31 December 2007

"I spake unto Sam", 1 Nephi 2:17-19

1 Nephi 2:17-19

The next step for Nephi, after having obtain a personal knowledge of the things that Nephi's father taught, was to share that with his brothers. Sam believed his words. Laman and Lemuel did not. This prompted Nephi to his next action -- to pray for his brothers who didn't believe. Upon praying to the Lord, Nephi then received even greater light and knowledge than what he had already received.

The profoundness of the simplicity of Nephi speaking to his brothers cannot be understated. He opened his mouth and shared his personal witness to validate his father's claims. Now with Nephi, there were two witnesses to validate the journey that they had undertaken--that it was a commandment of God, not the vain imagination of their father. If Nephi had been unable to open his mouth, the remainder of their party may have been persuaded by Laman and Lemuel.

Tomorrow, more on the pattern of revelation employed by the Lord with both Lehi and Nephi.

30 December 2007

Spiritual Power and a Personal Witness, 1 Nephi 2: 14-16

1 Nephi 2: 14-16

Yesterday I had mentioned characteristics that Lehi prized in his own life. There is nowhere in the record that gives us any insight into Lehi before this time. Yet I am assuming that Lehi prized these characteristics because they where a part of his own personal character. Thus demonstrating his own integrity and virtue.

Verse 14, however, is the best evidence so far of his personal discipline. Now his faith was being taxed by his own sons. That he was able to harness spiritual power to chastise them is proof of his worthiness, proof of his integrity, proof that God trusted him enough to know that Lehi would not break out in a fit of rage and abuse his position as a father and spiritual leader to his sons.

The juxtaposition (or contrast) of this verse where Lehi exerts such spiritual power to the next verse is beautifully simple. This is a reminder that in all things, Lehi was willing to submit himself to the will of the Lord, even to the point of living in a tent.

Nephi next explains why he had believed in the things that his father had taught and done. He credits his not rebelling against his father to both his willingness to believe and also to the personal knowledge he had obtained from the Lord. Because Nephi wanted to know the mysteries of God, and because he believed that God could talk to him just as he had talked to his father, Nephi prayed earnestly for knowledge. In return, the Lord did visit him.

That changed everything for Nephi. Now he didn't just believe his father's words, Nephi possessed for himself a personal witness from the Lord.

29 December 2007

Because They Knew Not God, 1 Nephi 2:10-13

1 Nephi 2:10-13

After counseling Laman to always be a source of righteousness, he instructs Lemuel to be "firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord!" Clearly these are characteristics that Lehi prized in his own life and in the lives of others.

Laman and Lemuel murmured "because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them." So that was their problem--easily diagnosed by Nephi. Yet how did Nephi come to this conclusion? Because they could not understand their position before God, they lacked the perspective to see anything else clearly. Their priorities and prerogatives, the things that they valued as important in their young lives, had been altogether stripped from them in following their father into the wilderness. Of course, they were on the defensive. Their failure to see the larger picture consequently led them to murmuring and violence.

28 December 2007

Into the Fountain of All Righteousness, 1 Nephi 2:5-10

1 Nephi 2:5-10
"O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!"

Lehi spoke these words to his eldest son Laman. Lehi describes righteousness as a body of water which had to be replenished constantly by a consistant source such as a river. Righteousness is then something to be maintained constantly.

27 December 2007

Obedience to Commandments, 1 Nephi 2:1-4

1 Nephi 2:1-4

Chapter two, verse one validates what we discussed yesterday about Lehi's faith requiring him to do something. The Lord has now again appeared unto him in a dream and calls him "Blessed" because of the things which he did. We also learn that he went and prophecied before the people because the Lord had commanded him to.

Because of Lehi's faithfulness to the commandments, the people now sought his life. Therefore the Lord gave him a commandment to protect him. Commandments are protection. Nephi felt it important to point out that his father was obedient to the commandments, and that is why he fled with only his family away from Jerusalem.

Motives are important. Lehi was not fleeing out of fear. He was leaving out of obedience.

