Scripture Study

Eve: Don't Listen to the Serpent

Written by Sister Alena X. Ricci on Thursday, 06 August 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 168

Eve: Don't Listen to the Serpent

This article is part of Sister Alena X. Ricci's series on Women of the Bible.

Oh, Eve. I have started and stopped writing this blog so many times over the past couple of months. Every time I think that I’ve found something worth writing when it comes to Eve, I get to the end and realize that it’s not worth mentioning. I realize that I think God has something better for me.

And spoiler alert: He does. He always does. Not just in writing blogs, but in everything. But specifically about Eve, I feel like I have looked at this story every way that I can. I
have viewed it from Eve, from Adam, from everyone — and nothing stuck.

It wasn’t until I realized that I am Eve that the story clicked. I have read and heard Eve’s great failure so many times, and I have never related. I never would’ve taken the fruit, right?

I never would have disobeyed God so blatantly.

Keep Doing What You're Doing (Ether 15)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 05 August 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 116

Keep Doing What You're Doing (Ether 15)

There is a quote that is often used in motivational speaking that says, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." The point of this quote is to recognize that the way things work out in various areas of our lives are often a direct result of what we do in those areas. If we keep doing something the same exact way, the results will probably be pretty much the same. If we want the results to change, then we need to change what we do.

Perhaps the Jaredite civilization would have survived if they had only known this definition of insanity.

In Ether 15, the last of the Jaredites are divided into two groups with everyone — men, women, and children — included as part of one army or the other. The two sides go to war and, after a fierce day of fighting, each side suffers many deaths. In each camp, the night is filled with "a howling and a lamentation for the loss of the slain of their people; and so great were their cries, their howlings and lamentations, that they did rend the air exceedingly" (verse 16).

After this horrific night, the people go out the next day and…do the exact same thing. Again, many people are killed on each side, and another night of howling and lamentation is spent. The cycle is repeated the next day and the next, over and over again, until eventually everyone is dead and the Jaredite civilization is no more.

Lost and Found (Ether 14)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 29 July 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 406

Lost and Found (Ether 14)

Recently, we've seen several testimonies on the Gospel Blog that have described occasions when certain items were lost and then God intervened to allow the items to be found. Any time you find something that has been lost, it's a great feeling. Not only is the item restored to you but you are also relieved of whatever negative feelings or consequences accompanied the loss of the item. And to think that God actually intervened on your behalf? That makes it a great blessing!

I've experienced several "lost and found" blessings in my own lifetime. Here's a recent one:

Following a Sunday meeting at Levittown a few months ago, a few of us were standing around, talking in the parking lot for a while. As I was about to leave, I got a phone call from my wife who had already arrived at home. She couldn't find her phone, so she was thinking she may have left it in church.

I went back into the empty church building and looked on and under the pew where she always sits, but it wasn't there. I checked the table in the back of the room, and it wasn't there. Looked in all the bathrooms — not there.

A City of Peace Provided by God (Ether 13)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 22 July 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 914

A City of Peace Provided by God (Ether 13)

In Genesis 22, Abraham prepares to sacrifice his son as God has requested. However, at the last instant, an angel stops him and a ram is provided to use as the sacrifice instead. Abraham memorializes the place by calling it Jehovahjireh (Genesis 22:14) which means "God provides." The same area already had the name of Shalem (or Salem as it's referenced in the Bible), meaning "city of peace." As time passed, the two names were combined such that the city was referred to as Jireh-Shalem or, as the scriptures spell it, Jerusalem. The meaning of the name can be intuited to be "city of peace provided by God."

Ether 13 describes a city that can be referred to as a city of peace provided by God. The city will be called New Jerusalem, and it will be the principal city in a place called Zion at a period of time referred to as the peaceful reign.

Let's not confuse this New Jerusalem with other cities that go by the same or a similar name.

The Widow With Two Coins: Courageous

Written by Sister Alena X. Ricci on Thursday, 16 July 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 234

The Widow With Two Coins: Courageous

This article is another installment in Sister Alena X. Ricci's series on the women of the Bible.

According to Google, there are 23,145 verses in the Bible alone. Out of these 23,145 verses, exactly eight of them are dedicated to this woman. And all eight of them are pointed and impactful.

I want to compare the widow's story with the familiar story of Peter walking on water. I think a lot of the rhetoric and dialogue around his story is one of courage and doubt. But a lot of times, when we point to courage, we point to Peter taking that initial step on the water. And that was absolutely courageous, I have serious doubts I would have put my leg out of the boat.

We associate this action with courage because it is visible and it is obvious. But most of the time, courage is more about those small acts that few notice (or no one notices) that make some sort of serious impact.

And that’s this woman.

