Thursday, May 30, 2013 0 comments

Reflections on Lukewarm Laodicean Saints, Rev 3:14-18

I read these verses recently and something seemed to hit home for me.  They contain words John heard in a vision of Jesus Christ, who spoke messages to the Saints in Laodicea. 

14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (Rev. 3:14-18)

First, let’s look at verses 15-16.  We usually interpret these verses to mean that the Lord prefers us to be either for Him or against Him, but that He can’t stand our apathy.  But if we think more carefully, we see that this interpretation doesn’t quite work because it doesn’t make sense for Jesus to want someone to be a “cold” enemy.  He wants all to come to Him.  So we have to ask, “Why do both hot and cold seem to be preferable to lukewarm?” 

I got a little bit of a clue from Keith Krell’s online article at Bible.org called “How to Make Jesus Sick (Revelation 3:14-22).” (Kind of an off-putting title, but the article is good.)  In it he suggested that in these verses both cold and hot were positive terms for drink temperatures.  This made sense to me.  Both hot and cold drinks are helpful to us at different times.  Cold drinks are lovely when we have worked up a sweat and need to cool down, while hot drinks (hot chocolate, anyone?) are wonderful when we are cold and we need to raise our core body temperature.  Cold drinks refresh, and hot drinks warm. This suggests that there are “cold saints” and “hot saints” and that both are good. 

Okay, so how could “cold saints” be refreshing?  Well, when we are worried, busy, and wrought up, a “cold saint” is one of those serene people who would calm us down, help us understand that things will work out for the best, and remind us that Heavenly Father will help.  On the other side, when we are reluctant and sluggish, a “hot saint” is one that encourages us, reminds us of our duty and great privileges, who warms us to life and action, and helps us catch the fire again.  When we look at it this way, it is obvious we need both types of saints for the particular good they can do at the right moment! 

A lukewarm saint, however, is useless for either need because they are not enough of either.  They don’t have enough serenity to calm and reassure others, nor do they have enough warmth and passion to encourage and motivate.  We would do well to see where we fall on the continuum of hot and cold.

Okay.  What else did Jesus say to the Laodiceans?  It is clear that he sees their true situation and He also knows how they see their situation.  The two are polar opposites.  

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: (v17)

The Laodiceans seem to think that things can’t get any better—they have wealth, they have plenty of goods, and they don’t need anything more from life.  But Jesus knows it is a showy sham.  He applies five adjectives to describe them:
1.     Wetched – of poor quality or condition, very unhappy, morally reprehensible, deserving or inciting pity, having physical misery
2.     Miserable—very unhappy or uncomfortable, of the most contemptible kind, contemptibly small in amount.
3.     Poor—having little money or few possessions
4.     Blind—unable to see, unable or unwilling to perceive and understand
5.     Naked—unclothed, without protecting or concealing cover

I suspect that “poor” was meant to refer to the size of their store of treasures in heaven, that “blind” meant they couldn’t see their own condition for the tragedy it was, and that “naked” meant that their sins were obvious, had not been repented of, and thus had not been covered by the Atonement.

I have to say here that if we’re in comfortable circumstances, it is very easy to become like the Laodiceans.  And even if we’re not in a cushy place, that cushy ideal is a big part of the programming in our societal messages, the place we aim for.  Can we imagine ourselves rejecting that ideal?  I wish I could say that I was independent of it, but I sadly, I realize that it is part of me to the extent that when I try to imagine myself without it, I feel odd, a bit unmoored and at sea.

To remedy the situation, Jesus counsels the saints of Laodicea to buy from Him (and He is the only source) the following:
·      “gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich” – If Jesus is the only source of this gold, then it is highly symbolic, referring to the refinement of the soul. Through this expression we learn the principle that the refining of our soul through trials is what makes us rich.  These are the kinds of riches that can’t be stolen.
·      “white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear”—The white clothing is purity and we buy it from Christ through repentance and then He covers our sins.
·      “anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see”—Jesus wants to heal our perspective so we can see the spiritual realities of life.

