Friday, September 30, 2011

Covenants and the Consequences of Good & Evil

In the first chapter of Mosiah, King Benjamen states that because Lehi could read Egyptian he could teach his children what was on the brass plates. He does the same for his children.We sometimes wonder why it was a big deal that a person who desired to learn was excluded from the "synagogues", but the likelihood that they could read is slim and access to anything to read is also unlikely. Our access to education and to having books to read, especially the scriptures, is something we take entirely too much for granted.

King Benjamin gave his sons an education primarily for the purpose of allowing them to read the scriptures. He then taught them to ponder and to "search them diligently" and then to keep the commandments.

Just reading, searching and keeping the commandments is apparently not enough. He then introduces the concept of covenants. He prepares them to take upon them a "name" in Mosiah 1:11. We don't discover what name that is until chapter 5, but it is obvious that the sons knew they were taking upon them the name of Jesus Christ.

Having erected a tower and providing scribes to write and distribute the words of his teaching, King Benjamin taught the people the blessings of giving service and of sacrifice and of being obedient to the commandments of God. He taught about the bondage of sin and the power of Satan. He then taught about the redemptive power of the atonement and invited them to humble themselves, pray and rely in faith on Christ. He instructed them to teach their children to love and give succor to the poor and sick.

He then invited them to take the next step and enter into a covenant of obedience to Christ. The covenant was administered with an oath and all those who accepted the covenant had their names recorded in writing. The recording of the names was a permanent record of the outward symbol (the oath) of the covenant. The covenant was a deep and public commitment of each person to be obedient and to live a Christ-like life. Such a commitment must be preceded by an inner conviction to live in accordance with the will of God. If the outward expression - the covenant and oath - is taken with out the inward conviction, it will not last. A person would feel justified in disobedience and/or half-hearted service. If the inner conviction is not followed by the covenant, a person may cave in a moment of weakness.

Thus, the pattern is clear and the purposes of God are made manifest in all sacraments and ordinances. It makes me grateful for the wisdom and grace of Christ in establishing this process. A process that is repeated in our day with such ordinances as baptism, confirmation and the ordinances of the temple. I am transcribing this on the day after our 39th wedding anniversary, so I am especially grateful for the new and everlasting covenant which includes the sealing ordinance of marriage.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prosperity, Sacrifice, Service, Consecration

In these chapters, the prophets and writers are aware of the prophecies that with righteous living comes prosperity and with unrighteousness comes destruction. While Mormon has the advantage of hindsight, the the early prophets emphasize that by diligent efforts the people were kept from destruction spiritually and from defeat by the Lamanites.

Were there none in their society who failed to acquire wealth, but who were righteous? Did none obtain riches through deceit or while living a life without devotion? If that were the case, there would be no place for faith in their lives. Faith would have been replaced by fear - the antithesis of agency.

Rather, I gather that the righteous who applied themselves purposefully discovered that they were blessed in ways they could not have imagined. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof..." Psalm 24:1 "For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare..." D&C 104:17

In so doing we are not desperate even in difficult times because we have assurance of abundance and that God freely gives in accordance to our needs when coupled with our best efforts. Recognizing this we also know that God not only requires 10% of our increase, but everything we have, everything we gain from what we have, everything we are and everything we may become.

When we come unto Christ; (Omni 1:26) when we take upon us his name, (Mosiah 1:11) we enter into a covenant relationship consecrating our whole souls. The result, inevitably, is prosperity. It may not be an abundance of fabulous wealth, but it will be an abundance. We will recognize that we have become more and gained more than we ever thought possible for us. The only way we lose such prosperity in the end is by allowing Satan to convince us of scarcity and falling into transgression.

Our stewardship, it seems to me, is to build upon the portion of God's abundance with which we have been blessed and gratefully bless others in the Lord's way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Teaching Repentance

In his short book, Enos records his experience in the wilderness where he, knowing he was alone, spent the day and night in prayer. The experience he had there and his subsequent actions teach us at least four lessons. I am sure there are others, but here is what I found in my reading of this little book.

