Sunday School Svithe (part two of three)


Sorry this is late---we never did get around to turning on the computer yesterday. so we had a nice digital-free shabbat. This week's post is a continuation of last week's, notes from my Sunday School lesson on Alma 17-22.

Since last week's post, I've heard a few comments on my lesson, and the main one--a little surprising--is that it was 'funny.' You wouldn't really get that from the notes. I didn't plan any jokes......

Anyway, here's the second of the three lessons I prepared. We ran out of time and only barely touched on this one, but there's some interesting stuff. I used the Blue Letter Bible for my vocabulary research (what word[s] were translated intoguile). If you're not familiar with it, it's a great tool.



-John 1:47 (dolos)
+2 Cor 12:16 (dolos)*
-1 Thess 2:3 (dolos) seems to say the opposite of 2Cor12
-1 Peter 2:1 (dolos)
-1 Peter 2:21-22 (dolos) Christ was without guile
-1 Peter 3:10 (dolos)
Revelation 14:5 (dolos)


-Exodus 21:14 (ormah)
-Psalms 32:2 (r@miyah) Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
-Psalms 34:13 (mirmah)
-Psalms 55:11 (mirmah)


-D&C 124:20
-D&C 41:9,11
-D&C 121:41-42**

*Some translations suggest that this is a continuation of Paul listing the ways he had supposedly taken advantage of the people. They way I read it myself is that he is saying that if he tricked them, it was not for their money but, you might say, for their souls.

This is a further likening to Ammon. Upon first meeting Ammon, it's clear that Lamoni's father expects that he, Ammon, is after wealth. With a bit of squinting, we could guess that Lamoni started with that assumption as well. A bit of swordplay and Ammon, like Paul, has apparently found a sneaky way to riches. But, in fact, all his guile is used for is in freeing his brethren and helping his buddy Lamoni.

**This one is particularly interesting to me. In a list of attributes of your good priesthood man, guile
is explicitly excluded. And this is the same God that had Joseph translate whatever word was in the Book
of Mormon as 'guile.'

How do we choose to understand this?

Or, perhaps, what was it about Ammon's and Paul's "guile" which makes it okay?

My guess: charity.

Also, consider this: Ammon had a chance at guile with Lamoni's father and all he did was ask favors for friends. And what result did this have?

Within moments of trying to kill Ammon, he says:
Alma 20:27 And I will also grant unto thee that thy brethren may be cast out of prison, and thou and thy brethren may come unto me, in my kingdom; for I shall greatly desire to see thee. For the king was greatly astonished at the words which he had spoken, and also at the words which had been spoken by his son Lamoni, therefore he was desirous to learn them.

So Aaron and presumably Muloki come to visit the king and they offer to be his servants (they've learned from the Ammon playbook). But the king will have none of that.

Let's read. We have an Aaron, a king and a narrator. Please share a mike, folks. And read with gusto!

If you want to follow along, Alma 22:2-18.
Pay close attention to the startling lack of guile on the part of the king. I'll be asking you what we can learn from him and how we can apply those lessons.
    Narrator: And it came to pass that he went in unto him into the king’s palace, with his brethren, and bowed himself before the king, and said unto him:

    Aaron: Behold, O king, we are the brethren of Ammon, whom thou hast delivered out of prison. And now, O king, if thou wilt spare our lives, we will be thy servants.

    King: Arise, for I will grant unto you your lives, and I will not suffer that ye shall be my servants; but I will insist that ye shall administer unto me; for I have been somewhat troubled in mind because of the generosity and the greatness of the words of thy brother Ammon; and I desire to know the cause why he has not come up out of Middoni with thee.

    Aaron: Behold, the Spirit of the Lord has called him another way; he has gone to the land of Ishmael, to teach the people of Lamoni.

    King: What is this that ye have said concerning the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, this is the thing which doth trouble me. And also, what is this that Ammon said—If ye will repent ye shall be saved, and if ye will not repent, ye shall be cast off at the last day?

    Aaron: Believest thou that there is a God?

    King: I know that the Amalekites say that there is a God, and I have granted unto them that they should build sanctuaries, that they may assemble themselves together to worship him. And if now thou sayest there is a God, behold I will believe.

    Narrator: And now when Aaron heard this, his heart began to rejoice, and he said:

    Aaron: Behold, assuredly as thou livest, O king, there is a God.

    King: Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem?

    Aaron: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things both in heaven and in earth. Believest thou this?

