The Trial of Their Faith

Ether 11 (Éter 11)

In times of wickedness or righteousness, the answers are the same: faith in God and repentance. However, in times of wickedness, the Lord calls on prophets to go remind the people of the way home, a token of mercy. During times of righteousness, the inherent mindset is one of repentance and change. This is what constitutes righteousness.

Ether 12 (Éter 12)

At the end of chapter 11, we have the birth of Ether the prophet. Throughout the whole Book of Ether, I have been asking myself why we were following this particular line of rulers, and why was it that this line of rulers seems to be the preferred line of authority, even in their wickedness. However, at the end of this book, what we have now is an ancestral lineage of the prophet Ether. Ether stands at the end of this long line of kings, except that he is not a king; he is a prophet.

Ether had every right in the patriarchal sense to be heir to the throne, but God put in his heart a much more important mission.


(It is so hard for me to articulate what I am feeling in my now multiple readings of this chapter. Yet every time I read, I feel my soul being nurtured. Faith is grown or increasing.)


The thing with prophets (going back to the end of Chapter 11) is that they have the testimony of experience, personal experience, to back their words. When they cry repentance, they have repented themselves.

(for tomorrow, start to dissect this chapter 12, line by line, for there is just too much packed into it to ignore otherwise. This also comes on the cusp of a personal miracle where God is literally providing money for us, almost out of thin air. Thus is the nature and our experience with entrepreneurship. )


So at the start of chapter 12, the stage has been set: Coriantumr is king of the land. Ether is a prophet of the Lord. Ether’s narrative starts with this statement:

Ether came forth… and began to prophesy unto the people, for he could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him.

Verse 2 (emphasis added)

Truman G. Madsen once quoted Joseph Smith as stating:

…You can always tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits: for it will take malice and envy and enmity from the heart and all evil and whisper peace and joy and your whole desire will be to do good and build up the kingdom of God…

If the people will seek for the Spirit of God, they will eventually find themselves organized as they were before the foundation of this world. Our Father organized the human family in the pre-mortal councils… but they are now disorganized and in great confusion.

Joseph Smith, from talk by Truman G. Madson, “Elijah’s Mission” 5 Jun 1977

The Spirit of the Lord was such upon Ether that he went forth from the morning until the evening, “exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed…” (vs. 3, emphasis added) This is the classic call of a prophet, but in my current situation, I see the ultimatum not being with the people but with Ether as a prophet. God had sent him to warn and save the people, if it were possible. What could Ether tell them that would keep them from destruction: the only thing that would actually work — the truth. That truth was that they needed to change course and exercise enough faith that it was a compelling force for repentance in their life. The catalyst for change, or the change agent that really was the focus of Ether’s remarks is faith.

Moroni emphasizes this point at the end of the verse with the one quote he chose to summarize Ether’s prophetic mission: “By faith all things are fulfilled.”


I am in verse 4 today. This explanation of faith and hope and good works, causes me to look at the end (good works) exactly opposite of how skeptics of our faith view our interpretation of faith. We’re not motivated or compelled by good works. No, it is just the opposite. We are lead to good works by our faith! This is the fruit of our faith.
Again, fear of the consequences, fear of punishment would produce works (that may have the appearance of being “good”). However, good works are, and can only be, born of faith.

This faith, or rather a belief in God, should have the effect of creating a sure hope within us of existing in a better world. What world? The one where God dwells. And not just existing in this divine sphere, but of being there “at the right hand of God”. A position of favor, importance, significance. If we believe in God, then we must believe all that he has promised us, which is all that He has. “and if children, then heirs” (Romans 8:17) This is exactly what the prophets are saying. Belief in God is a belief in a Being who holds us in the highest regard owing to our greatest potential of becoming even like Himself.


Again, coming back to verse 4 again, in reading just the first line “Who so believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world.” There is so much packed into this statement. How? Why? This says to me that it is through our faith in God that we will absolutely, or with assurance, arrive at the place where God is. Belief in God is belief in God and in His Holy Way of Being. Christ and the Father are just waiting for us to arrive at a place of faith and hope strong enough for Christ to be able to return into our presence and for us to be able to endure it.

“Hope for a better world.” My faith in God should be the grounds for a hope that the world will get better, or that I am destined for a better world. The translation between English and Spanish on this phrase is different. Spanish presents it as a noun: “Those that believe in God can have a firm hope in a better world.” The English translation changes “hope” from a noun to a verb: “whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world.”

I know I’ve already gone over this verse 4, previously, but as I am sitting with it again this morning, and just slowly contemplating the significance of each phrase, it is overwhelmingly significant what my faith has the power to accomplish. If I understand what it really means to have faith, then it has the power to restore my identity of who I am, from whence I have come, and to impact my ultimate destination.

The hope, which comes from faith, (the verse makes this reminding reference) becomes as a rivet, or an anchor, to the soul of man. Suddenly there is no more back and forth, nor vacillating obscurity, grayness, and confusion about one’s identity. Maybe one does evolve into the space, but maybe one can just come to understand what faith means, what powers are associated with faith in Christ, and henceforth be led to glorify God, abounding in good works. (How can so much be packed into so few words? Yeah, both hidden and revealed in so few words! )

Once we figure out the core tenant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ works, namely repentance, then are our souls riveted to Christ and His Gospel. Can hope really be an anchor to the soul in such a way that we would always abound in good works? (Remember that it’s hope that is referred to as the anchor, not faith.)


Hope

I completed a brief self-evaluation last evening on Hope and I feel that I scored low as I contemplated the role of Hope in my life. Moroni later in the Book of Mormon publishes remarks made in his day to “the peaceable followers of Christ” and then defines them as those “that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” (Moroni 7:3)

There is an earlier passage, where the missionary Aaron is discussing hope with the Lamanite King, and connects hope with repentance and humility before God:

…If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.

Alma 22:16

The end of verse four reads as such: “[hope] would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” This is another scriptural oxymoron (which thing I find to be a semi-common occurance), to let our light shine before men so that they may glorify God. Yet, I’ve had that very experience over the phone with women as they have gone searching for doula training programs, and for them to discover ours and literally give praise to God for having found us. I know this is only an example of the many ways in which one may bring forth good works to glorify our Father in Heaven.

One other thought, it is in the record keeping that we are able to make our light shine before men.

Studying further the topic of “Good Works”, two passages stand out to me as I contemplate how to perform works that bring glory to God:

Alma 37:34 – “Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls.”

Alma 26:22 – “Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.”


Moving on, Moroni interjects at this point in the narrative to offer commentary on the principle of faith. Verses 6-8 offer the foundational premise of the need for men to have faith in Christ, stating that Christ could do nothing save it were that men first had faith in Him.

One of the observations that is most striking to me about Moroni’s commentary is that it has been the faith of men that has been the catalyst for Christ to come, and without the faith of some men to have first experienced Christ (because of their faith), the way has been paved for many more to experience faith in Christ, because he showed himself not to everyone at first.

Another curious insight is that a visual witness is given only after the trial of faith.

Wherefore, it must needs be that some had faith in him, for he showed himself not unto the world.

But because of the faith of men he has shown himself unto the world… that they might hope for those things which they have not seen.

Verses 7 & 8

The part of verse 8 that I intentionally skipped over makes reference to those who “might be partakers of the heavenly gift”. I don’t know exactly what that “heavenly gift” has reference to, except it be having faith in Christ and the salvation that comes through Him. Moroni makes reference to “the gift” again in verse 9, with a promise that we might be made “partakers of the gift, if [we] will but have faith.”