1. His father had taught him to pray in a way that he knew the Lord both nourished and admonished. He was anxious to receive the joy of the saints and eternal life.

2. When he received the understanding of his own redemption, he desired the welfare of the Nephites and then the Lamanites. He was informed that they would receive the visitation of the Lord according to their diligence in keeping his commandments.

3. He went among the Nephites and with those of the Nephites who would, he went among the Lamanites. To him it seemed the work among the Lamanites was in vain as they had deteriorated to such a degenerate nation that they were beyond hearing. Among the Nephites however, there arose many prophets, but the people were, for the most part, "stiffnecked".

4. The constant diligence in their teaching repentance was what kept the people from speedy destruction.

The purpose of constant reminders of the place of repentance and the promises of God have a significant place in our lives. Without our personal diligence, our families and the Church would fall into utter destruction. More importantly, we would miss the joy of the Lord.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pure In Heart

Of all the promises to the virtuous in the Sermon on the Mount, the promises to the pure in heart are by far the greatest. In Matthew the verse reads, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." 3Nephi goes a step further stating, "Blessed are all the pure in heart for they shall see God." Clearly, our highest goal is to be pure in heart.

Jacob expounds on this virtue by giving us the characteristics of the pure in heart. They look to God and pray with a firm heart and faith. They are promised consolation in afflictions, that justice will come to the destruction of those who seek to do harm.

The pure in heart receive the pleasing word of God and feast upon his love. They are promised this feast forever so long as their minds are firm. They do not judge by outward appearances, including skin color, hair length, body odor, etc.. They seek to repent and to nurture and protect and love their spouses and children.

Those who are not pure are described as filth. The opposite is promised to them. For them the land is cursed. The wealth of the land is temporary as it will be lost in the coming generation. These commit fornication, adultery and whoredoms. Their hearts are turned away from their families. I believe that is true because sin turns your focus inward to one's own appetites.

The choice is clear - repent and retain a pure heart and live with God's presence; or be filthy with insatiable appetites and lose everything of value. Why is making the choice so difficult? Because it takes effort and faith to turn away from the carnal and toward God. With each episode when we choose faith over appetite, faith grows. Yet, to some degree it always takes some effort. In my experience, it is always worth it. What if we slip and commit the sin again? Did Christ only die for the first time we sinned and we are on our own after that? No, nor the 116th time. He is always there it is up to us to get up the final time and continue the resolve to be pure.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Magnifying Callings

The question of how a person magnifies a calling often receives varied answers. Some believe that to magnify a calling means to make it bigger than even the handbooks require. President Uchtdorf addressed this in the October 2010 conference stating that some seem to believe that their salvation depends on the length of their "to do list."

Pres. Monson in the Priesthood Session of the same conference said that to magnify a priesthood calling (and all callings are priesthood callings) is simply to perform one's calling with full purpose of heart.

I found that these verses (Jacob 1:17-19) state it succinctly. Speaking of his and his brother Joseph's callings, Jacob said that:

1. They were consecrated priests. In other words, they did not take the honor upon themselves, but received authority from their brother Nephi, the prophet.

2. They next obtained their errand from the Lord. This would be accomplished today by studying the handbooks, the scriptures and by seeking inspiration and revelation from the Holy Ghost.

3. They magnified their office by teaching the word of God with all diligence. It seems that they taught at every opportunity.T hey went to the people and the people came to them. Their teaching was of Christ and how repentance takes advantage of the great atonement.

4. They could not be discouraged or their work would be drudgery. They felt that society was heading down, so their work was to teach against the downward trend and invite all to come to the light of Christ. Otherwise the sins (blood) of the people would be upon their heads.

