Blogging the Book of Mormon – The Power of the Lord Was with Them – 1 Nephi 13:1-19

You can read 1 Nephi 13:1-19 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • The Angel told Nephi to look.
  • Nephi looked and he saw the many nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles.
  • Nephi saw the formation of a great church.
  • Corruption was rampant.
  • Nephi saw that a man – of the Gentile nations – was “wrought” upon him by the Spirit, and he went forth on the ocean – to the promised land.
  • Many of the Gentiles then came to the promised land. The seed of Nephi’s brethren were scattered and smitten by the Gentiles.
  • The Gentiles prospered in the land.
  • The Gentiles who had gone out of their mother countries humbled themselves. They battled against their mother countries, and they won. These poor settlers of the Americas (the promised land) were no longer captives of their “mother countries” (European countries).

The Power of the Lord Was with Them

This section of scripture is an interesting prophecy that Nephi receives – of what will happen in relatively modern times – the “discovery” of the Americas and then the migration of people from Europe (and other continents) to the American continents.

Virgin of the Navigators Alejo Fernandez
Virgin of the Navigators, by Alejo Fernandez, 1531-36

This is an interesting part of the vision that Nephi is having, and it is worth investigating, but that really isn’t my focus for today. There is no way for me to do a comprehensive study of the Book of Mormon here on this blog. Instead, I’m simply sharing insights and impressions that I feel as I study. So thanks for reading along with me.

So – here’s what I’m interested in today:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.” – 1 Nephi 13:16

So – back to the context for a minute, then I think we can learn more.

The Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity – the people who came to the Americas from Europe – did humble themselves before the Lord. After doing this, the power of the Lord was with them. How was this manifest? Well, let’s just think about it for a minute.

The scriptures then teach:

“And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.

18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.

19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.” – 1 Nephi 13:17-19

In case you didn’t already know, I’m an American. So, I can’t help but read this with the framework of being from the U.S. I can’t help but think of the Redcoats, the Patriots, and the Revolutionary War. I can’t help but think of a world-class navy that was defeated by a rag-tag but blessed group of men who wanted freedom from taxation and control by a faraway land. I can’t help but think of 1776, the Declaration of Independence, and then the following Revolutionary War.

I mean, I used to live in the Philadephia area. I used to live in Boston. I still have family in both cities. When I read these scriptures, I can’t help but think of the absolutely miraculous history of our country, and I can echo what was taught to Nephi – The gentiles who had come to the Americas humbled themselves before the Lord, and the power of the Lord was with them.

I believe that every country has a great history. I know that there are heroes, patriots, and even villains in every nation and in all of history. I don’t think that the history of the U.S. is more special than any other history. I know that the only reason that it is being shown to Nephi is because it will impact his future generations.

Humbled Before the Lord

So, we learn that the Gentiles humbled themselves before the Lord. What does this mean, exactly?

The first thing that comes to my mind is that they were prayerful. I can’t think of anything that shows more humility than true, honest, faithful, meaningful, intentional prayer. (I know – there were a lot of adjectives there!) But really, I mean it! I don’t want to be mistaken. I’m not talking about the things that we sometimes “say” and then call a prayer. I’m talking about true communion with God.

And I want to openly admit, right here, that I’m no where near as consistent as I’d like to be when it comes to communion with God through prayer. My prayers are not great right now. I say them, yes, but I know that I can improve on how I communicate with the Lord. I’m working on it.

Anyway – another thing that comes to mind is the following scripture:

“19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” – Mosiah 3:19

When we humble ourselves to the Lord, we will put off the natural man. When we humble ourselves, we become as a child (which, by the way WE ARE!) We are His children, and when we take the time to remember that, it becomes more natural to accept, love, and trust our Father in Heaven as a Father in Heaven!

The Power of the Lord

When we humble ourselves to the Lord, then we become open to having His power with us. (WE MUST BE HUMBLE!) Humility isn’t a hack. So you can’t “act” humble and then expect His power.

