Saturday, July 19, 2014

Alma 26

Ammon, who is known as one of the greatest missionaries in the Book of Mormon, had some wonderful experiences serving the Lord, and working to convert his people and the Lamanites. Near the end of his experiences, he sums up his feelings in two very poignant verses. He says,

            "And we have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills; and we have also entered into their temples and their synagogues and taught them; and we have been cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks; and we have been stoned, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison; and through the power and wisdom of God we have been delivered again. And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some" 

These sentences bring back strong, sweet memories of my time as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I served for 18 months in and around Baltimore, Maryland. I met people from all different walks of life, with different religious backgrounds, social experiences, ethnicities, and most importantly, with different ideas of what is right and wrong. During this time I was able to talk to hundreds, if not thousands of people about my belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior, and of His restored Gospel and Church upon the earth.
Some people wanted to listen, and they appreciated the beliefs I shared, but nonetheless declined to learn more. Some people were rude, and had no desire to see me let alone listen to me. Some were mean hearted, and treated me as if I had personally wronged them. Yet, some wanted to listen. Wanted to learn. They felt the Holy Spirit moving inside them, and desired to be in the fold of God. They felt the truth as the Holy Ghost spoke to their spirit of the eternal truths I shared. These people, I will never forget. These people made the ones who hurt my heart seem like distant memories. These people acted as a healing balm to my bruised soul. 
When people ask if I loved my mission, if it was hard, if it was worth it, I remember those who listened and learned of the truth, and changed their lives for good. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Alma 17

Not very often does my blog post have to do with current events (if you can call local news current events), however today I saw a direct correlation between what is going on here in Rexburg, Idaho, and what I was reading in the Book of Mormon this week.

Yesterday there was a flash flood in Rexburg, Idaho- worse than any locals had seen for almost 50 years. Water was gushing through the city, and there was damage everywhere, but most notably in downstairs apartments, and on BYU-Idaho campus. This tragedy, which could be seen as something terrible, has given the community the opportunity to show forth their Christian values. Students came together to help one another, and clean up apartments. Students were seen forming lines to remove water from basements (as seen in the second video on the link). This great opportunity to show forth our love of each other, and service through the Lord and His servants, will be seen by many all over the country.

In Alma 17:11 we read "And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls".

We weren't out among the Lamanites here, by any means, but we did go through afflictions, and with those afflictions comes the opportunity to be good examples, and be an instrument in the Lords hands.

Students at BYU-Idaho using buckets to remove flood water

Friday, July 11, 2014

Alma 13

In Alma 13:28 we read about the promise that Alma delivers, that we will not be tempted above that which we can bear. We can look back at this promise and apply it to our lives. Often times it feel like we are drowning in the temptation that surrounds us. It is literally everywhere, and we have to deal with it in our temporary mortal state, weaknesses and all. But we are promised by a prophet of God, those temptations will never be stronger than we can bear, as long as we are humble, and pray continually to our Heavenly Father for help and guidance.
We read about this promise in the Bible as well. Paul, in his address to the people of Corinth, says "[God]  will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it".  So this promise, which is reiterated in the Book of Mormon, is a promise God has always made to His children. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Alma 10

One of my favorite concepts I read about in the Book of Mormon is the prayers of the righteous affecting the unrighteous. We've read before that Alma the younger was visited by an angel because his father prayed that would happen, and the his son would have a change of heart. In this chapter, we are reading about the missionary companionship of Alma and Amulek and their preaching to the people of Amonihah. From the reprimanding that is taking place, we can infer that these people weren't too righteous, and they needed to be told to change. In fact, they are told they are so wicked that it is only because of the righteous prayers of those who are keeping the commandments that is keeping them all from being wiped out by a flood, or famine, pestilences.

Amulek tells them if they try to kick the righteous out of the city, or if they kill them, not only are they condemning themselves further by sinning more, but also removing their righteous prayer protection.

