Tag Archives: Eternal Life

#BOMTC 2 Nephi 29-31: Dueling Doctrines

2 Nephi 28 exposes the “false and vain and foolish doctrines” of the devil (v.9). Pride seems to be the main reason for people embracing Satan’s system of justification (vv. 12,13,14,15). Unlike Nephi, whose main concern is to teach with such “plainness” that “no man can err” (2 Ne 25:7,20,28), Satan prefers the “precepts of men” which lead people to “err” (2 Ne 28:14). His tactics were also exposed in 2 Nephi 9:20-22. Perhaps some of these have even worked on you and me. Nephi is quick to warn us of accepting such tempting SIN-speration. Just take a look at the number of “wo’s” that are found in vv. 15-32. One way to define wo is “grief, sorrow, misery”. Not a very tempting doctrine in the end.

It's a-MAZE-ing how Satan can get us off of the Lord's simple gospel path.

It’s a-MAZE-ing how Satan can get us off of the Lord’s simple gospel path.

However, Satan is very persuasive, and if he can’t get you to accept his doctrine, then you will have to reject God’s doctrine. This seems to be the message of 2 Nephi 29. Instead of embracing the Book of Mormon as Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Satan is able to convince people that “there cannot be any more Bible”, nor is there need for more of God’s word (v. 3). In this chapter it is actually the Lord explaining to us that there is absolutely no way that this should be a reasonable thought (2 Nephi 28:30 is the transition from Nephi writing to the Lord speaking. Chapter 29 begins with the word “But”, and is a continuation of the Lord speaking.) The Lord runs through a series of questions to help us understand this (vv.  4-8). He then goes on to explain that there are other books that have been written by the lost tribes of Israel that will also be added to the records of the Jews and the Nephites (vv. 9-14. See also an object lesson about the gathering of Israel that uses the Bible and The Book of Mormon as an illustration in, Ezekiel 37:15-20). I think that God gets His point across quite well.

See "Why Do We Need the Book of Mormon", New Era, April 2013 and “The Book of Mormon—a Book from God,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2011, 75

See “Why We Need the Book of Mormon“, New Era, April 2013 and “The Book of Mormon—a Book from God,” Ensign, Nov. 2011, 75

Elder L. Tom Perry, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, put it this way:

“Neither the Bible nor the Book of Mormon in and of themselves is sufficient. Both are necessary for us to teach and learn about the full and complete doctrine of Christ. The need for the other does not diminish either one of them. Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon are necessary for our salvation and exaltation. As President Ezra Taft Benson so powerfully taught, ‘When used together, the Bible and the Book of Mormon confound false doctrines’ (“A New Witness for Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1984, 8).” (“The Power of Deliverance“, Ensign, May 2012) See my another #BOMTC here for more on this.

In 2 Nephi 30 Nephi is speaking again and he will use the next two chapters to explain to us THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST (2 Nephi 31:2,21). Chapter 30 is Nephi’s argument for the Book of Mormon and its power to help gather both the Gentiles and the House of Israel.

Chapter 31 is an illustration of “the doctrine of Christ” (vv. 2,21), using Jesus as the example. However, it is not all Nephi. Both the Father and the Son are quoted in this chapter (vv. 11,12,15,20) as they testify of “the doctrine of Christ”. I will leave it to you to discover this doctrine and contrast it with the doctrine proposed by Satan in 2 Nephi 28. A good talk to go along with these chapters was given by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “The Doctrine of Christ,” during the April 2012 Annual General Conference.

The Doctrine of Christ

In the Church today, just as anciently, establishing the doctrine of Christ or correcting doctrinal deviations is a matter of divine revelation.

We have seen of late a growing public interest in the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is something we welcome because, after all, our fundamental commission is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, His doctrine, in all the world (see Matthew 28:19–20; D&C 112:28). But we must admit there has been and still persists some confusion about our doctrine and how it is established. That is the subject I wish to address today.

The Savior taught His doctrine in the meridian of time, and His Apostles struggled mightily to preserve it against a barrage of false tradition and philosophy. New Testament Epistles cite numerous incidents demonstrating that serious and widespread apostasy was already under way during the Apostles’ ministry.1

The centuries that followed were illuminated by occasional rays of gospel light until, in the 19th century, a brilliant dawn of Restoration broke upon the world, and the gospel of Christ, full and complete, was once again upon the earth. This glorious day began when, in “a pillar of light … above the brightness of the sun” (Joseph Smith—History 1:16), God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, visited young Joseph Smith and initiated what would become a virtual flood of revelation linked with divine power and authority.

In these revelations we find what might be termed the core doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ reestablished upon the earth. Jesus Himself defined that doctrine in these words recorded in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ:

“This is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

“And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

“And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

“… And whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. …

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them” (3 Nephi 11:32–35, 39).

