Meghan: Hey everyone. Welcome to this episode of the Latter Day Disciples podcast. I’m excited to be joined by my friend, Meredith Stutz. Meredith lives in central Utah with her husband and two horses. They are semi-retired but have several hobbies that keep them very busy, one of them being a deep and abiding love for and appreciation for horses. The talent that the Lord has blessed Meredith with in this regard plays a large part in the way that she’s learned to recognize and extract patterns from stories. Meredith says it wasn’t until her late twenties when she was converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and she started likening patterns from the scriptures to her work with horses and found that, like with horses, if certain key concepts and behaviors are present, one can understand those keys and utilize patterns to unlock the mysteries layered into each story representation of the scriptures. And that is much of what we are going to be talking about today. Above all else, Meredith identifies herself as a disciple of Jesus Christ, and I’m so grateful for that. I certainly resonate with it. Meredith, thank you so much for joining me today.
Meredith: You’re welcome.
Meghan: So we wanted to touch just really briefly about your conversion you mentioned that it was in your late twenties and coming from a non LDS background, specifically a non Mormon culture background–I use the word Mormon when I talk about the culture–a non Mormon culture background really gave you a different perspective on things. So can you tell us just a little bit about that history as a foundation for the conversation?
Meredith: Yeah. So I do have grandparents that are LDS, and so I knew of the church–and my mom is LDS now–and I knew of the church, but I did not grow up in the church. And so because I did not grow up in the church, there are certain key phrases that people sometimes use or certain traditional understandings of particular stories or concepts in the church that I was ignorant to. And so because I didn’t find it until my late twenties and became converted then– I need to add that it wasn’t because I knew not where to find it, it was due to, probably more of a hardened heart towards it–and so I was able to start understanding that the stories are patterns in which we learn to carry out those those things.
Meghan: Yeah. That’s really important. And I love this example because what you did and what I can tell is that–you know, I think a lot of people growing up in the church or being a convert to the church– it’s really easy to look to those that we would consider more experienced in the church for answers on what things mean. It’s really easy to turn to other people and say, “Hey, what is the explanation of this scripture or the story?” And we have passed down– for generations–a lot of rote responses to things. I think it’s in Mosiah where it talks about baptism and you find the scripture of you “mourn with those who mourn and comfort, those who stand in need to comfort” and we’ve taken on this explanation where we say, “Oh, yeah, that’s the baptismal covenant, but in reality, that’s not accurate. That’s actually not the baptismal covenant. And if you look in the scriptures, if you look at what Joseph Smith taught, he never associated the word covenant with baptism. It is a sign and an ordinance. And so in some ways we’ve inherited these false explanations of things that have kind of festered and grown into just overall, false doctrine. And so what I find really unique about you and your example is that instead of turning to other people, you really just went straight to the source, you went to the scriptures, you went to the spirit, and you said, “I’m going to figure this out for myself.”
Meredith: I did, but I am faulty of petitioning others for what it means as well. And I learned incredibly quickly that they didn’t know either. Or that what they did know was important, as a basic understanding to learn. But what Heavenly Father and Christ–and in seeking what they would have me learn from what I’m reading, I would learn that the questions that I was asking were questions that I needed to take to the Lord instead of questions that I needed to take to well-seasoned Mormons.
Meghan: Awesome. So do you have an early example of one of the first things that you came across and began to see that there was this lack of either foundational or higher understanding of a principle? And what was your process for diving into that?
Meredith: Oh, man. That’s a big question. So many of them.
Meghan: You can just pick one. It doesn’t have to be the earliest one. Maybe just an example.
Meredith: So I’ll give you an example of something that I was going to discuss. So there is the concept of reading scriptures, and then there’s the concept of studying scriptures. And when I would visit with people and I would ask, “How do you study it? What does that mean?” And what they would tell me is that you highlight it or you read it in a certain way, or you do certain things with it. And for a long time, I kept highlighting and I kept reading it over and over and over and it didn’t satiate the hunger that I had to understand and to know what it is that the Lord was teaching me–as far as there is more to understand here–and so I had to dig deeper. I have a few friends that I often bounce things off of–like minded friends, they have lots of questions– and one of the things that I have struggled with a great deal–in the time that I have been a part of the church–is that I have lots of questions. We joke because I have questions like, “Why?” to the 10th degree. And so it’s like, “Why?” And then, “Why about that?” And then, you know, and I dig so deep because I know that there’s a principle there that the Lord is trying to teach me. And so I was thinking about how to explain this, but the thought that just came to my mind is to just possibly read this quick little thing to you. Actually, I’m going to quote my friend. We were all learning and we were just fascinated by what we were learning– he can say it way better than I can so I’m just going to go ahead and read what he wrote. “One of the most fascinating patterns I learned when studying scriptures has proved to be an extraordinary way to elevate testimony and deepen understanding. Jesus teaches or taught in parables, as do, or did the authors of all sacred ancient scripture. Joseph Smith was well known for loving truth and often embraced it even when found in unusual places. Hence, if there is anything virtuous or of good rapport or praiseworthy we seek after these things. (Joseph Smith.) One of those patterns is the process by which the Jewish people learn and teach scripture. It is taught and learned that if you desire to seek a greater understanding of the scriptures, one should seek the assistance of God in learning the parables, the parables and stories on four different levels.” And I think probably you’ve already had somebody discuss this with you, but…
Meghan: It was really brief, so let’s do it again. Repetition is good, right?
