Repent and Dwell Safely – Part Three of Three – 1 Nephi 22:4-31

You can read 1 Nephi 22:4-31 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is answering his brothers questions about what Isaiah spoke in Isaiah 48-49.
  • Israel will be scattered – physically – all over the earth.
  • Some of the children of Israel will be led away and protected from harm – but still led away or scattered.
  • Some of the children of Israel will be confounded and scattered because they hardened their hearts against the Holy One of Israel.
  • The house of Israel will become apostate.
  • Eventually, the Lord will work a marvelous work and wonder – among the Gentiles. He will restore His gospel and covenants.
  • The Gentiles would then take the gospel and covenants back to the house of Israel.
  • Eventually, all of the people of the earth will know that the Lord—the Mighty One of Israel—is Savior and Redeemer.
  • Those who fight against God (the great and abominable church) will start to war with themselves. They will be ensnared in the pit that they dug for the righteous.
  • The Lord will not suffer that the wicked will destroy the righteous. He will preserve the righteous by His power – even if it means that he will destroy their enemies by fire.
  • After the Lord has saved his people, and destroyed the wicked, Satan will not have any power -this because of the righteousness of the people and through the expression of their agency.
  • A Prophet will be raised up – it is the Savior. We need to heed Him.
  • The Prophet, Jesus, Will gather his children from the all over earth. He will be their shepherd. There will be one fold and one shepherd, and He will feed His sheep.
  • When He has gathered His sheep, they will dwell in righteousness. Satan will have no power—not because the Lord will bind Him. Satan’s power will be quelled because of the righteousness of the people – because of their agency. They will no longer be fascinated by sin.
  • We can dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel, but we must repent.
  • The words of the prophets are true. If we will be obedient, then we will be saved.

Repent and Dwell Safely

Today’s is the third and final post on the concept of repenting and dwelling safely – with the focus on dwelling safely, specifically. Previously, we studied repentance. You can read the first two posts here and here.

Even though I won’t get much into repentance in this post, in case you haven’t read the other ones, I will say that I’m looking at repentance as something more than simply confessing and forsaking sins. Instead, repentance is turning away from our natural tendencies and toward God. Repentance is our choice to change our minds – away from the carnal, sensual, and devilish – and toward the heavenly, holy, and angelic. This may be done through confessing and forsaking sin. It may also be done through other practices including prayer, scripture study, and anything that helps us to have a Heavenly perspective.

Now that we are on the same page regarding repentance, we will move on. In 1 Nephi, we read:

“28 But, behold, all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people shall dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel if it so be that they will repent.” – 1 Nephi 22:28

One – Who?

The invitation to dwell safely is open to ALL. All nations, kindreds, tongues, and people. There isn’t a person that is going to be denied a safe dwelling place. The only qualification is repentance – or turning to the Lord.

Two – Who…Again?

There are two “who’s” in this scripture. First the invitee (everyone!). The second is the inviter.

Who is inviting us? It is the Lord. It is the Holy One of Israel. He is the One who offers us the promise that if we repent, then we will dwell safely in Him.

Three – What does this mean?

This is what I really want to ponder today, I guess. What does it mean to dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel.

I looked up dwell in the dictionary. We have a few definitions:

Dwell
1: to remain for a time
dwell in the hallway
2 a : to live as a resident
the town in which he dwelled for eight years
the dwelling place of the gods
b : EXIST, LIE
where the heart of the matter dwells
3a : to keep the attention directed —used with on or upon
tried not to dwell on my fears
b : to speak or write insistently —used with on or upon
reporters dwelling on the recent scandal ” – Merriam Webster Dictionary: Dwell

I don’t know for sure the best use of dwell here. I suppose that dwelling safely in the Lord may actually have more than one application in our lives, depending on the circumstances in our lives.

For example, maybe “dwelling safely” in the Lord is – more of a 2b – thing – to exist. If we are turned to the Lord, we can be in the most horrible of circumstances, yet still be dwelling in His safety. I can’t help but think of an examples such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer – who suffered in concentration camps during World War 2. He endured suffering. He was executed. He did not “dwelt safely” in a physical sense.

Yet, it seems that he did dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel – he had perspective and hope for a better world that would come later.

i know I shouldn’t speak for him.

And I can’t even begin to imagine the suffering that he endured. But it is my belief that we can dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel anywhere. We can stand in holy places anywhere. It is about our agency and our attitude. If we have an attitude of repentance – where we are keeping our minds and hearts single to God’s glory by actively turning against the Natural man – then we create these holy places where we can dwell safely in the Lord wherever we are.

All of that being said, I believe that this promise can have physical, literal application as well.

We read:

“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world,…” – Ether 12:4

Not only do I like what Ether taught, I believe it! I believe that the Lord will offer us literal safety and peace. If everyone was choosing to turn to the Lord during the 1940s, for example, then the entire holocaust wouldn’t have happened. The world would have been a safer and happier place – for all.

Of course, everyone wasn’t choosing to turn to the Lord in the 1940s. Many people suffered and died because of the pain caused by hatred, malice, and evil. The suffering, though, of the righteous will not be eternal. God will hear their cries, and He will compensate through His grace. Elder Wirthlin taught of the principle of compensation:

“The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.

One of the blessings of the gospel is the knowledge that when the curtain of death signals the end of our mortal lives, life will continue on the other side of the veil. There we will be given new opportunities. Not even death can take from us the eternal blessings promised by a loving Heavenly Father.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin

When we repent, when we turn to the Lord, then we will dwell—free from harm—in Him.

Who – One Last Time

Let’s think about the Holy One of Israel, where we will safely dwell if we repent, one more time.

portrait-of-christ-carl-bloch-205065-gallery

In the Bible Dictionary we read:

“The anointed (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew). Jesus, who is called Christ, is the firstborn of the Father in the spirit and the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is Jehovah and was foreordained to His great calling in the Grand Councils before the world was. He was born of Mary at Bethlehem, lived a sinless life, and wrought out a perfect atonement for all mankind by the shedding of His blood and His death on the cross. He rose from the grave and brought to pass the bodily resurrection of every living thing and the salvation and exaltation of the faithful.

He is the greatest Being to be born on this earth—the perfect example—and all religious things should be done in His name. He is Lord of lords, King of kings, the Creator, the Savior, the God of the whole earth, the Captain of our salvation, the Bright and Morning Star. He is in all things, above all things, through all things, and round about all things; He is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; His name is above every name and is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved.” – Bible Dictionary: Christ

Really read through that. Jesus Christ, is the Holy One of Israel. He Is:

  • The Resurrection – When we dwell in Him, He offers us life after death. He offers hope!
  • The exemplar – When we dwell in Him, we have an example, a pattern. We don’t have to be uninformed or ignorant.
  • Lord of lords – When we dwell in Him, we dwell with the Lord who exceeds all. And He is righteous, to boot!
  • King of kings – When we dwell in Him, we dwell with the most powerful and righteous king. We aren’t dwelling with an egomaniac, but a loving leader.
  • the Creator – When we dwell in Him, we are dwelling with the Creator. He created this earth, our bodies, we can trust Him for help with our physical concerns.
  • The Savior – When we dwell in Him, we are dwelling with the One who will save us – overcoming both death and hell. I wouldn’t want to dwell with someone who doesn’t have this power!
  • The God of the Whole Earth – When we dwell in Him, we are dwelling with the being that understands everything because He is the God of it. I mean, this just makes sense. What safer dwelling place could we have than with the God of this very earth!
  • The Captain of Our Salvation – When we dwell in Him, we are dwelling with a Being who loves us enough to offer us eternal salvation. I love the idea of dwelling with someone who will run to stop the bus, rather than throw me under it. Can you imagine dwelling with someone who is abusive and full of hate?! You would want to get out. The Savior is neither abusive or hate-filled. He is loving, He offers us Salvation, He is kind, He uplifts, and He builds us up.
  • The Bright and Morning Star – When we dwell in Him, we dwell in light. We dwell in hope. We dwell in truth.

