True Prosperity – 2 Nephi 4:1-4

You can read 2 Nephi 4:1-4 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi finishes speaking to Joseph and now, shortly before his death, blesses his grandchildren – the sons an daughters of Laman.
  • Lehi reminds them of the promise that the Lord has made concerning the promised land: if they keep the commandments, they will prosper in the land. If not, they will be cut off from God’s presence.

True Prosperity

In this chapter, Lehi recites a promise given to him:

“For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.” – 2 Nephi 4:4

I grew up a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I have heard this promise repeated over the years. Or, I think that I’ve actually only heard part of it repeated over the years. In my mind, the beginning of this promised is often emphasized: If we will keep God’s commandments, then we shall prosper in the land.

Often, I feel that this promise is interpreted as, if we keep the commandments, then will will prosper in a material way. I don’t know. I don’t want to speak for everyone. But I know that there have been times when people who are faithful but who aren’t prospering financially feel frustrated. Why aren’t they prospering if they keep the commandments?

To add to the confusion that can sometimes come, when reading the Book of Mormon, we know that when the people – in general – were righteous, they did prosper materially. They made more money, their crops did better, they became wealthy.

Of course, then, came a problem. Their prosperity seemed to blind them from God and His commandments, and they became proud. Their pride and sin would last for a while – seemingly without consequence. But, eventually their pride would hit a critical point where they would self-destruct. (Or they were weakened to the point that destruction from an outside source was significantly easier).

These patterns in the Book of Mormon seem to affirm the idea that when God says “ye shall prosper in the land.”

gilbert temple side

And yet, there is something that is bothering me about this interpretation. I suppose that I’ve already illustrated the potential problem. If this promise is all about material prosperity, then it gives way to pride. Not only do we see this in the Book of Mormon, but I think that if we closely look inward, we may see it in ourselves, too.

One – When we go through financial struggles, do we think why am I having this struggle, when I’m righteous? I pay my tithing!

Two – When we see others who are not seemingly righteous do we end up wondering how they have been financially blessed even though they aren’t keeping God’s commandments?

Three – When we see others who are poor but seemingly righteous, do we feel smug, thinking that they must be committing some kind of sin, otherwise God wouldn’t let them suffer in such a way?

Al of these scenarios may be traced back to the incorrect interpretation of Lehi’s prophecy.

Sedona AZ

Now, I don’t think that we need to ignore this warning. I don’t think that God is lying. He is neither promoting nor justifying the sin of pride. So – we need to take a closer look at the warning.

One – Keep My Commandments

So, first and foremost, we must keep the commandments. Which means that, even if prosperity can often tempt us into pride, we are not justified in being prideful. That is breaking a commandment!

Of course, Satan wants our failure. It shouldn’t come as a shock that he would tempt us to misuse that with which God blessed us.

I think that it is okay for us to desire a measure of temporal blessings. We need to stay alive!!!! We have basic biological needs – food, clothing, and shelter. It is a part of our life on earth to obtain these needs and help others to do so, too.

Not only that, but I think that this promise offers us comfort. We can trust the Lord. If we will keep the commandments, then we will be taken care of. It reminds me of what the Lord said in the New Testament:

“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:25-33

It’s not that if we are keeping the commandments everything will be easy. Instead, the Lord is imploring us to trust in Him. We shouldn’t set our hearts on riches. That leads us away from God. Instead, we need to 1) Love Him and 2) Love each other. And He assures us that as we do so, our very real temporal needs will be met.

Two – Ye Shall Prosper in the Land

I don’t want to dwell more on this, but I would ask what is true prosperity? What is true wealth? Is it having a lot of money, a big house, fancy cars, nice jewelry?

Is it health?

Is it loving relationships?

Is it a testimony in the true and living Christ?

Is it having a Book of Mormon?!

Is it peace and contentment – no matter our circumstances?

I’ll let you think of your own answers, but I will share one thought. I’ve had my own financial struggles. Very difficult financial struggles, despite doing all I can to keep the Lord’s commandments with exactness. During these times of financial stress, I woke up one morning, and realized I have everything I need. I am so abundantly blessed. I have a husband that loves me, and I love him. I KNOW THAT THIS IS A BLESSING!!!!!! I was in a terrible relationship in the past, and yet Heavenly Father saw fit to bless me by delivering me from the one that would have destroyed me. I have lived as a working single mom. I understand the pain of betrayal and loneliness.

This knowledge was not lost on me as I looked at my husband that morning. Though we very little by way of material blessings, I truly had everything I needed. I realized that my wealth exceeded my expectations. I have a family that I love and they love me.

So…What is prosperity??? Are we prosperous without knowing it???

Dandelions

Three – Not Keep My Commandments

This is pretty self explanatory since we already discussed keeping the commandments. But let’s remind ourselves:

One – Love God

Two – Love One Another

We have other commandments too, but they all fall under these two basic commandments. Are we living the laws that the Lord has given us? Are we living the law of sacrifice, chastity, the gospel, etc.? Are we cultivating faith, hope, and charity? Do we live the higher law that the Lord taught both in the New Testament and to the Nephites in 3 Nephi?

Are we listening to the whisperings of the Spirit?

If not, then….

Four – Ye Shall be Cut off from God’s Presence

Okay. This stands out to me. The warning does not say that if we keep the commandments, we’ll prosper and if we don’t keep the commandments, then we won’t prosper.

If so, then we could make the assumptions as stated above about material prosperity and righteousness.

Instead, God says, that if we keep the commandments, we’ll prosper, and that if we don’t keep the commandments, we’ll be cut off from His presence.

That’s different.

That means that maybe we can keep God’s commandments, be poor, but still have the constant companionship of His Spirit.

