Posted in Inspirational

The parable of the tableware

I recently came across this story told by Elder F Burton Howard while I was preparing a lesson on eternal marriage. I liked it so much I thought I would share it here.

‘We have been married for almost 47 years now. From the beginning [my wife] knew what kind of marriage she wanted.

We started as poor college students, but her vision for our marriage was exemplified by a set of silverware. As is common today, when we married she registered with a local department store. Instead of listing all the pots and pans and appliances we needed and hoped to receive, she chose another course. She asked for silverware. She chose a pattern and the number of place settings and listed knives, forks, and spoons on the wedding registry and nothing else. No towels, no toasters, no television—just knives, forks, and spoons.

The wedding came and went. Our friends and our parents’ friends gave gifts. We departed for a brief honeymoon and decided to open the presents when we returned. When we did so, we were shocked. There was not a single knife or fork in the lot. We joked about it and went on with our lives.

Two children came along while we were in law school. We had no money to spare. But when my wife worked as a part-time election judge or when someone gave her a few dollars for her birthday, she would quietly set it aside, and when she had enough she would go to town to buy a fork or a spoon. It took us several years to accumulate enough pieces to use them. When we finally had service for four, we began to invite some of our friends for dinner.

Before they came, we would have a little discussion in the kitchen. Which utensils would we use, the battered and mismatched stainless or the special silverware? In those early days I would often vote for the stainless. It was easier. You could just throw it in the dishwasher after the meal, and it took care of itself. The silver, on the other hand, was a lot of work. My wife had it hidden away under the bed where it could not be found easily by a burglar. She had insisted that I buy a tarnish-free cloth to wrap it in. Each piece was in a separate pocket, and it was no easy task to assemble all the pieces. When the silver was used, it had to be hand washed and dried so that it would not spot, and put back in the pockets so it would not tarnish, and wrapped up and carefully hidden again so it would not get stolen. If any tarnish was discovered, I was sent to buy silver polish, and together we carefully rubbed the stains away.

Over the years we added to the set, and I watched with amazement how she cared for the silver. My wife was never one to get angry easily. However, I remember the day when one of our children somehow got hold of one of the silver forks and wanted to use it to dig up the backyard. That attempt was met with a fiery glare and a warning not to even think about it. Ever!

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I noticed that the silverware never went to the many ward dinners she cooked, or never accompanied the many meals she made and sent to others who were sick or needy. It never went on picnics and never went camping. In fact it never went anywhere; and, as time went by, it didn’t even come to the table very often. Some of our friends were weighed in the balance, found wanting, and didn’t even know it. They got the stainless when they came to dinner.

The time came when we were called to go on a mission. I arrived home one day and was told that I had to rent a safe-deposit box for the silver. She didn’t want to take it with us. She didn’t want to leave it behind. And she didn’t want to lose it.

For years I thought she was just a little bit eccentric, and then one day I realized that she had known for a long time something that I was just beginning to understand. If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by.

Eternal marriage is just like that. We need to treat it just that way.’ (General Conference April 2003)

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

Gospel Doctrine – Lesson 34 – How Could You Have Forgotten Your God?

1. The people are righteous and are blessed with peace and prosperity.

Helaman 6:5 Exceedingly great power and authority

‘Mormon emphasizes the ironic juxtaposition of the recalcitrant Nephites who encounter the “exceedingly great power and authority” of the Lamanite missionaries who are not only fully converted but also apparently empowered with the priesthood.

The Nephites who could listen open-hearted to their message were brought down “into the depths of humility.” They would have to be. All of their national pride would have vaunted their religious superiority over the Lamanites. Now they must admit that the righteous Lamanites were calling them to a much-needed repentance. Only the humble could hear such a message.

Paul must have faced such a challenge when he first began to preach. Having been a persecutor of the Saints, he becomes one of this despised group’s foremost teachers. Perhaps, however, it is also one reason why his most significant ministry occurred outside Jerusalem, away from the scene of his former actions against the Christians.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Helaman 6:8 They did have free intercourse one with another to buy and to sell

‘Never in Nephite history had the trade barriers been completely broken down as at this time. As soon as the righteousness of the Lamanites opened up all the Lamanite markets, the Nephite merchants were there to buy and sell. The result was an increase in trade and intercourse with the motive of getting ‘gain, according to their desire’. The laws of economics teach that whenever commerce and trade increase, the economy is strengthened. Whenever the economy is strengthened, the merchants benefit. This is precisely what happened among the Nephites. Their increase in trade had strengthened their economy until ‘they became exceedingly rich, both the Lamanites and the Nephites’ (v. 9).’ (Bryan Richards, GospelDoctrine.com)

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2. The Nephites become proud and wicked. Nephi calls them to repentance.

Helaman 6:17 Setting hearts upon riches

“God is forgotten out of vanity. A little prosperity and peace, or even a turn slightly for the better, can bring us feelings of self-sufficiency. We can feel quickly that we are in control of our lives, that the change for the better is our own doing, not that of a God who communicates to us through the still, small voice of the Spirit. Pride creates a noise within us which makes the quiet voice of the Spirit hard to hear. And soon, in our vanity, we no longer even listen for it. We can come quickly to think we don’t need it” (Henry B Eyring, in Conference Report, Oct. 2001, 16; or Ensign, Nov. 2001, 16).

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Helaman 6:18-40 The evils of secret combinations

Helaman chapter 6 provides several insights into secret combinations, including how they work, what motivates them, and how they come to power:

  1. Their two objectives are to get gain and power; then they glory in it (see Helaman 6:17; Ether 8:22; Moses 5:31).
  2. Secret combinations require general wickedness to survive (see Helaman 6:21, 31, 38).
  3. Secret combinations thrive on secrecy, violation of which is a capital offense (see Helaman 5:22;6:22; Moses 5:29, 50).
  4. Secret combinations involve formal covenant making (see Helaman 6:22; Moses 5:30–31).They use murder, violence, threat of violence, plunder, vice, whoredoms, and flattery to get gain and power (see Helaman 2:4–5; 6:17, 23).
  5. Secret combinations operate on laws contrary to the laws of the country (see Helaman 6:23).
  6. Satan is the grand conspirator and author (seeHelaman 6:26–30).
  7. Participants have court trials for their own people—not according to the laws of the land but according to their own set of laws (see Helaman 6:23–24).
  8. They seek to take governmental power as rapidly as possible (see Helaman 2:5; 6:39).
  9. Participants seek to overthrow freedom for others but seek to maintain freedom for themselves (see Ether 8:25; Moses 5:28–33).
  10. Secret combinations cause the destruction of nations (see Alma 37:21, 26, 29; Helaman 2:13;Ether 8:21–22).
  11. Secret combinations are abominable in God’s sight (see 3 Nephi 9:9; Ether 8:18). (Book of Mormon Institute Manual)

Helaman 6:23 And thus they might murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms

‘The Book of Mormon teaches that secret combinations engaged in crime present a serious challenge, not just to individuals and families but to entire civilizations. Among today’s secret combinations are gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime families.  The secret combinations of our day function much like the Gadianton robbers of the Book of Mormon times… Among their purposes are to “murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the law of their country and also the law of their God.”

If we are not careful, today’s secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and just as completely as they did in Book of Mormon times.’  (M Russell Ballard, Ensign, Oct. 2011, 50)

Helaman 7:4 Laying aside the commandments of God

‘Mormon records Nephi’s dismay at the Gadianton control over the government. Since Gadianton goals are antithetical to the gospel, and particularly to the Nephite egalitarian ideal, Mormon describes them as “laying aside the commandments of God.” This political takeover also means that the laws no longer provide “justice unto the children of men.” The Gadianton takeover has altered the basic fabric of Nephite society.

While Mormon and Nephi certainly saw this development as calamitous and quick-acting, like a coup, the actual process had occurred over time, eventually reflecting a shift in the people’s attitudes. Although the Gadianton ascension clearly altered the balance of power, that ascension happened because a fundamental shift had correspondingly occurred about how Nephite society ought to be. The voice of the people had become the voice of the Gadiantons.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Helaman 7:6 His heart was swollen with sorrow

“I have come to believe that this is worth knowing, not only for teachers, but for everyone. If you get a little depressed during those dreary days, do not begin to think that you’re psycho-something-or-other.

