15 Things Helaman Teaches us About Stewardship over Youth

I have recently gotten a new calling in my ward*. I’m in the Young Women’s presidency. For those of you who don’t know what that is, the Young Women’s is a group of young women ages 12-18. I have served in the Young Women’s in the past. It is such a fun calling. The youth are so vibrant. They are intelligent, happy, and want to do well.

However, it can be a little daunting to serve with the youth. Fortunately, in the Book of Mormon, we can find a great example of someone who was a steward over the youth: Helaman.

A Little Background Information
Helaman was a general in the Nephite army in the Book of Mormon. Specifically, Helaman commanded a group of 2,000 young men (boys, really). You can read more about the circumstances of this army in Alma chapters 56-58. He was a steward of the youth.

Even though we might not be leading young men into battle, many of the principles that Helaman exemplifies in his stewardship over the youth can be applied in our lives. We will study them today! :)

Helaman's Stripling Warriors

Helaman’s Stripling Warriors

15 Ways Helaman teaches us to Be a Better Steward over the Youth

  1. Helaman knew those he served. He knew their circumstances – See Alma 56:3-6. Helaman knew the circumstances of these young men. He knew that their fathers had buried their weapons of war – with a covenant never to go to battle again. He knew that their families had been converted to the gospel and were true to their faith.

    We can also gather that, because they were the sons of those who buried their weapons of war, then some of these boys were most likely fatherless. Helaman knew these boys. If we want to effectively serve our youth, then we need to know them. We need to know their circumstances, their families, their cultures.

  2. Helaman honored their families and supported them – See Alma 56:8. Helaman knew the covenant that these boys’ fathers had made. Because the kingdom was at war, and because their liberty was in jeopardy, the fathers were thinking of taking up arms again to fight and defend their country. However, Helaman insisted that they didn’t break their covenant.

    Helaman supported these families, and, as leaders of the youth, we need to do the same thing. We need to be mindful of the families of those whom we serve. These families aren’t here to serve us or “support us” in our calling, we are called to serve and support them.

  3. Helaman loved the boys he served. – See Alma 58:10. Helaman addresses these boys as his sons. He explains that they were worthy to be called sons. What does this mean? I suppose it means that he deeply loves and cares for these young men. He feels responsible for them. This all stems from his love for them.

    We need to also love the youth we serve. It may not always be easy, but if we don’t love them, then being a good steward is pretty much impossible.

  4. Helaman protected them. – See Alma 56:39 Helaman took his charge over these youth very seriously and he protected them. Sure, they had signed up for war, but he wanted them to stay as safe as possible and devised strategies where they would be used as a decoy without ever having to fight.

    We need to protect our youth. They face a spiritual enemy that wants to destroy them. We need to protect them just as Helaman protected his warriors.

  5. Helaman trusted the boys and he trusted their families. – See Alma 56:46-48. When you read this exchange between Helaman and his sons, it is fairly obvious that he trusts them. Even though they are young and inexperienced, he trusts their testimony and strength.

    The young warriors also explained that their mothers knew that God would deliver them, and they do not doubt their mothers.

    Helaman reacts with support and relative awe. He doesn’t say, “You haven’t been in a war. You know nothing.” He doesn’t respond, “What does your mother know about this situation.” Instead, he trusts the young men and he trusts their families.

    It is so important for us to trust the youth and their families. Of course, the Spirit can help us to discern between right and wrong. But we have to be sure that our own opinions aren’t blocking the Spirit. We can trust that the youth we serve do have testimonies and do desire to serve God. When we trust the youth, they will rise to the occasion just as these 2,000 stripling warriors did.

  6. Helaman followed the Spirit – See Helaman 56:44, 50. I know that I just made the point that Helaman protected his sons; however, of utmost importance is that he followed the Spirit.

    The plan was for the 2,000 warriors to be a decoy. However, the Lamanite army stopped marching after them. Helaman thought that they figured out what was going on, and then decided to attack Antipus’s army. But he couldn’t be sure. Maybe they were just waiting so they could trick this small group and then lure them into a trap. In any case, action needed to be taken. The Lamanites were no longer taking the bait. After consideration, Helaman knew that they needed to fight the Lamanites and save the other army. He turns to his young army and says, “Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?”

    Even though it was Helaman’s desire to keep these boys out of battle, he followed the Spirit – knowing that they needed to fight without knowing what the outcome would be. He trusted in God and followed the Spirit.

    Like Helaman, we need to stay close to the Lord and follow His Spirit.

  7. Helaman rejoiced in the victories of his “sons.” – See Alma 56:54-56. After their victory against the Lamanite Army and helping to rescue Antipus’s army, Helaman checked on his sons. Not only did they rejoice in their victory, but Helaman was overjoyed to find that not a single one of these boys had fallen to the earth. They were all alive, and Helaman was happy.

    When we are stewards over the youth, we, too, need to rejoice in the victories of our youth. This can happen in a variety of ways. I think that, as we come to love the youth we serve, rejoicing in their victories comes very naturally because we love them.

  8. Helaman allowed his young warriors to be exposed to danger. – See Alma 57:18-19, 23. This can be so difficult. I think that it would have been difficult for Helaman, too. He spent so much time protecting his sons from battle, he still had to allow them to be exposed to the dangers of war. They were, after all, soldiers.

    After one especially difficult battle, there were many people who had fallen and died. Thankfully, again, all of the stripling warriors were spared of death, but about 200 of them had fainted with a loss of blood. Helaman needed to allow his sons to be exposed to this danger in order for them to do what they were sent there to do.

    Likewise, we leaders must be wise, and we must allow our youth to be exposed to danger. This doesn’t mean that we’ll take them to a place we know to be evil. It just means that we need to accept our circumstances, our purpose, and that our youth are strong just like these young warriors were.

  9. Helaman cared for his sons and saw that they were healed. See Alma 57:24-25. Immediately after a battle, Helaman ordered that the wounded should be brought out from among the dead, and that their wounds should be dressed. He found the 200 or so of his sons that had fallen from a loss of blood. Helaman made sure that they received the medical attention they needed.

    Just as Helaman saw to their healing, we need to see that the spiritual and emotional wounds of those whom we serve (or perhaps the physical, you never know, I guess!) are also healed. We can do this by investigating the scene and doing what is necessary to “dress” the wounds that are suffered by those whom we serve.

  10. Helaman was a spiritual example of faith. See – Alma 58:10-12. There was a point, after these battles, where Helaman and those he commanded were waiting for provisions and supplies. But nothing. They waited. Nothing.

    Instead of Helaman murmuring against his superiors, he simply led his group of stripling warriors in prayer. Helaman was an example of faith and loyalty. That being said, he still brought up the issue to his superiors. It was appropriate for him to report what was happening with them. In fact, had Helaman not reported this shortage, then they wouldn’t have discovered the insurrection that happened in Zarahemla.

    Helaman handled this difficult situation with poise. He was a spiritual leader to his youth without being a doormat.

    We can do the same. We need to be spiritual leaders to our youth. They need to hear us pray. And we ned to support those who are over us. Even if things aren’t going well, we don’t need to murmur. We can responsibly report, and find the source of the problem in a humble but effective way.

  11. Helaman was wise. He only did that which was absolutely needful. See Alma 58:16-28. Helaman was a commander in a war. He understood the need to be efficient and wise. He didn’t send his troops out without thinking about their strategy. He didn’t have them do anything more than that which was absolutely needful. What’s the purpose? How effective would a tired and overworked army be?!?

    Because Helaman was a good steward, he wisely chose to do only that which he, and his young army, needed to do. Because of his wisdom, he was able to overtake an enemy city purely by strategy – without any blood shed (on either side).

    We need to be wise, too. Often, I think that it is the American (and Mormon) way to just do everything we can. We want to start our race sprinting. We overcommit and then find ourselves tired or even sick. This is not what we, wise stewards of the youth, can afford to do. We need to do only the needful thing. Sometimes, this might mean saying no – even to good things. We don’t want to waste precious time and effort on something, even if it seems like good. We must be wise enough to prioritize. We are at a war, of sorts, and we have to be good stewards over these youth!

  12. Helaman put his trust in God. – See Alma 58:33. Despite the troubles that Helaman’s army was facing (in not receiving needed provisions from his own country), he still put His trust in God. He didn’t fret. He didn’t worry. He trusted God.

    It could be easy to fret and worry – Helaman was responsible for 2,000 young men. Wouldn’t his responsibility justify worry and perhaps even a little bit of “ark steadying?”

    But Helaman simply trusted God.

    As stewards of youth, we also need to trust God. Yes, this world we live in can be dangerous. It can be easy to think that we need to go above and beyond to protect this group of children we have stewardship over. However, I’ve found that worry usually leads to a frantic pace or frenzied stress. And a frantic pace/frenzied stress is not trusting in God! It’s a waste of our energy, and it will often yield very poor results.

