24 November 2011

"A Man of Sorrows, and Aquainted with Grief," Mosiah 14

Mosiah 14

I am memorizing this entire chapter. I already had it committed to memory at one point in my past. Having done so, has made it very familiar to me as I read through it again. As I have read though the chapter again those feelings of familiarity seem to also be reminders of Savior's friendship and concern for each of us.

It is an interesting thing to contemplate that in the equity of the Lord's plan, relatively very few ever had the opportunity to know Christ during His mortal ministry. Perhaps a lie of the adversary is that thought that had we been alive and know Christ personally, intimately, then we would believe and have as much conviction as the apostles of Christ did.

However, I wonder how I would have responded to Christ if my first interaction with Him would have been to meet him personally in mortality. Without any knowledge of the plan of God, or being subject wholly to the tendencies of the natural man, I fear that I would (as would probably many others) discount him and just walk away. If salvation were based on just a one time personal encounter with the Savior of the world, how miserable would be my performance and fate.

The contemplation of the pain and suffering that Christ had to bear is beyond comprehension. Yet what is curious to note is that Christ himself does say "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."(Matt 11:30) How can  he say that something  "which suffering caused... , even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit"(Doctrine and Covenants 19:16) is easy and light? Again, it is beyond comprehension. Perhaps, the power of true love, Christ-like love, which is unconditional and without end, is the best explanation to an otherwise irrational paradox.

The use of  different tenses, some times even within the same verse can at first be very disconcerting. Isaiah goes from future tense to present tense to past tense and then back and forth freely throughout the chapter. Clearly, in Isaiah's day this was a forward looking prophecy. But then when he says things like "we hid as it were our faces from him"(vs 3), the accusation is personally applicable, and I find within myself truth in my own life experiences of times when I indeed have tried to hid my face from Him. The reminder is powerful and poignant.

I love the words of Isaiah!

Verse 7 talks about the Savior as a lamb or a dumb(as in unable to speak) sheep. I am asking myself why did he take this role upon him. "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter." It is as if He went knowing, yet he did not know, for He had not experienced. Yet what a great example: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth." Too often I am found complaining when acute trial gets to be very difficult.

In verse 9, as I review the definitive statements about Christ's innocence, the reality of this truth makes everything else possible. "because he had done no evil, neither was any deceit in his mouth." That statement alone causes me to conclude that this was a great man, a being beyond mortal capacity. Indeed, He was and is a God. Yet knowing that he was here and that he experienced it makes it all the more admirable what he has done for me. Indeed admiration perhaps is a weak word, when really it causes me to want to worship Him, and love Him with all my heart.

Christ was triumphant over the grave! He has obtained the same rank and stature as great as any wicked, self serving ruler in this world, because of his righteousness. It was different than any other who lived and aspired to greatness and wealth and power and prominence

Verse 11 is a reminder of the disciples burden that the Savior willingly carries. This reminder, if I truly reflected upon it frequently would keep me in check and cause me to not transgress as frequently as I find myself doing.

Here is the other thing that can be truly confusing about Isaiah: the use of pronouns without a given understanding of whom the pronoun is being attributed to. For example, verse 9: "And he made his grave with the wicked." The question is: Who made who's grave? What is the proper Spirit in which this verse is to be understood. If it is God the Father who is making the grave for the Savior Jesus Christ, the explanation given for doing so seem much more logical: "Because [Christ] had done no evil, neither was any deceit in his mouth."

This morning's study (the entire study has now spanned over two weeks - today is 3 December 2011) began with a simple thought: what price did Isaiah have to pay to merit receipt of these revelations. I have been deeply moved by the words of Isaiah here and elsewhere, but what do we know of his history and ministry. What were his challenges?

I just found my answer to the above questions, or at least a couple of good starting points:
http://lds.org/manual/old-testament-student-manual-kings-malachi/enrichment-f?lang=eng
http://lds.org/ensign/1973/10/ten-keys-to-understanding-isaiah?lang=eng

One more time this morning (7 December 2011), the Spirit of the Lord bids me to give pause on the line in verse 3, "and we hid as it were our faces from him." Perhaps it is the reason for the hiding that the Lord would have me to consider. "He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." We don't like to be associated with sorrow and grief. We don't like to watch it in movies. Much less do we like to have to deal with it in real life. Or perhaps we find ourselves too much engulfed in our own sorrows and griefs. At any rate, I think it must be because we don't frequently know how to remedy these griefs and the pain that comes for whatever reason, and so we shy away from the challenges that such present. This brings to mind the scriptures from the New Testament that talk about the poor and the needy when the Lord says "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt 25:40)

For the hungry, the thirsty, the estranged, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned, Christ has born their griefs and sorrows. Among them, ought we also to be found.

