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.