Thursday, December 31, 2015

2 Nephi 13-15 - A Tale of Two Peoples

From a doctrinal perspective, Isaiah’s warnings to the people in 2 Nephi 13-15 are repetitive and reinforce Revelations 1-7. Revelations 12 gives the added dimension that the evil in the world is due to Satan waging war against the righteous. This is not just a war of clashing armies. It is also a war of deception, calumny, libel and temptation heaped upon all in an attempt to draw men from God.

Isaiah warns it is pride, manifest in ignoring God’s counsel, that leads to wickedness. John shows how Satan appeals to it with the allure of power, wealth and moral debauchery. Isaiah warns that those who ignore God to follow their own counsel will rue the day. Both show God’s wrath will lay desolate the lands and lives of those who choose to follow Satan.

Amidst all the warnings of moral and physical destruction, are the promises to the righteous of God intervening in their behalf. They also show the great blessings which will come to those who endure these difficult times.

Like Dicken’s in his “Tale of Two Cities,” these will be the best of times for those who are righteous in that they will see many blessings from God. It will likewise be the worst of times as they, along with the wicked, wade through unspeakable trials. The difference between them is the righteous will abide the day. They will survive with their faith, burnished and intact. Not so for the rest.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

2 Nephi 12 - Isaiah 2 - Revelations 1-3: the Introduction

This is a fitting introduction to the Isaiah passages because it sums up in one chapter what the rest of his prophecies say: humble yourselves, turn to the Lord and live by revelation and the light of His word. If you don’t, the day will come when your pride and everything on which it’s based will be taken from you.

There’s no linear or positional relationship between the contents Isaiah and Revelations. Yet, a weak correlation exists in that John’s counsel to the seven churches in Asia acts as a prelude to the rest of the book. Like Isaiah, the gist of Revelations is summed in the first three chapters: be righteous and be blessed. Ignore the Lord and suffer grievous consequences.

Where John spoke to the seven churches, Isaiah spoke to all the House of Israel. Indirectly, they both speak to us. The warnings are the same. John speaks more of the blessings that come than Isaiah. Both offer stern warnings to pride and disobedience.

As I’ve pondered on how to compare the two, I will focus on the individual rather than the last-day application of these passages. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Another Primer on Isaiah and Revelations

A key to understanding Isaiah is its applicability in three different cultural contexts. One is now only interesting, another is important and the third is crucial for us to understand. The least important context is that of his original audience, the people and times of pre-exilic Israel and Judah. The events, people and places he wrote about, they all knew. As Nephi said, because of his learning of the Jews, Isaiah was easy for him to understand. But it all happened a long time ago. For us it’s just history.

The second most important context is for us, the people of the end-of-times. Like the Book of Mormon, it was written for our day. Its rich, literary style is filled with inspired types. The names of those places and people are types of nations and roles we will see in the participants and events of our day. Events which will mirror ones in our day. For example, Egypt was a waning geopolitical super-power. In the context of our day, Egypt represents the United States of America. You can read it replacing the one with the other and have a correct understanding of what’s going to happen. Where the Spirit comes in, is understanding who and what all the types represent.

The last and most important context for understanding Isaiah is it's individual applicability. I think this is why the Savior and Nephi both thought he was so important. For example, his warnings to Judah to rely upon God not Egypt for help, is counsel we all should heed. In Nephi’s words, we should lean not on the arm of flesh. Understanding Isaiah on this level requires the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

It's the same for Revelations. It has these three contexts. The latter-day event context is important, but the personal applicability of his teachings are vital. Studied together, the latter-day context is more easily understood. Studied together, the role and need of the temple in the personal context becomes clear.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

2 Nephi 10-11 - The Windup to Isaiah

In this passage, Jacob finished his sermon on the coming of the Savior and the relationship the Jews and Gentiles will have in the coming times. Nephi summarizes his brother’s comments by explaining Jacob saw the Savior as he and Isaiah had. He wanted their testimonies available to his people so they would have these as proof of God’s existence and of the Savior’s importance.

So then, at the end of Chapter 11, he introduces Isaiah. Remember, Nephi saw our day as did Isaiah as did John the Revelator. It’s in chapter 12 that the major copying of Isaiah begins. It’s interesting that Nephi starts with what we know today as chapter two and not one. Since he doesn’t quote all the Isaiah we have, we can assume only that he didn’t think it was needed. What he already quoted a couple chapters earlier flies in the face of contemporary bible scholarship.

Modern Biblical scholars assume the Book of Isaiah is composed of the writings of different authors, three in particular known today as Proto-, Deutero-, and Tritio- Isaiah. One of the reasons for assuming multiple authors is some passages speak of events far in the future of Proto-Isaiah's time. They assume the history written by the others was done so “after the fact.” The Book of Mormon disputes this assertion by containing passages attributed to Deutero-Isaiah. Scholars maintain these two wrote after the time Lehi left Jerusalem. Their presence in the Book of Mormon shows Deutero-Isaiah’s contributions occurred earlier than contemporary scholars think.

I can’t dispute the differences in literary style in Isaiah. Multiple authors apparently did write it. We see something like that in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Alma has three authors. Helaman has two plus heavy editorial commentary by Mormon. Third Nephi and Mosiah both have multiple authors. So, could there be more than one contributor to Isaiah? Yes.

But, why can’t God speak of future events as if they already happened? Why can’t He speak in precise detail of those same events? Only the blinded hubris of man demands Deutero-Isaiah wrote after the fact, not before. As for me, there’s room in my faith to allow for multiple, inspired authors of Isaiah. I just think, if there is Deutero-Isaiah, he added his part before Nephi got the plates from Laban.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

2 Nephi 9 - the Atonement made simple

In the temple, we make covenants with God. The key ones are: obedience, sacrifice, righteous living, chastity and consecration. Each builds upon the preceding, like layers in a road. To endure, every road needs a strong foundation. For these covenants, it is the Savior and the Atonement.

Jacob’s teaching about it in 2 Nephi Chapter nine goes into depth on explaining why and what it means. It’s no secret God empowers us to ascend to higher levels of righteousness through covenants. While they do, it is the scriptures which help us more completely understand them. This chapter is all about the Savior’s Atonement and what it means for us. Simply, this passage explains in plainness why He did it.

We read in the preceding Isaiah passages of God’s great power and an exhortation to us to trust Him and obey Him. Chapter Nine explains that power and why we should. To more fully appreciate His role in our lives and why it’s important to us, we need to understand this chapter.

While this might seem like basic doctrine, it’s often good to remember and refresh our understanding of the basics. Like that road, it’s the foundation for everything that follows.

Sorry for not having many entries lately, between the rush of the holiday season and all the snow we’ve had, I’ve been kinda busy. I’m still here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

2 Nephi 3-6 - The Separation

The concentrated presentation of great doctrines continues through this section of the narrative. It starts with Lehi reciting the prophecies of Joseph, Son of Jacob, of the coming of a Moses and of a future Joseph who would restore the Gospel and do a great work among the people. This also contains Nephi’s lamentation and praise of God known as the “Psalm of Nephi.” It ends with more recitation of Isaiah by Nephi's brother, Jacob.

There is a lot to cover here. But as I’m not writing to discuss the content so much as my thoughts about it, I’ll write what impresses me.

Remember, Joseph Smith translated this passage last. By the time he got to it, not counting the lost Book of Lehi, nearly 90 percent of the work was done. I can’t speculate on the Book of Lehi’s contents other than to say it was probably much more of a historical narrative with lessons drawn from what happened… Just like what we have from Mosiah forward. So what happens here? Joseph reads/translates the prophecy about a future Joseph, named after his father who would be the instrument of God to bless a future people.

A review… God unfolds things to us not all at once, but in bite-sized pieces so we can assimilate and process them. When He unloads a lot of information, you run the risk of having Nephi’s experience when he saw the future destruction of his people… it was devastating. So, in His mercy, God gives things to us in smaller amounts.

Such is what happened here with Joseph. He’d been told to this point, that his name would be had for good and evil. Now, he sees that not only is he bringing forth scripture, he’s going to do a lot more. He realizes his life mission is already set and that through him God is going to restore the authority and organization needed to carry the message in the Book of Mormon to the world. I wonder what conversations he had with Emma as they talked about these things?

Monday, December 7, 2015

2 Nephi 2 - Opposition and Agency

For many, the highlight of 2 Nephi Chapter 2 is Lehi’s discourse on opposition. It is an important concept to understand, but for me, the heart of the chapter is verse 27 which talks about agency.

Lehi teaches because of the two polar forces in the universe, with God and Jesus on one side and Satan on the other, man is left in a position to chose for himself who he’ll choose to be like. God set it up that way.

I’ve often wondered why there is opposition and what need there is for Satan and his temptations. It’s not until I realized we learn more about who we are from our failures than we do from our successes, that it all made sense to me. This life is a test of our character. But it’s not God who needs to know, it’s us. Since we learn more from our failures, God in His wisdom placed us in an environment where that would happen a lot.

That’s how a loving God can subject His beloved children to misery, pain, and failure. He knows we will learn more about ourselves this way. He knows we are more malleable in the heat of affliction than we are when things are going well. And as imperfect beings, we need the refining.

In other words, it’s an act of faith and love on His part in our behalf. Some might say tough love, and perhaps it is. He did stand close by the Savior in the darkest hours of Gethsemane and Golgotha, doing what He knew was best for all of His children, including His perfect Son. Having seen my children go through pain and difficulties, I’m certain Heavenly Father felt vicariously the pain His Son endured. As well as He feels ours. He was close to Him and He is close to us. In all the trials I’ve been in, I’ve found Him quick to answer prayers and all His answers while not what I’ve wanted, have always been, on reflection, what I needed.

I think of Laman when he complained about building a boat and Nephi’s answer that if God had wanted, He could have caused them to walk to the Promised Land. If He’d granted Laman’s request, that’s what they would have done. Can you imagine walking from Bountiful to America? A boat was the best way to get there. God knew that. Laman didn’t. Because of God’s love for him He insisted on building a boat.

