Friday, May 29, 2009 0 comments

How be it that ye have not written this thing?

Here's something that popped out at me today..
6 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had said these words he said unto them again, after he had expounded all the scriptures unto them which they had received, he said unto them: Behold, other scriptures I would that ye should write, that ye have not.
7 And it came to pass that he said unto Nephi: Bring forth the record which ye have kept.
8 And when Nephi had brought forth the records, and laid them before him, he cast his eyes upon them and said:
9 Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many, and should minister unto them. And he said unto them: Was it not so?
10 And his disciples answered him and said: Yea, Lord, Samuel did prophesy according to thy words, and they were all fulfilled.
11 And Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them?
12 And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written.
13 And it came to pass that Jesus commanded that it should be written; therefore it was written according as he commanded. ( 3 Nephi 23:7-13)
I can just imagine Nephi squirming a little when the Lord asked him why the saints’ resurrection hadn’t been recorded. There is a volume of feeling in that sentence—“And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written.”

“Oh, yeah.. I forgot to write that down..”

(Often the only way that I realize that I didn’t write something important is when I discover that its influence on my life has been bigger than I thought and I go back to look for it in my journals and I find no mention of it.)

What these verses say to me is that Christ wants us to write in our journals and record the events that fulfill prophecies made to us collectively and to us as individuals.

We have prophecies and promises given to us from God in many different blessings. We are given written copies of our patriarchal blessing, but I’ve observed that it is also helpful to write down things said to us in other blessings as well--setting-apart blessings, father's blessings, comfort blessings, healing blessings, beginning-of-the-school-year blessings--so that we can remember and notice when the promises are fulfilled.

I can remember one year before I went off to BYU when my dad gave me a father’s blessing, and one thing that I thought was odd was that among other things, he blessed me that I would learn about other cultures. I saw that fulfilled over the fall semester when I had a Brazilian roommate and then in the winter semester when I had a Mexican roommate. I got to see how they did things. We sang our national anthems for each other, we got to learn about different types of cooking, we got to hear different music, hear history we hadn't before, hear new jokes, learn about different holidays, hear how they did things back in their country..

A different year, my dad gave me a blessing that I’d get along with my roommates, that I’d listen, notice, and appreciate them, and benefit from their strengths, and that I’d be patient with their struggles. That year I had difficulties with two roommates. They hated the smell of my shampoo, the way my curling iron and space heater tended to make the electrical breakers trip, and the smell of meat cooking in the morning as my other roommate made her lunch for the day. They didn’t like how I lurked in the doorway while they watched TV in the living room and my laugh was too loud for them. I didn’t much like their TV or music choices, the way they affectionately called each other “whore”, or their refrigerator magnet of Michelango’s “David”. (Call me a Philistine, but I don’t like seeing a man in the nude, even if it’s supposed to be art.) Our relationship wasn’t very amiable, and we resorted to giving each other a lot of space. I desperately needed reasons to appreciate them so that I wouldn’t mind living with them, so I observed and listened to them a lot, trying to look deeper for good things that I could admire in them even though we didn’t talk much. Because of the effort I put in, I felt like I got along with them though they may not have felt they could get along with me.

With both these experiences I remember noticing what was happening to fulfill them and thinking, "Wow, my dad was inspired when he gave me that blessing." It is interesting how such simple words in blessings take on a world of meaning and significance when you find yourself actually living it. It’s like icebergs—only 10% shows above the surface of the water, and the other 90% bobs about unseen until you run into it.

I think it is also good to look for prophecies made to us as a church in general conference. We’ve been told so often to get out of debt and we see now how important being out of debt is in this difficult economic environment when debt is vexing the nation. We’ve been told to strengthen our families and now we see how important strong families are.

So why should we write about fulfillments?

I think it is to help us increase our faith. When we record the promises we are given and then later record how those promises were fulfilled, that reinforces to us that the Lord keeps His promises. This helps us have faith that promises yet unfulfilled eventually will be. We need this when it seems like there has been an indefinite delay. Couples who can’t have children need this. Parents with children who have gone astray need this. Parents who have had a child die need this. Unmarried people need this. Really, people from all walks of life with all varieties of problems and troubles need this.

How should we write these things?

One thing we can do is have someone be a scribe whenever we receive a priesthood blessing and then write down what we remember afterward. When one of my new nephews was given a name and a blessing, his mother asked me and another sister-in-law to write down what was said. My mom was scribe for one of the before-the-school-year blessings my dad gave me. Other times it is not possible to have someone else present, so it is good to write down immediately the main things that we remember from the blessing. I’ve done this a lot after being set apart for callings.

Then it is a matter of remembering the blessing every so often. I usually have a few things that I fixate on from my blessings that are very important to me and every once in a while I mentally compare the progress I’ve made to those things I remember. When I see that something is being fulfilled, I get very excited and I write about it in my journal.

