Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Exodus 6-7

(February 25, 2014)
This is a fascinating set of chapters for two reasons.  The first is that we once again need to decide whether we will be Pharaoh or we will be Israel.  Pharaoh was very impressed that his magicians could do the same things that Moses could do – so much so that he hardened his heart.  Likewise, we are sometimes overly impressed that a naturalistic and materialistic explanation can be provided for most things in human history (however improbable such a humanistic explanation may be).  Do we harden our hearts at this, as did Pharaoh – believing if another explanation other than God can be provided then God is summarily excluded?  Or do we, as did Moses when he first saw the Lord change his staff into a snake, rightly find ourselves in awe of His power and capacity.

Secondly, we took are often given impossible tasks (I feel as though I am facing one currently).  We look at those things that are important to us, and we commit ourselves to giving our best efforts.  And yet, we can see no way that our best efforts will ever be close to good enough.  Hopelessness and despair then consume our souls.  But so too was it with the Israelites, and yet for the Lord’s own purposes He freed them from the Egyptians.  We might never receive the temporal relief or freedom that we seek – the Lord does not promise us that.  But if we see ourselves in bondage to sin, our halting and meager efforts, though seemingly impossible to result in our freedom, will be enough for the Lord – so long as we give our best.  What a great blessing that this is – the more I know of the Atonement, the more I love the Atonement.

Mosiah 7

(February 25, 2014)
The Book of Mormon has an elephant in the room – the residual animosity between the people of Zarahemla and the people of Nephi.  I read in the past and thought the people of Zarahemla giving up their rulership (when they were the majority) always seemed quite odd.  But they never really gave up their aspirations for leadership, and the distinctions between the two peoples persisted over some time.

The reason I say that is it is noticeable now to me when Mormon points out that someone was a Mulekite (as with Ammon).  I immediately begin to pay better attention.  It seems that Ammon is a Mulekite name, which likely means a couple of things.  First, Benjamin (and maybe the first Mosiah) likely married a Mulekite in order to merge the kingdoms – after all, the second Mosiah named his son Ammon.  Secondly, the missionary Ammon would likely have been alive at the same time as the Ammon who went to the land of Nephi to rescue Limhi’s people.  Ammon the missionary planned a ‘quest’ to follow in the footsteps of Ammon the rescuer (his uncle perhaps?).

It also sheds additional light on the city of Ammonihah – and why the people of Ammonihah hated Alma the way that they did.  After all, the Mulekites might have been on board with Mosiah, Benjamin, and Mosiah because Benjamin (or, at least, Mosiah) was partially of Mulekite descent.  But when Alma took control of the government, that must have really been intolerable to the Mulekites.  Once he gave up that control, I imagine they were only to happy to point out to him that they had no obligation to pay him any mind any more.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Exodus 4-5

(February 24, 2014)
The significance of the conflict between the people of God and Pharaoh was always lost on me until I started to learn about Abraham.  Now I see the importance of Pharaoh as a type and a symbol of the arm of flesh and the power of the world.  Pharaoh sees himself as immune to the wrath and judgment of God, a law unto himself, and sees himself as properly holding the priesthood.  He has become his own god.  Pharaoh is a symbol of Satan, of worldly power, and more frighteningly of each of us.  We are all mini-Pharaohs, thinking that our arm of flesh and priesthoods make us gods unto ourselves (seeking to rule our own will).  Our challenge in life is to flee Egypt (as did Moses) and return to the fold of the Lord.  Otherwise sure destruction awaits us, as it did Pharaoh.

Mosiah 5-6

(February 24, 2014)
There is meaning in the fact that the people of King Benjamin both promised to keep the commandments of the Lord forever, and that King Benjamin knew enough to appoint teachers to stir the people up to remembrance of what they had promised.  When the Spirit is strong, and we are feeling the benefits that come from living the Gospel, we are quite willing to sacrifice everything to the Lord in order to partake of His peace.  But when the trials come (and they do come), we become forgetful of not only our promises but also of the joy that we felt in righteousness.

Of course, we cannot always have teachers around to stir us up to remembrance when we need them.  We should be thankful for them when we have them, but when we don’t have them there is two things that we should do.  First, the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance.  Secondly, remember is such an important word because it is something we ourselves can do to stay on the strait and narrow path.  We, in fact, have all three tools to help us to remember the joy that comes through obedience and the promises that we have made.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Exodus 2-3

(February 23, 2014)
Each of us, like Moses, is a child of a Divine lineage.  We are children of Israel living in the world of the Pharaoh.  Our place in the world of the Pharaoh is comfortable (usually) and offers us everything that we think that we want.  And over time it makes us blind to our relationship to our God and makes us believe that our people are the people of Pharaoh.

And then, like Moses, we are placed in a position where we must choose between right and wrong – the right of being of the House of Israel or the wrong of being an Egyptian.  Like Moses, we need to be willing to stand up for Israel even when doing so means rejecting Pharaoh (and the more I see this analogy played out through scripture, the more I begin to understand why Abraham in Egypt was such a monumental point in the history of the world).

May we each, as Moses, be prepared to abandon the house of the Pharaoh and defend the House of Israel no matter the cost to us.

Mosiah 4

(February 23, 2014)
There are a number of checklists throughout the Book of Mormon, and an important one is found in this chapter.  The mechanism for being saved.  (1) Believe in God – both that He exists and that He created all things in both the Heaven and the Earth; (2) Believe that God has all wisdom and all power, both in Heaven and on Earth; (3) Believe that man doth not (notice, not ‘cannot’) comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend; (4) Repent of our sins and forsake them; (5) Humble ourselves before God; and (6) Ask God in the sincerity of our heart that He would forgive us.

I have been stumbling through the repentance process my whole life – trying to make things right when I get them wrong.  But I don’t know that I have ever gone through this checklist.  I definitely believe in God and that He created the Heaven and the Earth (I cannot see of any way that anything got created without Him [the cosmological argument] and the likelihood of this Earth developing in a manner hospitable to life is so infinitesimally small as to be ridiculous without a Creator [a modification of the teleological argument]).  I believe that God has all wisdom and knows everything from the beginning to the end.  I believe that He has all power, although I feel weaker on that testimony than I ought to – it is something for me to examine in myself.

I certainly believe that I do not comprehend the things that the Lord comprehends.  A year ago, I thought I was pretty smart.  I thought I understood the Gospel and the world and everything else.  One thing this past year has taught me is intellectual and spiritual humility – I don’t really have a clue about how either mortality or eternity really function.  I know almost nothing, but at least I now understand how little I know (in comparison to when I knew even less and thought I had all the answers).

