Where do we find security when our barge is tossed upon seas by a furious wind or when we are buried like a whale under angry, impossible waves? How can we trust where this mortal journey will take us?
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Maurine and Scot Proctor have taught Book of Mormon for many years in Institute and have spent extensive time in the Arabian peninsula, following Lehi’s trail. They are the creators of a foundation that has sponsored a multi-year archaeological study of the best candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful in Oman. They have written a book on the Book of Mormon, as well as immersed themselves in the culture, history, and geography. of the scripture.
We go to a scene of spirits in the premortal world, anticipating. with perhaps some concern, their descent to a darkened world. We knew we would be taking a journey and must have wondered how we could make it across the wilderness where so much would be insecure.
Welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast where today we study from the Book of Mormon, Ether 6-11, titled “That Evil May Be Done Away”. Next year we will be studying the Doctrine and Covenants, which will bring us into a parallel study of church history. As Latter-day Saints, what a story we have! It is rich and deep and lives within us. As a new product this year, we have created what we call the Nauvoo Diary and Weekly Engagement Calendar, designed to take you back to another world, this rich heritage of ours. It is a week-at-a-glance journal, made for both your appointments and thoughts, Illustrated with stunning photos from Nauvoo. Beautiful and elegant in its details, it feels like you have entered in yesteryear. At $18, it is the perfect gift for you and the ones you love for Christmas.
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For that journey here in telestial mortality, like the Jaredites, we would be traveling in untried vessels on a sea that is also perilously stormy, more than we knew, more than we may have anticipated.
Like them, we too ask, “Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?” (Ether 2:22). We also hear the same reply “Ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth” (Ether 2:25).
The Lord asks, “What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea? Ether 2:23, 25
The Nephites understood that they were in the same dilemma. They had a desert wilderness and a sea to cross, and the Lord also shored them up. “And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led” (1 Nephi 17:13).
A light for our journey in mortality, a guide for our walk—this we desperately need and will perish without it.
Where do we find security when our barge is tossed upon seas by a furious wind or when we are buried like a whale under angry, impossible waves? How can we trust where this mortal journey will take us?
First, let’s understand who this God is, who put us on this wilderness journey, just as He did the Nephites and the Jaredites.
He is not only the creator of the universe but
he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was bmade.
8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you astand.
11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your aunderstandings (Section 88: 7-11).
That’s why he told us:
“I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee” (Abraham 2:8). “Thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me” (Moses 6:34).
He has promised to be our unchanging and devoted friend who will walk right with us through the danger of the wilderness or protect us in the turbulent sea if we are faithful to him.
Let us not pretend for a minute that the perils and terrible tempests of this earth life aren’t as real as those the Jaredites faced in the sea. They are.
The Jaredites, sailed before a turbulent wind that drove them toward their destination, but look who caused it: “The Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind” (Ether 6:5). The Nephites also “put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:8).
One scholar wrote, “What is the nature of this Wind upon the Great Waters? The scriptural use of wind reveals the meaning. In the biblical text, the word for wind (Hebrew ruach and Greek pneuma) can also mean “spirit” or “breath” 1 and often refers to the presence and activity of the Spirit. We read, for example, of the “rushing mighty wind” of the Lord’s spirit and glory filling places of worship (d&c 109:37; Acts 2:2). As the Jaredites felt the force of their great wind, they knew it came forth by the power of the Heavenly Spirit pressing them toward their divine destination.”
That is the key to this wind. The Lord said, “the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and floods have I sent forth” (Ether 2:24). These winds are for one purpose—to drive them to the promised land and to shape their spirits to be ready to live there.
They knew the One who drives the winds and called to Him when it was too much.
“They were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind” (Ether 6:6). The Lord fulfilled His promise to them, for “when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters” (Ether 6:7).
“When they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them,” and “no monster that could break them” which is important. We can travel with confidence and peace if we truly trust that God, who created all things and knows the end from the beginning, is with us, and that this ordeal is not only worth it, but necessary to get us to the promised land. The Lord is about very high purposes with us, thus, “the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters” (Ether 6:8).
Just like the Jaredites, the wind of the Spirit will blow us to our promised land, which means the turbulences and trials of our life, however endless they seem, are moving the faithful where they need to be. Our most painful moments are consecrated for our good.
