Spirit Wrestling

At the last General Conference for our church we were asked to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year.  I did the math and in order to finish with a bit of a buffer we’d have to read three chapters as a family a day.  So we got started.

Our format for how we accomplish this has changed a bit to fit our family’s particular needs.  The kids have shown how tired they are when they are asked to read in the morning.  There’s a lot of misreadings that occur when eyes are still closed.  One example of the misreading that has emerged was with our 13-year-old son who has recently found himself quite enjoying sports.

Just over a year ago he went from being pretty sedentary to playing football.  Then he tried baseball.  Football season showed up again.  Then it was wrestling.  He was actively wrestling when we started reading the Book of Mormon and the season was still going strong when we got to Alma chapter 8.  His portion of reading landed on verse 10 which says:

10 Nevertheless Alma alabored much in the spirit, bwrestling with God in cmighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance.

The teenager missed the comma between spirit and wrestling.  He literally read it as spirit-wrestling then didn’t finish the sentence.  He exclaimed, “Spirit wrestling!  Sounds cool!”

IMG_20181210_124322474I’m not sure what he was thinking spirit wrestling was.  Maybe it was when he was sore from practice the night before and he figured he’d be less sore if his body wasn’t required for wrestling.  We’ll never know for sure.  His siblings and mother pointed out the error, he got embarrassed and now it’s a subject he’s not willing to revisit.

The word wrestling in the scriptures is significant here.  I hope that when adults read it they not only remember the all important comma, but that they also consider the nature of the verb.  Any good wrestling match is tiring.  It’s usually a match that in order to win one must have prepared to be stronger and capable of out maneuvering his opponent.  Opponents are intentionally evenly matched and in many cases they are decided by one person’s will overcoming the other.

You’ll notice here that the word spirit isn’t capitalized.  Alma wasn’t wrestling with the Spirit of God.  That would be spirit with a capital S.  He’s wrestling with his own spirit.  He’s wrestling with his personal feelings and goals to bring them to a level of humility that he might approach our Father in Heaven asking for things that are His will.

We can take a great lesson from this verse, look at our own lives and see if there is anything that might require us to wrestle with our spirits in order to be the person we need to be in order to feel comfortable when we see our Heavenly Parents once again.

Utterly Wasted

Both the Jewish faith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a strong relationship to a prophecy at the end of the Old Testament concerning the return of the prophet Elijah.  Elijah is famously known for his showdown with the Priests of Baal in 1 Kings 18.  His return was prophesied hundreds of years later in Malachi 4 (KJV):

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

NIV Translates it thusly:

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Both verses list the consequence for Elijah not coming and the hearts not turning as a type of a curse with the NIV version being more aggressive listing what the KJV translators had termed a curse to total destruction, but what if it wasn’t about destruction?  What if the root was something closer to wasted and was understood as ‘being laid to waste’ or cursed in the Old Testament translations?

The historical word used here Early in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there is the record of an angel visiting Joseph Smith and recounting the prophecy in Malachi:

And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.

The change from curse (KJV) and total destruction (NIV) in this quoting is listed as the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.  In combination with the other translations it appears to just be another word for the destruction that is prophesied as part of the second coming.  But I like this version, because it works beautifully when cross referenced.

To be clear Elijah has returned, and with him the Priesthood authority to bind families on earth and throughout the eternities.  The ordinance is considered to be just as important as baptism.  Hence there is an ordinance done in temples known as sealing. The work in temples is done for the living and on behalf of those who have died.  This work is the highest ordinance that we can obtain here on the earth and so The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints considers it a part of their mission to have the work performed for all those who have ever lived on the earth (those who have died still have to accept the work on their behalf).  These sealings bind one generation to another turning the hearts of the children to their fathers and enabling the eternal life with our families.

sky earth galaxy universe

So, what should we cross reference Malachi’s prophesy with?  How about a verse in the Book of Moses? In chapter 1, Moses is shown all of God’s creations and marvels.  In the revelation the Lord not only shows his works, but also their purpose.  In verse 39 we read:

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

Moses speaks of the purpose of earth and all of God’s creations as bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  The immortality and eternal life that come from receiving all the ordinances (baptism and sealings being among them) that are necessary for salvation.  Malachi speaks of the importance of combining the human family together.  The two scriptures are in wonderfully perfect harmony.  If the entire human family isn’t brought together then literally the earth would be wasted–not wasted in the sense of a curse–but wasted as in the sense of rubbish–unable to serve a purpose and tossed aside.

