Come Follow Me: Jan 26 – Feb 1

Photo I took in Provo, UT

This week in studying for Come Follow Me I had so much on my mind concerning my future. Sometimes even when we find a direction there is still shadows of doubt and uncertainty which come. I also have thought so much about entertainment value and the media’s powerful influence in my life.

Throughout this week there were several principles which stuck out to me.

I. If we keep the commandments, God will nourish us, strengthen us and provide means to follow those commandments

Artist depiction of Bilbo Baggins,

I have begun to see all of God’s commandments as an invitation. But it is the kind of invitation which brings about change, oftentimes through much trial and sorrow. Take for example Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit. Concerning this infamous character, Dieter F. Uchdorf commented in last General Conference,

However, when Bilbo is presented with the prospect of a grand adventure, something surges deep within his heart. He understands from the outset that the journey will be challenging. Even dangerous. There is even a possibility he might not return.

And yet, the call to adventure has reached deep into his heart. And so, this unremarkable hobbit leaves comfort behind and enters the path to a great adventure that will take him all the way to “there and back again.”2

-Dieter F. Uchdorf, “Your Grand Adventure” October 2019

Curiously enough, Bilbo could have chosen to stay home, enjoy life’s comforts and not have to face the sorrows and death threatening experiences ahead of him. But he does leave. And he was never the same.

He wasn’t the same because he had seen the world, that it was wide, beautiful and full of promising experiences and precious knowledge. He made meaningful relationships with great elves, dwarves and people. He conquered evil and faced temptation and overcame its deception. He also grieved at the death of his friends.

Though he faced so much, Bilbo changed and was grateful for it. Life is simple Hobbiton never seemed the same because of everything he had witnessed and experienced.

The same could be said of Lehi and his family. He and Nephi could have done a lot of good in Jerusalem, yet the Lord called them another way to raise up a righteous people.

What do these stores have to do with us? I’d same EVERYTHING. Just like Bilbo and Lehi’s family we accept the invitation to follow Christ. This takes courage, but when we follow Christ we gain the greatest, kindest, and most loving care taker we can ever have. He gives us trials and asks us to leave the comforts of an easy life, but never without the promise he will “prepare a way for (us) to accomplish the thing which he commandeth (us).” (1 Nephi 3:7)

Lehi said in 2 Nephi 1:15. “The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell: I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.’ It is the same for all of us who have chosen the path of discipleship. We don’t just face hardship. We find God and come to know of his love for us. And THAT is worth any trial we could ever face in this life.

II. The difference between righteous and unrighteous dominion

Depiction of 1 Nephi 18

When I watched the video showing Lehi and his family crossing the ocean I paid special attention to Nephi and his older brothers. In this story, Nephi sees his brothers being disrespectful and rude towards God. The moment he goes to them to ask them to stop, they tie him to the mast in terrible anger.

At the head of this terrible misfortune was Lamen, the eldest son. There are several things Lamen can’t overcome. First, how he had to leave behind their land and inheritance. Staying in Jerusalem would have provided Lamen a rich life as the eldest son. Even after reaching the Promised land he couldn’t let it go. He also couldn’t shake the feeling Nephi wanted to become ruler over them.

In tying Nephi to the mast, Lamen established unrighteous dominion over his family. In his anger, pride and foolishness he cut his whole family off from the Lord’s influence. A storm came and threatened them. Yet for over three days Lamen, followed by Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael, kept their families in the midst of a tempest. They caused so much suffering but couldn’t see beyond their pride.

Lehi, the patriarch of the family couldn’t sway them. Nephi’s wife and children’s tears couldn’t change them. It wasn’t until “they could see the judgments of God were upon them, and that they must perish save that they should repent” that they freed Nephi.

In his exhaustion, Nephi prayed to God and led his family from their impending destruction. I would say this destruction was both physical and spiritual. This example shows very profoundly what happens when men in anger and pride rule over others. They become past feeling and will sacrifice almost anything to be right.

In contrast, Nephi did not give in to anger, but humbled himself before God, steering, with God’s help, his family away from danger. When faced with trial he chose faith over fear. He chose to seek knowledge, to look forward and to honor his parents. He became a righteous leader out of example, not because of misplaced ambition.

What intrigues me is this idea. Lamen could have been like Nephi. He was faced with the same tests, saw an angel, heard his father’s visions and had access to the scriptures. But when faced with trial he couldn’t see beyond a future he had left behind. This does not make him evil. It makes him obstinate and because of his pride an influence of harmful behaviors.

III. The things of greatest value we must hold onto with faith

Art by Walter Rane

One of the strongest messages from this reading concerned how I stand fast in the truths I know. Be cautious of giving your heart or time to sources which lead you very subtly away from God and the light of his gospel.

This becomes increasingly hard as the world shifts farther and farther away from God and his gospel truths. Sometimes it feels easier to give n or even pretend we don’t see the wrong around us.

