I Have Faith in America

I really did rest, finally, as if I am learning how.

I know it’s a shocker, but I wore myself out.  Completely.

I came home from my talks yesterday, and got home just after 5pm.

I laid down, just to take a quick nap, and didn’t wake up until 10am this morning.

That means I missed Sacrament meeting!  I slept FIFTEEN HOURS!

I was glad I had taken my shower last night, and I threw on my clothes, brushed my teeth and hair, and made it to Sunday School by 1015, just as it was starting.  WHEW.

I get to go to the new marriage and family class.

That’s a lot of marriage-and-family training I am getting, from all the talks and classes, and it is fascinating to me.  I am not married, and there is no one to date, but I am being so very prepared.

Maybe it is like my baptism, and I just need that much preparing before it ever happens.

I am okay with that, really.  I am grateful for all the help I can get before I have to try it out.  Yikes.

After Sunday School, I took Sacrament with the young singles ward (ironically enough), and then made it to the last half of Relief Society.

When I got home from church, I laid down just for a minute, and slept another hour!  Then I had some soup, and then slept three more hours!

I slept NINETEEN of the last 24 hours.

That is some serious exhaustion.

And, I feel as ready for bed now as I ever do, though I am an hour late because of the whole Bin Laden thing.

The news tonight interrupted my simple routine as much as the news did that morning ten years ago.

Just as this blog must change mid-writing, so did everything change that morning.

I don’t write about politics very much, because people get so touchy.  I would very much like to talk about it more, only so I could learn.  But it seems America has lost the art of discussion, so much that now we can no longer civilly discuss things like politics.  I like to work my way through it, see all the sides, understand the under-layers, and dig into to understand.  That’s hard to do when you don’t have anyone willing to discuss different perspectives, or willing to explain why they choose the way the do without getting mad at you in the process.  I miss the days of civil discussion about all topics, when it really was an art of conversation.

So when I say what I am going to say, know that I am not picking sides.  That’s not what this is about, not what I am saying.

Also, I know that our troops are working hard at the assignments given them, and I have family and friends out there literally fighting for my freedom to even say what I want to say.  I am proud of them, and I love them, and I am grateful to them.

Also, I know that Bin Laden was a really bad dude, and the things he paid for and organized were beyond horrific.

Also, I understand that we have been trying to catch him and stop him since before I was born almost, and so congratulations to the people who have worked so hard to accomplish this assignment that has been so difficult.  That’s a job well done, and I totally cry with pride when I see the people outside the white house shouting, “USA, USA! USA!”.

Like everyone else, this moment flashes me back to where I was on September 11th that year.

I was working nights at a group home for autistic and other developmentally delayed adults.  I had my bachelor’s degree in Human Development, and in process of my med training, and was working nights to pay for my Master’s.  It was a hard schedule, where I worked all day, went to class, slept a few hours, then worked all night, did my homework in the early pre-dawn hours, then went back to my day job.  It was probably the most sleep-deprived time in my life (says the girl who slept fifteen hours last night).

I had been up all night changing adult diapers and cleaning the home and preparing breakfast that then had to be run through the food processor for feeding tubes and bottles and spooned mush.  I had already set out medications and doses and preparing syringes and done my med check and finished the med counts for that morning.  My work was done until the clients began to wake up, and so it was the rare moment of the early hours where I got to sit on the couch and study for my GRE and look over immigration papers from Australia.  I had applied to move there permanently, to become a citizen.  I was looking forward to moving to Sydney, and had already met friends there. I wanted to continue my theological studies over there, and pursue my degree in psychiatry.  I was going to work with the Aborigines.  I was going to save the world.

That was before I watched the world be destroyed, right on the television set in front of me.

Also, I was not in contact with my biological family.  That’s why it is fascinating to me that now, once I am finally at-one with my family, now is when the other bookend happens that closes the chapter on Bin Laden.

So that’s where I was on September 11th.

When the news came on, with the chaos of no one knowing (or believing) what was happening, I watched smoke come out of that first building.  Then we saw the plane hit the other one.  Then we saw them fall.   Before we could even process this, we saw the pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania.

It was all so much, so traumatic, so fast.

I had only had a few hours sleep in the days previous, so I thought it was a bad dream.  The shock of it all could not penetrate into my sleepy brain.  I could not wake myself.

None of us could wake from it.  Because it was real.

The experience was traumatizing, and united us as a nation.

I remember that day.  I had two friends there, one who died and one who survived.  I have three friends who had parents there, one who survived and five (of the three sets of mothers and fathers) who died.  So I get it, on a tiny scale for someone who wasn’t there directly, of how bad it was.

And I know Bin Laden was a bad dude, a seriously bad dude who did seriously bad things.

I do not at all mean to make light of that.  Not at all.

I want to stress the bad-ness, actually, which may or may not be un-charity-able of me.

But what I want to say is that I am not sure that killing Bin Laden was a good thing.

I mean, I know he was bad, I know he earned his consequences, and I know we have worked hard for a long time to catch him and put a stop to these awful, terrible things.  And I commend our troops that sacrifice so much to protect us.  Again, I have both family and friends serving over there now, and it is because of there service that I am an educated female free to move about as I please and allowed to write a blog where I can say anything I want.  And I thank them.

So they did a good job.  Really.

I just mean that we have now martyred someone that those people were already willing to die for.  The people he organized, trained, and paid to do the awful things they did are not going to say, “Oh, well, we had a good run, so let’s all go home now.”  They were already willing to die for him, and now we have made him a martyr.  We really don’t want to feed a martyr to a group of people already in the context of a religion-turned-fanatical.

Note: the real religion of the real people is actually very amazing, and very similar to LDS – we actually have a lot in common, just some big pieces inside out in differences, but our Muslim brothers and sisters actually have a great deal in common with us LDS folk, but that would be another blog entirely.

So I think this could really escalate things, and escalate them quickly.

Far worse than they were before.

I said, “the Latter-days, baby!”   Yikes.

So it may not have been a good thing.  But it may have been a necessary thing.

Chopping off Laban’s head was not “good” in and of itself, but it was necessary – even commanded.

So, that being said, it is fascinating to watch the world realize, at some level, that America is so definitively connected to the holy land.  Most don’t have the whole story yet, but it is exciting to watch it unfold, since we already know the end of the story.  And the best way to break through brick walls – like getting the gospel into countries that never had it before – is for there to be huge, mega, political unrest and upheaval like there has been all over the mid-east this year.  The oppressive regimes that have suppressed and twisted truth are falling like dominoes, at an unbelievable rate.

So even though I say it may be a rough ride, it really is, after all, a good thing.

The Muslim friends I have don’t like Bin Laden giving them a bad name for his twisted version of their beliefs anymore than I like fundamentalists or other versions of “Mormons” (groups who are not a part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) giving us a bad name by doing things that Latter-day Saints know we are not to do.

The online chatter is already saying this development will actually improve US-Muslim relations.

That would be a miracle, and it may very well be unfolding.

But if that is true, then get ready for the ride.

I don’t just mean political stuff escalating.

I mean if we are going to bring the gospel to these brothers and sisters, then we better step it up.

Know why we haven’t gotten into that culture yet, why we can’t convert them yet?

Because they are way better at keeping covenants than we are.

We may have the “full gospel”, but they are a covenant keeping people.

Remember how the Lamanites (who were supposed to be the bad guys) actually got the Gospel and conquered the Nephites (who had started out as the good guys but hadn’t kept their covenants)?

This is what we are watching unfold, on a larger scale.

From an LDS perspective, we would say the Muslims (of the good sort, not the building-blowing-up sort) have good truth and follow many of the same laws we do… just not the full gospel story or the restored priesthood.

However, they – as individuals and as a people – are very, very good at keeping the covenants they have made thus far in their progression.

We may have the full gospel, but how good are we at keeping covenants?

We may say they do not have the full story, but they are faithful to what they do have.

We may have the full story, but how faithful are we?

It makes me think of Alma… his whole entire life, actually, but specifically this:

“We can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things” (Alma 24:30; see Alma 9:15—23; 46:8; 47:36; 50:21; 53:9).

The Nephites were told straight out that they would always have the Lamanites to “stir them up to remembrance” (1 Nephi 2:24).  Then we see it unfold:  the descendants of Nephi (who was good, and truly converted to the covenant) did not keep their covenants and the descendants of Laman and Lemuel (or, really, all those outside of the Nephites) were not born into the covenant because their ancestors had not chosen it… and yet they themselves converted to it.

This is the same pattern for us: being born into the covenant is not good enough.

We must become people of the covenant.

So how good are you at keeping the 10 commandments?  Because the Muslims are really, really good at it.

How good are you at keeping the word of wisdom?  Because the Muslims are really, really good at it.

How good are you at fasting?  Because the Muslims are really, really good at it.

How good are you at utilizing your Temple clothes “regularly and often”?  Because the Muslims do it constantly.

If it’s a full-gospel contest, like a who-has-the-right-answer-in-seminary game, then we might have some points.

But if it’s a contest for who can “go and do”?   We might be a lap or two behind.

And if it’s a contest about who can keep the covenants they know about so far?  We are going to be asking for makeup work.   And we’re gonna get it.  Soon.

Because we know that every time the Nephites tried to rid themselves of the Lamanite threat, they suffered greater losses than ever before.  The Lord kept telling them that wasn’t the way to go about it, but they kept not listening, suffering greater and greater losses each round, until they finally exterminated themselves.

Don’t get me wrong: I am NOT saying we are doomed.

I am saying it is time to step it up.

Like our brave soldiers fighting literally and physically over there every day, we should be fighting spiritually from where we are, whatever the “bounds of time and place” are in our lives.

We can’t be whiny little children anymore.  We can’t be spiritually lazy bums.

It’s time to wake up, to stand up, to shout out the truth in ways that invite others to the Savior.

It’s time to get on our knees, refrain from excess, give to those in need, become at-one with our families, and raise the title of liberty that defines our faith.

It’s time to go to the Temple, time to take your ancestors through the Temple, time to be empowered at the Temple.

It’s time to step up; it’s time to shiny up.

It’s time to love America, even if men fail, and even if calamities come, because we know the whole story.

Harold B. Lee said:

Men may fail in this country, earthquakes may come, seas may heave beyond their bounds, there may be great drought, disaster, and hardship, but this nation, founded on principles laid down by men whom God raised up, will never fail.

This is the cradle of humanity, where life on this earth began in the Garden of Eden. This is the place of the new Jerusalem. This is the place that the Lord said is favored above all other nations in all the world. This is the place where the Savior will come to His temple. This is the favored land in all the world. Yes, I repeat, men may fail, but this nation won’t fail.

I have faith in America; you and I must have faith in America, if we understand the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are living in a day when we must pay heed to these challenges. I plead with you not to preach pessimism. Preach that this is the greatest country in all the world. This is the favored land. This is the land of our forefathers. It is the nation that will stand despite whatever trials or crises it may yet have to pass through.

