being still
Week 37 is scheduled for study Sep. 6-12, 2021. There are many lessons to be had this week. We learn of the importance of being still, how all things work together for our good, how the Lord protects His servants, and more.

Day 1

As you read Doctrine and Covenants 98-101, pay attention to the thoughts and impressions that come. How might acting on them help you become the person God wants you to be?

Doctrine and Covenants 98:1-3, 11-14; 101:1-16 – My trials can work together for my good.

Mortality isn’t about fairness, for life isn’t, nor has it ever been, fair. As the manual points out clearly, this life is simply filled with trials and adversities, whether of our own making or from some other source. There is always a difficulty around every bend. Why do you suppose that is?

One of the most important concepts we all need to master in this life is that adversity builds character, and God is sculpting us into celestial people. That requires a lot of adversity. We can’t have any of the godly virtues tested and cemented in our soul without having to live a period of time putting that virtue into practice. Patience requires irritants to be manifest. Kindness requires ingratitude to be proven. Faith requires the presence of doubt to be strengthened. Every major virtue that sets God apart as a perfect being is what our adversities in this life teach us.

And an important point to remember is that the trials we go through in this life are not as random as they seem to us. The scriptures clearly teach us that Jesus has already prepared all the mansions of reward in his Father’s house. These were prepared before the earth was created. God has known what was going to happen during our stint in mortality for many eons now. He has known what was needed in order to mold us into celestial citizens, and He designed earth life with that goal in mind. He has also planned and put into place all restrictions on Satan’s abilities to torment and sway us to his way of thinking, as well as planned for recompenses for the injustices we will all experience while here.

When the Lord says in Doctrine and Covenants 98:3 that the prayers of the righteous will all be answered, and that everything with which we will be afflicted during our lives can work together for our good and His name’s glory, He can say it because He has already seen it come to pass. He is not speaking with mere hope in His heart, but with the certainty of perfect knowledge.

Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.

We just need to remember that whether something works together for our good or not completely depends on how we choose to face and handle the trial that comes our way. If we let our trial strip us of our faith, so that we crumble under its weight, then of course that trial cannot bless our life with improvement and a more celestial character. But if we turn to God in all things, trusting in His tender mercy and loving kindness, no trial in this life can prevent us from obtaining the quality of soul and character God knows we can achieve. We must trust in our Father at all times, and in all things. Only then can His will that we be exalted and lifted up at the last day to rule and reign with Him be accomplished. The trials will be there for all of us. The difference is and always has been in how we view our trials and what we do with them.

Day 2

As you read Doctrine and Covenants 98-101, pay attention to the thoughts and impressions that come. How might acting on them help you become the person God wants you to be?

Doctrine and Covenants 98:23-48 – The Lord wants me to seek peace in His way.

I would like to make just a couple of points about today’s material.

As we study the scriptures, answers to questions in one book of scriptures can often be found in a different book of scripture, or possibly even multiple other books of scripture. I love the passage in today’s reading, because it answers questions for me about why the Nephites in the Book of Mormon acted as they did with regard to going to war with the Lamanites. As I have read the Book of Mormon, I have noted that the Nephites, despite how awful the Lamanites were to them, always appeared to be reluctant to go to war, even when they were just defending themselves. Yet in almost every instance the Lord fought their battles, and the Nephites were handed the victory over the Lamanites. And the Lamanites always seemed to have the bigger army, and an endless array of willing soldiers to throw themselves at the Nephites in an effort to destroy them.

Today’s passage explains why the Nephites hesitated to fight the Lamanites. They were trying to offer them an olive branch of peace. They were living this law from the Lord and waiting for the third and fourth offense. Yes, Nephites died in the process of waiting, but it was only because the Nephites were willing to try to make peace with their mortal enemy that the Lord stepped in and fought their battles for them. So we have repeated examples of this law in action throughout the Book of Mormon. When the people violated this law, the Lord withdrew His favor, and the Nephites were generally trounced by the Lamanites.

The second point I would like to address is that of the spirit of being a peacemaker. Today’s society is more and more fixated on revenge. People are increasingly teaching and accepting that any offense needs recompense in the form of violent revenge. The Lord doesn’t work this way, and His encouragements for the Saints to be patient and forgiving of those who have hurt them feels foreign to the teachings of the world.

The importance of being a peacemaker is that God is a man of peace. We cannot come to know Him if we do not also become people who value and cherish peace in our own lives.

