Saturday, March 31, 2012

Joseph Reveals Himself

Today I read Genesis 45 where Joseph make himself known to his brothers. What a meeting that must have been! By the reactions his brothers have had to their treatment when they were in Egypt it was clear they all felt guilty about what they had done to Joseph, but it is not made clear if they thought he was dead or not. But the scriptures state that when he makes himself known to them they are a little standoffish, which is to be expected. The last time they saw him he was being sold as a slave, no doubt screaming to them for help but was ignored, perhaps even laughed at.

I imagine the only thing that could be better to Joseph than finally telling them who he is, is the prospect of seeing his father alive again. The rest of the chapter is about him and later Pharaoh making plans with Joseph's brothers to bring their families out to Egypt. What joy and anticipation Joseph must have been feeling! He had not seen his father in over 22 years and finally in just a few short weeks he would be seeing him again. He must have been overjoyed at the very idea. He was probably really looking forward to showing his wife and sons off to his family and especially his father.

Joseph was truly a humble man. As I stated several days ago when we started reading his story, it is not clear if he was always that humble when this whole ordeal started, but he is, for all intents and purposes, the 2nd most powerful man in the world at this point. And yet he does not let it go to his head, but rather is concerned with helping his family and making sure they are taken care of. He forgives them for their treatment of him and lets them know that God used it as a way to prepare a way to save their lives. He strikes me as an optimist, always looking on the bright side of things.

From this chapter it is also clear to me that Pharaoh really liked Joseph. We know that he puts Joseph in charge of everything, but we don't really hear about him again until now. It would be easy to assume that Pharaoh put Joseph in charge and then just forgot about him, but I don't think this was the case. I think Joseph worked with him closely and grew to really like Joseph. I think Pharaoh might even have been a little excited to meet Jacob, who knows?

Joseph had a really interesting life. The first part of his life was a real challenge, but it sure sounds like he met that challenge head on and was able to overcome it. We can learn a lot from him on how to deal with adversity and how to handle our trials. If were all like Joseph, I think the powers of hell would be very frustrated indeed and the world would be a pretty amazing place. Until tomorrow.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Effects of True Repentance

Today I read Genesis 44 where Joseph puts his cup in Benjamin's sack and has all his brothers brought back to his house to confront them. I've always been curious why he did that. I don't know if it was a test to see if his brethren had changed or if he was trying to save Benjamin from his brothers because he feared for him. I really have never understood this, but this episode does show us that his brothers have indeed changed.

Judah in particular states his case before Joseph that he cannot go back to his father without Benjamin. He lays it all out before Joseph and offers himself into servitude in place of Benjamin so that Benjamin can return home to his father. One thing is for certain from this chapter, Judah, and the rest of his brothers, love their father very much. When they were younger they let their anger at Joseph get the best of them and it outweighed their love of their father and so they caused pain and anguish to both Joseph and their father by selling Joseph into slavery and telling Jacob he was dead.

In this moment, we get a true glimpse into Judah's heart and it is a good heart. I personally feel it is easy to see from this episode just how deeply he regrets his earlier actions and that he has had much sore repentance. I would assume they all have at this point, but we are only treated to Judah speaking and telling his side of things. Because it is so hard, repentance sometimes gets a bad rap. But the truth of the matter is, that without repentance we would all be damned. Repentance is a gift from God. It is a gift so that we can make a change in our lives, even our very nature, to become a different person altogether. Such a change has come over Judah. If this were 20 years earlier when he suggested selling Joseph into slavery, he would not care that Benjamin would become a servant/slave of this man. But because he has changed and repented, he cannot bear the thought of it and offers himself instead. That is a change only the Atonement of Jesus Christ can bring about, and with a few exceptions, it is a change that can only be caused by sincere repentance. It has to be sought out.

We are all capable of such change in our lives. We have to make the change however and do what is required of us for true repentance, which can be just as hard as starting the process. Harder even in some cases. But the great news is that Heavenly Father will help us if we ask for it and will guide us along the path. We are not left to walk the wine press alone as our Elder Brother did so many years ago. He is there for us. We just have to call out and reach out with an open heart and mind. He'll answer, always. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's All About Faith

Today I read Genesis 43. As I was reading this chapter today, I couldn't help but think about how we are all tested in one way or another in life. So much of what we do requires faith. I really do feel sorry for Jacob, he lost his favorite child and his youngest child, which he probably would have doted on anyway, but since he was the only other child of his favorite wife, Rachel, doubly dotes on him, is required at the hands of a stranger. This was his Abrahamic test in my opinion. Abraham was required to offer a sacrifice of Isaac to God. Jacob felt like if he left Benjamin go up to Egypt that he would lose him for sure but if he did not send up Benjamin, his entire family would perish. It was a true lose lose situation.

He had to take it on faith that God would bring his children back to him in this life and if not in this life, then the next. It would be a truly hard thing to handle honestly. My perspective has changed so much since having a child. Stories that I used to read and wonder why the person reacted in such a way now make perfect sense now that I have a daughter. The story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac was always hard to understand, but it has become downright impossible to even imagine now that I have a child of my own. I couldn't do it. If God came to me and asked me to sacrifice my daughter to Him, I couldn't do it. I'm not strong enough to let her go. I hope and pray each and every day that I am not one of those who are tested with losing their child before I go because I can already tell I am not strong enough for that. I think I would succumb to despair.

And so Jacob was also convinced that if Benjamin went up to Egypt, he would lose his youngest son. So convinced was he of this fact that he refused to send his sons back until there was a want of food and they would have perished. I often wonder what changed Jacob's mind. Was it the impending doom facing his entire family? Was it faith that all would be well? What happened that caused him to allow Benjamin to leave his sight? We probably will never know until all things are revealed. Whatever changed, Jacob still had to have faith that God would protect his sons, just like we all have to have faith that our loved ones will be cared for. Truly that is all we can do, because everything is in God's hands. We have to have faith and trust Him at some point. We have to know that it will all turn out for the best. I'm sure some people don't look at it that way, but really that's what we are all doing. Just as our earthly children trust their earthly parents. It never fails to amuse and amaze me how almost everything good here on this earth is a type and shadow of heavenly things! It makes me smile. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Learning to Forgive

Today I read Genesis 42 where Joseph see's his brothers for the first time in over 20 years. What a bittersweet moment that must have been for him. I can only imagine what kind of feelings he must have felt in that moment when he saw them. Those of you familiar with the story will remember that he actually treated them quite poorly at first and accused them of being spies and threw them into prison for 3 days.

Stories like this are comforting to me. That may sound odd but what I mean by that is, when we read the scriptures it is very easy to come to the conclusion that prophets are perfect. They are God's chosen people and they do everything the Lord asks them to do. However stories like this one or about Jonah and Nephi disprove this theory and remind us that prophets are people too and despite being further along the path of perfection than some of us are, they are still prone to make mistakes from time to time. Here Joseph uses his position and power to get a little revenge on his brothers, or so the story has always read to me. There is no real reason for putting his brethren into prison other than he wanted to that I have ever thought of.

However, despite his rough treatment of them, he still loves them and gives them all their money back and allows them all to return to their father and families except for Simeon. I have often wondered if Simeon was the mastermind behind throwing Joseph into the pit and that is why he chose Simeon to stay behind. I'm not sure we are ever told. But perhaps despite it being over 20 years later, all the old feelings of hurt and betrayal came bubbling to the surface upon seeing his brothers again. I'm pretty sure they would. It's easy to forgive someone when they are not around and even think you have forgiven them, but once they come around and you hear their voice again, it is easy to have all that repressed anger and resentment come up to the surface.

They say time heals all wounds. I agree with this to a degree. What truly heals all wounds is Jesus Christ and the Atonement. Christ suffered for all of us so that we might live. He also, however, took upon Himself all the pain and agony of mankind so that we could overcome our physical, emotional and spiritual pains in this life. If we rely upon Him, we will be able to do things we never knew we could do, such as forgive those who have hurt us. The old saying goes that to err is human but to forgive is divine, this, I believe, is because most of us lack the ability to truly forgive on our own, especially the big hurts. We have to ask for help from Heavenly Father. And if it is our true desire, then He will help us overcome the hurt and be able to forgive those who have done wrong by us. That is a truly wonderful feeling when it happens. Like a heavy burden being lifted off or our shoulders. It is a wonderful feeling.

