Sunday, August 09, 2015

Joseph's Seer Stone

The LDS Church published the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon this week.  Along with that printing, the Church revealed pictures of Joseph Smith's seer stone.

There has been much discussion on-line about this seer stone.

Along with releasing pictures of this stone, the Church has pre-published an October 2015 Ensign article called "Joseph the Seer" in the which they discuss the objects Joseph used to "translate" the Book of Mormon.  They article doesn't say anything significantly different than what Bushman and the essay have already stated.  Except there is one curious point to make about this Ensign article: artwork.

Along with many others, I have asked the question why we have not seen any (Church sponsored and in Church publications) artwork depicting Joseph putting the stone and his face in a hat; illustrating the most common way he "translated" the Book of Mormon.  It is not for lack of available artwork.

In the same article ("Joseph the Seer"), the authors seem to begin to answer the question, but then they don't.  The article states, "Over the years, artists have sought to portray the Book of Mormon translation, showing the participants in many settings and poses with different material objects.  Each artistic interpretation is based upon the artist's own views, research and imagination, sometimes aided by input and direction from others."  The article then shows four pieces of artwork, none of which show Joseph with his face in a hat.  And so the question remains.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Gospel Topic: Book of Mormon and DNA Studies

The Church recently posted another new Gospel Topic.  This one is entitled Book of Mormon and DNA Studies.  It is quite lengthy, but a very fascinating read.

The section I found most fascinating was "The Ancestors of the American Indians."  In this section, we basically read that there is a concession that other people lived in the Americas before Lehi and his family arrived and that they perhaps intermingled with the people already living there.

I remember in my Book of Mormon class at BYU, bringing up the idea that there were other people living with the Nephites.  I could not imagine how Jacob (Lehi's son) could be preaching to the people about their concubines and many wives.  How could there be so many people that there were men marrying multiple women.  My professor (Ludlow) basically shot down this idea when I raised the point that the Nephites were living among other people who had already settled the land.  It's good to see an official essay acknowledge this point.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gospel Topic: Book of Mormon Translation

The Church just published a new Gospel Topic called Book of Mormon Translation.  This is the latest in a series of gospel topics addressing less-known aspects about the Church.

I've previously written about the translation process of the Book of Mormon when I reviewed Rough Stone Rolling.  I'll simply copy that review below.

The traditional story of how the Book of Mormon was translated is Joseph putting on the breastplate and Urim and Thummim, casting his gaze onto the plates and seeing the reformed Egyptian turn into English words.  Furthermore, it would seem that Joseph just knew to "put on" the breastplate and spectacles and begin the translation - but this was not so.  As Bushman states on page 63, "Developing a method took time."

The whole process is not really known.  But we do know that he copied characters; had them sent to scholars to translate and to verify.  There is also this passage from Bushman: "Neither Joseph nor Oliver explained how translation worked, but Joseph did not pretend to look at the 'reformed Egyptian' words, the language on the plates, according to the book's own description.  The plates lay covered on the table, while Joseph's head was in a hat looking at the seerstone which by this time had replaced the interpreters.  The varying explanations of the perplexing process fall roughly into two categories: composition and transcription.  The first holds that Joseph was the author of the book.  He composed it out of knowledge and imaginings collected in his own mind, perhaps aided by inspiration.  He had stuffed his head with ideas for sermons, Christian doctrine, biblical language, multiple characters, stories of adventure, social criticism, theories of Indian origins, ideas about Mesoamerican civilization, and many other matters.  During translation, he composed it all into a narrative dictated over the space of three months in Harmony and Fayette."

Bushman describes the 'composition' method, but I'm not going to quote that here.  I will quote what he wrote about 'transcription.'

"The transcription theory has Joseph Smith 'seeing' the Book of Mormon text in the seerstone or the Urim and Thummim.  He saw the words in the stone as he had seen lost objects or treasure and dictated them to his secretary.  The eyewitnesses who described translation, Joseph Knight, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer, who was in the house during the last weeks of translation, understood translation as transcription.  Referring to the seerstone as a Urim and Thummim, Knight said: 'Now the way he translated was he put the urim and thummim into his hat and Darkned his Eyes then he would take a sentance and it would apper in Brite Roman Letters.  Then he would tell the writer and he would write it.  Then that would go away the next sentance would Come and so on.'"

"Joseph himself said almost nothing about his method but implied transcription when he said that 'the Lord had prepared spectacles for to read the Book.'  Close scrutiny of the original manuscript (by a believing scholar) seems to support transcription.  Judging from the way Cowdery wrote down the words, Joseph saw twenty to thirty words at a time, dictated them, and then waited for the next twenty to appear.  Difficult names (Zenoch, Amalickiah) were spelled out.  By any measure, transcription was a miraculous process, calling for a huge leap of faith to believe, yet, paradoxically, it is more in harmony with the young Joseph of the historical record than is composition.  Transcription theory gives us a Joseph with a miraculous gift that evolved naturally out of his earlier treasure-seeking.  The boy who gazed into stones and saw treasure grew up to become a translator who looked into a stone and saw words."

A word about the seerstone (or seer stone as found on  The image of Joseph putting his head into his hat to see his seerstone is not a common image in the Church.  I've never even seen an image of Joseph using the Urim & Thummim and breastplate.  Rather, the image that does come to mind is Joseph gazing on the plates (sans seerstone or U&T) while Oliver sits across the table writing.  But the fact that a stone Joseph found in 1822 was being used in the translation of the Book of Mormon is an interesting one.  Bushman talks about this in his book - the theory is that Joseph learned of the Gospel in the context of the treasure and magic culture that existed at that time.

Comparing my childhood/teenage view of the translation
of the Book of Mormon with this new (to me), more accurate description of the translation is interesting. In my mind, the two views are vastly different.  My childhood view is simple and very clean.  The reality view is more enticing.  But my fundamental question is this: why, as a child, did I have to be taught the clean version of the story?  If anything, it would have been far easier to believe as a child, the story of Joseph finding a stone while digging a well and then using that stone to translate the Book of Mormon.  Perhaps the "clean" version is told so as not to distract the learner with the idea that there are seerstones just laying around the earth - rather the focus should be on the work of God.  That's just a thought.  But to finish that thought - why would the Church jump to that conclusion?  Is it because others found a seerstone too?  And to prevent others from from finding a using a seerstone (a true one or a false one)?  I don't know.  But the fact remains - the version I was taught was not the whole truth and this is not an isolated example - it's a pattern.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

3 Nephi 4 & 5

Mountain Bandit Culture

This past week (April  14-20) was one of the most tragic weeks in recent memory.  I think I speak for most United States citizens when I saw we are exhausted from all that has gone on this week.  Monday, April 15 was the Boston Marathon.  Two explosions from home-made bombs (ball-bearings and nails with explosives inside a pressure cooker) went off at the close of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and dismembering and injuring about 200.  The search for the suspects began.  Because the bombings were in a major city with lots of people, pictures of the events were captured by many, many people.  Soon the police and FBI knew who they should be looking for.  Then the manhunt began Thursday April 18 ... it turns out the suspects were two Chechen refugees who have been in the US for over 10 years.  Another person (an MIT police officer) was killed Thursday night / early Friday morning.  The two were pursued and cornered and the older of the two brothers was killed.  The younger of the two continued to flee.  All day Friday, the entire city of Boston was on lock-down while law enforcement searched.  They finally found him hiding in a land-parked boat in someone's back-yard.  Thankfully they were able to capture him alive so as to be able to question him to see if he and his brother had outside help.

To add to the point about this being such a tragic week ... on Wednesday April 17, a fertilizer plant exploded in the city of West, Texas.  At this time, 14 people have been confirmed dead, but that number may go up significantly.  The nation is trying to recover its collective strength after this week.

Anyway - with that background of this week, there were lots of blog posts about the bombings.  But one post really caught my attention due to the fact that I've blogged about how today's terrorists are modern-day Gadianton Robbers.

One of the hallmarks of the Gadianton Robbers is that they hide in the hills and wilderness.  3 Nephi 4:1 reads: "And it came to pass that in the latter end of the eighteenth year those armies of robbers had prepared for battle, and began to come down and to sally forth from the hills, and out of the mountains, and the wilderness, and their strongholds, and their secret places, and began to take possession of the lands, both which were in the land south and which were in the land north, and began to take possession of all the lands which had been deserted by the Nephites, and the cities which had been left desolate."

Then there is this blog post "NYT: Let's not forget the Real Victims: Chechen refugees" in which the author cites this NY Time article (Beslan Meets Columbine) and discusses the restlessness and "mountain bandit culture" of Chechens.  Specifically he says, "All over the world, it's common for people who live in highly defensible positions, such as mountains, to raid their neighbors, then beat it back to their geographically complex and daunting home turf."  He goes on to note several mountain bandit cultures.

