28: "Plant This Word in Your Hearts" (July 13–19)
It's easy to think of "faith" as a super basic topic, but it can be much harder to figure out what it actually looks like IRL (in real life). In this week's study group, we're digging into some pretty well-known chapters on faith in Alma 32-35, and even if you think you know all the Sunday School answers, you might be surprised at all the different ways we can nourish and live our faith, especially during some of our darkest moments.
Laurel's book mentioned in this episode: The Faith Experiment
See Laurel's author page for more of her work: Laurel Christensen Day
One of Jenny's book's mentioned in this episode: At the Pulpit
See Jenny's author page for more of her work: Jennifer Reeder
If you've ever planted a garden, then you totally know how big of an undertaking it can be. Like when I was single, I decided, "Oh, I'm gonna plant a garden. I live in a house. I have a backyard," and I realized very quickly that it takes more than just water and seeds. Like you got to weed it, you have to fertilize it. Luckily, I married someone though who loves to garden and he's really really good at it. He plants the biggest garden and it's delightful, but this year as he was planting all of his seeds and getting everything ready, he said to me just casually as if I had any idea what he was talking about, he said, "You know what, all those years of soil amendments are really paying off."
Apparently soil amendments, now I don't know if you guys know this, I did not, soil amendments are what you add to the soil which create a better environment for the roots, and it provides nourishment to help the plant grow. And you do this throughout years, you add stuff to your soil to make it better. I had no idea. Well, the symbolism of these words was not lost in the seminary teacher in me. Alma 32 through 35 is all about gardening, soil amendments, seeds, and giving nourishment to the plant so that it will grow and produce the most amazing and delicious fruit. And if any of those words scare you, don't worry, anyone can successfully grow the seeds the Alma and Amulek are talking about.
Welcome to the Sunday on Monday Study Group, a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ original brought to you by LDS Living where we take the "Come, Follow Me" lesson for the week and we really dig into the scriptures together. I'm your host, Tammy Uzelac Hall.
Now, if you guys are new to our study group, I just want to make sure you know how to use this. So you can listen to this podcast all at once in an hour and study your scriptures and be done, or the really cool thing is that it's broken up into six segments and each segment is about 10 to 12 minutes long, so you could actually study your Scriptures for 10 minutes a day and be done for the day, which I think is awesome. I can do 10 minutes. And at the end of each segment, you're going to hear a little bit of music that ends it like those little storybooks when we were kids. So listen for that music and then you'll know that it's over.
Now another awesome thing, this is my favorite thing about the study group, is that each week we're joined by two of my friends. Now today we have, oh and I am so excited, we have Jenny Reeder and Laurel Christensen Day. Hi, guys.
We've known each other for such a long time. Now I've known Laurel the longest of any friend that I've ever had on. We have been best friends since we were 17, right?
16, 17. Well, 17, yeah... because when we first met, you know...
You didn't want to be my friend.
I didn't want to be her friend. But Tammy, I didn't want to be anybody's friend. I was mad my parents had moved me in high school so it wasn't anything personal Tam.
I know that now.
And now the friendship has changed everything.
It has changed everything.
Jenny and I were in a ward at BYU and I was Relief Society President and Jenny took my place when I graduated and was moving, and Jenny, I just might as well get this story out now.
Yeah, you might as well. I knew it had to come.
So in college, I had this weird thing about girls with like unique fingernail polish. And I just thought, I judged them. I don't even know why. I was just a horrible person.
You were really conservative back then.
Oh I was so conservative. And I made a comment about, you know, kind of like those girls who wear blue nail polish. And Jenny took off her shoes and what did she have? Blue nail polish on her toes. So it seriously was like, I don't know, 10 years ago that I got my first blue nail polish on my toes, and I sent a picture to Jenny. But anyway, that's how we know each other, and then you met Jenny through me so.
Yeah, and my life's ever been the same. I've loved knowing Jenny. Well both of you are authors, which I love, and we'll put information in our show notes about the books that they have written. Laurel has books with her name on them. Jenny is a little bit more of a silent partner but you know her work. I mean if you have read or listened to "Saints," she has contributed to that.
"At the Pulpit."
Yeah, the first 50 years Jenny. You got a PhD at George Mason, is that right?
Yes, I did.
Whatever. Tam, I have to say this, how many times have I come to you and said, "What's the Hebrew for this? What about the Greek? What can you tell me about this?" So, Tammy is like super smart.
You've come to me about travel questions.
Yeah I have, and fashion questions, like shoes.
Yes. I knew there was something redeemable that I was bringing to this relationship.
Oh gosh. So much more than that, are you kidding me?
Oh I can't compete with Hebrew and a PhD, but whatever.
If you want a good trip planned, you're going to Laurel. She knows the best places everywhere.
Well, now it's just too much.
No, it's just a love fest. We might not even get to the topic today. We'll just talk about how great we all are. Well, if you want to see what these guys look like, you can see their pictures and their bios at our show notes, which is at LDSLiving.com/SundayonMonday, so I highly recommend you guys go and check that out. Friends, grab your scriptures and let's dig in. I'm so excited. All right, Jenny, Laurel, I want to know, what is your definition of faith? And I'm not talking about a scriptural definition here. I want to know, what is Jenny's definition? What is Laurel's definition of faith? How would you describe it or define it to someone?
I think faith is something that you cling on to so hard like you hold on to a hope or a belief so hard to get you through the hard times. Sometimes I'm bothered when people say that faith and fear cannot coexist because I think fear is what actually builds my faith and causes me to say, "Oh, my gosh, I'm freaking out right now. I need something to hold on to."
Yeah, I like that.
I would say, I spent most of my life thinking that my faith was very, very weak. And it took me a long time to realize this because I was practicing and thinking that faith was about the result, and I I have come to understand that faith is about the process, and the things that I can count on no matter what. Faith is centered and faith is about the things that are eternal, not about the hope for outcomes, at least for me.
Thank you for sharing your definitions, ladies. Let's look and see what Alma's definition is. Let's go to Alma 32, verse 21, and we're going to mark this. This is Alma's definition of faith. Laurel, will you read that for us?
"And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true."
And that's pretty classic. We've read that, we know it, scripture mastery, but we need to dive into this verse and we're going to cross reference it and jump down to verse 27. So let's go down to verse 27. And what I want to do is as we read verse 27, I want you to mark the steps of faith that are outlined in this verse. I'll read verse 27 and I want you guys to mark it and then I'm going to ask you to share what you marked.
"But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."
What did you guys mark? What are some of the steps for faith according to Alma?
I marked the words "awake" and "arouse your faculties." It reminds me of when Lehi was telling his sons to "awake and arise and cast off the bonds and the chains that were holding them back." And I also marked "give a place for a portion of my words."
Yeah, me too. Tell me what that means.
So I love that he's not asking for a perfect faith or belief. He's asking for us to give place for a portion of the word.
Which is why I think the Savior is able to say, "Even if you have no more than a desire to believe," right?And in the New Testament, when he's performing miracles, that's all he's asking, just, "Do you have this much that will let yourself believe? That's all I need. And Alma says the same thing here."
Well, and that word "portion," I put a question mark next to it because I thought, "What is a portion? What does that mean?" I think sometimes we can get caught up into the idea that a portion means a lot, but it's just like you said, Laurel, just this much. To me, that's what a portion means. What do you think?
Yeah, the grain of the mustard seed is a real thing. That was his way of saying, "That's literally all I need. Just give me that much and we can work with that."
Whenever I would teach this in seminary, I could never find a mustard seed and then I did and they were expensive, and so I was like, "What's the next smallest seed? Oh, a poppy seed." So I would give all my kids a poppy seed and make them tape it and I have mine still taped.
See that little dot?
Oh that's really great.
Yeah. Barely, I can barely see it.
Because it is so tiny and so it reminds me of what maybe that's the seed, that's the portion, even that little bit of a belief still works and still counts. So continuing on then, here's what I want us to look at. Look at verse 28, there's something that stood out to me. And I want us to read this. Jenny, will you read verse 28?
"Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me."
The thing I like about this that I want you to mark is where it says, "It will begin to swell." It doesn't say, "It might begin. It might swell." That word "will" is a surety. Like it will absolutely do this, all of these things that he's written. And then he says this idea of swelling and enlarge, like what does that even feel like? Can we describe that? Have you had that experience?
I'd say mine, the thing that comes to my mind is maybe just a little more every day. Typical, I blogged back in the day when blogging was a trend, and I went on this journey in 2011 that I just still affectionately call my "faith experiment." One of the things that I learned during that process was that faith can be just as simple as changing beliefs about ourselves. I remember distinctly choosing to believe something different about myself than I believed about myself my entire life. And I literally would say it to myself every morning. It was almost like this mantra and it connected me to my eternal divine nature. And I remember that feeling. I remember that swelling and enlarging of my soul in my heart, and this peace and this just like almost excitement for my life because I had given place to this portion of this simple little truth filled sentence about who I was. So I think it can come in these really big significant ways during times of trial, and I think it can come in the every day, when we're just working at becoming more like the Savior or whatever that looks like for us.
Wow thank you for sharing that, Laurel. You know, as we've been talking about this, in my mind, I've been thinking of this question like, do you have a time in your life when your faith grew stronger because you experimented? You did all of these things. And of course, naturally, I'm drawn to you, Jenny. And I want to go back to what you said earlier when you talked about how you think faith and fear can exist in the same place. Can you tell us a little bit about that space for you? When in your life did you have faith and fear?
Well, the first thing that comes to mind and Laurel was a witness to this, I had been diagnosed with leukemia, a recurrence for the fourth time, and I needed a bone marrow transplant, and I was all set for that, but then my doctors discovered that I had an pneumonia and we had to take care of the pneumonia before I could go on the immunosuppressants for the bone marrow transplant. And it took a really long time to figure out what was causing the pneumonia to get the right medication. They put me on every heavy antibiotic and I swear those kill your soul if you're on them for too long, but I was on oxygen for three months and I was in a really, really, really dark place. And Laurel, you came, you and our other friend Janice came and visited me one day. All my energy was going towards surviving, and living and existing actually, not even surviving, just existing.
And I hadn't read my scriptures or felt the spirit in a long time. And as we were sitting over lunch, remember how we had Cheetos? They were very important to that day. I felt a spark of inspiration, and all of a sudden it was like this little piece of light that I clung to because it was the only thing I had felt in a really long time. And it wasn't that I had left the Church or that I didn't have faith, it was just that all of my energy was going towards existing, but that spark gave me something. It gave me a little bit of light, a little bit of hope, and I clung to that and I decided that I was going to do everything to follow that, and any other inspiration or spark or light that I got, I was going to hold on to and it made all the difference.
I think the thing I love about what Jenny just shared is being on the outside of that watching. I remember just seeing that change in her that day. It was so remarkable, and she just was resolute and just had this thing of, "I'm going to fight this."
Thank you, both of you, for sharing that. Both of your experiences are a perfect testament to what we just read about the definition of faith, and what Alma has taught us. So as you've done the experiment and your faith grew, the seed was good, and that's what they taught us in these verses. But now what? In Alma 32, verse 34. I want you guys to look at that verse because he says, "And now what, is your knowledge perfect in that thing?" Like, is that all you have to do? So we're going to answer those questions in the next segment.
Segment 2 15:01
So at the very beginning, I talked to you guys, I mentioned these soil amendments, and that's what my husband has spent the years adding to the soil to make his plants grow. Now, I found out this can be anything from fertilizer to manure, leaves, creating your own compost, there's so many things you can add to make your soil better. Well, it's the same for our faith. Our faith needs soil amendments, not manure obviously, but it doesn't need its own soil amendments, so to speak. So let's read what Alma has to say about these "soil amendments," and how to nourish the seed once it has been planted. So let's go to Alma chapter 32 and we're going to read verses 37 through 39. And Laurel, will you read those verses for us? What I want us to do is look for and mark what these soil amendments could be.
"And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit."
"But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out."
"Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof."
What have you guys done to nourish your seed? What are the soil amendments that you have put into your ground?
So I actually had to giggle a little bit when you said, "Maybe not manure." Because if manure is kind of just like the muck of life, do you know what I mean? Like I actually think part of the fertilizing and the health of the ground is wading through some of life's difficulties and maintaining like a trust in God, even if you can't possibly feel like you can see your way through. Honestly, when you listed those things, I was like, "Yeah, I know manure." Like there is plenty of manure to like till in the ground of my faith.
Oh my gosh, that's so good Laurel. So, because remember when I was dating Jim, I had the thought that I should go to a therapist, which I'd never been to a therapist in my life. So I was like, "Whatever, maybe it'll be healthy." And I saw a therapist twice, went out on my first date with Jim, and I knew I was going to marry him. Like this is a done deal and just everything was great, but then I started to freak out, had all these fears and doubts thinking maybe it wasn't going to work out. And I went to my therapist, she drew a picture of a swamp, a stinky, swampy, manure-y, gross swamp, and she said I have to get from point A, which was at the top of the swamp, to point B which is at the bottom.
She said to me, "So how are you going to get across the swamp?" And I was like, "I'm gonna go around it." And she said, "Well, that's not the fastest way." And I said, "But I don't wanna gonna get dirty. I'm not going to go through the swamp." And she looked at me and she says, "You can't be afraid of the muck. Going through the muck will make it faster. You might get dirty, but you've been avoiding the muck your entire life." And I was like, "You are so right. Like, I can't believe that the muck was what was causing me to lose my faith." That was the changing point. That was when I was like, "I'm gonna get married to him." And then we did. But yeah, that manure, the muck, that is what strengthens us. It's part of the whole plan.
And the thing that I think is important is, I do not believe that God puts these hard things in our lives. I think sometimes he does, if it's part of our grand master plan, but I think for the most part, it's just effects of mortality and agency and fallen man and all of that. What I do believe deeply to just the center of my core, is that he literally can take anything for our good and I just I believe that.
I have to say, I totally agree. And people have said to me a lot, "Well, leukemia was part of God's plan for you." And that drives me crazy because I'm like, "Well, I don't really like that God." And I just have to say that I really think that I chose to enter mortality and I would get an imperfect body that would make imperfect blood, and through it all, like Laurel said, I have a god, I have heavenly parents who will help me through it all. The other things that I love is that this chapter reminded me so much of Jacob chapter five, of the allegory of the olive tree. You know, Jacob talks about how it is like this huge vineyard, but to me, this is like this specific microcosm of that. This is the specific part of the macrocosm of Jacob five.
Listen smarty pants, what's a macrocosm? A "macrocosm," she is our smartest friend.
Whatever. So a macrocosm is like this huge universe way of looking at things like the giant vineyard, where a microcosm is much smaller, and you're going to narrow in and zero in on one part of it. So Alma is going to teach us about our own trees.
And what is so interesting is when you read Jacob five, I mean, you read about how much the master of the vineyard loves the vineyard, and how much he's willing to work and the effort he's willing to put forth. And then here, it's our effort. How much are we willing to put forth to make sure that we are nourished and that we grow? It's a lot of work. If you read Alma 32, I mean, unfortunately, there's no verse that says, "And then when you're done, go ahead and kick it and drink a Diet Coke, watch a couple shows, and hope for the best." Like you're constantly working and doing.
Well and he reiterates that point in verses 41, 42, and 43 where he uses the term "great diligence" and "patience" — diligence, patience, your diligence, patience. Like I think he wants us to know, this isn't a one time thing, you're not going to plant one seed and have it spring forth good fruit, this is going to take a lot of work. And the thing I love about that is, I think he's patient too. I think he's diligent too. Like he's as anxious for us to get to that space where we have fertile ground that we can grow the seeds of our faith, and he tries again and again and again with us. He doesn't give up on our faith, and so we, for me, I can't give up on mine.
