The Difficult Path vs. Fiery Darts

Recently, while watching the address from our new prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, I jotted down the following thought:

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.

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The view of the mountains from Wasatch Mountain State Park in Midway, Utah.

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.

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The view of the Heber Valley and Deer Creek Reservoir from a random spot on Pine Canyon Road

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.

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Columbine growing on the side of the road
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Wasatch Beardtongue
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Utah Sweet Vetch
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A cabin in an Aspen forest.

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.

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This intersection brought me sweet relief! Only a little way left!!!

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…

empire pass
The view from 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.

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Deer Valley

***

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.

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Hope for the Best and Expect the Worst…

I’ve heard it said over and over again, “Hope for the best and expect the worst.” I understand the concept behind the adage. But I think that I’m less and less of a believer of it.

Today, in sacrament meeting, we sang the following:

“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 deliverance 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

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There is hope smiling brightly before us.

***

About four years ago, Homey and I started our own business. Starting your own business is not for the faint of heart. Both Homey and I, when we started it, knew that it would push us right to the very edge – past anything we have ever experienced. Simultaneously, we knew that we could trust God, and that we would be fine. There would definitely be times when things didn’t feel fine, but we could trust that we were okay.

This thought came the exact instant I told Homey, “it’s time to quit your job and be serious about the business.” Both my own spirit and the Comforter were aligned on this – I knew this instinctually, in my gut, in my Spirit and because of the Spirit – we needed to devote more time to the business. I knew that we needed to take the risk, have Homey quit his job, and focus our efforts 100% on the business. I knew, the Spirit gave me a deep impression that now was our chance – and that if we didn’t take it, there might not be another “right time for it.”

We went to the temple, we referred to our patriarchal blessings. And we knew that this was not only something we wanted to do, but perhaps a part of the work we should perform in this life. It would enable us to be the kind of people God sees in us, and it would enable us to do the work that He would expect of us.

And, thank goodness for the Comforter – even while Homey was still employed with a very secure job that gave us a very secure lifestyle – I knew that we would be pushed right to our limit. And I also felt overwhelming comfort, “You’ll be pushed to your limit, but you will be delivered. You know the pattern – the Lord delivers when your back is at the wall.”

(But He doesn’t deliver us before our backs are to the wall).

***

That was four years ago. Since then, Homey and I have been working, working, working. We have lived off of savings. We have sold our house. We have moved to Hawai’i, to the mainland – the intermountain west, and then to the East Coast. We have sold nearly all of our belongings (everything we own fits in a small portion of my in-law’s basement – for a family of six!). We own no couches, bookshelves, or dishes. We have had an amazing ride. We have been blessed by the Lord.

And we have been stretched.

At one point along the ride, a well-meaning individual said, “Well, you know – you have to hope for the best, but expect the worst.”

I smiled, and was grateful for the concern. I nodded my head, but I didn’t agree. And the idea has been ruminating in the back of my head for months.

***

In First Nephi, within the first chapters of the Book of Mormon, we read Nephi’s courageous declaration:

“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

Hope for the best, and expect the worst? Not really. Nephi didn’t “hope” that he would obtain the plates. No, he was committed to obtaining the plates. He tried once and twice – lost his entire family’s inheritance, and nearly lost his life. Then he finally entered into the gates of Jerusalem – armed only with the Spirit and with no plan at all. Perhaps the chain of events didn’t happen as he had expected, but his primary expectation and his hope were aligned – He would obtain the plates. No plan B. No other option. That was that. He would obtain the plates or die trying.

Now, maybe you’re wondering, “Well, Nephi was commanded.” Let’s look at another example.

***

We have a record – in the Book of Ether – of a group of people that originated from Babel, during the time that the Lord confused their languages. One family – Jared’s family and his brothers – prayed to the Lord that they would be able to communicate with each other. So, Jared had his brother – who was highly favored of the Lord – pray to spare their family.