If we notice, the counsel Jesus gives is meant to address the three conditions of “poor,” “blind,” and “naked.”   I imagine the conditions of misery and wretchedness would naturally take care of itself.

It seems to me that the remedies Jesus lists have to be done in a certain order.  First the eyesalve so we can see our status for what it really is, then the white clothing as we repent, and then the gold tried in the fire, as we become better through our trials. 

At bottom, Jesus used a different standard to measure the Loadiceans’ lives from the one they used for themselves, and His standard was based on different priorities from the world.  To the Laodiceans, the ideal was wealth, security, and needing nothing.  To Christ, the ideal was to be refined by trials and purified while keeping an eternal perspective. 

In what ways can we reach more toward Christ's standard?  I think paying tithing and fast offerings is one way that we demonstrate that; can you think of any other things?

Saturday, May 25, 2013 0 comments

King Noah on the Tower vs. King Limhi on the Tower

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Recently I noticed there are two difference incidents involving enemy armies detected from the top of a tower in the Book of Mosiah.  In the first, King Noah is trying to escape from Gideon, who wants to kill him, and King Noah flees and gets on the tower. 

6 And Gideon pursued after him and was about to get upon the tower to slay the king, and the king cast his eyes round about towards the land of Shemlon, and behold, the army of the Lamanites were within the borders of the land.
7 And now the king cried out in the anguish of his soul, saying: Gideon, spare me, for the Lamanites are upon us, and they will destroy us; yea, they will destroy my people.
8 And now the king was not so much concerned about his people as he was about his own life; nevertheless, Gideon did spare his life.
9 And the king commanded the people that they should flee before the Lamanites, and he himself did go before them, and they did flee into the wilderness, with their women and their children.
10 And it came to pass that the Lamanites did pursue them, and did overtake them, and began to slay them. (Mosiah 19:5-10)

I have no idea just what Noah thought getting on the tower did for him in his extremity; maybe it allowed him to fight from height?  But from the top, he just happens to notice a Lamanite army in the borders of the land.

In the second incident one chapter later, it is Limhi who is on top of the tower.

6 And it came to pass that when the Lamanites found that their daughters had been missing, they were angry with the people of Limhi, for they thought it was the people of Limhi.
7 Therefore they sent their armies forth; yea, even the king himself went before his people; and they went up to the land of Nephi to destroy the people of Limhi.
8 And now Limhi had discovered them from the tower, even all their preparations for war did he discover; therefore he gathered his people together, and laid wait for them in the fields and in the forests.
9 And it came to pass that when the Lamanites had come up, that the people of Limhi began to fall upon them from their waiting places, and began to slay them. (Mosiah 20:6-9)

King Limhi manages to discover all the Lamanite preparations for war from the top of this tower.

Now, whenever there are similar incidents, in the Book of Mormon, it is helpful to make a comparison between them to see what we can learn from the similarities and differences. 

Similarities

Both King Noah and King Limhi used the same tower.  They both used it to spot the Lamanite armies.  This makes me think that tower was built for that very purpose as sort of an early warning system.  It was more economical than surrounding the land with guards because it only required one man on the tower, but for guards it required an army which would have to be paid to stand idle.  In that small Nephite community, men were at premium (or at least that is the impression I get).

I think the watchtower is meant to be a symbol for prophets.  Just as the tower allowed the watcher to see the enemy army when it was still far away, prophets can see spiritual threats before they become obvious to the rest of us.  They warn us ahead of time so we can prepare to fight them.

Differences

King Noah seems to have not used the tower nearly as well as Limhi did.  King Noah only happened to notice an invading Lamanite army, whereas Limhi seems to have made a habit of getting on the tower to see what he could see. 

King Noah only got on the tower when he was in trouble, but Limhi seems to have got on the tower regularly, even when he was not in trouble.  We learn from this that listening to the prophets can’t be something that you do only when you are in trouble because then you won’t be able to deal with the larger issues and threats that come.  Instead, you have to regularly consult them for advice (in the Ensign magazines and conference addresses) and make their messages a real part of your life so that you’ll be able to pick up on the patterns that indicate an advance warning.

