Tuesday, March 30, 2010
evidently become very small and the last five people who posses the plates
write just a few words. It almost seems like the first four are saving
space for the next person who will have possession of the plates. Omni, the
first to write seems to have spent most of his time in war. He says he is a
wicked man, but I wonder how wicked he really is. Omni passes the plates on
to his son Amaron, who gives the plates to his brother Chemish. Chemish
probably writes the worst verse in the Book of Mormon. He delivers the
plates to his son Abdinadom who delivers them to his son Amaleki who writes
the most of these five and his words are serve as a transition into the
history that is found on the large plates.
Amaleki lives during the time of King Mosiah and his son King Benjamin.
After fleeing Jerusalem and arriving in the promised land, the Nephites
originahad to split with the Lamanites and flee into what became known as
the land of Nephi and there they built their temple. Now they are forced to
flee again when the Lord warns King Mosiah that if they do not flee, they
will be overtaken by the Lamanites. After a number of years, a group of
Nephites return to the land of Nephi but they are not heard of again. All
this reminds me of the early saints having to flee Kirtland, then Missouri,
and then finally Nauvoo.
I think it is fitting that Amaleki finishes the plates with a strong witness
of Christ and a plea that all who read his words and the words of the
prophets come unto Christ through fasting, prayer and enduring to the end.
I am glad that it didn't end with the writings of the previous four who
added little or no doctrine or testimony at all.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
We don’t know much about Enos. He went into the woods to hunt and while there the teachings of his father seemed to weigh upon him deeply and he felt a need to repent of his sins. I do not think that he was a sinful or bad person. He was obviously worthy enough for Jacob to pass on the plates and all of the other sacred things the prophets possessed. This would have included the Liahona, the sword of Laban and probably other important items. Perhaps he was avoiding his calling, or felt unworthy of it like President Kimball who after being called as an apostle, went up into the mountains and prayed because he felt unworthy of being an apostle, even though he was worthy.
Much has been said about the process that Enos went through. He first prayed for himself and having received forgiveness from the Lord, and I think a determination to do his best in the calling, he then prays for his fellow Nephites who have become a stiff-necked people. I think this means they were prideful and stubborn. Then he prays for his enemies the Lamanites. When we have the Spirit, and when we possess charity, we view those people we don’t like, and those people who abuse us, differently. Being accepted of the Lord changes how we look and feel about other people. While we can’t condone their bad acts and often have to deal with the consequences of their actions, our hearts and minds are more at peace, more settled because we look upon all people more as the Lord does. Instead of anger, we feel pity.
When the Lord says we should love our enemies, I don’t think it’s with the same love we feel for someone like a spouse or family member. President Taylor said that wasn’t possible or necessary. I don’t think Enos loved the Lamanites in the manner he loved his fellow Nephites. He says the Lamanites had sworn they would destroy them. They were a hating, wild, ferocious, blood-thirsty, filthy people who were obviously ignorant and lacking in an ability to understanding their own lack of progress. But if they were converted and their hearts softened, what kind of people would they become? I think that’s what we do when we pray for our enemies, that their hearts will be softened.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Jacob points out, are intelligent, are very convincing speakers and use
their powers of logic and persuasiveness to convince others of the falsity
of their beliefs. Sounds like politicians could easily fit in this
category. Sherem's argument is typical of people who argue against
religion or more specifically, a belief in God. He says, "no man knoweth of
such things; for he cannot tell of things to come." This argument reveals a
person who has never been influenced by the Spirit, or when influenced by
the Spirit, denies the feelings in their heart. Most revelation comes as a
feeling and people who do not allow themselves to feel what is in their
heart (hard heartedness) can only rely on their own intelligence. Many
people like this deny Christ and do so for one reason, to avoid
accountability for their actions. It allows them to do what they wish
regardless of right or wrong. Apostates who fight against the church more
often than not are people who do not want to face their sins. If the church
is false, then the preaching is false so they are not accountable to a false
church. Anyone who tears down the church, or attempts to tear down your
beliefs, does so so they do not have to contend with changing their own
lives. Only when faced with death does Sherem confess his lying. It's
interesting that after his death, Jacob still refers to him as a wicked man.
I can really identify with Jacob when he says "our lives passed away like as
it were unto us a dream." Life is short and it does fly by.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
With 77 verses, Jacob is undoubtedly the longest chapter in all of scripture. Basically, the chapter is a history of the Lord's dealings with his people from starting with Jacob and then going on until the millennium. As the Lord talks about his vineyard which is Israel, and his efforts to establish a righteous people so the gospel and the ordinances of salvation can go to all of God's children. In the chapter, when the Lord is calling for the destruction of the vineyard because of it's inability to bring forth fruit because of wickedness, I think this represents justice, and the servants pleading for him not to destroy the vineyard or Israel, represents mercy. We are in the midst of the first sixties verses, most of which has already transpired. Here are the verses and the time periods. If you read it from this perspective, it's a little easier to understand. It is definitely worth taking time to delve deeply into, but like Isaiah, it takes time and repetition. I know I only grasp it on the surface.
3-14 Jacob and the start of the house of Israel to the end of the prophets. Basically, 1800 to 400 B.C. Also during the time, some of Israel enters marriage with Assyrians and Babylonians (wild branches) and this creates the Samaritans.
15-16 400 B.C to Christ
17-28 This is the ministry of Christ and after.
25-27 The Nephites and Lamanites
29 The apostasy to Joseph Smith
30-75 The restoration of the millennium
76-77 The millennium
Thursday, March 18, 2010
1. (verses 2-3) Jacob tells us how hard it is to engrave on the plates, and with the plates being small in number, he has to choose wisely what he will say. With this in mind, the allegory must be very important to take up so much room on the plates. He says he hopes what he writes will be received by his posterity with thankful hearts and find joy in what they will learn about him and Nephi and the other Nephite prophets.
2. (verses 4-6) Jacob says they have searched the scriptures, they have the the spirit of prophecy and have many revelations. They have the power of God to such extent that they can work miracles and control the physical elements. They believed in the Father and Christ, have kept the Law of Moses and so they write these words with the intent that everyone will know that they knew of Christ had a hope in his coming and his glory.
3. (verses 8-11) Jacob wants us to understand the nature of prophecy, that if a person is to understand prophecy, it has to be revealed and so we should not discount the revelations of God. Too often, Jacob says, men rely on their own wisdom and understanding which denies the power of God. He tells us to be reconciled to God which means to have return to him and have a good relationship with him, so that God will reveal his words to us.
4. (verse 13) Jacob emphasizes the importance of knowing what truth is: things as they really are, things as they really will be, and Joseph Smith added, things as they really were. Jacob says not only are they, the Nephite prophets, witnesses of the truth, but all prophets are.
5. (verses 14-18) Christ is the stone (the stone that serves as the heart of their foundation) rejected by the Jews. The Jews rejected Christ because in their blindness, they looked beyond the mark. Because the Jews couldn't see the obvious that God had placed in front of them, by denying the privilege God gave them, he removed their chance to understand and let them have what they desired instead, and because they desired the wrong thing, they stumbled and failed. But Jacob promises that even though they rejected the stone on which they could have built a sure foundation of faith, religion and salvation, the Lord will yet provide them the opportunity to build upon that foundation it in the future. And in the allegory, he is going to show how that will happen.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Jacob urges us to be pure in heart, be firm in our minds concerning the gospel, and pray with faith and trust in the Lord. The Lord will console us in our afflictions, he will take care of those who would be harmful to us. But he so wants us to keep our hearts and minds on him, especially he wants us to remember how much he loves us. Jacob says we should feast upon his love. That's an interesting thing to say in our day where the vast majority of people, including those who believe, have little idea of what that love is and that it's there for the taking.
Monday, March 15, 2010
The Nephite's worst sin is having plural wives and concubines. They use the sins of Solomon and David in the Old Testament as an excuse. Jacob says that the hearts of the women have been pierced with deep wounds and have died. Their suffering was evidence that the men were in sin. The Lord has heard the women's prayers and seen their sorrow and will not let them suffer any longer. Plural wives, Jacob teaches, will only happen when he commands a people to raise up more posterity. I think the question of plural wives will always haunt the church to some extent. Partly because it was begun in secret, partly because it goes against modern society's traditions of marriage. Not the tradition of having one wife that our society used to have, but the tradition of not marrying at all that pervades society now. If there is no need to marry and have a single wife, to have more than one is even more extreme. As the church's promotion of a traditional family becomes less and less important, the idea of a traditional wife in the home with children will become more foreign. It will require more and more courage of those women who are traditional wives in traditional families.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Jacob says that he received his errand from the Lord so he undoubtedly was ordained and set apart for his calling as a prophet. Jacob was not one step behind Nephi as a great prophet. When Nephi passed the plates on to him, Nephi stressed the importance of only writing sacred teaching and revelation. Nephi and Jacob both had "great anxiety" over the need to teach the people because both of them had seen in vision what will become of them in the future. He points out that both he and Nephi had many revelations concerning Christ's coming, so Jacob says that they "labored diligently" to persuade the people to "come unto Christ and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest." His rest in this life is the peace and assurance that the gospel is true, to have the peace that comes with a spiritual certainty that helps us to be immune to the doubt and skepticism of the world.
