The Lord Had Compassion upon Jared – Ether 1:35, 37, 39-42

35 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded….
37 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon their friends and their families also, that they were not confounded….
39 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord according to that which had been spoken by the mouth of Jared.
40 And it came to pass that the Lord did hear the brother of Jared, and had compassion upon him, and said unto him:
41 Go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind; and thy families; and also Jared thy brother and his family; and also thy friends and their families, and the friends of Jared and their families.
42 And when thou hast done this thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley which is northward. And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.
(Ether 1:35, 37, 39-42)

The Bible Dictionary teaches us that “the object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants to bless us, but there are some blessings that He will not give to us until we ask for them.

Jared and his brother lived at the time of the Tower of Babel, when the Lord scattered the people and confounded their language (Genesis 11:1-9). They navigated through this chaotic time with a series of specific prayers. Specifically, Jared asked his brother to pray for three things:

  1. Not to confound their language so that they could understand each other.
  2. Not to confound the language of their friends and families.
  3. To reveal to them where they should go.

In each of the three cases, Moroni tells us that the Lord had compassion on them and answered the prayer.

I’m interested in the incremental nature of their prayers. Only after receiving an answer to each prayer were they ready to go on to the next one. Probably, until their immediate need was met, they weren’t even able to focus on the next need. I also think it’s interesting that the Lord gave them what they requested and no more. After the first prayer, He could have said, “I won’t confound your language and I will also grant this blessing to all of your friends and family.” But he didn’t. He granted each request as it came, providing blessings to Jared and his brother as they needed them and recognized the need to ask for them.

What purpose did these incremental answers serve? I can think of at least two:

  1. It gave them more opportunities to pray in faith. Rather than receiving everything they needed at once, Jared and his brother had multiple opportunities to exercise their faith as they requested God to grant the next blessing they needed.
  2. It gave them time to understand what they needed before the need was fulfilled. If all of the blessings had been given at once, they might not have appreciated the value of those blessings, and they might not have even learned why those blessings were needed. When we face challenges, diagnose our needs, and pray for specific blessings, we are still dependent on God, but we are more spiritually mature because we are more aware of the ways that He is blessing us.

Today, I will exercise my faith by asking for specific blessings. I will be grateful for the process by which I can ask and receive answers to my prayers. I will be grateful for a Heavenly Father who hears me and has compassion on me. And I will also be grateful that He lets me grow by giving me time to understand my challenges and ask for help before providing the blessings I need.

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They Were Moved with Compassion – Alma 27:4-5

4 Now when Ammon and his brethren saw this work of destruction among those whom they so dearly beloved, and among those who had so dearly beloved them—for they were treated as though they were angels sent from God to save them from everlasting destruction—therefore, when Ammon and his brethren saw this great work of destruction, they were moved with compassion, and they said unto the king:
5 Let us gather together this people of the Lord, and let us go down to the land of Zarahemla to our brethren the Nephites, and flee out of the hands of our enemies, that we be not destroyed.
(Alma 27:4-5)

The journeys in the Book of Mormon began for many reasons:

  • Lehi left Jerusalem because the Lord warned him that he and his family were in danger (1 Nephi 2:2).
  • Zeniff joined a group traveling to Lehi-Nephi to live in the land of their ancestors (Omni 1:27).
  • Limhi and Alma both led their people out of captivity after waiting for an opportunity to escape (Mosiah 22:11-13, Mosiah 24:19-22).

In the passage above, we see what prompted Ammon and his brothers to lead the Lamanite believers to Zarahemla. It all began with compassion. Ammon and his brothers saw their fellow believers being persecuted for their religious belief and wanted to do something about it.

Genuine compassion motivates action. When we see other people experiencing adversity, and when we feel empathy toward them, we naturally want to do something to alleviate their suffering. Ammon and his brothers proposed a plan to the king: gather the believers and relocate to the land of the Nephites. The king was skeptical but agreed to the plan if Ammon could confirm it was in accordance with God’s will. In answer to Ammon’s prayer, the Lord said:

Get this people out of this land, that they perish not; for Satan has great hold on the hearts of the Amalekites, who do stir up the Lamanites to anger against their brethren to slay them; therefore get thee out of this land; and blessed are this people in this generation, for I will preserve them (Alma 27:12).

