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.