26 February 2011

"These Records Are True," Mosiah 1

Mosiah 1

The value of education, as being requisite to exercising faith in Christ, is reinforced in these opening verses. Typically, in the eyes of the world, those with education are regarded as less spiritually inclined. However, one of the unique characteristics of the Church of Jesus Christ is that this is just the opposite, the more educated the more inclined the individual is to be spiritual.

The first half of this chapter discusses Benjamin's efforts to educate his three sons. The second half deals with the transfer of the kingdom to his oldest son, Mosiah.  In both settings, Benjamin puts greatest emphasis in the simple principles of faithfulness and obedience. This explains how this leader was able to obtain peace in his lifetime, for he knew 1) from what he had studied in the scriptures of civilizations past and 2) his own experience in a leadership capacity that those who kept the commandments of God should prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord had made with their fathers.

Going back through Benjamin's exhortation to his sons regarding the scriptures, his motivation was to educate his sons so that they could read and understand the records that had been preserved by the hand of God for them. In verse 5, Benjamin very clearly states that if they didn't have the records, they would be as were the Lamanites, without any knowledge of God, both in His mysteries and in His commandments.

Then as Benjamin gives charge to his son Mosiah in preparation for the transfer of the kingdom, he explains that the reasons for their prosperity are the direct result of the people's obedience to the commandments of God. (see verse 11) This diligence in keeping the Lord's commandments also gave them direct access to the power of God, which was their source of unfailing protection against the Lamanites. How rare and amazing to find a leader who understood these simple truths, that prosperity and happiness and peace are the direct results of the people's willingness to keep the laws of God.

Yea, and moreover I say unto you, that if this highly favored people of the Lord should fall into transgression, and become a wicked and an adulterous people, that the Lord will deliver them up, that thereby they become weak like unto their brethren; and he will no more preserve them by his matchless and marvelous power, as he has hitherto preserved our fathers.

For I say unto you, that if he had not extended his arm in the preservation of our fathers they must have fallen into the hands of the Lamanites, and become victims to their hatred. (verses 13 and 14)
Benjamin, as a means of helping his people to remember the Lord is about to bestow upon this people a new name that will unify them as a people, because of their diligence up to that point. (verses 11 and 12) This was not unlike covenants made in our days in temples, which are calculated only to increase allegiance to Christ and to keep us in remembrance of that promise.

20 February 2011

"Once Again... a Delightsome People," The Words of Mormon

The Words of Mormon

This morning I find myself thinking about the gentle Lord, Christ Jesus, and even as I read these words of commentary by the prophet historian Mormon, I find that his primary motivation for the decisions that he made as he was compiling this collection of records was whether or not the accounts would increase faith in Christ.

And so he explains that while creating an abridged account of the plates of Nephi (this was from the record of the kings, containing a full account of the history of his people), that he had discovered a record containing prophecies concerning the coming of Christ from Nephi and other prophets. It ended with the Amaleki's account of King Benjamin. In verse 5, Mormon states that he will finish making his abridgment from the plates of Nephi (the record of the kings).

Mormon's singular motivation is conveyed in verse 8:
And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people.
I must make note of how impressed I am by Mormon's ability to discard his own work when he found something better. For despite his best efforts to summarize the period from Nephi to Benjamin, when he found these smaller plates of Nephi, he conceded that this account was better than his own, and so replaced his own (probably years of) labor with this smaller account.

The final verses of Mormon's brief editorial talk of how King Benjamin and the holy prophets who were in the land at that time labored diligently to establish peace. They did obtain peace in the land, and so it is evident that the way it was achieved was through laboring "with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul," (verse 18).

There is an important truth about work ethic conveyed in these verses, that differentiates between work and hard, effective work. In practice, they look very similar. However, there is a clear distinction between the results, for one yields fruit and the other is (mostly, if not entirely) in vain. This final thought is going to occupy a good portion of my free time today. I don't think I've gotten to the root explanation, or the core doctrines associated with this point, yet. Humility, diligence, patience, love and perseverance bring about the work that is effective. 

14 February 2011

"Led by the Power of His Arm," Omni 1:13, 20-26

Omni 1:13, 20-26

I am yet still compelled by the fact that Amaleki is so distinctly aware of his faith in contrast to his immediate fathers. In verse 23, we learn that he was born during the reign of Mosiah. What has impressed me about the change that Amaleki had in contrast to his fathers are his concluding remarks, which clearly demonstrate conviction, testimony, and faith in God.

