Friday, March 30, 2012

Fulfilling Joseph's Promise (2 Nephi 3)

We don't hear much about Lehi's son, Joseph.  He and Sam don't have books of their own in the BOM like their brother Jacob, but that doesn't mean they turned to the dark side or anything.  Chapter 3 in 2nd Nephi is Lehi's speech and blessing for Joseph, his youngest son.

This is actually Israel Blesses Ephraim with the Birthright, by Keith Larson, but I like the image for Lehi and Joseph and Jacob (actually, that means the man standing is Joseph, Israel's son).

Joseph was born during a tough time in Lehi's life.  He tells Joseph that he was born in the "wilderness of mine afflictions" and that he was born in "the days of my greatest sorrows."  It's probably safe to say that Joseph had as rough a time as Jacob did, probably rougher 'cause he was younger.

Can you see the little baby hanging on to his Mom?  I think this is probably Joseph. 
I know Lehi is a wise and wonderful creature, and is trying to give his son comfort, and promised blessings for the future, but if my Dad (if he were a prophet) said this to me, I think I'd freak out:

2 Nephi 3: 3
3.  And now, Joseph, my last-born, whom I have brought out of the wilderness of mine afflictions, may The Lord bless thee forever, for thy seed shall not utterly be destroyed.

"Wait, what did you say?!!"

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Purpose of Life (2 Nephi 2, part 2)

When people see this picture on my computer screen they normally look twice.  At first glance, there's really nothing here that causes them to spend even a whole second on it, other than just to see what I looked like in the summer of '89.  But then it hits them that there is a stream of water and a rock at the top of the picture.  Well, that ain't right.  How'd you do that?

Oh, the picture's upside down.  It doesn't take long to figure out.  So, what have we learned here today, boys and girls?  What wasn't right about the above picture is that it breaks the law, the law of gravity.  It ain't right 'cause you can't break that law.  Like Scotty used to say, "You cannot change the law of physics."

Gravity is a natural law.  There are also eternal laws.  One of these laws is discussed in the next part of our study of 2 Nephi 2.

Opposition in All Things
2 Nephi 2: 11-12
11.  For it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things.  If not so, my first-born in the wilderness [still talking to Jacob], righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.  Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

12.  Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation.  Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power and the mercy, and the justice of God.
If I read this correctly, and please comment with your insights as well, OPPOSITION in all things is a necessary part of our mortal experience.  If there were no opposition, we may as well not have come to earth, because there would have been no "end", or "purpose", in its creation.  And what is the purpose of the creation of our world?

Cool picture.

We pause now for a word from The Savior, Jesus Christ:  Moses 1: 39
39.  Behold, this is My work and My glory -to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
The purpose for which The Lord created the earth was to bring to pass our chance for Eternal Life.  We are born into a world of tenderness and harshness, of Eternal Truth available at our fingertips, and falseness and wickedness surrounding us in abundance.  We are given a list of things to avoid, and a physical body that thinks it wants those things.  We are given a list of things we should be doing, and a physical body that would rather not.  The choices we make to choose the words of light and life brought to us by the Holy Ghost from our Savior and Redeemer bring us closer to The Lord.  A choice in the other direction will lead us farther away from Him.  Choosing the good part when we are tempted to choose the bad part results in strengthening in us our commitment to follow Christ.  It is the opposition that makes that possible.  If mortality was easy, there wouldn't be any growth.  That reminds me of this song I like by the Indigo Girls.  It's called The Wood Song.  Here's the chorus and the last 2 verses of the song:

But the wood is tired, and the wood is old
And we'll make it fine, if the weather holds
But if the weather holds, we'll have missed the point
That's where I need to go
Sometimes I ask to sneak a closer look
Skip to the final chapter of the book
And then maybe steer us clear from some of the pain it took
To get us where we are this far 
But the question drowns in it's futility
Even I have got to laugh at me
No one gets to miss the storm of what will be
Just holding on for the ride 

2 Nephi 2: 13-16
13.  And if ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness.  And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness.  And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery.  And if these things are not there is no God.  And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
14.  And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and He hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

15.  And to bring about His eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had been created, our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.

