Monday, December 30, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 21

Today’s scripture study is on 2 Nephi 21, comparable with Isaiah 11.

This is the chapter of Isaiah quoted to Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni, telling him that it was about to be fulfilled, which means it’s important for our day!  So let’s take this thing apart!

The first verse talks about a rod which will “come forth…out of the stem of Jesse.” We know from the Doctrine and Covenants that the stem of Jesse means Jesus Christ.  We also know that the rod that comes forth from the stem is a servant of Christ who descends partly from Jesse and partly from Ephraim, “or the House of Joseph.” According to the scripture, a great deal of power will be laid on his shoulders.  Isaiah tells us that this servant will have the Spirit of Christ resting on him as well as the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the spirit of the fear of the Lord (v2).

“And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears. But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 2 Nephi 21:3-5

Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated, “Are we amiss in saying that the prophet here mentioned is Joseph Smith, to whom the priesthood came, who received the keys of the kingdom, and who raised the ensign for the gathering of the Lord’s people in our dispensation? And is he not also the ‘servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power’? (D&C 113:4–6.) Those whose ears are attuned to the whisperings of the Infinite will know the meaning of these things” (Millennial Messiah, 339–40).  So we’re pretty sure that the rod and branch mentioned in this scripture means the Prophet of God. 

In verses 6-9, Isaiah talks about lots of hereditary enemies (wolf and lamb, leopard and kid, lion and calf, cow and bear) living and eating together in peace and, particularly, the lion eating straw like the ox.  It also talks about small children playing in ordinarily dangerous places (asp’s hole, cockatrice’s den) without taking any harm.  Finally, no one will hurt or destroy at the “holy mountain” (the temple), because the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters covering the sea.  This, I believe, is a reference to the time referred to as the Millennium, or that thousand years during which the Lord himself is supposed to reign personally over the earth. 

In verse 10, the root of Jesse is discussed again.  In the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn that this person “is a descendant of Jesse, as well as of Joseph, unto whom rightly belongs the priesthood, and the keys of the kingdom, for an ensign, and for the gathering of my people in the last days.”  According to the website Daily Bible Study, The English word ensign is derived from a French word meaning a sign. The term was originally used primarily for military identification items ranging from badges (a modern-day example is shown below) to banners and signal flags. An ensign, or ensign-bearer, was also sometimes used as a term for someone who carried, or who was responsible for, a flag or banner. The word "ensign" is used to translate two Hebrew words of the Scriptures (pronounced) oth, meaning a signal, or beacon, and nace meaning a flag or signal.”  In other words, we’re talking about a prophet (potentially in Joseph Smith’s line, but maybe not) who acts as a signal of the people, someone they will, almost of necessity, look to.  The non-Hebrews (Gentiles) will look to him and they will find a glorious kind of rest in doing so.

Finally, the last few verses, 11-16 detail the gathering of a remnant.  Specifically, that the Lord will decide to gather his chosen people a second time, recovering all of those that are left, scattered throughout the nations, as he said they would be.  Joseph Smith was given keys relating to gathering scattered Israel on April 3rd, 1836.  Also, Ephraim will no longer envy Judah (like it did in Isaiah’s time) and Judah will no longer vex Ephraim (like it did in Isaiah’s time).  Together, they will reclaim the lands of Israel and make recovery of his chosen people that much easier.  What an amazing time to be in!

Applying This Scripture To My Life

This scripture means OUR TIME, which means US.  This is stuff that is happening now or has happened recently.  It’s stuff that should be a sign to us to prepare ourselves.  The Second Coming of the Lord is coming very soon.  We have to be ready so as not to be caught off guard.

Also, as a side note, I absolutely love the poetic feel of this chapter.  I think, as well as being a prophet, Isaiah must have been a poet.  Given all that he prophesied about and the beautiful imagery he used, it’s no wonder Nephi’s soul delighted in his words.

What’s your opinion of this chapter in the Book of Mormon?  What would you say it means in your life?  Do you agree or disagree with me regarding the poetic feel of Isaiah?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 20

Today, we’ll be examining 2 Nephi 20, which is comparable with Isaiah 10.

The first thing we need to take note of with this chapter, is the chapter heading, which reads, “Destruction of Assyria is a type of destruction of wicked at the Second Coming – Few people shall be left after the Lord comes again – Remnant of Jacob shall return in that day – Compare Isaiah 10.”

According to The Book of Mormon Student Manual and the Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, much of chapters 19 and 20 are given over to explaining how Judah and Assyria will be punished for making an alliance together, since the Lord warned against this through his prophet, Isaiah.  First of all, the condition of the land is noted.

  • People decree unrighteous decrees (v1)
  • People write about the suffering they created themselves (v1, personal translation)
  • They prevent the poor and the disabled from obtaining justice (v2)
  • They take the rights from the poor so that they can hurt the vulnerable and defenseless (v2)

I notice that this list contains things that people of our day do now.  Contrast this with speech given by Alma the Elder prior to baptizing the people of King Noah. 

"Behold, here are the waters of Mormon and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life— Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?" (Mosiah 18: 8-10, emphasis added)

The Lord doesn’t want us to treat the poor and needy like a food source.  He wants us to be there to help and take care of them, just as he would do if he was here in person. 

Anyway, Since Ahaz went against the commandment of God, Assyria is going to be like The Lord’s paddle and Judah is about to be spanked (v5)!  However, once he’s done punishing Judah, the Lord plans to turn around and punish Assyria for its pride.  According to Isaiah, Assyria is just a tool in the Lord’s hands.  Like an axe or a saw that boasts they can cut wood better by themselves, without the hand that wields them, Assyria is about to fall.  According to Isaiah, they will be destroyed in a single day and there will be so few left that a child could count them. (v 16-19)

After this, Isaiah says, a remnant of Israel will remain on the earth and, eventually, will be restored to its rightful place.   Why?  Because they will remember their God (v20).  So, the Lord advises the children of Israel not to fear Assyria.  Yes, Israel is about to be beaten by Assyria, and, yes, they will be enslaved, just like they were in Egypt.  After a while, though, they will be freed.

Interestingly, at the end of this chapter, Isaiah provides a list of the towns to be conquered by Assyria.  In order, they are Aiath, Migron, Michmash, Geba, Ramath, Gibeah, Gallim, Laish, Anathoth, Medmenah, Gebim, and finally Nob, where the Lord says he will be “hewn away.” Looking at a map, this provides a comparatively straight line from the country’s border to Jerusalem itself.  So, the whole point of invading Judah for Assyria is to take down Jerusalem.  Before he can do more than threaten it, however, Assyria will be destroyed.

Now, looking back at the chapter heading, I remember that this is supposed to be how things happen during the Second Coming as well.  The people of the earth will look on the poor and needy as having no rights and, as a result, just like Assyria, the Lord will burn it in a single day.

Isaiah used the fall of Assyria as a type and shadow of the destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming. Elder Bruce R. McConkie instructed readers of this passage how to arrange and understand the writings in the context of the Second Coming: “It is Isaiah, speaking of the Second Coming, who says: ‘And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day.’ So it is said of the day of burning when the vineyard is cleansed. ‘And [the fire] shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body,’ the account continues. ‘And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them.’ The wickedness of men is so widespread, and their evils are so great, that few—comparatively—shall abide the day. ‘And it shall come to pass in that day’—the day of burning, the day when every corruptible thing is consumed, the day when few men are left—‘that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.’ (Isa. 10:17–21.) They shall be gathered after the coming of the Lord” (The Millennial Messiah [1982], 315–16).

The Book of Mormon Student Manual

Applying the Scripture to My Lif

The Lord has often suggested that the Second Coming of the Savior would arrive like a thief in the night.  If we’re not prepared, it will catch us off guard.  I guess the best message I can get from this chapter is to be aware of how I treat those with less than I have or who need more than I need.  Especially if I don’t want to be among those gathered for burning at the Last Day.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 19

I’m attempting to keep plugging through these Isaiah chapters (just six more to go, including this one!), so here is 2 Nephi 19 which is comparable with Isaiah 9.  Much of my understanding of this chapter comes almost directly from the Institute’s Book of Mormon student manual and, since I struggled a great deal for an understanding of the first verse of this selection, I want to begin this section with a quotation directly from the book.

As the Assyrians swept down against the alliance of Israel (Ephraim) and the Syrians, they destroyed Damascus and captured the northern region of Israel, later called Galilee (see 2 Kings 15:27–31). The text in 2 Nephi 19:1 refers to this occurrence as a “vexation” that brought “dimness.” In spite of this invasion and the threat it posed for the rest of Israel and for Judah in the south, Isaiah prophesied of the coming of the Messiah to this region as the coming of “a great light” (2 Nephi 19:2). The lands inherited by the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali were in northern Israel, or Galilee, where Jesus was raised and spent most of His ministry. Matthew and John saw the fact that the Messiah dwelt in the area of Galilee as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (see Matthew 4:12–16; John 1:5).

