Saturday, July 30, 2011 3 comments

How a culture of exploitation acts when threatened

We have a prime example of how an exploitation culture acts when threatened as King Noah’s people are invaded by the Lamanites.
9 And the king commanded the people that they should flee before the Lamanites, and he himself did go before them, and they did flee into the wilderness, with their women and their children.
10 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did pursue them, and did overtake them, and began to slay them.
11 Now it came to pass that the king commanded them that all the men should leave their wives and their children, and flee before the Lamanites.
12 Now there were many that would not leave them, but had rather stay and perish with them. And the rest left their wives and their children and fled.
13 And it came to pass that those who tarried with their wives and their children caused that their fair daughters should stand forth and plead with the Lamanites that they would not slay them.
14 And it came to pass that the Lamanites had compassion on them, for they were charmed with the beauty of their women. (Mosiah 19:11-14)
The worst offenders (the king and wicked priests) jettison the weakest who are dependent on them as soon as it becomes apparent that the weak are getting in the way of survival. When the exploited become a burden, they are left behind.

Others stay with their families, but they still try to exploit their daughters’ sex appeal to negotiate for survival. It doesn’t occur to these men to protect and defend their wives and children.

As a society, they only begin to achieve redemption from this terrible state by a sacrifice equal and opposite to their previous sin. This sacrifice occurs as they prevent the starvation of the widows and fatherless by giving food to them. It is debatable how much good it does their hearts to be commanded to do this by King Limhi instead of doing it of their own impetus, but it is a great improvement from the outright predation and selfishness of King Noah’s regime.

Sincere self-sacrifice ends exploitation.
Friday, July 29, 2011 2 comments

16 scriptural signs of being stiffnecked (for self-identification)

We see the adjective “stiffnecked” fairly often in the scriptures, particularly in the Book of Mormon. I decided to look at the different verses to collect the “stiffnecked” characteristics so that I could get a better idea of what it would be besides just “stubborn.”

A stiffnecked person:
  1. Thinks Christ isn't the right way. (2 Nephi 25:28)
  2. Despises plain words, kills the prophets, seeks for words not understood, and looks beyond the mark. (Jacob 4:14)
  3. Always resists the Spirit of the Lord, receives the law, but doesn't keep it. (Acts 7:51,53)
  4. Does not serve the Lord or go to the temple. (2 Chron. 30:8)
  5. Builds up churches to themselves to get gain and tranfigures the holy word of God to bring damnation to themselves (Mormon 8:33)
  6. Is "hard to understand." (Enos:22)
  7. Sets at naught the commandments of God (Helaman 4:21)
  8. Is quick to do iniquity and slow to remember the Lord. (Mosiah 13:29)
  9. Spends their days in gross iniquity (Alma 26:24)
  10. Thinks the Lord will allow them to go on in their way of sin. (Helaman 9:21)
  11. Causes contention. (Omni:28)
  12. Gets angry when told they are stiffnecked. (Alma 9:31)
  13. Doesn't know that God can do marvelous works. (Alma 9:5)
  14. Doesn't repent of their sins, but ascribes the power displayed by servants of God to the devil. (Alma 15:15)
  15. Doesn't hearken to the words of God, but casts out, smites, drives from house to house and place to place, casts into prison, and binds servants of God (Alma 20:30)
  16. Can't be governed by law or justice except to their destruction. (Helaman 5:3)

Ouch. I think I found some stuff I need to repent of.

Now… let’s turn this around and describe one who is NOT stiffnecked.

One who is NOT stiffnecked:
  1. Believes Christ is the right way.
  2. Loves plain words, reveres the prophets, seeks for clear principles, knows the mark to aim for is Christ.
  3. Always submits to the Spirit of the Lord, receives the law and keeps it.
  4. Serves the Lord and goes to the temple.
  5. Builds up churches to Christ, avoids self-aggrandizement, carefully transmits the word of God to bring eternal life to themselves.
  6. Is easy to understand.
  7. Highly values the commandments of God.
  8. Is quick to do good works, and slow to turn from the Lord.
  9. Spends their days in great righteousness.
  10. Knows the Lord will not tolerate their sin, forsakes it.
  11. Makes peace.
  12. Searches their souls when told they are stiffnecked.
  13. Knows God can do marvelous works.
  14. Repents of their sins and ascribes to God the power displayed by the servants of God.
  15. Hearkens to the words of God, receives, is hospitable to and respectful of servants of God, allowing them great freedom to travel and preach.
  16. Can be governed by law and justice, even without severe penalties.
Thursday, July 28, 2011 3 comments

