Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Nephites Prevail

Today I read 3 Nephi 4, an account of the Nephites battles against the Gadianton Robbers. It has long been a topic of discussion between my father and I of whether or not a righteous people need a standing army. The Lord does indeed take care of His people in their time of need. This chapter shows that actually. But if you ask my dad he will reference scriptures like Enoch where the Lord changed the course of rivers and uprooted mountains so that His people did not have to fight.

I on the other hand ascribe to the theory that as long as we are not guilty of the first or second offense, we have the right to defend ourselves and our families. It is a fun, healthy debate and never gets resolved but I am reminded of it in instances like this chapter. We talked last time about how the Nephites all gathered into one place in the center of their lands, as far as we know.

I find it interesting that the Robbers are unable to maintain their "living" except by plundering and murder. The scriptures says that they would not spread themselves out to raise grain for their food because of fear of the Nephite armies, yet they did not hesitate to spread themselves out in order to try and lay siege to the Nephite city. It goes back to what we said yesterday, the Robbers are inherently lazy. They will not work for their living. I was actually speaking with a co-worker last night who is originally from Detroit, MI and we were talking about organized crime and I mentioned my theory that whatever reason they give, the real reason people join organized crime is laziness and an unwillingness to work. She replied that while she had never thought of it that way, it's true. Most people turn to a life of crime because they do not wish to work. I realize there are some exceptions to the rule, but it holds true for at least 80% I feel.

One of the interesting parts of this chapter is that the Nephites recognized that they had to defeat their enemy, it was not enough to just defend themselves. However, they still listened to the Lord. As long as the Robbers were in their lands, they pursued them and attacked them. But as soon as the Robbers entered the wilderness, Gidgiddoni stopped them and would not allow his armies to pursue them any further.

However, the most telling part of this whole tale to me is the fact that when it was all said and done, they gave total credit for their great victory to God. It could indeed be argued that they saved themselves by their excellent strategies, but the Nephites knew better. They knew that it was the Lord their God who had delivered them from the hands of their enemies. And if you think about it, we can attribute everything good that we do to the Lord. For the Lord blessed us with life, He created us and gives our bodies life that we might survive in this mortal experience. I know that anytime I do something great, I always thank Him for His help. Even in college I used to thank Him after a test for helping me to remember the things I had learned. After all, D & C 59:21 states that in nothing is God offended save those who confess not His hand in all things. I take that statement very literally. We are our God's creations, our good works are His.

It is an important lesson to learn however that we should be involving God in our lives much more than we currently do. At least for most of us it's much more than we currently do. Elder Bednar taught in a recent conference that our morning prayer should be the spiritual creation of our day and we should go through our day with a prayer in our hearts. Imagine how much better we will behave if we have a prayer constantly in our hearts? When we invite the Lord into our day and make Him feel welcome, our lives will change. That I can promise you. You will behave differently because you will feel His presence near you, like He is looking over your shoulder throughout the day. That is my challenge to each of you, invite Him into your life, just for a day, and see what a difference it makes. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Gadianton Robbers go to War

Today I read 3 Nephi 3. This chapter has always fascinated me. For starters, the leader of the Gadianton Robbers. If has always amused me that he would take the time to write a letter to the chief judge of the land and ask for the people's surrender. I always wonder if he was worried he wouldn't be able to take over the lands himself or what his reasoning was for doing this.

Maybe it was divine intervention? The reason I say this is because in the end of chapter 2 it states that the Nephites were slowly being taken over by the Gadianton robbers in warfare and maybe the Lord softened the leader's heart to give the Nephites time to save themselves? The other reason I can think of is laziness. I mean if you really think about it, despite what they tell themselves, the true underlying reason behind people joining the Gadianton robbers or a life of crime in this day and age, is laziness. They don't want to work for what they need or want, so they become criminals and take it by force and whatever other means necessary. So maybe this is just another way of laziness for the Robbers, they didn't want to spend the energy necessary to take over the lands they wanted to rule.

Whatever the reason, they did not come on "the morrow month" as the Robbers threatened, but rather if I am reading the dates right, the Nephites spent 2 years preparing themselves. We don't know the month Lachoneus received the letter from the Robbers in the 16th year, but we do know that his own proclamation was not until the latter end of the 17th year, so it was at least 1 year, and the first verse of the next chapter tells us that the Robbers did not actually come until the 18th year. So the Robbers did not even hold true to their threat. However, I DO believe in that case it was divine providence that held them back.

The Nephites in the latter end of the book of Helaman had spread from sea to sea, north to south and east to west. That is a LOT of people. And I cannot imagine it was a quick walk, especially with cattle, from all their settlements to the land of Zarahemla. This is another example of the Lord taking care of his people. I also love that the leaders of the Nephites were not coerced into going after the Robbers in their own lands. They knew that to receive the protection of the Lord they needed to defend their families, not go on the offensive.

It must have been an interesting experience having all the Nephites in one location. I often wonder just how many square miles they covered being all together like that? I wonder if there were more than a million of them and things like that. But that is just my idle wonderings and have no real bearing on anything. This chapter also makes me think of the gathering of Israel and the trek westward in our own day and age when the Saints fled Illinois heading to Utah.

The important parts of this chapter to me though are the leaders of the Nephites and how successful they were in helping their people overcome the challenges of their day and in getting them to repent. It always makes me re-evaluate how much I pay attention to our own leaders, especially President Monson, our Prophet. I always feel a redoubled desire to follow his counsel when I read this chapter, and I hope you do too. Until tomorrow.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Same Old Song and Dance

Today I read 3 Nephi 2, which for all intents and purposes, is nothing we haven't seen at least 3 times before in the Book of Mormon. It is a scary time in their lives though I am sure. As I read the words and picture that these are real people it actually makes me shudder to think what these poor righteous Nephites and Lamanites had to put up with.

It says that the Gadianton Robbers were so bold as to be taking over cities. At least here in America, organized crime has never been so bold, not even during it's high point in the 1930's. I cannot imagine the state of mind these poor righteous had to deal with that the wicked were so wicked that they would just openly attack cities like this. It's really a very scary thought.

It is a neat idea though that one can become jaded to anything. At the beginning of the chapter it says that the people were getting less and less impressed with signs and wonders from Heaven. It does not say the signs and wonders stopped, it says the people became less and less impressed. Can you imagine how many signs these people would have to see for them to actually get to the point when they didn't even care about a miracle? The only thing I can even compare it to is if human beings were suddenly able to start flying without assistance. Yes, for the first year or so that would be an amazing thing and it would totally blow your mind. But after that first year it would become common place and not really anything special.

I remember a conversation I had with my Dad once about how the Holy Ghost communicates with our spirits and it leaves a more permanent impression on us than even if the Savior himself were to appear unto us. At first I did not really believe him or understand what he was talking about. But the older I get and the more miracles I see in my own life and in the lives of others and how people are just unimpressed with the miracles in their lives I see how that would be possible.

One last fun little musing for the day. Unlike Alma, that it was made known he had been translated, Nephi the elder departed out of the land and no one knew where he had gone too. He was apparently young enough that no one worried if he had died, at least not the way Mormon writes. And I would think the righteous of the church would have been told if Nephi had been translated or not. So where did he go? Well, it is just a theory of course but my Dad and I have actually long believed that he was one of the 3 wise men who came to see the Savior. The timing fits. Based on the language of Mormon he was not an old man, and no one knew where he went. We will of course never know until this life is over, but it's always fun to speculate. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Sign is Given

Today I read 3 Nephi 1, where the Savior is born. This chapter has always been interesting to me. For one thing, in my personal thoughts, the Nephites who believed the prophets at this period of time are the only ones who really know he meaning of the word peer pressure to me. I have never really understood peer pressure. But then again, as I said yesterday, and as my wife likes to point out, I'm really not like other people. I have never understood the idea of doing something just because other people want you to do it.

Now there are friends of mine that would argue otherwise. For example, I have a friend that would probably swear on his death bed that I only served a mission because my father wanted me to. The funny thing is, he is right but he's referring to the wrong Father. I served a mission because it was a commandment of the Lord. But I make no secret of the fact that I really, really did not want to serve a mission at first. In fact I didn't really catch the spirit of my mission until the first Monday in the mission field. But once I caught the spirit of it, I loved what I was doing and I loved my mission and will tell any young man who has doubts to go and do and you will never regret it.

However, it might be hypocritical of me, but I personally feel that anything that gets you to do the right thing is a good thing. I mean, even if you do the right thing for the wrong reason it's a start right? If you can start on the path, whatever the reason, as long as you change your heart and start doing it for the right reason at some point. As I sit here and think on this though, I think I am changing my mind. I can think of several reasons that are not good for doing something that is right. The story of Cain and Abel quickly comes to mind. Cain offered a sacrifice to the Lord because Satan told him to do it. He was doing the right thing but for a very wrong reason and the Lord did not accept his sacrifice.

