Family Days

I love being with my family!

Yesterday my brother and his fiance arrived, joining her two daughters with us.  We miss the other two girls and my two nephews while they are on summer visits with other family, but we are so glad to be together.

My brother and I have always been close, being only 20 months apart.  When we were little, everyone thought we were twins.  He is the one who taught me to ride a bike, who made me laugh, and who helped refine me so that the Savior could make my weak places strong.  He and I were iron that sharpened iron.  Now that we have both been baptized, this has exponential-ized, by the power of the atonement and sanctifying of the Spirit.   I am so grateful for these miracles, not just for their healing, or even for the restoration it has brought, but for the truth it maintains and the love it grows.  I love my little brother so much!

And he is nice enough to be engaged to my best friend from junior high. We have been friends since we were 14!  There were many years I was gone, and those years were hard.  Because I worked so hard to push myself away from those hard years, it all seems so long ago and far away.  But she has been sweet and patient and telling the best stories that help me remember.  Now it is flooding back to me, and I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude with how our friendship has come full circle these years.  She has taught me so much about unconditional love, and she is wise with discernment skills.  So she is a friend to me that helps me stay healthy, sort through the dramas of life, and continue on this healing path we have started in our individual lives and as a family.

Our whole friendship, all these years, has been very complimentary. No drama, no ugliness, no nasty girl fights.  Just turn taking in the ups and downs of real life, as we were learning our own growing up lessons and dealing with the experiences and challenges of surviving adolescence and young adulthood.

Now, somehow, she and my brother and I are the adults, with a crew full of children looking up to us. It is kinda weird sometimes, to realize we have all grown into this place.  But we have, and so here we are.

She got baptized the spring before I was baptized in fall, and then my brother was baptized a year after me. We were gathered, just like the Scriptures promise.  It’s almost like we have been family all along.

Last night we took the kids swimming, and had good talks while they played.  I cried like a girl, for because it is so healing to me, so strengthening to me.  We have come so far, all of us, through so much, and now we are in the place of just being together, of being at-one, of being friends, of being family.

I am glad for these precious days. Our schedules are crazy, and they are busy being parents besides.  This time together has been a gift, and it is one I want to honor.  I feel we have been “nourished this long time”, like it says in Jacob 5, and I am grateful.

I do love my family so very much.

Jacob 6

CLICK HERE to read Jacob 6.

Chapter 5 was a sweet chapter, demonstrating the Savior’s love and care for us as He nourishes us through the difficulties of mortality, knowing that if we respond to His care we will produce good fruit – which are good works of service and also bringing souls to Him.

In verse one he confirms that the tame olive tree in chapter five represents the house of Israel.

But then, after all the nourishing and pruning is done, then the Lord will return “a second time to recover his people” (verse 2).

Those who have “labored diligently” (verse 3) – done HIS work of nourishing, been HIS hands in service – will be blessed, while those who have not worked will be cast out.

But He remembers all of us, “both roots and branches” (Jews and Gentiles) (verse 4), and judges not by the spot of ground in which we were planted, but what fruit we bring during harvest season.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as He cleaveth unto you.  And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts” (verse 5).

Stay soft.

Stay humble.

Stay calm.

Stay peace-able.

Stay loving-ish.

When we act in ways that are not of God, we are rejecting His words to us.

We make these  words of warning and words of hope meaningless.

“Behold, will ye reject these words?  Will ye reject the words of the prophets; and will ye reject all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ, after so many have spoken concerning him; and deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit, and make a mock of the great plan of redemption, which hath been laid for you?”

We must not mock God or His plan for us.

“… if ye will do these things, the power of the redemption and the resurrection, which is in Christ, will bring you to stand with shame and awful guilt before the bar of God” (verse 9).

This is how His justice and His mercy work together:  when we are guilty of something, His words seem hard and we are uncomfortable.  This is our being stirred to repentance.  We then have the choice to repent or slowly slip away from our faith, our testimony, and our access to His protection and blessings.

When we are not guilty, and hear the words of His prophets, we are instead strengthened to continue to do well, and given hope that we are making progress and He will accomplish His work and glory as He promised.  This is the miracle of the atonement.

“O be wise; what can I say more?” (verse 12).

Jacob 5

CLICK HERE to read Jacob 5.

This chapter is a long parable chapter, with the story being about a vineyard.  The house of Israel is compared to a tame olive tree nourished in the vineyard.  “It grew, and waxed old, and began to decay” (verse 3).  So the master of the vineyard sees this, and instructs the workers to prune it and nourish it “that perhaps it may shoot forth young and tender branches” (verse 4).

The workers did, and the tree began to respond: the top of the tree continued to decay, but new branches grow.

The master of the vineyard saw this and said, “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, go and pluck the branches from a wild olive tree, and bring them to me… we will pluck off those main branches which are beginning to wither away…” (verse 7).

