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.

The Need for Law- Alma 7:12-14, 2 Nephi 9:41

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.

COMMENTARY

And he will take upon him their infirmities, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities
The Son of God suffereth that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance
Once again, we see how the atonement of Jesus Christ is given so that he may blot away our sins and make us clean. But further we see that it permits him to understand our sufferings on a very personal level. He knows firsthand how it feels to be on the wrong side of the law, and he knows it in the very personal, individual way that I have been so, and the very personal, individual way that you have been so.
Thus he knows what unique ways each of us need to be trained into following the law. Different children require different methods, and he has the freedom to teach us according to our requirement. The commandments are still the commandments, and each of us is still expected to live all of them, but the intermediary steps we take towards being able to meet them is personalized.

The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there
Thus we all know what the final destination for all of us is, but the next step toward it will be different for you and for me. I have not been elected to judge over you, and tell you what next actions you must do to improve yourself.
Yes we have teachers and priests, we have those that we confess to, we have those that counsel and bless us according to the words that God gives them. But they are not meant to be our new masters, only guideposts to point to the one master. As this verse attests, there is no servant employed, no barrier between us and Christ. If we want to know what personalized law he intends for us to adhere to today, we only have to ask.

Who Am I?- Personal Example #2

I do wonder if God is ever amused that we get so worked up on mysteries and questions, especially ones to which He has already placed the simplest answers in plain sight. As I found myself trying to reflect on whether I can be a creation, made in the image of my Heavenly Father, and still be an individual, I had the following thought come to me: “well how is it with your own son, Abe?”

I do have a son of my own, and he is very like me. He doesn’t necessarily look a great deal like I do, not even back when I was his age, but his mind and demeanor I find very familiar. My wife has commented on it as well, how he is very much my son, and not hers.

But then, for all the likenesses between us…he is not me. I can understand much of him, I can relate to many of his experiences, but some parts are entirely an enigma. Parts that my wife cannot claim either, things that are just all him.

As my son grows, I expect that he will manifest even more qualities that are like mine, but I know that he will also always be his own individual. My hope is that the two of us will always be close, share common passions and purposes, be united, and be willing to work together…. But that we will always do so as our own selves.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Frankly, I do not want another me, I rather like being the only one! So, too, I would much rather that my son be himself.

I am convinced it is the same with God. God has Himself, so that’s already covered. If I made myself just like Him, then I would only be giving Him what He already had, and that isn’t what He’s interested in.

What He really wants from me…is me.

Who Am I?- 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 18-20

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
For the body is not one member, but many.
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
And if they were all one member, where were the body?
But now are they many members, yet but one body.

COMMENTARY

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ
For the body is not one member, but many.
Yesterday we examined how we are all creations of God. Our identity begins with what He made it to be. I believe part of the reason why our society resists this notion of being another’s creation, though, is because they fear that it takes away their individuality. There seems to be a sense that we are defined by our flaws, and smoothing them out would just leave us as generic good person #2167. Or in other words, if God is my creator me, and He made me to be like Christ, then following Him will just turn me into a carbon copy of Jesus, no longer myself.
But this is a misconception, a lie of the adversary, one that breaks down as soon as you take an honest look at genuinely good people and recognize how distinct they still are. Even if you are a creation of God, you can still be a unique creation. As Paul attests, the word “body” is singular, but it is composed of “members” which are plural and distinct.

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
Saying that we seek unity in Christ does not mean that we all become Jesus. It means uniting with one another under a common banner, but still retaining and exercising our individuality. Yes God made you and set you, but He made you and set you to be and do something that only you could be and do. The reason that He even made you was because among all His other children He still didn’t have a you, and He very much needed a you. There is a you-sized hole in the body of the Christ that not I, not your neighbor, and not even your identical twin is shaped rightly to fill. God was the one that first baked your individuality into your bones and He isn’t about to take that way. The loss of your sins and misconceptions, will not be the loss of yourself.
In short, what the gospel intends for us is a unified diversity. If that sounds like an oxymoron, so be it. God loves to work in the impossible!

Individual Trials- Uniquely Tested

Thus far we have defined trials only by a few categories that are very broad, because any attempt to limit the definition of trials to a few, specific situations is quickly refuted by the examples of the scriptures. Just consider how many different ways mankind has been tested in those records.

Noah was commanded to build a ship, Moses to lead a nation, Zerubbabel to rebuild a temple. Aaron contended with idolatry, Elijah with Baalism, Jesus with overzealous extensions to the law. Adam was commanded not to eat the fruit, Samson to never cut his hair, Lot to not look back at the destruction of a city. Abraham was required to sacrifice his son, Saul (later Paul) his misconception of theology, Joseph his country of origin. Esau chose between pottage and birthright, Solomon between two women that claimed to be a child’s mother, the Israelite mob between Jesus and Barabbas. David stood against a mighty giant, Gideon against a massive army, Jacob literally wrestled with God. Naaman obeyed the instruction to bathe in the river Jordan, the widow at Zarephath to feed the prophet her least meal, Ruth to lay at Boaz’s feet. Esther accepted the role of queen, Peter the leading of the church, Elisha the mantle of the prophet.

These are stories of people being put to the test. And not just any test, in each example the trial would become one of the defining moments in that person’s life, a critical junction that helped them decide who they would ultimately become. God knew just what circumstance they needed to bring out their true identity.

That each of these tests was so unique is a reflection on how unique we all are as well. The trial that is custom-designed to divide me right down the middle might have little effect on you. Or it might overwhelm you.

A friend of mine once said “no one else has had my trials. You weren’t overshadowed as a child by two ‘perfect’ sisters. And if you were, then you didn’t have that trial and lose your father while young. And if you did, then you didn’t have those trials and struggle with an addiction. And if you did have all of those trials, then you still didn’t have them the way that I did.”

Your trials are yours and yours alone, so take ownership of them. No one else has tasted them except for your Savior. You two are the experts here, the only ones that can find in them the person you were born to be.

The Family of God- Luke 22:24-26, Romans 12:3-6

And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.

COMMENTARY

And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest
We have a common insecurity. We all want to be the best, the smartest, the favorite. We want to be the hero of the story, and have everyone else be the supporting characters. We fight for the love of parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors. We don’t just want them to approve of us, we want them to choose us above all others.
To be clear, our individuality is not a sin. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be a distinct person, in fact that uniqueness is a wondrous gift from God. But we do not need to convolute that beauty by making it into a competition.
Perhaps this insecurity is part of our nature, or maybe it is inflicted on us by life’s disappointments. Whatever the cause, at some point or another we grow uncertain either that we are unique, or that our uniqueness is good. So what does one do with this insecurity?

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us
The scriptures might not support us in trying to be better than one another, but this one does give us permission to be better at some things. You can honestly and proudly acknowledge that you really do have your own strengths. Your special abilities distinguish you from the rest of the world in wonderful ways.
It is not God’s intention for you to live crippled by your insecurities. He wants to give you have a one-of-a-kind role to play, one suited to your unique and precious talents. Then, by acknowledging your divine individuality, you will finally be able to let go of your insecurities and allow that everyone else can have their own individuality as well.