23 August 2022

Is tithing still a commandment?



10 Bring ye all the atithes into the storehouse, that there may be bmeat in mine house, and cprove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not dopen you the ewindows of heaven, and pour you out a fblessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. --Malachi 3:10


In our family group chat my sister-in-law, Melanie, posed a question: Is the law of tithing about ten percent of gross income?



I thought that was a fair question and pondered it as the family discussed, mostly because I was at work and couldnt devote the time to it that it deserved.



I looked up the relevant verses so I had a solid foundation for my response:



The Old Testament



30 And all the atithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord.



31 And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof.



32 And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the arod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord--Leviticus 27:30-32



Here we read that the law was the tenth animal to pass under the rod as the herdsman was counting out the new cattle (cattle being whatever animal the herdsman raised). 



So if I had a hundred head of sheep, goats, mules, whatever, and the new ones born that season are my increase, and i count them, every tenth goes to the Lord. This is a law of the tithe, gross increase.



And not just for herdsmen:



22 Thou shalt truly atithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. --Deuteronomy 14:22



Again, the "increase" is what is added to your holdings that year.



Melanie says that some people she knows have decided the increase is what is left over after paying their bills, and pay 10% on that. But that isn't what the scriptures say. It is very clear pay 10% gross, if you take 2 seconds to think about it. 



No where in the Bible does it say to sell the sheep required to cover the expenses on your farm, pay your ranch hands, and the water carriers, and what's left over, return 10% to the Lord. It says count the increase of your grain and your animals, and one-tenth is the Lord's.



The New Testament



Some say Jesus broke the old laws when he came, but that isn't what Jesus says:



17 ¶ Think not that I am come to adestroy the blaw, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.



18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the alaw, till all be bfulfilled--Matthew 5:17-18



He clearly says nothing will change from the law until ALL is fulfilled. So 10% is still the rule.



Doctrine & Covenants 119



Melanie's brother, Chris, brought up in D&C 119 where it says "one-tenth of all their interest annually." From this he thought it meant not gross wages.



Let's look at the whole verse:



And after that, those who have thus been atithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord. --D&C 119:4



I disagree that this does not refer to gross wages. I don't think this is a change in the law of tithing at all, but a return to it. 



For a time, the Saints were required to give all that they could to the church to help build it up. People were giving their life savings, selling land, herds, whatever they could because they believed in the Book of Mormon and that Joseph Smith was the Prophet of God in the latter days.



D&C 119 is short, let's look at the section up to verse 4 to get a greater context:


Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their asurplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion,



For the building of mine ahouse, and for the laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and for the debts of the Presidency of my Church.



And this shall be the beginning of the atithing of my people.



And after that, those who have thus been atithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.



So "after that" refers to after "all their surplus property", then return to 10% of their "interest annually".



My understanding of interest in this context is thus:

"interest is on top of principle. so if what i own is principle, then anything added unto it would be interest. each year i add to my holdings, in the form of income, and pay tithe on my increase."

I find that to be pretty straightforward, and upholds the law as written in the Bible.



Tithing is a commitment to the Lord, not the church



When I was baptized I asked the bishop if I was supposed to pay 10% of gross or net. He told me that most pay gross, but it is a commitment to the Lord, so I should do what I feel is right. 



In our conversation, Melanie posed several challenges:

Melanie: "I’ve always paid 10% gross. But the point is more philosophical. Is this something we do out of tradition? Are we missing the mark? Are we paying twice as much as we need to pay and thereby putting ourselves in more financial stress than we need to be in? Because, as we discussed, paying extra tithing does not equal extra blessings from obeying that law."

To which I replied:

If you live within your means, tithing should be part of that means and not something that endangers your lifestyle. And you paying extra may not afford you more blessings, but what about those that the tithing funds go to help?
are they not blessed by your charity?
do you pay tithing only to get a blessing?

Melanie: We’ve always paid tithing first. Still do. 

When we feel like we have extra, we give a bigger fast offering. Or we have given people of our excess who are in need. I feel like those donation helps people more than my tithing, which goes in the general church coffers and doesn’t make a dent. 

But let’s say you believed that you were supposed to pay 20% your whole life. Sometimes you could afford it more than others. But when economy went to crap it became harder to pay the bills and buy the groceries. Because, you know, you pay the tithing first it’s the other things you don’t have money for. But then you learn that you’re only supposed to pay 10%. Would you refuse to consider paying less?

