Background

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sariah


One of my favorite women in the Book of Mormon is Sariah. Humility, obedience, sacrifice, patience and long suffering are a few words that come to mind when I think of her. Sariah was the wife and helpmate of the prophet Lehi. Sariah teaches us that it takes great faith to trust not only in the Lord, but also those through whom He speaks. Especially if he is your husband!

Sariah was the first and only woman that Nephi identified by name in his record. In the opening line of  1 Nephi https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/1-ne/1?lang=engI, he proudly writes, "I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents . . ." and specifically names her when identifying his family members (see 1 Nephi 2:5). Her name is of Hebrew origin and means "Princess of the Lord."

Sariah was married to the Prophet Lehi and they lived in Jerusalem with their four sons. The Lord warned Lehi to leave the city because wicked people sought to take away his life. Lehi’s visions and revelations gave him strength to leave “the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things,” taking only his family, tents, and provisions into the wilderness. But how do you think Sariah felt about this decision? She was obligated to follow her husband and there is no evidence that she received any visions or special revelations. Let us consider her story and what it meant for her to follow a prophet of God.

Nephi frequently comments that his father was a wealthy man. So we may assume that Sariah lived in one of the better homes in Jerusalem with a stove, furniture, d├ęcor and comfortable amenities. Sariah certainly enjoyed lovely clothes, jewelry, cosmetics, servants and some social standing. According to Israelite tradition, a woman’s home was where she spent the majority of her time and its domestication was her life’s work. Abandoning her home and her world must have been heartbreaking and frightening. Lehi would have frequently been taken outside of the home to fulfill commercial and religious duties. Although leaving property was a sacrifice for Lehi, it may have been a greater test of humility and faith for Sariah

Custom remains that women stayed at home during caravans. So it is likely that Sariah may have never “camped” before. Lacking servants and being the only woman in the group, she was thrust into becoming a “Survivor Woman” among men. Faithfully she put on her hiking boots and headed into the merciless, windswept Arabian dessert. As the wife and mother, much of the setting up, taking down, food preparation, cooking, cleaning and nursing would have fell upon her. Imagine how difficult her role and how heavy her responsibility. Yet, this “goodly” woman absorbed it all.


It is not until her sons are presumed dead, that we hear her despair. Her children’s round trip back to obtain the brass plates was long overdue and she frantically complained against her husband, saying, “My sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.” (1 Ne. 5:2.) Sariah must have known something about the unrighteousness of their relative Laban and had good cause to worry for the safety of her sons. Lehi comforted her, not by promising that they would not face difficulties in their journeys, but by pointing out that those who stayed in Jerusalem would perish. Then he bore testimony that God would deliver his sons “out of the hands of Laban” and Sariah was “comforted.”

It takes great faith to trust not only the Lord, but also those through whom he speaks. Most of us are not called to be prophets or be married to one, but we are called upon to recognize the prophets and their messages from God. Sariah is a model woman who presents a growing testimony of the Lord’s spokesman. When her son returned she bore strong testimony of Lehi’s calling exclaiming: “Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them.”


 I too have a testimony of a living Prophet. His name is Thomas S. Monson and he is the Prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Heavenly Father loves His children and has not left them to walk through this mortal life without direction and guidance"Dieter F. Uchtdorf . I enjoy many blessings of peace and happiness because of this knowledge. I invite you to learn for yourself if this is true.







Friday, February 17, 2012

Tabitha (Also called Dorcas)

Benevolent, compassionate, and devout are all words that describe this incredible woman. She sewed for the needy, was a friend to the poor and gave so generously of herself that today, approximately two thousand years later, her name is synonymous with acts of charity. 
 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.” (Acts 9:36)  


Tabitha was first of all a disciple of Jesus Christ. She was a doer as well as a hearer of the word and followed Christ's commandment For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.  A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13: 15 & 34–35)
 
This motivating principle is manifested in Tabitha’s life by her “good works and almsdeeds.” Not only did she give of her coins but she gave of herself. With a sewing needle as her tool, she brought comfort and hope to the lowliest people in her society. She loved and served the widows in her community by making clothes for them. In that time and place widows were the most venerable members of society. Without a husband they often had no source of income. They had no one to protect them or to watch out for them. And so Tabitha looked after the widows. She used the skills that God had given her and exemplified the ideal woman spoken of in Proverbs 31:13, 20 “She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.” “She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.”

