Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 19

Verse 2 – “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” This is a nice verse which indicates how many before the coming of Christ will be in spiritual darkness. However, the light will shine on them – all of God’s children will have the light shine on them, it will be down to them whether they accept it or not.

Verse 6 – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Couldn’t go through Chapter 19 of 2 Nephi and mention this well-known verse. This is Isaiah’s well-documented prophecy of the coming forth of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. When Isaiah speaks he often does so ‘Messianically’, meaning he is foreshadowing the coming of the Saviour, or signifying events that will come.

Verses 12-13 – “…For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts.” The concept of the Lord’s hand not being turned away, but always being outstretched is an interesting one. The general assumption is that this verse is referring to the infinite mercy of the Lord, that He is always there ready to help and support us (and this concept is indeed true). However, I have read a deeper meaning to this elsewhere. John Gee, a Latter-day Saint and professional Egyptologist, explained, “The English sentence is constructed to say that in spite of the punishments afflicted (‘for all this’), the punishments do not satisfy the Lord’s anger (‘his anger is not turned away’).” Gee continued, “In other words, to the contrary (‘but’), the hand of the Lord is still ‘stretched out.’” Gee thus concluded, “So a stretched out hand, by any careful reading of the English, is a hand administering punishment,”3 or, at least, threatening or beginning to do so.” This is certainly a more unsettling aspect of this verse, but also just as true a concept as the previously mentioned one.

Becoming Provident Providers

In December 2015 my family had to move home. This news was not welcome, nor was it in our plans in the near future. However the Lord has His purposes which we may not see at the time. So we began to look at the market and there was nothing in our price range we could afford other than small, 2 bed flats which would have our lively children running up the walls (due to a 22% rise in house rental prices). We knew we could not, and should not, justify agreeing to a place which we could not afford (more on that later). As such, our views stretched out further afield, we found a home in another area within our price range, it worked with travel etc…we went to look…instantly we felt this was the place which we needed to pursue. We did not like it (we would have to move away from Ward in which we resided in, the area itself was not very desirable, it had limited outdoor space) yet there was no denying the feeling that both Chrissie and I received…

We began to inform family and friends – and despite the disappointment felt by those close to us, we knew (and we kept checking!) that this was right. However, as days passed to a week, and as we began to make plans for the move to occur, the Lord had something else in mind for us. We may never know why we had to go through this experience, but we felt that suddenly, despite previous clear revelation guiding us to the place we found, we now felt it wasn’t right. We prayed and prayed together to make sure…and on the very next day a house that was more spacious was brought to our attention by our current letting agents, with a garden and at a significant drop in price to where we were having to move from and the other house we had found…for our small family, this was a miracle. It is not perfect, but we will never forget how the Lord directed us over those few weeks.

How does this link with ‘Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually’? For me there is one simple key to becoming self-reliant in these two areas…complete, unwavering trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The blessings we received as a family from this experience were more than finding a house in a place we want to be (temporal things) – this experience has had a massive impact on our family spiritually. Our children, particularly our eldest son who wanted to be a part of our prayers and searching, had seen faith in action. We had come to know God and Jesus Christ more as we had discussed with them and also, we knew of a greater assurance their deep, abiding love that they have for our little family. They created worlds without number, their power can shift mountains and part seas and yet they are aware of our need to relocate down the road.

Temporal and Spiritual Hand in Hand

Of course, as we begin to consider how to become temporally and spiritually self-reliant in our homes, we have to remember this important principle: D&C 29:34 “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.” – all things we do to follow our Saviour are spiritual, despite their being possible temporal blessings, the two are linked together.

Temporal Providers

I first want to focus in on being better temporal providers. As with most areas of the Gospel – we can all improve on this. Elder Robert D. Hales stated that there are some debts that can be expected in our lives – he said “education, a modest home, or a basic automobile may be necessary to provide for a family.” However, we must not allow ourselves to be enticed to spend money we do not have on any other means that are not necessary for us. If we need furniture and we do not have the finances, look in areas where you can save money until the time comes you can afford a little more for your family. Elder Hales went on to say “Unfortunately however, additional debt is incurred when we cannot control our wants and addictive impulses.”