Day 3

As you read Doctrine and Covenants 98-101, pay attention to the thoughts and impressions that come. How might acting on them help you become the person God wants you to be?

Doctrine and Covenants 100 – The Lord takes care of those who serve Him.

The manual looks only at section 100, but I think we need to take the lessons learned and shown in section 99 into account as well.

In section 100 the Lord is comforting Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon as they traveled to Canada to teach the gospel to the sons of a recent convert. They were nervous about the safety of their families, because of the recent unrest and persecution the Saints had experienced. In this section the Lord offers them words of comfort about the safety of their families.

Let’s look at the conditions of John Murdock in section 99. Brother Murdock had been on a mission for a year. His wife was dead and his children had been farmed out to other families to be taken care of while he was serving his mission. Most of us would agree that this was a lot to ask of John Murdock, as a new widower, to leave his children with others to go off alone on a mission for a year. Oh, but that isn’t what this section is about. In section 99 the Lord calls Bro. Murdock to be a permanent missionary!

John had just returned from his mission and the Lord tells him to provide for his children by sending them to the Bishop for safe keeping then he was to go back out and proclaim the gospel once again for an indefinite number of years more. Here are the verses in Doctrine and Covenants 99.

And now, verily I say unto you, that it is not expedient that you should go until your children are provided for, and sent up kindly unto the bishop of Zion.

And after a few years, if thou desirest of me, thou mayest go up also unto the goodly land, to possess thine inheritance;

Otherwise thou shalt continue proclaiming my gospel until thou be taken. Amen.

Do verses 7 and 8 remind you of anyone you have read about before? I am reminded of the instances in both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon where the Lord approaches his Apostles and Disciples and asks them what they would like from him. Eleven of the Apostles wanted to come to Christ in his kingdom speedily after they died, but one, John the Beloved, wanted to tarry and keep preaching the gospel until the Savior came again. And in the Book of Mormon, 9 of the Disciples wanted what the Apostles wanted, but 3 of them wanted to remain and preach the gospel.

The instructions to John Murdock are akin to what he asked of those who wanted to remain of his apostles and disciples. John was told to serve, for a number of years longer, then if he desired to stop he would receive his inheritance in Zion. But if he was willing, the Lord wanted him to continue his missionary efforts until the day he died.

Now combine the teachings in both sections 100 and 99. Joseph and Sidney were worried about the welfare of their families, and they were only going to be gone for a few weeks. Yet John Murdock was being asked to basically give away the only remaining family he had to the care of others while he served the Lord for years to come, with potentially no end of service in sight. What a sacrifice. What a blessing.

I think of some of the people who feel so overwhelmed and burdened by life, but are called to serve in the Church. Their struggle is very real when they have to decide to put the care and keeping of their family in the Lord’s hands while they serve. I admit that I know of no other people ever asked to serve as John Murdock was asked to serve, but the lessons from these two sections combine to teach us that sometimes the work of the kingdom does indeed require great sacrifices. And we are not always comfortable with the situations the Lord sends us into.

But all flesh is in His hands. God is aware of our needs, and He is in charge of His own kingdom. He knows what we are capable of, and has recompense ready for each of us when we are willing to step up to His challenges and make the needed sacrifices.

Day 4

As you read Doctrine and Covenants 98-101, pay attention to the thoughts and impressions that come. How might acting on them help you become the person God wants you to be?

Doctrine and Covenants 101:43-65 – Following God’s counsel helps keep me safe.

Please, please, please read the parable before reading this part. If you haven’t read the parable first, you will be cheating yourself.

Let’s recap the parable.

44-46 – the Lord of the vineyard give the servants a commandment to plant and build a vineyard, which they begin to do. All of His directions are followed, up to this point.

47-50 – The servants begin to question the wisdom of their master, their Lord. They decide they have reasoned with more wisdom than He and they don’t follow through on the last step of His instructions, which was to build a tower so they could watch for the enemy. After all, it was a time of peace. What need did they have of a tower. If there was a problem in the future, they could build the tower then.

51 – The enemy destroyed the vineyard.

52-54 – The Lord of the vineyard gives them a dressing down – He chastises them for the mess they have made of His affairs.

