Tag Archives: Mormon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“we will compare the word unto a SEED

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

For a great breakdown of this verse click the graphic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He said, “Of course not.”

“I asked, “Why not?”

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

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

“I asked them if they read the scriptures.

“They said, “No.”

“I asked them if they prayed.

“They said, “Not often.”

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

“They said, “Occasionally.”

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

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

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

“They thought for a moment and said they would.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasting the Light

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

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

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

Where Is My Testimony on the Faith Spectrum?

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

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

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

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

Desire

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

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

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

The possible resulting combinations are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plant the Seed—Begin Learning

Alma describes the next step:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aligning Learning Methods and Learning Channels

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

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

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

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

Connecting Learning by Study with the Mind

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

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

Connecting Learning by Study with the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

Connecting Learning by Faith with the Mind

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

In speaking of knowing, Alma says:

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

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

Acting on your faith has given you knowledge.

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

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

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

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

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

Connecting Learning by Faith with the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Perfect Knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opposition Reveals the Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Faith Experiment

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

  • Love versus hate, hostility, opposition

  • Honesty versus lies, deceit, theft

  • Forgiving versus revenge, resentment, bitterness

  • Kindness versus mean, angry, unkind

  • Patience versus short-tempered, hotheaded, intolerant

  • Humility versus pride, unteachable, arrogant

  • Peacemaker versus contentious, divisive, provoking

  • Diligence versus grow weary, give up, stubborn

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

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

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

The Faith Experiment—Next Level

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Ordinances and covenants versus simply live a good life

  • Children innocent versus infant baptism

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

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

  • Eternal marriage and families versus till death do us part

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Testimony Is Stronger Than You Think It Is

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

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

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

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

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

3. African proverb.

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

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

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

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

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

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#BOMTC Mosiah 8-10: Fact or Fiction

After the servant leadership and stirring words of King Benjamin, his son, Mosiah, begins his reign. One of the first things that King Mosiah does is to  send a search party after a group of Nephites who had left many years earlier and were never heard from again. They had desired to inherit the land of Nephi, the land of their father’s inheritance. When they are located, we learn that they have their own records that they kept since their departure and that they have also found 24 ancient plates with writing in a language that they don’t understand.

What stood out to me in these chapters, is that this whole experience occurred because two individuals choose to believe stories that are not correct.  This led to many lives being lost over the course of three generations.

A simple model illustrates how we make this same mistake on a regular basis, and it helps us to discover what to do to avoid such mistakes.  It is best to write this model down before I explain it. Here it is:

Observe –> Story –> Emotions –> Actions.

