44: “A New Spirit Will I Put within You” (Ezekiel 1-48)
Have you ever called out in a moment of desperation, “Lord, give me strength?” Maybe a do-it-yourself project turned out to be far more complicated and frustrating than the internet made it look, or maybe your moment of pleading came from something more serious and life-altering. In this week’s lesson, we study the words of a prophet whose name in Hebrew translates to “God will strengthen.” We have much to learn from Ezekiel’s 48 chapters about drawing on God’s strength, so let’s dig in.
Ezekiel 2:1 (Ezekiel is Son of man)
Ezekiel 33:29 (and others) (Then will they know I am the LORD)
Moses 1 (Man is nothing)
Ezekiel = God will strengthen
Ezekiel 2:3 (Israel is a rebellious nation)
Ezekiel 5:5 (Israel’s importance)
CR: Matthew 5:14-16 (A city on a hill)
Ezekiel 5:10 (Israel is broken)
Ezekiel 3:17 (The prophet is a watchmen)
CR: Ezekiel 33:6-8
Jacob 1:19 (Magnify your office)
Moses 6:27 (Prophets can see afar off)
D&C 88:81 (Every man warn his neighbor)
“The thing that I enjoy most about the job is knowing that people aren’t seeing what I’m seeing”, he tells me. “People don’t see the lightning as close as I do. People don’t go through the weather that I go through. It’s my own, personal experience. I’m not downtown going grocery shopping, like everyone else does or anything at the moment. I’m up there, weathering it out, seeing things that people just don’t see.”
- Real fire watchman today
Words of the Prophets:
“A prophet is a watchman on the tower, protecting us from spiritual dangers we may not see.” (Elder Neil L. Andersen, “The Prophet of God”, April 2018 General Conference)
Ezekiel 22:27-28 (Sin explained away)
Ezekiel 22:30 (Stand in the gap)
Ezekiel 16:60 (God’s covenant)
Ezekiel 11:19-20 (One heart)
CR: Ezekiel 36:26 (New heart)
1 Nephi 17:45 (Hear the still small voice)
Alma 32:27 (Just desire to believe)
Words of the Prophets:
Being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event. And engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality. (Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “Born Again”, April 2008 General Conference)
Ezekiel 40:2 (Temple on a very high mountain)
Ezekiel 47:1-5 (Water flowing from the temple)
Ezekiel 37:10 (The stick of Judah and stick of Joseph)
Words of the Prophets:
“Two characteristics of the water are noteworthy. First, though the small stream had no tributaries, it grew into a mighty river, becoming wider and deeper the farther it flowed. Something similar happens with the blessings that flow from the temple as individuals are sealed as families. Meaningful growth occurs going backward and forward through the generations as sealing ordinances weld families together.”
“Second, the river renewed everything that it touched. The blessings of the temple likewise have a stunning capacity to heal. Temple blessings can heal hearts and lives and families.” (Elder Dale G. Renlund, “Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing”, April 2018 General Conference)
“My mother and I became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a few years before my father passed away. Some years after his death, all the vicarious temple ordinances were performed in his behalf, except for one: the sealing ordinance. At the time, I did not dare ask my mother if she wanted to be sealed to him, because I knew how strained their relationship had been.”
“Then a miracle happened. My mother had a dream in which she saw her husband, Noel, outside the kitchen door in their home in Managua, extending his hand to her and inviting her to come with him. She woke up with a sweet feeling in her heart. Not too long after that, she called me one day and calmly said, “I am going to be sealed to your father this Saturday. You can come if you want.”” (Sister Reyna I. Aburto, “Miracles of Healing through Temple Ordinances”, September 2020 Ensign)
“If you don’t yet love to attend the temple, go more often—not less. Let the Lord, through His Spirit, teach and inspire you there. I promise you that over time, the temple will become a place of safety, solace, and revelation.” (President Russell M. Nelson, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation”, Oct 2021 General Conference)
Have you ever thought or maybe even uttered out loud, "Give me strength!" What did you need the strength to do? And did you get it? Today's discussion of Ezekiel would make anyone wish for strength, but more specifically Ezekiel, who is going to need it after 48 chapters and many visions from the Lord. 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're new to our study group, we just want to make sure you know how to use this podcast. So please follow the link in our description, and it's going to explain how you can best use this podcast to enhance your Come, Follow Me study, just like my friends Stacy Bhatt and Carrie Burton from Cottonwood Heights- the Deseret Book book-signing event. Thank you so much for coming in and saying hi to me, that was awesome. Now another really cool thing about our study group is each week we're joined by two of my friends, so it's always a little bit different. And today I'm so excited to introduce you to two men who I think are going to contribute greatly to our discussion. We have Mark Christensen, and Row, Robe Hawk, sorry. Worse. Today we have Mark Christensen and Rob Hoch. Hi, guys.
Rob Hoch 0:53
Mark Christensen 0:55
Oh, this is exciting. Okay, so tell us a little bit about yourselves. What does the audience need to know?
Mark Christensen 1:04
Well, first of all, I know Tamara, I have seen her teach. She was amazing. And really well-beloved by her students.
Well, so Mark was my principal, my seminary principal, and he oversaw all teachers. I was one of your teachers. So fun.
Mark Christensen 1:20
Well, she's really kind. And it's great to be with Rob, who I've known since he was very young.
Were you his teacher?
Mark Christensen 1:28
(laughs) Just kiddin'.
Mark Christensen 1:31
He got hired to teach near where I was early on, and it, wasn't it? anyway, years ago. And so we've known each other on and off and done some crazy things together, all based on his talent. He just told me what to do and, and we had a lot of fun. He, anyway, a lot of fun.
Rob Hoch 1:51
Mark has held me in his arms and wiped my cute little nose as recently as three weeks ago. I'm kidding. No, Mark is an award-winning teacher and a heck of a colleague and we've known each other for years, and I just highly esteem him.
Yeah, well, where do both of you teach now?
Rob Hoch 2:17
We're both at Ensigh college,
Formerly known as LDSBC, LDS Business College, so yes, Ensign College, great school, by the way. I'll do a plug for them and I'm not getting paid to do it. My daughter went there. Oh, we love that school. Yeah, big fans, so. These two paid the price to know stuff. I'm super excited. And before we even started, Rob and I were already talking Israel, because he goes there. Every year he takes his family or friends and I just am fascinated with that place. So it's really going to be fun to have your perspective, specifically, stay tuned for the last segment, because that's the one where I was like, This is why Rob is here. I am thrilled about what you have to teach us.
Rob Hoch 2:56
Happy to share.
Oh, we're gonna have a good time today. So if you want to know more information about my guests, you can read their bios and see their pictures, which are going to be in our show notes. And you can find those at LDS living.com/sunday on Monday. So grab your scriptures, your scripture generals, and definitely something to mark your Scriptures with. And let's dig into the book of Ezekiel. So turn to the first page where it says Ezekiel; let's write what his name means in Hebrew. So in Hebrew, it is pronounced Yahezqe l. Like, that's kind of how I broke it up into the two words, is Yahezqe l, because Yahezqe means 'to strengthen', like it's from the root Hezek. And then El, as we've learned this year means God. So the meaning of this word is 'God will strengthen'. It's future meaning, 'God will do it in the future.' And boy, could you guys agree more? Is there anyone who needs more strength than Ezekiel?
Mark Christensen 3:50
He's in a very difficult situation. And yet, what's amazing about him is he actually seems to increase in spirituality in his difficulty. And again, I don't know what he was like before he had to go to Babylon, but the visions and the experiences that he has start a few years after he is actually in captivity.
Wow, Hold please. I like how you put that, I'm writing that down. He increased in spirituality as, What did you say again?
Mark Christensen 4:21
as he was going through these difficult times. Think about it. He is a temple priest. He is from the tribe of Levi, and he is taken away from his temple, he will know that the temple will be destroyed, and yet he will have experiences in Babylon completely separate from the temple that just show how close he is to our Heavenly Father. And He will see much that has to do with the temple and the temple in the last days. To me, it's just such a great example of someone being separated because of circumstances and yet they're still able to connect to the Lord no matter where they are. Even like when President Nelson told us to be involved with a temple during COVID, by doing family history work and other things, that the Spirit of the Lord is not going to be minimized or taken away when we're unable to do or be where He would like us to be or where we would like to be. But in this case, it seems to me that he just, his influence just grows leaps and bounds.
