Sunday, January 31, 2010

3 Nephi 10

1 And now behold, it came to pass that all the people of the land did hear these sayings, and did witness of it. And after these sayings there was silence in the land for the space of many hours;
2 For so great was the astonishment of the people that they did cease lamenting and howling for the loss of their kindred which had been slain; therefore there was silence in all the land for the space of many hours.

What did they think about in the darkness and silence? How was their terror replaced with wonder?

And then in the darkness came the word of the Lord pleading with them and expressing His deep love for His children and His desire for the peace and happiness -- His desire to shelter and protect them if they will just come to Him. Let's come to Him and find rest to our souls.

4 O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you.
5 And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.
6 O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

3 Nephi 8-9

3 Nephi 8
Mormon testifies that "we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity." (8:1) In the next verse, however, he says of the record:

2 And now it came to pass, if there was no mistake made by this man in the reckoning of our time, the thirty and third year had passed away;

The truth of the record is not in dates or places or some historical or geographical accuracy. The truth is in the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is true because those who kept the record were inspired by God and were attempting to live according to His teachings and keep His commandments. They were "cleansed every whit from [their] iniquity" through faith and repentance. 

3 Nephi 9

13 O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
14 Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.

I'm so grateful that God is merciful and that he extends the invitation to come unto Him and be healed. All of us make mistakes. Even those we think are "righteous" are only righteous in some relative sense -- relative to those who are less righteous. The Savior taught that we should strive, but that we cannot ever call ourselves "good" in the sense that God is good (Matt. 19). We have to keep the commandments on rely on His merits and mercy. Then we have the promise of eternal life through Him.

16  And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

Friday, January 29, 2010

3 Nephi 7

20 And the people saw it, and did witness of it, and were angry with him because of his power; and he did also do many more miracles, in the sight of the people, in the name of Jesus.
21 And it came to pass that the thirty and first year did pass away, and there were but few who were converted unto the Lord; but as many as were converted did truly signify unto the people that they had been visited by the power and Spirit of God, which was in Jesus Christ, in whom they believed.

It's tempting to think that if only people could see the hand of God in some miraculous way they would accept the truth. I have wished for that in the lives of my own family from time to time. But miracles of that type don't convert. The witness of the Holy Ghost, spirit to spirit, is what changes hearts and minds. When someone is "visited by the power and Spirit of God" and comes to know that Jesus Christ is their savior, there is change. They repent and turn to God.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

3 Nephi 6

4 And they began again to prosper and to wax great; and the twenty and sixth and seventh years passed away, and there was great aorder in the land; and they had formed their laws according to equity and justice.
5 And now there was nothing in all the land to hinder the people from prospering continually, except they should fall into transgression.

In the span of less than 5 years, the affairs of the people altered radically. They went from "great order" and general prosperity because of their righteousness to the church being broken up in all the land. A large group of people

17....were in a state of awful wickedness.
18 Now they did not sin ignorantly, for they knew the will of God concerning them, for it had been taught unto them; therefore they did wilfully rebel against God.

An outgrowth of the pride that was among them, was that they "set at defiance the law and the rights of their country." (v. 30) I pray that those who choose right are still more numerous than those who choose to defy the laws that bless us with liberty.

3 Nephi 5

When the people were spared in a miraculous way, they were all converted. Notice the impact of their belief in the prophets (read for us scripture and pronouncements of living prophets and apostles): 

3 Therefore they did forsake all their sins, and their abominations, and their whoredoms, and did serve God with all diligence day and night.

Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 20; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17). No worldly ideas or principles have this power. No spellbinding lectures or entertaining presentations can touch individuals so profoundly that they turn their hearts to Christ. Centering our teaching on the truths of the gospel is the only way we can become instruments in God’s hands to help instill the faith that will lead others to repent and come unto Him.

The teaching of doctrine protects us against spiritual waywardness. It can call us back when we go astray.

“10: The Power of the Word,” Teaching, No Greater Call: A Resource Guide for Gospel Teaching, 50

Monday, January 25, 2010

3 Nephi 4

The righteous gathered together all in one place as a way to defend themselves from their enemies. We gather today in stakes, wards, and branches so that we can strengthen and protect one another. 

