JOY! – 2 Nephi 2:25

You can read 2 Nephi 2:25 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, shortly before his death, is speaking a final time to his sons.
  • Adam fell that men might be.
  • Men are that they might have joy!

JOY!

Lehi taught:

“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” – 2 Nephi 2:25

So – read that again. And really pay attention to the last phrase.

Men (and women) are that they might have joy.

Why We Are

This is the reason of being. It’s not just why we are here in mortality on earth. It is why we ARE.

I don’t know if I have ever fully contemplated that. That we ARE to have joy. This is the raison d’être—for each and every one of us.

And think about it. How does it make you feel? To know that God—our Creator—has given us this reason for being: to have joy. It, in and of itself, is a joyful proposition.

Of course, we can’t really ignore the first part of the scripture: Adam fell that men might be. The Fall of mankind is a less joyful prospect. It introduced death, misery, pain, sickness, and sin into the world.

Even in this scripture, we can see that we cannot have one (joy) without the other (the fall). Without the fall, we wouldn’t have knowledge. We wouldn’t have “sight.” This ignorance would preclude us from feeling misery and pain, yes, but it also would keep us from knowing happiness and joy.

And Joy is why we ARE.

So, we have to keep this raison d’être in mind, especially as we suffer and experience life in this fallen, mortal world. We really need to understand more of why we are here (Joy) AND what joy actually means (according to the truth of our God). We need to understand how to discern that which will bring us joy. We need to understand how to have joy. Then, we can use this knowledge and perspective to help us have joy now, even as we go through the difficulties of mortality.

What is Joy???

It’s nice and all to say, “men are that they might have joy!” But the thing is, what is joy? Who is defining it???

If we don’t have a real handle on the true definition of joy, according to the truth of our God, then we might find ourselves looking for joy in all the wrong places. This could then take us down a path of losing trust in Lehi’s simple and sweet statement.

We need to understand that joy is deep contentment and peace. However, we often mistake joy for short term pleasure. In our current society, “joy” isn’t long-lasting, capable of getting you through extreme hardship. Instead, it’s the quick dopamine hit, the quick rush.

Our society seems to imagine joy the same way as advertisers do. (No surprise there!) Think of an alcohol advertisement. (I was going to put one in here, but I hate them all so much because they are full of LIES!). As I just did a search, most of the advertisements include young people (especially women) who are partying, having fun, and ready for sex.

There is nothing wrong with going to a party with friends. There is nothing inherently wrong with having fun. And there is nothing wrong, if you are in the right circumstance of marriage, with being ready for sex. This is a part of the human experience. But we have to understand, these are the dopamine hits. There is nothing wrong with a quick hit of dopamine, either. The moments of pleasure that stoke our dopamine give us a lot of motivation to do anything – good or bad.

The problem is when we start misunderstanding pleasure and joy. When we start chasing the quick dopamine hit, rather than nurturing the long-term happiness hormone of serotonin. Long-term happiness doesn’t come from a party. It comes from consistent good sleep, consistent healthy food, consistent meditation and prayer, consistent service, consistent positive experiences with loved ones.

1596px-The_Tortoise_and_the_Hare_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19993

Joy isn’t “sexy,” fast, or even necessarily fun. Joy is the tortoise while pleasure is the hare.

Pleasure comes from a lack of inhibition, joy from discipline. I realize that this doesn’t sound very provocative -when it comes to joy. If joy is an act of discipline, then why would we want it? The best way for me to illustrate this is through my own experience.

I am hedonistic at heart. I love eating good food. I love sleeping. I am sensual and passionate. I’m a human. We all are a little hedonistic! Why have the spinach shake when I can have a Nutella crepe??? Why wake up and exercise when my bed is so warm and cozy??? Why save money when I want new shoes??? Why stay sexually pure when there are so many cute boys on this earth???

The answer to all of these questions is because pleasure and hedonism isn’t necessarily the path to happiness. And if we sacrifice righteousness for any of these mortal desires, then we may experience pleasure, but happiness and joy is impossible. As Alma taught:

“…Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” – Alma 41:10

So – as I was saying, I tend to be a little hedonistic at heart, but somewhere along the way, the Lord has been merciful and has taught me the joy of discipline. Several years ago, I was going through some really difficult things, and I felt the prompting to go for a run. I was out of shape, and I was living in HILLY Pennsylvania. I went for a run. It was hard. And I was SORE for a week.

But there was something about that run – about putting one foot in front of the other again and again and again. It wasn’t easy, but after an hour, I had run five miles. I had gone uphill and downhill. I had done something hard! I realized that just as I could put one foot in front of the other on this run, I could do it in my life, too. I could get through these challenges I was facing.

After this run, I started to love running! (Well, probably more appropriately jogging, but whatever). I ran when it was 23°F outside. I ran when it was 93°F outside. I ran in rain, sleet, or snow. I ran in cool, crisp breezes during fall when the leaves are orange and the sky is blue. I ran at 5:30 AM, or at 10:20 AM, or at 4:30 PM or even at 7:00 PM…depending on the day and on my schedule.