Yeah, Mark, that was a great perspective on Ezekiel. I appreciate those words. Rob, what are you thinking about his name?
We all need God's strengthening power in our lives. And I see that definition tied to the concept of grace. And I believe that that's a principle that we need to talk about more, celebrate more, the using in our testimonies in Sacrament Meeting. It's that divine help and strength that we receive through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It's the enabling power that strengthens us from day to day and helps us endure to the end. It's mentioned 156 times in the New Testament, mostly by Paul. And I just feel that we should really access that grace, that strengthening power, just like Ezekiel did. I was a very homesick missionary for about three months, 90 days. It was really, really tough and I needed that strengthening power, and it came through prayer and through priesthood blessings. And eventually it came to pass and, and I'm so grateful that Jesus Christ was there with me, just as He was for this ancient prophet.
Oh, my gosh, Rob, I appreciate you connecting it to your own life with that experience, because I had never connected that God will strengthen, to the word grace. And that is really profound, because is name really could mean God, His grace, and that is what Ezekiel got. He got the grace, the ability to do something that - and I love the definition in the Bible Dictionary - meaning when we talk about things like the ability for you to do things beyond your own strength. And that is what Ezekiel experienced. Like, I read everything in here. And I just think, How could someone mortal withstand all that he went through by seeing the people in Babylon and being told what to do with the people in Babylon? In fact, let's turn to Ezekiel chapter 2. One of the things that really strikes me is what he is called throughout the book of Ezekiel, it's in 2:1. Over and over and over again, in the many visions he receives, what does the Lord refer to him as in verse 1?
Rob Hoch 8:08
Son of man
Yeah, highlight that. And let's look at the footnote down below. It's important for us to know that because you'll read it a lot. And you're like, Why is he being called 'Son of man', Son of man. I like what the footnote says: "The expression Son of man used in Ezekiel refers only to this prophet. As a Hebrew idiom it means simply 'human'. It is not to be confused with the title, Son of Man, which refers to Christ." Why do you think the Lord consistently keeps calling him human, human,human? What's the point of that reminder? Because we all know we are.
Mark Christensen 8:19
That's an interesting question. And I'm not sure I know the answer. But it's interesting to me that throughout the entire book of Ezekiel, there is a phrase that is repeated over and over and over again. And it is that, in fact, it's 65, at least 65 times, he says, "Then will, then they will know that I am the Lord. Then they will know that I am the Lord." I just, that's an amazing thought. And so with, with Ezekiel here, being a, reminding him that you're, you know, you're in a fallen condition, but you will - as I interpreted and based also on what Rob just emphasized - that 'I am with you, you are not alone.' I, He's constantly trying to help all of us to turn to Him, to trust in Him. And that goes from the most active member of the church, who still needs to learn even more how to trust to Him, to the person that hardly knows that there is a God. He's doing everything He can, that they will know that He is there.
Wow, Mark. I really appreciated that connection. I wrote that in my scriptures. I mean, 65 times, "then they will know that I am the Lord",and nothing reminds you of that more than your most human experience where you were, for me when I'm at the depths when I need Him the most. That is when I'm reminded who God is. So thank you, Mark. Rob, what are your thoughts on that?
Rob Hoch 9:45
I see a connection here to Moses. And
Rob Hoch 9:51
Moses chapter 1. And he says, I know now that man is nothing which thing I had never supposed. So I agree with Mark. I love this juxtaposition of of son of man with 'I am the Lord.' I don't think Jesus wants us to denigrate ourselves. So I don't think He wants us to be hard on ourselves. But it's just a reminder that the natural man can be overcome, converted through Christ. And that's a really important element of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Yeah, well, and then it ties right back to what you've taught us, Rob, that we can't do any of this without grace, that it is only through the God's grace that will help us overcome our humanness. So I'm so grateful you taught that. Oh, that's so good. Thank you, both of you. And thank you for teaching us about Ezekiel. So we are going to study his recorded visions and revelations. He is the author of this book, he is writing in a first person perspective. And he's just sharing his whole experience and what he is seeing at this time of the Babylonian captivity, and he's living among the Jews in their exile. Tens of 1000s he's living among. And so what we're going to do in the next segment, is we're going to find out what the Lord sent Ezekiel to do, and why the people would need this man whose name means 'God will strengthen'. And we'll do that coming up next.
Segment 2 11:12
Okay, so I have a question for both of you. What one word, or maybe you have many, would you use to describe the conditions of the world that Ezekiel is living in?
Wow, spiritual chaos.
Mark Christensen 11:37
It really is absolute degradation, having turned away from the Lord. Daniel Tyler, an early pioneer, recalled that the Prophet Joseph Smith was talking about those who had apostatized from the church. Brother Isaac Behunin, who was a very faithful member of the church, then asked the question, Why do people turn against the church? If I left it, I would just leave it alone. And the guy says, If I left the church, I would just leave it alone. And he says, Well, once you have joined the church, you have left neutral ground, you do not know what you would do. And it seems, and just like the Book of Mormon says, it's strange to relate that those who had once known and then left became even more hardened than those who had never known. And it's almost as if, boy, if you remember the church and you decide to leave it, or you decide to ignore the Spirit of the Lord, and still, even if you're still a member, right? Boy, you can just even do more dramatically awful things than those that have never had the gospel. And it seems that that is some of the things that Israel, and especially he uses Jerusalem, is being accused of.
Wow, spiritual chaos. What about you, Rob?
One word to ascribe Israel at this tinme? Broken.
Oh, very good.
Rob Hoch 12:57
This is a people, once proud people who have repeatedly resisted the Spirit, the warnings from the prophets, and now they are just completely destroyed. And yet, the Lord's arm is stretched out still. Ezekiel and Jeremiah and Daniel are all now teaching about repentance and the return. The Jews are particularly broken because they no longer have their temple. And we could learn from these wonderful people about the importance of the temple and Temple worship. They'll get their temple back, but lose it again. And it's been 1000s of years now and they weep for it.
Well, Rob, I really like how you just said we could learn from these people. Because as you read, a first reading of Ezekiel, you're like, these people are awful. They are so rebellious and wicked, I would never, oh, well, maybe, uhhh. Like, I wondered how many of us are like these people, because we just want to think I would never do that. But on our own level, maybe we are. And so I asked my guests to come prepared for this segment, to look over Ezekiel chapters 1-9, and come prepared with verses that stood out to them that describes the people of Jerusalem. I like one commentary that I read. They described it as turbulent times. That's how they would sum it up. And so we're going to discuss the condition of the people in Ezekiel's day because this is going to set the stage for the rest of our episode. So tell me what you guys found in these chapters. What stood out to you that describe these broken people or these people in spiritual chaos.
Rob Hoch 14:53
In Ezekiel chapter 2, the word rebellious is found ta half dozen times.
Rob Hoch 15:02
They're rebellious, they resist authority, which is so sad because Jesus is somebody wonderful to follow, but they just don't, they just don't get it. As a teacher, you deal with a lot of different students and a lot of different personalities. And you can deal with struggling students and with students that are hurting, and students that have doubts and have questions, but it's really challenging to deal with a rebellious student.
What's one of the challenges you've seen? Can you pinpoint it?
Rob Hoch 15:45
They're just completely unwilling to, to listen, to participate. You still love them, but that's, that's a very difficult personality to work with.
I think, I agree with you. Because I'm thinking in my past experience, when I've had a few rebellious students, you almost use the term past feeling. Like you can have the most spiritual lesson, you're feeling the spirit, kids are feeling the spirit, and that kid wants nothing to do with it. Like just, No. And you, it's so hard to work with, like you said, it's really, really difficult. So
Rob Hoch 16:24
There's a look in the eye, there's a the tone in the voice.
Oh, gosh, yeah.
Rob Hoch 16:29
It's very hard to, to work with that type of individual.
Very hard. In fact, I wrote 'rebellious' at the top of chapter two, since you pointed that out. That's so good. Let's write that rebellious. Awesome. Keep going. What do you got?
Mark Christensen 16:43
Well, when I was looking at Ezekiel, there's something that I was seeing it from a different point of view, because he identifies idolatry, disobedience to parents, the word abominations, leaving their city desolate. I mean, Jerusalem is supposed to be Zion, and it's supposed to be the kingdom of God upon the earth. It's constantly referred to by the Lord as His Bride, right? And the children of Israel, especially Jerusalem, is supposed to really be this light. There is something unique in Ezekiel in these chapters that you go right over. I've always wondered why of - and Rob could probably speak to this as well - Why in the world would the Lord choose Israel as the chosen land, as the promised land? I mean, it's there in the Middle East. It's the lowest place on Earth, right? The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth that I know of, and it's the only Middle East country that doesn't have oil.
