Monday, April 17, 2017

I Prepare You

This week in our Book of Mormon class we covered the history of the prophet Ether and his posterity back to the confounding of the languages at the Tower of Babel.  The beginning of the story contained in the Book of Ether focuses on two brothers: Jared and the Brother of Jared - who through modern revelation we know as Mahonri Moriancumer.  The two brothers were the leaders, physical and spiritual respectively, for their kin. 

After the confounding of the languages the Lord led the Jaredites to the Promised Land, much like the family of Lehi.  And also like the Lehites the people of Jared had to cross a great body of water in order to reach their land of inheritance.  To accomplish this they build barges that were 'exceedingly tight'.  But the trip across the vast waters, and the barges they would travel in, presented some interesting problems such as lack of air, darkness, and no way to steer. 

In going to the Lord, Mahonri received guidance on how to solve one of the problems, and the answer to not worry about another.  Mahonri would have to use his abilities, along with faith in Christ, to accomplish the third.  But the Lord's answer to this Brother of Jared I find to be a great parallel to our lives.  In Ether 2:25 the Lord tells the Brother of Jared that:
And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come.
The Lord knew of the physical trials and hardships that were awaiting the Jaredites upon the waters.  He knew of the cold waters, the fierce waves, and the terrible tempests that would pummel the ship throughout the 344 day voyage.  Much in a similar way, we as children of God are on a perilous voyage through mortality and the Lord knows fully well of the dangers that we are surrounded by.  And the Lord, in his infinite love, tries to prepare us and guide us so as we can cross these mortal waters safely and reach our Promised Land.  Much like the Jaredites couldn't skip the sea-crossing experience to reach the Promised Land, we can't skip mortality if we want to become more like our Heavenly Father.  Amid the storms of life we must remember that the Lord will prepare us against these things, and we must heed his guidance.  If we do we have the Lord's promise that if we are faithful "[The Lord] will bring [us] up again out of the depths of the sea".

Monday, April 10, 2017

Making Time or Finding Time

This week in our Book of Mormon class we covered some very sacred moments recorded in scripture.  We've spent a great deal of time in our reading of the Book of Mormon hearing prophesies about the coming of Christ, but now we've reached the moment we've been waiting for: Christ's ministry to the descendants of Lehi in the America's. 

Many moments in this narrative are unique and powerful, but one of the greatest subtle teaching from Christ emphasizes the importance of finding time to do good and making time to do good.  The scriptures that highlight this principle come from 3 Nephi 17:4-9 which reads:

But now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them.
And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.
And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.
Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.
For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you.
And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude, with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.
Following his miraculous resurrection, Christ was doubtless very busy.  He had Apostles in the land of Palestine to continue to teach, the children of Lehi to visit, and unrecorded visits to the lost tribes of Israel to accomplish.  I'm certain that Christ knows fully well what having a busy schedule is like.  But here we see that amidst all that Christ has to do, he pauses when he notices the longing in their eyes.  They wanted to spend time with Him, the one they all knew of; but only now truly came to know.

Seeing their need Christ healed their sick, but in the following verses also blessed their children and administered the sacrament to them.  Christ took a great deal of time with the people.  He didn't rush them, but let them come to him individually if they needed healing.  He gave freely of his time as an example for us.  But Christ showed us that sometimes we have other things we need to do, but on the scales of importance can be outweighed by the need to do good for those around us.  Christ made time to do good, he didn't go about his life hoping that he would find time to do good.  If we don't make the time to do heavenly things, then surely earthly things will fill all of our time.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Remembering Covenants

In our Book of Mormon class this past week we delved into the 'War Chapters' of the Book of Mormon.  Behind the scriptural language and doctrinal teachings these chapters tell the tale of ancient warfare that took place over the course of over 15 years between the Nephite and Lamanite nations.

