In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we find an account of Jesus being tempted by the devil while fasting in the wilderness. The scene parallels, in at least two significant ways, Nephi’s vision of the tree of life.
Jesus is tempted by the devil, which correlates with the mists of darkness that Nephi saw in his vision. The only way through the mists of darkness, or these temptations, is to continually hold fast to the iron rod, or word of God.Read Full Post
And now I say unto you,
all you that are desirous
to follow the voice of the good shepherd,
come ye out from the wicked,
and be ye separate,
and touch not their unclean things;
and behold, their names shall be blotted out,
that the names of the wicked
shall not be numbered among the names of the righteous,
that the word of God may be fulfilled, which saith:
The names of the wicked
shall not be mingled
with the names of my people;
This verse reminds me of Jesus’ teaching about a man not being able to serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24)
To follow the voice of the good shepherd, we have to “come out from the wicked”, “be separate”, and “touch not their unclean things.”
On the flip side, if we are touching unclean things, are not separate, and are hanging with the wicked, then no matter how much we may say we love Jesus, we are not following his voice.
What I love about the scriptures is the principles are so versatile. A million people could read these verses and find specific applications for their own lives.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.John 15:1-2 NASB
Both branches that are “in [Christ]” get cut but for very different purposes and with very different results. I went to the dictionary and found this definition:
Prune: To lop or cut off the superfluous branches of trees, to make them bear better fruit or grow higher, or to give them a more handsome and regular appearance.http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/prune
Then, I just had to look up “superfluous.”
Superfluous: 1. More than is wanted; rendered unnecessary by superabundance; 2. More than sufficient; unnecessary;http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/superfluous
This reminds me of times where I felt like I was being a good disciple but suffered what I felt was an unnecessary loss. I have also felt that despite my best efforts, the prosperity I desired kept slipping from my grasp.
When you prune something, you are cutting it back, taking away what is unnecessary or more than is needed so that it can bear more fruit. Getting cut back doesn’t feel pleasant at the moment; it can feel more like punishment.
Maybe I should learn more about the fruit that God is trying to produce in my life versus the fruit I am wanting to produce.
The Hebrew word for covenant means “to cut” so when God is “pruning” or cutting us back, is there a connection to covenants and in what respect?
There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning [Jesus]; some were saying, “He is a good man”; others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He leads the people astray.”John 7:12 NASB
It is always interesting to see how people reacted to Jesus and what their opinions were. Even with Jesus himself, a crowd of people could look at him, listen to him, and still come to two completely different opinions about him.
“How has this man become learned, having never been educated?”John 7:14 NASB
That which comes by revelation is often valued less by the world than that which comes from the teachings of mortal men and their institutions.
“You have a demon!”John 7:19 NASB
A modern version I hear of this rather pathetic non-argument is “You’re a racist!” or “You’re a Nazi!”
If Jesus was such a controversial figure, then how can anyone else ever not be controversial? Perhaps by simply being quiet, drawing no attention to oneself, and never making a stand for anything at all.
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.2 Timothy 3:12 NASB
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
There are 3 things that Jesus taught that enable one to build upon what he called his “rock.”
Building upon his rock is critical to find safety from the floods and winds that cause one to fall and be received into “the gates of hell.” (3 Nephi 11:39-40,14:27,18:13)
The fact that Jesus mentions building upon his rock 3 times in his visit to the ancient American survivors soon after his resurrection should catch our attention. The number 3 is associated with themes such as divine influence or emphasis and structure. When things come in threes, take note because something important is being shared!
1. The Rock of His Doctrine
The first way to build upon the rock of Christ is mentioned in 3 Nephi 11 and is part of the first things that he taught the gathered survivors in Bountiful. Jesus expresses his concern about disputations and contention (3 Nephi 11:29-30) among the people and desires to abolish it by clearly defining what his doctrine is and mentions the phrase “my doctrine” 8 times and “this is my doctrine” 4 times.Read Full Post
“If it hasn’t happened to you—it should.”  That’s what President Ezra Taft Benson had to say about the changing of the human heart and being born of God.
