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).

 

Mosiah 3

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 3.

King Benjamin continues his famous speech, looking forward to what is yet to come.  He tells the story of an angel visiting him (verse 2) to declare “glad tidings of great joy” (verse 3) in response to his prayers and righteous life (verse 4).  He is told these things, that he might testify of them (which was why the last chapter had such a big preface about testimony).

So the angel tells him:

“… the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sigh, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases…” (verse 5).

This, of course, is a prophecy regarding the birth of the Savior, and the work He would do during His ministry.  It cross-references us to “The Living Christ”.  But it also applies in our day, whether literally or symbolically.

How have I seen the Savior working in my life and in the life of those around me?

What mighty miracles have I witnessed?

What was “sick” in my life that is now healed?

What was “dead” in my life that is now resurrected?

How am I now able to walk (in righteousness), though I was “lame” before?

What do I see – or, what do I understand now that I did not understand before?

How am I able to hear Him now, even submitting to His will and heeding His promptings, when before I was stubborn and obstinate?

What “disease” in me has healed, or has been made at-one?

This is the work of the atonement.

The angel explains what the Savior suffered to accomplish that atonement:

“And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than a man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people” (verse 7).

Who is this, that could endure so much to give us such a gift?

“And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary” (verse 8).

He endured “more than a man can suffer” because he was also Divine, “the Son of God”.

He knows us so well, so intimately, to suffer for us specifically – for me specifically – because He is the Creator.   But He was born of  a woman, Mary, and so understands our mortality.

“And lo, he cometh unto his own” (us), “that salvation might come unto the children of men” (those who should know better but are not behaving and interacting like covenant people) “even through faith on his name” (verse 9)

“and even after all this, they shall… scourge him, and shall crucify him” (verse 9).

“And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men” (verse 10).

This is important.

Because He conquered death in two ways:

First, there is a physical death.  Being divine spirits born in mortal bodies outside of our Father’s presence, since the time of the Fall, we are subject to physical death.

The resurrection of Christ conquers physical death, so that all of us get immortality.   His Divine act on our behalf means that all of us (our spirit selves), after death, will be reunited with our bodies.   This is His free gift, a reuniting after our being separated from Him (physically) during mortality.

Second, there is a spiritual death.  But there are two kinds of spiritual deaths.  First is the demands of justice for all of us born in this fallen state outside of God’s presence.   The atonement of Christ means that each of us will get to be reunited with our Father-in-Heaven, even if only for judgment.

“For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned” (verse 11).

But there is also a second kind of spiritual death.

The first spiritual death is being outside of God’s presence because of the Fall.

The second spiritual death is when we place ourselves outside of God’s presence by our own choices.  Our own personal sins and transgressions remove ourselves from His presence, and it is only by the atonement of Christ that we can be reunited with Him again, made at-one again.

“But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God!  For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 12).

So the resurrection conquers physical death, and the great atoning sacrifice meets the demands of justice to conquer the first spiritual death.

Everyone gets those free gifts, no matter what.

Everyone gets immortality, no matter what.

But the quality of that immortality, how close we get to be to His presence at that time, our very eternal life (after the pattern of our lives now), depends upon how close we choose to be to Him now.

Immortality is already a done deal; it’s unconditional for everyone.

Eternal life (the quality of that immortality) is conditional based on what we choose.  We are choosing, in every choice, behavior, and interaction, whether we want to be closer to God or not.  Every choice we make demonstrates whether we are worthy of the sacrifice Christ made for us or not.  Every choice we make demonstrates whether we are focused on Him or not.

Except, being born to earthly parents in a fallen state of mortality, of course we cannot do it on our own.   So the atonement also conquers this spiritual death of our own choices, but the condition is that we strive to make good choices that show our love and obedience through our faithfulness.

This is the sanctifying process: that as we are told by the Savior – either through His words or by the Holy Spirit – to make good choices, our responding to that by making good choices (and through repentance when we do not), makes us more worthy than before, more whole, more perfect – as in complete.   Because each bit of repentance, each good choice, enacts that Great Exchange when we give Him what is not of God, to receive His righteousness.

I am not good.

But I can choose to give Him the not-good in me, and receive His righteousness.

That’s sanctifying.

That’s what makes me worthy to return to my Father’s presence, even though I – without Him – am not worthy.

Without this process – without the atonement of Christ or the sanctifying of the Holy Spirit – it would be impossible.

But it is possible, and that is the way to salvation – the way to be reunited in our Father’s presence.

This is what King Benjamin teaches the people, because that is what all prophets teach the people.

“And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, nad tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them” (verse 13).

This verse is packed!

First, it points out how all the prophets before the time of Christ knew Christ would come, and this is what they taught the people.

Secondly, it again points out that it is individual belief – demonstrated by obedience – that brings remission of sins, even though what Christ has done conquers both physical and spiritual death (from the Fall) for everyone.

Because everyone needs that atonement for the second spiritual death, the one we bring upon ourselves, the message of it goes to all people – “every kindred, nation, and tongue” – so that all can receive it.

“Yet the Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people, and he appointed unto them a law, even the law of Moses” (verse 14).

If we would just do what He says, we wouldn’t need laws.   The people were stubborn and obstinate (like myself), and so needed specific laws to help them stay on track, and specific rules throughout the day to remind them of what it was all about, why it was so important, who – what people – they were trying to become.

“And many signs” (always given with a covenant), “and wonders” (always given in response to faith), “and types, and shadows” (always given in response to study and pondering), showed he unto them, concerning his coming; and also holy prophets spake unto them concerning his coming; and yet they hardened their hearts, and understood not…” (verse 15).

It says they didn’t get it.  They “missed the mark”.  They got so lost in the law itself, that they forgot what the law was trying to accomplish.  The law wasn’t about rules; it was about learning to become (look and act like) a covenant people.

But it is not the law that saves them.  It’s not the rules that save the people.

It’s the atonement, “only in and through the name of Christ” (verse 17).

So instead of being lost in rules and laws, we should remember they are there to teach us and protect us and guide us like the boundaries they are.   But their purpose and function is to point us to Christ, and to get us home.  That’s what’s most important.

Rather than analyzing the rules or why we have them or what all they mean, we should be focused on the path that they make clear.   The rod shows the way, and we should be walking along that way, excited for the tree of life we see ahead.

“Become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ” (verse 18).

That is the only way.

And He has done it.

He has done His part.

He has fulfilled His premortal covenant obligation.

Now we must do ours: to testify of that atonement.

And we testify in words, by telling others about the atonement to help them remember, and by our choices that demonstrate we are grateful for and honoring that gift.

“And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the knowledge of a Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” (verse 20).