So I was wrong it seems. I know that the attitude with which we do things matters of course, after all we all know the scripture that tells us not to do things grudgingly or we might as well not do them at all. We are getting very far afield from where we started though. These righteous Nephites in my opinion are some of the few in this world who can really say anything about peer pressure. I mean, can you imagine being told to renounce your beliefs or you will be killed? Now, I know that some people have indeed been told that before and I can only imagine. Now, if you have an eternal perspective and realize that this life is a mere blip on the eternal radar then it really is no choice anyway. But I can tell you that your thoughts and opinions really change when you have a wife and family to care for. I remember before I was married I never worried about my house being broken into. When my wife and daughter are visiting my in-laws I never worry about leaving my house during the day. But when they are home and I leave them there, I worry about it, sometimes constantly.

The difference is I now have something to lose. Something more precious to me than my own life. So I can empathize with those poor Nephites. Of course, it is obvious to me that it is no coincidence that the very day the unbelievers chose to put the believers to death is the very day they were going to be put to death. The scriptures teach us that the Lord will try His people to see if they will be faithful in all things. We all need to learn who we really are and if we really will serve God no matter what. God already knows what we will choose, but we don't, not until we are put in that situation and have to choose between that which is most important to us, and what God wants us to do.

A final thought on this chapter. I have to wonder at the sheer idiocy of some of the Nephites. In verse 22 it says that Satan sent lyings among the people so that they would not believe those signs. I'm sorry but the caliber of individual who can believe the lyings of Satan after witnessing all of that just makes me wonder. I mean that is a person who almost wants to be damned they are so dumb. Thankfully the scriptures say that those who disbelieved the signs were very, very few in number. But as sad as it is that there were people who would not believe the signs at that time, there are still those in our day that won't believe signs and wonders either, despite them being in plain sight. They are dismissed as coincidence. Let me assure you that there are no coincidences in this life. Only divine providence. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Way People Think

Today I read Helaman 16, the end of Samuel's prophecies and the last year before Christ was born. I have noticed something these last 2 days. My wife and I also read the Book of Mormon to our new daughter and we are still in 1 Nephi but we read a portion where Laman and Lemuel sound much like the Nephites of this era.

It has always seemed so strange to me that the Nephites can be so recalcitrant. But then again it always is hard to believe when I across ridiculously stubborn people. But I realized something today. I don't know about the rest of you, but until I met my wife, throughout my whole life I have believed and acted upon said belief that people are generally like me. And today as I was reading the last chapter in the book of Helaman I had the thought that maybe everyone does that.

The reason I think that maybe I am not alone in believing that maybe everyone believes other people are generally like them too is because the wicked of the Nephites in this chapter start saying absolutely ridiculous things, and if they really stopped to examine the situation they would probably realize that they are being ridiculous with such thoughts but most people, including myself, don't stop to think about such things and just assume others are like them.

The reason that the Nephites, the wicked ones at least, were so convinced that the righteous Nephites would lie to them in order to subject them to "bondage" and servitude is because that is exactly what they desire to do to the righteous Nephites if given the opportunity. The unrighteous Nephites DID in fact want to "work some mysterious art" that would bring the rest of the Nephites into bondage, because that is what they desire, power.

Now, the reason I think most people believe everyone else is just like them, is because it helps people tolerate themselves. I am mostly speaking about the unrighteous. It is a lot easier to live with yourself if you steal things by saying to yourself if others were in your position they would do the same. That is my thought anyway since I have not been in that situation. But if you don't tell yourself such things, then you are forced to deal with the harsh reality that you are a sinner and in some cases a really wicked, maybe even evil, person. In my particular case, I was more giving people the benefit of the doubt, thinking to myself that certain things could never happen because people are not that dumb. Like for example, the first time I saw the movie "Live free or Die Hard" and the scene where all the lights turn green at the same time I thought to myself that people would not just rush off despite the fact that the other lanes were also clearly moving. In my mind people are like me and would see that other cars were also moving and would wait. But I was forced to concede that in fact most American's would in fact go anyway thinking they had the green light and were in the right and the rest of the world be darned.

Hopefully no one is offended by my candor. My intent is not to offend but rather to help others understand how the Nephites could possibly believe that the righteous Nephites would ever try and trick them into believing something. It is because that is what they themselves would do in the situation. And as I can attest it is a very hard thing for one to think outside their own box and realize that others don't think like them, or in my case almost no one seems to think exactly like I do, not even my wife. It's a little disconcerting to discover you are not normal but are in fact quite different from the average person. It's kinda fun though.

Now we are reaching the really neat part of the Book of Mormon, the birth of the Savior and then his death and visit to the Nephites. 3 Nephi has 30 chapters in it, so it will take us 1 month to read it together and I look forward to each and everyday as we read about our beloved Savior together. Hopefully you do too. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Lord Chasteneth who He Loves

Today I read Helaman 15, I can still remember when I learned the principle that Samuel teaches the Nephites in this chapter, that the Lord chastens those He loves. I was in college, attending BYU - Idaho at the time and I read that verse. I remember it struck me like a thunderbolt.

I can remember being a child and my parents would not let me do certain things that I wanted to do and saying what just about every child says in those situations, that if my parents loved me, surely they would just let me do this thing. I don't even remember any of the things that were so important and caused all the drama. I wonder if every person when they get older looks back on their childhood with chagrin and wonders what was wrong with me back then?

Anyway, as every parent well knows, chastening is an act of love. We chasten out of love because we want to correct poor behavior. The parent spanks the child who tries to play in the street out of concern. The parent scolds the child who tries to touch the bright red stove top out of fear. The parent grounds the teenager who stayed out too late because they are worried. And I could go on and on. To children this all just looks like parents being over protective and not trusting the children. Nothing could be farther from the truth in most cases.

The purpose of chastening is to improve behavior. If the parent in question did not care about the child, then improving the behavior would not be one of the parent's goals and no chastening would take place. But our parents do love us in most cases and the wise parent knows that being strict with the child is necessary. A parent who cares about their child's future knows the worst thing they can do is give their child everything the child wants. We have all heard the term tough love. It is a very apt statement. Sometimes the best thing for the children is to those things the child are sure will "kill" them.

Heavenly Father knows all of this too. He knows that the worst thing He can do for us is to say yes to every prayer we offer. He knows that in order to help us grow we need trials that push us and make us stronger. He knows that, as hard as it is, the best thing right now is to wait and be patient because what we truly need, and want if we only knew it, is just around the corner.

It can be hard thing to reconcile in our own minds, but we really only chasten those we love and want to grow. As we've said before, those who do not chasten their children either do not love them, or have a very incorrect interpretation of what love is and are for sure NOT preparing their children for the future. I'm sure such a statement would get me tarred and feathered by some, but it is the hard truth. If a parent gives in every time and gives their child everything, they are creating a VERY unreal expectation for their children and are not preparing their child for the future and that child is going to have a very hard life.

Such parents are confusing, for lack of a better term, short-term love for long-term love. They are only focusing on the hear and now and "proving" to their child that of course they love them, look at all they give them. The wise parent knows that such childhood storms will pass and the best thing they can do for the child is focus on their long-term future and prepare them for what is down the road and I am sure it is a very hard thing to do, but the rewards for such true love for ones child are eternal! Until tomorrow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Prophecies of Samuel

Today I read Helaman 14, Samuel's prophecy concerning the Savior's birth and his death. This chapter also has Samuel teaching the Nephite's why the Savior's death was necessary, something they should have already known since it had been taught to them before. But I have found in my life that when a person lives a life a wickedness, they forget, or lose the light and knowledge that they once had. I have seen this in my own life with a friend who was raised in the church but lived a life of sin for most of their life and then came back to the church. They had almost no knowledge of things and had to start over.

There are many, many interesting points in this chapter. For starters, the prophecy of the Savior's birth how there would be a day and a night and a day with no darkness. I have no idea how this was accomplished. Especially considering it only happened on this side of the world. The eastern hemisphere where the Savior was actually born did not experience this. So we can conclude that it was not the new star that appeared since that star was seen in Israel also.

Secondly, I don't think Heavenly Father gets nearly enough credit for the new star. Do you realize just how far in advance that star had to be created and placed into orbit for it to start shining at the exact moment of the Lord's birth? If there ever was a doubt in any believer's mind that God knows the end from the beginning, a short session of pondering on this star and what it actually represents should dispel those doubts immediately. We also don't know if that star is still around or if it only shown for a few days/years. We are not told. For all we know it could still be a star in our sky.

Another interesting thought that comes from this verse is when Samuel is talking about the Lord's death. He mentions that the earth's plates are all one at that time but they would be broken up upon his death. If this is true, it begs the question, did they have earthquakes before the Savior's death? Because earthquakes are caused by the movement of the earth's plates. Well if they were all one mass before His death, could they move? And if they couldn't move then they couldn't cause earthquakes, right? Just food for thought.

A final thought, both in the Bible and again here, it could just be the way it is written but it is very confusing to me. The way it is written in this scripture makes it seem like the graves opening up and the saints appearing unto many, happen before the three days of darkness and the Savior's resurrection. Even in the Bible it makes it sound like that is the way it happened. However, we know from the other scriptures that this is not the case. We know that the Savior was resurrected first and then the righteous who have gone before were resurrected afterwards. Just another interesting tidbit from this chapter.

