A Day of Rest

It’s probably pretty familiar. The Sabbath Day is appointed for:
1) Sacraments
2) Rest from Labor
3) Paying Devotion to God.

And I wonder – what am I doing that reflects these priorities?

Sacraments
I go to sacrament meeting each week. I wonder, what does “sacraments” even mean? According to dictionary.com – sacraments are visible signs of inward grace, especially one of the solemn Christian rites considered to have been instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolize or confer grace.

So – in sacrament meeting, we are doing what Christ taught us all to do – when He was in the upper room shortly before his suffering in Gethsemane and death on the cross:

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” – Luke 22:19-20

On Sundays, during our sacrament meetings, we do as Christ instructed. We take bread and water as tokens of His everlasting sacrifice. We remember Him. We covenant with Him to follow Him, and the ordinance of the sacrament is a small token of our commitment to Him.

Rest from Labor
On the Sabbath we rest from our labors. This is tricky, to me. I don’t work on Sundays – as in I don’t go to work. And I try not to do work-related things on Sunday. However, I know that there are some people who must work on the Sabbath.

Even though I don’t work on Sundays, rarely do my Sabbath days feel restful. I am a mom. I have a house to run – even on the Sabbath. I scale back some of my chores, but things still must be done, mouths must be fed, kids must be cared for. You know how it goes.

Additionally, I have a lot of work to do for church. I understand that the Sabbath is a great day to do our church work.

It’s just that sometimes, it doesn’t seem very …restful.

Onto the next subject for a second. But we’ll get back to a day of rest.

Paying Devotion to God
The Sabbath is a day set aside for us to pay devotion to God. Once again, I think that it is helpful to understand what that actually means. Devotion is profound dedication or consecration.

Of course, we should spend every day of our lives devoted to God. But the Sabbath day has been especially consecrated by God, and we should also be sure that this is a sacred day in our lives, too. I won’t get into the many ways that we can or can’t or do or do not show our devotion to God. This isn’t a post of do’s and don’t’s.

I will say, however, I have to change my attitude. Sometimes I go to church, and I might feel a little judgmental about a lesson. Maybe it could have been better. Maybe I disagree with a little something that someone said. If my mind is consecrated to the Lord, then I won’t let little things bother me at church. I will, instead, maintain a worshipful and joyful thought pattern. (To accomplish this, sometimes I turn on my phone and look at pictures of nature! They help me to remember the majesty of God and of some of my sacred experiences.) Whatever keeps my mind turned to God is good, I guess…

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When I have trouble bridling my thoughts, I just take a breath and look at a picture like this.

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Okay, so sometimes there is still a little bit of a disconnect for me about the Sabbath day – if it is a day of sacraments and devotion to God, then how it is also a day of rest? These other two aspects of the Sabbath can sometimes feel a little bit at odds with resting – going to church for three hours?! Meetings?! Choir practices?! Sometimes my sacraments and devotions make me feel that Sunday isn’t a restful day at all.

Rest…REST! Sounds good, right? When I think of Rest, the first scripture that comes to mind is the invitation we get from the Savior:

“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.” – Matthew 11:28-29

Hmm…I’m noticing a connection…

I think that I may have misunderstood what “rest” really is.

One
Rest from our Labors – this is the part of “resting” that WE do. We decide that the Sabbath day is consecrated and set apart, so we rest from our worldly labors and concerns and instead focus on our devotion to God.

This is the more obvious understanding of “rest,” and sometimes it may not feel all that “restful” because we are still working hard.

Two
This is the good one!

There is “rest” that we cannot do – that we cannot achieve on our own. There is a “rest” that is only offered to us through Christ.

Rest doesn’t only come when we sit back and put our feet up. That’s nice, for sure, and it is certainly a part of rest, but it isn’t really all there is to it. Rest, in the sense as quoted in Matthew, is a result. Rest is a consequence of us coming unto Christ.

This doesn’t mean being busy. It means being prayerful and contemplative. It means coming unto Him through covenanting with Him. It means serving Him. When we come unto Christ, we will offer up our sacraments and devotion to Him, and as a consequence of such behavior, we will find rest.

So – let the Sabbath Day be a day of rest – by choosing to come unto the Lord and letting Him bless you with His rest. I know that this rest is what will get us through the stress and difficulty of our lives. What a blessing and promise. The Sabbath truly is a day of rest and a delight!

