31 January 2008

"Through the Mists of Darkness", 1 Nephi 8

1 Nephi 8

The journey is the same for everyone, though we each come into the world in vastly different circumstances, every man must, when brought up to the wall of faith decide to scale it or walk away from it.

When Lehi found himself lost in that dark and dreary waste, he called upon the Lord, because (I think I've already made note of this) Lehi was familiar with "the multitude of his tender mercies"(vs. 8). This is the same thing that Alma conveys when he quotes the prophet Zenos, "And thou didst hear me... and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me... for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son." (Alma 33:11)

How did the Lord mercifully respond to Lehi? He is immediately brought to taste of the fruit of the tree, which "filled [his] soul with exceedingly great joy"(vs 12).

Lehi saw many others in similar straits, that caught a glimpse of where they were going and held fast to the rod of iron. Mists of darkness descended upon them, but to those that clung to the rod, they eventually did come forth out of the darkness. We learn later from Nephi that their deliverance was because of their adherence to the word of God.

The word of God is found in the scriptures, and in the words of the prophets, but it is also found directly through prayer, as was the case of Lehi.

P.S. Where is Christ in all of this vision? Nephi fortunately reveals later on that he's at the very center of the discussion.

30 January 2008

"Reason to Rejoice", 1 Nephi 8:3

1 Nephi 8:3

With the passing of President Hinckley, I've had opportunity to step back and have been reminded that this is the Church of Christ, not of President Hinckley, not of President Monson (who most likely will become his successor). It's really in the timing of little things by which this reminder comes. Little administrative things that point to Christ, instead of drawing attention to the current leadership.

Lehi, too, found reasons to rejoice in the Lord--because of Nephi and Sam.

I can hardly put into words this morning the reassurances that I feel that this is the Lord's work and that He is with this Church, and that this Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and its leadership are on course for His return, whenever that is.

28 January 2008

"I have dreamed a dream", 1 Nephi 8:2

1 Nephi 8:2

I wanted to move past this verse, but then I gave some thought to the nature of Lehi's dream and how his dreams differed from my dreams. Lehi's dreams were blessed with the divine intervention of heaven. Dreams are an interesting topic of themselves, but what interests me here is that God used Lehi's dreams to communicate truth to him. Dreams can be so fleeting and seemingly non-relevant. They sometimes are simply reflections of what are in our heads when we retire for the day.

Lehi though, is placing great stock in the outcomes of this particular dream. He saw Nephi, Sam, and his wife, Sariah, come to the Tree of Life. He saw Laman and Lemuel refuse the fruit. And it is because of the outcome of this dream that Lehi goes on to admonish Laman and Lemuel. (I'm not being critical of the patriarch, but rather am taking notes on his parenting technique. )

In the vision that he recounts to his family, Lehi says that after having followed a man in a white robe he found himself in a dark and dreary waste. He traveled through the darkness for what seemed to be an extended period of time. He then prayed unto the Lord for mercy based upon his faith or knowledge that the Lord was capable of extending a multitude of tender mercies. This is yet another fascinating aspect of this dream, that Lehi exercised his volition to pray when he found himself in darkness.

Truly this was more than just a dream, so perhaps this is why he corrects himself, and says "or in other words, I have seen a vision."

27 January 2008

The Passing of a Prophet

With the flood tide news of the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley, perhaps it's only fitting that I take an entry to express some thoughts related.

President Spencer W. Kimball is the first prophet that I have recollections of in my early childhood, followed by President Ezra Taft Benson, and then briefly President Howard W. Hunter. But by far, President Hinckley is the living prophet whose teachings have had the most impact upon my life and the direction that I've taken.

I was seventeen when he became the prophet. It was the decisive year of my youth. The major life changes that have affected who I am today have been made during his tenure as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I choose to serve a full-time mission at the tender age of nineteen. When I received my call to serve a mission, his signature was on the paper that sent me to spend two years of my life serving the people of Costa Rica. This was a decision that has had a more profound impact that I can begin to express in words.

After my time as a missionary, I was quick to get married with little college education at that point, and we didn't postpone having children in light of the fact that we were both still attending college. I remember studying intensively The Family: a Proclamation to the World during our first year of marriage. That inspired document was introduced within the first year of his presidency.

I have a hard time reading. Actually, it's just that I read very little. However, one captivating read for me was President Hinckley's life biography. It resonated with me. I have frequently looked back at his home life and hoped to provide something of a similar environment to my own children and family.