16.  Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself.  Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.
Lots of opposites in there.  It would make for an interesting chart, but not today.  Let's look at these verses, and this whole chapter like this:  Why am I here on earth?  According to Lehi:

I am here to gain Eternal Life from my Heavenly Father.  

I (and all of us) lived with Heavenly Father before I was born, in what is known as the "pre-mortal life".  There I learned of my Heavenly Father's plan to help me gain Eternal Life, or Exaltation, as it is sometimes called.  The plan called for God to create bodies for Adam and Eve, put in them their spirits (or what is called in the scriptures as the "breath of life"), and place them in the Garden of Eden.  In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve made a choice to disobey The Lord's commandment to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in favor of obeying His commandment to multiply and replenish (or fill) the earth.  In eating of the fruit of the tree, they disobeyed The Lord, bringing about "The Fall of Man", a very important event in them and all of us gaining Eternal Life, which cut them and their posterity (that's us) off from Heavenly Father.  Before The Fall, there was no opposition.  After The Fall, Adam and Eve and their posterity had to live by the "sweat of their brow" and put up with mosquitoes and puncture weeds, which would prove to give the most righteous tire a flat.  These next few scriptures explain all of this:

2 Nephi 2: 19-23
19.  And after Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit they were driven out of the garden of Eden, to till the earth.

20.  And they have brought forth children; yea, even the family of all the earth.

21.  And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of god, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which The Lord God gave unto the children of men.  for He gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.

22.  And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden.  And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

23.  And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for the knew no sin.
If you are saying to yourself, "I kind of understand that, but then again, I kind of don't," you aren't alone.  If I understood it all myself, I could write a much better explanation.  The next few verses help me to comprendo a lot about Our Heavenly Father's Plan.  They also answer the age old question:  What is the purpose of life?  Are you ready for the whole Purpose of Life to be summed up in 1 verse?

Hold On a Minute!!!

Let's try Google first.  Google knows a lotta stuff.

Here’s what to do:
  1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster).
  2. Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
  3. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
  4. Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.
Wow!  That sounds cool.  I wonder what he came up with for his own purpose.  Let's see...:
Here was my final answer: to live consciously and courageously, to resonate with love and compassion, to awaken the great spirits within others, and to leave this world in peace.
In Platonism, the meaning of life is in attaining the highest form of knowledge, which is the Idea of the Good, from which all good and just things derive utility and value. Human beings are duty-bound to pursue the good.
The Epicurean meaning of life rejects immortality and mysticism; there is a soul, but it is as mortal as the body. There is no afterlife, yet, one need not fear death, because "Death is nothing to us; for that which is dissolved, is without sensation, and that which lacks sensation is nothing to us."
(Those are just 2 of many points of view of the many isms found at

If Google doesn't satisfy, you could try these:

You could ask Monty Python
You could as a wise guru
You could ask Chuck Norris
How about let's see what The Lord has to say on the subject.

2 Nephi 2: 24-26
24.  But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things.

25.  Adam fell that men might be and men are, that they might have joy.

26.  And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that He may redeem the children of men from the fall.  And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Righteousness of Our Redeemer (2 Nephi 2, part 1)

I feel overwhelmed to start this post on 2nd Nephi 2.  It is so chalk full of delicious truths and is such a beautiful testament to The Savior, Jesus Christ., I fear that I will vastly under-represent this veritable feast of doctrine.  It will take at least 2 posts for this chapter. 

Christ and the Young Child -Carl Bloch
2 Nephi 2 is Lehi's speech to his son, Jacob.  First Lehi acknowledges that Jacob had a rough time growing up in the desert.  Verse 1 tells us that Jacob suffered afflictions and much sorrow in his childhood because of the rudeness of his brothers.  Poor kid.  Well, maybe not so poor...

  • Suffered?   Yes
  • Afflicted?  Yes
  • I feel sorry for Jacob?   No
2 Nephi 2: 2
2.  Nevertheless, Jacob, my firstborn in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.