***

It’s a pretty good deal for us. The Lord has extended an invitation to us all. We are invited to dwell safely in Him, if we will but repent. We will dwell safely in His peace, love, sacrifice, omnipotence, omniscience, and salvation – if we will but change our hearts and mind – from the things of the world and instead toward Him.

Peaceful Place

It really is a pretty good deal.

Repent and Dwell Safely – Part Two of Three – 1 Nephi 22:4-31

You can read 1 Nephi 22:4-31 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is answering his brothers questions about what Isaiah spoke in Isaiah 48-49.
  • Israel will be scattered – physically – all over the earth.
  • Some of the children of Israel will be led away and protected from harm – but still led away or scattered.
  • Some of the children of Israel will be confounded and scattered because they hardened their hearts against the Holy One of Israel.
  • The house of Israel will become apostate.
  • Eventually, the Lord will work a marvelous work and wonder – among the Gentiles. He will restore His gospel and covenants.
  • The Gentiles would then take the gospel and covenants back to the house of Israel.
  • Eventually, all of the people of the earth will know that the Lord—the Mighty One of Israel—is Savior and Redeemer.
  • Those who fight against God (the great and abominable church) will start to war with themselves. They will be ensnared in the pit that they dug for the righteous.
  • The Lord will not suffer that the wicked will destroy the righteous. He will preserve the righteous by His power – even if it means that he will destroy their enemies by fire.
  • After the Lord has saved his people, and destroyed the wicked, Satan will not have any power -this because of the righteousness of the people and through the expression of their agency.
  • A Prophet will be raised up – it is the Savior. We need to heed Him.
  • The Prophet, Jesus, Will gather his children from the all over earth. He will be their shepherd. There will be one fold and one shepherd, and He will feed His sheep.
  • When He has gathered His sheep, they will dwell in righteousness. Satan will have no power—not because the Lord will bind Him. Satan’s power will be quelled because of the righteousness of the people – because of their agency. They will no longer be fascinated by sin.
  • We can dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel, but we must repent.
  • The words of the prophets are true. If we will be obedient, then we will be saved.

Repent and Dwell Safely

In the last post, we studied repentance. I also went down a pretty serious rabbit hole about entropy. You can read this post here.

I won’t get into it all, but quickly remember – entropy is the degradation of matter and energy. It is a law – the second law of thermodynamics. So, we can’t argue it. But we can apply forces that work against it. This is what all living things do. They have a teleology – or a purpose. And that purpose is life! Living organisms are constantly working against entropy – by harvesting energy with intention – to sustain the non-equilibrium state, which is life.

I think that these physical laws and biological adaptations can teach us a lot about repentance and our spirits.

We are dual creatures. We are both of divine origin—spiritual sons and daughters of God and because of the fall, we are mortal – natural men and women. Within each of us exists opposition.

We read:

“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” – Psalms 82:6

We are children of God! We are good. We have divine nature. We are His children!

We also read:

“For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil.” – Mosiah 16:3

We are also natural men and women – carnal and devilish. We are susceptible to the wiles of the devil. We know good from evil, yes. We are children of God, yes. But we are also subjected to the devil and His temptations.

We are dual beings. Just like the rest of this universe – there is opposition in all things.

Spiritual Entropy and Repentance

Just as there are forces that are causing breakdown and chaos in our physical world (entropy). There are also forces which will cause breakdown and chaos in our spiritual world (evil, sin, Satan).

Just as the force of entropy leads to physical death; evil, sin and Satan will lead to spiritual death.

So we, as living beings, need to have another force (adaptation, evolution, and “negative entropy”) that fights against entropy. Our bodies, organs, tissues, cells – act with purpose to keep us alive.

Likewise, we, as living spiritual beings, need to have another force that fights against spiritual entropy. I think that this force is repentance.

A reminder about repentance. It is more than a series of steps to confess and forsake a sin. We read:

“The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world. Since we are born into conditions of mortality, repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined. Without this there can be no progress in the things of the soul’s salvation, for all accountable persons are stained by sin and must be cleansed in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Repentance is not optional for salvation; it is a commandment of God. – Bible Dictionary: Repentance

Repentance is work that we are constantly doing – day and night – to turn toward the Lord. Sometimes this turning is a confession and forsaking of one, specific sin. However, more often than not, it is probably many other practices.

Elder Neil L. Andersen taught:

“The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and to “re-turn” toward God. It is the beckoning of a loving Father and His Only Begotten Son to be more than we are, to reach up to a higher way of life, to change, and to feel the happiness of keeping the commandments.” – Neil L. Andersen

I have to say that I’ve often misunderstood the scriptures! When we read “repent!” what do we think? Usually, for me, I feel what Elder Andersen said – a “voice of chastisement.” I think that this has led me to also misunderstand God – instead of seeing Him as a loving father, I may have thought that He expects me to be “perfect” even though He knows and I know that it’s impossible.

I forget!

I forget that we need the Savior. We need His grace. And without his grace, we cannot be saved. I forget that the Lord is just – meaning that not only will he require justice for sins committed and commandments broken, He will also remember our weaknesses. He will remember our circumstances. He will know what we are capable of doing and not doing. That His justice is meted with love, and not jealous vengeance.

So – I have usually thought that “repent!” means I’ve got a laundry list of terrible habits, qualities, and general sins that I need to deal with before I even think about approaching God.

Not so.

Repentance is just turning around. It’s looking at God afresh each day. it’s putting our wills on His altar. This is the essence of repentance, after we understand this, then we may find that we do, indeed, have specific sins that need rectification.

President Nelson teaches this so beautifully:

“Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.

The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is metanoeo. The prefix meta- means “change.” The suffix -noeo is related to Greek words that mean “mind,” “knowledge,” “spirit,” and “breath.”

Thus, when Jesus asks you and me to “repent,” He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.” – Russell M. Nelson

Isn’t this amazing! Repentance – is a change in mind, knowledge, spirit, and breath! It’s a change in loving, thinking, serving, spending time, treating others, teaching children, and caring for our bodies!

Repentance is the “negative entropy” of our spirits – the process where we work to keep chaos, disorder, evil and entropy at bay by turning to the Lord.. When we turn to the Lord, we are turning toward life and joy.

I can’t begin to explain how much I love this new understanding of repentance that I have. What is repentance??? Anything that refreshes my view and helps me to turn to the Lord:

  • Reading my scriptures
  • praying
  • serving others
  • confessing and forsaking sins
  • preaching the gospel to others
  • witnessing of God at all times and things and places
  • going on a walk and observing the beauty and miracle of this earth that God created
  • writing in my journal and recording the experiences I’ve had with the Spirit
  • expressing gratitude – both to others and to God
  • making amends with someone I might have intentionally or unintentionally hurt
  • taking care of my body
  • Anything that helps me to TURN TO MY HEART AND WILL TO GOD

sunflowers on Cari Lane

Overcoming Entropy is the key to life

Recall – that “negative entropy” is avoiding the lifeless equilibrium state caused by entropy. In the physical world – entropy will eventually bring about death.

