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.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

3 Nephi 8 - The Destruction

I feel impressed to take a slower pace through this next section, so all I'm writing about today is chapter eight in which we have the earthquake and the storm at the time of the Savior's death.

The interesting thing about the chapter is in the beginning the people were actually looking forward and anticipating the three days of darkness. By the end, they are howling in agony for the loss and the destruction that has occurred.

My immediate reaction was to ponder the mindset of all the "last-day" people, of which I am one. All of us look forward to the Savior's return and preparing for times prior to His coming. We "know" things will be difficult, but we're eager to get our year supply and whatever else we feel we will need. All that is really a good thing to do.

I wonder though, if like the Nephites and Lamanites who were looking for the fulfillment of the prophecies but not really aware of what it was going to be like, if we aren't doing the same thing? I look forward to the Second Coming and imagine what it will be like to be on the Earth with the Savior in charge in a political as well as religious role. I can't wait for that day. Yet, while I intellectually "know" the time leading up to that will be difficult, I'm clueless as to how emotionally difficult and physically arduous those times before His advent really will be.

This chapter gives us a hint as to what it could be like. It's not pretty and it makes me think there are more things than just food storage I need to be preparing.