It’s interesting, too. I don’t know how to say it, so hopefully my train of thought will be easy enough to follow. I’ve had the following scripture on my mind for the past few days:

“Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—” – Doctrine and Covenants 45:3

In this scripture, we learn that the Savior is our advocate with the Father and that He is pleading our cause.

An advocate is someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. In this case, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, the Redeemer, the Creator is our Advocate. Which means that we are His cause. And He is publicly supporting our Cause – to His Father.

The Gentiles, or European settlers humbled themselves to the Lord, the Advocate, and He pleaded their cause – freedom from their “mother countries” – to His Father in Heaven.

And, we have hindsight. We know it worked. We know that against all odds, The United States defeated the British. This led to nearly every other country in the Americas eventually winning their freedom from the European countries that had colonized them. We know that the power of the Lord was with them! They succeeded!

Personal Application

I’m so grateful for this example. I’m not trying to be so US-centric here, but it is just the history that I am the most familiar with since it is my country. If I was from another country, I’m sure I would have another story to share here. And I do know that all of these stories matter.

In any case, for today, the lesson isn’t so much about U.S. history, but it is that we can trust that God will answer our prayers.

I’m so grateful for this example because I have my own prayers that need to be answered. There are miracles that I’m praying for. I think that we all have them. If we want them, we need to follow the examples given in the scriptures. We need to be humble, and we need to back up our desires with our actions.—We can’t think that we can just say “I’m humble…now give me what I want.” We have to show our humility through our words (prayers) and our deeds (an extension of our prayers).

And when we do, we can rest assured that our Advocate will plead our cause, and that His power will be with us. We will succeed.

“These … Were Our Examples” – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk “These … Were Our Examples” by Russell M. Nelson. It was given in the October 1991 session of General Conference.

At the beginning of the talk, President Nelson shared that he had toured Europe along with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It left an indelible impression on President Nelson.

About the choir he stated:

“Have you not learned that strength comes to an ordinary soul when given an extraordinary calling? The choir has! Indeed, each member seemed to be imbued with a real sense of mission, striving for those ten traits that missionaries are expected to possess and practice:

“Faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.” (D&C 4:6) – Russell M. Nelson

The rest of the talk is about the attributes listed in the scripture quoted above and how the choir exemplified these attributes.

These attributes are the attributes of any disciple of Christ…not only the Mo-tab…

Therefore, I will not necessarily write about the choir in this blog post. I will only write about what I feel like writing concerning the attributes listed, but if you want to read more about what President Nelson said about the choir, then I encourage you to read the talk.

Faith

Okay, even though I just said that I wouldn’t write much about the experiences of the choir, this one is really interesting.

A few logistical things to remember:

  • The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is made up of over 300 participants. To organize a tour, you have to find venues large enough, you have to think about this large number traveling on buses. I’m going to guess that they might have had loved ones with them, too. It’s not like this was a tour of a quartet of singers. This is a big deal.
  • Because it is such a big event to coordinate, it is obvious that the planning for this happened before the event itself! As I said, obvious, but just keep that in mind.
  • The tour was in 1991. We have to remember what the world was like in the late 1980s. The Berlin Wall didn’t even come down until 1989. The Dissolution of the U.S.S.R finished up in December of 1991. (It was kind of a process).

With those points in mind, read what President Nelson shared:

“Their great faith was strengthened by the faith of our leaders. I pay tribute to the First Presidency and to leaders of the choir who had the foresight to plan as they did and when they did. How bold and inspired they were to conceive this tour many months—even years—before Europe’s unwelcoming walls began to crumble! The Brethren had the faith to believe that the choir could sing in cities such as Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, Leningrad, and Moscow long before such dreams seemed plausible. Then in January 1991, hopeful plans were seriously threatened when war erupted in the Persian Gulf. Even then, our leaders decided against canceling the tour. They knew of its potential for good and had faith that countless obstacles could be overcome. Often they prayed that the choir’s tour might be successfully accomplished.