I am trying to repent of my sins and forsake them.  The worst vice of my life, a lifetime struggle, now seems to be in my past – finally repented of and forsaken.  Other mistakes, some even more serious, have been dealt with and repented of and forsaken.  I am trying to put this into place.  Between the repentance process and recognizing how little of life I understand and comprehend, humbling myself before God has become a natural consequence – I am not trying to be humble, but humility is coming because of just how awful I have been and just how little I know and how completely powerless I realized that I was to escape the hole that I dug for myself.  That leaves asking God in the sincerity of my heart that He would forgive me – something that I have done for some of my past mistakes but not yet for all of them (I still felt as though I had to ‘fix’ my mistakes before going to Him for forgiveness – a backward process that I see now as foolishness).

As tangent from this is mentioned later in the chapter.  Benjamin puts it in the context of borrowing – we should be careful that we do not cause others to commit sin when we commit sin ourselves.  I feel I am in that position – because of my sins and mistakes, others are making mistakes that hurting them.  How did Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah deal with that? – it is an awful pain to see others suffering for your mistakes.  I don’t really know what to do about that situation, because it is almost like I have infected others with my sinful nature, and though I can take myself through the repentance process I don’t know how to help others.

Finally, the conclusion was in some ways the most important part of this entire discourse – once we have that remission of our sins, we must strive daily to keep it.  I fought my vices for years unsuccessfully, but it wasn’t until I took it upon myself to fight them daily – hour by hour, minute by minute, and never taking a break from the battle – that I managed to gain relief.  I can remember going long periods of time without dealing with my spiritual health, but that is something I can no longer do.  If I am not working out my salvation with fear and trembling (and there is a lot of fear and trembling) on a daily basis, I am falling away.  Perhaps that isn’t true for everyone, but it is true for me at this time.

Exodus 1

(February 22, 2014)
It is a recurring theme in the scriptures and in life – when we build our successes on the backs of others (as did Pharaoh), eventually the successes come crashing down around our ears.  Partly this is because everything worldly eventually fails, and only the Heavenly has hope to survive.

Mosiah 3

(February 22, 2014)
My mind in this chapter was particularly drawn to the transition between verses 18 and 19.  In verse 18, we read that we must believe that salvation comes only through the atoning blood of Christ.  Verse 19 explains why that is, and it goes to the classic line about the natural man being an enemy to God.

What that tells me is two-fold.  First, the issue of the natural man is not something related solely to mortality.  Second, the issue of salvation is not something related solely to the hereafter.  I wanted to dwell on the second of these.  Whatever problem we have, or goal we are seeking, it is essential that we remember that salvation (in every respect – even in mortality) only comes through Christ.  Failing to recognize that, we rely on the strength of our arm and become natural men.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Genesis 50

(February 22, 2014)
I don’t presume to understand fully the nature of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (whether, and to what extent, it is authoritative), but there are times when it is clear that what he has written is more correct than what is in the existing text.  Joseph, in this chapter, is clearly hinting at a prophesy about Moses.  But why would he not just leave and return to Canaan at this point rather than remaining in Egypt?  And the language hints clearly that something else is going on.  Reading the text that we have in the King James Version, we are left with the unmistakable impression that Joseph knows more than he is saying.  Reading the Joseph Smith Translation, we see that impression is correct – he does know more than we have in the existing text.

Mosiah 2

(February 22, 2014)
Brant Gardner gave a talk at the Fair Mormon conference about evidences of the Book of Mormon that used a series of blots on the paper that at first looked like nothing, but eventually you saw a dog in the picture.  He made the point that the human mind makes patterns out of everything, but only the patterns that are genuine is the mind unable to not see after seeing.  A cloud may look like a dinosaur, but we look away and then look back and can’t see the dinosaur.  When we look at the dog, however, after seeing the pattern we are simply unable to not see the dog.  It is truly there.  Each little blob of ink can be explained away, but the pattern is clear and is true.

I had that moment in reading this chapter today.  I have been learning about ancient American history and the culture and doing everything I can to consume such information.  When I read this chapter, all of a sudden I could understand what was going on.  I realized why Benjamin was saying what he was saying.  Why he told the people that he was nothing more than an ordinary man.  Why he brought them all together to present Mosiah as their king (and, in a tangential thought, why the whole culture splintered and went to hell when Alma was named the first chief judge).  I could see in my mind’s eye Benjamin giving his speech and envision the people listening and it all just made sense to me.  I had seen the dog.

Once that happened, the rest of this chapter moved me as I have never been moved by this scripture before.  I had trouble reading because of the tears that I was crying as I read.  I realized just how very fortunate that I was to have the Gospel in my life, and how overwhelmingly loving my Father is to me.  And how very little I have deserved the Grace that He has given me.  By the end of the chapter, and the concluding verse, I had in my mind’s eye an image of me embracing the Savior after my death and I felt overcome by the feelings of love and inadequacy.  I hope to be able to share that embrace at some future day, but either way I cannot unsee the dog.

Genesis 47-49

(February 21, 2014)
I found it noteworthy that Jacob mentions the lifespan of the ancients – while we would find his lifespan unreal, he looks at his 130 or so years as short in relation to those who came before.  That is something that seems to give verisimilitude to this portion of the Bible.  Were it being written by a materialist (whether a knowing or unknowing materialist), they would not have considered that a 130 year old man would be complaining about how short their lifespan had been.

By the same token, there is a lesson about gratitude here.  Everything comes down to who we compare ourselves with if we gain our happiness through comparison.  If Jacob had seen the Dark Ages, when a man was fortunate to life into his 50s, he might feel somewhat better about his 147 years of life.  Instead, by looking backwards to the ages of the ancient (and even his recent lineage), he viewed his lifespan as unreasonably short.  So to, if we choose the wrong comparisons (and we should really avoid such comparisons at all), risk finding only unhappiness despite our fortunate and blessed circumstances because we choose to compare ourselves with those who have – as we suppose – more than we do.

Mosiah 1

(February 21, 2014)
It is sometimes amazing to me how many things that I just don’t know (or, at least, don’t remember).  For example, the language of this chapter makes plain that the Plates of Brass (at least partially) were written in Egyptian.  I suppose that makes sense – after all, it is the record of Joseph, includes his prophecies, and he made these prophecies while in Egypt.  So it is understandable that they would be written in Egyptian – it is just surprising to me.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Genesis 45-46

(February 20, 2014)
There are two lessons to be learned from these chapters in the behavior of Joseph.  The first is the importance of not condemning those who offend us.  After all, Joseph could easily have condemned his brothers.  They wanted to kill him, they sold him into slavery, and Joseph (as to the world) would have been justified to do likewise to them.  But Joseph recognized that nothing could happen to him except the Lord permitted it – it was the Lord that had placed him in Egypt.

