If you are interested, I’ve decided to make things a little easier to navigate. Here is a list of the subjects treated in the Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary that I’m making for my 16 year old daughter.
These pages are all about the experience of Nephi, Laman, Lemuel and Sam – obtaining the brass plates.
In these pages, I explained to Tiger that there were three basic attempts to obtaining the plates.
The first attempt was rather conventional and arbitrary. Laman, Lemuel, Nephi and Sam decided to go and ask Laban for the plates. The arbitrary aspect – casting lots. I explained that casting lots was a common way to make decisions in ancient times. People felt like the fate of the cast lot was the will of God.
Unfortunately, this attempt was not successful.
The second attempt – to buy the plates – was thoughtful and required a sacrifice. Nephi convinced his brothers to go back to their home, collect all of their goods and try to purchase the plates from Laban.
This was another unsuccessful attempt that also endangered the lives of the sons of Lehi.
The third and final attempt was spiritual. Nephi explain that he was led by the Spirit – not knowing beforehand what he would do.
There were a few things I really wanted to illustrate to Tiger:
Laban vs. Nephi – Laban was rich, powerful, and armed. By all accounts, the odds were in Laban’s favor. Of course, these advantages don’t matter in comparison to Nephi’s advantage – he was on the Lord’s errand and was “armed” with the Spirit. In fact, Laban will ironically die by the very sword he probably thought would keep him safe.
Nephi’s ability to make split second decisions. Often, we talk about decision making and we cite the Doctrine and Covenants – study the matter out in our hearts, pray, if we feel good, then it is good. If we feel a stupor of thought, then it is the wrong answer.
The thing is – there are times when we don’t have the luxury of time to really “study out” our decisions. Nephi does this, and we see his thought process, but this is all happening in moments.
The reason why Nephi was able to make these split-second decisions – and they were the right decision – is because he prepared daily to have the companionship of the Spirit.
There are times when we don’t have much time to make an important decision. I want my teenage daughter to know that she can feel assured with her decisions – even the ones made in an instant – if she is living worth of the Holy Ghost and then following its promptings.
Okay – so that’s this next little installment. I’m amazed at how much I’ve been learning while making this book. Right now, my life is busy (like so many of you, I know). I don’t have much time to work on this book. So, it is what I count as my “scripture study.” I know that it is the best way to spend my time in scripture study. I learn so much, and I feel like it is a valuable way to teach my children.
If you are thinking of doing a project like this, but you feel overwhelmed by the project and lacking on time, then keep in mind a few hints to make it more manageable
Start early – I started these projects about 1-2 years before giving it to them. It may sound crazy, but then I can work on a little bit at a time and not feel overwhelmed with the scope of the project.
Consider this as your personal scripture study while you are working on it. For this project, especially, I have had to spend a lot of time reading and pondering various points in the Book of Mormon. Though this isn’t conventional “scripture study” time, I’m studying the scriptures, and I’m doing just as Nephi said: “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26, emphasis added).
I actually titled this page “Circumstances and Choices”
At the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we are introduced to a family … Lehi’s family. Specifically, we read about several interactions between Lehi’s eldest sons – Laman and Lemuel – and his younger son – Nephi. They shared many experiences. All of these sons:
are sons of Lehi, the prophet
are covenant members of the House of Israel
are fleeing Jerusalem
Are experiencing afflictions, trials, and blessings in the wilderness
are all facing many of the same challenges -like hunger, obtaining the plates, living in the desert, building a boat
So – they actually have plenty in common.
Despite these similar circumstances, Lehi’s sons make different choices resulting in vastly different outcomes.
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” – 1 Nephi 2:16
Nephi’s desire to know God results in:
A visitation from God (through His Spirit)
A softened heart
A new perspective
The consecration of Nephi’s afflictions for His Gain
Laman and Lemuel
“And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmurbecause they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” – 1 Nephi 2:12
Laman’s and Lemuel’s refusal to know god results in:
Violence against Nephi
Wickedness and sin
Becoming “past feeling”
Becoming murderers in their hearts
Their afflictions don’t become a source of joy or growth – instead their afflictions remain hardships
What will YOU choose???
