Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Israelites Dietary Laws

Today I read Deuteronomy 14 where the Lord reviews the list of approved animals that His people can consume.  He goes into very fine detail on which animals and which physical traits define the animals that they are allowed to consume and which ones they are not allowed to eat.  It reminded me a lot of the Word of Wisdom that God gave Joseph Smith. 

I have a couple of friends at work who are not Jews but actually belong to a religion that has a health code similar to the Jews.  For example they do not eat pork.  It never fails to amuse me that so many people will follow some laws of their religion so zealously and then utterly ignore other ones.  For example all of my friends that are of the religion that they don't eat pork will consume alcohol.  Some do it in moderation, some will have a drink or two every day, but all will do it.  And yet no religion that I am aware of states it is ok to drink alcohol.  Similarly most Catholics would rather die than use birth control because it is against their religion, but they have no problem getting drunk. 

Now, I am no naive child who thinks Latter-day Saints are perfect, far from it.  I am fully aware that otherwise perfectly devote Latter-day Saints will lead secret lives or indulge in sin, but I do think it's less often that it happens.  And typically for a Latter-day Saint if they are going to slip and start drinking alcohol, the rest of the religion goes right out the window.  It doesn't always happen that way, but it is the stereotype among Latter-day Saints.  It is rare for Latter-day Saints to indulge in so serious a sin and yet still be completely active in the rest of the religion.  That is why I find it so odd that other religions will in fact do this and not really see anything wrong with it. 

It is very hard to live all of the commandments all of the time and I fully understand that some have weaknesses that others just don't have, but if we are actively trying, I think that is what counts in God's eyes.  I personally am disgusted with alcohol and how we are a nation of closet alcoholics.  I would love nothing more than to wake up tomorrow and find that not only is all the alcohol on earth gone but no one can remember how to make it.  It would be a dream come true.  People would actually have to deal with their problems.  I'm not sure how that would work out though. 

It is up to each of us to follow God's commandments or not.  We each of us have the choice but I promise that if we are going to follow Him, it will not be enough to follow just some of them, we will need to follow all of the commandments He gives us, no matter which religion we belong to!  Until tomorrow.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Beware of False Gods

Today I read Deuteronomy 13 where God tells the Israelites how to handle idolatry and those that try and get them to go and worship other gods.  I have often wondered just what in the world the Israelites found so appealing about the gods of other nations?  I mean they don't perform any miracles, they have no witness from those supposed gods, what was the attraction for them?  Why were they constantly going off and worshiping them?

I don't know for a fact, but I have heard from various sources that with at least some of them the worship rites of those false gods involved sex and that would of course entice men at least to their worship.  It must be something along those lines though because the Israelites know that their God is real.  They have seen Him provide manna for them for forty years.  They have seen their clothes grow with them for forty years.  They saw the Red Sea part for them and they walked across on dry land.  What do those false gods do that would pull them away from what they know to be real?

I will say that Satan does have power.  He has the ability to do some things that would in fact seem miraculous and he is good at what he does.  He has had thousands of years to perfect his craft and how he tries to pull us over to him.  If we are not careful then we will fall.  We have to always remain vigilant and do what is expected of us if we hope to conquer Satan and be better than he is.  We must do all those primary answers that we are always talking about, reading scriptures, saying our prayers, going to the temple often, attending our church meetings, those are the things that will keep us strong.  And we need all the help we can get!  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

God Wants Us to Be Healthy

Today I read Deuteronomy 12 where the Lord reiterates some of the laws He has given the children of Israel.  He reminds them that while they are allowed to eat meat of certain kinds of animals, they are not to eat/drink the blood.  I have personally always wondered why anyone would want to eat or drink blood.  I mean, it doesn't taste good, it tastes like metal, for good reason, and weirds me out even when it's my own blood.  So why in the world would anyone want to eat or drink the blood of another.

Health laws are nothing new and have been around for as long as there have been people.  God loves His people and wants them to have the best mortal life possible and so gives us the basics of what will keep us healthy.  For the Israelites and the limitations of the day, it was to avoid eating pork or any other pig product.  In more modern times we are to avoid alcohol and tobacco, coffee and tea.  There are other products which are bad for us but that God allows us to choose whether we will put them in our bodies or not.  In all honesty, chocolate is not good for the body.  But God does not forbid it. 

It is up to each of us to get to know our bodies and decide what we can handle and what we cannot.  When we work hand in hand with God, we will be able to find out what is the healthiest choice for us and will be able to stick with it.  Always remember, God loves us very much and wants us to be as healthy and happy as possible and so will do just about anything for us to accomplish those goals.  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

God is Just

Today I read Deuteronomy 11 where the Lord essentially promises the Israelites that if they will follow His commandments, that He will bless them.  It honestly reminded me of Doctrine and Covenants 82:10 where the Lord says that if you will keep His commandments you will be blessed, but if you don't keep them, you don't have that promise, meaning it's up to Him to bless you or not.

I know I have talked about this before, but I don't understand why the natural man is so consumed with fairness and being equal in all things.  Real life does not work that way, and neither does eternity.  I am confident that eternity is not "fair".  It's just because God Himself will judge us according to our deeds and desires, but I am not sure I would call it fair in the sense that a child would use the word.  Although in the strictest sense of the word, I suppose it is fair as we will all of us receive the consequences of our actions, be they good or bad.

