Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 19

Today’s scripture is 1 Nephi 19.

To my mind, Nephi speaks some more on the subject of journaling and scripture study in this chapter.  Nephi tells us that he began his family’s record at about right after they arrived in the promised land.  He started out by making a copy of his father’s journals and prophecies and a record of their journey in the wilderness, not to mention his own prophecies.  Nephi states that, at the time he made his original record, he didn’t know the Lord would command him to make this other, smaller record.  When he’d finished making the larger plates to record the history of his family, the Lord commanded him to make the smaller record specifically to record the sacred things, like the prophecies and the plain and precious things, which were to be used for instructing Nephi’s people in the gospel. 

Interestingly, Nephi says he never writes anything, and by that I assume he means ever, unless he thinks it’s sacred.  However, he then points out that what one man may think of as important and sacred, another man may consider to be worthless, only fit to be trampled under foot.  Some men, Nephi adds, even think that God himself is a worthless concept and refuse to listen to the counsel of the scriptures and the gospel.  Nephi spends a fair number of verses talking about the atonement at this point; how the Jews will basically think Jesus is nobody and will abuse and kill him.  He also quotes a fair number of prophets who have explained what would happen to the Savior when this event took place and afterward.

Nephi ends the chapter by saying that he likes to read the scriptures to his brothers, teaching them the plain and precious truths he gains from them.  His particular favorites are the books of Moses and the words of Isaiah, making sure to “liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.”

Applying the Scriptures to My Life

I realize from what Nephi says in these verses that journaling and scripture study are very important.  I’m not consistent with my journaling and, until recently, I wasn’t with my scripture study, either.  Writing a journal presents the people who read it with a snapshot of my life.  Scripture study allows me to connect with my Father and receive His instructions for me in this life.  Sorry things are so short this time.  Help me out, readers.  What do you get from these verses?

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 18

Today, we continue in our study of the Book of Mormon with 1 Nephi 18.

So, following the confrontation between Nephi and his eldest brothers, Laman and Lemuel worship the Lord and help with the building of the ship.  Nephi adds, at this point, that the ship they are building didn’t look like anything people had built up to that time.  The timbers weren’t worked the same way, nor was the ship built the same way.  So, we don’t really know what it looked like with the exception of the fact that it had at least two decks, and at least one mast.  It also had to be fairly watertight, since it needed to be able to withstand a transoceanic journey and bring the growing nation to the shores of the American continents.  Whatever the boat looked like, however, the point is that the architect of the ship was the Lord.  Nephi also states that he visited the mountain often to obtain further instructions and was shown “great things (v3).”  When, at last, the ship was complete, the eldest brothers noticed how good it was and the quality of the craftsmanship Nephi had put into it and they humbled themselves further before the Lord. 

So, at that point, Lehi is commanded to bring his family into the ship.  It’s worthwhile to point out that Nephi tells of the kinds of provisions they brought into the ship with them, plenty of fruit, meat from the wilderness and lots of honey, the seeds they’d carried with them all this time and all other provisions as commanded by the Lord.  As a side note, Nephi adds that the Lehi family has added two more sons: Jacob and Joseph.  I imagine that these names were chosen by Lehi and Sariah in order to always carry with them a link to their past.  Jacob, after all, is the other name of Israel and Joseph was the name of the tribe from which Nephi claims the little family descended.

So, they begin the trip across Irreantum to the promised land and, after a while, the brothers, along with the sons of Ishmael, appeared to forget how they came to be out in the middle of the ocean in a ship built by someone who, up to that time, probably hadn’t built so much as a bird house.  So, they begin to party.  Here, Nephi uses a word, “merry,” that we generally use to mean happy.  In this case, however, it is used to denote drunkenness.  Nephi also says that they spoke with much rudeness.  We generally use the word rude to mean insulting or offensive.  However, our friend Merriam-Webster has a number of synonyms that give the definition of the word a clearer meaning:  crude, raw, undeveloped, simple, unlearned, uncouth, discourteous, savage and vulgar, just to name a few.  In other words, they weren’t just being insulting, they were cursing and swearing. 

Nephi, realizing that, for crying out loud, the family is on a boat out in the middle of an ocean and directed by the hand of the Lord, became really scared that this behavior was going to attract the Lord’s wrath against them and maybe end up sinking the boat.  He started talking to them again, as before.  The brothers, however, chose to take offense and tied Nephi up.  Every picture I’ve ever seen of this shows Nephi bound to the mast of the ship.  However, this isn’t what we are told.  Rather, we are told that he was bound and treated harshly.  I’m willing to bet, however, that they probably kept him above decks with them, rather than letting him be below decks with his family and take a risk on having them untie him.  Shortly after that, though, the Liahona ceased to work so that the brothers didn’t know which direction to steer the ship.  Then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, a big storm popped up out of nowhere and, for three days, drove the ship back.  The brothers, Nephi says, were terribly frightened, but not enough to release Nephi.  The fourth day, the storm got worse, to the point that the brothers thought they were about to die so, rather than release him, they loosened his bonds a little. Nephi, far from allowing this situation to make him bitter, immediately began praising the Lord and did so all day long. 