The wild olive tree is, of course, the Gentiles or non-covenant people.

The decaying branches withering away from the tame tree (the covenant people) are those that had the whole truth at some point, but have fallen away.  Whether personal or generational apostasy, the Lord prunes those branches off.

So the master of the vineyard takes branches from the wild tree (outside of the covenant) and grafts them into the tame tree (the covenant people), just like the Gospel was given first to the Jews and then also to the Gentiles.

This grafting saves the branches of the wild tree (outside of the covenant now converted to the covenant), but still the Lord wants to save the tame tree as well.  “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree; wherefore, that perhaps I might preserve the roots thereof that they perish not, that I might preserve them unto myself” (verse 11).

So then the master of the vineyard says to the workers, “Come, let us go down…” (verse 15), and they go back to the vineyard to check on the progress of all the trees.

“And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard looked and beheld the tree in which the wild olive branches had been grafted; and it had sprung forth and begun to bear fruit.  And he beheld that it was good; and the fruit thereof was like unto the natural fruit” (verse 17).

Those who had been born “wild”, outside of the covenant, but who are converted to the covenant, if they receive the nourishing the Lord provides, they do become “good” fruit.

He beheld that it was good.

This fruit being observed and noted that “it was good” is critical and important in such a tiny phrase.

In the Pearl of Great Price, when we are given the story of creation, we see an interesting thing.  In the book of Moses, when each creation period is completed, he says “it was good” – until human beings are created, and that “was very good”.   But in the Book of Abraham, when each creation period is completed, he says “it was obedient” – until human beings are created, and that is “very obedient”.

And so we see that as people are truly converted to the covenant, they are good.

Which means to say, when people are truly converted to the covenant, they are obedient.

Which means to say, when people are truly converted to the covenant, they are very obedient.

So the Lord shows, in verse 18, how the grafting in of the wild branches (Gentiles) saved the tree (Jews), but how the wild branches (Gentiles) could not have produced good fruit without the tame tree (Jews).

We need each other.

And together, we bring forth “much fruit” (verse 20).

But then the next verses are some of my favorites, in the whole entire Book of Mormon.

The worker points out that the tree – which did turn out so well, once it got branches grafted in – was planted in a poor spot of ground.  The statement implies the question of how could it bear good fruit if it was planted in a poor spot of ground?

“And the Lord of the vineyard said… I knew this was a poor spot of ground;… I nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit” (verse 22).

There are so many times that I have been planted in a poor spot of ground, most often from my own consequences.  But as my heart turns to the Lord, He does nourish me “this long time”, and I am grafted in (to the covenant), and there is good fruit (evidence of the Spirit working, evidence of the atonement applied, evidence of the Gathering promises fulfilled, evidence of true conversion).

With different trees of different dispensations, we learn in the last tree, part of the process is again pruning the tree and separating what is good fruit and what has withered away (verse 26).

But still, even now, He nourishes us (verses 27 and 28).

“And it came to pass that a long time had passed away, and the Lord of the vineyard said… Come, let us go down..” (verse 29).  The talk in these verses is harvest talk, with the Lord ready to gather what is His, ready to gather who is His.

In 2007, Elder Holland said (“Place of Truth”, Church News, Feb. 17, 2007):

“Something is going to be asked of this dispensation that’s never been asked before. Those of this dispensation must be ready to present the Church of the Lamb, to the Lamb, and when that happens, we must be looking and acting like His Church.”

He has nourished us this long time, so we have no reason not to be prepared for the harvest.

And each of us are numbered, and will be counted and “tasted” (verse 31) to see if we are good “fruit”.

And the trees that were wild, with tame branches grafted in did not make it.  “It brought forth much fruit, and there is none of it which is good.  And behold, there are all kinds of bad fruit; and it profiteth me nothing” (verse 32).   The Lord teaches that this has happened “because the wild branches have grown and overrun the roots… (and so it has) brought forth much evil fruit” (verse 37).

The Lord and the worker see all these corrupted trees that brought forth evil fruit, no good to anyone, and not productive in bringing worth to Him for His vineyard.

And what is worth to Him?

Souls.

D&C 18:10 reminds us that it is souls that are great worth to God.

So He grieves these fruit, these souls, when they are withered away or corrupted.

“What could I have done more?” (verse 41).

Even these planted “in a good spot of ground”, those born within the covenant, those growing up within the church, “even that which was choice unto me above all other parts of the land of my vineyard” (verse 43).

What more could He have done for us, than what He has done?

“And now, behold, notwithstanding all the care which we have taken of my vineyard, the trees thereof have become corrupted, that they bring forth no good fruit… they are of no worth… it grieveth me that I should lose them” (verse 46).

And He does grieve.

