Friday, November 19, 2010

An Abridgment of an Abridgment- Nephi's Teachings on Recieving the Sealing Power

Looking back over Nephi’s life, through his record, we discover that he deliberately “hits the mountain tops”. This means he outlines wonderfully a pattern, or path, that must be followed to gain “power in the priesthood”.
Here is an “abridgment” of that path as I have observed so far.
His father taught him and testified of God. (1 Nephi 1:1)
He had a desire to know the “mysteries of Godliness” for himself. (1 Nephi 2: 16)
He “cried” unto the Lord which resulted in the Lord visiting him and he believed. (1 Nephi 2:16)
He entered into the same covenant as Abraham did. (1 Nephi 2, 1 Nephi 3:15)
He testified of this truth to others in the spirit of prophecy. (1 Nephi 2:17)
He cried unto the Lord on behalf of others or ministered in the office of a priest. (1 Nephi 2:18)
He learned the blessings that are given by obedience to the covenant he entered into, namely: Land inheritance (1 Nephi 2:20), prosperity in the form of posterity (1 Nephi 2:20), and priesthood power (1 Nephi 2:22)
He was promised the blessing of being a “ruler and teacher”, or a king, predicated upon his faithfulness. (1 Nephi 2:19-22)
He was given a test to prove if he would be faithful in all things. (1 Nephi 4)
He obtained “power in his word”, or the sealing power. (1 Nephi 7, 1 Nephi 17)
Generally we find all of this information in the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon. This is even before Nephi talks about the vision of the “Tree of Life”. I believe Nephi is trying to show us a pattern. When we truly see this pattern in Nephi’s life, it becomes easier to recognize it in the lives of others in the Book of Mormon, and the in other Standard Works of The Church, and even to pattern our own lives after it.
I am grateful that the Book of Mormon is a beautiful record of how to gain power in the priesthood, and seek for it individually, as Nephi and so many others did.
I know this may seem like a redundant review of my last several posts, but I believe a firm understanding of this process is needed before we can go on to “tackle” the Tree of Life vision and the meaning it has for each of us.
Please ponder and pray about these things and ask for further light and knowledge. Remember the only real difference between Laman and Lemuel, and Nephi, is this outlined process, starting most importantly with the desire to know, and the willingness to ask.
1 Nephi 15:3 For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought.
8 And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Did Frankly Forgive Them 1 Nephi 7

My last post contained a record of my observations regarding Nephi’s character as I have observed it. It was as follows:
"At this point I would like to interject a possible concern. There have been times when I have wondered how the same incidence, if told in the perspective of Laman and Lemuel, might have differed. Since this record is that of Nephi, I have felt at times that he seems to make sure the record is really slanted in his favor. This perspective changed for me when I realized that Nephi had, I believe, already at this point in his history, progressed to the point that he had received the sealing power. The understanding that I have of this power allows me to now view Nephi quite differently. Suddenly every word that Nephi speaks is as if the Lord himself were speaking. No longer do I view Nephi as boastful, but as a representative of God in every word and deed. This exchange between Nephi and his brothers, or the rebellious, has become a way for me to understand the nature and character of the Lord much better, as it is illustrated by Nephi’s very words and actions."
This point of view could not be given better illustration, in my opinion, than what is seen in the closing incidents of 1 Nephi chapter 7.
Nephi, after outlining the consequences of their choice, required that his brothers choose to return to Jerusalem and perish, or return to their father Lehi and live. The information Nephi gave to his brothers regarding the choice they were to make caused them to act violently toward him. They were “exceedingly wroth” which resulted in them “laying hands on him” and “binding him with cords”. They also “sought to take his life” by “leaving him in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts”. An interesting comparison might even be made between Nephi and Joseph of Egypt in this case. Both were treated similarly by their brothers, and ultimately both would act as “saviors” for their entire families. When we observe these similarities we should also remember to look for similarities in priesthood power as well.

As Nephi is bound, he prays for an interesting solution to his problem. Look for exactly what he asks for:
1 Nephi 7: 17 But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.
Instead of asking for the Lord to jump in and handle the situation, he simply asked for the strength to overcome his enemies himself. He prefaces this request with the declaration of his faith in the Lord, and his reliance on His power to save. Nephi knew that because of the power in the priesthood, which had been given him by the Lord, he could do what was required to progress by simply asking for it. His words would supply the means of deliverance.
Notice what happens when he speaks the words of his prayer, or request:
1 Nephi 7: 18 And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet, and I stood before my brethren, and I spake unto them again.
We are shown the power Nephi had just by speaking the words. When he spoke the word the bands were loosed. The confidence that Nephi had in his priesthood power is a lesson for all of us to learn. Nephi did not need an angel to come and loosen the cords; he gained power himself to do it. I marvel at the faith and knowledge that Nephi had to preform that simple act.
Although through the priesthood power Nephi was free from the restraints that bound him, it still took some humbling for his brothers to acknowledge their mistake in acting harshly toward him. After some persuasion, ultimately their hearts were softened and they desired, and asked, Nephi to forgive them for what they had done.
1 Nephi 7: 20 And it came to pass that they were sorrowful, because of their wickedness, insomuch that they did bow down before me, and did plead with me that I would forgive them of the thing that they had done against me.
It is at this point I have always thought of Nephi as somewhat boastful in the manner he responded, but understanding that Nephi is speaking as if the Lord himself were speaking, the perspective changes for me, when he tells us that he “did frankly forgive them all that they had done.” I believe that all that is required of us, for the Lord to forgive us of our sins, is a change of heart, the humble acknowledgment of Him as our Savior and Redeemer, and the request for his grace, which is the application of the Atonement in our lives. When we experience this “mighty change”, He too will “frankly forgive” us of all that we have done. Nephi becomes a beautiful illustration of the Savior himself, allowing us to come to know the Lord better by his example.
Because of the act of forgiveness on the part of Nephi, they were all given the blessing of moving forward on their journey in harmony. Nephi showed us that not only is the Lord quick to forgive, but we should be likewise, quick to forgive.
For me this is a literal teaching of the term, “grace for grace”.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Free to Choose, But Not the Consequences 1 Nephi 7

The next important event that Nephi records is the requirement, made by the Lord, for he and his brothers to return to Jerusalem to the house of Ishmael to persuade him to join them in their journey to a land of promise. This assignment was important for the propagation of the posterity of Lehi because Ishmael provided daughters for his sons to marry. Although Nephi does not record any rebellion by his brothers concerning the charge to get the wives, he does discuss their reluctance to return back to Lehi in the wilderness and their desire instead to stay in Jerusalem, which was ripe for destruction.

