Monday, April 29, 2013 4 comments

Abraham Exposes the Egyptian Counterfeit, Abraham 1:21-27

21 Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth.
22 From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land.
23 The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden;
24 When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.
25 Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal.
26 Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.
27 Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry; (Abraham 1:21-27)
When I was reading this, I began to wonder why Abraham took so much trouble to describe how Egypt was found and by whom and the efforts of Pharaoh to imitate the priesthood.  I realized that this information would be valuable in the face of the false religion of Egypt that must have claimed all priesthood authority right along as they insisted their rites of human sacrifice were the right way and their gods were THE gods.  Abraham tells the background to expose the counterfeits to show that it was all an attempt to imitate the real thing, though with twists of evil.  In the face of Egypt’s grandeur and power, Abraham’s voice is brave; he dares to reveal the truth, which he is sure of even as he is about to be sacrificed.  Abraham’s father has been led away by the counterfeit and Abraham probably wanted to prevent others from being led away too.

What does this have to do with us?  It shows us how important it is to record the truth about things when counterfeits are gaining ascendency and to explain why the counterfeits have appeal.   Though we may see through the counterfeit, others may not and they may be benefited by the principles that we share. 

There are so many counterfeits out there.  One biggie that I hope is obvious is the difference between love and lust.  Lust is predominately what passes for love in the media these days.    Several factors contribute to this that I can see:
--Movies are only so long, so they can’t show the whole scope of a healthy relationship forming.
--Media lives and dies by sales and eyeballs, so it will go to extremes to draw interest, which leads to extreme depictions of attraction and sexual intimacy.

So I ask you readers, what characteristics can you share that would help someone differentiate between love and lust?  And what other major counterfeits have you seen pop up these days?

Letting Down the Nets One More Time, Luke 5:6-11

 3 And he [Jesus] entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.  (Luke 5:3-5)
I wonder if Peter would have obeyed Jesus if he hadn’t heard Him teach first.  Perhaps the teaching softened his heart and built up great respect.  So when Jesus asked Peter to go launch out and let down his nets, Peter was willing to try, for the sake of this great teacher who was in his ship, long fruitless night notwithstanding.   I think it also says something about Peter’s humility and faith; even though he had already done his best with nothing to show for it, he was willing to try one more time. 
6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.
11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him. (Luke 5:6-11)
This miracle of a large catch after previously catching nothing has a great lesson in it about the Lord’s ability to instruct toward success.   As the Lord promises Peter that from now on he will be catching men for God, Peter gets a sense of the success that the Lord can make of Peter’s missionary efforts as well, if Peter will be open to instruction. 

I think this story also has a lesson for us as we struggle to share the gospel in an increasingly secular world.  Some of us may have shared our convictions with others for a long time and yet have nothing to show for it.  We may have given up.   Yet do we not hear an echo from those days telling us to push out into the deep (out of our comfort zone), and let down our gospel nets.. one more time? 
Saturday, April 27, 2013 2 comments

Mosiah’s Principles of Government, Mosiah 29

Mosiah 29 is an interesting chapter in that most of it is a letter King Mosiah wrote to his people to persuade them of the desirability of changing their form of government to a judge system from monarchy.  It is interesting because it is not all directly quoted, so Mormon took parts that he considered most valuable and summarized other parts he felt were less precious.  The quotes range from v5-32 and then v33-36 is a summary of more that was in the letter.  Therefore, to be alert readers, we must look to see what is in v5-32 that seemed to warrant direct quotation; these parts must be particularly good.

Here are the main principles that I picked out:

  • Monarchy would not be a bad form of government if it was possible to ensure that only righteous men became king. (v13)
  • It is best to judge the people according to the commandments of God (v11)
  • Wicked kings hate righteous laws, do away with them, and put wicked laws in their place. (v23)
  • One wicked king can cause great iniquity and destruction among the people. (v17)
  • Wicked kings have wicked friends that support them and guards that protect them. (v22)
  • Wicked kings can’t be removed without war. (v21)
  • Rulers need to be held accountable by other rulers and by the voice of the people. (v28-29)
  • The importance of the people answering for their own sins instead of the responsibility falling on the ruler. (v30-32)
  • Iniquity among the people brings them into bondage. (v18)
  • When the majority of the people choose what is not right, then God’s judgments come and destruction comes. (v27)
  • Repentance brings the interposition of God and deliverance from bondage. (v19)

While some have thought that Mosiah’s thinking was laying out principles of democracy, I actually think Mosiah was most worried about corruption at top levels of government.   He realized that it wasn’t enough to have good laws because a bad ruler would change the laws to provide for his/her own vice. I think Mosiah was interested in creating a system that would prevent wicked rulers from getting or retaining power by which they would corrupt the rest of society and bring destruction on the people.  He seems to have seen that a self-correcting system would need to have built into it ways for the people to have a voice so that a righteous majority could bring positive change when it was needed. He also seems to have seen that other rulers in the hierarchy would need to be empowered legitimately in order to hold a higher ruler accountable for corruption. 

