Redemption Comes Through Christ—Part Four: A Sacrifice for Sin – 2 Nephi 2:5-9

You can read 2 Nephi 2:5-9 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, before his death, preaches to Jacob a final time.
  • People are instructed sufficiently to know good from evil.
  • We have the law.
  • The law justifies no one, in fact because of the law we are cut off – from God.
  • We are also cut off from God spiritually and will be miserable forever.
  • BUT, redemption comes through the Holy Messiah
  • Christ offers Himself as a sacrifice for sin to answer the ends of the law.
  • If we will come unto Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit, then His sacrifice will answer the ends of the law – and we will not be subject to misery or death.
  • It is important that everyone on this earth knows this message. No one can dwell in the presence of God, save it is through Christ – His merits, mercy, and grace. He laid down His life and took it again to bring pass the resurrection of the dead.
  • He will also stand an intercessor between us and God – saving us.

Redemption Comes Through Christ – A Sacrifice for Sin

So, today we are continuing our study of 2 Nephi 2:5-9 – Redemption Cometh through Christ. In Part One, we studied the law. In Part two, we studied Redemption. In Part three, we studied Christ’s grace and truth. Today, we are studying a sacrifice for Sin. I know that there have already been a lot of “parts” in studying this small selection of verses, but I really feel like there is something important for to learn here, so…onward!

We read:

“Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” – 2 Nephi 2:7

It has been established that there is a law that governs heaven. Because of this law, and because of the effects of the law, we are cut off. As fallen men and women, we sin and are therefore unworthy to be in God’s presence.

What’s the big deal with that? Well, God is light, life, happiness. So, when we are shut out from His presence – we experience darkness, death, and misery. Yikes. We need some way for our sins to be paid in order to have any kind of hope.

Enter Christ. It also been established that Christ—full of grace and truth—offers us redemption. As Lehi taught: he offered Himself a sacrifice for sin to answer the law,. How is this done???

It is done through Christ’s Sacrifice.

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane
Jesus Praying in Gethsemane (Christ in Gethsemane), by Harry Anderson
Jesus Is Condemned Before Pilate
Jesus is condemned before Pilate. (The Life of Jesus Christ Bible Video)
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Christ on the Cross
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The Resurrected Savior

The Bible Dictionary helps us to understand the significance of Christ’s sacrifice.

Atonement – The word describes the setting “at one” of those who have been estranged and denotes the reconciliation of man to God. Sin is the cause of the estrangement, and therefore the purpose of atonement is to correct or overcome the consequences of sin. From the time of Adam to the death of Jesus Christ, true believers were instructed to offer animal sacrifices to the Lord. These sacrifices were symbolic of the forthcoming death of Jesus Christ and were done by faith in Him (Moses 5:5–8).

Jesus Christ, as the Only Begotten Son of God and the only sinless person to live on this earth, was the only one capable of making an atonement for mankind. By His selection and foreordination in the Grand Council before the world was formed, His divine Sonship, His sinless life, the shedding of His blood in the garden of Gethsemane, His death on the cross and subsequent bodily resurrection from the grave, He made a perfect atonement for all mankind. All are covered unconditionally as pertaining to the Fall of Adam. Hence, all shall rise from the dead with immortal bodies because of Jesus’ Atonement. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22), and all little children are innocent at birth. The Atonement is conditional, however, so far as each person’s individual sins are concerned, and touches every one to the degree that he has faith in Jesus Christ, repents of his sins, and obeys the gospel. The services of the Day of Atonement foreshadowed the atoning work of Christ (Lev. 4; 23:26–32; Heb. 9). The scriptures point out that no law, ordinance, or sacrifice would be satisfactory if it were not for the Atonement of Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:1–9; 2 Ne. 9:5–24; Mosiah 13:27–32).

Sin is lawlessness (1 Jn. 3:4); it is a refusal on men’s part to submit to the law of God (Rom. 8:7). By transgression man loses control over his own will and becomes the slave of sin (Rom. 7:14) and so incurs the penalty of spiritual death, which is alienation from God (Rom. 6:23). The Atonement of Jesus Christ redeems all mankind from the Fall of Adam and causes all to be answerable for their own manner of life. This means of atonement is provided by the Father (John 3:16–17) and is offered in the life and person of His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:19).” – Bible Dictionary: Atonement

I don’t think that I could say much to explain this any better than the above. However, there is a scripture that keeps coming to mind:

“Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” – Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19

We need to repent – we will be learning more about this next time. We need to turn to the Savior and accept the atonement and sacrifice that He did perform in order for it to take effect in our lives. He will not force Himself on us. If we do accept His Atonement, then we will not suffer as He did. We will receive mercy. We will have light, life, and joy.

What does this mean for you and for me?

