#LDSConf – Mosiah 5

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 5.

Now that King Benjamin finished his big speech, so far, he wants them to respond.  He sets the pattern for them, literally, by asking them to respond (verse 1).  This demonstrates what his speech was all about, that faith requires action.  Our choices, behaviors, and interactions all demonstrate our faith.  So if we believe, we must respond – act – in some way.

“And they all cried with one voice, saying: “Yea, we believe all the words… and know of their surety and truth…” (verse 2).

But how do they know?  Testimony!

King Benjamin (as later taught in the School of Prophets) defined faith as including a knowledge that God exists, an accurate knowledge of who He is, and knowing our lives are in line with His will.   When we have this kind of faith, we have testimony.   If any of those three are off, out of sorts, or struggling, then our testimony also struggles.

We may, sometimes, be hard on ourselves because the better we know our Savior the more we become aware of how very out-of-line we are.  But this awareness is part of repentance, and repentance is part of progress.  Making progress at becoming more-in-line *is* part of being in line (in Order) with His will.

So the people exclaim this as part of their testimony, saying that faith “has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (verse 2).

That’s sanctification, which comes through action – either repentance, obedience, or service in some form.

Sanctification comes by the power of the Spirit, but we are to “sanctify ourselves” by doing the hard work of action.

“… through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, (we) have great views of that which is to come…” (verse 3).

This is revelation!

“And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy” (verse 4).

When we listen to the words of the Prophets, when we read our Scriptures, when we say our prayers, when we the “plain and simple” things the prophets have taught us, then it will be as the Savior said: we will have joy and peace.   It is the plan of happiness!  But we must do the work to receive the words (through prophets, scriptures, and prayer), because these are the venues through which revelation comes.

It’s like trying to make a call without a phone.   You need the phone to make the call.  It doesn’t matter if it is a house landline or a cell phone or Skype or G+, but you need something to make the connection.

Prophets, scriptures, and prayer make the connection so revelation can happen (see April 2011 General Conference: the President Uchtdorf and Elder Bednar talks).

It is doing the work to keep these connections consistently open that makes us a covenant people.

“And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days” (verse 5).

This was the right answer to King Benjamin’s question, because it not only demonstrated faith (with action) but also an understanding that faith is a present-progressive kind of deal.  It is an ongoing, active process, not just a one time checklist.  So King Benjamin was glad for his people, and told them they were righteous for desiring this covenant (verse 6).

“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 daughters” (verse 7).

This is powerful.  It’s a lot of words and a very long sentence.  But it’s powerful.

It is about becoming a covenant people, about becoming the House of Abraham through covenant, and so also the House of the Lord.  It’s about the Temple.

(SEE THIS BLOG on 1 Nephi 15.  REALLY.  SERIOUSLY.)

As they become His people, of the House of the Lord, then the Savior is the Head of that House (verse 8).  Because becoming a covenant people means becoming of the House of the Lord, then they must be holy (set apart) because they are called by the name of Christ (verse 9), which is the Son of the Man of Holiness (Seriously!  Did you click on the 1 Nephi 15 blog yet?!  Mega-cross-reference between 1 Nephi 15 and Moses 6!).

Like any “adoption” (Romans 8:15), part of becoming a covenant people is getting a new name (Revelation 2:17, 3:12).  It has always been, since the time of Abraham (see Genesis 17).  We should “remember to retain the name written always in your hearts” as a reminder of this covenant, as well as for the purpose of being called in the resurrection (verse 12).

But then we must prove ourselves to be of the covenant.  Being born into it is not enough, and even being adopted into it is not enough.  We must actively participate in this new family we have chosen.   It’s the participating that makes us family.  It’s the participating that builds intimacy.

“For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger (outside the covenant, in Old Testament terms) unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (verse 13).

If we want it to be real, we must make the covenant first in our thoughts and intents.

