A Clue to Understanding Jacob 5

I was in Sunday School recently, and we were studying Jacob 5. The conversation began with how intimidating Jacob 5 – the Allegory of the Olive Tree/Vineyard – can be.

Olive Tree

Obviously, I’ve been there, too. I’m not going to pretend like I got it right away. Jacob 5 is a story. A long story. Perhaps the most intimidating part of it is that the chapter is 77 verses long. Maybe we’d be less frightened if Jacob 5 was 15 verses.

No matter the reason, it seems like a lot of people feel a bit of anxiety when reading this chapter. What is it about? Why does Jacob include this chapter – this gigantic chapter – in his record? We know that it was difficult for them to etch into the plates, so why did Jacob make the effort to include this in his record? Why is it so important for us to know this allegory? What is an allegory?!

The questions are endless.

Today, I was reading in 1 Nephi 15 when I noticed some familiar complaints and a big clue…

And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.

And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?

And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.

Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?

Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?β€”If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.

Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father; and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel, and are we not a branch of the house of Israel?” – 1 Nephi 15:7-12

The Context

Here, in 1 Nephi 15, Nephi returned to the tent (after having a vision that taught the meaning of his fathers dream) of his father where his brothers were all disputing one with another.

Nephi was feeling weighed down and overcome by what he had seen in vision. And then, he goes to his father’s tent – most likely for some kind of support, and there his brothers are arguing.

Nephi asks them what’s up, and they say that they can’t understand what their father meant when he spoke about the olive tree. (See 1 Nephi 10:2-15, especially 14.)

Hmmm….an olive tree.

We know that Lehi had been studying the Brass Plates ever since Nephi and his brothers had obtained them and brought them to Lehi. I’m guessing that this study must have influenced what he spoke to his children about the House of Israel being compared to an Olive tree.

The Confusion of Nephi’s Brothers

So, Nephi’s brothers are confused and debating because they say that they can’t understand their father’s words: “concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.”

In other words, they don’t understand. They don’t get this analogy, this metaphor. And what does it matter?

This kind of sounds familiar. I’ve heard, and maybe have even been guilty of skipping Jacob 5. I’m not familiar with olive trees or olive groves. I don’t know how to dung or prune or graft new branches in a tree. I haven’t really disputed with others concerning Jacob 5, but I’ve been tempted to skip over it, and I know that I’m not the only one.

It seems so hard to understand.

The Clues to Understanding – Nephi’s Response to His Brothers (and Maybe to Us, too)

Clue One – Inquire of the Lord In response to his brother’s complaint, Nephi asks, “Have ye inquired of the Lord?”

Good question. And maybe we ought to ask ourselves that, when we say that Jacob 5 (or Isaiah, or anything spoken by the prophets anciently or currently) is “hard to understand,” – have we inquired of the Lord? Instead of complaining about it, are we opening our minds and hearts to understand by asking the Lord for guidance and help?

The brethren of Nephi answer that they haven’t asked because the Lord won’t tell them.

(This is crazy to me! How did they know what the Lord would or wouldn’t tell them? They haven’t even asked!!!!)

(And yet – as crazy as it sounds, I think that sometimes we might be guilty of this, too. We don’t ask, and then we still put the blame on God – because He hasn’t told us…Silly. But good to recognize.)

Clue Two – Be humble, Have a Soft Heart!
After hearing his brothers’ excuse on why they haven’t inquired of the Lord, Nephi asks a question that seems to be rhetorical in nature, but is worth considering:

“How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?” – 1 Nephi 15:10

Now, I don’t want to make assumptions about anyone, but these are good questions to ask, especially when we might be saying that some concept being taught by a prophet is “hard to understand,” and when we have followed this thought up with the admission that we haven’t prayed to understand it.

Having a soft heart is crucial to understanding. A soft heart is the fertile ground needed for a seed of faith. As we soften our hearts, then we will be able to understand. Nephi had this experience himself:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” – 1 Nephi 2:16

When we allow our hearts to be softened, then we are able to believe the words of the prophets. This is what enables us to understand. (For more insight on this idea, see Mosiah 2:9.)

We need to have a soft heart. And why not? Really, what’s the risk? We run a much bigger risk when we have hard hearts? As Nephi asks, Why perish because of the hardness of our hearts? Again, it’s kind of silly. Just have a soft heart. Be believing. Ask the Lord. And perish not.

Clue Three – Ask in Faith
As you can see, these three clues are very closely related. We need to ask; we need to be humble enough to ask; and we need to ask!

