Opposing Forces: Satan (Part 2/2) – 2 Nephi 2:14-18

You can read 2 Nephi 2:14-18 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, shortly before his death, teaches Jacob.
  • There is a God.
  • He has created all things: heaven and earth, all things in them, and things both to act and things to be acted upon.
  • To bring about God’s eternal purposes, He allowed for opposition.
  • Likewise, to bring about His eternal purposes, He gave us agency. But we really couldn’t act for ourselves if we didn’t have choices.
  • An angel of God, according to the the scriptures that Lehi had read (Isaiah!), had fallen from heaven and became a devil.
  • This devil sought that which was evil before God. (This was the purpose of his being thrust out of Heaven.)
  • Because of the fall from heaven, the devil became miserable forever and sought the misery of all mankind. He wanted to destroy God’s work and glory.
  • The devil, therefore, tempted Eve by lying to her about the effects of partaking of the forbidden fruit.

Opposing Forces: God and Satan

Last time, we talked about Heavenly Father. You can read the post here. Today, we are studying the force and being that opposes our Heavenly Father: the devil.

Typically, I like spending time studying things that are really uplifting and interesting to me – faith, the Savior, charity, etc. I don’t always like studying the devil much because it can be a little depressing. However, it is good for us to understand a little bit about him, because he is a true force in our lives. When we understand a little bit more about him, we will also learn more about God and we will be able to make better choices.

So…here we go. In 2 Nephi, we read:

“And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.

And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.” – 2 Nephi 2:17-18

This is a really brief explanation of Satan.

Fallen Angel

Lehi’s understanding of Satan’s “origin story” came from the scriptures. We don’t know exactly which scriptures he refers to here. Nor do we have the entirety of the scriptures that were included in the Brass Plates (there are lost scriptures). So we have to do a little guess work.

We know that Isaiah teaches the following:

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” – Isaiah 14:12-15

It seems that Isaiah understood that the devil fell from heaven. He fell from grace. And this was because of his prideful ambitions.

Additionally, we have more revealed scripture now that gives us insight on what was written in the Bible. In Moses, we read:

“And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.

Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;

And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” – Moses 4:1-4

Here we learn that Satan had a plan for the “salvation” of all of the souls in heaven. (That’s you and me!) HOWEVER, his plan varied from God’s plan.

One – Satan’s plan destroyed our agency. Lehi reminded us again and again that God granted us that we could be agents to act for ourselves and not be acted upon. (See 2 Nephi 2:13, 14, 15, 16, 27).)

Of course, the irony about Satan is that he sought to destroy the agency of man, yet this same agency had been given to him by God. I didn’t word that well. But we see this a lot in the world around us. Dictatorships are often run by men who don’t want to give their constituents basic freedoms and rights that they themselves enjoy! This was part of Satan’s plan – to destroy our agency and force submission and “redemption” , while he enjoyed his own agency and choice.

Two – In addition to destroying our agency, Satan sought for complete power. He had the audacity to say to God: wherefore, give me thine honor. The Savior, on the other hand, was willing to comply with God’s plan and he meekly said to God: Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.

Satan’s plan was selfish. It lacked glory and mercy. It lacked opposition and agency. It lacked joy.

Satan fell from Heaven

Satan’s plan was rejected, and he wasn’t happy. He waged a war on Heavenly Father. Many followed him. They lost the war in heaven, and were thrust out. Therefore, Lucifer became that fallen angel that Lehi mentioned.

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Fallen Angel (detail), by Alexandre Cabanel (1847)

Satan Became Miserable Forever

Think about this for a second – falling from Heaven. Being banished from Heaven means that you are no longer dwelling with God…It means that you are no longer dwelling in light, happiness, hope, faith, and life. Instead, Satan was banished to darkness, misery, doubt, fear, and death.

Satan chose this. He chose misery. He chose darkness and death. He let his pride rule, and it led to his destruction. When I think of Satan’s banishment from Heaven and the ensuing misery, all I can think of is…YIKES.

