1 Nephi 9

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 9.

This chapter is another monologue from Nephi.  He again puts down his writing-on-metal-plates pen and looks up to talk to us directly.  The story is on pause, while he takes a minute to explain the process of writing.

Basically, he is talking about how his writing is going to be organized.  There are two sets of plates, he says.  One is a more secular history (“the larger plates”), and one contains more sacred things (“the smaller plates”).

The larger plates of the secular history include the reigns of the kings and the wars and contentions of the people.   The smaller plates of the “sacred things” are more about the ministry to the people and other teachings.

This is very much like the Old Testament, where we have entire books that are histories of people, and accounts of their wars and the story of different kingdoms, and other books that are just the work and words and messages of prophets.

But for some reason, Nephi says, the Lord wants me to organize my writing this way and make two copies of my record, each containing a different perspective of the same events.  And so he does.

In verse 5, he says “the Lord hath commanded me to make these plats for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.”

So Nephi is saying, “I don’t understand why we have to do it this way, but it is the way the Lord said to do it, so I am doing it.”

We have the benefit of hindsight, long after the life of Nephi, and we know what that “wise purpose” was, in part, the lost pages.

The Lord already knew all this would go down the way it did, and He provided a way for Nephi’s writings to be protected.  He prepared the way, long before anyone understood why.

Verse six closes the chapter with this:

“The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words.”

I love this chapter, because it reflects one of my all time favorite Hebrew names for God:

Jehovah-Jireh, or, The God who provides what you need before you know you need it.

That’s powerful.

1 Nephi 8

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 8.

So now Lehi has the family records, and Nephi and his brothers have wives.  The families have reunited in the wilderness, and they have taken the time to thank the Lord.  Now that they all back together, and settled in (as much as you can be while journeying in the wilderness), Lehi tells them he has had a dream.

This dream is the “seed” of the fruit to come (the understanding of why we are here and who we are and where we are going, or – in other words – the plan of salvation).

This dream continues the same theme, with Lehi expressing his confidence in Nephi’s decisions to follow the Lord and his efforts of behavior that proves him a child of the covenant, as well as his concerns about Laman and Lemuel continuing to refuse.

So this is Lehi’s dream:

There is a dark and dreary wilderness.

After many hours of traveling in the darkness, he prays to the Lord asking for mercy “according to the multitude of his tender mercies”.

This last piece is important, because that is how it works for us.  The tender mercies are like tiny little blessings meant just for us, specifically for us, unique to us, and they show us the way and give us direction and understanding and hope.  They are, for Lehi in this dream, a “light” in the darkness, shedding just enough light on the path that he knows where to step next – or that it is safe to do so.

Finally, Lehi (still dreaming) sees a field, with a tree in it.  The fruit of the tree makes people happy.  Lehi tasted it, and it was sweet, and he was happy.

It was so good, and made him so happy, that he wanted to share it with his family.  Verse 12 says, “And as I partook of the fruit thereof, it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.”

So he looks around for his family, and sees them a ways away.  He sees his wife, and Nephi, and one of Nephi’s (good) brothers.  When he looked at them, he could tell they did not know what way to go.  He calls out to them, and tells them to come to where he is and to taste this fruit.  They do.

Lehi keeps looking, because Laman and Lemuel are missing!  When he finally sees them far away, they refuse to come to him to taste the fruit.

Then Lehi sees a “rod of iron” that leads along the path to the tree where Lehi stands trying to pass out the happy fruit.  He sees how people can cling to this iron rod to stay safely on the path, even when the mists of darkness come.  He sees how people wander away or get lost when they do not hold on to the iron rod.

He sees also, a “great and spacious building”, floating in the air.  It is filled with all kinds of people, and these people have attitudes of mocking and pointing fingers at those trying to get to the happy fruit or those who have tasted the happy fruit.  They are scoffers and scorners, these people in the great and spacious building.

Then verse 29 is a tiny monologue, as if Nephi looked up from the metal plates upon which he had been writing.  Nephi lets us know that he is not sharing the whole story of his father’s dream, just a part.

Verse 30 continues the dream-story again, as Lehi describes that those who “press forward” along the rod of iron are they who make it to the tree to taste the fruit.

But Lehi’s concern about his sons Laman and Lemuel continues to grow, as in his dream they refuse to taste the fruit.  Lehi is scared for them, that they will not be able to enter the presence of the Lord.  So he preaches to them, prophesies to them, and urges them to keep the commandments.

Then he is done, having said all he could say.

This “rod of iron” dream of Lehi’s is classic mormon culture literature.  The different pieces of the dream itself get interpreted a few chapters later, and it is worth the way!  But this is a big piece to LDS theological concepts.  We even sing a song about it!

Here is part of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing it:

1. To Nephi, seer of olden time,
A vision came from God,
Wherein the holy word sublime
Was shown an iron rod.

[Chorus]
Hold to the rod, the iron rod;
’Tis strong, and bright, and true.
The iron rod is the word of God;
’Twill safely guide us through.

2. While on our journey here below,
Beneath temptation’s pow’r,
Through mists of darkness we must go,
In peril ev’ry hour.

3. And when temptation’s pow’r is nigh,
Our pathway clouded o’er,
Upon the rod we can rely,
And heaven’s aid implore.

4. And, hand o’er hand, the rod along,
Through each succeeding day,
With earnest prayer and hopeful song,
We’ll still pursue our way.

5. Afar we see the golden rest
To which the rod will guide,
Where, with the angels bright and blest,
Forever we’ll abide.

(Text: Joseph L. Townsend, 1849–1942; Music: William Clayson, 1840–1887)

Music of the Spheres

It turns out that the horrible, scary sound that happens inside my head when I take off my cochlear implant processors…. is really actually only the music of the stars.

It’s good to know.  Comforting, actually.

CLICK HERE to see this just released (short) video of clips of actual star sounds.  Scientists are using these to measure the structure of stars, which is fascinating.

Most of all, I love how this sound does remind me of the voice that is like “the rushing of great waters” from The Living Christ (top paragraph of right column), or verses like Ezekiel 1:24 or Ezekiel 43:2 or Revelation 1:15 or Revelation 14:2.  Beautiful.

It is the sound of nature declaring the purpose of their creation, singing their song of testimony.

The stars are echoing the earthquakes.

It is the sound of poetry, the sound of judgment, the voice of mercy.

It is the prophetic sound of a voice declaring the work of the atonement accomplished.

It is the music of the greatest love there is, like a testimony.

It is the sound of God coming near.

Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King!  And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness.  Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy!  And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever!  And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!

~ Doctrine & Covenants 128:23

And so my heart does sing:

This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all natures sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.

1 Nephi 7

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 7.

In chapter 7, Nephi has finished his short (but powerful) monologue, and is back to telling the story of his family.

Before the family can move along in their wilderness journey, they have a tiny problem to solve:

Lehi has a family full of boys who are now grown and itchin’ to get married.