14 November 2011

"In Remembrance of God and Their Duty Towards Him," Mosiah 13:27-35

Mosiah 13:27-35

This is to me a very striking revelation, and leaves me appreciating the purpose for the law of Moses: to keep the people in remembrance of their God and their duty towards Him. So striking to me is this at this moment in time where I'm considering Priesthood duties and responsibilities, that it almost causes me to wonder why it was ever taken away. The remembrance of our God and our duties towards Him are of paramount importance in matters of salvation and enduring to the end. However, without a knowledge and proper understanding of the atonement of Christ, these reminders and the whole law has no significance. Moses understood this though when he gave the law.
For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things? (vs. 33
 Now perhaps I've come across as too much of an proponent of the Mosaic law, because though these two points of remembrance are of great importance, Abinadi earlier states that the law was given because of the hardheartedness of the people (see vs. 29-32). Herein then is the importance of understanding why the law was done away. The Lord does not desire to have a people who are slothfully compelled to righteousness. Rather it is pleasing to the Lord that we choose of our own accord to keep ourselves in remembrance of our God and our duties toward Him.

This passage seems useful also in illustrating the distinction between our view of laws and redemption. Those of a New Testament understanding of faith, mercy, and redemption too frequently frame the LDS doctrine as being closer to a Mosaic doctrine of works than an even split between works and faith, also with the emphasis on Christ.

Here are a few other doctrines that are noteworthy from this passage.
  • All prophets who have prophesied have spoken more or less concerning the coming of a Messiah and that God should redeem his people. (vs. 33)
  • God shall take upon himself the form of a man, and come down among men, and go forth in power upon the face of the earth. (vs. 34)
  • Were it not for the atonement, which God should make for the sins and iniquities of his people, all man kind should perish. (vs. 28)

08 November 2011

"The Commandments of God... Written in your Hearts," Mosiah 13:11-26

Mosiah 13:11-26

Abinadi proceeds to recount the remainder of the Ten Commandments. He says that he is doing so because it was his perception that the commandments were not written in their hearts. For the benefit of review, I will proceed to list and discuss the remaining eight commandments:
  1. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image." The Lord's explanation for the purpose of this commandment is to not deviate from the true form of worship. Praying to idols, or rendering service to them is grievous to the Lord. So He reminds us that so doing will bring upon us the judgments of God unto both us and our children even up until our great-grandchildren. There is a blessing to those that are obedient as well, and that is that mercy is extended to those who love God. 
  2. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." The Lord goes on to explain that those who do take the Lord's name in vain will be found guiltless. Why? To use the name of Diety as a flippant expression of speech is to take lightly the very source of eternal light and life. In prayer and at other times, we pray in the name of our Lord. How can we expect that prayer to have meaning or depth, if we do not respect the very source? 
  3. "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." There is a fair amount of detail associated with this commandment. The sabbath should be a day apart from daily labors. As the commandment goes on to explain, it should be hallowed, even as the Lord has hallowed it. What would make for a Holy day? We attend to our church services. We refrain from normal conversations in favor of discussing that which is holy. We prepare for the sabbath in so many ways.
  4. "Honor thy father and thy mother." The promise is that we will be blessed with long life and prosperity in the land that God has given us for so doing. As I grow into parenthood, with a third of my lifetime now being spent as a parent, I am growing to appreciate the value of a righteous upbringing and the blessings and advantages that that has afforded me. If on the other hand, I had chosen a different path and to ignore my upbringing, then the labor and efforts of my own parents would have been wasted. In that regard then, I choose to honor my parents. 
  5. "Thou shalt not kill." I appreciate the Savior's extension found in 3 Nephi 12:21-26. Anger is the precursor to violence and is of the devil. Violence in its worse form leads to murder. It begins with our words, and even the thoughts of our hearts. 
  6.  "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Again the Savior provides an extension on this commandment stating that the thought in the heart is as serious a sin as the physical act. "Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart; For it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell."(3 Nephi 12:29-30)
  7. "Thou shalt not steal." This verse is grouped with the commandment previous, as if to suggest adultery is theft. (The author choose to group these two commandments together, which is distinct from how they are recorded in Exodus.)
  8. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." The truly righteous variant on this principle is to love our neighbors as ourselves. (see Luke 10:27) Not only is the temptation gone to lie and gossip, but a friendship is established and sincere concern for the well being of others.
  9. "Thou shalt not covet." I've sat on this last commandment for about a week now. Covetousness is greediness. It is the insatiable desire to have what is not ours and hence to not be content. (see Prov. 21:26, Isa. 56:11)