Friday, January 29, 2010

2 Nephi 1

Lehi must have been a powerful figure in the family. After his death and his influence is gone, the family splits into to completely different factions. Until that point, Laman and Lemuel seem willing to ask questions and learn. But once Nephi heads the family, everything changes.
Here are some of the things I learned in this chapter from Lehi.

1. Verses 5-6. No people will occupy to this land except they are brought by the Lord
2. Verse 7. This land will never be held captive but be a land of liberty and be blessed as long as the people are righteous.
3. Verse 8. It is a land of inheritance and will be hidden from other nations.
4. Verse 9. As long as the people keep the commandments, they will proser in the land.
5. Verse 10-22. If the day comes that Lehi's posterity rejects the Lord, the Lord's judgments will rest upon them. Other nations will take possession of the land and the posterity of Lehi will be scattered and smitten.
6. Verse 13. To Laman and Lemuel, Lehi pleads for them to awake from the sleep of hell. The sleep of hell is indifference.
7. Verse 15. Lehi has seen the Lord and his calling and election are made sure.
8. Verse 23. The chains that bind Laman and Lemuel are their sins. Disobedience brings captivity, obedience brings freedom.
9. Verses 24-29. Nephi has suffered much because of Laman and Lemuel. But Nephi has only spoken what the Lord would have him say. Those on the the Lord's errand have no right to say anything except that which the Lord directs them to say. It is not the place of mortals to edit God. No teacher has the right to add or take from the gospel. And when a person is called to speak the truth, he must be ready to stand by his word regardless of the opposition.
10. Verses 30-32. What a friend Zoram has become to Nephi who at first forced him to come with him.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

1 Nephi 22

I want to comment on something basic because if this isn't understood, chapters 20 and 21 won't make a lot of sense. In the Bible, Abraham is promised that his posterity will be as numerous the sands of the sea and through him all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This promise refers to the Savior's being born and the gospel coming through Abraham's lineage. If we follow Abraham's lineage, Abraham had Isaac and Isaac's son was Jacob. The Lord changed Jacob's name to Israel and he had twelve sons. All of the people born to those twelve sons became the nation of Israel. Their ancestral link to Abraham is important to them because the blessings promised to Abraham are also promised to them. By the time of Christ, 10 of the tribes of Israel (the posterity of 10 of the sons) who lived in the northern half of Israel have been scattered throughout the world because of other nations coming in and destroying them. The two remaining tribes, Benjamin and Judah intermarry and become the Jews and they are the only tribes left when the Savior is on the earth. In about 60 A.D., they're also driven out but are able to maintain their identity. Anyone who isn't related to Israel, or can trace his lineage back to one of the 12 sons of Israel is considered a Gentile.

So in chapter 22, Nephi explains to his brothers what these last two chapters of Isaiah mean. In the future, he says, all Israel will be scattered on the earth just like their family has been. In verse 4, he says "there are already many lost from the knowledge of those in Jerusalem. Yea, the more part of all the tribes have been led away; and they are scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea. Other verses will say they are scattered throughout the earth. In verse 7, he prophesies that the Lord will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles after Israel is scattered and through the Gentiles in this nation, the Lord will do a marvelous work for the lost descendants of Israel who by this time will have lost the knowledge of the covenants that were originally made with Abraham. Through the Gentiles, Israel will be gathered again, come to know the Savior, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed because of this work. Read verse 12 because there are four promises made by the Lord to the lost tribes of Israel.

Once Israel is restored, there will come a time of great destruction when all of the wicked will be destroyed. This is prior to the Lord's second coming. The wicked are the ones who need to fear about this. But promises are made to the righteous in verses 17 to 26. Nephi promises 8 or 9 times that the righteous need not fear, that they will be protected. And verse 26 is an important teaching: it is the righteousness of the people that causes Satan to have no power. That is true as a people and it is true as individuals.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

1 Nephi 21

There is much dualism in this chapter. The early verses can refer to the Savior, but they can also refer to Joseph Smith. Here's how I think they refer to Joseph Smith in each of the following verses:

1. He was called from the womb. Meaning that he was called and ordained in the premortal life.
2. His mouth being like a sharp sword means that his words divide truth from error. He was kept in the shadow of the Lord's hand or protected. He is made a polished shaft and hid in the quiver. The polished shaft is the last arrow saved for the most important shot. Joseph was kept from the world until the latter-days and the last dispensation.
3. He is the Lord's servant.
4. It will appear that his work was in vain at the time of his martyrdom.
5. He will bring Jacob again, meaning he will restore and gather the House of Israel.
6. Again, he will bring about the gathering of Israel and be a light to the Gentiles who the gospel will go to first.
7. Eventually, the whole world will see the work begun by Joseph.
9. This has dual meaning. The prisoners of sin will be freed through the atonement and ordinances of the gospel.

