The healing of the blind man

I love the story of the blind man being healed by the Savior that is found in the book of John. It not only records the experience of the Savior healing him, but also demonstrates the faith that is required for anyone who would be healed by God. It seems that in addition to the test of having to endure living his life without the ability to see, the man’s faith and integrity are also tested after he is healed and receives his sight.

It’s indication of his faith that the man responds right away when the Lord tells him to “wash in the pool of Siloam”. He doesn’t hesitate, even though he likely has to slowly feel his way there, he is blind after all. He obediently washes and is healed, it was a miracle evident to everyone around him!

We’re then given insight into the level of the man’s loyalty to Jesus as he is questioned and hassled by the Pharisees who want him to deny that it was Christ who had healed him. They don’t seem to put much effort into denying the fact that he was healed, it was too obvious. They were in a position of power and were doing their best to intimidate the man into turning against the Savior so they could have a witness against him. The man didn’t give in even though there could have been consequences for withstanding the Pharisees. He stood up for Christ and the truth of what happened to him. The Pharisees in their apparent disgust then “cast him out”.

After the man has been cast out, the Savior comes to him again, with comfort and possibly to confirm that his integrity and unwavering faithfulness is recognized and approved of by the Lord. Jesus then asks him if he believes in the Son of God. The man didn’t realize at first that Jesus was speaking of himself, he had thought Jesus was a prophet. Now understanding, the man answers, “Lord, I believe”.

Though my story is quite different from this man’s story, I’ve spent a large part of my life spiritually blind. During one of the more extreme periods of blindness, there came a point where the Lord reached out to me in a way that I couldn’t ignore, offering His healing. During this time I had become very sick physically and spiritually. I honestly didn’t think I would live much longer, and my family were concerned as well. I made several visits to the doctor but they were inconclusive. I pled for the Lord’s help, made significant changes in my life that were needed in order for me to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the Lord raised me up and changed my heart. This is as obvious to me that Christ’s power healed me as was the miracle of sight given to the blind man in the story above. What the Lord did for me was a miracle. I simply wouldn’t still be here without the Lord intervening, through His power and through loving family members who gave me Priesthood blessings, prayed for me and helped in other ways.

 I still can only partially comprehend and understand the great change He has brought about in my life in such a short time. I know the healing I have received is from Christ. It has taught me about the depth of God’s love and that He doesn’t give up on us. I love and trust Him more deeply. I learned that I have to still trust and rely on Him completely. I know that Jesus Christ has the power to heal us, if we will trust Him, turn our hearts to Him and follow His commandments. I also know that the power of the Priesthood is real, that the power of God is manifest through those who hold the Priesthood, and that this power ultimately comes from the Savior himself.

Why are some people born blind? Why do other people choose to not see the truth? Why does it take some of us so long to learn the things we need to learn? Why are we sometimes afraid to allow the Lord into our life to heal us, and to change us into the people He knows we can become?

I return to John chapter 9:

“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (John 9:39-41)

And finally, on another occasion Jesus taught why many of us don’t see more miracles like this in our lives:

“For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matt 13:15)

A Favorite Bible Verse, from James

In honor of International Bible Day, here’s a verse from the Bible that is meaningful to me, from James chapter 3:

16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.

18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. (James 3:16-18)

As Jesus taught us, and his brother James confirms, “blessed are the peacemakers”.

Gospel Doctrine, New Testament Lesson 16: “I Was Blind, Now I See”

My wife and I drove recently to Seattle to see my brother in law and his wife get sealed in the Seattle temple, we drove through central Oregon and Portland (saw the Columbia river, green fields, rolling hills, snowy mountains, the Pacific Ocean, rainy beautiful green forests and saw an amazing waterfall) my wife commented to me, “how can people see all of this and not believe in God?” We all have the risk of being blind to spiritual truths that are right in front of our eyes if we choose not to see them and not to believe them.

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John chapter 9 tells the story of the healing of the blind man, and gives examples of the terrible state of those who allow themselves to be spiritually blind and refuse to see the truth.

(John 9: 1-7)

“…who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)

A pre-mortal existence is implied in this question, how else could the man sin prior to his birth? This belief in the pre-mortal existence of the spirit was apparently a belief held by the Jews of this time.