President Hinckley's announcement to build smaller temples brought two temple into close proximity of those I had a personal interest in: one in my mother's hometown of Snowflake, Arizona, (which fulfilled an one hundred year old prophecy made by a visiting apostle to that small town) and in San José Costa Rica. We were privileged to return to Costa Rica for the temple dedication a year after my return home from my mission.

The Perpetual Education Fund was even another project that he initiated which on occasion we have supported financially, knowing the impact for good that can have for people who would otherwise not have an opportunity. The PEF is truly an inspired program.

More recently, President Hinckley spoke to the Priesthood of the Church recounting a dream that President Joseph F. Smith had as a young missionary. When he presented the talk, I was electrified and empowered. Understanding that to be clean is strength and power has helped me to increase in confidence and to tackle the harder tasks that stand before me.

His optimistic outlook, strong moral courage, and gentle leadership will be missed. I can't even begin to fathom the reunion and reception that awaited him on the other side of the veil, especially with his beloved wife and then together before their Savior and Father!

Onward we go, Christian soldiers!

26 January 2008

Gathering Seeds, 1 Nephi 8:1

1 Nephi 8:1

I'd never given it much pause for thought that the chapter featuring Lehi's vision of the tree of life is prefaced with this seeming obscure little verse about the family gathering seeds. They gathered all types of seed to take with them--diversity in their selection.

And yet I still can not find much correlation between this verse and the rest of the chapter. However there is a footnote to later in 1 Nephi (see 1 Nephi 16:11) that also references them taking their seeds with them into the wilderness.

This preparation to take with them the things which they would need gave the Lord the resources to bless them. The themes of seeds, trees, and fruits run through out the Book of Mormon.

25 January 2008

Laman and Lemuel's Rebellion, 1 Nephi 7:6-22

1 Nephi 7:6-22

It is amazing to consider the unwaivering faithfulness of Nephi. Herein he is required to reprimand his older brothers--moved upon by the Spirit. He prays to be delivered after being bound with cords. He instructs his brothers to pray to God for forgiveness and is frank to forgive them any offense that they had against him.

How did he manage to maintain such perfect alignment with the Lord? The capacity to reprove "when moved upon by the Holy Ghost" (Doctrine and Covenants 121:43) is a manifestation of an extremely disciplined individual.

Nephi was aware of his position before God. He definitely had a sense of mission that defined what God expected of him. This enabled him to be prepared, perhaps even motivated him to be prepared for the challenges that leadership and fulfillment of a righteous cause demand of the righteous.

This also reminds me that no amount of sinning can render the same preparation that obedience to principle can. Nephi was extremely young, and definitely by all counts younger than his brothers, who had more "life experiences." It is Nephi's faith in Christ that gave him the advantage over his brothers, or that gave him a more adjusted view of the world that they were a part of.

24 January 2008

The Persuasion of Ishmael, 1 Nephi 7:1-5

1 Nephi 7:1-5

The Lord commanded Lehi that they should not depart in to the wilderness without wives for his sons to the end that they might bring up children in righteousness unto the Lord.

Nephi shows how they worked with the Lord to persuade Ishmael to bring his family down into the wilderness:
  1. They gained favor with Ishmael.
  2. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to Ishmael.
  3. The Lord softened Ishmael's heart.
  4. Ishmael and his household came down with Nephi and his brothers.
Really, I am quite amazed that Nephi and his brothers were able to persuade Ishmael and his house to follow their family into the wilderness. This second point should not be overlooked. They didn't resort to their own devices this time. Instead Nephi and his brothers spoke the word of the Lord to Ishmael. It must have resonated in such a way as to have a penetrated Ishmael's soul enough that he and everyone in his house felt the obligation immediately to follow Nephi's family.

23 January 2008

"The Fulness of Mine Intent", 1 Nephi 6:3-6

1 Nephi 6:3-6

Now that I've spent the last three days focused on the first two verses of this chapter, I've almost overlooked the purpose in Nephi's choosing not to include a more detailed genealogy. He says in verse 3, "For I desire the room that I may write the things of God. "

This is even more clearly understood as he goes on in the next verses. The genealogical evidence that would have been facilitated through Nephi rendering a full account of his ancestry was not a priority. In fact, he was deliberately choosing to not included anything that would offer worldly evidence of the book's origin.

