Tag Archives: Helaman

#BOMTC Alma 48-50: “No Less Serviceable”

“Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men. Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God. Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni; for they did preach the word of God, and they did baptize unto repentance all men whosoever would hearken unto their words. And thus they went forth, and the people did humble themselves because of their words, insomuch that they were highly favored of the Lord, and thus they were free from wars and contentions among themselves, yea, even for the space of four years.” (Alma 48:17-20. Emphasis added.)

Today’s post comes complements of President Howard W. Hunter. It was well worth my time to study. I hope you enjoy it as well!

“No Less Serviceable”

(BY PRESIDENT HOWARD W. HUNTER, ENSIGN, APRIL 1992)

Howard W. Hunter

It was said of the young and valiant Captain Moroni: “If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.” (Alma 48:17.)

What a compliment to a famous and powerful man! I can’t imagine a finer tribute from one man to another. Two verses later is a statement about Helaman and his brethren, who played a less conspicuous role than Moroni: “Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni.” (Alma 48:19.)

In other words, even though Helaman was not as noticeable or conspicuous as Moroni, he was as serviceable; that is, he was as helpful or useful as Moroni.

Obviously, we could profit greatly by studying the life of Captain Moroni. He is an example of faith, service, dedication, commitment, and many other godly attributes. Rather than focusing on this magnificent man, however, I have chosen to look instead at those who are not seen in the limelight, who do not receive the attention of the world, yet who are “no less serviceable,” as the scripture phrased it.

Not all of us are going to be like Moroni, catching the acclaim of our colleagues all day every day. Most of us will be quiet, relatively unknown folks who come and go and do our work without fanfare. To those of you who may find that lonely or frightening or just unspectacular, I say, you are “no less serviceable” than the most spectacular of your associates. You, too, are part of God’s army.

Consider, for example, the profound service a mother or father gives in the quiet anonymity of a worthy Latter-day Saint home. Think of the Gospel Doctrine teachers and Primary choristers and Scoutmasters and Relief Society visiting teachers who serve and bless millions but whose names will never be publicly applauded or featured in the nation’s media.

Tens of thousands of unseen people make possible our opportunities and happiness every day. As the scriptures state, they are “no less serviceable” than those whose lives are on the front pages of newspapers.

The limelight of history and contemporary attention so often focuses on the one rather than on the many. Individuals are frequently singled out from their peers and elevated as heroes. I acknowledge that this kind of attention is one way to identify that which the people admire or hold to be of some value. But sometimes that recognition is not deserved, or it may even celebrate the wrong values.

We must choose wisely our heroes and examples, while also giving thanks for those legions of friends and citizens who are not so famous but who are “no less serviceable” than the Moroni’s of our lives.

Perhaps you could consider with me some interesting people from the scriptures who did not receive the limelight of attention but who, through the long lens of history, have proven themselves to be truly heroic.

Many who read the story of the great prophet Nephi almost completely miss another valiant son of Lehi whose name was Sam. Nephi is one of the most famous figures in the entire Book of Mormon. But Sam? Sam’s name is mentioned there only ten times. When Lehi counseled and blessed his posterity, he said to Sam:

Sam, the Brother of Nephi

“Blessed art thou, and thy seed; for thou shalt inherit the land like unto thy brother Nephi. And thy seed shall be numbered with his seed; and thou shalt be even like unto thy brother, and thy seed like unto his seed; and thou shalt be blessed in all thy days.” (2 Ne. 4:11.)

Sam’s role was basically one of supporting and assisting his more acclaimed younger brother, and he ultimately received the same blessings promised to Nephi and his posterity. Nothing promised to Nephi was withheld from the faithful Sam, yet we know very little of the details of Sam’s service and contribution. He was an almost unknown person in life, but he is obviously a triumphant leader and victor in the annals of eternity.

Many make their contributions in unsung ways. Ishmael traveled with the family of Nephi at great personal sacrifice, suffering “much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue.” (1 Ne. 16:35.) Then in the midst of all of these afflictions, he perished in the wilderness. Few of us can even begin to understand the sacrifice of such a man in those primitive times and conditions. Perhaps if we were more perceptive and understanding, we too would mourn, as his daughters did in the wilderness, for what a man like this gave—and gave up!—so that we could have the Book of Mormon today.

The names and memories of such men and women who were “no less serviceable” are legion in the Book of Mormon. Whether it be Mother Sariah or the maid Abish, servant to the Lamanite queen, each made contributions that were unacknowledged by the eyes of men but not unseen by the eyes of God.

We have only twelve verses of scripture dealing with the life of Mosiah, king over the land of Zarahemla and father of the famous King Benjamin. Yet his service to the people was indispensable. He led the people “by many preachings and prophesyings” and “admonished [them] continually by the word of God.” (Omni 1:13.) Limhi, Amulek, and Pahoran—the latter of whom who had the nobility of soul not to condemn when he was very unjustly accused—are other examples of people who served selflessly in the shadow of others’ limelight.

The soldier Teancum, who sacrificed his own life, or Lachonius, the chief judge who taught people to repent during the challenge of the Gadiantons, or the virtually unmentioned missionaries Omner and Himni, were all “no less serviceable” than their companions, yet they received very little scriptural attention.

We don’t know much about Shiblon, the faithful son of Alma whose story is sandwiched between those of Helaman, the future leader, and Corianton, the transgressor; but it is significant that he is described as a “just man [who] did walk uprightly before God.” (Alma 63:2.) The great prophet Nephi, mentioned in the book of Helaman, had a brother named Lehi, who is seemingly mentioned only in passing but is noted as being “not a whit behind him [Nephi] as to things pertaining to righteousness.” (See Hel. 11:18–19.)

Of course, there are examples of these serviceable individuals in our dispensation as well. Oliver Granger is the kind of quiet, supportive individual in the latter days that the Lord remembered in section 117 of the Doctrine and Covenants. [D&C 117] Oliver’s name may be unfamiliar to many, so I will take the liberty to acquaint you with this early stalwart.

Oliver Granger was eleven years older than Joseph Smith and, like the Prophet, was from upstate New York. Because of severe cold and exposure when he was thirty-three years old, Oliver lost much of his eyesight. Notwithstanding his limited vision, he served three full-time missions. He also worked on the Kirtland Temple and served on the Kirtland high council.

When most of the Saints were driven from Kirtland, Ohio, the Church left some debts unsatisfied. Oliver was appointed to represent Joseph Smith and the First Presidency by returning to Kirtland to settle the Church’s business. Of this task, the Doctrine and Covenants records: “Therefore, let him contend earnestly for the redemption of the First Presidency of my Church, saith the Lord.” (D&C 117:13.)

He performed this assignment with such satisfaction to the creditors involved that one of them wrote: “Oliver Granger’s management in the arrangement of the unfinished business of people that have moved to the Far West, in redeeming their pledges and thereby sustaining their integrity, has been truly praiseworthy, and has entitled him to my highest esteem, and every grateful recollection.” (Horace Kingsbury, as cited in Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:174.)

During Oliver’s time in Kirtland, some people, including disaffected members of the Church, were endeavoring to discredit the First Presidency and bring their integrity into question by spreading false accusations. Oliver Granger, in very deed, “redeemed the First Presidency” through his faithful service. In response, the Lord said of Oliver Granger: “His name shall be had in sacred remembrance from generation to generation, forever and ever.” (D&C 117:12.) “I will lift up my servant Oliver, and beget for him a great name on the earth, and among my people, because of the integrity of his soul.” (History of the Church, 3:350.)

When he died in 1841, even though there were but few Saints remaining in the Kirtland area and even fewer friends of the Saints, Oliver Granger’s funeral was attended by a vast concourse of people from neighboring towns.

Though Oliver Granger is not as well known today as other early leaders of the Church, he was nevertheless a great and important man in the service he rendered to the kingdom. And even if no one but the Lord had his name in remembrance, that would be a sufficient blessing for him—or for any of us.

I think we should be aware that there can be a spiritual danger to those who misunderstand the singularity of always being in the spotlight. They may come to covet the notoriety and thus forget the significance of the service being rendered.

We must not allow ourselves to focus on the fleeting light of popularity or substitute that attractive glow for the substance of true but often anonymous labor that brings the attention of God, even if it does not get coverage on the six o’clock news. In fact, applause and attention can become the spiritual Achilles’ heels of even the most gifted among us.

If the limelight of popularity should fall on you sometime in your life, it might be well for you to follow the example of those in the scriptures who received fame. Nephi is one of the great examples. After all he accomplished traveling in the wilderness with his family, his attitude was still fixed on the things that matter most. He said:

“And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

“My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

“He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

“He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.” (2 Ne. 4:19–22.)

The limelight never blinded Nephi as to the source of his strength and his blessings.

At times of attention and visibility, it might also be profitable for us to answer the question, Why do we serve? When we understand why, we won’t be concerned about where we serve.

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., taught this vital principle in his own life. At general conference in April 1951, President David O. McKay was sustained as President of the Church after the passing of President George Albert Smith. Up to that time, President Clark had served as the First Counselor to President Heber

“In the service of the Lord, It is not where you serve, but how.” - J. Reuben Clark.

J. Grant and then to President George Albert Smith. President McKay had been the Second Counselor to both men.

During the final session of conference when the business of the Church was transacted, Brother Stephen L Richards was called to the First Presidency and sustained as First Counselor. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., was then sustained as the Second Counselor. After the sustaining of the officers of the Church, President McKay explained why he had chosen his counselors in that order. He said:

“I felt that one guiding principle in this choice would be to follow the seniority in the Council [of the Twelve]. These two men were sitting in their places in that presiding body in the Church, and I felt impressed that it would be advisable to continue that same seniority in the new quorum of the First Presidency.” (In Conference Report, 9 April 1951, p. 151.)

President Clark was then asked to speak following President McKay. His remarks on this occasion were brief but teach a powerful lesson: “In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one takes the place to which one is duly called, which place one neither seeks nor declines. I pledge to President McKay and to President Richards the full loyal devoted service to the tasks that may come to me to the full measure of my strength and my abilities and so far as they will enable me to perform them, however inadequate I may be.” (Ibid., p. 154.)

The lesson that President Clark taught is expressed in another way in this poem by Meade McGuire, which has been repeated many times:

Father, where shall I work today?”
And my love flowed warm and free.
Then He pointed out a tiny spot
And said, “Tend that for me.”
I answered quickly, “Oh no; not that!
Why, no one would ever see,
No matter how well my work was done;
Not that little place for me.”
And the word He spoke, it was not stern;
He answered me tenderly:
“Ah, little one, search that heart of thine.
Art thou working for them or for me?
Nazareth was a little place,
And so was Galilee.”

(Ensign, May 1986, p. 39.)

King Benjamin declared: “Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God. And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:16–17.)

President Ezra Taft Benson said recently: “Christlike service exalts. … The Lord has promised that those who lose their lives serving others will find themselves. The Prophet Joseph Smith told us that we should ’wear out our lives’ in bringing to pass His purposes. (D&C 123:13.)” (Ensign, Nov. 1989, pp. 5–6.)

If you feel that much of what you do does not make you very famous, take heart. Most of the best people who ever lived weren’t very famous, either. Serve and grow, faithfully and quietly. Be on guard regarding the praise of men. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

“Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

“That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matt. 6:1–4.)

May our Father in Heaven so reward you always.

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#BOMTC Alma 43-45: More Than War!

Praying Soldier Armor of God

As Alma and his sons continued to preach the gospel, the Zoramites joined with the Lamanite armies to attack the Nephites. Mormon began to write about many wars between the Lamanites and Nephites in Alma 43. Even though they were outnumbered, the Nephite army’s preparation and their faith in Jesus Christ gave them the advantage. Captain Moroni demonstrated faith and wisdom in defending the Nephites against the Lamanites. When the Lamanites faced certain defeat, they made a covenant of peace and departed out of the land for a season.

I want to share a video that goes with these chapters that was shown in seminary when I was a student. It is pretty old now, but it was one that had an impact on me as a youth. I hope you will enjoy it!

Firm in the Faith of Christ

A grandfather uses Captain Moroni as an example of a true hero for his grandson. Moroni’s faith and loyalty to the Savior provide an example that all Saints should follow.

In the chapters that follow (Alma 43-63) we will read a lot about war. However, if we are “quick to observe” we will have eyes to see MORE THAN WAR. We can then liken the situations that we read about to the spiritual war that continues in our lives today (see Revelation 12).

The Dawning of a Brighter Day

Revelation tells us that “there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

“And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev. 12:7–9).

What a perilous time that must have been. The Almighty Himself was pitted against the son of the morning. We were there while that was going on. That must have been a desperately difficult struggle, with a grand, triumphal victory.

Concerning those desperate times, the Lord spoke to Job out of the whirlwind and said:

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? …

“When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4, 7).

Why were we then happy? I think it was because good had triumphed over evil and the whole human family was on the Lord’s side. We turned our backs on the adversary and aligned ourselves with the forces of God, and those forces were victorious.

But having made that decision, why should we have to make it again and again after our birth into mortality?

I cannot understand why so many have betrayed in life the decision they once made when the great war occurred in heaven.

But it is evident that the contest between good and evil, which began with that war, has never ended. It has gone on, and on, and on to the present.

I think our Father must weep because so many of His children through the ages have exercised the agency He gave them and have chosen to walk the road of evil rather than good. (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, May 2004)

Enemy Territory

President Boyd K. Packer shares an experience in which he was protected during World War II by listening to a prompting from the Spirit and promises youth that they will be protected if they “heed the promptings that come from the Holy Ghost.”

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#BOMTC Mosiah 1-2: A Tent, a Temple, a Tower–See, Sacrifice, Serve

THE GREAT CONFERENCE OF 124 B.C. I like to compare this part of the Book of Mormon to our modern-day general conference of the church (Pretty good timing for this blog post, isn’t it?). Each time that I read this account I imagine what it would have been like to be there personally–I really do 🙂

I love King Benjamin and his teachings! Not that everything else in the Book of Mormon isn’t as important, but I believe that if the Old Testament contained the account of King Benjamin (Mosiah 1-6) it would be one of the most beloved books of Christendom (and other faiths that revere the Old Testament.). In fact, President Howard W. Hunter called it, “…one of the greatest prophetic sermons ever given (“The Opening and Closing of Doors“, Ensign (CR), November 1987, p.54)

For my purpose today, I will simply focus on three simple words that help me remember the treasures of King Benjamin’s teachings: TENT, TEMPLE, TOWER. These are each nouns–simple objects–but they help me remember three simple verbs that make a BIG difference in life: SEE, SACRIFICE, SERVE. I will attempt to describe this relationship below…

#BOMTC Day 25, May 1~Mosiah 1-2 or Pages 145-150 (3)

A TENT: SEE!. Genesis 26:25, is the key to understanding the connection here. It seems like a very simple and informational verse, but in that scripture, relating to Isaac, you will find the words altar, tent, and well–there is great symbolism in those three words. Each word can symbolically represents an aspect of an individual’s life (anciently). Your “altar” represented your LORD. If your altar was made of unhewn stone, then people knew you worshiped Jehovah. If it were hewn, then people knew you worshiped a god of this world. Your “tent” represented your LIFE. You could tell all kinds of things about a person by simply looking at their tent. You can do the same when camping today. Your “well” represented your LIVELIHOOD. Isaac was a man of the flock and therefore was always in great need of a well (and notice where this scriptural event takes place–Beer-sheba, “well of an oath“. This may have been the same place which was called Beer-sheba a hundred years before this, in the time of Abraham; but as the well, from which it had its name originally, was closed up by the Philistines, the name of the place might have been abolished with the well; when, therefore, Isaac re-opened it, he restored the ancient name of the place. See Genesis 21 for the background to this significant well, and the verses in Genesis 26 that precede verse 25.).

Now, if our tent represents our life, then we can see a likening to the account found in Mosiah 1-2. Where did the people pitch their tents, and in which direction did they face them? “And they pitched their tents round about the temple, every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple” (Mosiah 2:6). If your tent represents your life, the what does the temple represent? As per the previous explanation  the temple is where the Lord’s altar was located, so the temple represent the LORD. So we would say that if your TENT is facing the TEMPLE, then your LIFE is facing the LORD!

A similar illustration can be found in several scriptural accounts. In Numbers 2 as the wondering Israelites are given their order of encampment, all tents are faced toward the Tabernacle! Another example is The Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:34). The characteristic rite of the Feast of Tabernacles was the dwelling in booths made of the boughs of trees. Remarkable celebrations of the Feast of Tabernacles took place at the opening of Solomon’s temple (1 Kgs. 8:22 Chr. 5:37:8) and in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh. 8:14). Genesis 13:12; 14:12 is a great example of how facing one’s tent makes a difference. Lot goes from merely facing his tent toward Sodom to dwelling in Sodom (and we know what trouble that caused him…). He should have been more careful about which way he was facing his tent!

For those who are familiar with Salt Lake City, you know that the grid-system is the basis for addresses of businesses and homes. What you may not have realized is that each address is based on your position relative to the Salt Lake Temple. When you give someone your location/address in Salt Lake County, you are really just telling people how far you are/live from the temple (this system was developed when the Prophet Joseph Smith revealed the Plat of Zion [click here for a diagram]). If I were to move to 13200 S. 2700 W., I would be 132 streets South and 27 streets West of the Salt Lake City Temple. Pretty easy to find the temple!

A temple-centered life is a Christ-centered life! So… which way is your tent/LIFE facing?

