Redemption Comes through Christ: Witness of Christ (Part 6/6) – 2 Nephi 2:5-9

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

Context and General Information

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

Witness of Christ

I realize that this has been a really long series of blog entries for a short few verses. But there is so much to ponder! This entire chapter is packed with foundational doctrine, principles, and laws. It’s amazing!!! So, anyway – this is the last post in this series of posts on 2 Nephi 2:5-9—Redemption Comes through Christ.

Savior Praying

We have studied the law, redemption (and our need for it), Christ’s grace and truth, Christ’s sacrifice for sin, and our sacrifices of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Finally, we will study another thing that we must do – bear witness of Christ, His redemption and our need for it.

Lehi declared:

“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.” – 2 Nephi 2:8-9

There is so much to study in this, and a part of me wishes I could take the time to unpack every little thing in this verse, but I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to focus on one part of it: how great the important to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth.

Why is it so important to make these things known to everyone? Why are we exhorted to share the good news of the gospel—that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. That through His merits, mercy and grace, we can dwell again in the presence of God? Why do we need to declare to others that Christ is the firstfruits unto God and will make an intercession for all of us???

I can’t help but think of part of our responsibilities as covenant members of Christ’s church as taught by Alma the elder:

“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—” – Mosiah 18:9

When we are baptized, we promise to be willing to mourn with others, comfort others, and stand as a witness of God to others. This is a part of our own redemption – sharing the message of redemption to others. Why is that? Why is our witness a necessary ingredient in our covenant?

I’m reminded of two scriptures…First – the two great commandments given to us by the Savior:

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” – Matthew 22:37-49

Second, Lehi’s experience when partaking of the fruit of the tree of life:

“And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.

And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.” – 1 Nephi 8:11-12

Okay…I hope that I can make this train of thought clear. Lehi partook of the fruit of the tree of life. He chose a covenant path, held to the rod, and He made it. He partook of the the fruit. That fruit symbolized the love of God – Christ’s Atonement. It symbolized the promised blessings of eternal life, only available through the Savior.

The blessing of eternal life is sweeter and purer than anything else we can experience. And it will fill our souls with joy. This is what God offers us!

When Lehi partook of this fruit, he was filled with God’s love, and then wanted to share that love with those he loved – his family.

So – now we circle back to those great commandments. When we are filled with God’s love, our love for Him grows. Our love for others grows. When our love for others grows, then we will begin to desire to share this amazing fruit – the gospel – with them. We will want them to feel the same joy that we have experienced.

romania-sister-missionaries-walking-praying-teaching-1407489-gallery

The importance of sharing the message that Christ is our Redeemer and Savior isn’t about getting more members in the church. It isn’t about brownie points. It isn’t about a checklist of things that we should do to be “good members” of the church.

The importance of sharing the message of the Gospel is about love.

And can you imagine the impact???

Can you imagine if you were able to help make known the things of the gospel to others, and if they were able to really accept it? Can you imagine the peace, comfort, and joy that would exist???

I often get overwhelmed by the anger that seems to exist these days. I get overwhelmed by news of shooters, violence, terrorism, hate, etc. Usually, the reaction is that we need to talk to our congresspeople. People argue that we need stricter laws, more limits. People argue, but nothing changes. And then, in time there is another act of anger, violence, terrorism, or hate. And the arguing starts all over again.

I’m of the mind that nothing will ever happen if we keep thinking that it is someone else that needs to fix the world. Changing laws won’t bring about peace, comfort and safety. But changing hearts will.

I’m so grateful for the scriptures because I’m reminded that even though bad news can be overwhelming, there actually is something I can do. I can help my little corner of the world. I can teach my children the gospel. I can be a witness of Christ through my words and deeds. I can be kind to others. I can write my little blog and hope that others are lifted by my own faith and testimony. Though I might not impact many people, my little corner of the world can get a little cleaner, a little more pleasant.

And imagine others started doing the same thing – just tidying up their little corners of the world.

These small but simple acts would change the world.

So – I agree with Lehi. It is so important to declare the gospel to others. This is a show of gratitude to our Father for the gift of the Atonement. It is a show of devotion to the Savior who provided the Atonement. And it is the way to make the world a better place.

Roots and Branches – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m reading the talk Roots and Branches, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 2004 General Conference.

Let’s see. When this talk was given, I was living in a basement apartment in Ogden, Utah – with my ex-husband and our two children. I was nearing a pretty low point in my life and in my relationship then. There are happy memories (my kids, my friends) and I’m so grateful that the Lord lets us experience morsels of joy even in our dark times.

I don’t really remember much of this talk, specifically. But it has been good for me to review it.

Lineage

Roots and Branches. It’s an intriguing topic – our personal roots and our personal branches – truly we are each a part of a whole, both spiritually and physically.

Roots

President Nelson stated:

“Personal roots are really important.” – Russell M. Nelson

Often, when we think of our personal roots, we immediately think of our DNA; our ancestors, the genetic imprints that our ancestors have made on our lives and the genetic imprints we make on future lives.

And of course there is something to this. But I have had a bit of a different experience. On my mom’s side, I can look back at my ancestry. They are my blood relatives and my personal relatives.

grandma and grandpa
My Grandma and Grandpa (maternal)
Severin Grundvig Family
The Grundvig Family
Carol Chambers
My mom
Wedding Day
Some of my roots and branches

My Dad’s side of the family is where it gets a little tricky. I have my dad that adopted and raised me. Through my adoption, his roots are my roots. His personality, beliefs, hard work, and life has shaped who I am. His ancestors have also shaped who I am, and I when my dad adopted me, I was “grafted” into their family tree.

dad and patti
My dad and his sister. This picture is just so adorable.
Ryan family
Classic Ryan family photo
Eileen Garvey
My grandma (paternal)
Ryan
Just a picture I absolutely love of some of my family

A little over 9 years ago, I miraculously found my biological father (on Facebook!). Now I have come to know a little bit about my physical roots and branches. This is half of my DNA that I finally got to know!

Cacciato
Cacciatos
jack
My Bio Dad

So, we each have personal physical roots. But there is more. President Nelson stated:

“Because we have a spirit as well as a physical body, we also have spiritual roots that go way back. They shape our values, our beliefs, and our faith. Spiritual roots guide our commitment to the ideals and teachings of the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson

I have been blessed with really amazing spiritual roots. On my mom’s side of the family, I have pioneer ancestors. Some of them gave up their lives and died while crossing the plains. They lived the gospel until their dying breath.

My father’s family came to the U.S. for the most part from Ireland. My dad’s side of the family has always valued education, hard work, and a sense of humor.

These principles of faith and work, of sacrifice and a sense of humor – and of so many more things – have shaped me. They make me who I am. And I hope that my works will make my own ancestors feel that the hard work and sacrifices that they made for their future generations were worth it.

***

Not only do we have personal roots, but we have religious roots. These roots are the truths, laws, and principles of the gospel. President Nelson explained:

“Truths from previous dispensations have now been gathered, amplified, and clarified. For us as parents and teachers, we have an excellent teaching resource in the Articles of Faith…What a treasure-house of truth is this precious document as we teach of our religious roots.