And the Lord did.

Then, Jared asked his brother the following:

“And it came to pass that Jared spake again unto his brother, saying: Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go. And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth? And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance.”  – Ether 1:38.

So – Jared’s brother decides to ask God to drive them out of the land – and perhaps to a promised land. The Lord has compassion. He gives Jared’s brother some instructions, then makes the following promise:

“…And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.

And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. And thereshall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth. And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.” – Ether 1:42-43

Unlike Nephi and his family, Jared and his brethren were not commanded to flee Babel. They had a righteous desire, they asked the Lord, and the Lord granted accordingly (Ask and ye shall receive…). They would have to do a lot of work, they would travel across the entire world – from Babel to the Americas. But the Lord would grant them according to their prayers.

It would push them right to their limits, but they didn’t have to worry because it would work.

Hope for the best and expect the worst??? NO! Plan B? Plan C? NOOOO! There is one plan! It is to do what God will have us do! There is one expectation – that the Lord’s will will come to pass, and that his promises are sure, that hope isn’t some silly thing that kids do, but that it will anchor our faith by giving us vision.

***

Imagine that you are walking along the iron rod, toward the tree of life. Do you say, “Well, I’m hoping that I will make it to the tree of life, but I don’t expect it. In fact, I expect that I will wander off on a strange road and get lost – the worst possible outcome.” Do you say, “I’ll hope for the best, but expect the worst,” as if you are an agent to be acted upon, rather than an agent to act – empowered by the infinite grace of God???

***

I will admit that many, many times in my life I have said, “I won’t get my hopes up.” There is a glimmer of an opportunity, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. I don’t want to be disappointed, so I kind of ignore them. Of course, I’m sure you can guess because I expected the worst, I received the worst.

And I’m learning that hope – it isn’t some kind of silly thing. True hope is a facet of faith. It will make an anchor for us so that we succeed. Hope will help us put one foot in front of the other. Hope will give us the vision to find opportunities when our backs are against the wall and every resource appears to be exhausted. Hope gives us the courage to walk into a dark city at night, on an errand from the Lord, with nothing but the Spirit to guide and protect us. Hope gives us the audacity to go to the Lord and ask him for the blessings that He is willing to grant us but can’t until we ask for them.

Hope is how we cheerfully submit to all of the will of God – enduring anything that is thrown before us, knowing that our expectations – deliverance and success – are sure because He Is Sure.

 

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?

Be Not Moved–Compare and Contrast (D&C 87:8)

New Scripture Study Series
New Scripture Study Series
This is commentary based on the scripture study programStand Ye in Holy Places (Doctrine and Covenants 87:8). You can download the entire scripture study program here.

“Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen.” – Doctrine and Covenants 87:8

In Doctrine and Covenants 87:8, not only are we taught to stand in Holy Places, but we are told to be not moved. Obviously, this can’t be taken literally, yet it is truly a commandment from God. We need to be steadfast as we stand in Holy Places. Wavering will not help us to complete the charge given to us by God.

In order to get a better understanding of how not to be moved, we will study four groups of people listed in Lehi’s dream).

Group One – Those Who Never Stand in a Holy Place

The First Group of People Choose Never to Stand in a Holy Place.
The First Group of People Choose Never to Stand in a Holy Place.

Lehi tells us about this first group:

And it came to pass that I saw them, but they would not come unto me and partake of the fruit. – 1 Nephi 8:18

This first group of people see the prophet and the fruit of the tree of life, but they have no interest. They do not heed the teachings of the prophet. They refuse to follow him and partake. They never find themselves in a holy place.

Group Two – Those Who Wander Off

Mist of Darkness
Mist of Darkness

Lehi tells of the second group:

“And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood.

And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree.

And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.” – 1 Nephi 8:21-23

This group of people wanted to obtain the path that led to the tree of life. They desired to be in Holy places, and they commenced on this path. Yet, when difficulty arose, they lost their confidence and even lost their ways.

