D&C 5: Eyes Single to the Glory of God

Two months ago I came across the phrase “eye single to the glory of God” in the Doctrine and Covenants (cf. D&C 4, 27, 55, 59). It had been repeated several times in different sections and it finally impressed upon my mind that my children should understand its importance. I pondered first what the phrase means and then how I could present it in a way that my under-eight kids would understand. It has become increasingly important to me that they catch the vision of eternity.

At breakfast I set up a print of Christ in the Red Robe by Minerva Teichert to represent the glory of God. We reviewed Moses 1:39 (PoG) to provide a simple definition of the glory of God—achieving the “immortality and eternal life” of mankind. We discussed how Jesus Christ makes eternal life possible through His Atonement, death, and Resurrection. Once we established that background, we started our activity.

To help my kids understand “keeping an eye single to the glory of God,” I felt inspired to tie the phrase to their physical vision. I took two empty cereal boxes and cut small squares out of each bottom at a corner.

Each child took a turn holding the cereal boxes up to their eyes to look through the holes. With a box at each eye, they could see a lot of everything except the print of Christ/glory of God.

We talked about how the boxes split our vision, making it impossible to focus on the picture of Christ. We discussed what sorts of things we pay attention to that might distract us from God. My girls mentioned video and computer games, music, toys, television. I added in work, extracurricular activities, social engagements, food. And how many of these things compete for our attention on a daily basis?!

I brought the object lesson home by giving each child a second chance to look through one cereal box. (I flipped it so that they were looking from the open end to the hole in the bottom which nicely focused their vision.)

It was possible to see the print of Christ!

We ended our scripture study by reading from section 59 and discussing how we can keep our eyes single to the glory of God:

Behold, blessed, saith the Lord, are they who have come up unto this land with an eye single to my glory, according to my commandments.

For those that live shall inherit the earth, and those that die shall rest from all their labors, and their works shall follow them; and they shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for them.

Yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion, who have obeyed my gospel; for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength.

D&C 59:1-3 (emphasis added)

As we keep the commandments, make covenants with God, serve others, share the Gospel, live the Gospel, we focus our attention on Christ and being partners with Him to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39, PoG).

D&C 4: To run and not be weary

As I read Doctrine and Covenants section 24 last night and considered what to share with my kids for family scripture study, I honed in on the Come, Follow Me study guide suggestions to look at how the Lord lifts us up out of afflictions. I read through some of the suggested companion scriptures, spending a little extra time with Isaiah 40:28-31, OT. Years ago I “discovered” these verses towards the end of my mission. They perfectly encapsulated much of my mission experience waiting on the Lord, receiving His strength and being lifted up from some very challenging situations.

This morning with my kids we read in D&C 24:1 “I have lifted thee up out of thine afflictions…thou hast been delivered from thine enemies, and thou hast been delivered from the powers of Satan and from darkness!” We discussed some of many challenges Joseph Smith faced prior to and after organizing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830. Molly remembered that people tried to steal the gold plates from Joseph Smith and he was forced to hide them in and around his home. Joseph had to move his family several times to escape persecution while translating the Book of Mormon. When Joseph was in the middle of baptizing his wife and several others, he was arrested for preaching from the Book of Mormon.

I followed up by asking what afflictions or challenges we have faced as a family? I reminded Rachel of her experience in fall 2019 when she rode the bus to school from our friend’s house since I had to take Molly to preschool and couldn’t get back to our town to drop Rachel off at school on time. She was assigned a seat on the bus with two other girls who would push her off the seat. She wrote a note to me and my husband one day begging us to find a different way for her to get to school. Then one day she spontaneously prayed for help with her situation. Weeks passed and things got better. She remembers that she made some new friends which improved her situation. I suggested that the pandemic was also an answer to her prayer. We were running ourselves ragged getting Rachel to our friend’s house, Molly to preschool on time every morning, turning around to pick up Molly, and all without the daily help of my husband who was gone Monday through Thursday working. The sudden lockdown lifted us out of these challenges. We also discussed how sick I was while pregnant with Abigail in early 2020 but, after praying for help, the Lord lifted me (and our whole family) out of that affliction through proper hydration (you can read my blog post about this experience).

