Sunday, July 27, 2008


I gave this talk in Sacrament Meeting on June 8, 2008:


How humility allows Christ to guide my life

I have a confession to make: as soon as I figure out what the topic of any given Sacrament Meeting is, I generally see if I can write my own talk. I think of all the scriptures that relate to the topic and then see if I can come up with a 10 or 15 minute talk. Of all the topics I have contemplated giving a talk on, I think the topic of humility is the only one I have ever consciously contemplated NOT giving a talk on. It is a difficult subject. I always remember listening to a talk by one of the Seventy several years ago where he said that he had some ideas on the subject of humility, but he wasn’t going to speak on it. He said, “I know that as soon as you think you have it, that probably means you don’t.” And from that time on, it has been a subject I have not wanted to ever have to speak on. So, here I am assigned to speak on the subject of humility. Specifically I’ve been asked to speak on how humility allows Christ to guide my life. This is probably Heavenly Father’s way of compelling me to be humble.

I’ve had several ideas since Bro. [Bishop's Second Counselor] called - several ideas on what direction to take; there are so many things I wanted to say. I thought I could just go with the simple and powerful D&C 112:10:

10 Be thou ahumble; and the Lord thy God shall blead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.

That’s my talk in a nutshell, but I thought Bro. [Bishop's Second Counselor] may want something a little longer. One of the first things I thought of and one I came back to many times is from a song that was popular just a couple years ago. It is a song by Gnarls Barkley called Crazy, and you probably think I’m crazy to think of that for Sacrament Meeting. There is a verse that says (and this sounds really silly when I say it without singing it to the music), “Who do you think you are? Ha, ha, ha, bless your soul. You really think you’re in control? Well?” To me, that verse marks the difference between being humble and not.

The question is, “Who is in control of your life?” Because ultimately, everything we are and have is a gift from God. In an amazing and startling way everything we have and are, as King Benjamin says, from the “dust” we are made of to the air we breathe to everything we see and feel around us is literally a gift from God; literally and physically here by His will. Our talents and abilities, according to King Benjamin and the Savior, are gifts from God given to us so that we can serve each other and glorify God. Even our weaknesses are a gift from God, according to Mormon, given to us why? To humble us so that we will seek God and rely on Him. You might think to yourself, “My soul is my own,” but it isn’t; someone else has already paid the price to redeem your soul – it isn’t yours. The only thing that is ours, the only thing truly ours to give, is our will. That is why we have agency – because our will is our own. That is why the only acceptable sacrifice is that of a broken heart and contrite spirit. Because our will is the only thing that we really have to offer, and the only way to offer it is through a contrite heart.

There are other definitions of humility – teachable, meek, contrite spirit, poor in spirit, submissive – but I think they all come back to understanding that we can’t do it on our own and must rely on God and submit our will to His.

The scriptures are full of contrasting themes of pride and humility. We could start with the council in heaven recorded in different ways by several prophets. It is recorded very simply in Abraham chapter 3:

24 And there stood aone among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and bwe will make an earth whereon these may cdwell;
25 And we will aprove them herewith, to see if they will bdo all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
26 And they who akeep their first bestate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second cestate shall have dglory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
27 And the aLord said: Whom shall I bsend? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And canother answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will dsend the first.
28 And the asecond was angry, and kept not his first bestate; and, at that day, many followed after him.

We know from other scriptures that the question was basically, “Who will be our Savior?” Christ humbly answered that He would carry out the Father’s plan, but Satan wanted things different. He wanted to do it his way and receive the honor all for himself. His pride wouldn’t allow him to follow the Father’s plan, as Doctrine and Covenants 29:36 & 37 says:

36 And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the adevil—for, behold, the bdevil was before Adam, for he crebelled against me, saying, Give me thine dhonor, which is my epower; and also a fthird part of the ghosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their hagency;
37 And they were thrust down, and thus came the adevil and his bangels;

So we see that even in our premortal existence we had agency and the ability to submit our will to that of our Father’s.