Sometimes in the scriptures we don’t have direct instruction, but rather inference to ideas or principles that in the minds of the prophets are eternal absolutes or given statements of fact. This concept of a heavenly gift that is or can be obtained in the present moment. What seemed to be hidden to me was a great deal more richly documented then I had realized: TG – Gifts of God. Subsequent verses in Ether 12 also make reference to the gift of God.

Two immediate takeaways:

  1. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
  2. God intends for us to live an elevated life in the here and now.

I am also sitting with the profound reality of gifts, things given us that we can in no way or in no wise ever repay. We are simply asked to receive them with grateful hearts.


Studying scriptures this morning while watching kids, I am reflecting on the many ways in which I have already walked by faith, and how the biggest life decisions that I have made have all had their foundations based on faith:

  • Exercising faith unto repentance as a teenager.
  • Dating
  • Temple Endowment
  • Serving a Mission
  • Temple Marriage to Rachel
    • Which includes not waiting to have children and start a family. (This one has been particularly hard.)

I am hence left to contemplate my position presently. I, on one side, find myself in a season of reflection, fortified with a witness of the path that I have chosen. On the other side I am looking forward, contemplating my next moves and reflecting upon the current position that we now occupy. How do I continue to walk in faith, centered in Christ, and the hope of eternal life?


The words “gift” and “miracle” are used interchangeably in these verses. Both describe things that are extended to us, given to us, that are desirable and yet not of our making; things that we receive that are beyond our control. The miracle that is forgiveness is one such example. “God can do… miracles among them.” (Verse 12)


Verse 13 – 15 document three unique events and the leaders who were associated with these events and how it was the faith of these leaders that caused the miracles realized to be accomplished. Each of the three events were of divine origin:

  • Walls of a prison falling to the ground.
  • A change of heart among the Lamanites, resulting in their baptism with fire and with the Holy Ghost.
  • The conversion of thousands of the Lamanites during the time of Ammon and his brethren.

It is being strongly impressed upon me of the absolute connection between miracles and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot realize miracles without faith, “wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.” (vs. 18)


Weakness

Moroni shifts focus in verse 23 and goes from the discussion on faith to a commentary on the weakness of his writing style, that which was common among his people. He juxtaposes it to their power in spoken word, which from Moroni’s perspective was a very effective means of conveying spiritually important information.

…for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith… for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;

Verse 23

Then in verse 24, the footnotes lead me to consider this passage differently than what I feel Moroni is trying to illustrate. Moroni is expressing his frustration with the written limitations of his language to communicate spiritual truth. The footnote suggests that that limitation was not so much a weakness of the language as much as it was the limitations of the medium (metal plates) that their language was being engraved upon. I tend to think that Moroni really meant what he said, that his language was limited it what he could express. The weakness or restriction of written language was real and that is the point that Moroni is trying to express.

The second footnote in this verse points to the fact that the writings of the Brother of Jared were restricted from being revealed publicly until after Christ should reveal himself. And for some reason, I feel like this is also diminishing the point that the records that the Brother of Jared made were powerful. Moroni feels weak because of the restrictions of his language. The Brother of Jared had a written language given him from God that allowed him to make a record which was powerful, mighty even like unto God!

This point is emphasized by a personal experience that I recently had in which I had discovered an impression given me from some 4 years ago. The words that I recorded (and which I have kept private to myself) were a powerful connection back to that revelation. For some reason, Moroni didn’t feel like his record wasn’t able to carry that same spiritual power.


In verses 26 and 27, a strong correlation between human weakness and the grace of Christ is established: “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me;”

Moroni is able to bring us back full circle in this discussion on faith. Weakness accepted in humility, gives us access to his grace. And if we are humble enough to accept that grace, and to have faith in Christ, then can Christ make weak things become strong unto us!

Verses 26-28 are a quote directly from Christ to Moroni. Verse 28 ends with a capstone on this discussion of faith and weakness:

Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.

The “fountain of all righteousness” is Jesus Christ. I had to read this in Spanish to see that. Men have weakness. Faith, hope and charity bring us to Christ who is the fountain of all righteousness.


After establishing that faith, hope, and charity lead to the fountain of all righteousness, Moroni goes on to offer some very significant examples of each principle in action.

Faith – The Brother of Jared moved mountains by faith. The Lord also revealed himself unto his disciples after they had faith and spoken in his name. (See vs. 29-31)

Hope – Christ has said that he goes to prepare a house for man among the mansion of His Father. (He’s not mincing words here.) Man must hope or he cannot receive this inheritance. (See vs. 32)

Charity – Christ was motivated by love for all the world. It was his preparations in lying down his life, taking it up again, and move on to prepare an eternal dwelling place for man that was motivated by love. Our capacity to receive this inheritance is also informed by our ability to feel love. Without charity, we cannot dwell where God dwells, for God dwells in love.(See vs. 33-34)


Moving on, verses 36 & 37 were quoted by Hyrum Smith just before his and the prophet Joseph’s martyrdom. Reading this this morning causes me to consider that it is the very doctrines that I love straight from the Book of Mormon that these men also lived for and died for. This rivets me just a little stronger to the prophet Joseph this morning as well.

It also helps me to internalize these verses by thinking of the Lord’s voice as I read His words in verse 37. For these are His words.

The wording of the Lord suggests that being made clean and being made strong, both were future events and prerequisites for inheritance in the kingdom of God, or as Christ says, “even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.” Both are actions that are preformed by Christ. Ours is the task of having faith in Christ, hope in His promises, and charity like He did. We much be humble, penitent, and teachable. This is what we must do.


Moroni bids farewell to two groups at the end of this chapter, he supposing that this was near the end of his record: first the Gentiles and then “my brethren whom I love.” I am contemplating who these two groups are. Moroni is talking about the two intended audiences of this book, because a contemporary audience there was none. No one in his day was going to read what had been written.

Who are the Gentiles? Those who exist outside of the faith, the unbelieving. Not members of the House of Israel, those who do not make or keep covenants with God. Not the followers of Christ.

Who are his brethren? We are, if we believe in Christ! I want to believe that he is talking to me. And I am moved when he says that he loves us. Earlier, Moroni spoke to his audience saying:

Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.

Mormon 8:35

Before the Judgment-Seat of Christ

In no uncertain terms, Moroni states here at the end of this chapter that he expects to meet us “before the judgment-seat of Christ.” The scriptures are quite verbose on the topic of Jesus Christ as Judge. So it would seem the world thinks to ignore the Judge, but there will be no ignoring Him when at the end of times we are brought before Him to Judgment.

TG – Jesus Christ, Judge

Is there salvation in the judgments of the Lord? See 1 Chronicles 16:31-34

The Lord shall judge His people. Psalms 7:8 Why would I want to be judged of the Lord? Is this something to be feared or deeply desired? What happens when I get judged of the Christ? Would he condemn me, or knowing who I really am, offer correction so that I might continue to progress?

But there is a final judgment, isn’t there? A cut off point? He will be my friend when I show up for that day, because I have taken the time to know Him. I have sought after Him.

