Mosiah 16

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 16.

Abinadi the prophet, who just quoted some of Isaiah’s teachings, is still speaking to the people who should know better.

“… the time shall come when all shall see the salvation of the Lord; when every nation, kindred, tongue, and people shall see eye to eye and confess before God that his judgments are just” (verse 1).

The resurrection was for everyone, even those who do not believe.  We will all stand before God, and we will all understand what He has done for us and agree with Him about what we have done or failed to do.

Those who do believe will be able to claim the atonement of Christ, because they have chosen it now in life.   The atonement of Christ will for us meet the demands of judgment, and we will be able to claim the mercy that Christ provides.

But those who do not choose mercy now cannot claim it later “because they would not hearken unto the voice of the Lord” (verse 2).

Part of the whole mortal experience caused by Adam and Eve’s choices in eating that fruit, was that we live this life on Earth “knowing evil from good” (verse 3).   That’s the whole point, besides being born in physical bodies, of our mortality: to learn to make good choices, and in this way show our love for our Heavenly Father.   We cannot make good choices if there is no actual choice; there has to be opposition.

In Sunday School yesterday, the teacher presented it this way:

If you are at a party, and offered vanilla ice cream or vanilla ice cream, there is no actual choice.

But having vanilla or strawberry is a choice.

We needed the choice of both good and evil for us to actually be able to choose good.

But since we do have the choice, we are also held accountable for that choice.

Because we are unable to consistently and completely make good choices, there is a gap between who we are and who God is.   Christ bridges that gap.

“Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state” (verse 4).

But we have to let Him rescue us if we want to be rescued.

And if we are rescued, then He we make different (better) choices.

We are able to make better choices because He makes us perfect, as in whole and complete.  We ourselves are not perfect, but He meets us where we are and makes up the difference by giving us the perfect-ness that is His.

But if we do not want to be rescued, or do not make better choices as evidence of having been rescued, then we go “on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God… Therefore he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God” (verse 5).

We deny the very atonement of Christ, making it as “if Christ had not come into the world” (verse 6).

And if Christ never came, then death itself was never conquered, and “there could have been no resurrection” (verse 7).

What a sad outlook!

“But there IS a resurrection”! (verse 8).

Christ, being mortal, had the ability to die, but being divine was also able to conquer death itself.

“There can be no more death” (verse 9).

All of us having been given the gift of immortality.   Our choices now, in this life, will determine the quality of life we experience in that immortality, and in this way we judge ourselves.  This is how we will agree that His judgment of us is right.

“Even this mortal shall put on immortality… and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God, to be judged of him according to their works whether they be good or whether they be evil… if they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation…” (verses 10-11).

We all get immortality.  That is a free gift given to us through the resurrection of Christ.

We will all get to return to God’s presence, the presence of our Heavenly Father, even if just for a moment of judgment.

But our quality of life during that immortality, whether we get to continue to progress or not, depends on our progression here.  Do we choose progression, and so continue learning and working hard and repenting?  Every moment we turn to Him, he is ready and waiting to help, wanting to bring us closer to Him.   Do we want more joy and more happiness and more peace, and do the hard work of what it takes to live in such a way as to develop such a quality of life?

Or do we choose to quit, to stop learning, to not make changes?  Do we choose drama by not being willing to learn from our own mistakes, misery by repeating the same mistakes over and over, distress by living in fear or bitterness or anger?  Is how we live life now all we want, without any hope of anything better, easier, shinier?

We will, literally, get what we choose.

If we choose Him, the hard work of living by His example will smooth out the rough edges of life, and life gets better each step we take.

But when we choose our own path, it slowly takes us away from Him, leading us to our own consequences that meet judgment instead of claiming His mercy.

“Having gone according to their own carnal wills and desires; having never called upon the Lord while the arms of mercy were extended towards them… they being warned of their iniquities and yet they would not depart from them; and they were commanded to repent and yet they would not repent…” (verse 12).

When we repent, we are able to claim His mercy.  Judgment will be met, by what Christ has done for us, and we will be granted mercy.

But only if we choose Him now.

“And now, ought ye not to tremble and repent of your sins, and remember that only in and through Christ ye can be saved?” (verse 13).

If the people understand this, Abinadi says, then what they should be teaching the people is that the law of Moses (Old Testament) is a shadow of things which are to come.

The Law of Moses wasn’t about the sacrificial lamb, but it had a sacrificial lamb to point to the sacrifice Christ would make for us.  It wasn’t about wandering in the wilderness, it was about us wandering through our lives.  It wasn’t about bondage to the Egyptians; it was about us putting ourselves in bondage by the choices we make, and Christ being the one who is able to deliver us.  The one.

He is the only one who can deliver us.

He can and will do it, if we let Him.  He promised.

“Teach them that the redemption cometh through Christ the Lord…” (verse 15).

That is our hope, but it is a hope we know.

That knowing is our faith-become-knowledge.

It is our testimony of who He is and what He can do for us.

Mosiah 15

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 15.

After reminding the people of Isaiah’s words, Abinadi continues teaching the people:

“… I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people” (verse 1).

This is about 150 years before the birth of Christ.  Abinadi wants not only to call the people to repentance, but prepare them for His arrival.  They are, right now, under king Noah, not keeping their covenants and not making new ones.   Not only are they not looking toward Christ or doing what He says, but they are not teaching their children and grandchildren the things of God, the things of the covenant.

These same children and grandchildren will be the ones He is very soon going to visit- literally and physically!

They need to present themselves to Christ now, so that their children will know him, so that their grandchildren will be healed by Him.

He is coming to redeem them – both now and later, both literally and spiritually.

“… he shall be called the Son of God…” (verse 2).

He is called the Son of God, because He is.

This goes back to the description in Moses 6:57 of Heavenly Father as being “The Man of Holiness”, and Jesus Christ being “The Son of The Man of Holiness”.   This is the House of Israel, this is His people.

As we become covenant people, His people, we become the people of Holiness.

It’s the “Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord” as taught in 1 Nephi 15.

As the Son of God, He was born of mortal mother, and in this way was subject to all things mortal.

“And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit… suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scouraged, and cast out, and disowned by his own people” (verse 5).

He had the power at any moment to stop it, and say “Enough!”

But it was not enough until it was finished.

Now, Abinadi tells the people they are part of who mocks Him, casts Him out, and disowns Him.

They are His people, but they are not acting like it.

Covenants require both parties to finish what they have been asked to do.

The Savior did not stop, though He had the power to do so, until the work was finished.

“… he opened not his mouth” (verse 6).

He chose to finish the work.

He did not say anything to make it stop.

He could have said, “No, this is not my fault.   That was Emily’s fault.”

He could have said, “No, I am the God who created this Earth.”

He could have said anything to make it stop.  He had the power to make it stop.

But He didn’t say anything.  He finished what He was there to do.

“Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father” (verse 7).

The Son submitted to the will of the Father.

He knew this was the Father’s plan.

He knew there was no other way.

“And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death…” (verse 8).

Because He was the Son of God, He had the divine power to conquer death.

Conquering death gifted all of us with immortality.   All of us, automatically, a done deal.

But there is more:

“… giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men…” (verse 8).

He literally took upon Him our sins, so that His death paid the price that met the demands of justice.

“… having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice” (verse 9).

Because justice has been met, and our sins taken from us – not just forgiven, but removed from us – we are now clean and ready to be filled with His righteousness (See Isaiah 22:23,25).

This Great Exchange is His intercession for us:

He is able to tell our Father-in-Heaven that justice has been met without demanding its price from us; thus, we are freed by mercy in that we are no longer required to pay that price.

That makes us at-one with our Father-in-Heaven, but indebted to our Savior who paid our price.

How do we pay the Savior back?

By being His people, doing His work, being His people of Holiness.

“… who shall be his seed?” (verse 10).

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

We testify of it by looking like and acting like His people, and by talking about what He is doing in our lives.

When we act like His people, He knows we accept His gift.

When we accept His gift, by acting like His people, then we become worthy of His sacrifice.

Because He has made it possible, because He has “adopted” us as His.