“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” (John 9:3)

This man’s blindness appeared to carry with it for him a special mission that the “the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

Q. Why did Jesus anoint the man’s eyes with clay?

Believe it or not there was a specific prohibition by the Jewish rulers against the application of saliva to the eyes on the Sabbath. This strange restriction came into being because of a common belief that saliva was a remedy for diseases of the eye.

**** It would seem that Jesus was deliberately violating the Pharisees rules of the Jewish Sabbath.

“…Jesus is putting the people in the position of choosing between him as one sent of God to do the work of the Father, as one who can open blind eyes, and the traditions of the elders about Sabbath observance. They must make their choice at the peril of their salvation…”

– Elder Bruce R. McConkie (Mortal Messiah, 3:201)

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John 9:18-23

So his neighbors see or hear about his miraculous healing and are amazed and not sure what to think, are we sure this is the man who was born blind? They ask him and he gives his testimony and tells what had happened and how he was healed by Jesus. This was the first time he shares his testimony

Their reaction is essentially to take him to the Pharisees to be judged. Wouldn’t you be happy for someone who was just miraculously healed?

He then bears his testimony to the Pharisees that he was healed and that Jesus is a prophet, he doesn’t appear to know more about Jesus than that but he defends what he knows is true.

His parent’s are brought before the Pharisees and questioned, they give a simple testimony – we know that this is our son and he was born blind, his parents were afraid to say any more. Why? The threat was excommunication for anyone who confessed Jesus was the Messiah. Does their testimony give enough witness/evidence to the Pharisees that the man is telling the truth about being healed of his physical blindness?

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Q. Why do you think this man might have been chosen to have this special mission of being healed and having the works of God made manifest in him?

Did his life as a blind man (already somewhat of an outcast in his society) prepare him for what would likely follow of a hard road of being cast out of Jewish society and testifying to those who might reject him?


Q. What can we learn from (his example and) the way this man handled all the things that happened to him AFTER he was healed?

He not only had faith to be healed, he had faith to bear testimony of what had happened to him after he was healed in spite of heavy opposition and threats. This says a lot about why he was chosen to be a witness of this miracle of the Savior, he stayed true to what happened to him and stood up for that truth. He had integrity.

“Jesus saw the need of an individual…[He] performed the service immediately with just the resources he had—spit and mud and a desire to help. He didn’t transport the man to an exotic medical facility, organize a cornea transplant team, or didn’t make it into a media event. Sometimes we think we can’t serve because we’re not rich enough, not educated enough, not old enough, or not young enough. Remember, if we have the desire to serve, then our bare hands, a little spit, and a little dirt are enough to make a miracle.

[He] didn’t just dump that service on the man and walk away. He gave that man a way to exercise faith and strengthen the faith he had by asking him to participate in his own healing. It was a simple thing—washing in the pool of Siloam. But what if the man had refused? Jesus took that risk and let the man participate in his own miracle.”

– Chieko N. Okazaki, “Spit and Mud and Kigatsuku

The Savior comes to visit him again after he is cast out of the synagogue (excommunicated), notably not until after the trial of his faith and testimony.

“Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (John 9:35-41)

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Q. What does the Savior mean when he says those who see not will see, and those who see will be made blind?

“[Jesus] came into the world to sit in judgement on all men, to divide them into two camps by their acceptance or rejection of his word. Those who are spiritually blind have their eyes opened through obedience to His gospel and shall see the things of the Spirit. Those who think they can see in the spiritual realm, but who do not accept Him and His gospel will remain in darkness and be made blind to the true spiritual realities.”

– Elder Bruce R. McConkie

Feed My Sheep

One of my favorite stories from the Bible, probably a big reason for that is because of a talk given by Elder Holland titled The First Great Commandment.

Also reminds me of a favorite scripture in Ezekial, where the Lord is speaking of how he will gather and feed his sheep. It’s important to remember, as Pres. Monson taught, that “We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children.” We each have a duty to watch over those who are around us.

“As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

…I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.

