Killer Butterflies, and the Best Day Ever.

Every once in a while, we experience moments we will remember forever. They become etched in our minds and become a part of who we are.

Yesterday, was one of those days. Jake was playing in his end-of-season basketball tournament for his little club team. It was a long day. They played 4 games starting at 8 o’clock in the morning. The final game finished up around 3:30. If you’re 8 years old, or 42 years old, that makes for a long day. The Mountain Dew and Lunchables from Circle K can only get you so far.

We didn’t know it at the time, but the day would shape up to be one of the best we have ever had. But, you would never think it possible by the way it started.

For a little context, Jake can be a bit of a perfectionist and a huge worry wart. He has a lot of his older brother in him. He loves to win, and hates to lose. He obsesses over, stews about, analyzes and contemplates all the possible outcomes for each game. He constantly worries how he will play, who he will play, and all the “what if’s”. Many of us have likewise experienced cases of these pre-game jitters or “butterflies”. It’s normal to get that uneasy feeling in your gut before a big game, event, or concert.

Jake is a bit different. He gets a severe case of the killer butterflies that cannot be contained within the pediatric limits of his gastric capacity. Sometimes, his killer butterflies spill out and manifest as a major hurdle for him to overcome in the hours before his games. I think his butterflies are above average in size, because he cares about these games in an above average way.

Yesterday was killer butterfly day. They must have multiplied inside as the gravity of the day ahead weighed on him. It was a lot to worry about as it was, a win or go home, single elimination tournament. Luckily, Jake has one of the best known treatments for killer butterflies. A good Mom.

Moms have superpowers. Sometimes they know just how to slay the killer butterflies.

Jake may never tell you this, but what he and his mom did that morning, is what they always do when the butterflies come. They went into a quiet room and knelt down and asked for Heavenly Father’s help. They thanked him for a healthy body to be able to play, and that Jake would be able to do his best and have a good time.

Sometimes all we need is to be close to someone who really knows, and believes in the power God has to change our lives. When we are younger, we naturally depend on our parents to help us understand life and its challenges. They can also teach or show us the best, most effective way we can deal with the difficult stuff that will surely come.

Along with asking for divine help, one of the things that Catie has always taught the kids, is that if they are prepared, there is no reason to fear. This principle applies to their school work, sports, and every other fear in life. I don’t think that she is the only mother who has ever taught this principle.

Jake was prepared. He had spent hours, and hours, and hours outside on our little basketball hoop practicing. His team had spent hours and hours over the last several months practicing together, drilling, shooting, running through plays, and slowly improving, and getting better. His Mom also prepared his mind by taking him time after time after time into that quiet room to pray to slay the butterflies.

In one of our favorite stories about supermoms in the Book of Mormon, we read about the young stripling warriors who had also learned how to be brave, and fight through their killer butterfly moments. In Alma 56 we learn about a life altering choice these 2,000 rookie warriors were faced with. They had to choose whether or not to join a hopeless battle against the seasoned, mature, experienced Lamanite army. Imagine the butterflies during that somber moment when their father figure and military leader Helaman asked them, “

“Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?” -Alma 56:44

As they answered, I’m sure they thought back to many times before when they knelt with their mothers, and thanked Heavenly Father for their healthy bodies, and asked for courage, and help to tackle whichever scary butterfly inducing situation they faced that day. So, they were prepared to answer,

Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; We do not doubt our mothers knew it. -Alma 56:48

I am sure that these young men were not born with the courage they displayed. They likely learned it through shared experiences. This invaluable experience gained chiefly by the help of their Mothers. It was the reason they chose to be courageous. Moms really do have superpowers. Maybe most importantly, they have the power to help shape the hearts of young men.

Yesterday all the physical and mental preparation of the last several months came together for Jake. It was needed as the killer butterflies were in full force for the big day. But, just as each time before, and with the constant help of his Mom, he was able to work through them and play and have some great games.

Jake’s team played well, and fought through each game, one by one, and won each of them leading up to the coveted championship contest.

As the game started and the battle began, all the parents were nervous and screaming and yelling. The coaches’ foreheads and neck veins were bulging as they screamed instructions. Constant noise reverberated through the gym. Our coach was fighting through his lost voice from yelling all day during the previous games. The buildup had been intense. The games were intense. The coaches were intense. The stakes were high, and even the little 8 year olds were focused, and inherently understood how big this game was for them.

As the final game’s battle went on, it was a back and forth struggle filled with bad calls, missed opportunities, and blown assignments that are commonplace to any league with little kids. However, as fate would have it, and like the movie script of the day’s destiny, it came down to the very end.

We could almost hear the soft subtle sound of the theme music from Hoosiers starting to play in the back of our minds, as we glanced up at the scoreboard every few seconds. Time started to slow down as every little moment further built the intensity of the occasion. The clock ticked down to under the final minute or so, as the other team tied the game.

After a scramble over a loose ball led to an inbound play, the drama completed its crescendo. Our team had the final opportunity to win the game with just about 7 seconds left. We had the ball out of bounds and we ran our best sideline inbound play.

The imaginary soundtrack music intensified as the clocked ticked down in each of our heads. The Killer butterflies that Jake had successfully vanquished earlier in the day came roaring back with a vengeance finding new hosts in the churning stomachs of the eager spectators.

Fingernail fragments were flying as nervous nibbles went unchecked. Fists were clenched and blood flow stopped. Jake inbounded the ball to Max as he headed towards the basket. He was met with an immediate double team spoiling any chance of a clear shot. He screeched to a halt as he faced the towering wall of opposition, and reversed course. He quickly looked around for a way out, as hope of victory started to wane.

Time ticked away, Max then noticed Jake. He had worked in behind his drive and was clear of defenders. He instinctively flipped the ball back towards him as the drama peaked. Jake caught the ball, and without hesitation, turned to the basket and let it fly.

The music in our minds climaxed intensely as the ball arced upwards, floated impossibly slow and then hung at its midpoint in the air. Time seemed to stop. Life itself on earth stood still. The stars in the firmament paused their cosmic duties for that moment to witness the outcome. As the ball then resumed its downward trajectory, every eye in the gym was fixed singularly on it. Jake’s shooting arm and hand stayed locked in follow-through position as if willing the ball to find its way through the net. The ball’s gentle backward rotation added to the beauty of the moment, as the parabolic arc finally completed its journey, and the ball lit softly within the welcoming embrace of the nylon net. It was over. We had won. We were the champions.

The deafening roar of parents, onlookers, players waiting for the use of the gym, all joined in the ecstasy of the moment drowning out the closing buzzer. People went nuts. inhibitions were thrown out. Grown men danced like fairies across the hardwood. The disbelief soon gave way to utter joy and complete bliss. The Best Day Ever. It became the moment that Jake, and all of us, will remember forever.

This day will be remembered for the loud shouts, and hollering, the hugging, and screaming, fist bumps and high fives. And it should be. But, it should also be remembered for the quiet little moments before it all began when a good mom, knelt down in a quiet room to help a young man slay the killer butterflies.

Listen, Prepare, and Live

“Being a good listener” is not a trait we are born with. We have to actively think about it, and be aware of our tendencies to passively dismiss what we are hearing. It demands practice, and and active desire to develop this lifesaving trait.

Several years ago, there was a funny Youtube video that went viral. It was a clip of a little 3-year-old boy arguing with his mother. Apparently, in his understandable overexcitement to pursue the immediate, instant, and pure gratification that would undoubtedly come via grandma’s cupcakes, he ran into a Momma roadblock. He then tried to convince momma that there should be no roadblock to confectionary bliss.

Like most three year olds, he selectively un-heard (an actual inherited genetic trait common in males) his mother’s directions to not eat, or go after said cupcakes. 

When caught, he spun an impressively articulated tale, well-steeped in lawyerly gobbledygook, lasting almost three minutes in a hopeless attempt to justify, argue, spin, deflect, and rewrite history. This was his attempt to prove to his mother that he, 3-year-old Matteo, somehow was right, and that he didn’t really have to listen. 

Again, actively listening is not a trait we are born with, but one we have to develop.

One of my new favorite examples in the scriptures that perfectly illustrates what it means to really listen, and how our lives may depend on it, is in the new testament. This story is also one of the last discourses that the Savior would deliver before his crucifixion.

On this particular day, the Lord was with his disciples and they were all climbing the Mount of Olives that rises directly across from, and in perfect view of the majesty of the Temple Mount. King Herod’s imposing temple crowned that sacred space and stood magnificently above the city.

The disciples, looking back at this impressive view, commented on the beauty and grandeur of the city, its buildings, and its massive temple centerpiece.

“Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” (Mark 13:1)

View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

This comment spurred the following prophecy from the Savior…

“Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Mark 13:2)

It is probably safe to say that this was not the comment that the disciples were expecting. There may have even been a few blank stares. After all, the temple had recently completed a 46 year rebuilding effort initiated by King Herod. It was adorned with special white stone that gleamed brightly in the ample sun. It was crested and decorated with gold donated from Jews throughout the land, and symbolized the wealth, power, and strength of the Jews.

