Tag Archives: angels

#BOMTC 2 Nephi 32-Jacob 1: From Nephi to Jacob

These pages mark a major transition in the Book of Mormon. Nephi’s final words are found in 2 Nephi 32-33, and once again we find his great anxiety for our welfare and his pattern for plainness (see 2 Nephi 32:8; 33:3-9). His final words are an invitation to “hearken unto these words and believe in Christ” (2 Nephi 33:10-15). A more simple, yet perfectly suited ending could not have been better for Nephi’s writings:

“for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey” (2 Nephi 33:15).

No wonder Nephi’s name seems to spring from our lips so effortlessly when illustrating examples of obedience!

#BOMTC Day 20, April 26~2 Nephi 32-Jacob 1 or Pages 115-120 FEAST Upon the Words of Christ

At this point Jacob inherits Nephi’s Small Plates and is given instruction on what should be recorded on them (see Jacob 1:1-4). Jacob is not at all new to the Book of Mormon. In fact, much of 2 Nephi is actually Nephi recording Jacob’s teaching and preaching. Many of our favorite teachings from 2 Nephi came from Jacob (2 Nephi 9 is just one example). As Nephi dies, Jacob takes ecclesiastical responsibility for the Nephite society. Unfortunately, the Nephites are struggling with quite a few spiritual problems (Jacob 1:15-16).

Reminiscent of many prophets before, and others yet to come, Jacob uses the Temple as his stage and the setting for calling the people to repentance. Nephi’s “plainness” seems to have had an effect on Jacob’s preaching (see Jacob 2:11). Jacob must now help the people overcome their love of riches (see v. 12), their pride (see vv. 13-21), and their immorality (see vv. 23-35). It’s a tough job, but Jacob has been called of God and is capable of the task at hand (Jacob 1:17-19; 2:1-7)!

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#BOMTC Moroni 1-7: Moroni’s Handbook of Instructions

#BOMTC Day 83, June 28~Moroni 1-7 or Pages 519-524, Handbook

I really wish that this post on Moroni 1-7 were something that we could just sit down together and discuss, with our scriptures open, ready to learn from each other.

From what I have observed, some people don’t really seem to appreciate these chapters of the Book of Mormon. So, I want to take a moment and look back at the chapter headings and consider what a “gold mine” we have in these small chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Moroni writes for the benefit of the Lamanites—The Nephites who will not deny Christ are put to death.
  • Chapter 2: Jesus gave the twelve Nephite disciples power to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  • Chapter 3: Elders ordain priests and teachers by the laying on of hands.
  • Chapter 4: How elders and priests administer the sacramental bread is explained.
  • Chapter 5: The mode of administering the sacramental wine is set forth.
  • Chapter 6: Repentant persons are baptized and fellowshipped—Church members who repent are forgiven—Meetings are conducted by the power of the Holy Ghost.
  • Chapter 7: An invitation is given to enter into the rest of the Lord—Pray with real intent—The Spirit of Christ enables men to know good from evil—Satan persuades men to deny Christ and do evil—The prophets manifest the coming of Christ—By faith, miracles are wrought and angels minister—Men should hope for eternal life and cleave unto charity. About A.D. 401–421.

Do you see what I mean? That is not “milk” of the gospel type stuff; that is serious “meat and potatoes” gospel stuff. Sure, it may seem common place to us now, BUT that is only because Moroni put it there in the first place so many of us have known it most of our lives!

Sometimes we don’t realize the value of what we have because we have always had it. What we are really looking at in these chapters is what Moroni knew was essential, and he knew that these essentials were not yet found in the Book of Mormon. Indeed they are just as Moroni had hoped–they have been, and are, of great “worth” (Moroni 1:4).

Let’s see how these seemingly common-place teachings helped to bring about the marvelous restoration of Christ’s church in the latter days.

As I wrote in the title of this blog post, I like to refer to these chapters as, “Moroni’s Handbook of Instructions”. This handbook has both ecclesiastical and personal application. Let’s first take a look at the ecclesiastical aspect of it.

In Doctrine and Covenants 18:1-5 we find a “commandment” that was given to Oliver Cowdery. See if you can discover what that commandment was by taking a good look at those verses.

Now, behold, because of the thing which you, my servant Oliver Cowdery, have desired to know of me, I give unto you these words:

Behold, I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the things which you have written are true; wherefore you know that they are true.

And if you know that they are true, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written;

For in them are all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock.

Wherefore, if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

Alright, so what was the “commandment” that Oliver was given? Yes, you can see the word “commandment” in verse 3, but you need to use verses 4-5 to really understand why he needed to “rely upon the things which are written“.

Let me review those verses with you again with a little added commentary:

Now, behold, because of the thing which you, my servant Oliver Cowdery, have desired to know of me, I give unto you these words:

Behold, I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the things which you have written [the Book of Mormon] are true; wherefore you know that they [the things which you have written in the Book of Mormon] are true.

And if you know that they are true, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written [in the Book of Mormon];

For in them [the things which you have written in the Book of Mormon] are all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock.

Wherefore, if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock [the things which you have written in the Book of Mormon], the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

The verse summary of D&C 18 also gives us a clue to the commandment given to Oliver:

“1–5, Scriptures show how to build up the Church”

Was that helpful? Are you starting to see the commandment that Oliver was given?

In the article, “How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Received and Compiled” we learn that:

Most of the Christian churches located in New York at the time Joseph Smith received his first revelations had “confessions,” “creeds,” “platforms,” or “articles of faith.” These documents contained brief statements of basic beliefs, doctrine, duties of members, and other information useful to investigators and members. Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants (which was known as the Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ during the first decade of the Church) has many parallels to the confessions of the Christian churches of the day and appears to have been written for the same purpose. It is composed of short statements about basic doctrines, ordinances, duties of members and priesthood bearers, and the baptismal and sacrament prayers.

What appears to be an early draft of the Articles and Covenants (in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting and dated in 1829) is in the Archives of the Historical Department of the Church. It is titled: “A True Copy of the articles of the Church of Christ.” Oliver Cowdery wrote at the beginning of this document that he composed it by commandment. If the procedure was the same then as now, such a commandment would have come through the Prophet [D&C 18:3]. This document contains quotations from the Book of Mormon and from earlier revelations [D&C 18:4-5]. Most of the Book of Mormon quotations are retained in the current form of section 20.

The existence of this document helps solve two matters concerning the text of section 20. First, when a comparison is made between the current text and various earlier printings of section 20, it is clear that this section has had numerous additions and deletions. For example, section 22 was included as part of this section when it was first published in the Evening and Morning Star. Similarly, verses 14–15, 41, 50–52, and 61–67 are either additions to the text or are verses that were completely revised over the years.

The second matter involves a letter that Oliver Cowdery wrote to Joseph Smith in July or August of 1830, asking that a part of verse 37 which he considered to be in error be taken out of the revelation. A portion of this early document is similar to verse 37 in section 20, but does not contain that part of the verse Oliver Cowdery wanted removed. The portion questioned by Oliver was later reinserted by the Prophet.

Thus, section 20 is an example of the principles taught in sections 67 and 68 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In section 67, we are informed that the revelations were given in the language of the Prophet Joseph Smith with all the normal imperfections of human communication. In section 68, we are told that when a servant of the Lord is moved upon by the Holy Ghost, what he says is the mind and the will of the Lord, and is scripture. The historical background of section 20, therefore, appears to be centered in an effort to put into words the basic beliefs and tenets of the Church. The document was drawn from earlier revealed sources and was thus inspired by the Spirit over a period of time; it is, therefore, scripture.

On 9 June 1830, the first conference of the Church was held as directed in the Articles and Covenants of the Church (section 20). The complete Articles and Covenants were read in this conference by Joseph Smith as one of the first items of business. This document was then received by the “unanimous voice of the whole congregation.” Thus, section 20 became the first revelation of this dispensation canonized by the Church. It was also the first revelation of this dispensation to be printed in the first edition, and was printed on the first page of the first newspaper of the Church, the Evening and Morning Star (vol. 1, no. 1, June 1832). From that point on, basic practices of the Church have been conducted in accordance with this section. In succeeding conferences, the Articles and Covenants were read in order that the Latter-day Saints might be reminded of the policies and procedures they were to follow. (Bolded emphasis added.)

So, here is what happened… In D&C 18:1-5, Oliver was commanded to take an active roll in creating the Articles and Covenants of the Church (D&C 20) by “rely[ing] upon the things which are written” in the Book of Mormon.

man reading book

Now what parts of the Book of Mormon match up best with D&C 20? In the true spirit of discovery and seeking learning by faith, you may want to take a break from this post and study Moroni 2-6 as if you were Oliver Cowdery and had been commanded by the Lord to “rely upon the things which are written” to figure out how to organize Christ’s Church. As you do so, I would recommend that you mark anything that stands out to you.

Once you have completed your study, go to D&C 20 and look for the elements that you discovered in Moroni 2-6. I would encourage you to write the Book of Mormon references that you discovered with their companion scriptures in D&C 20. After my first read I found eight references in Moroni 2-6 that are directly correlated to companion scriptures in D&C 20. I am sure that there are more. See what you can discover for yourself!

open book with gold ribbon

For a great little article on the Church Handbook of Instructions used today, see “Church Handbooks: The Written Order of Things“.

These chapters from Moroni seem to have been inserted and intended to be of “worth” for the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days. However, as I mentioned before, we can also see these chapters as a Personal Handbook of Instructions.

#BOMTC Day 83, June 28~Moroni 1-7 or Pages 519-524, DAB The Book of Mormon is our handbook of instructions

The Book of Mormon is our handbook of instructions as we travel the pathway from bad to good to better and strive to have our hearts changed. (David A. Bednar, “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” Ensign, April 2012.)

To me, these chapters can serve as a handbook from Moroni on “How to Never Be Alone“. This man knows what it is like to be alone! He has been alone for a loooong time (it appears to be about 20 years). During that time long time alone he has protected the plates and added to them.

Now I know that Moroni’s intent in writing these chapters is not to be a handbook for how to never be alone. All I am doing is “likening” what is found in these chapters to things that the Lord has given us to help us never feel alone… even when we are.

