Posts Tagged ‘LDS’

***This is a story a good friend of mine wrote a while back.  Thought I’d put it up here for others to read.***

The Tale of Two Sister-Missionaries

Sister Sally Smith and her cousin, Jennifer Ballard, went out on their missions on the very same day.  Sister Smith went to England, Sister Ballard to Taiwan.  Coming home from their missions, coincidentally, they arrived at the Salt Lake Airport at the same time, within 15 minutes of each other.  Sister Smith’s family was there to congratulate her for a job well done.  Honorably released.  Fifteen minutes later, Sister Ballard’s family was there also, cheering her return and excited for honorable release.

Sister Smith and Sister Ballard had been called from the same Ward, interviewed by the same Bishop and Stake President. In fact, they even went to the Temple together to “take out” their Endowments.  But then again, these two sisters had always done things together, going to Primary and Sunday School and Relief Society together. Family reunions, they planned together.  And now, here they were coming home together.

Next step?  Sally and Jennifer headed off to BYU, both majoring in accounting, both having their Associates Degree from Ricks College.  Two more years and each graduated from “the Y” with their Bachelor Degree’s in Accounting.  Sally went to work for the Utah State Tax Commission.  Jennifer went to work for a local accounting firm in Salt Lake City.

In the course of their employment, Sally met and fell in love with LaMar Christensen, a good Church member who was active and held a current Temple Recommend.  LaMar was Sally’s “boss” and headed one of the teams in Collections Department of the Utah State Tax Commission.  Sharp, and efficient, well-spoken, LaMar had a bright future before him.

But not so with Jennifer.  There were no prospects for marriage before her.  She was quite active in “the Singles program”, but no man seem to take any interest in her.  Of the two sisters, Sally was the better dressed, the better looking and more able to engage men in conversation. Jennifer was kinda shy, a little backward, dressed more homespun but she was deeply invested in the Restored Gospel.  Sally also had a testimony, but was more invested in the “social scene” the Church offers.

Three years from the time she completed her mission, Sally married LaMar in the Salt Lake Temple.  Sealed for Time and all Eternity.  Sally was excited. Family.  Active in the Church. Sending her sons and daughters on missions.  Grandchildren.  Some day, the Celestial Kingdom

From time to time, Sally and Jennifer visited together.  Sally subtly made sharp jabs at Jennifer because Jennifer remained in her spinster state and seem to have no prospects of marriage.

Sally and LaMar were happy in their Temple Marriage, living and struggling financially in their small apartment in downtown Salt Lake City.  They discussed starting a family, but LaMar announced that they needed to put off having children until “they were financially secure”.  One year turned into two years, then three years and four years.  Sally was growing impatient.  Soon enough, the couple was able to purchase a home, pay off their two BMW’s which they had purchased to commute “to work”  And still LaMar insisted that they needed to get a “nest egg to fall back on, in case things went badly for them financially.”  Sally was getting desperate.  Approaching her 29th year and still no children.  On one Friday, late in May, she had come early from work.  She really needed to talk to LaMar.  She needed to pour out her feelings on her strong and ardent desire to start a family.

LaMar came home looking sullen and serious.  The confrontation.   Sally blurted out, “LaMar, it is time for us to have a family!!!!”  LaMar looked down at the floor, shuffled his feet slightly, looked up with tears in his eyes,  “That will never be, Sally. We will NEVER have children together!”.  Sally felt a cold shiver go down her spine and lodge like a kick in her gut. There was more to his declaration than just the words. His body language was communicating something so very, very awful.  “I have fallen in love with another woman….” LaMar muttered.

Divorce!! A divorce was coming and she could FEEL it, like steel knives carving up her heart, knocking the breath and life out of her.  She just stared straight ahead, through LaMar as if he were not there.  Words that were from a distant galaxy came out of her, as if another woman not her was speaking.  “Very well,” she said with a hollow ring, “Who moves out? You or me?”  Then she caught herself. If he moves out, he moves out into her arms.  There is still a chance I might save this marriage—IF.. IF, he has not broken his Covenants with her.  “Did you break your Covenants with her? Did you break the Law of Chastity?”