Whatever Jacob's childhood was like, he chose to hold more tightly to The Lord, and so, knew of His greatness.  Jacob was even given the privilege in his youth of seeing The Savior.

This is "Detail of the Temptation of Christ", by J Kirk Richards.
In Doctrine & Covanents, 20: 22 it says, "He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them."  The reason I bring that up is because of an important point of doctrine in the next verse...

2 Nephi 2: 3:
3.  Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God.  Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou has beheld that in the fulness of time He cometh to bring salvation unto men.
The important point is this:  Jacob was a great man, who was faithful, true and obedient.  He was obedient to his father and his Heavenly Father.  He spent his life in the service of his God, and was worthy to receive a visit from The Savior Himself.  Jacob was a righteous man in every sense.  Yet, Jacob will be Saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God and receive Exaltation and Eternal Life, not because of his own righteousness, but because of The Savior's righteousness.  The reason I think this is so important is because I can't compare my life with those of Jacob, Nephi, Lehi, Isaiah, Moses, the Bishop of my own local congregation, or anyone for that matter. What I can do is...
  • Choose to hold tightly to The Lord during afflictions
  • Spend my life serving in whatever way The Lord would have me
  • Understand and know the greatness of God
  • And because I, unlike The Savior, do give heed to temptation sometimes, whenever I fall short, repent and try again. (and again, and again, and again, and again, and again.... )
If I can do that, then Lehi can say the same thing of me that he said to Jacob:
Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer.

I just snapped this shot of my BOM opened to 2 Nephi 2 and uploaded it.  My haphazard color marking method lacks organization and consistency, but one of the things I try to do is use the color blue to mark verses about Jesus Christ and His Atonement ('cause blue is my favorite).  Verses 5-10 are all blue, as well as verses 25-28 in the other picture.  It's not that you won't find scriptures about The Savior in an orange, red or yellow verse, or even in an unmarked verse, it's just that the blue ones are are those that I go to most when reading of Jesus Christ. 

2 Nephi 2: 4-7
4.  And thou [Jacob] hast beheld in thy youth His glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom He shall minister in the flesh; for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.

5.  And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.  And the law is given unto men.  And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off.  Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.

6.  Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for He is full of grace and truth.

7.  Behold, He offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
So, let's see...

Verse 4:
  • The way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.
Verse 5:
  • Men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.
  • It isn't obeying the law (or commandments) that will justify (excuse) us.
  • The fall of man removed us from the presence of God.
  • Not obeying the commandments increases that distance, and, unless we repent, we will remain that way.
  • To remain cut off from God would prevent us from having real joy.
Verse 6:
  • Jesus Christ can redeem us from the fall of man, and bring us back into the presence of God.
  • Christ is full of grace and truth.  Grace is Christ's willingness to do this for us.  Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come (from D&C 93: 24).
Verse 7:
  • Christ offered Himself to pay the price for the sins of all men in order to answer the ends of the law.
  • My own definition of "the ends of the law" is Justice, or the fact that sin must have an eternal consequence.  So, to answer for the demands of justice, Christ offered Himself in our place for those consequences.
  • This offering of Our Savior is open to all who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit.  The word contrite means to feel sorrow for one's wrongdoings, and expressing remorse. 
  •  The term "broken heart" is our willingness to silence our own will and adopt The Lord's will.  "Willing" doesn't necessarily mean we will always be successful, but we can't let our efforts be without real intent (Moroni 10: 4).
Let's jump ahead to 2 Nephi 31 for a second and read a very groovy verse 13:
13.  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow The Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto The Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism -yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to His word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto The Holy One of Israel.
     And then there's this excerpt from a talk about this topic by Bruce D. Porter of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    The Savior’s perfect submission to the Eternal Father is the very essence of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Christ’s example teaches us that a broken heart is an eternal attribute of godliness. When our hearts are broken, we are completely open to the Spirit of God and recognize our dependence on Him for all that we have and all that we are. The sacrifice so entailed is a sacrifice of pride in all its forms. Like malleable clay in the hands of a skilled potter, the brokenhearted can be molded and shaped in the hands of the Master.  -Bruce D. Porter, LDS General Conference, 2007
    -By Carl Bloch

    I love the word WHEREFORE in the scriptures.  I think it says a lot.  I also like THEREFORE and AND THUS WE SEE.  So, all that cool stuff up there...