At this point, Nephi begins to mention the number of people aboard the ship that had spoken to the stubborn brothers asking for his release.  Among them were Lehi, both sons of Ishmael, Jacob and Joseph, and Nephi’s wife and children.  All of these spoke to Laman and Lemuel trying to persuade them to release Nephi.  The brothers’ response, at first, was to make threats against anyone who released him.  Meanwhile, the behavior of their two eldest sons made Lehi and Sariah deathly ill, which made things hard for Jacob and Joseph, who were still very young and needed their mother. 

None of this had any effect on the brothers.  They didn’t humble themselves again until they realized that they were about to be drowned.  Only then did they release Nephi, who immediately prayed for the cessation of the storm.  From then on, it was Nephi who steered the ship.  After several more days, they arrived, at last, in the promised land, which, incidentally, is the name they chose to give it.  Nephi then tells about how the family started planting their seeds and how they grew abundantly, providing lots of food for them all.  Furthermore, they discovered many different kinds of animals usable by man and also plenty of useful ores.  Since the family of Lehi had kept the commandment of the Lord, He blessed them with abundance.

Applying the Scriptures to My Life

Reading this chapter, I’m always struck by how well Nephi put up with his afflictions at the hands of his jealous brothers.  When they were mad at him, they were never gentle, but mean and fierce and frightening.  What bothered them most, I think, was that Nephi was right.  He was always right.  Here they were, the eldest sons, and they didn’t have what it took to even do that – be right.  Unfortunately, like myself, they didn’t think clearly enough when they were angry.  If they’d stopped to think, I imagine they would have realized that what they were doing was going to get them into trouble.  Time out of mind, I have looked back with my 20/20 hindsight and realized just how much trouble I could have avoided if I had stopped to think before I let myself get upset.  Nephi’s priorities, of course, were right on target.  Any blessing that came, however small, in the middle of his afflictions, was a blessing from God.  I wonder if I could make that work in my own life.  Rather than complaining because of the afflictions of my life, I should search for the small moments of peace and praise the Lord all the day long for them, as Nephi did, trusting that, eventually, the test will be over and I will be allowed to rest until the next one.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 17

This is the twentieth post for Scriptures Alive, but already, thanks to readers like you, this blog has seen over 150 views.  We’re not viral, yet, but I’m not after that, so I just want to express my gratitude to each of you for showing me just how important you think studying the scriptures is.  Especially since that is the main purpose of this blog.   With that in mind, let’s begin today’s entry by exploring in 1 Nephi 17.

Nephi and his family have been wandering in the wilderness, according to him, for about eight years following the death of Ishmael.  As Mrs. Ishmael isn’t mentioned anywhere in Nephi’s record, I suspect that she died before the Ismael family left Jerusalem.  Nephi states that they travelled nearly eastward following Ishmael’s death and saw a good deal of affliction, their women even bearing their men children in the wilderness.  However, the great faith of the company brought them the blessings of the Lord, in that they were able to gain nourishment from eating raw meat and their women were nearly as strong, if not exactly so, as the men, bearing the journey without murmuring against their husbands or the leaders of the group.

Nephi also points out here that the Lord’s commandments have to be fulfilled.  If the Lord’s children keep their Father’s commandments, he has promised to nourish and strengthen them and make keeping His commandments possible for them, a belief repeated from chapter 3, in which he gave this sentiment to his father as proof of his determination to keep the commandments.  He notes, further, that their afflictions in the wilderness had been quite severe, so much so that it would be time consuming to mention them all. 

In any case, following eight years of wandering in the wilderness, they arrive in a fruitful oasis on the shores of a vast sea.  The oasis is given the name Bountiful, which it must have seemed to them after so many years of constant privation.  The sea they name Irreantum, which Nephi explains means “many waters.”  Here, the growing family finds a good deal of fruit and lots of wild honey.  It is Nephi’s belief that Bountiful was prepared specifically so that they wouldn’t die. 

Several days later, the voice of the Lord commands Nephi to go to the mountain, which he immediately does.  There, after calling on the Lord, Nephi is commanded to construct a ship to carry the company across Irreantum.  Nephi is assured that he will be shown the manner in which the ship is to be constructed.  Nephi doesn’t stop to ask where he’s supposed to get the skill or to express doubt in his ability to do as instructed.  His only question has to do with where to get the materials to make the necessary tools.  As Nephi is building the fire for smelting the ore he’s gathered to make his tools, he notes that, up ‘til now, the Lord hasn’t allowed them much in the way of fire, promising them that their food will be sweet so that it doesn’t require cooking.  He has also provided them with a light during their sojourn in the wilderness for as long as they kept the commandments. 

