Monday, February 28, 2011 2 comments

Who’s got pull with Jesus?

19 ¶ Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press.
20 And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee.
21 And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it. (Luke 8:19-21)
I often had troubles understanding this little incident because it seemed like Jesus was almost disowning his family or making a statement that his followers were his family instead. However, recently I realized what Jesus was trying to teach.

Jesus didn’t want His disciples or followers to get the idea that only those in His immediate family could get his undivided attention immediately. He didn’t want people to think that only His family could be guaranteed they would take priority with Him. He wanted to show that everyone who heard the word of God and obeyed had just as much priority with Him as His mother and brothers.

That is a comforting message about the love and care of God for each of us. It teaches us that God’s love isn’t a narrow thing; rather, it is expansive in scope. It stretches over both space and time. What a wonderful thing that Christ is willing to consider us His Family and just as worthy of His attention because we hear the word of God and do it! And we have just as much priority with Him now as the saints did in His day.
Thursday, February 24, 2011 4 comments

Doctrine of cell phone usage from the scriptures

This started out as a fun exercise in applying the scriptures to modern problems, and turned into an instructive experience.

I suppose the title is a little misleading because I don’t presume to give doctrine. Nor are cell phones mentioned specifically in the standard works. ;-) So my search had to be a little creative to find what the scriptures said that could apply to cell phone usage and which could suggest principles by which we can govern ourselves and principles we can teach our children.

Good communication is important
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29)

That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; (1 Timothy 6:18)

But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)
Avoid Gossip
And many more things did the people imagine up in their hearts, which were foolish and vain; and they were much disturbed, for Satan did stir them up to do iniquity continually; yea, he did go about spreading rumors and contentions upon all the face of the land, that he might harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and against that which should come. (Helaman 16:22)

And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. (1 Tim. 5:13)

Shall vain words have an end? (Job 16:3)

Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (1 Cor. 15:33)

But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. (2 Timothy 2:16)

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:36)

…commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still (Psalm 4:4)
Avoid distraction
Suffer not yourself to be led away by any vain or foolish thing (Alma 39:11)

And this I speak for your own profit;… that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. (1 Cor. 7:35)

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: (Eccl. 3:1)
Avoid vanity (turn to God)
For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world… (Alma 4:8)

O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world! (Helaman 12:4)

And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: (Acts 14:15)
Idleness
Thou shalt not be idle; for he that is idle shall not eat the bread nor wear the garments of the laborer. (D&C 42:42)

wherefore, I give unto them a commandment, thus: Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known. (D&C 60:13)

So, to summarize:
• Good communication edifies (builds up) the hearer and doesn’t waste their time.
• We need to be willing to communicate, both through technology and in person.
• Don’t forget to communicate important stuff. Sometimes it is a sacrifice to communicate.
• Cell phone use can spread news very quickly, but Satan uses rumors and contentions to disturb the peace and harden hearts.
• Gossiping leads to idleness.
• Unimportant communication is never-ending.
• Evil words lead to evil acts.
• Talking about nothing leads to talking about improper topics as people try to fill the time.
• Everyone will have to account for every word they say.
• Don’t be afraid to be quiet by yourself and reflect.
• Don’t let yourself be distracted, especially by little unimportant things.
• Make sure you are able to read scriptures, pray, go to church, and worship God without being distracted.
• There’s a time for everything. There’s a time to talk in person, and there’s a time to use the cell phone. There’s a time to have the cell phone on and a time to have it off.
• We will have a tendency to set our hearts on things that don’t matter. We will have a tendency to abuse cell phones and use them as an excuse to not engage people around us.
• When cell phone use gets in the way of the more important things, it becomes a vanity.
• There are more important things to do than just play with a cell phone.
Sunday, February 20, 2011 1 comments

A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also

When Jesus was brought to the temple as an eight-day-old infant to be blessed, Simeon spoke these words to Mary:
Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:34-35)
I’ve often thought that Simeon prophesied of Mary’s impending pain at the crucifixion of her son Jesus, but recently I thought that maybe he was also prophesying that she would give her own life too for the cause of Christ. The scriptures don't confirm whether this happened or not, but considering her submissiveness to the will of God, it would be characteristic of her to do so.
Friday, February 18, 2011 4 comments

