2 Nephi 23

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 23.

This chapter compares to Isaiah 13.

Isaiah’s “burden” in this chapter (verse 1) is a burden of a message.  It is the prophecy that he carries to the people.  It is the message he delivers to the people from the Lord.  This burden-message is notice that judgment has been declared, and the consequences are in process of unfolding.  It is like the judge reading out the sentence at the end of a trial, excepting that the Lord is always inviting us to repentance – that’s why He sends the messenger, the prophet, instead of just carrying out the sentence right away.  He always – because He has promised to do so – He always sends a prophet to warn us before judgment comes.

This is Isaiah being doing his prophet-ness, giving the final warning to the people.

And it is gruesome.

It reminds me of the second to the last paragraph of the Family Proclamation, in which the Prophet and Apostles declare:

 

We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

 

That is a “burden”.

That is a burden-message which says, if you don’t repent, it’s gonna get ugly.

And we are seeing already, how as “the world” escalates, so do the consequences or “calamities”.  This is why we have a Prophet who warns us, waiting for us to repent and return to being at-one with our Heavenly Father as made possible by the atonement.

Verse 2 is powerful.  A “banner” was a standard or symbol of the King.  The “high mountain” is the Temple.  So we have the standard (symbols and tokens and laws) being lifted in the Temple, raised up and acknowledged.   Then a voice that exalts unto them and shakes their hand, so “that they may go into the gates of the nobles”.

This is a gathering of His people,  a gathering of His house.

And there will be a great noise, a “noise of the multitude in the mountains”, as His people are gathered and celebrating and rejoicing.

But those who are not His covenant people will be warned, are being warned now.  The consequences, calamities, and disasters promised for the latter-days are happening now.  It has already started.  “Howl ye, for the day of the Lord is at hand” (verse 6).

The Lord’s people need not be afraid.

But those who are not His covenant people shall “be faint, every man’s heart shall melt” (verse 7).   “And they shall be afraid; pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames” (verse 8).

These flames are the lightning-fires of Elijah.

This is the same lightning-fire that will “destroy the sinners therefore out of ” the earth (verse 9).

This is the same lightning-fire that will happen when the worlds are moved back to their places (verse 13).

Isaiah then goes on to describe not only the destruction and scattering that will come when Assyria takes over, but also the horrific scene of Babylon taking over (verse 16-19).

Yet to those who repent, He will be merciful (verse 22).

It’s a promise.

2 Nephi 22

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 22.

This chapter compares to Isaiah 12.

After all the explaining of what covenants are, after all the reprimands and dishing out of consequences, after all the hard work of repentance, the Lord is faithful in bringing us at-one again… even in the gathering of our families and in preparation to return to Him.

This is the song of praise that follows (verses 1-6):

And in that day thou shalt say: O Lord, I will praise thee; though thou wast angry with me thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedest me.

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation.

Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

And in that day shall ye say: Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. 

Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things; this is known in all the earth.

Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.

2 Nephi 21

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 21.

This chapter compares to Isaiah 11.

In the previous chapter, Isaiah took us from understanding how our enemies (even Satan) attack(s) us, to what that looks like when we are not behaving like covenant people, to the Lord’s call for our repentance, to how He brings us at-one again.

Amazing.

The next step in this pattern, of course, is going to point us to the Savior.

Isaiah opens this chapter with describing how the Messiah will be born of the Jews, and that “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge…” (verse 2).

It’s amazing.

But we, as Latter-day Saints, also know that this chapter (and the next one) are specifically about the latter-days and the millennial reign of Christ.   We know because Moroni said so (JSH 1:40)!

The Book of Mormon Seminary Manual says this chapter has a theme:

God has the power to make great things come out of that which appears devastated.

That makes me cry.

It reminds me of 2 Nephi 4, or other good conversion stories, and the joy that wells up results in songs of praise like what will come in the next chapter (22).

But it has taken time to unfold, to fulfill every piece of the prophecy.  When Jesus was born, Israel was like a “stump” of what it had been, but out of His ministry and life and great atoning sacrifice, a “branch” has grown, and life will come (verse 1).

And when life really comes, in contrast to the injustice and sorrow of the last chapter, we read what it will be like in the day when the Lord reigns the Earth:

“But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth… and righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reigns” (verses 4 and 5).

As marvelous as it is to read of this day that will soon come, we are called to “establish Zion” now in our own lives.  We should be seeking to live righteously now, including caring for the poor.  We should be reproving what is not of God, and testifying of what is of God.  Now.  We should be meek now.

We should be faithful, now.

When the Earth is restored to its intended state-of-being, there will be physical changes in the dynamics of all living creatures because we will no longer be in the fallen state in which we now exist.  Isaiah says, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leapard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.  And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den.  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (verses 6-9).

The Lord will be there for the Jews as promised, but also for the Gentiles.  For all, His “rest” (presence!) will be glorious!

He will gather His people, and He will do so by setting up an ensign for the nations.  An ensign is a standard, a sign, something that points the way.  It’s like a flag or a symbol, but rich in meaning and in such a way that causes understanding.

We even have the literal Ensign, the church magazine in which living prophets and apostles guide us in the present day.  General Conference is an ensign, warning us and guiding us and teaching us what we need to know in these latter-days.

Even in the last General Conference, Elder Holland told us that this is part of the fulfillment of these prophesies, even of the “trump” being sounded.  That’s a serious statement, in many ways.  Both in power of General Conference, and in the timing – as we know the trump being sounded is the final thing that happens in the latter-days of the Latter-days.

But the reason for the sounding of His trumpet is not just to announce His arrival, but also part of gathering His people “from the four corners of the earth” (verse 12).

Being ready now is part of being spiritually gathered.

Being ready now is part of being physically gathered soon.

Attending our meetings on Sundays, attending the Temple regularly and often, and living our lives as covenant people is part of being gathered already.

The song of praise that comes from the experience of being gathered is what the next chapter sings for us!

2 Nephi 20

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 20.