…I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick…”
– Ezekial 34:12(-16)

“My sheep know my voice”

Orson F. Whitney on why the Savior said “My sheep know my voice”:

“…After meeting someone whom I had never met before on earth, I have wondered why that person’s face seemed so familiar. More than once, upon hearing a noble sentiment expressed, though unable to recall that I had ever heard it until then, I have found myself in sympathy with it, was thrilled by it, and felt as if I had always known it. The same is true of some strains of music [some perhaps heard today]; they are like echoes of eternity. I do not assert pre-acquaintance in all such cases, but as one thought suggests another these queries arise in the mind.

When it comes to the Gospel, I feel more positive. Why did the Savior say: “My sheep know my voice?” Did a sheep ever know the voice of its shepherd if it had never heard that voice before? They who love the Truth, and to whom it most strongly appeals—were they not acquainted with it in a previous life? I think so. I believe we knew the Gospel before we came here, and that is what gives to it a familiar sound.”

[Orson F. Whitney, “The Undiscovered Country,” Improvement Era, vol. 23 (December 1919), p. 100]

Quotes from April 2013 LDS General Conference

Conference this weekend was so good, here’s just a few of the quotes that were meaningful to me. I like the first two quotes because of the insight they provide into the nature of God and our purpose on Earth.

“A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God …Obedience is a hallmark of prophets. It has provided strength and knowledge to them throughout the ages. It is essential for us to realize that we as well are entitled to this source of strength and knowledge. It is readily available to each of us today as we obey God’s commandments …Obedience is the great test of this life”

Pres. Monson, Sunday Morning Session, 4.07.2013

When considering Christianity, if our actions, thoughts, beliefs in this life didn’t matter or had no eternal consequence, what would be the point of all the commandments God has given us in the scriptures and through prophets? There are commandments and heavenly laws because obedience does matter, we learn the truths of life by following God’s direction. But there’s more we have to understand, God is not some distant, uncaring being looking down on us with a furrowed brow, he is a loving parent who is there for us and who wants to help us every step of the way. Pres. Utchdorf compared us to a child learning to walk who inevitably stumbles during the learning process.

“I do not believe in a God who would set up rules and commandments only to wait for us to fail so he could punish us. I believe in a Heavenly Father who is loving and caring, and who rejoices in our every effort to stand tall and walk toward him. Even when we stumble, he urges us not to be discouraged, never to give up or flee our allotted field of service, but to take courage, find our faith and keep trying.”

Pres. Utchdorf, Priesthood Session, 4.06.2013

That quote not only reminded me of God’s love, it also helped me feel it. Although we’re required to follow God’s commandments, he knows we’re imperfect and will make mistakes. So he provided a Savior and he provided repentance so that we can change, become better people and put mistakes behind us.

Another quote comes from my all-time favorite speaker, Elder Holland, his words have inspired me to make an adjustment to the way I approach my prayers. Regarding the story in Mark 9 he gave insight about the father who sought healing from Jesus for his son:

“..when facing the challenge of faith, the father asserts his strength first and only then acknowledges his limitation. His initial declaration is affirmative and without hesitation, ‘Lord I believe’. I would say to all who wish for more faith, remember this man. In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited …hold fast to what you already know, and stand strong until additional knowledge comes …The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue. It is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have, and the truth you already know …when problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your unbelief. That’s like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear. I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have …you have more faith than you think you do …belief [is] always the first step toward conviction.”

Elder Holland, Sunday Afternoon Session, 4.07.2013

He never fails us

…I remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again to prepare a place for the children of men.

And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father. (Ether 12:33-34)

My first few drafts of this post included my attempts to define charity and then trying to expound on the writings about charity found in 1 Corinthians 13, Moroni 7, and my favorite – Ether 12. I’ve decided to simply quote what inspired this post in the first place, Elder Jefferey Holland’s words on charity which reference the verses above:

“…it is not just that we should try to be charitable ourselves. We should. We are supposed to be Christ-like, we are supposed to be charitable, we are supposed to demonstrate charity, but what [Moroni] is saying is, that were it not for real charity, capital C, the one time in all the world that real charity was demonstrated, i.e., the pure love of Christ — if it were not for that, “we could not inherit that place which thou has prepared in the mansions of thy Father.” That’s the charity that faileth not. Ours does as much as we try. We give it our best effort and we fall short. But one time, in one way, with one person, the pure love of Christ was demonstrated. Real charity was given to this world. And that’s why we can say that charity never faileth.

