Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Little Vacation

Well, quite spontaneously (we even forgot to tell my mom who lives with us) we picked up and drove to California very early Tuesday morning. We spent most that day driving and we've been at Disneyland all day today, which is why I haven't posted a new topic. Since we will likely not return until Sunday or Monday, I won't be able to do a new post until next week. So have a wonderful week and I'll return next Tuesday with a new topic!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


The Lord has commanded us to forgive all men. In D&C 64:9-10 it says:

"Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
"I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men."

When I have read this in the past, I have wondered, why does the Lord say He will forgive whom he will, but we have to forgive? In pondering this, I've come to the realization that this requirement has less to do with the Lord's forgiveness of others, and more to do with His forgiveness of our own sins. We are required to forgive others, not based on whether the Lord will forgive them or not, but simply because we have been forgiven.

I think the parable Christ gave about the king and a certain servant illustrates this well. In Matthew 18:23-35 Christ tells of a king who took account of his servants. One servant was brought before him who owed him ten thousand talents. The servant could not pay and the king commanded that he, his wife, his children, and all that he had be sold to pay the debt. The servant fell down and pleaded for the king to have patience with him and he would pay him all he owed. The king was moved with compassion and forgave the servant of the debt.

That same servant went out and found a fellowservant who owed him one hundred pence. He took him by the throat and demanded payment. The fellowservant fell down and pleaded for him to be patient and he would pay all that was owed. The servant would not, and had the fellowservant cast into prison until all was paid.

When the king found out what had happened, he called the servant to him and said, "'O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?' And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him."

Christ continues,"So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."

We are commanded to forgive because we have been forgiven of all. Christ has paid the debt for each one of us, and the forgiveness He extends to us is greater than any forgiveness that may required of us towards our fellowmen.

At times, however, extending this forgiveness may seem impossible. Some of the hurts inflicted upon us may seem too great to ever be forgiven. When we hear about or experience ourselves some of the atrocities commited by men, the sin we are required to forgive may seem much greater than any we may have been forgiven of. Surely some of these offenders will not find the Lord's forgiveness. Why then does the Lord require it of us and how are we to forgive?

I recently read a book called "Left To Tell" about a woman in Rwanda who survived the genocide of 1994. It was an amazing tale of her horrific experience of being hunted by those who were her neighbors and friends the day before, who ultimately killed her parents and two of her brothers, leaving only her and an older brother, who was living outside the country, alive. To read about these horrendous acts against humanity, I could not imagine how one could forgive such things. And yet this woman, who was very close to God and her Savior throughout her ordeal, was able to forgive and prayed that her fellowcountrymen would also forgive. She saw that the violence inflicted upon her and the other Tutsis was a result of the Hutus' continued hatred and inability to forgive the wrongs inflicted upon them many years ago. She realized that both groups would have to forgive in order for either group to have peace. She also came to know that peace herself, even telling one man responsible for her mother's brutal death, "I forgive you."

Thinking of her experience I realized the importance of forgiveness, not for the offender, but for the offended. Through our forgiveness, we are given peace. We are able to feel the Spirit, which we cannot have if we harbor anger towards another. Thus it is for our benefit that we are required to forgive, and that we might not become the offender in our anger.

How do we forgive? The Lord will help us. When we lack the ability, but have the desire, the Lord will strengthen us and help us to truly forgive. He will touch our hearts and we will find it within ourselves to forgive. I remember a time recently when someone dear to me did something that hurt me to the core. I was more than hurt, I was angry. If I hadn't been touched by a book I had just read "The Hiding Place" by Corrie Ten Boom, I probably would've reacted in my anger, and instead of being the offended, likely would have become an offender through harsh words and a rash response. Instead I was prompted to go to my Heavenly Father and seek His help to learn to forgive. It was an amazing experience. One that changed my life and my relationship with the person forever. It taught me the power of forgiveness, both for the one required to forgive and the one being forgiven. Where my anger would surely have driven us further apart, forgiveness brought us closer together. The extension of one's love through their complete forgiveness is powerful. The Lord enters in and I believe both are edified.

