Posted in General Conference, Inspirational

Choose the light

Were you afraid of the dark as a child? Are you still afraid of the dark? It can be unsettling being in the dark. Objects that are familiar in the light became strange, even frightening, in the dark. Spike Milligan wrote a poem about the fear that can come with darkness:

Things that go ‘bump’ in the night

Should not really give one a fright.

It’s the hole in each ear

That lets in the fear,

That, and the absence of light!

Tasks that are easy in the light can also become very difficult in darkness. When our children were young I once get up early for work and decided to get dressed in the dark so that wife and children would not be disturbed. I drove through the dark streets to the office and it was only in the bright glare of the office fluorescent lights that I discovered that in the darkness I had put on my ‘decorating’ shirt which was liberally covered with gloss paint!

At the last General Conference, Elder Vern P Stanfill spoke about darkness and light (Choosing the  Light, October 2015). He shared a story about going into a dark place:

Those who had gone before warned us that the tunnels were dark and that we needed really strong lights. As we gathered in front of the massive stone opening of the Taft Tunnel, a caretaker explained some of the dangers of the trail, including deep ditches along the edges, rough walls, and complete darkness. Impatiently, we pushed forward into the tunnel. After we had ridden only a few minutes, the predicted darkness engulfed us. The lights I brought proved inadequate, and the darkness soon overwhelmed them. Suddenly, I began to feel anxious, confused, and disoriented.’

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Have you ever been in complete darkness and felt that disoriented feeling? My job often takes me away from home and I have got used to sleeping in strange hotel rooms. At first though, I would find that I would wake up in the middle of the night in complete darkness and not know where I (or the toilet!) was. Now, I always make sure that I leave enough light on to find my way if I wake up in the night.

Elder Stanfill continues:

‘I was embarrassed to admit my anxieties to my friends and family. Although an experienced cyclist, I now felt as though I had never ridden a bicycle. I struggled to stay upright as my confusion increased. Finally, after I did express my discomfort to those around me, I was able to draw closer to the more powerful light of a friend. In fact, everyone in the group began to form a tight circle around him. By staying close to him and relying for a time on his light and the collective light of the group, we pushed deeper into the darkness of the tunnel.’

There may be times in our lives when we need to rely temporarily on the stronger light of another. We should not be embarrassed about this. We should cluster around them and rely on their light until ours is strengthened.

‘After what seemed like hours, I saw a pinpoint of light. Almost immediately, I began to feel reassured that all would be well. I continued to press forward, relying on both the light of my friends and the growing pinpoint of light. My confidence gradually returned as the light grew in size and intensity. Long before reaching the end of the tunnel, I no longer needed the assistance of my friends. All anxiety disappeared as we pedaled quickly toward the light. I felt calm and reassured even before we rode into the morning full of warmth and splendor.’

Darkness has been used as a symbol of many things including sin and ignorance. In this talk Elder Stanfill uses it as a symbol for doubt. He goes on to liken this experience in the dark tunnel to the darkness of doubt that can envelop us if we are not prepared with strong torches of faith:

‘We live in a world in which we will experience challenges to our faith. We may feel confident that we are ready to face these challenges—only to find that our preparations have been insufficient. And just as my friend had warned me about the darkness, we are warned today. Apostolic voices urge us to prepare ourselves with the powerful light of spiritual strength.’

Elder Stanfill then shares some lessons he learned from this experience:

‘First, no matter how intense the darkness of doubt, we choose how long and to what extent we allow it to influence us

‘Second, we must trust in the Lord in order to develop spiritual strength within ourselves.

‘Third, there is no darkness so dense, so menacing, or so difficult that it cannot be overcome by light.

Elder Neil L. Andersen recently taught: “As evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory spiritual power for the righteous. As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering them greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling. The gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a brighter light in the emerging twilight.”’

In D&C 21:4-6 we read:

Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;

5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

6 For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.

What great promises are made to us when we follow the Prophet:

  • The gates of hell shall not prevail against us
  • The Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before us
  • God will cause the heavens to shake for our good

Elder Stanfill concludes:

Brothers and sisters, we have not been left alone to be influenced by every whim and change in the world’s attitude, but we have the power to choose belief over doubt. In order to access the promised compensatory spiritual power, we must choose to heed prophetic counsel, recognize and act upon spiritual promptings, be obedient to God’s commandments, and seek personal revelation. We must choose. May we choose the light of the Savior. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.’

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Jesus Christ, LDS Doctrine

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 11- Press Forward with a Steadfastness in Christ

1. Nephi teaches of the doctrine of Christ.

2 Nephi 31:2 The doctrine of Christ

“Although a phrase like ‘the doctrine of Christ’ could appropriately be used to describe any or all of the Master’s teachings, nevertheless those magnificently broad and beautiful expressions spread throughout the Book of Mormon, New Testament, and latter-day scriptures might more properly be called ‘the doctrines of Christ.’ Note that the phrase Nephi used is distinctly singular. In Nephi’s concluding testimony, and later in the Savior’s own declaration to the Nephites at his appearance to them, the emphasis is on a precise, focused, singular sense of Christ’s doctrine, specifically that which the Prophet Joseph Smith declared to be ‘the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel’” (Jeffrey R Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, 49).

2 Nephi 31:4-9 Baptism of Jesus

‘Born of a mortal mother, Jesus was baptized to fulfill His Father’s commandment that sons and daughters of God should be baptized. He set the example for all of us to humble ourselves before our Heavenly Father. We are all welcome to come into the waters of baptism. He was baptized to witness to His Father that He would be obedient in keeping His commandments. He was baptized to show us that we should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.’ (Robert D Hales, General Conference, October 2000)

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2 Nephi 31:13 Receive the Holy Ghost

‘Now I am going to say something that maybe I could not prove, but I believe is true, that we have a great many members of this Church who have never received a manifestation through the Holy Ghost. Why? Because they have not made their lives conform to the truth. And the Holy Ghost will not dwell in unclean tabernacles or disobedient tabernacles.

The Holy Ghost will not dwell with that person who is unwilling to obey and keep the commandments of God or who violates those commandments willfully. In such a soul the spirit of the Holy Ghost cannot enter. That great gift comes to us only through humility and faith and obedience. Therefore, a great many members of the Church do not have that guidance.

Then some cunning, crafty individual will come along teaching that which is not true, and without guidance which is promised to us through our faithfulness, people are unable to discern and are led astray. It depends on our faithfulness and our obedience to the commandments of the Lord if we have the teachings, the enlightening instruction, that comes from the Holy Ghost.

When we are disobedient, when our minds are set upon the things of this world rather than on the things of the kingdom of God, we cannot have the manifestations of the Holy Ghost. Did you ever stop to think what a great privilege it is for us to have the companionship of one of the members of the Godhead? Have you thought of it that way? That is our privilege, if we keep the commandments the Lord has given us.’ (Joseph Fielding Smith, We Are Here to Be Tried, Tested, Proved, pp. 4–5)

2 Nephi 31 :17 The gate by which ye should enter

‘The ordinance of baptism by water and fire is described as a gate by Nephi (see  2 Nephi 31:17 Why is baptism a gate? Because it is an ordinance denoting entry into a sacred and binding covenant between God and man. Men promise to forsake the world, love and serve their fellowmen, visit the fatherless and the widows in their afflictions, proclaim peace, preach the gospel, serve the Lord, and keep His commandments. The Lord promises to “pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon [us]”  Mosiah 18:10 redeem His Saints both temporally and spiritually, number them with those of the First Resurrection, and offer life eternal. Baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost are the prescribed ways to enter the strait and narrow path to eternal life.’ (L Tom Perry, General Conference, April 2008)

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2. Nephi teaches that we must press forward and endure to the end.

2 Nephi 31:19 I would ask if all is done

“Sometimes someone will say: ‘Well, I have been baptized into the Church; I am a member of the Church; I am a member of the Church; I’ll just go along and live an ordinary sort of life; I won’t commit any great crimes; I’ll live a reasonably good Christian life; and eventually I will gain the kingdom of God.’

“I don’t understand it that way. I think that baptism is a gate. It is a gate which puts us on a path; and the name of the path is the straight and narrow path. The straight and narrow path leads upward from the gate of baptism to the celestial kingdom of heaven. After a person has entered the gate of baptism, he has to press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, as Nephi expresses it, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men; and if he endures to the end, then he gains the promised reward.” (Bruce R McConkie, Conference Report, Oct. 1950)

2 Nephi 31:20 Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ

‘Be strong. Live the gospel faithfully even if others around you don’t live it at all. Defend your beliefs with courtesy and with compassion, but defend them. A long history of inspired voices, including those you will hear in this conference and the voice you just heard in the person of President Thomas S. Monson, point you toward the path of Christian discipleship. It is a strait path, and it is a narrow path without a great deal of latitude at some points, but it can be thrillingly and successfully traveled, “with … steadfastness in Christ, … a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.”  2 Nephi 31:20 In courageously pursuing such a course, you will forge unshakable faith, you will find safety against ill winds that blow, even shafts in the whirlwind, and you will feel the rock-like strength of our Redeemer, upon whom if you build your unflagging discipleship, you cannot fall.[See  Helaman 5:12 In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.’ (Jeffrey R Holland, General Conference, April 2014)

3. Nephi speaks of the importance of feasting on the words of Christ.

2 Nephi 32:2 The tongue of angels

“Nephi explained that angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, and you can speak with the tongue of angels, which simply means that you can speak with the power of the Holy Ghost. It will be quiet. It will be invisible. There will not be a dove. There will not be cloven tongues of fire. But the power will be there” (Boyd K Packer, “The Gift of the Holy Ghost: What Every Member Should Know,” Ensign, Aug. 2006, 49–50).

