Thursday, January 22, 2015

Jeremiah 19

(January 22, 2015)
                There seems to be a constant refrain in the scriptures and the words of the prophets whereby there is a distinction drawn between weakness and failure on the one hand and outright rebellion on the other.  Neither is acceptable before the Lord, and each brings with it severe negative consequences, but weakness precedes chastening and adversity while rebellion precedes destruction.

                There is no better contrast between these two, in my opinion, than in comparing the destruction that was imminent at the time of Jeremiah and the adversity and chastening that was a constant presence at the time of the Exodus and wandering.  The people of Moses were at times rebellious, but their primary problem was weakness – after being held as slaves for so long they needed to develop the capacity to be a people capable of worshipping the Lord.  Thus we see their trials both before and after entering the Holy Land.

                The people, by the time of Jeremiah, were no longer weak but rebellious.  Thus instead of chastening, the Lord brought their destruction.  While it may be seen as a matter of degree to some people, in my mind it is a matter of quality as well as quantity.

                Of course, this is only an intellectual argument and does not justify any disobedience – whether we classify it as weakness or rebellion.  Adversity can be plenty powerful and uncomfortable, though prompting of growth, and it is far better to obey than to fail because of weakness.

2 Nephi 2

(January 22, 2015)
                The first thing I wanted to share was something that I have learned a great deal more about in the past year – although it was always something that I drew comfort from.  It is the promise that all things are done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things.  The fact that all things are done according to the will of the Father (who perfectly loves us) means that no matter what happens – no matter how bad things might seem – everything will work together for our benefit.  This empowers us, to the extent that we have faith in this true principle, to let adversity roll off our backs like water and keep moving forward.

                The other thought was on Laman and Lemuel, and what they must have felt listening to Lehi as he taught them at this time.  I know that, for myself, I was painfully aware of my continued weaknesses and shortcomings as I read this chapter (indeed, that seems to be one of the greatest blessings of the scriptures – a constant reminder of how far we have to go to be who we need to be).  But somehow Laman and Lemuel heard these words and yet continued to rebel.

                The only rationale that I can come up with is that they allowed themselves to be angry at Lehi.  Anger, in that respect, is a dangerous emotion.  It permits us to close our minds to things that we should hear and consider.  Anger empowers us to justify our own behavior and condemn the behavior of others.  Anger is inherently prideful, and inherently self-righteous.  The more I consider this, the greater my realization of the danger of anger and contention.

Jeremiah 17-18

(January 21, 2015)
                I recently realized just how important the Sabbath Day is.  I admit that I tended to disrespect it (watching football was often the way I spent most of my day on Sunday), but after realizing that I needed some extra help I began to live the Sabbath better and more in accord with how I thought that it should be lived.  What I have learned by doing this is that the Sabbath brings a number of blessings that I wouldn’t have expected.

                One of those blessings is a break from those things that I am struggling with.  If I am struggling with a temptation, but I have been regularly keeping the Sabbath, I find that when Sunday comes around I am given relief (or added strength) to resist that temptation. It is a break in the cycle, so to speak – it is almost like a reset to my soul, which gives me a greater power to start over and work harder to live to be like Christ.

2 Nephi 1

(January 21, 2015)
                Awful chains is such an apt description of sin, as is the need to awake in order to break free of those chains.  I myself have struggled against my personal chains for decades – pulling futilely against them until the Lord saw fit to grant me relief.  And I can tell you that, pulling against them it is clear that they are chains.  This, to me, is another demonstration of Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling and the divine translation of this book – when I was in my 20s I didn’t understand the chains of sin.  It wasn’t until I was in my late-30s up until today that I began to understand the truth of what was written here.  Joseph couldn’t have written it – Lehi, though, could.

                Waking up is another key concept.  It wasn’t until I woke up that I began to recognize the depth of my entrapment and slavery.  It was so much more comfortable to remain asleep, but by waking up and experiencing those chains in their fullness I realized both their destructive capacity and my need for Divine assistance to escape.  

Jeremiah 14-16

(January 20, 2015)

                These chapters were difficult chapters, because they were entirely focused upon the destruction of Jerusalem and her people.  Though difficult, however, it is essential that we constantly remember that it is only by the grace of God that we are preserved and if we go too far astray from Him, He may cut us off.  It is His prerogative to do so at any time.  Working out our salvation with fear and trembling is not an idle instruction, but rather a reminder of just the way we should approach our relationship with Deity.

1 Nephi 22

(January 20, 2015)
                It is always amazing to me the things that are undercurrents in the Book of Mormon – the things which color everything but are never explicitly mentioned because they would just be assumed by their author. The best example is the constant tension between the people of Zarahemla and the Nephites, but second on that list has to be the conflict between Laman on one side of the Deuteronomic Reforms and Lehi/Nephi on the other.

                Reading this chapter, it is clear that Nephi’s goal is to persuade Laman and Lemuel that they have picked the wrong side.  I think that, if we were to meet Laman and Lemuel in Church on Sunday, we might be hard pressed to recognize them as apostate rebels.  They believed in things that were part of the culture around them, but by so doing they lost track of the central premises of the faith.  It is all over this chapter, and countless other points in 1 Nephi.   

Jeremiah 12-13

(January 19, 2015)
                The covenant is not a special relationship in the traditional sense, but rather it is a special way of living that enables us to receive the Lord’s blessings.  It isn’t that we are special because we are people of the covenant, it is that we are special if we live after the covenant.  Jeremiah illustrates this in both directions – if the people of Israel live after the manner of the world, they will be destroyed but if the people of the world live after the manner of Israel they will be saved.  

                So it is with us.  We have the fullness of the Gospel and the saving ordinances.  If we live according to the covenants we have made, we will be saved.  If we live according to the ways of the world, we will be destroyed.  If the people outside of our faith live according to the covenants (even if they have not yet been formalized), they will have the opportunity to be saved.  If they live according to the world around them, they will be destroyed.