Tag Archives: Judges

#BOMTC Day 61, June 6~Helaman 8-10 or Pages 387-392: The Power of Prophets

Click graphic to read Helaman 8-10

Click graphic to read Helaman 8-10

Today’s post is a video post. The following three segments are a visual overview of what we studied in Helaman 8-10.

Nephi Prays for His People

The prophet Nephi prophesied that if the Nephites continued to live in wickedness, they would perish. Nephi reminded the people of prophet after prophet who had testified of Jesus Christ. He taught the Nephites that as we exercise faith in Jesus Christ and are obedient, we will receive eternal life. Despite the multitude of prophets whose teachings confirmed Nephi’s words, corrupt judges stirred many of the people up to anger against Nephi, while some people boldly defended the prophet. (5:44)

Nephi Prophesies of the Death of Chief Judge

Nephi taught that the people who rejected his witness also rejected the testimonies of all the prophets who had come before him, all of whom had testified of Jesus Christ. As a testament that the people were in a sinful state and that what he told them about their destruction would be fulfilled, Nephi revealed that the Nephites’ chief judge had been murdered by his brother. Nephi also declared that both the murdered man and his brother were members of the Gadianton robbers. (2:18)

Nephi Proves His Innocence

After the trial concluded for the murder of the chief judge and Nephi’s words were verified, some of the people accepted him as a prophet. (6:53)

The trial to determine who murdered the chief judge ended when Nephi’s revelation about the murderer was confirmed. After being cleared of the murder of the chief judge, Nephi found that the people did not respond in faith and repent.

Having escaped punishment from the false accusations that had been directed at him, Nephi began to walk home feeling discouraged. As he began to return home, Nephi pondered what the Lord had shown him and also worried about the wickedness of the people. In his moment of discouragement, the Lord spoke to him and blessed him forever with the sealing power. This blessing is a central doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sealing power binds and looses on earth and in heaven.

Finally, the Lord commanded Nephi to continue preaching repentance to the Nephites–a command that Nephi immediately obeyed.

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#BOMTC Day 38, May 14~Alma 10-11 or Pages 231-237: A TESTimony from A[mulek] to Z[eezrom]

Click on graphic to read Alma 10-11

Click on graphic to read Alma 10-11

After Alma taught in the cities of Zarahemla, Gideon, and Melek and had many people accept his message, the people in Ammonihah rejected his teaching and cast him out of their city. However, obedient to the Lord’s command, Alma returned to Ammonihah.

The Lord prepared Amulek, a native of Ammonihah, to receive Alma and join him in testifying to the people. Alma and Amulek warned the people of Ammonihah that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed. Amulek faithfully obeyed God and used his reputation, good name, and influence to support the prophet Alma and testify of Jesus Christ.

Alma and Amulek had little success preaching to the people of Ammonihah because Satan had a, “great hold upon the hearts of the people” (see Alma 8:9). Many of them had hardened their hearts against the gospel, and they resisted Alma and Amulek’s invitation to repent. Nevertheless, Alma and Amulek faithfully called them to repentance, testifying that because they had been taught the truth and had experienced the power of God, the Lord expected them to be more righteous than the Lamanites, who had not been taught the truth. Alma and Amulek taught that if the people of Ammonihah would not repent, they would face destruction. They also taught the people that redemption was possible only through Jesus Christ.

After Alma addressed the people, they were angry and wanted to cast him into prison. Amulek bravely addressed the people and added his witness to Alma’s (see Alma 9:31–34). Amulek was a descendant of Nephi. He was a hardworking man who had built substantial wealth. He was also well known and was “of no small reputation” among his many family members and friends (see Alma 10:4).

As Alma and Amulek continued to teach the people of Ammonihah, a lawyer named Zeezrom offered Amulek money to deny the existence of the true and living God. As he defended his faith against Zeezrom’s attempts to ensnare him, Amulek testified that salvation from sin comes only through Jesus Christ. Amulek bore strong testimony that all mankind will be resurrected and judged by God. Amulek also testified that all mankind will be resurrected and will be brought to “be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit” on the Day of Judgment (Alma 11:44).

I found the following illustration from the More Good Foundation very relevant and applicable to today’s reading:

Some people want to learn about the Church, but not from the Church. It’s not hard to believe. When shopping on Amazon.com, do you pay more attention to the publisher’s review or the users’ reviews? Do you shop for the best-in-class car by researching Ford.com or a user forum that discusses all makes and models?

In the book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath call this concept an appeal to “antiauthorities” (or non-authorities): “A citizen of the modern world, constantly inundated with messages, learns to develop skepticism about the sources of those messages. Who’s behind these messages? Should I trust them? What do they have to gain if I believe them? A commercial claiming that a new shampoo makes your hair bouncier has less credibility than hearing your best friend rave about how a new shampoo made her own hair bouncier. Well, duh. The company wants to sell you shampoo. Your friend doesn’t, so she gets more trust points. The takeaway is that it can be the honesty and trustworthiness of our sources, not their status, that allows them to act as authorities. Sometimes antiauthorities are even better than authorities.” (Made to Stick, pp. 136-37)

Church members can bring credibility to the Church by raising this “antiauthority” (or “non-authoritative”) voice.

Amulek was a non-authority for the prophet Alma. Because Amulek was well known in his community, when he added his testimony to the words of the prophet, the people believed: “I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindreds and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industryI know that the things whereof [Alma] hath testified are true… And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified…” (Alma 10:4,10,12)

The following is a great article from Elder Dean L. Larsen from the book, Heroes from the Book of Mormon. 

Zeezrom does not rank among the great prophet leaders in the Book of Mormon, but his story is one of the fascinating sidebars to the lives of the principal characters in the Nephite record. He appears on the historical scene during a time of great challenge to the Church and to the stability of the government among the Nephite people.

During the closing years of King Mosiah’s life, a significant alteration occurs in the government. Frustrated in his attempts to install one of his sons as his successor, Mosiah implements a system of judges to govern the people. These judges are elected by popular vote. A chief judge is appointed as the presiding figure in this new system. Alma the Younger is chosen to fill this role, in addition to his responsibilities as the head of the Church.

Alma is soon faced with troubles in the Church, as the people begin “to wax proud” (Alma 4:6). As a result of this pride, the unity of the Nephite people begins to dissolve. In this crisis Alma is faced with a critical decision. He resigns as the chief judge of the land and determines to focus his full energies upon bringing about a spiritual renewal among the people.

Launching into his committed course with full energy and faith, Alma visits the cities and villages of the land, counseling the people and calling them to repentance. In due time his mission takes him to the city of Ammonihah, where he finds the people in almost total rebellion.

After experiencing ridicule and total rejection, Alma is finallycast out of the city. The Lord, however, directs Alma to return to Ammonihah and guides him to Amulek, a prominent citizen, who accepts Alma as a prophet. Together, the two go among the people, preaching repentance and warning of the direful consequences that will come to the inhabitants if they persist in their willful disobedience.

It is in this scenario that Zeezrom appears. While the description of conditions in Ammonihah is not given in great detail, it is not difficult to fill in the pieces of the political, moral, and social mosaic from the recorded account. Corruption and dishonesty in official circles have become endemic. Grasping for material riches, the people have clamored to gain advantage one over another. Judges have become corrupt, susceptible to bribes and yielding advantage to those who can show favors.

This litigious environment has spawned the need for many of those who can plead cases successfully before the courts. Numerous lawyers have emerged, skilled not only in the law but also in exploiting the devious legal system for the potential benefit of themselves and their clients.

It is a group of these lawyers that confront Alma and Amulek. Undoubtedly they hold some hope of profiting from feeding the controversy that has developed from the preaching of the two men. Additionally, lawyers, nimble of speech, are thought to have the best prospect of confounding the Lord’s servants.

It is significant that Zeezrom presents himself as the chief spokesman for these legalists. “Now he was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business to do among the people” (Alma 10:31).