Other revealed doctrines at the root of our religion include the Creation, the Resurrection, the law of tithing, prayer, and the consummate blessings of the temple. As we teach of these doctrines, we realize how very firm is our foundation. As we apply these doctrines in our lives, the roots of our religion become part of our own spiritual strength.” – Russell M. Nelson

I find this whole analogy interesting. Even though we sometimes look at “our roots” as our ancestors, or in this case a set of principles and beliefs – it is easy to feel somewhat distanced from the roots. The roots are underground, unseen. Yet, the roots must be tended or else the life of the entire plant could be jeopardized.

Branches

Not only do we have roots, we also have branches. So, what is significant about a branch? Well, leaves…and fruit. President Nelson stated:

“Just as our roots determine to a significant degree who we are, our branches are also an important extension of our identity.” – Russell M. Nelson

What comprises our “branches?” The first, most obvious thing that may be considered a fruit on our branch would be our children. But, not everyone has children. And those who do have children aren’t only their children (does that make sense?)

The fruit we bear is any way that we may multiply and replenish the earth. Multiplying and replenishing is more than simply having kids. We replenish the earth through seeking and cultivating our talents, serving others, through our professions, and more. So – what does this look like? Being an artist, a scientist, baking bread, growing tomatoes, babysitting children, running a 5K, writing a poem, hugging a grieving friend, etc. etc. etc. I can’t even list the many ways we can, personally, make good fruit that will adorn our branches.

***

Just as we have “religious roots” we have “religious branches.” The fruit that we bear in this way will be related to and reflect what we consume through our roots. If we are focusing on learning and living the principles of the gospel, then the fruit we bear will be sweet. If we are focused on the cares of the world, then – who knows what kind of fruit we will bear. If we are allow ourselves to be rooted in pridefulness and sin, then there is no doubt about it – we will bear bitter fruit.

President Nelson’s Testimony

President Nelson closed his talk with his testimony. I liked it and will include it here:

“Personal identity is much more than a passport photograph. We also have roots and branches. Divinity is rooted in each of us. “We all are the work of [our Creator’s] hand.” We are eternal beings. In premortal realms, we brethren were foreordained for our priesthood responsibilities. Before the foundation of the world, women were prepared that they may bear children and glorify God.

We came to this mortal experience to acquire a body, to be tried and tested. We are to form families and be sealed in holy temples, with joy and loving relationships that endure eternally. To these everlasting truths, we are personally rooted.

Branches of our families and of the gospel bear fruit to enrich our lives. God’s work and His glory—“to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”—can become ours. We can dwell with Him and with our families forever. Those blessings will be granted to the faithful in His own way and time.

God lives. Jesus is the Christ. Joseph Smith is the revelator and prophet of this last dispensation. The Book of Mormon is true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom established once again upon the earth…If rooted to these truths, the fruit of our branches will remain. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m so thankful for a prophet who understands who he is – root, trunk, and branch. I’m grateful that he has learned of his true identity and that this understanding has led him to increase his talents and testimony. I’m grateful that He leads and guides our church today.

Nephi and His Brethren – 1 Nephi 15:11-36

You can read 1 Nephi 15:11-36 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • After seeing the vision, Nephi goes to his father’s tent – where his brothers are arguing.
  • Nephi teaches his brothers what the symbols of the dream meant, and what Lehi’s prophecies meant.

Nephi and His Brethren

We just spent studying 1 Nephi 11, 12, 13, and 14. These chapters are all comprised of Nephi’s experience with learning the meaning of what Lehi meant by his dream and then his following prophecies.

After Nephi asked his brothers why they hadn’t prayed, he then proceeds to answer their questions. Here is a quick synopsis of what he taught them.

  • The House of Israel was compared to an olive tree.
  • In the latter days, the seed of Lehi will have dwindled down because of unbelief and sin. Many generations after Christ manifested himself to the people of earth, he would come to the Gentiles and then from the Gentiles to the remnants of Lehi, Nephi’s and Laman and Lemuel’s children and also to remnants of all the House of Israel.
  • The remnants of Lehi’s family will know that they are covenant people of the Lord in the latter days, and they will come to a knowledge of their Redeemer.
  • The people who are brought back into remembrance of their covenants will be like the branches of the olive tree – grafted back into the true olive tree.
  • None of this will happen until after the Savior is rejected by the House of Israel and then the Gentiles have scattered Israel.
  • Once Israel is restored, they won’t be confounded again.

Now, after telling his brothers this, they were pacified. I guess it made a little bit of sense to them. Then, they asked Nephi what his father’s dream meant. He explained:

  • The tree is a representation of the tree of life.
  • The iron rod is the word of God.
  • The river of filthy water was filthiness and there was an awful gulf separating the wicked and the righteous – this was a representation of hell.

We have studied this in the past few posts, but just to get our brains going, let’s ask ourselves – why would Nephi know and understand Lehi’s prophecies? He was the younger brother. Why would he have information and understanding that his elder brethren didn’t have???

Saguaro at Night

Nephi humbly went to the Lord. He had already spent a lot of time pondering. He was trying to do the work to figure out this mystery. Nephi pondered and he prayed. With sincerity, Nephi asked God to understand the meaning of what Lehi taught, and  he made himself worthy of being taught by the Spirit.

Because of Nephi’s manner in trying to understand Lehi’s dream and prophecy, what followed? An amazing vision! He not only learned the interpretation of the dream, but what it really meant for him and for all of humanity. Nephi saw the Savior. He experienced God’s love. And then he bore witness of it for the rest of his life. He became the prophet. He became the leader of his new land.

Instead of facing his inability to understand what his dad meant with frustration, Nephi was patient and searched. This searching resulted in an experience that changed his life in a positive way forever.

Now…

Think of Nephi’s brothers. Like Nephi, they didn’t understand what Lehi’s dream or prophecies were all about.

Unlike Nephi, they didn’t go and humbly seek the answers. They didn’t pray. They didn’t turn to the Lord.

Instead, they went to their father’s tent and argued.

They were still arguing when Nephi had arrived. Nephi asked them why they didn’t ask, and they just said because God wouldn’t tell them.

They weren’t humble. They weren’t faithful. They didn’t have real intent. So they never even asked. They just got upset.

Nephi was able to calm them down a little bit, and then he explained what the dream meant! So – everything was hunky dory, right?

But we can see the difference between their experience and Nephi’s. Yes, Nephi taught them, and yes they were even inspired by it. But this wasn’t the same thing. They hadn’t truly sought, so they never truly found – or had the same kind of life changing witness that Nephi had. Even though they learned the meaning of the dream, it never really stuck with them.

Eventually Nephi’s brothers will defect and rebel – becoming completely cut off from God or from their religion…Understanding the meaning of Lehi’s visions or prophecies didn’t make much of a difference in their lives.