If you read this blog regularly, then you might already be pretty familiar with the basic tenets and doctrines of Christianity – namely that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us, we are fallen creatures, and the Atonement performed by Jesus Christ can save us. We are probably also somewhat familiar with the principles and ordinances required in order for us to be redeemed.

The thing is, these truths are deeply personal, yet I’m feeling unsatisfied because this post feels kind of philosophical and impersonal. So – how do I impart some of the personal into this post???

I keep thinking about that law. Yes, I believe in Christ, but let’s take Him out of the equation for a moment. Without Christ, then I’m a fallen creature. Without Christ, we don’t have the creation of the earth. Christ is the light. He is the bread of life. He is the water of life. He is life. He is Hope. He is salvation. He is joy.

Without Christ, then there is none of this:

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If we take Christ out of the equation, we take every good thing out of the equation.

Thankfully, Christ isn’t “out” of the equation. He is the linchpin of it. Christ offered Himself a sacrifice for Sin to answer the ends of the law – the law that, because of our natures and propensity for sin, would mean everlasting death and misery for us. When we think about this in the context of the beauty, joy, light, life we get to experience here, now, I feel so much gratitude.

I feel like I’m still not expressing what I want to say. Right now, this moment, as you read this, do you realize the blessing that Christ has been in your life? Regardless of your faith in Him – regardless of your past, present, or future choices, He has given so much. He has created this earth.

I know for myself, I tend to forget how much mercy and joy He is offering to me right now. I tend to think of the Atonement and its application in my life as this “far off” thing – that one day I’ll be judged; that Christ’s Atonement covers my sins so one day I can return to Him. I tend to forget that His Atonement, His sacrifice for sin, is blessing me RIGHT NOW! Even though I’m often oblivious, Christ is the reason for everything that is good in my life. I can’t imagine how bleak my existence would be without Him. Without Him there would be no existence.

I’m so grateful for our Redeemer – who offered Himself a sacrifice for sin. The ends of the law have been answered, and we can have hope, light, peace, life, and joy.

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.

 

Past Feeling – 1 Nephi 17:43-47

You can read 1 Nephi 17:43-47 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is still speaking to his brothers. After the many years since the Jews were delivered from bondage in Egypt, they had become wicked – nearly unto ripeness. The Lord would allow them to be destroyed. Nephi doesn’t know if they are destroyed yet, but they will be soon.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers that the Lord commanded Lehi to depart into the wilderness because the Jews were going to kill him. And now, Laman and Lemuel are like them – seeking to kill Lehi, their own father.
  • Laman and Lemuel are swift to do iniquity, but slow to remember God and do good. They have had plenty of witnesses and tender mercies, but they choose not to feel His Spirit and direction.
  • Nephi asks, why are Laman and Lemuel so hard in their hearts???
  • Nephi’s soul is rent with anguish because of them. They are his brothers, and he fears that they will be cast off forever. He is so full of the Spirit of God that his body no longer has any strength.

Past Feeling

Well, in 1 Nephi 17, Laman and Lemuel are up to their typical stuff.

Let’s go over a few facts first:

One – Lehi and his family have been traveling in the wilderness for years. They have traveled through the Arabian Peninsula – first along the borders of the Red Sea, and then they traveled in an Easterly direction until they made it to the shores of “many waters.” They called this land Bountiful, and it was not on the shores of the Red Sea (most likely they were in modern-day Oman).

I would imagine that this would have been hard.

Two – Although the journey was difficult, they were supported. The Lord enabled them to get the plates of brass. The Lord helped to soften Ishmael’s heart and bring his family into the wilderness so that Lehi’s sons could have wives. The Lord gave them the Liahona – an object that was of “curious workmanship.” An angel had appeared to Laman and Lemuel. Their hearts, though often prone to murmuring, had also been softened from time to time.

***

Yes, it would have been hard to do what they did. Yes, there were trials and difficulties that they faced throughout the journey, but they had also been supported. And here they are – on the seashore. They had a choice – to end their journey or to help Nephi build a ship and make it to that final step of the promised land.

Of course, Laman and Lemuel make their lives harder than they need to. Nephi states:

“Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder.” – 1 Nephi 17:45

Swift to do Iniquity but Slow to Remember the Lord Your God

Nephi points out that Laman and Lemuel have an easy time with wickedness but find it very hard to remember the Lord, their God.

And it’s true. I’m not going to take the time to show the examples of this right now, but you can read through past entries. Laman and Lemuel never show the faith as a matter of default or instinct. Always, they question. Always, they trend toward wickedness. They are only motivated to be faithful when they have been compelled.

So – what do we learn from this? I suppose we can ask ourselves, what do I do? Am I swift to do iniquity and slow to remember the Lord?

I don’t think that we need to have false humility here. Just answer it honestly. For myself, while I’m not perfect, I do make efforts to choose the righteous path. I try to maintain a faithful attitude even in the face of trial and adversity.