April 20, 2013

Summary of the Great Battle

To summarize the last few chapters on a timeline, we can read in chapter 2 verse 11 that the GR had become numerous and were killing a lot of people. This was in the year 13 (since the sign of Christ's birth). In year 16, Lachoneus is governor of the Nephites and the GR leader is Giddianhi. Giddianhi sends an epistle to Lachoneus and demands that the Nephites surrender themselves and their land to the GR. Lachoneus does not surrender, but exhorts the people to repentance. He also instructs the people, in year 17, to gather together in one place. In year 18, the GR begin to come out of their hiding places. In year 19, the final battle begins (chapter 4 verse 5), and this is where I begin with this commentary.

The Nephites have enough food to last seven years. They are all gathered together in one place and their armies are placed around the body of people. When the GR finally come to the battle, they are dressed so as to appear frightful to the Nephites. The Nephites prayed earnestly when they saw the GR armies advancing. The Nephites had truly been humbled and had repented of their sins. The Lord was with them. The battle that ensued was the greatest battle since the days of Lehi – which means it was the greatest battle ever as far as the number of people who were killed. The Nephites beat them and then pursued the GR. Giddianhi was killed.

Next, the GR laid siege, but it will prove fruitless. Finally, the GR decide to head to the northern parts of the land. The Nephites are aware of the GR's plans and they cut them off. The new GR leader was Zemnarihah. When the Nephites captured Zemnarihah and the GR, they took Zemnarihah and hung him to death and then cut the tree. It was a great victory for the Nephites. Once again, we learn the valuable lesson that when a people put their trust in God, God will deliver them – God will fight and win their battles.

Gadianton Robbers Taught the Gospel

The people were very happy that the GR were finally defeated. They took the remainder of the GR and tossed them in prison and taught them the gospel (3 Nephi 5:4). If they repented, they were set free. If they did not repent, they were executed. Finally, the majority of the people were living in righteousness.

Mormon's Commentary

The rest of chapter 5 is comprised of comments by Mormon. He tells us that he is named after the place of Mormon where Alma the Sr. taught the people and baptized them. I find it interesting to note what he says in verse 12. He writes, "… Alma did establish the church among the people, yea the first church which was established among them after their transgression." I imagine that he was referring to the transgression of the Nephites in the Land of Nephi under the kingship of King Noah. But it is also interesting to note that when Alma and his followers rejoined the Nephites in Zarahemla and King Mosiah, Alma was appointed head of the church! Wouldn't there have been a church leader already established in Zarahemla? Perhaps King Mosiah was also the church leader and delegated these responsibilities to Alma knowing that shortly thereafter, he (King Mosiah) would be dissolving the line of Kings and establishing a council of judges. Of course when this happened, Alma was chosen to be the Chief Judge too. We may never know all the motives behind the decisions made, but at least this much we know – that Alma the Senior was a great prophet and man. His faith was incredible as he changed his life (and the history of the Nephites for that matter!) after listening to the mighty words of Abinadi.

The other comments Mormon made were regarding the gathering of Israel. I don't have anything to say at this time regarding those comments.

August 22, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2012

4 Nephi & Mormon 1-6

September 13, 2007 - Original Post

A Timeline

For the books of 4 Nephi and Mormon, I will give a timeline summary since there is so much that goes on over many years. Also, there isn’t much in doctrine in these chapters so a summary is in order.

AD 34 – The Disciples of Christ have formed a church of Christ in all the lands.
AD 36 – All the people in all the lands have been converted. Zion is established and the people live the law of consecration.
AD 37 - The Disciples perform all kinds of miracles by healing the sick.
AD 38-59 - Cities are rebuilt, the people wax strong and multiply, no contention in the land.
AD 100 - All the Disciples have died except the Three. Others ordained in their stead.
AD 110 - The first generation passes away. Nephi gives plates to his son Amos.
AD 194 - Amos gives plates to his son Amos. Amos the Elder dies.
AD 200 - The second generation passes away.
AD 201 – Pride begins to enter the hearts of some. Costly apparel and jewelry and the fine things of the world are the people’s desires. The law of consecrations ceases. They begin to deny the true church of Christ.
AD 210 – Many different churches are established in the land. These churches defile the true gospel of Christ. False churches persecute the true church. False churches seek to kill the disciples of Christ.
AD 230 – A great division occurs among the people. “-ites" re-enter into the culture. The people of God are called the Nephites, while those who do not belong to the true church of God are called Lamanites, Lemuelites, Zoramites, etc.
AD 240 – The wicked begin to outnumber the righteous.
AD 260 – The secret oaths and combinations of Gadianton re-enter among the people. Even the Nephites begin to be proud in their hearts because of their riches.
AD 305 - Amos gives plates to his brother Ammaron. Amos the Younger dies.
AD 300 – Gadianton Robbers are widespread. Both the Nephites and Lamanites are wicked.
320 AD – Ammaron hides all the sacred records. The Book of 4 Nephi ends.

About AD 320 - Ammaron instructs Mormon (age 10) to take the plates when he turns 24. He is to write all that he has seen.
About AD 322 – Mormon, age 11, is taken by his father (also named Mormon) to the land of Zarahemla. War breaks out between the Nephites and Lamanites. Wickedness prevails among the people. The Lord takes away His disciples. Miracles cease.
About AD 326 – Mormon is visited by the Lord Jesus Christ. The land is cursed and people lose what they hide. Mormon is appointed head of the Nephite army at age 16.
AD 327 – Lamanite army advances on the Nephites.
AD 330 – Nephites successfully defend themselves with 42,000 against an army of 44,000. The Nephites do not have godly sorrow for their sins. Their sorrow is the sorrow of the damned. The day of grace has passed for them.
AD 345 – Nephites flee before Lamanites to the city of Jashon which is near the land where the records are. Mormon obtains records and makes a full account of the wickedness of the people. Nephites are continually pursued and hunted.
AD 346 – Nephites defeat Lamanite army of 50,000 with an army of 30,000.
AD 350 – Nephites are given the land northward and Lamanites are given the land southward. Temporary peace is reached. Mormon cries repentance among the people, but they do not listen.
AD 360 – King of Lamanites sends epistle to Mormon stating that war is looming.
AD 361 – Lamanites come to battle at City of Desolation. The Nephites beat them
AD 362 – Nephites beat Lamanites again. Nephites are so prideful of their victories, Mormon refuses to be their leader. Mormon instructs us that we will be judged at the judgment-seat of Christ.
AD 363 – Nephites are repelled and Lamanites take possession of the City of Desolation..
AD 364 – Nephites beat back Lamanites at the City of Teancum.
AD 366 – Lamanites continue to attack. The land is one continuous scene of bloodshed.
AD 367 – Nephites repel Lamanites.
AD 375 – Lamanites come against the Nephites will all their power and the Nephites are swept off and never regain victory. Nephites hold at Boaz, but Lamanites overwhelm them on the second advance. The Nephites are slaughtered. Mormon takes all the records from the hill Shim. At some point, Mormon takes leadership of the army again
AD 380 – Another big battle ensues and Nephites flee.
AD 384 – All the Nephites are gathered for one final battle. Mormon buries all the records in Cumorah and gives the plates to Moroni. The Lamanites destroy all but 24. Over a quarter of a million Nephites die in one day’s battle.
AD 400 – Moroni finishes Mormon’s work and buries the plates. Lamanites hunt down the remainder of the Nephites and those who will not deny the Christ.

Mormon's Lament

"O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!

"Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss.

"O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen!

"But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return.

"And the day soon cometh that your mortal must put on immortality, and these bodies which are now moldering in corruption must soon become incorruptible bodies; and then ye must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, to be judged according to your works; and if it so be that ye are righteous, then are ye blessed with your fathers who have gone before you.

"O that ye had repented before this great destruction had come upon you. But behold, ye are gone, and the Father, yea, the Eternal Father of heaven, knoweth your state; and he doeth with you according to his justice and mercy." (Mormon 6:17-22)

November 15, 2012 - Addition

Doctrinal Points

In my original post, I stated there wasn't much in terms of doctrine in these chapters, but there are a few and I would like to address those.

4 Nephi 1:5 - the disciples of Christ "heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men."  I was reading in the New Testament last week how Jesus commanded his disciples in to go out and heal the sick, etc. (see Matthew 10).  So, taking both examples of the disciples in the old world and the new world, it would seem that one of the primary directives and commandments for the Apostles is to "gather the lost sheep" and as they go about gathering sheep, they are to heal the sick, clense the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils ... to freely give.