This chapter really is quite neat and deserves a thorough reading because it contains so much doctrine and teaches so much. I did not delve into it in this entry because all the doctrine has been dealt with in other entries in my blog and also that is not what I felt impressed to write about this time. Perhaps the next time I read this chapter I will feel impressed to focus more on the doctrine. It will of course really depend on my frame of mind/spirit and what is needed in my life. That is the great thing about the scriptures, you can read them 100 times and they can teach you 100 different things depending on your needs when you read them. And it always makes for an interesting read. Happy reading! Until tomorrow.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saved by the Righteous

Today I read Helaman 13, the first chapter in Samuel the Lamanites prophecies to the Nephites. Samuel was one of the Lamanites who was converted to the truth and was very faithful. He was sent to the Nephites and was cast out of their cities but the Lord commanded him to return and give them His message. So he climbed a wall and proceeded to prophecy to them.

Part of his message to them was to point out to them how unrighteous they were at this time. He mentions that the prophets who are sent to them they kill and cast out and say they have a devil. But if one comes along who says it's ok to do what you want and it is not a sin, then they hail as a prophet and give him money. It really reminds me of the scripture that says wo unto them who call good evil and evil good. This really was the state the Nephites were in at this time.

Samuel also told them that the only reason they were currently being spared was because of the righteous and if there ever came a day when the wicked would cast out the righteous, then there would be nothing to stop the Lord from pouring out His wrath upon them. This thought really does comfort me. I know that is kind of morose, but really, it gives me hope. There is a lot of evil going on in this world and it saddens me when I see it and when I look at it. But when I realize that there are still righteous people in the world, it makes me not quite so sad or scared.

This is a pattern the Lord has kept for many thousands of years too. When the Lord wanted to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, he told Abraham that he would spare the city if Abraham could find 10 righteous people inside of it. Sadly, those two cities were so corrupt, that they could not even find 10 righteous people between the 2 cities. That is really quite pathetic and really sad if you think about it. I know we rag on New York and Los Angles all the time for how rude the people can be and for how unrighteous city life sometimes is, but those two cities are still full of righteous people in addition to the very unrighteous. I feel confident we could find at least 1000 righteous people in each city!

Today at church we talked about Elder Nelson's recent Conference talk about being a good member missionary and one of the things Elder Nelson spoke about was creating a profile on I did that this afternoon and am pleased that with each new invention it becomes easier and easier to share the Gospel with the world. Sadly, Satan always has his counterfeit and it is just as easy for him to use these wonderful inventions in order to spread his "gospel" also. That is why it is so important for us to make sure that we are taking advantage of all the opportunities that are available to us to be good examples to those around us, to be the best people we can be and to make sure that we are doing our part to make the world a better place to live in.

I get saddened by all the evil in the world these days and it's only going to get worse according to the prophecies and the scriptures. We have to do what we can in our own sphere of influences to remind people of all that's good and descent in the world. As we do this, we will be amazed at how much good we can accomplish in His name. I hope each of you will also create a profile on and do your part to spread the "good news" of Jesus Christ and help make this world a better place for all of us! Until tomorrow.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mormon's Monologue

Today I read Helaman 12, where Mormon takes time out from his narrative of the Nephites to give observations on mankind and on God and His nature. We have already talked about most of this before today, and it is nothing new in our day and age.

The part of this chapter which never ceases to catch my interest, just as it does in Alma 30 when Alma is talking to Korihor, is Mormon's knowledge of astronomy and the planetary motions. There's absolutely no reason why the Nephites should not have had this knowledge, it's just very interesting to me when I see a culture have knowledge of sciences that were "lost" during the dark ages. I honestly wonder as I sit here, how many times astronomy has been "discovered" by cultures since Enoch. Enoch is the first one to really learn about the heavens that I am aware of, although it is possible that Adam knew about them too, we just aren't told.

That brings up interesting speculation which I won't dwell on long because it is not the purpose of this blog but I think is fun nonetheless. Are we really the most advanced civilization that has ever been on this earth? Whether you believe in evolution which puts the human race timeline at millions of years, or a Christian which puts time starting around 4000 B.C., that's still a LOT of time and I find it hard to believe that discoveries that truthfully only took less than 200 years were never discovered by anyone else in all that time. My personal thoughts are we are re-discovering a lot of things over again, similar to our re-discovery of astronomy.

In this chapter Mormon laments the natural man and how he is an enemy to God. He does not use that terminology but that is what he is saying. And as I have said before I used to wonder how the Nephites in just a matter of years could turn their backs on the Lord and go back to their evil ways, and then I saw it happen with my own eyes after September 11, 2001. It is a sad commentary on our society that most of our nation is carnal, sensual and for some, devilish. I don't know what is worse to me, the fact that so many people are that way, or the fact that so many of them enjoy it!

I think that is what disturbs me the most, the fact that our nation is full of "natural men" and they enjoy being that way. There is no drive in them to be better, to be more than they currently are, they see nothing wrong with their lifestyle. Most people would not say this, but this is the way I feel, we are a nation of alcoholics. Most people only use that term for someone who cannot control their drinking of liquor, but I look around me and I see a nation of people who cannot stop drinking liquor. It actually disgusts me how when my wife and I go out to eat together, the waiter/waitress automatically assumes we will be drinking an alcoholic beverage, as if that were the only choice! I do not wish to dwell on this topic but I can understand Mormon's frustration with his fellow man.

I hope, as Mormon did before me, that we can all shake off the natural man and come to rely on the arm of Jehovah more fully and become better saints and learn to take true enjoyment in living the Gospel. Until tomorrow.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Sealing Power is Used

Today I read Helaman 11, where Nephi uses the sealing power the Lord has granted to him. As I was pondering this morning reading this chapter, I remembered what it was about and I was thinking about it. In this chapter the Nephites begin a war which goes one for a couple of years, and Nephi asks the Lord to send a famine in the land.

I was pondering this morning before my reading just why Nephi would ask the Lord to send a famine when they were already killing themselves with the war. The answer came to me during my reading. When people, especially men, start fighting, the adrenaline starts pumping and they generally do not have much capacity for rational thinking at that point. Thus one can conclude that if the Nephites were to continue to fight their war, they would not remember the Lord their God but rather just keep remembering the unreasoning anger towards each other until they were destroyed. We see this happen not once but twice in the Book of Mormon, with the Jaredites and the Nephites at the end of their civilization.

It is rare that a war will stir up people's remembrance to the Lord, especially when so many of the wars are fought in His name, or as His will, Crusades anyone? However, a famine, now that will stir up the people to remember the Lord their God and to repent of their ways and cause the people to repent of their sins. And it truly did, it worked exactly like Nephi wanted it too, and for a number of years they were righteous again. But then, sure enough the people started getting wicked again.

I've always found this chapter to be interesting because it talks about the Nephites and Lamanites sending armies into the hills and mountains to try and destroy the Gadianton Robbers and how they were unsuccessful. I have always wondered how that could be, and then about 3 weeks ago I was driving from Indiana to Utah with my wife's family and we were in Wyoming and I was looking out at the landscape and I could easily understand who whole armies of robbers could hide in those hills and never be found or use them to their advantage and kill the armies being sent against them even given the high visibility in areas like that. I pointed out my observation to my father-in-law and he commented on much the same thing. It's not so hard to believe when confronted with an area where it is possible to hide for years and never be found.

Sadly though, this chapter shows not only the repentance but also the return to wickedness to the point that in only 10 years the people where just as wicked as when they had started. We have already talked about how that is possible in a previous post and how actually in most cases a society can go from extremely righteous to wicked in a very, very short amount of time. Mormon actually examines this very concept in the next chapter.

It has been years, even thousands of years since a prophet used the sealing power to bind the heavens, that we know of. Today we use it for much more happy purposes of eternal marriage, for which I am very, very grateful because it made possible my marriage to my wonderful companion. I am forever grateful to my Father in Heaven for making it possible to have this wonderful woman by my side, not just for this life, but for eternity. I hope you treasure your eternal companion too if you are so blessed to have one. May we all heed President Monson's Sunday Morning talk from this past October General Conference and be grateful for what we have, and not focus on what we don't have. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nephi is Given the Sealing Power

Today I read Helaman 10, where Nephi is given the sealing power. You know, it just amazes me that after all they have now witnessed in the space of just a few hours, coupled with the fact that Nephi is being carried about in the Spirit from multitude to multitude, that people still would have hard time believing in what he is saying. I mean that just blows my mind!

This chapter is mostly known for the fact that Nephi is given the sealing power in this chapter. The sealing power of course is the power to bind things on earth, as well as in heaven. It is the power with which Elijah sealed the heavens and there was no rain for 3 years. It is the power by which husband and wife are joined for eternity in the holy temple.

The phrasing in this chapter when the Lord gives him the sealing power is very telling to me. The Lord in verse 5 tells Nephi that the Lord knows that he will not ask anything that is contrary to His will. Can you imagine if you were told this by the Lord himself? I would be in awe to be told that He knew that whatever I asked of Him, He knew it would be the same as His desire. I can only imagine being so in tune with the Spirit that I only desired that which the Lord desired. I can one day hope to get so righteous and get my wants and desires so in tune.