Why am I so afraid of Judgment? Many people are afraid of being condemned. But Christ isn’t the condemner or the accuser. The adversary of my soul possesses that title, so judgment that comes from Christ looks much different, much, much different than the condemnation that we our minds race to be default. If we have taken the time to know Him, we would understand this clearly. Christ does occupy the position of being a stop-point on our journey, a measuring stick to gauge our progress.

Still studying judgment, and Christ as the Judge and there are within me many questions about how this works, and why it works. I read in 2 Nephi 29:11 today about how the world will be judged out of the books which the Lord shall inspire to be written.

What are my questions: when I think of the judgments of Christ the best example that I have to call up on or to reference are the experiences of my mission with my mission president. He would often act as a judge on my behalf when I needed critical counsel, he could offer the decisive direction that I needed.

How could he do that?


I have spent many days now, at least a week or more studying Jesus Christ as Judge as a part of this study. I am very curious based off of what I’ve already learned to pursue this particular study (especially entries found in Isaiah), but I will continue elsewhere and conclude this study of Ether 12 by making a few additional comments about Moroni’s parting comments, his second of three farewells.

In verse 39, Moroni talks about how Jesus had spoken directly with him “in plain humility” concerning the things which he had accounted for in this record. This is the Christ that I am coming to understand better.

And then the stirring invitation found at the end of this chapter:

And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever.

Verse 41 (emphasis added)

There is a reminder here to seek for Christ in the words of the prophets. I also find it interesting that Moroni promises the grace that is in all three members of the Godhead, not just in Christ alone.


In conclusion, I am a different man at the end of this study than I was before I began. I understand better the power that is available to me, not only through faith, but through hope and charity: all this centered in Christ. I understand my weaknesses are mine and that they are given to me for a purpose. I have written and recorded a powerful, Christmas-time discourse on Christ, repentance, family, and our eternal identities as children of Heavenly Parents, which was heavily influenced by ideas in this chapter as well.

Now I must pray.

Christ and Christmas

A disclaimer: I am aware that this season can be anything but a time of joy. For a multitude of reasons, mostly related to family dynamics or the lack there of, there is pain where it seems there ought not to be. I pray that the Spirit of the Lord can convey in my remarks even the smallest amount of hope and healing that is available through Jesus Christ and His power — power to heal you, and your family, no matter how shattered or battered it may currently be.

Shall we begin?


Some how, trains have become associated with Christmas time. We have little model trains, there are old-time Christmas train rides. We tell stories about trains, watch movies with Christmas trains in them. Sometimes, Santa is depicted as getting around on a train. Union Station, that historic train terminal in Kansas City has a model train exhibit that has become a Christmas-time tradition for many.

Brother and Sisters, today I invite you to board an imaginary train with me as we travel a few miles together, at Christmas Time, to talk of the Christ. There will be four stops along our imaginary train ride. Are you ready? All aboard the Christmas Time Express!

And where does our first stop take us? Why, back to the beginning of course.

Stop Number One: We are the Children of Our Heavenly Parents

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God.”1 Furthermore, he added, “I want you all to know Him, and to be familiar with Him.”2 We must have “a correct idea of his … perfections, and attributes” and an admiration for “the excellency of [His] character.”3

In 1909, the First Presidency stated “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.”

We will discuss at a latter stop, a few key events from the very beginning, but let us first consider the nature of the Character of God, of whom we are children.

Christ taught us to pray to our Heavenly Father. This is the beginning of all power.

My Heavenly Father is being of light, all truth, and all knowledge. I can trust in God. I believe in a God who wants me to be with Him, because He is my Father, and I am His son. I believe in heavenly parents, who hold dominion over the earth, the heavens, the stars and all that is known or that can be known about the universe.

The more that I understand my Heavenly Parents, the more I understand myself.

Our Heavenly Parents have so perfectly organized our mortal existence in such a way as to pay attention to the smallest details, imperfections and weakness that are mine and mine alone. This divine orchestration takes into consideration no only the quirks about how my body is built, but I also have mental infirmities, social anomalies, and even spiritual handicaps, most of which are not visible to those around me. This makes up me, who I am, unique in all the world, and perhaps in all the universe. I am handcrafted by heavenly parents to be exactly who I am.

I also have personal strengths, gifts selected to give me joy and confidence in my abilities to become something far more than I am capable of imagining. This collection of weaknesses and strengths are perfectly calibrated to provide my being with the building blocks necessary for me to eventually become like Them.

We contain within us the seeds of eternal Glory.

God lives, and we are the most immediate evidence of His Reality! Paul taught in Athens of old, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being… For …we are the offspring of God.” (see Acts 17)

So here we are at the end of stop One. And what have we learned? God is our Father, and we are His Children. We still have much ground to cover so let’s move on.

Stop Number Two: Repentance

Stop two brings us to consider the one of the most central teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our prophet, President Nelson recently asked the question: “How important is Repentance?”

Then he answered, “Repentance is required of every accountable person who desires eternal glory. There are no exceptions… Repenting is the key to progress.”

There is not a more important decision that we can make today, and everyday, than to repent and change from who we are right now, into whom God knows we can become.

We don’t have any idea of who we are to become, unless we’ve done the hard work of asking God in all humility to be shown what we do actually lack yet. The Lord has said:

I bgive unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my cgrace is sufficient for all men that dhumble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make eweak things become strong unto them.

Ether 12:27

Repentance is a gift. It is the ability to change from doing things the way that we see is best, which unfortunately is severely limited. Unaided, human perception is hardly better than animal instinct.

Indeed, in addition to being multi-faceted beings with unique strengths and weaknesses, we are also the only creatures on earth that can make mistakes and also learn from our mistakes. We have the ability to analyze outcomes and change behavior to realized a different outcome. We are capable of deliberately delay impulses of fear, appetite, instinct, or even passion, and we are able to make sacrifices: to postpone instant gratification in favor of a delayed or improved result later on. So when we turn to God, our vision becomes greatly enhanced and we see things differently about ourselves.

A Quick Example: Imagine being gifted a sports car, but then imagine not being given the keys. No, you have been gifted your dream sport car, but it is only to be used as lawn ornament in your front yard. Sure, it might be fun to look at for a while. But what good would it be, unless you could actually experience its power?

Each of us has been given a sports car in the form of a mortal body. And repentance is the key to experiencing the power of a “sports car” life! Otherwise, we may be considered little more than lawn ornaments on God’s front yard: Pretty to look at, but not going anywhere!

Very few of us are afraid of hard work. Let us not be afraid of the internal, personal, quiet, hard work required for us to consistently drawing closer to God! So at Christmas time and at every time of the year, one of the best gifts that we can give back to God, is our finest and most heart-felt energies and efforts to repent.

I hope we never grow weary of talking about repentance, but its time to board the train again as we move along to stop number three.

Stop Number Three: Christ the Son

In a time before we were born, we lived with our Heavenly Parents. A plan was present to for us to become like them, which when we heard it, we shouted for joy. In that joyous occasion, we learned that the plan would enable us to become free agents, capable of making choice. In making choices, we would fall away from God. One came forward as a Mediator, making it possible for us to return. In this council, He was known as Jehovah. Jehovah was chosen to become our Savior, even Jesus the Christ.

What is Christmas without Christ?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

This is the reason why we celebrate Christmas.

Jesus Christ was the only perfect being to come to earth: He lovingly taught all manner of imperfect people: sinners, beggars, tax collectors, military captains, fathers, mothers, children, and the list goes one. He taught us to love God, and to love our neighbor.