If the time ever comes when the Lord asks me to bring forth the record that I have kept for Him to inspect, I want show Him a thorough job.

Image: Jesus asks for the records,,%2Brecord%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Dactive%26sa%3DN%26um%3D1&ei=aDIgSqawAaWkNdKYlKsJ, from The Book of Mormon Project (blog)
Saturday, May 23, 2009 2 comments

Jacob on Being Subject to Christ

Every once in a while I run across something I've written in my journal about the scriptures that seems to be worth sharing. Here's something from 3/31/09...

Today I had to do my scripture study on the internet instead of at home, because I woke up late. But so far it has been productive. I started on 2 Ne. 9 and I noticed this in verse 5: behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him.
I wondered about that phrase “that all men might become subject unto him” because I thought it sounded like Christ wanted into increase His control over the human race. “I’ll die for everybody, and that will make me their ruler.” But something seemed wrong about that interpretation, so I kept reading.

Then I ran across this in verse 8:
O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.
This clarified things for me. It showed me that if we could not be resurrected and ever get our body back, then we would be subject to the devil, who doesn't have a body. So it became plain to me that in order to escape being subject to the devil (temporally and spiritually), we must be subject temporally and spiritually to someone else instead, and that someone else is Christ.

It is plain the Christ's motive wasn't to gain power, but rather to save us with love. Jacob must have been overwhelmed by this, because his feelings begin to overflow in exclamations of gratitude that are hard to miss. “O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace!” “O how great the goodness of our God” “O how great the plan of our God!” “O the greatness and the justice of our God!” “O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel!” “O how great the holiness of our God!” And he intersperses the exclamations with information about the plan of salvation.

I decided that two can play at that game, so I started writing my own exclamations about what I was thankful for.

Oh, how great is the mercy of our God, in giving us Christ as a payment for all sin! For without it, our first sin would have cut us off forever and the rest of our life would be wasted and we would die, never to rise again, and be forever subject to the devil, forever miserable without a body!

Oh, how great is the wisdom of our God in requiring our faith in Christ along with a broken heart as a sacrifice to activate the redeeming power of the Atonement! For He ensures that all those who do this will be saved.

Oh, how great is the deliverance of our God in releasing us from the burden of sin through our repentance! Oh, the lightness and the peace of a clear conscience! Oh, the sweet security of receiving purified desires through sincere prayer and submission to the will of God! For evil becomes abhorrent and ugly, and good which previously seemed boring and burdensome becomes attractive.

Oh, how great are the ordinances of our God, whereby man can witness through the acts of the body their willingness to obey and receive the promise of entrance into the kingdom of God! And faithful obedience brings satisfaction and peace and greater confidence to obey the commandments.

Oh, how great is the guidance of our God through the Holy Ghost! For it is the privilege of the repentant and meek to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, to be guided and taught from on high, to receive mysteries of God line upon line until they know them in full, to be comforted and strengthened in tribulation, to have revealed all things necessary in their times and seasons! Oh the loneliness of being without God in the world and walking in darkness!

Oh, how great are the commandments of our God! For none are the least superfluous or vain, but they school man to the full character and stature of God. And all bring happiness and wrap the obedient in a cloak of blessing.

Oh, how great is the determination and justice of our God! For His purposes are not frustrated and His work rolls forth and He executes all His laws and none are exempted from them.

Oh, how great the patience of our God! For He continues to call on all men to repent and come to Him, sending divers messengers at times and seasons.

Oh, how great is the restoration and judgment of our God, when that day comes that all men will be restored to their bodies, and when they will have a perfect knowledge of their lives and see with clear sight the significance of their acts. Then will the righteous rejoice because the reward of their good works shall be given them, and their sins have already been covered by Christ’s Atonement and their repentance. Then will the wicked weep and wail, for their memories and their sins will burden them and they will wish they could cease to exist. And God will render to every man according to their works.

Oh, how great is our Christ, how great His submission to the will of the Father in all things, even to humiliation and rejection and torture and a cruel death! Oh, how great His fortitude, holding His life in His hand all the time and drinking every drop of the bitter cup full of our ugly sins!

What exclamations of gratitude would you add?
Wednesday, May 20, 2009 1 comments

The Deeper Significance of Jewelry in the Scriptures

I was reading on Google Books parts of a scanned copy of a book written by a woman who learned the craft of making jewelry in Egypt and in the process, I stumbled upon a very interesting cultural idea. Jewelry in Egypt functioned not only for decoration and beauty, but also as a display of wealth and social standing. In a society without social security, gold and silver jewelry also acted as a form of life savings for families. Jewelry could be sold more quickly than land in case of need. (Azza Fahmy , Enchanted Jewelry of Egypt, p20)

Now, I know that it is technically not good logic to extrapolate that a practice recorded in relatively modern times is the same as it was in ancient times, nor is it always wise to assume that a practice of one ancient country (Egypt) was the same as another ancient country (Israel). However, in the interest of seeking additional insight from the scriptures, let us assume that these practices haven’t changed much over millennia, and let us also assume that this was one of those practices that was common in the general area of the ancient middle east. Does equating jewelry with “show of wealth” and “life savings for security” increase the depth of our understanding as we read the scriptures?

