Tag Archives: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

#BOMTC Ether 4-7: “Commending Themselves unto the Lord”

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have always found the accounts in the book of Ether to be very easy to liken to life. I find this particularly easy to do with Ether 6:1-12. Before you read what I have written for today, take a few moments to review Ether 6:1-12 and study it with the following perspective in mind: “If I am like a Jaredite vessel traveling toward the promised land [Celestial Kingdom], then what can I learn from these verses about my journey through mortality?”

 

I will simply list a few selections from Ether 6:1-12 below and a brief thought about how I feel it applies to my life. You may want to make a similar list in your scriptures from your own insights:

  • he did put forth the stones into the vessels which were prepared, one in each end thereof; and behold, they did give light unto the vessels.
    • I like to compare these two stones to the “Light of Christ” and the “Holy Ghost”. Every person in the world can receive “light” from these two sources, which have been “prepared” by the Lord for our benefit.
  • thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.
  • when they had prepared all
    • I have to do everything that I can to be prepared for life.
  • they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God.
    • I imagine it took a LOT of faith in God to get on/in those barges. As we undertook this journey of life in these earthly vessels, I imagine it took a LOT of faith as well. Now, each day when we continue our journey we need to make sure that we are “commending” (entrusting) ourselves to God with the same kind of faith every day.After all, isn’t that what our Savior Jesus Christ did every day, even unto His final breath? “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”   (Luke 23:46) What would our days be like if our morning prayers reflected the same commitment and desire?
  • the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land
    • Remember that when you feel like God is sending His furious wind, that it’s purpose is to move you “towards the promised land” of the Celestial Kingdom, not to blow you away.
  • thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.
    • Yes, there will be some “tossing” going on, but remember that the Lord has “prepared” you for it! You may get “sea sick” of it all, but He will never allow you to be tossed more than you can handle.
  • they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.
    • Sometimes we’re blown, sometimes we’re tossed, and then sometimes we are “buried”. BUT we are not dead! See the next one…
  • when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish
    • All the water in the world, 
      However hard it tried,
      Could never sink the smallest ship
      Unless it [gets] inside.
      And all the evil in the world,
      The blackest kind of sin,
      Can never hurt you the least bit
      Unless you let it in. (The Spirit of Revelation)
  • tight like unto the ark of Noah
    • Speaking to Noah, the Lord said, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.” (Genesis 6:14) What is “pitch”? The word “pitch” in the original Hebrew translation of this passage is “kaphar” (verb), meaning: to cover, purge, make an atonement, make reconciliation. In other words, what gives us the ability to be “tight like unto a dish” and “like unto the ark of Noah” isn’t anything that we do for ourselves. It is conditional upon our willingness to “pitch” our lives “within and without with [the Atonement]”. If we do not “cover” ourselves with the Atonement, then when the wind blows, and the waves toss, and we are buried in the depths of the sea we will sink.
  • therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.
    • See the explanation in the bullet-point above… Crying unto the Lord is one way that we can “kaphar” (Hebrew for “cover”) ourselves with the Atonement. As we do so God will bring us “forth again upon the top of the waters”. Joseph Smith once said,“Never be discouraged. If I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top,” (The Sure Sound of the Trumpet) as he did over and over, again.
  • the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters
    • God is mindful of me, and He will “never cease to blow [me] towards the promised land” of the Celestial Kingdom.
  • they did sing praises unto the Lord
    • My Grandma Simon gave me a lapel pin that says, “He who sings, prays twice!” I think that the Lord taught us the same principle when He revealed this truth to Emma Smith, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” (D&C 25:12) It seems that the two main methods that God has given us to “praise” Him is prayer and song. So remember what Grandma Simon taught me, “He who sings, prays twice!”
  • he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.
    • It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters! The Brother of Jared had learned his lesson about remembering “not to call upon the name of the Lord” (Ether 2:14-15), so he knew how to react. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) “And they did admonish their brethren; and they were also admonished, every one by the word of God, according to his sins, or to the sins which he had committed, being commanded of God to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things.” (Mosiah 26:39)
  • no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them
    • Not only would God not allow that which He had caused to happen to hurt the Jaredites, but He also would not allow outside factors of the environment in which they were placed to “break” nor “mar” them. Even so it is with us. As you are blown, and tossed, and buried by God on the way to the promised land of the Celestial Kingdom, you will also be attacked by the “monsters” and “whales” surround you in the environment in which God has placed you. He knows that they are there, and He has provided a way for you to be safe from them.
  • they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.
    • Indeed we do have access to the “Light of Christ” and the “Holy Ghost” continually, no matter what our circumstances may be. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland put it so well when he said, “However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or distance from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines. Whether you are not yet of our faith or were once with us and have not remained, there is nothing in either case you have done that cannot be undone. There is no problem which you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized. Even if you feel you are the lost and last laborer of the eleventh hour, the Lord of the vineyard still stands beckoning. “Come boldly [to] the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16), and fall at the feet of the Holy One of Israel. Come and feast “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1) at the table of the Lord. . . . My beloved brothers and sisters, to those of you who have been blessed by the gospel for many years because you were fortunate enough to find it early, and to those of you who have come to the gospel by stages and phases later, and finally to those of you—member or not yet member—who may still be hanging back, to each of you, one and all, I testify of the renewing power of God’s love and the miracle of His grace. His concern is for the faith at which you finally arrive, not the hour of the day in which you got there. So if you have made covenants, keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time. Please listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling you right now, this very moment, that you should accept the atoning gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the fellowship of His labor. Don’t delay. It’s getting late.” (The Laborers in the Vineyard, emphasis added.)
  • they did land upon the shore of the promised land.
    • If we can but ENDURE TO THE END, and ENDURE IT WELL (as seen in the Jaredites example above), we too will someday find that we have landed “upon the shore” of the promised Celestial Kingdom! We don’t know how long that will take, and it may be a longer, harder trip for some, but we will ALL get there. Anyone can have Eternal Life, they just have to want it more than anything else! Elder Bruce C. Hafen said it this way: “We can have eternal life if we want it, but only if there is nothing else we want more.” (Atonement: All for All)
  • when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.
    • And I imagine that is pretty much what you will see when/if you happen to see me arrive to our Celestial Home On High!

Remember to LIKEN the scriptures as you study them. Ask yourself, “What is that ‘like’ in my life?” As you do so, the Lord will be able to help you through this journey of mortality and land you safely upon the shores of the promised land that He has prepared for you. So stop sitting on the beach! (Ether 2:14) Get on with your journey and “commend” yourself to God. Endure to the end and endure it well as He blows, and tosses, and buries you toward the promised land!

#BOMTC Day 79, June 24~Ether 4-7 or Pages 495-500, Come Out On Top, Joseph Smith

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#BOMTC Ether 2-3: Life Lessons

The book of Ether is full of “Life Lessons”. There are many parallels between the experiences the Jaredites had and the way that we need to live our lives.

We ended yesterday’s reading by beginning the book of Ether. The book of Ether is Moroni’s abridgment of the history of the Jaredites. The Jaredites came to the Americas centuries before the people of Lehi. Following the Flood in Noah’s day, a group of people attempted to build a tower “whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4). The account of the Jaredite nation began during this time period. The Lord dealt with the widespread wickedness by confounding the common language and by scattering the people across the face of the earth (see Genesis 11:5–8Ether 1:33). This account in the book of Ether begins with Jared and his brother seeking the Lord’s help when He confounded the language of the people at the Tower of Babel. The Lord preserved the language of Jared, his brother, and their families and friends and led them through the wilderness toward the promised land.

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Brother of Jared

I invite you to create a list of “life lessons” that you can see in the book of Ether as you study it. Your list may look similar to mine, but you will probably catch things that I didn’t and you can add them to the list that I will share with you.

Bro Simon’s “Life Lessons” from Ether 1-3

Life lesson #1 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Cry” (Ether 1:34-43; 2:14)

How would you describe the kind of prayer that is described as “crying” unto the Lord? What kind of a prayer is that? Have you ever had the need to “cry” unto the Lord? I have found that President Henry B. Erying was correct when he taught:

As the challenges around us increase, we must commit to do more to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Casual prayer won’t be enough. Reading a few verses of the scripture won’t be enough. Doing the minimum of what the Lord asks of us won’t be enough. Hoping that we will have the Atonement work in our lives and that we will perhaps sometimes feel the influence of the Holy Ghost won’t be enough. And one great burst of effort won’t be enough. Only a steady, ever-increasing effort will allow the Lord to take us to higher ground.” (see the full talk at, “Raise the Bar”)

Our need to “cry” unto the Lord need not be an “every now and then” experience. In the world that we are living in we need to learn to “cry” unto the Lord on a daily basis. I am learning to “cry” unto the Lord, but it is not a natural thing for me to do. It takes time and it takes effort, but I have found that when I do it, it is always worth it!

Pray with the thought that 3

Life lesson #2 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Go to Work” (Ether 2:16)

This admonition from the Lord came after the Jaredites had been brought by the Lord to the seashore, and they had dwelt there for four years. I must admit, I wouldn’t mind that either. I love “beach bum” living! But that is not where the Lord wanted them to be. He had a “Promised Land” for them. They were content with the beach, but the Lord had land of plenty prepared for them. It was time to “go to work”.

Sometimes we may be content with the “seashore”/beach that the Lord has brought us to. We may pitch our tents and begin to enjoy our “four years” of rest and relaxation. But then the Lord comes along and reminds us that THE ONLY REASON that He brought us to the “seashore” was so that we could “go to work” and move towards the “promised land” that He has so mercifully prepared for us.

The following quotes from President Gordon B. Hinckley seems to show us how lessons #1 & 2 work together:

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, keep trying and praying and working

Carry on. Things will work out. If you keep trying and praying and working, things will work out. They always do.” (Go Forward with Faith, p. 423)

“Get on your knees and ask for the blessings of the Lord; then stand on your feet and do what you are asked to do.” (“To the Women of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 2003)

Life lesson #3 from the book of Ether: Learn to Hang “Tight” (Ether 2:17; 6:7)

All the water in the world,

However hard it tried,

Could never sink the smallest ship

Unless it [gets] inside.

And all the evil in the world,

The blackest kind of sin,

Can never hurt you the least bit

Unless you let it in.

(Boyd K. Packer, “The Spirit of Revelation,” Ensign, Nov. 1999)

Brother S. Michael Wilcox explains this so well:

Now I have a tendency, because I’m an English major, to edit almost everything I read. It’s just a habit I can’t get out of with whatever I read—textbooks, newspapers, novels, biographies—I’m always editing. I edit the scriptures as I’m reading them. There are actually times where I say, “Lord, I could fix this verse for you if you would like me to.” And one of the verses that I used to think I would edit is Ether chapter two, the seventeenth verse; the description of the Jaredite barges. Can you realize what word I might write if I were editing this? This is how it reads:

“They were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish”—that’s once. “And the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish”—twice. “And the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish”—three times. “And the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish”—five times.

I would have written redundant. We get the impression they are waterproof. It’s like taking a jar and sealing it and throwing it. These are not submarines; they float light like a fowl, we are told, on the water. But the problem is that great waves are going to be washing over them, and so they need to be waterproof.

Now being ‘Tight like a dish’ causes two problems for the Jaredites’ crossing of the sea. Number one, minor problems, it was probably Mrs. Moriancumer who pointed them out to her husband: “We can’t breathe in here, and we can’t see, so unless we are going to get the Promised Land in sixty seconds, we’ve got big problems. Did you get the instructions right?”