2 Nephi 32:3 Feast upon the words of Christ

‘As important as it is to leave home every day with a full charge on your cell phone, it is far more important to be fully charged spiritually. Every time you plug in your phone, use it as a reminder to ask yourself if you have plugged in to the most important source of spiritual power—prayer and scripture study, which will charge you with inspiration through the Holy Ghost (see  D&C 11:12–14 It will help you know the mind and will of the Lord to make the small but important daily choices that determine your direction. Many of us immediately stop whatever we are doing to read a text message—should we not place even more importance on messages from the Lord? Neglecting to connect to this power should be unthinkable to us (see  2 Nephi 32:3)’ (Randall L Ridd, General Conference, April 2014)

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2 Nephi 32:7-9 Personal revelation

‘Revelation is promised us through our faithfulness; so, also, is knowledge pertaining to the mysteries and government of the Church. The Lord withholds much that he would otherwise reveal if the members of the Church were prepared to receive it. When they will not live in accordance with the revelations he has given, how are they entitled to receive more? The people in the Church are not living in full accord with the commandments the Lord has already required of them.

We find ourselves, therefore, much like the Nephites when Nephi spoke of revelation: ‘And now I, Nephi, cannot say more; the Spirit stoppeth mine utterance, and I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be.’

We have little occasion to clamor for more revelation when we refuse to heed what the Lord has revealed for our salvation. However, the authorities are directed by revelation, and this is apparent to all who have the spirit of discernment. The Lord has not forsaken his people, although they have not always put their trust in him.’ (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:283)

4. Nephi declares that people will believe his words if they believe in Christ.

2 Nephi 33:4 It persuadeth them to do good

book-of-mormon

‘It is about the Book of Mormon I want to talk today. I do so with just one objective in mind: To get you to read it.

I have read it a little, I believe in it, and I love it. I recommend that every person within the sound of my voice read the Book of Mormon. I can testify, as did Nephi, that the things written therein persuadeth all men to do good  2 Ne. 33:4 It will enrich the life of every person who will read it, unless he is in rebellion against the truth; and in that event it will advise him of his awful fate unless he changes his ways.’ (Marion G Romney, General Conference, April 1949)

2 Nephi 33:5-6  He shall be of the spirit of the devil

‘Nephi’s final testimony reprises themes he has already taught. In chapter 31, he reiterated his love of plainness. He has also denounced anger against Yahweh’s word (2 Ne. 1:26, 28:28). He foresees the reaction to his words and spells out the contrast between the righteous and the wicked. Those with the Spirit will accept his words; those who are “of the devil” will be angry. Nephi continues to use Yahweh and Satan as opposites, and their opposition models antithetical themes. In this case, acceptance of the gospel stands in contrast to anger with and rejection of the gospel. Nevertheless, Nephi affirms the gospel’s truthfulness, bearing testimony of his own salvation.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Cultural Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 33:10 If ye believe in Christ ye will believe in these words

“The Book of Mormon is the most Christ-centered scriptural record ever published.  Every doctrine within its covers is but an appendage to as central theme- the testimony that Jesus is the Christ.  All who believe in Christ will believe the words of this book.  One cannot truly believe in the Bible and at the same time not believe in the Book of Mormon.  ‘There is not that person on the face of the earth,’Brigham Young said, ‘who has had the privilege of learning the Gospel of Jesus Christ from these two books [the Bible and the Book of Mormon], that can say that one is true, and the other is false.  No Latter-day Saint, no man or woman, can say the Book of Mormon is true, and at the same time say that the Bible is untrue.  If one be true, both are; and if one be false, both are false.’ (JD 1:38.) To believe the words of one is to believe the words of both (see Mormon 7:9).” (McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 375)

 

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, LDS Doctrine

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 10 – He Inviteth All to Come unto Him

1. Nephi prophesies of the Savior’s ministry among the Nephites.

ChristAppearsNephites

2 Nephi 26:1-2 After Christ shall have risen from the dead he shall show himself unto you.

‘Nephi is not only predicting Christ’s appearance to the Nephites but notes that, at that future time, the law that governs their lives will change. The Nephites will keep the law of Moses until that time. Nephi therefore explains clearly not only the person of the Christ, but also the meaning of Christ in fulfilling the law of Moses. He looks forward to the day when the Messiah will provide a new law. It is interesting that it will be “the law which ye shall do.” Nephi expects that one must act according to the law. Now his people act under and according to the law of Moses. After the Messiah comes, they will act under and according to Christ’s law.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 26:11 For the Spirit will not always strive with man

“When the Spirit of the Lord is withdrawn…darkness, like the blackness of night surges through the soul of man, and the sun of righteousness seems set for him, he is then made to feel what it means to sin against the law of God as it has been revealed unto his soul. When you think of the bitterness of that personal suffering, you will not marvel that when the heavy burden of a world’s sin rested down upon the Son of God in Gethsemane–you certainly will not marvel that he sweat great drops of blood in his agony; nor wonder at his suffering on the cross.” (BH Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints, p. 514)

2 Nephi 26:22 He leadeth them by the neck by a flaxen cord

“The first wrongdoing is like a single strand of flaxen thread; it is easily broken and thrown aside. But each time the wrong is repeated another strand is intertwined around the first, and on and on it goes until an almost unbreakable cord of multi-strands is woven. ‘The chains of habit,’ said Samuel Johnson, ‘are too small to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.'” (Carlos E Asay, The Road to Somewhere: A Guide for Young Men and Women [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1994], 94.)”

2 Nephi 26:24 He layeth down his life that he may draw all men unto him

‘Some have criticized the Book of Mormon because it sounds too much like the New Testament. They ask, how could Old Testament era prophets speak with the same words and phrases that the New Testament writers did? They proclaim that the Book of Mormon is full of doctrinal anachronisms. We can see with this phrase, that a very similar phrase is found in the New Testament, And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me (Jn 12:32).

We do not have to worry about these apparent anachronisms because we understand that Nephi saw the ministry of Christ in vision (1 Nephi 11:27–8). We can even look to the Old Testament to show that other prophets wrote the exact words which Jesus spoke during his mortal ministry. The book of Psalms contains many of the events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ and some of the phrases that Jesus spoke while on the cross. Is that an anachronism or just evidence that the psalmist saw the Savior being crucified? See Ps 22:1; 22:7-8; 22:16-18; 31:5; 34:20; 69:19-21.’ (GospelDoctrine.com)

2 Nephi 26:25 Without money and without price

‘When earth life is over and things appear in their true perspective, we shall more clearly see and realize what the Lord and his prophets have repeatedly told us, that the fruits of the gospel are the only objectives worthy of life’s full efforts. Their possessor obtains true wealth-wealth in the Lord’s view of values….

‘I conceive the blessings of the gospel to be of such inestimable worth that the price for them must be very exacting, and if I correctly understand what the Lord has said on the subject, it is. The price, however, is within the reach of us all, because it is not to be paid in money nor in any of this world’s goods but in righteous living. What is required is whole hearted devotion to the gospel and unreserved allegiance to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints….A half-hearted performance is not enough.'” (Marion G Romney, Conference Report, Oct. 1949)

2 Nephi 26:29 Priestcrafts

“Focusing on the needs of the students, a gospel teacher will never obscure their view of the Master by standing in the way or by shadowing the lesson with self-promotion or self-interest. This means that a gospel teacher must never indulge in priestcrafts, which are ‘that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world’ (2 Ne 26:29. A gospel teacher does not preach ‘to become popular’ (Alma 1:3) or ‘for the sake of riches and honor’ (Alma 1:16). He or she follows the marvelous Book of Mormon example in which ‘the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner’ (Alma 1:26). Both will always look to the Master.” (Dallin H Oaks, Conference Report, Oct. 1999)

2 Nephi 26:30 The Lord hath forbidden this thing

‘Nephi states strongly that Yahweh has “forbidden this thing,” by which he means the exclusion generated by priestcraft. The reference reaches past the word’s limited meaning (priestcraft as a profession) to its effects (excluding people from the gospel). In contrast, Nephi explains what Yahweh does want—charity, or love. Obeying this commandment eradicates any attitude or behavior that would lead to exclusion. Love is perforce inclusive.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 26:31 The laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion

‘Nephi declares that the motivation for preaching the gospel must be for the love of the Father’s children. God’s servants are those who go forth in a spirit of charity. Nephi says that those who labor for money shall perish.’ (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 26:33 He inviteth them all to come unto him

“I hope we can all overcome any differences of culture, race, and language. …

“… In my experience, no race or class seems superior to any other in spirituality and faithfulness. …“Spiritual peace is not to be found in race or culture or nationality but rather through our commitment to God and to the covenants and ordinances of the gospel” (James E Faustin Conference Report, Apr. 1995).