Testify!

“And behold, when that time cometh, none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children” (verse 21).

None will be blameless because we are responsible for what we know.  As we are taught, and as all people obtain a knowledge of the Savior, we must respond to that knowledge.  We are held accountable for that response.

When we obtain a knowledge of the Savior, we will become aware of the vast separation between us and Him.   But we are not lost, for this is where the atonement – the at-one-ment – applies “through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord” (verse 21).

If we repent – which is a demonstration of faith, believing that the atonement is big enough, complete enough, even for me – then we will be made at-one again.

This is the testimony King Benjamin gives his people (verse 23).

So this is his testimony: that the atonement of Christ conquers physical death for all of us, and conquers spiritual death for all of us to be reunited with our Father-in-Heaven at judgment:

“wherefore they shall be judged, every man according to his works, whether they be good, or whether they be evil” (verse 24).

And if we have made good choices – through obedience (good choices) and repentance (the only way to make bad choices at-one again) – then we will receive the peace and joy and eternal life, which is life continuing in our Father’s presence (as it does now, except reunited in His presence).

If we have not, then we will feel our separation from God, receiving “an awful view of (our) own guilt and abominations, which doeth cause them to shrink from the presence of the Lord into a state of misery and endless torment…” (verse 25).

Our misery and endless torment will be because we will have then seen God, and remembered Him, but not able to live with Him.

We will have already chosen, because now is our choice.

While it is still now, while we are in mortality, we can choose to experience this now, through repentance, and not suffer it later with such eternal consequences.

“This life is the time to prepare to meet God.” (Alma 34:32)

Justice will be demanded.

The atonement meets the demands of justice.

But the atonement has to be chosen now in order to receive its mercy.

This is what King Benjamin wants to make sure his people understand.

Mosiah 2

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 2.

Mosiah left his father, King Benjamin, to go gather the people for the king’s big speech.  And it is a big speech, and it is a famous speech, and it is AMAZING.   So the people “gathered themselves together throughout all the land, that they might go up to the temple to hear the words which king Benjamin should speak to them” (verse 1).

And there were lots of them, “so many that they did not number them” (verse 2).

Since this was a gathering of the people, and they were coming to hear the words of the Prophet, the teachings of the Lord, and prepare themselves for the Temple, they brought “the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice… and offerings…” (verse 3).

This is an important pattern from the Old Testament.

It is why we have Sacrament before we have the talks during Sacrament meeting.

The atonement has to happen first.

It is why we get more out of the Temple experience if we go prepared, having studied and repented and sacrificed in some way to get there.

It is why the New Testament says don’t come to Sacrament angry at people (and don’t even take Sacrament if you are being offended – which is not of God – or un-forgiving).  It says go, make peace, then come back and take Sacrament.  Because being at-one is part of the atonement, so much that there cannot be any hard feelings towards anyone when we approach God.

It’s a small verse in the middle of a big chapter, but it is very important.

So also is the next verse: “and also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land… and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with the love towards God and all men” (verse 4).

This is also huge, because all of this that they are thanking God for happened a long time ago.   It’s been hundreds of years since the people were delivered out of Jerusalem, just in time before the Babylonian captivity.   It’s been hundreds of years since those prophets of that day did teach the people, write the records, and pass them down generation after generation.

When was the last time we thanked God for our deliverance, whether it is personal deliverance in our day – physically, emotionally, conversion-ly, or spiritually – or whether it is ancient deliverance, such as living in a free country where we are allowed to worship God the way we see fit for ourselves?

When was the last time we thanked God for the teachers he appointed hundreds of years ago, whether the writers of the Book of Mormon records, the restoration through the Prophet, or those who taught our ancestors, so that we were even born?

When was the last time we thanked God for the peace in our land?

When was the last time we rejoiced because we knew having commandments taught us to love God?

When was the last time did we consciously do the work to love another person because we are commanded to do so, and because they are a child of the same God, and because learning who they are teaches us more about who God is?

This is the work we must do BEFORE going to the Temple.

This is the preparation work that makes us worthy.

Our Temple recommend questions are interview questions so that priesthood authority can give us permission to go, like Mosiah calling the people to gather.

But it is our individual preparation work that makes us worthy.

Are we truly worthy?

What have we done, on this day, to be thankful?

What have we done, on this day, to do the work of love?

What have we done, on this day, to establish peace?

“And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family… every family being separate one from another” (verse 5).

This is the order of things, and the families being organized as part of that order.

Families go to the temple TOGETHER.

This verse also reminds me of an ancient Jewish custom that said families had to remain separate because it was part of modesty, part of chastity, part of fidelity.  You couldn’t face your tent or home towards the front windows of another house.  It could be off center, or the front could be away from the courtyard, but you didn’t invade the privacy of others by facing your front door towards theirs.

In our day, this applies emotionally and spiritually as well.  We need to focus on our own families, not in isolation from one another, but out of respect for other families and in effort of organizing our own.   We should be caring for our parents, seeking spouses, and raising children.

That is the work of a family as commanded, whether it means going to Sonic with your mom or writing letters to your dad or caring for elderly parents.

That is the work of a family as commanded, whether it is dating or being married with the understanding it takes a lifetime to learn to be a spouse or whether it is the bittersweet grief after a sp0use of many years is gone.

That is the work of a family as commanded, whether it is praying for children, spending time looking into their eyes and listening, playing hard with them, celebrating accomplishments, bidding them farewell as they start their own families, or celebrating your posterity as their family grows.

“And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple…” (verse 6).

Again, families – as a whole – TOGETHER – are focused on the Temple, ready to receive what the Temple has to offer.

So many people came that King Benjamin had a tower built, so all could hear (verse 7).

This is General Conference, folks!

“And it came to pass that he began to speak to his people from the tower… (and) he caused that the words which he spake should be written and sent forth among those… that they might also receive his words” (verse 8).

General Conference and Ensign!

The pattern that has always been!

King Benjamin begins, “… I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view…” (verse 9).

He’s not messing around!

General Conference isn’t just for a good time, cool quotes, or to get a hint at what’s happening next.

General Conference is to receive instruction and revelation and be obedient unto it.

The words given are by the power of the Spirit, from the Lord, to His covenant people.

The Prophets that deliver them, even King Benjamin, are still only a “mortal man” (verse 10).

“I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind…” (verse 11).

Yet the Lord has blessed his efforts, and King Benjamin shows what a set-apart leader looks like.

First:  It is not priestcraft, because King Benjamin’s words are the Lord’s words, King Benjamin has been called to speak, and King Benjamin has provided for himself (verse 12).

