Thursday, December 30, 2010

Moroni 20

Moroni knows that the Book of Mormon will come to us in our time. He also knows that Satan is the great imitator and will imitate religion with all its gifts, powers, revelations and even the Lord himself. So Moroni urges us to find out the only sure way we can that what has been written is true. In those famous first verses at the beginning of the chapter, Moroni gives the perfect sequence for going to the only source that can tell us what is true and that source is the Lord. First he asks us to read the Book of Mormon, and read it remembering that the Lord is merciful, that he won't withhold anything from someone who is sincerely seeking to know truth. Then he says to ponder what we read, think about it and don't judge. An open mind is always critical when you want to learn something because so often what we didn't think was true turns out to be valid. When we have done this, then Moroni says to ask with a sincere heart, with a real intent to know, and then he will manifest the truth in such a way that there will be no doubt as to it's irrefutable verity. The answers won't always come immediately or in the way we expect, but they will come. If they don't come immediately, we should be patient and not let questions and doubts deter us from finding out. Questions and doubts along the way are normal, but shouldn't be stepping stones and not roadblocks. Moroni witnesses to the whole earth that these things will come forward and fulfill all of the prophecies of the scriptures concerning the latter days.

The Book of Mormon is also one of the tool to do what Moroni counsels us at the end of the chapter, to come unto Christ. Verses 32 and 33 should be our guidelines for life and the way to keep those guidelines is explained no better than in the Book of Mormon. This is a lifelong process that will continue after this life. There is no more important book or writing to come forward in the last 2,000 years, perhaps for all time. Countless lives were sacrificed for it to be written, preserved and brought to us. I truly hope that each of you will read it often. If you haven't read it all the way through, start it now. If the Isaiah chapters are too confusing, skip them. You can always come back to them. When you do, you will eventually see why they were included and why they are so important to the Book of Mormon's message and how they establish the truthfulness of the book. I love the Book of Mormon and each time I read it, I'm am more amazed with it. It is one of two bedrocks of my testimony. I always have questions, and sometimes doubts, but I always come back to the bedrocks of my testimony because they are undeniable. How fortunate we are to have this marvelous writing. I hope that what I have written about it has helped your testimony in some small way.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Moroni 9

This is Mormon's last letter to Moroni. Whether Mormon and Moroni meet again, we do not know. In this chapter, Mormon talks about how far Nephites have sunk. He describes them as angry, without love, blood thirsty, murderers, like wild beasts, depraved, without order, without mercy, perverted, brutal, without principle, and past feeling. The greatest sign of their brutality is their killing men and then feeding the women the flesh of their own husbands and fathers. They too are eating the flesh of the Lamanites. They are raping and then torturing the women until they die.

There are two key phrases in this chapter to me. One is Mormon's encouragement to Moroni where he says, "notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God." In spite of how terrible things are, they are not going to quit. I can't imagine a better example of enduring to the end, not just for the Nephite's sake, but for themselves also. Regardless if Satan has won the hearts of the people, Mormon is not going allow any kind of a victory by Satan in his own life.

The other statement by Mormon comes in his description of the Nephites raping the Lamanite women. He says that they deprived them "of that which is most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue." If morality is more dear and precious than anything else in a person's life, this is probably why Alma said that sexual impurity and immorality "are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost." President Kimball said chastity is "our most valuable possession... dear and precious above all things." As the Savior said, a good tree cannot bring forth bad fruit, and a bad tree can't bring forth good fruit. Immorality has never brought forth good fruit. It has destroyed families, individuals and nations. Like drugs, immorality sets people in motion on paths they would not have chosen in hindsight. There is more involved than just an expression of love in physical relationships. I have seen too much of what immorality has done to people's lives. It is far better to be on the moral path, or to put one's self back on it if necessary, than to allow the festering addictions of immorality to rule one's life and take them to places they would not have chosen.

On the other hand, moral and chaste living brings self control which in turn brings personal strength and peace. It brings a level of intelligence, sensitivity, and empathy not otherwise possible. As one lives a more chaste life, the influence of the Holy Ghost is more easily recognized and felt, leading to a greater understanding of true principles and wisdom. In the end, you experience more miracles, greater faith, and perhaps more important than anything else, you experience what deep and abiding love truly is, something that is far deeper and more meaningful than the love portrayed by the world today.

Moroni 8

I think that the world in general has no conception of the mercy of Christ, how expansive and encompassing of all people it is. Certainly some religions don't understand it and the area that they don't understand it most is in determining who will be saved and who will not. The most repulsive doctrine is the the one put forth that says little children who have not been baptized or accepted Christ are condemned to hell. At one time, an infant who died without baptism in the Catholic church ended up in a state of limbo between heaven and hell. The only way to get the child out of that state was to pay the priests. What was simply an act of greed on the part of the priests was gradually accepted as a doctrinal practice. Now the Catholic church has a more modified version as do most protestant and evangelical churches. Their view now is, that children who die, still die in sin because they are born sinners. This is because of the fall of Adam. Since the child did not commit sin but was born into that condition, his sin is hopefully pardoned. The fact is, they do not know what happens to children because there is no specific scripture that explains it. The only verse that relates to children is when the Savior said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of Heaven." Their discussion is on whether the children are saved into the Heaven or this is simply saying that people need to have humility like little children to be in heaven.