2. Nephi testifies of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

2 Nephi 27:9 He shall deliver the words of the book

‘The first man, who will “deliver the words of the book,” is Joseph Smith, through whom “the words of those who have slumbered in the dust” were given to the world. The verse also identifies “another” man, traditionally Charles Anthon, professor of Greek and Latin at Columbia College (now Columbia University). Unnamed in this prophecy is a third man, “Dr. Mitchell,” to whom Martin Harris showed the material prior to his meeting with Charles Anthon.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

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2 Nephi 27:12 Three witnesses

‘No other book in the world has ever had a witness borne to it as dynamic and powerful as the one the Master provided to sustain the Book of Mormon in what is known as “The Testimony of Three Witnesses.” The ancient American prophets had predicted that through the power of the Lord the plates would be shown to three others  2 Ne. 27:12  Ether 5:2-4 besides the prophet to whom the records would be given for the purpose of their bearing witness. Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris asked for that privilege.’ Milton R Hunter, General Conference, April 1969)

2 Nephi 27:15 Show them unto the learned

‘The reader might wonder, where the original copy of the Anthon Transcript might be? Stanley Kimball responds, Martin Harris probably kept his copy for many years, but there is nothing known about what he finally did with it. In 1884 a committee of the RLDS Church conversed with David Whitmer and were shown a transcript of which he wrote, “I have in my possession the original paper containing some of the characters transcribed from one of the golden plates, which paper Martin Harris took to Professor Anthon of New York.” Unfortunately we lack any further information regarding how, when, or why David Whitmer acquired this document. Though inconclusive, it is of interest to note that Martin Harris neither confirmed nor denied David Whitmer’s claim. The RLDS transcript was given to the Church in 1903 by the heirs of David Whitmer, fifteen years after his death in 1888.

One interesting, and possibly very meaningful, detail about the RLDS transcript is the word “Charactors” written across the top. Four students of early Church history, R.D. Webb, Ariel Crowley, Dean Jessee of the LDS Church Historian’s Office, and the anti-Mormon writer I. Woodbridge Riley, think that this word is in the hand of Joseph Smith. If so, the authenticity of the RLDS transcript would be strengthened greatly. ‘[Stanley B. Kimball, “The Anthon Transcript: People, Primary Sources, and Problems,” pp. 347-349, Reprinted by F.A.R.M.S. from BYU Studies, Vol. 10 (1970)]

2 Nephi 27:16 Not for the glory of God

‘What “gain” might Anthon have received? While Joseph knew that many wanted the plates for their gold, Anthon may have wanted the plates for their antiquity and the academic honors perhaps associated with translating an authentic ancient American document. Nephi understands that there are more ways than one to get the glory of the world. Whether we sell our souls for money or for acclaim, we have purchased that which has little value with that which is of incalculable value.

Veiled in this description of the “other” man’s motives is probably a continued warning to Joseph Smith to avoid such temptations.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 27:22 Seal up the book again, and hide it up into me

“The question has been asked many times of our elders: Where are the plates? Does the Church have in its possession the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith?

“When the answer is given that the plates were received again by the Angel Moroni, who through the centuries since they were hid up unto the Lord has been their special guardian, the reply is generally made: What a wonderful aid it would be to your people in convincing the world of the truth of your story if you could show the plates to prove that Joseph Smith really had them.

“Perhaps it is natural for a man who hears for the first time the story of Joseph Smith and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon to propound such a question and to think that the plates, if they had been placed in some museum where the public could examine them, would have added much to prove the authenticity of the Prophet’s story. With deeper reflection we discover that this would not have been the case, for it is not the way the Lord proves his truth, now or at any other time. However, in surprise, and in some cases with an incredulous smile, the propounder of this question turns away feeling that such an answer as he has received is an admission that Joseph Smith never had the plates and practiced a fraud upon the public.

“EXISTENCE OF PLATES WOULD NOT PROVE DIVINITY OF BOOK. It is well in considering this matter to remember the words of the Lord to Isaiah: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.'(Isa 55:8)

“If the Lord had followed the thoughts of men and had commanded Joseph Smith to place the plates in some repository where they could have been inspected by the curious public, it would have led to endless disputations. Enemies of the Church would not have been convinced and would have contended most bitterly that the plates were spurious. No one could have read them for the characters engraved on them are unknown to the savants of the present age.

“The Lord does not convince men of his truth by placing before their eyes and in their hands tangible evidence, as a lawyer may do before the court, marking it exhibit A and exhibit B, and then expect it to be accepted. The Lord expects the searcher after truth to approach him with a contrite spirit and with sincerity of purpose; if he will do this and keep the commandments of the Lord, he shall receive the witness through the Holy Spirit and shall know the truth.”     (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 3, pp. 227-8)

3. Nephi prophesies that Satan will spread false doctrines in the last days.

2 Nephi 28:7 Eat, drink and be merry

“Some people cannot think of anything else but annihilation.  What a glorious prospect for the sinner!  Then he could say, ‘Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die, and next day we will be annihilated, and that will be the end of our sorrow and of God’s judgment upon us.’ Do not flatter yourselves that you are going to get out of it so easy.  This Book of Mormon is replete all the way through with the testimonies of the servants of God that men are born to be immortal; that after the resurrection their bodies are to live as long as their spirits, and their spirits cannot die.  They are immortal beings, and they are destined, if they commit the unpardonable sin, to be banished from the presence of God and endure the punishment of the devil and his angels throughout all eternity.  I think the wicked would prefer annihilation to the suffering of such punishment.  That would be an end to punishment–an end to being.  This view cannot be reconciled with the word of God.” (Collected Discourses 1886-1898, ed. by Brian Stuy, vol. 4, Joseph F. Smith, Jan. 20, 1995)

2 Nephi 28:8 God will beat us with a few stripes

‘Why do some of our youth risk engaging in ritual prodigalism, intending to spend a season rebelling and acting out in Babylon and succumbing to that devilishly democratic “everybody does it”? Crowds cannot make right what God has declared to be wrong. Though planning to return later, many such stragglers find that alcohol, drugs, and pornography will not let go easily. Babylon does not give exit permits gladly. It is an ironic implementation of that ancient boast, “One soul shall not be lost.”  (Moses 4:1)

The philosophy of ritual prodigalism is “eat, drink, and be merry, … [and] God will beat us with a few stripes.” This is a cynical and shallow view of God, of self, and of life. God never can justify us “in committing a little sin.”  (2 Ne. 28:8) He is the God of the universe, not some night-court judge with whom we can haggle and plea bargain!

Of course God is forgiving! But He knows the intents of our hearts. He also knows what good we might have done while AWOL. In any case, what others do is no excuse for the disciple from whom much is required. Besides, on the straight and narrow path, there are simply no corners to be cut.’ (Neal A Maxwell, General Conference, October 1988)

2 Nephi 28:9 Vain and foolish doctrines

“The idea that one is better off after one has sinned and repented is a devilish lie of the adversary. Does anyone here think that it is better to learn firsthand that a certain blow will break a bone or a certain mixture of chemicals will explode and sear off our skin? Are we better off after we have sustained and then healed such injuries? I believe we all can see that it is better to heed the warnings of wise persons who know the effects on our bodies” (Dallin H Oaks, “Sin and Suffering,” in Brigham Young University 1989–90 Devotional and Fireside Speeches [1990], 151).

2 Nephi 28:12-14 False doctrine

‘We have no interest in teaching by the wisdom or learning or according to the precepts of men. We want to teach the gospel the way the Lord would have us teach it, and to do it under the power and influence of the Holy Ghost. If we will do that, we will teach sound doctrine. It will be the truth. It will build faith and increase righteousness in the hearts of men, and they will be led along that path which leads to the celestial world.

But if we teach without the Spirit of the Lord, if we are not guided by the Holy Ghost, we will be teaching at our peril. It is a serious thing to teach false doctrine, to teach that which is not true, to teach that which does not build faith in the hearts of men.’ (Bruce R McConkie, General Conference, October 1949)

2 Nephi 28:20 Stir them up to anger

“It should come as no surprise that one of the adversary’s tactics in the latter days is stirring up hatred among the children of men. He loves to see us criticize each other, make fun or take advantage of our neighbor’s known flaws, and generally pick on each other. The Book of Mormon is clear from where all anger, malice, greed, and hate come [2 Nephi 28:20]. By the looks of what we constantly see depicted in the news media, it appears that Satan is doing a pretty good job. In the name of reporting the news, we are besieged with sometimes graphic depictions—too often in living color—of greed, extortion, violent sexual crimes, and insults between business, athletic, or political opponents.” (Marvin J Ashton, Ensign, May 1992)

2 Nephi 28:21 All is well in Zion

“We have discussed elsewhere that other class of people who are basically unrepentant because they are not ‘doing the commandments.’ They are Church members who are steeped in lethargy. They neither drink nor commit the sexual sins. They do not gamble nor rob nor kill. They are good citizens and splendid neighbors, but spiritually speaking they seem to be in a long, deep sleep. They are doing nothing seriously wrong except in their failures to do the right things to earn their exaltation.” (Spencer W Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 211-2)

2 Nephi 28:22 His awful chains

‘We cannot say we will sow a few wild oats in our youth or that we will just dabble a little around the fringes of sin. There are no fringes of sin. Every act, good or bad, has a consequence. Every good act improves our ability to do good and more firmly stand against sin or failure. Every transgression, regardless of how minor, makes us more susceptible to Satan’s influence the next time he tempts us. Satan takes us an inch at a time, deceiving us as to the consequences of so-called minor sins until he captures us in major transgressions. Nephi describes this technique as one of pacifying, lulling, and flattering us away until Satan “grasps [us] with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance”’ (Richard C Edgley, General Conference, October 1994)

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4. Nephi teaches about the importance of the Book of Mormon.

2 Nephi 29:3 My words shall hiss forth

“Our main task is to declare the gospel and do it effectively. We are not obligated to answer every objection. Every man eventually is backed up to the wall of faith, and there he must make his stand. …

“The Book of Mormon is to be used ‘for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel,’ the Lord says, and its words ‘shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth.’ (2 Ne. 29:2.) We, the members of the Church, and particularly the missionaries, have to be the ‘hissers,’ or the tellers and testifiers, of the Book of Mormon unto the ends of the earth.