Let’s try it out on one of those more difficult books of scripture—the Book of Isaiah.
16 ¶ Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
17 Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,
19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
21 The rings, and nose jewels,
22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.
24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
25 Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.
26 And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground. (Isaiah 3:16-26)
Here it seems Isaiah could be talking about how a proud attitude and a wanton focus brings upon women a process of steady impoverishment or a feeling of insecurity and shame despite having many worldly marks and indications of high status.
1 At that time Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered.
2 And Hezekiah was glad of them, and shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.
3 Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon.
4 Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them.
5 Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the Lord of hosts:
6 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. (Isaiah 39:1-6)
Here we get the sense that Hezekiah was certainly displaying his wealth to try to gain status in the eyes of Babylon. The punishment for this was that Babylon would rob him of it.
The burden of the beasts of the south:
into the land of trouble and anguish,
from whence come the young and old lion,
the viper and fiery flying serpent,
they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses,
and their treasures upon the bunches of camels,
to a people that shall not profit them.
(Isaiah 30:6)
Here we get the sense that an entire community was pawning their jewelry to another community to try to get help. And Isaiah is making the prophetic announcement that it wouldn’t do any good.
Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread?
and your labour for that which satisfieth not?
hearken diligently unto me,
and eat ye that which is good,
and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
(Isaiah 55:2)
Usually the jewelry would be bought at the end of the harvest season when the crops had been got in and sold. In the above scripture, Isaiah may have seen this pattern of behavior and wanted to suggest an alternative—seek satisfaction from the word of the Lord.
I will make a man more precious than fine gold;
even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
(Isaiah 13:12)
Perhaps this could have been a suggestion to the women to appreciate their righteous husbands more than the jewelry they were able to buy with the living their husbands made.

I don’t know what it is like in your homes, but in my home, I’m the one who watches over the budget. I can get a little… um.. overzealous from time to time. I suppose this scripture is a good one for me to remember.

Interestingly enough, Isaiah also uses the cultural values attached to jewelry in his prophecies of the gathering of Israel.
Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold:
all these gather themselves together,
and come to thee.
As I live, saith the Lord,
thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all,
as with an ornament,
and bind them on thee,
as a bride doeth.
(Isaiah 49:18)
This conveys how each convert brought to the church through the gathering increases the beauty, status, and security of the church.
Surely the isles shall wait for me,
and the ships of Tarshish first,
to bring thy sons from far,
their silver and their gold with them,
unto the name of the Lord thy God,
and to the Holy One of Israel,
because he hath glorified thee.
(Isaiah 60:9)
This also seems to imply the faithfulness of the church will grow as the gathered members pay tithing and consecrate themselves, time, talents, and everything else they are blessed with to build up the kingdom of God.
10 For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
11 O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
12 And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.
13 And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children. (Isaiah 54:10-13)

This seems to imply that keeping baptismal and temple covenants and having righteous children gives a beauty, status, and security to our homes comparable to if our houses were made of enormous jewels.

Which reminds me, my mom used to call me her jewel. Hmmm.
And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure. (Isaiah 33:6)
Here Isaiah suggests that our stability (meaning security) is found in wisdom, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord, and that the Lord treasures these qualities in us. This message would be particularly significant to those who trusted in their jewelry for security in emergencies. Today we trust in investments and social security and retirement funds and savings accounts for security in retirement and we trust in insurance for emergencies. To us Isaiah would probably say “the fear of the Lord is his insurance and is savings.”

In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory,
and for a diadem of beauty,
unto the residue of his people
(Isaiah 28:5)

This seems to imply that righteousness gives us status. However, there is danger in that because that may be what leads to annoying “I’m-more-righteous-than-you” attitudes. Rather, remembering that inheriting eternal life in the highest celestial glory will raise us to the highest status, a state of being like God, puts this in its true light.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my soul shall be joyful in my God;
for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments,
and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
(Isaiah 61:10)

Here Isaiah associates the values of beauty, status, and security with salvation and righteousness and gives God credit for it.

These aren’t the only scriptures that can give us additional insights. There is new meaning associated with the words of Christ when he said, to not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up treasures in heaven. Additionally, when we read Paul’s admonition to women not to adorn themselves with gold and silver, but instead with good works, we know exactly what he is talking about. In the Book of Mormon when we read of Lehi who left all his gold and silver and precious things in Jerusalem when he left with his family, we understand that they were also leaving the security that those things represented (Who would they have to sell them to if they needed help?) This indicates they were truly placing their trust in the Lord to support them. (It also explains the immense anger Laman and Lemuel had against Nephi when they lost those precious things to Laban in an attempt to buy the brass plates.)
Further, in 4 Nephi, we begin to understand when it says that the Nephites began to lift themselves up in pride and to wear costly apparel and many pearls, seeking to communicate their status. Saving for these treasures ended consecration.

