I loved our discussion of the journey in Ether. I think God is very aware of all His children, and those chapters are put in there for me!
Right now, I'm less than a year away from graduation, and it's time to start thinking of future jobs. I'm also stressing like mad about my future family. I'm wondering how I'm going to make it work out financially, where I'll live, when it's going to happen, and whom I'm supposed to marry. In class this week, we talked about the three ways God helps us make decisions:
1. He tells us not to worry about it, he takes care of it himself
2. He gives us clear, step-by-step instructions about what to do
3. He has us figure out a way and tell Him how we want Him to help
I've seen all of these in my life, and 3 is definitely the most difficult one for me to accept. It's difficult for me to trust my own judgment (especially knowing that God could pick something way better for me), but I think that's why it happens to me so often! It's a difficult test for me, but it absolutely helps me grow.
We don't really get any insight on how B.O.J. came up with the molten stones idea. God says, "What are you gonna do?" and then the next verse is B.O.J. melting some rocks. In B.O.J.'s prayer to the Lord, he says basically "Oh God, please don't be mad with me if this is the dumbest idea you've ever heard... but could you please touch these rocks and make them glow?"
Ether 3:5, "Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men."
And God does it. This shows me that the "how" is not as important as the faith behind the "how." If we're in one of those situations where God asks us to come up with a solution, our faith in him is more important than our plan.
The chapters in the Book of Mormon up til about chapter 11 are not very happy.
And yet Mormon, always the optimist, finds a way to put a positive spin on things.
In 3 Nephi 5:13, "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."
Even in the midst of one of the worst rials the Nephites ever face, persecutions, murders, marauding bands of thieves... Mormon still devotes part of his writing and record to those who are choosing to follow the Savior.
I loved studying Hebrews 11 in Come Follow Me this week.
One of my favorite quotes was what it says in Hebrews 5:9, "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;"
I was initially confused by this verse. Other parts of the scriptures talk about Christ being the author of our faith... but how can someone else be the author of your story?
That's only possible if the author is a biographer. If Christ is the author of our faith and our salvation, he's the one writing our story... but we're the ones living our story. The biographer can only write what his subjects give him.
We have to provide Christ with our obedience, our willingness, and our belief in him inspiring us to action, and then He's the one that makes our faith count by writing it down.
Some of the most well-worn pages of my mission Book of Mormon are the pages in the 36th chapter of Alma. Alma's recollection of his personal repentance story is one of the most poetic and beautiful descriptions of what it feels like to be free of sin.
Alma's account is so raw, and so honest. He doesn't hide anything from his son about the man he used to be, but he also doesn't hold back when he's speaking of how Jesus saved him.
I loved sharing this chapter with people I taught, and explaining how they would feel just as light and happy when they repented too. God loves us, and so he sent His son. He wants all of us to live unburdened.
20 "And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain."
"That they might witness what the Lord had done for his son" (Mosiah 27:21) is a powerful expression of faith, whether it was said by Alma or written by Mormon. Notice, he doesn't say "what the Lord had done to his son."
I can imagine Alma the elder pleading before God every night that something would change in his son's life. I can picture him praying on his knees that Alma the younger would embrace the gospel again and stop causing so much pain to their family.
Once when I was going through a really rough time on my mission, my dad wrote to me saying he was sorry for how bad I felt, and how much he wished he could take away the hurt. But then my dad expressed how grateful he was that I was experiencing such a faith-growing experience. Like Alma, he was grateful for what the Lord had done for his son rather than being angry about what the Lord had done to his son.
Recognizing trials as growth experiences is a sign of spiritual maturity and one-ness with the will of God.
I was impacted the most this week by our discussion on what Brother Griffin called C.S. Lewis' "law of undulation," from the book The Screwtape Letters. Along the pathway of discipleship, there are peaks and there are troughs. Some of these troughs can last longer than others. The troughs can be the result of different challenges. But a trough is always a period where you feel like your connection with God isn't as strong as you'd like. Where your prayers aren't answered according to the timetable you set.