It also means that maybe we can break God’s commandments, and be rich; however, we will not have His Spirit, His happiness, His contentment or joy with us.

Perhaps by thinking about this aspect of the warning and promise, we can better understand what God means by “prosperity.”

field and hose.jpg

***

I need to end this. I don’t have a firm conclusion on anything, but that actually happens a lot when I study the scriptures. This concept will, no doubt, percolate in my mind and spirit for a while. This will give way to more studying and a better understanding of what God desires.

What I know right now is that I do want prosperity – as God defines and gives it. I’m grateful for the blessings that I already enjoy. I do not want to be cut off from the Lord or His Spirit. I’m grateful for the promises of God, and that we can learn about them in the scriptures.

Understanding Virtue: A Scripture Chain

In my ward, we are doing a Book of Mormon Summer reading challenge. This will help the young women to complete their value project for virtue: to read the Book of Mormon. The challenge is to read the Book of Mormon in 70 days – during the summer. (It is roughly 7.5 pages a day).

I’m going to start my summer reading challenge tomorrow. Today, I wanted to figure out what to study as I read the Book of Mormon. So…I’m thinking about the Virtue value project. I’m struck by the following question:

“What did He and those who followed Him do to live virtuous lives?” – from Virtue, Personal Progress Value Experience

And I think that’s what I want to study/learn about

Virtue!!!
Virtue!!!

Personally, I feel like we have a pretty limited understanding of virtue. I think that many of us feel like virtue means chastity. If so, then why not simply call it chastity? Maybe then we’ll elaborate and say, “Purity.” Still. Virtue is not really interchangeable for either chastity or purity. Sure, virtue includes chastity and purity, but I really think that it is that and more.

Here is a quick scripture chain that might help to shed a little light on virtue.

Proverbs 31:10

“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” – Proverbs 31:1

This is the “virtue” scripture that usually comes to mind. It seems nice. I don’t know. We might have some stereotypes or even wrong impressions about this scripture. This isn’t a scripture that describes a woman who is quiet and appeased by a bunch of gems. This isn’t a scripture that describes a woman who is property that can be bought.

The rest of 31 describes the many “virtues” of this virtuous woman. They include:

  • She is trustworthy.
  • She does good – especially within the context of her marriage.
  • She works with her hands.
  • She brings food. She physically nourishes her family.
  • She wakes up early and takes care of her stewardship.
  • She is a wise investor.
  • She is a gardener – or creator.
  • She is a hard worker.
  • She knows that her merchandise is good. She is confident.
  • She has many skills – she is knowledgable.
  • She is charitable to the poor.
  • She is not afraid or helpless.
  • She provides well for her household.
  • She is elegant.
  • She causes her household to be elegant as well.
  • She brings fame and honor to her husband because of her many strengths.
  • She is strong.
  • She is honorable.
  • She is wise.
  • She is kind.
  • She is not idle.
  • She is a mother.
  • She is prolific in good works (of all kinds).
  • She fears the Lord.
  • She is praised.

All of these items in this list are ways that this woman is virtuous. You could say it another way – she is powerful. Her purity and chastity are part of what makes her virtuous, but she is more than that, too. She gets stuff done. I want to be like her, you know?!

Really look through this list with an open heart and mind. Today, we’d call the virtuous woman a “super-woman,” perhaps. She has a lot going on, for sure, but these things are all achievable – not all at once, but over time. (That’s nearly always the way). We can become wise, elegant, chaste, charitable, honorable, and strong. We don’t have to throw all of the balls in the air and do them at once. We have a lifetime to develop these qualities. And, while we’re striving, I believe we can consider ourselves to be virtuous women.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:45

“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:45

Now, lest you think that the charge to be virtuous only applies to women, here is an example where men are told to be virtuous, too.

Throughout verses 41-46, the Lord instructs Joseph Smith on the use of the Priesthood. In verse 39, the Lord warns Joseph of the nature of most men in regards to the Priesthood and to power, in general:

“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:39

So – the Lord then tutors Joseph Smith on how to be a man who righteously bears the Priesthood of God. Since we made a list for the ladies, we’ll make a list for the men.

  • Not power hungry
  • Long-suffering
  • gentle
  • meek
  • loving to others – unconditionally
  • kind
  • exhibiting pure knowledge
  • without hypocrisy
  • without guile
  • reproving – which means GENTLE CORRECTION
  • sharp – exact and quick – so the dude who reproves with sharpness will correct gently with exactness. He won’t do a “hack job” of it. “Reproving at times with sharpness” doesn’t mean being a bully. Quite the opposite.
  • guided by the Holy Ghost
  • loving, especially to those whom he has gently corrected
  • knows that “faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.”
  • bowels are full of charity
  • virtue garnishes his thoughts at all times – his mind is pure and chaste which makes it poweful
  • confident in God
  • gains an understanding of the doctrine of the Priesthood
  • has the Holy Ghost as a constant companion
  • righteous
  • a father

So – men also have high standards. Both men and women are expected to be not only virtuous, but to strive to be the best people that they can be. We are all expected to be not only pure and chaste, but also motivated by faith and filled with charity. This enables us to be empowered by God.

Virtue figures into this greatly. I think that virtue is not only a commitment to be righteous (pure and chaste), but it becomes a well of power within us.

Luke 6:19

“And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.” – Luke 6:19

This scripture is about Christ – when He healed some people “vexed with unclean Spirits.” I find this use of the word “virtue” particularly interesting because it challenges our modern notion of virtue.

Here, we wouldn’t describe Christ’s virtue as “chastity.” It is something else. It is a power to heal others.

His healing power is described as virtue also when the woman touches His hem and is healed:

“And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.” – Luke 8:46

Christ was traveling in a throng of people. Undoubtedly many were touching Him. But only one was healed, and when that healing took place, He could feel his power being physically transferred to this woman.

There is a connection between virtue and power.

We will study one final example like this.

Alma 31:5

“And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.” – Alma 31:5, emphasis added.

God’s word, as Alma knew, was virtuous. Not only does virtue, in this context, mean pure, righteous or chaste, we learn that virtue is a power that is stronger than the sword.

***

Now that we have studied these verses, I think that we can make better sense of virtue. Virtue is power that is rooted in righteousness and purity. It’s power comes from our decision to be righteous, chaste, and made pure through the Atonement of Christ. So, virtue is definitely related to chastity and purity, but it is a little bit more than that!!! Virtue is a source of power.

Virtue is not a power of force. It is not a power of material wealth. It is a power that surpasses the understanding of this world. Virtue is a power that can enable us to heal, to nourish, to strengthen, and to provide. Virtue is a power that is rooted in our Savior and can only be accessed when we are doing what we can to be like Him.

Really, virtue is pretty awesome. So I will agree with the proverb. The price of a virtuous woman is far above rubies. The price of a virtuous man is far above titanium.

I want to develop this quality.

Okay, I’ll end with one last scripture – because it is applicable and might give us a hint on how to develop virtue for ourselves.

Doctrine and Covenants 88:38-40

“And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.

For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things. – Doctrine and Covenants 88:38-40

So – if we want to have virtue, then we have to identify that it is built upon laws and principles. Virtue is only built upon the very highest principles of righteousness.

Additionally, if we want to be virtuous, then we must learn to love virtue. I have a feeling it is one of those qualities that continues to add to itself as we continue to progress and apply the Atonement in our lives.

***
What are your thoughts on virtue? Do you think it is an outdated stereotype or a source of strength and power? How can you work to develop virtue in your life?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (8/8)

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

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

This is the final of the beatitudes that we’ll be studying. I feel like I’ve learned so much! I hope that you have, too.

This last beatitude is actually a little longer than the others. We can quote it in one verse, but the Savior actually continues on:

” Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” – Matthew 5:10-12

Before I began to really study this beatitude, I wondered, why did Christ tell this one last of all? and Why did Christ explain this one more than He did the others? I’m not completely sure of the answers. (Besides, they would only be speculation, anyways). But I’m keeping them in mind. In a way, I suppose it implies importance to this beatitude. In any case, think about this while we study the beatitude.

As with the other beatitudes, we will first discover what this beatitude means. We will then see how Christ exemplified it during His great work of the Atonement.

The Meaning of the Parable

Persecuted for righteousness’ sake

You don’t have to think very long or hard to find examples of people who have either persecuted the righteous or have been persecuted because they were righteous. A few quick examples include: The people in Lehi’s Dream (1 Nephi 8), Joseph Smith (See here), The Savior (Luke 23), Abinadi (Mosiah 17), and Alma both persecuted others (Mosiah 27 and then after his conversion was persecuted (Alma 14). There are even modern-day accounts of people who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. (Jeffrey R. Holland shares a few examples in this talk).

The point of this list is to say that people have always been persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The short list above is not even the tip of the iceberg. So many of the people I listed here who were persecuted for righteousness’ sake were martyred. What dedication! Yet the beatitude says that “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…” how could persecution unto death be considered a blessing?

Jacob, the son of Lehi, was reminded about his suffering:

“Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” – 2 Nephi 2:2

Trusting that we’ll be blessed for enduring persecution requires us to trust in God and His perspective. It can be difficult to see how such endurance could be a blessing. I’m often guilty of thinking, “Oh, things will be alright. If I’m righteous, then the Lord will spare me of my suffering.” Sometimes, this is true. Because of righteous decisions, there is a great deal of suffering that I’m spared of – self-inflicted problems such as addiction.

However, this beatitude reminds us that there are times when, even though we’re righteous, we will suffer. Some people, like many mentioned above, suffer to the death. There are times when we won’t be delivered from the difficulty and affliction we’re in until we die. We must maintain an eternal perspective while going through this life, otherwise it is impossible to endure persecution.

***
There is another aspect to being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. I can’t help but think about the people who are doing the persecuting. What on earth is their motive? An unnamed high priest wonders the same thing when Korihor is about persecuting the people of God and preaching against the gospel:

“And it came to pass that the high priest said unto him [Korihor]: Why do ye go about perverting the ways of the Lord? Why do ye teach this people that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings? Why do ye speak against all the prophecies of the holy prophets?” – Alma 30:22

In other words, this high priest is asking Korihor, “What’s your deal? Why are you changing God’s ways and laws? Why are you trying to frustrate our happiness? There are so many more witnesses than you of God and His divinity. What gives???

Why do people persecute others? What motivated the Pharisees to hate the Savior so much? Why did Korihor, Sherem, and Nehor seek to destroy the church in the Book of Mormon. Why did mobs of people attack and then kill Joseph Smith? What motivates those who persected in the past and those who persecute others now?

In the Book of Mormon is recorded Lehi’s dream. He had a vision where he saw many people walking along a path and an iron rod to the tree of life. This path was arduous and difficult. The people needed to endure trials, mists of darkness, and even scoffing and mocking in order to finally partake of the fruit of this tree. Along this path were people in a “great and spacious building” who mocked the people who were faithfully holding tight to the rod of iron and making their way to the tree of life.

Why did they mock? What was it to them? We find out more about these people from Nephi:

“And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.” – 1 Nephi 12:18

The people in the great and spacious building were motivated by the “vain imaginations” and pride.

Other helpful examples are the excuses given by three prominent “anti-Christs” in the book of Mormon.

Why did Sherem persecute the people and preach against God? He tells here:

And he spake plainly unto them, that he had been deceived by the power of the devil. And he spake of hell, and of eternity, and of eternal punishment. – Jacob 7:18

Sherem preached against righteousness because he had been deceived.