Who shall be His seed?

“… whosoever has heard the words of the prophets… all those who have hearkened unto their words” (verse 11).

This is bold, coming from Abinadi-the-prophet speaking to a people who just try to kill him because they didn’t want to listen to what he had to say.

“… and believed that the Lord would redeem His people…”

I just finished reading Stephen Robinson’s Believing Christ, which does an excellent job showing how many of us believe *IN* the identity of Christ, and believe that He is who He says He is… yet so many of us to believe HIM, believe that He can really do what He said He will do.

A portion of this was in the Ensign in April 1992:

Perfection comes through the atonement of Jesus Christ. That happens as we become one with him, a perfect being. It is like a merger. If you take a small, bankrupt firm that is about to go under and merge it with a corporate giant, what happens? Their assets and liabilities flow together, and the new entity that is created is solvent.

This is similar to what happens spiritually when we enter into a covenant with the Savior. We have liabilities; he has assets. So he proposes a covenant relationship… After the covenant is made, I become one with Christ, and as partners we work together toward my exaltation. My liabilities and his assets flow into each other. I do all that I can do, and he does what I cannot yet do. For now, in partnership we are perfect, through His perfection.

What heavier burden is there than the demand we sometimes place on ourselves to be perfect now, in this life? But Jesus proposes: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

I cannot be perfect.  I cannot pay the price of my sins.  I cannot, as I am, with my past that is mine, and my weaknesses and failures, re-enter the presence of God.  I cannot.

But Christ has already atoned for me, and already paid the price.   He moved me from being so far in the hole that I couldn’t even see, to having so much deposited that I can’t even count it.   I am in the clear.

But being in the clear has the responsibility of learning to pay my bills from here on out, and He helps me do that.  He teaches me to do that.   Together, I learn to budget.  Not just budget, but invest.  Not just invest, but create.

He has promised to bring us home.

He will keep His promise.

But we have to believe Him, that He really will do it.

Not just believe in Him, not just believe in His identity, but BELIEVE HIM, believe what He says.

Believe Him when He says you “are the heirs of the kingdom of God” (verse 11).

He means it.

He will get you there. He promised.  Yes, even you.

He will get me there.  He promised.  Yes, even me.

“For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom He has died, to redeem them from their transgressions…” (verse 12).

That’s the whole point!  That’s the whole reason He suffered and died: to get you home, to get me home.

This *IS* the good news!  (verse 14).

This is why we can have peace.  (verse 16)

This is why it is so good, that we must share it with others (verse 17).

This is our premortal covenant, to share the peace of this good news!

“… O how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings…” (verse 18).

When the prophet is delivering a call to repentance to the people, the message is called a “burden”.  That burden becomes a curse if the people reject the message.

But when the people have received the message, are repentant, and are living the covenant, then they are testifying – and this testifying is the “good tidings”.   The people themselves, by building their testimonies and sharing them, become prophets (Revelation 19:10).

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

“For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, I say unto you, were it not for this, all mankind must have perished” (verse 19).

He has done His part, and now we must do our part.

“…the Son reigneth” (verse 20).

In this way, the Savior has indeed saved us.

And as we become like Him, by testifying of Him, we shall be called in His work – even the work of the resurrection of the dead (verses 20, 21).

“And now, the resurrection of all the prophets, and all those that have believed in their words, or all those that have kept the commandments of God, shall come forth in the first resurrection” (verse 22).

Why are those who have believed Him and so testified of Him resurrected?

“They are raised to dwell with God who has redeemed them; thus they have eternal life through Christ…” (verse 23).

All will receive immortality.

But the quality of that immortality, including its purpose and progression, depends on us receiving – including testifying of Him – now.

He gives all of us immortality, no matter what we think of Him.   That gift is a freebie.

But our choices now, what covenants we are able to keep now, determine the quality of that immortality.

This clearly made king Noah and his people nervous, because they have not been making good choices.

Abinadi-the-prophet says they should be nervous!

“But behold, and fear, and tremble before God, for ye ought to tremble; for the Lord redeemeth none such that rebel against him… that willfully rebelled against God, that have known the commandments of God and would not keep them; these are they that have no part in the first resurrection” (verse 26).

These people are busted.

Busted, but not condemned.

Abinadi is trying to reach them, trying to show them how easy it is, how simple it is.   He isn’t trying to blast them with how awful they are, but he is trying to show them how precarious their situation is.  They are not bad people, but they are making bad choices.

The danger has come because they broke their covenants in tiny ways, and this has led to breaking covenants in big ways.

And if they go so far as to reject Christ completely, and His prophets sent to help and warn them, then they are denying the gift offered them: the very atonement that brings mercy.

And without mercy, they are left in the hands of justice.

“… neither can the Lord redeem such; for he cannot deny himself; for he cannot deny justice when it has its claim…” (verse 27).

But there is hope.

There is hope in returning to Christ, finding our way back to Him, and letting Him help us make things right again.   There is mercy being offered.

And it is offered to us all (verse 28).

“And now I say unto you that the time shall come that the salvation of the Lord shall be declared to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” (verse 28).

And then a marvelous verse that we know refers even to General Conference, because of Elder Holland’s statement about how similar verses refer to our day, to our time, to General Conference itself.

This is the time of “good tidings” being declared from the mountaintops (Temples!).

These are the latter days of the Latter-days!

These are the days of preparation for when the Savior shall return!

“Yea, the Lord, thy watchmen shall lift up their voice; with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion” (verse 29).

This is our hope!

“Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem” (verse 30).

We are no longer “waste places”!

We are no longer nothing-ness!

We are no longer without purpose!

We are His, redeemed, clean and well and whole and perfect in Him, with purposes to fulfill and celebrations to enjoy.

“The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (verse 31).

We sing this in “How Firm a Foundation“:

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

Mosiah 14

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 14.  Compare to Isaiah 53.

Abinadi the prophet continues his speech to king Noah and his people, now giving them scripture from Isaiah (verse 1), quoting the prophesies that point to the coming of Christ.

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

Christ was born, and grew as any normal child grows, requiring the care and protection and nourishing of his earthly parents.  He was as normal looking as any child, with no special outward appearance that announced him as the Messiah.

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (verse 3).

Note that it says “He *IS* despised and rejected…”, not just that He will be despised (by the Jews of His day, or the haters of our day), or that He was despised (at the time of his ministry or death, or even premortally by those who did not follow Heavenly Father’s plan).   He quotes the verses as “He *is* despised”, and thus confronts king Noah and his people with the fact that they are, right now, in the very state of despising the Christ.

“Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (verse 4).

This is the work of the atonement, which is in three steps: the work in Gethsemane, and the work of the crucifixion, and the work of the resurrection.

We know that the resurrection is what conquered death, so that all of us get immortality.

We often speak of the crucifixion, which paid the price of our sins, meeting justice for our breaking the laws of God.

But in this verse, Abinadi and Isaiah are talking about the first step, in Gethsemane, where Jesus Christ became the sinner in our place.   He didn’t just pay the price for us on the cross.  He did do that, yes, but the reason He could do that was because He took our sin for us.  It wasn’t just that He died and we were forgiven, but rather He took our sins from us – so that we could be INNOCENT, more than just forgiven – and He, who had done no sin, became the sinner, feeling all of our griefs and sorrows from living in this fallen state, and suffered our consequences instead of us having to suffer.  He took on both the pain of our sin, and the pain of the consequences.

(Stephen E Robinson does a marvelous job explaining this in Chapter Five of “Believing Christ“.)

“… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities…” (verse 5).

He was not being punished for His own mistakes.

He was punished for ours.

He took our sins upon Himself, and then paid the price for them.

He did this for me.

He did this for you.

He did this for all of us.

“All we, like sheep, have gone astray…” (verse 6).

All of us.  Even me.  Even you.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth…” (verse 7).

Being divine, being God, He had the power to stop at anytime.  At any moment, He could have said, “this is too hard!” or “this is too much!”   But He didn’t.  He took it, all of it, every bit.

He finished the work He came to do.