Nephi reminds himself of the pattern that the Lord so often beckons each of us to follow:

  1. Harden not Your Hearts
  2. Ask God in Faith
  3. Believe that Ye Shall Receive
  4. Diligently Keep the Commandments

…then…

  • Surely these things will be made known unto you.

Had Nephi’s brothers followed this pattern, then they wouldn’t have been disputing in their father’s tent. They would have had peace and understanding. They would have known what was important for them to know. They would have been able to be taught by the Spirit.

The Meaning of The Olive Tree Comparison

In 1 Nephi 15:12-20 Nephi briefly explains the comparison between the Olive Tree and the House of Israel. I actually won’t get into it here because you can read it yourself.

The important things to note are:

  1. Nephi understood this comparison
  2. We can also understand this comparison.

Jacob 5 doesn’t have to be “hard” to understand. None of the scriptures have to be “hard” to understand. Sure, we may not understand everything inside and out, but when we follow the clues that Nephi teaches here, we will understand exactly what we need to know. We will be filled with peace. We won’t be tempted to dispute with others or complain in Sunday School about how long or difficult a passage seems. We won’t be tempted to gloss them over. Instead, we will be able to have a positive experience with the scriptures, with God’s Spirit, and with a way to apply these things in our lives.

***
What helps you to understand the scriptures, especially “difficult” ones like Jacob 5 or Isaiah?

The Fruit of the Tree of Life and Joy

Joy and Thanksgiving ButtonJoin me for the next two weeks as we study Joy and Thanksgiving. This is part One of my thoughts as I study the assignments.

The scriptures, like any form of literature, is rife with symbolism. One symbol used often is the tree of life and it’s fruit. Studying this symbol will help us to learn more about joy and how to obtain it.

Soon this fruit will be filling me up with joy. :)

Soon this fruit will be filling me up with joy. πŸ™‚

Lehi’s Dream

Before I really talk about Lehi’s dream, I want to discuss the end result: Lehi and others partake of the fruit of the tree of life. Nephi teaches us about this fruit:

“Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

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

And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.” – 1 Nephi 11:22-23

So, not only does Lehi partake of the fruit of the tree of life, but this fruit is amazing. It tastes great and fills him with joy. He desires to share it, and many other people partake of the fruit.

Now, as this dream opens, Lehi is suffering in a dark and dreary waste. He suffers in this state for many hours until finally, he decides to pray. I wonder, is there a point that the Lord would have just shown him the tree of life, even if Lehi didn’t pray? I doubt it. I think that Lehi only progressed because He prayed, and the Lord answered His prayer.

Additionally, the Lord didn’t simply hand Lehi a piece of fruit after Lehi uttered his prayer, instead, Lehi had to embark on a journey. But the path was laid out before Him, and he was taken from the dark and dreary waste thanks to the mercy of God.

After going to the tree, Lehi was able to experience the opposite of what he suffered before. He partook of the fruit of the tree of life which was sweet, desirable, and better than anything he had ever tasted. It filled his soul with joy.

I love this example because it is a reminder to me that we must struggle a little bit before we are able to partake of the fruit of the tree. And when I struggle, I know where I can turn: the Lord.

The Struggle

We learn a little bit more about obtaining the fruit that Lehi ate. There are a few struggles that must be endured before partaking of the fruit.
The Mist of Darkness
Before partaking of the fruit of the tree of life, we must pass through the “mists of darkness.” In my life, I guess I could say that there have been mists of darkness that I have passed through–depression, difficulty, the death of loved ones, divorce, loneliness, sickness, etc. These are dark times, and it can be easy to feel lost as trial seems to choke your ability to see even the next step ahead of you.

The Great and Spacious Building
Not only do we pass through tribulations as we press forward to the Tree of life, but we must also endure the temptations of the world. This seems especially hard these days. We are bombarded with images and ideas that tell us if we just buy x then we’ll be happy.

An interesting thing to note, even when we partake of the fruit of the tree of life, we have the agency to accept it. Some of those who partook of the fruit then chose to feel embarrassment and shame as they allowed the voices of those in the great and spacious building to interrupt the joy of partaking of the sought-after fruit. As a result of this distraction, they left the fruit of the tree of life, then wandered off into strange paths and were lost.

The Lord won’t force us to choose happiness. It is always our choice.

Alma’s Analogy

Later on in the Book of Mormon, Alma taught the people about faith. He compared faith to a seed. Often, we think of this story solely as a story of faith, but it is so much more than that!