Mark Christensen 17:45
Now, it seems to me that the, you know, gee, Lord, why couldn't the promised land be somewhere else? But this phrase, and the Lord makes it very quick, it's in Ezekiel 5:5, and this interesting phrase, "Thus saith the Lord God; this is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her." The idea is that He put it right there so it would be in the midst of the nations that come through and are in contact with her. And suddenly, what the Savior said in the Sermon on the Mount even shines a little brighter to me when he says, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven, that they may know that I am the Lord." And so we've just seen the absolute opposite happening in Ezekiel today, which is, of course, why Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. I don't know if Rob has any other insights as to why it is the promised land? Why that spot?
Oh I'd love to know anything. Rob?
Rob Hoch 19:01
I just have one tiny edit on what Mark said. And I go to Mark regularly with questions. So he's kind of my go-to guy for research. But there was oil discovered in the Golan Heights in the past few years. Mark, you've been to Israel, but it was quite a while ago.?
Mark Christensen 19:22
Yes, yeah. In fact, I'm so glad you said that, Rob, because I don't want to say anything that's wrong. But it was, it was just recently discovered. That's very interesting. So thank you for sharing that. I, that's interesting. That really has some interesting implications.
Rob Hoch 19:37
It does in the latter days, the nations are going to unite against Israel. And this could be one of many reasons, this new resource that they've discovered there in the northern part of Israel. So Israel is very important as a land bridge and it's it's the, the middle of three continents. So it is an important location and they had the opportunity to share the gospel and to communicate the covenant. And often they did. Sadly more often they did not.
Yeah. Wow. Those are some great insights and important things to think about when we're talking about this group of people because the Lord loves them so much, not even loved, loves them so much, and yet they are so wicked. In fact, Mark, when you took us to Ezekiel 5, that's the verse I, sorry, when you took us to Ezekiel 5, there's a verse I marked, which is verse 10, that describes just how debased they are. I mean, this verse talks about cannibalism. I mean, they are like, that's when I go, Okay, I'm not that. I mean, I've been rebellious, but not to that level. That's just how broken and spiritually chaotic these people are, that some of them are experiencing that. And so we're, it's bad, it is bad. lGo ahead, Mark.
Mark Christensen 21:08
That will actually happen when they're under siege, and when Nebuchadnezzar comes through that they will actually turn to that. And the only contrast I can think of is in our day is of course the Donner-Reed party versus the Latter-day Saints and, you know, the Martin and Willie handcart company, who that kind of, again, those are a little bit different. But still, that that would just not go across most people's minds. But he was showing that sometimes we don't think that sin is that big of a deal. It's one of the most dangerous things, and one of Satan's greatest tools, when we think that a little bit of sin is not going to be a big deal. And the trouble is, is that yeah, you're right. there're certain little things that for the most part will never lead to something horrible. But in every case, those horrible deeds began with the teeny deeds. I mean, we all know that. And so I just, as you look at this, you think, Oh, I would never, I don't know about you, but I've heard many people in my life, who said, Oh, I would never, and then years later, they are. And that's very, it's heart rending.
Yeah, definitely. Well, and do you think this verse, because this is referencing those two women who they say we'll eat your child today and then my child tomorrow kind of a thing that. We had a great discussion about that with our guests when we discussed that. And it was striking to us because for women, we came away with this perspective that more so than with cannibalism, it spoke to the condition of the people, that no one was there to help. Like, where were the ministers? Where were the people to feed the women food, so they didn't have to eat their children? Where were their leaders? I mean, that's, that's the condition of the people is that no one was there, the ministers weren't doing their jobs. And so it spoke more of a societal problem than even the individual. Like it was just a big ol' huge, massive issue here that we're dealing with. Everyone's broken, everyone's chaotic. What about you, Rob?
Rob Hoch 23:05
Where are their shepherds? is a good question to ask. So on the one hand, we want to approach our people here, our, the former saints with an attitude of 'I hope I will always be tolerant of those who sin differently than I do'. I believe that's Elder Eyring quote. But this is also very important to see what can happen if we resist the Spirit and we become rebellious. That can take us down roads, like the vision of Lehi talks about, you know, wandering off into strange roads and drowned in the depths of the filthy river. We, it's a good reminder to stay close to the Lord, stay on that covenant path, because we don't know what we'll do without the Spirit, the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost,
Absolutely. Well, and ultimately the worst thing to happen - and both of you have mentioned this - is that they lose the temple, because they are worshipping - idolatry worship in the temple, and they have desecrated the temple. And so the Lord takes like, He allows it to be destroyed. And so that is, I want to kind of just plug that in your brain. We're gonna talk about that later in today's episode, but that is one of the other worst things that help describe these people. They are a people without a temple. And wow, how many of us can relate to what that might have felt like over COVID? A people without a temple? And many of us felt lost. I know I did. I longed to go back. And we were encouraged to do other things that helped to remind us of our covenants. But even these people couldn't do that, that there were past the reminders. And so these people are so struggling, that the Lord, He just, He needs them to listen, and they need help. And so in the next segment went to we're going to learn about the help that the Lord sends to the Israelites.
Segment 3 25:04
I have a good story. So back in 1910, there was a massive fire that swept across western America and they dubbed it "The Big Blow-up", or "The Devil's Broom Fire". I thought this was cool, I'd never heard of it. Well, as a result of this devastation in this fire, there were fire towers that came into existence with nearly 5,000 tech towers in operation by 1930. So these really, really high towers high above the trees, they measured only 15 by 15. It was a small little area that housed men or women who throughout the day, they would watch for lightning strikes and fires, as well as waking up two, three, and even four times in the middle of the night. And they would just look up and look out and see if there's any other fires that started, if there's anything going on in the middle of the night. Now, if a fire does start, these fire watchmen or fire watchwomen, they have the tasks that they have to do to carry out so that the fire service can decide whether or not to do something about the fire.
They first have to figure out where it is, then what is fueling it, and then how it is behaving. They then radio the fire to a centralized dispatch center which reports to the responsible agency. And after that, it is up to the agency to decide whether to tackle the fire or allow it to run its course. Now the watchmen and watchwomen in these lookout towers, they feel the pressure of spotting fires for the safety of everyone and everything: land, animals, houses, and people. Now I want us to turn to Ezekiel 3:17. And I want you to tell me what the story has to do with what Ezekiel is being asked to do. Let's go to Ezekiel 3:17. We're gonna do a cross reference when we get there. Mark, will you please read verse 17. And as Mark reads this, circle what it is that the Lord calls Ezekiel,
Mark Christensen 26:54
EZK 3:17 "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word (of the Lord) at my mouth, and give them warning from me."
Now let's cross reference this; to the outside, write Ezekiel 33:1-9. And let's turn there, Ezekiel 33:1-9. And Mark, will you just read for us verse 6. Because it'll say it a lot, but I really like verse 6; this is what a watchman is to do. Go ahead.
Mark Christensen 27:23
33:6 "But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand."
Okay. This is some serious stuff. So what is the Lord calling Ezekiel? What is He calling him to do?
Mark Christensen 27:48
He's calling him to make the call. He's calling him to do difficult, difficult things. A prophet was never sent to the earth to be popular with the world. Nor was he sent to the world to be hated. He was sent to the world to teach the truth in the face of ever -hanging, ever-shifting values of ever-shifting cultures in every single age of the world. It is cultures that have shifted away from what is true. And a prophet has to stand in the way in/of that, and it's not easy.
So Mark, I'm so grateful you brought up a prophet, according to these verses we read what is another title then for our Prophet?
Mark Christensen 28:30
He is the watchman on the tower.
Absolutely. In fact, in chapter 33,:2 there's the word watchman again; He is calling him to be a watchman for us. What struck me was Mark read for us in Ezekiel 33:6, what happens when they see someone with a sword? They are to warn everyone. But look how serious the job of watchman is. Rob, will you read for us verses 7-8.
Rob Hoch 28:52
I will. 33:7 "So thou, oh son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.
Rob Hoch 28:52
8 "When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thy hand."
Okay, tell me about this. How serious is the job of Watchman?