  13. Helaman was aware and thoughtful of his circumstances. He questioned without murmuring. See Alma 58:35-36. I have alluded to this point already, but it is worth an extra mention. While at war, Helaman and his forces were not receiving reinforcements. Instead of saying, “Oh well, I’ll just wait,” he still acted. He wrote a letter to his superior and informed him of the situation.

    Now, it’s important to note that we can question and we can inform – without laying blame on someone. This is exactly what Helaman did. He wasn’t a doormat, neither was he bullish. He was simply direct and honest.

    Because of Helaman’s honesty, Captain Moroni was made aware of a bad situation happening in the country – a coup. The armies weren’t receiving any help because their own country was under siege. Had Helaman not alerted Moroni of his problems, then they wouldn’t have been able to learn about this problem.

    As wise stewards, when we run into issues “from above,” then we will not be afraid to open an honest dialogue with our “superior.” We also won’t murmur or complain. Instead, when we are fair and measured like Helaman, we’ll be able to make real progress and, perhaps, even discover another issue that truly needs attention.

  14. Helaman was blessed by God in his stewardship. – See Alma 58:39-40. Because of Helaman’s faithful service, he was blessed in his stewardship. Throughout his tenure as the general of this small army, throughout all of their battles and other hardships, not a single soul was lost.

    I can’t say that if we are faithful, then none of the souls we have stewardship will be lost. Everyone has their own choice to make. That being said, if we faithfully serve, then the Lord will bless us in our stewardship. He will bless us with peace. And we will be able to have a positive impact on the young ones we work with – no matter what they choose to do with their lives.

  15. Helaman was always focused on the Savior. See Alma 58:40-41. I think that this is probably the most important point. Always, at the center of his motives and service, was the redemption and Atonement of Christ. Helaman was empowered by Christ and sought to protect and stand fast in the liberty that had made him free. Because of Helaman’s focus on Christ, he was able to accomplish the above 14 points. This is truly what made him an exceptional leader.

    If we want to be the best leaders we can be, then we will focus on Christ, as well. What does this mean? I think that it means we will teach the principles of the gospel.

    But it also means so much more than that.

    I think that it also means we teach the youth that the focus needs to be on the Savior. I think that it means we act as a conduit – or a pathway for their own relationship with the Savior. It can be tempting to want to be the person who is so cool and fun – it is easy to try to use our own charm, personality, money, gifts to convince the youth we serve to love us. But that’s not the point. We need to use our own experience with Christ to convince the youth to also love Him. It’s not about us at all, really…and Helaman knew that.

What stands out to you about Helaman’s leadership over the youth? Do you serve young men or women? What do you do to be a better steward?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (8/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

This is the final of the beatitudes that we’ll be studying. I feel like I’ve learned so much! I hope that you have, too.

This last beatitude is actually a little longer than the others. We can quote it in one verse, but the Savior actually continues on:

” Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” – Matthew 5:10-12

Before I began to really study this beatitude, I wondered, why did Christ tell this one last of all? and Why did Christ explain this one more than He did the others? I’m not completely sure of the answers. (Besides, they would only be speculation, anyways). But I’m keeping them in mind. In a way, I suppose it implies importance to this beatitude. In any case, think about this while we study the beatitude.

As with the other beatitudes, we will first discover what this beatitude means. We will then see how Christ exemplified it during His great work of the Atonement.

The Meaning of the Parable

Persecuted for righteousness’ sake

You don’t have to think very long or hard to find examples of people who have either persecuted the righteous or have been persecuted because they were righteous. A few quick examples include: The people in Lehi’s Dream (1 Nephi 8), Joseph Smith (See here), The Savior (Luke 23), Abinadi (Mosiah 17), and Alma both persecuted others (Mosiah 27 and then after his conversion was persecuted (Alma 14). There are even modern-day accounts of people who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. (Jeffrey R. Holland shares a few examples in this talk).

The point of this list is to say that people have always been persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The short list above is not even the tip of the iceberg. So many of the people I listed here who were persecuted for righteousness’ sake were martyred. What dedication! Yet the beatitude says that “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…” how could persecution unto death be considered a blessing?

Jacob, the son of Lehi, was reminded about his suffering:

“Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” – 2 Nephi 2:2

Trusting that we’ll be blessed for enduring persecution requires us to trust in God and His perspective. It can be difficult to see how such endurance could be a blessing. I’m often guilty of thinking, “Oh, things will be alright. If I’m righteous, then the Lord will spare me of my suffering.” Sometimes, this is true. Because of righteous decisions, there is a great deal of suffering that I’m spared of – self-inflicted problems such as addiction.

However, this beatitude reminds us that there are times when, even though we’re righteous, we will suffer. Some people, like many mentioned above, suffer to the death. There are times when we won’t be delivered from the difficulty and affliction we’re in until we die. We must maintain an eternal perspective while going through this life, otherwise it is impossible to endure persecution.

***
There is another aspect to being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. I can’t help but think about the people who are doing the persecuting. What on earth is their motive? An unnamed high priest wonders the same thing when Korihor is about persecuting the people of God and preaching against the gospel:

“And it came to pass that the high priest said unto him [Korihor]: Why do ye go about perverting the ways of the Lord? Why do ye teach this people that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings? Why do ye speak against all the prophecies of the holy prophets?” – Alma 30:22

In other words, this high priest is asking Korihor, “What’s your deal? Why are you changing God’s ways and laws? Why are you trying to frustrate our happiness? There are so many more witnesses than you of God and His divinity. What gives???

Why do people persecute others? What motivated the Pharisees to hate the Savior so much? Why did Korihor, Sherem, and Nehor seek to destroy the church in the Book of Mormon. Why did mobs of people attack and then kill Joseph Smith? What motivates those who persected in the past and those who persecute others now?

In the Book of Mormon is recorded Lehi’s dream. He had a vision where he saw many people walking along a path and an iron rod to the tree of life. This path was arduous and difficult. The people needed to endure trials, mists of darkness, and even scoffing and mocking in order to finally partake of the fruit of this tree. Along this path were people in a “great and spacious building” who mocked the people who were faithfully holding tight to the rod of iron and making their way to the tree of life.

Why did they mock? What was it to them? We find out more about these people from Nephi:

“And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.” – 1 Nephi 12:18

The people in the great and spacious building were motivated by the “vain imaginations” and pride.

Other helpful examples are the excuses given by three prominent “anti-Christs” in the book of Mormon.

Why did Sherem persecute the people and preach against God? He tells here:

And he spake plainly unto them, that he had been deceived by the power of the devil. And he spake of hell, and of eternity, and of eternal punishment. – Jacob 7:18

Sherem preached against righteousness because he had been deceived.

Why did Nehor preach against the church and then even kill Gideon, a righteous man? We learn in Alma:

“And it came to pass that he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money.” – Alma 1:5

Nehor preached against righteousness because he was able to get power and money for his self-promotion and teaching. Nehor later killed a righteous man, and was consequently put to death. At his execution, Nehor admits that what he had taught people was “contrary to the word of God,” (Alma 1:15).

Why did Korihor persecute the righteous? He explains it himself:

“But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.” – Alma 30:53

From these four examples, I can only surmise that people persecute the righteous because they are proud, they are deceived, they want power and prestige over others, and because righteousness is not really pleasing to our carnal, natural minds.

I think it is important to remember the motives of those who persecute against righteousness. Sometimes the reason is pathetic- the people are confused or deceived. Other times, the reasons are insidious – they want power over people. Understanding these motives can help us to fight them off. Those who preach against the gospel and persecute righteousness can be very convincing.

Kingdom of Heaven

Next, the Lord teaches that those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed because theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Before investigating this further, the first thing that strikes me is that Christ doesn’t say, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for they will be blessed with monetary riches.” He doesn’t say that they “…will experience great health throughout their lives.” He doesn’t promise friends, an easy life, or many of the things that we consider blessings.

Instead, Christ offers something that no one or thing else can offer: the kingdom of Heaven. I think that if we remember that this is the blessing, then we will also better be able to keep perspective of our current trials and tribulations. In other words, this beatitude demands us to have an eternal perspective.

Now, what is the kingdom of Heaven?

I can’t help but think of the many parables that Christ gives in Matthew 13. In this chapter alone, we learn that the kingdom of Heaven is:

  • “Mysterious” – it is not understood by the natural mind, but by the Spirit. (Verse 11)
  • Will be purged of the tares. (Verse 24)
  • Like a mustard seed – the least of all seeds, but greatest of all herbs: growing into a tree. (Verse 31)
  • Like leaven – a small amount will leaven the whole loaf. (Verse 33)
  • A treasure in a field and when a man finds it will sell all he has to buy that field. (Verse 44)
  • A pearl of great price. (Verse 45)
  • A net that is cast into the sea and gathers of every kind. All of the bad is discarded, then all truth and goodness is included. (Verse 47)

As I look through this list, I’m struck by a few things: the kingdom of Heaven is, of course, God’s kingdom. It is perfectly cleaned. In fact, it has been cleansed by Him. The tares were cast out. The garbage caught in the net was discarded. Only the pure remains.