Importance of frequent provisioning


Alma 57 is another chapter in which the great acts of the stripling warriors in the second part overshadow the text of the first part. So we will look at that first part. Here Helaman reports how he was able to regain the city Cumeni. Notice how important provisions become to this story.
6 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the twenty and ninth year, we received a supply of provisions, and also an addition to our army, from the land of Zarahemla, and from the land round about, to the number of six thousand men, besides sixty of the sons of the Ammonites who had come to join their brethren, my little band of two thousand. And now behold, we were strong, yea, and we had also plenty of provisions brought unto us.
7 And it came to pass that it was our desire to wage a battle with the army which was placed to protect the city Cumeni.
8 And now behold, I will show unto you that we soon accomplished our desire; yea, with our strong force, or with a part of our strong force, we did surround, by night, the city Cumeni, a little before they were to receive a supply of provisions.
9 And it came to pass that we did camp round about the city for many nights; but we did sleep upon our swords, and keep guards, that the Lamanites could not come upon us by night and slay us, which they attempted many times; but as many times as they attempted this their blood was spilt.
10 At length their provisions did arrive, and they were about to enter the city by night. And we, instead of being Lamanites, were Nephites; therefore, we did take them and their provisions.
11 And notwithstanding the Lamanites being cut off from their support after this manner, they were still determined to maintain the city; therefore it became expedient that we should take those provisions and send them to Judea, and our prisoners to the land of Zarahemla.
12 And it came to pass that not many days had passed away before the Lamanites began to lose all hopes of succor; therefore they yielded up the city unto our hands; and thus we had accomplished our designs in obtaining the city Cumeni. (Alma 57:6-12, emphasis added)
Essentially Helaman besieges the Lamanites by disrupting their supply lines. It is very interesting how this is described. It says that the Nephite army surrounded the city “a little before they were to receive a supply of provisions.” This tells us that Helaman had observed that the Lamanite supply came according to a schedule, so he used that schedule to get in the way. Then there is another little interesting detail—“at length their provisions did arrive”—that “at length” sounds like the Lamanite provisions were significantly delayed. What kind of effect did this have? At first, the Lamanites were still determined to keep the city, but then “not many days had passed away before the Lamanites began to lose all hopes of succor,” so they gave up the city. (Unbeknownst to them, another Lamanite army with provisions was coming their way in verse 17, but the Cumeni Lamanites had lost faith, so they couldn’t wait and they gave up.)

Satan knows when we are scheduled to receive reinforcements and provisions, so he tries to get in the way. We get a supply of strength ever week at church. Just two weeks ago, a woman in our ward shared her experience of having to work hard to resist Satan’s temptations as he tried to prevent her from going to church. Even though she felt like her health problems (of a physical frailty type) provided her with a legitimate excuse to stay home, she also had the feeling that it was important to come to church and she was elated to tell us during Relief Society that she had experienced a spiritual outpouring that had made it worth it for her to come. She had prevented Satan from disrupting her spiritual supply lines.

We get a supply of strength from going to the temple. So of course Satan will try to get in the way of us going then too. I remember as a teen that my Mom told me that she always seemed to be hit with extra opposition just as she and Dad were getting ready to go on the 100-mile trip to the Chicago temple. She told me Satan would try to prevent it. I began to see it too at the beginning of our youth temple trips, which happened twice a year. Someone would always join the car pool group feeling irritated and cranky for seemingly no reason and it seemed that Satan was trying to destroy our peace. Thankfully, the prayer to bless the trip seemed to smooth things over. Other obstacles are: forgetting temple recommends, late starts, car troubles, etc. I can just imagine the troubles that families with children face.

We get a supply of strength from general conferences. So Satan tries to disrupt that experience for us too. When I was a college student, it seemed like every time conference came around, inexplicably I’d have loads of homework dumped on me, and though I had gotten to the point that I was determined to watch conference and let homework go, it was still tempting to allow the stress get to me and affect my attitude between sessions and my relationship with my husband. I didn’t even notice that I had this problem until my husband pointed it out.

We can get a supply of strength from a number of other things, such as prayer, scripture study, and fasting. We can get it from religion classes, gospel discussions, family home evenings, church broadcasts, and church magazines. But it is often up to us how often these things are in our lives. The more sporadic they are, the more Satan will try to get in the way.

We have so many sources of strength to supply us, and this story from the Book of Mormon shows us that it matters how often we are supplied. The Lamanites were scheduled to be supplied only once in a while, and if something got in the way, they were in big trouble. In terms of spiritual things today, if the only provision we get is at church on Sunday, if we miss church, we’re in big trouble. (Personally, I really don’t see how a member can get by today just by going to church.)