Now I will try to briefly explain the model so that you can recognize how it works in your life. As we observe something through our senses, we take in filtered information and begin to process it. As we organize and process what we observe we begin to tell ourselves a story to make sense of what we observed. If we are not careful in our observations, we cause ourselves to create a story based on limited or false information.  The stories we tell ourselves create emotions. Our emotions can cause us to take certain actions. This is one reason why when one watches a movie it can cause terror or tears even though they know it is “just a movie” and the people are “just acting”. One can tell themselves over and over that its “just a movie” and still act/respond in a way that they don’t want/expect.
This process is a constant in our lives, and can both help us and hurt us.  We must have the facts/truth for this model to help us. Without the truth we tell ourselves the wrong story, which creates the wrong emotions, which lead to the wrong actions, and eventually the wrong ending. So we have to be VERY careful about the stories we tell ourselves. And since this all originates with the observations we make, we must be EVEN MORE CAREFUL to evaluate the validity of our observations to determine the truth (D&C 93:24). We must be “quick to observe” (Mormon 1:2), and careful to make “righteous judgment” (John 7:24). This is just one of many reasons that we need the Gift of the Holy Ghost to help us discern between truth and error each day (Jacob 4:13Moroni 10:5; see also Judgment). We need to slow down our “story” making process and evaluate our “observations” to make sure that they are correct and based in truth, otherwise we may become “overzealous” (Mosiah 7:21; 9:3) and make decisions that lead to tragedy.
Reflect on your life and how this process works. Can you remember a time when you were hurt because of limited or false observations?  Can you remember a time when you averted the wrong actions because  you took time to get all the information and make the correct observation of the situation or person?
When you understand this process you may understand these pages in the book of Mosiah with more clarity and discover a very important principle to help you avoid similar mistakes–even mistakes that could affect several generations. I will give you some verses that describe how Zeniff and King Laman were both hurt by this process. I will also share some verses that show how Zeniff averted making another bad mistake simply by taking enough time to make the proper observation.
Here are the verses that illustrate what limited/false observations can do: Mosiah 9:1-10; 10:12-18. It is well worth the time to study these verses with this model in mind. We constantly make bad choices for the same reasons.
Mosiah 7:6-14 is a great illustration of the importance of taking enough time and caution to make sure that your observations are based on TRUTH.  The Truth will cause you to create the correct story, which can lead to the appropriate emotions, which can then help you to choose the right  (CTR) actions/response. Right observations lead to creating right stories. Wrong observations lead to creating wrong stories. Choosing the right story leads to choosing the right actions, and choosing the right actions leads to the right ending!
To help you create the correct “story” of the next few readings (Mosiah 7-24), I will include some illustrations provided by the Church Educational System for you to “observe”.
#BOMTC Day 28, May 4~Mosiah 8-10 or Pages 162-167 (3)
Sometime after King Mosiah I (the father of King Benjamin) arrived in Zarahemla, a group of people wanted to go back to the land of Nephi. The first group that went failed because of contention (see Omni 1:27–28). A second group, led by Zeniff, succeeded in establishing a settlement in the land of Lehi-Nephi (see Omni 1:29–30Mosiah 7:9, 21). About 50 years later, King Mosiah II sent a group under the leadership of Ammon to find out what happened to Zeniff’s people (see Mosiah 7:1–6).
#BOMTC Day 28, May 4~Mosiah 8-10 or Pages 162-167 (4)
It is helpful to remember that Mosiah 1–8 is Mormon’s abridgment of the record of Mosiah and contains the story of the Nephites in Zarahemla until the reign of Mosiah IIMosiah 9–22 is taken from the record of Zeniff and tells the story of the Nephites who left Zarahemla at the time of Mosiah I and followed Zeniff back to the land of Lehi-Nephi.
#BOMTC Day 28, May 4~Mosiah 8-10 or Pages 162-167 (5)
In Mosiah 7–9 we read that Mosiah II sent an expedition, led by Ammon, to find out what happened to Zeniff’s colony, which had left Zarahemla over 50 years earlier. Ammon found Zeniff’s grandson, King Limhi, and his people in bondage to the Lamanites. In Mosiah 21, we read about the coming of Ammon and his men from Limhi’s point of view.
#BOMTC Day 28, May 4~Mosiah 8-10 or Pages 162-167 (6)
  1. After Lehi’s death, the Lord commanded the followers of Nephi to separate from the followers of Laman. The Nephites settled in a land that they called the land of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:5–8). The land was later also known as “the land of Lehi-Nephi” (Mosiah 7:1).
  2. About 400 years later the Nephites were led by a king named Mosiah. The Lord commanded Mosiah to flee from the land of Nephi with “as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord.” Mosiah and his people discovered a group of people called the people of Zarahemla. The two groups of people united and called themselves Nephites. Mosiah was appointed to be their king (Omni 1:12–19).
  3. A group of Nephites left the land of Zarahemla to regain part of the land of Nephi (Omni 1:27). They obtained land there under the leadership of a man named Zeniff, who became their king (Mosiah 9:1–7).
  4. About 79 years later King Mosiah II, the grandson of the first King Mosiah, “was desirous to know concerning the people who went to dwell in the land of Lehi-Nephi.” He permitted a man named Ammon to lead an expedition for this purpose (note that this Ammon was not the son of Mosiah who later preached the gospel among the Lamanites). Ammon and his brethren found King Limhi and his people. Limhi was Zeniff’s grandson (Mosiah 7:1–11).
A less technical, but just as informational map can be found here: Mosiah map (from The Red Headed Hostess).
Want to know more? Check out these great links!