If we could emulate this, how much better off would we be?  When something bad happens to us, we tend to condemn those by whom the bad thing comes (including ourselves).  If, however, our faith in the Savior and His plan is perfect, we would understand that He loves us and yet He allowed this to happen.  It must be for our growth and betterment.  Thus the suffering that we feel was not caused by the one who offended us but was rather permitted by our loving Father to give us experience and put us in the position to achieve our eternal destiny.  This is a hard lesson to internalize, but imagine the power that we would have if we could learn it.

The second lesson is how we deal with those who believe differently to us.  Joseph, by all indications, was a righteous man – so we can assume he treated his wife well.  Yet her father was a pagan priest.  I can only imagine what dinner would have been like with the in-laws if it were me, but I cannot imagine that Joseph would have behaved in an antagonistic way towards Poti-pherah.  Maybe I am reading too much into this, but I think that we should all remember that we are on the same side looking to give our love to the same Almighty God (even though we may struggle to find Him in different places and ways).

Words of Mormon 1

(February 20, 2014)
This chapter is so textually distinct from the remainder of the Book of Mormon that it sticks out like a sore thumb.  As I read through it, I couldn’t help but to think that perhaps the first 12 verses of this chapter were the last bit of commentary on the Book of Mormon that Mormon ever wrote.  That he had prepared the text, but felt prompted to add this section, so he went back to add it with a brief editorial comment.

By the time Mormon wrote this, the writing must certainly have been on the wall.  Perhaps some of the Book of Mormon was written when Mormon had hopes for the survival of his people, but by this point he must have known.  Yet, even in a set of circumstances that would cause me to have despaired, he stood strong in his stewardship, he continued to testify as to the truth, and he remained sufficiently still in his heart to hear the whisperings of the Spirit.  And how grateful we must be for our opportunity to receive those things which Mormon added.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Genesis 43-44

(February 19, 2014)
I suppose what I don’t understand in this narrative right now is why Joseph has not yet revealed himself to his brothers.  Is it because he wants the drama of a big reveal?  That seems to be the case – he wants to tell his brothers and his father who he is all at the same time.  But that doesn’t seem likely – it seems petty for the suffering that his trick is causing.  This is one of those times when I think there is a cultural understanding that I am somehow missing in the scriptures.  There must be a rational reason for what Joseph is doing that makes sense to a person of his day and culture while it does not make sense to me.

The other thought that I had was in relation to Joseph and his cup.  Did I understand correctly that he was divining through the silver cup?  I don’t want to be proof-texting, but I think that is what the scriptures were saying.  I suppose that there is something to using a tangible, physical object as a focus to our faith.  Joseph did it with his cup (assuming I am not reading this wrongly), and Joseph Smith did it with the seer stone.  I wonder whether it needed to be something in particular, or whether it was merely an object to enable these prophets to focus their faith on the inspiration needed.

Omni 1

(February 19, 2014)
Certain things just ring true to me as I read the Book of Mormon.  I understand that, lately, I have been focusing on those evidences in my scripture reading, but I find them meaningful nonetheless in their capacity to encourage me to accept the literal Restoration and devote my life to Christ as I should.

In this chapter, we see so many different authors, and it does not seem at all like the text before or the text after.  It is simply a complete change of pace from the rest of the Book of Mormon.  But what most struck me was the language that described the Tower of Babel – in particular, the fact that it was never called the Tower of Babel.  Not here, and not in Ether.  Why would that be the case?  After all, it was clearly called the Tower of Babel in the Bible.  But, of course, that was the name given to it by the authors of the scriptures many centuries later – to the people of the Tower of Babel, it would more likely be called something like the ‘Tower of Nimrod,’ or something similar.  To those who did not follow Nimrod, it would just be the tower at the time the Lord confounded the languages.

Babel would have made perfect sense to have included in the record here if the Book of Mormon had been authored rather than translated.  That it was not included, though, makes just one more example of the reality of the translation.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Genesis 42

(February 18, 2014)
I can certainly understand what Reuben is saying here.  Sometimes, when we look at our past, we think that punishment is not only appropriate but also necessary.  We feel that we cannot outrun our past.  But, as in the case of Reuben, we are blessed in that we would necessarily have suffered for our sins but the Savior has put into place a mechanism by which we can escape those sins and come to be saved.  God provided Joseph, so that Reuben would not be brought to death for his sin against Joseph.  God provided Christ, so that we will not be brought to death for our sins against Christ, if we will only repent and believe.

Jarom 1

(February 18, 2014)
Something that Jarom said in this chapter really struck me.  He told of the prophets teaching the people of Nephi – how they worked to “continually” stir the people up to repentance.  This made me consider my own situation.

I have recently been making strides in changing some aspects of my life that were not in harmony with the Lord’s will.  For His reasons, and thanks to Him, I have been able to excise out of my life some of my worst habits and vices.  It has truly been a blessing – I don’t really understand how the Lord could make this repentance I am going through as easy as it has been.  It has been hard, but much easier than I expected.  I consider this a blessing from Him.

But it dawned on me as I read this chapter that I was feeling somewhat like I was least, for a little while.  I felt like I had made great progress, and I wanted to consolidate that progress and ensure that I kept at this level for a while, and then I would return to repenting and improving my life.  I suppose I felt this way because for so long I have looked at this weakness as the central problem in my life.  Now that I had it beat, I was feeling pretty good about myself.

That, in and of itself, is reason to repent.  I need to change my personality so that I am continually striving to repent of my weaknesses, rather than ‘taking a break’ from the War in Heaven.  I must reexamine my life, and determine where my next-biggest weakness is to be found, and call upon the Lord to help me to excise that out of my life next.  There is no truce in the War in Heaven, even to consolidate successes – we must always be striving to improve and get better.

Genesis 40-41

(February 17, 2014)
I feel like my scripture study lately has been almost nothing but additional evidences of the truth of the Restoration.  Through the writings of Hugh Nibley and others, and done in the light of the Restoration, we see just how important Abraham meeting the Pharaoh was – one of the most important events in the history of the world.  The Pharaoh claimed the priesthood and the rulership of the Earth, but that priesthood was properly held by Abraham.  Over time, Pharaoh came to recognize that and Abraham was called upon to heal Pharaoh and taught him astronomy.  He did all of this through the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream.