We learn much about Zeezrom from this capsule profile. Not only is he acknowledged by his peers as one of the leaders in his craft, he is well known among the people generally, and apparently is one of the foremost to whom they look for legal assistance. This would indicate that he also has a comfortable relationship with the judges in the city.

The account of the dialogue between Zeezrom and Alma and Amulek in the eleventh chapter of the book of Alma provides additional insight into Zeezrom’s worldly self-assurance. He has an audience to play to, and he intends, with his practiced sophistry and cunning, to make a game of his denegration of the two missionaries. After all, the audience is completely prejudiced in his favor, and he relishes the opportunity to add to his reputation among his peers. His questions to Alma and Amulek reflect his courtroom skills. They are designed for entrapment.

Zeezrom, however, is completely unaccustomed to dealing with those who have the spirit of inspiration and revelation working in their favor. His motives are transparent to Alma and Amulek.

Zeezrom’s offer to pay the missionaries six onties of silver if they will deny that there is a Supreme Being exposes his conviction that everyone is as corruptible as himself. It is a revealing demonstration of the debauched condition into which the people have fallen. Zeezrom obviously expects no disapproval from his fellow lawyers or the people for his proffered bribe. It is a practice to which they are accustomed.

It is when Zeezrom’s scheming is powerfully rebuffed by Amulek, and Amulek begins to testify of basic gospel truths, that Zeezrom senses something different about these two men. His arrogant self-confidence begins to falter. “Now, when Amulek had finished these words the people began again to be astonished, and also Zeezrom began to tremble” (Alma 11:46).

Alma, sensing that the power of the Spirit has begun to work upon the heart of Zeezrom and upon some of his listeners, takes up the attack that Amulek has begun:

Now the words that Alma spake unto Zeezrom were heard by the people round about; for the multitude was great, and he spake on this wise:

Now Zeezrom, seeing that thou hast been taken in thy lying and craftiness, for thou hast not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit;

And thou seest that we know that thy plan was a very subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil, for to lie and to deceive this people that thou mightest set them against us, to revile us and to cast us out-

Now this was a plan of thine adversary, and he hath exercised his power in thee. (Alma 12:2-5.)

The effect of Alma’s rebuke upon Zeezrom is dramatic:

Now when Alma had spoken these words, Zeezrom began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and he was also convinced that Alma and Amulek had a knowledge of him, for he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart (Alma 12:7).

It is at this point that a remarkable change begins to take place in the demeanor of Zeezrom. He becomes the earnest inquirer-the learner. The change is the more remarkable because it occurs in the presence and full view of the people to whom he has been appealing with his inquisition. “And Zeezrom began to inquire of them diligently, that he might know more concerning the kingdom of God” (Alma 12:8).

We must pause at this point in our consideration of Zeezrom’s situation to ask ourselves the question, why was this arrogant, sophisticated demagogue so susceptible to the influence of the Spirit? Other rebels in the Book of Mormon record were similarly confronted by spiritual leaders but persisted in their debauchery. Nehor, although rebuked by Alma, had no change of heart (see Alma 1), nor did Amlici (see Alma 2) or Sherem (see Jacob 7). Korihor stubbornly refused to repent (see Alma 30). What was there in the soul of Zeezrom that pressed him toward such a remarkable change?

The answers to some of these questions must be left to speculation.

It is interesting, however, to contemplate the abrupt changes that occurred in the lives of others who had initially been enemies to the Lord’s work and his people, and who reversed their life’s course to become champions of the gospel plan. Alma himself, along with the sons of King Mosiah, underwent such a redirection. Ammon, Mosiah’s son, when reflecting upon the remarkable missionary successes that he, Aaron, Omner, Himni, and their brethren had enjoyed among the Lamanite people over a fourteen-year period of unusual hardship and sacrifice, recalls the days of their rebellion: “Behold, we went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his [the Lord’s] church” (Alma 26:18). He then wonders, “Oh then, why did he not consign us to an awful destruction, yea, why did he not let the sword of his justice fall upon us, and doom us to eternal despair?” (Alma 26:19.)

Why, indeed?

Anti-Nephi-Lehi, the converted Lamanite king, acknowledges his dark past when he persuades his people to willingly lay down their lives rather than resist the threatened onslaught by their unconverted brethren: “And behold, I also thank my God, that we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed” (Alma 24:9).

It appears that the “light that shineth in a dark place” to which Peter referred (2 Pet. 1:19) is difficult to extinguish completely in the souls of men. For those who have basked in that light and then have willfully turned against it, the regeneration process appears to be more difficult and unlikely. Such seems to have been the case with Sherem, who confessed before he died, “I fear lest I have committed the unpardonable sin, for I have lied unto God; for I denied the Christ, and said that I believed the scriptures; and they truly testify of him” (Jacob 7:19).

An important lesson seems to emerge from the experiences of Zeezrom and the other repentant transgressors who have been mentioned. It is never safe for us to judge a person to be beyond the reach of the Lord’s merciful hand. Even those whose lives have been tainted by corruption and apparent rebellion against the things of God can, through sincere repentance, become forces for great good in the accomplishment of the Lord’s purposes.

We do know that Zeezrom’s life was dramatically redirected. It appears that in spite of his having yielded to the influence of the environment in which he had gained notoriety, a spark of spiritual light must have endured in his soul. While some of those who listen to the exchange between Zeezrom and the missionaries react in a positive way, the majority are angry and are determined to destroy Alma and Amulek. A mob spirit inflames them. They bind the two men with strong cords and take them before the chief judge, where the men are accused of reviling against the law and against the people of the land.

In the midst of this turmoil, Zeezrom attempts to come to the defense of Alma and Amulek:

And it came to pass that Zeezrom was astonished at the words which had been spoken; and he also knew concerning the blindness of the minds, which he had caused among the people by his lying words; and his soul began to be harrowed up under aconsciousness of his own guilt; yea, he began to be encircled about by the pains of hell.

And it came to pass that he began to cry unto the people, saying: Behold, I am guilty, and these men are spotless before God. And he began to plead for them from that time forth; but they reviled him, saying: Art thou also possessed with the devil? And they spit upon him, and cast him out from among them. (Alma 14:6-7.)

It is apparent that in attempting to stop the destruction of Alma and Amulek, Zeezrom risks his own life. The fury of the mob turns in some measure upon him. They cast him out from among them, casting out as well all those who believe in the words of Alma and Amulek. They then gather together the wives and children of the believers and cause them to be burned, along with their sacred records. It is not difficult to imagine the agony that fills Zeezrom’s soul as he witnesses the holocaust that his taunting has precipitated.

Along with the other believers who have been cast out of Ammonihah, Zeezrom finds refuge among the people of Sidom. He is found there by Alma and Amulek, who barely escaped from the city with their lives after the Lord miraculously delivered them from the hands of their tormentors. Undoubtedly the two missionaries had witnessed the futile attempt of their former antagonist to quell the wrath of the mob. They find him in dire circumstances:

Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat. (Alma 15:3.)

When Zeezrom learns that Alma and Amulek have made their escape and are in Sidom, he pleads for them to come to him. The two companions respond immediately. With a profoundly repentant spirit, Zeezrom begs Alma and Amulek to heal him. This request in itself is reflective of the faith that has begun to take root in Zeezrom’s heart.

And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?

And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.

And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ. (Alma 15:6-7, 10.)

Alma’s administration is instantly effective. Zeezrom leaps to his feet, healed not only physically but spiritually as well. The report of this incident is spread throughout Sidom.

One cannot reflect upon this episode without recalling the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in New Testament times. Saul, who had been a tormentor of the Christians and had condoned Stephen’s martyrdom (see Acts 8:1), requires a similarly dramatic conversion experience. His sightlessness is healed under the hands of Ananias. He is brought to a recognition and acknowledgement of his folly in attempting to thwart the Lord’s work. In a flood of repentant anguish he makes a dramatic reversal in the course of his life. His fervor and energy are redirected to promulgate and sustain the work he has previously sought to destroy.