Most churches today are less inclined to condemn unbaptized children. But where the churches fall especially short is in all people who are not children and have never gained an understanding of the gospel, accepted Christ, or been baptized. All of these people, and this is the vast majority of people who have ever lived, are condemned to hell. I'm not sure about Catholics, but evangelicals embrace the doctrine of predestination which basically says that God has chosen certain people to be saved and all else are condemned. They take this from verses like Romans 8:29 which says, "Whom he (God) did foreknow, he also did predestinate, " and other various verses such as Ephesians 1:4, "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world." If they actually believed in a pre-earth life, that would make some sense. But their explanation is, since God knows all things from beginning to the end, a pre-earth life isn't necessary for him to know us before we are born. This is in spite of the many scriptural references to a pre-earth life.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Moroni 7

Moroni quotes the teachings of his father Mormon and this is one of the great chapters of the Book of Mormon. Most people turn to it for its teachings on charity, but charity only comprises four verses. The first twenty verses he talks about what is good. That is an important word in the scriptures. When God creates the earth and mankind, he continually says it is good or very good. The gospel is the "good news." If you look in topical guide, the word good is listed as much or more than any other word in the scriptures. To me, it means that we are good, life is good, people are good; we should see the good in everyone and everything around us. Mormon tells us that everything that comes from God is good and then teaches us how to recognize and find all the good things that God has provided for us. With people, he says, "if their works are good, then they are good also." He wants is for us to give with goodness in our hearts and to receive what good is given us with thankfulness.

To me, the key verse in this is thirteen, "That which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, everything which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God." All goodness comes from him, and all goodness leads to him. But he warns us to "take heed... that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that who is good and of God to be of the devil." Nowadays, so much of what is not good is rationalized into being good or masked as being good. Not always, but often there is a difference between what is pleasurable and what is good. Because it's pleasurable doesn't necessarily mean it's good and we need to be careful and wise in the judgments we make. Mormon's simple rule is, if it invites us to do good and helps persuade us to believe in Christ, it's good. If it takes us away from Christ, it's not.

Then Mormon teaches us that all of this relates to faith, for all good things are meant to increase our faith in God and in the gospel. He says God knows all things from beginning to end, and he sent angels to minister to people, to teach them all things, but especially the coming of Christ which is the greatest good to happen. Along with the angels, he has sent prophets to also teach us these things. Mormon especially emphasizes the role of angels. He says they haven't ceased to appear to men, that they show themselves to everyone who is "of strong faith, and a firm mind in every form of godliness." He explains that the purpose of their ministry is to call men to repentance, to help fulfill God's covenants with his people, and to declare the words of Christ to the prophets. All of this is given to us so that we can have faith in Christ. I think another thing we'll be surprised to find out is how often angels have appeared to, or influenced people. Mormon asks, "have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men?" Only when there wasn't sufficient faith.

All of this is given to us to increase our faith and hope. Faith and hope are cyclical, one doesn't precede the other. As our faith increases so does our hope, and as our hope increases, so does our faith. The more this cycle is operative in our lives, then Mormon says the more charity we will have and experience. And that to me is the crux of it all. The gospel, faith, hope, goodness, everything is calculated to increase love. If we have those things in our life, our ability to love and to be loved is increased. To me, it is the best measuring stick of the gospel and the best way to measure spirituality in ourselves and others.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Moroni 6

Moroni lists the qualifications for baptism, indicates that memberships records were kept, and tells us there was a form of church discipline. Disciplinary councils are such an important part of the church, and to me, they're an indication of the truthfulness of the gospel. There are two reasons for church discipline. One is to protect the integrity of the church. Serious sin must be dealt with. How much of a righteous influence any church has in the world depends on the righteousness of its members. For the church to successfully fulfill the Lord's command to go into every nation, it must be unusually different and righteous, offering something beyond what the rest of the world has to offer. If the church did nothing in terms of discipline, then it would be stamping its approval on all things that should be condemned. Imagine how the world would view the church if we turned a blind eye to pedophilia, pornography, or financial fraud, crime, or sexual misconduct. If this is the Lord's church, there has to be a higher standard.