4 Nephi 1:12 - the members of the church continued in fasting and prayer; and they met together often.  I only note this because of the reference to fasting and prayer.  Personally speaking, I feel we members should be fasting more than once a month.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Helaman 11

July 31, 2007 - Original Post

Famine and Fasting

Nephi pleads with the Lord that the people don’t die by the sword rather that they die by hunger. In essence, Nephi is forcing the people to collectively fast. Whenever I truly fast, I am greatly humbled. I have found that I am more passive and willing to submit myself to the will of God when I fast. Not only am I more submissive, but I grow closer to the Spirit. My mind is quieter.

As we fast and grow closer to the Savior, we must strive to always remember His sacrifice. After spiritual experiences, we must be wary of temptations. We must avoid what the Nephites did time and time again. They humbled themselves and then studied the scriptures, only to fall away again. Why did they fall away? They fell because they did not follow the counsels of the prophets.

Contentions Concerning Doctrine

In Helaman 11:22, it says they contended over some points of the doctrine which had been laid down by the prophets.

What does this mean? It means that at some point in time before, the prophets clarified some points of the doctrine. Even today we will hear prophets counsel us again and again about points of the doctrine. Many times they are explicit about what we are to understand. They explain to us how we are to interpret the doctrine. They are the living oracles who see further and clearer than we.

The prophets then, as the prophet today, can settle contentions because they receive revelation. During this time in the Nephite history, the prophets were "having many revelations daily." (Helaman 11:23)

How different the Book of Mormon would have been if the Nephites would have followed the prophets!

Regarding contention, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said this, "It is noteworthy that the Savior did not limit his teaching about disputations and contention to those who had wrong ideas about doctrine or procedure. He forbade disputations and contention by everyone. The commandment to avoid contention applies to those who are right as well as to those who are wrong.” (Book of Mormon Symposium Series, 4 Nephi – Moroni, p. 177)

The Nephite Cycle in a Chapter

One time while reading this chapter, I noted what went on in the Nephite history in one decade. Chapter 11 is a perfect example of the Nephite cycle in one decade. The chapter begins in the Nephite year 72.

In year 73, Nephi asks the Lord to bring a famine to the land. Note that it only took one verse for Nephi to ask this of the Lord. Then for the next two years the Nephites suffer. Finally in year 75 the people ask Nephi to ask the Lord to stop the famine. This time, it takes Nephi seven verses to ask the Lord to stop the famine. In year 76, the famine ends.

For four years, the Nephites prosper and have peace. Then in year 80 the dissentions begin again and the GR are reborn. Basically, the GRs are terrorists as verse 32 points out. The Nephites and Lamanites send their armies to destroy the GRs twice, but fail both times. The chapter ends in year 85 with the people “ripening again for destruction.”
So in the space of 13 years (from year 72 to year 85) we see in this one chapter the Nephites go from being wicked, to being humbled, to having prosperity and peace, to dissentions, to war and finally to wickedness again. It took the Nephites thirteen years for one complete cycle.

September 13, 2012 - Addition

A curious thought crossed my mind this morning while reading Helaman 11:10.

The person speaking is Nephi - a prophet of God.  A few years earlier, he was granted the sealing power of the priesthood - whatever he sealed on earth would be sealed in heaven.  He then used that power, after seeing the desctruction of the war, to plead with God to not let the people be destroyed by war, but by famine.  The famine came; the people repented.

In Helaman 10:10, Nephi begins his plea to God to save them from the famine.  He tells God that the band of Gadianton has been swept away and has become extinct.  This is crucial - there are no Gadianton robbers anymore - they have been wiped out ... as verse 10 states, "they have become extinct."  Now comes the curious statement: "they have concealed their secret plans in the earth."  Nephi knows they (the people who wiped out the Gadianton robbers) concealed the robbers' plans.  But my question is: why did the people or Nephi allow the secret plans to be buried?  Why not destroy the plans too?

As we find out in Helman 11:26, the band of robbers is resurrected and then goes on to "search out all the secret plans of Gadianton."

Monday, June 04, 2012

Alma 36

June 29, 2007 - Original Post


Below is an excerpt from John W. Welch, "A Masterpiece: Alma 36," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, ed. J.L. Sorenson and M.J. Thorne, Deseret Book Comp., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1991.

(a) My son, give ear to my WORDS (1)
(d) in REMEMBERING THE CAPTIVITY of our fathers (2);
(e) for they were in BONDAGE (2)
(f) he surely did DELIVER them (2)
(g) TRUST in God (3)
(h) supported in their TRIALS, and TROUBLES, and AFFLICTIONS (3)
(i) shall be lifted up at the LAST DAY (3)
(j) I KNOW this not of myself but of GOD (4)
(k) BORN OF GOD (5)
(l) I sought to destroy the church of God (6-9)
(m) MY LIMBS were paralyzed (10)
(n) Fear of being in the PRESENCE OF GOD (14-15)
(o) PAINS of a damned soul (16)
(q) I remembered JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD (17)
(q') I cried, JESUS, SON OF GOD (18)
(o') Joy as exceeding as was the PAIN (20)
(n') Long to be in the PRESENCE OF GOD (22)
(m') My LIMBS received their strength again (23)
(l') I labored to bring souls to repentance (24)
(k') BORN OF GOD (26)
(j') Therefore MY KNOWLEDGE IS OF GOD (26)
(h') Supported under TRIALS, TROUBLES, and AFFLICTIONS (27)
(g') TRUST in him (27)
(f') He will deliver me (27)
(e') As God brought our fathers out of BONDAGE and captivity (28-29)
(c') KNOW AS I DO KNOW (30)
(a') This is according to his WORD (30).

Keep the Commandments and Prosper in the Land

Since the chapter is a chiasmus, the beginning and end of the chapter contains this counsel: keep the commandments and you will prosper in the land. This is a repeating theme throughout the Book of Mormon. Alma and the rest of the people who keep the commandments are proof that this promise is true. As the Nephites kept the commandments, they prospered. As they disobeyed, their riches and quality of lift greatly diminished.

Delivered from Bondage

The rest of the chapter provides examples of people who were in physical or spiritual bondage, who put their trust in God and were consequently delivered. This is another repeating theme in the Book of Mormon. Alma reminds Helaman of the Israelites bondage and how they were delivered. He also reminds Helaman of his own spiritual bondage and his conversion. Lastly Alma reminds Helaman of how Lehi and his family were delivered as well as the bondage of the people of Alma the Senior.

"Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day." (Alma 36:3)

He later testifies, "I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions; yea, God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me." (Alma 36:27)

What types of bondage and troubles and afflictions and trials do we face today? Are we burdened with sin? Do our families suffer from troubles and afflictions and trials? Does it seem that we are fighting an uphill battle? We may struggle on our own to overcome, but whether we succeed or fail, God will always be there to support us and help us if we but put our trust in him and ask for his succor. More than likely, if we try to overcome our own troubles without God's help, we will fail or unnecessarily toil. We should seek God's help and put our trust in him.

One of my favorite scriptures is Proverbs 3:5-6. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

"In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

I have experienced the hand of the Lord in my life. I know that when I put my trust in him, he delivers me.

June 4, 2012 - Addition

Alma 36:22 really stood out to me today ... especially the last seven words of that verse.  Alma talks about the torment he experienced until he called on Jesus Christ to save him.  Immediately, Christ relieved the pain Alma was in.  Then Alma was filled with joy as equally powerful as the pain he felt.  Then he saw God sitting on his throne, surrounded by angels who were "in the attitude of singing and praising their God."

And then Alma says this, "my soul did long to be there."

There are 18 years between my older brother and me.  He and his wife came to visit us one summer ... I must have been about 9 or 10 years old.  It was a wonderful time.  I'm sure we had bbqs, played basketball and talked a lot.  I honestly don't remember much of that.  Rather, what I remember is a very intense pain when they were leaving.  I still vividly remember sitting on the porch step in the garage and watching my brother and his wife pull out of the drive way and drive off back to their home.  I was extremely sad to see them leave.  I bawled as I watched them leave ... I longed to be with them.

Now I'm sure Alma's longing was a bit more intense than mine, but I'm grateful for the bit of perspective that I do have on that feeling of longing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Alma 1

April 10, 2007 - Original Post

The Gospel Warrior

V1 – “having warred a good warfare, walking uprightly before God.” I remember in the October 2003 General Conference, at the very beginning President Hinckley spoke. After he spoke, he called Elder David Haight to come up and wave at the audience. Elder Haight was the oldest apostle ever to live since the Gospel was restored. As President Hinckley was commenting on this, he mentioned that Elder Haight was a great warrior in the Gospel. Elder Haight died in 2004. He truly was a warrior of the Lord … he fought for the Gospel truth all his life.

I hope that I can war a good warfare all my life. I need to be steadfast in keeping the commandments and in doing good.