But Heavenly Father wants to bless us.  I am confident of this.  Just like I want to give my daughter everything her little heart desires, I am sure that Heavenly Father has to stop Himself from giving us too much.  He knows what we need in order to grow and progress and He knows that His stepping in too often will curtail that growth.  We need to be allowed to have those experiences that will help us progress.  Even if those experiences are not fun at all.  Just like my daughter needs to bonk her head sometimes to learn what is good and what is bad.  She has to be allowed to make mistakes in order to learn what is right and good for her to do.  I'm sure in Heavenly Father's eyes, we are similarly infants bumbling around trying to make sense of it all.  Hopefully we can figure it out without making too many mistakes!  Until tomorrow.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Salvation is a Gift from God

Today I read Deuteronomy 10 where Moses recounts the Lord giving him the stone tablets again except for the everlasting covenant of the higher priesthood.  I guess the Israelites knew they had been denied something but I'm not sure they understood what it was since they had not been told about it before Moses broke the tablets.  However, I do know what they lost and I mourn for them because of it.  I can't help but wonder if they had been given the higher priesthood if they would have remained righteous and would have accepted Jesus.  I know everything happens for a reason and it was prophecy that the Jews would reject Jesus so it was going to happen regardless, but I just can't help but wonder about it. 

The second part of the chapter Moses relays a commandment from the Lord to care for the stranger.  He reminds them that they were strangers in Egypt and the Egyptians cared for them, before turning on them and making them slaves at least.  It kind of reminds me of King Benjamin's sermon in Mosiah 4 where he reminds us that we are all beggars and stand in need of God's grace in each and every day.  Without God's help none of us would be able to survive even an instant.  God has given us everything and truly everything belongs to Him.  We are just borrowing, leasing, call it what you will, life, air, food, water, everything that we need to survive. 

Even our salvation is a gift.  Jesus came down and took upon Himself our sins.  If not for His selfless act, each and everyone of us would be damned and doomed.  We would not be able to progress anymore at all.  He makes it possible for us to receive the reward of our choosing.  We have the choice and we can strive for salvation or mediocrity as we see fit.  It is up to us.  Choose wisely.  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stand as a Witness for Christ

Today I read Deuteronomy 9 where Moses recounts the tale of the Golden Calf and how close the Lord came to destroying them at that time.  Only Moses intervening on their behalf saved their life.  It never fails to make me shake my head in wonder when I read the story about the golden calf.  I mean these people had been slaves for their entire lives, maybe even had prayed to the Egyptian gods a time or two, but it was their God who rescued them and they are quick to just toss Him by the wayside. 

But as I think on the Israelites, I am reminded of our generation now.  How people turned to God after September 11, 2001 and the horrible tragedy that befell our country.  How soon was it that people forgot all about God and now, as a nation, we are even further away from Him than we were before 2001.  Just as the scriptures say, we are like a dog that returns to its vomit.  And the sad part is, as a people, we like it that way.  We are just fine being hidden alcoholics, drug addicts, sex addicts, you name it and we're addicted to it.  It really saddens me to no end.  I wish more people would recognize what is going on, or be disturbed by it.  Because I think some do see it but don't care at all.  Which is almost more worrisome than those who don't see it. 

As Latter-day Saints, and all sects of Christianity, we need to stand up and be an example of the believers.  If we don't stand up for what is right, I really do believe that God will one day ask us why we shirked our responsibility.  As Latter-day Saints when we were baptized we promised to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all places.  We made a covenant with our Heavenly Father and I promise He will hold us to it.  I personally do not want to be in that hot seat come the judgment day, and I'm pretty sure no one else does either.  It is better to endure the scorn of a few men and women here on earth, than the disappointment and potential wrath of God for eternity!  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

To Please God

Today I read Deuteronomy 8 where God reminds the children of Israel of all the blessings they have enjoyed during their sojourn in the wilderness these past forty years.  He reminds them that they ate manna for forty years.  That their clothes did not wear out.  That their feet never got sore.  Those are some huge blessings really, I mean not having to replace clothing for forty years, that's amazing.  Not to mention being fed miraculously every day by bread from heaven.

It just reminds me that God is always looking out for us.  He takes care of us in so many ways.  This chapter also has the famous verse that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God.  The same verse that Jesus uses to confound the devil when he tries to tempt the Savior to use His Priesthood to turn rocks into bread after fasting for forty days in the wilderness.  And it is a good lesson to learn.  Yes we can physically survive on food, our bodies will not die, but we need more than just physical sustenance.  We need to please our Heavenly Father. 

Joseph Smith taught that without a true understanding of His character, it is impossible to please God. That means in order to do what is right, we have to first understand God and what He desires from us.  This is not hard to do as He has given us several volumes of scripture to help us in that endeavor.  If we will take the time to read them and study them and pray about them, then we will have a good solid understanding of who God is.  Once we know that, we are able to do what we can to please Him.  We will know what it is He desires of us and can do it.  And that is when the real spiritual growth can occur and amazing things will happen.  Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

God Allows Us to Choose

Today I read Deuteronomy 7 where God commands the people not to take part of the indigenous people's practices.  God told them in no uncertain terms that they were not to marry those people, worship their idols or take part in anything that they do.  He made it very clear that they are to be apart from those people but that the people would be a stumbling block for them.

It never fails to amaze me how well God knows us.  He gives us the perfect trial for all situations.  He knows what will stretch us to our limits an what will help us grow.  It can be hard and in fact the scriptures tell us that He purposefully will give us a trial that will be near impossible to overcome ourselves so that we will humble ourselves and come to Him for help.  This life is about deciding what we want and if we truly desire what God has to offer for us.  He will not force us to take anything that we do not want, and truly it would be better for all involved if those who did not want to be a God do not get the power because they would abuse it.  I often wonder just how God can see all the injustice in the world and all the horrors that befall His children and not do anything about it.  Could you imagine someone with a temper who beats his wife and children given the power of a God?  I shudder at the thought.

Some people will be most happy not being with God, and God knows this.  as such, He does not force them.  He is a just God and wants all His children to be happy.  Even if that means not being with Him.  I can only imagine His pain when He realizes that some of His children have chosen another path, but He allows it, because of His love for them.  Gives all new meaning for me to the song, I Stand All Amazed.  Until tomorrow.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Road to True Happiness

Today I read Deuteronomy 6 where Moses urges the Israelites to love God and to keep the commandments and other statutes that God has given them.  As I read this chapter I am reminded of the New Testament where Jesus tells the Israelites that if a man says he loves God but hates his brother, he is a liar because you cannot love someone you've never seen if you don't love someone you have seen.  I'm also reminded of John 14:15 which of course says "If you love me, keep my commandments". 

By these definitions, there are very, very few people in this day and age that truly love the Lord.  They have no interest in keeping the commandments or going to church on Sundays.  It's really quite sad honestly.  God really doesn't require very much of us at all and yet even that little bit that He does ask of us, so many people cannot or will not do.  Satan is just too enticing and the flesh is too weak.  The people have no desire to overcome it and become better.  It is all about pleasure and the next fix be it drugs, money sex, alcohol or anything else that comes along to make humans feel good.  And yet the whole reason people turn to drugs and alcohol is because their lives are miserable.  I am generalizing of course but the vast majority of users do it to escape.  So they are miserable and they know it, but they don't realize that they are miserable because of what they are doing. 

The road to true and everlasting happiness is through living the commandments and the Atonement.  Through the Gospel of Jesus Christ we can overcome any hurt, any sin that we have ever done, with a few exceptions, and can be truly happy.  I remember when I was a missionary I was teaching an English class to some people from mainland China and the topic of happiness came up.  They gave me all the usual answers of what makes people happy: money, power, sex, and some others.  They laughed at me at first when I said those things did not bring true happiness.  Said I was too young to understand the world.  They stopped laughing when I told them what brings true happiness, righteous living.  None of them wanted to hear the discussions after that but I like to think that I gave them something to talk about.  It's sad to me how backwards this world is.  Satan has done a marvelous job of turning things around on us.  We need to o as God has commanded us so that we can show the world that they are wrong.  So that we can show them where true happiness comes from.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Moses Reviews the Ten Commandments

Today I read Deuteronomy 5 where Moses reminds the Israelites about the ten commandments that were given to them by Mount Horeb.  It is an interesting thing to remind them about since they have been living them, hopefully, for the last forty years!  But remind them he does and even states what they are to them so there is no room left for interpretation just what he is referring to.

The ten commandments have been the backbone of many organizations and civilizations.  They are a great foundation for anyone to have since they outline, in detail, the pitfalls to avoid when dealing with other people and with God Himself.  I can't help but wonder if some person had thought them up if they would still be acceptable in America.  Since America is so backwards these days that they banned them just because they came from God, which is ridiculous in and of itself.  If there is a God, and you better believe that there is one, but nevertheless for an agnostic, if there is a God, wouldn't you want to listen to what He or She for some folks, has to say to us?  Why wouldn't you?  Humans are so crazy at times and so very, very backwards.

Personally, even if I weren't a Latter-day Saint I would follow the ten commandments.  They are a great way to live ones life.  Which is what they really are if we are being honest with ourselves.  They are meant to govern us and give us the best life possible.  But some people thrive on misery, they can't stand to be happy and have to always have drama going on in their life to be happy and feel secure.  For the life of me I can't understand why this is, but I have seen it way too often for it to be a random phenomenon.  Sadly if everyone would step up to the plate and try and do what is best for those that are around them, this world would be a lot happier and a lot better of a place to live.  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Having the Proper Relationship with God

Today I read Deuteronomy 4 where Moses reminded the Israelites about their covenants they have made with God and of all the wonderful things that God has done for them throughout their journeys.  He reminds them that they had heard the voice of God and seen multiple manifestations of His power.

I almost feel sorry for the Israelites really.  They had so many evidences of God's power and majesty that they became completely desensitized to God.  That is never a good thing.  President Kimball once said that anytime he starts to feel that His relationship with God is becoming too casual he would immerse himself in a study of the Book of Mormon.  If a prophet of God can become too casual with God, I'm sure we can too.  It begs the question though, what is does it mean to become too casual?

I am reminded of the movie, Fiddler on the Roof.  The main character in that movie, Tevye, seems to keep a running dialogue going with God.  I honestly think this is a wonderful method of communicating with God and keeping our relationship open and honest.  However, such a stance does seem to breed familiarity.  While God is our Father and He loves us, we do need to respect Him and make sure that we give Him the proper respect.  This is why we use prayer language and worship Him in songs, the hymns.  But He loves us and wants us to be happy, this is why we follow His commandments and do what He asks of us.  When we follow His teachings, we have the best possible chance of a happy life.  Why would we do anything else?  Until tomorrow.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Israelites Wipe Out the Bashan People

Today I read Deuteronomy 3 where Moses continues his telling of the story of their journey.  Moses reminds them of the destruction of some of the people's that the Lord gave into their hands.  I have never had a problem with this idea until I had children of my own.  I just cannot imagine destroying the people so utterly that even the children had to be put to death.  On the one hand, my knowledge of the plan of salvation, knowing that if they were under the age of accountability they would go straight to our Heavenly Father, comforts me that they were saved.  On the other hand though those last hours here on earth must have been terrifying for them.  I cannot help but imagine my own daughter in that position and it fills me with sorrow and horror.

