2 Nephi 6

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 6.

This chapter has our first real shift in authorship as Nephi’s plates get handed down.  Years and years and years have now passed since Lehi took his family and left Jerusalem.  Now Jacob, one of Nephi’s younger brothers, has taken over the writing on the plates.

Chapter 6 is a speech that Jacob gave to the people of Nephi, those we will soon begin calling Nephites.

For context, it helps to read the chapter heading given before the chapter starts:

Jacob recounts Jewish history: The Babylonian captivity and return; the ministry and crucifixion of the Holy One of Israel; the help received from the Gentiles; and the Jews’ latter-day restoration when they believe in the Messiah. About 559–545 B.C.

So that’s Jacob’s speech, a review of the history.

This is always the pattern for HOW the Lord brings His covenant people to be at-one with Him.

This is the pattern:  there is a recounting or a review of the history of the people, then Laws are given to establish the covenant nature of the relationship between the Lord and His people, the people then cry out to the Lord in prayer, and then in response the Lord gives them specific instruction that leads them (and grants them permission) to enter His presence.

We see this pattern in this chapter.

But before Jacob can start speaking to the people, first he clarifies that he has the authority to do so.

“Behold, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, having been called of God, and ordained after the manner of his holy order, and having been consecrated by my brother Nephi…” (verse 2).

Before Jacob can speak to the people as a Prophet, first he is called of God, ordained to do so, and consecrated (set apart).

And then he begins.

And when he begins, he begins by saying that he is “desirous for the welfare of your souls.  Yea, mine anxiety is great for you; and ye yourselves know that it ever has been.  For I have exhorted you with all diligence; and I have taught you the words of my father; and I have spoken unto you concerning all things which are written, from the creation of the world” (verse 3).

So, beginning with the creation of the world, Jacob teaches the people by taking them through this pattern that is always used to bring the covenant people into His presence.

Jacob starts out with the idea that we should study the words of the Prophets – in this case, Jacob mentions Isaiah specifically – and that we should liken their words unto our own lives.  This means we should take those long ago words, and see what they mean for us in this present moment.  We should take the Scriptures and keep them real in our very own lives in this very moment.

Jacob says we can do this because Isaiah was writing to the House of Israel, and we are the House of Israel.

The “House of Israel” is “the covenant people” of the Lord.

As we become covenant people, we are made holy.

As we are made holy, we become the House of Israel – or, being made holy – and bringing this Holiness to the Lord, we become the House of the Lord.

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

And so we see how he does make us holy, through this pattern.

Jacob follows the pattern, that sacred pattern that brings people into the presence of the Lord.

So, in following that pattern, Jacob begins at the beginning, reviewing the history of the people and where they came from.  He goes all the way back to Jerusalem.  Jacob reminds the Nephites that they left Jerusalem because they believed the Lord and His words.  Jacob reminds them that all of what was prophesied came true, and will come true, even the destruction of Jerusalem.

So, likening this to ourselves, Jerusalem represents that time or place in our lives where we used to be, but from which the Lord has called us.  Where (or what or whom) has the Lord asked you to leave, to change, to let go?  In what ways has following Him sent you into the wilderness so that you may learn to depend on His word alone?

But the Lord does not abandon us in the wilderness, whether literally or in the metaphor meaning mortality.

He provided a way to save us from the destruction that came to Jerusalem, a  way to save us from the destruction we caused when we were not following Him.

This is the mercy that balances out judgment.  This is the mercy that has always been a part of the Plan of Happiness.  This is the atonement.

The Lord is the way.  He is the one who saves us.

“Nevertheless, the Lord has shown unto me that they should return again. And he also has shown unto me that the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, should manifest himself unto them in the flesh; and after he should manifest himself they should scourage him and crucify him, according to the words of the angel who spake it unto me” (verse 9).

But to return to Him, to repent, we must let Him soften our hard hearts; we must bow down in submission, letting our stiff necks loosen up.

Hard times and challenges in life are not always things we earned or deserved in some negative connotation of a negative perspective on life.

But, the Lord can use these experiences to teach us.

“Wherefore, after they are driven to and fro, for thus saith the angel, many shall be afflicted in the flesh, and shall not be suffered to perish, because of the prayers of the faithful; they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated; nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance” (verse 11).

Gathering-for-healing is the opposite of scattering-to-destruction.

“the people of the Lord shall not be ashamed.  For the people of the Lord are they who wait for him; for they still wait for the coming of the Messiah” (verse 13).

But, Jacob says, the Messiah will come “a second time to recover them” (verse 14).

The whole purpose of us being GATHERED is so that He can “recover” us.

And when the Messiah comes again, Jacob says, the Lord will “manifest himself unto them in power and great glory” (verse 14).

The problem with God demonstrating power and glory is that it will overcome you if you are not prepared for it.

For believers and covenant keepers, the return of the Messiah will be an amazing and powerful thing.

For non-believers or those outside the covenant, they will be driven to fear and confusion and chaos for not understanding the “signs of the times”.

“And they that believe not in him shall be destroyed, both by fire, and by tempest, and by earthquakes, and by bloodsheds, and by pestilence, and by famine.  And they shall know that the Lord is God, the Holy One of Israel” (verse 15).

We know from Revelation and other sources that these kinds of signs of the times are the Earth’s testimony that the Savior returns very soon.

But those who do the work to become covenant keepers – they will be gathered and delivered and saved, rather than scattered and destroyed “for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people” (verse 16).

2 Nephi 5

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This chapter begins with Nephi in the raw emotions of feeling the sting of meanness from those he loves most and the grief of watching them reject what he knows is good for them.

“Behold, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God, because of the anger of my brethren” (verse 1).

The murmuring brothers are now being so mean and angry that they are trying to kill Nephi.

They don’t like Nephi telling them what is good and right.  They don’t want to hear it.  They don’t want to change.  They don’t want to live differently or feel better.  They like being miserable.