Whether Joseph needed help or not, he most certainly eventually forgives them completely as we will see. Joseph was truly a remarkable man in every sense that we know about. I like to think that he was able to forgive his brothers on his own but I'll know that only when I meet him someday. I look forward to it. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Famine Comes to Egypt

Today I read Genesis 41 where Pharaoh has his dream about the seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. It never fails to astonish me the way Heavenly Father loves His children and takes measures to take care of them. God sent Pharaoh two dreams to take care of the people of Egypt and Joseph at the same time. Poor Joseph had been in prison 2 years since he interpreted the dreams of the butler and the baker. We are not really told what happened in that time but no matter how much authority one has in prison, it's still prison. Poor Joseph had been a slave or in prison for half of his life at this point.

Fortunately for Joseph though he was humble through it all and those who had authority over him treated him very well and he prospered under them. Joseph has always been one of the most interesting men in history. Just like Joseph Smith I have wanted to meet Joseph of Egypt. I want to hear from him what his life history really was like. The scriptures are only the bare bones of the story. I wonder if the Spirit of the Lord took away the pain and even memories of the years he spent in captivity? I would think that it did.

I have often wondered why the Lord sent a famine like that. Was there a lot of sin going on at the time that the Lord needed to teach the area some humility? Was it all to get Joseph out of the prison? Was it all to reunite Joseph with his family? I think it was to get the Israelites to Egypt to fulfill the prophecies of Moses coming to save them in the coming generations. Perhaps it was also to help the people of Egypt learn humility and maybe even to learn about Jesus Christ. I wonder if Joseph was able to convert any of the Egyptians to the true Lord? I guess we'll know at some point. Through Joseph, the Lord was able to spare all the people in the surrounding areas of Egypt. It must have been wonderful to be an instrument in the hands of God like that. I would love to be able to do something for God like that, I just wouldn't want to be in the public eye like that. I'm kind of conflicting like that. Maybe someday the Lord will be able to make my desire to come true in the manner that I desire. Maybe not. Until tomorrow.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Joseph Interpret's the Dreams of the Butler and Baker

Today I read Genesis 40 where Joseph interprets the dreams of Pharaoh's butler and baker while they are in prison. This has always been a bit of a strange story to me. I mean, what made the butler and the baker think that their dreams were anything other than dreams? I have always wondered how those people who get dreams from God know that they are more than just dreams. Does the Spirit whisper to them that it's more than just a dream? Because I have weird dreams all the time, I had one just last night. But I have never thought that it was more than just a dream.

What ever the reason, when they woke up the butler and the baker were troubled. I would imagine that they were upset because they could tell it was more than just a normal dream. Joseph, being close to the Spirit and close to God, was able to help them with the interpretation of their dreams. I imagine that felt kind of like giving a blessing. He just knew what to say. Although I think that Joseph was sad at the interpretation of the baker's dream, I imagine that he was pleased to be able to be an instrument in God's hands.

God communicates in a myriad of ways. He has a plan for us and will further that plan in ways that may seem strange to us. We need to be in tune with the Spirit to be able to understand what He has in store for us. One thing for certain is we can always trust Him even if it seems bizarre to us. If we just do as He asks, we will find wonderful things in store for us and it will always be for our benefit. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sexual Sin and Serving God no Matter What

Today I read Genesis 39 the very famous chapter concerning Joseph's flight from Potiphar's wife. It always saddens me when I hear stories of a wife, or husband for that matter, has no regard for their spouse. I say this because anyone who is willing to have sexual relations with someone who is not their spouse is not thinking of their spouse but in fact only thinking of themselves. In the March Ensign, I read an article about keeping appropriate online relationships in check. In the article it mentioned that the woman had made the mistake little by little and that when she realized the danger, it was "too hard" to stop the inappropriate relationship. This is an instance of the person having no consideration for their spouse. If she had been more concerned with her relationship with her husband, she would have run the other way, as Joseph does in this chapter, no matter how painful it might have been and no matter what her friend might have thought.

It is said by some that sexual transgression is the ultimate betrayal, and it certainly does hurt. I once had a girlfriend that decided to pursue a relationship with another person before ending our relationship. It was one of the worst emotional pains I have ever endured. I even went as far as accusing her of hating me and that if she truly cared about me she would not have treated me in such a despicable way. It took many months for me to get over her betrayal and many years before I was able to trust another woman with my affections. I don't care what your reasons are, there is never a reason for adultery.

I have always, even as a young child, felt bad for Joseph. He had an extremely hard life. As far as the scriptures make us aware, he only ever tried to do what was right and while for the most part it all turned out alright, but he had such hardships to endure. Joseph must have been a truly special person to be patient and still rely upon the Lord. Of course, we are reading some into the story, we are not told that he endured it all well. It could very well be that the reason he was in prison for so long was because he had to be patient and learn some things. I personally don't think that is the case, but in all honesty we really don't know.

I always have thought the best of Potiphar too. I personally don't think that Potiphar believed his wife that Joseph tried to rape her. I personally think that Potiphar understood what kind of woman his wife was and knew what kind of man Joseph was. I can only imagine what kind of punishment a slave would receive for attempted rape but something tells me that prison was a very kind punishment for such an "offense". Perhaps Potiphar was a harsh man though and God softened his heart, but since the scriptures will typically tell us when such is the case, I like to think that Potiphar was kind to Joseph.

The one thing I have always taken away from this story is that as long as you follow God's commandments, no matter what happens to you in this life, it will turn out well for you in the end. This life can be challenging and it can be painful in more ways than one. But if we are true and faithful to God's commandments and follow what He has asked us to do, we will be cared for in the long run. We may not enter into God's rest in this life, but eventually we will have His rest and will have the peace of mind in knowing that in all things we served Him and will be exalted. All we have to do, is follow God in all things. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sexual Impurity Leads to Misery

Today I read Genesis 38 which is a strange and perverse story. It's about Judah and his family. Judah has 3 sons and he took a wife for his eldest son who died childless. The scriptures state that he died because he was wicked in the sight of God. That is all we are given. Judah gave the second son the woman to be his wife and to raise up children to his brother. He did not want any children that she bore to be his brother's so the scripture states he did not actually lay with her but masturbated as it is written which the Lord was displeased with and caused him to die also. Now, this, to my knowledge, is the main verse that most Christians use to condemn masturbation because the Lord killed him for it. First let me say that I of course, having been to the temple am a proponent of sexual purity and no sexual relations except with your spouse, and this includes sex with ones self, but I do not think this is the reason God caused, Onan was his name, to die.

I think that Onan was taken by the Lord because he refused to raise up children to his brother. This was the custom of the Israelites and even gets included in the law of Moses later on. I do not pretend to understand it and it makes no sense to me, but this is the command they had been given. Now, I think it displeased the Lord that Onan was not sexually pure, but I think the reason he was taken by the Lord was actually because of his refusal to follow the command of his father on earth and his father in Heaven. That is my take on it.

The rest of the story is just plain weird. Judah does not want to give the woman, Tamar, to his third son because he is afraid he will die too. I can understand why he was afraid, but the scriptures state that they did not die because of her, rather they died because of their choices. But I can understand Judah's reluctance. He'd already lost 2 sons and as far as he knew the only commonality was they both married Tamar. So he tells Tamar that he will give her his last son once he is full grown, but he doesn't.

I really don't understand the mentality of people in those days. This is yet another example of how warped their thinking was. But Tamar, what I assume is a few years later, upset that Judah has not given her his last son to be her husband even though he was of age, dresses up like a prostitute and tricks Judah into having sex with her. She gets pregnant and then reveals to him what she has done. Instead of being repulsed by her, he acknowledges his fault in not giving her his last son to be her husband and she eventually bares twins.

