Monday, February 27, 2012 3 comments

Prayer can be a sacred grove experience

Two days ago, my husband and I were reading February’s home teaching message by President Eyring “Exhort Them to Pray” in preparation for giving it to a fellow who was in prison. Somehow I found myself somewhat puzzled by the concluding statement of the first five paragraphs.

When I was a little child, my parents taught me by example to pray. I began with a picture in my mind of Heavenly Father being far away. As I have matured, my experience with prayer has changed. The picture in my mind has become one of a Heavenly Father who is close by, who is bathed in a bright light, and who knows me perfectly.

That change came as I gained a sure testimony that Joseph Smith’s report of his experience in 1820 in Manchester, New York, is true:

“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:16-17).

Heavenly Father was in the grove on that beautiful spring day. He called Joseph by name. And He introduced the resurrected Savior of the world as His “Beloved Son.” Whenever and wherever you pray, your testimony of the reality of that glorious experience can bless you. (Henry B. Eyring, “Exhort Them to Pray”, Feb 2012 Ensign, 4, bold added)

That last sentence puzzled me—“Whenever and wherever you pray, your testimony of the reality of that glorious experience can bless you.” It seemed too general to me to be helpful, so I asked my husband what he thought about it. "How can our testimony of the First Vision bless us?" My husband came back with this great thought: whenever and wherever we are, we can pray as if we are Joseph Smith in that grove of trees and have our own little sacred grove experience as we think of Heavenly Father close by listening.

I think this is what President Eyring is getting at. Because of his testimony of the First Vision, he no longer prays imagining Heavenly Father far away. He prays imagining Heavenly Father present in a pillar of light exactly over his head with a brightness and glory that defy all description, ready to speak and answer.

Elder Erying writes, “He hears our prayers as He heard Joseph’s prayer—as clearly as if they were being offered in His presence.” If He hears our prayers that clearly, then to all intents and purposes, He is in our presence, and we will benefit more from remembering and imagining that when we pray.

This week I’m trying to remember that when I pray. So far it has made prayer a very powerful experience. Will you try this experiment with me this week?


Sunday, February 19, 2012 2 comments

Molting insects and putting off the natural man

I was reading about insects yesterday and I ran across a fabulous picture of an insect molting and it seemed to me that it was a great metaphor and image for putting off the natural man.

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19)

A number of insects molt because they have to grow and their exoskeleton does not grow with them. So, they have to break through the crusty bounds of what they once were. The split in their exoskeleton that allows them to break out happens because of an increase of pressure from their hemolymph. (Hemolymph is to insects what our blood is to us.) Essentially, they expand from within. Their souls expand.

See from these verses how the word of God and the Holy Ghost acts spiritually on us in this very same way, bringing us gradually to put off the natural man:

28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me….

34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand. (Alma 32:28-34, emphasis added)

And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved. (Alma 5:9, emphasis added)

We see from Alma 5:9 that when our souls expand, just as the insect escapes their old exoskeleton, we escape "the bands of death" and "the chains of hell."

The image of an insect molting from its old skin is a powerful way to help us understand the need to have our souls expand and put of the natural man. Isn't it cool that the Lord gave us these little lessons as part of our beautiful world?

Image: Insect Exoskeletons,, retrieved 2/14/12.

Friday, February 17, 2012 6 comments

Consider your desires

Behold, O ye my people, or my brethren, for I esteem you as such, I desire that ye should consider the cause which ye are called to consider—for ye are desirous to have a king. (Mosiah 29:5)

These words are in the context of Mosiah trying to get the people’s input on who should be the next king over the Nephites. In this verse, Mosiah begins his letter in which he will give his best reasons why it would not be good to have a king. The words of this verse suggest that it is important for us to think about the things we want and consider WHY we want them. When we consider WHY we want things, often we are confronted with our shoddy thinking or unrighteous motivations. Acknowledging that our motives are bad or our good reasons are lacking can help us relinquish unrighteous desires.