26 December 2007

Faith To Access Mercy, 1 Nephi 1:16-20

1 Nephi 1:16-20

Lehi because of the things that he read and saw in the book from his vision, consequently went among the people to preach to them. His faith in the Messiah required him to do something about it. He was met with strong opposition in this public cry of repentance.

Nephi's purpose in including this in his account is to demonstrate that, because of his father's faith, the Lord was able to extend unto them mercies, or power, to make them mighty. Faith was the turn key to God's mercy and in this case to their literal deliverence.

24 December 2007

Those Who Come Unto Thee, 1 Nephi 1:4-15

1 Nephi 1:4-15

Last evening I was considering the home that my children are being raised in. They are being taught faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, obedience, daily prayer, etc. They are taught that this is a way of life.

Now as Nephi begins his account, he relates the initiating event in his father's life that determined the course of events that his family were about to undertake. There is a vision, wherein Lehi sees God on his throne, and communes with the Son of God. In praying whole-heartedly in behalf of his people, Lehi learns from the Lord that the people among whom he dwells are about to be destroyed because of their abominations.

The vision continues and Lehi sees and read things which are not accounted for in the record. Lehi rejoices or gives mighty praises unto the Lord. Then he concludes that the Lord is merciful to those who come unto him. The Lord had prepared the way for their deliverance.

23 December 2007

An Expression of Gratitude, 1 Nephi 1

These first verses Nephi endeavors to establish his credentials that qualify him to make the record that he is about to make.

  • Good upbringing under his parents' mentorship
  • Experienced in many afflictions
  • Highly favored (or blessed) of the Lord
  • Possessing a knowledge of the mysteries of God
I'm looking at this from another perspective this evening though. Instead of listing his credentials, I feel that this is a recognition of his blessings, a thankful acknowledgment at the front this record which sets the tone and position of the author of this text -- gratefully humble and divinely inspired.

Doctrine & Covenants 78:19 expresses well the principle that Nephi embodies here at the beginning of this book.
"And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more."
Gratitude is a precursor to receiving blessings. Where then does obedience fit in to this equation?

22 December 2007

The First Book of Nephi

This is one of the few books in the Book of Mormon that features an introduction by the author of the text. Curious enough, he focuses exclusively on an overview of the historical events of this first book. It really only constitutes half the record and is arguably the lesser part of the account.

Though these personal life lessons that Nephi highlights in his account are extremely beneficial to the entire record, so I won't discount them.

21 December 2007

The Book of Mormon: a Testimony of Joseph Smith

As is the case with the two previous testimonies, the Prophet Joseph's testimony of the Book of Mormon also deals with the origins of the book and the events that he deemed most important in the book's coming forth.

With that in mind, the bulk of his testimony deals with the ministering visits of the Angel Moroni. Perhaps the bulk of the first paragraph which describes the angel's appearance, could have been fabricated, if we wanted to approach it from that angle. But there are specific descriptions in the second that seem to be beyond fabrication. Essentially, Joseph saw an angel in the 1820's and was reflecting back to that occasion in 1838 when he made his record of the events. Joseph describes the angel's countenance as lightning. I don't quite know how to envision a countenance as lightning except that it had the effect of being striking.

The angel's mode of teaching is notable. Four visits: three at night, one the next day. In the first visit, Moroni informs Joseph that his name will be had for good and evil among all peoples.* In each of the angel's subsequent visits, he repeated his former instructions and then added to them. At his third visit, he added a powerful warning, telling Joseph that Satan would try to tempt him with the Gold Plates to get rich. He forbade Joseph from doing this, then counseled him concerning his motifs.

This is most significant counsel: the purpose in obtaining the plates must be to Glorify God and to build up His Kingdom. Any other motive would cause him to forfeit the plates if he were to obtain them. So it wasn't just that he shouldn't be tempted to use the plates to get rich, but that his singular objective in obtaining the plates (and keeping them until he had finished the work of translation) would require him to seek only the Kingdom of God and His Glory.

The plates were successfully obtained and translated. This stands as a testament to Joseph's integrity and unwavering motives.