Again, I reiterate that God does everything for a reason, even if I don't know what that reason is.  I  have to believe that He ordered the Israelites to kill the women and children of those people's for a purpose that is not known to me.  I believe I have a correct understanding of God's character and therefore know that He will not do anything without a reason, I have to trust Him.  I will again say though that I am extremely thankful that I live in this time because I don't think I have it in me to kill someone, let alone children.  Heavenly Father certainly knows what He is doing when it comes to the plan and how we all fit in it.  For that I am thankful as I have already mentioned, and it also reaffirms my faith in Him and that it is not misplaced.  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

God Spares People Near Israel

Today I read Deuteronomy 2 where the Lord tells the children of Israel that as they go in to the land that was promised them, they are to leave certain peoples alone because that part of the land has not been promised to them.  I know that God is not bloodthirsty and that He does everything for a reason, but I am sure that to some it might seem that way and I am glad that Heavenly Father had the Israelites leave the people alone who were not in the way.

This was probably to help the Israelites realize that not all their new neighbors were bad people.  I mean they are being led into this new land and they are slowly destroying everyone in their path just about, I would imagine that they had the impression that everyone in this area were horrible people.  And it is my understanding that they certainly were not great people by any stretch of the imagination.  So it is nice that God allowed them to spare some of the peoples. 

The way this chapter is written it makes it sound like the Lord is also fulfilling other promises made to other peoples, the people who live in those areas.  I'm sure that just like everything else, we will find out the reasons behind it all some day.  If we follow God and His plans for us, everything will turn out right, just like it did for the Israelites.  You can never go wrong if you let God lead your life.  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Moses Retells the Story of the Israelites

Today I read Deuteronomy 1 where Moses begins his retelling of the journeyings that the Israelites have endured these past forty years.  He starts at the time that the spies went into Israel to view the land and its inhabitants.  Moses reminds them that they were not pleased by what they saw.  That they were scared and rejected the land that God had given them. 

I'm sure no one really needed reminding of why they had spent the better part of their lives wandering around in the desert instead of enjoying the land of their inheritance.  However, Moses is about to pass away and wants to give them one last talking to, similar to Lehi before he passed away.  Moses reminds the children of Israel that even after they had rejected God, they still disobeyed Him even further by going to attack the inhabitants of the land once they realized their mistake despite God telling them not to.  And they were routed big time.

The Israelites in this story remind me of nothing so much as a teenager.  Not doing what their parents tell them, and then turning around when it's too late and doing it anyway trying to make up for their mule headedness.  It's sad that it caused so many deaths although the point of the forty years of wandering was waiting for that generation to all die off so it's not TOO horrible really.  Death is death whether by old age, poisoned serpents or battle.  The people I really feel sorry for are the children who had to wander for forty years because of their parents mistakes.  They paid the price for a choice they didn't even make.  A very real lesson we can learn from the Israelites.  Our choices don't affect just us.  They affect all of our loved ones.  The age old excuse that it's our life, we can do what we want with it, or that it is not hurting anyone but me are lies.  Everything we do always affects someone else.  If we all would remember that, our lives would be so much better and our choices would be better too.  Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Listen to Your Parents

Today I read Numbers 36, the last chapter in the book of Numbers.  This chapter has to do with inheritance again, specifically the inheritance of daughters and whether or not it can move from tribe to tribe.  Since inheritance can be inherited by daughters, that caused some concern among the Israelites because that would mean that if they married someone out of their own tribe, then the inheritance would move with them.  The Lord's answer was simple that if such is the case, they are only to marry within their own tribe.

As I was reading this, I couldn't help but wonder how many times this created a problem.  Visions of Romeo and Juliet flashed through my head.  Every sob story of a princess in love with a commoner, you name it.  I don't really think it was a huge issue however since I think the Israelites were doing arranged marriages at the time.  I could be wrong about that, but I'm pretty sure they were.  Marrying for love is a relatively new concept for the world, only a couple of hundred years old. 

The other thought I had about all this was that it is very similar to Latter-day Saints.  We are not forced to marry another Latter-day Saint per se, but we are urged to set a goal of being married in the temple, which would require us to marry another Latter-day Saint.  As such, it is a lot easier on young people if they only date those who are also Latter-day Saints.  It can hopefully save some heartache too.  Dating those with different values can be hard when they want to have sex or go to parties or dance clubs.  If you set your standards high and go out with only Latter-day Saint, those issues are minimized quite a bit.  I'm not niave enough to think that there will be no issues with it because humans are humans.  Sex is natural and a very powerful urge, even for those with the best intentions.  However, if you are dating someone who also wants to wait to have sex, the likelyhood of you both waiting is much better. 

Children and teenagers can be quite headstrong and don't always listen to their parents.  This is sad because if they did it could potentially save them a lot of problems and heartache.  They just want what is best for their children just like Heavenly Father wants what is best for all of us.  If we will set our wills aside and will follow His instead, we will be much better off.  Until tomorrow.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Laws Regarding Murderers

Today I read Numbers 35 which outlines the inheritance of cities for the Israelites.  We talked about inheritance yesterday and so I don't really want to bring it up again today, but I'm sure the Israelites were very excited to find out what cities were going to be theirs.  Just like children excited on Christmas morning to know what presents are theirs, the Israelites were probably salivating to find out where their new home is.  These men and women have spent the vast majority of their lives without a permanent home the idea of having something to call their own is probably very exciting indeed!

This chapter also outlines punishments for murderers.  It's very strange to me, they outline all the various implements of murder that a murderer can use to kill someone.  For the life of me I don't know why God would need to be that specific in the many ways to kill another person.  Especially when the punishment is the same no matter what way the crime is committed.  In order for the repentance process to be completed for a murderer, the person must die.  It is really a mercy for them, not just a safety precaution for the community.