Always Remember Him

I haven’t written in a while, I’m not going to give some kind of recap of life or excuse. Let’s just continue on… 🙂

As I sat in church today, I kept thinking about the covenant we make each week in sacrament meeting: to always remember Him.

And I wondered why, why is it so important to always Remember the Savior?

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Getting outside helps me to remember Him

Now, this line of questioning is not out of doubt or disbelief. It is a way to seek more knowledge and understanding in my life. Why do we always remember Him?

One

We must always remember Christ because we have been commanded to.

Two

I happen to believe that God is not arbitrary and that each commandment serves some kind of real function.

As I pondered this thought – remember the Savior, I realized that we are commanded to always remember Him because it is the way. It is the secret to our success.

In 2 Nephi, we learn:

“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” – 2 Nephi 31:20

After we first covenant with God in the waters of baptism, we aren’t done. We still have a life to live. We still must navigate the test of mortality.

Nephi tells us this. After baptism, all is not done. We must still rely on Christ’s ability to save us.

And we must do a few things: 1) Press forward with a steadfastness of Christ; 2) Have a perfect brightness of hope; 3) Have a love of God and of all men; 4) Press forward; 5) Feast on the words of Christ; 6) Endure to the end.

Then, we will have eternal life.

Now, think back on that promise made each week when partaking of the sacrament – to always remember Him.

In the covenant we make – to always remember God – we are given the help we need in order to do the 6 points needed in order to inherit life. Remembering Christ – ensures our steadfastness in Him; remembering Christ will help us to have a bright hope. Remembering Christ fills our hearts with love for Him and for others. Remembering Christ can help us to have the tenacity we need to push on and press forward in our lives. Remembering Christ will encourage us to feast on His words and stay close to Him. Remembering Christ helps us to endure to the end.

I love the elegance of God’s laws, commandments, and blessings. When we keep our covenants, we are empowered with exactly that which is needed for us to receive the gifts that God wants to give us.

What do you do to always remember Him?

Joy in our Families (Mosiah 19:24)

I will say that the deepest joys I have experienced have been in connection with my family. I can honestly say that I would die for them…

Daily Book of Mormon

I’v been thinking about families a lot lately. I feel like there are designs seeking to destroy the family. Actually, I know that there are. The adversary wants us miserable and captive. He knows that by attacking the family, all of society can be destroyed.

We can read about the joy in families in the scriptures. One example comes in the book of Mosiah. When King Noah’s people were about to be attacked by the Lamanites, King Noah directs the priests and other men in the land to flee into the wilderness. They do, leaving their women and children behind.

Some of the men don’t realize that King Noah had no intention of fighting the Lamanites, and they worry about their wives and children. They end up mutinying against King Noah, and returning to their families.

“And it came to pass that after they had ended the ceremony, that they…

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Plutarch and Alma

I came across this quote recently, and I couldn’t help but think of Alma…

Plutarch Knowledge Quote

Before relating this to Alma, I want to just talk about the quote. Plutarch was smart enough to “get stuff.” I mean, a lot of us are that way, right? I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read about health and fitness. I logically “get” many of the concepts I’ve read about.

Yet – even though we “get something” and may even have knowledge, without application what do we really know?

Not only was Plutarch smart enough to “get something” from the words he read, he was smart enough to realize that the words and knowledge he gained was through experiences.

As for me – even though I had read a few books on the damage and problems that sugar causes the body, I never really got it until I had experimented for myself and saw how eating a diet without much sugar affected me. I really needed this experience in order to give meaning to the concepts that I had learned.

Alma the younger understood the power of experiential knowledge. In fact, he extended an invitation to the poor Zoramites that he taught:

“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” – Alma 32:27

Alma taught the people the word of God. And he didn’t expect them to believe him just on face value – just because he said to believe. Instead, Alma asked them to experiment on his words. Alma wanted them to try it out for themselves. Alma invited them to have their own experiences so they could gain their own knowledge and faith.

It is interesting to me that we approach nearly every subject this way – except faith. Do we expect to learn a language just by reading about it? No, we go on a foreign exchange program, we take an immersion class, we go to that country, we start studying on a language learning website, we practice saying words in another language.

