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.