This is our message, the rock upon which we build, the foundation of everything else in the Church. Like all that comes from God, this doctrine is pure, it is clear, it is easy to understand—even for a child. With glad hearts, we invite all to receive it.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “we believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Articles of Faith 1:9). This is to say that while there is much we do not yet know, the truths and doctrine we have received have come and will continue to come by divine revelation. In some faith traditions, theologians claim equal teaching authority with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and doctrinal matters may become a contest of opinions between them. Some rely on the ecumenical councils of the Middle Ages and their creeds. Others place primary emphasis on the reasoning of post-apostolic theologians or on biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. We value scholarship that enhances understanding, but in the Church today, just as anciently, establishing the doctrine of Christ or correcting doctrinal deviations is a matter of divine revelation to those the Lord endows with apostolic authority.2

In 1954, President J. Reuben Clark Jr., then a counselor in the First Presidency, explained how doctrine is promulgated in the Church and the preeminent role of the President of the Church. Speaking of members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he stated: “[We] should [bear] in mind that some of the General Authorities have had assigned to them a special calling; they possess a special gift; they are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, which gives them a special spiritual endowment in connection with their teaching of the people. They have the right, the power, and authority to declare the mind and will of God to his people, subject to the over-all power and authority of the President of the Church. Others of the General Authorities are not given this special spiritual endowment and authority covering their teaching; they have a resulting limitation, and the resulting limitation upon their power and authority in teaching applies to every other officer and member of the Church, for none of them is spiritually endowed as a prophet, seer, and revelator. Furthermore, as just indicated, the President of the Church has a further and special spiritual endowment in this respect, for he is the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the whole Church.”3

How does the Savior reveal His will and doctrine to prophets, seers, and revelators? He may act by messenger or in His own person. He may speak by His own voice or by the voice of the Holy Spirit—a communication of Spirit to spirit that may be expressed in words or in feelings that convey understanding beyond words (see 1 Nephi 17:45; D&C 9:8). He may direct Himself to His servants individually or acting in council (see 3 Nephi 27:1–8).

I cite two illustrations from the New Testament. The first was a revelation directed to the head of the Church. Early in the book of Acts, we find the Apostles of Christ declaring the gospel message only to Jews, following the pattern of Jesus’s ministry (see Matthew 15:24), but now, in the Lord’s timetable, the time had come for a change. In Joppa, Peter had a dream in which he saw a variety of animals lowered to earth from heaven in “a great sheet knit at the four corners” (Acts 10:11) and was commanded to “kill, and eat” (Acts 10:13). Peter was reluctant since at least some of the animals were “unclean” under the law of Moses, and Peter had never violated the commandment against eating such. Nevertheless, the voice said to Peter in his dream, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15).

The meaning of this dream became clear when soon afterward, several men sent from the Roman centurion Cornelius arrived at Peter’s lodging with a request that he come teach their master. Cornelius had gathered a sizable group of relatives and friends, and finding them expectantly waiting to receive his message, Peter said:

“God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. …

“… Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

“But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:28, 34–35; see also verses 17–24).

“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

“And they [who accompanied Peter] were astonished … because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.

“… Then answered Peter,

“Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts 10:44–47).

By this experience and revelation to Peter, the Lord modified the practice of the Church and revealed a more complete doctrinal understanding to His disciples. And so the preaching of the gospel expanded to encompass all mankind.

Later in the book of Acts, we find another somewhat related illustration, this time showing how revelation on matters of doctrine may come in a council setting. A controversy arose about whether circumcision required under the law of Moses should carry over as a commandment in the gospel and Church of Christ (see Acts 15:1, 5). “And the apostles and elders came together for to consider … this matter” (Acts 15:6). Our record of this council is certainly incomplete, but we are told that after “much disputing” (Acts 15:7), Peter, the senior Apostle, rose up and declared what the Holy Spirit had confirmed to him. He reminded the council that when the gospel began to be preached to the uncircumcised Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, they received the Holy Ghost just as had the circumcised Jewish converts. God, he said, “put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

“Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

“But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” (Acts 15:9–11; see also verse 8).

After Paul, Barnabas, and perhaps others spoke in support of Peter’s declaration, James moved that the decision be implemented by letter to the Church, and the council was united “with one accord” (Acts 15:25; see also verses 12–23). In the letter announcing their decision, the Apostles said, “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us” (Acts 15:28), or in other words, this decision came by divine revelation through the Holy Spirit.

These same patterns are followed today in the restored Church of Jesus Christ. The President of the Church may announce or interpret doctrines based on revelation to him (see, for example, D&C 138). Doctrinal exposition may also come through the combined council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (see, for example, Official Declaration 2). Council deliberations will often include a weighing of canonized scriptures, the teachings of Church leaders, and past practice. But in the end, just as in the New Testament Church, the objective is not simply consensus among council members but revelation from God. It is a process involving both reason and faith for obtaining the mind and will of the Lord.4

At the same time it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such.”5 President Clark, quoted earlier, observed:

“To this point runs a simple story my father told me as a boy, I do not know on what authority, but it illustrates the point. His story was that during the excitement incident to the coming of [Johnston’s] Army, Brother Brigham preached to the people in a morning meeting a sermon vibrant with defiance to the approaching army, and declaring an intention to oppose and drive them back. In the afternoon meeting he arose and said that Brigham Young had been talking in the morning, but the Lord was going to talk now. He then delivered an address, the tempo of which was the opposite from the morning talk. …

