importance of prophets
Week 42 is scheduled for study Oct. 10-16, 2022. This week we get a dose of the importance of prophets. We also learn about cisterns and fountains. The Lord loves His people.

Day 1

Elder David A. Bednar said: “One of the ways I hear [the Lord] is in the scriptures. The scriptures are the prerecorded voice of the Lord”.

Jeremiah 1:4-19; 7:1-7; 20:8-10 – Prophets are called to speak the Lord’s word.

Have you ever noticed that the prophets are accused of being political in their pronouncements, even though they always tell us that the Church doesn’t get involved in politics unless there is a moral basis for that involvement? This has gotten me thinking about the reason for the prophet to make comments to us and why he tells us certain things.

As I considered the role of the prophet in our individual lives, it occurred to me that the prophet’s message to the world always depends on where the world is spiritually at that moment in time. Jeremiah needed to tell his people why they were going to suffer the Babylonian captivity, and how to avoid that horrific event. His message would be far less effective and useful to his people if all he did was talk of the coming of Christ in 600 years. Would preaching of Christ be useful and helpful to the people? Certainly. But was it what they needed to avoid the impending invasion of Babylon? No.

The prophet gives us what we need, and Jeremiah was sent as a warning voice to the people. Joseph Smith didn’t preach of the birth of Christ, because we didn’t need to hear about his birth. We needed to have the truth restored so we could begin preparing for Christ’s second coming. Our current prophet doesn’t warn us about the impending flood or Assyrian/Babylonian, or any other invasion, because that is not what we need at this point in history.

In Jeremiah’s time his message sounded very political to many. They didn’t see anything wrong with the way the Jews in Jerusalem were living. In Joseph Smith’s time he was reestablishing Christ’s gospel to the earth in a country founded by old school Protestants and Catholics. Some of what he taught went against the grain and customs of the way things had always been done, so he was accused to being political in some of his pronouncements.

President Kimball gave us the revelation on the universal availability of the priesthood, and I am still hearing that the “revelation” was just the Brethren caving to the political pressures of the day. Yes, there were parts of what happened with the priesthood being made available to all that involved social concerns of the day, but that is why the Lord stepped in and told His prophet that the time had come, that the people were ready for that revelation. The same is true about the Proclamation on the Family. When it first came out I thought, “That’s weird, everyone but whackos knows all this.” But within 10 years societies all around the world had begun to shift and change, making their definition of what family is, and about gender roles, something very different from what the Lord had specified in the proclamation.

As in everything the Lord does, there is more going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about than meets the eye on the surface. It always takes faith to follow the prophets. It took faith to follow Adam, and faith to follow every prophet since his day. That is just the nature of mortality. The true revelation that the prophet is called of God doesn’t come until we exercise faith in what he tells us. And the Lord never “caves” to political pressures. He is in charge of this world. He saw the end of it from the beginning of it, so He is always prepared for what is coming. He knows what we need to find happiness and to be safe. His prophets are His way of giving us his path to safety.

Day 2

Elder David A. Bednar said: “One of the ways I hear [the Lord] is in the scriptures. The scriptures are the prerecorded voice of the Lord”.

Jeremiah 1:5 – God knew me before I was born.

Here is a question for you: Which would you rather have to deal with, a stranger or someone you could trust? Sometimes we may feel like we don’t really know the Lord all that well, but according to Him we have been close friends for eons of time.

Many of us are told in our patriarchal blessing that we have specific things we are supposed to accomplish in this life, or that we need to work on certain parts of our character, attitudes, or our level of spirituality. Such counsel could only come from someone who knows us better than we know ourselves.

When it comes to the question of “Whom do you trust in this life?”, do you think we should trust Him who has known us as long as God has known us, or should we put our faith and trust in someone who wants something from us? Put that way it shouldn’t be a difficult question to answer.

Jeremiah didn’t have a lot of faith in his own abilities to talk to others, yet God called him. Despite all his excuses of being too young, not being able to speak well, and being generally afraid of others, the Lord helped him by telling Jeremiah that He had known Jeremiah since before he was born. The Lord can give us the same assurance, since it is true that He has indeed known us since before our birth into mortality. All of us were sent here to accomplish something. Since God is the one who gave us these assignments and responsibilities, it makes sense that whatever He requires of us in this life must be part of His plan to help us accomplish what He sent us to do.

Our job, if we struggle with faith in our self, is to put our faith in the Lord and pursue the course that God has set for us in our callings in the Church, through the answers we get in our prayers, and in our patriarchal blessing. He loved us enough to allow us to come here. He gave us things we needed to work on while here, and He isn’t about to sabotage His own efforts to help us become exalted. It just makes sense that we should put our trust in the one who knows us better than anyone else, and who loves us more than anyone else.

Day 3

Elder David A. Bednar said: “One of the ways I hear [the Lord] is in the scriptures. The scriptures are the prerecorded voice of the Lord”.

Jeremiah 2; 7 – They have forsaken me the fountain of living waters.

First off we need to define and describe the difference between a cistern and a fountain. In Israel, where it may not rain for six months out of the year, unless you have a ready source of constant water handy, you have to collect it in large containers or underground pits called cisterns. Anciently a new home might have dug a deep pit in the middle of the home area into which water would flow during the rainy season. To prevent the water from seeping into the ground, lime plaster was applied to the inside of the hole to make it water tight.