King Noah only saw the Lamanite army just as it was invading, so there was no time to prepare a defense.  All he and the Nephites could do was retreat and hope to escape.  Limhi, on the other hand, saw all the Lamanite preparations, so he knew what was coming.  He didn’t dismiss what he saw; he knew what it meant, and so he took action.  He prepared his people to fight back, and when the Lamanites invaded, the Nephites had the advantage of surprise. 

One example of an invading “army” we have been warned against by the prophets is pornography.  Our society is becoming more porn-ified.  We have been warned against it, and not only do we need to resist it in our media consumption, we have to raise our voices for decency in our society.   I have mentioned to grocery store managers (in a nice way) about how I’m bothered by certain magazine covers in the magazine racks.  Today I sent an email to a local news organization objecting to footage of dancing inside an adult entertainment business.   I’m almost beginning to think that it might help me to streamline future protests by making up some sort of form letter conveying my general concerns about the pornification of society, how the particular media organization/store is contributing to that trend, and facts about the harms of pornography, which I can then customize with pertinent conditions of a particular exposure to indecency and then send it quickly.  

The above insight about King Noah’s vigilance versus King Limhi’s vigilance has crystallized for me the conviction that we have to see these different incidents as part of a general invasion that requires us to fight.
Thursday, May 23, 2013 0 comments

Never to be Blotted Out, Mosiah 5:11-12

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At the end of King Benjamin’s speech and after his people have taken on them the name of Christ, he says some things using an analogy of writing and blotting that are important to understand:


11 And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out, except it be through transgression; therefore, take heed that ye do not transgress, that the name be not blotted out of your hearts.

 12 I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you. (Mosiah 5:11-12)



This idea of writing and blotting out is an interesting figure of speech.  I had the idea in my head for the longest time that to blog something out was to cross it out with more ink so that it couldn’t be read, but with some research, I found out that wasn’t what it meant at all.



There is blotting paper that is used to absorb extra ink after someone has written so that ink dries faster, but that is, I think, a relatively new invention.



Somewhere—I wish I could remember or find the source again—I read that in ancient times there was no way to erase ink from a writing surface except to re-wet it and press some kind of cloth to it to try to lift the softened ink up and out.  Removing the ink by blotting took a while, but it was possible.



So, King Benjamin uses this image to teach that when we take the name of Christ upon us, it should be written on our hearts, but sin and transgression have the effect of blotting that name slowly out of our hearts, which is why we have to take heed that we do not transgress. 


Tuesday, May 21, 2013 0 comments

Where does wickedness start?, Alma 60:15


For were it not for the wickedness which first commenced at our head, we could have withstood our enemies that they could have gained no power over us. (Alma 60:15, emphasis added)
This verse comes in the middle of Captain Moroni’s chastening letter to Pahoran, and I realized recently that it has excellent spiritual application to each of us.  

In each of us, wickedness commences at our head, in our mind in the form of lies and half-truths that we give in to and then begin to act on.  Therefore, in order to prevent this wickedness, we must watch our thoughts carefully and watch the beliefs that we subscribe to because false beliefs can creep in as well as good ones.  Before our body gives in, our mind must give in first. 

What is the solution?  “…let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly” (D&C 121:45)

I was in the temple just last Saturday to do some initiatories and while I sat waiting for my turn, I wanted something to do.  Usually I read the scriptures, but this time I did something a little different.  I decided I would try to see how many scriptures I could remember and recite silently from memory.  I went through some scripture mastery scriptures and I went through some verses from Isaiah, and I found that with each scripture, the Spirit gave me that lovely warm feeling and filled me with joy.  It picked up my mood and when it was finally my turn to do initiatories, I was in a much more worshipful frame of mind.

Righteousness commences at our head too.