These are the words that come to my mind and heart as I watch people shouting “USA!  USA!  USA!”

These are the words that I say out loud:  I have faith in America.

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P.S.  THIS ARTICLE was my favorite Bin-Laden-is-Dead article if you are looking for a good one.

P.S.  Also, that was one of the most bomb-diggity presidential speeches ever… well, at least in my lifetime.  You can WATCH THE VIDEO HERE if you missed it, and you can read the FULL TEXT HERE.

One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.  SNAP!

MORNING AFTER UPDATE:  Schadenfruede does not look good on you, USA.  Be careful.

Proverbs 24:17-18… “Rejoice not when thing enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the Lord see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.”

30 April 2011 Conference Talk: Marriage and Family

Today I spoke at the Stake Women’s Conference.  Everyone was so lovely and kind, and so encouraging and helpful.  I truly was delighted to see and embrace and learn from so many amazing women, many of whom have truly loved me into the Gospel.  I am grateful to them for “rescuing” me, and for teaching me well, and humbled by the opportunity to be entrusted with sharing a tiny piece of what I know.

I was asked to repeat the talk I gave in my ward on a 5th Sunday a little while back.  I gave the talk twice today, but adapted it more for just the ladies because that is who was there.  I am re-posting the original talk in full (with the parts for the guys, too, and adding the the fun stick-people drawings) below, by request.  References to conference talks are at the end, and the highlighted ones are ones you can click on to go straight to that talk on lds.org.

If there was one piece, out of all this long essay below that I would hope you take away from it, it would be for you to know that our earthly families are patterned after our Heavenly families. We are not alone in this process, nor are we the first ones to experience this journey.  In that way, marriage points to the Temple because the whole purpose is to return to our Heavenly parents.   Even in the practical example of King Lamonia and his Queen that I use in this talk, the pattern is clear: the prophet guards the way (think flaming sword!), but as they learn of the Savior, they are brought into the Light.  This is why/how/an example of the Temple being all about the plan of salvation.

We see this progressive pattern unfold verse by verse.  First, we read about who they were and who they were, about the story of them as a couple. Then they are given laws, and they must demonstrate obedience.  Then they receive instructions.  Then they cry out in prayer.  The atonement is enacted, bringing them at-one, and he reaches for her hand.  This brings them together (at-one) into the Light (CLICK HERE for LDS Dictionary definition of Shechinah… and see THIS BLOG for more about pillar-of-light-ness).

This whole pattern lies within the marriage story of King Lamoni and his Queen, as described below.

For a free copy of the Family Proclamation, CLICK HERE.

After the introductory paragraph, the very first line says All human beings – male and female – are created in the image of God. We forget this because we think we already know it. We learn it as preschoolers, but then as we grow up, we forget to apply it. So I like that we are reminded of this first, because it absolutely affects how we interact with our spouses.

Classic example is Moses 5:10&11

10 And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.

11 And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, [did not ridicule or mock or complain] saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.

[Adam wasn’t wrong; Eve just added perspective – exactly the pattern Relief Society can give Priesthood, and wives to husbands, when we are all working in the proper order of things with the attitude of the Spirit and not just “attitude”.]

The Family Proclamation goes on to remind us that each has a divine nature and destiny, which reminds us that of us have a divine nature. Each of us born into bodies to experience this life can have the knowledge that previously (premortally) we did something right – we learned enough to get this opportunity. This reminds us that even your spouse, on the very worst day, on the very hardest day, your spouse is still a child of God. This gives us an eternal perspective with which we can see our spouse; it provides a way to find the good. Keep looking. It is in there. There is good in your spouse. Find it.  Celebrate it.

The next paragraph starts out with In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan…. again, this means, part of every spouse (because we ourselves, are “perfect”, right? only our spouse has problems?), part of every spouse – some part within them, is of God and knows the plan. This gives hope to those who did not marry in the covenant and so now finds themselves with a non-member spouse, and it gives comfort and courage to those who married in the covenant but their spouse is not keeping the covenants. This helps because it reminds us that everyone born on the Earth did, at some time in the past (premortally), know what the plan is – and did accept it at that time! Now, on earth, this side of the veil, they may not remember, but we have what that does lead us to it? (LIGHT OF CHRIST!) So even if they are not of the covenant, they do have the Light of Christ within them, to which you can appeal to based on principles even without using church words.

The next paragraph is about the potential for parenthood between husband and wife. We need to talk very seriously about sexual relations. The Lord has set the bounds for sexual relations, and we make covenants to stay within those bounds.

In my office, I often see the confusion that people think these bounds simply mean not having sexual relations with someone who is not their spouse. But it means so much more than that. It means doing the work – sacred powers of procreation are to be employed – that leads up to sexual relations, so that it is a natural result of attentiveness and communication already established.

Often in my office I see two extremes: I see times when a spouse is FORCING sexual relations – which is not only stealing, but even in marriage that is called rape, and it is illegal. Paying your spouse for sex is also illegal, even though you are married.  I also see times when a spouse REFUSES sexual relations. Now, there are times because of physical or emotional or other issues when it is okay to say no. I am not talking about that. I am talking about those who refuse sexual relations in order to AVOID the emotional obligations. That is also stealing, by refusing to give.

We need to be kind and considerate, always giving and always developing into each other. We need to follow the pattern Heavenly Father has set for us: the Lord is always there, always ready, always INVITING us – we should also be inviting and welcoming to our spouse. Providing homes that are like Temples does not just mean a simple design that points to heaven, and everything nice and clean.  It even means more than just peace and quiet.  It means making your home – your relationship – be the safe place for you and your spouse together, away from the rest of the world.  You should want to be there, want to be with each other.  We need to constantly be wooing the other, and loving them well (in ways that are meaningful to them, not just the ways meaningful to ourselves). We need to still be dating in some way.  To always be inviting, even as the Savior is inviting, means to always be open and kind and giving and healing.

We cannot be kind and gentle and healing if we are on the attack, if we are mean, or if we are constantly punishing.  And we especially fail if we are punishing without explaining what was done wrong or what offended or hurt us.  The Savior is very direct and clear in establishing His rules, standards, and expectations of us.  This is the pattern we should follow.  We don’t need to be playing games, forcing our spouse to guess, or expecting them to know without being told.  We should teach, communicate, and immediately praise and reward positive behavior and interactions just as the Savior does for us.  The Lord does not condemn or shame; He does not ridicule or ignore.  He is loving and kind, is patient in teaching, and is always inviting us to learn who He is and how to love Him the ways that He has asked.

The bottom of the first column reminds us again of this teamwork approach to family life. It says Husband AND wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and their children.

Both husbands and wives are responsible for LOVING and CARING for EACH OTHER and the CHILDREN.

Both spouses need to be nice to each other, love each other, and take care of each other.

Both spouses need to be helping with the children. Husbands, you helped bring them here. They are your responsibility, too.

Both spouses need to be helping with housework. Both of you are the grown-ups that live in that house, and both need to help with the cleaning and maintenance of it.

It doesn’t mean there are not preferences for your family, and the Family Proclamation talks specifically about being flexible and adapting to your family’s individual needs. And each spouse has a specific role and purpose. But under that, no one spouse should be entirely responsible for anything – we need to work together on everything.

Failing to fulfill family responsibilities most often comes in the form of one or both parents being too often absent from the home, husband and father blessings not being given, spouses and parents too distracted for eye contact and talking time, and lack of appropriate touch. We know that families that do not spend time together with mothers and fathers present often have children acting out in ways that seek that attentiveness and emotional response in ways that are destructive to them. What we forget is that how we interact today affects who we become tomorrow. The tone of our response to our spouse today affects our marriage six months from now. Even in the most recent General Conference, we were told that we should be creating now who we want our children to be five years from now, by spending time with them now in order to teach them now what they need to know five years from now – that advice, by the way, is built on a talk given back in 1981 that said the same thing. So we are responsible to already know it, and are being reminded of it again – which means we are not doing it.

Parents exercise unrighteous dominion by giving children overbearing or out of proportion consequences. Parents also fail to fulfill obligations when not giving any consequences. Parents follow the plan of Satan, which was to remove agency, when trying to force children to “obey” by making them do what is wanted through physical force or intimidation or threats or fear, instead of giving them options and letting them experience the natural consequences of their choices.

Then it says, to remind us again, that while we do this, it should be in the LOVE and RIGHTEOUSNESS.

That means no unrighteous dominion. The husband should be PRESIDING, which is helping each person function to full capacity in their role. It is helping them and supporting them as they become who they need to be. It is not forcing obedience (removes agency, and that is Satan’s plan, not Heavenly Father’s plan), and it is not sitting back and doing nothing while everyone else does all the work. Families are hard work, and we have to work together as we develop them.

The next paragraph talks again about fidelity in marriage – COMPLETE fidelity, it says. This is again about more than just being only married to your one spouse. This is also about things like pornography, which is the only non-doctrine topic that is mentioned in every session of every General Conference.

I see in my office two big things that pornography does that helps me understand why it is such a tool of Satan.

First, it separates the husband and wife – it isolates them from each other.

Secondly, it makes a person like Satan, in that their body no longer functions as it was made to function. This is what Satan wants, for we were gifted with bodies and he was not. He wants us as miserable as he is.

This paragraph then leads into the beautiful words that describe what makes successful families. I love these words so much that I put them above my fireplace. It was funny that the people who helped me with them forgot the word “work” in the list, but my mother says that is okay because all the other words ARE such hard work! The words: faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities (play).

Notice how love doesn’t even come until the middle.  Girls and boys have different views of love, right? So we have lots of work to be able to understand each other and what love means. All this work must be done before we can truly love.  Specifically, notice also that love doesn’t come until AFTER repentance, forgiveness, and respect.

Then it says again, that fathers are to PRESIDE – this means present to function as a preside-er.  The presider is present, overseeing the running-of-the-meeting.  As a presider, a husband and father is to be aware, informed, and watchful of his family.  It means to love, and to show appropriate affection and touch.

Ladies, it says mothers are primarily responsible for the NURTURE of children. This means eye contact, one on one time, and hugs. I see often in my office where moms were great with the babies, survived the toddler stage, and enjoyed the childhood stage, but then just stop when their children become teenagers. They don’t know what to do or how to interact with them, talk with them, or touch them. Our teenagers are hungry for this, and need this – the will find it somewhere, and it is better if they find it with you.

This applies to those without children, or grown children, or unmarried as well. I can love the children of my friends, play with the children in my life, find ways to be good and kind to them – this is my responsibility even as a member of our ward. It is how even I can be a “Mother of Israel“.

And then, once more, just in case we missed it all those other times, it says once more that In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. We have to work together. We must. That’s the way the plan is set up.

It looks like a triangle (this is from Elder Bednar):

Here is how it works:

If you are both INDIVIDUALLY working to become more like Heavenly Father, you will – naturally – grow closer to each other.