I testified of the blessings we received as we turned to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for help in the midst of our afflictions. We read together:

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31, Old Testament

I pointed out the conditional blessing expressed in verse 31: if we “wait upon the Lord,” He promises to bless us with renewed strength, that we will “mount up with wings as eagles,” run “and not be weary,” walk “and not faint.” For my children’s benefit I recalled how exhausted I was when I began my mission in the Netherlands in January 2009. It was freezing cold, dark, and windy every morning when my assigned companions (colleagues) insisted on running outdoors for our daily exercise. I was not prepared for this physically or in the way of accessories and only had a short sleeve athletic shirt and some thin, baggy jogging pants. Luckily I had also brought a junky sweatshirt that I wore every morning. After the morning run, we would ride our bikes and walk all day in skirts. I suffered from jet lag (and likely from dehydration as well); it wasn’t unusual for me fall asleep during the day if we were invited into a home to share a message or teach a lesson. I would crash in bed every night around 9:30/10:00 pm, then I would wake up at 6:00 am and do it all over again. I waited on the Lord, praying for relief and placing my life in His hands, as I struggled through these challenges. He gave me strength to push through the difficulties: He lifted me out of bed and helped me run every morning, He gave me energy to crisscross the city on my feet and bike every day, and He brought me back to our apartment in one piece every night. By the end of the transfer (six week period), I could sing while biking and I had even improved my running time (my senior companion was keeping track). I know that the blessings the Lord promised through the prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago were fulfilled for me.

No matter the afflictions you face right now, if you will wait upon the Lord, He will lift you and strengthen you.

D&C 3: What’s in a name?

A few weeks ago as I listened to Doctrine and Covenants sections 10-18, I kept hearing the word “name” over and over again. (Maybe it was because I kept replaying the sections after I realized I had gotten lost in thought.) But “name” and individual’s names appear frequently in these sections.

D&C 10:61 “And I will bring to light their marvelous works, which they did in my name….”
D&C 11:30 “But verily, verily, I say unto you, that as many as receive me, to them will I give power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on my name.”
D&C 13:1 “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron….”
D&C 14:8 “…if you shall ask the Father in my name, in faith believing, you shall receive the Holy Ghost….”
D&C 18 “Name” occurs 16 times in the printed text. These three verses arrested my attention:

And as many as repent and are baptized in my name, which is Jesus Christ, and endure to the end, the same shall be saved. Behold, Jesus Christ is the name which is given of the Father, and there is none other name given whereby man can be saved; Wherefore, all men must take upon them the name which is given of the Father, for in that name shall they be called at the last day….

D&C 18:22–24 (emphasis added)

This became the subject of pondering. I am always intensely interested in topics of identity and personhood, nomenclature and etymology. The theme of names and naming in the scriptures has a lot of depth to explore that I would like to discuss with my kids eventually but, for the present, I managed to narrow it down sufficiently to a somewhat focused Family Home Evening lesson two weeks ago.

I began by simply introducing the topic of names and what it means for a name to become associated with characteristics or qualities. On our easel I wrote the word “Daddy” and asked the girls to call out the first words that came to their minds. They said things like “entertaining,” “warm,” “fun,” “tickle,” “giggly.” (I think my husband suggested “smelly.”) We repeated the activity with the word “baby” and then with a specific member of our family to nudge their thinking in the scriptural direction I wanted to take them. (They loved this activity, by the way, and would have happily spent time going through the exercise for every member of our family.)

Then I wrote the name “Jesus Christ” on our board and asked everyone to call out the first words that came to their minds.

While writing the words on the board that everyone came up with, we had a good discussion about why we associate certain words and characteristics with Jesus. We also read D&C 18:22–24. I encouraged my kids to reflect on what they would like to be known for: if someone hears their name, will that person think of love, compassion, sacrifice, bravery? We reflected on the baptismal covenant that our oldest daughter made at her baptism in January, which includes taking the name of Christ upon herself (as mentioned in D&C 18:24). As we take Christ’s name upon us, will our behavior and actions reflect His character and influence upon us? I expressed my hope that as we each follow Jesus Christ our names will become synonymous with His.

D&C 2: Martin Harris Reflections

Last year I learned that Martin and Lucy Harris’s ancestral home was modern day Lincoln, Rhode Island—that’s right near me! Today I took my family on a field trip to view the Harris Family Burial Ground which volunteers have been renovating for almost a year. Join me on a short tour of the burial ground and learn a little more about Martin Harris’s family background.

Click here to see the video on YouTube.

Now as concerns the reading this week in Doctrine and Covenants sections 3-5, I find it fascinating how God so willingly works with us as partners in His Plan of Salvation. He is patient and loving. But when we don’t do our part or follow through on our promises, we may just lose the partnership. It’s been an important lesson for me to simply do what God asks and not stress that my weaknesses will somehow mess up God’s plan. The other great lesson is that I need to value and care for the partnering opportunities God gives me whether it is cultivating my marriage, raising my children, or serving my fellow women and men.