His sullen reply, “No, I have not gone that far. But I want to live with her, not you.  I love her. I don’t love you any more.”

Again, the hollow question, “Can our marriage be ‘saved’?

The sullen reply, “No. I don’t want to ‘save’ our marriage.”

Sally wheeled around weakly, and headed for the bedroom. Invading the closet, she took out three suitcases and began to load them up with her clothes and other personal effects. In happier times, these same suitcases had been employed to make the week-end “get-away” for a few days of fun and games in not-too-distant places. But as she thought on these “get-aways”, she reflected that in the past nearly two years, they had not gone any where as a couple.  Their only excursions had been to far away places to attend Professional Seminars and those usually alone.

Sally moved out to live with Jennifer for a time, not knowing Jennifer’s “secret”. The divorce came.  Sally found her own apartment and moved there.  LaMar went on to marry his “new sweetheart”, the very woman who worked as his Personal Assistant and Secretary in his newly acquired position as “head” or “chief” of the Utah State Tax Commission Collections Department.  As LaMar had not broken his Temple Covenants, there was no “Church action” against his membership.  LaMar and Kristen were married in the Salt Lake Temple, after LaMar had successfully petitioned and received a “Temple Divorce” from the First Presidency’s office.  He personally knew one of the members of the First Presidency who was able to “arrange things for him”.

Now, Sally was back into the Single’s Program of the Church, searching for her Eternal Companion who would open the way for her to have children—a full life in the Church as she had taught on her mission and had always envisioned as a young MIA Maid.

Turning the page, we go to Jennifer’s family history and progress.  For five years, Jennifer was active and diligent in her Church callings, attending every Single’s Activity that was sponsored by her Stake.  She even took time off of work to make sure she was at every Single’s Activity. But each week, each activity she’d see the same old guys there, too frighten to marry, too timid that another woman would “take them to the cleaners”.  Most of the men were either divorced or so nerdy that they would never make a suitable Patriarch in any family setting.

As Jennifer was pursuing an active role in her Ward, she one day had occasion to meet Owen Jessop, a kindly older man, who seem to have a gentleness and a civility and charity about him that she found infectious.  He was having her do his taxes for himself, several businesses he owned as well as three single, Head-of-Household women with children which she found curious.  Upon further inquiry, she found this man was a polygamist.  Poor women!! She thought to herself, until she actually met two of his “wives”.  They were not poor at all. In fact, they seem quite happy, free and rejoicing in their children and in their family.  They all three spoke quite highly of Owen and what a great father and husband he was to the family.  But it was obvious they were not rich as to things of the world.

Jennifer wanted to know more.  She called up Owen and asked him kindly if she could learn more about WHY and HOW they were able to live the Law of Plural Marriage, as these three sisters called what they were doing.  Owen kindly received the 28-year old Jennifer and began to explain to her how the early Saints had made provision to continue the Law of Plural Marriage with Priesthood Authority. He challenged her to pray and ask God if what he shared with her was true, just as she had done on her mission with her investigators.

Jennifer went home, prayed about what Owen had taught her and the Lord spoke to her clearly in a personal revelation that what Owen had shared with her was in fact the Truth.  Jennifer burst into tears, full of the Holy Ghost, as women often do, when they are touched by the Spirit of God. Not only was she given such a testimony of Keys and Priesthood outside of the Church to effect these ordinances, but she was told that she should marry into Owen’s family and there become a wife to him and a sister-wife to his three other wives.

Jennifer returned to Owen’s home, knocked on his door and stood there humbly. Owen knew right away that she had received her answer and that she would be joining his family, the Lord having directed her to do that.

When Sally had come to Jennifer’s little apartment, as the refugee she was, Jennifer was but a week away from marrying Owen.  Jennifer dare not tell Sally. Sally was already upset with her impending divorce. No use burdening her with this bit of disconcerting news.

Jennifer married Owen at the beginning of June and Jennifer found out for herself what a magnificent and kindly man she had married.  He was wise in all his decisions and dealings with his wives and children. He was totally dedicated to the Fullness of the Gospel, and his family and loved the Church with all his heart, having served a Spanish speaking mission in his youth for the Church.

