Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Tree of Life - Nephi's Version - the Role of the Holy Ghost

10:17-22 the role of the Holy Ghost:
1. The Holy Ghost is a gift of God to those who diligently seek Him. The requirement of diligence is reiterated in verse 19 where the promise is that (a.) they will find what they seek and (b.) they will be shown the mysteries of heaven.

2. We know in some cases what is revealed is not to be shared. President Boyd K. Packer said, "Those who know don't tell and those who tell don't know." Verse 22 says that it is the Holy Ghost who gives such authority. In this case the commandment was given to share what Nephi was about to see and not deny it.

3. If we seek to do wickedly, we will see no such thing, but we will be found unclean. No unclean thing is invited into his presence. In verse 22 and in Chapter 11, Nephi is pondering. In my mind, he is in an attitude of prayer. I would be trying to recall everything my father had said and, perhaps, writing down what I could remember, so I could continue to reflect on it in the future. PONDER is not the same as WANDER. His mind was focused and his mind, heart and spirit were open to the messages of God. I doubt he expected the visitation he received, but when it came, he was prepared for and welcomed it. As it unfolded he did not pull back, but remained for the duration, which must have tried him physically as well as spiritually. He was aware that he had a full day of physical labor ahead of him, but he put those concerns aside to get as deeply into this spiritual experience as he possibly could.

This experience, however, Nephi knew was not just for his own consumption. He is the example of someone who is completely open to the Lord's will. He dutifully records and repeats what the Lord expects him to do. On the other hand, he keeps within himself what the Lord commands him not to share. Those things are for his broadened perspective as he serves God for the remainder of his life.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lehi's Version of the Tree of Life

I observed that Lehi is led by a man in a white robe into a desolate wilderness and apparently abandoned, for there is no one for him to ask directions. He is obedient, yet when he is desparate, he finds himself alone. His solution - prayer.

He is shown a field and the tree of life. He makes his way to the tree and finds it to be most desirable. His journey to the tree did not include the river path, the iron rod or the mist of darkness. Still, his path was difficult and his guide was of God.

We are not told of the method used by the rest of the family, but he sees them at the head of the river which is along the path, so we assume that was the method they used to arrive there. When he beckons , they come and partake, except Laman and Lemuel who seem to have no desire to partake, no matter how delicious the others make it sound. There is a level of commitment that some, no matter how delicious the fruit and how wonderful a life they are promised, are not willing to make. The lure of the world, no matter how unfulfilling, is what they are drawn to and if they never make the effort to change their focus, it is where they prefer to remain. Despite the beckoning of those who love them, in the end they alone must make the choice.

It is worth noting the plight of those who partake of the fruit and are ashamed. While others lost their way, these endured the thick and frightening darkness by holding to the iron rod. Yet, even after tasting of the fruit, they allowed other influences to lead them away.

What could those influences have been? What were the conversations along the way? What was the dialogue in their own minds as they traveled and after they ate? Were there feelings of unworthiness despite their successfully partaking of the fruit? What messages came from the Great and Spacious Building that they found so persuasive? Were they encouraged by others along the way to hold to the rod, despite their feeling that this was not really the path for them, that even though they wanted what was at the end, they did not allow themselves to believe that they were the "type" that deserved to be or needed to be or would be comfortable under the tree with its wonderful fruit?

It is important to note that when they arrived at the tree and partook of the fruit, there was more to come. The travelers still had to endure to the end faithfully.

As to the Great and Spacious Building, those who were in the attitude of mocking were those whom most considered to be successful. They were well dressed and of all ages. Yet, they mocked those who chose to pursue the tree. Also, while large n8umbers make the Great and Spacious Building their goal, many died trying, or simply wandered off and were lost. The "successful" had to work at that type of success, also. The "preacher" in the book of Ecclesiastes states that he had spent his life in pursuit of wealth and status and had neglected his spiritual growth. In the end, he says it was all vanity, that is empty, or without meaning. That is the danger when we focus our lives on the pursuits of the world, only. Yet when we focus on the pursuits of the world, as we must do, and at the same time focus on our spiritual lives by taking the time to pray, meditate on the things we read, teach these principles to each other and to our families and seek and obey the will of God, then worldly status, wealth and the freedoms they bring become more meaningful and useful.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Taking Offense

Some years ago, Elder Rex G. Pinegar, in speaking to the youth of our stake, pointed out one of the lessons of the Garden of Eden. When God told Satan he would put enmity (hatred) between him and mankind. The further we are from Satan's influence, the more we hate his ways. The closer we come to his influence and the more we countenance sin, the more we are offended by God's ways. He called this the gulf of enmity.