I also want to deconstruct some of the names Isaiah says the Savior will be given.

  • Wonderful – I think this name is used because the Savior performed the Atonement which allowed us the ability to repent of our sins and come back home.  That’s pretty wonderful, don’t you think so?
  • Counselor – In my opinion, the Savior is given this name for a variety of reasons.  First, thanks to the Atonement, nobody knows us better than he does.  Therefore, he is our first and best counselor when we need a listening ear.  Second, the Lord spent his life in teaching and being a good example.  Therefore, we are wise if we follow his counsel.  Third and perhaps most important, we are told that the Savior will be our “advocate” during judgment (1 John 2:1).  This effectively means that the Savior is our defense attorney.  Sweet, right?
  • The Mighty God – Jesus takes his authority from the Father.  Father was the architect and Jesus was the construction foreman.  He is listed as second in the Godhead along with the Father and the Holy Ghost.  Therefore, this is his rightful title.
  • The Everlasting Father – According to the Relief Society Manual on the Teachings of Joseph F. Smith, Jesus takes the name “Father” for a variety of reasons.  To sum up: 1) because he was the creator of heaven and earth.  2) those who “abide in the gospel,” and are reborn in him through baptism.  3) Since Jesus is the Father’s representative on earth, He has been pleased to give his title to his Son.
  • The Prince of Peace – “Lastly, with the phrase ‘Prince of Peace,’ we rejoice that when the King shall come, there will be no more war in the human heart or among the nations of the world. This is a peaceful king, the king of Salem, the city that would later become Jeru-Salem. Christ will bring peace to those who accept him in mortality in whatever era they live, and he will bring peace to all those in his millennial and postmillennial realms of glory” (Christ and the New Covenant, 80–82, as quoted from the Book of Mormon Student Manual).

Anyway, the Father is planning to send Christ to give his kingdom order and establish it with judgment and justice forever.  This prophesy has been sent to all of Israel, including Ephraim and those who reside in Samaria who are proudly saying things like, “This building that fell down will be rebuilt better and those trees that got cut down will be replaced with better trees.  So the Lord is sending Assyria (“the adversaries of Rezin”) to humble Ephraim. The Syrians will come first and the Philistines will come afterward.  Together, they will conquer Israel (Ephraim).  Even considering this, the Lord is still angry with Ephraim.  Here, it says something that could have more than one meaning.  Quoting from the Book of Mormon Student Manual, “While the phrase ‘his hand is stretched out still’ is most often an expression of righteous anger, it is elsewhere portrayed as a hand of mercy (see 2 Nephi 28:32; Jacob 6:4–5).” The main reason for this is that the people won’t ask the Assyrians for help, but they will also forget to turn to their God.  Therefore, the Lord intends to cut them off.  According to Isaiah, those that should be teaching the rising generation to follow the Lord their God and abide by his precepts are leading them down false and destructive paths, so that the Lord cannot take joy in any of them.  The land and people will be so dark that they won’t even think to save their own siblings.  The hunger will be so great that people will be willing to eat their own flesh. 

Applying the Scripture to My Life.

Speaking as daughter, wife and mother, I understand that I have a responsibility to my family.  My job is to teach them to seek their Father-in-Heaven when times are tough, and to do so myself.  I understand that the Lord will not look lightly on my failure to raise them with their eyes looking in his direction. 

I also want to say that I rejoice with everyone else at the inclusion of a Savior and Redeemer in the Plan of Salvation.  I’m grateful to the Lord for all he has done to help me.  I hope one day to look Him in the face and tell him personally.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 18

Again, I hope you’ll accept my apologies for the length of time between postings.  However, there’s no time like the present for repentance so let’s get to it.  Today we’ll be studying 2 Nephi 18, which is comparable with Isaiah 8.

Isaiah is commanded by the Lord to obtain a large roll of paper or parchment and write in it with a “man’s pen” concerning “Maher-shalal-hash-baz.”  So, Isaiah hires Uriah the priest and Zechariah (a prophet of the Old Testament) to record, then goes to his wife and, long story short, they conceive and she bares a son that the Lord tells him to call Maher-shalal-hash-baz" (the footnotes tell us this means “destruction is imminent”)  His elder son is named Shear-jashub (meaning “a remnant will return”).  He is told that this son won’t be old enough to call for his parents by their parental titles before Damascus and Samaria will be conquered and despoiled by Assyria.

Furthermore, the Lord tells Isaiah that the reason this is happening is because the people refuse the “waters of Shiloah” but rejoice in the alliance between Damascus and Samaria.  The waters of Shiloah is a reference to the Pool of Siloam where, in the New Testament, Christ sent the man who was born blind to wash.  According to Wikipedia, “The Gospel of John suggests that it was probably used as a mikvah (ritual bath), although mikvahs are usually much smaller in size”  A mikvah is something like a baptismal font, wherein the sins are symbolically washed away by full immersion in water.  In other words, the people of the kingdom of Israel have greater confidence in the power of the king’s alliance with Damascus than in the power of faith and repentance to save them.  So the Lord intends to use Assyria to humble Israel.  The Lord says that the “flood” of Assyria will pass through Judah and cover the land.  If they continue to rely only on each other, they will be broken apart.

The Lord then instructs Isaiah not to follow the way of the people.  If everyone else is talking about confederacy, Isaiah is flatly not to talk about confederacy and not to be afraid of the things they fear.  Instead, he should talk about the Lord and be afraid of displeasing him.  The Lord will protect Isaiah while the rest of Israel (both kingdoms) are being destroyed by outside forces.  Instead, Isaiah is directed to strengthen the faithful.  When they start suggesting checking with wizards and spiritualists, Isaiah is to remind them that the real person they should be checking with is the Lord if they really want to “hear from the dead” and with the scriptures.  If they aren’t talking with each other regarding these words, it’s because the light of truth isn’t with them.  They will “pass through it hardly bestead and hungry.”  The word “bestead” here means oppressed according to the King James Dictionary.  It means that Assyria will oppress them and they will become hungry for their old life again.  They will, as Isaiah says, curse their king (Pekah) and their God (probably a reference to some idol) and look upward toward their true God.  They will also look to the earth and see darkness, anguish and trouble.

Applying the Scriptures to My Life

I feel impressed by this scripture.  I feel that this scripture is effectively telling me how to live.  I’d say more, but I’m fighting a migraine.  Just the fact that I made it through this far is a miracle.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 17

This week, we’re taking a look at 2 Nephi 17 which is comparable with Isaiah 7.

This scripture starts off with a kind of story told by Isaiah.  In the days of King Ahaz, two kings, Rezin of Syria and Pekiah of Israel (the other half of it actually) joined forces against Judah.  They went to battle at Jerusalem but were unable to conquer it.  Then the news was brought to Ahaz that Ephraim (Pekiah) and Syria (Rezin) were allies.  When they learned this, Ahaz and all his people were terrified (“as trees of the wood are moved with the wind [v2].”). This story is documented in 2 Kings 16, where we are told that Ahaz, who came to the throne at the age of twenty, didn’t follow the ways of the Lord, as his ancestor David had before him (2 Kings 16:2).  We learn further in 2 Chronicles, that Rezin and Pekiah had already defeated Ahaz twice previously (2 Chronicles 28: 5-6).

At this time, the prophet Isaiah was sent to meet with King Ahaz.  He was to tell the king not to be afraid of Rezin and Pekiah or of their plans to set a puppet king in Ahaz’ place, because their plans would never come to fruition (“It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass [v7].”) Within sixty-five years Ephraim would be wiped out to the point where they would no longer be thought of as a people.  This prophecy began to be fulfilled twelve years later when the Assyrians conquered and relocated the kingdom of Israel(2 Kings 17:6).  The reason for this was simply that they were led by men, whereas Judah belonged to God and was ruled by Him.

However, the Lord made Ahaz a further offer. He offered him whatever sign he required, from the depths to the heights above.  Ahaz declined this offer, saying he had no need to make the Lord prove himself.  However, Isaiah knew this for what it was.  Ahaz had already made up his mind to reject the Lord.  His insistence that he didn’t wish to “tempt God” was just a smoke screen.  Isaiah asked Ahaz if it wasn’t enough for him to fool his own people that he should try to do the same thing with God.  Then he went ahead and gave him a sign anyway.

The sign given was that of the upcoming birth of Christ among other things.  Here’s the list.

  • A virgin would conceive and bear a son.
  • He would be named Immanuel, or “God with us.”
  • He would eat butter and honey (normal food), until he was old enough to know to choose good over evil.
  • Before he would do this, the children of Israel would lose both her kings (both Ahaz and Pekiah would be dead).
  • Ahaz’ people would become subject to the king of Assyria (even though Ahaz would attempt to bribe him with riches from the palaces and the temple[2 Chronicles 28:19-21].).
  • Swarms of looting soldiers, like flies and bees, would afflict Judah from Egypt and Assyria.
  • Judah will be completely stripped of people, like a person shaving all his body hair off.
  • Such people as used to keep large flocks and herds of animals shall count themselves wealthy if they have a single cow and two sheep.
  • However, even with such a small number of cows, there will still be plenty of milk and everyone left in the land will eat butter and honey.
  • Land normally used for farming will be rendered useless by thorns and briars.  So it will only be good for grazing cattle.