Believing Is Seeing (Ether 12)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 15 July 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 243

Believing Is Seeing (Ether 12)

In Ether 12, the man named Ether finally appears. In addition to being the writer of the Jaredite record, Ether is a prophet of the Lord who "could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him" (verse 2). Ether exhorts the people to have faith in God. He prophesies "great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe because they saw them not" (verse 5). People who feel this way today — that they won't believe in something they can't see — might express this feeling by saying, "seeing is believing."

As Moroni, the son of Mormon, is adding Ether's record to the plates that contain the manuscript of the full Book of Mormon, he comments on this philosophy of "seeing is believing," pointing out (similar to Hebrews 11:1) that "faith is things which are hoped for and not seen" (verse 6). In other words, "seeing is believing" is the exact opposite of faith. Moroni then lists several examples of faith from the Book of Mormon, showing how the people first had to believe, and then they saw God move in a visible way:

Don't Shoot the Messenger (Ether 11)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 01 July 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 526

Don't Shoot the Messenger (Ether 11)

If you've ever delivered a message on behalf of someone else, then you're probably familiar with what can happen if the message is upsetting to the person who receives it. It's entirely possible that the person may direct their anger about the message toward you, even though it didn't really come from you. It's at times like this that the appropriate thing for you to say is, "Don't shoot the messenger."

In Ether 11, God sends a message to the Jaredite people who have fallen further and further into iniquity. His message is that "they should repent, and turn unto the Lord, and forsake their murders and wickedness" (verse 1). The people He uses to deliver the message are referred to as prophets (by definition, a prophet is a messenger of God).

Not surprisingly, the people who hear this message don't receive it well. Not only do they reject the message, but they literally kill the messengers. One wicked king "caused that all the prophets who prophesied of the destruction of the people should be put to death" (verse 5).

We're Done Living in Captivity (Ether 10)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 24 June 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 488

We're Done Living in Captivity (Ether 10)

In Ether 10, the leadership of the Jaredite kingdom changes hands many times, sometimes peacefully and sometimes by force. Toward the end of the chapter, one of the kings is deposed and forced to live in captivity for the rest of his life. It doesn't sound like he was actually living in a dungeon, though; most likely, he was under some type of stay-at-home order or some type of arrangement that limited what he could do or where he could go.

The same captivity for this family lasts for the next four generations. Finally, a man named Com decides he is done living in captivity, and he goes out and reclaims the kingdom, living out the remainder of his days as king of the land.

Many of us have experienced living in some type of captivity during our lifetime.

Most recently, we have all experienced the stay-at-home orders associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. What has kept people in captivity during this time? Some combination of being willing to follow the rules and guidelines issued by lawmakers and health experts, as well as some level of fear associated with the virus. As we see the rules and guidelines being relaxed somewhat, the only thing left that will keep us in captivity is fear. As followers of Christ, let's allow our faith to overcome our fear. Let's reclaim the kingdom — returning to church and whatever else the Lord has for us to do, trusting that He will be with us.

The Lyin' King (Ether 9)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 17 June 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 294

The Lyin' King (Ether 9)

In the classic movie, "The Lion King," the evil lion named Scar wants so badly to be king that he is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that. He kills the current king — his own brother. He enlists willing followers by making wild promises like, "Stick with me and you'll never go hungry again!" But, as time passes, the food supply is gone and the country is in ruins. It becomes clear that it was all lies from a power-hungry tyrant who will just wind up dragging everyone down with him. Happily, the true king then appears and everyone is saved.

In Ether 9, we read an account that has many similarities to the movie referenced above. This chapter describes multiple cases of men so determined to be king that they kill their own family members to gain the throne. All of the wickedness "corrupted the hearts of all the people" (verse 6) who obviously believe the lies of the power-hungry tyrants since they have no objection to even murder being committed in order for their king to be in power. After some time passes, the true king is restored to the throne, and there is peace in the land.

God Sees Us, Whatever We Do (Ether 8)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 10 June 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 246

God Sees Us, Whatever We Do (Ether 8)

If you're familiar with Windows computers, you're likely aware of the little button near the top right corner of each window that allows you to minimize the window. When you click on that button, the window is then no longer visible on the computer screen — the computer can still see it, but people cannot see it. It's actually quite an effective method to hide what you're doing from someone who is trying to look at your computer screen.

What might you be thinking if, every time you walked past someone using a computer, that person hit the Minimize button?

  • If it's one of your children, you might wonder, "What are my kids getting into?"
  • If it's your husband, you might wonder, "Who is my husband chatting with?"
  • If it's your employee, you might wonder whether the employee is actually working.

In general, when someone goes to great lengths to hide their actions, it often means they're doing something they shouldn't. Otherwise, they would have nothing to hide. The sad part of this is that people who are good at hiding what they are doing may never come to a realization that what they are doing is wrong because they are able to get away with it.

