7: "To Be a Greater Follower of Righteousness" (Genesis 12–17; Abraham 1–2)
Do you remember a time when you made a promise? And not just a silly pinky promise about something trivial, but a promise so serious it was practically an oath? Abraham knew all about making and keeping these kinds of promises. In this week's discussion, we're going to study about a covenant he made with God in Genesis 12–17 and Abraham 1–2 and learn how we can enter into that same promise.
Link: Boy Scout Oath and Law
The Pearl of Great Price:
“The Prophet Joseph Smith became aware of these writings in 1835, when a man named Michael Chandler brought four Egyptian mummies and several papyrus scrolls of ancient Egyptian writings to Kirtland, Ohio. Members of the Church purchased the mummies and rolls of papyrus. The Prophet translated some of the writings and began publishing excerpts of the book of Abraham in a Church publication called Times and Seasons beginning in March 1842 at Nauvoo, Illinois.
“Several fragments of papyri once possessed by the Prophet Joseph Smith were discovered in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The exact dates of the discovery are unclear; however, it appears the First Presidency learned about them as early as 1965. The museum transferred the fragments to the Church in 1967, and those fragments have been analyzed by scholars, who date them between about 300 B.C. and A.D. 100. A common objection to the authenticity of the book of Abraham is that the manuscripts (papyri) are not old enough to have been written by Abraham, who lived almost 2,000 years before Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith never claimed that the papyri were written by Abraham himself, nor that they originated from the time of Abraham. It is common to refer to an author’s works as ‘his’ writings, whether he penned them himself, dictated them to others, or others copied his writings later.
“While translating, the Prophet Joseph Smith may have been working with sections of papyri that were later destroyed; thus, it is likely not possible to assess the Prophet’s ability to translate papyri when we now have only a fraction of the papyri he had in his possession. Neither the Lord nor Joseph Smith ever explained his precise method of translating the book of Abraham. We do know that the translation was done by the Prophet Joseph Smith through the gift and power of God” (The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2000], 29).
“Along with three exceptionally faithful young men—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Daniel 3:12-30) Elder Neal A Maxwell discussed these three virtuous young women as “marvelous models on enduring uncertainty and on trusting God:: “Matching those three young men are three young women whose names we do not have. They are mentioned in the book o Abraham, remarkable young women about whom I am anxious to know more. They were actually sacrificed upon the altar because ‘they would not bow down to worship [an idol] of wood or stone’ (Abraham 1:11). Someday the faithful will get to meet them” (Neal A. Maxwell, Not My Will, But Thine , 119-120).
Hebrew: Abraham = Father of many
Hebrew: Sarah = Princess
Jesus: The Greek form of the Hebrew name Yeshua, meaning deliverer
Hebrew: Beth-el = House of God
Hebrew: Ishmael = God listens
Hebrew: Beer-lahai-roi = The well of Him who liveth and seeth me
Hebrew: Hagar = flight, wanderer, sojourner
“Patient endurance is to be distinguished from merely being “acted upon.” Endurance is more than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance; it is not only acceptance of the things allotted to us, it is to “act for ourselves” by magnifying what is allotted to us. (See Alma 29:3, 6.)” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Endure it Well,” April 1990 general conference).
Perfect: In Hebrew it is tammin = completed or finished
Hebrew: Isaac = To laugh, to rejoice
Do I have any scouts out there? For my Boy Scouts, do you remember the Scout oath and law? And for my Girl Scouts? How about the Scout Promise and law? No, of course I don't remember the Girl Scout Promise law because listen, the only reason I joined the Girl Scouts was for the cookies. And many of you know how unfortunately that turned out. But today's study of Genesis 12-17 and Abraham 1-2 is all about oaths, laws and promises. And I can guarantee the rewards far exceed those delicious Thin Mint cookies.
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, I just want to make sure you know how to use this podcast. So follow the link that's in our description and it's going to explain how you can best use this podcast to enhance your Come Follow Me study for the week, just like my friend and longtime listener in Wales, Helen Davies does. Hi, Helen. Thanks for all your great comments and we love you.
Now here's my favorite thing about the study group is each week we're joined by two of my friends. So it's always a little bit different. But this week is for sure different because I only have one friend and one guest who's joining us and it is Professor Kerry Muhlestein. Hi, Kerry.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:13
Hi. I'm sure you have more than one friend but maybe just one here now.
Just one here now. Yeah, one for this moment. Hey, Kerry, were you a Boy Scout?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:22
I was, yeah.
Can you say the Scout oath or law?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:26
I probably could if you forced me to, but I think I remember it.
I'm forcing you, say it.
Oh, all right. A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. And so that's one of them.
Wow! That's awesome. Like, good job. Good for you!.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:45
It's been a little while.
Well, okay. So here's something cool about Gary Muhlestein: Professor, Dr. Kerry Muhlestein. I mean, this is very cool. He teaches down at BYU, and Kerry, tell us a little bit about what you do, what you teach, and all that fun stuff.
So I teach mostly religion classes. My doctorate was in Egyptology with secondary emphasis in Hebrew Bible in my Master's was in Hebrew Bible. So I teach Old Testament, Pearl of Great Price, Isaiah, and then sometimes Book of Mormon and the New Testament a lot. I also teach courses for Ancient Near Eastern Studies. So like, right now I'm doing a course on Ancient Texts. I direct an excavation in Egypt, so I go there usually once, maybe more times a year. COVID changed that a little bit but we've been back now. That's, that's good. I studied and taught at the Jerusalem Center so I spent a lot of time there with my family. So I just love this kind of stuff. It's my bread and butter, it's what I love.
Oh, that is so fantastic. And I love that you go back to Egypt. Listen, if you, if you need anyone to help you go, like a Sherpa, I'll do it; I'll carry your bags. You just let me kow.
Kerry Muhlestein 2:46
We'll just put you in the bag. That's how we'll get ya in the country.
Fantastic. It'll have to be kind of big, but, that is awesome. And I love that Kerry said, before we started recording, you said you're passionate about the Old Testament.
Kerry Muhlestein 2:59
I am. In fact, I'm just determined to make it possible for people to have a great experience with the Old Testament this year. It is so powerful, so beautiful, so rich. And we just have to help everyone find and understand that and have a great time with it.
Well, I'm going to Amen all of what you just said, because I feel the exact same way about Old Testament and our listeners - they have loved it so far. It has been so much fun and especially Hebrew. I'm a big fan of the Hebrew language. So we use it every chance we get. Oh my gosh, I'm really excited for today's episode. I can't think of a better person to be with us, as we talk about Egypt, Abraham, and all of these incredible things. In fact, you're an author of several books, specifically one about Abraham and Abrahamic covenants. So who better to have on than you today? Because that's exactly what we're talking about. Oh, my gosh, so fun.
Okay, well, for those of you who want to see a picture of Kerry and learn more about him, you can check out his bio, which you will find in our show notes at LDS living.com/sunday on monday. So everybody, grab your scriptures, your study journals, your scripture markers, and let's dig in and have some fun. Here we go.
Okay, so Kerry, the first thing I want to know is: why Abraham? Why have you taken so much time to study Abraham?
Kerry Muhlestein 4:13
Oh, it's a great question. And there are a couple things in my youth that just made me feel like I needed to study prophets of old and the first two I thought of were Moses and Abraham. It just turns out I've spent a tremendous amount of my life researching quite a bit about Moses, but really a lot about Abraham for 20 year plus years now.
Well, and you wrote a book called <Let's Talk About the Book of Abraham>. So this is a series that Deseret Book is doing. They're small books that do "Let's Talk About" something. And last year, we had Let's Talk About Polygamy. And we had Brittany Chapman Nash on the podcast. And so your book is <Let's talk about the Book of Abraham>. So my next question for you is, how did we even get the book?
Kerry Muhlestein 4:54
It's a great question. It's such a fascinating story, and we're researching like crazy all the time and coming to a better understanding of it all the time. But the short version is that when the Western culture started bringing artifacts out of Egypt into their cultures, and we start getting the British Museum and the Louvre building up there, a couple of papyri and mummies came to the US. And when they did, they traveled around the US and they'd stop in a hotel and charge 25 cents to come and see them and do that until they weren't making much money in that city. And then they moved to another.
So after a few years, the owners of the mummies and Papyri decided they'd like to be done with this and get rid of them. A fella named Michael Chandler is either unknown, or he may represent the owners, and we're not sure about that yet. But he hears that Joseph Smith is interested in ancient Egyptian stuff. And so he travels to Kirtland and shows the mummies and Papyri to Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith is really, really interested in this.
One account says that he translates something from the papyri immediately. And another says he takes it home, and comes back the next day with leaves, which is when you have pages folded over to make like two pages. So he probably translated a little bit immediately and then more overnight, and he feels very strongly that they need to acquire these papyri. And so Michael Chandler won't sell them to him without the mummies, so in the midst of their poverty, and trying to build the Kirtland Temple - this is in July of 1835 - they'll dedicate the Temple in April of 1836. So they're less than a year away.
They're in the throes of just really trying to push through and finish that and they're very poor as a result. They still raised $2,400, they buy all of this. And then Joseph Smith starts translating and he says that some of the writings are of Joseph and some are of Abraham, and it's the writings of Abraham that he starts to translate. And he translates in 1835. He doesn't translate again until 1842. And it's not clear whether the translation he does in 1842 is kind of revision and sticking Hebrew in there. If he's actually translating more, there's some debate about that. But in any case, he finally publishes it in 1842.
Okay, real quick for our listeners. Turn in your scriptures to the Pearl of Great Price to the Book of Abraham. Right there, you're going to see a picture of a man laying on an altar with another man holding a knife, and a bird in the corner. This is facsimile one. We're going to talk about this a little bit later. I just want everyone to know what we're talking about when we say facsimile. So Kerry, I want to know, as an Egyptologist, what do you say to those who have said, Well, they are Egyptologists who have looked over what Joseph Smith has translated and it doesn't match, it's not real.
Kerry Muhlestein 7:39
The short answer is that when people say that, they're usually meaning one of two things, and we can address both quickly. The most common thing is that when we recovered some of the papyri - the papyri are made from a plant in Egypt, you take the kind of strips of this plant, and you lay a whole bunch of them going one direction, and then crisscross them going the other direction. And when you get them wet, they have kind of a natural resin so that if you press them and let them dry, they stick together, you smooth it out.
And it is almost, and in some ways as good as paper. He owned two rolls and a number of fragments. And those two rolls were burned in the Great Chicago Fire. When Joseph Smith died, his mother, Lucy Mack Smith kept them and then when she died, Emma Smith sold them to someone who showed them in the St. Louis Museum. Then they got sold to Chicago, and then they burned in the Great Chicago Fire. And we thought that was all of the papyri for a long time. But in 1967 we recovered, it's kind of a long, fun story, but we recovered several fragments of those papyri that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York had purchased.