“He was taken from prison and from judgment…” (verse 8).

He was never really held in prison, waiting for a fair trial.   He was arrested in the night, given a fake trial, bounced around because no one really wanted to kill him, and then finally killed by His own people.   The Living Christ says it this way:

He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind.

“And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death” (verse 9).

He was crucified between two criminals, and buried in a donated tomb.

“Yet it pleased the Lord…” (verse 10).

It’s so hard to comprehend!

He loved us THAT much.

He wanted THAT MUCH for us to make it back home to Heavenly Father.

And He has PROMISED that we will.

We can, because He has met the demands of justice:

“He (Heavenly Father) shall see the travail of his (Jesus Christ’s) soul, and shall be satisfied…” (verse 11).

The atonement satisfies the requirements of justice.

“… he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors…” (verse 12).

That’s us.

We are the many.

We are the transgressors.

We are the many transgressors.

He did it for all of us.

 

Mosiah 13

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 13.

King Noah did much like what the prophet Abinadi had said (in the last chapter).

“And now when the king had heard these words, he said unto his priests: Away with this fellow, and slay him; for what have we to do with him, for he is mad” (verse 1).   The king’s guards tried to get at him, but Abinadi stood his ground (verse 2):

“Touch me not, for God shall smite you if ye lay your hands upon me, for I have not delivered the message which the Lord sent me to deliver; neither have I told you that which ye requested that I should tell; therefore, God will not suffer that I shall be destroyed at this time…” (verse 3).

“But I must fulfill the commandments wherewith God has commanded me…” (verse 4).

Abinadi knows he has not yet finished his work on the earth, and that the Lord will protect him in such a way that he will be able to finish his work.

“… because I have told you the truth, ye are angry with me” (verse 4).

This goes back to what we say with Nephi and his people, that people only think words are “harsh” when they do not want to hear the truth.  People are only offended when they do not want to make the changes they are called to make.  People only get angry because they do not want to yield power to God, or rather, submit to the power of God, and instead try to defend themselves without Him.

“And again, because I have spoken the word of God, ye have judged me that I am mad” (verse 4).

The world often excuses themselves from the word of God by avoiding it, either through anger that pushes it away from them (so they do not have to apply the words to themselves) or by dismissing it as another’s delusion (so they still do not have to apply it to themselves).

We see this happen over and over again in Scripture, where people respond to prophets either through obedience, anger, or dismissing them as crazy.

We see it in our world today, when people respond to our testimonies with respect or questions or their own learning, anger and refusal to even hear or even lashing out, or dismissing it as “just their thing” or the craziness of religion’s “out there” ideas.

It is a type of what is to come, for when the Savior returns with the city-world of Enoch, in such a way that all experience it and no one can deny it, even then people will still try to “explain away” what it means – even when they can no longer deny that it happened.  Whether it is the people of Noah’s time, or the people of Nephi, or any other people ever – this is the pattern, that if they do not respond to the call of repentance, then they instead “explain away” that call (because they can no longer deny it).   They have to explain it away because they don’t want to submit to it, or don’t want to humble themselves to admit it, or don’t want to be held accountable to responding to it in some way.

But it can no longer be denied.

“Now it came to pass after Abinadi had spoken these words that the people of king Noah durst not lay their hands on him, for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses’ did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord, and he spake with a power and authority from God…” (verse 5).

There is light, literal light, in the sheckinah, in the presence of God.

Here Abinadi is transfigured in a way so literally because he is so literally in tune, in line, in order, in Order, with the work of the Lord, with the message of the Lord, with the calling of the Lord.

The more His people we become, the more we are literally changed.

That change is not evidence of how good WE are.

That change is evidence of His righteousness, His Spirit, His power, His glory, His holiness, His presence.

When we become His holy people, there is evidence in our very countenance, a taste of it and a feeling of it in our presence, not because of who we are, but because of who He is.  It is palpable enough, literal enough, that other people can sense it and feel it when they interact with us.

Or not, if we are not being holy, and if we are not being His people.

These people are not being His people, and Abinadi has a message to call them back to the covenant.

This is holy work, and the people can sense it, feel it, and see it in him.

“Ye see that ye have not the power to slay me, therefore I finish my message.  Yea, and I perceive that it cuts you to your hearts because I tell you the truth concerning your iniquities” (verse 7).

Our biggest emotional reactions are almost always because there is some truth in the message given to us.  We don’t like how it un-does us, we don’t like how un-comfortable it feels, and we don’t like the truth of it because we don’t want to change, or we are scared to change, or we don’t know how to do things differently.

But if we just listen, and submit, peace would come and learning would happen.   We would be happy.

Instead, we fight and kick against it, so that it becomes more and more painful and we become more and more exhausted, because we are fighting harder and harder to get away from that light of truth, to fight it off from invading our world, to block it out of our hearts.

But the truth of it can no longer be denied.

“Yea, and my words fill you with wonder and amazement, and with anger” (verse 8).

We only think the teaching is harsh when we don’t want to receive it.

“But I finish my message; and then it matters not whither I go…” (verse 9).

He knows the Lord will protect him to finish his work on the earth.

When that work is finished, it is okay for him to go because he has fulfilled that mission.

“But this much I tell you, what you do with me, after this, shall be as a type of shadow of things which are to come” (verse 10).

This is packed.

We know what they to do him happens to them.

We know it is similar to how the people did not believe Christ, and crucified Him.

We know it is similar to how people will respond when Christ returns with the city-world of Enoch, and people acknowledge Him but try to “explain it away”.

So then, Abinadi proves himself faithful to the mission given by the Lord and true to what these people should already know, as he teaches them the basics of the gospel:

“And now I read unto you the remainder of the commandments of God, for I perceive that they are not written in your hearts; I perceive that ye have studied and taught iniquity the most part of your lives” (verse 11).

So not only are they not living the commandments, but they are not teaching the commandments.

This effects generation after generation, and Abinadi is here to correct these “false traditions” from being passed down.

He gives, in verses 12 through 24, a review of the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20:1-17:

 12And now, ye remember that I said unto you: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of things which are in heaven above, or which are in the earth beneath, or which are in the water under the earth.

13And again: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me;

14And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

15Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

16Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

17Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work;

18But the seventh day, the sabbath of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;

19For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

20 Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

21Thou shalt not kill.

22Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal.

23Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

24Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.

 

Having reviewed the commandments the people should know, Abinadi blasts them for not only not living these commandments, but also not teaching them to the people so the people can live them, too.

“Have ye taught this people that they should observe to do all these things for to keep these commandments?   I say unto you, Nay; for if he had, the Lord would not have caused me to come forth and to prophesy evil concerning this people…” (verses 25-26).

It is vitally important that we not only live the commandments, and by doing so keep our covenants, but that we also testify of them.   In word and deed, people around us should know not only what (Who) guides our lives, but why it makes a difference.

This is our premortal covenant: that Christ would atone for us (which He has), and that we would testify of that atonement.

“It is expedient” (verse 27).

It is what teaches other people to find their way.

It’s not just about following rules, but the difference that covenant-keeping makes in our lives.

“I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish…” (verse 28).

We need the rules to help us keep covenants.

If we could do it, if we would just do it, we would not need so many commandments.

We are treated like children because we behave like children.

“… it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God; therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him” (verses 29-30).

The laws and commandments are not there to oppress us or remove our freedom.

The laws and commandments are there to help us remember that we need God, so that we are willing and able to choose Him.  This is what sets us free.

We need Him, all of us, because without Him none of us can “be saved except it were through the redemption of God” (verse 32).

This is the message of the commandments, even from the time of Moses.

All the commandments and all the prophets have pointed to the atonement which we now can claim.

“For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people?  Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began – have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?”  (verse 33).

“Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in might power upon the face of the earth?” (verse 34).

“Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted?” (verse 35).

It was for us that he was oppressed and afflicted.
No one has been more misunderstood or more hated than Jesus.
He gets it.
And no one has loved more fully, more completely, more patiently, more in depth than Him, our Savior.
This is the simple message: that He loves us, and wants to set us free to be who we were created to be.

Mosiah 12

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 12.