You know, I have to tell you, my favorite thing about this lesson and about the word "faith" came from a Hebrew word for faith. And so I want to tell you a little bit about this because I think it's so powerful and it goes right in line with what you just said, Laurel. And by the way, anyone who chooses to drink a diet coke and kick it, no judgment. But at the top of my page I wrote, and we'll put this in our show notes, but the word for "faith" in Hebrew is "Emunah." And the neat thing is that this word for faith requires action. In Hebrew, it means "firm, steadfast, and support."
Now one of the first places that we read this word is in Exodus chapter 17, verses 10 through 11. And this is the story where Amulek and his people are fighting against Israel, and Israel needs help. And so Moses, Aaron, and Hur, you guys know this story, we've talked about it, they go up to the top of the mountain, and when Moses raises his staff and puts his arms in the air, the Israelites will start to win. And when he lets his arms down because they're tired, they start to lose. And so Aaron and Hur decide we've got to hold up Moses's arms so we can win and defeat the enemy. And when you read in Exodus chapter 17, verse 11, it says, "But Moses's hands grew weary. So they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side and the other on the other side, so his hands were steady." That word "steady" in Hebrew is actually "his hands were faithful until the going down of the sun."
But it's interesting because Moses didn't make his hands faithful. Moses's hands were held up by Aaron and Hur. And so when we talk about this idea of when I say, "I have faith in God." We really should be thinking, "I will do what I can to support God." Because the way we use it in our English vernacular is, "Oh, I have faith in God." But what does that even mean? Well, this definition for me means, "Oh, it means I will do what I can to support God. That's how I show faith. It requires all action on my part in order to have complete confidence and trust in him."
Tammy, you said that Moses's arms were held up by Aaron and who?
Hur — "H, u, r."
Oh, that's a person.
Yes. Sorry, not "H, e, r." Good question. Aaron and Hur went up and held and steadied his arms. And it's kind of cool because the root word for Emunah, for faithful in Hebrew, is "Aman" and we've studied this before, it means to have trust or confidence in. So now the sentence should really read, "I will do what I can to support God in whom I have trust and confidence in." Rather than just, "I got faith in God." So when you think about in your own life, what does that look like? How do you support God?
I think it is that classic like Faith without works is dead, which I know is a whole another discussion, but as I was studying this chapter, I was led to a quote that I just love from Martin Luther. He says, “Oh, it is a living, busy, mighty thing, this faith; and so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly. It does not ask whether there are any good works to do, but before the question rises; it has already done them, and is always at the doing of them. He who does not these works is a faithless man. He gropes and looks about after faith and good works, and knows neither what faith is nor what good works are, though he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works” (Martin Luther, Preface to the Epistle of Romans).
And I love that because I love that he says, "Faith is a living, busy, mighty thing." You and I had a friend whose I think mom said something like, "God can't steer a parked car." Right, didn't Amy's mom say that?
And I think about that a lot that like he can't work with us if we're not in action. We can't, you know, Jenny's story from earlier, she couldn't just decide, "I'm going to have faith that God's gonna heal me." She had to go to her doctor, "Sign me up for that treatment. Give me that medication." Like she had to act and I think we all do. Faith and showing trust requires movement on our part. It requires something to offer up to God to work with.
Laurel, going back to that quote you read which was such a great quote, it leads me to the verse you actually brought up is in verse 41, where he says, and you said this, "There's diligence, there's patience, and there's looking forward." Mark those three words in verse 41 because we're going to spend the rest of the episode talking about these three action words — diligence, looking forward, and patience. We just finished talking about diligence with all of our experiences and about being steadfast and holding up arms and what it looks like to be faithful, so in the next segment, we're going to talk about looking forward.
Segment 3 26:38
So Alma just finishes teaching the Zoramites about prayer, and they're like, "Okay, Alma. So we heard what you had to say. Now how exactly do we plant the seed?" That's in verse one. Let's read his answer in Alma chapter 33, verse three. He says, "Do ye remember to have read what Zenos, the prophet of old, has said concerning prayer or worship?" And now we want to go down and cross reference that with verse 14. So he's going to say, "Don't you remember what was said about prayer?" And then he's going to give this example. "Now behold, my brethren, I would ask if ye have read the scriptures? If ye have, how can ye disbelieve on the Son of God?"
He's talking about how you need to read the scriptures because then he's going to cite a story from scripture that they should be very familiar with. And it starts in verse 19. In fact, this scripture story from the Bible is repeated four times in the Book of Mormon. So Jenny, will you read Alma chapter 33, verses 18 through 20.
"But behold, this is not all; these are not the only ones who have spoken concerning the Son of God."
"Behold, he was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live."
"But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them."
Thank you. We'll put this in our show notes, but there are so many scripture references we can put next to this. But the story itself is found in the Book of Numbers, chapter 21, in the Old Testament. This is the story where fiery flying serpents came down to among the people of Moses, the people of Israel, and they were biting them and Moses went to the Lord and said, "What do I do to save these people?" And he said, "Make a serpent out of brass and put it on a pole and hold it up, and tell everybody just to look at that symbol. Look at the serpent on the staff and they will live." That's all they had to do. It was that simple. This is, I don't even know if I can tell the story... Laurel, do you remember when I did this? I was so excited so I borrowed my sister's Python because I was gonna pull the Python out of the cage.
No, I do not remember, and I probably would have said, "Stop! Abort, abort!"
I was so excited. This is one of my favorite scripture stories so my sister brought her ball python down, and I put it in my classroom the night before, and I covered it with blankets because I didn't want any kids to see it when they came in early in the morning. And snakes don't scare me, so I was so excited to say, "And then he had to put the snake on the staff, I'm going to pull the snake out and hold it for all the kids to see and then we'll touch the snake and they'll remember the lesson for the rest of their life." Well, that didn't exactly happen, but I'm sure they've never forgotten this lesson because I covered it with a blanket and put the heating lamp on it, and I left and went home and came back the next morning... I walked into the seminary building and the teachers are running everywhere trying to find the smell. They're like, "Something is dead. What is the smell in our seminary building?" And I hear the principal yell, "Check the bathrooms. I think maybe the toilets exploded." Like everyone's running and I'm like, "Huh. It's not my problem." I walk into my classroom and it is so toxic in there, and there's a kid looking at the front and I go, "Hey, get away from that. You're not supposed see this. It's for our lesson." He goes, "Uh Sister Uzelac, I think your snake is dead." "Oh I totally killed it! I killed the snake, killed the snake." I know it's such a sad story, but now everybody remembers.
I wish I had been in your seminary class.
Okay, so let's go back into the story because it's one of my all time favorite Old Testament stories. So here we have this idea, now why do you think they wouldn't look? Like what is going on? All they have to do is look at the snake on a stick.
I think there's, I mean, the scripture says it was because of the hardness of their hearts, right? And so it could be two things, either they really were just that hard hearted, full of just so much pride that they just couldn't even bring themselves to do it. Or it could also have been the thing that we also see throughout the scriptures that kind of reminds us to not be distracted because of the simpleness of the way. Right, like sometimes it just seems too simple that can't possibly be what God's going to ask of us. I think we're really good at thinking God's going to always ask us to do the really hard thing. I look at the world right now in such desperate need of something so simple as Jesus. And yet it can't be that simple, surely just his name and his life and thinking on him, and surely that can't be the thing that would like eradicate racism and eradicate political divisiveness. Like, surely it wouldn't be that simple. And it is. And I've never realized that chapter 32, at least for me, is just a setup for chapter 33. We focus so much on chapter 32, but the phrase "because of thy son" is used five times and that to me, is that's it, end of discussion. "Faith because of thy son. Healing because of thy son. Peace because of thy son. Hope because of thy son." Like it all comes back to Jesus, and I think we think it should be more complicated than that. Somehow that's too simple.
Ah, I think that is awesome.