“The Book of Mormon is the great standard we are to use. … The Book of Mormon is the great finder of the golden contact. It does not contain things which are ‘pleasing unto the world’ (1 Ne. 6:5). … It is a great sieve” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Apr. 1975).

 

Posted in Uncategorized

My story (Reblogged from Feb 2015)

MormonBloke

Paul St Helier 1978001

I grew up in a poor family on a council estate. My father left home when I was very small never to be seen again. At that time I had three younger sisters. My mam worked hard, as a single parent, to support us but we were poor. I can remember being told to hide behind the settee and pretend that there was no-one home when the rent man called.

I learned to read very early and was an avid reader. I would read anything I could get my hands on and can remember reading the Bible from a very young age. We occasionally went to Sunday School at the Methodist chapel on the Green but we were not regular church goers.

When I was about 8 years old we started to attend the Kingdom Hall and to take lessons from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. One day, my mam was expecting…

View original post 470 more words

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Jesus Christ, LDS Doctrine, Temples

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 9 – My Soul Delighteth in the Words of Isaiah

1. Nephi testifies of Isaiah’s writings and gives keys for understanding them.

1 Nephi 19:23 I did liken all scriptures unto us

“In reading any of the standard works of the Church it is well to ascertain the literal meaning of the passage read first, and the lesson it was intended to convey to those to whom it was first communicated. And then it might be well to ask, What lesson does it convey to my time and age? To my nation? My community? My family? Or to myself?” (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon,vol. 1, p. 206)

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2 Nephi 11:2-8 for my soul delighteth in his words

‘Nephi quoted Isaiah because he delighted in “proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ” (2 Nephi 11:4). This provides an important insight into the particular passages Nephi chose to quote. Scholars call such passages “messianic” because they center on the Messiah. Watching for such messianic meanings helps an individual better understand Isaiah.

Nephi taught that the law of Moses and many other things were given by God to typify Christ. The word type has a peculiar scriptural meaning. It means that an object or event carries symbolic significance as well as a literal meaning. Thus, Alma says that the Liahona was a type (shadow or symbol) of how one comes to the true promised land (see Alma 37:38–47). To find out how profoundly symbolic the law of Moses was, see Mosiah 3:14–15, 13:29–31, Alma 25:15–16, 34:14, and Galatians 3:21–24.

Nephi quoted Isaiah for at least three major reasons: Nephi delighted in the words of Isaiah (see 2 Nephi 11:2), the words of Isaiah prove the truthfulness of the coming of Christ (see vv. 4, 6), and Nephi felt that readers “may lift up their hearts and rejoice” (v. 8) because of Isaiah’s words.’ (Book of Mormon Institute Manual)

2 Nephi 25:1 Isaiah spoke many things which were hard for many of my people to understand

“The prophets sometimes speak of future events as present, because they are present to them in their visions. For instance, ‘Unto us a Child is born.’ (Isa. 9:6)

“Similarly, they sometimes speak of the future as already past. For instance: ‘He hath borne our grief and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.’ (Is. 53:4)

“Another peculiarity is that the prophets sometimes group together future events very much as one combines stars into constellations in the wide expanse, according to their apparent position to an observer on earth, rather than their actual distance from each other.” (Reynolds and Sjodahl,Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 370)

2 Nephi 25:4 my soul delighteth in plainness

‘The Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the Savior’s gospel and is the only book the Lord Himself has testified to be true (see  D&C 17:6 see also Russell M. Nelson, “A Testimony of the Book of Mormon,”Liahona, Jan. 2000, 84; Ensign, Nov. 1999, 70). Indeed, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.

The convincing and converting powers of the Book of Mormon come from both a central focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ and the inspired plainness and clarity of its teachings. Nephi declared, “My soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn”  2 Nephi 25:4 The root word plain in this verse does not refer to things that are ordinary or simple; rather, it denotes instruction that is clear and easily understood.

The Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth because it centers upon the Truth (see  John 14:6  1 Nephi 13:40) even Jesus Christ, and restores the plain and precious things that have been taken away from the true gospel (see  1 Nephi 13:26, 28–29, 32, 34–35, 40) The unique combination of these two factors—a focus on the Savior and the plainness of the teachings—powerfully invites the confirming witness of the third member of the Godhead, even the Holy Ghost. Consequently, the Book of Mormon speaks to the spirit and to the heart of the reader like no other volume of scripture.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that abiding by the precepts found in the Book of Mormon would help us “get nearer to God” than any other book (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 64). Regular reading of and talking about the Book of Mormon invite the power to resist temptation and to produce feelings of love within our families. And discussions about the doctrines and principles in the Book of Mormon provide opportunities for parents to observe their children, to listen to them, to learn from them, and to teach them.’ (David A Bednar, General Conference, April 2010)

2. Isaiah sees the latter-day temple and the gathering of Israel.

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2 Nephi 12:2-3 The Mountain of the Lord’s House

‘Isaiah locates his prophecy in time as occurring “in the last days.” Of course, the “last days” are undated; but grouped with similar prophecies in Isaiah, they indicate the distant future prior to the final days of the earth.

Anthropology: In the prophetic future, Isaiah says, the “mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains.” What does it mean to establish a “mountain” in the “tops of the mountains?” For the ancients, the temple was a sacred location that acted as a bridge between this world and the next. Sometimes a building was erected at that location and acquired sanctity from its location, but the structure was secondary to the location. Mircea Eliade, the premiere analyst of comparative religions, comments:

Every sacred space implies a hierophany, an irruption of the sacred that results in detaching a territory from the surrounding cosmic milieu and making it qualitatively different. When Jacob in his dream at Haran saw a ladder reaching to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it, and heard the Lord speaking from above it saying: “I am the Lord God of Abraham,” he awoke and was afraid and cried out: “How dreadful is this place: this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” And he took the stone that had been his pillow, and set it up as a monument, and poured oil on the top of it. He called the place Beth-el, that is, house of God (Gen. 28:12–19). The symbolism implicit in the expression “gate of heaven” is rich and complex; the theophany that occurs in a place consecrates it by the very fact that it makes it open above—that is, in communication with heaven, the paradoxical point of passage from one mode of being to another.

It is no coincidence that Jacob sees the location of his experience not only as a “gate of heaven,” but even more importantly, as “beth-el—house of God.” For Jacob, the experience of his visionary dream made the location into the house (abode) of God even before he erected a monument to commemorate the location.

For the ancient world in which Israel and Judah participated, the correlation between sacred space and temple was paramount. Jacob’s vision on a stony plain was somewhat anomalous, since typically a mountain was seen as a suitable site for sacred communication between Yahweh and man. Yahweh put himself in Moses’s way through the medium of the burning bush: but when Moses deliberately met with Yahweh, he went to a mountaintop.

John M. Lundquist, a professor of religion and anthropology at Brigham Young University, has constructed a nineteen-point profile of the ancient Near East’s concept of a temple, using data from the Near Eastern religions in Egypt, Babylon, Israel, and Sumer from 3000 B.C. to at least 600 B.C.:

The temple is the architectural embodiment of the cosmic mountain.

The cosmic mountain represents the primordial hillock, the place which first emerged from the waters that covered the earth during the creative process. In Egypt, for example, all temples are seen as representing the primordial hillock.

The temple is often associated with the waters of life which flow from a spring within the building itself—or rather the temple is viewed as incorporating within itself such a spring or as having been built upon the spring. The reason that such springs exist in temples is that they were perceived as the primeval waters of creation. . . The temple is thus founded upon and stands in contact with the waters of creation. These waters carry the dual symbolism of the chaotic waters that were organized during the creation and of the life-giving, saving nature of the waters of life.

The temple is associated with the tree of life.

The temple is built on separate, sacral, set-apart space.

The temple is oriented toward the four world regions or cardinal directions, and to various celestial bodies such as the polar star. As such, it is, or can be, an astronomical observatory, the main purpose of which is to assist the temple priests in regulating the ritual calendar. The earthly temple is also seen as a copy or counterpart of a heavenly model.

Temples, in their architectonic orientation [architectural symbolism] express the idea of a successive ascension toward heaven. The Mesopotamian ziggurat or staged temple tower is the best example of this architectural principle. It was constructed of three, five, or seven levels or stages. Monumental staircases led to the upper levels, where smaller temples stood. The basic ritual pattern represented in these structures is that the worshippers ascended the staircase to the top, the deity descended from heaven, and the two met in the small temple which stood at the top of the structure.

The plan and measurements of the temple are revealed by God to the king or prophet, and the plan must be carefully carried out. The Babylonian king Nabopolassar stated that he took the measurements of Etemenanki, the temple tower in the main temple precinct at Babylon, under the guidance of the Babylonian gods Shamash, Adad, and Marduk, and that “he kept the measurements in his memory as a treasure.”

The temple is the central, organizing, unifying institution in ancient Near Eastern society.

The temple is associated with abundance and prosperity.…

The destruction or loss of the temple is seen as calamitous.…

Inside the temple, images of deities as well as living kings, temple priests, and worshippers are washed, anointed, clothed, fed, enthroned, and symbolically initiated into the presence of deity, and thus into eternal life. Further, New Year rites held in the temple include the reading and dramatic portrayal of texts which recite a pre-earthly war in heaven; a victory in that war by the forces of good, led by a chief deity; and the creation and establishment of the cosmos, cities, temples, and the social order. The sacred marriage is carried out at this time.

