Thursday, November 24, 2011

And much spake my father concerning this thing (1 Nephi: 9-10)

Chapter 9 of 1st Nephi is a dividing line between Nephi's abridgement of his father's record, chapters 1-8, and his own record, the rest of 1st and 2nd Nephi. 

My brother Irch and I writing in our plates (journals) & sipping soda from our Borg mugs
Nephi tells us in chapter 9 about making 2 sets of records, both called the plates of Nephi.  The larger plates he ear marked for the more secular history of the people, and his smaller plates he set aside for his ministry, or "the things of his soul".  Nephi will hand these smaller plates down to his children to continue  after him, and they comprise the books of 1st & 2nd Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom and Omni (approximately a 470-year span).  When Mormon was putting what we now know as the BOM together near 1000 years later he put the book of Lehi first (which become the lost 116 pages when Joseph Smith loaned it to his buddy Martin Harris after he translated it), and then the book of Mosiah and so on. Then Mormon found Nephi's smaller plates in and amongst all the other records he was abridging.  To tie Nephi's smaller plates into what will follow in Mosiah, Mormon put his commentary, Words of Mormon, between them (which probably wouldn't have been necessary if the Book of Lehi had not been lost, and remained a part of our modern day Book of Mormon).  If you look at the estimated time frame at the bottom of the pages, page 142 (Omni) was written between 279 and 130 B.C. and page 143 (Words of Mormon) depicts about 385 A.D., then page 145 (Mosiah) goes back to about 130 B.C. 

Wake up!  Sorry I'm boring you.  I do think it is helpful to know that stuff.  And interesting too, I think, but I'll rip a scripture into you and then change the subject.

1st Nephi 9: 5-6
5.  Wherefore, The Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in Him, which purpose I know not.
6.  But The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words.  And thus it is.  Amen.
I'll bet Lehi had a lot to say.  Speaking of his Dad's experiences and the things The Lord showed him, Nephi says in verse 8, "And much spake my father concerning these things."  I would love to read his record.  Maybe someday we'll be able to read it.  I just love it when Nephi says that he makes these smaller plates "for a wise purpose in Him, which purpose I know not."  It brings to my mind a picture of what Joseph Smith's feelings must have been, after wading through such despair, thinking he had lost his salvation over losing the manuscript, seeing that The Lord had known from the beginning that it would happen, and had taken measures to make it ok.  Surely "The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning," and that "He prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men." 

That's my niece Emily (not to be confused with my wife Emilie) when she was baptized.  See the painting in the background?  Of course you do; dumb question. 
That which Lehi, Nephi, Benjamin, Alma, Mormon and all the rest of the prophets of the BOM spake much about was centered in Jesus Christ.  630 or so years before Christ's baptism, Lehi saw it happen in vision.  We're a mere 10 chapters into the BOM and Nephi is making the theme of their records plain and clear.  Speaking for his Dad, he said...

1 Nephi 10: 4-10
4.  Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would The Lord God raise up among the Jews -even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.
5.  And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world.
6.  Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.
7.  And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of The Lord.
8.  Yeah, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness:  Prepare ye the way of The Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.  And much spake my father concerning this thing.
9.  And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.
10.  And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.

I'm very thankful for the Book of Mormon and the testimony of Jesus Christ it has built and strengthened within me.  I'm very thankful for the coming forth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith, whose transgression of losing the 116 pages of translation He forgave . 

I'm very thankful to be typing the words of this blog post on my laptop, which is upon my parents-in-law's table, upon which soon will be set a bounteous Thanksgiving meal, from which I will be shoveling a mighty heaping helping of their hospitality into my grateful tummy.  I'm hungry, and must needs end here so's I can have some victuals.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Tune in next time when Nephi sees a vision of Columbus, the Mayflower, the coming forth of the Holy Bible and the American Revolution.

Peace be with you...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Visions of Sugar Plums (1 Nephi 7-8)

We left off in chapter 7 where Nephi was lecturing Laman and them guys again because they were, once again, arguing about abandoning their cause and returning to live in Jerusalem.  Nephi's high and mighty lectures to his older brothers were often done at great peril to his own safety.  This time, Laman and those that listened to him decided to kill Nephi (again, yawn). 