***

This makes me think of something Elder Bednar said in General Conference:

“If all you or I know about Jesus Christ and His restored gospel is what other people teach or tell us, then the foundation of our testimony of Him and His glorious latter-day work is built upon sand. We cannot rely exclusively upon or borrow gospel light and knowledge from other people—even those whom we love and trust.” – David A. Bednar

It seems that all Nephi’s brothers knew about Jesus Christ and His gospel (not yet restored at the time, but the same gospel!) what what other people told them. They knew what their father told them. They knew what Nephi told them. And even then, did they even really know? I’m not sure. It just seems that it went in one ear and out the other. In any case, their experiences with the Lord were limited to the words of others.

So, Nephi’s brethren’s experiences were limited to the words of Lehi and Nephi, and – at least in this chapter – his brethren were pacified. But they were not converted.

As Elder Bednar states, their testimonies were built on sand. Instead of relying only on what their father and brother said, Nephi’s brethren needed to go to the Lord themselves. They needed to have their own experiences. They needed to seek, ask, knock. Recall what the Lord pleaded:

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8

The Lord wants us to understand. He wants to reveal to us. He wants us to experience His love, light, and joy. He doesn’t expect us to go through our lives in darkness and misunderstanding. The Lord will reveal to us, if we, like Nephi, will go to Him with faith and real intent.

Asking, seeking, knocking – it can be hard work. We shouldn’t think it is just some easy, blithe thing to communicate with God. We need to search, to ponder, to pray. We need to meditate. We need to fast. We need to work. Later in the Book of Mormon, Alma shares how he gained knowledge and testimony:

“And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?

46 Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.” – Alma 5:45-46

One thing I feel like I keep learning as I study the Book of Mormon is that Nephi wasn’t inherently special. He wasn’t given special treatment or favor by the Lord. Nephi was a normal dude. He wasn’t a mythological demigod. He wasn’t Hercules. He was normal! He had the same advantages and access to God and His power as anyone else in his family did.

This isn’t to say that Nephi was not a good guy. Because he was! But Nephi is an example of the grace of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Nephi is an example of how when we will humble ourselves and do what God has asked us to do (ask, seek, knock!), then we will be blessed and strengthened. When we exercise our faith, we will experience tender mercies that will make us mighty to deliverance.

It’s important to understand this about Nephi because then, we can apply it to ourselves. We, too, can have experiences with the Lord as Nephi did. Of course, our experiences will be different. But they will come. We can gain testimony. We can have our own relationship with the Lord. We can be strengthened.

So – it makes me ask myself, am I being like Nephi or like his brethren? Am I asking the Lord for guidance and help in my life – with sincerity? Or am I casual in my communication with God? Am I seeking my own experiences, or do I expect understanding and help without any effort of my own?

Blogging the Book of Mormon – Three Symbols of Christ Part Three: The Tree of Life – 1 Nephi 11:25

You can read 1 Nephi 11:25 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life.
  • Nephi had just learned the meaning of the tree of life, was shown the Savior coming to the earth and people worshipping Him. Now, he is seeing the vision of the tree of life again – the rod of iron, the fountain of living waters, and the tree of life.
015 Tree of LIfe
Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

So – a few days ago, I already wrote a little bit about the tree of life=the Love of God here. And this love that God has for us – is Christ and His infinite Atonement. (Think John 3:16.)

So – I’m not really going to write about that. Not because I already have written about it, but because I keep thinking of another tree of life. In Alma, we read:

“28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.

31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.

32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.

33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.

34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.

35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?

36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.

37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.

38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.

39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

40 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.

41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck 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.

43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.” – Alma 32:28-43

At this point, I’m not quite sure what we’ll learn or what it will do with Christ=the tree of life; however, the scripture won’t get out of my head, so I think that it is a little nudge worth following.

Context

First of all, in this scripture block, Alma is among the Zoramites – preaching the gospel. In particular, he is teaching a group of poor people who had been cast out of their synagogues by the rich Zoramites.

Alma has been teaching the people about faith and has even challenged them to “experiment” on his words. He then speaks what was quoted above – a wonderful metaphor and illustration of faith.

One – What is this seed?

Okay, so before we even begin talking about planting the seed, maybe we should ask “What seed is this?” and “Where did we get the seed?”

In this instance, Alma is telling the people what kind of message/seed He offers. He is preaching the gospel to them. It isn’t a seed that they found on the ground – that could possibly grow to be either an oak tree or maybe something noxious like poison ivy. This isn’t an unknown seed from an unknown place.

Essentially, Alma is a gardener who is offering them a seed and telling them exactly what to expect: eternal life. Unlike the vision of Lehi’s and Nephi’s, the people do not see the tree of life from afar off and then press forward to partake. Here, they have a seed of the fruit. They simply need to plant, nourish, and then partake.

Two – Plant the Seed

Once it has been determined what kind of seed this is, it’s good to plant it. Do we know if it is a good seed? Not quite yet. We have been assured that it is good, but it is still in seed form.

However, we have a little bit of faith, and we make the decision to plant this seed. As Alma teaches, this seed is planted in our hearts. And then, after planted, it should begin to swell and sprout.

Have you ever planted a seed? I have. This is such a remarkable metaphor because it is so easy to envision. I’ve done little experiments with kids – prepping a seed and watching it swell, sprout, and begin to grow. It seems like a miracle.

And when we see that seed starting to grow – what do we feel? Well, literally and also spiritually, we feel joy. This is working! The seed is good!

Though we haven’t partaken of the fruit that this seed will one day produce, it is so easy to get excited and even fantasize about that day where we will have not only have one or two fruits, but hundreds.

So – we plant the seed. And it starts to grow.

Three – The Need for Constant Nourishment

Alma teaches a lot about faith – how after the seed has been planted, we can determine if the seed is good or not. (As an aside: I really love this. What risk is there in trying out the gospel? There is no risk in exercising a little faith, reading the Book of Mormon and Bible, or praying. Try it out. If it’s good, then cool! Who wouldn’t want something good in their lives? If it isn’t good, then just cast it out. No harm done.)

Anyway – Alma teaches a lot about faith here, and in a way I’m kind of tempted to just gloss over it. I want to get to the tree! Of course, if the tree symbolizes Christ, then faith is a crucial part of the process! We must have faith in Christ if we ever want to partake of His fruit – salvation through the Atonement He performed. All of this being said, we’ll still skim over “faith.” Obviously, it will be studied further in the future.

So – if we have determined the seed is good, does this mean that we will reap immediately? No, of course not. The seed is only a seedling. Then it must be nourished, watered, protected. Even after a year or so, it is still only a sapling.

These things take time.

Orange trees – for example, take about 7 years to produce fruit if they are planted from seed. If we plant the tree, and we don’t get fruit immediately, we shouldn’t ignore the tree. Instead, we must remain patient – patiently watering, nurturing, as this tree grows little by little.

I understand the temptation. Planting a seed and watching it sprout – that’s exciting. It’s like magic. One day you have this little seed that looks like a rock or a spec, and then within a week or so, it is swelling to the point it will burst. Another week or so, and you see a greenish sprout. It’s alive! This little thing that looked like a stone or fleck of dirt is actually alive. It can’t be replicated by humans. No artificial intelligence that we have created shows a hundredth of the intelligence of a little seed! It’s so exciting.