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#BOMTC Day 84, June 29~Moroni 8-9 or Pages 525-529: “Labor Diligently”

#BOMTC Day 84, June 29~Moroni 8-9 or Pages 525-529, Hard Work Ahead Labor Diligently

Click on the graphic to study Moroni 8-9

Moroni 8 is an epistle Mormon wrote to his son Moroni about why little children do not need baptism. In the epistle, Mormon also taught about how we can prepare to dwell with God. He concluded by expressing concern for the wickedness and impending destruction of the Nephites.

Moroni 9 contains Mormon’s final recorded epistle to his son. He expressed sorrow for the wicked state of the Nephites and urged Moroni to labor diligently to help the Nephites repent. Notwithstanding the corrupt situation of his people, he encouraged his son to be faithful in Christ and to let the promise of eternal life rest on his mind forever.

It is interesting to note that with both of the difficulties addressed in Moroni 8 & 9 (doctrinal and moral issues), the solution that Mormon shared with Moroni was the same: “LABOR DILIGENTLY” (see Moroni 8:6 & 9:6).

What great advice! It seems like the call to “labor diligently” is the solution for not just addressing doctrinal and moral issues, but just about any issue that we will face in life.

So many times we let worry and stress rob us of our strength. Why don’t we just “labor diligently” and address the issues head on?

With each passing day we draw nearer and nearer to the Second Coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. And even if we don’t have any doctrinal, or moral, or persaonl issues we are facing right now, if we “labor diligently” we will be blessed to meet Him some day.

Recently the Church has faced some serious scrutiny in the media for it’s stance on certain doctrinal and moral issues. As I have read the information coming from both the media and the church, I have reflected on two scriptures from Doctrine and Covenants section 1 (which is the Lord’s own “preface” to this modern book of scripture). I invite you to consider how they relate to each of the epistles that Moroni included from his father, and how they relate to the current events.

#BOMTC Day 84, June 29~Moroni 8-9 or Pages 525-529, DC 1~14

#BOMTC Day 84, June 29~Moroni 8-9 or Pages 525-529, DC 1~38 Whether by Mine Own Voice or the Voice of My Servants It Is the Same
I know that if we “labor diligently” to apply D&C 1:38 that we will never fall victim to D&C 1:14 (as the people did in the closing chapters of the Book of Mormon).

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#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506: Your “Stance” Determines Your Liberty or Captivity

#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506, Your STANCE Determines Your Liberty or Captivity

The Brother of Jared was saddened by his people’s request to be led by a king. He said, “Surely this thing leadeth to captivity” (Ether 6:23). Though the Brother of Jared prophesied that establishing a Jaredite king would lead to captivity, his words were not immediately fulfilled. The first Jaredite king, Orihah, ruled in righteousness. However, a man named Jared became king two generations later by forming a secret combination. During the reigns of their kings, the Jaredites went through several cycles of hearkening to the prophets and living in righteousness, and rejecting the prophets and living in wickedness.

Two VERY important lessons we can learn from these chapters are:

  • Rejecting the words of prophets leads to captivity.
  • As we follow the counsel of prophets and remember the Lord, we prosper.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught:

“It was the ultimate sacrilege that Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, was rejected and even put to death. And it continues. In many parts of the world today we see a growing rejection of the Son of God. His divinity is questioned. His gospel is deemed irrelevant. In day-to-day life, His teachings are ignored. Those who legitimately speak in His name find little respect in secular society.

If we ignore the Lord and His servants, we may just as well be atheists—the end result is practically the same. It is what Mormon described as typical after extended periods of peace and prosperity: “Then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One” (Helaman 12:2). And so we should ask ourselves, do we reverence the Holy One and those He has sent?” (A Sense of the Sacred, emphasis added.)