Rob Hoch 29:20
This reminds me of Jacob 1:19, where Jacob says, "We magnified our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads, if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence." And John Taylor said, 'God will hold us responsible for those we might have saved had we done our duty.' And sweet President Nelson, recently rather boldly said, we are commanded to teach truth. That's what watchmen on the tower do.
Absolutely. Is it the same for our Prophet today? Will the Lord hold him accountable for what he doesn't say when he should?
Rob Hoch 30:06
Yeah, absolutely. In fact, there's a great quote from Elder Neil L. Anderson in the April 2018 General Conference. This is what he said, "A prophet is a watchman on the tower, protecting us from spiritual dangers we may not see." Like he is this watchman we've been describing. And going on in the story I started with at the very beginning, I read an interview with a current fire watchman, and I just had to share this with you, because his perspective blew me away. And Mark, will you please read this quote for us, and after he reads it, I want us to talk about how this fits with our prophet today, I thought this was so interesting. So here's the quote, in pink,
Mark Christensen 30:41
"The thing that I enjoy most about the job is knowing that people aren't seeing what I'm seeing, he tells me. People don't see the lightning as close as I do. People don't go through the weather that I go through. It's my own personal experience. I'm not downtown going grocery shopping like everyone else does, or anything at the moment. I'm up there, weathering it out, seeing things that people just don't see."
K. you can keep the quote up there, Cole. Tell me how that applies to our Prophet today.
Mark Christensen 31:14
Well, truly, he does see things that are not visible to the natural eye. It's, it really is exactly like Enoch's experience in the book of Moses in 6:27, where the Lord describes them as their eyes cannot see afar off, but a prophet who is off, you will, the watchman on the tower. He has eyes that can see afar off. The Lord describes the people in his day saying, they have eyes that cannot see afar off. That's an interesting phrase; they just don't see where this is going to lead. And a prophet is able to see those things afar off. And that to me is in the other quote that you read about, they see what's fueling the fire. Sometimes they see things that are going to get a lot of attention. But he can see that that is a fire that's going to burn out by itself so it doesn't really need a lot of attention like the world might, like a distraction. And he's able to discern what is really needing attention, and what doesn't really deserve your attention.
Well, that's a really cool perspective and take on what's fueling the fire. I like how you apply that to the Prophet because I think he def, that has definitely happened in our church, where we want to, you know, the knee jerk reaction, and we want, Why isn't the church responding? And you're right; it'll, it'll burn out, and it's going to be okay, so. Oh, that was so good Mark. Thank you,
Rob Hoch 32:41
Tammy. As we lead tours to Israel, we're constantly, I guess, shepherding the tour members. And we're very concerned about their physical well-being. There are a lot of uneven places where you you, you walk on cobblestone. And one particularly problematic issue is some two and a half foot stone barriers that line the streets. And anybody who's been to Israel has seen those, they know what I'm talking about. You will, too when you visit there soon. We're always warning people and reminding them to be careful. And people get excited, they get distracted, and they forget about that danger. And we had one gentleman who, a taller guy tripped over one of those barriers, broke his collarbone, and missed out on some of the really sweet events of the last few days. Why did we care? Because we want people to have the very best experience possible; we want them to have sacred experiences there.
Rob Hoch 33:58
And in just a unique way I have a little better idea about the prophets and the words that they use to describe this warning. This warning role of theirs is typically out of love, caring. And so 'warn' sounds bold, and it possibly could be construed as being mean, but everything that I've ever heard from our prophets and everything that I've observed them do in my limited interactions with them is is described best by those terms like love and caring, and compassion.
Yeah, definitely. Thank you for explaining that, Rob and sharing that experience. It must have been awful for that man. Wow,
Rob Hoch 34:57
It was terrible.
Oh, terrible. Well, I asked
Rob Hoch 35:00
He was in a hotel room for three days.
Oh, gosh, that poor man. I'm sorry if you're out there, bummer. Oh, geez. Well, I asked you to think about this question because I was just curious to know from either one of you: In your lifetime, is there something specific that the prophet has seen that you didn't have the perspective to see? Do you have your own personal experience?
Mark Christensen 35:20
Well, one is an obvious one, but it's really my perspective that I want to put on there. And that was, of course, the 1995 Proclamation on the Family. When that came out, I had, I thought it was fine, it was great. But when I first read it, and this is not being critical of it, I hope people understand. But I looked at it and to me it was almost like it was testifying that, you know, something like, We testify that oxygen is necessary for physical salvation, that the sky is blue, you know. I mean, well, I love it, I, it's fine. But we see how in so many ways the family has been under siege in different ways. So that was one thing that really was my response to it, kind of like the watchman on the tower. Well, okay, that's, that's nice.
That's a great example. Very good one, Mark. Thank you. What about you, Rob, do you have one?
Rob Hoch 36:18
Yes, I started graduate work at the University of Utah. In 1999, I was working on a doctorate in education. And that was quite an experience. It was a very liberal environment and I wanted to always maintain my standards and my beliefs, while being sensitive to how others felt. And we're studying multicultural issues and ethnicity and diversity and whiteness theory. And I started to get just a little concerned that I wasn't seeing more diversity in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. But I kept it to myself and tried not to be overly frustrated about it. I remembered that scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-6 about having patience and faith with what the prophets say and do. And I'm glad I didn't leave the church over that because it wasn't too many years before Elder Gong was sustained as an apostle and other Suarez was sustained as an apostle. And so I just had a sweet experience trusting in the Lord and His prophets, and it turned out, so well. Love those brothren, and the wonderful element that their diversity brings to that august body.
Yes. Well, and Rob, I think there are many people listening who can relate to your same feelings, your same experiences, and I like how you said, I didn't leave. I waited it out, you know, and, and how, because it worked. Like they had foreseen, they knew it was coming. And they knew the concerns that many of us had, being a worldwide church. So yeah, gosh, great story. Thank you for sharing that. Excellent. I think for me, mine's a little bit more, well, it's kind of silly. It tells you how I think. But when the church made the change to two-hour church, part of me was like, what? Now I got one more hour on Sunday I gotta do stuff with my family. Like what? We got to come home now and study the scriptures together? Like I really appreciated that the church just did it for us, you know? And then I thought, Oh, all right, we'll go to two-hour church. Fine, sounds fantastic.
And then COVID hit. And I just thought it was powerful for me to realize that the Prophet knew it needed to be in our laps; he knew that we needed to take ownership for what our families learn, because there will be a time when it will really matter. And I love that it came out at a time and it prepared us before we really had to put it into practice. And, and it wasn't that much time either. And I think what will it be like when, before the Savior comes? Like what are we going to be asked to do that we don't have a lot of time to get it right. And you just got to do it when you're asked to do it and hope for the best. And so that was kind of my experience with the change of two-hour church, learn how to do Come, Follow Me. Oh, look, now I'm doing it for my family for reals because we couldn't go to church. So that's one I did not have the foresight, but I'm grateful for.
Rob Hoch 39:34
Tammy, we were discussing this topic recently in Institute class, and a student offered a unique perspective. When she said that the prophet is the watchman on the tower. But she said I wonder if we all have tinier towers that we're to stand on and in our Our own sphere of influence we're to warn others and, and they established that warning others could be simply sharing your testimony. But, you know, a father and a mother have a tinier watchtower to, to see things that their family can't, and to, to teach them . And a bishop or a Relief Society president has a tinier tower and more responsibility to teach truth to others. And I was very impressed with that paradigm shift that the student suggested.
Oh, that is awesome. Well, I think you're totally right, especially when you go back to Ezekiel 33:8, where it says I will require at their hands, like, I'm going to ask why you didn't do what I asked you to do. And then it takes you to Section 68 in the Doctrine and Covenants, where the Lord teaches, 'here's what a parent should teach their children and if you don't, I will require it at your hands'. Like it's gonna, you're gonna have to be accountable for that, why you didn't teach your kids. So I totally agree. Parents are mini watchtowers.
Rob Hoch 41:05
I love that they were suggesting, or she was suggesting that we have a responsibility to Doctrine and Covenants section 88, I think 81, verse 81 says it becometh every person who has been warned to warn his neighbor. So we have an obligation within that circle of influence, within our sphere of impact.