Once again, in the spirit of discovery and seeking learning by faith, I invite you to study what is found in Moroni 1-7 and find what can help you to understand that you never have to feel alone when you live the gospel. This time you really will have to be like Oliver Cowdery, because there will be no supporting document to show you the right answers. You can do it! “Rely upon the things which are written,” and find what the Lord has given you in these chapters so that you never have to feel alone.

#BOMTC Day 83, June 28~Moroni 1-7 or Pages 519-524, We Are Never Alone full quote

Dare to Stand Alone

President Thomas S. Monson shares an experience he had in the Navy when he had to stand alone and reminds us that “we are never alone when we stand with our Father in Heaven.”

I Never Stand Alone

(When I Stand With God)

Alone I stand,
While all the world around me
Surrounds me
And takes me for a fool.
But I am not
The first to be regarded
As weak and simple-hearted
For choosing to believe

That He keeps watch over His own.

I never stand alone
When I stand with God
And I stand with His prophets.
Wherever I may go,
When I stand with God
I never stand alone.

And so it is
My heart has been befriended,
Defended
By those who, ve gone before.

Who call to me
Like distant rolling thunder,
“You cannot be outnumbered!
You, re standing with the Lord.”

And He keeps watch over His own.

I never stand alone
When I stand with God
And I stand with His prophets.
Wherever I may go,
When I stand with God
I never stand alone.

I stand with Nephi and Moroni,
With Abinadi, who testified in flames!
With saints through the ages,
Stalwart and faithful,
Leading me, telling me . . .
I never stand
I never stand alone
When I stand with God
And I stand with His prophets.
Wherever I may go,
When I stand with God
I never stand alone.
I never stand
I never stand alone

(From the Steven Kapp Perry Album ‘From Cumorah’s Hill’)

Dare to Stand Alone

(Especially for Youth 2015 album, “Here Am I” )

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#BOMTC Alma 32-33: Nourishing the S.E.E.D. of the Word of God

Using an analogy of the planting and nourishing of a seed, Alma taught the people who were poor and cast out of the Zoramite synagogues what they must do to receive and nourish faith in the word of God (see Alma 32). Alma invited them (and us) to experiment on the word and to nourish their faith and testimony daily (see Alma 32:27).

In the October 2010 General Conference of the Church, Bishop Richard C. Edgley of the Presiding Bishopric used Alma 32 to teach us that faith is a choice:

“Alma’s classic discussion on faith, as recorded in the 32nd chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon, is a series of choices to ensure the development and the preservation of our faith. Alma gave us a directive to choose. His were words of action initiated by choosing. He used the words awake, arouse, experiment, exercise, desire, work, and plant. Then Alma explained that if we make these choices and do not cast the seed out by unbelief, then ‘it will begin to swell within [our] breasts’ (Alma 32:28).

“Yes, faith is a choice, and it must be sought after and developed. Thus, we are responsible for our own faith. We are also responsible for our lack of faith. The choice is yours.” (“Faith—the Choice Is Yours,” Ensign, Nov. 2010. Emphasis added.)

In the English version of the Book of Mormon, there is a cool little acrostic-type pattern that spells the word SEED in Alma 32:28. In this verse Alma is describing to the people some of the sensations that they will “begin” to experience as they choose to “experiment upon [his] words” (Alma 32:27).

“Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (Alma 32:28, emphasis added.)

“we will compare the word unto a SEED

  • “it will begin to Swell within your breasts”
  • “it beginneth to Enlarge my soul”
  • “it beginneth to Enlighten my understanding”
  • “it beginneth to Delicious to me”
#BOMTC Day 46, May 22~Alma 32-33 or Pages 287-293 (3)

For a great breakdown of this verse click the graphic

In the October 2015 session of General ConferenceElder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles elaborated on this powerful principle concerning faith:

“By the grace of Christ, we will one day be saved through faith on His name. The future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice.” (“Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice,” Ensign Nov. 2015. Emphasis added.)

The future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice. Neil L. Andersen LDS Quotes General Conference October 2015:

He then went on to illustrate this point by sharing the following story:

“A month ago in Brazil, I met Aroldo Cavalcante. He was baptized at age 21, the first member of the Church in his family. His faith burned brightly, and he immediately began preparing to serve a mission. Sadly, Aroldo’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Three months later, only days before she died, she spoke to Aroldo of her greatest concern: There were no relatives to help. Aroldo would need to take full responsibility for his two younger sisters and his younger brother. He solemnly made this promise to his dying mother.
“By day he worked in a bank, and at night he attended the university. He continued to keep his baptismal covenants, but his hopes for a full-time mission were gone. His mission would be caring for his family.
“Months later while preparing a sacrament meeting talk, Aroldo studied the words that Samuel reprovingly spoke to King Saul: “To obey,” he read, “is better than [to] sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22) Aroldo received the seemingly impossible impression that he needed to obey the prophet’s call to serve a mission. Undaunted by the obstacles before him, he moved forward with enormous faith.
“Aroldo saved every Brazilian cruzeiro he could. At age 23, he received his mission call. He told his brother how much to withdraw each month from his account for the family. Aroldo still did not have enough money to pay the full cost of his mission and the living expenses for his brother and sisters, but with faith he entered the MTC. A week later he received the first of many blessings. The bank that had employed Elder Cavalcante unexpectedly doubled the money he was to receive as he concluded his work. This miracle, along with others, provided the needed income for his mission and his family during his absence.
“Twenty years later, Brother Cavalcante is now serving as the president of the Recife Brazil Boa Viagem Stake. Looking back, he said of those days, ‘As I tried to live righteously, I felt the Savior’s love and guidance. My faith grew, allowing me to overcome many challenges.’ Aroldo’s faith did not come by chance, but by choice.” (“Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice,” Ensign Nov. 2015. Emphasis added.)

A quote from Elder Neil L. Andersen, “Your faith will grow not by chance, but by choice,” on a white background bordered by a lake and clouds.

President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency identified ways we can choose to nourish our testimonies:

“Testimony requires the nurturing by the prayer of faith, the hungering for the word of God in the scriptures, and the obedience to the truth we have received. There is danger in neglecting prayer. There is danger to our testimony in only casual study and reading of the scriptures. They are necessary nutrients for our testimony. …

“Feasting on the word of God, heartfelt prayer, and obedience to the Lord’s commandments must be applied evenly and continually for your testimony to grow band prosper. All of us at times have circumstances beyond our control that interrupt our pattern of scripture study. There may be periods of time when we choose for some reason not to pray. There may be commandments that we choose for a time to ignore.

“But you will not have your desire for a living testimony granted if you forget the warning and the promise in Alma [32:40–43].” (“A Living Testimony,” Ensign , May 2011. Emphasis added.)

Illustrating these basic nurturing steps taught by Alma and President Eyring, Brother Chad H Webb, the Administrator of Seminaries & Institutes of Religion, share the following:

We act in faith when we choose to trust God and turn to Him first in our efforts to acquire and understand spiritual knowledge. We act in faith as we keep His commandments and watch for evidence of His promised blessings. Acting in faith includes doing those things that will invite the Spirit as we search for further understanding. Elder M. Russell Ballard shared this example:

“One of our outstanding missionaries that served with us in the Canada Toronto Mission years ago came to my office in Salt Lake City. During our visit, he told me that he was losing his faith and his testimony and that he had many questions. I asked him to write down his questions and promised to find answers to them, certainly as many as I could. As he was about to leave . . . I said, ‘Elder, how long has it been since you have studied the scriptures; specifically, how long has it been since you have read from the Book of Mormon?’ He lowered his head and said he had not been doing that. I gave him an assignment to begin reading the Book of Mormon for an hour each day while I worked to prepare answers to his questions. He agreed to do so.

“Two weeks later, he came back to my office, and as he entered in and sat down he said, ‘President, I don’t need answers to those questions anymore. I did what you asked—I know the Book of Mormon is true and I know Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.’ I was very happy to hear that but said, ‘Elder, I spent a long time answering your questions so you will have to sit down and hear the answers!’ What a joy! The Spirit and light of the gospel had returned to him. I commended him and gave him a big hug before he left.”

As we act in faith through study, prayer, and obedience, we invite the Holy Ghost to dispel uncertainty and to reaffirm the testimony we have already been given of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. (“That They May Know How to Come unto Him and Be Saved,” Brigham Young University-Hawaii, March 22, 2016.)

Al Fox, “The Tattooed Mormon,” on Finding Faith

The following account was shared by Elder Loren C. Dunn:

“I am reminded of two young men who came in to see me some months ago. They had been recommended by their priesthood leaders. From the moment they stepped into the office, they began in a very sincere way questioning certain doctrines and teachings and procedures of the Church. Their attitude, however, was not antagonistic, as they were sincerely looking for answers.

“I asked them finally if their questions perhaps represented the symptoms of their problem and not the cause. Wasn’t their real question whether or not this church is true? Whether or not it is actually the Church of Jesus Christ? And whether or not it is led by divine revelation? The young men agreed that perhaps if they were sure of the answers to these questions, they could take care of the other questions that seemed to arise in their hearts.

“I asked them if they were willing to participate in an experiment. One of them appeared to be athletically inclined, and so I turned to him and asked, “If you wanted to learn about the chemical properties of water, would you go to the local sports stadium and run four laps around the track?”

“He said, “Of course not.”

“I asked, “Why not?”

“He said, “The two are not related.” We then turned to John, chapter seven, and read: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it he of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17.)

“If we are going to experiment with the things of Christ, then we are going to have to put these things to a spiritual test—a test that the Savior himself has outlined for all those who wish to know, a test of doing.

“I asked them if they read the scriptures.

“They said, “No.”

“I asked them if they prayed.

“They said, “Not often.”

“I asked them if they kept the Word of Wisdom.

“They said, “Occasionally.”

“I asked them if they went to church. They said they’d stopped.

“I asked them if they would be interested in a three-month experiment. They said they would try but were not anxious to commit themselves until they found out what I had in mind.

“During the next three months will you attend all your church meetings and listen carefully to what is being said, even taking notes of the principal points being made by the teachers and how these points might apply to your lives?”