Satan Seeks Also the Misery of All Mankind

Here is the real kicker. Satan was banished from Heaven, but he still has some power and he uses it to be God’s direct opposition. Where God’s work and glory is our immortality and eternal life; Satan’s is the opposite. Satan’s work is our mortality and eternal death.

Just as Heavenly Father is actively working in the details of our lives – blessing us with tender mercies and miracles; Satan is actively working in the details of our lives. He is tempting us – constantly tempting us.

Just as Lehi taught, we wouldn’t be able to act for ourselves unless we were enticed by one force or another. Both the Lord and Satan are enticing, persuading, and prompting us to choose what they have to offer. And we are free to choose. The Lord offers us life and liberty. Satan offers us death and captivity.

It is up to us to recognize the reality of these two forces – good and evil; Heavenly Father and Satan. This is how we can then discern when we are faced with choices in our lives. Heavenly Father’s work and glory is centered on our success and happiness. It has been this from the beginning. Satan’s purpose is not much different than that time when he started the war in heaven. He wants absolute power. His glory isn’t our success and happiness. Satan feels glorified when we lose our agency, control, and power. Satan feels accomplished when he destroys our happiness. He wants death, destruction, and pain. He still wants our agency! This is accomplished through sin and addiction. Everything that Satan does now is to this end – our misery. We don’t need to be fooled.

And we can thank our Father in Heaven that we have our agency. Satan didn’t win that war. He doesn’t have to win this war either. Though the force of evil is a real force, there is an opposing force – it is good. We can’t have good without evil, they are connected, but we can choose to focus on good and let the forces of good have power in our lives.

Opposing Forces: God and Satan (1/2) – 2 Nephi 2:14-18

You can read 2 Nephi 2:14-18 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, shortly before his death, teaches Jacob.
  • There is a God.
  • He has created all things: heaven and earth, all things in them, and things both to act and things to be acted upon.
  • To bring about God’s eternal purposes, He allowed for opposition.
  • Likewise, to bring about His eternal purposes, He gave us agency. But we really couldn’t act for ourselves if we didn’t have choices.
  • An angel of God, according to the the scriptures that Lehi had read (Isaiah!), had fallen from heaven and became a devil.
  • This devil sought that which was evil before God. (This was the purpose of his being thrust out of Heaven.)
  • Because of the fall from heaven, the devil became miserable forever and sought the misery of all mankind. He wanted to destroy God’s work and glory.
  • The devil, therefore, tempted Eve by lying to her about the effects of partaking of the forbidden fruit.

Opposing Forces: Heavenly Father and Satan

So, last time, we pondered the concept of opposition. You can read it here.

We live in a world full of opposing forces – day and night, sleep and wake, high tide and low tide, summer and winter, north pole and south pole, etc. These opposing forces also include good and evil. And the ultimate examples of opposition in all things are God and the devil.

Today, we will study the verses above to learn more about God.

There is A God

First and foremost, we have to understand that there is a God. This is the basis of it all. If there was no God, then there would be no devil. There would be nothing. None of this would matter. But there is a God.

We have the witness of the prophets, the world around us, and the Holy Ghost that tells us there is a God.

He Hath Created All things

The God we believe in created all things – the Heavens, the earth, everything in the earth, and all of the things on the earth.

Columbine Flower

Look Up

Heber Valley Golden Hour

Late Summer Sunflower

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Quick note: I’m constantly amazed and filled with hope when I contemplate that the God we believe in created the earth. Look around – look at the sweeping views or look at the tiniest details and ponder the fact that these are God’s creations.

Included in Gods creations: each of us!!!

birthday

What a comfort it is to know that the ruling force of this entire universe is the God that created us and He loves us.

Let’s think about that a second more. Our Heavenly Father, the ruler of this universe, governs with faith, hope, charity, benevolence, justice, patience, and mercy. His is a nature of happiness. I know that there are more qualities that can describe our God, but when we think of our Heavenly Father we ought to keep these traits in mind. We will be studying the devil next – and he also has a host of qualities. We will contrast those traits with Heavenly Father’s.