“… The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.”6

The Prophet Joseph Smith confirmed the Savior’s central role in our doctrine in one definitive sentence: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”7 Joseph Smith’s testimony of Jesus is that He lives, “for [he] saw him, even on the right hand of God; and [he] heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father” (D&C 76:23; see also verse 22). I appeal to all who hear or read this message to seek through prayer and study of the scriptures that same witness of the divine character, the Atonement, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Accept His doctrine by repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then throughout your life following the laws and covenants of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As our Easter celebration approaches, I express my own witness that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Son of God, the very Messiah of ancient prophecy. He is the Christ, who suffered in Gethsemane, died on the cross, was buried, and who indeed rose again the third day. He is the resurrected Lord, through whom we shall all be resurrected and by whom all who will may be redeemed and exalted in His heavenly kingdom. This is our doctrine, confirming all prior testaments of Jesus Christ and stated anew for our own time. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

REFERENCES:

  1. See Neal A. Maxwell, “From the Beginning,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 18–19:“James decried ‘wars and fightings among’ the Church (James 4:1). Paul lamented ‘divisions’ in the Church and how ‘grievous wolves’ would not spare ‘the flock’ (1 Cor. 11:18; Acts 20:29–31). He knew an apostasy was coming and wrote to the Thessalonians that Jesus’ second coming would not occur ‘except there come a falling away first’; further advising that ‘iniquity doth already work’ (2 Thes. 2:3, 7).“Near the end, Paul acknowledged how very extensive the falling away was: ‘All they which are in Asia be turned away from me’ (2 Tim. 1:15). …“Widespread fornication and idolatry brought apostolic alarm (see 1 Cor. 5:9; Eph. 5:3; Jude 1:7). John and Paul both bemoaned the rise of false Apostles (see 2 Cor. 11:13; Rev. 2:2). The Church was clearly under siege. Some not only fell away but then openly opposed. In one circumstance, Paul stood alone and lamented that ‘all men forsook me’ (2 Tim. 4:16). He also decried those who ‘subvert[ed] whole houses’ (Titus 1:11).“Some local leaders rebelled, as when one, who loved his preeminence, refused to receive the brethren (see 3 Jn. 1:9–10).“No wonder President Brigham Young observed: ‘It is said the Priesthood was taken from the Church, but it is not so, the Church went from the Priesthood’ (in Journal of Discourses, 12:69).”In the course of time, as Elder Maxwell expressed it, “reason, the Greek philosophical tradition, dominated, then supplanted, reliance on revelation, an outcome probably hastened by well-intentioned Christians wishing to bring their beliefs into the mainstream of contemporary culture. …“… Let us [too] be wary about accommodating revealed theology to conventional wisdom” (Ensign, Nov. 1993, 19–20).

  2. Apostles and prophets such as Joseph Smith declare God’s word, but in addition, we believe men and women generally and even children can learn from and be guided by divine inspiration in response to prayer and study of the scriptures. Just as in the days of the ancient Apostles, members of the Church of Jesus Christ are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, which facilitates an ongoing communication with their Heavenly Father, or, in other words, personal revelation (see Acts 2:37–38). In this way, the Church becomes a body of committed, spiritually mature individuals whose faith is not blind but seeing—informed and confirmed by the Holy Spirit. This is not to say that every member speaks for the Church or can define its doctrines but that each can receive divine guidance in dealing with the challenges and opportunities of his or her life.

  3. J. Reuben Clark Jr., “When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?”Church News, July 31, 1954, 9–10; see also Doctrine and Covenants 28:1–2, 6–7, 11–13.

  4. The required preparation and qualifications for council participants are “righteousness, … holiness, and lowliness of heart, meekness and long suffering, … faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity;“Because the promise is, if these things abound in them they shall not be unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:30–31).

  5. Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 5:265.

  6. J. Reuben Clark Jr., “Church Leaders’ Words,” 10. Of the story his father told him about Brigham Young, President Clark further wrote:“I do not know if this ever happened, but I say it illustrates a principle—that even the President of the Church, himself, may not always be ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost,’ when he addresses the people. This has happened about matters of doctrine (usually of a highly speculative character) where subsequent Presidents of the Church and the peoples themselves have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the announcer was not ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’“How shall the Church know when these adventurous expeditions of the brethren into these highly speculative principles and doctrines meet the requirements of the statutes that the announcers thereof have been ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’? The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest” (“Church Leaders’ Words,” 10).

  7. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 49.

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#BOMTC 1 Nephi 16: “Have [WE] Inquired of the Lord?”

We start off today’s reading with good ol’ Laman and Lemuel in their usual “state of complaint”. Nephi quickly diagnoses their problem as a hard heart (spiritual heart disease), “therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought” (1 Nephi 14:3).