“They thought for a moment and said they would.

“During the next three months will you reinstitute in your personal life prayer, night and morning, thanking God for the blessings you enjoy and asking him to help you know if the Church is true and if the things you are doing are meaningful to your lives?”

“One of these young men, who considered himself an agnostic, balked at this, but then he finally agreed to do it on the basis that for the sake of the experiment he would accept the premise that there is a God and would appeal to this God for the light and knowledge which he was seeking.

“I asked them if in the next three months they would refrain from drinking, smoking, and drugs. Although this created some anxiety, they resolved to do it.

“I asked them if in the next three months they would resolve to keep themselves morally clean and in harmony with the principles of virtue which the Savior taught. They said they would. And then I suggested they establish a schedule, on their own, during the next three months to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover—a few pages each day, with a prayer at each reading that the Lord would bless them to know if the book is true and actually from him. They agreed.

“Anticipating what might happen, I said, “Now, if you feel disposed to tell your friends about this, probably their first comment will be ‘Boy, has Brother Dunn snowed you.’ You may even feel that way a time or two during this experiment, but don’t let it keep you from doing what you have agreed to do. If you think that might be a problem, then keep it in the back of your mind, and go ahead and honestly experiment, and let this three-month experience speak for itself.” I added, “If things go properly, you’ll notice some by-products, such as a growing awareness and concern for your fellowman and greater appreciation and consideration for other people.” They accepted the challenge and left.” (“Drink of the Pure Water“, Ensign, June 1971)

Alma 32, An_Experiment_Upon_the_Word BYU_Magazine

There was an AMAZING “experiment” conducted as a joint effort by the Church and the BYU AdLab concerning the power of the Book of Mormon as Another Testament of Jesus Christ. An article explaining this experiment can be found at, “An Experiment Upon the Word“. The video clip below is from the talk, “Experiment Upon the Word,” by Elder Kevin R. Duncan, and shows a visual summary of the experiment that was conducted.

Brothers and sisters, put yourself in the position of those in the experimental group.  You are a millennial non-Mormon from somewhere around the world.  Perhaps you’ve heard of the Book of Mormon, if so you most likely think it’s a Broadway musical.  Perhaps you know a Mormon or have met a missionary, and if so, you probably think you already know what they will say to you.  You are curious, so you agree to take part in a simple experiment.

As I said, these experiments were conducted all over the world. People from every walk of life and from most every religion were involved, a true cross-section of Heavenly Father’s children here on this earth.

Because I knew I would be coming here to your campus, I asked the team to conduct one of the experiments here in Hawaii.  Here is a short video of the experiments from around the world.

Brothers and sisters, the Book of Mormon speaks for itself, or rather, the voice of God is found within its pages.  These children of God recognize and remember on a spiritual level that God is their Father.  Much like children respond to the voice of their father here on earth, these children of God responded to their Eternal Father’s voice as found in the Book of Mormon.

Let’s now enjoy the results of the experiment.

How do you think a Muslim would view the Book of Mormon?  Rafi, a Muslim from London, read page 430 and remarked:

Alma_32,_An_Experiment_Upon_the_Word_Rafi's_Words

This is the first time that I have ever read a page of scripture. I think the page was good, it’s definitely good. It shows that God is a God of miracles, not a god of punishment. He’s merciful, he does miracles and he wants to help us. I believe that God is that way, he wants to help us. Reading this book has helped me. I love it!

How might a person respond who feels like they have been in the dark respond?  Kate, who calls herself Non-Religious from Australia, read page 184 and then said:

Alma_32,_An_Experiment_Upon_the_Word_Kate's_Words

It was one of the first pages of scripture that I have ever read. And I think that a book like this can help people find answers in their life when they feel like they are in darkness. I’m so grateful to have been part of this experiment…I’ve been in the dark and needed a little more light in my life.

Here is the response from Nazam, another Muslim from the UK who read page 239:

Alma_32,_An_Experiment_Upon_the_Word_Nazam's_Words

I can see a lot of similarities between what I read here and what I read in the Koran, I do not think the two are as different as many believe them to be. I think we actually believe very similar things. I felt good as I read it and as long as it is teaching people to be good to one another then I believe it to be good.

What about people who claim that we aren’t Christians?  Will, an Atheist from Chicago had something to say about that.  He read page 440 and wrote:

Alma_32,_An_Experiment_Upon_the_Word_Will's_Words

The page that I read seemed to reference the Old Testament and I could see that it was talking about Jesus. If anything talks about God this book does.

Sometimes, one page was simply not enough!  Bianca, a Christian, from South Africa, read page 307 and shared:

Alma_32,_An_Experiment_Upon_the_Word_Bianca's_Words

Where’s the next page? I want to read what happens next! I had always heard never to read more than the bible but this taught me the same things about Christ and His resurrection. I want to know more!

Incidentally after Bianca read her page it lead to an hour-long discussion about the Restoration of the Gospel and the blessing in having Another Testament of Jesus Christ on the earth today—the Book of Mormon.

Some responses made us chuckle.  John, a Christian from South Africa in London, read page 232 and said:

Alma_32,_An_Experiment_Upon_the_Word_John's_Words

I didn’t know that I agreed with your doctrine. I think I am a secret Mormon!

Finding John was a pretty special experience in and of itself. The team was set up on the corner of Hyde Park and Marble Arch in London, at a little place known as Speaker’s Corner. For those familiar with the history of Missionary Work in the Church, this is the same location where the first missionaries from the Church sent to England preached the Gospel publically. Today this location is still reserved on Sunday as a public space for open discussion and preaching of religion.  But the modern scene might best be described as chaotic and loud.  There are people on soap boxes and people on ladders yelling with megaphones.

John told us that he had moved to London from South Africa 22 years ago and had been coming every Sunday to Speaker’s Corner looking for religion.  He had not felt the spirit of confirmation he had been searching for until he had stopped and read a page from the Book of Mormon.  He exclaimed, “I didn’t know I agreed with your doctrine. I think I am a secret Mormon.”

The Book of Mormon helped one woman remember spiritual experiences from her youth.  Miriam, a middle-aged Christian woman from Brazil, read a wonderful page, page 478.  She then said:

Alma_32,_An_Experiment_Upon_the_Word_Miriam's_Words

I was very sick when I was young and my mother told me everyday to ask for God’s help. When I was five God came to me and blessed me. My father was killed in a car accident when I was 19 and when I ran up to my room upset I asked God where He was and why He would let this happen. He told me that my earthly father was gone, but I would always have my Heavenly Father. I’m so glad you’re doing this. I had forgotten about those experiences until I read this page. Reading this book lets people remember their spiritual experiences.

What is the favorite part for many who read the Book of Mormon?  Lester, a Christian from the Philippines, read page 416 and then gave this beautiful and simple witness after reading his page:

Alma_32,_An_Experiment_Upon_the_Word_Lester's_Words

I really liked the experiment.  My favorite part was reading that Jesus is our Savior.

Brothers and sisters, the world wants and needs a Savior and finding that second witness in the Book of Mormon is thrilling to anyone who receives it.

Many people are exposed to war and violence.  How did the experiment help them?  Amna, a Muslim from Pakistan, read page 397 and wrote:

Alma_32,_An_Experiment_Upon_the_Word_Amna's_Words

This is a brilliant idea. You should take out an ad and tell people to be here.  I woke up and turned on the TV today and all I saw was war, refugees, violence, and problems. The world needs to see this.  To see that there is hope and love in the world and that God is good, this is what this world needs.  I am so grateful to be part of the project. The whole world needs to see it.  Thank you!!  It’s brilliant!

Brothers and sisters, we could keep going and going with one person after another, but you can see for yourself what one single page from the Book of Mormon can do to a child of God.  People are hungry for words from their Father in Heaven and from their Brother and Savior Jesus Christ.  Perhaps this scripture from the Book of Mormon itself proclaims the power of these many witnesses.  (Elder Kevin R. Duncan, “Experiment Upon the Word,” BYU-Hawaii, November 14, 2017.)

Perhaps the BEST lesson from Alma 32 that I have ever heard came from Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Presidency of the Seventy. In a Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, Elder Robbins shared amazing insights and application regarding what is taught in Alma 32. PLEASE do yourself a favor and take the time to study, watch, or listen to Elder Robbins’ talk:

Tasting the Light

Brothers and sisters, welcome to this Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, with a special welcome to those of you who will graduate this year from seminary—a praiseworthy achievement and evidence of your faith and love of the Lord. I invite you to follow the example of many others here tonight and continue your quest for spiritual learning in a local institute of religion or at a Church university. I promise you that you will continue to receive important guidance for all other vital decisions in your life, as well as meet people who will have a significant impact in your life.

Tonight you are going to hear me bear witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. You are going to hear me use the words “I know.” I want to describe to you how I came to know that He is the literal Son of God, the Redeemer and Savior of the world, and that His gospel is true.

I also want to help you discover that your own testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel is much stronger than you may think it is.

Where Is My Testimony on the Faith Spectrum?

I would like to begin by having you do a mental self-assessment. Look at the line in this illustration, and give your testimony a score on this faith spectrum:

At the bottom is the atheist. We will score the atheist a zero. At the top of the scale is a 10, or to have a perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Where would you place yourself on this spectrum? I suspect that many of you would give yourself a lower score than you deserve.

Remember the score you have given yourself to see if it increases during the course of this presentation as we discuss various faith-building aspects of a testimony and how each one helps advance us on the faith spectrum and experience greater peace and happiness.

Alma invites each person to take the first step forward on the faith spectrum with “an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe” (Alma 32:27; emphasis added).

Desire

The following insight illustrates the wisdom of taking this first step of desire.

In 1623 the French prodigy, mathematician, and inventor Blaise Pascal was born. Among his other discoveries was the mathematical theory of probability, which provided the science behind rational choice theory—a logical approach for making optimal decisions. With decision theory, Pascal astutely observed that in the game of life humans cannot avoid life’s greatest wager: whether or not God exists. It has become known as Pascal’s Wager, with a person’s life—or more specifically, his or her eternal life—at stake, as depicted in this illustration:

In the column headings are two options: either God exists or He does not. In the rows are also two options: I can either choose to believe or not believe.