Keeping with that theme leads us to the ultimate contrast of pride and humility. The battle started in Heaven has continued here on earth. The ultimate act of pride is recorded in several scriptures, but I think said best in D&C 76:

25 And this we saw also, and bear record, that an aangel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who brebelled against the Only Begotten cSon whom the Father dloved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son,
26 And was called aPerdition, for the heavens bwept over him—he was cLucifer, a son of the morning.
27 And we beheld, and lo, he is afallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning!
28 And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision; for we beheld Satan, that old aserpent, even the bdevil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our cGod and his Christ—
29 Wherefore, he maketh awar with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.

And of course, the ultimate act of humility occurred in the
Garden of Gethsemane. As recorded by Mark:

32 aAnd they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.
33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be asore amazed, [a better translation of “sore amazed” would be “terrified surprise” – he had never felt the effects of sin before and as he began to feel the effects of our sins, the feeling surprised and terrified him] and to be bvery cheavy;
34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.
35 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; atake away this bcup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

We know he prayed three times, asking the Father if the cup might not be removed from Him, that he was visited and blessed by an angel that he might endure what he was about to do, and that finally as he completely submitted his will to that of the Father’s he was able to accomplish the Atonement, pay the price of our sins, and redeem us from our fallen state.

These are ultimate examples of pride and humility, but there are other themes of humility throughout the scriptures. One of the main themes running through the book of Isaiah is that of what I call humility and humiliation: those who humble themselves before God and rely on him are ultimately exalted, while those who puff themselves up in their pride are ultimately humiliated and cast down.

We have a great example, and one we should more easily be able to relate to ourselves, from our recent Sunday School class on the people of King Noah, Abinadi, and Alma. We get three great examples, or groups of people, from this. The first is King Noah and his priests. They are full of pride and will never give that up and they are eventually run out of the city and destroyed, King Noah being burned to death as Abinadi had prophesied. The second group is the small group led by Alma that fled the city before King Noah could catch and kill them. I’ll come back to them in a minute. The third group is the group that remained in the city and ran Noah and his priests out. They were captured by the Lamanites and put under severe oppression. They eventually humbled themselves due to their circumstances, turned to God for help, and eventually Ammon was led to them and was able to help them escape and return to Zarahemla. Alma and his group had humbled themselves before they ever left the city. God directed Alma to take his followers and flee because Noah was about to kill them. He lead them to a place where they prospered until one of the wicked priests of Noah, now a captain of the Lamanites, found them and put them under bondage. Immediately they turned to God for help: (from Mosiah 24)

10 And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God.
11 And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he aput guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.
12 And Alma and his people did not raise their voices to the Lord their God, but did pour out their ahearts to him; and he did know the bthoughts of their hearts.
13 And it acame to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
14 And I will also ease the aburdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as bwitnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their cafflictions.
15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did astrengthen them that they could bear up their bburdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with cpatience to all the will of the Lord.
16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.
17 And he said unto
Alma: Thou shalt go before this people, and I will go awith thee and deliver this people out of bbondage.

The Lord led them directly to Zarahemla.

So we have the perfect example for what the three groups we generally find in the world today: 1) those who are proud and will never accept that they need anyone else and never accept God – their ultimate fate is humiliation, as it says in Isaiah 5: 14 – 15:

14 Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their apomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
15 And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the alofty shall be humbled:

; 2) those who, after being compelled to humble themselves, accept God and receive His blessings, but only after much sorrow and tribulation; Alma chapter 32 describes this group and the next even better, starting in verse 12:

12 I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn awisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding bpoverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble.
13 And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh arepentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and bendureth to the end the same shall be saved.
14 And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be ahumble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?
15 Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.
16 Therefore, blessed are they who ahumble themselves without being bcompelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without cstubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.

and 3) those who humble themselves, accept and rely completely on our Father in Heaven, and submit their will to Him, and, as Mosiah
3:19 says:

19 … eyields to the enticings of the Holy fSpirit, and gputteth off the hnatural man and becometh a isaint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a jchild, ksubmissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

One last example from the scriptures. One of my favorite chapters from the Doctrine and Covenants is section 121. I can always hear the voice of the Savior when I read it. It came from a letter the Prophet wrote while he was imprisoned in Liberty Jail. Parts of the letter eventually became Sections 121, 122, and 123 of The Doctrine and Covenants. I’ve read the whole letter and had a copy of it, but last night my computer wouldn’t read the CD where I have it so I have to tell the story from memory. Section 121 starts with the Prophet recounting his pleadings with the Lord:

1 O God, awhere art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy bhiding place?
2 aHow long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?
3 Yea, O Lord, ahow long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful boppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with ccompassion toward them?
4 O Lord God aAlmighty, maker of bheaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol—stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy cpavilion be taken up; let thy dhiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine eheart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.
5 Let thine aanger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy bsword cavenge us of our wrongs.
6 Remember thy asuffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.