Since the people have already rejected him once, and tried to kill him, when Abinadi the prophet returns to preach and teach the people, he comes in disguise (verse 1).   But he also reveals who he is when he preaches.  So he is not trying to be secretive, just trying to be safe while doing his work.  In this way, he is able to deliver the message from the Lord:

“….it shall come to pass that this generation, because of their iniquities, shall be brought into bondage…” (verse 2).

Having been warned of the bondage, but still refusing to repent, bondage now is imminent.

In verses 3-7, he goes on to explain in great detail what that bondage will look like, from oppression by other nations to natural disasters to personal problems as individuals.

“And it shall come to pass that except they repent, I will utterly destroy them…” (verse 8).

These words – harsh to those not obedient to a prophet – again made the people mad, and they tied him up and hauled him off to king Noah again (verse 9).  To make sure king Noah is good and mad at the prophet, the people tell the king all the things the prophet prophesied against the king if he does not lead the people in repentance (verses 9-12).   Then they repeat the phrase which the king had taught them, about what’s so special about this prophet or what’s the big deal about God, that they (as a people) should be judged (verse 14)?   They do not believe they have done anything wrong:

“And now, O king, behold, we are guiltless, and thou, o king, has not sinned; therefore, this man has lied concerning you, and he has prophesied in vain” (verse 14).

They also straight out reject his message of warning:

“And behold, we are strong, we shall not come into bondage…” (verse 15).

Clearly, they have forgotten Who it is that makes them strong.

And so they reject the words of the prophet, and hand him over to the king (verse 16).

King Noah responds by throwing the prophet into prison (verse 17).

Not sure what to do with him, king Noah holds a council to help him decide.  They request that the prophet be brought to them for questioning (verse 18).  They do question him, and he “answered boldly, and withstood all their questions, yea, to their astonishment…” (verse 19).

One of the specific examples of these questions is given in verse 20, when one of them asks the prophet what he means by certain verses which are quoted from Isaiah (verses 21-24).

Rather than arguing about what Isaiah said, Abinidi simply confronts them for not doing their job.

“And now Abiniadi said unto them: Are you priests, and pretend to teach this people, and to understand the spirit of prophesying, and yet desire to know of me what these things means?” (verse 25).

Abinadi calls them out for being fakers, for calling themselves priests but not teaching the people.

“I say unto you, wo be unto you for perverting the ways of the Lord!”  (verse 26).

Abinadi calls them out for not studying the scriptures, and points out this is why they cannot teach the people.

“Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise” (verse 27), followed by his own way of asking “If you don’t know anything, what can you teach?!”

They respond, with pride in their hearts, that they teach the law of Moses (verse 28).

But Abinadi continues the confrontation, pushing them to see the truth, and urging them to respond to it.  He says, “if ye teach the law of Moses, why do ye not keep it?” (verse 29).  He lists their specific sins, and says that they cannot teach what they do not know, and they cannot teach what they do not live.

“Know ye not that I speak the truth?  Yea, ye know that I speak the truth; and you ought to tremble before God” (verse 30).

Since they still have not repented, the warning continues as the Lord prepares to let them choose bondage.  But the people still think they will be safe because of the law of Moses (verse 32).

Abinadi confronts their thinking error, pointing out that the whole reason for the law of Moses is to help the people keep their covenants (verse 33).   He points out one of then ten commandments that these people have broken (verses 34-36) to show how breaking this law has caused them to break their covenants.

So have they followed the Law of Moses, and thus kept their covenants?

“… I say unto you, Nay, ye have not.   And have ye taught this people that they should do all these things?  I say unto you, Nay, ye have not” (verse 37).

Repentance requires a hard look at the truth of where we are, and what our relationship with God is like, and how we live that out through our relationships with others.

It is not meant to be shaming and oppressive in a way that leads us to despair.

It is meant to call us back, to stir us up to remembering who we are and who He is, to help us return to Him.

Chunky + Explosion = Fire

There was nothing on my calendar today.

Nothing.

I had two offers for birthday parties, one offer for dinner, and there was a ballroom dance.

I turned them all down, for because I don’t know when the last time was that I had a whole, clear, nothing-scheduled day off work.   So I protected it with my life, and enjoyed every minute.   I hung out with my mom, got little projects done (but specifically refused to do chores on this glorious day), played in my garden, and did a lot of cooking.

Tonight I talked with my brother on the phone about how my dad is doing (not good), and then I played scrabble with my mom.

It was the best day ever.  For realz.

By the time the sun was going down, I was rested enough to stop being obstinate about mowing my lawn.  It had cooled down (comparatively) enough that if I was going to do it, now was the time.  Also, mom was beating me something awful at scrabble.

So I put on my mowin’ shoes (every real Girl has some), opened the garage door, and pulled out the mower.

I got the front yard done just fine (best I can without a weed eater), and started on the backyard.

By the time I got around-the-garden mowed and started on the “regular” yard, I could tell it wasn’t working right.   I knew it was time to add gas, but something else didn’t feel right, either.  I don’t wear my cochlear implants when I mow (who wants to hear that awful sound?!), but I could tell by what it was doing and how it felt that something else was off besides it just running out of gas.

I thought maybe it needed a little oil.

I do know enough to let it cool before adding oil.

So I did.

It gave me time to sweep the front sidewalk and driveway.

Then I added gas and a little oil, and went back to work in the back.

This is when the excitement happened.

It turns out that if you don’t get the oil cap back on just right, and spill a little gas when you are filling up the lawnmower, and then accidentally run over a little baby escaped-watermelon, it makes for one amazing chunky explosion.

I mean CHUNKY explosion.

Also, it causes your lawnmower to catch fire.

It was amazing!  I wanted to stand and clap and jump in excitement, except for the shock of it all.

Oh, and the fire.

But the fire was fine, for because I am a mormon, so my house is full of be-prepared-fire-extinguishers.

So I put the fire out (knowing to use the fire extinguisher on the mower, and the water hose on the grass), all while wearing my big-girl-mowin’-shoes and spraying foam all over my melon patch.

The explosion made such a sound that the neighbors – The Menz – came running around the house to make sure I was okay (for which I was grateful, in case I had not been okay).

My neighbor, who is very much not a mormon, saw the exploded watermelon all over my fence, and said, “It looks like you shot somebody”, adding a few choice words in between.

My other neighbor, checking out the foam all over my lawnmower, added that it sure sounded like someone had been shot.

I was just standing there, making sure my mowin’-shoes hadn’t melted.

It was the most exciting thing that has ever happened in my backyard.

The dogs were very jealous that they missed it.

The Menz, of course, were less concerned that I was okay, and more concerned about this new found evidence that girls ought not be trying to mow their own backyards.

Nonsense, I say.

It wasn’t my fault.

It was the watermelon’s fault.

I worked hard putting in garden boxes for raised beds, and very carefully put up that fence around it.   It’s not my fault a watermelon tried to escape.   “Natural consequences,” I say.

“It looks like you shot somebody,” say The Menz.

Clearly, I have offended The Menz by destroying a piece of machinery in my effort to murder a watermelon.  While otherwise very polite and helpful neighbors, they are not realizing I am grieving for my watermelon and worried about its nearby brothers and sisters far more than I am worried about the lawnmower.

This was my next offense.

The Menz don’t care about watermelon survivors.

They want a proper burial for the lawnmower.

Already conspiracy theories are being whispered from house to house… stories about piston rings and spark plugs fly through the neighborhood faster than that watermelon flew through the air.

I realize I am on trial.

I am on trial for the murder of a lawnmower.

I want to wash watermelon juice off my legs, but somehow The Menz now hold the authority in my backyard, and I’m not allowed to leave until the issue is settled.

I suddenly feel far away from – even lonely for – the doilies in Relief Society.

Finally, finally, finally, I get slapped on the back like a real-feller, and am declared innocent.

“That watermelon wanted to die,” The Menz say, adding something about a sheared flywheel key and coil pickups, “but it killed your mower, like a deer on the highway.”

