Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Witnesses to the Book of Mormon

I read 2 Nephi 26 and 27 today. Ever since I was a child some things have always amazed me. First I was always amazed the people could doubt the resurrection of Jesus. Even if you could refute the 11 apostles and women who saw Him, He was seen by over 500 people after his death.

Likewise I am floored that people would not believe in the Book of Mormon. The gold plates were seen and handled by at least 12 men. We have their testimonies. I find it interesting that in a public criminal trial, the testimony of 1 person is sufficient to condemn a man or woman of the truthfulness of a crime. The word of one "expert" is enough to verify a theory. And yet, the world doubts the reality of the Book of Mormon. It really is amazing to me how easily mankind is swayed into believing what they want to believe, regardless of how many facts are staring them in the face.

In chapter 27 Isaiah prophesies that the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon would be declared by 3 witnesses. These men were of course, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris. 3 men that although all of them fell away from the church for at least part of their life, never once denied the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. And yet still people doubt. It is so interesting to me that people will not accept things of the Spirit even when presented with temporal evidence. It reminds me of an ostrich, who sensing danger denies its very presence by placing its head in the sand. I have met many people like this in my time and it is always sad to me when I do. Such obstinacy, such blind stupidity. But we all have our trials in this life. And it is up to each of us to overcome our own trials. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

After all we can do

2 Nephi 25 was my reading today. This is a very direct and plain chapter. Which Nephi did on purpose because he knew Isaiah would be hard for some to understand but Nephi didn't want to take the chance that some might misunderstand the prophecies.

The phrase that stood out to me was in verse 23 where it says we are saved by grace, after all we can do. I remember as a missionary being confronted many times with people who wanted to prove me wrong and that I was wasting my time. And one of the ways they would try is by telling me that we are saved by grace. Being the sadist that I am I always took great delight in looking them right in the eye and saying, you are absolutely right.

The reactions I would get are quite varied, some would call me a liar, some would just stare in disbelief, and believe it or not, once I got tears of happiness that I was not "damned to hell". LOL. Latter-day Saints most definitely believe that we are saved by grace. Nothing we can do of ourselves in the end is going to save us. However, the reason people confuse this point is because we also believe that there are certain things we HAVE to do to qualify for that grace and that we should be anxiously engaged in a good cause.

Again on my mission I remember having a certain man wanting to argue this point with me and in a moment of weakness I did. I remember I put it to him this way, would he be content with Mother Theresa and a convicted serial killer who had a death bed confession getting the same reward in the next life. To my shock he emphatically declared he would in deed be happy if such a thing happened. I shared that I would not be ok with it and that I believe we are expected to live our religion and do the things God has asked of us. I believe just like the book of Matthew declares that we are supposed to live a life of service to others and to God.

That is what I think it means by after all we can do. Again, I firmly believe that nothing we do of ourselves will save us. Only through the grace of Jesus Christ and His eternal sacrifice can we be saved. Things like baptism though still have to be done, just as He taught us during his earthly ministry. For there is much good to be done in this world, and it's up to all of us, regardless of our faith or lack thereof, to do it! Until tomorrow.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Fall of Lucifer

I read 2 Nephi 23 - 24 today. I got to thinking as I was reading the first half of chapter 24 about Lucifer and his sin against God. We all know that Lucifer's sin was to exalt himself above God. He felt he had a better way than Heavenly Father, but not only that, we are taught that he also wanted to be above God in glory. He sought to completely dethrone God.

As I read this, I am in awe at the stupidity and impatience of the devil. Because when you boil it down, what Satan wanted was exactly what God wanted to give him, His glory. However, Satan did not want to wait for it. He did not want to do it the right way. He wanted God's glory without working for it. Without proving he was worthy of it.

This same impatience he has not transferred over to an entire nation, our nation. American's are a very, very impatient people. We don't like to wait for anything, not even the 10 seconds someone in front of us takes before they notice the light has turned green. We honk that horn and if we are really in a bad mood, holler some choice words out the window to let the world know just how unhappy we are....just like a 2 year old.

Impatience is at the root of it, pride. We feel we are more important than everyone else on the planet and more important that anything. Impatience and pride is what caused our economic slump 2 years ago. People not willing to work, save the money and buy what they need. Instead they use credit cards and eventually pay for what the bought 10 times over! The sheer stupidity makes me laugh. And yet I fell into that trap too. I would be a liar if I said I had no credit card debt. Luckily I started working my way out of that pit years ago and my wife and I are close to being debt free.

I would say just like charity, Heavenly Father can help us change our attitude and choose to be humble. And as we grow to become more humble, patience will come with it. Very few truly humble people are impatient. And as we cultivate the one, the other will follow if we try. Let us all try and be a bit more humble and a LOT more patient, especially with those around us, and ourselves. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Earth shall be full of the Knowledge of the Lord

Today I read 2 Nephi 18 - 22. I must admit that most of it was a blur. However a verse in chapter 21 stood out to me. It was verse 9 "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."

The imagery just leapt up off the page at me. To think that the reason the animals will stop killing one another is because the earth is full of the knowledge of the Lord. I wonder if even the animals will cease to kill one another what will happen to us humans? I mean, as it is 99.9% of the animals only kill to protect or for food, very very unlike us humans who do it for any reason you can think of, and I'm sure for some truly evil people for no reason at all.

