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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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.

***
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.

***
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

Joy and Thanksgiving: Symbols – Fruit

I absolutely love the symbolic imagery that we studied today! I love thinking about the gospel, and symbols help me to understand the abstract concepts of the gospel so much more.

So – today, we’re studying the symbol of the Fruit of the Tree of Life.

“And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.

And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.

And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.” – 1 Nephi 8:10-12

When Lehi partook of this fruit, he was filled with joy! This sounds more satisfying than: It tasted really good. His entire soul was joyful. It’s pretty straightforward – Lehi ate the fruit→He was filled with joy.

A consequence of feeling this joy, he desired to share it with others. Isn’t that the way it goes? When we experience something that brings us joy, we want to share it with others – especially those we love. Joy is contagious.

Nephi explains more about the fruit of the tree of life:

“And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.

And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.”- 1 Nephi 11:21-23

Here we learn more about the fruit of the tree of life. Not only will our souls be filled with joy, but the fruit is actually the love of God. His love – is pure, and it is the most desirable thing. Another word for Our Father’s pure love: Charity.

Charity is the most desirable and joyous to the soul – That’s so true!! – I know that when I experience the pure love that Christ has for me, then I’m filled with joy. I’m filled with hope and peace. I want to do more to keep the commandments, and I want to do what I can to continue to experience His love and Joy.

Charity sheds itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men. That’s so true!! – When we experience charity, we are moved to also give charity. When we experience God’s love, then we are able to express God’s love. When we feel the Love God has for us, we begin to understand that He loves everyone. And it fills our souls with joy – even if those we share this charity with don’t end up accepting it. (We feel bad, but we still have peace).

The more I study this, the more I want to partake of this fruit.

We can’t just walk up and partake of the fruit, though. It requires a bit of work. We need to take a hold of the Iron Rod and overcome the conditions of the road ahead. In other words, we need to come to the Lord and take a hold onto His word and then overcome the conditions mortality. It isn’t easy, but if we follow the prophets – who, like Lehi, beckon us from the tree to come and partake, and if we press forward, holding onto the Rod of Iron, we will make it. We will be able to pass through “mists of darkness” such as depression or other kinds of trials. We also will be able to overcome the “shouts” we hear from the world and put off the natural man, so we can partake of the fruit.

The people who made it to the tree of life and partook of the fruit (and stayed faithful) didn’t go too quickly. They didn’t cling. They didn’t get distracted. They took it a step at a time. Because of their steady discipline, they eventually partook of the fruit.

Another mention of fruit

” 41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.

43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.” – Alma 32:41-43

Does it excite any of you – to no end – that the seed of faith that we plant in our hearts may one day be the fruit of the tree of life? I love when things like this happen in the scriptures. We can see that the gospel is radial.

This is how I mark a symbol I find in the scriptures.

Alma teaches us that when we partake of this fruit, we will not hunger or thirst. We will be satisfied. We will be filled with the Love and power of God.

So – joy is available to us. This joy isn’t just a fleeting pleasure. It is Christ’s pure love. It motivates us to share. It satisfies and fills us. Even though we don’t experience this in full now, we can continue to press forward faithful. We can continue to nourish the seed of faith in our hearts. When we do these things, we will have the potential to partake.

Pretty cool.

***
For tomorrow’s assignment, click here.

Joy and Thanksgiving: Connections – Opposition and Cause/Effect

Welcome to day one of the Joy and Thanksgiving scripture study series! Today, we found a few connections…So, here we go…

“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” – 2 Nephi 2:13

In this verse, Lehi makes a few connections the series he gives is as follows law→sin→righteousness→happiness→punishment and misery→God→Us and the earth Each of these items seem to be connected either because they are opposites or because they are connected through cause and effect.

This is how I've marked the connections in my scriptures.

Cause and Effect – for example, if we are righteous, then we will be happy – is pretty obvious. What is a little bit harder to understand is how opposition can possibly be a part of the plan of Happiness.

As I think about this series of connections, the point where we get to God seems to make the need for opposition to make more sense. Opposition is a simple fact – it is the way that it is. If we want to be like God, then we must experience opposition. Opposition is a fact even in God’s existence, and because Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of Knowledge of good and evil, opposition is a simple fact of our existence.