I can’t help but wonder how much differently I might have handled things if the Lord’s prophet came and offered me a sign (not that I’m requesting one).  I hope that, in whatever humility I then possessed, I would suggest that the Lord do as he pleased.  I, as his servant, would accept whatever gifts he chose to give me, just like the plants in the field accept water from the sky or from sprinklers or watering cans.  Ahaz made the mistake of thinking that God was just a story his dad used to tell him to scare him into obedience.  Newsflash, Ahaz, ol’ buddy.  Do you believe he’s real now?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 16

Apologies to all those of you who read this regularly.  Due to large amounts of stress, I will only be publishing a new entry to this blog once a week, on Sundays.  Now, on to 2 Nephi 16.

Isaiah tells us that the year king Uzziah died (about 773 BC) he had a vision.  In it, he saw the Lord sitting on a throne set on high and, “his train filled the temple,” which is a reference to his royal robe.  Above this he saw a number of what he calls “seraphim” which, to most people the world over calls to mind either angels or Cupid.  There are a fair number of these above the Lord and each have six wings; one pair covering each face, one pair covering each pair of feet, and one pair enabling flight.  One of these spoke to another.  “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts,” he said, “the whole earth is full of his glory.”  As soon as this seraph spoke, the posts of the door moved and the house filled with smoke. 

At this Isaiah felt very uncomfortable, being a fallible human who had made a number of mistakes and, by the law of Moses, was therefore unclean.  Judging by his comment of having “unclean lips,” I’m betting that he had said a number of things he probably shouldn’t have said.  Anyway, Isaiah believed he was about to be struck down for viewing the Lord of Hosts while in this unclean state.  When Isaiah made his comment about being unclean, a seraph took a live coal from the altar with tongs and touched it to Isaiah’s mouth, declaring that his sin was removed. 

Then the Lord asked who would “go for us.”  Unhesitant, Isaiah spoke up, requesting to be sent.  The Lord’s commandment?  Isaiah was to go and tell the people “Hear ye indeed, but they understood not; and see ye indeed but they perceived not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes—lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts and be converted and be healed.”  Isaiah wanted to know how long he would need to say these things.  The Lord’s reply, until the cities and houses are destroyed and all the people are either dead or gone for, says he, “there shall be a great forsaking in the land.”  However, later, a tenth shall return.

I found translating the Lord’s commanded pronouncement particularly interesting.  Particularly the first sentence.  “Hear ye indeed, but they understood not; and see ye indeed but they perceived not.”  It’s interesting because quite often we hear just fine but don’t understand what we heard, or we see just fine but don’t perceive at all.  The main reason for this isn’t that our eyes and ears aren’t working but that we, ourselves, aren’t paying any attention or giving any thought to what we are seeing and hearing.  Understandably, the Lord is feeling frustrated.  Wouldn’t you if you were trying to warn someone that their behavior was going to get them into trouble?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 15

Today we’ll be having a look at 2 Nephi 15, which may be compared with Isaiah 5.  Don’t forget that you have the ability to comment (anonymously if you wish) about this entry, which is likely to be fairly long.

This chapter starts off with Isaiah declaring that he will sing a song of his beloved, who owns a vineyard that is situated on a fruitful hill.  He has done everything he can think of to protect and provide for his vineyard.  He has built a stone wall around it, incorporating a thorny hedge, meant to keep out critters intent on eating the fruit within.  He has gathered all the stones from the ground of the vineyard, so that the roots will have plenty of room to spread out and get lots of good nutrients from the soil.  He has planted the best, hardiest richest and most delicious grapes in the vineyard from vines he bought from someone else’s vineyard of grapes, so that the harvest will be good.  He built a tower in the vineyard, which would provide him a place to live and a place from which he could watch over it and see whether it was doing well and if the defenses were holding up against thieves and animals.  Finally, he installed a wine-press in the vineyard in anticipation of a good harvest.  After all of that work, I think the person in question has a right to expect a good harvest, don’t you?  Then he watched over it, believing that all this preparation would mean he would put away plenty of grape juice (called wine at the time) for his family’ food storage.  However, when the season of grapes arrived, his vineyard produced “wild” fruit.  This means that the fruit was too acidic, sour, bitter, mostly seed or even rotten to be made into wine.  The point is that none of it could be used to make grape juice that anyone would want to drink.  Understandably frustrated, the vintner plans to allow the hedge to be eaten up, pull down the wall, allowing it to be “trodden down.  Then, he decides that the entire vineyard will be laid waste.  He will allow the fertile ground to grow weeds.  He will stop cultivating the vines and will also command the clouds to withhold their rain. 

Isaiah then interprets the above “song” by telling us “the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the House of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant; and he looked for judgment, and, behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry.”  What this basically means is that the Lord is the beloved of whom Isaiah is speaking and the vineyard is Israel.  The Lord has put a lot of work into them and has expected their gratitude to be shown in works of kindness and compassion.  He hasn’t seen it and, if he continues not to see it, they will be punished.

There are a number of “wo”s in here.  “Wo” is a word that, in the bible usually means “woe”  which means sorrow or great distress.  So, sorrow for those that join house to house, They shall be desolate and their cities will be empty.  Their fields and crops will give them less than they should.  Ten acres of vineyard will only produce around eight gallons of liquid (a bath) and a donkey load of seed (a homer) will produce about the same amount of grown product (an ephah [see your Bible Dictionary]).  Sorrow for people who only get up early in the morning to get drunk all day.  Isaiah lists a number of horrible things that will happen to the people because of this behavior.  But I’m not going to get into that here.  Sorrow for people whose immoral or grossly unfair behavior (iniquity) is a direct result of their pride in their own achievements or appearance (vanity) and, of course, their minor sins.  Sorrow for those who decide that what is actually bad is good and vise versa.  Sorrow for those who think themselves wise and prudent (but probably aren’t).  Sorrow, again, for those who are proud of their ability to handle their liquor.  Sorrow, also, for those who justify wickedness for money and take the virtue of the righteous away from them.  A fair number of these things are still considered to be evil today. 

Isaiah says that all these will be devoured in fire like the remains of a newly reaped field of grain. This, says Isaiah, is why the Lord’s wrath is kindled against his people and why he has lifted his hand against them to hurt them.  Even though disasters have destroyed the land in which they lived, the Lord is still angry with them.   He will prepare an “ensign” (pronounced /en-sign/ not /en-sun/) or standard to the nations from far away.  He will “hiss unto them (the nations, I think) from the end of the earth”. I think this means they will hear rumors about this “ensign.”  They will gather swiftly against Israel (without changing or loosening their clothing) and they will have lots of dangerous weapons and will roar “like a lion” and the sky and the earth will be dark because of their sheer numbers.

I’m not entirely sure, but I think this may be a reference to the final battle referenced in Revelations.  If you have an idea, which is probably as good as any I could claim to have, please share it in the comments section below. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 14

Today, we’ll be studying 2 Nephi 14, which may be compared with Isaiah 4.

This entry will be necessarily short, because the chapter is only 6 verse long.  However, I will do my best to try and explain the material in as detailed a manner as possible.

In verse 1, we learn that “In that day,” seven women will grab a single man and ask to be married to him.  They will promise to support themselves, only asking the man to take their “reproach.”  The traditional definition of the word “reproach” includes words like “disgrace,” “shame,” “sin,” and “punishment.”  Merriam-Webster defines it as “an expression of rebuke or disapproval, the act or action of reproaching or disapproving, a cause or occasion of blame, discredit, or disgrace, and one subjected to censure or scorn” (this last definition is less frequently used, today).  So, these seven women will request that they all be married to one man so that they will no longer be shamed.

In verse 2, Isaiah tells us that “the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious; the fruit of the earth excellent and comely to them that are escaped of Israel.”  I don’t know about you, but if I just escaped from somewhere that was being destroyed, I think I would feel that the branch of the Lord was beautiful and glorious and the fruit of the earth was excellent and comely.  It’s not that much of a stretch, really.

In verse 3, we are told that those who remain alive in Zion and Jerusalem will be considered as holy.  That makes me think that it will probably be pretty obvious that they were saved by miraculous means because of their righteousness.

Verse 4 tells us that the Lord will begin to purge the blood and “filth” or dirt, from Jerusalem by the spirit of judgment and burning.  That makes me think that, when the Lord returns during the Second Coming, all the people who aren’t clean will be forced from Jerusalem by the Lord himself, by one means or another.

Finally, verse 5-6 tell us that the Lord will create on every house and church in Zion “a cloud of smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night.  This is a direct reference to two separate incidents in the scriptures, one from the Bible and one from later chapters in the Book of Mormon (specifically the book of Ether) wherein the Lord led them as a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night.  This makes me think that the Lord will lead his people personally.  It also says that the glory of Zion will be defended and protected by a tabernacle which will provide them with shade from the heat and shelter from rain and storms. 

