How Beautiful Upon the Mountains – 1 Nephi 13:37

You can read 1 Nephi 13:37 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • This is one of my favorite scriptures.

How Beautiful Upon the Mountains

Today’s scripture study is one verse. It’s one of my favorite scriptures, and I’m excited to study it today.

“And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.” – 1 Nephi 13:37

I am not completely sure why it is one of my favorite scriptures. Maybe it’s because I have been seeking Zion and I want to help build it. I want to have the gift of the Holy Ghost in my life. I want to be lifted up and saved. Maybe it’s just because I like the idea of publishing peace. I like sharing my joy. And I really want to be beautiful on the mountains. Oh well…just gonna study it for now.

IMG_4172Heber Valley Golden Hourchurch of dirtimage-44AB1F89AD-31DC-485F-99EA-F952CA2EB34BWasatch Mountain

Hope you liked the mountain top pictures…now to the studying.

And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day

The first part of the scripture tells us about a group of people – those who seek to bring forth Zion.

Who are these people?

Well…When we covenant with God through baptism, I think that we say that we will do this. In Mosiah 18, Alma the elder is explaining the baptismal covenant to the people:

And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” – Mosiah 18:8-10

Bearing one another’s burdens. Mourning with those that mourn. Comforting those that stand in need of comfort. Standing as a witness of God… These are ways that we share the love of God with others. These are ways that we build God’s kingdom – by building up others.

As I write this, it is also not lost on me that I have made sacred covenants in the temple. One of the covenants that I’ve made is that I would use the opportunities and talents that the Lord has given me to build His kingdom. (You can learn more here.)

And why? Why is it so important to seek to build up Zion? Well, maybe it is helpful to remember God’s work and glory – our immortality and eternal life. Heavenly Father’s whole purpose is for us to return to Him and be happy. This is why we are here on earth. He wants to bless us with His greatest blessings. In fact, He delights in it.

So – He has given us a path on how everlasting joy is accomplished. We need a body, first of all – which is why we are all here on earth. And then, He has given us the commandments. They are part of the path back to Him. He has also given us the gift of the Atonement through His Only Begotten Son. He has created a way for us to return to live with Him and have joy. This is only achieved when we actually follow His path.

So – why is it so important to build Zion? Because it is the path to joy! Because it is the purpose of why we are here. Because, if we really believe in our Father in Heaven, and if we really love Him, then we want others to feel this great joy, too.

We have an example of a Zion-state society in the scriptures:

“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.

16 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.” – 4 Nephi 1:15-16

This is the result of Zion. Happiness. Confidence. Love. Safety. Peace. Trust. Growth. Loyalty.

Yes – blessed are those who seek to bring forth Zion! Imagine what it would look like if we lived in a world where we had that in common – we were all trying to build Zion! It would be pretty amazing. We can make the corners of our own worlds more amazing by seeking to bring forth Zion. Zion building has to start somewhere, it might as well start with us!

for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost;

One of the blessings of seeking to bring forth Zion – is to be able to have both the gift and power of the Holy Ghost. Recall the scripture from above. Alma taught the people:

“Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” – Mosiah 18:10

When we serve God and keep His commandments, then he pours His Spirit upon us.

And what’s the big deal about that? Well…a few things I guess:
One – God’s Nature is the Nature of Happiness
In Alma, we read:

“And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.” – Alma 41:11

Alma taught his son that going against the nature of God is going against a nature of happiness. From this, we learn that God’s nature is a nature of happiness! His Spirit will bring us more happiness because it is His spirit! I really like that. I want to be happy in life. I like happiness!

Of course, it is important to remember what happiness actually is. It’s a deep, abiding peace and joy. It is the kind of happiness that gets us through hard times and easy times. It isn’t fleeting pleasure, but real confidence and purpose.

Mormon taught Moroni about the blessings of the Comforter. (by the way…that name: the Comforter. That title tells you a ton! Who wouldn’t want that as a constant companion. Comfort. Peace. Love. AMAZING!)

“And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.” – Moroni 8:26

The Holy Ghost is a comforter. He fills us with hope and love. When we seek to build Zion – which is the gospel – not only are we filled with the Spirit, we are sharing a gospel that will help the recipient be filled with the Spirit.

It’s an upward cycle. It’s really cool.

and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb

That sounds nice. I’d like to be lifted up. I really would like to be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb.

Not much to say here…well except that – notice: the first two parts of this scripture – seeking to build up zion and then being filled with the Gift and Power of the Holy Ghost – is the secret to enduring to the end!

So, the Lord gives us a commandment – to build Zion. And the blessing of doing this is having the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Which gift will help us to endure to the end.

Which then will lift us up at the last day.

So often we talk about our lives on earth as a “test.” We are being tested and tried, it is true. But I think that we overlook the fact that this is an open book test! Heavenly Father has given us everything that we need to succeed.

and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.