The possible resulting combinations are as follows:

  • If God exists and I believe and act accordingly, I can inherit eternal life.

  • If I believe and God does not exist, I lose nothing.

  • If I do not believe nor honor or obey God and He exists, I forfeit eternal life.

  • If I do not believe and God does not exist, I gain nothing.

  • Pascal’s Wager argues that the optimal decision is to believe in God’s existence and that only a fool would bet against the existence of God because he has everything to lose and nothing to gain.

The prodigal son would argue that what he loses is the chance to “eat, drink and be merry” (2 Nephi 28:7)—a poor consolation prize when you consider what is at stake. He may “have joy in [his] works for a season, [but] by and by the end cometh” (3 Nephi 27:11). His dreams of merrymaking and revelry become a living nightmare as he inevitably awakens to the spiritual hangover he experiences in this life and discovers for himself that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10) and later, at judgment day, when he “shall confess before God that his judgments are just” (Mosiah 16:1). In due course he learns that he has been duped by the master of illusion with his sugarcoated brand of pleasure-disguised misery. Hence, “let not thine heart envy sinners” (Proverbs 23:17).

Thank goodness there was a second chance for the prodigal son, which is one of the great lessons the Savior expects us to learn from this parable (see Luke 15:11–32).

Plant the Seed—Begin Learning

Alma describes the next step:

“Let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

“Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, [let the] seed … be planted in your heart” (Alma 32:27–28; emphasis added).

Planting the seed means you have now acted on the desire with an inspired curiosity in the experiment. You have now initiated the learning process.

According to the scriptures, this learning process should proceed in two ways: “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118; emphasis added).

The scriptures also teach us of two learning channels through which the Spirit teaches us:

“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in yourheart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

“Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation” (D&C 8:2–3; emphasis added).

Aligning Learning Methods and Learning Channels

Before returning to the faith spectrum, I want to illustrate the interrelationship between the two learning methods and the two learning channels. Cross-connecting them should give you some helpful insights on how we continue to progress along the faith spectrum.

When Joseph Smith learned about prayer by study, he was reading in the Bible, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

Joseph learned about prayer by faith when he acted on his belief and went into the Sacred Grove and prayed.

At the top of the visual are the two learning channels—the mind and heart.

Connecting Learning by Study with the Mind

When we seek learning by study, the Lord speaks to our mind in the form of inspired thoughts. Among other possible words relating to the intersection of “Study” and “Mind,” we could add the following: thoughts, interest, curiosity, examine, study, search, consider, questions, and pondering.

Inspired questions cause one to ponder, and pondering under the influence of the Spirit takes you to the next level of learning, where study intersects with the heart.

Connecting Learning by Study with the Heart

Your pondering is nourishing the seed, and it begins tosprout, and you begin to have feelings inspired by the Spirit. It is the heart, or inspired feelings, that changes a thought into a belief.

Alma states it this way: “If it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you  feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me” (Alma 32:28; emphasis added).

While we normally associate the word understand with the mind, multiple scriptures link understanding with the heart, such as “and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed” (3 Nephi 19:33). When he spoke of James 1:5, young Joseph said, “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine” (Joseph Smith—History 1:12).

With those kinds of feelings, Alma says, “Now behold, would not this increase your faith ? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge” (Alma 32:29; emphasis added).

It is not yet a perfect knowledge. However, with the heart touched, it inspires us to take another step on the faith spectrum. For Joseph, it inspired him toact and accept the scriptural invitation to pray. He would not “receive [a] witness until after the trial of [his] faith” (Ether 12:6).

Connecting Learning by Faith with the Mind

Learning by faith requires acting on feelings and beliefs.1 The Savior gave this very invitation to learn by faith when He said, “If any man will do his will, he shallknow of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17; emphasis added). In this verse the Savior teaches us that doing is the act of faith that turns a belief into knowledge. For naysayers He exhorts, “Though ye believe not me, believe the works:that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him” (John 10:38; emphasis added).

In speaking of knowing, Alma says:

“And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs knowthat the seed is good.

“And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, yourknowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know,  … your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand” (Alma 32:33–34; emphasis added).

Acting on your faith has given you knowledge.

Among other words we might associate with learning by faith and the mind, we could add the following: knowledge perfect (in that thing), pray, repent, change behavior, obey, experiences, and taste.

Alma uses the verb taste in a very peculiar way as he refers to tasting light. Listen:

“O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tastedthis light is your knowledge perfect?

“Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good” (Alma 32:35–36; emphasis added).

It is tasting the light and savoring it that has given you a perfect knowledge in that thing, or knowing that the seedling is good. The light is inviting you to come unto Jesus Christ, “and the power of God [is] working miracles in [you] … and [converting you] unto the Lord” (Alma 23:6).

Connecting Learning by Faith with the Heart

Alma continues: “And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, … with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof. …

“… Behold, by and by ye shall pluck [or taste] the fruitthereof, which is most precious” (Alma 32:37, 41–42; emphasis added).

Tasting of the fruit advances us to where learning by faith and the heart intersect. Here we discover for ourselves that the fruit is, indeed, sweet and precious. Following Jesus Christ, and doing His will, allows us to taste of His Atonement and the gospel in multiple ways. Earlier in the process our hearts were deeply moved.Now “a mighty change [of] heart” is occurring, as described by Alma (Alma 5:12), and the Spirit is turning our experience and knowledge into conversion.

When we are “converted unto the Lord” (Alma 23:8), we follow the Savior by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. As we taste the fruits of the gospel, we experience blessings and such joy and happiness that we want to share it with others, just as Lehi did: “And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit” (1 Nephi 8:12).

To be “converted unto the Lord,” in a literal sense, is themighty change and transformation of becoming like Jesus Christ, by “[yielding] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and [putting] off the natural man and [becoming] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19). In the more comprehensive sense of the word, our conversion won’t be complete until we have grown spiritually “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). This will be a lifelong pursuit and journey of faith in Him and with His grace or divine help (see 2 Nephi 25:23).

This lifelong conversion will clearly require continued nurturing on our part to avoid the withering effect described by Alma: “But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, … it withers away” (Alma 32:38).

“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20; emphasis added).

This mighty change and conversion doesn’t mean we won’t still have questions. However, having tasted the light, questions should instill in us a desire to continue learning rather than causing doubts that can wither our growing faith. “And whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words” (Mormon 9:25).

Questions are good. They cause us to ponder, search, and pray. Joseph Smith continued to have questions throughout his life. Nearly every section of the Doctrine and Covenants was revealed through him as a result of a question he took to the Lord in prayer, line upon line, and precept upon precept. This is the same way the Savior learned: “And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness” (D&C 93:13).

A Perfect Knowledge

Returning to our faith spectrum, we labeled the top a “perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ and His gospel.”

Let’s examine the phrase “perfect knowledge.” In referring to “tasting light,” Alma taught that “your knowledge is perfect in that thing” (Alma 32:34). In the following verse, look for the prophet Mormon’s use of the same phrase, “perfect knowledge,” as he adds his witness of the same light:

“For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge,as the daylight is from the dark night.

“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. …

“And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully” (Moroni 7:15–16, 18; emphasis added).

Both prophets testify that it is the Light of Christ that gives us a perfect knowledge of truth. Even the people of the world recognize that they have an inner sense of right and wrong. They acknowledge the Light of Christ in the use of the word conscience, which comes from the Latin word conscientia, or “knowledge within oneself.” 2

With that light as our seal of truth, we continue to progress on the faith spectrum line upon line, and precept upon precept (see 2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 98:12;128:21), “and by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5; emphasis added).

In just a moment we will actually try Alma’s experiment so that you can be reminded of what the light tastes like and how it gives you a perfect knowledge.

Opposition Reveals the Truth

Before going forward with the experiment, it is important to identify another essential element in the process. We are taught in 2 Nephi 2 that there “must needs be … an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11). Humankind “taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good” (Moses 6:55). Health, for example, is primarily the study of its opposite, sickness and disease; freedom, the study of oppression and slavery; happiness, the study of sorrow; and so on. And like the tiny miracle of fireflies, light goes unappreciated without a dark backdrop.

Opposition is indispensable to our education and happiness. Without opposition, the truth remains hidden in plain view, like taking air for granted until the moment you are gasping for it. Because the Light of Christ is everpresent, many people don’t notice the Spirit in their life, like those Lamanites in 3 Nephi 9:20who “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.”

Opposition not only reveals or unveils the truth but manifests its inherent power, joy, and sweetness. For example, it took a taste of the bitter life for the prodigal son to realize what a sweet life he had abandoned back home and had taken for granted in his youth.

It is only through pain and sickness that we come to value our health. As a victim of dishonesty, we treasure integrity. Experiencing injustice or cruelty, we cherish love and kindness—all with a “perfect knowledge,” having tasted the fruit of each by the light which is in us. The perfect knowledge comes fruit by fruit, through opposition in all things. Obedience to God’s commandments promises ultimate happiness, growth, and progress through opposition, not bypassing it. “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” 3

Consider this insightful statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith: “By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” 4

And this one from Brigham Young: “All facts are proved and made manifest by their opposite.” 5

The Faith Experiment

Now—let’s have you become a participant in the experiment by having you consider several “to-be” commandments, or Christlike virtues, contrasting each with its opposite. As you consider each one, the Light of Christ in you should affirm to your mind and your heart that each Christlike virtue is sweet, while it’s opposite is bitter:

  • Love versus hate, hostility, opposition

  • Honesty versus lies, deceit, theft

  • Forgiving versus revenge, resentment, bitterness

  • Kindness versus mean, angry, unkind

  • Patience versus short-tempered, hotheaded, intolerant

  • Humility versus pride, unteachable, arrogant

  • Peacemaker versus contentious, divisive, provoking

  • Diligence versus grow weary, give up, stubborn

These are only a handful of the scores of Christlike virtues, but sufficient to clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of the seed experiment.