I went through a phase a few years after I was married when I really wanted a tiara. And I didn’t want a little toy one; I wanted a really fancy-nice one. I wanted to be the queen of our house and wear it around. I wasn’t going to wear it other places, just at home. I’m not sure why I wanted it, other than I wanted to look extra special to myself and my husband. If the tiara that I wanted had been inexpensive, my husband probably would have gotten it for me, but it wasn’t. (After all, those rhinestones cost money!) And as he asked me why I wanted it, I realized that my reasons weren’t really good enough, so eventually I relinquished all serious intention of getting one. Deep, deep down, I suppose my motive for getting a tiara was all about stroking my own pride and vanity.

I’ve wanted to be famous. I can’t remember when this was, but I know I wanted it at some point. And I don’t know why I wanted it. Maybe I thought fame would bring happiness or that fame was the same as being appreciated or worthwhile. Now I know that is rarely the case, and thank goodness I didn’t have to become famous to discover that.

I’ve wanted to be rich. I’ve wanted to start a business. I’ve wanted to be an inventor. And you what? I’ve wanted those things for all the wrong reasons.

Yes, it is good to consider the reasons why we want what we want.

Tell me about some not-so-worthy desires that you've learned to relinquish. How did you come to let them go?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 1 comments

Lessons from the conversion of Alma the younger

We’re familiar with the principle that change is possible for all of us, which the story of Alma the Younger’s conversion teaches. We’re also familiar with the principle that praying for others to be brought to the truth is powerful, as Alma’s father did for him. But I also recently noticed another principle as I was reading Mosiah 27 recently.

24 For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.

25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

26 And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. (Mosiah 27:24-26, emphasis added)

Alma was told personally by the Lord that his experience of conversion was something that EVERYONE had to go through in order to inherit the kingdom of heaven. All of us must go through the same mighty change of heart that Alma went through, or we will be cast off as he was nearly cast off.

Alma had to realize his awful state to make any progress. We must also realize our awful state. The faster we realize it, the faster we can repent. We need to realize the wrongs we have done to know what we must repent of. This is not a comfortable thing to do, but it must be done, otherwise we are like those that Nephi spoke of who say “All is well in Zion, yay, Zion prospereth, all is well” and then have our souls cheated and led down to hell. I have found that the best way is to ask the Lord to reveal to me the truth of what I need to repent of.

Alma’s predicament is ours, and his mighty change can be ours too, if we call on the Lord for mercy as he did.

Monday, February 13, 2012 2 comments

His soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled

And he [Jesus] said unto them: He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled. (3 Nephi 20:8)

I was reading reading randomly through the scriptures and I noticed this particular verse. The context is Jesus administering the sacrament to the Nephites. Somehow I noticed what a difference it makes between if Jesus had said “eatheth of my body to his body” and what He did say, which was “eateth of my body to his soul.” Jesus said this eating bread and wine of the sacrament was to our souls, not our bodies. It is amazing that the sacrament can benefit our spirits with this little act of eating, which normally would only benefit our bodies.

It’s an amazing promise that goes with it. To those of us who eat the bread and wine to our souls, we are promised our souls “shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.” What might that mean to us to never have a hungry, thirsty soul? What might it mean to always be filled? How would that bless our lives? What might it feel like?

I know my soul is filled when I take the sacrament. I can feel it. (I think I began to really notice it in my late teens.) I’m sure you have felt it too. For me, it is as if all the holes in my soul are filled in and smoothed over, the cracks joined and glued together. I can feel my desires to do good are renewed and strengthened.

I can keep it a few days, but usually by Saturday I feel like I am struggling a bit. After looking at that verse, though, it seems to me like there has to be something I can do to keep that “filled” feeling in my soul. Perhaps I need to remember Jesus more. I am both haunted and inspired by that promise that my soul “shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.”

What might it mean to us in the middle of our trials and troubles and afflictions if our soul never hungers or thirsts but is filled? How might a “filled” soul handle inevitable difficulties? How might a “filled” soul deal with heavy responsibility? Is a “filled” soul resilient? Serene? Hopeful? (Obviously I need to really internalize these promises..)