It is interesting to watch the interaction of Nephi with his brothers as they seek to rebel against the Lord and disobey his command. Nephi, who has power in the priesthood, and displays power in his very word, uses a pattern of teaching that is typical of how the Savior taught, speaking as if the Lord himself is speaking.
Look for what the brothers desired.
1 Nephi 7:6 And it came to pass that as we journeyed in the wilderness, behold Laman and Lemuel, and two of the daughters of Ishmael, and the two sons of Ishmael and their families, did rebel against us; yea, against me, Nephi, and Sam, and their father, Ishmael, and his wife, and his three other daughters.
7 And it came to pass in the which rebellion, they were desirous to return unto the land of Jerusalem.
Laman and Lemuel wanted to exercise their agency and return to Jerusalem even though it was contrary to the command they had been given. Nephi, their younger brother, was troubled that they needed to constantly be reminded of the word of the Lord by him, as he set the example of obedience.

Side Bar: At this point I would like to interject a possible concern. There have been times when I have wondered how the same incidence, if told in the perspective of Laman and Lemuel, might have differed. Since this record is that of Nephi, I have felt at times that he seems to make sure the record is really slanted in his favor. This perspective changed for me when I realized that Nephi had, I believe, already at this point in his history, progressed to the point that he had received the sealing power. The understanding that I have of this power allows me to now view Nephi quite differently. Suddenly every word that Nephi speaks is as if the Lord himself were speaking. No longer do I view Nephi as boastful, but as a representative of God in every word and deed. This exchange between Nephi and his brothers, or the rebellious, has become a way for me to understand the nature and character of the Lord much better, as it is illustrated by Nephi’s very words and actions.
Nephi provides the type and shadow of the Savior himself as he councils the rebellious.
By the questions Nephi asks his brothers, look for what he is trying to remind them of:
1 Nephi 7:9 How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord?
10 How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord?
11 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us, in delivering us out of the hands of Laban, and also that we should obtain the record?
12 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.
Nephi reminded his brothers of the Lord’s power unto deliverance if they would exercise faith in him. He used incidents that they were familiar with to jog their memory of what great things they had already heard and seen. He bore testimony of the power of faith, and pled with them to be faithful. He taught, and reminded them of, the first principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is faith, and tried to help their faith to grow.
Nephi then recounted to his brothers the blessings that occur because of faith and obedience:
1 Nephi 7:13 And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise; and ye shall know at some future period that the word of the Lord shall be fulfilled concerning the destruction of Jerusalem; for all things which the Lord hath spoken concerning the destruction of Jerusalem must be fulfilled.
14 For behold, the Spirit of the Lord ceaseth soon to strive with them; for behold, they have rejected the prophets, and Jeremiah have they cast into prison. And they have sought to take away the life of my father, insomuch that they have driven him out of the land.
By obedience to the word of the Lord by faith, they were to receive all the promised blessings attached to the commands. They not only would obtain a land of promise, they would also know of the definite destruction of the land of Jerusalem, of which had been prophesied. Both of these great blessings were dependent upon their faithfulness.
Nephi then acting as their leader and teacher warned them of the consequences of disobedience, and then boldly required them to choose.
1 Nephi 7:15 Now behold, I say unto you that if ye will return unto Jerusalem ye shall also perish with them. And now, if ye have choice, go up to the land, and remember the words which I speak unto you, that if ye go ye will also perish; for thus the Spirit of the Lord constraineth me that I should speak.
This exchange between Nephi and his brothers teaches us a wonderful lesson of choice and accountability. In the Master Teacher’s way, the “rebellious” are taught about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, His power to deliver which qualifies Him as one to have faith in, and the blessings that are attached to obedience to His word. The consequences for disobedience are then laid before them in such a way that is unmistakably clear; obedience brings life, disobedience brings death. Finally, he allows them to choose for themselves. The result of their choice is crystal clear. The Lord is the one who provides the terms as shown by the statement that He “constraineth” Nephi, or required him to teach in this way.
Look for the reaction that Laman and Lemuel have to the choice they are given.
1 Nephi 7:16 And it came to pass that when I, Nephi, had spoken these words unto my brethren, they were angry with me. And it came to pass that they did lay their hands upon me, for behold, they were exceedingly wroth, and they did bind me with cords, for they sought to take away my life, that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.
They obviously did not like the outcome of their choice if they disobey. They desired to choose for themselves, but are upset that they have no control of the consequences of their choice, which were set previous to the choice itself. They first became angry, then laid hands on their brother binding him with cords, and ultimately wished to take his life. The reaction that is displayed by these “rebellious” brothers is the same reaction that Jesus Christ himself received as he sought to teach these same truths to the rebellious of Jerusalem. The pattern is always the same.
The Lord loves us and allows us to choose for ourselves. He is a great parent, in that; He does not allow us to choose the consequences. He makes them clear and then lets us make a choice based on what we want to receive. This information allows us to exercise our agency properly. Some do not like this option because it makes them be accountable for their own actions.
Nephi later teaches this principle again:
1 Nephi 16:2 And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.
Understanding this principle as I do, I often wonder why I have such a rebellious soul at times. How about you?
The next part of the lesson in Chapter 7 is really my favorite part… you will see why…. in the next post.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Power in the Priesthood 1 Nephi 4