The other important reason for church discipline is to help someone who has been involved in spiritual misconduct to repent. Since unrighteousness affects both the person and the church, people must be accountable for serious sin, and there must be consequences for it. Disciplinary councils are only held in cases of extreme transgression. Most people can take care of their own repentance where the church or other people have not been affected by the sin. Sometimes, the help of a good bishop is necessary. But in serious cases, if the church did not act, it would be very difficult for victims of misconduct. And, it also harms the person who has transgressed, because it can perpetuate the same misconduct in the person's life. The higher standards of the Lord are also the way to true happiness and peace because they are the standards that are based on divine laws. These are not arbitrary standards decided by a committee, but actually natural principles and laws that have been proven over time again and again to be true. If a person lives them, they will be happier, stronger, and more at peace. When a person lives in conflict of them, they are more in conflict with themselves and find life to have less direction and purpose. These laws are the same to me as other laws such as gravity. You can jump off of a roof and the result will always be the same. When we live with the parameters of the laws, it's then that we can utilize and harness them for our own advancement and good.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Moroni 1-5

Moroni's contribution to the Book of Mormon is Mormon 8 to the end of the book. So along with that chapter, he added the 15 chapters of Ether and 10 chapters of Moroni. These chapters also include two letters and a sermon from his father. With the first 5 chapters (which have no more than four verses each), you can tell he knows he has very little space on the plates left, and so these last things that he writes are interesting because they are what he must feel are most important to include, and what he is moved by the Spirit to write.

In Chapter 1, he tells us that anyone who doesn't deny Christ is put to death by the Lamanites and then adds, "And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ." Now it may seem easy not to deny the Christ, but how firm would I be with my testimony if under a threat of death? Then he amazingly adds that sometime in the future, what he writes will be of worth to the Lamanites, the very people who threaten his life. That is someone who has vision, who has spiritual maturity, who can look beyond the tremendous emotional conflicts of the moment, and see value in a people who are wicked, evil, and without conscience.

In Chapters 2 and 3, Moroni emphasizes Christ having given priesthood authority to the 12 disciples, especially to give the gift of the Holy Ghost. Why would he include that? I think it's because he knows that in our day, the Holy Ghost will be misunderstood. First, it won't be understood that the Holy Ghost is a separate personage. The difference between the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost will not be known. And he knows of the prevailing belief will be that the Holy Ghost does come upon people at various times. All of this falls far short of the truth that is given in D&C 130, "... the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us. A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him, and not tarry with him." The gift of the Holy Ghost which is the promise of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, is an important distinction because while a temporary experience of the Holy Ghost can occur with anyone (how else could an investigator of the church receive a witness of Christ, or of the Book of Mormon, or any scripture?), the gift of the Holy Ghost can only be given by those who have priesthood authority that originates with Christ. This, as well as chapters 4 and 5, are also a testimony that the church must have a formal organization with divine authority to conduct all ordinances.

Chapters 4 and 5 provide us with the sacrament prayers. Among other things, this tells me two things. One, the Lord is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The ordinances have never changed. The way they are administered has never changed, and the manner in which the Lord deals with his people through prophets, revelation, and priesthood authority has always been the same. The second thing it tells me, without taking time to go into each prayer (which I want to do in the Doctrine and Covenants), is that Christ is the center of everyone. Without him, there is no church, there is no true doctrine, and there are no saving or exalting ordinances. Without him, there is no hope for overcoming death, no resurrection (so no hope for hair), and nothing that will seal relationships beyond this life. No other representation of the gospel can offer these things.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ether 15

I am not sad to see Ether 15 and the end of the wars because the I get tired of them all. Millions are slain in these last wars and the hatred is so deep and so bitter that they fight to the death. Normal people would see the senselessness of such slaughter, but evil isn't based on sense. Evil has no sense other than a sense of self. And evil would rather die trying as long as everyone else can be destroyed also. We live in such a protected society, that even with senseless murders here and there, we really have no sense of what evil is. We would have to go to Africa or other countries where genocide is prevalent to get an idea of what a socket of evil really is. So Coriantumr and Ether are the only two left and it doesn't appear that Ether has any contact with Coriantumr. Ether is witness to the fact that his prophecies were all fulfilled and then simply writes that he doesn't know if he will die or be translated and it doesn't matter as long as the Lord is pleased with him. Hard to imagine how the Lord wouldn't be.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ether 13 and 14

Ether's words are rejected by all of the people and he is forced to flee out of the land and hide in a cave. Moroni says that the prophecies of Ether are great and marvelous and he was going to write more about them but was forbidden. Moroni, knowing that the Book of Mormon is the instrument of the Lord's work in the last days, must have been impressed by much of what Ether said and chooses to write about his prophecies of the establishment of the two Jerusalems in the last days. One will be the new Jerusalem on this continent and the other will be the re-establishment of the old Jerusalem. Both will be governed by the house of Israel and the Lord. The New Jerusalem will also be joined by the City of Enoch which was taken from the earth and will be returned and united with the earthly city at that time.

There are some who think with the Jews gathering to Israel now, this is the gathering of Israel. But what is happening there now is only preliminary. The actual gathering will be not only by the Jews, but the other tribes of Israel as well. And while there will be a certain amount of physical gathering by descendants of the tribes of Israel, the actual gathering is the coming to a true understanding and knowledge of the Savior.