The letter somewhat describes his mental state and attitude at the time of those pleadings and they were a little less than humble. He was angry with the Lord, I think, accusing Him for not doing anything to save the Saints. Then Joseph says something to the effect that when he had calmed down and humbled himself before the Lord, then, when he is humble, he hears the whisperings of the Spirit and the answer of the Lord:

7 My son, apeace be unto thy soul; thine badversity and thine afflictions shall be but a csmall moment;
8 And then, if thou aendure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy bfoes.
9 Thy afriends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.

Let’s skip towards the end of section 121. Starting in verse 34:

34 Behold, there are many acalled, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their ahearts are set so much upon the things of this bworld, and caspire to the dhonors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the arights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be bcontrolled nor handled only upon the cprinciples of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to acover our bsins, or to gratify our cpride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or ddominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens ewithdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

In other words, we aren’t chosen because we fail to humble ourselves. As soon as we let any ounce of pride in – described in those verses as setting our hearts on the things of this world, aspiring to the honors of men, attempting to cover our sins, or exercise any control over others – the powers and blessings of heaven are withdrawn from us. It goes on, starting in verse 39:

39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the anature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little bauthority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise cunrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but afew are chosen.

So it is the nature of man (go back to Mosiah
3:19 for the nature of man) to not be humble. Then, the Prophet starts describing what it is to be humble:

41 …, only by cpersuasion, by dlong-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By akindness, and pure bknowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the csoul without dhypocrisy, and without eguile
45 Let thy abowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let bvirtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly;

What a great description of humility. Before we finish the chapter and see the rewards of humility – and how humility allows Christ to guide our lives – let me relate one more example from the Savior.

In John chapter 3 the Savior has his famous meeting with Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, so in other words he was a leader of the Jews, who considered themselves to be saved, for lack of a better modern term, just by the fact that they were the chosen people. Nicodemus comes to the Lord at night and says:

2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these amiracles that thou doest, except bGod be with him.

We don’t know the extent of the term “we” but we accept that Nicodemus and some others of the Pharisees knew who Jesus really was. Jesus’ reply seems to be an indication of what that knowledge would require. He starts his response with “Verily, verily” – and there are three places in this chapter where Jesus starts his reply with “verily, verily” – that is Jesus’ way of saying “This is going to be on the final exam so take notes.” Jesus tells Nicodemus that everyone must be baptized in order to enter the Kingdom of God. So he is telling a leader of the Jews that Everyone Must be baptized – it isn’t enough to be a descendant of Abraham – everyone must be baptized. And they spend the rest of the chapter discussing that.

Then in chapter 4, Jesus is at a well in Samaria and asks a Samaritan woman to draw water for Him. Now, to the Jews of Jesus’ day, the Gentiles were dogs, but the Samaritans were lower than dogs. The Samaritans were the vilest of creatures. And culturally in that day, women were the lowest class of person. So the woman is naturally surprised that a Jew would ask her to draw water. Verse 9 says:

9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the aSamaritans.

In verse 10, Jesus replies that if she knew who was asking, she would ask of Him and receive the living water. I want to come back to this in a minute.

She goes on to say she would like to have that water because she is tired of coming to the well every day and Jesus goes on to ask her about her husband. Starting in verse 17:

17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.
19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a aprophet.

The point Jesus was making is that He knew her; He knew who she was and what circumstance she was in before He asked her to draw the water in the first place. So we have Jesus coming to this Samaritan (low) woman (lower) knowing already what circumstance she was in and her background (even lower) and telling her she can have this living water, He will give it to her, if she only asks. He tells Nicodemus everyone must be baptized, and then he tells the woman of
Samaria that everyone, regardless of who they are or what they have done, can come to Him and receive His living waters if they will just humble themselves and ask.

