Saturday, September 14, 2013

Nephi: Man of Initiative, Man of Faith

Back in July, Jocelyn of We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ challenged her fellow Book of Mormon Forumites to read the Book of Mormon in 30 days. (Here’s a blog entry where she shares something she’s read.) Unfortunately, I didn’t get that far. Here it is the middle of September and I’m still in Mosiah. But there is so much more I see during this reading than I’ve seen before.
Take Nephi for example:
Nephi is a man of great initiative. When Lehi was commanded to leave Jerusalem, Nephi obediently followed his father. When told to go back for the plates of brass, he went willingly. After the first failed attempt, Nephi made the decision to attempt to buy the plates from Laban with the family wealth. When that didn’t work, he tried a third time, this time “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do.” (1 Nephi 4:4) After he and his brothers returned to the camp with Ishmael’s family, his father prophesied about many things, and also talked about his vision of the tree of life.
Nephi desired confirmation of his father’s words, and so didn’t grumble in confusion like his brothers. He had a knowledge of the blessings given to those who diligently seek God. He took the initiative and asked. So he was granted the opportunity to see the same things his father saw, the same things every prophet saw from Adam on down.
nephi-broken-bow-447426-print (1)
When Nephi’s fancy silver bow broke, he made a new one out of wood and an arrow to go with it. So he knew about woodwork and fletching. He could have taken the compass himself – later known as the Liahona – as he went hunting, but he didn’t. He showed respect for his father as the head of the family and the Lord’s prophet by asking him to inquire where Nephi should hunt.
When he is commanded to build a ship in order to take his family across the water, Nephi takes the initiative, and at the same time we see another of his skills coming through, and asks “Lord, whither shall I go that I may find ore to molten, that I may make tools to construct the ship after the manner which thou hast shown unto me? And it came to pass that the Lord told me whither I should go to find ore, that I might make tools.” (1 Nephi 17:9-10)

After the colony is on its way across the ocean to the Promised Land, Laman, Lemuel, their wives and the sons of Ishmael start acting out in a disrespectful way. When Nephi speaks to them about it, they get mad and tie him to the mast. We know what happens after that. The compass stops working, a storm builds over the next four days until the brothers see that they’re about to die and so release Nephi.

Here’s the interesting thing: after everything that Nephi has gone through up to this point, still he spends all day praising God after he’s released, never murmuring once. I can’t imagine what that’s like. Yet in 2nd Nephi, he grieves because of his sins.

He’s an intriguing man. I would love to meet him someday, just to talk to him about how he managed to have such strong faith when even his father murmured. His oldest brothers tried on several occasions to kill him. Eventually he had to flee with any who would go with him, to save their lives.

I’m left to wonder: how many of us, if ever faced with a similar modern-day situation, would have the same strong, unshakable faith as Nephi?

(all images came from

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pioneer Day

Last Saturday, our branch celebrated Pioneer Day, an event that recognizes the arrival of the first group of Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley. I was one of the people asked to speak. Here is an expanded version of what I said:
shall-we-not-go-on-in-so-great-a-cause-243971-mobile166 years ago, Brigham Young led the first group of Latter-day Saint pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley, into safety and freedom from persecution. But it’s not just the pioneers who crossed the plains that we celebrate today.
In the July 2013 Ensign, President Monson speaks of the need for the “pioneer spirit to guide us away from the dangers that threaten to engulf us and lead us to a Zion of safety.”  The standards of the world are steadily sinking, but as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are taught and we keep much higher standards, setting the example for the people around us as well as generations that follow us.
The dictionary defines “pioneer” as “one who goes before to prepare or open up the way for others to follow.”  Who are the pioneers in your life today? Perhaps you are one.
One of my brothers spoke a few years ago about how our dad was the first member of the church in our family. He and mom paved the way for their family to be raised in the church. My youngest brother will be a pioneer as he becomes the first in our family to serve a mission. He is, in fact, a pioneer as he sets a positive, clean, righteous example for his friends both in and out of the church.
The scriptures are replete with examples of pioneers. Just take a look at the Book of Mormon.
lehi-people-arrive-promised-land-39644-mobileAs the Lehi colony fled Jerusalem, they opened the way for their descendants to be raised in the Promised Land, with the promise that they would prosper if they kept the commandments of God.
Captain Moroni stirred the Nephites to prepare to defend themselves, their wives, children, homes and religion with the of Title of Liberty. Just after he wrote the Title of Liberty on his coat, “he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land …
“And when Moroni had said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying:
“Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.” (Alma 46:13, 19-20).
The sons of Mosiah performed an amazing work among the Lamanites. Many others had tried to bring the gospel to the Lamanites, but they wouldn’t have it. Because of their faithful diligence, thousands of Lamanites were brought to the knowledge of the truth. In Alma 26, Ammon glories in the Lord for the work performed.
“Behold, how many thousands of our brethren has he loosed from the pains of hell; and they are brought to sing redeeming love, and this because of the power of his word which is in us, therefore have we not great reason to rejoice?
Yea, we have reason to praise him forever, for he is the Most High God, and has loosed our brethren from the chains of hell.
Yea, they were encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction; but behold, he has brought them into his everlasting light, yea, into everlasting salvation; and they are encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love; yea, and we have been instruments in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work.
Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel.” (Alma 26:13-16)
John the Baptist was the one who prepared the way for the Pioneer, the one who prepared the way for God’s children to return Home, Jesus the Christ.
When Thomas asked Jesus “How can we know the way?” Jesus replied, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:5-6) As the hymn How Great the Wisdom and the Love says, “He marked the path and led the way.” (hymn 195, 4th verse)
As we celebrate the pioneers of the Latter-day Saints, let us also celebrate the pioneers in our lives today, as well as the Savior who opened the way to salvation.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Be the One