"The things which are pleasing to the world, I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world." (verse 5)

Additional Supporting Scripture:
John 20: 30-31 - Though Christ did many things that were not recorded in the Scriptures, the events that are recorded are given that we may believe in Him.
Galatians 1:10 - Who are we persauding, man or God? Who are we pleasing? If it is man, then we are not servants of Christ.

22 January 2008

Link to Joseph, 1 Nephi 6 part 2

1 Nephi 6
"And it shall come to pass that they shall be scattered again; and a branch shall be broken off, and shall be carried into a far country; nevertheless they shall be remembered in the covenants of the Lord, when the Messiah cometh;" (Joseph Smith Translation-Genesis 50:25)

This specific line of scripture would have had particular interest to Lehi and Nephi, as they were becoming the means of fulfilling it. The verse then continues with a promise of the latter-day redemption of their posterity as well. Nephi, by the time he gets to 2 Nephi 3 is obviously aware of this prophecy as he makes reference to it in verse 5.

Nephi also makes reference in the next chapter to the prophecies of Joseph as they related to him and his posterity.
"For behold, he truly prophesied concerning all his seed. And the prophecies which he wrote, there are not many greater. And he prophesied concerning us, and our future generations; and they are written upon the plates of brass." (2 Nephi 4:2)

21 January 2008

The Link to Joseph, 1 Nephi 6

1 Nephi 6

Why the link to Joseph? Why was that so important?

For one, Joseph was the first born son of Jacob's second wife, Rachel. When Rueben lost the birthright through transgression, that blessing was bestowed upon Joseph. Joseph also is the fourth generation of righteous men who, beginning with Abraham, received special covenants from God which directly impacted their posterity. In addition to this, Joseph himself because of his own righteousness was recipient of additional blessings and prophecies extended to him and his posterity (See Bible Dictionary- Joseph[1]).

Joseph's father, Israel, extended blessings upon the heads of Joseph's two oldest sons, Manasseh and Ephraim -- in which Ephraim was placed before Manessah. While these blessings are articulated in the Old Testament, their full importance is more clearly outlined in latter-day scripture, including 2 Nephi and a Joseph Smith translation of Genesis 50.

More to come.

18 January 2008

"We Are Descendants of Joseph", 1 Nephi 6:1-2

1 Nephi 6:1-2

Nephi did not account for the his genealogy, as it was had in his father's record. But he felt that it was enough to know that they were descendants of Joseph.

Why the link to Joseph? Why was that so important?

17 January 2008

A Link to Lehi's Ancestry and Posterity, 1 Nephi 5:10-22

1 Nephi 5:10-22

Lehi, upon obtaining the Plates of Brass, searched them to gain a greater appreciation for what was contained therein. The record had the following information:
  • The five books of Moses, presumably the same as we have in the Old Testament.
  • An account of the creation and also Adam and Eve.
  • A history of the Jews from the beginning up until the reign of Zedekiah.
  • Prophecies of the holy prophets from the beginning (presumably Adam) down to the present time, including many of the word of Jeremiah (Lehi's contemporary).
  • A genealogy of Lehi's paternal line which linked him directly to Joseph of Egypt.
This last point is interesting, for it seems that he was not fully aware of this connection until he read these plates. Nephi states, "And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers."(vs. 16) For Lehi and Nephi, this then becomes more than the sacred texts that are to preserver their posterity, it is a record and a reminder of their ancestry.

16 January 2008

"Their Joy Was Full", 1 Nephi 5:7-9

1 Nephi 5:7-9

Sariah declared, "[The Lord hath] given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them." (vs. 8)

The commandments of the Lord stretch us beyond our natural capacities, in all respects, that we may become the children of God.

Nephi mentions the joys that his parents felt, several times in these verses. "Their joy was full", "my mother was comforted", and "they did rejoice exceedingly." Because of these deep feeling of gratitude, they offered a sacrifice of their already limited possessions. This was how they gave thanks to their God.

Expressions of Gratitude both expressed and internal are the fruits of righteousness. (see Doctrine and Covenants 78:19)

15 January 2008

"After This Manner.. Did My Father... Comfort My Mother", 1 Nephi 5:6

1 Nephi 5:6

The footnote to "comfort" in this verse is "TG-Comfort; Family, Love within." Under the listing "Family, Love within" are found some of the following:

  • 1 John 2:10 - "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him." (This is a powerful promise of perfection.)
  • Moroni 8:17 - "And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love... wherefore I love little children with a perfect love..."
"Where love is, there God is also."