I remember as a teenager I had a friend that his family had a saying of "Don't go kicking skunks", or in other words, don't go looking for trouble. And in this story Judah would have avoided trouble if he would have followed the Law of Chastity, of not having sexual relations with anyone to whom he is not married. If he hadn't been having sex with a harlot, it wouldn't have happened. Despite this stories perversity, it really does reenforce the necessity of keeping the law of Chastity and making sure that we are doing everything in the Lord's way. Daily I watch TV, or just look at the news and marvel how much of the tragedy and heart break could be avoided if people would just follow the commandments of God. It always reaffirms to me that God's way is the best and that if we want a happy earthly life, we need to make sure we are listening to Him and what He has to say. It doesn't mean that our life will necessarily be easy and it certainly won't be perfect, but we have a much greater likelihood of a happy life by following His commandments. That's my two cents anyway. Until tomorrow.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Joseph is Sold into Slavery

Today I read Genesis 37 which tells the story of young Joseph who is sold by his brothers into slavery all out of envy. Jacob loves Joseph and the way the story is written, seems to give him preferential treatment over his brothers. Jacob buys him a coat of many colors to dote on him, which of course makes his brothers hate him all the more. I often wonder if parents are just oblivious to this children bickering in such ways, or what is the reason they don't take a more active role? Perhaps Jacob tried but was unable to control his sons. We just don't know. I would like to think that Jacob was not oblivious to how his treatment of Joseph made the others feel and that he tried to intervene but they were too headstrong. We just don't know.

Not too long ago my wife and I were talking about the story of Joseph and discussing if perhaps maybe Joseph was a little arrogant and that is why his brothers grew upset with him and treated him the way they did. Perhaps that is why he had to suffer so much, to teach him humility. The fact of the matter is, again, we don't know. However, I don't think his brothers hated him because of his attitude. I think his brothers hated him because he was the favorite son of his father. He was the teacher's pet if you will. Envy is a hateful thing and will often breed contempt. Despite the desire of the person wanting to be the person they envy, they hate the person for how they are treated, never once seeming to realize, or care, that the other person is only treated that way because of their actions in a lot of cases. I'm sure there are people who are doted on by their parents or whomever and it is not justified, but a good portion of the cases it is.

I have always felt absolutely horrible for Joseph personally. We don't know his situation really beyond the bare bones of the story, but I have always felt like he was innocent and treated quite unfairly by his brothers. This is true to an extent no matter what Joseph was like in my opinion. No one deserves to be sold as a slave, no matter what they have done. Slavery is an evil and degrading practice that should have been abolished centuries before it was in public and should be abolished now despite it still going on in the shadows. What a horrible betrayal for Joseph to be sold by those he probably loved and looked up to the most. It's possible that Joseph did not even know why his brothers hated him, or perhaps didn't even know they did. Can you even imagine being thrown in a pit by your own family and when they finally bring you out you see them gleefully taking money for you and turning you over to strangers who then bind you. What a horrible, awful betrayal. No one deserves that.

I also feel badly for Reuben. He of all his brothers tried to save Joseph and bring him back to their father. He was not part of the rest who sold him into slavery. He tried to save Joseph and was not able to do so. I wonder if perhaps he blamed himself for all those years for not being able to better handle his brothers. Still, his plight was nothing compared to Joseph's. Perhaps God comforted Joseph right from the beginning and let him know that He was near by and that this would all turn out right in the end. I like to think that he did, He is merciful and loves us very much after all. We'll know some day. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Generations of Esau

Today I read Genesis 36 which is all about the genealogy of Esau. It is interesting to me that as long as there have been people they have been interested in genealogy. Even before the spirit of Elijah was poured out upon the earth, people, or certain groups of people anyway, have already been interested in who they are and where they have come from from an ancestral point of view.

Now, in the early days of Adam and Eve, I think it had to do with they understood the doctrine and what was required to return to live with our Heavenly Father. Other cultures, like the Chinese, have always revered their ancestors and kept excellent records of who they were and all their descendants. It has always been important to some to know where they have come from. This is because the work cannot be completed until everyone has been given the opportunity to receive the sacred ordinances required for salvation. It's a shame really that not every culture kept such good records. But, that is partly what the millennium is for, to make sure all the work gets done properly. It will be a busy time indeed! Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Our Favorite Sins

Today I read Genesis 35 where God changes Jacob's name to Israel, where Rachel gives birth to Benjamin and dies, and Reuben has sex with Bilhah. Jacob has had a really hard life, he really has. Yes the Lord has blessed him immensely and he has many, many good things that happened to him, but if you look at the harsh realities of his life, he was tricked into marrying the wrong woman, his father in law tried to cheat him on multiple occasions, his sons are willful and disobedient and some of them are murderers, one of his sons has sex with one of his wives, his favorite wife dies during childbirth, he really does have a lot of trials in his life. It makes me wonder what he had to learn from all of this, because I firmly believe that nothing happens by chance. There is always something to learn from it.

What has always seemed weird to me is the story of Reuben sleeping with Bilhah, I mean, in what way did he think this was ok? Every conceivable way to look at this is just wrong. I don't really want to dwell on it, but this is really a type for the rest of us. We all have our favorite sins that we can't shake either because we don't want to, or because it is too hard to overcome. We keep going back to this sin, or sins, over and over again even though we know for a fact that it is wrong and perhaps even harmful to us. It could be a Word of Wisdom problem, or perhaps a Law of Chastity problem. Perhaps we have anger issues, the list is honestly too long to go into, but in every case, we know it's wrong but we either try to overcome it on our own, or we just flat out don't want to overcome it.

I have a friend who left the church because of personal sin, honestly I believe that is why everyone leaves the church no matter what reason they might give. When I talked to him about it once, he admitted that the reason he did not come back to church was not because of the sin, but rather that he had no desire to overcome the sin. He knew it was wrong, but he did not want to stop it and so he chose instead to stay away. It was a very sad thing for me and I think that this is more common than we think. There are people who have testimonies of the truth and know what is right, but don't want to stop sinning to live those testimonies. I was talking with my father on Sunday for our weekly talk and he mentioned that he once had a friend who stated he did not want to make it to the Celestial Kingdom. He only wanted to go to the Terrestrial Kingdom. My dad did not go into details, but I suspect this person had a favorite sin they were unwilling to give up, or perhaps found it too difficult to give up.

If we are ever to reach our full potential as children of God, we have to be willing to give up our favorite sin or sins. We have to be willing to put what we want aside and do what God has asked us to do. This is important and ranks right up there with performing the necessary ordinances to return to live with our Heavenly Father. All the good we do will not be enough if we can't or won't give up our sins. We have to be in this 100%, it's not enough to be at 90% or even 99%. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Violence and Sexual Transgression

Today I read Genesis 34 where Jacob and his family are near the city where Shechem rapes this sister/daughter Dinah. It's so interesting to me. As a culture, we are so jaded towards sins of anger and passion, but sins of the flesh, for the more part, still inflame us, as they should. Alma taught his son Corianton that sexual transgression was less severe than shedding innocent blood, or committing murder. And yet as a society, we are WAY more willing to watch murder than we are sex in our entertainment.

As the previews have come out for the new movie, the Hunger Games, basically a re-stylized telling of the Roman gladiatorial games, where, from what I understand about it, teenagers kill each other for the viewing pleasure of the world, I have wondered how any faithful Latter-day Saint can watch such things. As a culture, Latter-day Saints, and Christians in general, are too secure with the rating of PG-13. We, again for the most part, are very good about avoiding rated R movies, but when we see that PG-13 rating symbol all caution gets thrown to the wind and we don't even bother to think and evaluate if the subject matter is something we should be seeing. We are SO conditioned towards violence that you are extremely hard pressed to find a show that does not have it in it in some form or fashion. Even kids shows these days have violence in them, just to a much lesser degree. And yet if sex is involved, we shun it like the plague, or at least pretend we do as a society. I say pretend because the pornography industry is one of, if not the most, profitable industries on the planet. This would not be the case if we were truly shunning pornography and sex in films.

