Saturday, March 29, 2014 2 comments

How Ammon (from the book of Mosiah) is a type of Christ

In Mosiah, the Ammon who finds the people of Limhi and leads them back to Zarahemla is a type of Christ.
  • He is a descendent of Zarahemla, a son or grandson of a king.  (Christ was the Only Begotten Son of the Heavenly King.)
  • He searches for people who have been lost to knowledge for generations (Jesus came to a people who had been lost to God for generations since Adam.)
  • He is not well received at first; King Limhi was about to put him to death, but hesitated. (This typifies Pilate’s hesitance to have Christ crucified.)
  • Ammon is thrown in prison for three days, a symbol of Christ’s three days in the tomb.
  • He is released from prison.  (Christ was resurrected.)
  • He declares who he is, with the declaration that  “if ye had known me ye would not have suffered that I should have worn these bands” (Likewise, Christ preached to the Jews that if they had known him and where he came from, they would have received him.)
  • He is joyfully received as a savior who will deliver Limhi’s people from bondage, since they have discovered they can’t deliver themselves.   (Christ is received joyfully among those who believe he can save them from their sins.)
  • He preaches the gospel to the people, explaining the words of King Benjamin.  (Christ preached the gospel of the Heavenly King.)
  • He leads the people of Limhi out of bondage and returns them to live under the authority of a good king.  (Christ leads those who believe in Him out of sin’s slavery and returns them to live with God.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014 2 comments

How Three Nephite Stories Came to Be Told

At the risk of being somewhat sensational...

 You might be curious to know how and when Three Nephite stories started circulating.  You’ll find the answer in this masters thesis paper by Marilynne Rich Smith called “A Mirror Brought byTruth: A Study and Comparison of the Folklore of the Wandering Jew and the Folklore of the Three Nephites.”  

You can read pages 182-242 of the paper specifically about Three Nephite stories.  In it we find that sermons by church leaders in 1850s, beginning with Parley P. Pratt, started the saints thinking about how they might encounter the Three Nephites.  Parley P. Pratt took passages of scripture from the Book of Mormon about how the Three Nephties could show themselves to whomever they wished and taught that they might be a means of giving miraculous help to the Saints in time of need.  Orson Pratt (an apostle at the time) called the members’ attention to the scripture verses about the Three Nephites and preached that the Three Nephites could come among the Saints once the Saints were prepared and worthy to receive them. (This meant an encounter with the Three Nephites would be considered something desirable and an informal sign of sanctity.) Orson Pratt, in underlining the importance of preaching the gospel, preached that the Three Nephites would prepare the wild tribes of Lamanites around them to receive the gospel.  John W. Taylor preached that the Three Nephites would be sent where the missionaries could not yet go, to prepare the minds of peoples to receive the gospel.   

In short, for over 50 years since 1855, members were reminded of the Three Nephites from time to time by talks (sometimes in conference) given by church leaders (and sometimes apostles).  These statements encouraged the members to look for visits by the Three Nephites, to look for ways that they were given miraculous help by them, and to look for ways that the Indians and other peoples were being prepared to hear the gospel by agents outside the church. The effect was that visits and help received that could not be explained by earthly means were attributed to the Three Nephites. 

One of the things I like about this thesis paper is that it shares some of the stories along with sources.  Incidents of folklore are pointed out, along with stories with actual sources, and analysis of patterns and what they mean for the Mormon people follows. Some of the stories seem a little..odd, but others are genuinely inspiring.

Overall, I like what these stories generally communicate about our beliefs about these mysterious men.  They convey that:
--We believe help comes from God, not just by comfort, intelligence, and help from mortals, but also from extra-mortal beings.
--We believe the promises of God can and do give mortals power over death, pain, and sorrow.
--We believe that God and his angelic messengers engage with the practical parts of our lives and guide others to our church.

 Today if you start telling Three Nephite stories, you are likely to get eye rolls, but the principle of looking for the hand of the Lord acting in our lives (in large and small ways) still stands.  President Eyring counseled us to write in our journals all we notice about the Lord's workings in our lives.

 Are the Three Nephites out there?  I believe they are; but the church puts little to no emphasis on that kind of thing because it can get too much in the way of doing the work of salvation.  Salvation is more lasting than sensation.  The Three Nephites will do their part; we still have to do ours. 

