Jacob 7 describes how Jacob confronts and deals with an Anti-Christ whose name was Sherem. We must note first, the qualities of Sherem. He was very smart and slick. If there were such things in his day, he probably had a Ph.D. in religious studies or something of that nature … he knew the teachings of the Nephites very well. He also had a deep knowledge of the language. He knew the meaning of words and he knew how to use words to convince people of his beliefs. And because he knew the language very well, he could use “much flattery, and power of speech.” But all of his power was from the Devil and not from God (v. 4).
When Jacob confronted Sherem, Jacob went right to the point of debate. He asked Sherem if he denied the Christ. Sherem, with his useless flattery said that if there were a Christ, he would believe. Jacob moved to the next point of debate, and asked if Sherem believed the scriptures. Sherem said he believed. Jacob replied that Sherem did not understand the scriptures.
Sherem continued to contend with Jacob and tempted Jacob to show him a sign that there is a Christ. This was the last thing Sherem did. He was struck by the power of God and died shortly thereafter. He denied the Christ when he knew and believed in Christ. But he allowed himself to be deceived by Satan and his evil spirits. Satan lied to Sherem. Satan will lie to us. Satan is the father of all lies.
After Sherem was smitten by the Lord, he desired to speak to the people. I imagine that all those who had believed Sherem had a particular interest in what Sherem would have to say. Verse 17 says, "that on the morrow the multitude were gathered together; and he spake plainly unto them (emphasis added. See verse 18 too). Just a few verses prior to this verse, we read of the cunning and power of speech Sherem possessed. Yet on his deathbed, he desired not to use this flattering speech, but to use plain words so that all could easily understand him. I suspect that in Sherem's mind, he felt that what he needed to say on his deathbed was far more important than what he wanted to say when he was healthy.
To me, this idea teaches us that the Gospel is indeed plain and simple and does not need flattery to be taught.
How many times has Nephi warned us that many plain and precious things were taken from the Bible (see 1 Nephi 13)? How many times has Nephi told us that he delighted in plainness (see 1 Nephi 19:3; 2 Nephi 25:4, 7, 20, 28; 2 Nephi 31:2-3; 2 Nephi 32:7, 2 Nephi 33:5-6)? Nephi even explicitly tells us that he glories in plainness (2 Nephi 33:6). Nephi is not the only one who delighted in plainness when teaching the Gospel. Jacob, Enos, Amulek, Mormon, Nephi (who preceded Christ) and King Benjamin have all spoken plainly when they taught the people. And many of the other prophets have also used plainness when teaching the Gospel (search the on-line Book of Mormon for the word plain to see many references).
This is one of the many beauties of the Gospel … it is so plain to understand that anyone and everyone can understand it and live it.
The idea of plainness reminds me of the quote by J. Reuben Clark with regards to teaching the youth of the Church. In fact, there is no reason to strictly apply this quote to the youth only. President Packer used this quote in his October 2000 General Conference talk. "President J. Reuben Clark described our youth as 'hungry for things of the spirit; they are eager to learn the Gospel, and they want it straight, undiluted.
'They want to know about … our beliefs; they want to gain testimonies of their truth; they are not now doubters but inquirers, seekers after truth. …
'You do not have to sneak up behind this spiritually experienced youth and whisper religion in [their] ears; you can come right out, face to face, and talk with [them]. … You can bring these truths to [them] openly. … Youth may prove to be not more fearful of them than you are. There is no need for gradual approaches'" (“The Charted Course of the Church in Education” in Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, rev. ed. , 365, 373–74).
"I agree with President Clark and will speak plainly to the youth about things I have learned and know to be true." (Boyd K. Packer, “‘Ye Are the Temple of God’,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 72).
Search the Scriptures
Jacob's line of questioning to Sherem about believing the scriptures and understanding them (v. 10-11) may have prompted the people to re-devote their time to studying the scriptures. In verse 23 we read that the people "searched the scriptures."
Trust in God
In verse 25 we read of the Nephites' efforts to defend themselves against the Lamanites. After all their work in defending themselves, they put their trust in God who is the rock of their salvation. This reminds me of a lesson I've always kept in my heart. 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."
To me this means we must first and foremost trust in the Lord and keep his commandments. If we do this, then everything else will take care of itself (see 3 Nephi 13:33). It takes faith to live like this, but I believe we are far better off putting our trust in the Lord than in our own understanding.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007