Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mosiah 5

Transformed by the Holy Spirit, King Benjamin's people declared:

5 ... we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days...

The King then declared:

6 ...the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant.
7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
8 And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.

Christ's disciples are a covenant people. We promise that we will be obedient to His commandments to the end of our lives. As we serve Him by keeping His commandments, we come to know Him. King Benjamin hoped that his people would

12 ...retain the name written always in your hearts....
13 For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

As we fulfill our part of the covenant (faith and obedience), Christ offers the following:

15 Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all.

I love the idea that through His mercy He will "seal you his." This binding relationship between us and Christ is only possible if we retain his name in our hearts. One way that renew this covenant is to partake of the sacred emblems of the sacrament each week. During that sacred ordinance, we promise again that we will always remember His sacrifice for us and that we will keep His commandments (D&C 20:77, 79).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mosiah 4

Every devoted Christian would do well to read the instructions of King Benjamin in this chapter and follow them. When he had addressed his people, he noticed that they were all prostrate, and Mormon notes

2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.

They saw themselves as "less than the dust of the earth." In Genesis, Abraham, and elsewhere, the scriptures talk about man being created from the dust and returning to the dust at death. So, in what sense is man "less" than the dust? The Psalmist mused about man's place in the universe: (Psalms 8)

3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

So, in one sense as sons and daughters of God, we have this divine potential to be the greatest of all God's creations, for we have the potential to become like Him. However, we are less than the dust because even the dust obeys Him when He speaks. Nephi said (Helaman 12),

7 O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.
8 For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God.
9 Yea, behold at his voice do the hills and the mountains tremble and quake.

All of the physical elements obey the voice of the Lord. Men and women, however, use the great gift of agency to defy the God who created them. Nephi said (Helaman 12):

6 Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.

So, King Benjamin counsels his people, that after they have come to believe, they must do according to the things they believe.

9 Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.
10 And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.

I pray that I can follow the admonition of James -- "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only." (James 1:22)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mosiah 3

19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

Our natural inclination is to be focused on the things of the world. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a powerful change agent. As we submit to the will of our Father in Heaven and "put off" the natural man, the hard edges of our nature are chipped away and we can become humble and full of love. Our hearts fill with the love of God and we become His. Paul wrote (Romans 8):

5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

I found this little poem by Lowell F. Bennion that speaks to me of the simplicity of life and the joy of learning to appreciate God's gifts without being focused on "the things of the flesh."

Learn to like what doesn't cost much.
Learn to like reading, conversation, music.
Learn to like plain food, plain service, plain cooking.
Learn to like fields, trees, brooks, hiking, rowing, climbing hills.
Learn to like people, even though some of them may be ... different from you.
Learn to like to work and enjoy the satisfaction of doing your job as well as it can be done.
Learn to like the songs of birds, the companionship of dogs.
Learn to like gardening, puttering around the house and fixing things.
Learn to like the sunrise and sunset, the beating of rain on the roof and windows, and the gentle fall of snow on a winter's day.
Learn to keep your wants simple and refuse to be controlled by the likes and dislikes of others.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mosiah 2

King Benjamin arranged for the orderly transfer of power by naming his son Mosiah king and asking all of the people to gather together so that he could proclaim his son king and could deliver a final address.

5 And it came to pass that when they came up to the temple, they pitched their tents round about, every man according to his family, consisting of his wife, and his sons, and his daughters, and their sons, and their daughters, from the eldest down to the youngest, every family being separate one from another.
6 And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple

This image of families gathered together and with their homes pointed to the temple is a powerful symbol. President Howard W. Hunter was giving the concluding address at the October 1994 General Conference of the Church, when he bore the following testimony and gave this charge:

"I bear solemn and grateful witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world. Certainly he is the center of our worship and the key to our happiness. Let us follow the Son of God in all ways and all walks of life. Let us make him our exemplar and our guide.
We are at a time in the history of the world and the growth of the Church when we must think more of holy things and act more like the Savior would expect his disciples to act. We should at every opportunity ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” and then act more courageously upon the answer. We must be about his work as he was about his Father’s. We should make every effort to become like Christ, the one perfect and sinless example this world has ever seen.
And we again emphasize the personal blessings of temple worship and the sanctity and safety that are provided within those hallowed walls. It is the house of the Lord, a place of revelation and of peace. As we attend the temple, we learn more richly and deeply the purpose of life and the significance of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us make the temple, with temple worship and temple covenants and temple marriage, our ultimate earthly goal and the supreme mortal experience.
Let us share with our children the spiritual feelings we have in the temple. And let us teach them more earnestly and more comfortably the things we can appropriately say about the purposes of the house of the Lord.
Let us prepare every missionary to go to the temple worthily and to make that experience an even greater highlight than receiving the mission call. Let us plan for and teach and plead with our children to marry in the house of the Lord. Let us reaffirm more vigorously than we ever have in the past that it does matter where you marry and by what authority you are pronounced man and wife.
All of our efforts in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead lead to the holy temple. This is because the temple ordinances are absolutely crucial; we cannot return to God’s presence without them. I encourage everyone to worthily attend the temple or to work toward the day when you can enter that holy house to receive your ordinances and covenants.
May you let the meaning and beauty and peace of the temple come into your everyday life more directly in order that the millennial day may come, that promised time when “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more … [but shall] walk in the light of the Lord” (Isa. 2:4–5). "

I love the peace of the House of the Lord. My greatest hope is that all of my family can receive the blessings available in the temple through their faith and that we can be bound together through the power of the priesthood for time and for eternity.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mosiah 1

King Benjamin taught his three sons "in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers, which were delivered them by the hand of the Lord." (v. 2) If we want our children to be men and women "of understanding," we have to teach them language and to love the written word. Reading is a sublime blessing. Experience is a great teacher, but we can avoid the pain of learning through our own experience by learning from the experience of others who have gone before us. Reading opens a window on truth that is otherwise closed. This is especially true of the scriptures.

5 I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.

Mosiah counseled his sons to "search them diligently, that ye may profit thereby." (v. 7) The Savior scolded the Pharisees in this way (John 5):

38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.
39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

An essential step in coming to know the Savior is to search his words -- as given to apostles and prophets -- diligently. As we come to understand them, we come to know Him.

Words of Mormon

6 But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren.
7 And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.

The Words of Mormon were written by Mormon who abridged the Nephite records, and this was meant to serve as an explanation for why he included the small plates of Nephi that contain all of the preceding books (1 Nephi - Omni). Mormon included these books (unabridged) because they were choice to him, and he knew they would be important to those who would eventually have the book he had compiled. But more importantly, he included them "for a wise purpose" -- a purpose that wasn't entirely clear to him.

There are times when we feel prompted by the Holy Ghost to do something, and we don't know exactly why. One day the Spirit might whisper, "Call your son." We don't know why, but if we act in accordance with that direction, blessings will come. When we ignore those promptings, they can become harder to discern. As we learn to listen to them and act upon them, they can become clearer. It's like tuning a radio receiver (not digital, of course). An analog receiver requires some fine adjustments. We listen, and then adjust, until the signal is clear. With the things of the Spirit, we listen and then obey, and the voice of the Lord becomes clear.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


A series of men, good and bad, become the keepers of the record. I found humor in the single verse written by Chemish. He notes that he writes in the same book as his brother and that he saw his brother write what he wrote on the same day that he passed along the record. Amaron, his brother, wrote 5 short verses 38 years after he received the record. Chemish notes that "after this manner we keep the records." Things changed dramatically from the days of Jacob when the people "had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophecy; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come." (Jacob 1:6)

Abinadom, the son of Chemish, wrote very little, also, and concluded by writing:

11...I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written. And I make an end.