Within a year, Jennifer became pregnant with her first child, a little boy, whom she named Joseph.  Nine more children came over the years to Jennifer and Owen, to add to the other children of the other three wives which were 24 in number at that time.  The family struggled financially, with so many mouths to feed, so many bodies to house and clothe, but the family moved on and always had sufficient for their needs.

In her 34th year of life, more than five years after marrying Owen, Jennifer received a telephone call from Sally.  As she listened to Sally lament her singleness and her ardent desire to have children, she was suddenly struck by the thought of inviting Sally to join her family as a Fifth Wife.  She would make a wonderful addition, so thought Jennifer.

So, Jennifer invited Sally over to her home to meet Owen and her four children and show her the joys of family life, especially life in the Principle.  Sally showed up to Jennifer’s home, out in the boonies of Utah County and they met for the first time since Sally was a refugee and then divorced.

Sally was a little confused. Jennifer had never told her she was married, nor invited her to a Temple Sealings, as she had done when LaMar and she were married in the Salt Lake Temple.

“You are married? You have children? Why didn’t you ever tell me, Jennifer?” inquired Sally.

“Its because my husband is a polygamist and I am his fourth wife.  We were married by Priesthood Authority in a place where you could not come—an Endowment House.”

Sally shuddered and had that “weird feeling” come over her, as if she had been struck by lightening.  “You’re kidding, right?”

“No”, she replied, “This is where the Lord has led me—to a very righteous and kindly man who is the Father of my children. I am very happy living this way.”

Sally nearly wanted to jump up from the couch where she was sitting.  “This is nuts, Jennifer.  You don’t own a decent car. The cars which I saw as I pulled into your driveway are all junkers. Your house is in need of repairs and is not very comfortable at all, with all these kids running around.  I can guess that you don’t have much money if any at all and certainly NO retirement nest egg to ensure your future.  And I’ll bet you’ve even been cut off from the Church and from all your Temple Blessings. Didn’t you learn ANYTHING on your mission?”

Jennifer looked gently and sadly to the floor and then looked up with a serious expression. “Sally, I invited you over because I have compassion for you and joy for myself. I wanted to share that joy with you, to see if you might want to learn WHY and HOW we live this Law of Plural Marriage and perhaps join the family of which I am now a part.”

Sally’s eyes glowed with indignation and rage. “Are you kidding? Lose my Church membership to live like this!  Your authority is all pretend. You’ve lost your Temple Blessings and you are living in adultery, deception and apostasy!!!”

With that, Sally wheeled around and headed for the door, Jennifer pleading with her as she left, to at least sit down and listen and learn and pray about it, as she had done.  No more words were exchanged. Sally went out to her car, unlocked the door, jumped in and fired the engine up, making rather jerky motions in the car out of the driveway.  She was upset and hurt.  Jennifer had betrayed her and the Church!!! She vowed to NEVER see Jennifer again, UNLESS she repented and got rid of that adulterous man whom she claimed as her husband.  She vowed that she would ONLY see Jennifer at her re-baptism into the Church, a sure sign that she had again regained her senses and her testimony.

After this encounter, life flowed on for both Sisters, year after year, decade after decade.  Sally remained “active” in her Ward, faithfully paid her tithing and attended nearly all of the Singles Activities sponsored by her Ward.  At 70 years of age, Sally retired from active service with the Utah State Tax Commission, claiming her pension and her Social Security at that time.  All this time, she had lived in the same apartment.  She worked extensively on family genealogy and doing Temple Work in the Salt Lake Temple. She taught a Gospel Essentials class in her Ward for many years and also a Gospel Doctrine class, giving good information and testimony to her fellow Ward Members.

From time to time, she’d visit her two nephews, sons of her younger brother.  But as she grew older, those visits grew more infrequent, as the two boys had a life of their own to pursue and not much in common with their aunt. At 83 years of age, Sally couldn’t go to the Temple or the Genealogy Library any more. She hardly ever attended her Ward. It was just too much of a challenge and she didn’t feel like imposing on the younger crowd to help her get to Church. She was too frail and too old to make the daily or weekly trips. So, she’d stay at home and listen to the General Conferences over and over again, as well her Scripture CD’s. She’d watch the BYU channel on her television.

