Monday, November 29, 2010 0 comments

The four sons of Mosiah and their long tail symptoms of escaping apostasy

And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them, for they were the very vilest of sinners. And the Lord saw fit in his infinite mercy to spare them; nevertheless they suffered much anguish of soul because of their iniquities, suffering much and fearing that they should be cast off forever. (Mosiah 28:4)
Often we think that the angel’s visit to Alma the Younger and the four sons of Mosiah made the repentance process quick and easy, especially when we cite Alma’s later words—“I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more” (Alma 36:19)

However, we see from the verse in Mosiah that there is a long hangover symptom of anguish and fear that lasts for quite a while afterward and I think this is true for any person redeemed from their downward road into apostasy. I know I experienced it after my own near miss, and when I noticed that verse in Mosiah more than two years ago, the light went on and I thought, Ah ha, this is why I’m feeling this way.

What helped Alma the Younger and the four sons of Mosiah overcome it was having the Spirit of the Lord work on them to do missionary work.
35 And they traveled throughout all the land of Zarahemla, and among all the people who were under the reign of king Mosiah, zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done to the church, confessing all their sins, and publishing all the things which they had seen, and explaining the prophecies and the scriptures to all who desired to hear them.
36 And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer. (Mosiah 27:35-36)

Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble. And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them...(Mosiah 28:3-4)
They knew they had to declare that what they had previously done was wrong and they had to replace it with the truth. So they went about teaching among their own people first. This was part of their repentance process. We know that. But it also had the effect of helping to assuage their own anguish and fear with the presence of the Holy Ghost during the long spiritual recovery. Focusing on helping others got them outside themselves. It gave them a store of good memories to look back on with satisfaction for the moments when Satan still tried to buffet them and make them feel like they were cast away despite their hopes to the contrary. It helped them rebuild their self-confidence because let’s face it—when a person is recovering from apostasy, they often have lost confidence in their own judgment (having found they were terribly wrong when they were sure they were right) and they distrust themselves. The best way to get it back is to build up a sufficient store of experiences serving the Lord, and doing missionary work is the best for that.

So why am I pointing this stuff out? I am writing for those in the church who have gone astray but who have come back, and who are going through that “long tail” anguish and fear. That is a hard place to be, and I understand what it feels like. It is as if you have fallen or begun to fall from a steep cliff, then realized it, and have clambered back up with help from the Lord. You have turned away from the cliff edge and are trying to leave it as quickly as possible, yet you don’t know how far you’ve come away from it and the cliff edge still feels like it is just at your heels and the slightest backsliding would send you over the cliff again.

It was hard enough for me even though I continued to go to church meetings, fulfill my callings, read the scriptures, pay tithing, keep the Word of Wisdom, or do visiting teaching, etc. etc. I never stopped doing that, yet my spiritual state felt so precarious. For a few months I had to take medication for depression and anxiety when it was becoming paralyzing. But over the long term, one of the big things that helped me was missionary work, particularly sharing my scripture insights on this blog.

Ultimately, the Book of Mormon gives hope that by clinging to the Lord and sharing the gospel, the long tail of anguish and fear will eventually come to an end and the Lord will make us stronger. Remember that when these same four returned from their mission to the Lamanites,
…they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
3 But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.
4 And they had been teaching the word of God for the space of fourteen years among the Lamanites, having had much success in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, by the power of their words many were brought before the altar of God, to call on his name and confess their sins before him. (Alma 17:2-4)
I know that this is true. Glory be to the Father, who receives all His children who will repent and believe in Jesus the Christ! Glory to Christ for His infinite love and sacrifice! Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!
Friday, November 26, 2010 2 comments

What we can learn from Jacob’s account of Sherem the anti-Christ

1 And now it came to pass after some years had passed away, there came a man among the people of Nephi, whose name was Sherem.
2 And it came to pass that he began to preach among the people, and to declare unto them that there should be no Christ. And he preached many things which were flattering unto the people; and this he did that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ.
3 And he labored diligently that he might lead away the hearts of the people, insomuch that he did lead away many hearts; and he knowing that I, Jacob, had faith in Christ who should come, he sought much opportunity that he might come unto me. (Jacob 7:1-3)
“he [Sherem] sought much opportunity that he might come unto me [Jacob]” – When I read this recently I struck me that Jacob must have had many encounters with Sherem, not just the one that is recorded in the rest of this chapter. Sherem was a militant anti-Christ, so he was very persistent in trying to spread his beliefs around. Evidently he marshaled all the powers of sophistry and rhetoric he could. “And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil” (Jacob 7:4). What a test that must have been.

When I realized Jacob must have had multiple conversations with Sherem, suddenly this account became a lot more valuable to me. The world is increasing in secularism and we may have people who come to us often, trying to shake us from our faith and using much flattery and powers of speech according to the power of the devil.

So how does Jacob stands up to this continual barrage if Sherem seeks him out so often? What is his secret, and can we use it to help us today?
And he [Sherem] had hope to shake me [Jacob] from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken. (Jacob 7:5)
Jacob doesn’t take credit for his strength. He cites the many revelations, the many things he had seen, and the angelic visitations and the voice of the Lord as what kept him from being shaken. Because Jacob remembered all the times he had received revelation, his testimony was steadfast.

That is the key for us today—remembering all the revelations the Lord has given us, all the ways our prayers have been answered, and all the tender mercies of the Lord to us. I think this is one of the reasons why it is so important to keep a journal (and a scripture journal) so that we can accumulate that evidence of God in our lives in a way so that it will have greater weight with us than the words of unbelievers who try to shake our faith. Then we can bear testimony of what we know. Jacob does this too.
9 And I [Jacob] said unto him [Sherem]: Deniest thou the Christ who shall come? And he said: If there should be a Christ, I would not deny him; but I know that there is no Christ, neither has been, nor ever will be.
10 And I said unto him: Believest thou the scriptures? And he said, Yea.
11 And I said unto him: Then ye do not understand them; for they truly testify of Christ. Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ.
12 And this is not all—it has been made manifest unto me, for I have heard and seen; and it also has been made manifest unto me by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, I know if there should be no atonement made all mankind must be lost. (Jacob 7:9-12)
I remember a time when I talked to a coworker and he said he didn’t know if there was a God or not. I told him I knew there was a God and I had had too many answers to prayer to not know. I told him gently, yet with confidence, “You know there is a God.” And he agreed with me; he said believed in YHWH of the Bible. (Obviously, this conversation had a happier result than Jacob’s.)

Will you share with me an experience you’ve had when your experience with revelation and your testimony helped you withstand militant unbelief?
Wednesday, November 24, 2010 0 comments

In which I notice the dangers of Zeniff's over-zealousness and how different it is from actual zeal

21 And ye all are witnesses this day, that Zeniff, who was made king over this people, he being over-zealous to inherit the land of his fathers, therefore being deceived by the cunning and craftiness of king Laman, who having entered into a treaty with king Zeniff, and having yielded up into his hands the possessions of a part of the land, or even the city of Lehi-Nephi, and the city of Shilom; and the land round about—
22 And all this he did, for the sole purpose of bringing this people into subjection or into bondage. And behold, we at this time do pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites, to the amount of one half of…all we have or possess…or our lives. (Mosiah 7:21-22)
Here King Limhi describes the process by which the Nephites in the land of Nephi got into their predicament of bondage and it is illustrative of the problem of over-zealousness. Taken simply, overzealousness, leads to being deceived by cunning craftiness, which leads to eventual subjection, which leads to bondage.