While our form of government is different than the Nephite government system that Mosiah set up, our government also has built into it ways that we can agitate for change.  It is up to us to notice when corruption in government becomes obvious and to make our voices heard to try to change it because saying nothing is the equivalent of saying it is okay. 

As one example, the US Attorney General Eric Holder has refused to initiate any new obscenity prosecutions under current laws against pornography ever since President Obama took office.  You can send a petition to President Obama to ask him to demand his Attorney General enforce current laws.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 2 comments

Better for being born or not?: 3 Nephi 28:34-35

 34 And wo be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus,
and also to them whom he hath chosen and sent among them;
for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom he hath sent receiveth not him; and therefore he will not receive them at the last day;
 35 And it would be better for them if they had not been born… (3 Nephi 28:34-35)
These are pretty stiff words, especially the declaration at the end that it would be better if they had not been born.  It is so startling it is worth thinking about it.  My first reaction is to wonder if Mormon was making a final judgment about those who reject Christ’s words and those of his servants.   It sounds as if he is saying it would be better if these people had never existed.  But after some thought, I realized that wasn’t what he meant at all.  Mormon spoke as one who understood there was a pre-mortal existence of the spirit before birth, and he was saying that if a person was going to use their valuable probationary time on earth making choices to reject the words of Jesus and His servants, then he or she will be worse off spiritually than they were before they started mortality.   It would have been better for them not to be born than to have made those choices.  Not only will the person have partaken of the fall of Adam and committed sins, but to reject Jesus and the salvation that He worked out is like discarding the only hope of rescue.  It is like a person in a deep pit rejecting the ladder leading out.

Let’s not assume, though, that this pronouncement only applies to those who reject Christianity from the outside.  The words of Christ and His servants can be rejected even by those who are in the church, if Christ’s Atonement is never considered as a solution.

I used to wish that I could go back to my pre-mortality for the sake of the things that I probably knew before my birth, but I don’t any more.  I have since recognized that having received Christ’s words and those of His servants, I am much better off than I ever was.   And if I endure with faith to the end, the state of my soul can only get better from here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013 1 comments

Kings Their Nursing Fathers and Queens Their Nursing Mothers, 2 Nephi 6:6-7

And now, these are the words: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.
And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their faces towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me. (2 Nephi 6:6-7)
Here Jacob quotes Isaiah to his people in the promised land to help them rejoice for their descendants. 

Now, if you are like me, you may find yourself asking, “In what way are the Gentile kings and queens nursing fathers and mothers to the remnant of the house of Israel?”

We know of at least one way that this has been fulfilled--through the church’s program of Latter-day Saint families fostering Native American children in their homes to help them get an education.  My mother remembers a Navaho boy staying with her family as part of this.  I learned more about this program as I was reading Spencer W. Kimball’s biography, since he was deeply involved in helping Native American members of the church.  If you are curious about it, I highly recommend reading that.

Are there other ways this scripture from Isaiah has been fulfilled?  I thought there might be, so I decided to do a little research on the history of the United States government’s policies with the Native Americans and what the status of the tribes has been, surrounded as they are by the United States.   I looked at a paper called “The History of Federal Indian Policies” by Robert J. Miller, professor of Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon, to get an overview.

