Saturday, April 25, 2015

Random Thoughts on Moroni, the Captain

Just a few thoughts about Moroni, the Captain in Alma.

  • He knew and understood the hearts of his enemies.
  • He anticipated the thoughts and intents of their hearts and minds.
  • He prepared to oppose their evil designs.
  • He went above and beyond in preparing for more than the worst he imagined they could inflict upon him.
  • He trusted not in the arm of the flesh.  
  • He was humble enough to seek council with other inspired men, including other Chief Captains.
  • He spread his resources.
  • He was fearless in speaking truth.
  • He understood balance in all things.
  • He was not ignorant to the temporal needs of his men, women and children.
  • He was not haughty or puffed up, despite leading thousands and thousands of men.  If he was, it was not such that those who compiled records, who were prone to observe pride, took any note of it. 
  • He prepared well in advance, sufficient enough to build walls of dirt, walls of timbers (which surely involved cutting down timbers), walls of spears and watchtowers. 
  • He must have had adequate skill, either in defensive war, or in delegation, to sufficiently support training of men to utilize his defensive barriers.  
Yes, he was mortal, and surely had imperfections.  But "if all men had been... and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.  Behold he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God." (Alma 48:17-18)

"Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain.  I seek not for power, but to pull it down.  I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country.  And thus I close mine epistle." – Alma 60:36

Monday, April 6, 2015

Aminadi and the Writing on the Temple Wall

"I am Amulek; I am the son of Giddonah, who was the son of Ishmael, who was a descendant of Aminadi; and it was the same Aminadi who interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God."- Alma 10:2
These are the first words of Amulek to the people he was addressing.  He introduces himself, mentioning his forefathers.  We don't have their record contained in the Book of Mormon thus far.  This is all we have to date.  So...

Abraham + Sarah
Isaac + Rebekah
Jacob + Rachel
Joseph + wife
Manasseh + wife
undetermined amount of generations
Lehi + Sariah
Nephi + wife
undetermined amount of generations
Aminadi + wife
undetermined amount of generations
Ishmael + wife
Giddonah + wife
Amulek + wife

 In one line in the Book of Mormon, we have allusion to a story that involves God writing with his finger, on the wall of the Nephite temple.  What all happened there?  I'll make a few assumptions.  

It appears that those who might have interpreted the writing on the wall of the temple were not able to.  Perhaps they were kings or priests.  Why did God need to write a message on the wall of the temple?  Were people not willing to listen to his words through other means?  Why something so drastic?  Were they in a state of apostasy, and only something which could not be erased would be heard?  Or maybe was this just to liven up the history books, so Amulek had some fun family history to pass on to his children?  

And what of the Nephite temples?  Did they require a recommend to attend?  Must one be of the tribe of Levi to officiate?  Must one be worthy to enter the Nephite temple?  Must one have been of a given age to attend?  Were their rites and ceremonies the same as ours today, or were they more like those of the Jewish customs?  Were women permitted to enter?  To officiate?  Was there anything required to prove worthy to be admitted?  

Who was Aminadi, that he is mentioned by name as being someone so peculiar as to be the one to interpret this writing?  Did he use any special tools to interpret it?  Was it just a gift, that he could read these writings?  Did people believe him?  Did he get persecuted for his abilities or for his actions?  Did he have to go into meditation, or a trance, to interpret it?  Or could he read it like you're reading my writings here?  Did the people believe his interpretation?  Did it cause them to repent?  Or did they largely ignore it?  Or perhaps believe, only to fall into a state of ambivalence after awhile? 

Was Aminadi anyone of importance?  Was he a Nephite king?  Or a Nephite priest, working in the temple?  Or just a temple observer?  Was he worthy to attend the temple?  Who was he?  Was he wealthy or poor?  

We learn in verse 5 that Amulek knew of the "mysteries and marvelous power" of the Lord, but he "did harden [his] heart, for [he] was called many times and [he] would not hear; therefore [he] knew concerning these things, yet [he] would not know" (vs.6).  