As we go through our lives, there are times when we must endure difficulties. We need to choose to stand in Holy Places and be not moved. If we waver, even a little bit, then we risk wandering off – to the point where we are lost forever.

Though this group of people weren’t openly rebellious, they still didn’t get to their final goal. We can learn from their example. We must be steadfast in our commitment to standing in Holy Places. Obviously this doesn’t mean that we must stand in the temple all day long, but we can be steadfast in our commitment in being the kind of person who is Holy and worthy of the companionship of the Spirit.

Group Three – Those Who Became Ashamed

This group of people partook then were ashamed.
This group of people partook then were ashamed.

Lehi teaches:

” And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.

And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.

And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.

And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.

And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” – 1 Nephi 8:24-28

Of all of the groups that Lehi tells of, I feel like this one is the most unfortunate.

This group of people held to the rod, pressed forward through the mists of darkness, partook of the fruit of the tree, then looked around…they noticed the people in the great and spacious building – those who chose not to partake – and they were ashamed.

Their shame reached a fever pitch, and this group of people decided to leave the tree of life in search for empty pleasure and false happiness.

As far as standing fast goes, we can learn from their example. Even when we have obtained a testimony, we will still be tempted. We will still see the “fun” that others seem to have while we live simple, obedient lives. Even after tasting the fruit that is sweeter above all fruits, we will still be mocked and tempted. If we choose to “be not moved,” then we will be able to endure these trials. We will inherit blessings from the Father and abide the day of His coming.

It isn’t enough to work hard, cling to the rod, and partake of the Fruit. We need, also, to be steadfast after we have partaken, too.

Group Four – The Successful Partakers of the Fruit

The Tree of Life - Christ
The Tree of Life – Christ

Lehi teaches us about the final group:

But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:30

Finally, we learn of this last group who not only made it to the tree of life but never wavered after, either.

This group stood their ground throughout – they weren’t discouraged in mists of darkness nor were they ashamed by the calls of the people in the great and spacious building. They kept their eyes of faith focused on the fruit of the tree of life. Once they partook, they understood the joy and the source of that joy.

In our lives, we can be like this group by working hard to stay close to the Lord depsite external difficulties. We can “be not moved” from our holy places by nurturing our testimonies rather than listening to the deafening cries of the world.

***
What do you do to be like this fourth group of people – and persevere? How do you strive to be not moved?

FHE – Murmuring

Last night, Tiger taught us about Murmuring. It was pretty appropriate for our family considering last week we learned about language.

Tiger decided to frame this lesson in the context of Nephi/Laman and Lemuel. Laman and Lemuel are classic murmurers, so this was a good place to start.

Tiger prepared a piece of paper that had two columns. On the left was Laman and Lemuel on the right was Nephi We began by reading the following scripture:

“And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” – 1 Nephi 2:12

On the paper, we wrote down the reasons why Laman and Lemuel chose to murmur:

  • They didn’t know God

We then read about Nephi

” 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

We found the reasons that Nephi chose not to murmur

  • Nephi Prayed
  • the spirit of the Lord visited and helped Nephi

We also looked up the following scriputres:
1 Nephi 3:5, 7
1 Nephi 17:17, 50-51

As we studied the scriptures we added to our chart. It ended up looking like this:

The Murmuring Chart

One of the things that we noticed, as a family, was that a big cause of murmuring comes from a lack of understanding our God. However, this doesn’t mean that we are blameless when we murmur. Nephi didn’t have more than a desire to understand when he prayed to God (in 1 Nephi 2:16). If we don’t understand God, but we have the desire to, then God will bless us as He blessed Nephi.

Through these experiences, Nephi began to gain confidence in the Lord. He knew that he could trust God. Because Nephi didn’t murmur, and instead prayed, he was blessed with courage. Often, we think of Nephi’s courage as being something difficult to cultivate in ourselves, but as we read through these scriptures, I realized that Nephi’s courage wasn’t based in his own ability. Nephi’s courage was based in his trust in God.