From this point on, the land is enveloped in war and bloodshed. Ether finally comes back and goes to Coriantumr, who is king, and tells him that everyone will be destroyed if they do not change from their wickedness. Ether promises him that the Lord will spare them and bless them if they will return to righteousness. Then Ether prophecies a very interesting prophecy. He tells Coriantumr that if he and his people do not change, Coriantumr will live to see the complete destruction of his people, that he will be the lone survivor and see all of the prophecies concerning his people fulfilled, and he will live long enough to see the prophecies fulfilled concerning other Israelites inhabiting the land (Nephites) and he will actually be buried by them.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ether 11 and 12

The wars and wickedness continue. More and more prophets are sent and people reject them. The rulers put them in prison and murder them for prophesying that the people and the government will be destroyed. The prophet Ether comes into the picture. Prophets are not all equal and evidently Ether is significantly more powerful or he wouldn't be singled out among so many others. In the midst of this, Moroni interjects some of the great verses on faith, hope and charity. Moroni points out that without hope, without belief in the Savior, he will not be revealed to man. Even the prophet Joseph Smith had to first come to a point to where he turned his confusion into belief and faith that he could get an answer. Only then did the Lord reveal himself to him. This speaks volumes about how much faith Joseph Smith had even as a boy. The Lord didn't just appear to him out of the blue.

With all things sacred, there must first be an effort on our part. The Lord has said "Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith." President Lee once told President Packer, when he was a new general authority, "Do you know what's wrong with you-you always want to see the end from the beginning... You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and perhaps a few steps into the darkness, and you will find that the light will appear and move ahead of you." This is a true principle for all kinds of decisions in life. I think this is especially true when we make major decisions such as when we make a decision to be married, to serve a mission, to move, to change jobs. Smaller decisions we often can make on our own and I think the Lord expects us to, although I think inspiration is just as possible with them. But with major life changing decisions, we have the right and the promise that if we are living righteously, the Spirit will provide us confirmation AFTER we have carefully thought it through, made a decision and then moved forward in faith. If it is wrong, the Lord will let us know. If it is right, we'll eventually see the light and receive a confirmation.

There are great verses in this chapter on dealing with weaknesses, verses in which Moroni tells the Lord of his worries about his father's and his own weaknesses in writing. Nephi made similar statements. Moroni explains that his writing just doesn't carry the same weight and power that words spoken under the influence of the Spirit do. He states that the Brother of Jared could write words so powerful that they were overwhelming to the reader. Perhaps that's one reason why those plates were sealed. Words that powerful would not require us to develop our own faith. Moroni understands the purposes of the Book of Mormon, the main one being to persuade people to come to Christ. He states that he has seen the Savior, that the Savior has taught him face to face just as people converse with each other. Then he urgently pleas for people in our day to come to Christ. Of Moroni, Elder McConkie said this, "After the true saints receive and enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost; after they know how to attune themselves to the voice of the Spirit; after they mature spiritually so that they see visions, work miracles, and entertain angels; after they make their calling and election made sure and prove themselves worthy of every trust - after all this and more - it becomes their right and privilege to see the Lord and commune with him face to face. Revelations, visions, angelic visitations, the rending of the heavens, and appearances among men of the Lord himself - all these things are for all of the faithful. They are not reserved for apostles and prophets only." I believe this is true; this is the path to follow, although I have to admit, my progress along that path is woefully slow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ether 9 and 10

In these two chapters, the cycle continues. If there are righteous kings, the people prosper. When there are not, the people are oppressed. It is amazing to me the the amount of insurrection that comes from within the families of the reigning kings. Father is against son, brother is against brother. The insurrection only comes occasionally from the people. One king, Riplakish, was a dictator, using the people to establish his own wealth, imprisoning any who failed to pay taxes or work on behalf of the state, and the people rose up in rebellion against him. On the other hand, you have prophets like Coriantum who saw the Savior, and Lib who helped the people advance remarkably. For awhile, the secret combinations cease to exist, but with the prosperity, they now start to make a comeback.

There is mention of things which create what appear to be an anachronisms. And anachronism is saying something like George Washington spent the afternoon watching television. Something doesn't fit the time or place. One anachronism in the Book of Mormon seems to be the mentioning of elephants in the land. While there is no evidence that wasn't elephants in the land, and there are places in the world where elephants historically had been mentioned but thought to be an anachronism but later evidence was found of their existence, I personally think that it is a misnaming, much like Indians referred to buffalo as cattle and cows.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ether 8

Secret combinations begin to appear among the Jaredites. Moroni tells us that they will be the destruction of this people just as they were of the Nephites. Secret combinations can come from anywhere, religion, government, social groups, labor groups, terrorists; they are possible from any variety of sources. The most important things to remember about them is they are real, they seek power and money, and the source of their philosophy is Satan. They are a powerful tool in Satan's efforts to destroy anything that is good. When secret combinations begin to persecute the church, kill its members, and seek the overthrow of good governments that support the church is when we'll know that things are getting closer to the second coming. In the meantime, it's actually possible to experience them in our personal lives. For example, in my own life, people who tell me I have to exercise, stop eating Rubios and ice cream are a secret combination out to destroy the good things in my life.