Obviously, there are times when I sin, and the Holy Ghost makes me aware of these issues. The Lord is patient with me as I’m trying to become a better person. But I don’t think that Nephi, or the Lord would ask me, why are you swift to do iniquity and slow to remember God? – at least not in the same way Nephi asked his brothers.

Even though I don’t feel swift to do iniquity and slow to remember God, this doesn’t mean I can just sit back and say, Well, that’s not my problem. I think that it is helpful for us to remember how easy it is for us to adopt the same sort of behavior of Laman and Lemuel. It is the natural state of all of humankind to be swift to do iniquity and slow to remember God. We have to work against this behavior!

So what do we do? Standard church answers, I guess. We read the scriptures, pray, go to church. And when we do those things, we really do them. We ponder the scriptures. We pray with real intent.

Another thing that I have found helpful for maintaining my faith, hope, and trust in the Lord is by getting outside and being active – going for walks, hikes, runs, whatever. I like to do this on my own or while talking with a good friend.

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A walk in the woods.
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It is easier for me to remember the Lord’s influence in my life when I get outside for a few moments.

Ye Have Seen An Angel, and He Spake Unto You

This is probably one of the most mind boggling experiences in the Book of Mormon. Laman and Lemuel literally saw an angel. And after the angel appeared to them, they doubt; they murmur.

I think that it is hard for anyone who has read the Book of Mormon to understand. How could they murmur? How would this not be a life-changing experience that helps them to become righteous??? I suppose it all has to do with their choice to have faith. Though the angel spoke to them, they didn’t have any faith. They chose not to believe. The Lord doesn’t force anything on us, and this is a prime example of how the Lord honors our agency.

I would also guess that their murmuring is a way that they are talking themselves out of the experience. That happens. Sometimes, we experience a tender mercy, and then tell ourselves, “it was just a coincidence.” I have witnessed people experience real miracles, yet they have a hard time accepting that these miracles came from a powerful, omniscient God who loves them. Instead, they find a way to wiggle out of the miracle. They find a way to murmur or doubt.

If we don’t recognize the miracles of our lives for the miracles that they are, then it is really easy to forget that we have “seen angels.”

Ye Have Heard His Voice from Time to Time; and He Hath Spoken to You in a Still, Small Voice

The Lord had tried many methods to communicate with Laman and Lemuel. He had sent an angel. They had heard His voice. He had spoken with them using a still small voice. But they don’t recognize Him. They don’t pay these voices any attention. Something as miraculous as an angel fell on deaf ears – because they chose to be deaf.

Again, I think that it is helpful for us to think about ourselves. Are there times when the Lord tries to speak to us, but we don’t hear? He speaks to us in a still, small voice are there times when the voices around us are too loud and distracting for us to hear His voice?

Ye Were Past Feeling

All of the methods of communication employed by Heavenly Father to Laman and Lemuel didn’t matter because they were past feeling. They didn’t know how to listen. They didn’t know how to recognize.

Their swift habit to do iniquity dulled their spiritual senses.

It’s all a choice. We have to remember that.

I’ll give an example that I think works, but I can’t be totally sure…so we’ll see.

I really love wildflowers. One year, at the end of spring/early summer, I knew that the days were getting long enough and the temperatures getting high enough that the wildflowers would start blooming.

A friend of mine had just returned from a hike, and I was talking with him. I asked, “Did you see any flowers blooming?” I knew, based on where he was hiking, that the glacier lilies and oregon grape should be blooming. They are always the first little yellow blooms to appear each spring.

His answer, “Nope. I didn’t see any flowers at all.”

I responded, “Oh…I guess they’ll be out there soon,” but I had to smile because I knew that they were already blooming. I hadn’t seen them, but all of the signs were there – the dandelions were blooming in hay fields. The small red-stem storksbill could be found in the cracks of sidewalks. Because of my past experiences, I knew the glacier lilies and other flowers were blooming.

And the next day, my husband and I hiked the same hike that the other friend had hiked the day before.

And you guessed it…there were wildflowers.

Now – there weren’t hundreds and thousands of wildflowers. It wasn’t July. These flowers are small and only occasionally dot the forest floor. If you aren’t paying attention, you’ll breeze right past them. But they are there. And when you learn to look, you’ll find that there are quite a lot of them!

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Glacier Lily

I think that sometimes hearing the voice of the Lord is similar. You have to be tuned in. Your senses need to be sharpened. When you learn to look and listen for the Lord, you’ll find that your life is just filled with these little tender mercies. You’ll find that He truly is present in your life – trying to communicate with you. But he won’t force Himself on you.

Well, maybe that’s not totally true. Even if He does force Himself on us – just as Laman and Lemuel did see an angel, He doesn’t force us to listen, believe, or care.