Additionally, I’m formulating another idea of the kingdom of heaven. It is abundantly rich. Like the mustard tree, it is large and strong even though it had humble beginnings. It is a pearl of great price. It is everything in the earth that is good and true. I really love understanding this concept. I have recently gotten into yoga and meditation. There are so many good practices from eastern religions. As I’ve learned more about them, I remember to keep the Savior at the center of everything that I’m learning, but that the gospel is all truth circumscribed into one great whole.

This is the kingdom of Heaven: all that is good, just, and true. It is all that is beautiful and joyous. It is every pure and good thing. It isn’t just this ethereal idea of people floating around in clouds and blowing trumpets (although there may be some of that…who knows). My point is it is more than that. The kingdom of Heaven is substantive. It is all of everything – truth, goodness, purity. I need to remember that God isn’t just offering us a life of hanging out in the sky. He offers us the abundant life. To those who are righteous to the point where they will endure persecution because of their righteousness Christ offers everything in His kingdom.

Understanding this makes martyrdom, even, seem like a small price to pay for everlasting joy and abundance.

Jesus Christ – His Atonement and Persecution

Now that we understand more about this beatitude, we will look at how it can possibly relate to Christ’s Atonement.

Persecution for Righteousness’ sake

Well, at first glance, I think that it is really easy to see the relationship between this beatitude and the Atonement. The entire Atonement is fraught with persecution and suffering. Here are a few thoughts on the matter:

One
Christ was righteous, and I mean Righteous. He is the essence of all righteousness. His example is perfect. He was pure. The Atonement – which was taking on our sins and imperfections and paying the price that justice demanded of them so that we could receive mercy – could only be performed by Him. Because of His purity, only He could offer Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins.

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane (Christ in Gethsemane), by Harry Anderson

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane (Christ in Gethsemane), by Harry Anderson

It is interesting to me, too, that Christ – immediately after paying the price of our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane – would be betrayed, falsely accused, and arrested.

Two
After being arrested, he is taken before Pilate and questioned. He then is taken to Herod where he is treated like some kind of circus freak. (Herod wants him to “perform”). This is all before the real persecution starts. But it’s bad enough already. Can you imagine being falsely accused and then taken before local judges/magistrates where they treated you like some kind of freak show? How horribly humiliating.

But Christ’s persecution – all because He was righteous – doesn’t end there.

Christ is sentenced to death, primarily because a mob chanting, “Crucify Him!” refused to release a known robber. The Pharisees and wicked people that condemned Christ were largely offended by who He was – the son of God – one who healed, served, and performed miracles. Instead of seeing that Christ was their promised Messiah, because they had been so far removed from righteousness, they persecuted it.

As Christ endured His sentence, He also endured a great deal of persecution.

Nephi describes Christ’s experience succinctly:

“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 19:9

AFTER Christ had already suffered the pains of every sin and infirmity of every person in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ then suffered the humiliation of false accusation, arrest and judgement. Then, He continued to suffer mocking, scourging, and smiting.

Matthew relates what happened to the Savior as He hung on the Christ but before He gave up the ghost:

And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,

And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,

He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.” – Matthew 27:39-43

I find this to be one of the most bitterly ironic passages, or paradoxical, maybe hypocritical? I don’t know. But this passage is annoying, at best, and I shake my head in amazement. These unbelieving Jews, the people of the covenant, didn’t understand their own religion or their God. And what they persecute Christ for demonstrates their ignorance and pride.

They walk by Him, wagging their heads. This implies a sense of persecution and mockery, for sure.

Then, they tempt Christ, saying, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” They claim that because He can’t save Himself, then He’s obviously not capable of saving anyone else. But they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand their own laws and ordinances. They didn’t understand the symbolism of the blood sacrifice that they offered – as a type of the sacrifice that He would offer.

The thing that is ironic here is that because Christ didn’t save Himself in that moment, he saved Himself and all mankind. Had Christ not endured persecution for righteousness sake, and He had the power not to, then He would not have been able to finish His work. By staying on that cross,and by dying, He was saving Himself and others!

Three
Thankfully, we have the advantage of hindsight when thinking of Christ and His Atonement. We know that three days after being crucified, He was not in the garden tomb. He was risen. And He lives.

Sometimes it is easy to think that we could endure the persecution that those who lived in the past endured, but we forget that they didn’t have the advantage of hindsight.

When I think of Christ’s experience being persecuted, I am reminded of the fact that sometimes the wicked do have the power to hurt us to the point where we may die. Sometimes the wicked do obtain material wealth and power over others. We see this with war criminals. We see this with the Pharisees that condemned Christ.

But we must maintain perspective. The devil had power to bruise Christ’s Heel, but with that very heel that had been bruised, Christ was able to crush the devil’s head.

Righteous will prevail. It’s worth enduring persecution for.

The Kingdom of Heaven

Because of all that Christ suffered – even unto death; because He chose to descend below all, He was able ascend above all and inherit the kingdom of God.

And, because Christ has suffered our sins, we can covenant with Him and also become joint heirs and inherit the kingdom of Heaven.

***
Last week, I went to the Mesa Easter Pageant with my kids. When Christ was being crucified, T-Rex was perplexed, “Why didn’t he fight?” He asked. It was cute, and it was a good question.

That’s the thing, though. Christ didn’t fight the immediate problem. He could have He could have escaped and destroyed His executioners. He could have avoided all persecution. He could have silenced the Pharisees or He could have given into their traps. Of course, Had he done that, then the Atonement would not have been performed, Salvation for all would have been thwarted and niehter the Savior nor anyone else would have been able to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

And, as I write this, maybe the right answer to my little boy is, “Oh, but He did fight. He fought the true fight of agency and mastery over sin and temptation. He performed His work. He was resurrected. He lives. He didn’t get diverted by a little difficulty (okay, crucifixion is more than a “little” difficulty). Instead, He stayed focused on His real battle, and He conquered.

***

What have you learned about being persecuted for righteousness’ sake? Have you experienced this in some way? How did you endure?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (7/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

So, as I study this scripture, I have to admit, this beatitude has always stumped me a little bit. It’s the promise that kind of makes me wonder…aren’t we all children of God? I mean, really, aren’t we all children of God, no matter how we act or what we do?

Obviously, I know that the Savior knows more than I do. I know that if the Savior says this then it’s not that He has to clarify, it’s that I need to seek clarity. I need to understand what He means. So…that’s what we’ll be doing today. Anyway – I’ve been trying to think of a succinct and organized way to write this post, but I’m not sure exactly how to do it. So, bear with me as I go through the thought process on 1) Understanding this Beatitude 2) Seeing how it Applies to Christ’s Atonement.

Children of God and Children of God

Nice heading, huh?

As I mentioned earlier, we are all children of God. I know this. I know that He is the Father of our Spirits. There is ample scriptural evidence of this. Heavenly Father (notice the title!!!!) formed us, created the earth, and provided a way for us to come and live on this earth so we could progress in our eternal lives. He knows each of us intimately. He is the father of our spirits.

There is absolutely no doubt that we are children of God, and I don’t think that Christ wass suggesting that we somehow have to “qualify” to become Heavenly Father’s children. However, there is a difference between being His Spiritual children of our Heavenly Father and then becoming a child of God (As in the Godhead, not solely Heavenly Father), through covenant. In fact, when we are baptized, it is referred to as being born again. To whom are we born? God.

King Benjamin Addresses the People

King Benjamin Addresses the People

King Benjamin explains this well:

“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” – Mosiah 5:7

Alma the younger, shortly after His conversion also teaches:

“For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.

And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” – Mosiah 27:24-26

In the beatitudes, when Christ suggests that we can become the children of God, this doesn’t refer to what we already are: Spirit sons and daughters of Heavenly Father. He refers to our receiving the blessings of the baptismal covenant with God. We are all spiritual children of Heavenly Father, but because of our fallen natures, we have been cut off from Him. In order to be a child of God, we need to covenant with Him and be spiritually reborn.

We know that Christ exemplified this Himself when He was baptized despite the fact that He was pure. He still needed to covenant with God to fulfill all righteousness. Being a peacemaker and being called a child of God is dependent on our covenanting with Him.

I think that understanding this is crucial to understanding the rest of the beatitude.

What is a peacemaker? What is peace?

The second point to understand with this beatitude is what Christ actually means by being a peacemaker. In order to understand that, we really have to ask “what is peace?” Is it simply not fighting?

Well, sure, not fighting is a part of it. (See 3 Nephi 11:29.) It is easy to think of peace in terms of how the world thinks of it – a lack of contention or war, but Christ has already explained that He doesn’t offer peace as the world defines it.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27

The “world” has defined peace largely as an absence of warring, fighting, strife. I looked up the definition of peace on dictionary.com, and the first six definitions have to do with an absence of something – war, strife, difficulty. The seventh definition – tranquility and serenity – is probably closest to what Christ means when He offers peace. In other words, Peace isn’t merely an absence of ill will, malignant deeds, or debilitating trial. It is, instead the presence of God’s Spirit and love. Christ offers us peace of conscience. We can experience peace, in Christ, even during the midst of the most difficult trial. No one or no thing else can offer this.