It gets so bad that the Lord warns Nephi he is in danger.  Nephi heeds the warning, taking those of his father’s family who had chosen to be covenant people into the wilderness for safety.  Nephi’s family goes, Zoram and his family go, and his brothers Sam, Jacob, and Joseph all go.

“And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words” (verse 6).

They travel through the wilderness to a new place of safety, and settle in tents in this new place.  They name this new place after him, calling it Nephi.

Because the place was called Nephi, the people who lived there were the people of Nephi, who came to be called Nephites.

This is an important piece because sometimes we think the Nephites were just the descendants of Nephi.  That isn’t exactly the case.  The Nephites were the descendants of all these families, as well as others who had chosen or later convert to the covenant.  So for now, rather than meaning biological relation to Nephi himself, the term “Nephites” more accurately reflects those who chose the covenant, the people who follow the Lord, the people who were members of the church.

“And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses” (verse 10).

And because they were obedient, they enjoyed the presence of the Lord and were blessed.

“And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind” (verse 11).

So as life goes on, Nephi continues keeping the records of his people.  They grow and spread out over time.  They built buildings, and could work with wood and iron and copper and brass and steel.  They had access to gold and silver and other ores and metals.

Most importantly, they built a temple.

“And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine” (verse 16).

Then, a small verse that shapes how we as LDS live, how the world sees our mormon lives: “I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands” (verse 17).

Nephi made sure the people were hard workers!  Self-reliant!  Industrious!

Because Nephi was so good at teaching them and leading them, the people began to want him to be their king.

This is what happened in the Old Testament, too!  The Lord’s pattern was that He would call prophets, and the people would follow the prophets (and continue developing their own individual relationships with the Lord as well, of course).  However, the people always began to demand kings.  This happens in the Old Testament over and over (think Samuel and Saul), until the people had removed themselves from the Lord’s protection and demanded secular and political structure instead.

Nephi knows the pattern, and refuses to be their king.  He urged them not to have a king.  In his teaching the people, he used this to teach them how following the Lord “sets apart” (makes holy!) the covenant people of God.  He is able to compare them to those who had refused to follow the Lord, and now instead of a successful and industrious people like they were, the others had become “an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety” (verse 24).

“And the Lord God said unto me: They shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction” (verse 25).

So the people decided to follow the Lord’s pattern, and Nephi’s brothers Jacob and Joseph were set apart as priests and teachers over the people and Nephi remained in the role of a prophet instead of being made king.

“And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness” (verse 27).

This is the plan of happiness!  Even through hard circumstances or challenging experiences, we can have happiness when we are living the Lord’s way.  When we are willing to submit to His will, and willing to do what He says, and obedient to what He asks for us, it moves us into a position of being “in order”.  This “order” is more than just organized, and more than just the proper hierarchy or roles and tasks defined.  It is about His Order, the Order of the Priesthood.  It is about becoming a people of holiness.  It is about Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

As time passes, the Nephites become this people-of-holiness, the people of the covenant.

Those who did not follow Nephi, but remained with the murmuring brothers Laman and Lemuel become known as the “Lamanites”.  Like the Nephites, the Lamanites are more than just the descendants of Laman and Lemuel.  The term “Lamanites” comes to mean those who are outside the covenant.

For now.

What we know as the Book of Mormon unfolds is that the Nephites are the covenant people as long as they do the work required to keep those covenants.

But later in history, as the Book of Mormon unfolds, we see the destruction of the Nephites because they do not keep their covenants.

We will also see the conversion of the Lamanites, which Lehi had prophesied of before his death.

The story of all of this is what Nephi records on his metal plates, and then hands down to his son.  These records get passed down one generation after another, and it is this family history record that we know have and know as “The Book of Mormon”.

Verse 30-32:

And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people.

Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things.

And I engraved that which is pleasing unto God. And if my people are pleased with the things of God they will be pleased with mine engravings which are upon these plates.

These are the plates that got passed down and added to, until finally being hid for safety during the final days of the war that destroyed the Nephites.

These are the plates Moroni hid in the hill so that they would be safe, even if he were killed in the war.

These are the plates that Moroni told Joseph Smith about, and these are the plates that Joseph Smith dug up out of the hill and translated.

These are the plates we are reading when we read “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ”.

And so it begins, the “wars and contentions” (verse 34) between the Nephites and the Lamanites.

It’s classic Old Testament stuff:  whenever we keep our covenants, we are “gathered” and provided for and protected.

When we do not keep our covenants, we are “scattered” and destroyed.

It’s one of the most basic principles in life, and it unfolds on every level: physical, emotional, professional, mental, social, relational, literally, figuratively.

When we keep our covenants, we are “gathered” and “saved”.

When we do not, we are “scattered” and “destroyed”.

It’s really that simple.

2 Nephi 4: Nephi’s Psalm

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 4.

This chapter completes Lehi’s blessings to his children and their families, and records his passing.

Nephi opens the chapter with his own testimony that Lehi truly was a prophet, that Lehi really did prophesy concerning his descendants.

Then, Nephi says, Lehi called all his children to gather around him for one last blessing:

“For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence” (verse 4).

This is important to Lehi, his last effort at raising his children.  He says that he cannot die without giving them a blessing, because “I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it” (See Proverbs 22:6).

This is a powerful moment.

Lehi straight up tells them that he knows what his job is as a parent, and so he gives them this blessing, so that the responsibility of their consequences falls on him instead of them.   That’s a powerful gift for one to give another.  It is a type of the atonement, pointing to the Savior, but also a beautiful example of a tender, loving father.

(Note the parallel in verse 33 below, when the Savior becomes that “father” embracing him/us like the father embracing the prodigal, the arms “encircled about”… that is the embrace of the at-one-ment.)

And in this way, Lehi blessed each of his children and their families, and even their descendants not yet born.