#BOMTC Day 6, April 12~1 Nephi 16 (or Pages 31-36) Spiritual Heart Disease

In 1 Nephi 15:7  Laman and Lemuel are complaining that they “cannot understand” the things that their father, Lehi, shared with them about his vision of the Tree of Life and his discourse on the Olive Tree (On a side note, in the ancient world an olive tree was very much a “tree of life”. Olive trees provided Israel with food–nourishment, light–vision, healing–life, and anointing–power. Professor Andrew Skinner put it this way, “It was used to worship God as well as to sustain man. The olive tree and its oil were unequivocally regarded as one of the necessities of life. In fact, nothing from the olive tree went unused in the daily life of Israel. The oil from the fruit (the olives) was used for cooking, lighting, medicine, lubrication, and anointing. Those olives not crushed and pressed were pickled in brine and spices and then eaten. The wood of the olive tree was not only used in constructing buildings but also in making furniture, tools, and carvings and even in crafting the shepherd’s crook or staff. In turn, one may truly say that the olive tree was, and continues to be, a staff of life in the Middle East.” See “Autumn, Olives, and the Atonement,” in Religious Educator 1, no. 1 (2000): 107-121).

Nephi has one simple, and personally tested, question:

#BOMTC Day 6, April 12~1 Nephi 16 (or Pages 31-36) Have Ye Inquired of the Lord

Have ye inquired of the Lord?

I would like to pause at this point to leave the murmurous brothers and focus on US. By this point we have read 30 pages of the Book of Mormon. HAVE WE INQUIRED OF THE LORD? If there is something that WE have not understood, have WE asked for His help? Before WE read, are WE asking for His blessing and guidance? While WE read, are WE asking Him to manifest its veracity to US? Or have WE read 30 pages of Christ-centered/saturated text and not even once thought to “inquire of the Lord?” (1 Nephi 15:8)

Have WE Inquired of the Lord?

Have WE Inquired of the Lord?

Alright, back to Laman (indeed, a “LAME”-man) and Lemuel… their reply to Nephi’s soul-searching question is one of spiritual immaturity, doubt, and convenience: WHY TRY? They say, “We have not [inquired of the Lord]: for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto US” (1 Nephi 15:9, emphasis added). Well, even if they were right in that assumption (and they are not!), couldn’t they at least try? The wording seems to imply that they believe that the Lord will make it know to others, but not them. Pretty convenient for them–don’t give God a chance and you don’t have to do anything yourself either. People do this all the time today. What “sins of omission” may we be committing by simply putting the blame on God without giving Him a chance?

#BOMTC Day 6, April 12~1 Nephi 16 (or Pages 31-36) Sins of Omission

As President Thomas S. Monson is fond of saying, “If we do not TRY, then we do not DO. And if we do not DO, then why are we here?” Laman and Lemuel can blame God and appear correct, to themselves (as I said, people do it all the time today—it’s just convenient). But to Nephi, and you, and I, this is a “LAME”-man response!

"If we do not try, then we do not do." ~ President Thomas S. Monson

“If we do not try, then we do not do.”
~ President Thomas S. Monson

Nephi then asks a few soul-searching questions of them and then bears his witness that “if” they would sincerely give the Lord a chance, even in their lame and corrupt state, God will “surely” make these things “known” unto them (1 Nephi 15:11). Nephi KNOWS! He then goes on to share with them what he has learned by inquiring of the Lord. In the process we not only learn more ourselves about the vision of the Tree of Life, but also the judgment and justice of God (1 Nephi 15:26-36).

Of course Laman and Lemuel cannot feel very good about themselves after hearing the plain truth of God’s judgment and justice. Instead of changing anything though, they once again complain. “Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear” (1 Nephi 16:1). Wow! Are they serious? It is indeed true that, “the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for [because] it cutteth them to the very center” (1 Nephi 16:2).

The truth can either CUT us or TOUCH us, it just depends on the condition of our HEART. HARD hearts must be CUT; SOFT hearts need only be TOUCHED. I am sure that as you read the truths in chapter 15 you were touched. However, it appears that the same exact same words will CUT those who are of a hard heart (spiritual heart disease). Nephi leaves them with the perfect reflective “If…, then…” statement to ponder, and an invitation to repent in 1 Nephi 16:3-4.

Well, the families grow and prepare to move on. But before they leave their temporary residence they are given “means” to guide them. Lehi finds a “round ball of curious workmanship” that “pointed the way” they should go on their journey (1 Nephi 16:10). They would indeed need this divine guide, since the wilderness they were entering was called “Shazer”, meaning “twisting” (1 Nephi 16:13). However, with the help of their God-given guide they were able to not only find their way, but also keep to the “most fertile parts” of the wilderness (1 Nephi 16:14,16).