The temple is associated with the realm of the dead, the underworld, the afterlife, the grave. The unifying features here are the rites and worship of ancestors. Tombs can be, and in Egypt and elsewhere are, essentially temples.…

Sacral, communal meals are carried out in connection with temple ritual, often at the conclusion of or during a covenant ceremony.

The tablets of destiny (or tables of the decrees) are consulted in the cosmic sense by the gods, and yearly in a special temple chamber, the ubshukinna in the temple of Eninnu in the time of the Sumerian King Gudea of Lagash. It was by this means that the will of deity was communicated to the people through the king or prophet for a given year.

God’s word is revealed in the temple usually in the holy of holies, to priests or prophets attached to the temple or to the religious system that it represents.

There is a close interrelationship between the temple and law in the ancient Near East. The building or restoration of a temple is perceived as the moving force behind a restating or “codifying” of basic legal principles, and the “righting” and organizing of proper social order. The building or refurbishing of temples is central to the covenant process.

The temple is a place of sacrifice.

The temple and its ritual are enshrouded in secrecy. This secrecy relates to the sacredness of the temple precinct and the strict division in ancient times between sacred and profane space.

The temple and its cult are central to the economic structure of ancient Near Eastern society.

The temple plays a legitimizing political role in the ancient Near East.

Scripture: Isaiah covers three items in this verse, a time, a place, and an action. The time is the last days. The place is a temple built in the mountaintop, but not just an ordinary temple. It is a temple of temples, a mountain on mountains. It will be the preeminent location for sacred communication between Yahweh and man. And the action is that “all nations will flow unto it.” The divine communication will be so powerful that it will attract notice from all nations. Isaiah is being both literal (representatives of faraway nations will come to the temple) and figurative (they will receive, even afar, the word that Yahweh communicated in the sacred location).’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 12:3 He will teach us of his ways

“Let us be a temple-attending people. Attend the temple as frequently as personal circumstances allow. Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing.

“…As we become more removed from the lifestyle of the world, the Church becomes more the welcome refuge for hundreds of thousands who come each year and say, ‘Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem’ (Isa. 2:3).” (Howard W Hunter, “Exceeding Great and Precious Promises,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 8-9)

2 Nephi 12:4 Shall rebuke many people

“There will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years. The heathen nations who will not come up to worship will be visited with the judgments of God, and must eventually be destroyed from the earth.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 268.)

2 Nephi 12:5 walk in the light of the Lord

‘As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord”  (Isaiah 2:5  2 Nephi 12:5) Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see  Alma 5:7  32:28) and direct and protect you and your family.’ (David A Bednar, General Conference, April 2011)

3. Isaiah prophesies that the Lord will raise an ensign and gather Israel.

2 Nephi 15:26 lift up an ensign to the nations

“Over 125 years ago, in the little town of Fayette, Seneca County, New York, the Lord set up an ensign to the nations. It was in fulfillment of the prediction made by the Prophet Isaiah, which I have read [Isaiah 11:11–12]. That ensign was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was established for the last time, never again to be destroyed or given to other people [see Daniel 2:44]. It was the greatest event the world has seen since the day that the Redeemer was lifted upon the cross and worked out the infinite and eternal atonement. It meant more to mankind than anything else that has occurred since that day” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:254–55).

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2 Nephi 21:12 He shall set up an ensign for the nations

‘Rising above the Salt Lake Valley is a dome-shaped peak. Brigham Young saw it in a vision before the Saints left Nauvoo. He saw an ensign descend upon the hill and heard the voice of Joseph Smith say, ‘Build under that point … and you will prosper and have peace.’

“When Brigham Young first arrived in the valley, he immediately recognized the peak. On the morning of July 26, 1847, the men who would eventually comprise the new First Presidency, along with several members of the Twelve, climbed its slopes.

“This small group of priesthood leaders gazed out upon the valley below. ‘This is where we will plant the soles of our feet,’ President Young said, ‘and where the Lord will place his name amongst his people.’

“As I now stand at Ensign Peak and see the valley below, I marvel at the foresight of that little group. These prophets, dressed in old, travel-worn clothes, standing in boots they had worn for more than a thousand miles, spoke of a millennial vision. It was both bold and audacious. It was almost unbelievable.

“Here they were, almost a thousand miles from the nearest settlement to the east and almost eight hundred miles from the Pacific coast. They were in an untried climate. They had never raised a crop here. They had not built a structure of any kind.

“They were exiles, driven from their fair city on the Mississippi into this desert region of the West. But they were possessed of a vision drawn from the scriptures and words of revelation: ‘And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth’ (Isa. 11:12).” (Gordon B Hinckkley, “Faith in Every Footstep: The Epic Pioneer Journey,” Ensign, May 1997, 64 as taken from Commentaries on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. by K. Douglas Bassett, [American Fork, UT: Covenant Publishing Co., 2003], 184-185)

4. Isaiah and Nephi testify of Jesus Christ’s redeeming power.

2 Nephi 16:1 I saw also the  Lord sitting upon a throne

‘Earlier, Nephi had remarked that he, Jacob and Isaiah had all seen their redeemer (2 Nephi 11:2–3). Here we see that Isaiah was given the privilege of seeing the throne of God. This is a helpful scripture if one is faced with the common Christian doctrine that man cannot see the face of God. This is based on erroneous interpretations of the passage in John, ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declaredhim’ (Jn 1:18). The Joseph Smith translation makes a condition on this all exclusive statement, adding, ‘except he hath borne record of the Son.’ Later in John’s record we get another, less exclusive statement, ‘Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father’ (Jn 6:46).

In the Old Testament, there is ample evidence that the righteous saw God. Seventy of the elders of Israel were privileged to see God, ‘And they saw the God of Israel: and there wasunder his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness’ (Ex 24:10). Moses spoke with the Lord, ‘face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend’ (Ex 33:11). In this instance, it is apparent that Isaiah also was given the same privilege, ‘for mine eyes have seen the King’ (v. 5). Modern scripture helps us understand that this is only possible if one has become sufficiently purified and has exhibited sufficient faith. See DC 88:68, DC 93:1, and DC 97:16.’ (gospeldoctrine.com)

2 Nephi 16:2 Seraphim

“Seraphs are angels who reside in the presence of God, giving continual glory, honor, and adoration to him. ‘Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.’ (Ps. 148:2.) It is clear that seraphs include the unembodied spirits of pre-existence, for our Lord ‘looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made.’ (D. & C. 38:1.) Whether the name seraphs also applies to perfected and resurrected angels is not clear. While petitioning on behalf of the saints, the Prophet prayed that ‘we may mingle our voices with those bright, shining seraphs around thy throne, with acclamations of praise, singing Hosanna to God and the Lamb!’ (D. & C. 109:79.)

“In Hebrew the plural of seraph is seraphim or, as incorrectly recorded in the King James Version of the Bible, seraphims. Isaiah saw seraphim in vision and heard them cry one to another, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ (Inspired Version, Isa. 6:1-8.) The fact that these holy beings were shown to him as having wings was simply to symbolize their ‘power, to move, to act, etc.’ as was the case also in visions others had received. (D. & C. 77:4.)” (Bruce R McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 702-3)

2 Nephi 16:4 the house was filled with smoke

‘“The posts of the door moved … , and the house was filled with smoke” (2 Nephi 16:4). The shaking and the smoke are symbols of the presence of the Lord (see Revelation 15:8).’ (Institute Book of Mormon Student Manual)

2 Nephi 16:5 I am a man of unclean lips

“I’ve been stuck by the fact that when Isaiah received his charge from the Lord, he bemoaned that he was ‘a man of unclean lips’ (Isa. 6:5). This sin too had to be purged from Isaiah if he was to bear the word of the Lord….

“We need to eliminate from our conversations the immodest and the lewd, the violent and the threatening, the demeaning and the false.” (Robert S Wood, Ensign, Nov. 1999)

2 Nephi 16:6 a live coal

‘According to Hoyt Brewster, the “live coal” (2 Nephi 16:6) was a symbol of God’s cleansing power. Through its touch, Isaiah’s sins were “purged” and he was sanctified to perform God’s work… . The Hebrew word for “live coal” is ritzpah, translated as a “glowing (incandescent) stone.” (See Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, 131) [ Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Isaiah Plain & Simple, p. 46]’ (Alan C Miner, Step by step through the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 16:8 Whom shall I send?

‘At the moment of purification, Isaiah hears and responds to Yahweh’s call for a messenger. This scene is eerily similar to the Savior’s response to the premortal call for a redeemer: “And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first” (Abr. 3:27).

Yahweh’s call is not a lack of knowledge about who his special messengers will be. Rather it is an affirmation of the principle of agency. Yahweh so fully respects agency that such calls are not commands but invitations. The prophet’s acceptance is his free-will offering of service.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 25:23 after all we can do

“At first glance at this scripture (2 Ne 25:23), we might think that grace is offered to us only chronologically after we have completed doing all we can do, but this is demonstrably false, for we have already received many manifestations of God’s grace before we even come to this point. By his grace, we live and breathe. By grace, we are spiritually begotten children of heavenly parents and enjoy divine prospects…The grace of God has been involved in our spiritual progress from the beginning and will be involved in our progress until the end.

“It therefore belittles God’s grace to think of it as only a cherry on top added at the last moment as a mere finishing touch to what we have already accomplished on our own without any help from God. Instead the reverse would be a truer proposition: our efforts are the cherry on top added to all that God has already done for us.

