Mosiah 1

CLICK HERE to read Mosiah 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do the work (be diligent) to be obedient.

That’s what brings the blessings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And oh!  What a speech it is!

Words of Mormon

CLICK HERE to read Words of Mormon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost Somewhere Between Last Tuesday and Tomorrow

I lost me somewhere between last Tuesday and tomorrow morning.

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

This was my crazy week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It cost a whole dollar.

ON A SUNDAY.

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

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

At least I didn’t step on her toes.

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

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

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

(Emily Dickinson)

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

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

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

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

Oh, and it’s only Monday.

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

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

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

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

Almost.

So, so close.

Omni

CLICK HERE to read Omni.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why did this happen?

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

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

Sadness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So many parallels to Lehi and his family leaving Jerusalem!

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

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

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

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

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

Jarom

CLICK HERE to read Jarom.

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

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

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

I love it.

But the people will not, and do not.

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

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

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

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

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

The evidence?  Because He has not yet destroyed them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So the pressure is intense.

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

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

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

This is the battle.

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

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

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

But these people were obedient, and did these things.

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

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

Inasmuch is more of that “to the degree”.

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

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

His love for us is unconditional, absolutely.

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

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

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

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

It’s that simple.

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

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

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

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

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

It’s that simple, plain and simple.

His laws are not complicated.

They are not laws, as in oppressive rules.

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

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

It’s so, so simple.

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

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

This is the way.  Walk in it.

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

They are trying to help us.

Follow them.

Do what they say.

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

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

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

But it is the work that will save us.

#Dance

I started dancing in the summer of 2008.

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

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

An interpreter told me about ballroom dancing.

I laughed at her.

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

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

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

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

That was the moment I fell in love with dance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I loved it.

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

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

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

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

That’s when I got sick.

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

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

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

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

Excepting I love it that much.

And I have missed it.

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

And so I went!

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

So tonight I went!

And it was amazing!

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

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

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

But it’s okay.

Because I went.

And I did it.

And I had a blast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mostly I just love dancing with all of my heartz.

Even if I am not very good at it.

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

Isn’t that what mortality is all about it?

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

Oh, I do love dancing!  Really, really!

#Ballroom #Dance Shoes: More Than You Ever Wanted to Know

My friend David asked a good question: what makes ballroom dance shoes unique to ballroom?  How are they different from other shoes?

The answer is, of course, what makes them special is that I love them with all of my heart.

But also, they are made special, just for ballroom dancing.

Specifically, the bottoms of the shoes are covered in suede for the soles of the shoes.

This is what enables the dancer to slide smoothly across the floor while they are dancing.

Excepting that, over time, the suede gets worn smooth, which makes the shoes TOO slick.   So sometimes you have to “brush” your shoes to rough them up.  The “brush” is actually wire bristles, and you literally scratch up the bottom of the shoes in grid patterns to rough them up so they are not too slick.

Ballroom dancing shoes are in two categories, with one shoe for smooth dances (waltz, foxtrot, tango, viennese waltz, quickstep) and another shoe for latin dances (chacha, swing, rumba).  Some wear different shoes for west coast swing than east coast swing.  It gets pretty intense, the shoe business in dance world!  Primarily, the difference between smooth shoes and latin shoes is that latin shoes have a higher heel, forcing the weight of the dancer onto the toes more, while smooth shoes have a wider and lower heel (though some are still 2 or even 3 inches!) to keep the balance more evenly distributed.

I do not have any of those shoes!  I am just a beginner, and while I love ballroom dancing very much, almost more than anything, it is not a natural talent and very hard work for me.  I have also missed a lot from being sick, and so I have to keep starting over.  But that is okay with me because I love it that much.   It is so fun, and I do love it very much.

I have two pairs of ballroom dance shoes.

One is a pair of practice shoes:

You can see they have a low heel, because I cannot dance in high heels yet!   I never even walked in high heels before!

They are black, which means they are very most basic practice shoes for the very most basic beginners.

I went through three pairs of those the first year I was dancing.

Now I use real ballroom shoes, but they are beginner shoes with only a one inch heel.

Competitive dance shoes are tan instead of black because it blends in more with my skin color, so allegedly it makes my legs look longer which allegedly makes the judge give me higher points for looking more dancer-like.

That’s why competitive dancing always has brown shoes like that.

Unless it is a showcase, which is like a dance done at a competition where it is only one couple dancing instead of competing against other couples at the same time, then sometimes the shoes are dyed to match the dress.

I need a new pair of ballroom shoes, but that is not included in a missionary budget!  Also, I was ready to go up to the next size heel when we started this whole cochlear implant business.  But now I am starting over again, so I am not ready.  So I have to decide whether to get a new pair of the same thing while I start over, or just wait it out and hope for the best and get the next sized heel when it is time.

The scariest part about going up to the next level of shoes is that they are open toe.

That means when you get stepped on, it’s going to hurt.

I like my little closed toe shoes that protect my baby piggies.

So.  We will see.

For now, my dance shoes are pulled out of the trunk and are back in the front floorboard, where they should be.  It was a long year without dancing, and I missed them.  I think that’s what I will write about next.  Enjoy, because this was probably the only time in my whole life that I would ever blog about shoes.  It kind of makes me laugh, actually.  Hilarious.

Enos

CLICK HERE to read Enos.

Enos is a one chapter book in the Book of Mormon, but it is powerful in its brevity.

We know from Jacob 7 that Enos is a son of Jacob.  We also know that Enos is of the covenant, or else Jacob would not have chosen him to pass down the records and write the things of God.  Enos opens with a tribute to his father Jacob, calling him “a just man – for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord – and blessed be the name of my God for it” (verse 1).

