Leading to Water- Matthew 16:17, Matthew 19:17, John 16:7, 20 (NIV)

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.

COMMENTARY

Blessed art thou: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father in heaven
And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God
Jesus was the literal son of God and only perfect being to walk the earth, yet even he urged his disciples to look higher than himself. He was stressing to them the importance of getting personally connected to the Maker, rather than trying to work through any secondary source.
Perhaps this was because Jesus spent his youth and early adult life getting to know his father before fully embracing his ministry and role as the savior (Luke 2:52). He was simply preaching what he had practiced.

It is for your good that I am going away. You will weep, but your grief will turn to joy
This next verse is very interesting. Jesus is informing his disciples that he will very soon leave this earthly realm, and he is saying that this is a good thing for them. At the time that might have seemed a very strange pronouncement, but he was able to see the bigger picture, and how much his disciples needed him to leave them.
Because while his disciples meant well, they were still using him as a crutch. This is made evident in how clueless they initially became after he did leave them. They didn’t know how to go on and tried to return to the life of lowly fishermen (John 21:3).
But as we see in the rest of their stories eventually they did reach their full maturity, and they only did it after Jesus’s ascension. They could only became the spiritual giants they were born to be after his departure, and so it truly was for their good that he was going away.

Leading to Water- Ether 3:1, 4, 6

And it came to pass that the brother of Jared, (now the number of the vessels which had been prepared was eight) went forth unto the mount, which they called the mount Shelem, because of its exceeding height, and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord, saying:
And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.
And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.

COMMENTARY

The brother of Jared went unto the mount and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he cried again unto the Lord, saying: touch these stones with thy finger, that they may shine forth in darkness
Yesterday I examined how the brother of Jared came to the Lord with two problems: the vessels he had been commanded to build had neither light nor air. The Lord addressed the matter of getting air but turned the problem of light back to the brother of Jared.
And I think what the brother of Jared did next was very wise. He worked to make something special, refining rock until it became totally transparent. Surely with God’s omnipotence anything could have been made to glow, even the nearest patch of mud, but the brother of Jared wasn’t so disrespectful as to offer the Lord something like that. Instead he chose to bring the best that he could. He chose to put in personal effort and ingenuity until he could bring something special to the table. Then he asked for help to bring his offering the rest of the way.

And the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord.
The Lord turned the problem over to the brother of Jared and the brother of Jared put in real effort to solve it. It might seem a small thing, but this approach alters the relationship between God and man from being “Master and servant” to “partners.” The brother of Jared had entered a more intimate alliance with God and this was signified by the miracle of seeing his Maker’s finger. This is the sort of relationship that God is seeking with each of us as well.

Leading to Water- Ether 2:18-23

And it came to pass that the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me, and I have made the barges according as thou hast directed me.
And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish.
And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood.
And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did so, according as the Lord had commanded.
And he cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?
And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.

COMMENTARY

And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe.
The brother of Jared had been commanded to prepare some ships to carry him and his people across the ocean, and he had diligently followed God’s directions for how to fashion them. It appears from the description given that the boats were designed to move only by the ocean’s currents, with no upper deck and sails, and entirely enclosed with the passengers safe inside.
But now that they were complete the brother of Jared was able to identify a few issues with the vessels: there was no light inside and also no opening for air to enter in. As the Lord had given the brother of Jared the schematics for these boats thus far, he naturally came back to God for further guidance on these new issues as well.

And the Lord said: Behold, thou shalt make a hole, and thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole.
And the Lord did, indeed, solve the first of the problems. He instructed Jared to add a sort of hatch to the boat which could be opened when the water was calm and closed when it was tumultuous. Half of the brother of Jared’s prayers had was answered!

And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?
But for the second issue, the lack of light, God turned things back to the brother of Jared to come up with a solution. Given the omnipotence of God there’s no question that He could have solved this issue off the cuff as well. But He didn’t, and the only conceivable reason I can think of is because He wanted to teach a lesson.
By this point the brother of Jared had been shown several times that God could solve things. The fact that he came asking God for help in the first place shows that he had confidence in the Lord’s abilities. But God did not want this to remain a relationship of “hey God, can you fix my problem?” That sort of relationship would never result in the brother of Jared fully coming into his own. It was the brother of Jared being carried everywhere instead of learning to walk. God wanted to teach that the brother of Jared to use his own ingenuity first, and then utilize God as a resource for that.