After planting the seed, though a little less exciting than the original sprouting of the seed stage, the young seedling stage is pretty exciting still! This plant begins as a stalk. Then you get a leaf. Maybe another leaf. And the seedling grows by inches seemingly overnight. You have a real, measurable idea of the progress and “goodness” of the seed. Nourishing the seed is rewarding because you can see the results of your work almost immediately!

Then the seedling reaches sapling stage.

Things slow down. Sure, a lot is happening still, but it’s happening on a cellular level. It is harder and harder to see the growth and progress of the seed because it just isn’t as dramatic. Watering, fertilizing, weeding. It all gets so booooooorrrrrriiiiiiiinnnnng!

I’ve killed so many plants at this stage of the game. And, stupidly, I’ve even blamed the plant! Stupid plant, it just stopped growing! (Nevermind that I stopped nourishing it!)

Alma teaches:

“But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.

39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

40 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 32:38-40

Have you stopped nourishing your seed of faith? Have you stopped reading your scriptures, saying your prayers, serving others, recommitting yourself to God through your covenants? If so, then you’ve stopped nourishing that faith. We can’t get upset with the tree if we are the ones setting it up for death and failure. We know that the sun will rise the next morning. We know that if our seedling isn’t well watered and protected, then that sun will just zap it.

We must nourish the seed.

I know that I listed all of the basic “Sunday school” answers for nourishing the seed. And I’m thinking about that. They really are so important. Think of the different times of the year. There are times when watering, nourishing, and protecting your sapling isn’t quite as critical. There are times when life is more nourishing. Maybe we can get by on less intense “nourishment.”

Then there are other times in our lives: dry seasons – hot and prone to wildfire. There are predators such as hungry deer. We might find that we need to do more – pray a little harder, study a little deeper, and focus more on our covenants. We will find that though we are watering every single day, we are still getting parched quickly.

It’s good to recognize that these times and seasons are merely times and seasons. A hot summer doesn’t mean that our seed isn’t good. It means that our seed needs more nourishment! A series of trials doesn’t mean that the seed planted in our hearts isn’t good! Instead, it means that we need to give our seedling a little bit more nourishment until the trials start to “cool down.”

Okay. This post is so wayyyy long. I need to go on. I’m sorry. I need to shorten up my blog posts.

Partake of the Fruit And the Symbolism of Christ

Finally, after diligent and faithful nourishment, we can partake of the tree that we have grown in our hearts.

Alma teaches:

“And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck 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

Finally, I’m getting to the original point. (Although the journey is cool, right?!) When we partake of the fruit that came from the tree we planted in our hearts, it isn’t just any old ordinary fruit. It is most precious, sweet above all that is sweet,…” Once we have partaken of it, we will be filled and will not hunger nor will we thirst. Sound familiar?

Christ – His Gospel, His Doctrine – is the seed that we plant in our hearts. It is what will swell, will develop into a sapling, and then will mature into a productive tree. We will never partake if we don’t take that first step – to simply try it out. To plant the seed of our faith in Him in our hearts.

A relationship with Christ takes work, diligence, patience, and constant nourishment. It sounds like a lot of work, but notice what He offers us: “and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” (High fiber fruit, sounds like).

***
I don’t know if I did a good job of relating the tree of life to being a symbol of Christ. But it doesn’t matter. I feel really hopeful. I know that today my scripture study was the nourishment I needed as I keep tending to my sapling of faith. I look forward to one day plucking of the fruit of this tree that I’m nurturing. I know that it is good. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. He is the way. He is the living water. And His offering is the fruit we will partake for everlasting life. I know that as I tend the tree, I’m nourished! I’m strengthened. I’m filled with hope. I know that soon, I’ll be able to pluck fruit from the tree, and taste the sweetness that I’ve desired for so long.

Oh – and one last thing. I wonder, have I tasted the fruit before? Maybe I have? Interesting comparison – a tree. It produces fruit for a season. When the season is over, and the fruit is gone, does this mean that the tree is bad and useless? No! Does this mean that I’m not “partaking of the fruit” anymore because it isn’t actively producing fruit? No. We can bottle it up and store fruit during the dormant season. We can keep nourishing that tree, and it will keep producing season after season…something to think about.

Not sure if this is applicable, but it’s helping me right now. I hope helps you, too. Nourish the word in your heart so that it will be able to nourish you.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – The Power of Testimony – 1 Nephi 7:20-22

Read 1 Nephi 7:20-22 here.

Context and General Information

  • Laman and Lemuel were sorrowful and asked Nephi for forgiveness.
  • Nephi frankly forgave his brothers and then exhorted them to go to God for forgiveness.
  • They did.
  • The whole group travels to Lehi in the wilderness. When they arrive, they offer burnt offerings and thanks to the Lord.
Brotherly Love
You may be wondering about the picture. I started writing this blog post with another idea in mind, and the picture fit. Then, as I was studying, I figured out what I really needed to learn and write about. But I can’t bring myself to getting rid of this hilarious pic. Gotta love Tommy Boy.

The Power of Testimony

Here in 1 Nephi 7, we read of a second time when Laman and Lemuel greatly threaten Nephi’s life, and a second time when Nephi is delivered. I think that it might be helpful to compare and contrast the two.

One – After the Second Attempt to Obtain the Plates

In 1 Nephi 3 we read:

“And it came to pass as they smote us with a rod, behold, an angel of the Lord came and stood before them, and he spake unto them, saying: Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities? Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.

And after the angel had spoken unto us, he departed.

And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?” – 1 Nephi 3:29-31

So what happens?

  • Laman and Lemuel were beating Nephi and Sam with a rod. Sounds pretty terrible. I don’t know if they meant to kill Nephi or not, but it could have happened without intervention.
  • An angel interrupts Laman and Lemuel, rebukes them, and essentially forces them to stop.
  • The angel promises to deliver Laban into their hands.
  • The angel departs.
  • Laman and Lemuel have stopped beating Nephi and Sam, but they don’t seem repentant. They are murmuring. They doubt that God can help them.

Two – In the Wilderness After Fetching Ishmael and His Family

“And it came to pass that when I, Nephi, had spoken these words unto my brethren, they were angry with me. And it came to pass that they did lay their hands upon me, for behold, they were exceedingly wroth, and they did bind me with cords, for they sought to take away my life, that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.

But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.

And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet, and I stood before my brethren, and I spake unto them again.

And it came to pass that they were angry with me again, and sought to lay hands upon me; but behold, one of the daughters of Ishmael, yea, and also her mother, and one of the sons of Ishmael, did plead with my brethren, insomuch that they did soften their hearts; and they did cease striving to take away my life.

And it came to pass that they were sorrowful, because of their wickedness, insomuch that they did bow down before me, and did plead with me that I would forgive them of the thing that they had done against me.