In pondering this list, you recognize that you have come to know the power, truth, and sweetness of each virtue, one by one, through thousands of validating experiences. Good fruit comes with its own inherent proof and validation—its taste! The proof is in the eating, fruit by fruit and line upon line, each with a “perfect knowledge.” Perhaps that is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21; emphasis added). If you have integrated these and other virtues into your life, you are much further along the faith spectrum than you likely thought you were.

However, this is only what I would call a terrestrial, or glory-of-the-moon, testimony. Good God-fearing persons of any religion have this same testimony because they too have the Light of Christ, of which Mormon spoke, and have accepted a portion of His gospel.

The Faith Experiment—Next Level

A celestial, or glory-of-the-sun, testimony comes as one seeks “the fulness of the Father” (see D&C 76:75–78;93:19). When a person is baptized and worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost, he or she receives a greater endowment of the Light of Christ, as noted in this Book of Mormon verse: “If this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, … that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you” (Mosiah 18:10, emphasis added).

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught us that “the more we incline our hearts and minds toward God, the more heavenly light distills upon our souls.” 6

“And he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24).

I don’t need to tell you that a greater abundance of light improves your vision—you know that. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments.” 7

With greater light with which to see, let’s take the experiment to the celestial level, and contrast some of the doctrines that are unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with those found elsewhere under dimmer light:

  • God is our Father, and we are created in His image versus not literally our Father; He is incomprehensible, unknowable

  • His divine organization with prophets and apostles versus abandonment of His established pattern

  • The Lord is a God of order, governing through those holding priesthood keys versus confusion, disparate voices, “false spirits” (D&C 50:2)

  • Priesthood authority and called of God versus a degree in theology; elected, hired, or self-appointed

  • Ordinances and covenants versus simply live a good life

  • Children innocent versus infant baptism

  • The Book of Mormon, a second witness versus the Bible, an only witness

  • Temple work for the dead versus light a candle and pray for the dead

  • Eternal marriage and families versus till death do us part

It’s enlightening to contrast truth with its opposite. It helps reveal the obvious, that which is hidden in plain view. We recognize that we know a lot more than we thought we did. It should inspire us to continue to “search diligently in the light of Christ … and … lay hold upon every good thing” (Moroni 7:19).

“Blessed Are They That Have Not Seen, and Yet Have Believed” (John 20:29)

Now let’s examine another interesting aspect of faith and testimony.

The Guide to the Scriptures states that “[true] faith must be centered in Jesus Christ in order for it to lead a person to salvation. …

“[It] includes a hope for things which are not seen, but which are true [see Hebrews 11:1 ].” 8

Isn’t it interesting that true faith in Jesus Christ is “believing without seeing” when the world believes the opposite, that “seeing is believing.”

The natural man discovers the world through the five senses, demanding signs as proof. And yet the scriptures are full of examples of those who received manifestations of God’s presence and power through the five senses without receiving an enduring conversion:

  • Laman and Lemuel saw an angel (see 1 Nephi 3:29). They heard the voice of the Lord that “did chasten them exceedingly” (1 Nephi 16:39). They felt God’s power when Nephi stretched forth his hand and “the Lord did shake them” (1 Nephi 17:54). They tasted and smelled: “I will make thy food become sweet, that ye cook it not” (1 Nephi 17:12). In spite of multiple manifestations through all five senses, Laman and Lemuel rebelled. Was seeing believing for them?

  • When Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, they witnessed plagues, pillars of fire, the Red Sea part; they tasted manna—experiences with all five senses. “And notwithstanding they being led, the Lord their God, their Redeemer, going before them, leading them by day and giving light unto them by night, and doing all things for them which were expedient for man to receive, they hardened their hearts and blinded their minds, and reviled against Moses and against the true and living God” (1 Nephi 17:30). Seeing certainly wasn’t believing for them!

  • There are many other similar examples in the scriptures, but the most dumbfounding example of all is of the spiritually inept who rejected the Savior in His very presence. “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him” (John 12:37; see also D&C 138:26).

There are too many examples to the contrary to say that seeing is believing. Those hoping for just one spectacular experience to help define their testimony don’t realize that the greater testimony and witness of the Spirit comes to us daily, in many small ways, such as the last time you underlined your scriptures. Think about it. The reason you underlined your scriptures is because you received an impression, an insight, an “Aha!” An inspired impression is revelation.

Another example of revelation is when you are prompted to be kind or do a good deed, “for every thing which inviteth to do good … is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ” (Moroni 7:16). The Light of Christ is ever present! You are tasting it every day. And from these whisperings, these “small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).

“By the Power of the Holy Ghost Ye May Know the Truth of All Things” (Moroni 10:5)

Can you think of anyone in the Book of Mormon who saw an angel and did believe? You are likely thinking of Alma the Younger. An angel had appeared to him and to the sons of Mosiah and “descended as it were in a cloud; and he spake as it were with a voice of thunder” (Mosiah 27:11). You know the rest of the story—Alma’s repentance and subsequent ministry.

Was seeing believing for Alma? No. Why? Because Alma had yet to exercise his agency in learning by study and faith and had not yet prayed to know the truth. Seeing isn’t a shortcut to faith or a testimony, as evidenced in the many examples that I just mentioned. Alma himself describes how he received his testimony, and he does not attribute it to the appearance of an angel. In fact, there is no mention of the angel anywhere in his testimony:

“And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety ?

“Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto meby the Holy Spirit of God [the light]. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelationwhich is in me” (Alma 5:45–46; emphasis added).

A “wake-up call” or a short-term change in behavior may result from the outside in, through the five senses, but is always short lived, as with Laman and Lemuel. An enduring testimony can only come from the inside out, as one learns by study and faith with the Holy Ghost planting the gospel “in their inward parts, and [writing] it in their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). That is why the Nephites, who in spite of having seen, heard, and felt the Savior at the time of His visit to them, as well as tastingand smelling bread miraculously provided by Him (see3 Nephi 20:3–9), nevertheless “[prayed] for that which they most desired; and they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them” (3 Nephi 19:9).

Some years ago, the following story was shared with me by a senior missionary. It happened to him when he was a young man in the 1960s and also illustrates that it is only through study and prayer that the Holy Ghost gives us a witness of the truth. He said:

“I was living alone in Provo, Utah, in a small apartment close to the center of town. I was working as a salesman in a small furniture store in Provo, and it was during the long weekend surrounding the New Year’s holiday that this incident occurred.

“We had a long weekend holiday. It was Thursday, December 31, New Year’s Eve. We had been given from Thursday through Sunday off from work, and I was in my apartment without any plans of celebration. I was preparing my dinner, waiting for it to bake, and wanted something to read. Not having anything in the apartment, I went next door to ask some young men who were living there (students at BYU) if they had something—hoping for a copy of Field & Stream, or something of that order. They said they did not have any magazines, but they did have a book I might like to read. They handed me a copy of the Book of Mormon.

“While I had heard of the Mormon Church (who in Utah hasn’t?), I was not familiar with the book. I thanked them and took it to my apartment. During dinner I thumbed through it and started to read. I admit that I scanned through several parts, trying to find out the plot. There were names and places I had never heard before, and I just couldn’t get into it. So, after dinner, I took the book back and returned it with a “no, thank you.”

“‘Did you pray about it?’ one young man asked. ‘Pray about it?’ I responded. ‘I just wanted something to read, not something I had to pray about.’ This started a very interesting conversation about the content of the Book of Mormon. They told me that it was a book of scriptures, a book that if I would first pray about and then read with a real desire to know if it was true or not, that God would reveal the truth of it to me by the power of the Holy Ghost.

“I had been brought up a Catholic, and though I was not active at the time, I held on to my membership in the Catholic Church with a strangle hold because it was all that I had ever known. The only praying I had ever done was the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and reading in my missal—something I had not done in a long, long time. And now some young men were asking me to pray to a God I did not really know and to ask Him to tell me if the book was true or not. Well, what the heck, I did not have anything else to do, and it was going to be a long, long weekend. I took the book home, opened up a bottle of beer, lit up a cigarette, and got down on my knees and asked God to tell me if this book was true. Then I started to read: ‘I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents.’

“The names and places were the same as those I had read just a couple of hours before. The only difference this time was a ‘suspension of disbelief’ that had magically come over me. I was literally in the book! I could see Nephi; I could see his brothers, and it angered me when they mistreated him. I liked Nephi! I cheered the good guys on, and I felt sorry for the bad guys. I read for hours, and I couldn’t put the book down. When I finally looked at my watch, it was almost five o’clock in the morning. I wished myself Happy New Year and went to sleep.

“I woke up about eight thirty and instinctively reached for this book. And that is the way the rest of the weekend went. Like Brother Parley P. Pratt, the thought of food was a nuisance, I did not want anything to disturb me. I took my phone off the hook and read all day, with only occasional interruptions for quick snacks. Like the first night, I would finally realize it was early in the morning, sleep a few hours, pick up the book, and continue with my self-imposed marathon. Finally, about five o’clock on Monday morning, I finished the book and I fell asleep—exhausted.

“Just before Christmas that year, I had sold a large carpet job in the American Fork area. It was a specialized type of carpet, and my boss wanted me to supervise the carpet layers. My boss was a former bishop in the Provo area and had talked to me about the Church on several occasions, but I would have none of it. He was a good boss, but you did not want to provoke him because he had a temper. It was on this Monday morning, at eight o’clock, that I was supposed to supervise the carpet installation. The appointed time came, and I did not appear; nine o’clock, then ten.

“Finally, around ten thirty, my boss, mad as a wet hen, came to my apartment, walked in the door ready to tear my head off, saw me lying on the couch with the Book of Mormon laying on my chest, and changed his mind. He quietly closed the door and went back to the shop, confident that he could get the carpet layers started. Just after eleven thirty I awoke (not knowing of my boss’s visit), looked at the clock, and for the second time in a relatively short time said another prayer. I quickly dressed (believing that when I got there I probably would not have a job left), got into my car, and sped to the job site.

“I saw my boss there and went up to him to apologize. He turned around; a grin came on his face, and he asked, ‘How did you like the book?’ Realizing what must have happened, my mind went back to the previous weekend, and through tear-filled eyes I said the only thing I could have said: ‘The book is true. The Book of Mormon is the word of God.’ I then started to cry, and he came and put his arms about me and held me. I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the 22nd of January, 1965.”

