Short Take: It’s Okay to Be Human

Author's Note
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter. We focused on the Book of Mormon in 2013. Here’s one of my “short takes,” as previously published there.

Tucked between splendid sermons and dramatic events in scripture is something we often overlook: down time for God’s exhausted servants. The Lord once put Elijah on a program of diet and exercise before sending him back to work (1 Kings 19:4-8). When starving Alma first went to Amulek’s home (Alma 8:27), he “tarried many days,” regaining his strength, before preaching again.

Thereafter, Amulek preached with Alma and experienced miracles, but he, too, was still human. Publicly joining Alma cost him his wealth and influence. Worse, his friends and family, including his father, rejected him (Alma 15:16). This took its toll. Eventually, Alma took Amulek to Alma’s own house, “and did administer unto him in his tribulations, and strengthened him in the Lord” (Alma 15:18). Then they went back to work.

A final, different example: Captain Moroni misinterpreted the government’s lack of support for his army and wrote a blistering letter to the Nephite leader, Pahoran. He didn’t know the Nephite capital city had fallen. In his mature and gracious reply, Pahoran wrote, “You have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:9).

We could wisely, patiently, and kindly make similar allowances for our own and others’ humanity, and be less inclined to judgment and more determined to see the good.

Short Take: A Psalm of Alma

Author's Note
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter. We focused on the Book of Mormon in 2013. Here’s one of my “short takes,” as previously published there.

In the “Psalm of Nephi” (2 Nephi 4:6-15), Nephi laments “the temptations and sins which do so easily beset me” (2 Nephi 4:18). But then he contemplates the blessings of God to him, and sorrow turns to joy and determination.

In Alma 31 we see Alma grieving for his people’s wickedness. He goes among the Zoramites to “try the virtue of the word of God” (v. 5). Seeing their wickedness up close, he is astonished and cannot contain his sorrow.

In what we might call a psalm of Alma, he cries out, “O how long, O Lord, will thou suffer that thy servants shall dwell here below in the flesh, to behold such gross wickedness among the children of men?” (v. 26). He pleads for strength, comfort, and patience for himself and his companions. Then he prays:

“O Lord, wilt thou grant unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ. Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee” (vv. 34-35).

Love and determination replace sorrow. He blesses his companions, and they get to work, “filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 36) and having their afflictions “swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (v. 38). It is a pattern for righteous action in a wicked world.

Short Take: Another Side of the Atonement

Author's Note
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter. We focused on the Book of Mormon in 2013. Here’s one of my “short takes,” as previously published there.

In the garden and on the cross, Jesus suffered the penalty justice demands for our sins, so that we can be redeemed if we repent. This gift is incalculable, and our need for it is absolute. But Jesus suffered more than this. Isaiah and Paul mention it (see Isaiah 53:4-5; Hebrews 4:15-16); Alma explains it.

Jesus somehow took upon himself all our sicknesses, pains, temptations, heartbreaks – everything we suffer. He now knows them all from the inside, “according to the flesh” (Alma 7:11-12.).

He not only knows generally how it feels to struggle with addiction, or to be chronically or terminally ill or love someone who is, or to be caught up in divorce and its aftermath, or to doubt or disbelieve or fear. Because of Gethsemane and Calvary, he knows exactly how these experiences feel to each of us. He not only walks the proverbial mile in our shoes; he walks every mile, and he knows exactly how our shoes feel on our feet.

Alma explains that this qualifies Jesus to judge us with mercy in the end. This experience also fully qualifies him to help us through all our difficulties. This part of the atonement, too, is a wondrous gift to us, from both the Son and the Father.

Short Take: We Are All Ministers

Author's Note
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter. We focused on the Book of Mormon in 2013. Here’s one of my “short takes,” as previously published there.

We’re often taught that to hold the priesthood is to be called to minister to God’s children – to teach, to help, to rescue, to lift. Certainly, most “priesthood” duties and assignments are to minister somehow; home teaching is the most universal example. A moment’s reflection informs us that the missions of the Relief Society and the Young Women organization are also to minister, so ministering is not solely the province of priesthood holders.

In Mosiah 18 Alma teaches that ministering is actually a universal assignment. At baptism, and again at the sacrament table, every Church member promises not only “to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people,” but also “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; . . . to mourn with those that mourn; . . . to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, . . . and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (vv. 8-9). In other words, to minister.

Callings, assignments, and ordinations direct our ministry in some respects, but before any calling, beyond any assignment, and without any ordination, our Christian covenant is to minister to God’s children.

Short Take: “We Search the Prophets”

Author's Note
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter. We focused on the Book of Mormon in 2013. Here’s one of my “short takes,” as previously published there.

Nephi’s brother Jacob looks back on his life and writes, “We … had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophesy; wherefore we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come. … Wherefore, we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God. … We would to God … that all … would believe in Christ” (Jacob 1:6-8).

Later Jacob hopes that readers will receive his words “with thankful hearts.” He writes so “they may know that we knew of Christ … and had a hope of his glory” (Jacob 4:3-4).

Then he explains a key to their “many revelations and the spirit of prophecy”: “We search the prophets” (v. 6, my emphasis). He lists other happy results of doing this: hope, unshaken faith and the power which attends it, and, perhaps surprisingly, humility (vv. 6-7).

Touchscreens have replaced inscribed metal plates, and the prophets’ words are more available to us than they ever were to the Nephites. But some things are unchanged. Searching the prophets still leads to revelations and the spirit of prophecy, so that we know of Christ and can fix our faith, hope, and humility in him. Thus blessed, our work is as Jacob’s: to persuade others, by our labors and even by our writing, to come in faith, hope, and humility to Christ.

Short Take: 2 Nephi 2

Author's Note
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter. We focused on the Book of Mormon in 2013. Here’s one of my “short takes,” as previously published there.

I once heard Elder Jeffrey R. Holland say that, if you could keep only one chapter in the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2 would be the chapter to choose. It explains moral agency and shows it in its central role, connecting it to the fall and the atonement. Agency is the power inherent in all human souls to choose between good and evil, knowing which is which, and understanding that moral choices come with consequences.

Here Lehi also teaches something most of the religious world does not yet understand: The fall of Adam and Eve was no accident or surprise. It was part of God’s plan. Its ultimate results, because of the atonement, are life and joy: “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy. And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed . . . they have become free forever, knowing good from evil. . . . And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life . . . or to choose captivity and death” (2 Nephi 2:25-27).

Short Take: A Pattern in 1 Nephi 1

Here’s something in the first chapter of the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 1) which is probably not a coincidence. Lehi’s experience parallels Joseph Smith’s.

In a time of great religious energy in Jerusalem (v. 4), Lehi goes to pray (v. 5). There comes a pillar of fire (v. 6), and he sees and hears much. He is physically exhausted by the experience (v. 7). Then he sees another vision, which includes the delivery of a book by a heavenly messenger (v. 11). The book is about God’s judgments on and the scattering of the House of Israel, and speaks plainly of the coming of a Messiah and the redemption of the world (vv. 13, 18-19).

Best of all, note that the book’s effects are the same as the Book of Mormon’s effects on us: “As he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord” (v. 12). Lehi’s soul rejoices; his heart is full; he praises God (v. 14-15).

Author's Note
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter. We focused on the Book of Mormon in 2013. Here’s one of my “short takes,” as previously published there. A slightly more detailed exposition of  Lehi’s and Joseph Smith’s parallel experiences is here.