Perhaps a better title for today’s post would have been: “The STATURE of Liberty: It’s All About Your STANCE.”

Here’s why: I liken what happens with the people these chapters to an analogy that a popular news commentator once made using the Colossus of Rhodes and the Statue of Liberty. I have made a few edits to help it flow.

#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506, Colossus of Rhodes

This is a painting of the Colossus of Rhodes. They didn’t have cameras in 280 B.C. So, this is an artist’s rendering of what it may have been like. This was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It took 12 years to build. It stood about 107 feet high. (The Statue of Liberty is 151 ft. from the base to the torch.) You can get a sense of how huge this thing was. We’re not sure but we think that it was in somewhat of a slouched or relaxed position. Rhodes had become an important economic port in the ancient world and the people felt invincible. It’s interesting to note that the Colossus of Rhodes stood for less than 50 years. The torch, the crown — look familiar? Fifty years this stood and then it was knocked down by an earthquake. And then it laid there in rubble for 800 years as people came from all over the known world to see its great fall. Got it?

#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506, Statue of Liberty (2)

Now, contrast this with the Statue of Liberty. Here’s the Statue of Liberty. The difference in its stance speaks volumes and it was meant to. First of all, you’ll notice that the Colossus of Rhodes is holding arrows and a bow, right? What is she holding? She’s holding the tablet of law. If you notice also her feet, she’s standing like she’s almost on the balls of her feet. And she’s moving forward. Her arm and torch is outstretched to the world. She’s going this way while she’s holding the tablets that signify the law, the Constitution that enables her to move forward and to break free of the chains that the European system had put in place. She’s able to move forward. I want to ask you a question: Is this still our stance?

#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506, Statue of Liberty (3)

This is similar to the contrast that we find as we study the Jaredite kings and people. In just a few pages of scripture we flip-flop through more than 24 kings that take either a “stance” of the Colossus of Rhodes or that of the Statue of Liberty. And unfortunately the people tend to follow suit in their “stance”.

#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506, Statue of Liberty

In the end the Jaredites fell, just like the Colossus of Rhodes did. And just as people came to see the ruin of the Colossus of Rhodes, the people of the Book of Mormon found the Jaredite ruins (Mosiah 8:8).

We need to take a moment and consider our “stance”. Which of these two figures represents my “stance” when it comes to living the gospel? It seems that for the Jaredites, their liberty or captivity always came down to their “stance”.

Sometimes there are “hot topics” that show up in the news that relate to the gospel. Or sometimes there are social changes that relate to the gospel. Many times we may be tempted to compare our “stance” with someone else’s “stance” on these hot topics and changes. But what we really need to consider is, “What is the Lord’s ‘stance’ on this?” Once we have identified His “stance”, it seems to me that the only question left to answer is, “Am I willing to take His ‘stance’ or not?” If we are not willing to take His “stance” then the prophetic words of the Brother of Jared will be fulfilled again in our lives: “Surely this thing leadeth to captivity” (Ether 6:23)

We must be different from the Jaredites!  We cannot afford to flip-flop when it comes to our “stance” on the gospel. We must decide to be a “Stature” of Liberty and take a “stance” which will allow us to hold up the Light (3 Nephi 18:24), continually holding firm to the Word of God (1 Nephi 8:301 Nephi 11:25; 15:23-25) and move forward with faith (2 Nephi 31:20Doctrine and Covenants 128:22).

#BOMTC Day 80, June 25~Ether 8-10 or Pages 501-506, Statue-Of-Liberty-3

I believe that the following letter from Clayton Christensen, written to correct a misunderstanding/mis-representation of his beliefs by a reporter, is a great illustration of the principles taught in Ether 8-10. Pay close attention to his STATURE and STANCE on the gospel…

June 21, 2014

Dear Friends:

I am writing about an article by Michael Fitzgerald, titled “How the Mormons Conquered America: The success of the Mormon religion is a study in social adaptation.” It appeared a couple of days ago in a journal, Nautilus.  I am misquoted in the piece.  Fitzgerald interviewed me several months ago relative to this article. He wrote notes as we talked; he did not record our conversation.

