Friday, October 20, 2017

IF/THEN of Mosiah 2, King Benjamin's sermon

King Benjamin's people had a deep response to his relaying of the message from the angel of the Lord.  This post is a general summary of this chapter, in list form.  As described in Mosiah 2 (Simple Edition), the people hearing his message:
  • Fell to the earth (Quite dramatic, in my opinion.  How often do I fall to the earth willingly, at a message or sermon?)
  • Fear of the Lord came upon them
  • They viewed themselves in their own, personal, carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth
  • They cried aloud in one voice, begging for 1) mercy, 2) atoning blood of Christ, that they might 3) receive forgiveness of sins and 4) that hearts may be purified
  • They expressed belief in Jesus Christ the Son of God who created heaven and earth and all things who will come down among the children of men
After they had done this, what happened: 
  • The spirit of the Lord came upon them
  • They were filled with joy
  • having received a remission of their sins
  • having peace of conscience because of their exceeding faith in Jesus - who HAD NOT YET COME - but they believed Benjamin's account
After all this, Benjamin their king begins to speak to them again, in this very interesting sermon.  He's not yet done.  He gives many important if/then statements, worth pondering.

IF:   
  • IF the knowledge of the goodness of God has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, worthlessness, and fallen state
  • IF you have come to the knowledge of the goodness of God and his matchless power, wisdom, patience and long suffering towards you, and the knowledge of the atonement prepared from the foundation of the world
  • IF you know that salvation might come to you that will put your trust in the Lord
  • IF you will be diligent in keeping his commandments
  • IF you will continue in the faith, even unto the end of your life (mortal body)
THEN:
  • THEN you receive SALVATION through the atonement prepared from the foundation of the world, which is available for ALL mankind - who ever were since the fall of Adam, who are or who will be until the end of the world.  
These are the keys of salvation.  Keys of knowledge which open doors of information.  Benjamin just told you.  He underscores even more: 
  • There is NONE other salvation except this one
  • There are NO other conditions whereby man can be saved
  • BELIEVE in God, that he is, that he (this "Jesus Christ", as explained above) created all things in heaven AND earth
  • Believe that he has all WISDOM in heaven and earth
  • Believe that he has all POWER in heaven and earth
  • Believe that man does not COMPREHEND all the things which the Lord can comprehend
  • Believe that you must repent of your sins, forsake them, and humble yourself before God
  • Believe that you must ask in sincerity of heart that he will forgive you
Can you do this?  Is this possible?  Is this believe attainable?  

IF: 
  • You believe these things? 
THEN: 
  • Do them
IF: 
  • IF you come to the knowledge of the glory of God
  • IF you have known of his goodness
  • IF you have tasted of his love
  • IF you have received a remission of your sins which causes exceedingly great joy
(Have you?  These people did.)

THEN REMEMBER: 
  • Remember the greatness of God
  • Remember your own nothingness
  • Remember his goodness and long suffering towards you unworthy creatures (lol! Don't mince words Ben!)
  • Remember to humble yourselves even in the DEPTHS of humility
  • Remember to call on the Lord daily
  • Remember to stand steadfast in the faith of what is to come (or what came, meaning Jesus)
IF:
  • You do this
THEN: 
  • You will ALWAYS rejoice!
  • You will be FILLED with the LOVE of God
  • You will ALWAYS  retain a remission of your sins (because it can be lost)
  • You will grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you
  • You will grow in the knowledge of that which is just and true
  • You will not have a mind to injure one another
  • You will have a mind to live peaceably
  • You will have a mind to render to every man according to that which is his due
  • You will not suffer your children that they go hungry or naked
  • You will not suffer that your children transgress the laws of God, fighting and quarreling one with another
  • You will not serve the devil, the master of sin, the evil spirit enemy of all righteousness
  • You will teach your children to walk in the ways of truth and soberness
  • You will teach your children to love one another
  • You will teach your children to serve one another
  • You yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor
  • You will administer of your substance to those in need
  • You will not suffer the beggar to put their petition to you in vain
[What stuck out to me dramatically, was an understanding that the blessing of being capable of teaching my children to have love for each other was part of the "then" section.  It is a byproduct of the remembering listed above.  I try so exceedingly hard to teach my children these things, but it ought not be difficult.  If I take care of the remembering above, I am virtually promised, per this message, that the mind to live peaceably among my family will be a consequence.  This would not have dawned on me had I not printed out this section, and begun circling "if" and "then", and underlining what appeared to be connected.]  

