29 January 2011

"[To Teach]...the Ways of the Lord," Jarom1:1-7


Jarom's primary reason for making his record was to preserve the genealogy of his people, according to the commandment that he had received of his father, Enos. He also understands that the primary benefactors will be the Lamanites at some future date.(verse 1)

Though he had prophecies and revelations of his own, one of the marks of Jarom's humility is that he points to what had already been written by Nephi, Jacob, and Enos, explaining that the plan of Salvation had already been revealed by them. (verse 2)

After explaining the difference between the Nephites (a God-fearing people, vs 5) and the Lamanites (a blood-thirsty group, vs 6), Jarom explains how the leadership of the Nephites caused their people to prevail against the Lamanites. "Our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord; and they taught the people the ways of the Lord;" (verse 7). Mighty men of faith teach the ways of the Lord to the people, and thus the people are strengthened to understand and prevail against their opposition.

24 January 2011

"Wrought Upon," Enos 1:22-27

Enos 1:22-27

I've been thinking as of late of some of the great ordeals that prophets have to go through in the process of having their faith tried and refined. It makes me wonder how I could hope to qualify to stand along side the ancients who had to go through so much hardship, if I myself do not have to be tested as they were tested. Some of these final remarks suggest that such were the days of Enos as well.

There is one verse however that stands  out in my reading this morning, verse 26, wherein he talks about "having been wrought upon by the power of God that I must preach and prophecy unto this people, and declare the word according to the truth which is in Christ."  Particularly, what does it mean to be "wrought upon by the power of God".  In Spanish, it is translated as being influenced by the power of God. (Perhaps the irony of this post is that yesterday, I would have been done, published, and moved on to the next group of verses if I hadn't been "wrought upon" by the Holy Spirit to give it one more day and consider a few more phrases in the last two verses.)

The thing that Enos was influenced by the Holy Spirit to do was to teach the truth unto his people. But the truth that he was to teach has a qualifier, "the truth which is in Christ," (verse 26). Enos goes on to say that he has obtain rest "which is with my Redeemer," and then a line of testimony to conclude: "For I know that in him I shall find rest." Enos concludes his remarks by stating that which is to come for him in Christ. For him, the image of a smiling Christ at the judgment day is a reality. (see verse 27) I hope that I may have that confidence when my days are completed and I am old.

20 January 2011

"A Desire for the Welfare of My Brethern," Enos 1:9-21

Enos 1:9-21

Enos's subsequent comment in verse 9 is evidence of his repentance being complete. Afterward, he felt a desire toward his brethren to receive of the same blessing. Christ taught Peter, "And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:32) What strikes me as interesting is that I never had considered that "natural" fruit of repentance and conversion to be a desire to share it with others. This must have been then what Elder Ballard meant back in 2006 when he said:
Our love for the Lord and appreciation for the Restoration of the gospel are all the motivation we need to share what gives us much joy and happiness. It is the most natural thing in the world for us to do, and yet far too many of us are hesitant to share our testimonies with others. ("Creating a Gospel Sharing Home," Elder M. Russell Ballard, General Conference, April 2006, emphasis added)

Enos had learned the power and effectiveness of prayer in being able to work things out with God. In the same manner in which he obtained a remission of his sins, he "struggled in the spirit" to obtain promises for his brethren. (see verses 10 - 12)

In verse 11, Enos states that after receiving an answer to one such prayer, his faith "began to be unshaken in the Lord." Then in verse 12, he's received another answer to a prayer that he had laboring in all diligence to make happen, and the Lord explains,  "I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith," (emphasis added). Enos's faith was proven by the diligent work that he had performed. And because the Lord saw that he would work diligently for his desires, the Lord opened the way for his prayers to be fulfilled.