In this chapter, we have three dreams presented to Joseph who is able to interpret them all.  But the reason why he is able to interpret them is what is an additional evidence.  It is not in him (though the Butler noticeably points out that Joseph is a Hebrew).  Instead, it is in God (Jehovah) to give Pharaoh the answer of peace.  Pharaoh (presumably a son or grandson of the Pharaoh that met Abraham) has learned who is in charge and who holds the priesthood.  He defers to Joseph as his ancestor deferred to Abraham.  Additionally, it is another way that Joseph establishes that the lineage passes through him, as he imitated or walked the same path that Abraham walked long before.

Enos 1

(February 17, 2014)
I never used to understand the idea of “wrestling” with God, but I feel like I am beginning to.  Once upon a time, my prayers were rather meaningless things – I was ask for something or say thanks for something, and then get into bed and forget the whole experience.  It perhaps wasn’t quite that bad, but memory makes it look worse in retrospect.

But lately, in a time of significant need, I have learned what it means (in part) to wrestle with God.  To beg, to plead, and to desperately call upon Heaven in hopes of reaching the ear of our Father.  I have felt the exhaustion that accompanies such prayers – I feel much the way that I did at the conclusion of a basketball practice.  I can imagine that people back in the times of the scriptures would have identified with feeling as they did when they wrestled.  Worn out – exhausted and empty.

And yet, it is such a remarkable thing to look back and to see the progress that comes from a serious effort in prayer.  I have had prayers answered – rarely in the way that I would like, but always in the way that I need.  I have learned more about my Father through such prayers – by actually engaging or ‘wrestling’ with God rather than sending a message in a bottle – that I could have hoped for a year ago.

Genesis 38-39

(February 16, 2014)
The contrast drawn by these two chapters is remarkable and, I believe, intentional.  On the one hand, we have Judah and his sexual indiscretions.  On the other hand, we have Joseph and his willingness to abide by the law of the Lord and not to lie with Potiphar’s wife.  Judah is prepared to condemn his daughter-in-law for doing the same thing that he did (until he finds that he is the guilty co-conspirator), while Joseph flees and is cast into prison anyhow.

It is clear to me, with what I am learning about the reasons for keeping scripture, is that this text is attempting to demonstrate why the ruling line of Israel is to come through Joseph.  What makes that even more astonishing is that this is in the scriptures that we primarily acquired through the efforts of Judah.  And yet we have them, which adds (in my opinion) to their credibility.  If this was a creation of around 700 BC in Judah (the common assumption), these two chapters would not have been in the book – and they certainly wouldn’t be side by side to the condemnation of Judah.

Jacob 6-7

(February 16, 2014)
One thing that I just noticed in the text, despite having read this so many times (and I admit, I was aided in this by the supplemental materials that I had been reading) was how alien Sherem was to the people of Nephi.  He came among them, but was not always among them.  He long strove to speak with Jacob – why didn’t he just walk up to him, in this small community of believers?  He spoke their language, which is not something that you point out about a person who is either a nephew or a child of you.

Sherem was an outsider, and it really proves the point that there were others around during the time of the Book of Mormon.  For these evidences to be in place, and still not found for over a century after the book was translated (and, yet, unarguably be in the text) once again says something about the reality of its translation rather than its creation.

Jacob 5

(February 15, 2014)
I had a couple of thoughts as I read through this chapter.  The first comforting thought had to do with the olive culture.  Lately I have been reading about the olive culture and how olives were grown and prepared in the Mediterranean during the time of Lehi.  This was information that was simply not available to Joseph Smith, and was alien to the way that he farmed in rural New York in 1820.  The fact that he got so many elements of the olive culture correct – while not proof – is yet another evidence of the nature of the Book of Mormon as a translated work, rather than a created one.

The second thought was focused more on the text of the allegory.  In the past, I have read this in a ‘macro’ fashion – it was a tale of a civilization, and the covenant people.  But as I read it this time, I realized that there was more to the story than that.  This was also an allegory of the individual – Jacob even hints at that in his commentary.  We are to bring forth good fruit, but we bring forth evil fruit instead.  We are separated from God, given bare spots of ground to work (areas where we lack talents) and fertile spots (areas where we have talent).  In some we develop strength and good work through humility, while in others we can become corrupt because of pride (loftiness).  And so forth.  It was, to me, an interesting way to read this chapter.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Genesis 37

(February 14, 2014)
We spend our time in our lives fighting moral battles along the margins (usually).  We do not become righteous quickly, but rather we progress from here to there line upon line and precept upon precept.  As a result of that, we often make poor judgments about others (and even about ourselves).

It is easy to condemn all of the sons of Israel for their behavior in this chapter.  Reuben speaks on Joseph’s behalf, but only in limiting their actions to passively killing him rather than actively killing him.  Do we condemn this, or do we recognize that by his limited moral qualms he save Israel from ruin?  Likewise, Judah was motivated to make some profit on the destruction of Joseph.  Do we condemn this, or do we recognize that by this action Joseph’s life was spared (and all Israel with him)?

These are more difficult issues to deal with, but they are important ones.  I think we view people and see that there is a righteous action and a wicked action and those who choose righteously are righteous and those who choose wickedly are wicked.  But sometimes at the point of decision, a lifetime of poor choices in one area or another leaves us without the capacity of choosing the best possible path.  Instead, we choose between the wicked or the less wicked.  It isn’t right, and I believe that through the Grace of God we can escape this reality, but when left to our own strength often righteousness eludes us and those around us.

In these circumstances, the correct action for us to take is to apply President Hinckley’s advice to try a little harder to do a little better.  Win some battles on the margins.  Increase our capacity to do good.  Be better today than yesterday, and end our day with a resolve to make tomorrow even better.  When the struggle is in watching those we love, and those whose actions may cause us pain, we must remember that it isn’t about us.  They may very well be doing the best that they can, and their good decisions on the margins can be magnified by the Lord.  When facing destruction in the pit, the Lord can take the help of our loved ones (even if it is ever so slight – leave us to die of thirst rather than killing us, or selling us into slavery rather than killing us), and magnify that to our benefit and the benefit of those we love.  It is a remarkable thing, when you think about it.

Jacob 3-4

(February 14, 2014)
Sometimes, when I read the scriptures, it feels as though my mind is opened wide and the scriptures are exactly what I wanted and needed to know.  I have been struggling with a pair of issues lately, and it has caused me a great deal of hurt and worry.  I had planned, after reading my scriptures today, to also read a couple of chapters that I knew where applicable to the subject.  I didn’t so much want advice on how to deal with things (I knew what I needed to do), but rather comfort for the hurt and strength to continue doing what I knew to be right.