In the latter verses of the chapter, the Lord tells the prophet that even though Israel has been scattered and all of it's children seem to be lost, he shouldn't feel like the Lord has forsaken Israel or Zion. In verses 15-16, he uses a wonderful comparison of how he cannot forget them and how his sacrifice is a token of the remembrance. In verse 20, he says that even though the children of Israel have been lost, they will be gathered and they will be so many that there will not be room for them. In verse 22, he says that it is through the gentiles that the gospel will be established and they will bring the children of Israel back into the fold.

It's important to see that the Lord never forgets his children regardless of how far they stray. His love never varies but is always there, waiting for when we turn to him again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1 Nephi 20

Isaiah is hard to read and one thing that helps me is to focus on or look for three themes. One theme is the wickedness of Israel, their rejection of Christ, and in spite of their wickedness, their eventual gathering and redemption by the Savior. The second theme is prophecies about the coming of the Messiah, and third, prophecies related to Joseph Smith and the restoration in the latter days.

This chapter is about Israel. First, the Lord condemns them for their wickedness. Notice what he says in these verses:

1. They make mention of God, swear or make oaths in his name, but they don't do this truthfully or righteously.
2. They say they are of the holy city or Jerusalem. That's like saying, "I'm righteous because I live in Utah."
4. They are obstinate, hard headed, and prideful.
5-6. The Lord fulfilled prophecies before they were supposed to happen so the people couldn't say the false gods and idols performed the miracles.
8. He condemns them for their lack of knowledge, for not hearing his words. He says from their creation as a nation (from the womb), they have been transgressors.

Then in the following verses, he makes these declarations and promises:
10. He will bring them out of their afflictions and make them a chosen people so his name will not be dishonored.
12-13. The Lord tells Israel he is the pre-mortal God, the Messiah, the Creator, and for his own reasons he will not abandon Israel in spite of their wickedness.
14-16. He loves is prophets. He has not spoken in secret, but openly through them and will bring his word to the people through the prophets.
17. He will lead his people in the way they should go.
18-19. He tells them of Abraham's covenant, that had they been righteous, their peace would have been as a river, their righteousness like the waves of the sea, their offspring as many as the sands of the sea, and they would not have been cut off and destroyed (scattered).
20-22. Then at the end of the chapter, he tells them to flee from the wicked influence of other nations, to remember that he lead Israel out of Egypt through the deserts and gave them water that flowed from rock, and yet they are still wicked and not at peace.

All of this is about ancient Israel, but in Isaiah, there is dualism. What he says about the people in one time, can also apply to people in another time. So this could apply to ancient Israel, or Israel at the time of the Savior, or the latter-days. Nephi says we should liken Isaiah's words unto ourselves. Can you see how this can also apply to our own time?

Monday, January 25, 2010

1 Nephi 19

Nephi is making the large and small plates. Once again, I find it helpful to write the word "small" where he says "these plates," and "large" where he says "first plates" or "other plates."

There will come a sad day when those who deny or criticize the Book of Mormon will realize that what they have actually been doing is denying Christ. There is no doubt that Nephi knows what he is writing is true. His last words will be his testimony that what he has written are the words of Christ and in this chapter he says that any weakness is not in the truth, but in his ability as a mortal to write about eternal things. If you can sense the surety of his belief, you can sense the truth that is in the Book of Mormon.

Nephi quotes three prophets we know nothing about, Zenos, Neum, and Zenock. Their writings were on the brass plates, but we don't have them. Zenos makes an interesting prophecy about the Jews. He says the Jews in Jerusalem will scourged by all people because they crucify their God and they turn their hearts aside and reject the signs, wonder, power, and glory of God. Because they "depised" Christ, they "will wander in the flesh and perish, and become a hiss and a byword, and be hated among all nations." There is no doubt as to the fulfillment of that prophecy. But, Zenos says that when the Jews no longer turn their hearts against Christ, he will remember the promises he made to Abraham and their other prophets, and will gather all the house of Israel, and through Israel, all the world will come see the that salvation is in Christ and all people will be blessed. If the Book of Mormon was a fraud, I wonder if Joseph Smith would have made the connection between condemning the Jews, which would be easy, and the fulfillment of the ancient covenants made to Israel regarding the last days.

Nephi issues a challenge that many in the church find very difficult, he tells us that to be more fully persuaded that Jesus is the Christ and Redeemer, we should read the words of Isaiah. Are you up for it?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

1 Nephi 18

Nephi tells us something insightful about revelation. In verse 1, he says, "the Lord did show me from time to time... " I think that is just how revelation comes. I don't think it's ever a steady stream, even for a prophet. I think the Lord expects us to keep moving forward in faith. As long as we're trying to do the right thing, he will guide us from time to time and will warn us if something is wrong. I often find that confirmation of a decision does not come from the Lord until after I have taken action on the decision. We have to have faith that if it is a wrong decision, the Lord would let us know so we can avoid making serious mistakes. What's important is to listen. If we don't listen and hear him warning us, he will not interfere with our agency and allow us to make mistakes and hopefully learn from them.

Nephi's building of the ship was an act of faith and to me it was an act of worship, something totally dedicated to the Lord and his purposes. Perhaps we should look at what we do, our work, our families, as something that is an act of faith and worship. Joseph Smith said we should never start a day without dedicating it and ourselves to the Lord. I wonder how that would change our outlook on what we do. Maybe it would make it easier to keep moving even though we can't see our promised land because we're not there yet.

Nephi says the ship was of curious workmanship. To me, that means it was different than anything he had ever seen. He also says they went "down into the ship." It makes me wonder if it was something similar to the Jaradite ships. It must have been unusual.

Friday, January 22, 2010

1 Nephi 17

The complaining of Laman and Lemuel continues. They talk of how foolish Nephi and Lehi are and you have to wonder why they didn't just go back? They weren't be forced to leave Jerusalem. Anytime along the way, they could have returned and returned much quicker than it had taken them to get where they were. When they say they know that the people in Jerusalem are righteous and keep the commandments, it is obvious they don't see that their wickedness is the same. And their anger will continue to increase until Nephi and his people will have to flee for their lives. I admire Nephi's courage when he tells them that they are murderers in their hearts and just like the people in Jerusalem. This man is no wimp!

Nephi says something I think is very important when he says to his brothers, "... and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words." Understanding religious truth is a feeling. It isn't uncommon for religions who fight against the church to attack prayer. I can remember reading an evangelical tract that said, "Do not pray about these things. You cannot trust your feelings." The Savior said to pray always. In Matthew, the Savior chastises unbelievers for not understanding with their hearts so they can be converted and he can heal them. When we listen with our hearts instead of our heads, we not only find truth, but we feel it is true. But first, we have to learn to trust our feelings so we can recognize the promptings of the still small voice. Truth will always feel good. Falsehood will not.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

1 Nephi 16

At times we hear of someone who has left the church and now spend their time trying to expose the church or demean its doctrines. With such people, you can be sure of one thing, they left the church without repenting of sin. Those who leave the church because they don't agree with it or just don't like it usually retain a respect for it and its members. But when wickedness is involved, they take the truth to be hard and will continue to fight against it. Laman and Lemuel are like Cain in that they hear the voice the Lord. Cain refused to listen and continued on in rebellion. Laman and Lemuel at least repent for a time, but it will be short lived.

There were five daughters of Ishmael. On the trip back from Jerusalem, two of them had sided with Laman and Lemuel when they bound Nephi and threatened to kill him. One of the daughters and her mother pleaded with them to free Nephi. It makes sense that the daughters who sided with Laman and Lemuel married the daughters who sided with them, and the one who tried to protect Nephi married him. The oldest daughter married Zoram. It's probable they didn't all marry at the same time. When Nephi says that he had been exceedingly blessed of the Lord, he seems to be talking about his marriage. When writing narratives, it is Hebrew tradition for the name of the wife to go unnamed by the writer and Nephi does so here as he writes 30 years after the events occurred.

Two last short thoughts. You have to wonder what was written on the Liahona that caused them all to "fear and tremble exceedingly." Maybe it foreshadowed their doom if they kept going in the manner they were. And you get another glimpse into how the natures of Laman and Lemuel differ from Nephi when Nephi breaks his bow. Rather than say "that's too bad" or "those things happen," they blame him for all their troubles and then do nothing about it. They sit in their misery and complain. Only Nephi has the gumption to make another bow and go hunt for meat. Those two idiots must have worn Nephi out. It's a wonder he didn't just shoot them along with the animals.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

1 Nephi 15

We can learn much from this chapter. Unfortunately, this is going to sound a bit negative. But when you think about what Nephi saw, that was really negative.

Laman and Lemuel don't understand and they don't understand because they are not willing to pay the price to learn. Think how Nephi feels. He is completely devastated by having seen the destruction of his people and total collapse of the Lamanites into a society that is backward, ignorant, and murderous. He knows that much of this will start with Laman and Lemuel. It's not hard to understand why he tried to teach them with "all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed" in order to get them to understand in some hope that maybe what he was shown in vision could be averted. Laman and Lemuel at least ask questions and from these they learn what the symbols in the vision of the tree of life stand for. But they only ask Nephi to tell them. They don't try to learn for themselves. So they can never put it together. Church leaders and missionaries see this all too often. People convert on the basis of what others have told them and not what they have learned for themselves by the Spirit. Eventually, they fall away and assume it isn't true. It's like a person who has never been outside and seen the sun. People tell them there is a sun and they believe it for awhile. But since they refuse to go out themselves, whether there is a sun or not becomes irrelevant and there is not need to believe it. Even though the sun is always there for them to find and enjoy.

I want to comment on just one symbol in the vision of the tree of life and that is the river of water. Nephi says this was filthiness. I think it's important to realize how filthiness in the last days is portrayed here. It is coming to us like a flowing river, not as a stream or a brook. At the rate the world is going, it will not be long before it is a raging torrent. Sadly, this inundation of filth is being accepted more and more every day. Satan uses this river to corrupt the most beautiful things in life, such things as romance, love, marriage, and parenthood. It is sad because there is so much that is beautiful in the world to enjoy, things that can elevate a person and help them know what their true worth is.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

1 Nephi 14

This chapter is a good example of how the Book of Mormon divides things into two extremes. In this case, there are the very righteous and the very wicked. Prior to the second coming, there will be only two churches that are true, one of Christ and one of the devil, and it is the great and abominable church that will be destroyed. The question is, will there be righteous people in other churches at that time? There will be and the prophets have confirmed that. It is the very wicked that will be destroyed.

There is and will be, however, only one true church of Christ. Some people take offense to that and it is understandable why they would. But there cannot be more than one true church. Christ established one true church when he was on the earth and as Paul states in the New Testament, there is "one faith, one hope and one baptism." If you follow the "all roads lead to Rome" idea, it doesn't make sense since people with very different intentions would travel the same road. And if that were the case, there is no real truth, and there is no real evil, and there is no real righteousness.

If Christ is "the way and the truth and the life," he is not going to be saying one thing is true and that another thing that is diametrically opposite is true also. There would be no need for apostles and prophets even Christ's church is "built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets... till we all come in the unity of the faith... and are [no longer] carried about with every wind of doctrine." Either the gospel principles are true or they are not. Either there is a resurrection of the body, or there isn't. The Father and Son have bodies of flesh and bones or they don't. Man is either in the image of God or God is an indefinable spirit that fills the universe but will forever be unseen and unknown. Or to take it to the very basics, either there is a God or there isn't. It can't be both in any of these things. If all of creation is based on one way of being, then God is no different. What I mean is, laws and principles that govern life do not alter. What keeps are heart beating, what keeps plants growing, what keeps atoms moving, what keeps all things in order, does not change. The foundational laws on which life operates do not change according to what man does or does not know.

Whenever a truth is revealed, there will be some who know and some who don't. There will be some who believe and some who don't. That does not alter the truth and changes its existence. What is important to me is that we need to remember that God's love for all is perfect. His mercy extends to all. Eventually, all will have the opportunity to know. He will not condemn those who do not know, and I believe that most will all believe when they have the opportunity to understand and learn. Like Joseph Smith said, there are many righteous on the earth who do not know the truth because they do not know where to find it. I don't believe God will leave them hanging out on the limb only to fall. He loves all, he will make all things right.

Monday, January 18, 2010

1 Nephi 13

There are a number of things that Nephi now sees in his vision and all of them relate to our time in one way or another. I just want to comment on a couple of things. There has always been a debate about who or what the great and abominable church is. I think it is better to put it in more personal terms, to recognize that the Satan is at its heart, and to know its effect on us. If you look at the great and abominable church as anything or anyone who would seek to destroy your testimony, your righteousness and your faith, to me that is the great and abominable church. The great and abominable church loves riches and the praise of man. Those in the great in spacious building, when they weren't mocking those who had found the fruit of the tree, were undoubtedly praising each other. Those of the great and abominable church will seek to destroy the family, to lead individuals into committing sins that are personally designed to keep them captive in them. This church is who markets pornography and all immorality. So whatever would lead you from righteousness and truth, its roots are in that church.

Starting in verse twenty, the angel tells Nephi of a book from the Jews that goes forth among the gentiles. This is the Bible and of course in Nephi's time it doesn't exist yet. The angel explains that great confusion will be found in the Christianity because important parts of the Bible will be taken out. This will cause apostasy and religious blindness in the people including the remains of the Nephites and Lamanites. (It's interesting that he mentions the Nephites who have mixed their seed with the Lamanites.) This confusion is so evident today with more than a thousand different Christian denominations and the conflicting beliefs of them all. The angel promises Nephi that through the Lord's power, the pure and plain truths of his gospel that was lost will be brought forth to end the confusion and the Lord will also bring forth the scriptures created by the Nephites, as well as other books (D&C, Pearl of Great Price), and al of the scriptures that will come forth will not only settle the points of conflict, but will prove the truth of the Bible. Starting in verse 40, the angel tells us four purposes to latter-day scripture: (1) to establish truth and complete what was missing in the Bible, (2) to make known to all people that the Savior is the lamb of God (the one slain) and the Son of God, (3) to know that we must change our lives and come to Savior to be saved from sin and death, (4) that it is through the words of the apostles and prophets found in all scripture that we can know how to come to the Savior.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

1 Nephi 12

Nephi and Lehi saw the complete future of their people. And after seeing the destruction of the wicked, the coming of the Savior and the appointing of 12 apostles, it must have been sobering for Nephi and Lehi to see how the symbols of the dream, the river (the depths of hell), the mists of darkness (temptation), and the great and spacious building (pride), would have such a terrible affect on their posterity. After seeing the future destruction of your people, I probably would have said why are we even bothering to go?