No one will ever know the hours that she spent sewing, the reassuring words that she gave or all the uncountable acts of charity that she performed. However, we know that she was “full” from engaging in Christ like service and that her life was full of people who cared deeply about her. 

One day, Tabitha became ill and died. When this happened, her friends and loved ones immediately went into action, “Whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.” (Acts 9: 37-38)

No doubt, these early Christians knew about the apostle Peter and the mighty miracles that he had performed in the name of Jesus Christ. Since Tabitha was such a great loss to the church in Joppa, they believed that Peter would help them. Perhaps they were looking for a miracle. When Peter heard the news about her death, he came at once. Upon arrival, he was taken to an upper room in the house where Tabitha’s body had been laid out. All the widows that she had helped were there wearing the clothes that Tabitha had made. They stood up around Peter weeping and showed him her handiwork. The faithful apostle must have had great compassion upon this scene and sought to bring the people comfort.
 
Peter dismissed the mourners from the room; then knelt down in faith and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, 'Tabitha, arise.' She then opened her eyes, saw Peter and sat up. He gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, “and many people believed in the Lord."

Some might think that Tabitha’s story is important because she was raised from the dead, for this was indeed a marvelous and faith promoting miracle. But, I believe that her story is just as significant because of the life that she lived. 

 Tabitha learned to love her neighbor as herself and teaches us that those who have love in their hearts can do a lot of good for others. She reminds us that we are the Lords hands here upon the earth and that our service to others is an expression of our discipleship. I believe that the Lord depends upon each of us to love and help one another. In return we are blessed and sanctified through our sacrifice. “Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf
 
As we serve the Savior and do what He would have us do, we become more like Him. As we become more like the Savior, we can begin to understand how he served and saves us. The Atonement of Jesus Christ then becomes truer and more active in our lives.

Each day we have the opportunity to brighten someone’s day and to save them in little ways. Maybe it’s sewing clothing like Tabitha or just helping a neighbor who needs some small assistance. Whatever it is, even small and simple acts of kindness can mean the world to someone.

With Tabitha’s story in mind, let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion towards others. Let us make the effort to follow the Savior as she did. If we claim to be Christians and Disciples of Christ, should we not do the same?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lydia

We have all heard the expression “Truth is Hard to Find.” I Googled the word Truth and came up with 669,000,000 results. With so many opinions about Truth, no wonder it is hard to know what to believe!  

 Lydia was a seeker of truth and an independent woman who questioned the status of her day. She did not have the internet so she went to the best search engine there is, God, who answered her prayers. 
                                            
She was an entrepreneur who sold purple cloth in the city of Philippi about A.D. 50.  She had the knowledge and skill to run a successful business and a large household.  She probably was one of the most influential women in her city and represented the “new woman” of her day. It seems that she had it all and could have lived quite content. However, Lydia was wise enough to know that there was a higher purpose for her life.
Her short but powerful story begins in Acts 16:13-14. 


Here, I imagine her and her friends sitting at a peaceful riverside away for the city, earnestly praying together for guidance. Perhaps it was to this small group that God directed the apostle Paul to come as they worshiped. “And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer 
was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us. whose heart the Lord opened, … attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”

These two short verses teach us a lot about Lydia. First, she was not Jewish. Woman gathered at rivers to bathe or to wash clothes. A devout Jewish woman would have done neither of these on the Sabbath. Lydia a Gentile, worshiped the one God of the Jews, while all the other Gentiles around her worshiped many gods. Because of her longing to know better the wonders and powers of the one God, Lydia was in a place of prayer on the Sabbath. 

