Sunday, November 30, 2008 0 comments

Elijah’s difficulty in the aftermath of the deity duel

I was reading in 1 Kings today about Elijah and the deity duel he had on the top of Mount Carmel with the priests of Baal. After fire came down from heaven and consumed Elijah’s sacrifice and not the Baal-ish sacrifice, all the people admitted that the God of Israel was God. And Elijah then slew 400 of the priests of Baal (probably for their blasphemy and leading people astray).

You’d think the battle would be over and all would be well, right? Well, in the next chapter (19), Queen Jezebel hears that Elijah has killed the priests of Baal and she swears that she will have Elijah killed by the end of the next day. (Let us not forget that this is the same queen who killed the real prophets—see 1 Kings 18:4).

How hard this must have been for Elijah! After all the faith and diligence he showed and his zealousness for the Lord, he had to run for his life!

So he leaves and we read this verse:
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. (1 Kings 19:4)
He must have felt that his fortitude wasn’t measuring up to the strength of the ancients as recorded in the scripture. (Maybe he was thinking of Moses, who went back to Pharaoh at least 10 times.) He must have blamed himself for feeling spiritually exhausted and powerless to make any difference with his preaching and prophesying. He must have wondered why it was so hard to stand up for what was right against the idolatrous society around him. He must have felt that he had done enough and he couldn’t do anything more. He must have felt that if he lived any longer he might shrink from further battles out of fear and that it would be better for his soul to be taken immediately in order to escape that temptation to give in. So he prayed to die now.

So what does the Lord do for him? He sends an angel.
5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.
6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.
7 And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.
8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
9 ¶ And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
15 And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.
17 And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.
18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. (1 Kings 19:5-18)
I do not know the meaning of all things, and I have to say that I am somewhat puzzled by the way that the Lord strengthened Elijah here. First I see that the angel brought Elijah food to eat. Twice. (Perhaps Elijah’s mood was affected by his hunger?)

Then Elijah goes to Mount Horeb and lives in a cave there. It is significant that Mount Horeb is essentially where Moses and the children of Israel stayed for so long. Elijah fled to this place to try to draw strength from what he knew of the sacred events that occured there. (It would be like our prophet going to the sacred grove.)

Then the Lord does some kind of power display with an earthquake and then a fire and then speaks with a still small voice that Elijah responds to. It could be that the Lord was trying to demonstrate that it wasn’t the big showy miracles that were going to convince people to repent and change, but instead the still small voice.

Then the Lord asks Elijah what he’s doing there and Elijah repeats that he’s in hiding because he was zealous for the Lord and the people want to kill him. I find it interesting that the Lord responds by giving Elijah an assignment. Maybe the Lord felt that fretting in inactivity was not good for Elijah. And I love that the Lord assured Elijah (almost as an afterthought) that there were still a certain number of people who hadn’t given into to idolatry. It’s always nice to know you aren’t alone on an issue.

And it seems that the Lord heard Elijah’s request to be taken from the earth, because part of his assignment was to go and anoint Elisha to take his place.

I think this story gave me a lot of encouragement because I’ve faced some opposition lately and I’ve felt like the only one taking a firm stand. It’s nice to know that some of the greatest prophets struggled with feelings of loneliness and inadequacy occasionally.

Some definitions in the Word of Wisdom promise

Did you know the Webster’s 1829 dictionary gives along with its definitions a lot of scriptures? It’s religiously oriented. I learned about it in Relief Society a few weeks ago and it was interesting to hear a few of the alternate meanings of common words as they were used back in 1829 around the time that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized. They bring some special meaning that I hadn’t considered before.

Let’s take the promise to those who follow the health code of the Word of Wisdom:
18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.
(Doctrine & Covenants 89:18-21)
One part that has always puzzled me was that part about “shall walk and not faint”. Here’s what I found out using the Webster’s 1829 dictionary online:

To walk

In Scripture, to live and act or behave; to pursue a particular course of life.[1]

To faint

1. To lose the animal functions; to lose strength and color, and become senseless and motionless; to swoon; sometimes with away. he fainted for loss of blood.
2. To become feeble; to decline or fail in strength and vigor; to be weak.
3. To sink into dejection; to lose courage or spirit.
4. To decay; to disappear; to vanish.[2]

So, if I understand correctly, it seems that along with the other well-known promises in the above verses, the Lord promises that by avoiding what we know we are supposed to avoid and by eating what we are supposed to eat, we will be able to act and behave as Saints without sinking into dejection or losing courage or becoming weak. This is a wonderful promise for times when opposition increases and we need an extra measure of courage and fortitude to do what is right.

I testify that I know that this promise is fulfilled. I have experienced it in my own life.

From Webster’s 1829 Dictionary (
Friday, November 14, 2008 1 comments

Christ - A prodigy of righteousness

40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. (Luke 2:40-45)
I always wondered why it was that Mary and Joseph could go one day’s journey back from Jerusalem and THEN go looking for Jesus among their kinfolk. It almost seemed to me like it was neglectful somehow. If my parents were in that situation, I couldnt' seem them leaving Jerusalem without checking to make sure all the kids were present and accounted for, especially in the crowded chaos of a major religious celebration.