So if this is what we are taught, let’s look at a specific example.

Alma 18 gives the back drop for King Lamoni and his Queen.

We read about how King Lamoni was a really bad guy for a really long time. Genius, absolutely brilliant, but a bad guy. He did terrible things. Ammon shows up to preach the Gospel, and after being a stubborn head like myself, King Lamoni finally GETS IT, and collapses as if he is dead because he is so overcome by the Spirit. In the last verse of chapter 18, we read how the Queen – who was told the King was dead – stayed with his body for two days and two nights, mourning him as was the custom.

This shows us that regardless of the terrible things he had done, she honored him – for the position he held – by paying proper respects according to their culture.

But it also says she “greatly lamented his loss”, which shows a love for the person he was beyond the bad behaviors he was famous for all those years.

Then, in chapter 19

1 And it came to pass that after two days and two nights they were about to take his body and lay it in a sepulchre, which they had made for the purpose of burying their dead.

2 Now the queen having heard of the fame of Ammon, therefore she sent and desired that he should come in unto her.

She refused to give up. She refused to be hopeless. Something in her was determined to survive. Something in her knew how to find LIFE again, and that same something told her that she could find it with the Prophet. What is that in her that wants to know?  It is the Light of Christ.

3 And it came to pass that Ammon did as he was commanded, and went in unto the queen, and desired to know what she would that he should do.

4 And she said unto him: The servants of my husband have made it known unto me that thou art a prophet of a holy God, and that thou hast power to do many mighty works in his name;

She demonstrated knowledge. She had already been responsive enough that something in her was stirred up enough to begin understanding. This asking for help, the sending for the prophet, was her act of faith – it was her EXPERIMENTING to see if it was true. This was her taking the first missionary challenge, and trying out in FAITH to see for herself if it was true.

5 Therefore, if this is the case, I would that ye should go in and see my husband, for he has been laid upon his bed for the space of two days and two nights; and some say that he is not dead, but others say that he is dead and that he stinketh, and that he ought to be placed in the sepulchre; but as for myself, to me he doth not stink.

Everyone else said “he stinks”. Love it! All her friends were being rude, all the fancy people were saying he wasn’t good enough, and all the in-laws were pointing out what a mess he was. Everyone around her was kind enough to remind her, probably repeatedly, of all the things that were wrong with him. All the people made sure to list all the things they hated about him, pointed out everything he did wrong, and reminded her of his horrible past. People high enough in ranking to be giving the Queen herself were saying, “Really, get rid of him. Bury him. Cut him loose.”

But she said, “to me, he does not stink.”

She did not let the pressure of others interfere with her relationship with her husband, and she remained loyal to him despite the very dire circumstances.

6 Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God—

7 Therefore, what the queen desired of him was his only desire. Therefore, he went in to see the king according as the queen had desired him; and he saw the king, and he knew that he was not dead.

The prophet knew what was going on. He knew the queen’s act of faith counted as OBEDIENCE because it was in line – in tune – with the will of God.

Because she was acting in faith, and because she was obedient by doing so, the prophet was able to respond to her request and do what she had asked.

8 And he said unto the queen: He is not dead, but he sleepeth in God, and on the morrow he shall rise again; therefore bury him not.

Acting in his role, Ammon went to check the scene. There’s yellow tape everywhere, the news crews are filming live, and it’s already been posted on Facebook.

But because the Queen had acted in faith, and in that way had been obedient, the prophet was able to give her specific direction about what was going to happen, and specific instruction about what to do and what not to do.

This gave her comfort and hope, which was a blessing in response to her obedience and faithfulness.

9 And Ammon said unto her: Believest thou this? And she said unto him: I have had no witness save thy word, and the word of our servants; nevertheless I believe that it shall be according as thou hast said.

She believes!

That is faith! Anytime I exercise faith, the immediate blessing is an increased capacity to act in faith!

Even if other blessings come later in the Lord’s timing, the increased capacity for even greater faith is always a blessing that comes immediately in response to faithful obedience.

10 And Ammon said unto her: Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites.

This is incredible. Her faith is so strong here that she gets a blessing because of having demonstrated it, just like that. And what a powerful blessing, for because “blessed art thou” is a blessing regarding her state of being. She is blessed. Period. It just is.

(Who else acted in faith that the words “Blessed art thou!” makes us think of?  Mary, the mother of the Savior!)

It is a statement of fact, she is blessed, and a statement of promise as far as what future blessings will come to her because of being in that state – it implies a present progressive connotation.

Note also the parallel poetic device, classic to ancient scripture:

TO HER – EXCEEDING FAITH
WOMAN – GREAT FAITH

Beautiful.

11 And it came to pass that she watched over the bed of her husband, from that time even until that time on the morrow which Ammon had appointed that he should rise.

This is precious. Truly.

She now has the increased capacity to act in faith, so that she is able to continue to be obedient. She believes in Ammon’s words, and behaves in a way that demonstrates what she believes. He said he would wake up tomorrow, and so she stays by his side until tomorrow.

After all the terrible things he had done, and despite all the horrible things people knew and said about it, she remained true and faithful

Look how she is blessed for this act of faith, for this diligent obedience that becomes an act of service, a demonstration of devotion:

12 And it came to pass that he arose, according to the words of Ammon; and as he arose, he stretched forth his hand unto the woman, and said: Blessed be the name of God, and blessed art thou.

When her husband, who was probably not that much fun to live with before, not if he was that much of a mess even publicly, when he awoke, the first thing he did was reach out to his wife.

That’s enough to make a girl cry.

What girl doesn’t want to be appreciated, to be noticed, to be thanked?

Wives sacrifice their very lives – physically and literally – to support husbands and raise children. They do it because it is the right thing, but what healing and strength and softening comes when the husbands do directly and sweetly thank them for their sacrifices!

And look how his transformation, his sanctification by the Spirit moves him to the place where he should be – doing the things priesthood holders should be doing: giving his wife a blessing.

What comfort and strength is given, and what tender love is built, when husbands and fathers give their wives and children blessings regularly and often.

This is the miracle of the atonement.

13 For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer; and he shall come forth, and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name. Now, when he had said these words, his heart was swollen within him, and he sunk again with joy; and the queen also sunk down, being overpowered by the Spirit.

14 Now Ammon seeing the Spirit of the Lord poured out according to his prayers upon the Lamanites, his brethren, who had been the cause of so much mourning among the Nephites, or among all the people of God because of their iniquities and their traditions, he fell upon his knees, and began to pour out his soul in prayer and thanksgiving to God for what he had done for his brethren; and he was also overpowered with joy; and thus they all three had sunk to the earth.

So now the conversion of the King has helped convert the Queen, also.

Because the King has moved into the place where the Lord means him to be, because he has stepped up to the plate, because he repented with his whole being, and because he acted in faith and obedience as he prayed and thanked God, because of this his wife was also overcome with joy.

MEN – You want a happy wife? Fall on your knees and pour out your heart to God in repentance. Thank God for your family, and in this way learn to love them. That is what will make your wife happy.

WOMEN – You want a happy husband who is warm and caring, sweet and attentive? Forgive as this queen did. Forgive regardless of whether he has asked for it, begged for it, or earned it. If this feels hard to you, spend some time in D&C 64.  Forgive and BE NICE.  Let go of the mean-ness, the ugly-ness, the drama, the punishing, the bitterness, the negativity, the MURMURING.  Just be nice, and play fair.

Everybody needs to be looking for good things, noticing good things, praising progress, and encouraging the smallest of efforts. That would be more productive than condemning failures and making each other feel miserable.

29 And it came to pass that she went and took the queen by the hand, that perhaps she might raise her from the ground; and as soon as she touched her hand she arose and stood upon her feet, and cried with a loud voice, saying: O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell! O blessed God, have mercy on this people!

These verses are poetic parallels to verses 12 and 13.

They are added here for emphasis, to show how the cycle repeats itself for even deeper conversion, more complete repentance, and more full joy. This upward circular pattern is what lifts them up both physically and spiritually.Look also how this parallels with their neighbors after Aaron has gone there to convert them – look in Alma 23:6 and 7.

They NEVER fell away BECAUSE they became a RIGHTEOUS people! And it defines what made them as a people (family!) righteous.

1. They laid down their weapons of rebellion (any marriage weapons need laying down?)
2. They did not fight against God.
3. They did not fight against each other.

Then if you look down in verse 16 and 18, you see the depth of conversion and what happened as a natural result of it. They were so changed that they were given a new name. That is always the pattern of covenant making – Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, (Revelation 2:17).

As a result of becoming this NEW people to the very depths of their being, they became “industrious and friendly”.

Who wants an industrious husband?!  Who wants a friendly wife?!

But how did they do it?

They OPENED A CORRESPONDENCE and the curse of God no more followed them.

They had to start talking to each other!

President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “I think that (couples) should be willing, even at this day, and in the present condition of things, to enter the sacred bonds of marriage together and fight their way together to success, meet their obstacles and their difficulties, and cleave together to success, and cooperate in their temporal affairs, so that they shall succeed. Then they will learn to love one another better, and will be more united throughout their lives, and the Lord will bless them more abundantly.”

Satan has many forms of attack, but they all follow the same pattern as from the beginning. He attacks in the same way he has always attacked: by removing agency. In our culture, he is most successful at removing our agency in two ways: by distracting us and by putting us to sleep. He likes us busy so that we do not pay attention, so that we do not notice, so that we do not appreciate. He likes us in front of the television so that we do not see visions. He likes us with loud music so we cannot hear the soft whispers of the Spirit. He likes us lost in videogames so that we are not learning how to communicate with our spouse, how to talk with our children, or how to constantly pray with our Father. He likes us on the computer, so that hours pass by without us noticing. He likes us apathetic and uncaring, for that is the opposite of love, and it is far more damaging and destructive than hate.

Satan has other tricks up his sleeve as well. He likes us abusing the gift of pain medication so that we are asleep, cranky, and making impulsive decisions in a moment that have forever consequences. He likes us addicted to substances like alcohol and energy drinks and television and technology and jobs, and so that we have an ever increasing dependence on those things which stop us from thinking and from interacting within the bounds the Lord has set. Satan likes us ashamed instead of convicted, so that we do not ask for help. He likes us unhealthy and unwell, so that we cannot think clearly or make good choices. All of these serve the same purpose of removing our agency and thus enslaving us. He wants us as miserable as He is.

He tries to use our differences against us, instead of us uniting to complement each other. All people have their own layers to their own line-upon-lines. One may be more ready to live the Word of Wisdom more specifically, while another may be more ready to keep the Sabbath Day holy with more depth and consistency. You must respect the place your spouse is in, where they are on the ladder, and help them up rather than knocking them off completely. Gently allow them to take their steps of progress instead of punishing them for not being where you are. If you ridicule the lower place on the ladder where your spouse is, that they are not as high as you, you may be surprised to realize that your high place of mocking is in that great and spacious building, while your “lesser” spouse is at least ON the ladder, holding faithfully to the rod even if not yet progressed to the tree.