Today, I will pay attention to the needs of the people around me. When I see someone in need, and when I can do something to help, I will act on those feelings of empathy and do what I can to help them with their challenges. I will allow my heart to be “moved with compassion,” just as the hearts of Ammon and his brothers were.

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They Poured out Their Thanks to God – Mosiah 24:21-22

21 Yea, and in the valley of Alma they poured out their thanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased their burdens, and had delivered them out of bondage; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it were the Lord their God.
22 And they gave thanks to God, yea, all their men and all their women and all their children that could speak lifted their voices in the praises of their God.
(Mosiah 24:21-22)

When we put our thoughts and feelings into words, we materialize them and make them more durable. In my own experience, words spoken aloud are more impactful than words expressed in my mind. The verbal expression, even if no one hears me, makes the words more tangible and more memorable.

After miraculously escaping from their Lamanite captors, the people of Alma took the time to express their gratitude to God for their deliverance. As Mormon tells us in the passage above, every one of them who was old enough to talk “lifted their voices in the praises of their God.” They could have assigned one person to offer a prayer of gratitude on their behalf. But under these circumstances, the blessing they had received was so great that every one of them felt a desire to express their gratitude to God personally.

President Thomas S. Monson taught that expressing gratitude is an essential part of being grateful:

A grateful heart…comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude. Often we feel grateful and intend to express our thanks but forget to do so or just don’t get around to it. Someone has said that “feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it” (“The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” General Conference, October 2010).

Today, I will express my gratitude to God intentionally and verbally. I will also remember to express gratitude to the people around me, at work and at home. I will remember that my grateful thoughts and feelings need to be transformed into words and actions in order to realize their full potential.

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So Great Was Their Faith and Their Patience… – Mosiah 24:16-17

16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.
17 And he said unto Alma: Thou shalt go before this people, and I will go with thee and deliver this people out of bondage.
(Mosiah 24:16-17)

Faith – Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting on his authority and veracity, without other evidence; the judgment that what another states or testifies is the truth.
Patience – The suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evil, with a calm, unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness. patience may spring from constitutional fortitude, from a kind of heroic pride, or from christian submission to the divine will (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).

After Alma and his people organized a church and established a city, everything seemed to be going very well. Mormon tells us that “they did multiply and prosper exceedingly in the land of Helam.” But he adds ominously, “Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith” (Mosiah 23:20-21).

Alma and his people soon found themselves in captivity. When they tried to pray, their captors threatened them with death. So they prayed silently and received quiet assurances that they would be delivered–eventually. Mormon tells us that the Lord strengthened them so that they could bear their burdens more easily and that “they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:10-15). Finally, after demonstrating their faithfulness over time, the Lord provided the blessing they had been waiting for. As we read in the passage above, “so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.”

Patience is not begrudging resignation. It is also not detached indifference. As Neal A. Maxwell taught, “[Patience] is caring very much, but being willing, nevertheless, to submit both to the Lord and to what the scriptures call the ‘process of time'” (“Patience,” BYU Devotional Address, 27 November 1979).

Patience and faith go together. Faith would not be worth very much if it were transient, lasting only a short period of time. Thus “you receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” because you can only demonstrate the depth of your faith by sustaining it over time. (See Ether 12:6.)

Today, I will exercise faith in the Lord by being patient. I will strive to face difficulties and delays “with a calm unruffled temper” and “without murmuring or fretfulness.” I will remember that patience is a companion of faith and that blessings will come as I develop and exercise both of these virtues.

