Category Archives: Posts at Beginnings New

Draft: Thoughts on Abraham 1: Appointment … Concerning the Seed


[Still a work in process..]

I just put up a post at Feast (and earlier at BN) about Abraham. Here I’d like to just gather together some random thoughts as I work through Abraham’s promise he sought for and obtained:

1. Came through the fathers, right of the first father, even Adam… “right of firstborn” – he seems to equate firstborn with Adam. But what then of the birthright/firstborn gets promises tradition? Was this a way to honor Adam, originally? Was the promise of preserving seed only given to one? (though, of course, promises and covenants could be made with all, but that one specific promise was only given to one line?)

2. vs. 7 – interesting that he is seeking a promise to preserve his seed, while his fathers are seeking after idols to which they need to sacrifice their seed!

3. vs. 17 – after Abraham’s fathers have proven that they do not want to worship the Lord, He saves Abraham from being sacrificed and promises to take him away from “all his kinsfolk.” Then, He calls Abraham, “my son.” That’s a cool detail.

4. vs. 18 – he will get God’s name, but also the “Priesthood of thy father.” I didn’t quite realized till here that his father had received the Priesthood. So he really turned away… yikes.

5. I love the discussion of Ham and Egypt. For one, how fascinating to link it up with Ham, at the time when things split up after Noah. I like hearing that the first Pharaoh was “a righteous man,” who “established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations.” Fascinating!  Then we also get this note: “Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.” As mentioned later, the part about no-priesthood is overlooked. Blessings of wisdom though, huh? Egypt is certainly considered a place of that.

6. Two, how interesting to set this side-by-side with Abraham’s line, who do have the Priesthood. I can see why it’s so important to put this story in here; there was a debate going on as to who actually had the power. Verse 27 says, “Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry.” Even though his fathers had the right priesthood! Crazy, ironic situation here.

7. This debate is why (or at least part of why) Abraham is writing: “But I shall endeavor, hereafter, to delineate the chronology running back from myself to the beginning of the creation, for the records have come into my hands, which I hold unto this present time” (vs. 28).

8. I’m jumping now to Abraham 2:11. And I’m going to take out the parenthetical remarks and try adding my own clarifications:

“In thee and in thy seed — for I give unto thee a promise that this right (the Priesthood promises) shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee — shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.”

I like that way of writing it a lot. To summarize, in Abraham himself and through is seed, all of the families will be blessed with the blessings of the gospel. The …

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Being “A Daughter of God” – YW Lesson 1, Manual 1


(Note these posts are now being cross-posted at Beginnings New and Feast Upon the Word Blog.)

Though a week later than I’d like, here are a few notes on the first lesson in the manual.

First off, I feel like I need to repeat a concern I’ve expressed before. Why is it that we want to project our experiences/opinions onto the scriptures? In this case, the girls are asked to list qualities of earthly fathers and then to apply that to our Heavenly Father. I suppose one could say that that’s all we have to go on so it’s not a bad place to start. But it’s not all we have to go on. Might we instead look to the scriptures first to see what God is like, and then see if we can’t change our understanding of father and motherhood from that? I bring this up because I imagine there are going to be some young women with negative or strained feelings that could negatively affect the way the envision God. It’s something to be sensitive about, at any rate.

Aside from that, two scriptural passages came to mind that would make good potential resources for this lesson. The first idea is connected with the manual’s lesson outline, and the other is connected to the lesson’s associated Resource Guide suggestions.

ONE. The lesson outline seemed to stay on this side of the veil, as it were. It starts with their earthly, daily experience and uses that to draw implications about what they can’t see. It talks about what it means to have good earthly relationships, about behaving as a good daughter should, about noticing our blessings here, and what all that that implies about our Heavenly Father there.

Looking on this side of the veil, I got to thinking about Emma Smith. She is the only female in the D&C to receive her own section of revelation. It deals with her life on this earth and what God expected of her. (It is also in her section that we get the title for the new RS history Daughters in My Kingdom.) What is it that D&C 25 could teach us about being a good daughter — as God himself presents it?

I actually found it quite remarkable to read this as a father-daughter conversation. An early version of verse 1 simply read, “Emma, my daughter” which is just beautiful to me. Verse 2 sounds like something a father would tenderly say to his child, “I want to help you and keep you safe, but you have to listen to me and trust me.” Heavenly Father explains to her that if she walks in the paths of virtue, her life will be preserved. She will also receive an “inheritance” – something passed down from parents to children. I’m sure she rejoiced in knowing her sins were forgiven (verse 3) and in knowing her Father had chosen her as an “elect lady” with work to do. Verse 4 reminds her to trust her Father, even when she doesn’t yet understand His reasons. I like that verse 5 refers to Joseph Smith as “my servant, Joseph, thy husband” – to me it seems to put Joseph and Emma on the same plane, geometrically speaking. They are both God’s children, and servants, and here He is explaining how He needs them to treat each other. (I’ve had several of those sorts of conversations with my children on how to treat their siblings as well…) 

Jumping around a bit now, verse 9 lovingly reassures her that “thou needest not fear.” Verse 10 advices her to “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” – that better place, which is where He is. It’s not only a request, but an invitation to enjoy the kind of life He has with Him.