Cain was more influenced by Satan and obedience to God was an irritant to him. It became more so as he witnessed Abel's blessings and coveted them. When he finally killed Abel, he declared, "I am free!" When he received the consequences for such a crime, he realized he was anything but free.

Laman and Lemuel, hearing Nephi remind them of the miracles and special visitations they had witnessed, instead of being humbled and penitent, increased their rebellion and bound Nephi with cords. Even after Nephi's breaking the cords by the power of God they wanted to do more harm to him until others came to his defense. When they finally realized what they had done, they begged his forgiveness. He freely forgives and directs them to seek God's forgiveness. How could they get to such a point that their conscience was so completely overcome by the outrage at being reminded of the spiritual blessings they had witnessed? It is because of their choices that led them to the edge of the gulf of enmity.

In the October 2010 General Conference, Elder Patrick Kearnon of the Seventy spoke about the need to be "strictly obedient" as it states in Preach My Gospel. Quoting from President James E. Faust, he said:

“When obedience becomes our goal, it is no longer an irritation; instead of a stumbling block, it becomes a building block. …

“… Obedience leads to true freedom. The more we obey revealed truth, the more we become liberated.”

It is an entire change of direction, heart and mind when we set the goal to be entirely obedient. Instead of seeing how close we can come to the edge, we choose to stay away from the edge altogether. Helping others to see the beauty of the consequences of obedience and having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost become truly meaningful makes for a fulfilling life. It allows our natural talents to expand and our opportunities for success to expand in every aspect of our lives. On the other hand, a life nearer to the gulf of enmity narrows our view and limits our natural talents. We never realize our true potential because we are focused elsewhere.

We all have feelings of our greatness from time to time. If ever we want to achieve that greatness, we need to embrace it and choose the path that leads us to it. It will not be found in wealth, or fame alone, but those may be included in the natural consequences of our achievement. As we come closer to conforming our lives to God's will, we discover that his will is more glorious and fulfilling than our pathetic little vision of our own and we become more and more anxious to dig deeper and climb higher to find its depths and heights.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Faith/Faithful/Promptings of the Spirit

After the brothers had failed to obtain the brass plates and nearly lost their lives in the process, Laman and Lemuel attempted to harm Nephi and Sam - their method of persuasion. After the angel intervened they still lacked courage to act on the purpose of their journey.

Nephi counseled, "Let us be faithful..." and struck out toward Jerusalem with murmuring L & L in tow. Leaving his brothers outside the gates, Nephi went on as led by the Spirit not knowing beforehand where he should go or what he should do. He is directed to Laban's compound and is further directed to take Laban's life. He is repulsed by the thought, but has enough experience with the Spirit to know that he should put aside his own thoughts and fears to be obedient.

Continuing to follow the promptings of the Spirit, he brings the plates and loyal Zoram with him to his father's camp, where there is great rejoicing for the family was not certain that they still lived.

During their sons' absence, Sariah lost hope and accused Lehi of causing the death of their sons by acting on his visions, which seemed less powerful to her now. Lehi bore testimony and recalled the detail of the visions to her. The Spirit bore witness and because her heart was receptive and contrite she was comforted. Nevertheless, she was relieved at her sons' return, as was Lehi and the rest of the camp. Lehi and Sariah would have been comforted, no matter what the outcome might have been, because the Spirit bore witness of the correctness of Lehi's actions. They were relieved that the outcome was what they had hoped it would be.

Once the plates were in Lehi's hands and they had a chance to review their contents, Lehi began to prophesy of their value and their future.

Lessons: 1. Faith becomes faithfulness when it is acted upon. 2. When acting in faith we are led by the Spirit. 3. When following the promptings with faith, our ability to accomplish the will of God increases. 4. Bearing testimony in faith is persuasive to the unbelieving and convincing to those whose hearts are contrite. 5. The spirit of prophesy can come to those who are faithful to their office despite great opposition.


Nephi had received revelation and knew he was capable of doing so. Yet, when his father claimed to have received revelation for Nephi, he did not hesitate to obey. Laman and Lemuel murmured that it was a hard thing to to back and retrieve the brass plates from Laban. Nephi, because of his willingness to obey in faith, was promised favor of the Lord.