I met this good brother some decades after his conversion while he and his wife were serving a mission at the San Diego Mormon Battalion visitors’ center. The reason I like this story so much is the contrast in his two attempts to read the Book of Mormon. The first time he began to read, it was without real intent and without prayer. In the second attempt, with desire and prayer, it was an entirely different experience.

There is only one way to know if the Book of Mormon and the gospel are true, and it takes more than curiosity and more than the five senses. It takes a sincere use of one’s agency and acting on a desire to know:

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4–5).

That promise isn’t couched in terms of “He might” or “maybe” or “perhaps.” The promise is, “He will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

Another insightful principle we discover in this story is that you don’t have to read the entire Book of Mormon before a witness can come. For the man in this story, hetasted the light on page one. He didn’t need to eat the entire pizza before he knew if it was delicious. For others, it may be more of an acquired taste as the light becomes more delicious over time. That seems to be what Alma is saying in this verse: “Yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me” (Alma 32:28).

Your Testimony Is Stronger Than You Think It Is

As we began I asked you to score your testimony on the faith spectrum. I hope that you have discovered that your testimony is far more advanced than you imagined. With the Holy Ghost as your teacher, you have been gaining a perfect knowledge of many fruits of the gospel, and fruit by fruit, line upon line, your testimony has been growing stronger by the day.

The more one learns and lives the gospel, the more light they receive and the more the Father’s plan becomes the gospel of common sense. We learn from our own experiences that the fruit of the tree of life is, indeed, precious and “most sweet, above all that [we] ever before tasted” and that it fills our souls “with exceedingly great joy” (1 Nephi 8:11–12). We grow to love it because of the blessings, joy, and control it gives us over positive outcomes in our lives and the hope of endless happiness as eternal families.

I bear my witness that I know, and I know that I know, by the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true. It is the word of God. It is sweet and precious to savor. I love and cherish its taste. I bear my witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He was crucified and suffered for the sins of the world. He is our Savior and continues to lead and guide His Church and kingdom here upon the earth through living prophets and apostles. I bear witness of His name and of these sacred truths in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Notes
1. See David A. Bednar, “Seek Learning By Faith,” Ensign, Sept. 2007, 60–68.

2. See Wordsense.eu Dictionary, “conscientia,” http://www.wordsense.eu/conscientia/.

3. African proverb.

4. Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 6:428.

5. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 433.

6. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 22.

7. Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 2:8.

8. Guide to the Scriptures, “Faith,” scriptures.lds.org.

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#BOMTC Alma 23-25: “Converted Unto The Lord”

Conversion includes a conscious decision to give up one’s former ways and change to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ. It requires a change in behavior, but it goes beyond behavior; it is a change in our very nature. It is such a significant change that the Lord and His prophets refer to it as a rebirth, a change of heart, and a baptism of fire (see Mosiah 27:25–26).

Conversion seems to be a process, rather than an event, and comes as a result of righteous efforts to follow the Savior. These efforts include exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting of sin, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end in faith.

Although conversion is miraculous and life changing, it is a rather quiet and personal miracle. The Book of Mormon provides the following descriptions of people who are converted to the Lord:

  • They desire to do good. (see Mosiah 5:2; Alma 13:12).
  • They do not rebel against the Lord. (see Alma 23:6-7).
  • They share the gospel. (see Enos 1:26; Mosiah 18:1; 27:32-37; Alma 10:1-12; 15:12).
  • They are filled with love. (see 4 Nephi 1:2, 15-17). (for more on this topic see “Conversion” at lds.org)

Deep conversion often comes after many trials and much testing (see Luke 22:32D&C 112:12–13). There is perhaps no greater example of the principle of true conversion than that of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, or “People of Ammon”. (FYI: Dr. Hugh Nibley has found ‘a Semitic and common Indo-European root corresponding to “anti” that means “in the face of” or “facing,” as of one facing a mirror, and by extension either “one who opposes” or “one who imitates.”’ (Quoted in Eldin Ricks, Book of Mormon Study Guide, p. 63.) Thus the term ‘Anti-Nephi-Lehies’ might refer to those who imitate the teachings of the descendants of Nephi and Lehi” (Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon [1976], 209–10).)

The People of Ammon

Elder Richard G. Scott taught:

True conversion will strengthen your capacity to do what you know you should do, when you should do it, regardless of the circumstances” (“Full Conversion Brings Happiness,” Ensign, May 2002).

The Anti-Nephi-Lehies Burying Their Swords

The thousands of Lamanites who accepted the gospel demonstrate that conversion is a spiritual change—becoming a new being through the power of God. The scriptures describe the Anti-Nephi-Lehies as being so “converted unto the Lord” (see Alma 23:3,6,8,13; 24:6), that they “never did fall away” (Alma 23:6).

A565EADF-6B87-45D8-B695-703B06111845

The Anti-Nephi-Lehies who were “converted to the Lord” made a covenant to lay down their weapons of war. They buried them deep in the earth as a testimony of their desire to change (Alma 24:17-18). The Amalekites and Amulonites, who were former Nephites, stirred up many unconverted Lamanites to anger against their king and the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. Many of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies sacrificed their lives rather than break their covenant with God (see Alma 24:6–19).

“Converted unto the Lord” (Highlights)

We can “bury” our “weapons of rebellion” by applying what President Spencer W. Kimball taught about abandoning sin:

In abandoning sin one cannot merely wish for better conditions. He must make them. … He must be certain not only that he has abandoned the sin but that he has changed the situations surrounding the sin. He should avoid the places and conditions and circumstances where the sin occurred, for these could most readily breed it again. He must abandon the people with whom the sin was committed. He may not hate the persons involved but he must avoid them and everything associated with the sin. He must … build a new life. He must eliminate anything which would stir the old memories” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 171–72).

1B9390A2-592C-4038-BC8F-C14FA1E33DD1

We have the primary responsibility for our own conversion. No one can be converted for us, and no one can force us to be converted. However, others can help us in the process of conversion. Our capacity to experience a mighty change of heart will increase as we strive to follow the Savior’s perfect example, study the scriptures, pray in faith, keep the commandments, and seek the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. (see True to the Faith, “Conversion”)

“Converted unto the Lord” (Full)

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#BOMTC Alma 17-19: M.T.C. = MEMBER TRAINING CHAPTERS

Try filling in the blanks in the following quote using the words “MEMBER” and “MISSIONARY” (I listed the words in alphabetical order so that you won’t try and do that “Princess Bride” thing where the guy tries to figure out which cup has the poison… No cheaters!).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:

“Asking every member to be a ___________ is not nearly as crucial as asking every member to be a ___________.”

So, what do you think?

I know what we typically hear, and that may be why you chose what you did. Or perhaps as you thought about it you realized what Elder Holland is really getting at. The easiest way to figure out the correct answer is to “do the math!

What do I mean by, “do the math”? Well, what I mean is, with roughly 70,000 missionaries serving currently and a world population of 7 Billion +, each missionary would have responsibility for sharing the gospel with ~100,000 people. Not very good odds.

Now if we use the same world population and use the members of the church (7,000,000,000/16,000,000) we get a ratio of ~438 people for each member of the church to influence. Now those odds are much better! Especially when you take social media into account.

Sharing Your Beliefs

“Sharing the good news of the gospel is easier and the effects more far-reaching than ever before. . . . Perhaps the Lord’s encouragement to ‘open [your] mouths’ might today include ‘use your hands’ to blog and text message the gospel to all the world!” . . .

“With the blessings of modern technology, we can express gratitude and joy about God’s great plan for His children in a way that can be heard . . . around the world. Sometimes a single phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone’s life for eternity.” — President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (Ensign, May 2011, “Waiting on the Road to Damascus.” Emphasis added)

Inviting All to Come unto Christ: Sharing the Gospel

When Junior, a young man in a small Florida branch, decided he didn’t want to be alone in his belief in Christ, he invited a friend. One friend joined, then another, and another….

Click here to read more about the young men in Immokalee, Florida

You may be thinking that you are right on your guess now, but we are not done yet (well, we are with the math…). Here is Elder Holland’s quote in context:

“A young returned missionary sister from Hong Kong told me recently that when she and her companion asked an investigator if she believed in God, the woman replied, ‘I didn’t until I met a member of your church and observed how she lived.’ What exemplary missionary work! Asking every member to be a MISSIONARY is not nearly as crucial as asking every member to be a MEMBER! Thank you for living the gospel.” (“‘Witnesses unto Me’,” Ensign, May 2001, emphasis added.)

youths reading Joseph Smith pamphlet

Now, why on earth would Elder Holland say something like that when it seems to contradict what has been taught previously and is emphasized currently with the Hasten the Work initiative?

We know what it means to be a MEMBER MISSIONARY. “Member missionary” sounds great (and the challenge has been extended frequently and recently by prophets of God), but one of the primary problems is the psychology behind the phraseology.  There is a lot of “baggage” and responsibility that comes with the word “missionary”. This can be very intimidating for members–especially those who may have never served a full-time mission. But if we ask every member to be a MEMBER, well, that doesn’t sound hard at all–no extra baggage, no added responsibility–we are just asking a member to do what they should already be doing.

RMN, Catch the Wave (9)

So, what does it mean to be a MEMBER MEMBER. Well, Elder Holland said that one way we do it is by simply “living the gospel.” Perhaps one of the best places to look for information on how to be a MEMBER MEMBER that is “living the gospel” is to study Mosiah 18:7-11. Think about it, isn’t that exactly what Ammon did? He didn’t start out in typical “missionary mode”. What did he do? He did exactly what any member of the church could and should do. He wasn’t able to be a MISSIONARY until he fulfilled his responsibility as a MEMBER first.