The solution seems simple enough:  go back to Jerusalem to the family of Ishmael, who was like Lehi’s BFF back in the day and who just so happens to have a brood full of daughters, and bring the family to travel with them.

The plan: let the kiddos mingle.

The end of verse one has both immediate and celestial implications:  “that they might raise up seed unto the Lord in the land of promise.”

Remember, “the land of promise” always refers to the immediate end of their physical wandering in the actual wilderness, as well as to the celestial kingdom of heaven following our mortal lifetime journey.

So what happens next?  Yep, you guessed it.  Nephi and his brothers get sent back to Jerusalem AGAIN.  Only this time there is no murmuring going on, because they are going to see the ladies.  Boo-yah.

So they go to Ishmael’s house, and gain his favor.  They even get to “speak unto him the words of the Lord”.  This is important because it means they are talking with him about what the prophets have said, and what it means for Jerusalem.  So Ishmael isn’t leaving his home just to marry off his daughters, but because he believes the words of the prophets.

Now we have the family of Lehi and the family of Ishmael traveling together in the wilderness, and the children are mingling, and over time the kids decide who likes whom.

But still, there are growing pains.  Now that everyone is showing off for everyone else, the murmuring starts again.  And even the girls chime in, now that they are daydreaming about fairytale weddings – they want the big fancy event in Jerusalem, where all their friends can come.

Nephi “grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (verse 8), and calls them out on this nonsense.

He looks Laman and Lemuel right in the eyes, and schools them with, “DUDE!  You guys are older than me!  What’s your problem?  You should be my example, but I have to be an example to you.  Get with it, already!  Why won’t you listen to the Lord?  How is it you have seen an angel, and still won’t do what the Lord says?  Have you forgotten everything the Lord has done for us?  Have you forgotten everything we have seen and been through?  What’s the deal?!  We must be faithful to the Lord, puh-leeeeeze.”

He pleads with them and tries to reassure them with the promised blessings, saying in verse 13: “And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise…”

So again, this simple sentence contains a double meaning.  He is talking about now, in the present moment, being faithful, so that they will get through the wilderness to the promised land (like Moses and the Israelites).  But he also is referring to their mortal journey, that they must be faithful to get back to the presence of Heavenly Father.

He is saying, if you can’t do it in the small and simple things, how will you do it in the overall plan?  The overall plan is accomplished each and every day.   We become who we act like now.

In the same verse, he reminds them of why they cannot go back to Jerusalem (because it is going to be destroyed):  “and ye shall know at some future period that the word of the Lord shall be fulfilled concerning the destruction of Jerusalem; for all things which the Lord hath spoken concerning the destruction of Jerusalem must be fulfilled.”

Then, in verse 14, he uses Jerusalem as an example to give his brothers a stern warning: “… the Spirit of the Lord ceaseth soon to strive with them; for behold, they have rejected the prophets, and Jeremiah (of the Old Testament) they have cast into prison.  And they have sought to take away the life of my father, insomuch that they have driven him out of the land.”

The brothers know all this; they were there.  Nephi doesn’t have to tell them the latest status update from Jerusalem’s facebook.  They know all this.

Rather, Nephi is using Jerusalem as an example, warning his brothers that they are choosing to act the same as the people in Jerusalem, ignoring the words of prophets.

He is warning them that whether it is murmuring, or putting prophets in jail, neither is makes them worthy of the Spirit of the Lord.

He is warning them that if they are choosing a similar destruction.

But still, they have their choice, both literally and metaphorically.  But he tells them the consequences for either choice (to stay or to go back to Jerusalem).

This tells us more than just about the brothers and how they are doing.  It also tells us about Nephi.  Because Nephi is so full of the Spirit, he cannot NOT warn them.  That’s the job of a prophet, to warn.  Anyone who warns is a prophet (with a lowercase “p”); anyone who preaches about the use of agency and consequences for using it wisely or not, is a prophet.  Prophesying, or testifying, is a natural result from being filled with the Spirit of the Lord.  We cannot, if we are full, keep it to ourselves, because it is one message for all people.  It comes out of Nephi because that is who he is.

There is a quote I love by CS Lewis, which says, “creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection.  Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.”

This is an example of that quote.

Laman and Lemuel were born into the covenant, and they were obedient to their father in leaving – even though they were hesitant in doing so.  This does set them apart from the people in Jerusalem who tried to kill Isaiah and who threw Jeremiah in jail.  Laman and Lemuel are complaining, but at least they went along with the plan (begrudgingly).

However, Nephi then chose the covenant, which is more than just being born into it.  And he is not complaining, even though he faces the same hardships.  And he is doing the things – study and prayer and teaching and sharing – that develop him spiritually.  This is in sharp contrast to his brothers, who repeatedly just barely make the cut.

Laman and Lemuel don’t like Nephi calling them out.  He’s their younger brother, and nobody likes to be busted.  They are angry, it says.  I am a therapist, so I know that “angry” means embarrassed, hurt, ashamed, scared, confused, offended, lonely, abandoned, and all sorts of other things that run like a river beneath the shores of “angry”.

They grab Nephi and tie him up, leaving him in the wilderness to die.

This reminds us what happens with Joseph, in Genesis 37, when his brothers throw him in the pit to die… only to barely have compassion enough to sell him as a slave instead.  Nice.

But Nephi prayed, “O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.”  (verse 17)

This verse is PACKED.

First, Nephi’s immediate response was not to get upset or retaliate or give up and quit.

He prayed.

And he knew how to ask for help:  “according to my faith”.

In this moment, Nephi is relying on all those hours of study, all those early morning seminary meetings, all those “small and simple things” that have built up within him, “line upon line”, a great faith.  This great faith is what empowers him.

It is the power of the Lord, but Nephi has the right to call upon it because he has invested the time and energy and effort into claiming that power.  He is worthy of it, and he has worked hard to obtain it.  So this power is available to him, and he has the ability to use it.

He is also claiming who he knows God to be, stating that He knows the Lord is able to deliver him.

Nephi breaks loose, and undaunted, gets right back up and confronts his brothers him again.

Now they are even more angry!

Except by now, there has been such a commotion going on that the ladies have come out to intervene.

The ladies speak with Laman and Lemuel, softening their hearts.

This is the miracle of the divine work of women, truly.  There is something in us that has this special “divine attribute”, as it was called in General Conference last weekend.  It is meant to comfort and to soothe.  It is meant to create life-ness where there is nothing and to bring peace where there is destruction and division.

But I think that is also why there is such drama in girl world, and why we cause such severe destruction and pain when we fail to be life-givers and peace-makers.  It is not just a failure to do good, but it is a causing of harm.  In those moments when we lose our tempers, when we last out, when we act so ugly and mean… we are perverting the divine gifts within us.  It is our unrighteous dominion.  It is a terrible, terrible thing when we are negative and hateful and ugly.  When we act like that, we deny the basic nature of God.