I do long for the day when the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth. Think of the good we'll be able to accomplish when all the people of the world turn to worthwhile pursuits instead of the evils of the world or even the worthless of the world. It will be a glorious day indeed. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Call of Isaiah

Today I read 2 Nephi 16 - 17. I think Chapter 17 is a good example of why people get confused when reading Isaiah. All the imagery can make it very difficult to follow. But like Nephi said, that is because we are not learned in the ways of the Jews and, unfortunately, we lack the Spirit most of the time to really understand what they are talking about. When we have the Spirit with us though, even the most obscure scripture becomes clear.

However, the thought that stood out to me today comes from chapter 16. This is Isaiah's call tot he ministry. I have always enjoyed verse 11. Verse 11 is a classic example of how you can read things a dozen times over and one day you suddenly read it and say to yourself, "How have I missed this all this time?"

When I was a missionary and in seminary I was always taught that verse 11 means that Isaiah's call was for the rest of his life, and truly it was. However, I also believe verses 11 - 13 are referring to the invasion of Israel by Assyria in 721 b.c. and the subsequent return of a portion of that people. I probably have some of my facts incorrect, however the phrase "And there shall be a tenth, and they shall return..." makes me think of a temporal event and during the life of Isaiah or even there abouts the leading away captive of the 10 tribes by Assyria is the only event I know of.

However, it is interesting to note that there was a temporal date if you will affixed to Isaiah's ministry, but in a very real sense it was also a call for the rest of his life. As is all of our callings. We are all missionaries from the moment we are baptized in His name. We all have the call to help call others to repentance and have them join us in the waters of baptism. May we all live up to our God's expectation of that call to each of us. Until tomorrow.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Lord's Wrath is Kindled

Today I read 2 Nephi 15. It talked about many things but I was struck by the parts where it talked about those who wake up only to consume more strong drink. And it got me thinking about the scripture in Matthew where the Savior says in order to save our lives we must lose them (in service to others). I have talked about it before today so I won't belabor the point, but it really makes me think about my own life and evaluate how I am spending my time.

I was also struck by verse 23 where is says "Who justify the wicked for reward...". It got me thinking of all the things people will do in this world for money. People will commit whoredoms for money, they will even commit murder for money. True I think that the people who do those horrible things because they enjoy them and not for money are worse, but how many of the people in this world will not lower themselves, significantly, for the sake of money.

Just the other day I happened to be watching a program on TV and saw a commercial that said it was based on a true story and it is about a husband and a wife who, faced with financial ruin, the wife turns to prostitution. It made me sick to my stomach! How could anyone not face the consequences of their own actions and betray the most sacred vow of marriage like that??? It disgusted me so much that I think I straight up turned off the television and didn't even finish my program.

My wife, when we met, loved to watch those programs where the police officers take the evidence at a crime scene and find the perpetrator of the crime. I hate those programs, because it reminds me of the evil in the world and that people do these horrible things to one another and it drives the Spirit away. I will not watch certain scary movies for the same reason. I do not like being reminded of the evil things people do to one another. I honestly don't know how God stands it, and how He can stay His hand and let people use their agency in such a way. Truly I am not ready and it breaks my heart to even think about such destructive uses of our God given gifts.

I shudder for those people who commit those crimes when they reach the other side and the true horror of the things they have done hit those people. I weep for them for as bad as it was for Alma, those people will most certainly want to cease to exist and will sadly, have to pay the price for their sins, even as our Savior did in the Garden of Gethsemane. May we all choose to not even put ourselves in that position by living a good and righteous life. But if we do screw up, may we be speedy to repent. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Women of Zion

2 Nephi 13 - 14 focuses on some war that Isaiah is prophesying about and he spends an exorbitant amount of time talking about the women of the day and how they will be humbled and 7 of them will want to be called by 1 man's name. As I was reading these chapters several things came into my mind.

The first was the changing role of women through the ages. Now, I am a very old fashioned guy and believe one of he worst things that has ever happened to women is the so called women's liberation. Now, don't get me wrong. Women should never be treated like second class citizens and they should have a full partnership with their husbands in the marriage and a single woman should not be looked at as less than human because she is single. However, it is women's liberation that has somehow made it so some women think they are better than men, or made some women hate men because of all the centuries of oppression their ancestors have endured. The same phenomenon can be observed in some people of African descent who's direct ancestors were slaves to people of British descent here in America and some how make those people pay for what their ancestors did. The idea is ludicrous. I firmly believe both ideas are mistaken and faulty and are inspired by the evil one and come from low self worth. If a person has a sense of their own self worth, it does not matter what happened in the past. They will only focus on the now and the future.

The other thought that occurred to me while reading these chapters was the idea that the Lord will have a humble people and if we will not humble ourselves, He will do it for us! I think the sign of a humble person, in particular a woman, is how they carry themselves. They are not concerned with how others perceive them. It occurred to me as I was reading these chapters and thinking these thoughts that I have had 3 true girlfriends in my life and was lucky enough to marry the best of the 3. However, all 3 of them had one thing in common. They never wear jewelry or makeup except on special occasions. Now, I do not think there is anything wrong with jewelry or makeup, as long as both are done tastefully. However, they almost never are. Most of the jewelry I see women wearing is designed to distract, not to enhance. Just an example of this, but at my last job and also my current job, I sometimes see women with hoop earrings that I swear I could fit my entire head into. This is not only gaudy, it is distracting. I have literally lost my train of thought after seeing someone walk by with hoop earrings that are that big. I just couldn't focus! And I think that is what Heavenly Father is talking about in these chapters.

I remember in seminary reading these chapters and the teenage girls freaking out that they could no longer wear jewelry. As I recall the instructor tried to teach them exactly what I have pointed out above but I don't think most of them understood it because as we all know, teenage women, and sadly some teenage men these days, are quite taken with wearing very gaudy jewelry. My seminary class was no exception.