During the press conference introducing Howard W. Hunter as the new President of the church, he presented the theme that would become the hallmark of his brief administration. He invited “the members of the Church to establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership and the supernal setting for their most sacred covenants. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church temple worthy. I would hope that every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it. Let us be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people.” (Church History in the Fulness of Times, p. 625).

President Howard W. Hunter also said:

I invite the Latter-day Saints to look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership. It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple. It would please the Lord if every adult member would [1] be worthy of-and carry-a current temple recommend. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families. Let us be a temple-attending people. [2] Attend the temple as frequently as personal circumstances allow. [3] Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. [4] Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing. If proximity to a temple does not allow frequent attendance, [5] gather in the history of your family and prepare the names for the sacred ordinances performed only in the temple. This family research is essential to the work of the temples, and blessings surely will come to those who do that work.” (“Exceeding Great and Precious Promises“, Ensign, Nov. 1994)

The following account contains some great examples of how to face our tent/LIFE to the temple/LORD:

“Several years ago I heard about a good brother who described his attitude as President David O. McKay gave the concluding talk of general conference. It was a [muggy] afternoon, and this was the fifth session he had attended. He was sitting in the balcony, and his mind had a serious wandering problem. He noticed a man sitting in the middle section who had fallen asleep with his head tilted back and his mouth open. It occurred to him that if he were in the roof of the Tabernacle, he could drop a spit wad through one of the vent holes right into the mouth of that sleeping man. What a glorious thought! Following the meeting, he overheard two men talking about their feelings during President McKay’s talk. They were visibly moved by what they had heard. He thought to himself, ‘These two brethren were having a marvelous spiritual experience, and what was I doing? Thinking about dropping spit wads from the ceiling!’ President Spencer W. Kimball said that worship is “an individual responsibility, and regardless of what is said from the pulpit, if one wishes to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, he may do so. If the service is a failure to you, you have failed. No one can worship for you; you must do your own waiting upon the Lord.” (Ensign, Jan. 1978, p. 5) One youth described how he first experienced the spirit of worship. He had been marginally active through his Aaronic Priesthood years. When he attended sacrament meeting, he usually sat in the back with a group of his friends, and he was less than a model of reverence. One day, however, he came in a little late, and there were no seats by his friends. He sat alone, and for the first time in his life, he closed his eyes during the prayers, he sang the hymns, he listened to the sacrament prayers, and he paid attention to the speakers. About midway through the first speaker, he found tears welling up in his eyes. With some embarrassment, he carefully glanced around; no one else seemed emotional. He didn’t know for sure what was happening to him, but the experience changed his life. It was during that meeting that he really started his spiritual preparation for his mission. He felt something, and fortunately, he acted and thus sustained those feelings. (Elder Jack H. Goaslind, Yagottawanna, Ensign, May 1991)

#BOMTC Day 25, May 1~Mosiah 1-2 or Pages 145-150 (5)
A TEMPLE: SACRIFICE.
 The tabernacle was a portable temple. Perhaps the best known temple in the Bible is the one built by Solomon in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles. 2–5). In the Book of Mormon, the righteous followers of God were led to build and worship in temples (2 Nephi 5:16Mosiah 1:183 Nephi 11:1). Ancient temples were places of animal sacrifice in similitude of the atoning sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. Many people miss the fact that in Mosiah 2:3 the people “took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burn offerings according to the law of Moses.”

After Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, the Lord gave them the law of sacrifice. This law included offering the firstborn of their flocks. This sacrifice symbolized the sacrifice that would be made by the Only Begotten Son of God (Moses 5:4–8). This practice continued until the death of Jesus Christ, which ended animal sacrifice (Alma 34:13–14).

Originally, sacrifice meant to make something or someone holy (What an awesome way to think about sacrifice!). It has now come to mean to give up or suffer the loss of worldly things for the Lord and His Kingdom (I prefer the original meaning…). Disciples of Christ should be willing to sacrifice (MAKE HOLY) all things for the Lord. Joseph Smith taught that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith, 69).

In the Church today members partake of the sacrament of the bread and the water in remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Members of Christ’s Church today are also asked to offer the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit (3 Ne. 9:19–22). This means that they are humble, repentant, and willing to obey God’s commandments.

Modern-day temples continue to be a place of sacrifice today! For example, one must make certain sacrifices to be worthy to enter the temple and sacrifice must be made to actually worship in the temple. I like how Elder Neal A. Maxwell, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, put it:

So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the “sacrifice unto the Lord … of a broken heart and a contrite spirit,” (D&C 59:8), a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving “away all [our] sins” in order to “know God” (Alma 22:18) for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him” (Ensign, May, 1995).

#BOMTC Day 25, May 1~Mosiah 1-2 or Pages 145-150 (4)

A TOWER: SERVE. Perhaps the most oft quoted verse of Mosiah 2 is verse 17, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (my daughter’s current favorite scripture!). King Benjamin became himself the great object-lesson of Mosiah 2. As their king, and in his advanced age, he had not burdened them but rather served them–a servant-leader, like the Savior! Atop his tower–not because he is above them, but so that they can hear him–he stands as a symbol of service!

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that “service is essential to salvation.” (Ensign, June 1975)

President Marion G. Romney, who was a member of the First Presidency, taught:

Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.  Knowing that service is what gives our Father in Heaven fulfillment, and knowing that we want to be where He is and as He is, why must we be commanded to serve one another? Oh, for the glorious day when these things all come naturally because of the purity of our hearts. In that day there will be no need for a commandment because we will have experienced for ourselves that we are truly happy only when we are engaged in unselfish service” (Ensign, Nov. 1982).

Elder Henry B. Eyring, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, expounded upon the fact that as “unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21) we must do all that we can to repay our indebtedness to the Lord:

Let me give you three rules of managing the debts of gratitude you have accumulated …. First, wherever you may labor in life, give more than you take. Second, whoever is around you in life, find someone to help. And, third, ask God to multiply the power of your efforts to give and to help. …He will help you to give and to serve others, even when it seems nearly impossible. Then, you can rest assured that you have done your best to manage your debts of gratitude. But, of course, your debts will only grow, since God always blesses bountifully His grateful servants.” (“Debt Management“, Brigham Young University – Idaho Commencement April 27, 2002)

So important is the need for us to make a personal commitment to the service of our fellowmen that President Spencer W. Kimball made it the theme of a message to Regional Representatives in April 1980. He said:

Recently we established the new consolidated schedule which is aimed at enriching family life even further, together with greater opportunity for individual and family gospel scholarship and for more Christian service. We are trying to provide more time and emphasis on Christian service, so that our example can be more powerful in the world and so that those who are so worthy of attention might get more attention than they sometimes have in the past.” (“We Feel an Urgency,” Ensign, August 1980)

And in a message to the youth of the Church, President Kimball said: “The Lord does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.” (“President Kimball Speaks Out on Service to Others,” New Era, March 1981)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said:

We know . . . that even the most extreme acts of service-such as giving all of our goods to feed the poor-profit us nothing unless our service is motivated by the pure love of Christ. If our service is to be most efficacious, it must be accomplished for the love of God and the love of his children. . . . This principle-that our service should be for the love of God and the love of fellowmen rather than for personal advantage or any other lesser motive-is admittedly a high standard. The Savior must have seen it so, since he joined his commandment for selfless and complete love directly with the ideal of perfection . . . “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt.5:48). . . . Service with all of our heart and mind is a high challenge for all of us. Such service must be free of selfish ambition. It must be motivated only by the pure love of Christ. . . . I know that God expects us to work to purify our hearts and our thoughts so that we may serve one another for the highest and best reason, the pure love of Christ. (Ensign, Nov. 1984, see also “Serve God By Serving Others)

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, illustrated the saving and sanctifying principle of service with the following true story:

Amidst the terrible hostilities in Missouri that would put the Prophet in Liberty Jail and see thousands of Latter-day Saints driven from their homes, Sister Drusilla Hendricks and her invalid husband, James, who had been shot by enemies of the Church in the Battle of Crooked River, arrived with their children at a hastily shaped dugout in Quincy, Illinois, to live out the spring of that harrowing year. Within two weeks the Hendrickses were on the verge of starvation, having only one spoonful of sugar and a saucerful of cornmeal remaining in their possession. In the great tradition of LDS women, Drusilla made mush out of it for James and the children, thus stretching its contents as far as she could make it go. When that small offering was consumed by her famished family, she washed everything, cleaned their little dugout as thoroughly as she could, and quietly waited to die. Not long thereafter the sound of a wagon brought Drusilla to her feet. It was their neighbor Reuben Allred. He said he had a feeling they were out of food, so on his way into town he’d had a sack of grain ground into meal for them. Shortly thereafter Alexander Williams arrived with two bushels of meal on his shoulder. He told Drusilla that he’d been extremely busy but the Spirit had whispered to him that Brother Hendricks family is suffering, so I dropped everything and came [running]. May God, who has blessed all of us so mercifully and many of us so abundantly, bless us with one thing more. May he bless us to hear the often silent cries of the sorrowing and the afflicted, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged, the poor. Indeed may he bless us to hear the whispering of the Holy Spirit when any neighbor anywhere is suffering, and to drop everything and come running. I pray in the name of the captain of the poor, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.” (“A Handful of Meal and a Little Oil”, Ensign, May 1996)

President Thomas S. Monson shared the following story of a pioneer family being blessed by celestial service:

One of my children came in, said that Brother Newton Halls folks were out of bread. Had none that day. I put our flour in sack to send up to Brother Halls. Just then Brother Hall came in. Says I, Brother Hall, how are you [fixed] for flour. Brother Millett, we have none. Well, Brother Hall, there is some in that sack. I have divided [it] and was going to send it to you. Your children told mine that you were out. Brother Hall began to cry. Said he had tried others. Could not get any. Went to the cedars and prayed to the Lord and the Lord told him to go to Joseph Millett. Well, Brother Hall, you neednt bring this back if the Lord sent you for it. You don’t owe me for it. You can’t tell how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew that there was such a person as Joseph Millett.” (Gifts, Ensign, May 1993)

The Joseph Millett Story

Joseph Millett gives flour to a man who had been directed to him by the Lord.