I am very glad I didn’t mow over a deer.  I did run over a squirrel once when I was biking at the river, and it was the most horrible thing ever.  I am really, really glad I didn’t mow over a deer.

But mostly I just want my watermelon back.

So I grieve, hosing down the brutal evidence off my fence while they start playing with screwdrivers and other shiny tools.  I am not sure if they are trying to fix it for me, or if they are fighting for parts.  I am glad I am not wearing my cochlear implant processors; sometimes silence is best.

Excepting secretly, in the silence of my own head, I am kind of sad I missed the sound of an exploding watermelon.

We might need to play re-do’s later, for a little instant replay when no one is looking.

Oh, and when I buy a new mower.

Mosiah 11

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 11.

It comes time to Zeniff to pass down his new kingdom in the land of the Lamanites.  He passes the kingdom down to his son, Noah.  Noah does not stay true to the covenant of the repented people (verse 1).

“… he did not keep the commandments of God… he did walk after the desires of his own heart… he did cause his people to commit sin.. and all manner of wickedness” (verse 2).

This is exactly what the people have just repented of with Zeniff.  They, as a people, have repented of trying to do things their own way.  They worked hard to re-establish the covenant, and to work hard doing things the Lord’s ways.  Now already they are slipping back to old patterns.

And all things spiritual are also temporal.

So when they begin to lose spiritual strength and power, when they surrender it (by not looking like and acting like a covenant people), then their temporal strength and power is soon to be lost as well.

King Noah begins to tax them heavily (verse 3).

“And all this did he take to support himself… thus he had changed the affairs of the kingdom” (verse 4).

Up until now, the kings had taught self-reliance by example, and the last chapter was very specific about how all the people worked hard to cultivate the land, grow crops, make their own clothes, etc.  Now things have changed because the ruling class are becoming separated by taxing the people for what they need, while also demanding the working class provide their needs for them.

And all things are both temporal and spiritual.

So as these temporal affairs change, so do the spiritual affairs.

King Noah got rid of the Priesthood, formally doing away with the covenant.

In their places, he called his own people as “priests”.  This is an illusion, a priestcraft, a no-authority mockery of the real priesthood (verse 5).   These false priests joined in the ruling class abusing the hard work of everyone else to demand their needs be met without having to do their own work.

“Yea, and thus they were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity” (verse 6).

Funding iniquity is always part of priestcraft, and once iniquity is supported and set as the “normal”, then it is not long before it infiltrates the people and begins to infect them.

“Yea, and they also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them” (verse 7).

In therapy, we call this “colluding”.  Because the people know the king’s behavior is not okay, in order to get away with it he has to get them on board, on the same page, colluding – or agreeing to this behavior, so that it can continue.  It’s like giving permission for the bad behavior to continue, even though you don’t like it or enjoy it.

It’s like a false covenant.  Instead of both parties agreeing to what they will do to help the other, it’s a false covenant where both parties agree that one will oppress the other.  That’s colluding.

So what did king Noah do with all that tax money he wrestled away form the people?

He “built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things…” (verse 8).

“And he also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof…” (verse 9).

“And he also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple…” (verse 10).   But this was not a sacrifice to the Lord, or an effort to give the best to Him.  It was for show, to flatter the people, to woo them.  It was because of the pride in his own heart.  It was to build an illusion of power.  It was to provide the setting “while they should speak lying and vain words to his people” (verse 11).

King Noah also built towers, so that he could overlook the land (verses 12-13).  These were not security towers, as part of fortifying the land.  These were pride-towers, to climb high to see what all he possessed.   These towers were not military or defense towers that protected the people.

This is the destruction of pride, in that he is destroying the people he thinks he owns.

This is the illusion of pride, looking out over a land he is not even trying to protect.

“And it came to pass that he placed his heart upon his riches, and he spent his time in riotous living…” (verse 14).

What can make this worse?

Alcohol.

“And it came to pass that he planted a vineyards rounds about in the land; and he built wine-presses, and made wine in abundance;a nd therefore he became a wine-bibber, and also his people” (verse 15).

So once again, what he does, he also leads the people to do.

How has he led his people?  He has led them to forsake their covenants.  He has led them to stop working to develop their land.  He has led them to break the laws that organize the chaos of a community.  He has led them to forget to protect their land.  He has put them to sleep with alcohol.

Good times?  Not so much.  He has put himself and his people in danger.

“And it came to pass that the Lamanites began to come in upon his people…” (verse 16).

King Noah’s response?   To send guards, “but he did not send a sufficient number, and the Lamanites came upon them and killed them…” (verse 17).

Since that didn’t work, he sent whole armies, and like any war, they went back and forth.  But when finally driving the Lamanites back, they came home “rejoicing in their spoil” (verse 18).  Not rejoicing in the Lord, or the Lord’s strength, or the Lord’s help.  Not celebrating the protection of their people, or having any gratitude for their freedom.  They rejoiced in what they got out of the deal.

“And now, because of this great victory, they were lifted up in the pride of their hearts; they did boast in their own strength… because of the wickedness of their king and priests…” (verse 19).

King Noah has led his people to be wicked.

He is leading them to destruction.

But always, before destruction comes, the Lord sends a prophet to warn the people.

“And it came to pass that there was a man among them whose name was Abinadi; and he went forth among them, and began to prophesy, saying… thus saith the Lord – Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger” (verse 20).

“And except they repent and turn to the Lord their God, behold, I will deliver them into the hands of their enemies; yea, and they shall be brought into bondage; and they shall be afflicted by the hand of their enemies” (verse 21).

“… they shall know that I am the Lord their God…” (verse 22).

When a people choose wickedness that leads them to destruction, the Lord sends a prophet to warn them.

His first warning is always, “Return to me now, and you will not have to go into bondage”.

This people have already used up that card.

His next warning is always, “Return to me now, and you will go into bondage but I will lighten your load.”

This people have already used up that card.

His next warning is always, “I cannot prevent your bondage, because you have chosen it.  I cannot lighten your load, because you have chosen a heavy burden.  But I can still deliver you.  Return to me now, and I can deliver you.  But it will be in such a way that all will know it was me, the Lord your God, who delivered you, and that you did not deliver yourself.”

That’s where this people are now.

“… except this people repent and turn unto the Lord their God, they shall be brought into bondage; and none shall deliver them, except it be the Lord the Almighty God” (verse 23).

But they have already chosen bondage, and they have already chosen to carry the burden of that bondage.

“Yea, and it shall come to pass that when they shall cry unto me, I will be slow to hear their cries…” (verse 24).

But there is still hope.

Even with the consequences of their choices that they must suffer, there is still hope to be delivered – if they humble themselves, repent, and turn to the Lord, there is still hope to be delivered.

“And except they repent in sackcloth and ashes, and cry mightily to the Lord their God, I will not hear their prayers, neither will I deliver them out of their afflictions…” (verse 25).

Why so serious?

Because not only have they broken their covenants, but they have set up false covenants instead.

He – and they themselves – need to know they are serious about His covenants.  They have to mean it, and have a lot of healing work to do to become a covenant people again.  They didn’t just break the laws; they tried to change them.   They will have to show true submission to His ways to be able to re-enter a covenant, because they have destroyed the covenant concept itself.   So there is a lot of work to do for this people to rebuild an understanding of what a covenant is, much less making or keeping covenants.  It’s a big deal.

But it’s not what the people want to hear.

“Now it came to pass that when Abinadi had spoken these words unto them, they were wroth with him, and sought to take away his life; but the Lord delivered him out of their hands” (verse 26).

They didn’t want to hear what Abinadi had to say, so they tried to kill him.

That’s the illusion of pride and power, that they are so big and strong and powerful that they can ignore the truth by getting rid of a person.  Even if Abinadi had died in that moment, it would not change the truth of his message.  Silencing him does not silence the truth of his message.

Then king Noah finds out what is going on.

And he is NOT happy.

“… and he said, “Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him, or who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction?”

These statements, made in anger, show how far away king Noah has come from the covenants his father made.   He calls the prophet of God a nobody, while showing he has no plans of submitting to his warnings.  Then he goes a step further, also calling the Lord a nobody, showing that his own foolishness in denying the power of God.