I'm in one of these troughs right now! I'm seeking spiritual guidance for a really big decision I have to make, and it feels like it's just not going to come anytime soon.
But the main point of the discussion was, the longer the trough lasts, the more amazing a result the Lord has in store. The answer I receive will be exactly what I need, and it will be so wonderful!
I love looking to the example of Alma's people. In time, their deliverance did come:
"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."
I met this man from France who was hitchhiking across the United States looking for "pilgrimages," and thought Salt Lake City would be a good place to stop by. While he was there, he happened to run in to a family on a very special pilgrimage of their own.
This group came from the small island of Tubuai, Tahiti. Tubuai was the first foreign language speaking mission in the church, and also became the first foreign language branch of the church. All this happened in 1843, three years before the saints even got to the Salt Lake Valley.
This group coming to temple square was descended from those original converts, and this was their first time ever leaving their island. Their pilgrimage to hear to prophets speak inspired me, and it inspired Alex (the French hitchhiker). He said, "we all have a pilgrim within us." It got me thinking, what's my pilgrimage? Where am I aiming to reach, on the gospel path?
I've been thinking about General Conference this week.
I love Brother Griffin's idea of "specific conference." The leaders and general authorities are speaking to the church generally, but they're also speaking to each one of us individually. Each speaker sought revelation and pondered for a long time about what they were supposed to speak about. Like the doctrines in the Book of Mormon, only the most important stuff with the most relevancy to us made it to the top.
This semester has brought to the forefront of my life a lot of questions and concerns that I've never had to face before. Before general conference began this weekend, I said a prayer asking God to help me experience a "specific conference" over the course of these 10 hours of talks. I'm very grateful for Elder Holland's kickoff talk at the beginning of conference, reminding everyone what to expect and inviting everyone in attendance to have a "specific conference" too.
I hope this post doesn't make me come across as really lazy...
I love my personal scripture study. I highly value the insights that I receive when studying on my own, for myself or for others around me. The insights I get are usually specific things, that are meaningful to me in the moment when I come across them.
But I am also so grateful for the insights of other people. Jacob 5 (and really any chapters about the scattering of Israel) always felt so boring to me. I'd usually just skip them. I'm grateful that some people are patient enough to deeply study those "boring" chapters and derive meaning from them. I love how many different interpretations and lessons can be drawn from every part of the scriptures. We're so lucky. :)
Nephi's experience building the ship and crossing the sea is a blueprint for how we can deal with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Here's what I have learned.
Step 1 is the call. In 1 Nephi 17:7, Nephi is called up to a mountain and in 17:8 the Lord commands him, "Thou shalt construct a ship." The Lord will ask us to do really hard things, often things we've never done before. Step 2 is our response. In 17:9 Nephi responds by asking "whither shall I go that I may find ore?" Nephi shows us that having faith in what the Lord asks of us means trusting that the task is possible, and asking the Lord for the right tools for the job instead of asking for the job to be taken away.
Step 3 is facing the haters. In 17:19, Nephi's brothers are very critical of him, saying that "we knew that ye could not construct a ship." Nephi ignores them, like we should all do with our haters. Step 4, mentioned in 18:2, is doing things God's way instead of our way. Nephi says the way he built the ship was "not after the manner of men." It's tempting to deal with challenges in the way we're used to, but that is counterproductive.
Nephi shows us that step 5 is frequently going to the temple and seeking revelation (18:3 "And I Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord"). It's silly to think God would tell us how to do every part of the huge challenge all at once. Constant communication with God is the key to accomplishing what He asks. Step 6, according to 18:16, is thanking God and not complaining even when it gets hard. Finally, step 7 is completing the task and showing gratitude to God.
These chapters made me reflect on certain things in my life that I feel I've been commanded to do right now. Some of these challenges seem unsolvable. I'm not sure how to fix all of these problems right now. But Nephi teaches that I don't have to know, I just need to trust that God does, and learn each part of the instruction manual from Him step by step.