Water, Joy, and Symbolism (Ether 15:8-9 and Moroni 7:11-14)

img_9126Time for a picture. 🙂

And now a scripture:

“And it came to pass that he came to the waters of Ripliancum, which, by interpretation, is large, or to exceed all; wherefore, when they came to these waters they pitched their tents; and Shiz also pitched his tents near unto them; and therefore on the morrow they did come to battle.

And it came to pass that they fought an exceedingly sore battle, in which Coriantumr was wounded again, and he fainted with the loss of blood.” – Ether 15:8-9

Look at that picture again. What do you feel when you see it? I lived here. This is on the most northern part of windward Oahu. It is up near Turtle Bay resort – Looking out to Kahuku Point.

When I see this picture, I’m transported back to this place and time. And I feel peace. I think about being at the ocean. The salty-sea air. The trade-winds. The crash of ocean waves. It quiets your soul and puts you in the present moment like nothing else.

In the scripture quoted above, the Jaredites are now at a large body of water. In fact, their word “Ripliancum,” means “to exceed all.” In my mind, this is an ocean. These people have pitched their tents on the beach and are preparing for battle.

The next day, they fight an “exceedingly sore” battle.

It’s not the first nor last battle on a beach. But I find this idea interesting: that the people could be so bloodthirsty and bent on war, they ignore an ocean. They ignore the peace of the rolling waves. They ignore the reverence of stars at night. And they just have their minds set on death and destruction.

It’s sooooo sad!

And it is a result of wickedness.

Later on, we learn:

“For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil.

Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.

But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.

Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.” – Moroni 7:11-14

Those who are wicked and bitter, bring forth wicked and bitter water. In other words – their deeds reflect their character.

Those who are good and righteous will bring forth good water. Again – their deeds reflect their true character.

Who are we? Do we do good deeds? Do we recognize beauty around us? Do we seek for peace? Or do we ignore the beauty and peace around us and pursue selfish desires.

I’m not saying that all beach-front wars are bad. I know that the U.S. needed to storm Omaha beach in Normandy for a greater cause. And I know that this beauty was not lost on those who fought there. Their blood turned the tide red. They gave their lives for the lives of others – despite the beauty of the world that they fought in.

Sometimes this happens. But we can still recognize beauty. We can still choose to be humbled. We can do what is right and bring forth good works. And then, as a result we won’t waste our time fighting on beaches, but instead will be blessed with the peace and joy offered to us through these amazing creations.

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The Joy of Hope

This is just one of my favorite scriptures.

“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” – Ether 12:4

This scripture brings me joy.

This scripture was given to us by Ether, but recorded for us by Moroni. Moroni- who had just witnessed the complete extinction of a civilization – his civilization. AND he had just abridged the records of another civilization that went extinct based on their wicked choices.

Ether also witnessed the destruction of his civilization.

These men witnessed an event that most of us will never really see – and yet they tell us – during such hopeless times that if we believe in God, we can have hope.

A belief in God gives us hope for a better world (which means a lot when you just witnessed the end of your civilization!). This hope for a better world anchors our soul to Christ. We understand that He is the author of such a world. Then, our hearts are turned to Him and filled with His love. We do good works for others because of the Love of God that we have obtained.

Is this not joyful?!

It’s possible to have joy in any circumstance when we have the perspective and hope of God.

Joy in Adversity (Ether 6:9)

The Book of Ether (in the Book of Mormon) is a short abridgment of a group of people that lived in the Americas before the Nephite civilization (so – before 600 BC).

This group of people, the Jaredites, left Babel during the time of the destruction of the tower of Babel and were guided to the Americas. They had an arduous journey – including a year-long “cruise” in barges that would be occasionally submerged underwater – propelled by ocean currents and storms.

We read of the Jaredites:

“And it came to pass that the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind.

