Saturday, November 14, 2015

Lehi's Vision in Today's World

One of my favorite stories from the Book of Mormon is Lehi's Vision of the tree of life (1 Nephi Chapter 8).  In this vision Lehi sees many symbols that represent the importance of staying close to the gospel.  Over in chapter 11 we read about when his son, Nephi, is allowed to see the vision for himself and is given the interpretation to the things that he saw.

Lehi sees a tree "whose fruit was desirable to make one happy" (representing the love of God). Or, as Elder Bednar said in the October 2011 conference, "The fruit on the tree is a symbol for the blessings of the Atonement. Partaking of the fruit of the tree represents the receiving of ordinances and covenants whereby the Atonement can become fully efficacious in our lives."

Photo of stained glass depiction of Lehi's vision from LDS Conference Center taken from
Shannon Brown's blog, Find Joy in the Journey Here

Lehi also sees a rod of iron that extended along the bank of the river, leading to the tree.  (This, we are told, represents the word of God.)  There is  straight and narrow path along this rod of iron.  Some of the people in the vision, including Nephi and Sam and Sariah,  take hold of the iron rod, follow the path and go directly to the tree where they partake of the fruit.  Others, including his older sons Laman and Lemuel, do not follow the path.   They go a different direction.  Lehi sees other people who start out on the path, holding to the rod.  But somewhere along the way they become distracted, falling away, getting lost in the mists of darkness.

Lehi goes on to describe seeing a large and spacious building (representing the pride of the world) in which there are many people in fine apparel who are in an attitude of mocking, pointing fingers and laughing at the people who are on the path to the tree.  Some of those who managed to make it all the way to the tree and eat the fruit afterward were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing them.  Because of this, some fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.   Still others were making their way to join the great and spacious building.

"Lehi's Dream" By: Damir Krivenko of Russia found on Pinterest Here

Recently there has been a great deal of controversy in social media and in various blogs about a change in the LDS handbook of instruction for leaders regarding how to respond to those in same-sex relationships and council about their children.

Currently there is a huge furor among some, claiming the leaders of the church are promoting unreasonable discrimination.   More than ever before I have felt that the "large and spacious building" is luring people away from the tree.

The Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled that marriage between same sex partners will be legal in all states.  Regardless of the laws of the land, the Church maintains that marriage is ordained of God to be between a man and a woman.  In the recently updated Handbook 1 the Church defined homosexual relationships to be apostasy requiring church disciplinary court and stated that the children of same-sex couples should not be baptized or advanced in the priesthood until they are of legal age.  Although the Church made efforts to clarify this position as one intended to protect young people from being put in the difficult position of conflict between loyalty to their parents and loyalty to the gospel (see Elder Christstopherson's statement HERE ) many people reacted to the news of the policy change with hurt, anger, and in some cases have chosen to leave the Church over this issue.

While it is not unusual to hear attacks on Church policy or practice from people outside the church, this case brought a tremendous amount of wavering from people who were long time members.  People I know and love were questioning whether or not they could support this and some were seeing it as reason to doubt whether our leaders were truly prophets at all.

As the world increasingly moves further and further away from the teachings of Jesus Christ and the revealed word of Heavenly Father, it will become harder and harder for many to stay true to the covenants they have made.   Now more than ever it is critical that we follow the council of Elder Kevin W. Pearson, President of the Pacific Area from his April 2015 conference talk:

I don't always fully understand or feel comfortable with every statement or rule the Church comes out with.  But this I know for sure - The Book of Mormon in true.  Joseph Smith really did see Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in that famous vision in Palmyra, New York in 1820. The Atonement of Christ is real.  The covenants we make in temples are essential to our eternal progression.  We are led by true prophets today.  I believe these things with all my heart.

So, whenever there is some new statement that I may feel uncertain about,  I can go back to the talk by Dieter Uchtdorf who made very clear that doubts and questions are key ways that lead to truth.  "Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony".

I have a firm testimony of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  But that does not mean I understand every piece.

One of my favorite scriptures is Mosiah 4:9 which says:
"Believe in God;  believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all things which the Lord can comprehend."    (Emphasis added).

I feel sad for those who will allow their doubts to carry them away from what they once knew to be true.  My goal  in life is to ALWAYS stay by the tree.

I love the words of Jeffrey Holland, who also spoke of Lehi's Vision as it applies to the world today:

I know there will indeed be "Mists of Darkness" that will make it difficult to discern what path to follow.  I know that the pride and opinions of the world will ridicule those who choose to stand firmly on the path that leads to Christ.  But I also know that by holding firmly to the word of  God by continued intentional prayer and scripture study, I can find peace - no matter how disruptive and chaotic the world around me may be.

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