Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BOMT: Strong like Unto Men

Sunday night at our family dinner, Jeff's brother David talked about a scripture-study technique his mission president assigned them -- rewriting scripture. Trust me, it's not as heretical as it sounds! They were assigned certain verses, then asked to digest them, personalize them, replace specifics with their own name, their own circumstances, and then write it all out in their own words -- essentially taking "Liken the scriptures unto us" to a whole new level. We asked David if this study process was effective, and he answered, "It was amazing."

Fast-forward to this morning. I awoke thinking about Relief Society -- specifically about some recent changes to the Relief Society meetings in our ward. Suddenly this week we've been asked to stop our "Good News Minute" (the dissenter in me wails, But how will the sisters bond, form connections?) and to also stop using 5 minutes for a "practice hymn," and not discuss any background or thought process behind the hymns (the dissenter and the musician in me are wailing in unison now, But if mothers aren't learning and loving the hymns, they won't use them in their homes. Family Home Evenings will suffer. Hymns invite the Spirit.) While we were visiting Pasadena a couple of weeks ago, a handful of sisters said some of the recent changes feel like they've taken the womanhood out of Relief Society -- (the motherhood, the sisterhood, the softness, the bonding) -- almost like they're turning it into priesthood. I was trying to process these ideas, not in a negative way -- just trying to wrap my mind around them. I wondered if a woman's role is being ramped up rather than diminished by these recent changes. I thought about Elder Packer and others stating that what we've done in the past will not be enough to save our families in the future. We need to be stronger.

Then this scripture came to my mind, repeatedly, insistently. It is a verse I read in the temple last week:
1 Ne. 17: 2
And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.
I thought about "wilderness" as an oft-used metaphor for moving outside our comfort zone, for trials and afflictions and stepping out into the unknown. I thought about the New Testament parable, milk before meat -- meat in this case being the deeper, heavier doctrines. And suddenly raw meat took on a whole new meaning. Those would be what Elder Maxwell called "the wintery doctrines" -- not the feel-good verses, but the difficult truths that are hard to hear, and harder to swallow. Suddenly, I felt like I had to rewrite this verse in my own words:
And we were so amazingly blessed during these fierce trials, that we were devouring deep doctrine and feasting on hard-to-swallow principles that we never would have been able to digest during any other time. Our women understood the meat of the gospel so well, they did nourish their children with milk on demand...always having plenty of solid principles at the ready, presented in a way children could understand. They were physically and spiritually strong, like unto the men--hard working, courageous, valiant. And they began to bear their trials and afflictions gracefully, without complaint.
That is my new perspective, and my new goal. Maybe the Lord needs a whole different kind of Relief Society to prepare this type of women. And I plan to be one of the strong ones.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

BOMT: How can I forget?

1 Nephi 7

First of all, I find it completely amusing that Laman and Lemuel threw a fit about having to go back for the brass plates, but we hear not a single complaint when they're commanded to go back to get themselves wives! :)

Of course, once they get their wives (who rapidly consent, because their hearts were already prepared by the Lord) and journey back through the wilderness, the murmuring and full-scale rebellion begins again. How very tiresome this must have been for the faithful few!

The part that totally stood out for me in this chapter are the words FORGET and REMEMBER.
Nephi is incredulous that his older brothers have slipped back into their old attitudes and behavior after so many blessings and miracles. He states three separate examples:
  1. How is that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord?
  2. Yea, and how is that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord has done for us...?
  3. Yea, and how is that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will?
Nephi expertly turns a corner, reminding them (and us) that the limitless things God can do for his children (according to his will) are contingent on our faith. He then adds a charge, a rallying cry:
The Lord is able to do all things...for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him. Wherefore, let us be faithful to him! (punctuation changed for emphasis.)
Then he adds a promise:
And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise; (always a metaphor for the celestial kingdom) and ye shall know at some future period that the word of the Lord shall be fulfilled...for all things which the Lord hath spoken...must be fulfilled.
Such confidence in the Lord and his ways!
For behold, the aSpirit of the Lord bceaseth soon to strive with [us].
I don't want the spirit to give up on me, but I see myself in all of the forgetting categories Nephi listed:

  1. Although not the same as the one Nephi and his brothers saw, I literally saw an angel when I held my stillborn daughter. In fact, that experience brought me closer to the Lord than ever before, deepened my understanding of the atonement, and strengthened my charity. Now I read 1 Nephi 7 and wonder, how can I have seen an angel and still forget to be kind, patient, forgiving?
  2. Despite the miraculous ways I've been rescued, delivered, blessed, forgiven and healed, sometimes I forget what great things the Lord has done for me, and become ungrateful. A few years ago I received a priesthood blessing which said, in essence, "You ARE being blessed. You need to stop and look at what the Lord has done for you and express gratitude every day, every hour, every minute for the blessings you receive."
  3. I'm also still guilty of trying to do heroic things with my puny mortal strength, forgetting to rely on and trust in the strength and power of God. I read chapter 7 and say to myself, "how is that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things?"
However, tonight there was progress. After pondering these ideas, I did remember to be more patient, kind, and forgiving. I paused to be grateful. (Not every minute. But maybe every few hours.) And when I felt myself becoming overwhelmed, sliding toward a crash-and-burn mentality, I reminded myself to trust in the Lord and received an instant supply of peace, an assurance that things would work out in his care.

At the end of the chapter we see Nephi pleading with them to remember his words, we see anger and resentment, we see their problems escalating...until they are utterly humbled and remorseful, and forgiven. Then and only then are they able to progress on their journey. And this time, they remember to be grateful.

Friday, August 20, 2010

BOMT: Conserving Space

1 Nephi 6 is what inspired the name for this blog, Feasting on Small Plates. It's yet another lesson on the basics—what's most important, how to declutter our lives. (A perfect reminder as we helped Josh pack his things for college, and did some packing and unpacking ourselves.)

Nephi instructs us:
"I desire the room that I may write the things of God."

As bloggers, we know how precious time and space are, and have seen thousands clogging the airwaves with meaningless drivel. I love Nephi's bold declaration, and blanket desire, to write "the things of God."

In making choices regarding physical space, we can employ the same philosophy: "I desire the room...for the things of God." Where travel is concerned, I have a tiny military Book of Mormon which I keep in the pocket of the suitcase I always use. Even in day-to-day goings, I'm so glad I have the scriptures and the hymns on my iPhone. I, too, desire the space for the things of God. (You can imagine the heartache when I saw that Josh was taking three Gameboys, yet choosing to leave his scriptures home.)