What I take away from all of this that we have a need for beauty, status, and security in our lives, but that gospel values can satisfy those longings through salvation, righteousness, eternal life, righteous children, righteous husbands, depending upon the Lord, seeking knowledge and wisdom, and doing good works and gathering Israel through missionary work.

Image 1 – An Egyptian bride, found at Shazly Nubian forum,

Image 2 – Yemenite bride found at “Insane in my Brain”,

Image 3 – The famous CRYSTAL CAVES impression by Robert Strachan,

Image 4 - Image of Bedouin jewelry from ARAMCO World Magazine, September-October, 1992 "Berber Silver, Arab Gold" p. 14 - 21 as cited by
Friday, May 15, 2009 2 comments

Captain Moroni's Title of Liberty Priorities

I was reading in the Book of Mormon recently (Alma 46) about Captain Moroni making the Title of Liberty and I noticed something interesting.
And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole. (Alma 46:12)
God, religion, freedom, peace, wives, children.

I wondered if the order that he listed those things was significant and as I thought about it, I realized that it was a priority list.

It’s interesting that peace is placed before family. I wonder if this meant family peace or community peace or national peace. Let’s look at some scriptures about peace and maybe we can figure it out.
And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin… (Mosiah 4:14)
Maybe peace is a higher priority than our families when we have to discipline them and settle fights and teach them things that will bring them peace later.
18 O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:
19 Thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me. (Isaiah 48:18-19)
I don’t think this peace is the kind that is bought by being indulgent. Maybe it means seeking to make peace and upholding the right even if your family has been in the wrong and they are mad at you. I think the peace is the peace of mind that we did our best even when it was hard. I know my mom worked really hard to keep peace between all of us kids and I think she has been rewarded by seeing us eventually becoming good friends with each other. Maybe it’s the kind of thing that if we don’t work for it, our families will go astray from the church and be “cut off”, but which if we do work for it, we receive a special reward:
17 And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.
18 And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places (Isaiah 32:17-18)
I think it is significant that it says "quietness and assurance for ever" because there are surely parents who agonize over their children who have gone astray even after having been taught and nurtured in the gospel. Remembering the promise of eternal covenants can give some hope and assurance in mortality, and I think the biggest payoff will come on the other side of the veil when restored memories and a bright recollection of all the hard work will bring a sense of satisfaction that will never die.

On the community level, I think the peace is obtained through the difficult labor or forgiveness and turning the other cheek even when our families have been hurt.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:18-21)
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. (Psalms 119:165)
On the national level, I suppose King Benjamin is a great example of establishing peace among his people with hard, hard work even though they didn’t like his message.
17 For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people—
18 Wherefore, with the help of these, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land. (Words of Mormon 1:17-18)
13 And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due. (Mosiah 4:13)
…for the public peace and tranquility all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment. (D&C 134:8)
Next in Captain Moroni’s list, I notice that freedom is placed before peace. If peace is a higher priority than freedom, eventually you lose freedoms. You have to sacrifice some peace from time to time to keep freedom.
11 We would not shed the blood of our brethren if they would not rise up in rebellion and take the sword against us.
12 We would subject ourselves to the yoke of bondage if it were requisite with the justice of God, or if he should command us so to do.
13 But behold he doth not command us that we shall subject ourselves to our enemies, but that we should put our trust in him, and he will deliver us.
14 Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God. (Alma 61: 11-14)
It seems to me like it would be really hard to tell the difference between when it would be appropriate to fight for freedom and when it would be appropriate to work for peace. I suppose that’s why the Lord gave Joseph Smith the revelation in D&C 98 about the law of retribution.

Next in Captain Moroni’s list, I notice that religion is placed before freedom. Certainly freedom has to be governed by the moral and ethical structure of religion, otherwise you get an all-rights-no-responsibilities society that implodes on itself eventually. I like how James defines true religion.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
When living our religion consists of being kind and charitable to those in need and developing the self-control through Christ to resist temptation I would think that certain freedoms would actually increase. Lots of people think that freedom means you can do whatever you want, but there’s another kind of freedom—the freedom of being trusted, which I think is a higher form. That freedom doesn’t come unless we develop that inner control from true religion to the extent that people know they don’t have to be looking over our shoulders all the time. Joseph in Egypt was one of these people who was so trustworthy as Potiphar’s steward that eventually Potiphar didn’t know anything about what he owned because he knew he could leave it to Joseph and not have to worry about a thing. And even though Joseph could have accepted the advances of Potiphar’s wife, he refused because it would be sinful. He had that inner control from his religion.

Back to Captain Moroni’s list. Why is God placed before religion? Because if religion comes even before God Himself, religion is vain, hypocritical, and empty, since traditions of man tend to take over.
…Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:6-9)
Good to remember.