In the article, Fitzgerald reviews the history of how the church has changed several practices, such as polygamy and ordaining blacks to the priesthood. He then refers to same-sex marriage; and in that same paragraph quoted me as saying, “… I think I’m farther along than the church is on this one.” It implies that I support same-sex marriage, and that I expect that the leaders of the church in the future will agree with that position.

This is not true. I did not say this. I support wholeheartedly every phrase in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” And I sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who penned that document.

I am grateful that I belong to a church in which we do not attempt to convince God or our leaders that certain opinions in our society are correct, and God’s are not. Society changes its mind quite frequently. I do not believe that God changes his mind, however. When society is telling me something new, even when it has assembled powerful reasons and powerful people on its side, I do not ask society whether it is correct. I ask God.

I understand that this mis-representation of my beliefs by Mr. Fitzgerald is being widely circulated through the church. I would be very grateful if you could forward this letter to anyone who you believe ought to see this – and by the fastest and most effective ways possible.  Thanks for your help!

Clayton Christensen

Belmont, MA

I love the STANCE of Brother Christensen, because he has adopted the Lord’s STANCE!

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, the Young Women General President, gave an amazing talk in the Women’s Session of the April 2015 General Conference of the Church. In her talk she issued a challenge for everyone to, “build the kingdom of God by STANDING up boldly and being defenders of marriage, parenthood, and the home.”

Defenders of the Family Proclamation
By Bonnie L. Oscarson

What a privilege and joy to be a part of this marvelous assembly of girls and women. How blessed we are as women to be joined together this evening in unity and in love.

I recently read the story of Marie Madeline Cardon, who, with her family, received the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ from the first missionaries called to serve in Italy in 1850. She was a young woman of 17 or 18 years of age when they were baptized. One Sunday, while the family was holding a worship service in their home high in the Alps of northern Italy, an angry mob of men, including some of the local ministers, gathered around the house and began shouting, yelling, and calling for the missionaries to be brought outside. I don’t think they were anxious to be taught the gospel—they intended bodily harm. It was young Marie who marched out of the house to confront the mob.

They continued their vicious yells and demands for the missionaries to be brought out. Marie raised her Bible up in her hand and commanded them to depart. She told them that the elders were under her protection and that they could not harm one hair of their heads. Listen to her own words: “All stood aghast. … God was with me. He placed those words in my mouth, or I could not have spoken them. All was calm, instantly. That strong ferocious body of men stood helpless before a weak, trembling, yet fearless girl.” The ministers asked the mob to leave, which they did quietly in shame, fear, and remorse. The small flock completed their meeting in peace.1

Can’t you just picture that brave young woman, the same age as many of you, standing up to a mob and defending her newly found beliefs with courage and conviction?

Sisters, few of us will ever have to face an angry mob, but there is a war going on in this world in which our most cherished and basic doctrines are under attack. I am speaking specifically of the doctrine of the family. The sanctity of the home and the essential purposes of the family are being questioned, criticized, and assaulted on every front.

When President Gordon B. Hinckley first read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” 20 years ago this year, we were grateful for and valued the clarity, simplicity, and truth of this revelatory document. Little did we realize then how very desperately we would need these basic declarations in today’s world as the criteria by which we could judge each new wind of worldly dogma coming at us from the media, the Internet, scholars, TV and films, and even legislators. The proclamation on the family has become our benchmark for judging the philosophies of the world, and I testify that the principles set forth within this statement are as true today as they were when they were given to us by a prophet of God nearly 20 years ago.

May I point out something obvious? Life rarely goes exactly according to plan for anyone, and we are very aware that not all women are experiencing what the proclamation describes. It is still important to understand and teach the Lord’s pattern and strive for the realization of that pattern the best we can.

