Tag Archives: Lamanites

#BOMTC Jacob 6-Enos: Faith-Shakers VS Faith-Makers

BEWARE OF FAITH-SHAKERS! Faith-shakers take on many forms. In today’s reading Sherem is the personification of a faith-shaker. Jacob describes meeting the faith-shaker Sherem with these words:

“and he knowing that I, Jacob, had faith in Christ who should come, he sought much opportunity that he might come unto me… And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken(Jacob 7:3, 5, emphasis added)

Jacob 7:2 teaches us that faith-shakers attack Christ and His true doctrine. Faith-shakers are antichrists.

An antichrist is an opponent of Christ; he is one who is in opposition to the true gospel, the true Church, and the true plan of salvation. (1 John 2:19; 4:4-6) He is one who offers salvation to men on some other terms than those laid down by Christ. Sherem (Jacob 7:1-23), Nehor (Alma 1:2-16), and Korihor (Alma 30:6-60) were antichrists who spread their delusions among the Nephites.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., p.39)

We may have faith-shakers in our life who are like Sherem, but I find that the more common and subtle faith-shakers that Christ’s disciples face today are FALSE DOCTRINE faith-shakers. Sure, a person can preach false doctrine, but it can also come from many other sources.

HOW Can False Doctrine Be a Faith-Shaker? President Boyd K. Packer, past President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has taught that:

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior” (Ensign, Nov. 1986).

Therefore, believing false doctrines will change one’s attitude and behavior as well.

False doctrine is a great faith-shaker! What are some modern-day false-doctrine faith-shakers? Media, theories, environments, governments, etc. can all be faith-shakers. What false doctrines do they preach?  They speak of coincidental creation, overpopulation, redefining family and marriage, abortion, etc.

Robert L. Millet, a professor at BYU, put it this way:

I thought back on a few of the antichrists in the Book of Mormon–of Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor–and reconsidered their doctrine, their approach, their success, and their demise. I then broadened my scope a bit and realized that evil attitudes, as well as perverse teachings and false systems of salvation, also qualify as enemies of Christ. Such teachings as ‘We have not [prayed about this], for the Lord maketh no such things known unto us’; ‘All is well in Zion’; ‘Eat, drink, and be merry’; ‘Dig a pit for thy neighbor’; ‘We have received and we need no more’; ‘There is no devil; ‘Ye cannot know what ye cannot see’; ‘Do this or do that and it mattereth not,’ and myriads of others–these symbolize the slogans of an antigospel.” (Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth, p.68)

HOW Do Faith-Shakers Preach? Antifreeze is probably a good object-lesson to illustrate an answer this question (see Alma 30:53). Antifreeze is very toxic, but animals are attracted to its sweet taste–they temporarily find pleasure in that which kills them.

Jacob 7:2-7 helps us to identify some of Sherem’s faith-shaker tactics. President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time” (CR, Apr. 1975, 94–95).

How do I LEAVE Faith-Shakers and CLEAVE Faith-Makers? Most of us have not experienced the great manifestations that Jacob did which helped him to “not be shaken” in the faith (see Jacob 7:5). So how can we “not be shaken”? Jacob 7:10-12 identifies three things that every disciple of Christ has been given to help them “not be shaken” in the faith. President Benson identified them during a talk in general conference:

May I suggest three short tests to avoid being deceived. . . .1. What do the standard works [scriptures] have to say about it? . . . 2. The second guide is: what do the latter-day Presidents of the Church have to say on the subject—particularly the living President . . . 3. The third and final test is the Holy Ghost. . . . This test can only be fully effective if one’s channels of communication with God are clean and virtuous and uncluttered with sin” (Conference Report, Oct. 1963, 16-17).

Jacob 4:6, 8, 13,16 and 2 Nephi 9:40 all contain valuable insights that will help us to LEAVE Faith-Shakers and CLEAVE to Faith-Makers and become unshakable, like Jacob!