The disciples then posed the obvious follow up question to Jesus…

“Tell us when shall these things be which thou hast said concerning the destruction of the temple, and the Jews; 

Jesus’ recorded answers to this and other questions are now known as the Olivet discourse. We read it, or portions of it, in Mathew 24 (improved in clarity in JST-Mathew), Mark 13, Luke 21, and even more recently referred to by the Lord in Doctrine and Covenants section 45. 

Today, mostly because we have the benefit of hindsight and recorded history, I’d like to focus on the answer to this first question, and what lessons we can glean from it, specifically about developing our listening skills.

His answer to “when shall these things be?” was simple..

“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. (Luke 21:20)

And they [the Jews] shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24)

Mathew described Jesus’ answer a bit differently noting Jesus’ reference to an even earlier prophecy…

When you, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, then you shall stand in the holy place… 

Then let them who are in Judea flee into the mountains; 

Let him who is on the housetop flee, and not return to take anything out of his house; Neither let him who is in the field return back to take his clothes;” (JST Mathew 1:12-15)

The Lord stated as plain as could be, what would happen to Jerusalem, and her people. AND, even more importantly what to do, and when to do it, to stay safe- When the armies come, head for the hills, and don’t look back.

I imagine that word spread. I’m sure in the A.D. 33 version of the Ensign, or LDSnewsroom, twitter, Instagram and Youtube, that the specifics of the prophecy spoken by the living Prophet, were taught, discussed, and written down.

So how did this prophecy play out? Was anyone listening? Did the early Saints heed the warnings of the prophet and prepare? Or did they argue like little Matteo that the cupcakes really weren’t off limits?

If we fast forward to a few years after Jesus’ crucifixion, the tension between the occupying Romans, and the citizens of Judea increased. Citizen rebels tried to fight back, and attacked two Romans fortresses. The Romans responded forcefully and released their soldiers on those in Caesarea and killed about 20,000 jewish citizens. It then quickly escalated into a full blown war. 

After an abandoned earlier attempt at a siege of Jerusalem with a single legion, Flavius Vespasian and his son Titus returned the next spring with and entire army of 60,000 Roman soldiers. They took two and a half years methodically destroying their way back towards Jerusalem.

Once there, Titus surrounded the city and commenced another three-year siege of Jerusalem. It was horrible. Rampant starvation, death, and disease filled the streets. Dead bodies were left to fester piled upon each other in buildings, the smell of death and rot was unbreathable. No one within the city could escape. Those who tried were crucified outside the city walls for all to see. 

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD — a painting by David Roberts (1796-1849).

On sept 26 AD 70 Titus breached the walls of Jerusalem destroying everything and everyone. Men, women, and children were slaughtered. Josephus, an historian, recorded that 1.1 million jews, or 90% of the population, were killed. The remaining 10% were sold into slavery. 

Titus then ordered that everything on the temple mount be completely leveled, so the jews would not be compelled to try and reclaim their holy place.

Thirty seven years after Jesus’ prophecy, it had all been fulfilled.

So, again the question is, did anyone make it out alive? Were any members of the primitive church able to escape and “flee into the mountains” as the prophecy dictated? Was anyone prepared? Had any group of members been watching, listening, and recognizing the signs, in order to act on the words of the prophets?

In AD 325 the early Christian historian Eusebius wrote 

The members of the Jerusalem church by means of an oracle [something spoken through revelation or inspiration] given by revelation to acceptable persons there, were ordered to leave the city before the war began and settle in a town in peraea called pella” [Eusebius, Book III, 5:4]

A hundred years later, another historian recorded:

[There was an] exodus from Jerusalem when all the disciples went to live in Pella because Christ had told them to leave Jerusalem and to go away since it would undergo a siege. Because of their advice they lived in Perea … (Epiphanius, Panarion, 29, 7, 7-8)

There was indeed a happy ending for those who had truly listened, followed through, and acted on the warnings of the Lord and his prophets.

As we contemplate the importance of becoming better listeners, let’s examine just the first 16 verses of the 45th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Remember, this is the same section in which the Lord references this very same prophetic moment from the Mount of Olives he shared with his disciples 1800 years before…

“Hearken, O ye people of my church, to whom the kingdom has been given; hearken ye and give ear to him who laid the foundation of the earth…

And again I say, hearken unto my voice, lest death shall overtake you;…

Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father

Hearken, O ye people of my church, and ye elders listen together, and hear my voice while it is called today and harden not your hearts;

Wherefore, hearken ye together and let me show unto you even my wisdom—… 

Wherefore, hearken and I will reason with you, and I will speak unto you and prophesy, as unto men in days of old. 

And I will show it plainly as I showed it unto my disciples as I stood before them in the flesh… (Doctrine and Covenants 45:1-16)

Even those of us who suffer with the genetic impairment of selective hearing can pick up on those hints. I think we are being invited to listen. Remembering also, that…

“…whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38)

We need to be much better at listening to the Lord, his words, the words of his servants, and his Spirit. Through his prophets, the Lord will tell us what to do, where to be, how to be, and when to be there so that we can be safe.

Prophets instruct us, teach us, and inspire us to be prepared. This is the necessary action that is almost always associated with listening to prophetic warnings. 

Our preparation, however, is not just stuffing away a year’s supply of whole wheat buckets, canned beets, powdered milk, and 50 pound sacks of beans. It is also referencing the necessary spiritual preparation. 

Being spiritually prepared enables us to have the courage to “… not return to take anything out of [our] house;” as we, “flee into the mountains” (JST Mathew 1:12-15).

I imagine that if the Prophet made a special YouTube video asking us to drop everything we were doing, and head to Missouri for an emergency general conference with some “special guests”, most of us would head out immediately.

But, what if that same prophet said it was time to work on our daily scripture study? What if that same prophet asked us to be better at prayer, being thankful, or developing a better testimony? What if he asked us to be more spiritually self-reliant, teach the gospel to our families in our own homes, be better ministers, and to develop an increased capability to “hear him”? Would we be just as willing and committed to do those things?

These are the true tests of our listening skills. These are our opportunities to really prepare, and thus eliminate the fear of the unknown from our lives. Especially when we know there are “bumpy” times ahead.

Catie has often told our kids, from the time they were little that, “…If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30) and she is exactly right.

We may not have physical armies compassed about and threatening us, but we most certainly have the desolation of abomination that is gathering outside ourselves, our homes, and our communities. It is everywhere. It’s in our media, language, merchandise, fashion, and often taught in our schools. Increasing political unrest dominates the news cycle, along with a constant drumbeat of societal pressures to accept sinful behavior as normal. Economic strains, along with increasing health concerns from a world wide pandemic are prevalent throughout the whole world. Cumulative stresses brought about by all these things together may indeed make us feel like we are being compassed about by threatening armies.

We may not currently face impending physical threats posed by the invading armies of Titus, but, does it not feel like our families are under threat of a growing spiritual siege?

Just as the prophetic warnings from Jesus given way back in AD 33 prompted earlier saints, we can also “flee into the mountains” today. We simply need to listen to our Prophet and find safety in not only listening, but acting on his words. Once we divert our focus away from the chaos, instability and stress that flourish out in the world, and focus on the peaceful simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ with those around us that share our hope and faith, we feel different. But, this peace can only come through listening to, and living within the safety of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let us all forget the worldly cupcakes and their fools gold promise of instant satiety, and improve our capacity to listen, to hear, and act. When we do so, we will enjoy the eternal fruits, and living water that come through living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Notes:

If we look a bit more closely at the many topics in the last general conference, we can start to see themes. These are our prophets today, are we really listening to them? Are we actively trying to follow their direction and council? Are we listening with a purpose to change ourselves, our habits, and our character?

Elder Bednar: “Now is the time to prepare and prove ourselves willing and able to do all things whatsoever the Lord our God shall command us.”

Bishop Wadell said: “…in an ever-changing world, we must prepare for uncertainties. Even with better days ahead, we know that the temporal peaks and valleys of mortality will continue. As we seek to become temporally prepared, we can face the trials of life with increased confidence, peace in our hearts, and like Joseph in Egypt, we will be able to say, even in stressful circumstances, “There was bread.”

Elder Uchtdorf: “As a fighter pilot and airline captain, I learned that while I could not choose the adversity I would encounter during a flight, I could choose how I prepared and how I reacted”

President Nelson: “How are we to deal with both the somber prophecies and the glorious pronouncements about our day? The Lord told us how with simple, but stunning, reassurance: “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.”

The Fierceness of the Wind

Quite a while ago, I wrote about how some of the travel stories in the Book of Mormon have common themes and are great examples of trials, tribulations, and struggles during a trip, including the idea that a journey might not just be defined as the time period elapsed or distance traveled between point A and point B.  Recently in re-reading the Jaredite journey, I liked a particular phrase (and theme) that could be related to the pre-journey and preparations that set the stage for the journey more than the actual journey (even though I love the journey on it’s own).  I know that many times this Jaredite journey has been ‘likened’ unto our mortal journeys, but what about the preparation, instruction, and stage-setting that took place prior to the actual journey?