This chapter compares to Isaiah 10.

2 Nephi 20 is a brutal chapter, following the Assyrians conquering Israel, including some of Judah.  However, the Lord says there is still time for repentance and choosing to become people of the covenant (being born into it is not enough).  This opportunity is why He did not allow Assyria to completely wipe out the tribes of Israel; however, we know from history that they will not take advantage of this opportunity and Babylon will soon finish the job Assyria started.  In the same way, there is a double layer for latter-days now, as time is running out for our opportunity to truly become covenant people through repentance and obedience.

The Book of Mormon Seminary Manual for this chapter says:

As you read this chapter, think of ways that Isaiah’s words might apply to the Lord’s people in the last days and to those who persecute them. The teachings in this chapter may also be likened to a person who has turned from the Lord and feels God’s judgments upon him or her and who wonders if there is any hope for a return to Him.

So this chapter opens up with the description of those who are attacking God’s people, and descriptions of what makes them “wicked” as opposed to Gods’ people being “obedient”.

Verse 1 opens with the first descriptor of the “wicked”, stating they “decree unrighteous decrees”.  This means they give orders that are not righteous, or make rules that are not righteous.  We see this today, as society and culture and even governments begin to establish rules that are not righteous.  We see this today, a society and culture moves outside the “Order” of the priesthood, and the consequences and calamities that come from being outside that Order.

The next descriptor in verse one is that the “wicked” “write grievousness which they have prescribed”.  This means that they are causing injustice and sorrow.  We know that injustice causes sorrow, and it is fiercely evident in our world today.  Injustice means violating the rights of others through action (our behaviors) or treatment (our interactions).  In the world today, there are injustices against those who are women, against those who want to have children, against children, against those who want the freedom to practice their religion as they see fit.  If we are not careful, we can even cause injustice against others even within the church: anytime we are filled with pride or let Satan fill us with anger, we can cause injustice.  Being a screaming parent instead of a nurturing one is injustice against your children.  Unrighteous dominion or abusive practices is injustice against those in your family.  Neglecting your home teaching or visiting teaching is injustice.  Being bitter or negative or “murmuring” instead of creating a safe and loving home environment is injustice.  Judging others instead of loving them causes injustice.  Failing to give your Fast offering is injustice against the poor.    All of these have serious consequences.

Isaiah describes it in the next verse:  “to turn away the needy… to take away the right from the poor… that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless…” (verse 2).   These are all examples of injustice at a level we can do something about, and should be doing something about.

Then, he says, the problem is no one knows who to turn to for help.  Those experiencing injustice will not have the trust or understanding or hope to be able to turn to those they are assigned to, because those people already neglected their duties.  And those who are assigned to care for others (we all are, whether it is by “order” of our family, through mission work, or through specific callings – including home or visiting teaching), these people will not be able to turn to the Lord for help because they have disqualified themselves from receiving it (by not caring for the people assigned to them).   This is serious stuff!

“And what will ye do in the day of visitation, and in the desolation which shall come from far?  to whom will ye flee for help?  and where will ye leave your glory?”

Then Isaiah begins to get specific in his prophecy, talking about the enemies headed toward Jerusalem.  He says they will conquer and scatter the people along the way, but the Lord will stop them before they destroy Jerusalem (this is Assyria still, not yet Babylon).  We know this was fulfilled in Isaiah 36 and 37.  The Lord sends the enemies to bring about the repentance of his “hypocritical nation” (verse 6).  The enemies plan “to destroy” and cut off the nations of Israel (verse 7).

The enemies of the Lord want to  conquer specific cities of Israel, and covert them to their wicked ways.  They want to taint the covenant, destroy it, pull people out of it.  This happens specifically in war back in that day of Isaiah’s time, and happens ever so subtle-ly in our day.  But war is war, and that war rages on.

When working with seminary kids, one of the things we explain to them is that Satan likes to move the line we draw in the sand, so we think we are not sinning because we have not crossed the line.  We know what the line in the sand is, and we are coverted-enough, covenanted-enough, good enough not to cross that line.  Except Satan likes to move that line over, so that we are doing what we should not be doing – though we never actually cross that line.

One of the most common ways I see this in my office, something I deal with every single day in my office, are people who think they are not having affairs because they have not yet had sex with someone other than their spouse.  However, their emotional attachments are absolutely a kind of affair.  They have not yet crossed the line, which is having sex with someone other than your spouse, but they are engaged in all the other affair-behaviors.  They are emotionally attached to someone outside their primary relationship, outside their covenant relationship.  They are keeping secrets from their spouse.  They are texting “the other person” and telling them about their marriage problems, fantasizing about being with the other person, and sharing these kinds of intimate details.  They may even fantasize with the other person about meeting together, away from their “real life” problems.  They may go so far as to actually meet for lunch or have a date, “but nothing really happened” and “no line was crossed”.  They text, they email, and they facebook.  The both know the details of the other person’s marriage, why they are unhappy, and become the emotional support for the other person “surviving” their marriage instead of working with their spouse to heal and strengthen it.  Maybe they only talk on the phone about “neutral” topics, but it is emotional support that should be coming from the spouse.  Even though the conversations and texts are “neutral”, they are kept secret from the spouse because the person wants to “possess” the relationship, keep it as if it were their own, keep it as if it were real, rather than give up something that feels good to them in the moment.

Usually it is with someone they have known since before their marriage, and so has a fairytale feel to it in contrast to the hard work of everyday life.  This illusion is dangerous, and makes for a slippery and subtle slope.  It often happens at developmental stages (kids going off to college, job changes, etc.), where it is easier to live in this fairytale illusion instead of doing the hard work to develop new skills with a changing family and shifting roles.  It usually takes 5-7 years to complete this affair cycle, and by then there is little left of the family as they once knew it.