“For missionaries, this was well worth knowing. Occasionally a missionary told me in an interview, ‘I’m not doing very well. I just seem to be depressed and discouraged.’ Unless there was an unusual reason for these feelings, my answer was, ‘Well, I’m glad to hear that. At least now we know that you’re normal. Enjoy the feeling-it probably won’t last. And the first sunny day will do wonders for it.’

“We know from the Book of Mormon that there must be opposition.

‘For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.’ (2 Nephi 2:11.)

“It helps a great deal if we realize that there is a certain healthy element in getting the blues occasionally. It is quite in order to schedule a good, discouraging, depressing day every now and again just for contrast.” (Boyd K Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, p. 101-2)

Helaman 7:23 It shall be better for the Lamanites

‘Only the repentant can be saved. The way out of destruction remains open, if only they would accept it. As a rhetorical device, Nephi warns the people, using what should be the greatest contrast possible, in saying “it shall be better for the Lamanites” in Yahweh’s judgment if the Nephites will not repent. Despite the massive conversion of Lamanites and their generosity in returning the land of Zarahemla to the Nephites, Nephi here invokes the firm and enduring Nephite antipathy against Lamanites. This bigotry and prejudice was the inheritance of the Nephite fathers, parallel to and just as unreasonable as the Lamanite tradition that Nephi1 had usurped the privileges of Laman and Lemuel. For the Nephites, being compared unfavorably to the Lamanites would have been an affront, something nearly impossible to believe. Nevertheless, it was quite true. Yahweh favors faithfulness, not ancient prejudices. The Nephites as a people no longer followed Yahweh, while many of the Lamanites did and had, furthermore, converted the Gadiantons among them to the gospel (Hel. 6:20).’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Helaman 8:6 We are powerful and our cities great

‘We would never hear Captain Moroni or Helaman use such language.   Captain Moroni always acknowledged God when they were successful in defending themselves, and always took responsibility when they had failures.  Sometimes wickedness brings a false sense of strength and security.’ (John Bytheway.com)

Helaman 9:39 Believed because of the testimony of the five

“Now, don’t ever think your testimony isn’t strong, because it is. Every testimony that’s born is not born of man, but born of God by the power of the Holy Ghost. When you bear testimony, it’s not you. It’s not me. It’s the Spirit of God, and that’s powerful.” (Ed J. Pinegar, Especially for Missionaries, vol. 4, chapter 2)

3. The Lord gives Nephi the sealing power. The unrepentant Nephites face warfare and famine.

Helaman 10:5-6 Behold I will bless thee forever

“The story goes that someone once asked Michelangelo how he could transform ordinary rock into his marvelous statues. Reportedly, the artist replied that he just chiseled until everything that wasn‘t the statue wasn’t there. To be spiritual means to have a sense of who we truly are and then to be that person.

“Eventually, spirituality becomes such an integral part of our being that we can follow our heart’s true desires without doing anything wrong. Nephi, the son of Helaman, reached that point where there was no conflict between what he wanted and what was right…This kind of spirituality requires that we consciously move away from all that is unkind, unholy, impure, or unchristian. It requires that we let go of anger and revenge. And it yields a peace of heart and soul. It makes us able to find good things to do without constantly being asked, pushed, or reminded.” (Mary Ellen Edmunds, Ensign, Oct. 1985, p.14)

Helaman 11:2 Secret band of robbers

‘Mormon assumes that his readers will understand that even the surge of converts resulting from Nephi’s preaching did not tip the numerical balance. The Gadiantons are still a majority in the land of Zarahemla, still retain the “voice of the people,” and still are working to transform Nephite society into something more closely resembling the larger culture. In other words, violence was not directed only against chief judges but against believing Nephites in general.

This civil war pits church-men and Gadiantons against each other. It has erupted out of long-standing differences. Now that those who favor Gadianton-style culture are in the majority, believers become victims.

It is important to Mormon that we see the Gadiantons as causing this war. Regardless of the movement’s origin or historical name, Mormon terms every manifestation of this philosophy “Gadianton.” Even though this particular reign of Gadiantons has no discernible connection to the small band of Gadiantons from Helaman2’s day a generation earlier, Mormon insists on it. For him, the enemy is no longer “Lamanite” but “Gadianton.” This source of greatest danger to the Nephites is no longer in some distant city but in the Nephite heartland.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Helaman 11:4-5 Famine

“The Lord uses the weather sometimes to discipline his people for the violation of his laws” (Spencer W Kimball, in Conference Report, Apr. 1977)

Helaman 11:6 They did perish by thousands

“The destroying angel will…exercise his tremendous mission upon the children of disobedience; and destroy the workers of iniquity, while the Saints will be gathered out from among them, and stand in holy places ready to meet the Bridegroom when he comes.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 92)

4. The Nephites humble themselves and repent.

Helaman 11:10 They have concealed their secret plans in the earth

‘Question: Nephi said that [the Gadianton band] had become extinct and they had concealed their secret plans in the earth. You [Hugh Nibley] said that meant they went underground?

Answer: I mean they literally went underground if they buried their secrets in the earth. They will dig them up later on–don’t worry. These things are hid and dug up. You find them. They put them in caves and their sacred places. If you go near those places, you are in real danger because those places are carefully guarded. They have all sorts of things in them. I had quite an adventure in one where you would never expect there was anything at all. They had the whole thing down underground. ‘ [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 3, p. 267]

Helaman 11:20 Exceedingly great peace in the land

‘Prior to the famine the Nephites had prospered and become wealthy. They then rejected the gospel’s egalitarian principles in favor of adopting the social hierarchies around them. After the famine ended, all of the factors that had led to the original increase in wealth were still in place: food, trade, and prosperity. The famine had temporarily changed their focus from wealth to survival. Once their survival was assured, all of the processes that had led to the previous prosperity were reestablished.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Helaman 11:21-38 Wickedness returned

‘The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “the devil always sets up his kingdom at the very same time in opposition to God” (History of the Church, 6:364). Whenever the Savior’s Church is established or strengthened, the adversary seeks to create resistance in one form or another to battle the progress made by the Saints of God. We see an example of Satan’s opposition emerge inHelaman 11. The Gadianton robbers had been swept off the land. The righteous Nephite and Lamanite members of the Church had great peace (see Helaman 11:21). Only a few years passed, however, before Satan’s influence on the people led them to return to iniquity and allowed the Gadianton robbers to regain their power and influence.’ (Book of Mormon Institute Manual)

Helaman 11:22-23 Points of doctrine

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.

“The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. … That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” (Boyd K Packer, in Conference Report, Oct. 1986).

Helaman 12:1 The unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men

“You and I need to be patient, and for a reason. A quick reading of the Book of Mormon, a few prayers, a shallow attempt at repentance, a casual regard for the covenants we’ve made-of course, that is not enough. The scriptures use over and over again the word ‘steadiness’ to describe faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. When faith and repentance and diligent efforts to live the commandments have gone on long enough that virtue garnishes our thoughts unceasingly, then the doctrine of the priesthood, the truthful answers to the questions that really matter, will distill upon us as the dews from heaven.

“That’s been my experience with seeking the confirmation of truth by the Spirit of God. I have at times sought it by singular effort, in times of great need, and it has come. Investigators have that experience when they reach the point where they must know if the Book of Mormon is true.

