My feelings about the Church’s new Come Follow Me plan for families has been a little mixed. I’ve gone back and forth about it but have been willing to give it a shot and see what happens.
Initially, I felt like a church-wide focus on all the same scriptures across all programs from Sunday School to family study was a little too correlated for my taste. I prefer to create study methods that are tuned to our needs.
We have ventured forth anyway, and some exciting things have happened. First, it was a little rough; we didn’t know how to organize personal study with family study and the manual. If we studied the same stuff together every night, what did we study personally? With a chapter or two a week, that could be read in minutes, reviewing the same chapter alone and with family for 7 days straight and then again at church, that seems like you’d get a little burnt out! I still don’t totally understand it.Read Full Post
I’m not sure if anyone has made this connection before, but in studying Matthew 4, I noticed that there were some pretty striking similarities to what Jesus went through in the desert and the vision that Lehi and Nephi had.
Both accounts begin in the wilderness.
- Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness… (Matt 4:1)
- I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness. And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him. And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. (1 Nephi 8:4-5)
Hunger and Fruit
In the desert, Jesus has fasted for 40 days and nights while in Lehi’s vision, he tastes the fruit of the tree after several hours (not days). This contrast between extreme hunger and the vivid description of tasting the fruit is striking.Read Full Post
Lehi obtained an explicit promise from the Lord (2 Nephi 1:9) concerning his people, and in its concise form it reads:
Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments
ye shall prosper in the land;
but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments
ye shall be cut off from my presence.
– 2 Nephi 1:20
This promise is in the form of parallelism where the keeping or not keeping of the commandments brings prosperity or a state of being cut off from the presence of God.
You’ll notice that I have colored some particular words and phrases in each verse where I see some similar themes. The reward for keeping the commandments is prospering in the land, and earlier in verse 9 Lehi breaks down what this prosperity will entail:Read Full Post
Bishop Dean M. Davies begins by sharing a story that involved the selection of a temple site with Gordon B. Hinckley. While on the surface the story itself isn’t all that impressive to me personally. One side of my mind says that this was merely a matter of selecting a different site out of many that could have equally worked.
President Hinckley was a senior man with decades of experience, insight, and intelligence and had an idea in his mind of what to look for. The implication is that the Lord was directing all of this and I’m not saying that he wasn’t. On the one hand, this isn’t a mind-blowing story, it’s not parting a sea or translating ancient scripture, but on the other, maybe there is a different message.Read Full Post
This past weekend I attended a conference at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX where President Nelson and others spoke. He made a particular point of talking about the weaknesses that we all have to one degree or another and segued his message into Ether 12:27.
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.”
It’s probably one of the more well-known and quoted verses in the Book of Mormon, and I have pondered it off an on for as long as I have been aware of it. What weakness is God showing us? Will he reveal some hidden weakness that we don’t perceive? Perhaps. If we already see the weakness, what purpose would there be for God to show us something that we already see?
As I heard this verse read at the conference, the Spirit framed it in a particular way in my mind. One of my favorite spiritual gifts is the ability to see things in whole or in part as God sees them. I saw a connection between that gift and this verse.Read Full Post
Elder D. Todd Christofferson is someone that I look forward to hearing from and his talks always seem to have some very rich ideas in them that are worth pondering. He started off talking about Elijah and the priests of Baal, interesting stuff worthy of a whole post but I feel more like skipping ahead.
In the most recent general conference, President Russell M. Nelson declared: “You don’t have to wonder about what is true. You do not have to wonder whom you can safely trust. Through personal revelation, you can receive your own witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that this is the Lord’s Church. Regardless of what others may say or do, no one can ever take away a witness borne to your heart and mind about what is true.”