Brigham Young said, “All intelligent beings who are crowned with crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives must pass through every ordeal appointed for intelligent beings to pass through, to gain their glory and exaltation.
Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation (JD 8:150)
If man could have been made perfect, in his double capacity of body and spirit, without passing through the ordeals of mortality, there would have been no necessity of our coming into this state of trial and suffering. Could the Lord have glorified his children in spirit, without a body like his own, He … would have done so. … He will not exalt a spirit to thrones, to immortality, and eternal lives, unless that spirit is first clothed in mortal flesh, and with it, passes through a mortal probation, and overcomes the world, the flesh, and the devil through the atonement made by Jesus Christ and the power of the Gospel. The spirit must be clothed as He is, or it never can be glorified with him. He must of necessity subject his children to the same, through a strict observance of the ordinances and rules of salvation. (JD 11:43,44)
Yet, for this perilous journey, we do need the light in our vessels that only God can give by touching our lives with his finger. On this journey anything less won’t do. Our flashlights would run out of batteries, our brief candles would blow out, the electrical grid may fail, but God never will.
It is easy to think that we already have sufficient light, but to be mortal is to be terribly blinded. We try to reduce something as enormous as the gospel to lists and categories and closely defined ideas, but if our eyes were opened, in the very room where you, sit there is more light than you can comprehend, a flow of the Spirit you are missing, music that you cannot hear.
Since having light for our journey touched by the Lord is so important, preparing ourselves to receive it is our great work. Certainly what we are taught about prayer, service and gathering Israel are key to receiving the light we need to negotiate our lives, but today, we are going to talk about the light that begins to flow vibrantly into your life when you begin the process of deep study of the scriptures.
The Jews (especially the Pharisaical Jews) in the meridian of time had this notion that if they looked long and hard enough in the holy scriptures and studied deep and broad enough they would obtain eternal life. In many ways, they were right. But they had become so blind in their calculated devotions that they could not see the Messiah standing right in front of their faces! “Search the scriptures,” the Lord taught them, “for in them ye think ye have eternal life.” See, he was acknowledging their context of understanding and speaking to them where they were. Then He said, “and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39) In other words: “Don’t dig too deep and look too hard and then miss the most important thing you are looking for—ME! Your Savior and Redeemer. I am the one who brings you eternal life. I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (see John 17:3; John 14:6; John 15:5)
The word ‘search’ here is an imperative and it means to go down, to examine absolutely, to dig as a diligent miner would dig and dig until he has found the mother lode. The ‘mother lode’ in this case is the Savior Himself; the Messiah; the Holy One of Israel—even Jesus Christ. So, we are to search the scriptures—DAILY—to find Jesus Christ. Now THAT is a worthy goal! And we are given this wonderful promise in Jeremiah: “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:13,14). I love that promise. The Lord always keeps His promises. Always.
Here then is the first reason for daily scripture study: To find Jesus Christ.
I read these verses in Isaiah as a challenge from Deity: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8,9) He is saying, I believe, that He thinks very differently than we do. He is saying that He does things much differently than we do. And then I feel this between-the-lines invitation to come to know Him. Come to understand Him. Come to think as He thinks. Come to do things as He does them. Come to Him. And I believe that is one of the great keys (and motivations) to daily scriptures. We are trying to obtain the mind of God. We are trying to become like Him! Immersing ourselves in His words—DAILY—will give us our best shot at becoming more like Him. That is certainly motivation to me.
Now here is a second reason for daily scripture study: To obtain the mind of the Lord.
Our Church leaders have taught us from the beginning that we should, of course, live in the world but that we should not be of the world. We’re all familiar with this teaching and yet, Dr. Hugh Nibley once wrote that “the Saints start out building up Zion and end up building Babylon.” Brigham Young said exactly the same thing in language just as strong when the Saints got to the valley: ‘Have we not brought Babylon with us? Are we not promoting Babylon in our midst? Are we not fostering the spirit of Babylon that is now abroad on the face of the whole earth? I ask myself this question, and I answer, Yes, yes…we have too much of Babylon in our midst.’”[i]
So, how do shun Babylon and build Zion in our own lives? We immerse ourselves in the scriptures each and every day. This will do as much as anything to help separate ourselves from the world.