“What could I have done more…?  Have I slackened my hand, that I have not nourished it?  Nay, I have nourished it, and I have digged about it, and I have pruned it…” (verse 47).

He nourishes us through Scriptures, through prayer, and through the Temple, all by the power of His Spirit.

He “digs about” us by separating us from the world around us.  This is His protection.  This is his setting us apart, which is His making us holy.

He prunes us through afflictions and challenges that help us get rid of what is not of God and what keeps us from being His people.  He prunes us to refine us and deepen us and grow us.

So again, the Lord asks, “What could I have done more for my vineyard”, and the worker (prophet) pleads for it (us) to be spared a little longer (verse 50).

And so He does, hoping to nourish the trees back to the healthy, hoping they will grow (verse 51).

“And this will I do that the tree may not perish, that, perhaps, I may preserve unto myself the roots thereof for mine own purpose” (verse 53).

So the Lord takes the branches of the tree and grafts them into the “mother tree”, which for us is the restoration of the Lord’s church (verse 56).

And again, He nourishes.

“And this I do that, perhaps, the roots thereof may take strength because of their goodness; and because of the change of the branches, that the good may overcome the evil” (verse 59).

And this restoration does bring Him joy… “and, perhaps, that I may rejoice exceedingly that I have preserved the roots and the branches of the first fruit” (verse 60).

And so again, the workers are called.

These are our missionaries and apostles and prophets of this dispensation, since the restoration (verse 61).

“Wherefore, let us go to and labor with our might this last time, for behold the end draweth night, and this is for the last time that I shall prune my vineyard” (verse 62).

But prune and nourish and graft He does, once more, “that they shall bring forth the natural fruit, and they shall be one” (verse 68).

There it is: at-one-ment.

At-one-ment.

Atonement.

And so the workers go and do what they have been commanded.

“And thus they labored, with all diligence, according to the commandments of the Lord… that they became like unto one body; and the fruits were equal… most precious to Him from the beginning” (verse 74).

That’s us, most precious to Him from the beginning.

Jacob 4

CLICK HERE to read Jacob 4.

Jacob now shares about the experience of keeping his record.  He talks about how it is difficult to engrave upon the plates (verse 1), and how because of this he must choose the most important things to share (verse 2).  He shares how “in this thing we do rejoice; and we labor diligently to engraven these words upon plates, hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts…” (verse 3).

What a gift to us!

So why does he write these things?  To testify of Christ, he says, “that they (us!) may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming…” (verse 4).  This is specific to LDS beliefs, that all the prophets before Christ, from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Isaiah – all of them knew of Christ.   Christ wasn’t just something that happened in the middle of the timeline, but they knew – at that time, when they were living – that everything was pointing to Christ’s coming, just as we know it all points to that He has come already (and will come again).

“Behold, they (all the prophets before Christ) believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name, and also we worship the Father in his name.  And for this intent we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him; and for this cause it is sanctified unto us for forgiveness, even as it was accounted unto Abraham in the wilderness to be obedient unto the commands of God in offering up his son Isaac, which is a simlitude of God and his Only Begotten Son” (verse 5).

Everything before Christ was a “type and shadow” that pointed to Christ.

And the people knew it.

This is why the study of the prophets, like in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah, is so very important.  Because it brings a whole new understanding and meaning to the Old Testament when you read it from the perspective of realizing they knew at that time what was going on, that they knew everything was pointing to the promised Messiah, to the Savior who would come.

“Wherefore, we search the prophets… and our faith becometh unshaken…” (verse 6).

But still, the reason our faith is strong is because it is in HIM.

Not because of ourselves, but because of HIM and His great atoning sacrifice.

“… we may know it is by his grace…” (verse 7).

Then Jacob gives a warning, to remind us not to “despise the revelations of God” (verse 8), because only God knows His ways.  His ways are not our ways.  So we can only know His ways by Him revealing them to us.

So we need to tune into His revelations – through scriptures and through the Spirit and through our leaders and through our families and all the ways He teaches us – and “take counsel from His hand” (verse 9) because “ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all of his works” (verse 10).   Even me.  Even you.

So we do very much need Him and His counsel.

Jacob pleads with us to be at-one with the Lord again, to repent and turn to Him for healing and forgiveness and counsel to learn and grow and progress.  “Be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ, His Only Begotten Son…” (verse 11).

Jacob throws in a little reprimand, reminding us not to be surprised that he would teach this (verse 12), because understanding the atonement of Christ is the most important thing of all.

Because it is most important, Jacob wants to be clear and speak to us in ways that we understand – even when at first we think these ways are harsh because they are hard to hear.  But the more aligned our will is with His will, the more in tune we are with His Spirit, the more we become our true selves by becoming more like Him, the easier that truth is to bear – because instead of a call to repentance, it becomes “well done, my good and faithful servant”.