Second:  King Benjamin has ruled in righteous dominion: “Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery…” (verse 13).

Third:  His reign has been righteous, and he has raised up a righteous people.  He has “taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you…” (verse 13).

Fourth:  He lives by example:  “And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes…” (verse 14)

Fifth:  He uplifts (teaches) instead of oppressing (grieving):  “that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be bourne….” (verse 14).

Sixth: His focus in on accomplishing the task given him by the Lord.  “I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day” (verse 15).

Seventh:  He knows his purpose: “I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God” (verse 16).

What amazing lessons of leadership that apply to everything from parenting to testimony-by-example to professional work to leadership positions.

“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (verse 17).

And he does as he teaches, teaching both by word and example:

“and if I, who ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?” (verse 18).

But service is not enough.

Gratitude is also required.

“And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!” (verse 19).

This is humility.  Not fake-humble or low-self-esteem that can’t accept compliments.

This is humility, which is a righteous understanding that all things are given to us by our Father-in-Heaven, made possible by the atonement of His Son, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace with one another…” (verse 20).

He interrupts to give emphasis, creating some of that beautiful Hebrew poetry:

“I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will (He who gave us agency!), and even supporting you from one moment to another (His Spirit quickens our spirit!) -” (verse 21).

Then he continues back to the first thought, connecting service and gratitude as one expression of love for God, demonstrated by obedience:

“I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls, yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (verse 21).

We can do nothing without Him.

It is by His Spirit, because of the atonement, by our Father’s plan, that there is fruition to anything we do or try, even in the very lives we live.

We come so short, owe such a debt, that we cannot pay the price.

We cannot be profitable.

But the Savior has paid the price, meeting the demands of justice so that we are “even” – at zero –  by His great atoning sacrifice.

Yet, still, we are not “profitable”.

It is by the power of the Spirit, because of that atonement, that there is “fruit”, that there is progression, that we are sanctified, that we can bring something back to the Father, and in that way be profitable.

What is profitable to the Father?

Souls.  (D&C 18:10).

So we can be profitable by spiritually creating families through marriages, physically providing bodies for spirit children, by fulfilling our premortal covenant to testify of Him so that souls can be converted – not just in baptism, but even in their own progress, at whatever “line” they are on along the way.

Remember the Elder Scott quote from 2002 General Conference:

Your happiness now and forever is conditioned on your degree of conversion and the transformation that it brings to your life.

Baptized or not, endowed or not, your conversion is measured by the transformation of your life.  If we are making progress, our lives should be different today than they were a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago.  The Savior’s love is unconditional, but His blessings are conditional upon our degree of conversion – which is about way more than just being baptized or endowed.

“And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments” (verse 22).

That’s all.

He died.

He suffered, and He died.

And that’s all He asks, is for us to be obedient to what He has asked us to do.

“And he has promised that if you would keep his commandments, ye should prosper in the land” (verse 22).

The “prosper in the land” phrase always has the double layer of referring also to celestial-ness.

“And he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments, he doth bless you and prosper you” (verse 22).

He will keep his promises.

King Benjamin tells us we shouldn’t be whiny babies about this, that it is serious business.

“In the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him” (verse 23).

That’s big.

But there’s more.

“And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth IMMEDIATELY bless you; and therefore he hath paid you.  And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever” (verse 24).

We can’t catch up.

He loves us that much, blesses us that well, and is that diligent – paying attention even now, knowing you even now – so quick to keep His promises of blessing, so immediate in blessing us – even when answers or orchestrating take a while because others have to also respond to Him.

Everything is His.

We have nothing to be proud about, in a boasting kind of way.

“Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth…” (verse 25).

In Isaiah, it says that dust of the earth is even more obedient than we are.

“And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves…” (verse 26).

Yet still, we can try to fulfill our purpose and live worthy of the sacrifice the Savior has made for us, and by Him fulfill our role in carrying out our Father’s plan.

And most basic of all, above all else, our role is to testify.

This is our premortal covenant: Jehovah agreed to atone for us, and we agreed to testify of that atonement.   So everything we do should be testimony, either in words or actions, in whatever form, in some way inviting others to know God by loving and serving them in peace.

“Therefore… I at this time have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together, that I might be found blameless, and that your blood should not come upon me” (verse 27).

He wants to be free from the blood and sin of that generation, and like prophets before him, can be so because he has testified.

If we do not testify, the blood and sins of our generation is upon us.

They are not held accountable for what we do not teach them.

(This is why, in marriage, you cannot be angry at your spouse for what you never taught them or told them – that is contention and gamey and not of God.)

If we do testify, then we are free from the blood and sins of our generation because their choices then fall on their own agency in response to the testimony they have received.

So King Benjamin wants to testify one last time, “that I might be found blameless, and that your blood should not come upon me, when I shall stand to be judged of God of the things whereof he hath commanded me concerning you” (verse 27).

This is so important that he says it again:

“I say unto you that I have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together that I might rid my garments of your blood…” (verse 28).

This is not a wishy-washy-wishing (thank you, President Monson!).  This is serious testimony, direct and clear, bold and brave, plain and simple, offered “that I might go down in peace, and my immortal spirit may join the choirs above in singing the praises of a just God” (verse 28).

With this testimony completed, he grieves his people and lets them know the practical purpose he must also serve: to pass his kingdom to his son, Mosiah (verse 29, 30).   He wants the people to continue to do what they have always done, keeping the commandments of the Lord and prospering in the land with peace from enemies (verse 31).

And then he gives a prophetic warning:

“But, O my people, beware lest there shall arise contentions among you…” (verse 32).

This is very serious.

He is talking to a covenant people, who know the covenants by which they are bound.

There is no ignorance, and there are no excuses.

He says that those who follow this spirit of contention, those who “obey him, and remaineth and dieth in his sins, the same drinketh damnation to his own soul; for he receiveth for his wages an everlasting punishment, having transgressed the law of God contrary to his own knowledge” (verse 33).

You know better, he is saying.

Love and peace and service and gratitude is of God, and the Lord’s ways.

Hate and contention and bitterness and negativity is not of God.

And you all know better.

“I say unto you, that there are not any among you… that have not been taught concerning these things” (verse 34).

You know the Scriptures, and that they are true, and what your covenants are, he says (verse 35).

“And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved…” (verse 36).

Not only does contention mean you are choosing to withdraw from the Lord’s very presence, which means you remove yourself from understanding what is wise and good and right, and so this also removes you from His protection, provision, and blessings (including promises).

Why?

Because it puts you in open rebellion against God, like Satan.

“I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God… to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness” (verse 37).