If we do not, then “ye know not the name by which ye are called” (verse 14).  This is more than just the literal or symbolic forgetting of the new name.  This is the forgetting that you are adopted into the House of the Lord, adopted into the Family of Holiness.

We must remember to which House we belong, to which Family we belong.

“Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable (faith), always abounding in good works (action as token or evidence of faith), that Christ, the Lord God Omnimpotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all” (verse 15).

Amen.

Deaf Nachos

Even if you just drove to Cincinnati by way of Oklahoma City, and then back again by way of Nauvoo, you still have to keep going all the way to the bottom of Oklahoma to drop off your daughter at the Deaf school.

But first, you should buy her Mexican food, because she said so.

Traveling home on Sunday is something we try not to do, but appears necessary sometimes.  We still wore Sunday clothes to remind us it was the Sabbath, and we only listened to stories and scriptures and instrumental music rather than our crazy playlist songs.  We also did our best a picnic treats in the car for Sabbath meals prepared ahead of time, so that we wouldn’t have to spend any money more than necessary on Sunday.  


When we did, though, like getting gas, we talked to them about the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law”, as well as the “ox in the mire” story.  

Partly because they are maturing and doing so much better (sometimes), and partly in preparation for the seven year olds getting baptized as they turn eight, we have been talking a lot about the difference between rules and principles.  They have, in the past, required and/or imposed upon themselves a very structure environment and a lot of rules; this is one reason they can (but don’t always) act so terrible when we are not around.  The responsibility continues to shift more on them than us as they grow older, but they cannot do this successfully without first shifting to living by principle rather than rules.  They needed rules in the beginning, after having none before coming here, but have progressed far enough to start discerning principles.

We talked about how principles are truths that do not change, while rules change all the time.  Rules change as you grow older, or from family to family, or from family to school.  We talked about how because of some principles, our family does some things other families don’t, or other times we don’t do things other families do.  Our families rules change (our different than) other families because we embrace certain principles that others might not know about or like – but that are still true anyway.

For example, in the past, because of eating issues before they came to us, the children often drank all their water or milk instead of eating the healthy food we provided.  This resulted in the doctor prescribing that liquids be withheld from them at mealtimes and given to them after they eat.  However, the first graders are better at eating now, enough to be able to eat and drink like normal (usually).  Barrett will still drink instead of eating, or only eat bread, so we still have to hold his drinks; Anber will drink a ton and then eat until she throws up, and it comes up like a flood because of how much she ate, so we have to hold her drinks until after and limit her servings.  So the drink rules changed as they got older, and other families might not even have drink rules.  But the principle is about eating nutritious food first because it is important for the body to be healthy and strong, and if they can follow that principle then they don’t need the rules.

The same thing could be applied to our “rules” for modest clothing, or not drinking alcohol or doing drugs, or remaining chaste and planning on and preparing for temple marriage.  If they are living the principles of self-care for their own bodies as temples for their spirits, and making choices based on their testimony of who Heavenly Father is and who He says we are, then such rules won’t seem oppressive or burdensome.

They so much want happiness, and will crave freedom more as they get older, but both come by living true principles rather than by rebelling against an illusion of rules.

I told them that we had two witnesses – the New Testament and Spiderman – and both telling us that such freedom comes with great responsibility.

The older they get, though, the more that responsibility is theirs than ours, and so they must start now thinking about principles rather than rules, if they are ever going to govern themselves well.

We applied the same thing to the Sabbath and our traveling day.  Usually on Sundays, we do not play outside or go to the park, because that is “work” we do every other day.  But the principle is about setting the day aside for family and refreshment of body and spirit, worshipping together after having prepared and partaken of the sacrament and attended our classes. They were thrilled, then, as we broke a “rule” to live the principle by meeting their cousins at a park on the way home. They were so happy to run and play for a few hours after such a long trip home, and it wore them out enough to sleep those last three hours before we safely arrived back home last night!



#LDSConf – Mosiah 4

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 4.

King Benjamin finished his big speech in the last chapter, and the people respond by falling to the ground – an outward symbol of internal humility (verse 1).