Martin Harris was promised that if he repented and renewed his commitment to obedience and the Book of Mormon manuscript disaster, he could once again partner in the work of the Restoration. And God was merciful! Martin Harris eventually became one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon and signed his name to the testimony of its divine origins, its translation by Joseph Smith through the gift and power of God, and it’s signaling the Restoration of priesthood keys, ordinances and church organization, all under the direction of Jesus Christ. Despite his weaknesses, Martin Harris did not mess up the Lord’s plan. Rather, he was once again entrusted with sacred responsibilities. He was able to participate in and contribute to the marvelous work of publishing the Book of Mormon and establishing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

BoM 10: Taking Responsibility

In the past when I’ve read Alma 31 I’ve always found it a little insulting that Alma tells the poor, humbled Zoramites that they would be better off if they chose to be humble. This time around I wanted to better understand why Alma highlights a value difference between being compelled to be humbled and choosing to be humble.

And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word?

Alma 32:14, BoM

As I pondered the intent of Alma’s initial words to the poor Zoramites I realized that, far from trying insult them, Alma is actually extending an invitation for the people to look beyond the life that has been forced upon them and take action available to them to find truth and a spiritual life in God.

Before launching into what has become a classic Gospel analogy, Alma tells the group of poor Zoramites that their knowledge of eternal truth “shall be unto every man according to his work” (Alma 32:20, BoM). Upon this reading, that phrase struck me as an invitation to be teachable and actively learn about God. Then Alma presents his analogy comparing the word of God to a seed. When planted in fertile ground (desire to believe) and properly nourished with belief and religious practice, the word of God will take root, strengthen faith, and begin manifesting good fruit, which will result in the development of personal knowledge of truth. 

Alma and Amulek’s message culminates in a powerful testimony of the coming Savior. They have already established a beautiful groundwork for the progression of desire, belief, faith, and knowledge and Amulek brings the lesson full circle, citing the knowledge that he has gained about salvation as well as reiterating the steps the people can take to build their own knowledge of the truth: 

Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world….

…and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea infinite and eternal.

And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name….

Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren, that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance….

Alma 34:8, 14, 15, 17, BoM

This is the point of Christian belief, to exercise faith in Christ to repentance and eventual salvation. What Amulek and Alma make clear for the poor Zoramites is that they can choose to pursue this work on their own, in their families, even when a house of worship is not available to them. As long as they humble themselves by opening their hearts to the word of God and being teachable, they can work out their salvation in partnership with Christ.

BoM 9: This great joy

The story of Lamoni’s father really gave me pause this time studying the Book of Alma. My haphazard Come, Follow Me study with my kids led me to highlight his story. I’m struck by his “astonishment” and his stewing or disquiet over his confrontation with Ammon and Lamoni (see Alma 20:27; 22:3, BoM). What is it that makes the king over the whole Land of Nephi want to understand what Lamoni has learned from Ammon, that has completely changed Lamoni? I think the answer is discomfort. Suddenly the king who was satisfied with his power and wealth and living a very comfortable life doubts his identity and place in the world, so much so that he offers his entire kingdom to Aaron as a desperate attempt to get answers, to try to relieve the discomfort (Alma 22:15, BoM).

In some ways Aaron’s teaching initially increases the king’s discomfort. The Fall is a story of displacement: Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God establishes the conditions of mortality for their descendants, the entire human race. These are conditions of separation from God’s presence, toil to survive, disease and death. But Aaron quickly presents the solution to the King’s sense of displacement and the displacement of the human family: Jesus Christ, the Savior, will come to earth and be a living sacrifice to reconcile mankind to God, to make repentance possible, to bring us back into God’s presence where we belong (Alma 22:13-14, BoM). Lamoni’s father embraces this truth readily because he first understood the pain of displacement. He desired a solution and recognized that the true resolution was more important than any worldly comforts to which he was accustomed:

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.

Alma 22:15, BoM

Do we feel the loss of God’s presence deeply enough? Do we fear enough the potential permanent separation from God if we don’t repent and follow Christ? I am not a doom and gloom Christian but I do see how getting caught up in modern comforts, entertainment, and/or wealth can completely obscure the reality of human life and our collective spiritual destiny. The joy that Lamoni’s father experiences upon accepting Christ as his Savior and Redeemer can inspire us all to seek greater understanding of our purpose here on earth and to receive the great joy promised to all God’s children who follow Jesus Christ.

