I'm a Beggar, and You Are Too (Mosiah 4-6)

Monday, April 20, 2020

Resources mentioned in this episode

Scriptures mentioned in this episode
  • Mosiah 4:9
  • Mosiah 4:10
  • Mosiah 4:19
  • Mosiah 4:12
  • Mosiah 4:27

Transcribed by Maddie Daetwyler of @lightenprint

C: Hi, I'm Channing.

E: And I'm Elise.

C: And this is The Faithful Feminists podcast. We’ve saved you a seat on the soft chairs. So join us today for a conversation about Mosiah chapters 4 through 6 for the dates April 20th through the 26th. We're so glad you're here.

E: Welcome back today. We're going to talk about humility, repentance, and community. And just to start out and give us a little bit of background, we are still in the middle of King Benjamin's one of a kind sermon. And later in these chapters, there's this kind of grand group repentance and a joyous celebration by the people that say they feel like they've been reborn because of God's goodness.

And from the Come Follow Me manual, they ask a question. They say, “This is how King Benjamin's words affected his people. How will they affect you?”

C: So this is a short set of chapters. It's really only two. And chapter 6 is kind of a, “Oh, this is what happened after King Benjamin gave his sermon. He lived for three more years, and then he died, and then his son, Mosiah, took over as King and the people were righteous for even three more years after. So this must've been a pretty influential sermon for it to inspire the people, really, for six entire years to live in pure righteousness. But today we're going to focus most of our efforts on talking about chapter 4. And part of me kind of feels like chapter 3 and chapter 4 really go hand in hand. So I'm a little bummed that we kind of had to split it between last week and this week. But it's okay because then it just gives us a lot of opportunity to really focus and zoom in on what I think King Benjamin really, really wanted. The audience at his time and the audience, us right now, the readers to learn. So, if we look really closely at chapter 4, it is an absolute treasure trove of different understandings about sin, about repentance ,and about forgiveness, with a specific focus on humility and community. And so I just kind of want to break down some of the verses that we'll be talking about today because I feel like if we look at the chapter in its entirety, it really outlines what this whole repentance process could look like in a really specific format. So looking closely at chapter 4, verse 9, it really is a call to humility. And it reads, “Believe in God, believe that God is, and believe that God created all things, both in heaven and in earth. Believe that God has all wisdom and all power, both in heaven and in earth, believe that man doth not comprehend all things, which the Lord can comprehend.” And so when I think about this type of humility that's outlined in this verse, what really comes to mind is the word smallness. And it's the type of smallness that I think Elise really beautifully described in her experience in episode 4, about when she went to visit the golden Buddha in China. And so it's that type of smallness, that type of realization of one's place in the grander scheme of all things that I think is what King Benjamin is really trying to illuminate for the readers in chapter 9. And if we read a little bit further in the chapter, in verse 10, what I found really fascinating about this one is it's actually a call to repentance. So really quick, when I read that, it says, “Again, believe that you must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God, and ask in sincerity of heart that God would forgive you. And now if you believe all these things, see that you do them.” And so one of the questions that we had when we were reading this verse is, in context of the chapter, what is the sin that we're repenting of? And I think if we kind of step back and look at the verse in relation to the other verses in the chapter, the call to repentance is really a call to repent of our forgetfulness, of that same interconnectedness that goes along with humility, of that experience of smallness. It's a call to repent of our forgetfulness of the interdependence and our reliance upon one another. I found this really beautiful quote from Rosemary Radford Ruether, who is a feminist theologian. This is from her book, Gaia and God. She says, “Sin is the misuse of freedom to exploit other humans and the earth, and thus to violate the basic relations that sustain life. When one part of the community exalts itself at the expense of others, life is diminished for the exploited. Ultimately, the exploiters subvert the basis of their own lives as well. The Hebraic understanding of evil is unjust relations between people. Repentance means special advocacy of those who have been victimized by systems of repressive power. We are called to exercise our real, but finite, freedom and struggle against distorted and oppressive systems. This means that while we should not hold ourselves culpable for the entire system of sin, we also should not imagine ourselves purely innocent either. We are an integral part of this whole reality. We need not only compassionate solidarity with those who are most victimized, but also realistic acknowledgement of how we have benefited from such injustices. Sin, then, as that sort of evil for which we must hold ourselves accountable, lies in distortion of relationship.”