For now, though, take a moment to think of Heavenly Father, and the way He governs and guides.

The Lord Gave Us Agency

Lehi teaches:

“Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” – 2 Nephi 2:16

When I think of the many things that God has done – the creation of the earth, for example – the thing that I find most amazing is that He gave each of us the gift of agency. He created this earth, the solar systems, the galaxies. He created our bodies, our organs, our tissues, our cells. He has infinite understanding – from the most massive concepts (like the universe) to the smallest concepts (sub-atomic).

He did all of this work, and then He gave us agency.

He lets us choose our own paths, attitudes, decisions – even if we mess everything up.

Now, in order for the agency to have any kind of effect on our lives, then Heavenly Father also had to allow for the forces that opposed His good ones. Meaning He had to allow another being to reign with qualities that included doubt, despair, pride, hate, injustice, impatience, and cruelty. Heavenly Father had to allow another – whose nature was that of misery.

So he did. And we will study this being in the next blog post.

But for now, so that we don’t end on such a depressing note, we can remember the Lord. We can remember that He is a force and power available to us, if we will use our agency to choose Him.

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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?!?!

Blogging the Book of Mormon – The Nature of God – 1 Nephi 10:18-22

You can read 1 Nephi 10:18-22 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi wants to know the mysteries of God. He is also testifying of the kind of god that God is.

The Nature of our Heavenly Father

I’ve been so fascinated by the scripture in 1 Nephi 2 –

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

I don’t know if this is the most important scripture, but I think that it is quickly making its way into the top ten of “most important scriptures.” (Interesting idea for a post, huh?!).

Why do I think that it is so important?—because in this scripture, we get the key to trusting God. Laman and Lemuel murmur because they know not the dealings of that God who had created them.

While we might not outright murmur against God, it can be hard to conjure up the kind of faith and trust in God that made Nephi so courageous. As I’ve been writing these last few days – Nephi isn’t mythical or magical. He is normal like you and me. Yes he was courageous. And we can be courageous, too. How?—by knowing the God that created us.

So – here in 1 Nephi, 10, we can learn more about Heavenly Father. Through understanding more about His nature, we can develop the kind of trust in Him that will help to make us courageous.

One – God is a Giver of Gifts

“I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 10:17

Heavenly Father has given us the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is a gift of God to all who diligently seek Him.

We shouldn’t confuse this with the power of the Holy Ghost. The gift of the Holy Ghost is a gift that is given by they laying on of hands by those in authority. It is a gift that is given by way of covenants and ordinances. We must be baptized, by immersion, and then one who is authorized and worthy to hold and administer in the Melchizedek Priesthood can bestow this gift on us.

We must diligently seek God first – and then covenant with Him by following Christ into the waters of baptism. Additionally, we must be willing to keep His commandments and always remember Him, otherwise we remove ourselves from the companionship and gift of the Holy Ghost.

There will be more study on this later on (in 2 Nephi 32, for sure…maybe before, too.)

The real point is – God hasn’t left us alone on this earth. He has given us a gift that empowers us and makes us capable. It is the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I truly can’t imagine a better gift. When I was younger, I kind of felt like it was a cheesy concept – the Holy Ghost being a gift. But now, I realize that there has been no better gift in my life than the constant companionship of the comforter.

And this is the kind of God we believe in – one who will give us constant access to a member of the godhead as a gift.

Two – Consistent

“For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever;…” – 1 Nephi 10:18

Wasatch Back Sunset

Heavenly Father is consistent and unchanging. Now, we have to understand, that means that Heavenly Father is consistent and unchanging. This doesn’t mean that His commandments are unchanging. We can look at dietary codes – dietary codes have always existed because Heavenly Father is unchanging and He cares not only about only our spiritual health but also our temporal health. Although our Father in Heaven is consistent, the codes themselves have changed – they are based on time periods and place. Though the Word of Wisdom is a little different than the dietary rules of ancient Jews, the concept behind it – the principle with a purpose – has the same purpose. It is God that is unchanging, but He often will change His methods to suit us.