I am a firm believer that we cannot surprise the Lord. I mean, He has already told us that all is before Him, from eternity to eternity. I do believe that He knows exactly what we are going to do and how we are going to react even before we do. I think trials that we go through are more meant to help us learn about ourselves. I cannot remember how said it this last General Conference, but one of the speakers mentioned that our trials and tests are not when character is developed, it is when character is revealed. I believe it was Boyd K. Packer that said it and how right he was. I was told once as a teenager that it is how we act when we think no one is watching that our true self is revealed. That is when we "let our hair down" and behave as we really are.

So I think Nephi needed to hear the Lord say that Nephi would never desire anything contrary to His will because we all need that affirming voice. The Lord knew it, but Nephi needed to learn just how much he had grown. It is very similar in my opinion to when Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac to the Lord. Those are trials that are meant to reveal our character to ourselves. We will all have our own trial of faith, sometimes many of them, in this life. Hopefully we will find what we wish to find and that we choose the Lord in our times of need and give Him what He asks for. Trust me when I say it will not be easy and might very well be the hardest thing you ever do, and it WILL make you question your faith. Hopefully we learn what we need to the first time and do not need to learn it a second time! :) Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Uncircumcised of Heart

Today I read Helaman 9, the very detailed prophecy of Nephi that he uses to prove his innocence to the people of Nephi and identify the murderer of the chief judge. I've always liked this chapter because it is very rare that you get to read such a detailed prophecy, in fact I am not sure that you ever really get to read one quite as detailed and specific as this one is.

In fact in my own life I think the closest I can think of to so much detail is an experience from my mission. I remember when I was a district leader I had to interview a young woman for baptism. She had all the right answers and knew what to say but at one point during the interview, she got a little hesitant and I could tell that she had a question for me. So I asked her what was on her mind and she mentioned that Elder Rhodes and all the other missionaries including me, kept saying that we know the Gospel is true, and she wanted to know how she too could know. So we talked about faith and I asked her if she believed it was true. She said she wanted to believe it was true and I told that was enough and we then read from Alma 32 that just having the desire to believe is enough to start with. We kept talking and I felt impressed to promise her something. I told her that if she would pray, that very night and I even gave her the words to pray, that God would hear her, and answer her, and then she too could know it was true. She thanked me and promised me she would and we closed the interview. The next day was her baptism and I did not get a chance to talk to her until after her baptism but when I did and she saw me she got the biggest grin on her face and I asked her if what I had told her was right. She said that yes, all my words had come true and she now knew for herself.

That is the closest I have ever seen in my personal life to such a clear cut prophecy but even that does not compare to what Nephi did in my opinion. I've often wondered with such clear prophecies does God show them a scene, like a movie, and that is how they are able to describe it in such detail? Or does the Spirit whisper to them exactly what to say? I know in my case it was a thought that popped into my head and because an idea which because a sentence I should speak and I knew it was right.

The other part of this chapter I wanted to discuss was a phrase Nephi uses. He calls the judges who accuse him of being complicit in the murder of the chief judge fools and uncircumcised of heart. That is such a unique phrase. I do not for the life of me have any idea what it actually means though. The one thought that pops into my head is this, and I warn you it will be a tiny bit sexual in nature. When a man is circumcised, they remove the extra skin at the end of his penis and to my understanding, the only real side effect is it increases the sensitivity of the now exposed skin of the penis. With this in mind, we can then conclude that an uncircumcised heart would not be as sensitive as one that is circumcised. Perhaps Nephi is implying that they are too far gone to feel the sensitive promptings of the Spirit and past feeling the things of the Spirit. That was the idea that came to me at least.

The other thought is circumcision was used as part of a covenant between the Hebrews and God to signify their duty to Him and their devotion to Him. Perhaps Nephi is implying that these judges have turned their back on their God and do not perform even the outward portions of the law anymore and are so corrupt that even the most basic of covenants are not kept. Again, I just don't know. But I intend to ponder this phrase some more throughout the day and see what the Lord can teach me about it. Whatever its intended meaning is, we know it is not pleasant since it was used to describe evil men. May we all keep the commandments and follow the prophecies of a prophet, even if they are not as clear cut as Nephi's were. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Fallacy of Men

Today I read Helaman 8. This chapter is a continuation of Nephi speaking to the Nephites from his tower in his garden. This chapter is mainly his astonished musings about how in the world these people can be the way that they currently are.

I have wondered the same thing many times. I do not understand how people can believe ancient prophets but not modern ones. I do not understand how some people can pick and choose what they want to believe when a prophet speaks. Nephi mentions that the people believe the ancient prophets, they have the proof of those prophecies in some instances, such as Jerusalem being destroyed. But they deny that Jesus Christ will be born.

The power of mankind for self deception is incredible. People say that you cannot lie to the man/woman in the mirror, but I scoff at that. People lie to themselves everyday. Anytime people don't want to believe something about themselves they can just lie about it to themselves. They do it everyday. It's a very sad reality. We have already dealt with the concept of how there are more than enough witnesses for any court of law and yet people still want to lie to themselves and say there is no Jesus Christ, because it is easier for there to be no Christ and thus they can rationalize their life easier.

This will not be a long post, for I truly do not like dwelling on such topics overly long. It really is sad how people will believe the most outrageous things in order to avoid the truth. I hope each of us is more concerned with the truth and with believing in Jesus Christ than we are with living an "easy" life. Until tomorrow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Prayer of Nephi

Today I read Helaman 7, where Nephi prays on his tower in his garden and he starts his famous speech to the Nephites. I really feel badly for Nephi in this chapter. He has just spent a large amount of time, I am not sure how much at this point, among the lands of the north and based on what Mormon says he did not have any success there and not only that, but the people of the land he left, who were doing pretty well, are now back to being very unrighteous again and have taken over the government. It is not a fun situation he is in.

However this chapter shows me the true charity of Nephi. Nephi really does love his people. He wants to help them and like Ammon I think he really does fear for the eternal salvation of his people. He is also feeling somewhat discouraged though and feels kinda down in the dumps as is evidenced by the first thing he says, he is upset that he has to deal with it. But can you blame him? I honestly think he is being quite calm about whole situation, I would probably be losing my mind right about now if I were Nephi.

But that is why Nephi is a prophet and I am not. Nephi is more concerned with getting his people back on track than he is bemoaning his fate. Like a true prophet, his prayer is, help me find the strength, not help this to pass. I really feel badly for Nephi because he has to live in such a wicked world, the Gadianton Robbers are out in the open now and have taken control of the government. I can only imagine living in a world that is so openly evil that organized crime has taken over the government and the people do not care. I know some countries are that way according to what I have read, but I could not even fathom living in a country/time like that.

But Nephi does not shirk his responsibilities as a prophet to call his people to repentance. That is another thing that makes a prophet. Nephi is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ and of calling the people to repentance. And the rest of us seem to have trouble even sharing the gospel, let alone calling the members of the church to repentance. We have dealt with the concept before of the judgment and in order to live with God, we have to live the kind of life he would lead and enjoy it. Someone once said the true measuring stick of how converted you are to the gospel is your commitment to sharing it.

We will deal with the rest of Nephi's speech over the next few days but this is strong start. We get a good idea of Nephi's character in the beginning of his speech and learn that he really wants to help these people. He is upset that he has to even speak about this, but his reasons for doing so are pure, he wants to help them, he wants them to repent and that comes through on his speech. I am looking forward to discussing the rest of his talk to his people this week. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Best of times the Worst of times

Today I read Helaman 6, which much like Charles Dickens said in his classic tale, "A Tale of Two Cities", "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." And it truly was. This is a time period of the Nephites and Lamanites when they enjoyed unprecedented peace and prosperity.

This was a period of history when the Nephites and the Lamanites, even though still very much 2 seperate peoples, enjoyed peace with each other and were able to move around freely. To my knowledge, never before since they split into two peoples, and never after, unless they become one people, do the Nephites and Lamanites enjoy such a period of peace. It must have been a great time to live.

I am getting a little ahead of myself here but a funny story that I think fits here better than it will in the later chapters of Helaman, growing up in the church I heard the story of Samuel the Lamanite and his prophecy, but I had such a hard time reconciling the fact that he was a Lamanite and a prophet in my mind. I could not understand how such a thing was possible. I mean, he was a Lamanite afterall! Well, this chapter explains how it was not only possible, but not uncommon as well. This chapter states that there were many, many Lamanite missionaries and I'm sure a number of Lamanite prophets also.

However, like Dickens said in his tale, this was also the worst of times. This is the period of the Nephite/Lamanite history where the Gadianton Robbers gain power and sadly, they never lose it until they are destroyed with the destruction that signifies the death of the Savior some 50 years hence. It really is heart wrenching to read the downfall of this great people. I can relate with Mormon's heartfelt lament at the end of his life as he surveyed the land and what his people had wrought with it. I do not understand why men lust after power.

Power is a fickle thing and only other people can give or allow someone to have power. Power is only yours so long as another person obeys you. We have already touched on this subject in a much earlier post and do not need to revist it. However, I do not understand why it is so addictive to some people. The reason people join an organization like the Gadianton robbers is for the purpose of getting wealth and power. There is no other reason. Even if their original motives are for something else, revenge or to right a wrong or whatever they tell themselves, they join the orginization because they lack the power to do what they desire in their current state.