This is the part that I really like. I love the imagery of it. But what does it mean?

Publish Peace
Publishing peace is a lot more than going around with a sign that says “make love, not war.” In fact, most of our modern “peacemaking” techniques will never work in the long-term. They are like fad-diets. They show promising results, but are impossible to maintain…because they miss the real point.

When I think of “peace” the first scripture I think of was uttered by the very Prince of Peace

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27

When we publish peace, we are not just saying “can’t we all just get along?!” We are sharing real Peace, the Peace of Christ. This peace lacks confusion. It passes all understanding. It enlightens and uplifts. It calms our anxiety and fear.

Richard G. Scott described peace as follows:

“God wants each of His children to enjoy the transcendent blessing of peace of conscience. A tranquil conscience invites freedom from anguish, sorrow, guilt, shame, and self-condemnation. It provides a foundation for happiness…

Peace of conscience is the essential ingredient to your peace of mind. Without peace of conscience, you can have no real peace of mind. Peace of conscience relates to your inner self and is controlled by what you personally do. Peace of conscience can come only from God through a righteous, obedient life. It cannot exist otherwise. On the other hand, peace of mind is most often affected by external forces such as concern for a wayward child, economic pressures, real or imagined offenses, deteriorating world conditions, or more to do than sufficient time to do it. An unsettled mind is temporary, transitory. Peace of mind is restored by resolving the external forces that disturb it…

It is well to remember that even with peace of conscience you can have temporary periods when your peace of mind is interrupted by external concerns. Your understanding of the causes can relieve much of the pressure they generate. As your personal life conforms to the teachings of the Lord, you can seek His help in resolving the troubling issues. Thus your faith in the Lord and in His teachings will yield peace of mind. Your efforts will be stepping-stones to greater personal growth as Spirit-guided solutions are found…

In summary, you can regain peace of conscience by repenting of personal transgressions that cause you internal turmoil. Then peace of mind can be secured by resolving the external pressures that cause you temporary anxiety, worry, and distress.” – Richard G. Scott

Peace, on a variety of levels, can come to us – but only through Christ.

Tidings of Great Joy
The tidings of great joy – Christ! Christ came to this earth. He was born in a lowly stable. He descended below all. He lived a life – growing little by little. He served others. He healed the sick. He taught the people. He established His church. He suffered for our sins. He died on the cross. He was resurrected. He overcame death and hell, so that we could overcome death and hell.

There is hope! This life isn’t it. There is so much more than our earthly experiences. Because of the Savior, all will be made right – at one point or another. Because of the Savior we can return to Heavenly Father and live in a state of happiness.

Tidings of great joy!

The people who do all of this – seek to bring forth Zion, are filled with the gift of the Holy Ghost, endure to the end, are raised at the last day and saved in God’s kingdom, who publish peace and tidings of great joy…how beautiful! Can you imagine a more beautiful life? Filled with the Spirit! Filled with hope. Filled with joy. Yes – there are trials. Of course there are trials. You can’t get to the tops of the mountain without climbing a mountain but the Lord comforts us, gives us peace, strengthens us. And it is beautiful.

Mountain Tops

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In Them Shall Be Written the Gospel – 1 Nephi 13:20-36

You can read 1 Nephi 13:20-36 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • Nephi witnessed that the Gentiles would come from their Gentile lands to the Promised Land where Nephi’s posterity dwelt.
  • The Gentiles would prosper in the land, and Nephi saw that they had a book that they carried with them.
  • The angel asked Nephi if he knew what the meaning of the book was.
  • Nephi didn’t know. The angel explained that it was a record of the Jews – it was the Bible. It contained the covenants of the Lord which he had made with the House of Israel. The Gentiles, though not of the House of Israel, valued this book greatly.
  • The angel explained that when the book originally proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jews, it was pure and contained the fulness of the Gospel of the Lord. However, over time people with bad intentions took many parts which were plain and precious away from the book.
  • After the plain and precious parts were taken from the book, it went forth among all of the nations of the Gentiles. Even though there was so much good in this book, and even though it was highly valued, because many of the plain and precious things had been taken out of the book, the Gentiles stumbled.
  • On another note, the Lord promised that the Gentiles, though they would come to the promised land and disrupt the lives of the posterity of the Lamanites, the Lord wouldn’t allow the Gentiles to utterly destroy them.
  • Additionally, the Lord wouldn’t allow the Gentiles to remain in a state of blindness – because of the lack of the plain and precious truths of God’s Gospel. The Lord would be merciful to the Gentiles.
  • The Angel then explains that after Christ visits the people in the Americas with judgment – for their rebellion against Him – and after the Gentiles stumble exceedingly (this was the great apostasy – where no full truth could be found). After all of this, the Lord would be merciful and bring His gospel back to the Gentiles. This would happen in a unique way: The Lord would manifest Himself to the Nephites shortly after His resurrection and they would record this event. (See 4 Nephi). Over time, the Nephites would eventually dwindle in unbelief and be destroyed. When this happened, the Lord would have the records that were kept by the prophets hidden up – to come forth to the Gentiles by the gift and power of God and according to His own due time.
  • The record kept by the Nephites would have the gospel.