“And it came to pass after my father, Lehi, had spoken unto all his household, according to the feelings of his heart and the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, he waxed old. And it came to pass that he died, and was buried” (verse 12).

This sweet moment doesn’t last long before the murmuring begins again.

Nephi has been teaching his brothers again, which they needed, but they didn’t much want to be taught.

Their refusal to submit to, listen to, or heed the words of the Lord continues to grow in sharp contrast to Nephi’s focus, diligence, and faithfulness.

“For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.   Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard” (verses 15 and 16).

Then come some of my most favorite verses in all of scripture, but all below depends on verses 15 and 16.  The rest of the unfolding cannot happen without delighting in the Scriptures, pondering them, writing them, studying them, learning them.  They have to be a part of you before they can unfold.

But they are some of my most favorite verses:

 17  Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

 18  I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

 19  And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

 20  My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

 21  He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

 22  He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.

 23  Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.

 24  And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.

 25  And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.

 26  O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

 27  And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

 28  Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

 29  Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

 30  Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

 31  O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?

 32  May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!

 33  O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!  O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.

 34  O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

 35  Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

2 Nephi 3

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This chapter continues the dying blessings Lehi is giving to his sons.

The blessing in this chapter is specifically for his youngest son, Joseph.  Joseph is special to Lehi because Joseph was born during “the days of my greatest sorrow” (verse 1).  It has been a hard experience, leaving Jerusalem and traveling through the wilderness.  But they have now arrived in the promised land, and that is what Lehi promises to Joseph “for thy security forever, if it so be that ye shall keep the commandments of the Holy One of Israel” (verse 2).

Lehi specifically promises that Joseph’s descendants will not be destroyed.

Lehi begins reminding his son Joseph about Joseph in Egypt (as in “the coat of many colors”), and Lehi also prophesies about another Joseph that will be in the future.  He says to his son, “For behold, thou art the fruit of my loins; and I am a descendant of Joseph who was carried captive into Egypt. And great were the covenants of the Lord which he made unto Joseph” (verse 4).

Then Lehi explains pieces of those covenants the Lord made with Joseph in Egypt:

“Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom” (verse 5).

So Lehi is telling his son Joseph, that even their family is a partial fulfillment of the promises the Lord made to Joseph in Egypt.

But there is more to come, Lehi says.

Because the Lord also promised Joseph in Egypt that his descendant would be a prophet to the people.

“Yea, Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers” (verse 7).

If we break this down in time frame, with a future prophet to come later, and Lehi and his family being in the middle, and Joseph in Egypt being in the past… then we understand how Lehi is explaining to his son Joseph that the covenants with the Lord that He made with Joseph in Egypt will be restored through a prophet in the future.  This also implies the knowledge will be lost for a time, as it cannot be restored without being lost.  We know about this apostasy from the previous blessings Lehi gave to his other sons.

Lehi continues telling his son about this future prophet that will restore the knowledge of the covenants:

“And he shall be great like unto Moses, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel” (verse 9).

Here the delivery is a spiritual delivery from what we now know is the apostasy, and the delivery comes in the form of the restoration.

It is also a physical delivery, as the lost tribes of Israel are gathered through Temple work and identified through Patriarchal blessings, which can only be given through the restored priesthood.

This prophet, says Lehi, will not just have the power to bring forth the word of God, but also to convince people about the word of God “already gone forth among them” (verse 11).  We understand this, in our day, to refer to how the Book of Mormon helps us understand the Biblical scriptures we already had access to before the restoration.

So, says Lehi, the Book of Mormon and the Bible will be companions, scriptures that go together.  We have the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Another Testament.

“the fruit of my loins shall write” (such as Nephi is already keeping the records of what we know hold as the Book of Mormon)


“the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write” (the Biblical scriptures given to us from the Jews)

“and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together” (all of it together being Scripture)

“unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace… bringing them to … the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord” (verse 12).

The reason history holds so many battles about Scripture and doctrine is because pieces had been lost or twisted by men along the way.

The Book of Mormon helps us iron out these wrinkles, so that we understand the Bible as far as it is translated correctly.  The Book of Mormon sheds light on the Biblical text, explaining and defining what it means, giving the whole story, so that there is no longer doctrinal confusion.  False doctrines are confronted, and our questions are answered.  This brings us the peace of truly knowing our Heavenly Father and being able to have an accurate understanding about Him, ourselves, and His plan for us.

And, Lehi says, like many other prophets before him (such as Moses, already given as an example), this future prophet will be made strong by the Lord in the places where he is weak:  “And out of weakness he shall be made strong…” (verse 13).  This is a promise that applies to us all when we apply the atonement!

So, Lehi says, Joseph of Egypt prophesied about this future prophet that will come in the latter days.   Lehi says that Joseph of Egypt said, “his name shall be called after me; and it shall be the name of his father” (verse 14).   So we know that the future prophet who will bring forth this book of records Nephi is now writing and will pass on to his descendants – that book will be brought forth to all the people by a prophet named Joseph, just like Joseph of Egypt, and also named after his father.

Joseph Smith, the prophet, was really Joseph Smith, Jr.   His father’s name was Joseph Smith, Sr.   So we see this fulfilling of the prophecy, as Joseph Smith, Jr., was a prophet of God who brought forth the Book of Mormon.

Like Moses, the Lord promises to help the prophet Joseph (Smith) get his message delivered despite his weaknesses – but not necessarily remove his weaknesses.  “I will give power unto him in a rod; and I will give judgment unto him in writing. Yet I will not loose his tongue, that he shall speak much, for I will not make him mighty in speaking. But I will write unto him my law, by the finger of mine own hand; and I will make a spokesman for him” (verse 17).

Not only that, but Lehi says the words will “cry out from the dust” (verses 19 and 20), and we know that Joseph Smith found the buried plates of Nephi, the Book of Mormon, buried in the earth.