Have you ever tried this?  Try it and see for yourself!
Saturday, May 18, 2013 0 comments

When the Brother of Jared Notices Some Problems With the Barges, Ether 2:16-19

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Two Sundays ago our stake had stake conference, and Elder Roberts of the 70 shared a scripture insight about the brother of Jared that I hadn’t noticed before and which I thought it was definitely worth sharing.
16 And the Lord said: Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built. And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did go to work, and also his brethren, and built barges after the manner which they had built, according to the instructions of the Lord. And they were small, and they were light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water.
17 And they were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish; and the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish.
18 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me, and I have made the barges according as thou hast directed me.
19 And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish. (Ether 2:16-19)
After the brother of Jared built the barges as the Lord told him, he went to the Lord to report.  “I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me,” he says, and then he points out there are some problems with the barges.  No light, no way to steer, and no air! 

Elder Roberts asked us all, “When do you think the brother of Jared figured out those problems existed?”  Of course, we all thought to ourselves, As he was building them.  Elder Roberts then made the point that even though the brother of Jared noticed the problems as he was building, he didn’t stop building.  He kept going, finishing the work he had been commanded to do.

I was very much impressed by this because I am far too likely to quit when I notice problems with a plan, on account of thinking there is no point in continuing if there are major flaws.  Instead, the brother of Jared built the barges as he was told, and then took the problems to the Lord for help.  He didn’t give up.  

On a lighter note...
jaredite barge
Thursday, May 16, 2013 2 comments

Nothing save it was exceeding harshness, Enos 1:22-23


22 And there were exceedingly many prophets among us. And the people were a stiffnecked people, hard to understand.
 23 And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them. (Enos 1:22-23)
It seems that the spiritual condition of Enos’s people varied widely across the board.  They had the advantage of having “exceedingly many prophets,” perhaps coming close to fulfilling Moses’s wish that all the people would be prophets (Numbers 11:29), but they also had many stiffnecked people too, who were stubborn and set in their ways.  I guess in every age people get too comfortable doing what they are doing and have trouble making changes. 

The text says the people were “hard to understand,” which doesn’t make sense after the charge of stiffneckedness.  Part of me wonders if Enos meant “slow to understand,” since that better captures how stiffneckedness causes people to be slow to accept prophecy about the necessity of repentance.  But then, it also may be that the people also had very sophisticated rhetoric by then, full of doublespeak, flourishes, and smooth-talking that made it hard to understand what they really meant, since smooth-talking arises out of a wish to not offend with plain-speaking, which might remind the hearer of their imperfect state and need to repent. 

Enos points out that only harshness in preaching and prophesying and plainness could keep the people from destruction.  I’m intrigued by his calling this “harshness.”  I suppose that even back then people tried to blunt the calls to repentance so that it wouldn’t wound so much and wanted smooth things to tickle their ears.  Yet Enos could see that only the truth in its plainest form could do the trick.  What were these harsh truths that were so effective?
·      Prophesying of wars, contentions, and destructions
·      Reminding them of death
·      Reminding them of the duration of eternity
·      Reminding them of the judgments of God
·      Reminding them of the power of God

It is these same things that are still effective today.  We still need to be reminded of these things.  We may get the sense from Enos that it didn’t have to be this way and he was disappointed at having to always remind the people about these things.  Maybe he’s right and it is possible to get beyond needing it, but if so, it hasn’t happened often that we know of.

The fact is, we need to remember those things.  We need to be reminded that this life is not all there is, that our spirit continues to exist after death, that this life is a probationary period in which to prepare to meet God and receive reward or punishment according to our works, that the final judgment will set our state for the rest of eternity whether to be stopped in our progress or continue on toward godhood, and that we do not know when we will die.  We need to be reminded of the power God has to save us from sin and death.  These doctrines help us pull our vision out of the here and now, and I suppose if we kept our eyes on the eternities we wouldn’t need the reminders so much. 

How does the prophesying of wars, contentions, and destructions fit in with this?  Enos prophesied of these things to remind his people that they could not assume they could live a long life and the Lord could send them out of the world early if need be.  He had to say those things to remind them that it was important not to procrastinate repentance.  In Enos’s day it was wars and contentions and destructions that sent people to an early death.  Today it is accidents, natural disasters, sudden unexpected medical problems, acts of terrorism, and violent crime that bring early death, but the principle is the same; we don’t really know how much time we have or when we will die, and these things come to us—a matter of when, not if—so it is best to prepare and repent now.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 3 comments

Running after the Eunuch’s Chariot, Acts 8:26-39

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26 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.
29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?
31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:26-39)
Usually when people visualize this story, they imagine the Eunuch sitting in a stopped chariot, reading Isaiah.  I’ve realized that actually, it all happened in a moving chariot. 