Each of us has a part to play in the plan, and each of us is equally valued in the eyes of the Lord. We should remember that a loving Heavenly Father is aware of our righteous desires and will honor His promises that nothing will be withheld from those who faithfully keep their covenants. Heavenly Father has a mission and plan for each of us, but He also has His own timetable. One of the hardest challenges in this life is to have faith in the Lord’s timing. It’s a good idea to have an alternative plan in mind, which helps us to be covenant-keeping, charitable, and righteous women who build the kingdom of God no matter which way our lives go. We need to teach our daughters to aim for the ideal but plan for contingencies.

Defenders of the Family Proclamation, Bonnie L. Oscarson

I would like to issue a challenge for all of us as women of the Church to be defenders of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

During this 20th anniversary year of the family proclamation, I would like to issue a challenge for all of us as women of the Church to be defenders of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Just as Marie Madeline Cardon courageously defended the missionaries and her newly found beliefs, we need to boldly defend the Lord’s revealed doctrines describing marriage, families, the divine roles of men and women, and the importance of homes as sacred places—even when the world is shouting in our ears that these principles are outdated, limiting, or no longer relevant. Everyone, no matter what their marital circumstance or number of children, can be defenders of the Lord’s plan described in the family proclamation. If it is the Lord’s plan, it should also be our plan!

If it is the Lord’s plan, it should also be our plan!

“If it is the Lord’s plan, it should also be our plan!” Bonnie L. Oscarson

There are three principles taught in the proclamation which I think are especially in need of steadfast defenders. The first is marriage between a man and a woman. We are taught in the scriptures, “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”2 For anyone to attain the fulness of priesthood blessings, there must be a husband and a wife sealed in the house of the Lord, working together in righteousness and remaining faithful to their covenants. This is the Lord’s plan for His children, and no amount of public discourse or criticism will change what the Lord has declared. We need to continue to model righteous marriages, seek for that blessing in our lives, and have faith if it is slow in coming. Let us be defenders of marriage as the Lord has ordained it while continuing to show love and compassion for those with differing views.

The next principle which calls for our defending voices is elevating the divine roles of mothers and fathers. We eagerly teach our children to aim high in this life. We want to make sure that our daughters know that they have the potential to achieve and be whatever they can imagine. We hope they will love learning, be educated, talented, and maybe even become the next Marie Curie or Eliza R. Snow.

Do we also teach our sons and daughters there is no greater honor, no more elevated title, and no more important role in this life than that of mother or father? I would hope that as we encourage our children to reach for the very best in this life that we also teach them to honor and exalt the roles that mothers and fathers play in Heavenly Father’s plan.

Our youngest daughter, Abby, saw a unique opportunity to stand as a defender of the role of mother. One day she got a notice from her children’s school that they were having Career Day presentations at the school. Parents were invited to send in an application if they wanted to come to school to teach the children about their jobs, and Abby felt impressed to apply to come and speak about motherhood. She didn’t hear back from the school, and when Career Day was getting close, she finally called the school, thinking they may have lost her application. The organizers scrambled around and found two teachers who agreed to have Abby come talk to their classes at the end of Career Day.

In her very fun presentation to the children, Abby taught them, among other things, that as a mother she needed to be somewhat of an expert in medicine, psychology, religion, teaching, music, literature, art, finance, decorating, hair styling, chauffeuring, sports, culinary arts, and so much more. The children were impressed. She finished by having the children remember their mothers by writing thank-you notes expressing gratitude for the many loving acts of service they received daily. Abby felt that the children saw their mothers in a whole new light and that being a mother or father was something of great worth. She applied to share again this year at Career Day and was invited to present to six classes.

Abby has said of her experience: “I feel like it could be easy in this world for a child to get the sense that being a parent is a secondary job or even sometimes a necessary inconvenience. I want every child to feel like they are the most important priority to their parent, and maybe telling them how important being a parent is to me will help them realize all that their parents do for them and why.”