Now, we know that Adam and Eve didn’t experience this kind of opposition before the Fall, but that doesn’t mean that opposition didn’t exist. They were not aware of opposition until partaking of the fruit and gaining knowledge.

“And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.” – 2 Nephi 2:23

Again, the connection in this verse is that the concepts are opposites. And all of these concepts and connections help to increase our knowledge. As we experience misery, we can also have a better appreciation for joy. We know what sin is, and we also know what Good works are: we are able to differentiate the two. However, this does not mean that experiencing sin is the requirement to being able to do good. It is simply about our knowledge. We can’t possibly know good works if we don’t know sin. Based on this knowledge, we make a choice. We make the choice to have joy and happiness. Conversely, we can make the choice to be miserable.

Sometimes, miserable trials happen to us. This may be a consequence of our own actions. Or it could be a consequence of another’s mistake. We may even experience pain and misery just because we are mortal. Whatever the case, we experience trials that may have a miserable effect on us. Just because we are experiencing pain doesn’t mean that we will automatically experience joy. But, because we are experiencing pain does mean that joy is possible. The key to turning the misery of these trials into joy is through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

I think of Alma – the experience of his conversion. For three days, he was basically in a coma, and was racked with guilt and pain – the pain of a “damned soul.” He is able to escape it, though. He explains:

“And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.” Alma 36:17-19

Through the atonement of Christ, Alma no longer felt his pains. What is more amazing is what he did feel in place of all of that misery:

“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!

Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.” – Alma 36:20-21

Joy and pain are connected.

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” – 2 Nephi 2:25

Because Adam fell, we all experience pain. We all are born into this mortal world, we will sin, we will be hurt by the sins of others, and we will experience difficulties like sickness and death. Sometimes it feels pretty bleak. But, this scripture helps us to remember, that because Adam fell, we also have the potential to have joy!

Think of a coin:
On the one side, we have heads (Joy), and on the other we have tails (Misery). They are inseparably connected. You can’t pick up only the joy side of the coin. You will also pick up misery. Adam had to fall and experience misery and the pain of the consequence of mortality if he wanted to experience joy.

And where on earth does the joy come from? We find out in the next verse:

“And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.” – 2 Nephi 2:26

Joy comes from our Savior. He has overcome the pains and consequences of Adam’s fall. He will provide us joy even when we experience misery. He is righteousness, happiness, and every good thing.

Remembering this can help us – as we struggle. Sometimes we have a hard day. Sometimes we have a few hard days. Even though they aren’t fun, we can remember to look to the Savior – who will bring some meaning and happiness to our suffering.

***
>What do you think? What did you notice as you studied? Please share! 🙂

***
For tomorrow’s reading assignment, click here.

Lehi’s Dream

I love Lehi’s Dream. It is one of the most informative and uplifting vision in all of recorded scripture. If you are not familiar with it, you can read it 1 Nephi 8. A few years ago, I “illustrated” Lehi’s dream – using mixed media. I’ve decided to post it here. I hope you enjoy.

Lehi’s Dream

“And it came to pass that while my father tarried in the wilderness, he spake unto us, saying: Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision…

And it came to pass that I saw a man and he was dressed in a white robe, and he came and stood before me…

And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste.” – 1 Nephi 8:2, 5, 7

“And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.

And he said unto me: What desirest thou?

And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof – For I spake unto him as a man speaketh…

And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities…and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white…

And he said unto me: Behold the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh…

And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.

And the angel said unto me: Behold the lamb of God, Yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father. Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in th ehearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.” – 1 Nephi 11:9-11, 13, 15, 18, 20-22

“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 the multitude of the earth was gathered together; and I beheld that they were in a large and spacious building which my father saw. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Behold the world and the wisdom thereof; yea, behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the lamb.

And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great.” – 1 Nephi 8:26-27; 11:35-36

“But to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold on the end of the [iron rod]; 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.

Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” – 1 Nephi 8:30, 15:36

Working Together in Marriage

A few years ago, I was remarried. To “homey”…”vito”…whatever you want to call him. It was a blessing that I had begged for. I prayed for years. I worked hard. And when it was time to get married, I was beside myself.

Then we were married, we were both 28. We both already had cars, microwaves, and silverware sets. We both had jobs. We both had ways to budget our money. We both had preferences. And we were both used to doing things our way.

Suddenly, we were married, and we had to do it all together.