Lehi says, “Wherefore, because of this covenant thou art blessed; for thy seed shall not be destroyed, for they shall hearken unto the words of the book” (verse 23).

And Lehi again refers to Joseph Smith in verse 24:

“And there shall rise up one mighty among them, who shall do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders, and do that thing which is great in the sight of God, unto the bringing to pass much restoration unto the house of Israel, and unto the seed of thy brethren.”

Lehi closes his blessing to this son Joseph by reminding Joseph that he is still young, and so to pay attention to the words of his older brother Nephi.

These are almost the final words of Lehi, as in the next chapter he then gives the final blessings to his children and their families as a group, before passing from this life.

2 Nephi 2

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 2.

In this chapter, Lehi continues his final blessings to his sons.  This chapter is the final blessing given to his son Jacob,  the son born to him in the wilderness after they left Jerusalem.

In verse 1, Lehi brags on Jacob, reflecting on how Jacob suffered many things because of growing up on their journey and because of his mean murmuring brothers.   But in verse 2, Lehi gives Jacob the promise of the principle of compensation: that when we are obedient and faithful, he will consecrate our afflictions to bless us in some way.

There are layers and layers to this, but for another blog.

“Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men” (verse 3).

This is the promise, that despite the afflictions of the past, he will get the fullness of a life centered on the Savior.  It hints at a mission, at work in the Temple, and family.  There are a thousand cross-references that develop what this patriarchal blessing means for Jacob.

I love the part in the middle, where it says “thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer”.   We are not redeemed because of us, or because of our righteousness.  We are redeemed because of HIS righteousness.  It takes us back to the great exchange of Isaiah 22:23 and 25.

The beginning of verse 4 repeats the end of verse 3, about how Jacob has BEHELD the glory of the Lord.

Lehi also reminds Jacob that the Spirit is the same spirit yesterday, today, and forever – reminding us that Heaven is not closed, that we still can see visions and dream dreams, that we still can receive personal revelation from the Holy Spirit.  What comfort this is!  What strength it brings!

Then Lehi says, “the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free” (verse 4).

We know that “the way”, or the Atonement, was planned pre-mortally, before we ever came to Earth.  The atonement was always part of the plan of salvation, and we have always known it.

The Family Proclamation says:

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

We have always known.

Not only have we always known, but even since being on Earth, we are instructed sufficiently to know good from evil (verse 5).

The law has been given to show us who God is, by showing us what is not of God.

But because there is the law, we can never measure up – because we are still learning.  We are not yet like Him.

This is why we need the atonement, the redemption that “cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth”.

The truth is the whole story of who God is, the mercy with which He balances out justice.

His grace is the salvation we did not earn.

“Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (verse 7).

That great exchange requires our giving up of ourselves, so that we can be filled with His righteousness.

It is how we become like Him.

He has kept His promise of doing the work of His great atoning sacrifice.  We knew, from before the beginning, that this was part of the plan.  Because He has kept His promise, we must also keep ours: which is to testify of that atonement.

This is our premortal covenant: that He would complete the work of the atonement, and we would testify of it.

“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise” (verse 8).

Lehi reminds Jacob that the sacrifice of the Savior is the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices, that these sacrifices have always pointed to the Savior and what He would (did) do for us.  And because He has paid the price, because He fulfilled the Law in that way, He is able to intercede for us, to advocate for us, to bridge the gap between us and Heavenly Father.

It is this intercession that makes it possible for us to even approach God, much less return to His presence.

“And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement” (verse 10).

The “punishment” is the opposite of “happiness”, he says.

We know that happiness is to be in the presence of Heavenly Father.

Holiness is required to be in His presence.

So what is not holy, cannot be in His presence.

That is the “punishment”.

In this way, we kind of choose – now – our own punishment for then – by how holy we choose to become in this life.

We are, of course, a work in progress, and “fall short of the glory of God”.

But it is that exchange, that ongoing process of sanctifying to become holy, it is that atoning for what is not-holy (mercy) and give us of His righteousness (mercy) that makes it possible.   But we have to choose it, and do the work it requires.

We do that work by making good choices.

This brings us back to the Law of Opposition.

Without opposition, we cannot make choices.  We need opposing choices of good and of what is not-good, in order to choose the good.  Without a choice of what is not-good, there would be no good to choose.

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility” (verse 11).

But because there is a choice of good and not-good, that means we need a Law that says what is of God and what is not of-God.

But because there is a Law, that means there is the fulfilling of the Law, and the transgression of the Law.

This is how opposition plays out.

So because there is transgression against the Law, we need the atonement to make things right again.

“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away” (verse 13).

This, Lehi says, is “for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon” (verse 14).

But to bring about all this, that chain of consequences of opposition had to start somewhere.  So we have Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit.

This was the beginning of agency, or the ability to make choices.

It is the whole reason we all came to planet Earth, to learn how to make choices.

(Also to receive our bodies, of course.)

We learn to make choices by overcoming the temptations of the devil.

The devil was kicked out of heaven for trying to usurp God.  That is consistent in most all Christian religions, and many other religions as well.  We know that story.  In LDS beliefs, we have more details of this, in that we know Heavenly Father presented this plan – even for us to come to Earth to receive our bodies and gain experience (learn to make choices).   He explained the plan, even the need for the atonement.

Jehovah, our eldest brother, offered Himself as the sacrifice as the atonement.  This way Heavenly Father’s plan could unfold as He designed it, and we could all make choices and work our way back home to Him.  Each of us making it back home would bring glory to Heavenly Father, for He had accomplished His work and glory.

Lucifer, however, didn’t want to do it Heavenly Father’s way.  He wanted to FORCE everyone to choose God.  Forcing us to choose God would remove our agency, and negate the need for an atonement.  It would also mean Lucifer himself would get all the glory for getting us back home by force, rather than Heavenly Father getting the glory because we demonstrated our love for Him.