So it is with our spirits. Spiritual entropy will eventually bring about spiritual death. So, spiritual “negative entropy” – repentance! Turning our hearts and wills to God! – will keep us alive.

We read:

“And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live…” – Alma 37:47

When we turn our hearts, our wills, or – in other words – our spiritual gaze toward God through repentance, then we will live!!! The Lord, through the Atonement He offers us and through our choice to repent – will enable us to overcome spiritual entropy and resulting death.

When we begin to really understand repentance, we see that it is a true privilege and joy! It, coupled with faith in Jesus Christ, is the key to life, salvation, and as the Lord promised in dwelling safely.

We will finish this study next time – what it means to dwell safely. As we study, I hope we are all inspired to repent. And I hope that we will feel joy about repentance – about overcoming spiritual entropy by turning to God.

Repent and Dwell Safely – Part One of Three – 1 Nephi 22:4-31

You can read 1 Nephi 22:4-31 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is answering his brothers questions about what Isaiah spoke in Isaiah 48-49.
  • Israel will be scattered – physically – all over the earth.
  • Some of the children of Israel will be led away and protected from harm – but still led away or scattered.
  • Some of the children of Israel will be confounded and scattered because they hardened their hearts against the Holy One of Israel.
  • The house of Israel will become apostate.
  • Eventually, the Lord will work a marvelous work and wonder – among the Gentiles. He will restore His gospel and covenants.
  • The Gentiles would then take the gospel and covenants back to the house of Israel.
  • Eventually, all of the people of the earth will know that the Lord—the Mighty One of Israel—is Savior and Redeemer.
  • Those who fight against God (the great and abominable church) will start to war with themselves. They will be ensnared in the pit that they dug for the righteous.
  • The Lord will not suffer that the wicked will destroy the righteous. He will preserve the righteous by His power – even if it means that he will destroy their enemies by fire.
  • After the Lord has saved his people, and destroyed the wicked, Satan will not have any power -this because of the righteousness of the people and through the expression of their agency.
  • A Prophet will be raised up – it is the Savior. We need to heed Him.
  • The Prophet, Jesus, Will gather his children from the all over earth. He will be their shepherd. There will be one fold and one shepherd, and He will feed His sheep.
  • When He has gathered His sheep, they will dwell in righteousness. Satan will have no power—not because the Lord will bind Him. Satan’s power will be quelled because of the righteousness of the people – because of their agency. They will no longer be fascinated by sin.
  • We can dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel, but we must repent.
  • The words of the prophets are true. If we will be obedient, then we will be saved.

Repent and Dwell Safely

Today’s scripture block covers a lot (24 verses!). I know that I usually only study a few verses at a time, but I feel like I’ve been blogging over and over and over about the scattering and gathering of Israel lately. Remember, 1 Nephi 22 is a chapter where Nephi answers his brothers’ questions about what he read in Isaiah 48-49. If you want to learn more about these prophecies, I will link to those chapters and the corresponding blog posts at the end of this post.

Instead of focusing so much on the scattering and gathering of Israel today, there is another scripture that keeps standing out to me.

In 1 Nephi 22, we read:

“But, behold, all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people shall dwell safely in the Holy One of Israel if it so be that they will repent.” – 1 Nephi 22:28

The scattering and gathering of Israel illustrates the point in this verse perfectly. If people will repent, then they will dwell in safety. Israel wouldn’t have been scattered if she would have stayed faithful to the Lord and the covenants she made – always repenting and remembering the Holy One of Israel.

Not only that, but this concept is true for all nations. All people, all nations, all tribes, all families, all cultures, all languages, all of the people on this earth can dwell in the safety offered by the Holy One of Israel, if they will repent.

Repentance

So – if we believe that this scripture is true, then I suppose the thing we need to understand is: what is repentance and how do we do it?

Homey, my husband, teaches our children that we need to pray, read the scriptures, and repent every day. And I know it is true. I have experienced for myself the need to pray and read the scriptures every day. I have also heard it again and again – we need to repent daily.

I’ve often thought of repentance as a series of steps – as taught by President Spencer W. Kimball:

  • Sorrow for Sin – Think about your transgression and begin to feel sorrow and remorse for it.
  • Abandonment of Sin – Make a resolve not to recommit the sin. Do what you can not to repeat this sin.
  • Confession of Sin – Confess to the Lord, to the person we offended, or whatever we need to do in order to begin the process of restitution.
  • Restitution for Sin – Do what you can to right the wrong.
  • Obedience to All the Commandments – be obedient. Keep striving.

Elder Richard G. Scott added a sixth step:

  • Recognition of the Savior – Understand and be converted to the fact that forgiveness comes because of the Redeemer. Without Him, all of the above steps are pointless. We need grace.

(See “Finding Forgiveness,” by Richard G. Scott.)

I would guess that many of you reading this are familiar with these steps. I remember learning them in primary. They are good steps. These can help us with the process of repentance.

However, over the recent years, I feel like I may have been dissatisfied with this definition of repentance. Because those steps aren’t the definition of repentance. I think that I have gotten so wrapped up on the steps, I have forgotten the real significance of repentance.

***

See, the thing is – we need to repent daily, we’ve been told this. But then, in these steps, we are warned – to abandon the sin and not repent of it day after day after day. I suppose that this has led to an inconsistency for me…let’s see if I can explain it well.

I’m an okay person. I don’t mean this in an immodest way. What I mean is, I’m striving. I’m like so many other saints and faithful people in this world. I’m doing my best. I don’t abuse my children or spouse. I don’t steal. I don’t kill. I’m faithful to my husband. I go to church every Sunday. I read my scriptures and say my prayers daily.

silver lupine
Mountain Lupine

When saying my prayers, and repenting, I sometimes find that I have these sins of which I’m repenting that don’t always follow a set of “steps”. I find that I am begging forgiveness daily for what seems to be the same infraction over and over again. I’m trying to make changes to my character. I’m not praying for forgiveness with the intent to recommit a sin. I’m praying to be forgiven for my pride. And for the times when I give into the foibles of my personality. I’m praying to change…really change.

Anyway, the point is – the above steps for repentance are helpful when it comes to a process for repenting of a specific sin. But these steps don’t really help us in understanding why we need to repent daily – or what repentance actually is.

***

The Bible dictionary is helpful in understanding repentance:

“The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world. Since we are born into conditions of mortality, repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined. Without this there can be no progress in the things of the soul’s salvation, for all accountable persons are stained by sin and must be cleansed in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Repentance is not optional for salvation; it is a commandment of God. – Bible Dictionary: Repentance

Notice this definition. There are no “steps!” What is repentance??? A change of mind, a fresh view about God, oneself, and the world. What is repentance??? a turning of the heart and will to God.

When we understand this concept of repentance, we may find that we need to confess specific sins. That then might lead us to taking the steps outlined by President Kimball and Elder Scott. When we take a fresh view of God, ourselves, and the world, and when we turn our heart and will to God, we may find that we have committed specific sins that need to be rectified. Then, those steps become indispensable help in our process of repentance.

