Saturday, August 16, 2014

Old Testament Lesson 31: Happy is the Man that Findeth Wisdom

The Book of Proverbs may give the impression that Solomon sat down and wrote a book of his wisdom. More likely is that his wisdom was gathered in snippets and eventually collected together. Proverbs is not even entirely written by Solomon and there are other influences. The book is not considered as revelation from a prophet but is deemed inspired counsel of a wise man under the guidance of the Spirit.
There are many themes found in Proverbs, including our marital relationships, communication with others, avoiding sin, trusting God, finding wisdom, and more. The lesson today will focus on 7 of those themes. However there are many other pearls of wisdom that can be found in Proverbs that may not be covered in these themes (eg. Proverbs 3:27-28; 8:22-31; 17:6; 29:18 and Proverbs 31) Some can even make you smile a little (Proverbs 6:9; 18:9; 21:9; 25:17) Thus while this lesson aims to be informative I hope it serves merely to whet the appetite for a more complete feast of this fascinating book.

1. Wisdom
Proverbs 1:7; 2:1-6; 4:7
Why is wisdom so important? 
How do we gain wisdom? Where did Solomon get his wisdom from?
James 1:5

"Wisdom to govern the house of Israel was given to Solomon, and the Judges of Israel; and if he had always been their king, and they subject to his mandate, and obedient to his laws they would still have been a great and mighty people-the rulers of the universe, and the wonder of the world." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 251)

2. Trust in The Lord
Proverbs 3:5-6; 16:25
How does the Lord direct our paths?
What experiences have taught you to trust in the Lord?

At the funeral services for the five little angels, I counseled: "There is one phrase which should be erased from your thinking and from the words you speak aloud. It is the phrase, 'If only.' It is counterproductive and is not conducive to the spirit of healing and of peace. Rather, recall the words of Proverbs: 'Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.' "
Before the closing of the caskets, I noted that each child held a favorite toy, a soft gift to cuddle. I reflected on the words of the poet Eugene Field:
The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and staunch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair,
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.
"Now, don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So toddling off to his trundle-bed
He dreamt of the pretty toys.
And as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue,-
Oh, the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!
Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place,
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face.
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through,
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue
Since he kissed them and put them there.
The little toy dog and the soldier fair may wonder, but God in His infinite mercy has not left grieving loved ones to wonder. He has provided truth. He will inspire an upward reach, and His outstretched arms will embrace you. Jesus promises to one and all who grieve, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you."(Thomas S. Monson "Think to Thank," Ensign, Nov. 1998, 19-20)
3.The Words We Speak
Proverbs 15:1-2
 "To men within the sound of my voice, I say, if you are guilty of demeaning behavior toward your wife, if you are prone to dictate and exercise authority over her, if you are selfish and brutal in your actions in the home, then stop it. Repent. Repent now, while you have the opportunity to do so.
"To you wives who are constantly complaining and see only the dark side of life, and feel that you are unloved and unwanted, look into your own hearts and minds. If there is something wrong, turn about. Put a smile on your faces." (Gordon B. Hinckley News of the Church 1984)

4. Pride
Proverbs 16:18-19
"Contentions result from the prideful power struggle that comes from pitting ourselves-our possessions or our intellect against others. The proud are easily offended, hold grudges, withhold forgiveness, and will not receive counsel or correction" (CR, April 1989, pp. 85-86)" (Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987-1992], 3: 348)
I was always taught and I am ever thankful for having learned this teaching. "You are never offend-ED. You CHOOSE to take offence" I have been saved much drama and stress in life with that simple advise. There seem to be people all over society that are easily offended or almost seek to take offence. Life is a lot more peaceful and loving when you choose not to be offended.
5. Friendship
Proverbs 17:17
 "Among life's sweetest blessings is fellowship with men and women whose ideals and aspirations are high and noble. Next to a sense of a kinship with God comes the helpfulness, encouragement, and inspiration of friends. Friendship is a sacred possession. . . . One of the principal reasons which the Lord had for establishing His Church is to give all persons high and low, rich and poor, strong and feeble an opportunity to associate with their fellowmen in an atmosphere of uplifting, religious fellowship. This [association] may be found in Priesthood quorums, Auxiliaries, Sacrament meetings. He who neglects these opportunities, who fails to take advantage of them, to that extent starves his own soul." 
"True friends enrich life. If you would have friends, be one." (David O'McKay Living with Enthusiasm [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 49-50)
6. Raising Children
Proverbs 22:6
What do you think Lehi or Jacob would say about this and their errant sons? 
How does this scripture give hope to parents and what key element is missing from this equation? 

