3 Symbols of Christ – Part Three: The Tree of Life – 1 Nephi 11:25

You can read 1 Nephi 11:25 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life.
  • Nephi had just learned the meaning of the tree of life, was shown the Savior coming to the earth and people worshipping Him. Now, he is seeing the vision of the tree of life again – the rod of iron, the fountain of living waters, and the tree of life.
015 Tree of LIfe

Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

So – a few days ago, I already wrote a little bit about the tree of life=the Love of God here. And this love that God has for us – is Christ and His infinite Atonement. (Think John 3:16

So – I’m not really going to write about that. Not because I already have written about it, but because I keep thinking of another tree of life. In Alma, we read:

“28Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

29 Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

30 But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.

31 And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.

32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.

33 And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good.

34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.

35 O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?

36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.

37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.

38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.

39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.

41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.

42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.

43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.” – Alma 32:28-43

At this point, I’m not quite sure what we’ll learn or what it will do with Christ=the tree of life; however, the scripture won’t get out of my head, so I think that it is a little nudge worth following.

Context

First of all, in this scripture block, Alma is among the Zoramites – preaching the gospel. In particular, he is teaching a group of poor people who had been cast out of their synagogues by the rich Zoramites.

Alma has been teaching the people about faith and has even challenged them to “experiment” on his words. He then speaks what was quoted above – a wonderful metaphor and illustration of faith.

One – What is this seed?

Okay, so before we even begin talking about planting the seed, maybe we should ask “What seed is this?” and “Where did we get the seed?”

In this instance, Alma is telling the people what kind of message/seed He offers. He is preaching the gospel to them. It isn’t a seed that they found on the ground – that could possibly grow to be either an oak tree or maybe something noxious like poison ivy. This isn’t an unknown seed from an unknown place.

Essentially, Alma is a gardener who is offering them a seed and telling them exactly what to expect: eternal life. Unlike the vision of Lehi’s and Nephi’s, the people do not see the tree of life from afar off and then press forward to partake. Here, they have a seed of the fruit. They simply need to plant, nourish, and then partake.

Two – Plant the Seed

Once it has been determined what kind of seed this is, it’s good to plant it. Do we know if it is a good seed? Not quite yet. We have been assured that it is good, but it is still in seed form.

However, we have a little bit of faith, and we make the decision to plant this seed. As Alma teaches, this seed is planted in our hearts. And then, after planted, it should begin to swell and sprout.

Have you ever planted a seed? I have. This is such a remarkable metaphor because it is so easy to envision. I’ve done little experiments with kids – prepping a seed and watching it swell, sprout, and begin to grow. It seems like a miracle.

And when we see that seed starting to grow – what do we feel? Well, literally and also spiritually, we feel joy. This is working! The seed is good!

Though we haven’t partaken of the fruit that this seed will one day produce, it is so easy to get excited and even fantasize about that day where we will have not only have one or two fruits, but hundreds.

So – we plant the seed. And it starts to grow.

Three – The Need for Constant Nourishment

Alma teaches a lot about faith – how after the seed has been planted, we can determine if the seed is good or not. (As an aside: I really love this. What risk is there in trying out the gospel? There is no risk in exercising a little faith, reading the Book of Mormon and Bible, or praying. Try it out. If it’s good, then cool! Who wouldn’t want something good in their lives? If it isn’t good, then just cast it out. No harm done.)

Anyway – Alma teaches a lot about faith here, and in a way I’m kind of tempted to just gloss over it. I want to get to the tree! Of course, if the tree symbolizes Christ, then faith is a crucial part of the process! We must have faith in Christ if we ever want to partake of His fruit – salvation through the Atonement He performed. All of this being said, we’ll still skim over “faith.” Obviously, it will be studied further in the future.

So – if we have determined the seed is good, does this mean that we will reap immediately? No, of course not. The seed is only a seedling. Then it must be nourished, watered, protected. Even after a year or so, it is still only a sapling.

These things take time.

Orange trees – for example, take about 7 years to produce fruit if they are planted from seed. If we plant the tree, and we don’t get fruit immediately, we shouldn’t ignore the tree. Instead, we must remain patient – patiently watering, nurturing, as this tree grows little by little.

I understand the temptation. Planting a seed and watching it sprout – that’s exciting. It’s like magic. One day you have this little seed that looks like a rock or a spec, and then within a week or so, it is swelling to the point it will burst. Another week or so, and you see a greenish sprout. It’s alive! This little thing that looked like a rock or fleck of dirt is actually alive. It can’t be replicated by humans. No artificial intelligence that we have created shows a hundredth of the intelligence of a little seed! It’s so exciting.