At 88 years of age, one dark and cold night in the Utah winter, with no one around, the angels came and took Sally home to the Celestial Kingdom, a faithful reward for all of her hard work in the Church and her faithfulness to her Covenants and her faithful activity up to the time she died. Yes, she had been stalwart and had endured to the end and the Lord now blessed her for her faithfulness to the Brethren and to the Church..

Meanwhile, Jennifer continued to have children up and including the time she was 45 years old—TEN children in all, 6 boys and 4 girls.  She struggled in her unfinished home and with her cars that would often break down.  She seldom had much money.  But many times, it seems that almost miraculously, food or what they needed would “appear” to satisfy a pressing need.  At 65 years old, her “final” child left her home to go out on her own, married to a fine man.  By this time, she had 48 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.  Frequently, they would drop by to visit her and she would travel to visit them. Each two years, the Owen Jessop family would gather to share genealogies, play together, tell stories, talk of common business ventures and catch up on all the family news.  Five wives, fifty-seven children which included the adopted children, 256 grand children and 46 great grand children were in evidence.  As Jennifer looked out at this family she had joined so many years ago, she could not help but see a vision of “this must be how the Celestial Kingdom is–FAMILY.” And she felt the indescribable joy of Family all united, loving and working together, overcoming challenges and growing.

But as with Sally, Jennifer’s time to leave this earth life came.  Funny enough, she died about a week after Sally died.  As she lay on her death bed, struggling for breath, but peaceful nonetheless and knowing her time to depart this earth life had come, her TEN children gathered around her bed, with multiples of her grandchildren and great grandchildren there also.  Her oldest son, Joseph with his brother, Hyrum, gave her a blessing of comfort and as a final send-off, thanking her kindly and sincerely for her many years of devoted sacrifice for them and for their family.  Tears of great joy and poignant memories were freely shed in that special place of Jennifer’s send off.  She knew she was going “home” to meet her husband and two of her sister wives.

But that expectation was all a falsehood, all a deception.  As Jennifer breathed her last, she was escorted by the devils to Hell, for her apostasy, deception and wanton rebellion against the Lord’s Anointed Prophet, having taken upon herself to live a law that had long been abolished from the Church’s requirements for Celestial Glory.  In fact, Prophets, Seers and Revelators had rightly labeled any such persons who lived polygamy as adulterers, deceivers, and as apostates.  And according to the Standard Works, such persons are cast into Hell where they suffer for their sins of rebellion, covenant breaking, and faithlessness.  They don’t come out until they have repented and openly and humbly admitted their errors in doctrine and their rebellions against the Lord’s Anointed and for the covenants they have broken.  Hopefully, Jennifer will come to that day when she will repent of a life lived full of deceptions and apostasy.

Thus ends the stories of Sally and Jennifer.


Thus ends his story of Sally and Jennifer, complete with the standard Mormon assumptions and judgments about what makes us worthy (or not) to receive some glory (or not) in the afterlife.  So, is Sally or Jennifer right?  Or are they both wrong?  Both right?  Which is it?

But as many as areceived him, to them gave he bpower to become the csons of God, even to them that believe on his dname

– John 1:12

Read this today and, seeing as how it’s a day for copying others work today, thought I’d share another short / brief discussion on grace.  (Psst.  For those who don’t know, “grace” is a taboo word in the LDS lexicon.)  (Psst.  I didn’t realize how taboo it was until I followed that link and read some of the thoughts shared by those whom members view as “doctrinal authorities.”  Go ahead.  Follow that link, I’ll still be here while you read it.  Yes, it’s that important.)

Just thought I’d give you a few hints before proceeding:


“Steven, do you want to know why you are clueless about you? …Do you?” She stops again and stares. “Honey, I really need a verbal nod of some sort here.”

“Yes,” I say, “Yes, tell me why.”

“It’s because,” she says slowly and dramatically, “you don’t yet know who you really are. And Steven, you don’t know who you are because you haven’t yet learned grace.”