    King: Yea, I believe that the Great Spirit created all things, and I desire that ye should tell me concerning all these things, and I will believe thy words.

    Narrator: And it came to pass that when Aaron saw that the king would believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam, reading the scriptures unto the king—how God created man after his own image, and that God gave him commandments, and that because of transgression, man had fallen. And Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the creation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him, and their carnal state and also the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name. And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king. And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said:

    King: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.

    Aaron: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.

    Narrator: And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying:

    King: O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.

    Narrator: And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead. But don’t worry, everyone! Things work out! He’s not really dead! Not till chapter twenty-four, anyway! Back to you, Brother Jepson.
Well? What do you think of the king?

What does it mean to be willing to give up all your sins to know God?

Why do you think the king offered his sins? To Ammon he offered half the kingdom.

How can we be more like the king?

When SHOULD we be more like him?

This is something I want to know.

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe


Sunday School Svithe (part one of three)


If you're at Church with me right now, you already know that as this post is magically hitting the web, I am teaching Sunday School. I prepared three lessons for this hour and expect to get through at least two of them. For the next three weeks (unless something interrupts me), my svithes will be my notes for these three lessons. Starting with the first.


On how stupid we can be in ignoring what we feel to be true, et cetera


Ammon's put with the flocks (which, given the life expectancy, makes you wonder about the daughter offer)

When the bad guys scatter the flocks, here is the servants' assumption:
We will all get killed

Ammon's solution seems so obvious (gather the sheep) that we wonder how they could never have thought of it before

Possible reasons
Afraid the bad guys will kill them (problem with this?)
Afraid it cannot be done (problem with this?)
Basically, their feelings about the balance between their skills and the task at hand (comments?)

Q: How is the servants' response similar to the reactions of the Nephites as Ammon recalls them in Alma 26:23?

How do our spiritual capabilities sometimes fail to match our opinions thereof?

Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Matt 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
2 Nephi 4:19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.
Alma 34:15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

So in the end, does it MATTER if our spiritual capacities fail?
Could the servants of Lamoni have collected the flocks if Ammon hadn't been cutting off arms?

Which brings us to Ammon's pov. (Please emphasize the first 20 words.)
2 Nephi 2:8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

WHY is Ammon off in the land of the Lamanites, anyway? Why is he there?


Let's return now to the convert of Ammon's that Mormon found most interesting: Lamoni.

He's heard the story, he's got the pile of arms at his feet, he's wondering what the heck is going on and----

I'm changing the subject entirely. Don't raise your hands, but how many of you shut off the water while you're soaping your hands?

Turning it off while brushing my teeth was easy to grasp onto and easy to implement.

Soap on handles, slipperiness, messiness of cleaning, etc.

And what about the lengthy showers I was once known for?

With the recent water restrictions, I began to fear exceedingly, lest I had done wrong in wasting so much water. My conscience pricked me and I now use about three gallons per shower.

Sometimes, we don't listen well to the Light of Christ, or the Holy Ghost. It doesn't occur to us (or we won't LET it occur to us) that taking long showers or not gathering the sheep or killing our servants isn't the best path to take.

Let's look at Lamoni:
18:4-5 --- And now, when the king heard these words, he said unto them: Now I know that it is the Great Spirit; and he has come down at this time to preserve your lives, that I might not slay you as I did your brethren. Now this is the Great Spirit of whom our fathers have spoken. Now this was the tradition of Lamoni, which he had received from his father, that there was a Great Spirit. Notwithstanding they believed in a Great Spirit, they supposed that whatsoever they did was right; nevertheless, Lamoni began to fear exceedingly, with fear lest he had done wrong in slaying his servants;

Plainly, deep inside, Lamoni had always known this was wrong.
How often are we the same? How often do we require a big something to get us to make a change we already know needs to be made?

(stories? examples? thoughts?)

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe


This svithe is totally gay (or, you know, not)


Two weeks ago in my parents ward, the bishop read the First Presidency's letter on the proposed marriage amendment here in California. The bishop said he would let us know as soon as he knew what we would be asked to do. The speakers touched on the urgency of the issue and its connection to the evil in the world.

Last week the letter was read in our current ward with an introduction from the bishop, in essence, explaining that sometimes callings cause you to do things you really would rather not and we don't always understand why we're asked to do the things we do. Followed by a testimony wondering not about the definition of marriage but why the letter contained so little we-still-love-you.

The stake president bore his testimony later in the meeting and never mentioned the marriage issue, but did say that God loveth his children, a soft reference to the recent pamphlet.

