The Canker of Contention – Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk The Canker of Contention, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1989 General Conference.

Peaceful Place
Peace

So far, every talk of President Nelson’s that I’ve read is still appropriate now – years after the talk was given. Today’s talk is no exception.

I want to begin with a quote from the middle of the talk:

“My concern is that contention is becoming accepted as a way of life. From what we see and hear in the media, the classroom, and the workplace, all are now infected to some degree with contention.” – Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson gave this talk in 1989. I was ten and a half years old. So, I think I was probably in fourth grade. I don’t really remember what the social climate was at the time – my life was mostly concerned with going to elementary school and playing outside. My parents got a divorce around this time, but I don’t really remember much about what was socially acceptable as far as courtesy or contention goes.

However, I would venture to guess that societal contention is still a concern for President Nelson. I know that it is a concern for me. 1989 – was before the 24 hour news cycles had taken hold in our lives. It was before there were trolls on the internet and cyber-bullying. I know that contention existed in 1989, but it seems like our society keeps trending toward contention and tribalism.

We have also seen how this contention spills out into the rest of our lives – the classroom and the workplace. In fact, who could have imagined how unsafe the classroom would be?! Gosh, I could go on, but that’s not the point of this talk or blog post. I think that we all know that contention is a problem. Bemoaning it doesn’t help. Instead, we can accept that we have a country rife with contention, and then we can understand why that is a problem. When we accept and understand, then we can work toward a solution.

Our Society is Rife with Contention

We can accept this. Accepting doesn’t mean condoning. It means that we recognize there is a problem.

It means that we recognize there is a problem, and that we can do something about it!

Accept it without judgement. Instead, I think we need to accept it the same way that you would if you found that you had skin cancer. One option would be to get mad at the sun. You could shake your fist at it. You could pretend that there is no problem as the cancer festers and destroys your body. Or you could accept the fact and simply say, “Well, I don’t like this, but I accept it. I have skin cancer. Now what can I do?”

So – we accept there is a problem. There are too many people bullying and being bullied. There are too many random shootings. There are too many purposeful shootings. There is too much road rage. There are too many people shouting and blaming and trolling. There is too much domestic violence. We have a societal cancer called contention. Accept it. and now, what can we do??? (No, the answer doesn’t mean point fingers at others, by the way. It’s not everyone else’s fault! What can WE do means what can WE do!)

The Problem with Contention

President Nelson declared:

“As we dread any disease that undermines the health of the body, so should we deplore contention, which is a corroding canker of the spirit.” – Russell M. Nelson

But why? Why is contention such a problem? Well, let’s consider its origin.

The Savior taught:

“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” – 3 Nephi 11:29

The father of contention is the devil. He wants us to fight. He wants us to be filled with enough pride that we put down and hurt others. Though there may be momentary satisfaction in hurting another, we are left with a bad taste in our mouth. We are left with a gaping hole in our spirits when we let that spirit into our lives. Think of how Nephi felt when he was angry at his brothers:

“Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.” – 2 Nephi 4:17

The spirit of contention left Nephi feeling wretched. We quote 2 Nephi 4 as the psalm of Nephi, and we are able to witness him as he struggles with the consequence of contention and repents. We watch him strip this out of his heart. We watch him swallow his pride. He was angry at his brothers who wanted to kill him! He had done so much for them! It seems like he would have every right to be angry.

And he did have every right to be angry, I suppose. The Lord doesn’t expect us to be a doormat, but we also can’t give into the spirit of contention. So, if Nephi chooses to exercise this “right” to anger, then he also dispels the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

When Nephi felt angered and contentious, the Spirit departed, and because Nephi was so in tune with it, he felt wretched without it. He quickly corrected course because he knew that feeling wretched isn’t all that great.

But what about each of us? What do we do when we feel wretched. Do we look inward and plead with God for forgiveness? Or do we let that wretched feeling give way to more anger and more wretchedness?

***

Contention isn’t new. In fact, it existed in the pre-mortal world. Satan rebelled against Heavenly Father and started a war in heaven.

President Nelson stated:

“This war in heaven was not a war of bloodshed. It was a war of conflicting ideas—the beginning of contention.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is so fascinating to me! Even though I have been raised as a Mormon – so the whole “war in heaven” narrative has always been a part of my life – I never really internalized what that meant.

