Saturday, May 28, 2016

AH-HA Moment

I was sitting in my Pathway Gathering last night and I had one of those AH-HA moments. The lead student was teaching us about the Principles study skill. She shared a number of great scripture verses in our assigned reading block that exactly exemplified the principles taught in the Book of Mormon. She also explained something that I have heard before but was again struck by last night. She said that principles are teachings that we can take out of the story it’s found in and it can stand alone. A principle is something that remains relevant and true despite the group of people it’s taught to or the time it is taught in.

One example she used was the principle of repentance found in Helaman 12:39. This principle is very straightforward and easily recognizable in this one verse. Another example she used takes a more in-depth look at chapter 16 of the same book. This chapter starts with Samuel on the walls of the city preaching to the Nephites. Some believed, most did not, but none were able to harm him when they tried. This was a miracle or a “sign,” if you will, in and of itself but the people didn’t even take notice they simply cried unto their captains, saying: Take‍ this fellow and bind him, for behold he hath‍ a devil; and because of the power of the devil which is in him we cannot hit him with our stones and our arrows; therefore take him and bind him, and away with him. (v6) The people blamed the miracle on the devil instead of accepting what Samuel had taught them. Samuel did get away and was able to preach among his own people for some time.

Then in verse 12 we learn the people began to be more hardened in iniquity, and do more and more of that which was contrary‍ to the commandments of God, in the eighty and ninth year of the reign of the judges. But in the very next verse it says there were great signs‍ given unto the people, and wonders; and the words of the prophets began‍ to be fulfilled. And angels‍ did appear unto men, wise men, and did declare unto them glad tidings of great joy; thus in this year the scriptures began to be fulfilled. (v 13, 14) Despite the iniquity of the people, they were given many sign and wonders, angels even appeared…this would surely open their eyes and make them believe. Nope. The next 8 verses explain that they certainly did not believe but began to depend upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom (v15). They refused to believe the signs right in front of them. Verse 23 tells us  And notwithstanding the signs and the wonders which were wrought among the people of the Lord, and the many miracles which they did, Satan did get great hold upon the hearts of the people upon all the face of the land.

As we discussed this chapter in our little Gathering class, someone else mentioned the “faith precedes the miracle” phrase but this is not quite the same thing. This chapter speaks of miracles and signs already happening so in my head the wheels are still churning. Then someone mentioned Laman and Lemuel and how those two could not see all the miracles that were performed right in front of their noses. I have always wondered why these two unbelievers were witnesses to so many wonderful signs and still turned out the way they did. They lacked the faith to see them for what they were: miracles from God. We have to have the faith and eternal perspective to see these workings, signs, and miracles for what they are.

 Then that AH-HA moment that I needed this week: THE MIRACLES WERE NOT PERFORMED FOR LAMAN AND LAMUEL. All of the many miracles Laman and Lemuel witnessed were to fulfill the Lord’s plan or to protect/aid the Lord’s servant, Nephi. Many of the miracles in the first half of the Book of Mormon were to protect the faithful son from the prideful sons. The rest were to fulfill God’s purposes for Lehi and his posterity.

And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.(1 Nephi 15:9) But he had! Their father was a prophet, they had seen angels, they had witnessed many miracles, they had the plates of Laban, they had been taught the same things as Nephi, they just lacked the faith to see and the humility to find out.

Just like in chapter 16 of Helaman. God’s purposes are always fulfilled. Miracles are happening all around us, large and small. The words of the prophets, ancient and present, are being fulfilled. The question is if we have the faith to see them.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Life Lessons

As I have been reading in Mosiah, I was really struck by the story of Alma's people. There are countless stories in the scriptures, not just the Book of Mormon, of peoples that were destroyed or brought into bondage due to broken covenants and iniquity. I think it is really easy to assume or trust that things will be honky-dorey, except the occasional small hiccup-this is mortality after all, as long as we are doing all that we should. WRONG!!