Nephi tells us his top priority is to "persuade men to come unto God...and be saved." That is certainly my top priority as a mother as well—although it's so easily eclipsed by cooking and cleaning and carpools, it becomes difficult to keep in mind as my primary focus. Today I'm choosing to remember that my top priority is to persuade my children to turn to God...over and over and over again...with the ultimate hope that we'll all be saved.

Nephi tells us he chooses for his small space not the things that please the world, but "the things that are pleasing to God." While he is speaking about writing, we can easily apply this to the "things" in our homes, on our to-do-lists, in our lives. My friend K says "We don't own our things; our things own us." And there is something so liberating about paring down to the things that matter most.

Lastly, Nephi instructs all who occupy space on his plates not to include anything that's not of worth. I have a similar goal in my writing: Meaningful Content. With a nod to the previous verse, I'm not writing to please the bloggers of the world. I'm drawing a different sort of readership, as I focus primarily on the things of God in my stories: faith, testimony, motherhood, trials, more faith, and answered prayers. Even miracles. My pace on Divergent Pathways is sporadic at best. I have never felt any sort of pressure to write every day; only when I feel like I have something significant to say. Lately, I literally write only when I'm prompted to write. Most of my recent posts there have been given to me. My fingers become merely an instrument of recording what my spirit receives.

Monday, August 16, 2010

BOMT: That Changes Everything

1 Nephi 4:6-5:9

Yesterday (while waiting in the temple chapel) I discovered two AHA! moments in consecutive chapters. My mother used to say (in response to a very whiny "I KNOOOWW" from a younger me): "No learning has taken place until behavior has changed." I just realized the reverse is also true: No behavior can change until learning has taken place.

Notice Nephi's struggle.
10 And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.
The Lord has, as promised, "prepared a way" by placing a drunk and passed-out Laban in his path so he can acquire the plates. Now the Spirit has instructed him to do something contrary to his prior learning: Slay him. Nephi struggles to reconcile this with his belief system. He's been asked to do something too difficult even for Nephi. As he tries to reason it out in his own mind, the Spirit tells him again,
And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property
You can just hear the wheels churning in Nephi's mind...Well, he DID try to kill us...and he IS a bad guy...and he DID steal all our stuff...but he still cannot wrap his mind around the idea of actually killing another human being. Finally with the third impression, the Spirit adds a new concept, a new piece of information that changes everything:
12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;
13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.
Suddenly, with that new piece of information, everything falls into place. It's like the missing link that connects everything else in Nephi's thought process. "And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered..."
  • We'll prosper if we keep the commandments
  • We can't keep the commandments if we don't know what they are
  • The commandments are engraved on the plates
  • The Lord put Laban here in this condition specifically so I can get the plates
And then Nephi is able to obey.

* * * * *

The second one occurs with Sariah and Lehi in the very next chapter.

Sariah starts out with this total crash-and-burn mentality, what can be an automatic place for woman to go to emotionally. (I was relieved that I am not alone in this.)
1 My mother, Sariah...truly had mourned because of us.
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 had my mother complained against my father.
Notice it doesn't say murmured...this wasn't under her breath or half-uttered. This was full-on complaining. She criticized Lehi, she mourned over their lost sons, she resented leaving their homeland, and was sure they were going to die out there in the wilderness. (Crash and burn.)

The way Lehi responds to this is a marvel in diffusing anger and hurt feelings:
4 And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying: I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.
5 But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.
6 And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.
Lehi begins by agreeing with her (I am a visionary man) and then goes on to tell her what a blessing it is that he's a visionary man. He doesn't get defensive, angry, nor does he put her down. He just gently tries to turn the conversation around.

Nephi points out three "manners of language" used. The first is Sariah's language of complaint. The second is Lehi's language of comfort. And the third is the language of testimony. It comes after Sariah's AHA, when the boys return.
7 And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.
8 And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.
9 And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the God of Israel.
Lehi's response combined with their sons' return changed everything for Sariah. That one explanation and one answered prayer made everything fall into place for her. Now she knew Lehi was guided by the Lord, knew their mission to the wilderness was necessary, knew her sons were protected by the hand of God. She instantly moved from grumbling to grateful and (as far as I can tell) never looked back. I hope I can pay attention to opportunities for similar paradigm shifts in my own life. Sariah could have continued to complain, could have remained angry with Lehi, could have made all of their lives miserable out there in the wilderness, but instead she chose to speak and act out of testimony, allowing that new perspective to reshape her heart.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

BOMT: The Basics

1 Nephi 1, 2, and 3

Last night Josh gave a presentation to the Webelos on wilderness survival for their Outdoorsman badge. Listening to him recount his adventures reminded me of how basic our real needs truly are. He went for two whole months without owning so much as a spoon. He actually had to carve his own spoon so he'd have something to eat with. His only possessions (besides the clothes on his back) were a cup, some rope, a tarp, and a sleeping bag. He built his fires using a bow drill (amazing method that Mythbusters said was impossible.) After he taught the boys how to stretch a rope between two trees and build a shelter we all applauded.

Hearing him speak led me ponder and study further about what our most basic needs are, and what the real basics were for Lehi's journey. Here's what I learned:
And it came to pass that ahe departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.
All he needed at first were his family, some food (peanut butter, tortillas, granola) and supplies (a cup), some shelter (which I now know can be as simple as a tarp and a rope--and a good sleeping bag)!
15 And my father dwelt in a atent. 6 And it came to pass that when he had traveled three days in the wilderness, he pitched his tent in a avalley by the side of a briver of water.
I talked about the sacredness of this portable shelter earlier. Now I'm focusing again on the cord and the tarp -- a very basic shelter. He tells us here that we also need water.
Then Lehi is commanded in another dream to go back for the plates:
3 For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a agenealogy of my forefathers, and they are bengraven upon plates of brass.
4 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness.
Our most basic need after our physical life-support is our spiritual life-support.
2:7 And it came to pass that he built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks unto the Lord our God. (temple worship, gratitude, prayer)
3:3 For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass. (scriptures, family history)
3:4 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness.
Having an altar was so important, Lehi stopped and built on on their third day in the wilderness. Having the scriptures and family history available was so important they were sent all the way back to retrieve them and cart them into the wilderness. I think I need to make our family history more portable somehow. (I'm glad that at the very least I can access my blog from any remote spot.) In verse 20 it speaks quite a bit about preservation, and in verse 24 it shows they were willing to sacrifice all their earthly possession in order to acquire both sets of records. We see Lehi and his family regard this treasure like the Pearl of Great Price it truly is.