“Actually, I understand the preposition ‘after’ in 2 Nephi 25:23 to be a preposition of separation rather than a preposition of time. It denotes logical separateness rather than temporal sequence. We are saved by grace ‘apart from all we can do,’ or ‘all we can do notwithstanding,’ or even ‘regardless of all we can do.’ Another acceptable paraphrase of the sense of the verse might read, ‘We are still saved by grace, after all is said and done.’

“In addition, even the phrase ‘all we can do’ is susceptible to a sinister interpretation as meaning every single good deed we could conceivably have ever done. This is nonsense. If grace could operate only in such cases, no one could ever be saved, not even the best among us. It is precisely because we don’talways do everything we could have done that we need a savior in the first place…

“Thus, the correct sense of 2 Nephi 25:23 would be that we are ultimately saved by grace apart from whatever we manage to do. Grace is not merely a decorative touch or a finishing bit of trim to top off our own efforts-it is God’s participation in the process of our salvation from its beginning to its end.” (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News, p. 91-2)

 

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Joseph Smith, LDS Doctrine

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 8 – O How Great the Goodness of Our God

1. Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ offers redemption from temporal death and spiritual death.

Structure of 2 Nephi 9:

  • Jacob explains the Resurrection and the Jugement (1-16)
  • A Hymn to the Holy One of Israel (17-24)
  • The Law and the First Wo (25-27)
  • Nine More Woes (28-38)
  • Jacob Exhorts His People to Remember (39-54)
  • (Structure according to Grant Hardy, The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition)

2 Nephi 9:5 that all men might become subject unto him

‘The Book of Mormon also teaches that the great Creator died “for all men, that all men might become subject unto him”  2 Ne. 9:5 Being subject to our Savior means that if our sins are to be forgiven through His Atonement, we must comply with the conditions He has prescribed, including faith, repentance, and baptism. The fulfillment of these conditions depends on our desires, our choices, and our actions. “He cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice”  (2 Ne. 9:21)’ (Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, April 2006)

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2 Nephi 9:6 Death hath passed upon all men

‘Our scriptures say: “Death hath passed upon all men, to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator.”  (2 Ne. 9:6)Where the true Saints are concerned there is no sorrow in death except that which attends a temporary separation from loved ones. Birth and death are both essential steps in the unfolding drama of eternity.

We shouted for joy at the privilege of becoming mortal because without the tests of mortality there could be no eternal life. We now sing praises to the great Redeemer for the privilege of passing from this life because without death and the resurrection we could not be raised in immortal glory and gain eternal life.’ (Bruce R McConkie, General Conference, October 1976)

2 Nephi 9:7 an infinite atonement

“His Atonement is infinite—without an end. It was also infinite in that all humankind would be saved from never-ending death. It was infinite in terms of His immense suffering. It was infinite in time, putting an end to the preceding prototype of animal sacrifice. It was infinite in scope—it was to be done once for all. And the mercy of the Atonement extends not only to an infinite number of people, but also to an infinite number of worlds created by Him. It was infinite beyond any human scale of measurement or mortal comprehension.

“Jesus was the only one who could offer such an infinite atonement, since He was born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father. Because of that unique birthright, Jesus was an infinite Being” (Russell M Nelson, Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 46; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 35).

2 Nephi 9:8-9 if the flesh should rise no more

“If the resurrection from the dead be not an important point, or item in our faith, we must confess that we know nothing about it; for if there be no resurrection from the dead, then Christ has not risen; and if Christ has not risen He was not the Son of God; and if He was not he Son of God there is not nor cannot be a Son of God, if the present book called the Scriptures is true; because the time has gone by when, according to that book, He was to make His appearance . . . And if He has risen from the dead, He will by His power, bring all men to stand before Him; for if He has risen from the dead the bands of the temporal death are broken that the grave has no victory, if then, the grave has no victory, those who keep the sayings of Jesus and obey His teachings have not only a promise of a resurrection from the dead, but an assurance of being admitted into His glorious kingdom.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 62. as taken from McConkie and Millet’s, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 240)

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2 Nephi 9:10 O how great the goodness of our God

“Thanks be to God for the wonder and the majesty of His eternal plan. Thank and glorify His Beloved Son, who, with indescribable suffering, gave His life on Calvary’s cross to pay the debt of mortal sin. He it was who, through His atoning sacrifice, broke the bonds of death and with godly power rose triumphant from the tomb. He is our Redeemer, the Redeemer of all mankind. He is the Savior of the world. He is the Son of God, the Author of our salvation” (Gordon B Hinckley, Conference Report, Apr. 1985, 69; or Ensign, May 1985, 51).

2 Nephi 9:12 Hell

‘The Mormon concept of hell is quite different from the traditional Christian view. Mormons believe that after death, all people enter the spirit world, which is divided into two spheres: a spirit paradise and a spirit prison. Those in spirit prison—which Mormons may sometimes call “hell”—suffer the consequences of any sins for which they have not repented and have the opportunity to learn about God and decide whether to reject or accept Christ’s love and teachings.

For Mormons, spirit prison is a temporary place, as almost all individuals who go there will benefit from the eternal perspective that the afterlife has afforded them, and will choose to follow God. After Christ’s second coming, each spirit will be joined with its perfected body and be judged for the final time (see verse 12); each will then be sent to spend eternity in one of three paradise kingdoms.

A very tiny minority (including those people who have blasphemed the Holy Spirit and have chosen to hate God) will be banished to outer darkness with Satan and his minions. Unlike spirit prison, which is a temporary hell-like state, outer darkness lasts forever.’ (Jana Reiss, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained)

2 Nephi 9:13 the plan of our God

‘The word “plan” is not found in the Bible, yet it’s found forty-two times in the Book of Mormon . . . and thirty-six times in the book of Alma. . . . Origen tells us that in the early church they taught that you earned your position here before you came here. So whatever happened to the plan? How did it drop out of the Bible? . . . When the temple was lost the rabbis took over. They were learned men but they were not priests. . . . The philosophers at the School of Alexandria took it over, and in their place you have the doctrines of St. Augustine–this takes the place of the plan. That is, you are predestined to damnation or you are predestined to salvation. . . . This predestination doctrine of St. Augustine was taken over by the Lutherans and by the Calvinists especially. What happens to you is because you were predestined that way. Of course, you didn’t live before you came here; you didn’t earn it or anything like that. . . . All creation had to be instantaneously, simultaneously complete. Everything was completely there all at once, so you had no background or anything. (Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 9:15  judged according to the holy judgment of God

‘The scriptures teach that every individual must “be judged according to the holy judgment of God.”  On that day there will be no opportunity to hide among a larger group or point to others as an excuse for our being unclean. Gratefully, the scriptures also teach that Jesus Christ, He who suffered for our sins, who is our Advocate with the Father, who calls us His friends, who loves us unto the end, He ultimately will be our judge. One of the often overlooked blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is that “the Father … hath committed all judgment unto the Son. (John 5:22)” (Allen D Haynie, General Conference, October 2015)

2 Ne 9:21 he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature

“Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause. The thought that He suffered through fear of death is untenable. Death to Him was preliminary to resurrection and triumphal return to the Father from whom He had come, and to a state of glory even beyond what He had before possessed; and, moreover, it was within His power to lay down His life voluntarily. He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible. It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance, could have suffered so; for his human organism would have succumbed, and syncope would have produced unconsciousness and welcome oblivion. In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all the horrors that Satan, ‘the prince of this world’ could inflict. The frightful struggle incident to the temptations immediately following the Lord’s baptism was surpassed and overshadowed by this supreme contest with the powers of evil.

“In some manner, actual and terribly real though to man incomprehensible, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world. Modern revelation assists us to a partial understanding of the awful experience. In March 1830, the glorified Lord, Jesus Christ, thus spake: ‘For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent, but if they would not repent, they must suffer even as I, which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit: and would that I might not drink the bitter cup and shrink — nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.’ (DC 19:16-9)

“From the terrible conflict in Gethsemane, Christ emerged a victor. Though in the dark tribulation of that fearful hour He had pleaded that the bitter cup be removed from His lips, the request, however oft repeated, was always conditional; the accomplishment of the Father’s will was never lost sight of as the object of the Son’s supreme desire. The further tragedy of the night, and the cruel inflictions that awaited Him on the morrow, to culminate in the frightful tortures of the cross, could not exceed the bitter anguish through which He had Successfully passed.” (James E Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pp. 613-4).

2 Nephi 9:22 Resurrection

‘The possibility that a mortal who has died will be brought forth and live again in a resurrected body has awakened hope and stirred controversy through much of recorded history. Relying on clear scriptural teachings, Latter-day Saints join in affirming that Christ has “broken the bands of death”  (Mosiah 16:7) and that “death is swallowed up in victory”  (1 Cor. 15:54 ) Because we believe the Bible and Book of Mormon descriptions of the literal Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we also readily accept the numerous scriptural teachings that a similar resurrection will come to all mortals who have ever lived upon this earth. As Jesus taught, “Because I live, ye shall live also”  (John 14:19) (Dallin H Oaks, General Conference, April 2000)

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2. Certain attitudes and actions prevent us from receiving all the blessings of the Atonement.

