Oh, I love receiving gifts. Do you? I love gifts that create experiences and memories. Especially at Christmastime, I think of the thoughtfulness and love that bring gifts into our lives.
As I listened to our Christmas Sacrament meeting, my thoughts were drawn to how powerful the scriptures have been in my life. The scriptures have anchored my testimony’s foundation.
Last week I read Nephi’s comments that the brass plates critically helped maintain his peoples’ conversion. And yesterday, I met the Mulekites again in Omni. Amaleki recorded that because the Mulekites didn’t have records, not only was their language corrupted but so was their religion.
My favorite tangible gift is scripture! It’s the gift that keeps on giving because by studying the scriptures, I realize what other gifts are available! ☺
I’ve thought about how scriptures affected people in the scriptures. There are lots of times one prophet’s words are quoted by another prophet. But, I’ve read stories that made me feel like the main character had gotten his idea, or made his plan, because he read (or knew orally) of a similar story in the scriptures.
A Precious Stone that Shone
The first story that ever struck me this way is the story of the brother of Jared and lighting the barges. When he approached the Lord for light and air help, Jehovah resolved the question about air. He then told the brother of Jared that the barges couldn’t have windows or fire for light. He mentioned that the winds and waves and tumults had all been prepared to get them to the promised land. Then Jehovah said, “what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are…in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25).
The brother of Jared prepared small stones and asked the Lord to touch the stones so they would shine in the darkness.
Genesis 6 tells the story of Noah’s ark. In directing the building of the ship, Jehovah said to Noah, “A window shalt thou make to the ark…” (Genesis 6:16). The footnote to “window” says “some rabbis believed it was a precious stone that shone in the ark.”
Maybe the brother of Jared read of Noah’s shining stone in the scriptures. Maybe he just knew the story since it hadn’t happened THAT long before he lived. Maybe the Holy Ghost prompted him to follow a similar pattern.
Regardless, I remember feeling a wonderful connection. The Lord answered the question the brother of Jared couldn’t find, or know, the answer to. But, He let the brother of Jared work through his light problem and ask for a solution offered in a similar situation. Jehovah said He would prepare whatever the brother of Jared brought to Him and He did.
Here are (at least ☺) four gifts—the Lord’s preparation from the trial awaiting the brother of Jared. The Lord answering questions the brother of Jared couldn’t answer. The Lord letting the brother of Jared supply the answers he could and performing the requested miracle.
Because of Israel’s wickedness, the city of Ai defeated Joshua and the children of Israel. The Lord commanded Israel to attack the city again. Joshua laid out a strategy to lead a small portion of his army near the city of Ai. He hoped the army at Ai would take the bait and think they could easily defeat them again. Joshua hid other parts of his army along the route.
As soon as the men of Ai left the city, the hidden portion of Joshua’s army took and burned the city.
Captain Moroni successfully utilized a very similar ambush strategy against Zerahemnah and vanquished one of the fiercest Lamanite armies.
Helaman’s strategy for conquering the city of Manti mirrors almost perfectly Joshua’s defeat of Ai. However, while Joshua killed the men of Ai, Helaman captured the city without any bloodshed.
Was Joshua’s story on the brass plates? Did Moroni and Helaman read it? Or was it just good military strategy?
I love the possibility that Captain Moroni and Helaman read their scriptures and relied on previously successful strategies in their own times of struggle.
Here is (at least ☺) two gifts—the Lord expressed His confidence in these leaders by commanding them to act. As they sought the best strategy, the Lord magnified their efforts and enabled a successful outcome.
On the Altar, or in the Furnace, of Affliction
Abraham laid on a sacrificial altar because he would not bow down to other gods. “And as they lifted up their hands upon me, that they might offer me up and take away my life, behold, I lifted up my voice unto the Lord my God, and the Lord hearkened and heard…and the angel of his presence stood by me, and immediately unloosed my bands” (Abraham 1:15).
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego found themselves conspicuously standing alone amidst a kneeling congregation worshipping a golden statue. In his rage and fury, Nebuchadnezzar demanded to know why they refused to worship his image.
They responded “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace…but if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
They were thrown into the fiery furnace. Their bands were loosed (obviously), but they walked around unharmed. And, they were joined by someone “like the Son of God.”
Did they read, or know this history about Abraham? I would say probably on this one ☺. But, maybe not.
My favorite phrase of this story is “but if not.” They knew God could deliver them. But, if it wasn’t His will to save them from death, like with Abinadi, it didn’t matter. Their loyalty was defined. Like Abraham, they worshipped the one true God.
Sometimes when we know how God can answer prayers, we pray differently. We have a different hope and faith. Our generalities become specific. Our faith becomes knowledge.
Here are (at least ☺) 3 gifts—the Lord heard their prayers. The Lord personally responded to their prayers. The Lord saved their lives.
Desiring to See, and Hear, and Know
One of my very favorite examples of immediately repeating a scriptural story is Nephi’s.
Lehi saw the vision of the Tree of Life and shared it, as the prophet, with his family.
Profoundly impacted, Nephi said, “having heard all the words of my father…I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him….” (1 Nephi 10:17).
He saw the vision and shared an expanded version in his records. When he returned home, Nephi found his brothers wondering about Lehi’s vision. They asked Nephi to explain it to them. Nephi asked if they’d asked God to explain it to them. He seemed frustrated that they wouldn’t just ask.
For me, this is the ultimate gift of the scriptures. I can see God’s dealings with other people in surprisingly relatable situations. And I’m taught that I can ask God myself.
But, I still have a choice. I can read and admire the stories and miracles from afar. Or I can read and run straight to the Source. The scripture doesn’t even indicate that Nephi asked his dad to expound on his dream. Maybe Lehi did expound more. Or maybe Lehi was exhausted and not available for further inquiry. Or maybe Nephi preferred direct revelation from the Lord.
The Lord personally touched the brother of Jared’s stones. The Lord inspired the efforts of Joshua, Moroni, and Helaman. The Lord stood with Abraham, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. The Lord showed Nephi Lehi’s vision AND answered then his questions!
Do I believe the Lord will do this for me? Do you?
“For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round” (1 Nephi 10:18-19).
Today is one of those “times to come.” Ask. Seek. Knock.
Accept His gifts and find Him.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.