Sunday, June 30, 2013 2 comments

In which I confront my fears about introducing the missionaries to my neighbors

After the worldwide missionary broadcast, I felt like I had to do something to help the missionaries in our ward.  I hit upon the idea of going door-to-door to all my nonmember neighbors and introducing the missionaries to them.  I know enough about my neighbors to share good qualities about them, and enough about the missionaries to share what they are about.   Introducing the missionaries seemed like a good thing to do for several reasons:
·      It would help the missionaries get a better chance to meet people in a neighborly, companionable atmosphere and assess their level of interest in hearing a discussion.
·      It would help my neighbors be more open to having a longer talk with the missionaries in the future if they met them.  Breaking ice is always good.

This was all good in theory, but when it came down to actually getting myself to call the missionaries and set all this up, I found myself paralyzed by fear.  For some reason, I was petrified. 

Heavenly Father knew all about it though because when I went online to browse Mormon blogs, I felt like so much of what I read was sending the message, “It’s okay!  You can open your mouth!  Don’t let Satan silence you!  You can do this!”  (By the way, thanks so much to all you Mormon people who blog!  You are awesome, and you do make a difference!)

But I still had fears and automatic thoughts that seemed determined to strangle me.  So I did a little exercise I learned about in a book called Feeling Good by David Burns (it’s a very helpful book about learning cognitive-behavioral techniques for fighting feelings of depression).  I wrote down and charted all the automatic fears and thoughts that came to me, asking myself why what I feared was a problem, then writing down more fears, until I had gotten down to the erroneous beliefs at the very bottom of it all.  Then I wrote down rational and faith-filled responses to debunk every single one of those fears.   I’m inserting the chart I made, for your edification:

Automatic Thoughts
Faithful and rational responses
I can’t introduce the missionaries to my neighbor. 
      (Why is that a problem?)
Yes, you can.  You have legs. You have a mouth that can talk intelligibly.
Because my neighbor would be annoyed with me.   
      (Why is it a problem for your neighbor to be annoyed with you?)
You don’t know for sure that your neighbor will be annoyed with you.  He may appreciate it instead.
Plus, did you ever realize that your neighbor might be just as worried about annoying you with a refusal as you are about annoying him?
Because then I’d feel terrible.  I’d feel rejected.
      (Why is that a problem to feel terrible and rejected?)
Actually, even if you are rejected, you’ll probably feel pretty good because you will have tried to help him become acquainted with the missionaries.
Because I don’t like it.  I don’t want to be hated.
      (And why is being hated a problem?)
You are jumping to conclusions. Being rejected is not the same as being hated.  Even annoying your neighbor is not the same as being hated.  Also, you can’t prevent people from hating you if they’ve really made up their mind to do it, so it isn’t something you need to think about. 
My neighbor might never talk to me again.
      (Why would it be a problem for your neighbor to never talk to you again?)
You hardly ever have occasion to talk to your neighbor anyway.  But even if you previously talked a lot, you could still say hi and ask him how he was doing.
Because then I’d be alone.
      (Why is being alone a problem?)
Just because one neighbor rejects you or is annoyed with you doesn’t mean that everyone else will abandon you too.
Being alone means no one wants to be with me.  It means I’ve been abandoned.
    (Why is it a problem that no one wants to be with you?)
No it doesn’t.  It can also mean that people have to be other places besides with you.
It shows I am worthless and hopeless as a person and not the kind of person anyone would want to be with. 
    (Assuming you are the kind of person that no one wants to be with, why is that a problem?)
No, it doesn’t.  You are a child of God and you are capable of growth.  If you sin, you can repent and change, so there is always hope for you.  Also, no one wanted Ether around and he was a prophet.
Being alone is miserable. 
No it isn’t!  You can be alone without being miserable.
What if my neighbor rejects the missionaries?
    (Why would that be a problem for you?)
Everyone has a choice to listen or not to listen to the gospel.
Because then he wouldn’t listen to the gospel and have a chance to receive it.
    (Okay, that creates a problem for him, but why is that also a problem for YOU?)
This won’t be the only time your neighbor has a chance to listen to the gospel.  God gives multiple chances.  Besides, just introducing your neighbor to the missionaries may help him be more comfortable talking to them in the future.
Then I’ll be sad for him.
    (Okay, why is that a problem for you?)