The Nephites and Lamanites who gathered together faced a horrifying enemy. The robbers came in large numbers in full battle array and dyed in blood. But the people "did not them; but they did fear their God and did supplicate him for protection." (v. 10) Psalm 147:11 reads

11 The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

This trust in Jesus Christ led to a great victory, for which the people gave glory to God. 

32 Yea, they did cry: Hosanna to the Most High God. And they did cry: Blessed be the name of the Lord God Almighty, the Most High God.

33 And their hearts were swollen with joy, unto the gushing out of many tears, because of the great goodness of God in delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; and they knew it was because of their repentance and their humility that they had been delivered from an everlasting destruction.

The power to overcome all enemies (persecution, temptation, weaknesses of all kinds) lies in the fear of God. If we are humble and repent of our sins and look to Him, we can be delivered.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

3 Nephi 3

19 Now it was the custom among all the Nephites to appoint for their chief captains, (save it were in their times of wickedness) some one that had the spirit of revelation and also prophecy; therefore, this Gidgiddoni was a great prophet among them, as also was the chief judge.

What would happen if our political leaders had the spirit of revelation and also prophecy? A demagogue is a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power. Most of our political leaders today are demagogues. Gidgiddoni's number one tactic for preparing to fight the Gadianton robbers was to tell the people to repent. That sort of moral leadership is sadly missing in our world.

3 Nephi 2

1 And it came to pass that thus passed away the ninety and fifth year also, and the people began to forget those signs and wonders which they had heard, and began to be less and less astonished at a sign or a wonder from heaven, insomuch that they began to be hard in their hearts, and blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen

While thinking about how people who had experienced the great signs and wonders at the birth of Christ could come to "disbelieve all which they had heard and seen," I did a quick search and found an address delivered by William H. Bennett in 1971. I'm going to put some excerpts from this talk here, but everyone would benefit from reading and pondering his message. So, I'm going to include a link to the entire talk as well.
While serving in the army during World War II, I was required to take the Ishihara eye test, which makes use of different colors, designs, and numbers to diagnose color blindness in its various forms. Under this test, those affected by certain forms of color blindness are able to distinguish the solid colors without difficulty, but the shaded areas in between the solid colors present problems. Those who are color blind do not discern correctly; and, no matter how hard they try, they are not able to distinguish the differences in hue that are obvious to the normal eye.

In this Ishihara eye test I found an important message, one that has broad application in our lives.

Is there not similarity between the color-blind condition just described and the condition of a member of the Church who claims that he is seeking the truth, is anxious to develop a strong testimony pertaining to the truth, and yet is not willing or able to humble himself before the Lord, to exercise faith, and to live the gospel? By failing to do these things, he is letting his sins of omission close the door to the great source of all truth—our Father in heaven. As a result, his vision is faulty.

As we journey along through life we, as individuals, come in contact with many shaded areas, twilight zones, and even dark alleys, where we, unless aided by a higher power, are not able to see clearly, to interpret correctly, and to come to sound conclusions. Some of these shaded areas are found in the physical world, some in the intellectual world, and some in the realm of the spiritual. Let us remember, however, that the Lord has said that all things unto him are spiritual.

“Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.

“Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual.” (D&C 29:34–35.)

As individuals, we have some limitations when it comes to our understanding of things as they really are. We can see so far, and then the earth and the sky come together, so to speak, and we cannot see beyond. But there is something beyond. In the physical world, all we have to do to realize this is to improve our vantage point by getting on top of a building, on a mountain, or in an airplane.

We need to improve our vantage points in all aspects of our living—in the intellectual and the spiritual realms as well as in the physical. As we attempt to do this, we should remember that, in every situation, there are facts and there are opinions. There are also causes of difficulties and there are symptoms that express themselves. To the extent that we are willing and able to get at the facts and at the causes and to see relationships among them clearly, we are in a good position to interpret correctly and to arrive at sound conclusions. But to the extent that we just fool around with opinions and symptoms, we may prolong our difficulties and postpone the time for arriving at lasting, satisfying solutions.

It is important that we remember also that no matter how intelligent we may be, no matter how hard we work, no matter how good our teachers are or how favorable the other conditions for learning, in our allotted span of years on earth we can master only a very small fraction of the total field of knowledge; and what we do master usually is in a narrowed-down, specialized area. Consequently, we, in and of ourselves, have limitations. Our thinking is often highly selective and segmented and our judgment is often faulty.