“Wherefore, it (the Holy Spirit) speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls” (verse 13).

But, he says again, the “stiffnecked people” – stubborn and obstinate, refusing to submit to the will of God – these people “despised the words of plainness” and so God took away the plain teachings (verse14).

This how it works, as it has always worked:

If we refuse truth, He removes what little truth we had.

If we believe (accept and act upon) truth, He gives us more.

It’s that simple.

Jacob 3

CLICK HERE to read Jacob 3.

When Jacob opens with speaking to the “pure in heart”, he means he is talking to those who are of the covenant (and acting like it).  He instructs us to “Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith” (verse 1).  He says that if we do this, the Lord will “console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction”.  When we are given something we should do, and something the Lord will do if we keep up our part, that is a covenant.  This is covenant language!

So what should we do?

“Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith”.

Looking to God with firmness of mind is about staying on the “straight and narrow” (2 Nephi 9:41).

It reminds us of what we know about God: “For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said” (D&C 3:2).

So we should follow His example, and be like Him: “Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left…” (Joshua 23:6).

We when are able to look toward Him, and to be obedient by following His example, only then can we have faith.  Faith requires obedience, which is why our testimonies develop out of experiences of being obedient.  In Lecture 3 of Joseph Smith’s “Lectures on Faith“, he said that faith has three prerequisites:

First, the idea that he actually exists.

Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.

Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which one is pursuing is according to His will.

So we see why Jacob first instructs the people to look unto God with firmness of mind, because that kind of obedience is required before we can pray unto Him with exceeding faith.

This is always a stirring to repentance, so we know Jacob will be blasting them in that ever-so-gentle-but-very-serious kind of way that only a Prophet of God can do.  Because repentance is part of knowing that our lives are on course.  We are not perfect, and we are not finished.  But we are in process, and so part of being “in Order” is the continual process of being brought further in line, further in tune, further “in Order” even when we have not “arrived” yet.   Being in process of becoming more and more “in Order” is part of being “in Order”.  Being in process of becoming more and more like Him is pursuing life according to His will.

So, if we do that, or are in process of learning how to do so, what has the Savior promised?

He promised to “console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction”.

I have experienced the Savior consoling me in my afflictions in many, many ways.  I have had physical afflictions – like the pain after my cochlear implant surgeries – where I was consoled directly, consoled through friends who provided a hospital bed to relieve my pain, and consoled through priesthood blessings that brought me comfort and sweet sleep.  I have had emotional afflictions when I was grieving in some way and the Spirit did calm me and give me peace.  I have had temporal afflictions, from learning to live on a missionary budget to learning how to weedeat, where the Savior did console me by teaching me what to do and my job was to keep doing it.

I know that the Savior pleads my cause.  I know that He did it in Gethsemane, and that He continues to do so through the atonement as it continues to work for me and in me.  I know that He does it in specific cases, even so that I have been told in a blessing that the Savior was advocating for me.

In my professional work, advocates work with children to be sure the children receive all the rights they are entitled to.  The advocate is on no one’s side except the child, and only has the child’s best interest at heart.  Their sole job is to be sure the child receives all they are entitled to.

The Savior advocates for me in the same way.  I am a child of my Heavenly Father, and that divine relationship entitles me (and each of us) to certain rights, privileges, and inheritances.  So the Savior does advocate for me to be sure I receive these.  He does this through His great atoning sacrifice, through direct advocating for me even now, and through calling me to repentance so that I can prove myself a child of my Father-in-Heaven.

I have also had experiences where those who seemed to want my destruction received justice.  Sometimes this is consequences for their choices.  More often than not, this justice seems to come in the form of in some way learning the truth about themselves and the truth about God, so that not only did they receive justice – but they also received mercy, the same as I have.

And all that is just in verse one!  Since this chapter is written specifically to those within the covenant, it is PACKED full of layers for us to find and for the Spirit to unfold.

So, covenant people, or those “pure in heart”, “lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever” (verse 2).  This is classic Hebrew parallel poetry, ending in this verse with what we started out with in the first verse (firm minds).

It also teaches again that all things are both temporal and spiritual.  We can physically lift our heads because we do physically rejoice when spiritual understanding teaches us what marvelous thing the Savior has done for us.  We receive His words spiritually, but feast upon them physically (by obedience).  This unites our physical and spiritual selves in a kind of spiritual resurrection (from the darkened state in which we live when we do not feast upon His words), and leads us – literally, as eternal beings – to celestial-ness.

So this is where we get the “inasmuch” nature of covenants.  All through scriptures, it is always saying “inasmuch” as you do this, I will do that.   This is always how covenant language is worded.

It means that He will do what He has promised to the degree we do what we have promised.

I mean to say, that He does always keep His promises.  He has atoned for us, and He will bless us.

But those blessings come at the same rate, to the degree, “inasmuch” as we do obey Him.