And so Moriancumer, the brother of Jared, goes back to the Lord, and he presents his two problems. Now you learn something about your Father in Heaven in the solution or the handling of these two problems. Of the two problems—no air and no light—the Lord solves one of them just because He is asked. He tells them to put the holes in so they can have air. And sometimes when we go to the Lord, we simply ask and we will receive. He tells us the solution. The second problem we have to seek and find; for the second problem the Lord says, “You come up with a solution.” Now He put some parameters on that. He tells them, “You can’t go by windows”—probably not invented yet, and the second, “You can’t go by fire”—oxygen is a problem anyway. All that tossing around in the sea with coals flying everywhere probably wouldn’t be good, so you come up with a solution.

Now you are the brother of Jared. I want you to listen with his mind at what the Lord says because the twenty-fourth verse is a really interesting verse of Ether chapter two:

“Behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.”

Now the reason they need ‘Tight like a dish’ ships is because there are going to be mountain waves. Now what causes mountain waves in the ocean?—wind and storm. And what did the Lord just say the source of the winds were? “The winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and the rains and floods have I sent forth”—do you have a solution to the problem?

If I were the brother of Jared, I would have said, “Lord, we don’t need these ‘Tight like a dish’ ships at all. Since waves are the problem, and waves are caused by wind, and wind comes out of your mouth—blow softly. Blow softly. Breeze us to the Promised Land. We’ll sit on deck, we’ll fish, we’ll get tanned, we’ll play shuffleboard.” How many here want the first watch cruise version of life?—that’s me; I’m a first watch person. I don’t like mountain waves.

And then the great lesson: We know God can still the storms of our lives—we know that; there are precedents. But he prefers to do something else:

“Behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

What we need to understand about our Father in Heaven is that He prefers to prepare us to face the storms of life, the contrary winds, rather than to still them. So if you are past your fourth watch and He has not come, don’t assume that He is not there, that He doesn’t care, He doesn’t listen, or that you are not worthy. Assume your ship is tight like a dish. You will not sink.  Somewhere in the past of your life, experiences have been placed by a wise and foresighted Father in Heaven to prepare you to face the very things that you are facing. As the lion and the bear came to David, before Goliath, to prepare him to face Goliath, so will lion-and-bear moments come in your lives before the Goliath moments come. Because if your ship was not tight like a dish and you have reached the fourth watch, He will come to you and still the storm. So if the storm is not still, we must assume our ship is tight like a dish. (Bread or Stones: Understanding the God We Pray to)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Jaredite Barges

Life lesson #4 from the book of Ether: Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn (Ether 2:18-25)

God’s children should learn to listen, then listen to learn from the Lord… The wise listen to learn from the Lord.” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Listen to Learn,” Ensign, May 1991)

As the Brother of Jared performed the work the Lord had commanded him, he realized that there were a few “details” that needed to be addressed regarding their voyage in the “tight like unto a dish” vessels: no light, no steering, no fresh air. Each of these are major problems when crossing the “great sea which divideth the lands,” but only one of them is immediately life-threatening: no fresh air.

What we can learn here is that when God gets specific we need to take note, because it is probably a life-or-death situation (physically or spiritually). In other words, where the stakes are high (physically or spiritually) you get specific instructions from God.

Did you catch that? Is it true?

Ordinances are a great example to illustrate this principle. In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing.  Each of these soul-saving ordinances include very specific wording and instruction because they are essential for our exaltation.

The Lord gave the Brother of Jared very specific instructions on how to take care of the air! The only wise thing to do then was to follow it, to the specifics. “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise.” (Prov. 19:20.)

So that we don’t miss these specific types of soul-saving instructions, God will usually invoke the Law of Witnesses in our lives. The Law of Witnesses is helpful in at least two ways here: it gives validity to the specific instructions being given, and it allows us to catch a specific message that we may have missed the first time it was given. “When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention.” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997)

As a final example of this principle, consider the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. (By the way, it is not just for the youth. It is STRENGTH FOR YOU too!) In just about every section you will find “specifics” like the ones I have mentioned. Things that they Lord has told us through multiple witnesses, very specifically, that we should do or not do. These are NOT suggestions. They should be likened unto the dilemma of the Brother of Jared, who referred to such dilemmas with the words, “therefore we shall perish” (Ether 2:19). And indeed we will “perish” (physically or spiritually) if we ignore them.

  • Agency and Accountability: “Have the moral courage to stand firm in obeying God’s will, even if you have to stand alone.”
  • Dating: “You should not date until you are at least 16 years old.”
  • Dress and Appearance: “Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest.”
  • Entertainment and Media: “Avoid pornography at all costs. It is a poison that weakens your self-control, destroys your feelings of self-worth, and changes the way you see others. It causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit and can damage your ability to have a normal relationship with others, especially your future spouse. It limits your ability to feel true love. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.”

The list goes on and on. Those who have not followed these types of specifics have learned from “sad experience” that when God gives specific instructions we need to follow them to the specifics.

Our rule should be the rule that the Prophet Joseph made for himself when he says he was at the busiest time of his life: “As my life consisted of activity and unyielding exertions, I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 160.)

#BOMTC_Day_78,_June_23~Ether_2-3_or_Pages_489-494,_JS_I_Made_This_My_Rule

Life lesson #5 from the book of Ether: Learn to Take Important “Things” to God (Ether 3:1-6)

Once the Lord gave the “specifics” to the Brother of Jared about how to obtain fresh air, He proceeded to explain that He would “steer” them forth to the promised land. Brother Wilcox did a great job of covering that subject above. Sometimes God just “prepares” us for what is to come and steers us with His wind and waves (Ether 2:25). What I would like to discuss for a moment is the importance of taking important “things” to the Lord.

Why do I use the word “things” in quotes? Well, because when the Brother of Jared had “molten out of rock sixteen small stones,” the took them to the Lord and said, “behold these THINGS which I have molten out of the rock.” (Ether 3:3) How had the Brother of Jared come to this point? Well, the Lord had already told him what he could NOT do, and then left him with the question, “What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

The Brother of Jared was left to make a decision, a very important decision, and the Lord trusted him to make the right one!

Here is how I liken and apply this principle to myself. When I have an important decision to make (or other significant “thing”), I study it out with due diligence and make a decision regarding the “thing” (compare Ether 2:23-24 & 3:4 with Genesis 6:16, footnote a). Then I “cry” unto the Lord “upon the top of the mount” (Ether 3:1), and I ask Him to “touch” the “thing” that I have brought to Him. When He doesn’t touch it, I go back to the metaphorical drawing board. When He does touch it, I go forward with faith!

Now I am not suggesting that you take every “thing” to God. I have been trying to stress that I am referring to important “things”, like having light in your life. Here are three quotes that help me when the Lord places me in these types of situations about important “things”. I hope they will provide proper balance to this principle:

  1. The Lord counsels us on balance. Faith is vital, but it must be accompanied by the personal work appropriate to the task. Only then do we qualify for the blessing. The appropriate approach is to study as if everything depended upon us and then to pray and exercise faith as if everything depended upon the Lord.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 11)
  2. In the past I have tried to figure out whether I should go into business or into teaching or into the arts or whatever. As I have begun to proceed along one path, having more or less gathered what facts I could, I have found that if that decision was wrong or was taking me down the wrong path—without fail, the Lord has always let me know. On the other hand, there may have been two or three ways that I could have gone, any one of which would have been right and would have been in the general area providing the experience and means whereby I could fulfill the mission that the Lord had in mind for me. Because he knows we need growth, he generally does not point and say, ‘Open that door and go twelve yards in that direction; then turn right and go two miles’… But if it is wrong, he will let us know—we will feel it for sure. So rather than saying, ‘I will not move until I have this burning in my heart,” let us turn it around and say, “I will move unless I feel it is wrong; and if it is wrong, then I will not do it.’ By eliminating all of these wrong courses, very quickly you will find yourself going in the direction that you ought to be going.” (Elder John H. Groberg, Speeches, 1979, 97-98)
  3. If I ask [God] to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, …and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.” (Teachings Of Presidents Of The Church: Brigham Young, p.41)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Take Your Important THINGS to the Lord

Life lesson #6 from the book of Ether: Learn to Answer God’s Questions (Ether 3:7-26)

If God knows everything (which He does), then why does He ask questions? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is our next guest speaker! He will help us understand why God asks questions so that we can appropriately answer them:

One of the greatest prophets in the Book of Mormon goes unnamed in the record that documents his remarkable life. He is identified only as “the brother of Jared.” Yet the revelation that unfolded before his eyes was so extraordinary that his life and legacy have become synonymous with bold, consummate, perfect faith.

In the dispersion from the Tower of Babel, the people of Jared arrived at “that great sea which divideth the lands,” where they pitched their tents, awaiting further revelation about crossing the mighty ocean. For four years they awaited divine direction, but apparently they waited too casually, without supplication and exertion. Then came this remarkable encounter: “The Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.”

It is difficult to imagine what a three-hour rebuke from the Lord might be like, but the brother of Jared endured it. With immediate repentance and prayer, this prophet again sought guidance for the journey they had been assigned and those who were to pursue it. God accepted his repentance and lovingly gave further direction for their crucial mission.

For their oceanic crossing, these families and their flocks would need seaworthy crafts similar to the barges they had constructed for earlier water travel-small, light, dish-shaped vessels identical in design above and beneath so they were capable of staying afloat even if overturned by the waves. These “exceedingly tight” crafts were obviously of unprecedented design and capability, made under the direction of him who rules the seas and the winds to the end that the vessels might travel with the “lightness of a fowl upon the water.”

As miraculously designed and meticulously constructed as they were, these ships had one major, seemingly insoluble limitation. Such a tight, seaworthy design provided no way to admit light for the seafarers.

“The brother of Jared . . . cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?”

Then came an extraordinary and unexpected response from the creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are, he who boldly declared to Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”

“And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” Then, as if such a disarming inquiry from omnipotent Deity were not enough, the Lord proceeded to articulate the very problems that the brother of Jared knew only too well. He said, “Behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.

“For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. . . .

“Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?”

Clearly the brother of Jared was being tested. God had done his part. Unique, resolutely seaworthy ships for crossing the ocean had been provided. The brilliant engineering had been done. The hard part of the construction project was over. Now the Lord wanted to know what the brother of Jared would do about incidentals.

After what was undoubtedly a great deal of soul-searching, the brother of Jared came before the Lord-perhaps hesitantly but not empty-handed. In a clearly apologetic tone, he said, “Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; . . . O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness; but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock.”

Things. The brother of Jared hardly knew what to call them. Rocks undoubtedly did not sound very inspiring. Here, standing next to the Lord’s magnificent handiwork, the impeccably designed and marvelously unique seagoing barges, the brother of Jared offered for his contribution rocks. As he eyed the sleek ships the Lord had provided, it was a moment of genuine humility.

He hurried on: “And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.

“Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.”

For all of his self-abasement, the faith of the brother of Jared was immediately apparent-in fact, we might better say transparent in light of the purpose for which the stones would be used. Obviously Jehovah found something striking in the childlike innocence and fervor of this man’s faith. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.” In a sense there may be no more powerful expression of faith spoken in scripture. It is almost as if the brother of Jared was encouraging God, emboldening him, reassuring him. Not “Behold, O Lord, I am sure thou canst do this.” Not “Behold, O Lord, thou hast done many greater things than this.” However uncertain the prophet was about his own ability, he had no uncertainty about God’s power. This was nothing but a single, assertive declaration with no hint of vacillation. It was encouragement to him who needs no encouragement but who surely must have been touched by it. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.”