If we desire to learn Calculus, do we just buy a textbook and peruse it? Probably not. We go through the exercises. We get a calculator, paper, and pencil, and then try to solve the equations.

Yet, for some reason, so many people think that in order to obtain spiritual knowledge, they will sit in church one time and listen to a sermon and get it. Or maybe they think that in order to gain a testimony, they must read through the Bible once without meditating, pondering, and applying the words.

Then, because they haven’t put any thought or effort into their acquisition of spiritual knowledge, they don’t get any spiritual knowledge. Some may even proclaim faith, spirituality, or the scriptures as a fraud because of their own lack of experience.

I haven’t studied Calculus, but I’m not going to claim that Calculus is a farce.

Yes – going to church and studying the scriptures are important parts of obtaining spiritual knowledge, but the crucial key is to experiment and experience the gospel. Then those experiences will give you the knowledge of the word. They will make the scriptures and church even more meaningful.

How have you “experimented” on the word? How have your experiences helped to shape your testimony? If you haven’t experimented on the word of God, what is holding you back?

Protecting Religious Liberty Protects All Liberty

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La’ie, Hawai’i Temple

In case you didn’t see the title of this post, you can read it again right now…Protecting and religious liberty will protect all liberty.

Liberty

First and foremost, we need to understand what liberty actually is.

Here is a list of the definitions of liberty.

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Liberty is more than the “freedom to.” It is also the “freedom from.” This is an important distinction to make.

Freedom to

This is what we usually think of when we think of liberty of freedom. We have the freedom to choose, act, etc. In the gospel, the “freedom to” do something is agency. We are all blessed with agency. God loves and is the great protector of our agency. He doesn’t interfere greatly with our lives, but lets us choose as we will, even if it is something that will not please Him.

I also believe in freedom to choose, speak, think, believe, and exercise faith.

“Freedom to” act is not where freedom and liberty end. It is only the beginning.

Freedom From

As I mentioned earlier, God loves and is the great Protector of our agency. This is why He has given us commandments. Commandments and covenants aren’t arbitrary rules of a power hungry God. Instead, they are the “hacks” that enable us to live lives of liberty.

The commandments will keep us free from addiction, pain, strife, captivity and constraint. When we keep the commandment to forgive others, then our hearts are free from the captivity of anger and revenge. We then are better able to think and act.

In other words, “freedom from” helps to keep us “free to.” We become agents to act rather than be acted upon.

Liberty enables us to act rather than react to circumstances or actions of others. Liberty enables us to live abundant rich lives rather than live lives that may be indulgent but are riddled with addiction.

When we start to understand what liberty is, we naturally want to protect it.

The Constitution Protects Religious Liberty

It seems like people love to say that there is a “separation between church and state” as if religion needs to stay out of the government. The irony is that the first amendment of the constitution was written so that the government would stay out of religion.

In the Bill of Rights, we read:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” – Amendment I, Bill of Rights, The Constitution of the United States of America

These are the first words of the first amendment in the Bill of Rights. Remember that the Constitution wouldn’t have been ratified without the Bill of Rights.

I mean just think about the  phrase – Bill of Rights… These are our RIGHTS!

And according to this amendment, the separation of church and state is all about congress and the government staying out of the business of any church.

Congress can neither make a law to establish religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof. Right now, we are being subjected to a potential loss of this right. Religious rights are being jeopardized.

If our government can create laws that will nullify this first amendment, then what will stop our government from stripping away other rights?

Patterns

Today, I was blessed to hear the words of a living apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. He spoke on protecting religious freedom. He gave an example from The Book of Mormon. About 90 years before the birth of Christ, on the American continent, a democratic republic was organized by a dying king. King Mosiah didn’t have anyone to pass the kingdom on to (all of his sons were serving missions and refused). He decided to create a system of judges that would govern the land. These judges would be elected by the people.

Today, Elder Holland and quoted the following scripture:

“Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people.

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.” – Mosiah 29:26-27

This is an oft-quoted scripture, and most Mormons are relatively familiar with it. I believe that it’s true, too. There is safety in democratic practices because usually the majority of the people desire that which is right. Even if we don’t all believe in the same God or religion, most of us believe in the sanctity of life. Most of us believe we should be kind. Most of us think that lying and stealing is wrong.