In Them Shall Be Written the Gospel

So – this section of chapter is pretty interesting – in a historical context. You can read through the list above for information. I will apologize in advance if what I write next is more or less a repeat of what is above. But this is just how I synthesize information. When we synthesize and analyze the scriptures, then we will be able to apply them…that may come today. But it might not come until tomorrow…we’ll see.

Scattering

Nephi had already witnessed the destruction of his seed – The Nephites. And then his brethren’s seed -the Lamanites – became a loathsome people – in that they were no longer keeping the covenants. They lost their culture and religion.

And we know that this happened. Now please don’t misunderstand me. There are many beautiful things about every culture. And often cultures have a lot of the truth in their culture. However, when a culture is without God and Jesus Christ, there are some pretty gaping holes. Even in our culture – one that is primarily Judeo-Christian, there are gaping holes. There is more wickedness and hate than should exist.

This is what happened to the Lamanites. If you study history, you will find that when the Spanish first arrived in what is now Mexico, many native people rejoiced. They thought that these white men would help to protect them from the Aztecs – who regularly gave human sacrifice. It wasn’t an easy or safe culture for a lot of people.

I won’t sit here and say that things were done right or wrong – when they happened 600 years ago. It doesn’t really matter. It’s a moot point to sit and criticize what the early explorers did. Of course, I don’t condone any kind of brutality. But I don’t think that we do anything of value when we sit and criticize them either. We can’t possibly understand the mentality of either the native americans or the Eurpoeans during the late 1400s and early 1500s. It is truly impossible to wrap our heads around. I mean, I can’t even wrap my head around life without a television. How could I possibly understand the time of the discovery of the new world? Things are just so different.

Nephi sees this happen though. I think that it is important to note that Heavenly Father doesn’t condone the destruction of people. He loves His children. That being said, He allows us to live our own lives – both on the micro and macro levels. He allows us to make good decisions and bad ones. He allowed the Gentiles to come to the Americas. And He even allowed them to be a scourge to the Native Americans.

And it might also be good to remember that this happens a lot. Heavenly Father allows things to happen. Heavenly Father allowed Joseph Smith to be martyred. He allowed Abinadi to be burned at the stake. He allowed Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son, to be crucified. He honors our agency completely. And He allowed the history of the Americas – both the good and the bad – to happen.

Even though the Lord allowed the Gentiles to come to the Americas and scatter the seed of the Lamanites, He didn’t allow the Gentiles to obliterate them completely. This is according to the covenants that He made with Lehi and others – thousands of years before.

In fact, this scourge, this scattering – is one of the grandest examples of the scripture:

“…thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” – 2 Nephi 2:2

Even though the Lord allowed this great affliction to happen to the seed of the Lamanites, He would also consecrate that very affliction for their gain…back to that in a second.

A Book

When Nephi sees these Gentiles that come to the promised land and scatter the remnants of his people, he sees that the Gentiles have a book with them. This book is the Bible.

Which is good.

Here’s the thing though… The Bible, originated as a source of wisdom and the gospel – containing the covenants that God made with His people. But, over time, wicked people with wicked intentions took parts of the Bible out. In fact, the most plain and precious truths of the Bible were omitted over time. We learn about the consequences of such omissions:

“And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.” – 1 Nephi 13:29

The Gentiles, though they had the Bible, stumbled because many of the truths were missing. They only had a part of the recipe. They aren’t inherently wicked people, they are just misinformed.

Mercy

God allowed all of these things to happen. He allowed wicked people with wicked intentions to pervert His word. He allowed the Gentiles to stumble because of their misinformed ideas. He allowed the Gentiles to come and scatter and smite the seed of the Lamanites. I don’t think that He is always happy with these things that happen, but He honors our agency, and He allows it.

And then, because we have a loving God, at the right time, he extends mercy – to the Gentiles and to the House of Israel.

Eventually, the Lord would bring forth another record – with His covenant, to the Gentiles. This would be a record written by Nephi and his posterity. This book would not compete with the Bible. Neither would it replace the Bible. It would simply help to clarify and bring to light the plain and precious truths that had been lost. Still – there is so much good in the Bible. I love the Bible. And we believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly.