The moral of the story is it’s in our best interest to build the boat when we think we’d rather walk.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

2 Nephi 1 - The Promised Land

The literary feel of 1 Nephi is not present in 2 Nephi. 1 Nephi is a chiasmus telling the story of their journey to the Promised Land and focuses on the exposition of new doctrine about the Savior. In contrast, 2 Nephi is a series of doctrine rich essays with a minimal amount of historical narrative to tie them together. Nephi wastes no time and jumps into the first one in Chapter One. He teaches us about the Promised Land.

For him, it was a real place. A place they gave years of their lives, endured repeated and severe trials, and exercised great faith to attain. Each of us has goals, desires, even life missions we feel deeply within us. All these have the potential to be our personal Promised Lands. 1 Nephi gives us lessons on how to get there. This chapter explains an essential component of our Promised Land and how we stay there once we arrive.

The first key concept is in 2 Nephi 1:6. No one gets to the Promised Land without God allowing them to get there. His method for limiting access is controlling the knowledge of its existence. Simply, if you don’t know, you won’t go. Without God, there is no Promised Land. Without Him, you not only can't get there, you'll never know what it is.

The second key concept is repeated throughout the Book of Mormon, but expressed best in 2 Nephi 1:20. Obedience is key to prosperity once you arrive. He also defines prosperity. It’s not wealth, it’s having God’s presence in your lives. It doesn’t mean you see Him, but you see His hand in shaping events in your behalf. You hear His voice in the scriptures and in quiet moments, in your heart. You live each day confident you are known and loved by Him. Living each day, close to God is the great blessing of our personal Promised Lands.

The corollary to that great promise is also explained: it’s all perishable. Whether by laziness or direct action, we can separate ourselves from God. When that happens, no matter where we are, we’ve lost the Promised Land.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

1 Nephi 99-22 - A Primer on Isaiah

This finishes out First Nephi. It’s an interesting segue in that we are introduced to Isaiah. First, Nephi explains how the two sets of records came to be, then he launches into the future-history of the Jews and Gentiles and he uses Isaiah to tell it.

In Chapter Nineteen, Nephi tells us how the Lord first instructed him to make the plates and keep a record on them. Once he did that, the Lord then instructs him to make another set. It’s an insight into how the Lord operates with us. He gives us what we need in the moment then, once we’ve finished that, He gives us the next step. Always He has the end goal, our salvation in mind. I recommend it as an approach we should take too. Keep the eternal perspective, but focus on the now to do the steps which lead to that long range goal.

In Chapters Twenty to the end, we are introduced to Isaiah. Nephi doesn’t actually introduce him other than to say he used Isaiah to more fully persuade them (us) to believe in the Lord. He records Isaiah 48 in Chapter Twenty-One, then he explains it.

This is a personal chapter for Nephi because the prophecies Isaiah wrote are what Lehi and Nephi experienced. Read 1 Nephi 21:1. It's a summary of 1 Nephi 1-2. It's worth pondering.

If you want to understand Isaiah, the last two chapters are a primer on how to do it. In one chapter you have “Isaiah-speak” and in the other you have “Nephi-speak” saying the same thing. Nephi also explains you need the Spirit to understand Isaiah. With all these tools in place and once you master it, all the Isaiah chapters in Second Nephi will be much easier to understand.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

1 Nephi 17-18 - Into the Winds of Adversity

If you haven't figured it out yet, by the end of these two chapters you should know with great clarity that while God helps us to our respective Promised Lands, the journey there is never easy nor without travail and adversity. He has to help us because the trip is overwhelmingly daunting otherwise. And that's by divine design.

In chapter seventeen, Nephi is trying to build a boat. His labor pool consists of his brothers and Ishmael's sons. Laman and Lemuel think the idea is ridiculous and fight him. Only divine intervention saves Nephi's life and gets them to help.

Then, in the boat, they forget all the miracles and mutiny, wresting control of the boat from Nephi and Lehi. It's not until they face certain death in the face of a terrible storm, do they relent. Only when they come face to face with the reality that there is much in their lives over which they have no control that they finally get it.

So it is with us. God grants us agency, the ability to choose what we do and think. But we are not in control of our lives and environment. Death, illness, accidents, the actions of others near and far can destroy our world in an instant. The only thing we really control is how we choose to respond.

We see from these two stories, the correct choice is to be grateful to God and acknowledge He is in control and do our best within that context.

Monday, November 23, 2015

1 Nephi 15-16 - The Incense Trail

If you’ve ever wondered how Lehi obtained his wealth, these chapters give a powerful clue. He was likely a Frankincense trader. In the first millennium BC two routes were used transporting spices to the Mediterranean nations. The later was by boat sailing from India along the southern coasts of the Arabian peninsula then up the Red Sea and the Nile river. The other earlier one was via camel caravan following the same route down to Yemen and then to a region in Oman which produced Frankincense.

One of the interesting aspects of the trail is it passed through Marib, Yemen, which two and a half thousand years ago was known as Nahom or Nihim. There it turned East across the barren quarter of Arabia until it hit Wadi Al Sayq which Nephi and Lehi named, “Bountiful.”

Critics of the Book of Mormon's authenticity resort to calling these alignments of archeology with the book, random, lucky guesses. Yet, fifty years ago they scoffed at the preposterous idea of the narrative’s course and way points. Today, the preponderance solid archeological evidence can't be swept away.

While Lehi had the Liahona, he also had the knowledge of how to survive in the desert from years of experience. It still must have been a daunting task to lead a caravan of women and children into some of the most desolate stretches of land on this planet. But that’s what he did.

The other thought I have about this is Nephi’s explanation to his brothers not of the vision but of how to get the information for themselves. By the time he wrote this, his brothers were long gone… left behind when he fled from them. Written for us, it explains how we can learn and experience for ourselves the things he saw and learned.

Included in 1 Nephi 14:27 is Nephi’s observation that his father didn’t notice all the things he did because he was distracted by other things. It’s telling to us because it shows while God may give us great things in visions, it’s still up to us to observe, think and analyze what we see. Lehi missed things Nephi didn’t. I suspect Lehi saw some things Nephi didn’t see, but we don’t have his account. It’s a valuable insight into how revelation works.

Friday, November 20, 2015

1 Nephi 13-14 - The Apocalypse of Nephi

In these two chapters Nephi is shown the history of America to our day, the origins of the Bible and how it came to be what it is today, and an exposition on the great and abominable Church of the Devil. It ends with the tantalizing declaration that the rest of Nephi’s vision would be recorded by John the Apostle of Jesus Christ.

First a comment on that, while Nephi says no more about what he saw, he quotes a LOT of Isaiah in the rest of his record. He spoke of the future too. In my opinion, Nephi quoted Isaiah to say what he couldn't say himself. When he quotes him at length in the rest of his record, he did so with a clear recollection of what he saw in this vision. In other words, it all made sense because he saw how all the prophecies of Isaiah fit into the narrative he’d seen. So while he couldn’t say what he saw, he quoted Isaiah in a way to fit with what he’d seen. So, if you want to understand what Revelations has to say about our future, read the Isaiah passages and Nephi’s commentary on them in First and Second Nephi.

Another interesting point is the Angel’s declaration there are but two churches in the world. This struck me as odd because there are hundreds if not thousands of different churches in the world today. All preach their own brand of dogma and salvation. Yet, here in chapter fourteen, the Angel says there are but two. He then defines what God meant. All who are humble followers of Jesus Christ (note again there’s no mention of dogma or doctrine) are members of the Christ’s church. Everyone else is in the Devil’s church, the great and abominable one.

It should give members of the LDS church pause for reflection. While the only organization on the earth today where the ordinances of salvation can be authoritatively performed is the LDS church, its members of record do not have exclusive access to membership in “Christ’s church.” According to 1 Nephi 14: 10, membership in this “church” is determined by how you live, your devotion to Christ, and your commitment to being His disciple. The subtext is it’s possible to be a member of record but due to life choices not be a member of Christ’s church. That’s sobering, heavy doctrine, but I see no other way to read and understand that verse. It makes me wonder, “which church am I really in?”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

1 Nephi 12 - A little something in between

In chapter twelve, we get the condensed history of the Nephites and Lamanites. The main event is the appearance of the Savior to the Nephites. This account of the visit is the chiastic counterpart to chapter 10 which tells of the Savior’s visit to the Jews.

We also get the interpretation of the river, the spacious building and the mists of darkness. It’s interesting to me to see these definitions given in the context of the history he saw. I’m sure there’s a lesson there but what it is evades me at the moment. It’s something I get to ponder upon. I do think however, it’s an example of how Heavenly Father teaches us about Him and His works using images we understand and our experiences. Again, the concept of taking us from where we are to higher states of awareness.

I just have to add this… it has nothing to do with the Book of Mormon, but with the temple. I go weekly on Wednesdays. What struck me today is how alike men and women are treated in the temple rituals. Many ordinances are performed by women upon women. The ritual clothing with all their symbolic meanings are virtually the same for all. It’s something to think about.

That’s all for today. Stay tuned, Nephi gets apocalyptic next when we read through Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

1 Nephi 11 - The Lamb of God

If you recall my earlier post about 1 Nephi being a chiasmus, this chapter, eleven, is the apex. And what does it teach? Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, who was sent to earth to die for the sins of all men. He is the personification of the love God has for us. Hence, He is also represented as the Tree of Life.

When  you think of 1 John 15, where the Savior uses the image of Him being the vine and we are the branches? This image of the tree becomes more complete. There are powerful and life changing concepts being portrayed here. As I ponder this and how He did this willingly for us, the impressions become deeply moving.

Jesus Christ is not only the Tree of Life, He is also the Fountain of Living Waters. His love, the Father’s love, is sweeter than anything the world has to offer. Having experienced and felt it when forgiven for past sins, I can attest to this. The fickleness of human nature being what it is, I have to be constantly reminded. Sigh. Fortunately, God’s patience is as deep as His love.

