Tag Archives: Liahona

#BOMTC 1 Nephi 17-18: What Do You KNOW?

In these pages we find Nephi receiving the command to build a ship. His efforts are mocked by his brothers, Laman and Lemuel (the infamous naysayers); whose rant against Nephi consists of several “we knew” and “we know” statements (1 Nephi 17:19-22). However, Nephi is quick to point out to them the truth about what they really know (1 Nephi 17:25-29,42,46). He reminds them of something similar to a bumper sticker I remember seeing: “Jesus loves you, but I’m His favorite!“(1 Nephi 17:35,40; 1:20. More on this concept can be studied by reading Elder Russell M. Nelson’s article entitled, Divine Love. You must read the footnoted references in the talk for it to make sense–very insightful!).

#BOMTC Day 7, April 13~1 Nephi 17-18 (or Pages 37-42) Jesus Loves You But I'm His Favorite

Nephi is the perfect example of “likening” scriptures. It seems that almost every time that he is trying to persuade someone to follow God he uses an experience from what we now consider the Old Testament (their Brass Plates). In just this one instance he refers to the liberating of the Israelites from bondage, the crossing of the Red Sea and destruction of Pharaoh and his army, the manna, water from the rock, the pillar of light and a cloud by day that led and protected them, their subsequent wondering and regeneration before entering the Promised Land, and even the reason for the current residents being expelled from the land. He caps it all off by reminding them that one can either become RIGHTEOUS or RIPE (1 Nephi 17:35).

This is the perfect LIKENING because they are also going to cross the water to enter a Promised Land. But Nephi is not done yet. In verse 41 he likens his brothers to the faithless and fearful Israelites who had to be chastened and “straitened”. Nephi seems surprised that, after all that the Lord has done, those at Jerusalem are “nearly unto ripeness” (1 Nephi 17:43). He continues to liken Laman and Lemuel to those who are ripening and points out that they are “swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord” (1 Nephi 17:44-45).

Nephi’s words seem to infuriate the already agitated brothers, but the Spirit of God protects Nephi much the way it will when Abinadi testifies before the evil king Noah. Unlike Abinadi’s situation however, Nephi is commanded to “shock” his brethren with a bit of God’s power. It makes sense that the Lord would do this. Being so hard of heart, and so focused on the physical, it seems that the physical is all they will respond to (1 Nephi 17:53-55; 18:20). Interestingly enough, the chapter ends in a very different, yet similar way to its beginning. Laman and Lemuel once again exclaim, “we know“, but this time they are correct in their statements.

Nephi is then instructed by the Lord on how exactly to go about building the ship (1 Nephi 18:1-4), which will become the stage for the next dramatic episode of the “wavering” Laman and Lemuel (1 Nephi 18:9-20). I guess it is not enough to “know”, we must always act on what we “know” to be right, but first we must make sure that what we “know” IS right.

True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.

So what do you “KNOW”, and how does that affect your ATTITUDES and ACTIONS? Are you becoming RIGHT or RIPE before God? Remember what Joseph Smith taught the brethren about The Book of Mormon: “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.” Happy sailing on your personal journey toward God’s Promised Land–The Celestial Kingdom!

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

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

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

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

Nephi has one simple, and personally tested, question:

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

Have ye inquired of the Lord?

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

Have WE Inquired of the Lord?

Have WE Inquired of the Lord?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Painted by Ken Corbett

Painted by Ken Corbett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE GREAT CONFERENCE OF 124 B.C. I like to compare this part of the Book of Mormon to our modern-day general conference of the church (Pretty good timing for this blog post, isn’t it?). Each time that I read this account I imagine what it would have been like to be there personally (I really do!). I love King Benjamin and his teachings! Not that everything else in the Book of Mormon isn’t as important, but I believe that if the Old Testament contained the account of King Benjamin (Mosiah 1-6) it would be one of the most beloved books of Christendom (and other faiths that revere the Old Testament.). In fact, President Howard W. Hunter called it, “…one of the greatest prophetic sermons ever given (“The Opening and Closing of Doors“, Ensign (CR), November 1987, p.54)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

President Howard W. Hunter also said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Joseph Millett Story

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

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

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#BOMTC Day 25, May 1~Mosiah 1-2 or Pages 145-150: A Tent, a Temple, a Tower: See, Sacrifice, Serve

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

Click on the graphic to read Mosiah 1-2

THE GREAT CONFERENCE OF 124 B.C. 