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Small Stone

What happened next ranks among the greatest moments in recorded history, surely among the greatest moments in recorded faith. It established the brother of Jared among the greatest of God’s prophets forever. As the Lord reached forth to touch the stones one by one with his finger-an action coming in undeniable response to the commanding faith of this man-“the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.”

The Lord, seeing the brother of Jared fall to the earth, commanded him to rise and asked, “Why hast thou fallen?” The reply: “I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.”

Then came this marvelous declaration from the Lord: “Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?”

The brother of Jared answered, “Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.” Following this remarkable exchange and prior to the full revelation to come, the Lord confronted the brother of Jared’s faith one more time with a most intriguing question: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?” he asked him. Not “Believest thou the words which I have already spoken” but a much more rigorous request: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?”

Preparatory faith is formed by experiences in the past-by the known, which provides a basis for belief. But redemptive faith must often be exercised toward experiences in the future-the unknown, which provides an opportunity for the miraculous. Exacting faith, mountain-moving faith, faith like that of the brother of Jared, precedes the miracle and the knowledge. He had to believe before God spoke. He had to act before the ability to complete that action was apparent. He had to commit to the complete experience in advance of even the first segment of its realization. Faith is to agree unconditionally-and in advance- to whatever conditions God may require in both the near and distant future.

The brother of Jared’s faith was complete. Committing to the words God would yet speak, he answered, “Yea, Lord.”

Then the Lord removed the veil from the eyes of the brother of Jared and came into full view of this incomparably faithful man.

“Behold,” he said, “I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.

“And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after my own image.

“Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.”

Understanding the Brother of Jared’s Experience

Before examining the doctrinal truths taught in this divine encounter, it will be useful to note two seemingly problematic issues here, issues that seem to have reasonable and acceptable resolutions.

The first consideration rises from two questions the Lord asked the brother of Jared: “Why hast thou fallen?” and “Sawest thou more than this?” It is a basic premise of Latter-day Saint theology that God “knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.” The scriptures, both ancient and modern, are replete with this assertion of omniscience. Nevertheless, God has frequently asked questions of mortals, usually as a way to test their faith, measure their honesty, or develop their knowledge.

For example, he called to Adam in the garden of Eden, “Where art thou?” and he later asked Eve, “What is this that thou hast done?” Yet an omniscient Parent clearly knew the answer to both questions, for he could see where Adam was, and he had watched what Eve had done. Obviously the questions were for the children’s sake, giving Adam and Eve the responsibility to reply honestly.

Later, in trying Abraham’s faith, God would repeatedly call out about Abraham’s whereabouts, to which the faithful patriarch would answer, “Here am I.” God’s purpose was not to obtain information he already knew but to reaffirm Abraham’s fixed faith in confronting the most difficult of all parental tests. Such questions are frequently used by God, particularly in assessing faith, honesty, and the full measure of agency, allowing his children the freedom and opportunity to express themselves as revealingly as they wish, even though God knows the answer to his own and all other questions.

The second issue that requires brief comment stems from the Lord’s exclamation “Never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger.” And later, “Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast.”

The potential for confusion here comes with the realization that many (and perhaps all) of the major prophets living prior to the brother of Jared had seen God. How, then, do we account for the Lord’s declaration? Adam’s face-to-face conversations with God in the garden of Eden can be exempted because of the paradisiacal, pre-fallen state of that setting and relationship. Furthermore, other prophets’ visions of God, such as those of Moses and Isaiah in the Bible, or Nephi and Jacob in the Book of Mormon, can also be answered because they came after this “never before” experience of the brother of Jared.

But before the time of the brother of Jared, the Lord did appear to Adam and “the residue of his posterity who were righteous” in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman three years before Adam’s death. And we are left with Enoch, who said explicitly, “I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face to face.” We assume that other prophets between the Fall and the Tower of Babel saw God in a similar manner, including Noah, who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and “walked with God,” the same scriptural phrase used to describe Enoch’s relationship with the Lord.

This issue has been much discussed by Latter-day Saint writers, and there are several possible explanations, any one-or all-of which may cast light upon the larger truth of this passage. Nevertheless, without additional revelation or commentary on the matter, any conjecture is only that and as such is inadequate and incomplete.

One possibility is that this is simply a comment made in the context of one dispensation and as such applies only to the people of Jared and Jaredite prophets-that Jehovah had never before revealed himself to one of their seers and revelators. Obviously this theory has severe limitations when measured against such phrases as “never before” and “never has man.” Furthermore, we quickly realize that Jared and his brother are the fathers of their dispensation, the very first to whom God could have revealed himself in their era.

Another suggestion is that the reference to “man” is the key to this passage, suggesting that the Lord had never revealed himself to the unsanctified, to the nonbeliever, to temporal, earthy, natural man. The implication is that only those who have put off the natural man, only those who are untainted by the world-in short, the sanctified (such as Adam, Enoch, and now the brother of Jared)-are entitled to this privilege.

Some believe that the Lord meant he had never before revealed himself to man in that degree or to that extent. This theory suggests that divine appearances to earlier prophets had not been with the same “fulness,” that never before had the veil been lifted to give such a complete revelation of Christ’s nature and being.

A further possibility is that this is the first time Jehovah had appeared and identified himself as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with the interpretation of the passage being “never have I showed myself [as Jesus Christ] unto man whom I have created.” That possibility is reinforced by one way of reading Moroni’s later editorial comment: “Having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

Yet another interpretation of this passage is that the faith of the brother of Jared was so great he saw not only the spirit finger and body of the premortal Jesus (which presumably many other prophets had also seen) but also some distinctly more revealing aspect of Christ’s body of flesh, blood, and bone. Exactly what insight into the temporal nature of Christ’s future body the brother of Jared could have had is not clear, but Jehovah did say to him, “Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood,” and Moroni said that Christ revealed himself in this instance “in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.” Some have taken that to mean literally “the same body” the Nephites would see-a body of flesh and bone. A stronger position would suggest it was only the spiritual likeness of that future body. In emphasizing that this was a spiritual body being revealed and not some special precursor simulating flesh and bone, Jehovah said, “This body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit . . . and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.” Moroni also affirmed this, saying, “Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit.”

A final explanation-and in terms of the brother of Jared’s faith the most persuasive one-is that Christ was saying to the brother of Jared, “Never have I showed myself unto man in this manner, without my volition, driven solely by the faith of the beholder.” As a rule, prophets are invited into the presence of the Lord, are bidden to enter his presence by him and only with his sanction. The brother of Jared, on the other hand, seems to have thrust himself through the veil, not as an unwelcome guest but perhaps technically as an uninvited one. Said Jehovah, “Never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. . . . Never has man believed in me as thou hast.” Obviously the Lord himself was linking unprecedented faith with this unprecedented vision. If the vision itself was not unique, then it had to be the faith and how the vision was obtained that was so unparalleled. The only way that faith could be so remarkable was its ability to take the prophet, uninvited, where others had been able to go only with God’s bidding.

That appears to be Moroni’s understanding of the circumstance when he later wrote, “Because of the knowledge [which came as a result of faith] of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

This may be one of those provocative examples (except that here it is a real experience and not hypothetical) a theologian might cite in a debate about God’s power. Students of religion sometimes ask, “Can God make a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it?” or “Can God hide an item so skillfully that he cannot find it?” Far more movingly and importantly one may ask here, “Is it possible to have faith so great that even God cannot resist it?” At first one is inclined to say that surely God could block such an experience if he wished to. But the text suggests otherwise: “This man . . . could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . He could not be kept from within the veil.”

This may be an unprecedented case of a mortal man’s desire, will, and purity so closely approaching the heavenly standard that God could not but honor his devotion. What a remarkable doctrinal statement about the power of a mortal’s faith! And not an ethereal, unreachable, select mortal, either. This was a man who once forgot to call upon the Lord, one whose best ideas were sometimes focused on rocks, and one who doesn’t even have a traditional name in the book that has immortalized his unprecedented experience. Given such faith, we should not be surprised that the Lord would show this prophet much, show him visions that would be relevant to the mission of all the Book of Mormon prophets and to the events of the latter-day dispensation in which the book would be received. (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon, p.14-24)

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#BOMTC Mormon 5-7: From FAIR to FALLEN!

Imagine how Mormon must have felt as he witnessed the devastation of the final battle between the Nephites and the Lamanites. He had labored his entire life to do the will of the Lord and had tried over and over to help the people repent and return to God.

#BOMTC Day 76, June 21~Mormon 5-7 or Pages 477-482, Mormon Abridging

“I write a small abridgment,” said Mormon, “daring not to give a full account of the things which I have seen … that ye might not have too great sorrow because of the wickedness of this people.” (Morm. 5:9)

Mormon’s message is for our day: “How can ye stand before the power of God, except ye shall repent and turn from your evil ways? Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God?” (Morm. 5:22–23) In these chapters we can see the extreme consequences that can come upon a people once they have turned from God and resist repentance.

In the short video below, the end of the great destruction of the battle of Cumorah is depicted. As Mormon and his son Moroni behold the hundreds of thousands of Nephites slain in the last battle with the Lamanites, Mormon laments, “O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! …How is it that ye could have fallen!” (Mormon 6:17 & 19).

O Ye Fair Ones

As I was doing some research for this post, I ran across an article that I had long forgotten about. It is called, “Mormon: The Man and the Book, Part 1“, and it was written by Jeffrey R. Holland, when he was the commissioner of Church Education. I don’t believe that there is anything better that I could post than what he has already left for us to study. It will be well worth your time to learn from this master teacher about Mormon and his book.

Mormon: The Man and the Book, Part 1

(Jeffrey R. Holland, “Mormon: The Man and the Book, Part 1,” Ensign Mar. 1978)

The Prophet Joseph Smith once wrote in his journal, “It was an awful responsibility to write in the name of the Lord.” (Joseph Smith, Jr., History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1:226.) One who must have felt that “awful responsibility” as much as any other in this world was Mormon, when at the tender age of ten years he was introduced to the weighty assignment that would be his.

After nearly a thousand years of Nephite history he was called of God to select and summarize the story of his people. That story tells in part of “peace in the land” and “all manner of miracles,” including the appearance and sermons of the resurrected Son of God.

But the story also contains the terror and depravity of that civilization gone awry, a dispensation concluding “without order and without mercy” in which women were fed on the flesh of their husbands and children were offered as sacrifice to dumb idols. In the end, Mormon’s was a painful and very lonely task.

Of the record Mormon helped to produce, the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (History of the Church, 4:461.) After long decades of darkness, the appearance of Mormon’s book would be one of the first contributions toward the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21) in preparation for the fullness of times. His task was as crucial in the eternal plan of salvation as it was unique.

One prevailing impression we have as we read of Mormon’s life and times is that he has been almost too modest, too brief (scarcely twelve pages) with the inspiration and insight of a man so uniquely chosen and prepared to write. Indeed, we are grateful that his son, Moroni, shared with us both his memories of and his personal correspondence with his father, which reveal Mormon’s great doctrinal strength, his humanity and hope, and his abiding devotion to his people. (See Moro. 7–9.)

While acknowledging our indebtedness to Moroni for including these wonderfully inspiring chapters, we nevertheless wonder what other great discourses we might have received from Mormon if the book he abridged or the times in which he lived had not restricted his hand and limited his opportunity to speak to us. What we do have from him—and thus what we come to know of him—is of the highest order and places him in the front ranks of ancient America’s prophetic voices.

We know that “every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose” in his premortal existence. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365.) Perhaps that call has an effect on those men even in their earliest mortal years, for Mormon was recognized by his predecessor Ammaron as being “a sober child” and one “quick to observe.” (Morm. 1:2.) As a lad only ten years of age, Mormon received a charge from Ammaron that some fourteen years later he should “go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim” and there obtain the ancient and faithfully recorded history of his people. (Morm. 1:3.) It was a charge he accepted and faithfully fulfilled.