The seed of faith will eventually sprout, and if we nourish it, it will turn into a tree that produces fruit. Alma describes the fruit:

“the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” – Alma 32:42

Does this fruit sound familiar???

The sermon given by Alma is basically amazing. There is one part that especially struck me this time:

“And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.” – Alma 32:40, emphasis added

Looking forward with an eye of faith is the real way to one day partake of the fruit of the tree of life. This is the way that we will be able to make it through the mists of darkness. Having an eye of faith will help us to discern that the taunts of those in the great and spacious building are nothing but lies. We won’t be overwhelmed or distracted when we keep our eye on the prize: the fruit of the tree of life.

I struggle with this at times. I’m not the best at visualizing or imagining my success. I just think, “geez, I hope…” and then proceed with naivete. But the thing is, I realize that won’t be enough to get me to the tree of life. I want to partake of this fruit. It is the most difficult thing that any of us will ever do. It requires constant attention and effort. And, at this point in my life, I can see how we get burned out. I can see how, if we don’t have this vision in our hearts, then we can be overcome by the constant barrage of Satan’s temptations and distractions. We have to be able to envision this fruit if we want to someday experience it.

***
What have you learned about Joy through the symbol of the fruit of the tree of life?

Fitness Goals Update

It’s been a long time since I’ve given an update on my fitness goals, and I figure that now is as good as time as any to do it.

Fitness Goals Update: Going Well

A few months ago, one of my friends started a “health challenge”. This challenge was basically a contest that incorporated good health habits. It was really inspiring and motivating.

For eight weeks, I followed these rules:

  • No Soda
  • No Treats
  • 80 oz water every day
  • Five fruits and/or veggies a day
  • Exercise 1 hour a day
  • Daily Spiritual goal
  • Rotating Health Goal (floss teeth, take a multivitamin, get 8 hours of sleep, etc)
  • One “free day” a week

Those who signed up were put onto two-person teams, and you were able encourage one another while competing with everyone else. It was really effective at getting me to be smart and make good decisions. I worked hard, kicked my sugar habit, and started to lose weight.

The fitness challenge got me to eat plain oatmeal like this...

The fitness challenge got me to eat plain oatmeal like this…

...The fitness challenge got me to eat protein and water like this...

…The fitness challenge got me to eat protein and water like this…

...and it got me to write texts like this.

…and it got me to write texts like this.

I would absolutely suggest starting a “fitness challenge” for anyone who needs to have a little push in order to be healthier.

***
Buuuuuuuut
***

(there’s always a but…) Now the fitness challenge is over. I was a little bit worried about the fitness challenge ending. It was motivating to report each week to someone else, but I thought when I don’t have to be accountable to someone else, what will I do?

I thought I’d short-circuit this by starting a fitness challenge with my spouse, but it’s not the same as the other fitness challenge. I am still motivated. I’m still working hard. But I’m missing that strength that I felt when I was participating in the challenge.

That’s when I realized that although the challenge was a pretty good thing, it was also kind of a crutch. Instead of learning to cultivate character traits within myself, I was borrowing strength from this challenge. Instead of learning to have discipline and eat well for the sake of discipline and eating well, I was just looking to win. When the challenge was over, I felt at a loss…there wasn’t the competition driving me anymore, so maybe I’ll just eat a few cookies today… πŸ˜‰

Now. I’m not saying that the fitness challenge was a bad thing – because it wasn’t. It really helped me to see that I can do it. It helped me to believe that I’d be able to make the change I desire. Now I simply have to transition from this “challenge” mode to “character changing mode.”

***

The real challenge here isn’t to beat another team. It isn’t to rack up points. It is to learn to overcome the natural man. The real contest isn’t Catania vs. a lot of people from NWA; it is Catania vs. Catania. I need to learn to overcome my appetites–to be lazy, eat sugar, and over-eat in general. This is the real contest I want to win.

***

Several years ago (after having Panda, and when I then was divorced and single), I lost a lot of weight–probably 30-35 pounds, and I kept it off. I had Sasquatch, then I lost the weight. I had T-Rex, and losing the weight has been a struggle. I have been thinking about losing weight after Panda and Sasquatch. The thing is, I didn’t fret. I didn’t freak out about every gram of food I was eating. I ate well, I didn’t eat over-eat, and I exercised a lot. The weight naturally began to come off. I didn’t really restrict myself from foods, per se. However, I rarely ate sweets, hamburgers, fries, and the such because they made me feel sick. When I did eat a hamburger and fries, I’d notice how sluggish I would feel the next day. While running, I’d feel the lump in my stomach (not like I felt fat, but I felt a little sick to my stomach), and I’d promise myself: I’ll never eat another hamburger again!