When we understand peace in the way that Christ means it, then peace becomes more powerful and more desirable. Peace becomes a transcendental power rather than some innocuous vacuum-like state. Obtaining peace, then, is the first step in becoming a peacemaker, and it all goes back to the covenant that we talked about earlier in this post. We can find an equation here…

1) Covenant with God → 2) Experience God’s Love for us and feel His Peace → 3) Proclaim peace to others by sharing the gospel and magnifying our callings. = 4)Being Called a Child of God

Covenant with God in the Waters of Baptism

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Does peace come before or after baptism? And I guess that the answer is – both. It can come to us in glimpses before baptism. This peace and comfort is what motivates us to be baptized. However, we cannot really obtain the peace that Christ offers without being baptized.

He invites us:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

When we come unto Christ and take His yoke upon us, which is taking His name upon us, which is done in the waters of baptism, then we will find rest unto our souls. When we take on Christ’s name, we’ll be able to have peace.

In order to be a peacemaker, we first need to have peace in our souls. This comes when we humble ourselves, have faith, and take upon Christ’s name in the waters of baptism.

Experience God’s Love for us and Feel His Peace

I know that this seems kind of obvious, but I want to list it as a step because it is important to recognize that we cannot possibly share something with others that we have not first obtained ourselves. We cannot make peace without first having peace.

When the people who had listened to King Benjamin’s speech accepted it, they wanted to covenant with God. They had experienced the peace that comes when we covenant with Christ.

” And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.” – Mosiah 4:3

Proclaim Peace to Others by Sharing the Gospel and Magnifying our Callings

After obtaining our own peace of conscience through repentance and covenanting with the Lord, we can proclaim peace to others.

How does this look? Does this mean that we go around, making peace signs, telling people, “Give Peace a Chance”? Does this mean that if your kids are fighting at home, then you start singing, “Love at Home”?

Maybe.

But, really, that’s only a surface solution. Being a peacemaker is proclaiming peace. I think that Christ wants us to be the kind of peacemakers that will establish everlasting peace and joy – the peace that He offers.

A few years ago, I was on a walk listening to the radio. Several nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize were being announced. I didn’t disagree with the nominations, yet inwardly I thought to myself, “We have this all wrong, the real peacemakers are simple, young men and women. The real nominees should be the missionaries.

Elder Quentin L. Cook has taught:

“My heart rejoices when I realize that in our day tens of thousands of young men, young women, and senior missionaries have accepted the call to be emissaries of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They are taking the restored gospel of peace to the world, one person and one family at a time—a work of righteousness to bring this peace to Heavenly Father’s children.” – Quentin L. Cook, Personal Peace: the Reward of Righteousness

The missionaries, one by one, are accepting the call to serve. They are set apart, and they leave their families, their lives, their ambitions, their futures to serve God and proclaim His gospel of peace. It is beautiful. This scripture comes to mind:

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” – Isaiah 52:7

This duty and blessing doesn’t only apply to missionaries. We can all establish peace in our homes, in our communities, and even in a worldwide setting by sharing the gospel.

There are two examples I want to share. The first is of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon. In the Words of Mormon, we read:

For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people—

Wherefore, with the help of these, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land.” – Words of Mormon 1:17-18

King Benjamin had followed the aforementioned pattern. He was a holy man. He had covenanted with God. He knew the peace of the Gospel. Through the authority he and other prophets held, they spoke the word of God with power. This is how they established peace in the land. They didn’t enact programs or laws. Instead, they bore pure testimony with authority. They taught the gospel of repentance. They established a culture of faith and peace.

Another example is Melchizedek. He was a prophet in the Old Testament and was also known as the prince of peace.

“But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.” – Alma 13:18

Melchizedek, like King Benjamin, established peace by preaching the gospel.

We are Called the Children of God

We’ve already talked about what it means to become a child of God by covenanting with Him in the waters of baptism; however, being called a child of God comes after we proclaim peace – not after we covenant with Him. In other words, covenanting with God isn’t quite enough. It is when we keep our covenant, which includes sharing the gospel with others, that we are then called children of God.

The Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ

When Christ was born, the angels declared:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2:14

Even though the Savior was born, warring didn’t cease, fighting and opposition didn’t disappear. In fact, Joseph, Mary, and the very Prince of Peace would have to escape to Egypt to hide from the edict sent by Herod to kill all of the children under the age of 2. Yet we know that Christ brought peace to the earth.

We can look at the pattern discussed in this blog to determine how Christ did bring peace to the earth.

1) Covenanting with God
Christ, to fulfill all righteousness, was baptized. He covenanted directly with Heavenly Father – even though He was pure and didn’t need the cleansing effect of baptism. He exemplified what we all must do; He covenanted with God; and by doing so, he inherited all that God has – including peace and rest.

2) Experience God’s Love
Throughout Christ’s life, He experienced God’s love. He had a close relationship with His Father. When Christ was baptized, Heavenly Father announced, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:17

It is this love, I believe, that empowered Christ throughout His ministry. Because Christ was pure, He was united with God. He could feel God’s love purely. He understood His relationship with His Father, and He also expressed this pure love to others throughout His ministry.

I want to think of this feeling of God’s love and peace, however, within the context of the Atonement, itself. Did Christ feel God’s love for Him while He performed His great sacrifice? I think so.

While Christ suffered in Gethsemane, he called out, asking for the bitter cup to be removed. Yet He did Heavenly Father’s will – which was to endure the bitter agony of the Atonement. Heavenly Father didn’t leave Him alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. We read,

“And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” – Luke 22:43

Of course, later on, Christ would be forsaken by God. I think that, in a way, this teaches us about the companionship of God – when we’re doing what is right; and how God’s love gives us unparalleled peace.

So, I invite you to follow my logic for a second.

Christ was perfect. He was pure. He had never committed any sin or infraction against the laws of Heaven that would have warranted a separation from God. Unlike the rest of humanity, He had a unique dual-nature. He was both man and the literal son of God. This may be hard to understand. Certainly, I can’t pretend to comprehend it. However, we know that His nature was literally divine. He is the literal offspring of God.

Because of this, He wasn’t bound by the effects of the fall. His purity and His godly nature enabled Him to have a closeness with God that none of us can achieve. The Savior, because of His perfect life did not know what being cut off from God felt like.

I think it is safe to say that every one of us understands being “cut off” from God. Sure there are times when I’ve felt close to God. Yet, I sin, and I’m learning, and there have been times I’ve cut myself off from God knowingly. There have also been times when I have felt like Joseph Smith when he asked, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?”Doctrine and Covenants 121:1 I have experienced this before. As I get closer to God, I find how precise and pure He is. I guess that what I’m saying is, as I become a more spiritually tuned being, I’m seeing how sensitive the Spirit is. In my life, the pavilion that covers God’s hiding place is often a result of my own imperfections, and unfortunately, that happens more often than I’d like.

However, the Savior hadn’t really experienced any kind of disruption between His closeness with God. He was perfect and had access to God in a way that I can’t imagine. Up until that moment on the cross. In that brief, terrible moment, in order for Christ to truly descend below all, Heavenly Father had to “forsake” His perfect Son. And when this happened, Christ immediately recognized. He cried out:

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46

Christ was accustomed to peace. He didn’t fret. He didn’t worry while He slept and the tempest raged. He didn’t freak out when Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. He didn’t fight Pilate, Herod, or any of the high priests who condemned Him. He was filled with the peace of God and proceeded through the work of the Atonement in a peaceful manner.

3) Proclaim Peace to Others by Sharing the Gospel and Magnifying His Calling
Okay – so this is the final part of being a peacemaker. And, boy, did Christ proclaim peace. The entire work of the Atonement is a proclamation of peace. His calling was to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin, so we could experience peace.

I love the scripture in Isaiah:

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5

The phrase, “the chastisement of our peace was upon Him” has always stood out to me – probably because it is relatively difficult to understand. My thought is that Christ took on the chastisement that would come as a result of our sins so we could feel peace. Mercy cannot rob justice. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. He was chastised so that we could experience peace. His stripes heal us.

The Atonement is the greatest proclamation of peace in the history of mankind. It is because of Christ’s Atonement that we can experience peace. Truly He is the Prince of Peace, and we become peacemakers when we share the message of the Savior and His Atonement.

4) He is called a child of God
This point is pretty obvious, and my blog post is already long, so I won’t go in depth here, but it is worth mentioning.

Christ covenanted with God. He experienced Peace. He proclaimed Peace. Because of what He did: suffering, dying, and being resurrected – He was able in inherit all God has. He is a child of God. And because of Christ, we can also partake in this inheritance.

Pretty amazing, huh?!

***
I have loved studying this beatitude. What do you think of it? What have you done in your life to cultivate peace in your own heart? How have you shared this peace? What do you do to be a peacemaker?