So it is with Zeezrom. He is baptized by Alma, and, just as was the case with Paul, he immediately begins to preach among the people, later becoming a trusted companion of Alma and Amulek. It is perhaps not adding too much to reality to suppose that Zeezrom’s healing, his conversion, and his testifying of Christ contribute much to the missionary success enjoyed by these three servants of the Lord. The record tells us that the people “did flock in from all the region round about Sidom, and were baptized” (Alma 15:14).

That Zeezrom proves himself in the eyes of his mentor, Alma, is confirmed by the fact that he regularly appears in the accounts of Alma’s ministry as one of his most trusted and reliable companions and fellow servants. Years after the events in Ammonihah and Sidom, when Alma undertakes one of the most difficult challenges of his life’s ministry-the conversion of the Zoramites-Zeezrom is chosen along with Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Amulek, and two of Alma’s sons to be a part of this seasoned missionary force (see Alma 31:6).

That some of Zeezrom’s testimony and teachings find their way into the permanent Nephite record is confirmed in the book of Helaman. Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, are engaged in a missionary effort among the Lamanites. They are captured and imprisoned by those they have sought to convert. In a miraculous manifestation of the Lord’s power, Nephi and Lehi are encircled by a fire that preserves rather than consumes them. The Lamanites are frozen in wonderment at this spectacle. They become overshadowed by a cloud of darkness, and a voice commands them to repent. They then see Nephi and Lehi conversing with angels. Aminadab, a Nephite dissenter who had once been a believer, seizes this moment to confirm that these miracles are occurring through the Lord’s power. He cries to those who are witnessing this event, “You must repent, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom” (Hel. 5:41).

Perhaps the most convincing evidence we have of the love and esteem that Zeezrom comes to enjoy among his fellow Christians is that one of the principal Nephite cities is given his name (see Alma 56:14).

Much can be learned from the story of Zeezrom: the tragedy of corruption among a people who reject Christ and sacrifice moral principle to pride and self-interest; the anguish and torment that sin produces in an individual life.

Perhaps the most significant lesson to be learned from Zeezrom’s experience is that the redeeming power of Christ’s love can bring about the miracle of spiritual regeneration in the vilest of sinners when they fully turn to the Savior and give themselves to the accomplishment of His purposes. In Zeezrom’s story, all of us who are imperfect find hope for forgiveness, and hope in reaffirmation of the Savior’s infinite love for those who reject evil and give their hearts to Him. (Heroes from the Book of Mormon, p.112-120.)

ON THIS DAY IN 1829: Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph Smith translated the account of the appearance of the resurrected Savior in 3 Nephi 11 in the Book of Mormon.

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#BOMTC Day 34, May 10~Mosiah 28-Alma 1 or Pages 203-209: New Beginnings!

Click on graphic to read Mosiah 28-Alma 1

Click on graphic to read Mosiah 28-Alma 1

These chapters are filled with new beginnings that can teach us great lessons. Consider some of the principles that can be learned from the following events:

  • Having been truly converted, the sons of King Mosiah felt a strong desire to preach the gospel to the Lamanites (Mosiah 27:32-28:5).
  • After inquiring of the Lord and receiving an assurance that they would be blessed with success and protection, King Mosiah supported their decision (Mosiah 28:6-9).
  • Because his sons had declined the opportunity to be king, he was then left without a successor to his throne and a caretaker for the scriptural records. At this same time, Mosiah was working to care for the sacred records that had been entrusted to him. He translated the Jaredite records and then conferred all the records upon Alma the Younger (Mosiah 28:10-20).
  • Instead of appointing another king, King Mosiah proposed that the Nephite government be administered by a system of judges (Mosiah 29). Alma was appointed the first chief judge (he was also the high priest over the church) (Mosiah 29:39-44).

#BOMTC Day 34, May 10~Mosiah 28-Alma 1 or Pages 203-209 (3)

Shortly after Alma became the chief judge, Nehor established himself as a preacher and spoke out against the Church and its doctrines. He convinced many to believe him and give him money. When he killed Gideon, a faithful member of the Church, he was brought before Alma to be judged. Finding Nehor guilty of priestcraft and of trying to enforce it by the sword, Alma sentenced Nehor to death.

Here are some lessons from the new beginnings of the sons of King Mosiah, the Nephite people, and Alma the Younger: 

Mosiah 28: As our conversion deepens, our desire to share the gospel increases.

The intensity of our desire to share the gospel is a great indicator of the extent of our personal conversion” (“Sharing the Gospel,” Ensign, Nov. 2001).

The key to successful member missionary work is the exercise of faith. One way to show your faith in the Lord and His promises is to prayerfully set a date to have someone prepared to meet with the missionaries. I have received hundreds of letters from members who have exercised their faith in this simple way. Even though families had no one in mind with whom they could share the gospel, they set a date, prayed, and then talked to many more people. The Lord is the Good Shepherd, and He knows His sheep who have been prepared to hear His voice. He will guide us as we seek His divine help in sharing His gospel” (“Creating a Gospel-Sharing Home,” Ensign, May 2006).

  • On another occasion Elder Ballard taught us how we can easily prepare and share the gospel:

There is a great need for clear, simple statements that present those who are curious with the basics about the Church as it is today. Prepare your own list of talking points that will assist you in explaining what we believe to your friends of other faiths. Have on one page a few facts about the Church as it is today to give to them along with a copy of the Articles of Faith.  The four main subjects deal with facts, faith, families, and fruits of the restored gospel.  Most people will not read or focus on more than just a few important facts at one time. Whatever you choose to use to inform your friends and acquaintances about the Church, write it down, check it for accuracy, and keep it simple and short. The growing prominence of the Church and the increasing inquiries from others present us with great opportunities to build bridges, make friends, and pass on accurate information. But it can also present a greater possibility of misunderstanding and sometimes even prejudice if we allow others to define who we are and what we believe rather than presenting it ourselves. Sometimes the best way to answer people’s interest can be by how we live.  Now is the time for all of us to reach out and tell others who we are. Prepare some simple facts and help those who are curious to know a little about the Church and then to want to know more about the Restoration of the gospel. Never hesitate to bear your testimony with sincerity and love. The power of personal testimony cannot be denied and often ignites in others the interest to know more.” (Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Faith, Family, Facts, and Fruits”, Ensign, Nov. 2007)

Book of Mormon Share

Mosiah 29: Each person has a duty to uphold righteous laws and leaders.

The history of the people of ancient America, recorded in the Book of Mormon, teaches that civilizations are built on moral foundations; that when people are morally strong, they do well; that when they are morally weak, they suffer. It teaches us that freedom cannot outlive morality and that freedom is not free—it must be earned” (Ensign, May 1981).

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” “The three significant words used in the 12th Article of Faith,” commented President David O. McKay, “express the proper attitude of the membership of the Church toward law. These words are—obey, honor, and sustain. The Article does not say we believe in submission to the law. Obedience implies a higher attitude than mere submission, for obedience has its root in good intent; submission may spring from selfishness or meanness of spirit. Though obedience and submission both imply restraint on one’s own will, we are obedient only from a sense of right; submissive from a sense of necessity. Honor expresses an act or attitude of an inferior towards a superior. When applied to things it is taken in the sense of holding in honor. Thus, in honoring the law, we look upon it as something which is above selfish desires or indulgences. To sustain signifies to hold up; to keep from falling. To sustain the law, therefore, is to refrain from saying or doing anything which will weaken it or make it ineffective. We obey law from a sense of right. We honor law because of its necessity and strength to society. We sustain law by keeping it in good repute.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1937, p. 28.)

A question has many times been asked of the Church and of its individual members, to this effect: In the case of a conflict between the requirements made by the revealed word of God, and those imposed by the secular law, which of these authorities would the members of the Church be bound to obey? In answer, the words of Christ may be applied—it is the duty of the people to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s [see D&C 63:26; Matthew 22:21]. At the present time the kingdom of heaven as an earthly power, with a reigning King exercising direct and personal authority in temporal matters, has not been established upon the earth. The branches of the Church as such, and the members composing the same, are subjects of the several governments within whose separate realms the Church organizations exist. In this day of comparative enlightenment and freedom there is still cause for expecting any direct interference with the rights of private worship and individual devotion; in all civilized nations the people are accorded the right to pray, and this right is assured by what may be properly called a common law of humankind. No earnest soul is cut off from communion with his God; and with such an open channel of communication, relief from burdensome laws and redress from grievances may be sought from the power that holds control of nations.” (Articles of Faith, pp. 422–23.)