It impresses me as I consider this, that it is because Amaleki was a part of the group that left the land of Nephi and was with King Mosiah in the wilderness, where they probably came to know God intimately. Indeed, this is most likely what happened, like Nephi and his family when they left Jerusalem, or Moses and the Children of Israel, or even in our time, the Mormon Pioneers' exodus from Navuoo to Salt Lake. This lengthy journey from the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla afforded Mosiah's people the opportunity to be "led by the power of his arm." (verse 13) But what's more, in the same verse, Amaleki explained that it was period of instruction: "...They were led by many preachings and prophesyings. And they were admonished continually by the word of God;"

And so it is that when God wants to prepare a people to receive the blessings of heaven, one of the more effective ways that he does it is to establish a group of people within whom that foundation for the work of salvation has been established. So as a final testimony in verse 25, we read of Amaleki's words regarding the gifts of the Spirit: prophecy, revelation, ministering of angels, speaking in tongues, interpretation of languages, "and in all things which are good." Then finally, he extends in no uncertain terms, an invitation to come unto Christ, and to receive the salvation that He has prepared for us.
Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved. (verse 26)
Testimonies such as this one, only come from individuals who have themselves obtained the salvation wherein he is inviting me to also strive for.

10 February 2011

"They Should Be Taught," Omni 1:14-19,27-30

Omni 1:14-19,27-30

The difference between a righteous leader and one who is lead by their own ambitions is inadvertently addressed in this verses. It still impresses me how one righteous leader can make such an impact and influence for good on others.

How is it that a righteous leader leads? By persuasion and by instruction. In these verses, King Mosiah and his people discover a land that is inhabited by another people, who language had become corrupt and who had lost all knowledge of any existence of their Creator. Verse 18 is pivotal. "But it came to pass that Mosiah caused that they should be taught in his language." The way to end the corruption was to teach them.

The situation is an interesting one. King Mosiah and his people are the refugees, yet they have with them the plates of brass, and have maintained their language and their faith in God.  In very next verse, Mosiah is appointed king over the land. There was no hostile invasion; no show of arms. Quiet and peacefully, two very distinct groups of people with a common heritage (300-400 years prior) are merged, because of one righteous man who was their king.

At the end of Amaleki's account,  he talks about a "strong and mighty man, and a stiffnecked man." He persuaded a number of his brethren to go back to the land of Nephi, reasoning that it was theirs by inheritance. What's more, instead of being a teacher like Mosiah, this man "caused a contention among them." (verse 28) Amaleki had a brother who departed with this group, which seems his main reason for making this account. However, it does offer an interesting contrast between the two leaders, one who was a leader by principle and the other who was a leader by force.

04 February 2011

"According to the Commandments of Our Fathers," Omini1:1-13

Omni 1:1-13

It impresses me the sense of obligation, and honor that these men felt towards the instruction given them from their fathers, at least in this regard. Perhaps this is evidence of the Lord's preserving hand upon this record.

The record goes from Omni (son of Jarom) to his son, Amaron. Amaron points out that the word of the Lord had been verified in the destruction of the more wicked part of the Nephites, while the righteous had been preserved.  Then Amaron give the record to his brother, Chemish. Chemish's only contribution is to point out that Amaron made his record on the day that he gave the records  to Chemish. Abinadom, the son of Chemish, following his fathers, makes only a few remarks, one being evident of the spiritual decay that had transpired: "I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy;"(verse 11).

But then Abindom's son, Amaleki, tells of quite a different change of events when he begins by saying that their king, Mosiah, had been warned of the Lord to flee the city of Nephi with as many as would follow him. After several generations had dwindled in unfaithfulness, suddenly here rises Mosiah, who leads the people by preaching and prophesying -- or better said, who let the voice of  Lord lead the people.

Know this, that ev’ry soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be;
For this eternal truth is giv’n:
That God will force no man to heav’n.
(Hymns, Know This, That Every Soul Is Free, no. 240)

01 February 2011

"Prosper in the Land," Jarom 1:8-15

Jarom 1:8-15

The remainder of the book of Jarom is evidence to this promise of the Lord: "Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land." Which promise was first extended to Nephi and his brothers by their father, Lehi. (see 2 Nephi 1:20)

Jarom also continues to elaborate upon the theme of teaching the people. He explains that those prophets, priests, and teachers that were among them labored diligently to remind the people of the above stated truth. The one thing that these observations of Jarom have helped me to understand is that the purpose of their preaching was to "stir them up unto repentance." (verse 12) Previous to this in the same verse, Jarom states that this is what kept the people from being destroyed.

Coming back at this a second morning, I'm addressing the connection between prosperity and obedience to the commandments. I really appreciated the footnotes on the word "prosper" in verse 9. One leads to the Lord's admonition of Joshua, that he keep the laws which Moses had revealed without variation (see Joshua 1:7). The other was footnote leads to Psalm 122:6, which simply states "they shall prosper that love thee." Therefore, it is the love of God and His commands that brings prosperity and peace.