The story of Alma's people is a prime example of this assumption being untrue. Alma, as we know, was one of the wicked priests of evil King Noah. Upon hearing Abinadi preach, Alma tried to plea for Abinadi's life and was therefore threatened himself. He fled and hid himself in a lovely place called Mormon where he recorded Abinadi's words, repented, and started to preach the gospel. He collected quite the group of believers and baptized them. They were discovered by Noah and were forced to leave. This group of about 450 then settled in a place called Helam where they grew and prospered. In Mosiah chapter 23 we learn that the people pitched their tents, and began to till the ground, and began to build buildings; yea, they were industrious, and did labor exceedingly. The priests and teachers were properly ordained and did watch over their people, and did nourish them with things pertaining to righteousness. And the people did  multiply and prosper exceedingly in the land of Helam. They were doing great. They were righteous, following the teachings of Alma and his appointed teachers, working hard and, seemingly, doing all they should.

In the very next verse, you're given some fore-shadowing on this people's fate... Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. What a bummer. We all know that chastening does not have a good connotation and trying our patience is always a growing experience, to say the least.

This people is wronged by the Lamanites and ultimately brought into bondage by them. As if that weren't bad enough, Amulon (another of King Noah's wicked priests, the one who stole Lamanites daughters, then used those very same daughters to gain favor with the Lamanites when they happened upon them in the wilderness) is put in charge of this righteous group of people as we learn in verse 39, And the king of the Lamanites had granted unto Amulon that he should be a king and a ruler over his people, who were in the land of Helam; nevertheless he should have no power to do anything contrary to the will of the king of the Lamanites.

Things go down hill for Alma's people pretty quickly as we read in chapter 24 And now it came to pass that Amulon began to exercise authority over Alma and his brethren, and began to persecute him, and cause that his children should persecute their children. For Amulon knew Alma, that he had been one of the king’s priests, and that it was he that believed the words of Abinadi and was driven out before the king, and therefore he was wroth with him; for he was subject to king Laman, yet he exercised authority over them, and put tasks upon them, and put task-masters over them.

The people, being righteous, cried mightily unto God (v10) and Ammulon put a quick stop to even that, upon penalty of death,  in verse 11. So the people prayed continuously in their hearts and their prayers were answered because of their faith. We read about this in verses 13-16 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. 14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. 15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. 16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage. And, of course, His promised was fulfilled the very next day as he caused the Lamanites to fall into a deep sleep so Alma and his people could flee to the land of Zarahemla.

I believe these promises are available to us today. I know that all of my trials will not be solely as a result of my poor choices. There are certainly the choices of others that have an effect on me, but there are also going to be times in my life that my loving Father in Heaven knows I am ready for growth. As a family, we encountered a very difficult situation through no fault of our own and I can not properly express the humility, patience, faith, and love that was required for us to overcome that trying time in our lives. BUT we did. I can now look back and see how much that situation helped my marriage by forcing us closer and to work as a team, by making me realize again what an amazing person I was blessed with for an eternal companion. I can look back and see how my faith was strengthened and how we both certainly learned some humility. I look at my life now and see how incredibly blessed my life is now because we were sent down a path that we never would have chosen on our own.

I am so grateful to our Father in Heaven for the blessing of this sojourn here on earth. Our actions in life make the world of difference in being able to make it back to Him. But let's not forget the importance of our reactions. We will all be faced with trials that we did not choose... how will we react? Will we react as Alma's people? With faith and patience and diligence, raising our voices mightily unto God? I hope so because I want to see you all lifted up at the last day as we are promised by Alma.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Spring Break is almost upon us!! I am so excited to have my kiddos all to myself for a whole week. A little over, actually, since they get tomorrow off too. The kids and I are headed back to KS to visit cousins and friends. John will live the bachelor life for the weekend until he heads to Chicago for work on Monday. I do wish we could afford a big fancy trip somewhere tropical, but I am so happy to see the people that we love.

Our middle child just turned 8 in February and we are gearing up for his baptism Easter weekend. I am so proud of his decision to get baptized but, as his mother, it also worries me a little bit. He is now at the age of accountability and is responsible for the choices he makes, keeping with him and listening to the Spirit, and repenting for his mistakes. I love this little boy with all my heart and I hope to spend eternity with him. This is where the scary part comes in…

What if his dad and I haven’t taught him the gospel well enough? What if he wasn’t listening? What if he decides it’s too hard? What if he forgets? Forgets how he felt when we went to the KC Temple open house, and the few other times I know he’s felt the Spirit? What if he forgets what he has been taught when he faces the peer pressure that is bound to come? What if he forgets why making the right choice is the best choice?