I like to compare this part of the Book of Mormon to our modern-day general conference of the church. Each time that I read this account I imagine what it would have been like to be there personally (I really do!).

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

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

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

A TENT: SEE!. Genesis 26:25, is the key to understanding the connection here. It seems like a very simple and contextual verse, but in that scripture, relating to Isaac, you will find the words altar, tent, and well–there is great symbolism in those three words. Each word can symbolically represents an aspect of an individual’s life (anciently).

Your “altar” represented your LORD. If your altar was made of unhewn stone, then people knew you worshiped Jehovah. If it were hewn, then people knew you worshiped a god of this world.

Your “tent” represented your LIFE. You could tell all kinds of things about a person by simply looking at their tent. You can do the same when camping today.

Your “well” represented your LIVELIHOOD. Isaac was a man of the flock and therefore was always in great need of a well (and notice where this scriptural event takes place–Beer-sheba, “well of an oath“. This may have been the same place which was called Beer-sheba a hundred years before this, in the time of Abraham; but as the well, from which it had its name originally, was closed up by the Philistines, the name of the place might have been abolished with the well; when, therefore, Isaac re-opened it, he restored the ancient name of the place. See Genesis 21 for the background to this significant well, and the verses in Genesis 26 that precede verse 25.).

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

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

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

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

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

President Howard W. Hunter also said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Joseph Millett Story

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

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

Want to learn more? Check these out:

ON THIS DAY IN 1829: Palmyra, New York. Martin Harris’s wife, Lucy, filed a complaint against Joseph Smith, attempting to prove that he never had gold plates.

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#BOMTC Day 7, April 13~1 Nephi 17-18 or Pages 37-42: What Do You KNOW?

Click this graphic to read 1 Nephi 17-18

Click this graphic to read 1 Nephi 17-18

In these pages we find Nephi receiving the command to build a ship. His efforts are mocked by his brothers, Laman and Lemuel (the infamous naysayers); whose rant against Nephi consists of several “we knew” and “we know” statements (1 Nephi 17:19-22). However, Nephi is quick to point out to them the truth about what they really know (1 Nephi 17:25-29,42,46). He reminds them of something similar to a bumper sticker I remember seeing: “Jesus loves you, but I’m His favorite!“(1 Nephi 17:35,40; 1:20. More on this concept can be studied by reading Elder Russell M. Nelson’s article entitled, Divine Love. You must read the footnoted references in the talk for it to make sense–very insightful!).

#BOMTC Day 7, April 13~1 Nephi 17-18 (or Pages 37-42) Jesus Loves You But I'm His Favorite

Nephi is the perfect example of “likening” scriptures. It seems that almost every time that he is trying to persuade someone to follow God he uses an experience from what we now consider the Old Testament (their Brass Plates). In just this one instance he refers to the liberating of the Israelites from bondage, the crossing of the Red Sea and destruction of Pharaoh and his army, the manna, water from the rock, the pillar of light and a cloud by day that led and protected them, their subsequent wondering and regeneration before entering the Promised Land, and even the reason for the current residents being expelled from the land. He caps it all off by reminding them that one can either become RIGHTEOUS or RIPE (1 Nephi 17:35).

This is the perfect LIKENING because they are also going to cross the water to enter a Promised Land. But Nephi is not done yet. In verse 41 he likens his brothers to the faithless and fearful Israelites who had to be chastened and “straitened”. Nephi seems surprised that, after all that the Lord has done, those at Jerusalem are “nearly unto ripeness” (1 Nephi 17:43). He continues to liken Laman and Lemuel to those who are ripening and points out that they are “swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord” (1 Nephi 17:44-45).

Nephi’s words seem to infuriate the already agitated brothers, but the Spirit of God protects Nephi much the way it will when Abinadi testifies before the evil king Noah. Unlike Abinadi’s situation however, Nephi is commanded to “shock” his brethren with a bit of God’s power. It makes sense that the Lord would do this. Being so hard of heart, and so focused on the physical, it seems that the physical is all they will respond to (1 Nephi 17:53-55; 18:20). Interestingly enough, the chapter ends in a very different, yet similar way to its beginning. Laman and Lemuel once again exclaim, “we know“, but this time they are correct in their statements.

Nephi is then instructed by the Lord on how exactly to go about building the ship (1 Nephi 18:1-4), which will become the stage for the next dramatic episode of the “wavering” Laman and Lemuel (1 Nephi 18:9-20). I guess it is not enough to “know”, we must always act on what we “know” to be right, but first we must make sure that what we “know” IS right.

True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.  The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.