    1 Nephi 2: 8
    8.  Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down His life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that He may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.
    Know it, Love it, Share it.  Right?  Right!

    Closing the blast doors

    I'll share 1 more verse with you, and then leave the rest for another post.  This verse is very meaty, like Mr. Cow up there. Ain't no way he's jumpin' over the moon.  I can relate.

    1 Nephi 2: 10
    10.  And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of Him, to be judged of Him according to the truth and holiness which is in Him.  Wherefore, the ends of the law which The Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement.
    I said before that I define "The Ends of the Law" as Justice.  What is "The Ends of the Atonement"?  What does the word "End" mean the way it's used here?  It reminds me of  that tender verse in the New Testament, John 18: 37, where Christ is asked of Pilate, "Art Thou a King then?"  Jesus answered, "To this end was I born."  See also this video with the same title.

    • So, "End" must mean purpose.  In other words (for the John scripture), "This is why I came." 
    • "End" in my own mind means result.  Like in the expression, "To what end?"  

    What's wrong with both?  How about...
    • The purpose of the law is for us to choose to follow Christ or not follow Him.
    • Breaking the law will result in the punishment, which is affixed.  (and we've all broken it)

    • The purpose of the atonement is that the punishment affixed will be given to The Savior.
    • The result of the punishment being given to The Savior will affix happiness to us instead.

    Here's the scale of Justice and Mercy.  If the mistakes we make in life weigh upon us, the scale will tip toward Justice.

    If we repent of our sins and lean on our Savior, he has put something in the Mercy side of the scale that weighs a whole bunch.

    I'll close out this post by expressing my love for Jesus Christ. I'm grateful to The Savior for His sacrifice for me, and I'm grateful to His Father for sending him... That must have been very difficult.

    His peace be with you...

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    The heart of Father Lehi (2 Nephi 1)

    I started this blog 5 months ago, on October 14th.  When I had the idea of blogging the BOM from start to finish, I knew it would take some time, but I had no idea.  5 months just for the first book, and many to go.  Alma is going to take me a year by itself.  I'm committed, though, so if you feel like continuing with me, please do.  When I get this thing finished, it will be one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.  Hopefully, it will be a legacy I can be proud to leave behind. 

    At the beginning of 2nd Nephi there is a short summary written by the prophet Mormon.  It says,

    An account of the death of Lehi.  Nephi's brethren rebel against him. The Lord warns Nephi to depart into the wilderness. His journeyings in the wilderness, and so forth.

    Lehi doesn't die until chapter 4, but he knows  it's coming.  He takes this opportunity to gather his children together and give them his last lecture.  It's one of my mostest favoritest parts of the BOM, especially chapter 2.  So, let's light this candle...

    A Choice Land Above All Others

    Lehi said in 2 Nephi 1: 5-6
    5.  But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which The Lord God had covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, The Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of The Lord.

    6.  Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of The Lord.

    I says back in Journeyings without murmurings that one of the big reasons Lehi had to leave Jerusalem so secretively, and why Laban couldn't be kept alive, and why Zoram had to go with them, and why they couldn't have any cooking fires while they traveled was because it was vital that nobody followed them or knew where they were going.  I offer this next verse as exhibit Gamma Charlie:

    2 Nephi 1: 8
    8.  And behold, it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would over-run the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance.
    Later on in Alma or somewheres it says something like: "And no one knew it [that they left Jerusalem and where they went] save themselves only."  I'll bring it up again when I get to it.  I'm forgetting more than I'm remembering not to forget anymore.