Those prayers were answered!” – Russell M. Nelson

In 1991, I was 13 years old. I have vague memories of the Berlin wall coming down a few years before. I vaguely remember my history teacher going crazy with excitement. We watched reports abut it on TV in our classroom. She kept telling us how important it was, and I believed her. I just didn’t have any context for it. I didn’t quite understand the cold war at that point – other than Russians were always bad guys in movies.

I was young.

I just wasn’t capable of understanding the miraculous nature of the history we witnessed. But it happened! And it was a miracle it was answered prayer for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to be able to sing in the various parts of Europe where they performed. The idea of singing in Moscow had been simply impossible for decades.

President Nelson continues:

“Think of the timing. In one thousand years of Russia’s existence, its first popular national election ever to be held occurred in June 1991. Six days later, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed in Moscow! That very night, after the strains of “Come, Come, Ye Saints” had resounded from the Bolshoi Theater, the vice president of the republic announced that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been granted recognition in the Republic of Russia. On the eve of a supreme crisis that was yet ahead, Russian people heard songs of faith, courage, hope, and love.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is just a cool story. It is a story of faith, and I imagine that it would have been pretty cool to be there.

Virtue

President Nelson quoted Brigham Young:

““Learn the will of God, keep His commandments and do His will, and you will be a virtuous person.” – Brigham Young, as quoted by Russell M. Nelson

I love this quote on virtue. Virtue can be such a hard thing to really understand. It is easy for us to simply think that virtue=purity. But that isn’t really a good understanding of what virtue is.

Virtue is power. And we are blessed with this power when we learn God’s will and then keep His commandments. We are then empowered by God – full of virtue.

Knowledge

President Nelson explains that knowledge is crucial if we want to be competent missionaries and disciples of Christ.

We need to know what we believe in. We need to know about the world around us. Especially when it comes to sharing the gospel with others, ignorance can end up hurting us.

Does this mean we need to know everything? Of course not! We will not know everything at any point in our lives.

Maybe what this means is that we need to have the wisdom to recognize that WE DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING. When we recognize our foolishness and ignorance, then we will seek knowledge.

And we can still share. We can share what we know. We may not know much, but there are some things we each know, and that knowledge can help others.

President Nelson stated:

“Just think of the good you can do if you accept a difficult challenge and pursue knowledge—then use it to bless others, as did the choir!” – Russell M. Nelson

Temperance

Another tricky one to really understand. Or at least potentially tricky, I guess.

President Nelson taught:

“Temperance suggests sobriety and self-restraint in action. It reminds one of covenants made.

Temperance can protect each of us from the aftermath of excess.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love these quotes! And how I need temperance in my life. I’m not living some kind of crazy, risky life. It’s just that I find that most of my personal struggles have to do with my own personal lack of discipline.

I’ll give one example. I’ve recently started Intermittent Fasting – basically on a daily basis. I still eat every day – just during a restricted time…so I’m not eating all day long.

Over time, I’ve experienced the benefit of a little bit of self-restraint. That is not my forte when it comes to food and sugar! Yet, I’ve also suffered from the aftermath of excess. Intermittent fasting has been a way to include more temperance in my life – which has helped me to feel more in control of my own hungers and less pulled by the world around me.

I can see how this would benefit any disciple of Christ. We are taught to be agents to act, not acted upon. By the way – the word is temperance NOT ABSTINENCE. By being temperate, we don’t get pulled by our appetites and hungers. Instead, we can choose when and how to implement them in our lives. So much more joy is to be had when we behave this way!

Patience

President Nelson taught that patience is a divine attribute.

Patience can be hard to cultivate, I know, but it really helps us have more happiness each day. Instead of getting frustrated with little problems in life, when we are patience, we learn to stop and smell the roses. Necessity is the mother of invention, but it is hard to be inventive if we are impatient about our necessities not being met.

So – patience. We need to breathe, smell the roses, and keep on going.

Roses

Brotherly Kindness

President Nelson stated:

“Brotherly kindness overcomes the rudeness of selfish intent. Each of us can develop brotherly kindness at home, at school, at work, or at play.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is an obvious attribute to cultivate if we want to be the kind of disciples that Christ wants us to be.