We all know the Native Americans were pushed off their land time and again by American settlers because of Americans’ desire to explore and exploit natural resources.   Some important points I discovered were the following:
·      There was always a problem with settlers encroaching on Indian lands and interfering with Indian affairs.  Even England tried to outlaw going onto Indian land during the colonial era because it recognized that the problems lay on the side of the colonists.  When America gained independence and formed the Constitutional government, an important part of the decisions they made was how it would handle Indian affairs.  It was written in that all treaties and agreements and land transactions were to be handled only at the federal level, rather than at federal, state, and individual levels because meddling at all different levels caused misunderstandings and disagreements leading to wars and conflicts, which they wanted to end.   In my view, this is a kind of fulfillment of Isaiah’s words that kings and queens would be the nursing fathers and mothers; it captures that sense that decisions concerning the remnant are made at the highest level of government, rather than lower levels.
·      The status of the Native American tribes is a very peculiar one, legally.  There were two court cases, one in 1831 and the other in 1832 that still are applied today, which established two parts about the tribes’ status that are almost paradoxical.  Firstly, the tribes are the wards of the United States, and the United States is their guardian and owes a trust and responsibility to protect them as “domestic, dependent nations” because the Native Americans rely on the United States for protection and supplies.  Second, according to the United States’ historical treatment of tribes as “distinct, independent, political communities,” the tribes had exclusive authority in their territory to govern their land, citizens, and non-Indians who visit.  (Not that this has always been honored, but it is an established precedent.)

Wild, huh? 

So, the tribes are domestic dependent nations, but they are also distinct, independent political communities with their own governments!  The responsibility the United States owes to protect and foster the tribes is captured by Isaiah’s words about how kings and queens would be nursing fathers and mothers to the American remnant of the Israel.  The legal status of the tribes as dependent coincides with that of a child to a parent or guardian.

Shadow Dancer - Native American Dancing
The nursing aspect of Isaiah’s words has begun to be fulfilled at least since the 60’s when President Kennedy’s administration began to invest millions of dollars into tribal programs and infrastructure.  In 1970, President Nixon named the new Indian policy “self-determination.”  The Indian Self-Determination & Education Assistance Act of 1975 allows Indian tribes to plan, operate, and manage federally-funded tribal programs, something they were not allowed to do before.  Tribal self-government is being fostered and federal authority over the tribes is being delegated more to the tribes themselves.  Tribes are being given economic incentives to increase economic development.

Who would have thought that such a peculiar legal status could be captured by Isaiah’s words so simply? 

Now, do I think this is the final and complete meaning of Isaiah’s words?  No.  I strongly suspect that there is more to uncover, such as the treatment of native tribes in other countries in the Americas.  I am also curious about how the nation of Israel was formed in the 20th century and what the Gentiles had to do with that. 

We need to find out how prophecy is being fulfilled.  It is being fulfilled around us, and it strengthens our faith in Heavenly Father to see how His hand is working today to fulfill the promises He made through prophets so many centuries ago.  The fulfillments did not end with Joseph Smith’s lifetime.  It might be tempting to think they did, since we focus on those prophecies pertaining to him in the Book of Mormon.  But prophecy is being fulfilled today, and we must look for it and testify of it. 

If we don’t, who will?
Friday, April 19, 2013 6 comments

Seeing God’s Hand in All, D&C 59:21

And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments. (D&C 59:21)
I personally think making a positive equivalent of the above scripture is nicer:
“And in nothing doth man please God, or toward none is his approval and blessing given, save to those who confess his hand in all things and obey his commandments.”

There are people who only focus on direct causes and who will say, “Well, how can I confess God’s hand in all things?  Did God make my bread?  No, a factory did that.  Did God make water come out of the faucet in my house?  No, water pressure did that.  How am I supposed to confess God’s hand when He’s not the one directly involved?”

It is up to us to look deeper and see that everything good ultimately came from God.  Maybe God didn’t directly make the water come out of the faucet, but He inspired others to experiment and work to harness scientific principles to bring running water inside.  He inspired the people to make faucets and sinks and all of that.  And so it is with all good things.  We can look around the world at all the beautiful and useful things that man has created and see behind it all the boundless wisdom and kind inspiration of our Father in heaven. 

In the creation of plant and animal life we can see the processes that shaped progression from one species to another and the environmental conditions and changes that made adaptations desirable, and we can know that somehow behind all of that was a command of God that was obeyed by the elements.

Some scientists may refer to a God of the gaps, but we can point to divine principles that are still at work and which we have yet to understand how they were first begun—the drive to reproduce, parents training their young by example, cooperative effort by community, ability to perceive stimuli and react accordingly, and the ability to some spark of intelligence and life to enter complex arrangements of tissue, the ability to learn and plan.. 

One of the things I learn about God when I consider the natural world is how well-programmed nature is to perpetuate itself and recover from imbalances.