This is a really cool scripture that we might want to look at. I love this idea of the serpent representing Christ. In third Nephi 27:14, Christ tells the Nephites, "...and my father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross." And I just see that as the serpent being lifted up on the cross. "...that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me..."
I think it's such a visual. If Christ is on the cross and we can look up to him, or if the Serpent's on the cross, we can look to that. I also think it's interesting that in the Garden of Eden, that the whole idea of the metaphor of the serpent that the serpent shall bruise our heel, but Christ shall crush his head. And it is only through Christ crushing the head of that serpent that we can look up to him and be saved. It's such a beautiful visual.
It is. And you know, when we talk about this, when I read this story, I thought, "Well, maybe they didn't look at the serpent because they traditionally believed that the serpent was Satan, and you know, his presence in the garden." But there are so many scriptures and a lot of really cool information to back up the idea that, "No, the symbol of the serpent has always been Jesus Christ." We learned that the symbol of the dove in the pre existence was determined that that would be the Holy Ghost. The same is true for the symbol of the serpent, would be the symbol of Jesus Christ. Then it makes perfect sense why Satan would choose to be the snake. And going back to this idea, Laurel, I like how both of you cited this idea of seeing and looking at Jesus, and in 19 and 20 that word "look" is repeated often.
Like if that's the only thing you can do, just look to Jesus. And I think you're right, Laurel, I think that is the answer for the world we live in. Our hearts could be healed and changed if we just look, and it's that easy just turning your neck. You don't even have to turn your whole body, just turn your neck and look. There's such a great quote. I want to read this. It's by Bishop Christopher W. Waddell in the October 2017 conference.
“The sad irony is that, too often, those most in need turn away from their one perfect source of help—our Savior, Jesus Christ. A familiar scriptural account of the brazen serpent teaches us that we have a choice when faced with challenges. After many of the children of Israel were bitten by “fiery flying serpents,” “a type was raised up … that whosoever would look … might live. [But it was a choice.] And many did look and live. “… But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished.” Like the ancient Israelites, we are also invited and encouraged to look to the Savior and live—for His yoke is easy and His burden is light, even when ours may be heavy. Alma the Younger taught this sacred truth when he said, “I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.” (Alma 36:3) In these latter days, the Lord has provided us with numerous resources, our “brazen serpents,” all of which are designed to help us look to Christ and place our trust in Him. Dealing with the challenges of life is not about ignoring reality but rather where we choose to focus and the foundation upon which we choose to build.
These resources include, but are not limited to: Regular study of the scriptures and the teachings of living prophets. Frequent, sincere prayer and fasting. Worthily partaking of the sacrament. Regular temple attendance. Priesthood blessings. Wise counseling through trained professionals. And even medication, when properly prescribed and used as authorized. Whatever change in life’s circumstance may come our way, and whatever unexpected path we may have to travel, how we respond is a choice. Turning to the Savior and grasping His outstretched arm is always our best option” (Bishop Christopher W. Waddell, “Turn to the Lord,” General Conference, November 2017).
Love it. So let's go to Alma 33:23 then. Here's what I want to finish with. This is what he says, Jenny, will you read this?
"And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen."
I've highlighted, "And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light through the joy of his son." And I want to know Laurel and Jenny, how has looking to the son eased your burdens? Is this verse of scripture true in your life?
Yeah, I think absolutely it's true. And I think that's why, I think that's why the phrase "because of thy son" stuck out to me so much in this chapter. You know, we're living in really difficult trying times. And there's no question there. I mean 2020 is going to go down in history as just the year of just trying and testing and for a whole bunch of people, not just because of the pandemic and the quarantine, and it's, you know, people experience divorce and death and illness, and you compound that with the racial tensions and the just tragic things that are going on for so many of our brothers and sisters. And I have to say like, it's been a battle for me the last little while to find peace and find joy amidst all of the ugly and all of the hard, and as I was reading this chapter, that phrase "because of thy son," I just felt it. And I thought, you know, if I can start framing my day with that phrase of just saying, "Because of Jesus Christ, I can... Because of Jesus Christ, I know..." Fill in the blank. "Because of Jesus Christ, I will..." Like whatever that is, there's no question in my mind that that's how our burdens are light. That's how we feel joy and peace amidst sorrow. It's how God reaches us, takes care of us. It is through his son. And so I guess my specific example is like right now. It will be okay. It will be okay. Why? Because of his son, period.
Wow, thank you, Laurel, for sharing that. Every day, I'm gonna wake up and think that "because of Jesus Christ I am, or I will..." You know, we will be made light through the joy of the Son because of His atoning sacrifice, and that is what the symbol of the snake was. When we look forward, not back, but when we will look forward, we use Christ's atonement and we can be made light. In the next segment, we are going to read only six verses, and we're going to define several words that will help us understand more about Christ's atonement and how they relate to looking forward.
Segment 4 39:35
I ended by saying, "We're just going to study six little verses of scripture," and we are in Alma, chapter 34, and we're going to start in verse eight. And of these six verses, three of them hold a very special place in my heart. In Alma chapter 34, verses eight, nine, and ten, these were the very last three verses of scripture that I had to memorize so I could drive a car on my mission. We had to memorize, you guys remember that? We had to memorize all the scriptures that we use. Did you guys do that on your mission?
I think that was a Fresno thing, Tammy.
Oh, yeah. We had to memorize every scripture we used in every discussion.
Wow, Jenny didn't have cars.
We didn't have cars or bikes because they would have just gotten stolen in southern Italy.
Well, at least you were in Italy.
What's in Fresno? So these three verses, every time I read them, I remember how hard it was for me because not only did I not know what the majority of these words meant, I didn't understand them. And so today we are going to talk in depth about these three verses. So let's just start in verse eight. The very first thing is you're going to see the word "expedient" often. And you can write this anywhere on your scriptures, the word "expedient" means "necessary." So, know that when we read. And we're going to start, and we're just going to go through eight and nine and we'll start with Laurel, will you read both of those verses, please?
"And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it."
"For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made."
So the word "atonement" and we've talked a lot about this before, it's my favorite Hebrew word, that the word atonement is "Kaphar" in Hebrew, and it means to "cover." And so I just love the symbolism of that, that it covers you in all aspects and areas of your life. Now, in verse 10, we have a new part that we're going to study. So Laurel, will you please read verse 10?
"For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice."
And so they were used to doing constant sacrificing at the tabernacle, and in the Book of Mormon, they would have practiced this. And so when he's teaching the great and last sacrifice, that means when the Savior comes, that will be done away. No more sacrifices at the temple, no more animal blood will be shed, he is the great and the last sacrifice that we will have. Then we have a word in there which is "infinite" in verse 10. Infinite and eternal sacrifice — we have to talk about these two words and understand the context of what he's meaning here. I want to read this definition of "infinite," it's taken from Tad Callister's book, "The Infinite Atonement." And let's see, Jenny will you read this quote? This is what he has to say about the word infinite.
“The phrase "infinite atonement" or "infinite sacrifice" may refer to an atonement or sacrifice by a God, a being who is infinite in knowledge, power, and glory. Amulek makes that connection when he observes that the "great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal" (Alma 34:14). Accordingly, the Atonement is "infinite" because its source is "infinite."
But the Atonement is infinite in other ways as well. B. H. Roberts, in referring to the use of the phrase "infinite atonement" by the Nephite prophets, comments, "I think they sought to express the idea of the sufficiency of it; its completeness; the universality and power of it to restore all that was lost, both spiritual and physical, as well as to express the rank and dignity of him who would make the Atonement." Elder McConkie seems to support all these views: "When the prophets speak of an infinite atonement, they mean just that. Its effects cover all men, the earth itself and all forms of life thereon, and reach out into the endless expanses of eternity” (Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement).
Thank you. And then we have the word "eternal." And this is just quick, It's eternal because there's no beginning or end, but the key to the definition, and this is from the Webster's 1828 dictionary which I love using, is the word "eternal" means "ceaseless and unchangeable." Like it's been the same. It's eternal. The atonement will always do what it says it's going to do. And I just love that idea. Anything you guys are thinking, any thoughts?