The quote is consistent with my experience, at least in principle. There is a wrestle that occurs in the search for truth. The desire of the individual is the key factor in whether or not they find what they are looking for. In this pursuit, one will become very well acquainted with failure as various avenues are explored.Read Full Post
I really loved this talk. I like most talks from Dallin H. Oaks because he doesn’t share a lot of touchy-feely stories, he sticks to the doctrine. One of my favorite quotes is “great leaders kill ambiguity” from Scott Belsky the founder of Behance and Oaks is a great leader.
“Modern revelation defines truth as a “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:24). That is a perfect definition for the plan of salvation and “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
This is such a powerhouse statement and it is worth reading in reverse; the Proclamation is part of the plan of salvation and the truth of how things are, were, and are to come. On the contrary, the world is wrong about a lot of things; they are, they were, and they will be in the future.Read Full Post
“Please do not focus primarily upon the logistical aspects of what has been announced. We must not allow procedural details to obscure the overarching spiritual reasons these changes now are being made.”
This is an important statement because it is all too easy to look at the logistics of a thing rather than understanding the spiritual foundation. I love these changes because I think that they take away constraints that have allowed me to focus more specifically on needs rather than utilizing more time worrying about scheduling visits for everyone when other things might be more valuable. True, you could do both, but why place unnecessary constraints on people?Read Full Post
“Some years ago, one of our young married daughters and her husband asked Sister Rasband and me a very important, life-influencing question: ‘Is it still safe and wise to bring children into this seemingly wicked and frightening world we live in?’”
Elder Ronald A. Rasband introduces a common question that might just as well be valid to ask in virtually any time in human history. Regardless of the nature of the culture, this world is inherently and by design a risky and dangerous place. The way I see it, if we are still alive and the work is still in motion, then it is still our duty to bring children into the world. The Rasband’s answer to their children “Yes, it’s more than OK,” was great.Read Full Post
There is an ideology today that I hear quite often and it is poor in principle and flawed in doctrine. You may recognize this ideology as it appears in the following forms:
- “Live your truth”
- “Be who you really are”
- “Be your most authentic self”
What if “your truth” is that only the strong survive and that whatever you can take from the weak you should? What if you are an angry person, short-tempered, or enjoy lusting after the flesh? What if you look at yourself as you are now and realize that you are incredibly narcissistic and do not truly care about the people around you? These ideologies initially feel warm and fuzzy, but they require you to cut yourself off from the greater realities of life and truth.Read Full Post
This year our grandchildren wrote the topic of their message on stones and then, one by one, buried them next to one another, representing a sure foundation upon which a happy life is established.
I think it is cool to do things like this with kids (sure, and adults too). Stories like these that Elder Steven R. Bangerter shared sound like something you would read about in scripture as a parable or relating to an event like the Lamanites literally burying their weapons of war. Acting out symbolic gestures can imprint unique things upon the mind and help draw connections to other doctrines and principles.
Jesus Christ is that precious cornerstone in the foundation of Zion. It was He who revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”
Underestimating the power of what we perceive to be “small things” was a theme in this conference and something that I think humanity has universally struggled with throughout history.Read Full Post
Frequently, our first reaction to hard things is “Why me?
This is true, but why? Hard things happen to everyone all the time, so why don’t we anticipate them? Why do we feel that somehow we should be shielded from hard things while everyone else isn’t?
Joseph Smith confronted a hard thing in Liberty Jail. With no relief in sight and in despair, Joseph cried out, “O God, where art thou?” No doubt some of us have felt as Joseph did.
This dialogue between Joseph and God that M. Joseph Brough relates is remarkably intimate, relatable, and revealing. It is a testament to how close God always is, even when we are deep within dark places. He has the power to immediately end the suffering, but he forbears. He sees more than we do, around us, inside us, and beyond us.Read Full Post
Elder Quentin L. Cook expanded on the details of the new changes to the Sunday Schedule and numerous ways that it can help impact the lives of the saints for the good. I’m thrilled about this new direction, the loss of an hour is barely noticeable when compared to the greater vision of what is trying to be accomplished here.