Central to this historical narrative is a Nephite military leader Moroni.  Moroni serves as a great leader to his people physically and spiritually.  In our discussion in class we took note of a particular passage wherein Moroni uses his coat to create the Title of Liberty.  This becomes a symbol for freedom and the purpose of the Nephites participation in this war.  Later in the history there is a passage concerning the title of liberty that highlights a great principle about covenants:
"And he [Moroni] did raise the standard of liberty in whatsoever place he did enter, and gained whatsoever force he could in all his march" (Alma 61:4)
Moroni in leaving to defend the Nephite people in a civil conflict made sure that wherever he went lifted the Title of Liberty.  The members of the Nephite army had covenanted to uphold that standard and to protect it with their lives.  The basis of the Title of Liberty rested on their commitment to God, freedom, peace, and their wives and children.  By raising the Title of Liberty everywhere he went, Moroni rekindled the flames of passion and commitment in those that had made that covenant.

We likewise need to be sure to remember our covenants and put ourselves in places that we can easily remember them.  A Nephite in need of remembering his covenants would be unlikely to find them in Lamanite territory and those that have made covenants will be unlikely to remember them if they are in unholy places.  While living in Utah right now there are reminders of covenants everywhere in the form of temples and churches.  I'm blessed to have the ample opportunity to remember and renew these covenants.

But this is not always the case.  Sometimes we enter the battlefield and can't easily remember our covenants and what God has promised to do for us if we are faithful.  It is in these times that we need to hoist our own Title of Liberty in whatever way we are able.  A background on your phone with a quote from the scriptures.  Having a picture of Christ around the house.  There are many ways we can remember Christ and remember our covenants.  And if we can simply remember and act accordingly, we will have heavenly aid in the spiritual battles we fight each and every day. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Words of God: A Spiritual Backbone

This week in our class we spent a good portion of our discussion on one truly devilish man: Korihor.  We don't know much of this man besides what attributes and attitudes he shows towards the Doctrine and teachings of Christ.  We learn from the scriptures of his flattering and pleasing doctrines of the here and now.  Korihor taught that the scriptures and holy records hold no importance for us, and he taught that “when a man was dead, that was the end thereof” (Alme 30:18). Korihor truly lived in the moment, and taught that there is nothing important in this life other than the self-gratification that we can receive from moment to moment. Korihor, and those that followed his teachings, placed restrictive blinders on their understanding of the world.  

But with this remarkable example of blinded focus on these earthly lives there is an equally remarkable example of eternal perspective.  This perspective is provided by the chief judge and prophet over the Nephite people: Alma.  Alma exemplifies eternal perspective, teaching boldly that he knows “ there is a God, and also that Christ shall come” (v. 39).  Alma knew that there is a lot more to this life than what is happening now, but that amazing this have happened and will happen by the goodness of God.  Alma also taught us that we “have all things as a testimony” that this is true (v. 41).  

I personally find it amazing that such a great example of perspective is given in such length for us to study.  In my study of the scriptures I have truly found that it has broadened my mind and enlarged my memory.  Korihor, who taught that the scriptures and words of the prophets were of no use, lacked any spiritual strength or moral backbone.  But Alma who took all things as a testimony of God, and studied and taught from the words of God's chosen servants, was able to stand firm in the face of opposition.  We likewise will become more like Alma or more like Korihor, as we either hearken or separate ourselves from the word of God.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Small Chapters, Big Doctrine

This week in my study of the Book of Mormon I was once again taught a profound truth by a simple passage.  Alma Chapter 6 is fairly unassuming as far as chapters go.  Only 8 verses long and it doesn't record the major doctrines or teachings that Alma had conveyed to his people.  This chapter is sandwiched in between two of the great sermons taught by Alma the Younger, the rebuking and internally questioning Alma 5, and the messianic Alma 7.  It would be easy, therefore, to skip over Alma Chapter 6 as merely a connecting chapter without any major doctrines contained therein. 

But in my study of Alma it is clear that at least one heavenly truth is found in verses 5 and 6, which read:
5. Now I would that ye should understand that the word of God was liberal unto all, that none were deprived of the privilege of assembling themselves together to hear the word of God.
6. Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God.
After Alma set the church in order in Zarahemla, the word of God was preached to everyone and made readily available for the common people.  But we learn that even amidst the preaching of the word there are many who miss the opportunity or deny the blessings that come from hearing the word of God.  Our lives can be much the same in our relationship with God.  He is forever liberal with us, blessing us day to day with the breath we have as King Benjamin taught us, but sometimes we miss out on the multitude of blessings for various reasons.