And it came to pass that I did frankly forgive them all that they had done, and I did exhort them that they would pray unto the Lord their God for forgiveness. And it came to pass that they did so. …” – 1 Nephi 7:16-21

And here:

  • [Laman and Lemuel, along with a few of Ishmael’s children, wanted to return to Jerusalem instead of return to their father in the wilderness. Nephi warns them – Jerusalem will be destroyed. He also questions them – How is it?!?!?!]
  • Laman and Lemuel get really angry with Nephi. They tie him up because they seek to take his life – to go back to Jerusalem and leave him in the wilderness.
  • Nephi asks the Lord to give him strength to break the bands.
  • The Lord doesn’t give him strength, but instead performs a miracle – the bands are loosened.
  • Laman and Lemuel are unaffected by God’s power. They are angry and want to kill Nephi even more.
  • Ishmael’s daughter, wife, and a son plead with Laman and Lemuel – softening their hearts.
  • Laman and Lemuel stop trying to kill Nephi.
  • Laman and Lemuel feel sorrow because of their wickedness. They beg Nephi for forgiveness.
  • Nephi forgives Laman and Lemuel and encourages them to turn to God. They do.

Commonalities between Each Example

I don’t know if you have done much “comparing and contrasting” in life. I majored in English, so – yeah – I’ve done quite a bit of it. I have noticed that sometimes I’m lazy, and I just want to look at the differences between to scenarios. However, it is good to reign that feeling in and take time to compare – see what is the same. Then we can make even more meaning when we contrast.

So – what do these stories have in common?

  • Both stories include Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam
  • Both stories happen when they are “on assignment” for the Lord. They are supposed to be working together for a cause.
  • Laman and Lemuel are angry with Nephi.
  • Laman and Lemuel put Nephi’s life in danger.
  • Nephi is delivered.
  • Laman and Lemuel comply with the command according to each scenario.

Differences between Each Example

So as we can see, these stories have quite a bit in common. Now, the real fun comes when we contrast the two stories.

  • When attempting to get the plates – only Nephi and his brothers are present. On the other hand, after getting Ishmael, there are more people involved in the party: Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, Sam, and Ishmael’s family – which consisted at least of Ishmael, his wife, a handful of daughters and some sons.

    The fact that there are more people seems to magnify the situation. The added people strengthen Laman’s and Lemuel’s desire to get back to Jerusalem. However, the additional people also stand by Nephi in faith. So – both Laman and Lemuel AND Nephi have more people on each of their respective “sides.”

  • When attempting to get the plates – Laman’s and Lemuel’s anger is caused by a loss – of their riches. They have lost hope in ever achieving the plates. Laman and Lemuel may be angry for more reasons than we even know. But their anger has a real cause – losing all.

    In a way, I think this cause is a little bit easier to understand. They experienced failure. They were chased out of town. The situation was both stressful and frustrating. It is easy to get upset when nothing turns out the way you want and when stress is through the roof. This is the cause of their anger that just escalates – probably in lock-step with emotions and testosterone.

    In the Ishmael experience (I’m calling this second experience we are contrasting the “Ishmael” experience. Can’t think of something better right now!) – In the Ishmael experience – they have succeeded. They haven’t failed! Instead they are motivated by something else – nostalgia maybe? They are looking back on what life was like in Jerusalem. They are motivated by pride. (well…that’s common actually). But the circumstances are different. They have succeeded. You would think that they were on a high-note. Instead, they are not too excited about getting back into the wilderness, and they just want what they want.

    They get mad at Nephi because he warns them. They don’t want to hear the truth. I’m sure that the Spirit pricks their heart in some way, but they don’t want to hear. So, instead of feeling inspired by Nephi, they are angry.

  • When being delivered in the plates experience, Nephi is immediately delivered by an angel. It’s a pretty amazing experience. Not only was Nephi delivered by an angel, but the angel spoke to Laman and Lemuel – telling them that Nephi had been chosen because of their iniquity.

    In the Ishmael experience, Nephi is delivered first by the Lord. The second time he is delivered by the pleading of others in Ishmael’s family.

  • In the plates experience – Laman and Lemuel reluctantly comply. In fact, after Nephi is delivered, they leave him alone, but murmur against the Lord. Even though they have seen an angel, they instantly murmur and lack any kind of faith in God – despite the heavenly witness.

    In the Ishmael experience – 1) Laman and Lemuel don’t comply. They are angry that Nephi has been empowered by God. They try to kill him again – even though they just witnessed a miracle in Nephi’s ability to free himself from the cords They are just silly.

    In the Ishmael experience – 2) This is THE MOST DIFFERENT part of all…Their hearts are finally pierced. Because of the pleading words of Ishmael’s wife, daughter, and son, Laman and Lemuel’s hearts were softened. This never seems to happen in the first experience. Even though they witnessed an angel, their hearts remained the same.

    Because of the words, the testimonies, and the pleading of Ishmael’s wife, daughter, and son (by the way – three witnesses!), they have a change of heart. This is a miracle! It’s a greater miracle than a heavenly visitation. Changing hearts is what will change the world.

  • In the plates example – after the deliverance of Nephi, Laman and Lemuel continue to murmur. Their hearts are still hard. They do not go with Nephi to obtain the plates – which is just as well. Nephi had to go it alone. But they murmur. This whole ordeal – losing their riches, nearly losing their lives – is wasted on Laman and Lemuel. They don’t grow. They do all of the same work as Nephi, but because they lack faith their afflictions are not consecrated for their gain. What a sad, sad waste of time.

    On the other hand, after Nephi is delivered in the “Ishmael” experience, Laman and Lemuel hearts are so softened that they are moved. They go to Nephi and beg forgiveness (They are weren’t sorry about beating him with a rod!) And then, when Nephi encourages them to ask forgiveness of God, they do!

This is the power of testimony. The power of testimony motivated Laman and Lemuel not only to back off of Nephi, but to say sorry to him and to ask forgiveness of God. I imagine that this would have been a good time in the lives of Nephi, Laman, and Lemuel. Unfortunately it doesn’t last long, but it happens. And it happened because of the words of Ishmael’s wife, daughter, and son.

There was no angel. The heavenly miracle of loosening bands doesn’t matter to them. It’s the tender testimonies of people that change the hearts of Laman and Lemuel.

Personal Application

The thing that keeps standing out to me is that I shouldn’t underestimate the power of a kind word or witness. Grand miracles and gestures are exciting for sure. But the spirit works by the still small voice.

By all accounts and purposes, my voice is small. It’s a single voice. My sphere of influence is small. I don’t have a large platform – even though I have a blog. And that doesn’t matter. A simple word, a simple testimony can change hearts. I know that I can do a better job of living like the daughter of Ishmael, Ishmael’s wife, and Ishmael’s son – worthy to be a conduit of His Spirit when I speak.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – Sariah – 1 Nephi 5:1-8

Click here to read 1 Nephi 5:1-8

Context and General Information

  • When Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi return to the tent of their father, their parents rejoice.
  • Sariah had mourned for them. She thought that they had died in the wilderness. Sariah complained against Lehi for taking them out there and now her sons were gone.
  • Lehi listens and then tells her he agrees – he is a visionary man. But because of the visions he had seen, he knew the goodness of God. He knew he could trust God in leading them to a promised land. He could also trust that the Lord would enable his sons to get the plates of brass.
  • Sariah was comforted.
  • When Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi returned to the tent of their father, his parents rejoiced, and his mother was comforted.
  • Sariah testifies that she knows that God commanded them to go to the wilderness. She bears a beautiful testimony.
5 Sariah
Sariah

Sariah

I really like Sariah.