Back to section 121 and we see the blessing of humbling ourselves and submitting to the will of our Savior, and how He will guide us if we do, starting in verse 45:

45 …; then shall thy cconfidence wax strong in the dpresence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the edews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant acompanion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of brighteousness and truth; and thy cdominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

What great blessings. That is the living water that everyone can have if they will just humble themselves and ask.

For more examples of humility and pride and the consequences of each, go home and do research on the City of Enoch and the Cities on the Plain – Sodom and Gomorrah. The City of Enoch gives us a perfect example of how people live and treat each other when they are humble. And Sodom and Gomorrah give us a perfect example of what it is to lack any humility and the destruction that awaits.

In a CES fireside, Nov. 7 2004, D. Todd Christofferson said it very simply (paraphrasing… replacing “a sense of the sacred” with “humility”):

"The importance of having [humility] is simply this -- if one does not appreciate holy things, he will lose them. Absent a feeling of reverence, he will grow increasingly casual in attitude and lax in conduct. He will drift from the moorings that his covenants with God could provide. His feeling of accountability to God will diminish and then be forgotten. Thereafter, he will care only about his own comfort and satisfying his uncontrolled appetites. Finally, he will come to despise sacred things, even God, and then he will despise himself.

"On the other hand, with [humility], one grows in understanding and truth. The Holy Spirit becomes his frequent and then constant companion. More and more he will stand in holy places and be entrusted with holy things. Just the opposite of cynicism and despair, his end is eternal

Brothers and Sisters, I know, completely and without any doubt, that as we humble ourselves before our Savior and submit our wills to His, these will be our blessings; we will feel His love; we will have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost; and our prayers will be answered.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Doctrine of Preemption

I wrote this article in March of 2006 just after the current National Security Strategy was released. I originally submitted it to a new LDS-related Web-based "magazine" but it was never published and, besides, the "magazine" eventually went under. It is published here for the first time:

The Doctrine of Preemption

This month President Bush released his National Security Strategy (NSS), the first one since 2002. As in his first NSS released on September 20, 2002, one of the main doctrines of this document is the Doctrine of Preemption. Preemption is the anticipatory use of force in the face of imminent attack. According to a December 2002 Brookings Institution policy brief, “Preemption … has long been accepted as legitimate and appropriate under international law. In the new NSS, however, the administration is broadening the meaning to encompass preventive war as well, in which force may be used even without evidence of an imminent attack to ensure that a serious threat to the United States does not "gather" or grow over time. The strategy also elevates preemption in importance, and visibility, within the tool kit of U.S. foreign policy.” Since the time President Bush first espoused this doctrine in June of 2002, I have wondered about the spiritual effect it would have on us as a nation, but now that he has reiterated it in the new NSS, I have become distressed by the doctrine of preemption.

Preemption itself does not distress me; I believe there are valid uses of preemption. The June 1981 Israeli attack on the Osirak nuclear facility near Baghdad is an excellent example. However, preemption as a standard doctrine in our national security strategy torments me.

September 11, 2001 changed the way we, as a nation, view the world. It changed the way we feel we must to react to the world. It made us aware that we are vulnerable, that the oceans that separate us from the rest of the world no longer provide a safe barrier. It presents us with an apparent dilemma: do we wait for another attack and retaliate against that in an effort to thwart further attacks, or do we seek out the apparent dangers and attack them before they have a chance to develop? We feel we have only these two choices.

It is more than just a political dilemma; it is a moral one as well. The moral question can work both ways: the moral obligation to protect (a parental obligation) versus the ethical/social concept that violence begets violence. I believe that President Bush feels a strong (parental) responsibility
to protect his people and looks at preemption as a defensive move. I
do not believe he considers it for any other reason. I do not believe he is interested in taking control of the land or its oil or its people. The President’s desire to protect his nation and its people is a righteous desire, but I believe he is looking to the wrong source for our defense.

My distress at this doctrine and my concern for the spiritual well-being of our nation comes from my study of the scriptures. I have a deep love for the Book of Mormon. To me the Book of Mormon is more than “the keystone of our religion;” it is more than another testament of Jesus Christ; it is a pattern for our day.[1] Mormon and Moroni both saw our day[2] and included only those things which we would need to survive the last days.

The Book of Mormon tells us repeatedly the Lord’s view of preemption and its consequences.