***

Disciplined eating blesses you in the way that discipline in any area does. You are stronger, and you know what it feels to be healthy–emotionally, spiritually, or physically. When I started the fitness challenge, cutting sugar and junk food was tough. But it eventually happened, and I began to crave healthy foods. I loved the way that they made me feel. Of course, I still liked the idea of a cookie or cheeseburger, and on my free days I’d have one. I was amazed how, after a few weeks, I was starting to see the connection between too much junk food and feeling yucky. I realized that I had become physically “past feeling.”

In 1 Nephi, Nephi tells his brothers,

“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 17:44

Of course, Nephi is talking to his brothers concerning spiritual matters in this verse, but I think that it also applies to us physically. For me, the scirpture might read somethign more like this:

“Ye are swift to eat junk food but slow to remember your veggies. Ye have run a marathon; yea, ye have had children; and ye have been healthy and happy in the past, but ye are past feeling, that ye cannot feel a buzz from sugar;…” (and so on…)

I think that you get the point. I was physically “past feeling”. Nothing was sweet enough. No amount of food seemed to satisfy my hunger. I was so used to feeling horrible, that I didn’t know I was feeling horrible! And now, as I’ve implemented better health habits, I’m finding that I can taste food again! I can see how eating well gives me energy. I feel happy when I’m eating well. Now, when I go to In-N-Out on my “free day”, I’m beginning to feel so much bloating and discomfort from the greasy food. I can’t eat more than one cookie because they seem too sweet. It is like my body is responding to these foods in a proper way. I’m less inclined to eat poorly, and I’m happy to see that I’m feeding my body well enough now that I can finally receive messages from it!

A few weeks ago, I had my temple recommend interview. It felt good to say that I was keeping the word of wisdom–not only that I wasn’t doing the “don’ts”, but I was also doing the “do’s”.

***
So…my final verdict on the challenge is that it’s a good way to get motivated, but that at some point you need to learn to make these changes to your character, rather than to win a contest.

***
How are your goals going? Have you participated in a Health Challenge before? What was your experience with it? Please comment and share anything you’d like.

Charity Seeketh not Her Own

So…I feel like today’s subject really relates to what we have been studying the past few days (envieth not and is not puffed up), but it is valuable to study each of them in a different light. Today’s study has been no less valuable.

Charity seeketh not her own. In other words, charity is not selfish. I feel like it is probably more than that, too. Charity seeks for others. When pondering this subject, the first thing I thought of was the following scripture:

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” – Matthew 10:39

Not only does charity not seek her own, but there is a great reward in seeking the Lord’s way – When we seek the Lord, we will find ourselves. It seems counterintuitive, but it is true.

This is especially obvious when you compare the stories of Cain and Nephi.

Cain

  • Cain loved Satan more. (Moses 5:18)
  • Cain was offended when God didn’t respect his offering. (Moses 5:21)
  • Cain is loved enough by God to be warned. (Moses 5:23-25)
  • Cain was angry at his warning, and didn’t listen to the Lord. (Moses 5:26)
  • Cain makes an oath with Satan – secret combination. (Moses 5:29-30)
  • Cain is motivated by power. (Moses 5:31)
  • Cain kills Abel. (Moses 5:32)

    Cain and Abel, by Titian

  • After Cain kills Abel, he thinks that he is free.

    “And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.” – Moses 5:33

    I think that this response is really telling. Cain thinks that he can gain freedom through hurting others. He is seeking his own welfare, power, and glory. He is so overly concerned with himself that he is even willing murder. His selfishness destroys him and any sense of decency that he may have had.

  • Cain lies to God and asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper.” (Moses 5:34) – This seems to be a peak in his selfishness. I can’t even comment on it – other than Wow…Yet…I can’t act like I’m all that much better. I need to learn what not to do from Cain. In some ways, there are times when I essentially ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper.” I think that this happens when I’m not looking out for what is good for others. When I’m only looking out for myself, then I’m not being my brother’s keeper. It is tempting to do this.

    As I ponder what this means, I realize that it doesn’t mean that I do every single thing for others. This is impossible and impractical. It is not good for me and it doesn’t really help others. If I’m being my brother’s keeper, then I will be praying often – to the Lord – and looking outward. I would serve. And I would be interested in the lives of my brothers and sisters. We can learn a lot from Cain.