Those who would destroy the commandments of God and who would "liberate" us from our old puritan values would in fact lead us down a very careful path straight to hell. Where the water is turned up by degrees until we find we are boiling in it! I am thoroughly disgusted with the Hunger Games and the very concept of it causes me to shudder and lose the Spirit for quite a while. What's worse to me though, is the fact that so many of my Latter-day Saint friends DON'T feel this same way. That screams to me that there is a huge problem here. Now, the last half of this chapter, Simeon and Levi slaughter the entire town for one man's sin. I can understand their anger and their frustration at what happened to their sister, but their response is so off the mark of how it should have been handled, I shudder to think what the price they had to pay for that sin would have been.

I would not be surprised if, here in 2 weeks, our leaders come out and say something about choosing appropriate entertainment/media in General Conference. If it has been on my mind, I know it must be on theirs! I just hope that those Latter-day Saints will hear and heed the message they are going to deliver. Now, this post seems like I have been anti-violence and pro-sex. Well, for one thing, within the bounds of the Law of Chastity, I am pro-sex. But I am not pro-sex in movies, games, books, music or whatever else is out there. I am quite glad that society has such a stern stance on it. I just wish that same bar of measurement would be meted out to entertainment dealing with violence is all. That's what I'm saying. Maybe someday! Until tomorrow.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Esau Forgives Jacob

Today I read Genesis 33 where Esau and Jacob finally meet. Few stories in the Bible, especially the Old Testament are as fulfilling and touching as this one. Esau had genuine cause to be upset with Jacob. I mean, what Jacob did was duplicitous and cruel to both his father and his older brother. He lied to his father and stole the blessing that was meant for his brother. Now, some would argue that Esau had sold Jacob his birthright so the blessing was rightfully Jacob's. But that is another instance that I am really curious about what happened, as I have mentioned in the past. Even though Jacob had the help of his mother, Rebekah, I still think that he truly wronged his brother, Esau.

So that to me, makes this chapter all the more touching. When Jacob last saw Esau, Esau was plotting to kill Jacob he was so mad. And here, 20 years later, upon seeing him for the first time, he hugs him and forgives him. This is a true testament to Esau's character! Can you imagine Laman or Lemuel hugging Nephi if they had not seen him in 20 years? I sure can't, unless they were hiding a knife behind their back! Unlike 60% of Nephi's older brothers, Esau was not a murderer at heart, but rather was extremely upset by the treatment he had received at the hands of one of the people he loved most in the world. I can understand how he feels. It's the same issue with a parent who loves their child more than anything in this life, and yet at the same time can want to beat them senseless when they misbehave or mouth off as a teenager! We are imperfect beings and inappropriate thoughts of all kinds enter into our minds from time to time. The difference between murderers, thieves, rapists, people who beat their loved ones, is that we do not act on those odd, incongruent impulses.

We can all learn from Esau's example in this story. Few of us, I hope, will have cause to be wronged by our loved ones to the degree that Esau was, and yet Esau was able to forgive. Yes it took some time just as it might take us some time, but we all know there are people that can hold on to a grudge for 20 years or even 60 years! President Monson once shared a story of 2 brothers who shared a one room cabin who did not say a word to each other for over 20 years over some argument or another. That is grudgery to an art form! We've got to learn to love and forgive and then forget it, like we have been counseled to do by our Heavenly Father and our Savior. What a wonderful place the world would be if we could all put it into practice! Until tomorrow.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Jacob Heads Home

Today I read Genesis 32 where Jacob is returning to his own land and he is preparing to meet with his brother, Esau. This chapter reminds me of the Savior's counsel to not be angry with your brother when He is preaching the sermon on the mount. Jacob is very worried that Esau will not look upon him kindly because of what happened when they were together last and how Jacob stole Esau's blessing.

Family is an interesting thing. There are all kinds of attitudes regarding family from those like me who love their family and would like to see more of them than they are able, to those who tolerate their family to those who despise their family. The family is the basic building block of any society and God's foundation upon which all else is built. It is really a shame that so many of us, I think, take our families for granted. We feel like they will always be there no matter what and so we let so much time go by without reaching out to them. I imagine that God is saddened by this and wishes that His children were closer to one another. That is just my feeling however.

There is an old saying that I have heard that says you can choose your friends, but not your family. This is very true and while I recognize that not everyone is fortunate to have good family members, it is sad that so many do not try because of past hurts. They wrap themselves up in a cloak of their own misery and past wrongs done to them that they can't get past it and try to start over if needed. Now, that is not to say that in such a case it is all on the person doing the forgiving. It is not a requirement of course, but it is much easier to forgive someone who asks for it. Nevertheless, it is not a requirement for forgiveness, as we have discussed in the past. Some would argue it's harder to forgive a family member because they should know better. I argue that of all the people we should be forgiving, it should be our family members. They are closest to us. That is why this story, to me is so heartwarming, it is wonderful to see Jacob anxious to make amends with his brother, Esau, as we will see in the next chapter. And that is as good a stopping place as any. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Jacob Leaves Laban's Employ

Today I read Genesis 31 where Jacob leaves his uncle's house. Again we are left with just the barest of outlines about what has happened over the past 20 years of Jacob's life. Apparently Laban, his uncle, has not been the most fair of employers. According to Jacob, and Laban does not refute it, Laban has changed Jacob's wages ten times over the past 20 years, not to mention tricking Jacob into marrying his eldest daughter. I would hate to see how Laban treats someone who isn't family!

Laban starts treating Jacob even more poorly so Jacob takes his family and his belongings that he has earned and departs because he is afraid Laban will not let him leave if he tells Laban his plan. Frankly I think Jacob was right to be afraid of what Laban might do. Fortunately for Jacob, God was still with him and told Laban in a dream not to hurt Jacob. Laban listens and makes his peace with Jacob.

This chapter to me is a very good indication of what can happen when greed gets the best of you. Laban was a very wealthy man. Instead of being happy to share his wealth with his nephew, he tried to hoard it and tried to cheat Jacob when he had made a legitimate business deal with him. And instead of being happy that Jacob was doing so well for himself, he accused Jacob of stealing from him and came after him with who knows what intent. Now, his daughter, Rachel did in fact steal his idols and so I can understand Laban being upset about that. But otherwise, I agree with Jacob that if Jacob had come to Laban and told him that it was his intention to leave, Laban would have tried to prevent it or would have tried to take Jacob's cattle away from him.

Wealth is a huge stumbling block which I have seen in my own life as well as in the scriptures. I have read story after story of how much harder it gets to pay tithing when you have a lot more wealth. I had always thought that it would be so much easier to pay tithing if you had more money, but I guess it's the greed factor. When you start to get a lot of money, you just want more of it, but most people don't want more for the sake of doing good in the world. But rather they want it for the sake of having more money. This is not pleasing to God. Jacob, in the Book of Mormon, tells us that we should seek wealth, if at all, for the intent to do good and help those around us. Sadly however, most people do not seek wealth for this purpose. Imagine what the world would be like if all the wealthy people of the world used their wealth to bless the lives of others. We know from the scriptures that it would be a veritable paradise because the account in 4th Nephi tells us so.

We have to wait for the Millennium to find out first had what this like, because I can guarantee that the wealthy of this nation, and the world, will not share their wealth the way it would need to be shared for us to have all things in common. I sometimes wonder if the wealthy could tolerate not being "above" everyone else in some form or fashion. A lot of them seem to have a need to feel like they are elite for some reason. I guess we'll find out some day. Of course at that day we really will only see the humble wealthy so maybe we won't see after all. Time will tell. Until tomorrow.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Jacob Marries Bilhah and Zilpah

Today I read Genesis 30 where Jacob is given Bilhah and Zilpah as wives by Rachel and Leah respectively. Rachel is sad that she is not able to give Jacob any clothes so, just as Sarah did with Abraham, she gives Jacob her handmaid to wife so that she can have surrogate children through her. Leah, not to be left out, does the same with her handmaid, Zilpah. So Jacob now has four wives.