But the fact of the matter is, the Bible had lost some of its truths over time. So the Lord had prepared another Book to help clarify and restore His gospel. This book is the Book of Mormon. About the Book of Mormon, we read:

“And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.” – 1 Nephi 13:36

***
It’s amazing. We have the Book of Mormon AND the Bible now – which means we have the Gospel, His rock. His Salvation. We have the covenants. We have the truths that we need in order to receive salvation. Through the coming of the Book of Mormon, the Lord would consecrate the afflictions (of the remnants of the Lamanites) for their gain.

Though Nephi saw the destruction of his people, he had hope. They would one day be able to return to God and to their covenant. This would happen through a series of afflictions – stumbling and scattering. But it is through the stumbling of the Gentiles and the scattering of the House of Israel that either group became humble enough to accept the word of God and His gospel.

The End of the Nephite/Lamanite Civilization and its Connection with Lehi’s Dream – Two: Mists of Darkness – 1 Nephi 12:12-23

Phew…long title.

You can read 1 Nephi 12:12-23 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • Nephi saw many of the fourth generation (from the time of Christ’s coming) of his people pass away in righteousness.
  • Nephi saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.
  • Nephi saw his the people of his seed gathered together in war against the seed of his brethren.
  • The Angel teaches Nephi the meanings of the fountain of filthy water, the mists of darkness,and the great and spacious building.
  • Nephi saw the seed of his brethren – that they overcame his own seed.
  • Nephi saw wars and rumors of wars among the seed of his brethren. Many generations passed away.
  • Nephi saw the remainder of his civilization dwindle in unbelief. They became a dark, loathsome, and filthy people.

The Mists of Darkness

After showing Nephi the destruction of his people (which wouldn’t happen for hundreds of years), the Angel explains a few of the symbols of Lehi’s dream. Of course, it is always interesting and helpful to examine the meanings of each symbol, but I’m curious – why would the Angel tell Nephi these meanings after showing him the destruction of the Nephite civilization? What do they have to do with one another.

We studied the first symbol – the fountain of filthy water here.

Today, we will investigate the second symbol – the mists of darkness.

We read:

“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.” – 1 Nephi 12:17

It’s kind of interesting. Right now, where I live, the skies are filled with smoke. Most of this smoke is filling up our valley because the west is on fire. There are fires in California and Utah. Because we are east of California, the jet stream brings all of that smoke into our valley. Here the skies are usually clear. Now, it is getting so smoky, it’s hard to breathe without drying out and coughing a little bit.

016 Smoky Skies

Smoky Skies

I can’t help but think of the smoky air when I read about the mists of darkness. It’s crazy to think about the mists of darkness – obscuring everything from view.

The Nephites literally experienced this after the death of the Savior, and before His visitation to the Americas. First there were fires, earthquakes, and tempests. Then we read:

“And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;

21 And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;

22 And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.

23 And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually; yea, great were the groanings of the people, because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them.” – 3 Nephi 8:20-23

So much destruction had come to pass that it took three days, essentially, for the dust to settle. Many people were killed during theses seismic and terrible events. Finally, after three days, the darkness lifted. We read:

“And it was the more righteous part of the people who were saved, and it was they who received the prophets and stoned them not; and it was they who had not shed the blood of the saints, who were spared—” – 3 Nephi 10:12

Those who made it through the literal mists of darkness did not let go of the iron rod. They received the prophets and the words of the prophets.

***

Now, the Angel is telling Nephi about the mists of darkness while showing him the final destruction of the Nephite people – which happened about 400 years after Christ came to the Americas.

They didn’t experience a literal mist of darkness. However, the proverbial mists of darkness experienced by the Nephites were far worse. This led to their ultimate extinction.

Let’s look at the scripture in Nephi again:

“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.” – 1 Nephi 12:17

The Mists of Darkness are the Temptations of the Devil

One thing to understand is that the mists of darkness are temptations of the devil. A mist of darkness is not sin, itself. What I mean by that is – there are times when we must endure a period of darkness – just as the Nephites who lived when the Savior came to the Americas did. We may have to endure periods of “darkness” and temptations in our lives, but we don’t have to give in to them.

Also, just because we endure temptations, doesn’t mean that we are wicked. Remember, the mists of darkness simply appeared while the people traveled towards the tree of life. All of the people who were on the journey were exposed. We read:

“And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.

24 And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:23-24

How do we endure temptations – we need to catch a hold of the iron rod and press forward confident in God’s Word.

Paul taught:

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Though we will all endure temptation during this life (even the Savior did!) experiencing temptation is not a judgment on us. Being tempted doesn’t mean we are evil – it means that we are on the path to the tree of life. The Lord has given us a way through temptations – and that is His gospel. If we will stay true to our faith and press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, then we will make it safely through the mists of darkness. These experiences will even make us better and stronger.

However, giving into the temptations of the devil come with deleterious consequences.