I think it is interesting too that he also describes another process to bondage, that of iniquity. (It is King Noah’s story in particular.)
25 For if this people had not fallen into transgression the Lord would not have suffered that this great evil should come upon them. But behold, they would not hearken unto his words; but there arose contentions among them, even so much that they did shed blood among themselves.
26 And a prophet of the Lord have they slain; yea, a chosen man of God, who told them of their wickedness and abominations, and prophesied of many things which are to come, yea, even the coming of Christ….
28 And now, because he said this, they did put him to death; and many more things did they do which brought down the wrath of God upon them. Therefore, who wondereth that they are in bondage, and that they are smitten with sore afflictions? (Mosiah 7:25-26, 28)
Transgression leads to contention, which leads to violence. The Lord sends prophets to cry repentance, and if the people reject the message, they kill the prophets. Having killed the prophets, nothing stands in the way of greater evil, which eventually angers outside powers, who attack and prevail because the people have lost their moral backbone.

Over-zealousness on one side leads to bondage, and iniquity on the other side leads to bondage. Thus we see that the way truly is straight and narrow between them.

This lead me to this question: what is the difference between zeal and over-zealousness? (Feel free to chime in on this matter in the comments.) I checked the Topical Guide on ‘over-zealous’ and there wasn’t anything, so I looked up ‘zeal.’ From those scriptures listed it seems that zeal is manifested through righteous initiative and being anxiously engaged in a good cause and cheerfully doing all things that lie in our power. So maybe one part of over-zealousness is being reactive and not doing everything we can.

Over-zealousness is, of course, manifested in the Book of Mormon by Zeniff who is so over-eager to possess the land of his fathers that he ignores the dangers associated with living near the Lamanites and at the beginning he glosses over their desires to enslave and leach off of the Nephites. (Of course, later in his reign, he is much more realistic about it and even laments “we have suffered these many years in the land.” (Mosiah 10:18)) In my own life, over-zealousness has been manifest every time I act with impatience thinking that one dramatic and ‘heroic’ act will change things. It happens when I am so over-concerned with bringing an end about that I become less scrupulous about the means I employ to achieve it. I have seen how over-zealousness makes me vulnerable to deception.

As I considered this line of thought, I began to realize something I had never thought of before--that over-zealousness is really an insidious form of laziness. I know that sounds kind of contrary, but hear me out. As I said before, when I think one dramatic act will change things, it is usually because down at bottom I am impatient (and I have neglected to do the small diligent acts that would make the large heroic act unnecessary). Like when I suddenly feel fat and go out and run instead of diligently doing a little jogging every day. Like when I send a huge 10-page essay on doctrine to the inactive lady I visit teach instead of sending her a little something maybe every week. Like when I go for two months (and more!) without cleaning the bathroom and then do a marathon cleaning session. Further, I have learned through sad experience that in my church activity, my dramatic acts of over-zealousness easily become improper and self-vaunting or worse.

As I realized this, I started to read again through Zeniff’s story in Mosiah 9 and Mosiah 10 looking specifically to see if I could detect indications of over-zealousness leading to laziness.

There were some very subtle things that I noticed in his wording, which I hadn’t noticed before and probably wouldn’t have noticed unless I had been looking specifically for it. He starts out well in the land of Nephi saying, “we began to build buildings, and to repair the walls of the city” (Mosiah 9:8) and “we began to till the ground” (Mosiah 9:9). Note the use of “we” there. He’s involved in the day-to-day work. This is good, but it doesn't seem to last.

A little later we see an incident when his people working out in the fields are attacked by the Lamanites and “they fled, all that were not overtaken, even into the city of Nephi, and did call upon me for protection.” (Mosiah 9:15) It seems that Zeniff is no longer out in the fields working. He is in the city. What was he doing there? We have no idea. I begin to wonder if he had decided that manual labor was beneath him by this time.

Well, he’s roused to heroic efforts to arm his people and of course everyone is aflame with over-zealousness, so he says “I and my people did cry mightily to the Lord that he would deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, for we were awakened to a remembrance of the deliverance of our fathers.” (Mosiah 9:17) This faith is reactive to their circumstances and even though he and his people were living so close to the Lamanites, he hadn't done everything to prepare them for battle until the Lamanites were actually breathing down their necks.

But Heavenly Father is merciful. So they slay the Lamanites and then we read this: “And I, myself, with mine own hands, did help to bury their dead” (Mosiah 9:19). He makes such a big deal about how he works with them doing this dirty job that it suggests that it is something now very unusual for him to help. Something else I noticed was that as they go back to peacetime, Zeniff says “I caused that there should be weapons of war made of every kind” (Mosiah 10:1) and “I did cause that the men should till the ground” (Mosiah 10:4) and “I did cause that the women should spin, and toil, and work” (Mosiah 10:5). He causes them. This makes me think that he’s not involved in it himself and it also makes me think that their motivation to work diligently is starting to flag too.

Finally, I noticed that Zeniff seems to only mention the Lord in times of extremity. He points out at the beginning that the Lord smote his people with famine and afflictions because they were slow to remember the Lord. (Mosiah 9:3) The next time he mentions the Lord is when they are getting ready to fight their first big battle (see Mosiah 9:17-18). The next time he mentions the Lord is in a big pep talk he gives to his people in preparation for their second big battle twenty-two years later (see Mosiah 10:11-19). The final time he mentions the Lord is just as he ends his account: “And may the Lord bless my people” (Mosiah 10:22).

After studying the story of Zeniff and the beginnings of King Noah, I begin to see how it was that King Noah’s wickedness arose out of Zeniff’s over-zealous ways. If Zeniff parented like he did other things, there is no doubt that Zeniff’s children missed out on the foundational gospel teachings that come from consistent discussion. Even if Zeniff had a strong gospel foundation to return to when things got tough, his son Noah didn’t get acquire it because it appeared so rarely. And suddenly we can see why Noah, upon assuming the throne, would get rid of the priests and put new ones in their place. (He probably thought the new ones were more ‘hip’ and the old ones too restrictive.) We can see why Noah thought he had license to do whatever he wanted. We can see why Noah would have felt no problem with taxing his people to support himself and his priests. We can see how the people became idolatrous and deceived by flattering words.

If Zeniff is an example of over-zealousness, the Anti-Nephi-Lehis are examples of genuine zeal.
And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end. (Alma 27:27)
I suppose their days would be very recognizable to us. We would see them having daily prayer apart and as families. We would see them reading and studying sacred records and discussing them. We would find them teaching and encouraging each other. We would find them working hard and doing their best. We would notice them being very watchful to make sure that neither they nor their children fell into transgression. We would notice them teaching and loving and sometimes warning their children.

Because their zeal was consistent in even the smallest day-to-day things, their children, among whom were the stripling warriors, grew up strong in the faith and were strict to keep the commandments. We get a small sample of it in this verse:
But behold, they have received many wounds; nevertheless they stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free; and they are strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day; yea, they do observe to keep his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually; and their faith is strong in the prophecies concerning that which is to come. (Alma 58:40)
Even when they were wounded, they were strict to remember their duty to God every day.