The first tipoff is Philip runs to join himself to the chariot.  Running seems like overkill with a stopped chariot, with a moving chariot, it makes perfect sense.

The second point is the eunuch invites Philip to “come up and sit” in the chariot (v31).  If the chariot was stopped, this seems like an oddly chummy “come sit by me,” and Philip could just as well sat down on the ground and taught.  But if the chariot was moving, it makes perfect sense to let Philip hop on the chariot and sit down so that he doesn’t have to continue the conversation while running and tire himself out.

Third point is the text says, “And as they went on their way” (v36), which makes perfect sense that they were still moving.  If they were stopped, what would cause them to start in the middle of such a conversation so interesting to both of them and why wouldn’t something be said about why they started?

The fourth point in the text that says “a man of Ethiopia….had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning” (v27-28).  Obviously the eunuch was traveling, not stopped at the side of the road. 

Now, it might seem odd that the eunuch could sit and read in the chariot while it was moving, but it seems that is just what he did, regardless of bumps and such.  (Maybe he wasn’t the type to get carsick … or chariot-sick while reading)  To me it is interesting that he read aloud.  I read somewhere (I forget where) that back in those days all reading was done aloud.  Reading silently may have been thought a difficult task, much as many people today might think it difficult to read music silently and know what it sounds like.

What does it really matter if the chariot was moving or not, though?  What do we gain from this bit of intelligence?  If the chariot was moving, then it shows us what Philip was willing to do to follow the directions of the Holy Ghost to join himself to that chariot.  (I suppose the modern equivalent would be running after a limo leaving a parking lot.)  We get a better sense of Philip’s meekness and confidence in those spiritual impressions.  He didn’t worry about looking stupid or worry that he wouldn’t make it; he exerted himself and ran to catch up with the chariot.  Only as he caught up did he hear the eunuch reading Isaiah and discover that there was a missionary opportunity for him to take.

For me, Philip’s example is a challenge to get closer to the Spirit so that when the impression comes to leave my comfort zone, I will be ready to trust and obey that it will be for my good and/or for the sake of a missionary opportunity within reach if I will exert myself.
Sunday, May 12, 2013 0 comments

A Just Spirit Coming in His Glory, D&C 129:6-7

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If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear—
Ask him to shake hands with you, but he will not move, because it is contrary to the order of heaven for a just man to deceive; but he will still deliver his message. (D&C 129:6-7)
Section 129 contains instructions from Joseph Smith making known three grand keys by which the nature of ministering angels and spirits can be distinguished. 

One thing that puzzled me about verse 6 was where it says “he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear.”  I wasn’t sure what it meant.  Since then, I remembered that Joseph Smith has said elsewhere that spirit matter is finer than can be discerned by the natural eye (see D&C 131:7-8), so to our eyes light rays would go straight through without reflecting off these just spirits.  The only way they would be seen by us is if they were to emanate light themselves.

Friday, May 10, 2013 0 comments

How Converts Reinvigorate the Church, Jacob 5:17-18

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In Zenos’s allegory of the olive tree, the Lord of the vineyard notices the main tree is beginning to die, and he first takes contingency measures to preserve the strain by taking tender branches and grafting them elsewhere, but he also takes steps to try to save the main root that is decaying.  Here we see a lovely analysis of how converts reinvigorate the church.

