One Word

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On Sunday in our Teacher’s quorum we talked about prayer. One point I tried to teach our Teachers is that God really does answer our prayers. The topic of prayer and answers to prayers leads naturally, at least for me and especially when teaching 14-15 year old boys, to the prophet Joseph Smith.

When Joseph was a preteen he starting thinking about the universe and the nature of God. He started seeking for truth. As he entered his teenage years he became surrounded by tumultuous teachings and preachings. A religious revival was underway – Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists were all preaching their gospels and vying for converts. Each minister had the same Bible (more or less) and each read the same verses but there was little agreement of key doctrines of the gospel (there still is little agreement). Joseph Smith was confused by all the controversy. If there was one Bible and one God, should not there be one gospel?

In order to sort out his confusion, Joseph did what the faithful have done throughout history – he sought the Lord in prayer. Joseph went into a grove of trees near to his home and knelt down in humble prayer. Joseph wanted to pray aloud, something he had not done before. But as soon as he started to pray he was attacked by a dark being; Satan himself tried to snuff the life out of the boy Joseph. This was one prayer Satan did not want uttered. Joseph felt the will to live flowing out of him; he started to despair but continued to pray in his heart. Then the darkness was gone and Joseph saw a light that was brighter than the sun. When this light rested upon him, Joseph saw two Beings – radiant, glorious, perfect Beings. Then came what was one of the most powerful words spoken in this dispensation – “Joseph” said one of the Beings.

The particular word “Joseph” was not what was powerful, the implications of the word were. With this simple word, Joseph’s name, the boy learned a powerful lesson, a lesson we all can learn. God loved Joseph Smith; God knew him. God loves each of us; He knows each of us by name. We are not faceless entities created to worship the Almighty God (although we should!), we are His children. He sees us with his perfect love. That is what the utterance of Joseph’s name taught – that God knows us; He hears our prayers and He answers them. Our prayers will likely never be answered in a similar manner as Joseph’s but our sincere prayers are heard and answered.

That is the lesson I wanted my Teachers to learn – they are loved of God. He knows each of their names and cares about their lives. Joseph Smith was a special person, he was called to be the Lord’s prophet but each of us are special too – we are all sons and daughters of God. While Joseph’s experience was powerful, each of us can know with the same power – the power of the Holy Ghost – of God’s love for us.

A Heart of Charity, Part 1

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C. S. Lewis explained his belief in Christ in this way: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else” (Lewis, Is Theology Poetry?, 1945). Christ said, “I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness…” (John 8:12). Christ also said, “Ye are the light of the world…let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works…” (Matt. 5:14,16). What is this light? Did Christ mean that He was merely a physical light, an electromagnetic radiation that brightens the world around us? It is true that Jesus Christ shines with a radiance above the brightness of the sun, as Joseph Smith described. But this is not really what Christ meant when He stated that He (and, by our following His example and through His spirit, we as well) is the light of the world. Christ is more than electromagnetic energy; He is more powerful and deeper than this physical light.

One powerful source of energy is love. Love is energy, you can feel it – it radiates like the sun. Jesus is “the light of the world”; He created the earth, the moon, and the heavens above. He caused the sun to shine upon the earth to give us life. Jesus lights the earth around us but He also does more than that – He lights our souls with His love. Christ is love. When we are told to “let [our] light[s] so shine” the Savior is telling us to follow His example by lighting others’ lives by love; we are to warm the hearts and souls of all humankind through the warm radiance of charity. When we follow our Lord by keeping His commandments, He lights our souls with His love. When we have His love, we can share it with others. This means that it is not possible to light someone else’s soul without a burning in your own. This is a light that is in all people’s souls. In some it burns with a dazzling brightness, in others it flickers like a dying candle, but it is there. C. S. Lewis said, “[We are] in a society of possible gods and goddesses…[in which] there are no ordinary people. [We] have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.” (Lewis, The Weight of Glory). When we have charity we keep in perspective who those around us really are – we are all sons and daughters of our Eternal Father in Heaven. We have His divine spark within us. We all have the potential to become as He is.