I feel for Sariah.

Sariah is a woman of faith and strength.

Think about the situation. Life is kind of normal in Jerusalem for Sariah and her family. It seems like they had plenty of possessions. I don’t know what her personal life was like, but they weren’t poor. It seems like they had plenty of stability in their lives.

Until suddenly – when they don’t.

Lehi has this experience with the Lord, and then is called to prophesy and witness to others in Jerusalem of what he saw and heard. Suddenly, life isn’t quite as neat and stable. People don’t like what Lehi is saying. In fact, they detest what he has to say so much that the Lord warns Lehi – during the night – that they need to flee Jerusalem.

I imagine that Lehi woke up, turned to Sariah, and told her exactly what happened. And we read:

“And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 2:4

When Lehi departed into the wilderness – I doubt that he did one hundred percent of the work. I can imagine Sariah, waking up, hearing her husband – the tone in his voice – the urgency of the command to flee Jerusalem.

I imagine that Sariah packed up food, clothes, and goods for her husband, her children, and herself. I can imagine that she tried to get things as organized as possible to leave and flee to a promised land. She wouldn’t be going back to Jerusalem.

Sariah didn’t have the vision! She didn’t have the dream! She simply placed her faith in the words of her husband. And based on the swiftness of the departure of Lehi’s family, I’m going to guess that she did have faith in her husband’s words.

They traveled for days – and into the wilderness – without stopping. She is faithful and helpful. Lehi could not have done this alone.

We read:

“And my father dwelt in a tent.” – 1 Nephi 2:15

Yes – we all know that Lehi dwelt in a tent, but take a second to think about it. Perhaps Nephi would have been more accurate to say, And my father and my mother dwelt in a tent. Sariah was there, too. Struggling, suffering, and sleeping in the wilderness.

She faithfully chose to trust her husband’s command from the Lord. She helped and supported Lehi. She wasn’t just along for the ride to the promised land. She was Lehi’s companion. She was an integral part of making this whole journey work.

She faithfully goes, then Lehi sends their four sons back to Jerusalem.

After a while, Sariah voices her concerns – that Lehi is a visionary man. She says:

“Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.” – 1 Nephi 5:2

We all have hard days. Despite all of Sariah’s really good days and acts of faith, the only one we have in this record was a bad one. But we all have bad days occasionally – days when our faith flags. Days when we really need help. We covenant to “bear one another’s burdens” – without realizing that sometimes others are bearing ours.

Sariah had been bearing so much, but could no longer take it, and she told her husband.

Healthy Marriage Example

Sariah called Lehi a “visionary man.” (Dreamer?) She complained. And what does he do?

Lehi could have taken this chance to get annoyed and offended. He could have stamped off, huffing and puffing and then given her the silent treatment.

Instead, Lehi listens. He hears her. He validates her:I know that I am a visionary man…” He doesn’t defend himself by hurting her. He just reminds her the sequence of events that had led them to that situation. This sequence was orchestrated by the Lord.

Lehi’s willingness to listen rather than correct invites the Spirit into their conversation. This is how we can be sure that Sariah is so righteous. She is comforted. She is close enough to the Spirit to feel comfort. In this sense, she is a second witness that Lehi and his family truly do need to flee Jerusalem.

She still missed her boys, but her heart is full of confidence in God.

And then the boys return. She is so happy, and then – one of my favorite moments in all of scripture:

“And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.” – 1 Nephi 5:8

We get to read her testimony! This difficult trial reinforces Sariah’s faith in and testimony of the Lord. It will give the strength that she will need to push on for 8 more years until they reach the promised land. Testimony comes only after a trial of faith. Sariah’s faith was tried. She endured well, and now she has a sure witness that they are keeping the personal commandments that the Lord had given the entire family through Lehi.

***
I truly love this example. Time and time again, I have wondered – what does Sariah’s journal look like? What were her prayers like? It takes a lot of faith to be called a prophet and follow the word of God. And in some ways, we could argue that it takes even more faith to trust the witness of another.

Sariah trusted Lehi’s witness and then finally, the Lord gave her a personal witness.

I love this example because I’m a wife. I have had the opportunity to be married to a man who receives revelation for our family from time to time. I am not always the one who receives these promptings. We have had to learn to trust one another. I have had to learn how to be like Sariah – trusting in my spouse – that he is living worthy of the companionship of the Spirit and is following it. All of this only works if we learn to love and trust each other!

Though we don’t have much in our scriptures about Sariah, her life has made a major impact on me.

Russell M. Nelson at Church

If you read this blog, then you know that recently I’ve been reading and then writing about the talks that President Russell M. Nelson has given since he was called as an apostle. It has been a great experience so far, and I plan to continue with this, but today I’m going to take a quick break.

Yesterday, at 12:45PM, my family and I packed up in our vehicle and headed off to church. There were dark skies, it looked like it would rain at any minute. Right now, I’m staying with my in-laws in a small valley in Utah, and I have to admit that I love when the skies are moody – with the threat of a mountain thunderstorm.

In my mind, I began to sing, “When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us, and threaten our peace to destroy…there is hope smiling brightly before us, and we know that deliverance is nigh…”

We headed off to church, and the song felt like a tender mercy. It was a reminder that even when life feels a little overwhelming, we can have hope – deliverance is nigh.

Sunday in Heber Valley

We got out of our car, walked into the chapel, and it felt so weird. It was sooo quiet and reverent. This is a big ward, and usually on Sunday, it is humming like a beehive, but everyone was seated and quiet. We were there 10 minutes early, but it felt like we were late.

I scanned the congregation, looking for my mother and father-in-law and my daughters, who had left a few minutes before Homey and I did with the younger two. I found them, headed to our seat, and was still feeling disoriented as it was so quiet and reverent.

While walking to our bench, I noticed someone seated on the stand. A couple of familiar faces.

President Nelson and his wife!

President and Sister Nelson
This isn’t a picture I took…I got found it here

President Nelson is not a member of my in-law’s ward. He is not a usual visitor. No one, to my knowledge, knows why he chose to visit our ward’s sacrament meeting this week, but he and his wife were there. The reverence made sense, and I found myself encouraging my children to be a little more reverent. I found myself sitting up straighter, singing louder, and taking the whole experience of sacrament meeting a little more seriously.

WHY??????!!!

As soon as I found myself taking everything at church a little more reverently and seriously, I was disappointed in myself. Sacrament meeting this week was no different than any other sacrament meeting. I was there to participate in the ordinance of the sacrament and fellowship with the saints. Why do I need to be reminded of its sanctity by the prophet?

Why can’t I take church more seriously, why can’t I be more reverent on my own accord?!

I committed to make my worship more meaningful.

Sacrament with the Prophet

I couldn’t help but find myself watching the prophet as the sacrament was administered. I felt like a child watching a parent – looking for cues on how to act, what to do. How does the prophet partake of the sacrament? I wanted to watch and know.