“And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth.  And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men” (verse 2).

They believed in Christ before He came.

And their belief requires a three-fold response:

1.  Applying the atonement;

2.  Receiving forgiveness; and

3.  Purifying their hearts.

“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…” (verse 3).

Peace of conscience is part of the testimony of remission of sins.

With his people in peace, King Benjamin has more words for his people to remain in peace and progress even further (verse 4).

He begins with a comparison between the goodness of God and our nothingness (without Him) (verse 5).

“The goodness of God” is an accurate understanding of who God is ( his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering) as well as what He has done through the atonement (verse 6).

“Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things… believe that he has all wisdom, and all power…” (verse 9).

An accurate understanding of who God is and what He has done for us transforms us by causing us to respond to Him and the love He has for us:

“Believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before GOd; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them” (verse 10).

But now that the people have done this, and now that they have confirmed their choice to be a covenant people, King Benjamin warns them to remember what they have learned about God, and to be humble by remembering that they are nothing without God (verse 11).

“If ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you” (verse 12).

If you do this, there will be evidence, “fruit” of proof that demonstrates this love of God.

“Ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably…” (verse 13).

Contention is not of God.

Love is of God.

“And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another…” (verse 14).

As covenant people, we provide both for the physical and spiritual needs of our children.

Our children learn what love is by how they feel love in the home.

Our children learn what peace is by how they feel peace in the home.

So it is important to teach them the love of God and the peace of God, so that these are what feel familiar, so that these are what they seek after when they are grown.

“Ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another” (verse 15).

But this love and service must be taught by example:

“Ye yourselves (not just the children you are teaching) will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need…” (verse 16).

You will nourish and give life to those around you.  This isn’t just about food and money and material help in temporal ways, though that is very important and absolutely necessary.   Temporal assistance to those around us is absolutely a vital part of the gospel.

But there is also the spiritual nourishment and life-giving and creating-ish kind of gift we should be giving.  There should not be any contention, no drama, no tearing-down, no angry words, no raised voices that chase the Spirit away.   Love and peace are what will nourish and teach by example, teach by helping them become familiar with the very Spirit of God.

And, specifically, we are to help because we are commanded to help – not because we think someone deserves it or not (verses 16-18).

“For behold, are we not all beggars?  Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” (verse 19).

So remember, King Benjamin says, that while you are begging for forgiveness – that which you do not deserve and only God can give  – remember those who are “begging” for temporal help, regardless of whether or not they deserve it.  We do not “deserve” the forgiveness He has given us (verse 20).

“And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another” (verse 21).

We must live as the Savior lived, including nourishing those around us both temporally and spiritually.

“… for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God – I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally…” (verse 26).

But do this in “wisdom and order” (verse 27).

For example, members of the church contribute to feeding the hungry by giving generous fast offerings.  The assist those after disasters by giving to humanitarian aid.  They provide counseling for those with addictions, mental illness, and real life struggles by giving full tithes and generous offerings.  They give spiritual help through donating to the missionary funds, the Book of Mormon funds, or the Temple funds.  That’s why we fill out the little tithe/offering forms!

This is how we do the work of the Savior: we provide temporally through our tithes and offerings, and we provide spiritually through service and by being loving and kind peacemakers that invite the Spirit into our homes, families, wards, jobs, and interactions.

“… watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord…. remember, and perish not” (verse 30).

Never Forget

I don’t remember exactly what I said.  It was something terrible, something I never should have said, something like well, if you are just sitting there, I guess it means you want to sleep in the car.

You see, sometimes I forget.

We have come so far, that sometimes I forget.  We have progressed so much from where we started as a family, that I forget how hard it used to be.  We don’t have so much yelling, them or us, and really had very happy and peaceful trips to Ohio and back, despite the bedtime dramas while there – which were still not as bad as last time, because we are all getting better at being a family.

Except sometimes we are so good at it that I forget what kind of family we want to be, or how hard we worked to make it happen, or what baggage we have fought through to do it right.