Two – The Result of Giving into Temptation

From the Angel we learn that if we give into the temptations of the devil – or mists of darkness – then we will become blind, our hearts will be hard, and we will wander off into strange roads and perish.

The Nephites, at the end of the Nephite civilization did give into the temptations of the devil – even though they knew better! Because of their rebellion, because they deliberately let go of God’s Word and they persecuted the faithful, they were blind, their hearts became hard, and they perished. In fact, this was such a wide-scale problem, that every single Nephite besides Moroni, died. An entire group of people became completely extinct – after having a flourishing civilization that lasted about 1,000 years.

***

So…What’s the Point

So – what’s the point of studying this? What’s the point of knowing this about the Nephites, a group of people who all died off about 1,597 years ago? Why did Nephi need to see this? And why do we need to read it?

Well – it’s an extreme but also effective example.

Maybe it will help if I just think about this for myself…Likewise, you can apply this to yourself.

I need to remember that while I’m on the path toward the tree of life – toward eternal salvation and joy – I will experience times when I must travel through mists of darkness. There will be times when life is hard, I experience trials and tribulations. These trials and tribulations may even result in elevated temptations.

While Satan will tempt me in various ways, ultimately, his goal is the same: to get me to let go of the Iron Rod.

When I was a teenager, and I was in high school, I was tempted to drink, party, use drugs, be immoral. Those very real temptations are no longer temptations any more. I passed through that mist of darkness thanks to the Iron Rod – in the form of seminary, mutual, General Conference, and friends who were also navigating this time in their lives with faith.

When I was in my twenties, I experienced the “mists of darkness” in my first marriage and divorce – where I was tempted to give in to the self-loathing that comes when you are married to a serial adulterer. I’ve been tempted while trying to navigate challenges such as the shift into motherhood, I’ve been tempted to give up on myself and even God when I went through my divorce and the most painful time of my life. However, I passed through that mist of darkness with the help of the scriptures, my bishop, hobbies like running, and movies like Napoleon Dynamite.

In my thirties, and happily married, I experienced new types of “mists of darkness.” These were interesting. They weren’t as obviously evil – as drugs or immorality. They weren’t as painful as betrayal and divorce. These mists of darkness were more like the smoke that fills our valley right now. These temptations were the temptations to be overwhelmed – by things that even seem good! Goals, desires for my life, activities and responsibilities for my children, etc. While none of these things are bad, sometimes I have felt so much pressure to be whatever it is I think that I’m supposed to be that I just want to give up. I don’t want to go out and commit some kind of atrocious sin, but the temptations that I have faced in my thirties still have made me want to do the same thing as the temptations I faced in my teens and twenties – let go of that Iron Rod.

But, I have been blessed – again with the scriptures, with prayer, with a loving and supportive husband, and with the gift of the Holy Ghost that helps me to discern between truth and error – especially when the error I’m facing looks like something good (commitments and great expectations) rather than something so obviously bad (drugs).

I’m now about to turn 40. I know that I have not yet made it to the tree of life. Still, there will be times when I have to travel through mists of darkness. Though these mists and temptations may look different, they all are trying to get us to do the same thing – let go of the Iron Rod. Satan wants us to let go of the only sure and good thing in this world.

Though his temptations may be attractive, there is no substance to them, and they will only lead us to blindness, hardness, and eventually death.

Thankfully, the solution is just as simple – hold on. Keep holding on to the Savior. Press forward with steadfastness in Christ. We don’t have to run. We don’t have to be swift. We just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We just keep walking toward that tree, while holding on to The Savior and His Word.

The Pride of the World (Part Two) – 1 Nephi 11:32-36

You can read 1 Nephi 11:32-36 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life.
  • The Spirit tells Nephi to Look! Nephi looks.
  • Nephi sees the Lamb of God judged of the world, lifted up on the cross, and slain for the sins of the world.
  • Nephi saw multitudes of people gathered to fight agains the apostles of Christ.
  • Nephi sees the multitude gathered in the great and spacious building.
  • The Spirit explains to Nephi that the great and spacious building is the world and its wisdom. Nephi then saw that the great and spacious building, which was the pride of the world, fell.

The Pride of the World

If you like, you can read The Pride of the World – Part One here.

I was struck, yesterday, by the following phrases:

“…And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world;…” – 1 Nephi 11:32

I think that I usually read things like “by the people” and “of the world” and I think that this means others. I mean, I tend to think of “worldliness” as a way to describe the outsiders – those who don’t participate in Christianity. Maybe I think of them as secular people. I’m not sure.

I just know that I don’t think of “the world” as being covenant members of the House of Israel.

Yet, if we take a few minutes to ponder this scripture and the circumstances of Christ, then we know that “the people” and “the world” were in fact covenant members of the House of Israel. The Egyptians didn’t come in and kill the Savior. His own people took Him and judged Him.

