Discussing Spiritual Differences- Daniel 1:5, 8-10

And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.

COMMENTARY

I love this story of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who were seeking to maintain their covenants and not consume any unclean meat or drink. It is a small story, one that might seem inconsequential compared to the more epic tales of the Bible, but I believe it provides some wonderful lessons for us all.
There are multiple things I want to point out from this short narrative, so I will be reviewing them one-at-a-time over the next few days.

And the king appointed them a provision of the king’s meat: so nourishing them that they might stand before the king
But Daniel purposed that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine
To begin with, let us consider the setting of it all. At the outset Daniel and his companions are captives in Babylon. They are being integrated with a court system that already exists, and they naturally come to a point of friction between their old culture and this new one. There will be more points of friction at other points in their lives, but this is the first time we see them caught between their new king and God.
And so we must recognize that they are at the mercy of others. From these passages it would seem that they were not even able to obtain their own food, being entirely dependent on what was brought to them instead. Thus Daniel could make a request for a special diet, but if unclean meat was what was given to him then unclean meat was what he would have.


The prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: ye make me endanger my head to the king
And the prince of eunuchs could see no reason to honor Daniel’s request. The man was not himself a Hebrew and was not converted to their customs. His concern had far more to do with losing his head if he presented the Israelite youth as less fit than those who ate meat and drank wine! He thus had the power and the motivation to override Daniel’s religiosity. The two men were at an impasse and Daniel did not have the upper hand.
This very easily could have been the end of the story. Daniel could have taken the eunuch’s rejection and let his morals be crushed. He could have oscillated between anger at having been made a victim and shame at having not stood up more. He could have given up all his principles entirely, he could have made a bitter crusade and decried the prince of the eunuchs as an unfeeling sinner.
Any of these paths would have been easy to resign oneself to, but as we will see, none of them were what Daniel elected.

The Epic Life- Daniel 6:6-7, 9-10

Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.
All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.
Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

COMMENTARY

Whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions
Yesterday we considered how David answered the call to live his great life. Today we’ll consider Daniel, who found his purpose under very different circumstances. Daniel watched as his people fell into the hands of the Babylonians, who were then defeated by the Medes. Thus he spent his time in the courts of two foreign nations, and he had to deal with laws and customs that defied his morals, such as this one prohibiting prayer to God.

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house, he kneeled upon his knees, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime
And what did Daniel do in this delicate circumstance? He ignored the king’s mandate and did what was right. He didn’t have to go to court and fight against the king’s presidents and princes, he didn’t make a public campaign, he didn’t raise armies to fight against the injustice. In a world that constantly shifted around him, Daniel’s great calling was to just remain constant. When all the world is breaking against us, the greatest of quests can be to simply hold still.
This same steadiness defines the key moments of Daniel’s epic life. He was steady in turning down the food that God had proclaimed to be unclean (Daniel 1:8). His cohorts Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego steadfastly rejected another king’s demands that they worship golden idols (Daniel 3:14). And here again Daniel steadily maintained his prayers in spite of a law that forbade it. Daniel and his friends had lost their nation but they would not give up their covenants. It would have been easy to. They could have said “our commitments were lost with Israel.” But they didn’t. It was their great life work just to steadily hold to their promises to God. In simply doing that they sent powerful ripples throughout all the kings’ courts they graced.

Solemnity and Joy- Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

COMMENTARY

To every thing there is a season
A time to be born, and a time to die
A time to kill, and a time to heal
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh
A time to mourn, and a time to dance

We have been discussing the need for times of solemn reverence and also times of unfettered rejoicing. Is it any wonder that we would need both, given the fractured, dual-natured world we live in? As these verses illustrate, we pass through all manner of different experiences, the entire spectrum of good and bad. We get to welcome new babies but also bury old friends. We build things, but we must break things as well. We have times of health, but also times of pandemic. To deny an entire side of this reality for the other would be deluded.
Does living in the gospel give us a hope for a happy ending, and does that hope instill us with an abiding joy and peace? Yes, but Jesus still wept when Lazarus died. And are there times when we are treated unfairly, hurt and offended, some of us even killed unjustly? Yes, but Stephen still passed away rejoicing, surrounded by the glory of his God and Savior.
We are complex beings in a complex world. There is not only space for the entire spectrum of emotion within us, it is necessary for us to embrace them all. We should let each have dominion over its proper season.

Solemnity and Joy- 2 Samuel 6:14-16, 20-21

And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.
So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!
And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord.

COMMENTARY

And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And Michal saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart
Today we have the example of King David when he was caught in the rapture of praising God. He had just concluded a campaign against the Philistines and capped it off by bringing the Ark of the Covenant back into the heart of Israel.
He was evidently very joyous in this moment and took to dancing “with all his might.” Biblical commentaries have stated that this sort of vivacious dance was by no means an unusual practice, but that it was typically performed by a priest. This is likely why Michal felt the king was debasing himself by performing it, she felt he was acting beneath his royal station.

Michal came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!
And David said unto Michal, It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, therefore will I play before the Lord.

A rift grows between the two of them, but David maintains his reasoning for showing such levity: it was done as an honor to God, and when honoring God called for joyous cavorting, that was simply what David was going to do.
As I have already stated, sometimes honoring God calls for quiet dignity, and that is what one should observe in those moments. But sometimes it calls for displays of rapturous joy, and in such cases there is no evil in embracing that spirit. Of course that doesn’t mean we loosen our morals and become obscene, but we are welcome to freely display our joy without shame.

