NT 7: Temptation, Mortality, and Hope

img_2650I made bread today. This is my late grandma’s recipe and every bite brings a wave of nostalgia. And it’s just really, really delicious bread.

Today I studied the temptation of Christ following His forty-day fast in the wilderness (cf. Matthew 4:1-11, NT and Luke 4:1-13, NT). The temptations Jesus experienced seem to reveal a pattern of human frailty: physical hunger, desire for control over life and death, and lust for power over external things and people. If we have Christ’s perspective of the reality of earth life and eternity, that perspective quickly exposes Satan’s lies about the supposed importance of satiating physical hunger at the expense of more important things, his lies about mortal ability to control anything, and his lies about the need for “power.” Satan knows mortal weakness, though, and knows just how to get us.

Like today. Some of the “magic” I have felt the last few weeks has rubbed off and I’m left to my own strength again; left to fight those temptations that are uniquely mine. But are those temptations only mine? Going on the strength of 1 Corinthians 10:13, maybe our temptations and sufferings really aren’t that unique. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man…” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NT). If temptations fall into a pattern of human frailty, maybe our temptations and sufferings aren’t that different from people around us.

We sometimes wonder if Christ really did experience every pain, affliction, sorrow that every person on earth has ever or will ever experience. The conceit of suffering suggests that no one can know, no one can possibly fathom just how difficult this temptation or challenge really is. The conceit of suffering also convinces us that if no one has experienced exactly what we’re going through, then no one can possibly help. And we effectively cut off the only real source of comfort, help, and healing that exists: Jesus.

He really did experience EVERY pain, sorrow, affliction, sickness, disappointment, temptation (Alma 7:11-12, BoM). He KNOWS. He understands what we’re going through. He wants to help. If we acknowledge His prior experience and accept His knowledge, we can open ourselves to help, healing, and change.

As for my temptations today, I don’t know if Jesus had any of His own kids to yell at, but He did experience mortality and I believe that He understands (at the very least) the weakness at the heart of my temptation to yell. He provided “an escape” for me several weeks ago (when I didn’t yell at my kids for a whole week!) and He can help me learn how to overcome my weakness, stop giving into temptation, and change my behavior to something more godly.

Day 30: Trusting in the Lord

Mosiah 21-24

There is so much to admire in Alma the elder who risked his life to try and save Abinadi, then defied King Noah to teach the Gospel, and eventually become a prophet in turn. Mosiah 23-24 present a neat parallel to Mosiah 21-22. These chapters compare how Alma’s people deal with the same challenges as Limhi’s people, both groups having become client kingdoms in servitude to the Lamanites. Where Limhi’s people feared the Lamanites and tried to fight their way out of bondage, Alma’s people replaced their fear of man with trust in the Lord, prayers for help, and patience in His plan.

Nine and a half years ago my mission companions and I created a lesson based on Mosiah 24:13-16. The message really touched our friend (for whom we originally planned the lesson): she identified with Alma’s people in bondage (she was in advanced schooling at the time and studying for a difficult exam), and felt strengthened by their example of faith in God, the promise of eventual deliverance, and the help God provided in the midst of their trial while waiting for the right timing.

What I really want to share, though, is that as our week progressed, we taught this lesson no less than four other times in different appointments. It seemed everyone we met with needed this message that week! I have seen this happen in other settings where multiple people I know are going through the same or similar difficulties at the same time. But I also want to highlight the universality of the challenges explored in Mosiah 21-24. So much of mortality is a fight against bondage. Our spirits are in bondage to sin, our mortal bodies are predisposed to doing things that create additional scenarios of bondage/limitation of freedom. My takeaway from Mosiah 21-24 is that I can either rely on my own strength to free myself (like Limhi’s people), or I can ask God for help and trust in His mercy and timing (like Alma’s people). Both groups were eventually freed but Alma’s group shines in their faith, patience, attitude, and the comparative ease with which they succeeded––all because they trusted in God and waited for Him to work His miracles.

Day 7: Patience and Timing

1 Nephi 18:8-23

Nephi, ever stalwart, records in 1 Nephi 18:23 that “after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land.” The preceding verses tell of the family’s embarkation and the beginning of their journey to the promised land. The Liahona shows Nephi where to steer, they have plenty of provisions, and everything is going well, fair weather and all. But then Laman and Lemuel stir things up, eventually getting mad enough at Nephi that they tie him up. Bad weather engulfs the ship and the Liahona stops working. After four days of tempest tossed seas, Laman and Lemuel finally release Nephi.

In the midst of this family drama at sea, and even while tied up in a lot of pain, Nephi maintains his faith and trust in God: “I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions” (v. 16). I remember years ago when God made me a promise at the outset of my mission that everything in my life would work out afterwards. Everything working out was my promised land. And even though I could literally count the days until then, I couldn’t have fathomed what lay between the delivery of the promise and its fulfillment. I in no way anticipated the challenges of those months, thinking and then wishing that I had already finished and reached my promised land.

Nephi’s perspective is so much healthier (temporally and spiritually) than mine was. Where I felt a tremendous amount of bitterness and impatience, Nephi felt gratitude and trust. Where I asked “why me?”, Nephi prayed for his oppressors and for the power of God to be made manifest. It will always be true that when the Lord makes a promise, He will fulfill it in His time. It is up to us to live worthy of the fulfillment no matter what challenges or length of time lies between.