I stop her before she can continue. “Oh, boy. See, there you go. That’s all gibberish to me. I don’t want to be mean, but you and Carlos, you sound like cult members. Grace. Do you have any idea what that sounds like? It’s right up there with fluffy bunnies and unicorns. You’re aware there’s not a lot of grace talk in my board meetings, right? Look, I know you may not understand this, but in places where things get done, there’s accountability, and quotas, and deadlines. You know what I think God wants? He wants all of us to take responsibility for what we’re doing. Sorry, Cynthia. I was tracking with you. But if you wanna make sense to me, throw away the religious buzz words.”

Andy slaps his knee. “Whoo-eee! Yep, you got her there Steven.” He picks up his glass, swirling his ice. “Yep, first you start talking about grace. Next thing you know you’re skipping Sunday school and sleeping in ‘til noon. Then, a couple days later you’re down at the dog track, drinking whiskey out of a paper bag and dating a showgirl named Tiffany!”

“Why do you enjoy making everything I say sound stupid?” I ask.

“I don’t,” he says. “I only enjoy making the stupid things you say sound stupid.”

Cynthia takes over. “Steven, my friend, would you be offended if I told you that you sound to me like the one with the religious platitudes?”


“Meaning,” she continues, “You sound like a carnival huckster, promoting to others something he knows doesn’t and hasn’t worked for himself.”

“Meaning?” I repeat.

“Meaning, grace is the gift waiting for the non-religious. They’re the only ones who can get it. They’re the only ones who can use it. Religious folk see grace as soft. So they keep trying to manage their junk with their own will power and tenacity. Nothing defines religion quite as well. People trying to do impossible tasks with weak and limited power, bluffing all the while like it’s working for them.” ” She leans even closer. “I just took in a lot of churches and religious institutions with that last statement.”

“Did you hear that?” Andy laughs. So, who’s the religious one now, my friend? “
Cynthia smiles. “It takes something a whole lot more than will power and tenacity to get anything done in the human heart. You gotta allow yourself to receive something you can’t find on your own, not keep bluffing at being strong enough.”

Andy folds his arms and raises his eyebrows at me.

“You’ll hear this next statement a lot around here Steven,” Cynthia says. ‘What if there was a place safe enough where I could tell the worst about me and discover that I would be loved not less but more in the telling of it?’ Do you know what happens?”

“Carlos says your stuff starts to get fixed.”

At what point does a church lose “authority,” per se?  Authority as recognized by heaven, and not man.  Though the “message” is what carries the ultimate authority, nevertheless we’re told that the LDS Church maintains authority to administer the ordinances.  We’re told that because the ordinances are there, that it was at one point established, restored, etc., that because it was so at one point it will remain so indefinitely into the future.  This entry was partially inspired by this blog post, though I have been in no small number of discussions on this very topic.

However, for the sake of discussion, at what point do the teachings and authority become so degenerate that it’s no longer recognized in heaven.  Is that even possible?  Or, are we assured of never apostatizing?  Are we assured of “never be[ing] led astray?”  The link in that “never be[ing] led astray” is by far the best write-up I have seen on the topic and would highly recommend it to anybody looking into the idea the topic.

For example, there’s a compelling story in Mosiah between Zeniff, King Noah, Alma, and Alma the Younger.  Clearly, the story is much longer than I could relate here, but I will attempt to make it brief.  I attempted to discuss this at length once, and would encourage anyone interested to read that write-up as well.

Suffice it to say, and I’d be interested in your thoughts, Zeniff was a “prophet” (especially in today’s terms), leading the then “true” Church.  Indeed, the Lord had referred to them as “my people” when calling on Abinadi to go and preach to them.  Though he was a great, righteous leader, Zeniff yet lacked one thing, it would seem.  That one thing would appear to be discernment.  Discernment because of his dealings with the Lamanites, but most importantly with his selection of King Noah as his replacement.  Of all the people he could have called to fill his position as the presiding High Priest, he calls Noah (now King Noah), who is merely labeled as “one of his sons,” but who turns out to be one of the most wicked people in the BoM.  Noah then replaces his father’s priests with his buddies, calling his friends to the key church callings.  By doing this, he knew he’d have the support to do what he wanted to.  The church under Noah’s reign transitions from one of spiritual guidance and growth to one of physical growth; physical manifestations to blind the eyes of the members as to the veracity and prosperity of the church.  Temples were built, flat taxes/tithings were levied, and Noah and his priests lived lavishly on the proceeds.  As Denver Snuffer mentioned in one of his books, the high priests convinced Noah that all was well, that things were good because they were “prospering.” (See Mosiah 12:15.) To them, physical prosperity was a sign that they were the “authorized” spiritual body of the “true” church.  Have we seen this today, or are we immune to “natural man” tendencies of equating physical structures with spiritual prosperity?