Monday, March 24, 2014 0 comments

Korihor’s Objection to the Priests’ Portion of the Sacrifice

In the Law of Moses, the Lord provided for the priests to have a portion of certain sacrifices:

The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation. (Lev. 6:26)

7 As the sin offering is, so is the trespass offering: there is one law for them: the priest that maketh atonement therewith shall have it.
 8 And the priest that offereth any man’s burnt offering, even the priest shall have to himself the skin of the burnt offering which he hath offered.
 9 And all the meat offering that is baken in the oven, and all that is dressed in the fryingpan, and in the pan, shall be the priest’s that offereth it.
 10 And every meat offering, mingled with oil, and dry, shall all the sons of Aaron have, one as much as another. (Lev. 7:7-10)

I think this portion for the priests was for the time they spent ministering for the Israelites in the temple.  They would still be able to live though they sacrificed time that would otherwise go to other profit-making business.  If you remember, they didn’t have land to raise crops on, only cities to live in.

It is likely that some unbelievers viewed this portion the priests took as unjustified and parasitic.  In the Book of Mormon we find the anti-Christ Korihor accusing the priests:

And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands.. (Alma 30:27)

He may have seen those portions and decided the priests had quite a racket going.

However, Alma, the high priest, set him straight:

32 Now Alma said unto him: Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people; for behold I have labored even from the commencement of the reign of the judges until now, with mine own hands for my support, notwithstanding my many travels round about the land to declare the word of God unto my people.
33 And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time. (Alma 30:32-33)

Alma can point to the fact that he has not received any money for laboring in the church as proof that he is not glutting himself.  Any wages he received were for working as a judge and only according to the time he worked. Of the sacrifices, he and his fellow priests can only eat so much and there is an additional commandment in the Law of Moses that the offerings can’t be stored or kept more than two days (see Lev 7:15-18). This means they are only a temporary source of food.  Thus sacrificial offerings could not be a source of personal gain or wealth to the priests.

Saturday, March 22, 2014 0 comments

When a Man Goes Crazy with a Tapemeasure in Ezekiel 40

In Ezekiel 40, Ezekiel is brought in vision to a place where there is a city framed, and a man with a line and measuring reed (or rod, which is the ancient equivalent of a tapemeasure) takes him all over the city and measures everything in it.  At the beginning the man says to Ezekiel:
Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel. (Ezekiel 40:4)
And then the measuring commences.  The man measures the height and breadth of the building, the threshold of the gate, the little chambers, the porches, the posts, etc.  If you want to read it all, you can go look at Ezekiel 40.  There is so much measuring and describing that readers eyes begin to glaze over and we naturally begin to wonder, “Why is he telling us all of this?”  Why not just show Ezekiel the city without measuring it?  What are we to learn from all of these measurements?

Measuring implies great precision.  It seems to me that this is supposed to teach us that the Lord can be incredibly precise in giving visions and prophecy.  This city and temple are to be built sometime and it was measured out in Ezekiel’s vision so that it can be recognized and checked when the time comes.  (How that checking will happen, I don’t know because I have a hard time getting a mental picture of everything and how it fits just by reading Ezekiel’s writing, but I trust that the time will come when it will be recognized.)  This is to teach us that the Lord does know the end from the beginning, and when prophecies come to pass, they are not loose analogs, but exactly fulfilled.

The man’s instructions to Ezekiel also show us how we are to respond to precise prophecy.  “Set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee.”  If we set our hearts on wanting to help fulfill purposes and prophecies from the Lord, we will be united with the Lord and can work with Him.

Further, this vision (and the vision in the chapters following) were given 14 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying captive of the inhabitants into Babylon.  The vision was undoubtedly given as a means of encouraging the Jews to lift up their hearts, to encourage them to repent and prepare spiritually for it, and to show them their captivity would not continue forever.  I think the Lord intended to cite the Jews’ minds forward so they could live in joyful anticipation.

Today let’s remember the prophecies we can anticipate fulfillment of in the future—the gospel going to countries who haven’t heard it yet, the construction of the New Jerusalem, the Second Coming of Christ.

Thursday, March 20, 2014 0 comments

Lessons from the Murmuring (and Over-Indulgence) in Numbers 11

Numbers 11 has two separate instances in it of murmuring and complaining.  I think it will be helpful to look at the whole chapter.  Here is the first incident in v1-3:

1 And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.
2 And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire was quenched.
3 And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the Lord burnt among them.

