One area that I’ve been studying lately has to do with how different prophets in the Book of Mormon quote from each other. I think this is an important issue because, as Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Our understanding of the prophetic word will be greatly expanded if we know how one prophet quotes another, usually without acknowledging his source.”
For example, Abinadi quotes from Moses, Isaiah, and other prophets (including perhaps Lehi). And recently, I’ve discovered something about how Abinadi’s words are used by others. In Alma 39-42, Alma quotes several times from the prophet Abinadi. Here’s one example:
Alma says, “And behold, again it hath been spoken, that there is a first resurrection, a resurrection of all those who have been, or who are, or who shall be, down to the resurrection of Christ from the dead” (Alma 40:16).
Who spoke those words? When were they spoken? Compare them with these words from Abinadi: “And there cometh a resurrection, even a first resurrection; yea, even a resurrection of those that have been, and who are, and who shall be, even until the resurrection of Christ—for so shall he be called” (Mosiah 15:21).
So even though Alma doesn’t come out and say that he’s quoting Abinadi, he is. In fact in Alma 39-42 there are at least 13 allusions to Abinadi’s words.
Here’s why I think this is cool. Alma talks to his wayward son Corianton about three specific concerns (see Alma 40:1, 41:1, and 42:1). Nearly all of the allusions Alma makes to Abinadi cluster around those three topics. So picture Alma, a father worried about his son’s poor choices. His son has some concerns, and Alma turns to the words of a recent prophet, Abinadi, to address them.
So one principle we can apply today is that when we are trying to help others with their problems we can turn to the scriptures and the words of modern prophets.
I recently published an article that goes into much greater depth on how Alma quotes from Abinadi. I encourage you to check it out! You can download the article (for free) here: Textual Similarities in the Word of Abinadi and Alma’s Counsel to Corianton.
Recently my wife Lani and I published our first book together. It’s called What Girls Need to Know About Guys, and then when you flip it over there’s another front cover that says, What Guys Need to Know About Girls. So it’s kind of like two books in one.
I thought it might be fun to share a little bit about how this book came to be.
It probably started with some experiences that my wife and I had speaking together at Especially for Youth (EFY). On a certain day of the week there is a time where we would speak just to the young women, and then turn around and speak just to the young men. We would speak on a variety of topics, but noticed that one theme that was especially powerful for the young women was helping them understand who they really are as daughters of God. Along with that we would talk about some issues dealing with boys. The young men of course were always interested in learning more about girls! One year we focused on the importance of honoring and respecting women.
We shared this quote from President Hinckley with both the young men and women: “Woman is God’s supreme creation….Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God.” We found that when the young women understood who they really are, and the young men treated them this way, wonderful things happened. This note, from an EFY participant illustrates this:
“You probably don’t remember me, but I met you at EFY. That week changed me. What changed me the most was when all the guys were perfect gentleman. I wasn’t used to be treated that nicely. As the week went by I watched as guys held open doors and such to the other girls. For the first time in my life I felt like a queen.”
Lani began teaching a class at EFY called “Expect the Respect” where she continued to focus on what it means for young women to respect themselves and to expect guys to respect them as well. She also talked with the guys about how to show young women that they are valued and appreciated.The response that she got from these classes was incredible.
Our intention in writing the book was to recreate some of those experiences. We hope that young women who read it learn more about how guys think, and also realize that who they are as daughters of God matters much more than whether or not they get asked by the right boy to Prom. We hope that young men who read it will learn not only new things about how the female mind works, but also understand the power that comes when they honor young women as daughters of God.
We were gratified by this review of the book that says, “In reading the book you feel like you are at a fireside listening to both John and Lani speak.” We hope that those who read the book feel that we are having a conversation together, and that the conversation is helpful. If you’re interested in learning more, you can see some excerpts from the book or get a copy.
2 Nephi 32:3 says “Feast upon the words of Christ, for behold the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” The words of Christ will help you in all areas of your life including guy-girl relationships. In fact, the scriptures played a key role for me in winning over the girl of my dreams—Lani Olsen.
One day in December, about four months after I got home from my mission, I was walking home from school when I ran into one of my friends, Ethan. “John!” He said, “We haven’t hung out for a long time. Why don’t you come with me to a leadership class I’m taking and we can do something afterwards.”