In verses 10-22 of 1 Nephi 5 (when they deliver the plates to Lehi) we learn more about what those plates contained, and what made them so important to Lehi and his family. In addition to a need for the scriptures and genealogy, Nephi adds:

18 That these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed.
19 Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time. And he prophesied many things concerning his seed.
20 And it came to pass that thus far I and my father had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord had commanded us.
21 And we had obtained the records which the Lord had commanded us, and searched them and found that they were desirable; yea, even of great worth unto us, insomuch that we could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children.
22 Wherefore, it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us, as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise.
So we can safely add to our list of "the basics" — what we truly need on our journey — items of eternal worth and worldwide significance; items that help us teach our children the gospel are indeed "wise to carry with us."

--And to think that now I can access the scriptures anywhere -- including my phone!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

BOMT: Pure Love

Moroni 7:45-48, 3-11, 13-19

I left for our extended-family vacation aware of some hard and divisive feelings within the group, and feeling the need to ponder and follow Nephi's Process. (The desire, the prayer, the softened heart, etc.) That first night in Sun Valley I received a very specific instruction to continue my BOMT by skipping all the way to the end of the book and studying three specific sections of Moroni 7. I studied first the verses specific to Charity (45 to 48) which are nearly identical to 1 Corinthians 13. Then, using Elder Scott's method of asking, Is there more? I was led to additional verses at the beginning of the chapter.

Charity
  • suffereth long (bears what is painful or distressing, endures, does not sink under pressure)
  • is kind (disposed to do good or make others happy, supplying their wants, assisting them in distress, having tenderness, good-natured)
  • envieth not (Feeling uneasiness at the superior condition and happiness of another.)
  • is not puffed up (swelled with air; inflated with vanity or pride; praised)
  • seeketh not her own (to follow; to go after, and the primary sense is to advance one's own interests)
  • is not easily provoked (made angry; incensed)
In the next verse we're instructed to pray with all the energy of heart that we'll be blessed with the gift of charity. And that charity is the mark of a true follower of Christ. It's how we become like Him. It literally purifies our hearts. I could readily see that there was a lot of work I could do within the bounds of my own heart in terms of charity. I prayed hard for a softened heart. I consciously chose not to let things bother me, chose to be more helpful, look out for the needs of others. And every time I made a small choice in the direction of charity I felt better. But I also caught myself slipping...and was humbled at how far I have to go.

When I asked, Is there more? I was sent to the beginning of the chapter, and learned that Mormon's audience is members of the church, those who already know and love the savior. I also learned that our actions define us, our attitude and motivation matters, and it's impossible to follow Christ and serve the devil at the same time. I noticed the term peaceable refers to being not at war, not contentious. I looked up a similar phrase I remembered from Mosiah 4:14 where "fight and quarrel" is equated with serving the devil, and concluded that we can't follow Christ and be contentious or quarrelsome at the same time.

Again, asking for more, I was led to the verses on righteous judgment, conscience, and the light of Christ. I love the phrase "lay hold upon every good thing." I was led back to verse 44, where it tells us that in order to bear testimony of the Savior we need to have charity. I had never thought of charity as a requisite for bearing testimony. But I can see how possessing that kind of heart could bring us closer to Him, let our works stand as a witness, and also qualify us for a greater portion of the Spirit.

I find that I want to be more like Him; be filled with and radiate pure love.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

BOMT: Missing Plates and Lost Keys

1 Nephi 3 -4:6

So this morning I went for a run. I was so happy to be back in my regular workout routine, running along the Provo River Parkway, I was whispering audible prayers of thanks for the unseasonably cool weather and the gorgeous scenery. And then two runners asked if I was missing a set of keys. I reached down and sure enough, I was.

Trying not to panic, I ran in the direction they were pointing, to where they'd seen the keys. But I couldn't find them anywhere. I kept running, back-tracking, looking, running, backtracking, retracing my steps, and was finally so frustrated I started to cry. The remote entry to my Honda costs at least $50 to replace, and how was I supposed to get home? Walk another eight miles? (Murmur, murmur.) I kept crying, praying, Please help me find my car keys, please don't let anyone steal my car keys, help me to know where they are, send someone to show me where they are...And then right when I hit a low point and was on the brink of desperation, an angel spoke to me.

Okay, it was on my cell phone, but still. "Hello?" I sniffled. "Is Jana Parkin there?" "Yes, this is she." "My name is David Bell. I have your car keys." (hallelujah!) As it turned out, this kind man and his wife had been handed the keys by someone else who found them on the trail, and they took them to the parking lot. They knew they were Honda keys, spotted my car, and clicked the remote. Woila!

Now, here's a reason I'm grateful I live in Utah today (besides the gorgeous scenery): These people were totally honest. And talk about searching diligently -- they actually got into my car and dug through my personal papers (they seriously called it "invading my privacy") until they found a business card with my phone number on it. And called me. They told me they were leaving my keys under my white sweater on the front seat. Then met me going the opposite direction on the trail, just to say hello. Unbelievable.

How fitting that I've been reading about Lehi sending his sons back to Jerusalem to search for the plates of brass. I felt the frustration of back-tracking after a long journey (okay, about a hundredth as long as theirs, but still), and I felt the frustration of so many fruitless attempts at securing the keys, um, I mean plates, and I felt Nephi's resolve to be " aled by the Spirit, not bknowing beforehand the things which [he] should do.." -- because, frankly, neither did I. I thought about just giving up and walking home. But I kept being prodded back toward Vivian Park. I stopped another man on the trail to ask if he'd seen my keys, and he told me someone had a set of keys up at Vivian Park. I quickened my step.

And I thought to myself, "wherefore can ye bdoubt?" If the Lord can part the red sea, surely he can find my car keys. And deliver them.

Looking back, here's what I learned about Nephi's process (and my own):
  • Scriptures and Family History are essentials, second only to family, food, and shelter.
    (Car keys are also essentials, it turns out.)
  • Nephi had already been praying before the new challenge arrived.
  • He went straight from prayer to patriarch, consulting his father.
  • He was presented with a challenge: He learned they had to backtrack to retrieve scriptures and family history records. (I SO love Lehi at this moment. I want to say, Thank you so much for forgetting something essential and having to send someone back to retrieve it! What parent hasn't done that before? It makes him so very human.)
  • Sometimes the Lord requires us to do hard things.
  • Those who don't murmur are favored. (1828: Supported, aided, regarded with kindness, as a friend.)
  • Failed attempts and discouragement are sometimes part of the process.
  • He can use angels on both sides of the veil to help us.
  • Never give up -- The Lord always provides a way.
I left feeling grateful and amazed. My own private miracle. I turned my iPhone to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and wanted to join them in a resounding, full-vibrato LAAAAAAAAAAA!