Image: "Captain Moroni and the Title of Liberty", painting by Arnold Friberg, image from
Thursday, May 14, 2009 3 comments

There’s more to covenants than meets the eye

I’ve had some interesting experiences lately that have drawn my interest to studying gospel covenants. I'll tell you about them after a bit.

The Old Testament has lots of mentions of covenants that people make with the Lord and also mentions the covenants that the Lord makes with His people.
7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.
8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words. (Exodus 24:7-8)
People’s covenant: All the Lord says we will do.
Lord’s covenant: To redeem through the blood of sacrifices (foreshadowing Christ).
12 Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:
13 And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel. (Numbers 25:12-13)
Lord’s covenant: Peace to him and his children (and bestowal of priesthood?) as a reward for zeal and making atonement for others
And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people, that they should be the Lord’s people; between the king also and the people. (2 Kings 11:17)
People’s covenant: to be the Lord’s people
Lord’s covenant: to have the people as His own
And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant. (2 Kings 23:3, see also 2 Chronicles 34:31)
People’s covenant: Keep the Lord’s commandments, testimonies, statutes with all heart and soul, to do as written in the scriptures
Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice. (Psalms 50:5)
Lord’s covenant: To gather His saints
People’s covenant: To sacrifice
2 Hear ye the words of this covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
3 And say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant,
4 Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you: so shall ye be my people, and I will be your God:
5 That I may perform the oath which I have sworn unto your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day… (Jeremiah 11:2-5)
Lord’s covenant: The people will be His people and He would be their God. He will give them a land flowing with milk and honey.
People’s covenant: To obey the Lord’s voice in all He commands.

The New Testament has comparatively fewer mentions of covenants, and when they are mentioned they generally focus on the covenant that the Lord makes with His people and there is very little mention of the nature of the covenant that people make with the Lord. This makes it seem like the Lord makes promises to us and we don’t have to do anything to receive them. But a covenant isn’t a one-way promise. It’s a two-way promise.

The Book of Mormon has lots of mentions of covenants. I realized this when some Jehovah’s Witnesses asked me what the Book of Mormon had that the Bible didn’t that was necessary for them. At the time I was stumped, but when I looked on the title page, I immediately found the answer:
...Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever (emphasis added)
This was when I realized how wonderful it is that the Book of Mormon tells what both sides of the covenants are. If we don’t know what our side of the covenant is, we can’t do our part. If we don’t do our part, the Lord isn’t bound to do His. And even worse, if we don’t even know that we have a part to keep, we may delude ourselves into thinking we have a covenant when we don’t, then into thinking that the Lord has to keep His part when He isn’t bound (because we don’t know and haven’t done ours), then into thinking that the Lord doesn’t keep His promises, when no covenant was made in the first place.
9 Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation.
10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise. (D&C 82:9-10)
So what covenants are in the Book of Mormon? There’s the covenant of baptism:
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?....
13 And when he had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said: Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world. (Mosiah 18:10-13)
People’s covenant: To serve the Lord and keep His commandments until the end of mortality
Lord’s covenant: To pour out His Spirit more abundantly, to grant eternal life through Christ’s redemption.

King Benjamin’s people made a similar covenant:
5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.
6 And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant.
7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
8 And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. (Mosiah 5:5-8)
People’s covenant: To do God’s will, be obedient in all things to His commandments for the rest of mortality, to take the name of Christ upon themselves
Lord’s covenant: To not bring never-ending torment, to not cause the people to drink of the cup of the wrath of God, to spiritually beget the people so that they become His sons and daughters so that their hearts are changed through faith, to make them free, to give them salvation.

Moroni tells how the Lord fulfills his end of the covenant:
31 And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father, which he hath made unto the children of men, to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him.
32 And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men. (Moroni 7:31-32)
Now, once I started noticing covenants in the Book of Mormon, I started noticing that they are all over the place.

Captain Moroni thought covenants were really important.
20 Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.
21 And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments.
22 Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression. (Alma 46:20-22, emphasis added)
Therefore Moroni thought it was expedient that he should take his armies, who had gathered themselves together, and armed themselves, and entered into a covenant to keep the peace—and it came to pass that he took his army and marched out with his tents into the wilderness, to cut off the course of Amalickiah in the wilderness. (Alma 46:31, emphasis added)
And it came to pass that whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government, he caused to be put to death; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom. (Alma 46:35, emphasis added)
(How sad that some people had to be threatened with death before they would make a covenant to support freedom! Yet it is significant that once they made the covenant, they tried very hard to keep it and very few broke that covenant later.)