Without divine guidance, we will have difficulty in the shaded areas of life. But we need not walk alone. Our Father in heaven and his Son Jesus Christ and the prophets—both ancient and modern—have given us a well-charted course for our journey through life. We can find joy and happiness and we can arrive at our destination in safety if we will but heed the road signs and follow the directions that have been given to us.

The Lord has told us in the Book of Mormon, in Moroni, the tenth chapter and the fifth verse, that by the power of the Holy Ghost we may know the truth of all things. [Moro. 10:5] What a wonderful promise that is; and it can be realized by all of us who are members of the Church, because during our confirmation, following baptism, hands were laid on our heads, and one having authority gave us the gift of the Holy Ghost. If we will just live the way we should and do our part, we can experience what a great strength and blessing the Holy Ghost can be in our lives. It can broaden and extend our horizons and can turn the lights on for us so that we can see more clearly in the shaded areas of life and, in fact, in all areas of our living.

Some people seem to be more inclined to disbelieve the scriptures and the teachings of our present-day prophets than they are to believe them. I have said in my heart that if they would put forth the same effort to believe that they do to disbelieve, and would humble themselves, exercise faith, and study diligently, the Holy Ghost would help them, and they would find that they believe many of the things they now think they disbelieve.

The Holy Ghost can help us see more clearly in the shaded areas. But in order for it to be the power that it can be and should be in our lives, things must be right within us. We must be truly humble, exercise strong faith associated with good works, pray regularly and sincerely, couple prayer with fasting, study the gospel diligently, live the gospel, keep active in the Church, and give of ourselves in unselfish service to others and to building the kingdom of God here upon the earth

William H. Bennett, “Help Needed in the Shaded Areas,” Ensign, Jun 1971, 106

Saturday, January 23, 2010

3 Nephi 1

29 And there was also a cause of much sorrow among the Lamanites; for behold, they had many children who did grow up and began to wax strong in years, that they became for themselves, and were led away by some who were Zoramites, by their lyings and their flattering words, to join those Gadianton robbers.
30 And thus were the Lamanites afflicted also, and began to decrease as to their faith and righteousness, because of the wickedness of the rising generation.

As children are led away from the things we teach them, they become a great source of worry and sorrow. We want more than anything for them to know what we know and to experience the peace, confidence, and joy that we experience. The rising generation is the future, and as they decrease in faith and righteousness, the entire people are pulled down.

I have confidence in the rising generation. I have felt sad that many have drifted away from what they have been taught is true, but I also see the great faith and courage exhibited by some. They live lives of virtue. Sometimes that stand for truth and virtue results in them feeling peculiar among their peers or even lonely. I'm impressed with their faith and willingness to endure ridicule in order to hold true and remain steadfast.

Helaman 16

17 And they began to reason and to contend among themselves, saying:
18 That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come

I suppose that any miraculous thing can be reasoned away. I feel with all my heart that Jesus Christ lives and will come again. I don't know when, but I am waiting on Him. That's not "reasonable" in the usual sense of the word. But through the power and sweet gift of revelation through the Holy Ghost, I know in my soul that it is true.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Helaman 15

10 And now, because of their steadfastness when they do believe in that thing which they do believe, for because of their firmness when they are once enlightened, behold, the Lord shall bless them and prolong their days

What does it mean to be steadfast? It means to be loyal in the face of trouble and difficulty. It means to be firmly determined or resolute - not shakable. It is to have unswerving devotion and to be unbendable. I think of the great granite monoliths of Yosemite Valley. I know they are susceptible to erosion and spalling, but they face the continuous action of wind and weather resolutely grand and firm. In our lives, the great test is whether we can remain resolutely determined to follow Jesus Christ no matter what comes our way. Can we love Him and follow Him in trial and when blessed beyond measure.

Paul wrote to the Colossians (Col. 2):

5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ.
6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught

I like the image of roots. When we are deeply rooted in Him, as we have been taught, no temptation or trial can overcome our faith and bring us to despair.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Helaman 14

13 And if ye believe on his name ye will repent of all your sins, that thereby ye may have a remission of them through his merits.

Faith in Jesus Christ that leads us to repent and appeal to him results not just in forgiveness but in remission through his merits. Forgiveness occurs, but the power of Christ's atonement does more. It cancels or releases from debt because Jesus Christ pays the price of our sins on condition of repentance.