Then he emphatically declares his choice:

“I command you to bring Abinadi hither, that I may slay him, for he has said these things that he might stir up my people to anger one with another, and to raise contentions among my people; therefore I will slay him” (verse 28).

He is still mocking the covenant, because the “contentions” here he is referring to is repentance.  The only contention is what he is causing.  It’s the people repenting, instead of colluding with him, that he doesn’t like.

But he is their king, and he has worked hard to keep the people colluding with him.

So he leads them to choose as he has chosen:

“Now the eyes of the people were blinded; therefore they hardened their hearts against the words of Abinadi, and they sought from that time forward to take him.  And king Noah hardened his heart against the word of the Lord, and he did not repent of his evil doings” (verse 29).

Sadness.

So they, together, choose destruction instead of deliverance.

This answers the question chapters ago, before the flashback in time, when King Limhi asked the question of “How did we get into bondage?  What happened to our people?  What led us into destruction?”

This moment answers that question.

Why were they led into bondage under the Lamanites?

Because they refused the words of the Prophet, and chose not to repent.

Mosiah 10

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 10.

Now that Zeniff and his people have found themselves in bondage to King Laman and the Lamanites, they have returned to the Lord by remembering Him.  He strengthened them to fight for their land, “and we again began to possess the land in peace” (verse 1).

But they continued to be ready for battle.

They continued making weapons, and they “set guards round about the land, that the Lamanites might not come upon us again unawares and destroy us…” (verse 2).  This was their way for 22 years (verse 3), while they continued to work the land and work to provide for their own people (verse 4 – 5).

But then King Laman died, and his son took over by immediately stirring up his people in rebellion against Zeniff and his people (verse 6).   However, because they had guards ready, Zeniff’s people discovered the Lamanite preparation for war (verse 7-8).  SO they hid the women and children in the wilderness, and all the men who could bear arms prepared for battle (verse 9).

And when they went to battle, they “did go up in the strength of the Lord” (verse 10).

The Lamanites, of course, knew nothing of the Lord or the strength the Lord’s people can get from Him (verse 11).  But still, they had the strength of men and “were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people” (verse 12).

Why?

Zeniff explains: the Lamanites believed, because of how their fathers taught them, that “they were driven out of Jerusalem (in the time of Lehi) because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren…” (verse 12).

Remember when Lehi took his family out of Jerusalem because the Lord warned them of the Babylonian captivity that was coming?  Remember how Nephi was obedient and willing, but his brothers Laman and Lemuel complained?  These complaining brothers passed this murmuring down to their children, who continued the complaining, who passed it down to their children.   So instead of learning of the Lord’s purpose or His covenants, they only received bitterness and anger and ugliness that they spat out at each other and everyone around them.

It gives us pause to consider what false traditions of our own ancestors we have received, that we need to change instead of continuing to pass down to the next generation?

Do we teach them obedience and joy in the Lord’s plan?  Or bitterness, rage, and feeling wronged and un-appreciated?

By the time of Zeniff’s day, the descendants of Laman and Lemuel believed that “they were wronged while in the land… and all this because that Nephi was more faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord – therefore he was favored of the Lord, for the Lord heard his prayers and answered them, and he took the lead of the journey in the wilderness” (verse 13).

Do we do the hard work of being obedient and faithful?

Or do we murmur because of the blessings others receive as a result of their hard work?

“And his brethren were wroth with him because they understood not the dealings of the Lord…” (verse 14).

Worse, do we murmur – and then even attack – when the understandings others have to offer feel “hard” to us?  Or do we accept the teaching, appreciate the lesson, and submit to applying it in our lives?

“And again, they were wroth with him… because… he had taken the ruling of the people out of their hands” (verse 15).

Do we “punish” those called to serve in some capacity, getting lost in anger and bitterness that they are “abandoning” us?  Or do we celebrate with them as they are called away, sustaining the Priesthood that called them and striving to support and strengthen them in the ways we are able?

“And again, they were wroth with him because he departed into the wilderness as the Lord had commanded him…” (verse 16).

Do we do the hard work of preparing to qualify for higher service?

Or resent and hinder the progress of others?

“And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them… and do all they could to destroy them…” (verse 17).

In these ways, the Lamanites oppressed and persecuted Zeniff and his people.

“For this very cause has king Laman, by his cunning, and lying craftiness, and his fair promises, deceived me, that I have brought this my people unto this land, that they may destroy them; ye, and we have suffered these many years in the land” (verse 18).

Zeniff and his people acted in faith, not from fear.

Zeniff and his people addressed the battle directly, ready “to go to battle with their might, putting their trust in the Lord” (verse 19).

They found until they won (verse 20).

They endured.

Then, rather than seeking further battle, they focused on their own lives and returned to caring for the land and providing for their people (verse 21).

Instead of stirring things up again, and instead of provoking another war, and instead of letting the drama continue, once their job was done they withdrew and focused on their own lives and their own obedience and providing and protecting their own people.

This was the end of Zeniff’s reign (verse 22).

 

Mosiah 9: Peace Treaties

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 9.

This chapter begins “the Record of Zeniff”, which continues through chapter 22.  It’s a book within a book within a book.  Let’s review:

The people of Zarahemla had good King Benjamin, who taught them to be a covenant people.  King Benjamin passed his kingdom down to his son, Mosiah.  Mosiah continued this righteous reign, and there is peace in the land.  But the people tease Mosiah about a missing group of people who left Zarahemla and never returned, and so he sends a search party out after them.  Ammon is the leader of this search party.  Ammon and his search party found the missing group, who are now living in the land of Lehi-Nephi.  These missing people are ruled by King Limhi, but in bondage to the Lamanites.  While celebrating their reunion, King Limhi tells Ammon that he has the records of his people, the missing group!  The whole history of the people since the time they left the land of Zarahemla.

These chapters, chapters 9-22, are that record, that history of the people who left the land of Zarahemla.

So these chapters are their story, and then in chapter 25 we pick back up in “real time” and see what happens (baptism!) after King Limhi’s people are reunited with the Nephites, having repented and returned to being (looking like and acting like) covenant people.

But for now, we take a time out to catch up with what happened to King Limhi’s people from the time they left Zarahemla until now, when they are in bondage to the Lamanites.

The story starts with Zeniff, who was a Nephite.  Because he knew the land well, he was sent out as a spy to check on the Lamanites.  The Nephites wanted to destroy the Lamanites because they continued to attack them in war and they had done terrible war things to the Nephite people.   But, Zeniff says, “when I saw that which was good among them, I was desirous that they should not be destroyed” (verse 1).

So instead of doing what he was told (like Nephi, who was told to kill Laban for a greater purpose), he “contended with my brethren in the wilderness” (verse 2).  Instead of destroying the Lamanites, he wanted to make a peace treaty with them.

Here’s the problem with that logic:  the problem with the Lamanites was that they were not a covenant keeping people.  If they had been able to keep covenants, they would not be involved with contention or war.  If they are not able to keep covenants (spiritually), they are not going to be able to keep a peace treaty, either (temporally).

Everything is about covenants.

Every relationship we have is about covenants.

There are some people, some friends, some relationships that we can make “peace treaties” with because they are able to keep covenants (even if they do not have the full story yet, don’t yet know the full gospel, or don’t yet know of Covenants with a capital “C”).   If they are able to keep the covenants they do have, if they are working on their line upon line, no matter which line that is, then this is a person making progress (even if at their own pace).  Anyone making progress, line upon line, is a person climbing toward making and keeping covenants.

But there are others who refuse to make covenants (won’t participate, bitter, unforgiving, won’t initiate) or to keep covenants (won’t accept feedback, explosive, gossip, unfaithful, blaming others, pushing limits, demanding).   This is why there is a cycle to abuse, and why contention breeds drama that repeats itself.   In these situations, there cannot be a peace treaty because a treaty requires both parties to agree to their responsibilities and keep their promises.  A treaty is a covenant, so someone who cannot keep covenants will not be able to keep a peace treaty, either.