We can trust Him. His intentions are always the same even if his procedures differ. We can trust Him because He loves us – because His work and glory are our immortality and eternal life.

We can also trust that He works the same way. He is a God of miracles. He will reveal to us through His Spirit – the Holy Ghost. We can seek answers faithfully and trust Him – knowing that He Will Answer.

Three – He Has a Plan

“…the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.” – 1 Nephi 10:18

There is a plan for us and for our lives. We aren’t accidental creations of our God. We aren’t mistakes. The Fall, for example, wasn’t a big mess-up. It was a part of a plan. This plan has always had a way to provide us success. This way is the Savior. If we repent and come unto Him, then there is a way for us to return to God.

And this way has existed even before the earth was created.

We can trust God because not only is He God, but He has a plan!.

Four – Eternal

“…the course of the Lord is one eternal round.” – 1 Nephi 10:19

I really hope that I revisit this concept soon because maybe it is worth an in-depth study on its own. But for now, when I think of “one eternal round,” I think of the eternal nature of God. I think of the Hymn “If You Could Hie to Kolob”:

The works of God continue,
And worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression
Have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter;
There is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit;
There is no end to race.” – If You Could Hie to Kolob – really go read all of the lyrics to this song. Amazing

Another quote I really like that has helped me to understand more about “one eternal round” was given by Elder Maxwell:

“Repeatedly God has described His course as reiterative, “one eternal round”…. We mortals sometimes experience boredom in the routine repetition of our mortal tasks, including even good works; and thus vulnerable, we are urged not to grow weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9; D&C 64:33; 84:80; Alma 37:34). But given God’s divine love, there is no boredom on His part amid His repetitive work, for his course, though one eternal round, involves continuous redemption for His children; it is full of goodness and mercy as His long-suffering shows His love in action. In fact we cannot even comprehend the infinite blessings which await the faithful—” eye hath not seen, nor ear heard . . .” (1 Corinthians 2:9)” – Neal A. Maxwell

He is eternally working, eternally creating, eternally existing. He is doing this with pure love and without boredom. What a loving God. I can’t even imagine. I get annoyed. I get bored. I get sick of my kids asking the same thing. Why do they need dinner every single night? Didn’t they just eat yesterday?

Yet God’s is one eternal round, and we can take comfort in this. Even though He has had billions of children, He still keeps listening to us, loving us, and answering our prayers.

Five – Clean

“…no unclean thing can dwell with God…” – 1 Nephi 10:21

God is clean. He is free from the filth of wickedness and sin. And He dwells in cleanliness. Not only that, but we learn that no unclean thing can dwell with Him.

We need to remember this because there will be a point when we are judged for our works on this earth. Does this mean that we need to be “perfect” in and of ourselves – and without the Savior? NO! THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE! Remember – God has a plan, and there is a way. It is through Christ.

Christ will perfect us. Christ will make us clean.

And yes, we must be perfect and clean to enter into God’s kingdom.

This is not taught to us to make us feel bad about being imperfect. We are taught this truth so that we will come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.

If we choose not to come unto Christ, if we choose to remain in wickedness, then we will be unclean. And we will not be permitted to dwell with God – whose state is a state of never-ending joy and peace.

So – we must remember this fact, and when we consider it along with the other facts – that God has given us the gift of the Holy Ghost, that He is Consistent, that God has a plan, that He is eternal – we can have hope! We can be clean! There is a way and so many blessings that make life and peace and joy (forever!) with Him possible.

And, when we understand these things about the God who created us, we will reduce our tendency to murmur, and we will instead supplant that tendency with faith and trust in God.

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!

We are Children of God

I was assigned to give a talk today in church. I feel like it went well enough. In my opinion, we always learn more from the process of preparing a talk than anyone who hears it. However, if you are interested in what I said in church today, read on…

As you can guess, I received a call from the Bishop, and he asked me to speak in church. When I informed my family of my assignment, they inquired, “What are you supposed to speak on?”