And you know what – it was never really easy to get up out of bed. I always wanted to be sleeping instead. It wasn’t easy to stop my day and run. It wasn’t easy, after work when I was exhausted, to lace up my sneakers and get in a quick run. But I did. I had learned that I never came home from a run in a bad mood.

Somewhere along the way, I had learned that my hedonistic nature wasn’t always very smart. I had learned that doing the thing that seemed “easy” in the moment was often hard in the long term. I had learned that the seemingly hard thing had very generous dividends.

PA Forsythia

Barn in Chester County PA

PA

As I think back on this now, the cumulative experience of running – especially in PA – brings me joy still. Yes! The sweat, the sore muscles, the blisters…are joyful memories! Though running didn’t offer immediate pleasure, the cumulative effect taught me discipline and joy.

 

This is the kind of joy that the Lord offers to us, too. His joy isn’t immediate pleasure (though we may experience pleasure from time to time). His joy is fruit of cumulative discipline and work that amounts to something. As the Savior said:

“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.” – John 14:27

The Lord’s joy isn’t the fleeting pleasure that we see in advertisements. When we ponder Lehi’s teaching—men are that they might have joy, we must apply God’s definition of joy and happiness and peace. It may not seem as appealing to our hedonistic side, but it is what we are all actually after.

God’s joy is the rush we feel when we finish a difficult but good task, God’s joy is the love that makes our heart want to explode when we see our little children sleeping peacefully. God’s joy is the quiet peace that fills our souls when we sit at the beach and watch the rolling waves, when we smell the fresh pines in a mountain top, or ponder the intricacies of a simple wildflower.

Ultimately, God’s joy is our joy:

“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” – Moses 1:39

joy

The Fall Was a Good Thing – 2 Nephi 2:19-24

You can read 2 Nephi 2:19-24 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, shortly before his death, is still speaking to Jacob and his other children.
  • After Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, they were driven out of the garden of Eden.
  • Adam and Eve brought forth children – the family of all the earth.
  • The days of the children of men were prolonged, according to God’s will, so that we could repent while in the flesh. It seems that this is the most effective way for us to repent.
  • All of us were lost because of Adam’s transgression.
  • If Adam would NOT have transgressed, then he would not have fallen; however, everything would have remained in this holding pattern state in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve would have remained in a state of innocence, no children, no joy, no misery, no good, no sin, no knowledge.
  • God’s allowance of the fall was a good thing.

The Fall was a Good Thing

I grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I went to primary and church as a kid. I was baptized when I was eight. I went to seminary, institute, etc. I have grown up knowing that the fall of Adam, though it was a transgression against God’s commands regarding the Garden of Eden, was a good thing for all of mankind. This, however, is not a commonly held belief among all Christian denominations.

But it’s true!

Lehi teaches:

“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.” – 2 Nephi 2:22-23

I love this point of doctrine. I love knowing that Adam’s and Eve’s wasn’t this terrible mistake that surprised God and doomed man. It was always a part of the plan!!!

And how do we know that? Well, look at what it says in verse, 23. Had Adam and Eve stayed in the Garden of Eden, then they would have had no children.

The first commandment God gave to them was to multiply and replenish the earth. They needed to find a way out of the Garden of Eden so that they could have children, so we could have a chance to be here on this Earth!

family

Paradoxical Commandments

When the Lord created Adam and Eve, He gave them two commandments.

One – Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. They weren’t supposed to remain in the garden alone. Life on earth wasn’t only about Adam. In fact, in order for Adam and Eve to find the most fulfillment and joy in life, they would need to both multiply and replenish the earth. They needed to have a family. They needed to get married and have children. They needed to create – both individually and together. This is what would bring them joy – to fulfill their measure of their creation.

In the garden of Eden, according to the scriptures, having a family wasn’t yet a possibility. I’m not sure why. Life in the Garden may have been blissful, but it wasn’t joyful, and this is because they couldn’t fulfill the measure of their creations – they couldn’t live with purpose.

So God commanded them to be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth.

Then, God gave them a seemingly contradictory commandment.

Two – Do Not Eat of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
Why would the Lord tell them this if it is impossible for them to keep the first commandment? Both of these commandments cannot be kept. They conflict with one another.

Well…here’s my theory – the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a condition of living in the Garden of Eden and being in the presence of God.

God created Adam and Eve, He gave them the commandment, then he planted the Garden of Eden for them and placed them there. The Lord also dwelt in the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve could essentially “hang out” with the Lord – face to face, in the flesh. They were not mortal. They were not fallen. They were still “clean” and capable of enduring the presence of God.

When Satan tempted Eve with the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he did so out of rebellion and to thwart the plan of God (he didn’t realize that her choosing to partake was essential in God’s plan of happiness for us!)

When Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it wasn’t out of rebellion. She still loved God, but she was seeking more. She wanted knowledge. She wanted happiness. Happiness was not a possibility before the fall – even in the idyllic Garden of Eden. Adam’s and Eve’s eyes needed to be “opened” if they wanted to experience happiness or joy.