Sometimes I forget, and mess it all up.

Sometimes I walk in circles so many times that I forget I am dancing with autism.

Sometimes I wait so long on Kirk’s halting speech that I forget the miracle of him being able to talk and walk so well with cerebral palsy.

Sometimes our house is so full of medical drama and sudden emergencies and work schedule juggling that I forget the predictability needs of an autistic child.

Sometimes our house is so busy with therapists coming and going and the urgent rush to get so much done with home health plus our normal life of laundry and dishes and shoe tying that I forget the gentle and slow and quiet pace of cerebral palsy.

Sometimes when my eyes are glued to oxygen monitors and heart monitors and apnea monitors, I miss the tiny brown hands signing lullabies to me in the glow of the girls’ room at night…. And I forget that seven year olds won’t always want a lullaby and snuggles in the night.

Sometimes my “twin” four year olds are so strong and healthy compared to a baby that can’t breathe, that I forget about miracles like getting shoes on the right feet or new letter recognition or remembering to brush their own teeth without prompting.

I don’t really forget, of course.

It all passes by the corner of my eyes and stabs me in the heart, those moments I have illusions of being present for while the baby fights for her life.

Kirk needs new exercises for his left abs, and I never even knew it until last week when his therapist told me.  Mary is signing fluently with classifiers, and I never knew it until reflecting on a conversation already over.  Alex doesn’t have the visual spatial clues to know who is talking to whom in a group setting, and I thought all this time that he was just disruptive.  Barrett’s only remaining triggers are food and arguing, and we missed the specific pattern of his special needs while we only assumed he threw random baby fits.  Anber has gotten a new mean streak to hide her shyness, but I think she is trying to mimic the first graders but misunderstands their dynamic, so gets herself in trouble while trying to be cool.

They all need hugs and individual prayers in the morning, as much as they need breakfast and scripture study as a group.  They each need attachment building moments via one on one moments with me and Nathan, as much as they need pro-social skills with each other.  They all need reading in my lap, and private councils, and hair tousle-ing, as much as we need dinner at the table and evening prayers.

And I know better than to think any of my kids would want to be stuck in the car.

My kids have lived in the car, been locked in cars, and broken out of cars to survive. That’s how we got them. They don’t want to stay alone. 

That is the stuff of nightmares.

But sometimes a they freeze.

And I don’t know what to do.

Because when one freezes, the others are still pulling at me.

But when you fall asleep on a long car ride home late at night, you wake up in that nightmare, and you aren’t sure if you are back in danger or not.

Night terrors are very disorienting.

So maybe you wake in a panic and can’t get out of the back of the car.

Maybe you usually like being the boss of backpacks but just sit on the sidewalk and watch.

Maybe you wake crying in the night, drenched with sweat, and can’t remember why.

Maybe you don’t mind helping to carry in bags, but you have to eat all the leftover snacks on the way in, just in case.

These are their lives, as real as anything, while we rush to change diapers and check oxygen and adjust monitors.

I am so sorry. I didn’t understand. I forgot. I totally failed as a mom with that, and I am so sorry.

They hug me and cry, waking from night terrors that will always haunt them from a past life.

The baby comes home still very sick, but better than ever before, and our family comes home still trying but doing better than ever before.

It changes us, such softening as happens when hearts are turned by the sealing powers of the temple.

It heals us, somehow, and makes sure we never forget.

Carthage Jail

Then there was that time that our kids surrounded the Joseph Smith statue at Carthage to protect the sacred site from being desecrated by drunken high school students dressed up for prom and behaving disrespectfully and rudely as if an echo from a mob two hundred years ago.
As a family, we walked through the crowd unafraid, and sang Joseph Smith’s First Prayer in the place where he breathed his last prayer.
We had fought all day to get there, through so much opposition, and now we understand so clearly why.
The missionaries were very brave and very kind, afterwards giving the children a tour even though it was after closing time.