You can handle that.  It isn’t the end of the world.  You will have tried to help the missionaries.
I won’t be able to forget my sadness; I won’t be able to concentrate on anything else.  I will wonder if there were any way I could have done it better, and I will feel like a failure.
     (Why is that a problem?)  
You won’t be sad about it forever.  Plus, you’ll find other things to do and think about to distract you from your sadness.  You’re good at distracting yourself. J  Also, if you mess up in the way you introduce the missionaries to someone, that doesn’t make you a FAILURE.  Even messing up every time you introduce the missionaries doesn’t make you a failure. Instead it proves you have determination.
Because then I won’t be able to be productive.
     (Why is that a problem?)
Feeling sad and like a failure doesn’t prevent you from being productive.  And there are things you can do for a while that don’t require concentration.
I have to be happy in order to be productive.
No you don’t.  Usually, happiness comes from being productive, not the other way around.

Making this chart was a big mental and emotional relief to me.  And it was neat that after making it, I had something that I could reference in the future if I ever found myself feeling that way again. 

After this, I felt like I would be okay with introducing the missionaries to my neighbors, but for some reason I still felt a lot of resistance getting myself to pick up the phone to call them in the first place.  Calling them would be taking the initiative and setting events in motion and once I made that phone call, I would have to go through with my plan!  It would commit me to action.  For some reason that made me very uncomfortable.  Not sure why.

It is important for you to know that I did not work through all of the above issues on the same day.  It took me about two days to decide I needed to make the chart.  And it took me another day to realize I was uncomfortable with taking the initiative in this thing.  From time to time I found myself trying to guilt myself into action, but that didn’t work very well; it just caused more resistance, so I decided guilting myself wasn’t productive.  I recognized it was untrue to try to shame myself into it by calling myself a bad person for not doing it immediately because it wasn’t true that I was a bad person.  After all, I had the desire to introduce the missionaries to my neighbors, and that was a good thing.  That desire was me, so I wasn’t bad. 

Eventually I was able to remind myself that I could be an agent for good and choose to act rather than be acted upon.  And then I made the call.

The funny thing was, the number I called was for the wrong set of missionaries.  So they had to call me back with the real number, which turned out not to be the real number at all, so I had to wait for the second set to call me back with the real number.  But I also emailed my bishop asking for the number and he responded, so I called that number.  That was the right one.  Each time I called a number, I had to keep making that choice to take the initiative, which probably could have helped strengthen my resolve, but all I know was it started to feel a bit exhausting.  And I could help but wonder if any other members might go through a run-around like this if they want to refer the missionaries to someone.  Are we working closely enough with the missionaries that we can get our hands on the right phone number easily?  Do we have confidence that the number we have is the right one?  (There’s only one way to find out!)

Yes, I finally did get the right missionaries, a set of sisters.  They were SOO excited that I wanted to introduce them to my neighbors.  And I was able to talk to two out of four of my neighbors with them.  We had very friendly conversation and even though my neighbors weren’t interested in hearing more, we left them a little more informed about the nature of missionary work, temples, and even the Mesa Easter pageant.  

I also decided that I should introduce the missionaries to my Mormon neighbors as well.  We have three Mormon families that live a little ways down the street and it seemed to me that they might like to get better acquainted with the sisters and maybe they would be able to figure a way to help them too!

All in all, it was a fun time, and I feel stronger for it.  Introduce the missionaries to your neighbors, folks!  It’s a great first step in fulfilling your "member responsibility to help find people for the missionaries to teach."

Friday, June 28, 2013 2 comments

A Book of Mormon Mystery: Obtaining a Good Hope of Glory, Jacob 4:11-12

11 Wherefore, beloved brethren, be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son, and ye may obtain a resurrection, according to the power of the resurrection which is in Christ, and be presented as the first-fruits of Christ unto God, having faith, and obtained a good hope of glory in him before he manifesteth himself in the flesh.
12 And now, beloved, marvel not that I tell you these things; for why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him, as to attain to the knowledge of a resurrection and the world to come? (Jacob 4:11-12)
These are interesting verses because v12 hints that Jacob has just said something surprising that his hearers might not have thought of before, something implied in the doctrine that might be considered presumptuous by the strictly conservative.