I mean, I never really compared the war in heaven with war that we see happening in this mortal world. I am so blessed. I know very little of war. I haven’t experienced it first-hand. I have lived a safe life. However, I’ve tried to educate myself, and I know that war is terrifying. It is full of death and misery. It is terrible. And this is exactly what the war in heaven was, too.

There was no bloodshed in heaven, but there were casualties.

War can be waged with only ideas, and such a war can have catastrophic results. Contention isn’t manifest for the first time with the exchange of blows. Contention begins deep in our hearts – with our thoughts, then expressed through words, and finally through actions. By the time we let it get to our actions, it truly has cankered our souls.

President Nelson also reminds us:

“Scriptures repeatedly warn that the father of contention opposes the plan of our Heavenly Father. Satan’s method relies on the infectious canker of contention. Satan’s motive: to gain personal acclaim even over God Himself.” – Russell M. Nelson

Satan’s motive is always the same. He wants our agency and God’s glory. Though he didn’t find success in the war in heaven, he still wages war now – with the same results in mind. His motive has nothing to do with us – giving into the pride of contention will not make us feel better.

I remember getting into an argument with a loved one. Both of us said things that we regret now – in fact we regretted them almost immediately. I remember that after the argument, I left and was feeling wretched. I was tempted to call a friend and then complain about this argument – furthering the spirit of contention and then also infecting another with this same spirit.

Thankfully the friend wasn’t around to talk to. So I was alone in my car.

I chose to just say a prayer that I would feel better.

The way that prayer usually seems to work (at least for me in these kinds of situations) is that Heavenly Father never usually says, “You’re right, what a jerk!…You know what you should do…” He never guides me to more contention or pain.

Now, my hurt feelings were legitimate, and Heavenly Father comforted me. But I was also impressed with a feeling, “You two are on the same team.”

And I realized that because we were on the same team, then we had to make a choice. There wouldn’t be one clear winner and one clear loser. Either we both win or we both lose. Satan tries to get us to lose sight of this. He wants us to be myopic and focus not on the big game but on the faults of our teammates. We may feel momentarily justified, but in the end we both lose.

Steps to Supplant Contention

President Nelson gives us two main steps to help us combat the canker of contention.

One – Bridle our Passions

Alma gave this advice to his son:

“Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness.” – Alma 38:12

Usually, I tend to think of “passions” as sexual in nature. But passion can be more than that. But we have to bridle our passions – of anger and frustration – so that we can be filled with love, God’s love, instead.

We are to bridle our passions. This doesn’t mean to eliminate them. This doesn’t mean that we become robotic! It means that we become the master of our passions – that we use discernment and discretion. It means that we follow the Spirit rather than our emotions.

President Nelson advised:

“To begin, show compassionate concern for others. Control the tongue, the pen, and the word processor. Whenever tempted to dispute, remember this proverb: “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.” – Russell M. Nelson

Two – Love God

Really, this is the ultimate step in combatting contention and controlling our passions. President Nelson explained:

“Personal peace is reached when one, in humble submissiveness, truly loves God. Heed carefully this scripture:

“There was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” (4 Ne. 1:15; see also 4 Ne. 1:2; italics added.)

Thus, love of God should be our aim. It is the first commandment—the foundation of faith. As we develop love of God and Christ, love of family and neighbor will naturally follow. Then will we eagerly emulate Jesus. He healed. He comforted. He taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this! I love the connection between personal peace (which comes as a result of Loving God), and peace with others.

I know that this is true, too.

I have struggled with contention in my life. It is easy and natural for me to do. However, I hate the way I feel when I let even a little bit of contention into my heart. It is terrible. It truly is wretched. This is a struggle that I have tried to ward off and am continually confronted with. It is so hard to change.

The thing with change is – it’s so hard to make a change using sheer willpower if we are moseying along in the wrong paradigm. When we change our paradigm, then our actions are so much easier to change, too.

So – even though I listed step one as “bridling our passions,” I think that really it isn’t the critical step. We should bridle our passions so that we can be filled with God’s love because God’s love is where the paradigm shift happens.

I love the scripture:

“We love him, because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

If you are trying to cultivate a love of God, then allow yourself to feel His love because He loves you.

Imagine if every person on this earth knew this simple fact: that they are children of God; that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them.

Say this out loud: I am a child of God, and He loves me.