What could I write more than my fathers have written?: A critique of Jarom and Omni

Between the Books of Jarom and Omni there is a regression that is detectible. Jarom says, “I shall not write the things of my prophesying, nor of my revelations. For what could I write more than my fathers have written? For have not they revealed the plan of salvation? I say unto you, Yea; and this sufficeth me.” (Jarom 1:2) So he occupies his time writing about how others preached. It is interesting that he says, “it is expedient that much should be done among this people, because of the hardness of their hearts” (v3) but I get the feeling that he is unwilling to get involved because it seems like such a big job. (Perhaps this was the same attitude that he had about writing his prophecies on the plates; there is so much to do that he is overwhelmed.) Throughout his account he speaks as if from the outside, looking in on the preaching and prophesying because he declines to share his own with us.

This suddenly seems like it applies to me. I sometimes hesitate to start writing insight down when I get one that is so hefty I know it will take an hour to get it out. (I am not saying this to boast; I bet you all get your own monster insights that you chew on for days.)

In the next generation, Jarom’s son Omni admits that he himself is a wicked man and has not kept the commandments as he should have. (This makes me wonder if Jarom took the same approach to teaching Omni as he had with keeping the record—there was so much to teach that it was paralyzing, so he did less than he knew he should.) And Omni writes even less than Jarom does and says next to nothing about spiritual things among his people.

Omni’s son Amaron says merely that the wicked were destroyed according to the word of God, then passes the record to his brother Chemish. Chemish only says he’s keeping the record like everybody else and then he passes on the record to his son Abinadom. (Chemish writes like the plates are some sort of guest book that he is signing.) Abinadom drops the chilling false doctrine of sufficiency: “I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written.” (Omni 1:11) This is a new low point and it indicates how far gone the Nephites are. If no one knows of any revelation except what has already been written, they are in a very bad way.

Happily, the Lord yanks the record out of this dark pit in a single generation with Amaleki. A mere two verses later, Amaleki tells us of a splinter group led out of the land of Nephi by the first Mosiah with the word of God, with preaching, prophesying, and the power of the Lord’s arm. The gifts of the Spirit are back and the record is living again as a spiritual reservoir, as Amaleki views history through the lens of the gospel. But his spiritual exhortation lasts only two verses as he entreats his readers to believe in spiritual gifts and come to Christ to be saved; afterward he returns to recounting history.

So in Jarom and Omni, we see some people who occupied the plates with things of less importance. Thank goodness it only lasts two pages out of the whole book. Compare the measly unabridged writings in the Books of Jarom and Omni to the vast abridged records of Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, and Nephi, about the same number of generations! Alma’s weighty collection of writing shows us that contrary to Jarom’s assertion, more can be written besides what one’s fathers have written.

I have observed that when I don’t write down what happens, it is really hard for me to remember any of it at the end of the month. My husband writes a monthly account for a family newsletter on his side, and if we didn’t look at our calendar (or if I didn’t look at my journal), I really don’t think we would remember anything enough to write.

I suspect the record keepers of Jarom and Omni had this problem; they weren’t writing down things on more perishable media as it happened, so when they got to the end of their lives and found that they had to write something most important on the plates for the benefit of future generations, they had a very hard time without a consistent record of their own to pick the best from.

It seems that we have to have made our large plates before we can distill it down to the small plates.

Update: I put this in cue to post and then the Lord started to show me some things from the Book of Jarom that are special, so it seems I may have posted prematurely.

1) Jarom is the first book to use the term "plan of salvation." Before it is called "the merciful plan" or the "plan of our God" or "the plan of redemption," but Jarom gets the credit for recording this term by which we usually identify it.
2) Jarom points out that those who are not stiffnecked and have faith have communion w/ the Holy Ghost. It seems so simple, but it is true. So if we have faith and we aren't having communion with the Holy Ghost, there is some stiffneckedness that needs to be rooted out of our lives. (Hmm, I'm thinking that self-identifying our characteristics of stiffneckedness is worth its own post..)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 3 comments

To increase my love of the Lord

I had to teach a lesson in Relief Society a few weeks ago about obedience, and it caused me to reflect on the nature of my obedience to the Lord. I realized that many times I obey because I am in the habit of obeying. This is good to a certain extent because cultivating good habits makes those actions less of a struggle and more natural for me. However, when they are done habitually, it is also easy for those actions to become thoughtless and robotic.