When Laban refused to give up the plates. L & L wanted to return to their parents. Nephi's response was that they had not been sent just to try and that he would continue and not return until they had succeeded.

In the Celestial Room of the temple several of us stood around to discuss impressions we had received, last night. One sister counted the number of times the word "covenant" was mentioned in the endowment session - she counted 39 times. It is obvious that covenant keeping is important to the Lord.

Perhaps I need to tune up my covenant keeping and not just try, but, like Nephi, press on to complete success, even when complete success may not come until I endure to the end.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Laman and Lemuel

Laman and Lemuel are first introduced in this chapter and two things become immediately obvious. 1. The are rebellious despite having parents who taught powerfully by the Spirit and 2. They continued down that path despite profound spiritual experiences.

1Nephi 2:14 Lehi taught with such power in the Spirit that their frames shook and they were confounded. Yet, they continued to rebel. 1Nephi 3:2-9 and angel appeared when Laman and Lemuel were beating Nephi with a rod. After the angel departed they began to murmur. 1Nephi 7 L & L with two daughters and two sons of Ishmael rebel and after a heartfelt lecture from Nephi the bind him with cords to be left and devoured by wild beasts. He breaks the cords and they want to do it again. The daughters plead his cause and L & L are touched and ask his forgiveness. 1Nephi 16:39 After Ishmael's death his daughters join L & L in a plot to kill Nephi and Lehi. They are rebuked by the voice of the Lord. 1Nephi 17:45, 48, 53-55 In the midst of building a ship they complain and Nephi preaches in the spirit to them They become angry and began to threaten him. He warns that he is filled with the Spirit and that they will wither like a reed if they touch him. Constrained by the Spirit, he touches and shocks them. They are so impressed that they attempt to worship him. Then, "Monday" happens. They go back to their work on the ship, finding food for their families, living in very difficult situations and the spiritual experience becomes a vague memory. 1Nephi 18:21They board the ship and before long L & L are again rebellious. They are offended by Nephi, bind him so that he is in tortuous pain. The Liahona ceases to give direction and they are lost at sea in the midst of storms. When they loose the cords that bind him, the Liahona begins to work again and gets them to the Promised Land.

Each time until they separate in the new world, profound spiritual experiences were quickly forgotten and rebellion followed. L & L never converted their experiences into disciplined action or even thought. The worldly and carnal had a stronger pull for them than the greater joy of spirituality and righteousness. We have all had spiritual experiences to one degree or another. However, without disciplined activity on a daily basis, these experiences fade in memory and the determination we had to remain faithful wanes. Thus Alma the younger notes that even after the profound experience he had, he continued in prayer, study and fasting. So must we - daily and deeply.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nephi's Qualities

The first few verses of the Book of Mormon indicate that Nephi's parents were "goodly." While many have interpreted this to mean kind or good, the comments of Book of Mormon scholars on BYU TV indicate that it means well to do.

With that insight to other qualities make more sense. There were no printing presses, so scriptures were not generally available - only the wealthy could afford such things. Scriptures had to be hand written by scribes who were supervised by auditors (at least the best were), so the expense is obvious. They were educated, so they could read. Nephi could read and write Egyptian as well as Hebrew.

Nephi seems not only to have a deep appreciation for the spiritual qualities of his father, but of the great advantages his father has provided him. Laman and Lemuel seem not to have the same appreciation, but take it for granted. Because of his appreciation of these things, Nephi embraces his father's visions and prophecies. His leadership qualities allow him to persuade and guide others in their pursuit of righteousness at least long enough to accomplish the work he was called to perform. He was a man who embraced his own godliness without fear, pride or arrogance. A great example.


While reading the Book of Mormon in the temple last December, I felt the Spirit in a particularly strong manner. I was assigned to the recommend desk which lends itself to some reading and meditation. I opened to Mosiah 18 in my guided meanderings and read the last part of the second verse which came to me with great spiritual force. I noted that Alma, in a single sentence listed the five necessary elements of the atonement at least as to the Savior's role:
1. The power, 2. The sufferings (plural), 3. The death, 4. The resurrection, 5. The ascension of Christ.

No one of these elements were adequate for the completion of the redemption. The missing element is what I must do for my own redemption.