Love one another….which happens to also relate to the next attribute.

Charity

President Nelson taught:

“The Book of Mormon defines charity as the pure love of Christ.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is the love that does not fail. This is the attribute that gives meaning to every other attribute. If we show brotherly kindness, but we don’t have true charity for another, what is the point?

It’s a good one for me to to remember. I need to be kinder and more forgiving and that needs to be rooted in a true sense of love for others.

Humility

In the Book of Mormon, we read:

“They did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts.” – Helaman 3:35

Interestingly enough, when we keep the commandments, when we have discipline and work hard – we are blessed. For some reason, it seems to be that when we are blessed we tend to forget that it was the Lord who blessed us. We are recipients of His grace, and yet it can be easy to forget.

By fasting and praying and really turning to the Lord, we will continue to be humble and cultivate our faith. It’s a really interesting paradox (and this world including the gospel is full of them). When we develop our relationships with God, we are simultaneously blessed with confidence and purpose while we also need to be humble! But both ingredients are crucial.

Diligence

All of these attributes are not “one time events.” I think that they are all cultivated when we practice diligence.

Diligence is careful or persistent work or effort.

Even diligence isn’t a one time “event”. TADA! I’m diligent. On to the next thing! Nope…diligence is a daily choice. Faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, brotherly kindness, charity, humility, and diligence – are all daily choices. If we diligently choose to develop these attributes, then we cultivate the final attribute.

Godliness

I love this quote:

“Godliness is not a product of perfection; it comes of concentration and consecration.” – Russell M. Nelson

Concentration and consecration. Godliness comes when we are just doing our best, then He can work a mircale in each of us. Then, HE will perfect us – making us whole – just as He did to the woman who touched His robe:

“And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” – Luke 8:48

***
There is so much to study and learn in this talk, but I just want to say that I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the attributes of a disciple of Christ. Not only does President Nelson understand them, but he recognizes them in others and is inspired by the examples of others. President Nelson didn’t teach these attributes like I wrote about them. He used the example of other people to demonstrate these principles. He is not prideful. He is humble and kind. I know that I can do more to find inspiration from others rather than fault. That through such examples I’ll be able to incorporate more of these qualities into my life.

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?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes and the Atonement (1/8)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5

“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

- Matthew 5:3
– Matthew 5:3

As I have read this assignment and the chapter of Matthew 5, I have thought to go through each of the beatitudes listed in Matthew 5. Not only have they taught us how we ought to live, but Christ exemplified them in His life and when He performed the Atonement. I will spend the next several blog posts exploring each of the beatitudes and their relationship with Christ’s Atonement. Hopefully this exercise will teach us more about Christ’s Atonement, and how we can apply the advice He gave in Matthew 5 into our lives.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 5:3

This is the first of the beatitudes taught by Christ.

Poor in Spirit

First of all, it is important to understand what Christ meant by poor in spirit. When we look at the footnotes, we can see that it means “poor in pride,” or humble. In the account of Christ’s visitation to the Nephites, Christ gave the same sermon to the people. (See 3 Nephi 12:3.) There he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This difference implies that we, who are both poor in spirit and willing to come unto Christ will inherit the kingdom of God.

Christ was poor in Spirit. He was humble. He always humbly went to the Lord in everything He did. He uttered prayers of thanks before he fed the five thousand. He did nothing but the will of God.

As I think about the Atonement, I can’t imagine that there is a more humble act that anyone could have performed. He chose to submit to all. In the garden of Gethsemane, he suffered all of the sins of all of mankind. He didn’t have to do this! Not only did He suffer our sins, but he also suffered all of the afflictions and difficulties of mortality. This was not necessarily what he wanted to do – while in the moment. He asked Heavenly Father to remove the cup, but, because of His humility and obedience, chose to fulfill God’s will rather than His own.

Christ didn’t assume that He knew better than God, he simply submitted.