Most of us, even if we go by different names and religions, still want that which is right.

But things change. And King Mosiah warned that when the majority of the people choose iniquity, then they will be visited with the judgments of God.

As I said, many are familiar with this scripture. Elder Holland recognized this fact, and then invited us to read a related, though less familiar scripture.

This scripture happens about 120 years after King Mosiah had created a democratic system. The people are still being governed by judges, but some changes have happened.

“And it came to pass that in this same year, behold, Nephi delivered up the judgment-seat to a man whose name was Cezoram.

For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.” – Helaman 5:1-2

Notice the last phrase in the second verse, “for the laws had become corrupted.”

As I read this and thought about the warning given by King Mosiah, I wondered – what came first? The wicked majority voice or the corruption of laws???

We are at a crossroads now. Activist judges and loud minorities are influencing laws – even laws that will prohibit religious liberty and limit the personal liberties of all who live here. I believe that the majority of people now desire that which is right, but if our laws begin to change, then how will it impact us?

If we elect those who both influence us negatively and limit our liberties, then we may start to see a change. We might witness a majority who choose evil over good.

Again – remember choosing evil over good doesn’t mean everyone is a Christian. It means that we will see more people who choose to cheat others (eg: Wall Street circa 2007???), we will see more people care little about human life and rights (eg: Any war torn country right now!.) When we have a majority that chooses evil over right, we will self destruct. So we must protect our liberties now – our religious liberties, so we can continue to be an innovative, vibrant, and abundant society.

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I feel like I need to end this with some kind of advice on how to protect religious liberty. Here are a few ideas. They come from a talk given by the Apostle, Robert D. Hales.

  1. Be informed – Get involved with the community to know what issues could have an impact on religious liberty. I must confess that I haven’t always done this in the past, but I will start now. This is such an obvious place to start.If you are reading this post and thinking that what I’m writing is nonsense, then take a few minutes to inform yourself – find out what is happening in regards to religious liberties. There is no need for anxiety, but becoming educated is crucial for any other kind of action.
  2. In your individual capacity, join with others who share our commitment to religious freedom. – I like this – in your capacity. Today, I’m using my capacity by writing a blog post. You are using your capacity by reading it, and you could even choose to share it. Perhaps your capacity is greater. You could volunteer for a political figure or cause that will support religious freedom. I don’t have that kind of time right now. If you are a mother of young children, your “capacity” might include teaching your children. There is something that each of us can do. Share an article on facebook. Share a quote on Instagram. Donate time or money to a cause that supports religious freedom. Any bit helps. Just do what you can.
  3. Live your life to be a good example of what you believe As Elder Hales said, “How we live our religion is far more important than what we may say about our religion.” Isn’t that the truth?! Becoming informed and getting involved really won’t matter much if you aren’t living right. Does this mean we have to be perfect? No! No one is perfect. But doing our best to live our religion will help to preserve religious liberty because it shows to others precisely why preserving this liberty is so important. We should be the kind of people that others want to live with. 🙂

Thanks for reading this long post. I hope it has been helpful and hopeful to you. I hope that you are inspired to stand fast in the liberties wherewith we have been made free – no matter your religious background. I hope that you will join me in rejoicing in and protecting our precious liberty.

A Side Project

So, I’ve been going back and forth and back and forth, and I finally decided to start a small side-project.

I want to blog about the Book of Mormon daily for a little while. I thought about putting it here on this blog, but I wasn’t sure about it.

Finally, I decided to start a new one. It seems crazy. Maybe it is. I don’t know. I’ll do it for a while and see how I feel. I’ll still post here when I feel like writing something, so this blog isn’t going anywhere.

If you want to check out the Book of Mormon blog, you can here:

Orlando and Religion

Like most of the country, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Orlando today. I don’t understand the senseless violence that persists in this world. I recognize that my lack of understanding of such violence is a great luxury.

I’ve been blessed to live a peaceful life – one where I can pursue the desires of my heart. I don’t have to hunt or beg for food. I’m a woman, and for the most part, I don’t have to worry about social customs that might oppress or hurt me. I don’t have to worry about acid being poured on my face, I’ve been blessed with education. I can go for a walk or run on the street – just for fun. I don’t see armed guards. I don’t worry about war lords.

