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?