So…we can refrain from murmuring by trusting God, getting to know Him, and praying. We don’t have to be like Laman and Lemuel. We can be happy and obedient, and through this be strengthened by the Lord.

What did you do for FHE? Check out another great FHE experience over at We talk of Christ…

Mothers in May – Sariah

Sariah

The mention of Sariah, in the Book of Nephi, is another time when I wonder what her journal must have said about the experience of traveling into the wilderness then sending her sons back to Jerusalem.

Because we have the record of Nephi, and a few of the stories of Lehi, we see that Lehi had been converted to the Lord, and had personally received the charge to flee into the wilderness. I’m sure that the task was difficult for Lehi – to leave everything behind and go into the desert toward an unknown promised land. Yet, Lehi had the vision, he had the promise. Sariah did not have such a confirmation. She had to have faith in Lehi’s testimony and experience. We learn from Sariah that, sometimes, to be a good mother means to be a trusting and good wife.

After her sons go back to Jerusalem, Sariah begins to worry. The journey was undoubtably difficult. After her worries came to a fever pitch, she complained to Lehi, calling him a “visionary man”. It could be tempting to “condemn” her for this, but as I try to put myself in her shoes, I think I understand – she still hadn’t received a spiritual confirmation of the entire trip to the promised land.

Revelation – especially when it comes to revelation for a family – truly intrigues me. For years, I was a single mother, which meant I was the sole receiver of revelation from Heavenly Father for my family. If I needed to move, I knew. If my children needed special attention, I knew. Raising my family was strictly between me and the Lord. Yet I yearned for a partner. I knew that I didn’t have the capabilities or energy to be a mother and a provider on my own. I wanted my children to experience a home with the priesthood. I wanted a companion.

I was blessed. I met and married Homey – a faithful priesthood holder. Things were going along as well as they could as we learned to live with one another. For the most part, he was getting up to speed – Tiger, Panda, and I had been together for years. He was the newbie. I could see that he followed my lead when it came to matters with the children.

However, one day, a situation came up. I was not really feeling any kind of inspiration one way or another, but Homey had a strong feeling. He knew what we, as a family, including the girls, needed to do. It was a little shocking – not to have the revelation. And I found myself needing to believe. It makes sense – that he would receive revelation for our family, but it hadn’t happened yet. I had to exercise faith and follow his prompting. I knew that this was my duty as his wife and helpmeet, and I also knew that to be the best mother I could be, I would be united with my husband. Sariah didn’t yet have a sure knowledge of the need to flee Jerusalem bound for a promised land. She, instead, was being a good mother by standing by her husband and trusting in His closeness to the Lord and ability to receive revelation.

Obviously, Sariah falters as her sons are gone. But this rift is short lived. Lehi explains to Sariah that he is a visionary man! He bears his testimony. We learn:

“And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.” – 1 Nephi 5:6

Lehi’s testimony comforts Sariah. To me, this speaks volumes to Sariah’s faithfulness and closeness to the Spirit. If she wasn’t close to the Spirit, a testimony would not have comforted her. Sariah trusted her husband: she trusted that he was close to the Lord and was righteous. Through her humility, she was able to feel the Spirit comfort her about the divine mandate to flee Jerusalem and go to a promised land.

I don’t think I can stress how impressive this is. Trusting other people takes a lot of faith, but don’t you think that’s what’s most important – especially in a marriage relationship? Of course there are exceptions, but I have found the Lord guide me in the same way. when I go to him with a problem – especially some kind of problem I’m having with my husband – I’m reminded that he is righteous, and just as much as the Holy Ghost works with me, the Holy Ghost works with my husband. We are on the same team. Sometimes, the Lord gives the revelation to the husband. Other times, the wife is guided. Either way, we need to be united as husband and wife – trusting in each other and in the Lord.