So what do you “KNOW”, and how does that affect your ATTITUDES and ACTIONS? Are you becoming RIGHT or RIPE before God? Remember what Joseph Smith taught the brethren about The Book of Mormon: “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.” Happy sailing on your personal journey toward God’s Promised Land–The Celestial Kingdom!

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#BOMTC Day 6, April 12~1 Nephi 16 or Pages 31-36: “Have [WE] Inquired of the Lord?”

#BOMTC Day 6, April 11~1 Nephi 16 (or Pages 31-36) (2)

Click on this graphic to read 1 Nephi 16

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

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

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

Nephi has one simple, and personally tested, question:

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

Have ye inquired of the Lord?

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

Have WE Inquired of the Lord?

Have WE Inquired of the Lord?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Painted by Ken Corbett

Painted by Ken Corbett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#BOMTC Day 48, May 24~Alma 37-39 or Pages 301-307: “The Lord’s Side of the Line”

Click graphic to read Alma 37-39

Click graphic to read Alma 37-39

George Albert Smith’s grandfather George A. Smith served for many years in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and in the First Presidency as a counselor to Brigham Young. George Albert Smith often repeated the counsel his grandfather used to give to his family:

There is a line of demarcation well defined between the Lord’s territory and the devil’s territory. If you will stay on the Lord’s side of the line you will be under his influence and will have no desire to do wrong; but if you cross to the devil’s side of that line one inch you are in the tempter’s power and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly because you will have lost the Spirit of the Lord.

George Albert Smith said that he used this counsel throughout his life to guide his choices:

When I have been tempted sometimes to do a certain thing, I have asked myself, ‘Which side of the line am I on?’ If I determined to be on the safe side, the Lord’s side, I would do the right thing every time. So when temptation comes think prayerfully about your problem and the influence of the Lord will aid you to decide wisely. There is safety for us only on the Lord’s side of the line.

“All safety, all righteousness, all happiness are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you are keeping the commandments of God by observing the Sabbath day, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you attend to your secret prayers and your family prayers, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you are grateful for food and express that gratitude to God, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you are honest in your dealing with your fellow men, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. If you observe the Word of Wisdom, you are on the Lord’s side of the line. And so I might go on through the Ten Commandments and the other commandments that God has given for our guidance and say again, all that enriches our lives and makes us happy and prepares us for eternal joy is on the Lord’s side of the line. Finding fault with the things that God has given to us for our guidance is not on the Lord’s side of the line.” (“Stay on the Lord’s Side of the Line“, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith)

Stay Within the Lines

There are many decisions we can make that are neither good nor evil (such as what color to paint our house, what to have for breakfast, and so forth). But when it comes to the Lord’s commandments, there is a line between the Lord’s territory and Satan’s territory (see 2 Nephi 28:21–23;Moroni 7:16–17)

The Lord's Side of the Line

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught, “The simple fact is this: anything that does not draw us closer to God takes us away from Him. We have no middle ground, no foggy gray area where we can sin a little without suffering spiritual decline. That is why we must repent and come to Christ daily on submissive knees so that we can prevent our bonfires of testimony from being snuffed out by sin” (Ensign, Nov. 1992).

Some people think of crossing the line as something like a line in the sand, where one crosses from one side to another on an equal plane. However, I believe that when we cross the line we are no longer on an equal plane, but rather dropping to a plane that is dramatically and dangerously lower. I think of crossing the line as crossing over the edge of a waterfall. President James E. Faust pointed out the same thing in his talk entitled, “The Devil’s Throat“:

“As a young man I served a mission to Brazil. It was a marvelous experience. One of the wonders of the world in that great country is Iguaçu Falls. In the flood season, the volume of water spilling over the brink is the largest in the world. Every few minutes, millions of gallons of water cascade into the chasm below. One part of the falls, where the deluge is the heaviest, is called the Devil’s Throat.

“There are some large rocks standing just above, before the water rushes down into Devil’s Throat. Years ago, reckless boatmen would take passengers in canoes to stand on those rocks and look down into the Devil’s Throat. The water above the falls is usually calm and slow moving, and the atmosphere tranquil. Only the roar of the water below forewarns of the danger lurking just a few feet away. A sudden, unexpected current could take a canoe into the rushing waters, over the cliff, and down into the Devil’s Throat. Those foolish enough to leave the canoes to stand on these treacherous wet rocks could so easily lose their footing and be swept away into the swirling currents below.