It is important to discuss and work through mistakes, both little things and more serious matters. Forgiving does not mean ignoring, nor does it mean acceptance of unhealthy or negative behaviors from another. Despite the actions of others, we are never asked to play the victim or enable wrong behavior. Be careful what you are enabling and encouraging. While someone else abusing you is not your fault, there are lines of safety that is your responsibility to draw and to seek help in enforcing. Nothing about the gospel plan is about being “stuck”. Always, the gospel is a plan of action, and always there is an escape – a way to develop new skills, a way to become more like Heavenly Father, a way to do something new to make positive changes.

It is important to remember that you cannot change other people. You can only change yourself. Others have the right to agency, and need the opportunity to exercise their own experience of line upon line. This means when your spouse may very well choose poorly. In those times you are called to forgive without judging. The atonement has the ability to work in the lives of others in miraculous ways. Going to the Temple regularly and often provides protection, provision, and blessings for your family that are both temporal and spiritual. The promises of obedience to Temple attendance is a GATHERING of your family; if you want to unite your family, heal your family, lead your family in the way of Christ, then you must go to the Temple.

It is the making and keeping of Temple covenants that establish and maintain a marriage. Elder Kofford said of difficult trials in marriages: “through it all, three things have been very clear to all of us who stand ahead of you in the line of marriage: we made a commitment to God, we made a commitment to each other, and we will keep those commitments.”

It’s not up for debate. There’s no question about what is required of us.

He continues, “One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty: whenever there is a difficulty between a husband and wife in their marriage relationship that is serious enough to threaten that relationship, one or the other (or both) is not living the gospel of Jesus Christ. That means that one or both of the marriage partners are not keeping the covenants, commitments, and promises they made at the altar of the Temple. If you love God enough and follow His teachings, everything else will work out just fine and you will be blessed to find solutions… A home is not a home in the eye of the gospel, unless there dwell perfect confidence and love between the husband and wife. Home is a place of order, love, union, rest, confidence, and absolute trust… One in which the father is devoted ot the family with which God has blessed him, counting them of first importance, and in which they in turn permit him to live in their hearts. One in which there is confidence, union, love, sacred devotion between father and mother and children and parents. One in which the mother takes every pleasure in their children supported by the father – all being moral, pure, and God-fearing. Parents… should love and respect each other, and treat each other with respectful decorum and kindly regard, all the time. The husband should treat his wife with the utmost courtesy and respect. The husband should never insult her; he should never speak slightly of her, but should always hold her in the highest esteem in the home, in the presence of their children. The wife also should treat her husband with the greatest respect and courtesy…. and she should live and conduct herself at home so the home will be the most joyous, the most blessed place on earth to her husband… Nothing should be permitted to come in between you – father and mother, husband and wife; there never should be a shade of difference of feeling; there never should be a thing permitted to come between you and estrange you one from another; you should not allow it. This is essential to your welfare and happiness and to the union that should exist in your home. We all have our weaknesses and failings… But… is not forgiveness better? Is not love better? Isn’t that better? Isn’t it better not to speak of faults, not to magnify weaknesses by reiterating them? Is it not better to drop them and say nothing about them – bury them and speak only of the good that you know and feel, one for another, and thus bury each others’ faults and not magnify them; isn’t that better?”

D&C 64:8-10 says:

8 My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.

9 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.

In The Miracle of Forgiveness, President Kimball discusses these verses and then adds – in the context of husbands and wives forgiving each other – that “unless a person forgives his brother his trespasses WITH ALL HIS HEART he is unfit to partake of the sacrament”. 1 Cor. 11:29-30

Then he goes on by sharing an example of a letter he wrote to someone who had complained about marriage problems (p. 270):

I do know that two people as seemingly intelligent and apparently mature as you two, could have a gloriously happy life, if both of you would begin to let your concerns run in favor of the other, instead of in favor of your selfish selves.

The escapist never escapes. If two people, selfish and self-centered, and without the spirit of forgiveness, escape from each other, they cannot escape from themselves. The disease is not cured by the separation or the divorce, and it will most assuredly follow along in the wake of future marriages. The CAUSE must be removed.

Perhaps you have thought that your home was the one home that was frustrated with problems. You should know that most couples have misunderstandings but many solve their problems instead of permitting their problems to crush them. Many wives have shed bitter tears, and many husbands have lain sleepless hours, but thanks be to the Lord that great numbers of these folks have been smart enough to solve their difficulties.

Now, my beloved friends,… the matter is in your hands – you may do as you please, but I warn you that the trouble is deeper than you realize, and not easily resolved by divorce. And I warn you also that, either separated or living together, you will be damaged and cankered and poisoned and dwarfed by bitterness and hatreds and loathings. THE FIRST NEED IS TO MASTER YOURSELVES.

The good news is that these problems can be healed through the power of the atonement, but only by completing the very specific steps of repentance. Repentance enables us to turn back toward God, firmly established in the path He has laid out for us. As we walk this path, a humble and repentant people, we again move upward as we move forward.

President Kimball also said: “The married life must be affectionate and kindly and selfless… Marriage presupposes total allegiance and total fidelity. Each spouse takes the partner with the understanding that he or she gives self totally to the spouse – all the heart, strength, loyalty, honor, and affection with all dignity. Those who claim their love is dead should return home with all their loyalty, fidelity, honor, cleanness, and the love which has become embers will flare up with scintillating flame again. If love wanes or dies, it is often infidelity of thought or act which gave the lethal potion. I plead with all people bound by marriage vows and covenants to make that marriage holy, keep it fresh, express affection meaningfully, and sincerely, and often…”

Look back at the example of King Lamoni and his Queen, and how they lead us through the process of repentance so that we were climbing the upward spiral of a staircase, like at the Temple – famous at Nauvoo and Salt Lake City.

What happens is that patients come to my office with their marriage in crisis, thinking they are “hanging by a thread”. They and their spouse are strangers, so that they now live in TWO lone and dreary worlds:

Except that we know we are never hopeless, and we have a path provided to us.

So maybe for us, since we are members of the Church with the full gospel, it is more like a tightrope instead of hanging by a thread.

Except, we do not have to be afraid, for because we have the atonement. It is the work of the atonement that makes it all possible, that turns our rope into a bridge from here to there.

And, if we have a spouse who is ALSO doing their individual work to develop their individual relationship with Heavenly Father, so that we are also growing close together, then I don’t have to be only on my own tightrope. We have two ropes:

And still then, even on the hardest of days of trying to walk the path together, we are not alone.

We have the examples of heavenly parents. Their support is like two handrails.

Except still, we need planks to walk on. We need something to which we can firmly and boldly plant our feet. We need something strong enough to hold us as we move forward. Always, over and over again, we are repeatedly told to do these basic things both individually and together as families. Elder Kofford of the Seventy said that reading, meditating, and studying the Scriptures on a regular basis is not only about learning new things, but also about “refining your spirit”. This is sanctification, the process that increases our spiritual capacity and transforms us to be more like our Heavenly Father. Yet it is most often these simple things that we neglect – and without them, we have no planks on which to step to move forward.

These are our spiritual habits, both individually and as families:

Sacrament attaches our bridge to the atonement, so that our whole way is made safe.

Prayer is the safety harness that guides each step.

Family Home Evening is the spacer that makes each plank close enough together that even our children can cross.

Tithing “enrolls our names”, and so attaches our rope to our heavenly parents – tithing is the supporting beams of the handrails of our bridge.

The Word of Wisdom keeps our planks clear and clean, so that our path is not slippery.

The Law of Chastity keeps ON the bridge.

Home teaching and visiting teaching are the bolts that connect our planks in place.

But, the most amazing piece is the Temple – the Temple is what LIFTS our bridge up toward Heaven, so that it is not a bridge we are climbing, but a ladder… it is what separates our church from all others. The Temple is what defines us as a covenant people, so that we are not just trying to survive and walk across to the next day… we are climbing UP, on Jacob’s Ladder.

Yes – Jacob’s Ladder, and as one of my favorite BYU professor Skinner would say, this is how the process of being faithful in those simple, daily spiritual habits becomes the very process by which we keep our covenants. Elder Wondra, of the Seventy, took it even further, talking about how even our very struggles, the deepest pains of our hearts, become the line-upon-lines through which we climb to God. He said, “…we learn to trust in the love of God, even if we might feel God has forsaken us—for when we overcome through faith, these bitter and sorrowful moments in our lives can become like steps on Jacob’s ladder, leading us into the heavenly presence of God.”

The good thing about knowing well the blueprints of the Lord, which means developing those individual spiritual habits and going to the Temple often, is that then we know what our bridge should look like, and how it helps us climb the ladder. When we understand that, we are able to tell what is not right and where a marriage needs correction, instruction, or direction.

But here is what is amazing.

Go back to King Lamoni and his Queen.

That ladder is always curving, always curving as they climb up, for because repentance is continuing, is always necessary. We are constantly called to repentance, so that our upward climb becomes that spiral of a staircase.

Know what else looks just like that?

Our DNA:

So the science, the math, the doctrine, the stories, the family, the examples… it all teaches the same principles.

By the atonement it is possible, we are sanctified through the journey, and the purpose is fulfilling our very divine nature and destiny as and for which we were created!

When we are not living the gospel, we are missing handrails and missing planks, and it is dangerous and scary. You should be concerned. You should be frustrated and angry and not wanting to walk across such a rickety bridge or tiptoe across such a slippery rope. Your feelings are legitimate and accurate, holding important information that will work like a warning sign to get your attention.

BUT – your feelings are not facts! They hold information – critical information – but they are not reality. Reality comes not from your feelings, but from the choices you make in response to those feelings. You create your reality by your behaviors and choices. Feelings just hold information about the status and quality of the consequences of those choices.

So yes, if all is not well, you should feel bad.

But don’t get stuck there. Do something about it.

Agency gives you the choices:

You can choose to jump. You can choose to risk walking across as is. You can refuse to move forward and stay stuck. But none of those choices have anything to do with the plan of happiness.

The plan of happiness is the choice to live the Gospel. Living the gospel means that the more you learn about your heavenly parents, the stronger the handrails on your bridge. It means that each day you pray and each day you study your scriptures – both individually and together – you are adding planks to your bridge that you and your family can safely walk across. It means that every trip to the Temple blesses your own family as much as it does bless those who have already died (the Temple is NOT *only* for dead people!), and that as you are blessed, it lifts you up so that you are not just progressing, but progress upward. It means that as you continue the process of repentance, your forward progress is a spiral progress that moves you upward.

I testify that Heavenly Father has given us the promise that if a husband and wife will do the work to grow closer to Him as individuals, they will grow closer to each other in their marriage. I testify that the Lord’s blessings are reserved for those who keep His commandments. I testify that His love is extended to all, and that He gives opportunity for all to become obedient. He loves us and wants us to repent and return to Him. I promise that we will receive His blessings as we are faithful in doing so.

In the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN.

NOTE: My footnotes did not transfer from the document, so I am sorry they are not attached to specific places, but here is the list of them if there are any you want to look anything up. I have added links where I could to help make it easier – click and enjoy!

1D&C 132:3

2 President Spencer W. Kimball. Ensign, Nov. 1980, 4.

3Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Ministry of Angels,” Liahona, Nov 2008, 29–31.

4Sheri L. Dew, “We Are Women of God,” Ensign, Nov 1999, 97.

5,6,12The Family: A Proclamation to the World, first read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting held September 23, 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

7 Chapter 20: The Eternal Union of Husband and Wife,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 173

8 Alma 57:19-21

9 “Lesson 30: Developing and Teaching Self-Mastery,” The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A, 223.

10 Cree-L Kofford, “Marriage in the Lord’s Way, Part One,” Ensign, Jun 1998, 7.

11 Philippians 2:12

13 Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:177

14 Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, #292, “O My Father”.

15 Russell M. Nelson, “Now Is the Time to Prepare,” Liahona, May 2005, 16–18.

16 Genesis 28:12-13

17Andrew C. Skinner, “Jacob: Keeper of Covenants,” Ensign, Mar 1998, 51.

18 Johann A. Wondra, “Finding Hope in Christ,” Liahona, Dec 2002, 17.

19 Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde G. Williams. 1996, 256-257.

20 General Conference, October 2010 – Saturday Morning Session. Rosemary Wixom, Primary General President. “Stay on the Path”.  November 2010 Ensign.

21 Terrance D. Olson, “Teaching Morality to Your Children,” Ensign, May 1981, 10.

22 1 Nephi 11:35-36; 12:18

23 Revelation 12:9, 2 Nephi 2:18, D&C 10:22-27, Moses 4:6

24 Spencer W. Kimball. The Miracle of Forgiveness. Bookcraft: Salt Lake City, 1969.

25 “Marriage in the Lord’s Way”, part two, LDS Ensign magazine, 1998, by Elder Cree-L Kofford

1 Nephi 22

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 22.

This last chapter of the first book of Nephi switches gears one last time, from the Isaiah-ish prophesying in recent chapters back to his own narrating of his experience.

Nephi tells us that when he finished reading these things (scriptures) to his brothers, they came and asked him what it all meant.  Specifically, they asked him whether these lessons learned from the scriptures were physical (tangible in the here and now, or “temporal”) or spiritual.

Nephi answers that they are both.

Not just that the Scriptures are both temporal (historical) and spiritual (likened to us for real-life application), but that ALL THINGS in the whole entire world have meanings that are both temporal and spiritual.

And, he says, that the understanding of this comes as the Prophet and as the Spirit manifests it to each individual, or makes it known (understood) on an individual basis.

“The things of which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual” (verse 3).

Specifically, Nephi’s family wants to know about those that stayed in Jerusalem when Lehi and Nephi and the others left.

He says, “it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations” (verse 3).

Now-a-days we call this “the lost tribes” of Israel.

These prophesies of Nephi and of Isaiah and Jeremiah and all the Old Testament prophets – they all came true temporally, when Jerusalem was overtaken and the Temple destroyed and covenant people fled for their lives.  But it also became spiritually true, as believers fell away and as covenant people lived amongst the world, and as individuals lost the blessings that come from behaving like a child of the covenant.

“there are many who are already lost from the knowledge… the more part of all the tribes have been led away…” (verse 4).

They have been literally (temporally) led away, and spiritually led away (outside the covenant).

And, Nephi says, just like the other Old Testament prophets say, these people who have either fallen away from the covenant or were so mixed with the world they were not living as children of the covenant… these people will harden their hearts against God, and against the covenants.  It is this hardening that will lead to their scattering (verse 5).

In the same way, when we soften our hearts toward God, He rushes in with truth and light to gather us and lead us back to Him.

And as we are led back to Him, we are nourished by others (Gentiles) who were born outside the covenant (not born Jews) but now have been adopted into it (verse 6).

And this “nourishment” is the teaching that will restore the knowledge of the covenant, even “unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham…” (verse 9).

This cannot happen without Him revealing Himself (verse 10).  It is by the process, power, and unfolding of personal revelation that God reveals Himself so that we learn who He is.

“Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel” (verse 11).

And when we receive the full Gospel,we are baptized: “he will bring them again out of captivity” (verse 12).

Then we go to the Temple and make covenants (and remember those already made).  There are many blessings that come from going to the Temple, but two of the primary blessings that lead to the others include:

1.  the gathering of our families: “and they shall be gathered together” (verse 12); and

2.  receiving instruction on who we must become to return to the presence of our Father-in-Heaven:  “gathered together to lands of their inheritance” (verse 12).

This is the process by which we escape bondage, by which we escape captivity, by which our hope becomes testimony, and faith becomes knowledge.

“and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel” (verse 12).

But we must do it His way, after the pattern of the order of the Priesthood as it was given to us.

Everything outside of that, or mocking that, is “abominable”.  Rituals and rites and ceremonies are empty and pointless without the proper authority and the Spirit of the Lord.  This is a perversion of truth, and a misapplication (or misuse) of ordinances (verse 14).  This is when the “proud and they who do wickedly” will be burned, but those who live in righteousness will be saved.

It’s very reminiscent of Passover.

And like the Israelites escaping the oppressive Egyptians, “He will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous” (verse 16).

And so, like Passover, “he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fullness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire.  Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire” (verse 17).

We are in the last days, Nephi says, and this will (temporally, literally) happen on the last day.

This is what we are “Latter-day Saints”.  Because we are the Church of Christ, but we know that we are in the context of the very last days.  We, the Saints (believers in Jesus Christ), are His church in this day and time.  We are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And because we are His people, He will make a way where there was no way.  The “way” is through the Prophets, the Scriptures.  We know that the “flaming sword” on the path to the tree of life is a symbol of the Prophet, that we must go to Him through His servant, through His prophet.  This is the order it has always been; this is as it has always been.

And living “in order” does make us at-one.

His righteousness makes us at-one.

“And because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power” (verse 25).

This is the squashing of his head while he is bruising our heel: that by the atonement, we become righteous.  And our being righteous means we advance the glory of God – it means that the more we become like Him, the more credit He gets for it, so that we are all ever progressing.  We can never catch up to our parents!  I can be a grown-up, and have a good job, and work hard on a space I enjoy and appreciate.  But as I progress and grow up, so does my mother.  I can never catch up.  No matter how grown-up I become, she will always be my mother.

In the same way, the more righteous we become – because it is possible because of the atonement – the more credit He gets for it.

This is our call to repentance, that we might show His plan for our salvation worked.

“And now I, Nephi, make an end; for I durst not speak further as yet concerning these things” (verse 29).

You, he says, just focus on doing what you are supposed to do, and staying out of trouble.

Easier said than done.

But it is possible, Nephi says.

This is his testimony and his teaching: that “if ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day” (verse 31).

1 Nephi 21

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 21.

This chapter continues the Isaiah-ish prophesying.

I love the end of the first verse especially:

“… the Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name”.

It so reminds me of Jeremiah 1:5:

“Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee…”

This refers even to our premortal life, the time before we were born on Earth.  He knew us.  We knew Him.

The Family Proclamation says this:

In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.

This premortal experience of knowing the plan is why we are now called to testify, to help each other remember, to help each other find our way home.

“Thou art my servant…” the Lord says (verse 3), and this is our greatest service: to testify.  Using words or simply in how we love others, all should testify of the Savior and His atonement for us.  All we do and say should move us to be at-one with each other.

And we should be at-one with each other, no matter what everyone else around us doing.  No matter our circumstances, no matter the choices of others, no matter the chaos around us or overwhelming us, it is our duty, our responsibility, our calling to be at-one with God, and to be at-one with each other.  He makes it possible, and gives us the strength to do so.  It’s a promise.

“though Israel not be gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength” (verse 5).

When there is not-at-one around us, we are to do our part to restore the at-one-ness.  Sometimes that means putting in an extra effort.  Sometimes it means doing something someone else wants instead of what you would rather do.  Sometimes it means taking a stand in our own lives for our own selves; sometimes it means letting it go and not worrying about what other people do.  It means teaching others, and leading by example, but then respecting agency while others do their own individual work of learning to make good choices.  It always, always means listening to (and obeying) the words of the prophets, whether we are talking about scriptures or the living Prophet, or the Bishop that is the prophet of our ward.

Always, we are to be a Light.

Just as He is a Light to us, the sheckinah of the Old Testament, that pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night that lead the Israelites through the wilderness, so we are to be a Light to others.  But like the Israelites in the wilderness, others have to take their own steps.  We are only called to show the way.  As they learn to follow the Light, they will make it to the promised land.  That’s a promise.

“I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth” (verse 6).

It is hard when those we love do not want to make good choices.

And, in a world that is exponentially-escalating-more-and-more-quickly to the very end of these latter days, it sometimes feel as if the ugliness will win.

But the Lord says, “… in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee…”

He will provide and protect.  It’s a promise.

But He also makes it possible for His work to be accomplished, even making a way for us to do our testifying in good and appropriate and inviting kinds of ways, and that mostly by example – yes, more than anything else, by being an example.

“Go forth; to them that sit in darkness: Show yourselves.” (verse 9)

When people see the Light, they begin to understand.  It’s a promise.

It stirs them up to remembering a taste of before, and leaves them hungry for more.

“They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places” (verse 9).

The “high places” points to the Temple.

When we feed in His ways, and help others feed in His ways – His laws and commandments, His principles and purpose – it leads us to the Temple.

But first, in baptism:

“… for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by springs of water shall he guide them” (verse 10).

Notice that you cannot lead without having mercy, which includes compassion and tenderness and forgiveness.

Then you can lead them to the Temple:  “And I will make all my mountains a way” (verse 11).

And through the Temple, we are gathered. It’s a promise.

We are gathered as a people, and we are made at-one with Him and with each other.

Verse 14 speaks of this atonement, this meeting of mercy and justice, this making a way beyond what is possible, beyond what we alone can do:

“… the Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me – but He will show that he hath not.”

It reminds me of Isaiah 54, which is one of my all time favorites just behind 2 Nephi 4.  I love verses 4-14 of Isaiah 54, but here is Isaiah 54:7-8 that compares to 1 Nephi 21:14:

“For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.  In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.”

Then he gives an example of this deep love:

“For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet I will not forget thee…” (verse 15).

This one reminds us of Isaiah 49:15, which says the same thing word for word.

It also brings to mind Psalm 27:10: “when my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.”

What’s really interesting about this connection is that the verses after that (in Psalm 27) are all about the path, and the strength and courage to walk it… just as this chapter in 1 Nephi discusses.