After planting the seed, though a little less exciting than the original sprouting of the seed stage, the young seedling stage is pretty exciting still! This plant begins as a stalk. Then you get a leaf. Maybe another leaf. And the seedling grows by inches seemingly overnight. You have a real, measurable idea of the progress and “goodness” of the seed. Nourishing the seed is rewarding because you can see the results of your work almost immediately!

Then the seedling reaches sapling stage.

Things slow down. Sure, a lot is happening still, but it’s happening on a cellular level. It is harder and harder to see the growth and progress of the seed because it just isn’t as dramatic. Watering, fertilizing, weeding. It all gets so booooooorrrrrriiiiiiiinnnnng!

I’ve killed so many plants at this stage of the game. And, stupidly, I’ve even blamed the plant! Stupid plant, it just stopped growing! (Nevermind that I stopped nourishing it!)

Alma teaches:

“But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.

39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.” – Alma 32:38-40

Have you stopped nourishing your seed of faith? Have you stopped reading your scriptures, saying your prayers, serving others, recommitting yourself to God through your covenants? If so, then you’ve stopped nourishing that faith. We can’t get upset with the tree if we are the ones setting it up for death and failure. We know that the sun will rise the next morning. We know that if our seedling isn’t well watered and protected, then that sun will just zap it.

We must nourish the seed.

I know that I listed all of the basic “Sunday school” answers for nourishing the seed. And I’m thinking about that. They really are so important. Think of the different times of the year. There are times when watering, nourishing, and protecting your sapling isn’t quite as critical. There are times when life is more nourishing. Maybe we can get by on less intense “nourishment.”

Then there are other times in our lives: dry seasons – hot and prone to wildfire. There are predators such as hungry deer. We might find that we need to do more – pray a little harder, study a little deeper, and focus more on our covenants. We will find that though we are watering every single day, we are still getting parched quickly.

It’s good to recognize that these times and seasons are merely times and seasons. A hot summer doesn’t mean that our seed isn’t good. It means that our seed needs more nourishment! A series of trials doesn’t mean that the seed planted in our hearts isn’t good! Instead, it means that we need to give our seedling a little bit more nourishment until the trials start to “cool down.”

Okay. This post is so wayyyy long. I need to go on. I’m sorry. I need to shorten up my blog posts.

Partake of the Fruit And the Symbolism of Christ

Finally, after diligent and faithful nourishment, we can partake of the tree that we have grown in our hearts.

Alma teaches:

“And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” – Alma 32:42

Finally, I’m getting to the original point. (Although the journey is cool, right?!) When we partake of the fruit that came from the tree we planted in our hearts, it isn’t just any old ordinary fruit. It is most precious, sweet above all that is sweet,…” Once we have partaken of it, we will be filled and will not hunger nor will we thirst. Sound familiar?

Christ – His Gospel, His Doctrine – is the seed that we plant in our hearts. It is what will swell, will develop into a sapling, and then will mature into a productive tree. We will never partake if we don’t take that first step – to simply try it out. To plant the seed of our faith in Him in our hearts.

A relationship with Christ takes work, diligence, patience, and constant nourishment. It sounds like a lot of work, but notice what He offers us: “and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” (High fiber fruit, sounds like).

***
I don’t know if I did a good job of relating the tree of life to being a symbol of Christ. But it doesn’t matter. I feel really hopeful. I know that today my scripture study was the nourishment I needed as I keep tending to my sapling of faith. I look forward to one day plucking of the fruit of this tree that I’m nurturing. I know that it is good. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. He is the way. He is the living water. And His offering is the fruit we will partake for everlasting life. I know that as I tend the tree, I’m nourished! I’m strengthened. I’m filled with hope. I know that soon, I’ll be able to pluck fruit from the tree, and taste the sweetness that I’ve desired for so long.

Oh – and one last thing. I wonder, have I tasted the fruit before? Maybe I have? Interesting comparison – a tree. It produces fruit for a season. When the season is over, and the fruit is gone, does this mean that the tree is bad and useless? No! Does this mean that I’m not “partaking of the fruit” anymore because it isn’t actively producing fruit? No. We can bottle it up and store fruit during the dormant season. We can keep nourishing that tree, and it will keep producing season after season…something to think about.

Not sure if this is applicable, but it’s helping me right now. I hope it does, too. Nourish the word in your heart so that it will be able to nourish you.