 Second, she had an open heart. She really wanted to know truth and put forth the effort to obtain it. Paul tells us that she “heard us”. As Lydia listened with humility, keen insight and a witness of the spirit; she embraced the story of the new gospel. What courage it must have took for her to change. Many people today hear the good news of Jesus Christ yet they are unwilling to follow him. If only we could all have faith like Lydia. She made the decision to be a true Christian without hesitation. She did not think of how if might affect her business if she accepted her new faith. Her customers of purple dye might have scoffed at the gospel of Christ, but Lydia did not wait. She put Christ first and business afterward, and went forward and was baptized, as were members of her household. 

We do not know if Lydia was married and it is speculated that she was a widow. It is not made know if people in her household were relatives or servants. However, it seems that Lydia shared the gospel with them and they followed her lead. These individuals must have relied upon her good judgment and rejoiced together at their new found happiness.
 
After baptism Lydia desired with all of her heart to know more truth. She humbly spoke to Paul “If ye have judged me be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there” (Acts 16:15). Lydia “constrained” them and insisted that they share her hospitality. Her home thereafter became a meeting place for the early Christian cause. Later on, Paul and Silas also sought her home as a place of refuge after being released from prison. Again, Lydia did not care what her neighbors thought. Lydia had purpose and peace in her heart because she knew the gospel of Jesus Christ was true and that these were His disciples.

Perhaps when Paul wrote to the Philippians “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philip. 1:3-5), he had in mind, among others, Lydia, the first to be converted, the first to be baptized, the first to open her home as a meeting place for the saints in Philippi. 
 
Lydia’s story stands as a witness to the invitation from our Savior Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me”(Revelation 3:20). Like Lydia we must have the desire to open the door, even if it shakes the very foundation of our past beliefs and way of life. 

 We live in a day of rationalization; people want to discount spiritual experiences, and they deny themselves revelation. What happened to the seeking mind, the open mind, the inquiring mind—one seeking to know truth and knowledge? We tend to rely on our own rational powers. The Lord wants us to be sensitive to the Spirit, and to turn to Him for truth. 

To the honest in heart and good people of the world, I invite you to awake out of complacency and foolish contentment and come unto Christ. Let us follow Lydia’s lead  and do whatever it takes to earnestly seek truth, to know God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Crippled Woman with the Spirit of Infirmity

There was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years. Her body was crooked and so bowed that she could not lift up her head. Perhaps she had suffered from a serious accident or from some other crippling disease like scoliosis.  Whatever her infirmities, Jesus said Satan had bound her for almost two decades.

Imagine what it would be like not to walk straight for eighteen years, to never see where you are going and to move about in constant pain. Think of how broken one would be in spirit. This woman probably had lost all hope, because her body had been bent for so long. 


 Then on the Sabbath, she came before Jesus in her crippled condition. So serious was her ailment that she could not raise herself up and look into His face. But Jesus saw her and called her to Him. He then laid His hands upon her and said, “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity” (Luke 13:12). Immediately she was healed, stood up straight and glorified God. She did not take her healing for granted, but offered a prayer of adoration to the Giver of all good. 

There are so many of us that are going through life like this woman. We may have physical or emotional pains that impair our lives. For some, the burden of sin may be crushing and paralyzing. When we are weakened and downtrodden it is hard to look up and move forward. But like this woman, Jesus sees us. He knows our hearts and the trials that we go through and He calls us to Him. 

Some of us harden our hearts and turn away with bitterness from sorrow. Others look upon Him with indifference. While some want to believe but will not make the effort to meet Him. Jesus asks us the question, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

I am afraid of many things. That the economy is bad, that my children will not succeed, that my skin cancer may return. The list goes on and on. Sometimes it is quite overwhelming and I want to give up. But this amazing woman gives me hope and direction. 