I would argue that if this has not happened in your life, then it should rise immediately to the top of your priority list. You may shrug this off thinking that you have been born of God, but have you? You may shrug this off because deep down you know you have not been but admitting it may make you feel foolish.
Maybe you have been an active member of the LDS church all of your life and you thought you had your bases covered because you’ve participated in all of the ordinances of the gospel. You take your covenant seriously and honestly seek to align your will with God’s.
“…behold, I ask of you, my brethren [and sisters] of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” 
I don’t ask this question to draw out doubts but to increase faith. I’ve observed my fellow saints for years and I have met many that have been born of God and many more who have not. I see people struggle with faith crisis and all manner of difficulties in this world that would be eased or erased if they had been born of God and known of his love and power.
The Lectures on Faith teach clearly that unless members of God’s church “…have an actual knowledge that the course that they are pursuing is according to the will of God, they will grow weary in their minds and faint; … for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty is, there faith is not, nor can it be.” 
If you have not yet been born of God, then your sins have not been forgiven and you have no salvation; that’s not my opinion.Read Full Post
My father asked me to put a video together for their ward to help get people into the Christmas spirit and turn their thoughts to the Savior. As I was assembling images, I thought to myself how important it is to consider who exactly was born.
I decided to start the video with some edited clips from the beautiful creation sequence from the movie The Tree of Life. Then, I looked for unique images that I had never seen before (along with some familiar ones). There is some fantastic artwork out there, and this is a unique way to enjoy and share it. The music is Stille Nacht (Silent Night), a classic from Mannheim Steamroller. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!
I was reading the words that Helaman taught to his sons, Nephi and Lehi and noticed some potential patterns. Helaman appears to have taught many things to his sons but we only have a few of these words recorded in Helaman 5:6-12. Whether these patterns were intended or not is unknown. Literary patterns breathe life into mere words by incorporating techniques that produce vivid imagery and emotional effects. Chiasmus is a tool used to draw attention to a particular point or theme and there appears to be some use of it by Helaman.
Usually when I see a word repeated many times or patterns of identical or contrasting text I stop and widen my scope to see if there is a pattern and how far it extends. It certainly causes me to spend more time with a particular section of text whether or not any legitimate literary patterns are being used or not. We don’t know for sure what the author was thinking and some of these patterns may just be coincidental. Nevertheless, they can provide an interesting way of playing with the text and examining the message.Read Full Post
For the past couple of years, I’ve been coming across fascinating tidbits of information that appear to show connections between the Holy Spirit and our Heavenly Mother. During a recent morning family scripture study in 1 Nephi 11, I noticed a couple of interesting things and I’ll share some of the details.
In verse 16, the angel asks Nephi “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” When Nephi appears not to know the answer, (vs.17) the angel shows him this beautiful, fair virgin again and reveals that she is “the mother of the Son of God” (vs.18) and she is shown with a child in her arms. (vs.20) The angel tells Nephi that this child is “the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father” (vs.21)
The angel then asks Nephi another question: “Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?” (vs.21) Nephi answers knowingly that the tree “is the love of God.” (vs.22) Nephi then sees many people worship Jesus and explains his understanding of the iron rod and the fountain of water. (vs.24-25)
Now that Nephi understands the meaning of the tree the angel says “Look and behold the condescension of God!” (vs.23) It is at this point that the angel shows Nephi key events in the life of Jesus from his baptism to his crucifixion. What I want to focus on what I believe are parallel elements that follow the two verses that mention the phrase “the condescension of God.”
There is a distinct mother and son presence in these verses, and it isn’t quite apparent at first. We see the Spirit mentioned in direct conjunction with a birth and a rebirth account as well; these things are significant so take note!Read Full Post
In Lehi’s vision, there are 18 references to the fruit of the tree of life with only 9 references to the tree itself. (1 Nephi 8)
In Nephi’s vision, there is a larger focus on the tree of life with 9 references to the tree and only 1 reference to the fruit. (1 Nephi 11) When Nephi is explaining the vision to his brothers, he mentions the tree 5 times and the fruit 2 times. (1 Nephi 15) That would make a total of 14 references to the tree and 3 references to the fruit by Nephi in the context of his vision.