As I’ve been studying the Book of Mormon for my religion class, I have really been struck by the common chord of the wickedness that occurs. Laman and Lemuel were “slow to remember the Lord their God” and that they had seen angels and witnessed miracles. They were brought unto repentance countless times and still could not hold on to that feeling of peace and love and light. They, over and over again, gave into the anger and jealousy that they felt. Why could they not remember? Because of  their inability to remember all the Lord had done for them, their posterity became loathsome and wicked, with but a few exceptions, for generations.  

Later, in the book of Jacob, we learn that the Nephites start to forget. In chapter 3, verse 5,  Jacob says  Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten‍ the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father—that they should have save it were one‍ wife, and concubines‍ they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms‍ committed among them.

(I find this scripture really interesting along with the one that follows that tells them that the Lamanites are not destroyed because they are faithful to this commandment. Faithful to their wives. That’s a different discussion though.)

Again, that word: forgotten. He goes on to command them to do the opposite: remember.

9 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile‍ no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers. 10 Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example‍ that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.

We too must remember what we’ve been commanded to do and remember the confirmations we’ve had from the Spirit when we do them.

Laman and Lemuel had a prophet for a father that obviously taught them well. How could they be so “slow to remember the Lord (their God)”? How on earth do I have hope for my children if the prophet’s children went so far off the straight and narrow? That’s a scary thought.

We know that Laman and Lemuell were taught the gospel their entire lives.  I have hard time applying the word “forgot” like when I forget to get bananas when I go grocery shopping. I really think “stiffnecked” is really synonymous with the type of “forgetting” we’re talking about here. They were taught from when they were young. They didn’t just forget that they had seen an angel or were shaken when Nephi touched them. They were quick to give in to their feelings of anger and jealousy, and were slow to remember the feelings of peace and light that they surely felt witnessing the miracles they did. They slowly gave in to the temptations of Satan and, therefore, drowned out the feelings of love and light that come from God.

Laman and Lamuel, as we know, led their families astray by, eventually, not even acknowledging their need to repent and heed the prophet’s words. The Lamanites became a wild, violent and wicked people because they were not taught the gospel. This is in great contrast to the Nephites who had the records and prophets and still went astray. We already read how Jacob described the Nephites as more wicked than the Lamanites, and the Nephites knew better!! Just like Laman and Lemuel did.

Jacob spends a great deal of his writings telling us how he chastised the Nephites and pointing out their pride and lack of integrity…and how his heart hurt because of it.  I love how he is so straight forward and lays it all out for them ...”remember that ye may bring your children unto destruction.” What a sobering warning.

In the book of Enos we read 22 And there were exceedingly many prophets among us. And the people were a stiffnecked people, hard to understand. 23 And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.

The Nephites are acting like Laman and Lemuel acted! This verse pulls at my heart strings. The Nephites had been taught the truth like I try to teach my children. They had the records like I have the scriptures. They have prophets among them just as we do. The Nephites are prospering at this point and they are “slow to remember”. The prophets have to ‘continually remind’ them of the things that they are quickly forgetting: God’s hand in their lives.

I have often wondered if it’s unfair that the people of Nephi are destroyed. I mean it’s Nephi. Faithful , strong, obedient Nephi. But as I have been studying this time, it has hit me that the Nephites, as a people, were not the faithful, strong, obedient Nephites. Oh yes, there are groups of them, and the Lamanites for that matter, that were more righteous than I could ever hope for in this life. But as a whole, a lot of the time they were more like Laman than they were like Nephi. Having to constantly be reminded of utter destruction, and death in order for them to stay righteous. Am I that way? Do I have to be threatened in order to stay on the straight and narrow? Or do I hold to the rod with strength and faith to reach the ultimate goal? Am I capable of teaching my children properly and setting the right example so I don’t have posterity that “dwindles in unbelief”?