Here, however, the ladies serve Him well.  They soothe the men, they help calm them down, and they help them understand what Nephi is trying to say.  They help them shift perspectives and understand the truth.  They help them see the reality of what they were doing, and the severe implications.

And they get sorry.  Really.  They even ask forgiveness.

Then, in verse 21, Nephi replies:  “And it came to pass that I did frankly forgive them all that they had done, and I did exhort them that they would pray unto the Lord their God for forgiveness.”

This is amazing:  Nephi doesn’t take it personally.  He gets beat up (again), tied up, and left for dead, and he doesn’t take it personally.  He sticks to his eternal message, and points them (again) back to the Savior.

They do pray for forgiveness, and the brothers are re-united.

This is at-one-ment.  This is the atonement at work.

This is a family in a healing moment.

They arrive back at their father’s tent, and the families celebrate.

What is amazing and interesting about verse 22, is HOW they celebrate.

They celebrate according to the Temple pattern.

“And after I and my brethren and all the house of Ishmael had come down unto the tent of my father, they did give thanks unto the Lord their God; and they did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto him.”

It’s almost like you can see the wilderness landscape, with the temporary tent-tabernacle (Temple) set up, and the families joined for the sealings of these new couples.

Maybe, if you have cochlear implants, you can hear the distant wedding bells, and the singing and dancing that followed.

 

1 Nephi 6

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 6.

1 Nephi 6 is a short little chapter of only six verses!

It’s like a moment in a play on stage, where the story stops for just a moment while an actor turns and talks directly to the audience.  It’s a monologue to the reader, rather than part of the story he is writing.

We again have the very important “I, Nephi” statement, just as we did in chapters 1 and 3 (now again in chapter 6).  Why that matters will come later, but it is super important.  So remember it!

This is also an important moment because in verse one Nephi explains that the genealogy of his family, which we just read about Lehi studying in the previous chapter, is not recorded here.  Nephi states that his father Lehi has those records, and so Nephi is not going to repeat them here.

But he does say, in verse two, that they are descendants of Joseph, which would make them of the tribe of Ephraim or Manasseh.  These were the two sons of Joseph.

This brings up fun Jewish history.

In the Old Testament, we have Abraham who has a son named Jacob, who has a son named Israel.

Through Israel, we get the “twelve tribes of Israel”, which are really thirteen tribes.  The tribe of the Levites were not counted because they were to be exclusively devoted to the care of and service in the Tabernacle.  Jacob had twelve sons, and these are the twelve tribes of Israel; however, Joseph had two sons and thus two tribes.  Sometimes these two are counted together and the Levites are also counted, or sometimes the Levites are left out of the list and Ephraim and Manassah are counted separately.  It depends on the context.

But here, Nephi is simply saying they are descendants of Joseph, which means they are from the tribe of Ephraim or Manassah.

In verse 3, he uses the phrase “it mattereth not to me”.  I find this interesting because of the other times and places when this phrased is used in the Book of Mormon.  For example, we have that phrase when Ether writes in 15:34 that “it mattereth not” whether he dies or is translated, but only that he returns to the kingdom of God; and at the very end, when Moroni says in 8:4 he has finished the record and is going to hide the plates, and “it mattereth not” where he goes after that.

In all three cases, some task of the Lord is finished, has been accomplished, and so the seemingly trivial temporal matters really do not matter.  They are not that big of a deal.  They are not important.  It really doesn’t matter.  What mattered, more than their very lives, was protecting and preserving the word of God, testifying and recording the history of the Lord working amongst His people, and prophesying the consequences for those who do follow the Lord and for those who do not.

The only thing that matters to them, at the beginning – in the middle – and at the end of the Book of Mormon, the only thing that matters is that they have done what the Lord asked them to do.

So now Nephi is talking about the records his father has (their genealogy, and Old Testament writings, and other prophet writings that have since been lost), and has read and studied it for himself.

Now that he has read and studied it for himself, and received that learning (reference to the Temple pattern again, as it is a “house of learning”), and now that he has chosen and proven himself a child of the covenant, he wants to continue the record.

This is a natural next-step, and evidence of his progress.  He is testifying.  It is real to him, and he is sharing and teaching it in the ways he knows how.  He is being faithful by keeping his own family history (“book of remembrance”).  In a greater way, he is being faithful to his premortal covenant to testify of the atonement (which at this time, in 600 BC, has not yet happened but they know it will).

So he is explaining that he is going to continue the record, as is tradition. He is going to pick up where the record leaves off, and then pass it down as it was passed down to them.  This passing down of Lehi’s record, and what his descendants wrote as they protected and preserved this record, is what becomes for us the sacred record we now call “The Book of Mormon”.  That’s what the Book of Mormon is, these records Nephi wrote and what his children after him wrote.  It’s their family history.  It’s how the see and experience the Lord working in the lives of the family, and what happens in their family when they are obedient (being gathered and protected and blessed) or when they are not (scattered and destroyed).  It’s the same story we see play out in our everyday lives.

It’s like an amazing genealogy find, to read this ancient journal entry of him wanting to keep the record of his family history and how he wants to pass it down to his children, and their children, and to know we are really holding it right in our very hands!   It really did get passed down!  It’s better than my great-grandmother’s desk in my bedroom!

Specifically, he says, he doesn’t just want to write the story of his father, but “the things of God” (verse 3).

“For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.”

That’s covenant language.

That’s one of the reasons we, as LDS, say the Gospel has been “restored”.  This is what is being restored: the original covenant that has been since before the beginning.   Not just un-doing denomination bickering in the last 2,000 years, but since the beginning, since before the beginning.

When you really “get” that, it will take your breath away.

“Wherefore, the things which are pleasing to the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.”  (Verse 5)

Nephi finishes his monologue in verse six by saying that he will write the story of his family, and then pass these metal plates (upon which the records are written) down to his children for them to add to them their story.  But, he says, he will teach them only to write the things of God, and not to use up the space or time writing things which are not of true worth.

This is most important, he says.

Focus on what is most important, he says.

And then pass it on.

1 Nephi 5

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 5.

This chapter is a simple chapter about the reunification of Nephi and his brothers with his parents.

But if you study the layers within it, it is fairly profound as it reminds us of our own epic journey into mortality, and the day when we will be reunited with our Heavenly Parents.

So the boys – along with their new buddy, Zoram – arrived back at the camp in the wilderness, much to the delight of their parents.

Their mother, being the mother, was especially glad.  She had been so stressed out about whether they were okay or not!  She had been complaining to Lehi about what happened to them, and whether they were okay.

He calmly reassured her, saying that he knew the orders of this mission were from God, and it would be God who delivers the boys.  They will be home safe, he promises.

These words were a comfort to his wife, and “their joy was full” (verse seven) when the boys arrived safely home.

Their mother testified that “Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them…”

Even the words she uses continue to reflect the mikveh theme, the great deliverance, both alluding to the past and pointing toward the future.

The Temple pattern continues in verse nine, “they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer a sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.”

