he can be sure they are not breaking the Law of Moses.

Now I want you to ask yourself a question about what you've read so far—who is more guilty, Jonathan or the people?  Keep this question in mind.

35 And Saul built an altar unto the Lord: the same was the first altar that he built unto the Lord.
36 ¶And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. And they said, Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee. Then said the priest, Let us draw near hither unto God.
37 And Saul asked counsel of God, Shall I go down after the Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into the hand of Israel? But he answered him not that day.
38 And Saul said, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the people: and know and see wherein this sin hath been this day. (1 Samuel 14:35-38)

Saul wants to start another expedition against the Philistines on a night attack, and the people were for it, but the priest was determined to ask God.  It’s a good idea to ask God before starting a project, right?

But what do you do when you don’t get an answer?

Saul didn’t get an answer, and thereby he concluded that there had been some kind of sin in the camp of Israel that prevented revelation from coming.

What do you think all the people are thinking at this point?  Maybe something like, “Yeah, I sinned…”

Listen to what Saul says next.. 

39 For, as the Lord liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die. But there was not a man among all the people that answered him.

King Saul makes another oath that the person in the army who sinned is going to die, even if it was Jonathan his own son.

What do you think all the people are thinking at this point?  Maybe something like, “Oh shoot, we all did something wrong…the king would kill me if he knew I was part of it..”

But no one says anything because they know everyone is guilty. By Saul’s oath everyone would die.  No one wants to be the first one to step forward and admit guilt.

Saul has to use a method of drawing lots to determine where the guilt lies. 

40 Then said he unto all Israel, Be ye on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side. And the people said unto Saul, Do what seemeth good unto thee.

The people just seem shell-shocked.  They don’t try to stand in the way, but they aren’t going to step forward and hurry their doom along.  They are suddenly passive.  They seem to accept death is inevitable.

41 Therefore Saul said unto the Lord God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped.

Now, remember, the people were guilty.  But somehow the lot didn’t fall on them.  They escaped.  This must have caused them to wonder, “What is going on here?”

King Saul keeps going.

42 And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken.
43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die.
44 And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan. (1 Samuel 14:42-44)

The lot falls on Jonathan.  And Jonathan admits that he tasted some honey and he seems to accept that he is going to have to die.  Saul agrees.  When Saul says, “God do so and more also” it is yet another oath meaning, “God do to me what should happen to you and worse if I don’t kill you.”  (Saul seems to really like making oaths, huh?)

Isn’t this a surreal situation?  It’s totally messed up, and it happened because Saul’s tendency to make oaths got him deeper and deeper into it until he is faced with the prospect of executing his son in order to maintain his credibility as a king.

Now think about the levels of guilt in this story.  Jonathan acknowledged that he ate some honey when he wasn’t supposed to.  But he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to until afterward, so technically he wasn’t guilty at all.  But the rest of the army was more guilty because they not only broke King Saul’s command about fasting, but they also ate animal blood and thereby broke the Law of Moses.  They were all worthy of death.

So here’s where we can start to see a type of Christ.  Jonathan’s guilt was far less then the people’s, and yet he was chosen (by God) as the scapegoat for the whole army.  Christ was sinless and all the rest of us are guilty and worthy of death, yet Christ allowed himself to be punished in order that we might escape.

“But,” you might say, “the people probably wouldn’t have eaten at all if it hadn’t been for Jonathan’s little harangue about the way Saul was troubling the land.”  Yes, this is not a perfect type of Christ because Christ did not cause everyone (or anyone) to sin or teach them that Heavenly Father’s sins are troublesome in any way.

However, Jonathan wasn’t responsible for the people’s decision to eat blood, and he was made a scapegoat for those sins to show how Christ would take on Himself the sins of all the world.  

Jonathan is in an weird place—he’s saved the people in battle and is going to be killed so they can escape their disobedience.  And he seems willing to do it.  Seeing it as a type of Christ helps us find higher meaning in this story. 

So how is the dilemma solved?  The people step in and save Jonathan.

45 And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not. (1 Samuel 14:45)

Phew! 

Obviously that rescue was not part of the type of Christ, but it got both Saul and Jonathan out of their sticky situation.  It is as if the people say, "Enough with these stupid oaths already!"

