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Showing posts from 2010

"The Pleasing Bar of God," Jacob 6:13

Jacob 6:13

Jacob at the end of his record makes an interesting statement in reference to the final judgment. Moroni at the end of his record makes a similar statement. (see Moroni 10:34) To the reader they bid farewell until the next time that we shall meet them-- in the final judgment.

There is something that strikes me as helpful in defining the wicked from the righteous in the verse in Jacob. The righteous look forward to the day of judgment, while for the wicked, it is a day of awful dread and fear. So it is the feelings that we have inside of ourselves towards the day of judgment, and appearing before our Maker, that define if we are among the righteous or the wicked. It is no group of people, it is not predicated upon a rote list of ritualistic acts. Judgment is individual.

"Cleave unto God as He Cleaveth unto You," Jacob 6

Jacob 6

In verse 5, Jacob commands his brethren to "cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you." The association illustrates a truth that I seldom would consider: God already has an intimate, personal relationship with me. I know that this goes along the lines of a supreme being who knows all my thoughts and actions, but something strikes me as exceptionally personal in that omniscience, not as a removed, observational unit. Really, it makes sense. Why would someone want to know everything about you or me, without being intimately concerned for your well being and safety.

Footnotes on cleave lead to the account of Hezekiah, king of Judah, and his interactions with Assyria. Isaiah was prophet during the reign of Hezekiah. He offered spiritual strength to Hezekiah to withstand the tenacious cries of the messenger of the king of Assyria, who repeatedly came down from Assyria threatening Hezekiah with destruction if they did not submit to their rule. What was more, the messenger fro…

The Allegory of the Tame and Wild Olive Trees, Jacob 5

Jacob 5

This chapter is the story of the tame and wild olive trees, which according to the record of Jacob, was actually first recorded by the prophet, Zenos, to the house of Israel. Remember what Jacob explained in chapter 4, he says that he would use this to illustrate how it is that God would gather Israel after they had rebelled against Him. Below are some verses that have stood out to me in this reading. 

Vs. 22 - Having separated small, young branches from the main olive tree, that had begun to decay, the master of the vineyard observes: "Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit."

I feel much like one of these young branches being placed in a poor spot of land, yet being frequently and abundantly nourished by the good word of God.

I find it curious the emphasis on good and evil fruits. Indeed, the measure of one's righteousness …

"The Great, and the Last, and the Only Sure Foundation," Jacob 4:14-18

Jacob 4:14-18

There are several interesting thoughts presented in these final verses that could be each treated individually. For example, verse 14 talks about God ultimately allowing all of his children to do what they will do, even if it will lead to their destruction. "...And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble." Not that God will take away the consequences of bad behavior, but He does work according to our desires. On the the flip side, if our desires are God's desires, then how great are the blessings that will result.

Another interesting thought: the stone, or the sure foundation, which God had given the Jews to build upon. When Jacob gave this prophecy, he was anticipating that the Jews would reject "the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation." (vs. 15) Jacob goes further to say that this stone is the only way that God will provide for their redemption. Jacob also knows that God will redeem His people. So it …

"Why Not Speak of the Atonement of Christ," Jacob 4:7-13

Jacob 4:7-13

I have been somewhat remorse as of late because of my personal failures to draw closer to my Lord. Knowing that I've received some significant spiritual instruction as of late, I think that the thing that has concerned me the most is my own obvious ingratitude towards Christ. I guess what I'm trying to express is that I feel that I have been taking for granted my Advocate before the Father, because He seems to always be there, whether or not I fully recognize His help. Reading these verses in Jacob has helped me to remember how absolutely essential Christ and His atonement really are.

What's even more interesting is the way in which Jacob words it. "For why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him..." (vs. 12). What strikes me about this passage is the use of the word "perfect " suggesting that a knowledge of Christ's involvement in my life can be much more than just a passing awareness. The question …

"We Search the Prophets," Jacob 4:1-6

Jacob 4:1-6

I am reminded as I read through Jacob's account of their spiritual powers and blessings that they enjoyed in during his ministry though their access to the holy scriptures was severely limited because of their circumstances-- much more so than what we enjoy today. The reality of an over-abundance of access to spiritual light in our lives today really makes it seem strange that faith is yet still so hard to come by.