Me: if i had it built into my lifestyle to pay 20%, i would continue paying 20%. if things got tight i would look at my spending on luxuries where I could reduce. like i'd turn off netflix, amazon, and disney. i'd make sure all spotify and other things were off. i'd encourage my family to eat out less and have more at home meals. i would find places in my life where i could cut back a little so i still felt i was doing the right thing in paying my tithing, whatever amount that was.

i dont pay tithing because it's a bill. i pay tithing because it's what the Lord asked of us. i dont calculate how much and decide God has been cheating me because i've been paying more than i "should".

Melanie: I pay tithing because it’s a commandment, not because it’s a bill. But maybe when we struggle and pray to find out ways to cut enough costs to get by without going negative each month, maybe God looks down at us and is like, “well, you could stop paying that ridiculous amount of tithing. Then you could afford your basic groceries.” Because it is about obedience. It’s not about paying your way into a more righteous status. The amount extra you pay does not translate to a higher law. You know?

Me: i'm still not sure what your end goal is in this conversation. if you dont want to pay as much tithing, pay less tithing. it's a personal commitment to the Lord. The church gives you a tithing settlement and asks you if you're paying a full tithe. they dont look at your W2s..


Each year we in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have what we call 'tithing settlement' where the bishop provides a receipt of all tithing paid in the year and asks if you are a full tithe payer. 



There is no accountant waiting in the wings to check your W2s, 1099s, tax returns, etc. Just a simple statement of donation, and a single question.



You can handle that however you feel is right. 

But the actual law is 10% gross income.

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26 July 2022

Anna Sunflower & Anna's Reply



This morning my daughter, Clara, was singing a song that she made up. She's four, so her song is simple, and she has the ability to stay mostly on key when she sings. I think she has a real talent for it.



My wife's family is very musically talented. We both sing, Stephanie Grace plays piano, Anna plays flute and sings beautifully, Matt plays trombone and had a very deep bass voice, Stephanie's brothers and sisters all sing, play instruments, and a couple play a lot... like A LOT... of instruments. David and Jason are always purchasing a new interesting instrument to learn.



Stephanie Grace has this amazing skill to sit at a piano and just play something incredible. She calls it a party trick and shrugs it off like it's nothing, but I find it absolutely fascinating, having to work so hard to create any music myself.



Back in 2014, when Anna was 10, Stephanie Grace wrote and recorded a song for her titled Anna Sunflower. I've downloaded it from fb and post it here:



It's sweet and cute, and Anna is the one filming. Unfortunately it cuts off at the end, so we miss the last few do-do-da-ta-dee-da's, but you get the picture.



A couple years ago, Anna was working on her own songs, and her first one (no music yet) is a response to her mother.



If there is an error in playing, refresh the page, or feel free to download and listen. it's worth it.

I love the messaging in this set of songs. In Stephanie Grace's song, Anna is young, she's innocent, she's a delight. She has very little experience in the world. 



In Anna's response, she's a teenager, she's kind of a brat, she's made some mistakes and suffered bouts of depression, not the childlike innocence from when she was 10. The world and it's problems are a little more real.



She recognizes the vision her mother had for her and still wants for her, and tries to change her path to match it, longing for the days of easy happiness in childhood.



These songs, wonderful on their own, take on a clearer meaning when heard back to back.



Anna sang this for me one morning while I was driving her to Seminary. 


Still brings a tear to my eye. 

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10 July 2022

Leveling up in Life

I was walking the track around the ballfield one day after work with a couple friends, Mark and Lyle. 



Lyle was a barrel chested tank of a man, and Mark was a short and round, and he was having trouble keeping up with Lyle and me. 



Mark made the comment, "When does this get any easier?" 



To which Lyle replied, "It doesn’t. You just get to where you handle it better."



I always thought that was a very profound statement that can be applied to a lot more than just exercise.



Our bodies are meant for work. In Genesis 3:19 God tells Adam, 

'In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground;..'

When we lift heavy things, our bodies learn to adapt and build stronger muscles so they can handle the lifting of those heavy things. When we walk long distances, our bodies build lean muscles that are more full of energy and can better handle the long walks. 



But the body isn't the only thing that God gave us that adapts to it's challenges.



Our minds, our emotions, and our spirit are all strengthened when we "lift heavy things" for each of them.



When a student studies, their brain carves new grooves, pathways that store the knowledge. When they apply that knowledge, those pathways are reinforced and a stronger connection is made to that knowledge.



