Saturday, January 12, 2019 0 comments

Joseph’s Revelation to Take Mary to Wife & a Connection to Family History

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus. (Matt. 1:18-25)

It is interesting to think about how we got this information about a very private and personal dilemma Joseph had and the significant decision he had to make and an important revelation he had—that he had planned to put Mary away privately and was reassured by an angel in a dream that Mary’s pregnancy was not because of fornication but was a miracle according to the will of God.

We know this stuff about Joseph because at some point he told others about it. Maybe he told Mary and it became a story that was part of their family culture of raising Jesus. At some point that story got around among believers, and we know about it today because Matthew recorded it.

This is so fascinating because a private part of someone’s personal history became part of a family history tradition and eventually became part of shared church history of all Christians.

Applying this to us, I think it shows how important it is to record the events surrounding our dilemmas, our decisions, and our revelations concerning the same. Those things change the course of our lives and our families, though we may not know the full extent of their impact until much later. We also don’t know how those stories will help our families in the future, or even other people. We don’t know how far those stories may travel.

Thursday, January 10, 2019 0 comments

The Recipes for the Anointing Oil and Incense

22 Moreover the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
23 Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels,
24 And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin:
25 And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.
26 And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony,
27 And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense,
28 And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot.
29 And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.
30 And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.
31 And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations.
32 Upon man’s flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you.
33 Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.
34 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight:
35 And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy:
36 And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.
37 And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord.
38 Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people. (Ex. 30:22-38)
In these verses the Lord gives Moses directions for a recipe for holy anointing oil and for incense. The oil was for anointing and sanctifying the tabernacle and the priests. The Incense was to be burned in the tabernacle. Both were to be holy and not used for any other thing outside the tabernacle. Anyone who made it and used it for other purposes was to be cut off (or excommunicated).

Why was this so important? Why was it to be so exclusive?

It seems to me that the Lord was trying to use the power of smells and how they create strong associations with memories and feelings. He wanted a particular set of smells to be associated with the act of anointing and with going into the tabernacle.

Smells create atmosphere, and they are a good symbol for how the Spirit of God creates an atmosphere when present as part of priesthood ordinances and holy places.

Also, often smells of places cling may cling to people, and if people who had been worshipping at the tabernacle had those smells on them, everyone who came close would know where they’d been and what they’d been doing and associate it with the tabernacle and the positive feelings of that. Those associations would strengthen over time. Perhaps those who were distanced from God could be reminded by smelling those smells again from other people around them who worshipped faithfully at the temple.

How might this be useful to us today? What if parents had a particular perfume or cologne they only used after having gone to the temple? It might do the same thing for them and their family.

More lessons I get from these verses:
1)    The anointing oil can symbolize the Spirit of God. If so, then we can’t (and should not try to) imitate the workings of the Spirit. Attempts to imitate would amount to emotional manipulation, which isn’t what the Lord wants. The Lord wants us to imitate Christ’s works, but let the Spirit work as it will.
2)    The incense can represent prayer, since it was to be burned will the priests prayed. Thinking about the ingredients of the incense might make us think about the proper ingredients of prayer—humility, submission, requests for help, gratitude for blessings, confessions for sins, requests for forgiveness, pleas for protection from temptation, requests for guidance, confidences about one’s situation and feelings, praise and adoration for mercy and power manifest, etc.

Update on the Revelation Commentary: I’m still working hard on it!  My word count is up to about 153,000 right now. The whole thing has been drafted, but each chapter requires multiple draft iterations for refinement. I’m very excited about it.
Monday, December 17, 2018 0 comments

What 1 Nephi 1 teaches about Christ

The Lord sees our abominations (1 Ne. 1:13)

His works are great and marvelous (1 Ne. 1:14)

The Lord’s power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth (1 Ne. 1:14)

Because the Lord is merciful, He will not suffer those who come unto Him to perish (1 Ne. 1:14)

The Lord’s throne is high in the heavens. (1 Ne. 1:14)

The Lord shows marvelous things to the prophets in vision (1 Ne. 1:15, 18) also about coming destruction (1 Ne. 1:18).

Christ manifested His coming before He came (1 Ne. 1:19)

The tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom He has chosen to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance. (1 Ne. 1:20)

It's cool to me that the very first chapter of the Book of Mormon contains material about the mission of Christ, how He reveals that to the prophets, the necessity of repenting, and His great mercy to save and deliver those who will come to him.

This post is a part of a series that will sum up what can be learned about Christ from various chapters in the Book of Mormon in connection to President Nelson’s challenge to the women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to read the Book of Mormon completely by the end of 2018.
Saturday, December 15, 2018 0 comments

That Good Part

Here we have some of Lehi’s last words to his sons:

I have spoken these few words unto you all, my sons, in the last days of my probation; and I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet. And I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls. (2 Ne. 2:30)

I like when Lehi says, “I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet.” I don’t think we have the prophet’s words he was referring to, but it is interesting that we do have the words of Jesus to Martha as Mary heard him and Martha was cumbered with much serving—“ Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). It could be that Jesus was quoting the same prophet Lehi was, and we just don’t have that source text anymore.