The end.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

BOMT: Nephi's Process

This study session covers 1 Nephi 2:15-24

I spent a fair amount of time pondering why Nephi needed to tell us that his "father dwelt in a tent." I thought about stakes of Zion and tent posts and enlarging borders. Then I remembered that the ancient tabernacle was a tent--a portable temple. The modern saints ordered a huge canvas for a similar structure...which canvas was ultimately used to cover their wagons when they migrated west, making each pioneer wagon a tabernacle of sorts. I concluded that Lehi's tent must have been a very sacred space.

Beginning in vs. 16, Nephi tells us of his "great desires to know of the mysteries of God" -- obviously influenced by Lehi's experiences, and time Nephi spent in his father's tent, being instructed. The process he outlines next is very instructive, particularly for teenagers and their parents:

He "cries unto the Lord": (To call importunately; to utter a loud voice, by way of earnest request of prayer.)

Then the Lord "visits" him: (To visit in mercy, in Scriptural language, to be propitious; to grant requests; to deliver from trouble; to support and comfort.)

His heart is "softened": (made less fierce or intractable; made more susceptible of humane or fine feelings; as, to soften a hard heart; to soften savage natures. The heart is softened by pity. Diffidence concilliates the proud, and softens the severe. Made calm and placid. Made less harsh, less rude, less offensive or violent. Made tender; Made less harsh or grating;
Become more pliable and yielding to pressure; Become less rude, harsh or cruel; as, savage natures soften by civilization. Become less obstinate or obdurate; to become more susceptible of humane feelings and tenderness; to relent. Become more mild; Become less harsh, severe or rigorous.)

He did believe (To expect or hope with confidence; to trust.) all his father's words.

Wherefore, he "did not rebel against him like unto my brothers." By turning to the Lord for greater understanding, Nephi was able to sidestep the stumbling block of rebellion.

Next, he shared what he learned through the spirit with his brother Sam, and Sam believed.

Nephi then has an amazing Enos-like experience where he grieves for the hard-heartedness of his older brothers, and cries unto the Lord for them.

The resultant and attendant blessings of his faith, diligence (earnest love), obedience and humility are prosperity, power, authority, the ability to teach, and a promise that his offspring will not be overpowered unless they rebel.

As we head off to Sun Valley to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary, there is suddenly much opposition within my immediate family and I find myself deeply in need of a softened heart, in every sense listed above.

I am determined to apply Nephi's process today:
  1. Desire to know and understand
  2. Cry — Prayers of earnest request
  3. Allow the Lord to visit me with mercy, support and comfort
  4. Allow the Lord to soften my heart, become more tender, humane, pliable.
  5. Believe, trust, expect good things to happen
  6. Not rebel
  7. Share what I'm learning; bear testimony
  8. Grieve and Pray for those whose hearts are still hardened
and seek the attendant blessings.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

BOMT: Power Parenting

Oh, Father Lehi! How I love this man! Today my study is 1 Nephi 2:6-14.

After three days of wandering and camping in the wilderness, he stops and builds an altar. In other words, he cherishes his covenants and manages to incorporate temple worship into his life, even in the midst of crisis. It would be so like me to say, I can't possibly make it to the temple this month. We're moving, for heaven's sake! And our neighbors are threatening to kill us! But Lehi has his priorities straight and stops everything to put the Lord first. Love.

Like Jesus, who healed the blind with spit and mud (i.e. whatever was at hand), Lehi uses whatever is at hand as an object lesson for his wayward sons. "O that you were like this valley...O that you were like this river." I can do a better job of likening everyday experiences to the gospel and using them for teaching moments.

Then in verse 11 he tells us WHY they were being instructed. Stubbornness, rudeness, murmuring, reluctance and resistance and regret regarding their sacrifices. They call their father visionary: (affected by phantoms, imaginary, unrealistic) and his visions foolish: (Void of understanding or sound judgment; weak in intellect; applied to general character.). I noticed with particular poignancy here that Lehi doesn't point out their faults and character flaws. Instead, he both points out what they could be: "O that you were overflowing with righteousness like this river, O that you were firm and steadfast like this valley...." He singles out specific characteristics they can work on, using visual imagery. Again, love.

I also noticed that what Laman and Lemuel resented having to sacrifice were the same items listed that Lehi was able to walk away from. What made the difference was they (1) lacked a genuine understanding of "the dealings of God", and (2) had a limiting disbelief in God's ability to follow through. It makes me wonder how often my own children doubt my ability to follow through with consequences I prescribe.

I also noticed that the line "knew not the dealings of that God who created them" is cross-referenced to Moses 4:6, which states that Satan sought to intervene in the garden of Eden for the same reason: He "knew not the mind of God." In contrast to that, Moses 1 clearly states that what enabled Moses to ward off the buffetings of Satan was his knowledge of God and his relationship to God, that he was His son, that He knew him by name. I think one of the most significant things we can teach our children is to know and comprehend God, have a deep understanding of their divine heritage, and a personal knowledge that Heavenly Father knows them and loves them each individually.

In vs. 14, we're taught that the power Lehi had when he spoke was because he was filled with the Spirit. We can probably extrapolate that all his power as a parent was because he was filled with the Spirit. And his children obeyed. Even the ones who were inclined to murmur.

To be more like Lehi, and strive for power parenting, I am going to:
  • Make time for consistent temple worship, particularly in times of hardship and crisis
  • Look for analogies and teaching opportunities in whatever I have at hand
  • Point out excellent qualities my children can emulate (rather than pointing out their faults)
  • Be careful to follow through with consequences
  • Make sure they know and love their Heavenly Father (vertical attachment)
  • Strive to be filled with the Spirit in all my interactions with them

Sunday, August 1, 2010

BOMT: My Study System--The Seven S's

I realize that our approach to scripture study is highly individual, but I think we can all learn from each other's process. This outline, the Seven S's, is an outline that was essentially handed to me by the Lord when I started teaching Gospel Doctrine. Throughout this blog I often break down my comments into one of these seven steps. (Much of this is also similar to what I presented at the Sunstone Symposium a couple of years ago.)

In terms of my approach to Book of Mormon Therapy specifically, I would add that buying a new set of scriptures works well for me (I just choose the cheap paperbacks from Church Distribution) so I'm literally working from a blank slate, open to new insights and fresh ideas. I also approach this study with my own weaknesses in mind, and "how can I do or become better?" (therapy) as my guiding focus. I recommend that everyone delve into the Book of Mormon daily if possible, and at your own spirit-guided pace.

Sometimes I'll read an individual passage up to five times, first for story, then for skeleton, etc. Other times it's more intuitive and I'll go with whatever's most salient at the moment.

Please feel free to ask questions if something's not clear. It is, after all, just an outline, from which if I were teaching a class I would elaborate with lots and lots of concrete examples.