In 1871, in the tiny Mormon farming settlement in Spring Valley, White Pine, Nevada (about 60 miles from Ely), Latter-day Saint Newman Hall found himself entirely out of flour and unable to feed his family. He asked some of his neighbors for help, but no one had a surplus. Finally he approached neighbor Joseph Millett who divided his supplies with the Halls. When Hall told him that he had been directed there following prayer, Millett told him there was no need to repay the loan. Millett recorded in his diary, “You can’t tell how good it made me feel to know that the Lord knew that there was such a person as Joseph Millett.

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#BOMTC Helaman 11-13: A Ride On the Pride Cycle

Helaman 11–13 covers 14 years of Nephite history in which the people passed through a cycle of righteousness and wickedness.

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Pride Cycle, BYU Studies

Because of their pride, the people refused to repent of their wickedness. Nephi sealed the heavens, causing a drought and famine. The drought and famine humbled the people, and they repented and turned to the Lord. Because they did not choose to be humble, the people began to easily forget the Lord their God until they were brought to a realization of how much they needed His help.

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Solution to the Pride Cycle

This history shows how quickly people can forget the Lord and how He chastens them to help them repent and return to Him. In His mercy, God chastens His people to bring them unto repentance and salvation.

 

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Pride Cycle, Figure Eight

Each of the diagrams above is a little bit different, but I like each one because each diagram has a special perspective on what Latter-day Saints have come to identify as the Pride Cycle. If we are honest with ourselves, we can probably identify many times in our lives when we have fallen victim to the Pride Cycle. By examining the diagrams closely we can also learn how to avoid a ride on the Pride Cycle, and instead enjoy the blessings of the Prosperity Cycle.

One of the many ways in which the Lord’s prophets profit us is by providing preaching that prepares us to prosper. When we do not follow the words of the prophets we will end up taking a ride on the Pride Cycle.

I have included an article below that shows what the prophets Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite did during this specific time period to try and help the people to be prepared and prosperous, rather than prideful and perilous. Because “the record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit [Helaman] reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1987, 4), we would do well to consider how our modern-day prophets are trying to help us to avoid the perils of the Pride Cycle like Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel all tried anciently.

“Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite”

Brian Best, Ensign, Dec 1977

They tried to prepare their people for the Lord’s coming.

Most of us are incurably romantic in our attitudes toward life. We like to mentally entertain happy endings, lucky breaks, effortless successes, and sudden character transformations. Some among us even seem to regard salvation as a matter of good fortune and hope God will be particularly merciful on that great and final judgment day.

Yet, over and over, the scriptures demonstrate that life is not a romantic fairy tale, but a law-abiding and largely predictable reality. Mercy is not something to be bestowed upon us gratuitously at the day of judgment, but something that has already been offered through the atonement of Christ, and we are able to receive that mercy only upon conditions of repentance and obedience.

In its unwavering insistence on the conditions that govern justice and mercy, the Book of Mormon is perhaps the most emphatically antiromantic book ever written. On nearly every page it drives home the all-important lesson that the choices we make operate unerringly in a universe of law to bring about predictable consequences. To the writers of the Book of Mormon, nothing is more insidiously false than the notion that God dispenses mercy freely no matter what we do and that our salvation depends chiefly upon his tenderheartedness. Prophet after prophet emphasizes the contrary: that justice cannot be robbed and that mercy can be granted only according to laws and conditions. Alma speaks for them all when he explains:

“According to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:13.)

The book of Helaman vigorously illustrates this same teaching: that man must use his agency to choose the way of salvation according to the conditions upon which mercy is based; otherwise, he will forfeit the proffered blessings according to the laws and judgments of a just God. As Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, pursue the duties of their ministry, and as Samuel the Lamanite joins with them later in their largely futile efforts to prepare a rebellious people to accept the coming Christ, we see that even God is unable to reclaim those who refuse to accept the conditions that would allow them a place in the merciful plan of redemption.

But if the teetering of man between the claims of justice and the claims of mercy were all the scriptures offered for our edification, the reading might have very little human appeal. It is often difficult to get excited about abstract principles, even when they affect our eternal destiny. Fortunately, the Book of Mormon, like all the scriptures, has another dimension that makes it possible for us to share feelingly in the conflict. When we read the book of Helaman, for instance, we do not just read of the conflict of good and evil; we read of people involved in that conflict, people who feel strongly about what is happening to themselves and to others.

Nephi, the son of Helaman, through whose eyes (though at times with Mormon’s editorial comment) we see most of the events, is not just a recorder, not a computerized robot collecting and storing up evidence for and against the children of men; he is a dedicated and caring human being. When we read his words or those which he quotes from the teachings of Samuel the Lamanite, we are permitted to share in more than just historical or doctrinal observations and judgments; through these words we also experience the proper and powerful feelings of a servant of God and come to know more fully how it feels to be righteous and obedient. Through sharing vicariously the aspirations and disappointments, the joys and sorrows of Nephi or Samuel, we discover more fully the love of virtue which we ourselves possess and come to recognize more expertly and cherish more earnestly the behavior and feelings which constitute that virtue.

In order to relate more completely to the problems of Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel as recorded in the book of Helaman, let us become familiar with the historical setting of the book. It begins about 52 b.c. with a brief summary of the events that precede Helaman’s becoming chief judge over the Nephites and introduces us to the newly organized band of robbers begun by the assassin Kishkumen and continued after his death by Gadianton. In a parenthetical note, Mormon tells us that as we read on through the Book of Mormon we will see that this band of robbers finally causes the entire destruction of the Nephite nation. (Hel. 2:12–14.) But in Helaman’s day the band is small, only a minor threat to political stability.

At the death of Helaman, about 39 b.c., Nephi, his eldest son, becomes the chief judge. (Hel. 3:37.) Nine years later, recognizing the inability of law to govern an overwhelmingly lawless society, and realizing also his inability to be fully effective as both judge and prophet, Nephi yields up the judgment seat to Cezoram and with his brother, Lehi, begins an untiring thirty-year ministry to try to convert his people from their sinful ways. (Hel. 5:1–4.) The difficulty of their task is overwhelming—much like trying to eliminate crime, governmental corruption, immorality, and unbelief from a modern nation.

In fact, the Nephite nation was very much like those we are familiar with. Its representative form of government depended for its stability on its laws and on the integrity of its citizens and public officials. (Hel. 5:2.) Moreover, the Nephites were in a time of great prosperity and, except for a few minor conflicts, were enjoying peace following a devastating war that had occurred about twenty years earlier. (See Alma 48–62.) Crime, in the form of the Gadianton robbers, was making rapid advances, even among members of the church. And finally, because of their wealth and prosperity, the people were becoming increasingly proud, worldly, rebellious, and contemptuous of the poor and the humble believers in Christ. Add to these circumstances the fact that prophets were foretelling the imminent coming of Christ—within about forty years, as it turned out—and we see how similar their day was to our own.

One other note should perhaps be added. The Nephites were becoming increasingly wicked; yet, like people nowadays, they seem not to have recognized how far they had degenerated from the truths they had once known. Even at the height of their wickedness, shortly before the birth of Christ when Samuel the Lamanite was preaching of their impending destruction, they still seem to have retained some semblance of religious belief. According to Samuel, they said among themselves, “If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.” (Hel. 13:25.) To hear them talk, one would surmise that they thought of themselves as enlightened, civilized, and properly religious. As in our day, pride, worldliness, and sin seem to have captured them unawares. Thus, to them, the prophets who called attention to their sins seemed to be madmen or schemers deserving of persecution (see Hel. 13:26); to them, those who taught of the birth of one to be called Christ, the Son of God, seemed to be teaching unreasonable doctrines or attempting to impose a fable upon the people in order to keep them in subjection through superstition. Their criticism of Samuel’s teachings about the coming of Christ and the marvelous signs that would attend his birth illustrates well how their faulty religious attitudes and beliefs kept them from comprehending the truth of Samuel’s message:

“We know that this is a wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass, but not among us, but in a land which is far distant, a land which we know not; therefore they can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot witness with our own eyes that they are true.