Beside those textual things, it also makes you think about choices. When we think about our choices and priorities in life, can we say that we are choosing that good part? Are there any good parts we leave on the table, or are there bad parts we could let go of to make room for more good parts? Are there useless things we could get rid of?

I’m grateful for the Atonement of Christ that changes me so that I can choose the good parts and let go of the bad parts. He makes us free to do that so we aren’t stuck. He makes it possible for us to fight the natural man or woman and win.

Saturday, December 1, 2018 0 comments

Ether on the old Jerusalem and the New Jerusalem

2 For behold, they rejected all the words of Ether; for he truly told them of all things, from the beginning of man; and that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof;
3 And that it was the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, and the holy sanctuary of the Lord.
4 Behold, Ether saw the days of Christ, and he spake concerning a New Jerusalem upon this land.
5 And he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come—after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord; wherefore, it could not be a new Jerusalem for it had been in a time of old; but it should be built up again, and become a holy city of the Lord; and it should be built unto the house of Israel—
6 And that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph, for which things there has been a type.
7 For as Joseph brought his father down into the land of Egypt, even so he died there; wherefore, the Lord brought a remnant of the seed of Joseph out of the land of Jerusalem, that he might be merciful unto the seed of Joseph that they should perish not, even as he was merciful unto the father of Joseph that he should perish not.
8 Wherefore, the remnant of the house of Joseph shall be built upon this land; and it shall be a land of their inheritance; and they shall build up a holy city unto the Lord, like unto the Jerusalem of old; and they shall no more be confounded, until the end come when the earth shall pass away.
9 And there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and they shall be like unto the old save the old have passed away, and all things have become new.
10 And then cometh the New Jerusalem; and blessed are they who dwell therein, for it is they whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who are numbered among the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who were of the house of Israel.
11 And then also cometh the Jerusalem of old; and the inhabitants thereof, blessed are they, for they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who were scattered and gathered in from the four quarters of the earth, and from the north countries, and are partakers of the fulfilling of the covenant which God made with their father, Abraham.
12 And when these things come, bringeth to pass the scripture which saith, there are they who were first, who shall be last; and there are they who were last, who shall be first.
13 And I was about to write more, but I am forbidden; but great and marvelous were the prophecies of Ether… (Ether 13:2-13, emphasis added)
As I read these verses, I can’t help but notice:
1)    There are two cities—the old Jerusalem and the New Jerusalem.
2)    There also seem to be two versions of each of those two cities. There is old Jerusalem that is “built up again” (v5) and an old Jerusalem that “cometh” (v11).  There is also a New Jerusalem that is “built up” (v6) and a New Jerusalem that “cometh” (v10) “which should come down out of heaven” (v3).
3)    The order that these things happen seems a little muddled. It is unclear which—the old Jerusalem that is “built” or the New Jerusalem that is “built”—comes first, but it does seem clear that the “built” cities both happen before the cities that “cometh.”
4)    It seems unclear whether the old Jerusalem is built holy, or whether it is built and then becomes holy (v5) because both conditions seem to be described in verse 5.
5)    The first mention of building the New Jerusalem doesn’t mention holiness at all (v6), but the second mention of building the New Jerusalem says, “they shall build up a holy city unto the Lord” (v8).

What do you think about this?

Sunday, November 18, 2018 2 comments

“A delicate thing…to act in an organized capacity”

I was reading one of the neat talks in the new book At the Pulpit which is a compilation of different talks Latter-day Saint women have given in meetings throughout history. I ran across something that Eliza R. Snow said back in 1869. She said:

It is a delicate thing for us sisters to act in an organized capacity. Our brethren are accustomed to move in organized bodies—we are not, and we need a great deal of the Spirit and wisdom of God to direct us. Although we should meet with difficulties, let us never be discouraged, but move forward in the path of duty, and through the blessing of God and the encouragement of our brethren, we shall surmount every obstacle. (“Let Us Cultivate Ourselves”)

It is hard to imagine a day in the church when the brothers were more accustomed to act in an organized capacity than the sisters. But over time, with practice, through a variety of projects, that ability has come to the sisters as well, and each successive generation has learned from those that came before how to organize and work together in unity.

Why would Eliza R. Snow have called it “a delicate thing” to act in an organized capacity? Perhaps she saw so many ways that things could go wrong. People might step on each others’ toes, people might drop the ball, or try to take over, or criticize the one in charge or cause any number of problems.  She saw delicacy was needed to avoid those errors, errors which could turn potentially turn people off from continuing to organize.