Just saying that fills my heart with hope and joy! I can’t explain it, but anger, fear, and pride dispel when I say and accept that I am a child of God, and that He Loves me. When I accept this truth in my life, I want to feel more of His love. I want to be kinder. I want to have peace. I don’t want to fight!

When we love God, we change our paradigm. We see the world in a new way. We recognize that we truly are all brothers and sisters and that God not only loves us, but He loves them, too. When we love God, we begin to feel the love and compassion that He has for others – even if it is hard for us to do that ourselves. When we love God, we heal our soul from the canker of contention – we won’t give way to temptation. The devil will have no place in our hearts to destroy our peace and afflict our souls. When we love God, we will see contention for what it is, and then do the humbling steps to root it out of our lives.

And imagine what a world that would be!

***

I love this talk, and I feel like it is so timely. Unfortunately, the subject of “the canker of contention” may always be timely. In any case, I’m grateful for this reminder. I’m so grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the cankerous effect of contention. I’m grateful to know that President Nelson also knows how to apply gospel truths to overcome contention. I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who is a peacemaker

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“With God Nothing Shall Be Impossible” – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk, With God Nothing Shall Be Impossible,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1988 session of General Conference.

For with God Nothing Shall Be Impossible

This talk was the perfect thing for me to study today.

I think that I’ll start with this quote, even though this came at the end of the talk:

You who may be momentarily disheartened, remember, life is not meant to be easy. Trials must be borne and grief endured along the way. As you remember that “with God nothing shall be impossible,” know that He is your Father. You are a son or daughter created in His image, entitled through your worthiness to receive revelation to help with your righteous endeavors. You may take upon you the holy name of the Lord. You can qualify to speak in the sacred name of God. It matters not that giants of tribulation torment you. Your prayerful access to help is just as real as when David battled his Goliath. – Russell M. Nelson

I have an admission, I get disheartened easier than I would like. Overall, I feel like I’m a very optimistic person. This is all centered on the fact that I know that the Lord is good, I know that He Loves us, and I know that there is no limit to His love, power, knowledge or blessings. In other words, He is a god of abundance, and He wants – no he delights – in blessing us with His abundance.

I’m an optimist, but I am also striving. I’m also trying to be a better person. I don’t believe in the concept of “perfection,” but I do want to do what I can to increase my talents, to “10x” my life. Much has been given to me in my life; much is required. I have a hunger that seems to be impossible to satiate. I have this one life to live – I love it, and I want to “get after it.”

Of course, Heavenly Father wants us to dream big and to work for those dreams. It doesn’t have to be done in some “type-A” kind of way. Look at the life of the Savior. He didn’t have meetings or “SMART” goals. He didn’t come to the earth when he impact more people globally by sending out a tweet or writing a blog. He didn’t walk into Jerusalem and force everyone to be healed. He simply served one at a time. His mode of transportation was his two feet. His mode of communication was his audible voice. Despite the fact that he wasn’t a type-A kind of a dude, he “10xed” his life. He did exactly the needful thing at each moment. He made an impact on our world that is unforgettable. He fulfilled His mission.

This is how I strive to be – I’m really happy with my life, but I’m also still hungry. There is so much that is so great about this world. There is so much to see, to experience. There is so much room for my own growth. There is so much I want to learn. I also want to do everything I can to improve my relationships. I am very serious about my role as a nurturer, and I want to be the kind of woman who is able to nurture others – both my children, spouse, and anyone else I come in contact with.

So – with this insight on my desires, there are specific goals I have. Those specific goals aren’t necessary to mention in this blog, but I guess it is important that I let you know I have them. I have specific goals – some that are easier to achieve than others. A few of them have required greater faith than I’m always able to muster. Thankfully the Lord is patient with me, and He helps me.

***

In the Book of Mormon, there is a story about a group of people: The Jaredites. Their story begins with a journey to the promised land. They originated in the city of Babel, and traveled for about four years before they were commanded to build barges and cross the sea. Finally, the barges were prepared, the food was prepared, God – through the faith of the brother of Jared – blessed them with a way to have light and comfort in these barges. And they began their journey to the promised land.

We learn how the barges moved forward toward the promised land:

“And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.” – Ether 6:6

So – in order to get to the promised land, a furious wind blew. They didn’t drift leisurely toward their destination. This was no pleasure cruise. We learn:

“And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.” – Ether 6:7

Notice the description of the sea: mountain waves, terrible tempests, fierce winds. All of this was done so that the Jaredites could make it to their destination.