On a related note, I was thinking the other day about how much life is like chess. We must live with purpose and we must limit mistakes in order to get to the endgame and have a fighting chance to win the battle. In chess, one of the levels of play a player must reach is being able to play with no tactical mistakes. If he can reach this level, then he prepares himself to move on to greater challenges of strategy. I think life is the same way. If we (I) can simply rid myself of the small mistakes and omissions, then I would be a position to receive greater understanding of the mysteries of God. I would serve with greater conviction. For example, if I could consistently read and study the scriptures every day and consistently pray every day, then I would be getting somewhere. If I could achieve 100% home-teaching every month and have FHE every week, then I would be accomplishing something. To not forget these commandments and to shun sin … this is what I need to work on.

Priest Craft

Nehor introduced priest craft among the Nephites. Priest craft, from what I understand, is teaching the gospel (or purported gospel truths) for the gain of money. I am unsure of some of these “conferences” and seminars that some members go to. In order to listen to the speakers at these conferences and seminars, people must pay money.

Elder Oakes said the following regarding priestcraft:
Another illustration of a strength that can become our downfall concerns charismatic teachers. With a trained mind and a skillful manner of presentation, teachers can become unusually popular and effective in teaching. But Satan will try to use that strength to corrupt teachers by encouraging them to gather a following of disciples. A Church teacher, Church Education System instructor, or Latter-day Saint university professor who gathers such a following and does this “for the sake of riches and honor” (Alma 1:16) is guilty of priestcraft. “Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Ne. 26:29).

Teachers who are most popular, and therefore most effective, have a special susceptibility to priestcraft. If they are not careful, their strength can become their spiritual downfall. They can become like Almon Babbitt, with whom the Lord was not pleased, because “he aspireth to establish his counsel instead of the counsel which I have ordained, even that of the Presidency of my Church; and he setteth up a golden calf for the worship of my people” (D&C 124:84). (Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 11)
I am a leery of the practice of merchandising the Gospel. I love the fact that the Church has done almost everything in its power to make available the conference talks and past articles from Church publications. Practically every conceivable document in recent history is found on the website. I love to be able to search on Gospel subjects (such as this one) and find exactly what the Apostles think of the subject. The Church truly “impart[s] the word of God …. without money and without price (v. 20).

2 Nephi 26:29 has this to say about priest crafts, "He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion."

Nehor not only preached for riches, but he mixed scripture with the philosophies of men. The lies he taught – that all mankind should be saved, meaning eternal life, regardless of having sinned or not. He taught that we need not repent. The truth he mixed in was that the Lord created all men. This was the one truth amidst all the lies.

Thus a whole church was based on the “vain things of the world” (v. 16). We will see that this church hardened many Nephite hearts against the truth.

The proper attitude for teaching the Gospel is to have "faith, hope, charity and love with an eye single to the glory of God." (D&C 4:5) If the teacher strives for these things, then he will teach the true and pure doctrine of Christ.

Persecution … it is a word that is used a lot within the Church. There are a couple of definitions from Webster’s on-line dictionary. The first is, “to harass in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically: to cause to suffer because of belief.” The second is, “to annoy with persistence or urgent approaches (as attacks, pleas, or importunities).” I think the whole reason for persecuting someone for his or her beliefs is to make that person change or leave. For example, Laman and Lemuel constantly persecuted Nephi. They did not want Nephi to act the way he did because it made them feel uncomfortable … they didn’t want to have to live up to Nephi’s standard of living, so instead of raising their standards, they wanted to lower Nephi’s.

The pioneer Saints were persecuted for various reasons. Some of the persecutors were former members. These former members were usually offended in some manner and wanted to get their revenge on the members of the church. I think most of these members were angry in one-way or another with Joseph Smith. They ultimately killed the Prophet. The martyrdom of Joseph did not stop the persecution. The Saints were driven from Nauvoo across the plains to Utah. For a season they were not persecuted, but once the Civil War ended, the federal government focused on the Mormons again. I don’t know all the reasons why the early Saints were persecuted, but I think a lot of it has to do with former members who were offended in one way or another.

Even today, there are those who will do anything to speak evil of the Church. If you go and look at that person’s history, you will more than likely find that that person did not strive to cultivate a true testimony. They probably had doubts and never resolved to truly address those doubts. I think it was Elder Maxwell who said that there are those who leave the church, but for whatever reason, they can’t leave the church alone.

As for members persecuting others … we are commanded to not persecute anyone. It seems that the members had problems persecuting non-members (if you will) in Book of Mormon times. They were commanded to not persecute anyone … within the church or without the church. President Hinckley gave a similar warning to members in a General Conference.

A holier-than-thou attitude is not becoming to us. I am in receipt of a letter from a man in our community who is not a member of the Church. In it he says that his little daughter has been ostracized by her schoolmates who are Latter-day Saints. He sets forth another instance of a child who, it is alleged, had a religious medal ripped from his neck by an LDS child. I hope this is not true. If it is, I apologize to those who have been offended.

Let us rise above all such conduct and teach our children to do likewise. Let us be true disciples of the Christ, observing the Golden Rule, doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us strengthen our own faith and that of our children while being gracious to those who are not of our faith. Love and respect will overcome every element of animosity. Our kindness may be the most persuasive argument for that which we believe." (Gordon B. Hinckley, “We Bear Witness of Him,” Ensign, May 1998, 4)
Those who would detract from the Church are always quick to point out mistakes made by members. Persecuting others does no good. It is not Christ-like nor does it advance the work of the Lord.

Steadfast and Immovable

Another verse that I really love from this chapter is v.25, “they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God.” My true heart’s desire is to be steadfast and immovable. To me, this means that I am an anchor when it comes to keeping the commandments of God. I need to remain steadfast and constant. This is my hope: that I become a rock in my loyalty to God. I need to be more diligent in reading the scriptures, obeying the commandments and magnifying my callings. I need despise sin in all forms and shun that which is evil. I hope I can become like those few saints described here in Alma 1.

Because the saints were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments, they prospered. And instead of becoming wicked (and thus beginning the so-called Nephite cycle), these saints "got it." They did not become prideful because of their prosperity. Rather they "did not set their hearts upon riches" and they were "liberal to all." (Alma 1:30). And because they were liberal to all, the Lord prospered them even more and they became "far more wealthy than those who did not belong to their church." (Alma 1:31)

Did Indulge Themselves
I think that Alma 1:32 perfectly sums up the world in which we live today. All those who were not steadfast and immovable "did indulge themselves." In other words, they did not check their natural desires in the least bit. Rather than feast on the word of God, the indulged themselves in the things of the world.

April 10, 2012 - Addition

Another Look at Nehor's Teachings

Alma 1:3-4 are the core of Nehor's teaching.  Let's examine them line by line to see if they are philosophies of men or if they are scripture.

First off, Nehor claimed his teachings were "the word of God".  How do we know when someone is teaching the word of God as opposed to a philosophy of men?  This topic alone can take up an entire post.  But to be quick, I would say the burden is on the individual.  We must each, on our own, gain a testimony of each General Conference talk; each Ensign article; every Sunday School lesson; every theory proposed by man; every proposed leader. We have the gift of the Holy Ghost to filter out the false and to allow the true.

Next, he "[bore down] against the church"  Just to make it clear, "bear down" means "to advance in a threatening manner" or "to apply maximum effort and concentration"  Similarly, "to bear down on" means to "effect in a harmful or adverse way" (link).  In other words, Nehor was aiming to bring the church down - to bring about its fall.  Further reading of the book of Alma shows that Nehor's teachings were widely successful in their intent.  How do we prevent from "bearing down" against the Church today?  I would say that each of us ought to focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If we focus on learning, studying and living the Gospel, we will not go astray.

Nehor's next principle is "every priest and teacher ought to become popular."  I think it is fairly safe to say this is a philosophy of men.  Bishops, Stake Presidents, Sunday School teachers, seminary teachers, Church-sponsored university professors, General Authorities, Apostles ... all of them should be keenly aware that they should not focus on becoming popular.  I think almost all of these people have a clear intent not to become popular - that that is not their main focus.  But sometimes, do we, the congregation - the receivers of the word - do we make them popular?  Do we idolize them?  There is a very subtle slippery slope here.  Again, I think the answer to this problem lies in focusing on the message and not the person.  If we use our spiritual antennae to detect truth and to detect lies, we will not get caught up in the "favorite apostle" or "favorite general authority" or "favorite teacher" game - and thus begin the false doctrine of popularity in preaching the word of God.  Another way to look at this in a succinct matter is to turn Nehor's teaching upside down to get this: "every priest and teacher ought not to become popular."