It’s not surprising this is the apex of the chiasmus or of 1 Nephi. This was new doctrine for him and he has done everything he can to emphasize its importance to whomever reads it. I can only wonder what Mormon included in the Book of Lehi. Had Joseph not lost the manuscript, this would likely have been a summary retelling of the entire Book of Mormon. As it is, it sets the stage for what follows.

It is a second witness of Jesus Christ, reaffirming and clarifying the scriptural testimony of God contained in the Bible.

1 Nephi 9-10 - It's all personal

What I find interesting here is how Nephi introduces his desire to see the things his father saw. After Lehi told them about the vision of the tree, he recounted coming events. It’s obvious he saw more than just the tree.

In particular, it’s how Lehi mentions the Savior that’s instructive. He speaks of the coming of a prophet and Messiah. My impression is this was new doctrine for him. As an observant Jew, he knew the Messiah would come, but he didn’t fully understand His role or His reason for coming. This vision opened his mind to that.

It’s an example of Heavenly Father approaching us at our level and raising us from there. It’s also why the doctrines taught by the Church today are the basics: faith, repentance, baptism and the Holy Ghost. Even the epitome of public worship in the church, the temple ceremonies, are rote and repetitive: everyone sees and hears the same things.

The beauty of the Gospel and doctrines is despite all this sameness, when it comes to living it, it’s all intensely personal. That’s the great lesson of the visions here. Lehi saw and experienced something amazing. Nephi wanted to learn for himself. Heavenly Father shows them the same information, but their experiences were different… they learned different things.

It’s the same for us. Through the teaching power of the Holy Ghost, study of the Book of Mormon will be a unique experience for each of us. We get what we’re willing to receive and can comprehend at that time. Even as I go through it again, I’m seeing different things. While there is a lot of repetition, there are many new insights too. When I go to the temple, and I go every week, I learn something new each time. Such is the power of the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

This personal experience, this personal relationship with God, is what He wants for us all. This is the Book of Mormon’s subtext.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

1 Nephi 8 - Lehi's Vision of the Tree of Life

The Vision of the Tree of Life is unique in scripture. I can’t think of anywhere else where you get two people’s accounts of the same vision. First, Lehi experiences it and we have Nephi’s record of his account. We then get Nephi’s.

A comprehensive dissertation on this would take a book, so you won’t get that here. I’ll touch the differences when I review Nephi’s version later. Instead, I’ll write about what stood out to me. The first thing is, if you didn’t already know, the Tree of Life is a representation of Jesus Christ. He is The Love of God manifest to us. This is the same vine spoken of in John 15. There is more joy and meaningful living, beyond our capacity to comprehend even, if we remain “attached” or wholly committed to following Him.

The proximity of the river to the tree is deliberate. It represents the filthiness of Hell and a life in opposition to the Savior’s. It was placed there, not by God, although He allowed it, but by Satan. A life of sorrow, enmeshed in sin is no further than a single choice away. That’s how close it is to us, so we must be ever vigilant to always stay by the tree.

Today, especially with the Internet, we live enveloped in the mist of darkness or the deceptions of Satan. While the image of clinging to a rod in profound darkness is compelling. I was especially struck by the realization that it is by feeling the rod that we hold on to it. When we study the scriptures, it’s what we feel that gives us guidance and strength. The world, Satan, demands we be “rational” in our approach to the things of God. He insists we must see, touch, hear or taste things to believe in them. But the senses can be deceived.

The evidence of the Gospel on which we make life choices, is not seen nor touched. Rather it is felt within the confines of our hearts and minds. It may evoke powerful emotions, but the evidence of the Spirit is not emotion. For that reason, we will be considered duped, mindless minions of a cult, disconnected from reality and not altogether with it. Oh well.

Monday, November 9, 2015

1 Nephi's Chiastic Structure

If you don't already know what a chiasmus is, I'll give this short description. It's a Hebrew literary art form using repetition combined with parallelism. Envision if you will a stair case which goes up to an apex and then back down to the ground floor. There are an equal number of steps going up and down.

This is a visual representation of the structure. Now, instead of steps you have a phrase or short passage which contains a meaning. The repetition comes into play with each step and its mirror on the other side saying a similar thing or the same thing using different words. The parallelism comes because they sequence of the sayings is reversed so each list of expressions is a mirror. They lead to and enhance the apex, the highest step which doesn't repeat.

With this in mind, this is the chiastic structure of 1 Nephi
a. Chapter 1 - Lehi has a dream and he warns the Jews.
  b.  Chapter 2 - Lehi flees Jerusalem for the Promised Land
    c.  Chapters 3-5 - Nephi miraculously gets the plates
      d.  Chapter 7 - Ishmael joins the group along with his family
        e.  Chapter 8 - The vision of the Tree of Life
          f.  Chapter 10 - The Prophecy of the coming of the Lamb of God to the Jews
            g. Chapter 11 - The Spirit of God testifies of the coming of Jesus Christ
          f.  Chapter 12 - Prophecy of Jesus appearance to Nephi's descendants in the New World
        e.  Chapter 15 - The interpretation of the vision of the Tree of Life
      d.  Chapter 16 - The marriages of Ishmael's daughters to Lehi's sons and Zoram
    c.  Chapter 17 - Nephi miraculously builds a boat
  b.  Chapter 18 - Lehi's group, now led by Nephi leave the Old World for the Promised Land
a. Chapters 19-22 - Nephi warns the Jews of the latter days of the destruction of Satan's followers

And all this was thought up by a 22 year old farm boy from upstate New York who could barely read, a minister and a school teacher who culled all this from the bible, a history book and a novel. Ah... right.

The truth of it is this: It's less of a leap to believe it was revealed by God than to think they dreamt all this up. You have to keep in mind, once Joseph started translating, it was just him, the scribe, the plates (under a linen), the stone or stones and the hat. They did it in a room where others often stood by and watched. Hours on end, day after day they did this. So, if there really were years of preparation... he still had to memorize all of this so he could recite it to the translator. Keep in mind there were people in the room who never joined the church, yet they said the same thing about what happened.

Emma never outed her husband even though she had cause to do so. The Whitmers, who were eye witness to the effort never renounced or denounced the process. Ockham's Razor (the simplest explanation is often the correct one) demands accepting the translation of the Book of Mormon by the power of God as fact. Nothing else is even plausible. Which is why critics twist themselves and their logic into pretzels to try and explain it away as something man-made. It can't be done.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

1 Nephi 7 - Split families

Tucked between the end of the prologue and the first act of 1 Nephi, the visions of the Tree of Life, is a kind of an out-of-the-way chapter where Lehi’s party is fleshed out. For those who live in families split along lines of religious dogma or politics, this chapter will be worth reading and pondering.

The headline event of this chapter is Lehi sending his sons back to Jerusalem to persuade Ishmael and his family to join them in their trek to the promised land. Ishmael has two sons and five daughters. They are the yin to Lehi’s yang in that he has four sons and Zoram in his group. I can’t help but wonder if the wives of Ishmael’s sons were Lehi’s daughters. Else why would they come? But that’s just a curious question.

In this group we see these fault lines: Laman as Lehi’s first born son is the leader of the group which thinks Lehi is a “visionary” man. In case you are wondering, in the 1828 Webster’s dictionary, “visionary” has a less than flattering connotation. It is, one given to daydreaming and somewhat disconnected from reality.

In Laman’s group you find him, Lemuel and Ishmael’s two sons. Everyone else, consisting of Lehi, Ishmael, Nephi, Sam and Zoram follow Lehi. You’ll note, in the Book of Mormon culture women barely appear. If you add them, two daughters of Ishmael and maybe the wives of Ishmael’s sons are also in Laman’s camp. The rest are in Lehi’s. From this split grow two nations: the Lamanites and the Nephites.

The chapter, even all of First and Second Nephi, show you must love and reach across this divide without surrendering your values. They show you must pray... a lot and go the second and third miles as the need arises. They show you never quit... you always follow God. They don't promise ease... only that the rewards will be worth the effort. While they show ultimately we are accountable only for our own actions, part of our required actions is reaching across that divide.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

1 Nephi 5-6 - The Preamble to the Story

Up through the end of 1 Nephi chapter six, Nephi is just laying the ground for what follows. He introduces us to himself, his father, his family, and the various roles his older brothers will play in the context of his story. Then in chapter six, he states why he’s writing: he’s persuading people to come unto God. This is a missionary tract written to not only his posterity, but to the world.

You need to keep in mind, this is not a journal written in “real time,” it’s a narrative written many years after the actual events occur. It’s carefully edited and composed to weave a story and argue for a particular view of events. What is that view? That God lives. That He blesses the faithful and that being faithful requires sacrifice, commitment, determination and a lot of sweat and tears. It’s rarely easy, usually painful and difficult but always worth the effort.

We all have our promised lands to which God would have us travel and enjoy. Nephi promises us getting there will take everything we have. For Lehi, it was a real land. For Nephi is was knowing God and safety for his people. Yours is different, but no less real as is mine, yet the commitment to get there is the same. Nephi’s promise is the God who helped him is unchanging and that He’s there to help us too. The message in 1 Nephi chapter’s one through six is a preamble to the journey which starts in earnest in chapter seven.

Are you ready?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

1 Nephi 3-4 The Lesson of the Brass Plates

This is a different take on this story in that it delves not so much into what Lehi’s sons did, but the pattern of their actions with regards to faithful living. Nephi’s declaration of faith to his father in 1 Nephi 3:7 is inspiring and comforting. The following events show the typical pattern we take when we try to achieve that ideal. It’s an opportunity for us to be wiser than the Nephites were.

Lehi’s sons make three attempts to get the plates from Laban. Laman and Lemuel do so, not because they expect success, but out of a respect to their father. They think he’s the one behind the mission. Nephi is going because he wants to be obedient to God’s commandments. Sam is invisible in this story, showing up only when Laman and Lemuel take out their frustration and anger by beating him and Nephi.