    On my Dad's side, my family came over from Ireland, Scotland and England in the early 1600's.  My great great whatever Jacob Barney was born in Bradenham, England in 1607 and was a Baptist Minister in the mid 1600's in or around Salem, Massachusetts.  I don't know how or when he actually came over, but may have even been on the Mayflower, which is really cool.   

    I do feel that he was, like verse 6 says, "brought by the hand of the Lord." 

    And though it was Uncle Jacob and his buddies, and lots of others from other lands just like him, who kicked the crap out of the indigenous peoples of the Americas (It's been estimated that there were 14 million American Indians along the eastern coast of North America before Columbus, and only about 2 million after the American Revolution), these things were prophesied by Lehi way back then.

    2 Nephi 1: 10-12
    10.  But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of The Lord -having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of The Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise -behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of Him that is just shall rest upon them.

    11.  Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten.

    12.  Yea, as one generation passeth to another there shall be bloodsheds, and great visitations among them; wherefore, my sons, I would that ye would remember; yea, I would that ye would hearken unto my words.
    Can you hear the pleading love in his words?  I just love Lehi.  He continues...

    2 Nephi 1: 13
    13.  O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.

    Why are "waking up" and "breaking chains" metaphors for repentance and obedience?  What does Lehi mean by "Sleep of hell?"  I have thought that this kind of sleep means procrastination.  Later in the BOM the words "slumber of death" are used.  Or, maybe sleeping means a failure to do what you know you oughtta be doing.

    For Laman:  You know the gospel; you know it is true.  Live it, NOW!

    For John Barney:  You know what you should be doing and what you shouldn't be doing.  Live and love the whole Gospel; NOW!  If not now, then when?
    And what if you have developed some bad habits while you were sleeping?  What if your sleepiness weakened your resolve to follow The Savior, so that you soon lack the strength to stop sinning?  If someone threatened to chain us down we would fight like mad wolves, but so often we lock those chains around us our own selves.

    BREAK THEM!!  HOW?  Lehi is a mortal man, subject to the same temptations as Laman, Lemuel, Nephi or John Barney.  What makes him the kind of man who is awake enough to stay away from those chains, and be the kind of man who is able to warn others about them?

    2 Nephi 1: 15
    15.  But behold, The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld His glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of His love.
    Lehi understands the gospel and his dependence on his Savior.

    2 Nephi 1: 14, 16-21

    14.  Awake! and arise from the dust, and hear the words of a trembling parent, whose limbs ye must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return; a few more days and I go the way of all the earth.
    16.  And I desire that ye should remember to observe the statutes and the judgments of The Lord; behold, this hath been the anxiety of my soul from the beginning.

    17.  My heart hath been weighed down with sorrow from time to time, for I have feared, lest for the hardness of your hearts The Lord your God should come out in the fulness of His wrath upon you, that ye be cut off and destroyed forever;

    19.  O my sons, that these things might not come upon you, but that ye might be a choice and favored people of The Lord.  But behold, His will be done; for His ways are righteousness forever.
    Lehi loves his kids.  His understanding of the gospel gives him so much worry for his stubborn kids.  What can he do?  He lectures them, prays for them, and, because he is a man of God and holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, he can offer each of them a father's blessing.

    I find these verses so moving.  I can just feel Lehi's love, and his heart breaking.  As a parent, he can't help but hope.  As a prophet, he knows what's coming.

    I know you can read these verses for yourself, but I just want to write a couple more down...

    2 Nephi 1: 21 & 23
    21.  And now that my soul might have joy in you, and that my heart might leave this world with gladness because of you, that I might not be brought down with grief and sorrow to the grave, 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.

    23.  Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness.  Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity and arise from the dust.

    I love my own Dad dearly, but there was always a part of me that wished that he was the kind of Dad that Lehi was, and could have told me to get out of the dirt and be a man when I needed it.  I guess that's what the scriptures are for, huh?  Dad had a few chains on him in mortality, put there by his own self.  He knew they were there, and he knew what they were doing to him, but chose to remain asleep.