Well, and then I go back to how many watch towers were put up after that fire. By the 1930s, you know, 500 watch towers. You can never have too many. We want as many watch towers as we can get. And you know, one isn't enough, or 12 isn't enough. It's just we have the prophet, the First Presidency, the 12 Apostles, the 70. But then we have bishops,Relief Society presidents, and then we have families. So, Oh, I totally agree. You tell your students 'spot on', I love it.
Rob Hoch 41:59
Tammy, I also put our General Women's leaders up on that tower right next to our apostles and prophets and 70s.
Absolutely. 100% I agree with you, Rob. I'm so glad you pointed that out. How did I miss that? I'm an idiot. You're totally right. Thank you. I'm so glad you mentioned that. They are watchtowers for sure. Oh, gosh, you guys, that was such a good discussion. So thank you, thank you for coming prepared and for teaching us. Okay. So let's think about this, because as we are humble in following the counsel of the Lord's Prophet, we are promised blessings and safety and peace by doing that. And then we're these awesome little mini watchtowers, which I think is so cool. But what's interesting is the people in Ezekiel's time, they struggled to be watchtowers; they couldn't even follow a watchtower, let alone be their own. And so we're going to discuss the troubles that they had in the next segment with this idea.
Segment 4 42:50
Okay, I'm very excited for this segment, because I specifically and purposefully have had Mark written down for this episode for probably two years since he was on it the last time. Because when I taught with Mark, he taught me about Ezekiel chapter 22. And it has stuck with me all these years, and I am so excited for his lesson on this chapter. So Mark, I'm gonna turn it over to you. I want you to teach us about the people. They weren't even capable of being watched man, let alone watching a watchman. And I want you to tell us about what Ezekiel chapter 22 teaches us.
Mark Christensen 43:24
This chapter, chapter 22 of Ezekiel is a chapter that most commentaries skip. It is because it's just a depressing, long chapter. Let me read to you just the heading from our King James Bible. It is ,chapter 22. Ezekiel catalogs the sins of the Jews in Jerusalem. They shall be scattered and destroyed for their iniquities. Isn't this an inspired chapter?
I love how they use word catalogs.
Mark Christensen 43:43
I know. It is, oh, let's just take look right here. And then over in Ezekiel 22, in the NIV, it simply is titled "Jerusalem sins." I don't know how many people would be excited about that. And in fact, you go through the entire chapter and it's just, it is just telling you how bad it is. And so it's really interesting to me. So for, I'm going to read just one portion from the NIV that New International Version , then we're going to come back to the King James, but this is what it says. And I'm over and it's, I just liked the way they use this a little bit better than the King James.This is what it's describing. After talking about how the Sabbath day is being profaned, it says this: "Her officials within her are like wolves, tearing their prey. They shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them." Now that's an interesting thing, boy, and we could keep going.
Mark, what verses were you reading in Ezekiel?
Mark Christensen 44:56
I was reading verses 27-28.
Mark Christensen 44:59
But 28 in the King James version just isn't as clear as the NIV on this. And I think about the day in which we live, where sins are constantly being whitewashed, explained away, excused, et cetera. And we all want to be kind, we don't want to be judgmental. But brothers and sisters, all of us, we need to know that sin is sin. And of course, we don't want to be judgmental but we need to be careful that we don't accept it, start accepting things which the Lord would certainly not accept in His kingdom. And so that's what he says. So right in the middle of all of this, and he makes this statement, and I really, it's just a simple phrase, but I find it personally inspiring. Verse 30,k? So we're in 22:30.
Mark Christensen 45:48
22:30 "And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none." Now in the middle of that little verse, I" sought for a man to make up the hedge", the protection, so that Israel could still be saved. "And stand in the gap", that little phrase, the "stand in the gap" I find really inspiring personally. And so let me just share with you a little bit and then please pipe in anybody. But I think about those who have somebody that stands for the right, that when it seems like there is a breach and our protection or a breach in faith or whatever, I don't want to judge somebody. But I love it when somebody fills that gap with something good.
Mark Christensen 46:39
For example, I was so inspired. I mean, I've heard so many negative things. And you always hear of people we love that might have, take their names off the records of the church, or who have left the church or somebody that's apostatized. And there's so many things that people have said about, you know, the young, single adult age, etc. And I was absolutely, here's just one example. I was absolutely inspired when back in May, President Nelson calls for this worldwide devotional for young adults with Sister Nelson. And anybody, it's kind of like a first come, first serve. And I'm thinking, Okay, how's this gonna go? And I can't tell you how inspired I was that 22,000 people filled the Conference Center. And there were at least another 2,000 that were over on Temple Square in the Tabernacle, wherever they went for the overflows. And I just thought to me, Oh, my goodness, with everything negative I'm hearing, there are 24,000 people, young single adults standing in the gap. Now I know they're not all perfect. And they'd be the first to say that. But when a prophet, a 90 plus-year old man - watchman on the tower called, they came. That, to me is so inspiring.
Mark Christensen 47:59
And then I think of my own ward, the people that, that you can count on, the people that really make that. I love all the members of my ward, but there are certain members that always stand in the gap, whether it's a testimony meeting, whether it's a ward activity that you can get away with not going to. They support it, not because they go and think they're going to get some great entertainment. They do it because they want to build the kingdom and support their fellow saints. They stand in the gap. I just, I don't know, I find that little phrase so inspiring.
Yeah, well and you always have, and I loved the day you taught this to us as seminary teachers at East High. You, you were on fire. And it struck me. And I can remember going back and reading chapter 22, especially the part about the priests. Like they couldn't even trust their own religious leaders, they were so corrupt. That struck me,like that's how bad it is. And so then they say, and then he says, I can't find one person to stand in the gap.
And as you were talking today, I wrote next to that, that phrase right there, the word 'exposed', because that gap leaves you, leaves an exposure in the hedge, which isn't safe. And whoever decides to stand in that gap, you are opening yourself to exposure. That can be very scary. And nobody wants to be, maybe people don't want to be seen and I thought, am I, have I been willing to be exposed? Am I willing to put myself in that space? Because the hedge is supposed to protect you. Why would I want to put myself in that spot and help protect other people, maybe take a blow or an arrow or a sword in the gut? You know, that's a scary place to be. But it's so poignant as you've just pointed out - 22,000 young adults were willing to stand in the gap and to go listen to a 90-year old prophet to risk exposure. It didn't matter to them. They were willing to do that. So I love how you brought that up with the Prophet's words in May. Boy, it was so awesome. So good. So thank you, Mark. Rob, what do you got?
Rob Hoch 50:00
I'm speechless. Mark had mentioned that that you would be discussing this and it's just a beautiful, beautiful concept. Kind of obscure but such a valuable lesson for each of us.
Well, and for him to put it in such simple terms like thinking, I don't know that I've, I have not stood in the gap when it comes to going to, you know, Super Saturday for the Relief Society. I'm not a gap-stander, Mark, I'm not gonna lie. I prefer not to go. But now you called me out. I'm like, okay, all right. Maybe I'll stand in the gap a little more often.
Mark Christensen 50:36
No, I honestly, I'm not an expert. Everything we talk about I believe in but I'm not always very good at. But when I see it happen, I have to tell you, it just touches my heart. And I can't imagine. I think the Lord is also teaching me what, what touches His heart. I had an, I have an uncle. He's passed away. Amazing man, Walter, from Germany served as a bishop here in Bountiful, strong accent. And we were out of town on a big family reunion and we went to church out of town. And there was a man that was teaching a Sunday school lesson and the poor guy was shooting from the hip. He was not prepared. And he was trying to get people to engage in you know, to make something good happen in this, in this gospel doctrine kind of class. And most people you could tell 'em, they're like, I'm not, I'm not jumping in. I'm not jumping. There was my Walter, my Uncle Walter over there in the corner doing everything in the most, in the least condescending, in the kindest, most supportive way trying to help this struggling teacher be successful. It's a moment, I'll never forget.
That's a standing in the gap. Whoa, that's good.
Rob Hoch 51:52
I can see that phrase being a keeper for me and the listeners. You got Nike "just do it". Now I've got "stand in the gap."
Totally. Like, I want that somewhere in my house. somewhere where my kids, I'm gonna teach this to my kids.We are going to be gap-standers, we're going to stand in the gap. So yeah, I love it. So thank you, Mark. Thanks for teaching that in Ezekiel. That's for me my favorite part of Ezekiel is standing in the gap. And it's, it's striking because not many people would be willing to do it and no one was in this instance. That's why he's pointing that out. That's why he's saying that in this verse. No one will stand in the gap. So in the next segment, we're gonna discuss one of the ways to be sure that we can stand in the gap and what we need to be able to do it. We'll do that next. ,.....
