Sunday, February 28, 2010

2 Nephi 23

The destruction of Babylon is the focus of this chapter and these verses are in dualism so they are also descriptive of the destruction at the second coming. The one interesting thing to me is that Isaiah prophecies that once it is destroyed, Babylon which had been a great and beautiful city, will never be inhabited again. They know now where Bablyon was, but it basically disappeared just like Sodom and Gomorrah and just like Isaiah said it would. The signs of destruction in this chapter are not very pleasant and I would not want to be counted among the wicked at that time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

2 Nephi 22

In this chapter, everyone, but especially the House of Israel, will once again praise the Lord because of his love and his goodness. These verses remind me of the great relief and joy a person feels when they have repented of major sin. It feels so good to feel clean and have all the weight lifted. Guilt is a terrible burden to bear but thanks to the atonement, it can be swept away. The wonderful thing is, he never abandons us. Israel, in spite of their great wickedness and refusal to accept Christ as their God, is never forgotten or given up on by the Lord. He promised he would exalt them and he will. He will never give up on us either. Their will come a time when we will perfectly know his great love and at that day, we will do and say the same similar things that are mentioned in this verse.

2 Nephi 21

I find it difficult at times to get and keep the "big picture" in my mind when it comes to the gospel. I tend to think of things in a day to day frame of mind as that seems like more than enough to handle or as much as I want to handle. But with Isaiah, we have to force our minds to see the Savior's overall plan and how everything, including Joseph Smith, was planned for and prophesied about from the beginning. Each of the prophets prophesied of Christ, and each prophesied about the restoration and now we see the fulfillment of all of their prophecies.

In this chapter, the Isaiah first prophecies about the Savior, his coming in the flesh, his judging of the righteous and the wicked and his thousand year reign. He is the rod and stem that will come out of the root of Jesse or Ephraim. He will be given great power and have all knowledge. The root of Jesse in verse 10 is a descendent of Jesse to whom will be given the priesthood power in the last days. This is referring to Joseph Smith. This prophecy is being fulfilled in our day, even though it was given thousands of years ago. Through this prophet, God will erect an ensign to the nations that will unite Israel who will gather round it and not be divided anymore. The gentiles are the ones chosen to assist in this gathering and it will be done by the power of God just like when He led Moses and Israel out of Egypt.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2 Nephi 20

Assyria is the rod that the Lord will use to chasten his people and destroy other equally wicked lands. But Assyria will boast that they did it in their own strength and they will be brought down when they mock the Lord. They fail to acknowledge the hand of the Lord but trust only in the arm of the flesh. Assyria is typical of blood thirsty nations who have cruel leaders and fierce armies. Notice Isaiah’s language as he describes what will happen to Assyria and to the wicked in the last days. They will be consumed, devoured. There will be a flame, a burning fire. The destruction of Assyria is symbolic of the destruction of the wicked in the last days who are in contrast to the righteous remnant of Israel who are saved when the Lord returns as they worship in their temples and sing praises to him.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2 Nephi 19

This chapter contains the great prophecy of Christ. The words are used in Handel's Messiah and prophecy of the Savior's birth and of his ascendency to the throne of David at the time of his second coming. Five titles will be given to him: Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, and The Prince of Peace. The remainder of the chapter talks about the destruction that will come upon the Northern Kingdom. It typifies the destruction of the wicked at the Lord's second coming, and makes special note that those who were leaders, who taught lies and caused the people to error will be destroyed. It's comforting to me to know that terrorists, murderers, anyone who ruins or hurts the lives of good people will pay an ultimate price. I like the words that are often used in these chapters, "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." I think that his hand remains stretched out in punishment to the wicked because they will not change, but also stretched out in mercy to those who will.