My son is only 8 and he is, sure as heck, going to make many mistakes in his life. I just want to make sure I teach him to REMEMBER. Remember that his dad and I love him, remember that he has a Savior that loves him and suffered his sins for him, that he is a child of God and, as such, has the potential for greatness and perfection. I want him to REMEMBER what it feels like to feel the Spirit touch his heart, and remember that that feeling is better than any temporary satisfaction. I want him to REMEMBER that he can repent and be made clean, and that, if he does so, we can be a family forever. I somehow have to teach him to REMEMBER God and the impact He has had in his life.

I have been told how by Nephi when he said 26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. 27 Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away.

I’m still working on how to exactly execute this excellent advice... I’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

I have not dropped off the face of the Earth!! I am here and life is pretty busy these days. The biggest change to life lately is the return of John and I to school. We both decided it was time to head back and get our degrees. We decided that the price and the online capabilities, along with the opportunity to get a reputable degree, made our church’s Pathway program the best option for us.
We’ve been in class for a little over two weeks now. It’s been a bit of a change for us but it’s been going well. We have two classes for three semesters in the Pathway program and then we’ll go (assuming we’re accepted) to BYU-Idaho online to finish up. As a requirement in the program, one of the two classes is a religion course. For the first semester, the religion course will be covering the first half of the Book of Mormon. We are also taught and encouraged to use different study skills and to share what we’ve learned in different ways. One way to share what we’ve learned is to post a blog entry…and here we are.
 This first lesson in our religion course was over the first 5 chapters of 1 Nephi, in the Book of Mormon. I cannot tell you how many times I have read the first few chapters of this sacred book but this time through, I still learned so much. As I read, I tried substituting my name for Nephi’s. This study skill is aptly called substitution. I did this for the first three chapters and then it dawned on me that some of the verses wouldn’t be true if my name were placed there instead of Nephi’s. For example 1 Nephi 2: 16 reads And it came to pass that I, Nephi (Clara), being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God,
This is only the first half of the verse but it hit me “I am not large in stature, nor exceedingly young”. Then I continued the verse  Wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. Then I had to ask myself if this part of the verse would be a true statement if it were referring to me and not Nephi.  Then I continued reading first Nephi in that mindset: “Is this a true or false statement?”
Asking myself this question was a bit sobering, to be honest. I found that many of the things said about Nephi would, in fact, not be considered true if my name were placed in the subject line.
My mind continued to mull over this and I continued to study and pray.  I kept substituting my name for Nephi’s. 
When I got to the chapter three, I had another idea, “why don’t I substitute my name for some of the others in this part of the history?”  So I did.  I went back and substituted my name for Lehi’s and Sariah’s.  I also felt a bit under-qualified when I put my name in for Lehi’s.  I did, however relate to Sariah in 5:2-3.  2 For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness: and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying, Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness. 3 And after this manner of language my mother complained against my father.
I have complained before. I have certainly been concerned for my children before and I definitely have lost faith before.
Then, the kicker, I tried my name in the parts of Laman and Lemuel. I kind of bristled at the thought, given that they play the part of villain at many points in the story. But I gave it a shot: Chapter 2: 12 And thus Laman and Lemuel (Clara), being the eldest, did murmur against their(her) father. And they(she) did murmur because they(she) knew not the dealings of that God who had created them (her).
I already admitted that I murmur, at least a little.
And Chapter 3: 28 And it came to pass that Laman(Clara) was angry with me, and also with my father;
And again in Chapter 3: 31 And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel (Clara) again began to murmur, saying: How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and he can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty; then why not us?
Again in Chapter 4: Now when I had spoken these words, they(she was) were yet wroth, and did still continue to murmur; nevertheless they(she) did follow me up until we came without the walls of Jerusalem.
Okay, okay. I complain a lot. It’s not becoming and it’s certainly not faith building, I know. I do get wroth on occasion as well. It’s a good thing I am also working on my temperance in this class.
Unfortunately for me, some of these versus hit much closer to home than the faith and obedience Nephi demonstrates in Chapter 3: And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. Do I have that kind of faith? Or am I too busy murmuring?
This exercise was an eye opener for me. I realized that I might stand closer to Laman and Lemuel than Nephi when it comes to my murmuring, my faith and my willingness to obey. I certainly have some work to do. I want to be one of the heroes in my family’s story, not the villain or even the bystander. What about you?