So one of those fragments has the original facsimile 1 on it, meaning facsimile 1 is a facsimile of the drawing that is on fragment 1 of the Joseph Smith Papyri. And there's text, there are Egyptian hieroglyphs are on either side of this drawing. And so people made the assumption that Joseph Smith had translated from the text that is around that drawing. And that's a natural assumption to make. But it is an assumption or a presumption, really, if you don't realize you've made an assumption, and that's what most people did. And so when we translated that text that's around that drawing that is facsimile 1, it was a common funerary document called the Book of Breathings.
And so people who had made that presumption that that's what Joseph Smith had translated from, had assumed that, Oh, Joseph Smith was wrong. When in reality, as we test it, and we look at what the eyewitnesses said, and there a couple of ways of testing it, we can figure out that's not what he was translating from. We can demonstrate that not with 100% certainty, but with like 95% certainty, this is not what he is translating on. So when we turn their assumption into a hypothesis, and we test it, the hypothesis is disproved. We don't have the text that Joseph Smith was translating from.
Ah though, that's fascinating.
Kerry Muhlestein 10:07
Now there's one other thing, but this takes a little while. But there's one other thing that people often mean when they say that he was translated and it doesn't match what the Egyptologist say. And that's his interpretation of the facsimiles or those drawings. And it's really in its interpretation, people keep saying it's a translation. It's not a translation. It's an interpretation of drawings. And that's one of the key elements. Drawings yield many, many meanings. And that's wonderful that there are so many meanings because I get different lessons from my life from the facsimiles and from the text of the Book of Abraham every time I read it.
So, part of the problem is that we've again made a presumption that Joseph Smith is telling us what the ancient Egyptians would have said these meant, and that Egyptologists can convey that to us. It turns out for the drawing like, the facsimile 2, it's called a hypocephalus. What Egyptologists have said for years, when we finally found any Egyptian copy of the hypocephalus that labeled some of these characters, we were wrong almost all the time on what they said they meant. And so it's a much more complex story. Plus, we know that these were designed to have many layers of meaning.
And so it's just simplified and incorrect, again, to say that Joseph Smith's translations don't match what the Egyptians said they meant or what Egyptologists say they meant. That's incorrect and simplified and you should just ignore anyone who says that and get into the more complex and nuanced and real story, which again, I try and go into a little bit more in depth in my book,
Well and I like what you just said about that. Because in my mind, I'm thinking, there are so many meanings,in these pictures, these papyri, and in the Book of Abraham, and in the Pearl of Great Price. In fact, all of Scripture, I mean, every time I read a passage of Scripture, I think I know it, and then I don't . Then I learnea Hebrew word, and it completely changes everything. And I think that's everyone's experience with scripture, right?
Kerry Muhlestein 11:54
Absolutely. And I also find that to be wonderful. I love that about the facsimiles. They're symbols and symbols should give us more layers of meaning every time we read them. And every time I look at the facsimiles and think about them, I find some other lesson or way they apply to my life, which is true of the text of the Book of Abraham as well. It yields different meanings to me over time. And I think that's what was intended.
Yes. In fact, I'm thinking even something as simple as the sacrament where for my whole life as a kid, it's the bread and water. But the older I get, the more symbolic it becomes to me, and I'm seeing different things on Sunday with what it really means in my life. And so I'm grateful that I get to grow and learn in what these symbols are.
Kerry Muhlestein 12:34
Yeah, I agree. Let's not be simplistic and say this one thing has to mean this one thing; that's never accurate.
Amen. Awesome discussion. Thank you. Okay, well, that's just segment 1, the Book of Abraham. And so let's do this. Let's dig into what we're supposed to learn from the Book of Abraham. And we're going to connect it to Genesis chapter 12 through 17. And this is going to be awesome.
Segment 2 12:57
Let's turn to Abraham chapter one. And my question, Kerry, have you ever had to move?
Kerry Muhlestein 13:07
Yeah, yeah. Between moving from different grad schools and moving and teaching at BYU Hawaii, and then back here and back and forth to Utah for the summers and things like that. We've moved a lot of times,
That is a lot. Have you ever had to move to save your life?
Kerry Muhlestein 13:23
I have not had to do that.
I have not either. I've never had to actually flee for my life or move to save my life. But I appreciate the wording in Abraham chapter 1, verse 1. I think oftentimes as seminary teachers we would joke that it shows Abraham has kind of a sense of humor here. So Carrie, will you please read Abraham chapter 1, verse 1 and connect it to the picture for us? What is Abraham teaching us here?
Kerry Muhlestein 13:44
1:1 "In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my father's, I, Abraham saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence;"
So what he will get on the scene later on, is that the reason is because they're trying to kill him there. So we learn about that need to flee and his nearly being killed, both in the text and in the drawing. So in the text, it tells us that his father has been wicked. And Abraham is really kind of the classic example of someone who comes from a difficult environment. He's got this idolatrous father, lives in an idolatrous community, but he is aware that there's something better. He's aware that he has ancestors that worshipped Jehovah and had a covenant with Jehovah. And he wants that same thing. And he's seeking for that same thing. I think verse 2 and 3 are some of the most, just beautiful, beautiful stuff.
And as you read verse 2, look for the action words. I loved all the action words in verse 2. And I highlighted those because it says how he's desiring something. He wants to possess something. He wants to be something more than what his father is. And for lack of a better word his father is less active, I guess you could say,
Kerry Muhlestein 14:56
Yeah. He's not only less active, he's very active in a contrary religious position, right? So he's become anti, you could almost say, right? He's anti-Jehovah, maybe not anti- Jehovah, but he's incorporated Jehovah into this. So he's anti-monotheistic, let's say. And I would also say, as you read verse 2, in some ways Abraham is describing the covenant. And he's also describing how he's not satisfied with what he has in terms of righteousness. He wants more. And that's fantastic. We should all learn from that.
Absolutely. And so he kind of gives a little bit of history in verse 7. And he's saying that 'they turn their hearts to the sacrifice of the heathen in offering up their children to these dumb idols'. It was a practice at this time, where people would offer up their children and loved ones to be sacrificed to this fake god, or, well it was a god they believed in, but it was not a real god.
Kerry Muhlestein 15:47
No, it's not. And this must be some of the Canaanite influence. We've got here the picture that's painted for us, is an intermixing of Canaanite and Egyptian religious influence, which we know happens all up along the coast, where this is probably happening and going inland where the trade routes are. But it's interesting, if you look in verse 5, he says that they utterly, his fathers utterly refused to hearken to his voice. So we know he's preaching against idolatry. And that's what they're upset about. It is trying to disturb what they view as the correct religious order that makes them so mad at Abraham so that they want to sacrifice him.
Now, one of the lessons I think is worth pointing out and that we learn is that he says, at the same time they tried to sacrifice him, there were three virgins who were sacrificed because they wouldn't worship idols, and they're not saved. And that's worth thinking through. Why are they not saved and Abraham is, and I can't read God's mind, I can only guess. But I would guess, Abraham's life is difficult. Life is difficult, and then difficult and then more difficult for Abraham. Whereas these three virgins were spared all of that. But Abraham is going to continue on; he is miraculously spared. And that's what the picture is, facsimile 1.
Oh, Kerry, I'm so glad that you brought up the Virgin's. So this is in Abraham chapter 1, verse 11. And here's an incredible quote from Neal A Maxwell about these young women, along with three exceptionally faithful young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Elder Neal A Maxwell discussed these three virtuous young women as, "marvelous models on enduring uncertainty and on trusting God. Matching those three young men are three women whose names we do not have. They are mentioned in the Book of Abraham, remarkable young women about who I am anxious to know more. They were actually sacrificed upon the altar, because they would not bow down to worship an idol of wood or stone. Someday the faithful will get to meet them."
Kerry Muhlestein 17:42
Hmm. That's beautiful.
I just think that's awesome. And this whole year, we're going to focus a lot on unnamed women of the Old Testament. And so that is our, that's one we definitely need to mark. And I like how you framed it, Kerry. So thank you, and thanks for bringing that up. Because that verse is so important to me in this whole narrative. So these women died, Abraham did not. 12-15 describes that picture. So Kerry, go into the picture, tell us who's who and what's going on, and how it applies to specifically verse 15.
Kerry Muhlestein 18:11
Abraham's story, and this is such a difficult story when you think of the fact that his father is involved. But in any case, the story is that Abraham is placed on this altar to be sacrificed. So he's put on this altar, or a lion couch, we'll also call it because you can see it has a lion head and tail and feet,
I like that, a lion couch.
Kerry Muhlestein 18:30
Yeah. And then this priest who represents both Egyptian religious tradition and Canaanite religious tradition - and that's common that we get this mixing of religions, and so this priest is going to represent both - is going to kill him. But instead, an angel comes to deliver Abraham, and the priest is killed and Abraham is set free. He has to flee, as he mentioned in verse 1. He's going to have to move because of this; they're not happy about what's happened. But Abraham, whom I respect so much, because he had to know that preaching against idolatry was not going to go well for him. It's, that it's dangerous, and it nearly did take his life, but the angel comes and delivers him. And then he is told by God to move and that seems to be the beginning of his really entering into the covenant.
Well, and I, I know I say 'I love' a lot. But truly, I love these two verses in Abraham chapter 1, verses 16 and 18 because they changed my life. I think sometimes we read these scriptures and we think, Oh, God's probably only talking to Abraham, but I will bear my testimony right now that God was talking to me through these two verses. So 17 years ago, I was hired to teach a semester on the Pearl of Great Price at LDS Business College or Ensign College, here in Utah. I was also dating Jim at the time, who is my now husband, but I was so scared and unstable in this relationship. I was terrified to take the leap to get married.
And then I come to Abraham chapter 1, verse 16, and then verse 18. And the Lord says to Abraham, who's also probably feeling a little bit unsure, or scared, or unstable about where he's going. And the Lord says to Abraham,
1:16 "Abraham, Abraham, behold, my name is Jehovah and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee, and to take thee away from my father's house, and from all thy kinsfolk, into a strange land which thou knowest not of;"
And then he goes on. And he tells Abraham in verse 18,
1:18 "Behold, I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee,"
At that moment in my life, it hit me like a ton of bricks, you guys. I can't even, I mean, I'm sure you know, I'm reading that thinking, yeah, out of my Father's house, yeah, to a land that I don't know anything about. I knew nothing about being a wife, or a mother, or anything like that. And I was so scared. But I knew at that moment that the Lord was going to lead me by His hand, like the spirit bore witness to me in that moment in that class, that that specific promise was not just for Abraham, but it's for me, and it's for all of us.