17 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard looked
and beheld the tree in the which the wild olive branches had been grafted;
and it had sprung forth and begun to bear fruit.
And he beheld that it was good;
and the fruit thereof was like unto the natural fruit.
18 And he said unto the servant:
Behold, the branches of the wild tree have taken hold of the moisture of the root thereof, that the root thereof hath brought forth much strength;
and because of the much strength of the root thereof
the wild branches have brought forth tame fruit.
Now, if we had not grafted in these branches,
the tree thereof would have perished.
And now, behold, I shall lay up much fruit,
which the tree thereof hath brought forth;
and the fruit thereof I shall lay up against the season, unto mine own self.
(Jacob 5:17-18)

So here’s what the process looks like in real life.  New converts with their burning enthusiasm for the gospel express their eagerness to learn.  They see how strong the long-time members really are, and they see how much they really know, and they ask questions.  They frequently say how they wish they could have grown up in the church knowing what long-time members know.  This is like the branches of the wild tree taking hold of the moisture of the root.  (Though the wild branches represent Gentiles in old times converting to the gospel with the house of Israel, it can also represent the process with converts today.)

Anyway, when the converts take hold of the strength of the members, this awakes long-time members to see anew their blessings, remember how privileged their position is, and awakens an interest in helping and teaching the convert what the life of a Saint is.  This is like the root bringing forth its strength.  In doing so, the long-time members are reinvigorated, and all bring forth good fruit of good works.

What this shows us is that if we are feeling weak in the gospel, we need someone to teach who will really appreciate what we have to share, who will remind us by their enthusiasm and faith just what blessings we have.

In the early days of the church, when there was a growing apostasy in Kirtland, Ohio, Joseph Smith received revelation to send missionaries to England.  Those missionaries brought new converts back to the States, and the converts’ enthusiasm reinvigorated the church.  It may have seemed like an odd thing to do, but it was just what the church needed, and it was perfectly in line with the principles in the allegory of Zenos.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013 2 comments

Nephi as “king”?: 2 Nephi 5:18

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And it came to pass that they would that I should be their king. But I, Nephi, was desirous that they should have no king; nevertheless, I did for them according to that which was in my power. (2 Nephi 5:18)

This is kind of a strange verse in that we see that Nephi doesn’t want to be king, but concedes in some way, but not fully, as it says he did for them what was in his power.  So I asked myself, “Okay, what did ‘what was in my power’ look like?  How much did he give in?  Did he give in completely and he doesn’t want to say so, or partially, and if so, why doesn’t he say how much?”

I looked at the footnotes and there were quite a few that talked about it.  First, we get Jacob’s view in 2 Nephi 6:2:

Behold, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, having been called of God, and ordained after the manner of his holy order, and having been consecrated by my brother Nephi, unto whom ye look as a king or a protector, and on whom ye depend for safety, behold ye know that I have spoken unto you exceedingly many things.

So it seems as if Nephi was considered a king by his people, even if he repudiated the title.  It also seems as if the portion of the role he was comfortable with was “protector.”  He probably felt there was no need for a king except as a leader to organize the society for defense.

We get another interesting detail in Jacob:

Now Nephi began to be old, and he saw that he must soon die; wherefore, he anointed a man to be a king and a ruler over his people now, according to the reigns of the kings.
10 The people having loved Nephi exceedingly, he having been a great protector for them, having wielded the sword of Laban in their defence, and having labored in all his days for their welfare—(Jacob 1:9-10)

Nephi was uncomfortable with being king himself, but he was able to anoint someone else to be king.  And we see again that Nephi is called a “great protector” and the added detail that he labored all his days for their welfare.  It sounds like he was a good servant-leader, which would be why they’d want to remember his name.  (Interestingly enough, the tradition of calling their kings Nephi dies out by the time Mosiah(1) takes the group to leave the land of Nephi. ) It is also interesting that the man Nephi anointed as king is never identified in the text, almost as if it isn’t important.  We don’t know if he was a son of Nephi or a nephew or a Zoramite or someone completely outside the Lehite group.

In the final analysis, it is rather ironic that Nephi’s name was considered synonymous with “king” such that his name was used as an honorary title for future Nephite kings even though he didn’t want to be a king to his people.  He didn’t seem to mind noting that he had been a “ruler and teacher” over his elder brothers, but he didn’t care for it with reference to those willing to follow him.  It is possible that he had some closet ambition for ascendency over his older brothers, and that was as far as it went.