I

This story starts out in Genesis 11:4-9 where the people become ‘confounded’.  Their language or ability to communicate with each other was disrupted to the point that they couldn’t ‘understand one another’s speech’.  Soon after this confusion, the people become ‘scattered abroad upon all the face of the earth’.   The notable exception to this mass confusion is the brother of Jared, his family, and a few of their friends.  Ether 1:33-37 tells us that the brother of Jared ‘cried’ unto the Lord for the continued ability to ‘understand’ his brother (Jared), and then cried unto the Lord a second time to expand this restored understanding to their family and friends, and that ‘the Lord had compassion upon them, that they were not confounded’.  Now, with the language confounded (mostly), and the people being scattered abroad upon all the earth, there is little doubt that these guys (the Jaredites) knew that the Lord was ‘in his anger’ – and in a very humble way the brother of Jared asked the Lord (in verses 38-39) for some additional guidance.  He asked the question ‘whither shall we go’?  He did not ask if they had to go, or if they could stay where they were – he asked ‘whither’. 

The response from the Lord in verses 41-42 is one that sets the tone for this blog post, and is the hallmark of a pre-journey stage setting.  He says: ‘Go [get all your stuff and your families], and meet me in the valley which is northward.  And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.  Yes.  Sign me up for that journey.  I can’t imagine it was very hard to follow that advice – even in these circumstances.

So, let’s set this stage for ourselves at the same time as the Jaredites.  I can imagine that the mass of people in the pre-existence experienced some level of ‘confusion’ (potentially being ‘confounded’) when Lucifer introduced his plan, campaigned for our support of his plan, and even starting gaining a significant following who thought his plan was a good one, and the assurances of being ‘saved’.  There was essentially the introduction of a ‘new’ or ‘alternative’ means of communication.  In addition, let’s not discount that fact that the Lord had instructed each of us that we would all (by necessity) be ‘scattered abroad upon all the earth’ – which meant we had to leave the place of our residence.  This left all of us with at least the choice of which voice (communication) to follow and seek to understand.   After the differing plans were presented and the confusion set in, we hopefully followed the example of the brother of Jared and ‘cried’ unto the Lord and asked him to lessen the effect of the ‘confusion’ that was present (which is code for ‘please allow me and my family to keep ‘understanding’ the right voices).  Then, I like to think of us (our loved ones, families, etc.) counseling with one another being thankful that we could understand each other, expecting and hoping that even though the Lord will be sending us out on a journey, that He would ‘carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth’ and letting that hope guide us to humbly approach the Lord and asking the same question that the brother of Jared did; ‘Lord, whither shall we go’?

Next, let’s imagine the Lord’s response to the brother of Jared as our response: ‘Go to and gather together [your flocks] and go down into the land which is northward.  And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.  Our flocks in the pre-existence could likely represent our knowledge, understanding, talents, characteristics, growth, motivation, testimony, etc. that we were blessed with or developed during our time there.  He essentially gave us the opportunity to ‘gather’ it all together, mentally prepare ourselves, and meet him ‘in the land which is northward’1 for our next step in the preparation stage.  Notice that there is no timeline or due date for this ‘gathering’.  The process of ‘gathering’ our stuff in the pre-existence could be hundreds or thousands of years. 

II

Ether 2:1-7 next explains the various preparations that the Jaredite party completed; they gathered flocks, fowls, vessels, honeybees, fish, and all manner of seeds.  Please note that they went on a mini-journey (to the land northward) as  preparation for and part of the ‘gathering’ for the real journey to the promised land that was in the future.  Then the Lord guided and directed them, and ‘gave directions whither they should travel’ along the way (another journey).  In addition, they did ‘build barges, in which they did cross many waters’.  Let’s pause and ask ourselves if during this preparation stage the lord was helping them learn and grow and experience things that would help them later on?  (Hint: building barges to cross many waters during their pre-journey might be a helpful thing to learn because the Lord knows that He will soon ask the brother of Jared to build ‘barges’ ‘to cross that great sea which divideth the lands’ – which is their big journey).  The fascinating phrase during this preparation/gathering/mini-journey activity is that the Jaredites were ‘being directed continually by the hand of the Lord’.   After their mini-journey, the Jaredites take a little break (potentially thinking they had arrived at the promised land) – only to realize that the Lord was just wrapping up the ‘preparation’ or ‘pre-journey’ phase. 

This little break earns the brother of Jared a 3-hour chastisement, which prompts him to quickly repents and is then told to ‘go to work’ (Ether 2:14-16).  Notice how the ‘work’ that the brother of Jared is told to do, is remarkably similar to the ‘work’ that they had already done (during the preparation journey).  They are asked to build barges  ‘after the manner which they had [already] built’.  I wonder if the Jaredites were grateful for the knowledge and experience they had gained during their pre-journey when they were asked to cross the great sea…probably. 

When we liken ourselves and our pre-mortal journeys to the Jaredites, we can see some themes that help us understand that the journey we took during our ‘gathering’ and ‘preparing’ in the pre-existence and those growing experiences we no doubt had which took us to ‘the land northward’ for our next meeting with the Lord are very real mini-journeys that were preparing us and giving us experiences that will likely be drawn out of us during our ‘real’ journeys (if and when they come) during the pre-existence and certainly here on earth.

III

The next step in the Jaredite journey occurs when most of the requisite preparations have been completed, and the brother of Jared is putting the finishing touches on a few things before they cross the great sea.  I see this last little series of exchanges as a final closeout meeting in order to make sure everything is in tip-top shape before they actually ‘set forth’.  In verses 18-20 (still in Ether Chapter 2) the brother of Jared says; “I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me, and I have made the barges”…  But, then he explains that he sees 2 potential problems: 1) There is no light, and 2) we can’t really breathe in these barges.  The lord handles problem number 2 by instructing him to make a hole in the top and the bottom, but leaves problem 1 apparently unsolved.  

The brother of Jared makes the holes as instructed, and then comes again to the Lord regarding his first problem (light) – and asks the Lord ‘wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness’?  I don’t know what the Jaredites had used for light in their previous barges, but it seems to me that the Lord was using this situation as a teaching opportunity for the brother of Jared to work some things out on his own – essentially study it out in his mind and come up with a solution – because He doesn’t answer the question directly, but does give some basic guidelines; they couldn’t have windows (they’d break), and couldn’t have fire (burning boat in the middle of the tempest tossed ocean could be bad news).  Then, in addition, he gave some context for the brother of Jared to consider (while he is coming up with a proposed lighting solution) that he (the barges) will be a ‘whale in the midst of the sea’, and that the ‘mountain waves shall dash upon you’, and that he will be ‘in the depths of the sea’ due to the winds, the rains, and the floods that He will send forth.  

At this point – the Lord says something totally amazing – “behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds… and the floods” – essentially letting the brother of Jared know (or remember) that the previous years of instruction, focused ‘gathering’ and the mini-journeys have all been ‘preparation’ against the trials that have been laid out, and that are sure to come in the ‘real’ journey.  The reason that is important is because that he literally could not cross the ‘real’ journey save he was prepared.  Amazing.  Yet, not as amazing as the next question he asks – ‘therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea’?  I have prepared you for all these things  – but, what is it that you need, or what else would you like as ‘preparation’ for this great journey – when (a key word), when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea.  He doesn’t ask what he needs for light when it’s sunny and calm, The Lord asks what he needs for light ‘when [he is] swallowed up in the depths of the sea’.  When we think of these things being ‘prepared’ for the journey (these things being the winds, the floods, the rains, and the mountain waves) and realize that they are a necessary part of the journey – He doesn’t ask the brother of Jared what he needs to avoid them, He asks what he needs ‘when he is swallowed by them’. 

Let’s take a break and put ourselves back into our pre-mortal Jaradite ‘type(s)’.  We complete the work that the Lord has asked us to do in the pre-existence.  We have finished the majority of our requirements, we have ‘gathered’ our flocks and our other things, we have mentally prepared (and we even traveled to ‘the land which is northward’ to meet up with the Lord and receive a few more instructions along the way).  Then, we worked through a mini-journey to get to the seashore and are asked to ‘build a barge to cross the great sea’, which we do.  After all these preparations, we feel like we are nearly ready, but there are a couple of nagging questions that have been lingering in our minds that we’d like answered before we take the plunge into ‘the depths of the sea’ (mortality).  So, we humbly ask the lord for a little more clarification on a couple of things.  Our concerns could have been based on the makeup or functions of our physical bodies (pain, weakness, illness, disease and death) or they could have been based on situations or even family relationships  (stress, emotional turmoil, etc.), they could have been based on the functionality of the veil that we would pass through, – or they could have been based on areas that the Lord seems to have been quietly waiting for us to work out on our own – but his guidance to us would be the same.  He would help us to re-remember that “behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds….and the floods”.  He says to us; ‘I prepared you [yes, just you] against everything that you will see down there.  There is no way you could make it without everything I’ve taught you here.  But, since you’re concerned about it, ‘what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea’?  In addition to all that I’ve prepared you for (and against) in mortality, what more do you need/want to give you light when ye get completely buried by it all?  Such an amazing question!