So I guess my insight to the day is our outward appearance is a direct reflection on our own sense of self worth, humility and devotion to God. So make sure you are showing your true colors wisely. And don't you think by looking at those who are walking around looking like they fell into the closets and some clothes fell on them and they just left them that way, that most people know this principle deep down? I mean how many times have we commented on a teenagers dress only to have them respond with they are trying to express themselves. If people were honest with themselves they already know that their dress is a reflection of who they really are.

So, dress for success and all that jazz. But more importantly, dress to show your love for our Heavenly Father. Adorn yourselves, ladies only, with jewelry and makeup to enhance and not distract. After all, we already have one Mr. T, and that's enough for this world! :) Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Their swords into plow-shares

2 Nephi 12 is quoting Isaiah chapter 2. The phrase that has always stood out to me is in verse 4 where it talks about a day where there will be such peace that all the people would turn their weapons of war into tools of trade.

I've often wondered what such peace would feel like? Here in the United States in Alabama we are about as far removed from war as a person can be I think. And yet, we still have crime here. We still have violent crime from time to time. And I can't help wonder what it would feel like to not have to worry anymore. To live anywhere we wanted among whatever people we wanted and not have to lock our doors. To see people and not stereotype them for good or for bad. To see people as true sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven and even better, to treat them as such. I have no way to know what that would feel like.

I personally feel I'm a pretty trusting individual, and yet I catch myself stereotyping folks all the time in my mind. My saving grace I guess is that I never act on those stereotypes and instead treat everyone equally. But I would like to get to the point to where I don't even think them. However, I think for that to happen we need to have a better world. A world where people have beaten their swords into plow-shares and their guns into nails. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"...and none other nation...would crucify their God..."

Today I read 2 Nephi 10 - 11. The verses that have always stood out to me in 2 Nephi 10 are verses 3-5. Here Jacob states that none other nation on earth would crucify their own God. But if the mighty miracles had been done in any other nation they would have recognized Him as their God and repented. That's saying something! This was during the time of the Roman empire, by all rights a very wicked and perverse people.

However, I agree with this statement. It is so unfathomable to me how any people could live with Jesus and see him on an almost daily basis for just under 3 years and not recognize Him for what He is. In today's day and age I can understand people not believing in Him, even considering some of the mighty miracles that are done by use of the priesthood. However, it just blows my mind how anyone can have lived with Jesus and declared He was of the devil. The aforementioned king of lies did his work very, very well in the centuries leading up to the birth of the Savior. He had the Jews totally convinced of their own divinity and blessed state for being a "chosen" people that even their God literally staring them in the face could not convince them otherwise.

And just as President Benson stated in his great talk on Pride, it was pride that blinded them. For there were some who were on the verge of believing, even as king Noah in Mosiah chapter 17, and yet because of pride when the Savior pointed out their shortcomings and cause for repentance, just like king Noah, they rebelled against the sweet Spirit they had felt and put him to death. Truly like Laman and Lemuel so many years before them they were murders in their hearts. And yet, like Saul who later became Paul, they felt they were in the right and were happy to see the blasphemer put to death.

If nothing else, this chapter serves as a great reminder to the craftiness and cunning of the devil and a wake up call to us all to re-examine our own lives and make sure we are not turning away from our God due to the "cunning arts" of the devil as Laman and Lemuel so often accused Nephi, never once coming to the appropriate conclusion that it was in fact the very cunning arts of the evil one convincing them so thoroughly that they were turned completely around and cheerfully wrapped the chains of damnation around their own bodies and jumped into the lake of fire and brimstone with a smile on their faces. It truly is sad and a case study in pride and abject stupidity.

Let us all learn from the example of those who have gone before, both the good and the bad, and become better people today. Until tomorrow.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jacob's Sermon on the Atonement

Ah 2 Nephi 9, one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon. I love this chapter and it's really hard to just pick 1 thing about it to talk about here. However, I think I am going to talk about the tender mercies of God.

Yesterday I was asked to teach the lesson in Elder's Quorum which was out of the Gospel Principles manual on the Atonement. The last question I asked them was since the Resurrection was a free gift to all, why is being cleansed from sin not a free gift also, why does it only apply to the repentant? I had them read Alma 34:34 which states that the same spirit which possesses our bodies now will possess our bodies then too. In other words, if we don't want to live a life of righteousness now, we won't want to then either.

Jacob in this chapter talks about the wisdom and greatness of God in this chapter in preparing a way for us to escape the monsters death and hell, or in other words physical and spiritual death. And Heavenly Father in his mercy has given everyone the chance to be resurrected no matter what, because he wants us to be happy. However, he made being cleansed from sin contingent upon our repenting also because he wants us to be happy. He made varying degrees of glory for us, because he wants us to be happy.

I'm sure it pains Him greatly to know that some of His children would choose to live apart from Him, but in His love for us, He has made it possible for that to happen. He understands that the greatest punishment in all of eternity for some of the people would be to force them back into His presence for all time. And it is also the greatest gift of all for some of us, including I hope one day, for myself. However if we are unclean at that day, coming back into His presence will be the worst fate imaginable. If you don't believe me just read Alma 36: 14-15. Alma states that he would rather cease to exist than to just be in God's presence! That is really quite harsh, but it is reality. God, in His mercies, has allowed each of us the gift of choice. We can choose to return to Him or we can choose not to. I hope and pray daily for Him to change my nature so that I no longer desire to do evil so I may take advantage of the greatest gift He has to offer, eternal life. Or in other words, life with Him forever! Until tomorrow.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Nephi loves Isaiah

Today I read 2 Nephi 7-8. These are chapters in which Nephi is quoting Isaiah. Nothing in particular really stood out to me in these chapters themselves but it got me thinking. Nephi states at one point that his soul delights in plainness and that he also loves Isaiah. The two thoughts really don't seem to be able to co-exist at all. However, Nephi also mentions later that he has to explain Isaiah to his people because they are not learned in the ways of the Jews.