Then to make the matter personal, Jesus suffered unimaginable pain in Gethsemene, taking upon him our all that was lacking in our own characters, and making up the difference. This three part event that included the suffering, the death, and the Resurrection of our Lord we call the Atonement. The Atonement is the supreme expression of the love of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

What good is a gift not received? Remember our sports car analogy? Repentance may be the key that we have to use, but Jesus Christ is the gas in our engine. Without the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, there simply is no power in our lives to make change and progress.

Stop Number Four: The Family, Your Family

We’ve now made three stops along our imaginary Christmas-time train ride. We’ve considered our position as Children of God, we’ve learned better how to live a more meanigful life through repentance, and we’ve considered only briefly the Reason for the season: Jesus Christ the Son of God. But there is one more important stop to make today before our time together comes to a close.

Many years ago, I was extremely privileged to serve as a full-time missionary in the beautiful country of Costa Rica. At the very end of my missionary service, I found myself in an exit interview sitting across the desk from my mission president, Jose L. Gonzalez of Columbia. He asked me: “What are your thoughts about marriage?” If I am being honest, I had very few thoughts about marriage up to that point in my life. It was not on my radar, nor in my immediately post-mission plans. The interview happened just two weeks before Thanksgiving, and so my response back to my mission president, and this was true, was “My mother says I have to wait until after Thanksgiving to get married.” He whipped right back at me, “Elder Leavitt, your mother doesn’t make that decision, now does she!” Suddenly marriage was on my radar.

Three days later, still a week and half before Thanksgiving, a young lady swept me off my feet, and though I waited until Valentine’s Day to propose marriage, I spent many hours in the temple praying about marriage and family. One such visit to the Mesa Arizona temple, I saw in my mind’s eye me wrestling with four small boys.

When I came home from my mission, I had my goals and dream and ambitions. But the Lord was very clear to me in illustrating the point, my family should not wait before I realize my then-youthful dreams and ambitions.

Why did family take such a priority in the Lord’s plans for me?

We started off this journey today by talking about our origin from a heaven family and home. It is now my purpose to show you how through your human family, God has created a design for you to return home. How could such a thing be when our homes and we ourselves are anything but perfect, totally incapable of saving ourselves?

There is a work that we do in this church both inside holy temples and in our homes that is not of this world. It the work of creating family connections and family bonds. You can start that work today by looking at your family story different, with all its flaws and painful imperfections. You and I as imperfect human beings are connected, because of our family, to other imperfect human beings. We can understand that God has given us this mortality to build our immortality. You and all those beautifully imperfect people that you call your family are the very substance of your salvation through Christ Jesus. In fact, when we talk about families, we don’t call it salvation: we call it exaltation. Because God’s purpose is to elevate, or exalt the human family, your human family. When I think about this: that Christ came to save my imperfect family, I want to sing even louder: Joy to the World, the Lord is Come, Let Earth Receive her king! (In otherwords: what are we waiting for? God has given us everything we need to be saved. We just need to act! )

So what are we to do with all this joyful knowledge? What can we change about our approach to Christmas and family right now? Consider the work of Family History. We must take an interest in the stories of our parents, grandparents and so on. Perhaps we are to take an interest in the stories of our children, if there be any children. And let’s not forget Aunts and Uncles, cousins, our siblings, neices and nephews, and so. We are to listen to and learn from one another. But there is more.

As we learn from our families, and heal and grow closer together, we can go to the temples of our God and receive binding covenants and ordinances where in the power of Jesus Christ seals us to each other, in a bond that no-one can break except for us as individuals. And not even an unfaithful parent, spouse or wayward child can severe our covenants with God. If we choose to be faithful, God will honor those covenants to the utmost degree. This is not just wishful thinking, we have biblical promises that God will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. Therefore, let every heart prepare Him room. Room for what? For the healing and forgiveness that can and will come to our families through Jesus Christ.

At Journey’s End…

Well, unfortunately, we’ve come to the end of our ride today. I have just one small parting gift for each of you today: It is my witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and his work.

You and I can know our standing before God today through personal prayer and repentance. (Bishops and Branch Presidents can help to clarify that standing when help is needed.) Jesus Christ is our great example of a happy life. He paid the price for us to also live an abundant life. Families can be healed and made whole through the power of Jesus Christ and His ordinances found in the Holy Temple. This is all true. Merry Christmas! In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

And They Were Exceedingly Industrious

Ether 10 (Éter 10)

Lo primero que me impresiona de esta lectura es que Shez salió de la casa de su descendiente Het. No fue un hijo de Het, sino un nieto, or tal vez, un biz nieto. Y dice el registro que todos lo demás de su familia o de su casa se habían perecido por motivo del hambre. Hay algo personal en el liderazgo de Shez que tomo sobre sí.

El versículo 2 es una reconocimiento de la importancia de la historia familiar. Shez entendió y reconoció la destrucción de su propia familia, los cuales ya eran la historia. También entendió y recordó la historia más lejano para atrás de Jared y su hermano, y como el Señor los entregó a esta tierra de promisión. Este poder para recordar es significante en su capacidad de avanzar.


En seguida, Shez tiene un hijo llamado Riplákish quien le sigue como rey. Las palabras que describa la relación con su padre (Shez) me hace crear que Shez murió cuando Riplákish era muy joven. Sin saber la razón por lo cual Riplákish salió como lo hizo, escogió no andar en la justia como su padre. Tenía el poder de ser rey, sin el deseo de hacer lo que era bueno. Violó los dos poderes que a Dios le gusta guardar para sí, los poderes para crear y quitar vida. Los tomó erróneamente como derecho propio al ser el rey de la tierra.

La vida de Riplákish es un ejemplo de la falta de autodominio. Se nota al principio y final de estos versículos que trata de su vida, de que la cosa más errante de su comportamiento fue que tuvo muchas esposas y concubinas. Esto es el resultado de un hombre que no pudo controlarse. Todos los esfuerzos y todos los recursos del reino estaban dirigido al orgullo de un solo hombre: el rey. El pueblo suportó durante cuarenta y dos años debajo su subyugación antes que ellos rebelaron contra a Riplákish — un hombre que nunca aprendió autodominio.


En seguida, leemos de un hombe, un descendiente de Riplákish, quien se llamaba Moriantón. Y las escrituras concerniente a Moriantón nos ilustra un punto muy importante: uno puede obrar rectamente con los demás, y todavía andar mal en sus asuntos personales, y así estar separado de la presencia del Señor. (véase vs. 11)


Later in the chapter (changing to English), we read about a period of prosperity in the land that was governed by a series of four successive righteous kings: Levi, Corom, Kish, and Lib. I would have thought little about this except that first, the author goes out of his way to mention what seems to be a random event that was accomplished in the days of Lib: the poisonous serpents were destroyed. Really? They managed to vanquish an entire breed of snake?

(This is a new day of study, but I am still in the same topic.) I am sitting with abundance and the reality of my situation, which words seem very inadequate to express. I’ve gotten lost down a footnote on old age, and found it rather humorous that there was a topical guide entry on the subject: TG – Old Age, but one verse (Psalms 92:14) stood out to me as important. As I am contemplating the prosperity of this world, and the abundance that is possessed herein, I am tempted to lament that I have let so much time pass in prideful vanity. And yet here I am with tools of repentance in one hand, and promises of fruits in old age in the other hand.