Not only did an army get in the way of the Lamanite provisions, the people who were to supply the men and provisions delayed sending them, and that delay, added to the obstruction, caused the Lamanite army at Cumeni to lose all hope of succor. They lost hope that help would ever come because the previous delay sent a message that headquarters didn’t care about them. This shows us that if we delay reinforcing and supporting our children or those who depend on us, they will feel like we don’t care and they will lose hope and give in to… whatever. So how often do we mentally, physically, and emotionally and spiritually reinforce and supply our families, particularly our children, as they are under siege? How often do we seek strength from the Lord?

It seems that the Lamanites actually learned from their mistakes, and in the very next chapter, Helaman reports that “the Lamanites were also receiving great strength from day to day, and also many provisions” (Alma 58:5). The Lamanites figured out that it was much better to supply many provisions to their armies daily than to only send a big shipment every once in a while and risk having the big one disrupted. It is the same for us. It is best for us to give plenty of spiritual reinforcement to our families daily with family scripture time and family prayer than to only do a big thing once in a while. It is better to build the 3 month supply in increments than to get it all at once. It is better to receive our strength from the Lord through daily scripture study and personal prayer than to have a big spiritual binge session every once in a while.

Have you ever had experiences when your spiritual provisions were disrupted? If so, how did you remove the obstacle? If you’ve never allowed a disruption of your spiritual supply line, please tell when you realized the importance of it and how you have prevented that disruption.

Image: Dvids Defense video & imagery distribution system, http://www.dvidshub.net/image/292348/army-food-service-workers-serve-soldiers, U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joseph Rivera, 120th Public Affairs Detachment
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 3 comments

Melchizedek, child of faith

26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.
27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch, (JST Genesis 14:26-27)
That bit about stopping the mouths of lions and quenching the violence of fire is intriguing. When I ran across this today I began to wonder just what that meant and mulled over it a bit, trying to imagine what happened. I suspect that it is both literal and figurative.

Stopping the mouths of lions sounds like it could be like the story of Daniel who was thrown into the lion’s den but was unhurt because the Lord kept the lions from hurting him. Or did he wrestle them as David had when he delivered one of his sheep from a lion and a bear? It could also symbolize stopping cruel and violent people from saying bad things and confounding them with the truth. We have instances in the scriptures of Lehi confounding Laman and Lemuel with the words of God so that they dared not speak against him, and we have the story of Alma the Younger using the priesthood to strike Korihor dumb.

Quenching the violence of fire could have happened like the experience of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Or it could have reference to using fire-fighting techniques against a huge conflagration threatening his people. We don’t know. Symbolically it could have to do with stopping senseless forces of destruction. We have instances of that in the Book of Mormon when Nephi prayed that the famine among the Nephites would end.

Maybe it was something as simple as a prayer of faith that worked the victory over the lions and the fire. (Who has not seen the extraordinary things that a child’s prayer can do?)

Further commentary on this language (which occurs in Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews) can be found in William Gouge’s book A commentary on the whole Epistle to the Hebrews on page 129. (The link will take you right there and the highlighted text will show you where to read.)

Regardless, these characteristics are noted to illustrate how Melchizedek did very brave things as a child that others were afraid to do. The next verse tells us God approved of him because of it. Certainly doing brave things is good preparation for receiving the priesthood. Another characteristic those acts had is that they subdued violent aspects of nature. This teaches an oblique lesson that obtaining the priesthood requires subduing the natural man. Finally, we can surmise that Melchizedek didn’t do these things for his own amusement, but to save others. That attitude of concern and service is a important preparation for the priesthood and would be most pleasing to God.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011 3 comments

Lessons from Alma 55: changed loyalties, impulse control, causes of carelessness, and winey Lamanites

In Alma 55, Captain Moroni recovers Nephite prisoners and the city of Gid with wine strategy. There are several things I think are notable in this chapter.

