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.