This time however, the prayer and its answer were not for things immediate. Because he had already prayed and worked to try and bring salvation to the Lamanites, he saw that it was vain at the present time to try to pursue the course. But because he had tried, the Lord rewarded his efforts with a covenant that the record that he was keeping would be preserved for the benefit and blessing of the future generations of the Lamanites. (see verses 13-18)

13 January 2011

"Lord, How Is It Done?" Enos1:1-8

Enos 1:1-8

As testament to his father Jacob, Enos begins his short account with a simple statement of tribute to his father: "knowing my father that he was a just man." (verse 1, emphasis added) How appropriate and how beautiful is the acknowledgment of a son of his father's goodness and righteousness. It might seem backwards that the testimony of a son towards his father would be such compelling evidence of his father's goodness, but on the other hand, who better to make such a statement.

Enos's account is different than Nephi's and Jacob's. Here is the first prophet in the Book of Mormon to make reference to his own repentance and conversion to Christ. He describes it in simple terms by saying, "I will tell you of the wrestle that I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins." (verse 2)

Enos's repentance process was, when it finally came, an all day ordeal. He was found in a quiet place, were betwixt him and God they could work through the sins that Enos had committed. I appreciate that Enos described repentance as a wrestle with God -- a labor intensive struggle that requires every ounce of effort that one has or is capable of possessing. As any interaction with God should require, this especially demanded all of his heart, might, mind, and strength. (See Doctrine and Covenants 4:2)

When the night finally came, Enos continued his struggle, but then was met with these words, that only the penitent can fully appreciate, "thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed."(verse 5)  I love what Enos concludes subsequently, "I knew that God could not lie, wherefore, my guilt was swept away." (verse 6)  

Simple terms really -- there is no other way to describe it. But the change that takes place is profoundly significant and life altering. To have one's guilt removed, the burden of sin, which hangs as an oppressive rock over one's soul, to return to a state of innocence and purity before God, there is nothing to compare with this transformation which takes place. (see also John 3:3)

The depth of the forgiveness that Enos received and its impact upon him seems to be the reason that prompts his subsequent question. Again, a very simple statement-- "Lord, how is it done?" (verse 7) Then, knowing that Enos had listening ears, the Lord answers him "because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou has never before heard nor seen... wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole." (verse 8

The simplicity of the repentance process and the profundity of the forgiveness and cleansing that resulted are made possible through faith in Christ. In just a few chapters later (though roughly 400 years later), King Benjamin teaches:
And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. (Mosiah 3:17)

06 January 2011

"We Did Mourn Out Our Days," Jacob 7

Jacob 7

This chapter is well known for its one of the two accounts found in the Book of Mormon of an Anti-Christ. Sherem came preaching a variation on the scriptures, claiming that he believed the things that were written therein, but denying the foundational message of every prophet that had written: that Christ should come. Jacob countered his claims.
"...Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ." (verse 11)
 Jacob's personal commentary on the situation reminds me of the Prophet Joseph Smith's comments about how he responded to people who plainly refused to accept his account of the First Vision.  Jacob observes:
"And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken." (verse 5, emphasis added)
Jacob was blessed for his faithfulness and the Lord sent his Spirit to strengthen and guide Jacob in the presence of Sherem, "insomuch that [Jacob] did confound him..."(verse 8) Time does not permit me to elaborate further on the account, but it is curious to note that the end result of this story is a restoration of peace to the people and the love of God. (verse 23)

Jacob in his time felt an obligation towards the Lamanites, or those to whom the Gospel of Jesus Christ was not readily understood or accepted. Yet the net result of any effort that they made to reach out was returned with bitter hatred and violence. I find this nonetheless notable and interesting that a missionary spirit yet strove with them. (see verse 24)

In the second to last verse in this final chapter of Jacob, Jacob makes a summary of his lifetime by stating: "Wherefore, we did mourn out our days." (verse 26) There is something about this sober declaration of the reality of his existence that really strikes me as profound. I am old enough now that I can look back and realize that I have a history and a course of events that have taken me to where I am now. My life has been so much more richly blessed and easy, in comparison. But the thing that is above all most notable, is that even in a mournful reflection of a hard life, Jacob is confident in the terms and means of his salvation. This observation in no way lessens the end, perhaps it makes it even that much more enjoyable and rewarding when the end does finally come. Jacob's life then is excellent example of enduring to the end.