Leading to Water- 2 Kings 2:8-14

And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.
And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.
And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.
He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;
And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.

COMMENTARY

Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee.

In this passage we read how Elijah was willing to give what he could to his protégé, but Elisha’s specific request was one that Elijah did not have the ability to fulfill. It was a request that Elisha was going to have to take up with the Lord directly.

And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and they parted hither and thither
And so, after Elisha witnessed the departure of his master he took up the mantle, tested his authority, and found that God had indeed granted his request. Elisha had received what Elijah already had but which only God could give.
It is important for each of us to recognize that while our worldly mentors can give us much, they cannot give us all. We might go to school and gain a full education, but the pure love of learning is something that no teacher can impart. And we can learn manners from others, and how to speak kindly too, but no human can put genuine consideration for our fellow man in our hearts. And we can let others convince us of the importance of commandments and spiritual rituals, but no person will ever make God come alive in our hearts for us. These greater things can only come from above.

Leading to Water- 1 Samuel 17:32, 38-40

And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.
And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.
And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.

COMMENTARY

And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine
When Goliath taunted the Israelite armies there was no one in the ranks willing to face him. Israel was in need of a heroic warrior but no one was answering the call. Now once upon a time that hero might have been King Saul himself, but Saul’s great warrior days were long passed. So someone new was needed to take the mantle, and it was into this vacancy that David entered.

And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head
And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; And David put them off him
And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook
Saul was grateful to receive David into this heroic role, and tried to give him his own tools of the trade. But they were ill-fitting for David and he couldn’t make do with them. Saul was dressing up David to fight the giant in close-combat. Maybe that approach would have worked for Saul, but Saul wasn’t the one going to fight the giant. David was, and David worked better at range. David defended his flocks with sling and stone, not sword and shield.
This was David’s calling now and he needed to go about it is own way, with the strengths he had developed himself, with the skills God had bestowed on him.
There is a great temptation for mentors to hover over, to micromanage, and to make sure things are done the “right way.” But so long as the protégé never finds their own “right” way, they can never realize their full potential. Sooner or later everyone else must leave the room and leave the would-be hero alone with God. That is when one really learns what they are made of.

Leading to Water- Give a Man a Fish

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

This, of course, is a very famous proverb. It teaches an important principle about how a person in need is benefited more by improving their faculties than by just improving their immediate situation. But while the principle is obviously true the proper execution of it remains a hotly contested subject.

Some say that giving beggars a handout makes them reliant on an unhealthy system. Others say it is hard for a beggar to care about improving their situation over time when their belly is empty today. So where is the line between teaching someone and becoming their crutch?

Well the problem with debates like these is how they seek a one-size-fits-all solution to a very nuanced problem. Good principles can be applied universally, but the execution of them will always be individual. The correct way to teach Jack to fish will be different from the correct way to teach Jane. Jane might flourish best when learning with a full belly, while Jack might need his hunger to motivate him.

It is better to help people now, even imperfectly, than to wait until you are perfect. Just use your best judgment today and then be ready to adapt your methods as needed.

Leading to Water- Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

COMMENTARY

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures
He restoreth my soul
He preparest a table before me
He anointest my head with oil
My cup runneth over
I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever
Psalm 23 describes what is the great desire of us all: to feel so meticulously cared for by the Lord, so provided for in all our needs. Each of us should feel that He really is our good shepherd.
But there can be barriers to receiving such opulent care. The Lord cannot be our caring shepherd if we do not elect to be His sheep. And we fail to be His sheep when we are not willing to fully rely on Him.
This might come in the form of depending on the testimony of others instead of seeking out our own. When we believe simply because our parents or pastor believed, then we make them into our shepherd instead, depending on them as an intermediary between us and God. This might also come in the form of saying we do not need anyone. We are our own shepherd, already having all the answers and perfectly capable of providing for ourselves. This mentality pushes away anyone, God included, who might have been a help to us.
Of course friends and mentors are good, and self-reliance is good, too. But each can be taken to an excess. Better to have each built on the foundation of our relationship to God and not the other way around.