And I think that is what is most sad of all. They join for some reason that doesn't even really exsist. I was watching a movie on my lunch break at work yesterday called "Blind Side", about a man named Michael Oher. He was a man who was born into poverty and into the slums and by a series of circumstances came to live with a good Christian family that adopted him and took him in. The sad part is he had a friend who did not have so much luck and joined a gang and at the end of the movie his friend is killed. Even sadder for that boy who is killed, it is based on a true story. I do not know his reasons, but I have read and been told that the vast majority of young people, these days, who join gangs do so because they want to belong to something and feel they do not have a family or anywhere else to turn to.

While it may be true that such people do not have a family here on earth, it is very, very sad that there is someplace they can turn to that would bring everlasting peace and happiness if they only knew where to look. But the vast majority of those poor people by the time they take those final steps to join such an orginazation have already been ensnared by Satan and in some cases, have fully given themselves up to him. There is no glory, or happiness to be found in such a life. Not even fleeting happiness. True, eternal happiness comes from a life centered around the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and by living a life of service. That is why Ammon was so happy all of the time. And we can have that joy too if we want.

We don't have to be a full time missionary or devote our entire life to preaching repentance like Ammon, Alma and Nephi did to have true happiness. We can attain the happiness and peace that it brings just as easily by living a life centered in Christ and on giving service. It is the most worthwhile life we can live. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Faith Precedeth the Miracle?

Today I read Helaman 5, one of my favorite chapters. In this chapter, Nephi gives up the judgment seat as did his great-grandfather, Alma, before him so that he can spend the rest of his days declaring repentance unto the people. With his brother Lehi, they went to all the Nephite lands in the south and did convert many of those who had fallen away from the church and been excommunicated. They also helped 8000 Lamanites in the land of Zarahemla convert.

But the majority of the chapter is about their travel to the Lamanites in the land of Nephi. They were taken and put into prison and when the Lamanites came to put them to death, something miraculous happened. Now, I want to spend some time discussing what happened because we all know that miracles do not bring true conversion. We see ample evidence of this in the New Testament and in the early days of the church. People who "convert" based upon a miracle do not stay true through their trials generally speaking. I am sure there are some exceptions. However, these Lamanites are given a very miraculous experience and they not only convert, but stay true for the rest of their lives as far as we are aware.

So why the difference? We are taught that faith precedes the miracle, so why did these Lamanites get to behold something like this and why were they able to stay converted through thick and thin afterwards? Of course I only have my opinions and the feelings I get from the Spirit but I have some answers. First, I believe the miracle at first was not directed at the Lamanites, rather I think it was to give Nephi and Lehi courage based on the way the scripture reads. They DID have faith already and it seems based on what is written that they were a little discouraged and maybe a little afraid of what was going to happen to them. So I do think that this miracle was as much for their benefit as it was for the Lamanites benefit if not more so.

Secondly, and this is most important, the miracle did not covert the Lamanites, the Spirit did. A careful reading of this chapter and this section will reveal that the Lamanites were not in fact converted by the miracle, they were in fact, from the way I read it, terrified by it. As I would be! I mean, think about what is happening here? You go in to your prisoners and the room is on fire but they are standing in the middle of it with nothing wrong, then all of the sudden the room is covered in darkness and they hear a voice speaking to them but can't see anyone. That honestly sounds pretty terrifying to me.

But it is NOT what converted them. The voice does tell them to repent and by the way they describe the voice, as a still voice that pierced them to the center, we know that they are feeling the Spirit at this point. But that is not all. There is one among them who has an idea of what is going on, a man named Aminadab who is familiar with the church and its teachings. He looks over at Nephi and Lehi and sees them conversing with angels and points it out to the other Lamanites who then ask what is going on. His answer is the key: "You must repent, and cry unt the voice, even until you have faith in Christ".

THAT is what converted them. They prayed and asked for faith to be given to them. In the last General Conference, Bishop Richard C. Edgley taught that faith must be sought after and developed. That is why Alma taught the Zoramites that even if all you can do is a have a desire to believe it is enough to start. These men were given the miracle, to get them to act, and ask for faith in Christ so that they might repent of their sins. And they did! That is why they were converted, not because of the miracle, but because they asked for faith in Christ and afterwards they repented of their sins.

And that is why it is so hard to become converted from a miracle, most people do not put in the effort afterwards to develop that faith. That is why it generally works the other way around, that faith comes first, then the miracle after the faith is sufficient. It CAN work the other way around as evidenced in this chapter, but it is really rare. Another really cool thing from this chapter is Aminadab references Alma's mission to the Zoramites years and years before to the Lamanites and he specifically mentions Zeezrom. To me that is very cool to see Zeezrom was so converted and turned his life around so completely that he is remembered 40 years later by descendants of those he once taught. We never really hear about him again after his conversion except to know that Alma took him with them to the Zoramites to preach, and it is nice to know that his conversion was not a fleeting thing but it was genuine. I like hearing that. It makes me happy.

So, faith does precede the miracle, however, in certain circumstances, miracles can also precede faith, but it is so hard to develop faith from a miracle, apparently, that it doesn't happen very often and generally if the miracle happens first, the individual does not take the time to develop the faith necessary. I'm personally glad I was able to develop faith before I started seeing miracles in my life. I have never seen anything like what is described in this chapter, but miracles happen quite often if you know where to look for them. We just for some reason ascribe them to coincidence or medicine these days. We should really be giving God His due for how much He does for us. I try to and I hope you will too. Try and see His hand all around you. It can make all the difference in the world. Until tomorrow.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Spirit does not dwell in Unholy Temples

Today I read Helaman 4, a clear example of what I was talking about at the beginning of the war chapters, here is a war that I believe actually even takes longer than the war of Amalickiah and Ammoron, but Helaman only gives it 1 chapters worth of consideration. It makes you wonder what is so special about that war compared to all the others that the Nephites had?

However, the main focus of this chapter is the Spiritual problems that the Nephites are having during this time. The entire issue they are having during this time of their history is completely due to the fact that they are wavering in righteousness. If they were more concerned with living a righteous life then this wouldn't be happening according to Mormon.

It honestly reminds me of a thought that I had last night while driving home. I have been listening to the October General Conference as I drive around these days and last night I was listening to President Boyd K. Packers talk from the Sunday session and I had a thought as I was driving home. Now that I think about it, I'm honestly not sure if it was his talk or President Monson's Priesthood talk, but one of them talked about the fact that to return to live with God requires a life of righteous living and one single great even won't cut it. We know that is true because it's all about what WE want and what kind of person we are, as we have discussed many, many times on this blog already.

However, the thought that was added on to it last night was this: only those that are comfortable living the kind of life that the Savior lived are going to be comfortable in His presence. I must be tired, I remember now, it WAS President Packer because it was the part of his talk where he talked about having the agency to throw away our life or preserve it unto the Lord. We need to get to the point in our life where when we are doing nothing else, we desire to go to the temple, or to do missionary work, or visit the sick and afflicted in the ward, etc. To be true disciples, of Jesus Christ, we need to get to the point where those are the things we desire to do. It's not enough to just do them, they need to be what we WANT to do.

Once we get to that point, we won't want to sin anymore. We will shake at the very appearance of evil, as did Nephi. We will cleanse the inner vessel so that the Spirit may find purchase in us. That phrasing has always made me smile. It always gives me the thought of the Spirit really is a ghost like thing that flits through us with a Spiritual hook, and if our innards are not cleaned off enough then the Spirit has no place to "hook on" to us and floats in and then back out of us. But my crazy imagery aside, the fact remains that the Spirit cannot dwell in us if are not worthy of its companionship.

And the only way to be worthy of its companionship is to do that which is right, and the only way to do that which is right all the day long is to change our very nature, as we have discussed many times before. This chapter is really just a reiteration of what has already been taught to us in the Book of Mormon a few times before already. The great news though is, just like with everything else worthwhile in our lives, the Lord will help us and help preserve us. We are not left alone in this fight and what's even better, God WANTS us to succeed. He is going to do everything He can for us. We just have to ask Him for that help, and it is ours. May we all humble ourselves enough to ask. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Astonished beyond Measure

Today I read Helaman 3, a very interesting chapter. This chapter marks the start of the migration of the Nephite people, or some of them anyway, to the land Northward and it specifically mentions that the people in the land northward dwelt in houses of cement of tents. That would be a really interesting explanation for why the Indians were at one with nature if it stemmed from the fact that they were trying to let every tree grow from the beginning.

Nevertheless we have already talked about this and about my thoughts on it. We are also introduced to Nephi and Lehi for the first time in this chapter, with Nephi filling in the judgment seat after Helaman dies. The interesting part to me from this chapter has always been, the part where it talks about the fact that so many people joined the church that it astonished their priests and teachers beyond measure.

Now there is definitely a joke here that it is not hard to astonish 14 - 17 year old boys, but of course Mormon is not referring to the Aaronic priesthood offices of teachers and priests. No more bad jokes I promise. I think this has to do with the principle of opposition in all things. The Gadianton robbers were starting to come back into the picture and were causing trouble it says, but the government was not aware of them at this time.

