Line Upon Line

We are children of God. Every single one of us. The bond and the free. The poor and the rich. The intelligent and the unlearned. The famous, the infamous, and the unknown faces. Every person that has ever lived, is living, and will ever live in this universe is a literal son or daughter of a Heavenly Father. And compared to His capacity, every one of us is indeed nothing more than a child. The most intellectual and/or spiritual person on this earth is still to God as a toddler is to its parents.

We are all learning and will still have opportunities to learn long after we pass from this mortal stage in our lives. That’s why we’re here, to learn and grow. A father or mother does not expect their child to fully understand the ways of life before they leave home and begin their own lives. The child continues to learn lessons about life as they grow older, go to school, begin careers and families, etc. Inevitably, mistakes are made along the way and the individual(s) learn how to adjust their ways so they don’t make the mistakes anymore.

Christ said to “be ye perfect,” even as our Father in Heaven is perfect. I’m sure the Savior was fully aware of this impossibility. He wasn’t referring to this life though. Indeed, we should strive to get as close to being like God as we can. Naturally, however, we are bound to epically fail at this endeavor. It’s alright. Perfection can be reached in the life to come. This life is a preparatory state, and like children, we learn how to be like God one lesson at a time.

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi expounds this idea nicely.

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Nephi 28:30)

Through humility, we can be taught by the Spirit of God and learn what God would have us learn. Just as a child must grow in education and understanding, starting in pre-school, moving on to elementary, middle, and high school, and then perhaps on to college and family life, our spiritual minds also must learn by steps and levels. God will give us what we can handle. We can take it, learn and apply it, and then move on to the next thing, or we can desire something more than we can handle and fail… epically.

Nephi’s brother, Jacob, spoke of this in regards to the Jews before and during the time of Christ.

But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble. (Jacob 4:14)

The prophets spoke plainly to the Jews. Christ spoke plainly to the Jews. Yet they rejected Him and His apostles. They spoke in their own manner of teaching, i.e., Christ often spoke of Himself as the living bread, that they who ate of His flesh would have eternal life. Such was common symbolism in the Jewish culture, yet they would not listen or understand. They hardened their hearts and instead sought for things they could not understand. We often do this, hoping that in looking beyond plainness we will not be held as accountable for our mistakes.

Well, obviously God knows this when we try and do it. There’s not much point ’cause we’re basically just setting ourselves up for failure. So don’t harden your heart against plain truth, and also don’t sell yourself short. We climb a ladder one step at a time.

 

Nothing and Everything

At times we feel insignificant. Sometimes it happens in our own homes, among our family and friends. Take that and compare it with the community, now it may seem like we really are invisible. Then widen the perspective and look at the state, providence, or territory we live in. We’re even smaller. Keep panning out and go the country… the continent… the planet… the universe. We truly are very small when we look at life’s big picture.

Indeed, we are nothing compared to the vastness of the universe and the power of the One who organized it. Understanding this fact is what it means to be humble.

King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon stated, “...I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily…” (Mosiah 4:11)

However, we cannot fall into the trap of thinking that because we are unworthy, we are worth nothing, or capable of nothing. This is not true. There is a great potential within each of us, but God is required in order to reach that potential.

In the last LDS General Conference, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency said, “And while we may look at the vast expanse of the universe and say, “What is man in comparison to the glory of creation?” God Himself said we are the reason He created the universe! His work and glory—the purpose for this magnificent universe—is to save and exalt mankind. In other words, the vast expanse of eternity, the glories and mysteries of infinite space and time are all built for the benefit of ordinary mortals like you and me. Our Heavenly Father created the universe that we might reach our potential as His sons and daughters.

This is a paradox of man: compared to God, man is nothing; yet we are everything to God.

We are everything to God, and with Him can be everything. Near the conclusion of his talk, President Uchtdorf states,

Brothers and sisters, the most powerful Being in the universe is the Father of your spirit. He knows you. He loves you with a perfect love. God sees you not only as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season—He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him.”

We do matter to God. His work and glory is to help us achieve eternal life. That is the reason He created this universe for us, His children. We truly and literally are children of deity, and our Father loves each of us with an incomprehensible love. We are unworthy,  yet we are of great worth. Without God we are nothing, yet with Him we are everything.