He is our Light, and by His Light we walk the path.  We become like Him by becoming at-one with Him.  Becoming at-one with Him is only possible because of the atonement.

“I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (verse 16).  (See Isaiah 49:16)

He did this literally, when He was accomplishing the work of the atonement.

It is still true spiritually, because He knows us and loves us and wants us to succeed in making it back home.  It’s a promise.

To do so, we must become like Him, even to be pierced like Him, even to forgive like Him.

The great exchange of this atonement gives us His righteousness, clothes us in the order of His house:

“… all these gather themselves together… and they shall come to thee.  And as I live, saith the Lord, thou shalt surely clothe thee… and bind them even as a bride…” (verse 18).

He then goes on to speak of children, of being rescued from bondage, from generations helping other generations, and all of this is covenant language.

But then He promises to fight our battles; He says this is part of the privilege of being of the covenant, that He will fight for us.

“… I will contend with him that contendeth with thee…” (verse 25, and see also Isaiah 49:25).

Compare this to D&C 105:14:

“For behold, I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion; for, as I said in a former commandment, even so will I fulfill – I will fight your battles.”

He will fight our battles.

It’s a promise.

1 Nephi 20

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 20.

This chapter is just straight up prophecy, much like Isaiah (who is also preaching at this same time, back in Jerusalem).

The Lord says that all who are called covenant people, all who are baptized, need to pay attention.  They need to listen up, and do what is asked of them.

The Lord is confronting the people for saying they are His people, but not acting like it.

“Nevertheless, they call themselves of the holy city, but they do not stay themselves upon the God of Israel, who is the Lord of Hosts; yea, the Lord of Hosts is his name” (verse 2).  This goes back to the Man-of-Holiness name for Heavenly Father, and the Son-of-the-Man-of-Holiness name for His Son, and how we are to be holy to become the people of Holiness, the House of Holiness (Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord).

He is saying “You are not acting like WHOSE you are!”

He is saying “You are stubborn and obstinate and you know better!”

But just as He is just, He is also merciful.  The consequences upon His people (Jerusalem, or all of us) do not come without Him first sending a Prophet.

Nephi explains that the Lord does this for two reasons: first, in mercy to warn the people so they can still repent and avoid the consequences; and secondly, so that all will clearly know it is Him who is doing this great work.

We know better, and are without excuse, because He has sent His prophets and His words (even the Scriptures) to warn us all, to guide us, to teach us, to correct us, to show us the way to get home to Him.

And He has done so since the beginning.   He doesn’t change.  He is the same God He has always been, and works in the same way He has always worked.  He used prophets since the beginning, and uses prophets today.

But we have known all of this from since before we were born.  This was the premortal covenant, the agreement from before we were even born: that He would atone for us, and we would testify of that atonement.

So even now, as we see these later days speeding up (exponentially), even know in the little day-to-day “normal” moments, we are to testify of the Savior, of His work in and around us, and help others to see and understand and known.

Our whole job of being here is to testify of Him of who He is and of what He has done and is doing for us, so that we can – all together – get back home.

“Thou hast seen and heard all this; and will ye not declare them?” (verse six).

Yet still, He is merciful us.  His “just” action towards us is not to destroy us, so much as to train us and teach us, like chastising a child.

“Nevertheless, for my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain from thee, that I cut thee not off” (verse 9).

“For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (verse 10).

This is huge.  This is really, really huge.  He wants us refined, so that what is not of God is removed from us, and so that we are filled with His righteousness.  It is the great exchange we were just reading about in recent chapters.  It is the work of the atonement.  It is the promise that He will accomplish His work, which is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

We are His people, and He will purify us and refine us until we are like Him, until we can be at-one with Him.

“For mine own sake, yea, for mine own sake will I do this, for I will not suffer my name (Holiness) to be polluted…” (verse 11).

Covenant people!  Pay attention!  I am HE!  Verse 12 shouts out this declaration, that He is the first and last, that He is the ultimate, that He is both Who the law pointed of and also the fulfillment of it.  In verse 13, He adds that He created the Earth, and even the Earth obeys Him.

“All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; who among them hath declared these things unto them? The Lord hath loved him; yea, and he will fulfill his word which he hath declared by them…” (verse 14)

All of you, listen!  Pay attention!  My words will be fulfilled!  They will happen as I have said, as you know them to be true!

And those who testify of Him, they are called by Him to declare.  The Lord brings them to the place of testifying, brings them to the place of declaring His words to the people.

And always, part of the message is that if one is obedient to the commandments, then peace keeps rolling like a river, despite the storms and floods of life; righteousness washes over us in constant renewal.  He promises to provide and protect when we behave like (prove ourselves to be) the covenant people we claim to be.

Knowing is not enough; we are called to do.

Then He helps us become.

1 Nephi 19

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 19.

So now that Nephi’s family is settled a little bit, and because in the new land he has access to ore, he is able to keep the commandment the Lord gave him to make metal plates and engrave the record of his family upon them.

“And after I had made these plates by way of commandment, I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates; and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord” (verse 3).

And so he did, and he did it for the purpose of passing down the records of his family one generation after another.

But then Nephi clarifies something interesting:  He doesn’t engrave anything on the plates that he doesn’t consider sacred (verse 6).  This is fascinating because it is not just the story of his family, but the story of the Lord working in His people; it is not just advice to be handed down, but is is the words and commandments and teachings of the Lord through His prophets.  Nephi doesn’t write what he wants, but what the Lord wants.  He doesn’t tell everything, but just the sacred pieces that are most needed to be passed down.  He writes in a way very much like the way the Savior taught, where all things have both a temporal (here and now and physical) meaning, as well as a spiritual meaning.  He also teaches the way the Savior taught, in that there is one meaning on the surface, but layers and layers of deeper meaning for those who truly seek it, who truly prepare to actually receive real revelation about what it really means.

Then Nephi prophesies, very much like Isaiah did, about when the Lord – the very Messiah – would be born, saying that it will happen about six hundred years after he left Jerusalem with his father Lehi.

Nephi continues the prophesying, describing what the Savior will experience:  “And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it.  Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (verse 9).

Nephi keeps going, identifying the Jehovah of the Old Testament as being the pre-mortal Jesus, the same being, so that “the Lord” in the Old Testament is Christ Himself, before He was born.  Nephi says, “And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up… and to be crucified… and buried in a sepulchure…” (verse 10).

We then get a small insight into what it is like for a Prophet, or for anyone speaking the things of God or delivering His message to any of His people:

“For behold, I have workings in the spirit, which doth weary me even that all my joints are weak…” (verse 20).

This chapter also talks about Nephi teaching his brothers and their families.  He taught them from the books of Moses (as much of the Old Testament as had been compiled thus far, for because all this is happening at the same time as the prophets in the Old Testament (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.).  He did also teach them what he had of Isaiah’s teachings, and he did “liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning” (verse 23).

Likening Scriptures to yourself is a huge and important process of revelation.  It is when we read the scriptures as if they are written just to us, about us, or directly talking to us.  It shifts perspective from the historical account to what we are to learn in the here-and-now and how we should apply these learnings in our everyday real life.

For a very good (and short!) article about how to “liken the scriptures” to yourself, SEE HERE.

1 Nephi 18

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 18.

So in the last chapter, the Lord tells Nephi to build a ship.  His brothers make fun of him, get a little rough, and threaten his life.  Nephi teaches them, they repent, and we are all back on the same team again.

Now we are back to Nephi building his ship.  He knows the Lord has the blueprints, and so Nephi just keeps praying for the tools and the know-how to do it what the Lord has asked.  It is an excellent example to us all.

“And it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship” (verse 1).

Nephi then says, specifically, he did not build his ship according to the custom or learning of his day, nor did he build it the usual way.  But he built after the pattern the Lord provided.

To get instruction, Nephi went to the mount (Temple) often, to pray to the Lord and to learn… “wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things” (verse 3).

When Nephi finished his ship, and his brothers saw that it was done and that it was good, “they did humble themselves again before the Lord” (verse 4).

Sometimes those closest to us don’t understand or believe until they see the evidence, until they see the good “work” that has been accomplished.

It is Lehi, of course, since he is the leader of this little tribe – the prophet, even, for this group of people – it is Lehi that receives the word from the Lord that it is time to go to the ship.  So they prepare all they need, from food to seeds, all kinds of provisions.  Everyone brought what they had, according to their age, and went to the ship along with their wives and children.

Also, Lehi now has two more sons, named Jacob and Joseph (named after the patriarchs in the Old Testament).

All the people get on the ship, and it begins to head towards the promised land.

The wind drives the ship for days and days, and in the easy rest of traveling by ship – compared to difficult nomadic, hunting, or agrarian lifestyles – Nephi’s brothers get comfortable.  Too comfortable, in fact.  So much that the brothers and their wives begin to “make themselves merry”, speaking “with much rudeness”, and forgetting “by what power they had been brought thither” (verse 9).

Nephi knows that this is unacceptable behavior, and he knows the rules of the covenant.  He knows the Lord expects them to be obedient, and that there are consequences when they aren’t.

“And I, Nephi, began to fear exceedingly lest the Lord should be angry with us, and smite us because of our iniquity, that we should be swallowed up in the depths of the sea” (verse 10).

He does what he always does: he tries to teach his brothers.  They don’t want anything to do with it, though, and say that he can’t boss them around.  Then, as if that isn’t enough, Nephi’s brothers tie him up and get rough with him again.

Nephi shows his courage and strength when he says, “the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word” (verse 11).

All of us have been in some circumstance or another, some situation or experience, that is painful or difficult or scary or uncomfortable.  This is when we can practice the courage of Nephi in keeping an eternal perspective, that “all things work together for the good of those who love God” (Romans 8:28).  Can we be so brave as to say that the Lord has allowed it to happen, or suffered along with us through the experience, in order to “show forth His power, unto the fulfilling of His word”?  Wow!

When Nephi’s brothers tie him up, their compass that shows where to go stops working.  Then a great storm blows up, so big a storm that the brothers get scared.  Fraidy cats.

“And it came to pass that we were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea. And after we had been driven back upon the waters for the space of four days, my brethren began to see that the judgments of God were upon them, and that they must perish save that they should repent of their iniquities; wherefore, they came unto me, and loosed the bands which were upon my wrists, and behold they had swollen exceedingly; and also mine ankles were much swollen, and great was the soreness thereof” (verse 15).

Nephi is sore from being tied up!  And still his brothers do not let him go.

Yet even now, Nephi remains faithful.

“Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions” (verse 16).

Lehi tries intervening, but the brothers threaten anyone who tries to defend or rescue Nephi.

So now, because they have refused the prophet, further calamities and destruction come: the brothers all get very sick.

This is NOT to say that all sickness or affliction are because of sin or wrong-doing.  Such an idea is false doctrine.  We read this verse with verse 11 in mind, that sometimes it is just to teach us something or to in some way demonstrate who God is and what power is His.

