Book of Mormon

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Columbus?

Statue of Christopher Columbus, at the corner of Elmwood Ave and Reservoir Ave, Providence, RI. This statue is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today at the beginning of Sunday School I was handed a little white slip of paper with some scripture verses to read. Here’s what I read in class:

And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.

And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters. (1 Nephi 13:12-13)

It was reinforced in the class that the “man among the Gentiles” is Christopher Columbus. I suppose that in reading verse 12 you would think that the Spirit coming down and working upon someone would mean that they were righteous and sent by God to do good. In this country we celebrate Columbus Day and it seems as though many Latter-day Saints hold him with a kind of reverence, see him as a visionary, and perhaps even a prophet of sorts.

A Scourge

God does not always work upon people to bring blessings and happiness, sometimes he sends them as a scourge:

And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation… (2 Nephi 5:25)

Wait a minute, am I suggesting that Columbus was sent as a scourge, how is that possible? Well I started out Read Full Post

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Surviving the Void

It’s happened to me several times, in fact, the first 17 years of my life were lived without any real sense of the presence of God; at least that was my perception at the time.

Time went on, and God did manifest himself to me many times and in many ways. Some of these experiences were subtle and sublime, while others sound like something you’d read about in the scriptures. But then something unexpected happens…

void

Life was at times like a sailboat on a vast ocean, the wind filled my sails and pushed me forward with purpose and vision. Then, for no apparent reason, the wind ceases and there is a perfect calm. Often it isn’t this sudden, the winds fade slowly, almost imperceptibly, until the profound stillness dominates the scene.

I’ve noticed that God appears to leave me alone at certain points in my life. Alone to the degree that there seems to be nothing I can do to bridge the gap and I find myself in a void. Prayers feel unheard and questions begin to enter the mind. What happened, where did he go? Did I offend him in some way, is there something I’m doing wrong? I tend to look inward during these times and take an inventory of my life.

While such a practice can be healthy, it can also turn to doubt, fear, confusion, disaffection, anger, and apostasy. I think that it is common for many to reach this state of windless waters and abandon ship thinking all is lost.

Like I said, I didn’t always know there was a God, but I do now. Yet I’ve felt a little hurt at times where I’ve been in these situations where I’ve felt like I needed answers and the heavens were quiet. I know that the heavens must hear me, but I don’t know why there is no perceptible reply.

The Why

What I’ve wanted to know is “why,” why this abandonment? I’ve been in this most recent void for a while now, surviving on rations of remembrance and continuing my pursuit of faith through exploration and just living life.

It is through that continued exploration that I think I found my answer. A thought hit me while pondering Read Full Post

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Mosiah 1:4 – Teaching our posterity the language of scripture

For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time. (Mosiah 1:4)

I was listening to this chapter yesterday and then read it again today. I don’t know that I have anything profound to say about it but I wanted to point a few things out that I think are of interest.

The plates and the information they contained was critically important in perpetuating the covenants between the people and God. Lehi was taught in the language of the Egyptians, it never says how but that information might have been in the book of Lehi that was unfortunately lost.

This verse says that the engravings on the brass plates were in the Egyptian language, but I guess that somehow I missed that detail. I had speculated that perhaps Lehi knew Demotic and that was the language they wrote their plates in.

literary-demotic

Demotic characters

The brass plates might have been an unprecedented artifact, something akin to the Antikythera mechanism or the Codex Gigas, crafted by some passionate visionary and retained in a private treasury.  Read Full Post

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Fluidity of Scripture

There’s something interesting in 3 Nephi where Jesus starts quoting Isaiah (for three verses) and then stops because the people aren’t getting it. He then heals them, institutes the sacrament, calls apostles and then says that he’s returning to Isaiah but quotes several verses from Micah first. After all of this he picks up again where he left off on those three verses but he quotes them differently.

I’ll break this down, let’s start in chapter 16 of 3 Nephi. Read Full Post

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A Hypothetical Look at Life Through the Lens of Jacob 5

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Why does my life feel like there is nothing but crap get dumped on me?

“I have digged about it,… and I have dunged it; and I have stretched forth mine hand almost all the day long…” Jacob 5:47

My best friend moved away and I lost a good week’s worth of work from the flu; why must there be so much loss in life?

“I will prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it, that perhaps it may shoot forth young and tender branches, and it perish not.” Jacob 5:4

Life was simple but now I have all these new situations to deal with. I’ve got these annoying new neighbors who just moved in and I just got this new calling that I reluctantly accepted. Why does all of this have to happen now?

“Now, if we had not grafted in these branches, the tree thereof would have perished.” Jacob 5:18

My life just feels like chaos and I don’t even know if God is aware of my circumstances.

“…it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard.” Jacob 5:51

***Phone rings*** Read Full Post

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“Who has known the Mind of the Lord?”

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1 Corinthians 2:9-16

But as it is written:

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,”

this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.

For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God. Among human beings, who knows what pertains to a person except the spirit of the person that is within? Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God. And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms.