Making the Scriptures come Alive With Meaning

1. Start with Story: (Particularly Storytelling)
The Brother of Jared, Zeniff, Jonah, Shadrach, Joshua...I have hundreds of favorites.
(We're not talking puppet shows and flannel boards. More like channeling all the richness and truth from your preparation and feeding it to your class in story form.)

Becomes a vehicle for:
a. Sequence (putting things in a historical context)
b. Scenario (setting the stage)
c. Symbolism (can be brought out subtly within the story)
d. Substance (helping your students feel the richness of the text, sense something deeper)
e. Spirit (Let the Holy Ghost connect the dots)

Note: Storytelling is especially helpful in class situations where the preparation of individual class members is varied. Telling the story helps put everybody on the same page before you begin your discussion.

Note 2: Frequently when teaching a scripture passage with limited story potential I will tell a personal story that is analogous to the principles we're discussing. This helps pull the class into the discussion, and helps with Synthesis later on.

2. Sketch the Skeleton (Boiling the events down to the bare bones -- simple subject/verb. Ask: What is happening here and why?)

Great texts to do this with are:
a. Road to Emmaus (They talk of Christ, He draws near...etc.)
-- becomes a powerful example of how to gain a testimony.
b. Calming the storm (Storm arises, they are frightened...etc.)
-- becomes a great lesson on adversity and seeking peace.
c. Joseph Smith’s first vision account (He is confused, he studies the Bible, he prays, etc.) -- another great pattern regarding knowledge, testimony

This skeletal process makes it easy to perceive and pick out patterns that we can then apply to our own experience.

3. Single out Specifics (individual words, phrases, patterns, or one particular verse)
Some examples:
a. “Press” implies resistance; “Succor”: 1828 definition is “Run to their aid”
b. The repetition of the word “Remember” repeated in Alma 5 and Helaman 5
c. 40 Questions in Alma 5
d. Examples of action verbs in Mary/Martha/Lazarus story
e. Mentions of anger/wrath in Zeniff/King Laman story
f. The mention of Desires repeated in D&C Section 6 (We choose)

4. Study the Symbols
The specific objects used to illustrate a point (and sometimes we need to hunt for these) can often open up rich reservoirs of understanding.

Consider: Animals, Coins(money), Everyday Chores, Nature and Growth, as well as the more elusive and poetic symbols such as Isaiah uses.

5. Strive for Synthesis
This is where I ask for lots of class participation and focus on practical application:
a. Likening (See yourself, replace names, etc.)
b. Modern-day equivalent: (Broken bow = job loss)
c. How does this apply to me right now?
d. What am I going to take home and do differently?

6. See the Savior (If we seek Him, we shall find Him)
He is everywhere within the scriptures, if we look carefully, with spiritual eyes.
a. Search for Types of Christ
b. Seek his teachings
c. Look for opportunities to testify
d. Notice how many first-hand witnesses there are of the Savior, especially in the Book of Mormon

7. And of course, in and around and throughout all of these steps it is essential to Sense the Spirit.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

BOMT-Sacrifice and Obedience

2 Nephi 2:1 shows Lehi as a type of Christ:
"Because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life."
Verse 3 then shows Lehi's obedience: "he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded." I admire Lehi's courage to be completely obedient in the face of such resistance. I am not obedient by nature. I am such a free spirit that my first impulse is often to question, to rebel, to find a better or easier way. However, I can identify strongly with verses two and three when I realize that he was obedient after he was warned in a dream, because so was I.

Following is an excerpt of a talk I wrote about our experience as it relates to Lehi's:

Eight and a half years ago I had a series of dreams....
I’d been sufficiently humbled by some recent harrowing experiences and therefore was in a more receptive frame of mind than usual. :) Rich symbols and content made these dreams stand out as spiritually significant, and I recognized them as a form of personal revelation.

One spoke of the influence of extended family on our children, and another spoke of a new home, away from California; of an amazing gift that I could never repay. In my earliest waking hours, as I pondered the dreams, their message became clear: The Lord intended us to move to Utah.

At first I felt a reluctance to leave my comfort zone: My immediate reaction was a flow of tears, and a silent protest: “No, Please No!”

School, missions and marriage had brought both of us to southern California, over and over again. We honestly felt that was where the Lord wanted and needed us to serve. At church we held meaningful callings, had opportunities to contribute to the Kingdom there, and our ward was filled with amazing role models who loved us as much as we loved them. Our friends there had become our surrogate family. Most of all, just months ago we’d buried our baby there.

However, I remembered the goodness of God (particularly in my recent trials) and I could not say no. In a matter of moments I succumbed, knelt down and tearfully promised the Lord, “I’ll go where you want me to go.” Then for three full years I waited, more or less “pondering these things in my heart” (Luke 2:19), and at times wondering if perhaps we wouldn’t have to move after all.

When the time was right, we both knew. After all, we’d had three years to get used to the idea! I knew Jeff would get the job at BYU, knew our house would sell, knew it was time to go.
There were many steps involved in our final move, including job applications, buying and selling of houses, and painful goodbyes. Each required Faith, Trust, Courage, and Commitment to leave everything we know and love and journey into the relative unknown wilderness of Utah.

Most of the resultant blessings are easily recognized:
Here we are. (Maybe the promised land).
The children are in better schools, our house was fully paid for, beautiful mountains surround us, with deer and quail in the back yard, Jeff’s work has been even better than we expected, and unforeseen additional career opportunities have arisen. We have more time for me to spend with our children. (We've had our needs met, and more, to the point that we’re in awe of the unexpected blessings!)

We don’t know what else the Lord has in store for us here, but we know this is where we’re supposed to be right now.

(That paragraph is particularly interesting in light of all the recent developments with Josh. A blessing I didn't realize at the time was that being here and having our house paid off was what enabled us to help him when his problems arose.)

The Book of Mormon also begins with the story of one family, instructed in a dream to leave their dream house and their comfort zone, and be led by God through a series of unknowns.

There were varying levels of Faith, Trust, Courage, Commitment:
  • Lehi went willingly, and obediently. (1 Nephi 2:2-4)
  • Nephi sought confirmation and also followed willingly. (1 Nephi 11)
  • Laman and Lemuel whined the entire time. Went, but with lousy attitude, constantly threatening to return to Jerusalem. (Notice no one complained when they were instructed to obtain wives, however.) :)
I have to say that in retrospect I'm so grateful I took the Nephi/Lehi course on this one.