***
Another phrase that stands out to me:

“…behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” – 1 Nephi 11:35

Notice in this verse – it is The House of Israel that has gathered to fight against the twelve apostles. It wasn’t some “other” group – It wasn’t the Romans, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Phoenicians, or any other group that came and fought against the twelve apostles of the lamb and the Savior. It is the House of Israel that fights – against their God, against their apostles. I know that there were times when the apostles and the Christians were persecuted by other faiths. That is to be expected. What is interesting to me, is how the disciples of Christ were persecuted by those of their own faith.

The Problem with Pride

So – I’ve been pondering a lot about pride, but what’s the big deal, really? Maybe it’s annoying, but what’s the problem with it?

Well, first of all, pride can lead us to do some pretty stupid things. For example, it was pride that motivated the Pharisees to have the Savior crucified. Probably one of the dumbest things to happen in history. Pride makes us blind. Jacob taught:

“3 Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name—should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.

4 For should the mighty miracles be wrought among other nations they would repent, and know that he be their God.

5 But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.” – 2 Nephi 10:3-5

The pride of the people in Jerusalem made them blind to the greatest gift our world has ever received. It made them blind to the fact that they lived among the Son of God, the Creator of this world. If the Savior had come to any other nation or group, they would have recognized Him as God, but the pride of the people blinded them to the extent that they killed Him.

It’s funny. They didn’t like Jesus’ message, so they killed Him. But the thing is – killing Christ doesn’t change the truth of the gospel or the precepts He taught.

The Romans could lock up Galileo, but it didn’t change the fact that the earth did indeed revolve around the sun.

If you hated gravity, you could have locked up and killed Newton, but killing Newton wouldn’t keep you from plunging to your death if you stepped off the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Pride is silly, and we see what happens to the pride of the world and the great and spacious building – even after they have “eliminated” their opponents:

“And the multitude of the earth was gathered together; and I beheld that they were in a large and spacious building, like unto the building which my father saw. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Behold the world and the wisdom thereof; yea, behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

36 And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” – 1 Nephi 11:35-36

Despite their efforts in fighting against the Lamb of God and His apostles, despite the martyrdoms and wars, truth still stands, and the great and spacious building falls.

The Antidote

So – what’s the point of studying all of this? Is there a solution? YES!

First of all, let’s remember this little fact about the great and spacious building:

“26 And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.” – 1 Nephi 8:26

This great and spacious building had no integrity. It was just standing on…nothing.

Contrast this with what we are taught later in the Book of Mormon:

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” – Helaman 5:12

If the wise man built his house upon the rock, and the foolish man built his house upon the sand, what did the prideful man build his house on?…nothing? Silly!!!

We can be wise. Instead of letting pride into our hearts – (and remember WE, covenant members of the house of Israel ARE susceptible to this problem) – we can root out pride and build our foundation on the rock of Christ. Christ is the only sure thing. If we build upon Him, we cannot fall. It is simple. It’s not sexy or exciting like that great and spacious building, but it is sure.

Healed by the Power of the Lamb of God – 1 Nephi 11:30-31

You can read 1 Nephi 11:30-31 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life.
  • The Spirit tells Nephi to look. Nephi looks and sees the heavens open and angels ministering to the children of men.
  • Again the Spirit tells Nephi to look. Nephi looks and sees the Savior healing people and performing miracles.

Healed by the Power of the Lamb of God

As a part of the vision of the tree of life that Nephi sees, he also witness of Christ’s life. The Spirit shows Nephi what will happen when Christ lives on the earth among men. Nephi states:

“And he spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; and the angel spake and showed all these things unto me. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.” – 1 Nephi 11:31

Nephi sees sick people – afflicted with all kinds of diseases. He sees mental illness. And then He sees that all of these people were healed – physically, spiritually, and emotionally by the power of the Savior.

I can’t help but think about healing. Isn’t that really what all of us want – to be healed?

This makes me think of one of my favorite scriptures:

” O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” – 3 Nephi 9:13

I know that it might seem like a kind of strange scripture to love. But, I think that what I love about it is how Christ is pleading with us – to return to Him, repent, and be converted. And why? So He can heal us.

I remember when my children were toddlers. Each of them went through an insanely independent phase. Often, I heard “No! I do it!” As they tried to do a multitude of things that they absolutely couldn’t do. I would beg them to let me help – even with a chuckle because I could see how impossible their predicament was. Still, No! I DO IT! would follow.

Sometimes I think that we are like toddlers. Instead of trusting the Savior who is ready to heal us, we often turn away from Him, thinking we can do it ourselves or that we know a better way.

It’s so silly.

I’m prone to it.

