Yesterday I read 1 Kings 12:10, where Solomon’s son is deciding what kind of king he’ll be. His advisers suggest increasing tyranny and announcing it to the people obnoxiously: “My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.” He agrees. Stay classy, Rehoboam.
Posts Tagged ‘Bible’
Near the end of a truly rousing, inspirational sermon, the Biblical prophet Samuel tells his congregation:
Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24
This has now become one of my favorite scriptures. Why? because it explicitly links our faithful obedience to God and our work in His service, to gratitude for all of the infinite blessings that have first been poured out on us.
I actually think that the “thankfulness-leads-to-devotion” relationship is pretty rarely articulated in the scriptures. The next best one that I can think of comes from the New Testament:
We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
It’s good to be reminded of this. God has shown us great love, and always will. Obedient discipleship is the least we can do in return; indeed, is precisely the one thing that He does ask of us:
And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,
To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Deuteronomy 10:12-13
A scripture study exercise: if we wanted to summarize the overall message of major collections of scripture, what might they be? We’re probably familiar with the “missions of the Church” formula–preach the gospel, perfect the saints, redeem the dead, care for the poor and needy–so, can we find similar missions communicated in books of scripture?
Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, with comments below:
Old Testament : Obey the law
New Testament : Perfect the saints
Book of Mormon : Learn the gospel
Doctrine and Covenants : Build the kingdom
Pearl of Great Price : Seek the Lord
Old Testament: I also considered “keep the commandments” and “follow the prophets.” The first is similar to “obey the law,” but not as inclusive–there’s more to the Old Testament than the “thous shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” Saying to “follow the prophets” resonates with us today, and certainly encompasses a major theme, but the largest idea in the Old Testament is that conforming to God’s whole system of living will bless us.
Checked this out from the library a while back and really enjoyed it. This drama not only has better production values than most small, Biblical movies, but it even stars future Grey’s Anatomy lead Patrick Dempsey, to boot.
Jeremiah tells a vivid story of the Old Testament prophet’s reluctant, melancholy rebellion against a corrupt and complacent status quo, and keeps the major narrative very faithful to the Biblical text. Dempsey shines in this role; his acting strong suit has always been an uncanny ability to convey betrayed surprise–the hurt look on the face of a lost puppy dog. That woeful innocence comes in handy a lot as he portrays the saddest prophet in Israel’s history.
Latter-day Saints have a special soft spot for Jeremiah, I think, as the Book of Mormon suggests that he was a contemporary of the first patriarch in that sacred text, a man named Lehi, who likewise foretold doom in Jerusalem and was violently rejected for it. One can easily imagine Lehi preaching just around the corner in most scenes of this film.
The few shots of violence are tasteful and true to the source material, but perhaps a little too intense for the youngest viewers. Other than that, anyone with an interest in Biblical literature, history, or belief would be better off for seeing Jeremiah.
Latter-day Saints typically see the Atonement of Christ as comprising the suffering in Gethsemane as well as the crucifixion. I’ve been wondering if there’s some kind of duality implied by the contrasting details in these two halves. Consider the following chart, giving some details from Jesus Christ’s suffering in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Golgotha:
|Introverted/Psychic Emotional Suffering||Extroverted/Physical Violent Torture|
|Primary instrument = liquid (bleeding)||Primary instrument = solid (cross)|
|Inside of a garden||On top of a hill|
|Cyclical narrative||Linear narrative|
Is it a coincidence that the circumstances of Gethsemane are stereotypically feminine, and the circumstances at Golgotha are essentially masculine? (more…)
Posted in Religion, tagged Atonement, Bible, Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, Cain, curse, figures of speech, Jesus Christ, LDS Church, mark of Cain, race, racism, scripture study on March 6, 2012 | 11 Comments »
A comment on a news article last week called the Book of Mormon racist because of its references to dark skin in conjunction with a curse. I responded with the usual explanation: the curse is spiritual separation from God (2 Nephi 5:20), and the dark skin was just a useful way to distinguish those who’d been cursed. However, the more I looked at what I’d written, the less satisfied I was. I felt like I was missing something. I went back to the text.