Under the guidance of his father, for whom he was named (see Morm. 1:5–6), young Mormon moved to the land of Zarahemla when he was eleven years of age and prepared for his prophetic role. But these were difficult times. After more than two hundred years of peace and righteousness introduced on the western hemisphere by the Savior himself, the civilization had now declined to the point where “both the people of Nephi and the Lamanites had become exceeding wicked one like unto another. … And there were none that were righteous save it were the disciples of Jesus.” (4 Ne. 1:45–46.) Indeed, that wickedness continued unchecked upon the whole of the land until even the disciples of Jesus, that last remnant of Christ’s ministry among the people, were taken away by the Lord:

“And the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people.

“There were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief.” (Morm. 1:13–14.)

Maintaining his integrity and faithful independence amidst such evil practice, Mormon was, at approximately the same age as the young prophet Joseph Smith, “visited of the Lord.” (Morm. 1:15.) Still in his teens, he tried valiantly to preach to his people, but because these people had willfully rebelled against their God and because their wickedness continued to run rampant, he was finally forbidden of God to speak. “My mouth was shut,” he records, “and I was forbidden that I should preach unto them … because of the hardness of their hearts.” (Morm. 1:16–17.)

Other, if less divine, opportunities for service were given to him. Like his ancestor Nephi, Mormon was also “large in stature” (Morm. 2:1), and with both a strong body and a resolute spirit he was chosen to lead the armies of the Nephite people—at the age of sixteen.

Even as Nephite blood flooded the battlefields, however, an army of domestic adversaries—thieves, robbers, murderers, and magicians—sheared the more private fabric of Nephite society. There was despair at home and abroad, and great sorrow among the people.

But as Mormon records, “Their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin.

“And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. …

“The day of grace was past with them, both temporally and spiritually.” (Morm. 2:13–15.)

The theft of personal property naturally grew into more conquest of home and lands until Mormon watched these, his brothers and sisters, stand in open conflict against each other and fall in open rebellion against their God. The bodies of the dead were “heaped up as dung upon the face of the land.” (Morm. 2:15.)

In the midst of this kind of personal and public destruction, Mormon made his way to the hill Shim and obtained the plates of Nephi in fulfillment of Ammaron’s commandment. There on these ancient metal plates he would, over the weeks and months ahead, give “a full account of all the wickedness and abominations” of his people, for there was little else to record. Indeed, these scenes of wickedness and abomination had been before his eyes “ever since I have been sufficient to behold the ways of man.” (Morm. 2:18.) Nephite history in the fourth century A.D. was by every standard an unpleasant story to tell.

Striving to maintain what military defense he could, even as he recorded the inevitable demise of his people, Mormon urged that the Nephites “stand boldly” and defend “their wives, and their children, and their houses, and their homes.” (Morm. 2:23.) Although there was an occasional temporary gain, Mormon faced the most hopeless of all military tasks—fighting when “the strength of the Lord was not with us.” He records in his history, “Yea, we were left to ourselves, that the Spirit of the Lord did not abide in us; therefore we had become weak like unto our brethren.” (Morm. 2:26.)

As he fought against the enemy with sword and shield, he also tried to pierce the heart of his own people with strong testimony. But his cry was in vain. These people would not make that one crucial admission that the Lord God of Israel held the keys to their success. (See Morm. 3:2–3.) The warring would go on.

Both armies fought on in the feeble strength of the arm of flesh; and after two surprisingly successful defenses against Lamanite attacks, the Nephites “began to boast in their own strength.” (Morm. 3:9.) In utter despair Mormon threw down his weapons of war and vowed he would have no more to do with their cause. Though he “had loved them” (Morm. 3:12), he refused to lead their military forces and, by the Lord’s command, waited “as an idle witness” for total destruction. (Morm. 3:16.)

Yet at such moments of disappointment and frustration we learn something special about the heart and hunger of this man. His faith, his hope, and his charity were irrepressible. He could not abandon his own people. Notwithstanding their wickedness, he agreed once more to lead them. But some critical threshold had been passed. These people had decisively chosen darkness over light, evil over goodness, blood over benevolence. Prayer unto God “all day long” (Morm. 3:12) for that kind of soul was difficult indeed, but so Mormon prayed. Nevertheless, the judgments of God overtook his people and the degree of Nephite wickedness was equaled only by their loss of life.

Mormon records: “It is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites; and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually.

“And there never had been so great wickedness among all the children of Lehi, nor even among all the house of Israel, according to the words of the Lord, as was among this people.” (Morm. 4:11–12.)

Undoubtedly it was in one of these times that Mormon wrote the painful letter to his son which Moroni recorded in his own book.

“My beloved son,” he writes, “I am laboring with [the Nephites] continually; and when I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it. …

“They have no fear of death; and they have lost their love, one towards another; and they thirst after blood and revenge continually.” (Moro. 9:1, 4–5.)

But Mormon’s remarkable and indomitable spirit prevails. He holds to faith, hope, and charity, and to the miraculous intervention of angels and heavenly priesthood powers, as a prophet always will. Indeed, he loved his people with a “perfect love” that “casteth out all fear.” (Moro. 8:16.) He would simply try once again.

“And now, my beloved son,” he writes, “notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; … for we have a labor to perform.” (Moro. 9:6.)

The Spirit of Christ could yet lead this people if they would permit it to do so, and by his light they could yet “lay hold on every good thing.” (Moro. 7:21.) Even in the midst of these wicked days there was an opportunity to repent, a message delivered by the very angels of heaven. In the midst of his people’s abject wickedness, Mormon reminds his son that, in the past, “by the ministering of angels, and by every word which proceeded forth out of the mouth of God, men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold on every good thing.” (Moro. 7:25.)

And what God did in the past, he would do now: “Have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?

“Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men.” (Moro. 7:36–37.)

What a remarkable message to be delivered in what we know were frightful and unfaithful times! We wonder what miracles might have been wrought, even at that late hour, if congregations of Nephite saints had claimed the privileges which could have been theirs. But they did not choose to claim them and so, for them, the day of miracles did indeed cease.

Gradually, inevitably, inexorably the Nephites lost men, women, children, property, and possessions to the increasingly powerful Lamanites; they “began to be swept off by them even as a dew before the sun.” (Morm. 4:18.) And as Nephite women and children were being sacrificed to Lamanite idols (Morm. 4:21), Mormon once again took command of the Nephite army, though he knew it was in vain and would be the last time.

“I was without hope,” he said, “for I knew the judgments of the Lord which should come upon them; for they repented not of their iniquities, but did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them.” (Morm. 5:2.)

Mormon achieved some temporary victories and maintained some temporary positions, but ultimately the Lamanites moved upon them in numbers so vast that “they did tread the people of the Nephites under their feet.” (Morm. 5:6.)

In solitude and sorrow Mormon withdrew from the horde and wrote to an audience yet unborn but certain to receive his record. For Jew, Lamanite, and Gentile he describes the destruction of what had once been “a delightsome people,” a nation who once had “Christ for their shepherd.” (Morm. 5:17.) Now he records that “they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they.” (Morm. 5:18.)

At Mormon’s request, the Lamanites let the Nephites gather in the land of Cumorah (Morm. 6:2–4) to wage “the last struggle” of these peoples. (Morm. 6:6.) Mormon, now old and hoping only to protect the record, hid in the Hill Cumorah all the plates with which he had been entrusted, save the brief abridged record that he gave to his son Moroni. (Morm. 6:6.) In fearful anticipation and finally horrible realization, Mormon and Moroni fought as the remaining Nephite men, women, and children fell before the oncoming armies of the Lamanites. Mormon himself fell wounded, but his life, for a time, was spared as the Lamanite armies swept on. Only he, Moroni, and twenty-two other Nephites remained; 230,000 of their nation had fallen.

The scope and significance of that horrible slaughter may be seen more readily when we realize that the great American Civil War of the 1860s, the costliest war, in terms of human life, that the United States has ever known, took the lives of 140,000 men in a five-year period. Here, 230,000 fell in a single day.

#BOMTC Day 76, June 21~Mormon 5-7 or Pages 477-482, Mormon and Moroni After Final Battle

Looking out over that carnage, Mormon cried:

O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you! …

“O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen!

“But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return.” (Morm. 6:17, 19–20.)

As his own death approached, Mormon concluded his record with one great and final testimony.

To the mighty remnant of the house of Israel he testified that they must come to know that they are God’s covenant people. They must come to know that repentance is the only course to salvation.

They must come to know that war must cease and the peace of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only victory over death and the grave.

If indeed the great remnant of the house of Israel will lay hold upon his record and the gospel of Jesus Christ which it teaches, then, he promises, “it shall be well with you.”

Having seen a devastating day of judgment upon his own people, Mormon closed his weary eyes, seeking the rest of the valiant and the consolation of the saints. But to his eternal credit—and for our eternal good—he left behind a testament which would one day speak “out of the dust” and “hiss forth from generation to generation.” (Moro. 10:27–28.) It would be in every way “a marvellous work and a wonder.” (Isa. 29:14.)

For a wonderful followup to this article see, “Mormon: The Man and the Book, Part 2

#BOMTC Day 76, June 21~Mormon 5-7 or Pages 477-482, Moroni Mourning

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#BOMTC 3 Nephi 11-13: The Return of the LIGHT!

How does one create a blog post for a set of chapters like this? There is just no way I can come close to doing justice to these chapters.

Jesus Christ in America Timeline

Jesus Christ in America Timeline: 3 Nephi is sometimes called the “Fifth Gospel” because it records the teachings of the Risen Lord in the Americas. It is the Book of Mormon’s Easter Story. This timeline outlines the key events in 3 Nephi leading up to the Savior’s miraculous appearance to the people at the temple in Bountiful. (Credit: Book of Mormon Central)

With that said, there are several other people who have put significant work into bringing these chapters to life and helping us feel the great blessing that was realized in 3 Nephi 11-13. So for this post I will be sharing a few videos and quotes that have helped me to appreciate this culminating event of the Book of Mormon. I hope you will enjoy them as well. I believe that they are worth every second that you will spend to read the quotes or watch the amazing videos with beautiful accompaniment.

#BOMTC Day 68, June 13~3 Nephi 11-13 or Pages 429-434, Christ in America with Young Child

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote that:

[the appearance of the resurrected Lord to the Nephites and His declaration of His Messiahship] “constituted the focal point, the supreme moment, in the entire history of the Book of Mormon. It was the manifestation and the decree that had informed and inspired every Nephite prophet for the previous six hundred years, to say nothing of their Israelite and Jaredite forefathers for thousands of years before that.  Everyone had talked of him, sung of him, dreamed of him, and prayed for his appearance—but here he actually was. The day of days! The God who turns every dark night into morning light had arrived” (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon [1997], 250–51).

Another Testament of Christ

Sometime following the great destruction and three days of darkness, about 2,500 men, women, and children gathered around the temple in the land of Bountiful (see 3 Nephi 17:25). They heard a voice, which they at first did not understand. As they tried to listen, they understood that it was the voice of Heavenly Father introducing His Son, Jesus Christ. The Savior of the world appeared. Jesus Christ invited the people to one by one personally witness that He had been slain for the sins of the world by feeling the wound in his side and the prints of the nails in His hands and feet.

Come See the Light

President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

“What a blessing it would be if every family would read together 3 Nephi, discuss its sacred contents, and then determine how they can liken it unto themselves and apply its teachings in their lives. Third Nephi is a book that should be read and read again. Its testimony of the resurrected Christ in America is given in purity and beauty” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 5–6; or Ensign, May 1987, 6).