I find that if my focus is upon the teachings of Christ and doing what I can to bring the light of Christ into the lives of those for whom I have responsibility, my "to do" list is plenty full. I do not need to find other projects to make my calling more fulfilling or meaningful. Teach, invite, give meaningful service all in the Lord's way.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Trust in the Lord

I was especially inspired, while listening again to the October 2010 Conference, by President Eyring's message. It had to do with hope. I have lately been studying some motivational literature. I had thought that the books were chosen randomly, but they all seem to have a common theme, i.e. God created the universe filled with vast resources. God's ultimate creation is Mankind. God loves Man and has provided him with the ability to communicate with God through prayer. he has also provided Man with the ability for God to communicate to Man through promptings of the Holy Ghost. That communication comes in two ways according to Elder Oaks: 1. Through the personal line, or 2. through the priesthood line. It matters little from which line it come, we must act upon it. Joe Vitale says, "...the universe likes speed..." In other words, act when prompted.

I have, for many years, wanted to set up a school where true principles are practiced and necessary subjects are deeply understood. As I was doing some homework for my coaching program, I wrote that intention. It had been working on my mind ever since that time. Some days later, after completing a session of temple baptisms, we gathered at the Arctic Circle for ice cream with the youth. While eating, several of the adults gathered and the conversation focused on education. Because Nevada is failing its youth in education, Bishop Stoddard said, "There needs to be a school that has an LDS focus and Brother Anderson needs to start it." I heard myself saying, "It is my dream."

Since that time I have had several mixed feelings and thoughts about who could be invited to teach and administer. I have thought about what the physical plant and campus would look like. I thought about how to determine the age and qualifications of the students, and many other thoughts. On the negative side I thought about obtaining the confidence of donors, the lack of knowledge of the laws and regulations and the enormity of the undertaking, not to mention the fact that I have no independent means to support myself, let alone something of this magnitude. The thought is still in the back of my head, but no action has been taken to turn it into reality.

This is just one example. Others would include becoming a true enterprise in the law firm where I act as a true CEO and not consult with clients; expanding the Las Vegas office; looking outside the traditional for other opportunities; etc. Positive ideas run through my mind and other thoughts that question and pour cold water on them precede and follow. Which of them do I follow and accept?

President Eyring's talk came just at the right time. I cannot count the number of times I had heard it before as Ii listen to the most recent conference every day either when exercising or when driving to work. But this time it struck home more deeply because I had also heard something similar from my personal business coach and from the recordings of some of the most recognized success authors and speakers. These "limiting beliefs" should not be ignored, instead, we should face them, express them, then determine where they come from and dismiss them with logic, faith and inspiration.

Having done that we can now trust in God fully and watch for opportunities to move forward. "Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he will direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Role of Jesus as Messiah or Christ

Following the first major set of Isaiah chapters, Nephi explains the role of Jesus. In chapter 25 he says it is revealed to him that the Messiah will come in 600 years and that his name will be Jesus Christ. (v. 19)

In Chapter 26 he expounds on that name by declaring that Jesus is the Christ; Jesus is the very Christ, the Eternal God. (v. 12) The Jews must come to know he is the very Christ; the gentiles that he is the Christ and the Eternal God.

It is these chapters that we first get the purposes of a Messiah (a Christ) started in the Book of Mormon. They are built upon throughout the book.

Nephi states that the words of Isaiah are clear to him in part because he is familiar with the references used as symbols. He is very close in time to Isaiah. Secondly, he finds Isaiah plain to understand because he has had similar spiritual experiences. The both saw the birth of the Savior in vision, as well as the various events of his life leading up to his suffering, death and resurrection.

In order to understand more deeply, the reader is invited to have similar experiences, or to at least read with the Spirit.

To be certain we are left without excuse, Nephi preaches, declares and prophesies with plainness, "For we labor diligently to write to persuade our children and also our brethren to believe in Christ and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace we are saved after all we can do." 2N 25:23

We cannot work our way to reconcile ourselves to God. It is only by the grace of Christ that it is possible. I hear constantly that grace comes after all we can do. I know our good works are a necessary element to the process, but nobody I know has done all they could do. If that truly is the standard, we are all doomed. The emphasis is better placed on the atonement and the grace that is allowed because we are willing to submit ourselves to God's will and make the necessary changes in ourselves that will allow the grace to make up the difference, for His grace is sufficient for all.

