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?