I also think it had a lot to do with the disposition of the members of the church at this time. Mormon records that the saints were plagued in particular with pride because of their wealth and the prosperity that they had enjoyed during this time of peace. I've been listening to the most recent General Conference talks as I drive around lately and I heard President Uchtdorf's talk on Pride that he gave in the Priesthood session of conference. It was much akin to President Benson's famous talk on Pride he gave in 1989, in fact President Uchtdorf even referenced that talk several times.

Pride truly is the "original sin" which caused the downfall of Satan and caused him to be cast out of God's presence. It especially bothers me because I see it on an everyday basis in the form of selfishness. I work in the Customer Service world and it sickens me how selfish people in America have become. It is also disturbing at the apparent lack of control, or perhaps worse, lack of concern over people's emotions. I do not understand how people can behave the way they do and look themselves in the eye in the mirror at the end of the day. It just boggles my mind.

But it's all the sin of pride, of putting one's self above everyone end everything else. And it's honestly disgusting to watch and saddening to see. It really does baffle me to see where this is coming from. I can kind of understand why the rising generation has this problem, because they have been handed everything they could ever want on a silver platter with little to no work involved. But what gets me is the people in the generation before me and in my generation that are this way because I KNOW they were not raised this way. But they have allowed pride to creep in, have forgotten the lessons they were taught and have believed all this garbage that the world feeds them that they do in fact deserve whatever it is they want.

How much better we would all be if we all looked at one another as our brother or sister and acted that way? How much nicer would life be if we all cared about each others well being and looked out for one another. The 1950's may have had its share of problems, but I sure do wish we could get back to that sense of community and fellowship that I am told existed. I really do long for those "good old days". Sadly though, as all who have searched the scriptures know, it's only going to get worse. And as I have said before, that is why it is up to us to be a light for all to see and a "city set on a hill". As we do what is right we sill start standing out more and more and it is up to us to not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Intervention of God

Today I read Helaman 2, which is a very short chapter and actually talks mostly about what we discussed yesterday about the Gadianton Robbers. However, there is one other part of this chapter that stands out to me.

I find it interesting that the servant of Helaman just happens to have been out at night, had a proper disguise, found out the robbers plans, just happens to have met Kishkumen on his way into the judgment seat and just happens to have been at the right place at the right time so many times.

I know we have talked in the past about God stepping in and taking a more active role in His children's lives and the power of righteous living so I won't belabor the point and this will be a short post today because there is not a lot to say on it. But as I have mentioned before, I stopped believing in coincidence many, many years ago. I do not think it is a coincidence that the servant of Helaman, the keeper of the records of the church and a very righteous man, was in the right place at the right time, not once, but twice to save the life of Helaman.

Now, of course just because Helaman was a righteous man is not the reason he was spared. We saw in Alma 14 how the Lord allows the wicked to persecute, and even kill the righteous at times. However, the prophets have also taught that a righteous individual will not die before their time, before they have accomplished all the Lord wants them to. So when a righteous man or woman dies we can rejoice knowing that their work is finished and that they have moved on to a place of rest according to Alma.

As I do not think there are any coincidences in this life, the best thing to do is to live a righteous life, find out what it is the Lord would have you do, and do it! That is truly the best insurance on remaining in this life the longest, which most of us quite enjoy I am sure. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Beginning of the End

Today I read Helaman 1, which I like to dub, the beginning of the end for the Nephites. In this chapter, Pahoran dies and 3 of his sons desire the judgment seat. It is sad to me that one of the brothers tries to commit treason and has to be put to death. I think that must have been hard on Pahoran the second to have to put his own brother to death. Perhaps not, we really don't know anything about his character, but I would think it would be difficult.

I am also intrigued by some of the details that are included in the Book of Mormon sometimes. I mean, it is an abridgment so I believe that ever detail was included with care by Mormon and sometimes the choices really intrigue me. For example, the latter half of this chapter includes the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites where the Lamanites come all the way into Nephite lands and attack Zarahemla. And Mormon includes the detail that not only does the Lamanite in charge of the armies kill the chief judge, he includes how he was killed, by smiting him against a wall. I've always found that very odd that Mormon would include it.

It honestly reminds me of a story my wife told me from when she was in the MTC. She said that one day Jeffrey R. Holland came to give a talk and he read a scripture where a certain phrase is repeated, I cannot remember which one, and he had a missionary come up to the podium and asked the missionary if he thought that was a typo. Elder Holland told that missionary that it was NOT a typo and these men who wrote this scripture did so on metal plates with a nail or some other form of writing device to scratch into these metal plates so it was repeated for a purpose.

That is how I feel when I come across something really odd in the Book of Mormon. I have to remind myself that it is there for a reason and I need to find out why that is with the help of the Spirit. Now, a detail like this, I remind myself that Mormon grew up in a time where there was fighting and death everywhere he looked and that may just be his personal character shining through. After all, the stories we tell are colored by our own particular experiences. I would tell the same story much differently than my wife would and vice versa. I still think it's a very odd detail and way to die.

Now, the reason I think of Helaman chapter 1 as the beginning of the end for the Nephites is because it marks the first appearance of the Gadianton robbers. Kishkumen is sent by a band of men to murder the chief judge and when he does it, his fellows enter into a promise to keep it a secret. This is the secret combinations of old that Satan revealed to Cain, that the Jaredites re-discovered and that are currently ravaging our lands also. Historically speaking, once such organizations have entered a society, that society is inevitably destroyed. Some last longer than others, after all, organized crime has been a part of our society for well over a hundred years now and it destroyed the Nephite society, the first time mind you, in a little over 80 years. We have no idea how long the Jaredites lasted after it was first introduced. We don't have time lines for them except for their beginning and their end.

But the fact of the matter is, the Gadianton Robbers spelled the ultimate end of the Nephites. And this is the first time they show up in Nephite history. This chapter always fills me with sadness, because I know what is coming and even though these events happened over 2000 years ago, I feel bad for the righteous of the Nephites, like the people of Ammon, that still tried to live a good life back then and had to live in a world of such evil.

Sadly, we currently live in a world of such evil. The good thing is, that it is not pervasive enough that we are constantly surrounded by it yet. There is much that is good and pure in this life and the evil is confined to certain places. The problem is, like any cancer, it is spreading. That is why we must be the light to shine forth in the darkness. So shine brightly, don't be afraid of your testimony and commitment to Christ. Be not afraid of who you are, and God will recognize you for your efforts at the last day. Until tomorrow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hagoth and the Land Northward

Today I read Alma 63, the last chapter in the book of Alma. Wow, it's been a little over 2 months, but we made it through the book of Alma. This chapter has always been an interesting one to me. It marks the death of Moroni, the leaving of the people in Hagoth's ships, the settling of the land northward and yet another war.

Hagoth we are taught by modern day prophets that the people who went with him eventually found their way to Samoa and Tonga and that they are the descendants of the Nephites who went with Hagoth. I personally think that's really neat. I do wonder if the Lord helped Hagoth with the building and design of his ship. Because Mormon makes it sound like they were built in a manner unfamiliar to the Nephites. I guess we won't know in this life but it is still neat.

This chapter also marks the start of the colonization of the land northward, the land the Jaredites peopled. Now it is interesting to me that while, we are led to believe that the Jaredites eventually inhabited all the land, from sea to sea, the only part that was destroyed was the land northward. I personally believe that is because the land northward is where their final war took place. But I am getting ahead of myself.

There are many people that speculate as to where the land of the Nephites and Lamanites were, well the short answer is America, North, Central and South! At one point, I believe in the Book of Helaman, we are told that they were so numerous that they reached from sea to sea, both east to west and north to south! That sure sounds like it was everywhere to me. However, most people want to know where the city of Zarahemla was, to me it doesn't matter. I DO think that the land of desolation is where Central America is today though.

The reason I think that is in a few more chapters they will talk about the lack of trees and the fact that those people who lived there made cement houses. When the Indians were discovered in what is now the United States of America, to my knowledge they did not live in cement houses, they lived in tepees and had a very nomadic lifestyle. The only Indians I am aware of that lived in cement homes were in Central America. Honestly though it doesn't matter where they were, it's just a fun little aside.

This chapter also has another war that took place that Mormon gives all of 2 verses to it. This is what I meant at the beginning of our reading the war chapters, why was that particular war given so much time in the Book of Mormon when there are plenty of other wars that are only given one verse or maybe one chapter. I think honestly it was because of the men that were involved in the war chapters war, the war of Amalickiah. It was the fact that such a unique hodgepodge of spiritual men were gathered together at that time and there is much we can learn from them.

We will learn the reason one day, for now it is fun to speculate and ponder on it. The Book of Alma has SO much truth to it, it's sad to be done with it yet again, however now we move into the Book of Helaman and ever closer to the birth of the Savior. Until tomorrow.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The End of the War Chapters

Today I read Alma 62, which marks the end of the war caused by Amalickiah and his brother Ammoron. This chapter is full of several principles. For example, this chapter marks the death of Teancum and Helaman. It also shows the wisdom of Moroni in how he conducted the war and how he fought a battle without losing so much as 1 soldier.