I have embarked on my own goals and journeys that have required a lot of faith for me. And the Lord has used metaphorical mountain waves to push me along my path. Sometimes it’s scary. And sometimes, I see the mountain wave, am surrounded by the terrible tempest, and hear the fierceness of the wind. And I am tempted to become disheartened. Which is why I love that quote and this entire talk by President Nelson!!!

President Nelson states:

“And I admire those who strive to be more worthy by overcoming a personal fault or who work to achieve a difficult goal.” – Russell M. Nelson

Though the Lord may use “mountain waves” to push us toward overcoming personal faults or achieving a difficult goal, we shouldn’t be afraid. We should remember that “With God nothing shall be impossible.”

We have evidence of this! Heavenly Father blessed Gideon and his troops against the Midianites. The Lord decreased his troops from twenty-two thousand to ten thousand. Still, that was too many. Gideon, following the instruction from the Lord, whittled his troops down to only 300. And only then did the Lord deliver them, impossible though it seemed.

The Lord enabled Sarah to have a baby in her old age and Mary to bear a child though she was a virgin.

The Lord directed the children of Israel to the Red Sea, where they miraculously crossed it on dry ground.

The Lord brought Nephi and the Jaredites to the promised land.

The Lord brought forth His gospel – in its fullness – in the latter days starting with only a few uneducated farmers and people from rural New York. And now, it has grown and continues to grow and do good throughout the world.

Really, when think about it, nothing is impossible. This is true. It’s not just some statement meant to make you feel better as you keep trudging along in life. It is true. It is meant to be a beacon of hope and the knowledge that we need in order to embark on our own life’s missions – though they may require a ton of faith and strength that we feel we don’t have.

We can learn to achieve the impossible as we come to the Lord. President Nelson teaches how to achieve by highlighting three spiritual themes.

Faith

If we don’t have faith, if we don’t have vision, then we are doomed before we even begin. I feel like I could write an entire book about faith and why it is absolutely critical if we want to “10x” our lives, if we want to make any progress, if we want to feel any joy. It all hinges on faith.

And faith is more than just trusting in God. It’s more than believing that He can do something. Faith also means that we trust that He can empower us to do what we must. I have trouble with this, but the Lord is gently teaching me.

So we need faith. President Nelson teaches:

“Faith is nurtured through knowledge of God. It comes from prayer and feasting upon the words of Christ through diligent study of the scriptures.” – Russell M. Nelson

Yes! I love this! Nephi teaches us that His brothers murmured (which came as a result of a lack of faith) because they “knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” (See 1 Nephi 2:12)

When we come to know the Lord through prayer and scripture study, then increased faith comes as a result. We learn that He is trustworthy, and that we can rely on Him. We learn that with Him nothing is impossible because He will empower us. Often, the way I think about it is: Well, if God thinks that I can do this, then I guess I can do it. I shouldn’t second-guess the Lord. Even though it seems like second guessing ourselves is a sign of humility, it isn’t. Second guessing our capability to do what the Lord thinks we can do is not only a lack of faith, it is pride, and a lack of understanding that God is omniscient and omnipotent. We should believe Him when He believes in us.

Focus

Oh! I love this point, too. As I’ve been climbing the path of my own goals, I have been reminded time and time again about my focus, about my vision, and how that would be a huge determining factor on my success.

I think about Peter, who walked on the water. When he began to focus on the stormy water, he lost focus on His Savior. He faltered in his faith – that the Savior would empower Him to walk on the water. Peter focused on failure, and failure followed.

This is a long quote, but I really love how President Nelson teaches us about focus:

“Imagine, if you will, a pair of powerful binoculars. Two separate optical systems are joined together with a gear to focus two independent images into one three-dimensional view. To apply this analogy, let the scene on the left side of your binoculars represent your perception of your task. Let the picture on the right side represent the Lord’s perspective of your task—the portion of His plan He has entrusted to you. Now, connect your system to His. By mental adjustment, fuse your focus. Something wonderful happens. Your vision and His are now the same. You have developed an “eye single to the glory of God.” With that perspective, look upward—above and beyond mundane things about you. The Lord said, “Look unto me in every thought.” That special vision will also help clarify your wishes when they may be a bit fuzzy and out of focus with God’s hopes for your divine destiny. Indeed, the precise challenge you regard now as “impossible” may be the very refinement you need, in His eye.