Leading to Water- Luke 8:41-42, 51-55

And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come into his house:
For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him.
And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden.
And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.
And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead.
And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise.
And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.

COMMENTARY

There came Jairus, and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come: for he had one only daughter, and she lay a dying.
And he took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway.
There is an a lesson in this story that is essential for all parents everywhere. Jairus is already a faithful man, he was a spiritual leader in his synagogue, but when his daughter was in the most dire straits he went directly to the source for help.
Of course it is natural for us parents to want to solve our children’s every problem, to answer their every question, to be everything that they need us to be. But sooner or later there are problems that we will never be able to help them out with. The most important things in life are beyond any mortal power to resolve.
And so it is important as parents that we, like Jairus, bring the savior into the room with our child. Even if we can resolve today’s matter by ourselves, now and again we should acquaint our sons and daughters with the one who can resolve all matters. Then they will know where to go when we are unavailable or insufficient.

Leading to Water- Genesis 37:23-24, 28; 41:38, 40-42

And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;

COMMENTARY

And when Joseph was come unto his brethren, they stript Joseph of his coat, and cast him into a pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver
I have already considered the story of Jacob, and how he became an active author of his life rather than having everything handed to him. And this pattern seems to have been an integral part of his lineage. As seen in the verses I have shared, it was certainly the same for his own son Joseph.
Joseph, like Jacob, began his life in comfort and wealth. He had everything that he needed, but then he also lost it all when his brothers stripped him of his precious coat and sold him as a slave to a foreign land. If anything, he lost even more than his father had.

Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled. And Pharaoh took off his ring  and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and put a gold chain about his neck;
But also he ended up gaining more than his father as well. Like Jacob, he ascended by his personal effort and by his reliance on the Lord. From a slave, to a prisoner, to the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. Who else could claim a similar journey? Certainly it was a far different inheritance than the one he would have expected as a child, but it was an inheritance that was truly all his own.
Like these patriarchs, we are not meant to just “inherit” our journey, or testimony, or purpose in life. If there is anything made clear in the stories, it is that God wants us to have an experience that is all our own. Our lives shouldn’t be built on someone else’s foundation. Mine should be rooted in Him and me, and yours should be rooted in Him and you.

Leading to Water- Review of Jacob

Over the past few days I have considered the story of Jacob in the Old Testament, and I have found that it has several lessons to teach. First, though it is important to understand the context of where Jacob begins his story.

Jacob was born into a rich family and likely lacked for nothing. He even obtained the birthright from his father, and thus all of the luxuries he enjoyed as a son would one day become his very own. His father and grandfather were also very spiritual men, and had no doubt educated him about God and the covenant that he had been born into.

Yet for having had a claim on everything, from a broader point of view Jacob actually possessed nothing. These were Abraham and Isaac’s wealth and blessings just being handed down to him. His forefathers had earned all this, not him. Fortunately, it was not his destiny to just become his father. It was intended that he would find his own self.

And so he was sent out from his home, and his comforts, and his family, and the entire land of his youth. Alone in the wild he made his pillow out of stones and asked God for the thing he wanted most: to just go back home to his father’s house.

But that was not what happened.

God’s intent was that Jacob build his own house. To be motivated in that cause, God led Jacob to Rachel who awoke a powerful love in him. He felt inspired by her to toil and labor for the things his heart yearned for. Fourteen years he served for her, and along the way he obtained for himself large flocks of goats and sheep. These became the foundation of his own personal vocation, a wealth that he had earned rather than inherited.

Eventually Jacob did return to his homeland, bringing with him his great entourage. He received word that his brother Esau was coming to meet him, though, with a large host of men. It seemed certain to Jacob that Esau was coming to kill him and everything that he had. Family, servants, flocks…all of it.

Once again Jacob had a private conversation with God, pleading for the thing he wanted most: that he and his family would be kept alive.

And that was what happened.

Esau’s heart had been softened and he welcomed his brother in peace. Not only this, but Jacob was given a new name from the Lord: Israel. This is a very fitting symbol for how Jacob had truly become a new man. His own man.

His relationship to God was his own. His family was his own. His vocation was his own…. Through the help of God, his entire life was his own.