I went with him to the class and immediately noticed the teacher. She was beautiful, but there was more. I can’t really describe it, except to say that I could sense that she was a really good person. During the class I felt the vibes going between me and her. I don’t think she felt anything, but I sure did! Ethan could feel it too—after class he came up to me and said, “John, I can tell that Lani is perfect for you! We can hang out another time. You’d better talk to her.”
So I stayed after class; we talked for about five minutes, but I couldn’t get up enough courage to ask her out. After I left I went straight to Ethan’s house and said, “Why didn’t you set me up with her sooner?”
For the next 24 hours the only thing I could think about was Lani. I found her number on BYU’s online directory (hooray for the Internet!) and called her the next day.
“Lani, this is John the guy who visited your student leadership class yesterday, how’s it going?”
“I was wondering if you’d like to go out tonight?”
Well, she didn’t exactly say “no.” She said, “I’m sorry, I already have some other plans.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “Maybe some other time.”
“Okay. Thanks for calling.”
As soon as I hung up I realized how stupid I was. Of course she already had plans! She probably had tons of guys pursuing her. For the next few days I could not get Lani off my mind. The next time I called her up I had a plan. Instead of asking her out for a specific day (when she might already have a date lined up) I said, “I’d love to go out with you, when are you free?”
“Saturday afternoon.” Lani said.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but she had a Saturday morning date and a Saturday night date. Nevertheless, I was happy to take whatever time slot I could get. Fortunately my good friend Jared gave me tickets for a matinee performance of “A Christmas Carol just a couple blocks from Lani’s house. I thought we should do more on the date (there’s not a whole lot of interaction watching a play), so I planned that we would bake cookies together first. I was excited (and a bit nervous)!
The date got off to a rocky start. Lani lived with her family in Orem. When I knocked on her door a guy (later I found out it was her little brother) answered.
“Is Lani here?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. Then he shut the door.
“Are you going to find out?” I wondered to myself.
I waited. For one minute, two minutes, three minutes—he didn’t come back. I knocked again. This time Lani’s sister answered. She was a lot nicer, and Lani came to the door. As we were walking to the car we ran into another guy (I thought it was one of her neighbors, but I found out later it was a different brother.) This guy gave me a goofy smile and said, “Lani, are you going out with another guy?” I felt about two inches tall.
I opened the door for Lani, we got into the car and drove off. From that point on, the date went great! We talked as we made cookies and I found that we had tons of things in common. The play was marvelous—the whole time we were together I was impressed by the kind of person Lani was. It sounds cheesy, but she was everything I had ever dreamed of in a girl.
When I dropped her off, I asked her if she wanted to go out to lunch the next week. She said yes!
But as I was driving home I began feeling uneasy. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. I got home about 6:00 PM (remember it was an afternoon date). I had planned to do homework that night, but I couldn’t concentrate. I had this terrible feeling that would not go away. I went to bed early, but the next morning I still felt bad, and as I thought about it, I realized why.
I felt bad because I knew I wasn’t good enough for Lani. She seemed practically perfect and I had a lot of faults. She was doing many good things with her life, and though I wasn’t wicked, I knew I wasn’t at the same level Lani was. It really hurt! My whole life I’d been waiting to meet the woman of my dreams; now I had finally met her, but I felt I wasn’t good enough for her.
I needed help. I knelt down and prayed hard. I told the Lord what I was feeling, that I wanted to spend more time with Lani but that I didn’t feel good enough for her. I asked if I should keep pursuing her. I knew that the scriptures could help me with any problem so I grabbed my scriptures and prayed that I would be guided to a verse that could help me. I opened up my scriptures to page 421 and saw 3 Nephi 3:21.
In order to understand this verse, some background might be helpful. At this point in the Book of Mormon all of the righteous people were gathered together, and the wicked Gadianton robbers were in the wilderness and mountains preparing to attack the righteous. Some of the righteous people came to Gidgiddoni, the leader of the army, and asked if they could go into the mountains and attack the robbers. In verse 21 Gidgiddoni said to the people,
The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together and we will not go against them but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this, he will deliver them into our hands.