Though the two commandments seem paradoxical, and of course in some ways they are, I don’t think that they were a set-up. Instead, I think it was probably a point of maturation. God created Adam and Eve. He gave them a commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. They had a purpose. Being new creatures, they were not really aware of their purpose the moment they were created.

The Lord put them in a place of safety where Adam and Eve could start having experiences and learn about this new world. However, because this was a place of relative safety, and with very little opposition (the only opposition being the fruit of the tree of knowledge and that serpent!), it was not a place that they could grow – long term. They lacked opposition and would also lack knowledge. They couldn’t have a family there.

It wasn’t until they were ready that the fruit started to appeal to Eve.

We read:

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.” – Moses 4:12

We don’t know how long Adam and Eve dwelled in the Garden. But we know at some point, Eve finally saw the fruit of the tree as desirable. Why? Because she sought wisdom. And though the serpent beguiled her into thinking that if she ate she wouldn’t die, it was a blessing that she partook. She wouldn’t have knowledge or wisdom without this choice to leave her parents and strike out on her own.

The fall was a critical part of God’s plan for our happiness. Adam’s and Eve’s having knowledge was a critical part of God’s plan for our happiness. Adam’s and Eve’s ability to procreate and bring children into this world was a critical part of God’s plan for our happiness!

Finally, I love what we learn from Adam and Eve themselves:

And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.

And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” – Moses 5:10-11

We can join in Adam’s and Eve’s praise for the fall. Without it, we wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t have knowledge. We wouldn’t have joy. And we wouldn’t have the chance at eternal life with our Father in Heaven.

Opposing Forces: Satan (Part 2/2) – 2 Nephi 2:14-18

You can read 2 Nephi 2:14-18 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, shortly before his death, teaches Jacob.
  • There is a God.
  • He has created all things: heaven and earth, all things in them, and things both to act and things to be acted upon.
  • To bring about God’s eternal purposes, He allowed for opposition.
  • Likewise, to bring about His eternal purposes, He gave us agency. But we really couldn’t act for ourselves if we didn’t have choices.
  • An angel of God, according to the the scriptures that Lehi had read (Isaiah!), had fallen from heaven and became a devil.
  • This devil sought that which was evil before God. (This was the purpose of his being thrust out of Heaven.)
  • Because of the fall from heaven, the devil became miserable forever and sought the misery of all mankind. He wanted to destroy God’s work and glory.
  • The devil, therefore, tempted Eve by lying to her about the effects of partaking of the forbidden fruit.

Opposing Forces: God and Satan

Last time, we talked about Heavenly Father. You can read the post here. Today, we are studying the force and being that opposes our Heavenly Father: the devil.

Typically, I like spending time studying things that are really uplifting and interesting to me – faith, the Savior, charity, etc. I don’t always like studying the devil much because it can be a little depressing. However, it is good for us to understand a little bit about him, because he is a true force in our lives. When we understand a little bit more about him, we will also learn more about God and we will be able to make better choices.

So…here we go. In 2 Nephi, we read:

“And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.

And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind. Wherefore, he said unto Eve, yea, even that old serpent, who is the devil, who is the father of all lies, wherefore he said: Partake of the forbidden fruit, and ye shall not die, but ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.” – 2 Nephi 2:17-18

This is a really brief explanation of Satan.

Fallen Angel

Lehi’s understanding of Satan’s “origin story” came from the scriptures. We don’t know exactly which scriptures he refers to here. Nor do we have the entirety of the scriptures that were included in the Brass Plates (there are lost scriptures). So we have to do a little guess work.

We know that Isaiah teaches the following:

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” – Isaiah 14:12-15

It seems that Isaiah understood that the devil fell from heaven. He fell from grace. And this was because of his prideful ambitions.

Additionally, we have more revealed scripture now that gives us insight on what was written in the Bible. In Moses, we read:

“And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.

Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;

And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” – Moses 4:1-4

Here we learn that Satan had a plan for the “salvation” of all of the souls in heaven. (That’s you and me!) HOWEVER, his plan varied from God’s plan.

One – Satan’s plan destroyed our agency. Lehi reminded us again and again that God granted us that we could be agents to act for ourselves and not be acted upon. (See 2 Nephi 2:13, 14, 15, 16, 27).)

Of course, the irony about Satan is that he sought to destroy the agency of man, yet this same agency had been given to him by God. I didn’t word that well. But we see this a lot in the world around us. Dictatorships are often run by men who don’t want to give their constituents basic freedoms and rights that they themselves enjoy! This was part of Satan’s plan – to destroy our agency and force submission and “redemption” , while he enjoyed his own agency and choice.

Two – In addition to destroying our agency, Satan sought for complete power. He had the audacity to say to God: wherefore, give me thine honor. The Savior, on the other hand, was willing to comply with God’s plan and he meekly said to God: Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.

Satan’s plan was selfish. It lacked glory and mercy. It lacked opposition and agency. It lacked joy.

Satan fell from Heaven

Satan’s plan was rejected, and he wasn’t happy. He waged a war on Heavenly Father. Many followed him. They lost the war in heaven, and were thrust out. Therefore, Lucifer became that fallen angel that Lehi mentioned.