Now the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone.

For “who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

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Beautiful Literary Patterns in Alma 19:6

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I was doing a search today in the Gospel Library app for the word “mind” because I was looking for particular themes related to the mind in the Book of Mormon. As I looked at Alma 19:6, the repetition of the word “light” was clued me in that there must be some literary structure at work.

In ancient Eastern languages without punctuation, you painted pictures through repetition, emphasis, contrast, and many other techniques. I have broken down Alma 19:6 based on various patterns, the most obvious being an overarching chiasm and various sets of parallelisms. There are a couple of different ways you can read this depending on the theme being emphasized.

  • A1 – he knew that king Lamoni was under the
  • A2 – power of God; he knew that the
    • B1 – dark veil of unbelief was being
    • B2 – cast away from
    • B3 – his mind, and the
      • C1 – light which did
      • C2 – light up his
      • C3 – mind, which was the
        • D1 – light of the glory of
          • E – God, which was a marvelous
        • D1 – light of his goodness–yea, this
      • C1 – light had
      • C2 – infused such joy into his
      • C3 – soul, the
    • B1 – cloud of darkness having been
    • B2 – dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in
    • B3 – his soul, yea,
  • A1 – he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was
  • A2 – carried away in God–

The entire thought presented here is surrounded by the name of God, who appears at the beginning and the end (how appropriate). Next is this Read Full Post

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We’re Here to Develop Patience

Because of the weakness and imperfections of human nature, and the great frailties of man; for such is the weakness of man, an such his frailties, that he is liable to sin continually, and if God were not long suffering, and full of compassion, gracious and merciful and of a forgiving disposition, man would be cut off from before him in consequence of which he would be in continual doubt and could not exercise faith: for where doubt is, there faith has no power, but by man’s believing that God is full of compassion and forgiveness, long suffering and slow to anger, he can exercise faith in him and overcome doubt, so as to be exceedingly strong. (Lecture 3, Question 18)

One of the six characteristics of God mentioned in Lecture 3 of Lectures on Faith is mercy. In describing mercy, we see terms like long suffering, compassion, graciousness, forgiving and slow to anger. I think much of mercy can be expressed in the word patience. Noah Webster defined patience as:

PATIENCE, noun pa’shens. [Latin patientia, from patior, to suffer.]
1. The suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evil, with a calm, unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness. patience may spring from constitutional fortitude, from a kind of heroic pride, or from christian submission to the divine will.
2. A calm temper which bears evils without murmuring or discontent.
3. The act or quality of waiting long for justice or expected good without discontent.
4. Perseverance; constancy in labor or exertion.
5. The quality of bearing offenses and injuries without anger or revenge.

As a disposition of God, it is clear that this is something that we must develop on our own. It seems that patience is impossible to develop without situations that require it. Patience is, in fact, a response to afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or evil. Patience must be developed, and it seems that it cannot exist without there being situations that require it.

In other words, you are not going to sit and tolerate something difficult unless Read Full Post

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Faith, Fiction and Going Beyond First Impressions

“I had the same good feeling while reading scriptures and while watching a fictional movie, how is that possible?”

I have heard this question or something like it asked time and time again. I’ve heard this example used to illustrate how ’emotions should not be trusted,’ which, I actually agree with. This question makes a valid observation if you are working under some kind of assumption that the Holy Spirit only confirms specific spiritual things as ‘true’ and shouldn’t ever be showing up during something like a movie (only if it’s a church movie though, right?)

Without proper context, people can be led to conclusions that are incorrect because the foundational assumptions are problematic to begin with. I’m not blaming the person who has the question, I’m not sure we do a very good job at really teaching how the Spirit works and what the relationship is between the truth we have and the truth possessed by everyone else.

Emotions themselves are a tricky because they are simply reactions to things we are exposed to. If someone punches you, it hurts and you feel mad, if someone scares you, you feel terror for something that isn’t really terrifying once you realize it. If someone says sweet things to you, you feel good, even though they may really want to take advantage of you. Reading something inspiring, it can also make you feel good.

There’s nothing wrong with all that, but where we do go wrong is in mak Read Full Post

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O That I Could Just Fix Everything in the Whole World

I was reading Alma chapter 29 recently and I thought I’d share some observations that I think are particularly relevant to today’s world.

I love how you can keep coming back to scripture to find new things. As we age, mirrors reveal changes, but the mirror does not change, we do.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed that one cannot step twice into the same river [1], so perhaps one cannot read the same scripture twice. Additional knowledge, insights and understanding gained through time and experience cause previously bland verses to come to life in new and exciting ways.

Alma 29 begins with a ponderous Alma wishing that he could change the world in a dramatic way.

1 O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

2 Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.

Remember that this is the Alma who was called to repentance by an angel who spoke with a voice that shook the earth [2]. Alma had this incredible experience and feels that perhaps others would respond in the same way if they experienced the same thing. In a way, we do the same thing when we Read Full Post

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