So, for example, if we want our marriage and family blessed, we must obey the laws of chastity and/or fidelity.  If we follow the law of fidelity, then He blesses us with an intact family.  But if we follow the law of fidelity only physically, while having emotional attachments outside the marriage, then we have an intact family with failing emotional connections.  But if we follow the law of fidelity, including keeping our emotional attachments inside the marriage (not just body parts), then we will have an intact family that is also full of love and emotional support and presence.  But if we are absent emotionally, then our family will feel far away emotionally.  We do it to ourselves in that way, and Jacob will show us how later in this chapter.

Another example is the blessings of the Temple.  One of the blessings from the Temple is, again, blessing for our family.  If we go to the Temple because we have to, we will only stay in our families because we have to.  If we go to the Temple because we love being at the Temple, we will have a love for our families as well.  If we go to the Temple regularly and often, with a love for the Temple, we will have families that are much stronger than simply intact, because we will have families that FEEL like families “regularly and often”, and in which love overflows.

We choose.

We are blessed “inasmuch” as we obey.

“But, wo, wo, unto you that are not pure in heart, that are filthy this day before God; for except ye repent the land is cursed for your sakes…” (verse 3).  This reminds us of the Family Proclamation, which says:

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

“And the time speedily cometh, that except ye repent they shall possess the land of your inheritance, and the Lord God will lead away the righteous out from among you” (verse 4).  We know this has been the warning since the time of Lehi, and we know we see this unfold throughout the rest of the Book of Mormon stories.

So now, having reminded the people of their covenants, and reminded them of the warnings of what happens when we do not keep our covenants, Jacob begins the blasting.

He picks up from the previous chapter (two), which talks about how Solomon and Abraham had more than one wife because they were authorized to do so.  At this time, Jacob is saying, and in our day, having more than one wife is not authorized.  In fact, anyone who does can lose their membership in the church.

So that’s the context, but watch how Jacob slams them with truth in the way only a Prophet can…

“Behold, the Lamanities your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness… are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord” (verse 5).

Watch how it unfolds!

First, Jacob is saying that the Nephites, who should know better, are hating on the Lamanites.

The biggest problem with this is that people of God should never be haters.

God is not a hater.

But not only are the busted for hating, they are also busted for not being covenant keepers.

We know someone who is being a hater is not someone who is keeping covenants because hating is not of God, and so when we do that we are not of God.  It’s a big, serious deal.

But the specific example Jacob uses has to do with families.

Jacob is saying that the Lamanites, who do not have the full story, who do not know the full Gospel, are at least keeping the commandments they do know… while the Nephites, who have the full Gospel, are not keeping the covenants they have made.

Do the Lamanites have the full story?  No.

Are they being obedient to the law they have thus far?  Yes.

Are the Nephites, who have the whole story being obedient?  No.

SNAP.

This reminds me of our Muslim brothers and sisters in our day.  So many so-called-Christians hate on the Muslims as a whole, without even knowing individual people.  Christians should not be haters.  God is not a hater.   And if we are going to stereotype Muslims into one population as a whole, then what the truth is about them is that they are way better at keeping covenants than we are.  We cannot and will not make an impression on them or share conversion stories with them until we first learn to keep our covenants as well as they already do.

“And now, this commandment they observe to keep; wherefore, because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them, but will be merciful unto them; and one day they shall become a blessed people” (verse 6).

What blessings do they receive?  Love.

“Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands” (verse 7).

Notice it doesn’t say that they stay married because they have to, or that they do married things because it’s what the other person wants, or that they do what they are supposed to do because it makes other people happy.

No.  It’s says they LOVE each other.

They also love their children:  “their husbands and their wives love their children”.

That’s the love of family that comes from complete obedience to God and complete fidelity to spouse.

That’s amazing.

Jacob then goes on to explain that “their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers” (verse 7).  The Lamanites are being faithful to what they know.  This goes all the way back to Lehi’s sons.  Nephi was obedient, including passing down the records of the family and the scriptures they had.   Laman and Lemuel were the murmurs who were not obedient and did not pass anything down.

So the Nephites got the memo, but the Lamanites didn’t.

Yet, now, the Lamanites are still being obedient to what they DO know, while the Nephites are NOT.

That’s a big problem.

The Lamanites are not held accountable for what they do not know; that is the sin of their fathers, not their own choice.

The Nephites, however, know better, but are not being obedient to what they know.

So Jacob asks, “how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?” (verse 7).

SNAP again!

Jacob outright tells them in verse 8 that all this means that the Lamanites are more prepared to meet God than the Nephites.  He tells them that the judgments the Nephites have made against the Lamanites are actually their own judgment.  So stop hating, he says!

“Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them… neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers” (verse 9).

