Friday, September 25, 2009 0 comments

Lessons from the determination of Samuel the Lamanite and the range of response he received

2 And it came to pass that in this year there was one Samuel, a Lamanite, came into the land of Zarahemla, and began to preach unto the people. And it came to pass that he did preach, many days, repentance unto the people, and they did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land.
3 But behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, that he should return again, and prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart.
4 And it came to pass that they would not suffer that he should enter into the city; therefore he went and got upon the wall thereof, and stretched forth his hand and cried with a loud voice, and prophesied unto the people whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart. (Helaman 13:2-4)
First of all, I have great respect for Samuel the Lamanite for his obedience and determination to return to preach to the city of Zarahemla when he probably had no idea what he was going to say to them until he actually started talking. I have a really hard time starting any kind of conversation when I don’t know beforehand what I will say.

Second, when Samuel the Lamanite returned and tried to enter Zarahemla and they refused to let him come in, I think it is so amazing that he still worked out a way to make himself heard. He got on the WALL. That wall represented the absolute border of where he was allowed. I think it is so amazing that after being refused entry he didn’t say something like, “Well, I tried. I guess it wasn’t meant to be” and then leave. His determination to deliver a message that he didn’t even know yet is inspiring to me.

This story shows me that I need to have a little more determination to do what I know the Lord wants me to do. I can’t let myself by stymied so easily.

I also think that Samuel the Lamanite is a great metaphor for how the Spirit of the Lord works in our lives. Just as Samuel the Lamanite preached repentance in the city of Zarahemla for many days, the Spirit strives in our hearts with us for a very long time to repent. Just as it was a serious thing that Zarahemla threw Samuel the Lamanite out of the city, it is a serious matter when we quench the Spirit or suppress the power of the Word in our lives. (Something I never want to do.) Though we can cast out the Spirit like the people of Zarahemla threw Samuel out of the city, yet the Spirit can still come to the very doors of our hearts and knock. He can stand on the walls around our heart and plead with us, like Samuel stood on the walls of the city and plead with the people to repent.

It may seem like casting the Spirit out of our hearts once means that we are beyond help, but the end of the story of Samuel the Lamanite shows that there is still a chance for us. After Samuel’s preaching, we see from the story that there was wide range of responses.
1 And now, it came to pass that there were many who heard the words of Samuel, the Lamanite, which he spake upon the walls of the city. And as many as believed on his word went forth and sought for Nephi; and when they had come forth and found him they confessed unto him their sins and denied not, desiring that they might be baptized unto the Lord.
2 But as many as there were who did not believe in the words of Samuel were angry with him; and they cast stones at him upon the wall, and also many shot arrows at him as he stood upon the wall; but the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows.
3 Now when they saw that they could not hit him, there were many more who did believe on his words, insomuch that they went away unto Nephi to be baptized.
4 For behold, Nephi was baptizing, and prophesying, and preaching, crying repentance unto the people, showing signs and wonders, working miracles among the people, that they might know that the Christ must shortly come—
5 Telling them of things which must shortly come, that they might know and remember at the time of their coming that they had been made known unto them beforehand, to the intent that they might believe; therefore as many as believed on the words of Samuel went forth unto him to be baptized, for they came repenting and confessing their sins.
6 But the more part of them did not believe in the words of Samuel; therefore when they saw that they could not hit him with their stones and their arrows, they cried unto their captains, saying: Take this fellow and bind him, for behold he hath a devil; and because of the power of the devil which is in him we cannot hit him with our stones and our arrows; therefore take him and bind him, and away with him.
7 And as they went forth to lay their hands on him, behold, he did cast himself down from the wall, and did flee out of their lands, yea, even unto his own country, and began to preach and to prophesy among his own people. (Helaman 16:1-7)
We see that there were some who believed immediately, and repented. We see there were some who attacked Samuel the Lamanite, and when they saw that their attacks were failing, they believed and repented. And we see that there were those who attacked Samuel, failed to hurt him, and because they failed, they preferred to think that the reason was because Samuel was being upheld by an evil power rather than a good one. (In short, they hardened to the point that good seemed evil to them.)