“With respect to the Sunday meeting schedule, the senior leaders of the Church have been aware for many years that for some of our precious members, a three-hour Sunday schedule at church can be difficult.”
The current 3-hour block came about in 1980, I believe, but that third hour was still part of the weekly worship. Three straight hours does take a lot of people and time to accomplish every 7 days, 365 days per year.Read Full Post
In keeping with the purpose of this blog as my personal study journal, I’m going to be doing something new. This last General Conference was particularly inspiring for me, as I’m sure it was for many.
I want to dig deep into the talks and post of some of my thoughts here as part of my study process and make them available for any others who may be interested (which is why this is a public blog). I may not do a post for every talk, some talks didn’t feel like they had anything in particular for me and I’m not going to try and force insights where I don’t feel any coming naturally just for the sake of including everyone.
I’ll begin with Russell M. Nelson’s introductory remarks at the Saturday Morning Session to kick things off. I think this is an important one, this is the beginning of something great.
“It is time for ‘home-centered’ church.”
What comes to mind first is the idea that this is the start of something that could be a very positive direction for us as a people. My second thought is the words of Nephi who said: “And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.” (1 Nephi 16:29)Read Full Post
Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” (Ericson, Edward E. Jr. (October 1985) “Solzhenitsyn – Voice from the Gulag,” Eternity, pp. 23–24)
I wonder why we continue to fail to learn this lesson. I also wonder why it is so hard for a generation who gets this to pass it on to future generations.
We see this cycle repeated over and over in the Book of Mormon with a few exceptions. Perhaps we will finally have Zion when we have figured out how to make it stick.
thus Bruce Charleton
I have compiled a list of parallel themes between Moses’ serpent and Lehi’s Liahona that occur in Alma 33:19-23 and Alma 37:38-47. I’ve been studying this for a little while now trying to figure out how many of these parallels there, what this might mean, and how I might explain it.
After staring at a marked-up comparison between these two sets of scriptures for some time, I thought I’d go through each theme, write some ideas, and then include excerpts from the scriptures. This turned out to be a worthwhile way for me to explore these various themes and I have each of them here to share.
The serpent and the Liahona were both considered to be a type; that which represents something else or a figure of something to come. This means that God caused them to be used for at least two reasons: 1. to solve an immediate problem and 2. to illustrate a greater meaning and truth. Alma is going to explain the details of all this for us.
|Serpent – Alma 33||Liahona – Alma 37|
|…a type was raised up…(vs.19)||…is there not a type in this thing? (vs.45)|
Nephi prophesied that in the last day groups would contend with one another and that they would be built up “not unto the Lord” (2 Nephi 28:3)
These groups have authorities that will “contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning.” (vs.4) They will say, “Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept;” (vs.5) and “Behold, hearken ye unto my precept;” (vs.6)
They will teach that God “will justify in committing a little sin…and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (vs.8)
“Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines” (vs.9) They will be corrupted “Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their [groups] have become corrupted, and their [groups] are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.” (vs.12)
From this point on, Nephi is speaking the words of the Lord who explains, “they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (vs.14) He warns, “O the wise, and the learned, …and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!” (vs.15)
Strong language.Read Full Post
Where does that idea come from? It is a question that doesn’t get asked often enough. Someone proclaims something and it sounds right, they even have reasoning that feels compelling, but where did that idea originate?
Ideas are essential and powerful; with them, one may create order or chaos. Today, we are surrounded with peddlers of ideas and there are many who stand ready to instantly adopt whatever feels right at the moment.
These words of Isaiah are wise:
Who among you fears Jehovah and heeds the voice of his servant, who, though he walk in the dark and have no light, trusts in the name of Jehovah and relies on his God?
But you are lighters of fires, all of you, who illuminate with mere sparks. Walk then by the light of your fires and by the sparks you have kindled.
This shall you have from my hand: you shall lie down in agony.Isaiah 50:10-11 (IIT)
Many walk by the light of their own fires, or the fires of popular voices around them. Even with this blog, I have to make sure that while I share my own insights, I try to give credit to the source.