    Big Finish

    Lehi blessed all of his sons, and also Ishmael's sons and Zoram, and their posterity.  To each he exhorted to obey The Lord, lean on The Savior, be faithful.  And, he gave them this promise, which is a principle repeated so many times in the BOM:

    2 Nephi 1: 20
    20.  And he hath said that:  Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.

    I know that was true for the peoples of the BOM because we can read it right in the narrative of the book.  I also know that it's true for me.  I know that, if I am faithful and obedient, I will prosper in the land.  I'll be ok.  I will always have The Lord with me. 

    Same goes for you.  I know it.

    Peace be with you...

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

    Oh, We Like Sheep! (1 Nephi 22)

    In the previous chapter (1 Ne 21), Nephi quoted Isaiah about the scattering and gathering of Israel.  In this chapter (1 Ne 22), Nephi explains to his brothers what Isaiah was talking about.  The first thing I always notice about this chapter is something I really like.  Here, give a listen to verse 1...

    1 Nephi 22: 1
    1.  And now it came to pass that after I , Nephi, had read these things which were engraven upon the plates of brass, my brethren came unto me and said unto me: What meaneth these things which ye have read?  Behold, are they to be understood according to things which are spiritual, which shall come to pass according to the spirit and not the flesh?
    This verse tells a story in my mind:  Nephi has just read scriptures to his brothers.  His brothers go off to themselves and actually discuss it, and discuss it sincerely.  They don't quite get Isaiah, so they come back to Nephi and, not try to kill him (surprise surprise), but seek knowledge about these important writings of Isaiah.  And the way they ask, they nearly bear their testimony of the truthfulness of Isaiah, and their belief that Nephi does have a spiritual understanding that they don't have.  It's just nice to see this side of Laman and Lemuel, actually making an effort.

    A Mighty Nation Among the Gentiles

    Nephi explains that Isaiah's prophecies are to be understood both spiritually and temporally.  He tells them (us) that all things are revealed to the prophets through the voice of The Spirit.  The scattering of Israel will be both of the heart (apostasy, and a rejection of Christ) and of the foot (literally led away and lost).  Nephi reminds his brothers that they themselves were led away, and nobody knows where they are.  

    1 Nephi 22: 6-8
    6.  Nevertheless, after they shall be nursed by the Gentiles, and The Lord has lifted up his hand upon the Gentiles and set them up for a standard, and their children have been carried in their arms, and their daughters have been carried upon their shoulders, behold these things of which are spoken are temporal; for thus are the covenants of The Lord with our fathers; and it meaneth us in the days to come, and also all our brethren who are of the house of Israel.

    7.  And it meaneth that the time cometh that after all the house of Israel have been scattered and confounded, that The Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles, yea, even upon the face of this land; and by them shall our seed be scattered.

    8.  And after our seed is scattered The Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders.

    The United States of America won independence from England and the other European nations that had planted their flags here.  America became a nation of religious freedom, and thus the place for the restoration of The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    This is the marvelous work among the Gentiles that Nephi spoke of, and the starting point for the gathering in of the house of Israel, in which Israel will be brought into the gospel by the Gentiles.  We know that Joseph Smith was a descendant of Ephraim, the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt.  This makes Joseph Smith a part of the house of Israel, not a Gentile, so how does this prophecy work?  I looked it up in the Bible Dictionary on

    Gentile. The word gentiles means the nations, and eventually came to be used to mean all those not of the house of Israel. It is first used in Genesis with reference to the descendants of Japheth (Gen. 10:2–5). As used throughout the scriptures it has a dual meaning, sometimes to designate peoples of non-Israelite lineage, and other times to designate nations that are without the gospel, even though there may be some Israelite blood therein. This latter usage is especially characteristic of the word as used in the Book of Mormon.
    So, Joseph Smith is not a Gentile according to the definition: Not of the house of Israel, but is a Gentile because he is part of a Gentile nation.

    The miracle of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that which will gather Israel, both spiritually and temporally.  The Gentiles, or non-Gentiles from the Gentile nations, will take the gospel to the world.  And BONUS!  The Gentiles are brought in to Christ's Kingdom as well.