Perhaps this is brought to my mind as a result of viewing a recent documentary that discussed the miracle of the modern day scriptures and how so many people have access to the Bible and all scripture, which in the history of the world has never been any other civilization's privilege to enjoy. So it makes it even more impressive that given his people's limited access to holy writ, Jacob says in verse 6 that they searched the prophets and did themselves enjoy many revelations and the spirit of prophecy. Their witness of Christ that they had obtained th…

"This Commandment They Observe to Keep," Jacob 3:3-14

Jacob 3:3-9

The more that I am experiencing this reality of the world that I am currently a part of, and the more that I consider the direction of the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days, it all makes perfect sense. For example, the revelation of "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" that emphasized the importance of family in all countries and societies. We are only fifteen years from the time that that came about. Never has its warnings and instruction been more needed than now.

Yet family, and the preservation of family has always been important to God and his prophets. The preservation of the Lamanites was based in part on the fact that they honored among themselves the basic structure of family. This they did by not violating commandments of fidelity and chastity among husbands and wives.

Jacob observes in verse 7 how among the Lamanites, their husbands and wives love each other, and both husbands and wives love their children. Perhaps those he was speaking to …

"Oh All Ye That Are Pure in Heart,"Jacob 3:1-2

Jacob 3:1-2

These first two verses of scripture have brought about a profound sense of peace in a very personal way. Only those who are aware of my personal struggles at the moment (which I haven't even been able to effective articulate to my own wife) may be able to fully understand why this is.

"But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.

"Oh all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever."All the turmoil that I have been dealing with has been swept away as I read these two verses, because I know my God is with me, because my heart is pure.

I have descended into a den of wolves. Wanting to avoid contention, by avoiding any refer…

"Exceedingly Tender and Chaste and Delicate before God," Jacob 2

Jacob 2

The full passage referenced in the title reads like so: "And also it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech concerning you, before your wives and children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God;" (vs. 7).

As I read through this chapter, I am brought to consider the burden of a prophet in telling people of their sins, and having to dwell upon that which is unpleasant. This is in the same vein as talks that I've heard President Hinckley and other members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles give over the years about pornography and sexual immorality. They are uncomfortable and unpleasent topics. They are not particularly inspiring, but they are necessary in keeping us on the safe course. They are a sobering, constant reminder of the condition of the world in which we live and problems that plague the lives of our people. If among the church we were free from divorce and every…

"We Knew of Christ and His Kingdom," Jacob 1

Jacob 1

Jacob paints an interesting picture of the state of the Chruch of Christ in his day, some 540 years before the coming of the Messiah.

In verse 5, Jacob observes that because of great faith and much anxiety for the welfare of their own people, they had been shown what would come of their own people. Christ does that for those who sincerely desire to know of and seek after the welfare of their fellowmen.

Then in verse 6, Jacob makes an even more interesting observation: "And we also had many revelations and the spirit of much prophecy; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come." I feel that as I read these verses that, because of their diligence and faith, they were lacking in nothing in regards to the spiritual knowledge required to establish the kingdom of God among their own people.

This strikes me as being very important for the very fact that time and location are irrelevant in regards to establishing the kingdom of God among a people. Understa…

"Many of Us, If Not All... Saved in His Kingdom," 2 Nephi 33

2 Nephi 33

Persuasive concluding arguments-- these final words of Nephi's are an irrefutable testimony of truth, and the reality of things as they really are (see Jacob 4:13).

I am reminded of the universality of the doctrine as I review Nephi's remarks. Verses 7 and 12 both express Nephi's hope that he expects to see many if not all saved in the kingdom of God.

This reminds me of the dialog between Joseph Smith, Sr. and his son, Joseph Smith, Jr. from the video about the First Vision.  The father, who is depicted as being aloof from the churches of their day, says to his son, "I don't expect God intends to save just a few of his children."

This seems like such an important part of our doctrine, yet I can't find a word that describes it succinctly. Equality, maybe. But it's more than just the thought that all men are created equal. It's the reality that salvation is obtainable for all. The plan is setup so that we can expect salvation by being obedie…

"That Which Ye Should Do," 2 Nephi 32

2 Nephi 32

In plain terms, Nephi now explains the "now what?" part of discipleship. There is no law of Moses, no rules and regulations, no measured or calculated formula for success. Instead, Nephi says this:
Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye shall do. ...And receive the Holy Ghost, it will show you all things what ye shall do. In other words, go to God himself for your instruction. Develop with Him a relationship of friendship and trust. He will lead us safely home, if we listen to His voice (see "Let the Holy Spirit Guide", hymn no. 143 ).

"Like Unto Me," 2 Nephi 31

2 Nephi 31

And now at the end of his record, Nephi takes opportunity to write just a few more concerning the doctrine of Christ. Specifically, Nephi is addressing baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Verse 12 is an interesting argument given by the Lord himself. It reads, "And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do." (italics added)

In other words, what Christ is saying is that when we are baptized we are given the Holy Ghost, which is the same thing that happened to the Lord when he was baptized. Having the companionship of the Holy Ghost is the qualifier to being able to do the things which Christ was able to do. What strikes me is that following the influence of the Holy Ghost is the what enables us to be able to do what Christ did.