1 Nephi 7: 16-20.
16.  And it came to pass that when I, Nephi, had spoken these words unto my brethren, they were angry with me.  And it came to pass that they did lay their hands upon me, for behold, they were exceedingly wroth, and they did bind me with cords, for they sought to take away my life, that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.
17.  But it came to pass that I prayed unto The Lord, saying:  O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.
18.  And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the bands were loosed from off my hands and feet, and I stood before my brethren, and I spake unto them again.
19.  And it came to pass that they were angry with with me again, and sought to lay hands upon me; but behold, one of the daughters of Ishmael, yea, and also her mother and one of the sons of Ishmael, did plead with my brethren, insomuch that they did soften their hearts; and they did cease striving to take away my life.

You might remember a few posts back where I gave an opinion on the mental stability of Nephi's brother Laman.  I said something to the effect that, in my opinion, Laman may have been bi-polar or schizophrenic.  It's in verse 20 of chapter 7 that the idea first occurred to me.
20.  And it came to pass that they were sorrowful, because of their wickedness, insomuch that they did bow down before me, and did plead with me that I would forgive them of the thing that they had done against me.
This behavior may seem nice and not so nuts as I'm sayin', but Jiminy Cricket, is it normal to go from calm to angry to murderous to begging Nephi for forgiveness, only to repeat this pattern again and again.  "Do calm and murder go together?  Calm and murder!?  Murder!?" (That's a movie quote from Don Knotts in "The Ghost & Mr. Chicken")  Well, I'm kidding about the mental illness stuff, of course, but how flip floppy can you be and not be a politician?

But, Nephi's no fool, no sirree.  He's gonna live to be 103.  Well, maybe not 103, but he's no fool.  Did you see that faith?  "According to my faith in Thee, give me strength to burst these bands with which I am bound."  Is there a principle there?  Yup, and it's a meaty one:  If we have faith in The Lord, He will strengthen us so that we can have power over those things that bind us down, and be able to stand before any opposition.  Whatchya think?

Chapter 8 is Lehi's dream of the Tree of Life.  I was having a good dream this morning when my alarm went off at 7:35, blowing the characters to smitherines and grinding the details into powder.  I rarely remember my dreams.  I'm glad Lehi remembered this one, and wrote it down for us.  And, I'm glad that Nephi wrote it down again (for a reason he knew not). 


Lehi's dream has been talked about, told about, taught about, written about, thought about, read about, even dreamed about 6 billion times (give or take a few hundred).  I've been wondering how I should approach it.  What keeps coming to my mind is the fact that if you take a look at my life at some random moment of my past, you will find me in different places within this dream, taking part in the plot sometimes as one type of character, and other times as anudder.  The dream isn't divided merely into those who make it to the tree of life and those who don't.  I have said that I hope that I can be a Nephi and not a Laman, but there are many levels in between these two.  Maybe I should have said that I hope that I can be a man who is more like Nephi than Laman (a lot more), and I am.  I punched my brother in the chin once 'cause he was teasing me, but I've never bound him with strong cords and left him in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.

I guess I'll talk about where I am (or have been) on the path, and you can think about where you are.  Also try to remember where you were 5 years ago, and where you are determined to be 5 years from now.

Lehi talked of several different types of people in his dream, some walking on the path, others wandering away from it.  I used to question where I was on this path & how close was I getting to the tree, thinking in terms of FINALLY arriving at the goal of partaking of the fruit.  That was dumb.  I have already partaken of the fruit, and have done so many times, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.  But, let's discuss the players in the story...

Lehi:  He didn't see the path.  He was walking aimlessly through a dark and dreary wasteland.  Getting a little worried, he prayed for mercy.  After he prayed he found himself in a big field with a tree in it.  He went to the tree and picked some fruit and ate it.  It was delicious, and filled his entire soul (body and spirit -D & C 88: 15) with exceedingly great joy.  Wow!  That's a lot o' joy. 

Nephi, Sam & Sariah:  They were, as my brother Bob likes to say from his Navy days, milling about smartly, not knowing which way to go.  The Prophet of The Lord called to them and told them the way.  They followed him to the tree and ate 'em some yummy fruit.  And there was much rejoicing.

Laman and Lemuel:  Like their brothers and Mom, they didn't know where to go either.  The Prophet of The Lord called to them and told them the way.  They didn't follow.

I took this photo after Emilie and I had driven the very steep road (16% grade) out of Black Canyon National Park in the fog.  Scary.