IF:
  • You impart of your substance to the poor, diligently
THEN:
  • You win the prize
[Again, imparting of my substance to the poor is a byproduct of the remembering section above.  It ought not be difficult.]   

IF:
  • You do not watch yourself
  • You do not watch your thoughts
  • You do not watch your words
  • You do not watch your deeds
  • You do not observe the commandments (which Benjamin admits there are so many ways to sin, he cannot number them)
  • You do not continue in the faith of what you have heard
THEN: 
  • You must perish

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Observances of Mosiah 1

Study observances from Mosiah 1 (Simple version)

  • King Benjamin's father's name is Mosiah
  • King Benjamin uses the words "suffer" and "list" quite a bit more than the average speaker.  (Original BoM uses "suffereth" and "listeth").  
  • 1828 Webster's Dictionary defines "list" in this manner, as the 6th definition of the transitive form of the verb -  "To hearken; to attend; a contraction of listen, which see". 
  • King Benjamin "could not teach them all within the walls of the temple".  This infers that variant teaching was typically done inside the temple, rather than strictly routine teaching or strictly ritual. 
  • His teachings, appropriate for the temple, were done outside the temple, open invitation.  Attendance was encouraged. 
There are obviously quite a bit more deeper messages in this chapter.  At the end, he relays a very important prophesy delivered by an angel of the Lord, which causes the people to literally fall upon the earth in the next chapter.  What would it look like, for the fear of the Lord to fall upon the reader of chapter 1, like the listeners did live in the flesh?  


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Beware of Sacred Secret Combinations

This post has been a long time coming.  I have tried several times to share this story for someone's benefit.  In my mind, I have already published it those several times, but after searching more than once, I can't find any post where I discuss this experience.  So with hope in mind that this may help someone, I share it.  I hope it will further blessings, not cursings, and quite possibly help someone avoid the pain that has accompanied the lesson.  It ran deep.  

A friend taught me a long time ago to hold revelation loosely.  He said it's important when you receive revelation, to hold it loosely enough that if more revelation were to come, it would not unsettle me because I allowed room for more gaps to be filled in, for more knowledge to be gained, and more wisdom to be inherited.  To hold a revelation rigidly would not allow for greater light and knowledge to be gained, perhaps causing me to rigidly reject the new information, labeling it not of God.  With that in mind, I sought increased personal revelation from God Almighty.

During the time I was working closely with this male friend, seeking to learn the things of God.  I felt he knew more than I did, so I trusted much of what he taught me.  He later told me he really didn't know anything.  Despite his repentance from his pride of believing he knew anything worth sharing, I still believe much of what he taught me contained a great deal of truth.  It has withstood at very least, several years of time and careful evaluation and life experience.  He was endowed with wisdom on this point of holding revelation loosely.

About the same time I worked with him, I was friends with several individuals.  They were seeking the things of God, as I was.  One of the women had already learned amazing things, and I wanted to learn them too!  These were things related to talents and skills I knew I held in myself, but didn't understand or know how to translate into everyday use.  Looking back, it wasn't that this knowledge was impossible to learn, it was just that she had been down the path of finding it for a longer period of time than I had.  For clarity in this post, I will call her the 'Revelator', as she claimed to receive information from angels and Jesus to pass along to the rest of us.  I was so excited to know her!  To learn from her!  To work with her!  So cool!

Another female was seeking knowledge from the first - I'll call her the 'Elder', as she had wonderful skills and God-given blessings that appeared just as special as being able to receive clear revelation.  Her experience seemed wise, compared to my inexperience.  She was the one who had introduced me to the Revelator to begin with.  And I was so excited to know her too!  To be her friend was a gift I sincerely cherished, because I felt we were such kindred spirits.  I absolutely loved her with all my heart, quite possibly more than any friend I'd had in a long time.  I trusted her extensively.