Another case—in Alma 44, Moroni required the Zoramite-Lamanite army to make a covenant of everlasting peace in return for sparing their lives. It took some ..ahem.. convincing, but eventually the message got through.
19 Now Zerahemnah, when he saw that they were all about to be destroyed, cried mightily unto Moroni, promising that he would covenant and also his people with them, if they would spare the remainder of their lives, that they never would come to war again against them.
20 And it came to pass that Moroni caused that the work of death should cease again among the people. And he took the weapons of war from the Lamanites; and after they had entered into a covenant with him of peace they were suffered to depart into the wilderness. (Alma 44:19-20)
In another case, when the city of Morianton started a turf war with the city of Lehi and then took off north, Captain Moroni sent Teancum to head them, subdue them, and bring them back. This also involved a covenant.
And thus were the people of Morianton brought back. And upon their covenanting to keep the peace they were restored to the land of Morianton, and a union took place between them and the people of Lehi; and they were also restored to their lands. (Alma 50:36, emphasis added)
Captain Moroni himself had a covenant to keep in addition to his baptismal covenants.
Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood. (Alma 48:13, emphasis added)
This covenant was what caused him to write such a stiff letter to the chief judge Pahoran about the government’s neglect of the armies in perilous times.
And now behold, I, Moroni, am constrained, according to the covenant which I have made to keep the commandments of my God; therefore I would that ye should adhere to the word of God, and send speedily unto me of your provisions and of your men, and also to Helaman. (Alma 60:34, emphasis added)
The stiff part of the letter is not here obviously, but we see his covenant induced him to act.

The parents of the 2,000 stripling warriors had their own covenant that they had made in order to escape their previous war-mongering bloodthirsty ways before their conversion to the gospel.
6 And now ye also know concerning the covenant which their fathers made, that they would not take up their weapons of war against their brethren to shed blood.
7 But in the twenty and sixth year, when they saw our afflictions and our tribulations for them, they were about to break the covenant which they had made and take up their weapons of war in our defence.
8 But I would not suffer them that they should break this covenant which they had made, supposing that God would strengthen us, insomuch that we should not suffer more because of the fulfilling the oath which they had taken. (Alma 56:6-8)
Earlier it describes this as well and it gives a more serious reason why Helaman didn’t want them to break their covenant.
And Helaman feared lest by so doing they should lose their souls… (Alma 53:15)
We see here that Helaman certainly thought that deliberately breaking a promise to God was a very serious thing, a thing to be avoided at all costs. This predicament led to their sons making their own special covenant.
And they entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites, yea, to protect the land unto the laying down of their lives; yea, even they covenanted that they never would give up their liberty, but they would fight in all cases to protect the Nephites and themselves from bondage. (Alma 53:17)
This tells us why those 2,000 were so fearless, so courageous, so strong. They were bound to keep their covenant.

Why did I get so interested in all of this? Here’s my story.

For the longest time I had a terrible habit of going to bed late. This habit has extended over years, over more than a decade. I’d fight against it for a while and then it would return worse than ever. It was a major thorn in my flesh. I would go to bed so late, thinking “Oh, it won’t be so bad next morning” and then I’d wake up and feel like death warmed over and think, “Ooohhhh, why did I do that to myself?” Then I’d tell myself that I was going to go to bed early this time and by the time bedtime came around, I had forgotten how tired I was and do it to myself again. (Repeat ad nauseum) I think it was Tuesday morning of last week that I woke up and I was feeling terrible again, and I prayed (probably for the umpteenth time) that Heavenly Father would help me overcome this bad habit.

When I was reading scriptures as I usually do, I was reading in Alma 46, and those three different cases of covenant-making suddenly popped out at me. I thought it was interesting that the people thought it was necessary to make an extra covenant to keep the peace, to follow the Lord, to support freedom.

That’s when I got the impression that Heavenly Father wanted me to make a covenant with Him to go to bed early. To be honest, I was freaked out by this.

I knew myself. I knew all the times I had tried and failed to go to bed early. I didn’t have any confidence that I could keep a covenant like that. I felt like Zerahemnah:
And now it came to pass that when Zerahemnah had heard these sayings he came forth and delivered up his sword and his cimeter, and his bow into the hands of Moroni, and said unto him: Behold, here are our weapons of war; we will deliver them up unto you, but we will not suffer ourselves to take an oath unto you, which we know that we shall break, and also our children; but take our weapons of war, and suffer that we may depart into the wilderness; otherwise we will retain our swords, and we will perish or conquer. (Alma 44:8)
I didn’t want to make a covenant that I knew I would break.

Something that gave me hope was remembering a Relief Society lesson given a few years ago by a previous Relief Society president, Heather Pettingale, who told of how she had made a covenant with the Lord to try to overcome a bad habit and she had made it for a period of time and renewed it until it became a good habit.

I thought I could do that. I also realized that deep down, part of my reluctance to make a covenant came because part of me wanted to be free to go to bed whenever I wanted to and felt that a covenant would be restrictive. However, I then remembered that the reason for making this kind of covenant was tofree me from the bad habit that was enslaving me. So I decided to take the plunge; I made a covenant to be in bed by 11pm for a week, trusting that the Lord would help me keep this covenant.