But for so many of us, there may not be a litany of specific and concrete sins that can be addressed in such a specific and concrete way. And the list of steps becomes somewhat irrelevant. Instead, we have to focus on the true definition of repentance – we need to keep working to turn our hearts and wills to God.

Spiritual Entropy

I’m reminded of the second law of thermodynamics.

Before I go on, a disclaimer. I’m not even at a novice level of thermodynamics. I feel like what I understand relates to repentance, but if you are reading this, and find that I’m misapplying, then I apologize. I know that we must repent always because there is a force constantly trying to push us to chaos. With that said, I’ll go on with my thoughts. Thanks!

Thermodynamics is the science of heat and energy. (Bear with me, but I think this will help).

First Law of Thermodynamics – The Law of Conservation of Matter – matter/energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The quantity of matter/energy remains the same – it can change from a solid to a liquid to gas to plasma and back again, but the total amount of matter/energy in the universe remains the same.

Second Law of Thermodynamics – The Law of Increased Entropy – While quantity of matter/energy rains the same (First Law), the quality of matter/energy deteriorates gradually. This happens because Usuable energy is converted to unusable energy. (We can use gasoline, for example. We turn the keys, start the car, push the gas pedal, and we drive. But then, the energy is converted – to heat, to gasses. The heat makes our engine hot, and the gases are emitted into the air via our exhaust pipe. The matter/energy from the gasoline hasn’t been “destroyed.” It still exists, but in another form – now useless emissions.)

“Entropy” is a measure of unusable energy within a closed system. Entropy is the degradation of matter and energy. Entropy is a process of degradation running down and trending toward chaos.

Now, even when we understand these laws, they don’t account for biology. I found a helpful example here:

“WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE between physics and biology? Take a golf ball and a cannonball and drop them off the Tower of Pisa. The laws of physics allow you to predict their trajectories pretty much as accurately as you could wish for.

Now do the same experiment again, but replace the cannonball with a pigeon.

Biological systems don’t defy physical laws, of course—but neither do they seem to be predicted by them. In contrast, they are goal-directed: survive and reproduce. We can say that they have a purpose—or what philosophers have traditionally called a teleology—that guides their behavior.” – “How Life and Death Spring from Disorder”

Although there are physical laws governing our universe, gravity, thermodynamics, etc., living creatures seem to have and even understand their purpose – a teleology. What is the purpose, in terms of biology? Survival. Survival of the individual and survival of the species. And because of this teleology, living creatures seem to be able to defy the second law of thermodynamics (at least for a little while, anyway).

Here’s another excerpt from the article:

“Whereas a beaker full of reacting chemicals will eventually expend its energy and fall into boring stasis and equilibrium, living systems have collectively been avoiding the lifeless equilibrium state since the origin of life about three and a half billion years ago.”

Entropy is that law that is trying to get everything in “equilibrium.” And when you have lifeless chemicals, it will happen. Stasis, equilibrium, and nothing.

If this happens in our cells for example, then our cells see no more “reason” for existence. Everything is at equilibrium. Done. Dead.

Instead, living organisms do what they can to avoid lifeless equilibrium. This is more science than I can get into right now. But pick up a basic biology textbook, and you will probably read about this concept within the first few chapters.

Let’s continue with the article for a moment:

“They [living systems] harvest energy from their surroundings to sustain this nonequilibrium state, and they do it with “intention.” Even simple bacteria move with “purpose” toward sources of heat and nutrition. In his 1944 book What is Life?, the physicist Erwin Schrödinger expressed this by saying that living organisms feed on “negative entropy.”

Harvesting the energy from their surroundings to sustain the “non equilibrium” state is LIFE! And it can only be done with intention. This is constant work. Since the second law of thermodynamics is in fact a law, we living creatures are susceptible to it. Our organs, tissues, cells – must constantly be working – feeding on “negative entropy” if we want to stay alive. It isn’t a “one and done kind” of a thing.

If a living organism wants to continue on being living, then it must constantly work against the forces that will degrade it and lead to chaos. It must constantly build, rebuild, and rebuild again. When a living organism stops rebuilding, and harvesting energy out of chaos, when a living organism becomes faulty or lazy about this kind of organization and work, then it dies.

This is the constant battle for us. Truly there is opposition in all things – life and death, entropy and “negative entropy,” chaos and order. These physical laws and biological adaptations can help us learn more about repentance. But this post is already really long…so we’ll continue next time.

…To be continued…

Two Questions for Nephi (Part Two) – 1 Nephi 22:1-3

You can read 1 Nephi 22:1-2 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • After Nephi read the words of Isaiah to his brethren, they had questions for him. What does it mean? And are these things to be understood spiritually or physically?
  • Nephi explains that the things that he read were given to the prophet through the Spirit. The Spirit teaches all things to us – both spiritual and things that will happen according to the flesh.
  • Nephi also explains that the things he read from Isaiah have both spiritual and temporal application.

Two Questions

As mentioned in the last post here, after Nephi had read Isaiah 48 and 49 to his brethren, they had two questions for him:

  • What do these things mean?
  • Are they to be understood spiritually rather than physically?

Spiritual or Physical

Okay, I want to get the actual wording from the scripture. In 1 Nephi 22, we read:

“And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had read these things which were engraven upon the plates of brass, my brethren came unto me and said unto me: What meaneth these things which ye have read? Behold, are they to be understood according to things which are spiritual, which shall come to pass according to the spirit and not the flesh?” – 1 Nephi 22:1

So – Nephi’s brethren want to know if everything that Isaiah taught – about the scattering and gathering of Israel was to be understood according to the Spirit, and not the flesh. Put another way, I guess they were asking if this was to be taken literally or was it only symbolic.

And, sometimes that is a good question to ask. Often we use symbols to illustrate abstract concepts in the scriptures. For example, when Alma teaches the people to plant the seed of faith into their hearts, this is not a literal or physical request. There isn’t a physical seed. We should not surgically implant the suggested “seed” into our hearts. That would have a catastrophic result!

Alma’s illustration is symbolic. However, there is something that we have to physically do. We do have to make a choice to have desire and exercise faith. We may have to physically get up earlier to read scriptures and pray or something along these lines. We will have to make choices and actually act on our faith.

So – though the illustration is symbolic, it still has both physical and spiritual implications.

My point is, I think that Nephi’s brethren were asking another good question here. I don’t think that they were being jerks or playing the devil’s advocate. They, like so many others, didn’t quite understand Isaiah. Much of what Isaiah says is poetic and symbolic. They wanted to know if what Nephi had taught was another one of those times that Isaiah was using metaphor and imagery.

Nephi Answers

As I mentioned before, I think that Nephi’s brothers were genuine in their questions to Nephi. And Nephi answers them as if it is so. He says:

“Wherefore, the things of which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual; for it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations.” – 1 Nephi 22:3

The prophecies of Isaiah pertain to both the temporal and the spiritual.

Temporal Vs. Spiritual

Even though I really think that Nephi’s brethren were genuine in their question – is this spiritual? physical? It strikes me as a question that we still ask a lot. Well, maybe not a question, but a delineation.

So often, at least in my observation, we tend to compartmentalize. Think of medicine. You see a neurologist for your brain, a cardiologist for your heart, an orthopedic doctor for an ankle sprain. I’m not actually against this! It is good that our doctors have specialized their education so that we can get the care that we need.