The cistern would have to be able to hold enough water for the family (or community) for more than half the year. This would be stagnant water, since it did not flow, and was only collected then held until it was drawn out for use in washing or cleaning, or even for animals to drink. People usually drank weak wine instead of water, since the water from cisterns would be pretty bad.

The manual asks the question, “Why would receiving water from a fountain be better than relying on a cistern?” Water that is drinkable is referred to as “sweet.” If the water is not drinkable, it is referred to as “bitter.” Water from a cistern would fall under the bitter category. Wells and fountains contain water that is constantly being refreshed, and hence is sweet or drinkable. This is the water we would drink ourselves to rehydrate when parched. This is also what made the miracle of the waters of Mareh in Exodus 15 such a big deal. The Israelites had traveled for three days in that scorching heat without any water. They were near death when they came upon a body of water. But this body of water was bitter or undrinkable, even for their animals. The Lord directed Moses to a type of tree whose wood would turn the water sweet or drinkable. Moses tossed in the wood, and saved the day.

When we compare fountains or wells to cisterns, notice that all the problems are with the cisterns. If the cistern is not carved into bedrock then the water just leaks out and is gone. If it is lined with the lime plaster it is fine, unless the plaster cracks or breaks off, which negates the whole purpose of the cistern, for the water then just leaks out the hole and into the ground out of reach of those who need it.

Christ and his gospel is our living water, our fountain. The philosophies of the world are the cisterns we build to replace the well or living water supplied by Christ. Only what Christ offers us can sustain us indefinitely. Cisterns, or the philosophies of men can imitate what Christ offers us, but only for a time, then they develop cracks and holes that make them useless.

This was Jehovah’s complaint against Israel in today’s assigned reading. They had forsaken his living water for cracked or broken cisterns. That action doesn’t damage God at all, but it makes a devastating difference to those relying on the life giving properties of their water source. I suggest you spend some time contemplating the questions and their answers the manual provides. This can make for a lively discussion in Sunday School or a Family Home Evening.

Day 4

Elder David A. Bednar said: “One of the ways I hear [the Lord] is in the scriptures. The scriptures are the prerecorded voice of the Lord”.

Jeremiah 3:14-18; 16:14-21 – The Lord will gather His people.

There is a story of a man who had slandered others for years who now wanted to make amends for the damage he had done. He went to a wise man and asked how he could fix what he had done. The wise man told him to take a bag of feathers to the top of a hill and scatter them to the wind then return to him. The man did so and returned to the wise man. The wise man then told him to go and retrieve each and every feather he scattered. The man admitted that this is impossible, for the feathers have now been carried off to destinations unknown. How could he possibly get them back? The wise man pointed out to him that the things we say about others or to others are much like the feathers. Once our words leave our mouth they are now at large in the world. We cannot call them back, and we cannot predetermine the influence our words will have on others. This is why it is so important that we are careful with what we say.

One of the greatest miracles ever wrought by God is the gathering of Israel. He scattered them throughout the whole earth. They have remained scattered among other nations, and now don’t even know they are of the family of Israel. They have, in effect, become one with the rest of the world. Yet the Lord has planted something within all those who covenanted with Him that will allow their descendants to recognize God’s call when they hear the gospel message in the latter days.

In Jeremiah 3 the Lord tells Israel that even though He will scatter them among all the nations of the earth, He has the capacity to bring them home once again. God promised to send out fishers of men and hunters of men among all the nations to find His lost children and bring them back once again to the covenant He made with their forefathers. This miracle of gathering the lost feathers – scattered Israel – is something only God can accomplish. Through the missionary efforts, and the genealogy efforts of His Saints, God is gathering in Israel on both sides of the veil simultaneously! They are coming back into the covenant fold “one of a city, and two of a family.”

Only God could accomplish such a marvelous undertaking. This shows us that despite their scattered and “lost” condition, God has had His eye on them the whole time. He has never completely turned His back on His covenant people. He knows precisely where they are, and what is needed to help them recognize His call. This is one of the greatest of the latter-day miracles. The Lord is bringing out from among all the nations of the earth, on both sides of the veil, those who belong to Israel. And anyone who isn’t naturally part of Israel’s family, but heeds the call, is adopted into Israel’s family and shares in their blessings as though they had been born into the covenant.

FHE/Personal Study

Jeremiah 18:1-6 – The Potter’s clay

This all makes a lot more sense if you have already read the verses in Jeremiah 18. There are multiple places in the Bible where we are told that we are the clay in the Potter’s (God’s) hands. Here is a video I found on that portrays today’s verses beautifully.

Over and over again in the scriptures the prophets ask the people why they can’t grasp this concept that God is more powerful than man can imagine. They ask, ‘Does that saw ever tell the woodcutter that he doesn’t know what he is doing? Does the clay ever challenge the potter for supremacy?’ The point the prophets are trying to make is that as a saw or axe is a simple tool to the woodcutter, and the clay is completely under the control of the potter, so too should we recognize that we are not in control here in mortality, God is. If we want to become something more in the eternities than we are today, we must turn to the only one who can make anything more out of us, and that is the Lord.

If we had any real idea as to how much God loves us, be that our Father, our Savior, or the Holy Spirit, we would be more like the clay and be more willing to submit our lives to their guidance and direction. Israel in Jeremiah’s day was like this video mentioned, hardening itself against its maker, refusing to be shaped and molded into something more useful and beautiful. And when the potter has a piece of stubborn clay, he has no choice but to remove it from the shaping wheel, pound it out, and start over with it. It is no different with us.

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OT42-2022 – Before I Formed Thee

Week 42