As this is a prophecy, I can’t claim to understand it all.  However, I hope I’ve explained it well enough for your purposes. 

Again, I’m sorry this entry had to be so short.  We’ll make up for it next time.  Until then.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 13

Today’s study comes from 2 Nephi 13, which can be reasonably compared with Isaiah 3.  Also, large thanks go to, without which the understanding of these scriptures would have been more difficult than it needed to be.

It’s pointed out by the above mentioned resource, that in the original translation of the Book of Mormon, the quotation of Isaiah was left almost completely intact, rather than being divided up into chapters, as it is now.

I wondered about what was meant when Isaiah says:

For behold, the Lord, the Lord of Hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem, and from Judah, the stay and the staff, the whole staff of bread, and the whole stay of water—

For one thing, what is “the stay and the staff” and what do they have to do with bread and water?  Book of Mormon Online quotes a book titled “Second Witness,” which does, basically, what we’re doing here, analyzing the Book of Mormon chapter by chapter.  It tells us that they refer to means of support, though it admits that this might be more related to social structure than societal support.  However, the list of roles in society that are to be removed gives us a pretty good idea that the Lord intends for Jerusalem to be completely without competent leaders and counselors.  It will, instead, be left with children and babies as puppet rulers, though not necessarily in a literal sense.  Since society will be thrown into figurative chaos, there will be a certain lack of respect between those that should have respect and those that should be shown it.  They will also frantically attempt to appoint rulers, without success.  Finally, Judah and Jerusalem will be utterly destroyed.  Only the righteous, according to Isaiah, wouldn’t have anything to fear.  Later, the leaders would be judged by the Lord for oppressing the common people.  The Book of Mormon Student Manual points out that this prophecy was brought to pass in 587 BC when Nebuchadnezzar took Israel into captivity roughly thirteen years after the Lehi family left Jerusalem.  Later on, in 70 AD, nearly 657 years later, the Romans razed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews to the four winds.

The next part of this chapter castigates the women of Zion for being vain and caring more about their appearances than about the Lord.  Judging from what’s written, Isaiah felt that they were behaving like street walkers (prostitutes).  The Lord will punish them by replacing their hair with scabby baldness and “[discovering] their secret parts” which makes me think of venereal diseases.  The Lord will also take away all their beautiful clothing, jewelry and accessories.  They will also lose their men to war and will be consumed by mourning for their loved ones.

Applying the Scripture to My Life

I’ve been told that those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  I can read a warning when it’s placed in my lap.  When the Second Coming arrives, I want to be counted among the righteous so that I don’t have to worry about the horrors promised to the wicked.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 12

Once again, I apologize for letting this go for so long.  The study of Isaiah is daunting for me.  However, we just had a really inspirational fireside, so let’s get to it, daunting or not.  Today, we’ll be studying 2 Nephi 12.

I was surprised, initially, at how interesting this chapter is.  A footnote in verse 2 points out that comparisons between the Book of Mormon and the King James Version of the Bible in the Isaiah chapters reveal differences in more than half of the 433 verses quoted.  Interestingly enough, 200 of those verses have the exact same wording.  Cool, right?  So, anyway, Isaiah starts out by saying that the following prophecies concern Judah and Jerusalem.  I don’t have any official explanation of this beyond my own belief that Judah and Jerusalem should have a personal interest in all the things Isaiah mentions in the following prophecy.

First of all, in verses 2 – 5, Isaiah uses the word “when,” which means during a given period of time.  I take this to mean that the following prophecy will happen when certain signs, which he will give us, happen.  He says the “mountain of the Lord’s house” will be established in “the top of the mountains.”  We already understand that the mountain of the Lord’s house is a reference to the temple and “top of the mountains” means Utah.  So, we know that when there are temples in Utah, and people from all nations say, “Let’s go visit the temple”  where the Lord will teach his people and they will make promises to walk in his ways. The reason Isaiah gives for this is that the Law will come from Zion, and the word of the Lord (Prophecy) will come from Jerusalem.  I assume this means because that’s where the Lord will be following his 2nd coming.  Verse 4 says He will judge all the nations, rebuking many individuals.  What’s more, there will be no war.  If Isaiah is to be believed (and he’s been right so far, so…) those in the military will give it up to become farmers.

Next, in verses 6-9 we learn the condition of the world just before the Second Coming.

  • People will believe that God has forsaken the world.  (v 6)
  • Some will rely on the offices of “soothsayers” for spiritual guidance (See Bible topical Guide “Sorcery”. v 6).
  • They will “please themselves in the children of strangers.” (v 6 Child molestation?)
  • They will have great wealth and be very warlike (v 7)
  • They will worship the work of their own hands (secularism? v8)
  • They will be very proud (v9)

Then we move to verses 10-17, which details their reactions when Christ returns to the earth.  Basically, they will be so ashamed of their actions that they will throw away their “idols” and go into hiding in caves and holes, because they’ll be afraid to meet their savior and look him in his face.  At the Second Coming, all men will be humble, either willingly or not.  The Savior alone will be exalted.  Verses 13-17 are devoted almost completely to detailing how much of the world will be humbled.  For me, it’s enough to just say all of it.

Finally, verses 18-22 give us some of the results of the Second Coming.

  • All idols will be abolished (v 18).
  • The proud and wicked will hide in caves and holes out of shame and fear that they will be smitten by the glory and majesty of the Lord. (v 19 & 21).
  • Man will throw away anything that has taken the place of God in his heart (v 20)
  • They will wonder why the Lord loves them even though they are wicked (v 22)

Applying the Scripture to My Life

Reading this, I’m trying to imagine being so wicked and so proud that I can’t abide the idea of even coming into the presence of the Lord at his Second Coming, let alone look into his face.  I’m trying to imagine being so wicked that I’d rather hide in a cave than chance meeting him and, to judge by Isaiah’s words, abjure the Lord from trying to save me, telling him that I’m not worth his time or his effort.  It’s hard to do.  That’s not something I want.  I desperately want to look into the face of Christ and hear him say that I was a good and faithful servant.  So, I imagine I should probably avoid the traits listed above.

What about you?  How would you say this scripture applies to your life.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 11

Today we’ll be looking at 2 Nephi 11.

Here is where Nephi stops quoting his brother Jacob.  He tells us Jacob has said lots more to his people, but Nephi has only written these most recently quoted items.  As this writing project (the Book of Mormon) isn’t, strictly speaking, really Nephi’s but the Lord’s, it’s fairly easy to guess that Nephi probably received prompting from the Lord to include what we’ve just studied under Jacob’s eloquently poetic turn of phrase.  So, when Nephi says what he’s written “sufficeth me,” what he really means is that he feels strongly that what he’s written of what Jacob has spoken to the people is enough for now. 

Instead, Nephi intends to give us more of the prophecies of Isaiah and this chapter is his introduction into the largest selection of Isaiah quotations in the Book of Mormon.  Here, too, Nephi gives us a few sentences worth of instruction in how to handle the information he’s about to give us. 

First, Nephi tells us he intends to “liken his words unto my people.(v2)”  Here’s the best definition that I’ve found of what that phrase means. “To liken the scriptures means to understand how the principles and doctrines apply to one’s own life and to use them to become more like the Savior (Teaching the Gospel: A Handbook, 33-34).”  Likening the scriptures to ourselves is a very valuable skill to have when you’re studying the scriptures.  It helps the passages take on a more real feeling, like it’s not just a book but a personal message, written just for you.

Second, Nephi informs us that Isaiah “truly saw my Redeemer. (v2)” This tells us that one of the reasons Nephi feels these passages are valuable is because they give information about the coming of the Savior.  I can almost imagine Nephi with a yellow highlighter pen, marking all the prophecies he felt had anything to do with the coming of Christ.  You don’t have to do that.  However, it pays, while you’re studying the upcoming passages to be on the lookout for those verses that describe him.  What kind of person is he supposed to be?  How will we know him?  Nephi adds that he delights in proving the truth of the Savior’s coming to his people.  This is the reason the Law of Moses was put into action in the first place, Nephi adds.

Third, Nephi says, “my soul delighteth in the covenants of the Lord which he hath made to our fathers. (v5)”  These covenants, or 2-way promises, are made to us as well.  So learning about them is as important to us as they were in Nephi’s time.  Also, Nephi points out that the covenants prove the character of the Lord. 

Finally, Nephi tells us he wants to prove the validity of Christ’s mission on earth.  In other words, he wants, as any good prophet and leader does, to lead his people to repent and access the atonement.  Nephi also points out that the existence of Christ, and by extension the atonement, proves the existence of God, which proves that our creation has a distinct purpose.

So, as we begin studying the Isaiah chapters over the next 14 chapters, remember to do the following.