One interesting thing is that Jacob talks of Nephi having wielded the sword of Laban. We have no record of the wars Nephi led the people in. But the sword of Laban was the pattern for all the swords they forged and created. It was also a symbol of the promise that the Lord would protect them and lead them in battle. The promises still hold true today. Oliver Cowdery saw the sword of Laban and he said that the words "This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of God and his Christ" were engraved on it. I'm guessing that those words were engraved on it after it had been taken from Laban.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Nephi's last testimony is very powerful. He has seen the rejection of the gospel, the scriptures and revelation by people in the latter days. In essence he is saying, you cannot accept Christ without accepting his words, and you cannot accept his words without accepting his prophets. The true believer of Christ will accept the words that come from prophets because their words are Christ's words. Otherwise it is like saying I believe in Christ, but I don't believe anything he says. So to reject the prophets and their words is to reject the Savior. Nephi finishes by praying that all will be saved in the last day, but he knows that many will reject the gospel and that will bring about a separation. He also states that everyone that rejects the Book of Mormon will stand face to face with him and the Savior and will be shown with great power that the Lord commanded him to write what he has written.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
The second thing he tells us is to hearken to the Spirit. When we hearken to the Spirit, listen to and feel its promptings, we will be inspired to pray. Only Satan would not want us to pray. It's easy to understand why he would want us to cut off our relationship with our Father in Heaven. What happens when you stop talking to a friend? You lose contact with them. You lose their influence, love and most of all, your relationship with them begins to dwindle until you no longer even think about them. Nephi encourages us to pray about everything we do. When we pray and dedicate everything we do the Lord, the Lord will consecrate it to the blessing of our soul. Everything will become sacred to us and to the Lord. Notice that the Lord doesn't say consecrate it to me for my benefit, he turns it to our benefit.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I like verse 3. God speaks to people according to their understanding. I think this not only means he speaks in their language, but he speaks on a level that they can understand. The more they listen, the more they are given to understand. We start will small bits of knowledge and over a lifetime we can come to know great and marvelous things. How much had Nephi grown in spiritual knowledge? Twice in this chapter Nephi states that the Father spoke to him as well as the Son. It appears Nephi was in conversation with them. Instances where the Father speaks only occurs a few times in scripture and reveals how great a prophet Nephi was.
At the end of this chapter, Nephi begins to give us specific ways to grow and this continues in Chapter 32. Having giving the first essential step of baptism, Nephi then tells us to press forward. To press means to move something by continuous physical force. Nephi is saying "don't give up." We must continuously try to be steadfast in our trust and faith in the Savior, continuously strive to be filled with love and hope, to continuously try to rely on the scriptures for strength, and continuously keep enduring, hanging on, not giving up. Nephi states there is no other way. By this, I think he means this is not only the way we will be saved, because this is the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of the Father and the Holy Ghost, but this is the only way to be truly happy and have a life that is fulfilled and meaningful.
Monday, March 8, 2010
I think it gets more easy to see the division between the righteous and the wicked taking place that the Lord says he will cause in the last days. And just as we can all look forward to the time when there will be no danger and no wickedness, we can look forward to a time when all things will be made known. I look forward to that because I have lot's of questions and it will nice to have an understanding of all those things we wonder about but have no answers for.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
I think one of the most important things that Nephi says is in verse 30. He will give us line upon line and precept on precept, meaning our spiritual learning will come by step by step. If we accept and live what he gives us, he will give more. If we turn from that, if we do not continue to learn, we lose what we have. That is why people who leave the church eventually come to a point where they do not understand the doctrine and its application in their life and lose the foundation of their beliefs. What they used to believe becomes no longer relevant. If we stick with it, he tells us we will learn wisdom. Nephi basically says that it all comes down to whether we want to trust God, or trust in our own strength.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
It was when Joseph Smith was translating this chapter that he realized that others could see the plates and would have to stand by him as witnesses to their actual existence and purpose. After the three witnesses had the plates shown to them by the angel, Joseph went to his parents and wept because now the burden was not on him alone. Now others new without a doubt. It is one thing to say I have seen an angel, or I have seen and handled the plates. But when three or more can come forward and say I saw the angel too, I also saw and handled the plates, Joseph's testimony was validated and validated by men who were respected in the community.
It is so easy to forget what a miracle it is that we have the Book of Mormon. It is to easy to not remember the sacrifices made by those who wrote it, the blood that was spilt and the lives taken in order that we might have it today. And it is too easy to not realize how miraculous its coming forth in our day was. We are so very fortunate to have access to this sacred book and its words.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The remainder of his interpretation of Isaiah is directed to the gentiles in the last days and this begins with verse 12 and continues through chapter 30. It's as if Nephi is saying, we can apply this to the Jews and to ourselves, but the message will be most important to the gentiles or us. And the main thrust of what he tells us is in verse 12, we must become "convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God." Most churches believe that Christ didn't become the Savior until he was born and that he was only one of three possible manifestations of God. Nephi is saying he was a God before his earthly birth, he was a God on the earth, and he is a God now, not a temporary manifestation, but an eternal God. Here is some of what He prophecies to the gentiles in this chapter. There is too much to write about:
1. Verse 13. The Savior will manifest himself through the Holy Ghost to everyone who believes in him.
2. Verse 15. The descendants of Lehi's family will be driven and smitten by the Gentiles.
3. Verses 16. The Nephites will write about their people and seal this up and the Book of Mormon will come forth out of the ground and speak to them. It will sound familiar and have a familiar spirit. When I was on my mission, a Lamanite woman told me that the grandmothers in their tribe used to pass on their history to the grandchildren. They did this by telling them stories of their people. When she read the Book of Mormon the first time, she recognized the same stories in it that her grandmother had told her as a child.
4. Verse 20. The gentiles become built up in their pride (great and spacious building sound familiar?) and they become a great stumbling block to the church. They rely on their own wisdom, do not take care of the poor and dismiss the powers and miracles of God as nothing.
5. Verse 23-28, 30. The Lord will not turn anyone away. Everything he does is done because of his love for everyone and no one is privileged above another. No one will be denied his love regardless of their race, gender or religion.
6. Verses 29-30. To church members, he says that instead of doing everything for their own gain and power, priestcraft, he commands that everything should be done out of charity or love
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
1. Verse 10. The Jews were destroyed and taken captive into Babylon.
2. Verse 11. After this, they were returned from Babylon and restored to their lands and Jerusalem.
3. Verses 12-13. They have many wars until the Savior comes who they reject because of their wickedness and crucify him.
4. Verses 14-15. The Savior will rise from the dead and Jerusalem is destroyed again, this time completely and the Jews are scattered among all the earth.
5. Verse 16. They will remain scattered among all the nations and persecuted by them until they believe in Christ and don't look forward to a different Messiah or believe in false ones.
6. Verse 17. The Lord will set his hand a second time to restore his people by doing a marvelous work and a wonder.
7. Verse 18. He will bring forward new scripture that will convince them that Christ is the true Messiah.
The last verses of the chapter contain Nephi's poignant plea for his people to keep the Law of Moses but to look to and believe in Christ. He tells them that the only way to live is to believe in him, not half way, but with full commitment, "with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul." Verse 23 is used a lot but misunderstood in my mind. It says we are saved by the grace of Christ after all we can do. I don't think it means were saved by his grace after doing everything we can. I think it is saying regardless of everything we could possibly do, the only way we are saved is by his grace. Nothing we do saves us, it only qualifies us for some level of exaltation. That is why Nephi says "we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophecy of Christ... that our children (and us) may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins."
Monday, March 1, 2010
Isaiah once again talks of Israel's triumph over Babylon and the Lord returning them to the lands of the inheritance. All of this took place, but as one commentary states: "As history has its cycles, so prophecies of events now past foretell events yet future. The past is the stage upon which the future is portrayed. The scriptures thus have a timeless value and an eternal relevance." I was noticing on Sunday how all the hymns have a foundation in Isaiah. The establishment of Zion, the triumph over the church's enemies, the coming of the Lord both in the meridian of time and at the second coming, the triumph over evil, the need for righteousness, the restoration of the gospel, the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith; all of these and more are in Isaiah and in our hymns. Everytime I read Isaiah in the Bible and Book of Mormon, I learn more and it becomes a bit easier to understand. It's hard reading at first, but over time, it's reading that is well worth it.