Observations on two simple passages

Observations on two simple passages May 5, 2024


Our first scene. last
On the “Six Days in August” set in Tennessee, from left to right: James Jordan (1st AD/Producer), Brandon Christensen (DP), Mark Goodman (Writer/Director/Producer), Russell Richins (Producer/BTS). Prepping the stagecoach.  (Photo by Jason Allred)

My wife noticed something this morning in one of our readings for today’s “Come, Follow Me” lesson.  Here is the relevant passage:

11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.  (Mosiah 4)

It’s a small thing, I suppose, but I found her observation interesting, and I had missed it:  In Mosiah 4:11, the phrase is “tasted of his love.”  It seems to refer to an early stage in a life of faith.  However, Mosiah 4:12, the next verse, which is describing the condition of those who have lived faithful lives, speaks of being “filled with the love of God.”  That’s subtle, but I don’t think it’s unimportant.

Ted Bushman playing Wilford Woodruff — as sound, grip, electric, production, and camera teams prep stagecoach on the process trailer for shooting the opening scenes atop the stage.

The second passage wasn’t in today’s reading, but it’s one that first struck me many years ago:

39 And thus ended the thirty and first year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi; and thus they had had wars, and bloodsheds, and famine, and affliction, for the space of many years.

40 And there had been murders, and contentions, and dissensions, and all manner of iniquity among the people of Nephi; nevertheless for the righteous’ sake, yea, because of the prayers of the righteous, they were spared.

41 But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.  (Alma 62)

My particular focus is on Alma 62:41, where, after a long period of brutal wars that caused a great deal of death and destruction, the text says that, “behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened.”  This is scarcely surprising, of course.  The pointless and protracted suffering caused by the First World War led, I’m told, to a significant decline in European religious belief, and I myself spoke with more than a few men on my mission and in the years shortly thereafter who regarded the Second World War as a lethal argument against belief in God.  (I well recall a Viennese taxi driver who contended that, had there been a God, the 20 July Plot — of 1944, famously led by Claus von Stauffenberg and depicted in the 2008 movie Valkyrie — would have succeeded in assassinating Adolf Hitler.)

Intriguingly, though, the text also says that “many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.”

The point is that outward circumstances were the same for both those whose hearts were “hardened” and those whose hearts were “softened.”  This suggests that outward circumstances don’t dictate our responses.  Rather, we choose how to respond to setbacks, defeats, struggles, disappointments, losses, and sorrows.  We can allow our hearts to be hardened, or we can choose that our hearts be softened.

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Behind the scenes moment (L to R) with Rhett Fernsten (gaffer), James Jordan (1st AD), and Mark Goodman (writer/director).

This Deseret News article by Samuel Wilkinson caught my attention:  “Want to be happy? Try helping other people: The author of ‘Purpose’ explains the benefits of helping others, with no thought of reward.”  I’ve just begun reading Professor Wilkinson’s new book, Purpose: What Evolution and Human Nature Imply About the Meaning of Our Existence.  So far, it looks very promising indeed.

The oxen wrangler, Aaron Troyer, with his team, Chubb and Charlie. These very powerful oxen each stand about 5’5”. (Photo by Jason Allred).

And I’m eagerly looking forward to this book, written by Sebastian Junger:  In My Time of Dying: How I Came Face to Face with the Idea of an Afterlife

A near-fatal health emergency leads to this powerful reflection on death—and what might follow—by the bestselling author of Tribe and The Perfect Storm.
For years as an award-winning war reporter, Sebastian Junger traveled to many front lines and frequently put his life at risk. And yet the closest he ever came to death was the summer of 2020 while spending a quiet afternoon at the New England home he shared with his wife and two young children. Crippled by abdominal pain, Junger was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Once there, he began slipping away. As blackness encroached, he was visited by his dead father, inviting Junger to join him. “It’s okay,” his father said. “There’s nothing to be scared of. I’ll take care of you.” That was the last thing Junger remembered until he came to the next day when he was told he had suffered a ruptured aneurysm that he should not have survived.
This experience spurred Junger—a confirmed atheist raised by his physicist father to respect the empirical—to undertake a scientific, philosophical, and deeply personal examination of mortality and what happens after we die. How do we begin to process the brutal fact that any of us might perish unexpectedly on what begins as an ordinary day? How do we grapple with phenomena that science may be unable to explain? And what happens to a person, emotionally and spiritually, when forced to reckon with such existential questions?
In My Time of Dying is part medical drama, part searing autobiography, and part rational inquiry into the ultimate unknowable mystery.

6DIA opening scene
“Four-up” stagecoach team, with safety riders Ron Neal (behind) and Phil Drennan (in a still photo by Jason Allred)

Just a reminder:  The 2024 annual FAIR conference, FAIR and Valiant Voices: United in Faith, will be held on Thursday, 8 August, and Friday, 9 August at the American Heritage School in Salt Lake City. For questions about ticketing, sponsorship opportunities, or other details, please contact the good folks at  conference@fairlatterdaysaints.org.



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