Category Archives: Gospel Scholar


I am supposed to speak on the 24th. I was assigned the talk by Elder Ballard ” Anxiously Engaged” As I listened to the talk I thought about what I might say. At first I thought how I might interject my personal feelings about things into it. Then I listened again. I keyed in on the challenge to pray in the morning for someone to help that day. I will have to listen to it again, but I thought I could do that for the next week and a half and then report on what happened even if it was nothing. So day 1 of this so called experiment. I hadn’t much faith that there would be anything for me to do since I drive down the freeway, go into my office, and then zoom back down the freeway late at night. My interactions with humanity is very limited. So I finally escape traffic this morning and I start going 80 miles an hour towards work. It is 6:15 in the morning. I happen to look to the side of the road and there is someone walking along the freeway. I was going so fast that I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. I thought I saw the person carrying a large stuffed Mickey Mouse, and wrapped in a blanket. There wasn’t a car near by. This was not someone broken down on the freeway who might need help, but was this the person I was supposed to help today? I looked over on the other side of the freeway and traffic was stopped. This was interesting, but certainly this was not what the Lord intended for me to do that day, was it? I couldn’t tell. I rationalized that I had waited to long to decide and now I was significantly far away. You can travel pretty far going 80 mph. I even switched to a faster lane. But then I thought what if this was the person I was supposed to help that day. I got over one lane still not deciding what I should do. I let out an audible grunt kind of like Arghhh. Ok if it was then I failed, but can I be blamed? I got over another lane. I mean isn’t it dangerous to pick up seemingly homeless people in LA. I got over another lane. What was I going to say? Do you need a ride to nowhere? I got over another lane. Oh what the heck. I will turn around and then if I can’t find the person I can say that I did what I could. This is crazy. I thought as I finally got back into the stopped traffic going southbound. I wasn’t sure where to get off, but the last exit before the 101 exchange I figured that was as good a guess as any. I got back on the freeway and right there was the person ( I think I could see he was a man at this point) sure enough carrying a large stuffed Mickey Mouse, wrapped in a blanket walking towards me. He had been walking the other way before. The reason was that there was a cop just ahead with his lights flashing. Well I wasn’t going to pull up behind a cop and back down the freeway. I was off the hook now wasn’t I. I am not batman out roaming the streets of LA am I. The next exit was coming up. I was thinking faster and driving slower. I did not want to get back on the freeway going south again. What would I do anyway? He was walking away from the cop. Oh what am I doing? Is this inspiration? President Monson seemed to have much better stories about following the spirit. I got off and turned around into a residential area. I wasn’t even sure I could find my way back to the freeway. This was my last effort. After this I am on to work and I will shoulder the blame for failing to help. I finally found a freeway on ramp and there was Rich, off the freeway now standing on the street near the on ramp. Well I have to stop now. What do I say? “Hey can I give you a ride somewhere?”  or ” Can I buy you breakfast?”  I whipped around in traffic, and rolled my window down. “Would you like a lift?” Rich says sure and puts his two shopping bags, a large stuffed Mickey Mouse and a tweety bird in the back seat. He asked where I was going. I told him I was headed north. He said that sounded good. I asked him if he minded if we stopped at McDonald’s I bought us both breakfast. 30 minutes later I was at the exit where I work. He said I could drop him off anywhere it was convenient  maybe at Magic Mountain (which is closed) so he could go check that out. He asked if Disneyland was near by or if he kept going North would he get there. I told him it was in the opposite direction. I didn’t learn much about Rich. I learned that he was cold and that being in the warm car felt good. I learned that he likes a lot of cream in his coffee. I wished him luck and then in a Brian Regen sorta momentary lapse I said, “See ya ’round”. I doubt I will see him again. Was this person I was supposed to serve today? Did I do what I was supposed to? Was I supposed to do more? Am I going to find someone on the freeway everyday? I don’t know. I probably will never know. Do I have a good story for Sunday? Yeah I do. Was he a person or a story?


Jehovah is the Father

I have been reading and thinking about the nature of God. I reached the point in the Book of Mormon where Abinadi says that Jesus is both the father and the son. I tried reading it knowing the nature of God to be that Jesus and God the Father are two separate individuals. It still was difficult. Here is the passage.

1 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—
3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—
4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth. (Mosiah 15:1-4)

Verse 3 in particular is difficult. The Father because he was conceived. This must mean conceived in mortality because we were all conceived spiritually from the Father. Jesus was the only one conceived in this mortal life. But why would that make him the Father? So I was thinking about this. Here is a thought. We know that Jesus and God the Father are separate individuals. All of our discussion is around how does God (Jesus) differ from God (the Father). This is a good discussion. By placing Jesus in every way on equal par with the Father the discussion is not about how mortal Jesus was. The discussion is not how he is the greatest prophet. It would be easy to swing the pendulum the other way and consider how Jesus was just one of us. By being very clear that Jesus is more than just one of us the discussion is how much he is not the same as God the Father. Do we pray to Jesus? (evidently some times but rarely) Do we worship Jesus? (Absolutely) Is he the creator? (Yes) Is he the Father of our spirits? (No) Do we return to live with him and not the Father? (both?) Was the plan before this life to come to earth and become like the Father or like Jesus? (the Father) There is no discussion whether Jesus is greater than Joseph Smith. They are not even in the same category for Jesus is God, the way to eternal life, the means and the reason by which we can return to the Father. His example and His commandments are the ones we are to learn and follow. God the Father is the father of all, even the son. It is he to whom we aspire to return and become like. And if we do become like him we will be joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17)



I have been trying to use the study notebook on It is kind of cool, but it isn’t quite what I would use. I would like to a way to study and make notes, but I also want to link and reference better. I like the idea of collections and tags. I may move forward with using the concepts here on my blog. So for example I wanted to write what I had been reading in the Old Testament. Let’s see if this post is what I would hope it to be.

I came across the passage in Exodus 17:8 (see how easy i can put a link here). This is the first mention of Joshua. Joshua will later succeed Moses and lead the people into the promised land. Here is fighting the Amalekites.

Now whether this is a specific people or a generic reference to those who fight the people of God, I don’t know, but I suspect that it is. I want to review a little about what I know in regards to Amalek.

There are 49 references to Amalek in the Old Testament. The first reference was when the Amalekites were among many nations that were defeated during the time of Abraham when Abraham had to rescue his nephew Lot. The next two references were references to Esau’s grandson called Amalek. . Then we have the reference in Exodus 17 Later this particular event is referenced when Saul is commanded to destroy Amalek completely. Saul doesn’t do this and he loses his right to rule Israel.

I have also found modern references to Amalek. It is usually invoked when the person thinks that the people should be righteously utterly destroyed.

Follow the prophet.

I have been reading chapter 20 of Genesis. I don’t know what to make of it. This is the 2nd example where Sarah is taken from Abraham because he says that she is his sister, not his wife. This time we actually learn that the statement is not totally false because Sarah is his father’s daughter, but not his mother’s. It is strange this time because if these verses are in order we have already learned that Sarah thinks she is too old to have children. And in the next chapter when she does have Isaac we are told that Abraham is 100 years old. So I wonder how old Sarah was and why the King Abimelech thought to take her away from Abraham.

It just seems strange that Abraham would perpetuate a lie. Now we learn in the the Book of Abraham that the first instance of this was in Egypt and it appears that the Lord told him to do so. This time it may have been Sarah who was telling people that she was his sister. Abraham says that when they had first left his father’s house he had told her to say that she was his sister. So Abimelech was deceived, but the Lord mercifully warned him. Abimelech not only gave back Sarah, but also gave Abraham more flocks and told him to take waht ever land he wanted. It seems that Abraham needs to wander from time to time as famine may dictate although there is no mention of a famine this time.

I have no take aways on this chapter. I don’t think the Lord would expect me to deceive people. Abraham was an exceptional case, I believe. I guess maybe I can learn from Abimelech. He didn’t kick Abraham out. Once he was told that Abraham was a prophet he overwhelmingly welcomed him and honored him. Is that the take away? We know who the prophet it is. We may not understand all of God’s purposes and why the prophet may be inspired to do one thing or another, but as long as he is the prophet we should honor and respect him. I guess that is something. If the prophet says, “Do this thing.” We may not know why, he may not know why. We should do that thing. At the end of the chapter Abimelech and his house are blessed. I guess that is a positive conclusion to this chapter.

Daily Study Day 1

I find that writing here helps me in my gospel studies.

I feel like I have more to say about Genesis chapter 19. I have moved on and I have read chapters 20 and 21 for the first run through. I want to think about the wife-sister stories from Abraham. I want to think about Hagar and Beersheba. Quickly I looked up Beersheba and found that it is a thriving city in Israel. I think there is something about the well there too. I want to be consistent with my scriptures study. Let’s see how many days in a row I can do this. Day 1

Preaching in Sodom

Continuing my reading of chapter 19 of Genesis I found an interesting
on the church website on a gathering of gospel scholars at BYU. The gathering was in 1978. I hope they have had other gatherings since then. I didn’t see a link to an update from that meeting. Anyway that was interesting.

I was studying chapter 19 and there seems to be a little bit of magic and mystery. My natural inclination is to remove the magic and still make sense of the story. In the last entry I proposed that Lot recognized the three brethren as church leaders from Salem.

Lost invites the visitors to his house. They initial decline and say that they are going to stay out in the street all night.

I believe that they were not there as just casual observers and that the streets were filled with wild orgies. I believe that they were there preaching repentance. Lot’s offer was for them to stop preaching and come inside. They must have decided to call it a night and take Lot up on his offer. I believe that their preaching caused a stir because after they apparently eaten the house is surrounded by men of the city.I imagine that word had gotten out that the men were saying that the city was going to be destroyed and just like the reaction to Alma’s preaching the people could not ignore it.

And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them.

I could offer a much rougher translation for that scripture. It sounds like they were going to mess them up. Lot’s reaction and subsequent events lead me to believe that their intentions were not noble. The crowds gathering and reaction lead me to believe that the brethren were out in the streets making themselves known. That is why I think they were out preaching repentance and the destruction of Sodom.

Sodom and Gomorrah were not the only cities destroyed. If there was any preaching going on in those cities we have no record of it. It is possible that these brethren had been preaching in all of the cities of the plain and that Sodom was last on its list. The men of Sodom may had got word that these trouble makers were on their way to Sodom. It seems reasonable since the men were reluctant to dine with Lot that their mission was not just to rescue Lot. More on this later

An interesting side note. I discovered an official site for the Genesis group which was established by the first presidency in 1971 and still is active today. The purpose of the group was to provide support to black members of the church. It was established 7 years before the revelation on the priesthood. The group has an official presidency and counselors. Strange I had never heard of this group. I thought I had heard it all.

Lot and Sodom

I have read Genesis chapter 19 several times. I have read ahead and I have read other “uninspired sources” to try to make sense of this chapter. The story of Sodom is pretty well know. I think we all know that the city was destroyed for being wicked and that Lot’s wife looked back and turned into salt. What could possibly be the lesson for me?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I am going to take a lot of liberties with this chapter. Let start with the first verse:

And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;

Because this chapter follows the visit of the three brethren to Abraham it seems logical that these three visitors are the same that visited Abraham. The JST changes the number two to three, but leaves the word angels whereas in verse 3 of chapter 18 the JST changes the word Lord to brethren. So I am going to say that these 3 brethren having traveled down from Salem, first stopping in on Abraham, now have visited Sodom. Because this was before photography I have to wonder how it is that both Abraham and Lot recognized them. Well we have the incident where Lot was captured in the war and Abraham rescued him along with others from Sodom. After the rescue the conquered kings came to Abraham including Melchizedek, the king of Salem, to whom Abraham paid tithing. So Abraham and the kings were all gathered together and Abraham released the rescued people. I imagine at that gathering that it was clear who was important. These three must have been present at that time. Lot recognizes them as being leaders and bows down to greet them the same way Abraham did. Another option is that these three had been in Sodom awhile preaching repentance and Lot recognized them as true prophets.

He had to ask

I am ready to move on out of chapter 18 of Genesis. I want to find the lesson for me. I have thought about my kids and the relationship we have. I think that gives me insight into what the LORD was expecting from Abraham. First nothing is too hard. Sarah laughed at the idea of giving birth. It was a promise that had been made, but was long over due. She may have thought that it wasn’t going to happen in her life time. Abraham still believed even though there is no reason for him to keep believing. Now to the part where the three brethren leave and Abraham is left talking to the LORD. In the exchange that follows Abraham pleads for the preservation of Sodom. Perhaps it is because his nephew Lot is there. Perhaps it is because he knows people there. He had interactions with the King of Sodom when Abraham conquered those who had captured Sodom. He pleads and secures the promise from the LORD that if 10 righteous were found, it would not be destroyed.

If nothing is too hard for the LORD what should be my plead? That those who have stopped believing might believe again? That would be nice. Have I plead enough? Do I think it is too hard for the LORD? What about the agency of those whom I would like to see change? In the end even Abraham, as much as he was one of the great and noble ones, could not save Sodom. But he had to ask.

Where is Sodom

I am still stuck in Genesis 18. I was thinking more about the visit of the 3 “brethren” to Abraham. I was wondering where this might all be happening.

Using my imagination a little I assume that the 3 men either included Melchizedek or were sent from him. Either way I then assumed that they came from Salem, which I assumed was near where Jerusalem is now. This is a lot of assumptions on assumptions.

So the three men came from modern day Jerusalem and traveled down to where Abraham was at. In the plains of Mamre it says Abraham was. I think this was traditionally believed to be around Hebron. That would be about 25 miles which is a good day hike. They would be tired.

Since Sodom was destroyed there isn’t much there, there. It was somewhere along or near the Dead Sea. I kind of figured if Hebron was on the way then continuing South I end up at the city of Safi, Jordan. That would be another 40 miles which might take a day or two.

View Larger Map

All of this has no practical application to me.

Negotiating with God

I am still pondering and re-reading Genesis 18. There is some confusion as to who is who, but more confusing is the end of the chapter where Abraham negotiates with the Lord.

It appears to me that there are 3 men that Abraham recongnizes and honors, however the Lord is some one else. Whether these three see the Lord or are in communication with him as Abraham appears to be is not ever stated. The three head out and Abraham stays behind to chat with the Lord.

I don’t know who the lord is talking to when he asks the rhetorical question

And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;

Was it to himself. Was it to the 3 men visiting with Abraham. Is it how Abraham imagined the conversation to be with the Lord not actually speaking with him. It isn’t clear. The omniscience of God is a little murky here. The Lord also says

I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.

Why would the omniscient God need to find out anything? Wouldn’t he know already?

The three men leave for Sodom. Abraham stays behind to commune with the Lord a little longer. Abraham begins his negotiations. He even couches some of his questioning with the a little fear that he goes to far

Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak

This back and forth is different than the negotiating that Joseph did with the 116 lost pages. In the case of Joseph the Lord gave him an answer and Joseph asked him to change his mind. Here Abraham is trying to figure out how far the Lord will go.

I know that as a parent that asking is important. My kids could do a lot more if they asked. They could get a lot more from me if they would ask. So here Abraham is trying to understand the mind of the Lord, but rather than ask straight out “Hey, How many righteous will stop you from destroying Sodom?” He asks that the Lord not destroy it if he finds 10 righteous.

I like how Abraham firsts asks if he will save it for the sake of 50 righteous. When the Lord agrees he would not then Abraham asks if he will still destroy it if he only lacks 5 from the fifty. Instead of asking, “Well what about 45?” He seems to sell him on the proposition that if there are only 5 missing (a small number) then why would the Lord destroy Sodom.

According to the recorded conversation the Lord never said. I am going to go destroy Sodom. All that is recorded is that the Lord is going to investigate. There must be more to the conversation because Abraham immediately asks him not to destroy Sodom.

I still need to ponder and see what this means to me.