Fallen_Angel_(Alexandre_Cabanel)_crop
Fallen Angel (detail), by Alexandre Cabanel (1847)

Satan Became Miserable Forever

Think about this for a second – falling from Heaven. Being banished from Heaven means that you are no longer dwelling with God…It means that you are no longer dwelling in light, happiness, hope, faith, and life. Instead, Satan was banished to darkness, misery, doubt, fear, and death.

Satan chose this. He chose misery. He chose darkness and death. He let his pride rule, and it led to his destruction. When I think of Satan’s banishment from Heaven and the ensuing misery, all I can think of is…YIKES.

Satan Seeks Also the Misery of All Mankind

Here is the real kicker. Satan was banished from Heaven, but he still has some power and he uses it to be God’s direct opposition. Where God’s work and glory is our immortality and eternal life; Satan’s is the opposite. Satan’s work is our mortality and eternal death.

Just as Heavenly Father is actively working in the details of our lives – blessing us with tender mercies and miracles; Satan is actively working in the details of our lives. He is tempting us – constantly tempting us.

Just as Lehi taught, we wouldn’t be able to act for ourselves unless we were enticed by one force or another. Both the Lord and Satan are enticing, persuading, and prompting us to choose what they have to offer. And we are free to choose. The Lord offers us life and liberty. Satan offers us death and captivity.

It is up to us to recognize the reality of these two forces – good and evil; Heavenly Father and Satan. This is how we can then discern when we are faced with choices in our lives. Heavenly Father’s work and glory is centered on our success and happiness. It has been this from the beginning. Satan’s purpose is not much different than that time when he started the war in heaven. He wants absolute power. His glory isn’t our success and happiness. Satan feels glorified when we lose our agency, control, and power. Satan feels accomplished when he destroys our happiness. He wants death, destruction, and pain. He still wants our agency! This is accomplished through sin and addiction. Everything that Satan does now is to this end – our misery. We don’t need to be fooled.

And we can thank our Father in Heaven that we have our agency. Satan didn’t win that war. He doesn’t have to win this war either. Though the force of evil is a real force, there is an opposing force – it is good. We can’t have good without evil, they are connected, but we can choose to focus on good and let the forces of good have power in our lives.

Opposing Forces: God and Satan (1/2) – 2 Nephi 2:14-18

You can read 2 Nephi 2:14-18 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, shortly before his death, teaches Jacob.
  • There is a God.
  • He has created all things: heaven and earth, all things in them, and things both to act and things to be acted upon.
  • To bring about God’s eternal purposes, He allowed for opposition.
  • Likewise, to bring about His eternal purposes, He gave us agency. But we really couldn’t act for ourselves if we didn’t have choices.
  • An angel of God, according to the the scriptures that Lehi had read (Isaiah!), had fallen from heaven and became a devil.
  • This devil sought that which was evil before God. (This was the purpose of his being thrust out of Heaven.)
  • Because of the fall from heaven, the devil became miserable forever and sought the misery of all mankind. He wanted to destroy God’s work and glory.
  • The devil, therefore, tempted Eve by lying to her about the effects of partaking of the forbidden fruit.

Opposing Forces: Heavenly Father and Satan

So, last time, we pondered the concept of opposition. You can read it here.

We live in a world full of opposing forces – day and night, sleep and wake, high tide and low tide, summer and winter, north pole and south pole, etc. These opposing forces also include good and evil. And the ultimate examples of opposition in all things are God and the devil.

Today, we will study the verses above to learn more about God.

There is A God

First and foremost, we have to understand that there is a God. This is the basis of it all. If there was no God, then there would be no devil. There would be nothing. None of this would matter. But there is a God.

We have the witness of the prophets, the world around us, and the Holy Ghost that tells us there is a God.

He Hath Created All things

The God we believe in created all things – the Heavens, the earth, everything in the earth, and all of the things on the earth.

Columbine Flower

Look Up

Heber Valley Golden Hour

Late Summer Sunflower

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IMG_9136-2

Quick note: I’m constantly amazed and filled with hope when I contemplate that the God we believe in created the earth. Look around – look at the sweeping views or look at the tiniest details and ponder the fact that these are God’s creations.

Included in Gods creations: each of us!!!

birthday

What a comfort it is to know that the ruling force of this entire universe is the God that created us and He loves us.

Let’s think about that a second more. Our Heavenly Father, the ruler of this universe, governs with faith, hope, charity, benevolence, justice, patience, and mercy. His is a nature of happiness. I know that there are more qualities that can describe our God, but when we think of our Heavenly Father we ought to keep these traits in mind. We will be studying the devil next – and he also has a host of qualities. We will contrast those traits with Heavenly Father’s.

For now, though, take a moment to think of Heavenly Father, and the way He governs and guides.

The Lord Gave Us Agency

Lehi teaches:

“Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” – 2 Nephi 2:16

When I think of the many things that God has done – the creation of the earth, for example – the thing that I find most amazing is that He gave each of us the gift of agency. He created this earth, the solar systems, the galaxies. He created our bodies, our organs, our tissues, our cells. He has infinite understanding – from the most massive concepts (like the universe) to the smallest concepts (sub-atomic).

