Come, Follow Me: November 16 — 22
The lesson for this week for Individuals and Families focuses on the Jaredite migration story as our story in mortality. The Jaredites were blessed to be led away from their destroyed city. They kept their language and were led northward by the Lord into a land where no one had ever lived. In barges, they traveled various waterways as instructed by God until they came to the sea. Directed by God, they built barges, and with God’s help, they were blessed with light inside the closed barges and a way to have air to breathe. On the waves, they were tossed and driven, heading for a land they hoped was amazing as described by the Lord, but their faith during the journey must have been sorely tried. Not only was the journey long, but it was treacherous and filled with new and frightening experiences.
Surprisingly, an inspiring book from a Jewish doctor gives us insights into this experience and hope for our own journey. Rachel Naomi Remen, MD was raised by busy parents who weren’t adequately present for her, but her kind grandfather was full of wisdom as an orthodox Jewish rabbi. Dr. Remen eventually founded a hospital in San Francisco with a holistic treatment plan for cancer patients, many of them terminal. Her grandfather had taught her that everyone belongs to us and we belong to everyone. Through service, we discover our own wholeness.
In her book, My Grandfather’s Blessings, Dr. Remen talks about not knowing where we are going. When that happens, we feel confused and insecure. There are blessings in being in this uncomfortable, trying state, however. When we head straight towards our goal unimpeded, it’s like we have blinders on. Being forced to take detours opens our eyes to new sights and experiences. So actually, these confusing times are the best learning periods of our lives. Read the following quote from Dr. Remen’s book and discuss how it relates to your mortal journey and the experience of the migrating Jaredites:
When I was remodeling my home, I was torn between two ways of creating access to my front door. One way involved building a flight of steps from the street that opened onto a path leading directly to my door. From the moment you set foot on the first step, you could see the front door and know exactly where you were going.
The other way was quite different. You come through a gate and climb a short flight of steps to a small landing. Just beyond this landing is a tree of great beauty. As you climb, all you can see is this tree. When you reach the landing, you discover it joins a small deck bordered by a rose garden and passing through this find another flight of steps, quite steep, leading off to the right. The top step is well above your eye level, and climbing, you see nothing until you reach a deck at the top, where looking to your right you discover a breathtaking sixty-mile view of San Francisco Bay. Crossing this deck brings you to three gradual steps leading off to the left. Climbing these you unexpectedly find the little meadow which is my backyard, and rising from it, the exquisite profile of Mount Tamalpais, the highest mountain in our county. Only then can you see my front door, which is now only a few steps away. You have been moving toward it steadily, without knowing, all along.
In struggling to make this decision I consulted two architects, both of whom told me that one of the basic principles of the architecture of front entrances is that people need to see where they are going from the start. They agreed that the uncertainty of the second approach would create unease in any guest coming to the house for the first time. Despite the uniformity of this expert advice, I ultimately chose the second way.
Thinking about it now, it seems to me that knowing where we are going encourages us to stop seeing and hearing and allows us to fall asleep. In fact, when I find myself on such a direct path, a part of me rushes ahead to the front door the moment I see it. As I hurry to overtake this part, I usually do not really see anything that I pass.
Not knowing where you are going creates more than uncertainty; it fosters a sense of aliveness, an appreciation of the particulars around you. It wakes you up much in the same way that illness does. I choose the second way.
In fact, perhaps we only think we know where we are going as all the while we are really going somewhere quite different. I have done many things to achieve a valued goal only to discover in time that the real goal my choices have led me toward is something else entirely. Something I could not even have known existed when I first set foot upon the path. The purpose underlying life often wears the mask of whatever has our attention at the time. The very reason that we were born, our greatest blessing, or our way to serve may come into our lives looking like a new car, a chance to travel, or a cup of the finest coffee.
The truth is that we are always moving toward mystery and so we are far closer to what is real when we do not see our destination clearly.
It becomes obvious in Dr. Remen’s book that she has an interest in all faiths and studies them, gleaning the best they have to offer. Amazingly, the message of hope with which she ends her book recounts the story of the migration of the Jaredites!:
“Epilogue” for My Grandfather’s Blessings
In The Book of Mormon, there is another version of the Exodus story. In it, the Jaredites, forced from their homes by conditions that stifle their freedom, set out across great uncharted waters to reach the land of promise in boats sealed up tightly against the sea. Jared speaks to God about the difficulty in steering these boats in total darkness. He is told that if he brings stones with him, God will touch them and they will shine forth light.