2 Nephi 9:27 wasteth the days of his probation

‘Many individuals preoccupied by the cares of the world are not necessarily in transgression. But they certainly are in diversion and thus waste “the days of [their] probation” ‘ (Neal A Maxwell, General Conference, October 2000)

2 Nephi 9:28-30 The proud who are learned and the proud who are rich

“The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and proud who are rich. The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with  them otherwise, the prophet is just giving his opinion-speaking as a man. The rich may feel they have no need to take counsel of a lowly prophet.” (Ezra Taft Benson, 1980 BYU Speeches of the year, p. 29 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 120)

2 Nephi 9:34 Wo unto the liar

“We believe in being honest [Articles of Faith 1:13]. …

“We all need to know what it means to be honest. Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving. …

“… Honesty is a moral compass to guide us in our lives. …

“Honesty is a principle, and we have our moral agency to determine how we will apply this principle. We have the agency to make choices, but ultimately we will be accountable for each choice we make. We may deceive others, but there is One we will never deceive. From the Book of Mormon we learn, ‘The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name’ [2 Nephi 9:41].

“There are different shades of truth telling. When we tell little white lies, we become progressively color-blind. It is better to remain silent than to mislead. The degree to which each of us tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth depends on our conscience. …

“… As President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, ‘Let the truth be taught by example and precept—that to steal is evil, that to cheat is wrong, that to lie is a reproach to anyone who indulges in it” (James E Faust, Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 57–61; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 41–44).

2 Nephi 9:42 puffed up because of their learning

‘What causes intellectual apostasy? Why do some learned men and women turn from the faith? It is not learning, for there are hundreds of us, thousands of us, equally well-trained. It isn’t being exposed to different ideas, for we too were exposed to these ideas in the finest universities of the land. Why, then, do they lose their testimony? Principally out of vanity and pride. They want to impress others with their learning. To put it indelicately, it is the problem of the swelled head, because that is exactly what the Prophet said.’ (Theodore M Burton, General Conference, April 1961)

3. The Lord remembers His covenants with His people.

2 Nephi 10:3 The name ‘Christ’

‘As a young missionary, I had a most interesting discussion with a clergyman. He told us that he could not accept the Book of Mormon because it openly spoke of Jesus Christ, using His name and events of His life hundreds of years before His birth. He found this transparency uncharacteristic of the pattern of the Old Testament that referenced the Savior more subtly.

To me the bold declaration of Jesus Christ is the very power of the Book of Mormon.  Of course, we must receive a spiritual witness that the book is of God.  But once that is obtained, the purposes of Christ, the reality of His life and Resurrection, and the clarity of what is necessary to follow Him and obtain eternal life with Him are strikingly tangible before us.’ (Neil L Andersen, Ensign, Oct. 2011, 41)

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Joseph Smith, LDS Doctrine

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 7 – I Know in Whom I Have Trusted

1. Lehi teaches that his descendants will be blessed through the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon

‘In the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, we read that “the Lord hath visited” Joseph, the son of Jacob spoken of in the Old Testament, and that Joseph was given great promises concerning his posterity (JST, Genesis 50:24). As Lehi testified, “Joseph truly saw our day” (2 Nephi 3:5), meaning the day of Lehi and his posterity, and knew that in the future God would raise up “a choice seer” (verse 7), namely the great prophet who was his namesake (see verse 15). Joseph knew also that it would be primarily his descendants whom the Lord would call upon first in these last days to carry the gospel to additional lost members of the house of Israel scattered among the nations of the earth, in compliance with the covenant God made with Abraham (see Bible Dictionary, “Joseph,” 716–17; Guide to the Scriptures, “Joseph, Son of Jacob”). Obviously, since the Lord kept His covenant with Joseph, He will also keep His covenants with us if we are righteous as well.

Lehi’s teaching is a great example of how Heavenly Father honored the covenant He made with Joseph. We can have the confidence that God will always honor His covenants.’ (Book of Mormon Institute Manual, 2009)

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2 Nephi 3:5 Out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.

‘This is a brilliant passage of prophecy. Lehi testifies that he (Lehi) had been shown in vision to Joseph in Egypt. In other words Joseph saw that Lehi would be the great leader who would be raised up to carry a branch of Joseph’s seed over the ocean to the promised land where they would receive the gospel of Jesus Christ in the latter days. What a thrilling thing this must have been when Lehi learned that he was shown to Joseph in Egypt over a thousand years before Lehi was born.’ (W Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 3:11 A seer will I raise up

‘The Prophet Joseph Smith brought us the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and many other writings. As far as our records show, he has given us more revealed truth than any prophet who has ever lived upon the face of the earth. And the Lord said: “And not to the bringing forth my word only, … but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.”  2 Ne. 3:11 What did he mean by that? That in the midst of these hundreds of churches of men—the result of men’s interpretations of the scriptures because they can’t agree, and these churches keep multiplying—that the Lord would give to this new prophet the ability to comprehend the scriptures that had already been sent forth among them.’ (LeGrand Richards, General Conference, April 1981)

2 Nephi 3:12 Confounding of false doctrines

‘The Bible sits on the pulpit of hundreds of different religious sects. The Book of Mormon, the record of Joseph, verifies and clarifies the Bible. It removes stumbling blocks, it restores many plain and precious things. We testify that when used together, the Bible and the Book of Mormon confound false doctrines, lay down contentions, and establish peace.

We do not have to prove the Book of Mormon is true. The book is its own proof. All we need to do is read it and declare it! The Book of Mormon is not on trial—the people of the world, including the members of the Church, are on trial as to what they will do with this second witness for Christ.’ (Ezra Taft Benson, General Conference, October 1984)

2 Nephi 3:13 Out of weakness he shall be made strong

‘The reference to Joseph Smith’s “weakness” describes his humble economic, educational, and social position. Despite these disadvantages he will be made powerful through God’s blessing and calling.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Ne 3:18 I will make for him a spokesman

‘The Lord provided Joseph Smith with the assistance of Oliver Cowdery. As soon as the prophet and Oliver became acquainted, the Prophet knew that Oliver had been sent to him by the Lord. If Joseph was compared unto Moses, Oliver was compared to Aaron. He was given to Joseph as a spokesman that would minister with the gift of Aaron. The Lord said to Oliver, you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron; behold, it has told you many things; Behold, there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you. Therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God (DC 8:6-8). See also DC 28:3.

Later on, the role of Joseph’s spokesman was filled by Sidney Rigdon. Sidney was a great orator and preacher in another church before he was converted to Mormonism. Records of early church meetings show that Sidney spoke regularly and at great length. The Lord said, it is expedient in me that you, my servant Sidney, should be a spokesman unto this people; yea, verily, I will ordain you unto this calling, even to be a spokesman unto my servant Joseph (DC 100:9). (Gospeldoctrine.com)

2. Nephi laments his sinfulness but glories in the goodness of God.

2 Nephi 4:13 Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael were angry with me

‘The brothers’ anger continues the longstanding dispute between Nephi and Laman and Lemuel. Even during Lehi’s life, the brothers resisted Nephi to the point of seeking his life. Now, the last vestige of familial loyalty was disappearing. Nephi recognizes his brothers’ argument (allegedly stolen primogeniture) but rejects it. He identifies the cause as his brothers’ unease at the constant reminders that they have denied and spurned Yahweh and the Spirit. Once a person has turned against the Spirit, its presence in another often generates anger with that person, a kind of generalized hatred toward all that is good.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

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2 Nephi 4:17-35 Nephi’s psalm

See http://publications.mi.byu.edu/publications/jbms/6/2/S00003-50cb760cec7d73Nickerson.pdf for a form-critical analysis of Nephi’s psalm.

2 Nephi 4:17 My soul grieveth because of mine iniquities

‘Many people feel discouraged because they constantly fall short. They know firsthand that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” They raise their voices with Nephi in proclaiming, “My soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.”

I am certain Nephi knew that the Savior’s grace allows and enables us to overcome sin. This is why Nephi labored so diligently to persuade his children and brethren “to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God.” (Dieter F Uchtdorf, General Conference, April 2015)

2 Nephi 4:18-19 Overcoming our sins and weaknesses

‘Throughout the Book of Mormon we note Nephi’s righteousness, his faithfulness in tribulation, and his dedication to God, but still he exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am! … I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me” (2 Nephi 4:17–18). The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) taught that “the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin” (History of the Church, 2:8). Perhaps Nephi felt burdened by what we might consider trivial weaknesses to the point where they caused him sorrow, and he sought to be free from any vestige of sin.

Nephi’s heartfelt plea for the Lord to help him overcome his weaknesses helps us understand how to conquer our own weaknesses. Personal experience teaches us of our need to do likewise. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded us why we are commanded to repent and admonished us to take advantage of the Lord’s redeeming power:

“Why have our Father and His Son commanded us to repent? Because they love us. They know all of us will violate eternal laws. Whether they be small or large, justice requires that every broken law be satisfied to retain the promise of joy in this life and the privilege of returning to Father in Heaven. If not satisfied, in the Day of Judgment justice will cause that we be cast out of the presence of God to be under the control of Satan. [See 2 Nephi 9:8–10; 2:5.]

“It is our Master and His redeeming act that make it possible for us to avoid such condemnation. It is done through faith in Jesus Christ, obedience to His commandments, and enduring in righteousness to the end.

“Are you taking full advantage of the redeeming power of repentance in your life so that you can have greater peace and joy? Feelings of turmoil and despondency often signal a need for repentance. Also, the lack of the spiritual direction you seek in your life could result from broken laws. If needed, full repentance will put your life together. It will solve all of the complex spiritual pains that come from transgression. But in this life it cannot remedy some of the physical consequences that can occur from serious sin. Be wise, and consistently live well within the boundaries of righteousness defined by the Lord” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2000, 31–32; or Ensign, Nov. 2000, 25).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that, regardless of a person’s susceptibility or tendency, we have an obligation to exercise our agency to overcome our personal weaknesses:

“Perhaps these persons, as the saying goes, were ‘born that way.’ But what does that mean? Does it mean that persons with susceptibilities or strong tendencies have no choice, no free agency in these matters? Our doctrine teaches us otherwise. Regardless of a person’s susceptibility or tendency, his will is unfettered. His free agency is unqualified. It is his freedom that is impaired. … We are all responsible for the exercise of our free agency.