I love this idea of infinite because I think it goes along with what we were talking about earlier about faith giving a portion or a small seed, and it doesn't require perfect knowledge, but this infinite atonement covers all of that. It fills in where we are missing. I think it goes along with the idea of Christ as the author and finisher of our faith. He starts it and gives us a reason to plant the seed, but then he finishes it. He fills it up where we are lacking or where we're missing.
So um, this did make me think of the quote that I just love from Martin Luther. He says this, “Faith is a living, daring confidence on God's grace..." which that grace can only come through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He says, "...so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times” (Martin Luther, Preface to the Epistle of Romans). And it is the foundation, I mean, without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, none of this would even... we wouldn't even be having this conversation because none of this would matter. There'd be nothing to hang on to. Faith gives us that confidence and that trust because the atonement is infinite. That's something I need to think more about. That's pretty powerful.
Yeah, I felt the same way. Like I gotta chew on that for a while. That's big, big. Let's go to the next three verses then. So turn the page and we're going to read verses 15 through 17. And Jenny, will you read those for us?
"And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance."
"And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption."
"Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;"
Go back to verse 15, where it says, "...who shall believe on his name." So this entire chapter is about Christ and there is a reason. Amulek wants us to know that Christ is the seed. So when we talked earlier about planting the seed, we're planting him — plant Christ and His word in our hearts. And then we have "bowels of mercy," and in Greek, I like the way that this is defined. It means "affections or compassions," and it's the center of his emotions. The center of God's emotions or Christ's emotions. And some great scripture references for that would be Doctrine and Covenants 121, verses three through four, and Doctrine and Covenants 101, verse nine. It's his affections and compassion for us. And then we have four times in these verses, the phrase "faith unto repentance." Let's talk about this. What does this phrase mean to you when you see "faith unto repentance?"
Well, I think just initially, there can be no repentance without faith because part of the repentance experience and the repentance journey is really truly believing Christ can make you new again and clean again. And so you have to have faith that that's so.
Laurel, I love that you just said that because there's a quote by Ogden and Skinner, they're professors from BYU, and here's what they say, which basically supports what you just said. They say, this is awesome, “The single most important act we do to set in motion the personal benefit of Jesus's sacrifice is to Repent of our sins.” (Skinner, Ogden, Verse by Verse the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2, Amla 30-Moroni) And so it's what you've just been saying, like it's our foundation...
I think they got that from me. I'm just kidding.
I think they did. Yes, they did. But think about that, to set in motion the personal benefit of his atonement is just to repent just to get on your knees and say, "I'm sorry."
Well, and the beauty of repentance, and I've read a couple of times actually Elder Anderson's new book, "The Divine Gift of Forgiveness."
Oh it's such a good book.
It's so important. I just think it needs to be in the hands of everybody, but one of the things that's so beautiful about that book is that he kind of helps us change our paradigm of like the idea that repentance is, is a series of steps that like you check them off one by one, and to really understand that repentance is a process. And it is Jesus. I mean, it is, I feel like I keep saying that, but that's why I love this verse, that idea of faith unto repentance because it's a process but it's not a checklist. It's not a series of things to do. Like, it really is a changing of your heart, and that changing of your heart can only come when you understand what the Savior did for you.
You know, I think that goes along so well with Tammy what you said about how the seed is Christ. When we plant Christ in us, and it's a good seed and it begins to swell and to grow and become delicious to us, then we want to be more like him. And we want more of that, and as a result, we turn from the things that prevent us from not having that, which is why I think true repentance really does change you. It doesn't mean that we're never going to mess up again, but if I've truly repented of this thing, I've allowed Christ to change my heart that caused me to do that thing in the first place. And not only does that make repentance sweet, but it makes it doable. It makes it like, let me add it because if repenting will change my heart, sign me up, and it will, it does. That's what it does. It is that beautiful and it is a gift, which is why he titled the book that way, but it is. It's just a gift. "Just take it and see what I can do for you." If, you know, the Savior was saying that.
I love the phrase in verse 16 that "mercy encircles us in the arms of safety where no faith unto repentance exposes the whole law." To me, that's such a beautiful, physical thing and I know we see it in other places. Lehi talks about it in second Nephi one, "Being encircled in the arms of his love." And Doctrine and Covenants, section six, we learn about it, but it really is the experience we have at the temple. When we're at the veil, and we are encircled in the arms of his love, and it is the safest place.
Thank you, Jenny. It is the safest place. You know, I really think that as Amulek was teaching this, he could discern the people's thoughts. We know he had that gift and I think at this point, he was like, "Okay, I don't know if they're really getting it. So let me just start with something simple. Let me start with a baseline of maybe what they'll get. So I can show them what this looks like. Like, how do they plant the seed? How do they plant Christ so that they can receive the blessings of the atonement?" And so we're going to talk about what he teaches them in the next segment.
Segment 5 52:16
So part of the experiment that Alma taught us about, it includes prayer. And I want to talk about the connection between faith and prayer. So going back to the definition that you guys gave about faith, I want to know what role prayer has played in your definition of faith.
So for me, I actually think prayer is the single best way I exercise my faith. If you think about it, it's a pretty remarkable thing what we do. Like we think that we can utter words that will reach the creator of the universe, and he will hear them and respond. It's kind of astounding. And one of the things that taught me about the results piece and what I'm really capable of having faith in, one of the things that's done is it's caused me to actually pray about what to pray about. It's been four years ago that we lost my dad to a very fast, aggressive cancer. And from diagnosis to his passing, it was 10 weeks. And we didn't know at the beginning of the diagnosis that it was terminal. And I remember the day that we were going to the doctor and I just had this feeling like this isn't going to be good. And I remember kneeling down in my bedroom to pray and I so desperately wanted to ask the Lord to spare my dad's life. "Just please give us this miracle," and I had the distinct impression in that prayer because I said in my prayer, "Can I pray for a miracle? Is there a miracle here?"
And I just had this peace rush over me that my dad's life had been lived and it was beautiful and it was wonderful, and the Lord recounted in my mind all the other times he had spared his life. And as I was kneeling there in prayer, I just prayed that we would feel peace and the hand of the Lord in our life. And for me, prayer is the act of faith because because prayer is the moment that I come into contact with God, and find out actually what his will is and what his plan is. And for me, that is all I can have faith in. I cannot have faith that things will work out. And I'm not a pessimist, but maybe it sounds like I am.
Yeah, it is my superpower. I actually am really good at that.
What do you call it again?
The "worst case scenario girl."
"Worst case scenario girl."
Yeah. But I can absolutely have faith in whatever he confirms for me. And so maybe there will come a day where he will confirm for me praying for this miracle is totally appropriate. And you can do it and you can trust it, but what he does is he confirms the thing that I can trust him in and sometimes that means this isn't what I want, but I get that it's for whatever reason the way this is gonna play out, "Will you just make this survivable?" And as a result, honestly, I can say those last like six weeks with my dad were sacred and beautiful, and like there was no anger and no begrudging because of my faith that I could exercise in a God who I knew loved me, loved my family, was going to take care of my father and was going to make this okay. And so I know it's a really long answer to your question, but that is the connection of prayer and faith for me. Prayer is my single most intimate, probably important act of faith I do every day.
Thank you. Thank you for sharing that because everything you shared, I mean, I remember being there with you and it was a beautiful and heartbreaking experience with your dad, but beautiful to see your face through all of that. Jenny, any thoughts?
I keep thinking of the Bible dictionary definition of prayer, where we align ourselves with God. And Laurel, I think that's what you were doing was aligning yourself and opening yourself to what he had to say, making your will the same as his. I think it's an opportunity to be at one with God.
I agree. But what's so interesting about this story back in Alma 34 is that here we have a people, the Zoramites, like their prayers were perverse. They didn't even know how to pray really and they were praying once a week on a Rameumptom and Amulek understands that. And so Amulek's gonna choose the one thing that they thought they knew what they were doing right, and he's gonna say, "Listen, let me show you how faith works then. We're going to start with this small simple thing such as prayer." And he starts in verse, we read verse 17, and then he comes into verse 18 and says, "Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save." That's a big thing.