Again, we see the contrast between Nephi and his eldest two brothers.  The minute Nephi starts his ship building project, they come slinking out of the woodwork to laugh at and belittle him.  Nephi says they were “desirous that I might not labor,” which makes me think that they had decided between themselves that Bountiful was promise enough for them, never thinking that the place wouldn’t be large enough for a growing nation.  Nephi’s sudden interest in ship building seems to be putting a kink into this desire.  So, do they go and ask him why he’s building a ship, and possibly learn that the Lord has other plans?  Nope.  They decide to go and try to manipulate Nephi into believing that this idea is stupid and, maybe, make him give it up.  Nephi also states that they didn’t believe that the Lord was teaching him to build the ship.  To them, it was just something Nephi decided to do. 

Apparently, this bothered Nephi, since it showed that the two brothers were backsliding again.  If you have habits your parents have tried to get you to break, even ones as minor as nail biting, when you backslide, you often see a look like what I imagine was on Nephi’s face when he realized Laman and Lemuel had hardened their hearts again.  When Nephi’s face showed this disappointment, Laman and Lemuel immediately rejoiced, thinking that Nephi was looking that way because he believed their assertion of his lack of ability.  So they pressd what they believed to be their advantage by telling him that they knew he didn’t have what it took to build a ship.  He is “lacking in judgment,” they laughed, and can’t complete such a big job.  They laughingly compared him with Lehi, who they claimed had let his imagination get the best of him, the result being eight years of deprivation in the wilderness.

Nephi responded with what I believe was probably considerable irritation.  He reminded them of the miraculous happenings surrounding the exodus of Israel from Egypt.  He pointed out that, if not for Moses, Israel would probably still be in bondage to Egypt.  Moses had been commanded by the Lord to free them.  By his hand, at the command of the Lord, the waters of the Red Sea had parted before the children of Israel, so that they could cross that waterway on dry land, followed by the summary drowning of the armies of Pharaoh.  By his voice, the children of Israel were made aware of the coming of the bread from the Lord which they called “manna.” By his voice, and the command of the Lord, Moses was able to split a rock to provide the suffering Israelites with water.  Not just that, Nephi added.  The Lord also went before them by day and lit their camps at night.  However, did the Israelites rejoice because they were favored by the Lord?  Nope.  They allowed their hearts to become hard and their minds blind and “reviled against Moses and against the true and living God.(v30).  The result, of course, was that the Lord destroyed all those that refused to believe.  Following that, the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and destroyed the former inhabitants of the land.  Nephi pointed out that, had the former inhabitants of the land been righteous, the Lord wouldn’t have had them destroyed. He then asked if the brothers thought the Israelites would have been somehow better than the previous inhabitants of the land, had those inhabitants been righteous.  The Lord, says Nephi, “esteemeth all flesh in one.(v35)”  The righteous are favored, the wicked are rejected and destroyed.  Nephi went on in this vein for quite a while, ending by pointing out how swift the brothers were to backslide into old habits, which almost forced Nephi to speak to them again. He ended his speech by saying that he was worried that his brothers were about to be cast off.

Now, predictably enough, this little speech angere the brothers and they decided to grab Nephi and pitch him into the “depths of the sea.”  Before they could, though, Nephi commanded them to stop, telling them that he was so full of the Holy Ghost that, if they touched him, they would wither like sea grass in the sun, which, I might add, withers pretty fast.  He then commanded them to stop murmuring and start helping.  He told them that the power of God was so strong in him by now that, if the Lord told him to command Irreantum to be earth, it would, adding that, if the Lord can do that, then surely teaching Nephi to build a ship should be a relatively small thing.  Nephi, apparently, said a great many other things to his brothers, to the point where they were “confounded” or thrown into confusion, baffled or frustrated (M-W).  This condition persisted for the next several days, in which the brothers didn’t dare touch Nephi.  It doesn’t say that they helped him, but it does say that they couldn’t argue with him.  After a while, the Lord told Nephi to stretch his hand out to his brothers, delivering to them a terrific shock that more or less forced them to acknowledge that their brother had been given the power of the Lord.  They then began to worship Nephi, however, and their younger brother humbly asked them to stop, recommending that, instead, that they worship the Lord and remember His commandment to honor their parents.