Preach My Gospel Family Study Updated

chococatania:

Just an update! :) :) :) Finally!!!

Originally posted on chococatania:

Hello there,
I just wanted to let you know that I have updated the Preach My Gospel Family Study Guide. Week 6 is now available. I’ll be adding many more weeks (up to week 25) over the next several days/week.

Preach My Gospel Family Scripture Study

Thanks for your patience in this! You can always check the sidebar which will redirect you to my scribd account – where the most recent version of the program is always available.

This program will be a total of 36 weeks of devotionals/scripture study assignments for families.

View original

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (6/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Matthew 5:8

Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

I think that I’ll go about this post in a different way than usual. First of all, the promise…

for they shall see God.

When I think of this promise, my heart fills with hope and joy. I think that it is because I’m a human being. Despite the relationships we have with our parents, I think that we all, at some point, want to know our Fathers, our parents. We want to know that we are loved. We want to know we belong. We want to know that we are accepted.

I grew up without knowing my biological father. Now, I was greatly blessed in that I was adopted at a very young age, and I have never known life without a father. Though I’m not related to my dad by blood, I have had the experience of being loved, accepted, and supported by a dad. Not only is this a blessing, but I believe that it is a right to every child on this earth to have a mother and a father that love them. (See The Family: A Proclamation to the World.)

As grateful as I’ve been to have a dad, there was still something missing. Who did I look like? Why was I short? Though I didn’t really want to push for a relationship with a man who I thought had abandoned me, I sincerely wanted to know my father. No matter who was raising me, there was a part of me, my own identity, that I just did not know. This question, who are you, anyway, Catania? lurked in my head for 31 years.

Then, miraculously, I found my biological father. (On Facebook!) I’m grateful to know Him. I felt like there was a part of me that I was finally discovering. I’m grateful for my dad, my biological father, my step-father, my mom, my step-mom, and all of the people I’ve been blessed with in my life.

I bring up this experience with my father because I think that we all have a similar spiritual experience. I believe that we are innately drawn to understanding God because He is our Spiritual Father. When we understand Him, we understand more of ourselves as we are His offspring.

So – blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. I’m highly motivated to be pure in heart because I yearn for a relationship with my Father in Heaven the same way I’ve always yearned for a relationship with my own dad and biological father.

On with the Beatitude…

Pure In Heart

In the first part of the beatitude, we are instructed that the pure in heart will be blessed. Purity can be understood and achieved in three ways.

Inherent Purity
So – inherent purity. Seems impossible, and for most people over the age of about 8, I think that it is. To me, inherent purity is the purity exhibited by children.

Think about children. Is there anything more pure than a child?

I’ve been blessed to have a lot of this influence of inherent purity around me in my life right now. Not only am I homeschooling my children (two of whom are five and three), but I’m also serving as a song-teacher to children ages 18 months to 12 years old. I see every week, every day, even, that children are truly pure. They experience this world purely. They feel intense, pure joy, disappointment, or whatever they face.

I’ll give an example. A few weeks ago, in church, I was singing the song “Do as I’m Doing,” in primary. One of the children, a rather rambunctious (yet pure!) boy was the leader. He decided that we would jump.

Since I’m the chorister for these children, I believe in “getting into it.” The real key to teaching children is talking/acting in a way that they can understand. So, as I sang, I jumped up and down: high and low, fast and slow.

Strangely enough, I was consumed with a pure joy as I jumped and sang this simple song. It was the most amazing thing. There was no reason for my joy. I realized that the joy I was experiencing stemmed from the purity of the moment.

I was tempted to feel a little self-conscious. I knew that my hair was flying everywhere. I’m overweight. From an adult’s (less pure!) perspective, I’m sure that I wasn’t a pretty sight. Thankfully, I looked out again at the kids, and realized that the moment was pure and it was joyful. I could choose to let my feelings, spirit, and emotions be clouded by some stupid comparison, or I could remain pure and focus on the intense joy of the moment.

So – the point of this experience is that inherent purity exists. And there are times we allow impurities into our lives by worrying about the expectations and judgments of others. We allow impurity in our lives by focusing on distractions rather than being mindful of the present moment. Children are masters at pure and present living. It is no wonder that Christ tells us to be like children.

***
While children are pure, and inherent purity exists. The fact of the matter is, most of us are not children and are impure. Yet we are told “blessed are the pure in heart.” Christ doesn’t give us commandments that we can’t keep. He has provided us a way to become pure.

Purity through Refinement and Trial
As we grow up out of childhood and no longer have the advantage of being pure through inexperience and innocence, we begin to discover our many impurities and weaknesses. The Lord require purity, but none of us are pure, so He blesses us with refining experiences.

These experiences are blessings, but not usually all that fun. I mean, this isn’t singing “Do As I’m Doing” and jumping with thirty children.

Refinement is hard, hard stuff.

I think that the best way to understand the refinement and purification process that we go through is when we think of the refinement of a fine metal. Our trials and experiences in life are like the “Refiner’s fire.” When going through such refinement, we are set in a crucible – a hot, hot crucible, and brought to a temperature that we can handle, but is still hot enough to burn away impurities.

Though this process is difficult, I think that it can help to remember the promise of the beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This is where gratitude for trial and tribulation come into play. If it weren’t for the crucibles of trials that we experience during our lives, then we wouldn’t be pure. We wouldn’t be made holy. We’d never “see God.”

Purity through the Cleansing Effect of the Atonement
Often, it seems like the trials and tribulations we face in life are not necessarily our fault. They might come through circumstances of mortality (think Cancer…what a crucible!) or they might come through the sins of others. (We don’t do anything in a vacuum). These tribulations refine us in ways that we don’t usually expect.

There is another way to be refined, and it is usually related to ways that we have specifically soiled ourselves. We can be made pure when we apply the purifying effect of the Atonement. In other words, we can be made pure when we repent.

The purification process of repentance occurs when we 1) Exhibit Faith in Christ 2) Repent 3) Covenant with Him in the Waters of Baptism (Which cleanses us) 4) Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost (Which sanctifies us). After being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, we can renew our baptismal covenant each week by partaking of the Sacrament. This will help us to become pure each week, even though we often soil ourselves through sin time and time again.

What all this has to do with the Atonement

I want to understand this beatitude within the context of the Atonement, so we’ll look at each aspect of purity and think of the Savior and His Sacrifice.

Inherent Purity
Christ was inherently pure. We know this because He never sinned. The scriptures describe His trial and crucifixion as “a lamb to the slaughter.” (See Isaiah 53:7 and Luke 23:8-9.)

Refinement and Trial
Christ, though already pure, went through a continued refinement throughout his life. It reached a peak in the Atonement. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He suffered all of our sins and infirmities – to the point that He bled from every pore. He was mocked, judged, and then crucified. All unjustly. But it strengthened him and purified Him to the point that He could then become the Savior of the world. If He didn’t go through this process, then He wouldn’t have been able to redeem us. He wouldn’t have finished His work. And He wouldn’t have inherited God’s glory.

It’s hard to imagine how exacting, how excruciating his crucible was!

The purity that came from this experience, though, enabled Him to be able to Return to His Father in glory. Additionally, this experience enabled Him to enable us – we are strengthened through Christ because He experienced all and knows how to succor us. (See Alma 7:11-12.)

Cleansing and the Atonement
So – we already know that Christ was pure. Why would he have to go through the process of cleansing?

Hopefully, I can express what I think in a way that makes sense.

When Christ went into the Garden of Gethsemane, he took on our sins. So – even though He had never committed a sin, because He took ours on, he was now technically impure.

We read:

“That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;” – Doctrine and Covenants 76:41, emphasis added

“And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.” – Alma 11:40, emphasis added

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:4-5, emphasis added

In no way do I suggest that Christ was impure, in and of Himself. No. He, like the sacrificial lamb, was perfect. However, once He took on our sins, He had to finish His work. He took on our sins. He allowed our sins to soil Him because He knew that only He would have the strength or capacity to purify them.

Because He took on our sins, He could perform the Atonement. This process allows the blood that He shed in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross to cleanse us.

Alma teaches:

“I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.” – Alma 5:21

And, Christ, who did perform the excruciating work of purification for us has invited us:

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

Christ because He was pure, took on our sins, infirmities, and impurities of every kind. In doing so, He suffered, bled, died. Then, three days later, He triumphed over death and hell extending us the ability to also become pure through Him.

Isn’t this the best thing ever? Like the best news ever. I can’t help but feel hopeful joy knowing that I have a Savior who has done so much for me

See God

Finally, we are back where we started. The promise of this beatitude is that the pure in heart will see God. We will know our Father. We will be reunited with Him. We will find joy and identity.

***
What does purity mean to you? How have you been able to embrace life’s difficulties an let trials help make you pure? How have you been able to employ the purifying power of the Atonement in your life?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (5/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

This beatitude has always seemed fairly obvious to me. The concept of being merciful in order to obtain mercy is pretty intuitive, and it is taught by the Savior really well in the parable of the king of the evil servant. (See Matthew 18:25-35.)