When I read the lesson, I found the point well made that we should obey because we love the Lord. I could see that if I obeyed out of love for the Lord, obedience would become sweeter to me. So I pondered how I might increase my love for the Lord. I found I had no idea how that could be done. I knew that love would lead to obedience and service, but what would bring more love?

Interestingly enough, I found the answer in the temple while reading the scriptures as we waited for our session to start. (It’s wonderful how it seems those well-thumbed pages turn so quickly and easily to exactly what I need.) I ran across these verses:
11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.
12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true. (Mosiah 4:11-12)
To increase my love for the Lord, I needed to remember His greatness, His goodness, His long-suffering toward me. So I thought about all the things the Lord had done for me, and in only a few seconds I was overwhelmed with awe and love for the Lord. How I wanted to obey then!

And I also realized this was why the sacrament prayer includes the covenant that we will always remember Him. It’s not only so that we can have the Spirit to be with us, but also so that we will increase our love of the Lord, which will lead us to willingly, happily obey Him.
Sunday, July 24, 2011 0 comments

On these hang all the law and the prophets

When Jesus says that all the law and the prophets hang on the commandments to love God and love our fellowmen, His word choice is very deliberate. “Hang” evokes to me the image of a picture hanging from a nail in a sure place on the wall. It teaches me the important principle that if I am having difficulty keeping the commandments and following the prophets, it is because I lack the love of God that it takes to be obedient. This is not condemnatory; it is a simple fact. Nothing is more difficult and annoying than obeying a God one does not love.
Friday, July 22, 2011 0 comments

If the Book of Mormon had scouting

If the Nephites had the Boy Scout program, these are what merit badges I think the different people would have been earned. (Keep in mind, I’m not being very strict about fulfilling all the particular merit badge requirements.)

--Public Speaking merit badge (preaching to Jerusalem)
--Pathfinding (leading the way in the wilderness with help from Liahona)
--Wilderness Survival
--Genealogy (searching out family lines on plates)
--Family Life (coping with Laman and Lemuel)

--Camping merit badge (leaving Jerusalem, living in wilderness)
--Personal Fitness (for being large in stature)
FAILED American Business (got cheated when trying to exchange possessions for plates)
--Theater (dressing up as Laban and acting like him)
--Scholarship (getting brass plates, writing)
--American Cultures, American Heritage (vision of American history)
--Archery (making a bow and arrow)
--Family Life (coping with Laman and Lemuel, obeying father)
--Metalwork (for making metal plates and tools for building boat)
--Carpentry (building a ship)
--Small-boat Sailing (crossing the ocean)
--Weather (surviving storm)
--Architecture (building a temple)
--Reading (love for Isaiah)

King Benjamin
--Citizenship in the Nation merit badge
--Architecture (tower-building)
--Public Speaking

--Orienteering merit badge (taking people back to land of Nephi)
--Farm Mechanics (tilled the ground)
--Citizenship in the Community (helped defend people against Lamanites)
--Emergency Preparedness (defense against Lamanites)

--Public Speaking merit badge
--FAILED Fire Safety

search party sent by Limhi to find Zarahemla
--Hiking merit badge
--FAILED Pathfinding (did not find Zarahemla)
--Archeology (found Jaredite civilization remains and plates)

Mosiah II
--Animal Science merit badge (laboring to not be burdensome, teaching sons to be shepherds)
--Farm Mechanics (tilled the ground)
--Reading (translating Jaredite record)
--Citizenship in the Nation (setting up Judgeship)

Alma the Elder
--Emergency Preparedness merit badge (leaving King Noah’s people immediately after finding they were discovered, leaving land of Helam when Lamanite guards were asleep)
--Wilderness Survival
--American Labor (enslaved by Lamanites)
--Hiking (to find Zarahemla)
--Orienteering (finding the land of Zarahemla)
--Family Life (praying for wayward son Alma)

Alma the Younger
--Public Speaking merit badge (after conversion)
--Law (for being the chief judge)
--Hiking (travel while preaching)
--Geology (surviving earthquake in Ammonihah prison)
--Family Life (teaching his sons)
--Journalism (kept record of the Nephites)

Ammon, son of Mosiah
--Camping merit badge (traveling to Lamanite lands)
--Animal Science (shepherding)
--Crime Prevention (stopping Lamanites from scattering sheep)
--Communication (teaching gospel)
--First Aid (assessing King Lamoni’s unconscious condition)