Others A:  These came to the path and started following it toward the tree, but then it got all foggy and they lost their way.  When you get lost, you should stop where you are and call out for help.  They didn't do that.  They just kept walking into the fog and got more loster.

Others B:  These more savvy folks started following the path, but when it got foggy, they grabbed the handy guard rail that ran along the length of the path, and found the tree.  After tasting the fruit, however, because the world made fun of them, they got embarrassed and walked away.  It says they went into forbidden paths.  That seems to be a bigger deal to me, over just being lost.  The difference may be that they tasted the fruit, and so they knew what it was and where it was, and chose to leave it.  Having read and understood the scriptures (handy guard rail, or Iron Rod as Lehi likes to call it) they decided to follow forbidden paths knowing where they led.  Man, I don't ever want to be an Others B.  But, of course, I have, in a way.

Fine dressed people in the building:  Lehi noticed a huge building sort of near the tree, but floating up in the air.  It was filled with men, women, both old and young.  They pointed and laughed at people having a sweet lunch of fruit snacks under a nice tree.  Others B, for some reason, felt shame from being ridiculed, and up and left.  I wonder what the fruit tasted like to Others B?  Was it sweet above all that was sweet, and filled their souls with exceedingly great joy?  Was it easy for them to walk away because it didn't do much for them?  In my opinion, to those who tasted the fruit, it was sweet, it was delicious, and it made them happy.  Whatever influence it was that made them decide to leave, they most likely suffered from the dreaded syndrome I talked about in my last post (I forget the title).

Others C:   These guys followed much the same pattern as Others B did.  They held fast to the Iron Rod and followed it along the true path all the way to the tree.  Having made it, they fell down and had 'em some fruit.  What made Others C fare better than Others B?  Why did they stay?  It says they fell down and then ate the fruit.  I've always thought this was a metaphor for humility, and it is, but I was talking to my wife's son McKay last night about this stuff and he offered an insight that I feel good about.  His thought ran along this line.  Others C, after following the path, holding fast to the Iron Rod, all the way to the tree, recognized The Savior and his atoning sacrifice for them, and their falling down was, in effect, prayer.  I can totally see the truth in that.  Of course, the Spirit teaches different things to each of us according to The Lord's knowledge of us.  He knows our needs, and He knows that I need to pray more.  Definitely need to pray more.

Others D:  These idiots are feeling their way towards the building.  Things that stimulate the senses, like alcohol, drugs, exercise, movies, making out, food, soda, video games, pornography, fishing, reading, music, etc, etc, can be good, bad, great or horrible, or even a combination of good & bad when not moderated.  If the sensory input you seek after comes out of the big building, or what Nephi later calls "the pride of the world", then, as my Dad used to say, "you in a heap o' trouble, boy."  Some of these sight-impaired beloved children of God made it all the way into the building and started laughing at the people at the tree.  Others fell into a dirty river and were drowned, or wandered down "strange roads" with a downward slope of 16% grade. 

I like this:  1 Nephi 8: 33
33.  And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building.  And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not.

Have you ever had someone in the building point their finger of scorn at you?  I have.  And, I love it.  It means I'm doing something right for a change.  This brings me to how I have personalized this story.  I told you before that at certain times of my life I have fit into different character types in this vision.  I'll tell you a little more about the talk I had last night with McKay.  We were talking about the gospel, and I was telling him how I like scriptural references to light and darkness.  Like, "[Jesus is] the light and the life of the world, a light that shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not." (-D & C 34: 2)
Here goes one of my famous Bus Stories

I used to drive a city bus.  Many of our routes went through BYU campus.  This was the only connection for bus riders who lived in south Utah County.  I remember a kid coming out of the BYU Wilkinson center and getting on my bus.  It was my last trip of the night.  He had nails that had been hammered all over his head in place of hair.  He had piercings in many and divers places, and smelled like a chimney.  His shirt looked like a black t-shirt, but when he went by me after paying his fare, on the back of it in large print was, in the words of Ralph on "A Christmas Story", the queen mother of dirty words.  I didn't have the energy for throwing him off the bus for profanity, I just wanted to go home.  So, anywayz, I listened to his conversation with another guy.  He was going on and on about how much he hates BYU.  He hates being on BYU campus so much because of the way people look at him.  They stare at him, and they judge him, he says.  I heard that lots of times, people hating to be on BYU campus.  Besides the obvious "people look at you because you're begging them to" reply that I was thinking, I also thought, that's what that means:  "A light that shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not."  For some reason, this guy feels uncomfortable in a place that, ideally at least, is centered in the Gospel.  He doesn't like to stand directly in the light. 