They gave thanks!  They gave the Lord credit for accomplishing His work.

Lehi then took the records, and searched them.   He studied them closely to learn from them, and shared what he learned.  The records contained the five books of Moses (the Torah, or Genesis through Deuteronomy).  He specifically mentions the stories of the creation of the world and Adam and Eve.  The books have a history of the Jews up through King Zedekiah, who was king of Judah.  The records had writings of the prophets of the Old Testaments, and several prophets of which we have no record (as yet discovered).  The prophet Jeremiah is specifically mentioned.

Lehi also discovers his own family history in the record, so much as to know he is a son of Joseph, who was the son of Jacob.  He remembers the story of Joseph being sold into Egypt, and how he was “preserved” by the Lord for a special role in delivering His people.  He teaches his sons how the Lord let the Israelites of captivity back then, and how the Lord has delivered this family now.  The Spirit comes over Lehi, and he begins to prophecy about the future as well.

These records are sacred Scriptures, and are to be treated as such.  Even Nephi and others begin to study them to learn and improve and understand.  Then, like their father, they understood now that it was a top priority to preserve these records for later generations.

“Wherefore, it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us, as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise.” (versse 22).

I love that verse, because that is how I feel now – that I have been led through the wilderness and into the land of promise, that the Lord still leads me through this mortality of life, so that I might in the future arrive in the land of promise.

That is a God of mercy, and a God of love.

I am grateful.

And that is what this chapter is about: how to “get a testimony”, meaning knowing for yourself what is true about God.

First, there is faith enough to pray and ask.  Then, there is some act of obedience.  These things together begin the seeds of testimony.  As this becomes reality (a “surety” in verse 8), we are moved to respond back to God – of through thanks and expressions of love and gratitude.  This helps us to be more obedient, and want to know Him better.  We get to know Him by studying the scriptures, and through the scriptures He speaks to us.  As we do this, we become more obedient, and He blesses us with provision and protection.  It’s an upward cycle where we learn more and more about who He is, and in that way become more and more of who we are meant to be.

It’s amazing.

1 Nephi 4

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 4.

So now, finally, Nephi is ready to do his errand the Lord’s way.

Even his brothers, Laman and Lemuel (reluctantly) agree, and off they go.

Nephi tries to encourage his brothers, saying that they should be “faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth” (verse 1).  And if the Lord is so mighty, then surely the Lord can handle the bad guy Laban.

Then Nephi says something interesting.  In verse two, he says “let us be strong like unto Moses”, and then he reminds his brothers of the story of Moses leading the Israelites across the Red Sea onto dry ground.  What is interesting is that we just read in 1 Nephi 2, before Nephi and his brothers left on this trip, about the mikveh that was in the same place for the Israelites and for Jesus.

So, two things are happening in this conversation.  First, Nephi is reminding his brothers of the purpose of their trip, the pattern by which they can accomplish the task, and the One who empowers them to do it.  Secondly, Nephi is suggesting that in a way, this very trip will be a type of, or like a mikveh for them if they will let it.  Nephi had his experience already, and has chosen the covenant.  Nephi is saying to his brothers that this is their chance to act in faith and choose to be children of the covenant.  He is telling them that if they will focus, have faith, and do the things which the Lord has commanded, that this will be a transforming experience for them.  It is an invitation to follow the Savior.

At a practical level, he reminds them that they have just seen an angel.  So how “can ye doubt?”, he asks in verse three.  “Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians.”

Did they listen?  No.  Right back to murmuring.  And yet, they did follow Nephi back to Jerusalem.

That always makes me feel bad for Nephi.  It would be easier for him if they had just stayed behind, I mean since they were going to murmur the whole way anyway.  This is where I learn from Nephi (again), because despite the negativity and complaining and murmuring, he continues to invite his brothers to obey the Lord.

And they do follow him.  Whether that is a meager effort at trying, whether it is to wait and prove Nephi a failure, or whether it is a hyprocrite-going-through-the-motions-only, we may never know.  I suspect it is just the going-through-the-motions, because most often that is when there is the most murmuring.

Regardless, they got back to Jerusalem.  It was night time when they arrived, so they hid outside the walls.  Nephi left his brothers there, and snuck in alone toward the Laban’s house.

Then verse six is AMAZING:

“And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.”

I love this verse because it is so New-Testament-ey.  I love it because he was in a scary place, at night time, doing what he had been asked, no matter what.  I love it because he has now developed a knowledge that the Lord will accomplish the task, and he is let himself be in a position of fully relying on the Spirit.  He is letting the Spirit correct him (from the previous ways that were not the Lord’s ways, and so unsuccessful), guide him (where to go), and instruct him (what to do).  It’s an amazing repentance -obedience-revelation process unfolding in a very concrete, specific example.

So there he goes, through the night air, towards Laban’s house.  It’s time to slay the drag.  He is the knight in shining armor, and the Spirit is what made his armor shine.

When he gets close to Laban’s house, he finds someone outside – he is passed out drunk.  And yes, it’s Laban, alright.

Nephi takes Laban’s sword, and finds himself in an internal struggle.  He knows the ten commandments like any good Jew, and he knows that he can’t just go around killing people.  He has never killed anyone before, so why would he now?  This is very much like Abraham and Isaac, except the opposite.  Laban is a bad guy oppressing and causing trouble, like a type of Satan, instead of the innocent Isaac who was a type of Christ.  So rather than the Lord preserving him like Isaac, Laban’s own judgment comes upon him.

But I especially love the process to which Nephi comes to a decision about what to do.  He really ponders the promptings he is receiving, being careful to understand what is happening and what it means and whether what he thinks are promptings match with what he knows is correct doctrine.  He considers carefully what he knows to be true, and then he ACTS in both faith and obedience.  I love, love, love, love, love this!   If you look at verses 13-18, it shows the pattern specifically like this:

I remembered
I also thought
And I also knew
And again I knew
Therefore I did obey

And obey he did, slaying that dragon like the knight in spirit-shining armor that he was.

But his heroic mission is not yet done: he still has to retrieve the records.

It’s like the next level on a video game.

So Nephi disguises himself in Laban’s armor.  He goes into the dragon’s castle, and finds the dude who has the keys to the treasury.  This guy is Laban’s servant, and you can imagine Laban wasn’t very much fun to work for.  The servant and Nephi go to the treasury, and get Nephi’s family’s records, and take them Nephi’s brothers waiting outside the walls.

The treasury guy with the keys is named Zoram.  He follows Nephi out to deliver the records to his brothers.  Easy-schmeezey.

Except when Nephi’s brothers see him dressed up in Laban’s armor, they freak out!

This tells us several things.  It tells us that they were not in tune with the Spirit, or they would have had some idea of what was going on – at the very least, some direction in how to respond.  It also tells us they were acting in fear, instead of with faith.  And because they start to run away, we know they are being “acted upon” instead of “act”ing.  Fail.