CLEAVE TO TRUE DOCTRINE! There are a few questions that one can ask to evaluate a doctrine that is being presented and discern if it is a faith-shaker or a faith-maker. Faith-maker doctrines receive a YES to each of the following questions:

  1. Is the doctrine clearly expressed in the standard works of the Church?
  2. Is the doctrine found within the official declarations, proclamations, or statements of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles?
  3. Is the doctrine clearly taught or discussed by current general Church leaders in general conference or other official gatherings of the Church?
  4. Is the doctrine found in the general handbooks or the presently approved curriculum of the Church? (Source: Sunday School: Spring 2005 President’s Message)

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

There is not anything in this world of as great importance to us as obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us search these scriptures. Let us know what the Lord has revealed. Let us put our lives in harmony with his truth. Then we will not be deceived” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:301).

Jacob 7:23 shows how this principle affected the Nephites after Sherem was revealed as a faith-shaker.

The late Robert J. Matthews, a well-respected Latter-day Saint scholar, wrote:

“The Book of Mormon was written specifically and pointedly for our time. The principles needed for salvation anciently are the same principles needed now. Likewise, the way of apostasy in ancient times is a pattern of apostasy in our day. The Book of Mormon shows how apostasies occur, and the terrible effects that apostasy has in the lives of individuals as well as in groups such as political governments and churches. Men such as Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor are notable examples of individual apostates in the Book of Mormon, and it clearly demonstrates their pride and sophistry. These were intellectual giants, but they were spiritually undeveloped and each fell victim to the cunning of the devil, who captured them with an appeal to their carnal and natural desires.” (Selected Writings of Robert J. Matthews: Gospel Scholars Series , p.359)

CLEAVE TO YOUR COVENANTS! During a very difficult time for the early Latter-day Saints, the Lord gave Emma Smith the following counsel:

“Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made.” (D&C 25:13)

#BOMTC Day 23, April 29~Jacob 6-Enos or Pages 133-138 (2)

Interestingly, Jacob’s Faith-Shaker VS. Faith-Maker account with Sherem is followed by the faith-making experience of Jacob’s son, Enos. Enos is a pattern for becoming a Faith-Maker (Enos 1:8, 11). A close examination of his experience provides an excellent illustration of the effort required to become an unshakable Faith-Maker.

After Enos receives a witness for himself of Christ, he begins the faith-making process of seeking the welfare of others (Enos 1:8-16). As you continue to look for examples of Faith-Shakers and Faith-Makers during your study the Book of Mormon, identify the things that you can do to become a Faith-Maker and avoid Faith-Shakers.

Want to learn more about these chapters? Check out these links…

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#BOMTC Jacob 5: God Wants Good Fruit from “OLIVE” Us!

#BOMTC Day 22, April 28~Jacob 5 or Pages 127-32: God Wants Good Fruit from "OLIVE" Us!

Click graphic to ready Jacob 5

To understand Jacob 5, one must begin at the end of Jacob 4. In Jacob 4 the prophet Jacob had asked us to consider how the Jews could ever build on the “sure foundation” of Jesus Christ after they rejected Him (v. 17). To answer this question Jacob quotes the teachings of the prophet Zenos.

Zenos’ allegory of the olive tree teaches us about the Lord’s purposes in the scattering and gathering of the house of Israel. Interestingly, the olive tree tends to be God’s great object lesson when referring to the scattering, gathering, and salvation of His children (see my #BOMTC 1 Nephi 16 post for more on this). Chapter 6 then contains Jacob’s commentary on the major points of Zenos’ allegory, and Jacob emphasized the Lord’s mercy and justice while encouraging his people—and us—to repent.

Olive Tree Alegory chart

Click here for a graphical explanation of the allegory of the olive tree

Interestingly, the scattering of “the branches of Israel” all over the world is a blessing to both Israel and to the Gentiles. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained:

“In general, the Lord sends to earth in the lineage of Jacob [Israel] those spirits who in pre-existence developed an especial talent for spirituality and for recognizing truth. Those born in this lineage, having the blood of Israel in their veins and finding it easy to accept the gospel, are said to have believing blood” (Mormon Doctrine, 81).

#BOMTC Day 22, April 28~Jacob 5 or Pages 127-32

“What could I have done more for my vineyard?” (Jacob 5:41, 47, 49) “It grieveth me that I should lose this tree” (Jacob 5:7, 11, 32, 46, 51, 66)

As scattered Israel mixed with the Gentiles around them, the blood of Israel was spread even further. Elder James E. Faust, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, commented:

“The scattering of Israel throughout the world sprinkled the blood that believes, so that many nations may now partake of the gospel plan” (Ensign, Nov. 1982.).