I live such an amazingly blessed life.

This world is messy and it always has been. I have the luxury of hearing about acts of violence and then scratching my head and wondering, “Why?”

Many of us do.

When things like this happen, we have other aftershocks or other consequential occurrences. People hold vigils. People set aside differences and pray for, serve, and support one another. So many people, when these times of tragedy come up, find ways to bear one another’s burdens. Whether we change our facebook profile to honor that person or group or we donate money, or make a quilt – so many people seem to care.

Another aftershock I’ve also noticed is reckless blame. Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t blame the person or people who commit such acts of violence. I’m simply saying we shouldn’t be reckless about it.

Right now, people are blaming all Muslims for this man’s decision. Some people are even blaming all of religion for the ills of the world. This is crazy!

So – a metaphor.

If a wolf, dressed in sheep’s clothing, sneaks into a pasture and starts to kill sheep – how do we react?

Are we confused? Do we start a diatribe against all sheep? Do we say, “Okay! That’s it! Every sheep in every flock everywhere needs to be eliminated because they are violent!” ???

Do we say, “These sheep have been the most dangerous group of animals in the history of the world! Every war, every bad thing, every atrocity – caused by sheep!” ???

Or are we going to be discerning? Are we going to take a look and notice that it was a wolf in sheep’s clothing – then go after the real problem?

Let’s call the evil act done yesterday what it is – evil. Let’s remember that most people – who go to church, who believe, who have faith are good. Let’s not be tricked by the wolf into doing exactly what the wolf is doing. Let’s not destroy one another.

Let’s have wisdom. Let’s love one another. Let’s destroy the thing that is actually destroying us – evil.

Faith and the “Reality Distortion Field”

Something pretty for this post...Even though it really has nothing to do with it at all. :)

Something pretty for this post…Even though it really has nothing to do with it at all.

In the most recent General Conference, President Monson stated the following:

“May we choose to build up within ourselves a great and powerful faith which will be our most effective defense against the designs of the adversary – a real faith, the kind of faith which will sustain us and will bolster our desire to choose the right. Without such faith, we go nowhere. With it, we can accomplish our goals.”

As you probably know (if you read this blog often), I could write an essay of at least 3,000 words on this subject. But I’m striving for brevity. So, here are a few thoughts on the faith we need to help inform our choices and empower us to accomplish our goals.

In our society, it may be tempting to think of faith as some kind of quaint virtue, or perhaps something even worse.

Faith is the first principle of the gospel. It is a subject we hear about time and time again.

Faith is a virtue, but it isn’t relegated to moral interests. Faith is real power. (By the way, virtue is power – not just something for boring, prudish people! You can read more about virtue here.)

Without faith that a seed will sprout, we won’t keep watering it, fertilizing it, and nourishing it. Therefore, without the vision, or faith, of what a seed will be, though that vision is so different than the seed itself, the seed will never become a plant.

Because faith is a true principle and power, we see can faith at work – not only in a religious sense, but in any case.

Let’s take Steve Jobs, for example. It was often said that he had a “reality distortion field.” The “reality distortion field” or “RDF” is described as follows:

“RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. (Reality Distortion Field, Wikipedia)

There is plenty of criticism regarding Jobs’ “reality distortion field,” but the fact also remains: he believed a personal computer could be created. And it was created. He believed that they could figure out a way to put all of your songs in your pocket, and with the iPod, they did.

Later, now that we have been able to enjoy the success of Jobs’ ability to “distort” reality, we celebrate him as a visionary. We say this as if Jobs possessed some kind of magical ability. I don’t think that gives him enough credit. It really isn’t easy to “distort reality.”

I believe that this “reality distortion field” could be renamed to faith. Faith seems to “distort” our present knowledge and lead us to believe that with God, anything is possible.

Of course, faith is not a distortion. Alma teaches,

“And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” – Alma 32:21, emphasis added

Notice the last phrase – which are true. We learn more about truth in Doctrine and Covenants:

“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” – Doctrine and Covenants 93:24

Though faith doesn’t often seem to coincide with our current notion of reality, faith is a belief in that which is true – past, present, or future. And the truth is, we don’t know everything right now. There is so much we can’t see, so much we can’t sense. Relying only on what we currently know and experience is an actual and incredibly detrimental distortion of reality. A distortion of true reality – past, present, or future – will result in our impotence.