So the guilt of the Lamanites is not their own (not their choice for what they do not know), but the the sin of the fathers for not teaching them.

However, the Nephites were taught, so it is their choice, which makes it their own sin.

So not only has Jacob shown them how their enemy is actually innocent, but now he tells them that it is they themselves who have actually become the enemy!

Not only that, but now they are the “guilty fathers” passing the sin on to their own children!   They are now doing what happened to the Lamanites!   They were depending on the faithfulness of their fathers instead of doing their own work, and so have not made the faith their own, and now have nothing to pass down to their children.

“Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day” (verse 10).

This is NOT talking about children who were taught the things of the covenant, and are straying by their own use of agency while in process of working out their own salvation.

This is talking about the failure to pass on faith to the children, which is failure to pass on the knowledge that God exists, the knowledge of who God is, and the knowledge that one’s life is in accordance with His will.

So Jacob slams them with the reality that they have become the enemy, even an enemy to God.

The judgments the Nephites were making against others turns out to be their own judgment.

The world calls this karma.

Psychology could call it projection or displacement.

Projection is when we don’t like something in ourselves, or don’t want to face the truth of something about ourselves, or are in denial about what we are doing wrong – and instead of fixing it – in effort to ignore it, quite-en it, silence it, avoid it – we put that problem on someone else instead.

Using Jacob’s example, it looks like someone who is doing fidelity with body parts only, so having an affair by inappropriate emotional attachments outside the marriage.  When this person is confronted, instead of seeing the truth or repenting of it, they accuse those around them of doing that same thing – of having an affair or some inappropriate emotional attachment.

This is how people are far more invisible than they think, revealing what is wrong inside by so loudly accusing others.  This is why it is drama, because it is avoiding the problem by hiding it somewhere else, by “projecting” it – like a moving from the projector onto the screen – other people become the “screen”, instead of just dealing with the issue directly.  So the person thinks they are putting the problem away from them, when really they are revealing it for the whole audience to see.

Displacement is when we do acknowledge the problem, but express it in the wrong place or at the wrong time or with the wrong people.  It might be when you are angry at your boss, but take it out on the kids.  It might be talking with your friends at work about how “far away” or “not understanding” your spouse is, instead of understanding that to be close to your spouse you must discuss those things  with them directly.  It is, again, the emotional affair, where instead of being emotionally connected to your spouse, you keep secrets from them and don’t talk about things with them and instead share private things to develop inappropriate relationships via text or email or facebook with those of the opposite gender and/or those from previous relationships before your spouse.

It’s serious enough that Jacob slams the truth into their faces, unaltered, and un-gentle-ized.  He wants them to see it, because it is that important, and that critical to their future.

Covenants are sealed by the Holy Spirit, not by the person representing the Lord doing the ordinance.

Without obedience, we cannot have such access to the Holy Spirit.

Without that access, those covenants cannot be sealed “for time and eternity”, even if we go through the motions.  It’s our very obedience, our very faithfulness, that enables the sealing power that makes them real, that makes them eternal.   It’s that important.

“O my brethren, hearken unto my words; arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death; and loose yourselves from the pains of hell that ye may not become angels to the devil…” (verse 11).

It’s that important.

Look at what Jacob says happens, when our covenants are not sealed by the Holy Spirit.  When we lose that shiny-ness, we are out of Order (of the Priesthood).   We are going through the motions (the slumber of death), but it is not real.  Instead of happiness and joy and peace, we have “the pains of hell”.  Instead of leading to celestial-ness, with ever-increasing love and joy and peace, we are slaves to the misery of the devil.

This is why, Jacob says, that he spoke to the people of Nephi, “warning them against fornication and lasciviousness, and every kind of sin, telling them the awful consequences of them” (verse 12).

It’s that important.

Jacob 2

CLICK HERE to read Jacob 2.

Jacob begins his ministry, following the death of Nephi, taking very seriously the Lord’s charge to rid himself of the responsibility of the sins of the people (verse 2).  This he does by teaching and by testifying.

We are responsible to do the same, as we should be “weighed down with much more desire and anxiety for the welfare of (the) souls” of those we love (verse 3).

This, Jacob says, is part of being obedient (verse 4).

We know this is obedience to the premortal covenant, when Jehovah promised to atone for us and we promised to testify of Him.

But Jacob, as the priesthood holder – as the Prophet – for these people, did understand what was happening with them, even where their weaknesses were and what danger it brought them.  He said, “I can tell concerning your thoughts, how that ye are beginning to labor in sin, which sin appeareth very abominable unto me” (verse 5).

It’s a big deal, he says.

“Yea, it grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker” (verse 6).  What grieves him?  That the truth he must testify of is the wickedness of our hearts.

Wickedness earns justice.

Righteousness receives mercy, because of that great exhange.  We give up what is not of God, and so are able to receive mercy because we are filled with His righteousness.