I’m thankful to be part of the Relief Society and for the way it organizes to serve others.
Tuesday, November 6, 2018 2 comments

Status update on counsel from general conference

I feel like I want to share some things I’ve been doing since general conference in October. For a long time I’ve felt that I needed to do something to get better at following the prophet. For years I have typed so many notes in conference, and then I have never looked at them again once conference is over. Yes, it is sad, but I'm being real here. I could remember the really general counsel...if it got repeated over and over by members around me.  But I lacked initiative and focus. 

This year I felt it was important to figure out a way to make sure that I captured a list of things they counsel us to do and then work that stuff into my task list so that I actually do it.  An urgent feeling has grown in me lately of how important it is to follow the prophet’s counsel. 

So after October conference,  I made the list, and I put them into my task app on my phone and decided on when I would complete them and how often. So far I feel pretty good about how that is working in my life. There are a few things that I haven’t been able to implement as completely as I would like, but I am still trying. 

One of the things President Nelson challenged the women of the church to do was read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year and mark all verses mentioning Christ as we read. At the time, I made a note of the reading, but not of the marking aspect. I started reading, but I was kind of mechanical about it, just trying to get through the 6.5 pages I needed to read for the day. (Eventually I started just reading 7 pages to be safe.)

 I think it was mechanical at the beginning for me because I already read my scriptures every day, so I started it wondering what this was going to do for me more than I was already doing. It forced me to push through more pages than I usually read, and I think I had a hard time continuing the movement when I usually like to ruminate over things that catch my attention. 

Then someone at church mentioned they were doing the marking as President Nelson had said. I went back to look at the talk to verify that's he’d said, and it was. So I decided I needed to do that too so that I could be complete in my obedience. I started just marking instances of “God” and “Lord” and “Christ” and the various pronouns used for God. The first day I did that, I felt something special from that. But then the next days afterward it went back to feeling like a mechanical exercise. But I persisted. And then I got the idea that I should mark everything that God did and said too (not just the whole verses; I wanted to be targeted with my marking). And that made it more special, but I still felt I was missing something. (It was also difficult because I was using a dying highlighter that barely showed much. Once I switched highlighters, marking got easier.)  Eventually I realized that after having read and marked the requisite number of pages, I also needed to look back over the pages to see what I could learn from those markings. That has made it even more special.

The fascinating thing is that this marking exercise is the same thing I would do if I were trying to revise a book to fix a particular problem. (When I was trying to revise some of my fiction (still unpublished), on one of my passes I marked all instances of scenery description to see if I had enough of that and then added when there wasn’t anything there.) 

What President Nelson’s marking exercise is doing is getting us to notice all instances of God’s dealings with the Book of Mormon peoples so that we can learn more about His character and what He can do for us. It is a prophetically-mandated scripture study program to help us notice principles that we might otherwise pass over. The principles we learn will help increase our faith in God.  We need that increased faith in this day and age.

What have you learned from that challenge?
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Friday, November 2, 2018 0 comments

By the Power of His Word

  Here Alma reminds the people of Zarahemla of what the Lord did for their fathers:

And behold, after that, they were brought into bondage by the hands of the Lamanites in the wilderness; yea, I say unto you, they were in captivity, and again the Lord did deliver them out of bondage by the power of his word; and we were brought into this land, and here we began to establish the church of God throughout this land also. (Alma 5:5)

What strikes me as neat in this verse is this—“the Lord did deliver them out of bondage by the power of his word” (emphasis added). It was simply by telling them “tomorrow you will be delivered” that the Lord was able to save them. The spent the whole night gathering their flocks together to prepare for this (and may have completely worn out their taskmasters who couldn’t keep going) and then when their taskmasters went into a deep sleep, they left and kept going as far and as fast as they could. Because they prepared for the Lord’s promise, they were ready to go. If they hadn’t prepared, they would have had to stay there.

It seems to me that so many of the Lord’s commandments deliver us out of bondage by the power of His word. Tithing delivers us from a bondage to our goods. Chastity delivers us from bondage to our carnal desires. Repentance delivers us from bondage to all sin. Fasting delivers us from bondage to our appetites for food. Service, charity, and families deliver us from bondage to selfishness and self-centeredness. Prayer delivers us from a bondage of emotional separation from God. Are there any commandments that don’t in some way deliver us from some sort of bondage?