You can easily tell how much the Lord cared for the children of Israel through these chapters.  He spells it out so wonderfuly exactly how to handle all the situations that come up.  He wants things to go as smoothly as possible for the Israelites because He loves them.  Just like He loves us in our day and wants us to be happy too.  If we will only listen to Him, we will have the best possible chance at true happiness.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Israel's Inheritance Set Forth

Today I read Numbers 34 where Moses divides the land of Israel up for inheritance for the various tribes.  Whenever I read the Book of Mormon or the Old Testament, I am struck by just how important inheritance is for the Israelites/Nephites.  They really are upset when they don't get it, and they anticipate it.  Personally inheritance has never made much sense to me.  To expect something that wasn't earned just because you are the person's son/daughter, is kind of silly to me.

In contrast, we have an inheritance waiting for us in the next life that will depend entirely on how we conduct ourselves in this life.  Heavenly Father is not going to just give us His kingdom and glory because He loves us.  We have to earn it and prove ourselves worthy of it.  Although there is a place prepared for those who have not, earned a good inheritance.  But the Israelites, and I don't think they are the only culture that did it this way, would give their children the best land and portions of their flocks for their inheritance, just because they were their children. 

Western society is all about have you earned it.  At least I should say it used to be.  Now we have swung the other way and and are all about the free hand outs and doing things that we haven't earned at all.  It's really very sad and is breaking down our society little by little.  I am personally for the earning inheritance system and am glad that Heavenly Father withholds His greatest treasure for those who prove themselves worthy of it.  I shudder to think if it was available to those who feel they deserve it just because.  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Journey of the Israelites

Today I read Numbers 33 where the journeyings of the children of Israel are laid out.  It details all their travels from the moment they left Egypt.  When I was younger, I used to wonder what it would be like to read the large plates of Nephi, to read all the details of the Nephite civilization and everything that happened.  And then I read the Old Testament, specifically chapters like this.  I realized that except to a historian, chapters like this are boring and hold no doctrinal value at all.  Then I become glad for Mormon an his years of reading through all the records and finding the precious parts of the Book of Mormon that he included.

It's not that chapters like this are not valid, far from it.  Like I said from a historian's point of view this chapter is pure gold.  They can trace the exact path the Israelites took for forty years assuming they can find the places based on their ancient names.  That is very valuable information to have and for historians it makes them giggle with happiness like a little school girl.  The way the rest of us do at other things.  But from a doctrinal standpoint, this chapter offers nothing of interest to us at all.  So I will not say it is worth nothing, because to the right people it is worth everything.  But for our purposes and for the purpose of finding those plain and precious truths, it does not offer anything to us at all.  Until tomorrow.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Reuben and Gad Loyal to Israel

Today I read Numbers 32 where the tribes of Reuben and Gad ask Moses if they can have their inheritance where they are instead of in the actual land of Israel.  They want that land because they have a lot of cattle and that land appears to be good pasture land for cattle.  They also covenanted that they would not enjoy their inheritance until the rest of the children of Israel had come into theirs.  They covenanted that they would build cities for their children and their cattle but they themselves, the adults, would go and help secure the land of Israel for the rest of the tribes.

Through the scriptures thus far, the Israelites have not been known for their smart choices.  They disobey God time and again, although it is mostly the older generation that was over the age of twenty when they left the land of Egypt.  This is one of the first times that the Israelites made a very good choice.  It is well thought out and despite its initial appearance it is not selfish since they are perfectly willing to help the rest of the Israelites obtain their inheritance before they enjoy theirs.  The tribes of Reuben and Gad know the meaning of loyalty.  If the rest of the Israelites did this, thought about others before they thought about themselves, they may not have had to wander for forty years.  It would be nice if the rest of the world did this too.  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Israel Conquers the Midianties

Today I read Numbers 31 where the Israelites conquer the Midianites.  Once again they are commanded to wipe them out.  I used to think this was extremely cruel on the part Heavenly Father but then one day in Sunday School it was explained to me that if even one speck of impurity remains, it cannot be perfect and it made a lot more sense.  Although I am glad I did not live back then.  I could not have killed a baby even if my life depended on it.

However in this chapter, the Lord commands them to do something different.  He does command the Israelites to put all the men to death, even the little children.  However, when it comes to the women, he allowed them to leave all the virgins alive but kill the rest.  The virgin women were then absorbed into the Israelites.  I will admit that I do not know the mind of God and I am but a servant who tries his best to follow the directions that have been given to me, but I for the life of me can't understand why the virgin women would be allowed to live but the little boys would be put to death.  Perhaps one day I will understand.

The unique thing about this experience though, is it is one of the few times that Israelites actually obey God fully and do as He asks of them.  Typically when He commands them to do something such as conquer another people, they only half way listen and don't follow the commandments He gives them.  They took prisoners of course which upset Moses and I assume the Lord, but when God commanded them, through Moses, they obeyed.  While I don't always understand the commandments the Lord gives, I can emphatically say that if you follow God's commandments, you will not be led astray.  I also find comfort in knowing that He will never give us more than we can handle because as I said I'm not sure I could kill a child if my life depended on it.  I doubt I will be called upon to do such a thing in this day and age, but it is a comfort to know that whatever comes my way I will be able to handle it, even if it requires God's help.  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Women and Their Vows

Today I read Numbers 30 which concerns the making of vows of a woman.  Apparently when a woman makes a vow, of any kind, if she is unmarried, her father can stop her and disavow the vow.  If she is married, her husband can do the same.  But it has to be done the first time the man, husband or father, hear the vow, otherwise it is a broken promise.  I didn't realize that this would happen so much in life but apparently it was common enough for God to say something about it. 