“But far more often for me, I notice the Spirit’s presence in quiet confirmations at times when all I seem to have done is plod on in diligence, doing the simple things-searching the scriptures with a prayer in my heart and with more concern for others, and therefore less time for pursuits that let Satan, the father of lies, entice me. It’s in periods of that steadiness that I notice the Holy Ghost, almost in the way you’re surprised to discover that your shoes are wet from the dew formed on the grass overnight, and I look up and realize that my mind has been enlightened and my heart has been enlarged.” (Henry B Eyring, To Draw Closer to God, p. 120)

Helaman 12: 7-8 How great is the nothingness of the children of men

‘This is an interesting statement, for those of us who grew up in a generation where we were constantly told that we were “saved for the last day” and “a chosen generation” and even “Saturday’s Warriors,” only be told in the Book of Mormon that “man is nothing” and even “less than the dust of the earth.”  How is this possible if we are really the sons and daughters of God?  The answers lie in verse 8.  The dust obeys God.  Man rebels.  If God tells the dust what to do, the dust obeys, with no pushback.

Footnote 7a directs us to a story in the Pearl of Great Price wherein Moses has a fascinating encounter with God.  Three times, Moses is addressed as “Moses, my son.”  Yet, after the vision, Moses concludes, “Now I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.”  (Moses 1:10).  I love this story, because Moses illustrates how we can keep these two ideas, “man is nothing” and “I am a son of God” in perfect harmony.  Yes, we are nothing without God, but with God, we can be something.’ (JohnBytheway.com)

 

 

Posted in Jesus Christ, Symbolism

Caravaggio’s The Calling of St Matthew

My pearl among women and I recently had a short break in Rome. One of the great things about Rome is that there are wonderful works of art and architecture everywhere you turn. On our way to the Pantheon we called into the church of San Luigi dei Francezi (also known as the ‘French Church’) near the Piazza Navoni. In this church we found three masterpieces by Caravaggio on display – ‘The Calling of St Matthew’, ‘The Inspiration of St Matthew’ and ‘The Martyrdom of St Matthew’. These pictures have been displayed in this same church for over 400 years. The Calling of St Matthew dates to 1599-1600.

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The painting shows the story of the calling of the tax-collector Matthew, also known as Levi, from Matthew 9:9: ‘And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.’

Caravaggio depicts Matthew sitting at a table with four other tax collectors. Jesus and Peter have entered the room, and Jesus is pointing at Matthew. A beam of light illuminates the faces of the men at the table.

Some points of interest:

  • The scene is gloomy and darkly lit until Christ brings the true light to the dark space.
  • Jesus and Peter are simply dressed in contrast to the tax collectors.
  • Jesus and Peter are barefoot – a symbol of holiness?’
  • Christ, dressed in red, points at Matthew as he calls him
  • Matthew is surprised and points to himself as if to say ‘Who, me?’

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  • A coin is stuck in Matthew’s hat symbolising the importance of money to him and his right hand is still reaching for the coins. If he answers the call he is going to have to give this up.

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  • The position of Jesus’ hand reflects that of God in Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling. As God is about to give life to Adam so Christ is about to give life to the spiritually dead Matthew.

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  • The two tax collectors on the left seem to be so engrossed in the counting of their takings that they do not even register Christ’s presence. If Matthew does not follow Christ he will become like them.

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  • The two tax characters on the right form a barrier between Matthew and Jesus and one is carrying a sword. These are the thugs who help Matthew extort his taxes. Matthew will have to break free of these companions to follow the Saviour. There is a gap between Jesus and Peter and the other characters in the painting. Matthew must cross that gap.

Calling of Matthew, thugs

  • Christ’s feet are already pointing towards the door – Matthew must make a quick decision to follow him.
Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Jesus Christ, Missionary work

Gospel Doctrine – Lesson 33 – A Sure Foundation

1. Internal strife develops among the Nephites.

Helaman 1:1 Contention for the judgement seat

The contention of the sons of Pahoran for the judgment seat is a good example of what can happen in a democracy when men refuse to accept the will of the people. The contention for the judgment seat opened the way for much evil and eventually resulted in the downfall of the Nephite nation.

Note the following points found in Helaman 1:

  • Capital punishment was the accepted punishment for treason (see v. 8).
  • Those who sought to circumvent the law for personal power were willing to resort to murder to get their way (see v. 9).
  • The contention over the judgment seat gave the attacking Lamanites an advantage against the Nephites (see vv. 18–20).
  • Because the Lamanites first invaded the weaker center of the Nephite lands, Moronihah and his troops were able to surround them and compel them to surrender (see v. 31).
  • As his father, Moroni, had done earlier, Moronihah “caused that the Lamanites who had been taken prisoners should depart out of the land in peace” (v. 33).

(Book of Mormon Institute Manual)

Helaman 1:4 “Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni”

‘There is in the Book of Mormon, within one important family, a group of names beginning with Pa-.  They are peculiar names and can be matched exactly in Egyptian. ‘ (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 282).

‘It is hard to explain bull’s-eyes like Korihor, Pahoran, and Paankhi as pure accidents.  Paankhi was a popular Egyptian name in the seventh century B.C., but it was not known until the end of the last [nineteenth] century. ‘ (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, 170).

I’n a study by Gardiner [an Egyptologist], he refers to “Piankhi’s Instructions to His Army.”  That is a peculiar name, a pure Egyptian name, and one odd enough that no one could have possibly invented it in the Book of Mormon.  Piankhi was a general before the time of Lehi, was very famous, became king of Egypt, and the name became quite popular afterwards …. But of course the name occurs in the Book of Mormon (Helaman 1:3). ‘  (Hugh Nibley, Temple and Cosmos, 255).

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Hugh Nibley

Helaman 1:12 Kishkumen and his band

“Thus they became an underground organization, whose members’ identity was ‘not known unto those who were at the head of the government’ (Helaman 3:23). And that explains how it was possible later on, in the midst of great peace and prosperity, for the chief of state, Cezoram, and after him his son and successor, to be murdered in office in such a way that the assassins were never discovered (Helaman 6:15). It is significant that the times of great prosperity and abundance were also the times when murder and intrigue were the order of the day, ‘for behold, the Lord had blessed them so long with the riches of the world that . . . they began to set their hearts upon their riches; yea, they began to seek to get gain that they might be lifted up one above another; therefore they began to commit secret murder . . . that they might get gain’ (Helaman 6:17). The sequence is a natural one: with easy wealth comes the feeling of superiority which makes people status-conscious; and with a feeling for status comes a desperate need to acquire the one thing that will give status; and with the recognition of the all-importance of that one thing, any scruples that may stand in the way of its acquisition are pushed aside, even murder being permissible as long as one is not found out.” (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, p. 363)

Helaman 1:13 It was according to his right

‘It appears that the sons of Pahoran had a “right” to the judgment-seat by lineal descent. In following the laws instituted by Mosiah2, the people could have a voice in choosing their Chief Judge, but that “voice” was limited to choosing from among the sons of a deceased Chief Judge. The reason such care was taken by Mosiah2 during the transfer of power from kings to the judges is that the liberty of the Nephites – ultimately the church – was at risk if a Mulekite should ever consolidate the reigns of power.’  [Michael M. Hobby, The Mulekite Connection, p. 34]

Helaman 1:18 Because of so much contention

‘At the risk of wearying the reader, we should not belabor the point, but the only time that the Lamanites were ever able to make significant progress in their battles with the Nephites was when the Nephites were in the midst of internal strife. Internal strife naturally came only in times of Nephite wickedness but this problem had plagued Moroni for his entire career. Now his son Moronihah inherits the legacy of internal instability and its costly consequences.’ (Bryan Richards, GospelDoctrine.com)

Helaman 2:4 Gadianton

“Gadianton was a Nephite apostate; the founder and first leader of the robber bands that bore his name. He is first mentioned in connection with the attempt by Kishkumen to assassinate Helaman, the Chief Judge, 50 B.C. At that time Gadianton had organized his band and bound its members together with the most horrible and blasphemous oaths and covenants to stand by and protect each other in all their treasons, villainies, and crimes. These oaths and secret compacts had not been searched out of the old records by Gadianton, but that same being who had revealed them to Cain, the first murderer, had whispered them to him. Gadianton was a crafty, capable man, full of strategy and cunning; a flatterer and an expert in the use of many words; and at this time he desired to be elected Chief Judge of the Nephite Commonwealth. To this ambition his followers gave full consent, as he promised them that when elected, they should fill the offices of honor and profit which would be at his disposal.” (Reynolds and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 5, pp. 203-4)