There are plenty of times, on the trail, when you see a wildflower in a fairly obvious place – but a hiker has walked right on it, stamping it down. A bright flower in the middle of the trail couldn’t be more obvious, but still people might pass right by it and trample over it. Unfortunately, this is what we sometimes do with the Lord and His communication with us, too.

Being past feeling isn’t just something that happened to Laman and Lemuel. It isn’t something that Nephi is saying to make them feel like junk. It was a result of their repeated choices. Because they were past feeling, none of the blessings and tender mercies that they had experienced in their lives mattered. They couldn’t see, hear, or experience beauty.

Their choice to pass over God’s influence in their life reinforced their swiftness to do iniquity.

It’s all kind of sad. And stupid, really. Why make life harder than it is? Why not take the time to hear the voice of the Lord in our lives? Why not notice Him in the world around us? Why not feel?!?!

We Are Children of God – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying We Are Children of God, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1998 General Conference.

Sometimes, I like to think where was I when this talk was given? Ogden, Utah. I was just married (my first marriage, not to Homey). I was living in a basement apartment at the time. I don’t remember this talk at all. I’m not sure if I remember the conference.

This point in my life might have been the closest I was to inactivity. I was going through some major changes in my life. I was still going to institute, though, and I know that’s what saved me, spiritually.

In any case, this isn’t about my life in 1998. This is about the talk, which is really great

We Are Children of God

President Nelson closes his talk with a question and a profound statement:

“Who are we? We are children of God. Our potential is unlimited. Our inheritance is sacred. May we always honor that heritage—in every thought and deed—I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this. We are children of God. It’s true! And imagine if everyone on this planet would simply accept this fact. I think the world would be a different place.

I have known this fact my whole life – that I’m a child of God. When I was a kid, I would sing the song…(watch the video – it’s good!)

I’ve known this my whole life, and yet…there are times I still struggle with the profundity of this fact. It is so easy to forget. It is so easy to become afraid. It is so easy to look at another person and forget that they, too, are a child of God.

Because we are children of God, our potential is unlimited and our heritage is sacred. Isn’t this amazing! I know that I’m rehashing exactly what President Nelson stated, but think about it for a minute! And believe it.

***

Several years ago, I wanted to begin working on a project. However, before I even got started on it, I was a little stumped about how to proceed. If I tried to do it one way, I might “succeed” in a way, but I knew that it wasn’t the ultimate path I wanted to take. How could I do this project another way? Was it even possible?

I felt like, yes there has to be a solution to my dilemma. I just needed to keep thinking. I have learned that the best way to solve problems isn’t necessarily what we think. Often, real problem solving isn’t a “nose to the grindstone” kind of thing. Instead, it is a combination of “nose to the grindstone work,” along with sleep, exercise, doing the dishes (or some other simple task), and intuitive awareness.

In other words, problem solving doesn’t happen only in our conscious brains. We have to let our subconscious work on the problem, too. Then we have to invite experiences where our subconscious can communicate with our conscious mind. So we need to be well rested and healthy.

This might sound foo-foo. I don’t care. All of religion is foo-foo if you really think about it, and I happen to be a spiritual person! Besides, I have seen it work too many times to worry about what seems “rational” or not.

Well, back to the story. I knew that there had to be a solution to my problem. I didn’t know how I knew it, I just felt it in my soul. So I kept thinking, and then doing the rest – eating good food, getting good exercise, praying, sleeping well.

And within a few days, I found the perfect solution to my problem.

You might be wondering what was the problem? and the solution? I’m purposely leaving them out because I don’t want to get bogged down on those details. The problem and solution didn’t matter, and as soon as I figured out the solution, I realized that it was neither the problem nor solution that I was supposed to learn. As soon as I figured out my solution, and saw the elegance of it, I realized the true lesson:

There is no problem that cannot be solved.

Put another way: Our potential is unlimited and our heritage sacred.

Or – put yet another way:

“For with God nothing shall be impossible.” – Luke 1:37

As long as we seek to do something that doesn’t break a law of the universe (whether spiritual or physical), then we can rest assured that it is possible. And this is because – we are children of a loving Father in Heaven.

Now, this is important. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean that it magically happens. We have to apply the laws of this universe – God’s Universe (so, both physical and spiritual) if we want to find solutions to our problems.

For example, we can’t lie to ourselves and say, “I know that with God nothing is impossible, so I’m just gonna jump right off this cliff and nothing will happen. (That’s not with God so it’s not possible!)

Laws must be kept.

Human beings didn’t learn to fly because they pretended gravity didn’t exist. Instead, they understood gravity so well that they realized what must be done to counteract it. Only then they were able to accomplish their goal – flight! And still – airplanes land. We are subject to gravity. We may have solved a problem, but we are not exempt from the law.