The third woman was a supporting friend who likewise associated with the other two.  She appeared to hold so much charity that one could not help but love her.  I'll call her the 'Charity'. At least it appeared to be charity.  She was so very, very sweet, and lent the impression that she was on a constant spiritual high.

And then there was me.  I was several years younger than all of them.  And I was poor and unkempt under the surface.  Despite my inexperience in motherhood and life, I was chipper and happy and eager to be their friend.

In time I considered myself very close friends with the three, joining them on the path towards God.  And as I learned from them, it had been made clear to me, that certain things they shared with me were so special, so "sacred" that I ought never share outside the confidence of the group.  It was quite like something kids might say on the playground or at a sleepover.  "You're my bestest, bestest friend, so I'm going to share this private private information with you.  PLEASE don't tell ANYONE what I'm going to tell you, ok?"  Sure!  I won't tell anyone, even though I have no idea what you're going to divulge.  Tell me everything.  As a person of integrity, I had no need or desire to break the trust they placed upon me.  

One day, things changed when I received a strong inclination to tell one of their revelations with my husband.  In truth, who doesn't want to share intimate secrets with their spouse?  The natural disposition of humans is to divulge secrets.  And if one loves their spouse, would they not also want them to receive the special revelations of God, to progress along the path towards Him and know the things of Him?  Is that not only natural, but Christlike love?  To want everyone to be special, special, special and learn this understanding of sacred things?

But wait.  To share their revelations - which I all but promised and nearly-but-didn't-completely swear up and down not to – would be breaking trust with them.  It would not only turn me into a gossip, but completely and clearly untrustable.  Is that really you prompting me, God?  Is this a test?  Don't you want me to keep your revelations sacred?  Is my husband worthy of such things?  Would he reject the revelation, and by doing so, have his progression damned because he rejected information from God, despite it not being his own?

I asked this question for days, weeks, and what felt like forever.  I pushed off the prompting.  No way would I share their secret.  NO way.  I was a woman of integrity, and I can keep confidences.  But the feeling persisted.  Was this the devil, pressuring me?

Such confusion!  Ugh!  

One day, I even talked to the Revelator about it.  I didn't tell her specifically what I had been feeling, but just that I had been feeling led to do something that seemed or felt very contrary to anything I'd ever experienced.  She confirmed that I'd need to follow my heart, which ironically was confirming that I needed to share this secret.

What a betrayal!  What a friend I wasn't!  How could I do that???  Ugh!!!

Trusting in the mercy of God, I proceeded one evening to share her secret with my husband.  My hands shook.  I was petrified!  We were sitting in a restaurant on a date, and I could have sworn the whole room was listening, even the walls.  Angels taking note, good or bad.

My husband's response?  He thought the revelation was nothing he cared to even discuss or hear more of, and left it at that.  Next conversation, Jen.  Eat your food.

Little did I know that Charity was also receiving such promptings, but rather than follow them, she asked permission to share from the Revelator and the Elder.  They adamantly and with much vehemence, declined her request, then strengthened the need and requirement for their secret to be kept among all of us by calling me to assert the requirement.  When the Elder shared this information with me, I felt extreme guilt, and the next day apologized to her, admitting that I had already done such sharing.  I called the Revelator and confessed likewise.  She took in my apology, processed it, and a week or so later spent 45 minutes on the phone, yelling, deriding, chastising me, and furious that I was only acting on my own guilt, weakness, and need to feel accepted by my husband. Her confident belief was that I shared her secret to satisfy my own personal needs, and it had nothing to do with God's will.  She was absolutely certain.  And I believed her.

I cried, I petitioned God for forgiveness, I cried and apologized for hours to my friend, the Elder.  I mourned, literally sobbing at times.  I could not feel any lower.  After a few days I begged her to help me reconcile with the Revelator.  After defending myself, asserting that I felt it was God's will for me to share, she was shocked at my audacity.  I simply did not understand, she felt, the absolute PAIN I had caused, and I was not repentant enough to merit continuing the friendship.  I needed to repent more for what I had done.  This was all done via a very lengthy email, which included a rejection of our friendship as well.  In her words, I was virtually cast out of the Garden of Eden.