55-58 – The Lord of the vineyard takes His entire household and devotes it to not just avenging the wrong the enemy has done to Him, but lays waste to the enemy’s lands and takes possession of His enemy’s former vineyards. It is very important to note here that the enemy had watchtowers built to guard against attack, but the Lord of the vineyard was more powerful than His enemy. It is also important to note that the Lord of the vineyard had lost some of His servants when the enemy chased them away. In verse 55 He says, “gather together the residue of my servants,” which means those who still remain. So the Lord of the vineyard didn’t come out of this unscathed. He was victorious, but was not unscathed. It is apparent by how the Lord treats His servants that He cares for them. It must have pained Him deeply to have lost some of them because of their own foolishness.

There is more to the parable, but I want to stop here. Now let’s look back at some of the lessons and observations we can find in the parable.

The twelve olive trees are a representation of covenant Israel, both as a whole and of all of us individually. The hedge and the watchmen were commanded to be built to protect us.

We are also the servants sent on the Lord’s errand. As in the parable, fulfilling all of the Lord’s commandments, but one, won’t keep us safe. As He says in verse 63, He can only help the Saints “inasmuch as they are willing to be guided in a right and proper way for their salvation.” The fault of the servants in the parable was that they questioned their Lord’s ability to know what was needed, and relied on their own wisdom, which was inferior. Their fault was thinking they knew more and better than the Lord. They decided that His assets would be better used by investing them elsewhere, rather than by building the watchtower He had commanded to be built. In the hindsight of the reader of this tale we can well ask, “What were they thinking?!”

How many times does the Lord give us commandments through His servants, and we pick and choose which commandments we will accept? Are we not doing the same thing the servants did in the parable? Are we not, in reality, saying to ourselves that our judgment is greater than His?

At what point in the parable did the enemy or adversary really win? Was it only when the enemy actually came in by night and destroyed the vineyard and frightened away many of the Lord’s servants? In my opinion, the enemy of the Lord had already won that battle when the servants were disobedient and failed to carry out their Lord’s commandments in full. They left themselves open for attack by not building the defense into their life the Lord had told them to build. And why did He tell them to build that last defense? It was because He knew His enemy would come. It may not be today or tomorrow, but the day would come when the attack would take place, and He wanted His servants, His people, to be prepared for their own protection.

This parable isn’t just about some trees. It is about each of us and the care we give to keep the Lord’s commandments. We don’t always know why He has given us a particular commandment, and sometimes we don’t agree with one of His commandments. We don’t agree to keep a commandment because we choose to follow our own wisdom rather than His. In every case, this is why ultimately damage is done to someone’s soul. If we all followed the Lord’s commandments as we should, the enemy of our soul wouldn’t be able to come as the thief in the night and frighten us away from our Lord and His protections.

FHE/Personal Study

Be still and know that I am God

I don’t want to leave this week’s lessons without saying a few words about the title of these lessons.

Why do you think the Lord says we must be still in order to know that He is God? Does that strike you as odd in any way? What is it about being still that makes a difference? What does it take to be still anyway?

Have you ever tried to get someone’s attention when they are distracted or upset? It can be next to impossible to get them to focus on what they need to see, think about, or do when they are already in turmoil over something else. It is like when a child wakes in the night screaming from dreams that have upset them, but they can’t wake up enough to recognize that the dream has ended. They are so upset that they cannot be consoled. They either have to first be jolted into a waking state or they have to suffer until they cry themself to sleep again. No amount of love from their parent can help them while they are in this state of hysteria.

Have you ever wondered why so many of the Apostles and general authorities of the Church sleep with pencil and paper by their bedside? It is because it is in the still of the night, when their minds become calm that the Lord is able to speak to them clearly and unmistakably. This is the same reason we are told time and time again that in order to hear the Lord’s confirming voice in answer to our prayers we need to ponder. Pondering requires quiet time, away from distractions. Each and every time the Lord’s voice comes from heaven it is described as a still small voice that pierces the heart. It is described as a whisper. If we want to know God, we must become still.

Calm takes time. Even on a lake, when the winds die down, it takes a bit for the waves and ripples to finish their course. Only when all the agitation has spent itself does the lake become calm. This is the same state our soul must be in in order for us to feel the Spirit stir our soul and reveal truth to us. The Godhead lives in perfect peace. Agitation is a foreign and unwelcome state of being to them. We may be in a state of unrest, but as we seek to know more of God we must find the calm within us so we can hear His voice through the Spirit.

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Be Still and Know that I Am God

Week 37