Applying the Scriptures to My Life

I am one of those that has been afflicted with the erroneous belief that I wasn’t “good enough.”  This is the fallacy that Laman and Lemuel were trying to foist off onto Nephi when he was trying to keep the Lord’s commandment to him to build a ship.  “You’re not good enough,” they were telling him.  “Give it up.”  So, as I read this chapter, I can almost hear the Lord say to me, “See?  If Nephi can build a ship, because I told him to, then you can do whatever I ask you to do as well.  There’s no such thing as not good enough.” The Lord knows that none of us is good enough, by ourselves.  However, with our hand in His, we can do anything.  If the Lord told me to fly, I could do it because He would make it possible for me.  He would give me the power.  I’m not saying that I’m going to go try it out, because that’s not something I feel that the Lord has commanded me to do.  What he has commanded is that I take things one day at a time.  That I do my very best as wife and mother and that I study the scriptures and share what I learn with anyone willing to listen.  What about you?  Do you think you’re “not good enough?”  Can you set that aside and try anyway?  Remember, the Lord makes his commandments possible to those who are willing to obey him.  That’s not just a fact, it’s a promise.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 16

Today, we take a look at 1 Nephi 16.

Lots of things happen in this chapter so, to start off with, I’ll give you a little list summary of events.

  1. Nephi finishes his discussion with his brothers and they humble themselves.
  2. Zoram, Nephi and his brothers marry the daughters of Ishmael.
  3. Lehi discovers a brass ball (liahona) outside his tent
  4. The company packs up and leaves, heading generally south-southeast.
  5. Four days later, they stop at Shazer to stock up on wild game.
  6. Several days later, they stop again to rest and restock their supplies.
  7. Nephi’s fine steel bow breaks.  Nephi’s brothers are angry with him.  They are unable to get food.
  8. Nearly everyone begins murmuring against the Lord because of hunger.
  9. The brothers’ bows lose their spring.  Things get extremely difficult.
  10. The brothers harden their hearts.  Nephi speaks to them.
  11. Nephi makes a bow and arrow.  He takes these and a sling and stones and asks his father for directions to find food.
  12. Lehi is chastened by the Lord.  He consults the liahona for Nephi.
  13. Nephi is able to obtain food.
  14. The company travels further.  They stop at Nahom for a rest.
  15. Ishmael dies and is buried.  His daughters mourn and murmur against Lehi for taking them away from Jerusalem.  They blame him for their suffering.
  16. Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael plot to slay Lehi and Nephi
  17. The Lord chastens them and they repent.
  18. The company is again blessed with food.

Okay, that’s the basic plot, right there.  Now, I want to dig a little deeper and find some of those hidden treasures. 

First off, Nephi’s comments to his brothers are worth looking at.  After he finished explaining things to them, they complained that he was being hard on them, maybe too hard.  Nephi replies that he knows he’s said things that the wicked might take to be hard.  The righteous, however, would feel justified.  Nephi tells them he’s done nothing more than speak the truth and “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center. (v1)”  I realize that I’ve been guilty of this a time or two.  Have you ever noticed how hard it is for most people to have someone tell them they are making a mistake.  Nobody I know of likes to hear that, “for it cutteth them to the very center.”  In short, we know that our accuser is right, but we don’t think they should be the one to tell us.  If they don’t, though, and we’re not listening to the Holy Ghost, who is going to tell us?  Nephi adds that, if the brothers were righteous and walked uprightly before the Lord (this phrase makes me think that the opposite might be akin to someone in a trench coat skulking along guiltily in the shadows) their behavior would be different.  Then Nephi encouraged them to keep the commandments of the Lord.  After that, they humbled themselves and Nephi started to feel like they were maybe going to be righteous from here on out.

The other part of this chapter has a great deal to do with how to handle personal affliction.  The Lord has promised us He would test our faith.  Affliction is how He does so.  You can almost compare the behavior of Nephi with those of the rest of his family.  After Nephi breaks his bow, the brothers are angry with him because the bow was made of fine steel and they bring back no food.  There’s a lot of murmuring and pointing blame and lots of sorry faces. Nephi, however, doesn’t waste his energy in feeling sorry for himself and his circumstances.  He exhorts his family to righteousness, then makes a new bow and an arrow and turns to the family patriarch for directions on where to find food.  The result is that he is able to obtain food for the hungry family.  I can’t help but wonder if the death of Ishmael might have been seen differently by his grieving family if they had possessed a greater level of faith.

Lastly, I note the comment from Nephi about the liahona, or brass ball.  According to Nephi it acted as their compass.  There were two spindles within the ball, one of which indicated their direction.  Sometimes, words would be written on the pointers and changed based on the level of faith that existed in the growing family and the diligence they paid to the directions they were given.  We’ve been told that the Holy Ghost is similar to, if not the same as, the liahona, in that our faith is what allows us to receive his directions, as well as our diligence in following them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 15

Today, we’ll be looking at 1 Nephi 15.

Nephi, having just completed the vision given in the previous few chapters, returns now to his father’s camp where his brothers are arguing about the meaning of some of the things Lehi has said to them.  Nephi says, “he truly spake many great things unto them, which are hard to be understood save a man should inquire of the Lord.”  Pride had prevented the brothers from doing this and, thus, gaining the understanding Nephi had just received.  Seeing this argument taking place added to Nephi’s troubles.  Nephi states he was “grieved” because of their state of stubborn pride.  Our old friend Merriam-Webster defines “grieve” as “to cause to suffer,” with the added synonym “distress,” a word which implies a certain amount of physical or emotional pain.  The word we use for this, today, is heartsick, or depressed.  To add to all this, Nephi was already feeling decidedly down after witnessing the destruction of his descendants.  He tells us that he thought his afflictions in this regard were worse than anyone else’s were.  Judging from his next comment, “…after I had received strength,” I’m guessing he probably prayed for help in dealing with the situation.  He may even have remembered that he’d been charged to be a leader and a teacher of his brothers.  If so, he seems to have taken this calling very seriously.  So, that being said, he laid aside his personal frustration with what he’d been shown and tried to handle the situation at hand.

Having received strength, Nephi then asked his brothers what they were arguing about.  Their response is telling.  They didn’t understand what their father had told them regarding the olive branches and the Gentiles (1 Nephi 10:14).  Nephi asks, “Did you ask God?”  Their, I think, rather sheepish reply is “No.  He doesn’t talk to us.”  Nephi then suggests that a more righteous life might be the answer to that situation.  In other words, “Well, if you kept the commandments.”  He reminds them of several of their more recent mistakes and quotes scripture to them.  Then he proceeds to answer their question.  I don’t want to rephrase the whole chapter, as it’s quite long. To sum up, he points out that they, the family of Lehi, as a branch of the house of Israel, have been broken off and, later, when their faith has dwindled to nothing, the fulness of the gospel will come to the Gentiles and they, in turn, will bring it to the descendants of Lehi’s family, grafting them back in place as children of Israel.  He also points out that Lehi’s vision didn’t just speak about their descendants, but all the house of Israel, a reference to the covenant of Abraham, by which all peoples on the earth are to be blessed.  Nephi says he spent a lot of time discussing these things with them and quoting to them from the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. 

Then the brothers ask Nephi for an interpretation of the Tree of Life dream.  Here, again, is that interpretation.

  • Tree – Represents the Tree of Life, love of God.
  • Rod – Word of God
  • River – Filthiness, gulf separating wicked from righteous, hell.

The brothers ask a number of other questions to clarify the meaning of the river explanation.  They initially wonder if the “hell” mentioned by Nephi represents the pain of the body in this life, the final state of the human soul following death, or anything of a temporal (relating to time as opposed to eternity [M-W]) nature.  Nephi clarifies that it represents things both temporal and spiritual. He then points out that, following death, we will all be judged by the works we did during this life.  So, if you lived a life filled with wicked works, you would be judged as wicked and cut off or damned, because nothing filthy can live in the presence of God. 

Let’s back up and consider this a bit.  First of all, I’m aware of the whole “faith vs. works” argument.  This is my personal interpretation of it.  Take it or leave it, it’s up to you.  The scriptures tell us that it is by faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved.  Our works do not save us.  This, to my mind, is a reference to the Atonement.  There is nothing we personally can do to obtain that Atonement.  Our works don’t make us worthy to accept it.  Our faith in Jesus Christ and our belief in His words is what enables us to accept and apply that free gift.  However, the scriptures also tell us that faith is nothing without actions to back it up.  You can say you believe in Jesus Christ all you want, but those are just words.  It is our actions, our fruits, our works that will show louder than words where our true faith and loyalty really lies.  People who truly have faith in Christ will act as He would act.  They will follow His ways and live as much of a righteous life as they can.  Then, when judgment time comes, they won’t have to say, “I have faith in Jesus Christ”.  Their Christ-like actions will say it for them. 

I note also that the scripture doesn’t say that God doesn’t want filth in his presence.  We’re His children and He loves us and wants us to be with Him.  Still, imagine doing lots of dirty, sweaty work, in your yard, maybe, or underneath your car, perhaps, and then, without changing clothes or taking a bath, going to visit the temple.  Can you imagine being comfortable sitting down on one of those pristine chairs or sofas or walking along that creamy white carpeting surrounded by people who are all clean and dressed in sparkling white clothing?  I don’t know about you, but I would be really unhappy being in that situation for very long, if at all.  I think this is what is meant when we are told that nothing unclean can enter the kingdom of God, which is not a place of filth. Nephi tells us that there is a place of filthiness prepared for the filthy.  God is a good father and he wants us to be comfortable.  He’s not going to insist that we join him in his pristine world if that wouldn’t make us happy.  Above all, He wants us to be happy.  That’s why we have the Gospel and the Atonement to help us.  We have the option, here in this life, to accept them and cleanse ourselves of all our worldly filthiness.  Now is the time.  Don’t wait.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 14

I apologize, again, for allowing such a long time between entries last week.  Today, we’ll be looking at 1 Nephi 14.

In the very first verse of this chapter, the angel tells Nephi that the Gentiles will be given an opportunity to accept Messiah when he is revealed to them, by the removal of their “stumbling blocks.”  This is a term I’ve run across before and all of us know what it means.  Merriam Websters defines it as “an obstacle to progress” and “an impediment to belief and understanding.”  However, I didn’t find that to be descriptive enough, for some reason.  I’ll admit it.  My husband has infected me with a love of etymology.  The best etymological understanding I found on this word came from Wikipedia.  In Hebrew, the term used in the bible for “stumbling block,” according to Wikipedia, is mikshowl which Google Translate tells me means “obstacle.” The Greek translation of the word mikshowl is skandalon, from which the English word “scandal” derives.  According to Wikipedia, the terms quite literally mean “to trip someone up.”  The Catholic church (says Wikipedia) uses the term, “scandal,” to denote a sin in which someone knowingly encourages someone else to sin.  So, think about it for a minute, do you have any habits that currently lead you to sin?  To my mind, these are called addictions.  You might call them something else.  The point is, it’s these things that get in the way of our desire to repent.  This scripture, then, gives all of us addicts a certain amount of hope.  We are promised that, if we repent and take advantage of the Atonement of Christ, our addictions, or whatever it is that is leading us into sin will be taken from us.  Isn’t that amazing?

On the other hand, we have to avoid letting ourselves get caught up in pride in any sense of the word.  If we keep our hearts soft and pliable, we are promised that those who seek our destruction will be, themselves, destroyed.

Once again, I have no desire to get into the whole argument about which church is the “great and abominable” church.  I’m not interested in that.  Instead, I give you a quote from C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. 

“Therefore, if any man swear by Tash [the devil] and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me [Aslan, Jesus Christ] that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I [Aslan, Jesus Christ] who reward him.  And if any man do a cruelty in my name [Aslan, Jesus Christ], then though he says the name Aslan [Jesus Christ], it is Tash [the devil] whom he serves and by Tash [the devil] his deed is accepted. (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, p165)” 

The scriptures also tell us as follows.

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (Matthew 7: 16-18)

So, basically, it doesn’t matter which church we officially belong to.  You could be a Mormon and still be a member of the great and abominable church if, for example, by your fruits, people knew you were only in it for the money.  Likewise, you could be a member of any other church on the face of the earth and, if you were living as close to the gospel as presented to you by that church, you would be a member of the church of the Lamb of God.  That’s my understanding of the situation, anyway. 

Lastly, Nephi sees the apostle called John the Beloved, author of the work known by mankind as Revelations.  Nephi tells us that he saw much more but was commanded not to write about it.  John, he says, will write it.  He ends by bearing testimony of the fact that he saw everything his father saw.

Applying the Scriptures to My Life

The Lord has been trying to teach us not to judge each other unless we have to for as long as there have been prophets on the Earth.  I thank my parents for teaching me this by their actions as well as their words.  I can’t lay claim to being perfect at it, though.  The way I see it, nobody really can.  It’s a struggle for me, sometimes, to look at mistakes people make and not judge them.  It’s also a struggle for me, sometimes, to remember that every faith has some of the truth.  They have the amount of truth their members can handle.  As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I know for a fact that I don’t have all the truth.  I know, as a church, we have most of it.  I’m pretty sure, though, that we probably don’t understand it all.  Again, we understand about as much as we can handle.  It’s not up to me, as a member of the Mormon faith to call people to repentance based on which church others belong to.

Interesting story:  At one point, my Young Women’s group were holding a bake sale at a local grocery store to earn money so that we could go to camp.  I was charged with standing at the opposite entrance with a plate of samples trying to convince buyers to come to the sale and buy some of our delicious baked goods.  As I approached one person, she walked right by me exclaiming, “I can’t buy anything from you because you teach your children lies that lead them to Hell,” or something like that.  I was floored.  I haven’t, since, been spoken to like that by anyone.  At the time, though, I remember feeling vastly misunderstood.  Looking at that experience, I think most of the world would say I would have been justified in using any number of unflattering or even insulting names against that woman.  However, the Lord teaches that such behavior isn’t appropriate for those that follow him, so I’m glad she got away before I could think of any kind of reasonable comeback.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 13

Today, we’ll be discussing 1 Nephi 13.

I want to make it plain in this entry that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t make a practice of using certain verses in this chapter as a basis for a claim to religious superiority over other churches, so neither will I.  As before, I’m going to gloss over the stuff they’re always covering in Sunday School and then dig right in and find the hidden gemstones.  So, if you’re reading this and you notice something I missed, I invite you to mention it in the comments section.  That’s what it’s there for.  Now, then.  Let’s begin.

As Nephi’s vision continues, he sees the following things.

  1. formation of the great and abominable church founded by the devil
  2. Columbus’ arrival in promised land
  3. The Pilgrims’ arrival in promised land
  4. The Revolutionary War
  5. Translation of the Bible into English
  6. Plain and Precious Things missing from the Bible
  7. Gentiles in the promised land will not utterly destroy Lamanites.
  8. Gospel to be restored among the Gentiles

Then, the angel makes a number of pronouncements that caught my attention.  First of all, those who “seek to bring forth my Zion at that day” will have the gift and power of the Holy Ghost.  The Bible Dictionary defines Zion as “the pure in heart.”  The Doctrine and Covenants clarifies this a bit, I think when it says we are to “seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion.”  In other words, I think that this means that those people who are striving to be pure in heart and sharing the gospel with as many as are interested and/or curious, are going to be blessed with the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, which means that the Holy Ghost will teach you what to say when you talk with others.  What’s more, if you keep right on doing that, no matter how you get persecuted for it, you’ll eventually be “lifted up at the last day.”  Now, I’m not saying you should go around shoving copies of the Book of Mormon in everyone’s face.  All I’m saying is follow the Spirit, like Nephi did, and do what he tells you to do.  It’s that simple.

Where it says “whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy,” is a reference to people that talk about the Savior and the reality of His existence.  Think about it for a minute.  If you lived in a place where nobody ever told you there was a Savior or that he was just somebody’s cruel idea of a bedtime story and you lived all your life believing that you were condemned to a life of absolute misery after death and then someone came along and showed you the truth, that the Savior is a real person and that His atonement can make your life perfect, if you let it, wouldn’t you think that person was beautiful?

The angel also speaks about other books that come forth “by the power of the Lamb,” convincing, essentially, everyone who reads them, that the records left in the New Testament by the original 12 Apostles were true.  That’s the entire purpose of the Book of Mormon.  Not to take the place of the Bible but to back it up.  You know like when you get in trouble for something you didn’t do and your best buddy comes along to back you up, proving that you’ve been telling the truth all along.  That’s what the Book of Mormon is all about.  It doesn’t add to the Bible at all.  It’s one of the Bible’s best buddies, there to act as an extra witness to the truth of the Bible itself.

Applying the Scriptures to My Life

I understand, from this scripture, that one of my purposes on this earth is to show my “true colors” so to speak.  I’m not supposed to stand on the nearest street corner preaching repentance to my neighbors.  I’m supposed to stand in holy places where ever I happen to be and show the world the liberating power and joy of the Gospel so that they get curious and want to know more.  Who doesn’t want that power?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 12

We’ll be looking at 1 Nephi 12, today.

As with the previous chapter, I feel a need to get to the meat of the scriptures contained herein rather than just rehashing everything that is usually addressed in Sunday School.  So I’ll just shove out the stuff that gets rehashed and then get right to it.

  • Filthy River – Depths of Hell
  • Dark Mists – Temptations of the Devil
  • Building – (clarification) Vain Imaginations and Pride of Mankind

There were also three words used in this chapter that I felt should be looked up for greater understanding of the meaning given.  All definitions given here come from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary.  “Multitude” is defined as “a great number of people.”  So, I rather think that when Nephi says multitudes (plural) he means specific large groups of people.  There were two definitions for the word “tumultuous” that I liked.  The first is “marked by tumult : loud, excited, and emotional.”  That speaks, in my opinion, to the human response to the disaster taking place as the Judgments of God are enacted.  The second definition I liked was “marked by violent or overwhelming turbulence or upheaval.”  That, to me, speaks more to the actions of the earth herself.  In short, there was a lot of noise as the earth rent herself in agony at the death of her creator and, in that destruction, there was also a lot of screaming and yelling as people died in the disasters that followed.  Finally, the word “dwindle” was one that I felt needed to be defined.  Merriam-Webster’s says it means “to become steadily less.”  This calls to my mind the image of a dying candle flame.  In this case, I think it’s a reference to their belief in God and the Savior, basically saying that, as their unbelief grew, their belief and, by extension, their faith in Christ was growing steadily less as the candle flame of their faith shrank and died.  The people themselves didn’t get any less, but their belief did.

The last thing I felt impressed to discuss here was the idea of people’s garments being made white in the blood of the Lamb (v 10 & 11).  Anyone who’s ever worn white clothing for any length of time has probably noticed how they tend to gray with time.  A comparison with newer whites tends to reveal this graying.  What’s more, I’ve noticed that no amount of bleach is able to return these whites to their former glory.  Now, with this in mind, imagine dipping these grayed whites in the blood the Savior shed for us in the Garden of Gethsemane and, later, on the cross and having them come out as sparklingly white as they were when they were first bought.  This is a reference to repentance, quite obviously, but the comparison is very interesting.  Think about it for a minute.  All of us have made mistakes and we’ve all been taught to do what we could to make things right.  However, we all know that there’s nothing on the face of this earth that will ever make everything about our mistakes completely right.  So, using the provided allegory, it doesn’t matter how many times we wash our whites, they’re never going to look as white as they did when they were new…unless we turn to the Lord and wash our whites in the blood of His sacrifice for us.  This is a free gift.  It is given to all, regardless of our current level of righteousness or wickedness.  It is a gift of love, and love doesn’t have anything to do with deserving it and isn’t it a good thing it isn’t.  If it was, none of us would go home.  We’d all languish under the devil’s thumb as he proceeded to make us so miserable that we spent the rest of our existence eternally wishing we no longer existed.  It is a gift that is already bought and paid for.  All we have to do is take it and use it.