C: So essentially what Rosemary is saying is that we live in reality and interdependence with other humans, with the earth, and with the divine, but systems of oppression, like patriarchy, distort our understanding and sometimes exaggerate our own importance or even exaggerate our privileges to the point where we forget that we are operating in a system of interdependence. And so what she's essentially saying here, and ultimately what King Benjamin is asking us to do in these verses, is to repent of that forgetfulness. Is to remember that we rely on one another and we rely on God. 

E: And this idea shows up in Mosiah chapter 4 verse 19. The very beginning line says, “For behold, are we not all beggars?” And this is the sin that Channing is pointing out. We have forgotten that sinning affects more than just our own selves. We are not isolated individuals, but instead we live and breathe and build a world with other people around us. And that means that our actions, and particularly our sins, affect those that are around us in ways that we can't even imagine. And we've forgotten that we are beggars, and there's a talk that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave, a General Conference talk from 2014 titled, Are We Not All Beggars? And he writes, “Are we not all beggars? Don't we all cry out for help and hope and answers to prayers? Don't we all beg for forgiveness, for mistakes we have made and troubles we have caused? Don't we all implore that grace will compensate for our weaknesses, that mercy will triumph over justice at least in our case?” And I think this calls us to think if we want to be extended that same mercy and grace in the midst of our sins, and in the midst of our forgetfulness, we need to be just as quick to extend that same mercy. And recognizing that we're all sinners, and we all rely on God. And in this way, it kind of levels the hierarchy. It makes us on an equal playing field because we are all beggars. We have to turn to God. 

C: I think a really good way to practice that remembering of God in our lives is actually inspired by a Sunday School lesson given by a friend of ours, and Lisa, hello, how are you? Tell Mitch hello, because Mitch gave an amazing Sunday School lesson a couple of years ago in our old ward, and his lesson was in the Old Testament. So it was talking about when the Israelites were wandering in the desert and they were being fed every day by manna sent from God. And Mitch, in his lesson, asked a couple of questions that have stuck with me even still. And I think that these questions are just really good ways to kind of do a self-evaluation or a self-check-in to see, are we doing these things? Because these practices really will help us remember God and how God shows up in our lives. So the first question is, do I remember the miracles of God in my own life? Is my cup open and ready to receive?

And do I come daily to partake in the goodness of God? And I think as we ask ourselves these questions, we can probably have a pretty, or not even probably, we can have a profound experience in remembering that we are all beggars, and even still, God is answering and responding to our cries and pleas for help.

E: In response to your question about, do I remember the miracles of God in my own life? When we got transferred to the French speaking branch here in Phoenix, I was really worried about what that would mean for my faith and my church participation because I can speak French, but I was hesitant on how that would change my spiritual relationship with God, and also being called as the Young Women's president, I was nervous. Because I felt a lot of responsibility. And I just remember thinking that I would need to rely on God in a different type of way, in a way that was more of a moment to moment. Whereas in my old ward, I kind of like, very pridefully, thought, “Oh, I know how to navigate this. I kind of know what the girls need. I've been in the calling for a while. And so I can move forward.” But I think in that ward, I was blinded to the day-to-day miracles that God would offer me in the calling because I was too prideful. And then fast forward to being in the French branch. I feel like I am having to turn and rely on God and come to God as a beggar saying, “Please help me know what to say here. Please help me reach the girls and reach the members. Please help me to still have a strong spiritual relationship with you.” And I feel like my cup has been overflowing with blessings from God or miracles of God in my own life, but that only came with recognizing that I had a higher dependence on God than I knew that I needed in the past.