It seems to me that people back in those days have the same problems that we have now.  Teaching children the right way to behave and allowing them to suffer the consequences of their bad actions.  Now that I am a parent, I can understand why so many parents want to rescue their kids.  It is so hard to let your child suffer.  Unless I am angry with my daughter, I just want to bundle her up and keep her safe from every bad thing in the world.  Maybe that instinct will lessen as she gets older since she is not even two years old yet, but I don't know.  I suspect my paternal instinct will be strong as ever, especially towards my little girl.  I know my father in law still looks out for his daughter, my wife, all the time and wants to be helpful and is concerned about her.  But like a good parent he still lets her do what she needs to do and is concerned from a distance since she is married.  I am very grateful for it because I know not every parent is so hands off.  I am a lucky man indeed.  Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More Manner of Sacrifices Laid Out

Today I read Numbers 29 which is a continuation of the Lord laying out what sacrifices to make, how to make them and when to make them.  It got me thinking, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have some laws that are left a little ambiguous because we are supposed to think for ourselves.  Doctrine and Covenants 58 states that the person who has to be commanded in all things is a slothful and not a wise servant.  But despite this, there are those in the LDS church that want it all spelled out.

For example, in the Law of Chastity, it states that we are not to have any sexual relations with anyone other than our legal and lawfully wedded spouse, and that's all it says.  It leaves it up to us to determine what a sexual relation is.  It also does not say anything about kissing or other activities that lead to sex.  Some would like to have it all spelled out, such as a rule saying only kissing with mouths closed for no more than 2 seconds.  And yet, it if was all spelled out, it would be just like this chapter that I read today, dry and only important to those who are actually going to be performing the sacrifices.  God purposefully does not command us about everything because we are meant to think for ourselves and come to our own conclusions.

The Word of Wisdom is another good example.  It only specifies liquor, tobacco, tea, coffee and illegal drugs, that's it.  But you better believe that there are way more substances out there that will harm the body than just those named.  Some people think caffeine should be added to the list.  I personally say that if caffeine hurts your body, don't drink/eat it.  Stay away from it.  I personally can't have chocolate, it wreaks havoc on my body so I stay away from it.  But that doesn't mean it should be included in the Word of Wisdom.  I also only eat sugar in extreme moderation because again, it does bad things to my body.  But I'm not going to impose it on everyone else in the church.  I just make the decision for myself to lessen my intake.

People who want all the commandments laid out for them, an exact list of do's and don'ts, don't really realize what they are asking for.  They don't realize that such a desire is not pleasing to Heavenly Father.  The only reason He did it for the Israelites, I believe anyway, is because that was the only way they would obey it.  They had to be led around by the hand with very explicit instructions.  Heavenly Father expects more from us than that.  He expects us to be anxiously engaged in a good cause.  Let's not let Him down.  Until tomorrow.

Monday, July 9, 2012

More Sacrifices Laid Forth

Today I read Numbers 28 and I must say, I am glad I was not born a Jew back in those days.  I don't say that to be mean in the slightest, but rather it seems extremely complicated with all the sacrifices that are involved on certain days and for one thing or another.  This chapter is all about how to make sacrifices and when to make them and what things are to be made with them.  It is very tedious to read but was priceless to an Israelite who lived back in those times before the law of Moses was fulfilled.

It makes me extremely grateful in a whole new way for the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  He not only took upon us all the sins, pains and everything else in the world, but He also fulfilled the law of Moses making it no longer necessary to perform blood sacrifices.  I'm sure I could have learned it all, but it does indeed seem like a daunting task to try and memorize all those laws and rules and then later the traditions that the Pharisees came up with.  I have a lot of respect for those who still practice the Jewish religion for all that they do.  They are truly incredible and have great minds to memorize all the law of Moses in my opinion.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Efective Leadership

Today I read Numbers 27 where the Lord tells Moses that Joshua is the next leader of Israel.  The Lord took Moses up into a mountain and allowed him to see the promised land but told Moses that he would not be allowed to set foot into it.  Moses did not say anything about this, but was concerned about there being someone in charge once he was gone to lead the children of Israel. 

You can tell that Moses genuinely cared for the children of Israel.  And I would suppose that after forty years with them he would either love them or hate them.  But he really cared about them and about their well being.  He was really concerned about them having the right support structure for their spiritual needs.  This is the sign of a very good leader.  It shows someone who loves his people.  A shepherd and not a sheep herder.  If all leaders cared about their charges the way Moses did, this world would be a wonderful place. 

It gives us a good model to follow.  In order to be an effective leader, we have to connect with the people we lead on a personal level.  It doesn't matter if we are a church leader of people or secular.  We have to find that personal connection in order to gain their trust and their love and in order to love them in return.  You can always tell when a leader cares about his/her people that they lead and the ones that are personally involved are much more effective and make all the difference in the world.  Until tomorrow.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Another Census, Forty Years Later

Today I read Numbers 26 where the Lord commands Moses to number the people of Israel again.  This time however, they are near the city of Jericho and it has been forty years!  As they do the census the only people who were alive when they did the census at Mount Sinai was Joshua and Caleb.  Well, let me clarify, the only people who were over the age of twenty when they did the census at Mount Sinai.

This chapter has always made me wonder at the Israelites.  I don't like to judge and really don't like to assume I know what's really going on without all the facts, but the Israelites have always made me wonder.  I mean, they saw miracles on a daily basis, and yet still doubted the Lord would help them when it came to something as mundane as fighting a battle.  I'm sorry but providing food out of thin air for forty years is a lot more impressive than helping people win a battle in my opinion.  Not to mention the clothing getting bigger with the children as they grew.  Truly God can do anything and it is only our lack of faith or disobedience to His commandments that limits Him.  Until tomorrow.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sex, an Awesome Responsibility

Today I read Numbers 25 where the Israelites, at least some of them, forsake their God and go after strange gods.  It's sad how often this happens to the Israelites.  They are always tempted by sex and the worship of other gods.  This chapter states that there are twenty four thousand of the Israelites that were killed by a plague for forsaking their God.

