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|Jacob I Have Loved|
Nov. 24th, 2011 at 9:32 pm
As I read the scriptures, I am always looking for the story. I get bored by long passages of exhortations, lists of genealogy and symbolism run amuck. The books of Isaiah and Revelations – shoot me now, please.
Since I really only remember stories and am a miserable failure at rote scripture memorization, my knowledge of the scriptures is nowhere near scriptorium level. It isn’t even up to Gospel Doctrine standards. The last time I was comfortably able to talk about the scriptures without a lesson manual guiding me was when I taught a nursery class that Jesus loved them.
I am telling you all of this so you have a context for this post. I have a testimony of the gospel. It is founded solidly on the Book of Mormon. I find the Old Testament a scary book of horrible things done to women and a version of God I am not particularly fond of. The Dude has anger management issues.
The New Testament is much better, who doesn’t love Jesus? But it doesn’t give me the explanations of doctrine that the B of M does.
I find the Book of Mormon the easiest book of scripture we have because it begins with a story of one family and then branches into all humanity. The language is much easier to follow and in my simple-minded faith, that is what I need.
My favorite scripture character of all times, over all the books we call scripture, is Jacob from The Book of Mormon. When I was small, I liked Ruth. I still do think she was a stand up gal, but Jacob has my heart.
Jacob was the younger brother to Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, Sam and the elder brother to Joseph. Jacob was the first born son of Lehi and Sarah when they came to the Americas.
He was born into a truly dysfunctional family, with two older brothers who caused major grief for his parents. The scriptures don’t record that Jacob witnessed Laman and Lemuels attempts to kill their brother Nephi, but I am sure he was very aware of the danger they posed.
As his father, Lehi says in 2 Nephi 2:1-2 “….And behold in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren. Nevertheless, Jacob, my first-born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”
The same chapter of scripture gives some of my favorite themes of the gospel: The principle of free agency, the role of the Savior to atone for our sins that result from our freedom to choose, and the need for opposition in all things. I can easily imagine Lehi taking young 12-year old Jacob and talking to him about these things as an explanation for the crazy life Jacob’s family lived. I love the idea that this understanding comforted a troubled boy who saw way too much way too early in his life.
I am comforted by the same explanations in my life. My childhood was a chaotic mess of foster homes, abuse, neglect and a general confusion as to the rules of life. I like to think Jacob and I share a bit of the same pain.
The only scripture I have memorized in the Book of Mormon is in the same chapter, 2 Nephi chapter 2. It is verse 25, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” To me that means I may not be feeling much happiness at the moment, but the ultimate goal of life is happiness, so hang in there. I’ll take it.
Jacob grows up to be exactly what his father prophesied, a prophet of God. He kept a record of his times in the book of Jacob. Think of it like this: Jacob’s childhood is described in the first and second books of Nephi, his adulthood is written in the book of Jacob. He gave some fabulous talks to his people in the B of J – chapter 3 is where he gives the men a smack-down about how they are treating their wives and children. I think it is the first scriptures that treat women and children as more than cattle. (The Old Testament is seriously scary on that part).
In Jacob chapter 7, Jacob tells about a man named Sherem who says he believes the scriptures (verse 10), but not about Christ’s coming. (This part of the BofM happens before Christ came to Earth) So Sherem is an OT guy, and Jacob is teaching NT. Sherem goes around preaching his version of the gospel and creates problems for the people. I won’t ruin the good part of the story, but lets just say verses 1-23 give a compelling reason for not denying the Christ.
Also, in Jacob 7:5, Jacob refers to having experiences with angels and hearing the voice of the Lord at various times in his life and I of course, wondered if those didn’t begin in his childhood. I can think of several distinct times in my childhood when I knew God was with me.
I love, love, love that Jacob spoke the truth of his pain. He didn’t sugar coat his life, and if he was a modern day man, would have probably been recommended anti-depressant medication by his doctor. I respect people who have been through hard things and find a way to stay strong. It is not easy.
Jacob, whom I love. You bettcha.
PS – Jacob’s son, Enos has a great story to tell too, if you are interested.