That there were some who believed and were able to submit themselves again to the influence of the Spirit shows that it is possible to allow the Spirit back in to our hearts. They were able to submit to its gentle invitations and humble themselves to repent.
Friday, September 18, 2009 0 comments

Success from failure

Today as my husband and I were reading in 1 Nephi 3 about Nephi and his brothers trying to get the brass plates, a thought occurred to me. Nephi found Laban collapsed in drunkenness. Perhaps Laban had been celebrating his sudden windfall of Lehi’s property. Perhaps if Nephi and his brothers hadn’t first lost their property to Laban, Nephi wouldn’t have found him in that vulnerable position.

Perhaps their failures were really setting the stage for success.

Can you think of any other times in the scriptures when that may have been the case? Has there been any time in your life when that might have happened?
Tuesday, September 15, 2009 0 comments

Fine Point on Surrender, Lehonti (and Co.) and Their Aversion to War?

About a week ago, my husband and I got in a discussion about a fine point in the war chapters of the Book of Mormon. I noticed that Captain Moroni usually required a covenant not to fight again of those who surrendered to him. My husband and I were unsure whether the covenant was part of the surrender or whether the covenant WAS the surrender. I submitted my question to Morgan Deane, whose excellent blog “Warfare and the Book of Mormon” is devoted to military aspects in the Book of Mormon. He has a lot of background in a wide range of military texts of the world, so I thought that if anyone could answer the question, he could.

Sure enough, I was right. Check out his answer here.

One of his points--rejecting the covenant would result in damnation--suggests to me that breaking the covenant would also result in damnation and causes me to think about the Lamanites who were so anxious to avoid fighting the Nephites. Were those Lamanites led by Lehonti (see Alma 47) some of the soldiers who had previously taken a covenant of peace? If they were, this might explain their extreme reaction to the Lamanite king’s command to get ready to fight again.
Monday, September 14, 2009 3 comments

Deborah the judge, Barak the timid, and Jael the heroine

1 And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, when Ehud was dead.
2 And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.
3 And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
4 ¶ And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.
5 And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. (Judges 4:1-5)
I remember when I was taking a class on the Old Testament and we got to this story and the teacher made the observation that it really indicates the wickedness of the people when a woman has to judge Israel (keep in mind it was a patriarchal society). I remember marveling at that.

However, today I have second thoughts about that assessment and for this reason--an evil society would be likely to denigrate the authority of a prophet-judge, and even more likely to denigrate the authority of a prophetess-judge, saying something like, “Who made you a judge over us?”

Actually, considering how Israel was being oppressed by Jabin and Sisera, they probably couldn’t count on obtaining justice from them in a court of law run by them. Perhaps the male Israelite judges were exterminated by the Canaanites in order to keep the Israelites in subjection. (After all, judges also did double duty as military leaders.) Deborah may have begun judging Israel privately so that some friends and neighbors didn’t have to risk more injustice from Canaanite judges. The word must have gotten around about her fairness and people began to come to her to settle their disputes. Perhaps her femininity was seen as a perfect disguise. What Canaanite would suspect a woman of being the locus of a judiciary? Like Gideon, who had to thresh grain in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites, the Israelites sought justice from a woman.

And maybe Israel would have rejected Deborah as a judge in the beginning of their backsliding and sinful period, but perhaps they had been humbled enough by Canaanite oppression over the process of time that after 20 years they finally wanted righteous judgment, no matter what the source. Coming to a prophetess for judgment would indicate they begun to turn to God and they were starting on the right track.
6 And she sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh-naphtali, and said unto him, Hath not the Lord God of Israel commanded, saying, Go and draw toward mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun?
7 And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand.
8 And Barak said unto her, If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go. (Judges 4:6-8)
I don’t know how many commentators have put down Barak for timidity when he refuses to go up to fight the Canaanites without Deborah at his side. However, I sense that Barak had a far better reason for wanting Deborah with him, and I suspect it stems from her prophetic ability.

We understand that a prophet is one who is intimately acquainted with the Lord and is strongly committed to keeping the commandments. Keeping the commandments qualifies a person to have the Spirit with them. Prophets realize that they must go where the Spirit leads. If they sense that the Spirit has left, that is their cue to leave too.