So then, Nephi has to call after them, so that his brothers know it is only Nephi dressed up in Laban’s armor.

Except then, when Zoram realizes it is Nephi, then Zoram freaks out.

Poor Nephi.  What a patient guy, dealing with all these freak-outs and all this people drama.  It teaches me so much.

So Nephi’s brothers turn around because they realize it is only their brother and not Laban after all.  While they are coming back, Nephi puts Zoram in what I like to call a “therapeutic hold” so that he can’t run away.  It’s a little trick you learn working the inpatient unit.  It’s a good and safe way to hold a person until they calm down, just so they don’t hurt themselves or others.

He talks to Zoram, explaining that Zoram doesn’t need to be afraid.  He explains why they are there, and says that if Zoram wants to go with them back to Nephi’s family, then they will let him come just as a person and not as a servant.  Zoram is sick of being a servant for a bad dude, I think, and he likes the idea.

In verse 34 is Nephi’s explanation to Zoram:  “And I also spake unto him, saying, Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do this thing; and shall we not be diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord?  Therefore, if thou wilt go down into the wilderness to my father, thou shalt have a place with us.”

Zoram so likes the idea, that he takes great courage.  Nephi is setting this guy free, and letting him move to their wilderness community to live as a free man instead of a servant.  So Zoram takes up Nephi’s offer, and promises that he will move to the little wilderness community.

This is a deal that works for everybody.  Zoram gets his freedom, and Nephi and his brothers are safe without being chased all the way back to their father.

This calmed everybody down, and off they went… back to the wilderness, having accomplished their great heroic task.  I imagine they joked and whistled and sang songs as they went, with Nephi and his brothers so relieved to not be hunted down anymore and Zoram so excited to celebrate his new found freedom.

You can be sure that Nephi’s parents were glad to see them return home!  That’s in the next chapter!

1 Nephi 3

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 3.

After chapter two, we have a clear division between Lehi’s sons.  Nephi has chosen to be part of the covenant, and Laman and Lemuel are in process of choosing to not be a part of the covenant.

“The covenant”, of course, refers to the covenant between God and Abraham.  In Hebrew, it is called Brit bein HaBetarim, meaning “between two parts”.  A covenant is an agreement between both parties, so anytime Scriptures say we are to do such-and-such, and the Lord will do such-and-such, that is part of the covenant.  Anytime we both have something to do or be for the other, anytime He makes promises to us contingent upon our doing or being something for Him, that is covenant-ness.  Most often, if the Lord is talking about his people, you can see the covenant language when it says “If they will… then I will….”, and you can liken it to yourself by reading “If I will… then He will…”.  That’s covenant language.

The Jews were born into the covenant.   But like people who grow up in the church today, there still comes a time where the individual has to choose for themselves to become a part of that covenant.  Nephi did that in chapter two.

At the same time, all of this covenant-ness really is from before the time of Abraham.  We call it the Abraham-ic covenant because he was so faithful in keeping it, and because through his faithful example many specific promises were made. That’s why D&C 132:32, when it says “go and do the works of Abraham”, it means to be faithful and obedient like Abraham and those same blessings of that covenant will be for you, too.

It is by the covenant – by choosing it, and by behaving and interacting in ways that show we choose it – that we learn the laws of Heaven.  This changes us, ever so subtly but powerfully, so that become more like Him the more we conform to His laws.  The more like Him we become, the more we are able to be in His presence.  It is an ongoing process of being sanctified, or made holy, in which we are changed by the power of the Spirit – but that can only happen when we are choosing to live worthy of the Spirit.  It seems a daunting task, yet each tiny act of obedience and any act of faith at all will move us forward.  Each simple act of obedience is one step out of our “bondage”, and each act of faith increases our ability to see that Sheckinah presence, the “pillar of cloud and pillar of fire” that led the Israelites out of Egypt.  Each tiny effort is a one step from bondage towards the promised land, one rung higher on the ladder – one rung at a time, line upon line.

To become like Him is impossible, excepting for the power of the Spirit being able to transform us, change us.

And always, we are lifting Him up.  For as we grow and change and become like Him, as we climb that ladder, we are ever adding to His glory – for it is by His work in us that we are changed (we cannot do it on our own – it is made possible by the atonement, and it is accomplished by the Spirit), so any changing that happens not only lifts us… but also lifts Him higher.

He is exalted by our choosing to be obedient.  We show our love by doing what He says, and the transformation He accomplishes in us leaves us forever indebted to Him.  Our praise and the evidence of our transformation is what gives Him glory, lifting him “higher and higher” as it says in Isaiah

So the covenant was in place from the beginning.

The covenant was in place since before the beginning, actually.

We know from D&C 84 specifically, that our premortal covenant was to do the work of accomplishing His will for all people; namely, the premortal covenant was that Christ agreed to come an atone for us (which He did), and we would come and testify of that atonement (which we are called to do, always, in all things).

We see Lehi do it in 1 Nephi 1:18, when he had understands (remembers) the things of God, and goes to testify of it to those around him.

Then in 1 Nephi 2:1, the Lord says Lehi has been faithful.  That is HOW Lehi has been faithful: by testifying.  Lehi was faithful – not just obedient in his life now – but he has been faithful to his premortal covenant by testifying of the Lord, which simply means sharing the ways God has worked in his life and giving God credit for it.  Sometimes that is a formal testimony, like on Fast Sundays, but in our everyday lives it can be a very simply acknowledgment of gratitude, a pointing out of blessings or tender mercies as you notice them, a sharing with loved ones what amazing things God is doing for you this year, this month, this week, this day.  It doesn’t have to be all formal and stuffy and nerdy; it’s just an acknowledgement of what you notice about how God is working in your life.

Gratitude is contagious.  Seeing the positive side of life, in a sincere way (not a fake Pollyanna kind of way), is contagious.  Life is hard, really hard, for all of us in all kinds of ways.  So there is comfort and relief to discover some fresh new perspective on goodness, and to acknowledge it with gratitude can be a kind of worship.  Noticing the sunset, appreciating a flower, cherishing a friend, being kind, smiling, any of that counts.  It’s so simple.

God works through people.  And when people get a real taste of God, they are hungry for more.

This is why false God-ness is so bad, why people are so turned off by false religions and hypocrites.  The spirit within a person knows those are not of God, and they are literally revolted by them.  Their whole being pulls away, doesn’t want it, and shifts into defensive mode to protect themselves.  As they should.

But when there is a piece of truth, a glimmer of light, whether it comes from a sunset or scripture, a song or poem, a book or a friend, when there is a moment of God – the person’s spirit knows.   We call it the Light of Christ – something that is in all people, something that confirms to them what is truth and error.  Sometimes the world calls it a conscience, but it is much more than that.  Most into any kind of spirituality have an understanding of their spirit-self, and they know that their spirit knows what is truth and light.  All goodness, all truth, all light – it all comes from God, and it is all for the purpose of moving us closer to him.