And the Lord Jesus Christ personally prayed for us to this end:
14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. (John 17:14-15)
President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
“We are living in an evil and wicked world. But while we are in the world, we are not of the world. We are expected to overcome the world and to live as becometh saints…We have greater light than the world has, and the Lord expects more of us than he does of them.[ii]
“If we are living the religion which the Lord has revealed and which we have received, we do not belong to the world. We should have no part in all its foolishness. We should not partake of its sins and its errors—errors of philosophy and errors of doctrine…—we have no part in it.
President Smith continued, “The only part we have is the keeping of the commandments of God. That is all, being true to every covenant and every obligation that we have entered into and taken upon ourselves.[iii]
“I call upon the Church and all its members to forsake the evils of the world…As servants of the Lord, our purpose is to walk in the path he has charted for us. We not only desire to do and say what will please him, but we seek so to live that our lives will be like his.[iv]
Our daily devotions in the scriptures will, by their very nature, help us to separate from the things of the world—those things which would keep us distanced from Deity.
This third reason, then, for daily scriptures, is to separate us from the world.
Resist the Devil
“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” (James 4:7) James taught us. The devil cannot abide in light. He flees from joy, virtue, happiness, spiritual delight, love, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, goodness, gentleness, meekness, charity. He is the antithesis of all these godly traits and attributes. And he certainly hates and spurns the scriptures.
These are the last days. As Nephi tells us: “For behold, at that day shall [Satan] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” (2 Nephi 28:20) We see this all around us, sometimes in our own families.
Our daily pondering, meditating and studying the Holy Scriptures will keep us on that straight and narrow path, will keep Satan at bay.
Read the scriptures daily and you will drive Satan from your life.
His Treasured Possession
סְגֻלָּה Segullah. This special Hebrew word is one of my favorites. Pronounced “seh-goo-LAH” (say it out loud right now: “seh-goo-LAH”), it means treasured possession. But, it’s not just any treasured possession—this refers to the gold and silver and precious jewels of THE King’s treasury. That is to be us! We are His treasured possessions—His Segullah!
One of the ways He recognizes us is by our delighting in His words; our diligence in His words; our dedication to His words. Of course, there are other ways He recognizes His people and how we shall become like him—but our daily immersion in the scriptures actually changes our spirits, it shows upon our countenances, it radiates a light from within us that is discernable by Celestial and discerning mortal eyes. I think we all want to be a part of THE King’s treasury—His treasured possession.
Reason five: Daily scripture study shapes and changes us to become His Segullah.
Take Up Our Cross Daily
We are counseled in no less than 8 major passages of scriptures that we should deny ourselves of the things of this world and come unto Christ and, in some of the verses, be perfected in Him.[v]
I love the insight from the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) in Matthew 16:24. Here’s the King James Version (KJV) of that verse:
16 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Now the JST revelation:
And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments.
Isn’t that a wonderful explanation and definition! What is one of the best ways to deny ourselves of all ungodliness and every worldly lust? By our daily practice of scripture study.
“And if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.” (Moroni 10:32)
We are invited to deny ourselves of ungodliness with a promise that we may become, through His grace, perfect in Christ.
Reason six: We read and study the scriptures daily to help us deny ourselves of all ungodliness.
There’s a little-discussed section in the great Intercessory Prayer of the Savior recorded in John, chapter 17:
17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
That’s exciting. God’s word is truth. God’s words are recorded in our Holy Scriptures. The Savior asked the Father if He would “sanctify us through the truth of His word, which is the Holy Scriptures. Jesus Christ’s prayers are answered. We were included in that prayer and as we study the word, the scriptures—we will be sanctified because of that promise.
The prayer continues:
18 As thou has sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. (That means not only his apostles who were with Him in His ministry—it means us)
19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
There it is, the Lord sanctified Himself so that He could also sanctify us through His holy words—through the truth—through the scriptures.
And the people of Nephi, just a generation before the Savior would come to the earth, “did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.” (Helaman 3:35)
That verse shows the whole process concisely—and the process works. We pray and fast often. We wax stronger and stronger in our humility. We become firmer and firmer in our faith of Jesus Christ. I guarantee you that our daily devotions in scripture study are included in this process. And that promise of filling our souls with joy and consolation! And the purifying and sanctification of our hearts! Oh, that is irresistible!