He never fails us. The message of the Book of Mormon is that Christ does not fail us! That’s what we’re trying to tell a world. That’s what we’re trying to say with the basic missionary text of this dispensation. That Christ is the pure love. He is the only one that has ever really mastered it while the rest of us are still trying. But it will never fail. His salvation will not fail, His ordinances will not fail, His church will not fail. This is the dispensation of the fullness of times. [The fullness of the gospel] will never be taken from the face of the earth again. That’s the message of the Book of Mormon.

Life has its share of fears and failures. Sometimes things fall short. Sometimes people fail us, economies fail us, businesses or governments fail us. But one thing in time and eternity does not fail us, the pure love of the Lord Jesus Christ as manifest in His Atoning sacrifice. That’s why we can inherit the place which Thou has prepared, Father, for us in the mansions on high.”

–Elder Holland
“Mission of the Book of Mormon”, 1997 Mission Presidents’ Seminar

As he that serveth

In gospel principles class today at church today we had a really good lesson about service. There were several people in the class who aren’t LDS, there was also a few who had recently joined the church. Yet everyone in the class contributed comments or questions or helped read from the manual or scriptures. I love how we’re all from different backgrounds yet there was a unity in how we felt about the need to serve people around us to make theirs and our lives better and happier.

One of the questions our teacher asked was what are some examples from Jesus’s life where he served other people? One person mentioned the washing of the Apostle’s feet and how this demonstrated his humility doing even seemingly undesirable types of service, another girl brought up the feeding of the five thousand, someone else mentioned how the Savior had went away to be alone after the death of John the Baptist and then people still managed to find him– even though he was in mourning and probably had preferred to be alone he still helped the people that came to him.

I thought of when the Savior was on the cross, in his moment of greatest agony he was still thinking of other people. He told the man on the cross next to him (I’m paraphrasing) “today you’ll be with me in paradise”. This was no doubt a huge comfort to a man who had acknowledged he was guilty and deserved to be punished but that Jesus was innocent, yet the Savior wanted him to know there was forgiveness available to him. Also while on the cross the Savior thought of his mother and he told John who was standing near her, “behold thy mother”, in effect giving John the responsibility to care for her since he no longer could. In everything he did, Christ was our perfect example of an unselfish servant of God and of the people around him. He was not concerned with being inconvenienced or with his own suffering or pain, everything he did was to reduce and eliminate the suffering of others and bring light into their lives. He said in Luke:

“…I am among you as he that serveth.” (Luke 22:27)

Relying on the Promises of God

The scriptures consistently give me an increased sense of hope and well-being that is found few other places. I’ve learned that there’s an important reason to not only read the scriptures, but rather “search” them and rely on them in order to obtain hope:

Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. (D&C 1:37)

God Keeps His Promises to Us Personally

As the years go by more and more scriptures have become meaningful to me on a personal level. I’ve been able to lean on certain scriptures and phrases from the words of God to get me through tough times. It’s evident to me that God uses the scriptures to speak to us. It’s also evident to me that when I take a specific scriptural promise to heart, and if I’m living with integrity, faithfully living God’s commandments associated with that specific promise, God will fulfill that promise in my life according to his timeline. That’s how he works, because he loves us and because he is a God of truth and wants us to trust and rely on Him. He tells us:

“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10)

And also has said clearly, “…Behold I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word.” (D&C 17:1)

So what promises in the scriptures can and should be searched for, sought after and relied on? The prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon explained, “…I did liken all scriptures unto us”. (1 Nephi 19:23)

It might seem a little unusual at first that a promise that God made to the ancient Israelites could have direct application to us in our vastly different modern world of today, but truth is eternal. Every promise that God gives in the scriptures can and should be likened to us, or in other words they can be compared and applied to us personally in our individual lives with whatever challenge we may be experiencing or with whatever righteous gift or blessing that we need or want.