On a side note, I think King Saul learned from this experience not to make so many strong oaths with the death penalty attached. (He still makes a few and breaks them, but there's not so many after this point.) Unfortunately, it may have also made him afraid of going against the voice of the people, which got him in further trouble later when he was charged with destroying the Amalekites and the people wanted to save the best of the animals to sacrifice. This incident may have led to him caving to their demands then too.

I used to think this story was really weird, but I appreciate it more now because of being able to see how Jonathan prefigured Christ.  It helps remind me that I am one of that army of Israel who has been disobedient and yet I can escape the penalty for my sins because of Christ's suffering in my place.  

I’m loving reading the Old Testament this year.  I’m finding types of Christ where I never saw them before.  How about you?




Wednesday, July 16, 2014 0 comments

Alma’s Revelation of Deliverance


16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.
17 And he said unto Alma: Thou shalt go before this people, and I will go with thee and deliver this people out of bondage.
18 Now it came to pass that Alma and his people in the night-time gathered their flocks together, and also of their grain; yea, even all the night-time were they gathering their flocks together. (Mosiah 24:16-18)

This is from the story of how Alma the elder and his people were delivered from Lamanite bondage.

I wonder if I would have been able to listen and obey the voice of the Lord after such a long time in bondage.  Would I have the faith in the Lord’s promise to go to the trouble to prepare myself to be delivered without knowing how it would happen?

A cool thing about these verses is they give the impression that the Lord’s message came not just to Alma, to all the people and they all obeyed.  That suggests the whole people were at a pretty extraordinary level of spiritual perceptivity and obedience.

A lesson I get from these verses is that if we are in bondage somehow, like with bad habits or addictions or life situations, we can’t be delivered from it without being prepared.
  1. We have to believe that deliverance is coming.
  2. We have to do some extra work to gather our forces for it, often during the time that others would be relaxing.
  3. We have to recognize when we’re ready.
  4. We have to recognize opportunities to escape (or resist temptation).
  5. We have to follow the word of the Lord.
Think about a bad habit you have right now that you know is dragging you down.  (I’ve got one in mind for me right now.)  The day of deliverance from that bondage is coming.  Do you believe it?   Do you have the mental and emotional skills prepared for that day?  If not, what do you need to prepare yourself?  What doctrines might help you?  What small steps can you take to get closer?
Monday, July 14, 2014 0 comments

The ark of God is taken by the Philistines


1 Samuel 4 describes how the Lord fulfilled the prophecy-warning given to Samuel about the distressing thing to be done to Israel and the removal of Eli and his sons.

The Israelites fight the Philistines and lose. (We have no idea what started this series of skirmishes.)  The Israelites decide the ark of the covenant can save them if they bring it to the battleground, and they get all excited and shout.  The Philistines hear and remember how the Lord plagued Egypt and their morale drops, but they decide to fight their best anyway, and they end up not just beating the Israelites but capturing the ark.  In the battle, Eli’s sons are killed, since they were with the ark.

Naturally, the Israelites are beside themselves with distress at this news.  There is much crying, so much so that the whole city Eli was in (Shiloh) was filled with that noise.  Eli gets the message, and falls and breaks his neck and dies.  When his daughter-in-law hears, she goes into early labor and dies saying the glory of Israel was departed.

Here's what the elders say in reaction to their first defeat by the Philistines, which leads them to call for the ark:

Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. (1 Samuel 4:3)

It seems they recognized that if the Lord was allowing the Philistines to beat them, then the Lord was smiting them.  But instead of taking that admittedly good reasoning to the next stage and concluding they had sinned and needed to repent, they decided to use the ark of the covenant as a religious shield.  They probably reasoned that the Lord would be afraid to allow His ark to be captured, so the Israelite armies would be saved if they brought the ark with them to battle.  And as we have seen, that was soooo wrong.  It was like waving a flag in front of a bull for the Lord’s own people to mock the Lord that way.

Based upon the way the Israelites treat the ark, it seems pretty plain that they had an attitude of complaisance that seems to have led them to act wrongly.
The ark was a token of God’s presence, glory, and power, but they seemed to think of it as a good luck charm to bring victory regardless of their righteousness.  This attitude might have built up over the period of years they saw Eli and his sons ministering in corruption with no divine judgment coming upon them.  They may have concluded after a while that righteousness wasn’t necessary to have the support of God.

God would know this and would be anxious to get rid of those false notions (in addition to the wicked priests) so that Israelite worship could be purified.