  • Cain is cursed. He doesn’t inherit Abel’s fields. Instead, he becomes a fugitive and a vagabond, unable to yield from the earth. (Moses 5:35-38)

In the example of Cain, we see the truth in the Lord’s declaration that “He that findeth his life shall lose it;.” Because Cain went about looking for his life through shortcuts and sin, he eventually lost it. It’s funny that when we are “seeking our own” that is the last thing we’ll ever find.

Luckily, we have a good example, too. (There are a lot of them, actually).

Nephi
(see Helaman 10:4-5)

  • Nephi is blessed.
  • Nephi, with unwearyingness declared the word. (I get tired just by reading the word unwearyingness!)
  • Nephi didn’t fear others.
  • Nephi didn’t seek his own life.
  • Nephi sought the will of God. – This is hard! In the end, we see that it is the best thing to do, but we don’t experience that kind of satisfaction, really, until the end! In the meantime, seeking the will of God is kind of hard. We have to forgo natural desires and the reasoning of the world. We have to exercise faith. Yet, seeking God’s doesn’t seem all that hard when we actually do it. He blesses us all along the way. He comforts us and strengthens us to keep the commandments. We just have to seek Him and not our own.
  • Nephi strove to keep God’s commandments.
  • Nephi will be blessed forever.
  • Nephi is made mighty in word and deed.
  • Nephi is given God’s power – to do anything. God knows that Nephi won’t ask anything contrary to God’s will. God completely trusts Nephi. – I think that this is basically one of the awesomest things ever. God loves us enough to endow us with His power. But he won’t give it to us if we aren’t ready for it. He is a perfect parent. I can understand him, too. I mean, I am a parent, and I would like to see my children be able to do all that I do – if not more. However, I know that I won’t give them many freedoms or blessings until they are ready for them. This isn’t because I’m power-hungry. It is because I don’t want them to hurt themselves.

    Heavenly Father is the same way. When we have been trained correctly, we will be able to have power like His. Just as Nephi did. Elijah also had this power – the sealing power. Nephi gave up his life and will to the Lord, and eventually foudn it.

Charity seeketh not her own. When we try to do things our own way, we will come up with hardship and failure. However, if we put our trust in the Lord, and seek His will, then He sustains us with His power and we are able to obtain charity. It is powerful to know that Charity never fails. And it is even more remarkable to see that God’s power is completely rooted in Charity: selflessness, and love.

I want to seek God’s will. I’m trying to be better at this. Currently, I’m actively praying to do His will, even though I don’t always follow through on it. I’m still pretty selfish. I have a lot of room for improvement, but I want to be selfless one day. I look up to examples like President Monson. I know that through prayer and practice, I can one day be a person who isn’t just looking out for myself. I really want that for my life.

What do you do to seek God’s will and increase in Charity?

Nephi: A Type of Christ – 2 Nephi 1:24

For my Book of Mormon eXtreme Challenge, I’m reading – searching specifically for Christ. Today, I ran across the following scripture:

“24 Rebel no more against your brother, whose views have been glorious, and who hath kept the commandments from the time that we left Jerusalem; and who hath been an instrument in the hands of God, in bringing us forth into the land of promise; for were it not for him, we must have perished with hunger in the wilderness; nevertheless, ye sought to take away his life; yea, and he hath suffered much sorrow because of you.” – 2 Nephi 1:24

So…this scripture is actually about Nephi. Lehi is pleading with Laman and Lemuel that they will listen to their righteous, younger brother.

As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but see the parallels to Christ.