On the path to the tree of life, there is an iron rod that passes through a mist of darkness; God intends for us to pass through it.
Whether in the darkness or not, the iron rod must be firmly gripped with both hands; Otherwise, we may find ourselves among the popular masses pointing a finger of scorn back to those on the path.
If you cannot trace the ideas being proclaimed around you to true doctrine, to the scriptures, to the divine patterns that repeat over and over again, we may want to re-examine the validity of the premise.
In Lehi’s vision, a man in a white robe leads him into a dark and dreary waste. Who was this man? We don’t know, but Lehi simply followed him anyway.
It wasn’t until Lehi cried out for help that he was presented with the vision of the tree, the rod, the path, the mist of darkness, and the multitude of voices seeking to shame those trying to get to the tree.
Imagine being on that path and holding the rod when you begin to approach that mist of darkness with all the uncertainty and fear that would accompany the loss of your vision and the inability to identify the myriad of voices that you would hear coming from all directions.
All of a sudden, you notice another path on your left. There, the sun is shining, and many people are escaping to avoid the mists. The trail features a spectrum of colorful flowers and wildlife and stands as a stark contrast to the bleak darkness ahead.
The new option immediately becomes desirable.
But which path would you encourage those behind you to take? One looks lovely, and the other fills the mind with terror. One looks like it will bring peace, and the other will bring challenges that may be too much to bear. One looks safe, and the other could undoubtedly cause one to become lost forever. Would you encourage anyone to hold onto the rod and venture into the mists of darkness?
Finally, you notice that there are no signs warning people not to take the sunny path, no warnings at all. It’s quite simple really, all you have to do is let go of the rod and step off the path.
The truth is that we must go through the mists and we cannot be afraid to encourage others to do the same. We cannot protect people from the trial of faith that requires them to choose to hold onto the rod of iron and step into the darkness; we cannot avoid this ourselves either.
When we trace ideas back to the source and discover the iron rod, we must hold fast to it. Even though the masses in the building point the finger, mock and deride, even though the mists of darkness blind our eyes and the voices in the mist beckon us to follow them to escape the darkness, we don’t let go.
As the pride of the great and spacious building surges and their voices grow louder, as the mists grow dense and the darkness deepens, we must make a concerted effort to feel the iron rod in our hands and tighten our grips.
This is the only way to the tree of life.
- Good works are not substitutes for grace, they are expressions of obedience that foreshadow the disposition of the converted.
- “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;” – Ephesians 5:1 NASB
- Sunday is just another day of the week, the Sabbath must be created, a sign between us and God.
- Prayer is a union of minds, we can unite with God or others around us.
- Key terms from the sermon on the mount:
- Meek = mild = non-violent
- Blessed = happy and prosperous
- Merciful = compassionate = a heart easily moved by the suffering or distress of others
- Pure = clean = free from foreign matter
- Peace = freedom from conflict
- We come unto Christ by drawing near to him, not in physical, but dispositional proximity.
- The word brass in Hebrew is nachosheth which means copper.
- Brass items in scripture include:
- Moses’ serpent
- Laban’s plates
- Temple basin on the back of 12 oxen
- Solomon’s 2 pillars
- Brass items in scripture include:
- “If there were no Book of Mormon, the promised gathering of Israel would not occur.” – Pres. Nelson
- The meaning of the tree in Nephi’s vision (the love of God) was the same as what he already knew about God, that he “loveth his children.” The answer didn’t deliver new information in that regard, but it allowed him to see what he already knew in a greater context. (Knowing is one thing, understanding the meaning is another).
- Lehi: “[the fruit] was desirable above all other fruit” – 1 Ne. 8:12
- Nephi: [the tree] is the most desirable above all things.” – 1 Ne. 11:22
- “My joy is more full because of the success of my brethren.” – Alma 29:14