In some ways, this is the most dangerous kind of affair, because it is much more difficult to break off.  An actual, physical affair that “crosses the line” has a line where you can stop and say, “whoa, I crossed the line…” and go back to the green of covenant behavior (even though you cannot undo what has been done, and there will be much work to repair the damage caused).  But when the line is pushed and pushed and pushed, the person’s heart becomes hard against anything being wrong with what they are doing “because no line has been crossed”.   They usually are hungry or offended when confronted, because they firmly believe no line has been crossed.  At this point, they use this “offense” as an exit strategy from their relationship, and fuel is added to the fire of the illusion in which they want to escape until they somehow justify the concerns of others as causing the chaos resulting from their own behavior.  They may become even more passive aggressive (affairs are a very passive aggressive way to deal with problems in a marriage, rather than working them out directly), punishing those around them who try to stop them or cutting off those who detect their secrets.

Physical affairs have concrete behaviors that can be stopped and specific patterns that can be confronted.  It is hard work, yes.  Even after the affair is stopped, there is a lot of work to do to repair the original relationship.

But in many ways, emotional affairs are worse.  They are a subtle entanglement Satan uses to destroy relationships by removing both trust and emotional connection upon which a relationship is built.  Emotional affairs are dangerous in the way pornography is dangerous, in that Satan uses it not only to remove agency, but also to remove the ability to physically function in the body by physically responding to that which we are designed to respond.

This is not only destroying a marriage, but un-doing the work of God.

It’s no wonder that when Isaiah mentions the city comparisons, the example he uses specifically is idolatry.  Anything we set above God, or what God has designed, is idolatry.   He’s not going to put up with that, and He will bring destruction and scattering to get the attention of His people, to lead them to repentance so that He can reclaim them.  It is a harsh and difficult journey, but it is a healing one.

“For he saith: By the strength of my hand and by my wisdom I have done these things; for I am prudent…” (verse 13).

He wants to bring us home.

He wants us to succeed.

He wants to gather us from the destruction and scattering we have chosen, and He wants us to be His people again.  He wants us at-one.

“And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people; and as one gathereth eggs that are left have I gathered all the earth” (verse 14).

But it is HIS work of redeeming US.   He is the one who is good, and He is the one who gives us HIS righteousness.  He is the one who moves us, gives us purpose, and uses us to accomplish His work.

“Shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth (swing it through the air) therewith?  Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?  As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself as if it were not wood?”

He is the one who gives us life, and brings life to us: “under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire” (verse 16).   That fire could be the consequences of sin, and its purifying process that brings us back to at-one-ness.  That fire could be the Holy Spirit that warns us, guides us, corrects us, and instructs us along the way – preventing destruction and scattering the moment we begin to heed its promptings.

“And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame, and shall burn and shall devour his thorns and his briers in one day; And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body” (verses 17 and 18).

This is not just the destruction of Jerusalem when the Babylonians came.

This is the end-of-the-world fire, that will come to cleanse the earth like the Holy Spirit comes to us after baptism.  This is the end of the latter-days, when Christ returns, and all his settled, and HIS Law is established again.

Then, in that day, we will “stay upon” (depend upon) the Lord, not our enemies.

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them, but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth” (verse 20).

In that day, the “remnant shall return, yea, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God” (verse 21).  These are the people of the Lord who have been scattered, the people who have repented, and in a way, even the rest of the lost tribes of Israel.

The Lord will destroy (“make a consumption”) all that is not of Him.

This is the ultimate setting-apart, the ultimate making Holy.

All that is not of Him will be destroyed.  We know He is good, and He is truth, and He is love.  All that is not, will be destroyed.  All who have not done the work of becoming His people, will be destroyed.

This is not a mean, judgmental God.   This is necessary work that a loving God must do to provide the place He promised to His people.

“For the Lord God of Hosts shall make a consumption, even determined in all the land” (verse 23).

If we are living in Him, living in faith, acting in faith, there is no reason to be afraid.

There is no reason to fear our enemies, because we know the end of the story.

There is no reason to fear the hard days ahead, to fear the experiences of the latter days of the Latter-days, because we know the end of the story.

We know the end of the story.

“Therefore, thus saith the Lord God of Hosts: O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid…” (verse 24).

Why?  Because of that promise of the Great Exchange from Isaiah 22:23, 25, where He removes the burden of the curse (message of the curse earned) upon us while also giving us His righteousness (message of the promise given), making us His holy people.

“And it shall come to pass in that day that his burden (message of a curse) shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing” (verse 27).

Anointing only happens when one is being set apart, to be made holy.  It comes after the cleansing, and claims who or what is anointed as holy.  It is preparation to service to God (and) or King. It is being consecrated in a new role, almost as a new being.  It means chosen of God.

The Hebrew word for Messiah mashi’ah, which literally means “the anointed one”.

The covenant people are a chosen people.

He chooses us to become like Him.

This is what being a covenant people is all about.

2 Nephi 19

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 19.

This chapter compares to Isaiah 9.

This chapter is all about prophecies regarding the area of Galilee.  Here is a paragraph from the Institute manual:

The northernmost part of Israel, near the sea of Galilee, was the area of Israel first attacked by enemies who came from the north (see the map on p. 48). When those conquering armies came, this area suffered the most destruction. Isaiah’s prophecy quoted in 2 Nephi 19:1–7 promised this area deliverance through a child, a descendant of David, who was also their “Mighty God.” This area of Galilee is where Jesus spent much of His mortal ministry. As recorded in 2 Nephi 19:5, He removed their captivity and burdens not with physical battle, but by the inner burnings of the Holy Ghost (see also D&C 19:31).

In the previous chapter, Isaiah spoke of the consequences of God’s people not repenting and returning to him.  Then he introduced the Messiah who will come, and in this chapter describes the hope that Messiah brings.

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (verse 2).