That’s the zeal we want to have--consistently remembering the Lord every day and consistently keeping the commandments every day.

What is your earliest memory of your parents teaching you to be consistently faithful?
Monday, November 22, 2010 2 comments

Thoughts on President Monson's talk "The Divine Gift of Gratitude"

Lately I’ve been studying President Monson’s conference talk “The Divine Gift of Gratitude” to try to see if I can come to better understand it. It’s a relatively simple talk, yet I’ve found unexpected depths in it that I had not anticipated. I have to confess that I’ve felt for a few days that I needed to do a post on this talk and I’ve been very worried about it; I worried that I wouldn’t be able to adequately point out how strong and effective it is. Because it IS powerful. But I’m going to do my best.

Since President Monson is both a master teacher and a master storyteller, one of the things we have to do when reading his talks is to analyze every single one of his stories, no matter how small. Since his topic is on gratitude, what can we find about gratitude in each one of his stories?
This has been a marvelous session. When I was appointed President of the Church, I said, “I’ll take one assignment for myself. I’ll be the adviser for the Tabernacle Choir.” I’m very proud of my choir!
My mother once said of me, “Tommy, I’m very proud of all that you’ve done. But I have one comment to make to you. You should have stayed with the piano.”
So I went to the piano and played a number for her: “Here we go, [here we go] to a birthday party.” Then I gave her a kiss on the forehead, and she embraced me.
I think of her. I think of my father. I think of all those General Authorities who’ve influenced me, and others, including the widows whom I visited—85 of them—with a chicken for the oven, sometimes a little money for their pocket.
I visited one late one night. It was midnight, and I went to the nursing home, and the receptionist said, “I’m sure she’s asleep, but she told me to be sure to awaken her, for she said, ‘I know he’ll come.’”
I held her hand; she called my name. She was wide awake. She pressed my hand to her lips and said, “I knew you’d come.” How could I not have come?
Beautiful music touches me that way.
This beginning struck me as a rambling reminiscence when I first heard it, even as I smiled at his pantomime of picking out the old John Thompson song with one finger and his singing it in front of hundreds of thousands of watching Latter-day Saints.


I looked for gratitude and it is there. He tells us he’s so proud of his assignment as advisor to the Tabernacle choir (gratitude for their beautiful music and his chance to be associated with them in some way) because his mother once told him that for all he had done, she still thought he should have continued lessons with the piano.

Think about that—a mother who is disappointed that her apostolic son hadn’t stuck with his piano lessons. Hmmm. Yet let us pass over that and realize that this same mother gave birth to and raised this great man. President Monson, for his part, seems to have alluded to his own boyhood ingratitude for piano lessons, and repented of it, and we see in his attempt to plunk out a song for his mother a new thankfulness for the small skill he learned long ago.

Then he compares his mother’s frustrated expectation of him with a time that he was able to meet the expectation of one of the widows he visited. He ends this with the almost cryptic sentence “Beautiful music touches me that way.” It seems that he was speaking of how the Tabernacle choir’s beautiful music helps satisfy a deep yearning he had to please his mother and that the choir itself always fulfilled his own expectations and hopes for it, especially in times when he really needed it.

This is an incredibly complex way of expressing gratitude, but he manages to thank the Tabernacle choir, his parents, general authorities who influenced him, and even those he served.

My beloved brothers and sisters, we have heard inspired messages of truth, of hope, and of love. Our thoughts have turned to Him who atoned for our sins, who showed us the way to live and how to pray, and who demonstrated by His own actions the blessings of service—even our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In the book of Luke, chapter 17, we read of Him:
“And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
“And as he entered into a certain village, there [he met] ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
“And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
“And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”2
Through divine intervention those who were lepers were spared from a cruel, lingering death and given a new lease on life. The expressed gratitude by one merited the Master’s blessing; the ingratitude shown by the nine, His disappointment.
My brothers and sisters, do we remember to give thanks for the blessings we receive?
Why was this story included? I’m sure we’ve heard it many times before. What does it mean to us? Obviously we are meant to take it to heart somehow. As I thought about it, I realized that we are the lepers. Every one of us has been made unclean by the terrible thing called sin. When we are made clean through the atoning power of Christ, we have just as much reason to glorify God with a loud voice as did the Samaritan in the story. Do we remember to give thanks?

President Monson names a bunch of blessings that come from gratitude, and they are scattered all over the talk:
  • “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love.”
  • “President Gordon B. Hinckley said, ‘When you walk with gratitude…you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives.’”
  • “We can lift ourselves and others as well when we…cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude.”
  • “Someone has said that ‘gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.’”
  • President Joseph F. Smith, sixth President of the Church….said…: “The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life….How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul…”
  • Gratitude freely expressed minimizes feelings of regret when we lose a loved one.
  • It helps us find blessings in the midst of serious challenges.
President Monson’s talk also contains a list of ways to cultivate gratitude:
  • Rejoice over what you have.
  • Look for and acknowledge the Lord’s hand in all things.
  • Live in thanksgiving daily for the many mercies and blessings the Lord bestows upon you.
  • Pause and contemplate our blessings.
  • Refuse to remain in the realm of negative thoughts.
  • Consciously cultivate an attitude of gratitude until it becomes a habit.
  • Cultivate, through a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man.
  • Appreciate what money can’t buy: our families, the gospel, good friends, our health, our abilities, the love we receive from those around us.
  • Remember the happy days of the past and express gratitude before loved ones are gone.
  • Take an inventory of what you have.
About a third of President Monson’s talk is devoted to recounting the story of Gordon Green’s family and how they found blessings during difficult challenges, and this calls for serious attention and study. I will include the story below along with things that stuck out to me.
Gordon tells how he grew up on a farm in Canada, where he and his siblings had to hurry home from school while the other children played ball and went swimming. Their father, however, had the capacity to help them understand that their work amounted to something. This was especially true after harvesttime when the family celebrated Thanksgiving, for on that day their father gave them a great gift. He took an inventory of everything they had.
On Thanksgiving morning he would take them to the cellar with its barrels of apples, bins of beets, carrots packed in sand, and mountains of sacked potatoes as well as peas, corn, string beans, jellies, strawberries, and other preserves which filled their shelves. He had the children count everything carefully. Then they went out to the barn and figured how many tons of hay there were and how many bushels of grain in the granary. They counted the cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and geese. Their father said he wanted to see how they stood, but they knew he really wanted them to realize on that feast day how richly God had blessed them and had smiled upon all their hours of work. Finally, when they sat down to the feast their mother had prepared, the blessings were something they felt.
Taking an actual count and making a list is a very good way of cultivating gratitude. Gordon’s father is very wise because not only did he teach his children to work, but to notice and tally the fruits of their labors and their blessings from God. I would add that not only is it good to count tangible blessings, but intangible ones too. And if that weren’t enough, there are times when it is good to count the cost we save because of what didn’t happen. [Like the times when the car made it to the repair shop before it died. Or the time the surgeon noticed and removed the cancer while operating on dear husband for something else.]
Gordon indicated, however, that the Thanksgiving he remembered most thankfully was the year they seemed to have nothing for which to be grateful.
This should be a heads up that counting one’s present blessings may not work in all circumstances but that something very special and almost miraculous is coming in this story. We need to be alert to look for it.
The year started off well: they had leftover hay, lots of seed, four litters of pigs, and their father had a little money set aside so that someday he could afford to buy a hay loader—a wonderful machine most farmers just dreamed of owning. It was also the year that electricity came to their town—although not to them because they couldn’t afford it.
One night when Gordon’s mother was doing her big wash, his father stepped in and took his turn over the washboard and asked his wife to rest and do her knitting. He said, “You spend more time doing the wash than sleeping. Do you think we should break down and get electricity?” Although elated at the prospect, she shed a tear or two as she thought of the hay loader that wouldn’t be bought.
I have to point out once again how wise Gordon’s father is, simply from examining these paragraphs. Gordon knew his father was saving for a hay loader. That indicates that Gordon’s father involved the family in decisions about what they were going to save for and got family buy-in so that they were united. And a hay loader is pretty practical.