Applying the Scriptures to My Life

I know that I’m one of those who has, to my mind, stupidly thought myself unworthy of the Lord’s atonement.  This, as I understand it, is a weird kind of pride.  It’s like I’m telling the Lord that the stains on my whites are two stubborn for his blood to take out.  It’s like I’m telling the Lord that I’d rather live in darkness and misery instead of taking His gift and using it to unlock my chains and brighten my whites.  He loves me more than words can conveniently express and He’s shown it to me on many occasions.  All I have to do is drop my burdens at His feet and take up the gift he has left me.  Why is that so hard?  I think it’s because my sins and pain are both so familiar that giving them up, which I must do before I can take the offered gift, is hard to do at first.  However, I’ve experienced the pure joy that comes from walking the path of the Lord.  So, no matter how familiar those things are, I am willingly striving to leave them in the street for the cars to drive over.  That joy is so precious.  I want to capture it and keep it forever.  What about you?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 11

Before we begin, I want to apologize for the length of time it’s taken me to get this entry up.  Real life has been very busy.  Today’s entry will be on 1 Nephi 11.

Previously, Nephi mentioned that after his father left off speaking about his dream, that he, Nephi, was left with a powerful desire to know the things his father saw (v1).  I’m guessing, based on the kind of person Nephi was that he probably prayed about it, asking our Heavenly Father, to help him understand his father’s dream.  Then after praying, he sat pondering the dream, just thinking about it, waiting for inspiration to come to him, as any of us would do.  While he was doing this, suddenly he found himself on the top of a high mountain that he’d never seen or visited before.  As he stood there, the Holy Ghost spoke to him, asking what he wanted.  His response was pretty simple, to see the things his father had seen.  The Spirit then asked him a question meant to test his faith.  “Do you believe that your father saw the tree he claims to have seen?”  Nephi’s response reveals a good deal about him.  “You know that I believe everything my father says.”

The Spirit of the Lord instantly rejoiced, praising Nephi for believing in the Savior without ever having seen him.  He promises Nephi that he will be allowed to see everything he wanted to see.  He also tells him that this vision will be a sign to him that he would eventually see the Savior and a number of other important things and, afterward, record the knowledge in his journal.

At this point, I realize that most Mormons are aware of the basic meaning of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life.  The following first associations are made in this chapter.

  • Tree = Love of God
  • Iron Rod = Word of God
  • Building = Pride of the World

That said, I want to spend a little time on some of the other things Nephi saw.  First off, the Spirit of the Lord appeared to Nephi in a form similar to a man’s and spoke to him as one person speaks to another in general conversation.  I believe that this indicates that the Holy Ghost (referred to in the chapter as “him”) is a male.  This should not be construed as any kind of gender stereotyping.  I’m just trying to read between the lines, here. 

I also note that the Spirit used the term condescension of God.  According to an article written by Byron Merrill, the word condescension, usually used to imply a kind of arrogance, here is used to imply voluntary descent or submission.  The condescension of God was to sire a child with a mortal woman, allow his son to be persecuted and eventually killed, and, in that act, allow him to take the sins and pain of the world on himself so that both justice and mercy might be satisfied at once.  It also speaks to the Lord’s willingness to be our good example and, by extension due to his sacrifice for us, our confidant, best friend and advocate. 

One last thing I wanted to point out here.  When Nephi noted that the building was the pride of the world, he added “…,and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great.”  That’s an interesting analogy.  I don’t imagine that there’s a one of us that doesn’t understand that particular picture as given.  There isn’t a time in one’s life when pride doesn’t lead to a fall.  The greater the pride, the farther the fall.  So, looking back at the previous quote, you kind of get the idea that the pride of the world is simply tremendous.  All I can say is, I hope I’m not in that building when it falls.

Applying the Scriptures to My Own Life

Thinking about this scripture, I realize that the Lord has been a great boon to my life.  So I want to use this space to express the depths of my gratitude for the love and condescension of God and the great love I have felt from His Son.  I’m so grateful not to be wandering around in darkness.  I’m grateful for that hand-railing leading me to His feet.  I’m grateful for His loving patience with me.  I hope, one day, to kiss his feet in gratitude, like that one lady who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her own hair.