Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas!  I'm so grateful for the birth of our dear Savior and for His life, His teachings, and His example.  I'm so grateful for His sacrifice and atonement that we all may be forgiven of our sins and return to our Heavenly Father.  What a blessing it is to have this knowledge and this good news!  I wanted to share these videos with you, because they are a touching reminder of why we celebrate Christmas.  These videos and more like them can be found at
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Isaiah 1:10-15 -- "Vain Oblations"

"Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
"To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD:  I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
"When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
"Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
"Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
"And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear:  your hands are full of blood."

To whom is the Lord addressing these verses?  From verse 10, one might assume it is the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  But they were destroyed long ago for their iniquity.  Who is the Lord actually speaking to?  The Lord is actually speaking to his people--the House of Israel, particularly those of the tribe of Judah--yet he addresses them as the "rulers of people of Gomorrah."  Why?

I think some verses in Ezekiel 16:46-52 explain why.  Here the Lord basically says to the people of Jerusalem that their sisters, those people of Samaria (the northern tribes, who had intermarried with the Assyrians who had taken them captive) and those of Sodom--both being groups of people who were despised of Judah for their iniquity and uncleanness--were actually not so corrupt as they themselves have become.

In verse 47-48 he says, "Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways.  As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters."

So Judah, who despised Samaria and Sodom for their sins, is being told that though they haven't committed the same sins, they are indeed guilty of greater sins and corruption.

In that same spirit, here in Isaiah the Lord addresses them as the rulers of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah, showing that the sins they have committed are even more hated of the Lord as those committed by Sodom and Gomorrah.  It also reveals their hypocrisy, having despised these people as unclean, when they themselves were guilty of greater sin.

I think we can apply this verse and this whole section of verses 10-15 to ourselves.  Those of us who claim to be followers of Christ must beware of hypocrisy.  We must avoid judging others as sinners, when we ourselves are guilty of a greater sin.  Often the outward, visible sins are easily judged.  But the inward sins, those we will detail in the following verses are easily hidden.  Yet the Lord sees all and will hold us equally accountable, if not more so because of the knowledge we have, for our inward sins as well, especially if we are quick to pass judgement on others for their sins.

In verse 11 the Lord begins to describe the sin that Judah is guilty of.  He asks, what is the purpose of all their sacrifices?  He says he is full of the burnt offerings and delights not in their animal sacrifices.

Hadn't the Lord commanded them to offer such sacrifices?  Why then, would He be angry at them when they seem to be following His command?  Verse 12 and 13 offer some insight into the nature of their sacrifices and the reason for the Lord's anger.

"When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
"Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.

He said the people had "tread" his courts.  He is speaking of His holy temple and gives an indication that they are not showing the proper respect for its holiness and sacredness.  Then He tells them to "bring no more vain oblations" and details all the things they are doing and says, "I cannot away with"--meaning He cannot endure it.  Basically He tells them that this is not what He asked of them, He has not required these things just to be done as rituals to be performed, obligations to be performed with no thought or respect for their purpose. 

He goes on with verse 14 and 15 saying,   "Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
"And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear:  your hands are full of blood."

What He is trying to get across is that all these things they have been asked to do mean nothing when performed simply as ritual or tradition.  Things that when done properly would be counted as acts of righteousness, when done improperly He hates and cannot endure.  Vain prayers, no matter how lengthy or how often they are recited will not be heard if not offered in the proper spirit.  "Your hand are full of blood" is an indication that their sacrifices count for nothing, and are instead counted to them as iniquity, much like Cain's sacrifice in comparison to Abel's sacrifice.  Without a purpose behind it, it is just bloodshed.

I have thought a lot about Cain and Abel.  I have in the past sympathized with Cain.  Wasn't he trying?  Didn't he do his best according to his understanding?  He was a tiller of the ground so why didn't the Lord accept his offerings of the fruit of the ground?  I like the insight we get from the account in the Pearl of Great Price.  In Moses 5:18, it says, "And Cain loved Satan more than God.  And Satan commanded him, saying: Make an offering unto the Lord."  So Cain made the offering of the fruit of the ground and Abel made an offering to the Lord of the firstlings of his flock.  The Lord had respect for Abel's offering, but not for Cain's offering.  This made Cain mad.  The Lord responds to Cain in verse 22-23 saying, "Why art thou wroth?  Why is thy countenance fallen?  If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted.  And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will deliver thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire."

We learn from these verses that Cain's offering wasn't motivated by a love for the Lord and desire to obey His commandments.  In fact, he loved Satan more and offered the sacrifice according to Satan's commands.   In much the same way as the Jews' offerings the Lord described in the Isaiah verses above, such an offering mocked God and turned it into iniquity. 

The offering was also supposed to be in similitude of the Son, thus the first of the flock was to be offered.  Much like the charge against the Jews, Cain had no respect for the symbolism of the act, for the sacredness of it.  Such an act had no purpose other than to point the doer to Christ and to work within them that they may become like Him.

Cain also desired to be accepted on his own terms, with his own rules for what he would sacrifice.   This is an important distinction between Cain and Abel that I think we would also do well to consider.  Abel obeyed the commandment with exactness and sought to do according to the Lord's will.  Cain sought to be accepted in his wickedness.  He thought any effort should be accepted, even though it was not the Lord's will he sought and obeyed.  He sought his own will and believed he should be accepted on his own terms.  This was also really the key distinction between Christ and Lucifer as they each offered to be sent to redeem mankind.  Satan said, "I will do it; wherefore, give me thine honor."  Christ said, "Thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever."  (Moses 4:1-2)  We too, must learn to give up our will and do the Lord's will.  This is our sacrifice--offering up our will and doing the Lord's will, even when it goes against our own desires.  To the extent that we do this, we too become like Christ, who always did the Father's will.

We learn another distinction between Cain and Abel's sacrifice in Hebrews 11:4 & 6:  "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts...But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."

So how do we avoid the same sin the Lord denounces in Isaiah 1:10-15?  How do we offer sacrifices of righteousness and avoid performing vain oblations and rituals?  We've already mentioned a few.  We must seek to understand the purpose of these things we are asked to do and not "miss the mark" as the Jews did.  When we take the sacrament each Sunday, are we too performing a vain ritual?  Or do we seek to understand the meaning of what we do and do it with full purpose of heart, that it may work within us for our good?  When we pray, do we just say the same things over again, or do we really seek to speak with our Father and "seek His face."  These things we do each day or each week have purpose--to lead us to Christ.  If they are not, if by doing them we aren't becoming more like Him, then perhaps we need to reevaluate the spirit in which we are performing them.

We must have faith if we are to please God and be accepted of Him, we must seek His will and not try to alter it to conform to our will.  We cannot pick and choose which commandments we like and which we don't.  To truly do His will, we must come to Him on the terms He has set, regardless of our opinion of them.  I think of this a lot when I hear some criticize certain principles or aspects of the gospel, for example that they think women should hold the priesthood too.  Whether you think it's fair or not, does that matter?  If God has decreed that it should be done a certain way, does it matter what you think about it?  Not if you are truly seeking to do His will.  And would you be so bold as to say that you know what is better or more fair, than God?  Can you possibly contend that you have more interest in or love for the children of men and their eternal happiness than He who created them?  That you have more of an idea of what is right and fair than the Father of Righteousness?  Truly, there is the element of humility required in order to conform one's will to that of the Father's.

So faith, humility, understanding, and a desire to do God's will all contribute to making our sacrifices and offerings accepted before the Lord.  Psalms 51:16-17 & 19 also provide insight.  "For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise...Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar."

So it is not the act the Lord loves, it is the heart with which it is offered--particularly a broken heart and contrite spirit--that makes these acts pleasing unto the Lord.  That is in fact the required sacrifice, both in the Old Law of Moses and the New Commandment, as revealed in D&C 59:8, "Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit." 

May we truly ponder and consider those things we have been commanded to do and reflect upon the spirit and understanding with which we do them, that we may not be guilty of the greater sin and that they may work within us that we may become as He to whom they were designed to direct us.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Be Still and Know That I Am God."

With the recent tragedy that occurred at a school in Connecticut last week, I would like to write something that I hope will be of comfort to those who were either directly affected, or indirectly affected as they learned of the tragedy and felt the sorrow for those who lost all that day.

I, too, have felt the grief that comes with the unexpected loss of a loved one.  My father died in an accident when I was just eight years old.  Ten years later, my older brother also died on a hiking trip as a scout leader.  It is never easy to lose someone you love, but especially when they are young and still in the prime of their lives.  And while I do not pretend to even be able to comprehend the grief of losing one's child, especially at the hand of another, I would like to share some things that have brought me comfort in my times of sorrow.

As the Savior was preparing his apostles for the time that he should leave them, he left them a special promise that applies to all of us.  In John 14:18 he says, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."  He goes on in verse 27 to say, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

The apostles would soon be witness to the scourging and crucifying of the very Savior of the world.  They would watch Him be tortured, despised, put to an open shame, and ultimately hung on a cross.  There could be no one more pure and innocent than He, yet they would see Him suffer and die.  These men would also be persecuted and killed for His sake after His death.  The Savior knew this as He taught them and yet told them, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."  He promised them comfort and peace amidst these horrifying events.

This comfort and peace can only come through Christ and through the Holy Spirit, but as we look to Him, it will come.

In D&C 101:14 & 16 it says, "And all they who have mourned shall be comforted... Therefore, let your hearts be comforted... for all flesh is in my hands; be still and know that I am God."

I love these two verses.   Those who mourn shall be comforted.  In Matt. 5:4, Jesus even says, "Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted."  "Blessed" here means "to be fortunate," "to be happy," or "to be blessed."  How is it possible that we can be fortunate or happy when we mourn?  Because we will be comforted.  Anyone who has felt that sweet spirit of peace and comfort come during their times of sorrow or mourning knows this is true.  Feeling that love and knowing that the Lord is aware of our pain and mindful of us and then feeling His peace and comfort come is a tremendous blessing and does allow one to feel happy and blessed even during trying times.  It can even strengthen us and increase our faith and love for the Lord.

"All flesh is in my hands, be still and know that I am God."  I find such comfort in these words.  The Lord in His infinite wisdom and knowledge knows each of us and knows what we need.  He is in control.  While men have their agency and exercise that agency in ways that may cause others to suffer, ultimately, God knows and nothing will happen that He does not allow.  This may cause some to ask, why would He ever allow such tragedy?  Therein lies the wisdom in the second part of that verse:  "Be still and know that I am God."  In other words, trust Him.  His perspective is infinite and eternal.  His love is without bounds.  In our temporal mortal state, we have such a limited perspective and it is often hard to comprehend the things that happen.  We must remember that all flesh is in His hands.  We must wait patiently on the Lord and know that He is God.  We must put our trust in His ultimate wisdom and know that all things will be for our good as we turn to Him.

Echoing this sentiment, Christ taught in Matt. 10:28-31:  "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."

It always brought me comfort to know that the Lord knows my father and my brother and I believe all things happen under His watchful eye.  As the Lord promised Joseph Smith, "Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less."  As hard as it is for those who are left behind to mourn their loss, we must remember that His perspective of death is much different than ours.  For Him, it is a reuniting, for us a temporary separation.

Therein also lies a source of comfort for me, for I do believe this separation is temporary.  I know that we will once again be reunited with those we love and that we can be together forever.  The Lord is His mercy has provided the way for us to overcome death and live with Him and our loved ones for eternity.  I have always loved D&C 130:2 which says, "And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy."  We will have those same loving relationships which we treasure in this life in the next as well, only they will be even better, because we will also enjoy that eternal glory which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

My advice for all those affected by this and any other loss?  Love the Lord.  Trust Him.  Know that He is in control and loves you more than you can even comprehend.  Seek His peace and comfort which is the only lasting source of such.  "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."  (Proverbs 3:5-6.)

Do not be afraid.  The Lord tells us throughout the scriptures: "Fear thou not; for I am with thee."  He is with us and has not left us alone.  I love this promise in Isaiah 41:13:  "For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee."

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Chastening of the Lord

"My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction:  For whom the Lord  loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth."  Proverbs 3:11-12.

This sentiment is echoed in Hebrews 12:5-7.  It says:  "My, son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasetenth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?"

Why does the Lord chasten those He loves?  Paul continues in Hebrews 12:9-11 saying:  "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.  Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."

So the Lord chastens us for our profit, that we may partakers of his holiness.  I like the thought that we are "exercised thereby."  Physical exercise is often hard to do, but through the hard work, we become stronger and make our bodies more healthy.  In the same way, chastisement is like spiritual exercise.  We grow spiritually and become more righteous as we endure it.   In D&C 136:31 the Lord says, "My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom."

Chastisement is necessary to our growth and preparation.  How are we chastened?  The Lord has often chastened his people through afflictions.  It is often through these afflictions that they are humbled and turn again to Him.  He also chastens us through the scriptures.  In 2 Timothy 3:15-16 we learn: "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

I like the concept of chastisement being correction, instruction.  The Lord does not want us going astray.  He will correct our paths and instruct us how to do better.  Sometimes this correction can be hard and painful, but we must remember that it comes from a loving Father who loves us enough to correct us and show us the way.  Even in our affliction, we are taught many things that perhaps we could not or would not otherwise.

I have always loved the humility of Joseph Smith.  There are many times in the D&C where the Lord admonishes him for his sins or mistakes.  I have often marveled that even the chosen Prophet of the Lord was at times rebuked and admonished.  In Section 3, the Lord chastises him for the lost 116 pages of manuscript.  In verse 4 it says, "For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him."

The Lord goes on to explain that he was entrusted with great things and should not have feared man more than God.  He continues in verse 9 saying, "Behold, thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall."

And then in the following verse, the Lord reveals the purpose of this chastisement, "But remember, God is merciful; therefore repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work."

I love Joseph's humility to write these things that we may all profit from his experience of being chastened.  We learn that the Lord does correct those whom He loves and has chosen and if we repent, we are still chosen and have the opportunity for growth that comes from enduring His chastisement.

I especially love the words of the Lord to Joseph while he was a prisoner in Liberty Jail.  In D&C 122:5-9 the Lord tells Joseph: 

"If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
"If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;
"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
"The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
"Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever."

So as we too pass through tribulation or feel the chastening of the Lord, may we also remember that these things will give us experience and be for our good.  We can turn to our Savior, who has endured all things, for comfort and direction.  God will be with us forever and loves us enough to correct us, knowing it is for our profit and our ultimate salvation as we become worthy to return to His presence.  We can be comforted as was Joseph in Liberty Jail, to whom the Lord said, "Peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Isaiah 1:7-9 -- "Your Country Is Desolate"

"Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
"And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumber, as a besieged city.
"Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah."

To me these verses portray a very hopeless state of destruction.  While I've not experienced such things personally, images of war and destruction that I have seen are conjured up in my mind.  It is a very lonely, hopeless, overwhelming scene, especially, I imagine, to one who has turned from the hope of the Lord.

We begin with verse 7.  This is a prophecy of the coming destruction.  At Isaiah's time the Holy Land was divided into two kingdoms--the North Kingdom, or Israel, and the South Kingdom of Judah.  The North Kingdom's capital was Samaria and the South Kingdom's capital was Jerusalem.  Assyria overtook the North Kingdom and it's people were taken captive and scattered abroad, becoming the lost 10 tribes of Israel.  The Assyrians also came to attack Judah, but were unable at the time to overtake Jerusalem.  (See 2 Kings 18-19)  Later, the city of Jerusalem would be overtaken by Babylon, the temple destroyed, and the people taken into captivity.

In verse 7, Isaiah speaks of this destruction.  Not only did they lay waste to their cities, but the "strangers" have come in and "devoured" it.  This describes not only the political overtaking of the land as Gentiles came in, took the people captive, and scattered them abroad, but also the spiritual overtaking, which began with the House of Israel's disobedience, but continued as their sacred places were destroyed and the heathen practices came in and corrupted the correct teachings and practices given from God.  Truly, they were also left spiritually desolate.

In 2 Kings 18:11-12, it talks of the Assyrian takeover of the North Kingdom saying:

"And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes:  Because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them."

They were destroyed because they rebelled against the Lord.  Perhaps this is the reason that the city of Jerusalem was spared from the Assyrian attack.  At the time the king, Hezekiah, was a righteous king, who "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord" (2 Kings 18:3).  He destroyed the idols and trusted in God to save his people.  He sought out Isaiah, the prophet, and the Lord performed a miracle to save Jerusalem.  (See 2 Kings 19:31-35.)

But Judah fell into apostasy and eventually they too were overtaken and destroyed.  In Lamentations, Jeremiah laments the state of Jerusalem.  His words portray the physical and spiritual destruction.  In Lamentations 1:1,3-6 he echoes the same feelings and sentiments of that of Isaiah, saying:

"How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people!  how is she become as a widow!  she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!...
"Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits.
"The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness.
"Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy.
"And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer."

He continues to describe the spiritual destruction in Lamentations 2:5-6, 10:

"The Lord was as an enemy: he hath swallowed up all her palaces: he hath destroyed his strong holds, and hath increased in the daughter of Judah mourning and lamentation.
"And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest....
"The elders of the daughter of Zion sit upon the ground, and keep silence: they have cast up dust upon their heads; they have girded themselves with sackcloth: the virgins of Jerusalem hang down their heads to the ground."

Yet the Lord was merciful.  In Isaiah 1:8 it refers to the "daughter of Zion," meaning the city of Jerusalem.  It says that she "is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city."  I found a good explanation of cottage at  It defines it such:  

        (1.) A booth in a vineyard (Isa. 1:8); a temporary shed covered
        with leaves or straw to shelter the watchman that kept the
        garden. These were slight fabrics, and were removed when no
        longer needed, or were left to be blown down in winter (Job
        (2.) A lodging-place (rendered "lodge" in Isa. 1:8); a
        slighter structure than the "booth," as the cucumber patch is
        more temporary than a vineyard (Isa. 24:20). It denotes a frail
        structure of boughs supported on a few poles, which is still in
        use in the East, or a hammock suspended between trees, in which
        the watchman was accustomed to sleep during summer.

Donald W. Parry in his book, Visualizing Isaiah, explains:  "All that remains in Jerusalem after its destruction are cottages and huts. Jerusalem, which once housed the mighty spiritual fortress—God's temple—is now like a cottage."

This gives us a good image of how this once beautiful, powerful city is now become like a frail, temporary cottage.  Yet, even in this state, we see the mercy of the Lord as Isaiah continues in verse 9 to say that unless the Lord of Hosts had left them a small remnant, they would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah, which were utterly destroyed. 

"The Lord of hosts" is also commonly referred to as the Lord of Sabaoth, which means hosts.  This was a title given to Jehovah.  According to the Bible Dictionary, "the hosts were the armies of Israel, but also included the angelic armies of heaven."  Often in Isaiah, his use of "Assyria" refers more broadly to the world in a political sense and "Babylon" refers to the world in a spiritual sense.  The Lord of Hosts then is the Lord of armies, in both a political and spiritual sense.  He fights against Assyria and Babylon with his earthly and heavenly armies.  I like a reference given in the Bible Dictionary of 2 Kings 6:14-17 that illustrates these heavenly armies:

"Therefore sent he (the king of Syria) thither horses and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
"And when the servant of the man of God (Elisha's servant) was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots.  And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
"And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
"And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.  And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."

D&C 5:14 also gives us some insight into the army of the Lord:

"And to none else will I grant this power, to receive this same testimony among this generation, in this the beginning of the rising up and the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness--clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners."

There is a battle for the souls of men.  The Lord fights to save His children and bestow upon them eternal life and Babylon, or the world, and the devil fight to take them captive and lead them down to hell.  There are literal earthly and heavenly armies the Lord uses in this fight, but there are also the symbolic armies.  We often refer to the missionaries sent out to proclaim the gospel as the "army of heaven."  All faithful saints are enlisted in this army as we raise our standard to the world and proclaim His gospel to its inhabitants.  In this fight, we too, we have the protection and guidance of the heavenly hosts, who are united in this cause.

As Joseph Smith taught, "The heavenly Priesthood will unite with the earthly, to bring about those great purposes; and whilst we are thus united in one common cause, to roll forth the kingdom of God, the heavenly Priesthood are not idle spectators, the Spirit of God will be showered down from above, and it will dwell in our midst."  (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 232.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Isaiah 1:5-6 -- "The Whole Head Is Sick"

"Why should ye be stricken any more?  ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
"From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment."

In verse 5, the Lord asks: "Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint."

The Lord's people have continually been chastened due to their iniquity.  He has taught them over and over the way to live, through obedience to His commandments, and admonished them that disobedience and wickedness leads to death and destruction, of both a spiritual and temporal nature.  A good example of this is in Numbers 11:6-9.  As the people of Israel began to murmur against the Lord, he sent fiery serpents among them, which bit them.  Many died.  The people were chastened and came to Moses asking him to pray unto the Lord to take away the serpents.  The Lord then told Moses to make a serpent of brass and put it on a pole and "every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live."

In Helaman 8:14-15, Nephi speaks of Moses, explaining the significance of this experience.  "Yea, did he not bear record that the Son of God should come?  And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come.  And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal."

The way is simple.  Look and live.  Look unto Christ and live.  And yet, here in Isaiah 1:5 as in many other instances, the Lord asks, "Why should ye be stricken any more?"  In Ezekiel 18:30-31, the Lord echoes this sentiment saying, "Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.  Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"

To me, it is almost as if we can hear a sense of frustration.  These children that the Lord loves and wants to bless, continue to turn away from Him.  Because He loves them, He must once again chastise them, so that they will come to Him again.  The way is simple, yet they choose their own way, resulting in pain and suffering.  "Why should ye be stricken any more?" the Lord asks.

Yet they continue to revolt and the Lord proclaims "the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint."  A couple scriptures lend some understanding to this.  The first is Mosiah 12:27:  "Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise."  The second is D&C 8:2-3:  "Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.  Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground."

We need our head and our heart to understand spiritual things.  Here in Isaiah, the Lord proclaims of His children that their whole head is sick and the whole heart faint.  They have completely turned from the Lord and will not seek His peace and understanding of His ways.

He continues this condemnation in verse 6, saying:  "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it;" -- the whole body is sick and full of iniquity, there is no good in it.

"...but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores; they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment."  What are these wounds and bruises and putrifying sores?  It is the iniquity and sins of the people.  I like Isaiah 53:4-5.  Speaking of Christ, it says:  "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."

The very same imagery of wounds and bruises are used here to show that Christ has taken upon himself our iniquities.  He is the binding for our wounds, His atonement is the ointment that will heal us.  Yet in verse 6, the Lord proclaims that His children's iniquity has completely taken over, they are filled with wounds which have not been closed or bound up or had ointment applied to them.  No attempt has been made to be healed.  By this He is speaking metaphorically of His atonement.  They have not applied His atonement in their lives, they do not look to Him to be healed.

Friday, September 21, 2012


In discussing prayer, I would like to use the letters in PRAY to focus on four aspects of prayer:


         Prayer is a privilege.  I love Psalms 116:1-8:  "I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.  Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.  The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.  Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.  Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.  The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.  Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.  For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling."

            Pres. George Albert Smith said, “It is a wonderful blessing that we enjoy in these times of stress and absolute uncertainty to feel sure of divine guidance, to have absolute faith in a personal God who is interested in us and who hears and answers our prayers.”

He also taught, “The Lord…has explained to us how we may receive blessings through prayer.  There are many people in the world who do not realize the real benefits of prayer.  Prayer is a power.  It has an influence that comparatively few people seem to understand…. How many are there in this Church who do not know that they have the right, the absolute right to pray to their Father in heaven, and ask Him to take from them their distress and lead them to contentment and happiness?”

 How are we to approach the Lord in prayer?  2 Chronicles 7:14 teaches:  "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."   Humility is imperative as we speak with the Lord.  I like the phrase, "seek my face."  This is echoed in D&C 101:38, which says:  "And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life."  I think it is helpful to imagine Him there speaking to us face to face in order to truly converse with the Lord.

            Pres. Smith tells the story of an orphan boy who, faced with surgery, asked the doctor to pray for him.  When the doctor declined, the boy determined he would have to pray for himself.  When a man asked the doctor about the experience later, he replied:  “That boy opened the windows of heaven and talked to his Heavenly Father as one would talk to another face to face.  I want to say to you that I am a better man for having had this experience of standing and hearing a little boy talk to his Father in heaven as if he were present.”

            Prayer is not only a blessing for us individually, but also for our families.  Pres. Smith taught, “We (as family members) will not always see alike; men will not always reason as their wives do and vice versa, but if you will pray together, with a real desire to be united, I can say to you, you will agree on all important matters.  I noticed…on a billboard: ‘The family that prays together stays together.’  I do not know who placed it there, but I want to say that if you will think about it for a moment you will know that it is true.  I admonish you to pray together to the Lord, and I do not mean by that to just say prayers, I do not mean to… repeat something over and over again, but open your souls to the Lord as husbands and fathers in your home, and have your wives and your children join you.  Have them participate.  There then comes into the home an influence that you can feel when you go there.... As one of those whom the Lord has asked to teach, I plead with you to set your houses in order.  Don’t take too many things for granted.  Don’t be led into the follies and foibles of the world.  Safeguard your families in every possible way.  Unite them under the influence of prayer….What a power prayer is to keep us in the pathway to eternal life and lead us into the celestial kingdom!” 

            That leads us to our next theme.  We have a responsibility to pray and to teach our children to pray.  We have been given this great privilege of speaking to our Father in heaven, God of all creation, as though He were sitting next to us.  We are given many glorious promises that if we seek Him in prayer, He will be found.  Where much is given, much is required.  We are not only given the right and privilege to pray, we have a responsibility to pray.  And we have a very serious responsibility to teach our children to pray.

            Pres. Smith said, “It is strange that any member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should have to be urged to say his prayers, and yet there are some people who do not pray in secret or have their family prayers.  Yet unless we pray we lose the protection that prayer offers.”

            Pres. Smith goes on to say, “I would like to emphasize this: I hope that the Latter-day Saints will not fail to hold their prayers, their secret prayers and their family prayers.  Children who are reared in homes where they do not have family prayers and secret prayers lose a lot, and I fear that in the midst of the world’s confusion, of hurry and bustle, many times homes are left without prayer and without the blessings of the Lord; these homes cannot continue to be happy.  We live in an age when we need our Heavenly Father as much as they ever needed Him in any age.”

            Is this quote not even more applicable today?  I think this quote hit me the hardest.  How many of us rush about to give our children every lesson, every opportunity, and then crash into bed at night and forget the very most important thing we can give our children.  I know I often do.  Our children and our homes will be happier, they will retain the influence and power of God as we pray with our families.  That is an awesome blessing and a grave responsibility we have to ourselves and our children.

            Pres. Smith continues, “Do not put away from you the power of God.  Retain in your homes the influences of prayer and of thanksgiving, and let gratitude flow to him who is the author of our beings and the giver of all good…That is our privilege.  I say to you that the power of prayer is something that cannot be measured.”

             I think one of the reasons it is so important to teach our children to pray is summed up by Pres. Smith when he said, “I learned quite early in life that the Lord would answer prayer for He answered mine and in many ways He gave me evidence of His watchful care.”

            That leads to our third theme.  Our prayers will be answered.  What do we need to do to receive answers to our prayers?  As mentioned earlier, we must approach the Lord in humility.  This is also a key to receiving answers to prayer.

D&C 112:10 teaches:  “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand and give thee answer to thy prayers.”
            Another key is given in D&C 101:7-8:  "They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.  In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me."  We must be obedient, listen to the Lord and follow His counsel if we want to continue to have our prayers heard and answered.

 We also learn an important insight in D&C 9:7-8:  "Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.  But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right."  The Lord expects us to do our part, by studying the question, weighing the decision, whatever steps we can take ourselves.  Then we may ask if what we have learned or what we have decided is correct. 

 I have often had the experience when I have asked a question in prayer, only to receive the answer through studying the scriptures.  I have often felt led to study certain passages, which the Spirit then testified to me was the answer to my question.  It really is an amazing experience and one that I perhaps would not have had had I not put forth my effort to turn to my scriptures.

            As I was studying this topic,  I read in the Bible Dictionary under "Prayer."  One of the paragraphs stood out to me as it had to do with something I had recently learned that was a wonderful insight for me and so I would like to share it with you also.  It is the last topic of “Yada.”

            "As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part.  Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.  Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other."  (Bible Dictionary, pg. 752, "Prayer").

            I thought it was interesting that the BD says many of the so-called difficulties with prayer come from forgetting this relationship to our Heavenly Father.  For that reason I thought it would be appropriate to expound upon this relationship. 

            Dr. Robert Norman teaches that our relationship to our Heavenly Father has a progression.  It is Child – Servant – Friend – Faithful Bride/Beloved.

            We are taught from an early age that we are children of our Heavenly Father.  Deuteronomy 14:1 says: “Ye are children of the Lord your God.”  Psalms 82:6 proclaims, “…Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”

            As we recognize that God is our Father and come to understand His plan for us and the Atonement, we begin to make the transition into becoming His servant. 

            What connotations does the word servant have?  For me some of those connotations are of the idea of being bought, doing the master’s will and not his own, and obedience.  A few scriptures referencing these ideas are:
1 Cor. 6:19-20  (We are bought with a price and are not our own.)
Romans 6:16-18.  (We become the servant of him whom we choose to obey.)

            The progression from child to servant happens when we learn the doctrine, begin to understand Christ’s atonement, choose to follow Christ and conform our will to His as we obey His commandments.

            At some point we progress from being called servant to being called friend.  An example of this is in D& C 93:45: “Verily, I say unto my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., or in other words, I will call you friends, for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me.

            John 15:7, 9-10 and 13-15 give us some insight into the progression from servant to friend:  "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.... As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.... Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.  Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you."

            As His will becomes our will, as we continue in even greater obedience, abiding in His love, as our knowledge increases, we become His friends.

            Exodus 33:11 says, “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.”

            There is a lot of symbolism in the scriptures of Christ as the Bridegroom and the house of Israel as His bride.  The last step in our progression is to become the faithful bride, to make God and Christ our Beloved.  To quote Donna B. Nielsen in her book, Beloved Bridegroom, “Marriage is a beautiful type of the bond Christ longs to have with us.”

            In Hosea 1:16 it says, “And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi, and shalt call me no more Baali.”  If you look down in the footnotes you will see that Ishi means "my husband.In Hebrew it is a very endearing way to refer to your husband.  Baali means "my master.So we shall move from calling him master to calling him husband. 

            Hosea 6:6 says, “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”

            Dr. Robert Norman says a lot of the meaning is lost in translation from Hebrew to English.  He writes:  "The word for 'mercy' is 'hesed' and refers to the deep spiritual and emotional bond that exists between two very close people such as husband and wife.  Immediately, one perceives that God wants us to be as emotionally and spiritually close to him in thought and action as a devoted husband and wife would be.  The word 'knowledge' comes from two Hebrew words 'yada' and 'daat' both of which mean 'to learn by close experience.'  Again, the Lord reinforces the idea that he desires to have a personal and intimate association with each individual.  It is a humbling moment when we realize that such a powerful, loving, and kind God wants this type of a relationship."  (Forward to “Beloved Bridegroom.” by Donna B. Nielsen)

            This is “yada.”  Knowledge.  “To learn by close experience.”  We will know the Lord through our devotion and our close experiences with him.  This is why I believe prayer is so important.  It is through prayer that our will is brought in line with that of the Lord.  It enables this progression from Child to Beloved.  It is how we come to know our Lord in the personal and intimate way that He desires us to know Him.

            John 17:3 says: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

            Hosea 1:19-20 says, “And I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.  I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the Lord.”

            That is the privilege and the power of prayer.  Gaining this insight into “yada” and the relationship my Father in Heaven wants to have with me has motivated me to truly seek His face, to make my prayers more personal and meaningful and to further my progression through prayer.  I hope it will for you too.  That is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Isaiah 1:4 -- "Sinful Nation"

"Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward."

 In verse 4, the Lord goes into more detail about the crimes / sins of which his children are guilty.  They are a "sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity."  I like this imagery.  "Laden" means "burdened, encumbered, weighed upon heavily or oppressively."  Truly, our sins do weigh heavily upon our souls and burden us with a heavy yoke.  Through our sins we are brought into a spiritual bondage, the captivity of the devil, the chains of hell.  It is grievous to be borne.  It is to this burden of sin which the Lord speaks in Matthew 11:28-30:  "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Verse 4 continues: "a seed of evildoers," --meaning that this wickedness has continued through many generations.  Both parents and children are evildoers.

"...children that are corrupters" --the definition of "corrupt" is "to change from good to bad in morals, to degrade with unsound principles or moral values, to alter from the original or correct form or version."  Throughout history the world has corrupted that which is sacred and sought their own version of morality.  I think the devil is the corrupter of all that which is good.  He takes the truth and twists it or changes it just enough that it becomes corrupted and leads men astray.  He tempts each of us to use our God given agency to "decide for ourselves" those parts of the gospel which we will believe, those commandments which we will follow, and lulls us into thinking that we don't have to accept certain things or submit our whole will to the Lord.  Thus pride and iniquity lead men to become corrupters of that which God has proclaimed. 

"...they have forsaken the LORD" --the definition of "forsake" is "to renounce or turn away from entirely."  In 1 Kings 11:33, we learn some of the ways the Israelites had forsaken the Lord: "Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father."  They had forsaken the Lord by worshipping false gods and by not keeping the commandments of the Lord.  (There will be more detail into this later in the chapter.)

"...they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger" --In Doctrine & Covenants 63:32-33 it says: "I, the Lord, am angry with the wicked; I am holding my Spirit from the inhabitants of the earth.  I have sworn in my wrath, and decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man."  In 2 Nephi 15:25 it says: "Therefore, is the anger of the Lord kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them; and the hills did tremble, and their carcasses were torn in the midst of the streets.  For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still."  Why was the Lord angry?  The previous verse (2 Nephi 15:24) says, "...because they have cast away the law of the Lord of Hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel."

"...they are gone away backward." --In other words, they need to turn around and face God.  Instead of forsaking the Lord, they should be forsaking sin.  They need to repent, or turn around, turn from their sin.  The phrase, "gone away backward" denotes that they are not just stagnate in their turning away, but are regressing.  This is the opposite of progression.  Instead of continually improving, they are going backward losing even that small part they may have once had.  This principle is echoed in D&C 1:33.  "And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts."

This is also echoed in 2 Peter chapter 2.  In fact verses 15 & 19-22 are a good summary of those things we've discussed above: "Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;...While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.  For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.  For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.  But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Isaiah Chapter 1 Verses 1-3

We begin Isaiah with a courtroom scene.  Isaiah is the observer.  Jehovah is the plaintiff and the judge.  Israel is the defendant.  The heavens and the earth are witnesses.

In verse 2 the Lord brings forth his charge, "I have nourished and brought forth children, and they have rebelled against me."  Truly the Lord has nourished his children.  In Exodus 16 we learn of the story of the manna from heaven.  The Lord heard the children of Israel's cries for food and for forty years, he provided food for them daily.  The Lord has also nourished his children spiritually.  In John 6:31-35 we learn of the symbolism of manna.  Christ himself is the true bread from heaven, He is the bread of life.  "He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." (v. 35).  Jacob 5 in the Book of Mormon is a wonderful example of how tirelessly the Lord goes about His work of nourishing and caring for His beloved children.

The charge laid forth is a serious one.  In the law of Moses as laid forth in Exodus 21:15 and 17, the punishment for smiting one's father or mother or cursing them is death.  Indeed, rebelling against the Lord will lead to our spiritual death, and should be regarded with the same gravity.  And yet, in verse 3, the Lord continues, "...but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider."  These children whom the Lord has loved and taken such care to nourish, do not know Him or seem to give Him the slightest regard.

The complete verse says, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider."  The analogy to the ox and his owner and the ass and his master give the impression of having been bought.  Indeed, as we are told in 1 Cor. 6:19-20, we are "not our own... [we] are bought with a price..."  Christ has paid the ultimate price and we are His.  It is also interesting that these "lesser" beings know their owners and obey them and yet we do not.  To me it symbolizes the humility required of men to know God and follow Him.

I love these opening verses.  Already we can see the application to our day.  The Lord continues to nourish His children daily both temporally and spiritually, but do they know?  Do they consider?  Do they realize the consequences of rebelling against their Father, do they care?  Do they understand the gravity of the punishment that awaits them, should they persist in their rebellion against the Lord?  Do they not understand that Christ has paid the ultimate price and they are not their own? 

Let it not be so for us.  Let us recognize each day the many ways we are nourished and cared for by the Lord.  Let us recognize His hand in our life and express our gratitude for it each day.  Let us be humble and obedient, always willing to do the will of the Lord.  May we live our lives with the awareness of its import and eternal purpose, aware of what awaits those who rebel and seeking that reward which has been promised to the righteous.

As the Lord laments in verse 3 that His people do not know Him, in John 17:3 we are told what awaits those who do know Him.  "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."  Verse 3 gives us a key to how we shall know Him.  As we are humble and obedient, we shall come to know our master, just as the ox knows his owner and the ass his master's crib.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Keys To Understanding Isaiah

There are four keys to understanding Isaiah:

1.  Spirit of prophecy.
In 2 Nephi 25:4, Nephi explains, "...for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy."  What is the spirit of prophecy?  Revelations 19:10 tells us that "...the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."  In 1 Corinthians 2:11, Paul tells us that the things of God can only be known through the spirit of God.  In verse 10 he says, "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God."  We must search and be led by the spirit to gain understanding.  When we do, it will be as it was for Jacob who said, "Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope; and our faith becometh unshaken..."  If we will seek to have the spirit as we search these deep things of God, great will be our reward.

2.  Know the things of the Jews
In 2 Nephi 25:5, Nephi continues, "Yea, and my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah, for I came out from Jerusalem, and mine eyes hath beheld the things of the Jews, and I know that the Jews do understand the things of the prophets, and there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews."  It is helpful to know Jewish law, culture, traditions, geography, history, symbolism, etc. to fully understand Isaiah.  For example, references to numbers are often not meant to be quantitative, rather they are meant to be a connotation of their symbolic meaning.  The number seven, for example, can mean whole or perfect, and not necessarily mean the literal value of seven.

3.  Search
Because there can be multiple meanings to the words of Isaiah, we must search and "read between the lines."   We must search the context and have the spirit of prophecy to understand.  When Christ appeared to the Nephites, he said, "And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things.  Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.  For surely he spake as touching all things concerning my people which are of the house of Israel; therefore it must needs be that he must speak also to the Gentiles.  And all things that he spake have been and shall be, even according to the words which he spake." (3 Nephi 23:1-3)

4.  Types
Jacob taught, "Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him." (2 Nephi 11:4)  There are many types in Isaiah.  The prophets themselves are types of Christ.  We should also realize as we read that what has happened in the past is a type for what will happen in the future.  Thus the line quoted above "...all things that he spake have been and shall be..."  What was prophesied would happen to the Jews will also happen in the last days.  Thus we truly can "liken the scriptures unto ourselves."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Learning Isaiah

My mother has a deep love for the scriptures.  Growing up people would often make comments about the depth of her knowledge and how much she knows.  Someone even once made the comment that when my mom died, they wanted her scriptures.  In fact, I think there are a few people vying for that honor.  My mom has been a forever student and her scriptures reflect that.  There are no pristine white pages.   They are filled with references, quotes, explanations and highlights of every color.  They are well-used and well-loved.

I decided awhile ago, that I didn't just want her scriptures when she died, I wanted her to share her knowledge with me now.  And she has been kind enough to come to my home every week to teach me and help me come to know and love the scriptures as she does.  We are starting in Isaiah, one of her favorite books.  I feel like I understand Nephi's sentiment more when he said, "And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning."  (1 Nephi 19:23)  Reading Isaiah, with my mom's help to understand what I read, truly has given me a deeper love and testimony of the Lord our Redeemer. 

For this reason, I would like to share with you the things she teaches me.  It will not necessarily be a comprehensive review of everything she teaches me.  (There's a lot!)  She's been studying it for years, and this is my first time.  But I'd like to write down the things that I find of particular interest or importance.  I hope this will help me to remember all I am learning and I hope maybe there are others who would also like to learn what I've been learning.  I'd like to pass on this gift that I feel my mom is giving me.  Together may we come to a greater knowledge and love of the Savior and of the scriptures. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sweet Experience

My sweet little boy Ty often feels scared at night.  I know most kids go through this, but one night a few weeks ago as I was putting Ty to bed, I could tell that he was really scared.  So I sat down by him in his bed and I told him he didn't need to feel scared because our Heavenly Father is always with him.  I reminded him that last summer when he was baptized, he was also given the gift of the Holy Ghost, which means that the Holy Ghost will always be with him.  I told him that the Holy Ghost will comfort him and bring him feelings of peace.  All he needed to do when he felt scared is to pray to Heavenly Father and ask him to feel that comfort and to feel that He is there.  

Ty got a little teary-eyed.  I was worried that he was still feeling scared, but he said, "Mom, I know what you are saying is true.  When you were telling me this, a little voice told me, 'Listen to your mom...what she is saying is true.'"  Well, that got me very teary-eyed.  "That's the Holy Ghost, Ty," I said.  "That is also what he does for us.  He testifies to us that things are true.  See, Ty, now you know you have him with you.  You just felt the Holy Ghost and he told you it's true." 

Ty was so happy.  He felt calm and peaceful, and I think very empowered.  I told him he needed to try to always remember this experience.  Remember how it felt.  Just thinking of this experience would help him to remember that Heavenly Father is with him and that the Holy Ghost would be there to comfort him and guide him. 

As I left his room that night, I marveled a bit at the experience we'd just had.  An ordinary moment turned extraordinary.  I was so grateful that I had the opportunity to teach him about the Holy Ghost and so profoundly grateful that the Spirit had borne witness to him it was true.  I, too, felt comforted that I wasn't leaving him alone.  That he wasn't laying there frightened and awake.  But that he knew where to turn when he felt scared.  How grateful I am to have that knowledge myself.  And how grateful I am to know where I can point my children for any problem they may face.

A little while later we were reading the scriptures together as a family and we read about Nephi being led by the Spirit.  We got talking about the Holy Ghost, and Ty looked at me and said, "I know how that feels, huh, Mom."  I nodded, "You sure do, Ty.  You've felt the Holy Ghost too, haven't you?"  "Yes," he said, with a confident smile.  "Thank you," I silently prayed to our Heavenly Father.