Helaman 2:5 Kishkumen sought to destroy Helaman

‘Kishkumen and his band had already decided to take action against the new chief judge when they murdered Pahoran2 but failed to achieve their political goals. They undoubtedly hoped that Pacumeni’s murder would facilitate their rise to power. That hope was dashed with the seating of Helaman2. Their goal, however, remained the same, so they targeted Helaman with the same strategy of assassination.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

2. Thousands join the Church; some Church members are lifted up in pride.

Helaman 3:27-28 Thus we see

‘We love to find the words “thus we see” because we know that Mormon wants us to see and draw a conclusion from the events being described.  Here we are reminded of the Lord’s mercy to all who call on his name, and that the “gate of heaven” is open to all. 2 Nephi 31:17 refers to repentance and baptism as the “gate by which ye should enter.”’ (JohnBytheway.com)

Helaman 3:33 People who professed to belong to the church

“…there are two churches. There are the people who profess it, and the people who really are. They all profess to belong to the church of God, but how do you distinguish? Well, as Paul says, our security rests in this. God knows his own. Only he knows the ones who are true Latter-day Saints and those who aren’t. We have no means of knowing. You’d be surprised what rascals there are among us and what good people there are among us too. But you never suspect.” (Hugh Nibley, Teachings From The Book of Mormon, Lecture 75, p. 215)

Helaman 3:35 They did fast and pray oft

“The world needs self-discipline. You can find it in fasting and prayer. Our generation is sick for lack of self-control. Fasting and prayer help to instill this virtue…In addition to the occasional fasting experience for a special purpose, each member of the Church is expected to miss two meals on the fast and testimony Sunday. To skip two consecutive meals and partake of the third normally constitutes approximately a 24-hour period. Such is the counsel.

“Competent medical authorities tell us that our bodies benefit by an occasional fasting period. That is blessing number one and perhaps the least important. Second, we contribute the money saved from missing the meals as a fast offering to the bishop for the poor and the needy. And third, we reap a particular spiritual benefit that can come to us in no other way. It is a sanctification of the soul for us today just as it was for some choice people who lived 2,000 years ago.” (Robert L Simpson, Conference Report, Oct. 1967)

fasting

Helaman 3:36 The Fifty and Second Year

‘According to Dr. Sami Hanna, the numbering system throughout the Book of Mormon is clearly Semitic. As illustrated in Helaman 3:36, there is a connective word “and” between each digit: “And it came to pass that the fifty and second year ended in peace.”

If Joseph had been merely writing his own book, it would have been natural and expected for him to write “fifty-second year.” But again, he was only translating from the hieroglyphics placed before him. ‘[Brenton G. Yorgason, Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon, p. 34]

3. Lamanites and Nephite dissenters defeat the Nephites.

Helaman 4:5 They succeeded in obtaining possession of the land of Zarahemla

‘Mormon’s purpose in abridging the plates is not to give us a long description of every war which occurred among the Nephites. Chapter 4 chronicles a war which was about as extensive as the ones described in Alma 43 to Alma 62. In fact, never had the Lamanites had such military success, capturing the land of Zarahemla and also all the lands in the land southward. However, Mormon does not bother us with the details. He doesn’t give us warfare for the sake of warfare. He never elaborates on the strategic successes of the Lamanites. As a Nephite general, it would have been too painful for him to write them.

Rather, he described the warfare in the end of Alma because it taught us certain lessons. It provided great examples of integrity and strength in Moroni, Pahoran, Helaman, and his stripling warriors. Having given us such a characteristic description of Nephite and Lamanite warfare, he abridges the current war into less than a chapter because he has already taught us the major lessons to be learned.’ (Bryan Richards, GospelDoctrine.com)

Helaman 4:12 Because of their exceeding riches

“For the most part, the Church today finds itself in much the same circumstances as those in the beginning of the book of Helaman. It is wealthy and growing rapidly. Are we in danger? The Book of Mormon suggests that the only real danger to the Church itself is not an outward foe but rather a more powerful and far more devastating enemy within-pride. It grows in the hearts of those who profess to be Saints. It is little wonder that President Benson has warned us against pride. Will we heed the warning or become as the Nephites of old?” (Richard D. Draper, FARMS: Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, Fall-1994, p. 32)

Helaman 4:14-16 Because of their iniquity

‘Mormon next records renewed efforts to call the people to repentance, an effort sufficiently successful that Moronihah can recapture half of the territory. Mormon thus underscores his moral argument that the Nephites’ fate is directly related to their righteousness. However, because only half of the territory was regained (both a historical and moral fact), he hints that their repentance was not complete. Mormon’s formula thus explains the Nephites’ loss of virtually all their land except for Bountiful, their partial repentance and partial retaking of territory, but their eventual destruction.’ Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

4. Nephi and Lehi remember their father’s counsel. Miracles attend their ministry.

Helaman 5:2 They who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good

“If television viewing choices serve as a valid measure of our society, they who choose evil surely are more numerous than they who choose good.” (Joseph B Wirthlin, Finding Peace in Our Lives, p. 218)

Helaman 5:6 When you remember their names, ye may remember them

‘Helaman2 begins his charge to his sons by reminding them of their names’ significance. In the ancient world, names were more than simple labels. They could change a person’s identity and/or represent his essential (or desired) nature. When God changed Abram’s name (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of many nations”), it signaled a change in his relationship to Yahweh, a relationship marked by promises so important that it became embodied in the name (Gen. 17:5).

This understanding explains not only why Helaman gave his sons these names but also why he gave them their charge: “When you remember your names ye may remember them… [and]… their works.” The original Lehi and Nephi were faithful to Yahweh, and their works showed this commitment.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Helaman 5:12 A strong foundation

“Someone once said you can’t visually tell the difference between a strand of cobweb and a strand of powerful cable—until stress is put on the strand. Our testimonies are that way, and for most of us, the days of stress for our testimonies have already begun. It may not be the death of a loved one. We might not yet have been asked to give up something that is really precious to us, though the time for such a test may well come to us by and by. Our current stress is more likely to come in the form of overpowering temptations, which show us that a shallow acceptance of the gospel does not have the power to cope with the full fury of the powers of darkness. Perhaps there is a mission call to a place of illness and disappointment, when we had planned on a mission to a place of unbounded opportunity. Or perhaps there are too many questions to which our limited knowledge simply has no answer, and those who claim to know more than we do taunt us with what appears to be a persuasive certainty.

“When those times come, our testimonies must be more than the cobweb strands of a fair-weather faith. They need to be like strands of cable, powerful enough to resist the shafts of him who would destroy us. In our days of stress and trouble, we must be built ‘upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, … that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, … and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you, … because of the rock upon which ye are built.’ (Helaman 5:12.)” (Bruce C Hafen, The Believing Heart, 2nd ed. [1990], 21–22).

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Helaman 5:22-34 Miraculous occurrences

‘The marvelous events described in Helaman 5:22–34 are similar to occurrences described elsewhere in the scriptures.

Nephi and Lehi were surrounded by fire which did not harm them (see v. 23). Compare this with the experience of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace (see Daniel 3:19–27), and the experience recorded concerning the little children at the time of Jesus’ visit to the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 17:24).

The walls of the prison shook on three separate occasions as if they might tumble down (see Helaman 5:27, 31, 33). Compare this to the time the walls of the prison in Ammonihah fell and killed all but Alma and Amulek (see Alma 14:27–28).

A voice was heard from heaven three separate times commanding the people to repent and to cease persecuting the servants of the Lord (see Helaman 5:29, 32–33). This is similar to the voice that was heard just prior to the Savior’s appearance among the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 9, 10:3–7).