The Israelites probably remembered when the ark was carried with the armies across the Jordan river that parted and when it was carried around the city of Jerico and the walls fell down when the Lord fought for Israel.  Perhaps with the rarity of prophetic words in Eli’s days and the rarity of open vision it seemed as if miracles had ceased, and all had hoped to see those miracles begin again with taking the ark into battle.  They probably assumed having the ark would ensure miracles happened for their armies.  Yet Israel had fought many other battles with the Lord’s help when the ark wasn’t there and when the people were righteous.

How do the Israelites react to the ark’s capture?
--The messenger from the army rends his clothes and puts earth on his head to show his grief.
--The people at Shiloh cry out at the news.
--Eli falls off his stool at the gate at the news, breaks his neck, and dies.
--His daughter-in-law goes into early labor at the news and before dying, gives her baby a name conveying her sense of desolation.

The daughter-in-law of Eli gives birth to a son whom she names Ichabod, which literally translated (according to the footnote) means “Where is the glory?”  It is as if she sees the defeat and loss and death as a sign that the glory of God has departed from Israel and will never return again.  It is almost a cynical disillusioned throwing up of the hands, saying “What is the point?”

From one perspective, if we consider the wickedness of the priests and the people, the glory of God had departed long before that.  If they had been righteous, they would have been delivered in battle, even without the ark. 

The thing is, we see from the larger perspective that the whole distressing sequence was in fulfillment of the word of the Lord to Samuel.  The glory of God was there.  It had just departed from Eli and his house.  They had refused to see it for so long that they could not see it for what it was.

The Lord had told Samuel something disastrous was going to happen.  Remember that “I will make everyone’s ears tingle” and “I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken”?

That declaration ahead of time tells us the Lord knew the errors and sins of His people, He knew what He would do about it, and He also knew exactly what everyone’s reaction would be.  He wanted Samuel to know the Lord was behind it and that it was for a purpose, according to plan, and that when it happened he was not to think things were going horribly wrong, even though it would look that way.

And when you consider all the things that happened, all the circumstances that combined to bring about the fulfillment of that prophecy, you can’t help but see the Lord allowed it or was behind it. 

·      The wickedness of the priests contributed to the false ideas of the elders that the ark would bring them victory without needing to repent.  (In this way, wickedness created a way for its own destruction.) 
·      The Philistines were terrified of the ark considering the history of God fighting for Israel, and even though their morale was shot, they somehow summoned the courage to fight their best anyway, capturing the ark and killing the priests.  This was the hand of God using them as an instrument of chastisement against Israel and Eli’s sons. 
·      Eli died from a broken neck after falling backwards off a chair, a very unexpected way to die. 
·      And who would have thought that Eli’s daughter-in-law would suddenly go into early labor at the news and die in childbirth?  Death in childbirth is not unheard of, but added to those circumstances gives her a share in the judgment as well.

God used the loss of the ark to purge the tabernacle of bad priests and even a priest’s wife.  Who would have thought that the loss of the ark could have that effect?

Now, how can this story help us today?

I think it warns us to be careful not to buy into superstitions about holy things.  For example, we can avoid the same sorts of complacency about the temple and its grounds.  I once heard a story of someone getting shot on one of the temple’s grounds and bystanders had a hard time getting temple personnel to help because they just could not believe that violence had occurred on temple grounds!! 

We believe the temple is sacred space and is divinely protected, but if people going to the temple are not pure in heart, will it be a holy place?  If we profane it, can we expect protection there, spiritual or otherwise? 

The temples are built to last “through the millennium,” but that doesn’t mean God can’t destroy them with natural disasters if He chooses to.  And what if a temple is destroyed?  The sealing power is still on the earth and temples can be rebuilt.  The important thing is to stay repentant and keep a broken heart and contrite spirit.

We often hear the saying that the church will never again be taken from the earth.  That's great, but that doesn't mean each of us are guaranteed to remain a part of it.  If we don't keep a broken heart and contrite spirit, we will apostatize from it.  Also, there are warnings in 3 Nephi from the Savior Himself that if the Gentiles do not repent after the gospel they have received--implying the Gentiles have received the gospel and converted, but sin--the gospel will be taken from them and they will be trampled underfoot by a remnant of Jacob.

So again, the important thing is to stay repentant and keep a broken heart and contrite spirit.