Where is the Christ in these verses? I read about kings doing “that which was right [or that which was good] in the sight of the Lord.” Their kingdoms were blessed in temporal abundance. And the kings were blessed with many children. The kingdoms were conferred (by tradition, it seems) to a younger son (not the oldest child like is customary in European royalty). This had the effect of creating longer periods of stability when governed by righteous kings.

But then we have this account of what their prosperity looked like with operations of mining, textiles, agriculture, and trade. The author takes pains to illustrate these different operations and then concludes that:

And never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord. And they were in a land that was choice above all lands, for the Lord had spoken it.

Verse 28

I need to move on after today, but these verses have caused me to consider the abundance of the earth, our connection to it, how willing the Lord is to extend to us his blessings of material goods, and how it is that we are to learn from these matters. So often we read in the scriptures of wicked because of the focus on material goods, and their desires for the things of this world. None of it comes with us in the end of life. But are we not to use these things, and to employ them to our benefit and blessing?


The end of this chapter features a genealogy of men in captivity. Five generations pass: Hearthom, Heth, Aaron, Amnigaddah, and Coriantum. Coriantum has a son named Com who fights to regain kingship over the kingdom, and after many years at war, he eventually regains full dominion over the land.

This is a scenario that has been repeated now multiple times over the hundreds of years of Jaredite civilization. War is required for a king to retain control over the kingdom when wickedness prevails. But what the Brother of Jared lamented about having a king was that it lead to periods of captivity. Verse 31 confirms that very point. And why would this be grievous to a prophet of God? Why would this be contrary to the will of God?

Perhaps it is because it prevents the plan of God from being fully executed. In captivity men are not agents unto themselves. Curious it is that only a righteous king maintains freedom.

Nourishing and Bearing Our Testimony

“Nourishing and Bearing Your Testimony,” By Elder Gary E. Stevenson, General Conference, Oct 2022

Questions:

  • Why is it important that we take responsibility for the cultivation of our personal testimony?
  • Why does it seem like this is not a relevant or issue of priority?
  • How are testimonies gained? How are they cultivated? Why is there an urgency or priority in seeking to develop a testimony of Christ and His Work?
  • Why do we have a tendency to believe that a testimony is gained by happenstance? What would be the alternative view of how a testimony should be acquired? How can we ensure that this isn’t something that just happens by chance, but rather that it is intentionally sought after?

Questions from Elder Stevenson’s talk:

  1. Do I know and understand what a testimony is?
  2. Do I know how to bear my testimony?
  3. What are the obstacles in sharing my testimony?
  4. How do I keep my testimony?

Key elements of a testimony:

  • God is your Heavenly Father; you are His child. He loves you.
  • Jesus Christ lives. He is the Son of the living God and your Savior and Redeemer.
  • Joseph Smith is a prophet of God called to restore the Church of Jesus Christ.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s restored Church on the earth.
  • The restored Church of Jesus Christ is led by a living prophet today.

Matthew Cowley, an early Apostle, shared this experience as he departed on a five-year mission at age 17 to New Zealand:

“I will never forget the prayers of my father the day that I left. I have never heard a more beautiful blessing in all my life. Then his last words to me at the railroad station, ‘My boy, you will go out on that mission; you will study; you will try to prepare your sermons; and sometimes when you are called upon, you will think you are wonderfully prepared, but when you stand up, your mind will go completely blank.’ I have had that experience more than once.

“I said, ‘What do you do when your mind goes blank?’

“He said, ‘You stand up there and with all the fervor of your soul, you bear witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet of the living God, and thoughts will flood into your mind and words to your mouth … to the heart of everyone who listens.’ And so my mind, being mostly blank during my … mission … , gave me the opportunity to bear testimony to the greatest event in the history of the world since the crucifixion of the Master. Try it sometime, fellows and girls. If you don’t have anything else to say, testify that Joseph Smith was the prophet of God, and the whole history of the Church will flood into your mind.”6


“Feed [your testimony] truth. …

“… Nourish yourself in the words of ancient and modern prophets. Ask the Lord to teach you how to hear Him better. Spend more time in the temple and in family history work.

“… Make your testimony your highest priority.”14

President Russell M. Nelson

The Son of Righteousness

Ether 9 (Éter 9)

It impresses me at the start of this chapter that 1) the Lord was able to warn Omer and his household to leave his throne and remove themselves far enough away that they would not be impacted by whatever was able to happen as it pertained to the affairs of the kingdom. 2) It speaks significantly to the character of Omer that he was willing to dwell in a tent far removed from the kingdom and his throne, though he was king of the people.

A significant period of time is covered in few verses. Enough is recounted though to illustrate the destruction of the family of Jared, including his own death upon the throne. What strikes me as significant is the repercussions on the family of the daughter of Jared for her initiation of this secret combination among her own household. Her husband, who she lured into this oath, became the mean of murder of her father (who she sought to help?) and one of her sons. This is my assumption that these were her sons. The record only states is that they were the sons of Akish.


A new morning, and I have re-read the same group of verses at the beginning of the chapter, verses 1-15. For the family of Omer, the Lord was merciful to them. No he didn’t get to be king, but what his family did get to do was live a life in peace. In such circumstances, one’s personal salvation and character development take front and center stage. But alas, the rest of the nation was not so fortunate.


This morning I have contemplated bribery, what it is, and some of the scriptures that warn against it. This was partly what lead to the overthrow of the people and their utter destruction: their hearts were upon riches and gain. They corrupted themselves in gifts of money.


In the middle of this terrible ordeal with Akish, we read of one of his sons and a group of men leaving “civilization” to go live with Omer on the seashore. This son is mentioned by name, Nimrah. The account says that he was angry with his father, and so it was that he left. Why is this brief two-verse account found in the Book of Mormon? Perhaps it illustrates simply a constructive way to respond to anger: to just walk away. He followed the same pattern that the previous king had done.

Was it common knowledge that Omer had left and to where he had gone? Obviously, his household was not there. It’s also noteworthy that Nimrah didn’t travel alone, but for safety, he went in a group with other men. These men saved their own lives.

The reign of Omer ends with his eventual reestablishment upon the throne, upon the near total annihilation of the people of the land.


The Spirit of the Lord is upon me this morning. What an interesting account we have in the life of Omer a righteous king, and yet the people are wicked. What an interesting and yet very sad juxtaposition! In Omer we have a righteous king who is powerless to stop the utter destruction of his kingdom.

How do we know this? Because of the end of Omer’s life, he begets a son, Emer. And what does Emer do? Exactly what his father had done. Omer was righteous, so the Lord warned him to flee when the destruction of his people was eminent. Emer was righteous in part because he had the model of his father to follow. Emer’s story and life experience is completely opposite of what his father was called upon to experience, suffer, and endure.


I am noting the instances where the Lord is referenced in this chapter. Twice at the beginning of the chapter- the Lord was merciful and He warned. Then not until verse 16 in the reign of Emer, we read that it was the Lord who began again to take the curse off the land.


New morning and the first thing that stands out to me is that in verse 16, it wasn’t just Emer who was beginning to be blessed, but it was the house of Emer. In other words, it was the family of Emer.

…the house of Emer did prosper exceedingly under the reign of Emer; and in the space of sixty and two years they had become exceedingly strong,

Verse 16 (emphasis added)

Now why does this matter? Because significantly, prosperity is a family affair.

What did prosperity look like to these people? Having things around them that were both precious, but more importantly, things that were useful.