So, for some generations, the men entrusted with the sacred record seem to have been men of the world who took up the sword to defend their people, but who had little time for God. We have people today who are casual adherents to Christ -- who call themselves Christians as these men undoubtedly considered themselves, but who, like these Book of Mormon writers, do not connect with the divine. Some are caught up in the thick of thin things. Our lives are consumed with work and activities that do little for others or for our own eternal salvation.

The last writer in the book of Omni is Abinadom's son Amaleki. He is different. He clearly had a greater measure of the spirit of Christ. I guess Amaleki gives us hope that our children can be better and stronger than we or our ancestors have been. After generations of fathers who had little or nothing to say about the things of the spirit or of God at all, Amaleki found his way to Christ. He left a call to all who would read the record to do the things his predecessors appear not to have done:

25 And it came to pass that I began to be old; and, having no seed, and knowing king Benjamin to be a just man before the Lord, wherefore, I shall deliver up these plates unto him, exhorting all men to come unto God, the Holy One of Israel, and believe in prophesying, and in revelations, and in the ministering of angels, and in the gift of speaking with tongues, and in the gift of interpreting languages, and in all things which are good; for there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord; and that which is evil cometh from the devil.

26 And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.

To offer your whole soul as an offering to him is to give yourself completely to his cause. It is to conform yourself to his will and keep his commandments. It is to follow his example of love and selfless service to others.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Jarom notes that the people kept the law of Moses, honored the Sabbath day, did not prophane, and did not blaspheme. Many of them exercised sufficient faith that they had "communion with the Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith." (v. 4) Jarom notes after saying this that "the laws of the land were exceedingly strict." (v. 5)

One of the outcomes of faith in God and obedience to His commandments is order in society. In our time, there is a creeping permissiveness under which society has come to tolerate almost anything. Strict laws and order in society flow from the righteousness of the people. When the people can't or won't rule their own hearts, they change the law to justify their behavior or ignore the law. Either way, the impact is the same. Society can reach a tipping point where no law enforcement is possible and the nation descends into chaos.

The Book of Mormon was written for our day, and there are repeated promises and warnings that are easy to apply to today.

9...But the word of the Lord was verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land.
10 And it came to pass that the prophets of the Lord did threaten the people of Nephi, according to the word of God, that if they did not keep the commandments, but should fall into transgression, they should be destroyed from off the face of the land.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


One chapter, but there is so much to be said about this one chapter. I'll write about two thoughts.

First thought -
Interesting words appear here that are seldom in the scriptures. Wrestle and forms of it appear just 7 times in all of the Standard Works of the Church. Here Enos talks about the wrestle that he had before God. Effort is required if we want to know God. We have to extend ourselves to Him. "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." (D&C 88:63)

Phrases in Enos that indicate the work needed are:
  • wrestle which I had before God
  • my soul hungered
  • I cried unto him in mighty prayer
  • all the day long did I cry unto him
  • raise my voice high
  • pour out my whole soul unto God
  • struggling in the spirit
  • with many long strugglings
  • prayed and labored with all diligence
  • cried unto him continually

In addition to this work in the spirit through prayer, Enos labored physically. He got up off of his knees and worked. Summing up he said,

26 And I saw that I must soon go down to my grave, having been wrought upon by the power of God that I must preach and prophesy unto this people, and declare the word according to the truth which is in Christ. And I have declared it in all my days, and have rejoiced in it above that of the world.

A second thought -

Enos wrote that "the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart. And my soul hungered" (v. 3, 4) His father Jacob spoke "often" about gospel truths. We should bear our testimonies and share our love for the Savior often with our children. I read a short piece in a newspaper. A woman wrote about taking her 4 young children to a church meeting. Her husband was singing in the choir, so she sat with the children alone. The kids were busy with quiet books and paper and crayons. A young woman was talking about ways to strengthen a marriage. At one point she said that a strong marriage would include "warm, affectionate sex." The mother noticed that all 4 of her children were staring at her. The oldest leaned over and whispered, "Mom, she said sex."

Our children hear what we say. They listen when we teach the truth. They listen even when we think they are not. And they perceive what is important to us and learn to value those same things. The things that we teach through word and example can sink deep in their hearts to emerge at a time when they really need God and can serve to keep them on the narrow way or bring them back to it.

Jacob also focused on "the joy of the saints." The gospel should make us happy. It is a source of joy. After all, at Christmas we sing "Joy to the world, the Lord is come." Being a true disciple of Christ is about keeping commandments, but it is also about loving life and others. It is about peace, and joy, and happiness. Joseph Smith taught that "happiness is the object and design of our existence." So I resolve to speak often of eternal life and the joy of living the gospel.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jacob 7

Chapter 7 recounts the confrontation between Jacob the prophet and Sherem who was determined to teach the people to deny the promise of a Messiah. Sherem was "learned." And his approach was to use eloquence, persuasion, and flattery. A demagogue gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people. He flatters them by telling them that if they listen to him they must be really smart -- much smarter than those fools who follow the simple truths of the gospel or who exercise faith in something to come.

But this approach would not work on Jacob.

5 And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.

Jacob's faith and testimony were not rooted in intellect, although he was intelligent and could speak with great power. His faith did not rest solely in his understanding of the scriptures, although he was clearly a student of the word of God and knew the prophecies and teachings of those whose prophecies were in the record they had brought with them. He had heard the voice of the Lord, seen the Savior, and received the ministering of angels. He could not be "shaken" from the faith because he had received his own personal revelation. Everyone can and should know for themselves that the gospel is true. We can do this through prayer. The Savior has promised repeatedly throughout scripture, "Ask, and ye shall receive." It is written this way in section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
64 Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jacob 6

5 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts.

What does it mean to "cleave unto God?" How does he cleave unto us?

The word "cleave" isn't used much as an intransitive verb in modern English. It is a Germanic word from Old English that means to adhere closely, stick, or cling. The German word is kleben and means to stick. It is also used to mean remain faithful. As we remain faithful to God -- as we adhere closely to the commandments and thus to Him -- He promises to remain faithful to us.

What seems curious to me is that the general modern use of the word is in connection with division. You can cleave a gemstone or a piece of wood along the natural lines of division in the crystal or the wood. But there is no natural line of division between us and God. We create the dividing line. Verse 4 of this chapter says:

4 And how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches; and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long; and they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people; but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

He remembers us always and His hands are always outstretched. We withdraw from Him. He never withdraws from us.

Jacobs postscript is "O be wise; what can I say more?" (v. 11)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jacob 5

This is a remarkable allegory. Any allegory can be understood at many levels, and that's the beauty of them. The Savior's parables and other scripture stories all have many levels of meaning, and as we gain in spiritual maturity, the depth of our understanding and learning increases.

There are many things to think about in this long allegory of the tame and wild olive trees. But I want to share just one thing:

41 And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard wept, and said unto the servant: What could I have done more for my vineyard?

I picture the Savior weeping over those who are lost. He does all in His power to reach out to them in love and compassion, but our world is like the vineyard in the story.

42 Behold, I knew that all the fruit of the vineyard, save it were these, had become corrupted. And now these which have once brought forth good fruit have also become corrupted; and now all the trees of my vineyard are good for nothing save it be to be hewn down and cast into the fire.

As I am nurtured through my experience and the good word of God, and as I am pruned through the adversity I overcome, I hope that I can become a fruitful branch that draws on the true vine for strength.

A long section of this allegory describes the Lord of the vineyard working through his servants to call other servants to work for the last time. The indication is that "they were few." (v. 70) Those few worked hard knowing that the time would soon come when the good would be gathered out and the rest of the vineyard would be burned.

72 And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things.

Characteristics of these disciples are work, diligence, obedience, and unity. And in the strength of the Lord of the Harvest, they brought the harvest home. All is safely gathered in. I love that line from the hymn. When the millenial day arrives, maybe we will be with the faithful laborers to whom the Lord will say,

75 ....Behold, for this last time have we nourished my vineyard; and thou beholdest that I have done according to my will; and I have preserved the natural fruit, that it is good, even like as it was in the beginning. And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jacob 4

6 Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.