In Alma chapter 43, the Lamanites come against the Nephites and we read:

And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.[3]

Alma chapter 48 Amalickiah comes against the Nephites. We see that Moroni has been preparing the Nephite armies and cities for defenses and that he “had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God.”[4] Then we read:

Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.[5]

When Giddianhi, the Gadianton leader, demanded the Nephite surrender, we read:

Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.
But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands

In the final days of the Nephite civilization, Mormon tells us:

And they did swear by the heavens, and also by the throne of God, that they would go up to battle against their enemies, and would cut them off from the face of the land.
And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination

As long as the Nephites defended their own lands, the Lord defended them. As soon as they decided to eliminate the ‘Lamanite problem,’ the spirit of the Lord departed from them and their civilization was destroyed.[8] We see similar teachings and warnings throughout all the standard works.[9]

Another disturbing warning about preemption is found in Mormon 4:5. The Lord uses the wicked to punish the wicked:

But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed.

The supposed dilemma we face, to wait passively to be attacked or to attack, is a part of my distress. It looks a lot like the doctrine of the two ways. Satan is great at offering us two alternatives and making us feel they are our only choice. It is an easy game for him. Usually the two choices he offers are both 1) wrong, 2) really the same thing, or 3) both wrong and the same: Catholicism or Protestantism; Democrat or Republican; Capitalism or Communism; coffee or tea. I could go on and I am sure you can think of several.

This “dilemma” is addressed in the scriptures as well. The best example I can think of is in Isaiah chapter 37. The Assyrian army is invading the land of Judah. Their army so far outnumbers the Israelites; there is no defense against them. They surround and lay siege to Jerusalem. The Assyrians tell the people of Jerusalem not to trust in Egypt for protection, nor to let Hezekiah talk them into trusting in the Lord, for He will not be able to deliver them. The people are left with two choices: surrender and become slaves or be destroyed. However, Hezekiah calls Isaiah to give counsel and direction. Verse 36 gives us the outcome:

Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.[10]

My distress all boils down to the realization that we as a nation have come to rely too much upon the arm of flesh (our doctrine of preemption) and not the guidance of our Lord. The answer to my distress is inherent in all of these stories. When the people follow the advice of the prophet, they are protected.

This places a great responsibility on us as a people (Latter-day Saints) and as individuals. We need to be in tune with the spirit so that we can receive personal revelation for our families and ourselves. We also need to listen to our Prophet and follow his counsel with exactness. In our last General Conference, October 2005, he (President Gordon B. Hinckley) counseled us in his address titled If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear. In that address, he reminded us:

We can so live that we can call upon the Lord for His protection and guidance. This is a first priority. We cannot expect His help if we are unwilling to keep His commandments. We in this Church have evidence enough of the penalties of disobedience in the examples of both the Jaredite and the Nephite nations. Each went from glory to utter destruction because of wickedness.[11]

In that same conference, he counseled us to be a forgiving people.[12] We need to pray for our nation and its leaders, as well as the leaders of all nations. Samuel the Lamanite said the city of
Zarahemla was spared for the righteous’ sake, but that it would not always be so.[13] In the April 2003 General Conference, President Hinckley urged us to be a prayerful people; to pray for peace, among other things. He said, “I am satisfied that if enough prayers ascend to heaven …, the Lord will answer those prayers for the sake of the righteous.”[14]

The responsibility lies with us. We as a people need to foster forgiveness and good will. We need to share the gospel with everyone we meet.[15] We need to realize that our salvation is not in the arm of flesh, but in the Lord. We need to be aware that the world is going to go in one direction, but we must withdraw from that and stay focused on Zion and becoming truly a Zion people. We must thank God for prophets, the priesthood, and personal revelation. We must use them. They are the only things on which we can rely.

In closing, I quote a Prophet of the Lord who summarizes my concerns and conclusions better than anything that I could write. Let us remember the counsel of President Spencer W. Kimball:

We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44–45.)

We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us—and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Ne. 1:7)—or he will fight our battles for us (Ex. 14:14; D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many). This he is able to do, for as he said at the time of his betrayal, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53.) We can imagine what fearsome soldiers they would be. King Jehoshaphat and his people were delivered by such a troop (see 2 Chr. 20), and when Elisha’s life was threatened, he comforted his servant by saying, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kgs. 6:16). The Lord then opened the eyes of the servant, “And he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kgs. 6:17.)