Without repentance, finishing mortality in open rebellion against God means you have removed yourself from the atonement that brought mercy.  Without that mercy, the demands of justice must still be met – that price still has to be paid (verse 38).

“… Mercy hath no claim on that man…” (verse 39).

“I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand” (verse 40).

This echoes Nephi, who said that plain and direct words are only harsh to those who do not want to submit to the teaching the words bring, only offend those whose hearts are hard against change, only difficult for those who do not want conversion.

But the covenant people who do want conversion, who are constantly converting, ever-repenting, being sanctified by the Spirit through love and service and peace-making, they are blessed.

“I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.  For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end, they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness” (verse 41).

That’s powerful.

And he means it, emphasizing once more, pleading once more:

“O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it” (verse 41).

Yichud

This was on Jewish Treats this morning… thought it was interesting, especially after recent release of the new youth video:

 

According the Jewish law, a man and a woman who are not married to each other may not be secluded alone in a room or other private space. To comply with this law, couples who are dating, spend a great deal of time in public places or in the company of other people. This law includes an engaged couple and, in fact, applies up until the moment the groom places the ring upon the bride’s finger under the chuppah.

In Hebrew, words often have a positive and a negative meaning. Yichud is the term used to describe this law prohibiting “unchaperoned time alone,” but it is also the Yichud Room to which the new bride and groom are escorted immediately after the chuppah (at Ashkenazi weddings*).

Although there have been times and communities in which the post-chuppah yichud was meant to be a time during which the couple actually consumated the marriage, that is no longer the custom today. In the Yichud Room today, it is customary that the bride and groom enjoy a light meal (in many cases they have been fasting during the day until the conclusion of the ceremony) and exchange small gifts. By the very act of being secluded in a room, the bride and groom are making a public declaration of their married status.

As a significant part of the wedding, there is ceremony and fanfare surrounding the Yichud Room ritual. The couple is escorted to the room directly from the chuppah with dancing and music, and the room is checked by the couples’ two “witnesses” to ensure that no one else is in the room. Once the door is closed, it is guarded so that no one disturbs the bride and groom. They remain sequestered for approximately 8-10 minutes (thus giving them private time together during a very public event).

*While the Yichud Room is primarily an Ashkenazi customs, some Sephardi couples also enter the Yichud Room after the wedding feast.

Posted in LDS

Mosiah 1

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 1.

We now transition back into the historical narrative, from where Amaleki had no sons and so passed on the records to King Benjamin because he was a righteous king.

In fact, King Benjamin reigned so righteously – leading the people to righteousness – that there was no more contention in all the land (verse 1).  There was continual peace for the rest of his life, because he led the people to righteousness.  He himself was righteous, and as a leader he led the people to also be righteous.

Contention is covenant-breaking, drama, selfishness, demanding-to-be-right, compelling, bitterness, and anger.

Righteousness is covenant-keeping, forgiveness, Christ-focused, respecting the agency of others, peace, and at-one-ment.

King Benjamin had three sons: Mosiah, Helorum, and Helaman, and he made sure that his sons were taught the language and writing of their ancestors (so that they could understand the records that would one day be passed down to them) and he taught them the things of the covenant, the things of God (verse 2).

“My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for… these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God” (verse 3).

Then King Benjamin repeats for his sons the story of their ancestors.  He tells them the story of Lehi, who had left Jerusalem with his family and the scriptures and records they had, and how the family kept these records of the Lord working in their lives so that Lehi could “teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time” (verse 4).

“I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief..” (verse 5).

Then King Benjamin explains to his sons that this is what happened to the Lamanites.  The Lamanites came from sons of Lehi as well, just like the Nephites.  But the Nephites kept the records and passed down the scriptures, so that each generation knew God and the covenants He had made with them.   This way each generation knew more and more of the truth, because the truth was “added upon” by experience and by revelation, and all that was known was taught to the next generation.  Their knowledge was exponential!

However, the Lamanites did not continue passing down the records, and so each generation knew less and less of the truth.  So now, King Benjamin says, the Lamanites “know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct” (verse 5).   So because each generation knows less of the truth, what they are passing down to their children is not only a lack of truth, but also a false understanding.  So not only do they know less and less each generation, they are also further and further away – more and more “off” from what is accurate and correct, until not only are they NOT passing down what is truth, they ARE passing down what is false.

King Benjamin bears his testimony to his sons, reminding them that these records and scriptures are true (verse 6).  He reminds them that the records contain the “sayings of our fathers” (words of prophets!), from all the years since Lehi brought his family out of Jerusalem until the present day of King Benjamin.

“And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them diligently, that ye may profit thereby; and I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers” (verse 7).

Don’t just read the records, be DILIGENT about it.

Don’t just study the scriptures, be SEARCH them.

Find your answers there.  Base your decisions on scriptural doctrine, not cultural responses.

Do the work (be diligent) to be obedient.

That’s what brings the blessings.

That’s how you prosper – both temporally and spiritually (eternally!).

Do you need help with how to do the small day-to-day things in life?  Do you have a major life issues that you need help with?  Don’t listen to the world or false traditions or the old ways before your conversion.  SEARCH the scriptures DILIGENTLY until you find the answers.  Listen to the words of the prophets.  Go to your priesthood leaders.  Do the work to find the real answers, the correct information, the TRUTH.

This was the last Family Home Evening that King Benjamin had with his sons.

With the spiritual matters of the family completed, then it was time for the practical matters of his family and also for his people… these are also spiritual matters!  Even our jobs are spiritual.  There is a reason, within the bounds of time and place (D&C), that we have the jobs we do and that we work where we do and with the people that we do.  So we should be testifying in those positions, knowing our jobs are also spiritual, even if we are not using church lingo to do so.  We can teach principles without using church-ey words.  These will count as “lines” that the Lord can use to bring the people around you up line-upon-line until they are ready for church lingo and deeper doctrine.

For example, in my job, unless people are coming specifically for religious counseling (such as at LDS Family Services), I cannot talk about church things.  It’s not even legal to do so.  Also, it’s not what the people want or a ready for – that’s not why they are coming to me.  But I can teach principles: when we make good choices, we are choosing good consequences; when we make bad choices, we are choosing negative consequences.  We don’t act at all, we will be acted upon.   I can teach the wise use of “agency” without ever using that word, without talking about the War in Heaven, and without talking about the Plan of Salvation.  Even in the last General Conference, Elder Bednar urged us to share our testimonies informally.  This counts!   We can teach principles without shoving formal discussions down people’s throats – the principles will lead and prepare the people to receive the full gospel message in the appropriate time and place when they are ready.