Another thing made clear in this chapter is our own role in what happens to us in this life and in the life to come. Because we are given agency, or choice, we are responsible for the outcome of our lives. We can believe, obey, and be saved through the merits of Christ; or we can live to ourselves and accept the eternal consequences.

29 And this to the intent that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment might come upon them; and also if they are condemned they bring upon themselves their own condemnation.

30 And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.

31 He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Helaman 13

38 But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.

Janet read once that you can never have enough of what you don't need. Seeking happiness by doing the wrong things is a fool's errand. The path of peace and joy is in doing what God has commanded. There is no liberty in lack of restraint.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Helaman 12

Mormon pauses in the abridged narrative from time to time to draw conclusions and lessons from the history he is recording. Helaman 12 is one of those summary chapters -- a sermon on the unsteadiness of man. 

4 O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!

5 Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!

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.

Mormon meditates on the fact that all things are obedient to the will of God except for man. In blessing us with the gift of agency, God created us with liberty to choose. So often we choose evil over good. We choose the path of least resistance -- the low road. I pray that I will be inclined to choose Him as my guide whether in poverty or prosperity, in sickness or in health, in peace or in persecution. 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Helaman 11

Nephi and his brother Lehi and others who served with them "knew concerning the true points of doctrine, having many revelations daily." (v. 23) All contention regarding religious truth is ultimately settled by revelation. Paul wrote of those who were "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Tim. 3:7) Intellectual rigor, debate, and academic learning are blunt instruments for discerning eternal truths. There is a role for science and for study, but truth about God is known through revelation. Moroni wrote that by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know the truth of all things.

Helaman 10

2 And it came to pass that Nephi went his way towards his own house, pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him.

To ponder is to give thorough or deep consideration to a subject. It means to meditate upon the meaning of something. We don't ponder enough. In our hurry-up world, ideas brush past our minds like a stiff wind through tall grass. If we ponder the meaning of things, God can open our minds to truth. In Nephi's case, the following happened:

3 And it came to pass as he was thus pondering—being much cast down because of the wickedness of the people of the Nephites, their secret works of darkness, and their murderings, and their plunderings, and all manner of iniquities—and it came to pass as he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him

God will speak to our souls in moments of quiet contemplation.

Nephi performed a great miracle. After that the people argued about how he did it and what it meant, and in the end they all wandered off to their own lives "
leaving Nephi alone, as he was standing in the midst of them." (v. 1) His heart was weighed down with sadness. I picture him feeling defeated as I often have. But in the midst of his pondering and sadness, God spoke to him and commissioned him to do more. Nephi did what we should do -- he went directly to work to fulfill the commandment of God.

12 And behold, now it came to pass that when the Lord had spoken these words unto Nephi, he did stop and did not go unto his own house, but did return unto the multitudes who were scattered about upon the face of the land, and began to declare unto them the word of the Lord which had been spoken unto him

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Helaman 9

4 And now behold, when they saw this they were astonished exceedingly, insomuch that they fell to the earth; for they had not believed the words which Nephi had spoken concerning the chief judge.

5 But now, when they saw they believed, and fear came upon them lest all the judgments which Nephi had spoken should come upon the people; therefore they did quake, and had fallen to the earth.

We don't have to see to believe. Paul says of faith, that it is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1) To have faith, we need only perceive the truth through the power of the Holy Ghost. As we exercise faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ and apply them in our lives, evidence is heaped up to strengthen and reward our faith. 

For example, there is a command to search the scriptures. If I act in faith to follow that commandment, I will hear His voice and know His words. (D&C 18:34-36) As I hear the voice of the Lord in His word, my faith in Him will increase and I will receive that peace which passeth all understanding. (Philip. 4:7) And in this spiral of increasing faith and testimony I will come to know for myself that the scriptures are true and that God lives. All of this comes from the application of faith in things that I cannot initially see.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Helaman 8

25 But behold, ye have rejected the truth, and rebelled against your holy God; and even at this time, instead of laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where nothing doth corrupt, and where nothing can come which is unclean, ye are heaping up for yourselves wrath against the day of judgment.