So how does that relate to me and Lehi's Dream?  I have struggled my whole 45-year life to live the gospel principles that I believe in, and to be worthy to have the Spirit with me.  Many's the time I have failed at that.  Many's the time; that's why I use the word "struggle".  If I were to place myself in Lehi's Dream during a time when my struggle was getting the better of me, you might find me in the big building.  You might find me sitting down on the path, taking a break.  You might find me wandering out into the mists of darkness a little, just to see what's out there, thinking it will be easy to get back if I keep one eye on the trail.  Sometimes I have been on the trail holding onto the Iron Rod with both hands, making steady progress.  Other times I have been on the path, but maybe only having a finger or two on the Iron Rod, and my attention is directed away from the tree, and toward the misty underbrush, or toward the building.  I have made it to the tree and partaken of the fruit, and really felt that joy that Lehi talks about, only to walk away from it for a minute and lose my way.  But, I have always returned to the path and the Iron Rod, as many times as it has taken, and returned to the tree to eat once again of the joyous fruit. 

I like standing in the light.  I feel at home there.  I like feeling the Spirit of The Lord.  When I walk away from that light into the darkness that surrounds on all sides, I feel uncomfortable.  I feel and know that it's not the place I want to be, and my greatest desire becomes trying to get back into that light, to get back home.

I guess that's enough for today.  Nephi is going to go on for several chapters talking about his Dad's vision, his own vision, and the interpretation of his Dad's dream. 

Tune in next time when we try to reap what he sowed.

Peace be with you...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Don't forget to remember not to forget...(1st Nephi 6-7)

Sorry, forgot your sodas...

I have always been the forgetful sort, and it's only getting worse as my Dad's genes continue to turn my hair prematurely gray.  I'll forget to turn here, or not turn there.  I'll drive home from work looking very forward to quenching my addiction thirst by stopping at the gas station up the street from my house for a soda, only to forget 2 minutes later, and find myself pulling into my driveway empty soda holdered.  I have cursed my brain many times.  But usually, I only forget the small stuff:

  • Replacing the trash bag in the kitchen after I take out the garbage, then Em throws gross stuff in there & has to dig it back out.
  • Closing the window in the bathroom & going to bed with the thermostat set on 68, showering the bedroom with heat as the furnace tries to keep the hallway warm.
  • What day it is.

Those kinds of things.  One time I put oil in my car before driving a 1/2-hour to work to find that I'd forgotten to replace the oil cap.  The engine was covered with oil while hardly a drop remained where it needed to be.  Luckily, I didn't ruin my car.  Before going home after work I borrowed 5 quarts of oil to replace what I'd lost for my drive home.  When I got home I discovered that I'd left the oil cap off again and all 5 quarts were gone.  This makes me appreciate my Mom, who long ago begged me never to get my pilot's license.  My wife gets mad when I call myself an idiot, so I won't do that.

Ruining my car may not have turned out to be a small thing compared to the trash bag thing, but it is when compared to not forgetting my Heavenly Father and the love He has heaped upon me all of my life.  I have never forgotten the time I prayed to see whether the BOM was true, and whether Joseph Smith had received a visitation from The Father and The Son.  The answer I received then, along with other spiritual experiences I've not forgotten, remains the foundation of everything I am and believe.  I know God lives.  I know Jesus is His Son.  I know God answers prayers.  I know the BOM is the word of God.  I know the Bible is the word of God.  I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true gospel, restored to the earth after centuries of apostasy, and is God's Kingdom on earth.  I know my Heavenly Father loves me.  I know He loves you.  I know Jesus Christ suffered willingly and gave His life willingly to offer us salvation and Eternal Life.  I know all that because of the answer to that one prayer I uttered back on January 24th, 1987. 

Joseph Smith translating the BOM
Don't forget to remember all that remembering and forgetting stuff as we read chapters 6 and 7 of 1st Nephi.

Remember, Lehi is a prophet, and the patriarch of this family.  He is keeping a record at this time also, called the Book of Lehi.  The Book of Lehi doesn't appear in our BOM due to a major event that happened with Joseph Smith and Martin Harris during the translation of the plates in 1828 (see Doctrine and Covenants section 3) where the first 116 pages were lost.  We'll talk more about that later, but knowing that gives the following a little more "wow" to me...