These ramification are deep, for if God is willing to give us the very same p…

"None Save It Be Them That Repent," 2 Nephi 30

2 Nephi 30

Obedience and sin: these are the two principles upon which all men are measured equally. No amount of worldly wealth, no inheritance, no privileged station or social class can exclude us from the effects of sin or obedience.

If a wealthy man sins, is it the same as if a poor man sins? This is not for me to decide. If a poor man is obedient, does he receive any greater reward than if a rich man is obedient? I can not say. These things are for God to decide, but the scriptures are clear that repentance and obedience, regardless of who you are in the eyes of the world, are the only way back into God's presence. Perhaps for some, poverty is their appointed and perfect test. Then for others, perhaps it is prosperity that will be the greatest proving ground for their souls.

This chapter accomplishes two end for me this morning: 1) a reminder of the equality of Christ's doctrine (all that repent and believe in Christ shall be numbered among his people, and 2) all the righteou…

"Because My Words Shall Hiss Forth," 2 Nephi 29

2 Nephi 29

This is a particularly curious chapter that was given directly as a revelation of the Lord to Nephi in very strong an clear terms. It deals with the general rejection of the Book of Mormon as scripture in our time. Upon understanding the scope of the Lord's work, that it has extended and will continue unto all nations of the earth, the argument for additional scriptures becomes much more plausible. A broader view, and the possibility that Christianity was preached elsewhere besides Judea in antiquity, lead to the natural conclusion that there must have been records kept elsewhere.

Verses 12 and 13 are of particularly curious note in that they state that there are yet other records which have been kept by nations other than the Jews and the Nephites that we have not yet received, but will at some future date and time.

"Line Upon Line," 2 Nephi 28

Chapter 28 is completely dedicated to the subject of false teachings and apostasy as it shall abound in the last days, or in other words, our times. It is interesting that Nephi finds it appropriate to dedicate an entire chapter to this subject. Perhaps it is because of the broad acceptance of these teaching; perhaps it is to prepare true disciples to be capable of discernment.

Then at the end of the chapter, Verse 30 is one of the more well-known verses of scripture from the Book of Mormon, and it stands in direct contrast to apostasy, apathy, and indifference.

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my  precepts, and lend an ear unto  my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.  It is the mind and t…

"I Am Able to Do My Own Work," 2 Nephi 27

2 Nephi 27

Verses one through five describe the apostate state of the world in the last days. What I find to be interesting is that these conditions are spoken of spiritually. Drunkenness, famine, thirst -- there is a void that is unable to be satisfied by wicked practices. One of the qualifiers that defines those that are drunken in iniquity is "all the nations that fight against Zion," (vs. 3).

Verses six through ten talk about the contents of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon. In it there is a revelation or prophecy which spans from the beginning to the end of the world. Nephi goes on to say that it is a prophecy from God that reveals "all things from the foundation of the world to the end thereof," (vs. 10).

This is interesting to consider, that there is a prophecy that is being kept from us during this period of history because of wickedness. With that in mind, verse 11 looks forward to the day when that sealed portion of the book shall be read upon the ho…

"Concerning the Last Days," 2 Nephi 26:14-33

2 Nephi 26:14-33

The footnotes to verse 20 are quite insightful as to where true power lies: in humility.  The Lord places stumbling blocks in our paths when we know the right way and turn from it.

The work of the Lord is accomplished by the humble and weak things of the earth. The poor in Spirit are greater than the mighty ones for they have access to the grace and Spirit of God. Christ, the Lord, placed himself among the humble and poor things of the earth.

"But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish,"(vs. 31). See also Doctrine and Covenants 38:39 which says, "but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old."

Coming back to this entry after having let it sit for a couple of days, I appreciate the title even more: "Concerning the Last Days."  At no other time in the history of the world, has the work of the Lord been so uninhibited. It is interesting to note that as part of this prophecy conc…

"The Law Which Ye Shall Do," 2 Nephi 26:1-13

2 Nephi 26:1-13

After going to considerable lengths to explain why it is that they observe the law of Moses, even though they regarded it as a "dead law," Nephi begins this chapter with a prophecy of a future law which Christ himself will bring: "and the words which he shall speak unto you shall be the law which ye shall do." (vs. 1)

There must be an opposition in all things. The verses that follow this introduction at the beginning of the chapter delve into the fate of the wicked at the time of Christ's coming. Then in verse 8, Nephi returns briefly to those that will "look forward unto Christ with steadfastness." There are promises given to those that will believe in Him: He shall appear unto them, He shall heal them, and they shall have peace with Him.