Painted by Ken Corbett

Painted by Ken Corbett

Once again, we depart from the story for a LIKENING moment to ourselves. What has the Lord given us to guide us through our “twisted” journey here on earth? Many of the brethren have compared this divine guide, later identified and being called the Liahona, to God-given guides such as the Holy Ghost, a Patriarchal Blessing, and the Scriptures. And just as the Liahona worked “according to the faith and diligence and heed” they gave to it, we must do the same with “Life’s Liahona’s” that we have been given (1 Nephi 16:28). For, as Nephi said, “thus we see that by SMALL MEANS the Lord can bring about GREAT THINGS (1 Nephi 16:29. See also, Alma 37:6-7—really you need to study the whole chapter of Alma 37 for proper perspective). Are we using “Life’s Liahona’s” to look to the Lord and encounter the “most fertile” parts of the “twisted” wilderness that this world seems to place in front of us?

Laman and Lemuel would not look to the Lord nor inquire of Him. Lehi temporarily lost sight of the Lord as well (1 Nephi 16:20-27). Nephi’s questions properly persuade people to look to the Lord and inquire of Him (1 Nephi 15:8; 16:23).

By the time we come to the end of chapter 16, we find that Nephi was right all along and Laman and Lemuel are left without excuse, because even as they reach an extreme state of rebellion “the voice of the Lord came and did speak many words unto them [Laman and Lemuel], and did chasten them exceedingly” (1 Nephi 16:39). I guess God has left them without excuse and convenience. The fact of the matter is that the Lord did make such things “known unto” them, and they can never deny it. LOOK TO THE LORD! (D&C 6:36-37).

NOTE: It was one year previous to this date, on April 12, 1828 in Harmony, Pennsylvania that Martin Harris went to Joseph Smith’s home (in Harmony), where he began to help with the translation of what would become the 116 Book of Mormon pages from the book of Lehi that were lost. I find it very interesting that it was during pretty much the same time period in 1828 (mid-April to mid-June) that Joseph and Martin translated the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon known to us as the Book of Lehi. Just one year later, Joseph would translate the entire remaining unsealed portion of the Book of Mormon in almost the same amount of time, but with even greater persecution and interruptions. Here is a brief summary from the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home Study Seminary Students of what led up to this point:

From mid-April to mid-June 1828, the Prophet Joseph Smith was translating the gold plates while living in Harmony, Pennsylvania. A wealthy farmer and businessman named Martin Harris was acting as scribe while Joseph translated the Book of Mormon. Martin was 22 years older than Joseph and had given Joseph and Emma $50 (which was a substantial amount of money at that time) to relocate to Harmony, where Emma’s family lived, thus helping to support Joseph while he translated the plates. In February 1828, Joseph allowed Martin to take copies of characters from the plates to be authenticated by two professors in New York City (see Joseph Smith—History 1:63–65). Lucy Harris, Martin’s wife, had become increasingly concerned about Martin’s interest and financial involvement in the translation of the plates. She and others began to pressure Martin for evidence of the plates’ existence. To satisfy their concerns, in mid-June Martin requested that Joseph allow him to take the 116 pages of manuscript they had completed to show as evidence.

For some very insightful and informative information on the topic of the translation and the lost manuscript, see the HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION to D&C 10 in the Joseph Smith Paper project.

A couple articles that may interest you and go well with these chapters are:

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

people sitting at table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alright, so what was the “commandment” that Oliver was given? Yes, you can see the word “commandment” in verse 3. But you need to use verses 4-5 to really understand why he needed to “rely upon the things which are written“. Let me review those verses with you again with a little added detail:

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

Behold, I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the things which you have written [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have chronologically preceded D&C 18] are true; wherefore you know that they [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have chronologically preceded D&C 18] are true.

And if you know that they are true, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have chronologically preceded D&C 18];

For in them [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have chronologically preceded D&C 18] are all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock.

Wherefore, if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have preceded D&C 18], the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

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

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

Was that helpful? Are you starting to see the commandment that Oliver was given? In the article, “How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Received and Compiled” we learn that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

man reading book

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

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

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

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

open book with gold ribbon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“we will compare the word unto a SEED

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

For a great breakdown of this verse click the graphic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He said, “Of course not.”

“I asked, “Why not?”

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

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

“I asked them if they read the scriptures.

“They said, “No.”

“I asked them if they prayed.

“They said, “Not often.”

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

“They said, “Occasionally.”

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

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

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

“They thought for a moment and said they would.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasting the Light

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

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

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

Where Is My Testimony on the Faith Spectrum?

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

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

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

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

Desire

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

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

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

The possible resulting combinations are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plant the Seed—Begin Learning

Alma describes the next step:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aligning Learning Methods and Learning Channels

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

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

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

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

Connecting Learning by Study with the Mind

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

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

Connecting Learning by Study with the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

Connecting Learning by Faith with the Mind

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

In speaking of knowing, Alma says:

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

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

Acting on your faith has given you knowledge.