First, notice the change in the character of Laman, He had been a guard to the Lamanite king who was killed by Amalickiah’s servants and he had fled to the Nephites.
  • He is now loyal to the Nephites. They took him in when he was a refugee.
  • He had joined the Nephite army, showing that he was willing to show that loyalty by fighting for them.
  • He is not distracted from duty by the prospect of wine.
  • He is a faithful servant to Captain Moroni.
  • He doesn’t fall back into old ways when with the Lamanites again.
A second thing I notice about this story is that Mormon suddenly seems to “zoom in” on the scene when the Lamanite guards get strategemmed by the wine. For a few verses, it is almost like a play, with dialogue and stage action. This caused me to wonder what it was about this scene that Mormon felt was important enough to reproduce for us. (It is easy to think that it is simply to revel gleefully in Nephite cleverness, but I think there has to be an instructive purpose to it.) The main thing in it that sticks out to me is that Laman suggests to the guards that they wait for a while before having the wine, but the guards will have none of that idea. They want it now, figuring they can have wine later too. They are low on impulse control. Ultimately, that lack of impulse control loses them the city that has been entrusted to them. This was a good thing for me to find, I think, because I happen to be struggling somewhat with impulse control. Think about the trade that the Lamanites made, although they didn’t know they were making it at the time. They were trading a whole city for a single night of wine and merriment. It’s like Esau trading his birthright for a mess of pottage. Or Corianton trading the ministry for a fling with the harlot Isabel.

A third thing I notice is how Laman sets the stage for the Lamanite guards’ carelessness.
And when it was evening Laman went to the guards who were over the Nephites, and behold, they saw him coming and they hailed him; but he saith unto them: Fear not; behold, I am a Lamanite. Behold, we have escaped from the Nephites, and they sleep; and behold we have taken of their wine and brought with us. (Alma 55:8)
At the beginning, the Lamanite guards were alert and watchful, but Laman says four things that lull them into a false sense of security. Can you pick out what they are?
  • “behold, I am a Lamanite” (Establishing common identity causes people to relax and take a lot of things for granted.)
  • “we have escaped from the Nephites” (This further implies loyalty to the group he is joining.)
  • “they [the Nephites] sleep” (This deprecates the intelligence and preparedness of the group’s enemy and lulls the guards with the implication that if the enemy is asleep, then alertness is not needed at the moment.)
  • “we have taken of their wine and brought with us” (This further deprecates the security of the group’s enemy and raises curiosity. The Lamanite guards would become curious about Nephite wine, perhaps wanting to compare it with what they get. And perhaps more to the point, guarding is a boring job and any break in the monotony is appreciated.)
This seems to show us that we may be strategemmed by temptation presented to us by those of our own faith. Do we think Satan doesn’t know that we tend to lower our guard a bit when we are with other Mormons? Do you ever feel that you’ve been led into some things by Mormons that you would never have gotten into if suggested by non-Mormons? I have. I don’t point this out to advocate adopting a suspicious attitude toward other Saints, but merely to suggest that we need to be ALWAYS alert.

A fourth thing I notice is this funny little bit: “they did take of the wine freely; and it was pleasant to their taste, therefore they took of it more freely” (v13). How can you partake of something more freely than “freely”? Hmm. There’s obviously no moderation here. This makes me wonder about the times when I like something and I can’t seem to get enough of it. It reminds me of the conference talk story from Susan Tanner about how overindulgence affected her mother’s spirituality.
I remember an incident in my home growing up when my mother’s sensitive spirit was affected by a physical indulgence. She had experimented with a new sweet roll recipe. They were big and rich and yummy—and very filling. Even my teenage brothers couldn’t eat more than one. That night at family prayer my father called upon Mom to pray. She buried her head and didn’t respond. He gently prodded her, “Is something wrong?” Finally she said, “I don’t feel very spiritual tonight. I just ate three of those rich sweet rolls.” I suppose that many of us have similarly offended our spirits at times by physical indulgences. Especially substances forbidden in the Word of Wisdom have a harmful effect on our bodies and a numbing influence on our spiritual sensitivities. None of us can ignore this connection of our spirits and bodies. (“The Sanctity of the Body”, general conference Oct 2005)
This is why it is important to keep our appetites within the bounds the Lord has set.

And for a fifth thing, I will take the chance of pointing out what should be obvious by now—this story shows how important the Word of Wisdom is to our safety as we see how wine made the Lamanites weak, rather than strengthening them to fight their enemy as they claimed it did. Breaking the Word of Wisdom does not strengthen us to fight against Satan. I bet the Lamanites had a splitting headache when they woke up and that was probably a factor in their decision to refrain from fighting the Nephites.

It may be that some of you are uncomfortable with how I’m approaching this incident because it may seem to you like I’m taking the Lamanite side when we are used to thinking of the Lamanites as the bad guys. I think that we have the Book of Mormon so that we can learn to be more wise than both the Nephites and the Lamanites have been. So we can look at the mistakes of the Lamanites too.