Despite the fact that nine months have passed since Patrick, my youngest brother, left the youth program, we still receive the New Era along with the Ensign and the Friend. I am grateful beyond words for that fact; otherwise I wouldn’t have known about the wonderful article in the May 2013 New Era entitled “Be the One.”

The author, Angelica Hagman of California, writes about how she has “been on the lookout for less-prominent story lines” in her study of the Book of Mormon. Being a person that enjoys seeing how each story connects within the Book of Mormon, I decided to keep reading, to discover what she had found and what it had to do with being “the one.” Hagman shared three of the stories she had discovered: the conversion to the gospel of the only Amalekite in a very wicked part of the Lamanite kingdom; Morianton’s maidservant, who fled a terrible situation after being beaten and found a better situation by finding refuge with Captain Moroni’s army; and the Lamanite servant Laman, falsely accused of murdering the Lamanite king, who, after seeking refuge with the Nephites, risks discovery when he offers to take a small party of Lamanite descendants with some wine to the Lamanite guards.

Each story had its own lesson and application in Hagman’s life and in our lives. After reading her article, I’m challenging myself to look much closer at the stories the scriptures contain. In the past, I’ve read the stories, I’ve loved the stories, I’ve marked and connected the stories, but I’ve rarely thought about how they can apply in my life. Leaders have encouraged us to apply the scriptures to our lives, but I’ve never understood how. “Be the One” is an excellent example of personal application.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Women in the Scriptures

In searching Pinterest today, I discovered a link to the blog Women in the Scriptures. Heatherlady issues a challenge each year to study the women of the scriptures, either in the entire standard works or in just one book. She offers questions to ask when you come across each woman in the scriptures. She has even written posts on the women she has found. (See, for example, this Old Testament post about Abigail and this one on the New Testament women Tryphena and Tryphosa.)

Well, she had me at Women in the Scriptures. Beginning today, I'm going to take her challenge and see just how many journals I can fill up learning about the countless women of the scriptures.

But which book to begin with?

Friday, May 25, 2012

What’s in a Name?- Discoveries from the 1940 census

Ever since I started reading History and Genealogy of the Jewetts of America and adding the names to my family tree software – Personal Ancestral File – my mom and I have decided that if you ever want an unusual name for your child, look in your family tree. On the Jewett line, I found name after name from the Bible – Joseph, Sarah, Mary, Isaac, the unusual Tryphena, Tryphosa and Jemima, etc., but also names like Temperance, Patience, Comfort, and Faith.  Now that’s just one line on my mother’s side.  On my father’s side, you’ll find names like Ursula Magdalena and Anna Susanna and Conrad J├╝rgen von der Wettern.
I started participating in the FamilySearch Indexing program a few years ago and I’m sure I’ve come across some interesting names, but until the 1940 census was released last month, I didn’t write any of them down.
Just the past couple of weeks, I’ve been blessed to discover some fantastic names: women’s names like Princess, Queen Ester, Omega – seriously – Sunshine Adams from Kentucky, and Anna Bullwinkel  - who would have thought that was a real name? – of South Carolina. Mary and her husband Herman Butt of South Carolina.  Then there are the men: father and son Pid and Arvid Lynch, and Shade Hunley, all from Kentucky; Val Jean Heiby of Ohio.
And then I started indexing some names from California.  The first two names on the first image:
Otto T and Helen C Pfefferkorn of California, who are you? Who are your descendants? What is your story? Otto was born in Massachusetts according to the census and was a chemist in the aviation industry. I don’t know why their names popped out at me save for the fact that they are so unusual and I wasn’t expecting to find a name so close to a seasoning written on a California census record.  Where does the surname come from? Does it actually mean “peppercorn” or something else?
And here I thought I was only anxious to find my grandparents’ names in Ohio, Kentucky and Maryland.
Is anyone else participating in this wonderful work? Indexing the 1940 census will help greatly in genealogy.  Did you have relatives you didn’t know about in 1940? Join in this wonderful work and find out for yourself!

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