Interestingly enough, Gordon’s father changes his mind about what to get at an interesting time—while he decides to step in and take a turn at the washboard helping his wife wash clothes. As he did a task that his wife usually did, we can discern that he began to appreciate more fully the hard work his wife did to keep the family’s clothes clean. (Principle: Gratitude for what others do can come when we take over their duties for a little while.) Because Gordon’s father was now grateful for all that washing, he was filled with a desire to really lighten his wife’s burden—with electricity and a washing machine. He was willing to sacrifice his own plans to help her.

How curious that his wife was both elated, yet saddened. Yes, she would appreciate the electricity and a washing machine, but she still couldn’t think of foregoing the hay loader for her husband without a little pang. How often we are like her; as sudden unexpected blessings come to us we sometimes have a hard time letting go of what we previously planned for and thought we wanted before. Sometimes it is hard for us to see how much more beneficial for us the present blessings will be. (I could write a whole post about how my college career played out like that.)
So the electrical line went up their lane that year. Although it was nothing fancy, they acquired a washing machine that worked all day by itself and brilliant lightbulbs that dangled from each ceiling. There were no more lamps to fill with oil, no more wicks to cut, no more sooty chimneys to wash. The lamps went quietly off to the attic.
Electricity brought immediate blessings and they knew exactly how it helped them. No lack of gratitude here. Of course, it is always easiest to be thankful for a blessing just after you receive it.
The coming of electricity to their farm was almost the last good thing that happened to them that year. Just as their crops were starting to come through the ground, the rains started. When the water finally receded, there wasn’t a plant left anywhere. They planted again, but more rains beat the crops into the earth. Their potatoes rotted in the mud. They sold a couple of cows and all the pigs and other livestock they had intended to keep, getting very low prices for them because everybody else had to do the same thing. All they harvested that year was a patch of turnips which had somehow weathered the storms.
Then it was Thanksgiving again. Their mother said, “Maybe we’d better forget it this year. We haven’t even got a goose left.”
In no way were the Greens to blame for their difficulty. It was simply a result of difficult conditions and they weren’t the only ones that suffered. For them to lose their crops like that is just as serious as if they lost a job. With no income from crops, they had to get income by selling their animals.

Notice that Gordon’s mother thinks they have hit rock bottom. She can see no reason for celebrating Thanksgiving or even anything to celebrate it with. Yet they still have a patch of turnips!
On Thanksgiving morning, however, Gordon’s father showed up with a jackrabbit and asked his wife to cook it. Grudgingly she started the job, indicating it would take a long time to cook that tough old thing.
Gordon’s father worked very hard to come up with something to have as a main dish for Thanksgiving. (Maybe he shot the jackrabbit as it was nibbling the turnips? ;-) ) But notice Gordon’s mother’s attitude. She is thinking too much about not having a goose for Thanksgiving to appreciate that without her husband’s efforts, she wouldn’t even have the jackrabbit. Watch how her ingratitude spreads to her children..
When it was finally on the table with some of the turnips that had survived, the children refused to eat. Gordon’s mother cried…
The children are also infected with ingratitude and turn up their nose at what Gordon’s father got them and what Gordon’s mother did to try to prepare it for dinner. Who can blame Gordon’s mother for crying now? I suppose our ingratitude must make our Heavenly Parents mourn the same way when we turn up our noses at his blessings because we have expected something better.
…then his father did a strange thing. He went up to the attic, got an oil lamp, took it back to the table, and lighted it. He told the children to turn out the electric lights. When there was only the lamp again, they could hardly believe that it had been that dark before. They wondered how they had ever seen anything without the bright lights made possible by electricity.
Gordon’s father is incredibly wise. While his wife and children are troubled by their want, he assuages their grief not by giving them something new, but by taking something else away temporarily. This brings them all to an immediate awareness that things are not as bad as they thought. Suddenly they remember how wonderful electricity is as they experience a brief “vacation” from its convenience. Undoubtedly it was easier for them to endure this brief, voluntary loss than the more sustained, involuntary financial losses they had experienced over the year.
The food was blessed, and everyone ate. When dinner was over, they all sat quietly. Wrote Gordon:
“In the humble dimness of the old lamp we were beginning to see clearly again. . . .
“It [was] a lovely meal. The jack rabbit tasted like turkey and the turnips were the mildest we could recall. . . .
“ . . . [Our] home . . . , for all its want, was so rich [to] us.”
I thought very hard about this part. I wondered just how that realization about the blessing of electricity suddenly seemed to also bless their meal and their feeling for their home. Surely this wasn’t just empty words; there had to be something more behind it. Then I started to understand. Perhaps the briefness of their break from electricity suggested to them the possibility that their financial troubles would also be brief. Perhaps just like turning off the lightbulbs and using the oil lamps helped them appreciate electricity, losing their harvest and their animals for a year helped them more fully appreciate the plenty they had had… and would someday enjoy again.

I shared these last thoughts with my husband and he thinks I’m reading too far into it, but I can’t shake the feeling that maybe that is something we can learn from this story. What do you think? Is there anything in particular in this talk that really speaks to you? How is the principle of gratitude blessing your life?
Saturday, November 20, 2010 3 comments