When I face adversity, instead of looking down and inward, I strive to look up and move towards the Savior. Like this crooked woman, I have been bent and molded by my life experiences. However, I believe that they are for a greater purpose and I choose to trust in Jesus Christ. Let each of us have faith that we will lose our spirit of infirmity when we come to Him, for that is why He comes to us.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Parable of the Ten Virgins



Did you miss the “Rapture” at 6pm on May 21, 2011? Oops, I certainly did. There have been a lot of predictions about the end of the world and if and when the Second Coming will happen. The scriptures teach us that Jesus Christ will return again. However, the Savior taught “Ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24:42) 

Regardless if He comes today or years from now, Jesus told us to “Watch” and prepare ourselves. Through the parable of the Ten Virgins, He impressed the importance of unwavering diligence in preparation for His coming. Will you be ready? Are you like the wise or the foolish women in the story?



It was a custom among the Jews for the bridegroom to come at night to the bride’s house, where her bridesmaids attended her. When the bridegroom’s approach was announced, these maidens went out with lamps to light his way into the house for the celebration.

 Jesus told a story about ten young women who went to a wedding and waited for the bridegroom to come and let them in. They did not know what time he would come. Five of the virgins were wise and took along extra oil for their lamps, but five others were foolish and did not. When the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered, and at midnight, when it was announced that he was coming, the wise virgins arose and trimmed their lamps, but the foolish virgins said, “Our lamps are gone out.” And they said to the wise “Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.” But the wise women said no, it is not enough for both of us, go and buy for yourselves. While the foolish ones went to buy more oil, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in and the door was shut, the foolish virgins were too late and could not go to the wedding. (Matthew 25:1-12) http://lds.org/scriptures/nt/matt/25?lang=eng&query=ten+virgins

In this parable, Jesus represents the bridegroom and we are like the ten virgins. When Christ comes again, some of us will be ready because we have prepared by obeying God’s commandments. Others will not be ready and will not be able to be with the Savior. If we look at the ratio in the parable, half of those who profess to follow Jesus will not enter into His kingdom. 

Those who are unprepared will look to the righteous around them and beg for their help. However, the wise members of Christ’s church will not be able to aid them. As we cannot share our own “oil”, which is our faith, testimony, purity, dedication, good works, and our keeping of covenants. We must carry our own light or Spirit of God with us to find the way.

Like the ten virgins who stepped out into the night to meet the bridegroom, the children of God are looking for the Savior to return. We do not know the timing of Christ’s Second Coming, but we should prepare for it as though it could come at any moment. 

In the mean time, we can be like the five wise virgins in this parable, filling our lives with an abundance of oil in case our world gets dark and it’s hard to find our way. This reserve will keep the light of God burning with us, guiding us safely until the Savior comes again. This is how the spirit of the wise is maintained.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Widow's Mite

 Dr. Seuss once said “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”  There are so many problems in the world right now, like natural disasters, disease and poverty. We all want to help. But seriously, how can just one person make a difference, especially if their resources are limited? Mother Teresa advised us that “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” The lesson of the widow’s mite is an enduring testament to the value of a small but meaningful contribution. It is proof that when our hearts are in the right place we can not only help but inspire others to be generous as well.

 During the last Passover week of Jesus’ life, streams of visitors came to Jerusalem. As part of the celebration, Jewish people were required to visit the temple and make contributions to the treasury. On one particular day Jesus watched people cast their offerings. Much attention was being given to the wealthy men who made ostentatious contributions in front of everyone. In the mist of this, a poor widowed woman quietly came in. There she unselfishly casted into the chest her last two mites, hardly enough to buy a loaf of bread. (Mites were ancient pennies, fairly worthless at the time.)

And Jesus looked up, “and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.” (Luke 21:1-4)
 

This woman could have easily gone unnoticed. But devotion like hers did not escape the Savior. Instead of pointing out the offerings of the wealthy men, Jesus commended on the gift of the widow. She was not well-known and important but represented the lowliest of her society. However Jesus saw her worth as a great woman who was willing to share all that she had.

The cash value of her gift was nothing compared to that of the wealthy man’s but the devotion behind it was another matter. That devotion beginning there and spreading throughout the world has built hospitals, helped the needy, fed the hungered and encouraged the impoverished. Today the world knows more about this poor widow than about the richest man of Jerusalem in her day. 