I answered, “Just my thoughts or something inspired from the talks in General Conference. I’m not sure what I’ll speak on yet.”

My seven-year old daughter leapt up and said, “I know!” She got a piece of paper and went to the table. About ten minutes later, she produced this:

Isn't the cutest thing? She actually wrote a talk for me!
Isn’t the cutest thing? She actually wrote a talk for me!

I felt that my daughter made a good thesis that I will expand on:

We will live with our Father in Heaven again.

From this statement, which could have been written by any of the seven year old, the following points are implied:

    1. We have a Father in Heaven
    2. Our lives have an eternal potential
      • Which Heavenly Father has made possible for each of us.

We Have a Father in Heaven; We Are Children of God

In the book of Moses, we have a detailed account of Mosess’ experience speaking with God face-to-face on a high mountain.

We read:

“And he saw God face to face, and talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.” – Moses 1:2

So – Moses was on a high mountain, speaking to God – a being so glorious and powerful that Moses wasn’t able to endure God’s presence without holy intervention. God had to bestow some of His glory on Moses for Moses to handle His presence!

The Lord then made a declaration about Himself – that He is the Lord, God Almighty – and then asked Moses a question:

“And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?” – Moses 1:3

An interesting question. And let’s think about it for a second.

Some people come to this earth and have very short lives. My brother was born on October 28, 1992, and only 18 years later, he passed away on June 11, 2011. Like every inhabitant on this earth, his days were numbered.

Others live long lives. My grandmother was born on October 27, 1929 and she passed away on October 9, 2015. She lived a good 85, nearly 86 years, but this is, by no means endless. Like all who lived before her or after, her days had a beginning and an end.

Moses, who lived in anciently was acquainted with this pattern we all know – people are born, they live, and then they die. And yet he was speaking face to face with a glorious being that was also endless.

Immediately after asking this question, as Moses is bathed in God’s glory just to be able to endure His presence, the Lord then says to Moses:

“And, behold, thou art my son; …” – Moses 1:4

Now imagine Moses – who had not been raised by his own parents, but had been raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter knowing that he was not her biological child. We know that Moses’s mother was able to help nurse him as a small child, but I don’t know that Moses had any relationship afterward with his biological parents. He was raised as the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter.

By the time Moses had this experience with God, he was in the desert – having been banished by the people who had raised him; having been rejected by the ones who might have been closest to resembling a father and a mother.

And then, there, face-to-face, transfigured by the power of God to endure His presence, Moses learned of his divine identity. He is a son of God.

***

One summer night, when I was about 12 years old, I was sleeping outside, in the yard, in a tent. I’m not sure if it was the darkness of night or for some other reason, but I was feeling lonely. I was at my dad’s house. Now, I’m the only child of my dad’s that’s not biologically his. Sometimes this fact troubled me. That night, I lay there in the tent, under my “California Raisin” sleeping bag, and I couldn’t fall asleep. Confused and sad, trying to understand my identity and place in my family, I looked up to the sky, and then I saw lightning.

I am a classic fraidey-cat, and when I was 12, I was especially scared of dark, ominous situations like these. I saw the lightning, and counted for thunder. It never came. However, I kept thinking, “I need to get up and get in the house.” The yard was dark and scary, and my sleeping bag was safe-ish and warm. I was too scared to move, let alone leave the tent.

The thought came to say a prayer.

I said a prayer, and I was overwhelmed with love. The threat of a storm wasn’t in my mind. In fact, the prayer that was answered had less to do with my fear of the lightning, and more about how I was feeling before-hand. In that moment, I felt God’s love, and I knew that I was a Daughter of God. Though I couldn’t pinpoint my biological identity, it didn’t matter because at that moment, I knew that I was a daughter of God.

I wish I could impart the comfort this knowledge gave me. I can’t adequately describe the deep peace that such a witness gives. All I can say is that I know I’m a daughter of God. I know He loves me, and that He knows me, personally.