So before he died, King Benjamin needed to pass the kingdom down to his oldest son, Mosiah (verse 9).  So he told Mosiah this and asked for the people to gather so that he can do it (verse 10).

He also wanted to give the people a specific name, so that they – as a people – “may be distinguished above all people which the Lord God hath brought out of the land of Jerusalem”.   This is covenant language in reference to a covenant people.  A new name is always a part of becoming a covenant people (see Genesis 17).  And here, King Benjamin’s people – by ridding themselves of contention and demonstrating righteousness – have shown themselves to be a covenant people.   “And this I do because they have been a diligent people in keeping the commandments of the Lord” (verse 11).

But, the Lord says, like with any other covenant, it goes both ways.

The Lord will keep His promises, but we have to keep our promises.

He will not force us.  It has to be our choice, and we demonstrate our choice to love Him by demonstrating obedience.

When we transgress, He does not force us to come back.   He lets us go, delivering us to the consequences we have chosen.

“… if this highly favored people of the Lord should fall into transgression, and become a wicked and adulterous people, that the Lord will deliver them up, that thereby they become weak like unto their brethren; and he will no more preserve them by his matchless and marvelous power, as he has hitherto preserved our fathers…” (verse 13).

So, King Benjamin is saying that the provision and protection the people have received thus far, from their ancestors until now, is because of the Lord’s blessings.  But if the people choose to remove themselves from that provision and protection, then they will face the consequences they chose.

After teaching his sons spiritual things (note that this was first and most important), then he talked to them “concerning all the affairs of the kingdom” (verse 15).

He also then gave them the records that have been passed down since the time of Lehi (verse 16).

So Mosiah, the oldest son about to be made king, goes to ask the people to gather, so that King Benjamin can speak to them.

And oh!  What a speech it is!

Words of Mormon

CLICK HERE to read Words of Mormon.

Another short one-chapter book in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, this chapter-book is exactly what it is called: just a few words from Mormon.  It’s like a monologue between acts, or an explanation to the audience about what is happening.

We jump forward in time for a minute, with Mormon saying it is many hundred years after the coming of Christ.  This is a huge jump in time, as the last book – Omni – was about 300 years before the time of Christ.  So just reading along in the Book of Mormon, we don’t even know yet that Christ has come – just that He is promised.  But these words are inserted here as an explanation, years later by Mormon, while he is in the present moment trying to gather the records to protect them from being destroyed in war.  He is literally fighting for his life, and one of the few Nephites left, and trying to save the records.  When we read these words, we can nearly hear the sound of war, smell the smoke, see the darkness, and feel the rustling of leaves under our feet and our heart pounding in our chest as he moves deftly through towards his son to get these records delivered safely before it’s too late.

Mormon’s words explain that he has completed the compiling of the records of the Nephites.  It’s a very serious time, as Mormon has been at war and the Nephites are very nearly destroyed (verse 1).  Mormon is now going to hand the records to his son Moroni, adding that “he will witness the entire destruction of my people” (verse 2).   Yet he leaves Moroni with a blessing, “that he may survive them, that he may write somewhat concerning them, and somewhat concerning Christ…” (verse 2).

Mormon speaks about how he has organized these records that have been passed down (verse 3), and he shares his love for the teachings and his testimony of their truth.

“And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me, because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ” (verse 4).

There is so much that has happened, he says, that he “cannot write the hundredth part” of all that has gone down (verse 5).

But he does pick the “choice” pieces, the best parts, and includes them in the records to be passed down (verse 6).

“And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me.  And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will” (verse 7).

This organizing of the records, so that the history of the people was separate from the spiritual record of the people was for a very important purpose indeed!  These are the pages lost by Martin Harris, so that only the historical documents were lost but we still have the spiritual record of the Nephites.

In this way, the Lord did answer Mormon’s prayer:  “that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people” (verse 8).   This will continue to be fulfilled as the Latter-days unfold.

So Mormon says that he has finished his record, “according to the knowledge and the understanding which God has given me” (verse 9).

Then he picks up where Omni left off, with the last author in Omni being Amaleki.  He says that Amaleki did as he wrote he would do, taking the records to King Benjamin (verse 10).  These records were then passed down “generation to generation” until given to Mormon himself (verse 11).

“And I know that they will be preserved; for there are great things written upon them” (verse 11).

We know, from the last book in the Book of Mormon, that Mormon gives these records to Moroni, who adds his own records of his time, and then buries them for safe-keeping.  He is the angel, then, that later shows Joseph Smith where they are buried so that they can be brought forth for all the people as the Testament of Jesus Christ we have today.

In the meantime, Mormon takes us back to King Benjamin and the contention of his time (verse 12).  This led to the great wars between the Nephites nad the Lamanites (verse 13), with King Benjamin driving the Lamanites out of their land (verse 14).

Then came false Christs (verse 15), false prophets, preachers, and teachers (verse 16), and all these other contentions that King Benjamin had to fight.  He fought against these things with the help of holy prophets (verse 16) “for behold, King Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness’ and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffnecked of the people” (verse 17).

Sharp words are not needed with the people are soft and responsive.

But when we are stubborn and “stiffnecked”, sharp words are sometimes required.

So King Benjamin, with the help of the prophets, and “by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, did once more establish peace in the land” (verse 18).

This is Mormon’s introduction to the next book, Mosiah.

Lost Somewhere Between Last Tuesday and Tomorrow

I lost me somewhere between last Tuesday and tomorrow morning.

I am working lots, feeling well, and playing hard.  It makes the day fly by!

This was my crazy week:

Monday:  Gym in the morning, Worked all day until 11pm (Mondays are always my longest days).

Tuesday: Ran in the morning, Worked all day, with Institute at night.

Wednesday: Gym in the morning, Worked all day, with Activity Days squeezed in.

Thursday:  Ran in the morning, Worked all day, with playtime at ballroom dancing.

Friday: Youth Conference!  This was so amazing, and I was so proud of the kids, and I really got to spend time with good friends.

Saturday: Graduated to Week Four of Podrunner, with 5 minute intervals for my 5k training, then a Temple trip and driving youth conference kids home.  Such good times with friends!

Sunday:  Church, Visiting Teaching, Meetings, Mission, Baptism, and Singles Fireside – which was followed by an ice cream social (awesome) and a flat tire (not awesome).

All my tires have now been replaced at least once, some twice, and one three times) since I went to Joplin.  What is that about?!   So not only did I get ANOTHER flat tire, but this was a different tire than the cranky one has been.  What is going on?!  I wonder if now it is because they are building a house across the street.  So frustrating!