Ammon Defends the Flocks of King Lamoni

All of this is why I refer to Alma 17-19 as the M.T.C. Not because it stands for Missionary Training Center in this case, but rather MEMBER TRAINING CHAPTERS. Ammon is the perfect model for how a good MEMBER MEMBER can make all the difference in the world by just “LIVING THE GOSPEL.” As you read Alma 19 you will be able to see the Ripple Effect of ONE MEMBER MEMBER easily affecting hundreds of other people.

ripples diagram

rock in water

You can do that, right? You can be a “lively member” of the church (see D&C 92:2) each and every day. You can influence the lives of many more than 467 people in a short matter of time by just living up to the covenants you made at baptism. You don’t need a badge on your shirt because you already wear His name on your heart! Think of what Ammon did in Alma 17-19, then liken it to your own station in life, and GO BE A MEMBER MEMBER!

Sharing Gospel Happiness

A priest finds out his friend has been hospitalized with cancer. His testimony and Christlike example lead her to a knowledge of the truth.

QLC, Pin One On Your Heart

 What the Apostles Say About Sharing the Gospel Online

Why You Should be Part of the Mormon Conversation Online

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#BOMTC Alma 12-13: A Tale of Two Cities–Which One Are You?

#BOMTC Day 39, May 15~Alma 12-13 or Pages 238-244 (copy)

After Amulek’s words brought Zeezrom “to tremble under a consciousness of his guilt” (Alma 12:1), Alma stood to expound upon what Amulek had taught. Because the people in Ammonihah had become so wicked, Alma focused on truths that would help them to repent of the hardness of their hearts and other sins. He emphasized the subtle snares of Satan, the judgments that befall the wicked, and the plan of redemption, which makes it possible for those who repent to be forgiven of their sins.

When Alma first taught the rebellious people of Ammonihah, they contended with him, asking, “Who art thou?” and questioned his authority (see Alma 9:1–6). They were in a state of full-blown apostasy, having embraced the order of Nehor—priestcraft, with its goal of personal gain (see Alma 1:2–1515:1516:11). In contrast to Nehor’s teachings, Alma taught the people about “the high priesthood of the holy order of God,” with its goal to help others repent and enter into the rest of the Lord (see Alma 13:6). Alma also taught about premortal existence and foreordination. He cited the example of the great High Priest, Melchizedek, who had preached faith and repentance and helped his people live in peace. Alma tried to teach the people of Ammonihah to have faith and hope and encouraged them to change so they could prepare to enter into the rest of the Lord.

In Alma 13:17 we see how Alma described the people in Salem (who’s meaning comes from the Hebrew word for “Peace”) when Melchizedek became their king. These words also describe the people of Ammonihah (see Alma 8:99:28). It appears that Alma’s hope was that the people of Ammonihah will hearken to Amulek the same way that the people in Salem responded to Melchizedek’s preaching and efforts (See Alma 13:18).

It’s “A Tale of Two Cities”. So, which city will you be: Salem (the city that found “Peace” through following the Lord’s prophet and repenting) or Ammonihah (the city destroyed in just one day for rejecting the Lord’s servants and resisting repentance)?

Who was Melchizedek?

His name means “King of Righteousness”. He was a notable prophet and leader who lived about 2000 B.C. He is called the king of Salem (Jerusalem), king of peace, and “priest of the most High God.” Unfortunately, information concerning him in the Bible is relatively scarce, being limited to Gen. 14:18–20Heb. 5:67:1–3. Mention of the priesthood of Melchizedek is given in several other instances, primarily in Psalms and in Hebrews. However, latter-day revelation gives us much more about him and his priesthood (see JST Gen. 14:17 [Gen. 14:18 note d]JST Gen. 14:25–40JST Heb. 7:3 [Appendix]Alma 13:14–19D&C 84:14107:1–4). From these sources we realize something of the greatness of this prophet and the grandeur of his ministry. (See Guide to the Scriptures, Melchizedek.)

JST, Genesis 14:25–40

(Compare Genesis 14:18–20)

[Melchizedek blesses Abram. Melchizedek’s great ministry and the powers and blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood are described.]

25 And Melchizedek lifted up his voice and blessed Abram.

26 Now Melchizedek was a man of faith, who wrought righteousness; and when a child he feared God, and stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the violence of fire.

27 And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch,

28 It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God;

29 And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto as many as believed on his name.

30 For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;

31 To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.

32 And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up into heaven.

33 And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order; therefore he obtained peace in Salem, and was called the Prince of peace.

34 And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken, separating it from the earth, having reserved it unto the latter days, or the end of the world;

35 And hath said, and sworn with an oath, that the heavens and the earth should come together; and the sons of God should be tried so as by fire.

36 And this Melchizedek, having thus established righteousness, was called the king of heaven by his people, or, in other words, the King of peace.

37 And he lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest, and the keeper of the storehouse of God;

38 Him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor.

39 Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.

40 And it came to pass, that God blessed Abram, and gave unto him riches, and honor, and lands for an everlasting possession; according to the covenant which he had made, and according to the blessing wherewith Melchizedek had blessed him.

None Were Greater

By Dennis A. Wright

Revealed scripture helps us understand the life and role of this prophet-king, who is largely a mystery in the Bible.

Scriptural texts paint a somber scene of events occurring approximately 4,000 years ago in the land of Salem—a place full of abomination and iniquity. There was little room for faith among a people who “had all gone astray” (Alma 13:17). Yet in that time “of all manner of wickedness” (v. 17), an unusual child came forth. His destiny was to receive in time the same priesthood power manifested earlier by the prophet Enoch (see JST, Gen. 14:30–31).

Known to us as Melchizedek, the child grew and soon demonstrated great trust in the Lord. Relying upon God in events whose details are lost to us, the young boy escaped death by stopping the mouths of lions and quenching the violence of fire (see JST, Gen. 14:26). Because of his righteousness, in time he was ordained after “the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch” (JST, Gen. 14:27). Empowered with the same priesthood and covenants granted Enoch, Melchizedek changed his people and led them into righteousness. Indeed, Alma observed that of all the prophets of his time “none were greater” than the prophet Melchizedek (Alma 13:19). Thus, we hunger to know: who was this Melchizedek who merited such praise and admiration?

The Historical Melchizedek

The names Melchizedek and Salem suggest the uniqueness of the king of Salem and his people. In fact, the very name Melchizedek consists of the two Hebrew words malkî (“king”) and sedeq (“righteousness”), implying the king of Salem’s faith in God—“My king is righteousness.”1 Similarly, the Apostle Paul interpreted Melchizedek as “King of righteousness” (Heb. 7:2). Salem, the name of Melchizedek’s land or city, may mean “peace” or “peaceful.” The Bible Dictionary in the LDS edition of the Bible identifies Salem as Jerusalem. Biblical text discloses that Melchizedek was the righteous leader of a group of people who earned a reputation for peace and stability. Thus, in the midst of violent and chaotic times dominated by warring tribal factions, Melchizedek and Salem indeed appear unique.2

But the biblical record provides little historical information about Melchizedek. The few verses in Genesis record his offering Abraham bread and wine and receiving tithes from the spoils of Abraham’s military victory (see Gen. 14:17–24). Apart from a brief verse in Psalms (see Ps. 110:4), the only other biblical mention of Melchizedek is in the Apostle Paul’s instruction to early Christians about the Lord Jesus Christ’s role as the great high priest (see Heb. 5:6–10Heb. 6:20Heb. 7:11, 15, 17, 21).

With this limited information it is first helpful to know what those conclude who do not have latter-day revelation to guide them. From the account in Genesis 14:17–24 [Gen. 14:17–24], they note that Melchizedek is the first priest mentioned in the Bible, saying that he served the Most High God, the creator of earth and heaven.3 They consider the gift of bread and wine to Abraham a demonstration of Melchizedek’s generosity.4 They view the tithing Abraham paid to Melchizedek as a typical offering of the time, intended to support a king’s sanctuary.5 A number regard Abraham’s willing submission to Melchizedek, a priest of the Most High God, as a reflection of Abraham’s covenant with God, or in this case reflecting Abraham’s willingness to recognize other righteous men. Some consider the blessing Melchizedek gave Abraham as a type of priesthood ordination. Others speculate that Abraham’s submission to the order of Melchizedek (see Heb. 7) was a recognition of Melchizedek’s greater authority, authority of which Jesus Christ’s power is an example. Many simply view a subsequent historical reference to Melchizedek in Psalms—“thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4)—as King David’s assumption of priestly functions as part of the royal duties.6

One author summarized this confusion by calling Melchizedek an enigmatic figure “dimly outlined … against a background of immense and mystical remoteness.”7 This uncertainty has led some to examine apocryphal sources and oral traditions. While interesting, such sources do little to provide reliable information on the identity of Melchizedek and his significance.

In contrast, truths restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith provide the most complete source for understanding this great king of Salem. The Joseph Smith Translation, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon, and the Prophet Joseph Smith’s teachings contain highly important insights and knowledge about Melchizedek as a historical person, giving an accurate perspective on his remarkable story of faith and valor (see accompanying chart).

The Book of Mormon tells us that Melchizedek reigned under his father. It was a difficult time for the kingdom because the people had “waxed strong in iniquity and abominations” (Alma 13:17). From the Joseph Smith Translation text of Genesis 14, we presume that Melchizedek faced great opposition as a youth in his desires to follow righteousness. These trials of Melchizedek resemble those faced at a later time by the prophet Daniel and his companions Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Melchizedek drew upon the power of faith in God to still savage lions and, when faced with a fiery death, quenched the fire through his faith in the Lord (see JST, Gen. 14:26).

We also see similarities in Melchizedek to the prophet Enoch, who preceded him. As Enoch did, Melchizedek worked with a fallen people and continued to stand firm in his overarching determination to lead his people from their wicked ways. His trials and labors won the Lord’s approval, and at some point Melchizedek was ordained a “high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch” (JST, Gen. 14:27). This priesthood, given “according to [the Lord’s] own will” (JST, Gen. 14:29), enabled Melchizedek to exercise the same priesthood power as had Enoch so that, were it necessary, he could “break mountains,” “divide the seas,” “dry up waters,” and “put at defiance the armies of nations” (JST, Gen. 14:30–31) as he continued his mission to encourage his people to repent. As Enoch before, Melchizedek helped them anchor their faith in Christ, the Son of God. These people drew upon the strength and vision Melchizedek received from being able to “stand in the presence of God” (JST, Gen. 14:31). Consequently, in one of the great untold stories of history, Melchizedek succeeded in establishing righteousness in his land. In scriptural brevity the holy text simply states that his people “did repent” (Alma 13:18).