I think that Barak wanted Deborah with him to be an indicator of what the Lord wanted. If Deborah would not go with him, that would indicate that the Spirit (and the Lord) did not approve of what he was doing. But if she would go with him, that would indicate that the Spirit did approve and the Lord was with him. He knew that a victory was completely contingent upon keeping the Lord on his side.
And she said, I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. And Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh. (Judges 4:9)
(This is one of those stories in which women get to have some of the credit, isn’t it?) Just in case Barak had any intention of using this battle for self-aggrandizement, the Lord nips it in the bud. Perhaps it was also a sort of test of his faithfulness to see if he was willing to go through with it knowing beforehand that he had no prospect of honor and glory.
10 ¶ And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and he went up with ten thousand men at his feet: and Deborah went up with him.
11 Now Heber the Kenite, which was of the children of Hobab the father in law of Moses, had severed himself from the Kenites, and pitched his tent unto the plain of Zaanaim, which is by Kedesh.
12 And they shewed Sisera that Barak the son of Abinoam was gone up to mount Tabor.
13 And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.
14 And Deborah said unto Barak, Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee? So Barak went down from mount Tabor, and ten thousand men after him.
15 And the Lord discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. (Judges 4:10-15)
In these verses we get a bit of a clue as to how the Lord fought for Israel. The Canaanites were at the river when the Lord sent the signal to attack. We also find out that Sisera’s discomfiture caused him to leave his chariots behind and run away on foot. If chariots were the epitome of mobile fighting in that day, then something must have happened to those chariots to make them not so mobile. Perhaps there was a sudden rainstorm that made the ground so muddy that the chariots all got stuck. That might have been all it took to level the playing field to give the Israelites their chance.
16 But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.
17 Howbeit Sisera fled away on his feet to the tent of Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite: for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite.
18 ¶ And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.
19 And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.
20 Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.
21 Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.
22 And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.
23 So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.
24 And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan. (Judges 4:16-24)
Now, the interesting thing about the end of this story is not just that it was a woman who nailed Sisera. What is even more interesting is that he was assassinated by his allies. Jael was the wife of Heber the Kenite. If you look at verse 11 and 12, you’ll see that Heber the Kenite’s people were the ones who told Sisera that Barak was on the move with an army of men. Heber the Kenite and Sisera were allies, so of course Sisera would flee to Heber for protection when the battle went badly. So why did Jael kill Sisera?

I bet that Jael was worried about what the Israelites would do to her and Heber if/when they knew that he had tipped Sisera off. Her family was suddenly in danger, since it was allied with the now losing side. She must have decided that the best way to ensure their survival was to ingratiate them with the Israelites. What better way could there be of doing that than to kill Sisera for them?

Her plan worked, and that is why Jael is considered a heroine, rather than a villainess.

I think the point of this story is that the Lord can save us in ways that we don’t expect.

Something else that occurs to me as a modern application of Israelites seeking for judgment from an unexpected source is that as the world becomes more corrupt, we Latter-day Saints can turn to the priesthood, to the “judges in Israel” to settle disputes and render judgment, and we can encourage others to do so too.
Sunday, September 13, 2009 2 comments

Hard Things First

I was reading today in Alma 52 about how Captain Moroni took back the city of Mulek by strategem.

Afterward, in Alma 53:6, it says this:
And it came to pass that Moroni had thus gained a victory over one of the greatest of the armies of the Lamanites, and had obtained possession of the city of Mulek, which was one of the strongest holds of the Lamanites in the land of Nephi...
I remembered that the city of Mulek was the first city Captain Moroni worked to regain after it had been lost to Amalickiah. And we find out that it was one of the strongest fortified and had one of the largest Lamanite armies in it.

He went for one of the biggest challenges first instead of saving it for last. That really says something about Moroni's character. He was about solving the big problems. He had the determination to face it head-on. He had a lot of help in doing it, but a big and tricky objective was the one he went for first. I wonder what would happen if I made that trait part of my character too? What might I accomplish?

What keeps us from working on the hardest things first? There are probably several reasons. First, we're a little scared. Second, we don’t know how long it will take or how much effort we will have to put in to it, and we probably worry that once we work on that big thing we won’t have time for anything else. Or maybe the task is so nebulous and fuzzy in scope that we are not excited about taking the extra time to look at it and corral it into something more defined.

I really like the way that Captain Moroni approached the challenge of retaking Mulek. He came up with a plan with the help of his staff and took a tag-team approach with each army playing its part. He split the operation into stages—the lure stage, a wild goose chase stage (with a simultaneous city-taking stage) and a fatigue-and-trap stage.