While I feel inadequate to post about this because of my ignorance, I suppose if we couldn’t say anything until we had learned it all, we would have a very silent world… so maybe I will point you to some articles that have been helpful to me in seeing the Lord’s hand in the natural world.

(This one is sure to make your mind bend and stretch in interesting ways..)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 0 comments

Reconciling with others: KVJ versus Book of Mormon, Matt 5:23-24

23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar,
and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way;
first be reconciled to thy brother,
and then come and offer thy gift.
(Matt 5:23-24)
Book of Mormon
23 Therefore, if ye shall come unto me,
or shall desire to come unto me,
and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee—
 24 Go thy way unto thy brother,
and first be reconciled to thy brother,
and then come unto me with full purpose of heart,
and I will receive you.
(3 Nephi 12:23-24)
In these verses, Jesus describes how we should reconcile with men before offering a gift to God or coming to Christ.  The Book of Mormon offers extra insight as to why.

The first difference we notice between the KJV and BoM is that the KJV is spoken in the context of offering sacrifices before the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ.  The gift brought to the altar was the sacrificial animal.  The BoM context is different because it was after the law was fulfilled, so the command is “come unto me,” with a broken heart and contrite spirit, since sacrifices were done away.

I notice that both mention remembering “that thy brother hath aught against thee.”  I suppose this is referring to how things may be brought to our memory that we have done to hurt others, things they may hold against us.  It may be the Spirit reminding us to encourage us to repent, or it may even be Satan reminding us of them in an attempt to make us think we are a hopeless case.  Hopefully we know the difference and persevere in spite of Satan’s demoralizations.  (Some of the lies he tries to use are the they’re-not-going-to-forgive-you argument, the it-was-so-long-ago-it’s-not-important argument, and the you’ll-have-to-admit-you’re-wrong-and-that’s-so-embarrassing argument.)

We also notice that the BoM adds the promised blessing if we reconcile with others before coming to Christ—“I will receive you.”  (Ah, what hope rises in my heart when I read that!)  It seems that not only does the Lord want us to be at peace with Him, He wants us to be at peace with our fellowmen as well, so much so that He requires reconciliation with everyone else first.  And perhaps we can’t come with full purpose of heart to Christ if we have unresolved hard feelings toward others.  I know I have a hard time concentrating on my scriptures if I’m angry.  I have to pray to forgive and pray for peace before I can open my heart to what the Lord wants me to learn.

Have you had an experience like this that you can share?

Monday, April 15, 2013 4 comments

Interfacing between Nephi’s Vision and John’s Revelation

20 And the angel said unto me: Behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
 21 Behold, he shall see and write the remainder of these things; yea, and also many things which have been.
 22 And he shall also write concerning the end of the world.
 23 Wherefore, the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew; and at the time they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, or, at the time the book proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew, the things which were written were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men.
 24 And behold, the things which this apostle of the Lamb shall write are many things which thou hast seen; and behold, the remainder shalt thou see.
 25 But the things which thou shalt see hereafter thou shalt not write; for the Lord God hath ordained the apostle of the Lamb of God that he should write them….
27 And I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John, according to the word of the angel. (1 Nephi 14:20-25, 27)
We are familiar with this block of scriptures that points out that Nephi’s vision as he recorded it dovetails into John’s Book of Revelation.  And it does, probably starting about Revelation 6.  But I wonder how many of us have actually jumped to the Book of Revelation after Nephi’s vision?

Recently, I decided to try it.  And I have found out that it is actually very helpful to do that.  With the opening of the first through fifth seals, John glosses over much that Nephi explains in detail, but his view becomes very thorough where Nephi stops. (Remember, Joseph Smith received revelation that the seals of the book represented a thousand years each, so it is a view of past and future history.)  You simply must stop after 1 Nephi 14 and go to Revelation 6 and read to the end of Revelation to get the full sweeping view of the thing before you can move on through the Book of Mormon!  Here’s the next part that should be read:
12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;
 13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
 14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
 15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
 16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:
 17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? (Revelation 6:12-17)
So this brings me to a question—why did the Lord separate the story like that among two different prophets?  Why give to Christendom John’s more distant account first?  (The Lord could have easily have given Nephi’s vision to John and John’s vision to Nephi instead.) 

I think that the Lord wants His prophets to all contribute important information (or restore/reveal important info) so they are given pieces of the puzzle.  Giving John’s more distant future account has galvanized some of the best religious minds to find how his words apply now.  And Nephi’s more present words contain an angelic vote of confidence that backs up what John says.  Also, we can see Nephi’s vision coming to pass right now, this builds our faith that the rest of it will be fulfilled, as well as John’s prophecies. 