The thing that is important to remember here is that Christ is the King of kings. He is the Lord of lords. He knew and understood His power and relationship with God. He knew that He is the literal Son of God. He created the earth. He is Jehovah. He knew He didn’t have to perform the Atonement, and that, as part God, he would never have to submit to death.

Yet he bled and suffered for our sins even though He had never committed one. He chose to come to this earth in the most meager and humble of circumstances. He didn’t require obeisance or honor from the Pharisees who claimed to be people of God. He humbly proceeded through His life, to the Garden of Gethsemane, and took on our sins.

Furthermore, He agreed to be charged and judged, though falsely, by wicked Priests. He was betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and then nailed to the cross and forsaken by His own Father. He descended below all, dying – And Yet He is the King of kings. Lord of lords. Infinite and Eternal.

Imagine someone who lacked the attribute of being poor in Spirit or poor in pride. Would that person ever have agreed to the life that Christ lived? Would they have agreed to the final moments of Christ’s life? Had Christ not been poor in Spirit, I don’t think that He would have submitted to God’s will – which meant submitting to our sins, the priests’s wicked judgement, or death. He would have chosen a vastly different path which would have garnered vastly different results.

Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

We can see that because Christ was poor in Spirit and submitted fully to the will of His father, the Kingdom of Heaven truly is His.

If he hadn’t submitted below all, then He wouldn’t have risen above all either. If Christ wasn’t submissive to God’s will, then He wouldn’t be able to offer healing in His wings. How could Christ be resurrected if he hadn’t died in the first place? Christ couldn’t offer salvation from Sin if He didn’t first take it on.

Because Christ was poor in Spirit, He inherited the Kingdom of God. And, because Christ inherited God’s kingdom, we, too have the opportunity to do so.

Though we cannot ever inherit the Kingdom of Heaven in the same way Christ did, when we are poor in Spirit, we can come unto Christ and covenant with Him. Then, His ultimate act of Humility will combine with our humility – enabling us to become joint heirs with Christ and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.

It’s a pretty good deal for us… 🙂

***
What are you insights and thoughts on being poor in Spirit and the Atonement? How does this beatitude help you understand more about Christ and what He wants us to be?

Humble Prayer and Obtaining Goals

If you read this blog, then you already know what my main goal for this year is.

This year, my goal is based on changing my weaknesses. Usually, my goals have something to do with a strength. For example, last year, I had a goal to write a book. I love writing, so even though it was a lot of hard work, I was able to do it. I naturally like writing. This desire fit right into what I already like and am good at. It was a way to magnify my already existing strengths.

This year, however, losing weight and living the word of wisdom, is not a goal that magnifies my strengths. Instead, it contradicts a weakness.

With this understanding, I have decided to “attack” this weakness of mine on several levels. Of course, there is the practical level – like diet and exercise. But, because I’m actually dealing with a weakness (both physical and spiritual), making these temporal changes isn’t enough. The changes don’t “stick”. I buckle in times of stress and myself just turning my wheels.

However, change is possible – when it comes to weakness – any weakness – we can enlist the help of the Lord.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” – Ether 12:27

We know that the Lord has given us weakness. Weakness presents itself in various ways. However, weakness, in and of itself, is not a sin. In fact, it is a gift from God – that we can be humble. It is when we are humble that we qualify for the grace that Christ offers us through His atonement. When we humble ourselves and having faith in Christ, He will enable us – making weak things strong. I truly hope for this day in my life.

Prayer and humbling ourselves before God

"Prayer will change the night to day."
“Prayer will change the night to day.”

When I think of humbling myself before God, I think of the most obvious thing: prayer. Is there a more genuine expression of humility? Perhaps it doesn’t seem like such an amazing thing, but we have to study what prayer truly is. The Bible Dictionary gives such a great explanation:

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part. Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.” – Prayer – Bible Dictionary

I feel like learning to make my prayers better – true and humble prayer will help me to unlock the grace that Christ wants to give me – making weak things strong.