When I read this verse, I felt like Gidgiddoni was speaking to me. When he said, “The Lord forbid” I felt like it was saying, “Don’t go out with Lani anymore–at least not yet.” Instead, I felt I should prepare myself in “the center” areas of my life—meaning I should focus on myself and making myself a better person. If I did this, things would work out.
I told Ethan that I wasn’t going to see Lani again. “You’re crazy!” He said. But I was determined to do what I had felt when I read 3 Nephi 3:21. I called Lani, cancelled our date and didn’t see her for the next four months. Later in this book I describe what happened during those months; for now, I just want to point out that I did my best to follow the direction I felt as I studied the scriptures.
Four months later, I was about to take a class that Lani had taken. She was the only person I knew who had taken the class. I emailed Lani a question about the class, but instead of emailing me back she called me, and asked if I wanted to talk about it over lunch. 3 Nephi 3:21 said, “We will wait until they come against us” and when Lani asked me if I wanted to have lunch with her, I felt like she was coming to me! We had lunch and to make a long story short, as it says in verse 21, “therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this [wait until they come up against us] he will deliver them into our hands.” We were married a year later.
Let me make something clear: I’m not recommending waiting for the other person to come to you as a dating strategy. I do recommend that when you need help—whether it is in dating, with school, work, or any situation in your life—that you turn to the scriptures. I’m sure that when Mormon wrote the words of 3 Nephi 3:21 he was not thinking about my dating relationships. But when we read the scriptures we put ourselves in a position for the Holy Ghost to teach us what we need to know at that moment. It was studying the scriptures, combined with the insight from the Spirit that taught me what I needed to do. And I know the scriptures and the Spirit will help YOU know what to do in your life.
So that’s how I met Lani!
I love the Christmas season. My all-time favorite Christmas quote was given by President Howard W. Hunter in his final public address. He lists 22 things we should do “This Christmas.” How many of them can we do?
“This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.”
I love Jesus Christ. I also love music. So as you can imagine, I really love music about Jesus Christ. A couple years ago I heard a song about the Savior that I thought was so beautiful that I’ve been frequently listening to it ever since. The song is called “I Am.”
In order to understand this song, you need to know that one of the titles for the Savior is “I AM.” So the song talks about the Savior and how at every stage of our lives HE IS there. He is the “I AM” for each of us and at every phase in our lives he will reach out and help us.
You can watch a video of this song below:
Here are the lyrics to this powerful song. If you’d like to have a spiritual experience, I invite you to listen to the song and ponder the question, “How have you felt the love of Jesus Christ in your life?” I know that Jesus Christ lives and that he loves you.
Pencil marks on a wall
I wasn’t always this tall,
You scattered some monsters from beneath my bed,
You watched my team win,
You watched my team lose,
You watched when my bicycle went down again,
And When I was weak unable to speak,
still I could call You by name,
and I said “Elbow healer, Superhero,
come if You can,” and You said “I am”
Only 16, life is so mean, what kind of curfew is at ten PM
You saw my mistakes, You watched my heart break
Heard when I swore I’d never love again
When I was weak, unable to speak,
still I could call You by name,
and I said “Heart-ache Healer, Secret-keeper,
be my Best Friend” and You said “I am”
You saw me wear white, by pale candlelight,
I said forever to what lies ahead
two kids and a dream, with kids that can scream
too much it might seem when it’s two AM
when I am weak, unable to speak,
still I will call You by name.
“Oh Shepherd, Savior, Pasture-maker,
hold on to my hand,” and You say “I am.”
The winds of change,
And circumstance blow in and all around
us so we find a foothold that’s familiar,
And bless the moments that we feel You nearer
Life had begun, I was woven and spun,
You let the angels dance around the throne, who can say when,
But they’ll dance again, when I am free and finally headed home
I will be weak, unable to speak,
still I will call You by name
“Creator, Maker, Life-sustainer,
Comforter, Healer, My Redeemer,
Lord and King, Beginning and
the End, I am, yes, I am.”
A few years ago I published a CD called The Dog Ate My Scriptures. Recently, a friend emailed and let me know that her dog really ate her scriptures.
Yikes! We’ve got to be careful with the scriptures.
Lately I’ve been pondering on the blessings that come from diligently studying the scriptures. There are so many! The following are just a few scriptures about how studying the scriptures blesses us.