Jacob definitely had a favorite wife, Rachel. It is not clear if he excluded all his other wives or not although I would say not because he had so many children by his other wives and most parents can agree that it generally takes more than one try to get pregnant. However, part of this story makes it seem like at times Jacob did not share his attentions equally with his wives. Reuben picks mandrakes out in the field for Leah and Rachel desires some. Leah won't give them to her because Rachel had, as Leah put it, stolen her husband away. So Rachel prostitutes Jacob out by promising Leah that Jacob would come have sex with her that night in return for some mandrakes. I'm honestly not how I would feel about this if I were Jacob. This is honestly a reason I would not want multiple wives, how do you share your time evenly so that everyone is happy? It's not like when you have multiple children and you can play with them all at the same time when they are younger and make sure to spend time with them individually as they get older.

The husband and wife dynamic is much different and if my wife is any indication of what the normal woman is like, wives are very jealous of their time with their husbands and anything that takes their husbands away from them. My wife certainly understands that I have a job to provide for our family and loves to watch me play with our daughter, but she certainly misses our time together and if we go too long without some time for just us, even if all we are doing is sitting side by side on the couch watching a movie together. I imagine most husband and wives are pretty similar to my experience with my wife. I could not imagine having more than one wife to try and spread my time between work, my children, what I want to be doing, and the needs of my wives. I am extremely happy that the practice of multiple wives was done away with because I'm not sure how I would be able to handle it.

The rest of the chapter is Jacob increasing his wealth and flocks through what appear to be duplicitous means. He takes the spotted and speckled cattle and sheep and goats. If I am reading it correctly it reads like Jacob does certain things to the animals to make them have more of the "imperfect" physical blemishes on their babies. Through this Jacob was able to become a very wealthy man. He most certainly did work for it all though. He served his uncle Laban for 14 years. And now that time has come to an end. This is one of those instances that I am glad the Bible does not have more detail. I think any more info on this story than what we have now would be a little too much. And this chapter ends the story of Jacob working for his wives. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel

Today I read Genesis 29 where Jacob meets Rachel and agrees to work for his uncle Laban for seven years. This story has always baffled me because the way it is written makes Laban out to be quite duplicitous. And perhaps that is really the way he was, I don't know. I know though that in my mind, the Lord cannot be pleased with Laban because Laban was not honest and up front with Jacob.

As the story is written Laban makes a bargain with Jacob to work for him for seven years and that he will give his younger daughter to Jacob for a wife. At the end of the seven years they have a wedding feast and the marriage takes place however Jacob is not aware that he is actually marrying Leah, the elder daughter, I assume because some kind of veil. Why Rachel would not tell Jacob or how Laban could be so cruel as to not let Rachel attend her own sister's wedding I don't know. Or perhaps it was the culture and Rachel really didn't care, I don't really know. But Jacob goes in and performs his husbandly duties that night and does not realize that it is not Rachel until the morning. When he confronts Laban, Laban tells Jacob that it is against their custom to marry the younger daughter before the elder is married.

Now, I do believe that if Laban had been upfront and honest about all this and told Jacob, look you can marry Rachel but you have to marry Leah too, Jacob would have agreed for love of Rachel. But Laban felt the need to trick Jacob, lie to him, go back on their bargain, and all for the sake of a custom! Now, I understand that in some cultures custom and ritual is everything to them, but Laban, as far as is implied, was a worshiper of God. It just blows my mind how he could have thought that his behavior was ok in the sight of God? I mean this is deception of the worst sort!

And unfortunately the victim in all of it, is Leah. How horrible to have that first night with your husband and then to find out he was only that way because he thought you were someone else! However, Jacob must have had some feelings for Leah because she bares him 4 sons and we don't know how many daughters. So despite Rachel being his favorite, we can see that Jacob did not completely neglect Leah.

The one thing Laban does do that is slightly honorable, is even though he requires yet another seven years of service, he does not make Jacob wait the seven extra years to marry Rachel. He has Jacob spend the week with his new bride, Leah, and then he gave Rachel to Jacob to marry and he serves out his additional seven years after the fact. It is a strange tale indeed and I personally would not want to be Laban on judgment day! Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jacob Sees the Lord

Today I read Genesis 28 where Jacob is sent to live with his uncle, Laban, to take a wife from someone other than a Canaanite. Jacob obeys his parents and sets off immediately, or so the scriptures make it seem, for Laban's household. Esau upon seeing that Jacob obeys his parents wishes tries to get back within his parents good graces and takes to wife the daughter of Ishmael, his uncle on his father's side. We are not told if this meets with his parents approval or not, but I imagine it did not.

While Jacob is journeying to his uncle's house he has a vision and sees the Lord. Now, at this point we don't know a whole lot about Jacob other than he obeys his mother, but he definitely must have been doing something right for God to appear to him like this. We know that God doesn't appear to just anybody. God renews the Abrahamic covenant with his grandson, Jacob, in this vision and Jacob builds an altar to worship the Lord. He also makes a promise to the Lord that he will pay tithing when he returns from his uncle's house.

These types of stories makes me wish we had more information about the people we are reading about and their early life. What did Jacob do to make himself worthy of having God appear to him? Was there anything in particular that he was doing to cause such a blessing to be bestowed upon his head? For some reason it seems a common occurrence to not talk about the childhood of people. Even the most important person in world history, Jesus Christ, His childhood was skipped over completely except for one event that happened when He was 12 and the rest of it was summed up in a single verse! Makes you wonder if they were trying to conserve space or if that is the culture. I suspect the latter personally. But it sure would be nice to know things about the people we are reading about before they are adults and receiving the blessings of a good childhood. But that is probably the story/history buff in me talking. I know that someday I will find out, I just have to be patient. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Jacob Steals Esau's Blessing

Today I read Genesis 27 where Isaac wishes to bless Esau but ends up blessing Jacob instead. This story has always bothered me. It basically teaches that you can get rewarded for deception and I have a hard time understanding how God is pleased by what Jacob does in this chapter. It also baffles me that Rebekah would do this to her own son, Esau. I can understand having favorites, every parent does who has more than 1 child, but this is taking it to the extreme in my opinion. Now, Rebekah did have a vision while her sons were still in her womb stating that the eldest would serve the younger perhaps that is why. I really don't know.

This chapter also makes Isaac out to be an idiot in my opinion. Isaac is apparently blind in his old age but also apparently his wits are not as sharp as they once were. He recognizes that the voice speaking to him is Jacob, but is fooled by some skins of goats tied to his arms. When I read that the first thing that came to my mind was that Esau must be ridiculously hairy if touching him is like petting a goat. Isaac is also fooled because Jacob puts on Esau's clothes so he smells like Esau does. Perhaps Isaac is so innocent that he does not think Jacob capable of such a trick, I don't know but the way it is written in the scriptures is that he is quite simpleminded for such simple tricks to have fooled him.

I have no difficulty however understanding Esau's anger towards his brother for what Jacob does to him. I do think it is a little extreme that Esau wants to actually kill Jacob for it, but I can understand how mad he gets. There is something about family that can push all the right, or perhaps the wrong, buttons and get us upset and angry in no time flat. I know growing up my siblings and I, with the exception of my little brother, did not get along at all until they moved out of the house. Once my brothers and later my sister, moved out on their own and I didn't see them as often, we started becoming friends and now, being over 300 miles away from them I miss them terribly and love to visit with them when I come into town with my wife and daughter. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, even if it's just towards family.

And in all of this, I can't help but feel sorry for Esau. He is truly the victim in this story. It is true that he marries outside the covenant and that he is a murderer in his heart, but he is treated poorly by his brother and yes, we don't know all the facts and this is only one story out of Esau's 40 something years of life at this point, but still the story is written in such a way that he does not deserve this treatment from his mother and brother. Perhaps when we know the full story it will all make more sense. I sure hope so anyway. Until tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Lord Makes a Covenant with Isaac

Today I read Genesis 26 where the Lord renews His covenant with Abraham through Isaac. There are a lot of similarities to Abraham and Isaac's life. Both had to flee from a famine. Both feared for their lives when moving to a new location because of the beauty of their wives. Both were good and righteous men who were blessed by the Lord. The scriptures almost make me feel like life back then was very much how we picture it in movies that are post apocalyptic. The strongest rule and take whatever they wish. However, in all instances, when the leader of the land where they are living finds out that the woman in question is not the man's sister by his wife they are outraged that they may have taken another man's wife. I'm not seeing the connection there personally. Honestly it's quite refreshing to me that so many people in those days seemed to respect God and marriage. But there probably is more to the story than we know.