Even if we have a big job to do, we can still make it manageable by breaking it up into stages. And why not pray too to ask Heavenly Father to help?
Friday, September 11, 2009 5 comments

Lessons from the Morianton-Lehi land war

Recently in my scripture study I ran across the story of the contention between the people of Morianton and the people of Lehi. It seemed so bald and straightforward to me that I found myself wondering just why Mormon included it. It didn’t seem to have any particular lesson to it. We don’t get any “and thus we sees” to help us navigate it and make sense of it.

Just so that you have it clear in your minds what this story is, I’m including it here:
25 And it came to pass that in the commencement of the twenty and fourth year of the reign of the judges, there would also have been peace among the people of Nephi had it not been for a contention which took place among them concerning the land of Lehi, and the land of Morianton, which joined upon the borders of Lehi; both of which were on the borders by the seashore.
26 For behold, the people who possessed the land of Morianton did claim a part of the land of Lehi; therefore there began to be a warm contention between them, insomuch that the people of Morianton took up arms against their brethren, and they were determined by the sword to slay them.
27 But behold, the people who possessed the land of Lehi fled to the camp of Moroni, and appealed unto him for assistance; for behold they were not in the wrong.
28 And it came to pass that when the people of Morianton, who were led by a man whose name was Morianton, found that the people of Lehi had fled to the camp of Moroni, they were exceedingly fearful lest the army of Moroni should come upon them and destroy them.
29 Therefore, Morianton put it into their hearts that they should flee to the land which was northward, which was covered with large bodies of water, and take possession of the land which was northward.
30 And behold, they would have carried this plan into effect, (which would have been a cause to have been lamented) but behold, Morianton being a man of much passion, therefore he was angry with one of his maid servants, and he fell upon her and beat her much.
31 And it came to pass that she fled, and came over to the camp of Moroni, and told Moroni all things concerning the matter, and also concerning their intentions to flee into the land northward.
32 Now behold, the people who were in the land Bountiful, or rather Moroni, feared that they would hearken to the words of Morianton and unite with his people, and thus he would obtain possession of those parts of the land, which would lay a foundation for serious consequences among the people of Nephi, yea, which consequences would lead to the overthrow of their liberty.
33 Therefore Moroni sent an army, with their camp, to head the people of Morianton, to stop their flight into the land northward.
34 And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east.
35 And it came to pass that the army which was sent by Moroni, which was led by a man whose name was Teancum, did meet the people of Morianton; and so stubborn were the people of Morianton, (being inspired by his wickedness and his flattering words) that a battle commenced between them, in the which Teancum did slay Morianton and defeat his army, and took them prisoners, and returned to the camp of Moroni. And thus ended the twenty and fourth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi.
36 And thus were the people of Morianton brought back. And upon their covenanting to keep the peace they were restored to the land of Morianton, and a union took place between them and the people of Lehi; and they were also restored to their lands. (Alma 50:25-36)
As I was trying to derive some kind of lesson from this, the main thing that comes to my attention was this little story about Morianton’s maid servant and her courage to flee after being beaten. And she didn’t flee to just any place, she fled to the army of Captain Moroni.

Why didn’t Morianton follow her when she fled? I can think of two possibilities. Had he washed his hands of her? I doubt it. I can’t see a person like Morianton letting a servant go so easily. Losing a servant is a loss to the household. Someone has to do the work the missing servant used to do. The other possibility that I can think of is that Morianton had beat this servant girl many times before and she had fled many times before and had always eventually returned. I bet that he didn’t follow her because he expected she would eventually return. Except this time she didn’t. This time she spilled all his plans to the very people Morianton’s people feared.

The obvious lesson here is that if you alienate the people who serve you, they leave and mess up your plans by telling them to your enemies/competitors.

Well, that’s a great lesson for business people, but what about the rest of us?

The next thing I noticed was that it says that Morianton was “a man of much passion, therefore he was angry…” This gives us a little more to work with. His passion (anger) was what got him in trouble. And anger was what got his people in trouble too in their arguments with the people of Lehi about whose land was whose. If they hadn’t gotten so angry that they wanted to kill the people of Lehi, then a lot of trouble could have been prevented.