  1. Figure out how the scripture applies to you.
  2. Look for information about the Savior.
  3. Look for information about the covenants of the Lord and find ways how that reveals the kind of person he is.
  4. Look for information about the atonement and how it proves the existence and love of God.

I want to add a final step, as we begin delving into this mine of spiritual information.  Find some place, a journal or notebook or whatever, and write it down.  In my opinion, personal revelation such as what you’re going to get from the next selection of Isaiah chapters is invaluable and should be saved.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 10

As promised, today we’ll look at 2 Nephi 10.

As you might remember, Jacob has just spent the past several chapters talking about a few chapters in Isaiah and what their meanings are.  Then he closed up and told everyone to go home and come back tomorrow.  Today, his assigned topic is “this righteous branch of which I have spoken. (v1)”

In this chapter, Jacob shows why his brother made him a high priest over the church.  He has the gift of prophecy.  First of all, Jacob recalls his audience’s attention to the promises made to them.  These promises pertain to physical things.  He has been shown that many of their descendants will die lacking a belief in Christ.  However, thanks to the mercy of the Lord, they will, later, be restored to their parents, who will be given the opportunity to teach them about their Savior.  For this reason, Jacob points out, Christ must be born among the Jews, the only group of people who would crucify their God.  If Christ did his miracles for any other nation, Jacob tells us, they would repent and realize he was their God.  However, the existence of “priestcrafts and iniquities” among the Jews will result in such pride that they will crucify him.  Priestcrafts, according to the LDS Guide to the Scriptures, means people who preach solely for money or worldly praise.  As for “iniquity,” M-W defines it as “gross injustice: wickedness,” or “a wicked act or thing: sin.”  Because of their wickedness, let’s just say that the Jews are in for a world of hurt.  Still, the Lord promises they will, one day, believe that he is the Christ (Greek for “anointed one” or Messiah).  Then they will be restored to their lands and the Gentile nations will help this to happen.  The Americas, however, will be the inheritance of the children of Lehi.  Eventually, the Gentiles will arrive there and will be blessed.  What’s more, they won’t have any kings.  Anyone who tries to put a king on the Americas will die.  The Lord will be the American Gentiles’ only king.    Likewise, anyone who fights against the children of God, whoever they are.  The Gentiles will become a trial for the descendants of Lehi to bear, but the Lord will soften their hearts.  Eventually, they will become like fathers to the children of Lehi.  Because of this, the Gentiles will be adopted into the house of Israel and the Americas will be set aside as choice for all those who worship the Lord. 


Now, reading all of that, we know that much of what Jacob mentioned this session, if not all of it, has taken place by the time we’re reading this.

  1. Many of the descendants of Lehi died without a belief in Christ, as seen in Mormon.
  2. Christ was born among the Jews who, due to their wickedness and their practice of preaching for the praise of their fellows, failed to believe he was who he said he was and put him to death by crucifixion, as recorded in the New Testament.
  3. Following this, the Jews underwent a series of horrible disasters, one of which involved the First Jewish-Roman War in 66 AD, about 33 years following the death of Christ, wherein the Jews revolted against the Romans, which revolt was quickly put down.  The Seige of Jerusalem in 70 AD resulted in the destruction of much of the temple and the plundering of many of the sacred items contained there, such as the Menorah.
  4. During the Jewish-Roman Wars (66-135 AD), more than 900 villages were destroyed along with much of the Jewish population, many of whom were either killed, sold into slavery or forced to flee.
  5. On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly recommended the adoption and implementation of the partition plan of Mandatory Palestine.  Shortly thereafter, in May of 1948, Medinat Yisrael or the State of Israel was officially created.
  6. Meanwhile, Europeans arrived in the Americas and proceeded to give the natives there a very hard time, as their ideas of land ownership by then were considerably different.
  7. No nation established on the American continents has yet been able to establish a king, not even Canada, which is technically is governed by Queen Elizabeth II, but she lives in England.

In any case, Jacob tells his people not to let any of this get them down, reminding them that they have the freedom to choose good or evil for themselves.  He suggests that they put themselves into harmony (reconcile) with the will of God rather than that of the devil or the flesh.  He reminds them that, after they do this, it is only by the grace of God that they are saved.  With this, Jacob closes with a sincere hope that, when they are resurrected, it will be to eternal life, where they will be allowed to praise God forevermore.  This, too, is my fervent hope and I leave it with you in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 9

My apologies for letting this go so long without putting up a new entry.  I guess I’m normal in some ways, in that I’m not always consistent about my scripture study.  Still, I’m here now and we need to pick up where we left off, namely, 2 Nephi 9.
We continue with Jacob’s conference talk.  I’m judging here that, since they didn’t have quite as many General Authorities, their conference talks were probably a lot longer.  Still, it’s nice that it’s broken up into more or less bite-sized pieces like this one is.  As before, this chapter is pretty long, so I’m going to try and sum up for you rather than try to explain each verse.  Even so, this entry is likely to be pretty long so, be prepared.
Now, Jacob has just finished reading several chapters of the book of Isaiah, namely Isaiah 49: 22-26; Isaiah 50; Isaiah 51, and Isaiah 52:1-2.  He claims the reason for this to be so that they will know about the covenants the Lord has made with the House of Israel and that he has talked with his prophets from the beginning, from generation to generation until the time comes that they are all “restored to the true church and fold of god; when they shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise. (v2)”  This last indicates to me that there is more than one land of promise.  You’ll remember that Israel initially thought that Canaan was “the land of promise,” meaning it was promised to them in a covenant.  However, frequently in the Book of Mormon, someone will say they have obtained “a land of promise,” with the same connotation.  Now, Jacob makes mention of “all their lands of promise.”  That is so cool to me to know that the Lord has more than one land of promise.  Maybe the whole earth is a land of promise.
Next, Jacob mentions that he knows many of them have searched “to know of things to come. (v4).”  This means they are studying their scriptures or, more specifically, the records of the prophets in the Old Testament, which would be much like us meticulously studying Revelations (which we’ll get to eventually).  It is in this context that Jacob speaks of “God” showing himself to the people in Jerusalem.  This is a reference to the Savior of the World.  Jacob says it is expedient that he should be among them.  I always believed the word “expedient” meant necessary.  Merriam-Webster tells us it means “suitable for achieving a particular end in a given circumstance.”  So, he didn’t have to live among the Jews.  He could actually have lived anywhere.  However, the Jews were the best place for him to come to achieve his end, so he chose to come there.
Jacob also notes “it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him. (v5)”  Again, I had a mistaken understanding about this statement, so I feel the need to explain it.  First of all, according to M-W, where the word “expedient” doesn’t mean necessary, the word “behoovedoes.  In this same passage, Jacob uses the word subject.  Now, being a big D&D fan, I understood the word “subject” to mean someone who is under the authority of someone else.  M-W agrees with this definition.  However, it’s the word “might” that makes this statement work.  So let’s translate.  It was necessary for the Lord to come under the authority of man and die for us, so that we all have the option to be under His authority.  If we’re under His authority, that means we take His name on us, serve him, always remember him and avail ourselves of the free gift of repentance.  In a sense, He becomes our lord and we willingly become His vassals or loyal subjects.  Honestly, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be subject to.  Can you?
Moving right along, Jacob next speaks of resurrection.  Without it, our bodies would remain in their graves to rot forever and our spirits would become subject to the devil and his followers.  This would be the inevitable consequences of being fallible mortal beings.  Without the atonement to restore our bodies and our spirits, our situations would be hopeless and the plan would fail.
It’s worthwhile here to examine Jacob’s definition of the word “death.”  There are two kinds of death, according to Jacob: temporal or physical death and spiritual death.  In this case, death means separation.  In physical death, our spirits are separated from our bodies.  In spiritual death, our spirits are separated from their God.  Thanks to the atonement, physical death is no longer a worry, because we are assured that “all men [will] become incorruptible and immortal, (v13)” 
Jacob then tells us that we’ll have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, uncleanness and nakedness.  To me, that calls to mind the first time I had to undress in a public locker room and how uncomfortable I felt walking around with no clothes on.  Our guilt and shame will be that obvious to us and, likely, to others who see us.  However, Jacob goes on, saying that the righteous will have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment and righteousness, “being clothed with purity.”  In other words, we won’t feel uncomfortable because we’ll remember our righteousness and it will also be obvious to us and others. 
In any case, Jacob warns us that the righteous will go on being righteous and the filthy will go on being filthy.  Here he compares the torment of the filthy to a burning lake of fire and brimstone.  Brimstone is an ancient reference to sulfur, which has a distinctive smell that might remind you of rotten eggs and tends to last for a long time.  So, think of a lake of lava, constantly burning, that stinks of sulfur.  Can you imagine the memory of your sins being so vivid that they are like a constant burning sensation and an ever present stink?  That’s what I think is meant by this simile provided by Jacob. 
Here, too, in verses 25 and 26, Jacob reminds us that the Lord has given a law and, with that law, comes punishment if we break it.  However, we know that, if we don’t have the law, we can’t be punished for not following it, therefore, there’s no condemnation on our heads.  All of this is thanks, again, to the atonement, which takes the law, that says ignorance is no excuse, and adds an element of mercy.  Suddenly, ignorance of the law is a definite excuse.
However, if you do have the law, according to Jacob, you have a responsibility to try to live it and to repent as often as necessary.  Jacob warns us in verse 28 of the “foolishness of men.”  There are two examples he provides: the Learned or scholars and the Rich or wealthy. 
Let’s look at the Learned first.  Jacob qualifies this, saying that being learned is good if you’re paying attention to the counsel of God.  However, if you take your knowledge to mean you’re wise, and forget to pay attention to God’s counsel, you’re really foolish and your knowledge doesn’t really get you anywhere.  The key to this is the word “wise,” which, as an adjective, Merriam-Webster’s defines as “marked by deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment.”  So, be very careful not to let the fact that you know lots of stuff lead you to believe that you understand everything, or have keen discernment and sound judgment unless you’re also paying attention to God’s counsel. 
Now, let’s look at the Rich.  In Jacob’s estimation, the problem with wealth is that it leads the owner to despise those with less than they have and persecute people who are submissive, mild tempered and moderate (meek).  There’s also the tendency to get so attached to your wealth that it becomes the be-all and end-all of your existence, like an idol or an addiction.  It’s hard, when you’re wealthy, to remember that real treasure doesn’t really have anything to do with money.
Next Jacob talks about the deaf who will not hear and the blind who will not see, so let’s look at them next.  We know that the physically deaf are unable to hear because, although sound waves enter their ears, sometimes there is an interrupt between the ears and the brain that prevents those signals from entering.  Likewise, the physically blind are unable to see because light enters their eyes and the signals that are the interpretation of that light is prevented from reaching the brain.  However, though the brain is the place where those physical signals are interpreted and put to use, the spiritual sight and sound signals are interpreted by our hearts.  However, if our hearts are hardened by pride of any form, those signals will fail to reach our hearts.  However, unlike with physical blindness and deafness, we don’t become spiritually deaf and blind by accident or by birth.  We can only be spiritually deafened and blinded by choice, namely the choice to harden our hearts and refuse to hear the call of the master or receive light and truth to our minds.  Allowing this, Jacob tells us, will cut us off from our Father in Heaven, resulting in Spiritual Death.
Another interestingly poetic comparison Jacob makes is in reference to the uncircumcised of heart.  We learn in the Old Testament that Abraham and his descendants were commanded that all males must be circumcised as a sign of their covenant with God.  The symbolism of this is fairly obvious.  It’s hard to forget something if the symbol of it stares at you every time you go to change your underwear, not to mention that circumcision is a fairly painful procedure without anesthesia.  So there, too, the covenant it represents would be hard to forget.  Nowadays, though, physical circumcision isn’t a requirement any more.  So, by what sign do we remember our covenants with the Lord?  By the sign of our broken, or humble, heart and our faith. 
After this, Jacob lists a number of other sins and consequences, but he sums everything up by simply adding that all those who die in their sins will return, face God and remain in their sins.    He points out that being carnally minded is death, while being spiritually minded is eternal life.  Here, again, we have another example of the eloquence of Jacob.  What does it mean to be carnally minded.  For this one, I think we need a little etymology.  Here is what the Online Etymology Dictionary tells us about the word “carnal”
c.1400, "physical, human, mortal," from Old French carnal and directly from Medieval Latin carnalis "natural, of the same blood," from Latin carnis "of the flesh," genitive of caro "flesh, meat" (see carnage). Meaning "sensual" is from early 15c.; that of "worldly, sinful" is from mid-15c. Carnal knowledge is attested from early 15c. and was in legal use by 1680s.
In short, the word “carnal” is a reference to the flesh.  Therefore, being carnally minded means having your thoughts centered around the needs of the flesh.  Likewise, being spiritually minded means having your thoughts centered around the needs of the spirit.
Jacob reminds us not to say he’s “spoken hard things to us.”  If we do, we’re likely to despise and use harsh language against the truth.  Since Jacob has only repeated the words of the Lord, he is well aware that the wicked will find the truth to be hard.  The righteous, however, don’t find the truth hard at all.  They love it.  It doesn’t bother them, but frees them.  Jacob tells us that the road of righteousness is narrow, but very straight no curves or bends.  The gatekeeper, of course, is Christ, himself.  People willing to lower themselves to the humbling task of asking to pass the gate will be given admittance.  Those too proud to do so, for whatever reason, won’t.
The remainder of the chapter is basically Jacob pleading with his audience to repent. With this, he closes his talk.  However, just like me, Jacob promises them more tomorrow.  Until then.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 8