A cloud of darkness overshadowed those who assembled near the prison, making it impossible for the Lamanites to flee “because of the fear which did come upon them” (Helaman 5:34). Compare this with the darkness at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion (see 3 Nephi 8:20–23). (Book of Mormon Institute Manual)

Helaman 5:47 Peace

“The gospel is the only answer to the problems of the world. We may cry peace. We may hold peace conferences. And I have nothing but commendation for those who work for peace. But it is my conviction that peace must come only by following the teachings and the example of the Prince of Peace.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Title of Liberty, pp. 213-4)

Helaman 5:49 They we bidden to go forth and marvel not

‘That three hundred people should have shared this experience certainly confirmed its veracity. It is human, however, to wonder about such things when one is away from the group, alone with the memory—hence, the brothers’ admonition to remember and doubt not.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Posted in Inspirational

FSY – another week of miracles!

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This last year we have been blessed to work on preparing for another session of FSY with a truly wonderful team. The session took place at the beginning of August and was attended by around 400 youth and 81 YSA counsellors. As last year, we were privileged to see many miracles as hearts were touched and lives changed. Here is a very small (but typical) sample of the feedback from the session:

‘I learnt many new things at FSY. I learnt how to properly read the scriptures and not just skim through them. I learnt how I can press forward with a steadfastness in Christ as well as the importance of sharing the gospel.’ (Participant, aged 17)

‘I felt the Spirit almost all the time over this last week.’ (Participant aged 17)

‘I became a more loving person. I became a true believer in Christ’s love for all of us individually. I became more empathetic, working on seeing people as Christ sees them, assuming the best about them and their intentions.’ (Participant aged 15)

‘Spiritually I enjoyed the Living Christ activity as it really strengthened my testimony. I also liked the social events (dance etc) because I felt more socially confident than I usually am.’ (Participant aged 14)

‘Christ means more to me now as I know how much he loves me.’ (Participant aged 17)

‘It was really fun and a great experience’. (Participant aged 16)

‘I learned that the Book of Mormon is true and that my Saviour is real and loves me.’ (Participant aged 15)

‘I have felt the Spirit very often, especially in testimony meetings and in the Living Christ activity. It has been amazing.’ (Participant aged 16)

‘I have a fresh determination/resolution to be my better self. My goal was to have quality time communicating with Heavenly Father on my knees morning and night and I feel that I have’ (Counsellor)

‘I particularly liked the time we were given to personally study the scriptures and also the morningsides as they were very spiritual forms of teaching.’ (Participant aged 16)

‘Christ means more to me because I feel like I can relate to him more and that I feel his love more and I am able to recognise when the Spirit touches my life.’ (Participant aged 15)

‘I wasn’t really too keen on coming this week but I’m glad that I did – I’ve met so many new people and done so many things and learned so much – my life will never be the same again. I can’t wait to come back and do it all again! FSY!’ (Participant aged 14)

‘My observations and local feedback have left me with no doubt as to the outstanding success and incredible impact FSY has had on our youth.’ (Priesthood leader)

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 32 – They Did Obey Every Word of Command With Exactness

1. Two thousand valiant young Ammonites covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites.

Alma 53:14 They were about to break the oath

“Now, the application-Do you realize that we made a promise, a covenant at the water’s edge? You and I are pretty well along in years, some of you, but we remember our baptism on our eighth birthday. There was a sense that came to us that we would not swear after that baptism, that we would do whatever our parents asked us to do, that we would do our part, or render service in the Church when called upon to do it. We were only children at eight years of age, that is true, but I can remember those feelings and sentiments as clearly as though they were yesterday. Don’t you?

“Later we realized what that covenant is. We buried the ‘old man,’ with all of his weaknesses, his jealousies, his tendency to slander, that we might come forth and walk in the newness of life. We refer to it now as the covenant made at the water’s edge.

“You made it, you gave your word. Is your word your bond? I ask the Church, and especially the men who hold the Priesthood…We teach honor, truth, integrity, and square-dealing, but to all this we add sacredness of our word of honor. God help us to keep our covenants.” (David O McKay, Conference Report, October 1952, p. 88-90.)

Alma 53:16 The stripling warriors

“To our young men who go into service, no matter whom they serve or where, we say live clean, keep the commandments of the Lord, pray to Him constantly to preserve you in truth and righteousness, live as you pray, and then whatever betides you the Lord will be with you and nothing will happen to you that will not be to the honor and glory of God and to your salvation and exaltation. There will come into your hearts from the living of the pure life you pray for, a joy that will pass your powers of expression or understanding. The Lord will be always near you; He will comfort you; you will feel His presence in the hour of your greatest tribulation; He will guard and protect you to the full extent that accords with His all-wise purpose. Then, when the conflict is over and you return to your homes, having lived the righteous life, how great will be your happiness—whether you be of the victors or of the vanquished—that you have lived as the Lord commanded. You will return so disciplined in righteousness that thereafter all Satan’s wiles and stratagems will leave you untouched. Your faith and testimony will be strong beyond breaking. You will be looked up to and revered as having passed through the fiery furnace of trial and temptation and come forth unharmed. Your brethren will look to you for counsel, support, and guidance. You will be the anchors to which thereafter the youth of Zion will moor their faith in man” (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1942, p. 96).

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Alma 53:19 They would that Helaman should be their leader

‘Helaman’s role so far has been to preach the word of God (Alma 48:19). Helaman was the custodian of the Nephite record and presumably the chief high priest of the church (see heading for Alma 45 and Alma 46:6). According to the record, he had absolutely no military experience. Yet, true to form, the spiritually-minded sons of Helaman chose to be led by a man experienced in the ways of the Spirit rather than someone experienced in the ways of war. The relationship of trust and mutual respect which developed is unparalleled, for Helaman later said, ‘they did observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them’ (Alma 57:21).’  (Bryan Richards, GospelDoctrine.com)

Alma 57:21 With exactness

“I find the elements of obedience within this verse fascinating. What is the motivation for obeying with exactness? Could this be seen as blind obedience? Blind obedience is sheep following sheep, while following in exactness is sheep following the Shepherd; and Christ is the Good Shepherd (see Alma 5:37-39). This is the same principle the Lord was teaching the Saints in 1832, when he said, ‘I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise’ (D&C 82:10). By obeying Helaman’s orders with exactness, they were showing they did not doubt the Lord’s promise made to them through their mothers.

“The stripling warriors must have been aware that their obedience to their leaders was an extension of their obedience to their God. This was not a new concept to the Nephites. (See 1 Nephi 3:5-7; Mosiah 2:30-31; Alma 45:2-8) Their obedience to Helaman’s command was more than swift, it was exact. A celestial strategy was involved, even in that mortal battlefield. They had been promised that if they, ‘did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his [God’s] marvelous power’ (Alma 57:26). Would it have been possible for them to support their God without supporting their leaders? This is the ultimate test of obedience; to show one’s allegiance to a perfect and infallible God by how we obey those less than perfect who are called to lead us.” (K. Douglas Bassett, Alma, the Testimony of the Word, ed. by Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate, Jr., p. 229)

2. The young soldiers exercise faith in God and fight courageously.

Alma 53:20 Exceedingly valiant

‘Listen to those words, my young brethren: valiant, courage, strength, active, true. We don’t need spiritually weak and semicommitted young men. We don’t need you to just fill a position; we need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate missionaries who know how to listen to and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t a time for spiritual weaklings. We cannot send you on a mission to be reactivated, reformed, or to receive a testimony. We just don’t have time for that. We need you to be filled with “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God”  (D&C 4:5)’ (M Russell M Ballard, General Conference, October 2002)

Alma 56:38-39 But, behold, it was night

‘The fact that all movement stops after dark is a telling detail about the influence of light in warfare. All three armies have a great incentive to move quickly. Nevertheless, all three stop when night falls. This description depicts the difficulties of large-scale troop movements in Mesoamerica over an area that almost certainly had, at best, a trail rather than a smooth road, uneven terrain, and untold natural obstacles from vegetation and topography. Mesoamerican battles seldom included night maneuvers; they typically began at first light. Helaman’s resumption of flight “before” dawn—probably as soon as it was possible to distinguish objects, again accurately depicts Mesoamerican conditions.’ (Brant Gardner, Second Witness)

Alma 56:47 They had been taught by their mothers

“When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?” (Neal A Maxwell, “The Women of God,” Ensign, May 1978, 10-11)

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Alma 56:48 We do not doubt our mothers knew it

‘In the Book of Mormon we read about 2,000 exemplary young men who were exceedingly valiant, courageous, and strong. “Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him”  Alma 53:21 These faithful young men paid tribute to their mothers. They said, “Our mothers knew it”  Alma 56:48 I would suspect that the mothers of Captain Moroni, Mosiah, Mormon, and other great leaders also knew.