As we search and study the scriptures, we receive revelation. The Revelation of John says that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 19:10). The revelation we personally receive is a witness of the reality of Jesus Christ - that He lived, that He taught a divine way to live in peace and harmony with God and our fellow men, that He suffered for everyone who will repent and call upon His mercy, and that He conquered death and rose again to become our King. The scriptures teach us who He is, and we obtain hope so that our faith becomes unshaken. Our faith can't then be shaken by the teachings of men, the ridicule of neighbors, or the vicissitudes of life. And we get power from Him to do all things.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Phil. 4:13)

There is this additional advice in Jacob 4:

10 Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.

So many of my prayers consist of me giving advice to God. I'm grateful, of course, for many things, but then I often present my list of needs and wants. I often pray for others and their needs, but I haven't learned to take counsel from his hand. That requires listening quietly for the whispering of the Holy Spirit, and it generally comes to us as something that we know or feel that we should do -- call a family member or friend, read something, complete an act of kindness, etc.

Jacob 3

10 Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.

As I look back at the example I have set for my children, I hope that all together it was a positive one. Far less than perfect, I hope I have been consistent about the things that really matter. I love them and want them to be blessed and have joy and happiness in their lives.

Being a parent is an awful responsibility. But look into the bright blue eyes of a sweet granddaughter and have her say, "I love you, Grandpa," and your soul wants to sing. Endure to the end in following the Savior and in love and charity for those you care about most, and I'm convinced that they will love and honor you in the end.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jacob 3

1 BUT behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.
2 O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.

What does having a firm mind mean? Jacob explains that those with “firmness of mind” look to God in great faith, even in the midst of affliction. They don’t just believe when things are good and they feel blessed. They are rainy-day Christians. They keep their heads up and draw on the spiritual power available to them in every situation, good and bad. When spouses or children disappoint, when friends abandon, and when disaster strikes, they look up with faith and confidence that all things can be overcome through the power of Christ. They receive comfort and peace. They hear the Master's command to the turbulent sea, "Peace, be still." (Mark 4:39)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jacob 2

4 For behold, as yet, ye have been obedient unto the word of the Lord, which I have given unto you.
5 But behold, hearken ye unto me, and know that by the help of the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth I can tell you concerning your thoughts, how that ye are beginning to labor in sin, which sin appeareth very abominable unto me, yea, and abominable unto God.
6 Yea, it grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker, that I must testify unto you concerning the wickedness of your hearts.

Even when we live obedient to the commandments of God, we can allow things into our minds and hearts that will lead us away from Him. When Jacob addressed his people, he acknowledged that “as yet” they had been obedient to the word of the Lord. Nevertheless, he was aware of the things they were thinking about, and knew that the wickedness of their hearts would lead them eventually to act on the thoughts. I have heard something before that I will formulate as follows:
Nurture a thought; breed an act.
Continue an act; develop a habit.
Continue a habit; define a character.

The writer of Proverbs put it simply: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he (23:7). We have to guard our thoughts. It’s hard to fill our minds with things that are good and uplifting in a world saturated with media focused on the base and degrading. The blessings of vigilance are worth the effort – “let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.” (D&C 121:45)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

9-11 Survivor Benefits from the Gospel

Jacob 1

19 And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.

Those who are called by the Lord to serve and to teach need to take on the responsibility to be diligent. Results, as reflected in the lives of those we serve, are not mentioned. We accept responsibility for others only insomuch as we do not do everything we can to share the truth with them.

I heard someone express frustration that they worked really hard to help someone only to have the person reject the gospel and go a different way. That choice belongs to everyone, and nothing we do can determine what others will do. Our call is to testify. The choice to hear the word of God through the scriptures, through living prophets, and through other witnesses like us remains with each individual.