Notice how Elder Hales uses the ‘addictive’! This is a strong word, yet a prophet, seer and revelator used this language, we need to learn from it. He suggests the same escape route as with other addictions, turning to the Lord Jesus Christ.

How do we turn to the Lord to be temporally self-reliant? One of the major responses may be a confusing one to some, but not to those who have faith in Christ.

Tithing is a key part in becoming temporally self-reliant. In D&C 119:4 we find the reinstitution of this sacred law in these latter days…

“And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.”

Thus, tithing is not only found in the Bible and Book of Mormon for those of God’s children, but it is an important principle for us. Elder Robert D. Hales said “Tithing is the great equitable law, for no matter how rich or poor we are, all of us pay the same one-tenth of our increase annually, and all of us receive blessings so great “that there shall not be room enough to receive [them]”.”

We can all pay tithing. The Lord has seen fit to give us everything…we need the faith to trust in His guidance and show our faith by contributing 10% of the 100% He has blessed us with. Does that make it easy? Of course not! When discussing this very important principle with people I know who have had concerns, and these are people who want to serve and follow the Lord, their main concern is generally the same – “I/We cannot afford it.” We cannot afford NOT to pay our tithing. The members who have paid their tithing faithfully will testify that they have what they have because of the outpouring of blessings from heaven because of their obedience to this law.

In terms of being temporal provident providers, we have to be prepared to make sacrifices. How often have you wanted to buy or provide something to someone in your family or to someone you care for just to show that love? We are at the time we commemorate the birth of our Beloved Saviour Jesus Christ, and part of that worship involves the buying of gifts for loved ones, as the wise men did to the infant Son of God. We recently had what is becoming a more popular event in the UK (as with most things we decide to bring over from USA), Black Friday. As we reflect on this sacred time (Christmas, not Black Friday), are we planning a wonderful Christmas but staying true to being temporal provident providers?

Elder Hales shared a lesson he learnt in his early marriage years – “I was in the air force, and we had missed Christmas together…When I got home, I saw a beautiful dress in a store window and suggested to my wife that if she liked it, we would buy it.” Isn’t that great? He wanted to treat his darling wife to a gift. He continued that after his wife, Mary, tried the dress “After a moment the salesclerk came out, brushed by me, and returned the dress to it’s place in the store window. As we left the store, I asked, “What happened?” She replied, “It was a beautiful dress, but we can’t afford it!”…I have learned that the three most loving words are “I love you,” and the four most caring words for those we love are “We can’t afford it.”

…We are not meant to have everything we want. Mortal life was never meant to be a situation where we received anything we wanted whenever we wanted it. In fact, many of us have been blessed with a lot more than a number of people on this Earth. Are we living in our means and making sacrifices to ensure we are temporal providers?

Elder Hales gave a ominous warning to those who lack the self-control to not spend when it is not necessary, particularly when this spending leads to debt “Whenever we do this, we become poor temporally and spiritually. We give away some of our precious, priceless agency and put ourselves in self-imposed servitude. Money we could have used to care for ourselves and others must now be used to pay our debts.” If we spend where it is not needed and this leads to financial struggles, we have handed over our free will. We are, in a small fraction, no longer able to utilise our agency because we have placed restrictions on ourselves.

Spiritual Providers

This leads perfectly on to the other part of my focus – being spiritual self providers. In Mosiah 3:19 we read “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” Also, Alma taught his son, Corianton, in Alma 39:9 “Now my son, I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things.” (remember that lusts can refer to material coveting as well as sins of chastity). How can we ever hope to be like Christ and become ready to Celestial Kingdom, if we cannot control our desires and overcome the natural man?