So there you have it – this is basically what I wrote in Tiger’s book – word for word. It isn’t all that personalized, but I think that it teaches a nice lesson. 🙂
And isn’t it crazy to think about – sometimes we want to blame our circumstances for the decisions we make, but Laman, Lemuel, and Nephi are proof that we can be agents to act for ourselves. They are testimonies that WE HAVE THE POWER to decide if our afflictions and difficulties amount to consecration and miracles or into hardness and misery. If we get a handle of who we are – children of a loving God, then we can get a handle on making better choices and having a better life.
I started this Book of Mormon commentary type of book for my 16 year old daughter before she was 16…with the intent of giving it to her on her 16th birthday. Sometimes life happens, and now she’ll be 17 in less than 6 months. So…I’ve got to get snapping! Better late than never, right.
One of the reasons that this book has taken me so long to get around to making is that I haven’t really known exactly how I want it all to work out.
At first, I was really interested in making a book that is almost like a commentary – explaining the Book of Mormon as much as a possibly can. You will see this in my pages that are about 1 Nephi. Since then, I have actually figured out the “vision” of this book.
Instead of making a book that is a commentary or tells all that I know about the Book of Mormon, I’m taking a few of the stories and concepts from each book and then writing what I feel inspired to write to my daughter who is in her late teens. So – it won’t be like a commentary. Instead, it will be something much better – a book of insights and advice that is really cute so it doesn’t look like insights and advice! Haha!
Here is my update on 1st Nephi.
The Tender Mercies of the Lord
For a long time I have considered 1 Nephi 1:20 to be the central “thesis” of Nephi.
And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away. But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance. – 1 Nephi 1:20
I love this scripture, and I thought that it was a very important concept for my 16 year old daughter to know and understand.
The Tender Mercies of the Lord
I think that I speak for many Mormons, when I say that Elder Bednar really reinforced the beauty of Nephi’s testimony. In fact, since Elder Bednar’s talk the term “tender mercy” has become a Momron buzzword. So, I included a few quote from Elder Bednar, too:
“The Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.” – David A. Bednar
I told Tiger that we can feel the tender mercies of our loving Heavenly Father in many ways – we have to be aware and recognize them. I then listed a few of the “tender mercies” our family had recently experienced.
Those whom He hath Chosen
In order to experience the tender mercies of the Lord, we learn in 1 Nephi that we need to be “chosen.” Elder Bednar explains what it means to be chosen of God:
God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be dded. He does not limited ‘the chosen’ to a restricted few. Rather it is our hearts, and our aspirations, and our obedience which definitively determines whether we are called as one of God’s chosen.” – David A. Bednar, (emphasis added.)
In order to be chosen of God, we must simply choose Him. Joshua was an example of this – he and his house chose to serve the Lord. This was why Joshua was chosen of God.
And that’s that for this page and concept. Of course, I added some cute little decorations to the page. That’s basically the point. I wish I could say that I’m super original, but I have kind of mined my favorite pinterest and instagram boards for artistic inspiration. If I was selling this, I would stray far from that – but since I’m trying to get this book done in a hurry, and since it is a one of a kind book for my daughter’s personal use, I don’t mind using inspiration from other sources.
Making a book like this? Think about the tender mercies you and your family have experienced. What would resonate with a 16, 17, or 18 year old. What is your testimony of feeling the deliverance that God promises to those whom choose Him? Think about ways that we can show that we choose God – ways to which a child in her late teens may relate.
I figured that I shouldn’t name the title of this blog post “pride,” because that tends to put people off. But…that’s what this blog post is all about for today. It’s been on my mind a lot. The Lord has been teaching me a lot about my pride, and I’ve come to the conclusion that nearly every problem I have – my weaknesses, my fears, my irritations, etc. – all start with a seed of pride. And if I can root out that pride, then I can get closer to my Heavenly Father.
What is Pride?
President Uchtdorf explained:
“In the scriptures we find plenty of examples of good and righteous people who rejoice in righteousness and at the same time glory in the goodness of God. Our Heavenly Father Himself introduced his Beloved Son with the words ‘in whom I am well pleased.’ … I believe there is a difference between being proud of certain things and being prideful.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf
I echo President Uchtdorf’s belief. I will be concentrating on the sin of pridefulness – not the idea that you are “proud” of your children when they have done something good. or the like.