Why did Nehor preach against the church and then even kill Gideon, a righteous man? We learn in Alma:

“And it came to pass that he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money.” – Alma 1:5

Nehor preached against righteousness because he was able to get power and money for his self-promotion and teaching. Nehor later killed a righteous man, and was consequently put to death. At his execution, Nehor admits that what he had taught people was “contrary to the word of God,” (Alma 1:15).

Why did Korihor persecute the righteous? He explains it himself:

“But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.” – Alma 30:53

From these four examples, I can only surmise that people persecute the righteous because they are proud, they are deceived, they want power and prestige over others, and because righteousness is not really pleasing to our carnal, natural minds.

I think it is important to remember the motives of those who persecute against righteousness. Sometimes the reason is pathetic- the people are confused or deceived. Other times, the reasons are insidious – they want power over people. Understanding these motives can help us to fight them off. Those who preach against the gospel and persecute righteousness can be very convincing.

Kingdom of Heaven

Next, the Lord teaches that those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed because theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Before investigating this further, the first thing that strikes me is that Christ doesn’t say, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for they will be blessed with monetary riches.” He doesn’t say that they “…will experience great health throughout their lives.” He doesn’t promise friends, an easy life, or many of the things that we consider blessings.

Instead, Christ offers something that no one or thing else can offer: the kingdom of Heaven. I think that if we remember that this is the blessing, then we will also better be able to keep perspective of our current trials and tribulations. In other words, this beatitude demands us to have an eternal perspective.

Now, what is the kingdom of Heaven?

I can’t help but think of the many parables that Christ gives in Matthew 13. In this chapter alone, we learn that the kingdom of Heaven is:

  • “Mysterious” – it is not understood by the natural mind, but by the Spirit. (Verse 11)
  • Will be purged of the tares. (Verse 24)
  • Like a mustard seed – the least of all seeds, but greatest of all herbs: growing into a tree. (Verse 31)
  • Like leaven – a small amount will leaven the whole loaf. (Verse 33)
  • A treasure in a field and when a man finds it will sell all he has to buy that field. (Verse 44)
  • A pearl of great price. (Verse 45)
  • A net that is cast into the sea and gathers of every kind. All of the bad is discarded, then all truth and goodness is included. (Verse 47)

As I look through this list, I’m struck by a few things: the kingdom of Heaven is, of course, God’s kingdom. It is perfectly cleaned. In fact, it has been cleansed by Him. The tares were cast out. The garbage caught in the net was discarded. Only the pure remains.

Additionally, I’m formulating another idea of the kingdom of heaven. It is abundantly rich. Like the mustard tree, it is large and strong even though it had humble beginnings. It is a pearl of great price. It is everything in the earth that is good and true. I really love understanding this concept. I have recently gotten into yoga and meditation. There are so many good practices from eastern religions. As I’ve learned more about them, I remember to keep the Savior at the center of everything that I’m learning, but that the gospel is all truth circumscribed into one great whole.

This is the kingdom of Heaven: all that is good, just, and true. It is all that is beautiful and joyous. It is every pure and good thing. It isn’t just this ethereal idea of people floating around in clouds and blowing trumpets (although there may be some of that…who knows). My point is it is more than that. The kingdom of Heaven is substantive. It is all of everything – truth, goodness, purity. I need to remember that God isn’t just offering us a life of hanging out in the sky. He offers us the abundant life. To those who are righteous to the point where they will endure persecution because of their righteousness Christ offers everything in His kingdom.

Understanding this makes martyrdom, even, seem like a small price to pay for everlasting joy and abundance.

Jesus Christ – His Atonement and Persecution

Now that we understand more about this beatitude, we will look at how it can possibly relate to Christ’s Atonement.

Persecution for Righteousness’ sake

Well, at first glance, I think that it is really easy to see the relationship between this beatitude and the Atonement. The entire Atonement is fraught with persecution and suffering. Here are a few thoughts on the matter:

One
Christ was righteous, and I mean Righteous. He is the essence of all righteousness. His example is perfect. He was pure. The Atonement – which was taking on our sins and imperfections and paying the price that justice demanded of them so that we could receive mercy – could only be performed by Him. Because of His purity, only He could offer Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins.

Jesus Praying in Gethsemane (Christ in Gethsemane), by Harry Anderson
Jesus Praying in Gethsemane (Christ in Gethsemane), by Harry Anderson

It is interesting to me, too, that Christ – immediately after paying the price of our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane – would be betrayed, falsely accused, and arrested.

Two
After being arrested, he is taken before Pilate and questioned. He then is taken to Herod where he is treated like some kind of circus freak. (Herod wants him to “perform”). This is all before the real persecution starts. But it’s bad enough already. Can you imagine being falsely accused and then taken before local judges/magistrates where they treated you like some kind of freak show? How horribly humiliating.

But Christ’s persecution – all because He was righteous – doesn’t end there.

Christ is sentenced to death, primarily because a mob chanting, “Crucify Him!” refused to release a known robber. The Pharisees and wicked people that condemned Christ were largely offended by who He was – the son of God – one who healed, served, and performed miracles. Instead of seeing that Christ was their promised Messiah, because they had been so far removed from righteousness, they persecuted it.

As Christ endured His sentence, He also endured a great deal of persecution.

Nephi describes Christ’s experience succinctly:

“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 19:9

AFTER Christ had already suffered the pains of every sin and infirmity of every person in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ then suffered the humiliation of false accusation, arrest and judgement. Then, He continued to suffer mocking, scourging, and smiting.

Matthew relates what happened to the Savior as He hung on the Christ but before He gave up the ghost:

And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,

And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,

He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.