C: And I think for me, going along with that, the question: is my cup open and ready to receive? When I wrote this down in my notebook, I drew a drawing of a tea cup and a teapot, and the tea cup is on a saucer facing up. And so when I think about, is my cup open and ready to receive? That’s the image that comes to my mind. And I think for me sometimes, truthfully, the answer is no. Sometimes my tea cup is turned over and it's just upside down on its saucer because I either forget, or I am tired. I tell myself I'm too tired or I'm too busy or I’m too whatever, or I don't even think about it. And if my cup's turned over, there's nowhere for God to put the blessings. And it really happens. It happens a lot. And a practice that I started picking up recently is starting to do a gratitude journal. And I hate applying these really seemingly simplistic practices for something that's such a big deal, like humility, but the gratitude journal has really kind of opened my eyes to the small little things that I really am grateful for every single day. There was one entry that I wrote recently where I was sitting at the table and I could see the sunlight reflected into my house off a puddle of water. And I could just see the ripples happening on my ceiling. And for some reason, I just felt like that was a moment where God was saying, “Hey, I'm here. I love you. All you have to do is pay attention.” And so I think sometimes for me, this question of is my cup open and ready to receive is really kind of calling me out a little bit. And it's just this little reminder of, Channing, turn your cup over. 

E: So good. Yeah. And for me too, I do feel like sometimes I experience some guilt when either God tries to move in my life through other people who are offering service. For some reason, I can sometimes feel guilty accepting that service because I think there's a part of me that's self-righteous and like, “No, I can do it on my own.” I'm the oldest in my family and was the first to move out and be an adult. And in that way, I feel kind of responsible for setting an example of, “Here's how to be totally self-sufficient and you won't need anyone else to rely on.” But, in that same way, I can recognize the way that my teacup is flipped over, because I think that, foolishly, I think, “Oh no, this is the way it's supposed to be. I wanted my tea cup flipped over.” Which is so silly, because it's empty. It's empty underneath. 

C: And I think going along with this whole teacup imagery, God brewed the tea. Right? And I think all God really wants is for us to just drink it. Every day, God is preparing the manna that falls from the heavens. Every day, God is preparing the tea. And what joy it would probably bring God to just be there with us as we drink deeply, and just say, “Oh man, that was the best cup of tea I've had in a really long time. Thanks for that.” And I just love this whole idea. It's a great tea party. 

E: Yeah. And then God is working in a tea house. 

C: So I just love it. 

E: Yeah. Great. Good. 

C: It's so good. So as you kind of go through this week and you're thinking about this lesson, I really encourage you to just consider these questions. Do I remember the miracles of God in my own life? Is my cup open and ready to receive? And do I come daily to partake in the goodness of God?

E: So coming back to the text, now that we've kind of talked about humility and repentance and forgiveness and remembering God, chapter 4 verses 12 through 16 I feel really showcase really well what the result of this repentance and humility process looks like. So in verse 12, King Benjamin says, “And behold, I say unto you that if you do this, you shall always rejoice and be filled with the love of God and always retain a remission of your sins. And ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you. Or in the knowledge of that which is just and true, and you will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man, according to that which is his due”. And then he finishes in verse 16, “And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor. You will administer your substance unto him that standeth in need, and you will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain and turn him out to perish.” So one of the questions that we wanted to ask in context of this text is, what might this look like? What are we being called to do by King Benjamin?

E: And in that same talk by Elder Holland, Elder Haldon reminds us, he actually turns us to Jesus, and tells the story about before Jesus was betrayed and crucified, Mary anointed Jesus's head with a really expensive burial ointment and Judas Iscariot kind of freaked out about this extravagance that Mary was offering Jesus, and he murmured against her. And then Jesus looks at Judas and says, “Why trouble ye her, she hath wrought a good work. She has done what she could.” And I love this idea of doing what we can with what we're able to give. Because if we jump down to verse 27, this is kind of a very memorable, recognizable verse, but it talks about how it's not requisite that we should run faster than we have strength. And I think this lines up really nicely. We do what we can, and that starts with recognizing that we're all beggars and also that we are called to care for those around us in really concrete, specific ways.