We can see three ways that Satan works in verses 17-18. (1) He blinds us so we can't see things as they really are. I think he wants us to see all that is bad, to ruin our hope, to lose our faith in each other, and especially not see those things that are true and really matter. (2) He hardens hearts. He doesn't want us to feel. He wants to dull our senses of the good things, the fruits of the Spirit like love, faith, hope. He wants us to feel discouraged, despair, anger. If he can harden out hearts to the Spirit, he can keep us from the knowing what is true, of knowing and believing in the wonderful plan that our Father has for our lives, and the hope that things will get better, that dreams really can come true.
(3) Finally, he wants us to be prideful. He wants us to feel like we have to be better than everyone else because when we do, he gets us to be judgmental. Not only does this ruin relationships, but the person who is prideful never really feels better than others but will continually feel inferior and will always be caught in the trap of comparing themselves with everyone else. The sad thing is, a prideful person will never come to know their true worth because they are basing their worth on false values.

Friday, January 15, 2010

1 Nephi 11

There is so much in this chapter that it's hard to know what to comment on
and still keep things brief and not write a book. I'm going to highlight a
couple, three things and let you glean what else you find.

Verse 7 is Nephi's calling as a prophet. He's told that he will see the
vision of the tree his father saw and after he sees the tree, he will see
Savior. From then on, he is expected to bear record that Christ is the Son
of God. With great revelation comes great responsibility. Joseph Smith
didn't realize that trying to find out which church was right would lead to
his great revelation of the Father and the Son. But once he received, the
responsibility for the restoration was on his shoulders.

The angel asks Nephi twice if he knows what the condescension of God is.
The first time he asks Nephi, Nephi is shown how Mary conceives by the Holy
Ghost. The second time he asks Nephi, Nephi is shown the ministry and
crucifixion of the Savior. To me, these condescensions of God are the
immortal Father being willing to step down from his exalted throne to become
the father of a mortal son, and Christ, a God, being willing to leave the
presence of his Father and become a mortal and suffer all that he did.

Mary is described as more beautiful and fair than all other virgins. I do
not think this is referring to physical beauty alone, but that her beauty is
reflected from her being so pure that she is found worthy to give birth to
the Messiah. She must be one of the choicest, if not the choicest, woman to
walk on the face of the earth. Eve must be a similar person.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

1 Nephi 10

Chapter 10 is a transition chapter of sorts. Up to this time, Nephi has been summarizing his father's ministry. Now, he begins the account of his own ministry while be finishes that of this father's. Chapter 10 is Lehi's prophecy of the coming of Christ and I think this chapter reveals what great spiritual men Lehi and Nephi were.

One of the things I like about this chapter is it clarifies how much John the Baptist understood concerning the Savior. There are many Bible scholars who say that John did not know it was the Savior he was baptizing until they came up out of the water. Others say it was much later. But here, John knows he is baptizing the Messiah and understands his mission.

Lehi's prophecy of the Messiah inspires Nephi to see the vision his father saw and to know what his father knows. He understands that this must come by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost and tells us that those who diligently seek the Lord, can have the gift of the Holy Ghost and can have the mysteries of God revealed to them. We must be clean and have faith that the mysteries can be revealed to us. I think the word mystery is used because a mystery is something that can't be explained. It's something that has to be revealed. The important thing to know is that God is no respecter of persons and he will make known the same things to the saints he makes known to his prophets if they are willing to pay the spiritual price.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

1 Nephi 9

I found it helps keep things straight if you write the word "small" above the words "these plates" and the word "large" above the words "other plates." The only verse that doesn't work is verse 2 which is the most confusing. The full account of the history is the large plates. In verse three Nephi says that he is making the small plates for a special purpose, a wise purpose but he doesn't know what that purpose is. In chapter 19, he talks a little more about it and says that he is writing more of the prophecies and the ministry for the instruction of the people for a purpose which are known unto the Lord. And then he says, "And I, Nephi, have written these things unto my people, that perhaps I might persuade them that they would remember the Lord their Redeemer."

I'm glad Martin Harris lost the first 116 pages of the translation of the large plates. Otherwise we wouldn't have Nephi's writings which are more sacred and contain more doctrine about the atonement than the lost pages would have. For those that stole them, it's like the Lord said, "Since you've stolen the manuscript in effort to hinder the work, I'll substitute it with something far better and more convincin

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

1 Nephi 8

In Lehi's vision of the tree of life, I think there are several things I would like to comment on. First is the dark and dreary wilderness. Lehi finds himself in lost in this vast wilderness and, it's similar to be something that we all find ourselves in from time to time. The important thing is to find the guidance needed to get out of the darkness. An angel comes and leads Lehi out of the wilderness to the tree of life. He then is able to lead his family to the tree. There are several ways I can look at this. One is, prophets are guided by the Lord and his angels to a position of where they can teach us and guide us in the best paths. Parents can receive guidance to lead their children. The important thing is to seek it. The end result is joy. We get a taste of it from time to time in this life, but after this life, we will receive a fulness of joy.

There are four groups of people who Lehi sees in his vision. The first group (verses 21-23) are people who make their way to the path that leads to the tree, but the mists of darkness, temptations, rise up and they let go of the rod and lose their way. The second group (verse 24-28) catch hold of the iron rod and make their way to the tree and partake of the fruit and then see the people in the great and spacious building mocking them and they are ashamed. They fall away into forbidden paths and are lost. The third group (verses 30) make their way to the tree and partake of the fruit and remain. And the fourth group (verses 31-33), which is the largest, try to make their way to the great and spacious building. The have no intention of making their way to the tree (the gospel). Many of them are lost in the way, drown in the depths of the river, or get to the building. The great and spacious building represents the pride of the world. It floats in the air because it has no foundation and will eventually fall and destroy those in it.

At this time, I think Lehi realizes that Laman and Lemuel will never accept the gospel. He will keep trying. But deep down, he knows because of what he has seen.

Finally, I like this quote from a commentary I have. "This tree was more than an abstract principle... more than a vague sentiment, albeit a divine sentiment. Nephi was taught that the tree represented the love of God as manifest in the gift of his Son. Partaking of the fruit of the tree thus represented the partaking of the powers of Christ and his atonement: forgiveness of sins, as well as feelings of peace, joy, and gratitude. Ultimately, through partaking of the powers of the gospel one is qualified to partake of the greatest fruit of the Atonement - the blessings associated with eternal life."

1 Nephi 6

About 10 years after they left Jerusalem, Nephi was commanded to make large plates and engrave or write a history of their journeys and their family. About 20 years after that, he was commanded to make small plates and on those write a history of the more sacred things that took place and were taught. We are reading what he wrote on the small plates. The small plates start with 1 Nephi and continue until we get to Mosiah and then they end. So we are reading what Nephi began writing about 30 years after they left Jerusalem. It helps to remember that when Nephi says "these plates," he's talking about the small plates.

The small plates were fewer in number and smaller in size. This is why Nephi says he doesn't have room talk about everything that happened to his father and the family. With so little room, he only wants to write the things of God so he can persuade people to come unto Christ. I think verse 5 is the key verse where he says he is not going to write anything that would be pleasing to the world. He's not concerned about what the world will think and knows that those caught up in the world will not be able to understand it. He only wants to write what will please God.

There are two good verses to cross reference with verse 5. In 2 Nephi 25:23, Nephi says, "For labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
2 Nephi 33 contains the last words he wrote on the small plates. Verse 10 says, "And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words (what he has written on the small plates) and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye believe in Christ ye will believe these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good." Notice how many times he pleads with us to believe. He is someone who knows, who has seen the Savior, and has given his life to teach others the truth concerning the Savior. You might want to read the last five verses of 2 Nephi that come after that.

1 Nephi 7

Just two short points with this chapter. Nephi and his brothers return to get Ishmael and his family. Joseph Smith indicated that in the lost 116 pages of manuscript of the Book of Lehi, he learned that Lehi's and Ishmael's families were related in some way. It is obvious that they knew each other and relationships between some of the men in Lehi's family and some of the women in Ishmael's family could have already formed.

After they tied Nephi up and threatened to kill him, they eventually beg his forgiveness. Nephi quickly forgives him and urges them to seek the Lord's forgiveness. It should be that way among siblings in a family. Children should be taught to forgive and leave all else up to the Lord.

Friday, January 8, 2010

1 Nephi 5

Every time I read this chapter I say "Thank you Lord" and "Thank you Sariah." It is so good to know that Sariah feared and doubted, that she chastised her husband for putting them in the place they were. It's good to know that even the strongest can doubt and fear. She had good reason. Her four sons were gone longer than they should have been. The land they were traveling through was extremely desolate and dangerous. And to me, the lesson is, while she had doubts and fears concerning the path they were following, her doubts were eventually replaced with knowledge. That's the reward of having faith and persevering and moving forward in spite of the doubt and discouragement we sometimes feel.

When Lehi gets the Brass Plates, it's like some of us are when we get a new computer. He searched them from the beginning. To me, that means he didn't just read them, which would be good, but he tried to understand their true meaning. What he found were scriptures that were far more extensive than our Old Testament. The plates contained the five of books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. But in addition, they contained a more extensive account of the creation of the world and of Adam and Eve and the fall. The plates also had the prophecies of the prophets, but more there too. Later on we will learn that they contained the prophecies of Abraham concerning Jesus Christ, prophecies of the Biblical Jacob concerning the Book of Mormon people, and prophecies of prophets of whom we know nothing about. Lehi obviously had no doubt that getting the Brass Plates was worth whatever it took to obtain them.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

1 Nephi 4

It would appear that you can't underestimate how important the brass plates were to Lehi's family. The Lord sends an angel to prevent Laman and Lemuel from hindering Nephi. Then he commands Nephi to slay Laban who was obviously very wicked. Had not been wicked, he would have given them the plates or the Lord would have chosen some other way for Nephi to obtain them. We will see the power of the plate's influence over the Nephites later in the Book of Mormon as they are referred to and used numerous times.

I think verse 6 is one of the most important guidelines for life there is. "And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do." When I first joined the church, a young couple my age would sometimes have me over for dinner and family home evening. I remember one night their telling me that the most important thing I could learn to do, now that I was a member, was to follow the Spirit in everything I did. I don't know that I've done that as well as I could. But I do know that life will go in the right direction, that we end up in the right place a the right time, and we spare ourselves a lot of needless grief (sometimes it's needed) and frustration, if we try to stay in tune and obey the Spirit. Even though we feel alone at times, because of the Spirit, we really do have much more surrounding us than we realize. Sometimes we cannot sense its presence and that is for a reason. At other times, we can sense its presence, and even the presence of angels, and we can feel confident and have faith that we will see things through and be where we would have wanted to be when all is said and done. Later, when Nephi courageously goes after the plates (remember Laban had sought to kill them so Nephi was heading back into the hornet's nest) and is now faced with the command to kill Laban, he says these important words, "Therefore, I did obey the voice of the Spirit." He knew its voice, he recognized and understood its promptings, and even though he had to do something he would have never thought of doing, he ended up doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. But none of that would have happened if he had not gone forward in faith to begin with, not knowing what was going to happen. And it wasn't the angel who commanded him to kill Laban. It was the still, small voice.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

1 Nephi 3

Laman and Lemuel are quite the pair. They go back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates but drag their heels the whole time. After Laman fails to reason with Laban, the brothers offer Laban all of their wealth which must have been significant, large enough that when they were forced to flee for their lives, they had to leave it behind. Laman and Lemuel are ready to go home, but Nephi says, "As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us." This oath was sacred, and in this period of history, and in the Book of Mormon, even wicked people would refuse to make an oath they knew they would break." Nephi is bringing the Lord into this oath and he is telling his brothers that if he fails, then the Lord will have failed too. I think the Lord views oaths as sacredly today as they were then. The oath and covenant of the Priesthood, the covenants we make with baptism, the temple, are all sacred and we need to respect and treat them that way.

Nephi says there are two reasons they need the plates. One is to preserve their Hebrew language even though they probably spoke Aramaic and Egyptian as much if not more than Hebrew. And the other and most important was to have the scriptures which would have encompassed a period of 4000 BC to 600 BC. It would have included the Old Testament and much more.

Laman and Lemuel are the epitome of the person with a hard heart. They simply cannot see with spiritual eyes of faith. They continue to only see failure. The appearance of the angel doesn't phase them at all because once the angel leaves, they murmur even more. To people whose hearts are hardened to the Spirit, spiritual actions do not make sense. When someone is in tune with the Spirit, they are able to see beyond the world and the norm and are able to see and know how the Lord is at work in his own way and bringing about the results he desires. I have always liked the verse in Proverbs that says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." It's true of our own individual lives. When we are in tune with the Spirit, we see with different eyes and understand with different hearts.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

1 Nephi 2

Notice how Lehi and Nephi receive and are promised similar blessings because of their faith and obedience. And because of their faith, the Lord tells them that they will be persecuted. Wherever the gospel is, and wherever righteous people are, there will be those who will persecute them, or in the least denigrate them for their beliefs. We should never be surprised that some people will criticize us for because of our beliefs. Like Laman and Lemuel, they do not understand because "they [know] not the dealings of that God who created them." They did not believe because they didn't seek spiritual knowledge. If they criticized, persecuted and even put to death the Savior, we should not be surprised that at times we are treated the same way. But we should also remember that there is a difference between those who degrade the gospel and those who disagree. Those who disagree have the right to their own beliefs, and hopefully there will always be an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual respect.

And we should never be upset with those who would criticize our beliefs. We should continue to move forward in our faith knowing the Lord will always lead us to promised blessings while those who would persecute are left in their own unhappy situations. In the case of Lehi and his family, those who remained faithful were led out of the city of Jerusalem which was destroyed with thousands killed and the rest taken as slaves and captives into Babylon.

When Lehi takes his family into the wilderness, he leaves his land, gold, silver, and everything that is valuable by the world's standards. He only takes his family, provisions and supplies, and the gospel. When the tsunamis of life hit, we will find that the only things that matter are those same things. People who have survived disasters, or catastrophic illnesses like cancer, or had near-death experiences, without exception speak of the importance of our relationships, maintaining our health and appreciating life, and the need for a strong religious faith.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

1 Nephi 1

1 Nephi

I would suggest there are four things to keep in mind as you read the Book of Mormon. The title page says there are three purposes to the Book of Mormon: to teach us of what the Lord has done for us, to teach us what promises the Lord has made with us so we know he hasn’t forgotten us, and to convince us that Jesus is the Christ. If we look for one or more of those three things as we read, it will help us understand what the Lord wants us to know. I would add one more thing to think about as we read. Nephi says we should liken the scriptures to ourselves. There are lots of ways to do that. One way is to ask questions like, “What would I do?” “How would I react to this?” “What does the Lord want me know?” or “Is this true?” You will need to think of your own as you read.

1 Nephi 1

This chapter is about Lehi. He is an exceptionally spiritual man. In the past, he has had many visions and dreams from which he has taught his children. Now he has two visions. The first one comes as he is praying for the people of his city after hearing the many other prophets testify of Jerusalem’s destruction. The vision about this is so troubling that he collapses on his bed and he is overcome with what he has seen. He is also overcome with the Spirit and has a second vision, this one of the Celestial Kingdom and the Father. He also sees the Son and the twelve apostles and their ministry. Then the Savior appears to him and teaches him what is to come using a book. This is similar to how Christ taught other prophets in the Old Testament. He again sees the destruction of Jerusalem, but also sees the great overall work of the Lord and with this understanding he rejoices. When he goes among the people and testifies of the Savior and Jerusalem’s destruction, the people seek to kill him. This seems to be the standard experience of many prophets.

Whether it’s Lehi, John on the Isle of Patmos, or Joseph Smith, the Lord has always prophets for whom the veil is parted so that they see and know the big picture. They understand things far beyond what the everyday person does. As soon as a prophet makes known what the Lord has revealed, a choice is placed before the people. They can choose to study his words and listen to their hearts about what he has taught, or they can react to the teachings without first establishing a knowledgeable and spiritual foundation. This is the difference between Nephi, Sam and later Jacob on one side, and Laman and Lemuel on the other. We will see the extreme results of these two sides of the family. At first, all of family believes Lehi. All of them leave their home, their vast wealth and follow Lehi into the wilderness. But why is it that some will eventually continue in faith, and others will fight Lehi and the other side of the family at every turn?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Book of Mormon

This year, we're reading the Book of Mormon as a family and any of those who want to read it with us. I hope all of you will. It will be just a chapter a day and once in awhile, only a half a chapter. I hope the parents will read it with the kids. I can promise that each of you and the kids will be blessed. Your day will go a little better and your faith will get a little stronger. Today, I just want to say one or two things I think are important about the Book of Mormon and tomorrow we'll start with chapter 1. Sorry this is so long.

One thing to remember is that the Book of Mormon always refers to the very righteous or the very wicked. Most all of us fall somewhere in the middle. Many conference talks, church talks and people in the church tend to do the same thing causing us to feel that we fall way short and thus are failures in the church. It's important for church leaders to present things as they do, but we as members should be accepting of all people. Unfortunately, it's not unusual for many people to feel like they don't belong because they aren't as righteous as an apostle yet. We all have things we need to work on. We can all do a better job on keeping the commandments and we should always be trying to do better. The Lord does expect us to keep all of his commandments. But we also fall short. The Lord knew this would happen and that's why there is an atonement. Spiritual growth is a lifetime project. With the Book of Mormon, we should learn from both extremes, learn from their examples, and try to have our lives on a path that keeps us going in the direction of righteousness.

The second thing I think important to remember is the miracle of the Book of Mormon. Simply put, Joseph Smith could not have done this. Because of my profession and my education, I figure I have written over two thousand pages in books, articles and papers. I have had far more years of schooling than Joseph did. Everything that I wrote took weeks, months, and in some cases, years. With everything I had to write, numerous revisions were necessary and I often had other people editing each revision. There is no way I could replicate anything close to a Book of Mormon. The style, the complexity, and the lack of any contradiction (which is extremely hard to avoid) in the story line and doctrine is amazing. The style of language changes with each writer in the book when they are quoted directly by Mormon and this also would have been impossible for Joseph to do. That fact that he wrote this in 60 days without a single revision except in punctuation and spelling is proof alone he couldn't have written it. Compare the writing of the Book of Mormon with his early letters and it is obvious. Had he used the grammar he used then, it would have taken more than 60 days just to correct that. Finally critics have failed remarkably in their efforts to prove it false. It has stood the test of time. Each time I read it, I am amazed.

And lastly, like all great literature, some things are hard to understand. Don't be bothered by this. Just keep moving forward. If you understood everything perfectly, there would be no need to read it more than once. You will never get to the bottom of things in the scriptures. It's the same reason why I like great classical music. You always hear and learn and feel something new. It's the same with the scriptures. I would suggest that rather than trying to understand everything perfectly, read each chapter with the idea of finding one thing that the Lord would like you to learn.