NT 3: For Those Who Stumble

Last week for our daily scripture study I followed a suggestion to read 1 Samuel 2:1-10. Hannah’s experience is a wonderful parallel to both Elizabeth and Mary. The miraculous births provide a clear picture of God’s power, grace, and love. Hannah’s words of praise for God capture this so beautifully:

My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord…. There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee…. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength. They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven…. (1 Samuel 2:1, 2, 4, 5, OT)

I could hear the angel’s words to Mary echoing, “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37, NT).

We had already spoken so much about Zacharias and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, that I wanted to provide a summary lesson for the girls, something that would help them understand an important theme running through our week’s study. My imagination caught hold of verse 4, “they that stumbled.” I wanted to liken the scriptures to my kids and help them understand how God can work in our lives.

As I shared 1 Samuel, chapter 2 with my girls, I began by contextualizing the verses: Hannah was an old woman who had prayed for many years to have a son. I asked the kids, does this remind you of anyone else in the scriptures? They got the answer right away. She promised God that if He would bless her with a son, she would make sure he dedicated his life to serving God. Hannah’s son was born and he became the prophet Samuel. The kids remembered that Samuel was the prophet who anointed David to be king. She expressed her gratitude to God by praising Him and describing how He can do amazing things that seem impossible to the world.

I read verse 4 and suggested that we all stumble. We defined “stumble” and added that we all have weaknesses or difficulties in life that make it hard for us to do some things. But God will help us if we ask Him. I pulled out a 25 pound bag of rice and asked each of my kids in turn to carry it from one end of the kitchen to the other and back in a straight line. My three year old went first but only made it one length. I told her that when we ask God for help, He will answer. I took hold of one of the handles on the bag of rice and helped my daughter carry it back to the starting point.

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The scriptures came alive for my kids as we carried the bag of rice together back and forth across the kitchen. They were also able to make connections between different stories in the Bible. Now they have a reference point and beginning comprehension of an important theme that runs through so much of scripture: god can do anything, even the seemingly impossible. He will help us with our challenges if we make an effort and ask for His help.

Day 66: Gadianton Robbers

3 Nephi 2:11

The Gadianton robbers make a sudden and noteworthy reappearance in 3 Nephi 2. They had disappeared from The Book of Mormon narrative after “entrenching themselves in the land” (Helaman 11:26-33) but then didn’t reappear until 3 Nephi 2. It startled me today while reading to have the Gadianton robbers suddenly pop up as a powerful force that threatens to destroy both the Nephite and Lamanite societies.

[T]he Gadianton robbers had become so numerous, and did slay so many of the people, and did lay waste so many cities, and did spread so much death and carnage throughout the land, that it became expedient that all the people, both the Nephites and the Lamanites, should take up arms against them. (3 Nephi 2:11)

Do I have Gadianton robbers in my own life, I wondered? What things (e.g. influences, past misdeeds) lie dormant in my life that could gather strength and then surface when I reach a weak point in my obedience, spirituality, or mental/emotional/physical health? What evil influences have I allowed to infiltrate my life, however subtilely, that could undermine my peace of mind, my standing before God, my parenting and influence with my children, my ability to serve in the Church, my connection to God?

If I don’t tackle those “Gadianton robbers” now, they could become so entrenched in my life that I’ll have to work overtime to eradicate them. But just as The Book of Mormon teaches repeatedly, I don’t have to fight them relying on my strength alone. If I turn to the Lord, He will help me fight these battles, heal through repentance, and restore my personal equilibrium.

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.