The same applies to our spiritual muscles. When we read our scriptures, pray, participate in our Sunday School, ponder the teachings of the gospel, and, as Nephi said, "feast upon the words of Christ," we build those spiritual muscles that will support us during challenges.



We must be challenged



In the movie The Matrix, The Architect is telling Neo about how this is not the first iteration of the Matrix, but the sixth. 



"The first matrix I designed," he says, "was quite naturally perfect. It was a work of art; flawless, sublime, and triumph equaled only by it's monumental failure."



He is telling Neo that the first matrix, in it's "perfection" provided mankind with all their needs. Everyone could be happy. 



But instead, it failed. And while the Architect does not say why it failed, we can look at a real world experiment to see what may have happened.



In the 1960s, a behavioral researcher named John Calhoun created the "Mouse Utopia" experiment. Calhoun created several habitats for mice to observe overcrowding in a perfect world.



He provided the mice with limitless food, and secluded rodent condos on several levels, and no natural predators. Because food and space was so plentiful, they expanded their population quickly. 

At the peak population, most mice spent every living second in the company of hundreds of other mice. They gathered in the main squares, waiting to be fed and occasionally attacking each other. Few females carried pregnancies to term, and the ones that did seemed to simply forget about their babies. They'd move half their litter away from danger and forget the rest. Sometimes they'd drop and abandon a baby while they were carrying it.

The few secluded spaces housed a population Calhoun called, "the beautiful ones." Generally guarded by one male, the females—and few males—inside the space didn't breed or fight or do anything but eat and groom and sleep. When the population started declining the beautiful ones were spared from violence and death, but had completely lost touch with social behaviors, including [mating] or caring for their young.

Mouse Utopia, John Calhoun



The mice and rats had no challenges, and basically went insane. I think the Architect meant the same thing about his first 'perfect' matrix.



God, in contrast, did not create a perfect world where all our needs were to be met. In fact, if you remember from what was revealed of the war in heaven, that was Satan's plan: 



In Moses, chapter four, verse 1: 

Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

But just like in the Matrix, God knew the only way it would not be "a monumental failure" was that man had to be given choice, and with that choice the opportunity to make poor choices that come with consequences.



But it is in those consequences that we have the opportunity to grow stronger, in whichever area of life the challenge lies. 



In James, Chapter one, verses two through four: 

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

It is never the case that we are strengthened by avoiding challenges. When we avoid doing difficult things, our life area atrophies, no different than if we lay in bed all day, never lifting a finger. If our muscles are never used, the body will not keep them up. The same is true for our mind, and our spirit. 



I'm not sure if you've heard his lectures on YouTube, but Dr. Jordan Peterson gives great advice. One of the things he often says to those who don’t know what to do with their lives, is this: "Pick up the heaviest load you can, and carry it."



Dr. Peterson is specifically talking about seeking responsibility. Not just about moving furniture, or bringing in the box of books from the moving van, but pick up the heaviest burden you can, and take responsibility for it. It is in this that you will find meaning.



So in that, our challenges do not just build our mind, body, and spirit for no reason, but they build those things that we will be able to handle more difficult challenges.



all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good



I play video games in my spare time with David and Matt. We like role playing games, like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, and Divinity. One thing these games all have in common is, as you complete challenges, you gain experience and 'level up'.



The other night David and I were playing Divinity, and we were having a heck of a time with a fight. The opponents were tough, and the terrain was not in our favor. After a few tries we thought it would be a good idea to go out and look for other challenges that were more appropriate to our skills, increase our abilities, and then try again. 



We fought other battles. We gained new equipment and abilities. I think one character even leveled up. We formed new strategies, and we went back to that fight and won.



Yes, this is just a game, but our story in that game could not progress unless we defeated that enemy. And it was seeking out other challenges and experiences, and formulating a new plan that allowed us to overcome, which provided us with even more experience and equipment, to prepare us for challenges that were coming later.



In Doctrine & Covenants 122, Joseph is in Liberty Jail. He cries out about the unfairness of it all, asking why the Lord would allow this to happen to his chosen people. And the Lord gave him an answer:

5 If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;



6 If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;



7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. 

All of them. 



The Lord sees challenges as opportunities for growth, and to 'level up'. He does not want us to shy away from the difficult things that come before us, but to face them, learn from them, grow from them, and be better because of them.



Brothers and sisters, my little round friend Mark, as we walked around that track, was leveling up in that walk. And as we pick up the heaviest thing we can find, as we take responsibility for it, as we seek challenges to give us experience, the Lord has promised that those things will be for our good.