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And so anyway, that was a really long way to say that at first I was encouraged to just read and I knew that there was more to it than just reading. I’m a little bit dyslexic. And so reading sometimes can be very difficult for me but in the scriptures I found that it almost always was not difficult, which was the first time in my life I had ever experienced that; almost every single word was not jumbled. And that was the first time I had ever experienced reading anything as a whole thing where I could actually understand and comprehend every single word. Anyway, that’s the end of that.
But what I was trying to explain is that there was the basic teaching that we should, “read our scriptures every day”. In the beginning people would tell me that because I was like, “Why every day? What does that mean?” And people would tell me, “You read them every day because you need to know the stories and you know all of these things.” What I later learned was that you read them every day because it places you in the vibration or the channel by which revelation comes. And so there are a few different ways to reach that, that when you open up the scriptures, they are able to place you into a bit of a conduit, right? They place you into a conduit by which you can receive revelation. And that came with time and understanding that there is more than just reading the scriptures involved in seeking the face of God.
Meghan: Right. And I think that a big part of that, too, is what you mentioned earlier, which is actually having questions. And one of the dangers, pitfalls, and cautions, that I think we encounter is that in passing down these explanations or these lower understandings of certain things, we think that we know it all. And so we’re not coming to scripture study with a lot of questions. The people that you asked, it sounds like, for the most part, there was kind of a matter of fact response to everything, you know, and maybe not even a real response of them saying, “I don’t know. I’ve never asked that.” Like they’re still giving an explanation, even if the explanation is really saying that they don’t know. And I have certainly felt that way in my life. I look back, especially on college and interactions that I had with people and they would ask questions and I would be like, “Well, it’s this.” And they’d be like, “But why?” And I’m like, “Because that’s the way that it is, and that’s how God works.” And almost these dismissive kinds of things that say –and there’s almost not really a place given for us to ask questions–it’s “Well, that’s the way it is, that’s what the prophet said.” There’s almost like this dismissive attitude, I guess, to asking questions.
Meredith: Yeah, and I agree. You know, I truly believe that we should all consider ourselves fools before the Lord. And that is one of the things that we are always talking about when we’re bouncing ideas off of each other and when–you know, because oftentimes we’ll receive some new revelation or we’ll learn some new things, right in the gospel and the Lord will reveal something to us in the story and liken it to our lives and our understandings of what we’re going through or whatever. And then we’ll get on the phone and be like, “Oh my gosh, I just learned this cool thing. Tell me what your thoughts are on it.” And oftentimes, that’s so, so, so helpful because we see it through just a small pinhole, right? We see this concept through one perception, and it’s other people’s perceptions that are able to help us see other sides of it. I thought that just to make a quick just to make a quick example. I could go to this specific idea. So one of my questions was, “What the heck is Leman and Lemuel’s deal? Right? These guys, they have a conviction to ruin Lehi. And if I don’t even know, right? And it’s solid and it’s huge. And whether it’s born out of righteousness or not or just complete evil, there had to be a truth somewhere that got twisted or distorted in some way that sent them on their path. And so I don’t know if you have ever heard this before, but I’ll just kind of read it to you. it’s just a few verses. And my petition to the Lord was essentially I mean, just to use layman’s terms. Layman’s terms.
Meghan: Yeah. That’s funny.
Meredith: Very punny, huh? Yes. So my petition to the Lord was, “Clearly there’s a concept missing here,Father. What is it? What am I missing?” Because I could every time I would I would read about Leman and Lemuel, I would almost jump off the page. And I knew that there was something deeper there but I looked all over the Book of Mormon and I was trying to understand it. And I could see a few things, but not necessarily anything that really laid down what I was asking and what also I think the Lord was helping me seek. Because you know when you’re reading in your scriptures and you pass over a word and you just kind of read it and you’re like, “That means something. And I don’t know what it means.” And it’s like 10:00 at night and the babies are crying and I’m not even going to go look at what that means right now. But I just need to write down that it means something, you know?
Meghan: Well, I hope we do. I hope we do that sometimes. I’m afraid that we read things and we’re like, “Oh, I know what that means.” Anyway, that’s a whole other thing. Like the word, for example, righteousness. That’s a word that we read all the time. But if we were to stop and actually try to define it, I feel like most of us would be like, “I don’t know. It’s like being good.” You know, and like, making good choices and it actually goes deeper than that. So anyway, I just want to say, if we’re not practicing this, where we’re noticing words and actually asking the question, “What does that mean? And not assuming that we know what it means, then we can open up–as you said–this conduit for further revelation.
Meredith: I love it. I love it. And that’s exactly what we’re talking about today, right? So I don’t know if this is a good place to say it or not, but one of those words–this thought just keeps coming up in my mind, so I might as well just say it now. I was going to say it later–but one of those phrases is ‘the will of God’, right? What if, just for a minute, you could stretch your mind a little and consider that possibly what we do when–let’s see, how do I say that–like a legal document, like a will and testament, and then what if for another second you could consider that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Christ. And then you could connect those two concepts with an inheritance. And recognizing that we are inheriting something and taking the idea of a will; your will, my will, Christs’ will, Heavenly Father’s will, the fact that Christ doesn’t do his own will, He does the will of His father, meaning that he’s clearly talking about something outside of his own. So anyway, that’s just one of those ideas that…
Meghan: Well, that’s really interesting because when you said the will of God, that’s kind of where my mind went, of stepping outside the box–we’re not just talking about like the desires of God or the way that he wants things, but yeah– instead seeing it like a will the other the other way that you could use the word will in the English language is like a legal document that sets forth what stipulations and conditions and circumstances you want to exist upon an event happening. And then talking about how Christ didn’t do his own will, he only did the will of the Father, that makes him the executor of God’s will; meaning he’s the one who initially inherits and then carries forth and meets all of the conditions required by the will, which includes assigning joint heirs who meet the certain conditions too. That’s so cool to think about it that way.