As we develop an “eye of faith,” we will be able to focus. I know that this doesn’t just happen. We have to choose to align our focus with God’s. And when you do develop focus, don’t take it for granted. Little things can blur your focus. There is an active adversarial force working against us (hint: SATAN!). Not only do we need to align our vision with God’s to give us focus, we need to keep calibrating our vision – so that it remains united with His.

Strength and Courage

I think that strength and courage come as we cultivate faith and focus. It comes when we keep our covenants – especially the covenant to always remember Him.

In and of myself, I’m not strong. I’m not courageous.

Here’s another example. In and of himself, Nephi wasn’t strong. He wasn’t courageous. He didn’t rely on his own wits. Instead, he knew the way to find strength and courage:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” – 1 Nephi 3:7

Nephi knew that he didn’t need to be strong and courageous. He needed to be open and meek. He needed to be close to the Spirit. That this meekness and openness would help him to see the opportunities that the Lord would put in his place in order for Nephi to do as the Lord commanded.

So Nephi did that. Nephi’s trust in the Lord WAS his strength and courage. That is when the Lord makes even more out of Nephi, so much so, that I feel like I’m speaking the truth when I say that “Nephi was courageous.”

I love the hymn quoted by President Nelson –

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
‘Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tell—
All is well! All is well!
Come, Come Ye Saints

And another hymn:

When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us
And threaten our peace to destroy,
There is hope smiling brightly before us,
And we know that deliv’rance is nigh.
We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness.
We’ve proved him in days that are past.
We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet

And another hymn:

In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, 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, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
How Firm a Foundation

I know that I’m not special. I know that if you are reading this, you have gone through your own trials of faith. You have had times when you wondered how to endure the impossible. I know that I’m not the only one on this earth who has had goals, ambitions, trials, and more.

Though I’m not the only one, the only testimony I can give is my own. I know that God loves us. I know that His work and His GLORY is us! It is our eternal success. I know that He delights in blessing us with his best blessings. I know that He wants us to dream big, and that really – we can’t even dream as big as He does. I know that our Heavenly Father wants us to experience joy, and that joy is related to us fulfilling the measures of our creation.

I know that if we choose to embark on the path that will bring us joy – if we will embark on the path that will help us to do what we were sent here to do, then we are not on an easy path. I know that refinement and improvement is sometimes tiring and painful. You can’t get to the top of the mountain without climbing a mountain.

But, we can do it. God thinks we can! So we can!

I love the final verse of How Firm a Foundation. It is how I feel with my whole entire heart:

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!
How Firm a Foundation

I will remain with Jesus. He is the source of any power and light in my life. He is the reason I’ve been able to do anything good in my life. He is my Savior and Redeemer. His Atonement has blessed me – It has healed me from heartache and pain. It has forgiven me of my sins. It has brought me comfort in times of physical illness and distress. And it has empowered me as I have sought the abundant life He offers. The Savior has enabled me to do things that I never could have imagined doing. Through Him, I have received personal commandments, and though they seem impossible, I can echo what Nephi said. I KNOW that the Lord will not give us a commandment without a way for us to keep it.

Our Heavenly Father is not Lucy. He doesn’t set up the football with the intention of taking it away as we fall flat on our backs. He doesn’t set us up for failure. Though we don’t always see solutions to our problems, though there are times when we keep falling and failing, if we trust in God, He will guide us to the solution. We will make it to the top of the mountain.

empire pass

Long Post. (I feel like I say this every time)

***

I’m so grateful to know that we are guided by a prophet today who is confident in the Lord. I’m grateful to know that Russell M. Nelson is so confident in the Lord’s power, that he believes the Lord can make us powerful! I am grateful to know that President Nelson believes that nothing is impossible for the Lord – and that this statement is not just to puff up and flatter some jealous god, but that this statement is made for us to realize that the Lord is powerful enough to work miracles in us and through us! That His power is powerful enough to give us power!

I’m grateful that President Nelson knows this and has taught us this. I respect him, and I’m so grateful to be guided by a living prophet who has trusted God enough to truly know that with God nothing shall be impossible.

 

Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens – 1 Nephi – Lehi’s Dream

This post is the next installment of my Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens Project.

006 Lehi's Dream

There is sooo much to say about Lehi’s dream. I mean, I think that you could really fill an entire book treating only Lehi’s dream and its interpretation. I limited this to only 2 pages.

