Tag Archives: grace

A reading of King Benjamin’s speech

God created you; you’re in His debt
God gives you breath and agency, so everything you do is because of Him; you’re in his debt
All he wants is for you to serve Him, and if you do He keeps taking care of you; you’re still in His debt
Also you’re “unprofitable servants”; you’ll never make God a profit over what He expends on you
It’s impossible to pay the debt back.
He doesn’t create you and lend you breath because of what you’ll do for Him, but because He loves you!
He’s not asking for you to pay Him back, or to worry about messing things up and being unprofitable or “not good enough.”
What does God want?
Bless others. And not because it will release us from debt, or prove we’re “good enough.” It can’t, it won’t!
Rather than paying God, pay it forward!
Share the love that God gives to you with others:
“Don’t injure one another, live peaceably.
Don’t let your children go hungry, or naked;
Don’t let them transgress the laws of God, or even fight and quarrel one with another, .
Teach them.
Also, take care care of those that stand in need
Don’t have the beggar petition you in vain, and turn him out to perish.”
And in doing in that we become more than God’s servants, we become the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters.
Or as is said elsewhere in scripture, we are not just servants, we are God’s friends.

Enemy to God

Yesterday during our Sunday School lesson, we talked about Benjamin’s claim that the natural man is an enemy to God. It was an interesting discussion an I want to record a few parts of it:

  • Creation puts us in debt
  • Blessings after serving God put us in debt
  • Could be that we see this as making an enemy. We can never get out of debt. We are permanently owing something and permanently servants.
  • Perhaps the language of enemy and yield is describing a confrontation.
  • That is, we think the only way to get out of debt is to run away from or attack our creditor. If we destroy the person we are in debt to, we are free from the debt!
  • But as we come to God in face to face combat, sword in hand, we have the chance to yield to our enemy. That is, to surrender.
  • If we yield, and we think we are enemies, then we probably think he is going to kill us.
  • But the beautiful thing is that as we put down our swords and wait for our enemy to strike, he instead embraces us, as if we were his child.
  • We realize he doesn’t ever care to have the debt filled. He isn’t holding this over our heads, this isn’t a threat, he doesn’t have us as a servant to make a profit. He knows we are “unprofitable” servants, and he’s fine with that!
  • He is not waiting for us to repay him. He is not waiting for us to make him a profit (that is, we will produce more than he put into us). He is not wanting us to leave so he can pick up someone more profitable. He did this all on purpose, knowing that none of us could be profitable and none can repay the debt. This isn’t for his glory or some sort of spiritual economic investment. It is for us.
  • Instead of paying him back, he wants us to “pay it forward” (take care of poor and needy, take care of your children, etc.)
  • Perhaps this is one difference between God and Satan. Satan did want payment – he wanted all the glory – he wanted God to pay him for saving us. Wasn’t setting up a way to save us because he loved us.
  • By being in God’s service we grow and have joy. By being under Satan, we think we can progress without work…and Satan isn’t looking for work or repayment from us he thinks he would have gotten payment from God himself.

I hadn’t noticed this language of payment and enemy was so consistent in King Benjamin’s speech! It’s quite helpful.