There are lots of layers to this simple sentence.  There is the “darkness” of rebellion against God, and the “light” of being reunited or at-one with Him again.  There is the darkness of mind when in sin or without the Holy Ghost, and the light of understanding that comes from the Holy Ghost and the atonement (See Alma 19:6).  There is the ordinances that bring us from darkness outside the veil, to the light within the veil.  There is the literal light of the star that announced the birth of the Savior.  There is the light of hope that comes when we begin to understand the atonement.  There is the sheckinah, the light of the Lord’s presence, that leads us through mortality just as the Israelites had the pillar of light that led them through the wildnerness after they escaped Egypt.

No matter which layer you want to wrestle, this sentence is a conversion sentence.

It is a people experiencing the hope and life and light that comes when they have escaped bondage, and it is in the context of being led (by the Savior) to the promised land (celestial-ness).

“Thou has multiplied the nation” (verse 3) not only refers to the posterity, or descendants of the tribes, but also indicates protection and provision and temporal prosperity, but is also an acknowledgement that the Lord has kept His promise to Abraham (See D&C 132:30).

“And increased the joy” – God’s people experience joy in their posterity (“thou has multiplied the nation”) because they delight in their descendents (their hearts are turned!) but also because with each increase in their posterity, there is greater fulfillment in the promises made to Abraham, and thus to all people of the covenant.

Again, it not only means increased number of descendants, but refers to the context and environment of thriving in which this is accomplished.  They are no longer a people surviving captivity.  They are no longer so scattered they can’t even be counted, and are called “lost” (the lost tribes).  These are a people escaping bondage and being re-established in their own right.

“For thou has broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor” (verse 4).

The immediate, temporal meaning of this has to do with escaping bondage.  They are no longer an oppressed people, burdened under the yoke of captivity.  They have been set free.

But the “yoke of his burden” refers also the spiritual meaning, in which the “burden” means “the curse”.  It takes us back to Isaiah 22:23,25 again, where we see that the Savior takes upon Him our “burden” (our “curse” – not just our sin, but also the consequences of those sins).  Through the atonement, that “burden” (curse) is cut off – the curse is actually removed, even “cut off” so that it no longer claims us.

But still, even then the work of the atonement is not finished.  It is the burning power (cleansing, sanctifying) of the Holy Spirit that purifies us and fills us with HIS goodness and HIS righteousness.  This is what brings us at-one with Him again.

So this is not just a physical battle of releasing a people from bondage.  It is also the spiritual battle of how the Savior releases us from bondage.

“For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire” (verse 5).

That “fire” is the Holy Spirit.

All of this is part of the work of the atonement, accomplished by the Savior according to Heavenly Father’s plan:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Might God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

This is powerful, especially in the context of Hebrew poetry and naming, to declare these names of God.  They are names that describe who He is, and so are names He proves Himself to be. That’s the power.

I cannot read that verse without thinking also of Handel’s Messiah:

Amazing.

But the promises made to Abraham continue, on and on, without end:

“Of the increase of government and peace there is no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth, even forever” (verse 7).

The promises made to Abraham are eternal in nature, and there is no end point.  It is an ongoing progression, a forever unfolding, an eternal process.

“The Lord sent his word unto Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel” (verse 8).

These are the covenants, passed down from Abraham, to Jacob and Israel, and to all of us of the covenant since then.

But if we are covenant people, then we must act like covenant people.

There is always a “doing” that is required as part of the “being”.

Covenants are not just a done deal, but always in process of being proven.

When we do not act like a covenant people, when we are not set-apart as a covenant people, when we are not testifying as a covenant people, then we will be “cut off from Israel” (verse 14).

Isaiah preaches that wickedness burns as a fire (verse 18), and that the land will be darkened by the smoke (consequences) of that fire (of wickedness) – with the wicked people being like fuel for the fire (verse 19).

Even then, “his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still” (verse 21).

We need repentance and the work of the atonement to turn away that anger.

We need covenant keeping, in the active and participatory sense, to demonstrate that we truly are His covenant people.

Refuse to Fall Down

Refuse to fall down
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down,
lift your heart toward heaven,
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you from lifting your heart
toward heaven
only you.
It is in the middle of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

2 Nephi 18

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 18.

This chapter compares to Isaiah 8.

This chapter opens with Isaiah’s wife having a baby.  This is significant because Hebrew tradition is such that names really mean something.  So the next prophesy comes through the naming of this child, which is Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means “‘to speed to the spoil, he hasteneth the prey”.  In other words, the covenant people of the Lord have not listened to what He told them, and they have not heeded His instruction.  Because of this, their consequences will “hasten” or speed up the destruction that is coming.

However, we have the pattern of how the Lord works, always.  It shows up here again.

First, the Lord sends no destruction without first sending a prophet to warn the people.

If the people listen, and repent, then they are saved from destruction.

If they do not, then captivity or bondage must happen in some way, but if they repent, He can lighten their load.

If they do not repent, then they must experience the full burden of their captivity/bondage, but they still have another chance to repent before being utterly destroyed and scattered.

If still they do not repent, then they are destroyed and scattered.

We see this with the people here, as we learned in the previous chapter.  The people do not repent, so they are conquered and go into captivity with Assyria.  But still, the Lord gives them another generation – the 65-100 years – where they have time to repent so they are not destroyed.  But when they do not, then the Babylonian captivity happens, and the people are scattered.

This is an important lesson to keep in mind for ourselves, as we liken the scriptures to our own lives.

If we repent, He restores us to an at-one state.

If we do not, we are choosing bondage – whether it be financial bondage, misery-ness of bitterness and un-forgiving hearts and negativity, bondage to the drama of unhealthy emotional expression, or other consequences to our health or jobs or families – these consequences come because of our choices.

But still we can repent, and if we do, He will lighten the load and bless our efforts at getting out of bondage through the process of repentance – which includes being restored to at-one-ness again.

But if we do not repent, then that bondage will become our destruction.  Our lives as we knew them will be destroyed, and our families will be scattered.

This is another reason the blessings of the Temple are so significant, because part of those blessings is the gathering of families from the scattering we have experienced.  It is the promise of Elijah, that the Lord “shall turn the heart of the fathers (and mothers) to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers (and mothers!)” (See Malachi 4:6).