14 January 2008

"I Am a Visionary Man", 1 Nephi 5:1-5

1 Nephi 5:1-5

Father Lehi comforted his wife, Sariah, who was mourning the possible loss of her sons with his testimony. He didn't remain silent, he wasn't domineering, he didn't beat around the bush. Humbly he expresses his convictions to his wife in a progression of events, ending with this reassurance, "I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness."

These assurance surely must have been at some point concerns in Lehi's own heart. I suspect Lehi was like my own father and spent much time praying in behalf of his children. Such prayers bring strength and peace of mind.

13 January 2008

"Surely The Lord Hath Commanded Us", 1 Nephi 4: 18-38

1 Nephi 4: 18-38

When the servant of Laban discovers that he had been deceived and that his master was in fact dead, he was filled with fear and attempted to flee from Nephi and his brothers. Nephi, after exerting his physical strength upon Zoram, comforts him by explaining to Zoram their situation, covenanting with him, and then ultimately assuring him that they are being obedient to the Lord. These things gave Zoram courage to take his journey with them.

That Nephi and his brothers were successful at persuading others to come along with them, Zoram and later on Ishmael and his family, is evidence of the reality of their situation at Jerusalem.

09 January 2008

"By The Spirit", 1 Nephi 4:4-17

1 Nephi 4:4-17

Yesterday I made the observation that Nephi was already very familiar with the workings of the Spirit. Today's reading notably verifies this claim to Nephi's capacity to commune with the Holy Spirit.

I love Nephi's humility in confessing that he was led by the Spirit -- not knowing what he was to do. It is the dialog that he has with the Spirit as he is weighing out the consequences of the decision to slay Laban that is the proof of his capacity. I feel that I can most of the time be sensitive to the Spirit, but can I reason with the Spirit? Am I sensitive enough to understand specific instructions? Do I have the faith to believe the arguments that He would proposed to me?

08 January 2008

"The Lord Is Able", 1 Nephi 4:1-3

1 Nephi 4:1-3

Nephi responds to his brothers' murmurings with faith. "He is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban..."(vs.1) .

I don't know how this would be formulating in young Nephi's mind. Up until now, Nephi had experienced the power of God with the Lord touching his heart. He was very familiar with the inner workings of the Spirit. But now angels were getting involved and suddenly a whole new playing field is being opened to Nephi's view. Nephi is now beginning to understand the outer workings of the Lord, or in other words, the miraculous power of God. He is now starting to associate himself with Moses and uses these terms as a premise for the potential for their deliverance.

07 January 2008

Christ and the Book of Mormon, Part 1

One activity that I feel gives my study of the Book of Mormon more significance is to figure out how the Book of Mormon substantiates its own claims to be "Another Testament of Christ". So this morning, I'm only three chapters into it again, asking myself, "What have I learned about Christ thus far?" Or better yet, "How does what I've read thus far validate the Christ and what he teaches? "

One of the prevalent themes is obedience to commandment. Lehi preached unto the people the things the Lord had commanded him to do. Then he was obedient to the Lord's commandment to take his family and leave Jerusalem. The promises that Nephi receives are predicated upon obedience to the Lord's commandments. How does this testify of the Christ?

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.

And be made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; (Hebrews 5:8&9)

Christ was obedient to His Father's commandments, so that all that are obedient unto His commandments will be entitled to salvation. In this way then, the Book of Mormon, even in these early chapters, validates the teachings of Christ.

05 January 2008

Word Before Deed, 1 Nephi 3:28-31

1 Nephi 3:28-31

Oh, the importance of perspective!

Having just escaped the supposed opposition, Nephi and his brothers conceal themselves in the cavity of a rock only to have Laman and Lemuel to break out in violent anger against their younger brothers. Surely they were besides themselves having just lost every worldly possession that they had had their hearts set upon. Any hope of returning to their riches was now gone. As far as they could see, the reason for the loss was Nephi. Nephi notes in his account that before they picked up the rod, they broke out in strong language against him and Sam.

