Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lehi and Ezekiel 1 Nephi 1

An interesting discovery can be seen in studying the similarity of visions that Lehi and Ezekiel both received from the Lord. It may also be interesting to note that these visions were received during relatively the same period of time.
Look for the similarities in the following comparisons:
Both record seeing the throne of God.
1 Nephi 1:8 And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.

Ezekiel 1:24 And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings.
25 And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings.
26 ¶ And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.
Not only do both see God sitting upon His throne, but they also see angels singing and praising surrounding that throne.
Both Ezekiel and Lehi are given something to look at, look for what it is:
1 Nephi 1:9 And it came to pass that he saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day.
10 And he also saw twelve others following him, and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.
11 And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read.
12 And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.
Ezekiel 1: 27 And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.
28 As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.
Ezekiel 2:1 And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee.
2 And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me.
8 But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.
9 ¶ And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein;
Both receive instruction from the Son and are given a book to read.
Look what is contained in both of the books:
1 Nephi 1:13 And he read, saying: Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations! Yea, and many things did my father read concerning Jerusalem—that it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried away captive into Babylon.
Ezekiel 2:10 And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.
Upon receiving this vision, both begin their prophetic role in warning the people.
1 Nephi 1:18 Therefore, I would that ye should know, that after the Lord had shown so many marvelous things unto my father, Lehi, yea, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, behold he went forth among the people, and began to prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard.
19 And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them; for he truly testified of their wickedness and their abominations; and he testified that the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.
Ezekiel 2:3 And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day.
4 For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God.
5 And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them.
In both the accounts of Nephi and Ezekiel we learn that the Lord will deliver, in power, those whom He has chosen:
1 Nephi 1:20 And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away. But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.
Ezekiel 1:6 ¶ And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.
Ezekiel and Lehi were two different prophets, given the same instructions, in the same way, at the same time. The people were slow to listen.
Are we listening?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pillar of Fire 1 Nephi 1

I believe that by studying the different scriptural accounts that we have been given of the different prophets of all ages we can discover a pattern of receiving direction from the Lord.
In 1 Nephi, chapter 1, an account is given of an experience Lehi had that is similar to the first vision account given by Joseph Smith.
Nephi 1:5 Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.
6 And it came to pass as he prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him; and he saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly.
7 And it came to pass that he returned to his own house at Jerusalem; and he cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit and the things which he had seen.
Although Lehi summarizes his experience by saying he “saw and heard much”, the wording he uses to describe his experience is similar to that of Joseph Smith.
Joseph Smith History 1:14 So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.
15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
Like Lehi, Joseph describes the fatigue he felt after the experience by stating, “When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home.”
At about the same time that Lehi had his vision, the prophet Ezekiel had a similar experience with the Lord. Instead of using the terminology of “pillar of fire” to describe what he saws, he explained the phenomenon as “the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.” I believe that this is simply another description of a “pillar” like light formation.
Moses describes his experience with the description of a “burning bush” and states that the experience left him weak by stating that it was “the space of many hours before he received his natural strength” again.
In all these experiences the person who received the gift of the Lord by vision were forever changed. Anyone who receives the greater light is forever changed.
Do we seek for that great change?