Ether 12 notes from Joe’s class: The Book of Mormon is a gift

  • Moroni planned to end the Book of Mormon with Ether 15:29-30
    • Then it would end with the destruction of the Gentiles 
    • Gentiles were to be first readers of Book of Mormon! What a clear warning!
  • 12:4 What can’t Ether’s people see?
    • Abrahamic covenant — Abrahamic people are coming
    • Ether’s people, who descend from a pre-Abraham time, could be adopted into the Abrahamic covenant (but instead, they war and destroy themselves)
    • 13:1-14 is where Ether tries to explain this further
  • Ether 12:25 – see weakness
    • Do they worry, then stumble? Or is stumbling with words what reveals their weakness?
  • they = meek? or fools?
  • writing in less-familiar language (prefers Hebrew)
    • What if you had to write something so important, but in a second language?
  • 12:27 – how is grace “sufficient”?
    • grace “added” to Moroni’s words?
    • God translated = grace?
    • we also have a weak translator and a weak writer – when does grace come in?
  • Is weakness taken away?
    • No, it says they will “take no advantage of your weakness.” That means the weakness actually remains.
    • Grace is sufficient such that no one takes advantage
  • What would it mean to “take advantage”?
    • discount the book?
    • use it to teach false, screwy things?
    • attack leaders/person who translated it?
  • So, people do do that, so what does it mean that weakness won’t be taken advantage of?
  • Apparently meek don’t take advantage, but fools will mock
  • Weakness divides readers into 2 groups
    • (kind of like the hearers of the parables)
    • perhaps a mercy that some don’t accept it, b/c they would have greater condemnation?
  • So this book is supposed to be weak.
    • As if God says, “I want fools mocking and I want meek receiving”
    • Often we as Latter-day Saints want to prove that the Book of Mormon is true — STOP! That’s the problem Moroni had
  • v.27 now this idea of weakness is a general principle:
    • Not just Book of Mormon — you too
    • give weakness = humble
    • then gives grace = sufficient
  • Grace is being weak — it’s a gift!
  • Coming to God is not how we fix our weakness, it’s how we see it
  • with gift of grace and weakness, we can bring to pass great things (Benjamin)
  • Moroni says later “Deny not the gifts of God” – does he mean including weakness?
    • (I give unto men weakness)
  • Debt in connection with atonement, is only mentioned in King Benjamin’s speech
    • he says GRACE puts you in debt, not sin
    • are you ever out of debt? No, never
    • try to repay Him, and you are blessed again!
  • Perhaps sin is trying to get out from being God’s servant/slave/in an indebted relationship with Him
    • Either ignore the relationship of servant/slave entirely and go off doing bad stuff
    • Or, we try to be such a perfect servant that we look like we deserve everything we’ve been given
  • “Weak things” become strong
    • But they aren’t lost/changed/replaced
    • sounds like Paul — when I am weak, then I am strong
  • v.28 – Back to Gentiles
    • They will be tempted to mock weakness of Book of Mormon
    • What about your weakness, Gentiles?
    • What about my weakness?
    • Fools can’t see their own weakness (or admit) so they mock others’ weakness
  • Gentiles will see weakness via Faith, Hope, Charity
    • You can see why, when Moroni does add more to the Book of Mormon, he adds his father’s letters on faith, hope, and charity!
    • Moroni tries to find a way to make sure the Gentiles don’t mock by assuring they’ll have charity — But God cuts it short
  • Tells Moroni it doesn’t matter to him
  • Then Moroni bids farewell to Gentiles. “Farewell Gentiles. Good luck!” 🙂
  • Can the Gentiles see the book for what is is? or will they demand it be perfect? Question for all of us
  • Do we read the Book of Mormon in such a way that we take advantage of its weakness?
    • do we use it as an excuse not to get serious about figuring it out?
    • grammar is weird, sentences don’t flow, not well-written, oh well.
    • words were used differently than today so it sounds foreign, oh well
  • Joseph Smith reads v.37-38 before he dies.
    • Farewell Gentiles. Good luck!
  • Its weakness is a gift.
    • with its millions of “it came to pass”es, it’s a gift
    • words you have to look up, it’s a gift
    • God doesn’t give us a list of doctrines, He gives us this.
    • It’s a gift

The promise I want to give Women In the Church

I’m still a bit overwhelmed at the lack of vision in Women At Church. Writing helps me, though. Whenever I read a review of it, I’m reminded of why I was looking forward to reading it. It is a peacemaking effort to combine the desires of women to add their work to the work of God with the current opportunities in our Church structure. Great! Perfect! But she spends so much time in the book affirming society’s models or the felt needs of women. Really, those are desires, not needs, and she leaves that unexamined. My need, or my desire, if I have one that stands out, is to know that what we are doing at Church is according to the Spirit and the eternal nature of the work of God. That is my need, my desire. I felt like, coming out of reading that book, that my need would be one of a thousand, a drop in a pond of many other drops. Are all needs and desires really equal? We are all equal individuals, but does that mean every desire is equal? I think that is one thing that our current culture does actually believe. And I think she believes it and presents is as self-evident. But don’t believe it. I think we are placed here on earth to be, like Joseph Smith called himself, a “rough stone rolling.” We are going to have our desires changed and chipped a way. We are going to sacrifice and be challenged. We are going to be weak, and put in weak positions. All of this is to force us to realize we rely on Christ, and that is isn’t about our work but about God’s work. That sounds negative but it’s actually a huge relief. Whenever I sense that this is God’s work and not mine, I finally relax. I’m not anxious or upset. Sometimes I can see the great thrill it is that God is in charge and actually wants me to come along for the ride. That sense of being His servant is incredible! I don’t know how to describe it beyond the fact that is relieves all stress yet gets me fully to work. It’s a joy to be involved in that kind of work.