“And they will, by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one, work some great mystery which we cannot understand, which will keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them, for we depend upon them to teach us the word; and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives.” (Hel. 16:20–21.)

This is not the speech of persons who admit they have abandoned religion and are rebelling willfully against God. It seems very likely that the great wickedness of these people was not very different from what the world today accepts as normal. And in that world, where the pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasure is the norm and where religion is mostly a formal ritual, it is usually the true prophet, not the sinner, who is made to appear abnormal.

Therefore, Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel were neither popular nor very successful in the long run in their efforts to save their society, although the power of the miracles that attended their ministry did result temporarily in great conversions among both the Nephites and the Lamanites.

In contrast to the shifting, unstable, materialistic ways of the people generally is the steadfastness and stability of these three prophets and the few who faithfully follow them. They seem to be a race apart—a different kind of being altogether than the other souls they walk among. They are spiritual men, sons of God; those who reject them are natural men, or enemies of God. Walking in obedience to divine law, these prophets participate more and more fully in the mysteries of God, “having many revelations daily” (Hel. 11:23), while the foolish masses lose even the knowledge they once possessed, until, as Alma warned, they “know nothing concerning his mysteries; and … are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12:11). In fact, so far did these people go in their rejection of the word of God that they were about to place themselves outside the saving power of either justice or mercy. Samuel prophesied that were they to continue in their sins and not repent, they would soon find it said of them:

“Your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” (Hel. 13:38.)

Notice that Samuel did not tell them they had offended God and were about to be cut off from his love; rather, he told them that their behavior was contrary to the nature of happiness and righteousness, or that they had gone contrary to eternal law and were separating themselves from that which is the nature of God.

Not only did these people reject divine law; they also rejected the witness of many signs and miracles. And Samuel explained to them that even greater signs would be given as the birth of Christ drew nearer, “to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men.” (Hel. 14:28.) Then, stressing once more the laws by which the destiny of men is governed, Samuel explained that these many signs and wonders would be given so “that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment may come upon them.” (Hel. 14:29.) Finally, detailing the laws according to which salvation or damnation is administered to mankind, he admonished:

“Remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.

“He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.” (Hel. 14:30–31.)

In Samuel’s pleading tone, we see again that the power of the book of Helaman lies in its concern for real human souls, not just in its concern with abstract principles of good and evil. We see it unfolding through the eyes, minds, and hearts of righteous men who, fired by the vision and power of God, are doing all they can to avert catastrophe and are being frustrated every step of the way by the very persons they are laboring so diligently to save. The pain of the irony alone is at times almost overwhelming.

Because the book of Helaman is largely taken from the record of Nephi, we know more of his personal battle against the evils of his day than we do of his brother, Lehi. Although Lehi undoubtedly labored and suffered in much the same way that Nephi did, we know nothing of his personal feelings but are told only generally of his diligence and righteousness. Along with Nephi, he determined to “preach the word of God all the remainder of his days” (Hel. 5:5); he accompanied Nephi in his preaching in the land Bountiful and the land southward; he assisted in the conversion of many dissenting Nephites and 8,000 Lamanites in and around the land of Zarahemla; and he shared with Nephi a remarkable spiritual experience in a Lamanite prison. He also accompanied Nephi on the futile mission to the land northward and continued with Nephi in the ministry around Zarahemla, experiencing many revelations and doing much preaching among the people. We are told that he “was not a whit behind [Nephi] as to things pertaining to righteousness.” (Hel. 11:19.)

An even greater lack of information hampers our efforts to come to know Samuel’s personality. We know little of the man except what we can glean from the brief summary of his activities and the extensive quotations from his preaching. We know that he was a man of courage and determination and that he was obedient to the Lord’s commands. After he had preached to the Nephites for many days, “they did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land” (Hel. 13:2); but when the voice of the Lord came to him, commanding him to return and continue his prophesying, he immediately obeyed (Hel. 13:3). A lesser man might have been daunted by the refusal of the populace to let him enter the city, but Samuel, determined to obey the Lord, climbed upon the city wall and “cried with a loud voice, and prophesied.” (Hel. 13:4.)

We discover that Samuel was close to the Spirit and sensitive to its promptings: he preached and prophesied “whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart.” (Hel. 13:4.) We know, too, that he was commanded and instructed by an angel of the Lord (Hel. 14:9, 28), and that the power of the Lord protected him from physical harm: when the rebellious Nephites tried to kill him, “the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows.” (Hel. 16:2.)

The portion of Samuel’s prophecies contained in Helaman 15 is a sobering warning to those who have been called the people of God. Samuel reminds the Nephites that they “have been a chosen people of the Lord” (Hel. 15:3) in contrast to the Lamanites, whom the Lord has not favored “because their deeds have been evil continually … because of the iniquity of the tradition of their fathers” (Hel. 15:4). The Nephites have no cause for pride, however, because the Lamanites are steadfast and firm “when they are once enlightened” (Hel. 15:10), and Samuel declares that “it shall be better for them than for you except ye repent” (Hel. 15:14).

Samuel’s exhortation and warning do not come from any cultural smugness, however, but from love for the Nephites—his “beloved brethren.” (Hel. 15:1.) Only when the Lord no longer restrains him and when the Nephites make an attempt on his life does he return to his own country—where he begins “to preach and to prophesy among his own people.” (Hel. 16:7.)

Thus, through Nephi’s quotations from the preaching of Samuel, we are able to perceive the tenacity and depth of devotion and feeling of that great prophet; but our insight into his personality is necessarily limited because we are seeing him through the eyes of another. Nephi himself remains central throughout the book of Helaman; it is his personality that dominates. If we are to share the feelings of a prophet, if we are to taste personally the joy of seemingly great missionary successes and then the pain of watching all those successes disintegrate as a society plummets toward destruction, we must do so through him.

When the account of this Nephi begins, we learn of the riches and pride within the church and the wickedness of the people generally—and we learn of Nephi’s choice to yield up the judgment seat and turn to preaching, since he had become “weary” because of the iniquity of the people. (Hel. 5:4.) We at once can see the human element in Nephi’s choice: we see that his turning to full-time preaching is not only the right or reasonable thing to do, it is the thing he must do because of his feelings about extremely distressing circumstances. The record then tells us more about this man whose emotions are involved in his decisions. He and his brother recall the words of Helaman, their father. We notice that these words are urgent and tender. Over and over we hear a loving, dedicated parent entreating: “My sons … my sons … my sons” (see Hel. 5:6–8); “O remember, remember, my sons” (Hel. 5:9); “and now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation” (Hel. 5:12). Is it surprising that sons of such a father would also feel deeply and urgently the need to preach repentance to a society falling into unbelief?

Moreover, these men were not merely preaching doctrine learned by rote; they, like their father, had experienced personally the power and wisdom of God. Nephi tells us that he and his brother preached with “great power and authority, for they had power and authority, given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them.” (Hel. 5:18.)

A particularly impressive witness of the power of God occurred when they found themselves in a Lamanite prison, kept “many days without food.” (Hel. 5:22.) When the Lamanites and the Nephite dissenters came to the prison to put them to death, suddenly they found themselves “encircled about as if by fire.” (Hel. 5:23.) In the way the following sentence repeats certain words, notice traces of the amazement they must have felt: “Nephi and Lehi were not burned; and they were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned.” (Hel. 5:23.) These men were human. In the prison they experienced hunger, fear, apprehension, then amazement and hope as they participated in this mighty miracle. “When they saw that they were encircled about with a pillar of fire, and that it burned them not, their hearts did take courage.” (Hel. 5:24.)

Recognizing that “God [had] shown … this marvelous thing” (Hel. 5:26), they began to preach with boldness. Suddenly the earth trembled, the walls of the prison shook, and a cloud of darkness overshadowed the prison. (Hel. 5:27–28.) Through this cloud a voice was heard: “Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare good tidings.” (Hel. 5:29.) The voice spoke again. Nephi tries to share with us the unusual nature of this voice and the power with which it affected him. This voice, he says, was “not a voice of thunder, neither … a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but … a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul.” (Hel. 5:30.) Yet each time the voice spoke, the walls of the prison trembled as if they were about to fall. The voice came a third time, speaking “marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man; and the walls [of the prison] did tremble … and the earth shook as if it were about to divide asunder.” (Hel. 5:33.) Through all this, the people in the prison were so awestruck and fearful that they could not move. Then through the cloud of darkness they saw the faces of Nephi and Lehi, and “they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels.” (Hel. 5:36.)