"There is an old and true proverb which says, "As the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined." May I repeat a story I have told in general conference. Not long after we were married, we built our first home. We had little money, and I did a lot of the work. The landscaping was entirely my responsibility. The first of many trees that I planted was a thornless honey locust, and I envisioned the day when its shade would assist in cooling the house in the summer. I put it in a place at the corner where the wind from the canyon to the east blew the hardest. I dug a hole, put in the bare root, put soil around it, poured on water, and largely forgot it. It was only a wisp of a tree, perhaps three-quarters of an inch in diameter. It was so supple that I could bend it with ease in any direction. I paid little attention to it as the years passed. Then one winter day when the tree was barren of leaves, I chanced to look out the window at it. I noted that it was leaning to the west, misshapen and out of balance. I could scarcely believe it. I went out and braced myself against it as if to push it upright. But the trunk was now nearly a foot in diameter. My strength was as nothing against it. I took from my toolshed a block and tackle, attaching one end to the tree and the other to a well-set post. I pulled the rope. The pulleys moved just a little, and the trunk of the tree trembled slightly. But that was all. It seemed to say to me, "You can't straighten me. It's too late. I've grown this way because of your neglect, and I will not bend."
Finally in desperation I took my saw and cut off the great heavy branch on the west side. I stepped back and surveyed what I had done. I had cut off a major part of the tree, leaving a huge scar about eight inches across and only one small branch growing skyward.
More than half a century has passed since I planted that tree. My daughter and her family now live there. I recently looked again at the tree. It is large, its shape is better, and it is a great asset to the home. But how serious was the trauma of its youth and how painful the treatment I had used to straighten it. When the tree was first planted, a piece of string would have held it against the forces of the wind. I could have and should have supplied that string with ever so little effort, but I did not. And it bent to the forces that came against it.
Children are like trees. When they are young, their lives can be shaped and directed, usually with ever so little effort. Said the writer of Proverbs, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). That training finds its roots in the home." ("Four Simple Things to Help Our Families and Our Nations," Ensign, Sept. 1996, 6-7)
Elder Richard G. Scott said: “You must be willing to forgo personal pleasure and self-interest for family-centered activity, and not turn over to church, school, or society the principal role of fostering a child’s well-rounded development. It takes time, great effort, and significant personal sacrifice to ‘train up a child in the way he should go.’ But where can you find greater rewards for a job well done?” (Ensign, May 1993, 34).

7. Happiness and Good Humour
Proverbs 15:13; 17:22
"I dislike very much, and I believe people generally do, to see a person with a woe begone countenance, and to see him mourning as though his circumstances were of the most unpleasant character. There is no pleasure in association with such persons. In the family it is always a good thing for the parent to be cheerful in the presence of his wife and children. And out of that cheerfulness may arise many good gifts. The Lord has not given us the gospel that we may go around mourning all the days of our lives. He has not introduced this religion for this purpose at all. We came into the world for certain purposes, and those purposes are not of a nature that require much mourning or complaint. Where a person is always complaining and feeling to find fault, the Spirit of the Lord is not very abundant in his heart. If a person wants to enjoy the Spirit of the Lord, let him, when something of a very disagreeable nature comes along, think how worse the circumstance might be, or think of something worse that he has experienced in the past. Always cultivate a spirit of gratitude. It is actually the duty of every Latter-day Saint to cultivate a spirit of gratitude.
We should enjoy our religion. No religion has in it such prospects as has the religion of the Latter-day Saints. Nothing was ever introduced to man equal to it in its grand and glorious advantages. We ought to enjoy our religion to such an extent as to be happy most all the time." (The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984], 62)
President Hugh B. Brown said: “I would like to have you smile because after all we must keep a sense of humor whatever comes. I think of all the people in the world we should be the happiest. We have the greatest and most joyous message in the world. I think when we get on the other side; someone will meet us with a smile (unless we go to the wrong place and then someone will grin), so let us be happy. But let our happiness be genuine—let it come from within” (The Abundant Life [1965], 83).
Ecclesiastes is written with the world's view in mind. Thus much of the writings are indicating that from the world's view and living as the world does there is not much hope. The main conclusion is short and sweet and as all conclusions should - comes at the end of the book!
Ecclesiastes 1:14
          All is vanity and vexation of spirit
Ecclesiastes 12:13
           Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: "Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man".


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