He did all of this work, and then He gave us agency.

He lets us choose our own paths, attitudes, decisions – even if we mess everything up.

Now, in order for the agency to have any kind of effect on our lives, then Heavenly Father also had to allow for the forces that opposed His good ones. Meaning He had to allow another being to reign with qualities that included doubt, despair, pride, hate, injustice, impatience, and cruelty. Heavenly Father had to allow another – whose nature was that of misery.

So he did. And we will study this being in the next blog post.

But for now, so that we don’t end on such a depressing note, we can remember the Lord. We can remember that He is a force and power available to us, if we will use our agency to choose Him.

the-second-coming-39618-gallery

Imagine No Opposition – 2 Nephi 2:10-13

You can read 2 Nephi 2:10-13 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, shortly before his death, is speaking to his son Jacob.
  • Because of Christ’s intercession for all, we can come to God to stand before Him and be judged according to the truth and holiness which is in Him.
  • We will receive according to the law – punishment or happiness – all to answer the end of the Atonement…(Remember, happiness is only possible because of the Atonement. Otherwise, we we all receive punishment.)
  • There is an opposition in all things, and there must be.
  • Without opposition: no righteousness, no wickedness, no holiness, no misery, no good, no bad. All things would be compound in one, and the body would be as if it were dead – having neither life nor death, no corruption nor incorruption, no happiness nor misery, no sense nor insensibility.
  • In other words, we would have been created for nothing. There would be no purpose in the end of our creations.
  • No opposition would destroy the wisdom of God and His eternal purpose, power, mercy, and justice.
  • No opposition…nothing.

Imagine No Opposition

Whenever I really study and think about these verses, I also think of the song “Imagine,” by John Lennon. I really don’t like that song.

I know, I know. It’s supposedly a song about peace and love, but the thing is, it completely ignores reality and the universal laws that govern this earth. Simply put, there is opposition in all things. And that is actually a good thing.

First of all, maybe it is good to think about the fact that opposition is a pretty universal fact – not only spiritually, but temporally.

Think of Isaac Newton’s laws of motion. The third law states, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Pacific Ocean

In the natural world, we have high tide and low tide. We have day and night. We have summer and winter. We have spring and fall. We have sleep and awake. We have life and death. I’m sure that we could think of more examples of opposition in the world around us.

What I love about looking at these laws of opposition, is that we can do so without any attachments. It is easy to see why both are good for us. Imagine the health of the ocean and coastal regions if it was always high tide. Imagine the health of our entire planet if it was always day and never night. On a more personal level, if we were always awake and never slept, then we’d experience deleterious effects within just a few days.

We need opposition in this world. Opposition is what keeps this world alive and functioning well.

Spiritual Application

Lehi teaches:

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” – 2 Nephi 2:11

Just as we need both high and low tide, night and day, inhaling and exhaling…we need opposition in more abstract ways. Without the possibility for wickedness there is no possibility for righteousness. Without misery, no holiness. Without bad, no good. Without death, no life. Without corruption, no incorruption. Without misery, no happiness. Without insensibility, no sensibility.

It is easy to love the idea of a life without misery, but is that what we really want? Or when we say we don’t want misery, do we mean that we want happiness. Do we really want an indifferent, robotic life? Or do we want the messiness that comes with beauty and joy?

joy is messy
Sometimes joy is a little messy.

And remember, it is impossible to separate the two.

Think of a coin – on the coin, we have a heads and a tails. You cannot pick up “heads” without also picking up tails. They are inseparably connected. Without tails, there would be no heads!

Or a magnet. It will always have both a north and a south pole. You can’t pick up a magnet and choose only to have the north pole. You will have the south pole of the magnet as well.

So – think of these abstract concepts as being the ends of a stick. On one end is misery, the other is joy. If you want to pick up that joy stick (haha! joystick!), you will also be picking up misery. They are connected and cannot be separated.

Now, the purpose of this post isn’t to be frustrated or depressed about the reality of opposition. Instead, understanding this will liberate us! Think – it is only through understanding the law of gravity and applying its laws that we have been able to fly. In much the same way, when we learn to understand the laws of God and this universe, then we can apply them to our own lives in a way that is beneficial.

So – let’s take an example. Say you are being “beat” with this misery stick. When we understand that misery and joy are connected, we will realize that on the other end of the misery stick is joy! Through this understanding, we will be able to see clearly enough to make the choices that will allow us to be blessed with joy rather than beat with misery.

Or, another example. When every “coin” we find in our lives is coming up tails, and we are feeling like a loser, instead of being frustrated we can remember that heads and tails are connected. We can use this knowledge to flip the coin!

As we begin to understand and accept opposition in all things, we will then understand what Lehi taught—that opposition is necessary in order for God to fulfill His eternal purposes.

When we understand the need for opposition, we won’t “imagine no heaven, no hell, nothing to live for, nothing to die for.” We will realize that imagining no opposition only yields nothing. Nothing bad means there is nothing good. No beauty. No life. No peace. No growth. No joy.