Jacob 5 as a word cloud

Jacob 5 as a word cloud

What really stands out to me in these pages is how much the Lord loves “OLIVE” His children, and how much He desires us to produce “good fruit” (good works).

“Good fruit” is referred to 7 times, and “fruit” 67 times. Sometimes I copy the text of a chapter or talk and create a word cloud to help me identify literary elements like the intent of the writer. You can see by the word cloud above that “fruit” (our part) is definitely a dominant theme in this message. If I were to LIKEN this allegory to myself I would say, “God loves me, and He will do whatever is necessary to help my life to become as ‘fruitful’ as possible!”

#BOMTC Day 22, April 28~Jacob 5 or Pages 127-32 (3)

God does indeed love “OLIVE” us, and wants “OLIVE” us to live “good fruit”-ful lives!

What are your thoughts on this awesome allegory?

The Olive Tree Allegory

CLICK HERE TO VIEW SEGMENTS 1-5 OF THIS VIDEO

 A LIKENING: The Currant Bush and the Will of God

God uses love-inspired correction to guide us to a future we do not or cannot now envision but which He knows is the better way for us.

Want to learn more? Check this out:

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#BOMTC Jacob 2-4: A Return to Virtue–A Return to Christ

Today’s message from the Book of Mormon (Jacob 2-4) is a clarion call for a “RETURN TO VIRTUE“. What a timely message for our day! Virtue means “strength”, and because our strength lies in the Lord Jesus Christ a return to virtue is really a “RETURN TO CHRIST“!

A Return to Virtue – Elaine S. Dalton

In traditional Mandarin Chinese, the characters that make up the word virtue mean “moral steps”. For us to have moral steps, we must follow in the footsteps of the Savior. (For a great etymological breakdown and explanation of this character see http://zhongwen.com/d/188/x119.htm)

#BOMTC Day 21, April 27~Jacob 2-4 or Pages 121-126 (4)

From riches (Jacob 2:12) to pride (vv. 13-21) to immorality (vv. 23-35), Jacob exposes the gamut of sin his people are running, and leaves for us an inspired challenge to become “pure in heart” (Jacob 3:1-2) through the Atonement of Jesus Christ (see Jacob 4). A few highlight verses that help me to cope with these temptations in my life are the following:

  • But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. (Jacob 2:18)
  • For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women, And whoredoms are an abomination before me: thus saith the Lord of Hosts. (Jacob 2:28)
  • All ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever. (Jacob 3:2)

#BOMTC Day 21, April 27~Jacob 2-4 or Pages 121-126 (2)

President Harold B. Lee painted a vivid picture of the pain suffered through flirting with the forbidden, then succumbing to temptation:

“I’ve seen beautiful young human butterflies playing with the tempting fires of sin. …Many of these beautiful human butterflies winged for heavenly flight have fallen with wings singed and badly seared because of their curiosity about the forbidden. The more I see of life, the more I am convinced that we must impress you young people with the awfulness of sin rather than to content ourselves with merely teaching the way of repentance. I wish that someone could warn you of the night of hell that follows the committing of a moral sin … , as one who has sinned has described it in these words: ‘No one knew anything about it. You told no one, and no one found out, no one condemned. But your face flushed, your heart beat against your ribs. Perspiration broke out upon your brow. You went to bed that night, you tied a bandage around the eyes of your soul, you built a little shelter in which to hide, you tried to sleep, but no sleep came. You said to yourself, “Other people do it,” or “I had to do it,” or “No one else can ever find it out.” But there were hands from the unseen world that came through the darkness and tore the bandage from the eyes of the soul, and smashed down the little shelter you had made for your cowering spirit.’” (Youth and the Church, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1970, pp. 87–88. Emphasis added.) (Chastity: The Source of True Manhood)

#BOMTC Day 21, April 27~Jacob 2-4 or Pages 121-126 (3)

Elaine S. Dalton, a leader of the Young Women organization, urges young people to develop the strength that comes from living a virtuous life.

Interfaith youth speak candidly on why they have chosen to be sexually pure.

Latter-day Saint teens are counseled to stay sexually pure, but what exactly are the limits? Using teachings of modern prophets, this presentation shows why that’s the wrong question to ask.

