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Maidservant

Chosen Because of Their Faith 1 Nephi 1:20

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I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” (1 Ne 1:20)

The concept of being 'chosen' is a bit tricky, I think. My patriarchal blessing says that I am chosen, and was before I came here. So there was a time I put a lot of study into that. Unfortunately I can't remember most of the conclusions I drew from all the scriptures; it does speak of being a vessel (such as Mary, the mother of Jesus, being a chosen vessel). But the principle of 'vessel' only raises more questions which I don't want to take the time for at this point.

I do know that it is not a prize. In fact, The Book of Mormon gives some criticism to those who think such. I point you to the tradition of the Zoramites which was based heavily on their chosenness as something special and separate and granted arbitrarily. Alma 31:16-18

At this time in my life, I find the appellation of 'chosen' to be slightly useless. Even if one is chosen, it's not helpful if that one doesn't also choose (to serve Christ). And if one is not, to begin with, chosen per se, they may become so by choosing (to serve Christ).

Nevertheless, I think Nephi's engagement with the idea and reality of 'chosenness' is instructive. First of all, one is chosen because of their faith. ***

Now, a treatise on faith could take pages upon pages. Let me provide a brief working definition for the moment. You can study further on your own if you need to flesh this out. Faith is not 'agreement of what is correct' nor 'level of heart fervency'. Rather, faith is the application of principle, namely Christ principles. Faith is from the seed to the fruit—and the work, the living, that takes place to obtain that fruit. Faith is creation.

Faith is to live (according to given principles). Faith is to make choices. Faith is strong and dynamic and exhausting.

When one applies a given principle(s), through whatever hazard of life there may be, this is faith and that one will have the fruit of that faith if one endures through the completion of the faith process.

Thus we see that when Nephi says one is chosen because of their faith, what he is really saying is that we choose ourselves. We say, This is who I am and This is what I will do.

Perhaps Nephi's understanding was influenced by the words of Isaiah (which he shares later in his book): “For, behold, I have refined thee. I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” (1 Ne 20:10, Isaiah 48:10) Nephi begins his record in verse 1 of chapter 1: “having seen many afflictions in the course of my days”. (And keep in mind, that Nephi is crafting this narrative many years after it took place, after much time of reflecting upon it, I'm sure.)

And then the verse 20 we are learning from is very plain: “because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” In other words, we deliver ourselves. The location of the power (“mighty”) is in ourselves, because of the process of faith that we consciously choose and submit ourselves to.

The tender mercies of YHWH are part of the equation. These tender mercies emerge into the story. But it is a story of faith that a person chose and picked up and endured in for themselves, but not by themselves (because the mercy of YHWH is always there to be drawn upon).

And I think the presentation that Nephi is giving, while it seems to simply be a history of his family, is really more than that. His presentation uses the story of his family; but it's purpose is really to be very specific about what faith is and how you go through it in order to experience deliverance as a result of that faith.

*** The Book of Mormon is a companion to the Bible, but one of the things it does is to subtly criticize the Bible (for the purpose of correcting errors). The idea of chosen-ness I think is one of those criticism/corrections. The Bene Israel did not (and perhaps still do not) understand the nature of their chosen-ness, and at times have run to the Zoramite version. (And this is human nature, not just a problem of Judaism.) Nephi's engagement with 'chosen-ness' makes sure and let us know it is a function of real time faith and living and the choices WE make—not God sprinkling pixie dust on a bloodline (or an organization, for that matter).

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

This is the second mini-essay I wrote regarding the first chapter of Nephi.  What have you learned regarding chosenness, how have you engaged with it (if at all)?  Also would love if anyone has insights on how the ancient ideas of chosenness came about and were thought about.  Riff on anything . . .

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Early in our faith journey, many of us have a spiritual experience that result in our claim to be part of an exclusive club of true believers.  As we get older, and experience failures in what we thought we knew, for example formulas that guarantee a successful outcome (FHE, Eagle Scout, YW Medallion, Seminary grad, missions, Temple Marriage, etc.) our individual faith may become stronger in a way, but more egalitarian.  We begin to look for truth wherever we can find it and embrace it into our chosen state.  We find that there are multitudes of tender hearted, kind people in and out of the Church who have experienced challenges like Lehi and Sariah and their disfunctional family.  Those apparent family failures have made the faith of some family members, solidifying their "chosen" state.  The state of the other family members is unknown because we don't know for sure how they are responding in the Spirit World (D&C 138.)  Whether they are chosen or not (likely they are,) is not our concern.  Our concern as Christians is to love our enemies, and apparently treat them as if they are chosen also.  Does God ask us to do anything He hasn't already done Himself?  "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."  Matt. 5:45-46

When we were young and unjust sinners, it was probably that very rain that rained on us that gave us the desire to be chosen out of that sinful state.  When we love, we become part of that Godly rain that leads to the chosen state.  I know people who have no professed faith in God.  I know others who hope for faith in God, but honestly don't know if there is a God.  And yet, due to their experience with failure, sadness and/or tragedy in their lives, the love they have for their fellow beings is palpable.  Just sitting in the room with them, their spirit radiates.  No words need to be spoken.  I believe they have placed themselves in a chosen state, perhaps without knowing what they have done.  They have discovered how to live the great plan of happiness.  Regardless of whether they realize that they are actually chosen, I believe the day will come in this life or beyond, that God's promise will be fulfilled upon their heads "If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." John 7:17.  That is a promise from the mouth of Jesus Christ.  

There is another aspect of becoming chosen I think.  That would be focusing on our own salvation, and not judging where any other person is in their faith journey.  When you look at how the Savior treated sinners, He loved them.  He ate with them.  He visited with them.  He interceded for them.  His harshest, often only implied, criticisms were reserved for those apparently righteous people who would cast the first stone.  To the sinner "Neither do I judge thee.  Go thy way and sin no more."  "And behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment."  Then Jesus shared the story in Luke 7, speaking a parable of the debt we all owe: "There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both.  Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?  Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.  And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged."

In the end, I think that's what chosen means... Forgiven.

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19 minutes ago, Meerkat said:

Early in our faith journey, many of us have a spiritual experience that result in our claim to be part of an exclusive club of true believers.  As we get older, and experience failures in what we thought we knew, for example formulas that guarantee a successful outcome (FHE, Eagle Scout, YW Medallion, Seminary grad, missions, Temple Marriage, etc.) our individual faith may become stronger in a way, but more egalitarian.  We begin to look for truth wherever we can find it and embrace it into our chosen state.  We find that there are multitudes of tender hearted, kind people in and out of the Church who have experienced challenges like Lehi and Sariah and their disfunctional family.  Those apparent family failures have made the faith of some family members, solidifying their "chosen" state.  The state of the other family members is unknown because we don't know for sure how they are responding in the Spirit World (D&C 138.)  Whether they are chosen or not (likely they are,) is not our concern.  Our concern as Christians is to love our enemies, and apparently treat them as if they are chosen also.  Does God ask us to do anything He hasn't already done Himself?  "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."  Matt. 5:45-46

When we were young and unjust sinners, it was probably that very rain that rained on us that gave us the desire to be chosen out of that sinful state.  When we love, we become part of that Godly rain that leads to the chosen state.  I know people who have no professed faith in God.  I know others who hope for faith in God, but honestly don't know if there is a God.  And yet, due to their experience with failure, sadness and/or tragedy in their lives, the love they have for their fellow beings is palpable.  Just sitting in the room with them, their spirit radiates.  No words need to be spoken.  I believe they have placed themselves in a chosen state, perhaps without knowing what they have done.  They have discovered how to live the great plan of happiness.  Regardless of whether they realize that they are actually chosen, I believe the day will come in this life or beyond, that God's promise will be fulfilled upon their heads "If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." John 7:17.  That is a promise from the mouth of Jesus Christ.  

There is another aspect of becoming chosen I think.  That would be focusing on our own salvation, and not judging where any other person is in their faith journey.  When you look at how the Savior treated sinners, He loved them.  He ate with them.  He visited with them.  He interceded for them.  His harshest, often only implied, criticisms were reserved for those apparently righteous people who would cast the first stone.  To the sinner "Neither do I judge thee.  Go thy way and sin no more."  "And behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment."  Then Jesus shared the story in Luke 7, speaking a parable of the debt we all owe: "There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both.  Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?  Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most.  And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged."

In the end, I think that's what chosen means... Forgiven.

Meerkat, this is really beautiful.  Thank you.

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14 hours ago, Maidservant said:

.........................  Riff on anything . . .

Your essay made me think of Abraham in Genesis 18 tenting at the Terebinths of Mamre when Yahweh and two angels show up in the form of ordinary men.  He quickly brings water for their feet, and has a full meal prepared for them.  Yahweh tells Abe that his wife will bear a son.  His wife Sarah overhears and laughs, and then lies about laughing.  Meal over, the angels head off to destroy Sodom & Gomorrah.  Abe knows that his nephew Lot is in Sodom, and challenges Yahweh to reconsider. One is struck by the mundane nature of the encounter, and we can reflect on the fact that this chapter is ignored by those with a very different view of deity.  It is only due to faith that Abe comes through unscathed, and we know that Yahweh is an old friend whom he trusts.

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