What is His daughter Emma asked to do? Here’s what I saw: Hearken. Be faithful. Walk in the paths of virtue. Don’t murmur. Fulfill the office of your calling (in Emma’s case, to comfort her husband and be his scribe). Receive whatever you are ordained to do (in Emma’s case, to expound scripture, to exhort the church, to work by the Spirit, tospend her time “writing, and to learning much.”) Lay aside things of this world, seek for things of a better. Take up special assignments that are a delight to God (for Emma, it was making a hymn book). Lift up your head and rejoice! Cleave to your covenants. Be meek. Beware of pride. Let your soul rejoice (in Emma’s case, she could let her soul rejoice in her husband – maybe her fears were keeping her back?). Keep commandments continually.

And as the revelation concludes: “this is my voice unto all.” Perhaps we could all learn from Emma what God would like His daughters to be like. (I know I just did!) 

TWO. The Resource Guide suggestions seemed to focus mostly on who God was and how to worship Him, and then secondarily on what it means to be His daughter (certainly a great approach , it seems to me). While browsing these suggestions I remembered the depressed and poor Zoramites telling Alma they couldn’t pray to their God. The poor Zoramites were afraid that there was something impeding their communication with God, and so their path to God seemed an impossible path. Their barrier was that they had been cast out of the synagogue by the oppressive order of the priests, too poor and ill-dressed to be admitted where God would be worshiped. Their barrier was physical, but it may have had spiritual and emotional barriers as well. Perhaps they felt like their poverty was in part their fault, that if they only worked harder and earning money then they would be worthy of worshiping God. 

Obviously, they had misunderstood the character of their God and their relationship to Him. Alma and Amulek taught them that they had completely misunderstood the scriptures (or forgot to read them entirely), because they teach clearly that God can hear us anywhere. His example of Zenos not only includes fields and houses, but speficially when he was are “cast out” and “despised.” Alma went on to teach them that God reaches out to them so thoroughly that if they only “desire to believe” or have just enough faith to plant a small seed about Christ, God will bless them with growth and swelling experiences in the Spirit.

We, like the Zoramites, struggle at times to talk to our Father. We aren’t too likely to be barricaded by our priests from entering one of our chapels. But there are plenty of other (perceived) barriers that keep us from worshiping God fully. The poor Zoramites were concerned about their poverty getting in their way of worshipping God. That might actually be a real concern for some young women. Further, many struggle with feeling unworthy even when they have repented. Some women want to be perfect in all those little things we stress about before they approach God. Some worry that if they really began to open up to God, their weak selves would be on display and they don’t want to think about that side of themselves. All these (and many more!) are barriers to real, sincere, joyful communication with God.

And I imagine all of these problems could be overcome in same way Alma and Amulek did it – by looking at the stories in the scriptures that our auidence is already committed to. Alma the Younger prayed, even though he clearly wasn’t worthy (Alma 36). Or was he in that moment? What does it mean to be worthy? That might be an important tangent for a lesson sometime. What about the Lamanite king in Alma 22 who said, ” 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.” What was it that grabbed his attention away from his sins and to God? Moroni was concerned about his weakness in writing (Ether 12) but God not only worked with him as a weak human being, but He was patient enough to explain to Moroni why it was that Moroni had nothing to be concerned about. Joseph Smith was only a poor farm boy with little education. What do we learn about prayer from him? Many, many scriptural passages are available to help us understand prayer and overcome the barriers we (and our young women) perceive between us and God.

Such are a few thoughts on this lesson. What are yours?


BN post: Individual Worth


Link to my most recent post at Beginnings New on “Individual Worth” (lesson 38 in Manual 3)

http://beginningsnew.blogspot.com/2011/10/recognizing-our-individual-worth-lesson.html


Bodies as gifts: Thoughts on YW Lesson 38 Manual 3: Good Health Habits


These notes were also posted at Beginnings New on October 10, 2011

We had this lesson yesterday and it was one of the two-lessons-a-year I get to teach since I’m just the secretary. 🙂 We looked at page 14 of the For Strength of Youth booklet (which is actually about modesty, but I liked the wording about bodies: they are God’s creation, they are a gift, and how we treat them reflects what is on the inside.) Then we looked at King Benjamin’s speech (Mosiah 2:21-24). He says that our bodies were a gift, and he even keeps lending us our breath so we can even use this gift! But, interestingly, he gives us this gift so that we can “live and move and do according to your own will.” We talked about the things we can do with a body. We looked at how when we do good, he blesses us again with more gifts, and so on.

Then we looked at 1 Cor 6:19-20, where Paul reminds us that our bodies have been bought by Christ, that they are really his. He also calls our bodies temples (a familiar phrase) – but we looked more closely at what makes them a temple. It is because the Holy Ghost dwells there. We talked about temples, and what makes them different than a post office or a kindergarten room. They both have carpet, walls, etc., but one is used for sacred purposes. We talked about how they could also use their bodies for sacred purposes, and how the Holy Ghost could prompt them to do good things.