The first two attempts fail. The first is probably Laman’s idea. It’s a simple approach, he asks for them. Afterwords, Nephi rallies his brothers by preaching to them and reminding them of the Lord’s faithfulness to the obedient. Then, they do thing’s Nephi’s way, they try buying them. After that fiasco, Laman and Lemuel beat Nephi and Sam with a rod and are stopped only when an angel appears to them.

The third time, Nephi does things the Lord’s way. 1 Nephi 4:6 is the epitome of this… “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing before the things which I should do.. Nevertheless, I went forth…” This was still not an easy thing to do since Nephi is told to kill someone, something he’s never done before. He shrinks from it in horror, yet follows through with the deed after the Spirit reminds him what’s at stake.

This is the faithful living which the Book of Mormon teaches… doing your best while trusting God’s wisdom over your own. It’s living not in the comfort-zone but in the faith-zone.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

1 Nephi 2 - A River of Water

We meet more of Nephi’s family in Chapter Two, particularly Laman, Lemuel, and Sam. They’re all older brothers to Nephi. We also encounter a tidbit of proof about the authenticity of the narrative.

Because I’m an aspiring writer and find this interesting, I’m covering this first. In most cases all authors write to their audiences from the context of their personal experience. In verse six, Nephi mentions a river of water. Sounds simple enough, but why not just say, “a river?” Why go to the trouble to explain it was a river in which water is flowing? Answer: raised in a desert with many dry river beds, wadis, a river that actually had flowing water was extraordinary. So, Nephi made mention of that distinction. From his experience, it was natural to say so.

Here’s the kicker. Raised in New England, rivers and creeks had water in them all year round. A dry river would have been extraordinary. If Joseph had been making it up, he would likely have just said, “a river.” Slim evidence you say?

Now, consider this...for years, decades even, critics used this as evidence against the Book of Mormon since they say there’s no geological evidence to corroborate his claim. Enter Google Earth. About 75 miles south of Jerusalem, there’s a fissure in the desert leading to the Red Sea, an impressive one which contains a dry river bed and palm trees. Geologists say there is evidence that 2500 years ago, the river probably flowed continuously, fed by runoff from distant mountains. There's even a shrine in there. I've seen pictures of the place, it's an impressive "valley". No maps in Joseph's day showed this. So, did he just guess correctly? If the critics are correct, he's made quite a few good ones. Just sayin'.

Here’s my abbreviated bit about Laman and Lemuel. Getting shaken by the spirit when Nephi spoke to them in Bountiful isn’t the first time this happened to these two. In verse 14 we read that Lehi speaking to them did it too. Some people just never learn.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

1 Nephi 1 - Who is Nephi?

I rarely spend more than one entry on one chapter, but this is The Nephi we’re talking about. Without him and his commitment to do whatever the Lord commanded, we’d not have the Book of Mormon. So, he gets special attention with another entry.

There are several interesting traits about him in this chapter. One is, at that time and place in the world, almost all people were illiterate. Only those with means could afford to learn and take the time to write. It’s more evidence Lehi was a wealthy man, since it was a luxury to have the time to write and teach it to his sons. The small plates show the ability to write was handed down, father to son for many generations thereafter.

Nephi was also a metal smith. He made his own plates on which he wrote, his own tools to build the boat and weapons for his people. This is one of those “proofs” critics used to use to debunk the Book of Mormon but don't mention now because it shows its authentic. Until lately, metal smiths from this time were considered bottom-dwellers of the social order like common laborers. Yet, recent archeological discoveries in the Middle-East show they were regarded much like we do doctors and lawyers today. Imagine that! A perceived "flaw" is actually evidence of the narrative's internal consistency.

I have some bonus material I came across just this morning. In 2000, archeologists found a stone tablet, written about 100 BC, in Jordan containing writings about a messiah who would come, suffer, die and then rise again. It's non-canonical evidence a belief among Jews in a suffering messiah existed before He came. It's known as the “Gabriel Stone” because it also references an angel named “Gabriel.”

This find corroborates the Book of Mormon's pre-exilic belief in a Messiah. In the past, critics have said this notion is one of the proofs it’s a fraud, that it was just made up. I wonder, will they say the  same about the Gabriel Stone?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

1 Nephi 1 - A perfect beginning!

Any of you know what a colophon is? A few. How many of you who do know what it is, know how many there are in the Bible? Crickets… I’ll help: there’s maybe one, Leviticus 26:46. Don’t spas… I didn’t know either but thanks to Mr. Google, I came up with that answer.

Now, go back to 1827. Do you think Oliver Cowdery knew what one was? How about Sidney Rigdon? Solomon Spaulding? Again… crickets. It goes without explaining there’s no way Joseph Smith knew. Remember, he’s the guy who asked, “Hey, Emma. Did you know there’s a wall around Jerusalem?” while translating the Book of Mormon.

Then, given his utter ignorance of such things, how did he write a perfect, classically Egyptian colophon and put it in the correct place for one to start the Book of Mormon? A lucky guess? Dumb luck? I think not. Archeological proof of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon’s antiquity starts with a bang in 1 Nephi 1:1… a perfect colophon. And what do we hear from critics in rebuttal to this? Crickets.

So for those who don’t know, a colophon is used to prove the author’s authority to say what he’s written. It was de rigueur for anyone trained as an Egyptian scribe. Oh, and as an aside, “goodly” in 1828 didn’t mean righteous as we often think today, it meant wealthy. Lehi was loaded and he spent it well teaching his sons, as we will see in Nephi’s superb craftsmanship as an author.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Moroni 10 - Farewell

Reading this chapter brought back a lot of memories. So, more than a commentary, this entry is my personal testimony of the Book of Mormon.

On January 2, 1974, while I was a Junior in high school, I finished reading it all the way through for the first time. I remember kneeling at my bedside, with my (now well worn Book of Mormon) laying on my bed in front of me opened to Moroni 10:4-5. For several days leading up to this moment, I'd read with anticipation, wondering what kind of answer I'd get when I took "Moroni's Test."

No sooner than I'd started praying, I found out. Imagine the heat you feel in your face when you're majorly embarrassed and are blushing. Now, move that "heat" sensation to your chest and expand it so it fills your entire body. That's about what it was like for me. It went on for minutes. How many I don't know, but I lingered in the prayer because I didn't want it to end. That's about as close as I can come to the feeling, but even that doesn't do the experience justice.

Suffice it to say, it changed my life. The next day, I had a similar though less pronounced ( as in shorter duration ) experience witnessing to me about Harold B. Lee and Spencer W. Kimball. The question there was, "are they prophets?" The answer... a resounding, yes.

So, for me, the promise worked spectacularly well. Since that time 'till now, I've had a lifetime of other experiences with the Spirit that have strengthened my testimony and revitalized my memory of that evening. In many ways, it has proven again and again Joseph Smith's observation that a man can get closer to God through this book than any other.

FYI, I will start over with 1 Nephi and go through at least to Helaman to cover the entire book in this blog. After that... we'll just have to see. Thanks for coming along with me on this journey so far.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Moroni 9 - The Window into Hell

Throughout his book, Mormon spoke of the wickedness of the Nephites. In Moroni 9, his letter to his son, Moroni, gives us a glimpse into the awful depravity of both them and the Lamanites. It truly is a glimpse into hell.

This is a short entry because of it. By the time Mormon wrote this letter, he'd witnessed or heard accounts of the Lamanites forcing cannibalism upon their captive Nephites. That's horrifying by itself, but he goes on to say the Nephites were worse. And they were... they chose to be cannibals. It's a window into the depths which Satan is willing to take those who give themselves over to him.

The Lord's encouragement to Moroni at the chapters' end is one which we all can use... be faithful to Christ. As we remember him, and focus on the great peace and joy which He offers us, that can give us hope to endure well, the wickedness of the world and the trials in which we live.

That is a lesson we can use. It's what carried Moroni through all those lonely years.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Moroni 8 - God's Universal Mercy

Moroni chapter eight is well known for its lesson on child baptism. What struck me is what it says about the universality of God’s mercy and its sober warning to those who have learned about the gospel but reject it.

The universality of the Atonement is far greater than we realize. Because of it, children and those who can not comprehend sin and consequences of their actions, are held blameless before God. Additionally, all those who don’t know about the commandments, such as Joseph Smith’s brother Alvin, plus a world full of other people, are blameless for their actions.

Those of us who do know must live a higher standard. If we reject it, we will suffer the consequences of our actions. The Lamanites destroyed the Nephites and they destroyed themselves because they all turned from the gospel.

It may seem unfair to learn about the gospel, but here’s a great differentiator… knowing and living the gospel does more for us than just being forgiven of our sins. It’s the grace and power to become like God which is the majesty and great blessing of the gospel.

Christ not only forgives us of our sins, He helps us become like Him and the Father. That's the great blessing. Only through living it can we become like God in this life. Without it, we can still be good, decent, and honorable, but with it we can become Christlike.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Moroni 7B - Faith, Hope and Charity

Understanding the principles defined by faith, hope and charity and then using them is the best way to happiness and true success in this life. They are principles by which even Heavenly Father lives by. Consequently, they are principles which we will benefit greatly by mastering in this life. They are simple to express, but they will take lifetimes of effort to learn.

In the simplest form, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ becomes the motivation for what we choose to do. It gives us confidence not in our abilities, but in God's grace to help us do whatever He asks of us... especially repenting and becoming like Him.

Hope is the vision we have of ourselves… what we can become.

Charity is THE motivating emotion of Heaven. It’s putting the needs of others before our own because their happiness means more to us than our own.

Moroni chapter seven is the summary chapter. Alma 32 is the great chapter on faith. 1 Nephi has powerful examples of hope, of vision of what we can become. The Saviors visit to the Nephites is all about charity. We see these lessons repeated throughout the Book of Mormon. They are in the temple endowment ceremony and ordinances. They define the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are why the Prophet Joseph Smith correctly said abiding by the teachings of this book will bring a man closer to God than any other.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Moroni 7a - Judging

The tenor of the the Book of Moroni is completely different from the rest of the Book of Mormon, for in it Moroni is not telling a story, he’s reciting some of his father’s sermons. It’s much more didactic. There is so much in Moroni chapter seven there’s no way cover it all in such an entry as this. There's more than enough material to fill a book.