It doesn’t end with Moses nor does it end with me. We are all children of God.

Imagine if we all really understood this simple truth.

In his conference talk, Elder Hallstrom stated:

“In today’s world, no matter where we live and no matter what our circumstances are, it is essential that our preeminent identity is as a child of God. Knowing that will allow our faith to flourish, will motivate our continual repentance, and will provide the strength to be steadfast and immovable throughout our mortal journey.” – Elder Donald A. Hallstrom

Our Lives Have an Eternal Potential

When we come to realize that we are children of God, then we then start to glimpse other truths: our lives didn’t begin the day we were born, but we had a spiritual existence with God before coming to Earth. Additionally, after we die, our spirits will live on.

Heavenly Father, speaking face-to-face with Moses taught:

“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” – Moses 1:39

It is important to understand that God’s work is not only a spiritual work. His work is that both our bodies and spirits will be immortal. His glory is that we will be able to live with Him again.

We often hear about the promise of Elijah as recorded in Malachi – that Elijah “shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers,…” (Malachi 4:6). I have always thought of this within the context of our earthly families – both immediate and extended. I’ve thought of my heart being turned to my ancestors and their hearts turned to me. I’ve thought of my heart being turned toward my children and posterity, and their hearts turned back to me.

I hate to admit that I’ve never considered that this promise applies also to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Our Heavenly Father’s heart is continually turned toward each of us. In fact, it is turned towards each of us so much so that His entire purpose: His work – and His glory is our immortality and eternal life. For Him, it is all about us.

Eternal Life is Possible Through Christ

After telling Moses His work and His Glory, the Lord taught Moses about the creation and the fall of Adam.

If you think about it, this line of teaching is kind of puzzling. Our Heavenly Father’s work and glory is our immortality and eternal life, so He works for our eternal life. To expand on this teaching, the Lord tells Moses that He created a world. He created our first parents. He placed them in the Garden of Eden, and then He allowed them to be…tempted?…And they fell?…They became susceptible to death?…They were cut off from God? How is death – both spiritual and physical – a fulfillment of God’s work and glory?

Lehi explains:

“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the Garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.”

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

“But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.”

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” – 2 Nephi 2:22-25

The fall was a necessary part of our immortality and eternal life. Without the fall, we wouldn’t be here right now. When the Lord allowed Adam and Eve to fall, His heart was turned toward them and us. It most likely pained our Father to have his crowning creations, His son and daughter, cut off from Him. But His heart was turned toward Adam and Eve – even as they were banished from the Garden of Eden and His presence.

Heavenly Father, with His heart turned toward Adam, Eve, and all of us, knew that we, because of the fall, were susceptible to death and hell – the antithesis of immortality and eternal life. So, He prepared a solution.

Lehi continues:

“And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall…” – 2 Nephi 2:26

Likewise, we learn in the gospel of John:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

We are children of God and capable of living with God eternally through the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Paul teaches:

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:”

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;…” – Romans 8:16-17

What a heritage and what a future! This knowledge – that we are children of God and capable of eternal life – empowers us.

We can look back again to Moses’s experience. The account of the Lord speaking to Moses face-to-face in Moses 1 happened on the mountain of the Lord, before Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. I can’t imagine Moses having the strength or faith to complete His divine mission without such knowledge.

He had to lead a people that were his by blood but not necessarily by experience. He had to go back to the Pharaoh, where he had been raised, and fight for those whom his adoptive people had oppressed for so long. Then he had to lead the children of Israel away from a powerful Egyptian force, and through a sea! Oh – all of this while Moses had a speaking problem!

If you look at Moses’s story without a spiritual perspective, all of the odds are against Him. Yet he was enabled to complete his work because of one simple fact taught to Him by God. As Moses himself stated:

“For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten;” – Moses 1:13

This knowledge helped Moses fend off the temptations of the Devil, it helped Moses as he bargained with the Pharaoh, it helped him deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt, it helped him cross the Red Sea on dry ground, and more.