Sex is a wonderful thing to be shared between a husband and a wife.  It is meant to bring them closer to each other in a way that nothing else can.  It is also the manner of reproduction and as such is extremely sacred.  It is also the downfall of more people than any other sin.  I make that statement as an opinion, I do not have any data to support it, but rather it is my own observation as I read the scriptures and view the world around me.  In this chapter one of the Israelites brings a Midianite woman into the Israelite camp and is in the process of having sex with her when the grandson of Aaron, Phinehas, kills them both.  This act of fidelity to the Lord, secures the priesthood for his line.

Sex is very powerful, we all have urges and if we do not control them, they will control us.  Parents have the responsibility to teach their children about sex and the proper use of this sacred power.  It is only to be used between a husband and a wife and no one else, not even ourselves.  Satan has done a very good job of confusing the issues and convincing the world that since sex is so natural it is no sin to indulge in it.  This is very false.  Just like with everything else, there are right ways and wrong ways to use this sacred power.  Jacob in the Book of Mormon taught us that the Lord delights in the chastity of women.  If He delights in it, shouldn't we as well?

It can be hard, especially if you have a weakness for sex, but we are all expected to overcome our weaknesses in this life.  We can always turn to Him who created us for help.  He loves us and will help us overcome our trials and temptations.  Likewise our attitude towards this sacred power can influence our children.  If we teach our children that there is nothing wrong with sex, that sex is actually very wonderful, but must be enjoyed only in the proper way, between a husband and a wife, then we are doing our best to raise our children so that they will have the best chance they can of not abusing this power and becoming addicted to it.  This is our duty as parents.  I promise that God will hold us accountable as parents if we don't teach them the proper manner of sex.  And remember, the best way to teach, is by example.  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Balaam Fears God More than Man

Today I read Numbers 24 where Balak is still trying to get Balaam to curse Israel.  However, once again, the Lord has Balaam bless Israel instead.  Balak gets upset and tells Balaam that he was going to shower him with treasures if he had done as he asked.  Balaam reminds Balak that he told him when he first received his messengers that it did not matter what Balak offered him, he could only speak what the Lord would authorize him to speak.

Now this is a great example!  This man defied a king in order to do what was right in the sight of the Lord.  He spurned earthly treasures, the honors of men to do what the Lord wanted him to do.  This is a man we can emulate.  Yes he made mistakes, just like we all do.  But he chose the Lord and feared God more than man.  Even when he was face to face with an earthly king, who probably could have put him to death, he still obeyed the voice of the Lord and only spoke those things which were put into His mind by the Lord.

It would be a wonderful world if everyone behaved that way.  Imagine a world of God fearing people who obeyed the commandments and feared God more than man.  That would be an incredible world to live in.  We will have it some day, in the millennium.  Until that time, we just have to do the best we can with being a light unto the rest of the world.  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Put the Things of God First

Today I read Numbers 23 which continues the story of Balaam working with Balak who wants a curse to be put on Israel.  Now, despite his blatant disobedience earlier to God, Balaam is a good man who fears God.  He tells Balak that he can only speak what God has put into His mouth.  The problem with that is that of course God is going to bless Israel, not curse them, which is not pleasing to Balak.

This story reminds me of the story of the 116 pages where Joseph Smith has already been given an answer but keeps pestering the Lord at the behest of men.  Likewise, Balaam already knew the answer when he started, but he still let Balak drag him off to a couple of different places to see what the Lord would say to him.

Now, the Lord does not change.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  But WE change.  We are fallible and are prone to change with the slightest provocation.  So there are most certainly instances where things may change in our lives and suddenly the Lord will give us a different answer.  But it is not because God changed, but rather because we have changed.  For example, when my wife and I had been married for about a year, our finances were not the greatest and we were having trouble making ends meet.  She was not able to work due to her health and so we thought of the idea of me getting a second job.  We prayed and prayed but we always felt the answer was no.

Somehow we managed to limp along for a few more months and one day our bishop approached us and asked us to be temple workers in the Louisville, Kentucky temple where we lived at the time.  We of course agreed.  After a month of working in the temple one day I was pondering on our finances and the idea of a second job when an incredible feeling of peace came over me.  I talked to my wife and told her that I felt Heavenly Father was telling me it was ok to get a second job now.  We have put the things of the Lord first, working in the temple, and now it was ok to get a second job.  I put out some applications and was able to get a job right away that worked with my very weird schedule and was able to make more than what we needed.  It was a true blessing in our lives.  But God did not change. 

We changed our circumstances to put God first in our lives and then He blessed us as a result of it, just like it states in Jacob chapter 2 in the Book of Mormon.  If we had gotten a second job first and then been asked to work as temple workers, it would have been way too easy to say no because I did not have the time.  But because we were willing to serve the Lord, we were able to do both and the Lord blessed us so that I still earned enough money for our family, actually more than we needed, even though I had less hours to work.  God takes care of those who serve Him.  I testify that this is true.  Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Donkey Talks

Today I read Numbers 22 which contains one of the weirdest stories of all time in it.  In this chapter, Balak, the prince of Moab wants Balaam to come and curse the Israelites because he, Balak, fears them and what they did to the Ammonites.  He has noticed that Balaam has the gift to bless or curse something and it has efficacy so he asks Balaam to come and curse the Israelites.