The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.” – Matthew 27:39-43

I find this to be one of the most bitterly ironic passages, or paradoxical, maybe hypocritical? I don’t know. But this passage is annoying, at best, and I shake my head in amazement. These unbelieving Jews, the people of the covenant, didn’t understand their own religion or their God. And what they persecute Christ for demonstrates their ignorance and pride.

They walk by Him, wagging their heads. This implies a sense of persecution and mockery, for sure.

Then, they tempt Christ, saying, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” They claim that because He can’t save Himself, then He’s obviously not capable of saving anyone else. But they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand their own laws and ordinances. They didn’t understand the symbolism of the blood sacrifice that they offered – as a type of the sacrifice that He would offer.

The thing that is ironic here is that because Christ didn’t save Himself in that moment, he saved Himself and all mankind. Had Christ not endured persecution for righteousness sake, and He had the power not to, then He would not have been able to finish His work. By staying on that cross,and by dying, He was saving Himself and others!

Three
Thankfully, we have the advantage of hindsight when thinking of Christ and His Atonement. We know that three days after being crucified, He was not in the garden tomb. He was risen. And He lives.

Sometimes it is easy to think that we could endure the persecution that those who lived in the past endured, but we forget that they didn’t have the advantage of hindsight.

When I think of Christ’s experience being persecuted, I am reminded of the fact that sometimes the wicked do have the power to hurt us to the point where we may die. Sometimes the wicked do obtain material wealth and power over others. We see this with war criminals. We see this with the Pharisees that condemned Christ.

But we must maintain perspective. The devil had power to bruise Christ’s Heel, but with that very heel that had been bruised, Christ was able to crush the devil’s head.

Righteous will prevail. It’s worth enduring persecution for.

The Kingdom of Heaven

Because of all that Christ suffered – even unto death; because He chose to descend below all, He was able ascend above all and inherit the kingdom of God.

And, because Christ has suffered our sins, we can covenant with Him and also become joint heirs and inherit the kingdom of Heaven.

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Last week, I went to the Mesa Easter Pageant with my kids. When Christ was being crucified, T-Rex was perplexed, “Why didn’t he fight?” He asked. It was cute, and it was a good question.

That’s the thing, though. Christ didn’t fight the immediate problem. He could have He could have escaped and destroyed His executioners. He could have avoided all persecution. He could have silenced the Pharisees or He could have given into their traps. Of course, Had he done that, then the Atonement would not have been performed, Salvation for all would have been thwarted and niehter the Savior nor anyone else would have been able to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

And, as I write this, maybe the right answer to my little boy is, “Oh, but He did fight. He fought the true fight of agency and mastery over sin and temptation. He performed His work. He was resurrected. He lives. He didn’t get diverted by a little difficulty (okay, crucifixion is more than a “little” difficulty). Instead, He stayed focused on His real battle, and He conquered.

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What have you learned about being persecuted for righteousness’ sake? Have you experienced this in some way? How did you endure?

The Atonement: The Beatitudes (7/8)

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

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

So, as I study this scripture, I have to admit, this beatitude has always stumped me a little bit. It’s the promise that kind of makes me wonder…aren’t we all children of God? I mean, really, aren’t we all children of God, no matter how we act or what we do?

Obviously, I know that the Savior knows more than I do. I know that if the Savior says this then it’s not that He has to clarify, it’s that I need to seek clarity. I need to understand what He means. So…that’s what we’ll be doing today. Anyway – I’ve been trying to think of a succinct and organized way to write this post, but I’m not sure exactly how to do it. So, bear with me as I go through the thought process on 1) Understanding this Beatitude 2) Seeing how it Applies to Christ’s Atonement.

Children of God and Children of God

Nice heading, huh?

As I mentioned earlier, we are all children of God. I know this. I know that He is the Father of our Spirits. There is ample scriptural evidence of this. Heavenly Father (notice the title!!!!) formed us, created the earth, and provided a way for us to come and live on this earth so we could progress in our eternal lives. He knows each of us intimately. He is the father of our spirits.

There is absolutely no doubt that we are children of God, and I don’t think that Christ wass suggesting that we somehow have to “qualify” to become Heavenly Father’s children. However, there is a difference between being His Spiritual children of our Heavenly Father and then becoming a child of God (As in the Godhead, not solely Heavenly Father), through covenant. In fact, when we are baptized, it is referred to as being born again. To whom are we born? God.

King Benjamin Addresses the People
King Benjamin Addresses the People

King Benjamin explains this well:

“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” – Mosiah 5:7

Alma the younger, shortly after His conversion also teaches:

“For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.

And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” – Mosiah 27:24-26

In the beatitudes, when Christ suggests that we can become the children of God, this doesn’t refer to what we already are: Spirit sons and daughters of Heavenly Father. He refers to our receiving the blessings of the baptismal covenant with God. We are all spiritual children of Heavenly Father, but because of our fallen natures, we have been cut off from Him. In order to be a child of God, we need to covenant with Him and be spiritually reborn.

We know that Christ exemplified this Himself when He was baptized despite the fact that He was pure. He still needed to covenant with God to fulfill all righteousness. Being a peacemaker and being called a child of God is dependent on our covenanting with Him.

I think that understanding this is crucial to understanding the rest of the beatitude.

What is a peacemaker? What is peace?

The second point to understand with this beatitude is what Christ actually means by being a peacemaker. In order to understand that, we really have to ask “what is peace?” Is it simply not fighting?