The point is, and I’m not sure if my illustrations here are great or not, it’s true that with God, nothing is impossible. God will give us the knowledge that we need in order to understand how to solve our problems in a way that will work. We really do have unlimited potential. Truly our heritage is sacred. And when we understand more about who we are, then we will better honor our heritage and reach our potential.

***

President Nelson explains:

“We are dual beings. Each soul is comprised of body and spirit, both of which emanate from God. A firm understanding of body and spirit will shape our thoughts and deeds for good.” – Russell M. Nelson

He then goes on to talk about each facet of our souls. (REMEMBER a soul is BOTH BODY AND SPIRIT!!!

The Body

President Nelson does an amazing job succinctly discussing the wonder and divinity of our physical bodies. Really – you should read this talk just for this section!

President Nelson poses:

“The marvel of our physical bodies is often overlooked. Who has not encountered feelings of low self-esteem because of physique or appearance? Many people wish their bodies could be more to their liking. Some with naturally straight hair want it curly. Others with curly hair want it straight. Occasionally some ladies, believing that “gentlemen prefer blonds,” become “decided blonds.”

Your body, whatever its natural gifts, is a magnificent creation of God. It is a tabernacle of flesh—a temple for your spirit. A study of your body attests to its divine design.” – Russell M. Nelson

As I read that, I felt like I should raise my hand: 🙋 guilty!

I have overlooked the marvel of my physical body so many times that I feel ashamed to think about it. And always for stupid reasons! I enjoy relatively good health. I don’t have chronic pain or illnesses. I’ve had my fair share of physical trials (endometriosis that ended with a hysterectomy, shingles, kidney stones), but all of these were healed – which is, in and of itself another marvel!

Yet, I get caught up in this world we live in – created by marketers who are banking on us feeling badly enough about ourselves so that we will buy what they are hawking…then we’ll be happy!

It’s so silly. It’s a trap to get us to forget who we are – divine creations. Daughters and sons of a loving Father in Heaven.

Read the rest of what President Nelson said about the body. It’s pretty cool, and I think that it will make you feel grateful, too.

The Spirit

Not only are we physical beings, but we are also spiritual beings. President Nelson quoted the Book of Mormon where Jesus explained the spirit body to the brother of Jared:

“The spirit of man [is] in the likeness of his person.” Jesus so explained, as the brother of Jared viewed the Lord’s premortal body:

“Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.

“… This body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.” – Doctrine and Covenants 77:2 and Ether 3:15-16, as quoted by Russell M. Nelson

Of course, because this is the realm of mortality, there are many physical and spiritual limitations experienced by all in this world. President Nelson addresses some of those limitations. And we have hope – through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will not have to suffer these limitations into the eternities.

Our Responsibility

When we understand more about ourselves – both physically and spiritually, we should become more grateful. We should understand the blessings that God has entrusted to us and become wise stewards.

President Nelson states:

“We should gratefully acknowledge God as our Creator. Otherwise, we would be as guilty as goldfish swimming in a bowl, oblivious to the goodness of their provider.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’ve been thinking about gratitude and stewardship a lot lately – the link between the two. How having gratitude (true gratitude!) should engender a deeper desire to be a good steward. And a good steward really can only be a good steward if she has gratitude.

For years now, my family and I have been on this crazy “journey” of sorts. We started our own business and it has required a lot from us. We have given up most of our material possessions. We have had to make sacrifices that haven’t been all that easy.

Somehow, in giving these things up, I have been taught an important lesson on stewardship. I understand that there were many material goods that I took for granted (dishes! socks without holes in them!) in the past. And I think – what a joy it will be to vacuum a room, to clean a fork, to do some chores. I feel more grateful for my current things, too. What a blessing to have what I have – I will fold my beautiful quilts nicely now, rather than leave them crumpled up on the floor. Anyone who knows me knows that this is a major shift. (God is a God of miracles!)

Additionally, I think about my body – what kind of steward am I, what kind of gratitude do I show if I just eat junk food all day and sit around? I can move and walk and jump – without pain! with relative ease! What a blessing! I know that not everyone enjoys this kind of fortune.

And that extends to spirituality. So many people come to this earth without the knowledge of their Father in Heaven. So many people have no idea why they are here. They don’t know the plan of salvation. They don’t know they have a Savior or why they might even need one. So many people don’t have the blessing of the constant companionship of a comforter – a gift I received at the young age of 8.

Am I a good steward of these spiritual blessings? I hope to be. This is why I hunger and thirst after more spiritual knowledge and direction from God. I know that I can’t do anything on my own. I know that I need Him. And I am trying to be less like a dumb little goldfish and more like a grateful and good steward.

***

I feel like this blog post is long and meandering. But I really liked President Nelson’s talk. I know that he is a prophet of God. I know that there are a lot of things changing with our church. I know that it hasn’t been fully restored but is still being restored which means we can expect more to change (eat those vitamin pills!). I know that President Nelson has been prepared for this moment.