Ether 7

These families definitely have problems as sons rebel against fathers who are righteous kings. They overthrow the kings and then are eventually defeated. There is a time when the prophets finally have sway on the people and they return to righteousness and peace. But like the Nephites, this civilization is beginning its own downward spiral. It's hard to see things in their proper light because so much happens that we don't know about, and this history is presented very quickly and pretty much in an outline form. They are inserted in the Book of Mormon to teach us some important lessons that we'll see in chapters eight through 15.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ether 6

It's hard to imagine what the Jaredites went through in crossing the ocean. Just to put out to sea and trust the Lord to take you somewhere would be frightening. It says that many times they were buried under deep waves. To endure all this for 344 days must have been especially difficult. It says that they prayed and sang hymns to sustain their faith. In my own life, when I have been in a scary or difficult situation, I found myself turning more to prayer and to hymns. When there is no where else to turn, no one else to rely on, and faced with something that we cannot control, we turn to the Lord. And then like the Jaredites, when we're delivered from whatever the difficulty was, we realize how much we owe the Lord. It says that when the Jaredites finally arrived on land, "they shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them." Sometimes those tears of joy are also shed when good things happen that we had thought weren't possible for our lives. The Lord does have tender feelings for each of us, cares about us deeply, and wants us to have happiness and joy in life. There will be the inevitable difficulties and tragedies that are a part of mortality's experience. There will be no one better to turn to at those times. But, there is joy in life also, and we ought to remember his at those times too.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ether 5

One of the shortest books in the Book of Mormon, Ether 5 is only six verses. In these verses, Moroni is speaking directly to Joseph Smith. Moroni had been shown our day in vision, so it makes sense that he also was privileged to see the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Did he see Joseph Smith specifically? We don't know, but what Moroni did know was that at a time determined by the Lord, the plates would be brought forth and someone would be given the power of God to translate them. Moroni tells Joseph three things. One is that he is not to touch or try to translate the 24 sealed plates. If he does, he will lose all power to translate. Moroni also explains the law of witnesses, telling Joseph that three witnesses will be given the power to bear testimony of the truthfulness of the record and its coming forth. The third thing is Moroni's testimony that this work is of God, that he wrote it by the authority of God, and when "ye shall see me, and we shall stand before God at the last day," ye [Joseph] will know that Moroni had the power and authority to write what he did. I can't imagine what it will be like to see these great prophets some day. I am absolutely in awe of them as I'm sure I will be at that day too.

Ether 4

After Moroni has translated the writings of the Brother of Jared he is commanded to seal those plates so they cannot be opened. Moroni says "there were never greater things" shown unto man and that mankind will not have the interpretation of those sealed plates until world has repented of its sins and believes in the Lord. If the world will sanctify itself, then those words will be revealed. Verses 6 to 19 are a quotation from the Lord and he promises that great and marvelous things are reserved for us if we will believe in him.

When you study the scriptures, you come to know that certain covenants were made with the House of Israel that are to be fulfilled in the latter days. Certain things are to happen prior to the Lord's coming. Because of the apostasy of the church, the oppression of governments and of the Catholic Church against religious thought and practice, and the proliferation of protestant churches, there had to come a time when the Lord's true church had to be restored. For a restoration to happen, several things would have to take place. There would have to be prophets and revelation or the confusion concerning the Lord would continue. There had to be a return of the Lord's authority or priesthood so that the people were invested with that ability to do the Lord's work in his name and under his direction. Just as it was with the advent of new prophets in the past, new scripture would accompany the revelations received and this new scripture would be a sign and a testimony of the truthfulness of this being the Lord's work. All of these things have happened with each dispensation of the gospel in the past and they have happened in our day as well. And the Lord tells us in Ether 4, the Book of Mormon is a sign that the Lord's work has commenced in our day. The most important thing that we learn in the restoration is the true nature of God.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ether 3

There are a number of important principles taught in this chapter. Here are two, First, this a chapter that teaches what the nature of man is as a mortal and what the nature of man is as a spirit. First Moriancumr says "we are unworthy before thee; because... our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou has given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires. If there is one thing we should understand more than any other, it is the fall, and the nature of our existence because of it. If we do not understand the fall, we do not understand the atonement. If we do not understand how we have been separated from God, we do not feel the need for an atonement and rather than being the redeemer on whom we must rely, the Lord becomes only a great teacher, a guide, an example. When he says we have become evil continually, he is saying that our mortal natures are prone to sin. The very fact that we are separated from God places us in a position of jeopardy. We must be changed, reborn from a fallen nature, or in other words, redeemed. The word nevertheless is important here. Nevertheless, we must call upon the Lord for he is the one to redeem us from our fallen state.