Being spiritually self-reliant and being spiritual providers are two different things. I can be spiritually self-reliant, but if I do not share that with my children I am not being a provident provider. How can we spiritually provide?

I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying “Give a man to fish and you will feed him for a meal, teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” This applies to teaching our children, our home teaching families, investigators…whoever…how to be spiritually provident. We have probably heard the verse before in D&C 68:25 “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”

Please note again a vital word in this verse – “understand”. It does not say “teach them the doctrine of repentance”, it says teach them to understand the doctrine. How do we understand the Gospel rather than just know it? We have to teach those in our stewardship how to ‘fish’, how to receive that spiritual self-reliance and how to receive their own witness.

Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 18

Verse 1 – “Moreover, the word of the Lord said unto me: Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen, concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” Again, this indicates the use of names and their meaning. The name used in this verse means ‘Quickened destruction’ which again links to a lot of the imagery and description in Isaiah’s verses.

Verse 12 – “Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.” Again, a verse that slightly confused me initially. However, this verse is basically stating that we need to always trust in God first, that He will support us in all things. The meaning is made clearer when linked with Isaiah 31:1 “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!” The ‘confederacy’ that is mentioned by Isaiah is one that Israel wanted to make with other nations to protect themselves. Here, the Lord is inviting them to trust in Him instead and He will deliver them. For us in our lives, this can be evidenced when we trust in our own abilities or ‘in the arm of the flesh’ before the Lord.

Verse 14 – “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” In the same way those who do not stumble over Christ and His teachings, those who are not offended will be blessed. Links to Luke 7:23 which reads “And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

Verse 19-20 – “And when they shall say unto you: Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and mutter—should not a people seek unto their God for the living to hear from the dead? To the law and to the testimony; and if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Once again this is another reference to the Israelites needing to rely on the Lord. This chapter seems to have a very consistent theme!

Christmas!

​I honestly can’t decide what I have enjoyed most this Christmas Day…
Whether it was the sheer joy on our two children’s faces when they saw Santa had been, the smile from my amazing wife as we witnessed their happiness, getting thrashed by Josh playing with his Scalextric track, sharing in a marvellous breakfast with the Roberts Clan, seeing Elaina lovingly place her doll into a new high chair for the doll, singing praises to Him whose birth we celebrate with other cherished fellow saints, opening more carefully selected gifts with the Henley Clan, enjoying a delicious Christmas dinner with them, guiding two (still overjoyed) children to bed and wishing them sweet dreams or indulging in some Doctor Who and a few goodies…
Merry Christmas to all – I hope your coming days are filled with as much joy. The joy and happiness of Christmas doesn’t have to just last for one day (although I think the volume of food is best for the one day) – it can be for everyday, it can last all year. 
You all make this possible – light the world in some small way and you will bring the spirit of Christmas each and every day 🙂

We’ll Ascend Together

This entry is based remarks on the talk given by Sister Linda K Burton in the recent General Conference ‘We’ll Ascend Together”. In her talk she speaks of the importance of the family, in particular the relationship between the husband and wife. I would like to focus on this relationship but also include the children within this family setting and their role in helping the whole family ascend together.

The world as we know it is in disarray. Countless concourses of people are tossed to and fro in chaos, looking for a sense of purpose and comfort in their lives. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we are in a very fortunate position. We have a great amount of knowledge about such deep and spiritual things that I think sometimes we forget just how fortunate we are. We know what we need to do to have peace and happiness in our lives.

On the other hand, we also know that Satan, the adversary of peace and happiness, does all he can to make all mankind suffer and become lost. Have we ever stopped to wonder why? After all, this Satan was once like we were, in that he was a spirit child of our Heavenly Father. We know that he decided that he required more though, in his own way and time. In rebelling against our Father in Heaven, Satan lost the opportunity to experience mortality. As a result he works ceaselessly to degrade us and our families. He has planted the lie that family, and the fundamental organisation of the family, are not necessary, that we can find happiness without family. In the last General Conference, Sister Linda K. Burton stated I plead with you not to listen to Satans lies! He has forfeited that sacred privilege of ever becoming a husband or father. Because he is jealous of those who have the sacred roles he will never fill, he is intent on making all men miserable like unto himself!