I suspect that it is the idea of obtaining “a good hope of glory in Christ before Christ manifesteth himself in the flesh” (v11).  To these people, Christ’s atonement was still a future event, and so was the resurrection.  It seems that they knew the resurrection would eventually come to them after Christ’s, but Jacob suggests that the people take things a step further by seeking not just a testimony of Christ and His resurrection, but a testimony of the glorious resurrection they would receive for living faithfully.  He suggests they live their lives with that in mind as well.  Jacob seems to imply that there isn’t much difference between attaining a testimony of Christ’s glorious resurrection and one’s own, though the grammar is missing a “so” that would make it a little clearer, like this:  “why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him, [so] as to attain to the knowledge of a resurrection and the world to come?”

For me, this seems very profound.  I have a testimony of the atonement of Christ, and I have some intellectual knowledge about the resurrection, and I have faith that Christ’s resurrection happened and that many saints also arose.  But to have a testimony of my own resurrection… that seems to imply some sort of spiritual experience.  Jacob continues:
Behold, my brethren, he that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. But behold, we are not witnesses alone in these things; for God also spake them unto prophets of old. (Jacob 4:13)
What do you think? 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 2 comments

Diligent Prayer Helps Maintain Love, Moroni 8:26

…which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God. (Moroni 8:26)

When I was reading this I understood it in a different way.  I was familiar with the admonition to pray for charity, but here I found out that diligent prayer causes love (charity, the pure love of Christ) to endure.   So, we can pray for charity, but that doesn’t mean that it will always stay with us because situations may come up in which we make mistakes and cause the Spirit to leave, along with charity.   So we have to be diligent about praying for it.

So if diligent prayer causes perfect love to continue, how diligent is “diligent prayer”? 

Maybe it means we should pray every time we feel spiritual emptiness, especially since the verse says the Comforter fills us with hope and perfect love.

My mom once told me that she didn't automatically love me and my siblings when we were born.  She thought there was something wrong with her because of it, but Moroni's admonition to pray for charity sunk into her heart and she decided she would pray to love us.  She said it didn't come immediately, and she had to pray for some time.  (I can't remember whether it was days or months.) She told me that eventually she did begin to love us.  I am inspired by her experience and grateful that she was willing to share it because it showed me that mother love can be cultivated by prayer.  I suppose that love in other types of family relationships can similarly be cultivated if we don't automatically have it. 
Sunday, June 23, 2013 2 comments

Book Review: Scripture Study Made Awesome


Do you ever feel like you’re in a rut with your scripture study?  Chas Hathaway can fix that.  His new book Scripture Study Made Awesome is all about spicing it up.  The subtitle promises “Over 100 Unique Scriptures Study Methods You’ve Probably Never Tried.”  Just to make sure there were 100 methods, I counted.  (I had to count, because they weren’t numbered.) It turns out that there are 133 methods, so this book delivers much more than promised.

Before Hathaway starts sharing scripture study methods, he spends a little time educating the reader about important preliminaries, such as:

·      how we can get motivated to study the scriptures if we are not yet interested
·      the difference between a study medium and a study method
·      what study media we can use--books, notebooks, computer, mobile devices, etc. (This shows us that we don’t necessarily have to use the scriptures in book form; we can use other creative ways)
·      what sources are worthy of study in addition to the scriptures

If you thought that only the scriptures were worth studying, Hathway points out other sacred sources we can go to--general conference addresses, other talks by general authorities, hymns, church manuals, patriarchal blessings, journals, church magazines, etc.—which can have a nice horizon-widening effect, kick-start us out of malaise, and even give us focus.

Hathway’s collection of study methods really runs the gamut and contains enough options for just about everybody.  He shares marking methods, semi-traditional look-for methods, marathon-speed-reading methods, self-discovery methods, question asking and answering methods, deep study methods, creative methods, and methods specifically for families with children. 

Just as an example, two easy options from the “Semi-Traditional Methods” chapter that really tickled me were the following:
·      Random relatedness—open to two random places and chose one verse from each place, then think about how they are related to each other.
·      Lovenotes—Open the scriptures believing that the first thing you see is a lovenote from Heavenly Father.

