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.