Additionally, when the Savior gives the “Lord’s prayer,” he gives the pattern of receiving forgiveness from God, as we have forgiven others. (See Matthew 6:12.)

In the Book of Mormon, when the Savior visits the Nephites, he teaches: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you;” (3 Nephi 13:14).

Finally – in these latter-days, we’ve been taught to forgive others. (See Doctrine and Covenants 64:10.)

We have been commanded to forgive. And in this beatitude, Christ gives us one of the reasons why we must: so that we, too can receive forgiveness.

***

I’m trying to think of these beatitudes within the context of the Atonement – as in how does Christ model this in His performance of the Atonement? and What is the connection between this scripture and the Atonement? And, as I think about it, I find it interesting that Christ was merciful even though He didn’t need mercy. He was God. He created the earth. He was perfect. He could have progressed without obtaining any kind of mercy.

However, he extended mercy and, therefore, obtained it.

Christ’s Atonement – Merciful

So, we’ll look at the first part of the beatitude first. blessed are the merciful. During the Atonement, Christ is merciful a few different ays.

Specifically Merciful

While Christ is on the cross at Calvary, we read, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know now what they do,” (Luke 23:34). After this act of forgiveness, the soldiers took no notice of Christ. Instead, they took his clothes and then gambled.

Keep in mind, Christ says this while He’s on the cross. It is after he has already suffered for the sins of the world in Gethsemane; After he had been betrayed by His friend and disciple; After he had been judged; After he had been mocked; and After he had been scourged. While He hangs on the cross, in unimaginable anguish, Christ forgives the people that were crucifying Him!

In this very specific way, Christ exemplifies the type of merciful behavior that we need to cultivate.

Eternally Merciful

As we think of mercy and the Atonement, it is easy to come up with a few examples: the healing of the officer’s ear. Christ’s forgiveness of the crucifiers. Those are great examples of merciful behavior, but we can’t just stop there. They only scratch the surface of the mercy of the Atonement.

The Atonement, in its essence, is about mercy. The Atonement is the single most merciful act ever done. We have to look at the big picture – what the Atonement does for all of us.

***
First, we have to understand a few facts:

  1. God is just.
  2. We, mortal men and women, are fallen creatures.
  3. In order to return to God, then we need mercy. Because God is just, then we will always be separated from Him – because of our sins.
  4. Mercy cannot rob justice. (Remember, GOD IS JUST!)

If you want to understand the concept of our need for mercy, then I would suggest reading Alma 34 and Alma 42. The basic idea is that we, mortals, are susceptible to the justice of God. If you take that truth – on its own – then our state is pathetic and pitiful. We would be required to pay for every single sin we commit.

Look at us! We are a mess! We lie, we hurt others, and we hurt ourselves. For the sake of a better understanding of why we need mercy, let’s look at a few awesome examples. Let’s say there is a person with the patience ofJob, the charity of Mother Theresa, and the knowledge of Neal A. Maxwell. Where would this person be?

Actually, this is a great example because Job, Mother Theresa, and Neal A. Maxwell are all dead. Not to be rude. It’s just a fact. Though they were marvelous people, they couldn’t fully save themselves. No matter how wonderful we think we are, we can’t navigate this mortal life alone. In fact, mortality is all about death: spiritual and physical death. Because of the fall, we are all susceptible to both modalities of death. And, before the Savior and the Atonement – death -both physical and spiritual – was the ultimate end of each of us.

DEPRESSING.

So. We, humankind, need a way to be forgiven of the sins we commit. We need mercy. When Christ suffered the sins of each person on this earth, he accomplished the most merciful act conceivable.

Though we break commandments and commit sins, Christ, God, came to earth and paid the debts that we racked. Only He could do it. And he did it for us because He loves us. He forgives us. The Atonement was the ultimate act of His forgiveness for our weakness and sin.

Christ’s Atonement – Obtained Mercy

The promise that Christ gives in the beatitude is that the merciful will obtain mercy. However, we have already determined that Christ didn’t need it. Because God is just, and because Christ is perfect, he didn’t need mercy or forgiveness.

Yet He was merciful.

At first, I just thought, “Of course Christ was merciful. He’s a nice guy. He’s perfect.”

But, as I consider the connection between the Atonement and mercy, I’m thinking that it is more than that. In fact, even though Christ didn’t need to obtain mercy for Himself, it was His duty, His purpose, and His foreordained role to obtain mercy…for us.

Had Christ not been merciful, then He would not have performed the Atonement. Had Christ not performed the Atonement, then He would not have obtained mercy. Had Christ not obtained mercy, then He would not have been able to offer it to any of us.

This is what Christ was sent to do. We learn in the Book of Mormon:

“And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.

And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.” – Alma 34:14-16

Because Christ was merciful, he knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane; He trembled because of pain and bled from every pore. He even asked to get out of this excruciating act. (See Doctrine and Covenants 19:18.) However, His love of God and His mercy for us enabled Him to endure. He descended below all and then obtained mercy for us.

It was Christ’s mercy, then, that enabled Him to obtain mercy.

YAY!

***
How have you experienced the blessing of mercy in your life? What does the Atonement teach you about mercy? What can you do to be more merciful to others?

Joy is Quilting, Singing, and AZ in Feb

Oh, I know. I’ve been horrible with keeping up these posts. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do. Part of me feels obligated to try to finish something that I’ve started. Another part of me thinks, who cares. And still, another part of me says, This world – this Internet – needs a little bit more joy.

So – here’s the thing. I’m going to post random “Joy is…” posts. I want to do them often, but I’m not going to stick to a specific goal. I think I’ll shoot for monthly. But please don’t hold me to it. (I know you won’t. You probably don’t really care. I’m writing this for me.)

Joy is…

Are you happy???

Are you happy???

My favorite block

My favorite block

  • Joy is working on my quilt. I finished quilting it yesterday. I still have to bind it. I love these fabrics. I love the idea of making a quilt – planning, math, measuring, cutting, and sewing. Then, taking layers – the backing, batting, and beautifully pieced top – quilted together. And bound. I don’t know. The process of it is just really – I want to say relaxing, but it is more than that.

    I’m sure that there are some people reading this that might think I’m crazy, but to them I would say – try quilting.

    I’m not a seamstress. I don’t particularly like sewing (clothes, bags, etc.) But, quilting is just sewing a straight line. It is an instant gratification kind of a craft. (Kind of…). You can see the progress you make. It starts with a single block. You put your heart into it, and then you finish with this blanket – that comforts, warms, and unites people.

    Who doesn’t love sitting under a quilt?

    A handmade quilt means something, you know? I have all of this junk in my house, and so much of it is meaningless, but these quilts I make – for my family and my children – they are functional, and they mean something.

    Quilting brings me a little bit of joy. The colors of this blanket bring me joy.

    And I bought some rose oil so that I can spray it whenever I’m using the rose quilt. That will bring me an immense amount of joy.

  • Joy is singing time in primary. I wish that I had a picture for this, but I don’t. You just have to take my word for it. If you’ve never had the chance to be a chorister for the primary children, then pray for it. Seriously – best calling ever. (Primary pianist comes in a close second. Well, it might be a tie.)

    I have been on Prednisone the last few days. It is not particularly joyful. It makes me irritable, and it gives me insomnia. However, I walk into primary, I start to sing songs with these cute children, and I can’t help it: I’m consumed with joy. Their laugh. Their purity. I defy you to jump and sing “Do as I’m doing,” without feeling overwhelmed with joy.

    What I love about the joy that children feel is that it is completely…pure. They aren’t joyful because they have accomplished something. They aren’t joyful because someone did something for them. They are feeling joy because that is just the emotion they feel at that moment. And they aren’t afraid to feel it, either. They simply smile, giggle, and jump out of their seats with joy.

    I have served as the primary chorister five times so far in my life. I think that I could serve five more times and still learn so much about the simplicity of sublime joy from the children.

  • Joy is Arizona in February.
    Most of my family lives in the Northeast. Every winter, I feel sorry for them. In November is really when it starts. I think about how they are bundled up, while I’m outside grilling my Turkey.

    December is a little chilly here in AZ, but it’s not cold.

    Sometimes it’s easy to get sentimental about winter – especially around the Holidays. Everyone thinks they want a white Christmas.

    Then, Christmas is over, and winter is actually just beginning. January ushers in the winter blues. They only get worse in February. Oh, February. It was always such a hard month in PA.

    But in Arizona, February is glorious.

    Blooming Acacia

    Blooming Acacia

    The sun is shining. The weather is in the seventies. The flowers are blooming. I really can’t get enough of it. There is no explanation. I go outside, and I’m happy.

    ***
    What has brought you joy recently?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (4/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Matthew 5:6

Matthew 5:6

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

This beatitude has been fun to study, and I have to admit that my conception of hungering and thirsting after righteousness has changed a little bit. I hope that what I write will make a little bit of sense and will be beneficial to you, too.

Hunger and Thirst I- What does it really mean?