But that is a process – the becoming as God is. None of us is perfect; people are not perfect. We are in an embryonic stage, trying to grow up and control these wonderful, mortal, physical bodies the Lord blesses us with. As premortal beings, all of us here on this earth as mortals subjected our spiritual bodies and wills to the will of the Father; that is why we are here in mortality – we accepted the opportunity to follow God’s plan for us. Now as mortals we are trying to subject our physical bodies to the will of the Father, a difficult task at which we much work each day. Once again Christ was the consummate example. His will was completely in subjection to His Father’s, which subjection culminated with His death on the cross and His triumphal resurrection from the tomb.

Easter Births and Rebirths

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Having a child born on Christmas day and now another one born at Easter time (he’ll have an Easter birthday some years), my children’s births serve as a reminder to be of the Savior Jesus Christ. As I was involved in the birth process of my son I thought of Jesus’ birth but more importantly, His rebirth through the resurrection. On that first Easter morn, Jesus escaped the cold clutches of the grave. Jesus is not only the Conquering King of His death but also of all our deaths. What a miraculous and supernal gift! All who ever lived on the earth will be given the gift of immortality. All will live again.

There is another rebirth to which all are entitled should they follow the Lord’s commands. This is a spiritual rebirth, a shuffling off of the old man of sin into a new creature in Christ. When we are born we are born through water (amniotic fluid), blood, and the spirit. When we are spiritually reborn, we are buried in the waters of baptism, sanctified by the blood of Christ, and justified by the Holy Ghost. A spiritual rebirth really is just that – a rebirth; we become completely new spiritual beings. Just as birth is merely one stage in our development – and quite early at that – so is our spiritual rebirth merely one stage in our development. It is just a start to our new lives in Christ. Our spiritual rebirth is not the end, it is the beginning to a glorious new life!

In honor of this Easter season, I hope we all take more time to think about our Lord’s sacrifice – His blameless life, His agonizing Atonement, His painful death, and His glorious resurrection! Many of you might have seen this video before but it is worth watching again in order to ponder its message.

On Scripture Study

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This post is partially in response to an interesting comment I received on my previous post. My post is in no way meant to be critical of the comment or commenter.

My previous post was not fleshed out to really get into the topic of understanding Isaiah. That wasn’t the purpose. It’s purpose was simply to present one perspective of the issue that I had not really thought much about before (an insight provided by Hugh Nibley). Between that post and one comment I received, I spent some time thinking about what it means to understand the scriptures. So here is my reply to the comment as well as my expansion on the theme.

Here is part of the comment to which I am referring: “So while your point is well taken, there is much more to the story than meets the eye. This point of view does not usually come by praying and studying Isaiah. It requires considerable historical background and immersion in tradition, ancient history, comparative mythology. That is, it requires a real investment in time and effort to understand. But I highly recommend it to you.”

That’s the other side of understanding Isaiah that I did not fully address. Historical context always helps elucidate the scriptures. Once you understand Isaiah’s symbolism, his prophecies become clearer. I’ve read a book about Isaiah that provided insight into the symbolism and historical and cultural context of Isaiah – it was very helpful – but I’ve found (this might just be true only for me) that my keenest insights that have direct and personal application to me (in other words, the most important lessons that I can learn from Isaiah) have come simply from reading and praying.

Gospel and scripture commentary books (or blogs or websites) are beneficial – I do keep posting quotes by Hugh Nibley and other gospel scholars (I certainly hope that I am considered one) – but the real power is in the scriptures themselves, especially when coupled with the power of the Holy Ghost. This is not to say, again, that we should not do in-depth studies of the context of the scriptures – it can be very helpful and informative; however, I do not believe that it will ever be as important and personally meaningful and converting as simply reading the scriptures and turning to the Lord for understanding. This is a balance I try to maintain. It is too easy to get caught up in the ‘intellectual’ side of the scriptures (e.g., history, culture, symbolism, linguistics) while negating the spiritual side (i.e., the side that leads to repentance and sanctification through the Spirit and the Atonement of the Savior). Studying about the gospel or the scriptures is not the same as studying the scriptures. So Isaiah can be difficult to understand but then again, it really is not as difficult as we often think.