I’m so thankful for the freedom that comes from the Lord’s words.
Sunday, October 28, 2018 0 comments

Isaiah 44:1-5 – As Willows by the Water Courses

1 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant;
and Israel, whom I have chosen:
2          Thus saith the Lord that made thee,
and formed thee from the womb,
which will help thee;
Fear not,
O Jacob, my servant;
and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.
3                                  For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty,
and floods upon the dry ground:
I will pour my spirit upon thy seed,
and my blessing upon thine offspring:
4                                              And they shall spring up as among the grass,
as willows by the water courses.
5 One shall say, I am the Lord’s;
and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob;
and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord,
and surname himself by the name of Israel. (Isaiah 44:1-5)

I like these verses and how easy it is to see the parallelism of repeated thoughts and themes. (I indented at various levels to make it a little more easy to see what things I think go together.)

In verse 1, the Lord is trying to get covenant Israel to listen and is reminding Israel they are chosen and they are His servants. He chose them from the beginning to be His servants. We recognize this because one is not born into the house of Israel by accident, but by design.

Covenant Israel has a tendency to think the job of blessing the entire world is overwhelmingly big, but the Lord tells Israel in v2, “[I] will help thee; Fear not.”

Covenant Israel also recognizes that blessing the whole world is hard work and there are moments when we feel like it would be nice to relax and have others do the teaching for a change. And while we are being examples to the rest of the world, where will we get our examples?  In verse 3, the Lord promises to pour out water (spiritual water) upon those that are thirsty—thirsting after righteousness. “I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” It is the Spirit that teaches our children, and often they end up teaching us.

Then there is some beautiful imagery: “they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.”  To understand this, we only need to remember how grass doesn’t grow unless there is plenty of water.  Similarly, willows grow best when very near some sort of river or lake. This is teaching us that with all the spiritual water the Lord pours out through the Holy Ghost, we and our children will grow easily, just like those plants that grow best when there is plenty of water around.

With that kind of spiritual environment, covenant Israel will know for sure they are the Lord’s people. They will be so certain, they will want to take on a new name, perhaps calling themselves Jacob, or Israel, or perhaps consecrating themselves completely to God.

What do I learn from these verses? They tell us to FEAR NOT.  If we draw near to the Lord, He will draw near to us and satisfy our spiritual hunger and yearnings.

Thursday, October 25, 2018 0 comments

Mysteries of God

A question I had recently was, "What do the scriptures call mysteries? When the scriptures talk about the mysteries of God, what topics are discussed in that context?" I felt like if I did a survey of the scriptures that referred to "mysteries of God" I might get an idea of what those things are and also how to obtain them.

What follows are notes I made from investigating the scriptures. I think you'll find them illuminating.

Mysteries of the kingdom (Matt 13:11) (given to the disciples to know these)
Mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1)
Mysteries of God (1 Nephi 2:16 (in context of Nephi wanting to know his father was right or not)
Mysteries of God (1 Nephi 10:19) in context of Nephi asking about Lehi’s dream of the tree of life
Mysteries of God (Mosiah 1:3) associated with the things already written in the scriptures
Mysteries of God (Mosiah 2:9) associated with the vision Mosiah had of an angel that gave him a message about the Messiah
Mysteries of God (Alma 10:5) associated with preserving the lives of the Nephites
Mysteries of God (Alma 12:9) about the resurrection from the dead and the judgment
Mysteries of God (Alma 26:22) associated with revealing new things and bringing people to repentance
Mysteries (Alma 37:4) in the scriptures
Mysteries (Alma 37:11) about how the hardened Nephites will be brought to repentance
Mysteries (of God) and secret works of darkness (Alma 37:21) associated with the 24 Jaredite plates
Mysteries  (Alma 40:3) concerning what happens to the soul between death and resurrection
Mysteries of God (D&C 6:7) that will make rich and give eternal life
Mysteries (D&C 6:11) great and marvelous, to bring many to know the truth, to convince others of their error.
Mysteries (D&C 28:7) given to the prophet
Mysteries (D&C 42:61 peaceable things, which bring joy, which bring life eternal
Mysteries (D&C 43:13) to be given because of charitable giving
Mysteries of my kingdom (D&C 63:23) as a well of living water, spring up unto everlasting life
Mysteries out of the scriptures (D&C 71:1)
Hidden mysteries of my will (D&C 76:7-10) from days of old, for ages to come, good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom. Wonders of eternity. Things to come. Things of many generations. Understanding reach to heaven. Secrets of my will. Things eye has not see, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man.
Mysteries (D&C 77:6) associated with the book sealed with 7 seals. Revealed will, mysteries, works of god. Hidden things of his economy.
Mysteries of the kingdom (D&C 84:19) key of the knowledge of God, associated with the power of godliness in the ordinances of the church.
Mysteries of the kingdom (D&C 107:19) of heaven, having the heavens opened to them. Enjoying the presence of the Father and Jesus.
God revealeth secrets (Dan 2:28) in association with Daniel telling the dream of the king and interpreting it.  What shall come to pass (v29)
Secrets (Amos 3:7) revealed to the prophets before they happen.

Fascinating, huh?