I can’t speak for John Lennon, but I would guess that he didn’t really want to sacrifice the beauty, life, growth, and joy of this world only to eliminate the forces that oppose each good thing. Without the valleys and steep climbs, there are no mountain tops. Is that what we would really want to give up???

Of course not.

Lehi further teaches:

“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” – 2 Nephi 2:13

Because of the law and because of opposition in all things, we can take comfort and joy! There is purpose to our lives. There is a God. He created this earth. He created each of us. And He is our loving Father in Heaven. He has taught us His law, so that we don’t hurt ourselves unnecessarily. Sure, we may stumble and fall from time to time, but through His Atonement, He picks us back up.

Because there is opposition in all things, the world is available to us. And because of our agency, we can choose which end of the magnet to focus on. We can choose to flip our coins. We can choose to see the joy in painful experiences. We can use our agency to have more life, happiness, and peace in our lives.

Imagine no opposition? No thanks.

Redemption Comes through Christ: Witness of Christ (Part 6/6) – 2 Nephi 2:5-9

You can read 2 Nephi 2:5-9 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, before his death, preaches to Jacob a final time.
  • People are instructed sufficiently to know good from evil.
  • We have the law.
  • The law justifies no one, in fact because of the law we are cut off – from God.
  • We are also cut off from God spiritually and will be miserable forever.
  • BUT, redemption comes through the Holy Messiah
  • Christ offers Himself as a sacrifice for sin to answer the ends of the law.
  • If we will come unto Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit, then His sacrifice will answer the ends of the law – and we will not be subject to misery or death.
  • It is important that everyone on this earth knows this message. No one can dwell in the presence of God, save it is through Christ – His merits, mercy, and grace. He laid down His life and took it again to bring pass the resurrection of the dead.
  • He will also stand an intercessor between us and God – saving us.

Witness of Christ

I realize that this has been a really long series of blog entries for a short few verses. But there is so much to ponder! This entire chapter is packed with foundational doctrine, principles, and laws. It’s amazing!!! So, anyway – this is the last post in this series of posts on 2 Nephi 2:5-9—Redemption Comes through Christ.

Savior Praying

We have studied the law, redemption (and our need for it), Christ’s grace and truth, Christ’s sacrifice for sin, and our sacrifices of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Finally, we will study another thing that we must do – bear witness of Christ, His redemption and our need for it.

Lehi declared:

“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.” – 2 Nephi 2:8-9

There is so much to study in this, and a part of me wishes I could take the time to unpack every little thing in this verse, but I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to focus on one part of it: how great the important to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth.

Why is it so important to make these things known to everyone? Why are we exhorted to share the good news of the gospel—that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. That through His merits, mercy and grace, we can dwell again in the presence of God? Why do we need to declare to others that Christ is the firstfruits unto God and will make an intercession for all of us???

I can’t help but think of part of our responsibilities as covenant members of Christ’s church as taught by Alma the elder:

“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—” – Mosiah 18:9

When we are baptized, we promise to be willing to mourn with others, comfort others, and stand as a witness of God to others. This is a part of our own redemption – sharing the message of redemption to others. Why is that? Why is our witness a necessary ingredient in our covenant?

I’m reminded of two scriptures…First – the two great commandments given to us by the Savior:

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” – Matthew 22:37-49

Second, Lehi’s experience when partaking of the fruit of the tree of life:

“And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen.

And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.” – 1 Nephi 8:11-12

Okay…I hope that I can make this train of thought clear. Lehi partook of the fruit of the tree of life. He chose a covenant path, held to the rod, and He made it. He partook of the the fruit. That fruit symbolized the love of God – Christ’s Atonement. It symbolized the promised blessings of eternal life, only available through the Savior.

The blessing of eternal life is sweeter and purer than anything else we can experience. And it will fill our souls with joy. This is what God offers us!

When Lehi partook of this fruit, he was filled with God’s love, and then wanted to share that love with those he loved – his family.

So – now we circle back to those great commandments. When we are filled with God’s love, our love for Him grows. Our love for others grows. When our love for others grows, then we will begin to desire to share this amazing fruit – the gospel – with them. We will want them to feel the same joy that we have experienced.

romania-sister-missionaries-walking-praying-teaching-1407489-gallery

The importance of sharing the message that Christ is our Redeemer and Savior isn’t about getting more members in the church. It isn’t about brownie points. It isn’t about a checklist of things that we should do to be “good members” of the church.

The importance of sharing the message of the Gospel is about love.

And can you imagine the impact???

Can you imagine if you were able to help make known the things of the gospel to others, and if they were able to really accept it? Can you imagine the peace, comfort, and joy that would exist???

I often get overwhelmed by the anger that seems to exist these days. I get overwhelmed by news of shooters, violence, terrorism, hate, etc. Usually, the reaction is that we need to talk to our congresspeople. People argue that we need stricter laws, more limits. People argue, but nothing changes. And then, in time there is another act of anger, violence, terrorism, or hate. And the arguing starts all over again.

I’m of the mind that nothing will ever happen if we keep thinking that it is someone else that needs to fix the world. Changing laws won’t bring about peace, comfort and safety. But changing hearts will.