So – again – what is pride?
Imagine for a moment that you are a parent of young children. You are reading the Book of Mormon together, and on this particular day, you are reading the Book of Fourth Nephi. The people had been righteous and happy, and then something begins to disturb their happiness. You read the following with your family:
“And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.” – 4 Nephi 1:24
Your children, who are – let’s imagine – 5, 7, and 9, then ask, What is pride?
What do you think your answer might be? Perhaps it would sound like this: Pride is when you think you are better than someone else. You might brag. You might try to show that you think that you are better than other people by getting things like nice clothes, toys are cars. And then you might make fun of the people who don’t have those things.”
This is an adequate and true description of pride, but it is only a part of it.
In 1989, the prophet at that time – President Ezra Taft Benson – gave a general conference talk titled Beware of Pride. About Pride he stated:
“Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.
The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.” – President Ezra Taft Benson
Now this is interesting! Pride is enmity towards god. And I’m grateful that President Benson went on to explain enmity because, without his definition, it would still be difficult to put our finger on the core of pride. So – pride, then is – hatred to God, hostility to God, or a state of opposition against God.
I will confess that it has taken me quite a while to understand this definition of pride, and why President Benson would describe pride as the universal sin: the great vice.
I was about 11 years old when President Benson gave this talk on pride. I have read it once or twice in my life, but I never really applied the entire definition of enmity. It puzzled me sometimes – to hear so much about pride. I mean, I go to church. I love God. And all these people around me do, too. Do I have a problem with pride? Do I have enmity toward God? Or is this some problem that “the world” has?
I mean – I pray to Him! I love Him!
But take a closer look at that last phrase in President Benson’s description of enmity…that in being in a “state of opposition against God.” I would guess that this part of the definition is the part that is most applicable to those of us who have covenanted with God and who are striving to keep our covenants with Him because we love Him.
I will share two personal experiences that illustrate this kind of pride.
Years ago, I was a newly called second counselor in the Young Women’s presidency in my ward. The woman who was the prior second counselor was still serving in the Young Women’s organization, but in a different capacity. As we were transitioning, she was very helpful…maybe a little too helpful.
I’ll be honest. I felt like she was stepping on my toes. I was even getting a bit annoyed at times. Irritated. Every meeting I went to, every activity with the young women, every time I opened my mouth to speak, it seemed as if her voice would pipe up before I could get my words out. I felt purposeless, undermined, and a little confused. Why would I be called to serve if someone else was just going to do my job?
Now, I do love God. And I knew that this kind of irritation wasn’t Christlike, nor was it helpful – for anyone. I knew that it wouldn’t serve me, my young women, or this woman – who was actually my friend! I didn’t want to be annoyed. So, I prayed about it.
As I prayed, I felt prompted to pray for her – to be grateful for her service and for her love of the youth.
This began to soften my heart, but I was still frustrated with myself. Why would I let this situation annoy me so much? Not only that – she was one of my friends, and now she was driving me crazy! I didn’t want to feel this way!
After bring grateful, the spirit continued to prompt my prayer. As I searched in my heart, I felt the spirit whisper to my soul: Why does situation this bother you so much?
I tried to answer honestly. Well, it’s a problem. There are too many voices in charge, and the young women don’t know who to look to.
Then I felt an answer to this concern: Yes. It’s a problem. God’s is a house of order. And there is a simple solution. But it still doesn’t answer the question of why you are bothered and annoyed. You don’t need to have a spirit of contention or anger.
As I searched in my heart, I realized: The reason why this bothers me so much is because I feel stupid. I don’t like being told what to do. And corrected all the time. I’m not an idiot.
As I voiced this in my prayer, I realized, And my annoyance turns into a temptation to prove to her that I’m NOT stupid! That I’m the one who’s in charge!”
The Spirit whispered to me, You know you’re not stupid. You know that I know that you’re not stupid. What does it matter what anyone else thinks?
I started to understand what the Lord was trying to teach me. I was worried – not so much about the organization of God’s house; not so much about His young women. I was worried about what my friend thought about me, and what the young women thought about me, and what that ultimately meant about me. In other words, I was more concerned with their opinions than with the truth – what God’s opinion about me was, and what my responsibilities to Him and the Youth were.