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

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

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

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

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

Connecting Learning by Faith with the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Perfect Knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opposition Reveals the Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Faith Experiment

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

  • Love versus hate, hostility, opposition

  • Honesty versus lies, deceit, theft

  • Forgiving versus revenge, resentment, bitterness

  • Kindness versus mean, angry, unkind

  • Patience versus short-tempered, hotheaded, intolerant

  • Humility versus pride, unteachable, arrogant

  • Peacemaker versus contentious, divisive, provoking

  • Diligence versus grow weary, give up, stubborn

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

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

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

The Faith Experiment—Next Level

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Ordinances and covenants versus simply live a good life

  • Children innocent versus infant baptism

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

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

  • Eternal marriage and families versus till death do us part

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Testimony Is Stronger Than You Think It Is

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

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

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

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

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

3. African proverb.

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

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

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

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

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

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#BOMTC Alma 26-29: My Brother’s Keeper–Caring for God’s “Peeps”

There are at least two questions that you and I should NEVER ask:

  • And Adam and Eve, his wife, ceased not to call upon God. And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain, and said: I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words. But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him? (Moses 5:16, emphsasis added)
  • And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper? (Moses 5:34, emphasis added)

First of all, consider the source and cynicism of these questions.

Secondly, consider the contrast that these questions pose to the Savior’s answer in Matthew 22 when He was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” It is interesting to me that the two questions presented by Cain are answered by the Savior in His response:

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Another interesting contrast to Cain’s questions comes from the answer that the Lord gave when the prophet Enoch saw the sadness of the Lord in Moses 7:

28 And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

29 And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

30 And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;

31 And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?

32 The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

33 And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;

 

Unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father.” WOW!

So how does this relate to today’s reading? Well, think about the situation that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies were in. After the Anti-Nephi-Lehies made a covenant with God to never again take up weapons of war, the Amalekites and the Lamanites began to make preparations to go to battle against them. They had no one to turn to. They needed help. They were desperate. The only people that they could ask for help were the people that they had mistreated their whole lives–the Nephites.

Ammon led the Anti-Nephi-Lehies to Zarahemla, where they received protection from the Nephites and became known as the people of Ammon. They were given the land of Jershon for their new home and promised protection by the Nephite armies.

Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah each exhibited the same kind of enthusiasm to become their “brother’s keeper” as they set off for their long and eventful missions to bring everyone to the gospel (see Alma 26 and 29).

Remember when the Savior taught an important principle of the gospel in Matthew 25:31-46?

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

In the April, 2016 General Conference of the Church we were invited to be our “brother’s keeper” as part of the #IWasAStranger efforts of the Church.

Here is a playlist that I created of the Church’s invitations and efforts to help us to help others.

Relevant links for #IWasAStranger efforts:

We usually will not have to look very hard for opportunities to provide “refuge from the storm”

I believe it was around this time of year, when we commemorate the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, that I went on a “Father and Son” campout that taught me a difficult, but important lesson.

I am the oldest of six children, so one-on-one time with a parent was a precious commodity. I was excited to be able to spend some time away from the rest of the family with just my dad. Luckily, I had a pretty good relationship with my dad. It was during a time that our family was also struggling financially. There wasn’t much money to go around and I was old enough to know what was going on (~12 years old).

My mom had put together some food for us to enjoy. Nothing really special, but under the circumstances it was a little more special than “the usual”. To my surprise, my dad had invited another boy to come with us on this “Father and Son” outing. I didn’t ask why; I was a little too annoyed by it to want to bring it up and make a bigger deal about it. The boy was older and I can’t remember that I had ever met him before.

He worked at the same place as my dad. When we got to the camp site, we got everything ready and started to break into the food. I noticed the other boy had a few boxes of “Peeps” that he had gotten out. I am not a fan of Peeps, so I thought that was a strange thing to bring for a night of fun. Then, I noticed that my dad kept giving him “our” food (He has always been a VERY generous person–even when lacking.).

I tried to let it go, but I was a pretty immature and selfish kid. I don’t remember if I said something to my dad in front of the boy or if I waited for a more private and opportune moment, but when I had the chance I kinda gave it to my dad and asked why he was giving away all of “our” good food.

He didn’t get upset, but he was probably pretty disappointed–if he was disappointed he didn’t let me know it. Instead he calmly explained to me that he was sharing with the boy because all the boy had to eat for the entire campout was those couple boxes of Peeps. I think the next thing I did was say something to my dad about how the boy should have known better and that he needed to face the consequences of his lack of preparation (that is the oldest of six speaking).

Now here is where it got painful. Not because my dad hauled-off and hit me or something, but because of what he said next. He told me that the boy’s dad had recently died and that he didn’t have anything else in his home that he could have brought to eat during the campout. Oh boy… oh, boy… I don’t know if I have ever felt such guilt in my life. My heart sank. My conscience began to show me what a jerk I had been. I wanted to cry, not just because I realized how bad I had been, but because I felt a great deal of sympathy at that moment. I honestly didn’t want to eat anything else all weekend (although I am sure I did).

I learned a LOT of valuable lessons that day. One was about making a conscious effort to be “my brother’s keeper”. I obviously didn’t think about it in those terms at that age, but that was the message that sank into my heart. From that point on, it seemed like God would superimpose that boys face on the people in my life that needed a little extra help. I am sorry to say that I was not always as willing to jump in and help like I should have been. But I tried a lot harder, and I tried to withhold judgment a lot more often. #BOMTC Day 44, May 20~Alma 26-29 or Pages 273-279 (1)

Anytime that I think of that experience (like right now) I feel such regret for myself, and sorrow for that boy. I can’t remember his name, but I can’t seem to forget the face as he holds that box of Peeps before my mind’s eye. It was a tough lesson to learn, and perhaps God knew that it could never be taught–it had to be caught. I don’t know. But what I do know is that the lesson was learned and it is still being applied today. It is one of many lessons that the Lord has taught me about being my brother’s keeper.