In reflecting on those talks and the writings regarding faith in Christ, I have concluded that all we can do includes repentance. If we are solidly on the path, we will receive that reconciliation that we, in our deepest selves, so much desire.

These chapters also invite us to worship Christ in order to avoid condemnation. Worship in this case in not to be interpreted as "pray to". Rather, it is to show reverence for Christ.

Chapter 26 contains Nephi's vision of the build up and destruction of the people of Lehi. Pride being the primary cause of the fall. He sees, both at the time after the resurrection and at the dispensation of the restoration how the righteous will embrace Christ's gospel and keep the commandments. These are they to whom he will manifest himself and through whom miracles will be performed.

The final lesson seems to be about priorities. He condemns priestcraft. It is this that men preach and set themselves up as a light to get gain and reputation. A Zion society would have no such thing. "The laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion for if they labor for money they shall perish."

Obviously, this covers those involved in priestcraft, but I think we must be cautious in setting our own goals and ambitions. Is what I deeply desire for the purpose of getting gain and praise rather than to have Christ manifest through me and my works?

When we are in a desperate situation we must be especially concerned that we are clear. I pray for such clarity.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Lord Brings Joy/Rebellion Brings Sorrow

This chapter contains the famous Messianic words, "For unto us a child is born..." and the familiar subsequent verses. Prior to those verses, however, are some lines of great insight.

In the previous chapter it talks about those who are spiritualists and their followers - they seek after familiar spirits and wizards who peep and mutter. In the end for them there is no spiritual satisfaction - they continue to hunger. They look to the world and curse God. They receive dimness, anguish and every kind of darkness.

In this chapter we find that they who walked in darkness now have a light. The joy of one who enjoys a great harvest is theirs because the Lord has broken the yoke of their oppressors. "For unto us...a son is given and...of the increase of ...peace there is no end..." Even though it comes through the throne of David, this Prince of Peace reigns over and blesses all nations and tribes of Israel.

In verses 14-16 is some interesting insight regarding who leads the people astray. In order to accomplish His purposes, the Lord will cut off the head and the tail. The head is the "ancient" ones. In other words, the false traditions of the fathers. The tail is the prophet that teacheth lies. In other words those who give false hope and promises through false doctrine to those who are looking for those things. In my experience and observation, it is usually those who love their particular sins - usually sexual - and seek justification rather than forgiveness.

When the "head" and "tail" are removed, the Lord can work with those who humbly seek Him. Those who honestly open their hearts and whose spirits are contrite will receive his words with joy. They have found the source of their salvation.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nephi's Formula for Success

I have been reading various books on success lately. i have been a student of Stephen R. Covey for many years, but I have been led to authors who are more inclined to the internal attitudes that allow us to accept success an what God would think, support and encourage (or not) with respect to our achieving success, including great wealth. It has been an interesting introspective journey for me. i had thought that i had overcome my negative feelings about wealth and wealthy people, but I have much to get beyond.

With that on my mind and knowing that we are not on this earth just to get by or waste the great, godly potential with which we came to this planet, i read Nephi's prayer and lamentation with new eyes. I had been living in hotel rooms by myself for the entire week just prior to writing this in my study journal and upon reflection I discovered that in the past that would have been a giant waste of time at best. This time I spent almost no time watching TV, but instead read, and wrote goals and affirmations.

What I learned from Nephi are the following concepts:

1. We are to delight in the scriptures. His family was "goodly" so they had access to education and to the scriptures. Others regarded them lightly; he delighted in them. I don't remember when I started to do so; probably beginning with the New Testament while on my mission. I have been delighting in all the scriptures for many decades. It has been a source of joy in my life for which I am very grateful.

2. Ponder their messages in our hearts. The proud who are learned ponder in their heads; they know them well. The humble ponder in their hearts. They feel the joy that will come when they conform their lives to the teachings, even before they are in perfect compliance. They are deeply grateful and committed.

3. Write scripture. This was an entirely new concept for me. I believe what I am writing now is scripture. According to Nephi, we write scripture to achieve 1.) the learning of our children and 2.) for the profit of our children. Perhaps if our children read our study journals they will learn principles and gain insights they had not before known or appreciated. They may profit if they can stand on our shoulders and achieve greater heights than we. Perhaps that is one reason Preach My Gospel recommends keeping a study journal.

4. Recognize and repent from our iniquities. Each time we make that journey through these precious writings we gain new insights. Not that our former selves were evil, but that they were incomplete. The more we read the more we gain deeper appreciation of our areas of needed improvement and let God guide us to the wholeness he promises. Sister Camille Fronk in speaking about the Savior's injunction to be perfect used the analogy of the green tomato. It is not rotten and should not be tossed out, it is just not yet "complete" or "whole" which is another interpretation of the word "perfect" as it is translated from the Greek. I carry the analogy further. It will become its most complete if it sits in a sunny area and becomes fully ripe by the light of the sun. Likewise, we can only become whole or complete as we expose ourselves to the light of the SON.

5. Trust in God. Trust is the most basic element of faith. We act in faith not just hoping for the best, but trusting God and expecting the best. His promises will be fulfilled. Nephi then lists the blessings when we apply the lessons of the scriptures:

a. We will receive God's support. I noted in the talk I gave at Elsa's baptism that the atonement not only allowed for repentance from sins, but for all the negative results of the fall of Adam. It doesn't mean that our afflictions will go away if we are obedient (although in some cases, it will), but it does mean that God can take away any fear or sorrow related to those afflictions.

b. God will, as He did with Lehi, lead us through our wilderness and our great deep and in leading us, help us to bear the associated afflictions.

c. Probably the greatest blessing of all - we shall be filled with love. Love beyond anything a person or earthly relationship can provide or expect. A love that is so great it feels like it will consume the flesh. On at least two occasions I have experienced that love and have felt that I might be consumed by that euphoric feeling. One I wrote briefly about in my journal; I don't recall writing about the second, more recent incident. I should, I suppose, because I have difficulty remembering them and unlike recalling the actual feelings of a warm embrace or a welcome homecoming, I cannot recall the exceptional depth of feeling I experienced. On the other hand, such things are deeply sacred and personal and should only be shared rarely and only as prompted by the Holy Ghost.

In further review of love so powerful "unto the consuming of [our] flesh," it occurs that such love will result in consuming all our base, fleshly desires. The Satanic promises of fun and pleasure pale into utter meaninglessness in the light of such love. It is literally the pure love of Christ.

d.We are further blessed in that God will confound and even fight our enemies. I have found that those who profess to be our enemies often turn from that attitude with our loving demeanor. Those who do not turn from their hateful attitude become irrelevant.

e. Our daily prayers are heard. This was a lesson I learned for the first time while serving on my mission. I realized that I did not have sufficient faith (I thought I had none) and began to pray for faith daily, morning and night. One day I needed to act or speak in total reliance on the promises of the scriptures. It wasn't until after the incident that I realized it was an act of faith and that my prayers had been heard.

f. We will be given visions. Not vision, but visions. For me, such things have been rare. Usually (not that they are usual), when it happens it is a very brief glimpse. When It happens, it is clear what I should do. If I do not shut it out because of fear, it always leads to my becoming more than my pathetic mind can imagine or dream.

The results of all this? Nephi lists several:

1. He waxed bold in mighty prayer. His fears did not keep him from asking in faith and expecting miraculous things of God. God was willing to comply because He knew Nephi would never ask anything for vain purposes.

2. Angels came down to minister to his needs and to extend comfort.

3. He was physically carried to a high mountain to be instructed and was given such blessings that he could not write what he had seen in vision. Mountains in our day have been replaced by temples. We can be led by the Spirit if we will, to that sacred, holy place, but it is just a short ride in a car.

Now, the negative. Nephi did not allow himself to grovel in the fact that he was imperfect.