What a blessing, like Nephi’s gratitude for “goodly parents”, for Enos to give his father.  This is a precious gift of honor he gives, acknowledging the contribution of his parents to his own faith.

But Enos has also done the work to make his parents’ faith his own.

Specifically, Enos says he wrestled before God, before receiving a remission of his sins (verse 2).

He tells a story of going about his normal daily activities, and during that time pondering “the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints” (verse 3).  These thoughts “sunk deep into my heart”, he said (verse 3).

This is such an important piece of what Enos did to develop his own faith.  Our beliefs become faith when we act (do something!) in response to our beliefs.  We develop faith by learning who God is, and by aligning our lives with His.   It is then upon this faith that the Lord reveals line upon line until that faith becomes knowledge, which is testimony.  This whole process is dependent upon the external work of reading Scriptures daily, praying un-cease-ing-ly, studying the words of prophets (old discourses, General Conference talks, BYU discussions, Fireside talks, Sacrament meeting talks, etc… all of it counts!), as well internal work of thinking, pondering, memorizing, reflecting, and asking for more.

He will reveal to us AS MUCH AS we are willing to receive.

We demonstrate our willingness through study, prayer, obedience, and pondering.

“And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens” (verse 4).

Enos wanted it.

Enos feasted on the words his father taught him, the scriptures and words of the prophets, until he hungered for more.

It was then, when he was hungry to know more, when he was willing and ready to apply what he had learned, it was then that he humbled himself and prayed, submitting to the will of the Lord.

This is a sacred moment, one so sacred it almost feels intrusive to be watching through his written description of the experience. It is powerful.

“And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed” (verse 5).

Powerful. Sacred.

These are private, deeply sacred, powerful moments of repentance, with the Lord keeping His promise to cover those who repent with His at-one-ment.

This is an at-one-ment moment.

“And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away” (verse 6).

When we do wrong things or bad things or fail to do good, we should feel bad.  That isn’t false guilt.  We really are guilty, and feeling guilt is the correct response.  But getting stuck in the guilt would leave us helpless and hopeless, drowning in our own self-imposed shame without chance of recovery.  But “hopeless and helpless” is not of God.  The Savior is our hope, and His great atoning sacrifice empowers us to receive help.  Enos asks how this hope and help come (verse 7).

“And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen” (verse 8).  Enos has faith in Christ, that Christ will come, even though at this time in history Christ had not yet been born.  This is great faith, to trust the teachings of the prophets and the teachings of his father.

And then verse 8 closes with an interesting statement:

“go to, thy faith hath made thee whole”

It reminds me of John 8:11, with Jesus telling the hotshots to cast the first stone if they are without sin, and then watching them all crawl away, each with their own guilt.  Then the Savior looks at the woman and says,

“Go and sin no more”.

They are related in repentance, though Enos is further along.

The woman must “go and sin no more”, which is part of repentance in that when repentance is real, the sin is not repeated.  It leads to the restitution piece of repentance.  The woman is in process.

But Enos has completed the process:  “thy faith hath made thee whole”.

This “whole”-ness is what it means when other verses talk about how we should be perfect.  They do not mean we should be perfect, as in without mistakes.  They mean perfect, as in whole and complete.

So Enos teaches us that we can be made perfect (whole and complete) through faith in Christ, and by doing our part of repentance: the crying out to God with our whole souls, and the go-and-sin-n0-more.  Then the atonement makes us at-one, and even our sins are forgiven.  That’s the power of the atonement.

This was so huge, so transformative, that Enos wanted this for his people as well.

It’s like Lehi tasting the fruit and knowing he wants his family to also taste.

“I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites, wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them” (verse 9).

So again, it is the praying.

This is the praying we should do for the people we visit teach, and for those we love and serve, and for those we do not yet know they need our love and service.

But no matter how much we want it for them, they have to want it themselves.

The Lord answers Enos, saying that He will bless the people “according to their diligence in keeping my commandments” (verse 10).  This is the “inasmuch”, or the “to the degree”.  Yes, the Savior loves them – this is the unconditional part.  But His presence and blessings are dependent upon the people trying, being obedient, being diligent in keeping His commandments.

“And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord; and I prayed unto him…” (verse 11).

Only now he is not only praying for his people, but also for his enemies.

“And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith” (verse 12).

This was a powerful experience.

And so Enos went through the land, amongst the people, to teach what he knows about the Christ to come, and of the way the Lord works in our lives (verse 19).

So Enos led the Nephites in seeking “diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God” (verse 20).  But the Lamanites refused, and sought to destroy the Nephites.

This is how the “murmuring” of Nephi’s brothers Laman and Lemuel, back in the day, led to this pattern of contention and destruction evident all through the Book of Mormon.  It urges us to nourish life and heal wounds and forgive and ask for forgiveness and become an obedient, covenant people.

But the Nephites are becoming a “stiffnecked people”, refusing to submit to the laws of God (verse 21).

Because the covenant people were not acting like covenant people, the Lord sent them “many prophets” to teach and heal (verse 22).

These prophets had a rough job dealing with the “harshness” of the people, “preaching and prophesying of wars and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God.  Enos hopes the people will listen to these prophets, which will help “keep them from going down speedily to destruction” (verse 23).

But the wars have begun, and now the Nephites and the Lamanites are officially fighting each other (verse 24).

And so the prophets do their work, as Enos has done in all his days (verse 26), testifying of Christ.

“And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest.  And I rejoice in the day when… he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father” (verse 27).