But when we do not stay righteous, and when we choose wickedness, then we put those we love and those who hold priesthood over us, we cause them to “use so much boldness of speech”.   When we do not want to hear it, we think it is “hard” (as Nephi gave examples of).   When we think the message is hard, we try to ignore it by discrediting the messenger or getting rid of the messenger in some way.

But, Jacob says, there is hope, because “the word of God… healeth the wounded soul” (verse 8).

So Jacob has a hard job to do, to speak words the people don’t want to hear.

In fact, he is straight up commanded, he says, “to admonish you according to your crimes” (verse 9).

And he does it through “the truth according to the plainness of the word of God” (verse 11).

But then he begs, “O that ye would listen unto the word of his commands, and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your soul” (verse 16).

Instead of destruction, we should be creating.

Instead of hating, we should be loving.

Instead of contention, we should be loving and healing and rescuing.

“Think of your brethren like unto yourselves…” ( verse 17) and “do good – (to) clothe the naked, and (to) feed the hungry, and (t0) liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (verse 19).

So again, love is what is most important.

Jacob 1

CLICK HERE to read Jacob 1.

So now it has been fifty-five years since Lehi took his family out of Jerusalem (verse 1).  Lehi handed down the records of the family (and their scriptures) to his son Nephi, who continued the record of their people.  Now it is time for Nephi to hand the records down to the next generation.

Nephi picks his younger brother Jacob, and instructs him to keep the records of the people.  Not just the history of the people, but more importantly, the spiritual development of the people.  This is what is “most precious” (verse 2).  And, of course, Nephi reminds Jacob to also pass the records on to the generation after him when it is time (verse 3).

I love how Jacob describes what is most important to record:  “preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying” (verse 4).  He also shares the purpose of keeping this record:  “for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people” (verse 4).

We are also instructed to keep records of our family through genealogy, as well as the history of our spiritual development through “books of remembrance”.  Any writing, any sharing, and record keeping counts as part of that effort, even a blog like this.

Because the point of the record is to testify.

That is the “for Christ’s sake” part, for because it is the testifying that gives Him the glory, as we acknowledge that only He could orchestrate events such as we experience, or only His Spirit that could teach us the things that we learn.

The “for the sake of our people” part is because those around us and those who come after us need our testimonies to learn and grow and become.

In Nephi’s case, he had already seen a vision of and prophesied about what would happen to later generations (verse 5), and so he understood the keeping of these records and the teaching of the scriptures as not only helpful but also necessary.

“Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest…” (verse 7).

So Jacob takes the mantle from Nephi, and begins to “fulfill the commandment of my brother” (verse 8).

This being his final task, Nephi prepares to die.   He anoints a new king (verse 9), and the people honor and celebrate Nephi because they have loved him very much (verse 10).  They love him because he has “been a great protector for them” and “labored in all his days for their welfare” (verse 10).   So part of their effort to honor him, each king was named after him in succession.

And we mourn the death of Nephi, while celebrating his life as he lived it and his life that continues.

The first thing Jacob does, in order to make his job of keeping the records easier, is to clarify that from this point forward, all those who “seek to destroy the people of Nephi” are called Lamanites, and all “those who are friendly to Nephi” are called Nephites.

Jacob does what he is told to do, by keeping the record, and shares that under this second king of Nephi, the people began to be indulgent (verse 15) and “lifted up in pride” (verse 16).

So Jacob, having now the prophet-mantle handed to him, must teach the people.  It’s his job to rebuke them, to teach them, to invite them back to the Lord.  It’s why God has always used prophets, and it is why He – the unchanging God who is the same as He has always been – still uses prophets today.

“Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord” (verse 17).

This is a critical verse, too often overlooked.

Start with the last part first:  “having first obtained mine errand from the Lord”.   This is demonstrating that Jacob wasn’t just out doing whatever he wanted, even though it was good and right things.  He was doing what the Lord commanded him to do:  he had been set apart and called to a specific assignment, and that was the assignment he was going to do.

Jacob further clarifies this in the next verse (18), stating that he had been consecrated, which is to be set apart by the Priesthood and within the Priesthood.  He had the authority, through the Priesthood, to be doing what he was doing.   That’s vital.

But not only did he have and work within the Priesthood, he magnified his office within the Priesthood.  Verse 19 is where that phrase is defined for all the rest of scripture!  What does it mean to magnify an office (or calling)?

  • take upon the responsibility;
  • answer the sins of the people – either by inviting them to the Lord so that the Lord can atone for the sins (and thus “their blood might not come upon our garments”), or answer the sins of the people by taking them on yourself if neglecting that invitation (and so their blood on our garments);
  • teach with all diligence; and
  • labor with your might.

This “answering the sins of the people” thing is a big deal, and definitely a “responsibility” that requires teaching “with diligence” and laboring with all our might.