Meredith: I’m loving what you’re saying because–it’s so funny, we just had a discussion about this today–
Meghan: I need to be on this group chat, by the way.
Meredith: There’s like a million people. And it’s like you just toss an idea out there and you’re like, “Whoever can answer, Iet’s go to town on this!” And whoever can’t, they’ll answer later or they’ll look at it later. But anyway, it’s fun because the thing is, the executor is executor by law and has to carry things out within the law. They can’t just decide how they want to do it. If the land inheritance is willed to somebody and the spiritual inheritance is willed to another person… let’s just say you have a bunch of jewelry and the jewelry inheritance is willed to another person, the executor of the state, it’s part of their job to say, “Okay, this is where this goes, this person entrusted me with it so giving it to the wrong person or giving it to the person that the owner of the will, the originator of the will, didn’t want it to go to would cause a problem and would be outside the law.”
Meghan: That’s really interesting when you also think of it in terms of the scriptural discussions around stewardship and what it means to be a steward and what it means to have stewardship over something certain. And there are so many parables about stewards that are assigned to stewardship that fail in their responsibilities. And what sort of message is that sending us when we are invited to be co executors with Christ? And how does that manifest with what our dealings are with our fellow men when we have to understand the will of God in order to execute properly? It’s really interesting. Okay. That was a really long tangent. What were you going to refer to?
Meredith: It goes right along with this; where I had a question and that question was, what’s the deal? And essentially, like, why the deep conviction? You know, I know that vengeance can really, really drive people and ruin people. But I could feel, in placing myself in that conduit that we were talking about, I could feel that the Lord was moving me towards, “There is something here that you don’t understand.” And again, I’m very, very quick to remember that I don’t understand those things. And even the things I do understand, I believe Todd, explained to you our ongoing story with triangles, right? It’s that we’re consistently shattering triangles and learning. And so anyway, I don’t know if you’ve ever read this before, but Deuteronomy is a lot of Moses’ law. So we’re going to read Moses’ law right now, and then we’re going to talk about that. So remember that Lehi was a Jew and I would even say that Laman and Lemuel were Orthodox Jews. We have lots of Orthodox Mormons right now. We have lots of Orthodox.. every religion has Orthodox.
Meghan: Why don’t you define that for our listeners? [Orthodox]
Meredith: Meaning letter of the law, going to church, doing and walking through all of the performances. Going through all of it and having this persona like you are truly partaking of the meat. And the reality is you’re only partaking of the milk. And what brings us down into the chains of hell–and this is one of the things that that another friend of mine had mentioned that I think is so brilliant-is that I want to be careful not to take credit for all of this, because really, this is why we have–this is why I love your podcast– discussions like this is because we take all these different perspectives, right? So I have friends that are lawyers and I have friends that are construction workers and I have friends from all of these different places in life. And I have friends that came from money and wealth, and I have friends that came from the hood. And so we have all of these different perspectives to look at things with and say, “Okay, this is how I understand it.” And instead of knocking their perspective down and saying, “No, that’s not what it means,” if I take a minute and I look at it from that perspective, the Lord will actually teach me the truth of what it means in regards to what He wants me to learn. And so I want to be really careful to explain that when I am explaining those four levels of understanding we go in and out of those all the time. Just because we’re learning on the pshat level doesn’t mean that–even just because we’re learning on the sod level doesn’t mean that we won’t be learning on the pshat level tomorrow. And so just like our testimony ebbs and flows and goes in and out of that, so too will our understanding of that depth. And sometimes we’ll dive really, really deep into things. And other times the Lord will be like, “We’ll take you back up to the surface for a minute. There’s another principle I need you to understand, but I have to connect it right up here instead of way down here.” And so then he kind of takes you through footnotes that take you to another place in that concept but you still had to go back up to the surface to learn the basic understanding. So if someone were to say, “Well, I already know that story…” That’s awesome that you already know that story, that’s so cool that you can recite that story but what if you go back and you read and you ask the Lord, “Show me where there is another layer in the meaning of this word, like the phrase, the will of God, show me where you want to take me deep.” But I have to understand it up here first. So if you were just to understand the word “will” as your basic, ‘this is what I want to do’, ‘this is what I don’t want to do’, He couldn’t explain the depth of that without going back up to the original phrase. So what the Lord did is he took me back to the story in first Nephi and he had me read it and he had me read, understanding that they were taught in the learning and the language of his father and he was Jewish and all the way until he had his dream he was pretty spot on with the Jewish religion. And so let’s read a little bit of Jewish law. And then I’m interested in your perception after this. And maybe you’ve read this before and maybe you haven’t, but let’s go with law and let’s go with Moses’ law. I’m going to take a few liberties here and add a few words, but I will stay pretty close to–you’ll know it’ll be clear and obvious when I add those words. So we’re going to go to Deuteronomy 13, and this is what it says, “If there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams and giveth a sign or a wonder and the sign or the wonder come to pass whereof he spake unto thee saying, ‘Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known– other gods like Christ instead of Moses–and let us serve them. Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams for the Lord, your God proveth you to know whether ye love the Lord, your God, Moses, with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord, your God, Moses, and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice. And ye shall serve him and cleave unto him. And that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord, your God– their understanding of Moses right at the time–which–and remember up in verse two where he says, “Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known.” And if you remember, what was Leman and Lemuel’s rebuttal? It was, I know not this God. And what was Nephi’s? “Well, go ask about it.” And so Nephi went out and he asked about it and then he was shown the same dream his father was shown. And so I just introduced you to the first part of that scripture, so if that wasn’t enough to make you think, “Oh, okay, well, Leman and Lemuel were possibly living the letter of the law without being able to feel, without being able to be into that conduit of like ‘this means more’. And as I had mentioned earlier, the chains of hell are rejecting further light, thus you end up losing the light that you have. And so if those scriptures, those verses weren’t clear enough, let’s go to verse six. “If thy brother, the son of thy mother or thy son or the daughter or the wife of thy bosom or thy friend–so pretty much anyone– but specifically, it states, “If thy brother, which has enticed thee secretly saying, “Let us go and serve other gods–like Christ instead of Moses–which thou has not known.” –Again, we have again another statement about not knowing any other gods.– “Nor thy father has known.” And so previous to Lehi’s dream and previous to reading the book and previous to being shown all the things that he was shown in his dream, he learned things in that moment that he had not supposed. And so we have, “If your brother entice thee secretly saying, ‘Let us go after other gods, which thou has not known, thou nor thy fathers, namely of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto you or far off from me.’” And remember, pretty much everyone they were around had that same belief and were stuck in that same spot of understanding or the lack thereof, if you want to say it that way. So “We’re far off from one end of the earth, even unto the other end of the earth–like hop in a boat and maybe go to another land–thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him.” But now they’re going to tell them what to do with them. “But thou shalt kill him. Thine hand shall be the first upon him to put him to death and afterwards, the hand of all the people.” So when I petitioned the Lord for what the conviction was he showed me the danger in living the letter of the law. He showed me the danger in the orthodoxy of not recognizing both the spirit of the law and the body of the law, the letter of the law. So when those two are placed together, the spirit and the body together makes a whole soul. And so there’s a recognition there that the letter of the law might say this, but there’s also other laws like the Law of Mercy, all of these other subsections to the law that would allow someone to accept a higher law and supersede a lower law. Like if Laman and Lemuel had petitioned the Lord and had gone to him and asked him –because their father had that dream and because of what they were being asked to do, they had rights, they had right through the inheritance that their father had, to learn the same thing that Nephi learned. So if one were to think that Leman and Lemuel were just being jerks or they were just plain evil you would have a little bit less of the picture. And I’m wondering if you had ever heard that before and what that makes you think of now.
Meghan: Yeah, I hadn’t. And it really does throw everything into perspective of, how could these sons want to kill their father? How could they be so adamant even though they see an angel? How could they justify falling back into these old patterns? And it makes total sense where it’s like, well, you were raised up to believe that this is a false prophet and that they are being influenced by a false spirit, and that the angels that you may or may not see are a deception, that was what they were taught. It makes total sense to me. Another thought that I had is–as you went back to the law of Moses–also considering the Abrahamic Covenant and some of the blessings and the responsibilities that are inherent in that covenant, that the Jews–regardless of whether or not it’s true, at a time like, we do the same thing we say we are the chosen people so we expect to be seeing covenant blessings even when we’re not worthy of them. But I was thinking about like if they had also grown up with an understanding of the Abrahamic Covenant and that ‘we are chosen people and thereby we expect certain blessings, including covenant protection’, which means when you’re telling us that we’re going to be destroyed and we’re under the impression that we are inheritors of covenant blessings, that doesn’t sit well with us. We are promised an inheritance, both temporal and eternal, on different levels, and you are literally making us leave all of our things, all of our gold, all of our silver, like you are taking us into the covenant curse is what it looks like. As opposed to, you’re clearly leading us to covenant blessings, which is a promised land, and the inheritance that was made available to them were those covenant blessings. I think it’s really, really interesting. And maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I will. I think it’s really interesting if we were to–as we like to do–apply the pattern of Laman and Lemuel to ourselves–and usually we do that on the level of “Are we whining, are we murmuring? Are we not happy to go along with the agenda of the Lord, whatever that looks like?”–But applying it on this level is a little bit more challenging and definitely more opportunity to be convicted by the Spirit, by saying, “Am I too grounded in what I think I know to the degree that I am withholding further light and knowledge from being bestowed upon me?” As you said, the chains of hell is that unwillingness to receive more when we have been given so much. Another parable that the Lord talks about consistently is ‘He who has not shall be given, He who has shall be taken away’. And you’re like, “That’s so not fair.” And it’s like, “Well, listen, it’s not his fault. You have, but you’re not willing to receive more.” And if you are not willing to progress, we know that being stagnant isn’t really an option like you are either regenerating and growing and ascending or you are degenerating and you are devolving and you are descending. And so I think it would be really interesting if we are all to take a step back with this new scriptural paradigm and say, “Am I a little too Laman and Lemuel in that I’m holding too fast to what I think I know, and I’m stopping the Lord from being able to give me more?”