My mother, who is not LDS, still has an appreciation and understanding of mormon culture – mostly because she is a history buff and knows more about mormon history than I do.  But what the spirit within her appreciates is the change in me since I got baptized.  She doesn’t want to be a mormon, but she knows that it is God who has changed me, rescued me, “delivered” me from “bondage”.   So even though she doesn’t agree with every theological detail, we share an appreciation of what God has done in our lives, and the healing that has come… we worship together because we know the atonement is at work in our family.

My little niece and nephew live with their mom, and so they are not LDS.  But when I drive them back and forth to visit their dad (my brother!), we play Christian music CD’s.  They aren’t LDS specific songs, but we can worship together as we sing.  They love learning the sign language to the songs, and they ask great questions that lead to really good discussions.

My neighbor on one side of me does not attend any church, and my neighbors on the other side of me are Jewish.  We all enjoy the same sunrises on our back porches in the morning, and the same sunsets on our front porches in the evening.  We all have different religious backgrounds, but we all testify of the majesty of God as the sun moves across the sky, and we are all left in awe at the creative beauty as colors paint the sky.

Learning of God moves us to want to know more.

That’s where we start with 1 Nephi 3, as Nephi has just finished testifying to his brothers in the last chapter, and now he wants to know (remember) more.  He goes to his father, seeking further instruction.  And instructions he gets!

It’s the classic fairytale, the buddha under the tree, the epic odyssey of any young warrior who wants to learn.  Instead of just giving him the answers, Nephi is given a task.  We learn by doing!  So when Nephi wants to know, and says he truly is ready to understand, then he is given an errand, a task, something to DO so that he can show he really ready… and learn the answers in process of the journey.  Classic motif that makes me smile, and makes you want to curl up in the chair because you know a good story is about to unfold.

So here is the task that Lehi gives his son Nephi: when the family left Jerusalem, one of the things they left behind was their family history (genealogy records).  This is a big deal in Jewish culture.  They also have a copy of the scriptures that the Jews have thus far, and that was also left behind.  These records are on plates of brass, bound together by rings.

Lots of people like to pick on this piece of mormon culture and history, about metal plates.  But it was actually very common practice in Jewish and Egyptian history. Similar metal plates are in museums all over the world.

So this is the task Lehi gives Nephi, to take his brothers back to Jerusalem to fetch these records they left behind.

Where are the records?  Laban has them.  Laban is a ruler of sorts, and he is a bad dude.

So it’s the classic knight-battling-the-dragon kind of story, with the records being the fairy princess in the tower.

Except, as you may have guessed, Laman and Lemuel are not into slaying dragons.  They don’t want to be knights in shining armor.  They don’t even want to put on armor.  They do want to go back to Jerusalem, remember, but they want to go back to hang out in their crib, to chillax in their refined and easy life from before.  They don’t like the wilderness.  It’s dirty, hot, and maybe has bugs.  So they are being whimpy still, and whimps don’t slay dragons.

And so the murmuring begins.  More murmurming!  Worse than just the usual “Are we there, yet?”

Lehi tells Nephi that his brothers are murmuring because they think what Lehi is making them do is too hard; but to Nephi, who has made himself part of the covenant, Lehi can explain that this task is not his idea, but what the Lord has commanded should be done.

And since Nephi is NOT murmuring, and willing to be obedient, then the Lord is pleased.

Not just pleased, but favors Nephi for his not-murmuring.

I can say after the adventure last weekend in a one bedroom apartment with six kids, that I did favor those who were not murmuring!

So again, the same lesson: even the tiniest act of faith, even the tiniest effort at obedience is immediately blessed.

This is Nephi’s classic answer in response to being given this task:  “I will go and do”.

Nephi says to Lehi (in verse 7), “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

This sets a pattern in Nephi’s life that we will see over and over.  He never questions what the task is, and he always very willingly sets out on the journey.  And each time, in a variety of circumstances, Nephi will look to the Lord to be taught HOW to accomplish what the Lord has asked… but he never doubts that he CAN.

I love this because it is a reminder that God wants us to succeed.  This is so different than a judgmental, punitive version of God.  God knows what is best for us, and so does give us commandments as good boundaries to keep us safe and well and healthy and progressing.  But He WANTS us to succeed.  He wants us to make it back to His presence.

Two years ago, I was laying in my sick bed trying not to die in that giant, lonely house in my tiny little Rapunzel room.  I don’t think I would have understood if you told then that in two years I would have my own house built, have a vegetable garden, two puppies, and be sober and chaste and a MORMON.  Not just that I wouldn’t have believed it, but I wouldn’t have been able to UNDERSTAND it.  Understanding comes a piece at a time, line upon line, each one building on the acts of faith and acts of obedience that came before it.

This is why the hero always needs an epic journey.

So Nephi says, “I will go and do”.

This made Lehi happy.

But verse 8 is interesting, because it was not just the words of Nephi’s willingness that made Lehi glad.  Lehi was glad because he KNEW he had been blessed of the Lord.  Nephi’s obedience proved him a child of the covenant, which fulfilled the Lord’s promise to Lehi of having descendants who will serve the Lord.  This moment with Nephi is a tiny piece of that promise being fulfilled.

So Nephi and his brothers head off toward Jerusalem.  Along the way, they talked about how to slay this dragon.  How were they going to get the records back from Laban?  Nobody exactly wants to fight a dragon.  So, as was the custom, they cast lots to see who has to go try first.

Laman was the lucky winner.  So Laman is the first to go to Laban’s house.  He tries the personal approach, ringing the doorbell and sitting in the living room to have a chat and explain the situation gentleman to gentleman.  He politely stated that he was there to request the records of his father be returned to him.

Excepting Laban is no gentleman!  He is angry that Laman wants to take anything from him.  Not only does Laban say no, but he calls Laman a robber!  And says he will kill him!

So poor Laman has to high-tail it outta there, and fast!

This is too much for Laman and Lemuel who are already murmuring and complaining.  When you are lost in negativity and bitterness already, then there is no room for the normal stresses of life.  I have to teach this to patients all the time.  People who choose to be negative and bitter have no room for the good.  So when they already thought something was impossible, and then they had a bad day that seemed to prove it, they were ready to give up and quit.  They didn’t even want to try anymore.

However, when you are filled with faith and truth, then there is always hope still.  So Nephi won’t let them run away, saying that nobody is running away like fraidy cats.  Nephi says that they will not go back to their father in the wilderness without doing what the Lord commands; they are not going home without those records.

Because Laban didn’t respond to the personal approach, they try the diplomatic approach next.  Nephi (inspired by the Lord) and his brothers go back to their old homestead where the family had left all their riches behind.  They gather gold and silver and other riches, and take the money to present to Laban to buy back what is rightfully theirs.

You can see Nephi’s line upon line unfolding, as he begins to understand the vital importance of the task given him. Nephi expresses an understanding (because he KNOWS, and he KNOWS because of his testimony) that Jerusalem will be destroyed, and they have to obtain the records in order to preserve them.  If they leave the records in Jerusalem, the records will be destroyed when Jerusalem is destroyed.

