Wednesday, March 30, 2016 0 comments

The word of God as a sword, quick and powerful

Behold, I am God; give heed to my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow; therefore give heed unto my word. (D&C 11:2)

This verse and similar language is used to introduce a number of revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants—sections 6, 11, 12, 14, 33.

Why does the Lord say His word is quick? 

I suspect that He doesn’t mean quick in the sense of speed, but in the old sense of “alive,” just like we are promised elsewhere that we will be quickened, which means we will be made alive.

Is the Lord’s word alive?

I think so. When I read it, it moves me and stirs me. It wakes me up and blows fresh air through my soul. There is health and vigor in it.

Why does the Lord say His word is also like a sword that divides asunder joins and marrow?

You only have to read a few of the revelations to see there is so much plain-speaking and honesty with no softening of the truth that it cuts through all layers of rationalization and self-deception. 

But why say it can divide asunder joints and marrow? Why use that imagery instead of saying something like splitting hairs down the middle or piercing to the heart? 

To talk about cutting bone instead of cutting to the heart underlines the sharpness and strength of the word. (And maybe it says something about the stubbornness of the listeners and readers.)  Also, cutting joints makes me think of cutting limbs off, taking a cross-section in one way, while cutting through marrow makes me think of cutting down through the bone long-ways to reveal another kind of cross-section. That idea of being able to cut cross-sections in two different ways through very hard material encapsulates a great lesson about the power and precision and versatility of the Lord’s words.

Also, I notice there’s a contrast that is set up too. The word is something that can quicken and enliven, or it can harm what gets in the way.  The word of God does tend to do that, depending on the listener. One who listens and obeys is made more spiritually alive, while one who rejects it is gradually cut off from the Lord’s presence.
Monday, March 28, 2016 0 comments

Some points about the loss of the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon translation

These verses come at the beginning of instructions on what Joseph Smith was to do about finishing the translation of the Book of Mormon after repentance for the loss of the 116 pages:

1 Now, behold, I say unto you, that because you delivered up those writings which you had power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim, into the hands of a wicked man, you have lost them.
2 And you also lost your gift at the same time, and your mind became darkened. (D&C 10:1-2)

Joseph Smith could have blamed Martin Harris or his wife or whoever it was who took the translated page, but the thing we learn here is that Joseph’s share of it was that he had delivered up the 116 pages to Martin in the first place. That was the part he was responsible for, and it was the gateway act. If he hadn’t given them the pages, then he wouldn’t have had any fault and there wouldn’t have been any opportunity for anyone else to lose them.

I think this teaches us that we need to think carefully about what we are really in control of. We don’t have control of what others do, but we have control of ourselves. Joseph had control of what he did with the translation and whether he kept the Lord’s commandments concerning it, but once he gave it away, he no longer had control. But by delivering it up to Martin Harris, he was complicit in the loss.

Another thing I notice is that it says that at the same time he delivered up the pages to Martin Harris, he lost his gift and his mind was darkened. This teaches the principle that the spiritual consequences for his part in the loss of the pages was immediate. There was no delay until hearing Martin lost them.

This is also true for us today. The spiritual consequences of our acts of rebellion and sin are immediate, even if it takes time for negative outcomes to manifest. Often we only notice we have sinned when we experience a negative outcome, but the spiritual consequences are immediate. We may not be sensitive to those consequences, but they are there.  We lose spiritual gifts because the Holy Ghost can’t be with us constantly, and our minds are darkened.

The more sensitive we can become to the spiritual consequences, the more we will learn to repent quickly, whether we have a negative outcome or not.
Saturday, March 26, 2016 0 comments

The Lord promises to establish David’s house and kingdom forever

In 2 Samuel 7, David finally gets to the point where he is at rest in his own house as king over Israel and all his enemies have been subdued. And he decideds he wants to build a permanent temple for the Lord. He doesn’t think it is right that David should have a nice house while the Lord lives in a tent, a temporary structure, nice as it is. So he tells Nathan the prophet this, and at first Nathan is all for the idea. But during the night, the Lord makes His will known and it is strangely opposite.