I leave that with you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, 



Amen.

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20 June 2022

David wasn't an underdog


In the story of David and Goliath, it is commonly read as David is an underdog, a young boy that faces off against a giant of a man, clearly outmatched, but overcomes.

This is the wrong interpretation of this story.

In 1 Samuel 17, the setting is laid out. The Philistines and Isrealites are gathered on opposite mountains overlooking the valley of Elah. Neither really wants to go down to the valley, and whichever tries to take the other in the mountains is looking at a slaughter from dug in forces in a higher position.. It was much like Normandy.

So Goliath, champion of the Philistines, went down to the valley to challenge the Isrealite champion to single combat to decide the battle.

4 ¶ And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. - 1Sam17:4

10 And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.

A cubit is the measure of the tip of your middle finger, commonly the longest finger, to the tip of your elbow. Common measurement is about 17-1/2". A Span is the measurement from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger, when extended, or about 9".

So a little math, Goliath was ((6*17.5)+9)/12 = 9.5' tall. That's a big guy.

Saul asked around, but his soldiers were too afraid to face him. For forty days he asked, but no one would come forward.

David was there bringing his brothers lunch on the 40th day. David was a shepherd, not a soldier.

15 But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Beth-lehem.

16 And the Philistine drew near morning and evening, and presented himself forty days.

17 And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren;

24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid.


David heard Goliath issue his challenge, and he asked around to the soldiers, won't anybody go out and face him? And they told him, no. He'll kill us.

So David went to Saul and told him don't worry, I'll do it.

32 ¶ And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.

Saul tried to give him armor, David wouldnt take it, he instead insisted that he be allowed to fight Goliath his own way.

David wasn't just a shepherd.. he was a skilled hunter (probably with a bit of boasting):

34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:

35 And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.

36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God.

37 David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.


He picked 5 stones from the ground.

40 And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.

Now, the stones of this mountain are not just the normal granite-quartz stones you might find in the back yard, or in the field. These stones are of a Salt mineral called Barium-Sulfate, which is desired for both it's white appearance and it's high density. For comparison, it is equivalent to the density of Titanium, about 280lb/ft³ or 4500kg/m³.

David had his sling in hand. Probably less likely than grabbing a bear and lion by the beard, he killed it with his sling, which was why he was confident he could use it to take out Goliath. The slinger was an important part of the military.

An advantage of the slinger over the armor-clad swordsman or spearman was his effectiveness from a distance. It is claimed that their range of effectiveness was up to 400 feet (c. 122 meters) with stones, and even farther with lead pellets. - Watchtower OL

Lead has a density of 708lb/ft³, so two-and-a-half times that of Barium-Sulfate, for comparison.

Even still, common riverstone, like what is normally thought of, and usually made up of granite, limestone, or flint, is significantly lighter.

Density of:

Granite: 168lb/ft³
Flint: 163.69 lb/ft³
Limestone: 169lb/ft³
Common stone: 157lb/ft³

citation: https://www.aqua-calc.com/page/density-table/

Goliath was a foot soldier. He wore bronze armor and caried a sword. Goliath was literally bringing a knife to a gunfight.

So David walked down there, was mocked by Goliath, David loaded his sling and BANG! right between the eyes, dropped Goliath, picked up the giant's sword, and cut off his head to deliver to Saul as a trophy, taking the armor for his own trophy.

David wasn't the underdog, he was a skilled marksman with a deadly weapon. He knew his skill, and he knew God was with him.

Goliath is often, like the giants from my previous post, alegorically seen as a challenge we need to overcome.

But instead of seeing ourselves as the underdog, try looking at it this way: You are more equiped to handle the challenges that come your way than you might at first realize.

Further study:
http://www.ancient-battles.com/warriors/ancient-slingers.php
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IQ15ymhR2M
https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/calculating-sling-projectile-speed-from-video.561760/
https://christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-slingsforkids.html
https://www.amazon.com/David-Goliath-Underdogs-Misfits-Battling/dp/0316204374/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziGD7vQOwl8

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15 May 2022

They're four, not disabled

Living the principle of my previous post about letting my kids run free, I have encouraged my girls, now that they're four, to walk around the corner to my sister-in-law's (call her Cassie) by themselves.


As stated before, my first daughter ran all over the neighborhood when she was that age. I've been walking these girls over to Cassie's daily for the last couple months, and after feeling confident that they know the way, (it is literally around the corner) I encouraged them to go by themselves:


I started with walking them just up to the corner, then waving and saying goodbye, giving hugs and kisses, and watching them walk the rest of the way by themselves.