IV

This question (what else do you need?) spurred the brother of Jared to go to work.  No doubt he laid out a plan, thought about his options, worked through the pros and cons of each idea, and finally settled on a plan that would give light to the barges.  He likely talked it over with his family based on their previous building of barges.  They learned from their experience, previous experience from others and the scriptures and he went to work on a solution.  In Ether 3:1 we learn that the brother of Jared ‘went forth unto the mount, (which is exceedingly high) and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones’.  With this passage we learn some things that the brother of Jared did not do.  He did not wander to the nearest rock pile from his tent/house and grab 16 stones.  He did not walk to the river and select a few clean rocks.  He did not even just go chip out a few clear rocks from a larger clear rock.  What he did do was ‘go forth unto an exceedingly high mount, and molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass’.   Molten (the verb) is the past participle of melt, but when used as an adjective means liquefied by heat; in a state of fusion or produced by melting and casting.2 This means that it wasn’t very easy for the brother of Jared to make these sixteen stones and they most certainly were not something that he found on the ground.  He created them with a singular purpose in mind. 

Once he had diligently created and developed his sixteen stones, ‘he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount’, presenting his proposed solution to the Lord.  He asks the Lord to ‘not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness’, – and acknowledging what may appear to the Lord as a completely weak and rudimentary solution – to ‘look upon me in pity’ and ‘suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness’.  So humble and so powerful – but he’s not done.  He says; ‘behold these things (he doesn’t even dare call them anything other than ‘things’) which I have molten out of the rock’…therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us… that we may have light while we shall cross the sea’.  Then, as the story unfolds, we realize that this humility and this faith that the brother of Jared demonstrated (remember, we are still in the preparation and pre-journey stage) is the catalyst for maybe the most amazing vision and experience ever. They are so great in fact, that we can’t even read them because they would overpower us [and they’ve been sealed] (see Ether 12:24 and Ether 4:4-5).  The Lord touches the stones – or as it’s referred to in both Ether 3:4 and Ether 6:2 the Lord ‘prepared’ the stones – ‘and they did give light unto the vessels’ – because ‘the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness’.  Now, after each phase of his preparation (‘after they had done all these things’) the Jaredites ‘got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea.  He was finally ready to start his journey.

If we transplant ourselves back in time to when we had been asked by the Lord (what else we needed to give us light when we were to be swallowed), and think about the process that the brother of Jared went through before he approached the Lord with a potential solution, it can open up some interesting possibilities in our characters, our personalities, our interests, and maybe most importantly, our talents.  If we each took that pre-mortal time individually to reflect on the question (what is it that you want for light during the dark days of your journey) internally answering the question.  We – just like the brother of Jared – likely counseled with loved ones, reflected on past mini-journeys or preparations, looked at the pros and cons of various different possibilities, and then ultimately, we selected an option that we felt was the best solution.  Hopefully each of us came up with these solutions after much prayer, meditation, and work, and didn’t just pick up some rocks that were in the nearby field.  Then, if we imagine the term ‘molten stones out of rock’ to be synonymous with ‘developed talents, or abilities, or skills, or compassions, or character traits’ that would allow for ‘light’ to shine in times of greatest darkness, then we can see how amazing of a parallel this really is.  As we (young and struggling premortal spirits) worked so hard to develop a solution for a journey that we barely understood, the natural results of that hard work would have made us feel incredibly humble as we approached the perfection of the Lord and asked Him to ‘not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness’ and to ‘look upon us with pity’ while we feebly explained to a perfect spirit how or why we felt this meek and lowly talent could help us when we are ‘swallowed in the depths of the sea’.  Yet, we continued and asked the Lord to ‘prepare our stones, that they may shine forth in darkness… that we may have light while we cross the sea’.  Our stones are the individual talents, abilities, gifts, and natures that we spent time developing in the pre-existence molting out of rock – and as the Lord had compassion on us – he ‘prepared’ them and caused them to shine in darkness for our journey through mortality.  Even though it was the brother of Jared who created the stones, and brought them to the Lord, and even though the talents or gifts were developed by us through much hard work (in the pre-existence and here) it was and is the Lord who causes them to shine.  We bring our gifts and our talents to the Lord, and he gives them light. Then we, like the brother of Jared, hopefully use that humility and that blessing from the Lord as a catalyst of spiritual power and faith to sustain us through the long journey ahead.  Then, and only then were we ready to ‘get aboard our vessels and set forth into the sea’.

V

Once the Jaredites were sufficiently prepared, boarded, and actually in the water, ‘the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus were they tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind… they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind… the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land… and thus they were driven forth before the wind’ (Ether 6:5-8).  If I imagine a voyage across the sea (cruise, sailing, etc.) I don’t want to see the following words; furious wind, tossed upon the waves, buried in the depths, mountain waves, great and terrible tempests, fierceness of the wind, and wind did never cease.  Yet, somehow the Lords words ‘I prepare against these things’ may have echoed just enough in the Jaredites ears that they understood the reasons, plus the fact that these winds ‘did never cease to blow towards the promised land’.  It may have helped them realize that the mountain waves that were burying them in the depths of the sea, were somehow getting them closer to their destination.  And, there is little doubt that those bright white stones prepared by the Lord offered comfort, peace, and light during the most troubling of times, and also provided them a constant reminder of the hard work, faith, humility, and presence of a savior and guide who would never leave them alone. 

Once we as pre-mortal spirits were sufficiently prepared, were able to have our final pre-mortal pep talks and interviews and had both feet in the water of mortality, ‘the Lord God causes that there to be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus are we tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind… we are many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which break upon us, and also the great and terrible tempests which are caused by the fierceness of the wind… the wind will never cease to blow towards the promised land… and thus are we driven forth before the wind’.  It helps us to know that the great and terrible tempests, the mountain waves, and the repeated burying in the depths of the sea, are all due to the fierceness of the wind

The fierceness of this wind is in direct proportion to the fierceness of His love – since that furious wind is eagerly blowing each of us towards the promised land.  In times of trouble, when we are swallowed up, and when it seems as if there is no way out of the darkness – let us recall the gifts, talents, and small stones that we have molten out of rock that were touched and prepared by the Lord to give us and others traveling with us light specifically for those times – when we are seemingly buried in the darkness and remember, that being buried in the depths was always part of the plan. 

Notes

1 ‘The Land which is northward’ could represent any check-in station where we evaluate or re-evaluate our direction, trajectory, or standing before the Lord.  It could also represent a very real change of phase or responsibility.  It’s use in this story was a launching pad or starting line for the first part of the journey.  I don’t think it is strange to think of ‘the land which is northward’ being a starting line for any and all new journeys.  It is also likely that ‘the land which is northward’ could reference the temple since that is where he can give us counsel and direction and help us determine our location and/or direction in our various journeys. 

2 Dictionary.reference.com/browse/molten?s=t

Compelled to Behold

The image above is a mural painted on the wall in my exercise room (downstairs at my house).  I had a young man in my ward paint this scene (among others) as he was looking for some artist work while preparing to go on his mission.  At some point during the COVID quarantine times, our family – like many others – engaged in some Marco Polo app shenanigans which somehow ended up in me doing some pushups in my exercise room, which then prompted a question about the wall (that was apparently visible in the background), which led to me showing this to my siblings and parents explaining what each scene was (there are 3 main scenes and 1 large collage) a la MTV cribs.  While I was explaining what this scene is (and why I had this young man draw this event) it apparently was something of a prompt for Colby, since we discussed this topic briefly, and he then wrote a blog post that included this story from Alma Chapter 43.

Now that enough time has passed since then, I thought it would be timely to relate what I feel is the reason behind this scene (why I love it so much) as well as several related stories that help reinforce the idea of what is being portrayed.  In each case, there are key phrases that I hope will resonate and work together to shape and add color to the full, wider, more comprehensive picture.  After all, isn’t a painting just a form of symbol (object, event, action, or teaching that represents a spiritual truth) that teaches much more than words ever can?

Imagine in your mind the infographic that Elder Bednar used in his conference address in October of 2018 that shows multiple principles or individual braids being wound together to make the strands of a strong rope – the idea of several interrelated actions being part of a unified effort to better align the focus (or understanding) of a principle.  In his words “as we learn and link together revealed gospel truths, we are blessed to receive precious perspective and increased spiritual capacity through eyes that can see the Lord’s influence in our lives….”  With that in mind, here are several related stories or passages. 

I

The first passage is found in Alma 53:13-15.  In this part of history, the Anti-Nephi-Lehi people were considering breaking their oath/covenant to bury their weapons of war and not fight against the Lamanites.  This near break of their oath came because “they saw the danger, and the many afflictions and the tribulations which the Nephites bore for them, [and] they were moved with compassion and were desirous to take up arms in the defence of their country.”  At this time, there was quite a bit of dissension and intrigue among the Nephites and their desire to help was understandable. However, when Helaman was able to persuade them to keep their oath, and to not take up their arms in battle, the record reads “therefore all those who had entered into this covenant were compelled to behold their brethren wade through their afflictions, in their most dangerous circumstances at this time.” Just read that again, understanding what it means, and don’t forget that wading is typically used when we are out in the water quite a bit right?  It’s not a toe dip or an ankle dip or standing on the beach and experiencing the waves peacefully lap and cover your feet – it’s wading through afflictions.  

In other words, by keeping and honoring their oath (which the Nephite leader encouraged them to do, they were compelled to behold their loved ones – in their most dangerous circumstances.