This again has two layers: the immediate and physical, and the future metaphorical.   They have to save the records from the destruction of Jerusalem, but the purpose in preserving the records is so that the teachings of the prophets (like Isaiah and those before him) can be passed down to their children.  Nephi says in verse 20, “… that we may preserve unto them (future generations) the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time (present time being Isaiah).”

So teaching this (testifying!) to his brothers did help them “be faithful in keeping the commandments of God” (verse 21).  In this case, having an understanding of the wise purpose for what the Lord is trying to accomplish did help the murmuring brothers do the immediate task before them, which was trying to get the records back.

Always, such an eternal perspective helps us do what we need to do.  Without that motivation and purpose, it would feel too hard.  But when we understand who we are (children of God), why we are here (to testify of Him), and what we are to do (get back home to Heavenly Father), there is clarity in seeing what the task is that lies before us and strength to get it done.

So they took the money they had gathered, and went back to Laban’s house.  They ever so politely rang the doorbell again (not really, I am teasing about the doorbell, of course), and went into his house and ever so politely requested to purchase the records which were really theirs anyway.

Well, of course a bad punk like Laban wanted all that money!

Excepting he wasn’t about to give up any of his “stuff”.

Poetic comparison, by the way, between those who knew the words of God were their treasure, and him whose “stuff” was is his treasure.  This reminds us of Matthew 6:21, when Jesus said “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”.  And by heart, in Jewish Hebrew or Ancient Greek, it means your motivations and intent, or the filter by which you make decisions.  So if you have an eternal perspective, you will make choices based on your intent and motivation to get home to Heavenly Father.  If you have a perspective dulled by the riches of the world, you will make choices based on your intent and motivation only to get more “stuff”.

While there is nothing wrong with providing well for yourself and your family, the danger is when we let “stuff” fill our present moment.  We become hedonistic like infants, demanding instant gratification in the here-and-now.  We want what we want, and we want it now.  That’s very different than delaying what we might want now in order to choose things more eternal in nature.  Keeping the present moment clear and open (instead of distracted by or filled with “stuff”) helps us to focus on what is truly important, to work on becoming who we want to become (instead of being stuck in the past, or behaving like spoiled children that throw tantrums whenever they don’t get what they want right away).

So Laban shows us spoiled child syndrome, and kicks them out, refusing to give them what they want.

Excepting he is such a bad dude that not only does he not give them what they want, but he sends his people after them to steal all their money!  So Nephi and his brothers had to run away, leaving behind all their gold and riches and money.

Now Laban has their records and all their money.  He does not play fair!

We all have days like that, when life is not playing fair.  What is our response?  Do we give up and quit because it is hard?  Do we stomp our feet and complain like spoiled children?  Or do we keep fighting, keep trying, keep trusting the Lord to teach us how to accomplish what we are to do?

Nephi is not about to give up.  He and his brothers hide out in a cave, waiting for Laban’s people to quit chasing them.

Now Laman and Lemuel are really mad.  We are past murmuring.  Now they are just straight up angry.  All this time Laman and Lemuel have been focusing on their own comfort, their own sustenance, their own cozy life in the mansion with all their riches.  It’s one thing to go camping with dad in the wilderness, it’s another thing for your little brother to lose all the family’s money.  So now they are mad, because up until now they kind of thought this whole leaving Jerusalem was just a silly idea, a passing fancy.  But losing all the money means they really can’t go back.  Losing all the money got their attention, and now they are upset because now they are stuck, not just humoring old dad on some adventure.

So Laman starts the trouble, and Lemuel chimes in.  Contention always spreads like this.  Negativity is contagious.  If one person starts, it gets passed around until everyone is diseased.  Not only did they yell and scream and Nephi, but they beat him up!

Verse 29 says, “And it came to pass as they smote us with a rod, behold, an angel of the Lord came and stood before them, and he spake unto them, saying:  Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod?  Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities?  Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again, and the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.”

The appearance of an angel gets their attention!

But even still, Laman and Lemuel show how little faith they have when they say (in verse 31), “How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands?  Behold, he is a mighty man…”

So even when chastised by an angel, they stop doing what they were commanded but continued to murmur.  They stopped beating up Nephi, but they are still complaining!  This is the superficiality of those who do just enough to get by, those who go through the motions but complain every step, those that show up but are dragging their feet.

Yet the question is legitimate.  Nephi knows the Lord CAN accomplish the task, but now that they have tried doing it their own way, it is time to ask the Lord how to do it HIS way.

Honeybee

Honeybee, Honeybee,
What do you see?
I see a Garden looking at me.

Honeybee, Honeybee,
Where do you go?
Dancing among the Flowers, row by row.

Honeybee, Honeybee
What do you do?
Sit on Petals, drinking Cups of dew.

April 2011 General Conference Sunday Afternoon

Wow.

Elder Scott was just funny!  And the funnier he knew he was, the funnier it got!

Good counsel to STAY within the bounds of worthiness.

He also said “Never engage in conversation with others that you wouldn’t want your spouse to overhear.”  While I do not have a spouse, I understand its potency.  Whether in my office, this is always significant symptoms and destructive.  When friends have done it, it put me in a position between them instead of supporting them, so that I was isolated from both and lost them as friends.  How interesting that he shared this specific counsel.

Express gratitude often!

I cried through his sweet stories about the notes with his wife, the painting on the fridge, and the specific ways they expressed their love and gratitude in “small and simple” things.

I loved how she had protected and preserved his kind words.  I loved that the words he used were “protected” and “preserved”. Girls can be so mean and hateful, destroy so much with only a few words… I liked having the example of someone who “protected” and “preserved” what they were creating, instead of destroying it.

When he spoke of marriage having the purpose to conquer self-centeredness, my mind went to both my professional work and my personal preparation.

When he said he weeps for the women who are lonely and unappreciated, I thought of my own self alone, but also those lonely and unappreciated within marriage, and also those lonely from grief.

His talk, one that would normally blast us with doctrine (and rightly so – that isn’t a complaint) was incredibly soft and tender and deeply human.  I loved it.  It made me love him.

Elder Christoffersen

His talk was one of three that reminded us our spiritual life is not a series of checklists or things to do, but rather something that we are – who we are, who we need to become.

He said we must be willing to SEEK and accept correction…. not just be willing to accept it, but seek it out.

He gave us three purposes for chastisement:  to persuade us to repent, to sanctify us, and to redirect our path into a way He knows but we cannot yet see.

We were told (for the second time this conference) not to resent what is good for us, including chastisement or repentance.

I loved his story of the currant bush, and “thank you for loving me enough to cut me down”.

We were told (for the third time this conference) that if we strive to do what He wants, He will give us what we need – even trials – to help us be who He knows we can be.

We should be self-correcting!

