Friday, October 29, 2010

3 Nephi 9

Out of all the sins the Lord could have listed as his reasons for destroying so many and so much, the one he lists really sums the rest of them up, and that is the killing of the prophets, those he placed on the earth to call the people to repentance. The greatest destruction took place in the land northward at the city of Jacobugath, where Jacob was king over all of the people who were of the secret combinations. If you're wondering how bad these people were, the Lord says their sins and wickedness were above all the wickedness of the whole earth. The places that were completely destroyed the Lord says were places where "there was no righteous among them."

Then he turns to those who were spared because they were more righteous and asks them what I think is a very loving and tender question, "Will ye not now return to me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you. That is who he is, the source of all healing and there is no better source we can turn to when we are in need of being cared for. He asks us to first do two things, repent and be converted. I think of Alma's question, "If ye have experienced a change of heart... can you feel so now?"

To me, another important point in this chapter is verse 20 where the Lord says that the Lamanites were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost "and they knew it not." We have no idea how many times we have been influenced by the Holy Ghost. Some day in the future, we will learn just how much the Lord has been involved in our lives. When people come to our aid or support, when good things happen, we often assume that it just happened naturally or it was by our own effort. I don't believe that anything good that happens is ever totally devoid of the influence of the Spirit.

The three days of darkness obviously coincide with the three days the Lord's body laid in the tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathaea. With his resurrection, the light of the universe burst forth again on all of the world. For 400 hundred years, the Nephites will bask in this light. But in the rest of the world, it will be rejected. The light of Christ is both symbolic and literal. Symbolic in that it represents the light that has obliterated the darkness of death through his resurrection. Literal in that, as it says in the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, it is the light by which all things are created, upheld, and by which all things operate.

3 Nephi 8

According to the Nephite calendar, the destructions begin on the fourth day of the fourth month. That would be April 4th. Scholars have put the date of Christ's birth as April 3rd. I don't think the specific day matters as much as knowing that in the spring, Christ was both born and died. On this day, there were great earthquakes and storms. Whirlwinds were described which must have been tornados. That would make sense if the storms were as huge and devastating as they were. I believe that God used natural means to bring about this destruction. What doesn't seem natural was the darkness that enveloped everything for three days, a darkness so thick that it could be felt and one that smothered all light. Here again, I think God would have used something natural to bring about such an unnatural event. It doesn't make it any less a miracle, and I may not be right. But what's important is the symbolism involved.

The Light of the World has been smothered in death. Rejected by mankind, it has left mankind in a societal and personal darkness that cannot be removed except through repentance. To me, this darkness quickly evolved into great apostasy until the time came for God's light to again break forth on the earth in the form of the restored gospel and the presence of again of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I don't think it's any accident that from the date of the restoration, 1820, mankind has progressed more, in less than two hundred years, than all of the other centuries combined. Technological development, knowledge, scientific discovery, medicine, any area of development related to the human condition, has exploded over the past 190 years. No one can deny that a light has broken forth in knowledge of all kinds. Some would say that it was just a natural growth. But why would a natural growth suddenly appear and explode at that particular time? Why not 1000 years before? If you can accept the Lord's calendar, if you can see with an inspired eye how the Lord has been at the helm all the time, it actually makes more sense. What if there hadn't been a restoration with the Holy Ghost once again influencing mankind? What any development there was would have continued at the same extremely slow pace that it was keeping up to that time. The light that wicked men thought they had snuffed out forever, has broken forth again. What a blessing to live in a time such as this.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

3 Nephi 7

The chief judge is murdered and the Nephite government no longer exists as
the people have divided themselves into groups or tribes according to family
and friends. Each tribe is very large, has their own appointed leader and
there is a basic understanding between tribes that they will not attack each
other. The people, Mormon tells us, are basically all evil with just a few
righteous men among them. He laments that in only six years, "the dog has
returned to his vomit."

There is a secret combination again they appoint a man named Jacob to be
their king. He was appointed because more than anyone else, he was against
the prophets and anyone who testified of Christ. The tribes outnumber those
in this secret combination and so they draw away from the population to let
their numbers grow.

It's interesting because it's not unlike the time of Christ's ministry in
Israel. Nephi and others work "many miracles," including Nephi raising his
brother from the dead after his brother had been stoned to death. And just
as it was with Christ and the leaders and other Jews discounting his
miracles and becoming incensed by them, the more miracles there are, the
more angry the Nephites who are against Christ become. It's seems hard to
understand how someone who witnesses a great miracle could deny it. But when
a person is wicked, the heart is hard and the mind is closed. To accept the
miracle would mean they would have to accept their own wickedness and this
they are not willing to do. The very wicked always seem incapable of
recognizing and acknowledging their own wickedness. Those whose hearts are
not hardened, accept the miracles, learn the gospel and are baptized.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

3 Nephi 6

In this chapter, the people return to their own areas of the country after having come together to be a unified force against the Gadiantons. The Lord prospers them, they build many buildings and highways and for about four years they have peace. After that, the cycle starts again, this time with people dividing into ranks according to wealth and education. The wealthy are prideful and the uneducated humble but unable to gain an education because of their poverty. Mormon says that before the end of five years since the war, there was a great inequality among the people in all the land, the church was broken up and the only ones to remain firm in the faith are some of the converted Lamanites. With all this turmoil, Satan is able to have a heyday, being able to get people to do just about whatever he desires so morals are discarded. Mormon makes this important statement about the Nephites, "Now they did not sin ignorantly, for they knew the will of God concerning them." These people are choosing iniquity knowing they are choosing iniquity and they don't care. Many who testify of Christ are secretly tried and executed by the judges and even though people complain to the judges how this is against the law, the judges have enough support to ignore the complaints. These judges and their supporters then form a covenant among themselves to destroy all those who would proclaim righteousness and stand against unrighteousness, and to establish someone as a king. To sum up, the people have nearly succeeded in destroying their laws and government for the purpose of establishing another form of rule that will suppress the people and their religion. This is just my humble opinion, but I believe that is exactly the direction we are headed towards today. At the least, we should never be so naive as to believe it couldn't happen and be watchful.

Monday, October 25, 2010

3 Nephi 5

For the first time, Mormon identifies himself by name. After telling us that for four years the Nephites live righteously, Mormon says that he can't write a 100th part of what happened among the people. He then tells us a little about himself, how he got his name, how he is a direct descendent of Lehi, how he is called of God to declare his word among the people, how he is engraving what he is on the plates because he is commanded of God and it is to answer the prayers of all those who have written on plates before him. He tells us that he is making this record from the accounts of those who went before and from what he has seen with his own eyes. He bears testimony that his words are true and adds that he would like to write more but their language prevents him from doing so. Mormon then bears witness that the Lord will remember his covenants with the House of Israel to gather them again and to bring them again to a true knowledge of the Redeemer. Mormon understands that it is through his abridgment of all the plates, what will become known as the Book of Mormon, that this will happen, that his words will be the tmeans by which Israel will gain the true knowledge of the Redeemer and be gathered. What a weight of responsibility he must have felt. All the prophets before him wrote for that same purpose. This is what they prayed their writings would accomplish. All of them knew that the Nephites would be destroyed and the Lamanites would some day come again to the Gospel in the latter days. But they also knew that it was through their testimony that Israel would be gathered. So Mormon has the responsibility to abridge all that they wrote so it's in one volume. What an amazing man Mormon was and this is an amazing book. We are so fortunate to have it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

3 Nephi 4

In this chapter, the Nephites defeat the Gadiantons and slay or execute their leaders. The good guys will always win. I think that's why loved westerns as a kid. The Lone Ranger always got the bad guy even though it seemed there was no way he could possibly do it. The great thing about that show was at the end, the Lone Ranger always stated the principle of right that could not be defeated. In the last chapter of 1 Nephi, the Lord promises that he will preserve his righteous and the righteous need not fear. He makes this promise a number of times in the scriptures, but he says it numerous times just in that one chapter. We can use this chapter to illustrate why I think this is true. First, the Nephites were led by men of faith who put their trust in God, whose actions were based on righteous principles. The Gadianton leaders were motivated by greed. Their goal was to gain power, territory and possessions. The Nephite people were in tune with the Spirit, their motives were pure and selfless and so they were able to make wise judgments and correct decisions. The Gadiantons were motivated by a desire to do evil, to kill and destroy. This darkness of the mind inhibits the ability to make wise decisions not only for the present, but especially for the future. These are important factors in the Nephites victory. But the most important factor was the Gadiantons were fighting against God, and you don't win the battle when he's on the other side. Giddianhi was slain while fleeing from the battlefield. Their next leader was hung from a tree. When God is the general, the army wins. Evil may flourish for a season, but righteousness always prevails. After the war is over, the people of Nephi prayed in thanks to God for preserving them. Mormon says that "their hearts were swollen with joy... because of the goodness of God in delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; and THEY KNEW it was because of their repentance and their humility that they had been delivered from an everlasting destruction." That's was the difference then and it will always be the difference whether it's in our personal battles or the wars of our nation.

Friday, October 22, 2010

3 Nephi 3

Giddianhi, the leader of the Gadiantons, writes a letter to Lachoneus, the
leader of the Nephites. After flattering Lachoneus about the Nephites
ability to protect their "so-called liberty," Giddianhi makes these

1. The Nephites are foolish to assume they can last against the overwhelming
numbers of Nephites.
2. The Gadiantons are just waiting for the word to go and destroy the
3. The Gadiantons have a deep hatred for the Nephites because of all the
things they have suffered at the Nephite's hands.
4. Giddianhi feels true concern for the Nephite's welfare because they are
so sincere in their beliefs and so noble in battle.
5. Giddianhi invites the Nephites to allign themselves with the Gadiantons
and take part in their secret oaths and become brothers rather than slaves.
If not, he will order his people to destory every person until the Nephite
nation is extinct.
6. The Nephite's stole the government and the rights of the Gadiantons.
There society and all they do is good and is based on ancient traditions
that have been handed down to them.

Lachoneus, who Mormon says was a just man and did not fear the threats of a
robber, sends word that all the people should be gathered together in on
place with all the possessions they can bring. He tells the people that
unless they repent, the words of Giddianhi will be fulfilled. He creates an
army and following past tradition places a great spiritual man as its
commander. This commander is Gidgiddoni who Mormon says was a great prophet
and had the spirit of revelation and prophecy. The Nephites prepared
themselves at the center of their land and waited for the Gadiantons to
attack. Literally tens of thousands gather and the first thing that
Gidgiddoni asks is that they pray and turn to righteousness. It's then that
they make their weapons of war.

Enemies of freedom and family will always claim righteous purposes for what
they do. These people always point out how they and their supporters, as
well anyone who is poor or disadvantaged, has suffered because of the
policies and beliefs of those they seek to overthrow. The poor and
disadvantaged will be quick to join them because they are promised that if
these people are allowed to have power, the governement will take care of
them and all their problems. We would be wise to realize and recognize
those in high places who seek to esablish the same socialistic principles
today. It is amazing to me how after Stalin, Hitler, the Soviet Union, plus
all the others in past history, that the people today would still fall for
the same false promises. In the end, everyone in a socialistic environment
ends up closer to poverty, are oppressed and live in fear. Progress is in
all areas of research and development is severely halted. Just look at the
quality of life and health care in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
They are decades behind. In a socialist governemtn, the rulers gather all
the wealth and power to themselves. The only difference today is they seek
to do it through subversion rather than force. We live in scary times.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

3 Nephi 2

Only a few years pass and already the impact of the signs has worn off and
the people doubt and don't believe in what they had seen and heard. Some
even say that it was Satan or the magic of some men that caused the signs of
the Savior's birth. It's interesting that even though the people don't
believe in the signs, they begin to determine their years starting from the
time the signs were given.

The Gadiantons become a terrible force throughout the land and there are
constant wars. The converted Lamanites and Nephites combine, intermarry and
become one people with no distinguishing skin colors between them. Fifteen
years after the signs of the Savior's birth, things are looking ominous as
Mormon says that there were so many wars and the Gadiantons were so numerous
that the "sword of destruction did hang over them." All of this, Mormon
says, is because of the wickedness of the people.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

3 Nephi 1

I always think that 3 Nephi is when we get the third prophet named Nephi.
Here is how I remember it:

1st and 2nd books of Nephi = Nephi son of Lehi
Book of Helaman = Nephi son of Helaman
3rd book of Nephi = Nephi son of Nephi who was son of Helaman

The Nephi we have been dealing with in Helaman passes all of the plates and
records to his son Nephi, leaves the land and is never seen again. Was he
translated? A great debate begins in the land over all the prophecies of
the night that would still seem as day and be the sign of the Savior's
birth. People mock those who believe in the prophecy and then decide
they've had enough of it and declare that if it doesn't happen by a certain
day, all those who believed the prophecy would be put to death.

Nephi undoubtedly becomes desperate and pleads to the Lord for his people.
Imagine if we lived in a country (not unlike Germany in World War II or
most Muslim nations today) that would put us to death if we openly stated
our belief in the restored gospel. Right now, I have a friend in the
Jerusalem Center and he is the branch president of a little branch in
Bethlehem. The wife of one of the branch members is Arab but believes in
the church. If she were to be baptized, she would be put to death. Her
only hope is to permanently move to the U.S. or some other similar
democratic country.

So all those who believe will be put to death the next day if the prophesied
sign doesn't happen. The Lord reassures Nephi that it will and it did, and
those who were going to put the believers to death now realize that they are
the ones who are in deep trouble. Nearly everyone becomes converted, but
since conversions based on miracles and signs are seldom sure, it isn't long
before the people begin returning to their old ways.

I want to say something about the timing of Nephi's prayer and then the sign
of the Savior's birth occuring on the very day designated as the day to
execute all believers. This isn't unusual. I had a similar experience in
my life where I had reached the point where I felt I couldn't go on with the
way things were and told the Lord so. I had prayed about my situation many
times for a very long time, but had finally reached the point to where
something had to give and I didn't it want it to be me. The very next day
the Lord answered my prayers. With the Nephites, it was important that
those who were wicked would be caught in their own snare. The Lord
basically allowed them enough rope to hang themselves on.

It's interesting that as soon as the signs appear, Satan goes to work to
discount them. Whenever you have a spiritual experience, you can be sure
that Satan will immediately begin to place doubts in your mind that what
happened was not of the Lord, was just a coincidence or a happening that
would have occurred naturally anyway.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Helaman 15 and 16

Helaman 15
Samuel continues to enrage the Nephites by telling them how much more righteous the Lamanites are than the Nephites. The Nephites are full of pride and undoubtedly look upon the Lamanites as lesser people. I would guess the Lamanites are not as wealthy and so the Nephites must look down upon them still as the wild, untamed and uneducated side of the family. Samuel tells them there are two basic keys to the Lamanites gaining faith on the Lord, and I think these are two important keys for anyone who wants to gain faith. The first is, the Lamanites are getting their knowledge of the Lord through the scriptures. This is leading to a change in their hearts. The second is they are remaining steadfast in their belief once they have gained it. Samuel tells the Nephites that it will be better for the Lamanites than for them because the Lamanites have not had so many things revealed to them by the Lord. This is why the Nephites will eventually be destroyed as a nation and the Lamanites will not.

Helaman 16
In the last chapter of Helaman, the Nephites try to kill Samuel and fail and he returns to his own people and teaches among them. The Nephites continue to grow more "hardened in their iniquity" while the the Lamanites continue to be converted. There is a smaller group of Nephites who remain faithful and to them and their leaders, miracles happen and angels appear. They are shown what is shortly going to come to pass, but the remaining people refuse to believe. When prophecies are fulfilled, they say the prophets guessed right. They is not given to them to know that the Savior will appear on their continent because they argue that if the Lord were going to be on the earth in Jerusalem, why wouldn't he show himself to them too? This change in the Nephites is happening over a period of only about 30 years. As the nation becomes more wicked, there is a stronger dividing line between the righteous and wicked.

I think there is a very strong parallel between what happens in the Book of Mormon and what is happening in our own time. And it's happening almost as fast. When I was a boy, the whole nation basically lived and believed in the same high principles. All stores were closed on Sundays. Pornography was basically non-existence. There were no drugs available. An X rated movie was one where women appeared topless. Sexual relations outside of marriage was a very strong taboo and kids who involved themselves in sexual relations before marriage were treated with great disrespect. There was an element in Hollywood who were immoral but it was kept secret for the most part. The vast majority of people believed in the same standards. I could be reprimanded by a friend's parent as well as my own and with my parent's full support. As time goes on, we will see a stronger division between righteous people and those who promote unrighteousness. This will happen on many levels. As the church and others stand for righteous principles, unrighteous people will attack the church's positions and belittle religious belief. There will be more and more Bill Mayers and Joy Bahars who will use their national prominence as forum to attack religious principles. Nations of wickedness will promote war against righteous people. The rich will persecute and play upon the poor, and government will be more and more influenced by, and become more corrupt over power and money. It's so important that, like the Lamanites, we are rooted in the scriptures and we read and teach them to our children so we have a foundation of faith on which we can remain steadfast.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Helaman 14

We are about five years from the Savior's birth and Samuel continues his prophecy to the people. In this chapter, Samuel tells them there will be two signs of Christ coming to the earth. I like how Samuel doesn't make it appear that just a person is coming, but he emphasizes Christ coming as God by describing Christ as the Son of God, the Father of Heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning.

Each sign contains multiple aspects. On the night before the Savior's birth, there will be such strong light that it will seem as if the day never stopped with the light continuing through the night into the next day. He says a new star will appear, one so brilliant that it will unlike any star they have ever seen. All of this is symbolic of Christ being the light and how this light will be physically among the people. The other sign is of his death and with the Light being physically destroyed, darkness will cover the earth for three days symbolizing the light being taken from the people. With this darkness will come terrible storms and massive earthquakes. Imagine an earthquake in the 8 to 10 range on the richter scale occurring simultaneously with a hurricane that is a category 6 or 7. Samuel tells the people that where they have seen solid rock, it will be filled with cracks and crevices, that mountains will crumble and new mountains created and whole cities will be destroyed and left desolate. With the resurrection of Christ, some of the righteous will be also be resurrected and appear to the people. Then he says that some people will see even greater things and I would guess that this is the appearance of the Savior to the people.

Samuel urges the people to repent, telling them that this was the message of the angel to the people. He knows that if the people will repent, they will not lose their life during this time of great destruction. I look at this symbolically for my own life. If I let the Savior and the gospel into my life, over time and as I prove faithful, it will bring great light into my mind and soul. I will then recognize signs or miracles in my life that I would not have recognized otherwise. At some point, my body will die or be destroyed and then I will come into the presence of the Savior. If I have lived righteously, this will be a time of great joy. The purpose of my life will be evident. I will see how my good works have blessed people far beyond what I could ever have dreamed. But most of all, I will be able to glory in the perfect realization of the overwhelming love that the Savior has for me and a perfect understanding of the sacrifice he made in my behalf.

But if at my death I had not been righteous but lived a wicked life, this would be a time of great sorrow, filled with guilt and the realization of how my unrighteousness has effected people far beyond what I would have ever anticipated. I would feel and understand the great love the Savior had for me, but this would be a two-edged sword because I know that I had rejected that love and the possibilities that came with it. Samuel states that the wicked will have no one to blame but themselves with these sobering words: "And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free." It always comes down to our agency. Samuel finishes by saying that all of us have been given a knowledge of what is good and what is evil, it's simply a matter of what we decide to choose.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Helaman 13

Helaman 13
Samuel comes to Zarahemla, probably from the land of Nephi, and being a
Lamanite, it must be irksome to the self-righteous and prideful Nephites
that a Lamanite would take it upon himself to preach to them. No wonder
they kept throwing him out of the land. But when an angel tells you certain
things, you have a pretty good idea that the Lord is behind it, it's true
and you can be confident that in spite of what all others may think, you
know it's right and correct.

Here is what Samuel prophesies in this chapter:

1. The Nephites will be completely destroyed in 400 years. It's interesting
that Samuel first warns them of something 400 years in advance. No doubt
most of the people thought there is no way he could know what was coming
that far ahead and besides, that is so far in the future, it has nothing to
do with them.

2. Zarahemla would be destroyed by fire right then if it weren't for the
righteous who live there now.

3. The surrounding lands are also under the same curse of destruction as are
all of the wealth and valuable possessions that are not being used for
righteous purposes. Samuel makes it plain that the people are so focuses on
their wealth and possessions that they have no room for correct and rightous
principles in their hearts.

4. The people are cursed because they cast out the prophets, stone them and
kill them. You have to wonder who the prophets are that have been killed.
These people will only support those leaders who tell them what they want to
hear, not what they need to hear. As a result, they will not only lose all
their wealth, but their lives as well. When they suffer from famine and
other hardships, and then see death staring them in the face. they will
plead for mercy but it will be too late.

5. They will come to a very clear understanding of the influence that Satan
and his angels have had over them and know that there is nothing they can do
to change what they have done. They have looked for happiness in doing evil
and will understand perfectly that they ignored, even killed, the very
people who sought to bring them happiness.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Helaman 11 and 12

Helaman 11
In chapter 10, the Lord tells Nephi that whatever he asks, the Lord knows it will be for the right thing and gives him the sealing power so that whatever he seals on earth, it will be sealed in heaven. In the Old Testament, these keys were not always given to prophets and this is the first time it is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. With this power to seal, Nephi can also control the elements and so he uses it to cause a famine to come in the land because he knows that unless the people are humbled in some major way, they will only continue to grow in their wickedness. A famine comes for about two years and with the famine always comes pestilence which is plague and disease. Many people begin to die, although the Mormon implies that the righteous were preserved, and in the third year they begin to realize that their only hope is in the Lord. When they begin to repent, a change comes in the people and Nephi asks the Lord to end the famine. With the end of the famine, they have peace for three years, but then over the next six years, they grow more and more wicked than ever before, ripening Mormon says, for destruction.

Helaman 12
Verses 1-6 in this chapter contain are one of two lessons that Mormon wants us to remember. He points out that when the Lord prospers a people because of their righteousness (it's important to note the true source of all prosperity), that always is the time when they forget him because life becomes easy and they feel no need to depend on the Lord. In verse six, he says these key words: "they do not desire the Lord." Their desire turns to things that do not have lasting importance and then the desire turns to sin. In spite of all the Lord has done for them, when a people have much, it is the time when they no longer ask the Lord for anything and they stop letting him be their guide. Mormon then tells us how as mortals, we really are powerless as mortals. What we think is strength is nothing compared to the power of the Lord. And when the Lord sees great wickedness in the people, just by the power of his word, terrible things can happen. He then lists many instances where the Lord has commanded the physical elements of the earth to change and nearly all of them are similar to the destruction that will come upon the Nephites at the time of the Lord's death. This is also a type for the destruction that will come upon our generation prior to the Lord's second coming.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Helaman 9 and 10

Helaman 9
Nephi is put in prison and charged with the murder of the chief judge Seezoram. Because of his prophetic powers, he is able to tell them that Seantum, the chief judge's brother is the murderer and explains to them how they can prove it. Nephi has them accuse Seantum in such a way that there is no doubt that Nephi is innocent and Seantum is guilty. Because of this, some believe he is a prophet and some think he is a god of some kind. The majority of the people are still hard in their hearts.

Helaman 10
Things get worse among the Nephites. There are divisions among the people and they are so strongly divided that they began to fight amongst themselves and kill each other. Whenever Nephi preaches, his life is in jeopardy and at times, the Lord helps him to escape. Because of his dedication and courage, the Lord blesses him saying, "Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought my will, and to keep my commandments. And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever."

This is no different to me then the courage our church leaders display today when they must take a stand that the majority of people outside the church, and some inside, will criticize. This past conference, Elder Packer warned the people against the evil of giving into the temptations of homosexuality and he is being assailed with criticism and hate speech. And yet it is one of the forces in the world today that undermines the family unit. How many times has history shown that when the family unit fails in society, the society fails soon after? The Greek and Roman civilizations were the most powerful in the world for hundreds of years, and when moral decay set in, and homosexuality became prevelant, they died from within and were conquered from without. In a world where so many voices are shouting, I'm grateful I can turn to inspired leaders who have the courage to stand in the face of popular opinion and declare what is true.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Helaman 8

As Nephi continues to speak from his rooftop, lower judges among the crowd become angry because he exposes them and threatens their destruction both physically and spiritually. They try to stir up the crowd against Nephi and encourage them to take him to the authorities so he can be tried and convicted. They do this because they know he speaks the truth and and their fear is the people will believe him and they will lose their positions of power. But enough people in the crowd believe Nephi that the judges can't turn the crowd against him. Nephi knows he is a prophet and many of the people accept him as one. Nephi explains to the crowd that what he testifies of is no different than what all prophets have testified of. Beginning with Abraham, Nephi lists prophets down to his time including those of his own people that they have accepted in the past. The point of this, if they reject Nephi, they are rejecting all of the prophets. It's no different today. People outside the church do not see the connection between living prophets today and prophets of the past. Just as with Nephi, all prophets including ours today have testified of the same things, most importantly the atonement and resurrection of Christ. There is no other church today that correctly understands the atonement and resurrection. Just as Nephi testified to his people in his time, no other church has the priesthood keys. So what Nephi was explaining was that if they reject him, they reject all the previous prophets also. And if we reject our living prophet, we would be to doing the same. Nephi then proves his prophetic power by telling the people that their chief judge has just been murdered by his brother, both of whom were secretly joined the Gadiantons.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Helaman 7

Nephi has been preaching in the cities north of Zarahemla. But they have rejected him to the point that he is forced to return to Zarahemla only to find that city in deep spiritual trouble. He has a roof top area of his home where he goes to pray and while he is praying, the people who are passing by on the road below can hear him. They are so curious about what he saying and gather to listen. Many of them run to find others to come and listen with them. They can't figure out why Nephi is so broken hearted for his people and this shows how far away from gospel principles the people have strayed. When Nephi finishes praying and sees all the people, he asks them how they could have fallen so far. Then he prophesies three things. One, all of the cities of the Nephites will lost. Two, they will not have power to defend themselves. And three, the Lamanites will be preserved but they will be utterly destroyed unless they repent. The failures of one generation often lead to greater failures in future generations. This is true about nations and it's true about people. Whether we like to think about it or not, our belief or unbelief is not something that is only about ourselves. Our lives are intertwined with those around us and with our families especially, we forge paths that others will follow, sometimes to our great joy, and sometimes to our great sorrow. It is important to love those around us. But even the wicked often love those close to them. What is more important is that we love those around us enough to be sure our lives are based on righteous principles so that we do our best to set the kind of example we would want them to follow.