But I love that Mormon takes the time to include in verse 6 that the people of the church gathered in fasting and prayer for the welfare of those who didn't know the great blessings in store from having a relationship with God.  We can be the light that helps someone come to feel of that joy, or we can be the ones to help another notice the shower of heavenly blessings despite what the world may point out in the contrary.  The Book of Mormon truly does teach us how to be happy and how we are able to help others be happy.  We're not in this life alone, but we are here as a part of God's family.  It is our sacred privilege to help our brothers and sisters to experience the blessings of God. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Power of Perspective

In our class this week we covered quite the period of time in the Book of Mormon in a short two hours.  We covered the chapters from The Book of Jarom to Chapter 17 of Mosiah.  Those books cover a period of time that is somewhere in the ballpark of 250 years.  And what was one of the most surprising things was how quickly that time was summarized.  In the Book of Omni alone you cover roughly 193 years of Nephite history in a scant 30 verses.  But amongst all of flying time we gain a great insight into the prophets that recorded their dealings and teachings for future generations by reading a few short notes from the compiler of these sacred texts: The prophet Mormon.

In this short record, Mormon gives us a glimpse into the final fate of the Nephites by stating succinctly:
"Behold I have witnessed almost all the destruction of my people...and it supposeth me that he will witness the entire destruction of my people" (Words of Mormon 1:1-2)
 In the midst of battles raging in all the land Mormon is, no doubt in haste, preparing this ancient record.  To me personally wartime doesn't seem like the ideal time to being publishing books, I feel that I would be more concerned with crafting weapons and defenses.  But here we have a glimpse into a trait that prophets of God all have, and that we can learn about as we read the Book of Mormon.  That trait is one of perspective.  Mormon surely knew that his words wouldn't be read by the Nephite people.  In verse 8 Mormon tells us that:
"My prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people."
Mormon was working off of faith and an understanding that his life, and his work, were but a small - but crucial - part of God's master plan for humanity.  All of the prophets, their words and their teachings, were compiled with the intent that the writer or common people of the time wouldn't be able to study their words as we are so freely able to do in our current day.  That to me is a mighty lesson in the power of perspective that is taught to us throughout the Book of Mormon.  If we can see time as much more than just our experience and a great plan that allows all of us to find a fullness of joy through Christ, our eyes will slowly be opened to allow us to see beyond ourselves.  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Qualifying the Called

In our discussion on the teachings and doctrines of the Book of Mormon this week, we discussed an interesting feature to thew writings of Jacob that I had never noticed before.  We noted that Jacob had some rather large shoes left to fill after his brother Nephi passed away.  The spiritual and physical leader and protector of the Nephite people, that had led them safely to the Promised Land, was no more with them.  When Nephi passed away it was truly an end to an era.

But in our class we discussed how this opened the doors to an indirectly taught doctrine of the Book of Mormon that gives us a glimpse into how our Father in Heaven works with his children.  Nephi was a bold teacher of spiritual truths.  As recorded in 1 Nephi 16, Nephi "had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth" when teaching his brothers about the vision of the Tree of Life.  Nephi did not mince words or beat around the bush but would cut straight to the heart of the subject, and the hearer, so that the process of spiritual healing could start sooner.

But it is interesting to note that with Jacob, who in calling his people to repentance was just as capable of teaching hard doctrine, took twelve verses as a prelude to his powerful sermon.  Jacob forthrightly told his people that "it grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker, that I must testify unto you concerning the wickedness of your hearts" (Jacob 2:6).  Jacob was naturally reluctant to have to speak to his people concerning such hard topics as the love of riches and the practice of having multiple wives and concubines.

But Jacob shows his true colors in verse ten when he states to his people that "notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must do according to the strict commands of God, and tell you concerning your wickedness and abominations".  Jacob knew that something had to be done, and doctrines needed to be taught to his people.  He also knew that it wasn't just a man-given responsibility, but it was a commandment from God that had been given to him.