There Are 2 Kingdoms — Pick One (Ether 7)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 03 June 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 308

There Are 2 Kingdoms — Pick One (Ether 7)

In Ether 7, Orihah (one of the sons of Jared) concludes his reign as the first king of the Jaredite people in the new land, passing the mantle to his son Kib. Sadly, things go downhill quickly after that, as two families then begin to compete for the throne, resulting in a series of kidnappings and murders and many temporary changes in who is king. Finally, they settle into two kingdoms:

"And the country was divided; and there were two kingdoms, the kingdom of Shule, and the kingdom of Cohor, the son of Noah." (Ether 7:20)

There were probably lots of people who thought this arrangement was wrong. Why should there be two kingdoms? We only need one. Perhaps there were even some who disliked both Shule and Cohor and would have wanted more choices. None of that mattered; there were two kingdoms, and each person had to pick the one they wanted to be part of.

Happy Windsday! (Ether 6)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 27 May 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 276

Happy Windsday! (Ether 6)

If you (or your children) grew up watching "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh," then you might remember the part when Winnie the Pooh goes to visit Piglet on a particularly windy day and greets him with a hearty, "Happy Windsday Piglet!" Piglet then gets picked up by the strong wind and nearly flies away.

Sometimes, when someone says that they can't see God, an explanation is offered that compares God to the wind — you can't see it, but you can see what it does. Jesus made a similar statement in John 3, comparing the Spirit of God to the wind — you can't see where it's coming from or where it's going, and you can't control it; it goes where it's going to go.

In a spectacular scene described in Acts 2, there were 120 disciples of Jesus sitting in an upper room on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus had been crucified and had resurrected. Perhaps these disciples were unsure of what to do at this point. "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:2) and the Holy Ghost swept into the room, filling all the people there. Now, they were ready to go out and turn the world upside down for the cause of Christ. It was a happy "windsday" indeed!

The Power of God — Not to Be Denied (Ether 5)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 20 May 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 293

The Power of God — Not to Be Denied (Ether 5)

In Ether 5, Moroni shares some instructions for the man (Joseph Smith) who would receive the plates with the engravings of the Book of Mormon narrative and would be used to bring it forth to the world. The instructions include:

  • Don't try to access the sealed portion of the plates, which contains the revelations of the brother of Jared (as described in the previous chapter, these will not be accessible until sometime in the future).
  • Feel free to show the plates to the people who will assist in the work of bringing forth the information (the testimony of eight of these people is included in the first few pages of the Book of Mormon).

There is a third point, but it is not really an instruction but rather more of a prophecy:

"And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God, wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true." (Ether 5:3)

The Syrophoenician Woman: Tenacious Faith

Written by Sister Alena X. Ricci on Thursday, 14 May 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 432

The Syrophoenician Woman: Tenacious Faith

Today's article is another installment in Sister Alena's series on "Women of the Bible."

Like all of the women I’ve written about so far, this story has a ton to unpack — a pattern, I think, no? This Gentile woman’s daughter is demon possessed, and this mother is exhausted. She’s tired of everything that comes along with such an affliction, and she decides to approach Jesus as He passes through her area.

You can read the verses in Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30, but her daughter is healed because of her quick answers and great faith.

A lot of people would call her desperate. She was so tired and so in need of a change in her and her daughter’s life.

But after reading through this a few times, I saw this as a tenacious faith. Tenacity is the quality of being able to grip something firmly, meaning that this woman grabbed hold of what Jesus could do for her and held fast.

In this moment, her faith was steady; it was sure; it was strong.

Taste the Grass on the Summit (Ether 4)

Written by Brother Jerry Valenti on Wednesday, 13 May 2020. Posted in Scripture Study Hits 320

Taste the Grass on the Summit (Ether 4)

In the previous chapter, the Lord recognized the great faith of the brother of Jared by allowing him to view the body that He would inhabit as Christ on the earth. The Lord also showed him things that would happen through the end of the world. Ether 3 ends with the Lord commanding the brother of Jared to write down what he saw, such that this record could be shared with future generations.

In Ether 4, the Lord instructs Moroni in how to handle the record of the brother of Jared. He is told to "seal up" the writings such that "they shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord" (verse 6).

On the one hand, the call to repentance is typically directed at those who have not yet given their lives to the Lord, even as it is at the end of this chapter — "repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and believe in my gospel, and be baptized in my name" (verse 18).

On the other hand, even servants of God can be prone to sinful actions or attitudes that require repentance. Lest we're quick to say, "Not me — I'm not doing anything wrong," remember that pride, envy, lack of forgiveness, and lack of love toward others all qualify as behaviors that should not exist in a servant of God.

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