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That They Might Have the Voice of the People – Mosiah 22:1-4

1 And now it came to pass that Ammon and king Limhi began to consult with the people how they should deliver themselves out of bondage; and even they did cause that all the people should gather themselves together; and this they did that they might have the voice of the people concerning the matter.
2 And it came to pass that they could find no way to deliver themselves out of bondage, except it were to take their women and children, and their flocks, and their herds, and their tents, and depart into the wilderness; for the Lamanites being so numerous, it was impossible for the people of Limhi to contend with them, thinking to deliver themselves out of bondage by the sword.
3 Now it came to pass that Gideon went forth and stood before the king, and said unto him: Now O king, thou hast hitherto hearkened unto my words many times when we have been contending with our brethren, the Lamanites.
4 And now O king, if thou hast not found me to be an unprofitable servant, or if thou hast hitherto listened to my words in any degree, and they have been of service to thee, even so I desire that thou wouldst listen to my words at this time, and I will be thy servant and deliver this people out of bondage.
(Mosiah 22:1-4)

After the arrival of Ammon in the land of Lehi-Nephi, King Limhi became hopeful that he could lead his people out of captivity and reunite with the inhabitants of Zarahemla. However, it’s one thing to believe that something can be done; it’s quite another to have a plan that will work. In an effort to create such a plan, Limhi and Ammon “began to consult with the people how they should deliver themselves out of bondage; and even they did cause that all the people should gather themselves together; and this they did that they might have the voice of the people.” This was a good approach. The collective efforts of a large number of people would generate many more ideas than a small group of people operating alone, and the people were more likely to buy into a plan if they had been part of the process of creating it.

I love the following advice in the Church Handbook about how ward councils should make decisions:

During [a ward council] meeting, the bishop explains each matter being considered, but he does not normally decide how to resolve the matter until he has heard the discussion. He encourages discussion without dominating it. He asks questions and may ask particular council members for their suggestions. He listens carefully before making a decision. These discussions should foster a spirit of inspiration.
Council members are encouraged to speak honestly, both from their personal experience and from their positions as organization leaders. Both men and women should feel that their comments are valued as full participants. The bishop seeks input from Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary leaders in all matters considered by the ward council. The viewpoint of women is sometimes different from that of men, and it adds essential perspective to understanding and responding to members’ needs (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 4.6 Ward Council Meetings).

Today, when I have the opportunity to make decisions, whether at work or at home, I will follow the examples of Limhi and Ammon: I will ask the people who will be affected by the decision for their ideas. I will avoid jumping to a conclusion, or even expressing my opinion too forcefully until I have heard the discussion. I will make it a priority to hear diverse points of view and to learn from people with different backgrounds in order to maximize the probability of making the right decision.

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Lift up Your Heads – Mosiah 7:18-20

18 And it came to pass that when they had gathered themselves together that he spake unto them in this wise, saying: O ye, my people, lift up your heads and be comforted; for behold, the time is at hand, or is not far distant, when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies, notwithstanding our many strugglings, which have been in vain; yet I trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made.
19 Therefore, lift up your heads, and rejoice, and put your trust in God, in that God who was the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and also, that God who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and caused that they should walk through the Red Sea on dry ground, and fed them with manna that they might not perish in the wilderness; and many more things did he do for them.
20 And again, that same God has brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem, and has kept and preserved his people even until now…
(Mosiah 7:18-20)

An effective leader helps people visualize a successful outcome of their efforts and help them believe that they can achieve them. In other words, a leader empowers people to have hope and exercise faith. Leaders can do this by describing the future and by reminding people of positive past experiences, even as they acknowledge the challenges that must be overcome to achieve their collective goals.

In the passage above, King Limhi addresses his people. Years earlier, his grandfather led a group of people from Zarahemla to the land of their ancestors and entered an unwise treaty with the king of the Lamanites which eventually led to their falling into captivity. Now, many years later, a group of sixteen men has arrived from Zarahemla, reigniting Limhi’s optimism that his people can escape.

In his speech, Limhi talks about both the future and the past:

  • The future: “The time is at hand, or is not far distant, when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies.”
  • The past: “Put your trust in…that God who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and caused that they should walk through the Red Sea on dry ground, and fed them with manna that they might not perish in the wilderness; and many more things did he do for them.”