Learn our True Relationship with God

I know that I am a daughter of God. I know that He loves me. This does make me want to pray. In fact, there are times when I forget, when I’m tired, or when I’m not feeling particularly worthy to pray. But it is when I remember that He is my Father, that He Created me, that He loves me – I am moved to pray. I admit that my prayers need improvement, but I don’t want to go through this life without recognizing God. As far as understanding my relationship to God goes, I’m good with this.

Prayer and the Correspondence of will

Here’s where things get hairy for me. When I pray, I know that I’m not praying according to the will of God.

Now…I have absolutely no doubt that Heavenly Father wants me to eat healthy. I think that the Lord is more than happy with my desire to lose weight. I have had spiritual confirmation of this. However, I am beginning to see that my will does not line up with his in one regard.

Sometimes, I think that through prayer, I’ll just magically be able to lose weight – without regards to what I’m eating or doing. I realize that I’m like the kid who doesn’t do any homework, doesn’t study, but then, during the test, starts praying desperately – to get an A. It isn’t that God wasn’t willing to grant the student an “A” score. Of course it was in God’s will to have him pass the test. But it wasn’t in God’s will to grant an “A” without the work required.

Blessings are predicated on laws.

I understand the laws. I know that I am going to have to give up my natural desires if I want to receive blessings. I have to become humble.

I love the example of King Lamoni’s father – who was willing to give away all of His sins for the desires of his heart. (See Alma 22:18). I’m not following this example. My will hasn’t changed. I haven’t come humbly before the Lord. I want the Lord to bless me with His grace without giving up my sins – my carnal nature – my appetites.

So…for now, I’m just working on that. I’m praying more. I know that the Lord can even help me with this. I want to be able to change my will. And it is helping. As I pray that my desires will change, that I will be able to exercise sufficient humility, the Lord has blessed me with increased knowledge and help. There are layers involved in my weakness, and I’m grateful that the Lord is so patient with me.

***

How do you sufficiently humble yourself before God – and align your will with His? What are ways that you have been able to make prayer effective in overcoming weakness and achieving goals?

Cultivating Humility

I read a really good blog post at Scriptorium Blogorium today that got me thinking – about humility. In the post, Michaela asks if our humility involves:

  • Subjecting myself?
  • Submitting myself?
  • Crying mightily to God all the day long?
  • Repenting?

I thought that instead of writing a long comment, I’d answer her questions here, on my blog.

Subjecting Myself
I feel like I can best subject myself to the Lord through consistent scripture study, church and temple attendance, and through experiencing nature. I love the idea of subjecting myself to the word of the Lord as a way to keep us humble.

I’m not a very humble person. I tend to get caught up in myself – and proud. When I read the scriptures daily, I’m reminded of my own nothingness and my dependence on the Savior. I have noticed that the more I study my scriptures, the more familiar I get with the scriptures. As I get more familiar with the scriptures, I find that the Lord is gently correcting me more often. Scripture study used to be about learning what was happening. I would read the scriptures, and learn. I would feel excited as I understood concepts and started making meaning of the symbols and metaphors of the scriptures.

Now, I feel relatively comfortable with what I read in the scriptures. I love reading them. I have found that more often than not, the Lord is using His word to remind me of my nothingness, and His mercy, and my need for Him. I find that I’m being corrected, gently, and in a way I understand. Even though I have a hard time being humble, I know that the Lord helps me to be better at this through studying His word.

Church helps us to be taught His word, which also helps to keep us humble.

Temple attendance is especially helpful in keeping our lives in perspective – which encourages humility. When we go to the temple, we subject ourselves to the Lord in such a pure way.

And finally, I think that we can subject ourselves to the Lord in nature and through coming in contact with His creations. I’m not sure that there is anything more humbling than looking at the night sky in the desert. In one glimpse, you can see the stars – the expanse. The desert sky is so big. When we look at it, we feel so little.

Subjecting ourselves to the Lord – through scripture study, church and temple attendance, and experiencing nature -helps to cultivate our humility.