And I still believe it today. It does not only apply to marriage, but it applies to a new job, to parenthood, to moving, to callings. When we read that scripture, "I will lead thee by my hand", He's talking to you.
Kerry Muhlestein 21:05
He's talking to members of God's kingdom. And so I want you to kind of sit with that for a minute or write it in your journal, he will leave me by my hand. And I just kind of want you to think in your own life, like, has there been a time where you felt led by the Lord's hand? I mean, Kerry, has there been a specific time where you felt like the Lord led you, by the hand?
Kerry Muhlestein 21:24
Oh, lots of, lots of times. We're talking about the Abrahamic covenant, and since we're members of the Abrahamic covenant, maybe I can share a story that really brought that little element to life for me. There was a time when I just moved, speaking of moving, I'd just moved from Hawaii to Pleasant Grove, Utah. We'd been there a few weeks, and one day I heard some, just terrified screaming outside. And so I went outside to see what was going on. And it was a little boy, probably about six years old, something like that, who was being chased by two big German Shepherds. And he was terrified.
Now it turns out the German Shepherds belonged to my neighbor across the street. I knew them, they were just going to like him to death. They weren't going to hurt him, but he didn't know that, right? They're scary because they're big dogs. So I got the German shepherds to go home. And he's just sitting there quaking, just trembling in fear. And I'm trying to figure out what to do with him, how to get him home. And he doesn't, can't describe for me where he lives. And I don't recognize the name. And he doesn't know a number or anything.
But I finally asked him, So where were you trying to go? And he said, I was trying to go to Hunter's house. And Hunter's house was just like three houses away, I knew where Hhunter's house was; I had a son the same age, and he knew, I'd met him. So I said, Well, I can take you there. And I just held my hand down for that little boy. And he reached up and took my hand and all of his fear and his shaking and his trembling just went away. He knew, here's someone that can take care of me, and they can get me where I need to go when I can't get there on my own. And I think that's exactly what God is telling us. When life is like two German Shepherds are chasing us, He's gonna hold His hand out and take us by the hand and get us where we need to go. That's a great covenantal promise.
Kerry, I loved that story. That was a perfect story to share. In fact as you shared it, I'm feeling the spirit, like, what you're saying is 100% true. That imagery, cuz I'm such a visual person and I am terrified of dogs - just FYI - my biggest fear is what you just described, two German shepherds, and especially my fear is them running up behind me and taking a bite out of my calf. I don't know why, I just imagined that is like my worst case scenario. It's probably why I don't like to exercise outside. But I would have been so scared. And I just love how you he just reached up and took your hand and all of his fear went away.
And I think that there are so many of us who feel right now we are being chased by German Shepherds. I think the last two years have felt like that for many of us. And I think it's wonderful how the Lord's like, I'm going to lead you by the hand; just grab my hand, follow me, trust in me even when it doesn't feel like it's going to make any sense at all. Which all in the scriptures is amazing how so many times they're like, Are you sure Heavenly Father? Because I don't see this happening. And God's like, that is the key, that verse, verse 18. Highlight it, put stars around it. I mean, that's the whole key to the Abrahamic Covenant working is that verse.
So thank you for that story. That's incredible. And so throughout the rest of this lesson, we're going to see how that is fulfilled - how the Lord is going to lead Abraham and Sarah by His hand. We'll do that in the next segment.
Segment 3 24:13
Kerry, I want to know how do you feel about camping?
Kerry Muhlestein 24:18
Oh, I love camping. Can't get enough,
Oh, it's my favorite. Could you live in a tent do you think?
Kerry Muhlestein 24:24
I could. I mean,
How 'bout your wife?
Kerry Muhlestein 24:27
No. For us to go camping like, I've created like a porch for our tent and I have created, you know, the nice bed and put carpets in the tent and stuff and then my wife's happy to go. The whole toilet thing is a different issue, right? But the tent part's great.
The tent part is so great. I agree with you. Camping is my favorite. My husband doesn't really camp so I take my girls every year by myself up into the mountains with some other moms. We call it a mom camp. Only moms are allowed with our kids and I'm, Camping Mom's my favorite woman on the planet because she sits in her camp chair, and she says yes to everything. Mom, can we have Cheetos for breakfast? You bet. Enjoy. It's the greatest week of my kid's life. So yes, I'm a huge fan of camping.
But for those of you listening who are not fans of camping, Kerry and I are going to kind of make you fans of this idea of camping within the context of the Old Testament, because there's a lot of living in tents that happens here. So let's turn to Genesis chapter 12, verse 5, and we're gonna find out who is camping in tents with Abraham. And we're going to switch back and forth between Abraham chapter 2, and Genesis. So just so you know, so get your scriptures out, you probably need a ton of room on your table. But we're going to be in Abraham chapter 2, and in Genesis chapter 12. And in chapter 12, verse 5, we have this story that begins, and there are a few people that are going to be with Abraham, and so Kerry, will you read verse 5.
Kerry Muhlestein 25:49
Gen 12: 5 "And ]Abraham or Abram in this case,] and Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came."
What does the wording in that verse tell us about the group of people they're camping with?
Kerry Muhlestein 26:10
Well, there are a number of things. So he's going with the family that will come with him. And we learned in the Book of Abraham account that he tried to get his father. So his father, after seeing this miraculous thing seems to have repented. And he's trying to worship Jehovah and be monotheistic again. But when it comes time to leave again, his father's been kind of seduced by wealth and idolatry again, and so he doesn't come with Abraham when he moves to go into the land of Canaan. So he went with him to Haran, but he won't make the second move to go into the land of Canaan.
So the family that will come with them is Lot, and it seems like maybe some other family members. And then it talks about, the phrase that is in the Book of Abraham account is the souls that they had won. Here in Genesis is says the souls they'd got. And in Abraham it's the souls they had won. And there's some Aramaic translations of this that also go along more more along the lines of 'won'; and there, there's a Jewish tradition that would fit in with what I think we're reading in the Book of Abraham, which is that they've won souls, meaning they've converted them. Abraham has a little congregation going with him. These are people who have listened to his preaching, and are joining the covenant with them.
You'll notice if you read Abraham 1, too, carefully, that he says he wants the blessings of the fathers, which is one way of saying he wanted the Covenant. And the right where unto I should be ordained to administer the same, which means I want to be able to enter the covenant and I want to hold the priesthood so I can help other people enter the covenant. And apparently, he has a number of people with him who have entered the covenant. He also owns a number of servants or slaves, it would seem, and it would also seem that they've all been converted. So they're also part of worshipping Jehovah. But he's got a fairly sizable group that are coming with him.
And maybe I can add in also, there's more to the story than we often think about. Abraham has been urban his entire life; he lived in Ur, then he moves to Haran, he's urban. And suddenly he is going to move and start living in tents. He will be a nomad for the rest of his life. And it's a long time, Abraham lives for a long time. So he is going to be nomadic for the rest of his life. And that's a pretty big change. Basically, you're taking someone from New York and saying, let's go into the Uintahs and live in a tent for the rest of our life. And the high Uintahs in Utah, it's where the highest peak is. It's the most rugged, difficult territory we have really; that's, that's a change, right? That's what's happening with Abraham and Sarai, and Lot and everyone else. And it's not easy.
I have to give credit to my friend and colleague of BYU Idaho, Phil Allred who's kind of pointed this out to me, and we even did a whole podcast on this. But you might think when God says, Okay, I've saved you, and I want you to go to the promised land, that that would mean that this promised land's just going to be dandy. But they get there, and it's a famine. There are people who want to take advantage of them. And they have to move to Egypt and back. And Egypt is not people he has great relationships with right now.
Just because God said, I'm going to take care of you. And I'm gonna lead you by your hand and I'm going to give you this promised land, it doesn't mean that it's all a bed of roses from there on out, right? This is really tough for Abraham the whole time.
Oh, well, and I can testify that what you just said is totally true, Kerry. Can I get an amen? I mean, everyone listening right now is thinking Mm-hmm. And this also makes me think of Lehi and his family. I mean, they left an area that was really nice. I've said this before: we get that fabulous favorite scripture of almost all seminary boys. "My father dwelt in a tent." But it's significant in telling us like, We just went from living in New York, and now we're living in the high Uintahs. And I love how you said it wasn't easy. Boy, it got so hard for them.
Kerry Muhlestein 29:36
And you get the idea that Laman and Lemuel expected it was going to be easy. And when it wasn't easy, they're upset. What? You broke your bow? Uh
This is a rip-off.
Ishmael died? We were following God, we kind of expected people would stop dying and bad things would stop happening, and that's not how it works.
It never does when you follow God. And then so in verse 8, Abraham, it says that he's going to pitch his tent. So they're in tents. All of these people are living in tents. We're going to come back to verse 8, but before we do, Kerry, I want to go back real quick because you read the names of our characters in verse 5. And you said Abram and Sarai, so they're not Abraham and Sarah yet. So quickly tell us why.
Kerry Muhlestein 30:11
So these are their original names, and they have great meanings are good names, right. But when they enter into the covenant, their names are changed. And that's not the only time we see that. We don't put significance on names today, the way that they used to. Names are supposed to say something about you; now we just come see who can come up with the cleverest whatever something or other about a name. But names are supposed to say something about you.
And when you enter into a covenant, you become a new person. The power of God - we just read God's saying that His power would be upon Abraham as part of this covenant - the power of God changes you, it changes your nature. And thus you become a new creature, and so you get a new name to denote that new creature. Abram, which means exalted father of his father, and RoM is High. So hiigh Father, to Avraham, which is father of many, are of a multitude or of 1000s. However you want to say it, but in Sarai seems to be connected with being a princess, but we really get to this kind of Princess idea with Sarah.
So, their names are changed to denote that they have become new people, which I think works really well. You mentioned earlier that we're all part of the Abrahamic covenant. One thing I think people struggle with is seeing how the Abrahamic covenant, which President Nelson has been talking about, connects with the covenants that we know we make. The Abrahamic Covenant, and the New and Everlasting Covenant are two names for the same thing. And we enter in a baptism; we enter in more fully in the endowment of the temple, and even more fully in sealings in the temple, and so on. But we enter in at baptism.
So I want you to think about it - baptism. At baptism, the first thing is you have your sins washed away, but that's not the end. You then are given the gift of the Holy Ghost. So you're given power, just like we talked about already. And that Holy Ghost sanctifies you or changes you, we call it being born again so that you are a new person. And that's what covenants are about - becoming a new person, because the power of God changes you to being less like the world and more like Him.