From the Ground to the Heavens

Pride is said to be the mother of all other sins. It’s true, that pretty much every kind of sin can be traced back to an issue of pride. In the book of Luke, Christ presents a parable to illustrate the seriousness of a prideful mindset.

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

This Pharisee is as prideful as any person can get. One would note that he is not a thief or an adulterer. In fact, apparently he fasts twice a week and even gives tithes of most of his possessions, which are most likely numerous. This man certainly follows the letter of the law, but he completely misses the spirit of the law. Meaning, on the outside all seems to be good. He obeys all the major commandments and makes sure his life is in accordance to the more temporal of God’s laws. However, the underlying reasons behind these commandments he has either ignored or simply missed. God’s commandments bring us closer to Christ. Obviously, this prideful Pharisee is anywhere but close to Christ. In fact, note the wording “prayed thus with himself.” He’s not even praying to God, but instead, he’s offering a narcissistic prayer to feed his ego.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:10-14)

Publicans were the tax collectors. Just like today… they were despised. So much, in fact, that they were thrown into the same category as the overall sinners, the thieves and harlots and such. “Publicans and sinners” is a common phrase in the New Testament. Now, tax collecting doesn’t make one a sinner, ’cause we’re all sinners. This humble observation is something the Pharisee missed, but the publican remembered quite well.

He acknowledged the fact that he was a sinner and asked for God’s mercy to be upon him. Although the Pharisee most likely kept the law better than him, this man’s humility and his admittance of sin justified him.

What do we learn from this parable? We are all sinners, and we all rely on God to support us. With Him we are truly nothing, capable of achieving nothing. If we boast of our own strength, we will be left to our own strength (which is nothing). But if we are humble and acknowledge our dependence upon Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, they will lift us up.

 

The Brass Serpent

The children of Israel were a pretty moody bunch. Most of the time they just complained against Moses and against the Lord. Despite the fact that they were freed from the Egyptians, no longer forced to be slaves, they still found things to be unhappy about. Food was a big one. The Lord provided plenty of manna, but apparently bread falling the sky didn’t cut it for ’em.

The Lord didn’t exactly appreciate all the complaints. He had made them a free people and was giving them free bread to sustain them. How could they possibly sit around and whine? So, the Lord sent fiery serpents to bite them. As a kid, I always hoped that was a reference to dragons, but it was probably just a bunch of snakes. So a lot of the Israelites died from poison. The ones that lived thought it might be a good idea to go to Moses and see if he could work something out between them and the Lord.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. (Numbers 21:8-9)

So the Lord tells Moses to make a brass snake and set it on a pole. The Israelites that were suffering from the poison would be healed if they would only look upon the snake. Such a simple thing! Just as the snake was lifted up for all to see, so was Jesus Christ lifted up. All that look upon Him can be healed.

Some of the Israelites, because of stubborn pride, and perhaps because the task seemed too simple, didn’t look and were not healed. In this way, we can sometimes shirk the mercies of Christ and His healing power. Our pride might take hold of us and we refuse to look to Him. This is a mistake, and can only lead to us perishing.

When it comes down to it though, it really is this simple. If we want to be healed of our afflictions, we just need to look to the Savior Jesus Christ. Follow His example and be obedient to His gospel and God’s commandments. If we do so, we can be recipients of His love and healing power.

Coming Off the Mountain

The Book of Mormon is overflowing with stories we can relate to and learn from. One I’d like to share is the story of Amalickiah (Uh-mal-i-kye-uh) and Lehonti (Leh-hone-tie). Amalickiah was an evil, blood-thirsty, power-hungry man. All he wanted to do was become king of first the Lamanites and then the Nephites, so that he could bring everyone into bondage and under his control. He accomplished half of his designs; he did take the throne of the Lamanite king. He had to do a few things though, before he could accomplish that goal.

The first thing he had to do was take control of Lehonti’s army. Lehonti and his men were Lamanites, and they didn’t want to go up to battle against the Nephites. So they went up to a mountain and refused to fight. Well, the Lamanite king gave Amalickiah an army and commanded him to battle Lehonti. But Amalickiah had other plans. In Alma chapter 47 verse 10 it reads,

And it came to pass that when it was night he sent a secret embassy into the mount Antipas, desiring that the leader of those who were upon the mount, whose name was Lehonti, that he should come down to the foot of the mount, for he desired to speak with him.