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They Got Angry – 1 Nephi 7:16

A short one for today. Read 1 Nephi 7:16 here.

Context and General Information

  • This is all happening while on the journey back from Jerusalem to Lehi’s tent – with Ishmael’s family.
  • Laman and Lemuel had rebelled, along with some of Ishmael’s children, and they want to return to Jerusalem.
  • Nephi reminds them of the danger in moving back to Jerusalem – it will be destroyed! However, Nephi admits that they have a choice. He is simply giving them an educated choice.
  • Laman and Lemuel get angry. They tie him up with the intention of him dying in the desert.

They Got Angry

What is the response of Laman and Lemuel – who were already agitated and rebellious – to what Nephi had to say. We read in 1 Nephi:

“And it came to pass that when I, Nephi, had spoken these words unto my brethren, they were angry with me…” – 1 Nephi 7:16

Laman and Lemuel were angry with Nephi.

Why? Why would they get mad at Nephi? Let’s think about what is happening –

  1. Laman and Lemuel rebel – against Nephi while traveling back to the wilderness to their father – against their father in traveling in the wilderness at all. They want to go back to Jerusalem.Their hearts are in Jerusalem. This isn’t really good.

    And why isn’t it good? As I think about it – I’m reminded of others who have left Jerusalem so far:

    • Lehi, Sariah, Sam, and Nephi – and by this point we know that Lehi has a testimony that they need to leave, Nephi and Sam have testimonies that they need to leave, and Sariah has a testimony that they need to leave. Though this inspiration originally came to Lehi, the Lord did give confirmation to others that Jerusalem would be destroyed and that they needed to flee.The point I’m trying to make – Nephi, Sam, and Sariah were not relying on Lehi’s witness anymore. They had witness for themselves. Laman and Lemuel could have, too, but they didn’t seek it. And if they did, they ignored it and desired Jerusalem more. (which is crazy, right?! Who would want to stay in a place that would be destroyed?!…a quick tangent – based on what we know about Laman and Lemuel, I think it’s safe to assume that if they had stayed in Jerusalem and it got destroyed, and they were starving, or fleeing for their lives, or slaves they would be thinking “Why weren’t we warned? I would have rather traveled in the wilderness for 8 years than to deal with this!”)
    • Zoram – It’s easy to forget that Zoram is even with them still. But it’s important to note. Zoram isn’t making a move to escape back to Jerusalem. He stayed loyal to Nephi and Lehi – even though Nephi killed his master, Laban! We don’t know a whole lot about Zoram, but it seems apparent that at some level Zoram knew Jerusalem would be destroyed and wanted to escape it, too. He didn’t seem tempted to rebel against Lehi or Nephi on the way to the promised land.
    • Ishmael and his wife, and a few of his children (that didn’t rebel) Even though Ishmael and his family are only beginning this journey, there are plenty members of his family who don’t rebel.

    So – it’s not only Nephi and Lehi that want to move out of Jerusalem. There are many others who have received their own witnesses and motivation for leaving Jerusalem. Laman and Lemuel want to go back, so they rebel.

  2. Nephi, troubled by Laman and Lemuel’s rebellion and constrained by the Spirit, speaks to his brothers – He asks them the series of “how is it?” questions. He is trying to jog their memories and help to persuade them not to return to Jerusalem.
  3. Nephi gives Laman and Lemuel the choice to do whatever they want – with the reminder of what is in store for Jerusalem. He is a good brother, but with their hard hearts, they see his warning as some kind of manipulation or guilt trip. They don’t see that he is delivering the message being given to him by the Lord.

So back to the earlier question. Why are Laman and Lemuel mad at Nephi? He gave them the truth and he gave them an option. What’s it to them?

Anger…

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” – Moroni 7:45, emphasis added.

They are mad because the devil has a hold of their hearts. They don’t have charity. They don’t have the pure love of Christ. You can tell because they are quick to anger. They aren’t patient. They don’t rejoice in truth. Instead, when they don’t get their way, they get angry. When they hear the truth, they get angry. When they are reminded of the Lord and their covenants, they get angry.

We are taught, by the Savior Himself:

“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” – 3 Nephi 11:29

Why are Laman and Lemuel angry? For the very same reason that they murmur: they know not the dealings of that God who created them.