Certainly, it’s something we should ever be mindful and watchful of.  From home teaching reports, to sacrament meeting attendance, to population counts, baptismal counts and on and on.  Denver Snuffer opined, along these same lines:

“How easy it is for those who handle tithes and property to lose sight of the Lord and His house, and come to value only the property.  Measurable things – numbers, growth charts, revenues collected, statistics on attendance, numbers of buildings built – everything which could evidence prosperity, overwhelms those who think succeeding in their stewardship depends on increasing that which can be measured.  Nephi warned that we would also succumb to this number-crunching mentality.  And as we do, we will conclude, just like the scribes and Pharisees, that all is well (see 2 Nephi 28:21).  Magnifying a calling has never been statistics-driven.” (Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Page 205.)

Continuing with the story of Noah and Alma, eventually Abinadi appears on the scene.  There he preaches and the people try to capture him (no one likes being told to repent).  He escapes and stays away for 2 years, only to return once again in disguise (imagine that, a prophet “in disguise“), but no one notices him.  By this point Alma had become convinced of what Abinadi had said, and “knew concerning the iniquity” of the people.  Alma’s conscience gets the better of him and he’s forced to flee and establishes his own church, knowing how far the “official” religion had strayed from the original teachings and the truth.

The majority of the people at this time fully believed that Noah’s leadership and organization was the “true” church, convinced of their “chosen” status.  It had the established hierarchy, history, and faithful stories from the past.  It had the structure, the high priests, the temples, buildings, and all the physical proof of the “true” church.  The people, and the leadership, had both become blinded by prosperity and temporal proof as a replacement for spiritual manifestations, though clearly angels no longer visited this “true” church.

Though the people, and the official hierarchy of the formerly “true” church maintained their belief in their chosen status, the Lord nevertheless had a different idea of whose church was His.  They were once “[his] people,” but had somewhere along the lines lost that status.  The people were following Noah’s lead, assuming the church he was leading was the Lord’s church, but the Lord sends an astounding statement in Mosiah 27:13.  At this point Alma the Younger was railing against his father’s upstart church, the renegade “apostate” religion which was an offshoot of the official, “recognized” church.  Alma the Younger was risking his own personal salvation doing his personal preachings, but likely did so because he, too, was convinced that Noah’s church was the “true” one and his father’s an “apostate.”  This verse reads:

“Nevertheless [the angel] cried again, saying: Alma, arise … for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord hath said: This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.”

So, very long story cut very short, Alma the Younger learns his father’s upstart religion was Christ’s church, the “church of God.”  It had the recognized, by heaven, authority.  Though we have no official declaration of when it happened, this angel confirms what we already knew in reading the account in Mosiah.  What we typically gloss over, though, is that somehow Noah’s church had lost that authority years before.  We’re not told when, how, or what the straw was that broke the back of the spiritually thirsty camel, but this account makes it official.  The renegade, offshoot, “apostate” religion was the “church of God,” while the church that everyone viewed as the “official,” recognized hierarchy was merely a shell, an impostor.

So my question is:  at what point does the authority become lost?  At what point is it removed?  At what point does another church, likely viewed as an “apostate” religion by the main body of the formerly “true” church, receive that authority to be “Christ’s”?  Though we, today, have that recognized status from decades previous when the authority was present, here we have a stark example in the scriptures of a “true” church losing its status and authority to administer.  Where there is a lack of a connection with heaven, the power to administer the ordinances thereof is missing. It was this renegade, apostate religion of Alma the Elder’s which had that power, while the official, recognized institution lacked it.

Perhaps, though, I’m wrong in the above assessments.  If that’s the case, I welcome the correction and would implore it, given the nature of the discussion.