Reflections of Christ

President N. Eldon Tanner, who was a member of the First Presidency, said:

“I suppose that nowhere in the scriptures do we have a more beautiful or detailed record of God’s dealings with man than in the account of this visit as recorded in Third Nephi. . . . [The] warnings and beautiful teachings . . . , if accepted and lived, will do more than anything else to bring peace and happiness to the world and to the individual seeking such a way of life. Here we can find explanations for many unanswered questions in the Bible.  Third Nephi gives us additional information in more detail than the four Gospels in the New Testament, and preserves the doctrines, teachings, and compassion of the Lord. For this reason there are many who refer to Third Nephi as the ‘fifth Gospel.’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 52; or Ensign, May 1975, 34).

Visit http://www.reflectionsofchrist.org/for more images and information on the videos listed on this post.

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#BOMTC Helaman 16-3 Nephi 2: “Watch Steadfastly”

#BOMTC Day 64, June 9~Helaman 16-3 Nephi 2 or Pages 405-410 On the Marrow HD

Before departing out of the land, the prophet Nephi (the son of Helaman) passed the records to his oldest son, Nephi. When the time drew near for the fulfillment of Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy about the Savior’s birth, believers watched for the signs Samuel had said would come. The unbelievers plotted to put the faithful to death if the prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus Christ were not fulfilled by a certain day. Nephi pleaded with the Lord on behalf of the believers. In answer to Nephi’s prayer, the voice of the Lord came to him, declaring that the sign would be given that night.

#BOMTC Day 64, June 9~Helaman 16-3 Nephi 2 or Pages 405-410 3 Nephi 1.13

In fulfillment of the prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite, when the sun set there was no darkness and a new star appeared. Despite Satan’s continued attempts to destroy the faith of the people, “the more part of the people did believe, and were converted unto the Lord” (3 Nephi 1:22). But two years later, the Gadianton robbers began to lead many Nephites and Lamanites into wickedness.

#BOMTC Day 64, June 9~Helaman 16-3 Nephi 2 or Pages 405-410 At Sunset

I am always amazed at the unwavering faith that was demonstrated by the “believers” in 3 Nephi 1. I think that every single time I read it I pause to consider if I would have been found among the “believers” that were willing to “watch steadfastly” in the face of death. While in the region of Bethlehem it was a “Merry Christmas”, in America it was a “Scary Christmas”.

#BOMTC Day 64, June 9~Helaman 16-3 Nephi 2 or Pages 405-410 New Star

Sometimes it may seem that the sun is setting before the promises of God have been fulfilled in our lives. But this account shows me that we need to endure to the end and wait for the sun to set with full confidence that the Lord will fulfill all His words. After all, “faith in God includes faith in God’s timing”!

#BOMTC Day 64, June 9~Helaman 16-3 Nephi 2 or Pages 405-410 Faith in God's Timing

One of my favorite talks that helps me to “watch steadfastly” as the sun sets spiritually sometimes in my life comes from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. His talk was titled, “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,” and was given at a BYU Devotional. I will include a link to the video and a copy of the transcript for those of you who may need a boost for your faith as you watch the sun set in your life.

#BOMTC Day 64, June 9~Helaman 16-3 Nephi 2 or Pages 405-410 JRH Cast Not Therefore Away Thy Confidence

There is a lesson in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision which virtually every Latter-day Saint has had occasion to experience, or one day soon will. It is the plain and very sobering truth that before great moments, certainly before great spiritual moments, there can come adversity, opposition, and darkness. Life has some of those moments for us, and occasionally they come just as we are approaching an important decision or a significant step in our lives.

In that marvelous account which we read too seldom, Joseph said he had scarcely begun his prayer when he felt a power of astonishing influence come over him. “Thick darkness,” as he described it, gathered around him and seemed bent on his utter destruction. But he exerted all his powers to call upon God to deliver him out of the power of this enemy, and as he did so a pillar of light brighter than the noonday sun descended gradually until it rested upon him. At the very moment of the light’s appearance, he found himself delivered from the destructive power which had held him bound. What then followed is the greatest epiphany since the events surrounding the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ in the meridian of time. The Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith, and the dispensation of the fulness of times had begun. 1

Most of us do not need any more reminders than we have already had that there is one who personifies “opposition in all things,” that “an angel of God” fell “from heaven” and in so doing became “miserable forever.” What a chilling destiny! Because this is Lucifer’s fate, “he sought also the misery of all mankind,” Lehi teaches us. 2

The Fight Goes On

An entire article could be devoted to this subject of the adversary’s strong, preliminary, anticipatory opposition to many of the good things God has in store for us. But I want to move past that observation to another truth we may not recognize so readily. This is a lesson in the parlance of the athletic contest that reminds us “it isn’t over until it’s over.” It is the reminder that the fight goes on. Unfortunately we must not think Satan is defeated with that first strong breakthrough which so dramatically brought the light and moved us forward.

To make my point a little more vividly, may I go to another passage of scripture, indeed, to another vision. You will recall that the book of Mosesbegins with him being taken up to “an exceedingly high mountain” where, the scripture says, “he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses.” What then followed was what happens to prophets who are taken to high mountains. The Lord said to Moses:

“Look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands. … Moses looked, and … beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God. And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not.” 3

This experience is remarkable by every standard. It is one of the great revelations given in human history. It stands with the greatest accounts we have of any prophet’s experience with Divinity.

But Moses’ message to you today is: Don’t let your guard down. Don’t assume that a great revelation, some marvelous, illuminating moment, the opening of an inspired path, is the end of it. Remember, it isn’t over until it’s over.

What happens to Moses next, after his revelatory moment, would be ludicrous if it were not so dangerous and so true to form. Lucifer—in an effort to continue his opposition, in his unfailing effort to get his licks in later if not sooner—appears and shouts in equal portions of anger and petulance after God has revealed Himself to the prophet: “Moses, worship me.” But Moses is not having it. He has just seen the real thing, and by comparison this sort of performance is pretty dismal.

“Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? … Where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?

“For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me. … But I can look upon thee in the natural man. …

“Where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God. …

“Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not.”

The record then depicts a reaction that is both pathetic and frightening:

“And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.

“And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God [the very phrase used by Joseph Smith], he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.

“And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook. …

“And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence,” 4 always to come again, we can be sure, but always to be defeated by the God of glory—always.

Do Not Draw Back

I wish to encourage every one of us regarding the opposition that so often comes after enlightened decisions have been made, after moments of revelation and conviction have given us a peace and an assurance we thought we would never lose. In his letter to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul was trying to encourage new members who had just joined the Church, who undoubtedly had had spiritual experiences and received the pure light of testimony, only to discover that their troubles had not ended but that some of them had just begun.

Paul pleaded with those new members in much the same way President Gordon B. Hinckley is pleading with new members today. The reminder is that we cannot sign on for a battle of such eternal significance and everlasting consequence without knowing it will be a fight—a good fight and a winning fight, but a fight nevertheless. Paul says to those who thought a new testimony, a personal conversion, a spiritual baptismal experience would put them beyond trouble—to these he says, “Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions.” Then this tremendous counsel, which is at the heart of my counsel to you: “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.

“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. …

“… If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

“… We are not of them who draw back unto perdition.” 5

In Latter-day Saint talk that is to say, Sure it is tough—before you join the Church, while you are trying to join, and after you have joined. That is the way it has always been, Paul says, but don’t draw back. Don’t panic and retreat. Don’t lose your confidence. Don’t forget how you once felt. Don’t distrust the experience you had. That tenacity is what saved Moses and Joseph Smith when the adversary confronted them, and it is what will save you.

I suppose every returned missionary and probably every convert reading these words knows exactly what I am talking about. Appointments for discussions canceled, the Book of Mormon in a plastic bag hanging from a front doorknob, baptismal dates not met. And so it goes through the teaching period, through the commitments and the baptism, through the first weeks and months in the Church, and more or less forever—at least, the adversary would pursue it forever if he thought he could see any weakening of your resolve, any chink in your armor.

This opposition turns up almost any place something good has happened. It can happen when you are trying to get an education. It can hit you after your first month in your new mission field. It certainly happens in matters of love and marriage. It can occur in situations related to your family, Church callings, or career.

With any major decision there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.

The Spirit of Revelation

To help us make our way through these experiences, these important junctures in our lives, let me draw from another scriptural reference to Moses. It was given in the early days of this dispensation when revelation was needed, when a true course was being set and had to be continued.

Most Latter-day Saints know the formula for revelation given in section 9 of the Doctrine and Covenants—the verses about studying it out in your mind and the Lord promising to confirm or deny. What most of us don’t read in conjunction with this is the section which precedes it: section 8.

In that revelation the Lord has said, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” I love the combination there of both mind and heart. God will teach us in a reasonable way and in a revelatory way—mind and heart combined—by the Holy Ghost. “Now, behold,” He continues, “this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.” 6

Why would the Lord use the example of crossing the Red Sea as the classic example of “the spirit of revelation”? Why didn’t He use the First Vision? Or the example from the book of Moses we just used? Or the vision of the brother of Jared? Well, He could have used any of these, but He didn’t. Here He had another purpose in mind.

Usually we think of revelation as a downpour of information. But this is too narrow a concept of revelation. May I suggest how section 8 broadens our understanding, particularly in light of these “fights of affliction” we have been discussing.

Questions Often Precede Revelation

First of all, revelation almost always comes in response to a question, usually an urgent question—not always, but usually. In that sense it does provide information, but it is urgently needed information, special information. Moses’ challenge was how to get himself and the children of Israel out of this horrible predicament they were in. There were chariots behind them, sand dunes on every side, and a lot of water immediately ahead. He needed information to know what to do, but it wasn’t a casual thing he was asking. In this case it was literally a matter of life and death.

You will need information too, but in matters of great consequence it is not likely to come unless you want it urgently, faithfully, humbly. Moroni calls it seeking “with real intent.” 7 If you can seek that way and stay in that mode, not much that the adversary can counter with will dissuade you from a righteous path. You can hang on, whatever the assault and affliction, because you have paid the price for real conviction.

Like Moses in that vision, there may come after the fact some competing doubts and confusion, but it will pale when you measure it against the real thing. Remember the real thing. Remember how urgently you have needed help in earlier times and you got it. The Red Sea will open to the honest seeker of revelation. The adversary has power to hedge up the way, to marshal Pharaoh’s forces and dog our escape right to the water’s edge, but he can’t produce the real thing. He cannot conquer if we will it otherwise. Exerting all our powers, the light will again come, the darkness will again retreat, the safety will be sure. That is lesson number one about crossing the Red Sea by the spirit of revelation.

Do Not Fear

Lesson number two is closely related. It is that in the process of revelation and making important decisions, fear plays a destructive, sometimes paralyzing role. To Oliver Cowdery, who missed the opportunity of a lifetime because he didn’t seize it in the lifetime of the opportunity, the Lord said, “You did not continue as you commenced.” Does that sound familiar to those who have been illuminated and then knuckled under to second thoughts and returning doubts? “It is not expedient that you should translate now,” the Lord said in language that must have been very hard for Oliver to hear. “Behold, it was expedient when you commenced;but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now.” 8

Everyone runs the risk of fear. For a moment in Moses’ confrontation with the adversary, “Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell.” 9 That’s when you see it—when you are afraid.