I know my family has been blessed by this promise, absolutely.

And when we are gathered, as families and as a covenant people, then the Lord can protect us, prepare us, and provide for us.

No matter what “evil counsel” tries against us, it will come to nothing; no matter what they say, it will be meaningless “for God is with us” (verse 10).   That’s Immanuel, as promised in the last chapter!  When we are at-one, then we are the Lord’s people.  And when we are His people, He will instruct us.  It’s a promise.

But we must walk in His ways, in the ways of righteousness.

To be His people, we must be holy, which means “set apart”.

To be His people, we must be separated from the world, and doing things His way rather than our own ways or in the ways of “evil counsel”.

“For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying… “neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid” (verses 11 and 12).

Do not be afraid of them, but act in faith by walking in the Lord’s ways and doing what He commands us to do.  In this way, we can let God be God.

If we have faith, then we are acting.

Faith is never just sitting around.

Faith is always a call to testify, and a call to act.

“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples” (verse 16).

Our testimony is “bound up” when we give it, whether it be a Fast Sunday or with friends or the way we love others or the good that we do through service.

The Law is “sealed” in us by the Holy Spirit.  We know the Law is sealed in us by the evidence of the Spirit working, by the fruit of the Spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such things there is no law.  And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (refers to chastity, which includes fidelity, and rules out everything from inappropriate emotional attachments to full blown affairs)” (Galations 5:22-24).

Those are the things that give evidence of the Spirit having sealed the law in us.  We are sealed to it by attaching ourselves to the atonement.  Then we will know it is sealed in us – we are sealed to it – when we see the evidence of the law being lived in our lives.  We will know when a law is taught, and we are softened toward doing better at it, and feel strengthened to continue living it.  When we are convicted or think it is hard, we will know it is not sealed to us, and we need to repent and attach ourselves to the atonement, so that the Spirit can seal the law in us.

And then, we can have confidence in the Lord, knowing that He is working in us.

It is not us doing so good, but it is His goodness in us that changes us.

That’s the atonement.  That’s the at-one-ment.

And so in this we have peace, where we can be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).  Isaiah says it this way:

“I will wait upon the Lord… I will look for Him” (verse 17).

Isaiah is saying this in the context of knowing the people are about to be sent into captivity, and that they will still not repent and so will be destroyed after that.

Yet he knows, he has faith-becomes-knowledge, that even still, even then, still the Lord will keep His promises.  And so he will wait, knowing the Lord will do what He promised to do.

Anything less is not having faith, not believing the Lord will do what He promised.

And without this faith, without the evidence of the Spirit, without testimony, “there is no light in them” (verse 20).   That’s a serious statement, referring back to the Lord as sheckinah, and how we should become like Him, how we should become a light to the world – always, always, always offering hope and love and inviting (through behaviors and words and friendships) to the Savior.  Everything we do and say should point to the Savior.  That is how we are a “light” to the world around us, because He is our Light.

But without His light, it is a dark world.  Without His Light in us, it is a miserable state of being, a miserable way to live life:

“And they shall pass through it hardly bestead and hungry; and it shall come to pass that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.  And they shall look unto the earth and behold trouble, and darkness, dimness of anguish, and shall be driven to darkness” (verses 21 and 22).

It is better, then, to be still and know that He is God.

It is better, then, to be holy, set apart from the world around us.

It is better, then, to wait on the Lord, knowing He will keep His promises.

Mom’s Revelation

Latter-day Saints know the Holy Spirit can inspire any person, not just “mormons”.  We know Heavenly Father loves ALL His children, and wants to help them get home to Him, and that the Holy Spirit teaches and guides “line up line”… for all people, not just “us”.

But within LDS beliefs, there is the belief that we receive revelation for ourselves only, other than leaders over us – such as a Bishop receiving revelation for our ward, the Stake President receiving revelation for our Stake, and the Prophet receiving revelation for the church as a whole.  But within what they teach us, it’s our own job to be worthy of revelation and develop our ability to respond to it and do what the Savior asks of us.

One of the exceptions to this, of course, is parents.  They can receive revelation for their children.

So part of the last two years, in our family being reunited and becoming so strong, is that I try really hard to pay attention to what counsel my mother gives.   I don’t mean it comes in some formal, stuffy way.  But it does come, and it comes in ways that are pure mom-ness, and in language she and I understand.  I still need to get better at it, of course, but I have been trying really hard to pay attention to her inspired counsel for me.  It’s part of my faith, part of honoring her for her role in my life, and part of how she can really serve me as my mother.  It is very, very good for me.  Especially after having been away so many years, I really appreciate what she has to say and what counsel she offers.

For example, she has really been helping me pay attention to how much I am doing, and how to slow down my pace, and pointing out signs of my exhaustion or doing too much, etc.  It has really helped keep me accountable, and been a gift to me that has resulted in being in bed on time, getting up on time, and saying “no” a lot more often.   This is good.

Today I had planned to work because it is the holiday, so any work I get done would be double pay.

I also planned to get up this morning at 6am.  I wanted to have my workout with mom, get to work, and work all day before driving to Oklahoma City.  That was my plan.

Except we went to bed early enough that I woke at 4am.  I spent some time writing my daily Book of Mormon chapter blogs to get them scheduled to pop up at 8am each day this week.   But then, by 6am, I was ready to sleep again.  So I went back to bed.

Mom came in to wake me as scheduled for our workout, but I went back to sleep!  I never do that!

So when I finally got up this morning, we talked about it how it was a sign (symptom) of how tired I have been, and how I need to slow down my pace, and probably shouldn’t even work today.  It would be better for me to just enjoy the holiday that it is.

I agreed, learning to submit my “stiffneck” in a nod, another moment of my stubborn-ness dissolving a tiny bit.

I said, “I am glad God is teaching me, and showing me the way, because I really do want to learn this lesson about rest and play.”

Mom said, “I know another sign that God wants you to stay home today and not work.”