Then go back to verse 17 and notice the first part of the verse: the people learned in the Temple.

The Temple is a “house of learning”, and when we worship there we learn.  We learn who Heavenly Father is, we learn who we are, and we learn about our relationship to Him and what that means for our relationships to others.

This is why we must go “regularly and often”.

The future depends on it.

Nephi said so.

And Jacob believed him.

And so do I.

2 Nephi 33

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 33.

This is the final chapter written by Nephi.  He closes his writings in a humble way, stating he has only written what he taught his people.  He says he is not skilled at writing or at speaking, but that he “speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost” and that it is the Holy Ghost who “carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men” (verse 1).

This is another cross-reference to D&C 18:35, that teaches us that when we testify… the Holy Spirit does testify to the spirits of others… or if we are listening to others testify, the Holy Spirit does testify directly to our spirits.

Spiritual things are communicated Spirit to spirit, directly.

This is why it is so vital that our heart be “soft” (both prepared and willing to receive – which includes being prepared and willing to obey, no matter the instruction), and so critical that we be worth of the Spirit’s communications – and experienced in receiving communication from the Spirit.

Because without all that, we are the ones getting in the way of Spirit-to-spirit communication.

“… there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them” (verse 2).

When this happens, things that are TRUTH seem like nothing.

It is the Holy Spirit that confirms the truth, that unfolds (unveils!) the meaning of the truth, and so without the Spirit, words of truth seem no different than any other words and hold no meaning.  The words seem empty, irrelevant, nada-ness.

“wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught” (verse 2).

But when you have the Holy Spirit confirming to you, teaching you, unfolding for you, unveiling for you, then you know these truths are of great worth – more important than anything else – and we depend on it to discern anything, everything, even to find our way.

And we know, too, that others need it as well.

And we grieve when they reject it.

“But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people.  For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry” (verse 3).

And so Nephi leaves his testimony with us, knowing the Holy Spirit will testify of the truth to those people who really ask.

“And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people.  And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good… and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal” (verse 4).

So it is the Holy Spirit testifying of the truth of Nephi’s words, and we know the role of the Holy Spirit is to correct, instruct, and guide.  Because of this, Nephi points out, those who do not want to make the changes (not willing to respond to what is revealed, not willing to obey no matter the instruction) will think his testimony is “hard”, that it “speaketh harshly against sin, according to the plainness of the truth” (verse 5).

When we are being submissive, and willing to do what the Lord instructs, then His words do not seem harsh to us.

When we are already guilty, or do not want to make changes, or refusing opportunities for progression that He offers, then His words seem harsh.

“wherefore, no man will be angry at the words which I have written save he shall be of the spirit of the devil” (verse 5).

When we understand clearly who He is, and what He has done for us, anything He asks of us seems a small thing.

“I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell” (verse 6).

And when we understand how He loves us, we better understand how to love others.

“I have charity for my people…” (verse 7).   We know from Moroni 7:47 that “charity” is defined as “the pure love of Christ”.  When we have faith in this pure love, and love others as He loves us, then others are also invited to him.   “I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat” (verse 7).

So Nephi urges all:  “hearken unto these words and believe in Christ… and they teach all men that they should do good” (verse 10).

This is Nephi’s hope.

This is his prayer, “that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day” (verse 12).

2 Nephi 32

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 32.

This book, of 2 Nephi, has only one more chapter in it after this one.  So these are Nephi’s final words, and it fascinates me what he chooses to include. He has poured himself into teaching the people the importance of the covenant and how to choose it, and now he tells them what to do next.

“I suppose that ye ponder somewhere in your hearts concerning that which we should do after ye have entered” (the covenant) (verse 1).

So what do we do next?

“Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (verse 3).

What are the words of Christ?

The scriptures, of course!  And the words of his prophets!

So we are to study His words, and we will know how to live our lives.

If we “cannot understand them, it will be because ye ask not” (verse 4).

So the asking is always part of understanding.

But we have the Holy Spirit that will reveal to us the answers to our questions.  So once we enter the covenant, “and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (verse 5).

It’s that simple.

“This is the doctrine of Christ” (verse 6).

And it grieves Nephi, just as it grieves our families or priesthood leaders, when we do not do the work of asking those questions and seeking to find the answers through study and revelation.

“… I am left to mourn because of the unbelief and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness… for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be” (verse 7).

So instead of being lost in not understanding, we simply need to seek the Spirit and hearken “unto the Spirit” (verse 8).  Then we can understand all things, even the very mysteries of God, as He unfolds them one layer at a time.

But we must study, and we must pray.

“I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint” (verse 9).

Not only should we be praying always, but we should pray before we do ANYTHING so that He will “consecrate” (verse 9) all that we do, and bless it for the welfare of our own souls as well.