So, if I may suggest a scripture reading assignment for you—tomorrow in your personal study, start at  1 Nephi 11, read to 1 Nephi 14, then jump to Revelation 6:12 and start reading to the end of Revelation.  See how it helps your comprehension.
Saturday, April 13, 2013 0 comments

Nephi on Searching, 1 Nephi 10:19

For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:19)

This verse tells us the law of the harvest applies to spiritual things as well as temporal things.  You reap the insight and the spiritual strength that you sow from your searching curiosity and obedience.  There are no bargain-basement spiritual insights; you get what you are willing to put in, and the mysteries come by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I’ve had people ask me in the past how I come up with stuff for my blog.  All I can saw is that I’ve been willing to put in the time and the thought and the pondering and studying and prayer into it, and the Lord has blessed me with insight.  The times that I haven’t put in what was required I haven’t learned so much.   I also fight against the dreaded complacency of thinking that I’ve learned all there is to learn about various stories.  I fight the dreaded perfectionism of feeling like an insight isn’t good enough or profound enough to share (which I combat by remembering the “many flecks of gold” talk from conference a while back).  And I try to think of more to seek out because seeking answers is the best motivation for scripture study.

From time to time I hear people make comments about how they need to get better at their scripture study and I think one of the difficulties we have is that we haven’t learned how to seek adequately.  When we’re first starting out our study, we don’t know what to seek for, so we read to enjoy the story.  But story gets old when you’ve read it so many times.  And the scriptures have much more than story.

I remember when I was in Young Women working on Personal Progress, there was a requirement that I learn about a gospel topic and then talk to my parents about what I learned.  There was a suggested list of things, like prayer, faith, atonement, fasting, etc., but none of them sounded very interesting to me.  Now I realize that what I should have done was try to extract from any spiritual difficulties I was having at the time a few questions then seek the answers.   This is one reason why I think the new youth curriculum is inspired, as it structures the lessons around gospel questions.  Questions inspire a burning desire to find answers.

I listened to a BYU devotional lately called “The Age ofWonder in the Age of Whatever” by Michael Wesch in which it was pointed out that a search engine is really a question-answering machine.  We bring questions, often in the form of search terms, and it aggregates for us all the pages it can find on which someone has tried to answer that question.

To seek, we have to have something to seek for that we really want to know, a deep question of the soul.  Seeking diligently (instead of perfunctorily or haphazardly) requires that the question be important to us.  Seeking diligently requires that you learn search skills, learning places where you are most likely to find an answer, learning ways to phrase your question such that it can inspire you and not discourage you.  Good phrasing can mean the difference between intriguing others into trying to help and scaring them away from a perceived attack.

Nephi also has a warning to give about the act of seeking:

20 Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment.
21 Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever. (1 Nephi 10:20-21)

This has great relevance for our world of search engines.  In fact, it makes yet another argument for how the Book of Mormon is a book for our day.    Nephi is trying to give us a warning that what we seek will be part of what we are judged on.  It is certain that if we search diligently, we will find, but if we seek wicked things, we will be judged by that.   It matters very much whether we seek for good things or evil things, for the mysteries of God or the pleasures of the flesh.  There are no unimportant Google searches in God’s eyes.  No search is wasted, either for good or evil, since it all has an impact on the soul, even if the search was meant to waste time.   It teaches us that just because we can search for something doesn’t mean that we should.  It teaches us it is imperative to restrain the curiosity of the natural man or women and give the spiritual man or woman free reign.
Thursday, April 11, 2013 0 comments

In What Way Was the Liahona a “Small Means”?

And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things. (1 Nephi 16:29)
That “and thus we see” has always made me wonder in what way did Nephi consider the Liahona as “small means.”  After all, what it did was so amazing!  It was a mechanical device pointing the way in a prophetic way, sharing little messages about the mind of the Lord.  That’s huge!

I realized it must have been the size of the thing versus its influence that surprised Nephi.  After all the difficulty Lehi and Nephi had up to that point in convincing the rest of the group to follow the Lord’s commandments, a little brass ball with spindles and writing got better respect.  The great thing it accomplished was it got people’s attention and obedience once the Lord told them to look at it and read it.  The influence it exerted was far larger than its physical size.