But giving in does not change the infinite, eternal value of our knowledge of Jesus Christ and God’s plan of happiness. We can’t find enlightenment in accepting easy answers of the day. Uchdorf also said,

The third thing we strive to master in this journey is to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and not be ashamed of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.

We do not hide our faith.

We do not bury it.

To the contrary, we talk about our journey with others in normal and natural ways. That’s what friends do—they talk about things that are important to them. Things that are close to their heart and make a difference to them.

. . . Sometimes your stories make people laugh. Sometimes they bring them to tears. Sometimes they will help people to continue in patience, resilience, and courage to face another hour, another day and come a little closer to God.

-Dieter F. Uchdorf, “Your Great Adventure”, October 2019

My favorite scriptures from this week is in 1 Nephi 19.

For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at anaught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men btrample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and chearken not to the voice of his counsels.

And behold he acometh, according to the words of the angel, in bsix hundred years from the time my father left Jerusalem.

And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they aspit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving bkindness and his clong-suffering towards the children of men.

– 1 Nephi 19:8-9. The Book of Mormon

Though sometimes it feels like we are drowning in a sea of knowledge, music, noise and facts, we still have the gift of the Holy Ghost. We can, if we look and hear beyond all these things, feel God’s love. My life goal is not to let toxic ideas shift my focus from what I know is right. I pray to remember Christ, that he did all “because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” (1 Nephi 19:9)

Come Follow Me: Jan 13-19

I’ve decided to start recording my notes for this Come Follow Me Program this year, emphasis on the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. When I write here on my blog, I feel somewhat like a teacher but I also learn so much more as I organize my thoughts. For those who do not know, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. If you like, you can read through these notes.

Usually I write reviews on movies, books or shows but lately I have been feeling very introspective. Mostly I have thought of how important it is to add my voice to the many others who talk about Jesus Christ, his love and gospel with confidence. As the years pass by, the more I notice people turning away from religion onto other paths. Much of this is happening I feel because we aren’t speaking about what we know and believe.

Lehi’s Dream, Steven Lloyd Neal

Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life

The Tree of Life is God’s Love, its fruit is his love manifested through the coming of Jesus Christ and his infinite Atonement. Leading to the Tree is the Iron Rod, or word of God along a strait and narrow path. Surrounding this path are the mists of darkness, or Satan’s temptations, the Large and Spacious Building, or the Pride of the World and the River, the filthiness of the world.

For this week’s initiative, we are studying 1 Nephi 8-10. So many thoughts and memories have passed through my mind as I have studied this week. Specifically, where I am on the path of discipleship. The major themes to my study have included, I. Where I am on the path of discipleship, II. The different groups heading to the tree, III. God’s infinite love in giving us commandments and a way back to Him and IV. How I can listen to the Holy Ghost amidst other louder voices.

I. Where I am on the Path of Discipleship

In the Come follow Me manual, there was a specific phrase which really struck me. It stated, “Lehi’s vision offers an invitation to reflect on where you are—and where you are going—in your personal journey to know the Savior and feel His love. President.” (Pg. 10, Para 1)

I thought a lot on my decisions thus far in life. I grew up much of my time alone amidst my peers. I went through much of school set to sea so to say among many differing ideas and fads. I wondered how I was able to stay so faithful despite such opposition. It is too easy to say I just knew. But reflecting back, I now know I had a habit of reading the Book of Mormon from a young age.

In reading and pondering I found an anchor in Christ. As an adult I feel a need to continue forward and find new ways to strengthen my faith the Savior. It is more then just reading sometimes or going to church once a week. It is immersing ourselves in God’s love. For “Perfect love casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16) and leads us to find eternal happiness with a being who loves us in such a Godly manner.

To love God is not foolishness it is enlightenment.

Edward Eric, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

It is as Arakawa stated in Fullmetal Alchemist, “A lesson without pain is meaningless. That’s because no one can gain without sacrificing something. But by enduring that pain and overcoming it, he shall obtain a powerful, unmatched heart. A fullmetal heart.” I think of Christ when I hear this statement because he gave the ultimate sacrifice to save us all. I think of myself as I face life’s challenges and carry my own personal trials. I also think of who I am meant to become by choosing this life of faith.

II. The Different Groups Heading to the Tree

There were three groups going to the tree. The first did not take hold of the Iron Rod, or word of God and fell away, swallowed by the mists of darkness. The second clung to the Rod, partake of the Fruit but then fell into the river or onto forbidden paths because of those who mocked them in the great and spacious building. The Last, held continually to the Rod and humbly fell and partook of the fruit, ignoring the mockery of others.

I actually thought of a principle I learned in yoga a few months ago. The idea, whenever we do the physical part of yoga or the mental exercises also involved, the level of our experience depends on our commitment to doing what is asked of us. Regular practice is infinitely better in the end then random, uncertain, or occasional participation.