4 ¶And it came to pass that night, that the word of the Lord came unto Nathan, saying,
5 Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the Lord, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?
6 Whereas I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle.
7 In all the places wherein I have walked with all the children of Israel spake I a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people Israel, saying, Why build ye not me an house of cedar?
8 Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel:
9 And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth.
10 Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime,
11 And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house.
12 ¶And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:
15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.
16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
17 According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David. (2 Samuel 7:4-17)

Up to this point, David has tried to pay his debts to those who supported him during his wanderings. He sent presents of spoil and gifts to those people to show his gratitude. It is possible David felt he had to try to repay his debt to the Lord in a similar way. But of course, no one can really do that because  for any good we do, He immediately blesses us, and then He has paid us and we are still indebted to Him.

So I get the sense from the Lord’s message that He would not be in debt to David, and to prove it, the Lord promised to bless David’s descendants after him forever, which is certainly something David can’t repay.

I think this chapter teaches us about the mercy and incredibly generosity of the Lord, that all we can do is serve Him and acknowledge His mercy forever.
Thursday, March 24, 2016 0 comments

God challenges Job and testifies of Christ

At the end of Job’s difficult trials, God appears and questions Job if he knows what God knows and can do what God does. In the middle of this, there is a fascinating blog of verses that are recognizeable references to Christ, as God challenges Job if he can step in for Christ.

10 Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty.
11 Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him.
12 Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place.
13 Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret.
14 Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee. (Job 40:10-14)

I think this is a reference to the second coming of Christ and His ability to humble the proud and punish the wicked. Also, the challenge to put on glory and beauty may be a reference to Christ’s transfiguration on the mount as well as His resurrected glory.

If Job could humble the proud – and he hasn’t been able to get even his friends to acknowledge their error as they afflict him—then he might be able to save himself.. But he can’t.

I think this is a great reminder that we can’t save ourselves, no matter what our good works. Only Christ can save us. He saved Himself by his innocent life and rising again from the dead, and He can save us too.

It is also yet another indication that Job knew of Christ’s mission and His eventual second coming to destroy the wicked.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016 0 comments

Paul about the change of being born again

I really like the JST for Romans 7:15-27.

15  But now I am spiritual; for that which I am commanded to do, I do; and that which I am commanded not to allow, I allow not.
16  For what I know is not right, I would not do; for that which is sin, I hate.
17  If then I do not that which I would not allow, I consent unto the law, that it is good; and I am not condemned.
18  Now then, it is no more I that do sin; but I seek to subdue that sin which dwelleth in me.

This is really comforting, especially when we find ourselves getting discouraged in our fight against sin. We may say to ourselves, Because I am having such a hard time with this, I must not be a good person. I must not be really converted. 

The truth is, the fact that we want to escape the sin or the bad habit shows that we are converted and changed because we are working so hard to stop. We are trying to subdue the sin in the flesh.

19  For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but to perform that which is good I find not, only in Christ.

You have to give Paul credit for complete honesty when he says that in his flesh dwelleth no good thing. 

About the only good thing we can do is will or desire what is good. Our body is so fallen that it requires grace from Christ to subject it to perform the good works we want to do.  (And when the D&C 84 promises sanctification and renewing of the body, that is also a great encouragement.)

20  For the good that I would have done when under the law, I find not to be good; therefore, I do it not.
21  But the evil which I would not do under the law, I find to be good; that, I do.

So when we are born again, our very perception of what is good or pleasurable changes. The things we thought were attractive before, we discover they are evil or vain or foolish. The things we didn’t care about or were not interested in before, we discover are beautiful and good.

I remember talking to a new convert a few years ago and he told me he had noticed after his baptism that movies he’d previously thought were okay to watch were starting to bother him. I was able to tell him that this was part of the conversion process and the Holy Ghost was changing him. I told him he’d have to be choosier with his media and the important thing was to do what he could to keep the Holy Ghost with him.

22  Now if I do that, through the assistance of Christ, I would not do under the law, I am not under the law; and it is no more that I seek to do wrong, but to subdue sin that dwelleth in me.

The law just tells you the difference between good and bad; it doesn’t actually give you the power to do good. So if you are able to do good with the grace of Christ when you couldn’t do it before with just knowing the law, you don’t have to worry about being condemned by the law.  And if you are able to do good, then you wouldn’t seek evil and spoil it all.  So any sin you fight isn’t really you; the fight is part of subduing the flesh.  But if we choose sin deliberately, then that is rebellion.

