Monday, October 27, 2008


"We all act upon or give obedience to knowledge. Whether in science or religion, our obedience is not blind when we act upon knowledge suited to the subject of our action. A scientist receives and acts upon a trusted certification of the content or conditions of a particular experiment. In matters of religion, a believer’s source of knowledge is spiritual, but the principle is the same. In the case of Latter-day Saints, when the Holy Ghost gives our souls a witness of the truth of the restored gospel and the calling of a modern prophet, our choice to follow those teachings is not blind obedience."

This is from Dallin H. Oaks' April 2008 Conference Talk, "Testimony." I have been struggling with a certain topic, feeling pulled one way by my personal, cultural, and political views and another by the stated position of the First Presidency. After much (MUCH) thought, reading, and prayer, I finally decided that despite my worries and doubts, I would align my personal position with that of the First Presidency. This took humility: more than I realized it would. And then I found that my Relief Society lesson would be based on this talk by Elder Oaks. In many small instances as I prepared for the lesson, I found myself instructed by the Spirit, and by the end of my lesson on Sunday, I felt reassured that although I don't understand this position fully, that I would be blessed by my choice to be obedient.

I have a rebellious streak. I don't like to follow the status quo without good reason. But I truly believe in my heart that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is headed by a man of God, a prophet for today. As much as I see through a glass darkly, I'm going to do my best to trust that the Lord will lead us in the right way, and that this is a worthy battle.

So there. Today's thoughts on obedience.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 8

This chapter is Lehi's Tree of Life vision. Again, he dreams, and in v. 2, he equates this dream with having a vision. And the saddest part for him, again, is that while he sees some of his family grasping hold of light and truth and joy, he also sees Laman and Lemuel choosing their own path, away from the peace of the fruit of the tree of life. I wonder why the Lord chose to reveal their hearts so plainly to Lehi. It might have been nice for him to have hope for their eventual conversion...

Other thoughts on Chapter 8:

Lehi sees different groups of people after he sees his family. The first are people who are trying to get to the tree, but get lost in the mist of darkness. The next are those who grab the rod of iron, get all the way to the tree, and are then ashamed, and are lost in forbidden paths. There are others who hold to the rod, make it to the tree and eat the fruit, but many others who bypass the tree entirely in their efforts to get to the large and spacious building, some of whom make it there, but others are drowned.

So many ways to be lost. Only one safe path. It's hard to take in that the path to peace and joy is truly so straight and narrow.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 3-7

Just some thoughts on the last few chapters I read:

1. Lehi gets a LOT of his instruction from the Lord in dreams. I don't know if I pay much attention to my dreams. Has the Lord ever spoken to me through MY dreams? Why dreams? Was it a cultural thing, and Lehi paid attention to his dreams because of that?

2. Lehi knows that Laman and Lemuel are struggling, and it sounds like he is so relieved that Nephi responds (v. 7) in a positive way. This is maybe Nephi's first test of his newfound faith, and he meets the test with grace.

3. Seeing an angel didn't soften Laman and Lemuel's hearts more than the time that they were in his presence. They began murmuring immediately after he left. I mean, yikes. This is pretty hardcore stuff, seeing an angel, and they simply don't feel its impact.

4. Nephi is young, but he speaks with great wisdom to his brothers at many different times. This is a gift of the be able to teach the words of God, despite his youth.

5. I have a rough time with Nephi killing Laban. The Lord could obviously have allowed Nephi to obtain the plates another, less bloody, way, but he didn't. So Laban had to die, and Nephi had to be the one responsible for his death? Why? I wish I knew...I need more prayer on this one. I understand that Laban tried to take Nephi's life. I know that if Nephi had simply taken the plates, Laban would have been after him and his family. But still...very interesting. A very drastic example of how following the spirit doesn't always lead us in the direction we expect.

6. Sariah's so fantastic. She's super mad at Lehi, she's angry at God, and then she learns for herself that Lehi is not leading them on a wild goose chase, but that he is a real prophet. I love that we get a view of her conflict.

7. Lehi (and the reader) learns the value of the written word. The Lord needs us to have written record of His dealings with humanity. We need to remember what He has done in the past, and what He intends and promises to do in the future. We are blessed to have so much scripture.

8. There's no record of whining when Lehi sends his sons back for Ishmael's family. The boys are ready and willing to go all the way back to Jerusalem. Interesting tidbit...Elder Erastus Snow told that Joseph Smith had mentioned that Lehi's daughters had already married Ishmael's sons, so the families were already linked by marriage, and it's likely that the boys may have already intended to marry Ishmael's daughters.