Finally, Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam return – with the plates. Sariah is completely comforted and she shares her testimony. (another testimony from a woman!)

“Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.” – 1 Nephi 5:8

She knew Lehi had been commanded to flee Jerusalem. She no longer had to go on faith, but she had received a confirmation of her own.

I can only imagine the impact that Sariah’s testimony must have had on her children. Obviously, Nephi recorded it. I think about Sariah, and I’m inspired to be a better wife and how that translates into being a better mother. Sariah inspires me to be closer to the Spirit, humble, and to bear my testimony.

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Here is a little study guide you can use to learn more about Sariah. (If you don’t see the pdf, then click here).

What did you learn from Sariah? How does Sariah inspire you to be a better mother?

The Book of Mormon: Establishing the Truth of the Bible

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. I love learning about it. I love reading the Bible, and I love thinking about the doctrines taught by our Savior.

One thing about the Bible, it often leaves me fuzzy. Sometimes the doctrines that are mentioned seem elusive – difficult to understand.

I see why there are so many opinions on what the Bible teaches. It is no surprise to me that there are hundreds of religions that stem from a belief in the bible. We know that the bible went through many translations. Even the Lord knew that this would happen, and he explained to Nephi:

“And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.” – 1 Nephi 13:26

So, it begs the question, What is true? What is the gospel? Which doctrines are true and essential for our salvation? How do we make and keep covenants? Where is authority?

And here is where my love for the Book of Mormon steps in. The Book of Mormon helps to clear up the fuzziness.

“And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.” – 1 Nephi 13:40

The Book of Mormon does not compete with the Bible. Instead, it establishes the truth of the Bible. Isn’t that amazing! Because of the Book of Mormon, all scripture is relevant. Without the scripture, we are left, to stumble because we don’t have the whole picture. The Bible is missing pieces. How can we be whole, or perfect, if we don’t have all of the instructions?

The Lord knew this would be a problem:

“…after the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb—I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb.

For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb.

And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.” –1 Nephi 13:34-36

We have the Book of Mormon today. We have the Lord’s record. We have His gospel, his rock, and salvation. We don’t have to stumble on the fuzzy concepts taught in the Bible. Instead, the Book of Mormon enlightens our minds and brings even more beauty and clarity to the words of the Bible.

Plain and Precious Parts of the gospel
Thanks to the Book of Mormon, I have been able to better understand:

There are so many other doctrines that I keep thinking of – including prayer, how to baptize, government, service, and the connection of faith, hope, and charity.

Each of these principles and ordinances can be found in the Bible, but most of them are relatively enigmatic. The Book of Mormon uses plain and simple terms to help us understand true gospel concepts. And, as we learn these things, the Bible becomes more beautiful, informative, and helpful to our lives.

I’m grateful that the Lord has blessed us with a way to access His love and mysteries. We can come to know Him and his true teachings as we study the Book of Mormon and Bible together. I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I know that it is the word of God. I know that it will help us to understand His mysteries. As we seek His word – in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible, He will enlighten our minds. He bless us with power and vision. We will be happier people. We will understand our Heavenly Father and Savior more and live lives worthy of the best blessings that He wants to give us. When we read the Book of Mormon, we open ourselves to divine tutelage. The Lord will correct us and direct us in a kind way. Our understanding of the Bible increases, and we can develop a true friendship with our Savior.

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Do you have a difficult time understanding the concepts and principles of the Bible? Which ones seem fuzzy to you? Do you think that you are open to having greater understanding of the truthfulness of the Bible by accepting the help that comes from the Lord through the Book of Mormon? If so, comment here and we can have a discussion.

Or you can also find the Book of Mormon online – with many handy study tools. You can also get a free copy of the Book of Mormon.

Finally, check out some other great blog posts on the Book of Mormon at Jocelyn’s Book of Mormon Blog Hop