Small Miracles + Promised Lands – Part I

In tackling this topic, I am admittedly venturing into an area with which I do not have much familiarity, knowledge or expertise.  So, as you read, peruse and ponder this topic in your own life, take what I say with a huge grain of pink Himalayan salt.  In fact, come to think of it, everything I write should be taken with an abnormally large grain of salt.

A simple comment over at spurred this topic and this article.  In response to a solicitation to add and share thoughts on especially poignant stories from the Book of Mormon, one response simply and matter-of-factly stated:  “There’s also great symbolic significance in Lehi’s journey to a promised land. It signifies the trek each of us must make to acquire our promised lands.”  And, with that in mind, I begin this topic.  I open with a few pertinent questions, such as what is a promised land, how does one qualify for a promised land and why are they important.  Perhaps you already know the answers to these simple questions and, if so, I would hope you would share them.

The terms “promised” and “land” occurs 43 times throughout scripture.  The Bible contains 10 of these references, the Doctrine & Covenants contain 5 of these references and the Book of Mormon contains 27 of these references.  The Book of Mormon, therefore, provides approximately 63% of all the references to a promised land.  One may rightfully ask, therefore, why the focus, relative to the other easily accessible scriptures, on promised lands in the Book of Mormon.  A sampling of the references within the Book of Mormon include a discussion on Moses and the Red Sea[1], the Brother of Jared crossing the ocean[2], and the story of Lehi and his sons leaving Jerusalem[3].  Of these references, if we dissect it even further, there is one reference from Christ while speaking with the Nephites shortly after his resurrection about a future land of promise[4], three references refer to the Brother of Jared[5], two references refer to Moses[6], while the remaining references deal either directly or indirectly with the story of Lehi and his sons, a total of seventeen references.

Hopefully, from that brief and imperfect dissection of these verses we begin to see a pattern on this topic of promised lands.  The story of Lehi and his sons and their journey from Jerusalem to the Americas accounts for almost 40% of the total references to “promised lands” or “lands of promise” in modern day, easily accessible scripture.  I fully acknowledge that there may be other scriptures out there in the world which may discuss this topic in detail, perhaps better than the above references, but this article is focused solely on the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.  These are the sources I am referring to when I say “easily accessible.”

Therefore, almost out of necessity, this essay will focus almost entirely on the story of Lehi and his sons.  Acknowledging that the Book of Mormon was edited and compiled by its namesake, Mormon, one should inquire as to why the focus in the first couple of books (1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob) and the underlying theme of promised lands and the voyage necessary to obtain and find them.

Hugh Nibley once stated that the story of the Liahona and Lehi’s journey out of Jerusalem, into the wilderness and on towards the promised land was nothing more than a metaphor for what we should all be pursuing while on this ephemeral earth:

“It was a “type and shadow” of man’s relationship to God during his earthly journey.”[7]

One of the great discussions on this topic within the Book of Mormon is a rather small section within the Book of Alma.  Within this section[8] we read of Alma the Elder instructing his sons, specifically his son Helaman.  Alma explains to Helaman the purposes of the Liahona, the “compass” of such a “curious…workmanship.”[9] The Liahona was specifically designed as a temporal tool, a tangible, physical tool to be used by Lehi’s family in their journey to the promised land.  What it was is precisely what it was not.  The Liahona was not an intangible, untouchable, easily mistaken “voice” or “whispering” they would occasionally hear.  Though it worked in concordance with their faith and how well they followed its directions, it nevertheless was a tangible reminder of who was helping them on their voyage.[10] Hugh Nibley describes the Liahona as being the following:

Listing the salient features of the report we get the following:  The Liahona was a gift of God, the manner of its delivery causing great astonishment.  It was neither mechanical nor self-operating, but worked solely by the power of God.  It functioned only in response to the faith, diligence, and heed of those who followed it.  And yet there was something ordinary and familiar about it. The thing itself was the “small means” through which God worked; it was not a mysterious or untouchable object but strictly a “temporal thing.” It was so ordinary that the constant tendency of Lehi’s people was to take it for granted—in fact, they spent most of their time ignoring it: hence, according to Alma their needless, years-long wanderings in the desert.  The working parts of the device were two spindles or pointers.  On these a special writing would appear from time to time, clarifying and amplifying the message of the pointers.  The specific purpose of the traversing indicators was “to point the way they should go.”[11]