Silly. Beyond silly. This is what Laman’s and Lemuel’s anger has brought them to do:

“And it came to pass that they did lay their hands upon me, for behold, they were exceedingly wroth, and they did bind me with cords, for they sought to take away my life, that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.” – 1 Nephi 7:16

This is the second time (that we have read about) where Laman and Lemuel use violence against their brother. Out of anger. They have no self control – they are completely emotional. And they make a choice that, if it had worked out the way that they intended, would have made them murderers.

Personal Application

I’m toying with this idea – to do more personal application. We’ll see how it goes.

Yesterday, I was in my car, driving home after a doctor’s appointment. It was a beautiful, sunny day in the Heber Valley.

I was driving down a country road that starts off as two lanes in each direction and then narrows down to only one lane in each direction. It is a simple merge, there aren’t usually many cars on this road.

As I drove along, I was singing to music and happy that my kids are all healthy. I noticed in my rear-view window someone coming up on me really fast. The lanes were merging, but I was already in the portion of road where the lanes had merged. The person behind me would simply have to stay behind me.

By the way. I was driving about 50 in a 35. So I wasn’t going a leisurely pace. I could have been pulled over and ticketed.

But it wasn’t enough for the person behind me. They nearly drove me off the road and passed me illegally. I have no idea how fast they were going. Soon they were tailgating someone else ahead of me, and passing them even though it was a double yellow. Even though they nearly hit another car head-on.

I wanted to get angry.

***
A few days ago, I was talking to someone who I don’t consider a particularly good listener. Even though I know this, I was still engaged in a “conversation,” and then it progressed as usual. I was frustrated with the conversation, with being spoken “down” to. With the whole entire situation.

I wanted to get angry.

***
Right now, we are living a life of transition. It’s not easy. It is a burden on me, my husband, my children, and my extended family. I know that faith in God includes faith in his timing. Yet there are times when it is hard to understand why His timing takes so long. Stress and pressure mounts up.

And I want to get a little angry.

***
So – personal application…Learn from Laman and Lemuel. Don’t be quick to anger. And how is it done?…
One – Instead of getting angry for too long, I just sang louder to my music. The day was too pretty to let some driver get me angry. They must have somewhere to go. And I hope that they stay safe!

I remember when I had a kidney stone and we were driving to the hospital. (If you have had a kidney stone, you understand the pain)… Any time my husband slowed down, I yelled at him to hurry up!… Maybe that driver had a passenger with kidney stones! Who knows. Who cares. Whether they had a good reason to drive aggressively or none at all, it makes no difference.

I can keep proper perspective and stay happy.

Two – Instead of getting angry at someone who I consider isn’t a good listener, I can look at the situation with honesty. What kind of listener am I if I’m getting angry at someone else? Instead of worrying about people listening to me, maybe I should remember the sage advice of Mom’s everywhere – we have two ears and one mouth. Maybe I need to take my own advice.

Not maybe.

I need to take my own advice.

I am not always a good listener, but I know that when I take the time to listen and care about others, I always feel so good. It’s easy to think that having someone listen will make me feel better about myself. Maybe I should try another tactic – maybe I should try listening if I want to feel better. I know that if I do, I’ll be happy rather than angry.

Three – I can’t do anything about my life being in a transition right now. Faith in the Lord includes faith in his timing! So, instead of worrying about the things that I can’t control, I can focus on the things I must do daily to eliminate stress, fear, and doubt.

Pray. And go for walks. I’ve noticed that when I don’t get outside (of the house or my own head…or both), then I get crazy.

How can you feel angry when you go for a walk and see this???

Heber Valley Golden Hour

Anger? Not possible in the Heber Valley during the Golden Hour.

Globe Mallow

Anger? Not possible when you spy a little bloom on a roadside.

Chicken Crossing

Anger? Not possible when you actually see a chicken crossing a road!

Yellow Swallowtail and Blue Flax

Anger? Not possible when there are swallowtails flitting along in the flowers.

Mama and Baby Horse

Anger? Not possible when you pass by a cute, new foal and his mama.

Summer Storm

Anger? No. Simply Admiration.

***
Anger is an easy option. It’s the go-to reaction for the “natural man.” But we miss out on so much in life! Laman’s and Lemuel’s anger nearly caused them to miss out on a promised land. And anger won’t just disappear when we think we have what we want.

We must make the choice to strip anger out of our hearts. And then, when we do – we open our hearts to beauty and joy.