Nephi provides the key to understanding Isaiah: “Wherefore, hearken, O my people, which are of the house of Israel, and give ear unto my words; for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy. But I give unto you a prophecy, according to the spirit which is in me; wherefore I shall prophesy according to the plainness which hath been with me from the time that I came out from Jerusalem with my father; for behold, my soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn” (2 Nephi 25:4; emphasis added). The spirit of prophecy comes to those who are filled with the Spirit of God and who ask to the spirit of prophecy. The spirit of prophecy is founded upon the testimony of Jesus Christ; in essence, a prophet is someone who testifies of Christ (note however, that a testimony does not give authority; one does not become an Elijah or a Joseph Smith or a Thomas S. Monson just because one has a testimony of Jesus Christ – that particular calling as a prophet comes only to those called by God by those who have the proper priesthood keys). To those filled with the spirit of prophecy (which comes by asking God for it and through righteousness and the Holy Ghost), the words of Isaiah will be plain.

We have been commanded to search the words of Isaiah (see 3 Nephi 23:1) and while it is important to try and “understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, [by being] taught after the manner of the things of the Jews” (2 Nephi 25:5), I would hope that we as students of the scriptures will focus more on conversion than context. If context strengthens your conversion, then it is wonderful but we need to have balance in our studies of the scriptures. Pharisees and scribes became overly focused on the symbolism and the “nitty-grittiness” of the scriptures and laws that they lost sight of the spirit of them.

I am not disagreeing with toekneenose’s comment, I am merely offering my opinion in that I believe that we need to be moderate in our approach to the scriptures; moderate meaning that we should not let our study of context outweigh our study of the scriptures themselves (I’m not implying that toekneenose does that at all). We miss a lot of meaning in the scriptures if we do not understand the context and the language and whatever else – I think that increasing our knowledge that way is important; however, we miss the most important aspect of the scriptures if that is our main focus. Again, what is most important is what the scriptures mean to you at a particular moment in your life as you listen to the Spirit. Are the scriptures effecting change in your life, are you being converted, or are you simply becoming a knowledgeable Pharisee? Is your faith in Jesus Christ increasing, or is only the perceived circumference of your head increasing? Those are questions I ask myself and ponder upon with regularity. My personal belief is that, on average, I should be spending most of my ‘scripture study’ time reading and thinking about the scriptures and the basic doctrines of the gospel with only a smaller portion of my time spent on commentary or context.

Isaiah Spake Many Hard Things

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“Now I, Nephi, do speak somewhat concerning the words which I have written, which have been spoken by the mouth of Isaiah. For behold, Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand; for they know not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews.” (2 Nephi 25:1).

What did Nephi mean when he said that Isaiah spake things that were hard for his people to understand? The obvious answer to that question is elucidated by the last part of the verse: “for they [knew] not concerning the manner of prophesying among the Jews.” His people did not generally have the education or experience or knowledge to fully understand Isaiah’s prophecies. Maybe they didn’t have the desire to understand Isaiah. I think this holds true for many people today. The common ‘complaint’ I hear about Isaiah is that the book is difficult to understand. It can be if you do not understand that Isaiah’s language is highly symbolic but at the same time it is very direct and literal, meaning it refers to specific events. It’s also repetitive; meaning that Isaiah states the same thing multiple times in multiple ways.

I will not get into ways of understanding Isaiah – the best way is to spend time reading the book and praying for understanding – because that is not the purpose of this post. I wanted to share another quote and insight from Hugh Nibley about what he thinks is the reason that Isaiah is “hard…to understand”. I have been quoting him a lot recently because I have been reading his Teachings of the Book of Mormon Part 1, which is a transcript of lectures he gave in his Book of Mormon class at Brigham Young University in the 1980s.

“‘Isaiah spake many things which were hard for many of my people to understand.’ Isaiah himself often mentions the fact that the people ask him to speak smooth things [i.e., the people want Isaiah to tell them only things that make them feel good and that they want to hear]. They want to hear smooth things. I am not going to teach you smooth things, he says. If I just gave you the smooth things you want, you wouldn’t need them…. If the scriptures told us only what we wanted to hear, of course we wouldn’t need them.

“You notice it all changed under the rabbis; the interpretations became different. Isaiah is much too literal [for them], etc. Then, of course, they accepted the University abstractions and became more philosophical and intellectual in the interpretation of everything.” (Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon Part 1, 2004, p.249).