When the brother of Jared sees the finger of the Lord, because of his faith, the Lord is compelled to show himself completely. I think there are two interesting things about this. First, we learn that our spirits look exactly like a physical body. The brother of Jared thought he was seeing a physical Christ and the Lord had to explain that the two were identical in appearance and he was seeing the Savior as he will look in the flesh. The second thing is, the Lord was compelled to show himself to Moriancumr, he had to, because of Moriancumr's faith. Think what possibilities that opens up for us. If we have sufficient faith, the Lord isn't just rewarding us, he is compelled to bless us. This makes sense if every blessing is predicated upon a commandment, then it is in accordance with divine laws that blessings are given when a commandment is kept. Simply said, for every action, there is a reaction or consequence.

The Lord touches the stones Moriancumr has prepared so they will give light in the boats. There is an old rabbinical teaching that says Noah had stones from the Lord that gave him light in the ark.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ether 2

As the people of Jared travel through the valley of Nimrod and into the
wilderness, the Lord appears in cloud, first to the brother of Jared, and
then it says he appeared "to them." So I'm supposing these later visits
were to more than just the brother of Jared. I believe that if we knew the
number of times the Lord has appeared to someone in our time we would be
amazed. Joseph McConkie, a friend who I greatly admire and the son of Elder
Bruce R. McConkie said this: "Our testimony of Christ reaches beyond
accounts given of his ministry in scripture. We testify that he lives, that
he speaks, and that he manifests himself to his people today as literally as
he ever did in any ancient day."

Our Savior isn't just a name in a book, someone who lived a long time ago.
Our Savior is someone who lives now, who is actively involved in his work
which is saving his people. He will speak to the mind and the heart, he
will speak audibly, he will appear, he will manifest himself in a variety of
ways to those who have same faith, have the same knowledge, and the same
gifts and signs that existed when he was on the earth.

Joseph Smith said, "When faith comes, it brings its train of attendants with
it - apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, gifts, wisdom,
knowledge, miracles, healings, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc. All
these appear when faith appears on the earth, and disappear when it
disappears from the earth; for these are the effects of faith, and always
have and always will attend it. For where faith is there will the knowledge
of God be also, with all things which pertain thereto-revelations, visions,
dreams, as well as every necessary thing, in order that the possessors of
faith may be perfected and gain salvation." It's no wonder that this
dispensation started with an appearance of the Father and the Son.

To me, there are two keys for knowing that Savior close by. One is faith
that he does speak or appear. The other is to recognize his voice. I
believe he wants us to recognize his voice for than anything else, because
his voice is always accompanied by a witness of the Holy Ghost. We will
know and we will feel and odd as it may seem, this is a more sure and
lasting witness. Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon both saw the Savior, but
eventually fell away. Their faith and spirituality did not equal what they
knew and so it couldn't sustain them.

Shortly after his father died, Joseph McConkie told me that he had just
finished reading his father's journals in the apostle's office in Salt Lake.
He said, "There are apostles and then there are apostles. My father was an
apostle." Meaning there are some apostles who do not have the personal
visitation of the Savior and some that do. His father had. But if you read
Elder McConkie's last testimony in conference, which the last time he ever
spoke, it was the witness of the Holy Ghost that gave him the most sure
testimony and knowledge that the Savior existed.

One of the most sure ways of hearing his voice is through the scriptures
through the power of the Spirit. In a statement made to the twelve about
the Book of Mormon, the Savior said: "These words are not of men nor of man,
but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man; for
it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit
unto you, and by my power you can read them... Wherefore, you can testify
that you have heard my voice, and know my words.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ether 1

Moroni gives us a genealogy of the brother of Jared, but it is very brief, perhaps simply to show how many generations were involved. The only reasons I can think of why the brother of Jared is never identified by name are he is either modest and doesn't want to refer to himself. John does this in the gospel of John. Or, the name was too difficult, too long, and too difficult to engrave on the plates. Maybe it was both.

The 24 plates of the brother of Jared that were sealed and give the history of the world from beginning to end will be translated at some point. We are promised that we will have more and more scripture, but it will only come when we have, as Elder Maxwell said, feasted worthily on what we have.

The brother of Jared is obviously a strong spiritual leader and the Lord tells him that he will answer his prayers because "this long time ye have cried unto me." One of the hard lessons I am continuously having to learn is praying involves more than just asking. It involves faith, pondering, living righteously. President Kimball offered these words about getting answers to prayers and it shows to me that, too often, I do not put enough sincere effort into mine:

"The Lord has provided a way for these answers... Too often, like Oliver Cowdery, we want our answers without effort."

"The Lord does answer our prayers, but sometimes we are not responsive enough to know when and how they are answered. We want the 'writing on the wall' or an angel to speak or a heavenly voice."

"Do you get answers to prayers? If not, perhaps you did not pay the price. Do you offer a few trite words and worn-out phrases, or do you talk intimately to the Lord?" Do you pray occasionally when you should be praying regularly, often, constantly?"

"Your Savior said, 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him... " The Lord stands knocking. He never retreats. But he will never force himself upon us. If we ever move apart, it is we who move and not the Lord. And should we ever fail to get an answer to our prayers, we must look into our lives for a reason."