So it seems like in the problems between the cities of Morianton and Lehi and in the problem Morianton with his servant there was a lot of anger and overreaction. Compare that to Captain Moroni, who wanted to assist the people of Lehi, preserve the liberty of the land, and wanted to stop Morianton and his people in their flight. It seems like he wants to stop the overreaction and smooth things down. This seems to show us that when there are arguments we need to be very careful not to overreact because overreaction really does make things worse.

There was one other thing that I found. It’s this:
…the people who were in the land Bountiful, or rather Moroni, feared that they would hearken to the words of Morianton and unite with his people, and thus he would obtain possession of those parts of the land, which would lay a foundation for serious consequences among the people of Nephi, yea, which consequences would lead to the overthrow of their liberty. (Alma 50:32)
Moroni didn’t want Morianton pulling the people of Bountiful into it. Undoubtedly Morianton would tell a distorted and one-sided version of the story to them and get them all fired up and convinced that Morianton was right and be determined to fight on his side. The puzzling thing to me was that I didn’t quite understand how this would lay a foundation for the destruction of liberty. Previously I thought it might have something to do with hedging up that north land so that the Nephites would be surrounded by enemies and have no place to flee. But it struck me this time that perhaps it had something to do with continuing a bad precedent. If Morianton succeeded in getting his way by stirring people to anger against his enemies, as a number of wicked men had done before him (Amlici, Amalikiah…) then it would seem like the only way to solve a problem and get your way would be to get more people on your side and go to battle. (Trying get more people involved and on your side tends to cause more problems and you get a scenario like in World War I in which people are pulled into a war because their allies are in a war. And we know that ultimately leads to a society consisting of two armed camps that fight until one or the other is completely destroyed.) Moroni was trying to preserve the precarious liberty that was based on a foundation of solving problems without fighting.

Another thing you could get from this story is the danger of gossip, no matter what level it occurs at. The People of Lehi had already come to the army of Moroni and told them their side of the story, and it must have been pretty convincing, since we are told “they were not in the wrong”, but note that Mormon doesn’t think it is important to tell us why the people of Lehi were not in the wrong, so we have no real data to judge by in order to see whether they were right or wrong. For all we know, Morianton’s people could have been in the right. And Moroni was worried that Morianton would gossip about the people of Lehi to the Bountiful-ites. And of course Morianton’s maid servant dished the dirt on Morianton and his plans. Without the details on everybody it is hard to make any kind of call and the best we can do is rely upon the good faith of the record keeper.

The good thing about Captain Moroni is that while he may have felt that the Lehi-ites were in the right, his intent was to preserve peace. This seems to have made him more impartial. So instead of trying to wipe out the Morianton-ites, he had them brought back. And his final solution is interesting—he has the Morianton-ites covenant to keep the peace. He doesn’t mediate or arbitrate and force a solution, he leaves it up to them to figure out a way to keep the covenant they had made to keep the peace because they are now morally obligated to do it as part of their duty to God.

This seems to be a story about the necessity of both individuals and peoples to control their tempers and passions. It also seems to be about the dangers of gossip, and it seems to provide a good model for how to deal with chronic physical abuse by escaping. It also reinforces the positive effects of making peace through making covenants.

Hmmm. This story was more sophisticated than I thought.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009 0 comments

Considering what wasn’t said

I ran across this verse a few days ago.
So shall he sprinkle many nations;
the kings shall shut their mouths at him:
for that which had not been told them shall they see;
and that which they had not heard shall they consider. (Isaiah 52:15)
It’s one of those verses that has continued to puzzle me. For some reason, this time when I read it, I thought of Christ as he stood before Pilate and Herod.
1 And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate.
2 And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.
3 And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. (Luke 23:1-3)
12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.
13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?
14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly. (Matthew 27:12-14)
4 Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man.
5 And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.
6 When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilaean.
7 And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.
8 ¶ And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.
9 Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.
10 And the chief priests and ascribes stood and vehemently accused him.
11 And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.
12 ¶ And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.
13 ¶ And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people,
14 Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him:
15 No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him.
16 I will therefore chastise him, and release him. (Luke 23:4 -16)
15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.
16 And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas.
17 Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?
18 For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. (Matthew 27:15-18)
Pilate seems to have gotten an earful from the crowd, and yet he was able to see and consider that what he had heard from the Jews and what he was seeing in Christ were not the same thing. There was nothing that he could say against Christ, so in that respect his mouth was shut.