Because of my prideful worries, my heart was beginning to turn in opposition against Him, and I was allowing space in my heart for anger and frustration.
Thankfully, the Lord corrected me. I was able to see clearly. A good, positive solution for the legitimate problem was found, and our friendship remained intact. In fact, she never knew about the feelings I was having!
If the Lord hadn’t helped me to discover that pride was at the root of my anger, then the outcome would have ben drastically different, probably petty, and damaging for all involved.
Two – More of my pride
I had just moved to a new ward, and I was getting acclimated to the people and place. I received a text from the missionaries asking me if my daughters could help a sister in our relief society.
(We homeschool, so this seemed to be an option). Before putting much thought into it, I responded “Of course!” and after I sent the text, I felt a prompting: You’re daughters can’t help her today. Just because they are homeschooling doesn’t mean that ‘nothing’ is happening. They can’t help – they have schoolwork to do!
I didn’t want to let the missionaries down, so I texted them to say that actually, the girls couldn’t help, but I could. They responded, “Thank you Sister Choco! You are a SAINT!” uh … oh… After receiving that message, I felt another prompting, You can’t help her at that time! You have an appointment with your scriptures and prayers. If you put it off now you will have trouble doing it in the future. This is sacred time. You can’t help her today.
It was really hard, but I knew I had been prompted by the Spirit, so even though the missionaries had just called me a “SAINT!” I immediately texted them again, and backed out of serving a sister – in need. I felt stupid about it. And conflicted.
I felt pulled in two directions – one because I knew that it was the Spirit that prompted me to say no. But also because serving is a good thing to do! And I wanted to serve and help. Not to mention that I felt horrible for flaking out on the missionaries and this woman!
Later on in the day, I kept my appointment with prayer and scripture study, and I pondered the troubled feeling I was experiencing.
I expressed sorrow that I wasn’t serving this woman in my prayer. But then I felt a prompting from the Spirit: Why are you troubled about this? It was a spiritual prompting.
Why was I troubled? I realized Well, I want the missionaries and the people here in this ward to know that I am willing to serve.
The answer: What does it matter what they think? I know that you’re willing to serve.
Ah ha! My willingness to sere is good! Yes! But my concern about others knowing it – is pride! Sneaky little thing. And that concern was setting me in a state of opposition against God – which is ENMITY!
I’m sure many of you can relate to me here. There is no open hostility or hatred that I feel towards Heavenly Father. But there are so many times that my state is in opposition against Him. This is why President Benson stated:
“Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice.” – Ezra Taft Benson
“Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion.” – Ezra Taft Benson
Before this sounds too dreadful, I want to mention that in each example I gave earlier, as soon as I recognized that my real problem was pride (rather than the perceived problems – an overstepping helper and a reputation) – as soon as I realized my real problem, a feeling of hope came over me.
This is because pride is a relatively simple sin with a very simple fix. (key word: SIMPLE!)
We can’t change our pasts. We can’t change the things that have happened to us that might give us sensitivities or fears. We can’t change the experiences that shaped the core of our personalities. We can’t control what people think about us. We can’t change any of the problems that are beyond our control. But we do have control of our pride. We have the choice to repent and set ourselves in alignment with God instead of being in opposition against Him.
And we can feel the blessings and joy that flow from this decision.
How do we detect and then overcome pride? The short answer: Humility.
I think that the most effective way to do this is through earnest prayer.
I know that if we will go to the Lord and keep asking questions until we get to the root of the problems we are facing, then He will help us to find the possible undercurrent of pride that might be creating drag in our lives. …
Ask, ask, ask…it might go like this:
Why?**Why am I frustrated? Because she is stepping on my toes.** Why does that make you mad? Because I don’t like it.** Why don’t you like it? It makes me feel stupid.** Who cares if you feel stupid? Maybe people around me will think I’m stupid. ** Why does it matter if they think you are stupid? If they think I’m stupid, maybe they won’t walk to talk to me. Maybe they’ll reject me. ** Why does it matter if they reject you? I know you’re not stupid Choco. I will never reject you.
Keep asking questions until you get to the bottom of your problem, and I guarantee that this will also be accompanied with a feeling of patient love that only a living and loving Father in Heaven can give.