This is why Lucifer and his followers got kicked out of Heaven, and why they did not get to be born into bodies.

They are mad about this, and want us as miserable as they are.   So they like to trick us into surrendering our agency or using it poorly.

“And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.  And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind” (verses 17 and 18).

So this is how LDS view Eve differently than other Christian perspectives.

We all agree she took the first bite, so to speak.

We even agree that in some way, this caused our “fall”.

But others believe this was a bad thing, and because of her we are all miserable.

This is a horrible and oppressive and twisted view on women in general, especially our most honored first woman, the mother of us all.

In contrast, LDS honor Eve in that she did what she had to do to enact the plan of salvation, to start that process of opposition so that we all could make choices.

And so through this, we were all able to come to earth, to learn to make choices and learn how to demonstrate our love to Him by doing what He says, and by turning to Him through repentance when we fail to do what He says.

“And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents” (verse 21).

But this means that if they had remained in their state of innocence, they never even would have had children.

Without the fall, none of us would have ever been born.

In the same way, they would have never known joy or happiness, because they would have never experienced sadness or pain.

There has to be opposites.

“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.  And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (verses 22 and 23).

And so in this way, Eve transgressed a lesser law in order to follow a higher law.

In this way, Eve taking the first bite was actually being obedient to the overall plan.

In this way, we know that the forbidden fruit was put in the Garden of Eden for a reason.  He had a plan when He planted it there!  He knew what the plan was, and Adam and Eve understood what the plan was.

“Behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things” (verse 24).

Even the forbidden fruit was part of the plan.

The “Fall” of Adam and Eve was really part of the process of us leaving our premortal presence with Heavenly Father, so that we could come here to learn to make choices.  We needed the agency – the ability to make choices, to choose or not, so that our love could really be love – because it was a choice.  And this is our whole point of being on Earth, so that we can find this joy of choosing to love our Heavenly Father.

This leads us to one of the most famous verses in all of LDS scripture, verse 25, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

But that joy comes through the atonement of Christ.

He was always part of the plan.

“And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given” (verse 26).

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (verse 27).

It says “men are free according to the flesh”.  This means that because the Savior conquered death through His resurrection, by His divine nature, we all will experience immortality.  That is His free gift to everyone.

But eternal life – the quality of that immortality – that we must choose, and now is when we choose it.

How do we choose eternal life?

“And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit…” (verse 28).

We choose eternal life by obeying the commandments, by being faithful to Him (and our premortal covenant of testifying).  We are ABLE to do this because of the help we receive from the Holy Spirit.

But if we do not obey, if we are not faithful, if we do not listen to the Holy Spirit, then we are instead allowing the devil to have power to “captivate”, with those chains that lead to death and destruction, to be reigned over by him instead of living with Heavenly Father in the celestial kingdom.

And these words are his testimony to all his sons, “in the last days of my probation” (this time on Earth to prove that we have learned to make choices, to show that we choose Heavenly Father).  “I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet.  And I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls.  Amen” (verse 30).

2 Nephi 1

To see earlier posts about the Book of Mormon, look in the right column of this page, and scroll down past the blog comments to where it says “Blog Categories” (second to last thing displayed in column to the right).  You can click on that, select “Book of Mormon” as the category, and it will display all the posts from 1 Nephi listed by chapter.  Hope that helps!

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 1.

Just as 1 Nephi was an account of Lehi and his son, Nephi, and the rest of their family leaving Jerusalem and traveling into the wilderness, so is 2 Nephi an account of the final days of Lehi, Lehi’s death, and Nephi’s continued journeys.  In this way, 2 Nephi is about the passing of the torch from Lehi to Nephi.  The family records are passed down to Nephi, and he continues to document the family story.

In 1 Nephi, the bad behavior of these boys consistently played out opposite Nephi’s good behavior.  The characters of these brothers are “types” of the Law of Opposition, showing how the opposition plays out, showing what each side looks like.  It helps us to learn what the opposite choices are, enables us to discern what consequences follow, and empowers us to make our own good choices.  This is how we avoid bondage by learning the lessons from their experiences; unless we do not learn by their example, then we still must repeat the pattern until we get it for ourselves.

But now, in 2 Nephi, the same thing starts to play out on a grander scale.  Instead of just representing the opposites of good guy / bad guy, these brothers begin to point to a higher pattern.  No longer simply playing opposites in their choices, the brothers are now opposites as a result of their choices.  Rather than simply representing opposing choices, the brothers now represent opposing consequences.  Instead of just being the good guy, Nephi now is a prophet pointing to the Savior, a “type” of the Savior, or representing the people of the Church.  Instead of just being the bad boys representing the bad choices, Lamen and Lemuel now represent those who are rejecting the prophets, not of the covenant, and even mocking the Church.

Verse 1 of chapter 1 opens 2 Nephi by explaining this transition:  “And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of teaching my brethren, our father, Lehi, also spake many things unto them, and rehearsed unto them, how great things the Lord had done for them in bringing them out of the land of Jerusalem.”

But then, in verse 2, Lehi does something that I love very much, something that I need reminding of everyday: he calls out the naughty boys, those murmuring and rebellious brothers of Nephi.  He calls them out for their bad behavior on the ship, back when they were mean and rude and tied Nephi up (1 Nephi 18).  But here is the part I love: Lehi calls them out on it, but then points them back to the Savior.  Rather than focus on shaming them, or getting stuck in the reprimanding, Lehi follows the pattern we are given by disciplining and then demonstrating an increase in love (See D&C 121:43).  In this moment of meekness (for to be meek is “strength under control”, and he had plenty of reasons to just blast them), Lehi straight up calls out the boys for their bad behavior, but then rather than isolating them or shaming them for this, uses it to teach a character trait of God.  He teaches them about God’s mercy.

In the context of justice (as opposed to “tender mercies” which is a different thing), “mercy” is when we do not receive what we should.