Monday, February 22, 2010

2 Nephi 18

This chapter is a continuation of chapter 17. Isaiah inscribes the name of his son on a stone tablet in the presence of two witnesses to establish the fulfillment of the prophecy. His son’s name means a speedy plunder and spoil. It is symbolic of both the rapid destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel which Ahaz has made the pact with, and the speedy destruction of the wicked at the time of the Lord’s second coming. The Lord tells Isaiah that these destructions are because they reject him, the living waters of Shiloah. The Lord tells Isaiah again that the Judah should not form an alliance with Israel and Syria. That rather than seek protection from them, they should seek protection from God, a message that is good for us.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

2 Nephi 17

The message of this chapter is we should trust the Lord's word that comes through his prophet and not the arm of the flesh. What seems logical isn't always the right thing. The motivation of leaders in the world is often based on selfish interests and fears. Right now, Israel is divided into two kingdoms. The northern half of the country is called Israel and made up of what is left of the ten tribes of Israel. The other two tribes, Benjamin and Judah have combined into the one people, Judah, and they occupy Jerusalem and the southern half of the country. The Lord tells Isaiah to meet with Ahaz, the king of Judah at the aqueduct of the upper pool. This was probably near the Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley which is the valley that separates the old city of Jerusalem from BYU's Jerusalem Center today. The Mount of Olives is on one side of the Kidron Valley.

Rezin, the king of Syria, and Pekah the king of Israel (northern half) want Ahaz to ally with them against Asssyria, the neighboring super power. Isaiah pleads with Ahaz to not do this but trust that the Lord will deliver them. Ahaz rejects Isaiah's counsel and tries to play both sides by also winning the support of the king of Assyria. Assyria then invades Israel and takes a number of cities captive. Because of this, Syria and Israel invade Judah slaying 120,000 soldiers and carry away 200,000 women and children.

Isaiah gave Ahaz a sign. The sign was a virgin will conceive and bare a son whose name will be Immanuel. This has a duel meaning because it not only prophesies that through Judah the Messiah will be born, but it is a sign for their time and refers to Isaiah's wife giving birth to their first son.

2 Nephi 16

If you were travel back to the time of Isaiah, or even a thousand years ago, how would you describe computer technology, television, cell phones, movies, CAT scanners? How about lasers or even simpler things like cars, or microwaves? Could you describe radar and how a stealth fighter or bomber avoids it? By describing these things only in what you write, would they be able to read and comprehend it? It would seem fantastical, and they might grasp the concepts. But Isaiah must write about what he sees in the celestial kingdom of God. There are no earthly things that are comparable, no mortal words to describe immortal things. With what he writes being incomprehensible to us, he uses imagery. I think the best way to approach this chapter is to not figure out what the seraphim is looks like, but see what is happening. Isaiah is being called as a prophet. His sins are purged, he's given his mission and told the people will refuse to hear and understand. It would seem like a fruitless effort, but there will be a tenth of the people who will eventually return. There is a common procedure here with the calling as a prophet. Isaiah's fits the same mold as all other prophets including the Prophet Joseph Smith.

2 Nephi 14 and 15

2 Nephi 14

After reading of the wickedness of Israel's men and women, Isaiah now prophecies of the restoration when they (Isaiah refers to Israel as daughters but I think you can infer all of the posterity, both men and women) desire to be called by the name of the Lord and wear the robes of the holy Priesthood. All of their wickedness is washed away meaning the atonement as cleansed them from all sin. The Lord will create a place of refuge for them where they will be safe from all that would harm them. This could be applied to any person who has sinned and changes their life. It shows how much the Lord is willing to restore them to a position of honor and glory in his sight. The Lord is quick to forgive and wants us to realize how much his love and mercy is ready to be extended to each of us.

2 Nephi 15

Israel is compared to a vineyard that was planted by the Lord in very fertile land. Even though everything was done to perfection, the vineyard failed to bring forth anything edible. The fruit was all wild meaning Israel only brings forth wickedness. Because of this wickedness, the vineyard will be destroyed. Isaiah says that because the people have no knowledge of the Lord, no spiritual knowledge, the people will be taken into captivity. In the midst of this destruction and being led away into captivity, Isaiah looks to a time when there will be a restoration, when an ensign will be lifted up. It will come not from Israel but from far away.