II

The second related story comes in Alma chapter 14.  It’s where Alma and Amulek are preaching in the city of Ammonihah and the judges/leaders/lawyers of the city resist the teachings, and go as far as casting out believers, only to then bring wives and children together to the place of martyrdom and force Alma and Amulek to witness the destruction of those whom were consumed by fire.  Amulek understandably asks “How can we witness this awful scene?  Let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them…”  But Alma says “The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand”…

III

The third scene is the one Colby referenced and that is illustrated in this painting from Alma 43.  It’s the story of the Nephite army strategizing in order to create the best possibility of victory over their Lamanite enemies.  In this case, Lehi was leading his army and his pre-determined role was to ensure that as the Lamanite army began to cross the river Sidon, he and his army would appear and encircle them about on the east in their rear.  There was a battle at this point, mainly to make sure that the Lamanites could not go back the way they had come, forcing them to cross the river.  But Lehi’s standing order was to “retain his armies upon the bank of the river Sidon” That was it.  Simple enough and clear enough when you read the whole story (since we know the Nehpites win this battle).  

What we forget sometimes is that this was Moroni’s very first battle as chief captain (that we know of, since he was just named chief captain earlier this chapter, and he is only 25 years old and there may have been a bit of apprehension among the army).  In addition, let’s remember that Lehi had to sit and watch as this Nephite army was “about to shrink and flee” as they nearly gave up and lost the battle.  Just imagine that  – really imagine that.  I know this painting shows Lehi standing, but I like to think he was kneeling literally at the very edge of the shore and pleading with the Lord while watching and hoping and feeling completely torn about what to do as he watched his brothers in a fierce battle.  I can guarantee that he had the thought to just cross the river and help – but he didn’t.  He watched.

IV

In Alma chapter 58, there is a great phrase used by Helaman in his letter to Moroni.  He is detailing the happenings of his little band of warriors, and indicating that they had desires to obtain the cities which were currently in the possession of the Lamanites, but because of various reasons he writes “it became expedient that we should wait, that we might receive more strength…” 

V

This fifth story might be one of my favorites, and certainly one to round out the idea of this pattern.  In Alma 55 we have Moroni exchanging letters with Ammoron about possibly trading prisoners.  Since Ammoron refuses to comply with Moroni’s conditions, Moroni devises a plan to free them on his own, but how he does it is worth serious study.  The basics are that he provides wine – prepared in its strength – to make the Lamanites merry and drunk, but not so that he can slay them, only so he can sneak in and provide his people (the Lamanite prisoners) with their weapons.  In verse 16 it says “this was according to the design of Moroni.  And Moroni had prepared his men with weapons of war…while the Lamanites were in a deep sleep and drunken, and cast in weapons of war unto the prisoners, insomuch that they were all armed.  Yea, even to their women, and all those of their children, as many as were able to use a weapon of war,… and all those things were done in a profound silence.”  I’ve written about this phrase previously, which is great, but what I want to point out in this post is what happens next.  Because the record clearly states what Moroni’s purpose or desire was, and it wasn’t to slay the Lamanites, and it sounds like it wasn’t even to free the prisoners (since he could have done either of those things while they were drunken and asleep).  His desire was apparently to arm “those prisoners of the Nephites whole were with the wall of the city, and had given them power to gain possession of those parts which were within the walls.”  His whole desire was to arm his people so that they could fight their own battle from inside the city.  What?  Don’t believe me?  Read verse 21 which says “then he caused the men who were with him to withdraw a pace from them, and surround the armies of the Lamanites.”  After providing his people with their own weapons, he backed up, waited for the enemy to wake up, and let them fight their own battle.  Amazing.  

Summary

In each case, we can learn a valuable lesson, but my purpose in highlighting these stories, and what they mean to me as a father, is that sometimes all we can do is watch, and that does NOT mean that watching is the last ditch effort when everything else has failed, it may be the active result or requirement of keeping our oath, or part of the test of mortality for us.  It might very well be the first or best option of all in moving forward.  It creates strength, confidence, trust, patience and gives experience.  Plus, it inspires all of those who watch or read the stories in the future.

The last connection I will make to this idea comes from another favorite chapter (Jacob 5).  This entire chapter includes  incredible counsel and context for us to consider.  I include this mostly so that nobody assumes I am suggesting we arm our children and youth with a dagger or sword when they are 8 and then promptly withdraw a pace or a mile and watch thinking all our work is done.  That’s not quite it.  It is a case by case, battle by battle decision (in conjunction with the spirit’s direction) as they grow.  This instruction reads “wherefore dig about them, and prune them, and dung them once more… then shall ye prepare the way for them, that they may grow.  And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof…” (v 54-65).

Notes

There are more stories that illustrate this principle, such as Lehi and Sariah waiting and waiting in the Valley of Lemuel for their sons to go back to Jerusalem – twice.  There are many other situations in the war chapters where there is a stratagem devised that involves waiting and watching.  It’s also of value to study how and why they utilize spies in these battles.  Each of them can support this idea of sometimes the best and sometimes the only approach is that we are compelled to behold, or withdraw a pace, or it’s expedient that we wait.  

Learning a New Language

Recently, we’ve heard a lot from President Nelson about the importance of personal revelation, and in hearing the voice of the Lord.  In fact, there was an entire campaign with the tag line of HearHim leading up to the conference, which has hopefully carried into these interesting COVID related times where some of us are still doing at home church, or a hybrid version of at home and in person church.  This, in conjunction with the Come Follow Me initiative has all of us hopefully striving to really hear the voice of the Lord among all the noise.  

For most of us, hearing someone speak is a very simple process, especially when they speak our language (common, everyday english).  But revelation is a different type of language altogether right, so it makes sense to review a few helpful rules about what it takes to learn and speak and understand a new language.  

  1. There are no secrets and no shortcuts.
  2. Connect with a native speaker.  The best way to learn a new language is to speak it.  Too often, people spend time studying grammar and memorizing lists of words instead of actually practicing.  
  3. Study the language every day.  If you want to learn a new language, you have to commit to studying the language – every day.  Language learning is based on repetition (hammering something into your brain over and over again) until you remember it. 
  4. Carry a dictionary at all times.  You need to be able to consult it quickly, whenever you need a word (or some insight).  In addition, looking up a word (or principle) and using it immediately in a sentence will help you commit the word (or principle) to memory. 
  5. Watch, listen, read, and write in your chosen language.  Immersing yourself in a language means doing ALL of the activities you would normally do in your native tongue, through the eyes of your new language.  Change your language settings completely….
  6. Visit a place where your new language is spoken.  Visit, and spend time there.  Force yourself to interact, or by simply saying hello. You will gain a new appreciation of the language and it’s speakers (those who have spent the time necessary to learn this new language).

A Key Word

There is a key word that will help us understand how this new language can be learned and understood (and maybe more importantly, how long this process should take and what it may look or feel like).  That key word is wrought.  This word is used in several different passages of scripture, and very often is used when defining exactly how the spirit worked on an individual, or influenced an individual’s actions – over time.  

This is helpful because sometimes we read the scriptures and it says something like ‘and it came to pass that the Lord spoke unto me and said’…. or indicates a set of instructions that were given and we may think the voice of the Lord came to these prophets in a conversational dialogue similar to how we humans and friends talk to each other. While that does and has happened, and is sometimes very specific – it is probably very rare. The more likely case is that these prophets condensed a significant amount of questioning, pondering, searching, and time that passed into a single verse years after the actual event occurred (they weren’t engraving the plates in real time on a day to say basis). In other words, the “and it came to pass” is just as important as what follows it, and the characters that we all love in scripture had to learn this language as well.

Some examples of this principle and this key word include:

1 Ne. 13:12 the Spirit came down and wrought upon (the man)…

Ether 12:14-16,18 it was faith that wrought a change upon the Lamanites

Mormon 9:16-19, are not the things that God hath wrought marvelous in our eyes?

4 Ne. 1:5,13,29, there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus

Moroni 7:37, it is by faith that miracles are wrought

Alma 5:12-13, there was a mighty change wrought in his heart

Moroni 6:4, wrought upon and cleansed

That is just a few of the many many examples of that word being used in a very specific and very consistent way throughout the scriptures.  Pay attention as you read and you’ll be surprised at how often that particular word is used.  

We probably all know what wrought means (generally), but what does it mean specifically?

The definition of ‘wrought’ is 

  1. (in metal work) = beaten out, or shaped by hammering.  
  2. (material or mixture) = bring to a desired shape or consistency by hammering, kneading, or some other method.
  3. Move or cause to move gradually or with difficulty into another position, typically by means of constant movement or pressure
  4. (joints in a wooden ship) = loosen and flex under repeated stress

This doesn’t sound to me like it works immediately or is touched one time and molded into the perfect shape. In fact, it sounds like it requires quite a bit of consistent hammering, kneading, pressure, beating, loosening and flexing, etc.  In other words, learning what is being said in this language is oftentimes a slow, gradual mistake prone process that gets closer and closer to the desired shape as time goes on.  Of course it is, and understanding this or any other language in its fullness or becoming fluent takes even longer and more practice.