This post is getting long, so I’ll wrap it up. Remember that nature abhors a vacuum. When you start to recognize the pride that may be lurking deep in your heart, fill it with something good! Pride is always trying to creep right back in.
I have found that one of the most effective things to fill our hearts with is gratitude. It is probably the simplest and most effective way to get out of a state of opposition against God and on board with Him instead. I read a great quote:
“To be grateful is to pause, think and ponder on the goodness of our existence. For people of faith, stopping our busy-ness to consider our blessings (no matter how small) is more than a nice idea–it is a transformative process in which our souls are drawn upward in love to God, who then points us outward to lift others.” (From Mormon Newsroom – The Global Gift of Gratitude)
Okay…so really, this is the end. We lave a living and loving Heavenly Father. I have experienced His loving tutelage and miracles in my life. I also know that pride is a real problem – THE ESSENTIAL PROBLEM for the natural man and woman. Despite this immaturity and pride, our Heavenly Father still loves us and He is patient with us as we stumble through our existence on this earth.
If we will seek, He will help us find the ways that we need to correct ourselves to be sure that we are aligned with Him. He has provided us with a Savior, who has atoned for our sins – so we can be realigned and made at one with God. Such alignment with a loving God will bring us sublime happiness and joy – because His state is a state of happiness and joy.
Thanks for making it this far. What do you do to strip pride from your heart, so that you can feel peace and joy in this life?
Last week, I blogged about distinguishing between the difficult path and the fiery darts. Today, I’m going to write more about traversing that difficult path – even with the ability to discern.
Mostly because I’m traveling that difficult path myself.
(warning: personal post ahead!)
The past few weeks have been a little bit tough for me. First of all, you have to understand that for the past four years, Homey and I have been building our own business. I’m sure that this will come up several more times on the blog, it’s a huge part of my life right now, and I’ve learned more than I could have ever imagined.
So, we have been on this “path” – that includes the business. We knew it would be hard when we started it, and we are still on it now. Starting your own business comes with all kinds of financial and general “life” challenges (working with your spouse – when prior to that he worked at an office; financial strain while you try to make your business work; plus things like kids, dinners, cleaning the house, etc). Thankfully we have navigated these fairly well.
Even if you are traveling on your own path to your own proverbial promised land full of faith, you will still face stressful situations. I think about it like climbing a mountain. Even if you have faith and joy in every step, you can’t change the fact that you are climbing a mountain. The closer you are to the top, the thinner the air gets. Despite your faith, your trust, and your gratitude, the air is still thinner! There is still a great challenge. It is not easy to take each step up.
And this is in no way a statement on your faith or willingness. It’s just a fact about that path (remember! Don’t confuse the path with the fiery darts! The path is the path).
Back to what I was saying before. Two weeks ago, I started having a twinge in my back. I thought I had tweaked it in a workout. Each day it seemed to get worse. It was waking me up at night.
On Saturday night, the pain was enough that I decided I would stay at home from church on Sunday. I got very little sleep, and my pain was acute – even with ibuprofen. Homey took the family out to church. I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood to help loosen up my back.
I had been walking for about ten minutes – feeling really good, actually. And I don’t know what happened, but my ankle just gave out, rolled, and I was doing a long trip and fall (over nothing) while a car was slowly pulling up to the stop sign I was next to. Embarrassing.
Oh I have to also mention, my eczema on my hands had been flaring up. I think that I ate something I was allergic to. So I was really itchy, my back was hurting, and now I found myself on the ground with a sprained ankle.
The woman in the car didn’t laugh at me. She rolled down her window and asked if I needed I ride. I thanked her, and then said no. She went on her way. I sat on the sidewalk for a moment, trying to sum up some pride. A minute later, the same woman pulled up again. She turned around and said, “Let me help you.”
I felt the Spirit whisper Let her help you.
So, she took me home, and I checked out my ankle went to wash my knees (they were bloody from my fall). That’s when I noticed a huge, new, blistering rash on my chest – the left side only – the same side that had been hurting for the last week.
This discovery devastated me. Nothing seems to be working! For years, we have been working so hard. For years I’ve been trying to manage my stress as we have started our own business, started homeschooling the kids, we have sold our house, and nearly every belonging (home, beds, dishes, piano, sewing machine, wedding rings!) – to make this dream work. For years I have tried my best, and I feel joyful and hopeful in my heart, but my body seems to betray me!!!