This flat was really frustrating because I couldn’t get it to air up!  I was tired, it was late, and I was in a dress (again).  I kept airing it up, and it wouldn’t air up.  I was getting nervous for driving home from Tulsa, but then my friend showed up and figured out the air pump thing was broken (missing a piece).  So we went to another gas station, and got it aired up easily.

Excepting I nearly had an ethical meltdown, because that gas station did not have free air.

It cost a whole dollar.

ON A SUNDAY.

But I was glad for the help, got home safely, and had no troubles today.

Excepting that today was Monday, so I only just now got home from work.  My eyes are crossed and my brain hurts and I have no problem solving skills left for tonight.  But it’s all good because I got to play on Google+ enough to learn how to use it, and I had a (very quick) dinner with my friend Kirsten.  She was patient and kind enough to visit with me in between powerpoint presentations, while we ate quickly enough that our sign language threw salad through the air.  I am sure of it.

At least I didn’t step on her toes.

It was good to see her, and I feel like it was a week full of friends.  I love it, and am so glad for them.  They teach me so much, they love me so well, and they encourage me while I try to find my way. Even when I lose me somewhere between last Tuesday and tomorrow.

She’s happy, with a new Content—
That feels to her—like Sacrament—
She’s busy—with an altered Care—
As just apprenticed to the Air—

She’s tearful—if she weep at all—
For blissful Causes—Most of all
That Heaven permit so meek as her—
To such a Fate—to Minister.

(Emily Dickinson)

In other news, in four months from today, my brother will be marrying my best friend from junior high.  I can’t tell you how hilarious and awesome this is.  Together they have six kids, and I love them so much.  They make an amazing family, and they inspire me in the process.  It makes me really sappy these days, since learning so much about family the last few years.  They are good examples to me.

My mother is finally feeling better, and I am glad of that.  She makes me laugh so much, and I am so glad she is here with me.  It is precious time together, very good company, fantabulous-oso memories, and a lot of love.  I do love her so much.

I am also feeling well and strong, happy and healthy and shiny.  I feel like I got to spend all weekend with friends I never get to see, even sharing a hotel room with Cheryl Mason for good girl time together.  With all that friend time, I feel strengthened and encouraged.  We laughed so much!  And we studied our scriptures and prayed together and learned so much!  It was great!

Now it has also been a productive week: work is good and busy, and I got my mission peeps set up on G+.

Oh, and it’s only Monday.

I’m not sure what happened to the weekend, because I think I lost me somewhere between last Tuesday and tomorrow!

But tomorrow hasn’t hit yet, so I am going to curl up with my favorite-book-of-the-day, and see what there is to learn.

Tomorrow morning is my 5k day, and outside playtime with kids at work – except that it is so very hot.

But that’s okay, because I can almost wear a ponytail again.

Almost.

So, so close.

Omni

CLICK HERE to read Omni.

Omni is a third one-chapter-book in the Book of Mormon, having received the records passed down to him from his father, Jarom (verse 1). Excepting he doesn’t write much, and so this short chapter actually has several authors as the records keep getting passed on.  It’s a sad chapter that begins to tell the destruction of the people.

Omni leads into Mosiah, almost like a monologue setting the scene before Act Two opens.

Act Two is very different from Act One.  Act One was full of covenant people living covenant laws doing covenant things.  Act Two opens with this chapter, starting with the confession that Omni has acted like the covenant person he knows he should be:

“But behold, I of myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statutes and the commandments of the Lord as I ought to have done” (verse 2).

What happens when the covenant people do not act like covenant people?

Contention that leads to hating that leads to war that leads to scattering that leads to destruction.  This is what happens to Omni’s people (verse 3).

And that’s all of Omni that is actually written by Omni.

His son, Amaron, takes over the narration in this book, stepping up to fulfill the family obligations even though his father didn’t.

The only thing Amaron writes in the this book of Omni?  That the wicked part of the Nephites have been destroyed (verse 5).

Why did this happen?

Because they did “not keep my commandments” (verse 6).

“Wherefore, the Lord did visit them in great judgment; nevertheless, he did spare the righteous… but did deliver them out of the hands of their enemies” (verse 7).

Sadness.

And that’s all we get from Amaron, who passes the plates on to Chemish, also the son of Omni (Amaron’s brother).

Except all Chemish says is his witness that Amaron wrote their records as was commanded by their father.  That’s it!

So then Abinadom, the son of Chemish and grandson of Omni, takes over next.  He writes of the war and contention he witnesses between the Nephites and the Lamanites.  And then that’s all he says.  Sadness.

So his son, Amaleki, writes next.  He writes of King Mosiah, telling the story of how King Mosiah (like Lehi, and like Moses) was told that the people should flee out of the land.  So King Mosiah led the people to the land of Zarahemla by hearkening “unto the voice of the Lord” as the people departed the land and went into the wilderness (verse 12).

He says that King Mosiah was a good King, doing “as the Lord commanded him” (verse 13).  The people wandered through the wilderness, “and they were led by many preachings and prophesyings.  And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm…” (verse 13).   This is so much like the Israelites being led through the wilderness!  We could even say it is like us, wandering through mortality, led and empowered by the Spirit to know where to go and what to do.

Then there is a fun reunion!  King Mosiah discovers the people living in Zarahemla, and they say they left Jerusalem (like Lehi and his family) at the time of Zedekiah, king of Judah, when the people there were carried away captive into Babylon (verse 15).

“And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth” (verse 16).

So many parallels to Lehi and his family leaving Jerusalem!

So many parallels to Moses and the Israelites travelling through the wilderness!

The difference, however, is that these people had not brought records with them, and so had fallen away from what they used to know – including no longer being a covenant people, and even their language changing.  So King Mosiah becomes their king as well, and teaches them his language.  The people of Zarahemla shared what they could remember about their genealogy, and bring King Mosiah a stone with engravings on it “and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God” (verse 20).

So Amaleki is the great-granson of Omni, and he says he lived at the time of King Mosiah and when his son Mosiah’s son Benjamin became King (verse 23).

“And it came to pass that I began to be old; and, having no seed, and knowing king Benjamin to be a just man before the Lord, wherefore, I shall deliver up these plates unto him, exhorting all men to come unto God, the Holy One of Israel, and believe in prophesying, and in revelations, and in the ministering of angels, and in the gift of speaking with tongues, and in the gift of interpreting languages, and in all things which are good; for there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord” (verse 25).

“And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption.  Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved” (verse 26).

Jarom

CLICK HERE to read Jarom.

Jarom is another one chapter book in The Book of Mormon.  He was the son of Enos, and continued the record passed down to him as his father commanded.   Like his father, he understands that he is writing for the benefit of people far into the future.  But he also knows, like his father, that what will benefit the people is the plan of salvation.  So he does not write a great deal, and he does not share his own prophesies or his own revelations.