Enter these two chapters.  Both of my two issues were dealt with directly in these chapters.  The topics were significantly different from Jacob’s topic, but the information and reasoning was right on point.  The first of these issues was dealt with in the first chapter – and I was not only given some comfort but also given understanding and instructions on what I needed to do.  The second issue was dealt with at great length in the second of these chapters.  This was a particular mercy, since the issue was very painful for me.  I felt my mind opened, and understanding flooded into me.  I knew, for a moment, what was going on and what was true.  I felt comfort and peace, and was once again given instructions on what I needed to do.

Then, as I came to the end of my reading, I found that my mind was closed.  I no longer remembered the understanding that I had only moments ago.  I returned to the text to find it, or find language that would trigger that understanding again.  It did not come.  But I was left both with the memory of the understanding, and the instructions that came with it.  The peace diminished but did not depart.

This is not the first time I have had experiences like this.  Once, in the temple, I had my mind open in a similar manner so that I understood the endowment.  Then, when the session ended, I remembered very little of what I had uncovered.  I was left, solely, with the memory that I had understood it.  I knew that I understood it, and that had to be enough for me.  Once again, this was accompanied by instruction.  I believe that this is the Spirit of the Lord speaking to me and telling me what I need to do.  I would love to maintain the understanding, but I cannot dispute that I had it for a moment.  And, I assume, there is no test if we proceed with a full understanding of what we do.

I know, thanks to my reading today, that there is an answer to the situation I find myself in, and that brings comfort (not immediate comfort, but the hope of comfort which is a comfort all its own).  I also know what I need to do next, and that brings a comfort that circumstances aren’t completely outside of my control.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Genesis 36

(February 13, 2014)
My eyes used to glaze over at these genealogy chapters, and to be honest they still somewhat do.  But since I have been reading about the history of books and their importance, I realize that the scriptures must contain a genealogy, because that what part of what made the sacred book a codex that established the authority and legitimacy of the person who held it.  I can better understand why these sorts of lists where included now that I know a little more.  And I think that is probably common with most of the things that we don’t understand in the scriptures – they bother us until we get a little more knowledge, and then we understand them.  Then, as we get even more knowledge, we begin to gain benefit from them.

Jacob 2

(February 13, 2014)
There is the pull to wrest the scriptures to our own destruction.  We seek to use the scriptures to permit whatever we want to permit and to prohibit whatever we want to prohibit.  We use the fact that people have long been imperfect and we emulate those imperfections when we wish to duplicate them (while we don’t appropriately emulate the righteousness of those who have gone before).

It is always possible to get our understanding of the doctrine wrong, and this is a serious matter.  But if we are humble, and we are genuinely seeking the Lord’s will, He will correct us.  There is enough in the scriptures and revealed word of our leaders to assist us in becoming who and what we are to become.  This is true in our day, and it was true in the days of Jacob.  Apparently Lehi himself spoke out against this practice, but the people of Nephi ignored modern revelation in favor of previous things that they found more palatable to their lusts.

If we seek for confirmation of our own desires in the scriptures, we will find them.  If we seek for confirmation of our own fears, or hatred, or cowardice in the scriptures, we will find that, too.  But if we seek for the Lord's will in the scriptures, we can count on the Lord revealing that will to us

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Genesis 33-35

(February 12, 2014)
I have never really understood what lesson we are to take from the events related to Dinah and Shechem.  The writer appears to believe that Shechem was not a villain in this situation (“he was more honourable than all the house of his father”).  What’s more, he seemed to genuinely adore Dinah – perhaps that is an overreading of the text (the phrase “took her” is problematic, but it seems to me that there was some genuine affection).  And, if nothing else, Shechem was trying to make things right by Dinah and her family.

And yet, using deception, Simeon and Levi slaughtered Shechem and his family.  They took the women and children of the community captive.  Whatever Shechem did that was wrong (and I am unclear whether what he did with Dinah was consensual or not), what Levi and Simeon did was far more wrong.  And yet, there appears to have been no consequences for the two of them – it is just presented in a matter of fact way.

I suppose that is the way that life really is.  Sometimes we engage in revenge that is disproportionate to the sin that offended us.  Sometimes someone hurts us, or embarrasses us, or humiliates us and we think that we are justified seeking our revenge.  And sometimes we get it, and sometimes we even get away with getting it.  Sometimes, like Simeon and Levi, we might even profit from our revenge – increasing our flocks and herds.  We might look at every worldly evidence and think that it demonstrates that we were justified in taking our revenge – after all, think of the awful thing that whomever it was did to us.  But that isn’t the case – vengeance is the Lord’s.  Oftentimes it is the things that we get away with that are the significant and lasting curses – Levi and Simeon never learned from this situation (or learned the wrong lesson), rather than learning what they should and being compelled to repent.

Jacob 1

(February 12, 2014)
Sometimes reading the scriptures leads to thoughts that are far afield of the actual text that I am reading.  For example, my thoughts today carried me to consider the nature of the hereafter – what life will actually be like without death and serving the Lord forever.  My mind was spurred on this course by Jacob’s comments about entering into the rest of the Lord, but as I considered it left me pondering just what it must be like.

For some reason, my thoughts led me to feel as though the Veil was very thin at that particular moment.  I feel like I came to some understandings – I don’t know whether through revelation or whether it is just my own mind (and for that reason, I do not dare share the impressions that I felt), but they are significant.  But even if my understanding of the how might or might not be correct, the what (afterlife) feels very real to me at this moment – accompanied by the Spirit, testifying that at least that portion of my thoughts are true.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Genesis 31-32

(February 11, 2014)
There are times when faith seems to not be enough for even the best of us.  Jacob had received a promise from the Lord that he would be cared for and have success in returning to the land of his inheritance.  And yet, Jacob feared his brother Esau.  He divided his company into two parts, and did so in order to protect himself and his family from his brother.

After doing this, though, Jacob became very self-conscious.  After all, weren’t his actions a demonstration of lacking faith?  It was only when he saw that, and acknowledged his unworthiness as a result, that the Lord was able to perform the miracle that reconciled him with his brother.

Likewise, we sometimes plan for failure when the Lord has give us a promise of success.  We deny ourselves the very miracles that we need.  If we can develop the humility of Jacob, however, and look into our own hearts and see our own weaknesses, we can hopefully repent and change sufficient to rely on our Lord as we ought.