You’d think that the story would be over, but it’s not. After I made this covenant I became more curious about what the scriptures said about covenants and promises, so I started searching.

I found what I’ll call “The Analogy of the Marriage Covenant”. It features Sarah and Hagar, wives of Abraham.
21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. (Galatians 4:21-31)
This is a very puzzling scripture and makes what seems like an unfair and bizarre comparison: Abraham’s wife Sarah is compared to the heavenly Jerusalem (which represents the new and everlasting covenant) and Abraham’s bondwoman wife Hagar is compared to Mount Sinai (which represents the Law of Moses). I had always taken it for granted that Abraham married both these woman in the everlasting covenant. You’d think he would, right? So it seems odd that Hagar’s marriage is given second-class status here in the comparison. I decided to make a list of what terms were identified with Hagar in order to pin down why her status wasn’t accorded the same privilege.

Mount Sinai,
gendereth to bondage,
Jerusalem with now is (in bondage with her children),
cast out,
bondwoman’s son not an heir.

I thought it was interesting that Hagar was being compared to Mount Sinai, and to me Mount Sinai evoked establishment of the Law of Moses. And then I remembered that the Law of Moses was established as a temporary schoolmaster because the Israelites were not willing to enter into the everlasting covenant and could not abide the Lord’s presence.

Then I remembered the doctrine that a person had to enter the everlasting covenant of marriage sealed by proper priesthood authority for it to still be in force out of the world.
And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. (D&C 132:19)
So I looked again at this scripture:
Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. (Galatians 4:30)
Could it be that Hagar had not been willing to enter the everlasting covenant of marriage and instead settled for a temporary form, and so Paul was prophesying of her forfeiture of eternal blessings? I have no idea. But that’s the only way it makes sense. Could it be that Hagar was afraid of the eternal-ness of the covenant, afraid she would break it, and so declined to enter it? Is this why Paul used her as a parallel for the temporary Law of Moses given to the children of Israel who couldn’t abide the everlasting covenant?

It seems then that Paul was trying to make the point that making an eternal covenant makes you eternally free at the same time that it binds you to eternal blessings that go on past the grave.

After I came to this conclusion I decided I’d change my little going-to-bed-early covenant into one that is much longer term—until the end of my life. I’m going to rely on the Lord to help me, and I know that taking the sacrament worthily renews all my covenants.

So far I have been very blessed. I've been going to bed when I should.

Today I was reading the conference issue of the Ensign and I ran across Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s talk “The Power of Covenants”, and this resonated with me much much more now after my study than it did when I first heard it. At the end he says:
I testify that in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is found the priesthood authority to administer the ordinances by which we can enter into binding covenants with our Heavenly Father in the name of His Holy Son. I testify that God will keep His promises to you as you honor your covenants with Him. He will bless you in "good measure, pressed down, . . . shaken together, and running over" (Luke 6:38). He will strengthen and finish your faith. He will, by His Holy Spirit, fill you with godly power. I pray that you will always have His Spirit to be with you to guide you and deliver you from want, anxiety, and distress. I pray that through your covenants, you may become a powerful instrument for good in the hands of Him who is our Lord and Redeemer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Covenants give us power. Covenants increase our faith in God. Covenants make us free.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 0 comments

Small-yet-Significant Versus Small-and-Unimportant

6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
7 And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls. (Alma 37:6-7)
Something I am puzzling on right now is the following question:

When we are confronted by the tasks of minutiae, how do we know the difference between the little things that will bring great things to pass and the little unimportant things that fritter away our time?

Maybe this scripture partially helps:
Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. (D&C 64: 33)
Maybe the little things that give service, that encourage, that lift, that inspire, that train, are the important things. I’d like to think this blog is one of them.

I guess the reason why I ask is that I just spent the day doing what felt like minutiae. I’ve been
  • working on forming a year’s schedule for my cub scout Bear den,
  • working on setting up scout field trips to a museum and to the library to look at back issues of newspapers,
  • working on setting up visiting teaching appointments,
  • calling a scooter shop to find out what kind of belt our broken scooter takes,
  • calling to find out where to go for an upcoming church meeting for prison ministry volunteers,
  • putting together a cover letter and a resume for a tech writing job opportunity,
  • talking to my assistant den leader about a field trip idea to visit a planetarium,
  • checking my email,
  • looking for Youtube videos to enhance various den meetings,
  • looking up library book titles to use for various den meetings,
  • getting back to a teacher about an independent research class we want to set up about Mormon literature,
  • talking to my boss about an upcoming interview for a graduate student writing tutor,
  • etcetera, etcetera, etcetera..