In short, Hugh Nibley’s explanation of why Isaiah is hard to understand is because Isaiah does not speak “smooth” things to the people, he told them things that were hard to hear because he condemned their wickedness. He was a prophet who simply “told it like it was.” I think Hugh Nibley’s insight adds to our understanding of Isaiah. Yes, his writings can be difficult to understand because of his language and his symbolism, but then again, the book of Isaiah is not as difficult to understand as many people believe. Isaiah simply wrote many difficult things for the wicked to understand, for he prophesied about the Messiah and the temple and the way to salvation. He wrote of many things that would transpire in the last days – in our day – the restoration of the gospel, the building of temples, and so forth. Great are the words of Isaiah.

Geography of the Book of Mormon?

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Hugh Nibley sums up my view of discussions about Book of Mormon geography: “[The Nephites] journeyed in the wilderness for many days [to get away from Laman and Lemuel]. We don’t know how many many is. Book of Mormon geography is a waste of time. I wouldn’t touch it with a forty-foot pole. Never have; it’s not necessary. Some day we’ll get more information, I suppose. Everybody has tried their hand at it. I don’t know why; it doesn’t make any difference.” (Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon Part 1, 2004, Covenant Communications).

I know some, maybe even many LDS Church members, disagree with that sentiment but we do not know where in the Americas the Book of Mormon events took place. We can speculate all we want and say, “Well Joseph Smith [purportedly] said this” or “This narrow neck of land is the Panama isthmus or this particular area in modern Mexico or Guatemala or the Great Lakes region.” Whatever; we do not know where the Book of Mormon events took place and speculating about them is a waste of time. Again, I know some disagree but I wanted to offer my opinion on the matter. Maybe we’ll learn more in our lifetimes but for now there are much better things upon which to focus, like the basic doctrines of the gospel: faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, and the Holy Ghost.

Do I have no intellectual curiosity about matters such as Book of Mormon geography? To the contrary, I find it a fascinating topic; fascinating but a waste of time. We simply do not know and even if we did, it is not important. Knowing just where King Benjamin was exactly when he gave his marvelous farewell address does nothing for our salvation but knowing, believing, and living what he taught does. I would love to know Book of Mormon geography – we have fairly compelling evidence of how and where Lehi and his family went after they left Jerusalem but after that? It’s anyone’s guess.

A Random Missionary Experience

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I wanted to share an experience from my LDS mission so I opened my journal to a random entry. Here are a couple entries (with mild editing to clean up any errors and to edit out names):

From Tuesday, January 4, 2000: “Today was a good day. We did not have too many referrals to do, so that was a good break [I worked in the office at this point and making all the phone calls in the morning when we had to send out information about people who had contacted the LDS Church stating they wanted to receive a movie or book {and who said that they wanted to be contacted by representatives of the Church} to the various missionaries in the mission. The process took up to three hours some days.]. We did get a lot done, mostly busy work but it was fun. I was talking to Sis. Larson [our mission president’s wife] about the piano and school and all [that]. She is really neat. Today she asked me if I did finger exercises so I would keep up on my skills. [She and President Larson [make] sure I keep up on my piano skills. Pres. Larson always asks me if I get enough piano practicing in…. An older couple took us and the Hermanas to a buffet restaurant for dinner. It was good. We went and met with Bill [recently baptized] after dinner and just talked with him. We set his son’s baptism date for January 26! We have a lot do in between now and then, especially since he won’t be here for half the time because he stays part of the time at his mother’s place. Bill is such a great man. He is intelligent and wants to learn so much. I know that he will be a great strength to this ward [he was called to be the ward executive secretary about 7 months after his baptism]. Life is great. I do want to help a lot of people in this world. I only hope that I may be a Christ-like person and really be kind and generous. =)”

Why did I share this entry? It was simply one that I opened up to. I also thought it represented a typical day as a missionary – at least as an office missionary. We worked in the mission office until at least lunch (we had the occasional day where we were there until almost dinner time) and then went home and did ‘normal’ missionary work for the rest of the day. As missionaries we spent out time talking with people – everything is about the people. We have good news of Christ’s restored gospel that we want to share with all people. It is the world’s most important news and so all our time was spent trying to share this news with people. We spent all our time with others – teaching, talking, serving, and loving. Even the hard days of rejection and sadness were uplifting in their own way.

