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|June 12, 2013
Light for My PathPatterns: A Key to Cracking Scriptural Code
by Kathryn Grant
Have you ever tried to crack a secret code? According to Simon Singh in his fascinating work The Code Book, code-breakers crack codes by looking for patterns.
Sometimes the scriptures can seem like code (think of Isaiah or Revelation). Other times we read seemingly ordinary words, but we don’t see their deeper meaning. We don’t realize we’re looking at “code,” or words we could unlock to find hidden treasures. But like code-breakers, we can look for patterns in the scriptures as a way of finding greater meaning in these sacred words.
One of my earliest experiences with scriptural patterns was prompted by a talk given by a stake presidency member in my BYU stake. He noted a pattern that occurs repeatedly in the Book of Mormon: the faith > power > deliverance pattern. Stated more fully, faith in Christ leads to power from Christ, which results in deliverance from some kind of challenge or captivity through Christ.
I was intrigued and started to watch for this pattern. The very first mention occurs in chapter 1 of 1st Nephi. When Nephi’s father, the prophet Lehi, preached repentance to the wicked in Jerusalem, his warning was met with disbelief and anger. Finally, his life was threatened. But Nephi relates, "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" (verse 20, emphasis added). Nephi then recounts how the Lord warned Lehi and his family to escape, and Lehi’s life was saved.
The faith > power > deliverance pattern is repeated just a few chapters later after Nephi's brothers become angry with him and bind him, intending to leave him in the wilderness as food for wild beasts. Nephi records his prayer for help:
"O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound. And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet" (1 Nephi 7:17 – 18, emphasis added).
These two examples illustrate the faith > power > deliverance pattern at a fairly straightforward level. However, it’s possible to gain more insight by looking at more complex examples. For instance, as Nephi and his family crossed the ocean toward the promised land, his brothers became angry with him again, this time over his rebuke of their “exceeding rudeness” (1 Nephi 18:9). Once again, they bound Nephi. And once again, he prayed for deliverance.
But this time, his prayer wasn’t answered right away. Instead, Nephi remained bound for several days while his brothers rejected entreaties by other family members and even threatened those who tried to intervene. The Liahona stopped working and ship ran into terrible storm. It was finally this display of the Lord’s power that persuaded Nephi’s brothers to free him. Then, as Nephi prayed with faith, the storm ceased.
But what was Nephi doing while waited for the Lord’s deliverance? He says, “I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.” (1 Nephi 18:16.)
Nephi’s experience shows us that gratitude and patience are important components of the faith part of the faith > power > deliverance pattern. I’ve often wondered if Nephi could have prayed with such faith for the storm to cease if he had not been patient and grateful while waiting to be freed. (For a similar example, see the story of Alma’s people in bondage to the Lamanites in Mosiah 23 – 24).
As wonderful as these examples are, we see the most beautiful and eternally significant example of the faith > power > deliverance pattern when we are freed from sin through Jesus Christ. Consider the conversion experience of Alma the Younger, whose rebellion against the Lord finally brought him to the point of exquisitely bitter pain, being “racked with torment” (Alma 36:17.)
Remembering his father’s testimony of the Savior, he cried out in faith for deliverance: "O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.” (Alma 36:18.)
Then he records, “And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:19-20.) His faith in Christ brought the power of redemption into his life, and he was freed from the captivity of sin.
Elder David A Bednar taught that searching the scriptures for “connections, patterns, and themes builds upon and adds to our spiritual knowledge.... it broadens our perspective and understanding of the plan of salvation.” Significantly, he added that we don’t need extensive formal education or sophisticated study aids to search for patterns. We just need “a sincere desire to learn, the companionship of the Holy Ghost, the holy scriptures, and an active and inquiring mind.” (See A Reservoir of Living Water by Elder David A. Bednar).
What life-changing patterns could you find as you study the scriptures?
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