I suppose I should warn you, while this book will help you answer the question “What can I do to study the scriptures?” you may next face the question, “What method should I try first?” and that may be harder to answer, especially with so many intriguing methods to choose from.  I really think there are a lifetime’s worth of ideas here to try.. and possibly more.

Besides all the great study methods in this book, I think there are three additional features that make it even more excellent.  First, Hathaway anticipates those who might ask, “Which method is best for me?” by including some charts listing which methods are geared toward particular intellectual tendencies, mood, or family situation (with page numbers for easy findage).  Second, he includes some pretty inspiring personal stories about his experiences with building a scripture study habit, pondering apparently contradictory scriptures, and giving his scriptures to others.  Third, he incorporates a fair number of quotes from general authorities about methods they use to study the scriptures.  Seeing the methods our leaders use gives us a sense of their spiritual maturity and insight and also helps us see how we can improve our own study methods in ways that will yield more insight.  I found their methods very intriguing.

Now, at the end of all this, you may ask, “But is this book fun to read?”  Don’t worry, it is.  Chas Hathaway is an enthusiastic member of the church, and his energy comes through in his writing.  His style is brisk, eager, and positive.  He doesn’t waste text or your time. 

If you are one who loves to read the scriptures, yet sometimes find yourself getting a little bored and need something to get you motivated to study again, this book is for you.  If you are not in the habit of reading your scriptures every day, this book is still for you because you’ll find lots of ideas for how to start the habit in a way that works for you.  

After writing my review, I had some questions for Chas, and he was kind enough to answer them.

Michaela: So, Chas, what’s the story behind your decision to write this book?

Chas: This book has been nagging me for many years now. It finally got to the point where I couldn't keep it in any longer, so I finally wrote it, and I'm so glad I did! Already people are saying how much it has helped their personal scripture study.

Michaela: How did you come up with all those different scripture study methods?  Did you ask all your friends and family?  

Chas: Honestly, most of the ideas are methods I've used over the years. About ten or fifteen are from friends and family, and a few are ideas I've always wanted to try. It used to puzzle me when someone in church would say, "The way I read scriptures is..." and then they'd list some method they consistently use. Maybe I'm just neurotic or something, but I love love LOVE trying all different kinds of methods. For me, it keeps my study fresh, interesting, and always in the mode of discovery. Whenever I feel my scripture study getting a little dry, I switch methods, and it always makes for a better experience.

Michaela: How many of the scripture study methods have you tried?

Chas: I'd guess I've actually used about 90% of the methods I mention in the book. Like I said, I'm probably neurotic, but I love approaching the scriptures in new and exciting ways. There are methods I've tried in the past that didn't work so well, and I didn't include those in the book. Of the methods I haven't tried, I only included the ones I thought I'd like to someday try.

Michaela: What scripture study method are you currently using?  How has it helped you?

Chas: Right now I'm in the process of transferring all the notes, quotes, and study helps from my old electronic scriptures (basically a huge word document with hundreds of endnotes) to my online account scriptures. It's been fun to rediscover what I learned before. It's amazing how many times I find something I don't remember ever writing. I'm also excited about having my scriptures, with all my footnotes, explanations, favorite quotes, and thoughts organized and accessible from anywhere, since I can carry my android everywhere.

Michaela:  Do you have a favorite method or style of method that you find yourself usually gravitating toward?

Chas: I don't know if I have a consistent favorite, but there are several I return to often:
a. Create your own topical guide. I call mine "Scripture Subject Index." It's a document that's getting too big. But with the church's scripture tagging system, I may end up moving it to mobile... we'll see.
b. Study while up and about. I'll often turn on audio scriptures and general conference talks while doing the dishes or working on a project.
c. Read cover to cover. It's been awhile since I've actually 'read' cover to cover, but I've listened to the standard works cover to cover several times over the years.
d. Create your own footnote system. I keep coming back and adding to my footnotes. I'm trying to catch up to Elder Packer.
e. Monologue reading. I only do this with family scripture study these days, but it works well to keep the kids (and the parents) interested.
f. Read a movie. This one's become harder with munchkins around, since it takes more concentration and undivided attention than most, but I do like it, and come back to it every few months or so.