But that's not all. Last night I had another dream. A frightening one.
I dreamed that we were all just hanging around the house playing games, fixing dinner, etc.
Suddenly I looked out the window and saw swarms of people from the neighborhood above us leaving their homes and coming through our yard. I looked to the North and East and noticed that the ridge and the hill above our house were completely on fire. All these people had gathered their families and their belongings and evacuated their homes to safety. And somehow we hadn't heard, had no idea we were in danger. I remember frantically calling to the children to grab shoes, clothing, whatever they needed, and get ready to leave. Then I went into our bedroom and my head was spinning because I didn't know what I needed, had no idea what could possibly be important enough to take with us on a moment's notice. At the last second I was groping around on the closet floor trying to figure out which shoes to take and not able to find a mate to one of my hiking shoes. I looked at this giant television screen and saw on the news our hill, engulfed in flames. Then I realized the roar of the fire was overhead -- our roof was on fire. Our family was in immediate, life-threatening danger...and I couldn't even find a pair of shoes.

When I woke up, I pondered again verse 4: Lehi left his house, his inheritance, his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness. All we really need are our family, food, clothing and shelter. I have a renewed commitment to making sure the essentials can be readily collected at any time. And being willing to leave behind anything and everything else.

Friday, July 30, 2010

BOMT-Praise and a Pattern

This morning I read vs. 6 to 20 of 1 Nephi. For some reason I feel the need to study and ponder V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y this time around. The nuggets I'm mining seem to directly parallel what is going on in my life, day by day and minute by minute, so I'm trusting that this is the right pace for me for now.

Here's what I learned:

v.8 There is such a thing as an angelic attitude. It consists of singing and praising. This, like being "goodly" (pleasant, beautiful, gracious), is the direct opposite of murmuring. (I'm hoping my habit of constantly humming hymns will place me somewhat closer to the angelic camp.)

v.14 Immediately after receiving some really bad news (being told his homeland would be destroyed), Lehi remarkably responds with praise. He sees that God is showing mercy on him and his family by forewarning them, senses that they are being rescued, and (following angelic examples) chooses to praise rather than bemoan their fate.

v.15 Lehi's language reflected praise and rejoicing. What does my language reflect? Too often anger, frustration, impatience, irritation. Lehi's language of praise includes the following words:
Great, Marvelous, Almighty, Power, Goodness, Mercy and Merciful in referring to God and his works.

His whole heart was filled because of the things the Lord had shown him. He is also filled with the Spirit in v. 12 as he read. I have spent so many years subconsciously trying to fill the voids in my life with artificial fillers, such as food, sweets, sleep, and ineffectiveness, when the only real way to be filled is by the Spirit, through study and a closeness to Heavenly Father. Lehi also recognized he had been filled. Knowing that within ourselves seems to be key.

v.16 Lehi recorded the things he learned from the Lord so his children could have them. Nephi followed his example and began his own record, on plates he fashioned with his own hand. Recording our impressions and sharing them with our children is important. It is also important to follow those who have gone before us to create our own record, our own witness, our own learning and testimony. The fact that Nephi made the plates himself suggests we need to be fairly industrious and innovative about this, not waiting for anything to be handed to us.

v. 18-19 The Jews mocked and were angry with Lehi for calling them on the carpet, telling them to repent, prophesying destruction. I've had similar reactions from our children (although they haven't yet tried to kill me!) when I've told them their choices could be destructive, their clothes weren't modest, their music wasn't uplifting enough for the Sabbath, etc. I admire Lehi's courage here, because he "truly testified" regardless of their response.

v. 20 Nephi makes a point of showing us the following pattern:

Faith —> Being Chosen —> Tender Mercies —> Strength —> Salvation

In other words, We are chosen because of our faith, which leads to being rewarded with tender mercies, the purpose of which is to strengthen us and eventually deliver us. I often recognize "tender mercies" but forget that their purpose is to strengthen us, make us mighty, save us. I probably don't point out to our children all the tender mercies I see -- at least not often enough -- so they can be strengthened too.

BOMT-Happiness

Last night I had an amazing BOMT conversation in the car with my kids. We were just leaving Oakley, and both of the younger kids expressed some concern over whether or not Josh was going to make good choices. I explained to them very gently that we can't control what Josh chooses, but we had explained to him as best we could which choices would make him the long-term happiest. And left it at that.

Then suddenly it occurred to me to recite Alma 41:10 ("Wickedness never was happiness.") and testify of its truthfulness. As I did, something rather obvious but also earth-shattering in its pertinence came to me: I asked Jordan if she knew who in the Book of Mormon had said that. "Alma?" she guessed, as I breathed silent thanks for seminary. "Which Alma?" I prodded. "The Younger?" Correct again. I asked the kids why that might be significant that it was Alma the Younger who tells us wickedness never was happiness. Then we talked about what Alma did with the sons of Mosiah, how much trouble he was in, how he railed against the church, and how if anyone knows what wickedness feels like, it was him! Then we also talked about how he turned his life around, got a testimony, and spent the rest of his life repairing the damage he'd done. In the process he discovered true happiness, and spent his days bringing other people to the happiness of the gospel. He knew real joy, real happiness...and he knew from his own experience that wickedness was no substitute for that.

I realize now that I need to make a concerted effort to be an example to my children of this kind of happiness (rather than the murmuring of which I'm often guilty); to be a living witness of the Great Plan of Happiness. It also seems that the kind of demeanor I'm seeking is actually a sort of 1828 "goodly": pleasant, beautiful, and graceful. Working on it, working on it...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BOMT - In the Beginning...

1 Nephi 1:1

1 I, Nephi, having been aborn of bgoodly cparents, therefore I was dtaught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many eafflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a frecord of my proceedings in my days.

Good parents teach their children everything they know and have learned. Good parents/good teachers raised someone the likes of Nephi.

Having afflictions and being highly favored of the Lord are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it appears, since these are in the same sentence, that there is a corollary, and perhaps being highly favored brings on the afflictions, and our turning to him in the midst of those afflictions makes us again highly favored. (Think: The lord chastens those he loves.) Nephi's response to his afflictions is a deeper knowledge and understanding of God and His mysteries, and also a closeness to Him. Hardships seem inextricably linked to being loved by God and deepening our understanding of Him.

All of this compels Nephi to make a record of what he is learning and experiencing -- exactly what we're doing!

1 Nephi 1:2 -3
2 Yea, I make a record in the alanguage of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.
3 And I know that the record which I make is atrue; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.

Lehi modeled good language for his children; made sure what was spoken in his home was not corrupted. His children may have been bilingual: (The learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians) or this may just define Reformed Egyptian. Nephi was literate and able to write clearly and succinctly because of the example of his parents, particularly his father.

In the way we both speak and write, we can model excellent language for our children. In diction and tone, and by avoiding anything coarse or profane, we can use our words as a vehicle to express our faith.