First of all, I think that it is helpful to understand, at the most basic level, what hungering and thirsting is.

I have to admit, that as a citizen of the United States, and having lived a very blessed life, I’ve never been starving. Because I’m a human, and because I’ve made a few bad decisions while hiking and biking in the desert, I do know what it is like to feel a little dehydrated. Still, I don’t know what it is like to be on death’s door because of a lack of water.

And, usually, when I have thought of this scripture, this is how I’ve conceptualized “hunger and thirst.” I have thought of it more as “starvation and dehydration.” Rather than a simpler form: hunger and thirst.

So – while I’ve never been truly starving, I have been hungry. There have been times when I’ve been a little hungry. (Like between one meal to the next). There have been times when I’ve been super duper ultra hungry (after running a marathon, for example). Hunger is no stranger to my life.

Thirst has been a common experience, as well. In fact, I think I’m thirsty right now.

Okay. So it has been established. I can’t speak for you, but I have experienced hunger and thirst. And, well, I’m actually going to speak for you – or at least I’m going to assume that while you might not have expereinced starvation or dehydration, you have been hungry and thirsty at least once in your life, if not on a daily basis.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that this is exactly what Christ is trying to get us to think about in this scripture. He’s talking about that daily, consistent hunger and thirst – the one that reminds us to eat and drink. I don’t think that he’s really talking about famine or starvation. I believe that He’s talking about something much more universal here.

Hunger and Thirst II – What do you crave?

Now that we’ve established what we mean by hunger and thirst – the daily experience we all have before we eat or drink – we will move on to the next part of this “hunger and thirst” equation.

Christ says, “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (emphasis added). Because of the word, after, I think that I’m guessing that this is more of a craving. Instead of just a basic level of hunger, this scripture is asking us to consider our cravings.

Let’s go back to a physical understanding of hunger/thirst/cravings. In my own experience, I typically crave what I’ve been consistently feeding my body.

For example, when I’m eating a lot of bread, chips, Doritos, candy, and hoagies and a few hours go by when I haven’t eaten anything, guess what I want? Something bread-y, salty, chip-y, hoagie-y, then topped off with some candy. Rarely do I say, “I’d really love some Brussels sprouts” when I’m eating a junkier diet.

On the other hand, when I’m consistently eating fruits, veggies, good fats, and quality meats, then I find myself craving an apple or a salad or a spoon of coconut oil with dark chocolate. I find that, when I condition myself to healthy eating, I honestly crave junk food less…way less.

We are always consuming. In order to stay alive, we must consume. So – we can, to a degree, control our cravings by feeding ourselves a steady diet. Once we have established a habit, then we will find that we hunger after what our body has grown accustomed to.

I think that we can apply the same concept to our spirits. When we “feed” our spirits a diet full of violence and sex, we come to crave these things. Do you think that a person who is subsisting on a spiritual diet of bloodshed is going to say, “I want to go to church!” Instead, it seems like such consumption begets more consumption.

Likewise, if we are regularly consuming a spiritual diet of righteousness – when we are praying/meditating, studying the scriptures, attending the temple, and doing things that will restore our Spirits, we then start to crave it.

SOOOO… if we want to hunger and thirst after righteousness, we need to consistently consume a “spiritual diet” of righteousness. It is after such consistency that we will then start to crave our daily scripture study, prayer, etc.

We will be filled

Again, I’m going to relate this to physical hunger/thirst/satiety. I can speak from experience: when I’m eating the nutrients that my body needs and expects – including lots of healthy protein, some healthy carbs, and plenty of healthy fat, I’m satisfied. I’m full. I don’t get hungry.

When I’m overloading on the stuff that makes my insulin spike, I find that a few hours later (when my insulin is, most likely dropping), I’m hungry. Forget that, I’m hangry! It has taken me some time (and trial and error) to discover that eating processed and overly sugary foods (even if they are billed as “healthy”) will cause these shifts in hormones that then start a domino effect of hormones. I don’t want to get geeky here. The main thing is – I feel hungry all the time when I’m not eating a diet that is appropriate.

Like, I mean, if I sit down to a dinner with pasta and bread, I don’t stop when I feel full. I do what Louis CK has said, “I stop when I hate myself.” Seriously, though…it seems like my brain doesn’t get the message that I’ve eaten, eaten, and eaten – until I’m unbuckling my pants. Then, I don’t feel full, I feel bloated, uncomfortable, and depressed.

I think that this is the same spiritually. When we are filling our minds and spirits with the elements that nurture us: scripture study, prayer, temple attendance, faith, hope, and charity, then we feel full! We feel nourished, we feel strengthened, we feel energized and ready to face what life throws at us. We experience spiritual satiety.

However, when we start to consume materials that are destructive (p*rn comes to mind), then we experience addiction. We are never filled. We consume, consume, and consume until we hate ourselves and everyone around us, too.

This beatitude is truth. When we hunger and thirst after righteousness, then we are filled.

Christ’s Example and the Atonement

As if this blog post isn’t long enough, I want to tie it in to the Atonement. Christ exemplified this beatitude in His life and in the performance of the Atonement.

Christ Hungered and Thirsted after Righteousness

When we think of this beatitude and Christ’s Atonement, we must keep in mind that first Christ had consistently consumed a “diet” of righteousness. He was raised by righteous parents. As a boy, he was taken to the temple and chose to spend time there. Throughout the duration of His life he made righteous decisions. He had a knowledge of the scriptures and a close relationship with His Father (most likely maintained through study and prayer). In fact, when He was baptized, even though He was perfect, he did it to “fulfill all righteousness.” (See Matthew 3:15.)

Christ had a steady spiritual diet of righteousness. He was accustomed to hungering and thirsting after it. He had developed a lifestyle of righteousness, and craved it.

In regards to the Atonement, I find it interesting that Christ describes His experience in the garden of Gethsemane as partaking of the “bitter cup.” (See Doctrine and Covenants 19:18.)

All of us, having sinned, are relatively familiar with “the bitter cup.” I know what it is like to feel the sorrow that comes from the sins I have committed. Sure, because of the Atonement, I don’t necessarily have to “pay” for them, but I think that each of us taste a drop of this bitter cup any time we commit sins and transgressions.

However, Christ had never sinned. He had never tasted of the bitterness that comes from sin and distance from God. I’m not suggesting that Christ had never experienced hardship. Instead, He never had experienced the pain and suffering that comes as a direct result of the sins we commit because He had never committed one. He hadn’t experienced guilt, shame, or sorrow in this way.

Can you imagine the shock of this bitter cup? For each of us, we experience the bitterness that comes as a product of our own sins. But Christ had to experience all of it. After a lifetime of perfect righteousness, he had to descend below and take on every single sin – from a negative thought about another to a murder. He experienced the bitterness of every sin in order to perform an Atonement for all of us. Whether or not we choose to repent, He has already suffered for our sins. Prior to the Atonement Christ had only tasted the sweetness of righteousness and obedience. I think that what Christ had to endure in the garden of Gethsemane – the gall of this bitter cup – would have been impossible for someone who was accustomed to bitterness to endure.

The irony of the “bitter cup” that Christ had to partake was that drinking of the bitter cup was the ultimate test of His righteousness. Partaking of the bitter cup was the sacrifice that He was called to endure. Had he not hungered and thirsted after righteousness for His entire life, He never would have been able to endure partaking of this bitter cup.

I think it is also important to realize that the “bitter cup” is only the effect and consequence of sin. It isn’t the “fun,” convenient, or tempting part of sin that gets us to commit it in the first place. It’s not like Christ had a fun, raucous time partaking of the bitter cup. Instead, He only experienced the distance from God (which distance He had never before experienced), the pain, the shame, the guilt, and the sorrow that comes from sin. He didn’t experience laughter or stupor. He didn’t experience the “adrenaline rush.” He only experienced the after effects which are, in fact, the sobering realities of sin.

It was the “bitter’ cup He drank. Not the pleasure cup. He didn’t get to eat the bag of Doritos, he only felt the bloating that comes afterward.

Because Christ hungered and thirsted after righteousness, He knew that He would have to “drink the bitter cup” and experience the pain and sadness of imperfection and sin. Without such a hunger and thirst after righteousness, I don’t think that anyone would have been able to endure the extreme bitterness of the Atonement.

One last note on this (I know this post is long), His suffering in Gethsemane (“the bitter cup”) was only a part of the Atonement. He would still endure persecution and judgment. He would still endure being nailed to a cross and forsaken by His Father. Only a pure hunger and thirst after righteousness could enable Christ to persevere the depths of His duty.

Christ was Filled

Nephi teaches:

“Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Wherefore, my soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name.” – 2 Nephi 25:13

Christ rose again – filled – with glory, life, and healing in His wings. Because of what He did in Gethsemane, not only was He filled, but He can fill us.

When we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we come to the Lord, we accept His Atonement in our lives, and we are comforted. We are made capable. We are strengthened. We are filled.