From this we can learn two things that are applicable today. First, if we have a friend or family member who is not making good decisions, we can be assured that our prayers are affecting them, even if they aren't returning to righteousness, they are protected by our love and prayers.

Secondly, if we ourselves are choosing unrighteousness (let's hope we aren't), we need to be considerate of those who are righteous and keep them safe from harm. They may be the only thing holding back God's wrath from us!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Alma 5

This chapter, if you haven't read it recently, is amazing. There is so much practical, spiritual advice packed into 62 verses. It is so great. One of my favorite set of verses is Alma 5:14-19. In this verse we are asked to ponder if we have the image of God engraven upon our countenances. When I think of this, I remember experiences I had as a missionary. I served in Baltimore Maryland, which is not the most suburban paradise. It is actually very urban, and has a fairly high crime rate. Many convicts recently out of prison end up in Baltimore city, so safety is a big concern when living there. As a missionary, I remember many instances where myself, or other missionaries, were saved from harm due to our "countenances", or as the people of Baltimore said, we were "those God people"! So many times I met with people on probation, or who quickly after the meeting went to prison, and I never felt scared to be with them, because they knew we were of God, and they respected that. Even if they didn't want to keep the commandments, or join our Church, they understood that we were of God, and didn't want to harm us.
When we have the image of God engraven upon us, we stand out in a good way. People recognize the Spirit about us, and our goodness.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Alma 1-4

In Alma 1:21 we see that the people of the Church have been persecuted by those who do not believe. They are being mocked and even killed for their belief. During this time it would be easy for the members of the Church to lose hope and faith, lose patience in Heavenly Father and in their persecutors. If they did any of these things they would be in the wrong. If, for example, when a non-believer was treating a believer poorly, and the believer could have easily turned and treated the non-believer just as poorly, but instead, they refrained from treating their own people and any other people poorly, and were richly blessed for it.

Today, we are treated badly by all sorts of people, those who hate Mormons, those who are Mormon, and those who know nothing about Mormons. But, like Christ counseled us, we turn the other cheek. We treat each person with kindness despite their actions towards us.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mosiah 25-29

In Mosiah 25 we read about the different tribes, or groups of people, who make up the Nephites. There were the people of Nephi, who are literal descendants of Nephi, but there were also those who were the descendants of Jacob, Joseph, Mulek and Zarahemla, as well as many others. These peoples may have not had blood in common, but they did have one thing in common: they followed the commandants of God.
Today, there are many different people, from many different countries in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yet, we all gather together every week, in our different meeting houses all over the world, and learn the same things. We also have more in common, as Latter-day Saints, with other Christians all over the world, with our beliefs in the Bible and in Jesus Christ. Further, we can remember that other religions believe in God, and in an afterlife that we can earn as we are good. And one step further, we know that each of the people on earth are children of our Heavenly Father, and our brothers and sisters, and as such, we should be one with them, as the Nephites were.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mosiah 18-24

In Mosiah 23 the people of Alma were living in righteousness for the most part. They had repented, and were humble before the Lord. Though they were in bondage, they understood they alone could not succeed in getting themselves out of this predicament. They had tried several times, and to no avail. They were a little dejected, but humbled and ready to rely on the Lord. He did not immediately release them, but allowed them to learn from their terrible trial for a bit longer. Once they are finally free, the Lord still does not let them have full relief. In verse 21and 22, we read "Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith. Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people".

It is not always our fate to be blessed with riches and wealth and absence of trials. Sometimes those conditions can be a trial anyway, so we might just be looking at things too temporally. We are put through trials to test our patience and faith, just as we read before. If we submit to the Lord's will, and accept our lives with patience and faith, we are learning exactly what the Lord wants us to, and we can then progress, and work toward our salvation.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mosiah 12-17

Another questions I am often asked as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is 'How is your Godhead different than my trinity?'. The answer to this is usually surprising and often leads to an argument, which is not something I like to do: argue about deity. So, in hopes that I won't start an argument, here is my answer, from the words of a prophet of God, an unwavering source of our knowledge on earth.