There may be times when we must forgive someone who doesn't seek our forgiveness or doesn't care if they receive it. There may also be times when someone has no idea we've been offended. In times like these we can also be sure that the Lord will comfort us and help us to forgive. We can also be sure that our forgiveness will bring us peace and allow us to continue in the Spirit.

As with all the Lord's commands, the reason for the commandment is for our happiness and salvation. The requirement to forgive keeps us from committing the greater sin, ingratitude for the forgiveness we've so freely been given by the Lord, and keeps us from perpetuating the offenses through our anger. Thus we are kept from sin as we forgive. We are also happy and at peace and we will feel a greater measure of the Lord's love as we participate in His great act of forgiveness.

I love a poem by Carolyn Pearson called "The Forgiving":

Will I forgive,
You cry.
What is the gift,
The favor?

You would lift
Me from
My poor place
To stand beside
The Savior.
You would have
Me see with
His eyes,
And with Him
Reach out to
A sorrowing heart--
For one small
To share in
Christ's great art.

Will I forgive,
You cry.
May I--
May I?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This Week's Topic

Thank you for your comments. This Week's Topic will be "Forgiveness." If you are hard pressed to find time to study this week, I think it would be a great topic to maybe think back on your own experiences with forgiveness, either when you have forgiven someone or when someone has forgiven you or when you have truly felt the Lord's forgiveness. Then please feel free to share those experiences with us on Sunday. I really love hearing others' personal experiences. It is a very faith promoting way to learn from each other. We'll see you Sunday!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Light of the World

In Matthew 5:14-16 it reads:
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

The Lord has given us his gospel and that light has been lit. He has not hid us under a bushel, but has set us upon a hill to be a light unto our brothers and sisters. The light he has given us is meant to shine forth.

3 Nephi 18:24 says, “Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do.”

So what is the light we are to hold up? That which Christ has done--we are to follow his example. Our acts, our good works, are the light.

Proverbs 4: 18 says, “But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

The path we trod, or the works we do are the light to the world. What causes it to shine more and more unto the perfect day? I believe it is that as our lights shine, others will see it and be drawn to the gospel, then their light will shine forth and more and more until Christ comes to reclaim his kingdom on earth.

So we are to hold our lights up, which we do by doing the works we have seen Christ do.

Christ was the light of the world. If we are told that our light shines by doing good works, we can imagine the light that shone forth from one who was perfect. Matthew 4:16 says, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.”

This light is irresistible. In Matthew 4:18-20 it says:
“And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
“And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.”

Christ’s light was so great, Peter and Andrew left everything and immediately followed him.

When Christ appeared to the Nephites, they too witnessed this great light and partook of it themselves. In 3 Nephi 19:25 it reads:
“And it came to pass that Jesus blessed them as they did pray unto him; and his countenance did smile upon them, and behold they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus; and behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof.”

“The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” I can imagine the joy of those who sat in darkness for so long to see the light of Christ. When the power goes out in our house, we sit in darkness and wait, not knowing what to do, and we are so relieved when suddenly the lights flash back on and we can see. This sense of relief and appreciation for the light is as nothing compared to the joy that comes from the light of Christ that shines forth out of the darkness. And we are to be the bearers of this light to the world.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

How does this light of Christ influence others?

I like what the Bible Dictionary says about the light of Christ:
“The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ. For instance, Christ is ‘the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ (D&C 93:2’ John 1:9). The light of Christ fills the ‘immensity of space’ and is the means by which Christ is able to be ‘in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things’. . . The light of Christ should not be confused with the personage of the Holy Ghost, for the light of Christ is not a personage at all. Its influence is preliminary to and preparatory to one’s receiving the Holy Ghost. The light of Christ will lead the honest soul who ‘hearkeneth to the voice’ to find the true gospel and the true Church and thereby receive the Holy Ghost.”