    1 Nephi 22: 9, 12
    9.  And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles; and not only unto the Gentiles but unto all the house of Israel, unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying:  In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.

    12.  Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that The Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.

    • Temporally:  Gathered together to the lands of their inheritance (Literal Gathering)
    • Spiritually:  They shall know that The Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.

    One Fold, One Shepherd

    1 Nephi 22: 24-26
    24.  And the time cometh speedily that the righteous must be led up as calves of the stall, and The Holy One of Israel must reign in dominion, and might, and power, and great glory.

    25.  And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth His sheep, and they know Him; and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd; and He shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture.

    26.  And because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and The Holy One of Israel reigneth.  
    I like this:  He shall feed his sheep, and in Him they shall find pasture.  It reminds me of Handel's Messiah.  In song 17 on the 1st CD, in the song "He Shall Gather His Sheep," the soloist sings,

    "He shall feed His flock like a sheeeeeepherd.  And he shall gaaaaather the laaambs with His aaarms, wiiiiiith His arms.  And caaaaarry them in His boooosem; And geeeently lead those that are with young."
    And here's a parallel for you.  When I first bought my Messiah CD I could hardly understand a word of it.  After listening to it quite a bit, it started to become more clear.  After I understood it, it was so clear that, when others would say they couldn't understand the words, it seemed odd to me.  I played this for my Gospel Doctrine class one day, asking them all to tell me the words that were being sung.  A few knew the songs by heart, but most couldn't even tell if they were in English.  I did this as a visual (or audual) of coming to understand Isaiah better through practice and repetition.  And now days, the internet doesn't hurt neither.

    Now when I read Isaiah and other parts of the Old and New Testaments where Handel took his text, sometimes my scriptures sing to me.  This is an awesome sensation, very tender.

    A word about George Frederic Handel.  The greatest composers in history thought very highly of  Handel.  J.S. Bach is reputed to have said, "Handel is the only person I would wish to see before I die, and the only person I would wish to be, were I not Bach." Mozart is reputed to have said of him, "Handel understands effect better than any of us. When he chooses, he strikes like a thunder bolt" and to L.V. Beethoven he was "the master of us all...the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb."  Cool, huh?  These giants of long hair music wrote some of the greatest tributes to The Savior in the history of music (Handel's Messiah, Bach’s Magnificat, Johannes Passion or Mass in b-minor, Mozart’s Great Mass, Beethoven’s Christ am Ölberge).  I like to think that the respect of these fellas for Handel comes from their trying hard to express their own testimonies of Jesus Christ through music, but paling in comparison with Handel's masterpiece.  It's just a thought. 

    I'm going to end here.  There's much that I skipped and/or glossed over in this chapter.  There's just too much, and I'm going about this project (of blogging the entire BOM) way too slowly to write every thought.  I recommend you read them and write your own thoughts down.

    I'll share a quick story first

    A friend of mine traveled to Israel on an LDS church tour.  He told me of an experience where the bus that he was traveling on ran over one of the sheep of a local shepherd.  The driver got off the bus and talked to the shepherd while the group remained inside of the bus.  They could hear the two talking, but couldn't understand the language.  There was an interpreter in the bus, and he told them what was going on.  He said that they were settling on a price for the sheep that was killed.  In the tradition of the culture, the driver had to pay 4 times the value of the sheep.  You would think that this would please the shepherd, since he made quite a profit.  Instead, after receiving the money from the driver, the shepherd picked up the dead sheep, and with tears in his eyes said a word in his foreign language to the sheep.  My friends' group were curious what the shepherd had said to the dead sheep in his arms.

    The interpreter said, "That is the name of his sheep."

    May the Lord Jesus Christ gather you and hold you in his arms, and may you find Pasture in His care.

    Peace be with you...

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Israel, Israel, God is calling (1 Nephi 21)

    1 Nephi 21 is Nephi's quotation of Isaiah 49, which is mostly about the scattering of Israel and the promises from The Lord that Israel will be remembered and gathered back into the fold of God.