Would you say the scriptures are like this for us today?

Friday, April 5, 2013 1 comments

Re-examining the Liahona

I was looking at the Sunday School lesson manual for the Book of Mormon to see if I could find something thought-provoking for the chapters I’ve been studying, and I was really intrigued by the question, “What were the purposes of the Liahona?”

Simple question, right?  We’ve probably heard the answers over and over, right?

The reference given was 1 Nephi 16:10,29 and somehow I saw it differently with that question.

10 And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness….
28 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.
 29 And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.

Asking about the purpose of the Liahona seems to be different than asking what the Liahona did.  The Liahona pointed the way and gave little messages from the Lord, but what was the purpose behind it?
Up to that point, revelation about what to do and where to go had been received through Lehi (and to a lesser extent Nephi).  So why was this revelation externalized in a thing all of a sudden?  Wouldn’t there be a tendency for Lehi and Nephi to stop relying on spiritual things and depend more on this thing?

I suspect that maybe the Liahona was less for Lehi and Nephi; they were pretty good at receiving and following revelation.  I suspect that the Liahona was actually meant for Laman and Lemuel and any other less faithful members of the group because it seemed to separate revelation from any one person.  (It seemed to, but didn’t because faithful individuals could still obtain their own revelation.) With the Liahona, they could not say directions from the Lord were “all in your head” or call them “foolish imaginations of [your] heart.”  It was something everyone could see—pointers going in a certain direction, writing changed from time to time, giving incremental bits of understanding about the ways of the Lord.  Only faith could work it, so Laman and Lemuel probably would not have done well with it on their own, but they would see that there were no foolish imaginations involved.  (Unfortunately, later they seem to start to suspect that Nephi tampers with the Liahona, so even evidence of the eyes requires a certain faith..)

I think this shows how much the Lord understood Laman and Lemuel and tried to provide means even for them to try to build their faith as well.  It shows how much the Lord loved them, difficult and rebellious, and murmuring as they were.

David A. Bednar said of the Liahona that it “was a physical instrument that served as an outward indicator of their inner spiritual standing before God. It worked according to the principles of faith and diligence.”  (David A. Bednar, “The Liahona-A Type and Shadow of the Gift of the Holy Ghost)

Liahona as Neurofeedback/Biofeedback device

I have always wondered deep down how the Liahona could sense the faith of Lehi and his family and work according to their faith.  I ran across something from a book called ChangeYour Brain, Change Your Life that talked about biofeedback, and I found it very interesting in relation to this.  Beta brain waves are speedy waves that are only achieved during periods of concentration and mental work.  Biofeedback therapy for ADD patients involves teaching them to focus and control their own brainwaves.  When their brainwaves become beta waves, they can play a video game.  When the beta waves transform into slower waves, the game stops.  Biofeedback therapy is used over years.

This suggested to me that perhaps the Liahona was a sophisticated biofeedback/neurofeedback device that sensed beta waves from Lehi and his whole family, and only gave directions when the group were engaging in focused concentration of faith and work.  Just like biofeedback therapy is used over years, the Liahona was used over years.  It is possible that the Liahona was intended to teach the Lehites to exercise their faith by helping them recognize when they didn’t have it and by rewarding them with progress when they did have it.

We can use this principle today if we can learn to recognize what kind of thought mode we are in.  If we are in complaining mode or I-don’t-want-to-do-this mode or the it’s-too-hard mode, that is not the mode of work or exerting faith.  I know the difference between these different brain modes and I suspect you may too.  The story of Nephi with the Liahona challenges us to notice when we are not exerting faith and then to start exerting faith.  (I also have to say that for me, the challenge is also staying in the faith-work mode on an extended basis and deciding what to focus on next.)

The Liahona as compass

The way the Liahona worked was pretty extraordinary, when you think about it carefully.  We are told that it pointed the way Lehi and his family should go.  What would this look like?  It means if you picked up the Liahona, no matter which way you turned it, the pointer would always point in the same direction—the way to go.  We are familiar with how a compass, under influence of the earth’s magnetic field, always points north, but the Liahona didn’t point in that way; it always pointed the way to go.  Somehow the destination exerted a long distance pull on the Liahona pointer.

And yet another consideration comes to mind.  Did the Liahona point to the ultimate destination?  Probably not, since the Lord kept them in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which would not necessarily follow each other in a straight line to the ultimate destination.  This means the Liahona would have to point to individual, sequential waypoints, one by one as they moved along the route mapped out for them by the Lord.   So the Liahona was reset with a new waypoint each time they reached one, or perhaps it had the whole route “pre-loaded” into it.