I would walk them most of the way. I would race them to or from and let them win by a long margin.

I would hang back, talking to Cassie, and let them go all the way home.

I would have a meeting scheduled for when I normally walked them, and then just tell them, "I have a meeting, go on to Aunt Cassie's."

This filled both my wife and Aunt Cassie with untold levels of dread, but to me, this is one of the most empowering things I think I can do for my girls. 

This is how we win. This is how we keep our children from being snowflakes. We give them the tools to be successful, and we trust them. 

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Teaching in Church

Sunday School teacher is probably my favorite calling, especially when your class is engaging and talkative.


The best lessons I've ever participated in are those where the conversation flows naturally, instead of being a reading of the assigned chapters and verses, and then a discussion of, "what does that verse/scripture/chapter/etc., mean to you?"

In my lessons I tend to give an interesting, dramatic summary of the story, followed by the principle that was underlying in the story. One class we read two verses and had a great discussion about those two verses for the entire 45 minutes of class.

For example, today the lesson was on Numbers 11-14; 20-24, which discusses the Israelites wandering in the desert, whining and complaining like 4 year olds the entire time. They whined about how much food they were getting, what type of food it was, it's too hot, it's too cold, i want another sucker, טִרדָה is touching me!

In one chapter, Moses sends out 12 spies/scouts, one from each tribe, to spread out amongst the land before them and try to figure out which one was the "promised land" that God told them about. Go, gather intel, see who lives there, if they're a simple village or a military stronghold, and how fertile is the ground?

One group of scouts comes back with big juicy grapes, pomegranites, and figs, says the land is lush and fertile, but there are people living on the land. One man says, "We can take 'em." and the scouts say, "Nuh-uh.. They're giants. They'll kick the crap out of us."

While the story is simple and can be made more entertaining in my retelling of it, it is the least important part of the class.

The important part is, what is the meaning of the promised land? 
...the fruit? 
...the giants? 
How can we compare them to our day?

I ask these questions and let my class think about them. They then come to the conclusions and start raising their hands to answer:

  • "The promised land is a goal, or something we want."
  • "The fruit is the blessings that come from striving for our goals."
  • "The giants are the challenges we face."
Yes. That is the most important part of these stories in the Old Testiment. Not to follow what Moses, or Aaron, or Caleb or whomever else is doing, but how can we apply these things to our day? 

The Israelites did not have faith in the Lord that He would fulfill His promises. They constantly murmured against Him. 

5 And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

6 And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 

7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.

8 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.

9 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. (Num21:5-9)

The story, although interesting in it's own right, also has symbolism:
What are the fiery serpents sent amongst the people? 
What is the brass serpent placed upon the pole?
What does it mean to look upon it?

  • Fiery serpents are afflictions.
  • Brass serpent is Christ.
  • Looking upon it is looking to the Lord in faith.
It is in this manner of teaching that my class has the most interaction/participation. They seem interested in the stories as how they can apply them, instead of just reading them in class. 





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01 November 2021

Alma is my BFF


Of all the characters in the Book of Mormon, I identify with Alma the Younger most. 

Some people like Nephi, and it’s probably because he’s the one they have read about the most. Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve read the books of Nephi probably 500 or so times, but read the book of Ether about 10.


Nephi, to me, is a bit of a goody-goody. The son of a merchant, he never makes the bad choice, he knows who he is and what he’s supposed to do, and he has the line that we can all strive to be like: 


for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must bobey.  -- 2Ne33:15


And when you ask him, “Man, haven’t you ever done anything wrong?” He looks at you intently, a hint of green in his eye and says, “I get angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”


Alma was a bit different. He had a father that was the high priest of the entire nation. His friends, the sons of the king. What they had was money, influence, and boredom. 


Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t money and influence that made me connect to Alma.


Alma was a total screw up. He was…

“…a very wicked and an bidolatrous man. And he was a man of many words, and did speak much cflattery to the people; therefore he dled many of the people to do after the manner of his einiquities.

9 And he became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; astealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his bpower over them.”2 until his father just couldn’t handle it anymore and called down a divine intervention to be the agent of change in his son’s life. 