The Lord warns Balaam not to go at first and so he refuses.  However the second time, the way I read it, the Lord gives Balaam the ok to go, but only to speak what He tells him to speak.  However, when Balaam does go, the Lord sends an angel to block his path.  3 times the angel bars his way and his donkey sees the angel and so turns away from the angel which angers Balaam and he strikes the donkey.

What follows is perhaps one of the most remarkable and funny incidents in all of the scriptures.  The Lord opens the mouth of the donkey who then asks Balaam why he struck him 3 times.  What makes it funny to me is the fact that Balaam does not even react to the fact that suddenly his donkey is talking to him.  He just goes on to carry on a conversation with it like it was a person or like this kind of thing happens everyday.  He proceeds to tell the donkey that he is angry with it because he has "mocked" him three times and he wished that he had a sword so that he could kill the beast.  The donkey then reasons with him and reminds him that he is a good animal and the Lord allows Balaam to see the angel.

This story has always intrigued me because it gives us an unparalleled glimpse into the mind of an animal.  We always mock the donkey for being lazy, or stupid but it would seem that they are quite intelligent, at least this one was.  We are not told that the Lord increased the animal's intelligence, only that He allowed the donkey to talk.  I have never understood why some people are so mean to animals.  I have a cat and a dog and while I have not always enjoyed dogs in my life, I have always been fond of cats.  And yet so many people in this world get angry with animals for no good reason or go out of their way to hunt them for sport.  Such a thing is not pleasing unto God.  God put animals on this planet for us to enjoy and for us to eat when necessary, but I do not think He enjoys it when we kill them for no reason other than sport.  I'll bet we will be called to account for how we have treated animals once we leave this life.  But that is just my thought and I have no scriptures or doctrine to back it up.  But I do know that it costs nothing to be kind to animals and the rewards, especially for house hold pets, are wonderful indeed.  Until tomorrow.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Fiery Serpents

Today I read Numbers 21 which is mostly about the people that the Israelites destroyed or conquered.  However, in this chapter is also the story about the fiery serpents, although it is a very brief mention, almost a cliff notes version.

The Israelites once again are complaining against Moses and the Lord.  They never seem to learn their lesson.  This time they are again complaining to Moses about the manna that they have to eat and how much they hate it.  Now, in all honesty, I can understand their frustration. I mean eating the same food every single day, breakfast, lunch and dinner for 40 years would get old quick.  However, it's also their own fault.  They could have been in the promised land by now except for their lack of trust in the Lord.

So, in response to their murmurings, God sent poisonous serpents among them that bit them and caused them to die.  They quickly repented and asked Moses to pray.  Moses was of course instructed to raise a brass serpent on a pole and anyone bit by a snake would only have to look at it to be healed.  Now, it does not tell us this here, but we know from Nephi's account that many of the Israelites would not look at the brass serpent.  They thought that there was no way just looking at a pole would save their life.  Honestly, I think if I had been bitten I would know I was going to die anyway so why not just look.  But the Israelites are a very stubborn people. 

It never fails to amaze me what they do next.  They always seem to find just the right way to tick off God and cause a new calamity to come down upon them.  Of course, in all fairness, we do not know how many of them murmured and perhaps the only ones who would not look at the pole are the ones that were the troublemakers in the first place.  We just don't know.  What we do know however, is that the Lord loves His people and prepared a way for them to be saved from their own folly, just as He has prepared a way for us to overcome our sins in our day.  He sent His son to pay the ultimate sacrifice for us.  All we have to do, is take advantage of it.  It's a small thing, much like looking at a pole, but just like the ancient Israelites, many will not take advantage of it.  Don't make the same mistake they did.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Water Out of the Rock

Today I read Numbers 20 where Miriam and Aaron die.  I always felt sad for Moses because the burden of caring for the Israelites was his to bear, with the help of the Lord or course.  But Aaron and I assume Miriam as well, really helped him bear the physical trials.  It's sad that Moses was left alone for the last however many years.

This chapter also contains the famous incident that causes Moses to not be able to enter into the promised land, the water from the rock.  Once again the Israelites are complaining against Moses and telling him how it would have been better if they had never left Egypt, etc etc.  They are like a broken record and that seems to be their main go to complaint.  So God tells Moses and Aaron to go to a certain rock and talk to it, and water will spring forth from it. 

Instead, Moses and Aaron go before the congregation and hit the rock with their staff.  Now, the Lord still causes water to come out of it because He is merciful and will not let the children of Israel suffer because Moses and Aaron did not follow directions.  But the Lord chastises Moses and Aaron telling them that because they did not follow the directions and did not exalt the Lord in the presence of the children of Israel, neither of them will lead the children of Israel into the promised land.  Now, when I was at BYU, I had a religion professor that put forth an alternative thought on this.  He stated that the reason Moses was not allowed to lead the Israelites into the promised land is symbolism.  He said that it had to be Joshua, which I have been taught is the Hebrew form for Jesus, who led the people into the promised land as a symbol for how Jesus leads us into the promised land.  It's an interesting thought and perhaps there is something to it.  However, Joseph Smith did not change this part of the scriptures so I am assuming that it is also correct.  We will find out for sure one day. 

But what I have always taken away from this chapter is that the Lord will always take care of His children.  That includes us, His children in our day and age.  He will not leave us destitute and has provided everything we need for our spiritual salvation which is of course what is most important.  I think when we reach the other side, we will be quite surprised to see just how involved God was in our lives and how often He took a direct involvement into our lives will probably shock us.  I look forward to finding that out.  In the mean time I can thank Him by doing as He asks of me.  It's the least I can do.  Until tomorrow.