Come Follow Me: Jacob’s Anxiety

I love Jacob.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed that my affinity toward Jacob has grown.  There is beautiful emotion and empathy, passion and pleading, and heartwarming humility in his teachings.  This time around, I has also been drawn to his use of the word “anxiety” several times.

Before Nephi dies, Jacob teaches the people:

“...I speak unto you again; for I am desirous for the welfare of your souls.  Yea, mine anxiety is great for you; and ye yourselves know that it ever has been (2 Nephi 6:3).”

Then once he assumes the leader role after Nephi’s death, Jacob reiterates his feelings:

“Now, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, according to the responsibility which I am under to God, to magnify mine office with sober ness, and that I might rid my garments of your sins, I come up into the temple this day that I might declare unto you the word of God. And ye yourselves know that I have hitherto been diligent in the office of my calling; but I this day am weighed down with much more desire and anxiety for the welfare of your souls than I have hitherto been (Jacob 2:2-3).”

Again, just before he teaches the great Allegory of the Olive Tree, Jacob declares:

“Behold, my beloved brethren, I will unfold this mystery unto you; if I do not, by any means, get shaken from my firmness in the Spirit and stumble because of my over anxiety for you (Jacob 4:18).”

We have created such a negative connotation to this word: Anxiety.  What is it?  And is it as “bad” as we have made it out to be?  In these words from Jacob, I can feel his anxiety, but I also see that it comes from his great love and caring for the people that he serves.  Only in the last verse quoted do we see that he is anxious about himself; but again, only that his own anxiety won’t overpower the spirit and love he feels for his people.  I find this endearing and a bit heart-wrenching.

Let’s pause to look at Jacob’s life.  He was born in the wilderness.  He knows nothing other than hard work, pain, suffering, sorrows.  He watched his family disintegrate with contention and false beliefs.  In Lehi’s final blessing to his son we read, “And now, Jacob, I speak unto you: Thou art my firstborn in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness.  And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren (2 Nephi 2:1).”

Of this beginning and living in the wilderness, Deidre Green explains:

The wilderness is a luminal space —a space of change and uncertainty, but also a space of transformation.  And it’s a space of vulnerability and I think that really influences Jacob’s perspective on the world, and also his affinity to God...It seems that God and Christ, as he understands him, are really kind of the stabilizing forces for him in his life. 

We see this in Lehi’s continued words, “Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain (2 Nephi 2:2).”  Jacob has learned from an early age what it means to rely on and trust in God because of his childhood in the wilderness.  Likewise, as we are born into and travel in our own wilderness called mortality, we learn to have this same trust and love for a Father in Heaven who is guiding us and protecting us.

It is because of Jacob’s experiences that he is able to empathize with a larger group of people.  This brings us back to his anxiety.  With his own heart enlarged by his life’s journey, Jacob feels deeply for the people whom he serves.  I can understand this!  I recently wrote a blog post entitled, “Caring too Much is Going to Kill Me.”  Not only is there my own natural anxiety spurred on by my own weaknesses, there is also the pressure of truly caring for the sisters I serve and desiring their happiness.  Oftentimes I worry that my over anxiety is getting in the way of leading them by the Spirit.  Thus, I can relate to Jacob more than ever before!

We also learn from Jacob’s anxiety that it’s okay to live with some ambiguity.  I feel some of his anxiety is spurred on by the idea that he doesn’t know what is going to happen to the Nephites once he dies.  He also pleads with the Nephites to continue reaching out to their brethren, the Lamanites. He knows and understands that a relationship with God is first and foremost, and sometimes familial relationships only add to the complexity of understanding God’s ways and His children.  Growing up in a time of uncertainty and constant change allowed Jacob the ability to see these dichotomies of life.

Ultimately, we see Jacob’s undying love and testimony of a living Savior.  As taught by his father, Jacob experiences firsthand a knowledge of his Redeemer.  “And thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh...Wherefore, redemption comets in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth (2 Nephi 2:4, 6).”  Then, when it is his turn to lead, Jacob counsels his people, “...be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son, and ye may obtain a resurrecting, according to the power of the resurrection which is in Christ...(Jacob 4:11).”