Who can read of this experience, allowing his mind’s eye to picture it, without feeling more deeply about the reality of God, about Nephi and Lehi, and about the significance of his own life. Vicariously, we experience something of what Nephi and Lehi experienced. We participate in a real-life drama with living prophets, and like them we are amazed, overjoyed, exalted in our feelings. In brief, we learn more than just doctrine.

With this miraculous event, the great work of conversion among the Lamanites commenced. The three hundred persons who witnessed these miracles in the prison were converted and began to testify among their brethren. Before long the entire Lamanite nation was filled with believers. (Hel. 5:49–50.) Their hearts changed, they laid down their weapons, yielded up the lands they had won by conquest from the Nephites, and returned to their own lands. (Hel. 5:51–52.) Lamanite missionaries then began to testify to the Nephites. (Hel. 6:4–5.) Surely Nephi is reflecting his own intense feelings of joy when he writes: “The people of the church did have great joy because of the conversion of the Lamanites, yea, because of the church of God, which had been established among them. And they did fellowship one with another and did rejoice one with another, and did have great joy.” (Hel. 6:3.)

Imagine the happiness of Nephi and Lehi about 29 b.c. as they beheld the results of their labors: “peace in all the land, insomuch that the Nephites did go into whatsoever part of the land they would, whether among the Nephites or the Lamanites.” (Hel. 6:7.)

Then Nephi, accompanied by Lehi, began a six-year missionary journey in the land northward (Hel. 6:6, 7:1), during which the people there “did reject all his words” (Hel. 7:3). Undoubtedly discouraged, Nephi returned to Zarahemla, only to find that the peaceful situation he had left such a short time before had degenerated considerably. He found “the people in a state of … awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats—having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God.” (Hel. 7:4.) Here we get one of our most intimate glimpses of the man Nephi. The record states:

“Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years; and when Nephi saw it, his heart was swollen with sorrow within his breast; and he did exclaim in the agony of his soul:

“Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord—

“Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren.

“But behold, I am consigned that these are my days, and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow because of this the wickedness of my brethren.” (Hel. 7:6–9.)

Recall that Nephi uttered this lament upon a tower in his garden, pouring out his soul to the Lord in his agony. People passing by happened to overhear him and marveled at the depth of his mourning. Hurriedly, a multitude gathered to discover the cause of such great grief. (See Hel. 7:10–11.) Read Nephi’s words (see Hel. 7:13–29) as he chides these people for their unbelief and wickedness. The words are not just “doctrine” to be learned by chapter and verse; they are the passionate overflowing of a man’s sorrow, and they range from desperate pleading (“O repent ye, repent ye! Why will ye die?”) to amazement and exasperation (“O, how could you have forgotten your God in the very day that he has delivered you?”).

Picture Nephi’s frustration as he tried to convince the people that he was indeed the Lord’s messenger by prophesying the murder of the chief judge (Hel. 8:27–28), only to find himself accused of being an accomplice and cast into prison (Hel. 9:16–20). Picture then the results of his second prophecy regarding the man who had committed the murder. (See Hel. 9:25–36.) When the prophecy turned out to be true, Nephi was hailed as a great prophet; some even called him a god. (Hel. 9:40–41.) But in their controversy over exactly what Nephi was, the people became angry with one another, divided into disputing parties, and went their ways, “leaving Nephi alone, as he was standing in the midst of them.” (Hel. 10:1.) Left alone, isolated from his fellow beings, Nephi perhaps felt very lonely and discouraged.

Yet notice how the command of God prevailed over all Nephi’s moods and disappointments. Nephi started toward his home, “pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him.” (Hel. 10:2.) Suddenly, a voice spoke to him, saying: “Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people.” (Hel. 10:4.) Certainly the Lord knew of Nephi’s personal grief and chose this moment to buoy him up. But more! This time it is obvious that the Lord was regarding his servant in a new and very special way:

“Because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

“Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.” (Hel. 10:5–6.)

One is reminded of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s comment: “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150.) And then, obedient to the Lord’s command, Nephi turned around, without even returning to his home, and began again to preach repentance to the people.

With only intermittent successes, this mighty prophet continued to serve faithfully, once asking the Lord to bring a famine upon the people in order to bring a halt to their wickedness and warfare, rather than destroy them. (Hel. 11:4–5.) Yet, never one to give up hope, Nephi readily consented to plead with the Lord to end the famine when, three years later, the people showed some evidence of repentance. (Hel. 11:7–9.) His prayer for them shows how deeply he could love his people even in their iniquity:

“O Lord, thou didst hearken unto my words when I said, Let there be a famine, that the pestilence of the sword might cease; and I know that thou wilt, even at this time, hearken unto my words, for thou saidst that: If this people repent I will spare them.

“Yea, O Lord, and thou seest that they have repented, because of the famine and the pestilence and destruction which has come unto them.

“And now, O Lord, wilt thou turn away thine anger, and try again if they will serve thee? And if so, O Lord, thou canst bless them according to thy words which thou hast said.” (Hel. 11:14–16.)

But within ten years all was corrupt again, and the whole of chapter twelve of Helaman records a powerful lamentation which contrasts human frailty with God’s goodness. There is some question as to whether this chapter is a quotation of Nephi’s words or a commentary by the abridger, Mormon. But even if the passage is not Nephi’s work, it seems to reflect the attitudes and philosophy which must undergird the kind of life he lived. Beginning with a general comment on the “unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men,” the author seems to offer an apology for the human race; nevertheless, he goes on hopefully to assert his faith that “the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.” (Hel. 12:1.) This law he regards as a certainty, and though most of the rest of his lamentation bemoans man’s foolishness, pride, and disobedience, he concludes by praising “our great and everlasting God” and reasserting his faith in the everlasting nature of God’s eternal law and the absoluteness of his word:

“And behold, if the Lord shall say unto a man—Because of thine iniquities, thou shalt be accursed forever, it shall be done.

“And if the Lord shall say [unto a man]—Because of thine iniquities thou shalt be cut off from my presence—he will cause that it shall be so.

“And wo unto him to whom he shall say this, for it shall be unto him that will do iniquity, and he cannot be saved; therefore, for this cause, that men might be saved, hath repentance been declared.

“Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved. …

“And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord;

“Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation. And thus it is. Amen.” (Hel. 12:21–23, 25–26.)

It is sobering that the narrative of Nephi’s loving and untiring service in behalf of his people must end with this passage reaffirming the immutability of God’s laws and man’s inability to be saved except through obedience to those laws.

While the signs and wonders increased as the time of the birth of Christ drew near, Nephi continued to preach and baptize whatever converts had responded to the teaching of Samuel and himself. (It is interesting that there is no record of Samuel’s ever having baptized any of the people who were converted through his preaching: “As many as believed on [Samuel’s] word went forth and sought for Nephi … desiring that they might be baptized.” [Hel. 16:1; see also Hel. 16:3–5.]) Lehi may have died, since he is not mentioned toward the end of the book of Helaman. Yet “notwithstanding the signs and the wonders which were wrought among the people of the Lord, and the many miracles which they did, Satan did get great hold upon the hearts of the people upon all the face of the land.” (Hel. 16:23.)

Nephi’s mission ended sometime during the year before Christ’s birth. After “giving charge unto his son Nephi, who was his eldest son, concerning the plates, … he departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth.” (3 Ne. 1:2–3.) Like Moses, this special servant of God seems to have been taken by the Lord for special purposes.

It would be difficult to find in all of scripture a more devoted and powerful prophet than Nephi, the son of Helaman. As we read his account of his own labors, as well as the labors of Lehi and Samuel the Lamanite, our hearts are touched by the intensely human concern of these prophets for the people to whom they are sent to minister. Yet, with all their humanity, they stand as unfaltering witnesses of the irrevocability of eternal law—not only of the just law that judges and condemns the unrepentant, but of the law of mercy by which glory enters and transforms the lives of all those who choose to obey the commandments of God.

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#BOMTC Helaman 6-7: Cup Up? Fill Up!

As you have studied the book of Helaman, you have seen that the Nephites made choices that led the Spirit of the Lord to withdraw from their lives, while the Lamanites made choices that invited the Spirit to increase in their lives.