So I did. Well, kind of. I mean, I tried to be a little more subtle than a toddler. And I realized that I already know how to be reverent in sacrament. But I still found myself observing the prophet.

And he acted just as I suspected he would. He shut his eyes, he bowed his head.

As I watched him, I followed suit. I would peek up every once in a while. It almost felt voyeuristic because I could see that this was a very personal experience for him. It made me realize that my sacrament experience isn’t quite as personal for me. I take it, I’m grateful. But am I really internalizing it each week?

Watching the prophet also gave me a feeling that is very hard to express. The word/feeling that kept coming to mind is:

This is real.

Nervous Speakers

The bishop, when conducting, openly admitted that he was “a bit terrified.”

The youth speaker didn’t really mention her own nerves, but gracefully gave an amazing talk. She had no idea the prophet would be there that day. She gave a talk about having the Spirit with us always. She bore testimony. It was a sublime talk and a gentle reminder to me that I need to do more to sue for the Spirit each day.

The high councilman, who had just been called to his position was giving his first talk as a high councilman. Usually, they try to find a return missionary to travel with the high councilman as he speaks. He didn’t have another speaker, and was worried. Until he found that there indeed would be another speaker (or two!) that day. He was a bit flustered, but gave a good talk about family history work and how he has approached it.

Though the talks were good, I think my thoughts probably reflected the same thoughts everyone in the congregation had that day. I want to hear the prophet.

Imagining

You can’t help, in those quiet moments during talks, during songs, etc. You can’t help but wonder, how long is the prophet going to stay? Will he meet each of us? Will he shake our hands? Can we just stay in sacrament meeting instead of our other classes? Can we just ask him questions and hear his answers?

You can’t help but imagine more…I would love to tell him Thank you. I sustain you. I would love for him to look into my children’s eyes and smile – so they can meet a true prophet of God.

Of course, my imagining was interrupted by my rationality. He and his wife probably won’t stay. This is a huge congregation. How could he possibly shake all of our hands. You need to respect him and his wife and their time, Catania.

I realized something in that moment. The ache that I felt, to meet the prophet, to shake his hand, was representative another desire. The ache I felt to be close to the Prophet is actually the ache I feel to be close to the Savior.

jesus-with-mary-martha-39572-gallery
This is where I want to be one day.

I realized that President Nelson, he is the mouthpiece of the Lord. And he is here with us – in the flesh. And that, even though he is a mouthpiece, he isn’t actually the Savior either. I realized that my desire, to meet the prophet, is righteous but inaccurate. Really, I want to meet the Savior. I want to shake his hand. I want my children to meet Him. I want to worship Him in the flesh.

Again the thought came This is real.

I felt comforted to know that the ache I felt was really an ache for the Savior. It is a good feeling. And that although the Savior doesn’t dwell among us now, He has sent us a prophet. This is real! President Nelson really is a prophet of God. He really has had a witness, a special witness of Christ. President Nelson is a prophet, seer, revelator. No, we don’t worship him. He doesn’t want to be worshipped. But he does represent the Savior and the Savior’s power in a special way by virtue of his calling.

And because I could see President Nelson sitting there, a prophet of God, I could also rest assured that Christ is real! That at a future point, I will meet my Savior. I will worship Him in person. I will shake His hand, and I’ll probably cry instead of do anything meaningful or gracefulMy children will meet Him.

This is real.

Everything – everything that I’m doing in my life is because the gospel is real. The Savior is real.

I love learning things – principles – that help us to have better lives. And often I learn about these principles in books and on podcasts. And while they are very good things to learn, while they have made my life better, without the Savior no type of self improvement is even possible.

This is real! Over and over again, that was the feeling I had.

The Sacrament is a real ordinance.

The Prophet is a real man, called of God. He’s sitting up there. He looks older in person, but also realer.

The Savior is real. This is His restored Church. Every good thing in this world is possible because of Him.

Sister Nelson Speaks

After the High Councilor spoke, the Bishop announced that Sister Nelson would speak to us and then the Prophet would speak to us. He also asked us that, after the closing song, we would remain seated as the Prophet exited.

Sister Nelson got up to speak. She was wearing a purple jacket and a black scarf thing. She looked pretty but not high maintenance. “Neat and comely” is exactly how I would describe her.

As she walked up to the podium, I started to realize that so much of what “matters” to me is trivial. I’ll be absolutely honest with you, so please don’t judge me. I noticed that she is a woman, an older woman. She doesn’t have what one would describe as a “perfect body.” But she was radiant.

She radiated strength, knowledge, and testimony. She looked intelligent.

She began to speak, and everything she said reflected what she radiated. I don’t know much about her, but I felt an overwhelming amount of respect for her.

Here are a few points of what she said to us:

  • Family History work is important – she echoed the message we heard from our high councilman. … She had done a lot of family history work in her life. She had even gone to sites and found artifacts. She knew so much about her family. But for years she had never taken the time to research her family history and do temple work for her kindred.After hearing the talk The Joy of Redeeming the Dead by Richard G. Scott, she knew she needed to make a change. She told us how that talk resonated with her, and within a month of him addressing us, she had read the talk nearly a hundred times.

    Since 2012, she has read or listened to the talk over 250 times. I can’t say that I’ve ever read any conference talk so much!

    But even more important than reading a talk repeatedly, she was moved to action. She began to do the work for her family. She went to the temple. She had special experiences.

    She said that she was doing the work for the dead, then remarked, “And they don’t like being called ‘the dead,’ by the way!”

    I have been able to do work for my ancestors and family, and immediately I felt comforted by what she said. I have had my own experiences and I know that though our friends and family who are inhabiting the Spirit World may be “dead” physically, the end of our mortal lives is not the end. They are still alive – spiritually. They are working, learning, and waiting. I know that they are praying for us, and that the connection we have with our family doesn’t end with death. What a beautiful sentiment for her to share with us.

  • President Nelson is a prophet of God. She shared with us that she has had two very special and strong experiences that have testified to her that President Russell Marion Nelson is indeed God’s Prophet, Seer, and Revelator on the earth today.No, she didn’t share these experiences. She didn’t need to. I don’t need to know the details of her experiences. The Spirit confirmed to me that what she said was true. He is the prophet. I’ve had my own witness, and now I was listening to the witness of another.

The Prophet Speaks

It only took me 1,989 words to finally get to this point! After Sister Nelson was seated, President Nelson spoke to us. As he approached the stand, I put my son on my lap. I encouraged my children to listen to a Prophet of God. I wished that I would be able to record this experience. I prayed that the Holy Ghost would help me to remember what the Prophet said to us. I am still praying for that blessing now.

The Book of Mormon is the Word of God

The Prophet said a bunch of nice things to us and our ward – things that I’m sure 1) He says in every ward/branch/stake he visits 2) things he MEANS in every ward/branch/stake he visits.

Before I go on, I want to share an interesting thing…President Nelson is a normal old man. Really, I kept looking at him, looking for a shining light or halo. But he is a 93 year old man, and he looks like an 93 year old man. Well, maybe an 87 year old man. Not sure.  I’m reminded of the scripture in Isaiah:

“For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” – Isaiah 53:2

This scripture is a description of the Savior, but it applies also to President Nelson. “There is no beauty that we should desire him.” He isn’t glittery or shiny. And with our natural eyes, he has no form or comeliness.