I was asking myself these questions, and interestingly enough a little later, I ran across a scripture that showed me the opposite of “filled.”

It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth;

but he awaketh, and his soul is empty:

or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh;

but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite:

so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion. (Isaiah 29:8)

So it seems that being filled is meant to help us escape the terrible predicament that Isaiah described of having a hungry, dissatisfied soul. It seems to be a benefit of knowing you are on the right track and walking in the true way we’re supposed to go.

If you’ve had experience with fulfillment of this promise, will you share what it is you do to do your part?

Saturday, February 11, 2012 7 comments

Aminadi interprets the writing on the wall

We learn of Aminadi from Amulek when Amulek begins his message to the rebellious Ammoniha-ites
2 I am Amulek; I am the son of Giddonah, who was the son of Ishmael, who was a descendant of Aminadi; and it was that same Aminadi who interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God.
3 And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem…(Alma 10:2-3)
That little bit about Aminadi interpreting the writing upon the walls of the temple which was written by the finger of God is so fascinating. It is one of those places where I just want to shake Mormon for not putting in more detail, but at the same time, I know that adding more detail would have disrupted Amulek’s narrative flow.

It is fascinating how briefly Amulek refers to the story of his ancestor Aminadi. It suggests that Aminadi’s interpretation was so widely known to the people that it was an important part of their historical narrative of faith and could be referred to in a much abbreviated form, much as we speak of Joseph Smith’s first vision.

The finger of God writing on the wall of the temple would have been a great story to include, and I can’t imagine that it wasn’t included in the abridgement of the large plates of Nephi. I think it may have been a casualty of the 116 pages being lost. Yet we have just enough details for it to evoke our knowledge of the story of Daniel interpreting the writing on the palace wall for the king of Babylon. We can sort of piece together the story of Aminadi based on the story of Daniel.

In the Bible, the finger of the Lord wrote the message for the Babylonian king, but because the king didn’t understand it, Daniel was the one to interpret the writing. So, I suppose that in the Americas, the Lord wrote the message for someone or some people, but because they didn’t understand it, Aminadi was called to interpret (or came forward to interpret) the writing on the temple wall.

That the writing is on the temple wall is very intriguing. In Daniel’s story, the writing was on the palace wall where the king was. In the Book of Mormon, the writing was on the temple wall, suggesting that the priests (or a priest-king) administering in the temple were being condemned for idolatry and abominations, and a view of the writing finger of God was needed to convince them of the existence, power, and authority of God.

I think it was probably the highest-ranking priest (or possibly priest-king, since at that time kings often held the top religious authority as well) that was getting the message from the finger of God. If it had just been lower ranking priests, then the higher-ranking one(s) could admonish them. But when it is the highest ranking doing the bad stuff and leading the people astray, that would definitely be grounds for direct admonishment from God.

The writing comes to the place and person(s) who need(s) it. That the writing needs interpretation indicates that the person(s) to whom it comes is so out of tune that they don’t understand it. The person needing the interpretation must find an interpreter, so both the writing (and the subsequent interpretation) will become very publicly known. It seems to me that this is the way the Lord rebukes a person in power who should have known better; He does it in order to make sure everyone else knows not to do those same sins.

Why does Amulek mention this story of his ancestor at the beginning of his talk to the Ammonihah-ites? I think he is setting some context for his message of repentance by locating himself as a fitting person to deliver the message. Just as Aminadi interpreted a message from God to the people of his day who were out of tune with the Lord, Amulek will be interpreting a warning message from God (along with Alma) to the people of his day who are very much out of tune with God. I think Amulek drew strength from the story of his ancestor as he delivered the difficult message.