In Chapter 4 of First Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, Nephi was given a task by the Lord which required him to do something that he might have felt was beyond his ability to do. It was something that went against everything he had been taught concerning correct principles and doctrine; he was required to slay Laban. This test was given to him so that he could prove to the Lord that he was willing to keep the covenant he had made, to do as the Lord commanded. It allowed him to prove to the Lord that he could be trusted in all things, that he was one who the Lord could have confidence in. This confidence is eventually what is required to gain the blessing of power in the priesthood, or the sealing power.
The sealing power is more fully discussed in the Book of Helaman. Approximately 500 years after Nephi lived, there was another prophet whose story is told, and his name is Nephi also. This second Nephi was required to do hard things just like the first one. He too, was tested by the Lord and found worthy of the Lord’s confidence.
Look for what Nephi did to gain the Lord’s blessing.
Helaman 10:4 Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
Nephi had proven that he was faithful by his unwearyingness in declaring the word of the Lord to a people who were hostile and unrepentant. By doing so he proved to the Lord that he would follow the Lord’s commandments at all cost, even at the peril of his own life. He showed that he feared God more than he feared man, feared meaning loved and respected. He showed the Lord that He could have confidence in him.
Look for the blessings given to Nephi from the Lord because he had proved to the Lord that he could be trusted.
Helaman 10:5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
7 Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.
8 And thus, if ye shall say unto this temple it shall be rent in twain, it shall be done.
9 And if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou cast down and become smooth, it shall be done.
10 And behold, if ye shall say that God shall smite this people, it shall come to pass.
Nephi was given power in the priesthood wherein, literally, whatever he spoke would happen. The Lord would place His “seal” of approval on anything that Nephi said and did because Nephi had gained his trust. The Lord knew, by the tests Nephi had been given and passed, that Nephi would always submit his own will to that of the Lords will. The Lord knew that Nephi would act as He would act, and speak as He would speak, if the Lord, Himself, were present in any given situation. He knew that Nephi would not ask anything that was contrary to His will. This delegation of authority is one of complete “power in the priesthood”. It is what is referred to as the “sealing power.” It is the “power of the word”. I believe that one could even go so far as calling it “divine investiture” of authority.
After the Lord required the first Nephi to slay Laban, the record shows that Nephi’s very word exhibits power. Nephi literally teaches, speaks, and acts how the Father would act if He were in Nephi’s place. It is, in every essence, what Boyd K. Packer describes as “the authority and the power which God has granted to men on earth to act for Him. When priesthood authority is exercised properly, priesthood bearers do what He would do if He were present.”
It is interesting to ponder this fact as further study of the Book of Mormon continues. In your study, look for how Nephi teaches us of the “power in the priesthood” by showing us “the power of the word.” Look for Nephi as a type of the Father, and Jesus Christ.
Because Nephi has recorded the process that he followed to gain this power in the priesthood, I have come to better understand how one receives it. The process outlined is simple;
it requires first a desire to know, coupled with the willingness to ask in faith with a repentant and humble heart, requiring one to enter into covenants because of the knowledge given in response to the inquiry, and finally showing proof of obedience in all circumstances that the Lord sees fit to try one in.
Nephi also shows us, with the record he makes of his experiences, the responsibility that attends this great power, and how to exercise it properly too. I have gained a greater love and respect for Nephi, and subsequently come to understand the nature of both the Father and the Son better as I have realized that Nephi’s actions reflect those of the Father himself because he is a righteous priesthood holder with “power in the priesthood”.
It is no wonder to me that we are asked to study the Book of Mormon more deeply, looking for those patterns that teach us how to gain power in the priesthood. Boyd K. Packer taught:
The authority of the priesthood is with us. After all that we have correlated and organized, it is now our responsibility to activate the power of the priesthood in the Church. Authority in the priesthood comes by way of ordination; power in the priesthood comes through faithful and obedient living in honoring covenants. It is increased by exercising and using the priesthood in righteousness.
This is what we learn from Nephi too.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Small Plates, An Account of Remembering 1 Nephi 6,9,19