This is in contrast to “grace”, which is when we receive what we did not earn.

The atonement includes both grace and mercy:  He did it for us even though we did not deserve it (grace); because He did it, we will not receive the full punishment we should have (mercy).

It is grace when my mother gets me a chocolate shake even though I fussed at her early that morning.

It is mercy when my mother grounds me for only 1 day instead of 3 days for fussing at her.

Mercy is when the full punishment is not dished out.

So in verse 2, Lehi is saying that the bad behavior of those naughty boys earned a severe punishment from God.   If we remember that story, we know the storms came and threatened the ship and everyone on it.  But God showed mercy and did not destroy them (even though they had earned it).

Lehi used that past experience – very fresh and relevant to his children and their families – to explain what God was doing for them now (line upon line!).

In verse 3, Lehi talks about their safe arrival in the land of promise, and how this showed the mercy of God because He had warned them to leave Jerusalem before it was destroyed.

This is the mercy of God: that He gave them commandments, and their obedience saved them.

This is how He delivers His people through covenants.

We know that anytime the Scriptures talk about the land of promise, or the promised land, we know it is referring not only to that physical deliverance of those people at that time, but also to the ultimate deliverance of all of us returning to the celestial kingdom to be with our Heavenly Father.

In the same way, whatever or whoever is being destroyed in that physical moment of that historical time becomes a representation of “the world”;  just as the covenant people must flee from those lands/oppressors/cities, so we must also be “set apart” from the world to be delivered to the promised land.

To be “set apart” means to be “holy”, so it is this “setting apart” from the world that transforms us into becoming holy, into becoming the people-of-holiness.

(See this blog on 1 Nephi 15)

It is the journey, it is the “setting apart” that makes us holy, that makes us become the covenant people He has called us to be.

Keeping all that in mind, we re-read verse 3:

“And he also spake unto them concerning the land of promise, which they had obtained—how merciful the Lord had been in warning us that we should flee out of the land of Jerusalem.”

So we learn that it is HIS MERCY that enables us to be “set apart”, that makes us holy, that transforms us into a covenant people.

It is also a reminder that His Laws, the principles by which we live, and the commandments we know are good for us, and that they are given to us by His MERCY, so that we can be delivered.

It brings us back to the image of the Passover, and of how being obedient saves us.  We see it in every commandment given to us – CLICK HERE to read my favorite talk EVER on the Word of Wisdom, by my favorite-est I-can-talk-Hebrew-Greek-and-English-in-the-same-sentence scholar, Hugh Nibley.

So this is the lesson, that in God’s mercy, He gives us commandments to keep us safe – both temporally and spiritually.  It’s really that simple.

In verse 4, Lehi tells his family that he has seen a vision in which Jerusalem has been destroyed.  So he knows that what he prophesied has now happened.  And, it really did.  This is all just after 600 BC, and we know that in this time, Jerusalem really was taken captive by Babylon.  This is the time of Jeremiah the prophet, and the captivity will last through the days of Zedekiah and until the rebuilding of the Temple.

So, Lehi says, “had we remained in Jerusalem, we should also have perished” (verse 4).

This opens up a layer of prophecy, where Lehi is talking about the land of Americas as well as this “promised land” being a type of the future celestial kingdom.

He says, “Dude. This was a hard trip.  It’s been really hard.  We had lots of hardships along the way.  But we got here safely, and were delivered out of the destruction that went down back there.  We are grateful and glad for His mercy that provided a way for us to make it here, and grateful and glad for this provision of a place to live. The Lord keeps His promises.”

“But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord” (verse 5).

Then come his powerful words of prophesy: “according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord” (verse 6).

This land, he says, is a promised land.  The Lord will lead people here, and that is how the people will find it.  Then, as long as the people continue to be obedient and acknowledge Him, He will protect them here in this land because they are His people and this is His land.  But if they refuse to become His people, they must leave the land because it is His.”

This, like all other others, applies in a temporal (here and now) and spiritual (celestial kingdom) sense.

The Lord is holy.  We cannot be in His presence if we are not also made holy.  To return to His presence, we must become the people-of-holiness.

In the same way, this land is consecrated (set apart, made holy) for His people.  If His people continue to be His people, the land will remain as a symbol of freedom to them, a “land of liberty”.  Can you see Moroni raising the flag in Alma 46?  But if they lose their freedom and liberty, it will be because of iniquity.  Yet even still, it is promised to His people, so those who become His people, people-of-holiness (the House of the Lord), will inherit the land.  It’s a promise.

“Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.”

Thus unfolds the drama (as in story) of the entire Book of Mormon.  The whole rest of the Book of Mormon is the story of how the Law of Opposition, played out by the descendants of Nephi (Nephites) and descendants of Lamen and Lemuel (Lamanites) affects who has the land or not.  It is how these groups of people, the Nephites and the Lamanites, are blessed or not by the choices they make and the covenants they keep (or not).

“Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever.”

This is a beautiful promise, a powerful promise.

It is also concerning, for we know the consequences of falling away from God as a nation, and it seems in-process even now.

The Family Proclamation 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.

That time is here.  That time is nearly now.

We are no longer in the latter days.  We are in the latter days of the latter days.  Time is running out.  The signs are here, the earth is testifying, and the prophet and apostles are exponentially speeding up preparations in every way.

Lehi said, “But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them” (verse 10).

The Lord can only show us mercy if we are listening and obeying and doing what He says.

Mercy works by delivering us through warnings, which means doing what we are supposed to do BEFORE the consequences come.

If we do not, then all that is left is the consequences, which is justice-only.

The time for mercy is NOW.  They time for obedience is NOW.

The time to be delivered is NOW.

But Lehi’s family was delivered because they heeded the warnings when they came, not because they waited until Jerusalem was invaded.

If they had waited, it would have been too late.

Now is the time to prepare to meet God.

It pre-echos the urging of Alma 5.

