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.