We can lay up treasure in heaven through obedience to the commandments of God, or we can heap up wrath for ourselves in the day of judgment. I would rather have that which cannot be corrupted than to store up guilt and shame for myself.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Helaman 7

26 Yea, wo shall come unto you because of that pride which ye have suffered to enter your hearts, which has lifted you up beyond that which is good 

President Ezra Taft Benson gave a stirring warning about pride in April Conference in 1989 (Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4). We will never create Zion and live in peace until we can overcome pride. I include some excerpts from President Benson's address below.

The Doctrine and Covenants tells us that the Book of Mormon is the “record of a fallen people.” (D&C 20:9.) Why did they fall? This is one of the major messages of the Book of Mormon. Mormon gives the answer in the closing chapters of the book in these words: “Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction.” (Moro. 8:27.) And then, lest we miss that momentous Book of Mormon message from that fallen people, the Lord warns us in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old.” (D&C 38:39.)

Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance. (See Mosiah 3:11; 3 Ne. 6:18.) In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always considered a sin. Therefore, no matter how the world uses the term, we must understand how God uses the term so we can understand the language of holy writ and profit thereby. (See 2 Ne. 4:15; Mosiah 1:3–7; Alma 5:61.)

Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.

Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. (See Hel. 6:17; D&C 58:41.)

The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10.)

Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion. I repeat: Pride is the great stumbling block to Zion.

We must cleanse the inner vessel by conquering pride. (See Alma 6:2–4; Matt. 23:25–26.)

We must yield “to the enticings of the Holy Spirit,” put off the prideful “natural man,” become “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord,” and become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble.” (Mosiah 3:19; see also Alma 13:28.)

That we may do so and go on to fulfill our divine destiny is my fervent prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Helaman 6

17 For behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that they had not been stirred up to anger, to wars, nor to bloodshed; therefore they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another

When the Lord blesses us with peace and prosperity, we sometimes set our hearts on the things of the world. An attitude of gratitude prevents that. If we constantly remember from whence those blessings come, we can remain humble and use the blessings we have been given to bless the lives of others. If we set our hearts on worldly things, our faith dwindles and we are left to our own devices. On the other hand, if we seek the Lord humbly and keep his commandments, he blesses us beyond measure with "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding." This happens as we are willing to believe.

34 And thus we see that the Nephites did begin to dwindle in unbelief, and grow in wickedness and abominations, while the Lamanites began to grow exceedingly in the knowledge of their God; yea, they did begin to keep his statutes and commandments, and to walk in truth and uprightness before him.

35 And thus we see that the Spirit of the Lord began to withdraw from the Nephites, because of the wickedness and the hardness of their hearts.

36 And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Helaman 5

The Nephite general Moronihah had abandoned any further attempt to reclaim Nephite lands lost to the Lamanites. There was no military solution.

In chapter 5, Mormon notes that "they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction." (v. 2) So, Nephi did the following:

4 And it came to pass that Nephi had become weary because of their iniquity; and he yielded up the judgment-seat, and took it upon him to preach the word of God all the remainder of his days, and his brother Lehi also, all the remainder of his days;

But here is the miracle. Nephi and Lehi went to Zarahemla, the great Nephite capital which was now possessed by the Lamanites, and they baptized more than 8,000 Lamanites. They also baptized Nephite dissenters who had been so much trouble and had inspired war and conflict. Those converts returned to the land Bountiful and ministered to the Nephites.

Then Nephi and Lehi went to the land of Nephi where they were imprisoned and sentenced to die. A great miracle occurred that led to the conversion of 300 who then taught others until the majority of the Lamanites were converted. In a marvelous manifestation of the Holy Spirit, a man named Aminadab who had been a Nephite and who had fallen away, took it upon himself to teach the others what this great manifestation meant. There are many Aminadab's in the church of God. They have wandered away, sometimes with bitter hearts. But they can be returned to the fold. We need to look for the Aminadabs among us.

What military might could not do was accomplished through the power of the word of God taught by humble servants of God. 

50 And it came to pass that they did go forth, and did minister unto the people, declaring throughout all the regions round about all the things which they had heard and seen, insomuch that the more part of the Lamanites were convinced of them, because of the greatness of the evidences which they had received.

51 And as many as were convinced did lay down their weapons of war, and also their hatred and the tradition of their fathers.