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

If we do not, it will be the same as is always the pattern of those who refuse the Lord: rather than being GATHERED and DELIVERED, there will be SCATTERING and DESTRUCTION.

“Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten” (verse 11).

We have to wake up!  We have to remember!

Lehi said, “O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe” (verse 13).  These “chains of hell” he is talking about is defined in Alma 12:12:

And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.

If our hearts are soft, we are given a “greater portion of the word” (understanding of Scriptures, Spirit-tutoring in the Scriptures, and deeper layers of meaning).

If our hearts are hard – if we will not obey – then we are given less.  Why would he give us more, if we do not care about or pay attention to what He has already given?

Why would He ask more of us, if we do not do what He has already commanded?

In the Hebrew, “mysteries” refers to two things: first, the things of God; second, ordinances of God.

So the more we humble ourselves before the Lord, and heed (listen and do!) what the Spirit teaches (instructs, corrects, and guides), then the more soft our hearts will be.  The more soft our hearts are, the more easily He can IMPRESS upon them.

When my house was being built, I carved my initials into my driveway.  It was easy because the cement was wet and soft.  I could not go out there today, a year later, now that the cement is hard and dry, and so very easily carve my name into the cement.  Is it possible?  Yes, I could.  But not in the same way, the same ease as when it was wet and soft.  Now it would be a hard process, rough, and require painful carving the way a flower must feel when I pull off its dead blossoms so that new blossoms can burst forth.  It’s much easier to impress upon something that is soft.

This is Lehi’s call to his children and their families; this is Lehi’s call to us:  be soft, let the Spirit impress upon your hearts, so that the Lord can teach you line upon line, so that you can become the people-of-holiness, so that you can get home safely to Heavenly Father.

He calls out, “Awake! And arise from the dust!” (verse 14)

This is our being lifted up.  As we are sanctified, by His Spirit, and by His atonement, we are changed.  He lifts us up, transforming us from what we were into who we were created to be.  We must shake off the dust from our tears of repentance, and we must exchange our sackcloth for white robes.   This is His work and glory, to bring about the immortality and eternal life of all of us.  It is His work of making us at-one again.

We see the at-one-ness in verse 15:  “the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love”.   I am encircled about in the arms of his love.  This is the embrace, the bringing into His presence.  It is the prodigal son being reunited with his father.  It is the moment of at-one-ness.

In his last words before dying, Lehi repeats all of this in a parallel poem kind of way, emphasizing the tender urging of a “trembling parent” (verse 14):

“And I desire that ye should remember to observe the statutes and the judgments of the Lord; behold, this hath been the anxiety of my soul from the beginning…  My heart hath been weighed down with sorrow from time to time, for I have feared, lest for the hardness of your hearts the Lord your God should come out in the fulness of his wrath upon you, that ye be cut off and destroyed forever;  Or, that a cursing should come upon you for the space of many generations; and ye are visited by sword, and by famine, and are hated, and are led according to the will and captivity of the devil” (verses 16-18).

Rather, Lehi pleads, choose the way of the Savior.  Turn to Him, love Him, serve Him, do what He says “that that these things might not come upon you, but that ye might be a choice and a favored people of the Lord. But behold, his will be done; for his ways are righteousness forever.  And he hath said that: inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence” (verses 19, 20).

This is an important, subtle piece because it again reflects and points out the attribute of mercy the Lord has.

It’s not a pass/fail exam.

“Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land” could read “to the degree that you keep my commandments, you will prosper in the land”.

This is not old-school mad-Jesus Heaven-or-Hell.

This is the mercy of God, that He provides a way, and our choices determine how far along that path we get and how quickly.

He makes it possible for us to return to Heavenly Father, but our choices determine how close we get.

Look, and see –

My mother has always been my mother, but after things like running away (my “Fall”), getting adopted by her made it all legal again.

That made her my mother, but it is our time together, our positive interactions, our choices in taking care of each other – that is what makes us friends.

Heavenly Father has always been our Heavenly Father, but the atonement pf the Savior makes my adoption possible.

But it is our time together (scripture study), our interactions (prayer and heeding promptings), our choices in taking care of each other (obedience, covenant-keeping) that makes us friends.

ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (Romans 8:15).

I will call you friends, for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me (D&C 93:45).

This is the embrace of at-one-ness, the work of the atonement.

But we have to do our part.

Because that’s how covenants work.

We know He will keep His promises.

But we have to keep ours.

“And now that my soul might have joy in you, and that my heart might leave this world with gladness because of you, that I might not be brought down with grief and sorrow to the grave, arise from the dust, my sons, and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things” (verse 21).

This is at-one-ment!

Then Lehi sums up his whole plea, repeating the pattern once more so that they might see how it works.

First, what happens when we are not at-one:

“that ye may not come down into captivity; That ye may not be cursed with a sore cursing; and also, that ye may not incur the displeasure of a just God upon you, unto the destruction, yea, the eternal destruction of both soul and body”

And then, rather, how to become at-one:

“Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.  Rebel no more against your brother, whose views have been glorious, and who hath kept the commandments from the time that we left Jerusalem; and who hath been an instrument in the hands of God, in bringing us forth into the land of promise; for were it not for him, we must have perished with hunger in the wilderness; nevertheless, ye sought to take away his life; yea, and he hath suffered much sorrow because of you” (verses 22-24).

The armor of righteousness, the robes of righteousness, the armor of God.

Rebel no more against the prophet, against those that warn you.  Listen, and heed (go and do!).

Keep the commandments because that is HOW the Lord delivers you.

Testify of the Lord working in your life, and the Spirit will testify to their spirit that you are a servant of God (Preach My Gospel, p. 158).

Lehi urges his sons and their families to turn to the Lord and obey His commandments.  He has explained how the commandments are given to protect them, to keep them safe, to teach them to depend on spiritual things.  He has explained how it is through commandments that we are delivered.  He has reminded them of examples of this.  Now he says that Nephi’s example of doing this well and teaching his brothers how to do this is not “for power nor authority over you, but he hath sought the glory of God, and your own eternal welfare” (verse 25).