For this reason, I’m splitting it in two with this entry on judging and another on faith, hope and charity. God has given us the ability, commanded us even, to choose, to make choices. The prerequisite to making them is determining which decision is the best one for us. That requires judging.

Moroni 7, is the clearest exposition in all scripture on God’s expectation and counsel to us about this great gift. It is: choices which bring us closer to God are good, anything else is bad. Actions, circumstances, events, the words of others, which bring us closer to God are of God, anything else is of the devil.

Moroni observes it is easy to judge. Christ counsels us elsewhere that the ruler by which we judge the world around us, is the one He will use on us. So judge because we must. Just do it wisely.

As an aside, the fact this is a sermon which Mormon gave, tells me there were at least a small number of Nephites who remained faithful to the end.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Moroni 1-6 - Being Alone

Most of this is a series of short chapters which focus not on a narrative or sermon but on procedures in the church: how to bless the sacrament, how to set someone apart in a calling, how to conduct meetings, sort of thing. Included in them are the sacrament prayers for both the wine/water and bread. These more than likely played a role in the revelatory process which led to the sacrament prayers in D&C 20. My guess is  the Savior revealed these prayers when He appeared to the Nephites/Lamanites hundreds of years earlier.

Chapter one is different. When you think of the recent shootings in Oregon, Moroni’s declaration of his faith and that he fears for his life because he won’t deny Christ, hits with more force than normal. Here is a military officer, who by today’s standards would have been a division commander, a two-star general. This is a brave man who survived the slaughter of his entire command, so he was painfully aware of his mortality. Rather than denounce Christ, he did the only thing he could do in those circumstances, he ran and hid. Not out of cowardice, but out of an earnest desire to stay alive long enough to finish the job his father gave him. Once he had, I imagine he hid the plates and quit hiding so he could join the rest of his family… who were already dead.

I wonder if we fully appreciate the human cost wrapped up in the Book of Mormon? Chapter one gives just a taste… a hint.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Ether - The End

The moral of the end of Ether can be summed up in one sentence: If a people turn away from God and they don’t repent, they will destroy themselves.

Satan took them from one degree of darkness to another until there was no light of the Lord in them and anger, revenge and hatred ruled them. In that state, people choose death over life. It took four years to gather in all the people to the armies of Shiz and Coriantumr and eight days to kill themselves in one horrifying string of battles.

But enough of that, I start on Moroni in my next post.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ether 12 - Jesus Christ

In some respects, Ether 12 is THE reason why that book is included in Book of Mormon. (In reality it’s loaded with great doctrine and truths, but Chapter 12 is one of the best in all scripture, ranking up there with Mosiah 4, Isaiah 53, D&C 76, D&C 84, and John 17.)

While Ether 12:27 is well known for its great promise of Christ’s grace in helping us be strong, a lesser known jewel, but no less valuable scripture is v. 39. “And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things.

This casts the rest of the chapter into its correct perspective. It is the transcript of a conversation between Jesus and Moroni. It is our great privilege to have it for our perusal and spiritual blessing.

As an aside, like so often happens when God speaks to man to answer a question, the answer often goes far afield from the original topic. The Jaredites never had Ether 12. Not even the Nephites… we are the recipients. For I suspect by that time in Moroni’s life, there was no one for him to share it with.

Like the rest of this most amazing book, it was written for our day. For us.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ether 9-11 - The Age of Kings

These thee chapters in Ether cover hundreds, if not more than a thousand, years of time telling the genealogy of a succession of Jaredite kings. Some were righteous, most were not. The common thread running through it all is the Lord always strives to teach and bring us, His children, back to Him. Most of the time, we’re to busy to bother.

He often has to resort to pain and suffering to get our attention. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.

When a society ignores the Lord, just as certain as gravity pulls us down, it descends into darkness, materialism, anger and war. The headlines of newspapers and the internet show we are well on that path to war. Secret combinations rage. People are focused on ephemeral interests of no lasting value, totally absorbed in the goal, “I’m gonna’ get what’s mine, no matter what it costs anyone else…”

Such are our days. Yet in all that darkness, there were still prophets and enough who listened that the Gospel of Jesus Christ endured. So it is with us, though we live in times of darkness, we can still have a personal relationship with the Savior. It won’t spare us the difficulties of this day, but it gives us hope to endure it well.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ether 8 - Secret Combinations

If the account the Savior’s visit to the children of Lehi is the apex of the Book of Mormon, Ether 8 is the nadir. In it is the account of the formation of a secret combination that destroys the Jaredites. This practice of conspiring to trade blood for money and fame destroyed the Nephites and Lamanites. It is also destroying us.

Along the way, it is a powerful example that gross wickedness is not only a man’s game. Both sexes are capable of committing horrible sin. In this instance this great evil is inspired by a daughter who’s ambition was to please her father. Talk about twisted values!

The casual nature of marriage and polygamy in the Jaredite culture comes to light in this story. From Akish’ stature and prominence, he surely was already married when he asked for the daughter of Jared. Yet the simple act of dancing… it must have been quite the dance, was enough to inspire him to want her. It says something about him too for I doubt he was thinking, "she will be a great mother for my children," as she gyrated in front of him.

I can’t help but think, Moroni felt passionately about this episode, for it was a secret combination that destroyed his people and took from him everything in this life he valued. He wants us to know just how deadly dangerous these are. He saw our day, he knew from painful, personal experience their true nature. And so, across the centuries he warns us to be more wise than they were.

Will we?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Conference notes 2015

I don’t know about you, but this past conference was the most amazing one I’ve experienced in my life! From the tremendous outpouring of the Spirit to the timeliness of the messages, I’ve never seen a conference like this one. More than once, I commented at how quickly it seemed each session passed.

Each conference session zoomed by leaving me at the end wondering where the time went. Yet when I look back on the speaker list, each session contained a full set of talks. (Although, Priesthood meeting was one of the shortest I recall.) As I’ve started playing them on my computer, they do take the full two hour time, but sitting through the sessions, none seemed that long. Like a good movie or book when each was over, I was left yearning for more.

There are some amazing highlights though…

Elder Schwitzer’s talk on the need for disciples who boldly bare their testimonies. President Eyering’s talk on the Holy Ghost. Elder Anderson’s talk on faith. Elder Christofferson’s talk on the need for an organized church. And President Nelson’s talk on the role and need for covenant keeping women in the church.

There are so many stellar talks, each session contains gems worth studying again and again. Take the time… make the time… it will be well spent.

For myself, I plan on ponderizing the scriptures, on being a living witness of the Gospel to my family and having a conversation with each child that starts like this: “I was your age once, I’m in your corner and anytime you’d like to talk, I’m here for you…”

Ether 6-7 - The pattern begins

Once in the New World, the people begin to grow and flourish. With the passing of the years, as it is with all men, Jared and his brother age and face death. They see something must be done to provide some societal order for their posterity and that of those who traveled with them.

What happens next foreshadows of an event that will happen many years in the future among the House of Israel when they clamor for a king. As the prophet Samuel warned, Jared’s brother laments, “surely this thing leadeth into captivity.” None of his sons agree to be king, in fact, between the two men, only one, Jared’s son Orihah, agrees to be king.

While he's righteous, after just a few generations, all the things Jared’s brother warned of, come to pass. The rest of the chapter has the same pattern of events which eventually lead to their entire destruction: prosperity, pride, wickedness then judgement from God. It's a multi-generational chain of one sibling rising against the other to take the kingdom from his father. And so it goes until Shule wherein the prophets warn the people, “repent or be destroyed.” In this instance, they hearken to them and repent.

A big reason why they do, is Shule gives the prophets the political or government approval and protection to preach. Thus protected, they are able to reach and convert and convince enough people to avert the prophesied destruction. But at the end of this, the stage is set for Akish which will be the subject of a future post.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

There 4-5 - A Promise to Us

It’s fascinating to read the Book of Mormon, especially when something you’ve read for years jumps out at you and for a moment… it’s new and fresh. That happened for me as I read Ether 4-5 today.

Ether 5 is a note from Moroni to the latter-day translator of the book, Joseph Smith. I won’t say more on that. Ether 4 is filled with the words of Christ to us the readers of this book. In it the Savior is speaking to us and Moroni's voice is no where present in the most of the chapter.

Two things stand out: one is the declaration that the rest of what Jared’s brother saw has been withheld from us because of our unbelief and that it will be revealed only when we repent and rend the veil of unbelief. The first time I read this, it seemed to be written to us all, but this morning as I read verse eleven, it became personal.

“But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit and he shall know and bear record.” This is a promise that if we believe the Book of Mormon, and live its teachings by repenting and praying to the Lord often, then by the power of the Holy Ghost, we can learn these hidden truths.

How cool is that! And with conference coming… it’s a perfect time to start.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Ether 3 - The Lord Speaks to the Brother of Jared

Heavenly Father used the need for light as a way to prepare Jared's brother to see the pre-mortal Savior. As I commented in the previous posting, God knew exactly what He was doing when He pushed the question back on him.

One take away from this is God doesn’t always telegraph His intentions. So our best attitude when interacting with Him is one of gratitude, faith, patience, and trust.

Another take away is when you ask for anything from God, you just never know what it is you’re going to get in reply. In this case Jared’s brother, not only saw the Lord’s finger, he saw His entire spirit body and then the whole history of man on the Earth. He’s then told to write it down but to tell no one what he saw. As a result, the Jaredites never knew of this remarkable encounter.

My guess is only trusted prophets, who kept the records knew, if anyone did, of what they contained. I say that because Ether had to know what was in them to include them in the twenty-four plates which Limhi’s party found. Not to mention, Alma warned Helaman about their contents and that it should not go to the people. Then again, there’s nothing to state the 24 plates were all the same nor that they were made at the same time. The only known transposing of the record is when Moroni wrote the account into the Book of Mormon. We do know in 3 Nephi, Mormon says he’s told not to write all that he knows because our faith needs to be tested. Surely some of what he withheld is the rest of this revelation.