“I recognize that some of you think of yourselves as daredevils, ready to take on almost any challenge. But some of these excursions for excitement will inevitably take you down into the Devil’s Throat. The only safe course is to stay well away from the dangers of the Devil’s Throat.”

Just as the current becomes more swift and strong as one moves toward the brink of a waterfall, so we are drawn by the power of the adversary as we approach “the line”. This increased pull of the adversary is explained well in Elder Bruce C. Hafen’s talk, “A Disciple’s Journey” (This is one of my FAVORITE talks of all time! I highly recommend that you take some time to study it in its entirety.):

“A few years ago our teenage daughter was feeling quite unsettled, asking some very honest questions, such as “Why is life so hard?” As we talked over dinner one night, I prayed like a missionary for the right things to say. After all, our children are our most important investigators. In the very moment, I received a prompting about “gravitational pull.” I grabbed a paper napkin and drew a sketch I’d never thought of before. It sparked a lively discussion…

“I’d like to share with you today the ideas from that sketch on the napkin…. Let’s call this sketch “a disciple’s journey.”

“A disciple moves from darkness into light, which increases from the dim light of the stars to the moon and then to the brightness of the sun. Joseph Smith compared these heavenly bodies with the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial kingdoms. As the temple teaches, we can and should move toward that celestial light during mortality. We need not be of the world, even if we must live in the world.

“Imagine that two vertical lines separate the stars, moon, and sun into three sections. Each line suggests a major transition as we move from one stage to the next. However, our journey is not rigidly sequential. Our experiences may move us back and forth.

“Envision also two circles, each with a center point, located in stage one and in stage three. These circles represent the gravitational pull from the opposing poles of our journey. In the darkness of stage one, he who claims to be the god of this world exerts a constant force to hold us back from moving toward the light. As we cross the first barrier, we will leave the strongest satanic tugging—though he will always try to ensnare us wherever we are in the journey.

“Reaching out from the center of light in stage three, Jesus also “entices” us with a spiritual gravitational pull toward Him.”

“As soon as you start moving toward the light, the gravitational pull of darkness will immediately try to jerk you back, “for Satan desireth to have you.” He will tempt, frighten, and fight you. Missionaries know all about this. In some way, opposition hits virtually every investigator. The first time Adam and Eve taught their children the gospel, for example, Satan came among them, saying, “Don’t believe your parents.” And so the children, we’re told, “believed [them] not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish.” (“From that time forth” tells us that these children chose to be devilish after the Fall, after they heard that message. They were not born devilish.)

“Satanic opposition does have great power in today’s world. Satan holds “a great chain in his hand,” which symbolizes such addictions as drugs, alcohol, and pornography—and the prince of darkness looks up and laughs at the poor souls he captures.20

“But that opposition cannot destroy us. Remember Joseph praying in the grove: an enemy power, he said, bound his tongue so he “could not speak.” Remember Moses when he first saw his grand vision: “Satan came tempting him” until Moses feared exceedingly, and “he saw the bitterness of hell.” But both Joseph and Moses called upon God, who gave them power to drive Satan away. That is a key insight: Satan may rattle us, but he cannot overcome us, for God can cast him from our presence.”

Alma 39, from today’s reading, contains the scriptural basis for today’s discussion. Although there are a LOT of things that I would LOVE to focus on in Alma 37, 38, and 39, the principle of finding safety on the Lord’s side of the line is the one thing that it seems the world, and I, really need to work on. It hit me hard as I came across the words of Alma to his son Corianton: “Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel.” (see Alma 39:1-5, emphasis added). Had Corianton stayed away from “the borders of the Lamanites” he may have never crossed paths with Isabel. He may have heard of her, but he probably would have never met her. He sought her out, and he found her–among the boarders of the enemy.

Stay on “the Lord’s side of the line”! Stay upstream from the brink of the waterfall–“The Devil’s Throat”!! Stay far away from “the boarders of the Lamanites”!!! STAY SAFE, BY STAYING WITHIN THE BOUNDS THE LORD HAS SET!

Within Bounds

Chastity: What Are the Limits?

ON THIS DAY IN 1829: Susquehanna River, Pennsylvania. After Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic Priesthood, the Melchizedek Priesthood was also conferred upon them by the ancient Apostles Peter, James, and John along the banks of the Susquehanna River between Colesville, New York, and Harmony, Pennsylvania. It should be noted that some historians place the Melchizedek Priesthood restoration at a later date. (Sources: History of the Church, Joseph Smith 1:39-46; Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844, John W. Welch p. 218-25; Joseph Smith History A1:17-18, 27)

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