Finally, we ended up at the Word of Wisdom. I wanted to emphasize that our bodies are gifts, and that the Word of Wisdom was another gift that helps us take care of them. And then, when we do those things, he blesses us again! Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to think about the last 4 verses much (gifts of wisdom, health, etc).

As a side note… Unfortunately comparing our bodies to temples usually just leads to “don’t get tattoos.” I hear the same idea in the homemaking lessons – if the physical condition is right, then things are clean and the Spirit can be there. I tried to emphasize that though keeping temples or our bodies clean is a way to show respect, it is not actually the way to makethem temples. Or, in other words, if a person got a tattoo before they joined or became active, there is no reason why they can’t have a calling. I was up all night with my baby, but even though I didn’t get the amount of sleep the Word of Wisdom recommended, that didn’t mean I shouldn’t teach the lesson. A really great FHE lesson can still happen in a messy house. And if a temple wasn’t vacuumed last night the ordinances could still happen. 🙂 We talked about how it is theSpirit that makes a building a temple, or a body a temple. Once it is set apart, then how we take care of our bodies, in health and in dress, is an expression of gratitude and an acknowledgment of how sacred the Spirit is. And, as the For Strength of Youth booklet said, it communicates something to others about what is on the inside. (Anyway, just a few thoughts.)


Consecration


I did some work at BN thinking about consecration and its relationship to grace. Here’s the link if you’re interested:

http://beginningsnew.blogspot.com/2011/08/consecration-yw-manual-3-lesson-28.html

 

I mostly looked at Mosiah 2-4. I think there is something good in there though it probably needs to be reworked a bit.


In the Scriptures


So, it’s cool when I realize that something we often teach without the scriptures is actually talked about in the scriptures, and with greater force and clarity than our normal way of teaching it.

For example, this week’s lesson in YW in our ward it “Avoiding Dishonesty.” It is an interesting title; why use the word “avoid?” (See BN posts here and here on the lesson itself.) A good approach that was suggested along the way at BN was to talk about how we rationalize or self-deceive and commit other sins. As I was blogging a few thoughts at Beginnings New, I ended by a quick reference to Alma’s advice that “wickedness never was happiness, even though we think it will be worth it, once in a while.”

The more I thought about what I had said, the more I realized that this was actually not a bad usage of Alma’s words and his talk to his son in general. Corianton had “risked to commit sin.” And specifically, he had risked this, “upon those points of doctrine” (Alma 41:10). It begins to sound like Corianton is sinning by justifying his actions with a particular way of looking at some points of doctrine. He is rationalizing, just like we do. I love this line here, from Alma 42:1 “for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery.” Ye do try to suppose. In other words, Corianton didn’t really believe it, but he tried to believe that the sinner shouldn’t be punished. He lied to himself just enough to get by.

What he was lying to himself about, from looking at 41 and 42, is that because of restoration, there wasn’t any need for repentance, really. If Christ suffered for everyone and everyone was brought back to God, then how could God punish anyone? Thus Alma clarifies that “the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all” (Alma 41:15).

Anyway, the point for this YW lesson is that here we have Alma talking about rationalization and self-justification, something we’ll likely talk about during this YW lesson without ever thinking to go to the scriptures to talk about it. I love finding passages that are thinking something I want to think through. The work’s been half done for me and from a very interesting perspective! And it’s scripture, which is a fantastic common ground.

I just want to mention one more of these sorts of passages before I head back to getting the kids breakfast-

Often in Mormon feminist posts on modesty or chastity, those writing are very frustrated if we assume that the man couldn’t help himself from doing something bad if the woman dressed a certain way or whatever. Certainly I can agree that his sin is not on her, though she of course may also have her own sins as well. BUT, anyway, the point is, even though many consider the Book of Mormon to be out of touch with women’s issues (I don’t myself, but it is a common concern in the bloggernacle), Alma himself agrees with them:

” Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted” (Alma 39:4). This was no excuse, says Alma. Whether or not Mormon culture agrees with their point, the Book of Mormon does. And I wonder how many other times this might happen.

Anyway, I love the scriptures. Especially the Book of Mormon. And I think it’s always worth looking there first when we are trying to understand truth! 🙂


Post at Beginnings New on marriage, Abraham, and the endowment


Some weighty topics these days! 🙂 I really enjoy thinking about the Abrahamic Covenant, so my posts definitely reflect my interests there. Please feel free to add to the discussion! (But, as always, if you are a friend or relative please comment, but please don’t mention your relation to me. Thank you!)

http://beginningsnew.blogspot.com/2011/04/teaching-about-endowment-yw-lesson-16.html

http://beginningsnew.blogspot.com/2011/04/from-adam-to-abraham-blessings-of-house.html (and the longer version at: http://forthestrengthofyouth.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/the-abrahamic-covenant-from-adam-to-abraham/)

http://beginningsnew.blogspot.com/2011/04/marriage-question-continued.html