Now, isn’t that cool?

Corrupting the Language

As the language evolves it evolves in different direction. The Urban Dictionary does a great job showing the evolution of the language, but you can see how crude it is.

In contrast there are these verses in the Book of Moses 6

5 And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration;

6 And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled.

Defile means to make unclean or impure. A language that was pure must be a language that contained only the ability to express things that were pure. After all, this was the language that God used with Adam in the Garden of Eden.

The origin of the root defile includes the from Anglo-French defoiller, defuler meaning to trample. This refers to the process of filling which required stomping on the wool (sometimes soaked in urine) over and over again until the wool was softened enough to make it comfortable. It is not an accident. It is intentional.

We see the word trample elsewhere in the scriptures. In Matthew 7 we hear the Savior prompt

6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

The imagery of something as precious as a pearl being trampled is powerful. This use of trample in conjunction with defile shows us that the corrupting of the language is an intentional process taking something that is most beautiful (the language we use to communicate with God) and reducing it only to it’s baser elements crushing what is precious and staining that which is pure.

Guarding our tongues and thoughts will determine how comfortable we are when we meet our Savior again. But as that day is some time off we have lots of time to practice and learn to appreciate the robust versatility and beauty that is our language.

Blind Spots

It’s no doubt that we all have our weaknesses.  One of the aspects of the human condition is how hard it is for us to see our own weaknesses.

One of my weaknesses is the way I say things.  It takes people a while to get used to, but generally once we’ve become acquainted it’s usually not an issue anymore.  They do however, still notice.  I’ve been told at my current job that there’s a list of Jacobisms floating around that eventually they’ll share with me.  Because I don’t notice them I can only imagine how long the list is, or how funny it is out of context.

Just this week I know I’ve said things like, “don’t make me supervise you” (to my boss), and “sometimes, I do things” while at work.  Out of context, these are pretty funny.  I’ve also got the line, “I may not be well informed, but I have a strong opinion about X.” Which is a phrase that is so useful more people should adopt it.

All of these have been understood in context and appreciated by the audience.  All were spoken using English, but its English with a mannerism that is certainly reflective of my personality.

I know I do this, but I have the fault of not being as conscious of it as I should be.

It’s easy for others to see.  It’s not easy for me.  It’s easy for others to see your faults.  It’s not easy to see them ourselves.  I imagine we all have (at times) participated in the art of finding fault in others.  I think it’s part of the teenage experience.

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.

-Mark Twain

This week I was having a conversation that was productive to a point, but then I noticed a theme in the discussion.  We were observing and commenting only on the faults of the individuals we were discussing.  We were talking about their blind spots.  I’d like to think we were generally being polite in our discourse, but I knew if we’d continued the dialogue it might have easily shifted to where I would have been uncomfortable having them talk about me, the way I was talking about them.

Then the scripture came to mind in Ether 12:27:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Remembering that scripture helped me to remember to be kind.  The people who were the subject of the conversation probably have just as many faults as I do (but who’s counting anyway?).  The solution for them is the same for me.  Be humble and take your weaknesses to the Lord so that he can make them strong.

I once wrote that just because someone is on the same path doesn’t mean they have the same destination.  Those who choose to follow Heavenly Father’s plan to overcome their weaknesses are on the same path.  I know what it’s like to walk that path and can relate those who on it with me.

There’s really not much insight in this post other than I found a way to apply a scripture to help me be kinder in my thoughts and more appreciative of those around me.  And now you all know there’s a list of Jacobisms floating around my work.  If I ever get a copy of it, I’ll have to post it here.