My husband came home, and I was in so much pain: my back, my hands, my knee, my ankle. And now a new rash. I was telling him about my day, then worrying – what is wrong with my skin? I had no idea, and then I had a thought … it’s shingles.
I realized it had to be shingles – the pain, the blistering rash. My husband and I agreed that we would go to the doctors first thing in the morning (it was Sunday night…) and I felt 10x more defeated than I was feeling earlier in the day.
I told my husband, “I know that the Lord can help us. I know that He will deliver us. I know that He has the power to do anything at any time. But I don’t know if I have the strength to make it. Will I have any skin left? Sometimes I doubt I will be able to physically manage all of this stress. I’m a mess!
Why is it so hard to trust in God?
I received a text from an angel friend:
I hate to admit this, but there are times when I fear – even though I know that fear is completely irrational and faithless. I lack faith – in myself. I know that the Lord can deliver me, but there are times that I doubt me.
Sometimes I think: “Can I make it? Will I fall apart? Will I self-destruct?”
If I let myself think these things, then we know exactly what will happen.
If God thinks I can, then I can.
And I know this because, as my friend mentioned to me – I have had so many experiences where I have weathered the storm, where God enabled me and empowered me to “make it.”
I have experienced His tremendous power time and time again. I’ve seen and experienced miracles and tender mercies. So what if my skin itches? So what if I am a little sick? So what if I have a sprained ankle?
I’ll make it – hobbling and with itchy skin then. I know I can do it because the lord thinks I can do it, and through His grace, He will enable me to do it.
“Fear not! I am with thee
O be not dismayed;
For I am thy God
And will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee
And cause thee to stand.
Upheld by my righteous,
Omnipotent hand.” – How Firm a Foundation
I hope that by sharing my experiences you will also be encouraged to overcome fear. Follow the advice of my wise friend. Remember the miracles you have experienced. Keep walking, keep striving to mountain peaks where God is guiding you to. The air will be thin. You will experience exposure, high wind, and fatigue. But keep walking. The Lord believes in you. You can believe in you, too. And then we can make it to the mountain tops.
Don’t confuse the difficulty of the path with the fiery darts of the adversary.
I’m not exactly sure what about that presentation brought on this thought. But I know exactly why I thought about it – in the context of my life.
Recently, our family lived in Midway, Utah. If you aren’t familiar with it, Midway is in the Heber Valley – east of Salt Lake City, on the other side of the Wasatch Mountain Range. Midway is about 20 minutes south of Park City. It’s just a beautiful place.
We moved to Midway in late fall, and there was a road that always intrigued me – Pine Canyon Road. It was closed during the winter and wouldn’t be open until at least May – when the snow melted and made the road passable.
I would often take walks through Midway and see this closed road, curious about where it led.
It was late May (around the 27th or 28th that year), when the road was open! I knew, thanks to google maps, that this road would lead me to the tops of the mountains where I could then go on to either Guardsman Pass and Salt Lake County/Sandy or I could go on to Empire Pass and Deer Valley/Park City.
The walk to Park City from my house would be about 14 miles – with an elevation climb of about 4,000 feet. On a Saturday morning in May, I decided I would take a long walk.
It was a hard walk. Now, it wasn’t a hike, so I had the advantage of having a path laid out before me. But it was hard. It was all uphill for hours and hours. I had a pack with water. I took plenty of breaks – to catch my breath while admiring the views, the flowers, and the cool air.
I walked, up a mountain, for a few hours when I finally reached a “checkpoint” of sorts. The end of Pine Canyon Road, and a choice to go to either Brighton or Park City. It took forever. I was getting so tired. I had been walking for about 4 hours.
At this point in my walk, I still had about 1 mile or so until I got to Empire pass. Then I had a few more hours until I made it to Main Street Park City. Though I was relieved to turn this corner, there was more walking to do. A little over 2 hours of more walking, in fact.
But I took a drink of my water, and I kept on going. I would take a longer break at Empire Pass…
And I made it.