Nehor next teaches that our priest and teachers "ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people."  Wow!  Let's break this down.  What does "labor with their hands" mean?  To me, it means to work for a living.  In today's terms, it means that our Church leaders should support themselves.  Elder Oaks just gave a talk in the April 2012 General Conference.  In it he talked about the sacrifice of our local leaders and congregation members.  As for our top leaders - the General Authorities - there is a lot of discussion on that - with lots of varied opinions.  A search in the LDS Bloggernacle is probably a good starting place.  So is this Nehor teaching a philosophy of men or is it scripture or is it mingled?  Personally, I think it is a philosophy of men.  At the core (strip everything else away that is not needed), what the Church provides that is of utmost importance to me is the Priesthood and sealing power.  I was baptized, bestowed the Priesthood, endowed and sealed to my wife and children and I did not have to pay for any of that.

Now we get to the grit of Nehor's message - the part that everyone is quick to point out.  He says, "all mankind should be saved at the last day."  Let's use the "flip method" and turn that statement upside down.  "All mankind should not be saved at the last day."  If you take away the need to repent - to change and make better you life - then you change one's perspective on life.  If there is no need to be kind, to serve, to be good and we are left with nothing but our base desires, civilization would revert to the jungle - to anarchy.  And this is the teaching that was so dangerous in Alma's mind.  To be truly sanctified, we have to overcome all our natural desires.  That is at the core of Christ's teachings.  We each have an instinct to choose the wrong in so many ways.  But if we can fight to overcome those instincts, we sanctify ourselves - we purify ourselves - we strip out all that is useless.  And what we have left is beautiful.  Indeed, this philosophy of men that Nehor taught was and is dangerous.  This one thought caused the destruction, both spiritual and temporal, of thousands of Nephites and Lamanites.  This one thought deceives millions of people today.  This one thought is what makes Nehor an anti-Christ because this teaching stands in violent rebellion of what Christ taught.

He goes on by teaching that people "need not fear nor tremble."  This is where the mingling begins.  We are not to live our lives in constant fear and trembling.  We are to let the realities sink deep within our hearts.  In other words, if we truly know what will happen to us if we do not keep the commandments, we ought to fear and tremble unto repentance.  But once we've done that and once we are on constant guard, we can focus on the joy and the abundance of the Gospel.  Nehor would have us believe that we have to always be in a state of fear and tremble.  But if we live and love the Gospel, I just don't think that would be the case.  I can't see a sanctified person fearing and trembling all the time - rather, I see them looking forward to eternal bliss.

The mingling continues, "but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice."  Again, as I noted above, we ought to let the fear of God work within us to repentance.  But once we've entered into the straight and narrow path, we ought to continue in repentance, but we can then begin to look forward to a better life.  God wants us to lift up our heads and rejoice - but with the proper base of repentance and faith on Christ and baptism.

Now Nehor inserts pure scripture, "for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men."  All those statements, by themselves, are true.

But he completely goes astray again by saying, "all men should have eternal life."  Instead, he should have said, "all men should have immortality."  Maybe he mis-understood this scripture - I don't know.  But all men will not live in God's presence for eternity.  Many men will receive a lesser degree of glory because they won't be able to abide the presence of God.  Men not living in the presence of God is not necessarily an act of punishment, but rather an act of mercy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2 Nephi 3

December 17, 2006 - Original Post

A Choice Seer

Lehi tells his son Joseph about their forefather Joseph who was sold into Egypt. Through Joseph, many nations are blessed. From Joseph’s posterity would come Joseph Smith.

We learn many things that Joseph Smith would do. Verse 12 talks about how the Book of Mormon and the Bible would be joined together to confound false doctrines and to establish the truth. This prophecy has come true. Today, millions of copies of the Bible and Book of Mormon can be found scattered around the world. In some sets, they are even bound together as one book.

We learn that Joseph will declare repentance unto the Lamanites. Shortly after the Church was established, missionaries were sent to the Native Americans. Today, missionaries are found all over the world declaring repentance. Even I was able to take part in the fulfillment of this revelation as I served in Central American among the ancestors of the Mayans. The church in Central and South America truly is blossoming like a rose (D&C 49:24).

In summary, Joseph would “do much good, both in word and in deed” (v. 24).

Personal Application

There is not much in this chapter that can be directly applied to my life. What strengthens my testimony when I read this chapter is that I have a chance to reflect on the life and mission of Joseph Smith. The work that he did on this earth is really quite miraculous when you consider all that he did.

The greatest testimony I have of the Prophet Joseph Smith is the translation of the Book of Mormon. I firmly believe that he received the gold plates from Moroni and that he translated them through the power of God. Every time I read the Book of Mormon and consider how it came to be, I know it in my heart that no one man wrote this book. It was written my many different prophets and compiled by Mormon and Moroni. Then by the power of God, Joseph Smith translated the book.

And just as verse 12 so wonderfully states, the Book of Mormon and the Bible have indeed grown together to establish the truth once again.

January 11, 2012 - Addition

2 Nephi 3:9-10 caught my attention today.

If you were to look at a timeline, Joseph of Egypt comes first, then Moses, then Lehi and Joseph (son of Lehi) and then Joseph Smith.

2 Nephi 3:7 begins Joseph of Egypt's prophesy about Joseph Smith and Moses.

In verse 9, he says "And he [Joseph Smith] shall be great like unto Moses, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel."

In verse 10 he continues, "And Moses will I raise up, to deliver thy people out of the land of Egypt."

So, according to the Book of Mormon, Joseph of Egypt not only say the Israelites being held captive, but he saw and knew the name of Moses.

The Maxwell Institute has a nice little article about this prophesy: "Joseph's Prophesy of Moses and Aaron"

More info on this link as well.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

2 Nephi 1

November 29, 2006 - Original Post

In light of September 11th’s events, this chapter has more meaning now than ever. Once again, the Lord’s words prove true.

Lehi was talking to his eldest sons, Laman and Lemuel. In verse 6 and 7 he tells them the curse and blessing of the land. No one will come to this land unless directed by the Lord. All the people of the Book of Mormon were directed by the Lord to come to this land. We also learn that the Pilgrims and other groups of people came from Europe to this land by the will of the Lord. In the next verse (7) he tells them that if the people who live in this land will serve God and keep His commandments, then they will always be a free people and they would never be brought into captivity. But if the people of the land rebel against God, then the land will become cursed. This means America will never be invaded and held captive. What I told my wife earlier is true – that if the terrorists wanted to hurt the United States, then the best thing they could have done was to leave us alone and we would have sinned ourselves to the cursing of the land.

Lehi recites the promise of the Promised Land twice in this chapter. Anyone who lives in the Promised Land must keep the commandments of God and they will prosper and be blessed. But if they do not keep the commandments of God, they will be “cut off” from the presence of God and the land will become cursed. I’ve often heard from other people (not just from the scriptures) that America will destroy itself. No one will ever invade America. Just as the Romans, the fall will come from within.

Lehi concludes his counsel to his sons with a plea – “arise from the dust, my sons, and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things, that ye may not come down into captivity.” I’ve always liked this verse. This verse is a good reminder to stand tall and not to be a scrub which President Hinckley has said before.

We need to be united as Lehi said. Since the attack on America, we have united in such a manner as never before seen in the history of the United States. My wife's dad said that he has never seen the country so united and patriotic before. People have donated blood, food, money and time to help those victims of the attack. We are truly united at this time. Unity is a strong force.

January 7, 2012 - Addition

Desire; Anxiety

These two words struck me.  Ever since I read Elder Maxwell's and Elder Oaks' talks on "Desire", I've been taking note of the context whenever I see the word (see "According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts" and "The Desires of Our Hearts" and "Desire")

Desire and anxiety seemed to be linked.  All the things that you want (desire) are the same things that you worry about - they you think constantly of - that gnaw at you and drive you to do things.

For Lehi and just about any good parent, the desire of his heart was for his children to keep the commandments.  Therefore, what kept him awake at night (anxiety) was Laman and Lemuel's murmuring and disobedience.

What are the true desires of your heart?  What makes you do things?  What drives you?  Are those things aligned with the will of the Father?

Not only will be we judged of our works and thoughts, but we will also be judged of our desires.

Both Elder Maxwell's and Oaks' talks discuss ways to reconcile our desires with the will of the Father.

Another Word about the Promised Land Covenant

Verse 10 goes beyond that mere promise of obedience = prosperity, disobedience = cut off from the Lord ... it states that when the people reject Jesus Christ, then not only will they not prosper, but their land will be taken from them; they'll be "smitten" and "scattered" and blood will be shed.

The lesson: stay on the sunny side of life.  Keep the commandments.

About This Blog

September 19, 2006 - Original Post

I kept a Book of Mormon journal while I was a missionary. In it, I provided personal commentary and insights to my reading of the Book of Mormon. It continues to be a work in progress. There is so much to ponder and to apply from the teachings found in the Book of Mormon.