That is exactly the problem that beset the children of Israel at the edge of the Red Sea, and it has everything to do with holding fast to your earlier illumination. The record says, “And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid.” Some (just like those Paul described earlier) said words to this effect: “Let’s go back. This isn’t worth it. We must have been wrong. That probably wasn’t the right spirit telling us to leave Egypt.” What they actually said to Moses was: “Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? … It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.” 10And I have to say, “What about that which has already happened? What about the miracles that got you here? What about the frogs and the lice? What about the rod and the serpent, the river and the blood? What about the hail, the locusts, the fire, the firstborn sons?”

How soon we forget. It would not have been better to stay and serve the Egyptians, and it is not better to remain outside the Church, nor to put off marriage, nor to reject a mission call or other Church service, and so on and so on forever. Of course our faith will be tested as we fight through these self-doubts and second thoughts. Some days we will be miraculously led out of Egypt—seemingly free, seemingly on our way—only to come to yet another confrontation, like all that water lying before us. At those times we must resist the temptation to panic and give up. At those times fear will be the strongest of the adversary’s weapons against us.

“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. … The Lord shall fight for you.” In confirmation the great Jehovah said to Moses, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” 11

That is the second lesson of the spirit of revelation. After you have gotten the message, after you have paid the price to feel His love and hear the word of the Lord, go forward. Don’t fear, don’t vacillate, don’t quibble, don’t whine. You may, like Alma going to Ammonihah, have to find a route that leads an unusual way, but that is exactly what the Lord is doing here for the children of Israel. Nobody had ever crossed the Red Sea this way, but so what? There’s always a first time. With the spirit of revelation, dismiss your fears and wade in with both feet. In the words of Joseph Smith, “Brethren [and sisters], shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!”12

God Will Help Us

The third lesson from the Lord’s spirit of revelation in the miracle of crossing the Red Sea is that along with the illuminating revelation that points us toward a righteous purpose or duty, God will also provide the means and power to achieve that purpose. Trust in that eternal truth. If God has told you something is right, if something is indeed true for you, He will provide the way for you to accomplish it. That is true of joining the Church or raising a family, of going on a mission, or any one of a hundred other worthy tasks in life. Remember what the Savior said to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. What was the problem in 1820? Why was Joseph not to join another church? It was at least in part because “they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” 13 God’s grace is sufficient! The Lord would tell Joseph again and again that just as in days of old the children of Israel would be “led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. … Therefore, let not your hearts faint. … Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land.” 14

What goodly land? Well, your goodly land. Your promised land. Your new Jerusalem. Your own little acre flowing with milk and honey. Your future. Your dreams. Your destiny. I believe that in our own individual ways, God takes us to the grove or the mountain or the temple and there shows us the wonder of what His plan is for us. We may not see it as fully as Moses or Nephi or the brother of Jared did, but we see as much as we need to see in order to know the Lord’s will for us and to know that He loves us beyond mortal comprehension. I also believe that the adversary and his pinched, calculating little minions try to oppose such experiences and then try to darken them after they happen. But that is not the way of the gospel. That is not the way of a Latter-day Saint who claims as the fundamental fact of the Restoration the spirit of revelation. Fighting through darkness and despair and pleading for the light is what opened this dispensation. It is what keeps it going, and it is what will keep you going. With Paul, I say to all of you:

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.

“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” 15

I acknowledge the reality of opposition and adversity, but I bear witness of the God of glory, of the redeeming Son of God, of light and hope and a bright future. I promise you that God lives and loves you, each one of you, and that He has set bounds and limits to the opposing powers of darkness. I testify that Jesus is the Christ, the victor over death and hell and the fallen one who schemes there. The gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and it has been restored.

“Fear ye not.” And when the second and third and fourth blows come, “fear ye not. … The Lord shall fight for you.” 16 Cast not away therefore your confidence.

Notes

  1. See JS—H 1:15–17.
  2. See 2 Ne. 2:11, 17–18.
  3. Moses 1:1–2, 4, 8, 27–28.
  4. Moses 1:12–16, 19–22
  5. Heb. 10:32, 35–36, 38–39; emphasis added
  6. D&C 8:2–3; emphasis added.
  7. Moro. 10:4.
  8. D&C 9:5, 10, 11; emphasis added
  9. Moses 1:20.
  10. Ex. 14:10–12.
  11. Ex. 14:13–15; emphasis added
  12. D&C 128:22.
  13. JS—H 1:19.
  14. D&C 103:17, 19–20.
  15. Heb. 10:35–36.
  16. Ex. 14:13–14.

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#BOMTC Ether 4-7: “Commending Themselves unto the Lord”

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have always found the accounts in the book of Ether to be very easy to liken to my life. I find this particularly easy to do with Ether 6:1-12. Before you read what I have written for today, take a few moments to review Ether 6:1-12 and study it with the following perspective in mind: “If I am like a Jaredite vessel traveling toward the promised land of the Celestial Kingdom, then what can I learn from these verses about my journey through life?”

I will simply list a few selections from Ether 6:1-12 below and a brief thought about how I feel it applies to my life. You may want to make a similar list in your scriptures from your own insights:

  • he did put forth the stones into the vessels which were prepared, one in each end thereof; and behold, they did give light unto the vessels.
    • I like to compare these two stones to the “Light of Christ” and the “Holy Ghost”. Every person in the world can receive “light” from these two sources, which have been “prepared” by the Lord for our benefit.
  • thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.
  • when they had prepared all
    • I have to do everything that I can to be prepared for life.
  • they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God.
    • I imagine it took a LOT of faith in God to get on/in those barges. As we undertook this journey of life in these earthly vessels, I imagine it took a LOT of faith as well. Now, each day when we continue our journey we need to make sure that we are “commending” (entrusting) ourselves to God with the same kind of faith every day.After all, isn’t that what our Savior Jesus Christ did every day, even unto His final breath? “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”   (Luke 23:46) What would our days be like if our morning prayers reflected the same commitment and desire?
  • the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land
    • Remember that when you feel like God is sending His furious wind, that it’s purpose is to move you “towards the promised land” of the Celestial Kingdom, not to blow you away.
  • thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.
    • Yes, there will be some “tossing” going on, but remember that the Lord has “prepared” you for it! You may get “sea sick” of it all, but He will never allow you to be tossed more than you can handle.
  • they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.
    • Sometimes we’re blown, sometimes we’re tossed, and then sometimes we are “buried”. BUT we are not dead! See the next one…
  • when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish
    • All the water in the world, 
      However hard it tried,
      Could never sink the smallest ship
      Unless it [gets] inside.
      And all the evil in the world,
      The blackest kind of sin,
      Can never hurt you the least bit
      Unless you let it in. (The Spirit of Revelation)
  • tight like unto the ark of Noah
    • Speaking to Noah, the Lord said, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.” (Genesis 6:14) What is “pitch”? The word “pitch” in the original Hebrew translation of this passage is “kaphar” (verb), meaning: to cover, purge, make an atonement, make reconciliation. In other words, what gives us the ability to be “tight like unto a dish” and “like unto the ark of Noah” isn’t anything that we do for ourselves. It is conditional upon our willingness to “pitch” our lives “within and without with [the Atonement]”. If we do not “cover” ourselves with the Atonement, then when the wind blows, and the waves toss, and we are buried in the depths of the sea we will sink.
  • therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.
    • See the explanation in the bullet-point above… Crying unto the Lord is one way that we can “kaphar” (Hebrew for “cover”) ourselves with the Atonement. As we do so God will bring us “forth again upon the top of the waters”. Joseph Smith once said,“Never be discouraged. If I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top,” (The Sure Sound of the Trumpet) as he did over and over, again.
  • the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters
    • God is mindful of me, and He will “never cease to blow [me] towards the promised land” of the Celestial Kingdom.
  • they did sing praises unto the Lord
    • My Grandma Simon gave me a lapel pin that says, “He who sings, prays twice!” I think that the Lord taught us the same principle when He revealed this truth to Emma Smith, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” (D&C 25:12) It seems that the two main methods that God has given us to “praise” Him is prayer and song. So remember what Grandma Simon taught me, “He who sings, prays twice!”
  • he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.
    • It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters! The Brother of Jared had learned his lesson about remembering “not to call upon the name of the Lord” (Ether 2:14-15), so he knew how to react. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) “And they did admonish their brethren; and they were also admonished, every one by the word of God, according to his sins, or to the sins which he had committed, being commanded of God to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things.” (Mosiah 26:39)
  • no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them
    • Not only would God not allow that which He had caused to happen to hurt the Jaredites, but He also would not allow outside factors of the environment in which they were placed to “break” nor “mar” them. Even so it is with us. As you are blown, and tossed, and buried by God on the way to the promised land of the Celestial Kingdom, you will also be attacked by the “monsters” and “whales” surround you in the environment in which God has placed you. He knows that they are there, and He has provided a way for you to be safe from them.
  • they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.
    • Indeed we do have access to the “Light of Christ” and the “Holy Ghost” continually, no matter what our circumstances may be. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland put it so well when he said, “However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or distance from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines. Whether you are not yet of our faith or were once with us and have not remained, there is nothing in either case you have done that cannot be undone. There is no problem which you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized. Even if you feel you are the lost and last laborer of the eleventh hour, the Lord of the vineyard still stands beckoning. “Come boldly [to] the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16), and fall at the feet of the Holy One of Israel. Come and feast “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1) at the table of the Lord. . . . My beloved brothers and sisters, to those of you who have been blessed by the gospel for many years because you were fortunate enough to find it early, and to those of you who have come to the gospel by stages and phases later, and finally to those of you—member or not yet member—who may still be hanging back, to each of you, one and all, I testify of the renewing power of God’s love and the miracle of His grace. His concern is for the faith at which you finally arrive, not the hour of the day in which you got there. So if you have made covenants, keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time. Please listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling you right now, this very moment, that you should accept the atoning gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the fellowship of His labor. Don’t delay. It’s getting late.” (The Laborers in the Vineyard, emphasis added.)
  • they did land upon the shore of the promised land.
    • If we can but ENDURE TO THE END, and ENDURE IT WELL (as seen in the Jaredites example above), we too will someday find that we have landed “upon the shore” of the promised Celestial Kingdom! We don’t know how long that will take, and it may be a longer, harder trip for some, but we will ALL get there. Anyone can have Eternal Life, they just have to want it more than anything else! Elder Bruce C. Hafen said it this way: “We can have eternal life if we want it, but only if there is nothing else we want more.” (Atonement: All for All)
  • when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.
    • And I imagine that is pretty much what you will see when/if you happen to see me arrive to our Celestial Home On High!

Remember to LIKEN the scriptures as you study them. Ask yourself, “What is that ‘like’ in my life?” As you do so, the Lord will be able to help you through this journey of mortality and land you safely upon the shores of the promised land that He has prepared for you. So stop sitting on the beach! (Ether 2:14) Get on with your journey and “commend” yourself to God. Endure to the end and endure it well as He blows, and tosses, and buries you toward the promised land!

#BOMTC Day 79, June 24~Ether 4-7 or Pages 495-500, Come Out On Top, Joseph Smith

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#BOMTC Ether 2-3: Life Lessons

The book of Ether is full of “Life Lessons”. There are many parallels between the experiences the Jaredites had and the way that we need to live our lives.

We ended yesterday’s reading by beginning the book of Ether. The book of Ether is Moroni’s abridgment of the history of the Jaredites. The Jaredites came to the Americas centuries before the people of Lehi. Following the Flood in Noah’s day, a group of people attempted to build a tower “whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4). The account of the Jaredite nation began during this time period. The Lord dealt with the widespread wickedness by confounding the common language and by scattering the people across the face of the earth (see Genesis 11:5–8Ether 1:33). This account in the book of Ether begins with Jared and his brother seeking the Lord’s help when He confounded the language of the people at the Tower of Babel. The Lord preserved the language of Jared, his brother, and their families and friends and led them through the wilderness toward the promised land.