I'm sure there are others, but those are the ones that come to mind at the moment.

I love the scriptures. I love studying the word of God. I like to tell people, if you don't find the scriptures fascinating and fun to read, it's just because you haven't yet found a method that works for you. Keep trying stuff.

And there you have it, folks, in his own words.  Thanks for all the hard work you've done on this book, Chaz!

      Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a PDF of the book mentioned above for free. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, June 21, 2013 0 comments

The Law of Purification of Women as a Type of Christ, Lev 12:2-4

2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.
3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
4 And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled. (Lev. 12:2-4)

If we look at these verses only through the lens of equality of the sexes we may think it unfair to pronounce a woman unclean for bearing a child.  But if we look at it as a type of Christ, we may appreciate it better. 

Christ is the means by which we are to be “born again,” so the newborn represents the born-again soul.  Just as the innocent Christ takes the sins of the soul that is born again, the innocent mother submits to be considered ceremonially unclean for a certain period. 

Though we don’t know how much pain Christ went through to deliver us all from sin, the Lord must have thought that associating it with childbirth and delivery pains would help women understand it better.  I think this shows His concern for faithful women and it suggests that He really does know what women go through.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013 0 comments

Matthew versus 3 Nephi: Being a Light to the World

Ye are the light of the world.
A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (Matt. 5:14)
Verily, verily, I say unto you,
I give unto you to be the light of this people.
A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. (3 Nephi 12:14)
 Okay, what do we make of the differences between these verses?

First, 3 Nephi has an extra bit of “verily, verily, I say unto you” that is supposed to emphasize the truth of what Jesus says. 

Second, we notice that in Matthew it sounds as if being a light is something we just are, but 3 Nephi shows us that being a light is something that comes from Jesus.  He is the light of the world, and He lights our lights so we can shine to others around us.

A third difference we notice is that in Matthew “the world” is to be lighted with shining example, but in 3 Nephi it is “this people” that is to be lighted.  Part of me wonders if this was personalized to the people of that day.  After all, the Acts of the apostles were written and preserved in the Bible, which has gone throughout the world, but the acts of the disciples in the Americas are not found in the Book of Mormon, so they were only a light to that people.  There is very little preserved in the Book of Mormon of the good example they were from day to day except from very general statements of 4 Nephi that make us wish we could have been there.

We may read it another way if we apply it to ourselves.  Technology and the internet makes it possible to be a light to the world, but very little of we do is going to be broadcast (thank goodness).  Most of the light we shine will be to the people in our lives every day.

Today, let’s try extra hard to be a good example to the people around us.
Monday, June 17, 2013 4 comments

Have any of the apostles seen Christ?

Have any of the apostles seen Jesus?  We may wonder about this on occasion, since the apostles are supposed to be special witnesses of Christ.  I happened to run across something Elder Packer wrote on this subject in his book Teach Ye Diligently:
…as students there are some questions that we could not in propriety ask.

One question of this type I am asked occasionally, usually by someone who is curious, is, “Have you seen Him?”  That is a question that I have never asked of another.  I have not asked that question of my Brethren in the Council of the Twelve, thinking that it would be so sacred and so personal that one would have to have some special inspiration—indeed, some authorization—even to ask it.

Though I have not asked that question of others, I have heard them answer it—but not when they were asked.  I have heard one of my Brethren declare, “I know, from experiences too sacred to relate, that Jesus is the Christ,”  I have heard another testify, “I know that God lives, I know that the Lord lives, and more than that, I know the Lord.”  I repeat: they have answered this question not when they were asked, but under the prompting of the Spirit, on sacred occasions, when “the Spirit beareth record.” (D&C 1:39)

There are some things just too sacred to discuss: not secret, but sacred; not to be discussed, but to be harbored and protected and regarded with the deepest of reverence. (86-87)
When I first read this two years ago it gave me extra reason to pay close attention to apostolic testimony to see if they give just a little extra emphasis to their testimony of Christ.  I’m sure those who have seen Christ would like us to be sensitive and read between the lines.  If I were in their spot, I’d hope that members would be willing to consider that I might be testifying to something more.
Thursday, June 13, 2013 0 comments

A Nephite Dissenter Helps Bring Lamanites to Repentance and Belief in Christ, Helaman 5:35-43

In the Book of Helaman, the brothers Nephi and Lehi are thrown into prison and as an army of Lamanites enter the prison to take them to put them to death, an extraordinary display of power begins as Nephi and Lehi are surrounded by fire but are not burned, the prison is hit by an earthquake and a dark cloud that overshadows all of them, and a voice from heaven is heard telling the army to repent and stop seeking to destroy His servants.