How does this little story help us today? I think knowing the valiant and righteous choices of our ancestors can help us make valiant and righteous choices in our own lives. Hearing how our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and more distant ancestors sacrificed for the truth can encourage us when we find ourselves called upon to do it too. As a small example, I know that when my mom told me about how she worked to dress modestly in the ‘60s even when she was made fun of at high school, it helped give me strength to follow her good example and dress modestly.

How have the stories of your ancestors inspired you? Have there been times when you have found yourself doing something good that was very similar to what one of your ancestors did? How did it make you feel? How are you working to transmit those stories to your family?

Thursday, February 9, 2012 2 comments

Multiple records give a truer picture

Notice the difference between these two records:

Noah-Limhi record

34 And it came to pass that Alma and the people of the Lord were apprised of the coming of the king’s army; therefore they took their tents and their families and departed into the wilderness….

1 And it came to pass that the army of the king returned, having searched in vain for the people of the Lord. (Mosiah 18:34-19:1)

Alma record

1 Now Alma, having been warned of the Lord that the armies of king Noah would come upon them, and having made it known to his people, therefore they gathered together their flocks, and took of their grain, and departed into the wilderness before the armies of king Noah.

2 And the Lord did strengthen them, that the people of king Noah could not overtake them to destroy them. (Mosiah 23:1-2)

The difference in viewpoints gives us a more accurate picture. The Noah-Limhi record of Mosiah 18:34-19:1 states that Alma and his people were “apprised of the coming of the king’s army,” but the Alma record of Mosiah 23:1-2 shows us it was the Lord who warned Alma that King Noah’s army would come. The Noah-Limhi record indicates how King Noah’s people thought some person must have warned them, implying they didn’t think God could warn them. It is nice to have Alma’s record because then we learn the truth—that the Lord can warn us ahead of time to flee dangers.

Also, the Alma record of Mosiah 23:1-2 shows that Alma’s people believed that the armies of King Noah were very close to catching them and the Lord strengthened them that the armies could not overtake them. But the Noah-Limhi record of Mosiah 19:1 shows us that the armies of King Noah searched in vain for Alma’s people and couldn’t find them anywhere. This shows the Lord warned quite a bit in advance, and Alma and his people were obedient to the Lord’s warning, leaving quickly enough that King Noah’s armies had not a clue where they had gone. Chasing simply never entered the case. It is nice that we have this record too because we get a truer picture of what happened.

The Nephites seem to have learned this benefit too.

5 And it came to pass that Mosiah did read, and caused to be read, the records of Zeniff to his people; yea, he read the records of the people of Zeniff, from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until they returned again.

6 And he also read the account of Alma and his brethren, and all their afflictions, from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until the time they returned again.

7 And now, when Mosiah had made an end of reading the records, his people who tarried in the land were struck with wonder and amazement.

8 For they knew not what to think; for when they beheld those that had been delivered out of bondage they were filled with exceedingly great joy.

9 And again, when they thought of their brethren who had been slain by the Lamanites they were filled with sorrow, and even shed many tears of sorrow.

10 And again, when they thought of the immediate goodness of God, and his power in delivering Alma and his brethren out of the hands of the Lamanites and of bondage, they did raise their voices and give thanks to God.

11 And again, when they thought upon the Lamanites, who were their brethren, of their sinful and polluted state, they were filled with pain and anguish for the welfare of their souls.

12 And it came to pass that those who were the children of Amulon and his brethren, who had taken to wife the daughters of the Lamanites, were displeased with the conduct of their fathers, and they would no longer be called by the names of their fathers, therefore they took upon themselves the name of Nephi, that they might be called the children of Nephi and be numbered among those who were called Nephites. (Mosiah 25:5-12)

In this block of verses, Mosiah reads to the people the records of Zeniff-Noah-Limhi and Zeniff-Noah-Alma. It seems there is such a mixture of good and bad in these stories (and we see it for ourselves) that there is a mixture of reactions, both happy and sad. The Nephites seem to have thought about what they heard from all the angles—Limhi’s people (both survivors and slain), Alma’s people, the Lamanites, and the Amulonites.