Today, I will follow Limhi’s example in my own leadership. I will help the people I lead to visualize a bright future, using examples from the past to bolster their confidence. I will remember that my positive influence can inspire them to take the actions necessary to achieve those positive outcomes with God’s help.

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When I Saw That Which Was Good Among Them – Mosiah 9:1-3

1 I, Zeniff, having been taught in all the language of the Nephites, and having had a knowledge of the land of Nephi, or of the land of our fathers’ first inheritance, and having been sent as a spy among the Lamanites that I might spy out their forces, that our army might come upon them and destroy them—but when I saw that which was good among them I was desirous that they should not be destroyed.
2 Therefore, I contended with my brethren in the wilderness, for I would that our ruler should make a treaty with them; but he being an austere and a blood-thirsty man commanded that I should be slain; but I was rescued by the shedding of much blood; for father fought against father, and brother against brother, until the greater number of our army was destroyed in the wilderness; and we returned, those of us that were spared, to the land of Zarahemla, to relate that tale to their wives and their children.
3 And yet, I being over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers, collected as many as were desirous to go up to possess the land, and started again on our journey into the wilderness to go up to the land; but we were smitten with famine and sore afflictions; for we were slow to remember the Lord our God.
(Mosiah 9:1-3)

An important part of our mortal experience is dealing with imperfect information. Psychologists use the term “mental models” to describe the simplified representations of the world which we use to make decisions because our minds are not capable of perceiving or comprehending every detail. In theory, we update those mental models whenever we encounter information that contradicts them. But in practice, we resist changing our models, either because we need a stable worldview in order to function, or because we simply don’t want to admit we are wrong.

In the passage above, Zeniff encounters new information which conflicts with one of his established mental models. He has traveled with a group of people on a mission to reclaim the land of their ancestors (Omni 1:27). Believing that the Lamanites, the current inhabitants of that land, are beyond reclamation, he accepts the assignment to spy on them to gain intelligence which will help his group to destroy them. But after watching these people, he is forced to change his mental model. “When I saw that which was good among them,” he says, “I was desirous that they should not be destroyed.” Unfortunately, the leader of his group, “an austere and blood-thirsty man,” is unable to change his mental model, and the resulting battle claims the lives of the entire group except fifty (Omni 1:28).

Zeniff now has a new mental model. He believes that the Lamanites can be trusted. Excited and even “overzealous,” as he later concedes, about this new paradigm, he convinces a new group of people to travel to the same land and enter into a treaty with the Lamanite king. Unfortunately, this proves to be a catastrophic mistake. The king’s intention is to find a way to bring Zeniff’s people into bondage (Mosiah 9:10-12).

So both of the mental models were inadequate. The Lamanites were not so bad that they deserved to be destroyed. But neither were they entirely trustworthy. Just like his former leader, who had been unable to adjust his overly harsh view of the Lamanites, Zeniff was unable to alter his overly optimistic view of them until it was too late and his people were in terrible danger.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf discussed the human tendency to ignore or reject information which challenges our worldviews:

The “truths” we cling to shape the quality of our societies as well as our individual characters. All too often these “truths” are based on incomplete and inaccurate evidence, and at times they serve very selfish motives.
Part of the reason for poor judgment comes from the tendency of mankind to blur the line between belief and truth. We too often confuse belief with truth, thinking that because something makes sense or is convenient, it must be true. Conversely, we sometimes don’t believe truth or reject it—because it would require us to change or admit that we were wrong. Often, truth is rejected because it doesn’t appear to be consistent with previous experiences.
When the opinions or “truths” of others contradict our own, instead of considering the possibility that there could be information that might be helpful and augment or complement what we know, we often jump to conclusions or make assumptions that the other person is misinformed, mentally challenged, or even intentionally trying to deceive.
Unfortunately, this tendency can spread to all areas of our lives—from sports to family relationships and from religion to politics (“What Is Truth,” CES Devotional, 13 January 2013).

Today, I will strive to be humble and teachable as I come in contact with new information or opinions of others which contradict my mental models. I will make an effort to swallow my pride, to evaluate the new information fairly, and to make adjustments to my models as needed, even if it means admitting that I was wrong.

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