Submitting Myself
Submitting ourselves to the will of the Lord builds upon subjecting ourselves to the Lord. We can subject ourselves to the Lord without ever submitting to His will. Submission is taking action on the humility that we may feel and learn as we subject ourselves to the Lord. Submission is an admission of our nothingness and our need for the Lord.

To fully submit to the Lord, we need to accept His will. Even if we don’t understand he reason why he is having us do or endure something, we trust in His perspective, power, and love, and we submit ourselves to Him.

Mormon gives a great example of submission:

“And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.” – Words of Mormon 1:7

It is difficult to submit – as often we are required to submit to things that are hard. It is also difficult because we do have our own perspective on life. We want to make decisions based on what we see and know. Submitting to the Lord means that we will be making decisions and accepting things that are unknown to us. Yet this exercise is crucial in cultivating humility. It takes humility to accept our own weakness and to, in turn, draw strength from the Lord.

Crying mightily to God all the day long
Prayer is an act of devoted humility. The act, in and of itself, is humble. We kneel and pray to the Lord. In the Bible Dictionary, we learn:

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part. Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.” – Prayer, Bible Dictionary

If we are crying mightily – with full purpose of heart, then we are remembering our dependence on God. When we pray, we both subject and submit ourselves to the Lord.

When we humbly pray, we receive the blessings of humility:

“…for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” – Ether 12:27

When we humble ourselves, we qualify ourselves for the grace of God.

Repentance
I feel like repentance is a natural outcome of subjection, submission, and prayer. When we are doing these three things, we begin to become humble. We recognize the gulf that stands between us and our Father, and then look for the mercy of God – through Christ’s atonement. We understand our need for it. And, we learn that in order to receive the mercy of God, then we must repent.

Repentance also increases our humility. I have experienced this. When I have truly repented, I’ve been forgiven, and blessed. While being tested and tried can be humbling (it really is), I find that being forgiven is even more humbling. When I have been forgiven, I have felt so overcome by the Love of the Lord, I wanted to shout or sing. I don’t even know – I was left confused -not in a bad confused way, but in a flabbergasted, “wow, I can’t believe that I have a God who loves me this much way.” I understood that I didn’t deserve to be forgiven, but I have been because God loves me. It is an amazingly great feeling.

I feel like this hymn adequately expresses what I want to say:

“I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.

I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!” – I Stand All Amazed

So…head over to Scriptorium Blogorium and read about how Limhi’s people humbled themselves. How do you work to stay humble and receptive to the Spirit of the Lord?

Recognizing our Own “Nothingness” (Mosiah 4:4-5)

This is taken from King Benjamin’s address to his people…

“And king Benjamin again opened his mouth and began to speak unto them, saying: My friends and my brethren, my kindred and my people, I would again call your attention, that ye may hear and understand the remainder of my words which I shall speak unto you.

For behold, if the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state—” – Mosiah 4:4-5

Okay, I know that I stopped this quote in the middle of a thought, but as I read it, I wondered, do I really recognize my own nothingness?

Do we recognize our own nothingness???

This statement by King Benjamin reminds me of when Moses declares,

“…Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” – Moses 1:10

In a way, I take this scripture for granted. I figure, of course man is nothing. But I realize that it is thanks to Moses (and King Benjamin and other prophets) that I truly know this. I have been trying to really ponder what this means lately.

And I’ve realized that I am nothing.

Have you ever been to the desert?

Sedona, AZ

If you have, then you know that it is vast. I remember the first time I went to the desert. I went to Moab, UT. Even driving down there, through Central and Eastern Utah, I started to get amazed. I could see for miles and miles and miles. There was nothing obstructing my view. There were no trees, buildings, or people. I just saw miles of rocks, crags, and buttes. It was thrilling, yet I also became distinctly aware that I was nothing. I was only a spec on the land. When night fell, this realization became even more jolting, as the desert sky is bigger than any other sky and full of bright stars. Even though the landscape is dimmed, I felt even smaller, knowing that there were millions, billions, or trillions of stars, planets, and creations out in the expanse of space.

Yet, there I was, little me, sitting in the desert. I am nothing.