This key word important because it is used so consistently as it relates to how the spirit influences us and how things and changes are accomplished; and because “the words and the way they are used in the Book of Mormon should become our source of understanding and should be used by us in teaching gospel principles”2 (Ezra Taft Benson)

Conclusion:

If you’ve ever learned a new language, the beginning stages are completely awkward and foreign, and you initially feel like there is literally no way and no hope of ever understanding a single word.  Yet, as time passes, and your effort remains consistent, soon you find yourself understanding a few things here or there, and then eventually you recognize things instantaneously rather than having to translate this new language word by word.  So, as we begin this process, and as we try our best to learn this new language, let’s remember the rules…. And the key word, that it is being wrought upon us.

But this time think of them as learning to recognize the language of revelation.  

  1. There are no secrets and no shortcuts.
  2. Connect with a native speaker.  The best way to learn a new language is to speak it.  Too often, people spend time studying grammar and memorizing lists of words instead of actually practicing.  
  3. Study the language every day.  If you want to learn a new language, you have to commit to studying the language – every day.  Language learning is based on repetition (hammering something into your brain over and over again) until you remember it.  (i.e. being wrought) 
  4. Carry a dictionary at all times.  You need to be able to consult it quickly, whenever you need a word (or some insight).  In addition, looking up a word (or principle) and using it immediately in a sentence will help you commit the word (or principle) to memory.  Can you think of a dictionary for the language revelation? I can.
  5. Watch, listen, read, and write in your chosen language.  Immersing yourself in a language means doing ALL of the activities you would normally do in your native tongue, through the eyes of your new language.  Change your language settings completely….
  6. Visit a place where your new language is spoken.  Visit, and spend time there.  Force yourself to interact, or by simply saying hello. You will gain a new appreciation of the language and it’s speakers (those who have spent the time necessary to learn this new language).  

So, if you’d like to start learning this new language, and if you’d like some hints on numbers 1- 6 above, or to review some of the material used by those best at this process – I’ll finish with this quote:  

“I think that people who study the scriptures get a dimension to their life that nobody else gets and that can’t be gained in any way except by a study of the scriptures….a feeling of inspiration and understanding that comes to people who study the gospel… and who ponder the principles, that can’t come in any other way.”       -Bruce R. McConkie

Extra Credit

This post is primarily about learning a new language as it refers to revelation in general, but for extra credit, let’s go this same exact process, but with the assumption that the language I’d like to learn is symbolism.  After all, “God teaches with symbols; it is his favorite way of teaching.”  (Orson F. Whitney)

If that is true, then we not only need to learn the language of revelation, but we need to learn the language that God uses to teach us.  Yes they are connected, and revelation is also required to understand that language, but if I had to give any one person one challenge for their entire life (after the challenge to read the Book of Mormon every day) – it’s this one.  Learn this language.  As you go through the process of trying to learn how to speak that language – things will never be the same.  At some point, I will expand my post from Oct. 2018 to include more on this, but the idea of things being “hidden in a manner that the people did find them” is most appropriate.  

Notes

1 – Watch this video.  It is incredible, and I include it here as a note to make sure that you don’t think I am discounting the possibility of and encouragement for continuous revelation, because as Elder Bednar indicates, it is in fact much more attainable (and even expected) than we may think.  

2 – I have many, but this particular quote is probably my all time favorite. At some point I will have an entire entry (or series of entries) dedicated just to this quote (and what it has meant to me personally over the years), but hopefully the reader can review some of my previous posts and recognize how I’ve used certain words or phrases in my writing that have also been influenced by this idea.

Take, Keep, and Keep

Ancient Records by James Fullmer

Towards the end of the book of Alma (starting in Alma 36), Alma (the younger) documented his final counsel to his sons.  While it’s worth reviewing everything that Alma wrote, there is a connection that I’d like to make as I’ve been thinking about the responsibility we have as parents and/or leaders of the youth these days.  


In Alma 37:1 Alma commands his oldest son Helaman to “take the records which have been entrusted with me”.  Then he also commands Helaman to “keep a record of this people (according as I have done)” and then lastly he says “keep all these things sacred which I have kept, even as I have kept them for it is for a wise purpose that they are kept.”

  1. Take the records
  2. Keep a record (as I have done)
  3. Keep all these things sacred (even as I have kept them)


Alma then spends verses 3-9 highlighting why and how the records are so important, and some of the power that they hold, including the fact that the records are responsible for so many thousands of conversions among the people of Ammon.  Following that, in verses 10-12,  Alma writes about how future generations will also be converted, likely in ways which we can’t imagine – by Helaman obeying these commandments to take and keep these (records) and the commandments that he’d just been given1.  

Then, in verse 14 he says “God has entrusted you with these things”, which is similar to what Lehi told Nephi when he relayed the message to his sons to go back to Jerusalem and get the brass plates.  Alma, is emphasizing to Helaman that he (Alma) is just the messenger, and that any of these commandments aren’t Alma’s – they are God’s.  But then Alma adds an interesting note as he continues, he says “God has entrusted you with these things, which are sacred, which he has kept sacred, and also which he will keep and preserve for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations.”   Here, Alma is telling Helaman that God himself has kept these records sacred, and that he will continue to do so.  Just to recap, as it relates to these records, Alma says that God himself has:

  1. Kept them sacred

And God himself will:

  1. Keep them sacred
  2. Preserve them

And he (God) will do this “for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations”.  In other words, we don’t really know or need to know the details of the future benefits that will occur by keeping and preserving these records, other than God thinks it’s wise and it will display his power somehow unto future generations.  

This little exchange creates some questions for us to ponder.

  1. Why is it necessary for Helaman to take the records, keep the records, and keep/consider them sacred (even as Alma has done) if God has already been doing and will continue to do that, and he will preserve them anyway?
  2. Why would the Lord (through Alma) give this reminder to Helaman that God has entrusted him (Helaman) with these things (given number 1 above)?
  3. How do the first two questions, and how we’ve answered them help us think about and identify the “wise purposes” that the Lord may be referring to in that same verse.
  4. What is the difference between taking the records, and keeping the records (since Alma used them separately and in that order), and with that in mind, what does it mean to keep them sacred (since that was a different charge altogether), and lastly what does it mean for the Lord to preserve them (is/can that be different than how we preserve them? 

To make sure Helaman really understands what is at stake here, after Alma gives Helaman his charge to take care of the records he clearly outlines (in verse 15) the consequence for not keeping these things sacred, or not keeping the commandments which he’s just given him. Alma says “that if ye transgress the commandments of God, behold, these things which are sacred shall be taken away from you by the power of God, and ye shall be delivered up unto Satan, that he may sift you as chaff before the wind.”  Yikes. No pressure right?

However, despite the necessary warning, the good consequences of obeying commandments outweigh the bad (as always), and Alma says in verse 16 “if ye keep the commandments, and do with these things (which are sacred) according to that which the Lord doth command you… behold, no power of earth or hell can take them from you, for God is powerful to the fulfilling of all his words.”  And just in case we missed that, Alma repeats himself twice more in verse 17 and reminds us that God will preserve them for a wise purpose again just to be safe.  

I would like to point out that there is a very similar promise made to Joseph Smith as he came into possession of some of these records (much later than Helaman did) and is proof that God was still preserving and keeping up his end of the bargain).  It comes from JSH 1:59-60 (which happens to be a footnote in verse 16).  The promise is in verse 59 and the reason for the promise is just as important (outlined in verse 60).  Verse 59 (the promise) reads “ the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: that I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected.”

With this (these) promises in mind, I’d like to include verse 60 of the Joseph Smith History to give us an idea of why the Lord needed to make a promise to preserve them.  Verse 60 reads “I soon found out the reason why I had received such strict charges to keep them safe, and why it was that the messenger had said that when I had done what was required at my hand, he would call for them. For no sooner was it known that I had them, than the most strenuous exertions were used to get them from me. Every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose. The persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually to get them from me if possible. But by the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand. When, according to arrangements, the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him; and he has them in his charge until this day…” 

This statement basically gives Helaman an absolutely foolproof promise that if he 1) takes the records, 2) keeps a record, and 3) keeps them sacred, that not only will there be no power in earth or hell that can take them from him, they will be used by the Lord to show forth his power unto future generations.  What an awesome promise for Helaman right?     

Now, let’s review something King Benjamin said much earlier (in a very similar circumstance).  In Mosiah 1 he (King Benjamin) is talking to his sons and says “I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them…”

I love the phrase these things. I envision Mosiah in his home with his kids (during FHE or Come Follow Me) taking such care of his records and I can see him and his face and his love for the records when he says “these things”.  It’s a phrase that can somehow incorporate years and years of diligent study and care and respect and gratitude that his kids can feel. I think the BoM video also had a flashback that was really good regarding King Benjamin) that sort of fits this idea. 

I also love the phrase “they know nothing concerning these things” because it’s the exact opposite of his love and care for these (same) things.  Here we have Mosiah who is one of the best of the best, a king who serves and teaches truth and righteousness changing the world by changing how his kids feel about small and simple things in a non grandiose, intimate family setting – letting them know in clear terms that not everyone will value them, when he says (referring to the Lamanites) “they know nothing concerning these things”.  I’ve written about the literal and truthful use of the word all in Alma 30:44 and Moses 6:63 (all things testify of him, etc.) so when Mosiah uses nothing – I take it literally as well.  They know absolutely nothing about how powerful and layered and deep and important these records are. They will miss out on literally the greatest treasure this earth has to offer (and they’ll likely be smug and sarcastic and hateful about it all your life) because “the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14) and “their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not”. (2 Ne. 9:28).