Who's to say the history of mankind upon the earth is what’s in the sealed part? I think it is, but we’re not in a position nor frame of mind to deal with it. As I’ve said before, mercy is the motivation behind us not knowing as much as anything. So, we move forward in faith, grateful for what we’ve been shown and looking to the day when we no longer see through the glass darkly.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ether 2 -3 - More on Prayer

The powerful lesson on prayer begun in Ether 1 sees its profound conclusion in Ether 2 and 3. While I’m saving the crux of the answer in Ether 3 for my next post, there are still some amazing answers to questions we have about prayer to be had in what leads up to it. Answers to questions like: What does God expect of us about prayer? What does He expect of us when dealing with questions and matters we bring to Him for help? These are answered.

There’s also a profound promise about this continent, this Land of Promise. But with any blessing from God, there is also a penalty affixed (see Lehi’s sermon to his sons on opposition in all things ) equal to the blessing. In the case of this land, since it’s a land of promise it’s also a cursed land. If you obey God and turn to Him then the bounties of this land are yours and it will be a land of liberty. Turn away from God and in the fulness of your wickedness, you’ll be swept off.  We’ve just seen that with the Nephites, the American Indians likewise were driven off of their lands into reservations, we’ll read about it at the end of this book. God not only keeps His promises to our detriment or blessing.

Regarding prayer, we have the chastisement of Jared’s brother… three hours worth from the Lord for not praying. In contrast we have the amazing prayer where the Lord reasons with him about the air and light situation on the boats he built. In effect, the Lord leaves the question of the lights to him by saying, “You can’t have windows because they’ll get broken by the waves. You can’t have fire because I won’t allow it.” (Not to mention fire would burn all the oxygen out of these enclosed spaces.) So what was left? He puts the matter in the Brother of Jared’s hands…

Have you ever struggled with challenges? Or faced perplexing dilemmas and turn to God for help only to be told, “go figure it out.” If you have ever felt that way, you’re in good company. The lesson is this: God knows the answer to the problem, just as He did with the air, but He needed to teach a lesson and so that’s what happened. As it was for Jared’s brother, it is likely so for us. Heavenly Father always knows the answer, but this life isn’t a test for Him. It’s our test and as we see here, often times, the only answer is to choose, ask God and go.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ether 1 - The Power of Prayer: God

With the end of the Nephites' story, Moroni still had room on the plates, so he gave us the story of the Jaredites. I'm grateful for what he wrote, but I wish he'd thought differently about including the creation story. While we have an account in the Bible and two in the Pearl of Great Price, I would love to have read Ether's version. Sigh.

The standout message in this chapter though is the powerful story about prayer. I wonder though, why Jared didn't pray? Why did he feel the need to go to his brother instead? Yet he did and that's what we have. But here is the lesson...

Three times Jared asks his brother to cry to the Lord for help. Each time he does and every time, God answered. The first is to ask the Lord to not confound them and their families so they could still understand one another. Which makes me wonder, did they know it was going to happen by revelation? Or, was the process such, they could see it happening in real-time and wanted to avoid it? I don't know, but either scenario is plausible.

The second time was to extend that blessing not only to their families and kin but to their friends as well. Again the Lord granted their request.

The third time was to ask... "if you're going to drive us out of the land, where do you want us to go? And if so, could we go some place nice?"

In reply, God says, and I'm paraphrasing here, "You are going to be scattered, but since you asked, I will lead you to a choice land and there I will make you into a great people." And we'll see, that's exactly what happened.

My take away is this, it never hurts to ask God. You just have to be willing to do what He says when He answers, if you want His answers to continue coming.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Mormon 7-9 Mormon's parting words

After Mormon gives his parting testimony, Moroni finishes writing the things asked of him. Where to begin… you know the story, so again I’ll comment on just a couple of items.

One is the first date Moroni gives: is it’s been 400 years from the coming of Christ. With the battle occurring 385 years after, that means he and his father had fifteen years to finish compiling the book. Mormon started the work of editing the book after he renounced his command of the Nephite armies. Even in peacetime commanders need staffs to keep from being overwhelmed by all that must be done. Combat is worse, there is NO spare time for anything but directing it. He took a break from editing to wage the final battles, but afterwords, he and Moroni were running for their lives and writing when they could.

In my life, I find that my daily circumstances draw my attention to various events, scriptures and modify my awareness. I’m certain Mormon was similarly affected. That said, it’s a rather interesting exercise to wonder what was happening when he wrote what he did. I suspect his lamentation for the weakness of men in Helaman 12 came after his failed missionary attempt with the Nephites. He had time to ponder when he wrote the Savior's appearance in 3 Nephi and thoughts of war were fresh in his mind when he wrote the war verses of Alma. He wrote the Words of Mormon at the end when he gave the plates to Moroni. There’s more, but you get the idea.

Another thing that stands out to me is Mormon 8 and 9. Chapter 8 is written to believers in Christ. It’s an excoriating chapter where he calls us out for our pride and hypocrisy. The last part of the chapter I think is written to members of the LDS faith… it makes me uncomfortable to read it because of his observation… “I see your day and I know your doing.”

Chapter 9 is written to the atheists and is a powerful exposition on God and how He thinks and what He does. I see His mercy in the realization that we’d be more uncomfortable in God’s presence if we’d lived our lives in wicked pride than living with other people who lived the same kind of lives. I think its why there are different places, because where we go is where we’d be most happy.

Ponder that…

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

4 Nephi and Mormon - A Fall from Grace

The most heartbreaking part of the Book of Mormon is in 4 Nephi and most of Mormon. They chronicle the Nephites’ self-inflicted fall from grace to abject apostasy and open rebellion against the Lord.

A few things that stand out to me in this section, namely how I wept for the Nephites when I first read this as a teenager. Another is Mormon 5:15 where he observes how the people became a dark, a filthy and a loathsome people, more so than existed at any time in their history prior to that. It’s a pretty clear indication the “darkness” spoken of wasn’t so much a changing of skin pigment but something more along metaphysical lines. I think you’d almost have to see it to comprehend it because there’s no easy way in our language to describe it. The closest I can come to explaining it is seeing someone who has turned away from the Gospel who once had its light in their countenance. In such cases, the best word to use is they’ve become dark. It’s quite a sad story.

The last observation is Mormon getting the plates from Ammoron. There are two reasons why he got them: Ammoron had no sons worthy of the role or the Lord told him to give them to someone else. Given the Nephite tradition, my guess is the former. It represents the end of a dynasty of prophets from Alma the Elder, down through seven intervening generations to Ammaron. For what it’s worth, the Book of Mormon is recorded by twenty generations of prophet-record keepers over a 1000 year period. In three generations, one brother gave the record to another brother, who then gave it to a son or nephew or in the case of Benjamin, the prophet-King.

By the end of Mormon 7, the Nephites are gone and Mormon and his son Moroni speak to generations of unborn people they know only through prophetic vision: us.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Joseph Smith, Cosmology and Revelation

The cosmology of Joseph Smith stands as one of the great evidences of his prophetic and visionary insights into the nature of God and the universe which He created for us. The universe described in Moses fits surprisingly well with what astrophysicists are observing today. Yet it was ridiculed by Joseph's critics when they were revealed.

Consider the following:

The scope and size of the universe: Moses 1:34, 37-38 “Worlds without number have I created… the heavens they are many and can not be numbered unto man, but they are numbered to me for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away… another shall come and there is no end to my works…”

Based upon data from the Kepler Observatory, scientists now conclude every star has at least one planet and most have more. Based upon the Hubble Deep Field, the Hubble Deep Field South and the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, the number of galaxies in the universe is estimated to be two hundred billion. And in each of them on average, a hundred billion stars. There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand in all the beaches on the Earth combined. And virtually all have had or do have planets. Think of that the next time you scoop up a handful. The number is ming-bogglingly large.

Not a bad “guess” for an upstate New York farmer of 1830.

The most profound statement of all these writings: “This is my work and my glory…” they were made for us.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

3 Nephi 27-30 - The Three Disciples

We call them today, the “Three Nephites” but in the Book of Mormon they are never referred to by that appellation. Instead they are referred to as the “three disciples” or the “three who should tarry.” When you realize by the time the Savior visits, the people are actually starting to be homogenized having had several decades where Nephites and Lamanites travelled freely among each other.

Starting with the great siege, they even lived together. Yet, tribes being what they are, I’m certain the majority still lived in insular communities, but the church by then was certainly not a Nephite-only organization. It’s safe to speculate, based upon the wide spread wickedness of the Nephites before the Savior’s coming, the majority of the leaders could have been Lamanite.

While there’s nothing doctrinally significant in this, the thought still occurred to me as I read this, this morning that this could be the case. Yet the account of these three disciples is intriguing. From the record, it’s safe to assume, their existence will never be “proof” of its truthfulness. You’ll never see them paraded on the rostrum in General Conference where they are exhibited as evidence of the Book of Mormon. That’s the job of the Holy Ghost to bare that witness.

Rather they are to minister almost unseen for we read in 3 Nephi 28:30 they must pray to the father to reveal themselves to other men. They will go about their work and only when they think it necessary will they show themselves to someone. I wouldn’t mind having such a visit… I have so many questions to ask.

I digress. I’m closing in on sixty and it wasn’t until this summer that I remembered a particular Primary class back when I was a Webelo almost fifty years ago. A member, my next door neighbor actually, came and talked to our class and shared his experiences with them. He’d been promised in his patriarchal blessing that he’d get to see all three. By the time he spoke to us, he’d visited with two. He was forbidden to tell their names, although they told him who they were. Both visits were in public places: once in a store and another on a sidewalk in downtown Mesa. Yet, during the visits, there was no other person or even traffic on the street so it was as if they met in private.

