Tag Archives: nephi

I Usually Don’t Know it’s Revelation…

jesus-at-the-door-39617-galleryPersonal revelation is a tricky thing. Too much of it and our agency may be infringed upon. Too little of it and we’re literally on our own, rudderless in a sense. Receiving direction from the heavens when needed in quite a blessing–a miracle in any sense of the word. The problem is, I’m not expert, even after decades of trying to become one. I’m not sure I’m better at recognizing promptings and direction now compared to a year ago or even a decade ago. Maybe I am. I really just don’t know.

Sometimes when we’re sharing an experience with someone (in a class or a personal conversation or a post) we say something like, “The spirit told me to…” or “I felt prompted to…” and we go on with the story. I’ve done that, I’m sure of it. And there are worse things in the world. The funny thing is this: I rarely know the Lord is prompting me when He is. On a few occasions I’ve felt sure the Holy Ghost was whispering to me, but those occasions are actually pretty rare.

More often, I think that maybe there is a chance I’ve been prompted. Not totally sure, but maybe.

I’m just not always sure. So I will have this thought or feeling or nudge (probably my favorite description of a prompting from God) and I’ll wonder about it a little. But it is a nudge toward something good or helpful or charitable, so I’ll move forward not knowing for sure if God’s hand is in this moment or not. Often, good things will come of it. Periodically, amazing or miraculous things will come of it. And as I look back over the situation and story it will become obvious that I had received a prompting or guidance and that the Lord was working in our lives. But I typically don’t know for sure until after the whole story is over.

Interestingly, we find this idea in the Book of Mormon, in the report of Nephi:

12 For the Lord had not hitherto suffered that we should make much fire, as we journeyed in the wilderness; for he said: I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not;

13 And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led.

14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.

15 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence. (1 Nephi 17:12-15)

The Lord seems to be saying to Nephi, “You’ll be led, but you won’t really know it for sure until after you’ve arrived in the promised land and avoided the destruction in Jerusalem.” They would hopefully trust the Lord and sense that there was a divine hand in their lives, but they wouldn’t know for sure until after they had arrived in the promised land (v. 14). Nephi determined to strive to keep the commandments so that he could eventually received that assurance (v. 15).

We can trust the Lord. We can act on promptings. We may not be totally sure that we’re being prompted, but as we act in faith, the assurances will come as we look back.

Sometimes our lives are like neo-impressionistic art. The dots of color that make up the moments and events of our days can appear unconnected and chaotic at times. We can’t see any order to them. We can’t imagine that they have a purpose at all.

However, when we step back and take an eternal perspective, when we look at our lives in the frame of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can begin to see how the various dots in our lives interconnect. We may not be able to see the entire picture just yet, but we’ll see enough to trust that there is a beautiful, grand design. And as we strive to trust God and follow His Son, Jesus Christ, one day we will see the finished product, and we will know that the very hand of God was directing and guiding our steps.

We will know that the Master Artist had a plan for those random dots all along. We will see that He has amplified our talents, prepared opportunities, and introduced us to possibilities far more glorious than we ever could have imagined or accomplished on our own.

I have certainly seen this in my own life.

An Evening with Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults • January 14, 2018

Maybe the “trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6) that has to come before you receive a witness is, at least sometimes, just not knowing for sure but moving forward anyway…

Be Encouraging,

BJM

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Why I’m Cutting Joseph Smith Some Slack…

Joseph_Smith,_Jr._portrait_owned_by_Joseph_Smith_IIILet me start with a disclaimer: I believe Joseph Smith was called as a prophet of God. I believe he saw God the Father and Jesus the Christ in a grove of trees when he was a young man. I believe he was the instrument used to restore the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, along with the organized church of Christ, in these days. I believe all of that.

So, with that said, let me also say this: I doubt Joseph was perfect. I bet he lost his temper at times when he probably shouldn’t have. I would imagine he had some lazy days when he didn’t work as hard as he should have. There may have been moments when he answered a question someone asked him and then later in the day, after some thought, realized that he answer wasn’t entirely honest. I also think there were moments when he thought he was following the direction of God and he wasn’t, and times when he didn’t realize that the Lord was trying to guide him but he wasn’t listening. And there were probably moments when he was following God’s will, but not exactly in the best, wisest way possible. There may have been room for improvement in some categories.

The reason I think those things is because he was just a normal human. Yes, his calling on earth was incredible, but God was calling a normal human to do an incredible thing. Some detractors to the Church spend much time discussing, bringing to light, and celebrating the moments in Joseph’s life when it would be easy to question his decisions, actions, or inspiration. I bet there is a precedence for this, too, scripturally.

Can you imagine what was whispered about Moses by some of the Israelites?

In whispered tones: “So, have you heard about Moses killing an Egyptian years ago? He sure doesn’t say much about it now? I mean, what really happened back then? Do you think we’ll ever really know? Why doesn’t he say more about that to us now? What is he afraid of?”

What about this: “Did you hear that Moses’s father in law had to come and show Moses how to run this organization? Jethro thought Moses was doing such a poor job he had to come all the way here and give Moses a ‘Leadership 101’ course. If Moses can’t even be an effective leader, what else is he messing up? Should we really be putting that much stock on what he is teaching us?”

It doesn’t stop with Moses. What would people have said about Paul? Paul certainly had a list of poor choices prior to his call as an Apostle, and I’d bet he made a few poor choices after his call. What about Jonah? What about Peter? What about Nephi. I mean, we have record of him taking someone’s head off early in his life. What do you think people thought of that? Did they buy the idea that he was just following a prompting?

You see, I believe that I am being asked to sustain a prophet who is made out of the same material as I am. And I don’t always know whether it is the Spirit of God prompting me or if it is just my own thoughts. I doubt that I’m alone in that quandary. At some point, after I’m dead, I’m sure a number of things will be explained to me about my life choices and I’ll have a few moments of “Ooooh…Yep, I didn’t get that quite right…” Maybe Joseph Smith will have a few moments like that in the spirit world, too.

I believe God can and does work through imperfect, well-meaning, learning, growing, endlessly flawed humans. Even his prophets. I don’t spend a lot of time focusing on those imperfections and mistakes, and not because I’m burying my head in the sand. I know about those possibilities. It is mostly because I appreciate that people have overlooked my mistakes during the few moments I’ve had to serve as a leader in the church. I and they know I’ve made mistakes, but we don’t spend too much time celebrating them. We’ve too much work to do…

Be Encouraging…

BJM

Accomplishing Big Things With God’s Help…

Hard-things-500x356I have two younger brothers who are currently serving as bishops. Our family spent the Thanksgiving holiday with the younger of the two and we had quite a discussion about his stake president. “President P” is one of those people who seems to be able to accomplish anything everything. He is almost larger-than-life. I’ve met a number of people like that, and I have a small clue regarding how they, and anyone, can accomplish such great tasks. Here are some of the people I’ve witnessed and the tasks they’ve tackled (we’ll talk about how in a minute or so):

  • A handful of women in my stake were called to lead out in producing a top-quality musical/play/production, starting almost from scratch and using only non-professional actors, singers and set designers. The production was a moving community event and an honor to the Savior and His birth. It was, by all measurements, a monumental task.
  • When I was a bishop, my clerk and friend passed away at a young age. He left his young wife and two small children. I wondered how his widow would ever be able to carry on. But, she has thrived. There have been more than a few moments of heartache and discouragement, but she has carried on and is living a spirit-driven life. It has been, by all measurements, a monumental task.
  • A well-known and wonderful local family’s son died in a car accident a few years ago. He was universally loved and the majority of the community shared in their mourning. I remember wondering how they would ever find a way to be happy in their new circumstances. By all accounts, this family has shown the community what faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can do. They are a happy, active, cheerful family, who have allowed the passing of their son/brother to spur them on to greater discipleship. They are truly a happy family.  It has been, by all measurements, a monumental task.
  • I worked with a man who had spent a good part of 20 years participating in a sin that he hated. The time came for him to work through the repentance process. He came to himself. He struggled and wept and prayed for help. There were many, many habits and sins to overcome. He put forth a herculean effort. Over time, he invited the Atonement of Christ to heal him.  It has been, by all measurements, a monumental task.
  • I’ve watched men and women respond to callings in the church that were far and away more than can be normally asked of any individual. They, over time, magnified the callings. Each case, by all measurements, was a monumental task.
  • I taught a student about a decade ago who lived in a miserable home. The parents, probably through circumstances that they had little control over, seemed to fail in almost every responsibility parents normally are at least mediocre at fulfilling. I always thought to myself, this kid doesn’t stand much of a chance. He has risen above his family culture, graduated from high school, served an honorable, full-time mission, married very well, and is a wonderful husband and father and a very kind person.  It has been, by all measurements, a monumental task.

There’s more. In fact, I could go on like this all day, I’m sure. Jobs, death, disease, financial stress, bigotry, bullying, callings, opportunities, challenges. People find themselves in situations that are much bigger than themselves. They are sometimes thrust into circumstances that would, understandably, overwhelm the average human. Sometimes they’re called by God into these situations. Sometimes they choose the situations themselves. How do people accomplish these huge, overwhelming tasks? There are at least two scriptural examples that serve as patterns.

Somehow, Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, through the desert, and to the Promised Land. Can you imagine the staggering feeling of inadequacy that must have gripped Moses’ heart and mind at the thought? He had a rod, he had Aaron, he had miraculous things happen both in and outside of Egypt. But the Doctrine and Covenants holds a, if not the, key:

“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.” (D&C 8:2-3)

Moses accomplished this monumental task with the help of the Holy Ghost. I don’t know the details of exactly what the Holy Ghost whispered to Moses and when and how often and with what intensity. But I do know that Moses did something bigger than himself because of the spirit of revelation.

Nephi, along with his brothers, was invited (or asked, or commanded) by his father, the prophet Lehi, to travel many miles back into Jerusalem to retrieve the Plates of Brass (1 Nephi 3-4). Nephi was asked to accomplish a task that would be nearly impossible. The keeper of the plates at the time, Laban, would never have ever, ever given these plates up. It was his job and his family’s job to keep these plates, and it would have given Laban power, prestige, and respect within the community. Nephi did have physical strength and the physical strength (though not the moral support) of his older brothers. But what was the key to Nephi’s ability to accomplish so great a task?

“And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” (1 Nephi 4:6)

If you know the story, you know the role the Spirit played in helping Nephi know exactly what hard choice to make in order to obtain the plates. Nephi accomplished this monumental task through the assistance and guidance of the Holy Ghost.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know who reads this blog. The stats tell me that hundreds of you do, on a good day. Surely one of you, somewhere out there, is currently passing through a trial or challenge that seems beyond your ability. There is a way for you to find peace and personal accomplishment no matter the challenge. The key, it seems, is that we allow ourselves to be guided by God, through the medium of the Holy Ghost. I know that the answers to the challenges won’t present themselves at the start. That is where the nervousness will come in. But we move forward in faith, “line upon line”, and the steps we are supposed to take will be quietly shown to us, one at a time (and at the appropriate time). As we take those steps, more steps will appear. And slowly, over time, we will accomplish things that, by all measurements, will be monumental tasks.

Be Encouraging…

BJM