On another occasion God let me be the brother who needed to be “kept” by another. It was about two years after the “Peeps experience”, when a young ninth-grade boy showed me what it meant to be, “my brother’s keeper”. To him it was no big deal, but it was a BIG deal to me. His name is Deran Coe, and what he did made all the difference in the world for me.

I had just moved from the coast of L.A. to a suburb of Pittsburgh (specifically, Center Township, in the middle of winter). Having been a “beach bum” from the west coast for the previous eight years, I dressed and spoke differently from everyone else at Center high school. My first morning at school was not too bad because the teachers would just assign me a seat, introduce me quickly to the class, and move on to teach their lesson.

Then lunch time arrived… The worst thing about lunch for this “new kid on the block” (special reference for my wife), is that there were no assigned seats, and I didn’t want to take someone else’s “usual seat”, so I awkwardly searched for a seat that looked like it wouldn’t make my bad situation even worse.

Well, it was a small high school (less than 150 students in my graduating class) and the ninth-graders ate in a separate room from the rest of the upper-class students. The best way for me to describe it is to say that it was a lot like a typical LDS cultural hall. It had a stage and a large multipurpose floor. If I remember it correctly, it was filled at lunchtime with about 35 picnic-type tables that could sit about 8 students each. I think it was 5 rows of 7 tables.

It just so happened that I was one of the first students to the ninth-grade lunch room on my first day, so no one had really started sitting down yet. I always took my “sack lunch” from home, so I couldn’t just stand in the lunch line and wait for things to fill in. I decided to take the far corner of the lunch room and hoped that my strategy would work out…

FAIL!

There were only enough students to fill in the first 2-3 rows of tables. That meant that there was at least 1 entire row of tables between me and my new classmates. I just hung my head and tried to drown my embarrassment in my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I hadn’t gotten too far into my lonely meal, when I heard a boy’s voice. I looked around a saw a smiling student. He introduced himself as Deran, and asked if I wanted to come and join him and his friends for lunch.

SAVED!

The ironic thing is that there was no room at Deran’s table, so I ended up at the table next to his. That is when I first met the great guys that I would spend most of my high schools days with: Steve, Brett, Jeff, Ryan, Chris, and Aaron.

Deran and I never really became the kind of friends that “hang out” together; we liked each other as friends, but we had different interests. However, because of that ONE little simple act of reaching out to me I had some amazing years of high school–the effects of which continue to this day. I have thanked him a couple of times, but he never really felt like what he did deserved any thanks. Sure it was simple, but it has had simply amazing results in my life.

My sister Seana with Deran Coe at our Senior Prom (1995)

My sister Seana with Deran Coe at our Senior Prom (1995)

 

I am grateful for the painful lesson learned so many years ago. I am grateful to have a father who took the time to be slow to anger so that the Spirit could be quick to teach. I am grateful for “Peeps” each Easter season, because even though I can’t stand the taste they stand as a reminder of what God expects from me when dealing with His “peeps”–He expects me to be “my brother’s keeper”. “Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him.”(Psalm 41:1–3)

We ARE our “brother’s keeper”!

Dayton’s Legs

Out of love, a 13-year-old boy in Arizona pushed himself to the limit so that his friend, who has cerebral palsy, could participate with him in a triathlon.

My Brother’s Keeper

Thomas S. Monson – April 1990

Parable of the Good Samaritan

A depiction of the Savior’s parable of the good Samaritan, in which a man is robbed and beaten by thieves, and a Samaritan shows mercy on him.

Lord, I Would Follow Thee

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.”

Lyrics

1. Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own.
Savior, may I learn to love thee–
Lord, I would follow thee.
2. Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see.
Who am I to judge another?
Lord, I would follow thee.
3. I would be my brother’s keeper;
I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper–
Lord, I would follow thee.
4. Savior, may I love my brother
As I know thou lovest me,
Find in thee my strength, my beacon,
For thy servant I would be.
Savior, may I love my brother–
Lord, I would follow thee.

Please leave your thoughts about a special verse, teaching, etc. that you enjoyed at one of the following:

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#BOMTC Mosiah 14-17: Don’t Burn Your Abinadi’s

God sends certain people into our lives to help us see the Savior more clearly (see Mosiah 14-16). I will refer to these people as “Abinadi’s”. They can be prophets (like the Abinadi in this account), or leaders, or parents, or teachers, or friends, or whomever the Lord chooses.

We don’t always appreciate the Abinadi’s God put in our lives. They can make us feel uncomfortable. Sometimes they point out things that we are doing wrong. But God sends Abinadi’s into our lives because He loves us and He is trying to save us. Unfortunately, many times we ignore the Abinadi’s that God sends. And sometimes we may even burn them! (See Mosiah 17 and Acts 6-7.)