Do we as a society truly understand our own nothingness? I’m not sure. I mean, especially now – instead of gazing up at the sky or across the land, we spend a lot of time on facebook, or on blogs (I’m guilty of this) gazing at our own navels. Because we have been blessed with so much intelligence and technology, it is easy to forget how small we are, how powerless we are. It is easy to forget what the Lord asked,

“How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:33

So…we need to remember that we are nothing.

I think that when we do this, we can have one of two outcomes. (Maybe there are more, but I’ve only pondered these two)…

One – Recognizing our own Nothingness without Knowing God
When we come to recognize our own nothingness without knowing God, I think that it would fill us with a sense of despair. I feel like this quote explains exactly what I mean:

““Hot and tired I stop in the shade of an overhanging ledge and take a drink from my canteen. Resting, I listen to the deep dead stillness of the canyon. No wind or breeze, no birds, no running water, no sound of any kind but the stir of my own breathing.
“Alone in the silence, I understand for a moment the dread which many feel in the presence of primeval desert, the unconscious fear which compels them to tame, alter or destroy what they cannot understand, to reduce the wild and prehuman to human dimensions. Anything rather than confront directly the antehuman, that other world which frightens not through danger or hostility but in something far worse—its implacable indifference.” – Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire, p. 91

When we notice our nothingness, and we don’t know God, we are filled with dread. Life seems like a coincidence or a joke. We notice our nothingness, but there is nothing to fill us with love. We may think that the world and nature is indifferent to us, that we are just biological accidents–That we are a blip on the screen of the history of the world. Suddenly, everything we may find important about ourselves seems silly. We lose hope and purpose.

Nothingness – without God – conjures a kind of humility with no hope – dread or despair.

Two – Recognizing Our Nothingness and Knowing God
When we recognize our own nothingness, and know that God loves us, we become overwhelmed with humility, hope, and gratitude.

My experience in the desert was similar to Edward Abbey’s (as quoted above), but with one striking difference. Instead of feeling dread, I felt overwhelmed with Love. There I stood, in the desert, small. I knew I was small. The desert was so big around me. Yet, despite my smallness and insignificance, I knew that God loved me, and knew exactly where I was. I remembered the scripture,

“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?

But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.” – Luke 12:6-7

Even in this world, among all of the creations God had made, he is aware of me. And He loves me.

How do I deserve that? How can I be anything but grateful?

Not only does He know us and love us, but he blesses us – specifically and personally.

Yesterday, my dad was leaving to go to my sister’s house in OKC. He had visited me in Boston. We all went out to Mimi’s Cafe for brunch, and then my sister and my dad were heading out. At Mimi’s Cafe, my dad noticed that his driver’s license and ATM card were not in his wallet. He figured that they were in his coat pocket – from when he was traveling on the plane. I insisted that he check the coat pocket before he left for OKC. After brunch, we got to the car. He checked his coat pockets and found they were empty. He checked his laptop-bag, his luggage, his pants pockets. He checked everything, and they were nowhere to be found.

This was disconcerting – as he would need identification to get on the plane again. So, we went back to my house to check for the missing cards.

We searched everywhere. I suggested we say a prayer, and we did. We began our search again. They started calling the airlines to see what the procedure would be for lost ID. I received the impression to go outside and look for the cards.

The Lord directed my path, and I found them in the leaf pile. We celebrated finding the cards, and then offered a prayer of gratitude.

I thought about that – and tried to think of it in the “big picture” – in God’s perspective. His scope is so huge. He is aware of all of his infinite creations. And, in the scheme of things two cards for my dad are pretty small. In fact, even in the scheme of our own lives, of my dad’s life, those cards are pretty insignificant.

Yet the Lord, despite our nothingness, chose to direct our paths, and we found the cards. Even though we are less than specs in His eternal view, He loves us. He cares about us. He finds important what we find important.

I can’t help but be filled with love as I consider that despite my nothingness, God loves me.

What helps you to remember your own nothingness? How do you feel God’s love despite your nothingness? Why do you think it is important to recognize both?