It was a surprising challenge.
I) I had to give up control over some of the home-management things.
I couldn’t really justify $30 shampoo with another adult in the mix. It wasn’t only my money anymore. This is an easy enough change. Cheaper shampoo, conditioner, shoes, etc – all were worth the chance to be a stay-at-home-mom again.

II) I had to give up control over some of the Spiritual/revelation for our family.
Now – before I go further, I want to emphasize, my husband is a good, worthy priesthood holder. He isn’t some insane power freak.

I was used to being the sole receiver of revelation for my family. I was a single mom for a few years. Before that, I was married to a man who never seemed to receive inspiration (spiritual or otherwise) for our family. I understand why that was now, but the point is – I had never experienced being in a family situation where someone other than me received some kind of spiritual revelation.

Then, when I got remarried, a situation came up, and “homey” had been inspired to act a certain way. I didn’t receive that revelation. I hadn’t received any. I didn’t know what to think…Now, This was not a bad thing. It just meant that I needed to be willing to give up some control.

My opinion is: there are some times when the father/husband receives inspiration for his family. There are some times when the mother/wife receives inspiration for her family. In a good marriage/family, each partner receives inspiration. Sometimes, that revelation comes to only one partner. Later, the spouse can receive a confirmation on the revelation received. Sometimes, we have to express faith in the revelation received by our spouse, but, in time, the Lord will confirm His will to both spouses.

This took me a little bit of time to learn. But one story from the Book of Mormon really helped.

“1 And it came to pass that after we had come down into the wilderness unto our father, behold, he was filled with joy, and also my mother, Sariah, was exceedingly glad, for she truly had mourned because of us.

2 For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.

3 And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father.

4 And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.

5 But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.

6 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.

7 And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.

8 And she spake, saying: 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 5:1-8

So…here, we see that Sariah was getting a little frustrated with Lehi and his visions. They had left Jerusalem, left their homes, and were headed to an unknown promised land. Lehi had sent his sons back to Jerusalem to obtain a record. Sariah was worried about her sons and was growing impatient. She complains to Lehi, he comforts her, her sons return, and she receives confirmation of Lehi’s inspiration.

Lehi and Sariah

This example from the scriptures gives us a good model of how to support each other in marriage.
For the Receiver of Revelation

  • Lehi is great. After Sariah complains with Lehi – about him being a visionary man – he doesn’t defend himself. He doesn’t attack her. Instead, he agrees with her saying, “I know that I am a visionary man.” Then, he bears testimony. Lehi doesn’t tell her to be faithful. Instead, he comforts her with the power of His testimony.
  • Sometimes, it is easy to get prideful – if we are the receivers of a revelation. We may think that the other person ought to take our word for it. We want to be right. Lehi isn’t confrontational. He is agreeable and filled with the Spirit. Even though Sariah’s sons hadn’t returned, even though Lehi and Sariah were still in the wilderness, she had been comforted.
  • We can only comfort one another when we have the power of the Spirit with us – taking the message from our mouths to the heart of another. Lehi lived worthy of the Spirit, and this helped to keep their marriage strong, even in the face of adversity and confrontation.

For the spouse of the receiver

  • Sariah wasn’t all that bad. In fact, she was really great.
  • She went along with Nephi! She left her riches. She left her home. I would think that she may have left family and friends. She left her comfort. And she went into the hot, Middle Eastern desert.
  • She watched her sons go back to Jerusalem. And it was a long, dangerous trip.
  • She had the spirit to be comforted by the words of Lehi. If she hadn’t been humble, then his agreeable response to her complaint and his testimony wouldn’t have touched her in any way. She was upset, but still humble enough to be comforted.
  • She remained faithful, until her faith was proven.
  • When her sons return, she bears testimony. I love that we have the testimony of Sariah in the Book of Mormon.

For both the receiver and spouse

  • After the experience, worship and express thanks together.
  • “And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.” – 1 Nephi 5:9

    Well, this sounds like fun…Kiss and make up. I love how after this entire experience, they rejoice, worship, and give thanks to God. Can you think of anything better to do after having a dispute with your spouse?

I love the Book of Mormon. It is full of practical examples for our lives. I know that it is the word of God. I know that the Book of Mormon can help us in our relationships.