Today I realized that it wasn’t that they were neglectful; Jesus was such a good, dependable, and obedient child that they automatically assumed that He would be where He was supposed to be at the time He should be there. He had proven His trustworthiness so many times before that they gave Him a lot of freedom and they didn’t worry about Him until.. this time they couldn’t find Him.
46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, [and they were hearing him, and asking him questions.]
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. (Luke 2: 46-48, JST substituted)
No wonder they were so sad; they felt He had violated their trust and it was such a shock to them after those twelve years of perfect obedience and responsibility.

And can you imagine that three day search? I wonder where they looked for Jesus? In the markets? In the synagogues? Among the children?

And then they found Him. In the temple. Teaching. Of all the things that a twelve-year-old might do in a big city without parental supervision for three days, that is what He gravitated toward. I love it.

But they still felt He had violated their trust. I wonder how Mary said those words? “Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”
And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? (Luke 2:49)
Such an interesting reply! “How is it that ye sought me?” Jesus wondered why they even bothered to look for Him when He knew that they knew His incredibly dependable character. They should have known He would eventually come home. He was taking care of His Father’s unfinished business after the Passover, starting to take on His responsibilities to minister and teach. Maybe some people thought that serving the Lord starts at a much older age, but Jesus knew that kind of thing starts as early as knowing what His Father’s business is.

This is the Savior we depend on.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008 0 comments

Hungering after righteousness

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Matt 5:6,8)
I love to ask questions about the scriptures I read.

Some questions I have from these verses are “filled with what?” If we hunger and thirst after righteousness, what will we be filled with? I suppose the answer would be righteousness, because we get what we go searching for. Seek and ye shall find, right?

So now I have more questions. Once we are filled with righteousness, does that mean we will no longer be hungry for righteousness? Or will we be hungry for more? Maybe the answer lies in the metaphor that Christ uses, which is eating. Once we eat enough, we feel satisfied and comfortable and happy. Perhaps Christ implies that doing righteous things will satisfy our spirits like food satisfies our bodies, but perhaps like eating, the strongest feelings of satisfaction are temporary and have to be reinforced with more righteousness.

I know this is true, because I have felt this. When I have done something good, I have a very strong feeling of satisfaction for a while, but after a while I begin to want to do something good again. While I remember my previous satisfaction, the memory does not feed, just like memories of good food do not much help new hunger.

So if we go through life feeding our hunger for righteousness, that seems an awful lot like we’d become pure in heart. And Christ’s promise is that the pure in heart will see God. We are left to wonder whether it will happen in this life or the next. I hope it is this life.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008 0 comments


But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (3 Nephi 12:22)
Something I notice in this scripture is that Christ says that we should not be angry with people. But it also seems to say that we shouldn’t call people derisive names. Part of me wonders if this is because calling people names is particularly provoking and tends to make them angry. And it could also be that calling people something contemptible indicates our own arrogance, which is a dangerous spiritual state.

In my family we were trained to not call each other names. Of course we messed up just as much as anybody, but we knew we weren’t supposed to.

Have you ever been in a place where people called each other the worst names in the most affectionate way? I saw this for a while. I really wonder about that. I don’t understand it. I don’t like it, because it gives outsiders the completely wrong idea about the nature of the relationship. “Whore” is just not a term of endearment. Neither is "witch" or some of those other things.

Just some random thoughts I have on the scripture...
Sunday, November 2, 2008 0 comments

Have you been planted in good or bad ground?

In Jacob 5 we are given the Allegory of the Olive Tree from Zenos. There are a few interesting verses that I’ve noticed:
21 And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard.
22 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto him: Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit.
23 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard said unto his servant: Look hither; behold I have planted another branch of the tree also; and thou knowest that this spot of ground was poorer than the first. But, behold the tree. I have nourished it this long time, and it hath brought forth much fruit; therefore, gather it, and lay it up against the season, that I may preserve it unto mine own self. (Jacob 5:21-23)
This scripture seems to say that one of the things that contributes to our spiritual growth as individuals is the environment that we grow up in.

I was blessed with a pretty good environment. I feel that I was in a very loving family. Yet it wasn’t perfect. Public school was very challenging for me. Though I didn’t yet know exactly how to draw strength from the Lord, I knew enough to get some support from my family and I knew enough to look for good friends that would help me choose the right. I learned to draw strength from seminary too. Gradually I learned that strength comes from God.

There are many people that grow up in very challenging environments, suffering abuse where there should be love. It is hard to imagine how anyone good could come out of a bad environment.

In the scripture above, the servant of the vineyard asks the Lord of the vineyard why he decided to plant trees where the ground was bad. The Lord replies that He knew the ground was bad and that He worked hard on it to compensate. “I have nourished it this long time”. The Lord did two things; He amended the ground to make it better, but He also amended it over and over and over again for “this long time”.

This teaches me that people who have been in bad environments need to be nourished again and again and again in order to rise above it to the point that they can do good works. It teaches me that the harder it gets to do what is right, the more nourishing church must become and the more strong and loving families must become, and the more the Lord will need to help.