1. Do not all yourself to linger in the valley of sorrow. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in his talk on PRIDE (October 2010) stated that we are not humble when we think less of ourselves, we are humble with we think less about ourselves. It does little good to engage in thoughts about our pitiful situation, how limited we are, what our past foolishness has brought us, the atmosphere in which we were raised or any other valley of sorrow. Instead, he immediately goes from acknowledging his weaknesses and failures into gratitude - deep, heartfelt gratitude.

2. Related to the valley of sorrow is dwelling on our afflictions. Doing so causes our flesh to weaken and we waste away. We cower from fear that is more debilitating than our afflictions.

3. Do not yield to the temptations of the flesh. We must curb the appetites while enjoying all that he earth provides. Meaningful recreation is useful and appropriate, but we must avoid the vulgar, base and counterfeits that make poor substitutes for the joys of life.

When we dwell on the negative, as Nephi points out, we find that these are consequences that can deepen our rebellion creating a downward spiral until we hit bottom and admit that we are the cause of our own misery. Those results:

1. It destroys our peace. Even in the midst of affliction we can feel peace knowing we are on the path God would have us choose. Rebellion never brings peace, but always results in its loss.

2. It afflicts our soul. The true source of life is the soul. No matter what afflicts our body we can enjoy the fruits of the Spirit, the joy of the Gospel and the love that surpasses understanding. But when our soul is afflicted the Spirit of the Lord is grieved and our quest for joy is answered by a hollow existence, at best.

3. Anger with our enemy. A base emotion that can never result in anything uplifting, it is one of the fruits of fear. It is devoid of love.

4. Finally, it weakens us as our strength slackens. We lose contact with the only true source of strength.

Finally, Nephi's reaction to the defeat of his enemies and his receiving such great blessings:

1. Gratitude and rejoicing. "Rejoice my heart." "Cry unto the Lord." "Praise Him forever."

2. Increased faith. As he trust God, his faith is rewarded, resulting in increased confidence and even greater faith.

3. He is delivered from his enemies, including Satan. The gates of Hell are shut before him and Satan's power is greatly diminished.

4. His humility is increased. Notice that his humility increases with the increase of confidence because it is coupled with increased gratitude. He acknowledges a broken heart and a contrite spirit which is the ultimate in humility.

5. He now continues in mighty prayer. Not desperate prayer, not the rote or trite prayer we may have experienced, but prayer that leads to a full and miraculous life.

This is a road map to the greatest and in the end, the only true success in any aspect of life.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Weak to be Strong

In his blessing upon his son Joseph, Lehi makes some promises and prophecies . Among them is the prophecy concerning the role of Joseph Smith. Included in the prophet's responsibilities are the preservation and bringing forth of the Book of Mormon, teaching Lehi's seed of their promises - manifesting to them the Messiah, leading the people, and writing in a powerfully persuasive manner.

he will do all this despite those who will seek to destroy him. Because he will be more powerful in writing than in speaking, he will be given a spokesman.

To a young, backwoods, unlettered boy these must have seemed impossible, but his promise was that "...out of weakness he shall be made strong..." (verse 13). Joseph Smith would have had many mental obstacles to overcome in order to fulfill those responsibilities. What gave him that strength to achieve?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Opposition in All Things/Pride

Lehi makes a point to all his children, though he begins with Jacob, that there was a purpose to Adam's transgression and fall. Therefore, there is a purpose to Satan. The Father had to know there would be one who would take up the satanic role, but there had to have been great sorrow, nonetheless. The son whose brilliance exceeded the brilliance of all other spirits except Jehovah's and whose name implies "light" rebelled and the eternal war began. Who was there to tempt him away from Father's will? Pride, it seems, is an eternal problem. Is that one of the traits of the "natural man?" Is pride a trait that needs no satanic influence? There must continue to be opposition even after this life, or according to Lehi, progress would cease.