So, now that we’ve reviewed what Alma’s charge to Helaman was (regarding the records) and how that was so similar to King Benjamin’s, let’s ask ourselves what this has to do with our stewardships as parents or as leaders in today’s world and more specifically, what this has to do with our youth and our charge to assist the rising generation to seek revelation, exercise agency, build relationships, and follow the Savior in all areas of their lives.

We can review the same questions above, but ask ourselves what ‘records’ we could have charge over (our own children, quorums, classes, families, responsibilities, etc.), and what ‘sacred things’ we should revere. And, maybe most important of all, can this same idea give us a similarly foolproof promise that if we 1) take the records, 2) keep a record, and 3) keep them sacred, there be no power in earth or hell that can take them from us, and that they will be used by the Lord to show forth his power unto future generations?

I don’t have the answers, but I do love the questions, and I can promise that as you ask yourself these questions, and as you ponder what ‘records’ you have charge over, and how you should be taking them, keeping a(n additional) record of them, and keeping them sacred, you will start to get answers for not only what it means, but why the Lord charged Alma with commanding Helaman to do it (like he has done repeatedly in the Book of Mormon) and how that relates to the same tasks that the Lord is doing (keeping and preserving).  

Notes

1 – Reference/Summary of Mosiah 18:30 and the 2 references (Alma 37:9 and 37:10) that Alma uses to take the reader (and Helaman) back to where Alma’s father Alma is fresh off his own repentance and conversion and is teaching the people in the land of Mormon, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, etc. with the point that this phrase is a key to us understanding why the Book of Mormon is named that (and I don’t think it has to do with it’s author/compiler) – he just happened to be named after the same place (which could also explain why he was the perfect choice for that job – and someone who understood the Book’s true purpose, which is to “bring people to the knowledge of their Redeemer”.     

In both verse 9 and in verse 10, Alma references that the word, or the record will bring them (future generations) “to the knowledge of their Redeemer”.  This is a phrase that likely gets overlooked by many, but is a reference back to Mosiah 18:30 – and when we make that connection (what that phrase means, where it took place, and what that place and name means, and who wrote this letter, who recorded this letter, who compiled the book that contains this letter, and where his name came from), you start to realize just how much depth the scriptures have, and really even just this one letter to Helaman.  Then, you connect Alma 36:1, 3, and Alma 37:13 and the use of ‘prosper’ and you start to realize that Alma is giving a sermon here.  Something like what we could consider a patriarchal blessing, which Helaman could have gone back to over and over and over again in order to glean wisdom from.  We (as readers of the Book of Mormon) can do the same thing, because Alma didn’t take the time to explain to Helaman what these references were, nor did he even identify that they were important references at all.  They are hidden gems for future readers to find, which help us appreciate Alma and his knowledge and his heavy use of the scriptures in this blessing to Helaman.

Blind Squirrels and the Search for Everlasting Acorns

yurko-rymar-squirell-new

There is an idiom that references the unintentional stumbling upon a truth, or accomplishment that seems unlikely for the one performing the act. We’ve seen it used frequently in sports, like when Shaquille O’Neal made free throws, or when the Cubs won the World Series, or other such oddities.

It goes like this, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut in the forest every once in a while.”

I was also the recipient of this dagger when I was just beginning my anesthesia training. I wish I had a nickel for each time I heard that phrase while attempting a spinal block, or intubation by the self proclaimed comedians that were training me.

Other similar, yet not as fun, sayings may be also be used interchangeably. These are the “even a broken clock is right twice a day”, and “every dog has its day” options.

Over the last several years, I have found that this principle can apply to almost any situation. Today, I thought it would be fun to see how this principle applies in music.

Often music can be worthless, distracting, and carry messages that are detrimental. Just go look at the lyrics of the billboard top 100 songs right now…on second thought, don’t do that. But, every once in a while, even a blind squirrel finds a nut in the musical forest.

Enter Willie Nelson.

willie-nelson-ride-me-back-home

As a disclaimer, I am not proposing that Willie Nelson, nor any of his compatriots, are secret purveyors of gospel principles in their musical repertoire. Hence the intro referencing blind squirrels and nuts. But when it happens, it happens.

The other day as I was listening to music in the car (perusing the forest for some nuts), I heard a song sung by Willie Nelson called “Sunday Morning Coming Down”.

Listen here

An interesting fact about this song written by Kris Kristofferson was that it became so popular, that it was covered by at least 14 other musicians. They ranged from Johnny Cash to Telly Savalas (I didn’t even know Mr. Las Vegas sang..?). I guess the message resonated with them…

It was an interesting take on the special nature of Sunday, albeit from the outside looking in. He sang about taking a walk on a Sunday morning, after the “beer [he] had for breakfast“, and “one more for desert“. He went outside to clear his smoke filled head, and noticed that he was missing something in his life. Shocker, I know….

“And it took me back to something that I’d lost
Somehow, somewhere along the way”

He then tries to describe how he came to realize something was missing. This “something” was apparently more obvious on Sundays. In the process of the song, Willie stumbles upon some truths, even though it’s a slightly indirect inferred kind of truth.

“In the park I saw a daddy
With a laughing’ little girl who he was swinging
And I stopped beside a Sunday school
And  listened to the song that they were singing
Then I headed back for home
And somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringing
And it echoed through the canyons
Like the disappearing dreams of yesterday”

“On the Sunday morning sidewalk
Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned
‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
Makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’
Half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleeping city sidewalks
Sunday morning coming down”

There is something special about Sundays, and about family, and music, and about what we do on Sunday. Sometimes, even those unfamiliar with that special something even recognize it through a smoke filled haze and a beer buzz.

If we want, we can choose to spend our time scouring the musical forest for food, and settle for these occasional nuts, and be happy to survive on the last remaining sip of evaporating rainwater from a hoof-print (True Grit Mr. La Boeuf reference). Or, we can purposefully take our squirrel blinders off, and indulge in the bountiful feast and drink from the fire-hose of good music that is readily available to us.

giphy

To better contrast the difference, let’s look at the nutritional value and level of spiritual satiety we experience between Willie’s nut in the forest song, and one of my favorite Hymns.

“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is amazing. It is my spiritual entree of smoked brisket, lobster mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, washed down with authentic Brazilian Antartica brand Guaraná. It was “prepared” in 1758 by a 22 year old young man in England named Robert Robinson. Even though the gospel hadn’t even been restored yet, many of the beautiful lyrics in this hymn teach principles of the fullness of the gospel. A gospel that would soon would be restored through Joseph Smith. And it is a full 7 course meal.

If we read the menu from the Mack Wilberg arrangement sung by the Tabernacle choir, we can find some doctrinal pearls hidden inside. Its quite a difference from the tangential inferences that we find in our previous song.

Come, thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet sung by flaming tongues above;
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I come,
And I hope by thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

Jesus sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God.
He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

O to grace, how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

Seal it for thy courts above.

I love these verses for the imagery they creates for me. Who doesn’t wasn’t to associate with, or sing like heavenly angels? Yes, please. I imagine many of us have been in a place where we simply want to be better, and yearn for and hunger to be a part of the peace that we know exists beyond the veil.

One of the most powerful phrases in the song is when the author describes his weakness. He admits that he was “prone to wander” and “leave the God [he] loves”. We have all been there. We have all had moments, despite our love of the gospel, our Savior, and our Father in Heaven, that we have wandered. I love that in the very next sentence, the author offers his heart, and then begs the Lord to take it, and “seal” it to Him.

pleading

In the subsequent stanza, the words “bind” and “like a fetter” are also used to describe the relationship the author sought with God. This is the part that I think I love the most.  It is the juicy, tender, and delicious part of the meal…

These phrases are colorful metaphors of the covenants we seek and receive in the temple.

The temple covenants, especially the sealing ordinance, teach us, and remind us of our potential, and worth to our Father in Heaven. They can also elevate us from any feelings of inadequacy, or unworthiness. What a completely nutritious meal that is. If we let that sink in and digest, it is incredibly satisfying.

This recipe is not new. The feeling that Robert Robinson put into words in 1758 is a hunger that has been on the earth from the beginning. We only need to read a few chapters into the Book of Mormon before we see this same sentiment expressed by one of the strongest, most faithful prophets that has ever lived.

“Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted…

…And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.

And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man;…

Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.”

-2 Nephi 4:17-28

Nephi was able to rejoice after wading through his feelings of inadequacy and falling short. He saw the end from the beginning let’s remember. How difficult would it be to continue trying to teach, encourage, and invest in those around him when he knew that his entire posterity would eventually fall? He saw it. Yet, the deliciousness of the gospel, and the atonement satiated him so completely that he was able to rejoice despite his prophetic knowledge.

I hope we can all find inspiration, encouragement, and fulfillment in the hymns, poems, and scriptures to help us feel more fed, and “sealed” to God. Especially in these times when we all feel so disconnected from each other.

I hope we look to the best sources when we are hungry or thirsty for meaningful sustenance. I hope we strive to receive, or actively remember receiving the sealing ordinance and its promised blessings.

It is ultimately in the temple ordinances, where the earnest hopes and yearnings expressed in Robert Robinson’s hymn are realized.