But then he says, "...humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him." And I wonder if he's looking at them and maybe their faces are like, "Hmm cry unto him for mercy? Like, we're not sure how that works." So at least this is how I'm reading it because then he goes, "Okay, you know what, let's just start with something you understand. How about praying over your fields and your flocks? Maybe your houses, your gardens. Let's start with simple things that you really need help with right now. And pray for your enemies and then pray for your crops," in verse 24, "and your flocks and..." So he makes it so simple that they're like, "Oh, yeah, okay, okay. I can pray for that. I'm all about praying for simple things." Like I really do truly believe you can pray to God about everything and anything. There's no doubt in my mind. Whatever it is you're struggling with.
I mean, Laurel, you know this, but like my oven. My oven broke and I couldn't afford to buy a new oven because it was over $10,000 because it's a whole wall unit that I would have to replace. And so I really did go to Heavenly Father, and this was just three weeks ago, and I said, "Heavenly Father, here's my budget. This is what I can afford. Help me find an oven that is In my price range." And the next day, the thought came, "Google where to find wall oven units in Utah." So I did, and the first thing that pops up, I'm like, "Oh, this is an expensive store, but let's just see," and I click on it. Wow. The exact unit I was looking for, exactly in my budget, it was the last model that they had, and it was the model they had had in the wall that they used when they made cooking shows. It's never been used and they sold it to me. In fact, it was even better than what I prayed for. It's like, "Try it," because Heavenly Father is like, "You know what, I'm gonna even do you a favor. I'm gonna even have it go below your budget. So you're gonna have a little extra cash because you're gonna need some help fixing things."
I just think, truly, we can pray for anything. Whatever it is that bothers you, go to the Lord and ask him in mighty prayer. And the words that Amulek uses for these people, the Zoramites had never considered that because their prayers had been, "We're so grateful we're better than other people. We're so grateful that we've been the chosen ones." And I think he's trying to teach us, talk to him because he is your father. He will give you exactly what you need when you go to Him in prayer. And that idea, he'll give you what you need, not necessarily what you want.
This reminds me so much of one of my favorite stories of a woman from church history, Amanda Barton Smith, she and her husband and family were passing through Hawn's Mill on their way to Far West. And they stopped for one night, and it was the Hawn's Mill Massacre and her husband was killed, and her son was killed. And she had another son who was in desperate need of medical attention, and she had to really rely on revelation. The thing that I love is that she and the other women that were stuck there would pray together. And pretty soon the Missourians there said, "You can't gather together to pray." And so she went into a cornfield, and I think that was her closet. In verse 26, it says, "...pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness." In your hardest, driest, barren ground. So she went into the cornfield to pray, and she said that cornfield became a temple for her. And she heard a voice say, "Recite to her the last verse of the hymn, 'How Firm a Foundation,'" that her soul, "Will never, no never, no never forsake." So she knew that Christ would never ever forsake her but it was because she poured her heart out to him in a cornfield.
I love that.
That is beautiful. Let's read this quote by Henry B. Eyring. And he talks about what it means to be in the scriptures, it says "continuous prayer." This is a great quote from him. And Laurel, will you read that please?
Yes, this is President Henry B. Eyring. Quote: “When God has commanded us to pray, He has used words like ‘pray unceasingly’ and ‘pray always’ and ‘mighty prayer.’ “Those commands do not require using many words. In fact, the Savior has told us that we need not multiply words when we pray. The diligence in prayer which God requires does not take flowery speech nor long hours of solitude. … “Our hearts can be drawn out to God only when they are filled with love for Him and trust in His goodness” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Prayer,” General Conference, October 2001).
I love that quote and I think my emotion comes from... I have a very distinct memory of one of my most sacred experiences in prayer, which was a one word prayer because literally all I could utter was "Father." And I think it was maybe my longest prayer and my like most heartfelt prayer, my most like communing with him. That quote just really resonated with me. I have like a deep testimony that that's true. I feel like I want to extend an invitation to people to test that out. Like, you know, have this moment with your Father and just see what it's like when you aren't saying much.
Thank you for sharing that. That was powerful. When you said that absolutely was witnessed to me that what you were saying was true. That it's sometimes those simple just... I think we've all had those prayers. So thank you for sharing that. And I think that, you know, Amulek's teaching the Zoramites, like, "Prayer can be so beautiful. It's not what you're used to. And just go to him. He's your dad. He's your father. He wants what's the absolute best for you, he really does. And it might not feel that way when you're in the muck," and it goes back to that idea, like it's just a soil amendment, that's all, it's just part of the process. "It's gonna make everything better. Plant Christ in your heart and let that work." And then the last thing that we talked about, when we talked about the soil amendments was patience, and I think that's probably the hardest one that we have to put into our soil and so in the next segment, we're going to talk about patience.
Segment 6 1:04:36
Okay, truly though, I would have to say that patience is the hardest soil amendment to add because being patient can be so frustrating. And both of you, I mean seriously, if there's any two women who know patience when it comes to prayers and comes to faith, it's the both of you. And anyone that struggles with this, which is probably everyone, I want to know, Jenny and Laurel, can there be peace in patience? I'm like, we have to be patient, but I feel anxiety when I'm patient. Can there be peace in that moment?
I think peace is the only way to have patience. I have become a very anxious person. I have a lot of anxiety, but I think a lot of it's because of the health issues I've been through.
And I have all kinds of anti anxiety meds, and they're great. I love them, but I think the best way to get a hold of myself and to calm down is to breathe deeply. And to hold on to the peace that I have felt, even if I don't feel it now, is to think about when did I feel that peace. And I used to tell people the first time I was diagnosed and had chemo and everything, I used to tell people that were just getting diagnosed or whatever, I'm like, "It is so much better on the other side." And I've been on the other side a lot of times. And I think the thing that gives me the most peace, even when I'm in the middle of it, is knowing that there is another side if I can just hold on.
I love that journey. I actually, I love what you said right at the beginning, which I hadn't really thought about, but I think it's true. Peace and patience are connected. When you feel peace, you can be patient. When you're truly being patient, you're feeling peace because otherwise it's anxious and worry, and I don't think you can patiently worry. I think you can worry. I think I answered your question, Tam. Yeah, not only can you, but you have to. If you really want to be patient, you have to feel that peace. And so sometimes the prayer isn't, "Help me be patient. Help me ride this thing out." It's, "Help me feel peace for however long this is going to go."
You know, it's funny. Right before my mission, which was a long time ago, a pretty significant family issue came up. And I remember thinking, "Maybe I shouldn't go. Maybe I need to stay home and work this through with my family." And I remember one of my dearest friends had had a similar experience before her mission, and she prayed and said, "Heavenly Father, if I give everything to my mission, when I come home, can my dad come back to the Church?" And it worked. And so I prayed and prayed for that same thing. "If I give everything to my mission when I come home, can this all be worked out?" And the answer I got was kind of like the answer Laurel got that I think was that, "No, you need to give everything that you have, and you will find peace." And it's funny because it's been, I don't do public math, but it's been a lot of years since 1995 and 1996, and I think I'm just now finding that peace, and that's a long time.
Thank you both of you for sharing those thoughts and your feelings. I like how Amulek ends his talk to these people with this idea of patience and peace. And let's go to Alma chapter 34, and here's how he ends it in verse 40 and 41. I love these verses of scripture. So in verse 40 and 41, it says, "And now my beloved brethren, I would exhort you to have patience, and that ye bear with all manner of afflictions; that ye do not revile against those who do cast you out because of your exceeding poverty, lest ye become sinners like unto them;"
"But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions."