Meredith: Absolutely. And we all ask ourselves that question. Or maybe we don’t all ask ourselves that question, but we all could ask ourselves that question. And I think there would be a lot of utility in the answer of that question. I think that you could take the answer of that question and understand more with that. You could say, “What are the beliefs that I hold? What is the other part of the story that I don’t know?” And the Lord, he will unfold that for you. The thing with that is, though, is that when we’re talking about folding, if we take a towel–and this is another word that you think you know what it means, and then you go back and you actually look at it in the scriptures and you look at what the word unfold or fold means– I love to use the 1828 dictionary, would have been the dictionary that was around when Joseph was writing things and translating things and that would have been the understandings of the words that he knew. But if we’re talking about folding a towel, just even an everyday thing, we fold it in half and then we fold that half in half and then we fold it in threes or in fours or in twos or whatever it is that we’re folding. And so it ends up being layer after layer after layer. And now it’s this thick and it goes in your closet and all you ever see is the top of the towel or the edge of the towel until you pull it out and actually wrap it around you and use it in the shower, you’re gaining the utility with it, it’s drying you off, it’s serving you in that way. And I think that when we’re talking about the concepts of the scriptures, we are talking about folds and we are talking about those folds being revealed and unfolding. And it’s all part of this larger mass. It’s all part of one great whole. But it’s just different parts that you see and different perceptions as you share those things with others. And they say, “Oh yeah, I see this like my apartment is the back to your apartment.” And so I actually see the other side of that, those ideas of understanding what a quilt looks like when it’s folded up and put in the closet versus what it looks like when a king sized quilt is undone. You can see all the intricacies of it. You can see stitches that have been specifically made for the reasons that they’ve been made and not for the reasons you thought they were; maybe they were made for keeping the batting on it or maybe they were made for holding the squares together. But there’s more than one use in the stitch.
Meghan: Really interesting, really interesting to think about. I want to do one more example, and I’m hoping that you can give us your perspective on how you move to each of these four levels. Because it’s really easy to stay on the bottom. I feel like most of the time that’s where we are. Maybe we dive a little bit into some of the historical context, but we don’t usually connect the levels very well. If we do that, we’re kind of just like, this is the history and this is what the scripture says and this is what the story means. And we tend to kind of compartmentalize the things. So I’m wondering if you can help walk us through how do you dive a little bit deeper? And I’m going to very selfishly pick this topic because it’s one that I’ve been thinking about and one that I was studying this morning, and I feel like the Lord was starting to kind of unravel things for me. But the question that I’m going to give you and the topic that I would love to talk about is tithing. And particularly what is it about tithing that is so essential to the Lord and to our own salvation and exaltation that it says that if you tithe, you won’t be burned at the last day. That seems like kind of a big jump. “If you give me 10% of your income, I won’t burn you.” It’s like, “Thanks. I don’t know, like, that’s easy,I’ll do that.” There’s obviously some things in between there. So let’s start with that, let’s talk about the lowest level first.
Meredith: So I have a bit of an example myself, if you don’t mind me going there. So let’s go way back in the tabernacle days, and I’m talking about Moses’ tabernacle, not one here in Utah. So let’s say that you have a flock and when you bring your flock up to the temple, there’s a bunch of stones stacked on top of each other to make a pasture of sorts. And it had an opening, just an opening big enough for one animal to go through at a time. And when the person, when the owner of the herd or the animal would go up to the temple, they would herd all their sheep or all their goats or all their cattle up into this–with a horse, I would call it a round pen– enclosure of sorts. He would bring all the animals into this enclosure. And again, it was made with stones. And so it was stacked high enough to be a stone wall or stone fence. And then there was the one opening. And at that opening, they would stand there with a rod. And the thing is, the person that owned the animals could not entice them to come out. They could not decide which one was going to come out first. They could not do that. And if they did that, there was a law that they not only took that one, but they took another one on top of it. And the shepherd or the owner has to go outside of that enclosure, and then he has to call his sheep or he has to call his cattle, he has to move his herd. And the animals that come out have to come out by their own will and choice. And the owner can’t persuade them one way or the other. The owner just has to allow them to come out, to find their way out and come to him. As they do, they pass under this rod that has a red mark on it and it marks every 10th one which gets put into this other plot, let’s say. But what happens is out of those out of every 10th animal, that would be the tithe, right? Then they would take all their animals up to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation of the tabernacle. And they would say, now you get to pick which one of these –because I had 30 sheep and so that means that there’s three that are the tithe and they get to pick the tithe of the tithe–that then becomes the sacrificial animal, the burnt offering or the wave offering or whatever offering they were doing for whatever reason they were doing it. So first I would say that if you’re likening this to the four levels of learning, I would say that the first thing you need to do is get into the scriptures. Well, I would even say before that you could pray and someone could say, I want to learn more, so help me learn more. What word should I pay attention to? Will you help something stick out? Maybe I struggle on a word. Or maybe I know this word, and it just still sticks out to me anyway. And then they could go to their scriptures and they could place themselves in that conduit. If you were using your phone, you could pray while you were in that process of pulling up your app or whatever. And then you allow yourself to be there for a minute, feel it. Like, feel that the space that you’re in and feel the fact that you’re genuinely requesting it. It’s one thing to say, “Dear Heavenly Father, please teach me something.” And it’s another thing to close your eyes and feel where in your body you’re yearning to learn it because maybe it’s in your heart, or maybe it’s in your shoulder, or maybe it’s in your neck or wherever it is, it’s placed somewhere and there becomes this longing for or this hunger for it. Sometimes I feel it in my stomach when the Lord’s like, “You’re hungry for this.” And I’m like, “I don’t know. I have Cheetos. I’m good.” And he meets me where I’m at, he knows I love Cheetos. So, he’s like, “Okay, grab a bag of Cheetos and then sit down.” No, I’m just kidding. So you first go with a prayer in your heart and a desire. And even if you just have a desire to desire that, even if you’re like, “Yeah, that’s not me, but I wish it was me. I mean, I could really go for something like that. That’s not how I roll but, it’d be cool if it was.” That’s something that’s not nothing. And you could take that to the Lord and you could say, “I got rocks, like do something with it, light them up. Because I got nothing. So multiply this talent because I’m petitioning you.” And he could go back and show you, “Okay, you think you know what this word means, but maybe just take a peek at what it meant 100 years ago because what the laws are now and what the words mean now are not necessarily what Joseph meant when he was writing it. And so you could just go back and maybe on the pshat level, what they are now is exactly what he meant. But then maybe if you dug a little deeper into what that definition was 100 years ago, it would take you on a different ride. You’d go on a completely different adventure. And so you could do that. But let’s just do a real life example of it. Give me a scripture and let’s do this.