2 Nephi 32-33

(February 11, 2014)
I am not really convinced that my understanding of the Final Judgment is really accurate.  Whether it be bias, culture, or the simple fact that I am an attorney, I have always envisioned a bit of a courtroom setting for this Judgment.  I envisioned the Father as the Judge, Christ as my Advocate, and the Devil (Diablos – the accuser) as the prosecutor.  I have the same irrational desire that everyone else has had, at one time or another, that on my particular day of Judgment God will be in a especially good mood, or will be feeling more merciful than is usual, and because of these fortunate circumstances I somehow slip through the cracks and make it into Eternal Life.

Now that is said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but there is a lot of my actual beliefs in that above paragraph.  But I doubt that it is very accurate.  In fact, I don’t particularly know whether we will know if and when we are Judged, and what the Judgment is that applies to others.  I could envision a scenario where we live amongst Terrestrial and Telestial people, and they would not know what our work and our glory is as we live a Celestial life.  The longer I go throughout my life, the less certain I am as to the things that I know – or think I know – about how things actually are or how they will be after death.

But, ultimately, Nephi’s language is appropriate.  After all, we will be in a position of being Judged in some way or another (perhaps in the same sense that we are judged each and every time we try an action by the failure or success of that judgment).  We must prepare for that Judgment, we must enter at the gate, endure to the end, and give ourselves over to the only One who can possibly save us.  Whatever form our Final Judgment takes, we will pass it if we are Christ’s, and we will fail it if we are our own.  Beyond that, we can just wait for that day to come, and prepare ourselves for it.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Genesis 30

(February 10, 2014)
We know that faith is the power by which all things come to pass, which is interesting in light of superstitions.  We understand that placebo effect in individuals, but I think we explain that away in light of the mind correcting the body.  But what if the placebo effect was nothing more than the application of the power of faith?  If that was the case, then a firm belief in anything would be sufficient to bring about an increased probability of the event occurring.  Thus, superstitions may not be as crazy as people now think they are.

Of course, many superstitions have been subjected to empirical testing, but that doesn’t fully resolve the issue.  After all, science by its very nature is skeptical, and the doubt that makes a good scientist also influences any determinations of the validity of faith.  But what about the experiments where skeptical scientists bring in believes to pray for the sick (for example)?  I think we have a similar problem with those – after all, don’t we acknowledge that (at least at the quantum level) observing necessarily changes the results.  While the results are mixed (which makes sense in light of the varied beliefs of the experimenters), we still must address those times when faith doesn’t seem to work.  But isn’t it reasonable to presume that a skeptical scientist is actively putting his lack of faith in opposition to the faith of the prayers being said?

I think there is something to that.  I think we see less miracles because we believe less in miracles.  I think that magic (something generally believed by those ancients, including prophets, who had seen supernatural things) has disappeared in large part because we no longer believe in such things.  Science has displaced superstition – a generally good thing, but not in all cases.

2 Nephi 30-31

(February 10, 2014)
Enduring to the end is a somewhat interesting topic.  You would think, having had a firm witness of the reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that enduring to the end would not be a difficult matter.  After all, any difficulties that we experience were minimal compared to the bright hope that will last an eternity.  Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?  Murmuring is an irrational response in someone with a testimony.

And yet, enduring to the end is still difficult.  The strength of our conversion dissipates in time – leaving, in the end, only the knowledge that we have gained.  But this knowledge is not enough to carry us through – it is one thing to know that, say, smoking kills but that isn’t enough to stop smoking.  It is one thing to know we must be kind, but when hurt feelings develop unkind words are spoken and cannot be taken back, and we realize that we have fallen short of the knowledge that we have.

For a long time I mistakenly believed that sin was a result of a lack of faith.  But I have become convinced that is not the case – faith is a necessary component of obedience but also its source.  Obedience, instead, is a trait that must be developed over the course of time as our faith (and the Atonement) empower us to grind away the rough edges that lead to sin.  This grinding is a painful process, and can only occur if we are willing.  As the grinder works on our soul, and we feel the pain that comes from life, we may feel to call out for mercy and relief from our pain, but it is only by that continual process that we become fit for Heaven – the striving in defiance of our suffering that turn us from believers to disciples.

That is the process of enduring to the end, and it is certainly not instantly granted to you (or, at least, to me) upon your acquisition of faith.  It is a trait that I have had to kneel in prayer and recommit to desiring each day as the pains of life continue to grind away those parts of my soul that are unworthy and fit me for the life that my Father wants for me.

Genesis 27-29

(February 9, 2014)
I had several thoughts as I read through these chapters.  The first was on Esau – his story is a tragic one.  He sold his birthright long ago, but he had apparently matured in the intervening years.  As his father grew closer to death, he wanted to be in his father’s good graces.  He wanted Isaac’s firstborn blessing, after he had so casually sold his birthright long ago.  He married again when he realized that his prior marriage brought grief to his parents.  But it was too late for Esau – the decisions that he made earlier in his life established the course of his life thereafter.  He repented of a number of things, and was able to achieve greatness in his own right, but the lineage still went through Jacob.

The second thought was on Jacob himself.  It is always dangerous to criticize a prophet of the Lord, but Jacob’s actions through these two chapters are firm proof to me that the Lord works through imperfect human instruments.  Jacob lies to his father about who he was – it was not an issue of mincing words (as did Abraham and Isaac), but rather an outright lie.  But that isn’t the behavior that is most concerning to me.

Jacob, from what I can tell from the text, is unkind with Leah.  She feels like she is hated, and Jacob clearly loved Rachel far more than he loves Leah.  How it must have hurt Leah to see the man who she was given to and was to spend the rest of her life with love another woman (her sister, no less) so much more than he loved her.

Looking at the way Leah handled matters, however, gives us some profound insights.  Leah was dealing with a painful injury in the most precious relationship on Earth – her spouse did not love her.  But she understood where she needed to go for her comfort and her peace.  She sought out the Lord to make things right for her, and as such she received the blessing of a number of children (which was what she so desperately wanted).  In the same way, at times those around us will hurt us, but we must remember that the Lord stands ready to bind up those wounds and bring peace to us in the way that we need if we are only willing to turn to Him.

2 Nephi 29

(February 9, 2014)
We, having seen the course of history, pass by the words of Nephi as a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  After all, we have seen centuries of evidence of the people of the world crying out, ‘a Bible, a Bible, we already have a Bible and need no more Bible!’  But it really is a testimony how accurate the writings of Nephi were at this point.  After all, when Joseph wrote these words, the Book of Mormon hadn’t even been released yet.  There was noone to say that we had a Bible and needed no more Bible.  But yet his writings (of Nephi’s prophecy) were spot on.

