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.

  • 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.