Of course, the Lord answers prayers on his own timetable. If we are consistently and sincerely praying, the answer will come and we need to have faith that it will come. I lived long enough to know that the Lord has answered every one of my prayers, sometimes immediately, sometimes the next day, sometimes the next year or more. I'm sure he has answered many of my prayers and I did not hear. But this I'm sure of, he will always answer a prayer. He never will not answer a prayer.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mormon 9

If I were to pick a theme for this chapter it would be unbelief, unbelief in a God who reveals himself to man through revelation and unbelief in a God who performs miracles. One of his points of logic is, if God can create an earth and all of its life, why would he be incapable of miracles? The fact that he created these things is proof he is a God of miracles because life in and of itself is a miracle. God hasn't stopped being capable of miracles. He doesn't change. According to Moroni, if God were to change his nature, he would cease to be God. I personally believe that people cannot or do not experience miracles because of one of two things. They have lost their belief and faith in God so that miracles do not seem to occur. Or they do not see and recognize the miracles that happen around them. I believe that miracles are very easily explained away. They can be explained away as coincidence or as a natural occurrence. I don't believe in coincidences. And I also believe that the Lord uses natural occurrences to work miracles. I also believe we shouldn't be to quick to pat ourselves on the back when good things happen to us. We often put ourselves in a position for things through our hard work and effort. But how we do we know that it was our efforts that brought about the final outcome? I think the Lord moves things about in our lives far more than we realize. And with revelation, why would God spend 4,000 years giving revelation and revealing himself to prophets and then stop cold and never do it again? Doesn't make sense to me.

Three other things are worth noting in this chapter. Moroni says, "Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness... " That's such important counsel for our day and age. Another favorite verse of mine is verse 31. I think this is a great verse for when we want to criticize for legitimate reasons. "Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father for his imperfection... but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been." That takes restraint and maturity. And finally, we learn a little tidbit about the plates that Moroni is engraving on. He says that were they large enough, they would have written in Hebrew. But because of the lack of space, they had to write in what we know is a reformed Egyptian. Since no one knows that language as it probably evolved over the thousand years since Nephi, Moroni says that a means will be provided by the Lord so the right person can translate the plates.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mormon 8

Moroni has been commanded by his father to finish the record. It's interesting how the language changes. I don't think Joseph Smith would have known how to do that or even thought about it. But there is no doubt that the style of the language changes with the change now of writers.

Verses 1-13 are tragic and poignant. Moroni has seen his father slain. I would imagine his first instinct would have been to protect him or die trying. But he would have been commanded to flee by his father because Moroni has responsibility for the plates. He says that he is alone, that he has witness the death of all the Nephites, all of his family, and all of his friends and he is now alone. He doesn't know how long he will live, but he will wander for at least 21 more years. For now, all he sees is the Lamanites warring among themselves.

Moroni is a prophet. And like Moses and other prophets, the Lord grants him a vision of all things from the beginning to the end. He tells us that the Lord has shown him when and how the Book of Mormon will come forth; he has shown him our day and what our civilization is like. The plates themselves are worthless he says. But what is on them is priceless. I think if we really comprehended the worth of this book and the sacrifice given to bring it forward, we would revere it and keep it in sacred trust.

Moroni prophecies that it will come forward out of the ground and even though there will be those who will try denigrate it and stop it's coming, it is the Lord who has brought it forth and no one can hinder the Lord in his work. In describing our day, Moroni says people no longer believe in miracles, that both our religious and political leaders are only interested in power and money. He says we are a people who focus on substance, appearance, fine clothes, that we love our possessions more than people and because of this we are a prideful people. He says we live in a day when religions will deny Christ rather than testify of him. I remember a survey that came out a number of years ago where it was found that a large percentage of protestant ministers did not believe that Christ was actually the Son of God, that the miracles he performed are not true, that he was a great teacher, and was not likely resurrected. Moroni says that churches in our day will be set up to get gain and we can see this in television evangelists and other ministers who are extremely wealthy, live in great mansions, and run their churches as a business. When the people leave the large stadiums where these ministers preach, the people must pass by gift shops and coffee and refreshment stands that also feed into the church's coffers.

In all this, I think you can sense Moroni's disappontment for how people, at best, will ignore the Book of Mormon and at worst, cast it aside as something of no worth. His disappointment is understandable because he has studied the thousand year history of his people and has seen first hand the sacrifices made to bring the book to us. It would be insulting to him to see how it is treated with such little regard. And I think it's important to realize that Moroni is not expressing condemnation, because condemnation will come from the Lord, but he is sorrowing for the state of unbelief in his people which has brought about their destruction, and the unbelief of those in our day.

Mormon 7

In chapter 7, Mormon gives us his last words and they are for the Lamanites of our day, the time when his record will go to them. Here is an outline of what he says to them. To me it is Mormon's last testimony to the people he is related to. He's telling the Lamanites of our day, the descendants of those who destroyed his people, those things he feels are of utmost importance to know. So in the chapter, he begins each statement with the word "know." I also like to read it with the word "I" inserted before each statement. This also gives to me a sense of his testimony. I've paraphrased his testimony in that way and then I try to say simply what each statement means to me.