1 Nephi 1:4
4 For it came to pass in the commencement of the afirst year of the reign of bZedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at cJerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many dprophets, prophesying unto the people that they must erepent, or the great city fJerusalem must be destroyed.

Lehi paid attention to the current counsel of the living prophets ("in that same year"). He prayed for personal confirmation of their prophesies, and prayed deeply (with all his heart) for "his people". He must have been at least a church leader, or could also have been (likely was) one of the many prophets preaching repentance to the people of Jerusalem.

I'm asking myself (and the Lord) Who are "my people?" Certainly my husband, my children. From there, the sisters I visit teach; the small pack of Webelos I lead; loved ones in our extended family. What about the sisters for whom I play piano in Relief Society? What about my FabuBabes? You are definitely "my people". What about my ward, my community? I feel a sort of Enos-like experience coming on, where I want to pray for so many people!

Okay, I'm stopping now. I can't possibly apply more than these three ideas today.



p.s. I looked up the word Murmur in Webster's 1828 dictionary, and it's defined as: 1. (N) A complaint half suppressed, or uttered in a low,muttering voice. 2. (V) To grumble; to complain; to utter complaints in a low, half articulated voice; to utter sullen discontent;

I'm feeling totally busted for all the disgruntlement I mutter under my breath. There I was, thinking that didn't count if I didn't actually say it out loud. And I find myself instead camping out with Laman and Lemuel! One more thing to work on, after just a few verses of scripture! Very humbling.

Monday, July 26, 2010

BOMT: Introduction, Q & A

My friend E recently ran across a copy of a talk I'd sent to her a couple of months ago, and suddenly this paragraph jumped out at her:
My second time teaching Book of Mormon in Gospel Doctrine, I chose to approach the year as “Book of Mormon Therapy”, the idea that there were many problems in our lives we could find answers to, solutions for, and even minor soul-repair in the scriptures. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. A new family moved into the area, and the wife set about carving out a niche for herself by breaking up other friendships. She became quite divisive as she weaseled her way into friendships, and she had singled out two of my closest friends, trying to get closer to them by talking about me behind my back. I had a hard time having any kind feelings at all for this woman, and my heart was hardening toward her. But as I read the Book of Mormon I realized the one who perhaps most needed this “Book of Mormon therapy” was me. Over several months of intense study, I rediscovered that one of the strongest overarching themes of the Book of Mormon was love, and that it was impossible to sincerely study without being touched by that love and radiating it outward. This woman eventually became a friend, and my heart had been softened and changed by the word of God.
Then she asked, "So, how can we practice "Book of Mormon Therapy" on a daily basis? I'm not saying that the Book of Mormon can cure everything. Even C doesn't say it in her talk. But how can this help us? I just was looking at our struggles and wondering how The Book of Mormon could help us. And how we might be able to pay more attention and see if we have any insights we could share. I've had all sorts of questions enter my mind. "

"How can Book of Mormon Therapy help me control my eating? How can Book of Mormon Therapy help me maintain control of my temper? Have the desire and/or motivation to exercise? Strengthen my marriage? Keep my priorities in order? Help me manage my time? Help me manage my finances? I'm feeling the head to heart gap in a big way today, perhaps. "

Oh, what great questions! How can a rich study of the Book of Mormon directly affect life's day-to-day challenges? There is nothing a good teacher (and God himself) loves more than a hungry heart! This was my lengthy and perhaps overenthusiastic response:

I'm so glad that paragraph resonated for you! These are great questions. I have about a thousand answers running through my head, faster than I can possibly type them.

1. First of all, hungering and wanting answers, wanting to make progress is an all-important first step.

2. Wendy Watson Nelson recommends simply beginning with a specific question in mind and reading until you get your answer. Another book she wrote more recently is titled, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. So there is something about finding and asking the RIGHT question, and then reading until you get an answer, that strikes me as key.

3. Message of the Book of Mormon (Elder Holland)

"Love. Healing. Help. Hope. The power of Christ to counter all troubles in all times—including the end of times. That is the safe harbor God wants for us in personal or public days of despair. That is the message with which the Book of Mormon begins, and that is the message with which it ends, calling all to 'come unto Christ, and be perfected in him' (Moroni 10:32)."

Jeffrey R. Holland, "Safety for the Soul," Ensign, Nov. 2009, 88

4. I left a comment on K's last post about my great-great-great grandmother, Mary Ann Frost, who had an apparent addiction to snuff. She said that whenever she was craving it, she would open the Book of Mormon, and reading from it would make the cravings vanish. I believe that we can apply that same principle to foods we crave that are unhealthy--particularly sugar.

5. Sometimes the answers and help and actual therapy aren't in the words themselves, but in the giant dose of the spirit that comes when we dive into the Book of Mormon.

6. A few times when we've had financial struggles I have studied the Book of Mormon paying particular attention to the word Bondage (as a metaphor for debt) and also work, labor, and industry. What I learned was fascinating and perspective-broadening, if not life-changing. I've embarked on other searches for specific instructions in the Book of Mormon as well: Instructions to and examples of families with wayward children; first-hand witnesses of the Savior; etc.

7. "The moment you begin a serious study of the [Book of Mormon], you will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the straight and narrow path....When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance."
--President Ezra Taft Benson Ensign, November 1986, page 7.

8. The phrase "Line upon line" from 2nd Nephi has inspired me to exercise, practice the piano, do all kinds of difficult things, using the concept of a little at a time and consistent daily effort.

9. President Gordon B. Hinckley:

"Brothers and sisters, without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God."

("The Power of the Book of Mormon", Ensign, June, 1988, p. 6)

10 & 11. "Our beloved brother, President Marion G. Romney, who celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday last month and who knows of himself of the power that resides in this book, testified of the blessings that can come into the lives of those who will read and study the Book of Mormon. He said:

'I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness' (Ensign, May 1980, p. 67).

"These promises—increased love and harmony in the home, greater respect between parent and child, increased spirituality and righteousness—are not idle promises, but exactly what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he said the Book of Mormon will help us draw nearer to God."

12. I'm wondering if we could have a Book of Mormon Therapy study group right here on the Blog. We could just start commenting on this post, or start a new one. Maybe each of us could post a particular problem, question, or personal struggle and then we could all dig in and start finding answers and making progress through a serious study of the Book of Mormon. Or just post something we're excited about that we learned each day. I just finished reviewing every talk in the conference Ensign and am ready to start a new scripture study program. I'm getting pretty excited about the idea of joint Book of Mormon Therapy here.