Well, and I love how if you're eight years old, you're not being washed, cleansed of your sins, you're entering into the very first covenant you've ever made. And the new name you get at that moment, according to the Book of Mormon is Christ, you are called His. And there are many listeners right now who are hearing that new name over and over again, that you've just said, and they're connecting it to the Temple. And they're like, Wait, that's why we get that. WHAT?!
Kerry Muhlestein 32:36
Yeah. As they enter more fully into the covenant.
We get a new name, so that is awesome. Kerry, I love that. Thank you for making that connection for us. Okay, so let's do this. I asked Kerry to talk to us about something in Genesis chapter 12. The whole point that I want us to talk about tents and living in tents is because there is this incredible social structure that is set up in the Old Testament, where people living in tents have a kinsman, a head person that is over everyone in that tent. And so I asked Kerry to tell us a little bit about that social structure. Because if we understand this, and I have alluded to it, and we've talked about it a couple of times up until now, but this is going to give us the foundation we need for the rest of the Old Testament when we talk about this idea of kinsman, and it will incorporate the Abrahamic Covenant. So Kerry, tell us about this social structure and what the kinsman does for people.
Kerry Muhlestein 33:26
I'm happy to and it seems to have started with kind of these nomadic or tent- dwelling cultures. But it spreads throughout so that when Israel is no longer in tents, they still keep this idea that it's all centered in a family. And we need to understand that for ancient cultures, we talk about it being centered on the family. It's so much more centered on the family for them, and we need to learn a lesson from them. But it's really all about family and family is who takes care of each other. So whoever is in charge of the family, and by charge, we need to stop and think differently here.
The world has caused us to think of these things in the wrong way. We think of being birthright or being in charge, or presiding, or leading as a position of power and prestige, because that's how the world thinks of it. That's not how God thinks it. But in fact, James and John go to Christ and they say, like, can we be on your right and left hand? And Christ says, You guys don't get it. The princes of the world, they think the way you're thinking; they think in terms of power and prestige. But for you, it needs to be thinking of service. He that is the least of all and then the servant of all is the greatest of all, right.
Being in charge, presiding, however you want to say that is about being the servant of everyone else. And that servant, that leader servant, which is what Christ is, right, has the responsibility to make sure everyone is okay, to take care of them, whatever happens to them. So for example, the father dies, then the birthright son has the responsibility to take care of the mother if she's still alive, also to take care of everyone else. If that birthright son has a brother who is married that dies, it's his responsibility to take care of his sister-in-law widow And if they had children, to take care of those children. That's why the birthright child is given a double portion because he has a lot he has to do with it further.
If any of them get into debt and they can't pay off their debt, then their land is sold. If that doesn't meet it, then their children are sold. If that doesn't meet it, then their spouses. So that doesn't mean that they are sold. It's the responsibility of the birthright child to buy back the land, the people, everything else. In fact, it's called the kinsman redeemer, the GOEL, or the Redeemer. This is what - we use that word when we talk about the Redeemer of Israel. It is their responsibility to buy back the freedom and everything that has been lost when someone has become a slave to bondage, as it were.
That's why they're given the ability, that double portion, the ability to do that buying back, which is so beautiful when you think about Christ, that He's given the ability by His Father to buy us all back and to redeem us. But the idea is that no one in society is left alone with no one to take care of them.Their closest kinsman is always responsible for taking care of them, and has been given the ability to be able to do that. And that's a beautiful society and a beautiful concept.
It really is. And I loved learning about it. Because you can be born into this kinship, you can be born into this society, you can also be adopted into this society through marriage. And so I love this idea, because then when you're married, you move in to the tent. You are not given your own separate tent and told, Okay, you go start your own family. They actually add on with the goat hair material, they add on a room to the tent, and now you live and the tent just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger, which is what I love in Moroni chapter 10, verse 31. 'Enlarge thy borders and strengthen thy stakes, because we got lots of people coming. And that's what the Prophet is telling us, we got to gather.
So let's start gathering our family, our proverbial family, if you will. Oh, and by the way, if you can't marry into the family, you actually can be adopted into this family or this tribe with a kinsman. This is done through a covenant or an oath. Now, this is kind of cool you guys, because Zoram did this. He's the perfect example of this. Like, after Nephi got the plates, Zoram chased after them. And then in First Nephi chapter 4, verses 32-34, I really appreciate - this is kind of funny to me - how Nephi tells us he was a man large in stature. He wrote First Nephi; he's like 'I was the man large in stature', and that he siezed Zoram.
And he made a promise to him, and he said, "As the Lord liveth and as I live". This is covenant wording. This is the oath that Nephi makes to Zoram, and then in verse 35, Zoram returns the oath and makes the covenant to join Nephi in his family. Lehi is the kinsman over this tent; Zoram has been adopted into this family with all the blessings of the kinsman. And then Kerry, I just love, I really do, I love how you pointed us in the direction of Jesus. He is our kinsman. He is the Divine Kinsman. In fact, His name, this is so cool: Joseph and Mary, they were instructed to name their son Jesus; they didn't even get the chance to come up with a name. You're going to name him Jesus.
Now listen to this: Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua. Joshua in Hebrew translates as Yeshua. And Yeshua means deliverer. And Kerry, you so perfectly described to us the role of the kinsman. And Jesus as our kinsman, is our deliverer. He will deliver us from slavery or bondage to sin. He will deliver us from our debts to justice, and He will deliver us from poverty, and He will take care of us. And when you taught us that under the umbrella of the kinsman structure, no one is left alone. Oh, my gosh, that tugged at my heartstrings. Like that was an aha for me.
I felt the Spirit so strong, Kerry, that with Jesus as the Divine Kinsman, we are never left alone, like ever. He will save us, He will sucker us, He will take care of the widow, the children, the lost, the fallen, all who call on His name have a right to that covenant. And so here He is setting up this kinship relationship with Abraham. He's saying, I'm going to guide you by my hand, I'm going to help you, and, look at all the amazing things I'm going to promise you. And these promises may have just blown Abraham away, because at the time he was like, I don't know how any of this can happen. Am I right?
Kerry Muhlestein 39:20
Yeah. Oh, yeah. It all focuses, first of all, on that relationship with God. Everything in the covenant hinges on God trying to have a closer relationship with us. And, and we talked about that and saw that already. But then everything else flows from there: the blessings of posterity, and prosperity, and a place, and protection, and all these beautiful things that happen for Abraham and the house of Israel. But they also certainly apply to us. Because we are covenant Israel, whether literally or not. When we make the covenant, we're part of Israel. And these covenants are specifically about us.
So the beautiful imagery and comforting and uplifting and exciting when we read how much God is willing to do for us, how much He's willing to forgive us when we break the covenant and work with us to bring us back. It's just the most wonderful thing ever. And I think President Nelson is trying to help us see how important that covenant is and how important spreading that covenant is.
So Kerry, thank you for explaining that. I love how you just connected it to, He wants us to have a relationship with Him. And the way we do that is through the divine Abrahamic Covenant. So do this with me. Let's take this minute then, and go into Abraham chapter 2, because it seemed like that is for me where we really can find specific verses that describe this Abrahamic Covenant. And we're going to talk about it a ton throughout.
I have said this in our podcast before - I gave us an acronym for what the Abrahamic covenant is, and I know it's a simplistic acronym, but it helps me remember. So the acronym is LDS: Land, Deliverance, and Seed. That's what he's being promised in this Abrahamic Covenant. And so will you just take us in Abraham chapter 2, and give us the verses we can mark that support this Abrahamic Covenant - The Land, the Deliverance, and the Seed?
Kerry Muhlestein 40:57
Sure. And I'll start out even with verse 8, because we've talked about names already, and when you're establishing, a covenant you're establishing relationships, that's really what a covenant is about - forming relationships. And so you always kind of identify who each other is by names, but names that say something about the relationship, right? So it starts out with, 'my name is Jehovah. And I know the end from the beginning.' So He's omnipotent and omniscient. 'Therefore my hand shall be over thee', again, a beautiful image, right? "And I will make of thee great nation", this is verse 9. "And I will bless thee above measure." So there's the prosperity and the posterity part, or the seed, right?
"And I will make thy name great among nations, and thou shall be a blessing unto thy seed after thee and in their hands shall they bear this ministry and priesthood unto all nations." And, and I would say in all of this, when you're reading 'priesthood', read 'priesthood ordinances'. That's the purpose of the priesthood, to bring these priesthood ordinances, at which administer the covenant. So that's written in the end, it's really about the covenant to everybody else. And I'd also highlight this before we move on, if you go through and make a list in both the Old Testament and the Book of Abraham about what the covenant is, the covenant blessings, and the covenant obligations, they're fairly similar.
The difference is that in the Old Testament, you don't find anything about sharing or spreading the covenant like you do in the Book of Abraham, like we just read. That their ministry should take the priesthood or priesthood ordinances to all nations, that's sharing the covenant. So I suspect if we were to go back to the Book of Mormon and Nephi's vision where he sees plain and precious things being taken out of the Bible, the first thing he says is actually covenants. Covenants seems to be kind of the priority thing; it's the first thing he says the first couple times he talks about it.
And he also talks about truths, and he just starts talking about plain and precious things, which seems to me to be the combination of both covenants and truths. This seems to be the element of the covenant that was taken out, that was lost, the idea that we need to share it. And if I were Satan and I could get just one element out, that's what I'd do. Because it doesn't matter if everything else is in as long as no one shares it, then that's fine with Satan.
But God restores it. When He gives us the Book of Abraham, He restores this idea and He restores it with a vengeance. Maybe that's the right word for it, the wrong word for it, I mean, but He really restores this powerfully and forcefully, that He wants us to spread the covenant. And so we're, we'll get that in verse 9, we get it in verse 11, as well.
Thank you. So that's the seed portion. And I love that, and right next to verse 8, I have written 'Divine Kinsman' to remind us. I'm so thankful that you started with verse 8. We have above verse 11, I wrote the 'Deliverance' part, that's where He's saying, "I will fight your battles for you". And then the Land part is that He's going to give them, in verse 19 He says, "Unto thy seed, I will give thee this land". And we're going to talk more about this land in Genesis. But I think it's so interesting, because he's given these promises.
And in Abraham chapter 2, verse 20, and then in Abraham chapter 11, verse 8, he has this experience where he offers sacrifice. And it's interesting that he calls the place Beth-el. And this word is a two-part Hebrew word. It's Beth, which is BAYIT in Hebrew, and means house. And EL means God. So it is the House of God, which for us is a Temple, right? We could easily say that that is what it could mean for all of us. I, it made me wonder in my own life, how important of a role does a temple play in my life? Like when I made promises that aren't being fulfilled? Am I inclined to go to the temple and sort it out with the Lord, or am I just gonna complain and be mad that it's not working?
