Monday, March 30, 2009

A Letter to My Granddaughter, JoJo

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A SPECIAL EASTER SEASON POST

Dear Blog Readers, I'm writing this post as a blog post letter to a dear twelve year old granddaughter of mine.

Dear JoJo,

You had told me in an e-mail several weeks ago that you were studying ancient Israel and similar matters in your social studies class at school. I wrote telling you that I'd like to tell you a special story about Israel. But then as you may recall, I wrote suggesting that you may not be interested in what I was planning to write. But then, when you e-mailed me telling me you really wanted me to write it, I decided to write it. Here it is:
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There is Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Jacob's other name is Israel, a Hebrew language word which means: "One who prevails with God." You may know the meaning of the word, prevail. In case you don't, it means, in this case, Israel is a person (or a people) who please God.

Actually, my story begins with Jacob's grandfather, Abraham who is called, as we learn in the Old Testament: Father of the Faithful. Abraham's father, Terah was not a very righteous man, but Abraham believed strongly in God and learned to serve Him. He became the very first leader and father of the Nation of Israel.

Abraham's wife, Sarah didn't have a baby until they were both very old. She was so old (about 100) that when Abraham told her that God had told him she was going to have a baby she laughed. She had a very hard time believing that!

The baby boy was born and Sarah and Abraham were both very glad.

Their son, Isaac, became very righteous as he grew up, as was Isaac's son, Jacob - called also, Israel. He had twelve sons. Jacob's one son that we all perhaps remember the most is Joseph Who was sold into Egypt. You may have seen the musical that tells about him and his family: "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."

Joseph, son of Jacob, is my very favorite person from the Old Testament. Here is a picture showing his jealous brothers selling him as a slave into Egypt when he was a teenager. I think you know his story.

Painting: Ted Henninger
JOSEPH IS SOLD INTO EGYPT BY HIS BROTHERS

Here is a second picture of Joseph, son of Jacob (Israel). After Joseph, as a grown man, had saved his father and all of his family from starvation as the second in command in Egypt just under Pharaoh, King of Egypt, Jacob gave him a father's blessing.

Painting: Harry Anderson
JACOB (ISRAEL) BLESSING JOSEPH

Now that you have been given an overview of the family of Israel, I will tell you of something exceedingly difficult that Father Abraham was asked to do by Heavenly Father that Abraham consented to do. Abraham's showing that he would actually do this terribly difficult thing, caused Heavenly Father to love him very much. I'll give you the details of that a little later.

In the meantime, JoJo, I need to prepare you by explaining something that Abraham and his people did that is not done in our day, at least, not in the USA, that I know of.

Ever Since Adam and Eve's time, Heavenly Father had commanded His children here on earth to make animal sacrifices that were very symbolic of something important that was to happen in the future.

Do you know what the word, symbolic means? You could look it up in your dictionary, but let me just say that the ordinance of animal sacrifice about which I'll be telling you, was somewhat similar to, or can remind us of, something exceedingly important which would happen in the middle of the world's history, which would tremendously effect all people who would ever live on the earth: the sacrifice of the Son of God.

So, the practice of animal sacrifice was given by God through His prophets to prepare the minds and hearts of people who believed in him, like Abraham, Isaac and Joseph, for the coming of the day, in the distant future, when God's perfectly righteous Only Son, who would be named, Jesus Christ, would give up his life voluntarily to pay the price for our sins so we wouldn't have to suffer for them ourselves if we fully accept His sacrifice for us by living the way He and His prophets teach us to live.

His sacrifice would also bring about the eventual resurrection of everyone who has ever lived on the earth!

This next picture is a drawing showing an Israelite priest, (maybe during the prophet, Moses' time), offering an animal (usually it was a lamb) sacrifice to remind his people of the sacrifice of the Son of God which was to be a very great blessing to all of us, especially as we live according to God's commandments!
Painting: Unknown Artist

JoJo, in case you can't read the small writing at the bottom of the sacrificial alter picture, it says: Altar of Burnt Offerings.