But in this case, we know the illness is related to their bad behavior.  And they were so sick they almost died.  Even Lehi’s sons and wife and Nephi’s own children all become sick.

“And there was nothing save it were the power of God, which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts; wherefore, when they saw that they were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea they repented of the thing which they had done, insomuch that they loosed me”.

So the brothers, again, repent.

And Nephi, again, forgives.

Nephi had every reason to be upset, and every reason to hold a grudge.

Nephi had every reason to punish, to retaliate, to kick his brothers off the boat and let them drown.

But he didn’t.  He forgave them.  He let it go.

Not only did he let it go, but he moved on: as soon as he was untied, he goes right to the compass and prays for the Lord to make it work.  Soon as he prays, the storm settles down and the water is calm.

Nephi guides the ship towards the promised land, and they are all very glad to arrive.  They pitch their tents, worship, and begin to work hard.  They till the earth and plant seeds and build their homes.  The whole family is blessed in provision as the plants grow, and in provision as the animals are found for food.  They also find metal materials that will help them in their work.

Lehi’s family – Nephi and his brothers and their wives – have safely arrived in the promised land, and they are blessed beyond abundance.

This, of course, is a type pointing to the peace we can have in our mortal journey while traveling towards eternal life, and the blessings and joy we will have once we arrive.

It’s a miracle, this journey of life.

We can either bring on the storms by murmuring about everything along the way, and tying up those meant to help us, or we can do the hard work of guiding our ship towards home.

1 Nephi 17

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 17.

So Lehi and his family, including Nephi and his brothers and their new wives, get back to traveling through the wilderness.  They travel for years and years, even having children along the way.  The Lord provided for them along the way, so that even the women and children were strong and well.

“And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.”

This begins a fun pattern in this chapter, where almost anytime it says “wilderness” you could replace it with “mortality” and re-read the verse for yourself, as if it were for you right now today.

You can also replace “the promised land” with “celestial-ness”.

The more you read and study the Book of Mormon, the more everything gets defined, so that it becomes as if you are studying a hundred books at once as you read.

So Nephi’s family is traveling through the wilderness, and comes to the seashore.  They are glad to stop and rest.

While he is there resting, the Lord tells Nephi to go to the Temple.  I mean to say, the Lord tells him to go to the mountain (always a symbol for the Temple, especially in the context of one character being set apart (made sacred! consecrated!) from the others).  “Arise, and get thee into the mountain.  And it came to pass that I arose and went up into the mountain, and cried unto the Lord” (verse 7).  So Nephi has gone to the Temple to pray and to receive instruction.

Instruction comes, and the Lord tells Nephi to build a ship.  The Lord says that He will show Nephi the pattern, so that it can safely carry the whole family across the waters (ocean).

Nephi doesn’t question.  He simply asks for the tools.  He knows the Lord has the blueprints, and He knows the Lord will keep His promise of teaching him.  But He does ask for the tools.  The Lord shows Nephi where to go find ore, so that he can make tools.

The Nephi gives another famous monologue, where he pauses the story to look up at the audience and address us directly.

He quotes what the Lord did tell him:

“And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led” (verse 13).

This “light in the wilderness” is the same sheckinah as the presence of the Lord that led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.  Consider that while substituting the words to liken it the Savior speaking to you: “And I will also be your light in mortality; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the celestial kingdom; and ye shall know that ye are led”.

Verse 14 continues this pattern:

“Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.”

This applies to Nephi and his travels with his family through the wilderness.

But it also applies to us, and judgment day.  When that time comes, we will know the truth of all things, and we will see clearly what He has done for us.  We will know He has delivered us, and that it is by His work that we are able to live again in the presence of our Heavenly Father.

It applies to me even this day, knowing that the Lord did deliver me from destruction (pre-baptism) and lead me to the promised land (this life of happiness, despite the challenges of the journey).

“Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence” (verse 15).

It is obedience that qualifies us for the Spirit of the Lord, for that sheckinah presence that leads us through mortality.

Then, as if there were not layers and layers more to those two verses, Nephi goes back to his story, jumping right back to how he was making tools to build his ship.

When his brothers saw him starting to build a ship, the murmuring started up again (reminds us of Noah and the ark).  Murmuring and complaining, they continued to try to get out of helping because they did not want to work.  Nephi points out how this proved their lack of faith: “for they did not believe that I could build a ship; neither would they believe that I was instructed of the Lord” (verse 18).

As always when his brothers start to have their hard hearts lacking faith instead of soft hearts  growing in faith, Nephi grieves.

The more he grieves their sad spiritual state, the more his brothers mock him.

So now they are not just murmuring, but also lacking faith; they are not only mocking him, but blaming Nephi’s behavior on being like their father, “led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart” (verse 20).  They keep complaining, saying that if they were back home in Jerusalem, they could be enjoying their inheritance by now.

Because his brothers will not keep the commandments, Nephi tries to help them at least remember them.  He reminds them of who God is, so that they can find their testimony.  He reminds them of what God has done for them, including the being led out of bondage and slavery in Egypt.

“Now ye know that the children of Israel were in bondage; and ye know that they were laden with tasks, which were grievous to be borne; wherefore, ye know that it must needs be a good thing for them, that they should be brought out of bondage” (verse 25).

Again, it reads a lot like our pattern in mortality: being in bondage and being laden with difficult tasks.

But, says Nephi, it is a good thing for them, and helps them be brought out of bondage.

Nephi reminds them of the crossing of the Red Sea, and of the manna in the wilderness.

Then Nephi goes back to the sheckinah:  “And notwithstanding they being led, the Lord their God, their Redeemer, going before them, leading them by day and giving light unto them by night, and doing all things for them which were expedient for man to receive…” (verse 30), they hardened their hearts and blinded their minds, andreviled against Moses and against the true and living God.

Nephi talks about how the Lord loves all people, even as one people; but it is those that reject the words of God that lose (or do not earn) blessings.

Then Nephi goes back to his litnay about who God is, that the Lord (Jehovah) created the world, and that He will lead the righteous people to His “Promised Lands”.

“And he loveth those who will have him to be their God” (verse 40).

Nephi then reminds them of their covenants, and of their “fathers”: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

After all this reminding, Nephi says “Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words…”

And that just made those brothers MAD.

The brothers tried to grab Nephi and drown him!

But Nephi says, “In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not, for I am filled with the power of God” (verse 48).

Nephi tells his brothers to stop murmuring and complaining, and to help do what the Lord has asked!

Nephi says that he KNOWS that the Lord can accomplish His work in His way in His timing.

He KNOWS it.

And we will see it play out in the next chapter, when the ship is finished!

Pillar of Light Butterflies

I have finally, this morning, submitted to reading ovary-information from my doctor’s office.

Cancer, as horrible as it can be, is actually a fairly simple thing.

Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them.

When cells grow old, they die, and new cells take their place.

But with cancer, this orderly process goes wrong.

New cells form when the body does not need them, and old cells do not die when they should.

When things get all out of whack, the cells not doing what they should (or doing what they shouldn’t) destroy the good, well-behaved cells.

That’s why cancer is a predator, because of the destroying of well-behaved cells.

I think I have dated Cancer before.

Anyway, it seems to me that Cancer needs some therapy about good boundaries, some mormon missionary lessons on the Law of Obedience, and to be kicked right in its mutated p53.

(p53 is the protein that helps regulate the cell cycle; when it is missing or mutated, cells can divide uncontrollably.)

In this making-it-simple approach, all kinds of cancers get one of three labels:

1.  Benign (non-cancerous, meaning it does not spread – though it can become malignant later),

2.  Malignant (cancerous, meaning it has the potential to spread throughout the body), or

3.  Metastatic (cancerous, and has already spread to other parts of the body from where it originated).

Ovarian cancer usually happens either in the cells on the surface of the ovaries (epithelial carcinoma) or in the egg cells themselves (malignant germ cell tumors).

It is more common for women to have cysts, which are benign and non-cancerous.

Cancer is not hereditary.  You can’t pass it on to your children.

However, there are genetic predispositions, such as passing on a mutated copy of a gene (BRCA1 and BRCA2).  But most cancers go through 6 to 9 mutations before becoming cancer, so it needs more than just that first copy to become cancer.  This is why cancer happens in older people more often than young people, because there has been more time for mutated copy to get copied again, until it becomes more and more mutated.  So cancer happens because of the accumulation of all those mutations.  Gross.

Lymph nodes get checked for cancer-ness to see if cancer has spread because the vessels of the circulatory and lymphatic systems work like a pipeline, and that’s how cancer can move from one site to another.

Chemotherapy works by blocking a cell’s ability to break down the mitotic spindle, which is how the cell segregates duplicated chromosomes to form new “daughter” cells.  Since it can’t separate into these new seedlings, it blocks the cell from copying, or repeating itself.  It’s stops the cell cycle before it makes more of itself, and so it stops the cancer from getting worse.

Here is what it that (healthy) spindle process looks like (picture from Absolute Astronomy):

I love this because it shows how, when everything is working right, this tiny process, happening in our bodies a gazabillion times everyday, looks just like a firefly-butterfly-angel.

It’s beautiful.

It’s a snapshot of how we are made of Light, and how are very cells are like entire solar systems.

It brings a whole new understanding to being at-one.

As soon as I saw this picture, I understood how – for me – I could find the “spiritual” in the temporal experience of cancer-ness.

This brings us to an Official Blog Flashback to 24 November 2010, when I already learned this but didn’t yet understand why (Emily World Train of Thought Warning: it will make your brain hurt, and be just this side of crazy, so feel free to skip below the italics for the rest of the current blog):

In considering this, I realize that if pre-mortality prepared me for mortality, then mortality prepares me for eternity.

We know that this life is the time to prepare to meet God.

Preparing to meet God takes me back to the prodigal son returning home.  It takes me back to the Temple.

It takes me, in a way that surprised me, back to the creation story.

When I think of “meet”, I think not only of the embrace of the prodigal son and his father, but also of Adam and Eve.  I think of Adam and Eve because I think of “helpmeet”, and remember that helpmeet means “a companion who is equal and necessary in full partnership”.

Then I realize why I think of Adam and Eve when I am thinking of the prodigal son being embraced by his father, for because the prodigal son is – in that very moment – restored to his place in the family.

This is what the atonement does for me; it restores me to my place in the family of my Father.

But anytime I think of Adam and Eve, I am reminded that I am not yet married and commanded to do so.  But in this context, it is less harsh for not yet having done so and more in preparation for teaching me why and how and for what purpose.

For because, we may know in our heads that husband and wife are companions who are equal and necessary in full partnership, but we know in our hearts that husbands and wives are very different!

But this takes me back to sheckinah, for because this is part of the answer to my question about how to be a “light”.

And if you know anything about light, you know that it is made up of two very different properties, yet one without the other does not explain light.  Light has both particles and waves!  Light needs both properties to be light, to function as light, to exist as light.  Even though they are nearly opposite properties, so much that they even work differently more than work together, it is in the together-ness that they make up light.