It is through the atonement of our Savior that the rejoicing described by Nephi can be experienced, and our hunger truly satiated.

Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.”

-Doctrine and Covenants 84:20

For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.  Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou has made.”

-Doctrine and Covenants 25:12,13

On the Beach Beyond our Reach

river

If we go the very familiar story of Captain Moroni in chapter 43 of Alma, we learn about his brilliant strategy to defeat the massive Lamanite army led by Zarahemna. Moroni, although severely outnumbered, had done everything in his power to better prepare his Nephite army to go up against the invading Lamanites. He had prepared his soldiers with thick clothing, breastplates, head shields. He also sent spies to watch the movements of the Lamanites. He didn’t just prepare physically, but also sent a petition to the prophet, Alma, to pray and ask the Lord for help in knowing where to go, and what to do in order to protect his people.

Alma did help by inquiring of the Lord and receiving inspiration. He then sent word as to where the Lamanites would be attacking. Moroni then devised a specific plan in order to maximize the Nephite’s effectiveness, and minimize the number of casualties that both sides would suffer.

He split his army on both sides of the River Sidon, and hid part of his army surrounding a valley on the far side. He assigned Lehi, a skilled and fearless captain, to hide and lead the Nephites on the near side of the River.

As the Lamanites approached the river, and passed the hidden army of Lehi, he attacked and quickly drove the Lamanites into and across the river, to where Moroni was waiting. A huge battle ensued. Even though the Nephites were better prepared, and had the advantage of surprise, the Lamanites nearly defeated them.

I never really thought about this whole scene from Lehi’s perspective. He and his soldiers had maintained their position and remained on the opposite bank of the river and had not taken part in the battle between Moroni and Zarahemna. He had to watch and wait.

And Lehi retained his armies upon the bank of the river Sidon that they should not cross.

-Alma  43:40

Lehi had fulfilled his assigned duty which was to drive them across the river. I imagine it would have been extremely hard to stand back and watch as the events unfolded, close enough to see, but beyond his reach, and out of his control. Im sure he wanted to step in, especially as the battle looked to be lost.

I think many of us at times may feel the same way as Lehi did in that moment. Possibly we feel that was as parents standing back as our kids get older and start making decisions on their own. It may even feel like they are just beyond our reach, or out of our control or influence.

We may feel the same was as employees or employers amid business shutdowns secondary to the pandemic. These are devastating and have nothing to do with our own hard work, or how well we do our jobs. Yet, we often struggle and suffer.

Some things are simply out of our hands.

Some of the lessons we can learn through this difficult time have to do with the elusive twin virtues of patience and trust.  We are all important parts of a grand master plan that our Heavenly Father is orchestrating. We are here to learn.  Sometimes the lessons come in ways we don’t understand. We simply have to do our best to trust in the Lord and his timing.

We can learn from the experience of Joseph Smith and his unfair incarceration in the Liberty jail. His fate was completely out of his hands, even though he had done everything in his power to do what was right. But still he was forced to endure some of the most excruciating moments of his life.

Even in those difficult moments, he received revelation, and assurance from the Lord. He learned the lesson that he shares with us through Doctrine and Covenants section 122, that…

All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for [our] good… Therefore, fear not… for God shall be with you forever and ever.

-Doctrine and Covenants 122:9

Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are with us. Sometimes they feel closer when we demonstrate our complete dependence and reliance on them. Sometimes it takes an excruciating event to catalyze these feelings. Sometimes we are at our most humble and receptive when we do lose control, and are left with no option but to trust and rely on the plan our Father in Heaven has for us.

Let us choose to trust in Him, and show as much patience as we can so that we may also hear the same words that soothed the heart of Joseph Smith…

Peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.

-Doctrine and Covenants 121:7

Effective Perspective

Discovering-Truth-Thumbnail

In 2013, Elder Uchtdorf shared a poem written in 1872, by John Godfrey Saxe about the Six blind men of Indostan who went to see an elephant. Each man touched only a single part of the animal, the ears, tail, leg, etc., and then attempted to describe the whole animal. Although accurate in their particular portion of the elephant they had touched, when they attempted to describe the whole animal, they were all wrong. They were simply unable to see the complete picture. They lacked the proper perspective.

For many of us, it may be equally difficult to see the big picture when we are engrossed in our daily grind, and focused on the struggles we may be experiencing. These last few months have provided plenty of opportunities to struggle. 

Paul encouraged patience in our perspective when he said, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

-1 Corinthians 13:12

It can be enormously difficult to see through the “glass darkly” to understand our big picture, or the nature of life’s elephants given our limited view. It is difficult or even impossible to understand the reasons for the struggles we face. Especially when they are completely overwhelming. 

We read of another example of this in the Book of Genesis.  After Adam and Eve had partaken of the fruit, and had been sent forth out of the Garden of Eden, their life had obviously changed. The easy life was over. The struggle had just begun. The days of ease and plenty had suddenly come to an end. 

The Lord explained their change in scenery this way…

“I will greatly multiply thy sorrow…

Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life…
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee…

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground;
for out of it was thou taken:

for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” 

-Genesis 3:16-19

At first glance, this seems like a severe punishment, or banishment into a life of misery, from which there could be no relief nor hope for happiness. It would be hard to see it any other way. 

But, there was a little sprinkling of a hint that suggests another possible motive. The Lord stated that He would multiply their sorrow, and that the curse would be “for [their] sake”. And, if we keep reading, only a few verses later, the Lord opens our eyes to the proper big-picture perspective, which is His perspective.

And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us…”

-Genesis 3:22

The Lord saw the Fall of Adam and Eve as progress towards becoming more like Him, not moving further away.  Maybe the obstacles in our paths aren’t stumbling blocks alone, but can also serve as steps that continuously lead us up and forward. 

In Hebrews, Paul teaches about how, and why, the Lord often intervenes in our lives. 

As we read these verses, let’s maintain the belief that the Lord has our well being and divine development in mind. Let’s swap out the word “chastise” and replace it with the word “challenge”, and see if it helps us realize what the Lord is trying to accomplish. 

“…My son, despise not thou the [challenging] of the Lord, nor faint when thou art [challenged] of him: 

For whom the Lord loveth he [challengeth], and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 

If ye endure [challenging], God dealeth with you as with sons; 

for what son is he whom the father [challengeth] not?

Now no [challenging] for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: 

nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 

Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.”

-Hebrews 12:5-12

It has been a rough few months, but let’s us lift up our hanging hands, strengthen our feeble knees, and maybe try and expand our view to account for the eternal perspective. The Lord loves us.  He sends us challenges to overcome in order to help us develop into our best selves. 

Just this week, in our come follow me lesson, Alma counsels us that we…

“…should be humble and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.” 

-Alma 7:23

I know that if we keep our eyes open to the Lord’s eternal plan for us, and allow ourselves to be changed into who we can be, we can look forward to hearing the words from Heaven, just as our first parents did,  that we have “become as one of [them]”

Close Your Eyes that Ye May See

Brother of Jared

The last few months have been the quite a ride. If we listen to the different sources of news and even look outside, there is such a torrent of information. Most of the time, it is conflicting information. Our world, it seems, is in a constant back and forth as to what is true and what isn’t. What is right, and what is wrong. This seems contrary to what our Father in Heaven wants for us. 

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace”

– 1 Corinthians 14:33

These situations make it difficult to know exactly who, or what, to believe. This sets the table for massive confusion, uncertainty, doubt, and anxiety. The world needs a source that we can trust and have full confidence in.  

Our Father in Heaven is that perfect source. And He has already promised to help!

If any of you lack wisdom,  let him ask of God, …and it shall be given him.”

-James 1:5

I love the story of the Brother of Jared. We can learn so much through his experiences, and his example. He has shown us exactly how we can receive the knowledge, or revelation, and gain the assurance of what is right and wrong. This can help guide our day to day life decisions, as well as help us through the confusion of the outside world. 

We don’t all have the same problems as the Brother of Jared. He had to come up with a way to provide light for eight windowless homemade boats. This light had to last enough to travel across (or even through) the “raging deep” to a distant promised land.  

But, sometimes our problems seem just as difficult to navigate. 

In Ether we read how the Brother of Jared approached the Lord, and why he received an answer to his request. 

“Behold, O Lord, thou hast smitten us because of our iniquity, and hast driven us forth, and for these many years we have been in the wilderness; nevertheless, thou hast been merciful unto us. O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness; but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock.

And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.

-Ether 3:3,4

The Brother of Jared approached the Lord in complete humility. He recognized his faults, and  iniquity, and also recognized that the Lord had already shown mercy to him and his people. He also then approached the Lord in faith, acknowledging the power of the Lord to provide light through the stones that he had prepared. 

King Benjamin also encouraged the Nephites to practice this same humility and faith in order to receive knowledge of the truth. 

“…I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.”

-Mosiah 4:11,12

I hope we can all do our best to seek knowledge and revelation for our own individual lives from the source of all truth. Especially in this time when the truth seems so elusive. We can have the peace and direction we seek if we approach our Father in Heaven in humility and faith. 

“Learn of me, and listen to my words, walk in the meekness of my spirit and ye shall have peace in me.”

-Doctrine and Covenants 19:23