Cue Music.

Having been thinking about how my mom gets inspiration to help guide me in the right direction, I knew to perk up and really pay attention.  It’s learning time.

I said, “What is another sign from God that I need to stay home today?”

Cue drumroll.

Mom said, “There is a Project Runway MARATHON allll dayyyyyy!!!!”

HA!  She seriously cracks me up!

2 Nephi 17

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 17.

This chapter compares to Isaiah 7.

This chapter, and all the way through chapter 24, is the next section in Isaiah’s teachings: his prophesies.

This chapter begins the prophecies about the birth of the Messiah.

The prophesies come in the midst of political context, all of which is unfolding prior to the Babylonian captivity that would destroy Jerusalem.  Isaiah prophesies of this, and as he does so there is a double layer to his prophesy.  First, the immediate captivity about to happen when Jerusalem is destroyed, but also the later destruction that will come at the end of times.

Specifically for the tribe of Ephraim (the northern kingdom of Israelites), this destruction was fulfilled in 721 BC, when Assyria conquered them.  They were “scattered” when they were carried away, so that other tribes also became known as “the lost tribes” (See 2 Kings 17:22–23 and 3 Nephi 15:15; 17:4).

But the Lord, through Isaiah the prophet, sends a message of hope to His people:

“Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be faint-hearted…” (verse 4).

This message was for the people of Isaiah’s time, and for the people of the latter days.

“Take heed” – do what He says, for that is the way of protection and provision and preparation.  Heeding His instruction is what will safely get us there.  He will show us the way.

“Be quiet” – listen to Him!  “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  Let Him be the God that He is, and know He will do His job.  He will take care of things, so let Him.

“Fear not” – we are commanded to act in faith, not from fear.  Part of knowing who He is includes acting in faith in response to that knowledge.  That demonstrates obedience, and demonstrates our faith.  The Scriptures tell us to “fear not” 87 times, and “be not afraid” 28 times.  This “fear not” commandment is given to us more than any other commandment.  We cannot know the joy that comes from His presence, or experience the peace that He brings, if we are afraid.

“Neither be faint-hearted” – be strong in the Lord!  Accept (ACT in FAITH!) the strength that he offers.  Be empowered by Him (through the atonement and through the Temple).  Be strong and of good courage!

This whole verse echoes what Joshua said:

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest”  (Joshua 1:9).

The Isaiah talks about how some of the tribes, including Ephraim, have taken “evil counsel” against their brother, Judah.  This takes us back to the politics of war that is happening around them, and Isaiah explains who the “evil counsel” is, and who is above that.  So we see who they are in “cahoots” with, and who the leader of the whole mess is.

But, really, the underlying causes is the same as what we see throughout the entire Book of Mormon: contention.  Contention causes war and destruction.

The Lord says, “Stop it.”

Really, in verse 7, He says, “It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.”

Because contention is not of God, He will not let it come to fruition.

There will be natural consequences from those acting outside of His Order, His will, His way, but they will not ultimately – in the end – succeed in their plans because their plans are not of God.

Not only will He put a stop to the bad behavior, but then Isaiah prophesies that the tribe of Ephraim will be scattered, so much so that it will seem “broken”, in less than “threescore and five years”.   A “score” is twenty years, so he is saying this will happen in less than sixty-five years.  We know, from history, that it did happen right at sixty-five years, but also the symbolic message is that the people who caused the contention will suffer the consequences and be scattered.  So an entire generation will be gone and scattered because of their behavior.  This reminds us of the Israelites wandering in the desert for all those years with Moses, until the whole generation – every one of them – had passed away, so that it was their children who actually received the promised land, or temporal blessings that came from their deliverance.  This all connects back to the previous chapter, and why we must be cleansed (set apart) from not only who we were before we truly chose the covenant, but also from the people of our generation.

So the Lord makes it clear that we only be established if we believe (verse 9).  Our parents being in the covenant isn’t enough.  Going through the motions of the covenant isn’t enough.  We must be truly living it, which is to believe and be acting in faith in response to what we know to be true.  Always, action is required.

So then come the famous words of WHO we believe IN, and it comes through a covenant.

A covenant is when we agree with God that we will both do something.

He promises He will do something, and we promise we will do something.

Always, when a covenant is made, there is both a “sign” and a “token” given.  Signs and tokens are both literal and symbolic.  They serve as reminders to both parties – both to God and to His people – of what has been promised, and their obligation to each keep up their end of the deal.

The difference between a sign and a token can get pretty in depth, but for now we can keep it sweet and simple.

A sign is a symbol that a promise has been made.

A token is a symbol of what that promise is.

So it kind of overlaps, yet is different.

The best place to read about this, or the most famous example, at least, is reading about the rainbow given after Noah’s ark finally lands.  The story is in Genesis 9.  We all have seen rainbows, but that chapter in Genesis holds their meaning and history.

The Lord made a covenant with Noah.  The Lord promised never again to destroy the Earth by water-floods.  Noah and his family promised to be obedient and raise their children to be obedient.

The sign of that covenant was the rainbow.

The “sign” of the rainbow reminds us that a promise was made.  It’s beautiful, it’s pretty, it catches our breath.  We drag people outside to see it, we love them, we celebrate them.  They make us feel as happy as butterflies.  Because we know it is a sign of love, that He chooses not to destroy us.  So it is a sign to us and to God, a reminder to us and to God, that a promise was made.

But there is also a token within the sign.  It is a bow.  Of all things, it is in the shape of a bow.  As in, a bow and arrow.

This is part of the sign, the token part of the sign.

This rainbow itself is a “sign” in that it is a reminder that a promise has been made.

But the shape it takes – that of a bow – is a “token” of WHAT the promise was exactly.  The promise is that we would not be destroyed by water, ever again.  So the WHEN is after rain, because that is part of the promise.  But the WHAT is in its shape: a bow, from a bow and arrow.  A bow is a sign of death, and the bow-after-the-rain is given as a token in that it is set facing heaven, not facing us.  He has turned away (bow pointing up instead of at us) the bow-after-the-rain.