--FAILED Indian Lore merit badge (joined Nephites instead)
--Hiking (leaving Lamanite lands)
--Citizenship in the Nation (giving food to Nephite armies)

Captain Moroni
--Citizenship in the Community merit badge (raising Title of Liberty)
--Public Speaking
--Citizenship in the Nation (leading Nephite armies)
--Architecture (building fortifications)

--Law merit badge
--Citizenship in the Nation

stripling warriors
--Citizenship in the Nation merit badge (volunteering for army)
--Family Life (listening to mothers, defending liberty of fathers, remembering mother’s teaching)
--Hiking (decoying Lamanites away)
--First Aid (probably helping each other after everyone was wounded)

--Small-boat Sailing merit badge

Nephi & Lehi
--Family Life merit badge (brothers that work very well together)
--Public Speaking
--Hiking (traveling to preach)
--Fire Safety (for standing in a pillar of fire)

--Crime Prevention merit badge (revealing murder of Gadianton robbers)

Samuel the Lamanite
--Climbing merit badge (getting on Zerahemla’s walls)
--Public Speaking (preaching to Zarahemla on city wall)
--Astronomy (for predicting signs in the heavens of Christ’s birth)

--Citizenship in the Nation merit badge (chief judge)
--Emergency Preparedness (defending against Gadianton robbers)
--Crime Prevention (defeating Gadianton robbers)

Jesus Christ
--Citizenship in the World merit badge (Atonement)
--Aviation (descending and ascending from heaven)
--Public Speaking
--Law (fulfilled it and gave a higher one)
--Medicine (healed people)

1st generation of Nephites after Christ’s visit
Family Life merit badge

The Three Nephites
--Fire Safety merit badge (not hurt when thrown in furnaces)
--Animal Science (played with wild beasts when fed to them)
--Public Speaking (preaching)
--American Heritage (still alive)

--Citizenship in the Nation merit badge (general in Nephite army)
--Journalism (reporting destruction of Nephites)
--Collections (for keeping records)
--Reading (compiling Nephite history)
--American Heritage (writing B of M)

--Hiking merit badge
--American Heritage
--Wilderness Survival
--Geocaching (hiding plates)

Brother of Jared
--Communication merit badge (Tower of Babel)
--Geology (melting out 16 small stones)
--Small-boat Sailing

--Public Speaking merit badge (preaching)
--Journalism (reporting destruction of Jaredites)
--Geocaching (hiding plates)

Nephite civilization in general
Textile (fine-twined linen, costly apparel)
Architecture (city and fort-building)
Religious Knot …….. and then Religious-Not
FAILED Crime Prevention (Gadianton robbers)
“Leave No Trace” award
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 2 comments

My line-upon-line education on the Atonement

When I was a teen, when I’d hear lessons about the Atonement and that we all needed it, I had a hard time accepting that I needed Christ because deep down I still thought I could do it on my own. The extent of my knowledge of the repentance process was 1) admit I had done wrong, 2) stop doing the bad thing, 3) take the penalty.

What I was missing was an understanding that if Christ’s Atonement had never happened, I would still have to suffer for my sins even after admitting my mistakes, stopping the sin, and taking the earthly consequences. I had to learn that Christ’s Atonement is the only thing that makes repentance possible at all. In fact, I had to learn that everything church-related that I do would be to no avail without the Atonement.

I only began to understand this when I found I had faults that I could not fix myself. That’s when I realized I really needed Christ.


It has always been hard for me to think at length about what Christ suffered for me in the Garden of Gethsemane. When I try to comprehend it all, I think of the sins I burdened Him with, and then I think of the sins of my family, and as I try to imagine what the sins of billions of people must have been like, very soon I get overwhelmed. My heart feels like it is going to burst, and I just want to bawl. But because I don’t like crying in front of people, I find myself shutting off my feelings in order to regain control. ("Back, tears! Back, I say!") You may feel this way too.

But part of the sacrament prayers say that we take the bread and water as a witness that we always remember Him so that we can have His spirit to be with us always. So we have to let ourselves feel it, even if it makes us cry.