Centuries later this woman inspires me to have faith to give a generous tithing. As she could not have known where her next meal would come from, but believed that God would provide for her. She also encourages me to give of my time and talents to help others as well. As in her day money was often called “talents”.  

I know that I cannot fix all of the world’s problems but I can help someone make their world a little better. I can take a meal to a sick friend, visit someone who is lonely or give a little money without judging a person in need. Like the Widow who gave her mites to God, I can give all of my might to serve Him and His children on earth. In doing so, I know that I can make some difference, will you?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mary of Bethany Anoints Jesus


Six days before the Passover, Jesus Christ made a trip to Bethany. There He attended a dinner that was never to be forgotten. As He sits at the meal, Mary the sister of Lazarus comes into the room and interrupts the flow of words. As I imagine this scene, I see her quietly walk over to Jesus who is the center of conversation. She is holding an alabaster box containing a very costly amount of precious ointment. Mary opens the box, produces a jar and then pours spikenard from the container onto Christ’s head. Through her silence, she creates a sacred space, a holy place. She is anointing Jesus. Everything about her actions is lovely, the reverence in which she opens the box, the sweet fragrance of her faith filling the room. 
 
Mary then anoints Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair. To anoint the head is to do Him honor but to anoint both the head and the feet with such expense is an act of homage rendered to kings. When Mary wipes His feet with her hair is an overwhelming expression of humility, devotion and respect. The act of her letting down her hair is extremely personable and something Jewish women do not do in public. Servants also wash the feet of guest with towels. Mary is using her beautiful hair to show that she does not care about the things of the world, only about her Lord and His ministry. The utter extravagance and adoration of it all is a prophetic symbol of how very precious Jesus’ life is.

But one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, does not approve and scolds Mary by saying “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” But, Jesus sensitive to her feelings and meaning says, “Leave her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always”. (John 12:4-8) Verily I say unto you. Wherever this gospel shall be preached to the whole world, there shall also this that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial to her.” (Matthew 26:13)

Jesus‘ words “my burying hath she kept this” bring Mary’s offering into focus. Jesus had been telling his disciples of his impending death. Since women were among His followers, it is likely that Mary too had heard these warnings. Her act of love symbolized that she had a deeper understanding of what Jesus was about to face, an understanding that even some of His male disciples may have lacked.

The amount of spikenard Mary used was worth about sixty dollars at the time. I wonder what length she went through to obtain the ointment. Did she have to sell some of her jewelry or give up part of her inheritance? Did she travel far to purchase it or did she pay someone else to obtain it for her? Judas criticized Mary for being so extravagant but soon he would betray the Savior for just thirty pieces of silver, the equivalent of about twenty dollars. Certainly Mary used her money justly and was the more righteous disciple. Her unselfish gift was a balm of faithfulness that soothed the way for the Savior who would suffer in Gethsemane and trudge to the cross alone.

Mary must have also been worried about the enemies Jesus had and the danger that awaited Him in Jerusalem. He was a provocative man who divided the people and angered religious leaders. Many thought He committed blasphemy. Others thought he was crazy or possessed. But Mary was among those who believed He was the Savior of the world. She needed to show her devotion to Him in an unmistakable and remarkable way. This anointing of Jesus’ body was the only one He would receive upon His death. It was a powerful message on the eve of His being handed over to suffering and death. She anointed Him, as if to say, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
No wonder this incident is a “memorial to her”.

As this Easter season comes upon us, I want to focus my thoughts and heart like Mary. I want to show my love and gratitude to my Savior. For many Christians, “Holy Week” describes a season of observance that begins with Palm Sunday and ends on Easter morning. I have committed myself to reading and pondering about each one of the days and events leading up to the resurrection of Christ. I invite you to read along with me by following this link.

Like Mary, we must come to know that Jesus Christ is our prophet, priest and king. I know that as we learn about and reflect upon His life we can receive a special witness of this. I bear witness that He is the Savior of world.

Your Friend in Christ,
Patty