I’m grateful for President Nelson’s background, education, experiences, and faith. He is a good example to us all, but more than that, I’m grateful he has chosen to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands. It is the Lord’s church. We are His creations, His children. What a comfort it is to know this!

A Really Nice and Not Off-putting Topic (Pride!)

I figured that I shouldn’t name the title of this blog post “pride,” because that tends to put people off. But…that’s what this blog post is all about for today. It’s been on my mind a lot. The Lord has been teaching me a lot about my pride, and I’ve come to the conclusion that nearly every problem I have – my weaknesses, my fears, my irritations, etc. – all start with a seed of pride. And if I can root out that pride, then I can get closer to my Heavenly Father.

flower
This has nothing to do with anything. Just pretty.

What is Pride?

President Uchtdorf explained:

“In the scriptures we find plenty of examples of good and righteous people who rejoice in righteousness and at the same time glory in the goodness of God. Our Heavenly Father Himself introduced his Beloved Son with the words ‘in whom I am well pleased.’ … I believe there is a difference between being proud of certain things and being prideful.” – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I echo President Uchtdorf’s belief. I will be concentrating on the sin of pridefulness – not the idea that you are “proud” of your children when they have done something good. or the like.

So – again – what is pride?

Imagine for a moment that you are a parent of young children. You are reading the Book of Mormon together, and on this particular day, you are reading the Book of Fourth Nephi. The people had been righteous and happy, and then something begins to disturb their happiness. You read the following with your family:

“And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.” – 4 Nephi 1:24

Your children, who are – let’s imagine – 5, 7, and 9, then ask, What is pride?

What do you think your answer might be? Perhaps it would sound like this: Pride is when you think you are better than someone else. You might brag. You might try to show that you think that you are better than other people by getting things like nice clothes, toys are cars. And then you might make fun of the people who don’t have those things.”

This is an adequate and true description of pride, but it is only a part of it.

In 1989, the prophet at that time – President Ezra Taft Benson – gave a general conference talk titled Beware of Pride. About Pride he stated:

“Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.” – President Ezra Taft Benson

Now this is interesting! Pride is enmity towards god. And I’m grateful that President Benson went on to explain enmity because, without his definition, it would still be difficult to put our finger on the core of pride. So – pride, then is – hatred to God, hostility to God, or a state of opposition against God.

I will confess that it has taken me quite a while to understand this definition of pride, and why President Benson would describe pride as the universal sin: the great vice.

***

I was about 11 years old when President Benson gave this talk on pride. I have read it once or twice in my life, but I never really applied the entire definition of enmity. It puzzled me sometimes – to hear so much about pride. I mean, I go to church. I love God. And all these people around me do, too. Do I have a problem with pride? Do I have enmity toward God? Or is this some problem that “the world” has?

I mean – I pray to Him! I love Him!

But take a closer look at that last phrase in President Benson’s description of enmity…that in being in a “state of opposition against God.” I would guess that this part of the definition is the part that is most applicable to those of us who have covenanted with God and who are striving to keep our covenants with Him because we love Him.

I will share two personal experiences that illustrate this kind of pride.

One

Years ago, I was a newly called second counselor in the Young Women’s presidency in my ward. The woman who was the prior second counselor was still serving in the Young Women’s organization, but in a different capacity. As we were transitioning, she was very helpful…maybe a little too helpful.

I’ll be honest. I felt like she was stepping on my toes. I was even getting a bit annoyed at times. Irritated. Every meeting I went to, every activity with the young women, every time I opened my mouth to speak, it seemed as if her voice would pipe up before I could get my words out. I felt purposeless, undermined, and a little confused. Why would I be called to serve if someone else was just going to do my job?

Now, I do love God. And I knew that this kind of irritation wasn’t Christlike, nor was it helpful – for anyone. I knew that it wouldn’t serve me, my young women, or this woman – who was actually my friend! I didn’t want to be annoyed. So, I prayed about it.

As I prayed, I felt prompted to pray for her – to be grateful for her service and for her love of the youth.

This began to soften my heart, but I was still frustrated with myself. Why would I let this situation annoy me so much? Not only that – she was one of my friends, and now she was driving me crazy! I didn’t want to feel this way!

After bring grateful, the spirit continued to prompt my prayer. As I searched in my heart, I felt the spirit whisper to my soul: Why does situation this bother you so much?

I tried to answer honestly. Well, it’s a problem. There are too many voices in charge, and the young women don’t know who to look to.

Then I felt an answer to this concern: Yes. It’s a problem. God’s is a house of order. And there is a simple solution. But it still doesn’t answer the question of why you are bothered and annoyed. You don’t need to have a spirit of contention or anger.

As I searched in my heart, I realized: The reason why this bothers me so much is because I feel stupid. I don’t like being told what to do. And corrected all the time. I’m not an idiot.