This is an account in action of what James, the Lord's apostle, taught:
...The tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and is set on fire of hell. (James 3:5 & 6)
It is curious to note that James also teaches that a man can obtain perfection in the controlling of his tongue. This is one of the few things a person can hope to perfect in this lifetime. (see James 3:2)

04 January 2008

"After This Manner of Langauge", 1 Nephi 3:9-27

1 Nephi 3:9-27

Nephi's response to his brothers upon Laman's failure to obtain the Brass Plates demonstrates an understanding of the purpose of their mission, even if he didn't know how he was to accomplish it. He is echoing his conviction, clearly stated at the front of the chapter ("I will go and do...[for]the Lord giveth no commandment... save he shall prepare a way"). Now in the heat of the moment when they were about turn back, his simple reminder ("...we will not go... until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.") gives them the strength to continue on their original course of action. (see 1 Nephi 3:7, 15)

Nephi was also wise to have a plan of action to support his determination to keep the Lord's commandments. Surely he was not trying to obtain marks in persuasive speaking techniques, but his matter-of-fact stance in reminding them why they were about this particular errand demonstrates Nephi's perspective of the situation and a long-term vision of where they were going -- this is something that his brothers did not have. Because of his obedience to the Lord's commandments, for Nephi, everything has its purpose and place.

03 January 2008

"I will go and do", 1 Nephi 3:5-8

1 Nephi 3:5-8

Nephi said: "I will go and do the thing which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment... save he shall prepare a way [to] accomplish the thing which he commandeth..." (1Nephi 3:7, paraphrased)

Mary said: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38)

Simon Peter said: "Master, we have toiled all night... nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net."(Luke 5:5, abbreviated)

Samuel answered: " Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth." (1 Samuel 3:9-10)

The Christ submitted himself to His Father with these words: "If thou be willing, remove this cup from me, nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42)

Truly, the commandments of the Lord require faith to execute them. To the natural man, they are foolishness. The decision to obey a commandment of the Lord is the ground work for salvation. The contrast between Nephi and his murmuring brothers reveals Nephi's willingness to trust the Lord wholeheartedly (see Proverbs 3:5).

02 January 2008

"Thou and Thy Brothers", 1 Nephi 3:1-4

1 Nephi 3:1-4

Upon returning from speaking with the Lord, Lehi meets Nephi and gives him instructions to return to Jerusalem for the scriptural record. Why didn't the Lord prompt them to have the foresight to gather the records before they left? There are several considerations.
  • Lehi's exiled status may have made it difficult to impossible to accomplish this thing on his own.
  • Perhaps this was a way of emphasizing the importance of having the scriptures in their possession. (Sacrifice helps us to appreciate what we have sacrificed for. )
  • Nephi had just spoken with the Lord, where the Lord had given him a promise that if he kept all the Lord's commandments he would be made a ruler and teacher (1 Nephi 2:22). Much quicker than he had anticipated, the Lord was going to prove to Nephi the fulfillment of His promises.
This new commandment came by way of Lehi, yet Lehi was not to come with his sons back to Jerusalem. This is thus setting up the perfect catalyst for Nephi to test the Lord's promise. This first experience with Nephi and his brothers would define their relationship from here out.

There is a parallel between this experience and the account of Zion's Camp (from Joseph Smith's time) in regards to the training of future leaders.

01 January 2008

Sustaining Leaders and a Sound Business Practice, 1 Nephi 2:19-24

1 Nephi 2:19-24

In this second communication that Nephi has with the Lord, the Lord extends to Nephi blessings and curses. The Lord pronounces a particular cursing upon his brethren -- if they rebel against Nephi, they would be separated from the Lord's presence. There is a parallel relationship between Nephi's brothers to him and me to my ecclesiastical leaders. Failure to sustain my leaders puts me at risk of separating myself from the Lord.

This can be a hard principle to embrace. It is hard to think that God will entrust an imperfect man with judgment to act in my behalf when spiritual discernment is required, but I've seen it happen so I know the principle to be true. I take comfort in the fact that the Lord will sustain and magnify his chosen servants, despite their weaknesses, to act in behalf of all His children.

***
There is a parallel between the patterns that the Lord uses with both Lehi and Nephi to reveal himself unto them. First they pray, the Lord speaks to them, they go out and share what was revealed to them, and then they return to the Lord in prayer with more problems after having executed the commandments required of them. The Lord commends them for their faith and then gives them greater commandments. He did it with both Lehi and Nephi, hence establishing a pattern for divine guidance.

A year ago I had a temporary job in the corporate offices of successful international company. The area in which I worked was surrounded by the offices of the upper management of this family-owned operation. I walked by the office of the CEO one day, the window blinds left open.
As I glanced in I saw five men surrounding a small table for business meeting. One stood with arms folded and head bowed. I then looked and saw that all five men had their heads bowed. Here was sound business practice -- absolute dependence upon the divine through prayer.