I also felt such a strong desire to help all those going to the Tree. I thought so many times, “There must be a way to save everyone”. In a talk I heard this last week how Heavenly Father and Christ will do everything within their power to save everyone according to the laws of justice. They also will do nothing which will impede our freedom to choose for ourselves the path we want. It is hard for me to imagine not turning to God or purposefully breaking his Commandments, given in love to keep us spiritually safe. But all people have their own lives and must choose for themselves.

I actually had several dreams this week with different situations where I tried, most of the time in vain, to help those around me who were in danger. I could see it, yet I couldn’t force anyone else to listen. I talked to my mother about it and she said I worry because I cannot help everyone. But when I thought deeper I realized it wasn’t my burden to carry. It is Christ’s. Though I wish I could fix so much happening in the world around me, my primary responsibility is to see to it I find my way back to Him. Miracles happen as we simply live a Christ centered life.

III. God’s Infinite Love

I recently listened to the late President Monson’s talk entitled “Keep the Commandments“, as I pondered the reasons behind commandments and also how to discern God’s voice. One particular statement he said really touched me. He said, “He who created us and who loves us perfectly knows just how we need to live in order to obtain the greatest happiness.”

We hear so often how God loves us, I wonder if we know what it truly means. I know for myself, it is like hearing your parents tell you they love you. I hear their words, but I don’t see their happiness when I was born, or their worry as I became ill. I can’t see the years in which they watched me, nor can I understand what it is like to see me grow from a child into an adult.

But I can understand a small fraction of what it means to have God’s love when I hear, ““God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16 God loves us so much he sent His Son to save us from a desolate life, wandering, lost and spiritually cut off. He loves us so much that he gave us this life to grow and choose for ourselves to find him again.

IV. How I can Listen to the Holy Ghost

Again, I pondered a lot as I listened to President Monson’s talk on the commandments. When speaking to men in the church he boldly stated,

We are surrounded by persuasive voices, beguiling voices, belittling voices, sophisticated voices, and confusing voices. I might add that these are loud voices. I admonish you to turn the volume down and to be influenced instead by that still, small voice which will guide you to safety. Remember that one with authority placed his hands on your head after you were baptized, confirming you a member of the Church and saying, “Receive the Holy Ghost.”5 Open your hearts, even your very souls, to the sound of that special voice which testifies of truth. As the prophet Isaiah promised, “Thine ears shall hear a word … , saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.”6 May we ever be in tune, that we might hear this comforting, guiding voice which will keep us safe.

-Thomas S. Monson, Keep the COmmandments 2015

In church today, one of the speakers said, “Without the Spirit we don’t have Christ.” I thought about this and realized how much I knew is and will always be based on my willingness to seek God’s guidance and hear his voice. This is so hard at time because it really does become so loud.

I paired this with the last part of my reading from 1 Nephi 10. In it, not only does Lehi expound further on their people in Israel and Christ’s role as Savior but his son Nephi, not understanding all his father said, desired to learn more. He said,

17 . . . I, Nephi, was ddesirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the eHoly Ghost, which is the fgift of God unto gall those who diligently seek him, as well in times of hold as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.

18 For he is the asame yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.

19 For he that diligently aseeketh shall find; and the bmysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the cHoly Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the dcourse of the Lord is one eternal round.”

I wondered what it is like to diligently seek and receive such answers. Then I remembered times in my life where I had deep questions about where I should go or what I should do. Sometimes I received direct answers. But that was usually only after I had undergone a severe trial or learned a profound truth. Usually, I get small promptings in the small, quiet moments in my day.

As it says in Moroni 10:5 “. . . by the power of the Holy Ghost (we) may know the truth of all things.” But the key lies in our desires and our intent. If we earnestly seek God, he will always manifest himself to us.

Conclusion

I am so grateful for God’s love and how infinite it is. I listened to a song recently that really maybe ponder my place in this world. It also made me wonder how in all his love he created such a beautiful world for each of us. He also gave us the chance to choose him of our own volition, knowing we would grow and become like him. I leave with the lyrics of the song “Saturn” by Sleeping at Last and hope any who read this have a wonderful week!

You taught me the courage of stars before you left
How light carries on endlessly, even after death
With shortness of breath, you explained the infinite
How rare and beautiful it is to even exist I couldn’t help but ask
For you to say it all again
I tried to write it down
But I could never find a pen
I’d give anything to hear
You say it one more time
That the universe was made
Just to be seen by my eyes
-Sleeping at Last, “Saturn”

DAY 7-Month of Movie Quotes: The Usual Suspects (1995)

Verbal: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that… he is gone.

I have never actually seen this movie but am well aware of its iconic ending and this quote which it embodies.

We must be so careful not to let ourselves forget there is great evil in this world. Moral ambiguity is a fancy way of saying there is no good and evil or right and wrong.

In 2 Nephi from the Book of Mormon Nephi states, “And behold others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell: and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none- and thus he whispered in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains from whence there is no deliverance.”

I like this quote because it makes it very clear how important it is not to let evil into our lives unwittingly. I think it is also a call to recognize that where there is evil there is also love and goodness.