This story fascinates me.  Tucked inside just 6 verses, we learn about this mysterious story, and the response of Aminadi's descendant, Amulek.  Could Amulek be much like us?  Largely asleep to the history of our fathers?  Perhaps there were just a few generations in between this grandfather and his grandson.  Let's say 3-4 generations.  It was long enough to get to the point where for much of his life, it appears that Amulek just didn't really care to explore such things.  He was aware it had happened, but it probably was too out of the norm to examine.  In fact, it was so out of the norm, that the people where Amulek lived, in Ammonihah, found his restoring of a similar or even the same message to be so objectionable as to kill those who believed it just a few chapters later.  Death by fire, actually.  

I find the similarities uncanny.  It has been 3-4 generations since we had Joseph Smith.  His descendants of 3-4 generations have all passed on, with the passing of Eldred Smith a little while back.  When I speak of Joseph's teachings to those around me, the typical response is that we do not need dead prophets anymore, as we have living ones.  Because of this, it is easy to ignore the revelations and mysteries that Joseph restored.  I suppose this is fine, as long as the living ones are not as blind as the people of Ammonihah.  I hesitate to wonder if we are. 

The idea that God will not allow men to be led astray does not match up to this scripture.  It actually appears to be quite the opposite, if my assumptions are remotely correct.  God will not force anyone to listen to his words, nor to read the writing on the wall.  It's up to each one if they will harden their heart and ears or soften them.  

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Passover, Blood Moons, Easter Sunday and Grandma

Not sure where to start this post.  It's the fourth of April.  The night after a blood moon.  The second day of Passover.  The night before Easter Sunday.  This year we've decided to try celebrating Jewish Holy Days, rather than ones with quasi-Christian influences.  Over the years I've heard bits and pieces of people suggesting that Christian holidays are really take-overs by Christians of Pagan ones, so after thinking about it, I settled to reason that their ideas were sound.  That maybe if Mormons believe they are adopted into the House of Israel, maybe I ought to become more familiar with these holy days, and how to celebrate them.  

I started by sharing this video with my husband and mother, both of whom would be influential in making any effort a success.  Without their support, I knew I'd have a high "fail" rate.  

It's short and sweet, and after watching it 3 times I felt I'd have a good idea on how to attempt to do this, even though there are many aspects that are quite nearly impossible for a modern family to achieve.  For example, how does one get the blood of the firstborn, unblemished lamb on their door posts?  I don't even know where I could buy lamb's meat, much less acquire blood.  So this video suggests simply painting on cardboard to simulate the idea.  We did that tonight.  And last night we did a "treasure hunt" for the leavened bread, hid throughout the living room.  My kids loved it so much they asked if we could do it again tonight!  haha!

Since Passover this year supposedly goes from April 3-11, we'll be doing little bits and pieces of the celebration over that time.  Today we participated in a Seder with a Jewish lady in the ward, and although the kids went a bit haywire (and I kinda lost my mind too), it was really enjoyable.  I feel confident I could try this on my own next year.  

Now that the kids are asleep and we're wondering if we ought to fill Easter Baskets, I began thinking of my grandma.  She was the only grandparent I really knew, as the other grandparents had passed either before I was born, or when I was very young.  She was devoutly Christian, in fact probably the most religious person I'd ever known.  If one could be called fanatical, she would be one.  I've heard stories of her taking the bible so literally as to "eat" the word, by tearing out pages of her scripture and eating them.  Gosh I love her.  What I would give to be able to sit down with her and share all the things I've learned over the last few years.  I would love to see her response.  Would she support my findings?  Would she oppose me, and call me a heretic?  She was one who searched for a restoration of God's church, following minister after minister.  She would stand up in church and bear her testimony, rather than walk up to the microphone.  This past Sunday I stayed home after recovering from Strep Throat, and heard that a brother stood up in his pew to bear his testimony, and didn't go up to the stand.  I told my mom that he must've been thinking of Grandma, because that's totally something she would do.  Considering it was Palm Sunday, even more something up her alley.  (As I write this, my husband just walked in with two Easter Lillies, which is exactly what she used to take in to church and set on either side of the pulpit on Palm Sunday.)  In fact, on Palm Sunday or Easter - whichever would be closest to Easter, she would typically go up to the pulpit and sing us a song.  A capella.  And usually she couldn't hear if she was off tune, so we just smiled and hoped she'd sit down now.  But what I would give to sing with her songs of praise.  I think she'd probably be the only one in the house I'd really feel comfortable singing with like that.