The other thing that I picked up was the language of the Lord when He said that there were multiple nations and multiple words.  Particularly, my ears perked up when He said, “I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.”  As you have likely heard me say before, words like all catch my ears.  What does it mean if we take literally the Lord’s statement that He has spoken to all the nations of the Earth?  I think there is more truth in the world that we have even begun to realize, but we must continue to learn and apply the truth we have while seeking to add to it.  But we are certainly not in a position to be dismissive of any culture or people without recognizing that there has likely (if we take the Lord at His word) been truth spoken by God to that culture.

Genesis 26

(February 8, 2014)
We in our modern society tend to focus on how marriage should be about love and so forth.  And love is an important part of marriage.  But equally (if not more) important is a shared commitment to following the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Even in the times of Esau, it was clear that it was a profound mistake for Esau to marry outside the faith.  I wonder, had Esau not taken this step, whether we would be talking about the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Esau (and would he have been renamed Israel)?

2 Nephi 28

(February 8, 2014)
Reading through this chapter, there were countless descriptions of Hell and the means by which the Devil pulls us down to Hell.  But reading it in a different light, it is likewise clear that Hell is very much all around us.  We live in Hell on Earth, in a very real sense.  Hell is the kingdom of Satan, and he reigns over the Earth at this time.  We are in enemy territory, and we are seeing all around us the consequences of sin.

We also see it in our own lives.  I have seen, over the course of the last decade, the effect of failing to live the commandments.  This has brought me to a point that can only be described as the pains of Hell.  It wasn’t an external condition – I live in a house with a family and a job and all of the trappings that people believe are the source of happiness.  But, rather, it was an internal condition – I was living in Hell because my choices made my life Hell.  I cannot imagine being in the pain that these choices created for me for eternity – I am so grateful for the Atonement and the capacity that it gave me to escape my prison in mortality.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Genesis 25

(February 7, 2014)
Each of us has been given a birthright.  Some portions of that birthright are distinct to each of us – we have been given a family, talents, blessings, opportunities for learning and service, and so forth.  These are unique to us and have been particularly crafted by our Father for this purpose.  Other birthright blessings are far more general – we are each the children of God, and as His children we are blessed to be granted all that He has to give us.

Do we value that birthright blessing?  Esau sold his birthright for consumption on his appetite (as many of us do every day), but it wasn’t merely his appetite that caused the problem.  The end of the chapter indicates that Esau despised his birthright – as I understand it, he would rather be out in the wild hunting then left at home managing the affairs of the family.  Would we rather be out and about doing our own thing, rather than managing the affairs of our Father’s house?  Will we give up all that He has to give us, because we want freedom from responsibility?

2 Nephi 27

(February 7, 2014)
I have, throughout my life, been dealing with various forms of negative habits or vices.  These vices, from time to time, dominated my life and my think and became the end goal, rather than merely a means for some thing or another.  And, like most vices, it granted not happiness but rather left a trail of misery.

With that in mind, it is apparent what Nephi is talking about when he describes appetites which cannot be satisfied – eating in a dream and awakening to still be faint with hunger.  That is a description that I vaguely understood before, but as I emerge from the darkness and finally begin to allow the Atonement to address the self-inflicted wounds of my past mistakes, it seems far more apt.  Those things did not satisfy, and rather than learn from that I just consumed more and more hoping that I would someday awaken no longer hungry.  It never occurred.  I am grateful, though, for the patience of the Lord in teaching me so that I can begin to consume real food.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Genesis 24

(February 6, 2014)
There is a pattern of prayer here that I have applied to my benefit in my own life.  Abraham’s servant is on an errand that he needed the help of the Lord with.  He needed an answer, and it needed to be an unambiguous one.  And so, he prayed and established a series of conditions whereby he would know the will of the Lord.  These conditions were not beyond reasonable, so that they did not deny the existence of faith.  Additionally, the servant was clearly ready, willing, and able to follow the answer that he received.  Finally, and I believe that this is vitally important, he said this prayer not vocally but in his heart (see verse 45).

If we pray in our hearts, we can know that only God can know what we pray – for only God can read the thoughts and intents of our heart.  We are thus able to put conditions for understanding the Lord’s will that we can trust, with the knowledge that other actors in opposition to the work of the Lord will not interfere and cause us to receive bad information.  This is something that I have attempted a few times in my life, when I have needed it, and it has always been successful for me.

2 Nephi 26

I am impressed with the uniformity of Christ’s love for all of our Father’s children.  The language of Nephi is clear that God loves everyone – black, white, believer, unbeliever, Jew, Gentile, heathen, bond, and free.  It is us, who scramble to ascend to levels we don’t deserve (as Satan did) by putting down others in an attempt to magnify ourselves that quantify and judge each other and try to place one or another beyond the reach of infinite Grace (as if such a place existed).

There is another threat to our salvation that is contained in this chapter, and it is once again (like judging others, mentioned above) a particular threat to believers.  Priestcrafts are a major threat to our salvation.  The language is amply clear on this subject – if we preach to get gain or the praise of the world, we are committing a priestcraft.  Note that it does not say that the preaching must be wrong for it to be a priestcraft, but just that our aim is something other than the welfare of Zion.  Do we think about that when we are called upon to give a talk, a lesson, or a testimony?  If we do it – even if we do it very well – out of a desire for praise or for gain, we have practiced priestcrafts and we are due for sore repentance and the necessity of change.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Genesis 23

(February 5, 2014)
Death is a troublesome subject, even for those who have a testimony of the resurrection.  Abraham, who of all people should have had a firm knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and a similar knowledge of the reality of God, was still brought to tears and weeping at the death of his wife, Sarah.  It was not that he suddenly lost his faith at that moment, but rather death is sufficient to bring grief to all of us in this life – particularly the death of someone dear to us.

2 Nephi 25

(February 5, 2014)
As I read through this chapter, my mind began to wander a bit.  I began to think of myself living back in the age of Christ, becoming His disciple, seeing His miracles, and so forth.  I began to think of what I could have written then, which could be hidden up to be ‘discovered’ today that would be convincing to the world both of the truth of Christianity in general and the truth of the Restoration in particular.

This turned out to be a harder exercise than I first thought.  As I read through this chapter, I became aware of the level of textual complexity that existed.  It was clear that anything that I wrote would have been clumsy and likely to do as much harm as it did good.  What’s more, as Alma sinned in his wish to be an angel, I was sinning in my thoughts as well.  After all, if the Lord had wanted to tell us something or store records that would unequivocally demonstrate the validity of Christianity, the Restoration, the resurrection, or any of a dozen of other vitally important topics certain He could have done it far better than I could.  And yet He did not – which, I gather, means that it probably ought not to be done.