Influence and Persuasion- Alma 17:8, 19, 21-22, 25; 18:21-22

And thus they departed into the wilderness with their numbers which they had selected, to go up to the land of Nephi, to preach the word of God unto the Lamanites.
And Ammon went to the land of Ishmael, the land being called after the sons of Ishmael, who also became Lamanites.
And thus Ammon was carried before the king who was over the land of Ishmael; and his name was Lamoni; and he was a descendant of Ishmael.
And the king inquired of Ammon if it were his desire to dwell in the land among the Lamanites, or among his people.
But Ammon said unto him: Nay, but I will be thy servant. Therefore Ammon became a servant to king Lamoni. And it came to pass that he was set among other servants to watch the flocks of Lamoni, according to the custom of the Lamanites.

And now, if thou wilt tell me concerning these things, whatsoever thou desirest I will give unto thee; and if it were needed, I would guard thee with my armies; but I know that thou art more powerful than all they; nevertheless, whatsoever thou desirest of me I will grant it unto thee.
Now Ammon being wise, yet harmless, he said unto Lamoni: Wilt thou hearken unto my words, if I tell thee by what power I do these things? And this is the thing that I desire of thee.

COMMENTARY

Nay, but I will be thy servant. Therefore Ammon became a servant to king Lamoni.
I previously shared an example from the Book of Mormon where a missionary named Ammon defended himself a king and later his brother taught the gospel to him. There is a somewhat similar story just a few chapters before, where that same Ammon taught another king and I find his approach very interesting.
When he first has an audience with the king he does not immediately launch into proselyting. Rather he asks to be commissioned as a servant and to care for the king’s domain. He is put over the sheep and he faithfully watches over them. Shortly thereafter a band of thieves comes to steal the sheep, and Ammon manages to protect both the flock and the other servants against great odds. The fame of this battle is soon brought before the king.

If thou wilt tell me concerning these things, whatsoever thou desirest I will give unto thee.
Wilt thou hearken unto my words? This is the thing that I desire of thee.

And so the king calls Ammon to him and inquires how he possessed the power to stand against so many assailants. He even asks Ammon whether he is a god himself!
At this point the king is coming to Ammon of his own volition and asking to know more. Ammon’s audience is ready now, even actively seeking. And so it is here that Ammon finally delivers the gospel message that he has come to give.
I believe there is a great wisdom in this approach. On my mission I learned that most people really didn’t care about what I had to share…until they first knew that I cared about them and would sincerely serve them. In my experience, cutting overgrown grass, repairing fences, and erecting houses were better than sermons.

Influence and Persuasion- Alma 20:20-22, 23; 22:5, 15

And he stretched forth his hand to slay Ammon. But Ammon withstood his blows, and also smote his arm that he could not use it.
Now when the king saw that Ammon could slay him, he began to plead with Ammon that he would spare his life.
Now the king, fearing he should lose his life, said: If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee whatsoever thou wilt ask, even to half of the kingdom.

Now the king said unto them: What is this that ye have said concerning the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, this is the thing which doth trouble me.
And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: 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.

COMMENTARY

Now the king, fearing he should lose his life, said: If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee half of the kingdom
My wife pointed out to me how a story in the Book of Mormon applies very well to this topic of study. In it, a king is hostile towards a missionary and tries to kill him. But when the missionary gains the upper hand and the king sees that his own life is in danger, he immediately tries to bargain. As we see in this verse, he is motivated by that fear to give up an entire half of his kingdom, which would make his assailant as powerful as he is. Fear is a powerful way to pressure people into doing things.

And after Aaron had expounded these things the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life? I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.
Of course the missionary does not kill the king, which catches the king by surprise. Later, when the king meets the brother of that missionary, he requests to be taught. For the first time the king hears the gospel message, and at this point he is filled with hope, not fear. Now he makes another offer, this time for his entire kingdom, which would leave himself powerless, if only he can have the goodness that his heart desires.
This story is a wonderful example of how fear is a powerful motivation, but hope is even greater. People that are inspired by hope will always be able to do more than those who are driven by fear.

Our Own Reality- 1 Kings 12:6-7, 13-14

And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?
And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.
But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:
And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him;
And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

COMMENTARY

But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him
Rehoboam had a choice for what sort of king he was going to be. He sought counsel from two parties for how to present himself to his subjects, and received two different versions of the image he could bear. Ultimately he choose to fashion himself after the more foolish counsel, and lost the majority of his kingdom as a result.
Each of us likes to think that we are strictly in charge of our own formation. We believe we are impervious to advertisements and social pressures, that we make up our own mind and no one has a hold on us. But, frankly, that belief ignores the reality of our nature. We are beings that are composed of what we consume, and what we choose to fill ourselves with will then become what comes out of us after.
So if you spend all your time among any particular group, eventually their outlook will rub off on you. Rehoboam was naturally more inclined to side with those that he had spent his youth with. He framed his reality from the environment he had shared with them, even though it meant taking a stance that was so obviously foolish.

Personal Promises- 2 Samuel 7:12, 16-17; 2 Chronicles 1:8-9

And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.

And Solomon said unto God, Thou hast shewed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead.
Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude.

COMMENTARY

And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established
Previously we observed how God’s promise to Abraham was renewed with each of the generations that followed. Another example of His promises being made fresh can be found with the kings of Israel. Saul first held the promise for an eternal kingdom, but he tragically lost that covenant when he disobeyed God’s commands.
So, naturally, God needed to make a new oath with David when he was anointed king. Solomon evidently knew of the promises that God had made to his father, but he wanted to gain his own assurance of them. He sought confirmation from God and he received it.
It is in our nature to read the promises that God has made to others and hope that we might receive the same. When He makes promises with us we feel an empowering assurance. God knows these aspects of our nature, and utilizes them both to promote our faith. By establishing relationships with others He inspires in us the hope to seek Him personally. Then, by answering that seeking, He gives us an unshakable confidence to do good.