I could only place part of Elder Maxwell's quote regarding the Book of Mormon in my blog subtitle. The entire quote captures how I feel about studying the Book of Mormon:

"For my part, I am glad the book will be with us "as long as the earth shall stand." I need and want additional time. For me, towers, courtyards, and wings await inspection. My tour of it has never been completed. Some rooms I have yet to enter, and there are more flaming fireplaces waiting to warm me. Even the rooms I have glimpsed contain further furnishings and rich detail yet to be savored. There are panels inlaid with incredible insights and design and decor dating from Eden. There are also sumptuous banquet tables painstakingly prepared by predecessors which await all of us. Yet, we as Church members sometimes behave like hurried tourists, scarcely venturing beyond the entry hall to the mansion" (Neal A. Maxwell, The Book of Mormon: A Great Answer to "The Great Question" December 31, 2003 link to entire talk).

This blog will share my insights that I have gathered from reading this scripture over the past 10 or so years of my life.

I invite anyone who reads this blog to share their thoughts and experiences regarding the teachings found in The Book of Mormon.

January 7, 2012 - Addition

It's been a few years since I finished a focused reading and commentary of the Book of Mormon.  As I read the Book of Mormon this year and as we study it in Sunday School class, I will be resiving posts.  I'll note the date of the original post as well as revisions.  I'll also republish those posts I update with the most current date so they "float" to the top of the blog.

Feel free to leave comments.  Comment moderation is turned on, so spam and hardened-opinon comments won't appear.  I'd prefer to approve comments that are honest; thought-provoking or faith-building.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

1 Nephi 20

November 13, 2006 - Original Post

For the next few chapters, Nephi records the words of Isaiah. The “Isaiah chapters” are difficult mostly because of the language … it is so different. It’s a rarity that I get much out of these chapters … but sometimes I do.

In verse 10, the Lord tells Jacob and his people that he has refined them and has chosen them in the furnace of affliction. What this means to me is that “God’s people” were chosen because their faith was put to a test and they were proven to be faithful. All sorts of trails and persecutions were thrown at them, yet they did no curse God, but endured and were even strengthened. Because they were strengthened, they were able to accomplish much for the Lord.

I guess I’m a sports nut because I always think of sports analogies when it comes to the scriptures. My uncle ran a marathon while I was on my mission. We also had a couple of friends recently run a marathon. Anyway, I’ve heard that running a long distance race and successfully enduring it is a spiritual experience. It’s a spiritual experience because you go through a type of refiner’s fire … you think that you cannot succeed … you see this almost impossible goal, yet step by step, day by day you work towards that goal. You endure heat, pain, cold, rain, fatigue and other ailments. But when you cross that finish line, you feel a wonderful sensation. I’ve never done it so I don’t know what it feels like. But I’ve done other things in my life that have been a sort of a refiner’s fire.

The MTC is one. Going on a mission is another. Any type of training regimen is a type of a refiner’s fire. But real refiners' fires are those trials that people go through. The early Saints and the persecution is another type. In summary … anything that stretches and strengthens you is a refiner’s fire … it makes you more pure at whatever you are doing. Fasting is another example.

I liked verses 12 and 13. The Lord is the first and the last. He created the earth and his hand spans the universe. He is Lord of the Universe and all that is in it. When I read this today, I felt this sense of greatness in the person I worship. I have reservations in worshiping anything … we’ve been trained our whole lives to not worship idols and riches and things or even people. But the one person and thing we can worship is God. We can give ourselves to him … wholly. If I am going to do that … give that much commitment, then that person had better be all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving. That person is God. And these two verses tell us the type of person we worship.

Verse 17 & 18 were also really good. God loves us and wants us to prosper. He wants to teach us all that he knows. But we have to be willing to accept him and his teachings. If we are obedient to him, then we will have true, lasting peace. Verse 18 says that our peace would be as the river and waves of the sea. I didn’t think a river or sea was too peaceful when I read this. So I got out the NIV translation of the bible and the footnote said that the peace would be abundant and overflowing like water is to a river and the waves of the sea. That makes complete sense. Another blessing of obedience is that our posterity will last forever.

And the last note of interest in this chapter is verse 22. The Lord simply states that there is no peace for the wicked. I am listening to some relaxing music while I type this and I feel peaceful. I don’t feel too stressed right now. I’ve enjoyed reading the Book of Mormon for a few minutes this morning. It would be nice if I had a chance to do this every day. It is peaceful. I can barely imagine what the peace the Lord can give us.

January 4, 2012 - Addition

On Suffering and Purifying

There is a mash-up quote from James Allen that I think of several times a day.  It goes like this: "The man who shrinks from self-crucifixion can never accomplish the object upon which his heart is set.  The sole and supreme use of suffering is to purify; to burn out all that is useless and impure."

There is so much stuff to think about, to do, to be entertained by, to read, to study, to watch, to listen to ... it is endless.  It is easy to be overloaded with things today.  As such, I try to constantly evaluate if what I'm doing is worthwhile or if it is useless.  Also, for those things I truly desire, I try to ask myself what I would be willing to do to accomplish it?  If it really is worthwhile, am I willing to suffer for it?

Link to Isaiah Blog

1 Nephi 20 is also Isaiah 48.  See my commentary on Isaiah 48 here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 30, 2011 - Finished Book of Mormon

There was a Brother Cal Henline in the ward we lived in several years ago and I remember him bearing his testimony about how he's read the Book of Mormon X amount of times in his life ... I don't recall the number, but it was high.  He was proud of that fact.  I was impressed with his effort.  I could tell he wanted to be able to report to God, someday, that he was faithful in reading the Book of Mormon in his life.

A few years before Brother Henline bore that testimony, I was sitting in Primary with my Sunbeams, and Sister Vallery, the Primary president, was telling us how she has read the Book of Mormon every day of her life since she was a young woman.  I was really impressed with that!

Many years before her testimony, back in Oregon, I walked into our home around 4:30pm.  The house was quiet; it was autumn.  I looked to my left into the living room and there in his recliner with a couch pillow on his lap and his copy of the Book of Mormon on that pillow, sat my dad - quietly reading the Book of Mormon.  I remember thinking, "I want to be just like my dad."

I try to be more like Brother Henline; I want to read the whole Book of Mormon every year - perhaps more times if  can manage.

I try to be more like Sister Vallery and not let a day go by without opening and reading from the Book of Mormon.

I try to seek those quiet moments like my dad, and read the Book of Mormon.  I want my kids to see me study the scriptures too.  I've been more conscious lately in trying to find opportunities to read my scriptures at home so my children can see me and want to follow my example.

Today, I accomplished, in a small degree, all three of those desires.

After I finished the Book of Mormon again today, I find that it is still true!

And I, like Moroni, admonish anyone reading this, to read and study the Book of Mormon.  Read it.  Recommit to reading it.  Pray about it.  It will make your life better.

Moroni 10

July 27, 2007 - Original Post

The Book of Mormon Challenge

Moroni begins his final chapter with a challenge. He asks us to “remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men” from the time of Adam to his day. He asks us to ponder in our hearts the mercy of the Lord and “these things” meaning the writings of Mormon and Moroni.

And when we “receive these things,” then we must ask our Heavenly Father “if these things are not true.” And if we ask in the name of Christ, having faith in Christ and with a sincere heart and real intent, then the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of the Book of Mormon to us.

For me, I’ve always felt the Book of Mormon is true. It is ingrained within me and is a part of me. I can’t imagine what my life would be without it. I truly love the Book of Mormon. Notwithstanding these facts, I’ve felt the desire to pray about the Book of Mormon. I still feel a desire to pray about the Book of Mormon every time I finish reading it. Each time I do so, my testimony of it grows stronger. I think of all the lessons and spiritual experiences I’ve had while reading and pondering the Book of Mormon. And when I think of those things, my testimony grows.

While I was a missionary in the MTC, I finished reading the Book of Mormon and desired to have the Holy Ghost manifest to me the truth of the Book of Mormon before I embarked on a mission to Guatemala. Early in the morning, I got up and went out in the hallway to have some time to myself. I read Joseph Smith’s history that morning and then prayed about the Book of Mormon. After I finished praying, I simply knew it … I was just happy. Everything seemed to fall into place and I simply knew at that moment that the Book of Mormon is a true book and that Joseph was a true prophet and that the Church is the true church of Christ today. It was a happy moment in my spiritual life.

Spiritual Gifts

The Spirit of God to teach the word of wisdom (Moroni 10:9, 1 Cor. 12:8, D&C 46:17)

Elder Oaks describes this gift as the gift to wisely apply knowledge or the gift of judgment. (Dallin H. Oaks, “Spiritual Gifts,” Ensign, Sep 1986, 68)

Teach the word of knowledge by the same Spirit (Moroni 10:10, 1 Cor. 12:8, D&C 46:18)
The D&C elaborates on this gift by adding, “that all may be taught to be wise and have knowledge.” I have seen many Sunday School teachers and seminary teachers and others exercise this gift. My parents have this gift. I have always sought this gift and feel that I have had it while teaching others on my mission as well as training missionaries in the MTC.