Isaiah gives a warning that is similar to Moroni's: "Wo unto them that call evil good and good evil, that put darkness for light and light for darkness." That is so true of our world today. Sins, like adultery, pornography, abortion and are all put forth as acceptable. Television and movies are full of examples where destructive behaviors are put for as normal and acceptable. Adultery and fornication is often couched in humor or under the guise of being a true expression of love. No one seems to notice that the actors who live the same life style they portray in the media have failed relationships where love is not at the foundation. Politicians are prime examples of the hypocrisy of saying one thing but living and doing another. People, officials, and movements will put forth lies to establish their cause as truth. A close look will always show that money, position and power are always at the bottom of it. Isaiah, even though it's hundreds of years before Christ, and even though he can only describe it terms he is familiar with, is dead on in describing the sins of our day as describes the sins of his.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2 Nephi 12

Even though Israel is steeped in wickedness, the Lord tells Isaiah that in the last days the temple (mountain) of Lord will be built and Israel will come to it from all parts of the world. And there will come a time when peace will be in the place of war. This would have particular meaning for Nephi's people as they had to flee Jerusalem because of its wickedness and are now thousands of miles from their true promised land and must wonder if the promises and covenants of the Lord will ever apply to them again. You can see why Nephi would quote so much Isaiah to remind them that they are not forgotten. And now we have a literal fulfillment of that prophecy of the temple and it will probably be fulfilled again when the Lord comes. I think we forget how many prophecies of the scriptures have been fulfilled with the restoration of the gospel.

Isaiah then describes the wickedness in his times and there are parallels to the wickedness in our days. For example, rather than follow the Lord's commandments, the people listened to the false religions that came from other countries like Babylon, they were rich and had many weapons of war, but were morally weak easily lost the battles when invaded, they were worshipping idols, and were full of pride. The last part of the chapter talks about how the Lord will end these things and destroy the wickedness of his people. This was fulfilled in Isaiah's time and will apply to wickedness in our time als

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2 Nephi 13

The Lord's condemnation of the Jews continues. Verses 8 and 9 pretty well sum things up. Jerusalem is ruined. The Jews have fallen completely away into wickedness. Everything they do and say is against the Lord. Verse 9 has an important principle that people who deliberately live in in sin never seem to understand. "The show of their countenance doth witness against them..." It's similar to a child who has done something wrong. You don't even have to ask them, their face shows it. The opposite is true for righteous people, their goodness shows in their countenance. There is something about them that can't quite be explained.

The Lord's warning that the Jews will be killed and led into captivity, his condemnation of their wickedness, their sexual sins, their pride, their fixation with fashion and appearance, all of this must have given comfort to Nephi and his people and made them grateful to have escaped. It's also a good warning for our day. Sin is sin and no more acceptable today than any other time in history. The sins of mankind do not seem to every change. There is only one verse for the righteous in this chapter and the Lord says it will be well with them and they will see and enjoy the fruits of the righteousness.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

2 Nephi 11

Nephi gives us four things that he delights in doing. One is quoting the words of Isaiah. How many people, including me, have asked, "How can you delight in words you can't understand?" I think with Isaiah, you have to keep trying. Each time you go back, a little of the curtain is pulled back. It's like the temple, each time you go, you get a little more. The second thing he delights in is proving to the people the truth about the coming of Christ. Nephi is looking forward; we look back to prove that he came and for us that he has come twice. Once for his ministry and atonement and once to restore the gospel. He tells us that all things in the world bear witness of him. In Moses it says, "All things have their likeness, and all things are crated and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath, all things bear record of me." If we look, we will see.

The third thing Nephi delights in are the Lord's covenants, particularly the promise he will deliver us from physical and spiritual death. Nephi says this promise shows how great his grace, justice, power, and mercy is. The fourth thing is similar, it's Nephi's delight in proving that unless Christ came, there would be no deliverance from death. He uses good logic, if there is no Christ to redeem us from death, there is no God, and if there is no God, there would have been no creation. Our very existence is proof that there is a God. No one has ever been able to explain what the essence of life is, what makes things live, move and function. At death it would seem that this essence of life ceases to exist. But if it exists, it had to have been created. Of course, we know our existence goes way beyond this experience of mortality.

These four things that Nephi delights in are a testimony of Christ. I find that we experience a special spirit when we teach and testify of the Savior. If we open up our hearts and let us ourselves feel, we can know. At the end of second Nephi, he says, "when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. But behold, there are many who harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast away many things which are written and esteem them as things of naught." The Holy Ghost is there. We just need to open our hearts. If we don't let our minds wrestle with the detail, we will find that we can know without doubt. Once we have that foundation, then the details fall into place and we no longer have this battle going on in our minds. We reach a place of peace and assurance where our heart and our mind are at the same place. That enables us to see things more clearly and to understand more deeply the things of the gospel and of life. If we soften our hearts, we will feel.

Friday, February 12, 2010

2 Nephi 10

To me, this chapter is a reminder that God will keep his promises. The promises made by men are too often broken and are only made for opportunistic reasons. The promises of the Lord are deeply sacred and he will honor every promise he makes. In this chapter, Jacob teaches that when the Jews, who were the most wicked nation on an earth that is one of the most wicked of God's creations, in spite of having crucified their Lord, when they believe in Christ again, the promises made anciently to them will still be fulfilled. He will not forget them or the promises he made concerning them. They will be able to return to the lands promised for their inheritance. While there are many Jews in Israel today, this promise is yet to be fulfilled. Each of us have similar promises that can be traced back to the promises made to Abraham. If we live in the manner God would have us live, those promises are real and sacred, and regardless of what we have done in life, he will not forget us and his promises to us will be fulfilled if we patiently and righteously wait for them.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

2 Nephi 9 Part Two

After explaining how the atonement relates to the fall and how everyone can be redeemed from physical and spiritual death, Jacob explains how justice and mercy work. The law of justice is an eternal law and it requires that for every good thing we do in life, there should be a just reward, and for every sin there should be a just punishment. The great thing about the law of justice is no one gets away with anything. Eventually, a price has to be paid. The difficult thing about it is, good people will still have to suffer for things they have done wrong, even if it's something in the past that they overcame. The atonement allows the Savior to pay for the consequences of our sins so we don't have to. It's like someone coming in and paying off a debt that the law requires us to pay. We can't afford, but by someone else paying it, the person owed the money is satisfied. But, the Savior only pays the price demanded by justice IF we are striving to live righteously and repent of our wrongs. Another great thing about the atonement is "where there is no law given, there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him." People will not be punished for what they didn't know because they didn't have the opportunity to learn.

Finally, Jacob lists some of the pitfalls and sins that can cause people to suffer the demands of the law of justice. They are:

1. Having the commandments but not keeping them
2. Wasting the our lives
3. Allowing the false wisdom and pride to rule over us
4. Being rich and persecuting and ignoring the poor
5. Being deaf and blind to the Spirit
6. Failure to be humble and recognize our weaknesses
7. Lying, murder, idol worship

He warns us not to die in our sins and that to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life. I think that applies as much to this life as the next. I believe that when we are spiritually minded, we see more in life, we enjoy more in life and life has more purpose and meaning. When we are spiritually dead, we tend to only see the negative in life and in people, and life can become a drudgery. Jacob pleads with us to open our hearts and minds and be humble. That is when the great spiritual truths will be opened up to us.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2 Nephi 9 Part One

2 Nephi 9
All Christian churches who believe in the fall, believe that Adam and Eve did a terrible thing because they not only brought death into the world, but their fall made everyone a born sinner. That is why they believe that unless they are baptized immediately, or confess Christ as their Savior, they will go to hell. Thankfully, the restoration of the gospel shows that it was not "original sin" that was committed by Adam and Eve, but a transgression of law. They chose to disobey a lower law to keep a higher law. When Susan and I were married in the temple, I chose the higher law of celestial marriage over a lower law of honoring my father and thy mother by supporting their being forbidden to witness my marriage since they weren't members and eligible to enter the temple.

There were two deaths brought into the world because of the fall, our personal death of the body and our personal separation from God, or spiritual death. These are obvious. We know everyone is going to die and we know we cannot see or hear God. Atheists don't believe because spiritual death has removed the intellectually obvious from them. The wicked people of the earth embrace spiritual death because they do not see an immortal consequence for their actions.

If there were no atonement, there would be no power that would enable us to live after death in any state except in a state of sin. Our sins would remain with us. Everything bad thing we have done in life, big and small, would stay with us. As Jacob teaches, if that were the case, we would be subject to Satan for eternity and exist as a spirit in misery and torment because there is no power to redeem us from this fallen state. It's the same with out bodies, without the resurrection, there is no power to resurrect a body into one that is immortal and perfect. No one possesses that power. Because of the atonement, all mankind will be resurrected. That is the free gift of Christ. The atonement is also a gift to all mankind because everyone will be resurrected to some state of glory conditional on their faithfulness and repentance. If there is no repentance, a person cannot be saved from spiritual death. There is no atonement for sin unless there is repentance. Those who don't repent will have to atone for their own sins before receiving whatever portion of glory they deserve.

When our spiritual and physical deaths become a reality to us, when we truly understand our situation, then we can begin to understand the greatness of the atonement. Jacob did. Look at the words he uses:

"O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way... "
"O how great the plan of our God!"
"O the greatness and the justice of our God!"
"O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel!"
"O how great the holiness of our God!"

Physical and spiritual death are undeniable. There is either no life before this or after death, or there is purpose to our creation and existence with a plan to bring us ultimate happiness. I believe in a God that loves us and will eventually make everything right, take care of every wrong, stop every suffering, heal every hurt, punish those who deserve it, and lift every person who is down. There is so much remarkable order in the universe, from the perfection of the smallest life form to the order of a universe so large it is beyond comprehension. Such perfection cannot be an accident or a coincidence. In all of this order, there is a perfect plan for each of us. He would not create such perfection without giving us purpose to our existence, without relationships that go beyond this life, and without the opportunity to continue to grow beyond our wildest dreams. O how great the plan of God!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2 Nephi 8

In the first verses of this chapter, the Lord is telling the righteous to look to Abraham, or more specifically to the covenants made with Abraham. These are the same promises the Lord makes concerning the restoration of the gospel and makes to us in the temple. He tells us to "lift up your eyes to the heavens and the earth below" and all these things will eventually pass away, but his promises will not fail. We shouldn't worry about what the world can or may do to us, he'll take care of that. Just as he made a way for Israel to pass through the Red Sea, he will help us through all opposition. He urges us to awaken to the spiritual things in our lives. When we do, we can be redeemed and he promises we will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and mourning will flee away. Then he says this, "I am he; yea, I am he that comforteth you." To me he is saying, "I am real. I exist. Let me lead and guide you, and let me comfort you."

In the last part of the chapter, he refers to the two prophets talked about in Revelation who will be in Jerusalem prior to the second coming. They will be killed and their bodies will be left in the streets. Then they will be resurrected before the people. In the end of the chapter, the Lord pleads for all of Israel to awaken out of the spiritual stupor they are in and become righteous so they can be free.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

2 Nephi 7

This chapter begins as if Israel is complaining that the Lord has severed all ties with them, that the Lord has divorced himself from them. But the Lord asks them to find a bill of divorcement or, in other words, he's asking them to show any evidence where he removed himself from them. Because of their iniquities, they have removed themselves from him. The Lord tells them that if he can create and control all things, that if was willing to suffer all things, he can and will still redeem them. How often do we feel like the Lord isn't there and yet he tells us that he never leaves us. I know I leave him in the sense that my own actions make it hard for me to feel his presence and influence in my life. I've come to realize that his presence is always there. His love and peace is always available. It's so easy to get caught up in the everyday things of life and I find myself not thinking about Him or remembering Him when if I did, my life would go better and I would feel more happy and at peace. I like the words at the beginning of some of the verses: "The Lord God hath opened my ear, the Lord God will help me therefore I shall not be confounded, The Lord is near, and he justifieth me." And then he repeats and says, "The Lord God will help me." I wonder how many times he has helped me and I haven't even been aware of it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

2 Nephi 6

Jacob is not one step behind Nephi. He says that he is called of God "after the manner of his holy order" meaning he has the Melchizedek Priesthood. If the priesthood is there, the Nephites have order and organization. Jacob has beens shown a vision similar to Nephi's because he has seen the same things that Nephi has seen. Here are the nine things I think Jacob wants the people (and us) to know in this chapter:

1. The Lord has shown Jacob the Babylonian captivity of Jerusalem which is an historical fact and took place at the time Jacob is saying it did.
2. After this destruction of those at Jerusalem, the Jews will return again to that city.
3. The Savior will manifest himself to the Jews at Jerusalem and they will crucify him.
4. Because they crucify the Savior, the Jews will be hated, smitten and driven out of Jerusalem again.
5. When the day comes that Jews accept the Savior, he will be merciful to them and gather them back to their lands of inheritance.
6. The gentiles (all those who are not Israelites) who repent and do not align themselves with the great and abominable church (take part in the sins of the world) will also come to know the covenants the Lord has made with his people.
7. The people of the Lord who wait faithfully for his coming will not be conquered by their enemies.
8. The Lord will destroy the wicked, but manifest himself in great glory to his people and none who believe in him will be destroyed.
9. At the time of his second coming, all people will finally know that Jesus Christ is the Lord, the Savior, the Redeemer, and the Might One of Jacob. This last title is saying he is the Messiah was anciently prophesied of in Israel.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

2 Nephi 5

You get the impression that the bulk of the people follow Nephi as they separate themselves from the Lamanites. If Nephi took all of the families of Zoram, Sam, Jacob, and Joseph, and all of his sisters, that only leaves Laman and Lemuel and whoever of the Ishmael's family were with them. The contrast is pretty stark between them with the Nephites being prospered, educated, building a temple with "workmanship [that] was exceedingly fine," while the Lamanites are cursed with a darker skin color to disinguish them from the Nephites). They become a lazy people, causing continual problems, even war, and rather than eat domesticated animals, they eat animals that prey off of other animals. At the base of it all is the statement that the Nephites believed in the revelations of God, the Lamanites didn't. Evil nations who sought to conquer other nations have nearly always had leaders who were godless in their beliefs. Whether it's Hitler, Stalin, Amin, or further back in history. If they claimed to not be godless, then they falsely used the name of God to accomplish their unrighteous subjection and slaughter of other peoples.

We've come to the actual time that Nephi made the small plates. It's been thirty years since they left Jerusalem. By the end of the chapter, 40 years have passed away. Nephi is probably nearly 60 years of age.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

2 Nephi 4

Nephi says his soul "delighteth in the scriptures and my heart pondereth them." It's interesting that Nephi must use scripture to write scripture. One thing about truth, it is usually felt before it is understood. Sometimes we can't explain something fully, but hearts know fully that it's true. The process of a growing testimony is in a person's heart telling him things his mind doesn't understand yet. But eventually, the mind and the heart will come into union because understanding revelation requires that our hearts feel and our minds know. It is one thing to have revelation, and another to understand it. The Pharaoh of Egypt dreamed a dream but couldn't interpret it. Belshazzar saw the hand of the Lord write a message on the wall, but couldn't translate it. There are millions of people who have the Bible but don't understand it. But it all begins with the heart. That's why we have to be willing to be taught, to be humble and try to learn what we don't know. And it is a life long process.

I want to thank Nephi a thousand times for this chapter. He is one of the great prophets and he shows us that he has his own weaknesses he battles just like everyone else. He says temptations and sins easily beset him and his heart groans because of his sins. To me the key words are "nevertheless I know in whom I have trusted." Nephi's great message here is that sin doesn't have to turn us away from the Lord. When we fall, the Lord is still there to support and love us. In some ways, it's probably good to have a keen sense of our own weaknesses, but we have to be sure that we don't descend into continual self-condemnation without remembering why the atonement is there. The process Nephi goes through with this is a great guide for what we should do. He first remembers all of the blessings he's received from the Lord, and then asks himself three questions, "Why should I yield to sin? Why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry?" There is no doubt Nephi is upset with himself, just like we would be, but he doesn't stay there. It's like he's saying, "Wait a minute. Why am I wallowing in all of this guilt and self-condemnation?" He quits playing the mind games and tells himself to let his soul (heart) wake up and start rejoicing instead of condemning himself. Then in verses 30-35 we get his beautiful prayer.