The people most vocally against the amendment keep reminding us how well Prop 22 passed, 61.4%. Personally, I don't think that's a super-mighty showing. Plus, it was eight years ago. A lot has changed in California since 2000. I don't see the amendment passing.

But whether it will or not is a different question than whether or not it should.

The first thing I think of whenever this issue comes up is something Orson Scott Card said at Endercon. He was addressing issue of "Is this bad for children?" and said that heterosexual divorce had damaged more children than homosexual marriage ever would.

But it's not really about children, is it? It's about the morality of homosexuality.

Personally, doubting than many people "choose" to be gay, I find it troubling to call it a moral issue at all. I didn't choose to be white. How can being white be a sin? (Critical Racists take note.) And it also seems to me that by allowing marriage between gays and lesbians, many of the alleged immoral excesses will fall into the same range we see among randy heteros.

Having many gay friends, I have a hard time closing doors on them. Granted, I don't see marriage as a constitutional right (more extraconstitutional--like my right to chew bubblegum--only more impactful on my life and happiness), but I also don't see who it's going to hurt. I'm rather utilitarian in my feelings here. If it doesn't hurt anyone and makes some people happy, why not?

On the other hand, I have faith in the teachings of my church and I have to recognize that if I accept a) that God knows more than me and b) the First Presidency knows more about God's will than I do, then c) how can I deign to reject counsel that claims that Godly genesis? Who am I to second-guess God?

For most moderns, this dilemma reveals how little religious people are capable of thought and how beholden to the old men and dead books who do their thinking for them. But that's because they don't recognize the source of faith, which is outside of me and my little brain. Don't accept that, fine--I'll never convince you otherwise--but at least don't thoughtlessly dismiss my testimony that it is true.

For now, my thoughts on the issue center much on the scripture quoted at the beginning of the pamphlet mentioned above:
    I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

And I never will. And I really don't have that much control over which things I do understand and which things I don't. And that means I have to make decisions based on uncertainty.

But that's normal. That's life. Being a Saint doesn't give me access to the Absolute Right Answer to Every Question. And if it did, what kind of life would that be?

God doesn't like telling us what to do--not in the detail work.

Another thing I've been thinking about, courtesy of Brigham Young:
    I refer you to the exhortation you have heard so frequently from me . . . . You may know whether you are led right or wrong . . . . I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.

Well, that's a lot more quote than I needed, and meaty enough to deserve it's own svithe. So I'll just stop here and take a nap.


last week's svithe


This week’s svithe: “The City of Enoch”

The Enoch Letters, image from Amazon.

I imagine Elder Maxwell didn't view his little book as a proselytory text to be sent out into the world to convert souls unacquainted with Mormonism. Yet the bulk of the book consists of just such letters: Mahijah is writing his friend Omner about the glorious new religion he has discovered that makes all things clear and fills his heart with love.

Maxwell, as Mahijah, is not writing my neighbor, he is writing me.

I am a Saint, or should be. I know what is expected of a Christian, or I should know. I am living a life informed by gospel truths. Right?

Sure. You bet.

But as I read Mahijah's descriptions of Zion and how the people eschew self-agrandizement, I hang my head and realize I want praise. As I read Mahijah's descriptions of Zion and how the people work hard all day every day for the glory of God, I realize I am yet lazy. As I read Mahijah's descriptions of Zion and how the people care more for the fullness of their neighbor's plate than their own, I realize I am still greedy and selfish. If a visitor to town steals my cloak, I probably won't chase him down to give him my coat also lest he be cold. I am much to attached to my material goods.

I doubt Elder Maxwell was trying to make me feel inadequate, but this book provided a needed wake-up call to me. Granted, I'm still not awake--I'm not ready to give away all I own that another may be comfortable and I may see the face of Christ, but at least I can realistically appraise how far I've yet to go.

The hypothetical concept of giving away all my goods because it is more important to me that we have no poor than that I keep my precious doodads has always seemed pretty easy to me. This book made me recognize how difficult it was. I dreaded the day Mahijah would have to give up his beloved ruby--I knew it was coming and he didn't and I felt his pending pain.

But there was no pain. It was just a little rock to him and he was prepared to give it away.

I am not prepared today to give up my sense of thgenius or my hours spent reading worldly tomes. But perhaps if I am willing to take the baby steps the lord provides me, perhaps then I too can be like Mahijah and give up even my ruby.

It only took him 300 years.

I think I should be able to match that.

this svithe on thmusings
last week's svithe