I am actually one of those folks that certain parts of Isaiah really make sense to me. I don't find it that confusing nor do I get frustrated with it. The Savior in 3 Nephi also recommends to the Nephites that they read the prophecies of Isaiah. I remember when I was a missionary and I read that, it gave me a much greater appreciation for Isaiah and a desire to read it more thoroughly. I mean, if both Nephi and the Savior himself are telling people to read the words of Isaiah, there just might be something to them. However, so far on this read through of the Book of Mormon nothing has really stood out to me. Perhaps in later chapters. Until tomorrow and Happy Father's day.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Why of it All

Today I read 2 Nephi 6. I honestly didn't get a whole lot out of it, but I am kind of distracted today also and that may have something to do with it. The 2 phrases that did stick out to me though are both in verse 12, they are even connected. They are "for the Lord God will fulfill his covenants which he has made unto his children; and for this cause the prophet has written these things."

I remember back when I was a missionary teaching the people of Taiwan and mainland China who had no knowledge of Jesus Christ and for sure no knowledge of what a prophet was. They couldn't even wrap their minds around it sometimes. We used to use a visual aid to help them understand as I recall. We had them picture a giant wall that they couldn't see over and they had no way to get on top of, and God was on one side and all of us were on the other. However, God has chosen certain men to be placed on top of the wall who can see both sides and to relay what God tells him back to us. But also to help us understand what God is like.

Sometimes I really think that maybe the whole point of the scriptures is to give us a clear understanding of the nature of God. For that is the main point of our existence, to be like Him. If you really think about it, what are the 10 commandments but 10 attributes of God. You could easily substitute the phrase "thou shalt not" for "I do not". Think about it, "I do not commit adultery, I do not kill" etc. And the "thou shalt" for "I" "I honor my father and my mother" etc. Jacob taught in verse 12 of 2 Nephi 6 that the reason Isaiah wrote was to show unto the children of men that the Lord fulfills His covenants with the children of men. And if you take nothing away from reading the scriptures other than that bit of truth, then your time will not have been wasted. How can we grow to be like God if we don't understand the type of being He is? Of course there are many purposes to the scriptures and this is just one of them, but it is a very important one and one we should all strive to learn well. Until tomorrow.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Delightsome People

Today I read 2 Nephi 5, where Nephi and his followers separate from Laman and his followers. Several things stood out to me in this chapter. The first is about the temple. Nephi built his followers a temple, like unto Solomon's temple so that they could perform their sacrifices and ordinances in the appropriate manner. This reminds me of the early saints that until the temple was completed, they were allowed to perform baptisms for the dead in the Mississippi river. I'm sure the Nephites did their ordinances for the 8 years while they were in the wilderness, but they wanted to do things the right way. It's nice that the people were so driven to do things according to the Lord's will.

The next thing that I saw that impressed me was actually the very next verse where Nephi states he taught his people to be hard working and industrious. I am far and away not the person who loves to work and loves to work with his hands. Matter of fact as I'm sure most of you know, I'm quite lazy. However, I do know the value of good hard work and sometimes even enjoy it. I had a vegetable garden last year that I really enjoyed working in and thoroughly enjoyed the crops from it too! :) However, about 5 years ago I had a friend point out to me the wording in Moses 1:39 how it uses the word "work" in there and how intentional that was. The Lord, works. And if our God is a God of work, then shouldn't we be? I don't think there's any surprise there that the devil works to get people to be idle. We've all heard the old adage, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop". The really funny thing about all of that is, that the devil works too. Night and day. He's definitely not lazy or idle.

There's also something about work that makes you feel good. My wife was shocked to learn that for 99% of what I do, I take no pride in a job well done. I am not the person to point out "look what I did", usually. There are some exceptions. However, even I will tell you that working with your hands and doing good, honest labor makes you feel good. If I am ever having a really bad day, my favorite remedy is honestly to forget about it and go to my job. My job has a way of cheering me up that even my wife can't emulate some days. I think it is because the nature of almost all jobs is service. Service helps us to forget about ourselves and focus on what we can do for others. And it feels good. There are some jobs which are totally self oriented, and especially if you are single and don't have a family to provide for, I can see how you would miss this. But for the more part, the best remedy for depression and self pity that I personally know of, is good honest solid work. It's selfish of me, but for a lot of reasons I sometimes wish I had a job that was more physically demanding, so I could feel even better than I currently do! Both physically and emotionally. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

the Forgotten Brother

Today I read 2 Nephi 3-4. I was intrigued by 2 Nephi 3. I am curious why Lehi's last words to his son Joseph were all about Joseph Smith. I have not yet come up with an answer but am still pondering this point. It is indeed, as Nephi says, a great prophecy but it is interesting to me that of all the things Lehi could have said unto his son Joseph, that is what he chose to say. If I come up with an answer I will post it here.

The title of this blog is called, the forgotten brother. This is about Nephi's older brother, Sam. Sam is mentioned 4 times in 1 Nephi and only 3 times in 2 Nephi. All we know about him is that he supports Nephi, and in Lehi's dream he also partook of the fruit with Nephi and their mother. It is an interesting phenomenon to note that several parents and even siblings fall into this trap. If a son or a brother is not giving cause for concern, then not as much attention is paid to that person, or so it appears to the person or maybe even those around that person such as we the readers of the Book of Mormon about Sam.