(The Spirit testifies to me that such are the blessings extended to all those who diligently look to Christ the Lord for their deliverance.)

Verses 10 and 11 are explanation of what happens when a righ…

"Alive in Christ," 2 Nephi 25:21-30

2 Nephi 25:21-31

The premise for these final verses of chapter 25 is found in the end of verse 20:

...yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved. Then in verse 21, Nephi explains that this is the reason that the Lord had promised him that the things which he should write would be preserved and made available to future generations.

These verse that follow talk about Nephi's efforts to persuade his children to believe in Christ. He said that he "labored diligently to write, to persuade [his] children, and also [his] brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God;"(See verse 23).

This same verse then concludes with this defining, doctrinal statement: "For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."

Nephi goes on to make a very interesting set of observations, comparin…

"Until They Shall Be Persuaded to Believe in Christ," 2 Nephi 25:9-20

2 Nephi 25:9-20

Nephi earlier in this chapter set out his intentions to be plain spoken and direct, and these verses are the evidence of his subsequent effort to do such. In very simple terms, Nephi explains why the Jews had been carried away into Babylon, and the cause of all their subsequent afflictions. Nephi states, "Behold, they will reject [Jesus Christ], because of their iniquities, and the hardness of their hearts, and the stiffness of their necks," (vs. 12). It is a sobering thought that the answer is just that simple.

Verse 16 talks about the elongation of this curse, "And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation, until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement which is infinite for all mankind--"

Furthermore, there is a standard that Nephi describes in this same verse that must be met for the scour…

"My Soul Delighteth in Plainness," 2 Nephi 25:1-8

2 Nephi 25:1-8

The thought impresses me that this chapter serves as plain-spoken guide to understanding the previous chapters of scripture written by Isaiah. Perhaps even as a starting point to understanding the prophecies of Isaiah, one would do good to review this chapter first. It is given by prophecy, so as to make its explanations more effective than any other sources.

The writings of Isaiah are notorious for being hard to understand. Difficulty in understanding the scriptures is addressed in these verse. Nephi's people had a hard timing understanding the words of Isaiah. Nephi attributes this to their not being exposed to the ways of the Jews. Yet he explains that he has included these writings that we "may know the judgments of God, that they come upon all nations, according to the word which he hath spoken," (vs. 3).

Nephi also observes that those who are filled with a spirit of prophecy are able to understand the writing of Isaiah. (see vs. 4) Later, he adds tha…

"How Hath The Oppressor Ceased", 2 Nephi 24

2 Nephi  24

Studying 2 Nephi 24, the thought impresses me that the one to whom Lucifer is telling the biggest lie is himself.
For thou hast said in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north;I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. (vs. 13-14) There are two sides only to the battle in heaven and on earth. On the one side are those that serve the Lord, and on the opposite side are those that serve themselves, and think that of themselves they are able to attain some greater degree of glory than what God has promised to those that follow Him.

This chapter begins with this reminder: "For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel," (vs. 1). This is a reminder of the Covenant that God made with Abraham and his sons. In the day that this will be brought to pass, it says that "the land of the Lord will be s…

"I Will Be Merciful Unto My People", 2 Nephi 23

2 Nephi 23

Chapter 23 deals with the descruction of the wicked: Babylon. It is a descriptive explanation of the fate of the wicked.

According to historical accounts, Babylon was one of the greatest cities of the ancient world. It was a center of commerce and prosperity, not unlike our world today. Consider Babylon and its utter destruction. After its mighty fall, there was nothing left -- not even one inhabitant to preserve it from generation to generation. (see vs. 20)  It is gone forever.  As the chapter preface indicates the destruction of Babylon is given as a type for the destruction of the wicked at the seconding coming of our Lord.

The destruction decreed upon wicked is not without reason. In verse 2, it reads, "For my anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness." It is those that have forgotten the Lord and his greatness, that have assumed that is through their own power that they have been so richly blessed. They are fools and are destroyed because of their fool…

"The Lord Jehovah... Is My Song," 2 Nephi 22

2 Nephi 22

These verses have a profound power attached to them as I read them. From verse 2, "I will trust, and not be afraid; for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song;"

I overheard a remix of a song last evening calculated to instill unity towards a noble cause. The song has long bothered me, as do many others. What's more is that it is perceived as indifference or some other form of  intolerance that I don't like such music. I would therefore do better to educate myself on my stance, so that I might more properly expound it to others as it comes into question.