 

1 Nephi 1:16-20

I’m still thinking about how I want to organize these blog posts…Not sure yet, so bear with me.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is making an abridgment of the record of his father. Which meant that his father made a record.
  • After the Lord showed Lehi the marvelous vision as recorded in 1 Nephi 1:1-15, Lehi then begins to share the message with others in Jerusalem.
  • The Jews are angry with Lehi, they want to kill him.
  • Despite this anger, Nephi will show us in the record that follows that the Lord’s tender mercies are over those whom he hath chosen – unto the power of dliverance.

005 Lehi Preaching to the People in Jerusalem

Analysis, Observations, and Application

Now that we have a few points on this block of scripture, let’s try to understand it and make some meaning.

In 1 Nephi 1, we read:

“And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them; for he truly testified of their wickedness and their abominations; and he testified that the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.

And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him…;” – 1 Nephi 1:19-20

When I read about this, I think that I can understand why the Jews might not like the message all that much. Lehi is testifying of their wickedness and abominations.

Have you ever been corrected? I have been. And I’m not even talking about being corrected by a teacher or a parent, or the usual. But by someone who loves me and has my best interest. I’ve been corrected by friends and my spouse even my children. It is not easy.

Even when their isn’t much on the line – say when I was in college and I wrote essays or creative pieces of work. It wasn’t always easy to be critiqued and corrected.

You have to eliminate pride at first.

And the kind of correction that Lehi is doing with the people of Jerusalem isn’t about the mechanics or grammar of their essay. It isn’t about writing better transition or using a more active voice. He is telling them that they are doing wicked things that will result in the destruction of their lives as they know it.

If they choose to listen to Lehi, a lot is on the line. It’s not like they just have to correct a few grammar mistakes. They might have to completely change their lives.

I can see why they might not be receptive to Lehi.

Not only would it be hard to hear this message, but Lehi’s message is not the majority opinion of the culture of that time. No doubt it sounds a bit unconventional or maybe “old fashioned.” His is the only voice telling them they are wicked in a world that is shouting the opposite message.

It sounds familiar. It might have been hard to accept Lehi’s message if you were in Jerusalem.

That being said, Lehi said God’s message. And if the people were willing to listen with the Spirit, then the would have heard Lehi’s message loud and clear. In fact, not only would they have heard Lehi’s message, but it would have become a message of hope and joy rather than condemnation.

Lehi’s message was a testimony of their wickedness, yes. It was also a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem because of their wickedness (which prophecy was fulfilled not many years later). Additionally, Lehi’s message was of the Messiah – the hope and redemption of the world.

If the people of Jerusalem would have chosen to hear this message, then they could have been filled with joy. They could have made another choice. Instead, they were stirred up into anger. They wanted to kill Lehi.

The good news of the gospel was a message that angered them!

Think about this – how do I react to the words and warnings of the prophets? Do I mock and jeer at their message as if it is old fashioned, unintelligent, or just plain wrong? Is my heart open to the Spirit so that I can hear the message that the Spirit wants me to know?

This example of Lehi’s happened on a big scale, but I think that it happens on smaller scales every day – if we will let it. If we will be humble, then the Lord will refine us. Though painful in the moment, we can remember that ultimately such refinement points us to the Hope of our Redeemer. In other words, though painful for a moment, the pain gives way to great joy.

Recently, in my life, the Lord has been giving my husband and I the opportunity to go through refinement – both individually and as a couple. It isn’t always very easy. In fact, the other night, we went on a date that was relatively painful.

But, thankfully, because my husband is close to the Spirit and because I am trying to also be close to the Spirit, the Lord helped us to see our situation with discernment. He helped us to see that our flaws aren’t something to be ashamed of. But that we can accept these flaws as ours, look to our Savior, and be healed.

Though the date night started off a little crummy, instead of being like the people of Jerusalem – instead of getting emotional and prideful – we turned to one another, the Spirit helped us to see clearly and it comforted us. We drew together in love, and we ended up having a really great date that has helped us to draw closer and have more love and joy in our lives.

Lehi’s message, though it took a tone of correction, was ultimately a message of joy. That is God’s message for each of us – and we can be filled with joy if we will hear it with the comfort and discernment of the Spirit.

Faith, Joy, Iniquity, and Despair (Moroni 10:22 and 9:25)

I’m going a little bit out of order, but it works…

In Moroni 10, we read:

“And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.” – Moroni 10:22

This is kind of depressing. I mean, who likes thinking about despair. No one. BUT, we still need to think about it! How else can we protect ourselves against this if we don’t study it and understand how it can come into our lives???

Here, we learn that a lack of hope leads to despair. And despair comes because of iniquity.