Really the most interesting part of this chapter to me, is the amount of Lamanites that after making a promise that they would no longer come against the Nephites to battle, instead of wanting to go back to their own lands, wanted instead to come over and become one with the people of Ammon. That is really surprising to me.

I don't think that all these Lamanites suddenly found religion, although I believe that some of them did, but I think rather that they were tired of the fighting and knew that if they went back home at some point they would be called upon to go to battle again against the Nephites. However, if they went to live with the people of Ammon, then they would never be compelled to go to battle again against the Nephites. That is my thought at least.

The war chapters are an interesting part of the Book of Mormon and as we've read them together and talked about them these past few weeks, I hope that with the help of the Spirit and my insights, I have given some reasons why they are included in a book of scripture. There are very many lessons to be learned from them, not the least of which is to remain true to the faith during times of despair and conflict.

Hopefully as we read the war chapters we will, instead of seeing chapters about nothing but fighting, we can instead read between the lines and find the gospel lessons to be learned in them and apply them to our own lives. Remember, the Book of Mormon is an abridgment of over 1000 years of history. The war chapters are included for a reason! Read them, ponder them, pray over them, and you will find out what you personally need to learn from them. Until tomorrow.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

True Humility

Today I read Alma 61, another one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon. This chapter is Pahoran's reply to Moroni's letter from the previous chapter. The reason it is one of my favorite chapters is because I am in awe of Pahoran and his character. This is the only real insight into who he is as a person that we get, other than he was a righteous man.

It is truly amazing to me how humble he is. Moroni said some really harsh things to him and his only response was that Moroni had censured him, but he is not angry. That is powerful and amazing. Most people I know, including myself, would have been indignant at receiving such a letter. The natural man would have kicked in and before we could be rational about it, we would have gotten angry and protested our innocence.

But Pahoran doesn't do that. He skips right over that phase and goes straight to happiness at the greatness of Moroni and his strength in Christ. That is the part that I find impressive. Even if most people could look past the fact that they were not doing what Moroni was accusing them of doing, they would still be upset. This is humility nigh unto the Savior.

It is also obvious that Pahoran is not a man that delights in bloodshed. I don't know about you, but I would be furious if I were the chief judge and someone took over my judgment seat, and I knew that my fellow men were suffering for it. Yet if he is angry at them, we can't really tell and he does not know if he is correct in wanting to go to battle against them to save the lives of others.

To me that would be a no brainer, but Pahoran is such a good man that he is unsure if it is the right choice. I do not think that is indecision on his part, I think that is charity, the true love of Christ. Fortunately, Moroni was a man who will stamp out evil no matter what and Pahoran trusts his understanding of the Spirit.

I think that is what made this time period so different than any other in the Nephites history. They had such a mix of strong, righteous, Christlike individuals that it was unlike any other time period. It honestly reminds me of the founding of America and the founding fathers. No other period of history for the United States has seen such a mixture of men as that time. So it was with the Nephites. At least as much as we know about anyway.

It is hard, but very worthwhile to develop Christlike attributes like true humility. But they are very worth it. As we pray for help, God will help us. Remember, He wants us to grow to be like He is. And we should want it too. Until tomorrow.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Righteous Anger

Today I read Alma 60, Moroni's letter to Pahoran. This letter again shows the goodness of Moroni, it is nothing compared to tomorrow's reading though of chapter 61, Pahoran's reply to Moroni! My favorite phrase from this letter just because it's fun is when Moroni accuses Pahoran of sitting on his throne in a thoughtless stupor. That just conjures up such a funny image to me.

Anyway, the main part of this chapter that stood out to me is the whole theme of this letter that of righteous anger. We've talked about unrighteous anger before, but we have never talked about righteous anger. Some might question if there is such a thing as righteous anger. I would answer wholeheartedly that there is. The reason I am so confident in saying that is because the Savior got angry at the money lenders. The scriptures say from time to time that God gets angry. If those two beings who are perfect can get angry, then there much be such a thing as righteous anger.

The problem with anger though, is it has a tendency to get away from the person and lead them to do things they would never have done in a more sober frame of mind. Most people cannot stay in control of themselves when they are angry. I am not very good at it. And that is why anger is almost always looked at as a bad emotion. But as we see here in Moroni's letter, anger has its place as long as it can be kept under control.

The problem though, IS keeping it under control. Anger is like a wild or brush fire, it gets out of control really quickly. Moroni though in this chapter does a fantastic job of keeping himself in control and mentions that he does not fear the government and their power, but he fears God and His power. We will see more why this important tomorrow in Pahoran's response.

Now, I am NOT advocating anger at all. I don't think most of us have the temperament to keep ourselves in control. But I am saying that we need to learn to have perfect control over all our emotions. Even Nephi lamented that he did not have enough control over himself and based on what he says, it seems like his anger might have gotten the better of him a few times. We just don't know, but he viewed his anger as a weakness in himself. I am confident that Moroni did not view his anger as a weakness, nor did the Savior.

I think it also makes a HUGE difference what we get angry over. The Savior was angered when he saw how the temple was being used. When sacred things are treated lightly, or being trampled under people's feet, I would say anger is justified. However, angry actions are NOT justified. The Lord does not condone retaliatory actions most of the time, only at His direction is it ok. It is really hard to feel and follow the Spirit when angry.

So I guess my point in all of this is to learn control. As we learn perfect control over ourselves, we will know when it is appropriate to feel anger and when it is not. For the moment, I still am not there and do sin in my anger. But I am working on it and little by little, I am getting there. I hope you are too. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It is easier to maintain the course than to correct it

Today I read Alma 59, a very short chapter in which Moroni becomes angry with the government because of the fact that the city of Nephihah is taken over when it should have easily been fortified by the government. Mormon makes the statement in this chapter that Moroni knew it was easier to maintain a city than it was to retake it.

To me that is a type and shadow for repentance. It is much easier to maintain the course of righteousness than it is to correct it. I remember hearing talks from church leaders cautioning against young men purposefully sinning with the intent that they can repent and serve an honorable mission. I remember such a concept was very, very foreign to me. Who would willingly suffer the agony of true repentance on purpose?

Yes, repentance is a gift from God that we should all take advantage of, but the best way is to never have to use it! I have seen people in my life who made big mistakes and how truly hard it was for them to fully repent. I think of Alma's description to his son Helaman about his own experience with sin and repentance. I think people that have the mentality above, have never had to repent for anything very serious, or they do not truly understand the repentance process.

This type of thought always brings to mind something I heard as a teenager. I believe it was my dad, but I am not for certain, but I remember once having a conversation with someone who made the statement that the true effect of sin in the church is the loss of privileges. Think about it. We don't whip people, we don't mock people, and unless they do something so horrible that we have no choice or don't repent for a long, long time, we don't kick people out of the church. The real punishment in the church is the loss of privileges.

If you sin you cannot enter the temple anymore, if you sin enough you cannot partake of the sacrament or enjoy the use of the priesthood. You also miss out on opportunities to serve and any other blessings the Lord may have given you if you had been worthy to receive them. Now, the Lord can still bless you even while you are sinning and repenting, but it is totally up to Him.

Now, to the natural man, they may say so what? Who cares if that is all that happens to me. They say this because they do not understand the things of the Spirit. They do not have eyes to see or ears o ear as the Savior puts it. They are much like the 16 year old who think they have it all figured out only to find out 10 years later that they knew next to nothing and deeply regret not listening to their parents more. Interestingly enough, even though I never clashed with my parents and never out right rejected their counsel ever, I STILL wish I had listened to them more.

I am positive that is how we will feel when we reach the other side and realize all our Heavenly Father was trying to do for us and we wouldn't let Him. The Lord is prepared to do wonderful things for us if we will only let Him. That is yet another reason it is easier to maintain the course, we won't be unworthy for potential blessings and isn't life so much easier with God's help? Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day to Day Observances

Today I read Alma 58 which ends the letter from Helaman to Moroni about his efforts in the land. When I began reading this chapter I thought for sure the Spirit was going to lead me to talk about the humility of Helaman. That was what I remembered most about this chapter was the fact that even though Helaman and his armies were suffering hunger to the point of starvation, he did not complain about his circumstances.

However, in the last part of the chapter, I read a verse about the stripling warriors and was moved by the Spirit upon reading it. It is the second to last verse, verse 40 and it says that the stripling warriors were "strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day". I think that phrasing is simply wonderful!

What a great way to live your life. It is amazing to me personally. I receive strength by having my wife around, I really do. I find it so much easier to live the commandments, especially the ones I have a challenge with. And having my newborn daughter around only strengthens that resolve in me. So now that I am forced to spend a week without them, I find myself being lethargic "slow to remember the Lord [my] God". Yet I had an experience yesterday that I would like to share.

As I sat down to read my scriptures yesterday afternoon after arriving home, I was being tempted quite sorely to do things that are contrary to the commandments of God, such as watch a rated R movie. The temptations were getting stronger and usually I am not tempted by such things because my wife is around or my daughter is. But they are not here so the temptations were getting worse. I said my prayer to begin my scripture study, and I cannot pinpoint when it happened, but by the time I was done writing yesterday's entry, all of the temptations which had beset me yesterday were completely gone!