    I'll mention a few of things from this chapter, and may go over it again when I post about chapter 22, which is Nephi explaining what Isaiah meant.  We'll see...

    1 Nephi 21: 1
    1.  And again:  Hearken, O ye house of Israel, all ye that are broken off and are driven out because of the wickedness of the pastors of my people; yea, all ye that are broken off, that are scattered abroad, who are of my people, O house of Israel.  Listen, O isles, unto me, and hearken ye people from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.

    Who is Israel?

    Abraham begat Isaac.  Isaac begat Esau and Jacob.  Esau and Jacob were twins, though Esau was the older of the two.  When it came time for Isaac to bestow his blessing and continue the patriarchal line, he was going to give it to his oldest, Esau, because he really liked how he cooked.  It makes pretty good reading in Genesis 25-27 where Jacob bought the birthright off of Esau for a bowl of soup, and then how Jacob and his mother, Rebekah, tricked Isaac (who was blind in his old age) into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of Esau by putting goat skins on Jacob's arms to simulate Esau's hairy skin and his unique smell.

    Don't think too poorly of Jacob and Rebekah for this deception.  Rebekah was told in Genesis 25: 23 that "the eldest (Esau) shall serve the younger (Jacob)".

    So, Jacob had bunches of kids, including 12 sons.  Before the birth of his last son, Benjamin, The Lord changed Jacob's name to Israel.  So, the 12 sons of Jacob are the 12 tribes of Israel, or the children of Israel.

    • Lehi is a descendant of Joseph, through Manasseh.
    • Moses is a descendant of Levi, the designated carriers of the Levitical (or Aaronic) Priesthood.  
    • From Judah came Jesse, the father of King David.  Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, and Joseph, the "step-father" of Jesus, were both descendants of Jesse and King David.  Isaiah 53 talks about The Messiah being a "stem of Jesse".  In fact, if Israel would have continued to be ruled by Kings instead of being conquered and re-conquered, Jesus Christ would have been the King of the Jews.  
    • Joseph Smith is a descendant of Ephraim, the son of Joseph.  My own patriarchal blessing places me in the lineage of Ephraim. 

    Am I boring you again?  I think this stuff is interesting, but I'm sorry for the tangent.

    So, Israel was warned that they would be scattered (they were, several times).  They were also assured, however, that they would not be forgotten by God, and promised that they would be gathered (that's going on right now).

    In order for Missionaries to be allowed to proselyte in a foreign country, that country's government must give its permission and support.  Simple in some places, but not so much in others. 

    Some of these guys are real knuckleheads
    In each country, someone of influence must make a decision of Eternal Significance in order for missionaries to be allowed to enter.  In my early days the thought of The Gospel message being brought to places like the USSR, China, Vietnam, India, East Germany, Cambodia, Cuba, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland or the Middle East (to name several) was a seemingly very far away goal. 

    Did I tell you my nephew Josh is serving a mission in Cambodia?  Vietnam is in his mission, and missionaries are now stationed in Saigon.
    1 Nephi 21: 22-23
    22.  Thus saith The Lord God:  Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

    23.  And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; they shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am The Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

    Berlin Wall separating East and West Berlin, and part of the Iron Curtain, which separated Communist Eastern Europe from the free world.
    I used to sleep better knowing that the world had to last at least until the gospel was taken into the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc countries of Eastern Europe. 

    Then all the sudden...

    November 9, 1989 (my birthday) the wall came down, and we listened to "The Winds of Change" by The Scorpions

    Verse 23 makes more sense now...

    And that led to an LDS Temple in...

    Kiev, Ukraine.  Wow!
    I'll close by re-emphasizing this wonderful truth:  The Lord would not, could not, will not forget His people.  The gospel will roll forth, as the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, and fill the earth.  Here's verse 7 of How Firm a Foundation:

    The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
    I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
    That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
    I'll never, no never, I'll never, no never,
    I'll never, no never, no never forsake!

    1 Nephi 21: 15-16 (one of my most favoritests, ever)
    15.  For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel.

    16.  Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

    There's no better note to close on than that.

    Peace be with you...