One thing that strikes me as I go back and read my missionary journals is how often the words, “Life is great” or “Life is beautiful” or some variation on that theme. I’ve always tried to be upbeat and optimistic about life but my mission journals generally just ooze with positivity. It is not mere melodrama – serving as an LDS missionary is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Within the Church you frequently hear people refer to the years they spent as missionaries as “the best two years” of their lives. For me, life continues to get better with each passing year but my years as a full-time missionary were two of the best years of my life; I know that seems a bit contradictory but there really is not a better way to explain it. There is something about full-time missionary service that is incredibly rewarding. It’s not a service done for personal benefit – taking two years out of schooling or other life seems like a waste of time to many people but it was anything but that. I have never been happier for as long as I was than when I was a full-time missionary.

Being a missionary is about the people though. It is about the Bills and Andrews and Karens of the world who hear the gospel preached to them, feel the Spirit, and rejoice at and accept the good news they hear and feel. Those of us who served (and serve or will serve) full time missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are ‘normal’ people. We were called of God to do a great work – spread His restored gospel.

Hugh Nibley on the Council in Heaven

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Here is a quote by Hugh Nibley that provides an interesting perspective (not necessarily entirely true, but interesting) on the Council in Heaven during our pre-earth life.

“I was going to say that the Council in Heaven is quite a theme here [in newly-discovered early Christian documents], especially that Doctrine of the AbbatĂ´n by Bishop Cyril of Alexandria. We won’t go into that. The accounts of the Council in Heaven are that when the creation was proposed, it was voted down because the Earth complained that she would be defiled. The people up there all decided that there would be too much suffering, too much wickedness, too much defilement in this world. There was a deadlock, and they didn’t know what to go on until one person volunteered and said, ‘I will pay the price; I will take the blame.’ You know who that was. When he did that, the whole chorus broke out and ‘the morning stars sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy.’ That was the famous Creation Hymn. See, our word poem comes from Creation Hymn. The poem was the original Creation Hymn, the hymn that was sung in the heavens to announce the glory of the creation – all the earliest poems are. The Greek poiema means creation. It was the Creation Hymn. The muses first sang it together with the Greeks, etc. You have many references to that. They broke out in hymn because it was the Lord that made it possible to go on with the creation, carry this out, and allow this to happen. Even in spite of all this wickedness and corruption, he would pay the price. Only one person could clean up that mess, and he would do it.” (Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon Part 1, Covenant Communications, 2004, p.215).

One thing I love about Hugh Nibley’s writings and teachings is that he was able to take diverse sources – anything from ancient Egyptian writings or histories to modern events – and link them to the gospel. Hugh Nibley was someone who could see Truth in just about anything. That is something that Joseph Smith taught – that we should seek the good and true in all things. “One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may” (Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith, annotated by Richard Galbraith, Deseret Book Company, 1993, p.351).

Hugh Nibley on Law

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While reading Hugh Nibley’s Teachings of the Book of Mormon Part 1, I came across this insightful quote (of course, almost everything he wrote was insightful):

Our word law comes from lag, the old Scandinavian, Norse word…. Well, the law is the guidance, and you have to have it to get there. It’s not the goal – it’s the way that gets you there. It’s like the iron rod; you cling to the iron rod. We love iron rods, and think is we have an iron rod we already have it made. We just keep the iron rod, and that’s our goal. The iron rod is just to get you to the temple. That is not supposed to be the temple. It’s not supposed to be the object. You don’t stick to the law all the time.

We have the Ten Commandments, the laws of Moses. Ah, yes, there is the law as far as this goes. But it is written for barbarians, as Paul tells us…. In chapter 2 [of Hebrews] here, it says the law is going to get your there. Now what are the Ten Commandments? Do you have to be told every day that you shouldn’t kill? That you shouldn’t lie? That you shouldn’t commit adultery? That you shouldn’t bear false witness? Do you have to be reminded of that? No, the time comes, the Lord says, when ‘the law is written in their hearts.’ Only a savage or a barbarian would have to be told over and over, ‘Now, you mustn’t kill anybody today.’ But we still have to be reminded. We think if we’ve kept the law, then we are saved – that’s all there is to it. But that’s not it at all. That’s where it begins. This is the least requirement. It starts out with the Word of Wisdom, for example. Do we have to tell people every day, ‘Well, don’t go out and get drunk’? We don’t have to be told that. Even with smoking now, people are warned; we don’t have to go to the Word of Wisdom for that. Most of you [BYU students] would never think of doing those things. It wouldn’t occur to you because, as it says when it is given to us in Doctrine and Covenants 89, this is adapted to the weakest of all Saints; this is the lowest requirement. This is the mere beginning – the least thing that can be expected of you. We start with the Word of Wisdom. It’s the same thing with tithing.” (Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon Part 1, Covenant Communications, 2004, p.208).