Kerry Muhlestein 44:24
Yeah. And this idea of the House of God and the Temple connection is, it cannot be overstated. It's so important.
So important. So thank you, thank you. Okay. So in the next segment, then, we're going to take our story, and we're going to move into just how hard it was for Abraham to see a fulfillment of these Abrahamic promises.
Segment 4 44:44
Okay, so here's what I want everyone to do. Get comfortable, sit back, we are going to have the storytime of all storytime, told by a master storyteller. And Kerry is going to lead us through Genesis chapter 12, starting in verse 14, until Genesis chapter 15. So we're going to cover a lot of ground right here. But it's a great story and it needs to be heard. So Kerry, are you ready for this?
Kerry Muhlestein 45:04
I'm ready. So as we said, when Abraham gets down into the land of Canaan, he doesn't find that everything is just dandy. There's a famine, and he's not able to survive there. And so he determines, if we look in the Book of Abraham account, he determines, he says, he concluded that he needed to go to Egypt. And then the Lord seems to confirm that, so that we all have those experiences. We're like, we can't figure out what to do. God's not telling us, so we make a decision. And God seems to say, Okay, that's a good decision. Go ahead with that.
So he's going to go down into Egypt, to try and survive; they have some food there, the famine isn't so bad there. So as he's going an interesting thing happens. And this is one of the differences between the Book of Abraham account and the Genesis account. In the Genesis account, Abraham comes up with this idea. In the Book of Abraham account, it's God who comes up with the idea. And He comes to Abraham, and he says, you've got a problem. Sarah is super beautiful. And when Pharaoh sees her, he is going to want to marry her, and he'll kill you so he can marry her. So you're going to have to tell something that's true, just not telling the whole truth, right? And that is that she's your sister. So the word, they don't have a word for cousin, niece, or whatever. She seems to be, some accounts make it seem like she's a sister, she might be a cousin, something along those lines.
Yes. In fact, one of the things I read, and is one of the reasons why she could have said she was her sister, is because Sarah's dad, who was Haran, he died. And so Abraham's father, Terah took her in, and she kind of, he adopted her in as like a half-sister. So technically, there wasn't a total lie. But either way, they're still related, which seems weird to us. Like, can you really marry your niece, I guess she would be, in a weird way? But what's that about?
Kerry Muhlestein 46:44
It's not clear if it's niece, half-sister, or cousin, something like that. But it is, it is a relative. And that does seem weird to us that someone would be marrying a relative, when in fact, it's not uncommon. And in some ways, this seems to be the norm, we're gonna see it happen for a few generations. It seems to be the norm that you would marry a relative. And that's difficult for us. Because for us, culturally, we say no, that's very, very bad. And we're sure our culture is right. And we try and impose that on them. And that's just not going to help us to understand the Old Testament.
We need to forget about imposing our culture on them, and accept their culture for what it is. I'm not saying you have to live their culture, but understand their culture. And that will help you understand the Old Testament rather than just being so sure you should impose your cultural norms on them.
Thank you. Absolutely. It's a great explanation of that. Alright, let's get back into the story. So what happens when Abraham tells this to Sarah?
Kerry Muhlestein 47:39
I try and picture Abraham telling Sarah, Okay, Sarah, when we get into Egypt, I'm going to say - and you need to say - that you are my sister, so that Pharaoh won't kill me so he can marry you. The subtext is, he is going to marry you, I just won't die. So put yourself in Sarah's position. She now has to say, Okay, if we go into Egypt, and if I'm going to be obedient to God, I'm going to say I'm his sister. And Pharaoh will marry me, which means that I will stay there. I'll leave behind everyone I know, everything I know, and stay the rest of my life in a different culture, married to someone I don't even know or like, among a bunch of people I don't know or like. This is an Abrahamic sacrifice, if we're going to talk about giving up everything you know and love, because God asked you to, Sarah's doing it here.
All right. Can we just pause here for a minute? Oh, my gosh. Kerry, that was beautiful. Like so beautiful. Sarah is all in right here. This, I've never considered this before the way you just taught it, Kerry. Like we don't talk much about her and her conversion. And I absolutely cannot get enough of how you just framed the story of Sarah. This is a version of Abrahamic sacrifice. Of course it is. It's her sacrifice. Wow. Okay, that was so good. Thank you for teaching that to us. Okay, carry on.
Kerry Muhlestein 48:57
Now, she's fortunate because while Pharaoh does marry her, he's not able to do anything about that, because God plagues him until he realizes, Oh, there's a problem here. And then he figures out this is Abraham's wife. And so Sarah doesn't have to fully go through with this Abrahamic sacrifice. She just has to be willing to do it. And just like Abraham later will have to be willing to sacrifice Isaac even though he doesn't. But she's the first one of them to go through the Abrahamic sacrifice. Well, I don't know; you could argue that Abraham's nearly being killed was an Abrahamic sacrifice.
But in any case, Sarah is certainly Abraham's equal in this marriage. She is fantastic in this story, and is willing to make the sacrifice. And then God makes it so she doesn't have to make the sacrifice and instead, Pharaoh trying to kind of make this up to Abraham, seems to make him even more wealthy than he already is. Gives him lots of gifts and makes him very wealthy. And they come back from Egypt into Canaan fabulously, well, maybe not fabulously, but very, very wealthy, powerful and wealthy, with this whole big community that they're moving around with, in huge flocks and huge herds.
They move into the promised land or the land of Canaan. And that's where we get to in chapter 13. And the problem is that where they've chosen to stay, because both Abraham and Lot have just grown such huge families and huge herds and flocks, and so on. There's not enough water and forage area for both of them and their herdsmen, their servants that take care of the flock start to come into contact. And so this is where we see Abraham as the ultimate peacemaker and selfless person. Lot's his nephew, right? He's (Abraham) the one who can say, Okay, I'm going to stay here, and you go there.
But instead, he says, Lot, I don't want there to be conflict between us, I don't want there to be conflict between our herds or our servants, let's have peace. And it doesn't seem like that's going to work if we're sticking right here together. So we're going to have to separate a little bit so we have enough land for our flocks. You choose where you want to go; l'll go the other place, you get to choose where you want to go.
They seem to be up in the highlands, the high hills, kind of where Jerusalem and Hebron is. This, what we call the Way of the Patriarchs. This way you can move back and forth along the tops of the hills. And down below is the valley that gets near to the Dead Sea, but that's where the Jordan river runs through. And that's the more fertile area because you've got water coming from the Jordan River. So you can have some pretty good agriculture there and Lot chooses that area.
Well, and chapter 13, verse 10 even says that it was even as the garden of the Lord. I mean, that's how good this area is. It's so fertile. It's like the Garden of Eden. And so he's saying to Lot, You choose, what do you want? You want to stay here or you want to go down there? Which to me, again, goes back to the truly a kinsman, like he is serving someone who really should be serving him. That so selfless.
Kerry Muhlestein 51:42
Yeah, he approaches this the way a kinsman or a leader should, right? But it's not about him; it's about him serving everyone else as Christ has taught us, but not as the world teaches us.
So what does Lot choose?
Kerry Muhlestein 51:53
Lot chooses the fertile plains down in the valley where it's just a little bit easier, or maybe a lot easier, I don't know. So that's where he goes. But there's another element to this. And that's the fact that that area is also the highly populated area; they've been living up where there's not a lot of people. And Lot's going to move down where there are a lot of people and thus he's going to experience the influence and the dangers of being around all these people and their worldly polytheistic idolatrous culture. And that's going to be a problem for Lot and his family a couple of times.
Abraham is literally avoiding the ways of the world. And as a result, God comes to him again, and says - verse 14 is one of my favorite verses - he says,
Gen 13:14 "Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, eastward and westward.
15 "For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever."
And then He talks about making their seed, innumerable again, and so on. But we see Abraham entering further into the covenant. And I think we see Abraham going into the covenant in stages just like we do, right? We talked about baptism, the temple, and sealing in the temple, and we see Abraham. And it seems to come when he has chosen to be a peacemaker, and chosen not to move towards Sodom, literally or symbolically.
I love that you brought that up because I, I've highlighted the footnote down below to 14a, the Joseph Smith translation includes "and remember the covenant which I made with thee, for it shall be an everlasting covenant." And you're right, he's reminding him of this covenant, which again, not sure how it's gonna work, because nothing has happened so far. I didn't get the land I thought I'd get, I gave it to my son or my nephew. I just love how the Lord's reminding him: I'm still leading you by the hand, by the way. And so I
Kerry Muhlestein 53:36
Still gonna happen. You may not be seeing it yet, right? And none of the promises of the Covenant are being witnessed yet except for protection. So far, they've been protected. But they're not having that prosperity. Well, he is starting to prosper, but it's not in the way that he thought that, the land's not yielding the way he thought it would, remember? It's been famine. They're strangers in the land, other people really control it. He hasn't had children yet. And so none of it's happening the way he thought it would and it's been a long time.
Sometimes it's that way for us in our lives as well, right? Where we just, God inspired me to do this, I'm doing it. Why is it not working out the way I thought this was going to work out, right? For Abraham, this is going to be dependent upon whether you look at the Genesis or the Book of Abraham account. It's in the 20s to 30s, almost 40 years between when he's given the covenant, and he finally starts to see these blessings starting to happen. That's a long period of waiting and wondering and trying to figure out what's going on.
Thank you for pointing that out. In fact, next to verses - I bracketed off 14-18, and I just wrote a little note, "Sarah is barren". And I would also include what you just told us, it'll be about 40-60 years before we'll actually see any of this come to fruition. So thank you for giving us that time.
Kerry Muhlestein 54:41
And we'll cover that a little bit more in the next segment, I think.
Yes, we will. Okay, so I just want to pause for a second here because I think a lot of us relate to this experience of Abraham. And I'm just curious, is there ever a time Kerry, in your life where you felt like the Lord told you to do something and it didn't work out or it took longer than you thought to work out? You're kind of like, why am I doing this?
Kerry Muhlestein 54:59
There are plenty of times, maybe I can just share one quickly. I originally was going to be either write for newspapers or PR. In my freshman year I was a major in communications and doing PR and newspaper writing. But then I decided that, well I felt prompted, I felt really led and prompted to be a seminary teacher. So I took these classes, you have to take at BYU where you learn about how to be a seminary teacher, and then they give you a chance to teach. And I felt like I was a pretty good teacher, I was getting lots of compliments all over the place about my teaching and felt like I was doing pretty well and, and I had this week where they were gonna watch me teach, or where I taught for a week, and then they were gonna come observe me on the Friday.