I don’t think the Book of Mormon references to dark skin are literal anymore; I think they’re only a poetic idiom. Subsequently, I now have a different theory for what the mark of the curse really was.
The Controversial Verses
First, look at the relevant text. There are three passages in the Book of Mormon that specifically mention dark skin as the mark of a curse (in 2 Nephi 5, Jacob 3, and Alma 3), and a fourth that bears on them (3 Nephi 2). Here are the most controversial verses:
At that time the Lord said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood.
And David commanded to gather together the strangers that were in the land of Israel; and he set masons to hew wrought stones to build the house of God.
I like the context in these–the stone being hewed is for the ten commandments and the temple. Alas, if only Moses and the masons had been instructed to do their hewing gently…my blog could have the perfect verses!
Should we move? Which spouse should work? How many children should we have? Can I miss church this Sunday? How can I help my kids without pushing them? How can I break this bad habit? How can I deal with everything?
And how do we answer these questions? The Lord rarely lays down black and white rules for the big personal choices in life. But do we take that trust in our spiritual maturity and use it as a green light, as an excuse to do whatever we want or what’s easiest?
Hopefully not. “I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh.” (2 Nephi 4:34). “If he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsel of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall…” (D&C 3:4). “And if any man shall seek to build up himself, and seeketh not my counsel, he shall have no power…” (D&C 136:19).
I was assigned to speak to another ward today on behalf of our stake Sunday School presidency. The topic was “the power of prayer.” I think it went well, but this was actually the first time I’ve addressed another ward’s sacrament meeting, and I think I may have gone a little too quickly–my talk only took ten minutes. Still, I’m pleased with it.
In salesmanship, there’s a classic example of how to show people how amazing something very simple is. You advertise to someone that you’re selling a product that can perfectly record every event in life and thought they ever have; it’ll also keep track of every single piece of information you ever need to remember. It’s extremely low maintenance, and even has a built-in correction accessory, in case you use it wrong. It’s lightweight, portable, durable, lasts for years, uses no electricity or fuel, and on top of all that, costs less than a dollar. What could this incredible new invention be? It’s a pencil. Keep that in mind for now.
My subject today is prayer, specifically the power of prayer. Now, I’m sure I don’t need to sell anyone here on the importance of prayer, but even though we all believe in prayer, and try to pray often, I know that sometimes we find that we don’t always love it, sometimes we don’t look forward to it, sometimes we don’t make it a priority or even find joy in it. So, I’d like to take a few minutes and share with you what I found as I sought, in preparation for this talk, how we can develop a greater passion for prayer.
Posted in Politics and Society, Religion, tagged Bible, faith, illegal immigration, Jesus Christ, LDS Church, loyalty, Mormons, parables, preparation, Second Coming, ten virgins on June 12, 2011 | 3 Comments »
The LDS Church has made another statement about illegal immigration, emphasizing their disapproval of “mass expulsion,” among other things. I saw a news story yesterday about it and how, apparently, Church headquarters is being inundated by calls from conservative church members who are outraged by what they see as a betrayal of their principles.
I won’t rehash what I’ve said about this before, but here’s a scripture-based illustration of my point:
In my neck of the woods, our Sunday School lesson next week will be about Jesus’s parable of the ten virgins. In this story, ten women were going to meet their bridegroom. Five had prepared, and five hadn’t. When the surprise announcement was made that the hour for the wedding was at hand, the prepared five got to go in, but the other five were left with no groom but regret.
The interpretation of this parable for Latter-day Saints has always been pretty standard: it’s meant to teach us about preparing for the Second Coming. Since all ten women had clearly accepted the invitation to go to the wedding, they all represent members of the Lord’s church. The sobering warning in the parable is that only about half of us–even half of those who are at least nominally on board with the Church–might be ready for the rewards we want when the final day comes.
There are plenty of reasons why those five virgins (and many more Latter-day Saints) might be slack in their preparation for the Lord’s return, but in light of the blowback over the Church’s recent political stances, I wonder if some of those virgins might represent good people who let their faith be compromised by being offended by the Church’s positions on gay marriage and illegal immigration.