As I voiced this in my prayer, I realized, And my annoyance turns into a temptation to prove to her that I’m NOT stupid! That I’m the one who’s in charge!”

Pride.

The Spirit whispered to me, You know you’re not stupid. You know that I know that you’re not stupid. What does it matter what anyone else thinks?

I started to understand what the Lord was trying to teach me. I was worried – not so much about the organization of God’s house; not so much about His young women. I was worried about what my friend thought about me, and what the young women thought about me, and what that ultimately meant about me. In other words, I was more concerned with their opinions than with the truth – what God’s opinion about me was, and what my responsibilities to Him and the Youth were.

Because of my prideful worries, my heart was beginning to turn in opposition against Him, and I was allowing space in my heart for anger and frustration.

Thankfully, the Lord corrected me. I was able to see clearly. A good, positive solution for the legitimate problem was found, and our friendship remained intact. In fact, she never knew about the feelings I was having!

If the Lord hadn’t helped me to discover that pride was at the root of my anger, then the outcome would have ben drastically different, probably petty, and damaging for all involved.

Two – More of my pride

I had just moved to a new ward, and I was getting acclimated to the people and place. I received a text from the missionaries asking me if my daughters could help a sister in our relief society.

(We homeschool, so this seemed to be an option). Before putting much thought into it, I responded “Of course!” and after I sent the text, I felt a prompting: You’re daughters can’t help her today. Just because they are homeschooling doesn’t mean that ‘nothing’ is happening. They can’t help – they have schoolwork to do!

I didn’t want to let the missionaries down, so I texted them to say that actually, the girls couldn’t help, but I could. They responded, “Thank you Sister Choco! You are a SAINT!” uh … oh… After receiving that message, I felt another prompting, You can’t help her at that time! You have an appointment with your scriptures and prayers. If you put it off now you will have trouble doing it in the future. This is sacred time. You can’t help her today.

It was really hard, but I knew I had been prompted by the Spirit, so even though the missionaries had just called me a “SAINT!” I immediately texted them again, and backed out of serving a sister – in need. I felt stupid about it. And conflicted.

I felt pulled in two directions – one because I knew that it was the Spirit that prompted me to say no. But also because serving is a good thing to do! And I wanted to serve and help. Not to mention that I felt horrible for flaking out on the missionaries and this woman!

Later on in the day, I kept my appointment with prayer and scripture study, and I pondered the troubled feeling I was experiencing.

I expressed sorrow that I wasn’t serving this woman in my prayer. But then I felt a prompting from the Spirit: Why are you troubled about this? It was a spiritual prompting.

Why was I troubled? I realized Well, I want the missionaries and the people here in this ward to know that I am willing to serve.

The answer: What does it matter what they think? I know that you’re willing to serve.

Pride.

Ah ha! My willingness to sere is good! Yes! But my concern about others knowing it – is pride! Sneaky little thing. And that concern was setting me in a state of opposition against God – which is ENMITY!

I’m sure many of you can relate to me here. There is no open hostility or hatred that I feel towards Heavenly Father. But there are so many times that my state is in opposition against Him. This is why President Benson stated:

“Pride is the universal sin, the great vice. Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice.” – Ezra Taft Benson

and:

“Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion.” – Ezra Taft Benson

A Solution

Before this sounds too dreadful, I want to mention that in each example I gave earlier, as soon as I recognized that my real problem was pride (rather than the perceived problems – an overstepping helper and a reputation) – as soon as I realized my real problem, a feeling of hope came over me.

This is because pride is a relatively simple sin with a very simple fix. (key word: SIMPLE!)

We can’t change our pasts. We can’t change the things that have happened to us that might give us sensitivities or fears. We can’t change the experiences that shaped the core of our personalities. We can’t control what people think about us. We can’t change any of the problems that are beyond our control. But we do have control of our pride. We have the choice to repent and set ourselves in alignment with God instead of being in opposition against Him.

And we can feel the blessings and joy that flow from this decision.

***

How do we detect and then overcome pride? The short answer: Humility.

I think that the most effective way to do this is through earnest prayer.

I know that if we will go to the Lord and keep asking questions until we get to the root of the problems we are facing, then He will help us to find the possible undercurrent of pride that might be creating drag in our lives. …

Ask, ask, ask…it might go like this:

Why?**Why am I frustrated? Because she is stepping on my toes.** Why does that make you mad? Because I don’t like it.** Why don’t you like it? It makes me feel stupid.** Who cares if you feel stupid? Maybe people around me will think I’m stupid. ** Why does it matter if they think you are stupid? If they think I’m stupid, maybe they won’t walk to talk to me. Maybe they’ll reject me. ** Why does it matter if they reject you? I know you’re not stupid Choco. I will never reject you.