Segment 5 52:37
So I want to know have either one of you ever been scolded?
Mark Christensen 52:46
Rob Hoch 52:48
Okay. Describe to me how it feels. You don't have to tell me the story when you were scolded. Just tell me how it feels when you're scolded.
Mark Christensen 52:57
Mark Christensen 53:00
Uncomfortable. Want to get it done as fast as possible. I'm thinking when I was a child, not that I haven't been scolded since then. But that's the ones I remember the most.
Rob Hoch 53:12
Okay. Very good. Yeah, I'll tell you the time it happened was in high school Government class. And I was talking too much. And the teacher made a very public scolding of me. And and, yeah, that was very embarrassing. I didn't talk in that class again. Whoa, that is embarrassing.
Ah, for me, when I get scolded, I cry. I go right to tears every single time because I feel like I've just upset the entire course of my life. And it, and then God, and God's mad at me. Like I just go to that place like, Oh, I'm so bad. And I want us to be thinking about these feelings we have when we're scolded, because it felt like to me that much of Ezekiel is a scolding. But specifically Ezekiel, chapter 16. We're gonna go back now because I want us to look at this. Let's go to Ezekiel chapter 16. You've got some verses here that are very important to us in our discussion. And Ezekiel 16 is a pretty severe scolding in my opinion, and the Lord is angry and rightfully so as we've been discussing. In fact, the section heading tells us "Jerusalem has become a harlot". I mean, look at that, "reveling in her idols and worshipping false gods - She has partaken of all the sins of Egypt and the nations round about, and she is rejected."
So think about this, like she is just choosing other lovers or other gods. In fact, they're so bad that he even says you're worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, and that is in verse 49 and 50. Like that's how bad they are. So then the Lord tells us something. We're going to go to Ezekiel 16:60. As bad as they are, He's going to do something. And so Rob, will you please read for us Ezekiel 16:60.
Rob Hoch 55:04
16:60 "Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant."
Thank you. So He has this everlasting co that he's going to reestablish. But who will he establish this covenant with? Now, twice in Ezekiel, the Lord uses a metaphor that teaches us the requirement for who He will make this covenant with. So we are going to go to first, Ezekiel 11:19-20. And we're going to cross reference it. So let's go to Ezekiel 11:19-20 verses 19 and 20. And Mark, will you please read these two verses for us.
Mark Christensen 55:37
11:19 "And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh,:
Mark Christensen 55:49
20 "That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God."
Now, let's cross reference that with Ezekiel 36:26, and let's go there. Let's talk about these two verses, Ezekiel 36:26. And Mark read that for us too, please.
Rob Hoch 56:14
36:26 "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."
Thank you. Now I love that you're using the NIV Mark. It's one of my favorite things. I like how the NIV states when it talks about a new heart. So we're talking about here how the Lord is saying, I'm going to give them an undivided heart. I'm going to give them a new spirit. And then he talks about taking out this stony heart of flesh and giving them a heart of flesh. Now for me, I marked heart of flesh, meaning alive, it's living. But talk to me about this. How would you teach this to your students? Like what is He teaching them, a stony heart, a fleshy heart? What's going on here?
Mark Christensen 56:57
This is, this is what I thought of, and when Nephi is speaking to his brothers. And he says this, I mean, these were brothers that actually started, in my opinion, as normal members of the church growing up in Jerusalem, or I would say, Salt Lake City. And they go from being a normal member of the Church, to becoming completely closed off to the Spirit. And Nephi, of course, says these words. "Ye are swift to do iniquity." This is 1 Nephi 17:45 "Ye are swift to do iniquity, but slow to remember the Lord your God. You've seen an angel, he spoke to you. And you have heard his voice from time to time. But He has spoken unto you in a still, small voice. But you were past feeling that you could not feel His words." And I like that. When we think of a stony hearts, you just can't feel. You've, we've all seen people as you mentioned earlier, I think Rob was talking about that. And you also Tamara in a class.
Mark Christensen 58:00
It can also come across in a different way. I had a student years ago in a seminary class, I still remember. And she had moved up and from another state. And when she was in class, and we would talk about the law of chastity, she kind of had this funny grin on her face. And she's just kind of like blowing it off. Now, she was not rude or mean, she was nice. But clearly and we found out, well, she called me up one day during school, and which is very unusual. And she was hysterical, and her boyfriend had broken up with her. And I was amazed that she called me. And I said, I said to her, I'll call her crystal, but that's not her name. I said Crystal, I said, I know. And I said to her, will you just, I just want to tell you one thing, will you listen very carefully. And she's sucking in air and sniffling. And I said, I know this is probably the last thing you think that will help you right now. I said, but will you meet with your bishop? Will you if I, if you don't want to call him I will call him for you and just set up an appointment. Would you be willing to do that?
Mark Christensen 59:22
And this young girl was so devastated that she said she would. And from there on out I was out of the picture. I called, I did call the bishop and set up an appointment for her. But I was out of the picture after that. But what I witnessed happen for the next five, six months that she was in my class was really one of the most beautiful miracles I've ever seen. And she went from a hard heart to just an advocate of the gospel. Her countenance shone so strong. It was, I know it's, you know, high school, but still it was one of the most dramatic changes I'd seen. And I saw her a few years later, and she was even more dynamic and strong and you can see it right away. I didn't have to ask, you know. how you doin and it was - you could see how she was doing.
Wow, you definitely can, you can see that when someone goes from a stony heart to a fleshy heart. Like it's alive, it's beating, it's alive with the gospel of Jesus Christ, just like you explained, Mark. That's awesome. Thank you.
Rob Hoch 1:00:24
Elder Christofferson said, being born again, unlike our physical birth, is more a process than an event, and engaging in that process is the central purpose of mortality. For most of us, that is a process from the stony heart to the soft heart. One of the sweetest examples in my life was my dad, who, as a young man, not a member of the church, said that he would never set foot inside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward building. And the word Mormon made him nauseated.
Rob Hoch 1:01:08
Well, he met my mom, who was a convert, and he humbled himself and joined the church. And he didn't love wearing a shirt and tie. And he kind of maybe didn't observe the Sabbath day as much as he could. But over a period of years, that stony heart changed to a soft heart. His Patriarchal Blessing says it's a miracle that he joined the church. And if it were not for the believing blood of Israel that flowed through his veins, it would have been impossible to have launched a testimony in his heart. He and my mom are now 84 and they've served five missions. And they're now regularly reminding the family that G-rated movies are where it's at. And you know, don't do the PG or harder, just G movies we recommend to you. And so I've never seen quite as wonderful an example of the stony heart to the soft heart is I have with my dad.
Wow, both of those stories are great examples of what it looks like to go from a stony heart to a living flesh, soft heart. So I'm grateful for that. And I think that's what the message here that Ezekiel's trying to teach us is, we have these people who are just so awful. And we described them at the very beginning: rebellious, debased, broken, as you have said, spiritual chaos, as you said, Mark. And I love everything used to describe this, and so their hearts were stone. And I love how the Lord is like, but I will give them a new heart, and it will be through covenants. Covenants are what soften our heart. It's by being obedient to those covenants, and by letting the Lord work through us, and both of you gave great examples of that. I want to know really quickly from either one of you, What advice would you give someone to start the path of a soft heart or fleshy heart? What's one piece of advice you'd give?
Mark Christensen 1:03:16
Start doing something you know you should and stop doing something you know you shouldn't. I know that sounds so simple, but when Jesus said, If any man will do His will, He'll know of the doctrine. I was just asked this question just few days ago by a student, wonderful student, who has felt, she said, I haven't felt the spirit for a very long time. And she was filling the spirit because of something we'd discussed in class. And she asked, How do I come unto Christ? And I, you know, I'm thinking, Okay, well, there's a bunch of, and I said, and I didn't, I seriously, I'm always praying, because I know that I can give a bunch of answers. But what answer really does, is going to resonate with her? So she, and I said, I said simply, well, it's not a big secret, it's not complicated. The fact that you want to, He will immediately turn to you. And so and, and the spirit was so strong, I was just, I was just honored to be able to see this just in with her in her eyes. Because it was simply, it's the fundamental things. But if you're saying prayers, mean them; if you're reading scriptures, mean it, try to learn more. Your most minute efforts will be rewarded more than you could ever imagine.