Here are a few responses:

N: What amazing friends I have. Your comments are better than gold, Charrette. I think sharing the impressions we receive while studying The Book of Mormon will be a tremendous blessing for us all.

E: These thoughts are awesome! Thank you so much for sharing. And I would love to do a Book of Mormon Therapy study for all of us. I love this idea. I'm really good about reading through the Book of Mormon, but I'm not so good at actually diving in and I would love to have an excuse (as pathetic as it is that I need one) to dive in more. I'm going to ponder your thoughts today.

K: This has me in tears. I need this so much in my life and I've been letting so much get in the way of what my soul is really hungering for. I've been told in my patriarchal blessing, and in more than one priesthood blessing that I need to turn to the scriptures. That my Heavenly Father is waiting for me to, so that he can pour forth the blessings He has in store for me.

And so our Book of Mormon Therapy begins.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Third Nephi: A Living Christ, A Living Church, Individuals Living By the Spirit

A friend sent me an email yesterday saying her daughter was asked to speak in church on Sunday and was feeling overwhelmed. The topic is "3 Nephi 11-20: Establishing the Church." She asked if I could offer any suggestions.

I found it exhilarating to read these chapters with the focus on "establishing the church" (which at first sounds a little dry and left-brained when there is so much here that is spiritually powerful and deeply moving). What I found is that seeing the Living Christ establishing His living church here in the Americas is a deeply spiritual call to each of us to step up our individual involvement...to seek and receive a personal witness, to participate in ordinances and make covenants one on one, to receive His power, to pray more intensely, to feel his love, his ministry, even his smile...

And then become newly committed by not only avoiding the really bad (outward) sins, but avoiding even the desire to go there by guarding our thoughts. (Not just don't kill...but don't allow yourself to be caught up in anger...Not just don't commit adultery, but don't even entertain a lustful thought.) And also give more than is asked or required.

And of course we know that the fruits of such a spiritual experience, such deep commitment, is 200+ years of peace...the only time and place in the history of the world where we read about such an enduring happiness.

Here is my rough train of thought and some key passages to consider:

His Audience

We know from the previous chapters that his audience of Nephites are people who are imperfect, who have suffered, grieved, yet allowed themselves to believe. They are in need of repentance, have resisted some gathering, and need to return to Him with "full purpose of heart".

This sets a more realistic and applicable stage for what happens in Chapter 11, when they hear the voice and feel the spirit.

Intense Focus

What jumps out at me first in vs. 3-6 is the amount of focus required to truly understand The Voice. ("And again the third time they did...open their ears to hear it, and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.") Their full attention is riveted on the Spirit.
It is only then, just like in the Road to Emmaus, that they see and recognize the Savior.

Seeking A Personal Witness

Next, in vs. 14-17 he calls on them to stand up and come to him so they can each receive and FEEL an individual witness: " Arise and come forth...that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet that ye man KNOW that I am [who I said I am]." They go up ONE AT A TIME so that each has an opportunity to personalize his pain, individually appreciate what He has done for them, and verify for themselves that He lives...and worship at his feet.

Power To The People, One by One

In vs. 19 -35 Christ then gives Nephi (and others) His Power (priesthood). He instructs them regarding baptism...an ordinance given individually, one on one, with an individual commitment. He spells out how we should be unified (regarding his baptism, his doctrine) but wants our covenant-making and commitment to be individual.

The Sacrament — Individual Renewal

Chapter 18 - He is the one who breaks and blesses it, setting the example for our priests today. Another one-on-one ordinance, set up to renew our individual covenants. The purpose: Always Remember, Witness. The promise: Always have His Spirit with us. We are commanded to repent and return to him with "full purpose of heart" (18:32) and promised to be healed.

Individual Preparation For Sunday Meetings

(Chapter 17, verse 3) We have the scriptures, the Sunday School reading, the Relief Society Manual...and even an upcoming general conference. He teaches us that we need to prepare ahead of time: ponder the teachings, pray for understanding, and prepare our minds...all in advance of our Sunday meetings. Then in verse 5 we see (again, like the Road to Emmaus) he perceives their tears with compassion and recognizes that they want to ask him to stay a little longer with them. They are blessed with his presence, healed. Again in chapter 19, verse 3, we see them making an enormous effort to be in the right place at the right time, so they can be in his presence. In 19, verse 22 he tells us we should meet together often, and try not to turn anyone away.


Membership Benefits

In Chapter 12-15, it struck me that that recap of the Sermon on the Mount (which I sometimes skim, because, yeah, we have that someplace else) is given specifically to members of the church, following yet another verse on bearing witness and being baptized. That seemed to make the message more applicable somehow...and I appreciated the addition in verse 12: "Ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven"...even while referring to the persecution we may face as members. He commands us to strive for perfection, all the while being patient and forgiving of those around us.

Interpreting Scripture

Christ personally clarifies some of the Bible's teachings-- explains John 10:16, the Law of Moses fulfilled, and their lineage. One of the primary roles of Christ's true church (and the Book of Mormon itself) is to shed greater light on ancient scripture and provide greater clarity for us today. In verse 21-24, getting back to the theme of the actualized individual, he uses that understanding to teach them who they really are.

Missionary Work

Then in Chapter 16 he turns our focus outward, remind us that there are yet others who need to be gathered, need to hear His voice and receive their own witness of the Savior. Chapter 18, v. 25: "See that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world".

Focus on Children

The later part of Chapter 17 perhaps shows us the first Book of Mormon primary, and says that our "little children should be brought." He commands the multitude to kneel and pray for them. He tells parents to "Behold your little ones" and proceeds to bless and minister to each one of them individually (again, it says one by one) and encircle the children with angels, with fire...showing them their divine nature and letting the parents see the power and beauty of these spirits they are raising.

We are also told to become more like those little children we are raising. 3 Nephi 11:31

Personal and Family Prayer

Chapter 17: 15-20 Christ sets the example and shows us how to achieve a fulness of joy through prayer. We see some of the deepest expressions of indescribable joy ever written.

Chapter 18: 16-21 He tells us to follow his example of personal prayer and pray always, both individually and in families. And He promises answers.

Chapter 19: Prayer in congregations, quorums. Prayers of gratitude. Inspired prayers, where we're given what we should say. Purification and sanctification through prayer. Deepened understanding through prayer. Ch. 20 -Pray in our hearts.

19:9 "And they did pray for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them."

Summary: The Spirit

The establishing of Christ's church in the Book of Mormon both begins and ends with the Holy Ghost. The ordinances of baptism and the sacrament both promise us His spirit. His command to see for ourselves, to receive our own witness involves the spirit. The spirit is key to all we do in His church.

And finally, some added hope for our day:

2 Ne: 2:4 "Thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever."