Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mormon 3

For ten years, there are no wars with the Lamanites, but when this ten years
is over, the wars become non-stop with major battles every year and
thousands upon thousands of people are slain. The Lord gives the Nephites
one last chance and commands Mormon to teach them and call them to
repentance, but they refuse to give him any heed with spiritual things. It
reminds me of being a parent and watching your kids refuse to listen to you
and do something that you've taught them differently about. You know what
the outcome is going to be and you're powerless to change it. Mormon is
faced with a whole civilization who will not listen. He states that he
didn't have any hope or faith in their changing even as he taught.
Undoubtedly there are righteous people along with Mormon, but their numbers
must be very few at this point.

One big change happened with the Nephite armies. Rather than fight in
defense, they go after the Lamanites for revenge. Mormon basically says, "I
love my people in spite of their unrighteousness, but this crosses the line"
and then refuses to lead them in battle.

Mormon takes the last verses of the chapter to write directly to us. More
than anything, he doesn't want us to make the same mistakes and wants us to
know that without doubt, just like the Nephites and Lamanites, we will be
held accountable for our works. He pleads with us to believe the gospel and
prepare ourselves to meet the Savior.

When you weigh the words against the backdrop of what has happened to
Mormon, you can see why his pleadings are so earnest and why his feelings
are so poignant. His writing the Book of Mormon is his effort and sacrifice
to help us to not follow in the same footsteps as his people (who he says
were the most wicked of all the House of Israel). I cannot imagine how
difficult everything must have been for him to live through all that he did.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mormon 2

Mormon says he is large in stature much the same way Nephi describes himself. Mormon must have been a formidable person, not only in size, but as a person, to win the confidence of the armies to be their leader. He shows the maturity of his spirituality when he laments over the fact that the Nephite’s repentance is hollow and not based on regret for their own short comings. He points out that the Nephites, as a nation, not individuals, have passed the point of where there is any hope either spiritually or temporally. This means that the Nephites are no longer a nation that the Lord will favor with prophets, priesthood, revelation, miracles, or any other spiritual blessing associated with the gospel. It also means they will not have the Lord’s help in their battles, not be blessed in terms of growth and prosperity, and basically are faced with complete destruction. It just doesn’t seem possible to describe how bad they have become as a nation. Even Mormon says that things were so bad he had to “forbear to make a full account of their wickedness, for behold, a continual scene of wickedness and abominations has been before mine eyes ever since I have been sufficient to behold the ways of man.”

What’s happening here with the Nephites is not really different than other civilizations that first prospered, then declined morally to the point they became weak and vulnerable. It’s especially true of the House of Israel where the Lord finally allowed them to be destroyed as a nation and the people were scattered to the point they were totally assimilated into other nationalities. Mormon says “the strength of the Lord was not with us; yea, we were left to ourselves, that the Spirit of the Lord did not abide in us; therefore we had become weak like unto our brethren (the Lamanites).” This is quite a contrast to Alma who said, “I know I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things.” If the Nephites had been like this, what a difference the end of the Book of Mormon would have been.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mormon 1

You can't help but be impressed with the similarities between Mormon who wrote the Book of Mormon and hid it up, and Joseph Smith who translated it and brought forth 1400 years later. I would think they were kindred spirits in the pre-mortal life. They were both around 15 years old when the Lord appeared to them. Mormon was 24 when he received the plates and began his commission from the Lord. Joseph was 24 when he had finished translating the Book of Mormon and organized church.

The people have become so wicked that the Lord has withdrawn the three disciples and forbidden Mormon to preach. It is hard to imagine a people so consumed with their own wickedness the Lord completely withdraws all gospel work among them. You have to wonder how many righteous people were left, if any. A society that totally rejects any kind of religious principles can only become depraved, which is evidenced by their acceptance of witchcraft, high immorality and other evil practices. Not a nice time to be alive for Mormon.

Friday, November 26, 2010

4 Nephi 1

In 4th Nephi, the people basically live for over 200 years in righteousness and then society begins to follow the same patterns it has before. We see them go from a Zion society where people enjoy ultimate freedom, wealth, and happiness, to an apostate society where all good things disintegrate. In this chapter you can find 12 characteristics of a righteous or Zion society, and 11 characteristics of an apostate society.

Zion Society
1. They are all converted to the Lord
2. There no contentions or disputations
3. They deal justly with one another
4. All things are had in common, no classes of wealth
5. There is all manner of miracles
6. They are exceedingly prosperous
7. They keep all of the commandments
8. They fast and pray regularly
9. The love of God dwells in their hearts
10. No crimes
11. They are a happy people
12. The distinctions as to race

Apostate Society
1. Pride saturates the people because of wealth
2. Nothing is held in common, each holds on to his own possessions
3. Divisions of classes according to wealth and education
4. Deny the true church and Christ
5. Other churches form who persecute those who believe in Christ
6. People are hard hearted
7. Churches are created that allow for iniquity
8. There is violence and crime
9. There is willful rebellion against Christ and truth
10. There are secret societies, organizations with oaths who seek control of government
11. There is a division of the people according to race

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

3 Nephi 29-30

Mormon concludes third Nephi with these last eleven verses. He must have written chapter 29 and then at later date, chapter 30. These words are for us directly and what they say to me is that it doesn't matter what the world thinks about the restored gospel or about the gathering of Israel. The world will do what it's going to do, but the Lord will continue his work. Mormon has seen our day and pleads with us to clean up our act, get rid of immorality, the murders and wars, the love of money and possessions. The gifts of God, the miracles are all there for us if we'll turn our hearts to him. Mormon warns us that there will be consequences for sin and unbelief, both as individuals and nations. As he writes this, he has seen his own nation be destroyed because they did not change their headlong rush into wickedness. To me, it is a condition of the heart. It is the forgetting of our pride and acknowledging the things we should, of letting our hearts be soft and teachable. The natural man in us, that comes with the mortal experience, fights so hard against our spirits and spiritual things. We will see with the first part of fourth Nephi what happens when people stop fighting this war within themselves and enjoy the freedom of that comes with righteous living.

Monday, November 22, 2010

3 Nephi 28

This is the great mystery of the Book of Mormon, who are the three Nephites,
and where are they and what do they do? First, think of the sacrifice these
three are making. They have had to live in the earth as we do. Think of
the terrible and also the wonderful things they have witnessed. In staying
on the earth, they are separating themselves from their families for over
two thousand years.

The other nine disciples were all told they would live at least 72 years
before they would die. I don't know that I would want to know that. Once I
was 72, I think I would be wondering, "is it today?" There are two
important things to remember about the three Nephites. One is they will be
among all people but the people will not know it. They can reveal
themselves to certain people, just like they did to Mormon, but generally
the people they minister to will not know who they are.

The second thing is to bring souls to repentance. I don't think they will be
found hitchhiking across southern Wyoming to warn drivers about food storage
and then disappear. Somehow, southern Wyoming doesn't seem like the place
designated for any ministry, let alone one by the three Nephites. No one
wants to stay there long enough.

It will be interesting one day to learn what their work has been, what
prophets did they reveal themselves to, and will we be surprised to find
that at one time, we knew of them without knowing who they were? And even
though Mormon is forbidden to reveal their names, my money is on Nephi's son
Jonas being one of them. I don't know why, but I can picture him wanting to
continue his father's ministry.

I like this chapter because this is one of the few where Mormon stops his
narration and just talks to us about what he thinks is important. To me,
one important teaching of Mormon's is this; if we do not believe the
Savior's words as they are given in the scriptures, we do not accept him as
the Savior. He and his words go together. Mormon then takes it one step
further and says that if we do no accept his words, we also do not accept
the prophets he has sent, and all of this offends God. At the least, we
should carefully and prayerfully consider all that is written and all that
is taught by his prophets. Because if it is true, it is the greatest
knowledge that can be revealed to mankind.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

3 Nephi 27

There are two things among many possible ones that prompt some thoughts for me in this chapter. One is, Mormon tells us that while the disciples were "gathered together in mighty prayer" the Savior came to them. Yesterday, Mom and I attended the funeral of Winona Porter. The Porters were very instrumental in my coming into the church and Winona (Indian word for princess) was a remarkable person who touched the lives of many, many people. One of the things that she did throughout her life was to set aside 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night for prayer. If you wonder why she was such a spiritual person, that has to be one important key. I know this promise is true, when we are willing to spend time in sincere prayer, God will come to us. This is usually by revelation through the Holy Ghost, but the promise also is that he will come in person.

Here is what President David O. McKay once said, "I have cherished from childhood the truth that God is a personal being, and is, indeed, our father whom we can approach in prayer and receive answers thereto. I cherish as one of the dearest experiences of life the knowledge that God hears the prayer of faith... It is true that the answers to our prayers may not always come as direct and at the time and in a manner best for the [person praying], but they do come. There have been occasions when I have received direct and immediate assurance that my petition was granted. At one time particularly, the answer came as distinctly as though my Heavenly Father stood by my side and spoke the words."

We desperately need to teach our children to pray and to listen. President McKay said this, "Worries, perplexities, and sorrows are as real in the life of a little child as in the adult world, and children are entitled to the comfort, consolation, and guidance obtained from God through prayer... Parents, if you do not do anything else, kneel down in the morning with your children. I know your mornings are usually busy... but have some time when you can kneel and invite God into your home. Prayer is a potent force." I feel real guilt for the number of days that I sent you kids out to face the world without the assurance and power of prayer in your lives. I wonder, how much more confident would you have felt about your day if we as a family had knelt in prayer before you left? How much more easily would you have handled the difficulties that school, friends, and life in general threw at you?

The second thing is a plea for us to live as clean and good of a life as we know how. Verse 19 tells us what is a binding truth. "And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end." The next verse contains the commandment to be baptized and sanctified through the Gift of the Holy Ghost making it so these verses contain the first four principles and ordinances of the gospel.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

3 Nephi 26

In Chapter 26, Mormon tells us that the Savior taught and explained all things to the people from the very beginning until the end of the world. Mormon says he cannot write a hundredth of what the Savior said. If we had the large plates of Nephi, we could learn much more of what he said. But Mormon tells us that we will not have these writings until we have proven faithful and believe what we have. Then Mormon says that the Savior loosened the tongues of the children and they spoke things that were even greater than what the Savior said. Even babies spoke and the words they spoke were so sacred that it was forbidden that they be written down. It says the 12 also heard and saw things which were so sacred that they forbidden to be written also. Then the Savior ascended into heaven for the second time.

I read this and think we only scratch the surface of what we have. There will come a time where if we are faithful, like the Nephites were in these chapters, that we'll receive all things. I think we will be astounded at both what we learn and at how little we knew. When I think about what I know about the gospel and what I grasp about the eternities, I feel like I know next to nothing. There are so many questions I have and I know there are answers to them and I look forward to the day when I can know. But I also know that I do not yet demonstrate to the Lord a deep enough desire to know. Things that are very sacred are not going to be laid before us until we would fully appreciate them. Otherwise, we would not understand them to the depth we should. Even here in third Nephi, the Lord spoke and then told the people to go and ponder what he had spoken because they were not ready for more. When they did, he gave them more and more until he explained everything related to this earth. Like anything in life, to obtain the greater things, we have to be willing to pay the price. So many want or think they should have certain blessings in this life, or that certain blessings will automatically come after this life. And yet, they are not willing to pay the price to even obtain some things in this life. How often have we felt resentment at co-workers who make more than us, or have higher position, and yet do not work as hard or pay the price that we do? This is an eternal principle and that is why such things bother us. I cannot hope for blessings now or after this life, just as I cannot hope for greater knowledge in this life, if I am not willing to pay the price and do what is necessary to obtain them.

Friday, November 19, 2010

3 Nephi 25

The Savior quotes Malachi chapter 4 and this would be a natual thing for him
to do. The people have these scriptures and now he explains what should
already know and understand. Imagine if he appeared to us in person and
quoted a chapter of the Book of Mormon or a section of the Doctrine and
Covenants. Hearing it from his own lips would be powerful and would
undoubtedly impress our minds and hearts. And yet, if we would read the
scriptures with the Spirit, we could have a powerful experience from time to

In this chapter of Malachi, the Lord says that at his second coming, the
wicked will be burned like a farmer burns the stubble left in his field
after a harvest, while the righteous will be raised with the Lord and he
promises that all will be healed.

At the end of this chapter, Malachi prophesies the coming of Elijah to turn
the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to
the fathers. This sealing power, which led to the geneology work in the
church as well as the sealing power for temple ordninances, was given to
Joseph in the Kirtland Temple. This goes well with this chapter because the
sealing and reuniting of family members will be a marvelous experience when
he comes.

I see I made a mistake in chapter 25. The reason the Savior quoted Malachi 3 and 4 was because the Nephites didn't have these scriptures. Malachi lived over 400 years before Christ so this was nearly 200 years after Lehi left Jerusalem.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

3 Nephi 24

The Savior quotes the third chapter of Malachi and everyone is familiar with
the verses on tithing. First though, I like verses 5 and 6 where the Savior
promises that he will correct all falsehood and rid the world of those who
prey upon others. There is only one source of truth, not thousands of
different sources of a thousand different truths. And the great blessing is
we can rely on his truth while the world changes it understanding of truth
according to their needs and circumstances.

I do not know just how it works with the Lord, but I do know that tithing
works. That when you pay tithing, everything goes better, especially
financially. In some way, the Lord always takes care of us and does not
leave us to suffer needlessly. And when he opens the windows of heaven and
blesses us, we will find that the blessings are for all aspects of our

Notice in verses 11 to the end of the chapter what the Lord says. First he
tells us about what people in our day will say. They say it is vain to serve
God, meaning there's no purpose, it doesn't get you any results. Why
bother? They say there's no gain in keeping the ordinances, that the proud
are the ones who are happy, and only the wicked prosper.

But the Savior then promises that if we are willing to ignore the pressures
of the world and follow him, ignore all the noise of the world, he will make
us his. "They shall be mine" he says in the day that he "makes up his
jewels." I like the symbolism of jewels. His jewels are his people, those
who love him. Jewels are made as the result great pressure, and as a
result, they are unlimited in their strength and endurance. Jewels, unlike
mirrors, absorb light and then reflect that light from within. A mirror
simply reflects the light without absorbing it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

3 Nephi 23

I can remember when I joined the church hearing someone say how much they loved the Book of Isaiah. I thought they must have had a screw loose or something because Isaiah seemed totally incomprehensible to me. Now I understand. It's taken awhile but it's been worth the effort and there's still so much more to gain. I can see why the Lord said "Great are the words of Isaiah." I would suggest that you give it the effort. It really helps to have a commentary to explain things. A good one is by Parry. I like to look for three things as I read Isaiah. I look to see if the verses relate to the Savior, to the restoration of the gospel, or to the House of Israel. You'll find all three as you read. Isaiah is quoted more in the Bible than any other prophet by far. He is amazing. I especially like chapter 79 verse 6 that says, "Behold, to drive on bald tires will cause fear for thou shalt break forth to the right and to the left and backwards shall be thy view." Good stuff and so significant for out times.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

3 Nephi 22

The Savior quotes the 54th chapter of Isaiah where Isaiah prophecies of a time when the kingdom of Israel will establish Zion and once again become a great nation. The house of Israel had been totally destroyed more than 500 years before Christ with only the Jews remaining as a people and they comprised two the the twelve tribes, Benjamin and Judah. The other ten tribes had been taken captive out of the land of Israel and then when their captive nations were destroyed, the ten tribes were scattered all over the earth like sand thrown in the wind. After the death of the Savior, the same happened to the Jews but they were able to keep their identity and heritage as a people in the nations they ended up in. In this chapter, the Lord says that this happened because of their wickedness. But in the last days, he would not forget Israel or his promises to them, would forgive them and gather them back to the lands of their inheritance. He says the church is going to have enlarge itself because the number of lost Israel gathered would eventually be larger than the church membership. We're seeing this come true with the church membership larger outside of the U.S. than in. The Lord promises that Israel will no longer be reproached for who they are, that he will have great mercy for them, everlasting kindness, and no nation that comes against them will prosper.

3 Nephi 21

The gathering of Israel is a principle that is found throughout all scripture. It's found in abundance in the Old Testament, mentioned in the New Testament, but no where is it discussed in more depth than in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. This only makes sense since we live in the times when all of the prophecies are being fulfilled and these books, especially the Book of Mormon, are the instruments of that gathering. A gathering of Israel cannot take place without a correct understanding of the Savior being Jehovah and the God that made the promises and covenants with Israel in the beginning. Center to the gathering of Israel in the last days is the New and Everlasting Covenant which is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the true understanding of him as Jehovah, and as the Son of God and Redeemer. The true gathering of Israel cannot take place without Israel coming to a correct understanding of their God. These covenants, promises, and prophecies have existed from the time of Adam.

The Savior's teaching to the Nephites found in the this chapter explains to the people the their posterity will be able to know that the prophecies concerning them and the gathering of Israel are being fulfilled when the very things that are then being written (and will later be the Book of Mormon) will go forth on these same continents to the the remains of the Nephite and Lamanite people. When Joseph Smith was translating the plates, he thought this meant the American Indian. Later, when he had a global understanding of the gathering, he would teach that this promise of the Savior encompassed all of North and South American. But at the time he was translating, he would have not had any conception of how the people of Mexico, Central and South American would accept the gospel in such huge numbers and be a part of the gathering of Israel. The sign of the gathering that the Savior gives here has been and is being fulfilled just as he said it would. Ask anyone who has served a mission in South America about the members there and they will tell you there is a special spirit of gathering among this people. They know what their heritage is and understand the significance of their relationship to the Book of Mormon.

The principle of the gathering of Israel, even though it is found throughout all scripture, is not something that is understood in any other church. The only other religion that open espouses a gathering is the Jewish faith. Yet, these prophecies are being so obviously fulfilled that it is a testimony to me of the great breadth and depth of knowledge of Joseph Smith. His teachings concerning this principle are nothing less than profound and what he taught is right in line with history, both past and current.

Friday, November 12, 2010

3 Nephi 20

Here is a chapter that confirms to me that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that the scriptures are true. There isn't space here to go into an explanation, and in truth, the explanation is there for all to read if they are willing to take the time to study the scriptures. I don't think I realized this before as fully as I do now. But briefly, there are prophesies in Isaiah that testify of our day. Isaiah saw the latter days and wrote about what he saw. For some of those things, he had no words. Suppose you had lived 600 years before Christ and had a vision where you saw a computer. You understood what you saw, but how would you explain it to the people of your day? How would you explain jet travel, television, cell phones or satellites? But one thing he explained well was the big picture of the destiny of Israel, that in our day, the Lord would establish a kingdom that would bring to people all over the world a knowledge of the Savior. It would go first to people who were not pure Israelites, and then it would go to descendants of 12 tribes. In this chapter of the Book of Mormon, the Savior explains to the Nephites how this is going to happen and quotes Isaiah. He also explains what is going to happen on the continents of this part of the world and now that is being fulfilled. Joseph Smith at age 20 or 22 would not have understood this as he translated the Book of Mormon. But it would not be long before he too would be granted a vision of the future of the church and what it would accomplish. When the church only had a few hundred members, he was trying desperately to get them to see how this little seed would grow beyond their wildest expectations. He wanted so much for the people to grasp the big picture. At one point he told the priesthood leaders that they had no conception of what the church was going to become, but he had seen it. And that's the challenge for us, to see beyond the short comings of individuals and grasp the big picture. The pieces of the puzzle fit so neatly together and if we'll just take the time to put them together, gradually a picture unfolds that causes to quickly say it's true.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

3 Nephi 19

This chapter is about prayer. The word prayer is mentioned at least 24 times in this chapter. At the end of chapter 18, the Savior ascended into heaven. While he is gone, the first thing the people did was spend the night spreading the word to others about the Savior's visit. People hurried to the temple because the Savior was returning. It says a huge number of people came from the surrounding regions to be there. In the Savior's absence, the people are told they should prayer. What they prayed for is the key to this chapter and that key is the Holy Ghost. Why would they pray for the Holy Ghost? Well having heard the voice of the Father, having seen the Savior and listened to him, they know that to have this kind of communication continue after this is all over, they must have the Holy Ghost because revelation only comes through the Holy Ghost.

So the first thing that has to happen is they must be baptized. Nephi and the 12 take care of this and then give the Gift of the Holy Ghost to the people. Once this is done, the Savior appears again and he commands the people to kneel and pray again. He doesn't tell them what to pray for, and even though they prayed "without ceasing... they did not multiply many words. This tells me two things. One, you don't have to say a lot. The Lord answers to feelings as much as to words. And two, they were listening because they were seeking revelation. We can only receive revelation if we are listening for it.

As they pray, they are consumed in light and their countenances and clothes are as white as the Savior and his apparel. Angels appear and as this happens, the Lord prays and thanks the Father that the people have believed and been sanctified. They are pure inside and out. Now it should be remembered that these people were basically the righteous and had endured persecutions and threats of death because of their faith. They had proven their worthiness. There are a large number of accounts that tell how people saw the Prophet Joseph Smith appear to be filled with light, to be white in the same manner when he was receiving revelations or having visions. There are accounts of other prophets in the Bible and Book of Mormon being white and filled with light. The lesson for me is, while this is an unusual occasion in the Book of Mormon, the promise of sanctification is there for all of us. The difference for us is, it's a lifetime process. The great thing is, the journey is as rewarding as the goal. But here are some examples of the promises:
"If you keep my commandments, you shall receive of his (the Father's) fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father."
"If your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light... and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things."
"Sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him; for he will unveil his face unto you:
"My presence shall be there (the temple), for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into shall see God."

Think of the Nephites in chapter 19 as you read this next verse from the D&C:
"It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

3 Nephi 18

If you've ever wondered what formed the basis for the sacrament prayers, they come from words selected in this chapter that the Savior spoke to the Nephites as he instituted the sacrament among them. In the Old World, the sacrament was introduced to the 12 apostles. Here in the New World, the sacrament is introduced to the 12 who then have it passed to the 2500 people. This is a pivotal moment. For four thousand years, the sacrifice of a lamb without blemish was done looking forward to the atonement. Now, the sacrament replaces sacrifice and this ritual looks back to the atonement. The sacrament is also symbolic of the need for spiritual nourishment. Eating the bread and drinking the water is symbolic nourishment to our souls. The key is to be hungry for the nourishment. If we were invited to a dinner where the finest food would be offered, but came without any hunger for food or desire to eat, the quality of the meal would be lost on us. The sacrament is key for weekly spiritual growth, and when accompanied with prayer and efforts to live righteously, the promise of spiritual growth is a sure thing.

The other thing that sticks out in my mind with this chapter are the words, "For Satan desireth to have you." In the pre-mortal life, Satan sought to take as many of the spirits with him as he could. He was successful in taking a third of them. No small feat and it gives us an example of his abilities. Once those spirits were cast down to earth, they have never died or ceased to exist because they do not have a body. They have had thousands of years to perfect their skills, millions of souls on which to experiment and develop their ability to influence and control. Satan hates us and to think that Satan and the spirits who followed him are not trying every minute of every day to influence us away from the Savior and what is right is a dangerous assumption. That is why the Savior says, "Ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desires to sift you as wheat. Therefore you must pray always unto the Father in my name... " In the figurative sense, to sift means to examine carefully and remove that which is most important and useful. To sift wheat is to separate the wheat from the useless husks. Satan's greatest conquests come when he can separate a righteous person from the truth, from the church and from the Savior. And the way he separates is through sin.

Monday, November 8, 2010

3 Nephi 17

This is one of the most popular chapters in the Book of Mormon, probably because in this chapter, we see a side of the Savior that is hinted at in the New Testament, but clearly seen here. I like this chapter because it shows how tender the feelings of the Savior are, how much the he cares for his people, his compassion, his desire to heal them. He doesn't condemn them for their weaknesses, but asks them to ponder the things they have seen and learned. I also like the fact that the Savior is going to return to the Father, but when he sees how much they want him to stay, he doesn't put their feelings aside and stays with them and provides marvelous miracles. He heals the sick and the injured. He asks that the children be gathered around them and then prays as they all kneel. It then says that it isn't possible to write what the Savior said. I believe there are no adequate words to express the deepest feelings and thoughts we have. For some reason, the veil and mortality make it impossible. But the Spirit can convey those words. There are times, for example, when we can feel deep anguish, so deep that words just aren't possible. In those times, the Spirit conveys them for us. After praying, the Savior says his joy is full, so full that he weeps. After he blesses each of the children, he weeps again showing us how deep his love for the people is. And then the angels come down and encircle the children "as if in the midst of fire." I think this is great light and fire is the only way they know how to describe it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

3 Nephi 16

Two of the purposes of the Book of Mormon outlined in the introduction are: the convincing of Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, and to make known the covenants of the Lord that Israel is not cast off forever. For the Nephites, there is no doubt now that Jesus is the Christ and in this chapter he explains the promises made to Israel, that they will not be forgotten but will be gathered again. To be gathered again means to come to a correct knowledge of the Savior and his gospel and organized as a people. The Savior commands the people to write the things he tells them and this includes the knowledge that he will visit many of the House of Israel that have been scattered all over the earth. He explains that in our day, these writings will go first to the gentiles and if they accept it, they will be numbered among the House of Israel. If the gentiles reject it, those of the House of Israel will go through the gentiles and tread them down. The groundwork for this possibility is being done at this time as we see the tribes of Israel in Mexico, Central and South America, as well as other countries, become more populous and aggressive. So many of the prophecies are beginning to be fulfilled and the Lord has promised us that if we have eyes to see, we will recognize them as they occur.

Friday, November 5, 2010

3 Nephi 15

You have to look at the chapter 15 from the perspective of the Nephites.
They have been keeping the law of Moses which included such things as the
law of sacrifice which was symbolic of the atonement and crucifixion.
Evidently, not all of them understand why they wouldn't continue to keep the
law of Moses, especially the law of sacrifice. So the Lord explains that
all of that was given, and to be done, in anticipation of his coming. Now
that he has completed the ultimate sacrifice, it's no longer necessary to
continue sacrificing animals and the other connected rituals as this would
have no effect. In view of this, they wonder if everything has been
fulfilled, but the Savior explains that there is much yet to happen that has
been prophesied.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

3 Nephi 14

The Savior finishes his sermon on the mount by first telling the people to not be judgmental with his famous words, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Critical people usually have it come back to haunt them. My thought about this is we usually judge people for a weakness they display. In Ether 12:27, the Lord says he gives weaknesses to people so they will be humble. Each of us has weaknesses we struggle with and the Lord promises that if we turn to him, he will turn our weaknesses into strengths. The thing I think we need to be careful about is judging people for a weakness that the Lord may have given them and not one that they have brought on themselves. And how can you tell the difference? You can't and therein lies the danger. If someone wallows in a weakness, then perhaps it isn't so wrong to notice it. But if someone is genuinely trying to do better, we would do well to help lift them. I know that when I judge people, I'm usually masking my own weaknesses.

This doesn't mean there aren't things we shouldn't judge. We would be wrong to not judge on certain things, and it is even dangerous not to in some cases. The Lord counsels us to beware of who we listen to and what we accept as truth. He gives us a standard by which we can judge and it's very simple but very true. "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. So many things can appear funny, exciting, even moving. But what are the underlying results or messages of what is being presented? If it is uplifting, encourages us to be better, gives us strength, helps us to develop empathy, and most of all, would be acceptable to the Lord and brings us closer to him, then that is good fruit. If lowers us in the sense that great and divine attributes ignored and the good in us is portrayed as immoral, ignorant, incapable, weak, and unbelieving, or if it mocks religious belief, I want to turn away from it. There are all levels of this in every facet of society. Unfortunately, there is less and less that ennobles mankind and enhances dignity, and more that demeans both man and what is sacred.

3 Nephi 13

This chapter is a continuation of the sermon on the mount, in this case, the sermon on the Nephite temple mount. You could write a book on what is in these chapters of the Savior's visit. I think I'll comment on two things. First, the Savior talks about his displeasure with those who do their alms (give donations) in such as a way as to show off how generous they are in front of others. I stretch this to any kind of religious show where we try to impress others with our spirituality, religious knowledge, or in any way try to put ourselves in a superior position over others. At the least, we may unintentionally offend others even though our attempts may be nothing more than to lead or show the way. At the extreme, it becomes priestcraft where one uses religion to get gain, in power, position and money.

None of us like it when someone wears their religion on their sleeve. It always comes across as "I'm better than you" even when done with good intentions, and more often than not, people are turned away rather than toward religion. (On the other side, we should be slow to judge those who do this for more often than not, their motivations may be right, but their tactics and timing may not always the best.) We are taught to bear our testimonies, but even then, timing and the mode of delivery is important when the recipient of our testimonies may be fragile in their own. The best thing, I think, is to live righteously and let the Spirit do the rest. Example will always accomplish far more than words. The conveyance of the Spirit does not require words. The Savior did this and the one thing more than anything else that we would do well to learn is that is he first loved and accepted those whom he taught and healed. When a person feels loved, accepted, and on equal footing regardless of religious strength or standing, is when we can most effectively (and gently) help them feel how much the Lord loves and accepts them. And in the end, isn't this what we want, to have them turn not to us, but to the Lord? If we are blessed to be at a crossroads, let it be a way station where in their travels they receive comfort and love in the process of their journey.

The second thing that impresses me in this chapter is the Lord's comment that the eye is our source of light. He bookends this statement with the sayings of where our treasure is indicates where our heart is, and, no man can serve two masters. I often have to look at my life and ask what my heart is really set on. What are my priorities? This can be misconstrued that we must give up all enjoyment and leisure. I think what the Lord is asking us is to put Him first. When it comes to choices, put Him first. He doesn't want to be a part-time God in our lives to be called on occasionally. Besides, whether we realize it or not, He is always there anyway, guiding prodding, urging, and inspiring. When let our heart be set on things that are contrary to what we know is right and in opposition to Him, we lose light. We lose understanding, wisdom and perspective. If we should fall into sin, then as He says in verse 23, the light is replaced by darkness. It is then that we lose our understanding of gospel and spiritual principles, of truth. We lose the sense of His presence in our life. The intellect replaces the Spirit and the intellect is incapable of comprehending spiritual truth. Paul said this:

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, except he has the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth... the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

3 Nephi 12

In this chapter, the Savior says much of what we find in Matthew 5. We are told that in all books of scripture, the Sermon on the Mount, which the Savior repeats here for the Nephites, is an abridgment. There is much more to it than the outline that we have here. And it's interesting to me that the Biblical account and the Book of Mormon account contain some differences. In these differences, the Book of Mormon adds clarification to what is found in the Bible.

What the Savior gives us are the goals, attitudes and attributes that we should seek for. They are eternal principles with the same common sense as the ten commandments. They are the mainstays of personal conduct and thought that enable us to be fulfilled in life, to live a life that is meaningful, and most of all, they are the qualifications we must eventually have to enter the Celestial Kingdom. To not seek after them is to short-change ourselves, to be less than what we are capable, to take the easy way out. I would suggest we prayerfully select on attribute and ask the Lord to help us obtain it. I want to comment on just a few of them.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." " Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth." I put these two together. The poor in spirit are the humble, and the meek are those who seek not for power and position, but seek for the betterment of those around them. To them, all things will be given to them after this life, both in heaven and on earth. They may deny themselves now, but what they will be given after this life is beyond all comprehension.

"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." We always admire those who bear their burdens with a cheerful heart and do not seek to pull us down to wallow in misery with them. We can receive comfort in this life. But sometimes complete will not come until after we have passed through the veil. But if we learn become fellow sufferers with the Savior, our suffering has purpose and becomes endurable, and then it will be consecrated and made holy, and will be the means of great blessings in this life and after.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." I combine this with, "Behold, it is written by them of old time, that thou shalt not commit adultery; But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman (or man) to lust after her (or him), hath committed adultery already in his (or her) heart... suffer none of these things to enter into your heart; for it is better that ye should deny yourselves these things... than that ye should be cast into hell." When we treat the sacred and divine power to create life as simply a tool of pleasure, not only do we make light of how sacred the union of a man and woman is, we cheapen the whole principle of love, and deny ourselves of the opportunity to experience love to its fullest. We turn love into lust which is selfish and seeks only to satisfy one's own cravings rather than exalt another. The other person becomes a tool for our own gratification. In the end, these brief moments of satisfaction always lead to disappointment, disrespect, and regret. It is naive to assume that the consequences are minimal and do not reach into eternity. When love is expressed within the boundaries of marriage, the Lord blesses and sanctifies that union so the experience is not only more deeply fulfilling physically, but the love felt extends to greater heights and depths that cannot be experienced in any other way. We sense the sacredness of the act, the sacredness of the other person, and gain feelings of fulfillment not gained in any other way. It saddens me when people cannot control their passions and end up denying themselves this great and wonderful blessing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

3 Nephi 11

We now come to the crowning event of the Book of Mormon. Reading these chapters carefully, prayerfully, and thoughtfully can only result in a strengthened testimony of the Savior and the Book of Mormon. Sometime later, we don't know how long after 3 days of darkness and destruction, but obviously some time has passed, the people gather at the temple in Bountiful. They are amazed not only at having heard the voice of the Lord, but of how the land has completely changed in its appearance. During this, they hear the voice of the Father. Twice they do not understand it, but the third time they do. While the voice of the Father was probably heard audibly, it was felt more than it was heard because of its spiritual power. Mormon says it "did pierce them to the center... it did cause them to quake... it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn." On that last part, I know to a small degree what it feels like to have the heart physically burn as the result of the Spirit. It is a sensation that is indescribable and undeniable.

There have been several times in scripture where the Father has introduced his Son. This is the only place where he uses the words "in whom I have glorified my name," indicating that the atonement has been completed as it had been prophesied. When the Savior appears he affirms he is Jesus Christ and he is the God of Israel, meaning he is the Jehovah of the Old Testament as well as the Messiah. Then so that each person there can know of a surety for themselves, he invites them to come forward and feel the wounds of his crucifixion. I think this is a very personal and loving action, since it would have taken hours for each of the 2500 people to individually come face to face with him, meet him, and feel of his love. This is also an apostolic witness that each person is receiving. Each knows without doubt, because of a personal visitation, that he is the Christ.

It's an interesting insight into the humble character of Nephi that he isn't prominent in the crowd, but is hanging back, and when called to come forward, he falls at the feet of the Savior demonstrating how much love he has for him. The Lord gives Nephi the power to baptize and bestow the Gift of the Holy Ghost and appoints 12 others and gives them this same authority. This is not in addition to the power and authority they already had, but it's given because this is a new gospel dispensation that is opening up. The church will be new and different now that the atonement has been completed. This will be explained by the Lord more in chapter 19. The Lord then promises that those who believe in him, will naturally believe in the Father also, and the Father will bear record with fire and the Holy Ghost to those who believe that they can know and understand the true nature of himself as well as that of Christ.

3 Nephi 10

The people again here the voice of the Lord as he teaches them in preparation for his coming. Four times he says, 'How oft would I have gathered you," telling them that if they would have repented, the destruction could have been avoided. He has gathered his people in the past and he gathers them now. But he never compels us to come to him. It is a decision we must make on our own, repentance and the desire to follow him being something that must come from within.

The Lord reiterates again that it was the righteous who were spared. They were the ones who had followed the prophets. This is important for our day and age for when the Lord comes again, it is the righteous who will be spared from the great destruction that will take place prior to his coming. To the Nephites, the Lord says that the living prophets had prophesied of the destruction they had experienced, and in their scriptures, the prophets Zenos had prophesied. It was all there for them just as it is all there for us if we choose to believe it. Just as the Lord will now come to the Nephites, we can be sure he will come again to the whole world, finally ending the wickedness that has sought to destroy it from the time of Adam.