He has turned away destruction-through-rain.

But we know from science that it only happens when the sun pierces through, and the storm is finished and on its way.

So is judgment stayed only because the Son was pierced.

“He was pierced for our transgressions…” (Isaiah 53:5).

That’s how signs and tokens become symbols to us not only that promises have been made, but what those promises are.

And that’s how all of them point to the atonement, which was the ultimate and premortal covenant (that the Lord would provide the atonement, and we would testify of it).

When we are baptized, as the Earth was, He does turn away destruction.

And so here, Isaiah says that the Lord gives us a sign:

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call us name Immanuel” (verse 14).

A sign is being given, which means a covenant is being made.

The sign will be an “impossible birth” made possible, in that a virgin shall conceive.

This points to the token, which is that our spiritual birth, or conversion, (re-entering Heavenly Father’s presence) is impossible, because “all have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) EXCEPT THAT the Lord does make the impossible possible.  Through Him, the impossible is made possible, and through Him we are able to return to our Heavenly Father (because she did bear this son).

And the name, which goes with covenants, is given: Immanuel, which means God with us.

God being with us is part of what is the-impossible-made-possible.

Like a bow pointed away from us, it is a sign of love.

In fact, it is the completing of love, because it is the at-one-ment.  Because now, not only is the bow pointed away from us, but the one who holds it has come near to us and does embrace us and is with us.

That’s the reason rainbows make us happy: because it is a a sign of love… love that makes us at-one again.

2 Nephi 16

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 16.

This chapter compares to Isaiah 6.

These chapters are the last of this group (2 Nephi 11-16) of chapters referring to Isaiah’s preaching about coming judgment.  His sermons in these chapters have referred to the immediate destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in that day, and it refers to the judgment to come in the last days.   The hope that comes from these chapters is that in both cases (back when Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon and judgment in the last days), the Lord promises to remember His people that have truly remembered Him.   The next few chapters (2 Nephi 17-24) will be the prophecies about HOW the Lord will remember (provide, protect, and preserve) His people (humble and obedient covenant-keepers).

Nephi continues to use Isaiah’s words to preach because Nephi and his siblings and their families know of Isaiah as a contemporary prophet in their day, and so Nephi is able to point out how their father, Lehi, being led out of Jerusalem before Babylon destroyed it was part of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.  The Lord led Lehi and his family out of Jerusalem, and so he and his descendants were “remembered” (provided for, protected, and preserved).

So even how the background of this chapter reminds us that the Lord has already kept His promises, and will continue to do so, emphasis is added by reading of Isaiah’s vision of the Lord and remembering Lehi’s vision that warned him to take his family and leave (1 Nephi 1).   Together, they are “two witnesses” of this particular prophesy (His promise), or this particular characteristic of the Lord (that He remembers His people).

So the first verse of this chapter opens with the vision of Isaiah, in which he saw the Lord:

“I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.”

This takes us back a few chapters to 2 Nephi 11:1-3, where we have Nepih’s testimony that he saw the Lord, and that his brother Jacob also saw Him.

That’s three witnesses.

The words of Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah make up about 135 of the 143 pages of the “small plates” (1 Nephi through the book of Omni) (Book of Mormon manual, chapter ten).  Taking D&C 17:1-4 into context, we now understand that the purpose of these “small plates” has been to establish how we got the Book of Mormon (where the plates came from through the story of Lehi and his family), and to establish it as another testament of Jesus Christ (Elder Holland).  This lays the foundation for teaching the doctrine of Christ in the Book of Mormon that comes later in the “large plates”.

(CLICK HERE to read about the different “plates”.)

As the three witnesses establish the Book of Mormon, we are still in context of Nephi urging us to liken Isaiah’s words (and all scriptures) to ourselves.

In 2 Nephi 11:8, Nephi has just given the reason why he is quoting and teaching the words of Isaiah:

“And now I write someof the words of Isaiah, that whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men. Now these are the words, and ye may liken them unto you and unto all men.”

We need to apply them to our own lives, in today’s world.   So part of what this first verse tells us, is that we should also be seeking the Lord, not just to be doing what He says or following His example… but also seeking to truly see Him, know Him, and develop our testimony that He is real, He lives, and that He is who He says He is.

And when we know who He is, we cry out to each other (testify!) “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (verse 3).

This caught me by surprise this morning, in that I know He is “Lord of Hosts” as in “Lord of all Beings”, but the literal, actual word also caught me in that as we love others the way He loves us, we “host” them.  We invite them, we care for them, we welcome them.  It caught me in that way, as I have been studying and learning about that recently.

Also, the whole earth is “full of His glory” because of His great atoning sacrifice.  His glory is to bring about the immortality and eternal life of all of us.  And so the whole earth being full of His glory means that He has done this, that He has kept His promise, that we have all been (will be) changed by that Great Exchange of Him taking from us what is not of God, and filling us with His righteousness.  This is His work and glory (Moses 1:39).

“And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him…”

The “posts of the door” remind me of Revelation 3:12 where the Lord says that those who take upon themselves His name, He will make as the pillars of His temple.

Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

So again, it is the Lord’s covenant people – those who not only made, but also kept their covenants – these people are moved at the Lord’s voice.

But the posts of the door being moved is the opening of the door.

So His covenant people move – open and receive – His words when they come.

It’s the reminder that a matriculation ceremony does not mean that you have graduated, but rather that you have met the prerequisites to enter the college for advanced learning.  It is not graduation; you are not finished.  You are just eligible to enter.  It’s just the beginning of your progress.

These days matriculation ceremonies have been reduced to online enrollment.

But in the old days when tradition was both passed down and honored, matriculation ceremonies were a big deal.  The ceremony was a beautiful and formal event.  See this example, from the Mona Lisa Smile movie:

The matriculation ceremony was not graduation, but initiation.  It’s just the beginning.

To get from enrollment to graduation is quite a process.