On this occasion the children of Amulon and the wicked priests of Noah hear about their fathers in a totally new way, and they so dislike what they hear that they decide to call themselves by some other name than the names of their fathers. (And by the way, these children of Amulon-and-priests are not the children by the Lamanite mothers. These are the children who had been left behind with Limhi’s people, and escaped with Limhi’s people. *)

If there had only been the record of Zeniff, perhaps the children of Amulon and the wicked priests would never have learned about the things their fathers had done, but because Alma also kept a record, they found out.

What does this mean for us today? It reminds us of the record we make of our lives; someday our descendants are going to read it. But not only that, in the judgment day when all the books are opened and we are judged according to those things that were written, we may find that other people have written about us too in their records. It will be a mix of good and bad. Perfidies that we have committed and whitewashed in our own record will be presented in all the scarlet hues of hurt. And if we haven’t repented, what will be the result? Won’t our children wish to do the same thing as Amulon’s children did? Won’t they be displeased with us and wish to be part of a different family?

The principle in these verses is very valuable to us. It is that multiple records of our acts (both good and bad) are being kept besides our own and someday they will be read and known. We want good things to be found instead of bad things.

* No matter which set of children the Book of Mormon refers to, Amulon’s and his wicked fellows would not have a good account. His children by the Lamanite women would have found out the whoredoms of their fathers with King Noah and their part in the martyrdom of Abinadi. Their children who had been left behind with the people of Limhi would have found out the treachery of their fathers in joining the Lamanites and their cruelty enslaving and persecuting Alma’s people. Either way, their case was pretty awful.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 3 comments

To not be seduced by devils or men

But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils. (D&C 46:7)

We don’t want to be seduced by doctrines of men or devils. This verse provides a number of keys by which we can prevent ourselves from being seduced:

--Ask of God and do what the Spirit testifies, with holiness of heart

--Walk uprightly before God

--Consider the end of your salvation

--Do all things with prayer

--Do all things with thanksgiving

How will these things protect us?

Doing what the Spirit testifies, with holiness of heart requires us to trust the Lord. It builds our faith. Doctrines of men or devils don’t build faith in God, so when we follow the Spirit, we escape being ensnared with unbelieving doctrines.

Walking uprightly before God requires us to be honest with ourselves about what is right and what is not. It builds our strength to keep the commandments even with opposition. It helps us see things as they really are. Doctrines of men and devils will tend to obscure or reverse notions of what is good and evil, and suggests that we do what is expedient in the moment because of opposition. When we walk uprightly helps us escape those pernicious doctrines.

Considering the end of our salvation helps us keep in perspective the greatness of the goal we are striving for and helps us realize that no sacrifice to that end goes unrewarded. It inspires us to give our best efforts. On the other hand, doctrines of men and devils would teach that certain sacrifices are too great to make, and that all we can look forward to is what we can get for ourselves in this life, and after that comes endless oblivion. Considering the end of our salvation helps us resist and escape the nihilism of the world.

Doing all things with prayer helps us tap into the guidance from God that we need, especially when we are faced with temptation. It helps us stay in communication with our Father in heaven. It helps us remember that He is aware of us and knows us. Doctrines of men and devils would teach us there is no point in prayer, that our prayers will not be heard, that we are unworthy to pray, or that prayer doesn’t work at all. Doing all things with prayer keeps us familiar with that important lifeline that we have.

Doing all things with thanksgiving helps us keep in mind all the great things the Lord has done for us. It encourages us to have reverence for God’s power and fills us with love that makes our obedience to Him easy. It helps us bear our difficulties when we can notice the tender mercies the Lord brings into our lives to help us. Doctrines of men and devils would teach us that we are always getting the raw end of any deal, that things should have been better, that we are entitled to better, and that God is making us suffer for no reason while other people have it easy. Doing things with thanksgiving helps us rejoice even in the middle of affliction.