28 Ways to squeeze every drop of insight from your scripture reading

I went to observe a seminary class and on one of the classroom walls was a cluster of scripture study strategies. There were so many of them and they were so good that I just had to write them all down for reference. If you want to squeeze every last bit of wisdom and insight from your scripture study, or add extra breadth and depth to it, these are very helpful.
  1. Insert your name in place of other names. This helps you feel like the scriptures are speaking to you.
  2. Link a scripture mastery scripture to its surrounding context and then to your life. This helps you see where you need to change and repent. It is the best method spiritual growth. This can also be done with other scriptures as well.
  3. Look for lists and number them. This helps us see how big they are and understand them better.
  4. Look for words of emphasis, attention, and focus (verily, O, wo, Lo, truly). These help us know what the writer considered important.
  5. Look for blessings and how to obtain them. Some people think this creates a faulty transactionalist view of the scriptures, but if you want blessings, nothing beats learning what the scriptures say about how to obtain them.
  6. Look for if-then statements. Often this is an easy way to find blessings and warnings.
  7. Compare and contrast. Contrast good people and bad people. Contrast leaders and followers. Contrast God and mortals. Anywhere there is a conflict, there is potential to contrast.
  8. Look for characteristics of the Godhead. This helps us understand who we worship better and helps us have faith in them.
  9. Look for power phrases. These are the really memorable lines like "Wickedness never was happiness." They pack a huge punch of truth.
  10. Look for principles and doctrines. These are general statements that can be used to guide you in a bunch of different situations.
  11. Look up word definitions. Sometimes word meanings change over time. For example, the word "peculiar" in the Lord's command to become a "peculiar people" has changed from "special" to "weird," so we need the reminder of what it used to mean.
  12. Look for patterns and repetition. Patterns can involve events, idea repetition, word repetition, and more. We know about the pride cycle because someone noticed a pattern. Repeated words in a scripture block can indicate emphasis on a certain principle or doctrine.
  13. Look for problems and their solutions. The problems we have in our lives will very much resemble the problems that people had in the scriptures, and their solutions will also work for us.
  14. Look for questions in the text and answer them. This will help you improve your ability to explain scriptures to people, which you will always use when sharing the gospel.
  15. Ask the writer a question, then look for the answer. The Lord listens and wants to answer our questions when we ask them.
  16. Ask what the author intended to teach. This can help us keep from going off into left field with interpretation. It also helps us notice what the writer emphasized most.
  17. Check footnotes. Sometimes there are translation issues. You might find the Joseph Smith Transation has something to add.
  18. Look up cross references. This can broaden our view of the meaning of our reading.
  19. Study by topic using the Topical Guide. This can REALLY expand our understanding of a topic so we can see it from a number of different angles. It can help us find the underlying connection between two gospel principles that seem to contradict each other. (Ex: grace and works) This is best started when there is an attribute that you want to learn about so you can become it.
  20. Create scripture chains. This allows you to connect together in a linear fashion scripture verses that are closely related. It is useful for when you have to teach someone about, say, baptism and build a foundation for their understanding.
  21. Create scripture clusters.* This helps broaden your understanding and helps develop the skills of discernment as to what principles are most important and which are more peripheral.
  22. Use manuals. These can fill in the holes when we lack cultural or historical insight.
  23. Find out background and read in context. Context can help you pick out significance that you may have missed earlier.
  24. Use maps and photographs. They help make the scriptures real. These things happened in real places with real people!
  25. Find a supporting hymn. Music can teach what words alone can't.
  26. Ask how it relates to the Plan of Salvation. This helps you see how a doctrine or principle will help you return to Heavenly Father someday.
  27. Ask how it might relate to the Proclamation on the Family. This helps you see how a doctrine or principle will help you strengthen your family.
  28. Write what you discover in a scripture journal. This is the depository for all the great insights you will get. The Lord can reveal more to us when we show we value what He has already given us.

*A scripture cluster is a list of scriptures all dealing with the same topic and represents the best scriptures you can find on that topic. Each scripture in the cluster must add a special bit of knowledge or insight to the topic that none of the other scriptures in the cluster have.

Are there any other methods that you use that you can share with me?
Thursday, November 18, 2010 3 comments

Outside Article on learning emotional maturity from the Book of Mormon

Please consider Larry W. Tippets’ article “Toward Emotional Maturity: Insights from the Book of Mormon” from the The Religious Educator, volume 10, issue 2, 2010.

The scriptures that he examines may have been well-known to me, but his focus on how they help us develop emotional maturity provides a very helpful and insightful practical connection to our real life difficulties. I, for one, am very grateful for it.

What do you think of the article?
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 3 comments

Falling River, Fall of Adam

10 And I, the Lord God, caused a river to go out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.
11 And I, the Lord God, called the name of the first Pison, and it compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where I, the Lord God, created much gold;…
13 And the name of the second river was called Gihon; the same that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.
14 And the name of the third river was Hiddekel; that which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river was the Euphrates. (Moses 3:10-11, 13-14)

For the river to go out of Eden, Eden had to be on a higher elevation than everything else. This geographic state is clearly communicating to us a spiritual truth. Eden was a mountain of the Lord.

The river’s course also foreshadows the Fall of man, the exile from Eden, and the loss of unity, and being scattered in all directions to different lands.

But all of this downward and outward flow of humanity is eventually reversed, as Isaiah prophesies of the flow of people who will both come together and go up to the mountain of the Lord.
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:2-3, emphasis added)
Image from “Hiking in Southern Japan” blog,
Sunday, November 14, 2010 2 comments

All wholesome herbs God hath ordained

I’m revisiting D&C 89 and some things stuck out to me.
And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man— (D&C 89:10)
This time through I noticed the word “wholesome.” It is interesting that this verse does not say that all herbs are wholesome; it says all wholesome herbs are ordained for man. So we learn that there must be certain herbs that are NOT wholesome and do not promote mental, spiritual, and physical health.

Something else that sticks out to me is the list at the end of the verse: “for the constitution, nature, and use of man.” I ask myself why use all three of those words—constitution, nature, and use—and not just one of them. To study them better it seemed like it might be easier to think about them individually if I were to pull them apart.

For the constitution of man
For the nature of man
For the use of man

Where’s my dictionary? (Michaela rummages around in her shelves) Okay, got it.

constitution of man

Obviously in this context it is not the founding document of the United States that is meant. The dictionary says that constitution is “the physical makeup, the structure, composition, or nature of something.” So we learn (and nutritionists can show) that the chemical make-up of wholesome herbs is such that humans can consume them and be nourished, and they contain what we need. The verse shows us that God planned it that way.

nature of man

“Nature” in this context means “the basic quality or character of a person or thing, or the disposition, temperament, or natural feeling in one’s attitude.” This shows us that wholesome herbs are adapted to appeal to humanity’s taste and smell. They are calculated to be beautiful so that we want to eat them. I see this is true as I find myself most attracted to salads with lots of color and texture. I love the broad rich green leaves of spinach, the bright orange of carrots, the deep reds of tomatoes and bell peppers, the yellow of corn. I like the red outside of radishes and their bright white inside. I love the purple cabbages and the stringiness of alfalfa sprouts. I could go on all day about avocados, strawberries, pomegranates, peaches, garlic, onions, celery, and so on. (Yeah, I know, I’m naming some fruits with the vegetables, but if we’re talking about beautiful and tasty, fruits deserve to be mentioned too!)

use of man

“Use” is such a basic word, but if I’m looking at definitions, I might as well do this one too. It means “to put into action or employ, to consume, to carry out a purpose by means of something, to behave towards.” This suggests that wholesome herbs may have good uses beyond that of food. We use extracts and essences, we make perfumes, medicines, flavors and spices. We use plants as decoration, filtration, shade, erosion protection, soil renewal, and more. We even make clothes out of them.

In studying this verse, I can see God’s wisdom in providing food for us with His creations. He knows about body chemistry and plant chemistry and He knows what nourishes and what doesn’t. He wants us to learn that too, so the next verse says this:
Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving. (D&C 89:11)
Prudence means “the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason, discretion and shrewdness in the management of affairs, skill and good judgment in the use of resources, caution, circumspection.” We develop good judgment when we learn of the health benefits of wholesome herbs and fruits.

We know the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but do we know what nutrients apples have and what else we should eat to make up for what apples have less of? I don’t. It seems to me that I need to learn more of this kind of thing so that I can make my cooking and eating decisions with more prudence, rather than relying so much on mere enthusiasm.