11 And as I said unto you, as they were going about arebelling against God, behold, the bangel of the Lord cappeared unto them; and he descended as it were in a dcloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder, which caused the earth to shake upon which they stood; --Mosiah 27


That flipped their whole world around. That voice of thunder that told them to knock it off. Unlike Nephi’s brothers that immediately started murmuring again after the angel left, Alma was rocked to his core. He fell down and had his “coming to Jesus” moment. For three days he was shut up from the world inside his own head, with an experience that changed him. 


But I was racked with aeternal btorment, for my soul was charrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. - Alma 36:12


And when he awoke, when he had the strength to stand and speak, he told his story of what happened:


My soul hath been aredeemed from the gall of bitterness and bbonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was cracked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is dpained no more. - Mosiah 27:29


This story is told twice in the scriptures. The first time in Mosiah 27, basically as it happens, as we’re following the story. The second time in Alma 36 when he’s bearing his testimony and conversion story to his son, Helaman, to keep him from making the same mistakes Alma made in his youth.


And this is where I identify with Alma. Going from the idolatrous wicked youth to a God fearing Christian. Of course, my conversion wasn’t over two days, it took years, but I had my awakening. And it didn’t come from the sudden appearance of an angel, but a police officer.


I found myself sitting in a jail cell, my life crumbling around me. My family torn apart. I had made so many bad choices through my youth that when it all caught up to me, I, too, was “racked with eternal torment, my soul harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.”


I heard a story about a man with a mule. This man loved his mule, but he was having trouble because it wasn’t trained, and was headstrong and willful, would wander off while he was plowing his field. He needed the mule to be trained, but wanted it done with tender loving care. 


He found a trainer and called him up, the trainer agreed to train the mule with tender loving care, and so the man loaded up his mule and drove it to the trainer, who again assured him that he would care for the mule during the training.


As the man was driving away he glanced in his rear view mirror and saw the trainer – THWAP! – up the side of the mule’s head with a 2x4.


The man spun the truck around, raced back to the trainer.


“You said you train with tender loving care!”


“I do,” said the trainer, “But i have to get his attention first.”


That jail cell was my 2x4.


When I was sitting in that cell, my mother sent me my first quad, with a letter that said, “Something has to change.” That was the first time that I read the Book of Mormon, and I had my coming to Jesus moment. Alma’s story helped me through it. 


He gave me something that I could identify with that wasn’t the perfect goodness of Nephi. He gave me a mentor and role model that helped me see that no matter what kind of person we were, we can be better than that. 


In Mosiah, Alma gives us the brief overview of what happened. He identifies his sin, acknowledges it, and tells us that his conversion is complete and he’ll do the right thing now. And he goes on to be a great missionary and prophet.


And then he gets to my favorite verse:


O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the atrump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! - Alma 29:1


In the chapters before it, the focus was not on Alma, it was on Ammon and his missionary success, and some wars. But in Alma 29 we are suddenly brought back to Alma, and he has this intense wish to be able to shake the world out of their iniquity, to show them how great God is, and how it feels to turn away from their sins, his sins, and be awash in the spirit. 


He wants so much to show them all the difference and let everyone feel what he feels, know it like he knows it. 


And then, in verse 3: 


But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me.


For all his wishful thinking, his grand imaginations of world wide missionary success, converting all the people back to God and bring them all to Christ, Alma knows that he is a man. 


I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their adesire, whether it be unto death or unto life; -Alma 29:4


He knows that he can only do so much. That he should learn to be happy with the things that he has, the gifts the Lord has given him. Alma, for all his desire to heal the world of the wickedness that he helped sow, is a realist, and is content knowing that God’s will is going on across the world, whether he, Alma, is the trumpet or not.


The other thing I notice about this verse is that he uses the same word as he does in his testimony to Helaman. Harrow. 


For those of you not farmers, a harrow is a machine that comes after the plow, with spikes or discs that rip up the earth and break up the clods, smoothing it out to prepare for sowing.


When Alma describes his soul being harrowed up, he’s telling us something more than it was a bit troubling. He is telling us that his soul was ripped apart, the sins were broken up, and he was smoothed out and ready for God to sow the seed of righteousness into it.


And there after his wish to be an angel, he says, “I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God…” he’s saying that he should not try to fit God’s will into his desire, but match his desire to God’s will. 


Alma started life as a spoiled son that didn’t respect God or his father, and had his world turned upside down to become a man of humility that recognized his true importance is to his people and his children. 


I started life as a dumb kid that made a lot of bad choices and had a lot of pride until my world was turned upside down and I began to make the changes to be able to rebuild my life into something of worth, that I can be deserving of my wonderful wife and children.


And that’s why Alma is my BFF.


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