However, with the specialization of medicine, there have been times when we have forgotten that we are whole, integrated human beings. We sometimes forget that the inflammation of our diet may be causing our ankle problems, heart problems, or brain problems! I think that we do the same with gospel concepts.

We compartmentalize. We think of prayer being prayer – a simple communication with God and a spiritual act. We may not realize the benefits that it has for us, physically. We forget that we are integrated, whole beings. We learn in the Doctrine and Covenants:

“And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:15

It is easy to overlook this! Both our bodies and spirits make up our souls! The things we do physically and the things we do spiritually don’t happen in distinctly separate spheres. They impact one another. Just as what we eat can affect our brains, hearts, and ankles, the things we do physically can impact our spirits. The spiritual decisions we make – even our thoughts – have physical consequences. We cannot separate the two!

Our souls are made of two components – body and spirit. If we will neglect one, then our entire soul is put at risk.

Examples

Maybe it will be helpful to think of some examples where a commandment that seems to belong wholly in one sphere of our soul impacts the other sphere of our soul.

Pray Always
Praying always seems like a wholly spiritual commandment. It can’t possibly have any physical impact, right???

I don’t have much time to do the research right now, but here is an interesting quote about Buddhist Monks who spend much time in mediation and prayer:

“Neuroscientist Richard Davidson says you can change your brain with experience and training.

“You can sculpt your brain just as you’d sculpt your muscles if you went to the gym,” he says. “Our brains are continuously being sculpted, whether you like it or not, wittingly or unwittingly.”

It’s called neuroplasticity. For years Davidson, who is at the University of Wisconsin, has scanned the brains of Buddhist monks who have logged years of meditation. When it comes to things like attention and compassion, their brains are as finely tuned as a late-model Porsche.” – Prayer May Reshape Your Brain

And one more quote from the same article – about people who took up a meditation practice of only a few minutes a day for only a short period of time:

“Another similar study, where employees at a high-tech firm meditated a few minutes a day over a few weeks, produced more dramatic results.

“Just two months’ practice among rank amateurs led to a systematic change in both the brain as well as the immune system in more positive directions,” he said.

For example, they developed more antibodies to a flu virus than did their colleagues who did not meditate.” – Prayer May Reshape Your Brain

To us, prayer may seem to be a simple spiritual exercise. We can’t really “see” the hormonal, neurological, and physical effect it has on us. So, it can be easy to justify skipping prayers – or thinking that praying is just some strange form of talking to ourselves.

But prayer is real. It truly impacts us physically. We really are connecting with God. And through this behavior, we become healthier and happier. We change ourselves physically and spiritually.

The Word of Wisdom
Now – here is a commandment that is purely temporal right? The word of wisdom is a code all about what to eat. It can’t possibly affect us spiritually?

It is a temptation to think this way, but the Word of Wisdom is a principle with a promise, and that promise is not only a physical one:

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

21 And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.” – Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21

Not only are we blessed with more physical ability when we keep the word of wisdom, we are also blessed with wisdom and knowledge. Our Spirits are blessed by eating well and protecting ourselves from harmful substances.

I don’t think that I need to explain this one. We probably have had enough of our own experiences to know that when we are eating well, exercising, sleeping enough – our brains think more clearly, we can be closer to the Spirit. What we do physically impacts us spiritually and emotionally. We are whole, integrated beings – both body and spirit.

Back to Nephi

So – what does all of this have to do with Nephi and his brothers? Well, I’m not sure. For today, I’m going to say that it doesn’t matter all that much. Yes, I’m blogging the Book of Mormon, and I hope that if you read these blog posts they have helped you in your study.

However, the power of the Book of Mormon doesn’t necessarily come in a scholarly approach. Yes, there are times when we can think about the academic and scripture-scholarly aspects of the Book of Mormon, and they help us to come closer to our Savior.

However, often when I read the Book of Mormon, I start in the Book of Mormon, in the story, and end up on something that seems tangential, but is important for me to remember and learn.

Today, I was reminded that my soul is body AND spirit. I was reminded not to compartmentalize. I was reminded that when I nourish my body, I nourish my spirit and vice-versa. This reminder emphasizes the importance of spiritual things (waking up early to read scriptures and pray, for example) AND the importance of physical things (for example – going for walks keeps me happy and grateful! working out helps my mind to be clear and active!).

I’m so grateful for the scriptures. They have practical application in our lives – even thousands of years after they were written. I know that The Book of Mormon will open our minds and hearts to the Spirit so that we can be guided by the Lord to live the best and happiest life possible.

Bull thistle

Waiting for God – 1 Nephi 21:18-26

You can read 1 Nephi 21:18-26 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • To help his people better understand and have a testimony of Christ, Nephi is quoting Isaiah. (See Isaiah 49.)
  • The Lord is speaking through Isaiah. He comforts Israel – though Israel will be scattered, He will gather Israel at a later time.
  • The Lord will lift up His hand to the Gentiles, and they will gather Israel.
  • The Lord will save the children of Israel, will fight her fights, and will destroy those that oppress Her.
  • All flesh will know that the Lord, the Mighty One of Jacob, is our Savior and Redeemer.

Waiting for God

As usual, there is a lot that could be studied in this block of scriptures. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a scripture scholar. I have no real academic background when it comes to the scriptures. The only real scholarly skill I have is being able to use Google.

So – instead of trying to figure out exactly what everything in today’s scripture selection means, I am going to focus on something that keeps standing out to me instead.

Quick note: there is nothing wrong with finding out the more historical or “scholarly” aspects of the scriptures. There are times when the Spirit is kind of prompting me to learn more about the history or geography of Israel to help me better understand something that I need to know. Today isn’t one of those days for me. Today, I keep thinking about this phrase:

…and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” – 1 Nephi 21:23

Not Ashamed

First things first, I want to see what the dictionary definition for ashamed is.

“1a : feeling shame, guilt, or disgrace
// She felt ashamed for hitting her brother.
// You should be ashamed of yourself.
// Losing is nothing to be ashamed of.
// He was deeply ashamed of his behavior.
b : feeling inferior or unworthy
2 : reluctant or unwilling to do something because of shame or embarrassment
// I was ashamed to be seen with him.
// I’m not ashamed to admit that I don’t know the answer.” – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: Ashamed

Notice – shame, guilt, disgrace. This definition includes “guilt,” but when it comes to the scriptures and a religious understanding of shame and guilt, I think that they are two vastly different things.

Guilt – is the feeling we have as a consequence of sin. It is actually a gift. It is a signal from the spirit that something is not right. Guilt that comes from God will be accompanied with love and hope – because we will know that despite our tendency to stray, we have a path back to righteousness through the Savior.

Shame – on the other hand is a feeling we have about ourselves, and I believe that it is from Satan. For example, when in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They felt guilt when they spoke to God and admitted that they had transgressed and had partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They felt shame when Satan pointed out their nakedness, then made them feel stupid about it.

Okay…keep following my train of thought for a moment. I’m sorry that this isn’t more polished. Thanks for studying with me.

I think that shame has more to do with pride than anything else. Think of those who partook of the fruit of the tree of life in Lehi’s dream. After partaking, they looked around and saw that the people in the great and spacious building were laughing them to scorn. This group then, felt shame. They didn’t do anything wrong, yet they felt shame! Their shame was so profound, they left the tree of life – whose fruit was the most desirable above all things and the most joyful to the soul! Now, that’s pretty intense shame.