So do they exist? You’ll have to decide for yourself. But for me… they most certainly do and who knows, maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to get a visit with one of them. It won't affect my testimony if I don't, but as I said, I have a lot of questions they are well qualified to answer.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

3 Nephi - 24-26 - Expounding All Things

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sci-fi geek kind of guy and the movie teasers and trailers that are out right now, fill me with anticipation. I’m really looking forward to seeing them. I get a similar sense of anticipation and yearning about the scriptures when I read this passage.

On the second day of His visit with them, the Savior starts reciting scriptures which they don’t have, particularly Malachi chapters three and four. So, there I am, reading this and all I get in chapter 26 is the line “and He did expound all these things unto them.” What? Nothing for us? In verse three it says, “And he did expound all things even from the beginning of time until the time that he should come in his glory…” How cool is that!

Instead all we get is Mormon’s comment, “Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: “I will try the faith of my people.” That’s us, just in case you were wondering. They had access to the whole record.

Talk about a teaser!

It makes me wonder if this future history is in the sealed part of the record Joseph was not allowed to translate. I can only guess but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. Think about it… the entire history of man from Adam to the Savior’s return in glory. Then again, as I think about it… I think of Nephi who saw the future history of his people and what befell them and how it broke his heart (1 Nephi 15:4-5). We would likely see similar things. Instead of being separated by a thousand years of history as Nephi was, we will likely live through it. Are we ready for that? Could you handle it? I'm not sure I can.

So, while the Lord said He would try our faith by not allowing all His words to come to us, I half suspect mercy also had a role in that commandment.

Friday, September 4, 2015

3 Nephi 22-23 - Isaiah

Surely one of the greatest Old Testament prophets is Isaiah! After quoting him extensively, the Savior gives a unique endorsement found nowhere else in all the scriptures: “Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.”

Isaiah didn’t just prophecy with clarity and power, he wrote it in poetry. We don’t see it so much because much of the artistic beauty has been lost in the translation from Hebrew into English. Some of it remains: Hebrew poetry doesn’t so much rhyme, as it is very structural in nature, like a Shakespearean sonnet. I’m by no means a Hebrew scholar much less an Isaiah scholar, but I know enough to see the strong parallelism in the writing. I’ve seen a book which had Isaiah rendered in verse form. The imagery and messages were much easier to see in that version.

Isaiah was a poet and a prophet.

Because he wrote in verse, the face value meanings are less clear than simple prose. Once you see the verse and get what he’s doing however, the power of the meaning is amplified. It’s my opinion the depth and scope of his prophecies were protected from ignorant editors because of it. It’s also why Nephi chose to incorporate so much of Isaiah in his record. He understood him. He saw the verse, he was educated enough its power and beauty and messages that he could read and understand it all.

Today, while few of us understand Hebrew poetry, we can all understand the power and insights of the Holy Ghost. Just as Isaiah’s words were translated from Reformed Egyptian to English for Joseph Smith by the power of God, by that same power, we can have the meaning transmitted across the centuries to our hearts. What a great blessing!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

3 Nephi 21 - A Tale of Two Prophecies

This is an interesting chapter in that the Savior tells the Nephites of a sign of when the redemption of theirs and the Lamanites descendants occurs. He says, “here’s a sign.” Then He speaks about how the sign is given when the Gentiles learn of the things He’s reveals to them.

Then He launches into a prophecy of how the Father will lead the Gentiles to this land and establish them here and then warns them about living righteously. After this, He finally gets to saying what the sign is: the restoration of the Gospel to the Gentiles and then to their, the Nephite’s and Lamanite’s descendants and Israel.

He speaks of the prophet who will do this…. Joseph Smith.

Then He gives another conditional prophecy. If the Gentiles don’t repent, they will suffer severe judgments in the form of their societies and cities being laid waste. If they do, then they will be allowed to help the house of Israel be gathered in.

I sometimes wonder if the desolation spoken of in this chapter isn’t already being fulfilled before our very eyes this day. Consider this… in Viet Nam 41,000 soldiers died in action over a 10 year period. But at the same time, 400,000 died in car crashes, most of those alcohol related. It hasn’t gotten any better. In the US alone a million unborn children are killed each year by abortion. One-fifth of all pregnancies in the US end in abortion.

Closer to home on a less dramatic but equally real note, in a recent Stake Priesthood meeting, those in attendance were asked to raise their hand if they knew someone either in their immediate family or close relation who was struggling with their testimony of the Gospel. Virtually everyone did.

At the same time, there are people having amazing experiences with the Spirit. Temple attendance is up and, according to Elder Cook, by every measure the church is stronger now than ever. So, to borrow from the story… it is the best of times and the worst of times. We are living through the fulfillment of the Savior’s prophecy this very day.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

3 Nephi 20 - Feeding the Multitude and Isaiah

Two things struck me as I read through this chapter with the first being the Sacrament which the Savior administers to the multitude. The other is his quoting and paraphrasing of Isaiah.

First, the Sacrament and feeding the multitude: The day before, the Savior has bread and wine brought and He administers the sacrament to the disciples. He teaches them about it and then we have the amazing experience where He prays for and blesses the children and heals the sick, the maimed and afflicted.

On this second day, no bread or wine is asked for. He provides it miraculously and administers it to the disciples and then has them administer it to the gathered multitudes. It’s reminiscent of when the Savior fed the 5000, but here He associates this feeding with the covenants in the Sacrament ordinance.

Thereafter He begins to teach the people and makes this reference to Isaiah: “Ye remember that I spake unto you and said that when the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled,” and here’s what struck me most. “Behold, they are written, ye have them before you, therefore search them.”

There is a sermon in this. The gist of it is being, the Lord expects us to study and learn from what He’s already revealed. By implication you can also. See, we won’t receive more until we’ve learned what we can from what we already have. One application of this principle is, until we, or at least enough of us, understand all the Book of Mormon that we have and need more, we won’t get the rest it.

The rest of the chapter is an exposition of the Nephites’ future as written in Isaiah. As you read through it you can see where He quotes Isaiah and then expounds on it. It makes for interesting reading when you consider the gentiles the Savior is speaking of is us.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

3 Nephi 19 - Prayer

Prayer is the theme of this chapter. It starts with people coming to listen to the Savior from the surrounding country. Can’t you just imagine those who saw Him the first day would be traveling all night long trying to reach as many people as possible? Then all these people would be joining them the following morning. The crowd would be enormous. It was so large in fact, they broke into twelve different groups. By so doing, their adventure in prayer begins.

The twelve disciples Jesus called the day before, start with prayer and exhort the people to pray. They preach, then pray again. Then they are baptized and the heavens open, angels appear then Jesus Himself comes to minister to them.

What does He do? He commands them all to pray and then prays Himself. Though a miracle occurs, the disciples continue to pray and Jesus goes to pray some more. Another miracle occurs and the Savior goes again to pray and… provided I’ve counted correctly… He offers yet another prayer, but this one is so moving, so powerful, so sacred that those who hear it are not able to record it. All the while, the disciples continue to pray.
Finally, at the end of the chapter, the disciples finish, setting the stage for the next phase of the second day…

It’s insightful that through all of the disciples’ prayers, the record states they did not use a lot of words, but they were filled with intense, sincere desire. While we read and marvel as we contemplate this experience from our vantage in time, it’s well to remember that simple, sincere prayer is as effective now as then. Try it and see…

Sunday, August 23, 2015

3 Nephi 18 - Lessons to the Church

The context switches in this chapter, as well as the content make this a remarkable one.

First, the Savior introduces the Sacrament and how to administer it and what it’s for, to His twelve disciples. Then He speaks to the audience and instructs them on meeting together often and watching after one another. Finally, He gives further instructions to the twelve on the Sacrament and how they should treat people who desire to worship with them.

He counsels the believers should not cast out the unbelievers. This resonates with Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians that the believing spouse does not divorce the unbeliever.

I thought it interesting the Savior explains what the bread and water each represent. The bread is a token of us remembering what the Savior has done for us in the Atonement. Drinking the wine is a token of our covenanting to be obedient to His commandments.

It’s also interesting to note the Savior uses simple things such as bread and water to represent significant things. With the church’s releasing of a photo of the “Seer stone” Joseph Smith used, it’s harmonious with this approach in that it’s just a stone. A rather ordinary one at that, yet it’s what it represents and what God does with it that becomes so amazing and important to us.


Friday, August 21, 2015

3 Nephi 17 - A Personal Savior

Surely one of the most heart warming events recorded in scripture, the Savior blessing the children as recounted in 3 Nephi 17 is the apex of the Book of Mormon. We see the Savior’s personality more clearly here than anywhere else… He is a personal Savior. While He did pray for the children using words to holy and sacred to retell, He also blessed them one by one. Not only did He bless the children (verse 21), He blessed the sick, the maimed… any who were hurt in a very personal, intimate way (verse 9).

This is who Atoned for us. This is who loves us. This is what He desires to do for us… to be our personal Savior, our personal friend. Pondering this leaves me moist in the eye and in awe. For as He loved them, I know in my heart, He loves me. This is the great message of this book… the Savior is waiting for us to approach Him. You’ll recall, as the people had to be brought to him, even the children, likewise we must approach him. And NONE were turned away. It makes me want to pray again just to feel that closeness.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

3 Nephi 16 - Conditional Promises

In most of God's revelations to man, the conditional nature of His blessings is implicit. Not so for this chapter: here, the Savior spells out what happens if the Gentiles accept the Gospel and what happens if they don't.

On one hand, they or we for I'm a gentile in this context, accepting the Gospel means inclusion in the House of Israel. It means all the blessings they get, I'll get too. Additionaly, it's protection from when they go through the rest of the gentiles who don't repent.

Which is the other result, rejecting the Gospel results in having it taken from them. It stands to reason, if you turn away from a gift God has extended to you, it's as if it doesn't exist. Not only that, rejecting the Gospel results in being trodden down and upon. Those who do will be the salt that has "lost its savor" which at that point means it's little more than just sand.