The responsibility mothers have today has never required more vigilance. More than at any time in the history of the world, we need mothers who know. Children are being born into a world where they “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”  Ephesians 6:12 However, mothers need not fear. When mothers know who they are and who God is and have made covenants with Him, they will have great power and influence for good on their children.’ (Julie Beck, General Conference, October 2007)

Alma 57:20 Firm and undaunted

“‘You reflect this Church in all you think, in all you say, and in all you do,’ President Hinckley told the youth. ‘Be loyal to the Church and kingdom of God.’ …

“President Hinckley told the youth that they are ‘out there as the sons of Helaman in a world that is full of destructive influences. … But if you put your trust in the Almighty and follow the teachings of this Church and cling to it notwithstanding your wounds, you will be preserved and blessed and magnified and made happy.’

“Speaking of the world in which they live, President Hinckley told the youth, ‘You’re in the midst of Babylon. The adversary comes with great destruction. Stand above it, you of the noble birthright. Stand above it’” (“Prophet Grateful for Gospel, Testimony,” Church News, Sept. 21, 1996, 4).

 

Posted in Book of Mormon, Gospel Doctrine 2016, Leadership

Gospel Doctrine 2016 – Lesson 31 – Firm in the Faith of Christ

1. The Nephites fight to defend their families and their liberty.

Alma 43: Prophets Know Where the Enemy Will Strike

Moroni’s confrontation with Zerahemnah teaches us the value of prophets in times of war and peace.  When Zerahemnah’s army changed course after being frightened by the Nephite army, Captain Moroni immediately issued two orders: First, he sent spies to follow Lamanite army, and second, he sent men to inquire of the prophet Alma where the Lamanites might go.  This is faith and works.  He did everything in his power, and he called on a power higher than his own.

Modern prophets have continually warned that in the latter-days, the adversary will attack marriage and family.  More than thirty years ago, President Harold B. Lee stated, “Satan’s greatest threat today, is to destroy the family and make a mockery of the law of chastity and the sanctity of the marriage covenant” (Church News, August 19. 1972, 3).  In 1995, The Proclamation to the World: The Family was issued.  Prophets tell us where the enemy strike next. The spiritual message is clear: Keep your eyes on the living prophets, they know where the enemy will attack. (JohnBytheway.com)

Alma 43:3 Now I return to an account of the wars

“The morning was dark and cold, the children were half-asleep, and our reading in the Book of Mormon seemed endless. We were mired somewhere in the last half of the book of Alma and, frankly, we weren’t getting much out of it.

“Whenever we got into those detailed accounts of the wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites, our enthusiasm for daily scripture study waned…And so, as the sleepy voices droned on, my mind began to wander. Why? Why did Mormon include so much detail about the wars? With all the wonderful spiritual events that must have taken place, why would he use so much valuable space on the plates to record military intrigue and battle strategy?

“The day’s reading session finally ended, but my search for an answer had just begun…the question continued to nag at me. It wasn’t until several weeks later that I found what was, for me, a key to the answer I sought. A friend was sharing her concern that perhaps her children would not remain righteous with all the worldly influences around them. ‘I’m really scared,’ she said. ‘It’s like a war out there.’ As she spoke, my mind filled with the unlikely scene of her children lined up on the front lawn in fierce battle against the heavily armed forces of the adversary.

“Then it hit me. That was it! This was the war that applied to me-not a war of swords and spears, but the eternal war for my soul and those of my family. Satan is waging an all-out war against truth and righteousness. His forces are everywhere, and we are involved in that war whether we like it or not. The danger is real, and the stakes are high. All around us we see the battle casualties, their lives ruined and their souls scarred. If we expect to avoid becoming casualties ourselves, we desperately need the Lord’s guidance-and there is no better place to find it than in that book of scripture prepared specifically for our day: the Book of Mormon!

“In great excitement I opened the book of Alma and began to read the main war chapters again. But this time, instead of skimming through the various battle accounts, I thought of the Lamanites, who were wicked at the time of these battles, as representing the forces of evil, with Satan at their head, and the Nephites, who were generally righteous at that time, representing the Saints of our day, struggling to protect themselves and their families. Suddenly the battlefield was no longer remote in time and place. This battle was my battle! The family under siege was mine!

“With this new insight, I found more than one hundred passages in the last twenty chapters of Alma alone that contain useful information about how Satan and his forces operate or that describe inspired strategies for defending ourselves against evil. Seemingly insignificant military details revealed valuable counsel when I simply asked the question ‘How does this apply to the war against evil today?’

“…No longer am I tempted to skip the war stories in the Book of Mormon or daydream my way through them. If I am to successfully defend my family in the great war with evil, I want to take advantage of every word of counsel from the Lord’s ‘combat manual’ for the latter days-the Book of Mormon.” (Kathleen S. McConkie, Ensign, Jan. 1992, “Defending Against Evil”)

Alma 43:9 Liberty

‘First-time readers of the Book of Mormon are often surprised at the number of references to “freedom” and “liberty.” Actually, “freedom” appears 26 times in Alma, all between chapters 43 and 63. There are only three other direct references in the entire Book of Mormon. The term “liberty” or its derivative appears thirty-three times in these same Alma chapters, more than the rest of the Book of Mormon put together. . . . Both “freedom” and “liberty” (Hebrew: deror and hopsi) have their Hebrew roots in emancipation from slavery. As is true of [Moroni] as an individual and [the Nephites] as a nation, freedom and liberty came because of making and keeping covenants with God.’ [Thomas R. Valletta, “The Captain and the Covenant,” in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word, pp. 236-237]

Alma 43:16 Moroni

“At this moment the twenty-five-year-old Moroni appears on the scene, a military genius if there ever was one. He introduced improvements in armor to make his people far more than a match, man for man, for the enemy (Alma 43:19-21); he arranged the Jershon defense zone (Alma 43:22), and being on the defensive and greatly outnumbered, was particularly diligent in keeping a sharp lookout on all enemy movements, at the same time inquiring of the holy prophet Alma (after what is now known to have been an ancient custom in Israel) regarding the enemy’s plan of battle, ‘whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites’ (Alma 43:23). On the other hand, the Lamanite campaign was directed by Amalekite and Zoramite officers, whose knowledge of Nephite military secrets and methods would have given them an enormous advantage over any commander but Moroni.” (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, p. 298)

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Alma 43:23 Moroni sent spies

“Not unlike the Nephite spies, modern prophets and the scriptures can give us advance warning of the plans of the evil one. If we follow the Lord’s counsel through his prophet, as did Moroni, we too can know how, when, and where to best defend ourselves. The gospel gives us the ‘battle strategy,’ and the Church provides the necessary structure for setting up our defenses and defeating the enemy with minimum casualties.” (Kathleen S. McConkie, Ensign, Jan. 1992, “Defending Against Evil”)

Alma 44:1 We do not desire to be men of blood

“Here was Moroni’s chance to settle the Lamanite problem once and for all on the spot; a vastly superior force had entered and ravaged a large part of his country, bent on subduing it entirely, and now he had them, as he says, completely in his power. Well might he have said, ‘Kill or be killed. It is either you or us!’ and finished them off. But instead of that type of total victory he did not even ask for unconditional surrender…All he asked of his bloodthirsty foe was that they deliver up their weapons and promise not to fight the Nephites anymore; then they could go their way in peace without reprisals, punishment, hostages, or guarantees (Alma 44:6).” (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, p. 298)

Alma 44:3 Ye cannot destroy this our faith

“Many have got angry with us, but that is nothing new; the wicked have always shown anger when the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been upon the earth.