Reason Seven: Through our daily study of the word of God our hearts will be sanctified.
You probably don’t know that word. Hesed. It’s Hebrew and it is one of my favorite words in any language. Saying it makes me happy. Thinking about its meaning makes me happy. Hesed is my number one reason for reading the scriptures. Of course, there are many more than eight reasons to have daily scripture study. And, of course, these previous seven reasons are of paramount importance. But I purposely saved this reason for last because it eclipses all the others. It is brighter far than the noon-day sun in importance. Okay, okay. Let’ me explain Hesed.
Sometimes Romanized as Chesed (khes’-ed where the kh—as in Bach is pronouned gutturally) the Hebrew word חֶסֶד is often mistranslated as “lovingkindness” and is left at that. It is way more than that. One of my favorite Israeli translators online said about Hesed: “There is nothing loving or kind about the Hebrew ḥesed—it is a considered, almost cerebral act of compassion bestowed by someone in authority on a person or a group of people whom they like and wish to encourage. It is akin to mercy, when the recipient has done nothing wrong. It is perfectly encapsulated in the word grace, as in John Bradford’s But for the grace of God there go I.”
Hesed is eternal. It is the power and strength of pure love that originates from God. It is something we can offer back to him. “What motivated God to undertake the grand enterprise [of the creation]? Tradition insists that he acted out of hesed, a Hebrew word whose meaning includes loving-kindness and mercy. The Psalmist declared that ‘the world is built on hesed,’ while the medieval Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides taught that ‘all being is an act of divine hesed, for the universe has come into existence only by virtue of God’s abundant grace or loving-kindness.’ But another essential element of God’s hesed is his loyalty to the covenant, which apparently was a factor even in the Creation, for tradition indicates it was then when God first made a covenant with Abraham.”[vi]
So, through hesed or this mercy, love, charity and overwhelming eternal kindness, God brought the elements together and created a world whereon we could dwell. This eternal love or grace is so all-consuming in its affect, it is the thing that people who have been in God’s presence remember and talk about and long for all the rest of their lives.
In Abraham we see this as his most dominant characteristic. Douglas Clark offers this insight from his seminal book on Abraham:
“Following the divine lead, Abraham himself practiced hesed, which in the human realm means not only loving-kindness and mercy but also righteous conduct. Hence, as a modern scholar expressed: ‘Yahweh [Jehovah] was the God of Abraham; Abraham was his servant. Theirs was a very distinct relationship which imposed upon them certain rights and duties—a relationship of mutual reciprocity expressed by hesed.’ It is the same principle that Moroni would express in his dialogue with the Lord: ‘I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father’ (Ether 12:34).
“This principle of righteous loving-kindness, or charity, would become the governing principle of Abraham’s life, for which he is still remembered among his Jewish descendants as the embodiment of hesed, ‘for the decisive factor in Abraham’s personality was the unceasing urge to help others.’ It is also a decisive factor demonstrating Abrahamic descent, for according to the Talmud, ‘Performing deeds of loving-kindness is a distinguishing characteristic of the descendants of Abraham.’[vii]
Another Hebrew translator wrote about hesed: “There is an intensity to the Hebrew, involving emotions like adoration, fervor, sweetness, devoted loyalty. It also involves the concepts of considerate compassion, mercy, pity, and loving-kindness.”[viii]
Doug Clark explained further: “Judaism further recognizes that the spread of love and mercy, or hesed, is ‘the very purpose of the covenant of Abraham.’ In fact, the Talmud speaks of “bestowers of lovingkindness, sons of bestowers of lovingkindess, who hold fast to the covenant of Abraham our father.”[ix]
We are the covenant children of Abraham. Maurine (my wife) and I go to the Middle East every year and I tell my friends there that we are of the tribe of Efraim, son of Yosef, son of Ya’aqov, son of Yitzchaq, son of Avraham. They don’t even flinch. They’re always glad to know my tribe. We truly are the children and seed of Abraham, we, therefore, should do the works of Abraham.
So, because of our own covenantal ties and unbounded love, charity and adoration for the Lord—just because we love Him—we will do this thing daily. It is our small act of gratitude to this amazing God we worship.