***
How have you developed a spiritual diet of righteousness? How has it been a blessing to you (how have you been filled?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (3/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Matthew 5:5

Matthew 5:5

Today, I’m studying the next of the beatitudes…

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Meek

Meekness is a concept that has always been a little bit “foggy” for me to understand. In our society, meekness doesn’t seem to be that great of a quality to have. Yet, Christ, ever counter to conventional customs, tells us that being meek is a blessing.

In the footnotes to Matthew 5:5, we learn the following about meekness: “GR: Gentle, forgiving, or benevolent; the Heb in Psalms 37:11 characterizes as the humble those who have suffered.”

I went ahead and also looked up the scripture in Psalms:

“But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” – Psalms 37:11

I don’t know Hebrew, nor can I read this scripture in Hebrew, but when you read this entire verse in English, I suppose that you could infer something – the lives of the meek are full of suffering and difficulty. However, later, they will inherit the earth and an abundance of peace.

Christ, obviously, is gentle, forgiving, and benevolent. In a way, I also think that meekness implies mindfulness. I suppose that this comes from the concept of Him being “gentle.”
The dictionary definition of Meek is “humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others.”

Christ perfectly models meekness throughout His life. Specifically, while performing the Atonement, He models meekness during His trial after suffering in the Garden and before being crucified. Christ meekly went before Herod.

Think about it – Christ was the literal heir to the throne. Christ should have been King. Christ was of the lineage of David, and had Israel not been under Roman rule, then Christ would have been king. Herod and his family knew that they were not really meant to be rulers of the Jews, but because of their relationship with the Romans, they wielded power. They did a lot to keep this power in their family: they were interested in power, not righteousness.

Yet Christ, ever so meek, didn’t get frustrated that He wasn’t ruling as He ought to have been. Instead, he went before Herod and bore the trial with dignity. We read of this experience in Luke:

“And when herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by Him.”

“Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.”

“And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.

“And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.” – Luke 23:8-11

I have always found this exchange profoundly interesting. First of all, Herod is glad to see Jesus. That seems like a good thing, right? However, we learn why – he wanted to see a miracle done by Christ. It was as if Herod thought Christ was some kind of circus freak or magician. Herod wanted to see Christ the same way some people might want to see David Copperfield or The Great Houdini.

Herod didn’t want to see Christ because he had faith in Him. He didn’t want to learn of Christ or be healed by Christ. Herod wanted to see Christ perform.

The Savior understood this. Though He was meek, He also wasn’t interested in being a circus act. This would be a disgrace to Himself and to His Father. He understood how His power worked and the sacred nature of faith and miracles.

So, when Christ comes to Herod, he meekly submitted to the will of His Father, and He didn’t perform a single miracle for Herod. Neither did He say a single word to Herod or the Priests questioning Him. (This always reminds me of the maxim: If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. – A relatively meek attitude, if you ask me!)

Instead of performing for the King, instead of justifying Himself to the Priests, Christ was meek: like a lamb brought to the slaughter. The difference being Christ knew exactly what would happen to Him – where a sheep is naive to his eventual fate.

Inherit the Earth

So, we have determined that Christ was meek. The promise for such meekness is to “inherit the earth.”

Interestingly enough, that is exactly what happened to Christ. Because Christ performed the Atonement – including being judged and dying at the hands of wicked King Herod and the wicked priests – He overcame death and hell. He was resurrected. He ascended to His Father in Glory. Because of this astounding work He did, Christ inherited the earth.

AND, Christ’s supreme act of meekness enables us to inherit the earth as well. Without Him, we would have no chance at any kind of inheritance.

***
We can learn from Christ’s example and apply it in our own lives. We can meekly and gently accept the trials that we face (according to God’s will, of course). We don’t have to be fake about them, either–Christ had nothing to say to Herod. Meekness isn’t a pretended attitude. Meekness, in the context of Matthew 5, doesn’t mean that we are submissive to everyone who crosses our path. We don’t have to meekly submit to wickedness. Meekness means understanding our relationship with God and then humbly submitting to Him.

And, the really great thing is, God doesn’t expect us to submit completely blindly. For example, Christ knew that He would be judged, He knew He would be killed. He also knew that He would be resurrected. We can trust in God’s will for us – remembering that ultimately, His work is our immortality and eternal life. (See Moses 1:39.)

Finally, can remember that we know the outcome of our decision to be meek: We will inherit the earth! Though meekness may, at times, seem risky; and though meekness may even have a seemingly bad immediate consequence, we need to remember the bigger picture. We need to remember that God blesses the meek – they will inherit the earth.

Not a bad deal!

***
How have you come to understand meekness? What do you do to develop meekness in your life? What does it mean to you to know that the meek will inherit the earth?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes and the Atonement (2/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

Matthew 5:4

Matthew 5:4

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

This is always an interesting concept to me – that we would be blessed for mourning. Sometimes, maybe it is just our culture, I feel pressure not to mourn – that mourning expresses some kind of weakness. For example, when I was at Sean’s funeral, so often I would hear people remark on my parent’s “strength.” I’d hear people say, “Stay Strong,” – as if refusing to cry was a feat of strength; As if not mourning was admirable in any way.

Absolutely “staying strong” is a cultural thing. Yet, here, in Matthew 5, we find that when we mourn, we will be blessed. So, what gives?

Well, I guess that first we need to figure out, exactly what mourning is. In the Topical Guide, we find that it also refers to Despair, Grief, Lamentation, Sorrow, and Weeping. As I searched through the scripture references, I came upon a realization.

Mourning is part of this mortal experience. It sounds obvious, I know, but stick with me for a second. Our souls mourn at the separation from God. Adam and Eve mourned when they were going to be driven out of the Garden of Eden. Leaving God’s presence – physically and spiritually is death and hell. Often, in our lives, mourning has to do with one of those two experiences.

Mourning for Physical, Mortal Reasons

We mourn when someone passes on. We are reminded of our mortality and the shortness of life. We mourn because things change, and we are powerless over them. Without the Atonement, we’d mourn over death forever because we would die and remain dead forever.

Christ comforts us when we mourn – when people die – through His gospel. I’ve been to funerals of people who didn’t believe in the gospel and to those who have. Actually, funerals kind of remind us to believe, I think. It is hard to see someone die, and then just go on thinking, “that’s it. It’s all over for him. He’s not in a better place…he’s in the ground.” It’s unnatural to think this way, really. They say that there are no atheists in foxholes. I can’t say that I’ve met an open atheist at a funeral, either. Usually, our mourning gives way to hope – that the person we are mourning for has graduated on to a “better place.” We mourn for the family and close one of a person who has died – that they will find peace despite the loss. We mourn for our own lives – regrets, shattered hopes and dreams, and the reminder of how incredibly short life really is, and when we mourn, we are usually comforted – we promise to be better people, we promise to live life, we promise value our relationships. Mourning, in these circumstances, often is accompanied with a measure of comfort and hope for the future.

Mourning for Spiritual Reasons

Another way that we mourn can be as a result of sin.

Best case scenario: we sin, then we have godly sorrow because we feel sorry that the distance between us and God has expanded. We feel both the pain that comes as a consequence of sin, and the pain of offending our Heavenly Father – whom we love.

In this case, our mourning will be comforted because we will have a repentant heart. The power of the Atonement will take effect in our lives. We will be forgiven.

In the worst case scenario, we become past feeling. We ignore the response to sin – to mourn, to feel sorry – and instead we harden our hearts. We ignore the promptings of the Spirit. We refuse to mourn. We refuse to express any kind of sorrow – especially Godly sorrow. And we do not, then, experience any kind of comfort. Eventually, we might finally live up to the consequences of such wickedness, then experience the despairing kind of lamentation that is the sorrow of the damned.
In some cases, I think that this sorrow will finally humble us enough to choose to be comforted. However, this isn’t true godly sorrow or mourning. It isn’t the kind that will be met with Christ’s comforting grace.

Christ, in the Atonement, shows this, too. When He experiences the sins of the world in the Garden of Gethsemane, he cries out and He is supported by Angels. He is comforted.

However, Christ still would have to descend below all. He would have to understand the sorrow and helplessness of the damned. On the cross, He cries out “Why hast thou forsaken me,” when he felt a complete loss of connection with Heavenly Father. He understands both death and hell. He understood what those who do not mourn experience – a lack of comfort and companionship.

And, just as the beatitudes promised, Christ was ultimately blessed and comforted. Though he died, his life wasn’t over. Because of His righteous and obedient life, He was comforted through the hope of the resurrection. Because Christ was able to suffer and mourn in this way, He was also able to feel the comfort of the only true gospel, and then, in turn, offer this comfort to each of us.

***
I’m so grateful for this beatitude. I have felt times in my life when I have needed comfort. They have come in many different ways. When I mourn, I have found, consistently, the Lord comforting me. Sometimes such comfort came through a still feeling – in my heart. Other times, comfort has come through the actions of others. This comfort helps me to maintain my trust in the Lord and continue on the path of discipleship.

How has mourning and being comforted been a pattern in your life? Why do you think that this is something Jesus included in the Beatitudes?

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