One of the interesting things about Abraham and Isaac and even Jacob, Isaac's son and heir, is that despite their wealth they remained true and faithful to God. We learn from the Book of Mormon that few things try the faith of men faster and more surely than wealth. When the Nephites get wealthy, that is always when they get into trouble and when sin starts coming into their communities. However, Abraham and Isaac and later Jacob, are all able to withstand the test of having great wealth. They were true and faithful men that would withhold nothing from their God. They are fantastic people to emulate. It should be each of our goals to have our calling and election made sure and in order to make that happen we need to get to the point of not withholding anything from the Lord also.

The last part of this chapter talks about Esau taking a wife that is not of the covenant which brings much sorrow to Rebekah and Isaac. Children causing their parents grief over their spousal choices is nothing new it would seem. However, it is good to note that despite their grief over it, Isaac and Rebekah seem to come to terms with it and not try and force Esau about the matter. This I think is the proper course for any parent to take despite the frustration and perhaps sorrow they feel about the matter. Especially when children grow up, it says Esau was 40 at the time, all a parent can do is love and help guide when possible. I can only imagine how hard it must be to be a parent and watch your children make choices that are not in line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now that I have children of my own I just hope and pray that I can help them gain testimonies of the Gospel and that they will make their own good and righteous choices. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Jacob and Esau are Born

Today I read Genesis 25 where Abraham dies at the age of 175 and then Ishmael dies at the age of 137. Abraham marries again at the end of his life and is able to have several more sons but Isaac is his heir and it is with him that God renews His covenant that He made with Abraham. This chapter also gives the generations of Isaac. I have wondered that so many Biblical women seem to have trouble bearing children. I mean in that generation alone you had Abraham's wife Sarah, then Rebekah Isaac's wife and then Jacob's wife Rachel. I wonder what caused so many women to be unable to bear children, or at the very least have such a hard time bearing children. We don't know if they had difficulty getting pregnant at all or maybe they couldn't carry a child to term, we just don't know. But it seems to be a common malady of the times.

This chapter also contains the story of Jacob and his brother Esau who sells his birthright to Jacob for a meal of pottage. I have always felt there must be more to this story than what we know about it. Because the way the story reads on paper is that Jacob is a total jerk. I mean his brother comes in from hunting, exhausted and asks his brother for some food and Jacob basically asks him for everything he has and will inherit. I mean that's one steep price for a bowl of pottage! I just have to believe that there is more to the story than this. I don't know if it's something Rebekah helped Jacob come up with because she loved him more than she did Esau, again we don't know. But Jacob most definitely comes across as an uncaring and unloving brother if nothing else. Some day we will know the full story and I think it will be quite interesting. I've always felt that reading the scriptures, especially the Old Testament is like reading the cliff notes version anyway. I think we get the very basic barebones of the story. I love history and stories and hope that when I finally learn the truth of it all and all the little bits and pieces that have been lost over the millenia, it will have been worth the wait. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Rebekah, a Chosen Woman

Today I read Genesis 24 where Abraham's servant is sent to find Isaac a wife. I have always been fascinated by this story. It seems to me that Rebekah is a truly remarkable woman. Everything I have ever heard or read on the subject tells me that camels drink a LOT. And when she meets the servant of Abraham, she volunteers to give his camels water so they can drink their fill. Depending on the size of her pitcher that could easily have been 10 - 20 trips down to the well just to give them their fill of water. To volunteer to do that without even being asked is the sign of a truly humble person who loves to serve.

I personally am glad that I got to pick my own wife but it is interesting that for so many thousands of years many, if not all, of the cultures survived on arranged marriages. I've wondered what an arranged marriage would feel like. To not even meet the person until you are marrying them. That would be extremely strange. Now, I am a firm believer that you can learn to love anyone because love is a matter of choice and service. As long as you are willing to serve the person, you will grow to love them. It's a byproduct that can't be avoided. It would be interesting to find out what percentage of arranged marriages eventually end up loving each other. Perhaps that is also the reason back in the days when such things happened, that so many spouses had extramarital affairs. Who knows.

Rebekah, I think, must have been very in tune with the Spirit of God. I can't really think of another reason that she agrees so readily to do all the things in this chapter. Surely the Lord whispered to her to offer to draw water for the man's camels also. It must have been the Lord who helped her agree so readily to go down to Abraham, a man she had never even met but perhaps had heard of before, to be the wife of his son. It's times like this that I wish the scriptures included more information on the women. I have been told that it was the culture of the Hebrews and why they did not talk about women very often in their writings as a form of protection. But it would have been nice if someone had written down this story from Rebekah's standpoint. Maybe we will know it someday.

But this is a very good model for our young women to follow. She was a chosen vessel of the Lord because she kept herself clean, she is described as a virgin. She was willing to serve a complete stranger just to be kind. On the whole though, I am very impressed with the young women of the church, at least down here in Alabama. They are so different from the women of the world and it warms my heart to see and hear their testimonies and that they truly love the Lord and the Gospel. If only all women were that way. What a world that would be! Because a righteous woman has SO much influence over men. That would be paradise. Until tomorrow.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Abraham Buries Sarah

Today I read Genesis 23 where Sarah dies. The whole chapter is about Abraham finding the right place to bury her and bargaining with the local people to buy a cave where he can buy her. It is interesting to me how the different cultures handle the burying of their dead and how certain things like cremation are not allowed in all cultures. But even when it's not a part of the culture or a religious belief, people are very concerned with giving their loved one's body what they deem a proper burial. It is something that has always intrigued me but makes me wonder if maybe I will understand once I have someone that is that close to me pass on.

The one thing that I did get from this chapter though is that Abraham was a well respected man. As he is talking to his neighbors about his situation they are all eager to help him and don't want money for the land they are trying to give him. Now, perhaps I am misinterpreting the situation as Abraham does eventually give the man money for the land, but I looked at it as more of a goodwill gesture. But it seemed to me that his neighbors respected him because of who he was. That is exactly the kind of life that we should be living. Our friends and neighbors should know who we are and should respect us for it. They should be apologizing when they use foul language in your presence. They should stop when telling off color stories or jokes because you are there. They should know who you are and what you stand for. It should not be a secret.

As the world goes increasingly down the drains in terms of morality, we must stand as a pillar of righteousness and not be ashamed of who we are. We need to stand up for what is right and show the world and even each other what it means to be a Latter-day Saint. I have heard that in some parts of the United States excessively righteous young men are called Peter Priesthood and I say that any who are so labeled should thank those doing the name calling because they are doing something correctly to be so thought of. Our young women should be so righteous that the young men who flock to them feel like they have to be better than they are to get her attention. They should feel ashamed if they are not righteous enough to be in her presence. We need to be the city set on a hill that the Savior spoke of in Matthew. We can accomplish much good in this life just by being who we are. It's one of the reasons we are here after all. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Abraham Commanded to Sacrifice Isaac

Today I read Genesis 22 where Abraham is commanded to sacrifice Isaac. There's not a whole lot to say about this that hasn't already been said in General Conference. It was to teach Abraham about himself that he would do anything the Lord required of him. As I was reading the chapter today though I couldn't help but wonder, what did Abraham tell Sarah? I don't know a whole lot about how men treated women back then and it is a common thing to do to impose how things are right now onto times and events of the past, but I cannot help but wonder if Abraham told Sarah about what was going to happen? And if he did, what would she have thought? Would he have had to convince her that they had to listen to the Lord? I don't know but I know if the Lord today told me that I had to sacrifice my daughter, I would have to talk it over with my wife.