Also on Easter Sunday, Grandma would call up the phone operator at 6 am, and announce "He is Risen!"  She would wear her royal blue dress, and on one of her lapels she would pin a large white cross.  Sometimes they were jeweled, and sometimes made with paper and tape.  Easter was surely her favorite holiday.  For her it was truly a Holy Day, and for years it has been one for me too.  I have to wonder if she would approve of our consideration of Passover.  She loved the Jews, and one of the highlights of her life was her trip with my granddad to Jerusalem.  Years before she died she gave me a large picture book that she had as a memoir of her trip, and I still keep it as a cherished reminder of her.  Oh how I wish I could talk to her again, in her prime of her mind and coherence, and see what she makes of all the amazing things going on in the world today.  I have to wonder what she would say.  

Fittingly, her name was Mary.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Earth Should Pass Away

After Alma was led to Amulek, and after a space of time where Alma spent blessing Amulek's home, they "went forth and began to preach and to prophesy unto the people" (Alma 8:32).  Mormon includes five whole chapters of their preaching to the people, specifically of Ammonihah.  This is aprox. the same size of the book of Jacob.  It is longer than the book of Moroni.  The sermons last about 18 pages long.  

Two verses into their preaching, we learn of the first objections of the people of Ammonihah.  What were Alma and Amulek teaching that was so contrary to their beliefs?  In as soon as verse 2 of Alma 9, we find out: 

"Who art thou?  Suppose ye that we shall believe the testimony of one man, although he should preach unto us that the earth should pass away?"

Who are you, Alma?  You think we should believe your single, solitary word?  Why should we believe you?  Where's your authority?  You're not coming through the proper "chain".  You look awfully weak, don't you?  Why should we listen to what you say.  We can pretty much count on knowing that you're a wack-job who is going to suggest we drink some kool-aid.

And you're preaching that the earth should pass away?  Whoa, whoa!  Next you're probably going to say your god will destroy this city.  Let's laugh at you.

So the folks did not believe Alma, and objected at his simple nature, but also thought his concept of the earth being destroyed was mock-worthy.

Question: if someone came to you and told you the earth should pass away, in all seriousness, would you believe them?  Do you believe the earth will pass away?  That it will die?  What does that even mean?

"We believe ... that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." - Articles of Faith 10 
What does that mean?  We have little to no concept, really, of what Alma was talking about.  It was a big enough of a deal that Alma taught it to these stiff-necked, hardened people.  And he taught enough about it that they objected to it, and it is the first of their objections.

To be honest I know very little about what particulars will happen when the earth dies and is renewed.  Does this only refer to it being burned at the Lord's coming?  Later in this chapter we receive quite a warning about the Lord's coming, although frequently when I have read it, I presumed it was about his First Coming.  But when looking closer, Alma points out when he comes, it will be in great glory.

"And not many days hence the Son of God shall come in his glory; and his glory shall be the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, equity, and truth, full of patience, mercy, and long-suffering, quick to hear the cries of his people and to answer their prayers.  And behold, he cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance, through faith on his name." - Alma 9:26-27 
He is referring to his Second Coming.  The whole of this chapter is a warning to us, not just the people of Ammonihah.  We frequently say that Mormon and Moroni saw our day.  That Nephi warns us in our day too.  Right here we have evidence that Alma, too, saw our day.  It's pretty phenomenal.

Despite the fact that the passing of the earth appears to be a largely lost doctrine, really the bottom line is that Christ comes to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance.  We must have faith on HIS name.  I believe this is different than simply being baptized to join a church.  While that might be important to fit into a community or social structure, being baptized to repentance has much greater weight.  When we place the focus on baptism solely to join a group, that is mal-placed; there it is ill-defined.  If God knows the intents of our hearts, and our heart simply intends to show gratitude for people who accept us into their social circles, that is different, I believe.