The opposite of pride must be faith in Christ. Humility, of course, is necessary to achieve the depth of faith necessary to overcome pride. Pride is centered in self. Faith is centered in Christ and his atonement. The ultimate end of pride is misery, while the ultimate end of faith is holiness which is unspeakable joy. To Lehi, holiness and happiness are the same for the opposite of both is misery.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Isaiah's Premortal Calling/Covenant People/Gratitude

1. We often cite Jeremiah as evidence of our pre-mortal existence (before thou wast in the womb, I knew thee). Isaiah was called while in the womb, so obviously the same would apply with him.

2. He is concerned that not much progress is being made. The Lord sees a much broader vision, for these people are not his only people. Many more will come into this world and those will be the real recipients of Isaiah's writings, prophecies and personal sacrifices. In my mind the promises in this chapter are not strictly to Israel, but to all His covenant people. Perhaps, that is why those who enter into temple covenants are called "Israel."

3. Isaiah prophesies that the great and powerful people of the earth will hear the Gospel and embrace it. The Gentiles will embrace the covenant people and succor them (something we see throughout the history of Israel and even in the time of the early history of the Church). The Lord will protect and defend his covenant people even when they don't recognize it. A woman, he says, may forget her own offspring, but the Lord will not forget his covenant people.

4. Ingratitude causes us to lose sight of the blessings we have received and even those we are receiving. To me this sin is among the greatest because it is the mother of so many other sins. When we take so much for granted, we assume that those whose lifestyles are different, more worldly wise, have the same blessings as we, but have found the key to some sort of success. We then embrace a lifestyle that includes breaking covenants and commandments; something we are able to justify in our own minds by that point. Gratitude recognizes that all we have and all we are come from a heavenly source. When we learn that truth, it allows us to tap into a source of wealth we had no idea was even available to us. This wealth is deeper and more satisfying than any we can gain on our own, because it is the wealth that comes from knowing our lives are lived in accordance with the will of God. Everyone, in the end, wants to know that his or her life counted for something - this is the only real method of accomplishing that innate desire. It is people like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nephi, Lehi, Joseph Smith and others who were willing to sacrifice all hope of peace and worldly wealth to allow us, their heirs, to be the recipients of such blessings. That, in itself is something for which we ought to be grateful, but usually take for granted.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Purpose of Prothets - coming of Christ

In explaining the purpose of the small plates, Nephi relates some of the "great vision" he had received. He obviously witnessed the events leading up to the crucifixion and the signs that would accompany it. He also saw the resurrection and the accompanying signs. They scourge, smite, and spit upon him and he suffereth it because of his loving kindness and long suffering toward the children of men. However, the Jews will suffer as a people and as a nation.

1Nephi 19:20, The spiritual experience left him physically weak. He has had a lifetime of spiritual experiences so this experience was, as discussed in the last entry, exceedingly beyond the normal. Joseph Smith stated that the physical exhaustion becomes less with more experiences. This, then must have been extremely powerful. 1Nephi 20;21 are from Isaiah 48;49. They are messianic and very little changed from our current version. The Lord makes it clear that he is giving the prophet vision, wisdom and prophecy in such a a manner that it will not be mistaken for personal knowledge or to have come from a false god.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Rebellion and Fear vs. Fear of the Lord

1. Nephi is commanded to go "into" the mountain. There is no reference to a cave, so I suspect you would go into a mountain the same as you would go into a wilderness. My experience with mountains is that most are forested, so you would go into the forest of the mountain. Doing so would provide some privacy. Also, mountains are substitutes for temples when no temple is available and the term "mountain" is a temple metaphor throughout the scriptures. It is clear that the Lord could have given him revelation in his tent, but he wanted Nephi in a more sacred and secluded setting.

2. After traveling 8+ years on a subsistence diet and experiencing hard physical labor, they arrived in a land they called Bountiful because of its fertility and abundance of resources. It must have seemed like the promised land to them. Nephi, informs them, however, that their stay here is temporary and that they need to build a ship. There is only one reason to build a ship large enough to contain them all along with some animals, seeds and plants - they are going to move again. As is always the case, the righteous will take this in stride; the faithless will rebel. The logic would be that they have escaped their enemies, they have found a land that is obviously choice and will bring them security and wealth, why would they ever leave? The logic of the faithful is that only God knows the future and what is in store for them in the great scheme of things, so they willingly go where He would have them go. Their experience guides their action.