Abraham had offered burnt animal offerings throughout his life, but on one very challenging occasion, God told Abraham, by the means of His Holy Spirit or by an angel, the following:
Genesis 22: 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
JoJo, I want you to notice in that scripture the words, "thine only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest." Those words of Heavenly Father to Abraham, just now made me weep silently for Abraham. What was asked of Abraham would be so very difficult, even for obedient Abraham, Father of the Faithful. Abraham was to: offer him (Isaac, Abraham and Sarah's only son) in Moriah as a burnt offering !

We should remember that both Abraham and Sarah were close to one hundred years of age when Isaac was born. How could they both allow him to be killed like a sacrificial lamb after waiting so long for him to be born?

And how could Father Abraham be the one to offer such a sacrifice? Let's remember, Abraham was the Father of the Faithful. Faithful to whom? To God our Heavenly Father!

Father Abraham obeyed. He loved God. He took his son, Isaac with him to the exact place where God had commanded him to go to sacrifice him. Abraham trusted in God but oh how difficult it must have been for The Father of the Faithful that day. He so loved God, but he so much loved his and Sarah's only son too!
Painting: Del Parson
Abraham and Isaac With a Load of Wood for the Sacrifice

Here is what is written in Genesis 22: 5 -13
5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram (a male sheep) caught in a thicket (a thickly branched bunch of small trees) by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. (emphasis and clarification added)
Now please read and feel glad for these words of the Lord found in Genesis 22: 15-18

15 ¶ And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 
16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
So, Abraham the Father of the Faithful who was the leader of the ancient nation of Israel, remained faithful. He passed the test the Lord gave him and was promised great blessings, which we learn from the holy scriptures, were given him!

JoJo, you might ask, why would Heavenly Father want to have Abraham go through such a great test? I suggest that one reason why, is that He wanted Abraham to fully understand how difficult it would be for Himself, Heavenly Father, when He would be going through a similar trial, the future sacrifice of His Only Mortal Son.

We humans are all sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, but He is the father of our spirit bodies in our previous life and He gave us the great privilege of coming in our spirit bodies prepared by Him and our Heavenly mother, into mortal bodies prepared for us by our parents here on earth. However, in the case of Jesus, Heavenly Father was not only the father of Jesus' spirit, but also was the father of Jesus' mortal body.

Jesus was Heavenly Father's only mortal son. This is how Jesus' apostle, John referred to this great truth:
John 3:16 ¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (emphasis added.)
Here is the meaning of the word, begotten, JoJo, according to the dictionary: "generated by procreation" (came by birth as all babies come); "naturally begotten child";  and in Jesus' case, God, (Our Heavenly Father) is His father.)
Now in this post, we will shift from Abraham's Isaac to that other Only Son whose actual Father, our Heavenly Father, knew was to be sacrificed to pay for the sins of all people who have ever lived on the earth. As you will soon see from several of the pictures in this next section, Heavenly Father was not, as was Abraham, to be spared from allowing His Only Son, Jesus Christ to be sacrificed.
A Prayer: Our Dear Heavenly Father, I, J. Neil Birch, and whomsoever of the readers of this blog post desire to join with me in this prayer (hopefully this will include my dear granddaughter, JoJo), we thank Thee from the bottoms of our hearts for the supreme sacrifice You allowed to be made, of your only mortal son, Jesus Christ, so that He could fully be our Savior and Redeemer.
We are grateful for that which He (your Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ) did to allow us to be forgiven of all our sins (inasmuch as we truly believe in You and in Your son, Jesus and strive with all our hearts to keep all of Your commandments), that we will be blessed in this life and eventually be blessed with Eternal Life.
We pray for all of this in the Sacred and Holy Name of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. AMEN!
Abraham, you were a great man. You were willing to do that which Heavenly Father asked you to do! We love and honor you for the great example of faithfulness you set for us! We have our own trials to pass through, but are glad they are not as difficult to face as your great trial.

JoJo, as you know, at this Easter Season the Christian World celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Only actual mortal Son of Heavenly Father to ever live on the earth. You may not have known this, but Jesus, through His mortal mother, Mary, is descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel). Jesus, therefore, is an Israelite.