Earlier in my marriage, I was surprised when my husband received a revelation that I hadn’t already had. I was able to receive confirmation, and I know that his revelation came from God. I have also had experiences when I have received a revelation for our family, and my husband expressed faith until he understood it more. I know that we, spouses, need to work together – as Lehi and Sariah did…rather than compete for “control.”

***
If you haven’t read the Book of Mormon, you can! Check it out here or order a free copy here.

Increasing Understanding of Christ through the Book of Mormon (Part 4)

This is the final part in a series of blog posts about how the Book of Mormon helps to increase our understanding of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

In the first part we discussed the need for a savior – which is plainly explained in the Book of Mormon. In the second part we learned more of the nature of Christ through the testimonies of the prophets in the Book of Mormon. In the third part we learned the doctrine of Christ – which is very plainly taught in the Book of Mormon. Now, we will talk about – how the Book of Mormon brings us increased hope in Christ – which helps us to endure.

We are taught:

” 16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.” – 2 Nephi 31:16

Even after we have covenanted with God – through Christ. Even after we have accepted the gospel, we are not finished! We must endure. We must remain faithful.

This kind of sounds hard, and sometimes even depressing. I mean, I’m no idiot. I know – life is hard. Even Christ taught, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation:But he doesn’t end there. He continues, ,”but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33). We can find strength to endure in Christ. We can endure cheerfully. And the Book of Mormon sheds a lot of light on how to do this.

Nephi teaches:

” 20 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

This scripture teaches us that we need to endure faithfully, with hope, and charity. Then it gives us a huge hint: feasting upon the word of Christ.

I love this charge. First of all: I love eating – feasting, especially. Being a spiritual fattie is a super-duper good thing! Second of all, I’ve been blessed by feasting upon the word of Christ. The scriptures will give us the information and examples we need to be able to endure. The scriptures, which is Christ’s word, will help to strengthen our faith in Christ and increase our hope.

The Book of Mormon can help us to remain faithful in Christ – even as we struggle through trials. The stories of the Book of Mormon – the lives of those who authored it – are examples, or object lessons that teach us more about Christ. We can apply these lessons to our own lives which will help us to have a “perfect brightness of hope.” Here are a two examples of stories or prophets from the Book of Mormon that help to increase our hope in the Savior.

Nephi
In 2 Nephi, Nephi states:

” 34 O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” – 2 Nephi 4:34

This testimony comes from Nephi a little later in his life, and I can see how he is able to give it genuinely. Nephi had trusted in the Lord, and had been delivered every time. Nephi had obtained the brass plates, suffered with hunger in the Wilderness, built a ship and made safe passage to the Promised Land. Even though it took eight years, and there were many difficulties in the way, Nephi trusted the Lord completely, and always was delivered. Often, his deliverance did not come until the final moment – just before destruction – but he was always delivered.

Nephi’s life is one object lesson after another. We learn that trusting in the Lord will help us to endure, and that, eventually we will be delivered.

Alma the Younger
Alma the younger was the son of a prophet, and, at first, he was a bit of a rebel. However, the Lord in His mercy humbles Alma. This experience causes Alma to repent. But Alma doesn’t stop at saying I’m sorry. He lives the rest of his life serving the Lord diligently. He leads his people in battle, serves in the government,preaches the gospel to those who believe, teaches those that are wicked, suffers mocking and reviling, experienced success, Witnessed the martyrdom of recent converts, is put in prison, and is delivered – by God – from prison. He deals with an anti-Christ, and continues preaching the gospel. Throughout his life, he is motivated by a vision –

” 22 Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.” – Alma 36:22

Even after being a vile sinner, Alma experiences true forgiveness and turns his life over to the Lord. Alma’s life is an example to us – of the power of Christ’s atonement and on how we find our lives when we lose them in the Lord.

When we read these examples, we are filled with hope in our Savior – which fuels our ability to endure. What are some of the stories from the Book of Mormon that help you to endure your life’s struggles?

***
I want to bear my testimony that I know that the Book of Mormon is a true book. It was written by true prophets. It is a book that will bring us closer to Christ. Through the Book of Mormon, we can understand our need for a Savior, we learn the nature of Christ, we are taught the doctrine of Christ, and we are taught how to endure with steadfastness in Christ. I encourage you, if you haven’t, to read the Book of Mormon. You can find it online here or you can order a free copy here. Additionally, check out some other great blog posts – from every-day people – over at the Book of Mormon Forum.

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