Interested in learning more about these chapters? Check these out:

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#BOMTC 2 Nephi 29-31: Dueling Doctrines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Doctrine of Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“… Then answered Peter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFERENCES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#BOMTC 2 Nephi 3-5: Defining Moments

These pages begin with the conclusion of the final blessings of Lehi upon his posterity. As he addresses his youngest son, Joseph, we learn a great deal about how great of a Seer Joseph of Egypt (the son of the patriarch-prophet Jacob, from the Genesis account) really was (2 Nephi 3:5-24; 4:1). Lehi uses the prophecy of Joseph of Egypt to explain the blessings that Joseph (Lehi’s son) will enjoy. This is in consequence of the covenant that God made with Joseph of Egypt, because Lehi’s family is from the lineage of Joseph of Egypt. This is a “defining moment” for Joseph, son of Lehi. If he chooses to live the covenants that his forebearers have made, he will receive great and eternal blessings.

#BOMTC Day 11, April 17~2 Nephi 3-5 or Pages 61-66 (1) Defining Moments

Lehi also leaves his blessings upon the children of Laman and Lemuel (his grandchildren) from which we can glean important insights about the responsibility that parents have to bring up their children in the ways of the Lord (2 Nephi 4:3-9). This is a “defining moment” for Laman and Lemuel as patriarchs in their homes. President Thomas S. Monson is fond of teaching the time-tested truth that, “Decisions determine destiny.” Laman and Lemuel are the perfect examples to illustrate the negative aspect of this truth.

Decisions determine destiny ~ President Thomas S. Monson

Decisions determine destiny ~ President Thomas S. Monson

“Sure and steady Sam” is then blessed with a simple and profound blessing (2 Nephi 4:11). Good old Sam has always been right there with Nephi, and he will receive the same blessings. Once father Lehi has died, Sam will have to decide who will become his “patriarchal figure”. This is a “defining moment” for Sam.

#BOMTC Day 11, April 17~2 Nephi 3-5 or Pages 61-66 (1) Decisions Do Determine Destiny President Thomas S. Monson

Decisions do determine destiny ~ President Thomas S. Monson

We now reach a very tender moment—Nephi’s “defining moment”. When Lehi dies Nephi exposes his soul to us. Unlike the murmuring account of the children of Ishmael when their father died, we find Nephi, as a son of God, turning to his Heavenly Father when his earthly father passes (2 Nephi 4:12-35).

Not only are Nephi’s words in this account illustrative of his “defining moment”, but he is literally “defining” himself to us. He shows us the Nephi that we could never imagine (2 Nephi 4:17-19), and yet at the same time he shows us a new and improved Nephi (2 Nephi 4:28-35). The following video is one of my favorite songs. It is a musical rendition of Nephi’s feelings in 2 Nephi 4. In this video the BYU Singers perform Ronald Staheli’s arrangement of “I Love the Lord,” composed by Jean Sibelius with lyrics by John Tanner drawn from 2 Nephi 4. (Your day will be a little better if you take a moment and listen to it!)

In stark contrast to this tender account, 2 Nephi 5 marks a “defining moment” in the Book of Mormon story-line. God’s pattern will be repeated once again—the righteous must flee the wicked (2 Nephi 5:3-9). Just as Lehi had to leave his home at Jerusalem, Nephi and the other faithful family members must leave their first home in the Promised Land and establish a new home. With this new start Nephi states, “…we lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:27). An examination of verses 10-18 of chapter 5 gives us clues to how we too can live after “the manner of happiness”.

#BOMTC Day 11, April 17~2 Nephi 3-5 or Pages 61-66 (1) Defining Moments (2)

Additionally, chapter 5 also gives us clues about how “defining moments” can bring the cursing of God upon us (2 Nephi 5:2-3, 20-24). Indeed, “The word of the Lord was fulfilled” (2 Nephi 5:20), just as Lehi, Joseph of Egypt, Zenos, Isaiah, and other Seers had prophesied. These “defining moments” led to two nations residing in the Promised Land—one in opposition to the other… only one will survive. This is the story of the Book of Mormon.

What will you do with your “DEFINING MOMENTS”?

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

people sitting at table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

man reading book

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

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

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

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

open book with gold ribbon

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

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

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

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#BOMTC Mormon 5-7: FALLEN!

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

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

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

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

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

O Ye Fair Ones

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

Mormon: The Man and the Book, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking out over that carnage, Mormon cried:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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