Wow. Mark, say that one more time. What was your advice?
Mark Christensen 1:04:44
Yeah, this is from Elder Clark. I love what he said once, he said, You should ask yourself, what do I need to stop doing that I'm doing? And secondly, what do I need to start doing that I'm not doing? And it's, it can be the most simple thing. But if you'll start there, that effort will start you on that path.
Wow, good one. that's good advice, I like that. Thank you. Rob, what advice would you give to a student?
Rob Hoch 1:05:14
I'm going to take my advice from Alma, where he talks about what it takes to grow the tree of faith. And planting that seed, if you just have no more than a desire to believe, let that work in you. And eventually that plant will develop in a small tree and then an oak tree that is just amazing to behold. And I think of the scripture in Matthew 7:7, Sermon on the Mount, "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you." We just need to ask more often for the Savior's help; Lord help my unbelief.
Rob Hoch 1:06:08
The Atonement of Jesus Christ is there, we can access it, we just simply have to ask. And that's something that I need to do more often.
Yeah, excellent answer. Wow, I love that. Both of you. Thank you. Mark, you're gonna say something?
Mark Christensen 1:06:26
Oh, I was gonna say, just to reiterate what Rob just said. It's just, I do this all the time with my students. But Ask and ye SHALL receive, seek and ye SHALL find, knock and ye, it SHALL be opened. It's not, it doesn't equivocate. It doesn't. We treat it sometimes or you know, ask because you might receive. I mean, you could find; knock and occasionally it's opened to, and seriously, we treat it like that, instead of saying, The Lord says very clearly, you shall. And then right after that, He says - because I can see people go, Well, yeah, this won't work for me because - for everyone that asks will receive. I mean, I had a student share this, I thought it was so beautiful, just this week. We need to have faith. She goes, That once you ask with a sincere heart with real intent, right, that the package is on its way. It's kind of like we don't know when it will arrive, but you need to know that it's on its way and it will come. I thought that was just a great simple analogy.
Boy, it is.
The parable of FedEx.
Mark Christensen 1:07:27
Yes. She used Amazon, but FedEx works.
That's awesome. You guys are great. Wow. Well, thank you. Thank you for that great discussion. Because it's imperative for us to have living hearts, fleshy hearts before the Savior comes again. We just have to. And Rob, I don't know if you even realized you said this, but right when you said it, I had to write it down. Because you told us the story about the man who tripped and fell and broke his collarbone. And then you said this exactly. "He missed out on the really sweet events of the last few days." And it struck me because I feel like if we cannot get our hearts in the right place, that we will miss out on some really sweet events in the last few days before the Savior comes. And Rob is going to teach us about a very significant event in the next segment. And I am so excited for this discussion.
Segment 6 1:08:15
So throughout today's episode, Rob and Mark have consistently been teaching us that one of the results of the sins of these people was that the temple was destroyed. And it was; it was burned, it was destroyed and they lost their temple. But Ezekiel teaches us about another temple. And this is so cool. And it is also going to be a really sweet event that will happen prior to the Savior coming. And so Rob is going to teach us about this. And I am excited because he's been there. He knows this. And that's all I'm gonna say. How's that for a build up for these chapters? Ohaaah, okay. Rob, hit it.
Rob Hoch 1:08:49
Ezekiel 40-47 talk about the temple and that's a significant chunk of Ezekiel's message. And it's very important to these Jews who are absolutely mourning the loss of their temple. In Ezekiel 40:2 it says
Rob Hoch 1:09:12
"In the visions of God brought he me into the land of Israel, and set me upon a very high mountain," and then he sees in vision this temple that will be built in the latter days. That high mountain is likely Mount Moriah, which is a significant mountain in our faith. And it's also known as the Temple Mount today. But the next several chapters talk about this temple that will be erected in our day. And there is some discussion, most think that it will happen before the arrival of the Savior, including Joseph Smith, who said Judah must return, Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and the temple. It will take some time to rebuild the walls of the city and the temple. And all this must be done before the Son of Man will make His appearance.
Rob Hoch 1:10:12
And there's a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 124:36 that seems to endorse this idea. "It is ordained that in Zion and in her stakes, and in Jerusalem, those places which I have appointed for refuge shall be the places for your baptisms for the dead." It appears there will be a temple built, that there will be baptisms for the dead performed there. We're talking about a temple on Mount Moriah. And when it says high mountain, some are surprised to learn that this is quite an elevation, it's 2500 feet. And when Jesus says He went up to Jerusalem, those who have had the experience there, it's quite a climb up to the top of Mount Moriah. And this is where three temples have been built in, in the history of Israel. We had the Temple of Solomon, we had the temple Zerubbabe;, and then the Temple of Herod, all three of which either were destroyed, or in the case of Zerubbabel, kind of fell into disrepair.
I have a question. What is on that mount today?
Rob Hoch 1:11:25
Today it is the home of some Muslim shrines, the Dome of the Rock - that golden structure that's probably the most famous landmark in Israel - but there's also some other Muslim places of worship and gardens and schools. But it is today being administered by the wath or the Muslim leadership, which is kind of ironic. It's a site that's holy to three major religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. And right now Islam has ownership, you might say, or they're being allowed by the Israeli government to control the site.
And that, is that where the Wailing Wall is?
Rob Hoch 1:12:18
Yes, the Wailing Wall is down off of the Temple Mount.
And that's as close as a Jew can get to that fount.
Rob Hoch 1:12:26
That's correct, to the Holy of Holies. Although they don't know, we don't know exactly where the Holy of Holies is. And the Jews don't call it the Wailing Wall. That's a nickname that has been imposed on them. But the idea is that they go there often, sometimes four in the morning, to just be as close as they can be, to where their temple was, and where they suspect, expect that their temple will be in the latter days.
Okay, thank you for answering that. Because we have a lot of listeners who have this vision of, they know what the Dome of the Rock is. So they know we're talking about was Mount Moriah, so thank you, carry on.
Rob Hoch 1:13:08
Now, some people wonder if the BYU Jerusalem center could be converted into a temple. But the problem with that is it's on the wrong mountain. It's on the Mount of Olives. It's close, but you've got two mountains with the valley Kidron in between them. And so most don't think that that fits.
Rob Hoch 1:13:32
So, in Ezekiel chapter 47, something very interesting and significant happens. This angel, this messenger that's giving Ezekiel the tour of the House of the Lord says
Rob Hoch 1:13:52
47:1 "He brought me again," we're in 47:1. "Afterward, (the messenger) brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward:"
Rob Hoch 1:14:04
And as we go on, we start getting various distances from the temple and the water is to the ankles in verse 3 and then to the knees in verse 4. And then in verse 5, it's a river that could not pass over for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that cannot be passed over. That appears to be a literal event that will happen in the latter days, and those waters issuing from underneath the temple will heal the Dead Sea, which is the most salty body of water on the face of the planet. And this could be a literal event. There was talk of a multi-billion dollar project between Jordan and Israel to pump water out of the Dead Sea, desalinize it and purify it. That fell through but some people were getting excited that this could be the fulfillment of the prophecy. That doesn't seem to quite work. And others feel that it'll be more dramatic.
Rob Hoch 1:15:13
Gerald Lund suggests that this great earthquake that has been prophesied of could be the reason why the Jordan Valley will be thrust upward dramatically. And water, fresh water will issue from the temple to the Dead Sea and heal it. Interesting to talk about but greater significance here is the spiritual. And a great question to ask is, How deeply are we immersed in the temple and temple worship? Are we the ankle variety, the knee variety, or are we just full on swimming in this the living waters of the temple? Elder Renlund said that two characteristics of the water are noteworthy. First, though the small stream had no tributaries it grew into a mighty river, becoming wider and deeper the farther it flowed. Something similar happens with the blessings that flow from the temple as individuals are sealed as families. Meaningful growth occurs going backward and forward through the generations as sealing ordinances, weld families together.
Rob Hoch 1:16:40
I've had some sweet experiences in the temple; the sealer told my wife and me that the spirits of our future children were at the ceremony, and now four of those children had been back to the temple for their own sealings. Elder Renlund also said second, the river renewed everything that it touched. The blessings of the temple likewise have a stunning capacity to heal. Temple blessings can heal hearts and lives and families. Sister Aburto, former member of the Relief Society presidency talked about her dad, who was an alcoholic, struggled with alcoholism for much of his life. And it eventually took a toll on the marriage and the parents divorced.