Well, sure, not fighting is a part of it. (See 3 Nephi 11:29.) It is easy to think of peace in terms of how the world thinks of it – a lack of contention or war, but Christ has already explained that He doesn’t offer peace as the world defines it.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27

The “world” has defined peace largely as an absence of warring, fighting, strife. I looked up the definition of peace on dictionary.com, and the first six definitions have to do with an absence of something – war, strife, difficulty. The seventh definition – tranquility and serenity – is probably closest to what Christ means when He offers peace. In other words, Peace isn’t merely an absence of ill will, malignant deeds, or debilitating trial. It is, instead the presence of God’s Spirit and love. Christ offers us peace of conscience. We can experience peace, in Christ, even during the midst of the most difficult trial. No one or no thing else can offer this.

When we understand peace in the way that Christ means it, then peace becomes more powerful and more desirable. Peace becomes a transcendental power rather than some innocuous vacuum-like state. Obtaining peace, then, is the first step in becoming a peacemaker, and it all goes back to the covenant that we talked about earlier in this post. We can find an equation here…

1) Covenant with God → 2) Experience God’s Love for us and feel His Peace → 3) Proclaim peace to others by sharing the gospel and magnifying our callings. = 4)Being Called a Child of God

Covenant with God in the Waters of Baptism

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Does peace come before or after baptism? And I guess that the answer is – both. It can come to us in glimpses before baptism. This peace and comfort is what motivates us to be baptized. However, we cannot really obtain the peace that Christ offers without being baptized.

He invites us:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

When we come unto Christ and take His yoke upon us, which is taking His name upon us, which is done in the waters of baptism, then we will find rest unto our souls. When we take on Christ’s name, we’ll be able to have peace.

In order to be a peacemaker, we first need to have peace in our souls. This comes when we humble ourselves, have faith, and take upon Christ’s name in the waters of baptism.

Experience God’s Love for us and Feel His Peace

I know that this seems kind of obvious, but I want to list it as a step because it is important to recognize that we cannot possibly share something with others that we have not first obtained ourselves. We cannot make peace without first having peace.

When the people who had listened to King Benjamin’s speech accepted it, they wanted to covenant with God. They had experienced the peace that comes when we covenant with Christ.

” And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them.” – Mosiah 4:3

Proclaim Peace to Others by Sharing the Gospel and Magnifying our Callings

After obtaining our own peace of conscience through repentance and covenanting with the Lord, we can proclaim peace to others.

How does this look? Does this mean that we go around, making peace signs, telling people, “Give Peace a Chance”? Does this mean that if your kids are fighting at home, then you start singing, “Love at Home”?

Maybe.

But, really, that’s only a surface solution. Being a peacemaker is proclaiming peace. I think that Christ wants us to be the kind of peacemakers that will establish everlasting peace and joy – the peace that He offers.

A few years ago, I was on a walk listening to the radio. Several nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize were being announced. I didn’t disagree with the nominations, yet inwardly I thought to myself, “We have this all wrong, the real peacemakers are simple, young men and women. The real nominees should be the missionaries.

Elder Quentin L. Cook has taught:

“My heart rejoices when I realize that in our day tens of thousands of young men, young women, and senior missionaries have accepted the call to be emissaries of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They are taking the restored gospel of peace to the world, one person and one family at a time—a work of righteousness to bring this peace to Heavenly Father’s children.” – Quentin L. Cook, Personal Peace: the Reward of Righteousness

The missionaries, one by one, are accepting the call to serve. They are set apart, and they leave their families, their lives, their ambitions, their futures to serve God and proclaim His gospel of peace. It is beautiful. This scripture comes to mind:

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” – Isaiah 52:7

This duty and blessing doesn’t only apply to missionaries. We can all establish peace in our homes, in our communities, and even in a worldwide setting by sharing the gospel.

There are two examples I want to share. The first is of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon. In the Words of Mormon, we read:

For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people—

Wherefore, with the help of these, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land.” – Words of Mormon 1:17-18

King Benjamin had followed the aforementioned pattern. He was a holy man. He had covenanted with God. He knew the peace of the Gospel. Through the authority he and other prophets held, they spoke the word of God with power. This is how they established peace in the land. They didn’t enact programs or laws. Instead, they bore pure testimony with authority. They taught the gospel of repentance. They established a culture of faith and peace.

Another example is Melchizedek. He was a prophet in the Old Testament and was also known as the prince of peace.

“But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.” – Alma 13:18

Melchizedek, like King Benjamin, established peace by preaching the gospel.

We are Called the Children of God

We’ve already talked about what it means to become a child of God by covenanting with Him in the waters of baptism; however, being called a child of God comes after we proclaim peace – not after we covenant with Him. In other words, covenanting with God isn’t quite enough. It is when we keep our covenant, which includes sharing the gospel with others, that we are then called children of God.

The Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ

When Christ was born, the angels declared:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2:14

Even though the Savior was born, warring didn’t cease, fighting and opposition didn’t disappear. In fact, Joseph, Mary, and the very Prince of Peace would have to escape to Egypt to hide from the edict sent by Herod to kill all of the children under the age of 2. Yet we know that Christ brought peace to the earth.

We can look at the pattern discussed in this blog to determine how Christ did bring peace to the earth.

1) Covenanting with God
Christ, to fulfill all righteousness, was baptized. He covenanted directly with Heavenly Father – even though He was pure and didn’t need the cleansing effect of baptism. He exemplified what we all must do; He covenanted with God; and by doing so, he inherited all that God has – including peace and rest.

2) Experience God’s Love
Throughout Christ’s life, He experienced God’s love. He had a close relationship with His Father. When Christ was baptized, Heavenly Father announced, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:17

It is this love, I believe, that empowered Christ throughout His ministry. Because Christ was pure, He was united with God. He could feel God’s love purely. He understood His relationship with His Father, and He also expressed this pure love to others throughout His ministry.

I want to think of this feeling of God’s love and peace, however, within the context of the Atonement, itself. Did Christ feel God’s love for Him while He performed His great sacrifice? I think so.