If you have been baptized, was the intent of your heart to give it to God, to have a complete change of heart?  Or was it to show your teachers that you appreciate them?  Currently I have a nephew serving a mission, and he bears testimony with great power.  There is electricity in the room.  Then the question becomes if the person will accept marriage, chastity, abstinence or some other prohibition as well.  This is all well and good, but will not the change in behavior be a natural result of true repentance?  Must we act as gate-keeper to the kingdom?

I love that Alma simply taught truth.  He had a LOT of it.  But like other prophets who see our day, they repeat that the bottom lines are very, very simple.  Faith on his name.  Baptism unto repentance.  And if we're lucky, we learn some of the mysteries of the kingdom along the way. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dungeons and Fires

And Alma went forth, and also Amulek, among the people, to declare the words of God unto them; and they were filled with the Holy Ghost.
And they had power given unto them, insomuch that they could not be confined in dungeons; neither was it possible that any man could slay them; nevertheless they did not exercise their power until they were bound in bands and cast into prison. Now, this was done that the Lord might show forth his power in them.
And it came to pass that they went forth and began to preach and to prophesy unto the people, according to the spirit and power which the Lord had given them. - Alma 8:30-32

We read these verses this past week during our family scripture-reading time.  I really love the experiences we have of Alma and Amulek's mission together.  I say mission, not like the current interpretation, but the sense that they had a mission or a task they were to accomplish.  Alma was pretty much ready to wipe the dust from his feet when it came to the city of Ammonihah, but an angel of the Lord stopped him, told him to return, and he was led to Amulek's house.  Little did he know, Amulek would be pre-alerted likewise by an angel to receive him.  Their mission together is so remarkable, it is amazing to me that it is so often overlooked.

The parts highlighted above.  What do they mean?  They could not be confined in dungeons.  How?  Why?  Can you imagine what that looks like?

It was impossible to kill them.  IMPOSSIBLE!  Meaning someone or some people tried, possibly at least once, but probably on more than one occasion (to ensure the first attempt was not just a fluke).  Those who wished them harm had no power over them.  No weapon could be formed to harm them.

BUT, unlike magicians and master showmen, they weren't about magic tricks, to amaze and tease their audience.  They did not show forth their power until the very last moments, when they were bound and cast into prison.  (I guess that could resemble some magicians, who like to lock themselves up and get stuck in water tanks.)  But this was not entertainment, as they had a REAL message to share, beyond sheer shock and awe.  The Lord wanted to show forth his power.  But since it was not the appointed time for him to come directly, he showed forth his power in them, by proxy.

Why does God use servants like Alma and Amulek?  And how do we know when we encounter true servants?  A few thoughts, following the pattern of Alma and Amulek.

  • True servants will be humble.
  • They will follow the pattern of scripture.
  • They seek not their own, but are endowed with power to be preserved, when appropriate.
  • They will receive angels.
  • They preach repentance.
I did not intend to take this post this direction, but will trust that someone needs those words.  I intended to write about the wonders of how they escaped the dungeons.  How did they?  Have you ever stopped to think HOW this happened?  Was their body changed, to be able to escape?  

In the book, Visions of Glory, we learn of how "Spencer" becomes translated.  When I read this verse this past week, I wondered if Alma and Amulek of necessity experienced translation.  If I recall correctly, it seems that the body is quickened, and it may happen slowly or quickly.  I thought it really cool to wake up and read this post this morning, grateful someone else had some thoughts on the matter.  

Additionally, perhaps the use of portals was used, as Spencer describes in Visions of Glory as well.  Portals are something I think of akin to watching Star Trek, but it's not hard to imagine.  It's a conduit or opening, allowing someone to move from one geographic location to another.  If God can walk through walls, appear in spaces without coming through doors, and float down from the heavens, I think it's entirely plausible that such a thing as a portal to travel between locations would be possible.