My hope is that we can live our lives in a way similar to Christ so that when we are accused of evil deeds, those who examine us will see and consider (and recognize) that which they had not heard from others—the truth.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009 4 comments

Coping Techniques for Economic Cycles Planned into the Law of Moses

In modern times economists have noted a cycle that seems to occur every so often, about ever three to five years. There is a boom with prosperity and ready money and plenty of employment and good things, and then soon after there is a bust in which there is a surplus of over-production and then many people lose their jobs as it takes a while for the surplus to be used up. Keep this in mind as you read the following:
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord.
3 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;
4 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.
5 That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.
6 And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee,
7 And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat. (Leviticus 25:2-7)
20 And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase:
21 Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years.
22 And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store. (Leviticus 25: 20-22)
This scripture suggested to me that Heavenly Father was well aware of this cycle and had His own way of handling it and even planned it into the religious observance of His ancient covenant people so that they would think of it not as a bad thing, but as a thing to be planned for and even an opportunity to become closer to the Lord and to increase personal righteousness through exerting faith and demonstrating charity.

I had an interesting realization. We’ve been counseled by the prophets for many many years that we should build up a year’s supply and a financial reserve. It may be that this is not just meant to save us from a sudden cataclysmic event that wipes out farms and transportation systems that bring us our food. It may be that this is how Heavenly Father has provided for us to deal with the boom-bust cycle of the economy so that we can be prepared and not fear during the periodic ups and downs. If we think of it this way, we can see that we need to be saving up and using the boom times to prepare for the bust times that will immediately follow.

Here’s something else I found.
8 ¶ And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years.
9 Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.
10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
11 A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed.
12 For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.
13 In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession.
14 And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another:
15 According to the number of years after the jubile thou shalt buy of thy neighbour, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee:
16 According to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it: for according to the number of the years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee.
17 Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord your God.
18 ¶ Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety.
19 And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety. (Leviticus 25:8-19)
Not only does it seem that Heavenly Father was aware of economic cycles, but it seems that Heavenly Father was well aware of the tendency for excessive debt to pile up over a few generations and since He is very interested in promoting freedom from bondage of all kinds, He appointed the 49th year as a jubilee with releasing from debts and reverting of lands, giving the downtrodden a fresh start. (There’s more on the specifics of Jubilee in Leviticus 25: 23-55, if you’re curious.)

The Jubilee year was a codified act of slate-clearing to return some equity to the people, since there was a tendency for the poor to get so deep into debt that they couldn’t get out and wealth would become more and more concentrated in the hands of a few. Other ancient nations had the practice of periodically “clearing the slate”, but it was usually at the whim of the ruler. The innovation of the Law of Moses to codify the slate clearing was that it could be planned for and anticipated, thereby being fair to both creditors and debtors. It was highly practical, not utopic.

The promise that the Lord gave for living the law of the Sabbath year and the Jubilee year was:
  • the people would dwell in the land safely,
  • the land would yield her fruit, and
  • the people would eat their fill.
That sounds similar to what we’ve been promised for building a year’s supply of food and a financial reserve, doesn’t it?

The Lord wants us to be free to be HIS servants. We can’t fully serve the Lord if we are in debt or bondage. The intent of all of this is to preserve our self-reliance so that we can serve the Lord freely, rather than be serving our debt.

It’s easy to think that a Jubilee is only something of an ancient practice and hasn’t been done it modern times, but I ran across a paragraph in the booklet “Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” on page 96 that said differently:
On 6 April 1880, Church members celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the organization of the Church. They called it a Jubilee Year, as the ancient Israelites had named every fiftieth year. President Taylor forgave many of the debts owed to the Church by its needy members. The Church also contributed 300 cows and 2,000 sheep to be distributed among its “deserving poor.” The Church’s Relief Society sisters donated almost 35,000 bushels of wheat to those in need. President Taylor also urged Church members to forgive individual debt, especially among the distressed. “It is the time of Jubilee!” he declared. A spirit of forgiveness and joy was strongly felt among the Latter-day Saints.
What do you think? Do you think the Latter-day Saints could do a Jubilee year in the present day?