BoM 8: Personal Testimony, Personal Responsibility

One of the Come, Follow Me prompts for last week’s study of Mosiah 25-28 suggested that we discuss the importance of taking responsibility for our own testimonies. Chapter 26 identifies “the rising generation,” those who were children at the end of King Benjamin’s reign, did not understand his teachings and did not make the covenant along with their parents, and who chose not to believe and not to be baptized as they grew older. (See Mosiah 26:1-2, BoM.) Testimony, or belief, is the foundation for participation in a faith community.

Another great word for testimony is conviction. The older generation who, under King Benjamin, entered into a covenant with God to believe in Christ and take His name upon them, were convinced of the truth of King Benjamin’s words (see Mosiah 5:2-7, BoM). This conviction led them to behave in ways consistent with the teachings of their king and the diverse group of people became unified under the covenant. They had peace in their land, they welcomed strangers to join their community, they worked hard to serve each other. Each person who had made the covenant honored it individually and as a community of believers.

Years ago I sat in an ecclesiastical endorsement interview with my Bishop so that I could attend a church university. My bishop asked me to share my testimony. I shared typical statements of belief: I know the Church is true, I know Joseph Smith was the prophet of the Restoration, I know Jesus Christ lives, etc. When I finished, my bishop unforgettably stated, “that’s nice. That is a very simple testimony.” The paternalism dripping from these words offended me deeply. What’s wrong with my testimony, I fumed to myself? It’s a sincere testimony!

About six years later I discovered what my bishop meant. As I suffered through the first months of my mission, with my self-construct crumbling, facing rejection every day and feeling very isolated among colleagues who didn’t know or love me, I had to learn to rely on a personage who I believed in and whose existence I felt certain of, but with whom I had never had “real” experience.

You see, it turned out that I had been living the Gospel in a vacuum, following the teachings of the Church and keeping commandments in carefully controlled settings that presented almost no challenges to me or to my faith. I grew up in a sheltered home, was oblivious to many things in high school that could have given me some real life experience, attended a Church university where it was easy to keep Church standards and follow Church teachings, and then lived with my grandmother while I worked and prepared for my mission. Each situation certainly had its own challenges, but none of those challenges constituted the sort of rich environment that allows for deep testimony development or growth. I lived the Gospel but with very little opposition. Without realizing that I had created a controlled environment for myself, I made internal claims as to having overcome various personal weaknesses. In reality I hadn’t actually overcome anger management problems, I had only removed myself from situations that caused flare ups. I didn’t actually love other people like Christ does—I just created an environment for myself in which I could associate with people when and where I wanted to and love from a distance.

All of that changed on my mission where I was suddenly forced to live in an environment completely out of my control. I begged God to help me get out of the worst of the situations and then I developed a bitterness against Him for not removing the challenges. This was my first real experience grappling with faith and testimony. Did God really exist if I couldn’t feel His presence? Did He really exist if He didn’t answer my prayers right way or in the manner I expected?

As I endured and tried to process the various experiences of my mission, I began to learn profound truths about the nature of testimony and what it takes to truly believe, to be convinced and change one’s behavior to be consistent with those convictions. King Benjamin’s people became so convinced of their lost and fallen state—they felt that truth deeply—that they begged for a solution. They believed in Christ because they also felt deeply the truth that only He could save them. (See Mosiah 4:1-3, BoM.)

In my darkest moments as a missionary I relied on the basic “simple” truths I had learned as a teenager: Christ exists. I found a deeper connection to Him in my anguish and built personal strength to believe regardless of my circumstances. I learned how the Atonement is supposed to work in helping us change our “natural wo/man” tendencies to godly characteristics and behaviors—it’s a painful process that cannot happen in a vacuum! I needed opposition (2 Nephi 2:11, BoM) to challenge me, to allow me to confront my weaknesses and, with Christ’s help, practice behaving in better ways until my heart could be changed and I could “naturally” behave in godly ways; in other words, have my nature changed.