There are many who question the constitutionality of certain acts passed by their respective governments, even though such laws have been established by the highest courts in the land as being constitutional, and they feel to defy and disobey the law. Abraham Lincoln once observed: ‘Bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible; still, while they continue in force, they should be religiously observed.’ This is the attitude of the Church in regard to law observance. … There is no reason or justification for men to disregard or break the law or try to take it into their own hands. It is the duty of citizens of any country to remember that they have individual responsibilities, and that they must operate within the law of the country in which they have chosen to live.” (“The Laws of God”, Ensign, Nov. 1975)

No member of the Church can be accepted as in good standing whose way of life is one of rebellion against the established order of decency and obedience to law. We cannot be in rebellion against the law and be in harmony with the Lord, for he has commanded us to ‘be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign. …’ (D&C 58:22.) And one of these days he is going to come.” (“Our Responsibility as Priesthood Holders,” Ensign, June 1971. The exception to this principle would be when the Lord directs His people through His prophets to take an opposing stand to government. Otherwise they recognize the established authority of government. For more on this subject see, D&C 134 and “Earthly Governments and Laws“.)

Stand for What is Right

Alma 1: When confronted by evil, we must oppose it in God’s way.

How do we respond to such malicious and evil designs? Do we strike back? Allow me to suggest a course of action—one which is in harmony with the teachings of the Savior, and one which, if followed, will be in harmony with the wise counsel of prophets past and present: 1. Avoid those who would tear down your faith. Faith-killers are to be shunned. The seeds which they plant in the minds and hearts of men grow like cancer and eat away the Spirit. True messengers of God are builders—not destroyers. We send our missionaries into the world to teach and to assist people in receiving truth line upon line until the fulness of the gospel is received. (See D&C 98:112.) As one new convert testified: “My previous church provided me the chapter on mortality. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints added two more chapters pertaining to the premortal and postmortal existences.” 2. Keep the commandments. President Brigham Young promised, “All we have to do is to go onward and upward, and keep the commandments of our Father and God; and he will confound our enemies.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957, p. 347.) If we obey holy laws, we will take upon ourselves “the whole armour of God” and we will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (See Eph. 6:11–18.) Moreover, obedience ensures us of the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit. 3. Follow the living prophets, as we have just been admonished. One Church leader taught: “Always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it. … But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” (Heber J. Grant, quoted by Marion G. Romney in Conference Report, Oct. 1960, p. 78.) We walk in uncharted mine fields and place our souls in jeopardy when we receive the teachings of anyone except he that is ordained of God. (See D&C 43:2–7; D&C 52:9.) 4. Do not contend or debate over points of doctrine. The Master warned that “the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil.” (3 Ne. 11:29.) We are inconsistent if we resort to Satanic tactics in attempting to achieve righteous ends. Such inconsistency results only in frustration, loss of the Spirit, and ultimate defeat. Remember, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege.” (Eleventh Article of Faith.) 5. Search the scriptures. Few of us would go astray or lose our way if we regarded the scriptures as our personal guide or compass. (See Alma 37:44.) The iron rod is the word of God, and if held to, we will not fall. 6. Do not be swayed or diverted from the mission of the Church. There are those who would draw you off course and cause you to waste time and energies. Satan used a diversion ploy when he tempted Christ in the wilderness. The Savior’s decisive response, “Get thee hence, Satan” (Matt. 4:10), is a proper example for all of us. 7. Pray for your enemies. Christ said to the Nephites, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” (3 Ne. 12:44; see also Matt. 5:44; 3 Ne. 12:10–12.) While on the cross, the Savior pled, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34.) There are many who are kept from the truth—not because they don’t want it, but because they know not where to find it. 8. Practice “pure religion.” Involve yourself in Christian service. Succor the needs of the sick and poor; visit the fatherless and widows, and be charitable to all whether in the Church or out of the Church. (See James 1:27 and Alma 1:30.) 9. Remember that there may be many questions for which we have no answers and that some things have to be accepted simply on faith. An angel of the Lord asked Adam, “Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?” He answered, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” (Moses 5:6.) There may be times when we are called upon to climb Mount Moriah’s and to sacrifice our Isaac’s without a full and prior explanation. Faith is the first principle of the gospel; it is a principle of progress…. I promise all missionaries—and all members—that if the nine actions just mentioned are followed consistently, victory will be yours and faith and testimony will be preservedAt the same time—1. I assure you that opposition to our cause testifies of its divinity. Would satanic powers combine against us if we were not posing a threat to such powers? 2. I assure you that opposition, if met and overcome, has a refining influence upon our lives. A verse in one of our hymns reads: When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine. (“How Firm a Foundation,” Hymns, no. 66.) The Savior learned obedience by the things which he suffered. (See Heb. 5:8.) Joseph Smith’s oppositions gave him experience and worked for his good. (See D&C 122:7.) 3. I assure you that the waters in which we are wont to swim are but little puddles when compared with the deep rivers of opposition in which the Prophet Joseph and others swam. (See D&C 127:2.) 4. I assure you that our cause is just and it will succeed, regardless of the opposition exerted against us. Earlier Saints were bolstered by these words: “As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.” (D&C 121:33.) President Brigham Young said: “Every time you kick ‘Mormonism’ you kick it upstairs; you never kick it downstairs. The Lord Almighty so orders it.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941, p. 351.) With all my heart I implore those who are walking on the fringes of our faith to seek the safety of the center. This can be done best by counseling with your leaders and remaining within the fellowshipping circle of the Saints, and receiving nourishment from the good word of God. Do not permit faithless people to turn you out of the right way or to put you out of existence. (See Moro. 6.) And I pray for those who deal in the highest form of larceny—that of stripping people of their precious testimonies. Such action, if continued, will lead only to the futility and emptiness of the dream of a night vision. (See 2 Ne. 27:3; Acts 5:33–39.) God help us all in our war against sin. Though our numbers may be few and our dominions small, may we go forward “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory” (1 Ne. 14:14). (“Opposition to the Work of God”, Ensign, Nov. 1981)

ON THIS DAY IN 1829: Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery ran out of supplies during the translation of the Book of Mormon and went to Colesville, New York, to obtain provisions from Joseph Knight Sr.

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#BOMTC Day 61, June 6~Helaman 8-10 or Pages 387-392: The Power of Prophets

Click graphic to read Helaman 8-10

Click graphic to read Helaman 8-10

Today’s post is a video post. The following three segments are a visual overview of what we studied in Helaman 8-10.

Nephi Prays for His People

The prophet Nephi prophesied that if the Nephites continued to live in wickedness, they would perish. Nephi reminded the people of prophet after prophet who had testified of Jesus Christ. He taught the Nephites that as we exercise faith in Jesus Christ and are obedient, we will receive eternal life. Despite the multitude of prophets whose teachings confirmed Nephi’s words, corrupt judges stirred many of the people up to anger against Nephi, while some people boldly defended the prophet. (5:44)

Nephi Prophesies of the Death of Chief Judge

Nephi taught that the people who rejected his witness also rejected the testimonies of all the prophets who had come before him, all of whom had testified of Jesus Christ. As a testament that the people were in a sinful state and that what he told them about their destruction would be fulfilled, Nephi revealed that the Nephites’ chief judge had been murdered by his brother. Nephi also declared that both the murdered man and his brother were members of the Gadianton robbers. (2:18)

Nephi Proves His Innocence

After the trial concluded for the murder of the chief judge and Nephi’s words were verified, some of the people accepted him as a prophet. (6:53)

The trial to determine who murdered the chief judge ended when Nephi’s revelation about the murderer was confirmed. After being cleared of the murder of the chief judge, Nephi found that the people did not respond in faith and repent.

