Murmuring and the Quail

Week 20: Numbers 11–14; 20–24

When we are initially given blessings from the Lord, we are so often thankful. As time goes by, however, we sometimes begin to question whether it was really the blessing we wanted, and we desire even more. We forget how grateful we were with what we were originally given by the Lord.  

For example, in the spring, my children always looked forward to the end of school. They did not think about the blessing of education in their lives. As the summer progressed, they would sometimes complain of being bored, and by the end of the summer, they were excited for school to start again. Without the daily blessing of school in their lives, they had begun to gain an understanding of the blessing education was in their lives. Then, the grind of school would start again, along with the cycle of forgetfulness and complaining.

The children of Israel were blessed with manna from heaven. They had been eating it for years and the miracle of manna coming everyday had become routine and boring. They wanted something different and began to murmur against the Lord.

How can we learn from their experience and stay positive about our blessings from the Lord? Monotony, boredom, and the state of the world sometimes diminish our gratitude for the blessings we have received. As we become negative about our situation, we may complain to the Lord and to the people around us, especially to those who have responsibility over us. We often expect them to fix the problem, and we may even blame them for causing the problem in the first place.

The children of Israel complained to the Lord and to Moses, expecting the latter to fix their problems. Once they started down the path of criticism, their complaints began to multiply. Even Aaron and Miriam began complaining against Moses. They questioned his authority as a prophet, saying: “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard [their murmurings].” (Numbers 12:2) The Lord asked Moses, Miriam, and Aaron to come to the tabernacle of the congregation. He directly reprimanded Miriam and Aaron for their critical remarks, telling them: “With [Moses] will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold; wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them….” (Numbers 12:8-9)

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults.” (Ensign, Apr. 1986, pp. 3–4.) Moses was known as the meekest of men and the mouthpiece of the Lord. These virtues of Moses were the qualities Aaron and Miriam should have focused on when they spoke about their prophet.

Does that mean that we should never be critical of what is happening around us? Elder George Albert Smith said this about criticism: “If we can criticize constructively under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord, we may change beneficially and properly some of the things that are being done. But if we have the spirit of faultfinding, of pointing out the weaknesses and failings of others in a destructive manner, that never comes as the result of the companionship of the Spirit of our Heavenly Father and is always harmful.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1934, p. 50.)

We may not actually speak our murmurings out loud, but we must realize that the Lord knows the murmurings of our heart. When William McLellin murmured in his heart against a missionary assignment that Joseph Smith had given him, the Lord said: “… I give unto him a new commission and a new commandment, in the which I, the Lord, chasten him for the murmurings of his heart;” (D&C 75:7)

These criticisms of Moses by the children of Israel not only brought upon them the anger of the Lord but also brought heartache to the prophet Moses. He prayed to the Lord about the complaints of his people and pled with the Lord: “I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.” (Numbers 11:14-15)

The Lord counseled Moses to pick seventy men whom he knew and trusted, and said to him: “I will come down and … take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee” (Numbers 11:17). These seventy were called and set apart by the Lord to bear the burden of spiritually ministering to the children of Israel, so that Moses would not have to carry this heavy burden alone. Don’t we see this in our Church organization today? The quorums of the Seventy have the responsibility to oversee the work in area presidencies all over the world and help carry the burden borne by our prophet and apostles.

When the seventy received their calling from the Lord, “the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied and did not cease.” (Numbers 11:25). When Joshua was told that two of the seventy were still prophesying in the Israelite camp, Joshua asked Moses to make them stop. Moses’ response illustrated what a meek, humble, and righteous man he was: “Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29)

Moses did not seek to be the only one with the Spirit. His goal and vision were that all His people had the same gifts of the Spirit that he enjoyed.

Soon after the Israelites complained about having to eat manna constantly and pled “give us flesh that we may eat,” ( Numbers 11:13) quail fell into the camp. These quail made people sick and became a “very great plague.” (Numbers 11:33). The Lord sometimes allows the things we want to happen, even though He knows that they will be to our detriment, rather than to our blessing.  

Elder Richard G. Scott taught: “The challenges you face, the growth experiences you encounter, are intended to be temporary scenes played out on the stage of a life of continuing peace and happiness. Sadness, heartache, and disappointment are events in life. It is not intended that they be the substance of life…. The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. Your progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether you welcome the experience or not. Trust in the Lord. Ask to be led by the Spirit to know His will. Be willing to accept it. You will then qualify for the greatest happiness and the heights of attainment from this mortal experience.” (GC October 2006, “The Atonement can secure your Peace and Happiness”)

May you find joy in the Lord this week as you trust in Him, even during times of trial.

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