Yet, when I looked at the prophet, and let the Spirit in my heart, I began to see him a different way. I saw him with my spiritual eyes, and that is when I could really see the man he is. Then I could see that from his countenance emanated the love that he has for everyone – and the love that the Lord has for us all.

I guess I want to share this because if President Nelson is so special, why isn’t everyone just converted to the gospel when they meet him? It’s because we have to choose to see.

President Nelson started to tell us about an experience he recently had – meeting with some of the dignitaries of the NAACP. Before they met together, President Nelson wondered if they should present these dignitaries with a gift, and if so, what should that gift be?

It was concluded that they would give a gift. They decided to present these dignitaries with personal leather-bound Books of Mormon – with their names inscribed on the cover.

When they presented these Books of Mormon to the NAACP Representatives that met together, President Nelson explained that this was the most valuable and precious thing in his life, and the most valuable and precious gift that he could think of to give.

The Book of Mormon, he explained, is a testament of the Savior from the ancient inhabitants of the Americas.

He said, the Book of Mormon is far more valuable than money, diamonds, emeralds, rubies. Do we realize this?!

President Nelson mention that in one day, Joseph Smith was able to translate roughly 9 pages of the Book of Mormon. This was without a computer, word processor, spell check, etc. In fact, Oliver Cowdery was writing 9 pages of Book of Mormon text with a turkey feather quill and ink!!!!!!!  Can you even imagine? Then the Prophet continued, “And we feel accomplished when we can read one chapter in a day!”

I love the Book of Mormon, and I have a testimony of it, I felt inspired by the Prophet’s testimony, but I also felt a gentle rebuke. It IS worth more than diamonds, rubies, or the riches of the earth. And I have one. I have one on my phone. I have at least a dozen or so small “missionary” Books of Mormon – in boxes, in my suitcase. I have owned at least 3 sets of “nice scriptures” – the quads that contain all of the scriptures in one place. I have so much of this abundance in my life, that I kind of forget its value!

I read the Book of Mormon with my family, but my own personal study has suffered during our moves. What is the reason for that? Mostly it’s because I’m kind of spoiled. I forget. I forget that…

This is real!

It’s real! The Book of Mormon is real! It really came from Nephi and Jacob, and Alma and Mormon and Moroni by the command of God. The experiences related in its pages are real. The Savior really did visit the Americas after his resurrection. The Book of Mormon really will bring us closer to Christ than any other book.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ Love Each of Us

I wish, how I wish I could remember everything that the Prophet said verbatim. But I can’t.

After bearing testimony of the Book of Mormon, The Prophet encouraged everyone – and especially the youth – to study it, to read about the gathering of Israel. That his upcoming youth devotional will address the gathering of Israel, and that reading the Book of Mormon will help them to prepare for it.

He then expressed the Love that Heavenly Father has for us. I felt like the Prophet was looking right at me when he said, “Heavenly Father knows you and loves you, personally. Jesus Christ knows you and loves you, personally.” He knows our circumstances, He understands us.

I can’t remember the Prophet’s exact words, and maybe they aren’t as important as what I felt. I can remember what I felt. Often, when I receive a blessing from Homey, there is a mention of the Love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for me. Especially if this is a blessing of comfort when I’m sick or overwhelmed – there is a recognition of Heavenly Father’s and Jesus Christ’s perfect awareness of my situation – my trials, my worries, etc. In fact, I’ll share the verbiage of this type of blessing because I actually think it applies to us all:

 I bless you with peace. I bless you with the knowledge that your Heavenly Father and Savior are aware of your situation and the details in your life and in your challenges right now. I bless you that you will be able to feel their love for you, and a strong spiritual comfort that you have been led and guided by them…

As the Prophet spoke of the Love that our Heavenly Father and Savior have for each of us, I felt it specifically. I felt exactly as I feel when I receive a Priesthood Blessing.

On Saturday night, I didn’t get much sleep. We are in the middle of a big transition, a big move. This transition really has taken years of effort. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had with my family. I am grateful for the guidance of the Spirit. I’m grateful for the chances I’ve had to make sacrifices and choices. And when I’m wide awake, I’m really capable of maintaining faith and courage.

Then night comes. And I start to fall asleep. The voice of my subconscious seems to be louder and more persuasive than my rational or spiritual voices. Any of the challenges that I’m experiencing loom darker and heavier at night. Thankfully this doesn’t happen every night. Most nights I say my prayers, give Homey a kiss, and get some sleep.

But you know how it is. Sometimes there are those nights when your brain won’t turn off. The hours passed, and I finally decided to read conference talks – President Nelson’s talk about revelation, specifically.

I didn’t have any shattering revelations. Instead, my mind was occupied enough to finally doze into sleep.

As I went to church, I saw the dark clouds hanging over the valley. I felt assured that though I was overwhelmed with metaphorical “dark clouds” the Lord’s deliverance is nigh.

Then, when I heard the prophet speak, I felt reassured – yes, Heavenly Father is aware of every specific detail of my life. He will not forsake me or my family. He loves me and supports me. He loves and supports all of us. He allows us to experience hard things because the only way to the top of the mountain is up.

empire pass
It isn’t easy getting here. God knows that, and He wants us to climb anyway – because it is totally worth it!

The Lord lets us experience hard things because they give way to happy things. The Lord has blessed us with a Prophet. The Lord has given us the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He has given us the Priesthood. He has given us a Savior.

This is Real

We All Stand as the Prophet Leaves

 

The Prophet finished his remarks. He sat down. We sang a closing song. (Hymn 220 – Lord I would Follow Thee, a favorite!) After the closing prayer, we stood up and remained in our places.

The organist was a total champ. He played “We Thank Thee, Oh God, For a Prophet,” as the Prophet shook hands with the Bishop, the speakers, as the prophet slowly and happily walked down through the chapel and out the doors.

I wanted to sing out loud.

Tears fell down my cheeks – because I was consumed with the knowledge that the Savior and Heavenly Father love us, love me! They love us enough to bless us with a prophet. Tears fell because I realized that there are people who love the Lord enough to dedicate their entire lives to serving Him.

Tears fell down my cheeks because This is Real!

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t just a nice way to gather with like-minded people. It isn’t simply a social organization. It isn’t a society of people dedicated to making this world better.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s church. He is real. His son is real. He created this earth. He knows each of us by name and loves each of us individually. The Savior really came in the meridian of time to atone for our sins, so that we could live in joy forever. The Savior really has revealed to His prophets – to guide us, teach us, and testify to us. The Savior is still revealing to His Prophet – to guide us in these latter days.

I’m so thankful to God for a Prophet. I will never forget the time I was able to partake of the Sacrament with Him. I will never forget what I felt – that this is Real. I hope that by sharing my experience with you, you are also strengthened in your knowledge that this is real. That God Loves you. That He has given us a Savior – Jesus Christ. And that we have a prophet who dwells among us on this earth today.