What Hugh Nibley said reminds me of one of my favorite scriptures: “For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified” (Moses 6:60). When we are baptized we keep the commandment. When we follow the commandments, when we keep the law, we are simply doing just that – keeping the commandments and the law. The laws are not saving – they are not the goal, they merely help us get to our goal, which is “the temple” as Hugh Nibley said; I would like add that it is really the temple in heaven that is our goal (see Isaiah 6:1 – “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.”).

Even the Holy Ghost is not enough; yes, we are justified by His presence, we are absolved from guilt, but that is not enough. If keeping the commandments and feeling the Spirit are not enough for salvation, what is? The blood of the sacrificial Lamb; the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. It is only through Him that we are saved. The law does not save us, it simply provides a path; Jesus is the Way. He is the only way to salvation and exaltation. The point Hugh Nibley made is that laws do not save us, Jesus does.

Lessons from the Brother of Jared

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“16 And the Lord said: Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built. And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did go to work, and also his brethren, and built barges after the manner which they had built, according to the instructions of the Lord. And they were small, and they were light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water.
  17 And they were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish; and the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish.
  18 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me, and I have made the barges according as thou hast directed me.
  19 And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish.
  20 And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood.
  21 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did so, according as the Lord had commanded.” (Ether 2:16-21)

Jared, his brother, and their families left the area near Babel to travel to a promised land. After a long journey over land and water, they camped on a beach. After staying there for a few years, the Lord commanded them to travel across the ocean. The brother of Jared asked how he should make the boats. The Lord told him to make them small and light and “tight like unto a dish”. These boats may or may not have had some sort of sail. They might have been rowed. They might have simply followed the currents of the ocean. In any case, the boats were built well and did not leak. I imagine they were something like a submarine, except they were designed to mainly float on top of the water. There were times, however, when they would be buried in the ocean before bobbing back up to the surface. Because they were water-tight, they were also air-tight. Air holes were constructed in the top and bottom (as the Lord instructed) so that if the boats were covered in water or upside-down, there were at least two holes to try and open to let in air. The hole on the bottom, if opened, would not let water in due to the internal air pressure of the boat. The hole on the top could let in fresh air.

The times would come when the Jaredites would be buried in the darkness of the depths of the sea. They would be without light and seemingly without help. It was of these dark times that the brother of Jared pondered when he approached the Lord in prayer and asked “What shall we do for light when we are buried in the depths of the sea?” The Lord asked the brother of Jared what he thought the solution was. After some thinking and problem solving the brother of Jared came back to the Lord with a solution. I’ll summarize and paraphrase the dialogue. “Here are some stones I created out of molten material. If Thou would but touch them, they could shine forth with Thy light.” The Lord then touched the stones with His finger and they lighted. The brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord and was surprised by the Lord’s appearance. Once the Lord taught the brother of Jared about the nature of His spirit body, the brother of Jared asked to see all of the Savior – for the Lord Jehovah is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Then the Savior appeared to him (see Ether 3).

There are some important lessons for us in these stories of the Jaredites. Like the Jaredites, there will be times in our lives when we will be buried in the depths of the seas, so to speak. We will feel lost, alone, scared, and in the dark. At such times, we can remember the story of the Jaredites and how the brother of Jared was blessed by God with a solution. The brother of Jared was able to come up with his own solution to the light problem but the solution still required to miraculous power of the Lord. God provides us with power to overcome the darkness in our lives.

One other lesson we can learn from this story is that the brother of Jared first had to see the hand (finger) of the Lord in His life in order to receive a greater manifestation of the Savior’s power and presence. Once the brother of Jared saw and comprehended the hand of the Lord in his life, he was blessed with greater light and knowledge from the Lord. He was blessed with one of the greatest of all blessings – to stand in the presence of the Lord and be taught by Him. Once we recognize the hand of the Lord in our lives, we can be blessed with greater knowledge of the Lord; maybe we will not actually see Him, but we will be able to feel of His power and love. As we are caught up in the depths, over our heads in life, if we see and recognize and acknowledge the hand of the Lord in our lives, we will be blessed by the Lord and protected through the stormy seas and darkness of life.