What was it like for Christ to take the responsibility for everyone’s sins even though He was innocent? That’s been another hard thing for me to comprehend. I take great pleasure in not feeling responsible for other people’s sins. And I know what it is like to feel responsible for my sins. So I had to come up with a sort of thought experiment to try to understand in a small way what it was like for Christ. (Actually, it is both a thought experiment and a feeling experiment.) Here’s it is:
“Suppose your family died in a terrible house fire set by an arsonist, but you were able to escape alive and unhurt. You are innocent of their deaths.
But then suppose that somehow you begin to feel like YOU were RESPONSIBLE for their deaths, even though you know you are innocent and someone else did it. And suppose that you had to allow yourself to feel that responsibility until those deaths were all ‘paid for.’”
I know this is a massive understatement, but all I can say is, “Ouch.”


There have been times when I’ve said to myself, “I know I did something wrong, but I don’t feel any pain or anguish for my sins. The suffering can’t be that bad, can it?”

Fortunately, Christ has already answered that question.
Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not. (D&C 19:15)
I finally learned why we don’t know how exquisitely painful our suffering will be when I truly grasped the concept of our mortal probation. While we are here in mortality, our Heavenly Father is holding back from us the full consequences of our sins to give us time to repent. If He didn’t, we’d get hit with the full punishment immediately after sinning. So He holds it back, and Judgment day is when the full consequences come.

When I realized that, it put the fear of God into me. Suddenly repentance seemed a LOT more attractive.


One of my problems as I tried to learn how to use the Atonement in my life was that I knew in my head what the steps were, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel. What was I supposed to pray? What was I supposed to feel? How would I know I had been forgiven? I kind of had to learn by trial and error, until I found out what worked.

Eventually, I found a scripture that gave a fantastic example of how to use the Atonement in daily life. I wished someone had pointed it out earlier, but I’ll share it with you now.
1 And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.
2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.
3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them. (Mosiah 4:1-3)
It’s all there—what to feel, what to believe, what to do, how to pray, how we’ll know we’re forgiven. This scripture has been so precious to me. I wish everyone could see how significant it is.


What if we “repent” knowing deep down that we will commit the sin again later? There were times when I found myself repenting for the same sin multiple times. I started to ask myself if I was really making any progress. Eventually I ran across this scripture:
12 Now, my best beloved brethren, since God hath taken away our stains, and our swords have become bright, then let us stain our swords no more with the blood of our brethren.
13 Behold, I say unto you, Nay, let us retain our swords that they be not stained with the blood of our brethren; for perhaps, if we should stain our swords again they can no more be washed bright through the blood of the Son of our great God, which shall be shed for the atonement of our sins. (Alma 24:12-13, emphasis added)
It struck me that the Anti-Nephi-Lehis took the most serious view of the Atonement. After having been forgiven, they feared to sin, fearing that killing again would make it impossible to be cleansed again, hence their anxiety to do whatever they could to avoid sinning. I realized that repenting loosely with the idea that I was just going to have to repent again and again indicated I had not really repented. I had to really hate the sin. I had to be absolutely serious about repenting like the Anti-Nephi-Lehis were.

Further, I had to realize that God could see into my heart and I could never fool Him with half-hearted repentance.


I know my own weaknesses. I know that repenting doesn’t guarantee that I won’t ever be confronted with the temptation again. Yet if I have repented, I must find the strength to resist.
Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work. (D&C 10:5)
I had always wondered what good prayer could do me at a time of temptation. I mean, let’s be real here—in the midst of temptation, giving in looks good. Yes, part of us wants to resist, but there is still part of us that wants to give in and say that we couldn’t help it. It is hard to pray against temptation with your whole heart when part of you wants to give in.

When I found myself confronted with a truly fearsome temptation, I found the only refuge I had was to pray. I was terrified of giving in. I knew giving in would destroy me. But as much as I tried to focus on something else, the unwanted thoughts kept popping into my mind. I realized I had no power on my own to resist at length, and it scared me that the temptation might last longer than a few minutes. So I had to pray. It was my only hope. I put my whole soul into it. I told Heavenly Father I was being tempted. I told Him exactly what the temptation was. I told Him why I found it tempting. I told Him that I desperately did NOT want to give in and I needed help to resist. I didn’t dare disengage from prayer for a while because I didn’t want to face the temptation again. I just kept focused on Heavenly Father and my desire for help to resist. I let it fill up my entire consciousness. I don’t know how long it took, and I don’t know what changed, but when I finally “let go” of my prayer-lifeline, the temptation was gone. And I had a new testimony of the power of prayer.


Recently my testimony of the power of prayer as a tool for resisting temptation helped me see with new eyes Jesus’s prayers in the garden of Gethsemane.
37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (Matt. 26:38-45)
It became evident that Satan was using the big guns on Christ right there to try to prevent Him from making His atoning sacrifice. Christ had to keep praying to resist temptation. He had to pray multiple times because Satan kept coming back. But ultimately, the Savior overcame it all and atoned for us.