And Monday through Thursday was fantastic, was absolutely fantastic. And Friday, the day they're coming to observe me, and I felt like I had a great lesson plan and I had my students primed, they were ready to share some stuff and so on. And I went in there and I had the biggest stupor of thought you can imagine; I could barely talk, I could barely think, my students didn't say anything. And even the ones that were usually great, and were that said they were ready to share some things. And so everyone bombed, including myself, it was terrible.
And I'll never forget the letter, I should have kept this. But I'll never ever forget the letter I got like about a week and a half later that just said, 'We recommend you don't go into a career in teaching. You don't seem to have that gift." right? It was weird for me. And I just thought that I felt inspired to do this? And then it seems like the Lord forsook me right when I needed Him. Why did I feel inspired to do this? And why did it happen that way? And then it took me a while, I was trying to figure out what to do. In fact, I had a friend who just gave me this anonymous poem that I loved, to kind of get me through that. It said, "Success is not for those who quayle but for those who fail. And then with courage twice as great take issue once again with fate." And that little couplet kind of got me through this period.
Oh, I like that.
Kerry Muhlestein 56:45
But it wasn't very, it was probably about a year after that I kept pursuing, trying to study these things and starting to study Hebrew and so on, because I'd felt that prompting and I still couldn't figure out how it was going to work. And I, now seminary seemed to be a closed door for me because the people who made that decision were, told me no, you should never pursue this. I had some experiences after that, that made me think, You know what? I want to not just teach seminary or maybe Institute - I was thinking about seminary or Institute - I need to also be a researcher, and I need to teach at a collegiate level where I can both teach and research.
And when I came to that realization, then the doors just started to open for me. And all sorts of things happened, and things have gone well for me since then. But I had that period of time that was kind of heartbreaking, where I just kept thinking again and again, God, you told me to do this. And You didn't come through for me. Well, I don't understand what I'm supposed to do now, and how I'm supposed to do it. But He gave me just that little nudge to my friend to keep me going, even though it no longer made sense to me.
It's a great example of this Abrahamic promise and, and the timing. Gosh, Kerry. Thank you for sharing that story. I'm sorry you got that letter.
Kerry Muhlestein 57:52
That's okay. I kind of like it now. I've never, and I think he wouldn't remember that he wrote that letter to me. But the person who wrote that letter later on in another setting was coming to me for advice on teaching. So you know, it all, it all works out. Okay. So
That makes me happy.
Kerry Muhlestein 58:05
I mean, I really do feel like that the Lord just didn't want me to go that route. He had another route He wanted me to go. There other people He wants to go that route; He had a different route for me.
And He piqued your interest with that original, Here's what you should do. That's what I think is so fantastic about it, is you probably wouldn't have gone down that road.
Kerry Muhlestein 58:21
The Lord tells to go somewhere. That's exactly right. I think often He tells us to go somewhere and it's not so we can get there, so that we can be in a position where we can take the right turn, then the left turn, and then the right turn and get where He really wants us to go.
Oh, you are absolutely right. Great.
Kerry Muhlestein 58:34
And Abraham's going through that, for sure.
He absolutely is. Abraham and Sarah are just all over and wondering when it's going to happen. And there is, I can't wait, okay. I can't wait until the next segment cuz there's a scripture I love that'll help teach us about that. So hold please. If any of you are in the middle of that wandering, in the middle of the wondering, we're going to get there. So Tell us the story then in chapter 14, because now we have him, he was a peacemaker in chapter 13, and now he is going to be a warrior in chapter 14. And that was interesting to me. You can be both a peacemaker and a warrior. So tell us the story, Kerry.
Kerry Muhlestein 59:07
And I think it also again, has to give Abraham some questions, because Lot, it would seem has entered into this covenant as well, right? Lot's been with Abraham and I think the fact that he's fine and makes me think he's part of this covenant. And yet Lot and his family get captured. So this group from the north comes down to this group down in the southern low Valley plains, and they conquer them and they take them back as all the people, and them and all their stuff back as servants and so on. And Lot is living in one of these cities so he and his family end up being conquered and taken back.
And Abraham hears about this and he is going to take upon himself these kinsman duties. We've talked about buying back but in this case, they're not for sale. And these aren't people who are going to allow them to buy them back. And so Abraham says, Alright, then I'll take him back. Then it's a good thing he has this big congregation, he arms all of them, and they go on a raid.
Let's look how big this congregation is. So, go to Genesis chapter 14 In verse 12, is where a Lot is taken. Verse 14 tells us how many servants Abraham armed and trained, that's what it says in the verse, to go and fight for him. And there's a lot, there are 318. So he's got 318 that he's trained, and they're ready to go, and they're going to go in and save Lot. I love this story, keep going.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:00:19
It's exciting stuff. And so they go up to a place called La esh. And so Abraham goes up there with his servants, and they fight the king of La esh and they take Lot and his family back - they free them. And hey free all the people there, in fact the other kings and people that they freed are saying, they say to Abraham, Hey, thank you for doing this. Why don't you take a bunch of you know, we're getting our stuff back, but you can take some of it as a reward. And he says, Actually, I don't want anyone to say you made me wealthy, so I'm not going to take any of it. But the people I brought with me, they can take what they need to to kind of recoup what they've lost in coming to war. But that's about it.
Well, and I really like how Abraham says he won't even take a shoelace. Like, he doesn't want anything or anyone getting credit for him being rich, he doesn't want a thing.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:01:07
And then you get the wonderful story, that Abraham the warrior, he was a peacemaker with Lot. Now he's the warrior to deliver Lot. And those are roles we see Christ play or Jehovah play. And sometimes we struggle; we love Him as the peacemaker, I find that a lot of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints struggle seeing Him as a warrior. And that makes it difficult for them to enjoy the Old Testament, because God is the Divine Warrior in the Old Testament frequently. He is actually in the other books of Scripture as well. We just ignore it there. But it's harder to ignore in the Old Testament. And so we get kind of in a big fuss about this, but
Kerry Muhlestein 1:01:43
Yeah, well, it's not only okay, it's necessary. Christ cannot be our Redeemer if He's not capable of conquering. If He is not a Divine Warrior, He does not conquer death and hell, and you and I are in a whole pile of trouble, right?
Hold, please. Can you say that again,
Kerry Muhlestein 1:01:58
If Christ is not a conqueror, He cannot deliver us; if He's not a warrior, He cannot conquer Death and Hell. And that's what we need Him to do, but not just Death and Hell, we want Him to go to battle for us against depression, against anxiety, against the wounds that we have suffered at the hands of others, against physical ailments, against everything. And the Old Testament, one of the messages it paints again and again is that Christ comes out, or Jehovah comes out as a warrior against oppressors when they oppress His people.
So the key is to not be the oppressor, but Christ will deliver us. And that message is painted loud and clear. And I think that sometimes, we don't teach our children that part of Christ, we teach the warm, fuzzy part. And we don't teach that part. And then it's difficult for them to have faith in someone that can deliver them from anxiety, or depression, or addiction, or anything else. It's hard to have faith in being delivered when you haven't been taught that Christ is a deliverer, because He's a conqueror. You can't have faith in Him conquering that for you, if you've ignored that part.
And so the Old Testament is an opportunity for us to teach our children and our youth what they need to know about Jehovah as a Divine Warrior who can deliver us and it's something we'll encounter frequently in the Old Testament, and we should embrace it, rather than be put off by it.
I am so thankful that you just beautifully taught that to us. Because when we get into Exodus and He tells the people, "I will fight your battles", "I will go before you". And how many times do we see that in the Old Testament? And now we can understand really why He's saying that, because He's saying, I'm a warrior for you. I'm going to help you fight and win. Kerry, I am so appreciative that you just taught us about him being - he cannot be a Redeemer without also being a Conqueror, and a Warrior. That was powerful, that was good!
Kerry Muhlestein 1:03:46
And I've had so many students who have told me, I feel uncomfortable with this language when we read Isaiah describing Him that way, or someone in Exodus. I don't feel comfortable with that. Well, that's because we've taught them not to, and we need to stop that. So anyway, that's my my call to repentance for us. So
Well, thank you, I appreciate that.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:04:03
And Abraham exhibits it here beautifully, right? And then, but right afterwards, he then goes to Melchizedek
Umm, K. Everyone go to Genesis chapter 14, verse 18, because I think this story's really is indicative of who Abraham is. I love it.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:04:20
I agree. And let's look at the Joseph Smith translation. Now there's in the appendix, a large Joseph Smith translation, talks about Melchizedek and who he is, is the Prince of Salem, the Prince of Peace, and so on. And it ties into things that are in Alma 13, it's just great stuff. But we'll just look at the footnote that is for verse 18. So chapter 14, verse 18, the footnote of the
Gen 14:18a Joseph Smith translation says, "And he (meaning Melchizedek), brake bread and blest it; and he blest the wine, he being the priest of the Most High God."
So what happens is, Abraham comes to Melchizedek and they have the sacrament, which is the renewal of the Covenant, right? We sometimes we skipp that. But every time it, we partake of the Sacrament on Sunday, we are renewing the Abrahamic covenant. And we should think of it in those terms. Certainly Joseph Smith seems to be restoring this for us so that we will think of it in those terms. But in any case, Abraham renews the covenant with Melchizedek and pays his tithes. The Doctrine and Covenants tells us this is who had ordained him, I would suppose that's who's helped him enter into the covenant. But it's a beautiful, just glimpse, just a quick little glimpse of what must have been a wonderful day for Abraham, of renewing this and paying his tithes and being blessed by his priesthood leader.
Thank you so much. For those of you who need some cross references, I think it's important to know, and I'm grateful that you brought this up, but it was Melchizedek who gave Abraham the priesthood and you can find that in Section 84, verses 12 and 13 that teach us that. What I love the most in the stories, what you taught us, is that Abraham then comes and pays his tithing. And here's Abraham, again, hasn't had any of the blessings that have been promised to him, but he's still going to keep on keepin on. Yeah, all right, well, I'm still gonna be a believer, I guess I'll keep paying my tithing. I'll go visit Melchizedek.
And then he is just glared in the face with the blessing of all blessings that he and Sarah have not yet received that is the most obvious because they're getting older. And this blessing, there is just no way it could possibly happen. And so in the next segment, we're going to talk about what that blessing is.
Segment 5 1:06:25
So there's an ongoing joke in my family. If we like something that belongs to our parents - well, maybe I'm the one who really does this - I'm like, Can I have that when you die? (I can't do it all the time. And in fact, I just did it a couple of weeks ago!) So for those of my siblings who are listening, I call dibs on mom and dad's two armchairs in the living room, because they're delightful. Kerry, are you like that? Or do you even have a will for when you die?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:06:47
I have a will that we created when I had three of our six children. I probably should update that anytime now. Yeah, because it just says someone should take care of my kids is basically what it says.