Using God’s Promises as Spiritual Armor

A while ago I decided to more actively pursue the promises in the scriptures that were meaningful to me or that I felt I needed to have fulfilled in my life. I wrote several of them down on 3×5 cards so that I could quickly and easily access and read throughout the day and make them part of my everyday thoughts and desires. By reading them often and memorizing many of them, they have been a source of strength even when I’m not consciously thinking about them and also as a shield against discouragement as well as negative and faithless thinking. Here’s a few examples:

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isa 41:10)

“Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” (D&C 112:10)

“The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” (Psalms 34:17)

“…I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)

These are just a few of the promises God has given us in the scriptures that I rely on daily. There are hundreds more I could add, but the promises that are the most meaningful and valuable are the ones that God will personalize to us individually through the power of Holy Ghost. In my experience these kinds of personal promises are most often found through prayer when seeking specific blessings and then searching/studying the scriptures, then allowing the Holy Ghost to teach by considering them with deep reflection.

God’s Laws Each Have Promised Blessings

It’s no coincidence that each commandment that God gives us comes with a promised blessing for following it. A good example is the law of tithing, giving back one tenth of your income to God. The heavenly law as well as the associated promises for following it is spoken of in the book of Malachi (3:10-12):

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

Here’s the rest of the promise:

“..And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Aren’t these amazing promises for such a simple commandment? A blessing that is so abundant you won’t be able to contain it all? And a promise that the “devourer” will be rebuked in your life, i.e. possibly protection from major financial problems, or possibly protection from other “devouring” calamities in the last days. What a great assurance and blessing to have.

Relying On the Promises of God

While many in the world look for fulfillment and comfort in things that only lead to confusion, regret and sorrow, the Lord is rescuing, healing and lifting up those who humbly follow Him and do His will. By living according to God’s commandments and also taking his promises to heart and seeking them, you will receive them. Let your focus, your thoughts, your faith and desires be squarely placed on God’s promises. If you do this, miracles will happen in your life and family, and the mercy and grace of God will be with you. Your faith and relationship with God will grow and you come to realize for yourself that God “hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words.” (1 Ne 9:6)

“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever.” (D&C 1:38-39)

The Light of the World

I’ve watched this video 5 or 6 times already since it was released last week (I think) and I love it. It gave me a whole new perspective on the verses in John chapter 8 which it is taken from. While I wonder a little bit if the tone of voice in Christ’s initial statement about being the light of world might have been different than how it’s portrayed here, I find the rest of it carries the truth of Christ’s words.

From the New Testament there is the indication that during His ministry Jesus was continually surrounded by both doubters and believers, as well as others who hadn’t yet made up their mind about Him. He repeatedly had to deal with those who wanted to discredit and demonize Him and also take His life, and at the same time still be the great teacher and example of love and truth that He was in word and action. Everything He did was in love and patience, yet the darkness and unbelief that was in the Pharisees who questioned Him here was so great they couldn’t see the beautiful Savior that was right in front of them. In this sense it’s extremely sad to watch the portrayal of their disbelief, to see the encounter between them and Christ unfold as He says, “…if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.”

When considering how the Pharisees kept mentioning Abraham and their connection to him and at the same time that they considered Jesus to be blasphemous by simply declaring the truth of His being the fulfillment of all of the prophets before Him, I can’t help but make a comparison to today. There are some who look back to Christ’s day and believe he was is the Son of God and that the Bible is true (which is good), but then they find it hard to believe the great things God has done in our day and would even oppose it, and would regard any continuation of revelation and of God’s speaking to man in a similar way today, as being blasphemous.

While Jesus is walking away there is the sense that He is deeply saddened by their hardened hearts, sad for them rather than for the fate ahead of Him as he says, “…But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God …Why do ye not understand my speech?”

I know Jesus is the light of the World, without Him there would be no love, no forgiveness, no happiness, no joy in this world. But He does live, He did suffer and die for us, was raised the third day so that we could all be resurrected. He fulfilled His mission, His arm of mercy is extended to us even in our times of bitterness and disbelief. He has a pure love that never fails, if we’ll place our trust in Him and follow His words we can live with Him eternally.