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.