I experienced a new facet of God’s grace as part of this testimony-building experience. For several months on my mission my behavior towards my companions was nothing short of despicable. My self-construct or false identity was gone and I began behaving in my most “natural” way; it turned out that a really mean and judgmental person had been lurking beneath my façade (see Mosiah 3:19, BoM). Despite my awful behavior, however, I experienced how deeply Christ loved me and desired my improvement. He blessed me continuously with powerful experiences ministering to local members and investigators, He magnified my singing voice to touch people’s hearts, He helped me and my companions teach in unity with the Spirit, He saw the unspoken righteous desires of my heart and answered them in subtle and meaningful ways. I didn’t deserve any of it—I recognized that all too clearly—but the patience and love with which Christ ministered to me helped me begin changing my heart. As I experienced the power and depth of Christ’s love for every single person on Earth I began to see others with new eyes.

So, while I “knew” as a young person that God is real and that Jesus Christ is my Savior, I did not have the experiential knowledge that makes for a deep or multi-faceted testimony. Not until I followed spiritual promptings to serve a mission and had to take responsibility for my spiritual life, did I begin to build true conviction.

The message I most wanted to share with my children this week is the importance of taking responsibility for their personal testimonies. We discussed different experiences they could have as children that will help them build their testimonies. I can teach them simple Gospel truths, simple enough that they can understand (see Mosiah 26:1, BoM); but I also need to invite them to take action to find out for themselves if and how those principles are true and what that truth means for them. This is the locus of belief or faith.

As a parent I want to create a safe environment in which my children can learn and grow in both secular and spiritual knowledge, but I also want them to have significant life experiences earlier than I did that will help them build deep and abiding convictions in God’s literal existence, His awareness of them, the worth of souls, and Jesus Christ’s infinite love and ability to help us all become exalted individuals and families.

BoM 7: Unity in Christ

King Benjamin’s sermon is one of my favorite passages of scripture. I have held several formal leadership positions over the years and now as a mother especially I really admire and value King Benjamin’s selflessness, compassion, and love for his people. And his amazing success in uniting a diverse society is undeniable.

For Family Home Evening the week we studied King Benjamin’s sermon (Mosiah 2-5, BoM) I wanted to help my children embrace difference and understand the powerful way in which King Benjamin united his people. To do this I borrowed an idea from a lesson plan a missionary companion and I developed about 11 years ago to teach some of our friends who were getting baptized. We used heart shaped necklaces with the name of Christ written on them to discuss the baptismal covenant as found in Mosiah 18, BoM.

The goal of my FHE lesson was to have each person identify as different from everybody else and, through the scriptural narrative, reveal how we can become unified. To establish each individual in our home as a separate entity, I cut out construction paper hearts with a different color for each person. I wrote each person’s name on a heart. On the back of each heart I glued a matching red heart with the name of Christ written on it. To start the lesson I handed out the necklaces to each family member to wear with their name facing out, careful not to reveal the matching red backs.

I began by narrating King Benjamin’s struggles as a leader of a diverse society. He was king of a group of Nephites who had joined with an older society of Mulekites. A small group had headed off to seek new lands and was never heard from again which resulted in some social disturbance among the core group at Zarahemla. At the end of his reign, King Benjamin made a final effort to reinforce unity among his people.

My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.

Mosiah 2:9, BoM

King Benjamin taught his gathered people about the reality of God’s existence, the nature of life on earth, and the prophecies of a coming Savior. He helped them understand their relationship to God and the need each individual has for redemption. He testified boldly and invited the people to repent and keep the commandments. The response of the people is astounding to me:

O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men….

Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

Mosiah 4:2; 5:2, BoM

King Benjamin invited the people to enter a covenant and use a new name to signify their acceptance of that two-way promise with God:

…the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant. And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.

…There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.

Mosiah 5:6-7, BoM

Taking the name of Christ upon us

In our lesson I instructed everyone to turn over their necklaces to reveal the matching hearts with Christ’s name written on them.

The result of King Benjamin’s sermon and invitation was social unity. By writing the name of Christ on their hearts the people began to see each other with new eyes, as brothers and sisters with common goals, as essential parts of a whole community, as individuals whose welfare and happiness contributed to the overall harmony of their collective society. And the people lived in peace.

BoM 5: Boundless Mercy and Blessings, Likening the Scriptures

Tonight for Family Home Evening we tackled 2 Nephi 26. I was taken with the quote from Joseph Smith in one of the suggested study subtopics from Come, Follow Me for this week, that God is “more ‘boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive’ (The Joseph Smith Papers, “History, 1838–1856, volume D-1,” p. 4 [addenda], josephsmithpapers.org).” My kids wanted to make Muddy Buddies as well so I considered if there was a ready way to liken the scriptures and use the treat-making as an object lesson. And I hit on something great!

