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The Bible Dictionary and Hard, Old Gum Under the Table

When I was bored in middle and high school (which was very common) I would often read dictionaries, which sounds boring, but I loved discovering new words and ideas. When I was a teenager, I read and studied the entire Bible Dictionary and it provided me with greater knowledge and enlightenment that I had ever achieved up to that point in my life.

The Bible Dictionary is a sealed book to many Latter-day Saints because I suspect that few have ever read it or really delved into the great stuff that’s there.

There are two definitions of the Bible Dictionary that have impacted my life more than any others: the section on prayer and the section on repentance. As the years have gone by, I have realized how powerfully interconnected these two principles are as I have come to understand the doctrines they are built upon.

I’m going to share the small excerpts from the full definitions that I think everyone can really benefit from!

Prayer

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” [link]

Typically, Latter-day Saint public prayers that I have observed follow a pattern we teach where we thank God for things and then we ask him for things. I think it is pretty easy to find things to be grateful for with how loving and merciful our Father is with each of us. But are we asking for the right things? How do our will unite with God through the process of prayer?

Repentance

“The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.” [link]

Typically we think of repentance as us making restitution for a laundry list of sins, but what causes us to commit these sins in the first place? Recently in a Gospel Doctrine class, I gave an example of old chewing gum stuck under a table. To a toddler who doesn’t know any better, it is a tasty treat. That hard, old gum is sweet, convenient and placed right within the view of their short stature.

To an adult who rarely spends much time under a table to begin with, they find the idea of going after that gum abhorrent (or at least most do, I hope!). So what is the difference? At some point there was a change of mind, the toddler grew, gained knowledge and is was knowledge that made all the difference.

I’ve written elsewhere about how God has already showed us how we can achieve the change of mind that helps us achieve true repentance. Joseph Smith taught this principle beautifully in this quote:

“The nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin;” (History of the Church, 2:8)

We can go right back to the Bible Dictionary’s section on prayer to add more to our understanding of this essential doctrine.

Praying in the Christ’s Name

“We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ—when His words abide in us (John 15:7). We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent His mind but spring out of the selfishness of man’s heart.” [link]

If we seek change in our lives, it starts with our mind. When our mind is growing into something like God’s mind, it changes how we see and how we experience reality. We ask God to help us stop sinning, to help us resist temptation, to give us strength, but have you ever tried asking God to help you see things as he does?

God knows and comprehends all the evils that occur in this world. He is aware of every piece of pornography produced, all the wealth and fortunes gathered up by man, but he is not tempted by it, why? What does he know that we don’t? Why isn’t God tempted to crouch down and peel that hard, old piece of chewing gum off the bottom of the table?

Hmm, chew on that.

What do you think?

  • What ways can you think of that help your mind become closer to God’s?
  • What other scriptures or resources shed light on this doctrine?