Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Introduction

As a new blogger I wondered what would make a suitable first post. I thought something about me might be appropriate but that seemed to be too much like boasting to a stranger.  It might make me feel good but I not sure you would find me that interesting.  And if you really want to know more about me you can always check out my web site.

Instead I decided that I would post an exercise from my workshop on personal self-development.  The workshop is an experiential process where I gather a group of members of the Church together to discuss Gospel topics and then we compare our understanding of these topics with a model of personality.  The process is a lot of fun and can be quite revealing.

The goal of the workshop is two fold.  The first is self-awareness.  The second is a greater appreciation for individual differences.  As we come to know who we are and how we differ from others we can use this understanding to improve our relationships with others.

One of my favorite topics in the workshop is what I call the twin challenges in the Book of Mormon.  This exercise tends to general a lot of discussion because the topic is somewhat controversial.  If you want to try this on your own you need your scriptures.  Electronic ones work best.  You can use your printed copy if you prefer.  It just takes a lot longer.

The Twin Challenges

The first is the Truth Challenge.  It is in Moroni 10:1-4 where we are challenged to discover for ourselves if the Book is true.

The second is where the fun starts and it is the Wisdom Challenge.  This is how Moroni phrased it in Mormon chapter nine.

31 Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made (will) manifest unto you our imperfection, that you may learn to be more wise that we have been.
32 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.
33 And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record.  (Mormon 9:30–33)

What do you think Moroni meant by "imperfections"?

Some might suggest that he is talking about personal failings.  It is hard to believe this is true when in verse 33 he says, "…imperfection in our record."  Therefore I suggest that one reason why he wrote the book was that God could, as Moroni writes later in this chapter, "…manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been."  I believe that this challenge is like the Truth Challenge in that what we discover from the process is more about who we are then some object truth.  I have found one possible imperfection.  How I found it is another story that I will save for another post.

The possible imperfection that I want to tell you about is in the sermon of Jacob.  To understand why this might be an imperfection we have to start with the meaning of a common phrase that he used.  The phrase is "save it be". This phrase isn't used much today, yet it and the related phrases "save it were", "save it was" and "save it is" are used 131 times in the Book of Mormon.  The question is: What do you think these phrases mean?

The key to understanding these phrases is in the word "save" which means to rescue or set aside or to make an exception to a general rule.  When you combine the word "save" with the words "it" and "be" or the variants "were" "was" and "is" the end result is a verb phrase that you can use in a sentence where there is a comparison of the whole to a part.  Here is how this phrase is used.

Every use of the phrase "save it be" in the Book of Mormon follows this pattern.  First the author will start with a declarative statement which is stated as an absolute.  Most of the time, the statement is also a negative statement.  Take this verse from 1 Nephi for example.

4 And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.
(1 Nephi 2:4)

The declarative statement in this verse is that Lehi "…took nothing with him on his journey into the wilderness."  Note that the phrase "…took nothing with him" is a negative statement and it is also an absolute statement because it doesn't allow for any exceptions.  If he took anything with him then this statement is false.

What follows next is the phrase "save it be" which indicates that there is an exception to the previous statement.  In this case what Lehi did was bring "…his family, and provisions, and tents."

Today, instead of the phrase "save it be", we use the word "except" or "only". Which you use depends on whether the phrase is modifying the subject or the object of the sentence.  This means when you find the phrase "save it be" in the Book of Mormon you should be able to substitute either of these two words and not change the meaning.

I have included a few examples of scriptures that contain the phrase "save it be" in this article for those who don't want to search to find them.  If you are using a print copy of the Book of Mormon this might take some time.  I suggest using an electronic copy of the scriptures and searching for the term "save it be".  Make sure you include the quotation marks in your search term otherwise you will get too many hits.  When I left out the quotation marks I got 280.

What you will find is that there are 31 times in the Book of Mormon where the phrase "save it be" appears.  You don't have to read every example.  Three or four chosen at random should be sufficient to make my point but feel free to read them all if you like.

What you learn might surprise you.  So much so that you may even end up going back and reviewing all the verses that you found on your device just to make sure the conclusion I have drawn is correct.

Scripture examples

3 And that great pit, which hath been digged for them by that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hell—yea, that great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction, saith the Lamb of God; not the destruction of the soul, save it be (only/except) the casting of it into that hell which hath no end.
(1 Nephi 14:3)

8 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be (only/except) through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
(2 Nephi 2:8)

10 And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again, saying: I will visit thy brethren according to their diligence in keeping my commandments. I have given unto them this land, and it is a holy land; and I curse it not save it be (only/except) for the cause of iniquity; wherefore, I will visit thy brethren according as I have said; and their transgressions will I bring down with sorrow upon their own heads.
(Enos 1:10)

2 Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were (only/except) by the Holy Ghost?
(2 Nephi 32:2)

8 Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be (only/except) revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.
(Jacob 4:8)

19 And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were (only/except) in bearing down in pure testimony against them.
(Alma 4:19)

19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be (only/except) those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
(3 Nephi 27:19)

14 And it came to pass that the seventy and first year passed away, and also the seventy and second year, yea, and in fine, till the seventy and ninth year had passed away; yea, even an hundred years had passed away, and the disciples of Jesus, whom he had chosen, had all gone to the paradise of God, save it were (only/except) the three who should tarry; and there were other disciples ordained in their stead; and also many of that generation had passed away.
(4 Nephi 1:14)

Now here is where the fun begins

What you have learned from the proceeding is that in every single scripture where you find the phrase "save it be" in the Book of Mormon you can substitute "only" or "except" and the meaning of the scripture stays the same.  Now follow along as we replace "save it be" with "only" in this verse from a sermon by Jacob.

27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have (only) one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
(Jacob 2:27)

When you replace the phrase "save it be" with the word "only" the meaning of this scripture is that no man should have only one wife.  Or in other words, every married man should have more that one wife instead of having concubines, which was what they were doing.  Did you see this coming?  Is this one of those imperfections Moroni mentioned?

I'm not suggesting that this is an imperfection but rather it might be because it seems to run counter to the common belief in the Church that polygamy wasn't sanctioned in the Book of Mormon.  But this is beside the point.  The goal of this exercise isn't to discover objective truth.  The goal is to learn more about who you are.  And we do that in the workshop by comparing each person's reaction to this discovery with the reaction of the rest of group.  This is obviously easy to do in a workshop.  It is a little trickier to do this on your own.  One way you can do this is to share this article with someone and then compare your reactions.  Remember you are looking for personality differences to explain your reactions and not looking for the truth.

Conclusion

The main reason why I picked this example to share with you is because it tends to generate a lot of discussion in the workshop and I'm hoping that it might do that here as well.  Of course this is because it is such a controversial topic.  Please note that I'm not promoting the practice of polygamy.  My goal here isn't to prove that polygamy was sanctioned in the Book of Mormon but rather my goal is to show how different personalities react in different ways when exposed to new and somewhat controversial information and that knowing who you are can help not only with understanding the Scriptures but more importantly with your interpersonal relationships.

I hope you have found this exercise interesting.  If you have any questions or comments please let me know.

All the best,

Bob