Friday, September 11, 2009

2 Nephi 33

6 I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.

Nephi's phrase should be for everyone -- I glory in my Jesus. He is the Savior of all mankind, but He is my Savior. The price He paid is personal for me. That connection is an essential part of redemption. The atonement can only be real to me if I can feel His love in a very personal way. Sectarian notions of the nature of God work against that intensely personal feeling. The idea that God is unknowable makes Him distant. That's why I am a Latter-day Saint. What Joseph Smith declared is that every individual can know God. When God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, they demonstrated that even a humble farm boy could talk to God. God answers the humblest prayer. Nephi had this great confidence and faith:

3 ....I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.

God hears and answers my prayers, too. The children's song says, "Jesus loves me, this I know." I know that not just because the Bible tells me so, but I know that through my own personal experience as I have felt His presence and received answers to my prayers. He has comforted me in times of trouble. My spirit has been lifted up when my mind and heart have been flooded with light. He is my Savior and redeemer. He suffered for me. I glory in my Jesus.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

2 Nephi 32

3 ..... Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
4 Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.

The key to knowing God and understanding our purpose in life is in the holy scriptures. The world is a dark place, and there are good people who wonder every day if life is worth the pain. In the absence of the scriptural truth about our identity and our ultimate potential for eternal glory, life can seem overwhelming. The scriptures are filled with hope that there is more than what we experience in this life, and that there is a path to redemption through Jesus Christ.

Latter-day Saint eschatology - doctrine concerning the ultimate or final things, such as death, the destiny of humanity, the Second Coming, or the Last Judgment - is imbued with hope. We believe that as we conform our lives to the teachings of Jesus, we have access to the redemptive power of His atoning sacrifice and can be healed. Through His infinite mercy, we can receive forgiveness and return to God's presence and inherit eternal joy with Him. And the key to knowing these things and having this hope is the study of the scriptures and prayer through which we can receive direct personal revelation. The scriptures can become a lamp unto our feet to provide light in a world of darkness and confusion. I love the words of the psalmist (Psalm 119):

103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2 Nephi 31

What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ? The word disciple is from the Latin discipulus (pupil) which is from discere, to learn. But just learning is not enough to qualify someone for true discipleship.

10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?

If we are going to follow Him, we have to be willing to conform our lives to His teachings to the greatest extent possible. We'll never be perfect in following Him, and life is a school where we learn from our mistakes. But no one who professes to love Jesus Christ would live out their daily lives in a way contrary to His example and teachings. Discipleship is more than declaration of faith. Sunday Christians hear the word of God, but they are not doers of the word. The Savior's teachings are meant to be transformative. In one of his first addresses in General Conference (October 1985) as president of the church, Ezra Taft Benson said:

"The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature. "

Nephi further declared:

19 And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.
21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

We should learn and then live what we have learned. It is in attempting to live the principles that He taught that we become refined and access the full measure of His grace and blessings of peace in our lives.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

2 Nephi 30

16 Wherefore, the things of all nations shall be made known; yea, all things shall be made known unto the children of men.
17 There is nothing which is secret save it shall be revealed; there is no work of darkness save it shall be made manifest in the light; and there is nothing which is sealed upon the earth save it shall be loosed.
18 Wherefore, all things which have been revealed unto the children of men shall at that day be revealed; and Satan shall have power over the hearts of the children of men no more, for a long time.

That everything men keep secret will be revealed is a promise God makes repeatedly in the scriptures. Everyone has secrets that they keep, afraid to reveal to others. The idea that those things might be shouted from the housetops is unnerving. However, the Savior saved His harshest words for pretenders and hypocrites, calling them "whited sepulchers" that look good on the outside but are full of ruin inside.

Keeping those secret sins is a tremendous burden in some lives. I have counseled people who put on a righteous face, but in private are bound with sin and are terrified of being found out by a spouse or their children or their parents. Proverbs 28: 13 says

13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

Verse 18 in this chapter of 2 Nephi suggests that all things that God has revealed to men on the earth will be revealed in the last days. Verse 15 repeats the Lord's promise found elsewhere that the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Knowledge of all things revealed is the key to freedom from sin and error. That knowledge, properly applied, will bind Satan as he will have no power over us.