Is it any wonder that in today’s ever-changing world, the family is being attacked on all sides? Whether it’s the family as a concept or own individual families, Satan is mobilising all his efforts to rip the family apart. The list that could be given of active threats to the family is too long and disheartening to state at this moment but we are fully aware of them. As parents in Zion, it is vital for us to not only teach our children the principles of the Gospel but create a nurturing home which can be a place of refuge in the spiritual storm. As children in Zion, it is very important that we accept our role in making the home truly a heaven on Earth. Parents and children have a partnership and if they work together they can resist the oncoming march of Satan and his lies.

Parents

As I researched for this talk I came across a great list of quotes about family given by well-known people; people like CS Lewis, Walt Disney, Princess Diana and more. What was fantastic to see was that within this list there was a quote by Marjorie Pay Hinckley – wife of recent Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley – she said “Home is where you are loved the most and act the worst.” The sad thing about this thought is that I instantly felt bad – you know the feeling. Parents, do we act as polite and respectful of others at home as we do maybe in the workplace, or in public? As husbands or wives do we remember to apply the Proverb “A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1). We all have arguments with our family members and I’m no exception. There have been a number of times I’ve looked back over a discussion we’ve had and I wonder ‘Why didn’t I just let it go?’ – did me being right really matter that much? I’m sure we’ve all had those moments too! Couples who have been blessed with a temple marriage should be working towards a Celestial Marriage – and there is no contention in the Celestial Kingdom. Will we therefore agree completely in the eternities? Maybe not, but we will not contend with each other. Let’s get into that habit now.

As a people who have made life-changing covenants with Heavenly Father it is our duty to remember Christ and try to live a life that He would in all times, things and places – this includes, and probably applies most to, our own home. As I think of the role of parents in the home my mind refers straight back to my favourite passage in the Bible Dictionary under the entry for the Temple – it describes the Temple as “A place where the Lord may come, it is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth. Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.”

This thought surprised me when I first read it – can our homes REALLY compare to the Temple in sacredness? Can my home with Cheerios scattered across the living room floor from snack time, my home with books constantly finding their way on the floor, my home with little flecks of Playdoh all around the dining room table really compare to the Temple in holiness? Before deciding that goal was a little unrealistic for our young family I paused and thought about the significance of those items. All of these things (and more) show that our home is a place for nurturing, learning, playing and growing together. However messy until the children go to sleep (and then the same again the following day), it is indeed a special place and yes, a place where the Spirit of the Lord can be unrestrained, if we invite it to be there.

In the scriptures, we read of parents who taught their children well so that when they grew up they did not depart from the way they had been taught. From the very start of the Book of Mormon we learn the principle of righteous parenting – ‘I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents’ is often referred to as the most read line in the entire Book of Mormon. But it is a good line. It shows that Nephi was taught and that his parents were good. They must have taught their children well because Nephi did not just accept what his parents said but also went to find out for himself – in 1 Nephi 2:16 we read “…having great desires to know the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord and behold…he did soften my heart that I did believe the words which had been spoken by my father.”

I don’t know if you have noticed but did you spot the word ‘soften’. I had always, for some reason, pictured Nephi as this unquestioning, strictly obedient son to Lehi. Yet, here Nephi specifically says that his heart was softened, suggesting it was in a state that it needed to be softened. Yet, Lehi and Sariah must have taught their children how to receive an answer for themselves, otherwise why would Nephi know to pray to the Father? We would do well as parents or prospective parents to follow the example of Lehi and teach our children in a ‘goodly’ way, or, teach them the Gospel and how to find truth for themselves.