Today we’ll be looking at 2 Nephi 8, a continuation of the “conference talk” by Jacob, the brother of Nephi. 

Continuing with the previous theme, chapter eight discusses the events surrounding the Second Coming of Christ.  As this is the case, Jacob quotes Isaiah as suggesting we remember where we came from.  I’m not really sure he means Abraham and Sarah.  I think it’s more likely that he’s telling us to remember who we were before we came to Earth. 

After telling us this, we are treated to a number of, to me at least, confusing allusions.  First, we are told that the Lord will make the Earth’s wilderness like Eden, a beautiful garden teaming with flowers and fruit and requiring little if any cultivation, for which there will be joy and great gladness (v3).  Second, the Lord will rule among us, acting as the judge of the people, like in the Old Testament of the Bible, and his judgments will allow the people to rest and provide them with light, and they will rely on him almost exclusively (v 4-5).  Third, A day will come when “the earth will wax old like a garment; and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner (v6).  This, I think, is talking about the Earth’s baptism of fire.  The righteous, writes Isaiah, need have nothing to fear (v7).  The wicked, will be destroyed like an old piece of clothing being eaten by a moth (v8).

The next couple of verses speaks to the great power of God.  Because of this great power, “the redeemed of God shall return, and come with singing unto Zion…(v11).” They shall have great joy.  There will be no sorrow.  So, we are told not to fear man or his son, who will be as easily cut down as a blade of grass might be (v12). 

Around verse 17 is when the signs of the return of Christ are enumerated.

  • Jerusalem will drink the cup of the Lord’s fury, and “the dregs of the cup of trembling wrung out.”
  • There will be none among her sons who can guide her.
  • Two sons will come to her (v 19, see Revelation 11:3-12) and feel sorry for her, her desolation and destruction and all she has suffered.  By these two shall the Lord comfort her. They will be full of the fury of the Lord and will act as the rebuke of God. 
  • The Lord will remove the cup of trembling and fury from the hand of Jerusalem.  She shall never drink of it again.  Instead, it will be placed in the hands of those who afflict her.

At this point, Jacob finishes the chapter with the first two verses of the next, a commandment to all the righteous to put on their beautiful clothing because they no longer need fear the wrath of the unbelievers and they don’t have to serve them any longer.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 7

Today we’ll be studying 2 Nephi 7, which is a continuation of the “conference talk” given by Jacob, the brother of Nephi. 

Here, Jacob reads the first of two chapters of Isaiah, as, presumably, requested by Nephi.  It is assumed that he will interpret them for the gathered masses, but, as we are going chapter to chapter, we won’t be tackling his interpretation for a while. 

This chapter speaks messianically and is comparatively short.  Here, the Lord is speaking to Israel.  He asks, “Have I cast you off forever?  Where is your mother’s writ of divorcement?”  This is fairly simple to understand if you take a look at the law of Moses.  In the law, it was acceptable for a man to divorce his wife, or to put her aside, if he discovered that she had been in a physical relationship with another man, which he could do by providing her with a document stipulating their divorce.  What’s more, in Ezra 10:2-3, the Hebrews were reproved for taking “strange” wives and encouraged to divorce them and put their children by these wives aside.  This is where this phrase comes from.  The Lord wishes to discourage them from believing they have been cast off because of anything other than what they, themselves, have done.  Later in verse 1, he confirms this by saying, “for your transgressions is your mother put away.” 

In this same verse, we note the Lord asking which of his creditors he has sold them to.  This is also a fairly common practice in Hebrew tradition, in which the children of a person in deep debt might be taken and sold into slavery to pay off the debt. (Nehemiah 5:5,8, Leviticus 25:39-40).  The Lord declares that their iniquities have caused them to sell themselves.

So, in other words, nothing the Lord or our mothers have done is responsible for the fact that we are cut off from His presence.  We, alone, are responsible for the condition of our own souls.  We, alone, have been the cause of all our own suffering.  The Lord tells us that when He arrived, there was no one there to answer the door.  However, He adds that His arm hasn’t shortened, to keep Him from saving us.  The entire earth is still His to command.

Then, in verse 6, he begins to tell us why this is.  Rather than go into detail about the Atonement of Christ, let me just say that everything the Lord went through, all the pain and the ridicule, was to be certain that his arms remained long enough to save us.