What is interesting as I continue to read through this digest of a historical account is that repentance is only mentioned when the people were in a state of wickedness. But wasn’t repentance also needed, were not the people actually repenting when they were in a condition of righteousness. Isn’t this what righteousness is: repentance? Repentance, actively changing to align one’s self with God, is what brings peace in this life.


It is General Conference weekend (Oct 2022), and I’ve just considered Bishop Caussé’s talk on Creativity and Stewardship. Going back to verses 16-20 and reading about the house of Emer’s property, I realize that of course this makes sense that the Lord would prosper those who regarded the blessings of God as a stewardship.


At the end of Emer’s life, he has the sacred privilege of seeing the Son of Righteousness before dying. This is a title for the Savior Jesus Christ that I am not well familiar with. “Son of Righteousness” appears three time in the Book of Mormon and themes of healing and peace are also referenced in each instance, except for this one in Ether. A similar phrase is found in the book of Malachi in the Old Testament, but it uses “Sun of righteousness” instead of the “Son”. This passage is referenced by the Savior in 3 Nephi, but it is replaced with “Son.”

Several thoughts are with me:

  • What symbolism is in our sun as a heavenly solar object that is the most fixed and absolute symbol of life upon the earth. Without the sun, the earth, for all that she is, is nothing. Oh how we depend upon the sun for both life and light.

8 But behold, the righteous that hearken unto the words of the prophets, and destroy them not, but look forward unto Christ with steadfastness for the signs which are given, notwithstanding all persecution—behold, they are they which shall not perish.

9 But the Son of Righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them, and they shall have peace with him…

2 Nephi 26:8-9

This passage in 2 Nephi is one of two other places in the scriptures where the title of “Son of Righteousness” is used in reference to the Savior. It is illustrative of steps that may have been taken by Emer:

  • Hearken (to give heed or careful attention) to the words of the prophets
  • To not act violently against the prophets
  • To look for the signs of Christ
  • To withstand persecution for taking such a position

Why would Jesus be called the “Son of Righteousness”? Then who is the “Father of Righteousness”? God the Father.

(Tangential reading: Father, Consider Your Ways )

Continuing on the question of why Jesus is called the “Son of Righteousness,” it lead me to consider the conversation recorded in Mark 10 between the Savior and the rich, young ruler:

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Mark 10:18

Why did the Savior find it important to point away from Himself and to acknowledge the Father in this passage as being the only source of goodness? A footnote actually takes me full circle back to Ether 4:

11 But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good.

12 And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good; he that will not believe my words will not believe me—that I am; and he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world.

Ether 4:11-12 (emphasis added)

God the Father is the source of all that is good. When Christ rejected the rich, young ruler’s greeting, He first was deflecting false praise from one who was probably used to using flattery as a means of persuasion. But that Christ also is able to point to the Father in same brief exchange as being the source of all that is good, this makes his response a powerful, double-edged sword.

The Spirit confirms strongly the point that God the Father is the source of all that is good. That all which is good originates with Him, and that I am able to frequently commune with Him, gives me confidence with Him. I can trust the Source of all righteousness.

Christ is not one step behind our Father in terms of righteousness, but in perfect humility, He acknowledges that it is the Father, not Himself, that is that Source of which we have been considering. And in this capacity, He aptly wears the title “the Son of Righteousness.”


Moving on, the generational pattern of the kings between fathers and sons is such in this chapter that where there is righteousness and then wickedness, there seems to be no living connection between the generations.

Emer sees the Son of Righteousness, we don’t know how long his son Coriantum is alive before he becomes king, but he has adopted his father’s righteous patterns. Coriantum was only one generation away from the awful destruction that befell the nation during his grandfather’s (Omer) time as king. Because Omer begat Emer in his old age, it is not likely that Coriantum ever lived to know his own grandfather. This does not appear to be a significant detriment to Coriantum, but then the people also in general were only a generation past the significant destruction. Surely the collective memory was such as to serve the nation as a reminder of what happens in times of wickedness.

So we have the reign of Emer, a smaller kingdom being rebuilt from the utter destruction that was realized in Omer’s time. Then we have the reign of Coriantum, who enjoyed a long and prosperous reign of city building, but without children of his own until he became very old. His wife has died having born him no children, and then as a centenarian takes a young maid to wife, who then is able to bear him children.

Com is born to Coriantum in the last 40 years of his life. Com appears to have followed his father’s path in leadership. Com then begat Heth at age 49. So Heth was born after Coriantum had died, and again there is no generational connection between grandfathers and grandchildren. And by the time that Heth would have been sufficient age to stage a rebellion against his father, Com would have been at least 65, or more likely 70 years old or more.

Only five generation have passed between Omer and Heth. From the death of Omer to the birth of Heth, more than 200 years have most likely passed (a guess based off of what is provided). But what’s more significant in this time span is that not one of these kings knew their grandfather. And then we have the terrible betrayal of Heth in which he murdered his father.


Similar to the previous chapter, prophets come among the people to declare repentance. Their warning was that the people should prepare the way of the Lord or that there would be a curse upon the land. This morning when I read “they should be destroyed if they did not repent,” repentance feels different to me. When I read the call to repentance, I don’t see it as a one-time event, as a precaution to avoiding destruction. Rather, the prophets are telling the people that this is the life that you should lead. Repent regularly and often and you will be saved.

I am wondering if there are those who did listen to the prophets, did anyone change or take it upon themselves to do better. Did they avoid the curse that came upon the wicked?

The group effect was a dearth and plague of poisonous serpents which separated the people from their food, and just at the point of perishing, the people were brought to repentance. Somehow in the collective narrative of these people, it was known what they should do in repenting of their sins.


There is a tendency to look at an episode like the one found here at the end of the chapter as fairly basic and transactional event. Yet upon further consideration, why did the Lord have any regard for this people? Why did He send prophets to warn them of their destruction? Why did He chasten them with poisonous serpents? Why did He withhold the rains from their lands until they had remembered to repent? Why does He care?

Because He does!


En el versículo 28, hay una paralela entre el arrepentimiento y el preparar el camino del Señor. O sea, la manera de preparar el camino del Señor es el arrepentimiento. El camino del Señor no es un camino tangible, sino es una manera de existir. Cuando nos arrepentimos estamos preparándonos para andar en el camino del Señor.


En el último versículo, hay mucho para aprender. Dice que cuando el pueblo –se hubieron humillado suficientemente ante el Señor–, esta cláusula no require una exacta forma de humildad, sino que habian llegado a un estado suficientemente humillado para continuar en sus progreso espiritual. Esta frase también sugiera a mi la idea de que hay más espacio para ser más humilde.

La última frase del versículo dice que el Señor tuvo poder para librarlos del hambre. En realidad, es Cristo que tiene poder para librarnos de todo aflicción. Él es quien nos libra del mal de todas las cosas.

General Conference, Oct 2022


Saturday Morning:

President Oaks – caring for the poor.

Sister Browning- quoting Pres. Nelson, nothing brings the spirit more strongly than focus on Jesus Christ.

Listening to Elders Pino and Montoya, feeling peaceful reassurance in the Gospel of Christ. The Spirit often felt in my mission, that I am now realizing that I did feel frequently on my mission.

Sunday Morning

Jeffery Holland – Bearing our personal crosses, including mental illness.

RS 1st Cnslr – a desire for love and be slowly realized can be like a tree that will eventually bring for delicious fruit abundantly.