23  I find then that under the law, that when I would do good evil was present with me; for I delight in the law of God after the inward man.

Paul noticed that when he wanted to do good, he still had something in him that tried to hold him back, something he had to fight.  The converted person delights in the law of God, even if they still have to work to subdue sin in the flesh. 

24  And now I see another law, even the commandment of Christ, and it is imprinted in my mind.
25  But my members are warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
26  And if I subdue not the sin which is in me, but with the flesh serve the law of sin; O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

If we’ve been converted but we don’t subdue the sin in our bodies, that makes us truly miserable because it seems like we’re stuck doing things we hate and know are wrong. It’s slavery to the body. We need Christ’s help to subdue that sin.

27  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord, then, that so with the mind I myself serve the law of God.

Even if it might be hard to serve God in our bodies, at least our converted mind wants to easily.  This is where following Christ becomes a real discipline.
Sunday, March 20, 2016 0 comments

The progression of the Lord’s justice

And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge the poor,
and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth.
And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth;
and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
(2 Nephi 30:9)

Here Nephi quotes Isaiah 11:4. 

When I read this recently it occurred to me to notice the verbs used – judge, reprove, smite, slay.

Also, look at the order of the verbs. Do you see there is a progression in severity there?  It starts with simply judging, then reproving, then smiting, then slaying.   It gives us the sense that the Lord uses gentle means first, but if people ignore Him, He will use more extreme measures to try to get their attention.

Another thing I notice is that He does this all with His words.  Even the smiting and slaying is done with His words. That’s pretty powerful. 
Friday, March 18, 2016 2 comments

3 Scriptures with neat things to say about the atonement

As I was studying for a Sunday School lesson on the atonement, I found three scriptures that talked about it with interesting imagery. As I thought about each of them, I really liked the implications of those images, so I wanted to share them with you.

1)   Isaiah 53:12 “…he hath poured out his soul unto death”

I get an image of pouring water out of a pitcher until it is all gone. But instead of water, this is Christ’s soul that is poured out of His body. And He’s the one doing the pouring, not those who crucified Him. So this teaches in an interesting way that He was the one who had control over whether He’d die or not.  

It also might say He gave His all. He poured all of Himself into His ministry until His death.

2)   Isaiah 25:8  “He will swallow up death in victory”

This uses the idea of swallowing something unpleasant. I think this tells us about how Christ tasted and ate death, then rose again afterwards. I think it also teaches about how He tasted all the bitterness of our sins and weakness and afflictions and infirmities when He suffered for us, and He overcame it all so we can too.

3)   Hosea 13:14  “…O death, I will be thy plagues…”

This uses the image of a plague that sweeps through a town and uses it to describe how Christ’s victory over death would spread.  I think our knowledge of disease makes this even more meaningful today. You catch the life disease from contact with someone who is alive, and it starts to grow and multiply in you as the natural man’s antibodies fight it desperately, but if you give in to it, you can carry it to others and get a full-blown case of eternal life!   And when our bodies lie in the grave, maybe resurrection will be like disease reversed.  I really like the idea of death dying of the Christ plague.

Something else I think this teaches is the inevitable nature of catching physical life from Christ.  Sooner or later we’ll all get it, but we get to choose whether we’ll be in the first wave or not.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 0 comments

The stumbling stone and rock of offense

I ran across this verse recently and was intrigued by it:

As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (Romans 9:33)

Here Paul quotes somebody about how Christ would become a stumbling block to the Jews. I was curious about who he might be quoting, so I went looking for a possible source.

Compare this to Isaiah 8:14:

And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

We’ve got the idea that the Lord would be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to Israel, but the idea that God would lay it doesn’t seem present. Plus the part about how those who believed would not be ashamed isn’t there quite the same way or in the same order.
(By the way, a gin is old name for a trap.)

How about this one:

Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (Isaiah 28:16)

This has the idea that the Lord would lay a foundation stone in Zion, but the idea that people would stumble isn’t present. 