Meghan: Well, do we want to stick with the tithing or do we want to go somewhere else?
Meredith: I’m good with whatever. Toss me something. We could stick with tithing if that’s what you felt moved to ask about.
Meghan: Yeah. So we’re in Malachi three and four is really–I feel like there’s a lot here that we barely talk about–so first off, the Lord is talking about sending his messenger before the day of the Lord. That would be interesting for people to study, because I think that we think we have limited explanations for what that means. And I think there is more. I think there’s more for what that could mean. He talks about purifying the sons of Levi, which is the priesthood lineage; men and women, because women take part in that. He talks about making offerings, having judgment against those who are unrighteous in a variety of ways. And then he has this scripture, which I think is interesting, “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?” This is really interesting to me because we have a very temporal perspective on ordinances. This is something we’ve talked a lot about in the podcast and trying to step into the reality that there is a spiritual element to the ordinances too. And most likely that is the side that the people have stepped away from. That’s certainly the side that we have stepped away from. And the Lord is saying I need you to get back to that. And then he immediately goes into talking about tithing, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee?” And he answers, “In tithes and offerings.” And it’s so contradictory to me when you just read it like that, because he’s literally just saying “You have been too focused on the physical temporal side of things. You have not pursued the spiritual elements of these ordinances.” And then it seems like the answer that he’s giving us to do is this physical thing; “Give me a tenth of your money.” And it’s like, wait but you just said we need to move away from that. So then the question to me becomes, what is the spiritual element of tithing that most likely we’ve lost?
Meredith: I love that. So tell me where you are in Malachi.
Meghan: So this is Malachi 3 and I just reviewed the first–the last verse was verse eight–and then he goes into nine and ten talking more about tithing.
Meredith: Okay. So if I was going to go on a number of different levels, I would find the pshat first, right? The pshat would be the concept of the type. But that seems simple although it’s not because–the law actually wasn’t to give a tenth of your money, the law was to give a tenth of your increase.
Meghan: Which is?
Meredith: Go ahead. I’m interested in your thoughts.
Meghan: Well, when I hear that, I think of Abraham as the original example of a tithe payer. And if you go to the Joseph Smith translation of Genesis 14, which is one of my favorite things in all scripture, it talks about how Abraham paid tithing of everything that he had above what he needed. And to me that speaks that this was far more than just a tenth. This was the 9/10 that he chose to give. And what does that mean for us and what’s kind of the pattern that he was setting forth there?
Meredith: So in my understanding and again, remember triangles that could shatter at any moment and I could turn things around quickly but when we’re talking about a percentage of our increase and Abraham in general…So let’s just do a quick background on Abraham. His father’s, and his father’s father’s were wicked, like crazy, wicked. And he went to the Lord and he said, “Look, I know that there’s more here. And I know that I do have fathers way back, like my fathers, fathers, fathers, fathers, they were a part of this covenant. They were righteous. And if you’ll let me, I mean, I have right to it, I am the birthright son, at this point I have right to it. So if you’ll allow me the birthright I covenant with you, that I will bring it forth and I will increase it.” And so he goes through this process of taking everything he gets that was increased from there. And where do you go from zero? You only go up at that point. And as he understands something, he takes it back to the Lord and he says, “I think this is how I’m supposed to do it. Is this how I’m supposed to do it?” And so he’s continuously taking these small pieces that he’s receiving and he’s perpetuating them. He’s telling people, I think this is right or I think this isn’t right. He goes to his dad and he lets his dad know there’s some stuff going on that isn’t quite right. And there’s many experiences of where he essentially takes his whole life and consecrates it to the new and everlasting covenant and those kinds of things. And he allows that to take form in him. And he allows himself to recognize when he’s deceived. And there were places where he was deceived and there were places where he totally biffed it. Like he ate it pretty hard sometimes, as we will, as we’re going through this process. But ultimately Abraham’s kind of tithe, what he gave, was everything that he had. And that moves into a consecration period. And then you kind of take that full circle back, let’s go back to the pshat because we went from pshat to the actual story, to the historic, so we start moving through these things. Now we go back to the pshat and we think, “If we can’t let go of 10% of our increase, how on earth are we possibly–I mean, that’s an introductory principle–how on earth are we possibly going to consecrate everything that we are? So, sure, there’s this physical process, this body of the law, but then there’s also the spirit of the law. And there’s this process that happens where you’re moving from the body to the spirit. You’re moving from the outer to the inner, but you can’t get to the inner without doing the outer. Unfortunately.