Because of the missionary efforts of Nephi and Lehi, thousands of Lamanites in Zarahemla had been baptized, and the majority of the Lamanites in the land of Nephi had been converted to the gospel (see Helaman 5:19–20, 50–51). Following their missionary efforts, the Lamanites increased in righteousness. Unfortunately, the Nephites became wicked and began supporting the Gadianton robbers, and the Spirit of the Lord withdrew from them. The prophet Nephi prophesied that if the Nephites continued to live in wickedness, they would perish. He also prophesied that because of the Lamanites’ righteousness, the Lord would be merciful unto them and preserve them. Mormon recorded that the Lord withdrew His Spirit from the Nephites and began to pour out His Spirit on the Lamanites (see Helaman 6:35–36).

influence of the Spirit

When Nephi saw the state of his people, “his heart was swollen with sorrow” (Helaman 7:6). He went up on a tower in his garden to pray and to mourn the wickedness of the people. When the people heard him praying and mourning, a multitude gathered to learn why he was so upset. After the people gathered to hear Nephi praying upon the tower in his garden, He used the opportunity to teach them (see Helaman 7:12–29). He warned them of the consequences of their decisions and emphasized that if they refused to repent of their sins, they would lose the Lord’s protection and the blessings of eternal life.

In Joel 2:28-29, the Lord promises that in the last days He “will pour out [His] spirit upon all flesh”.

For illustrative purposes, let’s liken ourselves to a cup. A cup can be placed in a few different positions. You can place it with the opening facing up, sideways, or upside down. My position as a cup is determined by my attitude and actions. Now, if the Lord is going to “pour out” His Spirit upon me, then I want to be “cup up” (like the Lamanites in these chapters) with a good attitude and righteous actions. Sometimes my attitude and actions may be bad (like the Nephites in these chapters), in which case I am “cup down”–not a very good position if the Lord is pouring out His Spirit. Sometimes I may not be doing anything bad, but I am not necessarily doing anything good either (see D&C 58:26-28), in which case I could liken myself to “cup sideways”–also not very conducive to receiving an out-“pouring” of the Spirit of God.

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that our attitude and actions can cause us to withdraw from the Holy Spirit:

“The saving ordinance of baptism must be administered by one who has proper authority from God. The fundamental conditions of the covenant into which we entered in the waters of baptism are these: we witnessed that we were willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, that we would always remember Him, and that we would keep His commandments. The promised blessing for honoring this covenant is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77). In other words, baptism by water leads to the authorized opportunity for the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead.

“Following our baptism, each of us had hands placed upon our head by those with priesthood authority and was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Holy Ghost was conferred upon us (see D&C 49:14). The statement “receive the Holy Ghost” in our confirmation was a directive to strive for the baptism of the Spirit….

“We should also endeavor to discern when we ‘withdraw [ourselves] from the Spirit of the Lord [cup down], that it may have no place in [us] to guide [us] in wisdom’s paths that [we] may be blessed, prospered, and preserved’ (Mosiah 2:36). Precisely because the promised blessing is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us, we should attend to and learn from the choices and influences that separate us from the Holy Spirit.

“The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us” (“That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006).

I invite you to read/listen to/watch Elder Bednar’s entire conference talk so that you can assure yourself that you are living like the righteous Lamanites (“cup up”) in these chapters. His message, along with these chapters, can help you identify what you need to do to be “CUP UP” so that you can “FILL UP” on the Spirit of the Lord.

That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us

Today, I speak by way of reminder and admonition to those of us who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I pray for and invite the Holy Ghost to now assist me and you as we learn together.

Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins “is the introductory ordinance of the gospel” of Jesus Christ and must be preceded by faith in the Savior and by sincere and complete repentance. “Baptism in water … must be followed by baptism of the Spirit in order to be complete” (see Bible Dictionary, “Baptism,” 618). As the Savior taught Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). My message this afternoon focuses on the baptism of the Spirit and the blessings that flow from the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

The Ordinance of and Covenant Associated with Baptism

As each of us was baptized, we entered into a solemn covenant with our Heavenly Father. A covenant is an agreement between God and His children upon the earth, and it is important to understand that God determines the conditions of all gospel covenants. You and I do not decide the nature or elements of a covenant. Rather, exercising our moral agency, we accept the terms and requirements of a covenant as our Eternal Father has established them (see Bible Dictionary, “Covenant,” 651).

The saving ordinance of baptism must be administered by one who has proper authority from God. The fundamental conditions of the covenant into which we entered in the waters of baptism are these: we witnessed that we were willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, that we would always remember Him, and that we would keep His commandments. The promised blessing for honoring this covenant is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77). In other words, baptism by water leads to the authorized opportunity for the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead.

Confirmation and the Baptism of the Spirit

Following our baptism, each of us had hands placed upon our head by those with priesthood authority and was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Holy Ghost was conferred upon us (see D&C 49:14). The statement “receive the Holy Ghost” in our confirmation was a directive to strive for the baptism of the Spirit.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (History of the Church, 5:499). We were baptized by immersion in water for the remission of sins. We must also be baptized by and immersed in the Spirit of the Lord, “and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne. 31:17).

As we gain experience with the Holy Ghost, we learn that the intensity with which we feel the Spirit’s influence is not always the same. Strong, dramatic spiritual impressions do not come to us frequently. Even as we strive to be faithful and obedient, there simply are times when the direction, assurance, and peace of the Spirit are not readily recognizable in our lives. In fact, the Book of Mormon describes faithful Lamanites who “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Ne. 9:20).

The influence of the Holy Ghost is described in the scriptures as “a still small voice” (1 Kgs. 19:12; see also 3 Ne. 11:3) and a “voice of perfect mildness” (Hel. 5:30). Thus, the Spirit of the Lord usually communicates with us in ways that are quiet, delicate, and subtle.

Withdrawing Ourselves from the Spirit of the Lord

In our individual study and classroom instruction, we repeatedly emphasize the importance of recognizing the inspiration and promptings we receive from the Spirit of the Lord. And such an approach is correct and useful. We should seek diligently to recognize and respond to promptings as they come to us. However, an important aspect of baptism by the Spirit may frequently be overlooked in our spiritual development.

We should also endeavor to discern when we “withdraw [ourselves] from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in [us] to guide [us] in wisdom’s paths that [we] may be blessed, prospered, and preserved” (Mosiah 2:36). Precisely because the promised blessing is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us, we should attend to and learn from the choices and influences that separate us from the Holy Spirit.

The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us.

I recognize we are fallen men and women living in a mortal world and that we might not have the presence of the Holy Ghost with us every second of every minute of every hour of every day. However, the Holy Ghost can tarry with us much, if not most, of the time—and certainly the Spirit can be with us more than it is not with us. As we become ever more immersed in the Spirit of the Lord, we should strive to recognize impressions when they come and the influences or events that cause us to withdraw ourselves from the Holy Ghost.

Taking “the Holy Spirit for [our] guide” (D&C 45:57) is possible and is essential for our spiritual growth and survival in an increasingly wicked world. Sometimes as Latter-day Saints we talk and act as though recognizing the influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives is the rare or exceptional event. We should remember, however, that the covenant promise is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us. This supernal blessing applies to every single member of the Church who has been baptized, confirmed, and instructed to “receive the Holy Ghost.”

The Liahona as a Type and Shadow for Our Day

In our day the Book of Mormon is the primary source to which we should turn for help in learning how to invite the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. The description in the Book of Mormon of the Liahona, the director or compass used by Lehi and his family in their journey in the wilderness, specifically was included in the record as a type and a shadow for our day and as an essential lesson about what we should do to enjoy the blessings of the Holy Ghost.

As we strive to align our attitudes and actions with righteousness, then the Holy Ghost becomes for us today what the Liahona was for Lehi and his family in their day. The very factors that caused the Liahona to work for Lehi will likewise invite the Holy Ghost into our lives. And the very factors that caused the Liahona not to work anciently will likewise cause us to withdraw ourselves from the Holy Ghost today.

The Liahona: Purposes and Principles

As we study and ponder the purposes of the Liahona and the principles by which it operated, I testify that we will receive inspiration suited to our individual and family circumstances and needs. We can and will be blessed with ongoing direction from the Holy Ghost.

The Liahona was prepared by the Lord and given to Lehi and his family after they left Jerusalem and were traveling in the wilderness (see Alma 37:38; D&C 17:1). This compass or director pointed the way that Lehi and his caravan should go (see 1 Ne. 16:10), even “a straight course to the promised land” (Alma 37:44). The pointers in the Liahona operated “according to the faith and diligence and heed” (1 Ne. 16:28) of the travelers and failed to work when family members were contentious, rude, slothful, or forgetful (see 1 Ne. 18:12, 21; Alma 37:41, 43).

The compass also provided a means whereby Lehi and his family could obtain greater “understanding concerning the ways of the Lord” (1 Ne. 16:29). Thus, the primary purposes of the Liahona were to provide both direction and instruction during a long and demanding journey. The director was a physical instrument that served as an outward indicator of their inner spiritual standing before God. It worked according to the principles of faith and diligence.

Just as Lehi was blessed in ancient times, each of us in this day has been given a spiritual compass that can direct and instruct us during our mortal journey. The Holy Ghost was conferred upon you and me as we came out of the world and into the Savior’s Church through baptism and confirmation. By the authority of the holy priesthood we were confirmed as members of the Church and admonished to seek for the constant companionship of “the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17).