And so I think her book is missing something grand. Something I cherish that I found only through prayer, scripture study, grace, consecration, and so forth. Looking at my desires and needs made me miserable, but seeing God’s work unfold before me in clearer ways all the time made me relieved and happy. That this is possible is the promise I want to give Women In the Church.

“Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings”

Alma 37:37 says:  “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good.”

I have thought a lot about those words, and what it means to “counsel” with the Lord. A conversation with me about this would only really make sense if the other person had read Elder Ballard’s book Counseling with our Councils. In summary, at least, a council is made up of a president, who is responsible in the end for the decision, and counselors, who give the president counsel about particular issues and questions. But a council can only function properly if president and counselors are praying for the Spirit, and, if everyone understands their roles. The counselors need to counsel. They need to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns, ideas, etc. with the president. The president needs to listen to all of those concerns, ask specific questions, etc., and feel where the Spirit is guiding. The  president has the granted rights to receive revelation for the council, but the counselors need to realize that their counsel is also given via the Holy Ghost. (And all of this of course pertains whether the counselors or the president is female or male.)

It’s a bit like the body. The brain makes decisions on how to use the body. But the brain can’t tell the hand to move away from the hot stove unless the hand feels the heat and sends the message up to the brain that there is pain! Then the brain can quickly tell the hand to move away from the stove. Etc. Everyplace in our body there are nerves sending messages up to our brain. That information is then used to make a decision.

It’s of course different when we are talking about a group of people instead of a group of organs, appendages, etc. But the imagery helps me to think about councils, as they are supposed to work.

When Alma says we are to counsel with the Lord, what does he mean, exactly? Are we the president or the counselor in this situation? Do we “counsel with,” in that we ask God for His input? And then He will “direct us” for good, meaning, He will give you really good counsel? Or are we the counselor, and God is the president? If that is the case, I see that we would go to God with all of our thoughts, feelings, concerns, and ideas. Then we would trust God to take those into consideration and return with a decision or direction for us to go. Councils are meant to bring everyone to unity (but not because it’s democratic or not because they all discuss until everyone thinks the same). Councils allow everyone to share all that they feel is important or concerning, but then after that they can trust that their president will receive the necessary spiritual guidance to know what to do next. When that trust is there, the whole council can get behind the direction and move forward in unity. But, as I understand Elder Ballard, the words of the counselors – according to their full honesty of what they think they need to say – is necessary in order for the president to really receive revelation on how to proceed.

If we apply that to us and God, what exactly are we saying here? Are we saying that in order for God to direct us, He first wants us to share all of our thoughts, feelings, concerns, and ideas? I think so, actually! I think when I am honest to share all that feels important to me, it is much much easier to feel God directing me on what to do next. And we read of God having a council in heaven, right? Perhaps God will always be wanting us to share with Him our thoughts and ideas, and then giving us direction on how to proceed in the salvation of others.

Counsel with the Lord – it’s not totally up to you to make all decisions, nor is it appropriate to wait all the time for God to command in all things. You counsel together. Work, study, research, think, be concerned, etc. Then tell God all about it and allow Him to “direct thee for good.” A pattern – I think – that works forever.

Note: I also find that working, studying, etc. and then sharing it with God is also what I understand consecration to be. I work and then give up that work to God, who then decides what to do with it and how to direct me next (what stewardship to give to me). When I do this and trust Him, I know that if it is important God will give me that direction, and when it comes it feels like a true gift from Him to me. (Yay! Grace and Consecration!)