This was the problem, repeatedly, in this history of the Israelites.  They kept making peace treaties with people who did not know how to keep covenants or were not able to keep covenants.  So instead of having “peace”, the influence of what-is-not-of-God infiltrated their camps, slowly and subtly, until they had fallen away because they were desensitized to what-is-not-of-God until it became a part of them.

Many of these influences, at least initially, may not technically be evil, but they can blunt our judgment, dull our spirituality, and lead to something that could be evil. An old proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, so watch your step….  Like thieves in the night… we don’t have to throw open the door, serve them tea and crumpets, and then tell them where the silverware is kept! (You shouldn’t be serving tea anyway.) Throw the rascals out!

(Elder Holland, Place No More for the Enemy of my Soul, April 2010)

But it always starts when we have a good reason, when we think we are justified.

But that’s always a red flag: when we feel “justified”, that is contention and not of God.

Zeniff had been through a lot, though, and had seen how “father fought against father, and brother against brother” (verse 2).   So he was “over-zealous” (verse 3), because of these experiences, which led him to wanting to do things his own way instead of the Lord’s way.

Not listening to the Savior, however, led them into danger.

Again, this is a great parallel to liken into our lives, because most of us don’t try to break covenants and don’t try to fall away.  Most of us don’t just quit or give up or suddenly do some great sin without anything leading up to it.

The transgression always comes before sin, and it’s the transgressions we usually don’t notice.

It’s the transgressions that lead us into danger, long before we choose to sin.

We may know that we want to keep covenants, and we make be confident that we know how to keep covenants.

But if we do not do things the Lord’s way, if we are not following Him, then we lead ourselves into danger.   We may still, even then, not sin, but we have led ourselves into dangerous ground away from the protection He offers.  This always happens in the small and subtle things, in the plain and simple things.  We are either following the Savior, or we are not.  It’s that simple.

Zeniff was not.  He was still on task, still doing what he was asked to do, still looking like a covenant-keeper.  But he had led himself into danger, and so the consequences began:

“we were smitten with famine and sore afflictions; for we were slow to remember the Lord our God” (verse 3).

When we are doing things our way, when we are looking like a covenant keeper but not acting like one, then there is famine – spiritually and/or temporally.

It is the Spirit that nourishes us, that feeds us, that quickens us.  If we are without vigor, if we are without hope, if we are without peace, if we are without joy, it is because we are without that Spirit.   But if we are doing things our own way and following our own path instead of doing things the Lord’s way and following His path, then we have removed ourselves from that nourishment.

The classic “nourishment” text is in Jacob, which shows how the Lord can nourish us even where we are.  We are to stand in these holy places, and be not moved (D&C 87:8).

But when we move, either through inappropriate emotional attachments, pornography, affairs, unrighteous dominion, explosive anger, or any of these that give a “place” for the enemy of our soul, then we are in danger.  When we are not acting like the Savior by loving gently while inviting to progress, and demonstrating that love through service, then we are in danger.   We will be “hungry” with lust in some form, unable to be satiated, whether it be by food without nutrients, or lost in the intensity of an inappropriate emotional attachment or pornography instead of building the intimacy of real relationships, or driven by rages of bitterness or explosive anger that make us hard and feed contention.   We will be starving, with all of these things escalating, because we have removed ourselves from nourishment.  This is famine.

This consequences of this famine are the “sore afflictions”.  Pornography and inappropriate emotional attachments will hurt marriages.  Contention and drama will ruin friendships.  Food without nutrients will destroy bodies.  Bitterness will kill hope, peace, and love because it removes charity (the love is not pure, and not of Christ).  Rages and explosive anger will cut the bonds of children, turning their hearts away instead of toward.

All of this is because we forget God.

All of this will lead us to wandering in the wilderness (verse 4).

So instead of following directions, or doing it the Lord’s way, Zeniff tries to make a peace treaty with that which is not-of-God.

We do this anytime we “justify” bad behavior or excuse poor choices or ignore feedback that warns us of danger.  We do this anytime we say, “this isn’t so bad because it isn’t yet such-and-such, which I would never do”.  We do this anytime we hide from truth or keep secrets or cover up instead of repenting.

Instead of destroying that which is not-of-God, Zeniff tries to make peace with it.

(Note that when we do this, not only are we putting ourselves in danger, but we are also failing to testify to the other people involved.  When we make peace with what is not-of-God, we are no longer “set apart”, no longer holy, no longer different than the world.  In this way, we fail to testify, so the world – others – will have no reason to think we are any different or that we have anything to give, because we have already surrendered our opportunity to testify, either in words or behavior, by saying what is not-of-God is okay when it is not.)

Zeniff does this when instead of attacking, he goes in to the King to make a deal (verse 5).

We ought not be making deals with what is not-of-God.

So he makes a deal with the king for his people to possess the land of Lehi-Nephi, and the land of Shilom (verse 6).  The king also tells them to go away, and so Zeniff does (verse 7).

It looks simple.

It looks clean.

There was no great sin involved, nothing bad seemed to happen.

It’s all fine.

There is no problem.

It looks like he got away with doing it his way.

“And we began to build buildings, and to repair the walls of the city…” (verse 8).

So now, since he got away with doing it his way, and nothing bad seems to have happened, he is going to get comfortable.  This is the desensitizing, where we make ourselves at home, where we  get used to it, where we start to feel good about it because everything is fine and under control.   We invite it in to serve tea and crumpets, and it becomes a part of our life.

Not only do we invite it in, but we plant more of it.  We repeat the behavior, we continue the inappropriate interactions, we let the seeds of what is not-of-God multiply and multiply until we have whole gardens of it, until our lives – our survival – depend on it.

We think it’s the only way to fight the famine.

We forget it’s the cause of the famine.

It may be a part of our life for years, and we think it’s okay, because it’s comfortable and everything is just fine.

But there is always a price.

And the price will be paid, because we have removed ourselves from the protection and mercy of the Savior.

“Now it was the cunning and the craftiness of king Laman, to bring my people into bondage, that he yielded up the land that we might possess it” (verse 10).

It’s all an illusion.

Removing ourselves from the Savior’s protection and mercy makes us dependent on the law, which we cannot keep.  The further dependent upon these sins and transgressions we become, the more of our agency we surrender.   The comfy safe place we thought it built for us that felt so good turns out to be a mirage, and the good “food” we thought it fed us – how alive it made us feel – turns out to be addiction instead of nourishment, intensity instead of intimacy.

It’s all an illusion.

And by the time we realize it, we are already very nearly trapped.

We are in danger.

So we, who think we are such hard workers, and such good covenant keepers, find ourselves in bondage to those who use us to do what they cannot or will not do for themselves.

Inappropriate emotional attachments are not about love and care for you, but about an intensity that traps under the illusion of what-feels-good.  This bondage helps you both avoid the hard work of developing intimacy in your own marriage.

Pornography is the illusion of what-feels-good, until you are trapped in a bondage of not being able to function as your body was designed.  Like Satan and his followers without bodies, your spirit is addicted to an illusion while your body no longer has access to that experience.  He makes you as miserable as he is.

Bitterness, explosive anger, and emotional rages demands others to notice how you feel and forcing others to feel how you feel.  It gives an illusion of communication, that you have made it so evident that others will finally know you, understand you, listen to you.   But it’s a trap, because that kind of communication is not effective in that it does not accomplish what you are trying to do.  Instead of expressing your feelings and opinions in order to build relationships through communication, you are only communicating your desire to destroy relationships.

Demanding others – even if to notice how you feel – is that which is not-of-God.

The Savior doesn’t demand, He invites.

Forcing others – even if to feel how you feel – is that which is not-of-God.

Forcing is Lucifer’s plan, not Jehovah’s.

This is how we send ourselves into bondage, through a vicious cycle of contention that always leads to wars that destroy.

“Therefore it came to pass that king Laman began to stir up his people that they should contend with my people; therefore there began to be wars and contentions in the land” (verse 13).

And the wars happen when you least expect it, and where you are most comfortable.

Feel like your marriage is safe?  That’s where you get blasted.