Friday, July 16, 2010

"I Know That The Record That I Make Is True" 1 Nephi 1

There is a great deal of information to be learned from just the first three verses of the Book of Mormon from the record of Nephi.
In verse 1, look for all the things we learn about Nephi.
1Nephi 1:1 I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.
First, we learn that he had “goodly” parents, or was taught correct principles. This is an important piece of information for us to know. Having a foundation of truth to build upon is essential for anyone to come to a sure knowledge.
Next, we learn that he had seen many afflictions in his life. Trials or tests are part of the learning process we go through in this life to prove us. The test of obedience and sacrifice is made more fully when one is experiencing difficulty, as is illustrated by Job. It is interesting to note the attitude Nephi has about his afflictions as he adds, nevertheless that he was highly favored of the Lord.
Could Nephi have viewed afflictions as part of the process he was to experience to receive a sure knowledge of truth?
Do we view our afflictions and trials as ways we can increase our faith as we come to know the Lord?
Finally we learn that he had come to a “great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God.” This knowledge came to Nephi because of the experiences that he had, allowing him to receive of the Lord. This is made clear because he shares that mysteries, for man, were revealed to him by a higher source than man.
This process:
1) of learning true principles by faith, or having a belief
2) then passing through tests which allow us to experience a trial of that faith,
results in the blessing of “great knowledge”, even of the mysteries of God.
I believe that even in the very first verse of Nephi’s record he is trying to help us understand what it will take for us to receive the same “great knowledge” that he has received.

In verses 2-3, look for what we learn about the record.
1 Nephi 1:2 Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.
3 And 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.
The first thing we discover is that Nephi makes the record himself, with his own hand. This establishes the fact that Nephi is the creator of the record we are to receive. Even though he explains that it is written in the language of his father, it is still his account of his experiences with the Lord.
The fact that he is the creator of the record allows for the easy transition he makes to testify of the records truthfulness. He states he made it, he knows it is true and adds the reason that he is able to make this bold statement is because of his “knowledge”.
What have we already discovered he “knew” by the description of himself in verse 1?
Not only can we have confidence in Nephi, because he has shared his experience of the process of “knowing”, but we can now have confidence in the record too. We discover that one who “knows” gives us a statement of its truthfulness.

What must we do to have the same knowledge as Nephi does?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Book of Mormon Starts With a Family 1 Nephi 1

The Book of Mormon starts with a family. This is an important observation for many reasons. I believe that one of the major reasons that we experience the family dynamics from the accounts we read is simply to show us that every family has some sort of crisis or conflict to work through. I find it interesting to see how each of the members of the family of Lehi individually act, or react, to problems or blessings that may arise, all in such diverse ways. I find these observations to be made with realism, and can accept them as valid, simply because of the differences I see in my own family unit.

From the very beginning of the record of Nephi we are taught the value of “goodly parents” and receive instruction on what is considered a “goodly parent” as we read:
I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father;
Goodly parents teach their children what they know to be true. Goodly parents teach correct principles.
Doctrine and Covenants 68:25 And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.
28 And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.
We soon come to understand that Nephi chooses to remember the teachings of his father by applying correct principles as he seeks for himself to understand the “great goodness and mysteries of God.”
I believe that an even greater reason for the Book of Mormon to start with a family is to teach us more fully the power that is available through the Patriarchal Order of the Priesthood. Lehi operates under the authority of the Patriarchal Priesthood as he blesses, directs, and offers sacrifice in behalf of his family.
I was asked a question by a dear friend regarding Lehi’s authority to offer sacrifices, she was concerned because he was not from the tribe of Levi. The Law of Moses, which was the law that was in effect at the time of Lehi, required that ordinance to be done by one with Levitical authority, one who was a descendant of Aaron, which Lehi clearly was not. I believe that the reason Lehi could perform these sacred rites was because he was operating under a much higher law, namely the order of the Patriarchal Priesthood.
“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 as it should be.”
Now, fathers, I would remind you of the sacred nature of your calling. You have the power of the priesthood directly from the Lord to protect your home. There will be times when all that stands as a shield between your family and the adversary’s mischief will be that power. You will receive direction from the Lord by way of the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The adversary is not actively disturbing our Church meetings—perhaps only occasionally. By and large we are free to assemble as we wish without much disruption. But he and those who follow him are persistent in attacking the home and the family.
The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is that a man and his wife and their children might be happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood.”
I believe that the Book of Mormon is such a valuable gift for us to study today, because we can discover the power of the Patriarchal Priesthood more fully, as we see the lives of the men who operated within that order unfold before our eyes. We see the importance of the family and the power that a righteous family, armed with power from on high, can wield against the adversary.
Again, the instruction given by Joseph Smith bears repeating, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Journey of Faith DVD

Understanding the history of Jerusalem is important for us today because we can liken it to our own circumstances. I highly recommend the DVD called Journey of Faith which talks about the scholarly view of the exodus made by Lehi and his family from Jerusalem.