We believe that the way for each person and each family to prepare as the Lord has directed is to begin to exercise greater faith, to repent, and to enter into the work of his kingdom on earth, which is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It may seem a little difficult at first, but when a person begins to catch a vision of the true work, when he begins to see something of eternity in its true perspective, the blessings begin to far outweigh the cost of leaving “the world” behind.

Herein lies the only true happiness, and therefore we invite and welcome all men, everywhere, to join in this work. For those who are determined to serve the Lord at all costs, this is the way to eternal life. All else is but a means to that end.[16]

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bondage, Passover, and Exodus

I taught Sunday School last Sunday and I thought I'd share what I taught and get you comments.

The lesson was over Exodus 1 - 15 - the birth of Moses, the plagues, passover and the beginning of the Exodus. This is more or less what I taught:

My study of the Old Testament this year has been enhanced by 2 scriptures:

1) Isaiah 46:10
10. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My ccounsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

This says that God will show us the events of the end of the world by showing us what happened before. This is a great key to Old Testament events and a great key to understanding Isaiah.

2) 3 Nephi 15: 9 - 10
9. Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.
10. Behold, I have given unto you the commandments; therefore keep my commandments. And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me.

"the law and the prophets" is specifically the Old Testament (TaNaKh - Torah - the Law; Nevi'im - the Prophets; Ketuvim - the Writings); this is telling us the the Old Testament testifies of Christ .

So I look for how the lesson I am studying declares the end, and how it testifies of Christ.

Also, one of the main things I got from studying the book of Revelation is that God is in charge - things are going to get really, really bad, but God is in charge and will save His people.

With those things in mind I started talking about this lesson.

There are so many different levels that could be discussed about this set of events, like there is with most scripture. There are so many things that could be brought out of it:

  • We could compare Moses to Christ - Moses is one of, if not the, best types of Christ found in the Old Testament
  • We could talk about the reasons Israel was in bondage to begin with - what was God's reason to allow them to be there and His plan in terms of all of these events
  • We could discuss how freeing Israel from Egypt and destroying Pharaoh's armies in the Red Sea typify Christ's saving us from spiritual and physical death
  • There are so many more!

But the thing that I got the most as I read it - and this is most likely due to my personal study of Isaiah right now - is how much this typifies the last days - the days we are rapidly approaching (or actually in the middle of) - as shown to us in the prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, John, and Jesus (in Matt 24)..

Israel is in bondage to Egypt. In the last days there will be a ruler, whom Isaiah compares to the kings of Babylon and Assyria, who will conquer the whole earth and subjugate all inhabitants to his ideology. Just as the Israelites were promised the God would raise up a deliverer - Moses - we are promised that God will raise up a deliverer. Isaiah uses Moses, David, and Hezekiah to typify this deliverer. Speaking as the Savior, he calls this leader "my righteousness" and "my right arm." However, the king of Babylon/Assyria will remain in control long enough that people will begin to lose faith (like the Israelites being in bondage for 430 years). God will try the faith of His people and will allow the tyrant to stay in power long enough that many will lose faith. But God keeps His promises. He sent Moses for the Israelites, and he will send a leader for us.

At that time, there will be events such that nobody can have any doubt that God is God. I think that was the whole purpose of the plagues sent upon Egypt. We are told in prophecies that this will be the case for us. Everyone has their agency and in order to exercise agency you have to know what your choices are. God will give everyone a chance to choose to follow Him - just like he gave the Egyptians that choice. In order to fully exercise that choice you have to know that God is God - just like the Egyptians. And we are told that many of the Egyptians believed Moses. When the hail and fires came, many of the Egyptians brought their animals in so they wouldn't be destroyed. But Pharaoh hardened his heart and tried to explain it all away. The same will happen with us. There will be huge numbers of people that will try to explain all the "signs" away. Just like we could say that the plagues on Egypt are fairly easy to explain scientifically - red mud from the mountains turned the river red and killed all the fish. The frogs left the water to escape being killed and then died on the dry ground. This brought the lice and flies. Etc., etc., etc. It is all easy to explain away. But God put it all into motion and His prophets told Pharaoh exactly when each event would take place. God was in control. And He still is and will be in the last days.