1st Nephi 6: 1-2
1.  And now I, Nephi, do not give the genealogy of my fathers in this part of my record;  neither at any time shall I give it after upon these plates which I am writing; for it is given in the record which has been kept by my father; wherefore, I do not write it in this work.
2.  For it sufficeth me to say that we are descendants of Joseph.
And then there's this...

1st Nephi 1: 17
16.  And now I, Nephi, do not make a full account of the things which my father hath written, for he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account.
17.  But I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days.  Behold I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life.
Everything that Nephi chooses to record in the first part of the BOM is a smaller retelling of the same things his father Lehi is also writing about.  In my next post I'll talk about Lehi's Dream in chapter 8.  Lehi must have written about it in his record.  Why does Nephi take the trouble to rewrite it?  The fact that we have Lehi's Dream in chapter 8 of Nephi's record is a testament to the wonderful love and omniscience of our Heavenly Father. 

After all, Nephi continues in chapter 6 to say he has very little room to write on his plates, and plans to reserve that space to only write the things of God, and to command his children to do the same, for the sole and complete purpose of bringing souls to Jesus Christ.

Before you forget what we were talking about earlier, about remembering to not forget, lets go to...
Chapter 7

My wife Emilie's ring

Lehi received instructions from The Lord to send the boys back to Jerusalem to get a guy named Ishmael and his wife, 2 sons and their families, and 5 unmarried daughters.  It's never good to be alone.  Oddly enough, there's no murmuring complaints from Laman and Lemuel about going back for women. 

After convincing Ishmael and his family of the truth of their mission, they agree to follow Lehi's family into the wilderness.  Things get a little out of hand on the way back to Lehi's camp at the Red Sea, however.

1st Nephi 7: 5-7
5.  And it came to pass that The Lord did soften the heart of Ishmael, and also his household, insomuch that they took their journey with us down into the wilderness to the tent of our father.
6.  And it came to pass that as we journeyed in the wilderness, behold Laman and Lemuel, and two of the daughters of Ishmael, and the two sons of Ishmael and their families, did rebel against us; yea against me, and Sam, and their father, Ishmael, and his wife, and his three other daughters.
7.  And it came to pass in the which rebellion, they were desirous to return to Jerusalem.
I italicised "his household" to show that all of Ishmael's family had received a spiritual confirmation of His will concerning them.  I italicised "his 3 other daughters" to point out how cool the numbers turned out to be.  2 of Ishmael's daughters rebelled (lovely wives for Laman and Lemuel), while 3 of Ishmael's daughters were true to the faith (let's see, who would they be a good match for?  Hmm...Nephi, Sam, and... hmm.., Oh Yeah!  Zoram.)  The Lord didn't forget about Zoram.  I just think that's cool. The Lord doesn't forget any of us.  Whether we remember Him, well, that's another thing.

It's time for Nephi to give a lecture again. 

1st Nephi 7: 9-13
9.  How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of The Lord?
10.  How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of The Lord?
11.  Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things The Lord hath done for us, in delivering us out of the hands of Laban, and also that we should obtain the record (brass plates)?
12.  Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that The Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him?  Wherefore, let us be faithful to Him.
13.  And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise...
First, verse 13:  Remember when I talked about principles?  This is a principle.  If we are faithful to The Lord, we shall obtain the land of promise, the land of promise being Eternal Life.

Second, remembering not to forget:  Have you ever had some issue in your life that Heavenly Father helped you with, and then have had another issue in your life and wondered if Heavenly Father would help you with that one?  Have you ever been lifted into the rafters by the Spirit of God, crying with joy, and then 5 years later wondered if you wanted to continue going to church, or even pray?  Have you ever received a sure answer to a prayer, and then a short time goes by and you find yourself wondering if that's really the answer? 

One time while reading the BOM through I decided to start highlighting all the places where it says "remember", or some variation of it.  Turns out, there are few chapters in the BOM without the word "remember" in it somewheres. 