Having escaped punishment from the false accusations that had been directed at him, Nephi began to walk home feeling discouraged. As he began to return home, Nephi pondered what the Lord had shown him and also worried about the wickedness of the people. In his moment of discouragement, the Lord spoke to him and blessed him forever with the sealing power. This blessing is a central doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sealing power binds and looses on earth and in heaven.

Finally, the Lord commanded Nephi to continue preaching repentance to the Nephites–a command that Nephi immediately obeyed.

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#BOMTC Day 38, May 14~Alma 10-11 or Pages 231-237: A TESTimony from A[mulek] to Z[eezrom]

Click on graphic to read Alma 10-11

Click on graphic to read Alma 10-11

After Alma taught in the cities of Zarahemla, Gideon, and Melek and had many people accept his message, the people in Ammonihah rejected his message and cast him out of their city. However, obedient to the Lord’s command, Alma returned to Ammonihah. The Lord prepared Amulek to receive Alma in Ammonihah and join him in testifying to the people. Alma and Amulek warned the people of Ammonihah that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed. Amulek faithfully obeyed God and used his reputation, good name, and influence to support the prophet Alma and testify of Jesus Christ.

Alma and Amulek had little success preaching to the people of Ammonihah because Satan had a, “great hold upon the hearts of the people” (see Alma 8:9). Many of them had hardened their hearts against the gospel, and they resisted Alma and Amulek’s invitation to repent. Nevertheless, Alma and Amulek faithfully called them to repentance, testifying that because they had been taught the truth and had experienced the power of God, the Lord expected them to be more righteous than the Lamanites, who had not been taught the truth. Alma and Amulek taught that if the people of Ammonihah would not repent, they would face destruction. They also taught the people that redemption was possible only through Jesus Christ.

After Alma addressed the people, they were angry and wanted to cast him into prison. Amulek bravely addressed the people and added his witness to Alma’s. (See Alma 9:31–34.) Amulek was a descendant of Nephi. He was a hardworking man who had built substantial wealth. He was also well known and was “of no small reputation” among his many family members and friends (see Alma 10:4).

As Alma and Amulek continued to teach the people of Ammonihah, a lawyer named Zeezrom offered Amulek money to deny the existence of the true and living God. As he defended his faith against Zeezrom’s attempts to ensnare him, Amulek testified that salvation from sin comes only through Jesus Christ. Amulek bore strong testimony that all mankind will be resurrected and judged by God. Amulek also testified that all mankind will be resurrected and will be brought to “be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit” on the Day of Judgment (Alma 11:44).

I found the following illustration from the More Good Foundation very relevant and applicable to today’s reading:

Some people want to learn about the Church, but not from the Church. It’s not hard to believe. When shopping on Amazon.com, do you pay more attention to the publisher’s review or the users’ reviews? Do you shop for the best-in-class car by researching Ford.com or a user forum that discusses all makes and models?

In the book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath call this concept an appeal to “antiauthorities” (or non-authorities):

“A citizen of the modern world, constantly inundated with messages, learns to develop skepticism about the sources of those messages. Who’s behind these messages? Should I trust them? What do they have to gain if I believe them? A commercial claiming that a new shampoo makes your hair bouncier has less credibility than hearing your best friend rave about how a new shampoo made her own hair bouncier. Well, duh. The company wants to sell you shampoo. Your friend doesn’t, so she gets more trust points. The takeaway is that it can be the honesty and trustworthiness of our sources, not their status, that allows them to act as authorities. Sometimes antiauthorities are even better than authorities.” (Made to Stick, pp. 136-37)

Church members can bring credibility to the Church by raising this “antiauthority” (or “non-authoritative”) voice.

Amulek was a non-authority for the prophet Alma. Because Amulek was well known in his community, when he added his testimony to the words of the prophet, the people believed: 

“I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me; yea, and behold, I have many kindreds and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industryI know that the things whereof [Alma] hath testified are true… And now, when Amulek had spoken these words the people began to be astonished, seeing there was more than one witness who testified…” (Alma 10:4,10,12)

The following is a great article from Elder Dean L. Larsen from the book, Heroes from the Book of Mormon. 

Zeezrom does not rank among the great prophet leaders in the Book of Mormon, but his story is one of the fascinating sidebars to the lives of the principal characters in the Nephite record. He appears on the historical scene during a time of great challenge to the Church and to the stability of the government among the Nephite people.

During the closing years of King Mosiah’s life, a significant alteration occurs in the government. Frustrated in his attempts to install one of his sons as his successor, Mosiah implements a system of judges to govern the people. These judges are elected by popular vote. A chief judge is appointed as the presiding figure in this new system. Alma the Younger is chosen to fill this role, in addition to his responsibilities as the head of the Church.

Alma is soon faced with troubles in the Church, as the people begin “to wax proud” (Alma 4:6). As a result of this pride, the unity of the Nephite people begins to dissolve. In this crisis Alma is faced with a critical decision. He resigns as the chief judge of the land and determines to focus his full energies upon bringing about a spiritual renewal among the people.

Launching into his committed course with full energy and faith, Alma visits the cities and villages of the land, counseling the people and calling them to repentance. In due time his mission takes him to the city of Ammonihah, where he finds the people in almost total rebellion.

After experiencing ridicule and total rejection, Alma is finallycast out of the city. The Lord, however, directs Alma to return to Ammonihah and guides him to Amulek, a prominent citizen, who accepts Alma as a prophet. Together, the two go among the people, preaching repentance and warning of the direful consequences that will come to the inhabitants if they persist in their willful disobedience.

It is in this scenario that Zeezrom appears. While the description of conditions in Ammonihah is not given in great detail, it is not difficult to fill in the pieces of the political, moral, and social mosaic from the recorded account. Corruption and dishonesty in official circles have become endemic. Grasping for material riches, the people have clamored to gain advantage one over another. Judges have become corrupt, susceptible to bribes and yielding advantage to those who can show favors.

This litigious environment has spawned the need for many of those who can plead cases successfully before the courts. Numerous lawyers have emerged, skilled not only in the law but also in exploiting the devious legal system for the potential benefit of themselves and their clients.

It is a group of these lawyers that confront Alma and Amulek. Undoubtedly they hold some hope of profiting from feeding the controversy that has developed from the preaching of the two men. Additionally, lawyers, nimble of speech, are thought to have the best prospect of confounding the Lord’s servants.

It is significant that Zeezrom presents himself as the chief spokesman for these legalists. “Now he was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business to do among the people” (Alma 10:31).

We learn much about Zeezrom from this capsule profile. Not only is he acknowledged by his peers as one of the leaders in his craft, he is well known among the people generally, and apparently is one of the foremost to whom they look for legal assistance. This would indicate that he also has a comfortable relationship with the judges in the city.

The account of the dialogue between Zeezrom and Alma and Amulek in the eleventh chapter of the book of Alma provides additional insight into Zeezrom’s worldly self-assurance. He has an audience to play to, and he intends, with his practiced sophistry and cunning, to make a game of his denegration of the two missionaries. After all, the audience is completely prejudiced in his favor, and he relishes the opportunity to add to his reputation among his peers. His questions to Alma and Amulek reflect his courtroom skills. They are designed for entrapment.

Zeezrom, however, is completely unaccustomed to dealing with those who have the spirit of inspiration and revelation working in their favor. His motives are transparent to Alma and Amulek.

Zeezrom’s offer to pay the missionaries six onties of silver if they will deny that there is a Supreme Being exposes his conviction that everyone is as corruptible as himself. It is a revealing demonstration of the debauched condition into which the people have fallen. Zeezrom obviously expects no disapproval from his fellow lawyers or the people for his proffered bribe. It is a practice to which they are accustomed.

It is when Zeezrom’s scheming is powerfully rebuffed by Amulek, and Amulek begins to testify of basic gospel truths, that Zeezrom senses something different about these two men. His arrogant self-confidence begins to falter. “Now, when Amulek had finished these words the people began again to be astonished, and also Zeezrom began to tremble” (Alma 11:46).