We started by reading the quote from Joseph Smith and discussed what “boundless” means in context. We defined what it means to have boundaries and then talked about how Jesus has no limits on His love, mercy, or the blessings He wants to share with us. We read 2 Nephi 26:20-22 to lay the groundwork for our thinking about boundless love and mercy. I paraphrased a little, asking if the people described in those verses are making good choices or bad choices. Once we established that they’re making bad choices, we moved on to Nephi’s exclamations about the love of Jesus Christ for “the world” (all people in the world, I clarified) (see v. 23-33). I used our easel to summarize ways in which God is merciful as described by Nephi in the verses.

My narration helped them connect the fact that God loves everyone and wants to bless everyone, even if they’re making bad choices. Mercy comes into play as God blesses us even when by many standards we don’t seem to be deserving. My kids really got this as I asked whether they always make good choices. Does Jesus still love you when you make bad choices? I asked them. YES! They exclaimed.

I felt it was important to add a final note (like Nephi) about obedience. All God asks from us is to be obedient to His commandments. Nephi lists out many of them but I just wanted to touch on this essential component.

Then we began on the Muddy Buddies….

I explained that we’re kind of like the cereal—a little plain, tasty but nothing special. Jesus, however, wants us to be our best selves possible and offers us many different ways to achieve greatness (in my narration, “to become more delicious”). The kids took turns adding ingredients which I simultaneously wrote into our existing list, discussing with the kids as I went.

At one point I asked the kids what ingredient we should add next. My oldest suggested chocolate. I asked, “how do you know to add chocolate?” When she finally got to, “we need to follow the recipe,” I brought us back to obedience. God offers us unlimited mercy, continually inviting us to repent and come to Jesus to “buy milk and honey without price.” He freely offers magnificent blessings, but we have to follow His recipe as found in the scriptures and taught in His Restored Church to receive the greatest blessing of all—eternal life.

The girls were pretty quiet by the end—yes, they were eating Muddy Buddies hand over fist—but they were also attentive as I closed the lesson and testified of the importance of following God’s “recipe” for a happy and, eventually, eternal life. A basic understanding of mercy (we defined this as unlimited love for and desire to help/bless someone even if they’re making bad choices) seemed to click. I hope they caught a glimpse of the Savior’s boundless love for each of them.

*No promotional considerations were made in writing this post. (It is simply hard to separate the cereal from its iconic recipe.)

BoM 4: Scattered…but Not Forgotten

Towards the end of 1 Nephi we see a really tender moment between Nephi and his older brothers. Lehi’s family has just arrived in the promised land, everyone is getting settled and Nephi resumes his record keeping and Gospel instruction. In the process of reciting details prophesied about the anticipated Messiah’s earthly appearance, Nephi mentions the scattering of Israel. This would be a poignant moment for Nephi and his brothers: they belong to Israel but God commanded their family to separate themselves from Israel and take a harrowing journey to a new land. They have become part of the prophesied “scattered Israel.”

As I read about Israel being scattered across the isles of the sea, I realized how that must have sounded to Lehi’s children—the isles of the sea were probably the most remote and desolate places they could imagine; it might be roughly equivalent to someone saying “Mars” or “Jupiter” today. Lehi’s family was now completely cut off from everything familiar and comfortable, with no chance of getting “home” back.

But Nephi’s message, and the tender moment, looks ahead to the future of their children and grandchildren down to our present day when God has promised that He will remember the isles of the sea and gather Israel again.

Nevertheless, when that day cometh, saith the prophet, that they no more turn aside their hearts against the Holy One of Israel, then will he remember the covenants which he made to their fathers. Yea, then will he remember the isles of the sea; yea, and all the people who are of the house of Israel, will I gather in, saith the Lord, according to the words of the prophet Zenos, from the four quarters of the earth.

1 Nephi 19:15-16, BoM

Nephi’s message of hope in covenants, Christ, and the love of God doesn’t seem to be lost on his brothers—they end up asking more questions in order to better understand the prophecies. (See 1 Nephi 22, BoM.)

How often do we feel separated from “home” or like we’ve been “scattered on the isles of the sea”? Sometimes we feel like heaven has gone quiet. Sometimes our own choices have led us off the covenant path and away from God. Some of us wonder if we could ever find a way back or if God will even be aware of us anymore. But His promise to the ancient Israelites holds true for all of God’s children. He does remember us. No matter how far we’ve gone we are always within God’s reach. “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7, NT).

No matter how distanced we feel from heaven, God is always able and willing to close the gap and gather us back to Him.