Lehi and Nephi were both diligent record keepers. They had a great testimony of the worth of the record. I believe they continually wrote down the events of their daily lives, especially regarding the time period after they were commanded to leave Jerusalem. Nephi himself records, that the records that he and his father kept contained not only their genealogical records but an extensive account of their “proceedings in the wilderness”. I like to think that the records they were keeping were more of a daily journaling experience. It was this type of record that Mormon used when he proceeded to create his volume of scripture called The Book of Mormon, which he abridged from all the records he had received. These were the large plates, given to Joseph Smith by Moroni. We no longer have an account of these records I make mention of, due to the lost manuscript fiasco of Martin Harris.
The record we do have today for the first part of the Book of Mormon is not one that was kept on a daily basis, it is an account of remembering. The Lord commanded Lehi to take his family and leave Jerusalem around 600 BC. It wasn’t until somewhere between 588 and 570 BC that the Lord gave Nephi the commandment to create another record besides the daily one he had been keeping. This command was given after they had finally reached their destination in the Promised Land. (1 Nephi Chapter 19) Nephi was to take a look back over his life, or his spiritual progression, and record the more “plain and precious” parts that had occurred. This process allowed him to better instruct his posterity of the path which must be followed to gain the same standing with the Lord that he had. Nephi had proved himself worthy to have the sealing power (which we will discuss in more depth in future posts), therefore, his record becomes a firsthand account of the process necessary for us to gain “power in the priesthood”, just like he did. This is a record of great worth.
Just for the heck of it, let me round off the number of years that must have passed from the time they left Jerusalem to the time Nephi was commanded to create another record, to about 35 years. Do you suppose he had a different perspective on things when he was, let’s say, 20 years old and living in the moment, as opposed to when he was 55 years old looking back on his journey?
Nephi explains to us that there is a difference.
1 Nephi 19:4 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates, (large ones that got abridged by Mormon) which gives an account, or which gives a greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people. And this have I done, and commanded my people what they should do after I was gone; and that these plates should be handed down from one generation to another, or from one prophet to another, until further commandments of the Lord. (He certainly knew that these records were necessary for the salvation of the entire world, therefore he impressed this upon his posterity as well.)
5 And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; (It is here he introduces the second set of records he is required to make) and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people.
6 Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred. And now, if I do err, even did they err of old; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.
Nephi explains that even though everything he writes about on all plates is sacred to him, the “walk down memory lane” plates, or smaller record, will contain the “more sacred things.”
Nephi tries to explain this to us right in the beginning of his smaller record.
1 Nephi 1:16 And now I, Nephi, do not make a full account of the things which my father hath written, for he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account.
17 But I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days. Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life.
Nephi abridged the record of his father first, which is why we do not have a lot of details concerning Lehi. Then he proceeded to give the abridged account of his own life up to the point he was commanded to make this second set of records. It is important that it is his life that we experience, written by his own hand, because this allows him to testify with the assurance, “I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.” It is a firsthand account! Imagine the worth of such a record of instruction.
Do all people understand the value of this account?
Nephi explains further:
1 Nephi 19:7 For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels.
I love how Nephi compares his record to Jesus Christ. It is interesting to me that we learn of the time of the coming of Christ almost as a side note. Nephi simply mentions it as he is trying to make a point about how some will not value the record he will keep. How apropos that Nephi would refer to this record, which is literally the backup plan, in comparison with the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I believe he is trying to make the point that the information that is contained in this record is as important as the Atonement itself; because it is necessary to understand the process he will teach in the record to apply the Atonement in its fullness. I guess it is evident that taking the Book of Mormon too lightly will damn us in our progression, or in other words, we will literally be under condemnation.
As Nephi abridges his own record, he, like Mormon, makes parenthetical notes. Chapter 6 of 1 Nephi is an example of a parenthetical note he places in the account. Another point in which Nephi inserts a parenthetical note is in Chapter 9.
It is in Chapter 9 that we learn that even Nephi does not fully know why the Lord has commanded him to make this second set of plates.
1 Nephi 9:5 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.
6 But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.
Nephi simply testifies that the Lord has prepared a way to accomplish all His works. How comforting to know that for each of us the Lord, in His wisdom, has prepared a way. This way includes not only the Atonement, but the necessary instruction on how to fully apply it in our lives, which we now have in the Book of Mormon because of these small plates of Nephi.
And thus it is.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Small Plates or Backup Plan Doctrine and Covenants 10

I have found that I have placed a much greater value on the record of Nephi, which is contained in the Book of Mormon, because I finally understand the mechanics of how the Book of Mormon was organized. Let me try and explain what I mean by that statement. It may take a couple of posts to fully get my point across… so have patience with me!
I have always understood that Mormon was the prophet that abridged the many records that he received from his ancestors concerning the “land of Promise”, or the Americas. From my last post, it can be gathered that Nephi understood, through his visit with the Lord, that his job was that of a record keeper. His posterity was diligent in that call by making sure that record keeping was a priority also. This record keeping resulted in several sets of plates, or individual records, that were handed down from generation to generation.
Mormon, who lived about 900 years after Nephi, was given the job of taking all the records that were kept, and instructed to make an abridgment of them. An abridgment is like a “Readers Digest Condensed Version” of what the big picture really was. Mormon had the task of reading ALL the records and extracting the parts that he deemed important for us today. This was his calling, given to him by the Lord. In a sense, I like to think of him as the inspired editor.
When Mormon was finished he turned his final draft of the project, the abridgment of all the records, over to Moroni, his son, to be the guardian of the record, or as the Lord explains, “committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim” to him. This abridgment was taken from a time span of records starting with Lehi, and continuing on down to Mormon himself. It included an abridgment of records that Nephi had written. Mormon had intended it to be the finished copy of the Book of Mormon, but that is not exactly what happened.
After Mormon had finished his abridgment of the many records, he found something among the records he felt inspired to simply include untouched.
The Words of Mormon 1:3 And now, I speak somewhat concerning that which I have written; for after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and I found these plates, which contained this small account of the prophets, from Jacob down to the reign of this king Benjamin, and also many of the words of Nephi.
4 And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me, because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ; and my fathers knowing that many of them have been fulfilled; yea, and I also know that as many things as have been prophesied concerning us down to this day have been fulfilled, and as many as go beyond this day must surely come to pass—
5 Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi; and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people.
6 But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren.
7 And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.
To be clear on this, Moroni received, from his father Mormon, the completed abridgment that Mormon had worked on, or edited, from records spanning from the time of Lehi, to his present time, and another set of smaller records that were started by Nephi and continued through the prophetic line until the time of King Benjamin. These were two completely different works. One was Mormons abridged completed historical work, and the other was Nephi’s unabridged record made by his own hand and by the hand of each of the direct line of prophets themselves, until the reign of kings started with King Benjamin. The first set of plates was larger than the second smaller set of plates. This smaller set of plates is the account given in the Book of Mormon record we have today, untouched and unabridged by Mormon. (Obviously Nephi had made two different sets of records, which we will discuss further in my next post, the first record was the one Mormon abridged, the second was unabridged.) This smaller record is actually what we know today as First Nephi to Omni.
It is interesting to note, that a parenthetical statement is added right after Omni, in the Book of Mormon, called the Words of Mormon, to describe the transition that is being made from direct records, to abridged records. From Mosiah onward, until the end of the Book of Mormon, you will find Mormon interjecting his commentary into the work, whereas before Mosiah there is none of that to be found.
So what happened to the abridged record, which probably contained commentary from Mormon, for the period of history from Lehi down to King Benjamin? Where is the beginning of the great work that Mormon did?
That abridged record containing history from Lehi to King Benjamin was the part of the record that was written on the 116 pages of manuscript that Martin Harris took to show his wife. It is the part of manuscript that was lost and never recovered. It was the part of the Book of Mormon that Joseph Smith was told not to re translate.
Look for the reason the Lord commanded him not to re translate the same records:
Doctrine and Covenants 10: 10 And, behold, Satan hath put it into their hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written, or which you have translated, which have gone out of your hands.
11 And behold, I say unto you, that because they have altered the words, they read contrary from that which you translated and caused to be written;
12 And, on this wise, the devil has sought to lay a cunning plan, that he may destroy this work;
13 For he hath put into their hearts to do this, that by lying they may say they have caught you in the words which you have pretended to translate.
14 Verily, I say unto you, that I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing.
15 For behold, he has put it into their hearts to get thee to tempt the Lord thy God, in asking to translate it over again.