It is so very male and female, in an un-scientific kind of way, with one piece of the whole being the packets that go out (the priesthood, the power, the authority), and the other piece being waves (the emotion, the spirit-ness, the intuition).

But even more fascinating, is how – like light – we are commanded not just to keep the commandments, but to OBSERVE the keeping of the commandments.  Mathematically, scientifically, the act of observing changes the results.

Oh!  Look at this silly cartoon clip that explains it:


.

Know what other dimension requires an observer?

Time.

Time is only a measurement, which requires someone to do the measuring.  It is a measurement between events.  Time only exists when there is an outside observer who thinks they are inside, sort of like being in your own black hole.

The only reason this relates at all, in this long Emily World random writing, is because of the symbol of the circle in the square, of heaven meeting earth, reminds us of the second law of thermodynamics.  Except that the square is moved out, because really its an ongoing process while the symbol itself is more like a postcard.  But if you had the postcard in 3D, you could see the process itself, how one is constantly changed by giving up itself and becoming something new. 

It’s like a mathematical picture of the tesseract, the self-transforming that occurs when a four dimensional object moves within our three dimensional perception:


If we combined what we know of this with what we know of light, if we were playing around with the math of it…

It would mean that through self-transformation, you meet your opposite, which actually completes you into one being.

It is the mathematical evidence of a Mother with the Father.

It mathematically proves a white hole to the black hole, excepting that white holes cannot exist because of the second law of thermodynamics… UNLESS you moved the square back over the circle, like the symbol of the Temple.

And that, not getting into nerdy wormhole science, creates this (diagram from National Science Foundation):


If you take out the science fiction, this is mathematically where and how a new universe would be born.  That’s why it is fascinating to us, because of the shape it creates, which is a symbol we have been given and has been interpreted even in the most ancient of art.  Even more so, the other shape it reveals.  It is the ancient shape of our Heavenly Parents, the symbol of creation itself.



So we see, on a grand scale, this effect in space, out there.  Here is the brand new 2010 image done by Andrew Hamilton (Colorado) and John Hawley (Virginia).  CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO SEE IT MOVE.

Now that is incredible, to input mathematical formulas into a computer and be able to get an image of a pillar of light, in a context that requires opposition and observation (implying agency) and in so doing makes creation possible.  Fascinating and familiar concept.

So this is what takes us back to sheckinah, and to Adam and Eve, so that not only is that the same as us, but also photons are always moving, but interactions with atomic scatters will cause them to either be delayed or advanced.  How is that not mortality?! 

How is that not our work to climb the ladder?!

And we even see that in the diagram of the light itself:

Which, if you turned it up vertically, would give the same DNA-shape of Jacob’s Ladder-turned-spiral-staircase (through ongoing repentance). 

It’s lovely!

Also, photons can be absorbed by nuclei or molecules, which provokes nerve impulses (discovered by George Wald in 1958 as he worked with the retina).   This science-information is fascinating when considering the 1879 talk by Erastus Snow in which he said “the wonderful mechanism of the nervous system, through which the spirit makes its impressions upon the body…”

All of that to say that what I learned from the Oaks talk was about being judged not just based on what I do here, but also what I accomplish and who I become.  Judged not only for how I lived this life, but judged to determine what I qualify for in eternity… which means I must let the atonement work – not just in cleansing me from the past, but also in becoming something of my potential.

For example, while my mother was here, we watched a movie about Queen Victoria.  This is one thing my mother and I have always enjoyed together, my whole life, the study of the history of the royalty and especially the queens, with Queen Elizabeth always being one of my favorites (of course!).  But when I study these Queens, one thing that is evident is that everyone always knew whether the Queen would be good or bad by what kind of student they were as a child, and how willing they were to be taught, and how well they could channel their passions for the greater good.   They knew what kind of Queen she would be based on her own response to her family dynamics regardless of what they did, and how well she played with others.

Always, her wisdom was not measured by success, but her success was measured by wisdom (not the same as knowledge).  And her wisdom was measured by her ability to discern the true nature of things and respond accordingly, including how and when and from whom to accept help… as well as her ability to endure the experiences that developed that discernment.

The people always loved best the Queens who loved them well.

As we talked about in Institute, I was PREPARED in pre-mortality to succeed in mortality, prepared for what I needed to do here, for my role here.  In the same way, my mortal life does prepare me for what is to come – and how well I am prepared will determine how much of that I get to do, who I get to be.

So considering the sheckinah: because Moses had seen the Light, he knew the Glory.  Because he knew that Glory, he was also able to discern false lights and knew the difference.  When Satan tried to impersonate the Lord, Moses said, “Where is your glory” (Moses 1:12-15)… but he could say that because he knew the difference.  He knew what Light was.

So we, I think, should work to learn the difference.

I need the atonement to be able to stand the Light.  It must cover me, so that I can know.  The more I seek the Light, then the more I can discern what is NOT the Light.  This protects me, but also helps me to become.

This is why I need mortality to learn that Light.

Always I must come back to it, through repentance, climbing ever upward through that spiral.

So do you see?!  The firefly-butterfly-angel of Light that is changing me by coping good cells, so that I am physically changed and physically renewed, where I-who-am-me is actually becoming more, better, new, changed.

All of me, all of my being, is constantly replicating more of itself.  I can choose to make more and more goodness, to CREATE more and more Light, and in so doing be literally changed in the process.

Or I can choose to self-destruct, to destroy myself, by replicating mutations until I am further and further away from who I was created to be.

I can be Light, and bring healing – even creation.

Or I can be Cancer, and destroy.

I want to choose Light.

But it turns out, whether you are talking about grand events in space or tiny events at the cellular level, that “it is in the small and simple things that great things are brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).

So it would seem that whether you have cancer or not, we are constantly becoming what we choose.  Our choices shape us and change us.  What and who and how we interact with affects whether we continue to develop as we were created to become, with healthy cells making new healthy cells, or whether we begin to copy mutations and become something or someone else.

It’s also why we “die” if we are not testifying, because our becoming depends on creating more Light.

And it’s the small things that make a difference.

Like an ovary that is only the size of an almond, and that make girls crazy whether the ovaries are working or not.

And, and, and – No wonder chemotherapy feels so awful, because it turns out the light on these magic firefly-butterfly creatures.

It stops the creation of new cells.

And any woman knows that the absence of life is death.

So that is a long, dark night for a woman’s purpose in living is removed, her ability to function is put on pause, and her depth and intuition are silenced.  It is cruel and horrible.  It ceases her existence, and yet keeps her alive to observe her own non-existence.  That is torture.

But only temporarily, allegedly, and only to prevent her from being eaten by monsters.

Even in this a woman becomes a type for the atonement, that life is given in order to save it.

And so it is, that a woman would follow the Pattern of a Mother and enter divine silence in order to protect the creation process.

Now I will imagine that instead of being eaten by monsters, my very cells are creating this Light by making pillar-of-Light copies of goodness and love and butterflies.

Because I like butterflies.  They don’t even bite.

And to think that there are life-creating butterflies, that by the very process of the work that they do, give off the pillar-of-Light through which angels travel… well, that is just astonishing.

1 Nephi 16

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 16.

The last chapter, 1 Nephi 15, was PACKED full of deep doctrine and layers of principles and tons of revelation-inspiring-thoughts-to-ponder.  Even for someone who WANTS to know, it is a lot to soak in.  For someone who doesn’t want to know, like the murmuring brothers of Nephi, it is almost too much.

The first verse of this chapter opens with their response “Thou has declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.”

Nephi points out to them that these things are only hard to those who don’t want to know them, but that these teachings give hope to those who want to know the truth.

So, says Nephi (still not giving up on his brothers), if you want to be righteous and if you are willing to hear the truth, then do it!  But he also calls them out by saying that if they were already walking uprightly before God, then they would not be murmurming.  He encourages them to keep the commandments of the Lord with all diligence.

This turns out to be a good talk for his brothers, and “they did humble themselves before the Lord; insomuch that I had joy and great hopes for them, that they would walk in the paths of righteousness” (verse 5).

That verse always gets my attention, because I know that feeling – like Lehi wanting his family to taste the fruit… but I also wonder if those who helped me get baptized ever felt that way about me, having joy and great hopes for me, that I might walk the paths of righteousness.  I know it is the love and care and teaching of so many that have helped me along the way, and I do thank the Lord for using them to accomplish His work, and do try to pay attention to what the Spirit teaches me through these people.

So now, after all this teaching, after all this Spirit tuturing, the adventures continue.  Thus far Lehi’s family has left Jerusalem, his sons went back to fetch the records, they brought back wives for marriage, Lehi shared his dream-vision, Nephi prayed about what it meant, and the murmuring brothers are once again quite and obedient (temporarily).

Now back to the story: Nephi says that he and his brothers got married, and that Lehi tells everyone it is time to journey into the wilderness.

“And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness” (verse 10).

So they follow the way this ball points, traveling through the wilderness.

While in the wilderness, Nephi and his brothers use bows and arrows to obtain food, as well as slings with stones.

When his brothers cannot get food, they go back to complaining, to murmuring.

When Nephi is ready to go get food (before even trying, you might notice) he asks his father (priesthood holder and prophet) where to get food.

He and his father pray about it to know where to go.

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball… And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them” (verse 26, 28).

I love this story, because it is this ball that works like a compass, except instead of it pointing north it points in the direction that the Lord wants them to go.  It is a type, symbolic of the Spirit.  For us, the Holy Spirit uses revelation, scriptures, leaders and each of us for each other as ways of showing us which ways to go.  But even now, that only works if we are paying attention and doing what it says.  The Holy Spirit (and the revelatory process) works only in response to the faith, diligence, and heed (obedience) we give it.

“And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things” (verse 29).

So Nephi goes where he is told, and is able to get food for his family.  When he brings the food back, they are full of joy (I would be!), and “they did humble themselves before the Lord, and did give thanks unto him” (verse 32).

They continue the journey, but soon mourn the loss of Ishmael, the friend from Jerusalem who came along for the journey.  His daughters, now married to Nephi and his brothers, grieve their father.  However, they let the grief get the better of them, rather than working it out in healthy ways and honoring their loss.  They begin to complain about all the “afflictions in the wilderness”, and so the murmuring starts again.  So much destruction comes from murmuring!  These girls murmur so much, and get everyone else so stirred up, that people want to go back to Jerusalem.

So the murmuring brothers, Laman and Lemuel, plot to kill Lehi so that they can go back to Jerusalem.  They also want to kill Nephi.

This is how they did “stir up their hearts to anger” (verse 38).

“And it came to pass that the Lord was with us, yea, even the voice of the Lord came and did speak many words unto them, and did chasten them exceedingly; and after they were chastened by the voice of the Lord they did turn away their anger, and did repent of their sins, insomuch that the Lord did bless us…” (verse 39).