Reason 8: We read, study, ponder, meditate and reflect daily upon the scriptures because of our hesed towards Him who gave these to us.
So here are 8 solid, wonderful, meaningful reasons why we read and study the scriptures each and every day:
- To find Jesus Christ.
- To obtain the mind of the Lord.
- To separate us from the world.
- To drive Satan from your life.
- It shapes and changes us to become His Segullah (treasured possession).
- To help us deny ourselves of all ungodliness.
- Our hearts will be sanctified.
Because of our hesed towards Him who gave these to us.
Why would we never not rejoice in these scriptures that put light in our barges on stormy seas?
Now the story of the Jaredites lasts well more than 2,000 years–some suggest 2500 years–on the promised land, though only 28-30 generations are mentioned in the genealogy in chapter one. Some are listed as sons and some as descendents, so we know there were many more than that. What is evident is that the story seems to repeat itself with this odd tradition of royal sons imprisoning their fathers for life, internecine war and dark doings. Prophets, who are largely unnamed except for Ether, warn the people that their wickedness will lead to destruction and it does. We don’t learn much about what the prophets teach—a surprising silence falls over that in the record, but flurries of repentance sometimes follow, only to finally result in wickedness and war taking hold again.
Names like Corihor and Nehor, show up again in the Nephite record as men who preach wickedness. It leads one to imagine that some of the Jaredite traditions still carried over into the Nephite times, and these names are our clue.
In Ether chapter 8, we see the re-introduction of secret combinations, when Jared’s daughter plots with her father to kill his father, Omer who is the king. We learn important things here about secret combinations. His daughter says, “Whereby hath my father so much sorrow? Hath he not read the arecord which our fathers brought across the great deep? Behold, is there not an baccount concerning them of cold, that they by their dsecret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory?” (Ether 8:9)
The Book of Mormon, both among the Nephites and the Jaredites describes secret combinations and acknowledges that they played key roles in bringing down their nations. The first secret combination was when Satan plotted with Cain to kill Abel, so they go back to the very beginning of humanity. We know that these include plots of secret murder to anyone who gets in their way, and members are sworn to each other and their dark plots by oaths and covenants and secret wickedness that is carried generation to generation. In part these secret oaths are to protect the members so the group can always fly beneath the radar in their plots of murder for power, particularly political power, as Satan lays hold upon the hearts of the children of men.
Moroni breaks in to the Jaredite narrative to make comments five times, usually beginning with “I, Moroni” to distinguish his commentary from the history he is recounting. It is interesting, because his father has a different style. When he breaks the narrative to comment, he usually says, “and thus we see.”
Moroni has an urgent comment on these secret combinations, because he has seen vividly that they destroyed the Nephite people. He, who has seen our day, wants us to be clearly warned in Ether 8: 18-26. He teaches that these secret combinations are “most abominable and wicked above all in the sight of God” (Ether 8:18). We learn that they are had among all people. He says that “whatsoever anation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed” (Ether 8:22).
He speaks directly to the Gentiles, which is our nation, and says, “it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you,” (Ether 8:23). “Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this asecret combination which shall be among you”(Ether 8:24).
The ultimate purpose of these secret combinations, according to Moroni is this: “For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the afreedom of all lands” (Ether 8:25).
That is the same old and vicious fight over freedom that caused the war in heaven. Moroni’s statement is harrowing. When we see groups or movements who seek to overthrow our freedom, who is behind it? It may be hard to see, because the true foundation may be under the radar, though our friend Jack Anderson told us something we have never forgotten.
Jack was the kind of newspaper columnist that doesn’t really exist any more. He used to dig behind the exteriors in Washington DC to find corruption and power grabs wherever they lay. We asked him how he did it. He told us, “Follow the money.” Oh, secret combinations were at work from the beginning and they continue to exist now.
That’s all for today. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Don’t forget to look at the stunning Nauvoo Diary and Engagement calendar at latterdaysaintmag.com/Nauvoo and the Come Follow Me Calendar at latterdaysaintmag.com/2021. Both are amazing Christmas gifts.
Next week we will study Ether 12-15, “By Faith All Things are Fulfilled”. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and to Michaela Proctor Hutchins, our producer.