Hello! I hope you all had a wonderful Easter :)
So, Mom, remember how last week in your email you challenged me to try to live as a "holy woman" for three days by picking an area and focusing on that one area? Well I wanted to have more fulfilling studies. I was feeling like my testimony was more a shadow than something living and I wanted to reliven it. Here are some things I learned...
I was reading in Helaman 5 about Nephi and Lehi being surrounding by fire in jail and the consequent repentance and conversion of the Lamanite and Nephite dissenters. This has always been one of my favorite passages in the Book of Mormon because of the sequence of events.
In verses 23 and 24 it says, " that they [the bad guys] durst not lay their hands upon them [Nephi and Lehi] for fear lest they should be burned. Nevertheless, Nephi and Lehi were not burned; and they were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned. And when they saw that they were encircled about with a pillar of fire, and that it burned them not, their hearts did take courage."
This ordering of events between verses leads me to believe that Nephi and Lehi were not aware of the "fire" around them until after they noticed the reactions of the others. I think that often we as members of the church and particularly as missionaries, like Nephi and Lehi, don't realize there's literally something different about us/around us until someone mentions it or points it out. It's important to remember we have it. Nephi and Lehi did and some wonderous things happened.
In the BD under "fire" it says fires is, "frequently the symbol of God’s presence, revealed either in mercy or in judgment (1) of His glory (2) of His holiness (3) of His presence to protect (4) of His judgments (5) the punishment of the wicked (6) of the Holy Spirit as a purifying agent; as tongues of fire." I feel like each of these elements is represented in this passage (Helaman 5:23-52) as well. Also, in the scriptures the gift of the Holy Ghost is often referred to as baptism by fire, so you can definitely see how these two really lived worthy to have the constant companionship promised.
The next thing that stood out to me was the comfort Nephi and Lehi extended their persecutors in verse 26, "And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did stand forth and began to speak unto them, saying: Fear not, for behold, it is God that has shown unto you this marvelous thing, in the which is shown unto you that ye cannot lay your hands on us to slay us."
I just think it's so sweet and says a lot about their character that even though they are the ones in danger, well not really because they obviously are protected by God, but still, to extend comfort. They are truly sympathetic of how their enemies feel.
A lot of other great and wonderful things happen in this passage, but the thing that really caught my attention this time around and that I would like some help understanding comes from a few verses within this passage:
23 and 24 (see above)
36 "And it came to pass that he turned him about, and behold, he saw through the cloud of darkness the faces of Nephi and Lehi; and behold, they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels. And he beheld that they did lift their eyes to heaven; and they were in the attitude as if talking or lifting their voices to some being whom they beheld."
39 "...They do converse with the angels of God."
43-49 "And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire. And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory. And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words. And it came to pass that there came a voice unto them, yea, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying: Peace, peace be unto you, because of your faith in my Well Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world. And now, when they heard this they cast up their eyes as if to behold from whence the voice came; and behold, they saw the heavens open; and angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them. And there were about three hundred souls who saw and heard these things; and they were bidden to go forth and marvel not, neither should they doubt."
The reason these stood out to me were because of the footnotes and references within the Bible Dictionary and the subsequent footnotes from those scriptures that brought me to scriptural passages dealing with transfiguration such as Exodus 34, the accounts of the Mount of Transfiguration, and the account in 3 Nephi of Christ blessing the little children and their being surrounding by angels. I would probably add to this the experiences of those at the Kirkland temple dedication. I got to wondering about what exactly transfiguration is and looked in the missionary library and scriptures for answers, but nothing definitively defined it for me. Some common elements I've noticed in the several passages, however, are:
-some initial fear of those who witness it
-those who are transfigured offering comfort
-appearances of angels/heavenly beings
-I think often/generally the voice of Heavenly Father declaring Christ as the Savior
-those involved/witnessing are asked to not doubt or marvel
I'm just really curious about all this. Have you read anything or can you direct me anywhere where I can maybe find some more structure to what's going on here?
Some more interesting things I noticed are that with the Mount of Transfiguration the apostles were told to wait to tell anyone what happened until after Christ was resurrected and in this account in Helaman 5, verses 50 and 51, "And it came to pass that they did go forth, and did minister unto the people, declaring throughout all the regions round about all the things which they had heard and seen, insomuch that the more part of the Lamanites were convinced of them, because of the greatness of the evidences which they had received." So I wonder what the difference there was.
And a random side observance to this all is found in verses 51-52 "And as many as were convinced did lay down their weapons of war, and also their hatred and the tradition of their fathers. And it came to pass that they did yield up unto the Nephites the lands of their possession." Reading this got me thinking on Alma 31:5, "And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God." Here's proof that it works!
Anyways, it was a very fulfilling study and I'm excited to continue it. With General Conference and the temple conference coming up I'm hoping to find some enlightenment on this subject seeing as the accounts I have so far found of transfiguration occur with those called of God and often around temples or mountains (in every case I've read expect for this prison one).
This study, and other mornings of equally fulfilling studies started my mornings off with a really sweet spirit that I feel prepared me for an Easter concert I got to sing in (with a choir) in Rotterdam Saturday. The concert was absolutely beautiful, but one song at the beginning really struck me. It's called "Getsemane" and as we sang the spirit was so strong. I felt and knew then and know so now that Jesus Christ really did live and die for us. He loves and wants to us to be happy. He did everything He could to ensure that for us. This week from concentrating on my studies and really trying to spiritually improve myself, I've come to understand and feel of His love a little more. It's a pattern I intend to continue.
I'm really excited to hear about what you all experienced this Easter as you tried to concentrate on the Savior through your efforts to become more holy. I love you all and SO grateful we are an eternal family. Thank goodness for the Atonement!
Love, Zuster Becky Hinchcliff
PS I did get the Easter package, thank you so much! I opened it Easter morning and have been enjoying it's contents since! Also, just so you know, I had an awesome Easter day at church, in appointments, and on the streets :) If I had more time I'd expand, but I used it all....Veel liefs!
NOTICE: This email message is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply email and destroy all copies of the original message.
PPS some people here in A'dam have connections to NC and have asked me to inquire after them:
Victor Bartholomew- 1st stake pres in Raleigh, grandpa of Zr. Donna Bardsley, an American in my ward
Row Newsom- from Ashville, former B52 pilot, has his PhD in something or another, currently serving a mission in Frankfurt, Germany with...
Elder and Sister Wood who used to live in NC with the military and visited our ward yesterday. We talked after sacrament and they told me that they are former aquentainces with the Brocks and the Catletts! They just about cried when I told them that both families are in my home ward and the latest updates I knew about their lives. Please let the Brocks (g-ma and g-pa) and the Catletts (g-ma and g-pa) know that Elder and Sister Wood say hello!