It requires change and attaining what one was not before that change, or transformation, happens.  It requires change beyond what one was before.

I love that in Isaiah’s example, he focuses on his “unclean lips”.

Our words come out of our heart, often revealing what is in us before we even realize it is there.

The cleansing of words is a cleansing of the heart.

And one cannot cry “Holy, Holy, Holy” to the Lord until one’s words (and heart) has first been cleansed.

The cleansing is the prerequisite to the matriculation ceremony.

So we see, in a few short verses, the unfolding of the plan of salvation, the entirity of the Gospel and all its ordinances, beginning with the principle of repentance:

“Wo is unto me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (verse 5).

Note that he must be cleansed not only of himself, but also of the people around him.

This reminds me of D&C 88, which is all about the priesthood and things not for this blog on 2 Nephi.  But suffice it to say that the reason we must be cleansed not only of ourselves but also of the people around us in our time is because of the setting-apart (being made holy) that must happen.

I would go so far as to say that the “unrighteous” is not others, but ourselves.

The unveiling of God coincides with our own sanctification.

Celestial-ness is not out-there, in the future, but in process now, as we meet the prerequisites and begin the matriculation ceremony.

This is why love is above all other things.   Because just as D&C 88 holds the pattern of the priesthood, so also must we all live in the pattern of the Savior.  Our final sanctification is only possible through “saving” others through charity, the pure love of Christ.

Becoming like Him isn’t just about going to the Temple a couple of times and being good in between visits.  We must deliberately work to become sanctified through our covenants.  The biggest mistake we most frequently make is thinking our covenants are about what NOT to do, when really they are about what we should be doing, how we should be living, what changes we should be making, and above all else – how we interact with others.  This is the work of redemption: to gather through the invitation of love and the demonstration of love through service.

The work of the atonement is the work of doing for others what they cannot do for themselves.

And not because they don’t deserve it, but because there is such deep love for them, that you can see their potential and who they will become.

It’s not about being so good that others are helped.

It’s about loving so well that others are changed.

That’s how the Savior loves us.

Isaiah sees it in his vision, when a hot coal is laid in his mouth, to cleanse him of those unclean lips.  It’s like those difficult and dark experiences of mortality that teach us and cleanse us and change us.  It’s the fire of the Spirit, which does purify and sanctify us by the power of the atonement.

“And he laid it upon my mouth, and said: Lo, this has touched thy lips; and thing iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged” (verse 7).

This verse has always been one I have begged for, because I have often needed my lips cleansed.  It is an intimate verse, when cleansing of self and cleansing from those around us is deep and thorough and pure.  It is the “set apart”-ness that makes us holy.  It is the story of when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, and told them that his true disciples would be differentiated from the fakers by who is truly loving others, and loving them well (see John 13:34,35).   That is what makes us clean “every whit” (John 13:10).

And so our sin is “purged”, and our sins our forgiven.

That is the atonement.

When we love others, truly and well, we act out the atonement in His name.

This is always the pattern of how the Lord works in us.

He gives to us, so that we can give to others.

He prepares us, so that we can “go and do”.

This is how it has always been.

Isaiah (now cleansed) hears “the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?  Then I said: Here am I; send me.” (verse 8).

So many layers here!

First, it is the layer of being a type of Jehovah.   We know that when Heavenly Father presented His plan for us to come to earth, it was Jehovah who volunteered to be the one to atone for us (see Abraham 3:27-28).

This was our premortal covenant: He would atone for us, and we would testify of it.

In the same way, Isaiah now is sharing his premortal experience of being called as a prophet to testify of Christ.

Elder Holland said:

“Isaiah is by every standard the messianic prophet of the Old Testament and as such is the most penetrating prophetic voice in that record. He, more than any other witness in the Old World, saw and wrote and prophesied of the Savior’s coming both in the meridian of time and again in the latter days. He is quoted more often in the New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and contemporary documents such as the Dead Sea Scrolls than any other Old World prophet. …

“It would seem even from Isaiah’s name (‘Jehovah saves’ or ‘The Lord is salvation’) that he was prepared at birth—or, more accurately, from before birth—to testify of the Messiah, bearing witness of the divinity of Christ in anticipation of both his first and second comings”

(Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 75–76, 77–78).

If we are likening the scriptures to our own lives, then we know that we also were prepared premortally to testify of Christ.

This is our “go and do”, being sent from the premortal realm, so that we can return to Heavenly Father’s presence and report that we did according to His plan.

This is our offering to Him, the offering that can only be given through the use of agency (our ability to choose).  Our offering to Him is choose to love Him, and demonstrating that love by loving others well.

This love is part of our testimony, and without it words mean nothing.

Our soft hearts soften the hearts of others.  Our seeing helps others to see.  Our hearing helps others to hear.  Our understanding helps others to understand, so that they can “be converted and be healed” (verse 10).

The ultimate healing is the at-one-ment.

This is our salvation, to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Isaiah compares us to “an oak whose substance is in them when they cast their leaves”.  Just as an oak tree drops acorns, and even though those acorns are only little seeds and not yet trees, the substance of the tree is already inside them.  As the acorn breaks open into a sapling, the sapling will grow and grow until it is also a tree.   While not yet a tree, the acorn holds within it the potential to become a tree.

Because it is made of the same substance.

“So the holy seed shall be the substance thereof” (verse 13).

And so we, the children of our Father-in-Heaven, hold within us the divine potential to become like Him.

Following the example of our Savior now, in our choices and interactions, helps us to be at-one with who we truly are, holding within us the divine substance of our Father.

Following the example of our Savior now, in our choices and interactions, helps us to be at-one with others, knowing the divine substance of our Father is also in them.  This also helps them to begin to align themselves toward being at-one with our Father, like tuning forks responding to each other.

Following the example of our Savior now, in our choices and interactions, helps us to be at-one with our Father by being who He created us to be: acorns in process of becoming trees, seeds of God, “children of the most High” (Psalm 82:6).