"How can Jesus Christ be both the Father and the Son? It really isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Though He is the Son of God, He is the head of the Church, which is the family of believers. When we are spiritually born again, we are adopted into His family. He becomes our Father or leader. …In no way does this doctrine denigrate the role of God the Father. Rather, we believe it enhances our understanding of the role of God the Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. God our Heavenly Father is the Father of our spirits; we speak of God the Son as the Father of the righteous. He is regarded as the ‘Father’ because of the relationship between Him and those who accept His gospel, thereby becoming heirs of eternal life. And the third member of the Godhead, God the Holy Ghost, has the specific mission to teach and to testify of truth as it pertains to the divinity of both God the Father and God the Son".

We believe that God the Father, is the literal father of us all. He created us, and through Him the world was created. We believe that a separate, andd different personage is Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God the Father, who is sometimes referred to as our Father, as explained above. Then, a third separate personage is the Holy Ghost, who does not posses a body, but is a spirit. These three make up the Godhead, and are very seperate beings, with one purpose which is the exact same.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mosiah 10

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am often asked, or rather accused, if I even believe anything I am taught, or if I just am appeasing my parents and friends by agreeing. This is a valid question, and a problem many could face. A testimony, or declared belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is something personal and sacred. However, before a solid testimony is built in an individual, one must base their beliefs on those of their parents or friends. While this isn't an essentially bad thing to do, long term it can be detrimental. One must explore their beliefs, ponder what they mean, both to themselves and in a broader sense, and decide if this belief is something they would like to continue in. So, in answer to those who ask me if I believe in this "Mormon Stuff", or if I am just following in the steps of my parents, I would tell them I have a testimony of my own, and while my beliefs do coincide with my parents, I do not base my beliefs off of theirs. I gained this testimony on my own, by researching, praying, pondering and asking God if this was right.

In the Book of Mormon we learn the terrible consequences of following blindly in our parents; beliefs. In Mosiah 10, we read about the Lamanites' main downfall, and the source of their wickedness. In this verse, we read about the 'traditions of their fathers,' in that the Lamanites blindly followed their ancestors, and never stopped to ask for themselves what was right, or at least they didn't until much much later. This caused them to believe that the Nephites were wicked, tricksey people who manipulated the Lamanites and caused all of the grief they had ever experienced. This caused wars, hatred, torture and most importantly, loss of blessings from God. All of this could have been avoided, had the Lamanites simply thought to ask God themselves if what they were doing was right. If they had simply listened to the promptings of the Spirit and done what was right.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Enos, Jarom, Omni, Words of Mormon

Though these books are little, they cover a vast 400 year span. Enos, the son of Jacob, was a man mighty in prayer. His son Jarom saw peace and prosperity in the land that came from the people's strict obedience and diligence. Omni, and several others who wrote small snippets in his book, saw much sadness and war, and the dissension of their people. These small books are followed up by a book titled Words of Mormon, that the compiler of the entire book, Mormon, wrote as bridge between times. His words jump from the year 130BC to 385AD, more than 500 years later. These short pages are packed with movement, while showing little action. It seems the spiritual side of the plates were temporarily set aside, while the more historical events were taking place.

What I would like to focus on, though, is the words of Jarom. As the grandson of Jacob, he had much spiritual lineage to look up to. His grandfather was the first solely consecrated priest in the promised land, his father a wayward son who had a mighty change of heart and learned much about prayer, service and promises of the Lord. The Nephites were very righteous people at the time, and were being extremely blessed by the Lord for their obedience. Jarom says "our kings and our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord; and they taught the people the ways of the Lord" (Jarom 1:7).

We can see symbolism in our own lives here. As we are obedient we are blessed by the Lord, and become mighty in faith. The less we are obedient, the less we are blessed. It is a simple way to live, but harder once it comes to application.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Jacob 6-7

In the seventh, and final chapter of the book of Jacob, which happens to be my favorite chapter in the book, and maybe even in the book of Mormon, we meet a man named Sharem. Sharem is a knowledgeable man with a silver tongue, who used his skills to flatter the good people of Nephi into doing wrong. Upon learning that Jacob was a man of faith, who believed in Christ, Sharem immediately wanted to meet with him, in order to shake Jacob's faith in Christ, even though Jacob had personally seen the Savior, and had been visited by angels, and received many revelations from God. Even though Sharem knew Jacob's claim, he still wanted to take that faith away from him.

In modern days there are few who believe in the Savior, and many who seek to take away the faith of those who do. Symbolically, we see Sharem doing this to not only the regular people, but the prophet and spiritual leader himself. We, as Christians have an obligation to stand as "witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places that ye may be in..." (Mosiah 18:9). We must withstand the draws of evil men and women who seek to take away our faith, and stand firm as Jacob does.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Jacob 1-5

Again, these chapters are full of rich symbolism, and an abundance of important messages for our time. Jacob 5, in particular is a wonderful symbolic story about the scattering and gathering of Israel. It is talked about a lot, so I won't go into too much detail about it, but will leave it up to you to study and read about.

Instead, I am going to talk about a tender, and very symbolic moment at the first part of the book of Jacob. This is the first time in the Book of Mormon that we have had a switch of main authors, and Nephi has given Jacob the gold plates, and given him a charge to keep the sacred record, and the duty of being prophet is in his hands.

This is a symbolic moment, because we see this happening today- we know that there is a never-ending succession of prophets and apostles, and those keys of the priesthood never leave the earth. When one prophet dies, there is another to take his place, so the Church continues onward, uninterrupted.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

2 Nephi 25-30

Have you ever experienced the joyful moment of listening to a song, watching a tv show or movie, or even just heard someone famous mention the area you live in or come from? I know I have! It seems so amazing that someone so famous could know about the humble place you are from. It is such a magical moment, and usually after that, you find a special place in your heart for that artist, song, show or celebrity. After that you always mention that your neighborhood, town or state is famous because "so and so" talked about it. You point it out when listening to that song, or watching that program. It seems like the best thing that ever happened to that area! This same thing happened to the prophet Nephi.
In 2 Nephi 25:5, immediately after we've read through almost 16 chapters of quoting Isaiah, we learn why Nephi chose to include that. He says "My soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah, for I cam out from Jerusalem, and mine eyes hath beheld the things of the Jews, and I know that the Jews do understand the things of the prophets, and there is non other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews."
So Nephi is experiencing exactly what all of us experience when we hear our homes mentioned by someone famous! He loves Isaiah, because he is talking about his home! I think not only is Nephi excited because Jerusalem is mentioned, but also because it has been a long time since he was home. Though Nephi knows that he needed to leave, because Jerusalem is going to be destroyed, it is still the place where he grew up and has such fond memories of, so it is natural that he misses it. Remembering the areas he had been to that Isaiah mentions is probably a wonderful, if not sad, trip down memory lane.

2 Nephi 17-24

Again in these chapters we are reading the Prophet Isaiah's words, as quoted by the Nephite prophet Jacob. These words are rich in symbolism, and these specific chapters tell the story of the birth of Christ, His mortal ministry, His death, the time called the Apostasy when the fullness of the Gospel was not upon the earth, the restoration, the last days and Second Coming of Christ, and the time following which we call the Millenium.
Though there is a lot of material to cover, I want to focus on just one particular verse, something I struggle with and I am sure a lot of other people do too: pride.
In 2 Nephi 20:15, which can be compared to Isaiah 10:15, the Lord compares us to tradesman's tools, saying, "Shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? As if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself as if it were no wood!"
We are the ax, and the saw, the rod and the wood! We have no room to boast of our strengths, smarts, wisdom, gifts, talents or anything else. We are given all that we have by the Lord, out of His tender mercy. We should praise the Lord for all we have, all we might have, and all we have had. It is Him who gifted these things to us, and just as an ax would not talk of its might, but rather the strength and skill of the operator, we should also give thanks and glory to our Heavenly Father for all He has given us.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

2 Nephi 11-16

These chapters, and many more to come after this, are quoted verses from Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet. Any who have tried to read Isaiah know how difficult it is to understand him at times. In 2 Nephi 15, which corresponds with Isaish 5, the Prophet speaks of the Lord's vineyard.
Upon gathering building materials, and sowing choice wine grapes, building a wine-press and waiting for the reaping of his labors, the Lord discovers not delicious cultivated grapes, but wild grapes that are good for nothing. Wild grapes aren't as sweet and can actually be quite sour, have a grittier texture, and if treated the same way as domesticated wine grapes when making wine, can cause a burning sensation in the throat. So, they aren't desirable, and they are usually a disappointment when reaped instead of the cultivated grapes that were sown.

When we understand the underlying message Isaiah is trying to tell us, and the Nephite prophet Jacob, we see that the grapes are compared to the children of God. Our Heavenly Father sent us to earth to be tested, and to see if we would follow His commandments, in hope that we would return to His presence. He "sowed" us in his vineyard, and had faith that we would turn out to be domestic grapes, ready to become delicious, desirable wine. Instead, He has found that many are turning out to be sour wild grapes, that aren't able to be turned into the wine He desires. Upon finding these in a real life situation, the Lord of the vineyard would burn the vineyard, and start the process over again in better hopes. Our Heavenly Father gives us repentance though, and through Jesus Christ we can be transformed into good wine grapes.
The Lord is calling those who have sinned, and asking them to come to Him and repent. Those He gathers will be safe from the burning. However, those who do not listen aren't saved from the destruction that must take place in order to create a wine grape yielding garden. How important is it for us to spread the message of repentance to those who aren't listening? How vital for us to save our brothers and sisters before the destruction of the last days come?

2 Nephi 9-10

In life we often take up a lot of time, talent, stress and daily worries thinking about money. Our lives revolve around money: how to save money, how to earn more, what to spend it on, what is has been spent on, how much we owe, and how much is owed to us. It seems, despite the lyrics of classic oldies, nothing in life is free.
In 2 Nephi 9:50, Nephi's younger brother Jacob tells us the most important thing in our pre-mortal life, in this life, and the life to come is absolutely free. Salvation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the resulting blessings cost us nothing, except devotion and a broken heart and contrite spirit. Jacob says "Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price." 
Milk and honey, a biblical culinary staple, represents ease of life and richness in the land. So while we might not think of milk and honey as something signifying our riches, in biblical times that meant their life was made, basically. So from that we can learn that the blessings of the gospel are ease of life, and richness of the land. Once we've become converted and follow Christ our lives become infinitely better, maybe not perfection how we think of it, but perfection in God's eyes, and exactly what He has planned for us.
So, while everything in this life may seem to cost money and not be of value to us, especially eternally, the Gospel of Jesus Christ costs us nothing, and is what we should be concentrating on in this life. Eternal life, and living in the presence of God and Jesus Christ, should be our focus here in this mortal life.

Monday, May 12, 2014

2 Nephi 4-8

During this section of the Book of Mormon the great prophet and patriarch of his family, Lehi, dies. This causes much sadness on the part of all of his children, and increased contention between Laman and Lemuel and the rest of their family. The contention gets so bad that Nephi fears for his life, and he takes the righteous among him and flees from his brothers. This causes a literal separation of the righteous and the wicked, where there was already a fairly bold line in spirit. This seperation creates what we know to be the Nephites (those who followed Nephi and chose to keep the commandments of God), and the Lamanites (those who sought to take away Nephi's life, or at least to follow those who did).
In the world, it is often hard to distinguish between those who are righteous and will lift us up, and those who are not so righteous and might bring us down. Usually there isn't an actual physical distance when it comes to choosing friends, but there are several things we can learn from Nephi's experience that can help us make correct choices when it comes to those we associate with.
First, we can remove influences we already know to be bad. If there is anything in our lives that brings us down, be it friends, television shows, music, etc., we can simply take it away. This will increase the influence of the Spirit, which will allow us to better discern between right and wrong when choices come into our lives.
Second, choosing friends with similar values to you. This does not mean that you completely ignore or disassociate yourself from anyone different than you, it simply means that you choose to spend the majority of your time with those who share your values, and help you uphold them, rather than disregard them.
And last, the power of missionary work can do wonders in these decisions. If you aren't sure whether someone will turn out to be a positive influence, ask them to meet with missionaries, and help them on that path. If they choose to meet with the missionaries, whether or not they accept the Gospel, you can know they care about your standards and will help you uphold them in times of trial.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

2 Nephi 1-3

I'm going to take some artistic license here , and skip quite a ways forward, and talk a little bit about Moroni. There is a lot to say about Moroni, more than I could and should cover in this one post. But I will both let you do more reading on him, and tell you just a little bit. Moroni was given the task to finish the writings on the gold plates, which would later be translated and known as the Book of Mormon. He was also burdened with being the last righteous man on the face of the promised land during his time. He died while hiding and running from those who would kill him because of his faith in Jesus Christ. Because of these circumstances, Moroni dedicates all of his time and energy into keeping the written word of God safe and secure until God's children are ready to receive it again.

Moroni says "And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust?...Awake, and arise from the dust...that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee...may be fulfilled" (Moroni 10:27,31).

In 2 Nephi 1:14 Lehi is on his deathbed, and wants to leave his last words with his children, both natural and adopted. He says "Awake! and arise from the dust, and hear the words of a trembling parent, whose limbs ye must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return; a few more days and I go the way of all the earth".

Here we can see the direct correlation between Lehi's words more than 500 years before the coming of Christ, and Moroni's words nearly 500 years after the coming of Christ. Both of these men were servants of God, Prophets and Seers, meaning they received direct revelation from Heaven to guide the people on the earth at their time, and the ability to see what we would need at a time much later than they lived in. The words of these men tell us how the Book of Mormon should be used for us.
The Prophet Moroni as he buries the Gold Plates

Buried in the earth by Moroni, and thousands of years later removed by Joseph Smith at the start of the Restoration of Christ's Church. The words in the book are the words of men of God. To us, these prophets are literally crying out from the dust, from their graves, and commanding us to arise and serve the Lord.

1 Nephi 16-22

As I was reading through 1 Nephi 18 I was struck with awe at the obedience of so many of the Lord's servants. He asks a lot from them, but in return they get so much more then they could have previously imagined.
In this chapter, Lehi's family boards a ship that Nephi, with a little help from his brothers and a lot of help from the Lord, has built. This ship is to take them across the sea to the Americas, the Promised Land. Once on the ship, the "natural man" is allowed to take over, and Laman and Lemuel began to "forget by which power they had been brought thither...[and were] lifted up unto exceeding rudeness" (1 Nephi 18:9). Nephi begins to fear for the life of those on board the ship, and speaks to his brothers about their merriment. Of course, being the understanding, caring and considerate brothers that they are, they rough Nephi up a bit and then tie him with cords.
Nehpi bound by his brothers

This isn't the first time Nephi has been tied up and hit by his brothers, and previously the Lord allowed His power to immediately be seen and felt by these disobedient boys. This time, however, Nephi says "Nevertheless, the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word..." (1 Nephi 18:11).
Nephi was willing to suffer for the sake of furthering the work of the Lord, and in the hopes that his brothers might change their ways and come back to the path of righteousness. It makes me wonder what I am capable of...what am I willing to suffer for the Lord? What symbolism can I see between my trials and Nephi's trial on the ship? Am I willing to suffer through these things so the Lord can show others how great His power is? Do I pray for a trial to be taken away, when I should be praying that this trial can teach, not only me, but someone else the great ways of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

1 Nephi 11-15

One of the most well known chapters in the Book of Mormon is 1 Nephi 11. In that chapter we read the vision of Nephi about the Tree of Life, and the symbolism behind much of it. We learn about the birth of Christ, and the future of Christ's church on earth. Though this is a particularly rich and symbolic chapter, I would like to focus elsewhere during this post. Those who are interested in learning more about the Tree of Life in Nephi's vision, and its symbolism are welcome to explore in this article by Wilfred Griggs from the June 1988 Ensign, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' monthly religious magazine.
The area I would like to focus on today is found in 1 Nephi 13:34-42. Here we are still reading the account of Nephi's prophetic dream. He meets the Spirit of the Lord, who has the form of a man, and the Spirit tells him of the future of his, and his brothers' seed. The Nephites, as Nephi's descendents, and all who follow them, are called, will be destroyed at some point in the future. The Lamanites, those who are against the Nephites, will survive, though they will become "a dark, and a loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations" (1 Nephi 12:23).
Eventually, though, the light of the Gospel will be restored to these descendants of Lehi, through the record that Nephi, and other later prophets, were commanded by God to keep, as well as through the record of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb. "...The Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back..." We know, as Latter-day Saints, that the Bible is the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly (Articles of Faith 1:8). That being said, we know there are some inconsistencies in the Bible that, without the aid of the Book of Mormon, could cause us to "stumble".
The Spirit of the Lord says to Nephi "These last records...shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lam, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them: and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world....wherefore they both shall be established as one: for there is one God and one shepherd over all the earth" (1 Nephi 13:40-41).
The Book of Mormon, combined with the Bible, can confound any false doctrines that may arise. A past Prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ezra Taft Benson, said "The Bible sits on the pulpit of hundreds of different religious sects. The Book of Mormon, the record of Joseph, verifies and clarifies the Bible. It removes stumbling blocks, it restores many plain and precious things. We testify that when used together, the Bible and the Book of Mormon confound false doctrines, lay down contentions, and establish peace" (A New Witness for Christ, Oct 1984 General Conference).
Thus we see the symbolism in Nephi's vision- two books coming together to restore and correct false traditions that had sprung up over thousands of years without the fullness of the Gospel. Neither alone could do what together they would accomplish. Latter-day Saints believe this fully: The Bible, without the Book of Mormon cannot lead a man to the fullness of the truth, and neither can the Book of Mormon without the support of the Bible.