In this weeks class I learned how God is able to work with us and our varied personalities to the benefit of his children.  God has called many prophets throughout time and they have all been different people in their likes, dislikes, and interests.  But they all had the God-given capacity to be able to complete what tasks were given them, notwithstanding the greatest of the tasks.  And this qualifying to their callings is something that we can experience throughout our lives as we strive to simply do the will of God.  No matter our calling, experience, or personality, God is able to work with us to accomplish his designs.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Isaiah and Zenos

This week in our Book of Mormon class we began our discussion on Isaiah's writings by examining a unique and beautiful aspect of this Prophet-poet's words.  This aspect was one of timelessness.  The words of Isaiah can be looked at as prophecy for his own day, Christ's time, or these last days, and will remain true under all three points of view.  For one passage that we touched on briefly in class I found added beauty by comparing the words from Isaiah 5 (or 2nd Nephi 15) and the words from Zenos in Jacob 5.  Of all the comparisons to make in these chapters my favorite is as follows:
What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? (2 Nephi 15:4)
But what could I have done more in my vineyard? Have I slackened mine hand, that I have not nourished it? (Jacob 5:47)
 The Lord poses the powerful rhetorical question to the house of Israel (2 Nephi 15:3, Jacob 5:1) with the implied answer that the Lord, in all situations, does all that he can for his covenant people.  The Lord doesn't slacken his hand or withhold his graces from any.  After our discussion on the timelessness of Isaiah I found it beautiful and comforting to find such a passage in the writings of Isaiah.  The Lord won't just do everything in his power in Isaiah's day, or in Christ's day, but is just as willing to aid us in our own lives and in our modern-day struggles.  There are many things to be learned from Isaiah, and I feel I've merely scraped the surface of the meanings of some of his passages.  But as I've delved into his words I've found great, yet simple, treasures of knowledge and understanding about how God worked anciently, and how I can look for God to work in my life today. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Isaiah's Importance

For many within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a strange relationship exists between the reader of scripture and the writings of the ancient Hebrew-poet Isaiah.  Members of the church understand that Isaiah's writings are important; Christ himself approves the writings of Isaiah.  Of the prophets in the Book of Mormon, none treasure or desire to share the words of Isaiah more than Nephi, son of Lehi.

Nephi truly was an inspired man that understood the importance of the scriptures, and knew Isaiah's important prophesies about the Savior of the world.  While teaching his brothers about Christ, Nephi chose, out of all the scripture at his disposal, to teach from the writings of Isaiah.  He did this "that [he] might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer".  To Nephi we can learn that Isaiah's writings have the ability to help us believe in Christ and build our faith in him.  It is clear that the writings of Isaiah strengthened Nephi's testimony, for later in his record he states emphatically that "[Isaiah] verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him."

Nephi, in continuing to talk about the coming of Christ says that he now writes "some of the words of Isaiah, that whoso of my people shall see these words may lift up their hearts and rejoice for all men. Now these are the words, and ye may liken them unto you and unto all men."  The key phrase is to liken.  The words of Isaiah must be experienced, not merely read.  That is Nephi's exhortation to us, to come unto Christ by reading, applying, and then teaching the words of Isaiah.  Nephi, and his great faith, came by this method and it will work in our lives just as it worked in his.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Nephi's Lamentation

Of all the purposes in the Book of Mormon, the first and foremost is to be able to come unto Christ and be made perfect in him that we might be able to live in the presence of God again some day.  This means that of the teachings and doctrines in the Book of Mormon grace and the atoning power of Christ is taught foremost by its principle authors.  One of the greatest testimonies of Christ and his atoning power comes from 2nd Nephi chapter 4.  Nephi, in verse 18, laments his own mortal frailties by exclaiming:

I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

Nephi understands mortal temptations and hardships.  The stories of 1st and 2nd Nephi are clear testimonies of that fact.  But after his exclamation of weakness and temptation, he turns the coin over in verse 20 and looks at all of his experiences through the lenses of Christ and his atonement by stating:
 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.
Weakness and temptation has the power to tear us down if we turn from God, but it provides an opportunity to rise and strengthen our faith if we turn towards Christ.  This process of being supported by God is a slow and steady process of building us and molding us into the people that God has in mind for us.  Nephi, through his reliance on God, became a spiritual rock for his family in the face of adversity; while Laman and Lemuel became spiritually frail and broken.  I know that through Christ, we can be strong and stable even when we are encompassed about by the woes of the world.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Life-Changing Study

Hello All!