I’m so grateful for the scriptures because I’m reminded that even though bad news can be overwhelming, there actually is something I can do. I can help my little corner of the world. I can teach my children the gospel. I can be a witness of Christ through my words and deeds. I can be kind to others. I can write my little blog and hope that others are lifted by my own faith and testimony. Though I might not impact many people, my little corner of the world can get a little cleaner, a little more pleasant.

And imagine others started doing the same thing – just tidying up their little corners of the world.

These small but simple acts would change the world.

So – I agree with Lehi. It is so important to declare the gospel to others. This is a show of gratitude to our Father for the gift of the Atonement. It is a show of devotion to the Savior who provided the Atonement. And it is the way to make the world a better place.

Redemption Comes through Christ: A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit (Part 5/6) – 2 Nephi 2:5-9

You can read 2 Nephi 2:5-9 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, before his death, preaches to Jacob a final time.
  • People are instructed sufficiently to know good from evil.
  • We have the law.
  • The law justifies no one, in fact because of the law we are cut off – from God.
  • We are also cut off from God spiritually and will be miserable forever.
  • BUT, redemption comes through the Holy Messiah
  • Christ offers Himself as a sacrifice for sin to answer the ends of the law.
  • If we will come unto Him with a broken heart and contrite spirit, then His sacrifice will answer the ends of the law – and we will not be subject to misery or death.
  • It is important that everyone on this earth knows this message. No one can dwell in the presence of God, save it is through Christ – His merits, mercy, and grace. He laid down His life and took it again to bring pass the resurrection of the dead.
  • He will also stand an intercessor between us and God – saving us.

A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit

For the past several posts, we have been studying the main reason we need redemption and Christ’s role in our redemption. You can read the past posts:  Part One – the lawPart two, – RedemptionPart three, – Christ’s grace and truth; and Part Four – A Sacrifice for Sin.

Today, we are shifting gears. It’s not about the law or what Christ does. It is about what we do.

Of course, it is critical to understand that without Christ redemption isn’t possible. Without Christ, hope for redemption isn’t possible. Without Christ and the knowledge of plan of salvation (including life after death) it is easy for life to lose meaning and purpose.

Simply put, we need Christ.

Even if we were nearly perfect, we would still need Him. Peter needs Christ, Job needs Christ, Mother Theresa needs Christ. None of us can work out our own salvation without Him.

So – now that we have that understanding, that we are wholly reliant upon Christ’s mercy and Atonement, we can now shift our focus on what we need to do. Here, in 2 Nephi, centuries before the Savior’s coming to the earth, Lehi explained to Jacob what we needed to do in order to qualify for Christ’s grace and Atonement. We read:

“Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” – 2 Nephi 2:7

We need to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Broken Heart

As I write this, I have to confess that I’m not sure I should separate out the two elements of what we are to sacrifice. They seem so connected. However, I will keep them separated and study them individually. Maybe they aren’t the same exact thing. Maybe they are. Maybe they are different facets of the same thing…We will find out as we study.

So – a broken heart.

broken heart

When I think of a “broken heart,” my first thought is sadness – especially loss. As in the loss of a loved one. I think of having a crush on a someone (when you are a teen), and then realizing that he isn’t even aware of your existence. I think of losing a friend to death. I think of being betrayed by a loved one. I think of sending a kid off to college (both good and bad on that one!). I think of having to put down a beloved but sickly pet.

As I think about these things, I realize that the ideas that I have about a “broken heart” may be more culturally informed. I don’t know if this is the way that the scriptures meant it.

I found something really interesting online:

“Professor Pike explained the significance of having a “broken” heart and a “contrite” spirit. The Hebrew verb (from the root šbr) translated as “broken” in Psalm 51:17 means “to break, smash, shatter.” The word (Hebrew root dkh) translated as “contrite” means “to crush.” Drawing on these meanings, Pike concluded: “Therefore, a broken or contrite heart or spirit is one that is crushed, smashed, broken to pieces. … The symbolism of our smashing or breaking or crushing our hard, willful heart into pieces and offering the result to God is significant, because a smashed heart no longer exists in a recognizable or retrievable form. … It is at this point that the Lord can replace our now broken, offered heart with a new one” – Book of Mormon Central

So – maybe our traditional meaning of “broken” isn’t too far off. I mean, as I think about it, often when we go through these crushing experiences in life, we are somewhat compelled to be humble. We go to the Lord seeking refuge and peace. And then He can heal us.

It is easy, when life is going well and isn’t breaking our hearts, to get a little complacent. It is easy to let our hearts get hard and to forget how much we really need Christ. So the moments that break our hearts in life can help us to remember our Savior.

I guess what I’m saying is – often, we don’t have to break our own hearts and put them on the altar of God. Instead, we often have our hearts broken by the circumstances of mortality, then we take the shattered heart and put it on God’s altar with hope that He will heal us.