The scriptures note that Lehi’s journey towards their promised land was directed by many, many miracles.  It was truly a divinely inspired trip of immense proportions.  The scriptures describe these miracles, and the response to these miracles, as follows:

…therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day. Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by asmall means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were bslothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey…[12]

Though the Liahona was none other than a temporal reminder of spiritual things, those who held the Liahona, saw its workings and were intimately aware of how it worked, nevertheless were “slothful” and “forgot to exercise their faith and diligence.”  As I read this, I am forced to wonder how this could happen.  How could these people so easily forget how the Liahona magically appeared outside of Lehi’s tent?[13] Though verse 10 mentions Lehi’s honest surprise at finding such an instrument in front of his tent, I’m still left to wonder whether these “miracles” began to lose their luster over time.  Lehi had been commanded in a dream the night prior that it was time, once again, to take up their journey the next day.  He presumably woke up from this dream, walked out into the sunlight of the morning and there, for the first time, sees this brass compass.  Had they become so familiar with, and expectant of, miracles that these same miraculous events began to lose their luster?  Clearly, Alma described these “miracles” as “small means” occurring “day by day.”  How can, as the text describes, something be both of “small means” and capable of showing “marvelous works?”

Perhaps, on our expectant voyages to our own promised lands we’re also witnesses to “small [miracles]” which occur “day by day” and we also are slothful in that we don’t notice them, don’t take them for what they’re worth, and fail to exercise our faith and diligence toward God’s ends.

Continuing on with the story as contained in the Book of Alma, Alma describes and relates to the reader exactly what the type and shadow of this Liahona was:

And now I say, is there not a atype in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.  O my son, do not let us be aslothful because of the beasiness of the cway; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would dlook they might elive; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.   And now, my son, see that ye take acare of these sacred things, yea, see that ye blook to God and live.[14]

Taking these verses to heart, a couple of questions immediately arise which necessitate an answer.

Q1:  Who or what is our director?

Q2:  Where is our promised land?

Q3:  Where must we look?

The answers to these questions may be self-evident to you, the reader, but to me they are both complex and loaded.  Alma provides answers to all these questions in a very short section of modern day scriptures, though the answers, in practice, are far from easy to implement.  Or, are they?

A1:  Our director is the words of Christ [personal revelation].

A2:  Our promised land is “beyond the vale of sorrow,” and a “far better land of promise.”[15]

A3:  We must look to God … and live.

In counseling us to “look to God,” Alma is saying something that no other prophet, prophetess, or anyone else in modern day scripture has said.  There is simply no other verse of scripture which contains this same language.  Though it is true that others have said, and will said, something similar to what Alma here stated, the simplicity with which Alma spoke and wrote is worth mentioning.  In order to obtain our land of promise, which land of promise is “beyond the vale of sorrow,” one must come to grips with both what “look[ing] to God” means and how one can “look to God.”

With that in mind, I will end this essay and pick up, in the next one, on the topic of “look[ing] to God.”  These words of Alma and necessarily important, necessarily poignant and, for me at least, not easily understood.  Though Alma describes the practicality of looking to God as easy and the only way to “live” and advance beyond the vale of sorrow into a “far better land,” I nevertheless am stuck on its easiness.

To be continued…

[1] See Alma 36:28.

[2] See Ether 7:27; Ether 6:5-16; and Ether 2:7-9.

[3] See 1 Nephi 5:5, 22; 1 Nephi 7:1, 13; among many others.

[4] See 3 Nephi 20:29.

[5] See Ether 7:27; Ether 6:5-16; and Ether 2:7-9.

[6] See Alma 36:28 and 1 Nephi 17:13-42.

[7] Nibley, Hugh.  The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Volume 17.  Page 254.

[8] See Alma 37:38-46.

[9] See Alma 37:38-39.

[10] See Alma 37:43

[11] Nibley, Hugh.  Page 254.

[12] See Alma 37:40-41.

[13] See 1 Nephi 16:10.

[14] See Alma 37:45-47.

[15] See Alma 37:45.