So confused, so heartbroken, so depressed, I cried AGAIN for days, asking God for forgiveness.  Where had I gone wrong?  Had I transgressed His commands, His requirements for keeping sacred things private?  But my husband was not the devil, nor was he someone who would spread such things.  Oh, what a mess!  Such remorse, such regret.

In talking to my male friend, who taught me to hold revelations loosely, he simply told me he didn't think I was wrong to share.  He believed I had simply followed God's promptings.  Simple.  Nothing to be mourn about.  And if I had greatly sinned, he did not feel it warranted great repentance and sackcloth and ashes.  It was an honest attempt at listening.

Could it be true?  Was it possible that a lowly soul like me, who isn't a revelator, not particularly wise, and not exactly charitable, could receive a revelation which was contrary to women with such clear bestowals of heavenly power and wisdom?  Could it be possible that I was right in obeying the command placed upon my heart?

In sincere truth, whether I'm right or wrong, I know with my heart I did the absolute BEST I could do, with the information I had been given.  It's been years since this took place and I feel no pedestal-like respect for any of them, yet no animosity either.  Knowing I'm not a gossip, I know it could not possibly be my nature to want to spread people's personal information around just for the sake of sharing.  I only knew how to follow my heart.  From this I learned that the primary way I receive revelation is through the heart.  And I don't know, but I strongly trust that I was doing what God asked me to do, whether or not these three witnesses of sorts believe that to be false or true.

If I take a moment to imagine that I was wrong, there are myriad of scriptures to suggest that God appreciates our repentance, and will gather us as a hen gathers his chicks.  He does not delight in casting people out of his garden, and to cast one away is a monumental, earth shattering event.  This was not an earth shattering transgression in God's eyes, and He did not remove His influence from my life.  If anything I learned to trust God more completely, relying less and less on the arm of the flesh.  All good things.

This experience prompted the early posts on this blog, about forgiveness, and relying on the mercy of Jesus for healing.  Indeed, this experience initiated A Major Shift in my life, one I am still working on daily.

God continues to remind me of this experience from time to time.  Two main lessons stick out.

1.  This drama was one of the most powerful experiences I have had, in learning to bravely listen to the promptings of God.  Hypothetically, one would think it might have been easier had He just spoken audibly to me, shown up to me, or otherwise made the instruction clear.  But God is persuasive, gentle, meek, and patient.  He did not force me to share the secret, but the prompting was persistent over time, not like a drug addiction, but a knowing that this step was required to fall back and trust in Him more.

2. Like it or not, I was part of a secret combination.  There were three important parts to this combination.  They will serve as red flags to me for the rest of my life.  

  • There was secret information, considered sacred, that I was committed to never break from, disobey, or malign. In some ways, out of human decency, I continue to keep their secret private.  
  • The consequence of revealing the information out of the combination meant a literal "death" of the relationship.  Only those deemed worthy were permitted to participate in the combination. 
  •  It required trusting the flesh, verbal commitments, and expression of spiritual confidence via "yay" or "nay".


Regardless of whether or not what was placed on my heart was from God, like I felt, or from the devil, like the women felt, I learned without a doubt, how to identify a secret combination.  They are painful.  They are innocent, at least to the ignorant.  They are prideful.  They are "special".  And they are rampant, as it is an innate need for us to feel as though we "belong".  Adlerian psychology suggests it is a primal need to belong, one of our core needs.

Secret combinations are not limited to gangs, as we suppose in Sunday School class.  They are not only accessible to the urban populations.  They are not left to the evil, hateful disposition of people.  These women were Mormon, spiritual, talented, kind, and generous.  And because I shared a piece of information with another human, they (or I did, as they claim) obliterated our relationship, not by force, but by choice.  My choice?  I would have retained the relationships.  Their choice?  They exterminated it.  I am beyond grateful for the experience.  I wish to not be aligned with secret, holy or unholy combinations.  The experience has allowed me to use this as a red flag to avoid future experiences with darkness claiming to be light.  It was extremely painful, which acted as another red flag.