I could say more on this subject, but what else could I say that hasn't already been said far more eloquently by the General Authorities of the church? I'm sure one day when we meet him, if we meet him, we will be able to ask Abraham all about this experience he had. I shudder to think how I would react if the Lord came down and asked me to sacrifice my daughter like this. It would destroy my whole world. I'm not sure I'm strong enough for that. But thankfully God does not tempt us above that which we are able to bear so hopefully I will not have to be tried like that. My trials that I DO have are hard enough some times. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Isaac is Born and Ishmael is Sent Away

Today I read Genesis 21 where Isaac is born. Isaac's birth is a testament of the Lord fulfilling what He said He would do. We talked previously that God does some very miraculous things and here He is fulfilling a promise that He made to both Abraham and to Sarah. Sarah was not only able to conceive and give birth to a child, she was also able to nurse the child from what we learn in this chapter. To Sarah, this must have been a miracle more mighty than saving Noah from the flood. I can only imagine the joy and happiness that Sarah must have had at this blessed event.

The scriptures state that after Isaac was weaned that Ishmael was mocking the child and so Sarah asked Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. She was jealous of Ishmael and did not want him to be an heir with Isaac. What a request! I can only imagine how Abraham must have felt at hearing such a thing. I'm sure he loved Ishmael very much, it was his son after all. However, the Lord tells Abraham that Sarah is right and that it is ok to send Ishmael away and that Isaac will be his heir. It still must have been difficult for Abraham though, I cannot imagine what it must be like to have to send away your son like that.

Now, when Ishmael was circumcised he was 13 years old according to the scriptures. And yet in this chapter, Ishmael is talked about as if he is still a very young boy, but at this point since Isaac is weaned he must be at least 15 years old. But they constantly refer to him as a lad. Now granted in a world where people live to be about 200 years old, I will grant you that 15 years old is not as old as we would think of it today. But still I find it odd that he is referred to as the lad and talked about as if he were a toddler in this chapter when he and Hagar run out of water. Very strange.

And so we see that God fulfills His promises. Isaac was born to Sarah in her old age after she had gone through menopause. We really should not doubt the Lord though, because when He speaks, it is going to happen. If it didn't the universe and everything in it would cease to be, because God cannot lie. It is not possible. If He has spoken it, it WILL come to pass in some form or fashion. We would all be wise to remember that. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Abimelech Takes Sarah

Today I read Genesis 20 a story of another man who took Sarah from Abraham. This man's name was Abimelech. At this point, Sarah is almost 100 years old and yet men are still desiring her. This is a clear indication to me that despite mankind's age being drastically reduced from the days of Adam, men and women were still aging quite differently during the days of Abraham.

We also learn in this chapter that when Abraham presents Sarah as his sister, he is not telling a lie. She is his half-sister from his father. Abraham tells Abimelech that Sarah is his father's daughter, but not his mother's daughter. Apparently there were much different taboos back in those days because in today's day and age there would be no way that you could marry your half-brother or half-sister.

It is always good to see righteous men and women in the scriptures. When Abimelech learns that Sarah is Abraham's wife, he returns Abraham and is quite upset with Abraham that he tricked/lied to Abimelech. I can think of plenty of instances in the scriptures and from periods of history that it wouldn't matter if they found out later that Sarah was Abraham's wife, they still would take her from him. So it is nice that in the case of Abraham, both the Pharaoh and Abimelech when they learned that Sarah was married returned her to Abraham and were quite upset that Abraham did not tell them the truth.

It is always interesting to me reading the scriptures because despite learning the doctrine, you get to learn the history of the people too. Especially in the Old Testament. It's always interesting to see how the various cultures reacted to things in those days and handled the different situations. But I also like history and learning about ancient places and customs. Maybe it's just me. Until tomorrow.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

Today I read Genesis 19 where the Lord destroys Sodom and Gomorrah. It has always amazed me that Lot and his family could be so complacent in an obviously evil city. The story goes that as the angels approach the city, Lot happens to be near the gate and sees them coming. I assume he recognizes them for what they are because he quickly tries to get them in his house before they are noticed. The men of the city come to Lot's house after a little while and tell Lot to bring the three men out so they can rape them essentially. Now, the King James Version has Lot offering up his two virgin daughters to try and placate the men which is quite reprehensible to me. I can think of few things as repulsive in this life as rape of any kind.

The JST however, clears up the matter and restores our belief that Lot is in fact, a good man. As the men demand the release of the three angels Lot pleads with them to let them alone and the men grow angry with him stating that not only will they take the 3 angels when they finally get inside, but they will also rape his two daughters who are virgins. At this Lot begs the men to leave them in peace and the angels rescue him and cause all the men near Lot's house to go blind. This seems to be the last straw for the Lord because the angels tell Lot to go gather his family and flee the city that night because in the morning the Lord will destroy the city of Sodom, Gomorrah and all the plains surrounding it. Lot tells his family but they do not believe him and so it is just Lot, his wife and his two daughters that are saved.

As I was reading this chapter today and pondering on it, I got to thinking about the fairness of destroying the city and all its inhabitants in that manner. Surely there must have been a way to save the children at least. But as I got to thinking about it, what kind of a life would those children have? Since they could understand anything, they would have seen their parents treating their fellow citizens like garbage. Committing sexual whoredoms of the worst kind. And what is infinitely worse, they would have seen that based on how everyone else acted, this was normal and how they should be acting too! There really was no other way that the Lord could have saved anyone from those cities. Not to mention that any of the children who would have been under 8 years old, the age of accountability, would have immediately returned to Him and inherited eternal life. I shudder at the thought of such a city. I could not even imagine a city that evil, not in my wildest dreams.

The next part of the story has always baffled me. As Lot and the part of his family that would leave with him were fleeing, they were told not to look back by the angels. The scripture states that Lot's wife as they are fleeing turns back and is turned into a pillar of salt. Growing up I had always thought that was rather an extremely harsh punishment just for looking over her shoulder to see what was happening. However, as I have gotten older, I think the phrase indicating she turned back, actually means that she attempted to return to the city. I don't think the Lord would be so cruel as to so thoroughly kill someone whose curiosity got the best of them. I don't know why she would have tried to turn back and return to the city, perhaps some of her children were in her mind, perhaps she even had grandchildren, we don't know. We will learn some day I am sure.

The last part of the chapter for years always plagued me as extremely weird. Once Lot and his two daughters arrive in the mountains, the two women contrive a way to have sex with their father and get pregnant. As a teenager I was always really weirded out by this. As I got older I believe I heard someone teach, or maybe hypothesize, that the two girls assumed they were the last ones on the planet. After all, it had only been about 400 years since the flood, they would have heard the stories and it would not have been too far fetched for them to believe it was just the 3 of them. But today as I was reading the chapter, and a few days ago as I realized this story was coming up, I started thinking about it. If they really believed they were the last humans on earth, why didn't they just approach their father and explain their concern? Why did they get him drunk before having sex and getting pregnant? The JST confirms this by restoring the phrases that they "dealt wickedly" with their father. If they were truly concerned with repopluating the species, they would have told their father what they were afraid of and he could have either re-assured them what had happened, or gone along with their little plan. But the fact that they had to get him drunk before enacting their plan, they knew what they were doing was wrong but they did it anyway.

And so ends the tale of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which from all the stories the world was a much better place after it was destroyed. It is extremely sad that the Lord had to do it, but when you have a boil, it's best to lance it quickly and get it gone before it can infect the rest of the body. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Abraham and the Angels

Today I read Genesis 18 where 3 angels come to visit with Abraham and Sarah and promise them children. It is hard to quantify miracles and to say which one is more miraculous than others. For example, walking on water is very impressive but I can understand how it could be done theoretically since we have animals, namely water striders, that are able to replicate it. Miraculous healing, I can understand how it might be accomplished. Protecting the righteous from wild animals and fiery furnaces, I can understand it. But miracles such as multiplying food stuffs, the parting of the red sea, and making a woman who has gone through menopause fertile again are truly miraculous to me.