3. Nephi knows that life is not intended to be easy and that when the Lord calls, he must respond. He not only goes as commanded, but does so without hesitation and with enthusiasm. Where is ore, I want to make tools and get started. His "fear" is the fear of God - reverence and faith. Laman and Lemuel are incredulous that Nephi would undertake to build a ship. It is not a raft with some logs cobbled together, but a seaworthy vessel large enough for six families of varying numbers, animals, seeds and provisions for a long journey.

They know that Nephi has never seen this done, let alone actually done this sort of thing before. They know that after eight years of extreme hardship instead of taking advantage of this bountiful land, Nephi intends not to stop at the edge of the ocean, but to keep going. To where; certain death? Will he ever be satisfied; will he ever stop? They rebel. Rather than risk their lives and the lives of their children they and their comrades are willing, once again, to kill him.

They have forgotten the experience of obtaining the brass plates, the multiple visits of angels, the voice of the Lord and the many other miracles and evidences of this divine mission. On the other hand, perhaps they associate these experiences with the hardships that followed them.

Nephi is filled with the Spirit perhaps more than he has felt before as it leaves him exhausted. He speaks with the influence of the Spirit reminding them of all the miracles and evidences that they are on the Lord's errand and he tells them that he is so filled with the power of the Lord that anyone who lays hands on him will be consumed like a dry reed in a fire. The Spirit apparently confirms what he says because they left him alone for many days. They must have started to doubt after a while because he found it important to just touch them and give them a shock. It was an experience powerful enough that they fell down to worship him as a result. What will happen next? L & L will do a job while Nephi will do the will of the Lord. L & L are focused on the earth and its challenges and pleasures. Nephi is focused on eternity and submitting his will to the will of God. No matter what he suffers, rebellion is never a thought. The fear that motivates L & L is the fear of losing their lives. It is limited and leads to more rebellion as the spiritual experiences fade in memory. Nephi's fear is that his spiritual nature must be constantly nourished and those experiences, while fading, increase his faithfulness.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

More on the Tree of life/Gifts of God/Love of God

In Nephi's explanation to his brothers of the meaning of Lehi's Tree of Life dream, it is clear that they were all familiar with the concept of a tree of life. There are references to it throughout the Old Testament from the Garden of Eden through the writings of Isaiah, so they would have read or heard about the tree in their Sabbath worship. For us there are the same references and more in the book of Revelation in the New Testament. It is referred to throughout the Book of Mormon, mostly in the writings of Alma. In most cases, the fruit of the tree is spoken of as being most desirable, or that its roots are fed with everlasting water. I will be interested in knowing if it is strictly symbolic or if there remains such a tree in actual existence. Either way, I want some of that fruit!

The fruit of the tree represents the love of God. It is the most desirable of all the gifts of God. It seems that it is a dual gift. 1. We can experience God's love for us - probably the most beautiful experience we can have in this life. 2. We can love as God loves - unconditionally, unfeigned. When Lehi partook of the fruit, he was not inclined to hoard it or prevent others from receiving it, but immediately looked for his family, that he might share it. In fact, he was happy to share and saddened when those with whom he desired to share rejected the gift.

So it is with us. When we receive a gift we know is from God the tendency is to share it. When we are inclined to hoard our goods, time, skills or talents, we forget the origin of those gifts. We believe there is a limit and when we share, there is less of such things for us. When we take that attitude, the love of God and His other gifts are less available and, at least to some degree, they are withdrawn.

If we would have the blessings of God and especially the love of God, we must learn that all that we have is from Him to begin with and that we must learn to serve and share. It must be done in order which we will discuss when we get into the book of Mosiah, but our hearts must be constantly in tune with Him by sharing our bounty with others.