Though I would still have to keep walking to get to Park City – Main Street, Empire Pass was the summit of my walk. Empire Pass was the real point of the walk. I wanted to get into the mountains.
After hours of walking, I made it to Empire Pass. I sat down on a bench and looked over to Bonanza Flats. I saw snow-capped mountain peaks and smiled. I could look in another direction and see the Heber Valley. I could look in yet another direction and see all of Park City. I was on top of the world. This little walk, though time consuming, was immensely rewarding.
The mountains are a special, peaceful place. Going up to the mountains kind of felt like going to church. It was renewing. It was quiet and contemplative. All of the effort to make it to the top of these mountains was nothing in comparison to the reward of sitting on a bench and looking out to the mountains.
I sat on a bench for about half an hour then made my way down through Deer Valley and on to Park City where I would have Homey pick me up and I would get a ride back home.
Sometimes I think that life is a lot like a walk up to a mountain pass.
One – It’s there…
Sounds kind of obvious. Yes – the mountain pass is there. And I think that it is there for us. Heavenly Father has created mountains for us to climb. Do we have to? No. But I believe He wants us to dream big. He wants us to see mountain vistas. He wants us to experience the peace of an Aspen forest in late spring, the blue skies that rival the blue wings of birds that flit through the forest. He wants us to admire wildflowers that pop up along roadsides. He wants us to see moose tracks and a line of trees that have been carefully chopped down by a beaver.
The mountains are there. But we have to make the choice to walk up it. He won’t make us. We don’t have to go. In fact, we can choose never to climb a mountain and have a great life.
But some people see the mountains and feel drawn to them. And they’re there. So, it’s good for us to go.
Two – The only views and experiences of the mountains are in the mountains
The thing with mountain top views is that they are in mountain tops. There is no easy way to get there. You have to go up. If the mountain view was in the valley, then it wouldn’t be a mountain top.
It’s important, I think, to make this discernment.
Sometimes, I think that we tend to say that God is testing us – as if He is the jealous God that we have imagined based on our interpretations of the Old Testament. As if he is Lucy, from Charlie Brown.
But I don’t think that’s the way it is. The climb up a mountain – yes it’s a test of our will and strength. But that’s not because God set out to make it hard. It’s because mountain tops are where the views are, and you can’t get around that! If you want to see the view from the top of the mountain, then you just have to climb.
And this is where the point that I mentioned at the beginning of this post comes in.
Don’t confuse the difficulty of the path with the fiery darts of the devil
As I mentioned in the point before, the mountain is there. And the views are there. And I think that Heavenly Father wants us to experience these things that will bring us joy.
So – is the road we must travel up a challenge? Yes! But we shouldn’t confuse ourselves. The upward climb isn’t a fiery dart of the devil. It isn’t a “test” from a jealous God. It is simply the path.
Three – All of that being said, the path is a test, and there ARE fiery darts
It is important to make the distinction between the path and the influences of both the Lord and the adversary. By learning to make this distinction we will be able to stay optimistic and we will have the strength to fight off the fiery darts of the adversary that will try to thwart us from our reward.
Think about Lehi’s dream in 1 Nephi 8. People are walking along a path that will lead to the tree of life.
The path itself is completely inanimate. It is simply the way to our goal.
On the path is the iron rod. It follows the path and provides something that we can hold onto – so that we make it safely to the tree of life – our goal.
This path – it is like the road up the mountain. It goes up and down, around corners. In Lehi’s dream, there are portions of the path that even go through “mists of darkness.” Those mists of darkness are the fiery darts of the adversary. They aren’t the path. These fiery darts are meant to force us into letting go of the iron rod and straying from the path that will lead to the tree of life.
Sometimes, we can be tempted to lose focus. We forget what purpose the path serves. We forget that it is a gift given to us by God to help us get where we want to go. We can be frustrated and wonder why our Heavenly Father is testing us. We might even confuse the path – this wonderful path that leads us to joy and accomplishment – with the fiery darts that are trying to sway us from the path.
When we understand that the road to the mountain pass is the road that the Lord prepared for us to enable our achievement of dreams and joys then we will more readily accept the trials and afflictions that we face – recognizing that they strengthen us and help us to get where the views are worth hundreds and thousands of words – where the air is clean – where we are filled with joy and confidence.