Enoch labored for many years before his people turned from their wickedness. Likewise, perhaps Melchizedek also persisted for a considerable period in his efforts to bring real peace to the people of Salem. In such a labor and after much struggle, finally his people’s hearts were changed and “Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days” (Alma 13:18; see also JST, Gen. 14:33), becoming known as a “prince of peace” (Alma 13:18).

Melchizedek then encouraged his people to seek the same blessings that had been granted to Enoch’s followers. In time the Lord granted their desires. The text succinctly notes that Melchizedek’s people “obtained heaven” (JST, Gen. 14:34), resulting in their being “translated and taken up into heaven” (JST, Gen. 14:32).8 To Melchizedek, the trials and difficulties of his youth and his many years of dedicated service to the Lord must have melted into supernal joys. Little wonder that after considering the life and example of Melchizedek Alma concluded, “none were greater” (Alma 13:19).

Melchizedek and Abraham

Latter-day revelation from the Prophet Joseph Smith gives fuller understanding of the association between Melchizedek and Abraham than can be learned from the biblical text.

Whereas the King James Version of Genesis says that “Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the most high God” (Gen. 14:18), the Prophet Joseph Smith enlarges our understanding of the biblical text regarding the bread and wine. The Prophet’s translation adds that “he [Melchizedek] brake bread and blest it; and he blest the wine, he being the priest of the most high God” (see JST, Gen. 14:17–18). One can well contemplate that Melchizedek was perhaps not the first ancient prophet to be guided to do so.

The Joseph Smith Translation further enlightens us regarding why Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. JST, Genesis 14:37–39 states that Melchizedek was the “keeper of the storehouse of God; him whom God had appointed to receive tithes for the poor. Wherefore, Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.” Because Melchizedek served as the “keeper of the storehouse of God,” he held stewardship over receiving the tithes and offerings of the faithful and in overseeing their use in blessing others. Such a function is the same as that exercised by the person who holds the keys of presidency in the Lord’s contemporary Church—the President of the Church, the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the Lord. Thus, in this light, Melchizedek acted as the Lord’s presiding high priest in accepting Abraham’s tithing and in giving him a blessing.

The Joseph Smith Translation also reinforces the biblical information about Melchizedek’s blessing of Abraham: “And he [Melchizedek] lifted up his voice, and he blessed Abram, being the high priest. … And it came to pass, that God blessed Abram, and gave unto him riches, and honor, and lands for an everlasting possession; according to the covenant which he had made, and according to the blessing wherewith Melchizedek had blessed him” (JST, Gen. 14:37, 40).

On Sunday, 27 August 1843, the Prophet Joseph Smith discussed this event between these two men in further detail: “Abraham gave a tenth part of all his spoils and then received a blessing under the hands of Melchizedek[,] even the last law or a fulness of the law or priesthood which constituted him a king and priest after the order of Melchizedek or an endless life.”9

In that same 1843 address, History of the Church records that the Prophet further said about this event:

“The King of Shiloam … (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and power of endless life. …

“What was the power of Melchizedek? ’Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron which administers in outward ordinances, and the offering of sacrifices. Those holding the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings. In fact, that priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam.

“Abraham says to Melchizedek, I believe all that thou has taught me concerning the priesthood and the coming of the Son of Man; so Melchizedek ordained Abraham and sent him away. Abraham rejoiced, saying, Now I have a priesthood.”10 In reference to this priesthood, the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith: “And Esaias received it under the hand of God. Esaias also lived in the days of Abraham, and was blessed of him—which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek” (D&C 84:12–14).

Thus, it was with this blessing and ordination that Abraham became, like Melchizedek and holy brethren before him, a king of peace and righteousness. In the pattern of Melchizedek, Abraham also had sought “to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, … a prince of peace” (Abr. 1:2).

Melchizedek as a Type

The Prophet Joseph Smith described the full power of the Melchizedek Priesthood as having the power of “endless lives” and said that they who possess it can become “kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings.”11 Thus, the Melchizedek Priesthood differs from the Aaronic or Levitical, which is limited to the lesser, or preparatory, ordinances and the outward commandments of the Mosaic law (see D&C 84:25–27). The Melchizedek Priesthood administers the “key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God” (D&C 84:19). Hence, from the foundation of the world God has caused that faithful brethren like Melchizedek be ordained to the fulness of the priesthood.

The main undergirding responsibilities of such priesthood brethren always have included teaching the Lord’s gospel plan so that God’s children would have the opportunity to “enter into his rest” (Alma 13:6). Those receiving such priesthood are “called after this holy order, and [are] sanctified, and their garments [are] washed white through the blood of the Lamb” (Alma 13:11). Such a description requires that all Melchizedek Priesthood holders who would earn such a blessing earnestly seek to be free from sin and look to Jesus Christ as their Savior and Master.

Truly, Melchizedek stands as a mortal example of one who nobly fulfilled the responsibilities associated with the higher priesthood. He became a type or example of what the priesthood represents. For this reason people anciently, surely under direction from the Lord himself, referred to the “Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God” as “the Melchizedek Priesthood” (D&C 107:3–4). They did this “out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name”; thus, “because Melchizedek was such a great high priest” they “called that priesthood after Melchizedek” (D&C 107:2, 4).

It is almost impossible to imagine a greater tribute that the Lord could bestow upon another than to lovingly direct that the very order of the Son of God’s own priesthood be known by the name of one of his cherished servants. What a model, what an example the Lord has said is in Melchizedek! He stands as a type or example to all who accept the priesthood or who seek the peace and blessings it offers. All who honor the priesthood of God can join this ancient follower of Christ in declaring—as Melchizedek’s name indicates—“My king is righteousness.”

A Latter-day Saint View of Melchizedek

The left column lists the Bible’s teachings about Melchizedek; the right column lists additional information restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

What the Bible Teaches

What Latter-day Revelation Adds

Early Years

Early Years

[no items]

• The people of Salem were full of all manner of wickedness (see Alma 13:17).

• Melchizedek was a child of faith who participated in miracles (see JST, Gen. 14:26).

• He learned by the things he suffered (see JST, Heb. 5:6–8).

• He was approved of the Lord and ordained a high priest (see JST, Gen. 14:27Alma 13:18).

Ministry

Ministry

• He was the king of Salem (see Gen. 14:18).

• He was known as a “prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father” (Alma 13:18; see also JST, Gen. 14:33).

• He was the priest of the Most High God (see Gen. 14:18).

• As the Lord’s high priest, he preached repentance to his people and brought them to repentance (see Alma 13:18).

• The people of Salem continued in righteousness and sought to become like the people of the city of Enoch (see JST, Gen. 14:34).

• Melchizedek succeeded in establishing righteousness and was called the king of peace (see JST, Gen. 14:36).

• He and his people “obtained heaven” (see JST, Gen. 14:34) as did Enoch.

• Alma said of Melchizedek, “None were greater” (Alma 13:19).

Association between Melchizedek and Abraham

Association between Melchizedek and Abraham

• Melchizedek offered Abraham bread and wine (see Gen. 14:18).

• He served the sacrament to Abraham (see Gen. 14:18 and the related JST text).

• He blessed Abraham in the name of the Most High God (see Gen. 14:19).

• He blessed and ordained Abraham with the fulness of the priesthood and taught him more of the gospel (see D&C 84:14The Words of Joseph Smith, 246; History of the Church, 5:555).

• He received Abraham’s tithing (see Gen. 14:20).

• As the Lord’s high priest, he kept the storehouse of God and was appointed to receive the tithes (see JST, Gen. 14:37–38).

Notes

  1. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1986), 3:312–13.

  2. C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (n.d.), 1:208.

  3. Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary: Genesis 1–15 (1987), 1:316–17.

  4. Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17 (1990), 408.

  5. Word Biblical Commentary, 1:317.

  6. Kenneth Barker, ed., The NIV [New International Version] Study Bible,907.

  7. George Arthur Buttrick, ed., The Interpreter’s Bible (1952), 1:596.

  8. See also Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary(1973), 3:202–3.

  9. The Words of Joseph Smith, comp. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook (1980), 246; spelling corrected.

  10. History of the Church, 5:554–55.

  11. History of the Church, 5:554–55.

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#BOMTC 2 Nephi 32-Jacob 1: From Nephi to Jacob

These pages mark a major transition in the Book of Mormon. Nephi’s final words are found in 2 Nephi 32-33, and once again we find his great anxiety for our welfare and his pattern for plainness (2 Nephi 32:8; 33:3-9). His final words are an invitation to “hearken unto these words and believe in Christ” (2 Nephi 33:10-15). A more simple, yet perfectly suited ending could not have been better for Nephi’s writings:

“for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey” (2 Nephi 33:15).

No wonder Nephi’s name seems to spring from our lips so effortlessly when illustrating examples of obedience!

#BOMTC Day 20, April 26~2 Nephi 32-Jacob 1 or Pages 115-120 FEAST Upon the Words of Christ

Jacob inherits Nephi’s Small Plates and is given instruction on what should be recorded on them (Jacob 1:1-4). Jacob is not at all new to the Book of Mormon. In fact, much of 2 Nephi is actually Nephi recording Jacob’s teaching and preaching. Many of our favorite teachings from 2 Nephi came from Jacob (2 Nephi 9 is just one example). As Nephi dies, Jacob takes ecclesiastical responsibility for the Nephite society. Unfortunately, the Nephites are struggling with quite a few spiritual problems (Jacob 1:15-16).

Reminiscent of many prophets before, and others yet to come, Jacob uses the Temple as his stage for calling the people to repentance. Nephi’s “plainness” seems to have had an effect on Jacob’s preaching (Jacob 2:11). Jacob must now help the people overcome their love of riches (v. 12), their pride (vv. 13-21), and their immorality (vv. 23-35). It’s a tough job, but Jacob has been called of God and is capable of the task at hand (Jacob 1:17-19; 2:1-7)!

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