The Lord told Joseph Smith that he was not to translate that part of the record over again, because those who had the original copy would alter the words and make a second translation appear incorrect. The Lord had made a provision for this very problem from the beginning.

Doctrine and Covenants 10:38 And now, verily I say unto you, that an account of those things that you have written, which have gone out of your hands, is engraven upon the plates of Nephi; (Sidebar: these are the small plates)
39 Yea, and you remember it was said in those writings that a more particular account was given of these things upon the plates of Nephi.
40 And now, because the account which is engraven upon the plates of Nephi is more particular concerning the things which, in my wisdom, I would bring to the knowledge of the people in this account—
41 Therefore, you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi, (small plates) down even till you come to the reign of king Benjamin, or until you come to that which you have translated, which you have retained;
42 And behold, you shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words.
43 I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.
44 Behold, they have only got a part, or an abridgment of the account of Nephi.
45 Behold, there are many things engraven upon the plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel; therefore, it is wisdom in me that you should translate this first part of the engravings of Nephi, and send forth in this work.
The Lord knew that there would be a choice that Joseph would have to make; this choice was his and his alone. He could follow the commands of the Lord, or succumb to the pressures of his peers. He was given his agency and allowed to choose. Either way Joseph chose, a way was provided for him to complete the work of the Lord. The small plates, or record of Nephi, is the “backup plan” which contains a greater testimony of Jesus Christ and the way back to the Father.
Not only does our Father provide a plan, but he also has a “back up plan” in place. Here is the wisdom of God. The Atonement itself was the “backup plan” given by the Father to provide a way back into His presence if Adam chose to succumb to peer pressure. Both Adam and Joseph Smith were, in a sense, given the same instruction in the Garden, and regarding the request to give the record to Martin Harris, with the admonition to "choose for themselves" being reminded by the Father, "nevertheless I forbid it." Both of their choices ended in a period of being "cast out" and required a repentance process to "return" to the presence of the Father.
Jesus Christ is the “Record of Heaven”, “the way, the truth, and the light”. Nephi’s part in this plan of the Father is simply another testimony for Jesus Christ himself. As we will see, Nephi, who holds the sealing power, is one who acts as the Father would act if He were here. He is also a type and a shadow of Jesus Christ. His part is not only to provide the record, but provide a backup plan for the record too, by way of the small plates that he was commanded to keep. That backup plan is the instruction on how to apply the atonement in your life. It is a plain and precious part that is missing from the Stick of Judah, that provides the way, the truth, and the light. It is a record of Heaven.
Doctrine and Covenants 3: 1 The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.
2 For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.
3 Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men;

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nephi's Job as Record Keeper 1 Nephi 12-13

Throughout the record of 1 Nephi, Nephi refers to his duty of keeping the record. I think, that for the first time ever, I have come to really understand how important that duty actually was.
As an overview, when Nephi received his vision of the history of the world just like other prophets before him did, he learned about the Lord’s plan of redemption for His children, and the part that he, Nephi, was to play in that plan. I believe we are shown a pattern in the accounts given in the scriptures whereupon each person who is visited by the Lord is given an understanding of their calling, or job, in this grand scheme of things. It is probably most evident in the account given in Moses wherein the Lord explains to Moses that “I have a work for thee, Moses, my son.” Nephi too was shown what his calling, or work, was that was required of him by the Lord.
In the vision Nephi was shown a book:
13: 23 And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.
24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.
25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
I believe that this book is the Bible, the combination of the Old and New Testaments. It originally contained the covenants the Lord made with the House of Israel, the prophecies of the holy prophets concerning them, and the fullness of the gospel of the Lord.
But, look what happens to that record in its purity:
13:26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away.
27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.
28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.
29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.
The corruption of the record happened, removing the sacred covenants, and many of the plain and precious teachings that were necessary for the salvation of men. These truths were needed so that Satan might not have power over the children of the Lord. Nephi is shown these details so that he understands just how important his particular assignment will be for his posterity, and for the world.
So, just what is his assignment? Did he fulfill his calling? What significance does the success in his calling have for us today?
As the vision continues, Nephi is shown another record:
13:34 And it came to pass that the angel of the Lord spake unto me, saying: Behold, saith the Lamb of God, after I have visited the remnant of the house of Israel—and this remnant of whom I speak is the seed of thy father—wherefore, after I have visited them in judgment, and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles, and after the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb—I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb.
35 For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb.
36 And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my brock and my salvation.
Nephi was shown that the only way for the whole world to be saved and not “dwindle in unbelief” was for them to receive the truths that he and his posterity would record, which adds back the “plain and precious truths” that were taken away from the first record. That is a pretty important assignment, don’t you think?
13:40 And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.
41 And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.
His records were to testify of the Lord, and make known once again the covenants He made with His children. They were to be plain and easy to understand. They were to contain precious truths necessary for the salvation of the world. They would be another testimony of the validity of the Bible, and the importance it holds for us. This is one very important calling. Nephi and his posterity are the keepers of the record.
I know Nephi understood his role, and impressed the importance of record keeping upon his posterity because even when they later confess, many generations removed from Nephi, that they had nothing really important to add, they still kept the record. This record is what we now know as the Book of Mormon.
I am grateful that Nephi understood the work that the Lord had for him to do, and that he was faithful in doing that work. He obviously made his election, and calling, sure.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Taking The Book of Mormon Too Lightly Section 84