One other thing that might be interesting to you. It appears that the place, Mount Moriah, where Abraham was told by God to go to sacrifice his son, Isaac, is in the same area, where is located: Gethsemane, where the Son of God, Jesus Christ, suffered for our sins and Golgotha, where He died on the cross. These were in the Land (or District) of Moriah. Also, Mount Moriah is where Solomon's Temple (God's House) was located.
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Dear JoJo, in this second part of this post I'm going to give you and all of the other viewers of this special Easter version of my blog which is my letter to you, by the use of some special pictures, an Overview of the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ including some in which His great sacrifice and resurrection are shown.

I'm so grateful for these particularly great events which took place in the history of this world! (I'm also grateful for the wonderful artists that created these paintings and for their having been made available to us through lds.org.) I'll also use four more pictures in a final section of this blog which will follow this one I'm now starting.
Painting: Carl Heinrich Bloch
The Birth of Jesus
Painting: Greg K. Olsen
Simeon Reverencing the Christ Child
Painting: Simon Dewey
Jesus Prays With His Mother
Painting: Heinrich Hofmann
Twelve Year Old Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem
Painting: Harry AndersonJohn Baptizes Jesus
Painting: Carl Heinrich Bloch
The Sermon on the Mount
Painting: Carl Heinrich BlochChrist Raising the Daughter of Jairus
Painting: Carl Heinrich Bloch
Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda
Painting: Gary Kapp
Jesus Walking on Water
Painting: Carl Heinrich Bloch
The Raising of Lazarus From the Dead
Painting: Harry Anderson
Christ in Gethsemane
Painting: Harry Anderson
The Sacrifice of the Son of God

Painting: Carl Heinrich Bloch
The Burial of Jesus
At this very point in the depiction of the greatest of all epics in the history of this world, I give you, my Dear JoJo, and all others who may be viewing this special Easter Season Blog, the opportunity of hearing the witness of one of the living apostles of our day regarding the greatness and neccessity of the atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (The apostle is Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

Painting: Author Unknown
The Resurrected Lord Jesus
Painting: Simon Dewey
Why Weepest Thou?
Painting: Harry Anderson
Jesus Shows His Wounds
Painting: Harry Anderson Go Ye Therefore Into All the World

Painting: Harry Anderson
The Ascension of Jesus Into Heaven
Painting: Harry Anderson

The (Future) Second Coming of Our Savior, Jesus Christ
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JoJo, I hope you enjoyed those pictures and the message they give us. Here is Part 3 of this letter to you.

After the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ according to His and Heavenly Father's divine plan, He visited for a number of days in Ancient Central America where an Israelitish people had been living since coming there under the guidance of Heavenly Father about 600 years before Jesus' birth in Jerusalem.

They were in large measure, descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through Jacob's son, Joseph. Joseph had been promised by the Lord, possibly in the blessing given him by his father Jacob in the picture shown in the first portion of this letter to you, that there would be members of his posterity (his descendants, if that is a better word for you) on the earth all the way to the Second Coming of Messiah (Jesus Christ).

Much of the Nephite Nation had been destroyed by a great cataclysm of nature that occured just before the resurrected Jesus visited them. The more righteous of that nation had been saved from that tremendous destruction, which had come by earthquakes, whirlwinds, floods and fire.

After having become aware of all the destruction which killed many relatives of theirs, these Israelites were emotionally and spiritually ready (without fully realizing it) for the great spiritual experiences they were soon to have with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The righteous prophets among this Israelitish people had kept good records which eventually were edited to provide what is in the Book of Mormon, which stands right alongside the New Testament as Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
There is an entire, large sub-book in the Book of Mormon entitled Third Nephi which describes the experiences of these Nephites at the time of His several visits to them. I have chosen just four pictures of events that took place then to help you understand something of what Jesus Christ did there in ancient Central America not long after His resurrection. Jesus told the people there, after He began visiting with them, that they had much more faith than the people He grew up and taught among (in Palestine).


Painting: John Scott
Jesus Teaches the Nephites
When Jesus first began His visit to these descendants of Joseph (who was sold into Egypt) He allowed each one of the about 2,000 people gathered there to touch the wounds that were still in His hands, side and feet. That allowed them to know that He had been crucified (Sacrificed) as all of their prophets had been telling them and their ancestors for 600 years that he would be, in order to pay for their and all mankind's sins.