Alma, sensing that the power of the Spirit has begun to work upon the heart of Zeezrom and upon some of his listeners, takes up the attack that Amulek has begun:

Now the words that Alma spake unto Zeezrom were heard by the people round about; for the multitude was great, and he spake on this wise:

Now Zeezrom, seeing that thou hast been taken in thy lying and craftiness, for thou hast not lied unto men only but thou hast lied unto God; for behold, he knows all thy thoughts, and thou seest that thy thoughts are made known unto us by his Spirit;

And thou seest that we know that thy plan was a very subtle plan, as to the subtlety of the devil, for to lie and to deceive this people that thou mightest set them against us, to revile us and to cast us out-

Now this was a plan of thine adversary, and he hath exercised his power in thee. (Alma 12:2-5.)

The effect of Alma’s rebuke upon Zeezrom is dramatic:

Now when Alma had spoken these words, Zeezrom began to tremble more exceedingly, for he was convinced more and more of the power of God; and he was also convinced that Alma and Amulek had a knowledge of him, for he was convinced that they knew the thoughts and intents of his heart (Alma 12:7).

It is at this point that a remarkable change begins to take place in the demeanor of Zeezrom. He becomes the earnest inquirer-the learner. The change is the more remarkable because it occurs in the presence and full view of the people to whom he has been appealing with his inquisition. “And Zeezrom began to inquire of them diligently, that he might know more concerning the kingdom of God” (Alma 12:8).

We must pause at this point in our consideration of Zeezrom’s situation to ask ourselves the question, why was this arrogant, sophisticated demagogue so susceptible to the influence of the Spirit? Other rebels in the Book of Mormon record were similarly confronted by spiritual leaders but persisted in their debauchery. Nehor, although rebuked by Alma, had no change of heart (see Alma 1), nor did Amlici (see Alma 2) or Sherem (see Jacob 7). Korihor stubbornly refused to repent (see Alma 30). What was there in the soul of Zeezrom that pressed him toward such a remarkable change?

The answers to some of these questions must be left to speculation.

It is interesting, however, to contemplate the abrupt changes that occurred in the lives of others who had initially been enemies to the Lord’s work and his people, and who reversed their life’s course to become champions of the gospel plan. Alma himself, along with the sons of King Mosiah, underwent such a redirection. Ammon, Mosiah’s son, when reflecting upon the remarkable missionary successes that he, Aaron, Omner, Himni, and their brethren had enjoyed among the Lamanite people over a fourteen-year period of unusual hardship and sacrifice, recalls the days of their rebellion: “Behold, we went forth even in wrath, with mighty threatenings to destroy his [the Lord’s] church” (Alma 26:18). He then wonders, “Oh then, why did he not consign us to an awful destruction, yea, why did he not let the sword of his justice fall upon us, and doom us to eternal despair?” (Alma 26:19.)

Why, indeed?

Anti-Nephi-Lehi, the converted Lamanite king, acknowledges his dark past when he persuades his people to willingly lay down their lives rather than resist the threatened onslaught by their unconverted brethren: “And behold, I also thank my God, that we have been convinced of our sins, and of the many murders which we have committed” (Alma 24:9).

It appears that the “light that shineth in a dark place” to which Peter referred (2 Pet. 1:19) is difficult to extinguish completely in the souls of men. For those who have basked in that light and then have willfully turned against it, the regeneration process appears to be more difficult and unlikely. Such seems to have been the case with Sherem, who confessed before he died, “I fear lest I have committed the unpardonable sin, for I have lied unto God; for I denied the Christ, and said that I believed the scriptures; and they truly testify of him” (Jacob 7:19).

An important lesson seems to emerge from the experiences of Zeezrom and the other repentant transgressors who have been mentioned. It is never safe for us to judge a person to be beyond the reach of the Lord’s merciful hand. Even those whose lives have been tainted by corruption and apparent rebellion against the things of God can, through sincere repentance, become forces for great good in the accomplishment of the Lord’s purposes.

We do know that Zeezrom’s life was dramatically redirected. It appears that in spite of his having yielded to the influence of the environment in which he had gained notoriety, a spark of spiritual light must have endured in his soul. While some of those who listen to the exchange between Zeezrom and the missionaries react in a positive way, the majority are angry and are determined to destroy Alma and Amulek. A mob spirit inflames them. They bind the two men with strong cords and take them before the chief judge, where the men are accused of reviling against the law and against the people of the land.

In the midst of this turmoil, Zeezrom attempts to come to the defense of Alma and Amulek:

And it came to pass that Zeezrom was astonished at the words which had been spoken; and he also knew concerning the blindness of the minds, which he had caused among the people by his lying words; and his soul began to be harrowed up under aconsciousness of his own guilt; yea, he began to be encircled about by the pains of hell.

And it came to pass that he began to cry unto the people, saying: Behold, I am guilty, and these men are spotless before God. And he began to plead for them from that time forth; but they reviled him, saying: Art thou also possessed with the devil? And they spit upon him, and cast him out from among them. (Alma 14:6-7.)

It is apparent that in attempting to stop the destruction of Alma and Amulek, Zeezrom risks his own life. The fury of the mob turns in some measure upon him. They cast him out from among them, casting out as well all those who believe in the words of Alma and Amulek. They then gather together the wives and children of the believers and cause them to be burned, along with their sacred records. It is not difficult to imagine the agony that fills Zeezrom’s soul as he witnesses the holocaust that his taunting has precipitated.

Along with the other believers who have been cast out of Ammonihah, Zeezrom finds refuge among the people of Sidom. He is found there by Alma and Amulek, who barely escaped from the city with their lives after the Lord miraculously delivered them from the hands of their tormentors. Undoubtedly the two missionaries had witnessed the futile attempt of their former antagonist to quell the wrath of the mob. They find him in dire circumstances:

Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind on account of his wickedness, for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many other sins, did harrow up his mind until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat. (Alma 15:3.)

When Zeezrom learns that Alma and Amulek have made their escape and are in Sidom, he pleads for them to come to him. The two companions respond immediately. With a profoundly repentant spirit, Zeezrom begs Alma and Amulek to heal him. This request in itself is reflective of the faith that has begun to take root in Zeezrom’s heart.

And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ unto salvation?

And he answered and said: Yea, I believe all the words that thou hast taught.

And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God, have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ. (Alma 15:6-7, 10.)

Alma’s administration is instantly effective. Zeezrom leaps to his feet, healed not only physically but spiritually as well. The report of this incident is spread throughout Sidom.

One cannot reflect upon this episode without recalling the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in New Testament times. Saul, who had been a tormentor of the Christians and had condoned Stephen’s martyrdom (see Acts 8:1), requires a similarly dramatic conversion experience. His sightlessness is healed under the hands of Ananias. He is brought to a recognition and acknowledgement of his folly in attempting to thwart the Lord’s work. In a flood of repentant anguish he makes a dramatic reversal in the course of his life. His fervor and energy are redirected to promulgate and sustain the work he has previously sought to destroy.

So it is with Zeezrom. He is baptized by Alma, and, just as was the case with Paul, he immediately begins to preach among the people, later becoming a trusted companion of Alma and Amulek. It is perhaps not adding too much to reality to suppose that Zeezrom’s healing, his conversion, and his testifying of Christ contribute much to the missionary success enjoyed by these three servants of the Lord. The record tells us that the people “did flock in from all the region round about Sidom, and were baptized” (Alma 15:14).

That Zeezrom proves himself in the eyes of his mentor, Alma, is confirmed by the fact that he regularly appears in the accounts of Alma’s ministry as one of his most trusted and reliable companions and fellow servants. Years after the events in Ammonihah and Sidom, when Alma undertakes one of the most difficult challenges of his life’s ministry-the conversion of the Zoramites-Zeezrom is chosen along with Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Amulek, and two of Alma’s sons to be a part of this seasoned missionary force (see Alma 31:6).