- JS-M 1:37 “Whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived.”
- 2 Ne. 3:15 “[the scriptures] shall bring my people unto salvation.”
- Alma 37:44 “The word of Christ…will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss”
- Alma 17:2-3 “[They] had searched the scriptures diligently…and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.”
- 1 Nephi 15:24 “Whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.
- 2 Nephi 32:3 “The words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
So don’t let the dog eat our scriptures…let’s you and me feast on them instead!
Several years ago I starting cutting my own hair. It works well—usually. But one afternoon when the razor first touched my hair, I felt something uncomfortable, and heard a loud buzzing noise. It only took a half second for me to realize that something was wrong—I had forgotten to put on the attachment, and had created a bald spot in my head!
When my wife saw it, she was horrified. “You can’t go out like that,” she said. So she got a permanent marker and colored in the bald spot. But that just made it look worse!
Then she said, “After the haircut we’ll have some extra hair. Why don’t we just take some of the extra hair and superglue it to your head.”
And you know what, it worked!
Fortunately there was a quick solution to my bald patch—but there are many problems we face that are not so easily we resolved. Some times life is just plain hard. That is why I love President Susan W. Tanner’s motto, “I can do hard things!”
Three principles that may help are 1. Fear not. 2. Focus on what is in your control. 3. Go forward in the strength of the Lord.
First, fear not. The phrase, “fear not” appears 97 times in the scriptures. The phrase “be not afraid” occurs 35 times. Yet when we are in the midst of trials, it is easy to give into fear, and even allow fear to paralyze us.
Perhaps the Israelites felt paralyzed with fear when they stood between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army. But even in this case (where fear certainly seemed justified), Moses told them, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord… The Lord shall fight for you” (Exodus 14:13-14).
And then the Lord gave this important counsel. He “said unto Moses…speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (Exodus 14:15).
At times I think everyone feels afraid. Like this story I heard—Sacrament meeting was about to begin and a mother couldn’t find her son. She searched everywhere and finally located him sitting outside on the curb with his head in his hands. She said “Son, we have to go in now. Sacrament is about to start.” He responds, “Mom, I’ll give you three reasons why I won’t go. 1. Nobody will talk to me, and 2. Nobody likes me. 3. I’m scared of the youth.
The mother said, “I’ll give you three reasons why you should go. 1. You need to take the Sacrament. 2. You’re 42 years old 3. You’re the Bishop!”
Fear not. Instead, keep moving forward with the spirit “of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Second, focus on what is in your control. Elder Richard G. Scott shared a valuable experience from his life—he was recently married with a good job and church calling. Yet his various assignments produced so much stress he found himself in the doctor’s office, being checked for ulcers.
The solution came when he was prompted to divide all of his challenges into two categories. He said, “First, those for which I had some ability to control and to resolve, I put into a mental basket called “concern.” Second, all the rest of the things that were either brought to me or I imagined I had the responsibility to carry out, but over which I had no control, I put in a basket called “worry.”
I realized I could not change them to any significant degree, so I studiously strove to completely forget them. The items in the “concern” basket were ordered in priority. I conscientiously tried to resolve them to the best of my ability.” (“To the lonely and misunderstood,” http://speeches.byu.edu).
When a problem would arise he would ask himself if this was something in his control. If it was not, he would try to forget them, and instead focus on those things that were in his control. We can do the same.
Third, we can go forward in the strength of the Lord. As the Nephites faced many difficult battles, notice what they did:
- “And in the strength of the Lord they did contend against their enemies” (Words of Mormon 1:14).
- “Yea, in the strength of the Lord did we go forth to battle against the Lamanites” (Mosiah 9:17).
- “In the strength of the Lord they did receive them” (3 Nephi 4:10).
Every time the Nephites battled with “the strength of the Lord” they succeeded. When Alma was faced with a difficult assignment he prayed, not for his trials to go away, but that the Lord would give him the strength to work through them. This prayer was answered (see Alma 31:31, 38).
As I pondered the principle, “I can do hard things,” I realized that nearly every story in the scriptures is about people who did things that were difficult. Even when life gets tough, we can do hard things as we fear not, focus on what is in our control, and go forward in the strength of the Lord.