The chapter finishes out by talking to the enemies of Christ.  Who are these enemies?  Verse 9 states that the enemies of Christ are “those who shall condemn [him].”  The Lord says such will be smitten by the power of His mouth, become like a piece of old, moth-eaten clothing, and lie down in sorrow.  In verse 10, he asks which of us, having chosen to follow the Lord, has found him or herself walking in darkness, without light?  The answer, of course, is none of us.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 6

Today’s scripture will be 2 Nephi 6.

I found this one particularly interesting.  I know how lots of us like to read the conference talks and some of us probably even quote them into our journals.  Here, Nephi has quoted the entire talk of his younger brother, Jacob, into his Small Plates journal. 

According to Jacob, the subject he’s been asked to speak on is “the words of Isaiah (v4),” specifically Isaiah 49:22-26.  I love Jacob’s interpretation of this scripture.  The Lord has, of course, revealed the destruction of Jerusalem to Jacob, as well as the captivity and deaths of many of its inhabitants.  However, he has also been shown that, later, they will be allowed to return and rebuild the city.  Then, once they have become proud and haughty, the Lord will judge them and they will be “smitten and afflicted (v10)” and “driven to and fro (v11).”  However, even considering all their afflictions, the Lord won’t allow them to be destroyed “because of the prayers of the faithful (v11)” and eventually they will “come to a knowledge of their Redeemer,” and be “gathered again to the lands of their inheritance (v11).”

The Gentiles will be blessed if they “fight not against Zion.” The guide to the scriptures defines “Zion” as the pure in heart.  Those, says Isaiah, who don’t fight against them are blessed because the Lord will fulfill his prophesies by them.  Those who choose to fight against them will end up licking the dust of their feet (I assume this means the feet of those who are pure in heart and those who are of the chosen people).

The rest of this passage deals with the return of Christ to this world.  Christ will gather his people to him, showing himself to them in all his power and glory.  Their enemies will be destroyed by this display.  Those who refused to believe will be destroyed in a series of horrible calamities.  Isaiah’s imagery on this one is fairly horrible.  He says the Lord will feed them their own flesh and make them drunk on their own blood.  Then they, too, will know that Jesus Christ is the Mighty One of Israel. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 5

As usual, here is the link to the scripture we are studying today, 2 Nephi 5.  I apologize for letting things go for so long.  Most of the rest of you write every day.  I, on the other hand, have real life to contend with and, so, am finding the prospect of every day writing a bit daunting at present, especially with summer coming up in a couple of months.

Anyway, in chapter 5, apparently Laman and Lemuel, no longer restrained by the late Lehi to keep their brother alive, decided that they have had enough of him “bossing them around,” and want to kill him and take over the “rule of this people” themselves, which they believe to be their right as the eldest of Lehi’s children.  Nephi notes here that he doesn’t say everything they told eachother about him, just that they wanted to kill him.  However, apparently the Lord decided He’d had enough, too.  Just like with Lehi, he warned Nephi in a dream to take his family and all those that would follow him and “flee into the wilderness.” 

Here’s a list of everyone in Nephi’s group.

  • Nephi and his family
  • Zoram and his family
  • Jacob
  • Joseph
  • the daughters of Lehi (v6)
  • All others that would go with him.

I found the fact that, by the time Lehi died, there were sisters that Nephi had to worry about when the Lord said, gather your people and scoot.  Anyway, Nephi states that they took their tents and whatever other things it was possible to bring and left, travelling for “many days.”  That means, probably, more than three.  When they finally came to a good place, they pitched their tents and the people decided that they wanted to call the place Nephi.  What’s more, they decided they wanted to be called “the People of Nephi.”  I can only imagine how pleased this must have made Nephi feel, and how daunted, given that it meant that they revered him for leading them out of danger. 

Nephi tells us, as we read, the state of this new colony.  They are keeping the commandments according to the Law of Moses, that means among the things Nephi brought away with the group were the Plates of Brass.  They sowed seeds, which means they brought seeds with them, and began to reap in abundance.  They raised flocks and herds, which means these, too, came with the group.  Then Nephi says outright that he brought out the holy objects the Lord has given them:  The Plates of Brass, the Liahona (or brass ball), and the sword of Laban. 

Anyway, as the People of Nephi (or Nephites) are beginning to prosper, they spread out on the land and begin to have encounters with the People of Laman (or Lamanites).  So Nephi takes the sword of Laban and uses it as a template to make more swords so his people can defend themselves if the Lamanites decide to attack them. 

Nephi is a good teacher and a good father.  He teaches his people all kinds of different crafts.

  • Architecture
  • Wood working
  • Metallurgy

He builds a temple, constructing it using the Temple of Solomon as an example, but without as many precious things.  Still, he says that the workmanship was “exceedingly fine.”  So, he teaches them that temple work is important.  He teaches his people to be industrious and work with their hands.

After a while, his people tell him they want him to be their king.  Nephi is reluctant.  His idea of a good civilization doesn’t include a king.  Still, he says, “I did for them according to that which was in my power. (v18)”   He notes that the prophecies of the Lord concerning him and his brothers have been brought to pass.  Up to the point that his people left, Nephi had been his brothers’ ruler and teacher.  Since they refused to listen to Nephi and desired to kill him, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.  What’s more, to distinguish the two people and so the Nephites couldn’t be tempted to comingle with them, the Lord caused them to develop a “skin of blackness” so they would “become loathsome unto thy people save they shall repent of their iniquities, (v22)”  Because of this, they become rather lazy and also very tricky.  The Lord reminds Nephi that they will be used to bring Nephi’s people back to a remembrance of their Lord.

Nephi consecrates his brothers, Jacob and Joseph, as priests and teachers to his people, who “lived after the manner of happiness” which I take to mean that they lived the law of consecration.   Now, thirty years since Lehi left Jerusalem, is when Nephi mentions that the Lord commanded him to write the Small Plates, with the greater spiritual content.  So Nephi, ever obedient, did this, in part to benefit his own people and, in part, for the benefit of people Nephi didn’t know.  Us.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 4

Today’s entry, 2 Nephi 4, is brought to you by guest writer jaklumen, whose favorite scripture this is.  I invite you to visit his blog by following the link attached to his username

There is a section of the fourth chapter of 2nd Nephi that is called “The Psalm of Nephi”, which starts with verse 16 and continues through to the end of the chapter.  I first became acquainted with this passage when I was on a peer counseling retreat at Camp Ghormley in high school.  We were asked to share something very important to us in a meeting later that evening.

I don’t much consider myself an evangelical or missionary sort, but I hadn’t taken much besides a change of clothes and my scriptures.  In fact, I was very shy at the time, almost painfully so.  I don’t remember all the particulars of how I encountered the passage, but I remember a very, very strong prompting that I should share it.

I started with verse 15, however.  Nephi’s statement “I write the things of my soul” seemed very powerful and relevant to me.  I felt that I was pouring my soul out, although at the time, I did not fully understand how, or why.  I did believe that my soul did delight in the things of the Lord, and Nephi’s psalm seemed to be the only way then to describe it.  I was still trying to process a lot of it, so his description that his heart pondered continually on it seemed to apply as well.

The context and circumstances that I was in at the time was very foreign to me, although it wasn’t my first instance in a student support group.  Even then, I was very confused as to my place.  Much like the last time, some of my peers were battling drug and alcohol addictions.  Some problems weren’t immediately obvious-- the other person sent from the music department became a teenaged mother some months later.  Yet the retreat wasn’t just limited to my school, as others were coming from the high school downtown.  So this prompting to share Nephi’s words was strong indeed, because normally sharing such things to a group that was largely strangers would be very intimidating to me.

As I said, some students were working on addiction recovery, and a few shared their experiences with the 12 Steps.  Such a perspective was completely outside my paradigm at the time.  I didn’t think I needed the Steps, nor did I think I would ever-- although I came crashing down to the reality that yes, I really did need such an outlook many years later.  Yet I could still understand Nephi’s cry of “[oh] wretched man, that I am!”  And that impending realization also included “nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”

Trust was very hard to come by.  The teacher who referred me, the high school’s music director at the time, was a raging bully.  I didn’t know what to make of his soaring melodramatics or his anger that exploded on a timer that was completely unknown to anyone at the school.  He verbally (and sometimes physically) abused students, and I could not hide my fear like the other students did.  In fact, I had physically fled the classroom at least once. He was plenty abusive to the choir teacher, and assaulted him in full view of everyone in the cafeteria that connected both the choir and band rooms.  Even now I am reluctant to thank him for this experience, much less forgive him of the sheer terror he spread in his wake.

Then again, Nephi had lived in fear of his own brothers.

Moreover, the anger of Laman, Lemuel, and the children of Ishmael had been kindled against Nephi more strongly, for the first part of 2 Nephi 4 concerned the last blessings of Lehi to all of his family before he died.  Ironically, I do not know if this teacher of mine ever learned about the things I felt compelled to say.  Fortunately, I do know that my peers were deeply touched by the sharing of Nephi’s words.  It seemed more of a contrast among those that were not of the Latter-Day Saint faith as I was; I had been afraid that I might be judged quoting from scriptures that were unknown to them.  To my surprise, it prompted expressions of their own faith as we, at the end, wrote down how we felt about each other in the shared experience we had together.