The idea that the believer would not make haste at first didn’t make much sense to me, until I realized it was still playing with the idea of Christ as a stumbling stone. If you know there is going to be a rock you might stumble over, you don’t go running around.  You take your time and watch your steps carefully. In the same way, if the Jews knew the Messiah was coming and people would stumble and get offended because of Him, this would be a warning to be careful and not rush to judgment.

Let’s look at Jeremiah 6:21:

Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will lay stumblingblocks before this people, and the fathers and the sons together shall fall upon them; the neighbour and his friend shall perish.

This has the idea that the Lord would lay stumbling blocks, but there isn’t just one. And it elaborates on who is going to be affected by it—Fathers and sons and neighbors and friends.  In that kind of scenario the stumbling block doesn’t affect just a particular generation, both fathers and sons are affected.  And it isn’t a situation where one can get away with enduring on borrowed light because one’s neighbors and friends will oppose it.  It’s going to take real strength and testimony to endure.

Okay, getting back to the comparison, it seems to me that if we’re looking for a source that is an exact quote, the source is lost.  Or, we could say that maybe Paul was synthesizing several verses together, two from Isaiah and one from Jeremiah.

But let’s look at the meaning for a bit. 

Who says they will lay a stumbling block in Zion?  This is the Lord speaking on behalf of the Father about Christ’s mortal life and mission as Messiah.  God doesn’t lay stumbling stones deliberately to make Zion’s people make mistakes and sin.  But He does lay doctrinal foundations that are difficult for worldly members to accept, and He does send prophets, and He did send the Messiah whom worldly members would have a difficult time accepting.  And it isn’t that He wants to make it difficult for the worldly to accept the Messiah or the doctrines. Rather, the worldliness has to yield to the truth and testimony, and that is a struggle that many don’t want to make.

This is the problem the Jews had with Christ.  His teachings conflicted with their worldly notions.

So how does this help us today?  Even today there are church doctrines and practices and even some policies that are hard for some members to accept.  Do we stumble over them and object, or do we humble ourselves to recognize the truth that skewers sin and lies?  When people in the church stumble over these things there is a problem in the hearts of the people.

Friday, March 11, 2016 0 comments

Mormon’s hopes for Moroni in the wicked Nephite society

After Mormon tells Moroni the awful details of the wickedness among the Nephites and Lamanites, he ends his letter by blessing Moroni in an interesting way:

And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever. Amen. (Moroni 9:26)

This can be difficult to parse because of a gigantic dependent clause stuck between the subject and the verb in the sentence. What it essentially says is, “may the grace of God the Father… and our Lord Jesus Christ …be, and abide with you forever.”  Be strong in God and Christ.

So what is that middle stuff trying to say?  “God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him..” 

Again, Mormon has just finished telling Moroni a number of awful ways the Nephites are disobeying his [Mormon’s] authority as preacher, as general, as apostle, as testifier of Christ. The Nephites are without order and don’t listen to authority, so it is comforting to Mormon that God and Christ rule in the heavens, and even if Mormon can’t enforce his commands, God can enforce His. And even if all Mormon’s society and his enemies are determined to defy God, it can’t and won’t last because eventually Christ will subject all things to Him.

It’s a comfort for today as well.  Even if the world seems determined to tread Christ and the commandments under their feet, it can’t last because God and Christ do rule in the heavens, and someday every knee shall bow and every tongue confess their authority. The best we can do is subject ourselves to them as soon as possible.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016 0 comments

A new lesson from Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac

This week I taught the 12-13 year-olds the Sunday school lesson about the atonement from the “Come Follow Me” manual, specifically the lesson “What can the scriptures teach me about the atonement of Jesus Christ?”

The manual suggested using the story of Abraham offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice in similitude of Christ’s sacrifice.  Now, you and I have probably been very familiar with the idea that in this story Abraham plays the part of Heavenly Father, and Isaac plays the part of Christ, symbolizing how Heavenly Father gave his Only Begotten Son as a sacrifice.

My question as I read this story was, “How does this story as a type help me have faith in Christ’s atonement?” 

In pondering it, it seems to me that Abraham’s willingness to offer his son and not withhold him teaches us about Heavenly Father’s willingness to sacrifice His Only Begotten Son for us.  Even with all the pain involved, He was willing.  And Isaac’s willingness to go along when Abraham asked him to be the sacrifice teaches us about Christ’s obedience and willingness to be sacrificed.

And knowing the sacrifice was not given grudgingly helps us know the love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ both have for us, and that gives us extra reason to trust the atonement and desire to make use of it. 
Monday, March 7, 2016 0 comments

Wo to those at ease in Zion

In 2 Nephi 28, Nephi pronounces some woes upon the kingdom of the devil and those who are flattered and pacified and so on.  Then there is this quick little verse with not much explanation:

Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion!  (2 Nephi 28:24)

Then next verse is sort of similar:

Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well! (2 Nephi 28:25)

I’ve posted a long time ago about why our singing of “Come, Come Ye Saints” with the chorus “Allis well” does not fit this warning, so I’ll pass over that part, but I want to look at this warning to those who are at ease in Zion.

Why is being at ease in Zion so dangerous?  Is it the lack of repentance? Is it that there is danger in not being anxiously engaged? 

I notice there is a footnote for “ease” that goes to Amos 6:1, which repeats the woe to those at ease in Zion.  Nephi may have been quoting Amos, since the prophet Amos lived before Isaiah and Jeremiah, living in Judah, but prophesying to the northern tribes of Israel. If the prophetic books of the Old Testament were put in order that the prophets lived, Amos would come before Isaiah.)

But the next seven verses after Amos 6:1 elaborate on the warning with imagery that gives some clues to help us understand the danger, even if the imagery is slightly obscure.

1 Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!
2 Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines: be they better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border?
3 Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near;
4 That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall;
5 That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David;
6 That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.
7 ¶Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed.
8 The Lord God hath sworn by himself, saith the Lord the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein. (Amos 6:1-8)

So what do we have here?  There are a few obvious things:
1)    They put far away the evil day (v3) – These people put off tricky tasks and thereby things get worse while they procrastinate.
2)    They cause the seat of violence to come near (v3)– A seat of violence is like a criminal gang’s headquarters. If criminals feel safe someplace, it is because the justice system there is weak and ineffectual.  So inaction over matters of justice causes evil and violence to proliferate to the point that it may become extremely difficult to eradicate.
3)    They are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph (v6) – This makes me think there was some sort of society affliction, but these people were so wrapped up in their pleasures that the problems weren’t bothering them, at least not enough to try to do something about it.

Now, what about the list of things they were enjoying? These seem like pretty comfortable and prosperous people. They have beds of ivory and couches (v4). They have plenty of cattle and sheep that they can afford to eat lamb and veal (v4). They have music and they have leisure time to invent new musical instruments (v5). They have plenty of wine and they have lovely ointments to use (v6). (Beauty aids? Perfume?)

The problem is they are so dang comfortable that they won’t take the trouble to deal with real problems, so those problems are going to get bigger until it disrupts their comfortable lives. But by the time that happens, they will have lost the moral force and courage to deal with their problems, and they will be the first to fly all to pieces.

The Lord tells Amos specifically that the Lord hates the excellency (and ease and refinement) of Jacob if it means they don’t do their duty and face their problems. Comfort without moral power is hollow and transitory.

This is a great message for our day, since we live in such comfort. If we are to escape the decay and moral rot, we must look at our troubles and duties as blessings that keep us strong.  They provide a load that helps us gain spiritual traction, like Elder Bednar taught. If we have been anxiously engaged, the period storms that roll in will  not overcome us.
Saturday, March 5, 2016 0 comments

Mormon on the interplay between faith and hope

40 And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?
41 And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.
42 Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.
 (Moroni 7:40-42)

These verses caught my attention recently.  Looking close, it seems that if we are trying to tell which comes first—faith or hope—it becomes a chicken-or-the-egg problem.  We have to have hope before we have faith, and we need to have faith or we cannot hope.

It is nice that Mormon (as quoted by Moroni) spells out exactly what church members hope for—it is hope of eternal life through the atonement of Christ and the resurrection.  That is one grand hope to center our attention on.  It is the hope that softens grief at the death of loved ones. It is the hope that consoles when new medical problems crop up. It is the hope that can drive us to reach for the Savior in our extremities and sins.  Hopes of worldly successes may be frustrated, but our hope in eternal life through Christ will not, provided it is accompanied by our sincere faith.