What was the driver of this shame—their pride. They cared about the opinions of those people in the great and spacious building more than they cared about their own joy! In fact, this pride was enough to keep them from feeling the joy of the fruit.

Shame plays a similar role in our lives. If we are feeling bad about something, it might be helpful to really contemplate – am I feeling guilt, shame, or maybe a little bit of both? Guilt will also come with hope and lead us to repentance and positive changes. Shame on the other hand leaves us feeling despondent and hopeless – that even Christ’s eternal and infinite sacrifice isn’t eternal and infinite enough for us.

So – back to the scripture in 1 Nephi 21. The Lord says that we will not be ashamed that wait for Him. Remember, the context of this scripture is that Israel has suffered and has been scattered. They feel forgotten and forsaken. They might even feel ashamed for “waiting” for Him because He hasn’t answered their prayers yet.

We will get more to the concept of waiting in a moment, but maybe not being ashamed is a choice that we sometimes need to make during our trial, while we are waiting for the Lord. We need to be confident as we follow the whisperings of the Spirit, even when we might look stupid to everyone else. We can take courage: we won’t always look this way. The Lord will come through.

Waiting

I have looked up the definition for wait in the dictionary, but I don’t want to include it all here because it is long. So, here’s a basic idea:

  • to stay in place in expectation of
  • to delay
  • to remain stationary in readiness or expectation
  • to pause for another
  • to look forward expectantly
  • to hold back expectantly
  • to be ready and available
  • to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized

Have you ever felt this way? I can say that I have. And you know what I’m realizing? I’m realizing that it’s okay. Notice that last point: to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized. This is waiting. While we are in the throes of waiting, it is hard to remember that waiting is only a temporary condition.

Not only that, but sometimes I think that I misunderstand what it is to faithfully endure a trial. Sometimes I think that I am supposed to have a plastic smile painted on my face at all times. That’s the face of faith, right?

Sometimes I’m tempted to think that if I haven’t yet received an answer to my prayers, it is because there is something I’ve done wrong. Now, don’t misunderstand. I know that we have to wait and work after we pray. But I just forget how long the path can be. I forget that sometimes we have to wait a very long time. I don’t think that I’m the only one who forgets this!

When we talk about Nephi and his journey to the promised land, do we really recognize the waiting that he had to do? Do we really stop to think of what eight years feels like? The account Nephi gives of his family’s journey to the promised land takes 18 chapters. You can read that in a few weeks. We aren’t reading the day-in-day-out record of Nephi’s experience. We don’t read about the boredom, the monotony of the desert, the walking, the waiting. We don’t see how Nephi’s knowledge came to him by degrees. We are getting the highlight reel.

Watching all nine innings of a baseball game is a lot different than the 3 minutes of highlights they show on the news later. There’s a lot more waiting at that game!

It’s a temptation for me to forget that real life isn’t a highlight reel; That waiting takes time; That the Lord lets us wait—and that in the meantime we feel temporarily neglected as our prayers are temporarily unrealized.

But the Lord has said:

“Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;

2 Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.” –Doctrine and Covenants 98:1-2

The Lord has heard our prayers. He bids us to wait. And if we do, we will find that eventually our prayers our answered. Though we may look foolish for a time, we will not ultimately be ashamed when we wait on the Lord. This is because He will come through. And our prayers will be answered.

What to Do While We Wait

Waiting is hard. It really is! It is for me, anyway. What do I do when I wait? What should I do when I wait? Well, the answer is in the scripture above:

  • Be Comforted – Being comforted is more than the Lord comforting us. We also have the choice to accept that comfort in our trials or to ignore it. So, don’t wallow in fear or sadness. We need to remember the peace and joy we have felt when the Lord has comforted us. A good way to do this is to write a journal – observing times we have felt comforted, and then referring back to this often.
  • Rejoice Evermore – Rejoice! We can rejoice knowing that we believe in an omnipotent, eternal God. We can rejoice knowing that His promises are sure. If He has promised us something, we can rejoice in it just as Lehi rejoiced in obtaining a promised land years before arriving.
    Oh and one more thing. How can we rejoice more? Smile! Take a moment right now to think of a happy moment. Now, as you’re thinking, make a slight smile. Keep smiling for a few seconds or so. How do you feel??? Smiling really helps us to feel better.And if you really want to feel great and rejoice, then sing!
  • In Everything Give Thanks – Finally, we can better wait for the Lord if we are grateful. We can take a moment to notice the tender mercies of God. Now, it is important to realize that gratitude and desiring God’s deliverance aren’t binary expressions. You can want both at the same time. You can want to make it to the top of the mountain while being grateful for the difficult walk up it.

So – be grateful. This doesn’t mean fake happiness and pretending that we are absolutely thrilled about some difficult trial. But there is always something to be grateful for.

Persian Speedwell
Sometimes we might have to look long and hard, but there are little blessings even in the rockiest path. We can always find something to be grateful for.

I’m so thankful for the scriptures. I’m in my own “waiting period” right now. I feel like I’m a plane circling an airport to land. I feel like I’ve been in this holding pattern for at least 2 years now. It is exhausting. There are times when I wonder, am I an idiot? I am tempted to be ashamed. I’m tempted to stop waiting for God.

But the scriptures are a beautiful reminder to me that there are times when it take years for God’s work to unfold. I can remain faithful, knowing that at a future point, I won’t be ashamed! He hears my prayers and He will grant His blessings in His own due time. Thanks to the scriptures, I’m reminded that I can keep waiting.

 

He Won’t Forget Us – 1 Nephi 21:13-17

You can read 1 Nephi 21:13-17 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • To help his people better understand and have a testimony of Christ, Nephi is quoting Isaiah. (See Isaiah 49.)
  • Israel is to sing, be joyful, and praise God. He will comfort his people, and have mercy on his afflicted.
  • Zion, confused, will feel forsaken and forgotten by God.
  • The Lord hasn’t forgotten Zion. Though a mother may forget her child, the Lord will never forget His people.

He Won’t Forget Us

I have always liked the scriptures we are studying today. I think it is because it is so relatable.

First, as we studied last time, the Lord told the heavens, the earth, the mountains, everyone to sing and rejoice. (You can read more here.)

After telling the earth to rejoice, we read:

“But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—…” – 1 Nephi 21:14

Interesting

Forsaken and Forgotten

Why would Zion say this? Well, I suppose it’s because Israel was scattered. When scattered, Israel became the captives of other countries. Much of this happened anciently. The Assyrians defeated the Northern Kingdom. Later, the Babylonians would defeat Jerusalem. This defeat brought much heartache to the Jews left in Jerusalem (Jeremiah wrote Lamentations during this time!). I would guess that Israel felt forsaken and forgotten.

Not only that, but we see that many of the house of Israel has suffered throughout history. In recent history, many Jews were killed off as Hitler and the third reich committed genocide against them. If I had been a part of this experience as a Jewish person, I know I would have thought, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me….

Here, we are reading the Book of Mormon. The people of the Book of Mormon inhabited the Americas many years before it was later “discovered” by Christopher Columbus and then colonized by Europeans. At least some of the indigenous people of the Americas were descendants of Lehi, and members of the house of Israel. We know that when the Europeans came, many of the Native Americans were smitten and scattered. Many died, their cultures and practices also were nearly completely destroyed.