Lehi > fruit: 18, tree: 9
Nephi > tree: 14, fruit: 3
Symbolism can convey numerous meanings depending on how the context shifts; herein lies its power.
The tree of life bears a white fruit that captured Lehi’s attention. Immediately following the vision of this tree bearing fruit is a virgin holding a child. The implication is that the tree is synonymous with the virgin, and the fruit is synonymous with the child, or in other words, the tree is Mary, and the fruit is Jesus.
Nephi’s vision tells us that the tree also represents the love of God, as does the fountain of living waters. On another level, however, I believe that Mary may potentially represent Jesus’ spiritual mother as well — our Heavenly Mother (more on that in the future).
What does this all mean? I’m not entirely sure yet; I just found this to be an interesting observation, and I’m certain that it is significant.
If the focus of Lehi and Nephi in these visions carries over to their teachings, it makes me wonder if there is more in Nephi’s writings that could lead to a greater understanding of our Heavenly Mother.
Every Sabbath day, we witness the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Symbols of his body and blood rest on trays between white linens in a manner that resembles an actual body. When the ordinance begins, the white linens are drawn back and his body rises from the altar (table). The tokens of his body and blood travel out into the congregation and are placed before every individual member.
With our hand, we reach, grasp, lift and partake. We witness that we are willing to take the name of Christ upon us, to keep his commandments and always remember him. We take all this into our inner-most places, our minds, our hearts, and even our bowels (the seat of compassion).
The bread and wine (water) first enter our mouth on their journey and pass by our mind, then down our throat passing our heart, and then reach the bowels where they are absorbed into our entire bodies as nourishment. These tokens literally become part of us, transforming us; implying something much more profound.
Jesus once told a parable about two debtors. The first debtor owed the king 10,000 talents, but when the time came to pay up, he didn’t have the ability to. The king commanded that this debtor’s whole family and property were to be sold to pay the debt. But when the servant pleaded for more time to pay, the king had compassion and forgave the entire debt. Nice king.
A little later, this same debtor went out to find a man who owed him money. He took him by the throat and demanded payment for the 100 pence he was owed. This man begged for more time to pay but was instead thrown into prison.
Well the king found out about all this and wasn’t too happy, he delivered this debtor over to “tormenters” until he was able to pay everything he owed.
So that’s the story, but it doesn’t really hit home unless you have an idea of what kinds of monetary sums we are dealing with here.
The second debtor owed the first one 100 pence. Back then, 1 pence was about a day’s wage or roughly $180 in today’s dollarsRead Full Post
I have put the words that I believe are related directly to the divine Mother motif in ALL CAPS AND BOLD. The following verses in this article area all connected to each other and certain key points have been emphasized.
I encourage you to open your scriptures and take the time to ponder them in context and look for other connections because they are everywhere.
The Tree and the Virgin
1 Nephi 11:7
which bore the fruit
which thy father tasted
1 Nephi 11:8
I looked and beheld a TREE
the beauty was far beyond
yea, exceeding of all beauty
and the whiteness thereof
did exceed the whiteness
of the driven snow
1 Nephi 11:13
I beheld a VIRGIN and she was
exceedingly fair & white
1 Nephi 11:15
A VIRGIN most beautiful and fair
above all other VIRGINS
1 Nephi 11:18
the VIRGIN which thou seest is the
MOTHER of god after the manner of the flesh [original manuscript & 1830 edition]
1 Nephi 11:20
I beheld the VIRGIN again
bearing a child in her arms (vs.7 – tree which bore the fruit)
1 Nephi 11:21
knowest thous the meaning of the TREE?
Note that the tree itself (not the fruit) and the virgin are both ‘exceedingly’ beautiful/fair and white (another word for pure). The virgin and the tree are synonymous but that isRead Full Post
Boundaries define everything that exists. Boundaries are where chaos ends and existence begins. Boundaries tell us what something is and what it isn’t.
“[Christ’s] salvation depends on his being precisely what he is and nothing else;” Lecture 7:9
If we read the various creation accounts in Genesis, Moses and Abraham we see God dividing things. By dividing light from darkness he created a boundary, whereas before there would have been nothing. He divided the waters of the firmament, the seas from the land, animal life from the seas and land, man from the earth, and the woman from the man. Finally, mankind was divided from God during the fall.