Something else extraordinary happens.  A Nephite dissenter becomes an instrument for God to make meaning for the Lamanite army and bring them to repentance.
35 Now there was one among them who was a Nephite by birth, who had once belonged to the church of God but had dissented from them.
36 And it came to pass that he turned him about, and behold, he saw through the cloud of darkness the faces of Nephi and Lehi; and behold, they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels. And he beheld that they did lift their eyes to heaven; and they were in the attitude as if talking or lifting their voices to some being whom they beheld.
37 And it came to pass that this man did cry unto the multitude, that they might turn and look. And behold, there was power given unto them that they did turn and look; and they did behold the faces of Nephi and Lehi.
38 And they said unto the man: Behold, what do all these things mean, and who is it with whom these men do converse?
39 Now the man’s name was Aminadab. And Aminadab said unto them: They do converse with the angels of God.
40 And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us?
41 And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.
42 And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed.
43 And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire. (Helaman 5:35-43)
It is so interesting to me that the Lamanite army gets the message of repentance from Lehi and Nephi and from the voice from heaven, but they still don’t understand until told by someone else they trust.  They are told not to fear the fire that suddenly surrounds the men they want to kill.  They are told by the voice of God in a mild and pleasant tone that pierced, but they didn’t begin to listen and act until told by this Aminadab who became a sort of interpreter and guide through the marvels they saw.  (It is not completely clear whether Aminadab was another prisoner or if he was part of the Lamanite army.  Regardless, they resort to his direction in their confusion and fear.)

This is curious because Aminadab’s explanation wasn’t exactly clear.  It was garbled and full of what we would consider jargon.  He said, “You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.” (v41)  There are no explanations as to why they should have faith in Christ or how, and a reference to teachers from 40 years before, but not much about what those teachers said about Christ!  So do we assume that the soldiers knew what Aminadab was talking about?  Or do we assume that they didn’t? 

I’ve wondered for a long time just what about Aminadab’s instructions galvanized the other soldiers to action.  Eventually I realized that Aminadab’s instructions were uniquely formulated for those who did not have faith in Christ.  He told them to repent and pray to the voice until they had faith in Christ, and he promised that if they did so, the darkness would be lifted.  

Do you see how much faith that would take to promise that?  That's not a promise anyone can make lightly.  We are much more used to the idea of praying and then waiting in expectation than we are used to the idea of praying continuously until the result we need/want happens.  After all, if one decides to pray until the desired result happens, one might pray for a really long time, and can that kind of praying be kept up?  (It can--remember Enos?--and it is us who think it isn't necessary.)

It seems to me Aminadab could not have given those insightful instructions to his fellows unless he had previously tried them himself.  If so, it would mark him as a person very similar to Abish, living among unbelievers, yet having learned to believe and have faith in Christ.    We can imagine that he once dissented from the Nephites, probably because he didn’t have faith in Christ as was taught to him by Alma, Amulek, and Zeezrom.  Yet their words continued to come back to him until he began to see that he had to do something if he was ever going to get over the issue of his lack of faith, so in some way he settled upon the idea of repenting and praying determinedly until he had that faith in Christ.  He carried out his plan, and faith came as he hoped.   So his presence there was certainly part of the Lord’s plan to help save the rest of his companions.

Aminadab’s instructions make this story a very powerful help for us if we or our family members or friends ever struggle with lack of faith.   The key is to repent and pray to God until faith in Christ comes.  Another way we can apply this kind of faith to pray until our desire is granted is to pray to resist temptation when temptation comes.  We can pray for the power to resist until the temptation goes away.  I have done that before and it works.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013 0 comments

Daily Performances as a Type of Things to Come, Mosiah 13:30-31

As Abinadi preaches to King Noah and his priests about the purpose of the Law of Moses, he says something that caught my eye recently.