Like Helaman 5: 6, nearly 600 years later
6.  Behold, my sons, I desire that ye should remember to keep the commandments of God; and I would that ye should declare unto the people these words.  Behold, I have given unto you the names of our first parents who came out of the land of Jerusalem; and this I have done that when you remember your names ye may remember them; and when ye remember them ye may remember their works; and when ye remember their works ye may know how it is said, and also written, that they were good. 
I don't remember now, but there's about 250 times the word "remember" is used in the BOM (out of 531 pages) in some form or another.  I should have written it down so I wouldn't forget.  Anywayz, I think it's important.  I'm going to mention this again and again in later blogs, if I don't forget.  But, if I do forget to bring it up again, please remember this one thing:

Helaman 5: 9
9.  O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.
And Helaman 5: 14
14.  And they did remember his words;  and therefore they went forth, keeping the commandments of God...
Oh, we've got teachings, right here in the BOM, with a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for principle:  If you remember the words of the prophets, it is easier to follow the commandments.

And Helaman 5: 12
12.  And now, my sons, remember, remember, that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation.
I guess we're out of time.  Tune in next time as people point and laugh at you while you eat.

Peace be with you...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

This time, heads are gonna roll... (1st Nephi 4-5)

In June of 1989, about 6 months after returning home from a mission for The Church, I prayed about what I should do next.  I knew what I wanted out of life in very general terms, but the details were so overwhelming that it had kind of a paralyzing effect.  In answer to my prayer, The Lord told me in untypical for me plainness that I needed to pick up and move back to the area where I served my mission (the Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky area).  I was 22 years old, broke, and I didn't have a car.  My response was, "Ok."  5 months later I took the $500 in tax return money that I didn't know I was going to get (not having filed for 1986 because I left for my mission in January '87), threw my crud into my brother Bob's Renault Encore that he loaned me while he served in Japan in the Navy and drove to Oxford, Ohio. 

Cincinnati, Ohio from Northern Kentucky
1st Nephi 4: 6 tells of a similar predicament Nephi had (not really comparable, but I'm trying here, folks).
6.  And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.
Nephi had just been saved from a good beating from his brothers by an angel from God, and was determined to remain diligent in his commitment to obey The Lord's command to retrieve the Brass Plates from Laban.  In order to do this, Nephi had to stand and boldly testify to his brothers who had just tried to kill him that The Lord will help them.  You'd think the angel's message would have been enough, but apparently not.  Part of Nephi's testimony of The Lord's power included reminding them of the story of Moses.  The miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea is referenced quite a few times in the BOM. 

1 Nephi 4: 2-4
2.  Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither (here and there), and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.
3.  Now behold ye know that this is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt?  Let us go up; The Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians.
4.  Now when I had spoken these words, they were yet wroth, and did still continue to murmur; nevertheless they did follow me up until we came without the walls of Jerusalem.
I find it interesting that Laman and Lemuel believe in the crossing of the Red Sea by the children of Israel and the miracle that occurred there, but lack the faith that The Lord's love and blessings can be offered to them in real time.  I hate it when I can see how stupid Laman and Lemuel are being, and then realize I often do the same thing.  I can talk about my own testimony of the coming forth of the BOM or the visit to Joseph Smith by God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, an event that I entirely believe inside my own intestines, and yet I fear and quake when I don't know what to do or which way to go.

1 Nephi 4: 6
6.  And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.
I wish I was a man like unto Nephi.  But, hey!  I did throw my junk into Bob's car and drive to Ohio, didn''t I?  Yes, I did.  The problem is maintaining that faith when the ground turns to mud again and the angel leaves.

Bravo Co. 2-15, Task force 2-15, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (San Francisco Chronicle)
As Nephi walks towards Laban's house inside Jerusalem's walls with his brothers without, he sees a drunken man passed out in the street.  A closer look reveals this man to be Laban, out cold.  Nephi receives a revelation from The Lord through the Holy Spirit which told him to kill Laban.

1st Nephi 4: 10
10.  And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart:  Never at any time have I shed the blood of man.  And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.
Three times the Spirit patiently tells Nephi that this is what he is supposed to do, with the understanding (I think) that, to those who try to be obedient, killing a human being seems contradictory to the commandments of God.

1st Nephi 4: 12-13
12.  And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again:  Slay him, for The Lord has delivered him into thy hands.
13.  Behold The Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes.  It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.
The many aforetimes asked question may have occurred to you:  Why did Nephi have to kill him to get the plates?  Couldn't The Lord have just made him stay passed out, or helped Nephi get the plates anudder way?