And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.” – Ether 6:8-9

So – think about this for a second. The Jaredites are in un-steerable barges. They get submerged under sea and are driven forth by these winds and currents in order to move. It doesn’t sound super pleasant. Storms are what propel these people.

I think that it is the same in our lives – whether or not we will recognize it. Storms and obstacles are the very thing that have the power to propel us in our lives. How do we react to them? Are we like the Jaredites?

During these storms and trials, they sang praises to the Lord. They trust in Him. Because of their trust in God, they were able to have the perspective to understand their trials and find joy in them.

The Terror of the Wicked (Mormon 6:7-8)

There is less and less joy to be found in the people of the Ancient Americas (as recorded in the Book of Mormon. This is because of their wicked decisions and rebellion against God.

We read:

“And it came to pass that my people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them.

And it came to pass that they came to battle against us, and every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers.” – Mormon 6:7-8

These people are standing and awaiting their death. They are filled with terror. It sounds like absolutely horrible conditions.

Compare this with those Lamanites who had been converted several hundred years before:

” And they did look upon shedding the blood of their brethren with the greatest abhorrence; and they never could be prevailed upon to take up arms against their brethren; and they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore, death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it.

Therefore, they would suffer death in the most aggravating and distressing manner which could be inflicted by their brethren, before they would take the sword or cimeter to smite them.” – Alma 27:28-29

The rebellious Nephites were terror-filled and blood-thirsty. The faithful and converted Lamanites (from years before), revered the sanctity of life and had no fear of death whatsoever.

I don’t know that I need to say much more other than – it’s obvious that I’d rather be like the Lamanites. Who wants to be filled with terror? Who wants to be bloodthirsty? Why not be righteous and then be filled with the confidence and peace of God?

Purpose in Christ (Mormon 5:16-18)

The Nephites had rebelled from God, from His blessings, and from the knowledge and covenants that they had received from Him.

We read:

“For behold, the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world; and they are driven about as chaff before the wind.

They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father.” – Mormon 5:16-17

The Nephites no longer had the spirit with them. They were without God, they were without Christ – and what was the result: a meaningless life.

Once, they were led. Once, they had direction, and now they were just blowing in the wind.

I know that this can sound like some kind of romantic idea – no rules, no direction, no religion, nothing forcing us to go somewhere. We have songs about this concept of “nothingness.” And I think that there are times when we have intellectualized ourselves into believing that this lack of purpose is somehow superior than some other kind of life.

I think it’s depressing! Being driven about as chaff before wind? Personally, I find no joy or hope in it, and I think that’s because there is no purpose in such a modality of living.

The truth is, purpose and meaning is what will bring us joy – even in the most difficult of circumstances. I can’t help but think of Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Understanding his meaning and purpose in life gave him the tenacity he would need to endure three years in concentration camps. Believing in “nothing” will not give you the strength to endure the trials and adversities we face in our lives.

In fact, Frankl has said something very interesting about freedom:

“Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.” – Viktor Frankl

Blowing about in the wind as chaff sounds like freedom, in a way. But it’s not the “whole thing.” That’s not the real freedom that God offers. Freedom isn’t only the “negative” aspect. It doesn’t only mean that we have the freedom to choose or be. It also means that we are free from (fill in the blank). We are free from – sorrow, fear, addiction, etc. This kind of freedom only comes through discipline, or as Frankl describes it responsibleness..

Our freedom can degenerate into arbitrariness (doesn’t that sound like chaff blowing in the wind) unless we will have discipline!

Follow the Good shepherd. Then our lives have meaning. Then our lives have purpose. Then, our lives have joy.

A Joyful Society (4 Nephi 1:15-17)

After Christ’s Visit to the Americas, the people were changed. They covenanted with Him. They kept their covenants and the commandments. And what followed is nothing short of amazing.

” And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land.” – 4 Nephi 1:15-18

This society – it was heaven on earth. It was Zion.

How was it possible? The love of God which dwelled in the hearts of the people.