Elder Gong offers two stories of families being healed in family history work.

The savior helps us heal our relationships with others .

Elder Sitati – Discipleship at home is the true crucible that becomes the foundation of everything else.

Bednar – Parables, and the parable of the rich king’s marriage feast.

Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.

What does it mean to overcome the world? Resistance to sin will increase. Growing to love God and His Son more than anything else.

How to overcome the world?

Great quote from Pres. Benson.

Sunday Afternoon:

Eyeing: Ordinary people can attain such divine attributes. Christ would be the perfect example to emulate.

Study the many names of Jesus. What do these names mean to me?

Add the daily Holy habits of service to others. (This is something that can start in our home.)

Elder Eddy – drink deeply directly from the source.

Elder Stevenson – 5 points of I need to strengthen my testimony of Joseph Smith’s prophetic call.

Ask the Lord how to hear him better.

Quinten L. Cook – Testimony of Jesus Christ and this work. Alma’s concern was to his own children.

Bridle your passions that you may be filled with love.

Secret Combinations

Ether 8 (Éter 8); See also Moses 5:18-52

In the course of his Jaredite narrative, Moroni uses this chapter to expound upon the diabolical tactic of secret combinations. I have found in the footnotes in verse 9, multiple references to secret combinations throughout the scriptures, and how their author is the devil and the origin of such date back to the time of Cain, when he slew Abel.

Perhaps the saddest line in the account of Cain found in the book of Moses is the realization of Cain: “…for these things are not hid from the Lord.” (Moses 5:39)

Another truly sad point is the aftermath of the family dynamics of Akish, whom the daughter of Jared lured into this trap. I feel saddest for the daughter of Jared who believed the lie that she was getting gain or doing some great thing in helping her father to regain his throne.


I have a lot going through my mind this morning. First there is this prompt to make notes about organized wickedness. That is what the Lord, through Moroni is warning us about. What started in the heart of one women, was spread to her father, her soon-to-be husband, and then all his friends and family (see vs. 17). Organized wickedness involves others.

This chapter deals with secret combinations as they pertain to murder (the ending of life), but organized wickedness in sexuality (the creation of life) is not much further behind, and is also an organization that seeks to hide itself for the sake of power and gain.

And they were kept up by the power of the devil to administer these oaths unto the people, to keep them in darkness, to help such as sought power to gain power, and to murder, and to plunder, and to lie, and to commit all manner of wickedness and whoredoms.

Verse 16 (emphasis added)

People are kept in darkness under secret combinations, subjected to falsehoods and lies to the assistance of those who seek power. (I’m having a hard time not drawing strong parallels to our current political climate.)


An interesting side tangent to this is then the false notion that all organization is corrupt, including organized religion.


Secret combinations are a hot ticket to the immediate and swift end of civilized society. When an entire nation embraces them, then is that nation destroyed. There is no preserving force working in their behalf. The vengeance of God, in avenging the blood of the saints who have fallen prey to such as uphold these works, is upon them.


Verse 21 gives even heavier importance to the destructive nature of secret combinations, or organized wickedness: “And they have caused the destruction of [the] people.” It is not just wickedness, it’s the concerted effort of wickedness, organized so as to create a web of allegiances and networks. This is what destroys civilization: being sworn by covenants to associations with those that would promote the works of darkness and in demanding allegiance by penalty of death.

One of the most insidious consequences of secret combination, and the motivation behind those that support and endorse it, is to “overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries;” Why would the devil be so bent on destroying freedom? The obvious answer is that it limits an individual’s ability to choose. (Salvation can only be secured by choice.) In the context of secret combinations, as soon as someone is invited to enter into this pact, their freedom is taken from them. They have only the ability to accept it or suffer the consequence of death (which frankly seems the better option, because one exits mortality without the consequences of sin).


Coming to the end of this chapter, I am asking myself what is my obligation in recognizing and avoiding secret combinations? Two things come to mind: 1) be aware of the realities in the world that we live in. 2) Focus on the future and the day when satan will no longer have control over the hearts of the children of men. (see verse 26)


The Spirit of the Lord bids me to revisit this chapter once more before moving on. In verse 7, we read that Jared experienced great sorrow because of what he had allowed himself to do with his heart: “for he had set his heart upon the kingdom and upon the glory of the world.”

This conditioning of the heart, this is something that is completely controlled by the individual.

Extending forgiveness can take tremendous courage and humility. It can also take time. It requires us to put our faith and trust in the Lord as we assume accountability for the condition of our hearts. Here lies the significance and power of our agency.

“Christ Heals That Which Is Broken,” Amy A. Wright, April 2022 General Conference (emphasis added)

Heart – Guide to the Scriptures

1 Samuel 13:14

2 Nephi 25:16

Proverbs 23:7 (all of the chapter is informative)

Matthew 5:8

I feel that all of this is God instructing me in what I must do to get to Him.


Another day spent focused on the key word “heart,” looking for ways in which it was addressed in the last General Conference has rendered a fruitful and meaningful search that I could spend more time than I have available for this morning.

President Nelson’s latest prophetic counsel “to end conflicts that are raging in your heart, your home, and your life” shows me that he understands enough to direct the issue squarely at the condition of our hearts. He continues, ” Bury any and all inclinations to hurt others—whether those inclinations be a temper, a sharp tongue, or a resentment for someone who has hurt you.”

Elder Dieter F. Utchdorf’s latest council also bids me to pay keen attention to the condition of my heart: “Our Heartfelt All.” (This is also a discussion on consecration.)


Family History is Personal

I don’t want to forget what I have learned today. So before we sit down for dinner, I am taking time to type up what has happened.

I have received my commission into family history in a most extraordinarily personal way. We are coming out of a weekend of stake conference and I’ve just recovered from another personal bout of mental sickness, but which also was nothing less than an afront of the adversary of my soul, perhaps one of the most powerful that I’ve received in recent history. But the revelation that has opened upon my mind and heart this afternoon is multifaceted and expansive.

As I was in the kitchen with my oldest son, Aaron, I stood musing with him about this state of mental illness that indeed has been a part of me for a very long time now. As I tried to explain this observed phenomenon to Aaron, Rachel came in and also began to contribute to the conversation. She aptly pointed out that there may be some inherent family trauma that is influencing this “illness”, “weakness” or whatever I want to call it.

It’s a field of study that is being developed that links family trauma to generations, past, present, and future. This idea of family trauma as an influencer of current behavioral challenges is a compelling argument for temple and family history work, because it allows me to both understand what is wrong in myself and affords me the opportunity to heal what has been broken in my past and in my family’s past.

So many eternal truth “puzzle pieces” started falling in place for me, once I realized that the gospel of Jesus Christ is an intimately, personal thing because family history is personal. This kind of rapid fire, personal revelation within a matter of moments seldom happens for me. But today, it came very fast and very clear. I feel as if I could expand upon this subject, or really any other gospel theme or topic ad hoc ad infinidum (when needed or as necessary, forever). The Spirit of the Lord is that strongly with me in this matter.

[They] Did Execute Judgment in Righteousness

Ether 7 (Éter 7)

In the first five verses of the chapter, we are three generations removed from Jared and his brother. That’s all it took for their children to be brought into captivity. It was the king who was brought into captivity. Perhaps this is why everyone except Orihah rejected the opportunity to be king, because there was an understanding that this curse would come upon the posterity of the king? And though Orihah spent his lifetime in executing his office in righteousness, it only took two generations after him (really just one) for rebellion to settle in.