52 And it came to pass that they did yield up unto the Nephites the lands of their possession.

Helaman 4

12 And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions, and deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites—

13 And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper, but were afflicted and smitten

Prosperity leads us to believe in our own strength and ability and can tempt us to think that we are prosperous because we have "earned" it. We can forget the Lord and his goodness, including the talents and abilities he has given us that enabled our prosperity to begin with. Humbling facing adversity with faith in and dependence upon the Savior can build and strengthen us for even greater challenges. Pride leaves us "in [our] own strength." We need power today and hope in the future. That comes from trusting in God. There is no lasting hope in work, politics, diplomacy, or any other worldly pursuit. But there is hope that comes through the power of the atonement and the love of the Savior.

Elder W. Craig Zwick said in October General Conference in 2003:

"Every one of us needs to know that we can go on in the strength of the Lord. We can put our hand in His, and we will feel His sustaining presence lift us to heights unattainable alone. . .

If we will keep the commandments of God and walk hand in hand with Him in His paths, we will go forward with faith and never feel alone.

Trust in His promise of eternal life, and allow peace and hope to distill upon you.

When we connect with the Author of Peace and with His perfect and redeeming love, then we can come to know the reality of the Lord’s promise: “I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying … , Fear not; I will help thee” (Isa. 41:13)."

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Helaman 3

27 Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.
28 Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.
29 Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—
30 And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.

The word of God in the scriptures and from living prophets and apostles is a sure guide. It opens our hearts and minds to discern between truth and error. Daily study and contemplation of the word of God prepares us for the challenges we face. I led a prayer in the temple Wednesday night and was impressed to pray that we would be blessed with the strength to overcome adversity and remain faithful and endure to the end. We need all the help we can get in the days to come, and the scriptures are a great blessing that we can't afford to treat lightly.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Helaman 2

Mormon's abridgement was written for our day and time. One message that he knew was important to us is the nature and danger of secret societies. He makes a summary statement in Helaman 2 that is then illustrated in the history from that time on. And his son Moroni was inspired to add the book of Ether to the record which contains further evidence of the destructive nature and power of secret combinations. Mormon's summary statement foreshadowing what is to come is:

13 And behold, in the end of this book ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi.
14 Behold I do not mean the end of the book of Helaman, but I mean the end of the book of Nephi, from which I have taken all the account which I have written.

Secret societies in our day have radically altered life for billions of people. Terror cells and other kinds of secret combinations work under the ancient premise that their adherents will ultimately succeed in destroying the liberty of people and imposing their authority. The defense of liberty has never been more important than now.

Helaman 1

The Lamanites continue their war effort against the Nephites. Their king and their chief general were both Nephite dissenters. You have to wonder whether the Lamanites would have been content to leave things alone if they had not been led and inspired by men with bitterness, greed, and hatred in their souls.

The Lamanite general Coriantumr attacked the heart of the Nephite lands and their central cities rather than focus on the border cities. The Nephites did not anticipate this move.

18 And it came to pass that because of so much contention and so much difficulty in the government, that they had not kept sufficient guards in the land of Zarahemla; for they had supposed that the Lamanites durst not come into the heart of their lands to attack that great city Zarahemla.

Satan is our enemy. We sometimes focus on the perimeter thinking that in doing that we are safe while we neglect the things at the core like prayer, meditation, scripture study, and service. Doing the things that are outwardly visible to others are important (attending church meetings, for example), but it is what happens privately in the inward man that fortifies us in the war against evil.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Alma 63

As the record of Alma and his sons Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton concludes, there is an interesting note that reminds me that redemption through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ is available to every person. Corianton, you will recall, struggled as a young man with doctrinal questions and with chastity. His father Alma tried to help resolve his faith questions and encouraged him to repent and make the most of his life. In the record it is clear that Corianton did repent. He served later as a missionary again, and in this last chapter in the Book of Alma, Mormon notes:

10 And it came to pass in the thirty and ninth year of the reign of the judges, Shiblon died also, and Corianton had gone forth to the land northward in a ship, to carry forth provisions unto the people who had gone forth into that land.

11 Therefore it became expedient for Shiblon to confer those sacred things, before his death, upon the son of Helaman, who was called Helaman, being called after the name of his father.