Like if nothing else, like Jenny, you said it. It took years for you to feel that peace. And I like how he says, "It might take your whole life. You might not until you see the Savior, but just to have patience and bear with those afflictions that one day you will rest from all of your afflictions." And it's interesting because I asked Laurel to be on... Oh, I asked Laurel to be on this episode not fully realizing what we were going to be studying, and then you agreed and I started writing my lesson and I don't know if you know this, but next to verse 41, I have written one of the last things your dad said, you can see in my scriptures. And I wrote right here that your dad said right before he passed, "I think I'll cry just seeing Heavenly Father and knowing everything is true, just like I hoped." And I think your dad is a perfect example of verse 41. And he did bear with patience his afflictions. When I came to see him, he was just lovely. He wasn't, "Woe is me." You know, we ate Chinese and we laughed. Your dad is like another father to me. And this idea that he definitely was patience in his afflictions is true.
You know, when the oncologist gave him the diagnosis that it was terminal, there wasn't anything that he could do. My dad looked at him and said, "You have a tough job doctor." And the doctor looked at me and my mom and said, "I have never had anybody say that to me when I gave them this news." And then my dad thanked him for the work that he does and did the classic, my dad was notorious for ending a conversation or ending a thing with, "Lord bless you in all you do." And the doctor walked out and I'm sure he was like, "What just happened?"
But I will say that I love that you have that. And it really does sum up kind of this whole discussion of what faith is. Faith kind of is believing that it's all going to be true. That it's all true right now. That it's all going to be true when we die. That everything we have like staked our lives on is real.
Amen. Let's read this quote by Elder Uchtdorf. I like the way he sums all of this up. And Jenny, will you read this quote?
Yes, I will.
“Discipleship is a journey. We need the refining lessons of the journey to craft our character and purify our hearts. By patiently walking in the path of discipleship, we demonstrate to ourselves the measure of our faith and our willingness to accept God’s will rather than ours. It is not enough merely to speak of Jesus Christ or proclaim that we are His disciples. It is not enough to surround ourselves with symbols of our religion. Discipleship is not a spectator sport. We cannot expect to experience the blessings of faith by standing inactive on the sidelines any more than we can experience the benefits of health by sitting on a sofa watching sporting events on television and giving advice to the athletes. And yet for some, ‘spectator discipleship’ is a preferred if not a primary way of worshipping. Ours is not a secondhand religion. We cannot receive the blessings of the gospel merely by observing the good that others do. We need to get off the sidelines and practice what we preach. …“… Now is the time to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, become His disciples, and walk in His way” (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf “The Way of the Disciple,” General Conference, April 2009).
Yeah, I love that. And I just think of my husband all of the years, looking back now we've been married 15 years. 15 years, he's been adding soil amendments, and this is the first time he said, "Wow, that really paid off." 15 years, he's been patiently adding things to the soil and I had no idea and it's really paying off. It is with patience and with diligence and looking forward to our Savior Jesus Christ. Planting him in our hearts just a little bit is what will heal everyone. And going back to what you said, Laurel, it's what the world needs. We need Jesus now more than ever, we need him. And so I think that that is just the beauty of this lesson. I didn't expect it to go the direction it did and thank you so much, ladies, for helping it get to where it needed to be. This is what Jesus needed us to talk about today. So I'm grateful. Thanks for joining me. We're done. That's it.
Thank you. This was a gift. Thanks so much.
Wow, it was such a gift. Okay, ladies, so tell me, what was your takeaway?
Christ is the seed. And when we plant him in our hearts and when we nourish our relationship with him, whether that be through prayer or repentance or forgiveness, that that seed will swell and it will grow and it will become delicious.
I am going to focus on "because of Jesus." And just keep in mind every single morning, like because of him, I can fill in the blank, "Because of him I will..." I have appreciated deeply that reminder that it all comes down to him as the seed as well.
Yeah, Laurel, you took mine. I even wrote mine down so I wouldn't forget. But mine is, "Because of Jesus I will..." And I'm going to do that. I'm going to try and wake up every morning and think that — "Because of Jesus I can, or because of Jesus I will..." Whatever that looks like. Right now because it's summer, I'm probably gonna say, "Because of Jesus, I will be patient with my kids." Anyway, well, thank you. Thank you for being with me. I love you, friends. I love you so much.
For those of you that are listening, we would love to hear what your big takeaway was from this episode. Now, if you haven't already joined our discussion group on Facebook, and if you're not following us on Instagram, you guys, you totally should because it's such a great place to ask questions as you study throughout the week. When you have certain questions, post them on Instagram and on Facebook, and what I've loved is reading your questions, trying to answer them, but I especially love listening and reading you guys answering each other's questions. That's been so powerful to read your answers to questions.
And then at the end of the week, usually on a Sunday, we ask for your big takeaway. We put a post on Instagram and Facebook. So comment on the post that relates to this lesson, and let us know what you learned, and I read every single one of them and I love it. Love reading what you're learning. You can get to both our Facebook and Instagram by going to the show notes for this episode on LDSLiving.com/SundayonMonday. And it's not a bad idea to go there anyway because that's where we have all the links to our references, and we have the transcript of this entire discussion. So go check that out.
The Sunday on Monday Study Group is a Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ original brought to you by LDS Living. It's written and hosted by me, Tammy Uzelac Hall, and today our awesome study participants were Jenny Reeder and Laurel Christensen Day. And you can find more information about these ladies at LDSLiving.com/SundayonMonday, which is also where we have the links to Laurel's book, and in fact, she writes a book called "The faith experiment," I highly recommend it, and we'll have the links to Jenny's awesome books.
And just as a bonus for those of you listening, we have on Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+, Elder Anderson's book on repentance, which I highly recommend. You can listen to it for free, so it's such a great book. Our podcast is produced by KaRyn Lay with post production and editing by Erika Free. It is mixed at Mix at Six Studios and our Executive Producer is Erin Hallstrom. Thanks for being here. We'll see you next week. And please remember... just remember that you're God's favorite and he loves you, and he wants you to come to him in prayer and talk to him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
So now you'll have to like, you'll have to maybe tell us to like tone it down, which will make me feel stupid, right?
No, she won't tell us that.
Are you opening candy?
I'm starving. I haven't had anything to eat.
Oh, okay. I'm in. I'm in you guys, I'm in.
What is Alma’s definition of faith?
What are some steps to having faith?
"But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than adesire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words" (Alma 32:27).
Alma compares the word to a seed:
"Now, we will compare the word unto a aseed. Now, if ye give place, that a bseed may be planted in your cheart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your dunbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to eenlighten my funderstanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me" (Alma 32:28).
Photo of poppyseed taped into Tammy's scriptures:
What does alma say about how we can nourish the seed once it has been planted?
"37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
"38 But if ye aneglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
"39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your aground is bbarren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof" (Alma 32:37-39).
The allegory of the olive tree is in Jacob chapter 5.
The term "great diligence and patience" is used in verse 41, 42 and 43 of Alma chapter 32.
Faith in Hebrew- אמונה Emunah, means "firm, steadfast and support" (see biblehub.com).
Root word for Emunah stems from “Aman,” which means to have trust and confidence in (see biblehub.com).
The story of Aaron and Hur holding up Moses' hands:
"10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
"11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.
"12 But Moses’ hands awere heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur bstayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun" (Exodus 17:10-12).
Quote: “Oh, it is a living, busy, mighty thing, this faith; and so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly. It does not ask whether there are any good works to do, but before the question rises; it has already done them, and is always at the doing of them. He who does not these works is a faithless man. He gropes and looks about after faith and good works, and knows neither what faith is nor what good works are, though he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works” (Martin Luther, Preface to the Epistle of Romans).
What are three ways that we can nourish our faith? Alma 32:41
- Great Diligence
- Looking Forward
What are the questions that the Zoramites ask Alma?
"Now after Alma had spoken these words, they sent forth unto him desiring to know whether they should believe in aone God, that they might obtain this fruit of which he had spoken, or bhow they should plant the cseed, or the word of which he had spoken, which he said must be planted in their hearts; or in what manner they should begin to exercise their faith" (Alma 33:1).