I believe the reason Laban was killed was more than just getting the plates.  There are several places in the BOM where it talks about how nobody knew that Lehi left Jerusalem.  According to The Lord's eternal purposes and omniscience, Lehi's family's journey in the wilderness and reaching their land of promise in the Western Hemisphere had to remain a secret.  If any other scenario other than Laban dying would have played out, at what point do you think Laban would have stopped trying to get those plates back?  Yeah, Laban had to die.  And, for some reason known only to those above, Nephi had to do it.  What gets me is this:

1st Nephi 4: 18-19
18.  Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.
19.  And after I had smitten off his head with his own sword, I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body; yea, even every whit; and I did gird on his armor about my loins.
Why, for goodness sakes, didn't Nephi take Laban's clothes off of him first, and then cut his head off?  What a mess!  I'm just joking.  You need to give the scriptures a break sometimes.
A fellow is introduced to us now who always makes me think of Shaggy from Scooby Doo for some stupid reason.  Probably a cartoon video I saw of scripture stories at one time or anudder.  Anywayz, his name is Zoram.  I like Zoram.  He is one of Laban's servants.  Nephi meets up with Zoram at Laban's house and asks him to get the brass plates for him.  Zoram is sure this is Laban.  He looks like him.  He's wearing Laban's clothes.  He even sounds like Laban.  Zoram helps Nephi carry the brass plates to his brothers who are waiting outside the walls of Jerusalem.  Zoram does so without question.  There's an interesting comment in their conversation:

1st Nephi: 4: 22
22.  And he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night with them.
Laban was out hanging out with the elders of the church, and then he passes out from being drunk out of his gourd on the way home.  Yeah, Jerusalem wasn't in a high state of righteousness at this time for sure.

So Nephi (who Zoram thinks is Laban) and Zoram approach where Laman, Lemuel and Sam are hidden outside the wall, and Nephi yells out to them so they'll know it's him.  Zoram gets a little freaked out by this, and tries to make a break for it.  Remember, it is VERY important that nobody can know where Lehi's family went.  And, if Zoram is left there alive, he is going to tell the local sheriff who killed Laban, and he'll for sure send out a posse looking for Nephi. 

1st Nephi 4: 31, 36
31.  And now I, Nephi, being a man large in stature, and also having received much strength of The Lord, therefore I did seize upon the servant of Laban, and held him, that he should not flee.
36.  Now we were desirous that he should tarry with us for this cause, that the Jews might not know concerning our flight into the wilderness, lest they should pursue us and destroy us.
Nephi explains to Zoram that if he agrees to come with them to the promised land, he will be a free man.  Zoram agrees to come along.  Zoram was a good man.

Back to Mom and Dad's they go...
American Gothic, -by Grant Wood
Now, Mom had been pretty worried about her boys, and had made her views pretty plainly known to her husband.  He comforted her as best he could, bearing his testimony about his revelations from The Lord being real, and that they would all be ok.  When they finally did return, she was very happy, and gained her own testimony of her husband's prophetic warnings.

When Lehi studied the Brass Plates, he discovered that they contained, in effect, what we know as the old testament up through Jeremiah, including some significant additions that we don't have.  Some of these are mentioned later in the BOM, most notably the writings of the prophets Zenock and Zenos.  Our modern day Bible also speaks of records from some prophets of old testament times which have never been found.

Also significant, Lehi discovered his genealogy, and that he descended from the tribe of Joseph, the son of Jacob (or Israel), who was sold into Egypt, and not from Judah as he had assumed.  And of Joseph's sons, Lehi and his family came through the line of Manasseh.  This becomes significant when the prophecies of Joseph are studied.  Joseph, while in Egypt as Pharaoh's number 2, saved his father Jacob and all of his brothers from starvation.  The house of Israel would have become extinct were it not for Joseph.  In a similar way, the descendants of Joseph (Lehi and his family) through their experiences and writings which were recorded and preserved as the BOM for our day will eventually reach out to all of the tribes of Israel and be an instrument in bringing them unto Christ, saving them in a very real sense. 

1st Nephi 4: 21-22
21.  And we had obtained the records which the Lord had commanded us, and searched them and found that they were desirable; yea, even of great worth unto us, insomuch that we could preserve the commandments of The Lord unto our children.
22.  Wherefore, it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us, as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise.
The BOM is a sacred and true record of an ancient people who knew and prophesied of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  I testify that Jesus Christ is The Messiah taught about in the Book of Mormon. 

Tune in next time when we talk about marriage, love and living the American dream...
Peace be with you.