Each of these steps was an act of division. Division is creation because dividing creates boundaries, and in the process something new is defined. Living organisms all start with a single cell that divides billions of times to form what could be any variety of complex life.
Computers work on a binary system that begins with a 1 and a 0, electricity and no electricity, something and nothing. From that 1 and 0, you can create infinite strings of digits that can be crafted to produce entire worldsRead Full Post
We all are familiar with the acronym that poses the thoughtful question “What Would Jesus Do?”
But in pondering Matthew 25:37-40, another question came to mind, “What if They Were Jesus?”
In certain situations, it is certainly profitable to wonder what actions might be taken by the Savior if he were in your shoes.
But there is a profoundly different feeling when you look at any person and wonder how you might treat them in that moment if they were, in fact, Jesus. After a while, maybe we could learn that people have value regardless of who we try to project onto them.
We might consider that every person was once a small, perfect baby that some joyful mother looked upon with hope and love. Nobody ever looks into the eyes of a smiling baby and sees a homeless man, or some jerk neighbor or the weird quiet guy who sits in the back row at church; but that is who we see.
What if we learned to see differently? What if we learned to see that original light of purity in all souls and could help bring it back to the surface with something as simple as kindness?
I’ve been working on this particular article for months, maybe close to a year. I can keep tweaking this over and over or I can just share what I’ve got thus far, so that’s what I’m doing.
Because I am a man, I’m writing this from the perspective of a man particularly to the men out there. I’m writing this to me, to the men in my family, my friends, perfect strangers and especially to the men that will dare to go near my daughters one day (sorry, that’s just the papa bear speaking). I’m writing this to hold myself accountable for the things I understand and hope that the information might help improve a relationship out there somewhere.
It is up to you to take what is useful and cast aside what isn’t.
I’ve been surrounded by females my entire life. I have three little sisters (no brothers) and am a father of four daughters (no sons) and my wife has four sisters. (and one brother, whew!) My life has been heavily influenced by females and so understanding the dynamics of men and women in life and in the gospel has always been an interesting topic to me personally.
I am repulsed at the thought or the sight of any man, including myself, oppressing my mother, wife, sisters or daughters through selfishness or “unrighteous dominion.” (D&C 121:39) More and more we see domestic violence, divorce, depression and an absence of the oneness God seems to intend. I’ve seen the criticisms of policies and doctrines of the LDS Church that some argue place men above women. It’s an understatement to say that this is a complex issue with many facets and it is not my intentionRead Full Post
Recently, I was asked to speak in sacrament meeting with my wife on the subject of loving others by sharing the gospel. I thought posting the talk here might be beneficial to someone out there. I attempted to make the point that sharing the gospel is not an end in itself, but a byproduct of personal conversion. So instead of trying to persuade people to share the gospel, I attempted to persuade them to find the love of God and their own redemption. Perhaps many could have done a much better job at this, but it was the best I could do and I know the Spirit of the Lord can do great things through weakness.
“Share the Gospel” what does that mean? We say it a lot and perhaps it means different things to different people.
First what is the Gospel? If someone came up to you and asked “What is the gospel?” How would you define it? Could you define it?
Defining the Gospel
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, …
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 1 Cor 15:1-10
Then Jesus proclaimed to the Nephites:
“Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you–that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross…” 3 Nephi 27:13-14
The Lord again to his Saints:
“And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us–That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, …That through him all might be saved…” Doctrine and Covenants 76:40-42
As a bonus, how about a fourth witness, you’ve probably heard this one from Joseph Smith:
“The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the apostles and prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”
Sometimes when we say “the gospel” we tend to just lump everything in there, but scripturallyRead Full Post
I was up in Utah for a wedding and while driving around American Fork I stopped my car when I saw this LDS meetinghouse. I was immediately reminded of a chapel here in Nevada that I really like.
Just like the Nevada meetinghouse, the American Fort meetinghouse emphasizes the number 8 with a giant round window divided into 8 segments.
But wait, it gets better! There are also Read Full Post