So, I know that I could write at least 10 pages on this subject – the love of God that dwells in the hearts of people. For now, though, just understand that this isn’t some kind of amalgam concept of “love” that we seem to have now. They had the very specific love of God – the pure love of Christ – the love what doesn’t fail. This love comes as a result of discipline and covenant keeping.

Through covenant keeping and discipline, we develop God-like love, or charity, and then we can experience the following:

  • joy in the success of others – (lack of envy)
  • Peace – (no strife)
  • Virtue – (no whoredoms)
  • Sanctity of Life and safety – (no murder)
  • Healthy Family life – (no manner of lasciviousness)
  • Happiness
  • Safe Property – (No robbers)
  • Safe Life – (No murderers)
  • A United Class – (No Racism or class)
  • Blessings
  • Heir to the Kingdom of God
  • Prosperity
  • The Abundant Life

Often, I think that we have a backward approach on this. We think that if we will just work at joy, peace, safety then we’ll have it. Or we think we make laws to prevent murder, robbery, and rape, and then experience the kind of society described in 4 Nephi. We think that we can “eradicate” class through governmental control.

We often try to approach this ideal society backwards – looking at the corollaries, rather than the cause.

The way to be the kind of society like these Nephites after Christ’s visit is through humbly covenanting with God. It is through Righteousness and devotion to the commandments that will enable us to become the kind of people who have hearts filled with the love of God.

I find this message to be especially hopeful. It’s possible! Christ will make us perfect. He will complete us and enable us to live joy – even while in this mortal state. If we will just turn to Him. He will teach us how it is possible, and empower us by filling our hearts with His love.

Our Joy Gives Our Father Joy (3 Nephi 27:30)

There are so many great scriptures in the Book of Mormon about joy, but today I liked this one especially:

“And now, behold, my joy is great, even unto fulness, because of you, and also this generation; yea, and even the Father rejoiceth, and also all the holy angels, because of you and this generation; for none of them are lost.

Behold, I would that ye should understand; for I mean them who are now alive of this generation; and none of them are lost; and in them I have fulness of joy.

But behold, it sorroweth me because of the fourth generation from this generation, for they are led away captive by him even as was the son of perdition; for they will sell me for silver and for gold, and for that which moth doth corrupt and which thieves can break through and steal. And in that day will I visit them, even in turning their works upon their own heads.” – 3 Nephi 27:30-32

In this scripture, Christ, himself, tells the Nephites that his joy is full because they are all redeemed – on account of their faith in Christ, repentance, and covenant.

He says, “and none of them are lost; and in them I have a fulness of joy.”

Lost – I can resonate with this because I’m a parent. I have children that I love deeply, and that I work, hope, pray, and sacrifice for on a daily basis. I haven’t lost a child. Not even for a moment. I know that I’m fortunate.

I have seen the profound impact a lost child has on a parent, though. I remember my sister got lost a few times – here and there – at amusement parks or other inconvenient places. Mostly, I remember my parents scolding us to stay with them – so we don’t get lost!

Several years ago, I had another sibling lost in addiction and turmoil. There came a point when this sibling left – and we didn’t hear at all from him for years. Those were very difficult years for my parents, even though my brother was an adult. We don’t stop loving our children. We don’t stop rooting for them, supporting them, and praying for their own success and joy.

When they are lost – it is devastating.

For three-ish years my brother was lost, then miraculously he was found. It was joyous – that he was “not lost.”

The point is – this concept resonates with me. God’s joy is our joy.

And His sorrow comes when we stray from Him, when we do not succeed and grow in this life, but instead choose to become captive to sin.

Understanding this helps us to desire righteousness. The commandments aren’t rules given by an abstract and arbitrary God. The commandments are safety nets and hedges that will bring us joy and success – given to us by a loving Father in Heaven. When we learn to trust in Him, then we will experience joy. And, our Joy will bring Him Joy.