I think it interesting that the Savior uses the analogy of salt which lost its savor. The meaning of the salt that once had it is an allegory for a people who once could have been used by God to bless others, but now are in effect useless because they chose to be.

That's sad, heart wrendingly so.

Monday, August 17, 2015

3 Nephi 15 - The Other Sheep

Before I say much more, I just want to remind you… what I write is my opinion on what the scriptures mean. The last thing I want is to set myself up as some light for others to follow. What I do want is to be obedient to a prompting to share some of my experiences as I’ve read and studied the Book of Mormon.

My desire is to let the world know in no uncertain terms that I have a burning testimony of its truthfulness. It is NOT the product of the imagination of one man or a collection of men. It is NOT a plagiarism of other books or the KJV Bible. It IS what it claims to be… the religious history of a people now lost to history and their witness of the reality and existence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I add my voice to that of Joseph Smith, “a man can get nearer to God by abiding its precepts than by any other book.” I don’t guess, think or hope this… I know it because I’ve seen it in my own life. I’ve tasted the fruit and it is delicious.

That said, here are my observations on this chapter: Jesus spends the first part explaining the Law of Moses is fulfilled in Him and by implication, He has something new for them. (Stay tuned… ) The rest of the chapter, He speaks of the other sheep. In my opinion, the chapter ought to end at 3 Nephi 16:4 since He speaks of other sheep besides the Nephites and Lamanites He is to visit.

What struck me the most though is verse 19 where He said the Apostles and disciples in Jerusalem were not told of them because of their iniquity. Even that’s not the message I got, it’s this: He works with us where we are. He loves us all beyond our ability to comprehend, yet He also knows our strengths and weaknesses. So He gives us what we can handle and what we are humble enough to accept. Then, as we grow under His tutelage, He gives us more when He knows we’re ready for it. He does this for us all, not only individually, but collectively as a church too. It’s comforting in a way, but also a reminder that I have a long way to go…

Sunday, August 16, 2015

3 Nephi 14 - The Scariest Scripture... Ever

3 Nephi 14, is the Savior's continuation of the "Sermon on the Mount" which He gave to the Nephites. It's loaded with inspiring counsel and teachings, but standing above all the content of this passage is the dire promise of verse two: "For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

This theme shows up elsewhere in the scriptures: Mosiah 4:17 (the warning to not judge the poor and using that to withhold your help), and Matt 18:24-35, where we should forgive all men of their trespasses against us.

There is a certain tension between this verse and Moroni 7:15, about judging good from evil. The simple act of choosing to do good requires judging what is good or evil. So, how to deal with the warning? When you must decide if something is good or evil, Moroni's counsel is indispensable. It's when you interact with another human being, the warning of this verse comes into play.

I've always tried to reconcile the tension by helping others based upon need. Determination of worthiness should never be an issue in these cases. It's how God treats me. Since I'd like that to continue and because He's not afraid to apply tough love on me when I get full of myself, I don't want to rock that boat.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

3 Nephi 13 - A Personal God

As I’ve been reading in the scriptures this morning, the personal nature of our relationship with God rings through this and the preceding chapter. Christ’s counsel to us is to do the right things, for the right reasons. He doesn’t discount the good we do, even if we do it to be seen of men… to earn the praise of the world. But if that’s why we do it, don’t expect any blessing from Heavenly Father for having done it. “Verily, they have their reward.”

If you want your actions noticed by God, do your acts of service in secret! Doing things for the praise of the world, plays to our pride and insecurities. Doing things to please God, flows from our faith in Him. Which builds the better character? Which makes us a better person, feeding our pride or our faith?

The other point that strikes me is the real, intensely personal, relationship God desires to have with each of us. He wants to participate in a dialog not a monolog when we pray. If you’re hurting… tell him. If you’re happy or embarrassed, whatever your feelings are… tell Him. He knows better than you what you’re feeling… so be honest with Him about yourself. It’s liberating. It’s cathartic. And when you see His answers, affirming and healing.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

3 Nephi 12 - The Second Witness

What I like most of 3 Nephi 12 is the “Nephite version” of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s similar, but different in key details. As I read it, I think this is the version He actually gave on that “mount” it’s just that by the time it was actually written down, some of these points had been lost in the repeated retellings.

This underscores the “why” of the Book of Mormon. It was written and revealed in our day to prove the truths contained in the Bible… to be that second witness. Jesus in his day, didn’t have the Old Testament we have now. What we have is based on the Masoretic Text while the scriptures He had were based, most likely, on the Septuagint which is a Greek translation of a much older Hebrew text that no longer exists. The oldest Masoretic Text was written some time in AD 900. The Septuagint dates back to a few hundred years BC. The Qumran record dates back to about AD 200 and matches the Masoretic Text very closely. The Isaiah in the Book of Mormon tracks closely to the Masoretic version but there are many differences… much to the delight of critics and consternation of the believers.

I digress… again. The point being like my eyesight, the Bible due to mistranslations (deliberate or otherwise) has over time gotten out of focus. The Book of Mormon, like my bifocals brings these truths back into focus and confirms the veracity of the Bible’s teachings. 
It is the second witness.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

3 Nephi 11 - The Savior Appears

Nearly a year after the great tempest which destroyed the Nephite and Lamanite lands, the Savior visited these people. It would be the first of several recorded visits, but based upon the record we have, these are not all His visits.

I wonder what drew so many to the temple on that day. Did the spirit move them? Perhaps they were congregating to meet either to worship or to memorialize the dead? I don’t know, but I think it was their Sabbath, their day of worship and as they were getting ready to meet in the morning of that day, they heard the Father’s voice.

I don’t criticize them for not understanding until the third time He spoke. Especially when I remember how many times the Spirit has had to repeat a message to me before I finally listened and hearkened to it. Sadly, I also admit there are many times I refused to listen and he gave up on me, but that’s another story.

In this instance, the Father was persistent and kept repeating until the people heard and when they heard, what they heard shook them and filled them with the fire of the Holy Ghost. Picture yourself there on the temple plaza. You hear a voice coming from the sky but you can’t make out the words. It comes again. The third time you understand them and there in the sky overhead, you see a man dressed in white descending to the ground.

I would be speechless too. I know in that instant all the fear and travails of the previous year as I labored to rebuild a life shattered by the tempest would be swept away. I would be filled with many emotions: from being overcome with joy and awe, to sorrow for missing friends. My mind would be racing, but undergirding it all would be a sense of peace and the realization that I made it.

My hope is that when He comes again, I’ll get to be there too as they were.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

3 Nephi 10 - The Voice from Heaven pt. 2

In the previous post, I comment on the first time the Savior speaks to the survivors. He spoke to them one more time in this chapter. These are my observations on that.

1. Did you ever wonder how He spoke to them all? Was it a voice in their heads which everyone heard or was it an audible voice like a cosmic PA system? I don't know. In the grand scheme of things, it's not important, but it does show that if God thought it necessary to speak to all the inhabitants of the Earth at one time, He could. Instead, He gives us that opportunity to speak one on one to our family and friends.

2.  Three times, the Savior makes the lament, "how many times have I gathered you..." Each is different. The first time He says, "how many times have I gathered you..." talking about how he has done so many times. The second, He says, "how many times would I have gathered you..." observing He would have done it even more... if the people would have answered. And then for our benefit he says at last, "how many times will I gather you..." He leaves us with a binary promise... if we allow Him to gather us, He will and will safely guide and protect us, but if we don't then our houses will be left desolate.

3.  The last thing I thought interesting is the timing of events as listed in the narrative. If you go back to Chapter eight verse five, you read the destruction occurs in the first month, fourth day of the thirty fourth year. Since the Savior was crucified at the Passover and best astronomical data places that on April 6* 34AD, then the Nephite New Year Day was actually about March 8. Then in the end of chapter 10, we read that it wasn't until the end of the 34th year when He actually appeared to the Nephites. Mormon does observe He didn't come until after His ascension into heaven. It implies He spent quite more than just forty days with the Apostolic fathers. Keep in mind, the expression "forty days" is an idiom meaning a long time, it doesn't mean forty calendar days.

Then in an expression you don't see much in the Book of Mormon, Mormon ends the narrative with the promise to resume it. For us as readers of the text, we just go to the next chapter, but Mormon probably didn't come back to writing it for some time. Why, no one knows, but it's a fingerprint on the text showing, this was not written in one setting. It was likely the work of years, decades even on Mormon's part.

Up next, THE most important section of the Book of Mormon, Christ's appearance to the Nephites.

Monday, August 3, 2015

3 Nephi 9 - Jesus Speaks from Heaven

During the darkness which followed the destruction in the land at the time of the Savior’s death, He speaks twice to them. In this first time, the Savior starts off by warning them that woe’s will befall them if they don’t repent. This statement is made right after their lands and cities have been devastated by earthquake, fire and tempest… as if they haven’t already suffered enough. It’s insightful for this reason: the woe’s He is referring to are the eternal consequences they individually face if they don’t repent. From the Savior’s perspective, it’s worse than what they’ve already endured. The sobering reality ought to be that it is the same for us too. In fact, He goes on to implores these who were spared because they were more righteous than those who were killed, to now repent. It’s interesting to note too that He wants them to repent so He can heal them. There’s a lot in that statement, alas more than I have an understanding of, it’s definitely worth pondering.

Another thing I wanted to comment on in this is what He said about the converted Lamanites. He speaks of how, because of their faith, they were blessed with a burning witness of the Holy Ghost at the time of their conversion. He offers that to all now: all can have it if they will first offer to Him a broken heart and a contrite spirit when they repent. To this point, Mormon repeatedly observed these Lamanites, once converted, never fell away. How cool is that! I think a big part of that was this burning witness of the Spirit which they received.

The last idea I wanted to comment on is the injunction to come to Christ as a little child. How would a little child approach Him? As I pondered this, the answer I have, for now is the humility and trust of a child to a parent. We need to trust God and when He tells us something, act on it and not second guess Him.