“Many have tried to stay the progress of the work of God, but it has continued to roll on in spite of all the opposition with which it has had to contend. The prophet saw a little stone cut out of the mountain without hands, and it continued to roll and smote the feet of the image made of clay, brass, silver, gold, and iron, and it became as the chaff of the summer threshing floor; but the little stone grew and increased until it became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

“It will be so with this stone which God has hewn out in these last days; and though men may combine to stay its progress and may set themselves in array against the Lord and His anointed, yet He will come out of His hiding place and will vex such people and nations, and He will overturn and overturn until Truth shall prevail the wide world over, and until His kingdom shall reach from the rivers to the ends of the earth; until all men shall bow to the sceptre of Immanuel; until the wicked shall be rooted from the earth, and His kingdom shall be established and given to His Saints to possess for ever and ever.” (John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 13:19)

 

Alma 48:17 Like unto Moroni

“Captain Moroni, chief captain of the Nephite armies, is a man Mormon greatly admired. He devotes a large part of his abridgment to the wars fought by Captain Moroni and may even have named his son after this courageous captain. The description of Captain Moroni in the book of Alma gives some insight into Mormon’s personality. He admires Moroni for his skill as a general but even more for his faith in God.” (Book of Mormon Symposium Series, Alma, edited by PR Cheesman, MS Nyman, and CD Tate, Jr., 1988, p. 223)

Alma 48:19 No less serviceable

“Even though Helaman was not as noticeable or conspicuous as Moroni, he was as serviceable; that is, he was as helpful or useful as Moroni. …

“Not all of us are going to be like Moroni, catching the acclaim of our colleagues all day every day. Most of us will be quiet, relatively unknown folks who come and go and do our work without fanfare. To those of you who may find that lonely or frightening or just unspectacular, I say, you are ‘no less serviceable’ than the most spectacular of your associates. You, too, are part of God’s army.

“Consider, for example, the profound service a mother or father gives in the quiet anonymity of a worthy Latter-day Saint home. Think of the Gospel Doctrine teachers and Primary choristers and Scoutmasters and Relief Society visiting teachers who serve and bless millions but whose names will never be publicly applauded or featured in the nation’s media.

“Tens of thousands of unseen people make possible our opportunities and happiness every day. As the scriptures state, they are ‘no less serviceable’ than those whose lives are on the front pages of newspapers.

“The limelight of history and contemporary attention so often focuses on the one rather than on the many” (Howard W Hunter, “No Less Serviceable,” Ensign, Apr. 1992, 64).

2. Captain Moroni raises the “title of liberty” to inspire the people.

Alma 45: Declare the Word of God in Times of War.

‘Alma the Younger prophesied the ultimate destruction of the Nephites, and departed out of the land.  Knowing more wars were coming, what did Helaman and his brethren do?  Make swords? Armor? Fortifications?  No.  “For because of their wars … it became expedient that the word of God should be declared among them…” (verse 21, emphasisadded).  The war chapters are very consistent on this point – spiritual preparation is always first.  The spiritual message is clear: get your spiritual life in order, then prepare temporally for whatever may come.  Physical swords come in handy, but the “sword of the spirit, which is the word of God” is a more powerful and more important weapon (see Ephesians 6:17).’ (JohnBytheway.com)

Alma 45:21 Little dissensions and disturbances

“’Little sins,’ like tiny acorns, produce massive oaks; out of small things proceeds that which is great. Tares, once small and indistinguishable, eventually choke the wheat.” (McConkie & Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, p. 332)

Alma 45:23 There arose a dissension

“It is noteworthy that dissension in the Nephite church was associated with contention in the nation (Alma 45:21-46:7; Helaman 4:1). In other words, there may be a spill-over effect…For instance, dissension within the church preceded (and perhaps spiritually caused) the great civil dissensions that soon plagued the entire Nephite nation as it plunged into a terribly destructive series of wars with the Lamanites, who were led and strengthened by Nephite dissenters (Alma 45:20-24; Alma 46-62).” (Lynn D. Wardle, FARMS, vol. 3 No. 1-Spring 1994, p. 69)

Alma 46: Place Reminders of your Covenants Everywhere

‘Amalickiah was a Nephite who wanted to be king.  He wanted to destroy the system of judges, and rule over the Nephites.  Captain Moroni, well aware of the problems of having a king, rent his coat and wrote upon it the title of liberty.  Later, the title of liberty was hoisted upon every tower in all the land.  Amalickiah and his followers eventually fled.

Apparently, towers were the media of the day.  Wherever anyone went in the land occupied by the Nephites, the title of liberty was there, “hoisted upon every tower.”  The message is wonderful – place reminders of your covenants everywhere.  President Kimball urged families to display a picture of the temple in their homes.  We can also have a picture of the Savior to remind us of our baptismal and sacrament covenants.  These visible reminders of spiritual commitments help us to remember what we are fighting for.’ (JohnBytheway.com)

Alma 46:1-2 They were determined to slay them

‘The spiritual instability of the Nephites is reflected in the fact that the whole Church split in two very shortly after Alma disappeared. Helaman and his two brothers tried to rally the people in righteousness and the resentment of those who rejected their message immediately boiled over into open rebellion. And it was not merely because the rebels wanted to reject the message. They wanted to murder the messengers. Alma’s three sons were doing missionary work at the risk of their lives.

Satan never has trouble finding someone who has secret ambitions and is willing to launch a civil war to gain power. Amalickiah turned out to be Satan’s newest recruit and he wanted to be king.’ (Cleon Skousen, Treasures from the Book of Mormon)

Alma 46:4 Amalickiah

‘Many in the church were won over by Amalickiah’s skillful oratory, for he was a charming (‘flattering’ is the word used in the Book of Mormon) and persuasive communicator. He made war the cornerstone of his policy and power, using a systematic and carefully planned communications system of towers and trained speakers to stir up the people to fight for their rights, meaning Amalickiah’s career. For while Moroni had kind feelings for the enemy, Amalickiah ‘did care not for the blood of his [own] people’ (Alma 49:10). His object in life was to become king of both the Nephites and Lamanites, using the one to subdue the other (Alma 46:4-5). He was a master of dirty tricks, to which he owed some of his most brilliant achievements as he maintained his upward mobility by clever murders, high-powered public relations, and great executive ability. His competitive spirit was such that he swore to drink the blood of Alma, who stood in his way. In short, he was ‘one very wicked man’ (Alma 46:9), who stood for everything that Moroni loathed.”‘ (Hugh Nibley, Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, p. 502)

Alma 46:13 The title of liberty

“Of course, the war in heaven over free agency is now being waged here on earth, and there are those today who are saying ‘Look, don’t get involved in the fight for freedom. Just live the gospel.’ That counsel is dangerous, self-contradictory, unsound…Now, part of the reason we may not have sufficient priesthood bearers to save the Constitution let alone to shake the powers of hell, is because unlike Moroni, I fear, our souls do not joy in keeping our country free, and we are not firm in the faith of Christ nor have we sworn with an oath to defend our rights and the liberty of our country.

“Moroni raised a title of liberty and wrote upon it these words: ‘In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.’ Why didn’t he write upon it: ‘Just live your religion; there’s no need to concern yourselves about your freedom, your peace, your wives, or your children’? The reason he didn’t do this was because all these things were a part of his religion, as they are of our religion today.

“Should we counsel people, ‘Just live your religion. There’s no need to get involved in the fight for freedom’? No, we should not, because our stand for freedom is a most basic part of our religion; this stand helped get us to this earth, and our reaction to freedom in this life will have eternal consequences. Man has many duties, but he has no excuse that can compensate for his loss of liberty.” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, Oct. 1966, p. 122)

winborg-captain-moroni-and-the-title-of-liberty

Alma 46:21 The people came running together

‘Our Savior’s Second Coming is drawing nearer. Let us not delay in this great cause. Remember Captain Moroni, who hoisted the title of liberty inscribed with the words “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.”21  Alma 46:12 Let us remember the people’s response: exercising their agency, they “came running together” with a covenant to act.22  Alma 46:21

My beloved brothers and sisters, don’t walk! Run! Run to receive the blessings of agency by following the Holy Ghost and exercising the freedoms God has given us to do His will.’ (Robert D Hales, General Conference, April 2015)

3. Amalickiah becomes king of the Lamanites and incites them to battle.

Alma 47: Don’t Come Down from Your Mountain!