This teaches me that even though we may find ourselves in a very hostile place, the Lord will find ways to nourish us again and again and again and again. We have to search for good activities and good entertainment that increases our strength to do good. When we take our strength from the Lord, we will not just do a little bit of good, we will bring forth MUCH fruit.
25 And he said unto the servant: Look hither and behold the last. Behold, this have I planted in a good spot of ground; and I have nourished it this long time, and only a part of the tree hath brought forth tame fruit, and the other part of the tree hath brought forth wild fruit; behold, I have nourished this tree like unto the others.
26 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard said unto the servant: Pluck off the branches that have not brought forth good fruit, and cast them into the fire.
27 But behold, the servant said unto him: Let us prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it a little longer, that perhaps it may bring forth good fruit unto thee, that thou canst lay it up against the season. (Jacob 5:25-27)
I think it is interesting in these verses that the tree that was planted in a good spot of ground received nourishment and soil amendments too. It almost seems like it is too much and not quite fair. But maybe the lesson is that the Lord doesn’t take it for granted that a good environment will give all the needed nourishment. Even the best environments may neglect to teach certain important principles, because they are so fundamental they seem already understood.

That the tree has part of it that gives good fruit and part that gives wild, bad fruit seems to teach us that we have some choice in how we make use of the nourishment we receive. We may ignore it, or we may use it. But the danger of have such great nourishment in such a great environment is that there is no longer any excuse for bad fruit. The Lord is justified in cutting us off if we don’t yield good fruit. Fortunately, the Lord is easily persuaded to be merciful and try the less extreme measures before He has to use the most extreme measures. He will try chastising us (pruning) and try to nourish us a little longer to see if we change for the better.

Some thoughts on marriage

Why is it so important for us to define marriage as between one man and one woman? Why do we need to define it at all? Why is this seemingly narrow definition so important? My answer to this echoes something I read in Brother Adams’ booklet “Beyond the Veil”—“without definition, there is no meaning.”

Also, I would assert further that defining things and understanding definitions is imperative in order to learn the mysteries of godliness and gain specific knowledge of God. When God teaches us anything by the Spirit, He always makes it perfectly clear to us. He explains according to our understanding, using our language, our terms, our words. In order for us to receive mysteries based upon definitions, our definitions must be correct, thorough, and extremely solid. He can’t teach us a mystery if our foundational understanding is in error in some way, otherwise we’ll fight it. He also can’t teach us mysteries if our definitional understanding of the concept involved is too limited for us to grasp the idea, otherwise we won’t get it. And He can’t teach us if we’re uncertain, otherwise we’d be overwhelmed. I think this is why it is always useful to talk about definitions of gospel principles, so those definitions can be corrected, expanded, and cemented in our minds to prepare us for the mysteries that will be built upon them.

We need this definition of marriage to give a starting point for who can be married. With society so confused as to whether same-sex relationships can or can’t be constituted as marriage, clearly this is a matter where revelation from God is needed. Surely God would be the best authority for this issue. We have prophets today that declare that marriage between a man and a woman is divinely approved and sanctioned by God. This is a clear message. The prophets who spread this message have not made this up. It may look like they are social reactionaries who are just scared of change and they are cloaking their discomfort with an imagined message from God, but that is not the case. They have had this revelation, and they had it more than a decade before this issue came to the front, showing that God forewarns the world through the prophets. They ARE prophets.

But back to marriage. There are godly mysteries of marriage that must certainly be eluding the world today, judging from the number of divorces. How many people are truly prepared for marriage? How do we even know if we are prepared to handle the problems along with the joys? Marriage is not all “happily ever after”. There are the day-to-day family duties, the big decisions that must be made, the sudden challenges that seem to bash in uninvited, and the differences of opinion that are revealed. Handling all of that takes a lot of effort in a marriage.

As a teenage girl growing up, I anticipated someday getting married, and I was very interested in finding someone to love. I was a weird teenager though. While I imbibed the usual media message about “happily ever after”, somehow I knew that there would be difficulties. I ran across the marriage advice column regularly featured in Parent magazine and I loved to read about the troubles married couples had, read about the solutions presented by the counselor, and think about how those troubles could have been avoided in the first place. My reasoning was that if I knew ahead of time how to nip problems in the bud or how to communicate without alienating my husband, then that would prevent a lot of problems from ever appearing. My parents collected a lot of books about marriage and I liked to read them from time to time. Yes, I was a weird teenager. I studied marriage problems to learn problem-solving and problem-prevent skills.

What I learned has served me very well in my seven years of marriage. Our marriage is by no means perfect, but it is substantially smoother than it would have been had I not read what I had. You know how they say that the first year of marriage is usually the hardest? It didn’t seem like that to me.

But I’m going to have to start studying marriage problems and solutions again. I want to improve. Maybe I’ll check out a few books from the library or look online. Actually, since I know solutions are always found in the gospel, I need to think about what I will read in terms of using gospel principles better in my marriage.