In Nephi's account Sam is never mentioned because he is never rocking the boat, if you will. Laman and Lemuel and their brother's-in-law are always being mentioned because they are causing trouble. And it is dangerous that the attention gets put on those that are causing the most trouble because it can associate attention with bad behavior and can lead to the person craving the attention to doing bad things to get it. Fortunately Sam was older and probably didn't need nearly as much attention. And it may not even have been like it is written, we just don't know. The other thing to keep in mind especially with children is that the perception of how much time gets spent on or with a particular child is important to all children, be it good or bad attention that is spent.

And so it struck me as sad that aside from Nephi himself, Nephi did not record a good example for us to have other than his younger brother Jacob. He only recorded the bad and what we should not be doing. And perhaps that is only the fault of Nephi himself? Who are we to say and judge. The more common take away from 2 Nephi 4 is that Nephi was human with weaknesses and failings and people take comfort in knowing he was human and apparently by his own admonition had a bit of a temper. So maybe Lehi and Sariah did not have a problem with giving attention to Sam, maybe it was only Nephi that had a problem giving attention to Sam, who knows. I guess my point is to give Sam credit and his due and to point out that Sam, and for that matter Zoram, another righteous forgotten person of this period in the Book of Mormon, were righteous good upstanding men and they shouldn't be overlooked by us. They are good examples of the silent, unsung heroes of the world. We should all strive to be righteous as they were. For if they had not been righteous, we would have read about it. ;) Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

to Act for Themselves

2 Nephi 2, it's hard to pick out just one impression from such a treasure trove of knowledge. However, the phrase that stuck to me on this read through comes from verse 26, "to act for themselves and not to be acted upon..."

All matter is divided into 2 groups, that which acts, and that which is acted upon. What I find interesting in this verse is that while man was always meant to be in the group that acts, when Adam partook of the forbidden fruit and fell, mankind was placed into the category where they were acted upon, spiritually speaking. Lehi teaches Jacob in this verse that before the Atonement of Jesus Christ all mankind was lost and had no hope of redemption and thus could not truly act.

Once the Atonement was completed however, all mankind once again was free to act and choose for themselves where they want to end up at the end of this life. God in His infinite goodness has allowed us to choose what will make us happiest, no matter how hard it is for Him to see us stray and choose to not return to Him and to ultimate happiness. I can only imagine how much that hurts.

The other thing that leapt out at me about this chapter is the constant referring to children as the way to be truly happy in this life and how it is the ultimate design for us. It really does amaze me how good of a job Satan does in confusing us what makes us happy, what is good and acceptable and how in our day and age he has so blinded people into thinking that everything is acceptable and if you stand up to people about what is right and what is wrong then you are actually in the wrong and a bigot. Say what you will about Satan, but he is good at his job! He can manipulate the strings of mankind like a master harpist. That is why we must constantly be on our guard and doing things like making sure we read our scriptures daily. It's only in this way will we even stand a chance against him and his machinations. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

the Love of a Parent

2 Nephi 1 is Lehi's last testimony to Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Zoram, and the sons of Ishmael. I was struck today when reading it of the love Lehi must have for his sons. I think the Lehi ever since the vision he had of the tree of life knew how things would turn out for Laman and Lemuel. I honestly don't see how he couldn't have known and he even says that he feared greatly for them.

But despite his almost sure knowledge he was given concerning their ultimate fate, he never faltered in reaching out to them and imploring them to live a better life and to listen to their brother, Nephi. I cannot think of another person in the Book of Mormon with so unique a situation. And yet Lehi behaves just as his Father in Heaven does and never gives up even though he knows the ultimate outcome.

In this way, Lehi is a type of our Father in Heaven. How many times did God send a prophet to call a people to repentance that He knew would not listen and He sent them anyway. It must have been enough that Jonah thought it silly to go and call the people to repentance and even after he had done so, he was so sure they would be destroyed anyway that he picked out a nice spot to watch the fireworks. And yet, our Heavenly Father never gives up on us. I actually had an experience one day after a particularly trying day where I had made some mistakes and was wallowing in my own self pity and saying my prayers and I had a clear thought intrude itself on my consciousness. The thought was this, "God hasn't given up on you, don't you give up on yourself." How true that is, and it can also be applied to all those parents out there with wayward children or the children who have wandered themselves. There is always hope for a better life and a better reward in the life to come, no matter what we have done. Until tomorrow.

Monday, June 14, 2010

the Scattering and Gathering of Israel

1 Nephi 21 is a direct quotation of Isaiah 49 and 1 Nephi 22 is Nephi explaining it to his brothers, and to us. It makes you wonder why the Lord, or Nephi, felt it was important for us to know since they were included on the small plates. I believe it was another of Nephi's prophecies. But perhaps it was also a warning.

The final verse of 1 Nephi ends with "Wherefore, if ye shall be obedient to the commandments, and endure to the end, ye shall be saved at the last day." There are several verses in this last chapter that warn us of the second coming and what we must do to be saved. I think it was also a reminder to not look harshly on the House of Israel but rather do what we can to help them. Which I think can be applied to everyone. We seem very quick to judge in this life and slow to have compassion. We are reminded time and time in the scriptures that with the judgment we judge others, so shall we be judged. It only makes sense that we should be merciful to all those around us then so that the Lord will be merciful to us in turn. But it rarely works out that way that we are patient with those we meet. Yet we have the greatest incentive of all to be that way. It certainly inspires me to be better. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What makes a Prophet?

