How to be Encircled in God’s Love

Feb 06
Encircled by God's love

I love seeing word patterns in the scriptures, particularly when a word appears only or mostly in the Book of Mormon.

In this example, the word is “encircle.” This word appears 24 times in the Book of Mormon, and once in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Webster’s 1828 puts the definition as: ENCIR’CLE, v.t. ensur’cl. [from circle.] [.] 1. To inclose or surround with a circle or ring, or with any thing in a circular form. [.] 2. To encompass; to surround; to environ. [.] 3. To embrace; as, to encircle one in the arms.

It’s this third definition I find fascinating. To be encircled by God can be called a sacred embrace.

In considering why this word doesn’t appear in the Bible, I went to the thesaurus to see what other words I could search for. I found several related words, some that are used in the definition above:

  • Encompass (3 in the Book of Mormon, 1 in the Doctrine and Covenants)
  • Surround (23 in the Book of Mormon, 1 in the Pearl of Great Price)
  • Circle (1 in the Old Testament, a reference to the earth being round)
  • Compass (actual search was: [compass* -compassion*] to remove the longer words with a different meaning (79 Old Testament, 7 New Testament, 7 Book of Mormon, 2 Pearl of Great Price)

Word use is interesting. Compass, compasseth, and compassed are used in the Bible to refer to surrounding something such as an army or territory. In the Book of Mormon the word compass is almost always a reference to the Liahona, while the word surround (or a variation) is used similarly to compass in the Bible.

However, the words encircle and surround are pretty unique to the Book of Mormon.

Surround is often used like compass and refers most often to military actions. However, there are a couple notable exceptions.

1 Nephi 1:8 tells us that God is surrounded by numberless concourses of angels. Alma later said he saw this same thing (Alma 36:22). What were these angels doing? Singing and praising God and Alma said his soul did long to be there.

In another instance we read of Samuel the Lamanite’s prophesy begging the people to repent and that in the day when their “things…become slippery” from their wickedness, they will experience the exact opposite:

Helaman 13:37. Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls.

It’s only slightly different for the righteous. While demons surround the wicked, stoking their wickedness to greater heights, the righteous are also encompassed about by devils in an assault on their righteousness, trying to get them to turn from it.

D&C 76:28. …we beheld Satan, that old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ-

29. Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.

Aside from God being surrounded by angels, much of the word use above seems to have the feeling of an assault when we are (en)compassed or surrounded.

The word encircled is often used differently. Like a hen gathering her chicks, her wings extend over them as a protection. This is the feeling associated with the word encircled, though on occasion it is used militarily as well.

Here are examples (read them all by searching in Scripture Notes for encircle* ):

2 Nephi 1:15. But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.

2 Nephi 4:33. O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.

Alternatively, if we don’t choose to place ourselves in the path of righteousness, the devil will also encircle us.

Alma 5:7. Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.

How does one transform being encircled by the devil into the protection of God? Repentance.

Alma 34:16. And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.

We see this example when the sons of Mosiah describe their mission to the Lamanites. When the Lamanites repented, they were brought out of darkness into God’s love.

Alma 26:15. Yea, they were encircled about with everlasting darkness and destruction; but behold, he has brought them into his everlasting light, yea, into everlasting salvation; and they are encircled about with the matchless bounty of his love; yea, and we have been instruments in his hands of doing this great and marvelous work.

In a macro-view of one famous story, we can see a type of God’s watchfulness in Ammon’s behavior. When enemies of the king came to scatter the flocks (imagine us being the sheep), Ammon told those with him to “encircle the flocks round about that they flee not; and I go and contend with these men who do scatter our flocks.” (Alma 17:33)

He then proceeded to famously cut off the arms or slay those that came to scatter the sheep of the king. An action God would perform to protect his sheep.

What is the goal of abiding in God’s love? Why repent and cling to the iron rod? Because God intends to perform something greater upon us. We see this when the missionaries Nephi and Lehi are imprisoned and their captors came to slay them.

Helaman 5:23. And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi were encircled about as if by fire, even insomuch that they durst not lay their hands upon them for fear lest they should be burned. Nevertheless, Nephi and Lehi were not burned; and they were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned.

As if that wasn’t shocking enough, the voice of God spoke aloud to the Lamanites telling them to repent.

Helaman 5:29 “…Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare good tidings.”

So intense was their repentance at this miracle that they too received this baptism of fire and were filled beyond human capacity with God’s love.

Helaman 5:43. And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.

44. And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.

Later, during the ministry of the resurrected Savior to the Nephites, he demonstrated this was not just an isolated miracle. It is the intention of God to fill his children with his love.

First, God performed this miracle upon the children whose hearts were already prepared.

3 Nephi 17:24. And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.

Then later when their parents had become sufficiently childlike, they too received this blessing.

3 Nephi 19:14. And behold, they were encircled about as if it were by fire; and it came down from heaven, and the multitude did witness it, and did bear record; and angels did come down out of heaven and did minister unto them.

We should not fall into unbelief that these things are not meant for us. They are, and this is why a loving God has allowed this knowledge to come forth to us, not to follow some “steps” of repentance, but to truly turn our hearts to him in full love that he can fill us with all the love and joy we are willing to receive.


(Featured image by paintingcat


About the Author

Oak Norton - Just trying to share a love of the scriptures with others.