We are always good people in spite of the wrong things we say or the misdeeds we do. We're not Lamans and Lemuels who are wicked, who seek wickedness and the destruction of those who are trying to live the best lives they can. We have our faults. We commit our sins. But we're still loved by the Lord. He is always there for us. He doesn't condemn us so why should we do that to ourselves? He doesn't limit us because of our weaknesses and we shouldn't limit ourselves either.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2 Nephi 3

In the Bible, it says that Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Israel, "is a fruitful bough (tree), even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall." No one has known what that meant until the restoration of the gospel. Now we know that through Joseph's sons Ephraim and Mannaseh, it is his posterity that left the land of Israel and settled in the America's and other parts of the world.

All the prophets saw the day of the restoration and the Prophet Joseph Smith, but Joseph's prophecy is the most detailed. Joseph said this about Joseph Smith:

1. He would be highly esteemed by the posterity of Lehi.
2. He would bring the posterity of Lehi to a knowledge of the covenants the Lord made with there forefathers.
3. He would be great like Moses.
4. He would bring forth the gospel words written by the posterity of Lehi (Book of Mormon).
5. He would be called after Joseph's name and his father's name would be the same.
6. He shall write and speak other words that will go to the posterity of Lehi.
7. The scriptures that he will bring forth will prove the Bible true, will confound false doctrines and end contention, establish peace, bring the posterity of Lehi to a knowledge of their ancestry (Lehi's family), and bring them to a knowledge of the Lord's covenants. These scriptures will cry from the dust, or in other words, come from the ground.

While we revere Joseph Smith as a prophet, I think we will always fall short in realizing how a great a prophet he was and how important he is in sacred history. Only after this life when we finally see the big picture and have a complete understand of everything will we be able to really appreciate what he has done. When Doug Gibb appeared to his niece not long after his death, he said it would be a very long time before he would get to meet the prophet Joseph Smith because there were so many ahead of him. That says something about how he is thought of now in the spirit world.

Monday, February 1, 2010

2 Nephi 2

This is such a great doctrinal chapter. It's one of those chapters that each time you read it, I think you just try to glean one important idea since there is so much in it. Reading it this time, I felt like Lehi has drawn a line in the sand for his sons. He knows by vision what is ultimate going to happen to each, and as a result to their posterity, and tries to teach them the consequences of the directions they are going in. Here again, we can see the two extremes of righteousness and wickedness. Nephi and Jacob are both men who have had personal visitations of the Savior and probably have their calling and election made sure. Laman and Lemuel continue down the path of desire for murder and bloodshed. Lehi teaches them that in mortality, there are opposites in everything. On the one side is redemption which comes only to those who are righteous through repentance and the atonement. On the other, are those who are cut of from God because of wickedness and face an eternity of misery. Those are the extremes that his sons face. Lehi tells them that there has to be these two opposites as well as opposites in everything or else there would be nothing for their agency to choose between.

Everyone has the great gift of being able to choose. I think it is very insightful what we really ultimate choose between. Lehi tells his sons they are choosing between eternal life and eternal death as we all do. But he also says that our choices either allow us to act for ourselves or to be acted upon. When we choose correctly, we gain more freedom to act and choose. When we make bad choices, we hem our lives in and outside influences control us and our lives. They act upon us and take away our freedom to choose. This is a natural law that Satan takes great advantage of. It is his chief tool in his efforts to bring us all down into captivity and have all "men be miserable like unto himself." He is still wanting to have the control and take agency away from everyone.

Lehi tells his sons that "all men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil" and men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man for them to be free to choose liberty and eternal life... or choose captivity and death." Those are the ultimate consequences of our choices. Somewhere in the middle is where most of us are. Lehi says that one choice is made "according to the will of the Spirit" and one choice is made by the "will of the flesh." Those two things are always at the basis of every important choice we make.

There is a lot about the fall of Adam in this chapter. I'm going to wait until chapter 9 to talk about that.