This week my desire for this post is to combine modern and ancient scripture.  There have been two main things that I have spent time studying this week.  One, a vision recorded by Lehi in the Book of Mormon; and the other, a worldwide devotional given by President Russell M. Nelson to the Young Single Adults of the world.  I found a message that was both insightful and beneficial in both accounts.  But I wish to begin by sharing a short quote from the worldwide devotional and then tying it to the events of Lehi and his family surrounding his incredible vision.  The quote it as follows:
"Now, if you are serious about rising up as a true millennial, I urge you to study the lives and teachings of these 16 prophets of God. That study will change your life."
 President Nelson, following this recommendation continues to talk about principles that he has learned from various prophets of these latter-days.  But I love the principle and the promise that he teaches here: that if we study the lives and the teachings of the men and women that are chosen of God to lead and guide us, we will experience mighty changes in our lives that will mold us into the people that God wants us to become.  This is an eternal principle that I noticed as well in my study of Lehi's vision, and specifically the events surrounding it.

Long before the birth of Christ prophets knew of him, his life, and his sacred mission to save mankind.  One such prophet, that I mentioned previously, was Lehi, who lived 600 years before the birth of Christ.  Lehi, after taking his family into the wilderness at the command of the Lord, is granted a vision of the Tree of Life.  In this vision he saw multitudes of people, including members of his own family, make choices that either gave them greater light and knowledge or lead them into mists of darkness and forbidden paths.  Lehi's vision took place in a dream and, as all dreams have the tendency of being, was difficult to convey to others.  This is evident by Nephi's desire to understand and see what his father saw.  He didn't comprehend fully from another's experience the magnitude of the vision; so he sought to learn and experience for himself.  We read about his experience in 1 Nephi 11:1
"For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot."
 Nephi pondered and applied the teachings of his father, and by so doing gained great treasures of knowledge and understandings about the Savior and himself.  We can gain that same understanding about the Savior and our own lives as we study.  But that study isn't limited to ancient scriptures.  President Nelson promises us those same blessings and the same life changing knowledge of who the Savior is as we learn of the modern prophets and apostles that the Lord has chosen in these last days. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Keep My Commandments

Hello all!

As part of a class I'm taking at BYU I have the wonderful opportunity to continue posting my musings and thoughts upon various gospel topics; all centered on the Book of Mormon.  This means a fresh start to my Book of Mormon study for a fresh new year.

I was pleased to read through what is quite possibly the best known part of the Book of Mormon: the first few chapters.  The stories and the doctrines taught here are a wonderful preface to the rest of the record.  Nephi, the principle author, covers things such as the birth, ministry, and death of the Messiah, the blessings of the righteous, warnings to those falling into the mists of darkness, and the eternal principles upon which our salvation is dependent.  There are many great and wonderful things taught in the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon.  But one that stood out to me was a single word in a common phrase of scripture found in 1 Nephi 2:22 which reads:

"And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren."
 The Lord is speaking to Nephi and providing him with some wonderful counsel.  As a part of this counsel the Lord says to Nephi "keep my commandments".  And upon this reading I noticed that the Lord didn't simply say "keep the commandments".  I think in the previous readings I mentally substituted the word 'my' for the word 'the', and thereby missed a great spiritual truth.  There were a great deal of things that Nephi was commanded to do that I personally haven't been commanded to do.  And likewise, there are many things that God has prompted me to do that Nephi never had to worry about.

There are "The Commandments" that are given generally to humanity.  But there are the smaller commands that the Lord gives personally that are just as important to keep.  We need to be earnestly seeking and looking for these personal commandments, for indeed they are the key to personal growth.  The Lord has set a standard in the church, but that standard is not exaltation.  When we live that standard, as best as we are able to in our mortal existence, we should be searching to be better, to do better, and to aspire to a more holy way of life.  And as has been promised repeatedly in the scriptures, those who seek shall find. God has wonderful things in store for us, and growth experienced in keeping "The Commandments" is just the beginning of the wonderful path to a life like our Heavenly Father's.