29 And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God;
30 Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him.
31 But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come. (Mosiah 13:30-31)

Abinadi asserts that the daily performances and ordinances of the Law of Moses were all types meant to prophesy of the future.  I looked down at the footnotes here and it pointed to the Topical Guide entry “Christ, Types of, in Anticipation; Symbolism,” so I suppose that at some level, all the little rules were meant to teach about Christ.  I wonder if anyone has studied how all those things related to Christ?*

In a way, even daily performances themselves were a type of Christ and how He would be perfectly faithful every day.  If the people messed something up, it could remind them of their need for a Savior and the repentance made possible by Him.

These days, the weekly sacrament instructs us to always remember Christ and keep His commandments.  Perhaps the daily performances of the Law of Moses were a kind of all-encompassing sacrament to remind the people of Christ.  And maybe it was a type that prophesied of a future Millennial day and a refined Christ-like people who would no longer be stiff-necked but would keep the commandments constantly on their own and always remember Christ and His sacrifice.

Today let’s think about every duty we do in terms of how it might remind us of Christ and His sacrifice.

* There’s a Sperry Symposium book that has a nice chapter called “The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ” that explains some of the ways symbolic aspects of the Law of Moses relate to Christ.

Also, I ran into an excellent online book called The Shadowof Christ in the Law of Moses which explains ways that the Law of Moses typifies Christ.  Members will be probably be familiar with symbolism of the temple, sacrifices, priesthood, and such, but its discussion on the justice aspects of the law deserves special attention for its excellent analysis of how factors of restitution and punishment in the law were designed to teach about holiness.  While written by a non-member, I think it well worth the time.

Sunday, June 9, 2013 0 comments

Jacob’s Rhetorical Purpose for Quoting Zenos’s Allegory of the Olive Tree, Jacob 6:4-7

Before Jacob quotes Zenos’s allegory of the olive tree, he asks a question that frames why he quotes the whole thing.

And now, my beloved, how is it possible that these, after having rejected the sure foundation, can ever build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner? (Jacob 4:17)

His concern before the allegory is to draw out how the Jews who rejected Christ would ever be persuaded to believe in Him.  His purpose for quoting the allegory is to show how the Lord meant to scatter Israel so that the wicked would forget all they knew so that when the gospel was brought to their descendants they would recognize the miracle that it was and finally accept Christ. 

However, the allegory doesn’t just focus on this issue.  Much of it is taken up with showing the scattering of Israel’s righteous branches is to prevent them from being tainted by the corrupt whole, showing how the Gentiles would be grafted in to the main tree to remind the Jews of the miraculous blessings Israel had been born to, and showing the gradual decay of the vineyard after all the Lord of the vineyard has done to try to save it.

As it happens, when Jacob is finished quoting the allegory, he doesn’t refocus on his initial question.  Instead, he likens the allegory to his people who are branches broken off and placed in a different part of the vineyard.  His concern becomes persuading them not to become corrupted, wild branches that bring forth wild fruit after having been planted in a good spot of ground and nourished by the word of God all the day long.

4 And how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches; and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long; and they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people; but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God.
5 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts.
6 Yea, today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts; for why will ye die?
7 For behold, after ye have been nourished by the good word of God all the day long, will ye bring forth evil fruit, that ye must be hewn down and cast into the fire? (Jacob 6:4-7)

These words are also highly applicable to us as members of the church.  Jacob urges us not to reject the words of the prophets, the words of Christ, or reject the Holy Ghost, or quench it in any way, and to not mock the plan of salvation.  After all, we are in the last time when the vineyard is being nourished and pruned and we only have this chance.

Jacob’s purpose of quoting changes from explaining how the Jews who rejected Christ will be eventually be grafted back in to instructing his people (and us) to remain in the tree as good branches bringing forth good fruit and not become wild branches bringing forth evil fruit or withered branches that die off.  It is likely that as he labored to quote the allegory, the Holy Ghost impressed upon him the importance of persuading to repentance the people who are within the reach of his influence so that purpose began to overshadow his previously stated intention to discourse on how others afar off would come back to the fold.

I appreciate Jacob’s words.  They remind me that as a branch of the tree I’m not here just to suck the sap and put out leaves forever.  I’m supposed to bring forth good fruit.