The Lord also wants us to use wholesome herbs and fruits with thanksgiving and to appreciate them at their full value. I sense that this can be done best if we learn of their qualities and health effects. I believe that the more I learn and do these things, the more I will see good herbs and fruits as something great and I will thank Heavenly Father for them.

What herbs and fruits have you learned about that have helped you better appreciate them and use them wisely?

Image: cornucopia.jpg,
Friday, November 12, 2010 2 comments

A type of Christ: Captain Moroni freeing the prisoners of the city of Gid

This was something that I realized in a flash yesterday, so I went back to the chapter to check and see and it seems it is true. In many respects, this story about Captain Moroni liberating the city of Gid is a very good type of Christ and how He saves us from our sins. (I just have to say at the beginning that I’m not sure how the strategy of getting the Lamanite guards drunk fits into it (if you have any ideas, please share them in the comments), but in other respects, the story closely parallels how Christ helps us.)
16 And now this was according to the design of Moroni. And Moroni had prepared his men with weapons of war; and he went to the city Gid, while the Lamanites were in a deep sleep and drunken, and cast in weapons of war unto the prisoners, insomuch that they were all armed;
17 Yea, even to their women, and all those of their children, as many as were able to use a weapon of war, when Moroni had armed all those prisoners; and all those things were done in a profound silence….
19….Moroni…did not delight in murder or bloodshed, but he delighted in the saving of his people from destruction….
20 But he had obtained his desires; for he had armed those prisoners of the Nephites who were within the wall of the city, and had given them power to gain possession of those parts which were within the walls.
21 And then he caused the men who were with him to withdraw a pace from them, and surround the armies of the Lamanites.
22 Now behold this was done in the night-time, so that when the Lamanites awoke in the morning they beheld that they were surrounded by the Nephites without, and that their prisoners were armed within.
23 And thus they saw that the Nephites had power over them; and in these circumstances they found that it was not expedient that they should fight with the Nephites; therefore their chief captains demanded their weapons of war, and they brought them forth and cast them at the feet of the Nephites, pleading for mercy.
24 Now behold, this was the desire of Moroni. He took them prisoners of war, and took possession of the city, and caused that all the prisoners should be liberated, who were Nephites; and they did join the army of Moroni, and were a great strength to his army. (Alma 55:16-17, 19-24)
Notice all the things that Captain Moroni did. He prepared his men. They prepared weapons. (Armor of God, anyone? Sword of the Spirit?) He armed the prisoners. He gave them power to gain possession of the city. He withdrew and surrounded the city. Then, when the Lamanites surrendered, he took them prisoners. He took possession of the city. And he liberated all the prisoners.

When we are prisoners of sin, Christ has a plan for freeing us. Christ prepared His weapons—the great Atonement, the armor of God, and the sword of the Spirit. He prepares His men, all the prophets and church leaders and missionaries. He gives to those of us who want to be free weapons and armor to use—again, the armor of God and the sword of the Spirit, and the Atonement—which gives us power to free ourselves. Then He withdraws a bit and surrounds us with His armies of servants, so that we know we’re not doing it alone. In these conditions, sin MUST and DOES surrender, and Christ takes sin and the devil prisoner. Then Christ takes possession of our lives and liberates us and join him and his army and add our strength to it. (What a great truth that is—when Christ takes possession of us, we are liberated!)

One extra thing I want to point out—there is a curious phrase used in this story. When the prisoners were being armed, it says that “all those things were done in a profound silence.” Why do you think it was a “profound silence” instead of just “silence”?

I looked up “profound” using my dictionary widget and it said that it meant
  • “(of a state, quality, or emotion) very great or intense”
  • “(of a person or statement) having or showing great knowledge or insight”
  • “(of a subject or thought) demanding deep study or thought”
  • “at, from, or extending to great depth; very deep.”
How does that word “profound” make a difference in the meaning of this story if we are comparing it to how Christ liberates us from sin? Please share with me what you think.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010 1 comments

Feeding our friends at midnight

5 And he [Jesus] said unto them [his disciples], Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
8 I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Luke 11:5-10)
This is an interesting parable because we know that it is teaching us to pray, but the situation Jesus describes in the parable is less familiar to us than the meaning behind it. Yet there are things that can be picked out from this parable that bring it closer to something more familiar to us.

It struck me that this perfectly describes those times when friends come to us in the middle of a very dark and difficult time and they want help. It is as though they have been traveling at night and they’ve gotten to “midnight”--the darkest time of their affliction--and they just can’t go on any more. And they want answers. And we want to say something that helps them, something that nourishes their soul. They need the bread of life and while we’ve taken care of our own spiritual needs, we haven’t prepared anything specifically for them, so we’re not ready. They come so suddenly, you see.

So what do we do? We say those hurried silent prayers for help that the Lord will give us the words to say--the bread of life--for us to give to our tired friends. But unlike the friend in the parable who had already put his household to bed, who had closed his door, and who protested before giving, the Lord stands ready to give as much as we need.

Notice that each person in the parable was a friend. Even if our friend comes to us instead of going directly to the Lord, the Lord is still their friend as well as ours. In coming to us, they actually give us a chance to advocate for them to the Lord and become a type of Christ.

I think this parable is very widely applicable. It describes how we can help people in deep distress when they come to us. It describes how church leaders counsel with members. It’s the essence of successful visiting teaching and home teaching. It describes how parents can teach their children when/if their children come to them with serious questions and worries. It is the epitome of “helpmeet” in the spousal relationship (and goes both ways).

What if the words that come to us don’t seem to help them? Was it the wrong thing? The rest of the scripture seems to answer this.
11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:11-13)
This affirms that if we say the words the Lord gives us, then it will be the nourishing answers that are needed, whether the hearer takes it that way or not. (This is very comforting to me because I have had many times when I knew I was saying the right thing, but it wasn’t accepted.)

Will you share an experience with me of a time when someone helped you through a hard time by sharing with you some of the “bread of life”?

Image: Bohemian diary,
Sunday, November 7, 2010 2 comments

Isaiah and Nephi testify of the future redemptive work for the dead

In my last post “1 Nephi 21 (Isaiah 49) The Lord can gather Israel with both hands tied behind His back,” I discussed how 1 Nephi 21 shows us all the different ways the Lord can gather Israel. Yet that is not all this chapter teaches us about. If we read it keeping in mind the great work of redemption for the dead that occurs in temples, we find that theme vibrating with barely suppressed excitement throughout the chapter and explored with much greater depth than in the verses we usually quote in Isaiah 2:2-3

Would it make sense for such a great seer as Isaiah to see the modern temples in vision and then not mention that great redemptive work for the dead in his writings at all? Granted, he was living among an apostate people who could not handle the mysteries of godliness, since they rejected the foundational principles of the gospel, but there was nothing stopping Isaiah from writing about redemption for the dead using his masterly style that both concealed and revealed the truth.

So now let us read and notice how it is all laid out in Isaiah 49, which Nephi quotes in 1 Nephi 21!

It is a light thing that thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel….thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth. (v6) Saving ordinances can be done for all the souls of the dead.

That thou mayest say to the prisoners: Go forth; to them that sit in darkness: Show yourselves. (v9) When temple work is done for souls in spirit prison, they are allowed to leave.

And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. (v11) Once again, the temples are the highway to exaltation for the living as well as the dead.

Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth…; and break forth into singing, O mountains; for they shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. (v13) The whole of creation (those in heaven, those on the earth, and those in the temples) rejoices over the work for the dead. This is how the Lord comforts His righteous people who have died without a chance of accepting the gospel in the flesh.

But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not. (v14) This shows us that there are converted souls of the dead who belong in Zion but who are not yet numbered among the covenant people and who feel the Lord has forgotten their faithfulness. Temple work for the dead is how the Lord shows these souls He remembers them.

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands (v16) The ordinances of the temple symbolically remind us of this. These tokens also are a constant reminder to the Lord of those souls of the dead who He has redeemed.

Thy children shall make haste against thy destroyers (v17) The work for the dead will go faster and faster to save souls from spirit prison. We’ve seen this happen as more temples have been built and genealogical software has streamlined the process of finding records, organizing records, preparing names, and recording ordinances.

The children whom thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the first, shall again in thine ears say: The place is too strait for me…Then shalt thou say in thine heart: Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive…?...Behold, I was left alone; these, where have they been? (v20- 21) The souls of those who have been sealed to their children will be able to be with them again and the children will start to feel crowded. The parents will be surprised and wonder where the children had been all this time.

I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. (v22) Remember all those little slips of names that you take with you to the temple, stuck in the pocket of your temple tote that you have slung over your shoulder? Those are someone’s sons and daughters that you are carrying in your arms and on your shoulders.

And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers (v23) Since every endowed member is a prospective king or queen, these will be the people who will be preaching to the souls in spirit prison, feeding them doctrine.

kings… and their queens… shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet (v23) If we in any way neglect our duty to do temple work, we’ll have a lot of apologizing to do on the other side.

thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me (v23) Those who accept the gospel on the other side of the veil will gain testimonies too and they will not be ashamed of waiting for their temple work.

For shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captives delivered? But thus saith the Lord, even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered (v24-25) The dead souls who are not of the house of Israel are lawful captives of death and hell, but temple work will deliver them because of the atonement of Christ.

I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. (v25) It is Satan who contends with us. Christ makes it so that the gates of hell do not prevail against the house of Israel whose temple work is done.

all flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. (v26) Since all are subject to death, all nations will gain a testimony and know that Christ saves the dead as well as the living. In this way, the covenant will be fulfilled that was made to Abraham that in his seed all kindreds of the earth would be blessed.

From this perspective we see that Christ was absolutely right when he said that Isaiah’s words were great and that he spoke concerning all things pertaining to the house of Israel. We see that Isaiah spoke of temple work for the dead.

I believe that Nephi saw this as well and he spoke of it too, although just as carefully as Isaiah did, so that those with ears to hear and eyes to see would notice it while all others would miss it. Look beyond the usual interpretation of “missionary work” in these verses and look for temple work:

8 And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders.
9 And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles; and not only unto the Gentiles but unto all the house of Israel, unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
10 And I would, my brethren, that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations.
11 Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel.
12 Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel. (1 Nephi 22:8-9, emphasis added)

After finding all this stuff, I feel like I’ve been completely blind before. I never knew this was in here! It is wonderful to know that the ancient prophets looked forward to the great redemptive work in temples and wrote about it in such a way that we would someday notice it when it was being fulfilled. How great the Lord’s wisdom is to prepare these things for us!

Image: Fanpop,
Friday, November 5, 2010 0 comments

1 Nephi 21 (Isaiah 49) The Lord can gather Israel with both hands tied behind His back

In this chapter, Nephi quotes Isaiah to show the many methods Lord plans to use to gather His scattered people. So, how many different ways are mentioned that does the Lord plan to gather His people? A bunch. And some of them are quite creative. They look hard to us, but they are no problem for the Lord because of His great power. Nephi quotes this chapter so that his people (and us) can have hope and trust the Lord.

…saith the Lord—that formed me from the womb that I should be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him… (v5) The Lord raises up prophets to gather Israel. This phrasing also applies to Jesus Christ.

thou shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob (v6) Raising righteous families gathers Israel.

I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth. (v6) Being a good example helps to gather Israel.

Thus saith the Lord: In an acceptable time have I heard thee, O isles of the sea, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee (v8) The Lord answers the prayers of those who are seeking the true church.

I will preserve thee, and give thee my servant for a covenant of the people…to cause to inherit the desolate heritages (v8) The Lord gathers the people to empty lands to save them, as when the Saints moved west.

That thou mayest say to the prisoners: Go forth; to them that sit in darkness: Show yourselves. (v9) The Lord also involves the spirits of the dead in the gathering, as Joseph F. Smith saw in his vision of how the preaching of the gospel was organized among spirits. (see D&C 138)

And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. (v11) The Lord gathers the people using the temples. He gathers them to build temples, He gathers families in the eternities through temple work, and all the dead who accept the gospel are gathered into the house of Israel through temple work. Temples are truly the highway to exaltation and gathering.

these shall come from far; and lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. (v12) The Lord will gather people from all nations through missionary work.

But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not. (v14) The Lord will gather the depressed and alone. He will also do miracles to show He has not forsaken or forgotten His people.

Thy children shall make haste against thy destroyers; and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee. (v17) There are several ways of looking at this verse. Firstly, it is a chiasmus.

Thy children
Shall make haste
Against thy destroyers
And they that made thee waste
Shall go forth
Of thee.

The chiasmus gives me the impression that the Lord will gather people to Israel who had previously fought against it through ignorance. Children of Israel will make haste to set these people straight, and then they will be converted and “go forth of thee,” or be counted among the house of Israel.

Oddly enough, it could also be interpreted to testify of church discipline, how those who are destroying the church from the inside will be corrected or otherwise “go forth of thee”, meaning they are removed from the church. (Casting the wolves out of the fold helps gather Israel.)

as I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on even as a bride (v18) This imagery expresses how the Lord gathers His people to Zion gradually in waves, like clothing and jewelry is put on. Each wave of gathering adds glory and beauty to Zion. Each wave will add excitement and anticipation for the second coming of the Lord, just like a bride gets more and more excited for her wedding as she dresses in her wedding dress.

For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants;…The children whom thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the first, shall again in thine ears say: The place is too strait for me; give place to me that I may dwell. (v19-20) The Lord gathers so many people that it puts a strain on the land, bursting at the seams, so they have to create new colonies and split wards and split stakes.

Then shalt thou say in thine heart: Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate (v21) The Lord gathers children to Israel through adoptive services.

Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles…and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. (v22) The Lord involves the Gentiles in the work of gathering Israel. (Amazing!)

I will…set up my standard to the people (v22) The Lord uses the standards and the commandments to gather Israel.

And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers (v23) The Lord uses royalty to help gather Israel. Rulers change their laws and policies to permit the church to proselyte and meet in their country. Also, since every endowed member is a prospective king or queen, they are involved in the work of gathering Israel by feeding nourishing doctrine to new members and investigators.

thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me (v23) Everyone who is gathered to the house of Israel will have a testimony and will not be ashamed for having waited for the truth so long.

But thus saith the Lord, even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. (v25) Even the oppressed and captive peoples in the world will be delivered so that they can be gathered.

and all flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. (v26) Everyone will know this because everyone will have heard our testimony of it by the time the gathering is over.