When we need to reproof others, it should be quick and sharp and direct, but followed up by an increase in love (in word and deed).

He closed with at-one-ness!  I love it!

Pratt of the Seventy

TITHING!  Again!  But this was amazing because it totally answered my earlier question about why I was getting such an emphasis on tithing when I do my tithing.  Because it is MORE than just the numbers of tithing.  His story of tithing not being related only to cash income was moving and powerful.  It made me think of one of the first things I learned from Bishop Myers, which was that I will always be indebted to the Lord.  Besides the fact that He died for me, there is also the issue that any time I obey, He IMMEDIATELY blesses me in some way.  So I can never catch up!  This reminded me of that lesson, as if we were in his office in that moment.  It made me think about what “increase” I have, and what blessings I have, that could be acknowledged in a tithes and OFFERINGS kind of way.  I do my tithes.  But I have not done OFFERINGS since my surgeries, because it seemed there was nothing left.  So I did the minimum which was required, but I know better than that.  I really got a lot out of all the tithe & offering talks both days of conference, and feel very specifically prepared to act – even with specific ways/amounts/sacrifices coming to mind for how to do… so I will do it.  And those blessings, he said, will not only come to me, but also my family.  I like that.  Not just because my family needs blessings to, but because of restitution and just love – what an easy way (really, when you get out of the way of it, it is such a simple thing) to show love to the Savior.

He also promised that paying our tithing will help us be honest with our fellow man, and later he said it will help us develop integrity in all we say and do.  Those are big blessings!

Also, he instructed that our tithes and offerings should come first, and not be delayed to the leftovers.

In his whole talk, he gave a TON of blessings (besides financial) that come to me (and to my family) if I pay my tithing:  wisdom, answered prayers, self-reliance, gratitude, charity (that answered the benevolent question, too!  See?!), submissive, humble, faith, testimony, etc.  WOW.

HEY!  That Robbins guy is the guy who came to see us!  I remember him, and I remember the words he gave me.  So neat to get more words.

AND WOW, those were some words!  It was like a CEU meeting for my work!  All about family therapy and discipline and how to do “family” (be family!) the Lord’s way.  He talked about the difference between “doing” and “being”, which I love because that is what I have studied for the last decade… so for those words to come up in General Conference really got my attention!  He gave examples of baptism and sacrament as being things we do, but faith (before baptism) and worthy (to take Sacrament) are things we are.

He gave specific parenting ideas, tasks, and examples.  This thrilled the therapist in me!  It was all so good!

He said “Never let failure progress from behavior to identity”, and “Disappointing behavior is an act, not an identity”.  This made me think, of course, of my own parents, and the differences in their perspectives.  It made me grateful for my mother who was waiting for her prodigal daughter to come home, and welcomed me home with open arms – even though we have had much healing since.  She knows who I am, even before I was, and even when I wasn’t sure, and that was a special feeling as he spoke.

There was also specific instruction to pray for the attributes of the Lord as we learn about them in Scripture!

He also really changed my frame of reference… earlier I wrote that I was overwhelmed with the idea of becoming someone the Lord could rely on, that my little faith didn’t understand yet how that was possible, even though He has brought me a long way.  Here, Robbins corrected me and said the better question is “In what ways am I dependable?” which is a much better way of looking at it, more positive about being in process, and much more hopeful in outlook.  and it taught it to me in a way so that *I* could change my perspective to the perspective the Lord has, not just someone arguing with me in disagreement with how they view me verses how I view me.  I loved this talk!  It really helped!

De Hoyos of the Seventy

He brought us back to the beginning of conference, talking about the long name of our church.  But I loved how he pointed out that in ancient times, non-believers called them “Christians” and the Christians called themselves “Saints”.  It’s much the same, that we are “Latter-day Saints”, but we are called “mormons”.  It really connected it for me historically.

OH!  Then two more on the same “Do not be afraid… move forward” piece!  He said “move forward with patience”, then he explained that the atonement is the source of strength and peace and nourishment, and then he said “let not your hearts be troubled, do not be afraid”.  Of course the answer, ultimately, is in the atonement!  So much to study here!

Grow of the Seventy

As he shared the story of his brother, who was hedonistic, left the family for a decade, then repented and was baptized and came home to his family, it sure sounded an awful lot like he was talking about me!  I am grateful I can access the atonement through repentance, and grateful for His mercy.  I am grateful for the miracle of the Atonement, even that “as we repent, the Savior removes our guilt”… and the Isaiah verses about “repent, that I may heal you”.  Yes, yes, yes.

And then the reminders to also forgive others, and to forgive yourself.

Holland

I loved that he talked about the PROCESS of General Conference.

No topics are assigned, each person fasts and prays about what to say, and then it all unfolds so beautifully.  Each conference builds on the one before, and the talks fit together so beautifully.  It’s like He is piecing together a quilt for us, and it is majestic to stand back and watch!

His speech about who the audience is (members, non-members, all ages, etc.) really felt to me like specific guidance about how to speak and who to speak to… I have the “preach nothing but repentance” scriptures on index cards typed to the computer where I type my talks I give, but then he really spoke about loving the people as well.  He had a tender, tender, tender heart.

He spoke about Nature already testifying, and how the Apostles speaking to us ARE the trumps being sounded.

Then he spoke about the challenges of President Monson’s life.  That was really good for me.  My life is easy-schmeezey compared to that, and I think I have been so caught up in my new challenges and worrying about DOING them right, that it is better to relax and just BE who I am in the place (and time) He has put me.  The part about President Monson always being cheerful, regardless of what is going on, with remarkable faith and unusual stamina – that was also a call to repentance for me.  Not that I am a prophet, but I mean those are gifts (in a tiny way) He has given me, and I feel like I have let the shock of people not wanting these gifts, the negativity and bitterness in other people, it has tried to infect me.  And I must not let it.  I must hold my ground, and be me.  Because anything not letting me be me, or trying to repress the gifts given to me is not of God.  So this example of President Monson really helped clarify that for me, and did strengthen me in a real way.

How fascinating to then watch President Monson stand there and thank (gratitude!) each group of those who serve with them… it sounded so much like my prayers each morning, for my bishopric, stake presidency, Temple presidency, and then the general leaders of the church – what an experience to in that tiny way, feel an in-sync-ness with his gratitude.  It was almost like I could sustain his gratitude, if that makes sense, because I joined him in prayer and gratitude for them.  Amazing!

I loved most his closing words, that the Savior “reclaimed us” and “taught us how to live”.   That is how I feel.

I know that my Father-in-Heaven lives, and I know that He loves me.  I know that His Son is my Redeemer and Advocate.  I know that this Spirit did correct, instruct, and guide me through this conference.  I know that Thomas S. Monson is our living prophet, and that I am grateful for his example and guidance.  I know that my life is different, better, and happier than it was two years ago.  I know that me following the Savior has brought me back home to my family, whom I love.  I know that there is a reason and purpose that I am alive this day, right here, right now.