Does anyone have dibs on your books that I see in your bookshelf? Because I want 'em. Can I put dibs. Kerry, can I have your books when you die?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:07:03
They're yours. At one point, I was sure I was gonna leave my books to my kids. And now my kids tell me they don't want all this stuff. So yeah, yeah.
I'll just come in and put sticky notes on all the ones I want. Because I'm, eyein' them, I'm not gonna lie. You have an impressive library. Well, the reason I asked this is because in Genesis chapter 15, we kind of have this scenario going where Abraham is basically saying to the Lord, Okay, listen, I know you promised me seed and posterity, but I don't have anybody. In fact, all of my stuff is just going to go to my steward. That's in
Gen 15:2. "And Abram (says to the Lord,) what wilt thou give, me seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
He's like, That's who's going to get my stuff because I don't have posterity. Sarah still hasn't had children. And then the Lord reminds him, I love this in verse five, the Lord says, okay, Abraham,
15:5 ".......Look, now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be."
And Abraham still is like, Okay, but I'm old. I don't have posterity. This is so far removed from their thought process. And then verse six, oh, this makes me so happy. And we just are gonna cross reference it with a verse I love. for success, talking about Abraham.
15:6 "And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness."
Kerry, will you read Hebrews chapter 6, verse 15 for us.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:08:25
Yeah, I'll read 13 through 15.
15:13 "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
14 "Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
15 "And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise."
Highlight "patiently endured". Ah, that's what Abraham is going to do. Right?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:08:48
And you can see Abraham trying to figure out how is this going to work when he talks about his servant Eliezer. And it seems like he's saying, Okay, you promised me this. I've been keeping the covenant. I haven't had a child, maybe it's going to be fulfilled in a way that's not what I was expecting. And Abraham is going through that process. And he says, Maybe it's that I adopt my steward Eliezer. This Syrian guy from Damascus, but who seems to have been converted. Maybe that's how it's gonna be fulfilled, then he's my child. Is that what's going on here? That's how I read this is that he's, he's trying to figure out how is this going to be fulfilled? I don't see it happening and so maybe I need to think outside of the box. And maybe it's this way that it's going to be fulfilled.
So take us into Genesis chapter 16, then and tell us what is thinking outside the box here? What is one of the ways that it might be fulfilled, then?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:09:36
Yeah, I think Sara does the same thing. I think Sara starts to think, Okay, is there something more that we need to do? Is there some other way that we should be behaving to help make this come to pass? And she comes up with an idea of something that again, is not uncommon at the time seems weird to us. But she's been given this handmade, a servant of hers in Egypt, so she's probably Egyptian but she could have been a Semitic slave that the Egyptians took. They had all sorts of people from all over the place. But she'd been given this handmade Hagar. And it's not uncommon then for that to be another marriage, if you're in a society that is polygamous, which they are. You can marry your servants.
And we have, we sometimes call that concubines; that's another thing that will help us understand the Scriptures or the Old Testament better. So if it's a wife who's not a free person, they're called a concubine. If it's a wife who's a free person, then we call it a wife, right? That's what is happening here. She says, Well, maybe this is how it's going to happen. Maybe we have children through my handmaiden. So thinking that maybe this is how it will be fulfilled, Abraham marries Hagar, and they have a child together. But then you get some kind of conflict between Sarah and Hagar.
Again, we have to understand culturally how important family and having children was; men and women measured their value by their children in many ways in society. And that works out great if you're able to have children. It's a really, really hard and painful and difficult thing if you're not able to. And there are many people, I'm sure, in your audience who have been through or are currently going through that pain, it's a painful thing. But it's especially painful for them. And we see Sara struggles with it when Hagar has a child, and seems to kind of vont that, Hey, things are working a little bit better for me than for you and Abraham might like me better than you because he, I'm able to give him a son.
And you know, I'm reading into it a little bit. I'm kind of taking what I know of how some of these cultures work and reading into that. But I think some of that's happening. And this is so important to them, that you can see these emotions become very, very raw when it comes to family and children and childbearing. That's the thing we're gonna see carried throughout the Old Testament. It's just a constant theme. But as a result, then, Sara says, you know, I don't think this is working well, I'd like to get rid of Hagar. This is really an untenable situation for me.
And I find it interesting because Abraham does say to Sarah, Okay, do whatever you need to and she's, she's kind of harsh on Hagar. So Hagar flees. We get that in verse 7 and the angel. Well, she flees, and she goes to this fountain of water as she's fleeing in the wilderness. They're in a place where there's not a lot of water. So if you find water, you can put a stick there and we get verse 7.
Gen 16:7 "And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
8 "And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and wither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
9 "And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands."
And then listen to this verse
10 "And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude."
Now that should sound familiar to us, right? But that's part of the Abrahamic Covenant.
You bet it is.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:12:49
Later she's going to be told, when she, here's she's told that what his name will be and that he'll be a wildl man, he'll be against people and people be against him and so on. But later she's going to, or Abraham will be told: Princes will come of him. So having the right to rulership is part of the Abrahamic Covenant as well. Princes will come from him, he's going to live over here, and so on. So we see most of the elements of the Abrahamic Covenant are given to Ishmael and his descendants. That posterity, protection, land, and so on and so on.
What it seems is not given is that birthright element. Isaac is going to get the leadership and again, we have to think of leadership in the right way. So that means it's Isaac's descendants who will be given the charge, to spread the ordinances of the gospel and teaching about Christ to all the world and bring all the world into this covenant. That doesn't mean Ishmael's seed don't get those blessing, doesn't mean they don't have part in that. It means that it will be the responsibility of Isaac's seed to lead out in that, to be the servants in that. But Ishmael's seed has a fantastic covenant.
Tell us, who, then, is the posterity of Ishmael?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:13:58
So the historic seed of Ishmael are Arabs. I mean, there may be some other groups here and there, he had a lot of innumerable seed, he had 12 sons, and they go their different ways, and so on. But for the most part, the Arabs are the descendants of Ishmael. And they certainly identify that way.
I'm grateful that you explained that to us, because here we have this story of Hagar in verse 11, his name Ishmael. And again, if we break that down into Hebrew, I love how it is, it means "God will hear". EL meaning God, and SHAMA in there is "to hear" and, and He does. He hears Hagar, He hears her plight. And how much do I love verses 13 and 14 in the story of Hagar, because here she is, she's told to go back. Oh, that must have been so difficult. And in verse 13, it says,
13 "And she called the name of the Lord and spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?
13 "Wherefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered."
But that name Beer-lahai-roi is so beautifully broken down because it literally translates as "the well of him that live with and see". Like she's saying like, sees me. Yeah, Hagar's saying, I'm being seen.
And there's a great article on LDS Living by Chelsea Hayden, that I highly recommend. We'll put the link in our show notes. And you can go read what she wrote about this. But who has not been a Hagar in their life? Who has not wondered if they were being seen by the Lord? or if He actually was able to understand our plight that you're going through? And here's Hagar in this moment where she's kicked out and she doesn't know how to handle this. She has this son she has to provide for. She's too, given these promises and blessings and for her to be able to see, Okay, the Lord sees me.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:15:42
Yeah. And the Lord's asking her to do something very tough. And yet still she realizes the Lord sees me. He's, He's not forgotten who I am.
Yeah. So to those of you who feel forgotten, who feel lost, I mean, how much do I love Hagar's name! I have it written and I circled it next to in Genesis chapter 16, verse 1 is her name Hagar. And it means flight, wanderer or sojourner. And I just think it's incredible, because for anyone who feels like they're wandering, for anyone who feels like they're not being seen, and that maybe the Lord is kind of looking over them, you're a Hagar, like He sees you. He absolutely does. He's providing a way to fulfill all of His promises and blessings with you.
And I just love how you connected Hagar and Ishmael into the house of Israel. That's powerful that they do have those promises and covenants and blessings. That's really cool. But it's us who has the promise and the covenant to spread the news with everybody. So, very cool connection back to the Abrahamic covenant. Thank you, Kerry. It was awesome. Okay, so in the next segment, then, we are going to finish up this whole story by talking about a challenge that the Lord then gives Abraham after this whole experience, and a sign or a token - we've talked a lot about signs and tokens - and we're going to have another one come up in Genesis chapter 17. And we'll do that in the next segment.
Segment 6 1:16:59
All right, let's turn to Genesis chapter 17, because there is such a unique challenge that the Lord gives to Abraham and I want Kerry to teach us about this. In chapter 17, verse 1 I think a lot of us can relate to this because we feel so much pressure to be this way. And I don't think it means what we think it means - it's kind of like that line in <Princess Bride>. "I don't think it means what you think it means." So I'm going to read the verse and then Kerry is going to explain it to us. In chapter 17 of Genesis, verse 1 it says,
Gen 17:1 "And when Abram was 90 years old and 9, the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect."
Ah, okay, tell me about this. Because what is the meaning of this challenge when it's not even doable in this life?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:17:48
Yeah, well, and of course, no good things are doable without Christ anyway, but, you're right in this life, that's not going to happen for any of us. So the word in Hebrew is TAMIM. And the word Tamim literally means complete, or whole, or entire, or sound. Those are the kind of four words that are thrown in there with it, but completed, or made entire or whole is a good way of thinking about this. So then the question we have to ask ourselves is, what does that mean to be made complete? Does it mean to partake of the ordinances that you're supposed to partake of, and keep those and the covenants, and keep those covenants? I think there's something to that. Does it mean be as complete and whole as you can be, given this phase of your existence?
It might mean something along those lines, but what, in my mind, at least when I think of this, and this is just the gospel according to Kerry, but it is, Let me complete you. And listen to how it has these elements in it of being healed and made whole from what is missing, and made healthy from what was sick. We all have elements of us that are sick or missing or wounded. And with Christ, those can be made whole and we can be made complete. And I'm incomplete when I don't have a covenant and a covenant relationship, and I don't have the spirit in my life. And I am complete when I do have those things, and I'm doing my best to keep my covenant, and then the Spirit makes up the difference or makes me complete.