Death was not unknown to me at the time, either.  My paternal grandfather passed away in 1990 to prostate cancer, and I think that this retreat did happen after that time.  I had not considered the impact of Lehi’s death on Nephi, nor was I actively contemplating the death of my grandfather.  It was something I had tucked away and hidden, and I was still struggling to understand the dysfunction and pain of my own family.

I did not fully understand the deep awakening that was happening to me, although I did know that my testimony of the Gospel and Atonement of Jesus Christ was beginning to take root.  I did not know that I was yet denying that gift of the Savior because of pride from beneath and lack of self-worth.  But it was the second time that I had felt a personal connection to a prophet of the Book of Mormon, the other being Alma the Younger; that connection had also happened at about that time.  Nephi’s trust in the Lord continues to resonate stronger and stronger with me to this day.

It was not the end to the bittersweet joy mingled with suffering.  My father became gravely ill a few years later, and my paternal grandmother died after I reunited with my soulmate (whom she sweetly referred to as “our girl”), and shortly before our daughter was born.  Much of this is still intensely personal and private to me, although I do not hesitate to speak of the mercy of The Hero That Became One With The Father.  I do not hesitate to agree with Nephi that the condescension of the Lord was in such tender mercy to us mere mortals, that He would make a way and give comfort and strength despite our failings.

It is all I can think to do sometimes, to call on his name.  Right now I am struggling with chronic back pain, and the pain overwhelms my senses sometimes.  It is more obvious than the anguish that still creeps inside me, the fears of the terrors of the past.  I feel backward, because I don’t feel the urge to curse God and die while learning the lessons of another scriptural figure, that is, Job.  No, I am still angry at so much of his children, especially those who I believe should have protected and helped me.  I am still angry at the rage-filled teacher that sent me to Camp Ghormley.  In all the hurt and pain I still feel, often in the middle of the night, all I can think to utter is “Jesus, my master, have mercy on me!”

I still pray for the ability to forgive.  I still pray to be forgiven, because like Nephi, I’ve seen incredible things... some I cannot share openly, because they are too personal, too special, too sacred to risk mockery at this time.  I still wonder when painful rifts, even within my own family, will be healed.

But I do know in Whom I have trusted.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 3

Today, we’ll be looking at 2 Nephi 3.

This is Lehi’s Patriarchal Blessing to his youngest son, Joseph.  To read my commentary regarding the use of the word “patriarchal” in Mormon culture and the Scriptures, click here.  Of all Lehi’s blessings, this one probably has the most prophecy.  That being said, I fully recommend praying before you dig into this chapter, just as you would with the Isaiah chapters.

We know from Sunday School lessons that four men with the same name are mentioned in this chapter:

  • Joseph, the youngest son of Lehi and Sariah. (v1)
  • Joseph, the son of Jacob/Israel. (v4)
  • Joseph Smith, Jr.(v 14)
  • Joseph Smith, Sr.(v15)

However, you might have some difficulty finding the prophecy Lehi is talking about in the Old Testament.  The main reason for this is that it is part of the plain and precious truths removed when the Bible was first published.  However, if you want to read it, you’ll find it in Joseph Smith’s translation of Genesis 50:24-38 in the Appendix (or after following the earlier given link, click the link to the word “And” just after the number 24). 

Furthermore, we are told in this chapter that eventually a book written by Lehi’s seed and one written by the Jews would “grow together unto the confounding of false doctrines(v12)…”  This is a prophecy that is coming true today.  The book written by Lehi’s seed is the Book of Mormon.  The book written by the Jews is commonly known as the Holy Bible.  They are commonly in use together, sometimes (more frequently in fact) found together between the same set of covers.  The word “confounding,” incidentally, means bringing into ruin, baffling or frustrating, putting to shame, throwing into confusion or perplexity.  In other words, the use of the Book of Mormon and the Bible will utterly flummox people who are trying to come up with false doctrines meant to lead the children of God astray.  They won’t be able to do it because compared to the beauty of the gospel contained in the standard works, their arguments will appear to be, among other things, confused.

Applying the Scripture to My Life

I’m grateful for the clarity the Book of Mormon brings to my life.  Studying it brings such light and hope to each day that things always seem to go more smoothly.  I’m not perfect at studying, yet, but I get better every day. 

I’m sorry that this entry is so short.  If you can think of anything that I’ve missed or if you have an insight you think needs mentioning, please don’t hesitate to leave it in the comments section below.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 2 Nephi 2

I realize this is late.  However, what with my son’s birthday and preparing for Easter, I’ve been one busy Mormon mommy.  Anyway, better late than not at all.  So, let us get on with our study of 2 Nephi 2.

Before we delve into the meat of this chapter, I want to point out a few things that have slight bearing on the chapter.  I did a little bit of research trying to understand the meaning and etymology of the word “patriarch.”  As a Mormon, I was raised with an understanding that a Patriarch is the Melchizedek Priesthood holder who gives people special blessings and that everyone is supposed to have one.  However, Merriam-Webster defines patriarch, among other things, as “a man who is father or founder.”  The Online Etymology Dictionary definition tells us that the word originally comes from Greek roots.  “Patria” means family or clan, “pater” means father, “arkhein” means to rule.  Thus “patriarkhes,” patriarch.  So, each father is patriarch of his own family.  The eldest member of a clan or tribe (Lehi in this case) is also patriarch.  Finally, as you kind of get something of a sense of the ultimate in the word patriarch where it pertains to Patriarchal Blessings, our Heavenly Father is our ultimate patriarch.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, we can proceed.  First off, 2 Nephi 2 is Lehi’s Patriarchal Blessing to his second to youngest son, Jacob. This is a tradition well known among the Hebrews, as Jacob/Israel blessed each of his twelve sons shortly before he died.  I imagine Nephi, as the group’s record keeper, feverishly writing every word on a piece of paper as it fell from his father’s lips. 

Speaking to his son, Jacob, Lehi commends his young son for the steadfastness with which he has borne his afflictions in the wilderness, many of which were the result of what Lehi terms “the rudeness of thy brethren.”  Still, like his brother Nephi, Jacob is already acquainted with the greatness of God and is promised that he is redeemed and will live safely with Nephi and serve the Lord all his life.  Since Jacob understood this important concept while he was still young, Lehi promised that he would be blessed just as the people who followed Jesus himself were blessed, because God is always the same, forever. 

From here, Lehi goes off into a kind of description of the basic tenets of the gospel, which I find interesting given that this is a blessing given to a boy who isn’t probably much older than sixteen or so, if that.  However, since he already stated that Jacob would serve the Lord his whole life, I’m sure the Spirit told him it was necessary.  I’m sure glad Nephi included it, though, because there’s a lot of important information here.  Since this chapter is pretty long, however, I will endeavor to just hit the highlights in this entry.

First off, by the Law (both temporal and spiritual) we are all cut off from the presence of the Lord.  So, if all we had was the Law, we would be doomed to eternal misery.  However, thanks to the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we all have the option to be redeemed.  The Lord’s sacrifice takes care of the demands of the Law, provided we are humble and repentant.  That’s why this message is repeated so often in the Scriptures, because the sacrifice of the Savior isn’t available any other way.  We have to let go of our pride and our sins, not just once but every day, and try to live as close to the Law as we can.

Second, there is opposition in all things; justice and mercy, wickedness and righteousness, holiness and misery, good and bad, etc.   If we couldn’t experience the negative aspects of life, how could we learn to appreciate the positive, and endure our daily afflictions in happiness as we’ve been commanded?  Without opposition, we would all be as good as dead, because we couldn’t learn and there would be no purpose to our creation. 

Third, to people who say that there’s no law and no sin, Lehi makes the following logical progression.  No sin=no righteousness.  No righteousness=no happiness.  No righteousness/happiness=No punishment/misery.  No righteousness/happiness/punishment/misery=No God.  No God=No anything.

Since there is a God, and we know he created the earth, because we live in it day after day, then we also know that there is a law and sin and all those other things.  We have been given the ability to choose for ourselves, a power essential to the success of the plan of salvation.

Lehi discusses the expulsion of Lucifer and the fall of Adam, pointing out that Adam and Eve would never have had children had they not fallen.  Therefore, their fall was a necessity of a sort.  Then, later, they are promised that Christ will come to redeem us all from the effects of the fall, freeing us from unmerciful punishment, so that we have the freedom to act for ourselves rather than just be acted on.  We have the right to choose righteousness and salvation, or wickedness and damnation (I note, here, that Lehi points out that consequences are chosen as well as behavior).  As any loving parent would, Lehi implores all his sons to choose righteousness over wickedness, so that the devil won’t have any power over them.

If you made it this far without losing interest, I both thank and commend you.  Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  Like Sunday School, this blog is more interesting when you participate.