What makes a prophet? I don't know about the rest of you, but reading the biographies of the modern day prophets gives me great hope for myself because it teaches me 1 thing above all, they are mortal men. They were not born prophets. Howard W. Hunter was denied a temple recommend to get married because he did not pay a full tithe, Gordon B. Hinkley nearly left his mission before it was time, and the list goes on.

Today I read 1 Nephi 19 - 20 and Nephi talks extensively about the ancient prophets and how they saw his day and prophesied about the Savior. So it got me thinking, what makes a prophet? They are not born that way. Not even the Savior was born with a full knowledge of everything he would need to know. He was taught line by line, precept upon precept just like the rest of us. He was just a much more adept pupil than all of us. ;)

I think a prophet, is someone who truly defines humility. They love the Lord more than they love themselves, more than their own life. They truly define the scripture in Matthew 16:25 "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." In all the scriptures we have, never once did Nephi balk at something the Lord commanded him to do. Never once did he put his own life ahead of what he felt the Lord would have him do. If all of us could emulate such an attitude, just imagine what could be accomplished for good!

I am also struck by the memory of Nephi. He is making his record more than 9 years from the time he started his journey. In all honesty, I am constantly struck by the good memory of all those who helped write the Book of Mormon. We have sermons word for word how they were delivered for us to read. There were no tape recorders back then, and surely some of these sermons were not recorded until days, maybe even weeks later. And yet they had perfect memory of them. I believe of course, that the Lord helped them, but it also makes you think. They did not have all the distractions that we do in our day. It makes you wonder what we might be giving up for the sake of a life of convenience. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

the Lord's Plan

I read 1 Nephi 18 today, the voyage of Nephi and his family to the promised land. I was struck by 2 things. The first in verse 21 where once Nephi is released and he prays, the storm stops and they are once again on calm waters.

This strikes me as amazing. I do not believe that the Lord ever just banishes weather if you will. The Lord is bound to certain laws just like all of us are. I believe that He created a storm large enough and powerful enough to threaten the ship but not capsize it or cause them to drown but also only made it to last the appropriate amount of time. The Lord knew exactly how long it would take Laman and his cohorts to repent and had the storm last accordingly. I once had a mission companion ask me if I thought that we could frustrate the plans of God. I told him that I didn't think we could. I think the Lord knows us too well, I don't think we can surprise him. After re-reading 1 Nephi 18, I am again feeling that we cannot do anything that the Lord hasn't already planned for. Another example of this would be the star that appears when the Savior is born. Think of how many years in advance that star had to be placed in the heavens prior to His birth so that it appeared the very night, maybe even the very moment His son was born in the flesh. It kind of boggles the mind. It gives me hope that when I screw up and need to repent that of course there are consequences, but hopefully nothing that can't be fixed.

The 2nd verse that stood out to me is verse 24 which says they put all of their seeds into the ground. This was first brought to my attention when I was in the MTC. One of my district leaders, Elder Holden, used this verse in our daily devotional and talked about what amount of faith would be needed to put all the seeds you brought with you into the ground that first year. It really is amazing if you think about it. They didn't know what foods they would find on this new and strange land or even if the climate was right to grow the types of foods they had brought with them. They had incredible faith to just plant everything and put their hope upon the Lord to sustain them. I often wonder if I would have had such faith were I in their shoes. Food for thought. Until tomorrow.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Laman and Lemuel

Today I read 1 Nephi 17. Back in January when I was preparing to move down to Alabama, I made a comment in my journal after reading 1 Nephi 2 that as hard as I tried to be like Nephi, I was often only left to compare myself to Laman or Lemuel due to my unhappiness at my circumstances and my constant complaining about the way things had to be.

Today as I read about Nephi talking to his older brothers I was again struck by the singular oddity that are Laman and Lemuel. These 2 men, had daily divine manifestations for over 8 years, they survived quite comfortably on a diet that consisted of only raw meat, they had seen an angel, they heard the voice of the Lord, their "guide" was a brass ball with writing that would mysteriously appear and disappear on it. And still they fell away. And still when asked to help build a ship they mocked Nephi and refused to help. The only people that I think are more ridiculous in their blatant stupidity towards all things spiritual were the Israelites of Moses' day. To my knowledge only they surpassed all other groups in daily divine manifestations and only they were more unrighteous in the face of so many miracles.

And yet I often wonder how many of us would react the same way. Many of us have seen many miracles in our lives, things we know for a fact could not have happened save the Lord willed it so. I myself feel lucky to be alive on at least 2 occasions that come to mind and give all credit to the Lord of my making it out of those situations alive. And yet I struggle to keep certain commandments just like everyone else does. I know the Lord lives and watches over us, and still I murmur over the small things such as having to sell a couch instead of move it down to Alabama. Suddenly the unfaithfulness of Laman and Lemuel do not seem so far fetched and outrageous and it becomes Nephi who seems unrealistic and hard to understand how he could be that way. But the fact of the matter is, it takes work to be like Nephi and Sam. It takes daily work to remember to follow ALL the commandments and to be humble and not complain about your situation and to not kick against the pricks. Just as it takes daily work to maintain any other good, healthy habit.