Monday, September 7, 2009

2 Nephi 29

2 And also, that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi, and also unto thy father, that I would remember your seed; and that the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed; and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel;

President Ezra Taft Benson wrote the following in 1988 (“The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, Jan 1988, 3):

"The Book of Mormon is to be used “for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel,” the Lord says, and its words “shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth.” (2 Ne. 29:2.) We, the members of the Church, and particularly the missionaries, have to be the “hissers,” or the tellers and testifiers, of the Book of Mormon unto the ends of the earth."

"The Book of Mormon is the great standard we are to use. It shows that Joseph Smith was a prophet. It contains the words of Christ, and its great mission is to bring men to Christ, and all other things are secondary. The golden question of the Book of Mormon is “Do you want to learn more of Christ?”....

I love the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and our other scriptures. But I especially love the Book of Mormon. My testimony of Christ and of the restored gospel is based on continuing study and prayerful contemplation of the Holy Scriptures. I have tried to heed the admonition given by President Benson:

"Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of this book a lifetime pursuit. Otherwise, he is placing his soul in jeopardy and neglecting that which could give spiritual and intellectual unity to his whole life. There is a difference between a convert who is built on the rock of Christ through the Book of Mormon and stays hold of that iron rod, and one who does not."

I have read it through at least 40 times, and as I read and study it again now, I feel the Spirit testify that these are the words of God through His prophets to us.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

2 Nephi 28

28 And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.

This is one reason why some people become so angry about the restored gospel. When you are firmly established on the rock of Jesus Christ, you have no reason to be angry about what others believe. You have no reason to be angry or afraid if others are angry about what you believe. The last phrase in this statement from Nephi explains it. When you are not sure of your footing -- when you are built upon a sandy foundation -- you have to be afraid that you are wrong. And fear is the pit of anger from which it blossoms to all violence in hearts, minds, and deeds.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2 Nephi 27

27 And wo unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord! And their works are in the dark; and they say: Who seeth us, and who knoweth us? And they also say: Surely, your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay. But behold, I will show unto them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that I know all their works. For shall the work say of him that made it, he made me not? Or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, he had no understanding?

God made us all. What can we hide from Him? To really know Him, we have to show Him our true face. That's a hard thing to think about. How can I show the truth about me to someone I love deeply? If they know the truth, will they reject me? But God knows us. We are the work of His hands. When we turn our true face to Him and lay aside all pretense, He gently wraps us in His forgiving arms.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

2 Nephi 26

27 Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.
28 Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.

I went out to visit someone last night who had not attended church in a long time. He was gracious and welcomed us. As we visited, he told us that he has a partner -- another man -- and that they have been together for many years. We talked about that, but what struck me was when he described the reaction he had gotten when he moved back into our area and called an old friend who is a church leader. The friend inquired about his circumstances, and when it was clear that he still had a male roommate and partner, the friend said, "I'm amazed that people can be so wicked but still have some desire for religion." I was sad to think that a leader who is called to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ would pass judgment in this way and not extend himself in love and compassion.

29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
30 Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing.

We don't have to accept the sin to love the sinner. The Savior paid the price for our sins, including the sins of those who have not yet returned to righteous living. He invites all to come to Him and to repent. And so should we, approaching all with love and compassion -- understanding that sin touches every life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

2 Nephi 25

23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

Believe in Christ and keep God's commandments (be reconciled to Him). I believe that the phrase "after all we can do" could also be read "in spite of all we can do." No matter how faithfully we keep His commandments, we cannot earn eternal glory with Father in Heaven through obedience or our own works. If we love Him, we will keep His commandments. Nevertheless, we are human and will commit sin. If we believe and trust in Christ, His atoning sacrifice covers those sins and He becomes the great mediator and redeemer to satisfy the demands of justice through His infinite mercy. For someone with the faults that I know I have, this promise is sweet.