Look at each element individually:

1. Power. My impression is that at Gethsemane and Calvary, He did not yet have all power given unto him. He did have power to perform miracles and forgive sins. He even had the power to lay down his life and to take it up again (John 10:17-18). On the cross he knew when the time was right and he shouted with a loud voice, "It is finished." "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit," and he gave up the ghost. On the third day he was resurrected. With that power, why couldn't he just lie down and die, then three days later rise again and skip all the rest of it? Obviously, even with all that power, power, in itself was not enough.

2. Sufferings. Some have assumed that he suffered on Gethsemane because he knew his death was imminent. Yet we know he did not fear death; even as painful as death on a cross. Many people died on crosses, but they did not agonize over it to the point of bleeding from every pore.

His suffering was sufficient to pay for all our sins, pains sorrows, sicknesses and infirmities that we may be made whole if we would repent (Alma 7:11). It was suffering so great that it caused Christ, the greatest of all, to suffer both body and spirit. Pain that would be beyond anything we would ever have the capacity to endure as mortals (D&C 19:15-20). We note that the term in this verse is plural. I think both because what he endured was infinite and for all of mankind and because it was suffered both on Gethsemane and again on the cross.

3. Death. Elijah, Moses, John and the Three Nephites were transfigured rather than tasting death. Christ was transfigured before Peter, James and John, but chose to return to his mortal state and die. He had power to lay down his life and to take it up again, yet he chose to allow one the most ignominious methods of death. Death on the cross which was preceded by sham trials, scourging, humiliation, physical deprivation and exertion. He was affixed to the cross by spikes driven through his hands, wrists, and feet where the nervous systems converge to result in maximum pain and a slow, tortuous death. He was not alone in this as all who were crucified died in a similar manner. The point is that he could have avoided it, but chose not to. Why, we do not know entirely. We know that it was prophesied that his hands would be pierced. He prophesied in the book of John that he would be crucified. It was a very public event, so there were many witnesses to his death. It exacerbated suffering that began in Gethsemane. But in the end we only know that it was necessary.

But power, sufferings, and death were not enough to redeem mankind. "My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me?" The climax of his suffering - he had to "...tread the wine press alone..." "It is finished." And death came as he allowed his Godliness to finally give way to his humanness and his heart literally broke as the necessary conclusion to the final sacrifice.

4. Resurrection. Having descended below all things through his sufferings and death, the resurrection was the necessary next step. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." I Cor. 15:22 The transgression of Adam and Eve allowed for bodies to become mortal with our spirits to inhabit them, but they are subject to corruption and death. Prior to the fall there was no sickness, no injury, no aging, no sin and no death. The fullness of the atonement, the resurrection, redeemed mankind from all those maladies upon condition of our repentance and submission to the will of God.

Our own resurrection will result from that of Christ. Our corruptible bodies will be transformed in an incorruptible form. I Cor. 15:42

Our sins produce the separation of man (ourselves) from God - our spiritual death. The resurrection allows for our repentance and reconciliation with God. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord." Rom. 6:23 To accomplish that a final sacrifice was necessary. Not an animal sacrifice or even a human sacrifice, but an infinite and eternal sacrifice of the Son of God. Alma 34:9-15 The sacrifice culminated in Christ's resurrection, the result of which allows us hope for eternal life through faith in Him.

5. The Ascension. Yet even the resurrection of Christ did not complete the atonement. It was necessary that Christ ascend into heaven. If he remained on the earth, less faith would be required, no person would be called upon to sacrifice in service as Christ would lead the Church and perform the miracles.

The scriptures indicate that a second coming is prophesied, but for now we live in his absence. His perfection required that he be in the presence of God the Father where no unclean thing can dwell and that He no longer dwell with man whose physical, imperfect state would be consumed in His perfect presence. There He shall reign in mighty power according to the will of the Father until he returns in glory. D&C 20:24

6. Our Redemption. Thus, the Atonement required all five elements: the power, sufferings, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. It is His redeeming power that gives us hope to someday be with Him - perfected, purified and holy. The sixth element is our own efforts in becoming the persons who would be comfortable in His eternal presence. D&C 88:22. In the April 2011 Conference, Elder D. Todd Christopherson stated, "In all of this, God’s purpose is that we, His children, may be able to experience ultimate joy, to be with Him eternally, and to become even as He is. Some years ago Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained: 'The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become.'" That "becoming" I have discovered is a lifetime quest.