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Brother of Jared

I invite you to create a list of “life lessons” that you can see in the book of Ether as you study it. Your list may look similar to mine, but you will probably catch things that I didn’t and you can add them to the list that I will share with you.

Bro Simon’s “Life Lessons” from Ether 1-3

Life lesson #1 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Cry” (Ether 1:34-43; 2:14)

How would you describe the kind of prayer that is described as “crying” unto the Lord? What kind of a prayer is that? Have you ever had the need to “cry” unto the Lord? I have found that President Henry B. Erying was correct when he taught:

As the challenges around us increase, we must commit to do more to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Casual prayer won’t be enough. Reading a few verses of the scripture won’t be enough. Doing the minimum of what the Lord asks of us won’t be enough. Hoping that we will have the Atonement work in our lives and that we will perhaps sometimes feel the influence of the Holy Ghost won’t be enough. And one great burst of effort won’t be enough. Only a steady, ever-increasing effort will allow the Lord to take us to higher ground.” (see the full talk at, “Raise the Bar”)

Our need to “cry” unto the Lord need not be an “every now and then” experience. In the world that we are living in we need to learn to “cry” unto the Lord on a daily basis. I am learning to “cry” unto the Lord, but it is not a natural thing for me to do. It takes time and it takes effort, but I have found that when I do it, it is always worth it!

Pray with the thought that 3

Life lesson #2 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Go to Work” (Ether 2:16)

This admonition from the Lord came after the Jaredites had been brought by the Lord to the seashore, and they had dwelt there for four years. I must admit, I wouldn’t mind that either. I love “beach bum” living! But that is not where the Lord wanted them to be. He had a “Promised Land” for them. They were content with the beach, but the Lord had land of plenty prepared for them. It was time to “go to work”.

Sometimes we may be content with the “seashore”/beach that the Lord has brought us to. We may pitch our tents and begin to enjoy our “four years” of rest and relaxation. But then the Lord comes along and reminds us that THE ONLY REASON that He brought us to the “seashore” was so that we could “go to work” and move towards the “promised land” that He has so mercifully prepared for us.

The following quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley seems to show us how lessons #1 & 2 work together:

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, keep trying and praying and working

Carry on. Things will work out. If you keep trying and praying and working, things will work out. They always do.” (in Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 423)

Life lesson #3 from the book of Ether: Learn to Hang “Tight” (Ether 2:17; 6:7)

Brother S. Michael Wilcox explains this so well:

Now I have a tendency, because I’m an English major, to edit almost everything I read. It’s just a habit I can’t get out of with whatever I read—textbooks, newspapers, novels, biographies—I’m always editing. I edit the scriptures as I’m reading them. There are actually times where I say, “Lord, I could fix this verse for you if you would like me to.” And one of the verses that I used to think I would edit is Ether chapter two, the seventeenth verse; the description of the Jaredite barges. Can you realize what word I might write if I were editing this? This is how it reads:

“They were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish”—that’s once. “And the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish”—twice. “And the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish”—three times. “And the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish”—five times.

I would have written redundant. We get the impression they are waterproof. It’s like taking a jar and sealing it and throwing it. These are not submarines; they float light like a fowl, we are told, on the water. But the problem is that great waves are going to be washing over them, and so they need to be waterproof.

Now being ‘Tight like a dish’ causes two problems for the Jaredites’ crossing of the sea. Number one, minor problems, it was probably Mrs. Moriancumer who pointed them out to her husband: “We can’t breathe in here, and we can’t see, so unless we are going to get the Promised Land in sixty seconds, we’ve got big problems. Did you get the instructions right?”

And so Moriancumer, the brother of Jared, goes back to the Lord, and he presents his two problems. Now you learn something about your Father in Heaven in the solution or the handling of these two problems. Of the two problems—no air and no light—the Lord solves one of them just because He is asked. He tells them to put the holes in so they can have air. And sometimes when we go to the Lord, we simply ask and we will receive. He tells us the solution. The second problem we have to seek and find; for the second problem the Lord says, “You come up with a solution.” Now He put some parameters on that. He tells them, “You can’t go by windows”—probably not invented yet, and the second, “You can’t go by fire”—oxygen is a problem anyway. All that tossing around in the sea with coals flying everywhere probably wouldn’t be good, so you come up with a solution.

Now you are the brother of Jared. I want you to listen with his mind at what the Lord says because the twenty-fourth verse is a really interesting verse of Ether chapter two:

“Behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.”

Now the reason they need ‘Tight like a dish’ ships is because there are going to be mountain waves. Now what causes mountain waves in the ocean?—wind and storm. And what did the Lord just say the source of the winds were? “The winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and the rains and floods have I sent forth”—do you have a solution to the problem?

If I were the brother of Jared, I would have said, “Lord, we don’t need these ‘Tight like a dish’ ships at all. Since waves are the problem, and waves are caused by wind, and wind comes out of your mouth—blow softly. Blow softly. Breeze us to the Promised Land. We’ll sit on deck, we’ll fish, we’ll get tanned, we’ll play shuffleboard.” How many here want the first watch cruise version of life?—that’s me; I’m a first watch person. I don’t like mountain waves.

And then the great lesson: We know God can still the storms of our lives—we know that; there are precedents. But he prefers to do something else:

“Behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

What we need to understand about our Father in Heaven is that He prefers to prepare us to face the storms of life, the contrary winds, rather than to still them. So if you are past your fourth watch and He has not come, don’t assume that He is not there, that He doesn’t care, He doesn’t listen, or that you are not worthy. Assume your ship is tight like a dish. You will not sink.  Somewhere in the past of your life, experiences have been placed by a wise and foresighted Father in Heaven to prepare you to face the very things that you are facing. As the lion and the bear came to David, before Goliath, to prepare him to face Goliath, so will lion-and-bear moments come in your lives before the Goliath moments come. Because if your ship was not tight like a dish and you have reached the fourth watch, He will come to you and still the storm. So if the storm is not still, we must assume our ship is tight like a dish. (Bread or Stones: Understanding the God We Pray to)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Jaredite Barges

Life lesson #4 from the book of Ether: Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn (Ether 2:18-25)

God’s children should learn to listen, then listen to learn from the Lord… The wise listen to learn from the Lord.” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Listen to Learn,” Ensign, May 1991)

As the Brother of Jared performed the work the Lord had commanded him, he realized that there were a few “details” that needed to be addressed regarding their voyage in the “tight like unto a dish” vessels: no light, no steering, no fresh air. Each of these are major problems when crossing the “great sea which divideth the lands,” but only one of them is immediately life-threatening: no fresh air.

What we can learn here is that when God gets specific we need to take note, because it is probably a life-or-death situation (physically or spiritually). In other words, where the stakes are high (physically or spiritually) you get specific instructions from God.

Did you catch that? Is it true?

Ordinances are a great example to illustrate this principle. In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing.  Each of these soul-saving ordinances include very specific wording and instruction because they are essential for our exaltation.

The Lord gave the Brother of Jared very specific instructions on how to take care of the air! The only wise thing to do then was to follow it, to the specifics. “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise.” (Prov. 19:20.)

So that we don’t miss these specific types of soul-saving instructions, God will usually invoke the Law of Witnesses in our lives. The Law of Witnesses is helpful in at least two ways here: it gives validity to the specific instructions being given, and it allows us to catch a specific message that we may have missed the first time it was given. “When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention.” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997)

As a final example of this principle, consider the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. (By the way, it is not just for the youth. It is STRENGTH FOR YOU too!) In just about every section you will find “specifics” like the ones I have mentioned. Things that they Lord has told us through multiple witnesses, very specifically, that we should do or not do. These are NOT suggestions. They should be likened unto the dilemma of the Brother of Jared, who referred to such dilemmas with the words, “therefore we shall perish” (Ether 2:19). And indeed we will “perish” (physically or spiritually) if we ignore them.

  • Agency and Accountability: “Have the moral courage to stand firm in obeying God’s will, even if you have to stand alone.”
  • Dating: “You should not date until you are at least 16 years old.”
  • Dress and Appearance: “Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest.”
  • Entertainment and Media: “Avoid pornography at all costs. It is a poison that weakens your self-control, destroys your feelings of self-worth, and changes the way you see others. It causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit and can damage your ability to have a normal relationship with others, especially your future spouse. It limits your ability to feel true love. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.”

The list goes on and on. Those who have not followed these types of specifics have learned from “sad experience” that when God gives specific instructions we need to follow them to the specifics.

Our rule should be the rule that the Prophet Joseph made for himself: “I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 160.)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, I made this my rule when the lord commands do it

Life lesson #5 from the book of Ether: Learn to Take Important “Things” to God (Ether 3:1-6)

Once the Lord gave the “specifics” to the Brother of Jared about how to obtain fresh air, He proceeded to explain that He would “steer” them forth to the promised land. Brother Wilcox did a great job of covering that subject above. Sometimes God just “prepares” us for what is to come and steers us with His wind and waves (Ether 2:25). What I would like to discuss for a moment is the importance of taking important “things” to the Lord.

Why do I use the word “things” in quotes? Well, because when the Brother of Jared had “molten out of rock sixteen small stones,” the took them to the Lord and said, “behold these THINGS which I have molten out of the rock.” (Ether 3:3) How had the Brother of Jared come to this point? Well, the Lord had already told him what he could NOT do, and then left him with the question, “What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

The Brother of Jared was left to make a decision, a very important decision, and the Lord trusted him to make the right one!

Here is how I liken and apply this principle to myself. When I have an important decision to make (or other significant “thing”), I study it out with due diligence and make a decision regarding the “thing” (compare Ether 2:23-24 & 3:4 with Genesis 6:16, footnote a). Then I “cry” unto the Lord “upon the top of the mount” (Ether 3:1), and I ask Him to “touch” the “thing” that I have brought to Him. When He doesn’t touch it, I go back to the metaphorical drawing board. When He does touch it, I go forward with faith!

Now I am not suggesting that you take every “thing” to God. I have been trying to stress that I am referring to important “things”, like having light in your life. Here are three quotes that help me when the Lord places me in these types of situations about important “things”. I hope they will provide proper balance to this principle:

  1. The Lord counsels us on balance. Faith is vital, but it must be accompanied by the personal work appropriate to the task. Only then do we qualify for the blessing. The appropriate approach is to study as if everything depended upon us and then to pray and exercise faith as if everything depended upon the Lord.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 11)
  2. In the past I have tried to figure out whether I should go into business or into teaching or into the arts or whatever. As I have begun to proceed along one path, having more or less gathered what facts I could, I have found that if that decision was wrong or was taking me down the wrong path—without fail, the Lord has always let me know. On the other hand, there may have been two or three ways that I could have gone, any one of which would have been right and would have been in the general area providing the experience and means whereby I could fulfill the mission that the Lord had in mind for me. Because he knows we need growth, he generally does not point and say, ‘Open that door and go twelve yards in that direction; then turn right and go two miles’… But if it is wrong, he will let us know—we will feel it for sure. So rather than saying, ‘I will not move until I have this burning in my heart,” let us turn it around and say, “I will move unless I feel it is wrong; and if it is wrong, then I will not do it.’ By eliminating all of these wrong courses, very quickly you will find yourself going in the direction that you ought to be going.” (Elder John H. Groberg, Speeches, 1979, 97-98)
  3. If I ask [God] to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, …and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.” (Teachings Of Presidents Of The Church: Brigham Young, p.41)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Take Your Important THINGS to the Lord

Life lesson #6 from the book of Ether: Learn to Answer God’s Questions (Ether 3:7-26)

If God knows everything (which He does), then why does He ask questions? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is our next guest speaker! He will help us understand why God asks questions so that we can appropriately answer them:

One of the greatest prophets in the Book of Mormon goes unnamed in the record that documents his remarkable life. He is identified only as “the brother of Jared.” Yet the revelation that unfolded before his eyes was so extraordinary that his life and legacy have become synonymous with bold, consummate, perfect faith.