Think your kids love you automatically?  That’s where you get blasted.

Think your respite is a close friendship?  That’s where you get blasted.

Contention always leads to war, and the battleground is always where we are comfortable and not paying attention.  This is why the Nephites “fortified their cities”.  We get attacked in the places we think are safe, when we should be doing the work to protect these places.  This is why they are “sore afflictions”, because we get hit where it hurts.

For these people, in this literal example, it happened while the people were out “watering and feeding their flocks and tilling their lands” (verse 14).

Getting attacked gets our attention.

It helps us to remember the Lord, and it turns us back to him because we need His help.

He is the one who delivers us out of bondage.

So it is far too often that we turn to our prophet (verse 15) and to our Savior, only because we have found ourselves in bondage.  Again.

He will deliver us, because He has promised.  But it is us who have failed to do the work, and so we must fight the battle now (verse 16).

This is different than remaining in the covenant – and looking like it and acting like it – because the promise then is that HE HIMSELF will fight our battles (D&C 105:14).

But when we have removed ourselves, He will deliver us but we must fight.

“Yea, in the strength of the Lord did we go forth to battle… for I and my people did cry mightily to the Lord that he would deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, for we were awakened to a remembrance of the deliverance of our fathers” (verse 17).

When we remember the Lord, when we repent and turn back to Him, when we submit to doing things His way, and show our love through obedience and faithfulness, He will fight for us.

“And God did hear our cries and did answer our prayers; and we did go forth in his might…” (verse 18).

But the consequences for having left his protection are still ours to suffer.

“And behold, to our great sorrow and lamentation, two hundred and seventy-nine of our brethren were slain” (verse 19).

These are, indeed, “sore afflictions”, when we put ourselves in danger by not doing things His way.

When we remove ourselves from His mercy, then we are left with the consequences of His justice.

Hard Feeling, Right Feeling

It’s a hard feeling,
but it’s a right feeling.

This is what I told the college girl tonight at Institute.

We could have been talking about the grief (hard feeling) of loving a father (right feeling) battling cancer.

We could have been talking about the difficulty (hard feeling) of caring for a spouse (right feeling) who is not well.

We could have been talking about the challenges (hard feeling) of raising children (right feeling).

We were, however, talking – of course – about marriage.

Temple marriages, to be specific.

Wanting and waiting for a Temple marriage, to be exact.

She is young and single and wondering why boys don’t ask girls for dates anymore.

How, she asked me, will she ever get to go to the Temple to be married, if she never gets a date?

Despite full awareness of my circumstances, I was surprised to realize she thought me an expert on the subject, and that I might have an actual answer.

I don’t have any answers.

If I had answers, I’d already be sealed up like a good Molly Mormon.

So instead of answering her question, I talked about it.

I said that we were on the right track because both of us have, through intense prayer and in depth scripture study, come to an understanding of marriage and the doctrine of marriage.   That’s a good thing.

We even have come so far as to want it.   That’s a good thing.

But wanting it, yearning for it, means also experiencing the grief of not yet having it.

It didn’t bother us when we didn’t want it.

Wanting changes everything.

Hoping for it means being aware it isn’t yet here, and waiting for it means being aware it hasn’t yet happened.

So it’s a hard feeling (grief of yearning)
but a right feeling (doctrine becoming yearning).

We talked about how we know we are being prepared, and what the evidences are of this.

We discussed the triangle of God and Husband and Wife:

We talked about how we can keep preparing by staying focused on the Savior, and becoming more like Him, and that will bring us closer to our husbands as they do the same (we grow closer to each other as we grow closer to God).

We talked about how that’s the easy part, just getting connected (the straight line from her to him across the bottom of the triangle).  Marriage is the hard work of really getting close, and that’s only through obedience and sacrifice and consecration.   That’s the hard part.

But all of that seems far away, when you are just missing someone you haven’t even met yet.

So I told her about Isaiah 54:4-10, especially verse 5 where it says “thy Maker is thy husband”.

I told her that Mr. Man is out there, somewhere, trying to be more like our Maker, more like our Savior.

When he’s ready, and we are ready, we will connect.

And he will be ready when he realizes it’s a command, when he understands the doctrine, when he puts obedience to God first and foremost above all else.  And a husband who truly loves God, and loves the way our Savior loves – by service and sacrifice and gentle teaching, that man will love his wife well.  So do not be afraid, I said.  Hold out for that righteous man.

He is out there, working to get righteous-er.

And I am here, working to get righteous-er.

That’s what makes us equal.  That’s what makes us helpmeets.  That’s what takes us to (and keeps us in) the Temple.

So I showed her the promises in Isaiah.  These verses are some of my favorite in all the Old Testament.  They are, of course, from the prophet Isaiah to the covenant people who are in trouble, who have not been acting like covenant people, who have been naughty.  They have been far away from God, and in this have removed themselves from His provision and protection.

It’s serious.  Everyone knows their sins, and everyone sees their consequences.  They have felt the full burden of bondage, of exile, of being far from the presence of God.

But still, like the father of the prodigal son, still He waits.

He waits, ready to receive them.

Even when they are barren, having produced nothing good.

This “barren” can mean truly not having produced children, it can mean not having produced good works, and it can mean not having brought any souls to God.  Regardless, these are the evidences of a covenant people who are looking like and acting like a covenant people.

It is by repentance we are delivered out of bondage, and by the atonement we are restored, and by the Spirit we are sanctified.

It’s a big process, to get us from here to there.  But He promises.

Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord  (verse 1).

The Lord will keep His promise of the principle of compensation.  As long as we are obedient to the Priesthood, the Savior will send us righteous priesthood holders to guide us, lead us, warn us, and bless us.  Even, or especially, while we await a husband.

The Lord will send us babies to hold, toddlers to chase, children to play with, and teenagers to laugh with, even while we await a husband.

The Lord will give us programs or projects or art or essays or gardens or books or whatever fits exactly us, so that we can create, even while we await a husband.

The Lord will call us to love, call us to service, call us to sacrifice, call us to give to Him by caring for His people in ways that are nurturing and nourishing, even while we await a husband.

The Lord will protect us and provide for us temporally and spiritually, even while we await a husband.

These are our evidences of our Maker being our husband.

For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called.  For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth when thou wast refused, saith God (verses 5 and 6).

A woman forsaken is grieved in spirit.

Because it’s a hard feeling that is a right feeling.

The Savior is a sweet and tender “husband”, acknowledging how hard it is both to wait and also to become (from repentance to covenant keepers), while also promising (and providing) relief, comfort, and strength:

Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more (verse 4).

And He promises to bless our faith, our obedience, and our endurance.  He promises to respond to us as we respond to Him:

For a small moment have I forsake 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 (verse 7-8).

I know He is, truly, my Redeemer.

And as my Redeemer, He has promised to keep His promises:

For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee (verse 9).

This is our covenant, that we will be obedient and faithful and do what He has asked, and He promises that:

my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee (verse 10).

With Him as our “husband”, we are mother to His people, to His “house”.  Our lives should be dedicated to being “mothers of Israel”:

Every one of us can show by word and by deed that the work of women in the Lord’s kingdom is magnificent and holy.

(THIS TALK by Sheri Dew)

In being mothers of Israel, we mother our nieces and nephews and neighbor kids and other children in our ward.

But we can look at the full title like this:  Mothers to the HOUSE of Israel.

We know the House of Israel is the House of the Lord.

See?  It’s about the Temple.

This is one of three reasons (that I know so far, though I am sure there are more reasons) why we, as single ladies, can be Temple workers, but single men cannot:  our very virtue, our actual obedience to chastity, our painful experience of yearning and waiting for a Temple marriage counts as a sacrifice related directly to the protection of the Temple itself (OD-1).  The Temple is where we should be because it is what we are sacrificing for and what we are consecrated for until we are married.  Every moment of the grief that comes from waiting in obedience and yearning (hard feeling) is a direct protection of the Temple (right feeling), buying time and space for ordinances for the living and the dead to be completed (right feeling).

It is a hard feeling,
but a right feeling.