Finally, once all the plagues/signs had been given, God killed the first born of the Egyptians in order to "save" the Israelites and free them from bondage, in similitude of His having to sacrifice His First Born - Christ - in order to spiritually save the people of God and free them from sin. Pharaoh let the people go.

God goes before the people in a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. he leads them. But where does he lead them - to the shores of the Red Sea. In the mean time Pharaoh has a change of heart (actually goes back to his normal hard heart) and comes after them. When the people see the armies coming after them, the cry to Moses and begin to murmur. The Lord tells them to go towards the Red Sea - trying their faith once again. We will be in a similar situation in the last days - in deed I think we are dangerously close now. Our response is to rely on our military. We are so reliant on them. We are fascinated by their prowess and our great technology. We rely far too much on the arm of flesh when we should be exercising our faith in God.

Moses' response to the murmuring is "Be still and see the salvation of the Lord." At that point the pillar of fire goes from in front of them, to behind them - between Pharaoh and the Israelites - and stays there all night long. The Red Sea parts and the people are able to cross over during the night. When they are all safe, the pillar of fire goes back before them and Pharaoh's armies cross the Red Sea in pursuit. The waters close in on them and they are destroyed. God will fight our battle in the last day. He will destroy the tyrant and rescue His people, just as he did ancient Israel. When it looks like all is lost, He will deliver us. God keeps His promises! We can always have faith in that. That is the main point I get from reading these chapters.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Targum: Genesis 1:1

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ.

Bereshit bara Elohim et-ha-shamayim v'et-ha-aretz.

Beresheit - In the beginning
bara - create/fashion
Elohim - God (plural)
et-ha-shamayim - the heavens
v' - and
et-ha-aretz - the earth

When the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods took counsel to bring forth this heaven and this earth –


When God began to create heaven and earth --
Genesis 1:1 - Jewish Publication Society translation

And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the aGods, borganized and formed the cheavens and the earth.
Abraham 4:1

And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I areveal unto you concerning this bheaven, and this cearth; dwrite the words which I speak. I am the Beginning and the End, the eAlmighty God; by mine fOnly Begotten I gcreated these things; yea, in the beginning I hcreated the iheaven, and the earth upon which thou standest.
Moses 2:1

In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth. (Beginning: First of all, and before any creature was, God made ...)
Genesis 1:1 - Geneva translation

According to that which was aordained in the midst of the bCouncil of the Eternal cGod of all other gods before this dworld was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his eternal epresence and into his immortal frest.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:32

"I shall comment on the very first Hebrew word in the Bible; I will make a comment on the very first sentence of the history of creation in the Bible - Berosheit. I want to analyze the word. Baith - in, by, through, and everything else. Rosh - the head. Sheit - grammatical termination. When the inspired man wrote it, he did not put the baith there. An old Jew without any authority added the word; he thought it too bad to begin to talk about the head! It read first, "The head one of the Gods brought forth the Gods." That is the true meaning of the words. Baurau signifies to bring forth. If you do not believe it, you do not believe the learned man of God. Learned men can teach you no more than what I have told you. Thus the head God brought forth the Gods in the Grand Council.

"I will transpose and simplify it in the English language. ... The head God called together the Gods and sat in a grand council to bring forth the world. The grand councilors sat at the head in yonder heavens and contemplated the creation of the worlds which were created at the time."

"In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it."

"Now the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos - chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end."
Joseph Smith - King Follet Sermon - Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith pp. 348-353


"In the beginning", the common beginning of this scripture, sounds too much like it is the beginning of everything, which it is not, but which is the common belief. That translation has lead to far too much misunderstanding. It wasn't the beginning of everything, just the beginning of the forming of this earth. I prefer something along the lines of the JPS translation, like "When the gods began to create...", but I wanted to highlight that it was a council. I almost left the "When" completely, since it is not there in the Hebrew and is just implied, and just started it with "The Council of the Eternal God...". That would have been more in line with Joseph Smith's statement that baith was added later. That baith is what added the "In" - without it you just had "head" as in "the head God". I added the "When" to give the sense of the beginning and it made the phrase lead better into the next verse.