“… Most of us are born with thorns in the flesh, some more visible, some more serious than others. We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions. This must be so. God has said that he holds us accountable for what we do and what we think, so our thoughts and actions must be controllable by our agency. Once we have reached the age or condition of accountability, the claim ‘I was born that way’ does not excuse actions or thoughts that fail to conform to the commandments of God. We need to learn how to live so that a weakness that is mortal will not prevent us from achieving the goal that is eternal.

“God has promised that he will consecrate our afflictions for our gain (see 2 Nephi 2:2). The efforts we expend in overcoming any inherited weakness build a spiritual strength that will serve us throughout eternity. Thus, when Paul prayed thrice that his ‘thorn in the flesh’ would depart from him, the Lord replied, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ [2 Corinthians 12:9]” (“Free Agency and Freedom,” in Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr., ed., The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, the Doctrinal Structure [1989], 13–14).

(Book 0f Mormon Institute Manual 2009)

2 Nephi 4:20 My God hath been my support

‘Last, I refer to the life of Nephi from the Book of Mormon as an example of faithful endurance. With his parents, he left prosperous circumstances in Jerusalem and then for eight years, in great affliction, journeyed in the wilderness. The family then crossed uncharted seas to a new land. During this period, Nephi was assailed, ridiculed, and persecuted by members of his household. Following the death of his father, Nephi and other family members had to separate themselves from his older brothers because they sought his life. Out of his despair, he declared, “My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep” ‘ (Howard W Hunter, General Conference, April 1980)

2 Nephi 4:21 The  consuming of my flesh

‘Nephi alludes to experiences with the Spirit so powerful that it has resulted in physiological consequences for him. Perhaps “the consuming of my flesh” parallels descriptions of the Spirit as a “burning.” In inadequate human words, Nephi is attempting to describe the sensation of being filled with the Spirit.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 4:22 Confounded mine enemies

‘In these verses Nephi is trying to build up his thankfulness to God for all the blessings that have been poured out upon him. Somehow he is trying to counteract the temptation to take revenge on those who have already tried to kill him four different times and are now thinking of trying it again.’ (W Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 4:26 If I have seen so great things

‘Nephi writes that God has granted him spiritual visions, angelic ministrations, protection from enemies, unfathomable love, and mighty answers to prayer. Why, then, does he feel so utterly dejected and alone? This section of Nephi’s psalm reflects other elements often found in psalms of lament: physical diminishment and an impossibly heavy heart.’ (Jana Reiss, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained)

2 Nephi 4:27 Why should I give way to temptations

‘Nephi personalizes his spiritual struggles by contrasting the marvels of his spiritual experiences with the realities of temptations. Nephi does not doubt or discount his spiritual experiences. These temptations seem relatively minor. The picture is not one of an abject sinner approaching Yahweh, but of a righteous man seeing clearly his lack of perfection and need for continuing grace.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 4:28 Give place no more for the enemy of my soul

‘We can reject the evil one. If we want it dearly and deeply enough, that enemy can and will be rebuked by the redeeming power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, I promise you that the light of His everlasting gospel can and will again shine brightly where you feared life had gone hopelessly, helplessly dark.’ Jeffrey R Holland, General Conference, April 2010)

2 Nephi 4:31 O Lord wilt Thou redeem my soul?

‘Nephi closes his psalm with a clear entreaty that God will deliver him from his own sins and also from the hands of his enemies. Like other psalms of deliverance, this one asks for a shield of protection and closes with a confession of total submission and trust.’ (Jana Reiss, The Book of Mormon: Selections Annotated and Explained)

 2 Ne 4:32 a broken heart and a contrite spirit

‘The doctrine of a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” begins with the law of sacrifice as contained in the Old Testament. Under that law, the firstborn were sacrificed in similitude of the Only-Begotten Son. We are quick to teach that the law of animal sacrifice was fulfilled in the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are sometimes slow to realize that there was a replacement “law of sacrifice.” The new law as taught by the Savior requires just as regular and frequent a sacrifice. The difference is that we are to sacrifice a broken heart and a contrite spirit upon the altar of discipleship. 3 Ne 9:19-20 reads as follows:

And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.

And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

Through our faith in Jesus Christ we become his disciples and offer up a broken heart and contrite spirit. It is through this faith and sacrifice that we can obtain forgiveness of sins, 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 (2 Ne 2:7).This doctrine is even contained in the Old Testament, For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart (Ps 51:16-17).’ (gospeldoctrine.com)

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3. The anger of Laman and Lemuel increases against Nephi, and the Lord commands the followers of Nephi to separate from the followers of Laman

2 Nephi 5:3 They did murmur against me

‘Laman and Lemuel murmured against father Lehi for leading them into the wilderness because of the “foolish imaginations of his heart.” This same depressing duo declared that father Lehi had judged the Jerusalemites too harshly, yet Jerusalem was soon to fall.

Lehi rebuked murmuring Laman and Lemuel for complaining over Nephi’s saying “hard things” to them. Lehi noted: “That which ye call anger was the truth.”  (2 Ne. 1:26) How often you and I, brothers and sisters, can make that same mistake! Cutting truth does hurt, but its lancing can drain off pride.

There was murmuring, too, because Nephi broke his steel bow and couldn’t build a ship and because he was seen as trying to “rule over us” . Those same murmurers, however, soon surfeited themselves on the meat brought back by Nephi’s new bow, and they sailed in the ship that Nephi built. How handy inspired but imperfect leaders in the Church are as focal points for our frustrations, especially if circumstances require them to suffer in silence! Having confidence in leaders who keep confidences is part of sustaining them.’ (Neal A Maxwell, General Conference, October 1982)

2 Nephi 5:4 They did seek to take away my life

;We have to remember that this is the fifth time Laman and Lemuel had seriously conspired to kill their younger brother. On all four previous occasions the Lord intervened and saved Nephi’s life. However, this time it suited the purposes of God to take a different course of action.’ (W Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

2 Nephi 5:5 Separate ourselves from wickedness

‘There are times when it is necessary to physically flee from evil, such as with Nephi and his followers. Notice that it was “those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God” who went with Nephi (2 Nephi 5:6). In like manner, today those who hearken to the warnings and revelations of modern prophets are the ones who are spiritually following them. We may not always be able, however, to physically move ourselves away from wickedness. Elder Richard G. Scott shared how we can protect ourselves:

“God has provided a way to live in this world and not be contaminated by the degrading pressures evil agents spread throughout it. You can live a virtuous, productive, righteous life by following the plan of protection created by your Father in Heaven: His plan of happiness. It is contained in the scriptures and in the inspired declarations of His prophets. …

“Avoid worldly wickedness. Know that God is in control. In time, Satan will completely fail and be punished for his perverse evil. God has a specific plan for your life. He will reveal parts of that plan to you as you look for it with faith and consistent obedience. His Son has made you free—not from the consequences of your acts, but free to make choices. God’s eternal purpose is for you to be successful in this mortal life. No matter how wicked the world becomes, you can earn that blessing. Seek and be attentive to the personal guidance given to you through the Holy Spirit. Continue to be worthy to receive it. Reach out to others who stumble and are perplexed, not certain of what path to follow” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2004, 103–4, 106; or Ensign, May 2004, 100, 102).

(Book 0f Mormon Institute Manual 2009)

2 Nephi 5:6 and all those who would go with me

‘2 Nephi 5:6 explains that Nephi, Zoram, Sam (including each of their respective spouses and children), Jacob, Joseph, and Nephi’s sisters, all fled with Nephi from Laman and Lemuel (and their followers). Curiously, Nephi adds to this list of people by including “and all those who would go with me.” Is this a passive reference to the pre-Lehite natives of the Americas who had possibly intermingled with the Lehites? There is no doubt that there were other people on the continent when Lehi and family arrived (and not just the Jaredites). Later in the chapter (2 Nephi 5:34) it is noted that after only a few decades the Nephites and Lamanites had already had “wars and contentions”. This makes the most sense if the groups are much larger than the original group (plus subsequent children) who came on the boat (about 40-50 people). The greater numbers required for “wars and contentions” could be easily be explained by the native inhabitants of the land who joined themselves to the Nephites and Lamanites. (fairmormon.org)

2 Nephi 5:27 after the manner of happiness

‘While living in Bountiful, Nephi was charged by the Lord with the responsibility to build the ship which would take them across the sea to the promised land. After they arrived in the promised land, great conflicts continued to arise between the people who centered their lives in Christ and the nonbelievers, who followed the examples of Laman and Lemuel. Ultimately, the risk of violence between the two groups was so great that Nephi and those who followed the teachings of the Lord separated themselves and fled into the wilderness for safety. At this point in time, some 30 years after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem, Nephi makes a well-documented and somewhat surprising statement, especially after recording in the scriptures the many afflictions and tribulations they had faced for so long. These are his words: “And it came to pass that we [did live] after the manner of happiness.” Despite their hardships, they were able to live after the manner of happiness because they were centered in Christ and His gospel.’ (Richard J Maynes, General Conference, October 2015)