“For what could I wrote more than my fathers have written?  For have not they revealed the plan of salvation?”  (verse 2).

HA!  I love this guy!  He says, “get it already!”   “You know better!”  “You know what to do, just do it!”

I love it.

But the people will not, and do not.

This is the sad-est and scary-est type of situation with people:  when they know what to do, and even understand why, but will not do it.  It is the ultimate stubborn-ness, the refusal to submit, the very stiff-neck that will not bow to the Father’s command.

So something has to be done about it, Jarom says.

“Behold, it is expedient that much should be done among this people, because of the hardness of their hearts, and the deafness of their ears, and the blindness of their minds, and the stiffness of their necks…”  (verse 3).

Yet still, the Lord is merciful, ever inviting them to look to Him and what He is waiting to give.

“God is exceedingly merciful unto them” (verse 3).

The evidence?  Because He has not yet destroyed them.

We know, from every situation described in scripture, from the Old Testament to the New to the Book of Mormon, this is always the case: the Lord invites us to respond to Him, and that is where we get our provision and protection and blessings.  When we do not go to Him, He is unable to give us these things.  This leaves us in our own bondage.  Still then, He calls for us to turn to Him, so that He can deliver us from bondage.  When we do, He rescues us and then is able to bless us with all He has to offer.  When we do not, our own consequences of our own choices are the result.

So still, Jarom says, the Lord is waiting, ever merciful, hoping we turn to Him.

And when we do, He does bless us and protect us and provide for us!  Even by the Holy Spirit, who does correct and instruct and guide:  “And there are many among us who have many revelations, for not all are stiffnecked” (verse 4).

And who is not stiffnecked?  Those who “have faith (and) have communion with the Holy Spirit” (verse 4).   To be worthy of the Holy Spirit means we are being an obedient people, which does open up even more access to the Spirit who does sanctify us to make us worthy-er.  It’s an upward-spiral kind of process, and a gift to us while we navigate mortality.

Jarom tells the story of his family navigating mortality, with it now being 200 years later.  “The people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land.  They observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord.  And they profaned not; neither did they blaspheme.  And the laws of the land were exceedingly strict” (verse 5).

This is a comparison text, meaning he is comparing what makes the Nephites “set apart” from other people in the land.  He points out that their strength comes from their obedience to the Lord, and their observance of the Holy Sabbath is evidence of that consecration.  Then, specifically, their words are also consecrated – they do not use profane language and they do not curse God.  The laws they followed were strict, because it was necessary for them to be set apart in order to be made holy.

It’s a good reminder to us in the world in which we live, when cuss words are excused by using initials without saying the whole word, when it is easier to buy a pizza on Sunday than cook a home meal, and when it is easier to blame God for real life problems and for the people that make our lives difficult.  But these things are not right, and such behaviors are a slippery slope into the world.  It dulls the line that sets us apart, and sometimes even moves the line over so that we think we have not crossed the line and yet are engaging in behavior that is not set-apart-behavior.

And it is hard, because there are more of them than there are of us (verse 6).

So the pressure is intense.

And what counts as crossing-the-line gets more and more subtle.

But we are still at battle, in the same war we fought in Heaven, and should be fighting to keep that line obvious and clear, plain and simple.  We should not be crossing it.

The world, even Satan, will try to make us cross the lines.

This is the battle.

“And it came to pass that they came many times against us, the Nephites, to battle.  But our kings and our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord, and they taught the people the ways of the Lord; wherefore, we withstood the Lamanites…” (verse 7).

Not only did they withstand the enemy (by doing what they were told), but they also “fortified” themselves.  This means protection more than what is necessary just to survive.  So instead of just building a wall around the city, there were also defenses and towers and extra things.

The prophets have said that instead of praying just once a day, we should be praying morning and night.  The prophets have said that very soon, praying only morning and night will not be enough, and that Family Home Evening once a week will not be enough.   Already we are told to read our scriptures for an hour a day, and soon that will not be enough to be in tune with the spirit to navigate each day.  We will be required to do more, to fortify ourselves, to keep ourselves strong and well and safe.

But these people were obedient, and did these things.

And they multiplied, and were blessed with provision and protection, working hard to do what was required to keep themselves strong and safe and well and protected.

“inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land” (verse 9).

Inasmuch is more of that “to the degree”.

As much as you put in the work to keep your family safe and provided for, they will be safe and provided for.

As much as you put in the work to be spiritually nourished and strengthened, you will be spiritually safe and nourished.

His love for us is unconditional, absolutely.

But what we get out of that relationship is absolutely dependent upon what we put into it.

His love is unconditional; the blessings are covenant-based, and so therefore very conditional.

The Lord sends us prophets to remind us of this, just as He always has:

“the prophets of the Lord did threaten (warn) the people of Nephi, according to the word of God, that if they did not keep the commandments, but should fall into transgression, they should be destroyed…” (verse 10).

It’s that simple.

If you want financial blessings, follow the laws of tithing and avoiding debt.

If you want a loving spouse who is kind, be a spouse with a gentle and sweet spirit.

If you want peace in your home, love your family without feeding contention.

If you want physical strength in some form, obey the word of wisdom – not just be refusing the “forbidden” things, but also doing the part about eating what is healthy and getting good exercise regularly and often.

If you want intimacy, then protect your chastity and/or be faithful (even emotionally).

It’s that simple, plain and simple.

His laws are not complicated.

They are not laws, as in oppressive rules.

They are laws, as in physics: if you want this, do this and that will happen.

He is telling us how the system works; we only need to do what He says to get the results He has promised.

It’s so, so simple.

“Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was.  And after this manner did they teach them” (verse 11).

So the prophets and apostles and priesthood leaders continue to teach us today, through General Conference, Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School, Home Teaching, and Priesthood Blessings.

This is the way.  Walk in it.

“And it came to pass that by so doing, they kept them from being destroyed….” (verse 12).

They are trying to help us.

Follow them.

Do what they say.

“for they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance” (verse 12)

This is the ultimate love, the ultimate friendship.  The deepest love and the strongest friendship is one that will tell the truth, not one that will set aside truth for convenience.  These leaders taught those people the truth, and it saved our lives.  So our leaders teach us the truth, and heeding their counsel will save our lives.

Even when the truth “pricks” our hearts, because it is hard work to do.

But it is the work that will save us.

#Dance

I started dancing in the summer of 2008.