This incident is notable because the people are complaining, but there is no record of what they are complaining about.  We can only conclude it was general kvetching over camp life.  If it were a real problem undoubtedly they would have gone to Moses about it.  Yet, having read through Exodus, Leviticus, and the beginning of Numbers one sees that they were in fairly comfortable position: They had food.  They had water.  They had priesthood leadership through Moses.  They were free of the Egyptians. They had the tabernacle of the Lord.  They had the Lord traveling with them.  The camp was organized.  What’s to complain about?

Can we see ourselves in this story?  Do we see how even in comfortable circumstances we become so used to it that we begin to cast about for things that could be better and resent when things aren’t absolutely perfect even when they are pretty close to excellent?

Well, the Lord hears their complaining and does the kindest thing He could do—give them something real to be bothered about, in this case, a fire.  It shows them how good and peaceful things were before.  Crisis certainly does help us appreciate having a “boring” life.  I’m reminded of this when I get sick; I realize I didn’t appreciate my health as I should have.

I notice they go to Moses and Moses prays for them and then the fire is quenched. On one hand this makes Moses’ advocacy a type of Christ’s intercession for us.  On another hand, the people don’t seem to have discovered the ability to pray for their own problems.  It is nice to know that we have the right to go to the Lord about our problems and we can take them to our leaders when it becomes too much for us.

Then comes the second incident of complaining, which arises from lust for foods that are no longer available: 

4 ¶And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?
5 We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick:
6 But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.
7 And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.
8 And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.
9 And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.
10 ¶Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.

The first thing I notice is it says they “fell a lusting” instead of “began lusting.”  Using “fell” there evokes the fall of man and reminds us there were negative spiritual consequences for this intense yearning; it took them away from the Lord.

I can understand food fatigue, but I don’t understand how they could cry about it.  It is almost as if they believe they will never get a chance to eat anything else but manna the rest of their lives and they are grieving over it!

In their distorted thinking, they start to exaggerate the positives of Egyptian captivity, solely on the grounds of what they could eat, and they conversely diminish the positives of the manna, which must have actually been quite nutritious considering it was keeping them healthy as the only thing they ate.  (How many foods do we know of that pack the same healthy punch unassisted?) 

How often do we look back with nostalgia on little positive details in generally negative experiences that were the equivalent of Egyptian captivity for us?  When I find myself missing something about high school, I remind myself that it was generally a painful experience and while the positive parts were enough to help me survive, no way would I want to go back. 

I will give the Israelites credit for doing what they could to create variety for themselves; they tried preparing their manna all different kinds of ways, yet also we get a description of what it tasted like to show us that manna was pretty tasty and their complaints were not valid.  It is not like the Lord was raining on them something that tasted disgusting.  They were just dissatisfied.  And they were very vocal and public about it too—v10 tells us the people were weeping throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent.  It’s like it was a public protest.

It says Moses was displeased, but judging by his prayer, “displeased” may have been a major understatement.  Moses must have really been at the end of his rope.  I am very interested in his prayer, which is recorded for us.

11 And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?
12 Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?
13 Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat.
14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.
15 And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.

There are some commentaries online that come down hard on Moses for complaining here.  They think he didn’t have a proper respect for his office or some rot like that.  I see something much different though.

Moses called it an affliction from the Lord to lead the people and he was right because the people were complaining and finding fault with the very blessings that were enabling them to survive.  Leading people may be an honor, but if those people are uncooperative and complaining it is NOT FUN.  In fact, if the people being led are always uncooperative, then having leadership of them may be said to be a curse rather than a blessing.  And Moses was starting to feel that curse aspect of it.  (As an aside, this line strikes me as a Messianic type: “wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?”)

Moses asks rhetorically, “Have I conceived all this people?”  It sounds vaguely like Cain’s “Am I my brother’s keeper?” but Moses is better than Cain, so we must find something better in it.  I think Moses had a testimony that God was the Father of all, so he may have been bringing that testimony to bear as an argument that he couldn’t be everything to Israel because that was God’s job, not his anyway.

“have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child…?” – Moses could see that most of Israel were still babies spiritually.  They were still having troubles with that very first principle of faith in God.

If you remember, Israel’s complaint was “Who shall give us flesh to eat?” and Moses was profoundly aware of his own inadequacy as a provider.  By himself he didn’t have the resources to provide flesh for the whole camp of Israel to eat.  Moreover, he felt the injustice of their demands in the face of the constant miraculous providence of manna, so he probably didn’t feel like he could ask for Israel to be given flesh in full confidence of having his prayer answered.  Yet they were putting so much pressure on him. He was caught between a rock and a hard place and he couldn’t just walk away from his responsibilities.  Only death would release him from his prophetic calling.  This is why he says, “kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.”  He just wanted to be released.