So, how do we develop the faith that empowers? How do we choose to distort what we think we know now and believe in something that is yet to happen?

We can simply put our faith in God. He is our Father. He knows all. He created all. He does have all of the information. He will enable us to sense and see what we need to know in our lives – even if what He reveals to us isn’t aligned with our current sense of “reality.”

When we exercise our faith, we may be misunderstood. Some may say that our “reality” seems “distorted,” but with faith in God, reality is never distorted. God isn’t bound by time – past, present, or future. He sees and knows all now. Through the Holy Ghost, and according to His will, our Heavenly Father can impart with us the knowledge we must know in order to achieve our goals. In other words, with faith, we can also become “visionaries.”

I don’t know…when I think about faith this way, it just seems so powerful. Why wouldn’t we want to develop it?!?!

Book of Mormon for Teens – Timeline and Authors

This is the next installment of my Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary for Teenagers. You can see the first one here.

Before I really get into the Book of Mormon, itself, I wanted to have a few pages showing the timelines and authors of the Book of Mormon. As I wrote in Tiger’s Book:

“Sometimes when you are reading the Book of Mormon, it can be a little confusing to keep track of what you are reading. There are accounts of things as they happen, flashbacks, and the changing of hands with the records.

Hopefully, this timeline and author chart will help you keep the events and authors of the Book of Mormon straight!”

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The timeline – there is a lot to fit onto one page!!!

Several years ago, I did my own “story of the Book of Mormon” project. (You can read about it here.) As a part of this project, I created my own Book of Mormon timeline. I highly suggest this type of project. It really helped me to understand the Book of Mormon.

In any case, here is a copy of the timeline that I created: BoM Timeline (available as a PDF Download).

I also felt like Tiger should understand the authors of the Book of Mormon and the way that the plates were handed down. I found a very handy flowchart of the Book of Mormon Authors online here.

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Authors of the Book of Mormon

These two pages are chock-full of information. I didn’t have much space to make anything “cute!” No worries, though. I really think that this information will be helpful.

Finally, I included a quote that I really love about the Book of Mormon:

“Would you like to have emblazoned on your soul an undeniable witness that the Savior descended beneath your sins and that there is no sin, no mortal plight outside the merciful reach of His Atonement – that for each of your struggles He has a remedy of superior healing power? Then read the Book of Mormon.” – Tad R. Callister (emphasis added)

Thanks for letting me share this project with you. I am so excited to actually get into the Book of Mormon now. I’m excited to be able to share my testimony with my daughter in a way that I hope she will be receptive to.  I’ll share more with you later!

A Clue to Understanding Jacob 5

I was in Sunday School recently, and we were studying Jacob 5. The conversation began with how intimidating Jacob 5 – the Allegory of the Olive Tree/Vineyard – can be.

Olive Tree

Obviously, I’ve been there, too. I’m not going to pretend like I got it right away. Jacob 5 is a story. A long story. Perhaps the most intimidating part of it is that the chapter is 77 verses long. Maybe we’d be less frightened if Jacob 5 was 15 verses.

No matter the reason, it seems like a lot of people feel a bit of anxiety when reading this chapter. What is it about? Why does Jacob include this chapter – this gigantic chapter – in his record? We know that it was difficult for them to etch into the plates, so why did Jacob make the effort to include this in his record? Why is it so important for us to know this allegory? What is an allegory?!

The questions are endless.

Today, I was reading in 1 Nephi 15 when I noticed some familiar complaints and a big clue…

And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.

And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?

And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.

Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?

Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.

Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father; and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel, and are we not a branch of the house of Israel?” – 1 Nephi 15:7-12

The Context

Here, in 1 Nephi 15, Nephi returned to the tent (after having a vision that taught the meaning of his fathers dream) of his father where his brothers were all disputing one with another.

Nephi was feeling weighed down and overcome by what he had seen in vision. And then, he goes to his father’s tent – most likely for some kind of support, and there his brothers are arguing.

Nephi asks them what’s up, and they say that they can’t understand what their father meant when he spoke about the olive tree. (See 1 Nephi 10:2-15, especially 14.)

Hmmm….an olive tree.