In conclusion, it seems that Mormon focused on this incident because it is illustrative of ways that Satan tries to trick us. Satan will use for his purposes people who claim to be LDS but whose loyalties lie elsewhere. He will try to lull us into a sense of false security. If we have troubles with impulse control, he will use that against us if he can. He will make his temptations as pleasant to our taste as possible and he will try to lure us into trading the things that really matter for a moment of pleasure, all without us knowing we are trading away anything. “Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves” (Isaiah 50:1) Knowing these things will help us to resist and escape temptation. And thank goodness for Christ and gift of the Atonement!

Have you seen how Satan tries to use these tactics on you?
Monday, February 7, 2011 2 comments

Helaman’s insight into helping others keep covenants

Alma 56 begins the letter Helaman writes to Captain Moroni to report on the affairs of that area. I notice that Alma 56:4-8 seems to be repeating many of the same details that Mormon wrote earlier in Alma 53:10-19 to introduce the stripling warriors, except we know that it probably was the other way around—the Helaman’s letter came first and Mormon felt inclined to introduce the stripling warriors a few chapters before inserting Helaman’s letter. However, I wondered why Mormon felt like he had to introduce the stripling warriors in pretty close to the same language.

When I compared those two sections, I noticed there was a difference in the motives ascribed to Helaman for persuading the Anti-Nephi-Lehis to not take up arms. Mormon’s introduction says that Helaman feared that the Anti-Nephi-Lehis would lose their souls if they broke their covenant (Alma 53:15). On the other hand, Helaman himself says that, “I would not suffer them that they should break this covenant, supposing that God would strengthen us, insomuch that we should not suffer more because of the fulfilling the oath which they had taken” (Alma 56:8).

It would seem that Mormon specifically wanted to highlight the danger to a person’s soul if they deliberately break their covenants, and that he assumed that Helaman was well aware of this danger too, though Helaman hadn’t stated it in the letter. Mormon’s own construction is certainly both valid and powerful, and we see that he is honest about his sources, since he could have put his own ideas into Helaman’s letter and no one would have known the difference. Instead, he separated his ideas from Helaman’s.

Mormon’s view of the situation seems the more powerful statement at first glance, but I don’t think we should focus on Mormon’s view to the exclusion of Helaman’s because Helaman has an equally important point, though it has not received much attention. His statement makes us aware that when a group of people make a covenant, the surrounding society must accommodate those covenantal conditions and deal with the limitations when some behaviors are limited and others are enjoined. And a charitable society will accommodate it, when it is a good covenant. And it will happen that those covenantal conditions can cause difficulty, suffering, and sacrifice to both the covenant society and the accommodating society. But this does not mean the covenant is bad. The Nephites, to accommodate the Anti-Nephi-Lehi covenant of nonviolence, had to do the fighting for both, while the Anti-Nephi-Lehis helped the best they could by providing food for the war effort. Again, it was difficult, but that didn’t make the covenant bad.

Further, Helaman makes the surprising statement of faith that shows us that God’s power can actually help those who accommodate a covenantal people so that the accommodators don’t suffer overmuch for assisting others in covenant-keeping.

How do we see this in our lives? One immediate example I can think of is families with a father or mother in a demanding calling. The Lord helps these families so that they don’t suffer overmuch. Can you think of any other examples, either in your life or in the church?
Saturday, February 5, 2011 4 comments

Captain Moroni’s righteous army

In Alma 53, Mormon spends half of the chapter describing the things Captain Moroni did after the battle and the second half introducing us to background information about the stripling warriors. That second half is full of interest to us, but I think the first half is instructive too because it shows there is more for an army to do than just fight.

Mormon probably found these details worth recording because of the great positive contrast they represented to the depraved Nephite armies of HIS day who tortured, raped, and ate prisoners, who stole food from widows and orphans, who were without order or mercy, who did nothing to alleviate, but rather augmented the suffering of women and children (Moroni 9). Undoubtedly Mormon wished his own armies could be like Captain Moroni's.