I have been so involved in studying and learning great things in the Book of Mormon that I have neglected to write down what I have learned. I need to repent, so today I, once again, will proceed to share some of the cool things I have learned.
Just to get you up to speed… in first Nephi we can learn all kinds of deep doctrinal things that perhaps are not seen unless a serious study of the book, with the help of the spirit, takes place. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord pronounced a condemnation upon the Church for taking The Book of Mormon too lightly.
Doctrine and Covenants 84: 54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
In 1986, President Ezra Taft Benson gave a landmark talk titled, The Book of Mormon-Keystone of Our Religion. In that talk he stated:
Brethren and sisters, I implore you with all my heart that you consider with great solemnity the importance of the Book of Mormon to you personally and to the Church collectively.
Over ten years ago I made the following statement regarding the Book of Mormon:
“Do eternal consequences rest upon our response to this book? Yes, either to our blessing or our condemnation.
“Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of this book a lifetime pursuit. Otherwise he is placing his soul in jeopardy and neglecting that which could give spiritual and intellectual unity to his whole life. There is a difference between a convert who is built on the rock of Christ through the Book of Mormon and stays hold of that iron rod, and one who is not” (Ensign, May 1975, p. 65).
I reaffirm those words to you this day. Let us not remain under condemnation, with its scourge and judgment, by treating lightly this great and marvelous gift the Lord has given to us. Rather, let us win the promises associated with treasuring it up in our hearts.
I confess, I have been guilty of “taking the Book of Mormon too lightly” and have been under the same condemnation as the rest of the Church for that. As of late, I have come to realize a different aspect, or additional meaning, that can be applied to the warning given of “taking The Book of Mormon too lightly” other than not studying from it each day. I believe that part of taking The Book of Mormon too lightly rests in the way we perceive the doctrine that is being taught in the book itself. I believe that we are not looking for the deeper doctrinal concepts that both Nephi and Mormon tried to convey to us. These concepts, if seen and followed, will lead us back to the presence of the Father, both symbolically and literally. As far as I know, the condemnation has still not been lifted from the Church as a whole. I believe that the condemnation will be lifted as individuals come to understand the heavy, which is the opposite of light, doctrines that are contained within the pages of that great book. That condemnation will be taken away individually.
The first way to see deeper meaning within the pages of the Book of Mormon is to understand the priesthood perspective from which it was written. Lehi, who was the patriarch of his family, operates under the Patriarchal Priesthood. As a Church today we function under a lesser priesthood, one that might be termed “Apostolic Priesthood”, therefore we tend to perceive the Book of Mormon as written from that level. I believe it is written from an even greater perspective than we are used to seeing. We simply view it too lightly.
President Boyd K. Packer alluded to this very thing when he addressed us in Conference with a talk called, The Power of the Priesthood. He stated that, “The priesthood does not have the strength that it should have and will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed in the families.” Lehi had that power in the priesthood that we are lacking today. Lehi held the Patriarchal Priesthood. If we were more seriously engaged in seeking the face of the Savior, we too would operate under the same authority as Lehi and Nephi. In the Book of Mormon both of these great men show us the way to make this happen.
We simply cannot afford to take this council lightly any more.
Have you started a serious study of The Book of Mormon?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Virtual Tour of Temple Square in Salt Lake City

In preparation for General Conference, I thought it would be fun to take a virtual tour of Temple Square. I wish I could be there in person, but this might just satisfy some of my longing.

Anybody out there really going to Temple Square?

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Lord Tested Nephi 1 Nephi 3-4

"When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life. It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him." Lectures on Faith
There are many reasons why Nephi was justified in killing Laban. The first and foremost reason is that the Lord commanded it. Some have correlated it with the direction given in Section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which addresses the Lord’s laws governing the persecutions and afflictions imposed on his people. According to these directions the death of Laban would have been justified. I have written earlier about some of my thoughts regarding the law of judgment, which I believe is another reason that Nephi was justified in slaying Laban. I believe that we are shown how Laban pronounced the judgment on a thief and a robber as death, and when he robbed Lehi’s sons of their property, and became a thief himself, had already decided his own fate. Just recently however, I have seen this experience as a way for Nephi to be proven. This test was given to him by the Lord.