1. [I] know that you are of the House of Israel, that you are people of the first covenant.

To me this means, he wants the Lamanites to know they have a sacred ancestry. The first covenant is the covenant that God made with Adam in the Garden of Eden and then later with Abraham. The elect are those, who because of their righteousness, are heirs to all that God has and are joint-heirs with Christ.

2. [I] know that you have to repent, be baptized with water and with fire or the Holy Ghost.

There is no other way but to conform your life to true principles and receive the ordinances of the Lord from those who have the authority of the Lord to perform those ordinances.

3. [I] know that you must lay down your weapons of war.

People who accept the gospel are peace loving, never aggressive. They enrich societies, not destroy them or impose their society upon them.

4. [I] know that you must come to a knowledge of your fathers.

I believe this no only means the prophets of the Old Testament, but Lehi and the prophets that descended from him.

5. [I] know that Jesus is the Christ, that he is the Son of God.

6. [I know you must] lay hold upon the gospel that will come to you through the Bible and the Book of Mormon. If you believe the Bible and understand it, you will believe the Book of Mormon and the other scripture that will come from the Gentiles. If you believe the Book of Mormon, then you will know the marvelous works that done by the power of God among your ancestors.

All scripture is truth and each volume testifies of the other. All scripture is in harmony and does not contradict itself. When read sincerely, all scripture will be accompanied by the witness of the Holy Ghost. This witness will not come, however, if the effort to learn is half-hearted or insincere. To approach scripture insincerly is to make light of the sacrifice made by the prophets, like Mormon, to write and bring the scripture forth. In the end, like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets, Mormon was killed for his testimony and his testimony deserves a serious consideration on our part. I think there will be a very special bond between Joseph Smith, Mormon and Moroni, who all died as a result of their efforts to bring forth the Book of Mormon in our day.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mormon 6

What happens now is almost beyond comprehension. All of the Nephites retreat and gather at the hill called Cumorah. Whether it's the one in New York or another one, we don't know. There's some argument that it could be in central Americal and Moroni's fleeing and travels took him far north to bury the plates that Joseph found. If there were many plates, that would make sense as it would be difficult for Moroni to get them all that distance. In one last battle to the end, Mormon is wounded and passed over for dead. 250,000 Nephite warriors our killed along with all the women and children except for 24 who survive and a few who dissent to the Lamanites. It's easily possible that 1 to 2 million are killed in this last battle. Mormon is left to look at the remains of his slain people and in anguish cries over their destruction and how a people who had once been so righteous and prosperous could sink to oblivion. The saddest thing of all is, it was their own decisions that brought them down.

Mormon 5

The Nephites are now in a "fight then flee to fight another day" mode of
battle. Because they are always on the defensive, Mormon agrees to lead
their armies. But he says he does it with hope. He knows what the outcome
is going to be. The outcome could be different if the Nephites would turn
to the Lord, but they refuse. Mormon says it was "an awful scene of blood
and carnage." Only those who can flee the Lamanites fast enough survive for
the time being. The rest are destroyed in huge numbers.

Knowing he will only be writing a little more, Mormon uses the time and
space on the plates he has left to again tell us the purpose of why he is
writing. Basically, here is what he says:

1. He knows that what he has written will come forward at a future time
determined by the Lord, a time when wickedness will not prevent it from
going forward.

2. What Mormon has written will go to remnants of the House of Israel, to
the unbelieving Jews and to the Gentiles, which is the rest of the world.

3. It will have the purpose of convincing people that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God, meaning, he is the Redeemer.

4. It will go to the posterity of the Lamanites and Nephites and will come
to them through the Gentiles. The land was blessed for the Nephites and
Lamanites sake, but because of their wickedness, it was given to the

Then Mormon speaks directly to us, who he considers to be Gentiles. He
points out how the Nephites were once a wonderful people, but now during his
life, they are led by Satan. He then asks us is if we are going to be
righteous or follow in the same path as the Nephites. Just as the Nephites
were in the hands of God, he asks us to realize that we are too.

When you put yourself in his perspective where he has seen in vision and
through his writing the entire history of the Nephite people through to this
time of their destruction, and when you think he has seen our day in vision,
you can sense the deep sincerity of his pleadings. How foolish we would be
to ignore them.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mormon 4

This is a war chapter and we have reached the point to where the Nephites begin their final downward spiral to defeat and annihilation. They will continually be defeated and on the run from the Lamanites who now sacrifice Nephite women and children to idols and false gods. C. S Lewis said this, “ The possibility of pain is inherent in the very existence of a world where souls can meet. When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the suffering of men. It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not by the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork.”

Mormon’s top priority now is the records and he removes all of them from the hill Shim and in order to be sure they remain protected. Moroni will eventually assume that role when his father his killed.