While Christ suffered in Gethsemane, he called out, asking for the bitter cup to be removed. Yet He did Heavenly Father’s will – which was to endure the bitter agony of the Atonement. Heavenly Father didn’t leave Him alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. We read,

“And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” – Luke 22:43

Of course, later on, Christ would be forsaken by God. I think that, in a way, this teaches us about the companionship of God – when we’re doing what is right; and how God’s love gives us unparalleled peace.

So, I invite you to follow my logic for a second.

Christ was perfect. He was pure. He had never committed any sin or infraction against the laws of Heaven that would have warranted a separation from God. Unlike the rest of humanity, He had a unique dual-nature. He was both man and the literal son of God. This may be hard to understand. Certainly, I can’t pretend to comprehend it. However, we know that His nature was literally divine. He is the literal offspring of God.

Because of this, He wasn’t bound by the effects of the fall. His purity and His godly nature enabled Him to have a closeness with God that none of us can achieve. The Savior, because of His perfect life did not know what being cut off from God felt like.

I think it is safe to say that every one of us understands being “cut off” from God. Sure there are times when I’ve felt close to God. Yet, I sin, and I’m learning, and there have been times I’ve cut myself off from God knowingly. There have also been times when I have felt like Joseph Smith when he asked, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?”Doctrine and Covenants 121:1 I have experienced this before. As I get closer to God, I find how precise and pure He is. I guess that what I’m saying is, as I become a more spiritually tuned being, I’m seeing how sensitive the Spirit is. In my life, the pavilion that covers God’s hiding place is often a result of my own imperfections, and unfortunately, that happens more often than I’d like.

However, the Savior hadn’t really experienced any kind of disruption between His closeness with God. He was perfect and had access to God in a way that I can’t imagine. Up until that moment on the cross. In that brief, terrible moment, in order for Christ to truly descend below all, Heavenly Father had to “forsake” His perfect Son. And when this happened, Christ immediately recognized. He cried out:

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46

Christ was accustomed to peace. He didn’t fret. He didn’t worry while He slept and the tempest raged. He didn’t freak out when Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. He didn’t fight Pilate, Herod, or any of the high priests who condemned Him. He was filled with the peace of God and proceeded through the work of the Atonement in a peaceful manner.

3) Proclaim Peace to Others by Sharing the Gospel and Magnifying His Calling
Okay – so this is the final part of being a peacemaker. And, boy, did Christ proclaim peace. The entire work of the Atonement is a proclamation of peace. His calling was to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin, so we could experience peace.

I love the scripture in Isaiah:

“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 53:5

The phrase, “the chastisement of our peace was upon Him” has always stood out to me – probably because it is relatively difficult to understand. My thought is that Christ took on the chastisement that would come as a result of our sins so we could feel peace. Mercy cannot rob justice. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. He was chastised so that we could experience peace. His stripes heal us.

The Atonement is the greatest proclamation of peace in the history of mankind. It is because of Christ’s Atonement that we can experience peace. Truly He is the Prince of Peace, and we become peacemakers when we share the message of the Savior and His Atonement.

4) He is called a child of God
This point is pretty obvious, and my blog post is already long, so I won’t go in depth here, but it is worth mentioning.

Christ covenanted with God. He experienced Peace. He proclaimed Peace. Because of what He did: suffering, dying, and being resurrected – He was able in inherit all God has. He is a child of God. And because of Christ, we can also partake in this inheritance.

Pretty amazing, huh?!

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I have loved studying this beatitude. What do you think of it? What have you done in your life to cultivate peace in your own heart? How have you shared this peace? What do you do to be a peacemaker?

New Testament Study Companion: Luke

It has been a little over a year since I shared my last two Scripture Study Companions. (Matthew and Mark) Today, I release my third – LUKE!!! (I’m hoping that John, the last installment, will be out next month).

New Testament Study Companion: Luke
New Testament Study Companion: Luke

This book takes you chapter by chapter through Luke with questions and exercises/ideas for in-depth study. You can get this book a few different ways.

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New Testament Study Companion: Luke – free eBook

Click here for the free eBook. This format will work for just about anything. 🙂

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New Testament Study Companion: Luke – free PDF

You can also download it at the website Luke

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New Testament Study Companion: Luke – Kindle Version

Click here for The New Testament Study Companion: Luke available for Kindle.

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New Testament Study Companion: Luke – Print Version

Click here if you are interested in a print version of the book.
You can also choose to have this book printed and sent to you for $3.04. This might be a nice option for people who like to hold things in their hands. It is also most likely less expensive and more durable than printing the eBook yourself.

About the New Testament Study Companion: Luke

This book is designed to help you study the book of Luke. It is like the scripture study series–in that you will read a block of text, and I have included many questions that will help you to ponder the scriptures you read.

Additionally, each chapter includes several exercises that will help you to find patterns, themes, concepts, scripture chains, cross-refernences, etc. These exercises will help you to study each chapter in-depth. I hope that each time you use this study companion, you will be edified and excited about scripture study.

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Okay…so check it out. Let me know what you think. You can also find The Scripture Study Companion for Matthew and Mark. Be on the look-out for John!

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Oh…and HUUUUUUUGE shout out to my very talented friend Stephanie Clawson. She has created the art for all of these scripture study guides. You can check out her blog here. It is both beautiful and inspiring. She truly lives the gospel. She also has an Etsy shop here.

The Atonement: Importance, Opposition, and Protection

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, (Luke, and John coming soon).

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ–Assignment for Matthew 2

” Read Matthew 2. Complete the following questions.