‘The scriptures contain many types and shadows of Christ, and my conviction is that the story of Amalickiah provides us with the opposite – a type and shadow of Satan.  Think of the parallels!  Amalickiah wanted to be king, he was cast out, and he took his followers with him.  Similarly, Satan wanted to “exalt [his] throne above the stars of God (2 Nephi 24:13), was cast out, and took his followers with him.  Amalickiah is described as cunning, flattering, and a murderer.  Satan is also described as cunning, flattering, and a murderer.  Amalickiah poisoned Lehonti “by degrees.”  Satan leads us “carefully” or “by degrees” down to hell (2 Nephi 28:21).  Amalickiah did “not care for the blood of his people” (Alma 49:10).  Satan will “not support his children at the last day (Alma 30:60).

Amalickiah succeeded in persuading the king of the Lamanites to attack the Nephites, but a large part of the Lamanite army refused to fight the Nephites.  They found refuge on top of the mount Antipas and appointed Lehonti to be their leader.  Three different times, Amalickiah invited Lehonti to come down from the mountain.  Lehonti refused each time.  Eventually, Amalickiah went up, nearly to the camp of Lehonti, and persuaded Lehonti to come down “just a little.”  Amalickiah convinced Lehonti that he was not really an enemy, but a friend who only wanted to be second in command.  Eventually, Lehonti agreed to Amalickiah’s scheme, and was unknowingly poisoned “by degrees” until he died.

As Latter-day Saints, we have gone up to the “mountain of the Lord” and made covenants.  Satan continually invites us to come down.  We refuse.  So he invites us to come down just a little.  If we do, we subject ourselves to his power where we will eventually be poisoned by degrees.  If we are wounded by a gunshot, or a sword, we know about it!  But if we are slowly poisoned, we might not even realize it’s happening.  Poison is a perfect metaphor for Satan’s tactics, because a victim of poison may not even realize what’s happening, and may still believe he’s in control up until the moment he dies.

The spiritual message is powerful and chilling – Don’t come down from your mountain!  Keep your covenants!  Satan wants us to come down so he can poison us by degrees.   (It’s interesting to note that Jesus was invited to come down three times from the pinnacle of the temple, but he never did.  See Matthew 4:1-11).’ (JohnBytheway.com)

Alma 47:1 Did stir up the Lamanites to anger

‘One might wonder why a Mulekite or Zoramite dissenter (see Alma 52:3; 54:23) could receive such a warm welcome from the Lamanites who were ever bent on destroying the Nephites. But Lamanite tradition held that the right to government held by Laman and Lemuel, Nephi’s older brothers, had been robbed in violation of tradition by Nephi. Therefore a traditional hatred and distrust surrounding this sore point was ingrained in Lamanite culture. When Mulekites or Zoramites dissented to the Lamanites, they seem to have been especially effective in arousing Lamanite ire with an argument that probably went something like: “First, the Nephites robbed you of your right to rule. Now, they are robbing us of our right to rule.”

In Lamanite eyes, this was evidence that the Nephites were still up to their old tricks and needed to be brought into subjection. Many a Nephite-Lamanite war seems to have been instigated in this way, with the Nephites accused of being the perpetrators of injustice, when Lamanite or dissenter dominion was the actual motive.’ [Michael M. Hobby, The Mulekite Connection, p. 38]

Alma 47:36 They became more hardened and impenitent

“Then there are the dissenters who leave the Church, either formally or informally, but who cannot leave it alone. Usually anxious to please worldly galleries, they are critical or at least condescending towards the Brethren. They not only seek to steady the ark but also on occasion give it a hard shove! Often having been taught the same true doctrines as the faithful, they have nevertheless moved in the direction of dissent (see Alma 47:36). They have minds hardened by pride (see Daniel 5:20).” (Neal A Maxwell, Men and Women of Christ, p. 4)

4. War continues between the Nephites and the Lamanites.

Alma 48: Make Covenants, Then Make Swords

‘Much of Alma 48 is a stirring tribute to Captain Moroni.  At the beginning of the chapter, however, we are reminded of the preeminence of spiritual preparation: “While Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing…”  Preparing what?  Sorry to interrupt, but what do you suppose the rest of the verse will say?  Had Moroni been preparing more weapons and forts?  No.  The verse continues, “Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God” (verse 7, emphasis added).  Once again, we see the power of faith in Christ, and the priority of putting first things first, especially in times of war.’ (JohnBytheway.com)

Alma 48:7 Preparing the minds of the people

‘When parents fail to transmit testimony and theology along with decency, those families are only one generation from serious spiritual decline, having lost their savor. The law of the harvest is nowhere more in evidence and nowhere more relentless than in family gardens’ (Neal A Maxwell, “Take Especial Care of Your Family,” Ensign, May 1994, 90).

Alma 49:30 Corianton

“Tucked in the ongoing story of the Nephite wars we find a reference to the change that Corianton made in his personal life. Peace was in the land again and the people prospered ’because of their heed and diligence which they gave unto the word of God, which was declared unto them by Helaman, and Shiblon, and Corianton, and Ammon and his brethren’ (Alma 49:30). Notice who was back on his mission again. Hurrah! Through a parent-child interview, Alma brought about a transformation in the life of his beloved son, and this united family of missionaries and Nephite ministers made an incredible difference in the society in which they lived. It was as if they first ‘taped together’ the home and then the world began to take care of itself.” (Douglas E. Brinley & Daniel K Judd, Eternal Families, “The Parent’s Role”)

Alma 50: Fortifications and Watchmen on the Towers

‘Moroni continued to prepare his cities with a series of heaps, timbers, pickets and towers.  Watchman were placed within each tower so that they could warn the inhabitants of incoming danger from afar.  Imagine how silly it would be for those in the city, after hearing the watchman warn of trouble approaching, to respond, “Well I don’t see the danger.”

Prophets are called “watchman on the towers” (Ezekiel 3:17).  They may see things we don’t.  Perhaps our assignment is among the heaps, timbers or pickets – but prophets have the special assignment of seeing – thus, they carry the title of seers.  The spiritual message is obvious – Keep your eyes and ears on the watchman, and be humble enough to realize that watchman may see things we do not.’ (JohnBytheway.com)

Alma 50:1-6 Places of security

‘There is an exciting story in the Book of Mormon beginning in chapter 48 of Alma  Alma 48:1–6 It is a time of peril and commotion for the Nephite nation. Their enemies have sworn to defeat them and take them into bondage. Against what appears to be all odds, Captain Moroni must find a way to defend his people—to create places of security for them. He directs his people to dig deep ditches and build up huge banks of earth around the cities [see  Alma 48:8 Later he improves upon his earlier defenses by adding works of timber topped with a frame of pickets and eventually towers to overlook the pickets [see  Alma 50:1–6 So effective is his strategy that the Lamanite armies are astonished and rendered powerless, even though they greatly outnumber the Nephites. The Nephites are safe within their cities and repel the Lamanite attacks.’ (Virginia U Jensen, General Conference, October 1997)

Alma 51:5 Overthrow the free government

“It is Lucifer…who seeks the overthrow of free institutions, free churches, free government, and who saps wherever he can the foundation of the rights of man. That same fallen being, once called the Morning Star, presented himself before the Father, at the beginning, and offered himself as a candidate for the saviorship of this world. He declared–had the audacity to declare–that his purpose was to save man in his sins. ‘Not one soul shall be lost.’ He proposed to compel all to be saved, and sought to destroy the free agency of man.” (Orson F Whitney, Conference Report, Oct. 1906, p. 71)