  • “Rebel no more against your brother…
    • Christ is our brother. We shouldn’t rebel against Him, either.
  • …whose views have been glorious…
    • Aren’t Christ’s view more glorious than any others? He is full of glory, and this is a really good reason not to rebel against Him.
  • …and who hath kept the commandments from the time that we left Jerusalem…
    • Okay, so here, we have to do a little substitution, but not much. Christ has always kept the commandments. And perhaps, you could say, since the time we left His presence – the pre-mortal world. Before we embarked on our own “journeys in the wilderness.” Any way you look at it, Christ has always kept the commandments perfectly. We can trust him as a leader.
  • …and who hath been an instrument in the hands of God, in bringing us forth into the land of promise…
    • So – isn’t that the same with Christ? We can’t get into the ultimate promised land without Him. We need His intercession. We need His guidance. We need His grace. Not only that, he has truly been an instrument in God’s hand – Christ has never sought the will of his own, but has only done as the father has commanded him.
  • …for were it not for him, we must have perished with hunger in the wilderness…
    • I like this idea because 1) we are in the wilderness of our lives. 2) Christ offers Himself as the “bread of life.” → we don’t have to perish with hunger in our wildernesses. We can go to Christ, feast on His word, and live abundantly.
  • …nevertheless, ye sought to take away his life;…
    • Isn’t it interesting to think – people want to destroy Christ in so many ways. Christ was crucified – at the hands of wicked men. I guess that the thing I find so interesting about this is that the One who offers us life is the One that so many are trying to kill. I suppose that this is because Christ will not suffer us to give into our natural desires. We, foolishly, think that if we can kill him – out of our thoughts, etc, then we will be happy in our sins. So – don’t seek to take away Christ’s life by abandoning Him in a life of sin.
  • …yea, and he hath suffered much sorrow because of you.”
    • This makes me think of the scripture in Isaiah: “3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
      4 ΒΆ Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
      5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed,” – (Isaiah 53:3-5.)
      – Christ really has suffered much sorrow because of us.

I love what we can learn from the scriptures. I love that the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ. I’m grateful to have a testimony of my Savior – especially at this time of year. I have felt the blessings of His atonement in my life. I’ve felt His mercy, His peace, His providence, and His love.

I hope that I will not treat Christ the way that Laman and Lemuel treated their righteous brother, but that, instead, I will follow Him, recognize His perfect example, be grateful for His willingness to be an instrument in God’s hand, and feast on His word forever. I hope I will not cause Him more sorrow, but that I will glorify Him by being righteous.

thanks for reading!

Missionary Challenge: 1 Nephi 3:7

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” – 1 Nephi 3:7.

Many Mormons are very familiar with this scripture. When the Lehi told his son, Nephi, that he had been commanded of the Lord that his sons should return to Jerusalem to fetch the brass plates, this scripture was Nephi’s courageous response.

And I think it is more courageous than we even give it credit. How did Nephi know the Lord would provide a way for them to keep the commandment to obtain the brass plates? He didn’t know for sure, but he had faith, and that’s what I can learn from this.

The Lord has commanded that we who have the gospel share it. I need to have the faith the He will make the way available for me to do so.

Additionally, even though this information is not included in the scripture, it is important to remember what Nephi and his brothers went through: They failed twice in retrieving the brass plates before they succeeded. Of course, it was Nephi’s diligence and faith that enabled to be successful at all.

I cannot let fear stop me from doing the will of the Lord. He will guide my way, and help me to share the gospel.

Missionary Challenge: 1 Nephi 11:6

For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot.

And the Spirit said unto me: Behold, what desirest thou?

And I said: I desire to behold the things which my father saw.

And the Spirit said unto me: Believest thou that thy father saw the tree of which he hath spoken?

And I said: Yea, thou knowest that I believe all the words of my father.

And when I had spoken these words, the Spirit cried with a loud voice, saying: Hosanna to the Lord, the most high God; for he is God over all the earth, yea, even above all. And blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the most high God; wherefore, thou shalt behold the things which thou hast desired.” – 1 Nephi 11:1-6

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

Quick background: Lehi had just recounted his vision of the tree of life. Nephi had listened to and accepted what his father saw, but he didn’t completely understand it. He pondered it, and he believed that the Lord would help him to understand. As Nephi went to the Lord, he had an experience with the Spirit: Nephi saw the vision of the tree of life, he saw what it meant, and he received many other wonderful prophecies.

This was because he believed.

What does this have to do with missionary work? Well, here you go: Do I believe? Do I believe that the Lord will allow me to share the gospel with those whom I dearly love? I don’t expect others to believe what I say, but how do they have that choice if I’ve never even say it? They ought to know, at the very least, that I have a testimony.

Nephi believed in Christ and received the answer to his desire.

What, really, is my desire? I’m figuring that out still, but for now I think I could say my desire is to be able to express my testimony in a way that is not compromised. My desire is to share my testimony with my loved ones, and that the Holy Ghost will carry it to their hearts. Of course, I cannot choose whether or not they accept my testimony, but I can at least pray that I share it with the Spirit – so they have the opportunity.

So that’s my desire – now, I just need to be like Nephi: Believe in Christ, Ask in Faith, Trust in God.

Now that I think about it – there are some people with whom I want to share the gospel (so much!). I love them so much. And, you know, I can trust in God – He loves them even more than I do.

See the rest of the Missionary Challenge

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