We know that Lehi had been studying the Brass Plates ever since Nephi and his brothers had obtained them and brought them to Lehi. I’m guessing that this study must have influenced what he spoke to his children about the House of Israel being compared to an Olive tree.

The Confusion of Nephi’s Brothers

So, Nephi’s brothers are confused and debating because they say that they can’t understand their father’s words: “concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.”

In other words, they don’t understand. They don’t get this analogy, this metaphor. And what does it matter?

This kind of sounds familiar. I’ve heard, and maybe have even been guilty of skipping Jacob 5. I’m not familiar with olive trees or olive groves. I don’t know how to dung or prune or graft new branches in a tree. I haven’t really disputed with others concerning Jacob 5, but I’ve been tempted to skip over it, and I know that I’m not the only one.

It seems so hard to understand.

The Clues to Understanding – Nephi’s Response to His Brothers (and Maybe to Us, too)

Clue One – Inquire of the Lord In response to his brother’s complaint, Nephi asks, “Have ye inquired of the Lord?”

Good question. And maybe we ought to ask ourselves that, when we say that Jacob 5 (or Isaiah, or anything spoken by the prophets anciently or currently) is “hard to understand,” – have we inquired of the Lord? Instead of complaining about it, are we opening our minds and hearts to understand by asking the Lord for guidance and help?

The brethren of Nephi answer that they haven’t asked because the Lord won’t tell them.

(This is crazy to me! How did they know what the Lord would or wouldn’t tell them? They haven’t even asked!!!!)

(And yet – as crazy as it sounds, I think that sometimes we might be guilty of this, too. We don’t ask, and then we still put the blame on God – because He hasn’t told us…Silly. But good to recognize.)

Clue Two – Be humble, Have a Soft Heart!
After hearing his brothers’ excuse on why they haven’t inquired of the Lord, Nephi asks a question that seems to be rhetorical in nature, but is worth considering:

“How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?” – 1 Nephi 15:10

Now, I don’t want to make assumptions about anyone, but these are good questions to ask, especially when we might be saying that some concept being taught by a prophet is “hard to understand,” and when we have followed this thought up with the admission that we haven’t prayed to understand it.

Having a soft heart is crucial to understanding. A soft heart is the fertile ground needed for a seed of faith. As we soften our hearts, then we will be able to understand. Nephi had this experience himself:

“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

When we allow our hearts to be softened, then we are able to believe the words of the prophets. This is what enables us to understand. (For more insight on this idea, see Mosiah 2:9.)

We need to have a soft heart. And why not? Really, what’s the risk? We run a much bigger risk when we have hard hearts? As Nephi asks, Why perish because of the hardness of our hearts? Again, it’s kind of silly. Just have a soft heart. Be believing. Ask the Lord. And perish not.

Clue Three – Ask in Faith
As you can see, these three clues are very closely related. We need to ask; we need to be humble enough to ask; and we need to ask!

Nephi reminds himself of the pattern that the Lord so often beckons each of us to follow:

  1. Harden not Your Hearts
  2. Ask God in Faith
  3. Believe that Ye Shall Receive
  4. Diligently Keep the Commandments

…then…

  • Surely these things will be made known unto you.

Had Nephi’s brothers followed this pattern, then they wouldn’t have been disputing in their father’s tent. They would have had peace and understanding. They would have known what was important for them to know. They would have been able to be taught by the Spirit.

The Meaning of The Olive Tree Comparison

In 1 Nephi 15:12-20 Nephi briefly explains the comparison between the Olive Tree and the House of Israel. I actually won’t get into it here because you can read it yourself.

The important things to note are:

  1. Nephi understood this comparison
  2. We can also understand this comparison.

Jacob 5 doesn’t have to be “hard” to understand. None of the scriptures have to be “hard” to understand. Sure, we may not understand everything inside and out, but when we follow the clues that Nephi teaches here, we will understand exactly what we need to know. We will be filled with peace. We won’t be tempted to dispute with others or complain in Sunday School about how long or difficult a passage seems. We won’t be tempted to gloss them over. Instead, we will be able to have a positive experience with the scriptures, with God’s Spirit, and with a way to apply these things in our lives.

***
What helps you to understand the scriptures, especially “difficult” ones like Jacob 5 or Isaiah?

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