Monday, April 28, 2014

1 Nephi 6-10

Important in the life of every Latter-day Saint, and any member of the true church of Christ, is family. Lehi, the prophet-patriarch of Nephi's family, loved his family dearly, and constantly worried about their eternal welfare. This is particularly evident in his discourse with his older, rebellious sons, Laman and Lemuel. After reading about the complaints of these two dopes in previous chapters, when the boys went to Jerusalem, we know they are fully capable of whining when asked to do anything. Lehi receives another prompting from the Holy Ghost about the continuation of his seed, and sends his sons back to Jerusalem again, this time to convince a family with lots of daughters to join them in the wilderness. At this point there is no complaints from Laman and Lemuel, who I am sure are fully aware of what this mission will end with: wives. After obeying their father's commands so willingly, the return journey home finds them at odds with Nephi and his righteousness again. After tying Nephi up with the desire to leave him in the wilderness to be "devoured by wild beasts" (1 Nephi 7: 16). Through the strength of God, Nephi is able to break the cords that his brothers tied him with, and Laman and Lemuel, as well as the others who had recently joined them, repent and all is seemingly well.
Now! On to the symbolism of family bonds. There are countless records of Latter-day Saint doctrine involving Families, the most well known is The Family: A Proclamation to the World (learn more about it, and the doctrine of eternal families by clicking the link).
In 1 Nephi 8 we read Nephi's account of his father's vision of the Tree of Life. Lehi dreamt he was in spacious field, and in that field was a beautiful tree "whose fruit was desirous to make one happy" (1 Nephi 8:10). Immediately after eating the fruit himself, and finding it as wonderful as described, Lehi wants his family to eat this fruit, and be happy as well. His first thought, after obtaining this happiness for himself, is to have his family join him. Without his family, his happiness isn't complete. This is a core doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We desire to be with our families forever. The symbolism in the Book of Mormon is very clear on the importance of families, and even mentions it within the first 10 words of the first book, in the first verse, on the first page. Though much of the symbolism in the Book of Mormon, or any scripture to be frank, is muddy at best, the symbolism of the importance of family is clear and obvious throughout the entirety of the Book of Mormon.
Lehi dreams of the Tree of Life

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

1 Nephi 1-5

Right from the humble beginning of the Book of Nephi we can see sybolism abounding. In 1 Nephi 1:1, Nephi tells his readers that he is a very blessed son of righteous parents, both on earth and in the eternities. Nephi says that he was "taught somewhat in all the learning of his father". It is a very common tradition among all nations and people to have a father teach his son, but symbolic here was the combined learning of secular and religious learning that Lehi gave Nephi. Much like Christ, who was taught in His youth of all of Heavenly Father's work, and the eternal plan of happiness that required the great sacrifice of a perfect life.
The Christ child learning how to pray with his earthly mother, Mary

Later, in 1 Nephi 3:15, we learn of Nephi's Christlike ability to endure to the end. When asked to retrieve the genealogy of Lehi from a rich, powerful man named Laban back in Jerusalem, Nephi and his brothers hit a wall immediately. They are thrown out of the city and one of the brothers barely escaped with his life. While his brothers are ready to head back to their family empty handed, Nephi says this, "We will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord has commanded us". Nephi refused to go back to his father without finishing everything he was asked to do. In life we are asked to endure to the end of our lives, through trials and tribulations, and hold out until we've accomplished all that our Father has asked us to do in mortality. Nephi is a great example of enduring to the end.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Keystone of Our Religion

"I told the Brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book".

(Joseph Smith, found in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon)

The divinity of the Book of Mormon is very clear in that statement by Joseph Smith. The symbolism of a keystone refers to an arch. Though an arch is made up of several wedge shaped stones called voissours, the top stone, or the keystone, is essential to the integrity of the entire structure. Without the keystone the entire arch would be unable to stand.
The Book of Mormon can be compared to the keystone because the entire Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the truthfulness of that book. Without it, we would not have the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, or latter-day prophets and revelation. We wouldn't have the Priesthood Authority of God. These things rest on the fact that Joseph Smith really did see God and Jesus Christ, and they gave him the power and authority to translate the golden plates into what we now call the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
The very first page of text in the Book of Mormon is the title page, where Mormon, the abridger of the Book of Mormon, introduces the sacred text, its writers, purpose and promise. Here we read that one of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is "that [the remnant House of Israel] may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever-And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations". While this is a fairly literal statement, we can also see the symbolism in it. There are not a lot of written records of Christ's visits to other lands, except His mortal ministry in and around Jerusalem in the New Testament, and His visit to the Americas in the Book of Mormon (see 3 Nephi 11 in the Book of Mormon). However, we know that the Gospel will be preached to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people"(Revelation 14:6). That being said, by the Apostle John, we know that either at this time, or at sometime in the future, the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will be preached and accessible to every person on the earth in their own native tongue. So while we may not know of Christ's visit to each place, we do now that they can and will know about Him and His truth and salvation.