(oh – and Lehi’s dream really lends itself to fun illustrations!!!)

I decided to focus on the four types of people we read about in Lehi’s dream:

Group One

The first group of people commenced on the strait and narrow path. When th mists of darkness surrounded them, they lost their way. They wandered off and were lost. How did this happen? It’s because they were NOT holding fast to the rod. When they encountered a trial, they were overwhelmed and overcome by it.

Sometimes we will face situations in our lives that are difficult, dark, and full of adversity. We won’t be able to “see” far ahead of us. The thing to remember: The Lord doesn’t expect us to have a clear road. He doesn’t expect us to be able to disperse the mists of darkness. Instead, He provided us with His Word – the Iron Rod. We can have surety, security, and peace – even in mists of darkness.

Group Two

The second group DID hold on to the rod. In fact, they are described as “clinging” to it. They arrive at the tree of life (overcoming the mists of darkness), they partake, and then they look around. They hear the mockery of those in the Great and Spacious building and they are ashamed. Thy decide to leave! They leave JOY!

This group, I feel, weren’t motivated by faith. They are motivated by fear and pride. They clung to the rod – out of fear: fear of disappointing others, maybe. When they arrive, their fear then motivates them to give up the accomplishment that they made.

If we are motivated by fear – even to do good things – then we must remember that fear will not just disappear. It will haunt us. Instead, let faith motivate us, and we will have joy!

Group Three

The third group also caught hold of the iron rod. They held fast until partaking of the fruit. They were filled with JOY. They were motivated by FAITH: so they weren’t overwhelmed by the mists of darkness. Nor were they ashamed by the jeering of those in the great and spacious building.

This group knows that true joy – true contentment – comes only from the Savior. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Word, and He offers us the fruit of the tree of life.

When we partake, we can experience this kind of peace and sublime joy.

Group Four

The fourth group of people feel their way to the great and spacious building. They have NO INTEREST in the tree of life. They don’t even start on the path! To me – they are like raccoons – more obsessed with the “shiny” stuff that is easy to procure – like a piece of tin foil – rather than something of real value.

They reject what is real, life giving, and joy…then they mock others who obtain it. Why? If they are having so much fun in the great and spacious building, what does it mater to them what everyone else is doing? Why do they care – if they are so happy? They aren’t! They are empty and their actions testify of the emptiness of the pride of the world – even if it is “shiny.”

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Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens – 1 Nephi – Lehi Dwelt in a Tent

This is the next installment of my Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary for Teens project.

005 Lehi dwelt in a tent

As a teenager, I always loved the verse, “And my father dwelt in a tent.”

I felt like it was worth celebrating this short verse. And as I thought about it, the poignancy of this verse started to stand out.

Lehi was rich. He was educated. He lived a comfortable life in Jerusalem and then followed the Lord. He left everything behind to follow the command of the Lord. The Lord told Lehi that he would take his family to a “promised land.”

This is no promised land…not yet anyway. Lehi is living in the wilderness – the desert. I think that it would have been hard to imagine a promised land in the wilderness – especially because Lehi and his family had once lived in a nice and comfortable situation back in Jerusalem.

But Lehi trusted God. He dwelt in a tent. A simple verse, but so full of meaning. What an example of trusting in the Lord!

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Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary – for Teens – Table of Contents

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.

Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens – 1 Nephi – Obtaining the Brass Plates

This is the next installment of my Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary for Teens project.

These pages are all about the experience of Nephi, Laman, Lemuel and Sam – obtaining the brass plates.

003 Obtaining the Brass Plates part 1

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.

004 Obtaining the plates part 2

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).

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Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens – 1 Nephi – Laman, Lemuel, and Nephi

This is a continuation of my Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens project.

I actually titled this page “Circumstances and Choices”

002 Laman Lemuel and Nephi
Comparing and contrasting are always funs way to learn in the scriptures.

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.

Nephi

The choice:

“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
  • Increased faith
  • A new perspective
  • Power
  • Joy
  • The consecration of Nephi’s afflictions for His Gain

Laman and Lemuel

The choice:

“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:

  • Murmuring
  • Complaining
  • Violence against Nephi
  • Wickedness and sin
  • Becoming “past feeling”
  • Anger
  • Becoming murderers in their hearts
  • Powerless
  • Their afflictions don’t become a source of joy or growth – instead their afflictions remain hardships

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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.

 

 

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