Here is a great preview of the movie:

There is also a follow up DVD called Journey of Faith: The New World which is worth seeing too.

I think that the information contained in these DVD’s can help the viewer become familiar with the land area, customs, and traditions, and many other conditions that influenced the writers of the Book of Mormon, especially Lehi and Nephi.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Lehi 1 Nephi 1

How grateful I am for the record we are given in the Old Testament of the dealings of the Lord regarding the Children of Israel. Perhaps for the first time ever, in all my studies of the Book of Mormon, I finally believe I have come to more fully understand the historical background and current issues that the Prophet Lehi and his family faced by living when they did in Jerusalem. This understanding comes, in part, because of the accounts given by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. These men, contemporaries of Lehi, were prophets of the Lord who delivered messages of repentance to a wicked and prideful people. These people, the covenant or chosen people of the Lord, had received authority to administer in the ordinances of the Temple, but had lost the “power” through disobedience, wickedness and the worship of false Gods or abominations. They had come to rely more upon the arm of flesh, than upon the Lord himself. (Again, my attention is called to Elder Boyd K Packer and his voice of warning given in conference.)
Isaiah had prophesied many years before the time of Lehi, to an unrepentant Northern Kingdom of their impending doom, or scattering, which became a reality because they were unwilling to listen to his voice. The Assyrians were the means the Lord used to accomplish this work of scattering, as He allowed them to conquer the Northern Kingdom and utterly destroy its leadership. In Lehi’s lifetime the prophet Jeremiah resounded with a similar message given to the prideful Southern Kingdom. These Children of Israel would soon follow the same path as the Northern Kingdom when the Lord uses the Babylonians to scatter His covenant people because of their disobedience to his commands.
The Babylonian “take over” of Israel came in waves. First, they quietly removed those who had wealth, education, or political power from the area and took them to either the city, or king’s court in Babylon, as was the case with Daniel, or to the outlying areas which were similar to refugee camps, which was the case with Ezekiel. Next they replaced the rightful King of Judah, who they took captive to Babylon, with a “puppet king”, one they could control, by the name of Zedekiah. It was during the first year of Zedekiah’s reign that Lehi received his call to cry repentance to the people of Jerusalem. At the same time the prophet Jeremiah was also preaching to the people in Jerusalem. Thus, we have four different prophetic accounts of the Lord’s message to His people who lived simultaneously.
It is interesting to note that the Lord instructed three of the prophets, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Jeremiah to convey His will to them, that they needed to physically surrender to Babylon but return to the Lord spiritually so that He could some day allow them to return to their land of promise. (This would be facilitated by His use of the Persian Empire, and King Cyrus who eventually conquered Babylon and, as Isaiah prophesied years earlier, allowed the Children of Israel to return and reconstruct their beleaguered Temple.) Lehi conversely was given the message to take his family and flee into the wilderness.
This is the situation that was present at the time of the record of 1 Nephi, as he informs us:
1:4 For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.
Having entered into a Covenant with the Lord, the Children of Israel could not believe that their “great city” could be destroyed. They must have been confused by the message given, after all, they had a Temple in their midst, certainly the Lord would offer protection and guidance to those He loved? This attitude is evidenced by the account of the actions of Laman and Lemuel. Their focus on the authority, or gift of the covenant, allowed them to forget the true source from which the actual blessings come, the “power” of His word. I believe that the Book of Mormon is a definitive work, or instruction manual, on HOW to tap into that power. This is the same power that President Packer warned us about, which is ultimately the only way to be saved from destruction.
As I study, I love to look for principles and patterns that show HOW to gain that power in my life. That will be my focus in studying the Book of Mormon this time around.
What will be yours?