So again, Nephi is a type pointing to Christ, who has given us commandments that are for our eternal welfare, for the glory of God.

Lehi confronts the murmuring of his sons against Nephi once more:

“And ye have murmured because he hath been plain unto you. Ye say that he hath used sharpness; ye say that he hath been angry with you; but behold, his sharpness was the sharpness of the power of the word of God, which was in him; and that which ye call anger was the truth, according to that which is in God, which he could not restrain, manifesting boldly concerning your iniquities” (verse 26).

The words of God are only “sharp” and difficult and too hard when we are not doing what He says.

It’s only oppressive when it isn’t what we really want.   It’s only oppressive when we are out-of-sync.

That’s why it is “inasmuch”, or to the degree to which you obey, because He is not out to oppress us or make us miserable.  He wants us happy, and He wants us to succeed.  He lets us choose.

When we are “kicking against the goads” or “kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5), it hurts and we are uncomfortable and we do not like it.

But when we submit, and take upon us His equal yoke, designed just for the being we are, then our load is made lighter and we are able to progress forward (Matthew 11:30).

“And it must needs be that the power of God must be with him, even unto his commanding you that ye must obey. But behold, it was not he, but it was the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, which opened his mouth to utterance that he could not shut it” (verse 27).

We are called to listen to the prophets and leaders who teach us, guide us, and correct us.  It is by the Spirit that they speak.

In the same way, we should be filled with the Spirit of the Lord, so that we also testify.  Always, being filled with the Spirit is a call to some kind of sharing, some level of passing-it-on, some type of testifying, whether or not we actually use words.  Receiving the Light and Becoming the Light is all part of the same process.  We are called to be a light unto the world.

We read in Matthew 5:14-16:

 14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

 15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

What is interesting about this is how we, collectively, a covenant people of the Temple (a city on a hill), are the light of the world.  We cannot be hidden; we cannot be silenced.   Our primary influence is a collective influence.

But, the only way that can happen, is for us as individuals to shine.

We must shine, even to each other within the church, to our brothers and sisters of the covenant (“all that are in the house”).   We cannot be acting like the world, when we are supposed to be acting like a city-on-the-hill (Temple).  We should be demonstrating attributes of the Savior – goodness, kindness, loving-ness, forgiving-ness, soft-ness, service-ness – unto all those around us.  Not drama, not bickering, not hatefulness, not ugliness.  We should be reflecting the Savior, so that all may glorify our Father-in-Heaven.

And if we do so, even listening to the prophets, doing what the Scriptures say, heeding the promptings of the Spirit, then “ye shall not perish” (verse 28).

Now Lehi is dying, and gives his final blessings to his sons.

He also blesses Zoram, the servant of Laban (the guy who had the records and wouldn’t give them up).  He even thanks him for being a “true friend” to Nephi.  He declares Zoram to be a convert to the covenant “because thou has been faithful, and so they seed shall be blessed… and nothing, save it be iniquity among them… shall harm or disturb their prosperity upon the face of this land forever… if ye shall keep the commandments of the Lord, the Lord hath consecrated this land for the security of thy seed with the seed of my son” (verses 31 and 32).

In this way, the close of the chapter that opens 2 Nephi, we see how the covenant is open even to converts, and that in some way all must convert.  We see being born into the covenant is not enough, but one must be faithful to the covenant.

I was talking with a friend about how my mother always urged me to get the CA-125 tumor marker test because of her experience with ovarian cancer, and how it came up now – in this time in this place – because of my father’s cancer.  My friend pointed out that if I had not worked through the past, if I had not done my part at becoming at-one with my parents, I might not have known anything about all this until it was too late.  It was because of being at-one with my mother, and doing the work of loving my father, that I was protected by this early intervention.  My friend said, “There are often reasons for doing what is hard – but right – that we are oblivious to at the time.”  This is what Lehi has tried to teach his sons in this chapter, that the mercy of the Lord works in us as we are rescued and delivered by being obedient to His commandments.

I Have Faith in America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I slept NINETEEN of the last 24 hours.

That is some serious exhaustion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So they did a good job.  Really.

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

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

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

Far worse than they were before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t just mean political stuff escalating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We must become people of the covenant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am saying it is time to step it up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harold B. Lee said:

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

30 April 2011 Conference Talk: Marriage and Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classic example is Moses 5:10&11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is how it works:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, in chapter 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She believes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

This is precious. Truly.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s enough to make a girl cry.

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

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

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

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

This is the miracle of the atonement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These verses are poetic parallels to verses 12 and 13.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how did they do it?

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

They had to start talking to each other!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D&C 64:8-10 says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer is the safety harness that guides each step.

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

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

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

The Law of Chastity keeps ON the bridge.

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

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

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

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

But here is what is amazing.

Go back to King Lamoni and his Queen.

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

Know what else looks just like that?

Our DNA:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agency gives you the choices:

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

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

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

In the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN.

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

1D&C 132:3

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

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

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

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

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

8 Alma 57:19-21

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

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

11 Philippians 2:12

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

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

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

16 Genesis 28:12-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Nephi 22

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 22.

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

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

Nephi answers that they are both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s very reminiscent of Passover.

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

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

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

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

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

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

His righteousness makes us at-one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easier said than done.

But it is possible, Nephi says.

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

1 Nephi 21

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 21.

This chapter continues the Isaiah-ish prophesying.

I love the end of the first verse especially:

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

It so reminds me of Jeremiah 1:5:

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

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

The Family Proclamation says this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always, we are to be a Light.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “high places” points to the Temple.

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

But first, in baptism:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then he gives an example of this deep love:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compare this to D&C 105:14:

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

He will fight our battles.

It’s a promise.