This has taught me that Satan may attack me multiple times and I will have to pray multiple times to resist, so I should not get discouraged and feel like prayer is not working if a temptation comes back soon after praying.


I’m sharing this in hopes that my experiences can help someone else avoid some of the errors I made. Do you have any experiences that you can add?
Monday, July 18, 2011 3 comments

How the account of Jesus's suffering helps me have faith

The last part of Christ’s life has always been difficult for me to wrap my head around. The way He stands calm and quiet and patient while accused, condemned, and abused seems more and more superhuman the older I get. I quake to think how I would have acted if I were in His place.

The trouble is, considering this doesn’t really help me; rather it seems to alienate me from Christ. I suppose it is just ugly pride in me that hates to be second best in anything. (Terrible, huh?)

But recently, as I have been studying Christ’s trial and crucifixion in preparation for teaching a 16-year-old Sunday school class, I have realized how these accounts of His suffering can directly help me to have faith in Him and draw me to Him. If He suffered those things because of His loving kindness and long-suffering toward those who did those things to Him, I know He will be just as patient and loving toward me, for certainly my sins have hurt Him just as much.

If He had shown the least bit of resentment, would we be able to have perfect trust in Him? It would be harder. We would fear that He would have difficulty forgiving us.

Glory be to the Father; Jesus’s love for us is revealed.
Saturday, July 16, 2011 0 comments

The God of heaven weeps

28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept;
and Enoch bore record of it, saying:
How is it that the heavens weep,
and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?
29 And Enoch said unto the Lord:
How is it that thou canst weep,
seeing thou art holy,
and from all eternity to all eternity?....
32 The Lord said unto Enoch:
Behold these thy brethren;
they are the workmanship of mine own hands,
and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them;
and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
33 And unto thy brethren have I said,
and also given commandment,
that they should love one another,
and that they should choose me, their Father;
but behold, they are without affection,
and they hate their own blood;
34 And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them;
and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them,
for my fierce anger is kindled against them.
35 Behold, I am God;
Man of Holiness is my name;
Man of Counsel is my name;
and Endless and Eternal is my name, also.
36 Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands
and hold all the creations which I have made;
and mine eye can pierce them also,
and among all the workmanship of mine hands
there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren.
37 But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers;
Satan shall be their father,
and misery shall be their doom;
And the whole heavens shall weep over them,
even all the workmanship of mine hands;
wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? (Moses 7:28-29,32-37 )
I was thinking about Enoch’s vision of God weeping over the wicked and I wondered what was important about that. Was there any other place in the Old Testament where God is seen weeping? Then I realized that there isn’t. There is nothing in the Old Testament that compares with it. I searched for instances of the following words to see if there were any connected with God in the Old Testament:

weep, wept, weeping, cry, cried, crying, sorrow, sorrowed, sorrowing, sorrows, mourn, mourning, mourned, sad, wail, wailed, wailing, howl, howled, howling, grief

I found three instances in the Old Testament in which it is stated that Lord was “grieved” and one instance of “grieve” associated with the Lord. Here they are:

At the time of Noah:
And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth,
and it grieved him at his heart. (Genesis 6:6)
In Psalms:
How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness,
and grieve him in the desert! (Psalms 78:40)

Forty years long was I grieved with this generation,
and said, It is a people that do err in their heart,
and they have not known my ways: (Psalms 95:10)
In Judges:
And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the Lord:
and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel. (Judges 10:16)
That’s all there is in the Old Testament. Just four. If we count Old Testament prophecy of Christ’s future sorrows in mortality, there are more instances, but of a weeping pre-mortal Jehovah, we see only the four cases above.

When there are oodles of cases in the Old Testament when “the anger of the Lord was kindled” and only four when the Lord is grieved, that contributes to the general impression that the God of the Old Testament is an angry, jealous God.

This is what makes Enoch’s vision so precious to us. Enoch testifies that God also weeps for all the wicked because of their wretched, sinful state and the anguish they will suffer after they die until they can be redeemed. God can’t deny Himself when justice has its claim, and He can’t help but weep for those who sin.