Does this mean that if our children decide to depart we have not taught them well? Of course not – look at Lehi’s other sons…

Children

At this stage I want to look now at a child’s role in make the home as sacred as the Temple. Parents do have a large responsibility to ensure that the home provides for temporal and spiritual needs, including regular FHE, prayer and scripture study. However, children play a vital role too.

At this stage it seems appropriate to share a thought I found by the great author Mark Twain about children in the home and how things are from their perspective – he said “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

If you are the child of a parent (which is all of us) I’m sure you have probably felt this or will encounter these feelings. But whether we are a child at home with our parents or moved away from our parents, we are and will forever be the children of our earthly parents (according to the great Plan of Redemption). This, surely, is why when Moses received the 10 great laws that would govern the Lord’s chosen people one of those ten was to ‘Honour thy father and thy mother…’. We will all need to uphold this law into the eternities…

However, children playing their part in the home extends to more than simply respecting their parents and doing what they ask, they can offer so much more. Our son Joshua, when he had just turned three years old, developed a habit of asking us the same question a lot – the question was “You happy?”. Every day, in the Roberts home, we are asked this very deep question “You happy?” Now, that question is adorable enough, but when you recognise that this question was not just restricted to his family at home to make the home a cheerier place it just gets even cuter. Random people who passed our family on the streets would be psychoanalysed by this 3 year old – “You happy?”. When out shopping decided which cereal to get – “You happy?”. The most surreal time has to be when we went swimming and I was with Josh in the changing rooms and one of the lifeguards was mopping the water from the floor nearby “…you happy?” Unfortunately this lifeguard didn’t look too happy but he had headphones in so he didn’t hear this invitation to reflect. Whilst I put this question across as a funny story, this question had a marvellous effect on us and the people who were asked – if we weren’t or the people we met didn’t seem happy…you can’t look into the bright green eyes of a cheerful three year old and say you’re not happy! Our three year old son, even though he probably didn’t recognise it at the time, was trying to make our home a happy place to be – we can truly learn from our children!

Children, currently at home or simply children by relation, can brighten up the home, or their older parents’ days, by your choices. Do we decide to shut ourselves away from our family or do we actively decide to spend time with them, ask how they are and build those eternal relationships? All of us, as children (again referring to all of us) are placed in a perfect position to make the home a heaven on earth; decide today to make the home a happy place.

The Storm will Continue

So, if we, as parents and children, decide together to work on protecting our home will we be completely weather proof from Satan’s storm. We do have to accept it will not be easy, but we can do it!

Understanding Isaiah – 2 Nephi 17

Verse 3 – “Then said the Lord unto Isaiah: Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou and Shearjashub thy son…” The name ‘Shearjashub’ means “remnant shall return”. This links well with Isaiah’s prophecies with the future of Israel.

Verse 7 – “Thus saith the Lord God: It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.” This highlights the finality of the word of the Lord. We must recognise that if we submit our will to His, He will bless us ultimately with what we need. In Proverbs 21:30 we read There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.” When we seek for answers to deep questions we have, we must remember the counsels and guidance of the Lord we have already received. This will help us.

Verse 14-15 – Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign—Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and to choose the good.” This seems appropriate considering the time which I’m posting this. I was intrigued by the phrase here with the butter and honey. How does this relate? The butter and honey refers to the humble circumstances in which the Saviour would be born on the Earth. Because of this humble beginning and His mortal existence, our Lord and Saviour would know how to support us all in our trials and times of difficulty.

Verse 21 – “And it shall come to pass in that day, a man shall nourish a young cow and two sheep;” Once again, this has links with the Assyrian destruction of the land. As a result, there was less providers to sustain and support the land. This can relate to today in numerous ways, as again was the purpose of including these prophecies in the Book of Mormon, to liken the scriptures unto us. A spiritual battle wages around for example and some will fall away. We must try and support and sustain as many around us.