Alma’s answer to the Zoramites:
Alma teaches the Zoramites with a story from the scriptures:
"20 But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would aheal them" (Alma 33:19-20).
Other sources for the serpent as a symbol of Christ:
Andrew Skinner teaches this:
“From the beginning the true Messiah was legitimately represented by the image of the serpent, but that the symbol was usurped and perverted by the quintessential false messiah, Satan.
Evidence from all sources (scriptural, cultural, historical, and prophetic) leads us to believe that the serpent symbol appeared first in the Garden of Eden when Satan adopted the form of a snake, which was intended to point to the true Messiah. Over time, its true meaning became corrupted not only as it became established through natural observation—the snake shedding its skin and so on—but also as the symbol passed through many cultures down through the ages. The result, of course, was the appearance of the dual nature of serpent symbolism in the various civilizations of the Near East and elsewhere. It was the late Spencer Palmer of Brigham Young University who observed that a theory of corruption and cultural diffusion is the most compelling explanation for the many resemblances to the pure gospel found in various religious traditions around the world.43 This certainly seems to be the case regarding the powerful and pervasive symbol of the serpent in the ancient world. Enough glimpses and echoes of the divinely intended meaning of the serpent symbol exist to enable us to make significant connections to Christ. Of this, the Book of Mormon is a premier witness and source.” (Andrew C. Skinner, "Serpent Symbols and Salvation in the Ancient Near East and the Book of Mormon")
Bishop W. Christopher Waddell taught:
"The sad irony is that, too often, those most in need turn away from their one perfect source of help—our Savior, Jesus Christ. A familiar scriptural account of the brazen serpent teaches us that we have a choice when faced with challenges. After many of the children of Israel were bitten by “fiery flying serpents,” “a type was raised up … that whosoever would look … might live. [But it was a choice.] And many did look and live.
“… But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished.”
Like the ancient Israelites, we are also invited and encouraged to look to the Savior and live—for His yoke is easy and His burden is light, even when ours may be heavy.
Alma the Younger taught this sacred truth when he said, “I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.” (Alma 36:3)
In these latter days, the Lord has provided us with numerous resources, our “brazen serpents,” all of which are designed to help us look to Christ and place our trust in Him. Dealing with the challenges of life is not about ignoring reality but rather where we choose to focus and the foundation upon which we choose to build.
These resources include, but are not limited to:
· Regular study of the scriptures and the teachings of living prophets.
· Frequent, sincere prayer and fasting.
· Worthily partaking of the sacrament.
· Regular temple attendance.
· Priesthood blessings.
· Wise counseling through trained professionals.
· And even medication, when properly prescribed and used as authorized.
Whatever change in life’s circumstance may come our way, and whatever unexpected path we may have to travel, how we respond is a choice. Turning to the Savior and grasping His outstretched arm is always our best option” (Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, “Turn to the Lord,” General Conference, November 2017).
Alma promises that our burdens can be made light:
"And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall aplant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, bspringing up in you unto ceverlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your dburdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye ewill. Amen" (Alma 33:23).
Alma teaches about the Atonement of Jesus Christ:
"8 And now, behold, I will atestify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the btransgressions of his people, and that he shall catone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it.
"9 For it is expedient that an aatonement should be made; for according to the great bplan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are cfallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.
"10 For it is expedient that there should be a great and last asacrifice; yea, not a bsacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an cinfinite and deternal esacrifice" (Alma 34:8-10).
Definitions of words used in Alma 34:8-10:
- "Expedient" means that which is right, necessary or edifies. (Craig J. Ostler and Joseph Fielding McConkie, Revelations of the Restoration: A Commentary on the Doctrine & Covenants & Other Modern Revelations)
- Atone, or Atonement in Hebrew is "Kaphar," which means to cover, or at one (see blueletterbible.org).
- "Great and Last sacrifice" meant that there would be no more animal sacrifices made at the tabernacle, no more animal blood shed.
- Infinite: “The phrase "infinite atonement" or "infinite sacrifice" may refer to an atonement or sacrifice by a God, a being who is infinite in knowledge, power, and glory. Amulek makes that connection when he observes that the "great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal" (Alma 34:14). Accordingly, the Atonement is "infinite" because its source is "infinite." But the Atonement is infinite in other ways as well. B. H. Roberts, in referring to the use of the phrase "infinite atonement" by the Nephite prophets, comments, "I think they sought to express the idea of the sufficiency of it; its completeness; the universality and power of it to restore all that was lost, both spiritual and physical, as well as to express the rank and dignity of him who would make the Atonement." Elder McConkie seems to support all these views: "When the prophets speak of an infinite atonement, they mean just that. Its effects cover all men, the earth itself and all forms of life thereon, and reach out into the endless expanses of eternity” (Tad R. Callister, The Infinite Atonement)
- "Eternal" means ceaseless, and unchangeable (see websters1828dictionary.com).
Quote: “Faith is a living, daring confidence on God's grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times” (Martin Luther, Preface to the Epistle of Romans).
Alma continues to teach about the Atonement of Jesus Christ:
"15 And thus he shall bring asalvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.
"16 And thus amercy can satisfy the demands of bjustice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of cjustice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal dplan of eredemption.
"17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your afaith unto repentance, that ye begin to bcall upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you:" (Alma 34:15-17).
Definitions for phrases used in Alma 34:15-17:
- "Believe on His name": This entire chapter is about Christ and there is a reason: Amulek wants us to know that Christ is the seed, and that we should believe on His name.
- "Bowels of Mercy" in Greek means affections and compassions (see biblehub.com). Other scripture references: D&C 121: 3-4, D&C 101:9.
- "Faith unto repentance": “The single most important Act we do to set in motion the personal benefit of Jesus Sacrifice is to Repent of our sins.” (Skinner and Ogden, Verse by Verse the Book of Mormon, Volume 2: Alma 30-Moroni 10).
Elder Anderson’s book: The Divine Gift of Forgiveness
Bible Dictionary definition of prayer:
"Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them" ("Prayer," Bible Dictionary).
Amulek’s teachings about prayer:
"24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
"25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
Quote: “When God has commanded us to pray, He has used words like ‘pray unceasingly’ and ‘pray always’ and ‘mighty prayer.’
“Those commands do not require using many words. In fact, the Savior has told us that we need not multiply words when we pray. The diligence in prayer which God requires does not take flowery speech nor long hours of solitude. …
“Our hearts can be drawn out to God only when they are filled with love for Him and trust in His goodness” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Prayer,” General Conference, October 2001).
The hymn that Jenny references: Hymn #85: "How Firm a Foundation"
“Discipleship is a journey. We need the refining lessons of the journey to craft our character and purify our hearts. By patiently walking in the path of discipleship, we demonstrate to ourselves the measure of our faith and our willingness to accept God’s will rather than ours.
“It is not enough merely to speak of Jesus Christ or proclaim that we are His disciples. It is not enough to surround ourselves with symbols of our religion. Discipleship is not a spectator sport. We cannot expect to experience the blessings of faith by standing inactive on the sidelines any more than we can experience the benefits of health by sitting on a sofa watching sporting events on television and giving advice to the athletes. And yet for some, ‘spectator discipleship’ is a preferred if not a primary way of worshipping.
“Ours is not a secondhand religion. We cannot receive the blessings of the gospel merely by observing the good that others do. We need to get off the sidelines and practice what we preach. …“… Now is the time to embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, become His disciples, and walk in His way” (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf “The Way of the Disciple,” General Conference, April 2009).
Amulek ends the chapter by teaching about patience and peace:
"40 And now my beloved brethren, I would exhort you to have apatience, and that ye bear with all manner of bafflictions; that ye do not crevile against those who do cast you out because of your dexceeding poverty, lest ye become sinners like unto them;
Photo of Tammy's scriptures with quote from Laurel's Father:
“I think I’ll cry just seeing Heavenly Father and knowing that everything is true…Just like I hoped” Brent Christensen 4 weeks before his passing.