If I could get one message across with this post it would be:

DON’T BURN YOUR ABINADI’S!

They are your friend, not your foe. We tend to burn our Abinadi’s when we confuse friends with fiends.

#BOMTC Day 30, May 6~Mosiah 14-17 or Pages 175-181 (5)

President Ezra Taft Benson, then the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave a talk entitled, Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”. I feel that it is worth reviewing the headings for each of those fundamentals. Those who do not accept these fundamentals will eventually end up burning one of the most important Abinadi’s that the Lord has provided them–the living prophet. President Benson said that, “our salvation depends on them.” King Noah’s certainly did! Here they are:

#BOMTC Day 30, May 6~Mosiah 14-17 or Pages 175-181 (4)

1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

3. The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

4. The prophet will never lead the church astray.

5. The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

6. The prophet does not have to say “Thus Saith the Lord,” to give us scripture.

7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

8. The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

#BOMTC Day 30, May 6~Mosiah 14-17 or Pages 175-181 (3)9. The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

10. The prophet may advise on civic matters.

11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

13. The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.

14. The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed—reject them and suffer.

#BOMTC Day 30, May 6~Mosiah 14-17 or Pages 175-181 (9)

Abinadi, in Mosiah 15–16, expounds upon the ways of life and death to King Noah and his wicked priests. In this provocative sermon, Abinadi warns Noah that obeying God also means following his prophets, namely, Abinadi. Abinadi preaches that if men and women do not listen to the voice, or mouthpiece, of the Lord, they necessarily follow the way of death. Abinadi also speaks of partial judgment before the resurrection, a concept not found in Alma’s, Jacob’s, and Benjamin’s speeches. (View PDF)

Fortunately there was ONE who was willing to listen to the Abinadi that God has sent (see Mosiah 17:2). His name is Alma (Tomorrow’s post will focus on the importance of this ONE believer). Eventually, even King Noah was about to succumb to the powerful preaching of Abinadi, but the wicked priest’s put on the peer pressure and King Noah “was stirred up in anger against [Abinadi], and he delivered him up that he might be slain.” (Mosiah 17:11-13)

#BOMTC Day 30, May 6~Mosiah 14-17 or Pages 175-181 (7)

#BOMTC Day 30, May 6~Mosiah 14-17 or Pages 175-181 (10)

This chart shows the lineage of Alma and approximate life spans of him and his descendants mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Alma’s conversion while listening to Abinadi (see Mosiah 18:1) and Alma’s baptism at the Waters of Mormon (see Mosiah 18:14) were important events for himself and for the Nephite civilization. Not only were Alma’s descendants able to receive the blessings of the gospel, but for over four hundred years many of them were key prophets and principal keepers of the plates of Nephi who in turn spread the gospel to the general population. (View PDF)

Of  major significance is the feigned reason that King Noah and his wicked priests felt justified in slaying Abinadi. Abinadi had “said that God himself should come down among the children of men” (Mosiah 17:8) in the previous chapters. Abinadi understood that the law of Moses pointed the Christ, and he taught it plainly (see Mosiah 12:27–13:32; see also 2 Ne. 25:24–303 Ne. 15:1–10Gal. 3:19–24).

The following illustrations may be helpful in understanding and remembering what Abinadi taught in these chapters:

#BOMTC Day 30, May 6~Mosiah 14-17 or Pages 175-181 (8)

Because of transgression, the law of Moses was added to the gospel. The law of Moses was a preparatory gospel designed to lead people to Christ. This diagrams helps show how the law of Moses was added to bring the Israelites to Christ.

#BOMTC Day 30, May 6~Mosiah 14-17 or Pages 175-181 (11)

The law of Moses included daily performances and ordinances to help bring the children of Israel to Christ. (Mosiah 13:30) For the spiritually less mature, the law of Moses was an effective way to bring Israel to Christ.

#BOMTC Day 30, May 6~Mosiah 14-17 or Pages 175-181 (6)

Sacrifice and Sacrament

What to know more? Check out these links:

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#BOMTC Day 83, June 28~Moroni 1-7 or Pages 519-524: Moroni’s Handbook of Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alright, so what was the “commandment” that Oliver was given? Yes, you can see the word “commandment” in verse 3. But you need to use verses 4-5 to really understand why he needed to “rely upon the things which are written“. Let me review those verses with you again with a little added detail:

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

Behold, I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the things which you have written [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have chronologically preceded D&C 18] are true; wherefore you know that they [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have chronologically preceded D&C 18] are true.

And if you know that they are true, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have chronologically preceded D&C 18];

For in them [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have chronologically preceded D&C 18] are all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock.

Wherefore, if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock [the Book of Mormon and the revelations that have preceded D&C 18], the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.

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

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

Was that helpful? Are you starting to see the commandment that Oliver was given? In the article, “How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Received and Compiled” we learn that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please leave your thoughts about a special verse, teaching, etc. that you enjoyed at one of the following:

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