In the dispersion from the Tower of Babel, the people of Jared arrived at “that great sea which divideth the lands,” where they pitched their tents, awaiting further revelation about crossing the mighty ocean. For four years they awaited divine direction, but apparently they waited too casually, without supplication and exertion. Then came this remarkable encounter: “The Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.”

It is difficult to imagine what a three-hour rebuke from the Lord might be like, but the brother of Jared endured it. With immediate repentance and prayer, this prophet again sought guidance for the journey they had been assigned and those who were to pursue it. God accepted his repentance and lovingly gave further direction for their crucial mission.

For their oceanic crossing, these families and their flocks would need seaworthy crafts similar to the barges they had constructed for earlier water travel-small, light, dish-shaped vessels identical in design above and beneath so they were capable of staying afloat even if overturned by the waves. These “exceedingly tight” crafts were obviously of unprecedented design and capability, made under the direction of him who rules the seas and the winds to the end that the vessels might travel with the “lightness of a fowl upon the water.”

As miraculously designed and meticulously constructed as they were, these ships had one major, seemingly insoluble limitation. Such a tight, seaworthy design provided no way to admit light for the seafarers.

“The brother of Jared . . . cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?”

Then came an extraordinary and unexpected response from the creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are, he who boldly declared to Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”

“And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” Then, as if such a disarming inquiry from omnipotent Deity were not enough, the Lord proceeded to articulate the very problems that the brother of Jared knew only too well. He said, “Behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.

“For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. . . .

“Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?”

Clearly the brother of Jared was being tested. God had done his part. Unique, resolutely seaworthy ships for crossing the ocean had been provided. The brilliant engineering had been done. The hard part of the construction project was over. Now the Lord wanted to know what the brother of Jared would do about incidentals.

After what was undoubtedly a great deal of soul-searching, the brother of Jared came before the Lord-perhaps hesitantly but not empty-handed. In a clearly apologetic tone, he said, “Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; . . . O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness; but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock.”

Things. The brother of Jared hardly knew what to call them. Rocks undoubtedly did not sound very inspiring. Here, standing next to the Lord’s magnificent handiwork, the impeccably designed and marvelously unique seagoing barges, the brother of Jared offered for his contribution rocks. As he eyed the sleek ships the Lord had provided, it was a moment of genuine humility.

He hurried on: “And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.

“Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.”

For all of his self-abasement, the faith of the brother of Jared was immediately apparent-in fact, we might better say transparent in light of the purpose for which the stones would be used. Obviously Jehovah found something striking in the childlike innocence and fervor of this man’s faith. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.” In a sense there may be no more powerful expression of faith spoken in scripture. It is almost as if the brother of Jared was encouraging God, emboldening him, reassuring him. Not “Behold, O Lord, I am sure thou canst do this.” Not “Behold, O Lord, thou hast done many greater things than this.” However uncertain the prophet was about his own ability, he had no uncertainty about God’s power. This was nothing but a single, assertive declaration with no hint of vacillation. It was encouragement to him who needs no encouragement but who surely must have been touched by it. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.”

What happened next ranks among the greatest moments in recorded history, surely among the greatest moments in recorded faith. It established the brother of Jared among the greatest of God’s prophets forever. As the Lord reached forth to touch the stones one by one with his finger-an action coming in undeniable response to the commanding faith of this man-“the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.”

The Lord, seeing the brother of Jared fall to the earth, commanded him to rise and asked, “Why hast thou fallen?” The reply: “I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.”

Then came this marvelous declaration from the Lord: “Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?”

The brother of Jared answered, “Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.” Following this remarkable exchange and prior to the full revelation to come, the Lord confronted the brother of Jared’s faith one more time with a most intriguing question: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?” he asked him. Not “Believest thou the words which I have already spoken” but a much more rigorous request: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?”

Preparatory faith is formed by experiences in the past-by the known, which provides a basis for belief. But redemptive faith must often be exercised toward experiences in the future-the unknown, which provides an opportunity for the miraculous. Exacting faith, mountain-moving faith, faith like that of the brother of Jared, precedes the miracle and the knowledge. He had to believe before God spoke. He had to act before the ability to complete that action was apparent. He had to commit to the complete experience in advance of even the first segment of its realization. Faith is to agree unconditionally-and in advance- to whatever conditions God may require in both the near and distant future.

The brother of Jared’s faith was complete. Committing to the words God would yet speak, he answered, “Yea, Lord.”

Then the Lord removed the veil from the eyes of the brother of Jared and came into full view of this incomparably faithful man.

“Behold,” he said, “I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.

“And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after my own image.

“Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.”

Understanding the Brother of Jared’s Experience

Before examining the doctrinal truths taught in this divine encounter, it will be useful to note two seemingly problematic issues here, issues that seem to have reasonable and acceptable resolutions.

The first consideration rises from two questions the Lord asked the brother of Jared: “Why hast thou fallen?” and “Sawest thou more than this?” It is a basic premise of Latter-day Saint theology that God “knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.” The scriptures, both ancient and modern, are replete with this assertion of omniscience. Nevertheless, God has frequently asked questions of mortals, usually as a way to test their faith, measure their honesty, or develop their knowledge.

For example, he called to Adam in the garden of Eden, “Where art thou?” and he later asked Eve, “What is this that thou hast done?” Yet an omniscient Parent clearly knew the answer to both questions, for he could see where Adam was, and he had watched what Eve had done. Obviously the questions were for the children’s sake, giving Adam and Eve the responsibility to reply honestly.

Later, in trying Abraham’s faith, God would repeatedly call out about Abraham’s whereabouts, to which the faithful patriarch would answer, “Here am I.” God’s purpose was not to obtain information he already knew but to reaffirm Abraham’s fixed faith in confronting the most difficult of all parental tests. Such questions are frequently used by God, particularly in assessing faith, honesty, and the full measure of agency, allowing his children the freedom and opportunity to express themselves as revealingly as they wish, even though God knows the answer to his own and all other questions.

The second issue that requires brief comment stems from the Lord’s exclamation “Never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger.” And later, “Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast.”

The potential for confusion here comes with the realization that many (and perhaps all) of the major prophets living prior to the brother of Jared had seen God. How, then, do we account for the Lord’s declaration? Adam’s face-to-face conversations with God in the garden of Eden can be exempted because of the paradisiacal, pre-fallen state of that setting and relationship. Furthermore, other prophets’ visions of God, such as those of Moses and Isaiah in the Bible, or Nephi and Jacob in the Book of Mormon, can also be answered because they came after this “never before” experience of the brother of Jared.

But before the time of the brother of Jared, the Lord did appear to Adam and “the residue of his posterity who were righteous” in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman three years before Adam’s death. And we are left with Enoch, who said explicitly, “I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face to face.” We assume that other prophets between the Fall and the Tower of Babel saw God in a similar manner, including Noah, who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and “walked with God,” the same scriptural phrase used to describe Enoch’s relationship with the Lord.

This issue has been much discussed by Latter-day Saint writers, and there are several possible explanations, any one-or all-of which may cast light upon the larger truth of this passage. Nevertheless, without additional revelation or commentary on the matter, any conjecture is only that and as such is inadequate and incomplete.

One possibility is that this is simply a comment made in the context of one dispensation and as such applies only to the people of Jared and Jaredite prophets-that Jehovah had never before revealed himself to one of their seers and revelators. Obviously this theory has severe limitations when measured against such phrases as “never before” and “never has man.” Furthermore, we quickly realize that Jared and his brother are the fathers of their dispensation, the very first to whom God could have revealed himself in their era.

Another suggestion is that the reference to “man” is the key to this passage, suggesting that the Lord had never revealed himself to the unsanctified, to the nonbeliever, to temporal, earthy, natural man. The implication is that only those who have put off the natural man, only those who are untainted by the world-in short, the sanctified (such as Adam, Enoch, and now the brother of Jared)-are entitled to this privilege.

Some believe that the Lord meant he had never before revealed himself to man in that degree or to that extent. This theory suggests that divine appearances to earlier prophets had not been with the same “fulness,” that never before had the veil been lifted to give such a complete revelation of Christ’s nature and being.

A further possibility is that this is the first time Jehovah had appeared and identified himself as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with the interpretation of the passage being “never have I showed myself [as Jesus Christ] unto man whom I have created.” That possibility is reinforced by one way of reading Moroni’s later editorial comment: “Having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

Yet another interpretation of this passage is that the faith of the brother of Jared was so great he saw not only the spirit finger and body of the premortal Jesus (which presumably many other prophets had also seen) but also some distinctly more revealing aspect of Christ’s body of flesh, blood, and bone. Exactly what insight into the temporal nature of Christ’s future body the brother of Jared could have had is not clear, but Jehovah did say to him, “Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood,” and Moroni said that Christ revealed himself in this instance “in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.” Some have taken that to mean literally “the same body” the Nephites would see-a body of flesh and bone. A stronger position would suggest it was only the spiritual likeness of that future body. In emphasizing that this was a spiritual body being revealed and not some special precursor simulating flesh and bone, Jehovah said, “This body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit . . . and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.” Moroni also affirmed this, saying, “Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit.”

A final explanation-and in terms of the brother of Jared’s faith the most persuasive one-is that Christ was saying to the brother of Jared, “Never have I showed myself unto man in this manner, without my volition, driven solely by the faith of the beholder.” As a rule, prophets are invited into the presence of the Lord, are bidden to enter his presence by him and only with his sanction. The brother of Jared, on the other hand, seems to have thrust himself through the veil, not as an unwelcome guest but perhaps technically as an uninvited one. Said Jehovah, “Never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. . . . Never has man believed in me as thou hast.” Obviously the Lord himself was linking unprecedented faith with this unprecedented vision. If the vision itself was not unique, then it had to be the faith and how the vision was obtained that was so unparalleled. The only way that faith could be so remarkable was its ability to take the prophet, uninvited, where others had been able to go only with God’s bidding.

That appears to be Moroni’s understanding of the circumstance when he later wrote, “Because of the knowledge [which came as a result of faith] of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

This may be one of those provocative examples (except that here it is a real experience and not hypothetical) a theologian might cite in a debate about God’s power. Students of religion sometimes ask, “Can God make a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it?” or “Can God hide an item so skillfully that he cannot find it?” Far more movingly and importantly one may ask here, “Is it possible to have faith so great that even God cannot resist it?” At first one is inclined to say that surely God could block such an experience if he wished to. But the text suggests otherwise: “This man . . . could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . He could not be kept from within the veil.”

This may be an unprecedented case of a mortal man’s desire, will, and purity so closely approaching the heavenly standard that God could not but honor his devotion. What a remarkable doctrinal statement about the power of a mortal’s faith! And not an ethereal, unreachable, select mortal, either. This was a man who once forgot to call upon the Lord, one whose best ideas were sometimes focused on rocks, and one who doesn’t even have a traditional name in the book that has immortalized his unprecedented experience. Given such faith, we should not be surprised that the Lord would show this prophet much, show him visions that would be relevant to the mission of all the Book of Mormon prophets and to the events of the latter-day dispensation in which the book would be received. (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon, p.14-24)

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