That some of Zeezrom’s testimony and teachings find their way into the permanent Nephite record is confirmed in the book of Helaman. Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, are engaged in a missionary effort among the Lamanites. They are captured and imprisoned by those they have sought to convert. In a miraculous manifestation of the Lord’s power, Nephi and Lehi are encircled by a fire that preserves rather than consumes them. The Lamanites are frozen in wonderment at this spectacle. They become overshadowed by a cloud of darkness, and a voice commands them to repent. They then see Nephi and Lehi conversing with angels. Aminadab, a Nephite dissenter who had once been a believer, seizes this moment to confirm that these miracles are occurring through the Lord’s power. He cries to those who are witnessing this event, “You must repent, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom” (Hel. 5:41).

Perhaps the most convincing evidence we have of the love and esteem that Zeezrom comes to enjoy among his fellow Christians is that one of the principal Nephite cities is given his name (see Alma 56:14).

Much can be learned from the story of Zeezrom: the tragedy of corruption among a people who reject Christ and sacrifice moral principle to pride and self-interest; the anguish and torment that sin produces in an individual life.

Perhaps the most significant lesson to be learned from Zeezrom’s experience is that the redeeming power of Christ’s love can bring about the miracle of spiritual regeneration in the vilest of sinners when they fully turn to the Savior and give themselves to the accomplishment of His purposes. In Zeezrom’s story, all of us who are imperfect find hope for forgiveness, and hope in reaffirmation of the Savior’s infinite love for those who reject evil and give their hearts to Him. (Heroes from the Book of Mormon, p.112-120.)

ON THIS DAY IN 1829: Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph Smith translated the account of the appearance of the resurrected Savior in 3 Nephi 11 in the Book of Mormon.

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#BOMTC Day 34, May 10~Mosiah 28-Alma 1 or Pages 203-209: New Beginnings!

Click on graphic to read Mosiah 28-Alma 1

Click on graphic to read Mosiah 28-Alma 1

These chapters are filled with new beginnings that can teach us great lessons. Consider some of the principles that can be learned from the following events:

  • Having been truly converted, the sons of King Mosiah felt a strong desire to preach the gospel to the Lamanites (Mosiah 27:32-28:5).
  • After inquiring of the Lord and receiving an assurance that they would be blessed with success and protection, King Mosiah supported their decision (Mosiah 28:6-9).
  • Because his sons had declined the opportunity to be king, he was then left without a successor to his throne and a caretaker for the scriptural records. At this same time, Mosiah was working to care for the sacred records that had been entrusted to him. He translated the Jaredite records and then conferred all the records upon Alma the Younger (Mosiah 28:10-20).
  • Instead of appointing another king, King Mosiah proposed that the Nephite government be administered by a system of judges (Mosiah 29). Alma was appointed the first chief judge (he was also the high priest over the church) (Mosiah 29:39-44).

#BOMTC Day 34, May 10~Mosiah 28-Alma 1 or Pages 203-209 (3)

Shortly after Alma became chief judge, Nehor established himself as a preacher and spoke out against the Church and its doctrines. He convinced many to believe him and give him money. When he killed Gideon, a faithful member of the Church, he was brought before Alma to be judged. Finding Nehor guilty of priestcraft and of trying to enforce it by the sword, Alma sentenced Nehor to death.

Here are some lessons from the new beginnings of the sons of King Mosiah, the Nephite people, and Alma the Younger: 

Mosiah 28: As our conversion deepens, our desire to share the gospel increases.

  • Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “The intensity of our desire to share the gospel is a great indicator of the extent of our personal conversion” (“Sharing the Gospel,” Ensign, Nov. 2001).
  • Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “The key to successful member missionary work is the exercise of faith. One way to show your faith in the Lord and His promises is to prayerfully set a date to have someone prepared to meet with the missionaries. I have received hundreds of letters from members who have exercised their faith in this simple way. Even though families had no one in mind with whom they could share the gospel, they set a date, prayed, and then talked to many more people. The Lord is the Good Shepherd, and He knows His sheep who have been prepared to hear His voice. He will guide us as we seek His divine help in sharing His gospel” (“Creating a Gospel-Sharing Home,” Ensign, May 2006).
  • On another occasion Elder Ballard taught us how we can easily prepare and share the gospel. “There is a great need for clear, simple statements that present those who are curious with the basics about the Church as it is today. Prepare your own list of talking points that will assist you in explaining what we believe to your friends of other faiths. Have on one page a few facts about the Church as it is today to give to them along with a copy of the Articles of Faith.  The four main subjects deal with facts, faith, families, and fruits of the restored gospel.  Most people will not read or focus on more than just a few important facts at one time. Whatever you choose to use to inform your friends and acquaintances about the Church, write it down, check it for accuracy, and keep it simple and short. The growing prominence of the Church and the increasing inquiries from others present us with great opportunities to build bridges, make friends, and pass on accurate information. But it can also present a greater possibility of misunderstanding and sometimes even prejudice if we allow others to define who we are and what we believe rather than presenting it ourselves. Sometimes the best way to answer people’s interest can be by how we live.  Now is the time for all of us to reach out and tell others who we are. Prepare some simple facts and help those who are curious to know a little about the Church and then to want to know more about the Restoration of the gospel. Never hesitate to bear your testimony with sincerity and love. The power of personal testimony cannot be denied and often ignites in others the interest to know more.” (Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Faith, Family, Facts, and Fruits”, Ensign, Nov. 2007)

Book of Mormon Share

Mosiah 29: Each person has a duty to uphold righteous laws and leaders.

  • Elder Royden G. Derrick, then a member of the Presidency of the Seventy taught, “The history of the people of ancient America, recorded in the Book of Mormon, teaches that civilizations are built on moral foundations; that when people are morally strong, they do well; that when they are morally weak, they suffer. It teaches us that freedom cannot outlive morality and that freedom is not free—it must be earned” (Ensign, May 1981).
  • The twelfth article of faith states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” “The three significant words used in the 12th Article of Faith,” commented President David O. McKay, “express the proper attitude of the membership of the Church toward law. These words are—obey, honor, and sustain. The Article does not say we believe in submission to the law. Obedience implies a higher attitude than mere submission, for obedience has its root in good intent; submission may spring from selfishness or meanness of spirit. Though obedience and submission both imply restraint on one’s own will, we are obedient only from a sense of right; submissive from a sense of necessity. Honor expresses an act or attitude of an inferior towards a superior. When applied to things it is taken in the sense of holding in honor. Thus, in honoring the law, we look upon it as something which is above selfish desires or indulgences. To sustain signifies to hold up; to keep from falling. To sustain the law, therefore, is to refrain from saying or doing anything which will weaken it or make it ineffective. We obey law from a sense of right. We honor law because of its necessity and strength to society. We sustain law by keeping it in good repute.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1937, p. 28.)
  • Elder James E. Talmage said: “A question has many times been asked of the Church and of its individual members, to this effect: In the case of a conflict between the requirements made by the revealed word of God, and those imposed by the secular law, which of these authorities would the members of the Church be bound to obey? In answer, the words of Christ may be applied—it is the duty of the people to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s [see D&C 63:26; Matthew 22:21]. At the present time the kingdom of heaven as an earthly power, with a reigning King exercising direct and personal authority in temporal matters, has not been established upon the earth. The branches of the Church as such, and the members composing the same, are subjects of the several governments within whose separate realms the Church organizations exist. In this day of comparative enlightenment and freedom there is still cause for expecting any direct interference with the rights of private worship and individual devotion; in all civilized nations the people are accorded the right to pray, and this right is assured by what may be properly called a common law of humankind. No earnest soul is cut off from communion with his God; and with such an open channel of communication, relief from burdensome laws and redress from grievances may be sought from the power that holds control of nations.” (Articles of Faith, pp. 422–23.)
  • President N. Eldon Tanner taught: “There are many who question the constitutionality of certain acts passed by their respective governments, even though such laws have been established by the highest courts in the land as being constitutional, and they feel to defy and disobey the law. Abraham Lincoln once observed: ‘Bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible; still, while they continue in force, they should be religiously observed.’ This is the attitude of the Church in regard to law observance. … There is no reason or justification for men to disregard or break the law or try to take it into their own hands. It is the duty of citizens of any country to remember that they have individual responsibilities, and that they must operate within the law of the country in which they have chosen to live.” (“The Laws of God”, Ensign, Nov. 1975)
  • President Joseph Fielding Smith likewise said: “No member of the Church can be accepted as in good standing whose way of life is one of rebellion against the established order of decency and obedience to law. We cannot be in rebellion against the law and be in harmony with the Lord, for he has commanded us to ‘be subject to the powers that be, until he reigns whose right it is to reign. …’ (D&C 58:22.) And one of these days he is going to come.” (“Our Responsibility as Priesthood Holders,” Ensign, June 1971) The exception to this principle would be when the Lord directs His people through His prophets to take an opposing stand to government. Otherwise they recognize the established authority of government. (For more on this subject see, D&C 134 and “Earthly Governments and Laws“)

Stand for What is Right

Alma 1: When confronted by evil, we must oppose it in God’s way.