Meghan: But that’s a true pattern, like that’s consistent with how God teaches us. And I think that there are physical prerequisites to be able to understand and appreciate and obtain the spiritual side of things. So that really makes good sense to me. And hearkening back a little bit to the Laman and Lemuel question that we had earlier, another thought that I had is, “Yeah, recognizing that tithing is a preparatory motion that’s meant to inspire a spiritual reaction. Are we so fixated on the outward motion that if it were to change, we would not react well to that?” And I feel like tithing is a really interesting example to go to because it has to do with money. And money is so compelling. It’s so prevalent. And it calls to everyone because it’s the universal currency. Everyone wants money. It’s useful.
Meredith: Let’s talk about that. It is a currency and it’s a worldly currency. Then there’s also a heavenly currency. And that worldly currency is going to tug on–it’s going to look like the counterfeit, right? And so if any one of us are struggling with it…so I have this–so fun that you would bring this up, because–I have this friend that called me the other day and was talking to me about tithing. And there’s been a bunch of stuff in the media about how the church spends the tithing and law cases that are coming up where people are suing the church and everything like that. And the thing is, is that unfortunately, it’s still about the worldly currency for them, because they didn’t let it go. Because if they had actually given it to the Lord, it wouldn’t matter where they spent it. And I say that loosely because nobody wants to put money towards something horrible. But what we render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and render to God what is God’s?
Meghan: Right. Well, and I think it comes back in my mind to another topic that we talked about earlier, which is stewardship. And it is my stewardship to practice submission, to practice consecration, and to make that a spiritual exercise. That is my stewardship. How the church organization uses tithing funds is their stewardship and I’m not going to be held accountable for what their stewardship is. And vice versa. They’re not going to get credit for the spiritual work I’m putting in and the spiritual blessings that I’m going to receive as a result of that. And so I think that being able to differentiate the two in the eyes of the Lord has been really helpful for me, too, because I know that people do have concerns about how the church spends tithing money.
Meghan: And I know people who have left the church or I know people who have stopped paying tithing as a result of that. I would never recommend that, first off, because you have to pay tithing in order to go to the temple, which has some really interesting spiritual parallels, if you think about that.
Meredith: Because it takes the pshat level all the way to the sod level. Because you’re asking how to make these steps and you’re recognizing, –like we always do this, well, maybe we all don’t, I do, I give it to the Lord–whatever it is, whatever I’m throwing up on the altar, I give it to the Lord. And then I’m like, “Nah, maybe I’m gonna take that back a little bit. I’ll do better with it.” And then you’re like, “No, wait, wait, wait. I’ll give it back. Yeah, I was just kidding.” We play this kind of tug of war, where we’re willing to submit for a minute, and then it’s like, not so much, and I’m guilty of it, so much, this tempering process of bringing the body and the spirit of things together. So you could go back to the pshat level and say, ‘I’m giving my tithing’ but are you really because you care about where it’s spent. So you actually took it back, which, fair enough, man, like, that’s a rough thing to let go of when so much of our life and our world revolves around it. But that’s the point where you take it from one step to the other, where you say, “I’m struggling with this and I get that this is the law, but I’m struggling with the law. So teach me how to connect it to the higher law. Teach me how to connect it to the spiritual part of this. And teach me how to let go of it. I did yank it back and I came to him in repentance with that but then what do I have to do to give it back? I just placed it on the altar. That sounds fantastic. Except it’s not that simple to submit.
Meghan: Yeah, not impossible, but it feels impossible sometimes.
Meredith: It’s impossible by ourselves without being in the strength of the Lord. It’s impossible to see the kingdom of heaven without being reborn, because it’s a vision that comes to us eventually, as the Lord gives us eyes that we can see and starts unfolding this to us. And so it is impossible until we start including him in that process. And when we hit a hiccup, when we start making the choice to kick against the pricks or even start looking away from the fact that we actually just yanked it back. There is all kinds of justification of why we yanked it back, but the fact still remains that we pulled it back. So there’s still some refining that has to be done there and recognizing that refining needs to be done and rebirthing into that process. It’s no wonder we yank it back. That’s no big deal. But let’s figure out how to then move it forward. And that’s where you include the Lord in that. And maybe it takes you a minute and maybe it takes you five and a half years or 30, for that matter. Maybe you wander in the wilderness for a bit before it’s something you are able to come to. But it’s a wrestle and it’s real, and there’s more to be learned from it. And when we hit a spot where we struggle like that, that means, “Let me show you more.” If we can move past the hardness of it. It’s hard to hear. Nobody wants to hear that you don’t get your way. Nobody wants to hear that.
Meghan: Well, this whole concept of shattering triangles, this is challenging–what we’re talking about right now–shifting paradigms that you have been, many of us have been, born into, raised up in and learning to step outside of that and to see things differently, to allow the Lord to anoint your eyes so that you can see spiritually is a really challenging thing. And sometimes, especially initially–I think tithing is a great example, there are other examples I can think of–you really don’t like what you see initially when you start to have your eyes open, like it can cause some cognitive dissonance where you’re like, “Wait. I have been doing this wrong my whole life? There’s no way. There’s no way that I could be doing this wrong my whole life or not understanding this for as long as I have.” It’s a really uncomfortable place to go into, but that’s where the blessing of it is, because there are places that we can only go if the Lord is the one that leads us there and he’s only going to lead us there if we are open to it. I have found it to be an odd vote of confidence from the Lord when he has shattered my paradigms. Because I know he wouldn’t be doing that unless there was something in me that said that I was open to him doing that. And that’s no credit to me, that’s 100% credit to him and to the changes that he makes
in us. But anyway, I just wanted to say that, you know, what we’re talking about here, this is not an easy thing. And it really does come back to–as everything does–submitting to the Lord and sacrificing it, putting it on the altar, and then leaving it there, which is the hard part sometimes.