It is important to remember that Nephi followed the correct steps to gain a testimony for himself. (1 Nephi 2:16) Once he “knew” for himself, he then testified to his father Lehi of the truths he knew. (1 Nephi 3:7).
Look for what Lehi “knew” because of this testimony given by Nephi:
1 Nephi 3:8 And it came to pass that when my father had heard these words he was exceedingly glad, for he knew that I had been blessed of the Lord.
Remember the word “blessed” is a key word for entering into the Abrahamic Covenant. (1 Nephi 2:19-24) Lehi knew that Nephi had been blessed simply by Nephi’s testimony because it was something that he had experienced himself. It is apparent that Lehi had also been “blessed” of the Lord.
The account in Chapter 3 records that the brothers made three attempts to get the records from Laban. It is interesting to note that after the first failed attempt Laman and Lemuel were ready to go back home. We can attribute this fact to their level of commitment, or in other words, what motivated them to obey in the first place, which was fear. When the fear of Laban became greater than their fear of their father, or the Lord, their first response was to flee and give up the task. This is a lesson in itself for us. Nephi, who received a greater testimony of the principle of obedience, followed a different path.
The record shows a progression of commitment that Nephi exhibits in the following verse:
1 Nephi 3:15 But behold I said unto them that: As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.
It is interesting to note that the terminology “As the Lord liveth” is the wording used when swearing by an oath. The same wording is used later when Nephi swears his oath to Zoram. (1 Nephi 4:32). Not only has Nephi a great testimony of obedience to the Lord, he now has taken a greater step and entered into a covenant to obey the Lord. We progress in the same manner. We learn of a truth, and covenant to keep that truth. It is because of Nephi’s willingness to enter into a binding covenant, or oath, that the Lord provides a way for him to prove that he is willing to “put his money where his mouth is”, so to speak.
After the second failed attempt, Nephi was “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehard the things which he should do.” It is at this point that Laban is delivered into Nephi’s hand and Nephi is given a test.
Look for how he feels about this test:
1 Nephi 4:10 And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.
I bet Abraham had some of the same feelings as he prepared to take his son Isaac as an offering to the Lord. What do you think?
In the following verses Nephi has a reasoning session with the Spirit about the task he is required to do. Notice what he remembers that finally motivates him to obey:
1 Nephi 4:11 And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.
12 And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;
13 Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.
14 And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise.
15 Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law.
16 And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.
17 And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause—that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.
18 Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.
Nephi remembers his experience with the “Lord in the wilderness” wherein he gained a testimony, and was “blessed” of the Lord because of his efforts. You know, the experience he had back in 1 Nephi, chapter 2. Nephi was taught by the spirit, entered into a covenant, which allowed him to prove himself to the Lord, and was now ready, because of his faithfulness, to receive further instruction from the Lord. He is ready to part the veil and receive further light and knowledge. This completely fits the pattern set by Alma, which we learned of in this post, in learning the “mysteries of Heaven”.
This test also allowed Nephi to receive power from the Lord. In fact, I believe that this Abrahamic test allowed Nephi to experience the gift of the sealing power. From this point on in his record, Nephi speaks as if the Lord were speaking himself. His word has become the word of the Lord, in other words, the power is in his word.
In just the first few chapters of the record of Nephi we are shown deep gospel truths that are necessary for us to know so that we too can experience these same blessings as Nephi. I absolutely love the Book of Mormon. More great things to come.......

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Plates of Brass 1 Nephi 3

Right after Nephi had been “blessed” by the Lord because “he had sought Him diligently, with lowliness of heart”, the Lord provided a way to prove him to see if he would truly “keep His commandments”.
What is the assignment given from the Lord?
1 Nephi 3:1 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, returned from speaking with the Lord, to the tent of my father.
2 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, saying: Behold I have dreamed a dream, in the which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem.
3 For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass.
4 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness.
5 And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.
Lehi had received the command from the Lord to send his sons back to Jerusalem to retrieve the “plates of brass”. Because our knowledge of the records of Lehi are limited, it might be difficult to observe exactly what Lehi’s Abrahamic test was. I believe that in keeping with the story of Abraham, wherein Abraham was required to sacrifice his son by the Lord, Lehi similarly is required to sacrifice his sons by sending them back to Jerusalem. Quite possibly, this could be the test that proves Lehi and Nephi at the same time, similar to Abraham and Isaac. I will address this more in my next post.

For now, I would like to concentrate on why the Lord instructed Lehi to get the plates.
Nephi explains to his brothers the importance of the plates in the following:
1 Nephi 3:19 And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these records, that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers;
20 And also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time.
Nephi points out that the plates were needed to:
1) preserve their language
2) preserve the words of the prophets, in other words, instructions on the “covenant”
Later in the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin also expounds on the need for the plates:
Mosiah 1:3 And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.
4 For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time.
5 I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.
King Benjamin taught that the information in the Brass Plates was necessary to know the “mysteries of God”, which we have previously discovered, by seeking makes it possible to be visited by the Lord. He also stressed that the written word was necessary to preserve the commandments. We have also discovered that keeping the commandments allows one to receive the blessings attached to them. Without the knowledge of what the commandments are, it would literally be impossible to keep them, limiting the Lord’s ability to bless us. Finally, the written word would keep the “traditions of men” from becoming the law and a stumbling block to us.
What did these important records contain?
1 Nephi 5:11 And he beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents;
12 And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah;
13 And also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah.
14 And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine.
It appears that the “Brass Plates” were similar to the records we have in the beginning of the Old Testament. They contained the history of the Covenant People up until the time of Lehi’s departure. We are told later, as Nephi is given a vision of the future (1 Nephi 13:23), that the record that Lehi was commanded to get had even more information in it than the Old Testament we have today, perhaps pre-removal of plain and precious truths. It was their “Book of Scripture” similar to our standard works of today.
Jumping ahead in the story line, we soon find out that the first thing Lehi did after receiving the plates from his sons was to search them.
Are we searching them still? If we are not searching them, is it really any different than not having them? Lehi was willing to sacrifice the lives of his sons in order for us to have the information contained in these records, are we grateful for them? How do we show our gratitude for them?
King Benjamin was truly grateful for the sacrifice made to have the records in his day. He bore a solemn testimony of their worth and implored his posterity to not regard them as a “thing of naught.” He understood that the records allowed his posterity to “keep the commandments” and call upon the “promises” made to his fathers. (Remember that is the promise we have just discussed in 1 Nephi Chapter 2)
Mosiah 1:6 O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true. And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contain the records and the sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true; and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes.
7 And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them diligently, that ye may profit thereby; and I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers.
Are we searching diligently? Are we profiting from the information contained in the records from the Lord? Do we know and understand the commandments contained in these records so that we can be obedient to them? Are we calling upon the promises given to us because of our obedience?
I, like King Benjamin, know these records contain truth and am grateful to have them before my eyes.
What say you?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Nephi's Land of Promise 1 Nephi 2