Somehow these things are really resonating with me right now because of some extra responsibilities I’ve been given that I haven’t been so excited about. I’ve felt like I am at a crossroads somehow where I could choose between being annoyed about it or adjusting to it. Studying this verse has showed me that there are things I can do to keep being dragged down by seducing doctrines that would make it harder for me to adjust.

Sunday, February 5, 2012 6 comments

The impotent man healed by action

1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

10 ¶ The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.

11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.

12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?

13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.

14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. (John 5:1-14)

When I was reading this, something that stuck out to me was the man’s answer when Jesus asked him if he wanted to be made whole. He said, “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (v7). He doesn’t think his long problem is his fault; it’s someone else’s fault, someone else gets the luck, no one is willing to help.

This is meaningful to me because sometimes I go through stages when I feel like I am “impotent” or powerless to act. Like the man who sat waiting for a sign of something good about to happen and waiting for someone to help him, I sometimes wait, thinking that I need a lucky break or I need someone or something to come into my life and help me with a problem. Jesus tells the man to rise, take up his bed, and walk, commanding him to act. In the moment of action, the man is healed of his infirmity. This teaches me that if I simply rise up and take action, in that moment, I am healed of my powerlessness.

An example of times when this happens is when I feel like I have something I need to write for this blog. Often I feel like the essence of what I have to communicate is so sublime and edifying that any attempt I make to express it will fail. So I dither, waiting to be inspired. I read scriptures, conference articles, and a mountain of uplifting things, hoping to be “moved upon” so that I can feel up to writing what I feel has to be written. But I still feel inadequate and powerless.

For some reason, I have to be reminded over and over that I just need to ACT. I need to begin, to try. I have impressions to just sit down and dash something off as quickly as possible without thinking too hard about it. So, I pluck up some courage and I do. And in the process of acting, I overcome my feelings of powerlessness.

How interesting that when the man acts miraculously, he immediately gets smacked down by the Jews for breaking the law. The Jews had many little rules for what could and couldn’t be done on the Sabbath. Someone who broke the rules was considered unholy and could be killed. Jesus healed on the Sabbath. To the spiritually in tune, this would signal that He was holy and of God. Then Jesus instructed the man to carry his bed, which was contrary to the nit-picky Pharisee rules, but which was within the spirit of the law of the Sabbath. If the Pharisees could accept that someone who broke the nit-picky rules also did a miraculous healing, that would indicate to them their rules were unnecessary. (Unfortunately they didn’t get it.)

“Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” -- Jesus was warning not merely of a repeat of the infirmity that might come upon him, but speaking spiritually of spiritual prison in the hereafter and not just spiritual impotence if he didn’t repent, but spiritual death. Jesus meant for the miraculous healing to teach about His power to save from crippling sin.

To me, this story teaches me about how we need to ACT for ourselves. Specifically, for everyone of us who want to be free of sin, we have to choose to ACT. We can’t be forgiven if we don’t take the first step of seeking forgiveness.

I’m the music leader in primary right now and we’ve been learning a song called “As a Child of God” and the lyrics have a great message about the power that we have in our lives.

I came to earth with power to choose

Good choices bless me and my family too

As a child of God I receive special light,

The Holy Ghost helps me to know what is right.

That idea that I am born with the power to choose and my choices can bless me and my family has rolled around and around my mind this month and has spurred me to act and choose in ways that I know will lead to improvement (healing) in my character.

How have you been healed of impotence by ACTing?

Friday, February 3, 2012 6 comments

Alma’s lessons for overcoming overbearing tendencies

Shiblon is generally considered one of Alma’s good sons who is mostly commended for good work and taking persecution well. However, recently I started to see that Alma’s instructions to Shiblon in Alma 38 seem to be mostly focused on trying to curb Shiblon’s pride and tendency to be overbearing.

Just what is being overbearing and why is it a problem?

I looked up “overbearing” and my dictionary widget said it meant “expecting unquestioning obedience; authoritarian, dictatorial, domineering; having or showing arrogant superiority to and disdain of those one views as unworthy.”