The voyage is long and difficult in the extreme; there are mighty storms, and the boats are plunged deep beneath the water over and over again. But their seal holds, and the stones, touched by God, continue to shine. According to Jung, the stone is one of the two archetypal symbols for the soul. This image of a people sailing through heavy seas in search of freedom, steering only by the light that the touch of God kindles in their souls, is a particularly beautiful one for me.
The journey to freedom and the promised land may take many forms. Years ago, a friend in England sent me a card with a quote from King George V’s Christmas message to the British people. Shortly before I received this card, my mother, old and very ill, had come from New York City to live the last years of her life with me. She had loved this card and kept it in her purse. Throughout her final illness it stood on her bedside table. It was there on the day that she died. I have framed it now and keep it in my kitchen. It reads as follows:
I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
Give me a light that I might go safely out into the darkness.
And he replied, Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be more to you than a light and safer than a known way.
In the course of any lifetime there are times when one has to sail into the unknown without map or compass. These can be times of despair and terror; they can also be times of discovery. Having accompanied many people as they deal with the unknown, I find that the most moving part of the Mormon exodus story is a single line. Despite the challenges and great difficulties of this sea journey, “the wind always blows in the direction of the promised land.” I have seen many people spread their sails and catch this wind.
There is a grace in life that can be trusted. In our struggle toward freedom we are neither abandoned nor alone.
Moroni proceeds to tell us about the Jaredites. They installed the stones in their barges (verse 2, 3). They prepared all manner of food for themselves and their animals (verse 4). They set out upon the ocean for a rather violent sea-travel experience (verses 5 – 8, 10, 11). Evidently, getting to the Promised Land faster was more important than a leisurely sailing experience. Even so, the journey lasted an entire year. Did they spend their time complaining? See verse 9.
When they landed in the Promised Land, what did they do (verses 12, 13, 17, 18)? The group had multiplied and prospered, and led by Jared and his brother, lived righteously. What happened in verse 22? How did Jared and the Brother of Jared react? How was a king chosen? Was the king righteous?
A few generations later, Corihor rebelled and drew people after him. The revenge cycle begins. What is a “revenge cycle” and why is it so hard to end it? Things change, however, at verse 23. Prophets come among the people predicting destruction if the people don’t repent. Look at verses 24 and 25. What kept the people from killing the prophets? What was the result of King Shule’s protection of the prophets (verses 26 and 27)?
Remember that the Jaredite society was way back in history, descended from Babel which was built not long after the great flood. Secret combinations originated from Satan and were had by Cain and his descendants. Here they are again among the Jaredites.
Even after King Shule and his people repented and prospered, a couple of generations later, the revenge cycle in the royal family began again and members of the family drew people after them, causing wars. Anger feeds these sorts of cycles and anger can become one’s central value, as we see in the final destruction of the Jaredites where people live only to kill each other. This final state arrives when God withdraws His spirit from His rebellious children and ceases to strive with them.
In verse 8, we see deposed King Jared being helped by the plots of his daughter who opened his eyes to the secret combinations of the devil. What was their plan and did it work? (See verses 9 – 18.) In verses 19 – 26, Moroni talks about the oaths. In verses 20 – 22, what are the reasons Moroni doesn’t reveal the oaths? What is Moroni’s advice to the Gentiles in the last days (verses 22 – 26)? Are there secret combinations among us today? If so, what are we doing about it?
Akish succeeded in overthrowing Omer, but the Lord helped Omer. How? (See verse 3.) Look at verses 4 – 6. Jared was the one who had lost his kingdom and had regained it through secret combinations and the help of his daughter and Akish. Now, Akish set out to kill his father-in-law and take power. Then Akish becomes jealous of his son. There are other biblical and historical accounts of family members killing each other for power. The future Herod the Great who sought to kill Jesus killed many members of his own family out of jealousy.
Read on through verse 12. How many people died because of the revenge cycle in the royal family? Omer’s power is restored, but how many people does he rule over? Begin in verse 15 read about Emer I and Emer II. What changed? Look at verse 22. Whom did Emer II see? Read through verse 26. Heth became king. Read through verse 29. What happened? How did God respond to the wickedness of the people (verses 30 – 34). In verse 35, were things getting better?
Read chapter 10. What did the wicked kings do? What did the responsible kings do? Beginning in verse 19 and reading through verse 28, we read about King Lib. What did the people achieve under his leadership? Why? Look at verse 33. We’re back to secret combinations again. What do you think?
Read the chapter through verse 20. After so much violence and wickedness with brief times of repentance, what did the prophets predict in verses 20 – 22? How much hope are they left with at this point?