But I can also see why it happens sometimes. We don’t live in the time of the Savior. There isn’t a man that we can see, receive a blessing from, and then ta-da!!!!! everything is magically better.

Instead, we have to remember that often Christ comes to us line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little there a little. So – first we come unto Christ, then He reveals, but usually what He reveals is exactly what we’ll need to get to the next step. Then the process must be repeated.

Sometimes, I think, this is also how He heals us. Sometimes we heal one part after another – piecemeal – until we can be fully integrated with His healing. I’m not sure if this makes any sense to you, but it makes sense to me. It takes time and effort, faith in Christ, and then patience as He heals us – from our worries, fears, illnesses, and more.

Another thing is patience to accept His will. This is true faith.

Sometimes we aren’t healed the way that we would like. I don’t think that this is always about us lacking faith. Sometimes we are asked to accept God’s will for us – which may include something that stretches us out of our comfort zone. Sometimes, instead of calming the storm, the Lord gives us the strength to weather it. Even though we aren’t healed from the immediate illness, I think that this experience helps us to be healed from the bigger problem – being fallen men and women.

The Savior always has the big picture in mind.

I’m sorry. I’m getting sleepy while I write today. I hope this is coherent.

I’ll give an example. A few years ago, I was having some problems with my skin. I had all of these blisters and rashes on my hands.

dishydrotic eczema, or something…no fun

In this picture, they aren’t even bad! At the worst, my hands were so covered in blisters, they were actually oozing some kind of fluid (gross!) they looked like raw hamburger. And my body was covered with eczema and hives and rashes. I had to go onto Prednisone several times. It wasn’t fun.

Of course, I also asked for blessings. I prayed, pleaded for help. I prayed that I would have the faith I needed to be healed. But I wasn’t healed. Still, my skin is sensitive. Still, I could blow up like this at any time.

So yes – the idea of the Savior coming with healing in His wings was very intriguing to me. I wanted that. I kind of felt like there must have been something I was doing wrong because I wasn’t healed. If only I had more faith…

But it wasn’t faith to be healed that I lacked. Instead, I lacked faith in God’s plan for me – that I needed to weather this storm. That this was a part of my life that I needed to participate in – in order to reach my potential and learn what I need to learn now. I lacked the long-term vision – that we suffer now, but we will not suffer forever. This issue with my skin would really be a small blip in the context of my life.

It was hard to have that kind of faith sometimes – when I was itching beyond belief. (Side note – I heard that they would put itching powder on the prisoners in Guantanamo or other places where they were questioning terrorists. And I guess I get why. Itching is so annoying! I would have given up any state secret to stop itching. Thank goodness I don’t know any state secrets!) I just wanted relief. I just wanted the Son of Righteousness … with healing in his wings;… to heal me so I could stop itching. I couldn’t sleep or think with all of the itching. (See 3 Nephi 25:2.)

Worst of all, I knew that my itching was nothing! I know that there are people who are struggling with real, terminal diseases – diseases that will kill them. I have a friend with M.S., and I’m sure that she wishes her only issue was itching. I knew that I was fine – just inconvenienced. And yet, I longed to be healed. I began to feel a bit of sympathy for people who also seek healing.

Anyway – the Lord didn’t heal me right away. He comforted me. He prompted me to research the causes of the issues I was facing. And this research took time. This research took trial AND ERROR! I was often frustrated when, after a good run of rash-free life, I’d be covered again from head to toe with hives and blisters and itching.

But, over time, with failed trials, I started to discover what doesn’t work. This guided me, eventually, to what does work. I started to see the little causes of these flare-ups, and how to mitigate them.

Though the Lord didn’t immediately heal me, He has taught me a series of bigger lessons. I needed to learn to slow down and listen to my body. I needed to learn to rely on Him. I needed to learn to manage stress. I needed to learn to be my own advocate (with the doctor). I needed to learn how to patiently endure affliction so that I could better help and appreciate others. I wouldn’t have learned any of this if the Savior granted my desire to be healed and absolved of suffering of any kind.

Though the Lord didn’t heal me immediately, He has healed me through this illness. I hope that I have become a better person as I’ve learned to endure the trials that the Lord has trusted me to experience.

Anyway – I’m going to wrap this up.

I can’t imagine the amount of suffering that took place during the time of Christ. If my husband and daughter had been alive at that time, they would be blind beggars. Just imagine that – the people you know who need glasses. There were no corrective lenses back in the Savior’s time. I can’t even imagine it! I can’t imagine the pain and suffering people went through – simple infections killed people. Can you imagine a toothache before dentistry and Novocaine???

The Savior demonstrated His great love and power to the people, directly. He healed the sick, the afflicted. He healed their bodies, their minds, their hearts, their blood, their spirits. He did this out of His love for them.

And this healing that He performed is nothing compared to The Healing that He offers to all of us. He has healed us from the effects of the fall: Death and Sin – if we will simply come unto Him, He will heal us.