This is good as far as it goes, but I couldn’t fully understand it until I had had someone be overbearing at me. It was something I had to experience to recognize.

I’ve met some overbearing people and I’ve noticed that even when they say things I know are true and righteous, their manner of saying it makes me feel like they think I’m ignorant and uninterested in the things of God. Their manner makes me want to argue or prove that I am better than them by topping them. I find that it takes a lot of effort to keep a good attitude and frequently I find that I just have to escape. (Even more troubling, I’m beginning to realize that since I have begun to see it, there is a very high probability that I am afflicted with the very same problem and just can’t see it in myself.)

When I spent some time with someone who was overbearing, at the end of the encounter I knew there was something about their attitude that I didn’t like, but I couldn’t think of a good word to describe it. After pondering over it for a while, the term “overbearing” came to mind.

Now, how did I arrive at the conclusion that Shiblon had troubles with being overbearing? The best evidence is that Alma advised Shiblon in Alma 38:12 to “use boldness but not overbearance” and Alma probably would not give that specific bit unless it was needed.

After that, I began to notice that Alma’s other instructions started to come together into a pattern.

Alma’s instructions are:

  • Remember to trust God for your deliverance (v5)
  • There is no other means besides Christ we can be saved (v9)
  • Be diligent and temperate in all things (v10)
  • Don’t be lifted up in pride (v11)
  • Don’t boast of your strength and wisdom (v11)
  • Use boldness but not overbearance (v12)
  • Bridle your passions (v12)
  • Refrain from idleness (v12)
  • Do not pray to be heard of men or praised for wisdom (v13)
  • Do not thank God you are better than your brethren, but acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times (v14)
  • Pray for God to remember your brothers in mercy (v14)
  • Be sober (v15)
  • Continue to teach the word (v2, 15)

It seems that Shiblon was strong in the gospel and was rather proud of it. It seems he had a tendency to trust in his own strength rather than trusting God, so Alma tried to remind him that Christ was the one who did the saving. Alma also reminds Shiblon that Alma’s own testimony did not come from himself (Alma), but from the Spirit that made things known. This can seem particularly self-deprecating to us, considering Alma was the high priest over all the land (and we can’t help but think he’s totally awesome), but it underlines how Alma was trying to remind Shiblon that the credit for a testimony belongs to God.

After reading about this, I remembered there was a point when Shiblon became the one keeping the records (and possibly high priest in the land.) So I went looking for it. And I found it in Alma 63. And it happened during a period of Nephite history when there is great peace in the land coupled with great righteousness, which is told in Alma 62:49-51:

49 But notwithstanding their riches, or their strength, or their prosperity, they were not lifted up in the pride of their eyes; neither were they slow to remember the Lord their God; but they did humble themselves exceedingly before him.

50 Yea, they did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that he had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and he had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies.

51 And they did pray unto the Lord their God continually, insomuch that the Lord did bless them, according to his word, so that they did wax strong and prosper in the land. (Alma 62:49-52)

And then Shiblon takes possession of the sacred things at Helaman’s death, and then this extraordinary series of migrations away from Zarahemla begins. Scads of people leave in Alma 63, heading northward.

1 And it came to pass in the commencement of the thirty and sixth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi, that Shiblon took possession of those sacred things which had been delivered unto Helaman by Alma.

2 And he was a just man, and he did walk uprightly before God; and he did observe to do good continually, to keep the commandments of the Lord his God; and also did his brother….

4 And it came to pass that in the thirty and seventh year of the reign of the judges, there was a large company of men, even to the amount of five thousand and four hundred men, with their wives and their children, departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward.

5 And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward.

6 And behold, there were many of the Nephites who did enter therein and did sail forth with much provisions, and also many women and children; and they took their course northward. And thus ended the thirty and seventh year.

7 And in the thirty and eighth year, this man built other ships. And the first ship did also return, and many more people did enter into it; and they also took much provisions, and set out again to the land northward.