When we know our spiritual identity – that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father, we, like Moses, are empowered and enabled to do great work in our lives. This knowledge can give us identity, peace, and purpose. It will strengthen us during our own trials. It will propel us to do what we were sent here to do.

If we all had the simple knowledge that we are beloved children of God – well, it would change the world.

We are children of God with the potential to live an eternal life through the love of God and the eternal sacrifice of His Son. Our little primary children know this. And we can know this. We can internalize this truth, and we can experience the power that comes from knowing He is our Father and that He loves us.

How have you come to know that you are a child of God and that He loves you? How might you strengthen your relationship with God and your knowledge that you are one of his beloved children?

A Daughter of God (Individual Worth Value Experience 1) – and a Give-Away

I’m working on Personal Progress with my daughter. It is really a nice experience.

Today, I’m working on Individual Worth Value Experience 1. Before I even began I was touched by the first sentence:You are a daughter of Heavenly Father, who knows you and loves you.”. It’s funny. When I read that, I want to tell my own daughter that it’s true, that she is loved so much. That I know she is a daughter of God. Yet, as I read it, myself, I feel the Spirit whisper to me to remember that I am a daughter of God, He knows me and loves me. Why is it so easy for me to remember how much my own daughters or others are known of and loved by God, yet it is easy for me to forget the same about myself?

But I know that I’m a daughter of God, and I know He loves me.

This value experience assigns the following scriptures: Psalms 8:4-6, Jeremiah 1:5, John 13:34, Doctrine and Covenants 18:10, Abraham 3:22-23, and Joseph Smith-History 1:1-20. After studying these scriptures, we are to “Write in your journal how these scriptures teach you that Heavenly Father knows you, loves you, and is mindful of you.”

Honestly, I get a good feeling when I’m reading these scriptures, but it is the final verse in the final scripture that really stood out to me:

“It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy?” – Joseph Smith History 1:20

What I realize in this scripture is that not only is Heavenly Father mindful of me, but that the Adversary is, too. Just as Heavenly Father pleads with us to know that we are His children, that we, his daughters are beloved and of infinite value; the adversary tries to get us to believe the opposite that our value and love are somehow conditional (usually on our physical traits). This simply is not true, but it doesn’t stop Satan from trying to get us to believe it!

I am reminded of something Elaine Dalton said in a recent conference talk:

“Again I renew the call for a return to virtue. Virtue is the strength and power of daughters of God. What would the world be like if virtue—a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards, including chastity8—were reinstated in our society as a most highly prized value? If immorality, pornography, and abuse decreased, would there be fewer broken marriages, broken lives, and broken hearts? Would media ennoble and enable rather than objectify and degrade God’s precious daughters? If all humanity really understood the importance of the statement “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father,” how would women be regarded and treated?” – Elaine Dalton

I love the line of questioning here, and I want to add a question of my own, How would my life change, how would I regard myself and treat myself, if I really understood that I was a daughter of Heavenly Father, and that He loves me?

Of course, at some level, I know this. But there are times I let myself forget. I get caught up in supposed expectations, I get caught up in chores, and most of all, I get caught up in perfectionism and comparing myself to others. And getting caught up in these things is so insidious because I forget my relationship with God, I forget the love He has for me, I forget that He wants me to be happy.

I know that Heavenly Father is mindful of me. I know that He loves me. I know that He wants me to cleave unto Him as he cleaves unto me (See Jacob 6:5). And I know that if I will accept this truth in my life, I will be able to feel the satisfaction and happiness from knowing that I am loved by an Eternal Father in Heaven.

***
I mentioned in the title of this blog post that there is a give-away…and there is!

Win this!
Win this!

Please head over to Tiger’s blog at Personal Progress Perspectives to enter the contest. She’s giving away a red (for Individual worth) tie-dye tee-shirt. While you may not be all that into tie-dye, the kids love it! So check it out, comment, and win! 🙂