*John Groberg demonstrated the fulfillment of that prophecy when as a missionary he visited a remote island in the South Pacific in the 1950's, completely untouched by modern civilization. He was surprised that though they had very little knowledge of anything related to the modern world or the Church, when he shared with them the story of the prophet Joseph Smith, they already knew of him. In this instance his name was regarded as evil. Nevertheless, this is direct fulfillment of angelic prophecy. (see In the Eye of the Storm, Groberg, John.)

20 December 2007

The Testimony of Eight

Eight men, family and friends of the prophet Joseph Smith, attached their simple witness of the gold plates. They had "handled" and "hefted" these plates, which served as the source material for the Book of Mormon.

As fantastical as the claim may seem, eight men have legitimately testified of the physical evidence which validates it: that the Book of Mormon was a translated work -- and not a made-up, fictitious work.

This witness seems to pale in comparison to the testimony of the three witnesses as to its spiritual significance. Yet for those seeking the proof of the gold plates, this testimony is offered.

The Testimony of Eight Witnesses

19 December 2007

The Three Witnesses

The Testimony of the Three Witnesses

The three witnesses' testimony of the origin of the Book of Mormon is compelling.

Though all three later in life became disaffiliated with the LDS Church, none ever revoked their witness attached to this record. To the contrary, towards the end of their respective lives, they were clear to validate their previous testimony of the book.

Their testimony of the Book of Mormon is based on two specific points:
  1. They had received a visit from an angel who presented to them the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. They saw the plates that this heavenly messenger carried. They saw the engravings on the plates.
  2. They heard the voice of God tell them that the translation taken from those plates was done "by the gift and power of God".
Towards the end of their testimony it seems that perhaps after having received the angelic visitation, they would have been disposed to keep these sacred events close to their hearts without much mention of them. In deed, there is much wisdom in keeping the sacred close to us by way of reverence and respect for that which we have received. So did Mary, mother of our Lord, after receiving the testimony of the shepherds (see Luke 2:19). But the voice of God, which these three witnesses heard, commanded them to do otherwise on this particular occasion.

As a concluding argumenet to their testimonies, the three witnesses declare the means by which their salvation will be extended to them. It is not ambiguous nor undefined, but specific and concrete. And if I had more time I would discuss this topic in greater detail. Yet such a clarity of understanding the terms of their salvation is their third and final witness for the Book of Mormon.

18 December 2007

Title Page - The Spirit of Prophecy and of Revelation

The title page of the Book of Mormon was penned by, or better said, engraven by Moroni, the final prophet-historian of the Book of Mormon. As the history goes, it was actually included on the last page of the plates from which the Book of Mormon were taken. So having had just summed up the history of his people, Moroni now revisits in abbreviated fashion the central themes of the book with the purpose of introducing it to readers he will never meet in his lifetime.

As an introduction, I'm impressed with the way that Moroni presents certain topics:

The Lamanites - a remnant or descendants of the house of Israel. The target audience for the Book of Mormon.

The spirit of prophecy and of revelation - the means or manner in which the record was edited. Upfront, without really explaining what they are, Moroni is stating that this record was written by commandment, and by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation. Is this something that I should already understand? Or is this something that is going to be further expounded upon as get further into the book.

Now granted, I come from a faithful Christian/ Latter-day Saint background, so I've experienced in other settings this power that comes from the spirit of prophecy and of revelation. I've seen it used in effectively teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Essentially, as I see it, when we teach with the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, we are in harmony with Deity. Not only then are we in harmony, but then we are under the influence and power of God.

As a seasoned reader then, I take great comfort in knowing that, in fact, Moroni can confidently say that this book is brought about by way of commandment from the Lord and through the spirit of prophecy and of revelation. In other words, this is a divinely-written text, not the opinion of a man left to his own limited capacity to reason.

This premise, clearly stated up front, elevates the significance of this title page introduction and everything else that follows. Perhaps, feeling the weight of such an expectation, Moroni concludes this introduction with this thought, "if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God..."