The text clearly implies that the sacred records would have passed to a worthy Corianton if he had not gone off to "the land northward." I'm grateful for the power of the atonement and for the opportunity to repent and be forgiven. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Alma 62

As this multi-year war between the Nephites and the Lamanites came to a close, the tired warriors returned to their homes. The Book of Mormon notes two different responses to the long trial the people had faced:

41 But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their aafflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.

We have a choice on how we will respond to trials and challenges in our lives. Some curse God as unjust or deny that he exists. Others sense his tender mercies in the midst of their afflictions and humble themselves in gratitude for those helps in time of trial. I believe that our trials prepare us to feel more deeply the trials of others. They teach us if we are humble. Those who accepted their trials with humility and faith undoubtedly were the same ones who remembered God in their prosperity.

48 And the people of Nephi began to prosper again in the land, and began to multiply and to wax exceedingly strong again in the land. And they began to grow exceedingly rich.

49 But notwithstanding their riches, or their strength, or their prosperity, they were not lifted up in the pride of their eyes; neither were they slow to remember the Lord their God; but they did humble themselves exceedingly before him.

50 Yea, they did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that he had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and he had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies.

51 And they did pray unto the Lord their God continually, insomuch that the Lord did bless them, according to his word, so that they did wax strong and prosper in the land.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Alma 61

14 Therefore, my beloved brother, Moroni, let us resist evil, and whatsoever evil we cannot resist with our words, yea, such as rebellions and dissensions, let us resist them with our swords, that we may retain our freedom, that we may rejoice in the great privilege of our church, and in the cause of our Redeemer and our God.

I wonder if we have the courage to resist evil as these great men did. When the members have taken strong stands for moral issues, their position has generated persecution from outside and division within. Elder Packer said "The moral values upon which civilization itself must depend spiral downward at an ever-increasing pace. Nevertheless, I do not fear the future." (Boyd K. Packer, “Do Not Fear,” Ensign, May 2004, 77) As the world we live experiences moral decline, will we have the courage to stand for truth and virtue and resist evil?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Alma 60

Captain Moroni was frustrated with the lack of support he and his armies were receiving from the central government and wrote a letter to complain to the chief judge Pahoran. One message that Moroni repeats is the need for us to do all that we can for ourselves. Self-reliance is a virtue that we should cultivate. I have heard members say that they had been praying for something to happen, but I knew from our conversation that they had done nothing else themselves to make it happen. Without any effort on their part other than to ask, they seemed to hope for a miracle.

Moroni warns against that kind of lazy approach. We should pray as if all depended on the Lord and work as if all depended on us. It is the combination of faith and work that results in miracles.

11 Behold, could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you? Behold, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain.

21 Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?

In Moroni's words, we need to "begin to be up and doing."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Alma 59

9 And now as Moroni had supposed that there should be men sent to the city of Nephihah, to the assistance of the people to maintain that city, and knowing that it was easier to keep the city from falling into the hands of the Lamanites than to retake it from them, he supposed that they would easily maintain that city.

I have heard people say that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission. I suppose that may work in business or in some other setting, but it isn't true in our lives in regard to sin. It is much easier to follow the commandments of God than it is to repent and right the wrongs in our lives. I was about to write that young people sometimes think that they will sin a little now and repent later. But that kind of thinking is not restricted to youth. In April 1993 General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard said the following: 

"You must be honest with yourself and remain true to the covenants you have made with God. Do not fall into the trap of thinking you can sin a little and it will not matter. Remember, “the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” (D&C 1:31.) . . . Some youth foolishly rationalize that it is “no big deal” to sin now because they can always repent later when they want to go to the temple or on a mission. Anyone who does that is breaking promises made to God both in the premortal life and in the waters of baptism. The idea of sinning a little is self-deception. Sin is sin! Sin weakens you spiritually, and it always places the sinner at eternal risk. Choosing to sin, even with the intent to repent, is simply turning away from God and violating covenants."

Alma 58

I sometimes neglect to look to the Lord for strength. Helaman and his army were looking for help from the central government. When none appeared after a long wait, Helaman records:

10 Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people.

11 Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.

When we struggle to overcome some obstacle in our lives, we can pour out our souls to God, and He will bless us with "assurances." He blessed Helaman and his men with peace, great faith, and hope for deliverance in Him.

I love the 121st Psalm:

1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.