Happily, the Lord sees through Moses’ frustrations and doesn’t grant his request for death.  He sees Moses needs to offload some of that pressure to other men who can bear the burden with him.  It truly makes a difference when there are multiple testimonies to the truth to quench the whiners and complainers.  Not only that, the Lord decides to give the Israelites what they want, though we will see this has mixed results.

16 ¶And the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.
17 And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.
18 And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.
19 Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days;
20 But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?

The Lord promises Moses seventy elders of Israel who will help him bear the burden of Israel.  They are to have a portion of the same spirit that helps Moses lead.  This gathering to the tabernacle must have been like a big priesthood leadership training meeting to help them catch the vision of what they were to do so they could all be unified in that great work.

The Lord also commands the Israelites to sanctify themselves for the next day with the promise that they will be given flesh to eat for a whole month until it comes out of their nostrils and becomes loathsome.   I don’t know about you, but that promise sounds more like a warning than good news.  And the command to sanctify themselves for it hints that if they do not repent quick the food that comes will be to their condemnation rather than blessing.  And we will see that this turns out to be the case.

As I was reading v20, at first I thought it was just predicting food satiation would happen again, but later I started to see that it was actually a spiritual problem being described.  The Lord understood that if the Israelites despised His first gift of manna He rained on them, they would similarly come to despise any other gift of food He rained down on them as well.  The problem wasn’t in the Lord’s gift but in fallen man.  The Lord gives bountifully and we sin by being eventually disgusted by it. 

This made me stop and think if there was something the Lord was giving me bountifully but which I was despising.  The Lord has given me a lot of time right now and I complain far too often about being bored and lonely when I should be using that gift as best I can.  Other times I have been blessed with good work and people to be around, but I have complained about not having enough time for the projects I wanted to do. 

21 And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month.
22 Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?
23 And the Lord said unto Moses, Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.

Some commentaries I have read blast Moses here for relying on the arm of flesh and doubting the Lord, but I don’t see it that way.  It is clear that Moses is calculating the amount of meat required to feed the camp of Israel for a whole month and is wondering just where that meat is going to come from.  Who wouldn’t do that in his spot?  But it is almost as if Moses goes into problem-solving mode, trying to think of ways he can do his part to help the Lord provide flesh for the people, which reminds me of the brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon who brings a possible solution to the Lord for a problem that has to be solved of how to get light for his barges.

Notice, Moses is no longer asking to die; he’s back in the saddle and engaged in the work, counseling with the Lord.  I’d say that’s a pretty quick recovery.  He’s a pretty spiritually resilient man with the Lord’s help.

Moses comes up with an obvious solution—just slaughter all the camp animals—but the Lord has something else in mind that won’t require that.  And if you notice, the Lord doesn’t tell Moses what He’ll do, so Moses has to go to work and gather the 70 elders and proclaim the promise of meat to Israel without knowing how it will come to pass.  I have to hand it to Moses; that took a lot of faith.   

24 ¶And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle.
25 And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
26 But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.
27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!

Next we have a little dust-up because all the 70 elders were supposed to go to the tabernacle to meet with Moses, yet two of them—Eldad and Medad--remained in the camp and prophesied there.  Joshua was all for forbidding Eldad and Medad from prophesying separately from the rest of the 70.  It is likely that he disapproved that they hadn’t come to the tabernacle with the rest when they had been commanded to come and worried it indicated rebellion and worried Eldad and Medad were causing dissention. 

Happily, Moses gives this great line in response—“Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”  It shows us that Moses wanted everyone to enjoy the spiritual gifts and felt Israel would be better off if it could be so. 

It helps to remember that the spirit of prophecy is defined by John in Revelation as the testimony of Jesus.  Moses also knew that if Eldad and Medad had the same spirit as Moses and the other 68, they were prophesying aright and saying the same things as Moses and the other 68 elders.  There would be automatic unity.  It is likely that he realized that if all the camp of Israel could have attained to that spirit of prophecy and testimony, the complaints about the manna would never have happened at all and his own job would be much easier.

Eldad and Medad probably hadn’t made it to the tabernacle because there was someone who needed their prophecy/testimony.  (It would be like a bishop not making it to a priesthood leadership meeting because someone in the ward had a sudden faith crisis and needed counsel.)

That the spirit came upon Eldad and Medad the same as the other 68 elders shows us that the Lord knew who was on Moses’ list and blessed them all, regardless of where they were.  This teaches us that geographical proximity is not required for the Holy Ghost to be meted out.  (I’m assuming they were all previously ordained..)