Rob Hoch 1:17:26
And a few years later, Sister Aburto and her mom joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And she says some years after his death, all the temple ordinances were performed in his behalf except for one - the sealing ordinance. At the time, I did not dare ask my mother if she wanted to be sealed to him because I knew how strained their relationship had been. Then a miracle happened. My mother had a dream in which she saw her husband outside the kitchen door in their home, extending his hand to her and inviting her to come with him. She woke up with a sweet feeling in her heart, and called her daughter and said, I'm going to be sealed to your father this Saturday, you can come if you want. The sealing happened. And Sister Aburto said at that holy moment, all the pains and sorrows were forgotten. We all felt the soothing and healing balm that our Savior Jesus Christ offers us through His Atonement on both sides of the veil.
That's what swimming looks like.
Mark Christensen 1:18:28
Can I just piggyback on something that Rob just shared? The water coming forth out of the temple. And for, I remember that. I'm teaching a temple class right now. The first time I went to the temple, I was sitting in there as a getting ready to go on my mission back in 1981. And it didn't shake my faith one bit, but I remember sitting there and thinking, This is my church. Wow. I had no idea. And I don't know what I really got. I mean, I, if we had time, it was a good experience. But every time we go back to the temple, the water seems to get deeper if we are striving. And as Rob indicated, it gets to the point where its waters want to swim in, it's much deeper than we had anticipated. And so I love the statement that you know, what President Nelson said, when he said this, "If you don't yet love to attend the temple, go more often, not less. Let the Lord through His Spirit, teach and inspire you there. I promise you." (This is from the prophet, the watchman on the tower) "I promise you that over time, the temple will become a place of safety, solace, and revelation." And I am so grateful that good examples before me taught me to keep going. Because at first it was, I don't even know if it was ankle deep. I think it maybe wet my toes.
I was just gonna say mine was toe deep. At best. Yeah.
Mark Christensen 1:20:10
And now I don't, to me, it feels like their water, want to swim in. And perhaps I'm only up to my waist, it doesn't matter. I know that promise from our prophet, from the watchman is true. The more you go, the more you will love it.
I will concur. And I will second what Mark just said, because that was how it was for me. Well, the first time I went through I was, - you're nice to say this is our church - I was freaking out. Like I was not prepared for the temple. They didn't have a temple prep class back in the 90s. And yeah, I was not ankle deep. It was for me, I was not ready. And so but I did receive that same promise that if you just keep going, in fact, I remember when I went there, they said, Just come to fill the Spirit. Don't try to learn anything. If that's all you do is come and just sit to feel, you're doing something. I'll tell you what, I sat and felt for like 30 years before I actually learned stuff. But it reminds me of the day I got baptized. When I got into that water, it felt so good. That when they told me I had to get out for another girl to get baptized, I was like, Can I just stay here for a little bit? Like it was a sauna. I wanted to do the backstroke, hang out in that warm water.
And I think that's where I am now. I want to just sit in those waters and hang out from my all the way I want to go submerge myself. And so you're right Mark. When you keep going like the promise says it will, you will just submerge yourself in the waters of the temple. Rob, I'm so grateful for the way you took those verses and the direction you had us go with that. That is so profound, and it's a great way to think of those. So excellent job. Thank you.
Rob Hoch 1:21:46
Yeah, definitely. Okay, guys. So that's it. That's the end of our episode. You were awesome. Wow, I loved our discussion. That was fun. So here's what we do. At the end of every episode, I ask my guests to just kind of think back to everything we discussed in all six segments. And do you have a takeaway? Is there something that struck you that you'll remember, maybe you didn't know or something that you'll just take away with you. And when you have it, just a quick little two sentence ditty of something that you, that stood out to you just share it.
Rob Hoch 1:22:16
One principle that is throughout these chapters that we maybe didn't explore is that of Jesus's mercy. He scolded these Israelites and they deserved it. They were very, very wicked. But then immediately, the prophet goes into mercy mode. And on behalf of the Savior, he extends the opportunity to repent. I'm impressed that the Book of Mormon begins by talking about mercy. In 1 Nephi chapter 1 it ends with the same subject and Moroni 10. And I love the quote from President J. Reuben Clark, something like this, "I believe that God will give us the minimum amount of justice that He can according to that law, and the maximum amount of mercy that He can according to that law, and that's the type of savior that I need. I make a lot of mistakes, and I need His repentance. I need His grace. And I'm so appreciative that Ezekiel talks of that, as has every prophet, and we do have a Merciful Jesus that I love very much.
Great takeaway, Rob, for again bring up that grace. That was awesome. Thank you. Mark, what about you?
Mark Christensen 1:23:42
Well, there are so many great points brought up. Both of you brought up terrific points that there but the in the back of my mind, there's something that just keeps that all these points fit into. And it's actually the most famous for the Latter-day Saints chapter, I think, in the book of Ezekiel, which is Alma, which is Ezekiel 37, where he talks about the valley of dry bones. And I just love that because here he thinks, you know, Israel is gone, the bones are dry. They'll never come back to life. And the Lord asks, Can these bones live and Ezekial says, Lord, you know. And then it says, Prophesy upon these bones. And so prophesy is the idea that he would bear witness of something that is true. And to share, if you will, a bit of his testimony. And then as that testimony is shared there's, as you know, the whole book is wonderful. But there's this great reuniting of all these dry bones, and their flesh is put back on them. And they're standing and then they breathe life into them. As we talked about the heart, the stony heart changing, and the Spirit comes into that. And it's now and then this verse just, if I could just share this one verse I love, it says
Mark Christensen 1:24:55
37:10 "So I prophesied as he commanded me, (this is in Ezekiel 37:10,) and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army." And I just picture this army that's there. Now for Ezekiel, he's, of course thinking of his day. But this is definitely applying to our day. Because then what do we arm that great army with? Well, the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph. And with that they go out and understand what is real. And then the rest of that chapter is talking about being led, again by a Davidic King, symbolic of Christ or another leader that the Savior chooses. And also of His tabernacle, once again, being restored as we ended with, that His temple would once more be among the people, and the new and everlasting covenant would be established. I just, I just think there's such amazing hope throughout Ezekiel. Because even though it happened there and then, we certainly see a type and shadow of what's happening here and now.
Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Thank you for bringing that chapter up, Mark, great discussion on that. My takeaways were from both of you. And so I loved it, Rob, I'm gonna put this in my book of Ezekiel: "missed out on the really sweet events in the last few days." And it was just such a simple story you shared, but it is so prolific to us in the world we live in today. And I don't want to miss out on the really sweet events of these last few days, the winding up scenes of the Savior before He comes. And so that really hit my heart. So thank you for saying that and sharing that story. That was fantastic. And then Mark, "standing in the gap" gets me every time. It is such a good story. And I learned more stuff from it this time. And I think that's my go-to phrase for a while. Just am I going to stand in the gap and who will stand with me because the gap seems to be getting bigger and bigger. And we need more who are willing to stand. So thank you. Thank you, both of you.
Mark Christensen 1:26:51
All right, you guys are great. Thank you.
Mark Christensen 1:26:54
Rob Hoch 1:26:55
Take care, see you.
Oh, gosh, okay, well, we cannot wait to hear what your big takeaway was from this episode. So if you haven't already joined our discussion group on Facebook, or if you're not following us on Instagram, go do it. It is such a good place to just share what you're learning throughout the week. You can even ask questions. And then at the end of every week, usually on a Saturday, we post a call asking for your big takeaway. So comment on the post that relates to this specific lesson and let us know what you've learned. You can get to both our Facebook and Instagram by going to the show notes for this episode on LDS living.com/sunday On Monday, and if you go there, you can also find links to all the references we used today which are a lot, so many good quotes, and as well as a complete transcript of this whole discussion. So go check that out.
The Sunday on Monday Study Group is a Deseret Bookshelf Plus original; it's brought to you by LDS Living. It's written and hosted by me, Tammy Uzelac Hall and today are just so incredible study group participants were Rob Hoch and Mark Christensen and you can find more information about my friends at LDS living.com/sunday on Monday. Our podcast is produced by Cole Wisssinger and me; it is edited by Hailey Higham, and recorded and mixed by Mix at Six Studios and our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom.
Thanks for being here. We'll see you next week and you better remember, you really are God's favorite
Transcribed by https://otter.ai