What I gain from this message is that our anxiety does not need to keep us from the love of God.  Despite his anxious spirt and sorrowful yearnings of his heart, Jacob is able to persevere and powerfully testify of Christ.  Likewise, because of his anxious heart, Jacob has the capacity to gather his people in love and righteousness, to empathize and to teach in love and understanding.  With this thought, however, we must remember one thing:  Jacob’s anxiety was for the welfare of his people more so than for himself.  We, too, can turn our hearts toward others and allow our anxiety to bring us closer to them and to Christ for nothing shall separate us from His love.

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“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of god, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  
Romans 8:38-39


Come Follow Me: The Doctrine of Christ

I'm back!  February was a crazy month.  So, yes, I completed most of the reading but could never get to writing anything down.  So, here are my thoughts on this week's study: 2 Nephi 31-33...

Here we find the Doctrine of Christ.  Most of us can quote the Article of Faith:
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are first, faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ; second, repentance; third, baptism by emersion for the remission of sins; fourth, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

And many of us have probably been taught these principles and ordinances in a step by step fashion.  I've even drawn the steps myself, one following the other as we make our way to heaven.  Therefore, I find it very interesting that in laying out the Doctrine of Christ, Nephi doesn't go through the "steps," nor are they even in the same order.

Nephi first talks about baptism. He talks about Jesus being baptized and then declares, "And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water...O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water (2 Ne. 31:5)!"  Interestingly, when Jesus visits the Nephites after his crucifixion, the first thing He teaches them is about baptism.  Something about that ordinance is crucial to following our Savior.

When asked, "Why did Jesus have to get baptized if He was perfect?"  our typical answer is, "To show us the example."  Yes, in verse 9 over chapter 31, we see just that, "...it showeth unto the children of men the straitness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by which they should enter, he having set the example before them (italics added)."  When I read these verses this time, however, I was struck by another phrase.  Verse 7 states, "...But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father... (italics added)."  And this is what I think is crucial about baptism coming first when teaching about the doctrine of Christ.  Baptism is our first ordinance in which we declare to God that we will follow Him.  This decision is a humbling experience as we bury ourselves and come up again as new creatures.  We renew this covenant, offering our humble hearts to God, every Sunday when we partake of the sacrament.  Humility is necessary in following our Savior, Jesus Christ.

As part of that sacramental renewal, we then have the opportunity to repent.  Repentance is not required of young children before the age of eight.  Repentance, in my viewpoint, is not required of those who do not know the law.  Repentance is a blessing we partake in after we have made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ.  I guess you can read 2 Nephi 31:11-13 and come to the conclusion that repentance is required before baptism, but again, I don't see these principles and ordinances as steps, I see them interlocking as we choose to follow our Savior. 

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the the name of Christ, by baptism...then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel (2 Ne. 31:13)." 

With the Holy Ghost we can then speak with the tongue of angels.  What does that look like?  What does it feel like and sound like?  I find this a fascinating phrase.  In chapter 32, Nephi clarifies, "Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, tehy speak the words of Christ.  Wherefore, I said unto you, feas upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do (v.3)."  In other words, having been baptized, with a humble and repentant heart we can receive personal revelation!

And then comes faith!  Faith was already present when we made the initial choice to be baptized (see 2 Ne. 31:19), but that faith only continues to grow and build and strengthen as we continue along the path. 

"And then ye are in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life;  yea, ye have entered in by the gate;  ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive....Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold...ye shall have eternal life (31:18, 20)."

We are taught that faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ is first, and I don't think I dispute that.  But we need to remember that once we act in faith, it is not a one-time action.  Faith is a growing, learning, active, and living principle.  It is only through continuing on the path that our faith becomes stronger and our understanding of Jesus Christ and His love for us can grow. 

Nephi's final words testify of this.  He declares, "I have charity for my people and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat (2 Nephi 33:7)." How does He have such faith?  "...for thus has the Lord commanded me, and I must obey (v.15)."  Nephi made the decision to follow Jesus Christ, he chose to obey, he chose to stay on the path.  Of these first four principles and ordinances, only baptism happens once; and yet, even then, the covenant is renewed with the sacrament.  Nephi did not follow a step by step plan to heaven, Nephi chose every day to hold to the Doctrine of Jesus Christ!

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"And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ.  And if ye shall believe in Christ, ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good."  
2 Nephi 33:10 

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