I think this phrase stands out to me so much is because I too am trying to be strict in my remembrance of the Lord my God day to day, and I am trying to gain strength from it. The phrasing of the scripture and the recent talk by Elder Bednar in my stake of words in scriptures being important begs the question, what is the difference being daily remembrance and strict remembrance? I personally think that the term "strict" becomes involved when it is a conscious choice we make.

We've all had those periods in our lives where we are just going through the motions. Where, yes we are reading our scriptures everyday, but we are only doing it because we know we are supposed to. Where we pray but our prayers lack faith. And so many more things. I think that in those days, we can be said to be remembering our God day to day. However, think of the difference in your life when you made a conscious choice to really do the things you know you should be doing. I can tell you all that doing this blog and has made a HUGE difference in my life and I NEVER "forget" to read my scriptures anymore. I am still working on the rest of my life and getting it to where I want it to be, but in the area of scripture study, I think I am strict in my remembrance of the Lord my God everyday.

I'll share one final thing with you all today. I remember not long after getting married, as my wife's innate "goodness" began to rub off on me and I began to clean up my act, I was saying my prayers one day. As I was praying I made a choice to ask Heavenly Father something. I asked Him what I can do to increase my spirituality in my personal life. I believe that first time I asked, He led me to understand how I should be reading my scriptures every day. And so I listened and my spirituality grew again. Eventually though, I hit another plateau. So, remembering what happened last time, I asked Him again and I believe that was the time He told me to write in my journal everyday.

This pattern has continued for the past 2 and 1/2 years. Every time I reach a plateau in my spirituality, I ask God what I can be doing better to improve. And every time I have asked, I have gotten and answer. And every time I have gotten an answer, I have put it into effect and it has worked tremendously in my life. The last time, I didn't even have to ask, God knew the thoughts and intents of my heart and knew that I was reaching another plateau and needed help. So He directed me to do this blog. I can't help but wonder what He will have me do next when I finish climbing this hill I am on and reach the plateau above. What will He direct me to do to reach that next mountain top and get a little closer to Him. I truly don't know yet, but I know I will do it. And I know I will be better for it. Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Saved by the Hand of God

Today I read Alma 57, which is a continuation of the letter Helaman wrote to Moroni detailing their trials in the land during this time of war. I am always struck when I read this chapter by the compassion of the Nephites towards the Lamanites. The Nephites had taken so many prisoners that they really could not afford to keep them any longer but instead of putting them to death they instead did their best to keep them alive.

This chapter also shows God's love for the Nephites and how He can save them by His miraculous power. In this chapter, the Stripling Warriors are joined by another 60 of the sons of the people of Ammon and based on the description, they fought an even worse battle than the previous one and they are all again spared. Rightly so, Helaman attributes this to the hand of God.

However, even more than just the sons of Helaman, the Lord prepared a way for the Nephites to be rid of their prisoners and to save them from the Lamanites who were about to overrun them. The Lamanite prisoners upon hearing of the impending Lamanite attack rushed their captors and the majority of them were slain. And the Nephite guards were sufficient in number to repel the Lamanite assault on the city. Some people might call that a coincidence. I call it divine providence.

I stopped believing in coincidence on my mission. Call them what you will, a coincidence, a twist of fate, or any other number of names, I firmly believe everything happens for a reason. If something bad happens to us, I really do believe it is because we have something to learn from it. Take for example my not getting the job with the NSA, which I REALLY wanted. I was really bummed and did not know what to do with myself. However, 3 years later, I met my wife while I was living in Kentucky. If I had gotten the job with the NSA, I would have moved to Baltimore, MD and would not have met my wife.

I could cite countless other examples where what I once thought were really bad things happening to me in my life, turned out to be blessings in disguise. But I will just leave you with this last one. I had always wanted kids as soon as I was married. However, because of reasons I won't go into here, my wife and I were forced to wait 2 years to start our family expansion project. However, I look at my friends who started having kids the same year they were married and I look at how hard they struggle to just get along and I think back to my first year of marriage and how truly hard it was to get along with my wife that first year. And then I think about how easy it is to get along with her now and I truly do thank my Heavenly Father for His help in making us wait to have children.

We don't always see Heavenly Father's reasoning when He does things for and to us, but I promise you that it is there. If we will take a step back and let Him take the drivers seat in our life, you will never be sorry you did. That I promise you. Until tomorrow.

Monday, October 4, 2010

"We do not doubt our Mother's knew it"

Today I read Alma 56, where the 2000 Stripling warriors are introduced. When I was younger I was always convinced that the word stripling meant strong, or mighty or some other such adjective to convey power. It wasn't until my mission that I learned that the word stripling is another word for "youth".

My youthful fantasies shattered aside, this chapter has always been a great example of faith in both God and one's leaders and parents. These 2000 young men told Helaman that their mother's had taught them that if they believed, nothing doubting that God would take care of them. And it is quite possibly the most miraculous instance of God protecting someone here on earth. For sure I think it's one of the largest scales of protection the Lord has ever given.

The courage of these men is inspiring to me. They had never before been in battle and they returned to help their comrades in arms without a moments second thought. I find myself having trouble sharing the gospel, let alone the thought of going into battle when I have never fought anyone before.

I'm reminded of Elder Bednar's visit to our stake. He made a statement that weekend about Faith. He said true faith casts our fear. That if we have faith, we cannot have fear. That to me is really interesting. To me that means that if I am afraid, I don't have enough faith in the Lord, so I really need to go about getting more faith than I currently have. To my knowledge the only way to gain more faith is to pray for it, or have faith promoting experiences. Either way, I do not think faith is something we can gain more of without Heavenly Father's help.

But that is one request I am confident that God will always honor and help with. If we ask, He will give us opportunities to increase our faith. I believe if we ask Him, He will also help us understand how to use that faith, which is something I think most of us have a problem with. But as we prove our willingness to follow His commandments and exercise that faith to Him and perhaps even more importantly, to ourselves, then it becomes easier to do it again, and again, and again until finally we can move mountains with our faith. Someday, I feel confident that we will all get there, I just hope it's not too long for me! Until tomorrow.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

They were not slow to remember the Lord their God

Today I read Alma 55, where Moroni frees all the Nephite prisoners without having to kill a single Lamanite. I really like how Moroni was not a bloodthirsty man and that even though it would have been easier to kill all the guards while they slept, it was not in his nature to kill wantonly.

Aside from the brilliant tactic of how he freed his prisoners without killing anyone, the part of the chapter that stood out to me is the end where it talks about how the Lamanites tried many times to use strategy on the Nephites and how it never worked out for the Lamanites. And Mormon states that the reason it never worked was because the Nephites were not slow to remember the Lord their God and thus he protected them.

That is really neat to me because the Lord still protects us to this day if we just remember Him and keep His commandments. Sometimes the Lord is not so miraculous in saving us. Mormon records that sometimes the Lamanites tried to poison the Nephites with wine and the Nephites thought to give some to the Lamanite prisoners first. That is not very miraculous, but it is still Divine intervention. Anytime the Lord has prepared us to accomplish something, that is His help. How many people do you know that for example would be driving around, late for an appointment asking God to help them find a parking space. When they look up they see a car leaving and then instead of thanking God for His help say, never mind God, I found one.

Whether or not God really did help that person find a spot to park, when such things happen to me, I always thank God anyway. I like to think that my needs are not so small to Him that He doesn't take notice. I prefer to think that the reason that person at that exact moment pulled out of the parking spot, was because of the gentle urgings of the Spirit directed by Heavenly Father to meet my needs. I may be wrong, but what does it hurt to give the glory to God anyway? The scriptures teach that in nothing is God's wrath kindled save in those who confess not His hand in all things.

Now, sometimes the Lord saves us in miraculous ways. I remember one day, I was driving downtown to pick up some friends for lunch. It was raining and the roads were wet. I came to a very, very sharp curve and oddly enough, no one was around me. That was very strange as this stretch of road is very busy. Well when I took the curve I was going a little too fast and my back end swung out to the right of me before I could do anything to stop it. To my horror I turned completely around so I was facing the wrong way and was sliding very quickly towards the concrete barrier which would severely damage my car and me in the process. Suddenly when I was a foot from the barrier, my car stopped, so suddenly that it jolted me, almost like I have hit something, but I hadn't, the car had just stopped right before slamming into the concrete barrier. As I collected my wits, the first car I had seen in 30 seconds came around the curve much more slowly than usual and stopped so I could correct my car and continue on my journey. Say what you will, God saved me that day and nothing you can say to the contrary can convince me otherwise. Even a friend of mine that I told the story to later the next day who is not LDS commented that I was saved by God because of righteous living.

It always amazes me that people can not believe in God. I had an atheist friend at another job ask me once why I believed in God. I felt to echo Alma to Korihor and ask how he could not believe considering all the evidences that are there. Instead I told him I have seen too many evidences that convince me God is there, He watches us, and He loves me. And I stand by that sentiment today with the advice to confess His hand in ALL things, whether you think you did it on your own or not. Just remember that He created you and has guided your life so you could have the experience you needed to help you through that experience that you are convinced you did on your own. He loves you and watches over you and will help you if you but ask Him. Until tomorrow.