This chapter is meant to show us how many different ways the Lord has of gathering His scattered people. Through this chapter we see that to the Lord, gathering Israel really is a “light” (easy) thing. It’s as if He says to us, “Look! It’s so easy I can do it with my eyes closed and both hands tied behind my back! I can even gather Israel using people who wouldn’t ever dream of gathering Israel!” This helps us have greater faith and trust in the Lord and to see His hand in our lives and in various world events. Most of all, it gives us encouragement to share the gospel with people.

But that’s not all this chapter does. My next post will examine how this chapter testifies extensively of the great work of redemption for the dead in the temple.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010 2 comments

The fundamental purpose of 1 Nephi 20 (Isaiah 48)

I’ve read through the Book of Mormon a number of times and something that would make me wonder every time I ran across it was Nephi’s quotations of Isaiah. I often wondered what points he was trying to make with it and why he felt it was important to put it right there.

Recently I was reading through again and I got to the ending of 1 Nephi 19 where Nephi talks about his purpose of writing and something popped out at me in verse 23: “but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah.” (emphasis added) Nephi talks about a bunch of other purposes that he wants his writings to fulfill, but this one stood out to me, so I decided to look to see if I could find things in the following chapter 1 Nephi 20 (which quotes Isaiah 48) that help us believe in the Lord.


I found a lot. All of a sudden I started to see the cohesion in that chapter. Without that perspective, the chapter feels like a mass of individual sayings that have no relation to one another. But by looking at the pieces as part of an attempt to demonstrate why we can believe in the Lord and have faith, the chapter takes on startling majesty.

So, I give you the simplified list of reasons why we can believe in the Lord.

The Lord lets us know what happened in the past. (“I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I showed them. I did show them suddenly” v3) This helps us have faith in the Lord's knowledge of what has occurred and the Lord's interpretation of those events.

The Lord gives us personal revelation and tells us mysteries of godliness. (“I have showed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them. ” v6) This helps us have faith in His holiness and in His power to reveal all things to us in their time.

The Lord knows that we’re stubborn. (“I did it because I knew that thou art obstinate” v4) This helps us have faith in His ability to see past any hypocritical show we try to put on. We can’t fool Him, so we might as well submit to Him.

The Lord knew from the beginning that we were going to sin. (“I knew that thou wouldst deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb. ” v8) This helps us have faith in the Lord’s foreknowledge and in His plan of salvation for us to overcome sin. It shows us He knows our fallen human nature well and He knows the temptations we face, and while He can’t countenance it, He understands it.

The Lord delays our punishment for our sins, so that we have time to repent. (“for my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain from thee, that I cut thee not off.” v9) This helps us have faith in the Lord and how He respects our agency. He wants us to choose on our own to repent.

The Lord does not allow any unclean thing to enter His Kingdom. (“I will not suffer my name to be polluted” v11) This helps us have faith in the Lord’s holiness.

The Lord refines us through affliction. (“I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” v10) This helps us have faith that the Lord sees the difficulties we go through and that He means for those afflictions to make us into His Chosen. As a result, we become much more determined to endure through them and seek to understand how those afflictions actually benefit us.

The Lord created the heavens and earth and everything in it and He has control over it all. (“Mine hand hath also laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens. I call unto them and they stand up together. ” v13) This helps us have faith in the Lord’s creative powers and gives us an idea of the scope of His influence.

The Lord loves those who share the gospel and testify of Christ. (“who among them hath declared these things unto them? The Lord hath loved him” v14) This helps us have faith that we can please the Lord if we share the gospel with others.

The Lord fulfills the words spoken by the prophets. (“he will fulfil his word which he hath declared by them” v14) This helps us have faith in the relationship between the Lord and His prophets. It shows us that the Lord wants us to respect His prophets, so He fulfills their words.

Even though the wicked don’t acknowledge Him, the Lord still has all power over them and will do what He wants with them. (“he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall come upon the Chaldeans” v14) This helps us trust that all the judgments the Lord has declared against Babylon and the wicked will come to pass. This also gives us reason to flee Babylon.

The Lord wants us to come to Him. (“Come ye near unto me” v16) This helps us have faith that it isn’t a scary thing to come to Christ and that He will welcome us.

The Lord has not made the gospel a secret; He’s had it preached in the world from the beginning. (“I have not spoken in secret; from the beginning, from the time that it was declared have I spoken” v16) This helps us have faith that the Lord means what He says and He’s not holding anything vital back from us.

The Lord teaches us commandments so that we can prosper and leads us in the best way. (“the Lord thy God who teacheth thee to profit, who leadeth thee by the way thou shouldst go, hath done it.” v17) This helps us have faith that the Lord will teach us in a way that benefits us the most.

To those who keep His commandments, the Lord gives constant peace and makes them more and more righteous. (“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. ” v18) This helps us have faith that it is very important to keep the Lord’s commandments.

The Lord urges us to repent. (“Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans” v20) This helps us have faith in His holiness.

The Lord saves His covenant people and He wants us to testify of it to everyone. (“with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter to the end of the earth; say ye: The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob.” v20) This helps us have faith in Him, that He truly does want to bless all mankind.

The Lord has done great miracles for us to provide for us, even miracles greater than those He did for the children of Israel in the desert. (“And they thirsted not; he led them through the deserts; he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them; he clave the rock also and the waters gushed out….he hath done all this, and greater also” v21-22) This helps us have faith in the Lord’s power to intervene in our lives to provide for our needs.

The Lord withholds peace from the wicked. (“there is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” v22) This helps us have faith that the Lord means what He says about spiritual death.

Seen in this way, 1 Nephi 20 (and Isaiah 48) could easily belong among the talks of general conference, since it categorically declares all the grounds we have for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nephi used this chapter to try to build faith in Jesus Christ among his own people and we can use it to help us today.

What do you remember that helps you have faith in the Lord?
Monday, November 1, 2010 2 comments

From the Greatest Sorrow to the Arms of God’s Love: the Valleys and Peaks of Lehi’s Experience

And now I speak unto you, Joseph, my last-born. Thou wast born in the wilderness of mine afflictions; yea, in the days of my greatest sorrow did thy mother bear thee. (2 Nephi 3:1, emphasis added)
This tells us that Lehi suffered a terrible bout of depression while traveling in the wilderness, and it might have had something to do with the time when he murmured against the Lord when Nephi broke his bow. ”And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came unto my father; and he was truly chastened because of his murmuring against the Lord, insomuch that he was brought down into the depths of sorrow.“ (1 Nephi 16:25, emphasis added)

It may seem odd to us that Lehi would take things so much to heart, but this had to be a case when a person who had received the greater light and sinned against it was under the greater condemnation. (Joseph Smith himself went through a very dark time when it became clear that the 116 pages had been lost and he through his fear of men had let them go to Martin Harris.)

Also, this would explain why Lehi seems to drop off the spiritual radar of the account for a substantial time and Nephi seems to figure much more prominently. If Lehi was struggling with terrible depression and was practically incapacitated by it, someone had to keep things going in the family.

I take some hope from finding this because it shows me how human Lehi was; he dealt with some of the same problems we do.

Yet we also have an indication that he was able to pull out of it with help from the Lord because in 2 Nephi 1:15, Lehi says “But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.”

This gives me hope that even those of us who suffer from depression can ultimately behold the glory of the Lord, be wrapped in visions of the Almighty, and be encircled about eternally in the arms of His love.