Keep asking questions until you get to the bottom of your problem, and I guarantee that this will also be accompanied with a feeling of patient love that only a living and loving Father in Heaven can give.

***

This post is getting long, so I’ll wrap it up. Remember that nature abhors a vacuum. When you start to recognize the pride that may be lurking deep in your heart, fill it with something good! Pride is always trying to creep right back in.

I have found that one of the most effective things to fill our hearts with is gratitude. It is probably the simplest and most effective way to get out of a state of opposition against God and on board with Him instead. I read a great quote:

“To be grateful is to pause, think and ponder on the goodness of our existence. For people of faith, stopping our busy-ness to consider our blessings (no matter how small) is more than a nice idea–it is a transformative process in which our souls are drawn upward in love to God, who then points us outward to lift others.” (From Mormon Newsroom – The Global Gift of Gratitude)

Okay…so really, this is the end. We lave a living and loving Heavenly Father. I have experienced His loving tutelage and miracles in my life. I also know that pride is a real problem – THE ESSENTIAL PROBLEM for the natural man and woman. Despite this immaturity and pride, our Heavenly Father still loves us and He is patient with us as we stumble through our existence on this earth.

If we will seek, He will help us find the ways that we need to correct ourselves to be sure that we are aligned with Him. He has provided us with a Savior, who has atoned for our sins – so we can be realigned and made at one with God. Such alignment with a loving God will bring us sublime happiness and joy – because His state is a state of happiness and joy.

***

Thanks for making it this far. What do you do to strip pride from your heart, so that you can feel peace and joy in this life?

Joy Is…Week 1/52

Well, I posted about my joy project last week, and I’ve made the decision that I will post one highlight from the week on the blog. I’m not doing it daily because it takes too long.

I am keeping my daily experiences in my special joy journal, but I’m only blogging this weekly.

So – for this week, I think that I’ll have to share the experience I had today.

T-Rex and Sasquatch in Primary
T-Rex and Sasquatch in Primary

In general, I find a lot of joy each week in primary. I really love my calling. However, today was extra-special. It was the T-Rex’s first day in Primary. He is my fourth and youngest child, so I must admit that it was bittersweet to see him growing up like that.

But, the T-Rex is so sweet. He’s so vibrant, active, and funny. He’s particular. He’s outnumbered in a home full of girls. I wasn’t exactly sure how he’d like sitting in Primary.

It turns out, he loves it!

In primary today, he insisted on sitting next to his sister. (I let him, no big deal to me). I couldn’t help it – I had to snap a photo! While I was teaching the singing time, I asked “What kinds of things make you cry?”
T-Rex raised his hand (!) and responded, “I cry when I can’t have hot chocolate.”
(for some context, we were talking about the experience that Christ has in the Americas when He visits the people shortly after his resurrection, blesses the children, and wept. We talked about how usually we cry when we’re sad, but Jesus was crying when He was happy.)

(Oh, and another note – I was so surprised that T-Rex raised his hand. He’s kind of shy. I was delighted that he wanted to contribute to my lesson. And, yes, it’s true – he definitely cries when he can’t have hot chocolate…don’t we all?!)

I could really relate to the concept of Christ weeping for joy because throughout the day, I felt like my heart was brimming with love and joy, and I wanted to cry or jump or something.

Seeing my little ones in primary brings me joy. 🙂 🙂 🙂

***
What brought you joy this week?

Joy is…2015

Last year, I started a “Joy is…” project where I chronicled a moment of joy that I found each day. It started off really well. At first I was blogging about it every day, but I have to be honest, that was time consuming and difficult. So, then I was only writing the joyful moments down.

Just a pretty little picture for fun...and because this blog post needs a picture!
Just a pretty little picture for fun…and because this blog post needs a picture!

Honestly, I did only okay.

However, the exercise really changed me. Because I spent more time seeking joy, I found it. I found joy in both the obvious joyful moments and in difficult moments. I feel like the Spirit helped me to better discern the truth of trials and difficulties (that it would be consecrated for my gain – see 2 Nephi 2:2). Because I was looking for joy even in difficult moments, they were more sublime even as I suffered.

As I said. I wasn’t the best at this.

In fact, I know that some things could have gone a lot better last year if I had kept up the habit.

So, I have re-committed myself to keeping track of joyful moments throughout the year. I think that I’ll share one a week. (On Sundays). In order to make this a more exciting thing to do – I have created a cute journal to keep it in. You can find it here if you want to check it out.

This year, I intend to find more joy in my life, live more meaningfully, have balance, and reach my goals. Yes I do have goals. No, I’m not putting them here on my blog. 🙂 There are things I want to do, but more importantly, I am hoping to become a better, happier person. I know that by recognizing the joyful moments in my life I will be able to experience more joy and bring more joy to others, too!

What do you want for this year? What are you resolving to be and to do?