When I opened up my scriptures this morning, I asked God where I should read.  I always like this method of knowing where to read, as some really great things are opened up when I trust that I can hear the voice of God.  It gives me joy to feel a connection in this way, as often the verse I read is undeniably sent from Him.  Helaman 5:23 came to mind.  Here's what it says:

And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi were encircled about as if by fire, even insomuch that they durst not lay their hands upon them for fear lest they should be burned.  Nevertheless, Nephi and Lehi were not burned; and they were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned.  
This is ANOTHER perfect example of two souls who were obviously changed, somehow, so their bodies could permit the miraculous to be happening around them.  They were not burned!  Even though they were standing in the middle of a blazing fire, or so it appeared to all present.

How wonderous are the dealings of our God.  How does one attain such faith, to become so changed?  If he have faith as a grain of a mustard seed, you can move mountains.  It appears that understanding the true nature of faith would be the first step in the right direction.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Are We Children of God?

This has been sticking out in my mind and heart lately.  Is the idea that we are "children" of God instantaneously because we are here, a true statement?  Please consider some quotes from Joseph Smith, from his "King Follet Discourse".  (We have four accounts of this discourse.  I highly enjoyed reading all of them.  They are some of the most beautiful expositions on the nature of God's eternal plan that I have ever read.)

"All men say God created it in the beginning. The very idea lessens man in my estimation. I do not believe the doctrine; I know better. Hear it all ye ends of the world, for God has told me so. Before I get through, I will make a man appear a fool if he doesn't believe it. I am going to tell of things more noble...
God never had power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. Intelligence exists upon a self-existent principle; it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it...
The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God found himself in the midst of spirits and glory , and because he was greater, he saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have the privilege of advancing like himself – that they might have one glory upon another and all the knowledge, power, and glory necessary to save the world of spirits..."

How does this line up with "I am a child of God"?  Or "We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us and we love Him"?

Another scripture, which further puts forth the nature of our beings.

"Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are...eternal." (Abraham 3:18)
This is not to say He did not create our bodies.  Not so.

"In the image of his own body, male and female, created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created and became living souls in the land upon the footstool of God."
(Moses 6:9)
It appears that He has created our bodies, however our spirits have no beginning or end.

I wonder if understanding our true nature is half the battle in overcoming depression, self-doubt, or overall misery.  Joseph taught that one could not truly know God without understanding the nature of His being (or Be-ing).  It stands to reason that this is just one teaching where we may be a bit skewed, and readjusting direction may help us find greater understanding of God's course for us.   

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Upside down, Inside out

It all started in 2004, when I got bored with the radio and started listening to talk radio, and this freak-o guy that had the song, "Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous" playing as his theme song.  I began looking at all my political views upside down, inside out, wondering how people could never put themselves in one another's shoes and expect the other side to always cave to their demands.

Then it turned into examining my own religious beliefs, upside down, inside out.

Then it turned into medicine, upside down, inside out.

What happens when you look at things upside down, inside out all the time?  Eventually the only thing you believe, and the only thing you trust, is the Source of all Truth.  I suppose that is how He would have us be, if we are to never trust in the arm of the flesh. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

I Don't Understand

This quote is from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.  I love the man.  I used to repeat this belief, but since being awakened, I see everything differently.  Everything.

Sweet Elder Holland, what about this?
"We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory." - Joseph Smith, Article of Faith #10
When I was a kid, if I recall correctly, we learned the Articles of Faith as songs.  Maybe I wasn't a kid.  Maybe I was just a teacher.  Do any of you remember having Article of Faith included in any of your Primary Presentation lineups in the last 20 years?

And what about this?
"God will gather out His Saints from the Gentiles, and then comes desolation and destruction, and none can escape except the pure in heart who are gathered."  -Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 71
And then 3 Nephi 21.  Read it!  Now!  If you don't believe the Book of Mormon, and if you don't believe Joseph Smith, then why go to such effort to print millions of and have missionaries give them out free?  I don't get it.

May God bless you.