Meredith: And almost always comes with discomfort. You will almost always, for certain, be placed in a spot of discomfort where you’re like, “I don’t know, do I? Do I choose to reject this and get offended? Or do I numb it and not look at it right now. Or do I say? All right, but just be gentle with me. I’ll work on it, but be gentle. Give me a minute. Give me a second and let me work on it one thing at a time.
Meghan: And he’s very indulging with that request because that request is still submissive. It’s still being very open to him. And it’s allowing the space, it’s allowing time for you to process and to wrestle a little bit, spiritually, which we need to do. But we’re also leaving room to say, “I’m going to come back to the table with you on this. I just need to sit into it and lean into it sometimes, lean into the discomfort and say okay,I’m going to embrace this because I know where it’s coming from. And I know without a doubt that it’s not coming from me. And I’m going to lean into this and dig deeper until I get to some level of understanding where it’s not so breathtaking, to just have the revelation without some of the context behind it.
Meredith: I totally 100% agree, because it can be breathtaking in that it takes away the breath of being able–I mean, our breath is what brings in the ability to give oxygen to the rest of our body. And if we’re dealing with the body of the concept when the rug is pulled out from underneath us or when–Joseph Smith I don’t have the quote with me right this second, but he was talking to somebody and somebody had come against him with an accusation. And somebody else was coming to his defense. And essentially he–and I’m going to totally slaughter it right now–but essentially he just said, “Wait a minute, let’s find out what the truth of that is, because there is truth in it somewhere. And then let’s figure out where it got distorted. And I’m going to petition the Lord and ask him for the truth of it. And then I’m going to take myself and I’m going to go work on that.” And that’s. Wow. Because that’s tough to hear.
Meghan: It’s so hard, but it’s so teachable. And it really is a pattern of discipleship to be able to say, “I am not so proud as to say that I even understand anything. And I want to learn everything. And I’m willing to go through whatever tutelage process that you need me to.” I think that that really is the mark of the disciple, being willing to ask the questions, to get hard answers, to lean into them, trusting the Lord the whole time, and making him your source of truth. Because he is truth. He is truth embodied. And being willing to lean into these hard places, to learn truth, it’s really the process of coming to know him.
Meredith: It really is. I mean, if you think about his apostles and you think about all the things they had to learn. And then they’re like, okay, I’m good. I think I’m good. And they go to him and they’re like, listen, make me your right hand, man. Let’s do this. And he’s like, Oh, simmer down there, Tonto. You think that you want this? But you have no idea what you’re about to step into. So maybe let’s kick it back a few notches. And man, I think about myself in that position because oftentimes I think about myself in the position of being chastened or in the position of Judas; am I betraying the Lord in this moment where he gives me a prompting? And I’m like, Yeah, I don’t know. Any number of justifications, right? Like, I’m hungry or, you know, whatever. Any number of counter promptings.
Meghan: Not right now. Too tired. I want to go to sleep.
Meredith: We can justify it with anything. But to be the apostle in which the Lord says, “Simmer down. You have no idea what you’re talking about.” Imagine that triangle being shattered. And yet going back to him and saying, “Okay. Okay. If I don’t know what I’m asking for, teach me.” And then they became where they are. But there’s this process– I often refer to it as this crash course. Do you know Crash Bandicoot?
Meghan: No, I don’t know.
Meredith: Okay. No, that’s okay. It’s an old school video game.
Meghan: Maybe other people do. I’m not a video game person, so I have no idea.
Meredith: I’m not either. But my brothers used to play it all the time, and it’s this hedgehog that is just like a bull in a china shop, just, like, rip stuff up. And that’s often how I feel. Like I am passing through this and I’m like, “Listen, I may be doing this clumsily, but I’m doing it. And that’s what I got right now. And hopefully you’ll make me graceful. But I’m doing it. I’m here and I’m yours.” And as hard as it is to hear these things sometimes, or as difficult or as uncomfortable as it is to recognize that I only know one fold, I only see what’s there on the outside, on the rim. Then I can yield to that and it’s such a beautiful process if I can get past pride. If I can get past whatever is between what the Lord is telling me and what I understand.
Meghan: Yeah, absolutely. I echo all of that. I echo my testimony to that and I’m a baby. I’m still learning this process. I think we all are because what you start to learn when you start having the Lord unfold things for you is that the unfolding never ends, that there are infinite folds and it’s really exciting to be able to step into that. Well, Meredith, thank you so much. Thanks for sharing with us a little bit of your mind and how it works and how you’ve been able to step into just such a deeply meaningful place with understanding the scriptures and coming to understand doctrine. And I hope that, you know, I think that there were many, many key principles that were highlighted in our discussion. And I hope that our listeners can really prayerfully consider some of the things that we talked about. And don’t just go back to reading the scriptures, actually sit down and step into this and allow the Lord to show you truth and allow him to shatter your triangles and give you a whole new breadth of sight and knowledge. I think that it is a prerequisite to a lot of the work that we need to do leading up to the Second Coming. And I think that there are few things more rewarding than unlocking and really coming to understand the mysteries of God. So, Meredith, thank you so much for sharing with us.
Meredith: Absolutely. Thank you for engaging.