I don’t know if I am right on that last thought, though, as it seems a bit too Panglossian even for me.  After all, we should labor to the best of our abilities for the Kingdom of God.  Maybe my sin is that I don’t want to do the very same work in convincing people in my own day and within my own stewardship that I want to mystically be transported back in time to do.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Genesis 21-22

(February 4, 2014)
Hagar, if anyone, has a legitimate claim on being angry with her lot in the world.  She was a handmaid, but did all that her mistress told her to do.  She was given to Abraham, and gave Abraham a son.  Sarah seemed to deal very harshly with her, and yet she had given birth to the son that was to receive all of the blessings that Abraham had to offer – the lands, the title, and the birthright.  Meanwhile her son, whom she obviously loved, was left under a shrub in the desert, dying of dehydration, and she couldn’t even bear to watch him die.

Sometimes the world seems decidedly unfair.  Others benefit, while we suffer.  Sometimes the very people who are cruel to us see themselves as righteous and without sin.  They justify their actions towards us, or they deny hurtful actions which they commit. We are left hurt, confused, and alone.  But if we are firm in our faith of the Lord, our cries will not be in vain but will be answered in the due time of the Lord.  And that should bring some comfort to us.

2 Nephi 23-24

(February 4, 2014)
I love the hope that the language in the beginning of Chapter 24 brings – rest from our sorrow, rest from our fear, and freedom from the hard bondage wherein we are made to serve.  Right now I feel very much given over to sorrow and fear and bondage, and I feel like I have no help or ally.  But that isn’t really the case – my Savior is willing to walk beside me even if every other person in the world is against me and turns in hatred towards me.  That doesn’t make things easy for me, but at least I do not face them all alone.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Genesis 19-20

(February 3, 2014)
It is hard for me to envision the attraction that Sarah held for Abimelech.  Wasn’t she nearly 100 years old by this point?  Why was the king of Gerer, who presumably had a number of other options, so interested in her that he would take her?  He wasn’t that old himself, presuming that the Abimelech referenced later in the scriptures was the same Abimelech (and I suppose it could have been a son with the same name).

I think a portion of it had to be something culturally that I don’t understand.  We, in modern society, can understand physical attraction, but that wasn’t the determining factor in the past so often as it is today.  I wonder whether it is an issue of lineage or dowry or some similar claim.

2 Nephi 20-22

(February 3, 2014)
I had two thoughts with my reading today.  The first was found in 2 Nephi 21:3 – both how correct it was and how difficult it is to actually accomplish.  Nearly all of what we judge people based upon is predicated upon what we see or hear – and this includes what we see them do to us and what we hear them do to us.  If a person confronts us, yells at us, and threatens us, we feel justified in judging that person – especially if we are not in the wrong.  But we aren’t really correct in doing that – we are judging based upon the sight of our eyes or the hearing of our ears.  Any amount of judging we do here in mortality is evidence of our failure to understand the fear of the Lord.

The second thought was on the language of Chapter 22.  I find that language so uplifting – I would so like to be in the place spiritually where I felt compelled to praise the Lord, to call upon His name continually, to sing of His excellent works, and to cry out of His greatness in the midst of us.  Fear, doubt, and weakness prevent me from doing that, but how I would love to sacrifice them on the altar and so to receive the blessing that is the capacity to worship the Lord.

Genesis 18

(February 2, 2014)
I always feel awkward when I attempt to emulate the method by which Abraham ‘negotiates’ with the Lord in this chapter.  I don’t know whether that is because of my own misunderstanding (and that what Abraham is doing is perfectly alright), or whether Abraham – because of his righteousness – is appropriately communicating with the Lord whereas I am not when I engage in a similar process in my prayers.  My best answer, though, is that what Abraham is doing is not negotiating at all, but rather he is petitioning.  He understands that the Lord can and will do whatever He will do, but Abraham is begging Him to be more lenient.  When we negotiate, we can go wrong.  When we plead, the worst thing that can happen is that the Lord says no.

I think that I need to learn that lesson with others and not just with the Lord.  I think I spend too much time and effort in dealing with those around me by negotiating and not enough giving unconditionally and asking unconditionally.

2 Nephi 18-19

(February 2, 2014)
The battle references that were included here struck me as I read them this time.  After all, we are currently engaged in a continuation of the War in Heaven here in mortality.  And, knowing that we are at war, is it any surprise that we are surrounded by confused noise and garments (including, perhaps, our own) are rolled in metaphorical blood?

Genesis 16-17

(February 1, 2014)
The covenant of circumcision is one that I never really considered much before.  There is always a symbolic nature for the acts that we perform as part of the covenants we make with Deity.  When we are baptized, we are symbolically buried and raised up as a new disciple of Christ.  When we take the Sacrament, we symbolically accept Christ within ourselves and make Him a part of us.  Knowing this, however, I had never put the same thought towards circumcision.

But it seems that circumcision has something of a similar nature to teach us.  The fact that it is a cutting away of a portion of the genitals seems significant, as is the fact that we are called upon to be circumcised of heart.  If we say that the genitals can be a more general representation of our sexual appetite, then the covenant of circumcision is a way for Abraham to show his obedience by sacrificing or cutting off a portion of that appetite.  The appetite is not eliminated entirely, but neither is it left in its full, natural state.  A portion of it is sacrificed to the Lord.

By the same token, we are called upon to circumcise our hearts.  We each have appetites and passions (including, but clearly not limited to sexual appetites) that are perfectly natural, but also which we need to be prepared to sacrifice to the Lord.  We are to cut away however much of those appetites which the Lord requires of us – holding back nothing – in order to receive our part in the covenant of the Lord.

2 Nephi 15-17

(February 1, 2014)
As I read through these chapters, it struck me just how very proud I am.  I cannot imagine myself, at this point, being so overwhelmed by God’s presence that I would call out “Wo is unto me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”  And yet, I a beginning to understand just how unclean I am, how little I know, how wretched that I truly am.  I am struggling to resolve this.

I have been so proud for so long that I have forgotten (or, perhaps, never truly learned) how to worship.  I don’t know how to give praise to God that He truly deserves (or, at least, to the limit of my meager capacity to do so).  I want to be the type of man who can do that – I truly want to learn to worship God – and it is my hope that this desire is sufficient to allow the Father to work past my pettiness and pride and failures to teach me how to worship Him, to pray to Him, and to learn of Him as I should.