As we each press forward along the pathway of life, we receive direction from the Holy Ghost just as Lehi was directed through the Liahona. “For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Ne. 32:5).

The Holy Ghost operates in our lives precisely as the Liahona did for Lehi and his family, according to our faith and diligence and heed.

“Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God. …

“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth” (D&C 121:45–46).

And the Holy Ghost provides for us today the means whereby we can receive, “by small and simple things” (Alma 37:6), increased understanding about the ways of the Lord: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).

The Spirit of the Lord can be our guide and will bless us with direction, instruction, and spiritual protection during our mortal journey. We invite the Holy Ghost into our lives through meaningful personal and family prayer, feasting upon the words of Christ, diligent and exacting obedience, faithfulness and honoring of covenants, and through virtue, humility, and service. And we steadfastly should avoid things that are immodest, coarse, crude, sinful, or evil that cause us to withdraw ourselves from the Holy Ghost.

We also invite the ongoing companionship of the Holy Ghost as we worthily partake of the sacrament each Sabbath day: “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day” (D&C 59:9).

Through the ordinance of the sacrament we renew our baptismal covenant and can receive and retain a remission of our sins (see Mosiah 4:12, 26). In addition, we are reminded on a weekly basis of the promise that we may always have His Spirit to be with us. As we then strive to keep ourselves clean and unspotted from the world, we become worthy vessels in whom the Spirit of the Lord can always dwell.

In February of 1847 the Prophet Joseph Smith appeared to Brigham Young in a dream or vision. President Young asked the Prophet if he had a message for the Brethren. The Prophet Joseph replied: “Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom” (see Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [1997], 41; emphasis added). Of all the truths the Prophet Joseph might have taught Brigham Young on that sacred occasion, he emphasized the importance of obtaining and keeping the Spirit of the Lord.

My beloved brothers and sisters, I testify of the living reality of God the Eternal Father and of His Son, Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost. May each of us so live that we may always have His Spirit to be with us and thereby qualify for the blessings of direction, instruction, and protection that are essential in these latter days. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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#BOMTC Helaman 4-5: “They Cannot Fall”

The Youth Theme from 2013, “Stand Ye In Holy Places, and Be Not Moved” (D&C 87:8), seemed to be illustrated very well in these chapters of the Book of Mormon.

After Helaman died, the pride and contention among the Nephites caused many Nephites to join the Lamanites.

The majority of the Nephites became wicked. Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, devoted themselves to preaching the word of God. Their father, Helaman, the son of Helaman, had taught them to remember their Redeemer and to make Him the foundation of their lives (Helaman 5:12).

After teaching the Nephites, Nephi and Lehi went to preach among the Lamanites. The Lamanites cast them into prison. The Lord miraculously delivered Nephi and Lehi, and as a result the majority of the Lamanites repented of their sins and converted to the gospel.

President Spencer W. Kimball said:

When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be remember. Because all of you have made covenants—you know what to do and you know how to do it—our greatest need is to remember” (“Circles of Exaltation” [address to Church Educational System religious educators, June 28, 1968], 5).

In Helaman 5, we see some very important things that we are to “remember”. Verse 12 is the final and perhaps the best recognized “remember” statement of the chapter.

President Spencer W. Kimball also taught:

We, too, are faced with powerful, destructive forces unleashed by the adversary. Waves of sin, wickedness, immorality, degradation, tyranny, deceitfulness, conspiracy, and dishonesty threaten all of us. They come with great power and speed and will destroy us if we are not watchful. But a warning is sounded for us. It behooves us to be alert and to listen and flee from the evil for our eternal lives. Without help we cannot stand against it. We must flee to high ground or cling fast to that which can keep us from being swept away. That to which we must cling for safety is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is our protection from whatever force the evil one can muster. (“Hold Fast to the Iron Rod,” Ensign, Nov. 1978).

And the Lord’s promise in Helaman 5:12 is sure, “it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (emphasis added)

CANNOT FALL“–what a great promise! Why can’t someone fall off of the “rock of the redeemer”? Well, Moses 7:53 says, “I am Messiah, the King of Zion, the Rock of Heaven, which is broad as eternity; whoso cometh in at the gate and climbeth up by me shall never fall”.  (emphasis added)

It is pretty much impossible to fall off of a rock that is “broad as eternity”. I guess that is another good reason as to why the “wise man” did not get washed away in Matthew 7:24-27! Standing in holy places and being not moved is part of building on the “rock of our Redeemer”.

Helaman 5:12–Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “I Have A Question!”

“A firm foundation? The sure way? ‘It is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God’ that every one of us, young or old alike, must build. Why? To what end? ‘That when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you [and your students and your society and your own hopes and dreams, he, the devil], shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.’

“That strength, brothers and sisters, undergirds our position on every question of doctrine, history, or Church practice that can and often does arise as the work unfolds. You have heard those questions. They are not new. They first arose in the neighborhood of Palmyra when the 14-year-old Joseph first reported his heavenly vision, and they continue in one form or another to the present day. We have recently addressed a dozen or so of these issues in a series of essays, desiring to be both accurate and transparent within the framework of faith. Not all gospel questions have answers—yet—but they will come.

“In the meantime, I have a question. What conceivable historical or doctrinal or procedural issue that may arise among any group could ever overshadow or negate one’s consuming spiritual conviction regarding the Father’s merciful plan of salvation; His Only Begotten Son’s birth, mission, Atonement, and Resurrection; the reality of the First Vision; the restoration of the priesthood; the receipt of divine revelation, both personally and institutionally; the soul-shaping spirit and moving power of the Book of Mormon; the awe and majesty of the temple endowment; one’s own personal experience with true miracles; and on and on and on? Talk about a question! It is a mystery to me how those majestic, eternal, first-level truths so central to the grandeur of the whole gospel message can be set aside or completely dismissed by some in favor of obsessing over second- or third- or fourth-level pieces of that whole. To me, this is, in words attributed to Edith Wharton, truly being trapped in ‘the thick of thin things.'” (From, “Be Not Afraid, Only Believe,” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland • Address to CES Religious Educators • February 6, 2015. ~~FOR THE COMPLETE TALK, CLICK HERE)

Interestingly, the account of Nephi and Lehi being freed from the Lamanite prison follows these memorable “remembers” at the beginning of Helaman 5. As you think of their experience, consider how they were able to stand in holy places and build on the rock of our Redeemer even as they stood in the Lamanite prison. Their experience brings a whole new dimension to the thoughts that I have previously shared.

I hope  you will take some time to ponder their deliverance and consider how these principles are illustrated. You and I may will face similar challenges, but we will also be delivered as we build upon the rock of our Redeemer by standing in holy places, and being not moved!

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#BOMTC Alma 62-63: “All These Things Were Done”

Captain Moroni brought a portion of his army to  Zarahemla to help Pahoran overthrow the king-men—Nephite dissenters who wanted to establish a king and enter into an alliance with the Lamanites. Moroni and Pahoran united their forces and received help from other Nephite armies to drive the Lamanites out of the land. During this time many Lamanites repented and joined the people of Ammon. After 14 years of war, the Nephites again had peace in the land, allowing Helaman and his brethren to focus on building up the Church.

After Helaman died (see Alma 62:52), his brother Shiblon took possession of the sacred records. Before he died, Shiblon gave Helaman, who was the son of Helaman, charge of the sacred records. Helaman preserved the records that were already written and began keeping the record that would become the book of Helaman. Captain Moroni died, and his son Moronihah led an army that drove back another Lamanite attack. Many Nephites, led by a man named Hagoth, traveled by ship to lands northward and were never heard from again.

F.Y.I., Alma 63:4–10

Hagoth and his descendants

Where have Latter-day prophets said that Hagoth’s people settled?

  • To Saints in New Zealand, President Joseph F. Smith said, “You brothers and sisters from New Zealand, I want you to know that you are from the people of Hagoth” (quoted by Spencer W. Kimball in Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3 [1991], 329).
  • In the dedicatory prayer for the Hamilton New Zealand Temple, President David O. McKay said, “We express gratitude that to these fertile Islands Thou didst guide descendants of Father Lehi, and hast enabled them to prosper” (“Dedicatory Prayer Delivered by Pres. McKay at New Zealand Temple,” Church News, May 10, 1958, 2).
  • President Spencer W. Kimball said: “It is reasonable to conclude that Hagoth and his associates were about nineteen centuries on the islands, from about 55 B.C. to 1854 before the gospel began to reach them. They had lost all the plain and precious things which the Savior brought to the earth, for they were likely on the islands when the Christ was born in Jerusalem” (Temple View Area Conference Report, February 1976, 3; quoted in Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 3, 329).

Another interesting article on this can be found at: Robert E. Parsons, “Hagoth and the Polynesians,” in The Book of Mormon: Alma, The Testimony of the Word, eds. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr., (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1992), 249–262.

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