Exceedingly great faith (Moroni 10:11, 1 Cor. 12:9)

We have seen many of the Book of Mormon have this gift. The first example that comes to my mind is the old Lamanite king who Aaron taught. The old king believed Aaron’s words and exercised faith and was converted. (see Alma 22)

The gifts of healing (Moroni 10:11, 1 Cor. 12:9, D&C 46:19-20)

In the first area I served as a missionary (Pinares del Norte, Guatemala City), the sister who cooked our meals had this gift. Almost every morning while I ate her breakfast, some woman would bring her child over to this hermana to have the child be healed. I asked the hermana about this and she told me she has the gift of healing. She doesn’t know how it came to be, but that she just knows what ails a person and can heal them with remedies. I knew I was in good hands after I saw her heal these children.

Work mighty miracles (Moroni 10:12, 1 Cor. 12:10, D&C 46:21)

Miracles are all around us. What we need is to see them and recognize them. Just this evening, the kids and I read out of the Friend a story about a little boy who had pneumonia and meningitis and was hospitalized. The ward and even his little friends fasted for him. The doctors and his parents did not know if he would survive. But the faith of those fasting and praying for him miraculously healed him. (Susan Denney, “Jake’s Miracle,” Friend, Oct 2007, 16–17)

Gift of prophesy (Moroni 10:13, 1 Cor. 12:10, D&C 46:22)
Who can really dispute the gift of prophesy that President Hinckley possesses. He has forewarned and warned us of many things. He counseled us to get our homes in order. He taught us time and time again of the importance of the family and how the world attacks it. At least in my mind, I see his counsel and warnings as the gift of prophesy. He truly is able to lead us away from danger far before it is imminent.

Beholding of angels and ministering of spirits (Moroni 10:14, 1 Cor. 12:10)

Nephi and Alma and many others of the Book of Mormon had this gift. Joseph Smith seemed to have this gift too as he was taught by many different angels. I think that many who are close to the Spirit can have this gift when we do work for others in the temple. In counseling me to regularly attend the temple, my patriarchal blessing teaches me “that the veil between this life and the spirit world is thin.” I know I am not the only one who truly knows that truth.

Interpretation of tongues (Moroni 10:15-16, 1 Cor. 12:10, D&C 46:24-25)

How could the work of the Lord roll forward without this gift? Many missionaries and interpreters have received this gift and have used it as it was intended. The Book of Mormon and other Church publications are translated into dozens of languages. Just the General Conference page has almost 70 different language options.

Come Unto Christ

The clarion call of the Book of Mormon is that Christ lives and that we must come unto him. Moroni teaches us to come unto Christ “and be perfected in him.” (Moroni 10:32)

We must deny ourselves of ungodliness. We cannot expect to be God’s people if we do not strive to be like him. We must be different from the world. We must be the light and we are required to lead by example.

We must love God with all our might, mind and strength. In all that we do and in all that we think, we must exert the maximum effort in order for God’s grace to be sufficient.

If we do these things, then we are sanctified (Moroni 10:33) and our sins are remitted. Then we are holy and without spot.

As missionaries, we were often told that we had two years to work and the rest of our lives to think about it. The intent of that counsel was to help us to never tire of working … we were to squeeze every ounce out of our time. The same is true with lives. This life is too short and we have too much to accomplish in that short span. We must give God our all.

Moroni’s words are quite an inspiration and pep talk to go out and get to work.

Carry on, carry on, carry on (Hymn 255).

November 30, 2011 - Addition

I wanted to make Moroni 10:32 a little more meaningful and "down-to-earth"

"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him"
To me, this means 'seek Christ; learn of Christ and strive to be like him.'

"deny yourselves of all ungodliness"
To me, this means we need to examine our lives and find those actions, words and thoughts that are not in alignment with the gospel of Christ and then seek to de-emphasize them in our lives - to work toward ridding them from our life - to deny them existence in our actions, words and thoughts - to suffocate 'the bad'

"love God"
Mosiah 2:17 - to love God means to love our neighbor.  To love our neighbor means to serve them.

"with all your might, mind and strength"
To me, this implies we have to "lay it all on the line" - we have to "do our best" - we have to "care"  Some fear having their hearts hurt by being offended and instead of confronting that fear, they choose to dis-engage - they choose to not be hurt.  But if we don't "care/do our best/lay it all on the line" then we will miss out on valuable lessons; essentially we circumvent the growing process.  Doing your best is not just a Boy Scout motto - it is a critical ingredient to our eternal salvation.  Without it, we will not attain the grace of God.

Only after we seek Christ and deny ungodliness in our life and give it our all is his grace sufficient for us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Elder Richard G. Scott Quote on Book of Mormon

In his October 2011 General Conference talks, Elder Richard G. Scott said,

"those who consistently read the Book of Mormon are blessed with an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a greater resolve to obey His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the divinity of the Son of God."


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ensign October 2011 - All About the Book of Mormon

I was really excited when I got the mail today.  The October 2011 Ensign is all about the Book of Mormon!

I am especially looking forward to reading the Ensign this month.

Since it's been so long since I've posted on this blog, I think that as I read each of the articles this month, I will post my thoughts and commentary on them here.

Now for a couple of side notes ... our family, a few months ago, finished reading the Book of Mormon for the first time.  It took us a long, long time, but we did it.  We celebrated with a BBQ and swim party after we had finished.

Also, the missionaries invited us to share the Book of Mormon with our neighbors.  My wife and I both prayed about it.  I ended up sharing 'my' copy with our neighbors.  I think she had somone in mind too, but on the day she was to give a copy to her friend, the friend's son ended up getting hurt, so she never got the chance.

Lastly, I wonder if we'll get a 'Book of Mormon' talk this General Conference.  It's been a while since we've had one there - especially by one of the Apostles.  The last Apostle to speak on the subject was of course the unforgettable talk by Elder Holland (October 2009).  I don't recall any talks specifically about the Book of Mormon from the 2010 and 11 conferences.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

1 Nephi 8

March 26, 2011

For quite some time, I've been toying with the idea of a personal scorecard to help me keep track of my daily goals and efforts.  I finally made that a reality just yesterday and I've begun keeping score.

I don't think it's a coincidence that I came across 1 Nephi 8:30 on the same day I finalized my personal scorecard.

"But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree."

When I read that verse, the phrases "caught hold", "press their way forward", and  "continually holding fast" really stood out.  To me, these imply that we don't leap ro jog along to the tree.  Rather, it almost sounds like a hard-fought ground battle where you have to really earn an inch.  It sounds like any person holding fast to that iron rod will intimately know every inch of that bar.  They don't just hold on to it a bit at arms length and occasionally let go while they run along the path.  There might even have been wind along that path and that to let go means immediate losses.  Perhaps the dark mist was so thick, you could not see the rod even if you were holding on to it.  There may have been zero visibility.

Anyway ... the phrases I mentioned implied certain things to me:

1) Daily, hourly ... constant reinforcement and recommitment
2) Constantly watching, assessing and adjusting

Those things, to me, sound a lot like what a scorecard accomplishes.

October 7, 2006

This chapter dicusses the tree of life vision that Lehi received. I’ve always thought that this could be an inspiring movie or film clip. Maybe someday someone will make it a reality.

In chapter 8 verse 12, Lehi reaches the tree and eats the fruit. After eating, he is “desirous that [his] family should partake of it also.” We shared this scripture often when we asked for references from members (referring to when I was serving as a full-time missionary). They have eaten of the fruit of the gospel and should be desirous that others enjoy the fruit or gospel.

Also, fathers can learn from the example of Lehi, in that we are to teach our family the gospel and then lead them by example. Upon eating of the fruit, Lehi immediately looked for his wife and children.

Lehi also sees the fate of many groups of people in his dream. In verse 21 he sees “numberless concourses of people … pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree.” He sees others commence in the path that leads to the tree, but then lose their way because of the mist of darkness. Others he sees catch hold of the iron rod and press forward until they reach the tree. Upon eating of the fruit, “they cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed” (v. 25). He also sees a large group of people occupying the great and spacious building. These mock and point the finger of scorn at those eating of the fruit (v. 27). And after some partake of the fruit, they look up to the building and see the people mocking them and some who see this mocking become ashamed. Feeling ashamed, these leave the security of the tree and become lost in “forbidden paths” (v. 28). Others were faithful and diligently sought the iron rod. Once they found it, they never let go until they reach the tree and eat of the fruit (v. 30). He also saw other multitudes feeling their way towards the great and spacious building and instead of reaching their goal, they either drown in the fountain or become lost in “strange roads” (v. 31-32).