It was miraculous to Sarah too as when she heard it, she laughed in herself at the idea. I don't think she disbelieved the angel, but I think she wondered how it was possible. If I were in that position, I'm not sure I would be able to keep myself from wondering the same thing. I think i would wonder how it was possible. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, wondered the same thing when he was told he would have a son in his old age. It is interesting to me that in both cases the answer was the same, that nothing is impossible for the Lord. And truly it is not, the Lord can accomplish anything.

The rest of the chapter the Lord tells Abraham of His plans to destroy the city of Sodom. Abraham bargains with the Lord that if there are righteous in the city will God spare it. At first Abraham starts off with 50 righteous but then, he goes all the way down to 10 righteous. Everytime I read this, it makes me think that Abraham knew the true nature of Sodom and did not think that the Lord would be able to find more than 10 righteous people in the city of Sodom. I also think that Abraham feared for Lot, knowing that his family lived in Sodom and I have wondered in the past if 10 was the number of Lot's family. Regardless of the reason, the Lord agrees to spare the city if 10 righteous can be found.

Abraham's heart is definitely in the right place as he is concerned for the righteous being destroyed with the wicked. He is concerned for his neighbors. Still, I do wonder if maybe he was just concerned for Lot and his family, as he should be, they are his family. We should all be concerned for our families, immediate and extended and their well being, whether they believe as we do or not. It is our duty to care for them and look out for them. If everyone did that, there would be little to no poor among us. What a world that would be! Until tomorrow.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Infant Baptism During the Days of Abraham

Today I read Genesis 17 and it's one of those chapters that have some JST corrections and they are so important that it makes me wonder what the Christian world would be like today if they had been left in the Bible to begin with? This is the chapter that the Lord institutes circumcision, the practice where the foreskin of the penis is removed. If you read just what we have in the King James Version, they are only doing it because God asked them to. Now, this is ok, we definitely should do things because the Lord wants us to do them. However, the JST restores the reason the Lord gave to Abraham.

Now, Abraham was 99 years old when circumcision was instituted and Ishmael was 13 years old. However, the Lord declared that it is to take place when the child is 8 days old. This seems like a pretty arbitrary age to do it, unless you have the JST. In the JST God explains that waiting until they are 8 days old is to symbolize that children do not reach the age of accountability until 8 years old. Now, at first this seems like a pretty weird thing to bring up out of the blue like that, but it actually ties in to the earlier part of the chapter.

God was talking to Abraham about the covenants He had made with Abraham and why it was made. The Joseph Smith Translation restores a very significant reason why. According to the JST, the other people of Abraham's time who had been taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ, were practicing infant baptism. I know I have read this before but I did not remember this at all and was quite surprised that this incorrect doctrine has been around for that long. God is upset by this extremely incorrect practice and so to give every parent of the covenant a less than subtle reminder of when children need baptism, he institutes circumcision. I guess it did at it was intended to because you never hear about infant baptism until after the days of Jesus.

The JST also states that the people of the covenant did not understand the Atonement at all. Satan was apparently working really hard to corrupt the doctrine of the Saints even then. And I can understand why he seemed to have such success, I mean there was no long range communication. How would one group of Saints know that what they were doing was wrong when there was no prophet nearby to correct them? But according to the JST, the people who should have known better, were teaching that Abel's blood had been shed for them and that through his sacrifice, they would be saved. This is another another point that I know I have read before but did not remember.

Both of these twists of doctrine are perfect examples of how Satan will take correct doctrine, and then warp it. The Atonement is the most precious and important doctrine in the whole universe. Without it, our whole lives are completely meaningless. There is no point to our coming down here because the day of our 8th birthday, we fail because we will inevitably make a mistake. But Satan was able to warp some Saints understanding of it to make them think it was Abel who had died for their sins. Likewise, baptism is essential for salvation but it is only for those who have committed sins in the past. Since children under 8 years old are not accountable, they cannot commit sins and thus this is a false doctrine that makes a mockery of the innocence of children. I could not imagine baptizing my little girl. The sheer idea of it just makes me shake my head.

Satan is good at what he does and we need to be vigilant always. If we do not read our scriptures, say our prayers, attend our church meetings, then we leave ourselves exposed to the temptations of Satan. It would be like going into battle with only some of our armor. We must always stay vigilant, do the "primary answers" and attend the temple as often as possible. We have to work at being righteous. In this day and age of wickedness, it's hard to have it come naturally. Until tomorrow.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ishmael is born

Today I read Genesis 16 where Abraham marries Sarah's handmaid, Hagar and she bears him a son. As the story goes, Hagar lords it over Sarah that she is pregnant and Sarah is not so Sarah censures her and Hagar runs away. An angel appears and has her come back and tells her the future of her son. I don't know about you, but if someone told me that information about MY future child, I'd be very depressed. The angel tells Hagar that her son, Ishmael will be a wild man and that his, meaning Ishmael's, hand will be against everyman and that every man's hand will be against him. This prophecy has been fulfilled and just as the angel said, it is because of the sons, or posterity, of Ishmael's choosing that every hand is against them.

You know this chapter really got me thinking. For the most part, because there are some exceptions, the world is an ok place. If you are nice to those around you, mostly, people are nice to you. Yes, there are those people who are just mean and jerks and like to hurt people but I think for the most part, most people just react to how others treat them first. This is probably not the best of attitudes, but it is certainly better than some attitudes out there. But it is just interesting to me that most of the terrorist groups out there today that you hear about on the news, are descendants of Ishmael. And just like the angel told Hagar, it is of their own choosing. The governments of the world did not pick on these men and women, rather they are reacting to the unreasoning hatred that these people have towards those who do not believe as they do. I am not here to bash on anyone or their religious beliefs, but I do find it nice when prophecy is proven true.

Despite Jesus fulfilling the law, most of the people in this world still very much follow the old eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth law. If someone treats them poorly, they will treat them poorly. I am a supervisor of customer service representative and I sometimes have the hardest time getting them to remain professional when someone is not professional, polite or even nice, to them. I have to remind them that no matter what someone says or does to them, they have to remain polite and professional at all times. It is not always easy but if everyone followed that model, the world would be such a better place. I long for that day, if I'm still on the earth, when the millennium will come and such a place will actually exist. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Abraham Desires Children

Today I read Genesis 15 where Abraham desires to have children. It is always very strange to me when someone does not want children because it seem to be an instinctual desire/need to have children and have them carry on your legacy and genetic line. Yet despite this, some people state they do not want children which is very strange to me. But in this chapter you can almost feel Abraham's longing as he talks to the Lord and asks how His promises are going to come to pass.

The Lord has promised Abraham at this point that his seed will be numerous, in fact in this chapter he tells Abraham that if he were able to count all the stars in the sky, that is how many seed he shall have. Now the King James Version of the Bible ends there and just says Abraham believes the Lord and moves on. The JST version adds a little more to the story. Abraham asks the Lord how the land that had been promised him for an everlasting inheritance would be brought to pass. The Lord's response is a bit cryptic to me, but the part I found interesting is Abraham is then shown a vision of the Savior's life. It gladdened his heart to see it and he believed all that the Lord had told and promised him.

I can understand Abraham's skepticism. Sometimes the things the Lord promises don't always happen right away. When I returned from my mission, my greatest desire in the world was to be married. I was promised over and over again just be a little patient, it is being withheld for a reason. For 7 years I waited until finally I met my wife and it was such an instant attraction that I proposed to her after our second date, a mere 2 days after our first date. Fortunately she felt the same attraction and did not run away from the weirdo who had fallen head over heels for her. But for 7 years I begged and pleaded and asked why and was only ever told to be patient. Come to find out, my wife, who I believe was meant for me, is 5 years younger than me. When I wanted to be married she would have only been 16 years old! So marriage was indeed withheld for a purpose but those 7 years were almost intolerable for me. Despite believing Heavenly Father and trying my best to not be stagnant and build a career and being stable in life, I always felt like a piece of me was missing.

But God never does anything without a reason. As far as I know, we don't know the reason that Abraham had to wait until he was almost 100 years old to have children, but he did. We don't always get to learn the mind of God and why things happen to us, but we need to be patient and wait on the Lord's time and remember that He never does anything "just because". He ALWAYS has a reason. Until tomorrow.