A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post called Lessons from Genesis, which summarized my posts from the first three months of this year, grouping them by category. While that may serve a useful purpose, I’ve concluded that it doesn’t answer the question, “What did I actually learn during that time?” This post is my attempt to answer that question.
1. God will lead me to my promised land(s).
Throughout my study, I was intrigued by the role of the promised land in the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The land of Canaan was important to all three of them, but they never quite felt like they belonged there. When Abraham first arrived in Canaan, God assured him that his posterity would live in this land, but he was immediately diverted temporarily to the land of Egypt. Three generations later, his posterity lived in Canaan but still referred to themselves as “strangers” and “sojourners.” And hundreds of years after that, the family of Lehi was led away from Jerusalem to their own promised land.
I learned that God has promised lands for each of us, perhaps more than one. This realization has attuned me to the opportunities and blessings God has given us in our current home, where we have lived for nearly 18 years. As a result, I have recommitted to take advantage of current opportunities and contribute more to my community.
Here are some of the blog posts which helped me become more aware of God’s promised lands:
- Going to Egypt (February 11)
- A Land of Promise (February 12)
- Milk and Honey (March 25)
- Sojourners (March 29)
2. We all have birthrights to claim.
The concept of a birthright matters a lot in the families of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The principle seems to be that the oldest son inherits unique privileges and responsibilities. However, it never seems to work out that way. Ishmael was older than Isaac, Esau was older than Jacob, Reuben was older than Joseph, and Manasseh was older than Ephraim. In the Book of Mormon, we find a similar dynamic with Nephi and his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel.
Perhaps a more constructive way to think about birthrights is to review the names and blessings given to the sons of Jacob (Genesis 29, 30, 35, 49). Each of them had unique characteristics, which were highlighted by their parents. Those characteristics gave them opportunities to grow into, but it was up to them to claim their birthrights and to become all that they were capable of becoming.
I learned that I can be happiest by leveraging my unique strengths instead of trying to compete with others on their own terms. As a result, I’m setting goals and tackling challenges which are appropriate to my capabilities, and I’m doing a better job of cheering for others who have different strengths as they tackle challenges better suited to them.
Here are some of the blog posts which represent my evolving understanding of this topic:
3. We need to openly communicate our affection for our loved ones.
Enoch was shocked to see the all-powerful Creator of the universe weeping. God explained that He felt sorrow because His children were “without affection” (Moses 7:33). God wants us to feel love for one another and to express those feelings.
Jacob expressed his sorrow for the loss of his son Joseph and his fears of losing his son Benjamin by using the Hebrew word shakol (שָׁכֹל), which means “bereaved.” The risk of loss is inherent in every relationship. We can’t shield ourselves from that pain without stifling the love.
The reunion of Esau and Jacob exemplifies the affection we ought to show toward our families: “Esau ran to meet [Jacob], and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (Genesis 33:4). This reminds me of Alma’s emotional reunion with his close friends, the sons of Mosiah (Alma 27:16-19).
I learned to be less reserved in expressions of love for members of my family. I’m working on savoring time with them and sharing my feelings more openly with them.
Here are some blog posts which helped bring this imperative to my attention: