Friday, June 25, 2010

Supplement to Lesson #26 Jesse Knight, Man of Wisdom

After learning about King Saul, King David, and King Solomon and their great difficulties, one may wonder, "Is there anybody out there who can handle great wealth and power righteously?"  Let me introduce you to the story of a man who did:  Jesse Knight.  It would not be entirely inappropriate to include Jesse's story in your gospel doctrine study as a counterbalance to King Solomon's.

Most Latter-day Saints are familiar with Newell K. Knight, who is mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants several times.  He was one of the first members of the Church, initially hearing the gospel preached at the Whitmer home.  He had been possessed of a devil and Joseph Smith cast it out (Kelly, p. 51).  He was faithful to the end of his life, which wasn't a very long time; he died before reaching Winter Quarters, leaving behind a wife and six little children with another one due.  He appeared in a vision to his destitute wife and told her that he would watch over her and the children as they continued the trek to Salt Lake, but that he had been called to the other side to be a witness for the atrocities committed against the saints (Black, p. 171).  The youngest of the six Knight children at that time was a one-year-old boy named Jesse (Garr, p. 626).

Although he was raised in an LDS family and married an active Latter-day Saint, Jesse lost his commitment somewhere along the way.  "Then in 1887 an experience forever changed his commitment to the Church. A rat fell in the family well, died, and decomposed. Jennie, his youngest daughter, was the first to become ill from drinking the contaminated water.

"Despite his professed lack of faith, Knight was finally persuaded to bring in elders to give her a blessing, and Jennie recovered, something he always considered miraculous.

"His oldest daughter Minnie, however, died of the infection, and he remembered that 17 years earlier she had nearly died of diphtheria. At that time Knight had promised that he would not forget God if the Lord would spare Minnie's life. As he described it, 'I had not kept that promise. . . . I prayed for forgiveness and help. My prayer was answered and I received a testimony'" (J. William Knight, The Jesse Knight Family [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1940], pp. 35–36, quoted on Brigham Young High School Website)

A few years before the turn of the 20th century, Jesse Knight had a manifestation that there was valuable ore in the Tintic mining district west of present-day Spanish Fork, Utah, beyond Utah Lake.  While on the Godiva Mountain where he had gone to think about problems, the Spirit told him, "This land is for the Mormons."  He interpreted that to mean there was treasure in the ground for the use of the Mormons and the Mormon Church. Another message he received was "that he was going to have all the money he wanted as soon as he was in a position to handle it properly, and that he would one day save the credit of the Church, which was then in debt...

"The whole manifestation came true" (Stegner, p. 201).  He staked out a small mine named the Junebug near the town of Eureka, Utah (now a ghost town). He made some money off its sale and began his philanthropy. 

At first helping others didn't pay off.  He co-signed on loans for friends who didn't keep their end of the bargain, and ended up mortgaging his own home to pay them off.  But he didn't lose his generosity--just got smarter with it--and he secured a loan to buy a mine that experts said was a humbug, thus inspiring its name:  the Humbug mine.

Jesse hired a couple of men, and they worked on the Humbug mine for 2 months with no success.  Then, one day, they struck a vein, and the Humbug made Jesse Knight instantly rich.  The second shipment of ore he got out to the United States Smelting Company netted him over $11,000. 

He continued to have manifestations of where to dig for ore in the surrounding properties which he bought: the Uncle Sam claim, the Beck tunnel, the Colorado claim, the Iron Blossom, and the Dragon.  By the time he bought the Colorado claim, "he was so sure of striking ore in it that he built an ore bin at the same time he was driving the tunnel.  The ore bin turned out to be in exactly the right place.  He did the same thing with the Iron Blossom...and the Dragon.

"A man with a shovel could simply dig up loose dirt and dig up wealth.  The whole floor was rich carbonate lead silver, without waste and as easy to mine as gravel.  By the time Jesse finished having manifestations about the claims in that area he was worth $10,000,000...

"There is something very close to inspiring in the way he used that money" (Stegner, p. 203).

That very first year, 1896, he built the town of Knightsville, Utah, 2 miles east of Eureka, including a meeting-house, an amusement hall, homes, and a school, because he didn't want his Mormon miners living in the rough environment of the mining towns.  "There were stores, churches, hotels, and a post office.  It was known as the only mining camp in the United States without a saloon" (Wikipedia).  He paid his miners 25 cents a day more than the prevailing wage, gave them Sundays off, and eventually convinced other operators that this was good business practice. He fired anyone he caught drunk.  (Nearby Eureka had plenty of saloons.)  By 1907, the population of Knightsville reached 1,000.

Knightsville, Utah

"He paid back all his back tithing, with compound interest, for the years in which he had ignored the Church.  Then, looking around for ways in which to use his money, he inaugurated a system of small loans to impoverished brethren" (Stegner, p. 207).  Soon he realized that allowing the poor to go further into debt was not the best idea, so he provided jobs instead.  There was a good deal of unemployment around Provo, so he hired men to build a road which was never finished, and to work a mine that never netted anything.  Even though he discovered the mine was worthless, he continued drilling another half mile, just to give the men work.

He bought a large amount of land in Alberta, Canada, and set up the townsite of Raymond (named for his oldest son, who helped establish it), offering the land cheap and interest-free for the first three years.  Within two years, he had 1500 settlers, mostly young Latter-day Saints who had been crowded out of the good farm land in Utah.  "When Canadian officials in bewilderment asked him why he was throwing his money around settling up that particular corner of Alberta on terms so ruinous to himself, he quite simply pulled out President [Lorenzo] Snow's twentieth century message: 'Men and women of wealth, use your riches to give employment to the laborer!  Take the idle from the crowded centers of population and place them on the untilled acres that await the hand of industry.  Unlock your vaults, unloose your purses...'" (Stegner, p. 205)

Giving his money to the benefit of the poor only made Jesse richer.  In 1906, his Knight Investment Corporation was founded, which soon included 80 corporations.

"He opened banks, built sugar factories and railroads, opened up a new country for farming.  The more money he found in his vaults the more enterprises he branched out into.  And eventually, strictly according to the first manifestation which had changed him from an obscure rancher to a fabulous and beloved magnate, he saved the credit of the Church...

"The last years of his life he spent being fairy godfather to Brigham Young University, at Provo.  Whatever endowment the school has is largely due to Jesse Knight" (Stegner, p. 207).

His own home at 185 E. Center, Provo, Utah 
was lovely and comfortable, but not overly ostentatious.

"Uncle Jesse...took seriously the responsibilities which wealth laid upon him...His abiding sense of the group and the group's needs, his respect for the common man, and his concept of money as an instrument for social betterment were a reflection of that part of Mormonism...which was unerringly prophetic" (Stegner, p. 207).

During the last years of his life, the ore began to run out in the mines.  Only a couple were operating when he died at the age of 75, and by the end of the Great Depression, Knightsville was a ghost town, and the Knight fortune was gone.  But Jesse had accomplished what was needed.  Perhaps the Lord stopped multiplying the wealth because He knew that there would not soon be another like Jesse Knight who would state and live a belief that "The earth is the Lord's bank and no man has a right to take money out of that bank and use it extravagantly upon himself" (Mangum).

Diane L. Mangum, "Jesse Knight and the Riches of Life," Ensign, October 1993.
Brian & Petrea Kelly, Latter-day History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Susan Easton Black, Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants
Arnold Garr,, Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History
Wallace Stegner, Mormon Country, p. 201-207

Old Testament Lesson #26 King Solomon: Man of Wisdom, Man of Foolishness

1 Kings 3; 5-11


Before they entered the Promised Land, Moses, speaking for the Lord as the prophet, gave counsel to their future kings.  "When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me..." (Deut. 17:14).  Knowing that they would eventually choose dictatorship as their form of government, he outlined the Lord's instructions for the kings of Israel.  This is called "The Kings' Law" (Duet. 17:14-20).

Verse 15:  There are two qualifications a king must have.  "Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, (1) whom the Lord thy God shall choose: (2) one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother."

Verses 16-17:  There are three restrictions placed upon the king's power.  "He shall not multiply (1) horses...(2) wives...or (3) silver and gold."

Verses 18-19:  There are two requirements made of the king.  "(1) He shall write him a copy of this law...and (2) he shall read therein all the days of his life..."  The results of living those two requirements will be "...(1) that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, (2) to keep all the words of this law and these statues, to do them: (3) that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment."  The promise to the king, if he keeps these restrictions and requirements, is that "he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children."

We will see that Solomon ignored the king's law, which lead to his downfall.


The books of the Kings and the books of the Chronicles cover the same stories from slightly different perspectives and with slightly different emphases, therefore it is very helpful to read them together.

King David announced that Solomon was the son who has met the qualifications to be king (1 Chron. 28:5).  He publicly gave Solomon excellent advice and announced the first thing that Solomon was to do as king:  Build the temple, the palace for the Lord God (28:9-29:1).  He told the people that he had prepared of his "might" the building supplies for the temple already.  Knowing that he himself would never build it, never enter it, yet he did everything the Lord allowed him to do to provide for the temple.  Then he told the people that not only from the country's wealth, as king, had he laid aside, but "over and above," he had also contributed personally, from his own wealth (29:2).  Then he called for the people also to donate to the temple, which they did willingly and joyfully. (29:5,6,9).

1 Kings 6 names the dimensions of the temple.  The present-day equivalent is 100 ft. long, 30 ft. wide, and 45 ft. high (according to the Institute manual).  (You may want to make a poster-board outline, using 1/2" to one foot as your scale.  If you can find the dimensions of your local temple, make an outline of that as well.  The Logan Temple is roughly 120 ft. long, 80 feet wide, and 170 feet to the top of the east tower.  If you would like to include interesting facts about temples as a little game, quiz, or just diversion in your lesson, there are some fun things at

Model of King Solomon's Temple

King Solomon gave a beautiful public prayer to dedicate the temple.  This is found in 1 Kings 8.  In a beautiful poetic manner he itemizes six different situations in which people might pray for aid, and asks the Lord in each case, "Then hear thou in heaven and forgive" and help the people out of their difficulty.  If...

1.They are smitten down before the enemy (8:33)
2.There is no rain (8:35)
3.There is famine (8:37)
4.An emigrant converts to the true religion (8:41)
5.There is a battle (8:44)
6.They sin, but desire to repent (8:46)


Immediately after completing the temple, Solomon commenced another building project: his own palace.  Whereas the Lord's palace was 100 ft. x 30 ft. x 45 ft. high, Solomon's palace was 165 ft. x 80 ft. x 45 ft. high.  (You may to have another posterboard cut to the dimensions of the Solomon's palace.)  Whereas the Lord's palace took seven years to build, the king's palace took thirteen.


Solomon had some forward-thinking ideas for governance.  He was the first king to have a cabinet.  It is listed in 1 Kings 4:1-6.  The entire house of Israel was unified under Solomon, and his reign covered the whole area of the Holy Land (1 Kings 4:20-21).  The people were no longer divided into tribes; instead Solomon divided them into twelve geographic regions.  Over each of these regions, he placed a governor.  These men are listed in 1 Kings 4:7-20.  This chapter gives some of Solomon's really great ideas that he developed over time, but some also that grew to be problems.

Now we can refer back to the Kings' Law.  What were the restrictions?  The first was not to multiply horses.  "Horses" refers to military might, because horses were part of the mighty war machines of the day, the chariots.  Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses (4:26).

The second restriction was not to multiply wives.  Solomon had 1,000 wives and concubines (1 Kings 11:1-3).  Verses 5-7 list the idols the wives brought with them, and the very worst ones imaginable are included:  Molech and Chemosh.  They are two different names (in two languages) for the same god and the worship of this idol was so horrible, so cruel, it's unbelievable. 

The last restriction was not to multiply wealth.  1 Kings 4:22-28 itemizes the provisions required for the king's household for just one day.  (The equivalent is 188 bushels of flour and 370 bushels of meal.)  Each province had to supply a whole month.  It was a truly heavy tax.


Solomon was meant to be great and to bring Israel to greatness (1 Chron. 29:25), but riches and honor make for a very difficult test that few people can stand.  In fact, any strength or unusual gift that we have can become our downfall if we do not keep it in check.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said that Satan will try to use our strengths as well as our weaknesses to pull us down to destruction.  How do we avoid this problem?  "The quality we must cultivate is humility.  Humility is the great protector."  The restrictions and requirements of the Kings' Law were designed to help the king stay humble despite his power.

Elder Oaks said, "If we are humble and teachable, hearkening to the commandments of God, the counsel of his leaders, and the promptings of his Spirit, we can be guided in how to use our spiritual gifts, our accomplishments, and all of our other strengths for righteousness.  And we can be guided in how to avoid Satan's efforts to use our strengths to cause our downfall" (Ensign, October 1994).


In the words of King David, "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.  Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all" (1 Chron. 29:11-12).

We need to ask ourselves which kind of palace we are building with the gifts that we have been given.  We might ask ourselves, as King David asked Israel, "Who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord?" (1 Chron. 29:5)


A typical teaching style of the Old Testament is to juxtapose good examples with bad examples.  In the case of the kings' use of power, there are bad examples heaped upon each other.  If you would like to use a contrasting story of righteous use of power and wealth (although in the latter-days, rather than the Old Testament), please refer to the fascinating story of Jesse Knight in the next blog entry.  

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #25 "Let Every Thing That Hath Breath Praise the Lord"



The Psalms employ many classic Hebrew poetic forms, which, if understood, add meaning to the messages of the psalmist.  A knowledge of these forms also validates the literary form of the Book of Mormon as of Hebrew origin.

In enallage (en-ol-o-gy), the personage switches to show a movement in the relationship.  For example, in Psalm 23:
  • verses 1-3 refer to the Lord in third person (using "he")
  • verses 4-5 are written in second person (using "thee, thy, and thou")
This shows that his relationship with the Lord has become closer.  The Psalm of Nephi in the Book of Mormon does the same thing:
  • 2 Ne. 4:20-30 refers to the Lord in third person
  • 2 Ne. 4:30-34 refers to the Lord in second person
  • 2 Ne. 4:35 contains both
Synonymous Parallelism
The poet says the same thing twice, with different phrasing or words.  This style of poetry emphasizes the importance of the thought through repetition, and often clarifies the first statement with the second.  For example, in Psalm 24:3:
  • Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?
  • Or who shall stand in his holy place?
The second sentence makes clear to us that the "hill of the Lord" is the Lord's holy place.  The answer is also stated with synonymous parallelism:
  • He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart;
  • Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
The second phrase of the sentence teaches us a little bit more about what it means to have clean hands and a pure heart.

The Psalms (and the Old Testament books in general) are full of synonymous parallelism.  Another example is Psalm 35:9:
  • And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord:
  • It shall rejoice in his salvation.
And another example is in Psalm 146:2
  • While I live will I praise the Lord:
  • I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.
This can also be found frequently in the Book of Mormon.  A good example is Alma 5:10.

Antithetic Parallelism
In antithetic parallelism, the second line states the opposite of the first line, usually connected by the word but.  Once again, this provides an emphasis, and once again, it makes the concept easier to understand.  Psalm 1:6:
  • For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous:
  • But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
A Book of Mormon example is Alma 5:40.

Synthetic Parallelism
This style refers to the definition of synthetic as being a compound.  The lines are related to each other as cause and effect, or proposition and conclusion.  Psalm 119:11:
  • Thy word have I hid in my heart,
  • That I might not sin against thee.
Possibly the common phrase repeated throughout the Book of Mormon, "Keep my commandments, and ye shall prosper in the land," would qualify as synthetic parallelism.

Progressive Parallelism
There are several variations of progressive parallelism, but in each type, each line in some way increases the intensity of the thought, or adds another element to the whole message.  For example, Psalm 22:14:
  • I am poured out like water,
  • And all my bones are out of joint:
  • My heart is like wax;
  • It is melted in the midst of my bowels.
  • My strength is dried up like a potsherd;
  • And my tongue cleaveth to my jaws;
  • And thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
The sentence begins with being physically spent and ends with being at death's door.

Or Psalm 29:1-2, in which each line adds information to the message of the previous:
  • Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty [ones];
  • Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
  • Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name;
  • Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
The rest of Psalm 29 uses a very similar style, telling us what the voice of the Lord does six times, and in six ways.

A Book of Mormon example is Alma 5:37-39.


  • David Bokovoy, BYU Campus Education Week Lecture, August 2001
  • David Bokovoy, Know Your Religion Lecture, Logan Utah, Feb. 15, 2002
  • David Graves & Jane Graves, Hebrew Poetry, Crandall University
  • Mark A. Copland, The Book of Psalms.

Old Testament Lesson #24 "Create in Me a Clean Heart"

2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51

David was the greatest king that Israel ever had, for several reasons:  "1) he united the tribes into one nation, 2) he secured undisputed possession of the country, and 3) the whole government rested upon a religious basis, and the will of God was the law of Israel" (Bible Dictionary, p. 654).  The experiences he had in his earlier life prepared him well to be a great king.  "As shepherd he acquired the habit of deep reflections; as courtier he was trained in self-control and chivalrous generosity; as outlaw he acquired knowledge of men and power of government; while each successive phase of experience developed that conscious dependence upon God which was the secret of his strength throughout his life" (ibid., p. 653).

Despite all of the valor, testimony, loyalty, intelligence, kindness, and generosity of spirit he demonstrated throughout his life, he abandoned all of these qualities in an instant when he saw Bathsheba.  What led to this cataclysmic error? 

David, who could look the mighty Goliath in the eye, claim victory in the name of the Lord, and slay him with a dramatically inferior weapon, allowed himself to become blind to the dangers of the little things.

Neglecting duty
"And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab [the general of his army], and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and beseiged Rabbah.  But David tarried still at Jerusalem" (2 Sam. 11:1).  At the time when he, the king, should have gone forth to battle, David sent.  He neglected his duty, left it to the care of others.  He tarried still at Jerusalem, the comfortable place, the safe place, the wrong place for a king at time of battle.

"And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon" (2 Sam. 11:2).  The sun was setting, it was fairly dark, yet David took the effort to look closer at the bathing figure.  He lingered.

"And David sent and enquired after the woman" (2 Sam. 11:3).  David started thinking about what he had seen.  Of course, polygamy was practiced then, so he might have sought her as another wife.  But he wasn't just interested in dating, in finding out her virtues, in getting to know her personality.  It was only her body that he had seen, and it was only her body that he therefore could have had an interest in.  On top of that, when he was told she was already the wife of Uriah, he should have closed the book. David, however, allowed himself to continue to want.

Acting upon lusts
"And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her...and she returned unto her house" (2 Sam. 11:4).  David had no possibility of being honorably married to Bathsheba, and perhaps he didn't care to be.  He used her to satisfy his lusts in a "one-night stand," and then returned her to her home.  Why is Bathsheba never condemned by the Bible authors?  David was the king.  She was helpless to do anything but what he commanded, likely at peril of her life.

Attempting to cover sin
"And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child" (1 Sam. 11:5).  The little parenthetical statement in the previous verse, "for she was purified from her uncleanness," tells us that the bathing David had watched was the monthly ritual to cleanse herself after menses.  Therefore, it also tells us that, with Uriah off to war, the time of the conception of the child was absolutely clear, and there was only one possibility for paternal claim: David.

David tried all kinds of tactics to get Uriah to come in to be with his wife and give the appearance of being the child's father, but Uriah was such a faithful servant, always in the right place at the right time, he would not relent and neglect his duty as did David.  Ironically, in desperation, David did to Uriah exactly what his father-in-law Saul had tried to do to him. Saul had promised David his daughter to wife if David would kill 100 Philistines, expecting that the Philistines would kill David (1 Sam. 18:17-21; 25-27).  David, then, took Uriah's life by arranging for his death in battle.  Other soldiers were killed with Uriah in the wreckless maneuver (2 Sam. 11:17).  After the death of Uriah, he married Bathsheba, which act would have appeared to the Israelites to have been noble on David's part: the benevolent king taking his noble servant's widow under his sheltering care, a great cover-up.


A new family bought a house on our street several years ago.  It was a 25-year-old home with pretty rooms, a lovely open kitchen, and nice landscaping.  It had been freshly painted inside, and everything looked like new.  Our new friends were pleased with their home, but after several months, they noticed mildew growing on a bathroom wall in the basement.  The problem got worse as time went on, and the wall fairly oozed of mold.  Finally, they called a repairman who cut a hole in the wall and found a broken pipe, wrapped in layers of damp, mildewed rags, and mold spreading all around it!  Before selling the home, the previous owner had hastily wrapped up the pipe, covered the wall with new sheetrock, and given it a fresh coat of paint, rather than pay a plumber!  In the end, the cost of repairing the pipe was minimal compared to the cost of removing the mold and mildew, rebuilding the wall, and repainting.

Who would do something this crazy?  But, of course, this is just what David did after his affair with Bathsheba, covering up adultery with lies, trickery, and finally premeditated murder.  Covering one problem led to another greater problem, and evil began to ooze from the festering wound of the original sin.

The prophet Nathan let David know, through a parable, that the Lord saw his crimes and condemned them, and that they had caused others to sin (2 Sam. 12:1-14). To his credit, David admitted his sin baldly, but there is no mention of repentance at that time. The JST footnote for 2 Samuel 12:13 changes Nathan's reply to say that David was not forgiven. Nathan prophesied grave consequences to David: first, that evil would arise in a person in his own family (2 Sam. 12:11) who would commit adultery with David's wives, not in secret, but in plain sight of all of Israel. This was fulfilled by his son Absalom (2 Sam. 16:22). The second consequence was that the child of the illegitimate union would die (2 Sam. 12:14), which it did, a sign in their culture of God's condemnation of its parents.

Elder Richard G. Scott said to those who cover up their sins, "Do not take comfort in the fact that your transgressions are not known by others...Excusing transgression with a cover-up may appear to fix the problem, but it does not.  The tempter is intent on making public your most embarrassing acts at the most harmful time.  Lies weave a pattern that is ever more confining and becomes a trap that Satan will spring to your detriment"  (April 1995 General Conference).

"David committed a dreadful crime [to cover up his sin of adultery], and all his life afterwards sought for forgiveness.  Some of the Psalms portray the anguish of his soul; yet David is still paying for his sin.  He did not receive the resurrection at the time of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Peter declared that his body was still in the tomb, and the Prophet Joseph Smith has said, 'David sought repentance at the hand of God carefully with tears, for the murder of Uriah; but he could only get it through hell: he got a promise that his soul should not be left in hell.' Again we ask: Who wishes to spend a term in hell with the devil before being cleansed from sin?" (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:74)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, "Murderers are forgiven eventually but only in the sense that all sins are forgiven except the sin against the Holy Ghost; they are not forgiven in the sense that celestial salvation is made available to them (Matt. 12:31-34).  After they have paid the full penalty for their crime, they shall go on to a telestial inheritance" (Rev. 22:15).  (Mormon Doctrine, p. 520)

Had David repented of the first sin, the consequences would not have been nearly as severe, and he could have eventually been restored to a state of happiness. "Repentance always means that there is greater happiness ahead" (Neil L. Anderson, October 2009 General Conference). Instead, sorrow fell upon sorrow as David attempted to cover up his sin with yet greater sins, until the Lord stated "he hath fallen from his exaltation" and lost the privilege to have his wives and family in the next life (D&C 132:39).


For more discussion on David see "Points to Ponder" in the chapter on "The Fall of King David" in the Old Testament Institute Manual.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Old Testament Lesson #23 "The Lord Be Between Thee and Me For Ever"

1 Samuel 18-20; 23-24 (and 25)


This reading assignment focuses on the opposite relationships between Saul and David, and between Saul's son Jonathon and David. Saul was an example of a persistent enemy and Jonathon was an example of an enduring friend.  Although Saul's relationship with David was unholy, David's relationship with Saul was always holy.  David never returned evil to Saul, but was ever forgiving (while still wisely protecting his own safety), leaving judgment of his old friend Saul completely in the hands of the Lord.  Very likely, Saul was seriously mentally ill with some form of paranoia and David, as well as many of Saul's servants, realized he was not himself, but a victim of our fallen existence.  (See 1 Sam. 16:17 JST, and 22:17.)

This saga teaches many important lessons about how we treat and view others.  Unfortunately, the reading assignment does not include Chapter 25 which tells the marvelous story of Abigail and David.  This is one of the greatest relationships in the Old Testament, because it is a type of our possible relationship with our Redeemer, a beautiful explanation of how Christ can heal us from the damage that others have done to us, if we will but forgive.  It would be very worthwhile to supplement this lesson with an explanation of the Atonement as found in the story of Abigail and David. 


As the story begins, David and his men had been pursued relentlessly by Saul and his army.  David found himself in the remarkable situation where he could easily kill his would-be murderer, but he left justice to the Lord and let Saul live.  After revealing himself to Saul, he said, "The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee...Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked," and David chose not to be wicked (1 Sam 24:12-13). 

Saul repented (verse 17), acknowledged David's greatness, and begged David not to kill Saul's descendants when David became king, as some kings would have done to prevent uprisings.  David promised and forgave, but he was smart enough to return to his hiding place in the wilderness.  (We are required to forgive everyone, but we are not required to trust those who have not proven trustworthy.)


So at the time that David was hiding out with his men in the wilderness, in fairly dire straits and wanting for provisions, "There was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the [man's possessions were] very great...Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings" (1 Sam. 25:2-3).

The Hebrews attached great importance to names.  They didn't pick a name, as we sometimes do, just because they liked the sound of it, or the look of it; they didn't make up names just to be different, or conversely, to go with fashion.  They chose a name for its meaning, and often a person's name was actually changed at some point to reflect his state in life.  Naomi, for example, said to her kinsfolk, "Call me not Naomi [which means "pleasant"], call me Mara [which means "very sad"] for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me" (Ruth 1:20, with footnotes).

Similarly, the names of the subjects of this story are significant.  Nabal's name means "fool" and David's name means "beloved."  Abigail's name, although it is a female name, means "Father of rejoicing" (Bible Dictionary).  Perhaps the word "Father" refers to "origin" or "Creator," so that her name might mean something like "reasons to rejoice originate with or are created by this person."  Knowing that Abigail is a type of Christ makes this name significant.

So the characters in this story are:
  • one person who is foolish,
  • one person who is able to feel love, and
  • one person who has the power to create joy.
David and his soldiers were in the same area as Nabal's shepherds (25:7), but contrary to the nature of soldiers to pillage and take what they like, David's men actually befriended the shepherds and protected their sheep from danger, and then sent messengers to ask Nabal very nicely (25:8) if he would give provisions to the hungry army.

Nabal sent a message back, denying David any help, justifying himself by saying that very likely David was just a runaway slave; this despite the fact that David was leading an army of six hundred men (25:10-11) and seemed to have been very well-known as King Saul's worthy adversary and potential successor.  (See 25:30-31.)  Truly Nabal was a fool.


David's reaction to this affront was immediate and natural:  "Gird ye on every man his sword."  He left 200 men guarding the hold, and rode to annihilate the clan of the selfish Nabal and take his provisions, since he wouldn't share them with those who had voluntarily acted as his allies (25:13).  David's intention was to kill every last one of Nabal's men (25:22), since Nabal had returned evil for David's good.  (This attitude provides further evidence that David may have felt Saul was mentally ill, since he never expressed this type of vengeance toward Saul.)

Fortunately, one of the shepherd-messengers told the situation to Nabal's wise wife, Abigail, saying, "Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to [greet] our master; and [Nabal swooped upon them as a bird attacking]" (25:14 with footnotes).  Further, he reported that David did nothing to deserve this kind of reception, but that, to the contrary, he had been a great blessing to the shepherds of Nabal.  "We were not hurt, neither missed we any thing, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields: They were a wall [or protection] unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep.  Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son of Belial [wicked or stupid man], that a man cannot speak to him [reason with him]" (25:15-17).


Abigail was a quick-thinking woman who immediately perceived what to do.  She could see that David had been greatly wronged, and that he and his men really did deserve the provisions that Nabal had denied them.  She quickly assembled a huge compensatory gift:  200 loaves, 2 bottles of wine, 5 sheep already butchered, 5 measures of grain, 100 bunches of raisins, and 200 cakes of figs.  She loaded the gifts upon donkeys and sent them ahead of her with her servants (25:18-19).  This was all done without the help or knowledge of her husband, the idiot (25:20).

When Abigail met up with David, "she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid.  Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send" (25:24-25). Abigail fully agreed that her husband had sinned against David, and she also explained the reason:  Nabal was unintelligent, a fool, he lacked understanding. So Abigail compensated David for the actions of Nabal, and she begged him to spare Nabal for her sake, since she had been completely innocent of any wrongdoing (she "saw not the young men," the messengers).

But she claimed the sin upon herself ("Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be...I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid") after which she asked for many blessings to be upon David in repayment for his forgiveness (25:24,28-30).  Then she gave these very insightful reasons for him to forgive, addressing David as "my lord:"  "That this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself."  In other words, she reminded David that vengeance would bring injury to himself.  It would bring sorrow to him.  It would offend his heart.  And he would be shedding blood for no cause, since she had provided everything that David needed. 

David recognized her words to be true.  In fact, she had included the very reason that he had decided previously not to kill Saul, even though he had both the power to do it, and the justification--he didn't want to suffer the consequences of the wickedness of vengeance.

David thanked Abigail for preventing him from committing the greater sin of violence against Nabal. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel which sent thee this day to meet me: and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood and from avenging myself with mine own hand" (25:32-33).


When Abigail returned home, her foolish husband was partying, drunken, reveling in his perceived cleverness at besting the mighty warrior David (25:36).  She let him sleep it off.  In the morning, when she told him David's reaction to his refusal to help, and how she had saved the entire household herself, he suffered a massive heart attack, fell into a coma, and died 10 days later (25:37-38).

When David heard of the natural death of Nabal, he credited the Lord for meting out justice, and returned to marry Abigail himself (25:39).  (David's first wife, Michal, who was the daughter of Saul, had been taken from him by Saul and given to another man [25:44].)


If we retell this story, placing ourselves in it, we can understand a little more about the Atonement, forgiveness, and their combined power to replace our pain with joy.  We can consider ourselves to be the Beloved, who has not deserved the wrong done to him by the Fool, and who has been abused, neglected, disrespected, unappreciated, slandered.  The Fool may not consider himself in the wrong, and may not ask for our forgiveness, yet the Creator of Joy (Christ) meets us on our way to angry retaliation, fully acknowledges the wrong of the Fool, and then, incredibly, takes responsibility for it!  He asks us to forgive Him for the Fool's actions, and offers us perfectly compensatory gifts to remove our suffering.  The Creator is always aware that a lack of knowledge and understanding is the reason for the Fool's sin, and will help us to see that as well, if we will listen to Him.

If we accept His offer and forgive the offense, we are freed from the desire to mete out vengeance and the ill consequences that such a sin would effect upon us.  All of our needs will be met by the gifts He brings, including those that were taken from us by the offense.  The anger will be removed from our hearts, and we will be able to feel the love of the Creator, and truly be the Beloved. We can then be united in purpose and perspective with the Creator, as if by a marriage, and enjoy the ensuing love, never needing to concern ourselves again with the wrong that was done.  All of the negative consequences will go to the Fool, if he never seeks repentance, and none of them will descend upon us.  We will be truly free.

(The basic idea for this scriptural interpretation comes from James Ferrell, The Peacegiver.)


James Ferrell writes, "Although the Lord doesn't actually ask us to forgive him, the effect of the atonement is such that it's as if that is what he is asking. 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these,' the Savior taught, 'ye have done it unto me.' When we withhold forgiveness from others, we are in effect saying that the atonement alone was insufficient to pay for this sin.  We are holding out for more.  We are finding fault with the Lord's offering.  We are, in essence, demanding that the Lord repent of an insufficient atonement.  So if we fail to forgive another, it is as if we are failing to forgive the Lord, who...needs no forgiveness" (Ferrell, chapter 4).

Christ has already taken our offenders' sins upon Him, through the Atonement.  Our forgiveness can add nothing to the infinite Atonement, which they will receive if they repent.  If they do not repent, vengeance is the Lord's.  Their repentance is irrelevant to our forgiveness of them.  Our forgiveness of our enemies benefits us!  It frees us and brings us peace.

"Remember that if we grant this forgiveness in full, [Christ] atones in full for [our] pains and burdens that have come at others' hands.  He blesses us with his own love, his own appreciation, his own companionship, his own strength to endure.  And if we have these, what do we lack?"  (Ferrell, chapter 7) 

When our relationships with others are holy, as were David's, we are able to also have a holy relationship with our Redeemer, receive the blessings of the Atonement in our daily lives regardless of what others do to us, and experience repeatedly a return to joy and love after pain.  "The Lord be between thee and me for ever" (1 Sam. 20:23,42).