This light of Christ shines forth in us. It is through this light that we influence those around us. President David O. McKay taught us about the influence we have on others, saying:

"Every person who lives in this world wields an influence, whether for good or for evil. It is not what he says alone, it is not alone what he does. It is what he is. Every man, every person radiates what he or she is. Every person is a recipient of radiation. The Savior was conscious of that. Whenever he came into the presence of an individual, he sensed that radiation--whether it was the woman of Samaria with her past life; whether it was the woman who was to be stoned or the men who were to stone her; whether it was the statesman, Nicodemus, or one of the lepers. He was conscious of the radiation from the individual. And to a degree so are you, and so am I. It is what we are and what we radiate that affects the people around us.
". . . As individuals, we must think nobler thoughts. We must not encourage vile thoughts or low aspirations. We shall radiate them if we do. If we think noble thoughts, if we encourage and cherish noble aspirations, there will be that radiation when we meeet people, especially when we associate with them.
"The effect of our words and acts is tremendous in this world. Every moment of life you are changing to a degree the lives of the whole world. . . .No matter what you are people will feel and recognize this. You radiate, you can't hide it. You may pretend something else, but that will not affect people."

This echoes the teachings from the scriptures quoted earlier. It is what we think, say and do that makes us who we are. What we are will radiate to others—it is the light we shine forth. Every time we follow Christ’s example our light shines brighter, we radiate more of his goodness, and this uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence. Every time we sin or allow unrighteous thoughts and influences into our life, our light is affected. The thing that strikes me as well is that it is not necessary that people see the good works we do, those good works become part of what we are and that is what is radiated.

I think if you were to sum up all the acts of our Savior in one word it would be service. So since we are to follow Christ’s example and do as he did, if we are to let our lights shine, we too must serve others. We must do good works for others and these acts will show forth the light of the Savior and glorify our Father.

I am supremely grateful for the influence of my Savior, my light.

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

We have been so blessed to have been given this light. Now it is our obligation to let our lights shine forth as we emulate the Savior and perform good works and service to others.

D&C 103:9 says, “For they were set to be a light unto the world, and to be the saviors of men.”

We are to join the Lord in His work by being this light and radiating His goodness and peace.

Pres. McKay implored, “If it be possible, so far as in us lies, let us live peaceably with all men—not overcoming evil by evil, or being overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good. Then will the Church stand as a light to the world. That is her destiny. . . If we can only maintain the standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the future of the Church is secure. Truly, men and women will see a light that is not hidden under a bushel, but one that is set upon a hill, and they will be attracted by it, and will be led to seek the truth more by our acts and deeds and by what we radiate in virtue and integrity, rather than by what we say.”

May we let our lights so shine.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

New Tuesday Topic

Okay, guys, you are starting to make me feel like when I was a MiaMaid teacher trying to get the girls to have a discussion. It was like pulling teeth to get them to talk.

I'll try one more week. This week's topic will be "Light." It's a broad subject so you can study whatever aspect of "light" that you would like. I hope you will participate and leave your comments.

Thanks! Have a great week!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Christ as Bridegroom

As I was contemplating what topic to study for this week, the thought of the symbolism of Christ as the bridegroom came to my head. A couple days before, Brent and Krisstina were having a conversation about how women should take their husband's name when they are married. I came into the conversation adding how I think taking your husband's name shows a different level of commitment because you are actually leaving your old identity and taking on a new one. This leap of faith shows that you are commited to being a part of your new family. Suddenly the thought came to me that we are told to take on Christ's name and I marvelled at the parallels of taking on Christ's name and taking on the name of one's new husband. We commit to Christ that we will leave our old selves and take on a new identity as part of His family. Taking on his name shows a deep level of commitment and devotion. This was a neat thought to me and I realized this was perhaps one aspect of the symbolism of Christ as the bridegroom.

This thought continued to return to my head over the next couple of days, and later on Tuesday, as I was trying to decide on a topic, the symbolism of Christ as bridegroom kept coming to my mind. I was very interested in exploring the topic further, but it seemed a fairly lofty one to attempt. Little did I realize just how overreaching this symbolism is.

When it first entered my mind to study this topic, I thought I would find other neat correlations between a bride and a groom and us and the Savior, such as the one about taking on your husband's name and taking on Christ's name. After reading a few scripture passages, it became clear to me that it would be crucial to understand the Jewish custom of marriage since those were the customs to which the people of Jesus' time would relate as He taught them.

My mom read my post about the new topic and I asked for her input as to what to study. She asked me, "How deep do you want to go?" I said, "I don't know. What do you have?" She gave me a book to read called Beloved Bridegroom by Donna B. Nielsen.

I have been studying that the past couple days and I am only now on page 51. But I cannot believe the wealth of insight and new understanding that has come to me that was so unexpected when I chose this topic. It has furthered my understanding of Christ's love for us, of the meaningfulness of the sacrament, and so much has flooded my mind regarding the sacred symbols and clothing of the temple. I certainly did not expect to discover all that I have when I was prompted to study this topic, and I am so grateful for the newfound understanding I have gained by coming to understand this profound symbolism.

Like I said, I still have the majority of this book to read. But I would love to share with you a few of the insights I have gained so far.

In the Jewish custom of marriage, there are three parts. The betrothal, the preparations for marriage, and the wedding. Marriages are arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. Parents of the groom choose a suitable bride and then the groom and his father or another close male family member go to the prospective bride's home to make the marriage proposal.

When they arrive they are given food and drink as a gesture of hospitality, but they refuse to partake until their request is granted and the bride agrees to the proposal. In Beloved Bridegroom (the source of all quoted references in this post) it explains:

"Middle Easterners have strong associations between covenants and the idea of a covenant meal to seal an agreement. Eating a covenant meal together in Biblical times was a way to ratify pacts or treaties. By consuming meals together, they symbolically became members of the same family. This was especially true regarding bread. Through partaking from the same loaf at the same table, even strangers became companions, a word whose literal meaning is "one with whom bread is broken. . . .With so much importance attached to the idea of 'breaking bread' or sharing a meal, no wonder that a food could not be eaten together until a binding contract between the bride and groom had been settled." (p. 20-21)

A completed marriage contract in Biblical times had three conditions that had to be met to be legal. They were money, writ, and intercourse. Money was the bride price, either money paid or services rendered. Writ was the "ketubah"--a contract which stated the bride price, the obligations of the groom, and the rights of the bride. Intercourse or "knowing" a wife "filled the requirement that blood be shed as a fulfillment of the covenant." (p. 18)

By today's perceptions, the idea of buying one's bride may seem degrading. "On the contrary, the value and esteem of a woman were directly connected to the size of the bride price paid for her. It was expected that the more noble the family and the more beautiful the girl, the higher the bride price asked for her. Her strength, age, ability, and character determined the final amount. The price paid also influenced the level of esteem that the groom's family had for the bride. The lower the price, the less she was valued by her husband and his kin. If a man obtained a wife for a small price, he had little respect for her. But if much was paid for her, he felt he had something valuable, a person who had to be cherished and well treated." (p.22)

"Part of this bride price later became the woman's dowry, so that in the event of her husband's death, or if he divorced her, she was left with some financial security. . .A portion of the money was used by the father to purchase household utensils for his daughter. . . The dowry also was used to purchase clothing for special occasions and jewelry, such as earrings, nose rings, bracelets, and gold coins. These would be worn constantly by the girl for the remainder of her life--her own personal possession--by law never to be taken as payment for any debt incurred by her husband. They were carefully guarded, both for their value and their symbolic meaning. This dowry had the root idea of 'en-dower-ment' or endowment. To receive an endowment before her marriage from her father made the young girl feel protected and loved. It was a shield and safeguard against future uncertainty." (p. 22-23)

There is so much more I could include, but I will stop for now with these few references. In just these references we can gain understanding for many of the covenants we make in our lives. So far in Beloved Bridegroom, most of the text lays forth the customs of Jewish marriage, without much commentary yet on its associations with our day. So I'm sure I will continue to learn much more as I continue to read, and perhaps will find my preliminary thoughts and insights to be to quickly formed, so forgive my hasty interpretation, but here are the things that have come to my head and heart based on my reading so far.

Firstly, the sharing of the meal. This made me think of the Last Supper and the institution of the sacrament. We partake of this sacred ordinance after an agreement has been reached between ourselves and Christ (bride and groom). I believe this agreement is formed as we are baptized and agree to take on the name of Christ. We then "break bread" with the Savior, to ratify this sacred covenant each week. We symbolically become members of Christ's family and become companions. In the Jewish tradition, a covenant set forth by the breaking of bread is unbreakable and permanent and carried serious implications in its undertaking. No such covenant would be taken lightly. I was struck by how sacred a promise we really make each week as we "break bread" with the Savior.

Next, the marriage contract and particularly the bride price. After this was paid, the "man was considered to 'own' the woman. He had purchased her and she belonged to him." This may seem offensive to women today, but actually it gave the woman permanent protection by her husband under a very serious covenant as mentioned earlier. "Although a woman was a 'possession' of the husband, she was still considered to have an extremely significant place in his heart. The word used to describe this relationship is segulah which means 'peculiar treasure' or 'treasured possession.' Segulah was the term that kings used to identify certain objects in their possession that were carefully guarded because of their great worth. Segulah also had overtones of being 'hidden.' Although kings valued all of their possessions, their special (peculiar) treasures were dearest to their hearts. Truly, the worth of a bride was great in the eyes of her husband." (p. 24-26)

From this context, we can come to understand the meaning of the scripture in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

What is the bride price paid? The uttermost farthing. The Savior gave His very life and suffered the pains and sins of the world as His bride price. What does this say about His feelings for each of us? Remember from the Jewish tradition, the higher the price, the more valuable and esteemed the bride. Truly the worth of souls is great in the sight of God, for the greatest price that could ever be paid was paid to own us and make us His most treasured possessions. Of all the king's possessions, we are the most dear to his heart.

I loved the significance of the special clothing and adornments purchased by the bride's father with the bride price. She would wear these every day forever as a reminder of her "en-dower-ment." Guarding these carefully because of their great worth and symbolic meaning, these things were hers alone, never to be taken away. "To receive an endowment before her marriage from her father made the young girl feel protected and loved. It was a shield and a safeguard against future uncertainty." The woman could proceed forward knowing of her father's love and protection. I gained a greater understanding of the temple and the clothing I wear daily as a reminder of the love of my Father.

I had another insight come to me as I read about the segulah, the most treasured possession, one that is carefully guarded and hidden from the eyes of the world. I thought of the idea that this is the kind of regard a Jewish man held for his wife, and the thought came to me that this is the regard our Heavenly Father must have for our Heavenly Mother. So prized and treasured that our knowledge of her is carefully guarded. I have oftened wondered why she is not mentioned in the scriptures. This new understanding has reaffirmed to me her status in our Father's eyes as the most prized, and treasured of His possessions that she is 'hidden' and guarded.

There is so much more--I could go on and on. Perhaps I will do another future post with more insights as I finish this book. There is no way that I could completely cover this subject and all that I would like to share. I highly recommend reading this book yourselves. This has been one of the most wonderful experiences and has so enriched my understanding and I'm not even one-third the way through!

I know Christ lives. I'm so grateful for the special relationship we can have with Him. And I am so grateful to have gained a greater understanding of that relationship this week.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Living Water

"It is finished," he said.
Then bowing his head,
He left us.
And with the end of his mortal life,
Began the hope of life eternal.
From the drops of blood he shed,
Sprang forth a well of living water.
From the outstretched arms of the resurrected Savior,
Came an invitation
To come, drink, and never thirst again.

--Kristine Tanner, Dec. 1996

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

New Topic

Thank you to those who participated last week. This week's topic will be the symbolism of Christ as the bridegroom. I'm not sure why this topic came to mind, but I am excited to research it since I never really have. I look forward to all your insights. I hope you will all share what you find. Even just sharing any scriptures or quotes with or without your own commentary (if you are nervous to do that) will still be beneficial to everyone. Have fun and I look forward to Sunday!