"The Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song" -- Few artists will convey their testimonies of Gospel truth in song. These are hard to come by. I am seen as shallow for only liking such music. But why, when our music is so very much a part of what we feel inside of us? How can I allow other forms of unworthy music to occupy my very inner being, when I am filled with light and joy from the source …

"An Ensign to the Nations," 2 Nephi 21:10-16

2 Nephi 21:10-16

In verse 10, Isaiah prophesies of a root of Jesse being set up as an ensign for the Gentiles. Distinct from the covenant people of the Lord, these people shall also find rest through Jesus Christ, of whom the root of Jesse is reference to.

In verse 12, we read about the Lord setting up an ensign to the nations. It serves as a gather tool to bring whomever will come, unto Him: the outcasts of Israel, the dispersed of Judah, the remnants of his people wherever they are found, even upon the isles of the sea.

In a politically charged world of conflict, where every person seems to have their own personal interests at stake, verse 13 is reassuring: Ephraim and Judah will put aside their envy and vexation. There will be cooperation and unity in the final gathering of the Lord's people.

There will be a highway in the end of times that will allow for safe passage for all that are left to come to Zion. There are multiple scriptures that talk about this prophecy from Isaiah and …

"The Knowledge of the Lord," 2 Nephi 21:6-9

2 Nephi 21:6-9

These verses talk about carnivorous animals lying down along side animals that would in other circumstance be deemed their prey: wolves and lambs, lions and fatlings, cows and bears. This is offered as an example of the effect that the knowledge of God will have upon the inhabitants of the earth.

As a father of young children, verse 8 is of particular interest:
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. I think of the particular precautions we as parents take to protect our children from dangers, sometimes to the point of excess. I can easily see the unattended child quietly escaping the supervisory care of a loving parent and finding an asp's or a snake's hole. This would naturally intrigue the small child to the point that the child would be putting itself in great danger. Yet with the change wrought by the knowledge of God, as best as I can tell, the viper's tendencies to attack w…

"With Righteousness Shall He Judge," 2 Nephi 21:4-5

 2 Nephi 21:4-5

In this context, I find it difficult to quantify righteousness. If I were asked to explain righteousness, I can only point to God and say: He is righteousness. There is no set prescription of tasks that can fully embody the righteousness of God. So it does become something of a dilemma to be able to fully comprehend what it means to be righteous as Christ and God the Father are righteous beings.

Yet the dilemma is worth investigation, inasmuch as we are commanded to become like Them.

The first set of footnotes in verse 4 on the term righteousness points to God Himself as the definition of righteousness. Whatever God does is righteousness. The remainder of this verse describes what Christ does with His righteousness. It is the source of power which enables Christ to judge, reprove, punish, and destroy. And to what end? Christ executes righteousness to clear a path for the meek and poor of His people.

I see in these verses how Christ is able to prepare the way for those of…

"The Spirit of the Lord," 2 Nephi 21:1-5

2 Nephi 21:1-5

At the beginning of this chapter there is a yet another descriptive prophecy of Chirst's coming and of the nature of his righteousness. The personal application is that as Christ was and is, so I can also become through faith in Him. This comes with the hope that I may one day be worthy to be called a son of Christ (see Mosiah 5:7). 

What stands out to me in this reading is the definition of the Spirit of the Lord found in verse 2 and then the results of having the Holy Spirit as a companion that follow in subsequent verses. Parenthetically, this is for me one of the most unique and empowering doctrines of my "Mormon" faith, in contrast with the rest of modern Christianity. I am blessed to enjoy the continual companionship of the Spirit of the Lord, as long as I prove faithful to the baptismal and sacramental covenants that I have made, which covenants entitle me to be the recipient of such a blessing as this. This companionship is very real, constant, and …

"Zion, Be Not Afraid", 2 Nephi 20

2 Nephi 20

The condemnation decreed upon the house of Israel continues in verses 1-4 of this chapter. Whereas in the last chapter, it talks about even the fatherless and widows being evildoers, so that the Lord would have no mercy on them, in this chapter, it points to the leadership of their people as the source of suffering for the poor, the widows, and the fatherless.

It is interesting to note in the following verses that the Lord permitted Assyria to afflict the House of Israel. Yet to the mind of Assyria, it was their own craft and wisdom that brought upon them their prosperity over Israel. Isaiah hence points out that this is only because the Lord decreed destruction upon Israel, and that Assyria in the end would also be destroyed. The key variable that is almost never understood is the Lord's involvement in it all.

Hence in verse 24, the Lord comforts Zion, and tells them to not fear Assyria, thought it would seem that there was for the immediate a preference given to Assyri…