It felt like it was little tiny stuff, because it was one thing after another and I felt like I was just jumping around so fast and switching from thing to thing to thing in the most impulsive way and not getting anything done. But now that I look the above list, I did get a lot done. It just didn’t feel like it. And it felt like it was insignificant tiny stuff, yet as I examine what I did, I see that these things were all related to my church calling, my employment, my education, or my transportation--all pretty important issues.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this? How do you keep the insignificant from crowding out the significant? How do you tell the difference? Do you ever feel like you’ve gotten nothing done and then find you’ve done more than you thought? How do you keep from denigrating the small-yet-significant duties?
Monday, May 11, 2009 0 comments

A Mother’s Day tribute

We often rehearse the valor of Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors. I’ve written previously about the stellar qualities of the stripling warriors here, but today I want to point out something different.
And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. (Alma 53:20)
It is hard for young men (or young women) to become like that without help. If fact, the odds of 2,000 young men acquiring these same wonderful characteristics without help are extremely slim. It is plain to me that they became exceedingly valiant for strength and activity because they were following in the footsteps of parents who were exceedingly valiant for courage, strength, and activity. They had been taught by their mothers’ words AND by their examples.
47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.
48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it. (Alma 56:47-48)
Not only did they remember the words of their mothers, they rehearsed them to each other and their leaders so that all could be strengthened. They were unashamed of having been taught by their mothers, they were not ashamed of what they had been taught, and they were willing to share it with others when times were difficult.

The stripling warriors also bore testimony to the testimonies of their mothers. They were willing to take the word of their mothers and even stake their lives on it.

I’m not a warrior, but I feel like my mom would fit in with these women. So I’m going to rehearse some of the words of my mother that made an impact on me as I was growing up.

“The Lord wants obedience more than sacrifice.”

“There’s more than just you in this family; I have to take into account everybody else too.”

“You are my jewel; I have to keep you safe.”

“You need to use self control.”

“You can find joy in Christ.”

“Have you prayed about it?”
My little brother Nelson remembers the following:
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

“Keep your hands to yourself.”

“Listen more.”
He also remembers how she taught him to repent with prayer by asking forgiveness, to pray for comfort when angry, and how she helped him out of a socially awkward stage with practical advice. She taught me these things too.

She also told a generous number of stories about struggles that she went through and the things that she learned from them. These stories helped us learn from her experience.

I remember her telling a story of how she had to take care of a nursing home all by herself for a summer job and how it taught her to not spend time complaining about what needed to be done but to just get right to work. I remember her telling a story about dating guy from another faith and how he kept her from going to a church activity and she realized that would be a danger of marrying out of the church and she decided to make sure to marry a good man in the church. I remember she told stories of trying to find a good man to marry. I remember she told stories about being teased in school and how she didn’t have very many friends. I remember she told stories about when she starting reading the scriptures on her own. I remember she told stories about serving in various church callings and how she tried to reach out to people under her responsibility in Young Women.

There were many times when stories she had told came to my mind when I needed them, and I would try to put into practice what I had learned from them. Some of these stories I rehearsed to other people when they needed encouragement.

Thanks, Mom! I love you!
Sunday, May 3, 2009 0 comments

For those times when the world's wickedness pains your soul

Recently I was reading in the Book of Mormon. I read through Alma’s prayer for the proud, idolatrous, and exclusive Zoramites whom he was about to preach to, and I ran across these verses:
30 O Lord God, how long wilt thou suffer that such wickedness and infidelity shall be among this people? O Lord, wilt thou give me strength, that I may bear with mine infirmities. For I am infirm, and such wickedness among this people doth pain my soul.
31 O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ. O Lord, wilt thou grant unto me that I may have strength, that I may suffer with patience these afflictions which shall come upon me, because of the iniquity of this people. (Alma 31:30-31)
I wondered how Alma already knew that he would suffer afflictions, and I remembered that this was the man who had preached to the hard-hearted people of Ammonihah, had been sentenced by a kangaroo court, forced to watch martyrdom of the believers in Ammonihah, and he had been imprisoned and mocked and abused for many days by the wicked leaders before he was set free by the power of God and by the destruction of the prison. For all he knew, the Zoramites might do the same things to him, yet he had to share the gospel with them. No wonder he prayed for strength to suffer with patience whatever afflictions might come upon him.

If we’ve suffered for our beliefs before, it is hard to put ourselves through it again. We can ask to be comforted in Christ. We can ask for strength and patience to bear afflictions that come from the bad choices of others.

I’ve seen at least one thing last week that was grievous to me and I’ve prayed like Alma for comfort in Christ. I think the comfort came from realizing that repentance and forgiveness is available to all because of Christ’s Atonement.

At the end of Alma’s prayer, he said:
34 O Lord, wilt thou grant unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ.
35 Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee. (Alma 31:34-35)
Even though Alma was distressed and saddened by the wickedness of the Zoramites, he recognized that their souls were precious, and he recognized his brotherhood with them, so he asked for the power and wisdom to reclaim them. I think that demonstrates that he had true charity and the pure love of Christ. I hope I can have that too.