So which comes first, faith or hope? 

It seems to me that when I hear the promise of eternal life and its conditions, hope arises that it is attainable.  Then my faith in Christ is exerted to comply with the conditions, and my hope of attainment is strengthened.  And every time we are reminded of the atonement (as we must be over and over), we have opportunities to act in faith and again strengthen that hope.

On the other hand, we have elsewhere the statement that without hope, we’d be in despair, and despair comes because of iniquity.  I would probably add that despair comes of iniquity we are not willing to repent of.

So to get out of that, we have to humble ourselves and repent. Then we gain hope.  We have to be meek to learn what the Lord has to teach us so we can become more like Him.

The way Mormon goes into depth about hope teaches me about why Christ is sometimes called “Hope of Israel.” He’s the reason we can have hope.

Faith and hope are pretty abstract concepts and it is easy to have our eyes just glaze over on the topics.   And too, I don’t think faith and hope are something we really think about as we go through the faith-repentance-obedience process.  Rather, these are things that happen by themselves as we respond spiritually to invitations to act and promises of blessings.  I think Mormon wants to make us aware of these things so that if spiritual problems come up, we can do a little self-evaluation and see if we have these things we’re supposed to have.  It’s sort of like how the mechanic opens the hood of the car and does through engine checks when something has gone wrong. Usually we don’t look at the engine every time we drive somewhere, and the faith-hope interplay is like that. We just have to keep the Savior in our thoughts and trust Him.
Thursday, March 3, 2016 4 comments

Conflicting reports on the death of Gilead in Ether 14

In Ether 14, in the middle of the chaos and war for the Jaredite kingdom, Coriantumr’s rival at that time, named Gilead, makes himself king, but is murdered, but there are conflicting reports on how this happened.

8 Now the brother of Shared, whose name was Gilead, also received great strength to his army, because of secret combinations.
9 And it came to pass that his high priest murdered him as he sat upon his throne.
10 And it came to pass that one of the secret combinations murdered him in a secret pass, and obtained unto himself the kingdom; and his name was Lib; and Lib was a man of great stature, more than any other man among all the people. (Ether 14:8-10)

For a long time I was inclined to think this was saying the high priest murdered Gilead and then Lib murdered the high priest. But now I’m more inclined to think this is actually giving us two conflicting accounts of who killed Gilead.

But why two conflicting accounts?  Maybe no one knew who did it.

Was it done by the king’s high priest, or was it done by a secret combination? Or was the high priest part of the secret combination?

Further, not only is there disagreement about who did it, but where it was done. Was it done at the throne or was it done in a secret pass?  Where was the king found dead? No one says anything about that.

It seems to me that the supposed murderer in each report is oriented a certain way in the conflict.  The king’s high priest is an insider. A secret combination is a group of outsiders.  And people would be inclined to accuse people on the other side of crimes done by unknown persons.   Coriantumr’s people (outsiders at the time) would say insiders did it because “see, that shows how awful they are; they can’t even trust each other.”  Gilead’s people (insiders at the time) would say outsiders did it because “see, that shows how awful they are; they can’t stand for anyone but their own guy to be in charge.”   Each side constructs an explanation to serve their own ends.

And with things as chaotic as they were, would there be any chance for justice to investigate and grind out the real answer?  Not likely. Who would do it when they’re still fighting over who’s in charge?  Who is going to be accepted as the authority to investigate and execute justice?  Probably no one. Thus, there would always be conflicting reports.  Each side probably used it to demonize the other.

And Ether, unwilling to favor either side, simply gives both sides.

So this little incident shows us that justice has not just broken down for the little guy, but also for the big important people.  Nobody, not even the king, can get justice because everyone wants to escape it. Mysterious deaths remain unsolved, and people just use them to whip up animosity for their enemies.

This is the kind of thing that makes me really appreciate having a justice system with civil rights.  I’m sure there are people that can point to incidents of injustice and faults in the system, but in comparison to awful anarchy at the end of Jaredite society, we have a lot to be grateful for.  At least we have a system that works on the whole.