These Nephites learned first hand about His having a resurrected body, realizing that He had come to America both from Jerusalem and at another time, from Heaven where He had visited with His Father, in a resurrected body that helped Him do miraculous things. (Jesus didn't need an airplane to get there.) They had witnessed Him descending out of the sky when they first saw Him.
Painting: Gary Kapp Jesus Heals the Sick
Painting: Del ParsonAngels Join Jesus and Nephite Children
Jesus had a number of special meetings in Ancient Central America where he blessed the children. One miracle that happened several times during His visits there, was that even little babies who hadn't yet learned to talk were able to speak marvelous things under the influence of their Savior, Jesus Christ.

Painting: Robert T. Barrett
Jesus Asks For Records
Jesus asked the Nephites for some of their own records which He knew they had temporarily misplaced. They then found them for Him and then included them with their other records.

Jesus also shared with them some records of a prophet named Malachi which are in our Old Testament, but hadn't been included with the records which their ancestors, 600 years earlier had brought with them from Jerusalem to America. (because Malachi's record had been written after their departure.) Jesus knew they needed the teachings found in that book.

In just a few short words, JoJo I want you to know that this Grandpa of yours really knows that Jesus is your and my Savior and the Savior of all of our loved-ones and everyone else who has lived on this earth or will have lived on it, who will live the way He teaches us all to live.

I'm grateful to Him for all the wonderful people that are in my family. That includes your Mom and Sister. I'm glad you have such a good Dad too. Also, I especially appreciate the special blessing I have of being a member of Jesus's church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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HAPPY EASTER, To my dear Granddaughter, JoJo and also to all of you others who may have viewed this post!
Grandpa Birch (J. Neil Birch) 

If you have just viewed this post, "A Letter to My Granddaughter, JoJo, in connection with having originally logged into my (Neil Birch's) Post 42d, a Spiritual Bridge Between Christmas (2010) and Easter (2011), Please enjoy the Video featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah!

When you are back in my original post, 42d You will find the Tabernacle Choir video link right under a larger version of this painting of Jesus. Scroll down to the picture of our Savior, Jesus Christ which is somewhat larger than this one: 


Jesus Christ - Painting: Hofmann
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This website is not owned by or affiliated with the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the Mormon or LDS Church). The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the position of the Church.


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TO ACCESS NEIL BIRCH'S BLOG INDEX: To Either Read the Full Index Item Which Refers To This Blog Post, (Or To Search The Index For Any Other Blog Post You Desire To Access), After You Have Read All of This Paragraph, Please Scroll Back Up And Click on the Following: JoJo a Granddaughter of Neil Birch Received an Easter Post From Him That Draws on Many Sacred Testimonies of Christ, Including a Video Including a Testimony of Christ by a Latter-day Apostle. No Post Number! When The Picture of Our Savior, Jesus Christ Sitting Next To a Little Boy Comes Onto Your Screen, Please Scroll Down In The Index To Your Target Item Or Use the Alphabetical Scrolling Device (When It Has Been Installed).
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"Have You Really Read the Book of Mormon?" Legal /Statement. Thank you for visiting. The author retains intellectual property and creative licensing rights. Permission to use or reprint must be given in writing. © Est.2008 Neil Birch Legal /Statement.
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To my Blog readers: I deeply appreciate your readership and hope you found very beneficial, that which was presented to you in this blog post.

If you have any questions about what you have read or viewed in this post or in any previous posts of mine, or if you even have a curiosity about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and or its teachings, please e-mail me. I'm Neil and my e-mail address is: jneilmelva@gmail.com. If you contact me I'll get back to you just as soon as possible.

I invite you to let your friends and relatives know about this blog if you think they would be interested. Please be advised that I also have an additional blog. It is in Spanish:  Its content is translated from the English in this blog.

Neil Birch

3 comments:

Cheri said...

This is a very beautiful and touching presentation of your testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the theme of 'sacrifice' and obedience. Thank you for sharing.

Jessica Hills said...

What a wonderful blog!

Lizzy said...

this is great! You are doing a very similar thing to what we missionaries are doing online :)