It seems that there are three main groups: those who eat of the fruit and are not ashamed; those who eat the fruit and are ashamed and end up either becoming lost or finding the great and spacious building and end up mocking the others; and then there are those who are simply lost, never finding the tree and never reach the spacious building.

Obviously those who are truly happy and find real joy are the ones who find the tree and eat of the fruit and are not ashamed. Some of these people find the tree relatively easily. Others must work … they must press and cling to the iron rod. Once they reach the tree, they fall down with exhaustion and gladly eat of the fruit. We can see the similarities between these people in Lehi’s dream and those faithful saints who humbly keep the commandments and constantly serve others. They are the true disciples of Christ. How do they do it? They cling to the iron rod which is the word of God (Hymn 274). They read and study the scriptures every day and strive to apply the Saviors teachings in their lives. Once they do that, then they find the fruit and are happy. Lehi does not hide the fact that reaching the tree is hard work. He mentions “pressing forward” a number of times.

The other group of people are those who reach the tree, eat of the fruit and then become ashamed, either out of pure shame or because of the mocking and finger-pointing from those in the building. What does ashamed mean? It means feeling inferior, inadequate or embarrassed. Usually this feeling comes because one is not confident in his beliefs. He is more concerned about what others think of him rather than deriving feelings of approval from within or even from Above. It seems to me that feelings of shame (from living the Gospel) arise out of immaturity or unbelief. Of course, shame has its place in society. A man ought to be ashamed of himself if he did not use good manners, swore, abused others or cheated on his wife. In those instances, shame can be used to correct bad behavior. But in the Gospel context, we ought not to be ashamed of living a Christ-life life. Romans 1:16 teaches us that we should not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

The last group of people never find the tree. We can probably assume that since they never find the tree, they never bothered to look for it or even desire to look for it. I tend to think that these are those who are tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). They may stumble upon the truth, but since they don’t desire to really know it, they discount it. In addition to lack of desire, Satan will do all he can to keep people blind to the truth of the Gospel.

Verses 33 and 34 are wonderful verses. I really love them! These two verses contain the perfect solution for the saints of God when confronted with persecution. In my mind’s eye, I see Lehi in his tent telling his family about his dream. I see his white beard and hair and his hands trembling a little as he explained how great the multitude was that entered into that worldly building. And upon entering they pointed the finger of scorn at Lehi and those eating of the fruit of the tree of life. I can almost see lavishly dressed women and young men laughing and jaunting at those humble people below. Then, as Lehi continued, he gave the solution to the world’s persecutions. I can hear his trembling yet powerful and majestic prophetic voice similar to President Benson’s say, “but we heeded them not.” Every time I read that part and picture it in my mine, chills run down my spine. Lehi goes on to explain that “as many as heeded them, had fallen away." Those in the building were so prideful, that in stead of living up to the example of the true followers of Christ, they persecuted them in hopes of making the followers of Christ give up their quest for righteousness so that the prideful can feel better in sinning. As I read the Book of Mormon and look at Church history, it is the same. The saints were persecuted by the prideful – buy why? If the saints were so good and righteous and did not bother any one else, living in peace, why the persecution? It was pride. The prideful people didn’t want to improve or change their lives or standards of living so instead of living up to the example, they tried to eliminate the example.

Regarding verses 24 and 25, how many times in our lives, as saints, do we feel the Spirit or have a spiritual experience and then turn around and deny it? Not that we say that we deny it, but we deny it with our actions. I think Nephi put it best when he said in 1 Nephi 19:7 that men trample under their feet their God. He goes on to say that what he means by trample under their feet is that they set at naught the things of God. In other words, they think that the things of God are not to be taken seriously; they think that it is “good counsel” or advice, but not a commandment. The purpose of spiritual experiences is to help up progress towards perfection, not to just feel good. If we do not learn from our spiritual experiences, then we are looking at that building feeling ashamed that we took of the fruit of the tree of life. We trample God under our feet and set at naught his counsels. I am not proud of the few times I have had spiritual experiences, and then fell into temptation’s power the very next day. I feel much like Nephi when he expresses, “I desire to rejoice, [but] my heart groaneth because of my sins” (2 Nephi 4:19). Thank Father in Heaven for sending his son so that we can repent and receive forgiveness of our sins and correct our behavior. I hope that I will always learn from my spiritual experiences, and not set them at naught.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

1 Nephi 7

March 24, 2011

While reading 1 Nephi 7:8-12 today, the thought occur ed to me that Nephi internalized what the Lord had done for him and their family. Whereas, Laban and Lemuel had not.

Let me back up a bit. The past week or so, I've felt like I've been in a funk. It usually happens after an extremely busy or stressful week. When I'm in this funk, it's as though I'm in a daze and lack motivation to keep up with my goals ... everything seems to unravel ... I seem to forget the reasons for my drive and motivation.

So when I read this passage, I was subconsciously asking the question, "What made Nephi's motivation never fail? Why was he always on the up ... on the go? When Laman and Lemuel went into one of their lapses, Nephi's frustrations come out ... and when he's speaking, it's as if he's telling them what they need to do so that they don't forget why they are doing the things they are doing.

Nephi essentially lists out all the things he repeatedly thinks about ... the things he has settled in his heart. To me, it sounds a like like an exercise in counting blessings.

So that is what I learned today ... when I'm feeling low; when the wind seems to have been emptied from my sails, I'm going to count my blessings.

October 5, 2006
As I read about Nephi and his brothers going to Jerusalem again and then Laman and Lemuel’s rebellion (along with the two sons and two daughters of Ishmael) I loved how much faith Nephi showed. He was truly courageous to stand up against four other men … not just men, but family and friends. He had so much faith and believed in the prophecies of his father that he boldly testified to the others that they too would be destroyed if they returned to the city of Jerusalem. He even reminded them of their agency to choose whether to go back or stay. But for some reason, they did not go back! After all their murmurings about having to leave home and how difficult life was in the wilderness, when they were finally reminded of their agency to go back, they chose not to! Instead they wanted to kill Nephi. Could this be the real source of their complaining? Maybe they didn’t want to leave the city, so they complained, but what may have really nagged at them in their heart of hearts was Nephi’s righteousness. Nephi was the example and his example was pushing the two complainers to do better when they knew they had to, but did not want to follow. Their idea or solution was not to live up to Nephi’s example but to eliminate the source of their discomfort. With Nephi around, they had to live up to his example, but if they kill him, they would not have to have that constant push on their conscience or so they thought.

I’ve seen in my own life many times in school where the lazy kids pick on the smart kids for their extra efforts to achieve good scores and grades. When the smart kids (or achievers) do their best, it makes the lazy kids look bad. Now the lazy kids don’t want to look bad, so they pick on the achievers in hopes the achievers will get discouraged and slow their pace down. They simply do not want to take responsibility for their actions. They want a free ride in life. Laman and Lemuel wanted a free ride to the Promised Land. They never bothered to ask the Lord for a confirmation of Lehi’s revelations. In stead they piggy-backed on the efforts of the rest of the traveling family. Part of the Lord’s plan for us is to go through adversity. The challenge of adversity is what builds character and makes us stronger and more perfect. Laman and Lemuel were worried about “looking bad.” They hoped to destroy Nephi so that their conscious would not be afflicted.

What I also love about this chapter is Nephi’s charity. After the big dispute and after the Lord loosened the cords that bound Nephi, the daughters of Ishmael calmed the two hot heads. When they returned to their senses, they begged Nephi for forgiveness. They even bowed down before Nephi. Nephi being the loving brother and diligent disciple of Christ, “frankly forgave them.” He truly loved his enemies. He took advantage of their humbled state and exhorted them to pray to God and ask forgiveness of their sins. Even though Nephi would see the outcome of his brothers (in his vision) he and his seed labored diligently to teach Laman and Lemuel’s posterity the ways of the Lord. Nephi is an excellent example of charity, patience, and how to bring others unto Christ.

The incident in the wilderness in this chapter was another step for Nephi in becoming a prophet. His charity, patience, and his ability to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost were tested and proven. At one point, he practically encourages his brothers to go back to Jerusalem. But once they chose to stay with Nephi, he did not constantly remind them of the choice to go back. In stead, he continued to try to help them understand the dealings of the Lord. He could have easily provoked Laman and Lemuel to return to Jerusalem. That would have been two less headaches to deal with. But, he developed his patience and charity and loved and worked with and taught Laman and Lemuel. Sometimes the toughest people to get along with are those closest to you. Nephi is a wonderful example of being your brother’s keeper.

One other thing that I noticed is that Nephi did not tell his parents what went on in the wilderness or at least the Book of Mormon doesn’t say that he told them. I think that Nephi really loved his brothers and wanted the best for them. He didn’t hold grudges against them and he did not remember every evil act they committed against him. He simply loved them and exhorted them to do what was right.