This view of the Liahona may help us today because while the fundamentals of the gospel don’t change and our ultimate destination of eternal life doesn’t change, there may be other aspects of our lives that require a change in course from time to time.  We may need to transition to another part of our life mission.  We may need to change how we do things to adapt to changing circumstances, we may need to change focus a bit.  There may be big changes we need to make—a change in career or a move somewhere else.  Sometimes waypoints are obvious, sometimes we try to deny that they exist.  We need personal revelation to discern when these changes are needed, and we need faith to act on them.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 3 comments

The Gift of Being Translated

 3 Nephi 28 is a very interesting chapter about the two different gifts that Christ gave to his disciples.  Nine were given the gift that they would come speedily to His kingdom when their days on the earth were over, and three were given the gift to remain on the earth until Christ’s second coming so they could have more time to teach the gospel.

This chapter is significant for a number of reasons.  First, we don’t have detail about translated beings in the Bible and this chapter tells us much about the nature of translated beings.  We learn:
·      They are holy and sanctified in the flesh (v39)
·      Satan has no power over them to tempt them (v39)
·      They are like angels and can show themselves to people when they pray for it (v30)
·      They will have a fullness of joy for their efforts. (v10)
·      They have power over natural forces and the powers of earth can’t hold them (v19-22, 39)
·      They don’t experience pain or sorrow except for the sins of the world (v9)
·      They won’t die, but instead will be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality (v8)

In the Bible, all we have about translated beings is a little bit about Jesus suggesting that John would tarry until the second coming.  But in the Book of Mormon, we get a whole chapter mostly devoted to not just one, but three people who are given this amazing gift.  The language is clear and explanatory.

We also learn that the desire to stay on the earth longer in order to do missionary work is a better desire than to quickly go to God’s kingdom in heaven.   I suppose that staying to do missionary work is much more unselfish and even involves sacrificing rest in the spirit world, not to mention the prospect of being together with the wife and the children.

What always gets me is that a desire so incredible can be granted like that.  Every time I read about it, I am astounded and it makes me feel like I don’t have enough vision to sense what is possible.  Not only does it astound me that Jesus granted their desire, it astounds me that the three Nephites had it.  Somehow they believed enough in Jesus’s power of resurrection to think that he could grant them the power to stay on earth longer.  But now it occurs to me, what is more miraculous—to be granted the ability to live for thousands of years longer before passing to immortality, or to die and then be resurrected later? 

What this story also does is indirectly bring us to ask ourselves the question, “If I wanted to live for several thousand years longer while not subject to pain or sorrow (and perhaps enjoying a body at the peak of its prime), what would I do with my time?”  Would I become a major sports star?  Would I build a business empire and accumulate mountains of wealth?  Would I have oodles of children?  Would I go on mission after mission after mission after mission…?  What the three Nephites wanted to do was essentially the same as God’s work and glory—to help bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  They would go on one mission after another, such that all their missions were connected together.

So I was asking myself why the Lord would want us to know about this and how it can help us today.  When I was looking at the list of things above, I noticed that there is one aspect that is within our reach as Saints—that of becoming holy.  It’s a spiritual transformation that we can attain to through the Atonement.  Being translated is a transformation of the body to a higher state, being sanctified in the flesh.   And it is seems to me that this may be something that is can be attained gradually, as is spoken of in the oath and covenant of the priesthood.  “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.” (D&C 84:33) 

So maybe being faithful to obtain the priesthood and magnifying one’s calling brings a slow transformation through the power of the Holy Ghost with the same ultimate end as one would have if they were translated in an instant like the three Nephites. 

A final thing I notice is that Moroni was forbidden to write the names of these three Nephites, making them anonymous. (We can’t go around testing people by asking them their names, nor can we give those names to our children and make them common.)  Then he confides to us that the three Nephite disciples will be among both the Jews and the Gentiles and both these peoples won’t know it.  (They are like secret agents for God, spiritual navy seals, as it were.)  Finally, he gives a warning: “wo be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus, and also to them whom he hath chosen and sent among them; for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom he hath sent receiveth not him; and therefore he will not receive them at the last day” (v34).  It seems the Lord wants the world to receive any missionaries as if they are one of these three Nephite disciples.