9. Laman and Lemuel are becoming progressively more, well, wicked. They start out murmuring, and then they're beating Nephi, and in chapter 7, they're ready to leave Nephi for the wild beasts of the desert. It's a sad and quick transition, but they're not so far gone that once Nephi is freed through the power of God (Again!), they repent and continue on their journey. I have to admit that over the years, I have grown to care deeply about Laman and Lemuel, and I don't consider them terrible villains, simply angry and hardhearted. It is human nature to be angry at those who we perceive stand in the way of our power or happiness, and they thought Nephi was standing in the way of both. I'm sure they considered him a suck-up, self-righteous and absolutely frustrating. This first book of Nephi is really tragic.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Book of Mormon Study, Part Two

1 Nephi, Chapter 2. The trouble already begins...

Part of me smiles a little at Lehi, trying so desperately to reach his oldest sons. It reminds me of an FHE gone bad..."Laman, I want you to be like this river, and Lemuel, like this valley. Boys, are you listening? Pay Attention! I've worked hard on this lesson."

But it's clear pretty soon that these two are not just complaining teenagers. Nephi says in v.13 that they were like the Jews at Jerusalem who sought to take away the life of Lehi. Does he say that in retrospect? Were they already so far gone at this point that murder was in their hearts? I tend to think that came little by little, as they were pulled farther and farther away from the life of luxury to which they were accustomed, but maybe they really were already pretty far gone.

I love what we learn about Nephi in this chapter. v.16 says "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers." It sounds to me that Nephi wasn't totally convinced that this was the will of the Lord (it was a rather huge change in his life, after all), but rather than get angry and fight against his father, he went to the source to figure things out for himself. Because of this, the course of his life changed. So maybe this is a good way to figure things out when we're feeling frustrated about something the Lord has asked us to do (through a leader, a parent, a spouse, or some other way.) Rather than complain, moan, and get really angry, maybe we should talk to Heavenly Father about it...

That's a lesson I need right now.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Book of Mormon Study, Take One

By a happy coincidence, I just finished my latest reading of the Book of Mormon. I've made my way through all the introductory stuff and am back at First Nephi, yet again. (How many times has the average adult Mormon read verse 1 of First Nephi? I'm sure it's in the hundreds for me :). Not that I've READ the book that many times, just that I've read the first chapter that many times.)

Since I'm just re-beginning, I thought I'd post my thoughts as I move through the book. It may help me to spend a little more time considering the chapters I read, rather than just getting through my chapters as quickly as I can.

It's nice to come back to a chapter that is so familiar. Nephi has become an old friend over the years. The very first verse makes me think he was a fairly balanced guy...he loved his family, he admits to having hard times, but he is also is pretty positive about how life has been for him. Yes, he had to leave all the money and possessions his family had, wander in the wilderness for years, escape from his brothers who wanted to kill him, but he says he's been "highly favored of the Lord in all my days."

One new thing that hit me this reading was v. 4 and 5. Prophets are telling people they must repent or Jerusalem is going to be destroyed, and that leads Lehi to pray. V.5 says "Lehi prayed with all his heart, in behalf of his people." It was after this heartfelt prayer that Lehi was shown his first vision, which eventually led to the physical salvation of his family from the destruction that hit Jerusalem in just a few years. It seems to me that praying with all our hearts, especially in behalf of others, has a power that we don't always recognize. I wonder if sometimes Lehi was a little daunted by the results of his prayers. It certainly led him into a new life, one very different than that which he expected.

The last verse of chapter 1 is another favorite, and I think an overall theme of the entire Book of Mormon. v. 20: "...I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." This deliverance, in my experience, can be physical, emotional, or spiritual, but is very real. It's not always easy to obtain, but it's possible.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Small Plates

Nephi, the Book of Mormon prophet, kept two sets of records. He kept the historical record of his people on large plates, and their spiritual record on small plates (1 Nephi 19:1-6) I thought that I would take a page from his book (ha ha) for similar reasons. I love having my other blog for all kinds of of my kids, political rantings, lists of things I love, ventings; you name it. But somehow I haven't felt like expressing much about my spiritual life. So I've chosen to create my own Small Plates.

My spiritual life is grounded in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am comfortable with my Mormonism and the tenets of the church. I love having a prophet, four books of scripture, and latter-day revelation, both personal and church-wide.

The one constant in my spiritual quest is the need to learn. I use the scriptures daily to buoy me up, to teach me, and to help make me into a better person. I also love the beauties and truths of other faiths and have gained much from other religions. I am excited to share some of the things I love and some of the things I learn on this journey.