30 And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
31 ¶And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.
32 And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp.
33 And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.
34 And he called the name of that place Kibroth-hattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.
35 And the people journeyed from Kibroth-hattaavah unto Hazeroth; and abode at Hazeroth.

I like that Moses called it “a wind from the Lord.”  It may have been very destructive, blowing down tents and such, but they knew it was from the Lord when they saw it brought all that quail and fulfilled the Lord’s promise they would have meat.  This reminds me that sometimes I can only tell at the end of an experience that it was from the Lord when I can finally see how it fulfilled promises. 

All that meat and the people go absolutely crazy and gather all they can.  You’d think they were starving or they were never going to see meat ever again the way they stayed up 36 hours straight gathering quail.  Except they weren’t starving; they were just greedy.  Intemperate.  Self-indulgent.  Excessive.  Grasping.  Gluttonous. 

We don’t do anything like that, do we?  (Cough.. Black Friday shopping.. cough) 

It says that the person who gathered the least amount gathered ten homers, which is supposedly ten donkey loads.  That’s a lot.  And they spread all those quail out around camp, probably to dry and preserve it. 

What are we to make of v33 where it says there was a very great plague from the Lord, which hit the people while the meat was still in their mouths?  I have to wonder if all the dead meat lying around bred some kind of deadly bacteria or something.  Maybe their efforts to preserve the meat were badly done? 

So they called the place Kibroth-hattaavah, which the footnote says means, “The graves of lust.”  It seems a lot of people died of that plague.  Was getting all that meat worth it if it meant dying from eating it?  No.  Would they have survived if they had been more temperate?  Probably. 

In addition to the danger of complaining, there’s a nice little principle that this teaches us—over-indulging our appetites kills.  I think that’s precisely what the name of the place was supposed to teach—Lust leads to the grave.  Thus, a reminder to keep desires, appetites, and passions within the bounds the Lord has set is only meant to keep us safe, not rain on our parade.

I think this is a very helpful lesson for us in first world countries where there is an over-abundance of food, material goods, and entertainment options.   It’s easier and easier to overindulge and get addicted to all kinds of things, so we all have to learn for ourselves what are those bounds the Lord has set and learn to ration appropriately.  Sure, we’ll look strangely abstemious to people, but if that means we stay alive spiritually, it’s all worth it.

I’m pretty good (though not perfect) at eating moderately, though it requires care.  I try to eat moderate amounts, stopping only when I feel satisfied, which comes before I feel full.  (That is hard at the occasional buffet when there are so many interesting foods to try.)  I also eat desserts rarely, and when I do, I have them in very limited amounts.   I’m sharing this with some trepidation, since it seems like whenever I share successes I tend to lapse into bad behavior afterward..  So I’ll need to take extra care now.. 

I’m not so good at moderation in other things.  I am a bookworm, so I have to ration my reading so that other things get done.  I’ll set a timer so I know when it is time to put my book down.  I have some troubles with reading the internet too much.  Sometimes I’m good, other times I’m not so good.  If I read books or internet too long, I feel really guilty and lazy.  Too much internet in particular makes me feel like I’m wasting my life.  When I find a TV show I like, I may go on a TV-watching marathon, but afterward I feel like it has taken over my mind and that makes me annoyed.  Thankfully that doesn’t happen often. 

How about you?  Where have you managed to institute moderation and how?  Where do you struggle?  What kind of problems have you seen from your over-indulgence?

Monday, March 17, 2014 0 comments

Complaints Lehi is a Visionary Man

Lehi is accused by his family (particularly Laman and Lemuel) so many times of being “a visionary man” who is “led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart” that it seems to me we must spend some time thinking about it and what it means.

It is possible Lehi had a tendency to get big ideas that were too much for him to implement or that fizzled when he tried them or that distracted him.  If this had been a common occurrence, it would be really easy for his family to roll their eyes at his insistence they leave Jerusalem.  We have no idea if this was really the case because the Book of Mormon only shows he was right and shows nothing indicating he was ever wrong.  All we have is the frequent repetition of “visionary man” or “led by the foolish imaginations of his heart,” which hint at incidents of failure.