Now, Laman and Lemuel were extraordinary in several ways. They did indeed taking being recalcitrant to an art form and I do believe that almost all of us if we were to receive daily reminders like they for 8 years that we would have been more willing and quick to remember the Lord our God. And of course, they were murderers in their hearts. In the scriptures they attempted and failed to kill Nephi no less than 5 times. So we can all take solace that while we may not be perfect, we are not nearly as bad as those 2 men. And as we strive to become more like Nephi, Sam, Jacob or Joseph, we will become more like them. Spiritual "muscle" is just like a physical one, the more you use it and "flex" it, the stronger it becomes. Have faith and we'll make it. :) Until tomorrow.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

the Liahona

Today I read 1 Nephi 15 - 16. I must admit that very little stood out to me this time as I read through these chapters. What did stand out to me was the Liahona. Since the time of the Jaredites, the Lord has led peoples from one place to another. And each time he has used differing methods. We have a record of Him leading the Jaredites, the Israelites, and the Nephites. For the first 2 groups he used a pillar of light or a pillar of clouds that went before the multitude. For the Nephites, he gave them the Liahona.

Now the people of Nephi during this stage of their journey, that we know of, was roughly 18 people. We have Lehi, Sariah, their 4 sons and their wives, their 2 daughters and their husbands, Zoram and his wife, and finally Ishmael and his wife. Those are all the people we are aware of in their party at the time of the finding of the Liahona and their departure from the valley of Lemuel. The reason I bring this up, is because my thought was, why bother with the Liahona in the first place? I mean honestly, the Lord could just have easily have spoken to Lehi and guide him to where He needed them to be just as he had guided them to the valley of Lemuel. So why give them the Liahona at all?

The answer must be of course that it was what they needed. It wasn't because the Lord thought it would be neat. It wasn't because he was tired of the pillar of cloud routine. For whatever reason, the Liahona was the method that would work best for that group of people. I do believe that the reason the Lord did not use the pillar of light and or in a cloud was #1 for safety and #2 due to the size of their group.

We are told later in the book of Mormon that the Lord had not allowed them to build a fire in the 8 years they wandered in the wilderness and that instead he made their food sweet so they didn't have to cook it. There are only a couple of reasons for such a commandment and daily divine manifestation. One would be to remind them daily of their dependence on the Lord. The other would be safety from other peoples in the area. I cannot imagine there were very many of Jerusalem's upstanding citizens out wandering in the wilderness, but I am confident that there were in fact robbers. However, we learn in 1 Nephi 17:13 that the Lord was their light and He led them so that " shall know that it is by me that ye are led." So maybe it really was the daily manifestation that was needed, which with folks like the sons of Ishmael and Laman and Lemuel, maybe it was indeed what they needed most. After all, if people who had seen angels, heard the voice of the Lord, survive solely on a diet that consists of raw meat, and have a compass that the writing can change at anytime and the pointers work by something other than magnetics and STILL they turn away from the Lord, I can only imagine that the only thing that kept them somewhat on the strait and narrow for 8 years was their absolute reliance on the Lord for their very lives.

The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways, but sometimes I think He does so only because it's what we want or maybe what we need. He also works by small and simple means and I think that He uses the method that works best for us in each case since He knows us better than we know ourselves. I don't know about you, but it makes me feel safe in His hands. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Nephi's Vision pt. 2

Today I finished Nephi's vision by reading 1 Nephi 13 - 14. I was struck by the thought of the great and abominable church which is the enemy of the saints and how there are truly only 2 churches and something occurred to me. Too often we get a little overzealous against this church because it is the enemy of the Lamb of God. However, this church comprises everyone who is not a member of the true church and it is a little unfair to lump everyone in together.

Then at almost the end of chapter 14 I had this thought. The church is like those that have caused the Bible to lose it's plain and precious truths. I searched for the exact quote but couldn't find it so you all get the approximation. :) Joseph Smith said that the plain and precious truths of the Bible that were lost are due to either mistranslations of the original text, misinterpretations of the text, or willful removal of the parts by those who serve the enemy. The great and abominable church is like that, there are those parts of the church that are misguided due to the missing plain and precious truths, there are those who misinterpret parts of the Bible and there are those parts of that church who serve the enemy. I think we need to be careful that we don't lump the first 2 elements in with the last when thinking about the great and abominable church. All of us who were not born into the church were at one point or another a part of this other church and look where they are now.

My brother Stuart posted a comment here yesterday and he said something that struck me. He said "The Lord never wants to live our life for us. He only wants us to live our life, and tell Him about it." He said this in regards to my remarking yesterday on how the angel was letting Nephi figure out on his own what the parts of the vision meant. But it really stayed with me yesterday and has given me a new outlook on prayer and what it can do for each of us. After all, Nephi's vision came about as a result of prayer. Each of us has it in us to be the next Nephi, the next Alma, the next Captain Moroni or the next Ruth. They all started as ordinary men and women who desired more. Each of those named men and woman all became greater than they were because they trusted in the Lord and involved Him in their life and He took their initial potential and magnified it a thousand fold. He is willing and even wants to do the same for each of us, if we will let him. Food for thought. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nephi's Vision pt. 1

Today's reading encompassed 1 Nephi 10 - 12. For those not familiar with the Book of Mormon, these are the chapters where Nephi desires to see the same vision his father had and is caught up by the Spirit who shows him the vision and an angel who helps him understand it.

1 Nephi 10 is the chapter where Nephi speaks more about the prophecies of his father and about the coming of the Messiah. Chapters 11 - 12 are the first part of his vision. I was struck this morning by the fact that when Nephi said he wanted to know the interpretation of the dream neither the Spirit nor later the angel told him what he wanted to know. Instead they showed him things and allowed him to come to his own conclusions.