  1. What do you think the relationship is between the wise men’s search for and then worshipping of Christ and the Atonement? What did the wise men already understand about Christ?
  2. What is the relationship of Herod’s edict—to kill all of the children of Israel—and the Atonement? Why was this hatred a necessary part of Christ’s life and mission?
  3. What is the relationship between the protection of Christ by holy messengers and the Atonement? What do we learn about Christ’s power and the importance of His work, even while He was a young baby?

As I think about these questions, I have three main ideas floating somewhere in my brain.

What the Wise Men Teach Us About the Atonement

Shortly after Christ was born, wise men came to see Him. They had come from the east, apprised of Christ’s birth through the sign of the new star that had appeared.

In Matthew 2:2, They ask:

“Where is the child that is born, the Messiah of the Jews? – Matthew 2:2 (JST)

Not only did these wise men knew that Jesus had been born, but they knew why this birth was so important. We don’t know much about the wise men, but they understood that Christ was the Messiah. They, most likely, understood why a Messiah was so important–that the Messiah would perform an Atonement that would save mankind from their sins.

Although I don’t have empirical proof of what, exactly, the wise men knew, it isn’t too hard to assume they understood the role that Christ would have as Savior. We know that many of the ancient prophets understood that Christ would come to the earth, and that He would redeem us. (Examples include: 2 Nephi 2:26, Isaiah 53:3-5, Alma 7:11-12…and there are many more).

The wise men teach us that we, too, can be wise by watching the signs and seeking the Savior. They found Him. Thou he was still a young child, they understood His divine calling, and what it must have meant for them. The Savior still needed to grow into a man, and then actually perform the Atonement, but they were able to go and personally see the Hope of Israel: the Savior of the World. The Atonement wasn’t some secret that was kept until Christ actually performed it. The work of Christ had been taught about and prophesied of since the beginning. We all need Him, the world needed Him and the Atonement He would provide, and, finally, He came.

What Herod Teaches us About the Atonement

When the three wise men went to Jerusalem, seeking the Savior, they found Herod. Even though Herod was a Jew, he wasn’t faithful or knowledgeable of the signs of Christ’s coming birth. In speaking with the wise men, Herod became worried about his own power and position. He told the wise men to return and give him word on the whereabouts of this little boy.

Of course, we know that Christ was protected. Instead of returning to Herod, the wise men left Israel another way. When Herod finally figured out that they wouldn’t be coming back, he released an edict–having all of the children under two years of age in Bethlehem killed.

Honestly, this is disgusting.

But that’s not the point I’m trying to make. We can sit here and wonder why Herod would do something so horrible, but let’s think about this edict in terms of the Atonement. To me, what stands out is that there is opposition.

The Atonement is not something that would just happen easily. The Devil would try time and time again to thwart the efforts of the Savior. He begins long before the Savior can even do anything for himself – when he was still a young toddler!

I think it is also important to remember that Satan will try to do the same to us in our own lives: He will do anything he can to thwart the power and blessings of the Atonement. Sometimes it is hard to remember that we have a real enemy. In other words, it is easy to think that Herod was Christ’s enemy, bu this is not completely the case. Satan was the enemy. Herod was in Satan’s grasp. Undoubtedly, it was the whisperings of an evil spirit that prompted Herod to make such a grievous edict. Satan is also an enemy to us, and just as he influenced Herod, he tries to influence us. Satan will not make the path to the Atonement easy for us.

What God’s Influence Teaches us About the Atonement

Despite the opposition Christ faced, He was protected. An angel of the Lord, in a dream, warned Joseph that they should flee–taking the Christ-child to Egypt. Joseph was apprised of Herod’s motive to destroy the Savior. They left in the night.

This also teaches us about the Atonement. It is important. It is God’s will. And God’s will will prevail. God always protected Jesus and enabled Him to be able to perform this great work. It is still Christ that atoned, but Heavenly Father helped to ensure that it would have the chance to happen (should Christ choose). The Devil, though he tried hard, didn’t have the power to overthrow the will of God.

I think that this is true in our own lives, too. God wants us to succeed. He wants us to be redeemed and return to Him. If we always choose to follow His will, then this is what will happen for us. Even when the Devil tries hard to thwart our best efforts, we will not be overpowered if we stay close to the Lord and choose to be empowered by the Atonement that He has performed for each of us.

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What have you learned about the Atonement in Matthew 2? How does it strengthen your faith in the Atonement and your relationship with the Savior?

New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

I’m soooooooooooo excited.

I’ve been working on this completely insane project for a little while now. While I’m not completely finished with it, I can finally start sharing it with you.

In the past, you know that I’ve created several scripture study series. I feel like they’ve probably been helpful to people who have completed them. My newest project is a study guide for the Gospels. And Matthew is now available!

New Testament Study Companion: Matthew
New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

So…there are a few ways that you can get this book.

Free eBook

Click here for ePub or eBook.
This format will work for iPad, iPhone, Nook, and pretty much everything but the Kindle.

Free PDF

Click here for the downloadable PDF Version.
You can also download this as a PDF if you would prefer.

Print Version

Click here if you are interested in a print version.
You can also choose to have this book printed and sent to you for $5.86. This might be a nice option for people who like to hold things in their hands. It is also most likely less expensive and more durable than printing the eBook yourself.

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Kindle

Click here if you are interested in the book for Kindle.
Here the book is available on Amazon, and can be read on your kindle eReader.

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About the New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

This book is designed to help you study the book of Matthew. It is like the Scripture study series–in that you will read a block of text, and I have included many questions that will help you to ponder the scriptures you read.

Additionally, each chapter includes several exercises that will help you to find patterns, themes, concepts, scripture chains, cross-refernences, etc. These exercises will help you to study each chapter in-depth. I hope that each time you use this study companion, you will be edified and excited about scripture study.

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Okay…so check it out. Let me know what you think. And be on the look out for Mark, Luke, and John!