It’s not unusual for Bibles produced for general Christian audiences, and especially evangelical Bibles, to have the words spoken by Jesus Christ printed in red ink, to highlight them. While this is a clever and reverent way of drawing attention to the most important aspects of a very long text, there’s a good reason why Bibles printed by the LDS Church could probably never do that.
A lot more than just some of the dialogue in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would have to be in red. First, consider that Latter-day Saints know that Jesus was Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, who spoke with Moses on Sinai. This means that all the “thus saith the Lord” passages of the Old Testament would have to be written in red. For example, everything in Leviticus chapter 1, after the first verse, would be red.
That would be a pretty red-heavy text already, but then consider Doctrine and Covenants 1:38, which says, in part, that the Lord speaks to mankind, “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” Taking this literally, as we Mormons typically do, suggests that every word in all the scriptures, as inspired writings by authorized prophets and their disciples, could be in red!
Besides losing the novelty of highlighting special text, an all-red Bible would just be creepy…
This week’s gospel doctrine lesson for Sunday School is about the Sermon on the Mount. Discussing this magnificent discourse always reminds me of one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had in studying the scriptures.
I once came across a video on the FARMS web site where John W. Welch discussed his research into the Sermon on the Mount as compared to the Sermon at the Temple in the Book of Mormon’s 3 Nephi. What Welch’s work showed clearly and in a way that shed light on everything involved was simply this: this sermon is the endowment. In fact, despite the many obvious parallels throughout the standard works, this is by far the most complete and detailed reference to the endowment to be found in the scriptures.
That video doesn’t seem to be up anymore, but the text of the book it was based on is available here.
I read this at a time when I hadn’t seen anything that really opened up the scriptures to me in a while, and I actually worried that I had already come across all the really major scripture studies I’d ever see. The discovery of Welch’s temple sermon study was a huge relief, and I’ve tried never to make such a foolish assumption about the exhaustibility of scripture since.
One aspect of my interest in language is names. Tonight, as I drove home from work, I saw a restaurant sign that included the name Mario, and it hit me for the first time: this name seems to do the opposite of what I usually notice names do.
Many female names are clearly adapted from older male names:
- Stephanie is a female Stephen
- Paulette is a female Paul
- Andrea is a female Andrew
- Roberta is a female Robert
- Michaela is a female Michael
- Patricia is a female Patrick
- Joan is a female John
- Christina is a female Christopher
Notice that most of these examples are from men in the Bible. This is important. As those names are very old and very influential in Western cultures, it’s natural that female versions would evolve.
Mario, however, seems to have gone the other way: if Mari-o and Mari-a are related, the older name is Maria, which in English is Mary. It makes sense that if names get adapted across genders because of age and cultural influence, especially Biblical names, then the name of the ultimate woman in the Bible would naturally produce a male version.
This is all just speculation, though–I’m not a linguist. But I’d like to look into this to see if I’m right.
Imagine that someone you love very dearly has rejected you. You were close once, and you’ve spent untold time and energy serving them, but now they’ve turned away from you and everything you stand for.
For many, this scenario is all too realistic. But now imagine that millions, even billions, of your loved ones have done this.
Welcome to God’s world.
I think of this a lot.
I think of this when I feel hurt by someone I care about. Knowing that my Father in Heaven has been through this, but literally a billion times more, puts my own pain in perspective and makes me respect and reverence God all the more for the noble way He still loves us.
I think of this when I’m critical of others. It’s so easy to justify thinking less of people, and holding back on anything I might do for them, emotionally or physically. But when Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 that “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” he made a powerful point about the nature of God’s love.
Nobody else would have as much good reason to cut off those who’ve rejected their love, because nobody else has been so fully rejected by so many, or had so much love turned away.
But God doesn’t do that. He still pours out as many blessings as possible on all of us, constantly striving to help us have as much joy as we can, even if we deny its source or even actively fight against Him.
I drafted this chart based on some of our discussion in Sunday School today. We studied the birth and early life of Jesus Christ (mostly from Luke 2), and found basic patterns in the lives of those involved in that period, setting clear themes and models for us to follow in our own devotion to the Lord: