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Likening the scriptures unto ourselves

Hello all!

Nothing much today-- just wanted to share this quick insight:

When I was in the MTC, our teacher, Bro. Jenkins, told us about how we can use the Book of Mormon to answer investigators' concerns (see Chapter 5 of Preach My Gospel). I was dubious about some of the questions that it says the Book of Mormon can answer, like "How can I find work to support my family?" and "How can I help my teenagers avoid drugs and immorality?" I raised my doubts, and was surprised when he answered these questions by "likening the scriptures" unto real-life modern-day situations.

I've read through that Book several times now, but today, I actually took a while to ponder on a selection, and likened them to myself. The selection was Mosiah chapters 18-24. What initially seemed like just the latter end of the record of Zeniff now became so much more. Those short 7 chapters clearly teach:
  • The Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel-- faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (18:7-10)
  • The baptismal covenant (18:8-10)
  • The necessity of authority to perform priesthood ordinances, such as baptism (18:13, 18; 21:30-35)
  • The proper manner of baptism-- by immersion in water (18:14-15)
  • How Christ's Church must bear His name (18:17), and
  • What membership in Christ's Church requires (18:8-10, 19-30; 23:13-18)
It also points out in Chapters 22-24 an interesting contrast-- both the righteous people of Alma's congregation, and the wicked though eventually penitent people of King Limhi, go through the same trial (they both fall into bondage to the Lamanites [see 22:23]), but endure with different levels of faithfulness, and escape with different results.

Limhi's people spend many years in involuntary servitude (19:29), fightt 4 major, destructive wars, in the which thousands of lives are lost (20:6-7; 21:6-13), and are severely humbled by grievous trials (21:2-5, 13-15). After finding humility and contrition, they have to provide for themselves a precarious escape from their captors (21:36 - 22:16).

On the other hand, Alma's people are faithful, patient and diligent. First, they rely on the Lord when the Lamanites come upon them, and as a result, the transition to slavery is hard, but no lives are lost (23:25-29). They immediately turn to the Lord, and though He doesn't immediately free them from bondage, He does immediately help them bear their burdens and find peace in a difficult circumstance (24:14), and immediately assures them of an eventual deliverance (24:13). The promise of strength to bear is fulfilled (24:15), and people respond with cheerful hearts. with such optimism, it seems almost no time at all before the word of the Lord comes again, promising deliverance "on the morrow" (24:16-18). Their deliverance is completely miraculous-- no inebriating watchmen, or a fantastic rush out of town-- just simply a peaceful departure while the Lord keeps the guards deeply asleep (24:19-20). Immediately outside the city, they stop to give thanks to God (24:21-22).

The people of Alma learned their lesson in less time, with less loss, and with less trial than Limhi's people, whose hardened hearts required many wars and trials to find humility.

We, too have both ways before us-- will we choose the easy way, or the hard way? Will we learn what we need to learn, and do what we need to do when invited? Or will we force the Lord to continually hammer us with trials before we cry unto Him for deliverance, and admit our wrongs?

Do we "submit cheerfully" and let our burdens be "made light?" (24:14-15).
Or do we mourn and resist shouldering our burdens (21:3-13) and finally beg help (21:14) ?
Do we feel that the Lord responds quickly and kindly to our prayers, as to Alma's people?
Or do we find that He is "slow to hear our cries because of our iniquities" (21:13-15) ?
Do we hear the Prophet's counsel and follow it (23:27-28) ?
Or do we instead pester our leaders with complaints and suggestions (21:6) ?
When the Lord helps us out of tough situations, do we pause in our exit to "lift up our voices in the praises of our God" (24:20-22) ?
Or do we make a mad dash for the quickest road out of town?

As I ask myself these same questions, I realize that many times, I'm like the people of Limhi-- I only learn my lessons after inner wars and personal bondage. How much better to emulate the example of Alma and his people-- faithful, diligent, more trusting, and happier. Why do I always seem to want to learn the hard way?

I hope I and all of us can try harder to be more like Alma's people, and less like Limhi's. I pray we also can find deeper meaning in the Scriptures as we apply them to ourselves and our day, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Foot in Mouth

Hello all:

Sorry I haven't been updating my blog very frequently-- this is one of the less-exciting areas I've served in. We hope to have a baptism this Saturday, though, and another one or two to shortly follow.

Got transfer calls late last night-- Eler Westerlund is heading out to a new area, and I will be getting my new companion soon. We're expecting exciting things this next transfer-- miracles. President Maynes had the mission give some new trainings this past week-- instead of the traditional weekly "discussions" of up to 45 minutes each, we now are instructed to stop by for 10-15 minutes 2-3 times each week. In addition to hopefully doubling our current weekly lessons numbers, it should hopefully help to teach only one or two principles at a time, with a digestion period of a day or two. This will hopefully be easier than throwing a thousand unfamiliar doctrines and a baptismal commitment at them all at once, cramming it all into a short 45 minute discussion replete with questions to gauge comprehension (and a half-hour allotment for those talkative investigators).

Interesting experiences from this week:

Doctrine & Covenants 33 repeatedly states, "Open your mouths, and they shall be filled." But sometimes, what fills your mouth is not the Spirit, but your foot.

In my sacrament meeting talk on faith yesterday, I tried to make the point that our faith must be in Jesus Christ, and not on anything that could fail. To illustrate, I brought up several examples of where you wouldn't want to place your faith. Without thinking, I threw Santa Claus into the list, and pointed out to the entire congregation that being a fictional character, he's not someone we should have faith in. Only afterward did it occur to me that Primary kids attend Sacrament Meeting. Luckily, the sister following me began her talk with a testimony of the reality of Kris Kringle, but I still got a few parents remark to me that next time I want to tell their kids there's no Santa Claus from the pulpit, I may wish to confirm with them first. Oops-- I guess missionaries won't be speaking in Church again any time soon.

We tracted into a lady that night who said she was some sort of "Born-Again Ministry of Faith and Fellowship Community of the Risen Lamb Evangelical Western Methodist Church" or something like that (and I thought our name was long!) She said she was busy having a Bible Study. Without missing a beat, I asked if we could join her. After a few seconds of startled surprise, and another minute of concerned, whispered consulting with the group inside, they finally agreed. But they were really tense-- kept on glancing at us with worried faces, terrified we were going to start spouting demons or something. I was laughing my head off inside. But it went pretty well-- we had a good discussion on tithing and charity (not sure how it tied into the assigned reading of Galatians 6, but OK).

Then they started praying-- that was... interesting. Imagine a group of people holding hands chanting stuff and "rebuking stinginess in the name of Jesus" (hallelujah!), and commanding "the spirit of willing donation to enter me and completely posses me" (amen, hallelujah!) Repeat this about 7 times, getting louder each time. OK, so that part was kinda strange; I kinda value my agency, and don't really want to ask anything to posses me. Pastor T was pretty talented-- she was repeating her chants and hallelujahs at rapid-fire pace, while having a discussion with her daughter. Definite talent. Then they prayed for us, that we might have learned something there, and we left in good spirits. Definitely an educational experience. Gotta love those holy-rollers.

Well, gotta head to another appointment. Hope everything's going well, especially all of you who are taking finals. Keep up those prayers for Japan.

Elder Watkins
Colorado Denver South Mission
999 E. Tufts Av.
Cherry Hills Village, CO 80113