This helps us see that Jehovah of the Old Testament is the same as Jesus Christ of the New Testament.
Thursday, July 14, 2011 1 comments

The doctrinal problem solved by Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac

I’ve often wondered about the story of Abraham being commanded to sacrifice Isaac. I felt like there had to be more to it. Recently it occurred to me that some of these scripture stories may have been meant to solve problems that we don’t face today. Since one of the problems of Abraham’s time was the worship of false gods and child sacrifice (such as passing children through the fire to Molech), it may be that the story of Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac was meant to show believers that the true God was a god of mercy that did not require child sacrifice. This almost made my head explode, it was so different. But it quickly began to make sense. What better way could God have demonstrated that He did not require child sacrifice than to ask one of His faithful to sacrifice his son…and then STOP IT FROM OCCURRING… and provide A SUBSTITUTE? This would demolish the argument for child sacrifice and testify of vicarious sacrifice by a Savior. It fulfills two purposes in one. Future generations could point to that as an argument for Jehovah’s mercy and love.

I hesitated to post this, since it seemed like a totally different way of looking at that story, but when I looked on the internet I found that it wasn’t so strange after all. On Wikipedia’s entry “binding of Isaac,” I ran across a whole plethora of views on it, one of which was this:
…according to Rabbi Joseph H. Hertz (Chief Rabbi of the British Empire), child sacrifice was actually "rife among the Semitic peoples," and suggests that "in that age, it was astounding that Abraham's God should have interposed to prevent the sacrifice, not that He should have asked for it." Hertz interprets the Akedah as demonstrating to the Jews that human sacrifice is abhorrent. "Unlike the cruel heathen deities, it was the spiritual surrender alone that God required." In Jeremiah 32:35, God states that the later Israelite practice of child sacrifice to the deity Molech "had [never] entered My mind that they should do this abomination." (accessed 7/14/11)
Tuesday, July 12, 2011 0 comments

The treasure hid in a field

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. (Matt. 13:44)
Several significant points stick out to me in this parable. The first thing is that the man knows that he has to buy the field to obtain the treasure. This gives us the sense that one of the things about obtaining the kingdom of heaven is that it has to be done legally, according to heavenly laws.

The second thing is that the man sells all that he has to buy the field. This gives us a sense of the worth of the treasure—it is far more than enough to compensate for giving up all else and that rather than making a supreme sacrifice, the man is getting an incredible deal, that the price he is paying is cheap. He knows it too, which is why he gives it all so joyfully.

When I think of the man selling all that he had to buy the field with the treasure in it, I first thought of those people who give up everything they own, their family, and their successful life, to get the gospel and obtain the kingdom of heaven. Spiritually, it is those who, like King Lamoni’s father, give all their sins, large and small, to know God and obtain a hope of eternal life. Do we not tend to “own” our sins? Isn’t it the best deal ever to give up our sins in return for eternal life? I also think of Elder Maxwell’s words about how the only real thing we own that we can give to God is our will.

The last little interesting thing that strikes me about this parable comes from a question—how did the man find the treasure if the field wasn’t his at first? He visited. And he went digging and poking around and exploring. This is like the visitor who comes to church, becomes intrigued, and wants to learn more.

So it seems that this parable shows that eternal life is both expensive and cheap. It is expensive because it costs us everything we have and are. It is cheap because the price is paid for only the measly short time of our mortality in comparison to the vastness of the eternal reward.

I think striving to remember this and living it is part of paying that price.
Sunday, July 10, 2011 2 comments

They took them wives even as they chose

In my comparison study between Genesis and Moses, I came across a particular section where there were substantial changes. Here’s Genesis, then Moses:
1And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,
2That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
3And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. (Genesis 6:1-3)

13 And Noah and his sons hearkened unto the Lord, and gave heed, and they were called the sons of God.
14 And when these men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, the sons of men saw that those daughters were fair, and they took them wives, even as they chose.
15 And the Lord said unto Noah: The daughters of thy sons have sold themselves; for behold mine anger is kindled against the sons of men, for they will not hearken to my voice.
16And it came to pass that Noah prophesied, and taught the things of God, even as it was in the beginning.
17And the Lord said unto Noah: My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for he shall know that all flesh shall die; yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years; and if men do not repent, I will send in the floods upon them. (Moses 8:13-17)
In the Genesis account, it seems odd that sons of God would take wives of daughters of men just because they were pretty. It makes the sons of God seem shallow, as if righteousness were not that important to them.