There is not a lot of interaction in these verse between the Lord and those featured in these records. There is a verse that states the Lord sent prophets among the people to cry repentance. I find it curious that the king enacted laws to protect the prophets so that they could teach the people.


I have been praying about this particular chapter and am anticipating the upcoming chapters, and am wrestling with why this is important to me now.

The order of the kings that reigned area as follows:

  • Orihah – credited with executing judgment in righteousness all his days.
  • Kib – taken into captivity by his own son, Corihor.
  • Shule – restores kingdom to his father, and is subsequently appointed as king. Also credited with executing judgment in righteousness.

It is hard to understand the depth and development of a people with such a cursory overview. But this account does point out one universal similarity, and I think this is why this included here: “The people were brought unto repentance.”

How? Through prophets which came “prophesying that the wickedness and idolatry of the people was bringing a curse upon the land…” Their success was secured through the king “executing judgment against all those who did revile against the prophets.”

(There is more for me to internalize/digest in verses 25-26. What assumptions about these records am I making that make the Lord look transactional? Does this not really mean that the people began to progress again in that they repented?)


My thoughts go in couple of different directions this morning as I contemplate, and have contemplated now for several days these accounts of the affairs of the kings and their family power struggles. The question in my head though is this: does God preserve a nation because of the righteousness of the king or because of the righteousness of the people over whom the king governs?

And the immediate answer that comes to mind is the dialog between the Lord and Abraham concerning the righteous inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorah:

23 ¶ And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?

25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.

Genesis 18:23-33

During the reign of Shule, there came prophets among the people. Some of the people reviled against the prophets and mocked them. Shule responded by executing judgment against all those who did revile against the prophets.

I am intentionally paying very close attention to the wording that is being used and the assumptions that I am interpreting from what is written. What kind of judgments? It is not described. Was this verbal warnings, monetary fines, imprisonment? Was it not a penalty or punishment, but some other type of judgment? It doesn’t say that the people were punished, but rather that judgment was executed against those who did revile the prophets.

This judgment, whatever its nature, cleared the way that the prophets had access “go whithersoever they would; and by this cause the people were brought unto repentance.” (vs. 25, emphasis added.)


At the end of my studies yesterday, I solicited my wife’s interpretation (which tends to be less justice/penalty oriented) on the phrase “execute judgement”. Another way of looking at this which leaves nothing hidden is to replace the word “judgment” with the word “decision.” And the word “execute,” aside from being associated with the death penalty in modern, American society, simply means “to carry out or put into effect”.

So we might safely say that a possible meaning of the latter end of verse 24 is simply “that king Shule did [put into effect a decision] against all those who did revile against the prophets.” And what was the decision? “He executed [or carried out] a law throughout all the land, which gave power unto the prophets that they should go whithersoever they would.”

I appreciate this because there is thence forth nothing mysterious about what kind of judgment King Shule executed against the reviler of the prophets. He simply enacted a law that gave free speech to the prophets. That’s all he had to do, and consequently repentance was brought unto the people and peace was restored to the land.


And as a secondary point of validation on “execute judgment”, the translation in to Spanish is thus: “sometió a juicio”. It means to be put on trial, but it also literally means to submit or subject to judgment. The word “execute” and its harsh interpretation that I brought with it is no where to be found in the translation.


In the last verse of the chapter, King Shule is accredited with having no more wars during the remainder of his days, remembering “the great things the Lord had done for their fathers,” and again (at it is listed here a consequence of his capacity to remember), “executing judgment in righteousness all his days.”

This is a echo to both President Hinckley from my childhood who spoke often about the pioneers and their struggles, and also the words of Alma the Younger in Alma 5 (vs. 3-13) who spoke of the conversion of their parents just one generation earlier.

Stones to Shine in Darkness

Ether 6 (Éter 6)

I am struck by the profound significance and symbolism of verse 3:

And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.

This conjures up the symbolism or spiritual definition of Light in my mind. Also how important it is that men, women, and children all be brought to the light. The Lord has given us this earth and has given himself as the Light that we might not cross this mortal experience in darkness.

That’s the point. The Lord knew the Jaredites were about to embark in a difficult and long journey. He knew that without intervention they would be in darkness. Having light, having the ability to see, was extremely important to the Lord.


My mind has veered off into left field contemplating the time that they had in their barges. What did they do with the time that they had. There was eight barges, eight different experiences.

This reminds me of both recent and distant experiences that I have had working with groups of youth. One group in both my recent experience from manning a “pioneer games” activity and one group from my distant experience as a youth counselor had different, more elevated experiences than all the rest. Greater creativity, greater unity, just all-around better spirits. I cannot say what made the one group stand out from the majority. But I have had these experiences where I’ve witness successful community experiments work.


I’ve made a couple of notes in the actual scripture texts, but I think the thing that continues to resonate with me is how the brother of Jared and those that were with him didn’t loose sight of the Lord and his divine providence upon them. “…They did have light continually…” (vs. 10); “And they were taught to walk humbly before the Lord; and they were also taught from on high.” (vs. 17) Earlier in the journey of the Jaredites, there was a season where the brother of Jared forgot to call upon the Lord, but by the time they came to build the barges and cross the ocean, there was no lacking in their faith from that point on.


Returning to this again on a new day, this act of providing the Jaredites with light in their barges is also to me an act of kindness from the Lord. I am reflecting in my own life about my acts of kindness to improve the conditions of living for my children and others around me.

In verse 12, the Jaredites arrive at the promised land and oh what gratitude and joy! What richness and abundance had just been handed to them from the Lord. It was hardly anything of their own labor or efforts, It was entirely a gift from God.


Walk Humbly before the Lord (vs. 17)

I am going through a series of self-imposed alignment exercises while I’m study this morning, standing at my work station and I am brought to consider the phrase “walk with God”. Notice that it is not “stand with God” rather we are to “walk with God”. Movement, in a forward direction, appears to be a part of the plan for our progression/salvation. We have to be willing to move with God. God is not a static being. Standing is not his natural state of being? We are designed to move and always being moving forward.

TG- Walking with God


At the end of this chapter, Jared and his brother have grown old. The brother of Jared desires to know of his people what they would do for them before they departed mortality. The people request to have a king anointed over them. This was “grevious unto them.”

I am struggling with my own weaknesses as a father this morning. Yet I cannot imagine being in the position of the Brother of Jared: having labored his whole life to follow God and to have secured a land of promise for his people, then for their final request to be subjection to a king — “Surely this thing leadeth into captivity.” (vs. 23)

There is nothing in this record about how the Brother of Jared reconciled the people’s request within himself, or how it is that he sought council from the Lord in this matter. We only know that in the end, the brother of Jared conceded to the requests of the people.


The more that I am sitting with this final exchange, the more that it confuses me. The brother of Jared says that a king will bring the people into captivity, which is true. Yet the people want a king. Yet, none of the sons of the brother of Jared, nor any except for one of the sons of Jared would accept appointment to be king. What part of the people wanted a king if no one was willing to be a king? Did most share the same reservation that the brother of Jared had in establishing a king? Why were they refusing to be king? Were there no other precedents for alternative forms of government?

It was the youngest son of Jared who became king. “…For he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.” (Luke 9:48) I don’t have answers to this this morning, only observations.