  • Elder Carlos E. Asay, then a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, shared some very useful counsel about how to react when confronted by those who would destroy our faith: “How do we respond to such malicious and evil designs? Do we strike back? Allow me to suggest a course of action—one which is in harmony with the teachings of the Savior, and one which, if followed, will be in harmony with the wise counsel of prophets past and present: 1. Avoid those who would tear down your faith. Faith-killers are to be shunned. The seeds which they plant in the minds and hearts of men grow like cancer and eat away the Spirit. True messengers of God are builders—not destroyers. We send our missionaries into the world to teach and to assist people in receiving truth line upon line until the fulness of the gospel is received. (See D&C 98:112.) As one new convert testified: “My previous church provided me the chapter on mortality. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints added two more chapters pertaining to the premortal and postmortal existences.” 2. Keep the commandments. President Brigham Young promised, “All we have to do is to go onward and upward, and keep the commandments of our Father and God; and he will confound our enemies.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957, p. 347.) If we obey holy laws, we will take upon ourselves “the whole armour of God” and we will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (See Eph. 6:11–18.) Moreover, obedience ensures us of the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit. 3. Follow the living prophets, as we have just been admonished. One Church leader taught: “Always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it. … But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” (Heber J. Grant, quoted by Marion G. Romney in Conference Report, Oct. 1960, p. 78.) We walk in uncharted mine fields and place our souls in jeopardy when we receive the teachings of anyone except he that is ordained of God. (See D&C 43:2–7; D&C 52:9.) 4. Do not contend or debate over points of doctrine. The Master warned that “the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil.” (3 Ne. 11:29.) We are inconsistent if we resort to Satanic tactics in attempting to achieve righteous ends. Such inconsistency results only in frustration, loss of the Spirit, and ultimate defeat. Remember, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege.” (Eleventh Article of Faith.) 5. Search the scriptures. Few of us would go astray or lose our way if we regarded the scriptures as our personal guide or compass. (See Alma 37:44.) The iron rod is the word of God, and if held to, we will not fall. 6. Do not be swayed or diverted from the mission of the Church. There are those who would draw you off course and cause you to waste time and energies. Satan used a diversion ploy when he tempted Christ in the wilderness. The Savior’s decisive response, “Get thee hence, Satan” (Matt. 4:10), is a proper example for all of us. 7. Pray for your enemies. Christ said to the Nephites, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” (3 Ne. 12:44; see also Matt. 5:44; 3 Ne. 12:10–12.) While on the cross, the Savior pled, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34.) There are many who are kept from the truth—not because they don’t want it, but because they know not where to find it. 8. Practice “pure religion.” Involve yourself in Christian service. Succor the needs of the sick and poor; visit the fatherless and widows, and be charitable to all whether in the Church or out of the Church. (See James 1:27 and Alma 1:30.) 9. Remember that there may be many questions for which we have no answers and that some things have to be accepted simply on faith. An angel of the Lord asked Adam, “Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?” He answered, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” (Moses 5:6.) There may be times when we are called upon to climb Mount Moriah’s and to sacrifice our Isaac’s without a full and prior explanation. Faith is the first principle of the gospel; it is a principle of progress…. I promise all missionaries—and all members—that if the nine actions just mentioned are followed consistently, victory will be yours and faith and testimony will be preservedAt the same time—1. I assure you that opposition to our cause testifies of its divinity. Would satanic powers combine against us if we were not posing a threat to such powers? 2. I assure you that opposition, if met and overcome, has a refining influence upon our lives. A verse in one of our hymns reads: When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine. (“How Firm a Foundation,” Hymns, no. 66.) The Savior learned obedience by the things which he suffered. (See Heb. 5:8.) Joseph Smith’s oppositions gave him experience and worked for his good. (See D&C 122:7.) 3. I assure you that the waters in which we are wont to swim are but little puddles when compared with the deep rivers of opposition in which the Prophet Joseph and others swam. (See D&C 127:2.) 4. I assure you that our cause is just and it will succeed, regardless of the opposition exerted against us. Earlier Saints were bolstered by these words: “As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.” (D&C 121:33.) President Brigham Young said: “Every time you kick ‘Mormonism’ you kick it upstairs; you never kick it downstairs. The Lord Almighty so orders it.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1941, p. 351.) With all my heart I implore those who are walking on the fringes of our faith to seek the safety of the center. This can be done best by counseling with your leaders and remaining within the fellowshipping circle of the Saints, and receiving nourishment from the good word of God. Do not permit faithless people to turn you out of the right way or to put you out of existence. (See Moro. 6.) And I pray for those who deal in the highest form of larceny—that of stripping people of their precious testimonies. Such action, if continued, will lead only to the futility and emptiness of the dream of a night vision. (See 2 Ne. 27:3; Acts 5:33–39.) God help us all in our war against sin. Though our numbers may be few and our dominions small, may we go forward “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory” (1 Ne. 14:14). (“Opposition to the Work of God”, Ensign, Nov. 1981)

ON THIS DAY IN 1829: Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery ran out of supplies during the translation of the Book of Mormon and went to Colesville, New York, to obtain provisions from Joseph Knight Sr.

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#BOMTC Day 61, June 6~Helaman 8-10 or Pages 387-392: The Power of Prophets

Click graphic to read Helaman 8-10

Click graphic to read Helaman 8-10

Today’s post is a video post. The following three segments are a visual overview of what we studied in Helaman 8-10.

Nephi Prays for His People

The prophet Nephi prophesied that if the Nephites continued to live in wickedness, they would perish. Nephi reminded the people of prophet after prophet who had testified of Jesus Christ. He taught the Nephites that as we exercise faith in Jesus Christ and are obedient, we will receive eternal life. Despite the multitude of prophets whose teachings confirmed Nephi’s words, corrupt judges stirred many of the people up to anger against Nephi, while some people boldly defended the prophet. (5:44)

Nephi Prophesies of the Death of Chief Judge

Nephi taught that the people who rejected his witness also rejected the testimonies of all the prophets who had come before him, all of whom had testified of Jesus Christ. As a testament that the people were in a sinful state and that what he told them about their destruction would be fulfilled, Nephi revealed that the Nephites’ chief judge had been murdered by his brother. Nephi also declared that both the murdered man and his brother were members of the Gadianton robbers. (2:18)

Nephi Proves His Innocence

After the trial concluded for the murder of the chief judge and Nephi’s words were verified, some of the people accepted him as a prophet. (6:53)

The trial to determine who murdered the chief judge ended when Nephi’s revelation about the murderer was confirmed. After being cleared of the murder of the chief judge, Nephi found that the people did not respond in faith and repent. Having escaped punishment from the false accusations that had been directed at him, Nephi began to walk home feeling discouraged. As he began to return home, Nephi pondered what the Lord had shown him and also worried about the wickedness of the people. In his moment of discouragement, the Lord spoke to him and blessed him forever with the sealing power. This blessing is a central doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sealing power binds and looses on earth and in heaven. Finally, the Lord commanded Nephi to continue preaching repentance to the Nephites–a command that Nephi immediately obeyed.

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