Friday, April 18, 2014

Led Astray By Pastor's Wickedness

Today I read 1 Nephi 21 and I was very intrigued by a phrase right in the first verse.  The Lord, through Isaiah, states that Israel is broken off and driven out because of the wickedness of the pastors of His people.  I have never noticed that phrase before.  It is a very interesting phrase.  It implies that the Israelites were led astray because of the wickedness of His church’s leaders.  It reminds me of King Mosiah in the Book of Mormon.  He taught the people that a wicked king leads his people to do iniquity and from one sin to another. 

Truly this is the case.  When people trust someone, they look at their example.  They follow them.  They use them as an excuse for their own wickedness.  It starts from the time we are children.  Our children watch us and use any example of wrongdoing on our part to justify what they want to do.  In a child it is understandable because they don’t know any better and are watching their children to find out how to live and what they need to be doing in life.  In an adult however, there is less excuse.  Each of us knows what is right and what is wrong generally speaking.  And to say that we were led astray by someone else is generally not a good excuse.  But here the Lord states that the people of Israel were led astray by the wickedness of His pastors.  How do we reconcile this with the idea of agency?

The answer to me is simple.  It happens over generations.  The reason people at the time of the Savior did not recognize Him is because generations of religious leaders had led the people so far away from where they should have been, that they did not recognize Him when He came to them.  The example of the leaders had led them far away from where they were meant to be.  It takes a strong person who can recognize that the leaders are doing things that are not in keeping with the doctrine and can hold strong against their bad example.  However you have to first know the doctrine, that is the first step.  It is up to all of us to make sure we know the doctrine, we have to search it out and understand it.  Then we have to have the strength to stand by the doctrine.  Finally, anything a leader tells us that does not seem in keeping with the doctrine we have to search out on our own and find out for ourselves if it is what the Lord wants us to be doing.  We have to ask and act on what He tells us.  This is the only way we will keep strong against all the buffeting winds of Satan.  Until tomorrow.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How Does the Lord Choose?

Today I read 1 Nephi 20 where Nephi records Isaiah 48.  Nephi states that Isaiah is easy to understand for those who are learned in the manner of the Jews.  I wonder what makes the difference?  I wonder why knowing the learning of the Jews makes it easier.  I have tried over the years to draw a similar comparison to say President Monson’s talks, but his talks are so straightforward and easy to understand, I don’t see how anyone could misinterpret them.  Perhaps Isaiah is like the Savior Himself, speaking in imagery so that those who are not ready to understand the Gospel will not be held accountable as if they heard it. 

I wonder how the Lord chooses which of His prophets will record which writings?  Nephi was shown the same vision as John the Revelator but was told not to write it because John had that responsibility.  The Lord clearly has assigned certain prophets to write about certain things, but we are not told what things each one is told to write.  I wonder if certain prophets have certain strengths that the Lord capitalizes on and that is how He chooses?  Like so many things, we are not told.  But as we read each one’s writings, we can feel the Spirit behind the words and can harken to the words in the scriptures.  That is the best thing we can do in all situations.  Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nephi Makes a Second Set of Plates

Today I read 1 Nephi 19.  I have always liked this chapter.  I like how Nephi references so many different prophets in regards to the Savior and how many different witnesses there are that have testified of Him.  Nephi tells us that he was commanded to make a different set of plates to write the sacred things of his ministry on them.  It is also interesting to me that Nephi actually makes an excuse for himself in this chapter also.  He states that because of his weakness he excuses his imperfections and apologizes for the things he chose to include in his writings.  This is one of the few times that Nephi actually seems like a normal person to me. 

Now I suppose I should not think it strange that Nephi includes the best things about himself in his writings that he knew would be read by others for centuries to come.  If I knew that my journal was going to be read by most of the human race, I think I would write only the best things too.  Why would I purposefully put my worst foot forward if I could avoid it?  So it makes sense to me that Nephi would write the way he does.  That and he genuinely was a great man after all.  We can't deny that.  He was like Captain Moroni, if all men had been like those two, evil would never gain a foothold on this world!  Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nephi Doesn't Murmur

Today I read 1 Nephi 18 where Nephi and his family board the ship and sail to the promised land.  I have often wondered just what Laman and the others were doing that made Nephi so afraid that the Lord was going to sink their ship.  He states that they began to speak with much rudeness but to me that does not seem like it would be enough to cause me to fear that the Lord was going to sink our ship.  I wonder just what Laman and Lemuel were doing.  It reminds me of the covenant against loud laughter and making sure that we are acting in modesty at all times. 

Chapters like this make Nephi and extremely unrelatable character to me.  Who can relate with a man who is tied in standing position in a heavy storm for 4 days and does not murmur against his afflictions but rather praises God?  That is just so far beyond the realm of what I am used to I cannot even wrap my head around it.  I can understand being grateful to the Lord for softening the hearts of his brothers, but to state that he did not murmur at all?  I can’t relate to that at all.  I would certainly be upset and asking Heavenly Father why this was happening and praying my heart out to protect my family and keep us safe.  Perhaps that is what Nephi was doing and he just doesn’t state that is what happened.  Perhaps these are the exact experiences that turned Nephi into the prophet we all know. 