Helaman 6

Isn’t it interesting that the Nephites become the “hardened and impenitent and grossly wicked” people and it is the Lamanites who come and preach to them about their conversion. There is obviously a division of the Nephites because the righteous Nephites of the church rejoice in this miraculous change. It must have been amazing when, for the first time in nearly 600 years, the Lamanites as a nation are again united with Nephites in their belief. For a time there is peace and prosperity, but the Gadiantons once again grow in strength among the Nephites and the Nephites continue to dwindle in unbelief and unrighteousness. This is in contrast to the Lamanites who “grow exceedingly in their knowledge of God.” It is the Lamanites who have the willingness to believe and show great faith and spiritual power by hunting down the followers of Gadianton and convert so many of them that as a group of criminals they are literally destroyed amongst the Lamanites. But the Nephites embrace the Gadiantons with all of their secret ceremonies and signs, their penchant for robbing and murdering, and their desire for wealth and power. And so, they allow the Gadiantons to not only obtain control of the government, but control of their hearts and minds as well. Mormon must see a pattern in this as he says the Nephites are ripening for an everlasting destruction, something he is witnessing first hand. What sadness must have gripped his heart as he has had an intimate knowledge of the his people from the time they left Jerusalem to a thousand years later where he witnesses the end of a nation.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Helaman 5

Lehi gives up the judgment seat so he can deal with the mass of iniquity among his people. The Nephites have reached a critical point for any government that is based on freedom when "they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good." With his brother Lehi, named by their father Helaman after their great ancestors, they preach with great success, baptizing thousands of Lamanites and getting Nephite dissenters to repent. There success is enough to land them in prison where they are miraculously visited by angels and the people who imprisoned them hear a voice, perhaps that of the Lord, and all of them are then surrounded by a pillar of fire.

Much is talked about this miraculous event, especially the pillar of fire (pillar of light to us) and the still, quiet voice that brings peace to all who hear it. All of this leads to mass changes in the Lamanites who return the lands they have taken to the Nephites. Someone might ask, why should the Lamanites and the Nephites who have dissented to them, receive such great miracles? What of the righteous Nephites who are never mentioned, the ones who have stayed true in spite of the persecutions and losses of life? Perhaps one reason is, they don't need a miracle. They understand and know who they are and their faith in Christ anchors their souls to the atonement and gospel. A miracle would not change them and would not increase their faith. I think the Lord knows of the destruction that is going to come and he is providing this miracle so that masses of people can be brought to change. Whether they stay changed will be up to them, but it is a rare gift and opportunity. We often think it would be wonderful to witness a miracle such as this. But the fact is, we are surrounded by countless miracles and we tend to not notice them or write them off as coincidences.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Helaman 4

Chapter 4 is a good warning for the church, for the nation, and for individuals. The Nephites are longer believing in prophecy and revelation and because of pride, they have much persecution of the poor, moral decay and lawlessness. They become a weak people and the Lamanites come to war and take Zarahemla again and there is much loss of life. The Nephites begin to see how much they had weakened themselves to the point that God could no longer bless them and prosper them, making them no different than the Lamanites. A corrupt person can never stand for long, neither can corrupt nations, and the church ceases to be an influence when people as a whole are no longer religious and turn to sin. Both have to be changed from within or they degenerate and eventually are destroyed.

Helaman 4

Chapter 4 is a good warning for the church, for the nation, and for individuals. The Nephites are longer believing in prophecy and revelation and because of pride, they have much persecution of the poor, moral decay and lawlessness. They become a weak people and the Lamanites come to war and take Zarahemla again and there is much loss of life. The Nephites begin to see how much they had weakened themselves to the point that God could no longer bless them and prosper them, making them no different than the Lamanites. A corrupt person can never stand for long, neither can corrupt nations, and the church ceases to be an influence when people as a whole are no longer religious and turn to sin. Both have to be changed from within or they degenerate and eventually are destroyed.