C: In that same talk that Elise referenced, Are We Not All Beggars by Jeffrey R. Holland, he talks about an experience that a reporter had with Mother Teresa. And Mother Teresa talks about how she's aware that she can't change the entire world, but what she's doing right here, and right now, still does make a difference. And the reporter comes to the conclusion that obviously God doesn't care about statistics. God doesn't care about how big of an impact that you're making. It's just that if you're trying, and if you are making one. And there's a quote from Mother Teresa that I really love. She says, “If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” And I think that that goes along really well with “Don't run faster than you have strength.” You just do what you can, you give what you have, and in the end it will be enough as long as you really give it your best try. 

E: One thing we really went back and forth about in this episode was there's a pretty big emphasis on caring for the poor, and not just the poor in spirit, but like those who are actually stricken by poverty. And I enjoy reading about this. I enjoy writing about this, because for me it's an important part of the gospel to care for the least of these. And so if you're also interested in this type of interpretation or reading, or if you want to highlight and think about ways that you can help those who are poor in your neighborhoods, you might be interested in reading a little bit about liberation theology. But also, the Exponent II Summer 2019 issue, the theme was “No poor among you.” And I wrote an essay for it, and I just wanted to read a brief passage, because I think that it highlights some specific things that we can do to care for those around us. I write, “For members, this might look like owning up to past prejudices, microaggressions, and oppressive actions. And then following Jesus's example, in a vow to move from text to action, from Sunday service to a life of solidarity with the poor. It might look like rereading the Sermon on the Mount, and then reminding others of what a more loving, social justice-oriented interpretation of the scripture might mean. It is using our callings and our statuses to speak up for those who have no voice, and then inviting them to have a seat at the table, to speak for themselves. It is taking seriously the law of consecration, that we might remember God's words ‘Inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me.’ It is holding all things in common, such that there are not rich and poor, bond and free, but we are all made free and partakers of the heavenly gift. It is a continual revisiting of the face of God by re-welcoming the stranger, not with a backward motion, but forever moving forward to witness the day where there should truly be no poor among us.” And I love writing about these things because I've said it and I’m going to say it, a thousand times. It's my mantra until I die. To love God is to love other people. And the way that we love God is by serving and standing in solidarity and doing concrete actions and moving from talking about these things and talking about serving people, talking about serving the people that are closest to us, and actually going out and doing it, pushing back against the oppressive systems and structures, listening to people's experiences and stories and remembering that we'll never be able to experience that. And so it's doubly important for us to keep our mouths closed and get to work. 

C: I think Elise, what you're really talking about, I can feel the love and I can feel the passion and I can feel that this is something that is just so important to you. And really what it boils down to is, this is love and love is service. There's another quote from Mother Teresa. She says, “Love cannot remain by itself. It has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.” And so, going back to that question that the Come Follow Me manual asked, these are the words of King Benjamin. This is how they affected his people enough to inspire them to make a grand group repentance, a joyous celebration, and then have 6 years of perfect peace and righteousness. This is how his words affected his people, and how will they affect you? How will they inspire you to humility? How will they inspire you to service, and what kind of service will they inspire you to? And I think these are important questions to be asking ourselves, because we need you, the world needs you. We need your service. We need your love. We need that love and action. And so, I guess the question that we want to end on today is, what are you going to go into the world and do today?

E: Thanks so much for tuning in today. We appreciate the ways that you listen and participate in our podcast each week. Especially during this episode, when we got to talk about humility, repentance, and really our interdependence with those around us. 

C: So if you've loved this episode, or any of our past episodes, or just us in general, we would absolutely love it if you could leave us a review on iTunes. Tell us what you think so that other listeners can find us and be inspired by the amazing scriptures, and by all of the love and goodness that is there to find. We just love you guys. We're so excited that you're here and truly, honestly, 100%, we can't wait to talk to you next week.

See you later!

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