I’m sure that they could feel the same way towards god…The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—…

So – if I am to understand these scriptures correctly, then the scattering and smiting of Israel is why Zion thinks that God has forgotten them.

The Lord replies that he will show that he hasn’t forgotten them, and we will get into that in a minute. For now, let’s just keep thinking about Israel and then see if it applies to our lives.

I can see why they might have felt forsaken and forgotten! The Lord allowed them to experience these trials and tribulations for a long time. Trials and tribulations doesn’t seem fair enough to describe genocide. “Trials and tribulations” seems like a major understatement when we think of the trail of tears. Israel has felt forsaken and forgotten because she has gone through some pretty tough things!

We can apply this in our own lives. There are times when the Lord lets us wade through difficulty and affliction. There are times when it seems like the Lord is asleep on the boat while there is a storm at sea. There are times in life when it seems like He has forgotten and forsaken us. He will let us experience these difficulties, and we have to find it within ourselves to keep praising Him in faith.

The Lord Remembers

Now, let’s go back to the scriptures.

“But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.1 Nephi 21:14, emphasis added

Even though we will suffer affliction and trial, and even though those afflictions and trials may be intense and last a long period of time, we need to remember that the Lord has not forgotten nor has He forsaken us.

The Lord explains further:

“For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.

16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” – 1 Nephi 21:15-16

This scripture is just so beautiful and good! The Lord won’t forget us!

Mothers
Before I was a mother, I liked this scripture because I knew that most mothers would not forget her sucking child. It is hard to think of a purer love that can exist between two humans – than that of a mother and her infant baby.

I am blessed with a mother that loved and remembered and always had compassion on me. (She still does). Not only that, but I am the oldest in my family, and I witnessed her actions toward the rest of my siblings when they were babies. That’s the first priority for a mom! Baby!

And now I am a mother. I have birthed and nursed four children. Even when I was exhausted, I couldn’t forget my kids. In fact, it’s an interesting idea – can a mother forget her sucking child? Not really. If you have breastfed your children, then you can relate to this even more. My body would always let me know when it was time for my babies to eat. I could literally feel it in my breasts. Even if I wanted to forget, my body would have reminded me of my little nursing children!

So – the Lord gives this example – of a mother and her love and nurture for her children.

Then He admits, there are some who do forget and do not have compassion (Lady MacBeth!!!), but He will never forget.

The Lord Remembers
christus-hand-lds-454936-gallery

The Lord explains that He will never forget – He has graven us upon the palms of His hands. Isaiah gave this prophecy some 700 odd years before the birth of Christ. This is a prophecy of what would come. And it did. The Lord won’t forget us. He lived a humble life, served, ministered, suffered, and then died—on the cross—for us.

The scars He bears on his hands and feet are constant reminders of us.

I can’t help but think about our covenant to Him (in baptism and then repeated weekly at sacrament) – that we do always remember Him. I don’t put much thought into the fact that He never forgets us.

In fact, many of the problems associated with the scattering of Israel is because they forgot Him! When we forget the Lord, we distance ourselves from Him, His peace, His protection, His guidance, His blessings.

Often, this distance grows without much of an immediate problem. We might do just fine without Him. However, eventually we will find ourselves in strange places and lost when we let go of the iron rod and wander away.

Then when we’re really lost, we need Him. We pray to Him. We wonder, where is He? Did He forget me? But He hasn’t forgotten or forsaken us, we have forgotten and forsaken Him! We have cut ourselves off from the blessings He offers, so we can’t feel them anymore. When this happens, thankfully, we can return to Him.

Now, there are also a lot of times when we haven’t done anything wrong. We have kept our covenants. We have remembered Him. Yet, we might find ourselves wondering as Joseph Smith did:

“O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:1

Yes, these times come in our lives. This prayer, uttered by Joseph Smith wasn’t just because he was spoiled or bored. He was in jail – wrongfully! He was really suffering even though he was being as faithful as possible in keeping God’s commandments.

There are times in our lives that are hard. We can be doing everything right, and still – nothing is panning out. It can seem like everything is just getting worse. This happens! I have experienced it. I have experienced putting my faith in God, following a prompting, and then getting into a situation worse than what I was in when I started (or at least it seemed so at the time).

I have experienced hardship, sustained enough for me to beg God for His companionship. I have experienced trials that were painful enough for me to wonder where He was…where was that pavilion covering His hiding place???

And this is when our covenants come in. It’s the only way to survive trials – to keep our covenants – to always remember Him. When we make the active effort to always remember Him, we realize that He will never forget us. We remember that we are engraven on the palms of His hands. We remember that we are at the forefront of His thoughts.

As we remember these things, even if we aren’t delivered yet, we will be galvanized and strengthened to continue to endure because we trust Him.

***

I’m so grateful for the scriptures. Can you imagine life without them? I cannot even fathom going through this life and making every effort to follow the Spirit if I didn’t have the scriptures – God’s words for us.

What a comfort it is to know that the Savior said “Yet will I not forget thee,…” Though we must travel through difficult times in our lives, we can rest assured that the Lord knows us. He remembers us. He doesn’t forsake us. We are written on His palms. We are continually before Him.

Praising God at All Times – 1 Nephi 21:13-17

You can read 1 Nephi 21:13-17 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • To help his people better understand and have a testimony of Christ, Nephi is quoting Isaiah. (See Isaiah 49.)
  • Israel is to sing, be joyful, and praise God. He will comfort his people, and have mercy on his afflicted.
  • Zion, confused, will feel forsaken and forgotten by God.
  • The Lord hasn’t forgotten Zion. Though a mother may forget her child, the Lord will never forget His people.

Praising God at All Times

There is a really good possibility that we will be studying this passage for more than one day. We read:

“Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; for the feet of those who are in the east shall be established; and break forth into singing, O mountains; for they shall be smitten no more; for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

14 But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.

15 For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.

16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

17 Thy children shall make haste against thy destroyers; and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.” – 1 Nephi 21:13-17

This is a beautiful passage of scripture with a witness of the Savior’s love for us. But right now, I am feeling particularly drawn to verse 13. In verse 13 the heavens, earth, and mountains are commanded to be sing, be joyful, and sing. We read that “the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

Immediately after this verse, we read of a question or concern of “the Lord’s people” – Zion.

“But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not.” – 1 Nephi 21:14

Okay – so I hope that you’re on track with me here. What is standing out to me is that the mountains, the earth, the heavens, the Lord’s people are being commanded to sing, be joyful, rejoice, break forth into singing preemptively. They are to praise God. Yes they have felt comfort, but they haven’t yet felt His mercy and deliverance from their affliction.

In fact, their response to this command is The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—…”

Why is this their concern? Why aren’t they breaking forth into singing? Because they have not yet experienced any of the blessings of the gathering that He has been promising to them throughout this chapter. The gathering of Israel – it’s hope and comfort is simply a light at the end of a very long tunnel – I don’t even think that this light is visible to them yet, instead, they are told to rejoice even while in the thick of the darkness of their trial.

I wish I had some poignant remark right now. I don’t. But I know that this is a concept that I need to keep studying. So…let’s just try to work something out. All aboard my train of thought! Choo! Choo!

Praising God while in Turmoil

There are so many examples of this very concept in the scriptures. There are examples of people praising God even before they have been delivered. Let’s think of a few…

One – Lehi
In 1 Nephi 5, we read Lehi’s words to Sariah:

“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.” – 1 Nephi 5:4-5

Lehi spoke these words to Sariah while Nephi and his brothers were in Jerusalem obtaining the plates of brass. This happened at the beginning of Lehi’s journey. He won’t obtain the land that God has promised him for YEARS. Yet notice the words he uses:

  • I have obtained a land of promise
  • I do rejoice

He isn’t saying, “One day we will obtain the land of promise.” He isn’t saying that he’ll rejoice once he sets up his home in his promised land. He rejoices as if he has obtained the promised land while still in the wilderness of his affliction.

Two – The Jaredites
Another example from the scriptures that is coming to mind is that of the Jaredites – who were also led to the promised land by the Lord. We read of their experience in Ether:

“7 And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.

8 And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.

9 And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.

10 And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.

11 And thus they were driven forth, three hundred and forty and four days upon the water.” – Ether 6:7-11

So, this is an account of the Jaredites journey to the promised land – across the ocean. Notice, they were in these barges for nearly a year. Wow. Long time. These were not ships. There were no sails. Instead, these barges were moved by wind and currents, and the people in these barges would spend time “Buried in the deep.”

I pray that no one was claustrophobic! Could you imagine the sea legs after a 344 day long journey?

Can you imagine these barges? There were people, animals inside of them. Remember, these aren’t just stories. It’s easy to read the account of the Jaredites or Lehi and his family, and just think good for them making it to the promised land. We can even criticize them – why did it take them so long? Why would they ever doubt God. I think that it is just easy to overlook the reality of their situations.

The reality, as I can best guess, of the Jaredites was that they were in a enclosed vessel for a year(!) with animals, people, etc. They had to eat. They had to live. They had to go potty. I don’t think that they had candles or glade plug-ins. They were tossed about. They probably got sick at some point over the course of the year. Maybe they even had children. I’m not sure. A lot can happen then. And I can’t really think of any possible events that I’d want to deal with while in a barge! This took faith.

It took faith for the Jaredites not to complain. And not only did they refrain from complaint, but they sang praises to the Lord, they thanked him and praised him all day and all night long – before receiving the reward!

Three – Nephi
In the scriptures, there are many more examples of people praising God before their deliverance, but I will list only one more right now.

While on the ship headed toward the promised land, Nephi was tied up by his brothers. Their wickedness jeopardized the entire ship. A great storm rose up on the sea, and they dealt with a bitter tempest for four days. Lehi, Sariah, and others tried to get Laman and Lemuel to loose Nephi, but nothing would convince them other than the power of God – and the threat of destruction.

Imagine Nephi, tied up on the ship – the ship he built after 8 years in the wilderness. And now, he is tied up and they are in a terrible storm. Imagine! They almost died at sea. This was a serious storm! All of this, after so much trial, toil, and tribulation! It would be hard to be Nephi, tied up, life endangered. I imagine that my thoughts would have been “What?! After all of this, and I’m going to die at sea?!?!?!?!”

Instead of worrying, we read what Nephi did:

“Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.” – 1 Nephi 18:16

Instead of fretting, complaining, worrying, Nephi praised God.

Why???

It’s easy to look at Lehi, the Jaredites, and Nephi all starry-eyed, thinking Wow! They are amazing! But that’s not the point of the scriptures. We aren’t supposed to mythicize them and low-key idolize them. Instead, they are supposed to inspire us into action. We have these examples of people who are real, mortal, fallen people – empowered by our Savior. Because Lehi, the Jaredites, and Nephi did it, we can, too!

So why? Why would Lehi rejoice 8 years before reaching the promised land? Why would the Jaredites sing while buried in the depths of the sea? Why would Nephi praise God while tied up on a ship at sea?

Well, first of all, I think that it is a matter of faith. They are rejoicing in the fruit that they will have while their plant is still a seedling. They are grateful. They have hope! They know that if they continue to nurture this seedling, then they will be fed.

Another thing that keeps coming to mind is maybe this is the secret to sustaining such faith! How else would you make it through eight years in the wilderness? submerged at sea? tied up by your brothers? How would you? I mean, the stress is absolutely crushing.

Each of these things needed courage and tenacity. Each of these people needed to be absolutely indomitable. And how do we muster up the hope to be indomitable? Set our spiritual eyes on the prize, and praise God!

Praising God is what got Lehi through the hard times while in the desert. In fact, there was one time when he murmured – when Nephi broke his bow. Did his murmuring help the situation?! NO!!!! It cost valuable time and energy. Nephi had to lift their spirits before coming up with a solution.

Praising God is what helped the Jaredites make it to their promised land. If they had let their spirits down, what do you suppose would have happened? I don’t think that they would have endured 344 days in a barge.

Praising God is what helped Nephi to endure captivity at sea on a ship that he made. If Nephi had chosen to murmur against God, then when released, I don’t know that he would have been able to pray that the tempest would subside.

Praising God isn’t some luxury that we participate in after everything has worked out. Obviously, we will have gratitude when we see our prayers answered. Lehi, Nephi and his people praised God when they landed on the shores of the promised land. The Jaredites fell down and cried out in gratitude when, on that 345th day they were able to get out of the barge and see that they had been delivered. Yes – we will praise God when we get there. But Praising God is so much more than gratitude after the fact.

Praising God, remaining grateful, is a part of our covenant to always remember Him. Praising God is the way that we access His Spirit, the Comforter. Praising God is how we make it. Praising God is “steadfastness in Christ,” and it helps us to keep pressing forward. Praising God is the secret to hope, faith, and eventually success.

***

It can be so tempting to be frustrated by our challenges while we navigate the “wilderness of our affliction.” And I don’t think that God expects us to pretend like these things are a challenge. Praising God and praying that we can be delivered from trials are not mutually exclusive. But when we are in the throes of our trials, we can praise God.

I once decided to take a walk up a mountain. The road was steep and difficult. There were times when my quads, my lungs, my feet wanted me to stop! It was a 4,000 foot climb and a 14 mile walk!

While walking on this path, I could have focused on the pain in my feet. I could have focused on the steepness of the road. I could have focused on the difficulty of each breath as the altitude rose and oxygen became more sparse.

And I can tell you that if I had focused on these things, then I wouldn’t have made it!

Yes it was hard, and I didn’t pretend it was easy to do. But I was blessed by the Lord every step of the way. There were views like this one that dotted my path up the mountain:

heber valley

When I needed to, I could take a minute to pause, look out, and rejoice.

There were also little colorful spots of joy all along the way:
Wild RosesBlue Camasscarlet Giliabeardtongue

Even when my legs wanted to stop walking up the mountain, even when I started to slump and look down, I would see these colorful reminders of God and His tender mercies. Yes, I could have gotten frustrated and tired. Or, I could praise Him!

I’m so grateful for the scriptures, and the reminder to me that I can sing and be joyful. We are on a journey that is hard. We must, at times, struggle through the wilderness of our affliction, but we don’t need to fret or worry! We can rejoice! The Lord is real. He is our Savior. He has already overcome, and He is guiding us. Our victory is assured, we simply need to put one foot in front of the other.

And if we do decide to navigate this life with praising and joy, we will not only make it to our destination, but we will also feel joy along the way.