I want to be careful as I write this. I know that there are other reasons people feel hopeless. I know that despair can come of depression and other chemical problems in the body. So, I don’t want to seem insensitive. I don’t think that despair only comes through iniquity.

However, iniquity will only ever result in despair. There is no other consequence of iniquity.

Additionally, I have experienced despair in my life. I have seen a therapist during a particularly dark time in my life. I learned to look at my own life with a sort of detachment – to look at the facts of the events in my life, rather than the emotion that was laced with those facts. And I learned how to change what I was doing (that was unhealthy), so that I could pull myself up out of despair and into hope.

I had despair, but mine was not a chemical issue. My doctor would have prescribed medication. Medications, however, are riddled with side-effects, and there is more than one way to “skin a cat.”

Since then, I have learned to apply the same techniques. This is where meditation comes in handy. And when I’m experiencing hopelessness or despair, often the Lord will teach me how I can change. I may not be out robbing banks, doing drugs, or prostituting myself – I’m not iniquitous, but there is a disconnect between me and the Spirit of God. And the connection is the same no matter how great or small the sin.

We learn in the chapter before:

“My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.” – Moroni 9:25

It is through Christ that we can be lifted up. Sometimes we are best able to access Christ and His atonement through therapeutic practices. When I saw my doctor, she explained that the practices and “homework” she was giving me – processing the experiences I had in my life that caused trauma and bad patterns – would help to liberate me so that the Atonement could have an effect in my life.

In other words – therapy was a blessing of the Atonement. Christ suffered and has given men and women the wisdom to help each other! Going to therapy was a gift of Christ’s suffering. The gifts of the Atonement don’t only come through abstract prayer sessions. (Of course, I believe prayer is important!) Sometimes the answers to these prayers come through other, more practical forms of work.

In any case – the result is the same. When we are able to access the power of the atonement (whether it is during our prayers, with the assistance of a therapist, or with the assistance of medications), once we can access that power, our souls are filled with hope of His glory. We begin to feel the promise of the joy of rest.

Anyway – there is so much more I could write about this. I can’t even begin to pretend that this blog post is the beginning and end of this subject. But I hope that it scratched a surface for you. If you are feeling despair, think of how you might be disconnected from God and Christ. Perhaps your despair is caused by your own sin. Perhaps this despair is caused by the sin of another. Maybe your despair is caused by the malfunction of a mortal body or brain. Any of these scenarios can be healed through the Atonement of Christ. Pray to the Lord in Christ’s name. Listen to the advice he gives you. Maybe you’ll be guided to read a scripture. Maybe you’ll find you need to repent and change. Maybe your’e answer will come as a prompting to get more professional help for scars and wounds that need more than a proverbial band-aid and antibiotic cream.

No matter what, I know that the Lord will help us.

I know this because I know that the Lord wants us to have joy. He promises us joy, peace, and rest. He wants us to experience all of His greatest blessings. Best of all, He doesn’t expect us to be able to have any of these blessings without His help

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.

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.

Healing the Sick (3 Nephi 17:7-10)

In the Book of Mormon, when Christ visits the people in the Americas, we read:

“Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.

For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you.

And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.

And they did all, both they who had been healed and they who were whole, bow down at his feet, and did worship him; and as many as could come for the multitude did kiss his feet, insomuch that they did bathe his feet with their tears.” – 3 Nephi 17:7-10

Christ heals the people. In my mind, this would result in unspeakable joy. Any person who is sick or otherwise afflicted grows weary of illness. I haven’t had to experience too much in life, but I’ve been sick.

While I was pregnant, and for a year or so after, I experienced chronic pelvic pain. I have had kidney stones. I have had severe eczema causing rashes all over my body. I have had the flu. I’ve had a cold. I’ve had the chicken pox. I’ve had endometriosis. I’ve had my tonsils removed.

And I’ve had it really, really easy.

But in those times of suffering, the idea of healing…well…that was joy. That was music to my ears. When I passed a kidney stone (after days of torturous pain and hospitalization), I jumped for joy! I called out to my husband! “Look! My kidney stone! I passed it.”

Sounds silly. But anyone who has experienced this kind of pain understands.

We have all suffered illness. Physical, mental, spiritual, emotional. We all need healing.

There are so many people in this world who suffer so much more than I do. And that’s what Christ heals us from: suffering in all forms.

What Joy.

When we turn to Christ, He will ease our suffering. He will teach us. He will strengthen us. And eventually, He will deliver us.