There is a huge Deaf community that loves to go line dancing, and I went with them.  While many Deaf people love to dance, especially in clubs where the music is loud-loud-LOUD so that we can feel it, line dancing is also fun for Deaf especially because it does not depend on hearing the music and is predictable in the steps.   Some of my Deaf friends are AMAZING at line dancing, never missing a beat and even famous at the Tulsa clubs for doing the line dances so well.

I, however, was not awesome at line dancing.  I could follow, and it was fun, but it was not my thing.

An interpreter told me about ballroom dancing.

I laughed at her.

I am a giant whale.  Giant whales do not ballroom dance.

That’s what I thought at the time, which was ironic because it was before I got sick and so I had lost 80 pounds and kept it off for five years and was the healthiest of my life.  But I was healthy and strong, and I was looking for another activity to stay healthy and strong besides just my mornings at the gym and my evenings at the river.

I never agreed to ballroom dance.  I remembered stories my mother tells about being in dance when I was a toddler, and how the whole class did their little toddler dances, and I just did my own thing in my own world.   Yes, me in my own world, if you can imagine that.  So if I could not do it as a child in formal classes, I knew I could not do it just for fun as an adult.

But this interpreter friend, Diana, tricked me into it.  She invited me to watch a class she was going to help teach at Ballroom Dancers of Tulsa (BDT).  They let me sit on the stage, leaning against the speakers so I could feel the music while I watched the class.

That was the moment I fell in love with dance.

It was an accident.  I fought it.  I tried to ignore the arrow, but it was love at first sight.

I started going around town to all the places I could find, taking the cheap classes just to learn some steps.  I had to learn by watching, and it was hard because the teachers often showed both the wrong way and the right way, and sometimes it was hard to tell which was which.

But the people in the classes were sweet and kind and hospitable and patient, and taught me even during the classes with the teachers also teaching me.  They practiced with me, encouraged me, and became my friend even when we did not speak the same language.  It was amazing, and made me love dance even more.

I began to swim in dance, and loved it like I had never loved anything before.

It surprised me, because I would have never-ever thought I was a dancing kind of girl, or that it would be fun for me.

But it was, for the first time in my life, something I was *not* good at, something that did *not* come easily or naturally to me, and something I did not have to be perfect in… and so it was very, very good for me.  Because of this, I found it the most challenging thing I had ever done, but also the most relaxing thing I had ever done.  Every lesson, class, or practice dance drove me to work harder, but each dance made me love dancing even more.

I loved it.

I finally became such a fanatic that it was time to get serious, and I wanted private lessons.

I called all the studios in the Tulsa area, and only Allstar Ballroom Dance was willing to talk to a Deaf girl via relay.

This is how my teacher, Jon Hamilton, and I spent a year dancing around his studio along with my interpreter, KT.  It was the three of us making the rounds of that studio.  KT ran along to keep up with us, interpreting Jon’s detailed instructions, and my brain hurt with taking it all in.  By the end of the first year, I could at least dance all the basic dances at a very basic level, and Jon knew enough sign language we didn’t need an interpreter for my private lessons anymore.  It was amazing.

I only wanted to learn to dance for fun, but Jon always says that we learn better if we have a goal or project we are working on, so slowly my “social dancing” shifted into “competitive dancing”.  I learned my first routines, worked on the Peabody, and rehearsed dances for competition.

That’s when I got sick.

I was on mostly-bedrest for a year, fighting for my life, and missed more dances than I can count.  Sometimes I went, just to lift my own spirits, because I loved dancing that much.  But at some point, missing so much began to make me sad and it was harder and harder both physically and emotionally to keep going when I could not dance.

When I was better, I was very glad to get back to dancing, even if I had to start over.

Excepting then came my cochlear implant surgeries, which were six months apart, which means it has now been another year.

So this is me, starting over again for the fourth time.

Excepting I love it that much.

And I have missed it.

My mother was saving dance shoes for me on her DVR thing-ey, and I told her I didn’t want to watch them because they made me sad.  That led to a conversation that helped me see how much I missed dancing, and that it would be good and healthy and right for me to go back to dancing.  I am well now, and it is time to get back to dancing.

And so I went!

Thursday nights are the regular “practice” dances, with a monthly Saturday night dress-up dance.   BDT has Saturday night dances, too, including one this weekend, and so that is another time for dancing.   I haven’t been in ages because of all this health drama and time I spent with friends instead of dancing last summer and fall, while adjusting to being on my mission and enjoying their company.  So my mother was right, and it was time to reclaim me, my health, my enjoyment-ness, and dancing.

So tonight I went!

And it was amazing!

It was the first time I danced with BOTH cochlear implants working to where I understood the sounds I heard.  Sometimes I could even chat with whoever I was dancing with, understanding both them and the music that was playing.  It was surreal!  It was amazing!  What a gift, what a miracle.  I got to dance many dances several times: Waltz, Foxtrot, Rumba, Swing, and even one Tango.  Oh, it was amazing!  To hear and feel the difference between the dances, understanding the words of the songs, understanding the chit-chat of my friends as we danced – to me it was such a miracle!

I got to see my ballroom dance friends, and I have missed them so much!  They have been so very good and kind to me, and I do not know where I would be without the support of that community over the last two years.  And tonight, they welcomed me back with open arms and one dance invitation after another.  It was good to be back!

My dances tonight were all little warm-ups, like memories from a dream last week, with my body trying to remember what it knew a year ago.  I remembered more than I thought I would, and was even proud of a few tiny things that I did well because of all the time we spent on those specifics in lessons over that year.  But everything else was sloppy and choppy and a mess, like a dance slacker who hasn’t been dancing for a year.  That’s the starting over again part.

But it’s okay.

Because I went.

And I did it.

And I had a blast.

It made all those days of running worth it, and all the days of cardio and weights in between running days worth it.

Being able to dance and keep up showed me how much healthier I am than before, and that I am really well.

The euphoria and good-brain-chemical-juice that flowed through me conquered whacky-ovary-pain, and left me laughing in delight… delight, I say.

Oh, it was amazing, and it was very good for me.

They are already saying if I stay well, that I could compete in November, or February for sure, but we will see.

They say it will help make me strong and stay healthy and well.

They say having that goal will help me work hard and remember fast and move forward better in my learning.

Mostly they are being nice and welcoming, which I think is part of what makes dancing so relaxing and fun.

Mostly I just love dancing with all of my heartz.

Even if I am not very good at it.

And I mean that as an honest assessment, not as self-disparagement.  It just is.  But I think that’s part of what I love about it, because even when you are making progress, it doesn’t necessarily get easier.  There is always a challenge.

Isn’t that what mortality is all about it?

I am so glad to be back, so glad to be healthy and well, so glad to be dancing.

Oh, I do love dancing!  Really, really!