When we read Moses 8, we get a totally different picture. We learn that sons of God are those who hearken to the Lord and obey. (So the terminology is clarified.) (It follows then that sons of men are those who don’t obey the Lord.) We learn that rather than sons of God marrying daughters of men, it is sons of men marrying daughters of God. It makes more sense that it is sons of men marrying based on beauty rather than character or virtue.

But what are we to think of these daughters of holy men who seem to have accepted marriage to men spiritually beneath them? Weren’t they forced into it? Apparently not, since the Lord tells Noah, “The daughters of thy sons have sold themselves.” (v15) These girls couldn’t sell themselves unless they had a choice in the matter. It is wonderful to find early evidence that girls were given a choice of whether to accept or refuse marriage, but it is sad that they sold themselves in exchange for something--maybe it was money, maybe it was status, maybe it was just the chance to be married at all if good men were sparse--but they sold themselves thinking that what they got compensated for a spouse that wasn’t a “son of God.”

I am so grateful to be married to a son of God in an eternal marriage. Part of what makes it so worth it is the amazing promises that go with it. I hope all the daughters of God and sons of God can hold out for a righteous partner.
Friday, July 8, 2011 5 comments

Ammon as a type of Christ

When Ammon works as a shepherd for King Lamoni, he becomes a type of Christ as the good shepherd in the last days:
• He’s a king’s son
• He brings the sheep to water
• He gives directions as to how to gather the scattered sheep and he helps with the gathering
• He shows his power to his fellow shepherds in preserving the flocks
• He defends the flock against hostile forces that would scatter the flocks again
Tuesday, July 5, 2011 1 comments

And you thought prepositions weren’t important!

In the following verse, prepositions play a large part in expressing God’s abilities and involvement in creation.
He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever. (D&C 88:41)
My first instinct running across this verse lately was to list it and chart it.

All things are:
• before him
• round about him

He is:
• above all things
• in all things
• through all things
• round about all things

All things are:
• by him
• of him

Just right off, I notice it is in a rough chiasmus—two in front, four in the middle, and two in back. The middle, which is meant to have the greatest emphasis, is about God, of course.

The numbers are interesting too; a total of four things about “all things” in relation to God, and a total of four things about God’s involvement in “all things.” Four is significant too, since it conveys the concept of totality and “all things everywhere.” (Think “the four winds” and “the four directions” and “the four seasons.”)

I suppose that I must point out that my observation about the numbers and chiasmus could also be seen as a bit of a simplification, since the end of the verse before it and the beginning of the verse also have “him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things. He comprehendeth all things. (D&C 88:40-41).. So perhaps it is better to spend analysis time on the prepositions.

In case you didn’t notice, verse 41 is thick with prepositions, so it behooves us to try to understand how God uses those prepositions to communicate about Himself. For those of you who are not grammatically inclined, a very easy way to find a preposition is to think of them as a POSITION in relation to something else, like say, a squirrel in relation to a log. The squirrel goes THROUGH the log, AROUND the log, OVER the log, UNDER the log, FROM the log, TO the log, BY the log… (Very active squirrel, you see.) (And for all you grammatically-inclined people who are cursing me right now, yes, I am simplifying it a bit, but you have to start somewhere.) Back to the verse.

The prepositions show both sides of the God/everything relationship—all things relative to God, God relative to all things. So here’s where I had to pull out a dictionary and start looking up prepositions.

All things are:
  • before him—in sight of, in front of (and in this case, not older than)
  • round about him—encircle, on all sides. (It seems God is in the thick of things.)
  • by him—close to, by means of
  • of him—indicating possession (Possession by God is easier to see if you remove the “are” from the whole phrase)
He is:
  • above all things—at a higher position (progression?)
  • in all things—part of, involved with, working for (things have part of His attributes)
  • through all things—from one opening side to the other, the extent of “in”, (perhaps indicating how all things support Him in His work)
  • round about all things—surrounding (protective?) (obviously unseen by us)

I learned a lot from this. I also noticed that several of these phrases seem paradoxical. For instance, how can all things be “round about God” and God be “round about all things”? Or how can God be “in all things” and “round about all things”? I don’t know. But there is one thing that I know—when something seems paradoxical, it means one of two things: something is not right, or something is missing from my understanding.

But let’s cut to the practical now. How might it influence us if we know this? It seems to me that it suggests that our bodies are temples, that the earth itself is a temple, that we belong to God, that God may be anywhere at anytime, that He acts through us, that life is a sacred thing, and ultimately all things will be for our good. It makes me want to be a part of all that sacredness and do nothing to destroy it.

What does it suggest to you?