Like I previously stated, I believe that 1 Nephi, Chapter 2 establishes the groundwork for the entire rest of the Book of Mormon.
We have seen how Nephi recorded the pattern for gaining a sure testimony from the Lord, through his Holy Spirit, by his righteous desire and humble request. We have also been shown the progression of prophet, priest, and king, needed to arrive at a “blessed” position from the Lord. We have been given the definition of “blessed” as that of the Abrahamic Covenant, or the PPL, eternal priesthood, eternal posterity and a land inheritance. And finally, we are shown specifically that Nephi’s posterity are the ones who are given this land of promise because of Nephi’s righteous actions. (We will explore this further in the next few chapters.)
Let me explain that last statement. Through the blessing that Nephi received from the Lord, he is led to a land of promise that was prepared for him above all other lands, for his posterity for eternity. This land IS Nephi’s land inheritance.

Notice that at this point the blessing is conditional upon one thing; look for what that condition is:
1 Nephi 2:20 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.
21 And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
22 And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.
Just like Abraham, the blessing Nephi will receive is conditional based on his righteous obedience to the Lord. He is required to “keep his commandments” and for that he will be blessed with all that the Lord promised. As long as Nephi proves himself to the Lord showing that he is trustworthy so that the Lord may have confidence in him, he will retain these blessings forever.
That message is clearly taught from the Lord:
Doctrine and Covenants 121:45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
Nephi must be “proven” to make his blessing sure, which I believe he does. We will explore that process too. However, part of that sure blessing is this land inheritance.
Notice how the Lord will use the rebellious as a tool. Who are the rebellious? What is the tool for? What are the seed of Nephi to remember?
1 Nephi 2:23 For behold, in that day that they (meaning his brothers seed) shall rebel against me, I will curse them even with a sore curse, and they (meaning his brothers seed) shall have no power over thy seed except they (meaning Nephi’s seed) shall rebel against me also.
24 And if it so be that they (meaning Nephi’ seed) rebel against me, they (meaning his brothers seed) shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance.
The unrighteous will be a tool in the Lord’s hand to stir the righteous up to remember the covenant He made with Nephi. That covenant is the Abrahamic Covenant that we just read about when the Lord referred to Nephi as being “Blessed”. That is what the righteous are to remember. (Side Note: Anytime we see the wording “blessed” we should return to Chapter 2 to be reminded of just what that means.)
This was the same manner in which the Lord used the different groups of people, to “stir up” the memory of the House of Israel in Jerusalem, when He used the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Persians as a tool to try and help them remember the Lord. These groups were not righteous, they were simply used as a tool to help the Lord’s chosen people humble themselves, return to the Lord again, and benefit from the blessings of the covenant.
Simply stated, the Lord uses the unrighteous to remind His covenant people to be righteous and claim their blessings.
We are taught a very important message in Chapter 2... and that message is that this land belongs to the remnant of Nephi’s seed, in other words Lehi’s righteous posterity.
Can you think of what Nephi’s Abrahamic test, to make this blessing sure, might have been?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nephi, Prophet, Priest, and King 1 Nephi 2

In some of my previous posts I have discussed the ascension pattern that can be seen when one progresses in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe that the steps, or rungs on the ladder, include a noticeable progression of passing from prophet, to priest, and ultimately to king.
To summarize, I believe that a simple way to think of this progression is: a prophet is one who has been given the testimony of Jesus Christ and can testify of Him, a priest is one who administers to others on behalf of Jesus Christ (such as the priests in the tabernacle and temple), and a king is when one has reached a level to be given all that the Father hath. With each level of progression there are more covenants made and, consequently, blessings given. In the language of priesthood ascension it can be termed, Aaronic, Melchizedek, and finally, Patriarchal.
That said, I believe that these certain patterns can be seen in the accounts we have of the lives of the prophets in not only Old and New Testament times, but Book of Mormon times too. Lehi and Nephi are the first we encounter in the Book of Mormon which teach us of the significance of this pattern. I believe that we would see Lehi’s experience more clearly if we had the record he created available to us, unfortunately we don’t have that information but thankfully we can see the progression clearly taught in Nephi’s record too.
Previously we discussed the process Nephi experienced to gain a testimony like his fathers as explained to us in 1 Nephi 2:16.
It is interesting to see what Nephi does as soon as he receives his testimony because of the “visit” with the Lord:
1 Nephi 2:17 And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit. And it came to pass that he believed in my words.
I believe that this is an example of Nephi exhibiting the prophet stage of his progression, as he testifies of Jesus Christ.
Look what he does next:
1 Nephi 2:18 But, behold, Laman and Lemuel would not hearken unto my words; and being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts I cried unto the Lord for them.
In his statement that he “cried unto the Lord for them” he raises to the priest level wherein he “administers on behalf of others”.
At this point the Lord pours out a blessing upon Nephi because of his diligence, and humility. Notice the terminology the Lord uses:
1 Nephi 2:19 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.
20 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.
21 And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
22 And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.
I believe that the blessing the Lord gives to Nephi is the same blessing he gave to Abraham. That blessing or covenant involves eternal posterity, eternal priesthood, and a land inheritance. I call that the PPL.
Look closely for that blessing in the following wording:
“ye shall prosper”- one with a large posterity was considered prosperous
“a land which I have prepared for you”- a land inheritance
“a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren”- this involves the blessing of priesthood
Because the Lord pronounced Nephi as “Blessed” with these blessings he is elevated to the level of king. A true king is simply a ruler and teacher.
From the very beginning of the Book of Mormon we are taught of this progression. This progression is the same one we all must go through to receive the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Now remember the pattern that was given in my last post... where do you think we are, as far as that pattern goes, in Nephi’s progression?