Looked at from this perspective (which is a speculative one, I might add) we start to understand the extraordinary faith it took for Lehi to lead his family out into the wilderness and for his family to follow.  Lehi had a vision, yes, but would his family believe him?   From this perspective, Laman and Lemuel’s concerns appear much more rational, and Nephi’s faith seems even more amazing.  We begin to see why Nephi had to pray for his own witness that his father was doing the right thing.  If Lehi hadn’t had a past history of fizzled big ideas why would he need to?  We see how much reason Sariah had to rejoice when her son actually did return with the brass plates, obtained under such miraculous conditions.  It was a sign that God really was behind it!

It is one thing to follow someone who is always right and whose grand ideas always work out, but it is quite another to follow someone who has had lots of grand ideas in the past that didn’t work out.  How does one know if this person is really inspired? 

This question is also one I ask of myself, since I have had a lot of big ideas that never quite came to fruition (although I’ve had a pretty fair number that have worked too).  Failure has happened enough that I often find myself feeling rather Laman-and-Lemuel-ish toward myself, wondering, “Okay, is this another one of THOSE ideas?”  This is one reason why I am grateful for my patriarchal blessing and for the scriptures and the prophets’ words.  I try to measure my aspirations and dreams and “brilliant ideas” by them.

Sometimes we talk about Laman and Lemuel as if their arguments had no basis in reality.  But when we consider that they had very good reason for their concerns in this aspect, they become real opponents, not strawmen, which then makes Nephi’s acts and words of faith and the miracles of the family’s preservation all the more powerful. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014 0 comments

Judging by the Commandments

11 Therefore I will be your king the remainder of my days; nevertheless, let us appoint judges, to judge this people according to our law; and we will newly arrange the affairs of this people, for we will appoint wise men to be judges, that will judge this people according to the commandments of God.
12 Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just. (Mosiah 29:11-12)

I used to get confused by v12, thinking that Mosiah was saying that the people would have to wait until the afterlife to receive just judgment from God, since only men were rendering judgment on earth and men couldn’t be trusted to judge justly.  But recently I realized that Mosiah was saying wise men could judge according to the commandments of God and that would be as if they were being judged by God.  If a judge uses God’s commandments as the way to judge, he should be able to render a judgment God would render. 

How much I wish the laws of God were the laws of our land!  They seem to be getting further apart.  Yet we can look forward to a time when Christ will come, the earth will be cleansed, and the laws of God will be reinstituted for society.
Thursday, March 13, 2014 0 comments

Paul finds some odd disciples

And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (Act 19:1-6)

This is such a peculiar story.  First, Paul finds “certain disciples.”  Considering what we read about how little they knew, I have to wonder how he determined they were disciples.  They only knew the baptism of John (or thought they had it), yet they didn’t even have the essentials of John’s message about the coming Messiah who would baptize them with fire and the Holy Ghost.  It is when Paul starts probing into their foundational religious experience with ordinances that he discovers their ignorance.  A real disciple of John would have known about that promise of the Holy Ghost.

What are we to make of this?  I personally think this indicates there were people running around claiming authority to administer baptism, claiming to be disciples of John, yet who had discarded the essentials of John’s message about the coming of the Messiah and the gift of the Holy Ghost.  One of these false teachers seems to have gotten to these people and made converts of them. 

Paul had to fill them in on what they didn’t know about John’s baptism and testimony of Christ.  Happily, they were sincere and honest of heart, so they listened and submitted to be re-baptized (since their previous baptism was invalid) and received confirmation.  They could easily have refused with suspicion, wondering if Paul was yet another false teacher.

From this story we can detect how Satan works in the background to try to keep people from the truth.  He presents counterfeits of the truth or partial truths, knowing that when people encounter the truth they will wonder how to know it isn’t just another counterfeit.  He knows people worry about being “taken in again” once they discover they were deceived.

Thankfully, this story also shows how one can know one is gaining the truth.  Paul explained to these disciples the missing information about John’s baptism and the purpose behind it.  Truth reveals missing info and missing purpose.   Also, when they received the ordinances, they received the Holy Ghost which manifested itself in the gift of tongues and prophecy.  This was the Lord’s sign to these disciples that they had found and obeyed the truth and it was from God.  They could know for themselves and not just what some person had told them.  True ordinances bring true spiritual manifestations from God.

I love this story because it shows that this is not the work of man, but the work of the Lord and He is the one that fulfills the promises.  The Lord is still at work today in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and fulfills His promises in the holy ordinances.  Our church can add many missing pieces to what other Christians are missing, helping them to understand where they come from, why they are here in this life, what this life is for, and where they will go in the afterlife.  If you want to know, ask your Mormon friends, or chat with the missionaries or come to one of ourchurches and ask us.