For example, when Nephi wanted to know what the tree meant he was first shown Mary, the mother of Jesus, and later Mary holding the infant Jesus. From this he was able to discern that the tree was a representation of the love of God, much as the Savior himself was a gift of love from our Father in Heaven. I was reminded of Mahonri Moriancumr, more commonly known as the brother of Jared, in Ether chapter 2 where he asks the Lord how they will see while they are on their journey across the ocean and the Lord asks him what he thinks should be done. It also brings to mind D&C 9:8 where we are told to not just ask, but make a choice/decision and then ask the Lord if we have chosen right or not.

It is also interesting to note that at the end of chapter 12 the angel does offer up to Nephi the interpretation of 3 things in the vision: the river of filthy waters, the mists of darkness and the great and spacious building. All 3 were the items that had to do with unrighteousness and the devil. I wonder if maybe the angel didn't want Nephi dwelling too much on these items and thus, unlike the other aspects of the dream/vision of allowing him to think on it and come to his own conclusions, just told him the answers so that Nephi would not dwell on it and move on to other more wholesome aspects of his vision. I don't have the answer to my own question but to me, my thought has the ring of truth to it. Until next time.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Tree of Life and the 116 pages

I'm pressed for time today so I did not read as much as I normally do. However I did read 1 Nephi 8 and 9 which are, of course, the Tree of Life vision and the reason for the secondary plates of Nephi.

The thing that stood out to me this read through of 1 Nephi 8 is actually concerning the great and spacious building. In 1 Nephi 8:26 I was struck by Lehi's words "...and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth." This struck me as a little odd and very interesting. If the building is in the air, how do people enter it? The only conclusion of course is that those already inside have to help them. This in turn got me thinking, that when we turn away from the teachings of Jesus Christ, or even the things we know to be true by the light of Christ that is in us, (Moroni 7:16-17), it is usually due to some influence or at the behest of others. Just as the people in Lehi's dream tasted of the fruit and were ashamed and turned away, there are those who unlike Paul are "ashamed of the gospel of Christ" (Romans 1:16) and allow themselves to be pulled away by the cunning arts of the devil. It has always amused me to no end how the followers of the devil are constantly accusing the righteous men and women of the various dispensations of using the various tactics of their master to deceive them and lead them away into captivity when of course nothing could be further from the truth. The devil is skilled in his craft indeed.

But I digress. The floating building, where none may enter by their own power, but rather must be helped along their way by those who have already fallen. It got me thinking that even those who seem to fall away on their own and aren't overly influenced by peer pressure, are still helped along their way by those they see in the building living a riotous and wasteful life and are envious of the people's "freedom" from the restraints of God's commandments and thus approach those in the building and ask to be let up. And sadly the cost of admission to the great and spacious building seems a paltry to those desiring entrance and the rewards more than justify the cost. However, of course in the end the price of admission and fees for staying turn out to be the steepest price of all, one's very soul. I re-noticed several other points from the dream, but as mentioned was most struck by the building which can only be entered with the help of others.

I also read 1 Nephi 9 today which deals with the commandment to produce the small plates of Nephi in preparation of Joseph Smith losing the 116 pages to Martin Harris' wife and her confederates. A short chapter, only 6 verses, but powerful. I couldn't help but think of poor Joseph Smith when he first read this chapter and how it must have hurt to see that the Lord knew this would happen almost 2500 years before it did. But I think it might also have given him hope, hope that no matter how badly he might screw up and make a mistake, he wouldn't be able to upset the work of our Father in Heaven.

The other thought I had was of the faithfulness of Nephi in making these plates and never, in his lifetime, knowing what they were for. Like Nephi I have received many promptings from the Spirit which I have fulfilled which I do not to this day know why I was given them or asked to perform those tasks. I trust, that I shall know some day, even if only from the other side of the veil. But like Nephi I trust that each duty I have performed for the Lord without knowing the reason why has been "...for a wise purpose in him..." (1 Nephi 9:5). But what I take away from this chapter is not just the knowledge of the 116 pages but also a re-affirmation of listening to the Spirit and obeying His will so that I may be an instrument in His hands!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The beginning

Hello everyone. After reading some articles from the most recent Ensign about how technology can be used for good I have decided to use this as a forum for my random thoughts while I read the scriptures and also by way of maybe doing some good and providing some insights to some folks I have created this blog!

It is open to all and I hope you all find it enjoyable as I hope to enjoy writing it. For my first post I want to talk about a thought that occurred to me the other morning about Nephi. I recently started over reading the book of Mormon and came to 1 Nephi 4. I was struck with a thought when I read 1 Nephi 4:10 where the Spirit commands Nephi to kill Laban. I was intrigued by the fact that the Lord wanted Nephi to kill Laban personally. Surely the Lord could have had Laban stumble and hit his head, he could have been robbed and murdered by robbers, he could have gotten alcohol poisoning, he could have been killed any number of ways, but the Lord wanted Nephi to do it.

So that of course begs the question why? People are changed when they kill another person. No matter how revolting an act it is, taking a human life irrevocably changes a person. So what reason could the Lord possibly have needed Nephi to kill Laban? I think the answer lies in 2 Nephi 5:34. Within 40 years of Nephi killing Laban, he writes that he has had wars and contentions with his brothers and their families. As hard as it must have been for Nephi to take the life of a man he was upset with and maybe even hated, think how hard it must have been to take the life of his brother or his nephews. But the Lord knew he would be required to fight with and even take the lives of those he loved and the Lord knew how devestating that would be to Nephi and Nephi had to be prepared for the trials that would come.

So, aside from being the heinous act that the Book of Mormon critics have claimed, I personally feel that asking Nephi to kill Laban was in fact, one of the Lord's tender mercies. The Lord, as he always does, knew what His servant needed and provided him the support that he needed. I hope that you enjoyed reading the first of many of these posts and hope that they can do some good in the world.