And perhaps, should I err in my judgment, I trust God will continue to work with me as I repent of it.

With love,
~Jen

p.s. - After composing this piece several days ago, and leaving it in draft form, I was asked to share it today.  I trust someone needs it, and hope, again, that it blesses the reader.  I ask God to bless those involved, and hold no ill will towards any of the individuals discussed. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Free as a Bird

Birds have intrigued me during the last year.  Inspired by bird feeders, bird books, bird statues, and living birds, I observe their freedom to act.  They go where they want, unrestrained by borders, countries, laws and ordinances.  Seeing what most other creatures will never see, they make the air their home.  Having lightweight bones, slick feathers, and sharp beaks, they survive somewhere between heaven and earth.


They often eat by pulling food from the earth, and taking it to higher ground.  Their primary cautions are predators and weather.



God is mindful of each sparrow, and knows when they fall.  The average human pays little attention to birds, because they are not in their field of vision.  But in spending more time looking at the sky, one observes a vast world of birds.  Some extremely small.  Some extremely large.  What is their purpose?

I suppose they are to teach me something about freedom.  

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Nephi's last words

Nephi leaves an ominous warning to the reader of his book.

And now my beloved brethren 
all those who are of the house of Israel 
and all you ends of the earth 

I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust 
farewell 
until that great day will come 

and you that will not partake of the goodness of God 
and respect the words of the Jews 
and also my words 
and the words which will proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God 
behold I bid you an everlasting farewell 
for these words will condemn you at the last day 
for what I seal on earth will be brought against you at the judgment bar 
for thus has the Lord commanded me and I must obey 
Amen


Having completed a recent reading of 1 and 2 Nephi over the last few months, I ask myself, "What is Nephi's message?"  

Here he warns, that if: 
  • you who choose not to partake of God's goodness, 
  • nor respect the words of the Jews (not necessarily their traditions, which Nephi denounces, but the testaments which come from them), 
  • nor respect Nephi's own words, 
  • nor have ear for the words which come from the Lamb
– these words will condemn those who choose to ignore them.  What is Nephi's overreaching message?  He's pretty serious about wrapping up the book.  He clearly took a lot of effort to share certain things for us.  

My observations: 
  • Nephi's books are filled with visions, revelations, dreams
  • His books recount the consequences of sin
  • He laments openly about his weaknesses
  • He is passionate about loving his God, who he calls "my Jesus" (reminds me of this guy!)
  • He has sealing power
  • He encouraged face to face meeting with God
  • He glories in plainness – there are not "hidden" gotchas that one must try feverishly to read between lines.  
  • He reveals everything he possibly can about how to enter the "path", states little or nothing of special churches, groups, clubs or groups which require pacts, promises, or combinations
  • He preaches the importance of baptism of water, of fire, of Holy Ghost, and entering into the "path"
I have grown to have an immense appreciation and love for Nephi.  I have read and heard others say that they find his writings and personality dry, boring, and humorless.  One author I read commented that he would probably not be likely to participate in friendship with Nephi because he seemed to be a bland kind of guy.  People used to comment in church how they could never "get through" his book, especially his retelling of Isaiah's accounts.  I find that reading Nephi's account in the Simple Copy has opened my eyes up to his heart, his passion, and his personality.  I don't find him dry at all.  I find Olde English dry.  

Monday, May 1, 2017

A New Tongue

But 
behold 

my beloved brethren

thus came the voice of the Son
unto me saying
"After you have repented 
of your sins 
and witnessed 
unto the Father
that you
are willing to keep 
my commandments 
by the baptism of water 
and 
have received 
the baptism of fire 
and of the Holy Ghost 
and can speak with a new tongue 
yes 
even with 
the tongue of angels 
and after 
this should deny me 

it would have been better 
for you 
that you had not known me"

And I heard a voice from 

the Father 

saying "yes, 
the words of my beloved 
are true and faithful

He 

that endures to the end 
the same 
will be saved" 

And now my beloved brethren
I know by this 
that unless a man will endure 
to the end 
in following the example 
of the Son of the living God 
he cannot be saved 

wherefore do the things which I have told you 
-Nephi