8 And it came to pass that they were never heard of more. And we suppose that they were drowned in the depths of the sea. And it came to pass that one other ship also did sail forth; and whither she did go we know not.

9 And it came to pass that in this year there were many people who went forth into the land northward. And thus ended the thirty and eighth year. (Alma 63:

10 And it came to pass in the thirty and ninth year of the reign of the judges, Shiblon died also, and Corianton had gone forth to the land northward in a ship, to carry forth provisions unto the people who had gone forth into that land.

11 Therefore it became expedient for Shiblon to confer those sacred things, before his death, upon the son of Helaman, who was called Helaman, being called after the name of his father.

12 Now behold, all those engravings which were in the possession of Helaman were written and sent forth among the children of men throughout all the land, save it were those parts which had been commanded by Alma should not go forth. (Alma 63:1-2,4-12)

No contention whatsoever, just migration. This mass migration had always puzzled me, but I began to suspect that perhaps Shiblon didn’t conquer (or notice) his tendency to be overbearing, and perhaps his overbearing manner drove good people away and they felt like they had to escape. He may have even alienated his brother Corianton, since Corianton decided to take provisions to the people who had gone northward.

Maybe I am hard on Shiblon, but people don’t leave for no reason. There wasn’t contention in the land, yet they left. Shiblon had the records for three years, and then he died. When Shiblon (near death) passed on the records to Helaman’s son Helaman, Helaman did a smart thing and had the records copied and sent out in all the parts of the land so that people could benefit from the word of God without being bothered by a human transmitter-preacher. That way they could get the benefit of the scriptures themselves. Perhaps this was an effort to pull them back into the main church again.

It is rather disturbing to see Shiblon this way. We like to think of the good men of the scriptures as men without any personality flaw, but unfortunately, that isn’t very realistic because we know we all have flaws we have to overcome. To give Shiblon his due, he had some excellent points to his character too; he was patient under persecution, he was valiant at keeping the commandments of God, he was a just man, he walked uprightly before God, and he observed to do good continually. There was just that problem of overbearance.

To me, finding this out about Shiblon makes Alma 38 that much more valuable to me, since it provides a series of instructions that we can also use to make sure that we avoid being overbearing.

I have a feeling that I may be overbearing too on occasion, even though I can’t yet recognize exact times when I have been so. That means the only way I can escape this fault in my spiritual blind spot is to follow what Alma’s instructions in chapter 38. I can also pray for the Lord to help me repent. I’ll have to have the Lord help me recognize times when I have been overbearing and that will be painful because it will be times when I felt I was doing right and was proud of what I was doing. I will need to ask the Lord to help me know and practice the right way of treating people.



Heavenly Father helped me find out what happens when I am overbearing. At bottom, it arises out of my doubt in someone else’s dedication or commitment and an implicit assumption that I am better than them (pride). That leads me to a desire to control and force dedication and commitment in them by overemphasizing and overdoing my explanation. However, everyone is able to tell when someone doubts them, so when I doubt someone, they know it and they resent it, especially if they don’t think of themselves as having less dedication or commitment than me. Their resentment of being looked down upon leads them to want to resist me.

You know, I just have to say that I am so grateful that the Lord gave us the Book of Mormon for our day. The more I read it, the more I learn about what my flaws are, which gives me an opportunity to repent and get God’s help to change.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012 2 comments

Obedience with a heap of creativity

And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive. (Exodus 1:22)

1 And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.

2 And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.

3 And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.

4 And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him. (Exodus 2:1-4)

Something I noticed recently about this story is that Moses’s mother was technically obedient to Pharaoh’s murderous decree, but stretched it in a number of different ways.

She kept Moses for three months instead of putting him in the river immediately after birth. She did put him in the river, but she put him in his own little boat first. Yes, she put him in the river, but she also put him at the river’s brink, at the very edge, rather than shoving him out into the middle. In short, she was very creative in her obedience to an unjust command.

Have you ever had a time when you’ve resorted to “creative obedience” to something you felt was wrong?