In Alma 53, Mormon notes that Captain Moroni and his armies
• Had the Lamanites bury the dead (cleaning up battle mess)
• Took care of the prisoners and put them someplace safe, even though the place wasn’t ideal at first.
• Gave the prisoners something important to do (fortify) and watched over them while they did it (prisoners contributed to war effort)
• Continued fortifying and preparing for war
• Delivered their wives and children from famine and affliction
• Provided food for the armies

I think this is a great example of the principle “clean up after yourself.” We see the divine roles of manhood at work--providing and protecting. We see charity in action, even toward prisoners of war. We see that the army of destruction can become an army of construction.
Thursday, February 3, 2011 3 comments

If Joseph Smith had made it to age 85…

14 I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:
15 Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.
16 I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face. (D&C 130)
It’s very hard to read these verses without looking upon Joseph Smith’s question from what we already know happened to him. He was martyred at age 38, so no way did he reach age 85. It is easy to think that the Lord was just dismissing Joseph Smith’s question with a conditional statement that He knew would never happen just to get him to stop bothering the Lord about it. But it occurred to me today that maybe that wasn’t it at all.

If we assume the Lord means what He says and says what He means, then it seems there was actually a chance (in the Lord’s view) that Joseph Smith Jr. might not have been martyred at age 38 and might have lived to age 85, at which time conditions would have been such that the Second Coming of Christ would occur. Age 85 for Joseph Smith would have been right around 1890. Without Joseph Smith, 1890 was the year the Manifesto ending polygamy was issued. With Joseph Smith still around.. 1890 still would have been a banner year, beginning the Millenium (assuming the Millenium is what the Lord meant). I can't help but wonder how history would have been different between 1844 and 1890. Would 170 years of technological advances and 170 years worth of temple building have been crammed into those 56 years?

I find it very interesting that this little bit is in the Doctrine and Covenants. What is it that we can learn from these verses?
  • First, it is nice to know that even prophets wonder when the Second Coming will happen. I think Joseph Smith knew the verses from the New Testament saying that no man knows the day or the hour of the Lord’s coming, but he still asked anyway.
  • Second, it is interesting the Lord says “trouble me no more on this matter” because it shows us that Joseph’s question was troubling to the Lord. Why might it have been troubling? Maybe it was one of those tricky problems of balance between God’s omniscience and the agency of men to choose.
  • Third, I see that Joseph Smith was not sure how to understand the answer he was given. He could see a number of different ways of interpreting it, but he wasn’t sure which one it was and he was left to wait and see. It is nice to know that even prophets have to struggle with ambiguity.
  • Fourth, it shows me that some things I don’t need to know, and when the Second Coming is going to occur is one of them. For now. (Who knows; we may have a situation like 3 Nephi 1:9-14 arise some day. Let’s hope not.)
Update: It occurred to me that it might be helpful discuss how it is to our benefit that we do not know the day and the hour of the Second Coming of Christ. To do this, we can do a thought experiment. Suppose that we were all were born with a digital display implanted into our shoulder that showed exactly how many days and minutes we had left to live.

Do you think you would like having this? Me, I would probably think it was really cool at first, but in time I would come to really hate it because of all kinds of terrible things it would imply.

How often do you think you would look at yours? I think I would look at it often at first, but then I would begin to diligently ignore it and try to live without knowing.

If your friends or family had one, do you think you’d ever want to look at theirs? I imagine it would be difficult to be married to someone whose time was shorter than mine. And think how terrible it would be to have a child whose days and minutes were numbered few!

I can think of other problems this kind of knowledge would cause. It would be very difficult to have a display with a very high number if I found I had some sort of terrible disease like cancer. On one hand, it might give me hope that I would make it through that disease. But on the other hand, it might wreak havoc on my morale and make me fear having to live such a long life of suffering and I’d wonder if I would be cured of it or whether it would be a life-long struggle.

Or imagine if I made it to the point that I had 1 day left. On one hand, I think I would have tried hard to prepare, but on the other, I think I would be very scared about how it would happen. I would probably hide in bed at home. And part of me worries that I still would have procrastinated some things until it was too late. I admit that I tend to procrastinate.

And we’re not even going to consider how this kind of knowledge would be abused by unscrupulous people.

I guess I can see why it is good for us to not know the exact time of the Second Coming. If we knew, an early start to times of major tribulation would make us fear that we’d never make it through the long haul. In times of ease, we’d be tempted to just drift along and do whatever we wanted and that indulgence would make repentance extremely hard. And getting right up close to the time, we’d probably be utterly terrified, no matter how prepared we were.

Because we do not know the exact time of the Second Coming and instead have signs to look for, it helps us stay alert to what is happening in the world and it gives us another reason to search the scriptures and follow the living prophets. It helps us cultivate obedience now and trust in the Lord’s timetable.