The Condescension of God – 1 Nephi 11:26-29

You can read 1 Nephi 11:26-29 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life.
  • The Spirit tells Nephi to behold the condescension of God.
  • Nephi sees the Redeemer and John the Baptist. He sees the Savior get baptized then He watches the Savior go forth in power and glory.
  • Nephi sees that twelve are following the Savior, but Nephi can’t actually see them

The Condescension of God

If we back up a few verses, the Spirit and Nephi have the following exchange:

“And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” – 1 Nephi 11:16-17

I have always loved this scripture. I love that Nephi admits that he doesn’t know. When the Spirit asks him a question, Nephi doesn’t pretend to know. Instead, Nephi explains that he knows that God loves his children, but he doesn’t know everything.

It is such a simple example of Nephi’s humility. So the Spirit teaches Nephi about the condescension of God.

So – let’s ask ourselves that question: Knowest thou the meaning of the condescension of God?

Maybe you can say yes. Maybe you know exactly what that means. But let’s do a little digging.

To the dictionary:

“Definition of condescension

1 : patronizing attitude or behavior

2 : voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior” – Merriam Webster.com

In this case, the second definition will help us to understand what the Spirit means. The Savior voluntarily descended from His rank – as a member of the Godhead and dwelt among humankind in the meridian of time. He was born in a stable. I don’t know if you can get much lower than that. He didn’t live in a time with technology or luxury. I don’t really want to imagine what it was like to live in Jerusalem in Christ’s day.

Surely, he condescended and then dealt with us mere humans!

What’s interesting to me, though – as I study today – is how Christ condescended without being condescending (see the first definition).

One – He Was Baptized

We read:

“And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.” – 1 Nephi 11:27

As a part of Christ’s condescension, He was baptized. He did this to be obedient, show us the way to follow Him, and to fulfill all righteousness. Nephi explained it best:

“And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!” – 2 Nephi 31:5

Even though Christ was Holy, He was the literal Son of God. He was part God! Let’s think about holiness:

“Definition of holy

holier; holiest
1 : exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness
2 : divine
for the Lord our God is holy —Psalms 99:9 (King James Version)
3 : devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity a holy temple holy prophets
4 a : having a divine quality holy love
b : venerated as or as if sacred holy scripture a holy relic” – Merriam Webster.com

The Savior wasn’t just some good guy. He was holy – he was exalted, worthy of complete devotion, divine, devoted entirely to deity.

He didn’t need to be baptized for the remission of sins.

Yet, He condescended below all, and He was baptized – simply to fulfill all righteousness and do the will of His Father.

Two – He Ministered Among the People.

The Savior, the King, went out among the people and used His glory and power, to serve them.

He healed the sick, He gave sight to the blind, He brought people back to life from death. He taught multitudes and fed multitudes. Even though He was the King, the literal Son of God – He went and dwelt among the masses. His life was not His own.

It’s hard to imagine any person with great power – a king or president – behaving in such a way. His choice to teach and serve the people was another way He condescended.

Three – He Was Cast Out

Despite the Lord’s expression of love through service and ministry, the people cast Him out.

So, put another way – he was an outcast.

The Son of God, the Highest of High, the King of Kings, chose to come to the earth, be born in a lowly stable, raised by a poor young carpenter and his wife in the middle east during ancient times, and to serve and teach and love others. Despite all of this, He was cast out.

In fact, He was an outcast on the day of His birth.

His family had to flee Israel and go to Egypt until the edict to kill all children of the age of two had been lifted (at the death of Herod). He was a refugee. An outcast.

We don’t know much about Christ’s young life, but we know that when it was rumored that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the Pharisees sought to trap him, and people, offended, responded with the question:

“Is not this the carpenter’s son?…” – Matthew 13:55

He was a social outcast.

And then, even when the people began to experience the Savior – when they heard His teachings and experienced His miracles, still He was cast out.

Conclusion

Truly, the Lord condescended. He, the Son of God, the Creator of this world, the Prince of Peace, the Author of our Salvation, Alpha and Omega, and every other title we could name – He chose to come to this earth and descend below His ranks and His abilities – so that He could offer us Redemption. He condescended below all of us because, as Nephi stated: He loveth His children.

I’m so grateful for the Savior.

***
There are times in my life when I don’t understand a lot of what is going on around me. I see people in pain, I see suffering, injustice, and problems, problems, problems. I sometimes find myself shaking my head thinking, there’s no solution. When will Jesus come again?

In situations like this, it is easy to get overwhelmed with all that is wrong, and forget that Christ did condescend. That He came to this earth to offer us hope:

” 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

It is because of the condescension of Christ that this hope is available to us. I’m so thankful for Him.

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.