The embassy went up three times, and each time Lehonti refused to come down to the foot of the mountain. They were fixed with a determineded resolution that they would not be made to fight against the Nephites. Amalickiah wouldn’t give up though. Since being straightforward didn’t work, he decided to try something a bit sneakier. In verse 12 it reads,

And it came to pass that when Amalickiah found that he could not get Lehonti to come down off from the mount, he went up into the mount, nearly to Lehonti’s camp; and he sent again the fourth time his message unto Lehonti, desiring that he would come down, and that he would bring his guards with him.

Lehonti decides to go along with it and comes just a little ways down the mountain. Amalickiah tells Lehonti to surround his men during the night, and that when they wake up in the morning, he (Amalickiah) would surrender his army to Lehonti, on the condition that Amalickiah would be made second-in-command.

Lehonti agrees and surrounds Amalickiah’s army at night. When they wake up they become afraid and decide to join with Lehonti’s band. So… how does one become leader if he’s second-in-command? Easy. He kills the leader. Verses 17 to 19 read,

Now it was the custom among the Lamanites, if their chief leader was killed, to appoint the second leader to be their chief leader.

And it came to pass that Amalickiah caused that one of his servants should administer poison by degrees to Lehonti, that he died.

Now, when Lehonti was dead, the Lamanites appointed Amalickiah to be their leader and their chief commander.

Amalickiah had cleverly played out his entire scheme, and it worked. So what are we to learn from this story? For us, Amalickiah is Satan. We are Lehonti. Satan wants us to come off our mountain. He doesn’t want us to stand in high places, places of spiritual security. He tempts us, sometimes in obvious ways. Sometimes he tells us to come directly off of the mountain. This usually doesn’t work. When something is obviously wrong, it’s easy to just say no.

That’s when Satan gets tricky. He tells us to only come down part way, and bring our guards. When Satan can’t get us with obvious things, he tries to bring us down in small, subtle ways.

Just a litte bit, it won’t hurt. Just this once, it’s no big deal. You can stop anytime. No one will know.

These are all things that Satan tries to put into our heads. He’s clever, and sometimes we’re tricked, as Lehonti was. Lehonti fell for the trap because he let his greed get the best of him. We often do the same thing, allowing our physical appetitites to distract us from the gentle cautions of the Holy Spirit. Lehonti’s decision cost him his life, and it was in degrees. Our own decisions to give in to Satan’s traps can lead us to spiritual death, and it is often in degrees as well.

May we learn from this lesson. Be watchful and aware. Satan is always tempting us, trying to get us to come off the mountain. We must ignore him and instead listen to the voice of the Shepherd, Jesus Christ. When we build our foundation on Jesus Christ, listen to the Holy Ghost, and pray continually to our Father in Heaven for strength, we cannot fail.

Dust to Dust

we’re all the same, made of hair and bones and water and blood cells

and we’re all to blame for spending way too much time on ourselves

ashes to ashes and dust to dust

Abracadavers“, by The Classic Crime

In regards to pride, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said:

Pride is sinful … because it breeds hatred or hostility and places us in opposition to God and our fellowmen. At its core, pride is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with ‘Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,’ it always seems to end with ‘Therefore, I am better than you.’

It is said that pride cometh before the fall. Pride is often the first sin on the road to many others. Elevating ourselves, whether individually, as groups, or as a society in general has led us to a generation of envy, greed, and hardheartedness. It has led to a society that does not believe it needs God. We often forget just who we are, that we are all alike and needful. King Benjamin advises us to retain humility and remember that we are all equal in God’s eyes.

Mosiah 4:19 reads,

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

Everything we have belongs to God. Our materials, our strength and energy, all comes from the same Being that gave us life and continues each day to lend us breath to continue living. Ultimately, we are nothing.

Do not get me wrong though. I don’t mean to bring us down. As I talked about in a previous post, we are the children of God. We are divine. We have great potential, but it is only through God and Jesus Christ that we may attain the greatness we are capable of.

I testify that without God we are indeed nothing, and capable of achieving nothing. With God, however, we can become great. He is the source of our life and each blessing we enjoy. May we not let pride get the best of us. When we do anything, it is not by our own strength but by the strength of our God. I know this to be true.