I really like your definition. Because I think it perfectly ties in to this chapter of Genesis 17, where the Lord is saying, Let me complete you, you've waited long enough, okay. Because like you had said, it's about 30, 40 years between the time he's given the promise, and then it's fulfilled. And so I love that idea, Kerry,, where the Lord's like, you have waited, you've been so patient. Let me complete the full circle of the covenant that you've made. And that's what happens in this chapter, is he's given some pretty important information that's going to change the course of he and Sarah's life forever, and their names for that matter.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:19:59
And of course, God never wastes that waiting time. It's not just waiting time, it's becoming time is maybe a better way of looking at it as we become something different, right? And, and if we look at it, we've kind of jumped over chapter 15. But that's an important chapter for coming into the covenant. Abraham enters into or more fully into the covenant then. And so he's becoming something different. I think the experiences in Egypt; the experience of coming into Canaan and having to deal with all the things that we've talked about; the experience with Hagar; Lot, rescuing Lot. All of these things are things where Abraham is becoming something. So it's not just waiting.
You know, Elder Maxwell talks about, enduring isn't just pacing back and forth in a jail cell or something like that. It's what you become. And so God hasn't wasted His time. Abraham has been carefully becoming, and God has been guiding him into, His hands been over him, and He's been leading him by the hand. He's been getting those elements of the Covenant, just sometimes it's hard to see. But he's been receiving those elements of the covenant that have led him to be the person that is ready to enter into another stage or more fully into the covenant in a wonderful way.
Yeah, I'm going back to your story, Kerry, perfect example of that was during your becoming stage. You were trying to be a seminary teacher. I mean, all the things you learned from that experience would eventually play out but not in the way you thought. And so yeah, I think we all can relate to how are we be, enduring the interim are we becoming? I appreciate your application of that, how we are becomin, in that phase of waiting. That's powerful.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:21:28
I don't think it's coincidence that is, after all of this, and God says to him, you know, Be Tamim. That we get this really formal explication of the covenant where He says, "Behold, my covenant is with thee and thou shalt be made a of father many nations." And then He gives the name changes, which we've already talked about how significant that is, and denoting, you are now becoming something different.
And so that name change in connection with that idea of Tamim I was just talking about where God is changing him, making him something different, making him more sound, whole, complete, full. Now he gets a name that denotes and Sarah gets a name, let's not leave Sarah out of this. She's very much, very, very much a part of this equation. They get this name change that denotes what they have just become, because of the covenant.
Yes. And those name changes are in verse 5. And then in verse 15. And I love the name change, because Abraham, as we mentioned earlier - you taught us Kerry - means the father of nations or father of many. We have in verse 15, that Sarai will be Sarah, and her name now becomes Princess. But I love 16 how it says she will be a mother of nations, kings of people shall be of her. But then we get the classic of all classics, I think, is what you'll name your child. And the Lord is telling Abraham that, but the reaction we get in verse 17, it says,
Gen 17:17 "Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?"
And then go to verse 19.
17:19 "And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him."
Highlight the name Isaac, and draw a line and connect it with the word laughed in verse 17. Because ISAAC in Hebrew means "to laugh, or to rejoice or to be joyous."
Kerry Muhlestein 1:23:19
Footnote a, it explains it.
Yes, thank you in the footnote down below. And you know, gospel 101, according to Tam, according to me, I kind of believe that the laughter really is a laugh. Like, I think it evolves. I think it goes from a disbelief of laugh to an actual rejoicing. And we'll talk about this next week in chapter 18. When Sarah finds out, when the angels come and tell her, the messengers come and tell her that she's going to have a child and she laughs, I kind of think it is like a, Are you for real, because I'm old. And so I think we see this evolution of a disbelief of laugh to an absolute rejoicing, that God fulfilled His covenant promise. What do you think Kerry?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:23:56
Yeah, and I think we all go through that sometimes where it's something seems unrealistic, and it's hard for us to believe. And then as we recognize that this is real, and we turned that kind of disbelief into faith, it turns into rejoicing and a different kind of disbelief of disbelief as to how blessed we are, right. And I think we all go through that.
I think you're absolutely right. So take it to heart for those of you that are still waiting. Don't worry, you'll have a moment to laugh, and it will turn from a disbelief of laughter to an absolute rejoice. I want to go back into chapter 17, though, because those who enter into this covenant with him into the Abrahamic covenant, there's a specific token or a sign that needs to happen with all of the men. Is that correct?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:24:38
And take us into Genesis chapter 17, verse 11, and talk to us about why it is circumcision and what we're talking about here.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:24:47
Okay, great. So Genesis, chapter 17, verse 11, he reads,
17:11 "And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you."
And then he tells him that that's going to happen, to be a token of the covenant for anyone in the household, anyone who's part of the Covenant. The covenant becomes the central theme: God keeping His covenant which He does through Christ, and the need for us to keep the covenant becomes the central theme of the entire rest of the Old Testament and really all of Scripture. You cannot understand the rest of Scripture if you don't understand the covenant, because the rest of Scripture is about the covenant and it presupposes you understand the covenant.
And I think that's why President Nelson has been trying to get us to study the covenant. He keeps talking about it, he asked us to study the blessings of the covenant. And it's why that, you know, we're talking about it now. And we're, we've been writing about it in all sorts of things, because it's important to understand the covenant. Once you understand the covenant, lots of other things in the Scriptures will make sense; much of the Old Testament is about distinguishing between those who make and keep a covenant, and two other groups: those who have never made the covenant, and those who have made but are not keeping the covenant.
And the primary way that symbolically, they will talk about those who have made a covenant and those who haven't, are those who are circumcised, and those who are not. So when you get David, who talks about who's this uncircumcised Philistine, what he's really saying is, Why are we letting someone who's not of the Covenant defy the covenant people? That doesn't make any sense to me, right? And so you're going to get this idea of circumcised or uncircumcised coming up throughout the scriptures. It's continually used as a symbol of who is part of the covenant and who is not.
Now why is circumcision the thing that they make to be the symbol of the covenant? I don't know that I can say for sure; lots of people have have talked about, Well, it's because there's a cleanliness issue. And this is a, for children, this is a cleaning that they can't do themselves. And so God makes us clean. I don't know, there are all sorts of other things you can think about in terms of this. But it certainly does come down to the idea of doing some kind of token, some kind of physical action, and God is about covenants. But covenants always have a symbolic action associated with them. That's another key to understanding the Old Testament, you have to understand symbolic actions. They're really, really big into these.
And we are a little bit, not like they are, but we don't have any ordinances that don't have a symbolic action associated with them. Whether it's as simple as laying hands on each other, or whether it's as complex as immersing someone, or blessing - in particular bread and water - we always have a symbolic action associated with them. And so this covenant, this symbolic action is circumcision. And this chapter kind of makes a big deal of the fact that it's happening to Abraham and Isaac when they're older, which is probably somewhat painful. But it's a pain that they're willing to go through to be part of the covenant.
And it's interesting, because it's throughout the scriptures, you always enter into the covenant by sacrifice. It's always by sacrifice. You have to be willing to give something up, which is typically going to be painful, in order to get something that's even better, which is the blessings of the covenant. And so I think there's probably some of that symbolism tied in there as well. I don't pretend to understand all of the symbols behind circumcision. But those are some of the important ones.
Kerry, thank you for explaining that. I appreciate it, because there have been often questions about it. And I think it's important for us to recognize, though, that at the end of the day, the most important thing we're learning here is covenants and sacrifice. And here is Abraham and Sarah who are now about to see a fulfillment of this covenant promise that they were given. And I think that just some of us are kind of in the middle of this becoming phase that we talked about. We are trusting that we're being guided by the hand of the Lord, like we started; we just have to trust that He is guiding us by His hand and that can be really hard. And it can take a lot of time.
So I just want everyone listening to just take a minute and write down what that looks like for you right now. Because I don't think there's a single listener who can't relate to being promised, to being guided by the hand of the Lord, and the role that covenants play in that. And maybe setting a goal to go to the temple, or to pay your tithin,g or to offer a sacrifice. I mean, Abraham was such a great example of in the messy middle, as we talked about last year. When you're in the messy middle, just keep on, keepin on.
And I think that goes back to the whole idea where he says, "Walk before me and be thou perfect." I think one of my favorite definitions of Tamim is also integrity. And we've talked about that in a past episode that the word perfect can also mean 'to have integrity'. And so when you're in that messy middle while you're waiting, have the integrity to just keep on, keepin on, knowing that God will lead you, that He will guide you, that He will fight your battles, that He is on your side. And I have such a testimony of that because I've seen it happen over and over again in my life. So thank you, Kerry, for joining us. That's the end of our episode. Wow.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:29:42
It is my pleasure. Thank you so much for the chance to just visit and talk about this great stuff.
That was like a masterclass on the Abrahamic Covenant. That was so good. Okay, so Kerry, just take a second, gather your thoughts. Is there anything that you're going to have as a takeaway from today, anything you've learned?
Kerry Muhlestein 1:29:56
So if I were going to have a takeaway from this discussion, it would be this: That sometimes experiencing the blessings of the Covenant takes a while. And it can be difficult, but it is more worth it than we will ever be able to understand in this life. And the blessings that are promised to us are so beautiful, that it's worth paying any price and waiting any amount of time, and trying to keep the covenant to obtain those blessings that God so wants to give us.
Amen. So worth it. So much better than a Thin Mint cookie.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:30:32
Thin Mint Pretzels. I tried those recently. Yeah,
Oh, sure. Costco sells those. I bought those at Christmastime. They're delicious! Nice job, Kerry. Kerry, for me, my takeaway was when you said you cannot be a redeemer without being a conqueror. That was awesome. I want that on a t-shirt. I want that on vinyl lettering. I don't know. I think that is a great message we have to keep teaching everyone who studies the Old Testament. And it's not a God to be afraid of. You want Him on your side. So I am grateful for your soapbox on that, because that was powerful. I felt the spirit, it bore witness to me when you were saying it that what you're saying is true. So that was awesome. So thank you. Okay, that's it. Thank you, Kerry.
Kerry Muhlestein 1:31:09
Oh, thank you.
Whew! Wow. Well, I don't know about you, but I feel like I need a nap. That was an incredible discussion. Okay, I want to know what your takeaway was from this episode, because, gosh, there's so many. So if you haven't joined our Facebook or Instagram group, go and do that. And it is so cool because a lot of people ask questions throughout the week, and they answer each other's questions. It's so much fun. And then at the end of the week, usually on a Saturday or a Sunday, we'll do a post asking for your big takeaway. So, comment on the posts that relates to this lesson. And just let me know what you learned. It's so much fun to read what everybody has to share.
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 go there because that's where we're going to have links to all the references we used, as well as a complete transcript of this whole discussion. The Sunday on Monday Study Group is a Deseret Bookshelf Plus Original, and it's brought to you by LDS Living. It's written and hosted by me, Tammy Uzelac Hall, and today our brilliant study group participant was Kerry Muhlestein. And you can find more information about him at LDS living.com/sunday on monday.
Our podcast is produced by Katie Lambert and me. It is 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 please remember that you are the Divine Kinsman's favorite!