I have enjoyed over the years reading several biographies about the modern day prophets and if there is one thing I have found they all have in common, it is that prophets are not born, they are made through their trials and the things they go through.  Nephi went through all of these trials and he was not the same man when he wrote about them, as he was when he went through them.  Perhaps he was a little kind in his descriptions on how he handled these situations.  Or perhaps he really was that patient and kind about it all.  The only way to know is to wait and find out.  But the one thing I know for sure is that God gives us trials that we need to have in order to mold us into the person we need to be.  For whatever reason Nephi needed to go through all of these trials to become who he eventually would be.  Makes me wonder what the Lord had to start with that he needed to be so drastic in His molding of Nephi!  Until tomorrow.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Are Laman and Lemuel Really That Different From People Today?

Today I read 1 Nephi 17 where Nephi is commanded to build a ship.  I have often wondered why the Lord would not allow Nephi and his family to make fire while they were traveling.  I remember when I was younger my dad mentioned that there could be robbers in the wilderness and so it would not be a good idea to light fires and attract the wrong kind of attention.  But perhaps the reason is actually more of them needing to learn reliance upon the Lord.  By not being able to cook their food but rather consume it raw, they were forced to acknowledge that the Lord was helping them and it was not on their own strength they were relying. 

I also find it interesting that Nephi mentions that the women were not made strong like unto the men until they were pregnant and/or had their children already.  It says that they began to bear their burdens without complaint at that time.  Perhaps that is just the way Nephi chose to write it, but I have found that the scriptures tend to be a lot more literal than we give them credit for.  Sometimes it is symbolic but typically the writes are recording their history in a very linear fashion.  So I will wager that it happened in the same way Nephi recorded it.  Which is interesting to me that they had to show faith and rely again upon the Lord before their burdens were made light.  They were not just uplifted because they followed the commandments.  Rather they had to endure some trials and it was only after they endured them that the Lord stepped in to help out.  This is yet another pattern we see in the scriptures all the time. 

Finally, a little self-reflection.  Laman and Lemuel were a couple of knuckleheads for sure, but were they really all that different from me?  From anyone in this time period?  Certainly I am no murderer, so I am different in that regard, but as for the other aspect of their character, am I really so different?  How many miracles have I seen in my life?  And yet still I doubt the Lord and what He can do sometimes.  Laman and Lemuel had seen an angel, they were eating raw meat daily, they heard the voice of the Lord, and yet still they doubted that He could teach Nephi how to build a ship.  I have literally seen the Lord save my life at least three times that I can think of off the top of my head where I should have died but somehow did not.  And yet I hesitate to bring my burdens, my problems to Him.  I still rely upon the strength of my own understanding.  Why do I do that?  Why do I forget the blessings that He has bestowed upon me and why am I so slow to remember Him?  Am I really all that different from Laman and Lemuel?  I forget and am not as faithful as I should be.  I personally like to think I am more like Sam.  I am not as valiant and Nephi always appears to be, but I do not think I am as bad as Laman and Lemuel.  I am a good mix of the two, like Sam!  I am pretty faithful, but when the going gets kind of rough, I grumble and forget what I have seen and experienced.  I think the real lesson from Laman and Lemuel is to always stay faithful and not give in to the temptation to turn our back on what we know to be true.  They are important lessons to learn indeed.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Women of the Book of Mormon

Today I read 1 Nephi 16 where the episode with the bows breaking and Nephi not being able to find food for his family is recounted.  I am often almost incredulous at this chapter just because it shows that Laman, and most likely Lemuel, are truly murderers.  They were plotting to kill Nephi and their father.  The way I read the scriptures the only thing that stopped them is the Lord personally spoke to them and they repented of their sins and abandoned their plan to kill Nephi and Lehi.

What would that be like?  I mean I know when they were teenagers my older brothers were not the nicest of people and I was scared of them at times, but I never once was afraid they would kill me, or even cause serious bodily harm to me.  I cannot even imagine what it must be like to be Nephi and know that your brothers not only dislike you, but have actively tried to kill you on more than one occasion. 

I also wonder what Nephi's poor wife thought of all of this.  Was she as righteous as he was?  Or did she get annoyed with Nephi always being righteous and never faltering?  Was she his confidant and his pillar of strength when he would get so upset with his brothers and want to fight back?  Did she help mold him into the prophet that we all know him to be?  It's a shame that the culture of the Book of Mormon did not talk about their women more.  I feel there is a lot to know and learn about them and we will not know it until we pass through on the other side and get to know them personally.  I would like to think however that the women in the Book of Mormon, especially the wives of the prophets, were just as remarkable as they were.  Until tomorrow.