And this isn’t a terrible thing. I am reminded of what Alma taught the people:

“And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.” – Alma 32:13

Yes, the poor of the Zoramites had been used and exploited by the rich. They were broken-hearted and humble. They had, undoubtedly, experienced oppression. They were wronged, and God wasn’t really “okay” with the terrible treatment of these people. But, because of their experiences, they had become humble and in this was the blessing. Their humility, their broken hearts, were fertile ground for the word of God. They were humble, sought repentance, and found mercy. They would be saved.

Now, the thing that Lehi (and the Lord) teaches is that we must give a broken heart as a sacrifice. Sure, sometimes that just happens in life. But, the command isn’t that we wait for life to break us. Instead, we are asked to do it ourselves. Alma taught:

“And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?

Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed—yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty.

Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe.” – Alma 32:14-16

It’s wonderful to know that when life breaks our hearts, if we will turn to the Lord, then He will heal us. But even better is for us not to wait for life to do that to us! It’s better for us not to be compelled to humility. Christ was the perfect example of this kind of behavior.

In the October 2007 General Conference, Elder Bruce D. Porter taught:

“Christ’s example teaches us that a broken heart is an eternal attribute of godliness. When our hearts are broken, we are completely open to the Spirit of God and recognize our dependence on Him for all that we have and all that we are. The sacrifice so entailed is a sacrifice of pride in all its forms. Like malleable clay in the hands of a skilled potter, the brokenhearted can be molded and shaped in the hands of the Master. – Bruce D. Porter, emphasis added

So – we are asked to give the sacrifice of a broken heart. Instead of being full of ourselves, our abilities, or whatever it is that keeps us from turning to God, we should “break” our own hard hearts. We should be willing to submit to God, allowing Him to shape us and our hearts in a way that help us to become like the Savior.

Contrite Spirit

Now onto understanding what a contrite spirit is…let’s go to the dictionary:

Contrite: Adjective
: feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming” – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

So, our spirits need to have sorrow for sin. And it’s pretty easy to see why God would require this as a sacrifice.

Why so much Sadness in the Plan of Happiness???

Okay, so we are asked to offer up a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And, I’ve got to say – at first glance, it sounds so depressing. But this is the plan of happiness right??? What gives?

First of all, I think that Satan is subtle in his deception and temptation. He wants to skew truths so that we will choose the wrong and become miserable just as he is. This isn’t something new. This is exactly what he did in the Garden of Eden with Eve. He told a partial truth and partial lie about the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. His tactics are the same now.

Sooooo…..

If Satan can get us to feel overwhelmed and overburdened by the Lord’s commandments, then we give up. And we become miserable. It is easier to feel overwhelmed and overburdened when we don’t really understand what the Lord is asking of us and why. So, it really behooves us to study the gospel with the companionship of the Spirit so that we can know God’s word and His goodness – so we won’t be confused by the lies of the adversary.

OKAY…that being said, why do these things on the altar of God sound so depressing???? Well let’s think about it:

Broken Heart
Even though I just spent nearly a thousand words saying that we should try to offer this up ourselves, it now comes to me that we don’t really need to break our own hearts!!!!! Life will compel each of us to be humble! Part of mortality is pain, misery, sickness. It doesn’t matter how much money, power, beauty a person has. We are all susceptible to the problems of mortality.

In other words – life will break our hearts! And when it does, give it to the Lord. He pleads:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

When life burdens us, we can go to the Lord, and this is where happiness comes in, HE WILL GIVE US REST!

The Lord isn’t asking us to walk around depressed with broken hearts. The Lord isn’t asking us to be in pain, misery, and sickness. The Lord isn’t asking us to be pessimistic or masochistic. The Lord wants to heal us. So – he asks us to give Him our broken hearts. He can’t heal us if we don’t give Him our hearts to heal in the first place.

Contrite Spirit
Second, the Lord wants us to have spirits that are contrite. He wants us to feel sorrow for sin. And why? Again, it’s not so that we can live a sorrowful and painful life. Instead, when we have godly sorrow for Sin, then the healing balm of the Atonement can be applied in our lives. I’m reminded of King Lamoni’s father:

“O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead.” – Alma 22:18

This is exactly what the Lord requires of us and then gives to us. We put our natural man, desires, shortcomings, weakness, on His altar, and then, in return we come to know Him. We come to know Him through experiencing the sweetness of His grace.

Oh – and the thing about knowing Him – His nature is the nature of happiness. So, when we know God, through giving up our sinful natures, then we know happiness.

Conclusion

Here’s the thing. No matter what we decide to do with our hearts and spirits, because we are fallen creatures, we will experience times when we have broken hearts and sorrowing spirits. That’s just life!!!

The Lord is asking us to take these things – that happen to be broken and shattered anyways – He is asking us to take these two faulty, imperfect things and put them on His altar. Then, He will take our broken hearts and our poor spirits, and He will make something new. He will lift us up. He will bless us with peace and comfort. He will give us rest.

This is how happiness works into these requirements. He doesn’t want us to wallow in pain and pity. The opposite! When we refuse to give up our broken hearts or contrite spirits, then we continue to proceed in pain! Instead, He asks us to give up our heavy burdens so that He can put His arms around us and embrace us in His everlasting love.

Truly, it’s a plan of happiness.