Our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, is a wonderful example of honoring women and motherhood, especially his own mother. In reference to our earthly mothers, he has said: “May each of us treasure this truth; one cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and [our earthly] mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.”3

The last principle we need to stand and defend is the sanctity of the home. We need to take a term which is sometimes spoken of with derision and elevate it. It is the term homemaker. All of us—women, men, youth, and children, single or married—can work at being homemakers. We should “make our homes” places of order, refuge, holiness, and safety. Our homes should be places where the Spirit of the Lord is felt in rich abundance and where the scriptures and the gospel are studied, taught, and lived. What a difference it would make in the world if all people would see themselves as makers of righteous homes. Let us defend the home as a place which is second only to the temple in holiness.

Sisters, I am grateful to be a woman in these latter days. We have opportunities and possibilities which no other generation of women has had in the world. Let us help build the kingdom of God by standing up boldly and being defenders of marriage, parenthood, and the home. The Lord needs us to be brave, steadfast, and immovable warriors who will defend His plan and teach the upcoming generations His truths.

I bear witness that Heavenly Father lives and loves each of us. His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer. I leave this testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494: Life Lessons

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Ether is a Handbook for Life

Click on the graphic to study Ether 2-3

To me, the book of Ether is full of “Life Lessons”. There are many parallels between the experiences the Jaredites had and the way that we need to live our lives.

We ended yesterday’s reading by beginning the book of Ether. The book of Ether is Moroni’s abridgment of the history of the Jaredites. The Jaredites came to the Americas centuries before the people of Lehi. Following the Flood in Noah’s day, a group of people attempted to build a tower “whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4). The account of the Jaredite nation began during this time period. The Lord dealt with the widespread wickedness by confounding the common language and by scattering the people across the face of the earth (see Genesis 11:5–8Ether 1:33). This account in the book of Ether begins with Jared and his brother seeking the Lord’s help when He confounded the language of the people at the Tower of Babel. The Lord preserved the language of Jared, his brother, and their families and friends and led them through the wilderness toward the promised land.

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Brother of Jared

I invite you to create a list of “life lessons” that you can see in the book of Ether as you study it. Your list may look similar to mine, but you will probably catch things that I didn’t and you can add them to the list that I will share with you.

Life Lessons from the Book of Ether 1-3, According to Bro Simon Says

Life lesson #1 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Cry” (Ether 1:34-43; 2:14)

How would you describe the kind of prayer that is described as “crying” unto the Lord? What kind of a prayer is that? Have you ever had the need to “cry” unto the Lord? I have found that President Henry B. Erying was correct when he taught:

“As the challenges around us increase, we must commit to do more to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Casual prayer won’t be enough. Reading a few verses of the scripture won’t be enough. Doing the minimum of what the Lord asks of us won’t be enough. Hoping that we will have the Atonement work in our lives and that we will perhaps sometimes feel the influence of the Holy Ghost won’t be enough. And one great burst of effort won’t be enough. Only a steady, ever-increasing effort will allow the Lord to take us to higher ground.” (see the full talk at, “Raise the Bar”)

Our need to “cry” unto the Lord need not be an “every now and then” experience. In the world that we are living in we need to learn to “cry” unto the Lord on a daily basis. I am learning to “cry” unto the Lord, but it is not a natural thing for me to do. It takes time and it takes effort, but I have found that when I do it, it is always worth it!

Pray with the thought that 3

Life lesson #2 from the book of Ether: Learn to “Go to Work” (Ether 2:16)

This admonition from the Lord came after the Jaredites had been brought by the Lord to the seashore, and they had dwelt there for four years. I must admit, I wouldn’t mind that either. I love “beach bum” living! But that is not where the Lord wanted them to be. He had a “Promised Land” for them. They were content with the beach, but the Lord had land of plenty prepared for them. It was time to “go to work”.

Sometimes we may be content with the “seashore”/beach that the Lord has brought us to. We may pitch our tents and begin to enjoy our “four years” of rest and relaxation. But then the Lord comes along and reminds us that THE ONLY REASON that He brought us to the “seashore” was so that we could “go to work” and move towards the “promised land” that He has so mercifully prepared for us.

The following quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley seems to show us how lessons #1 & 2 work together:

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, keep trying and praying and working

“Carry on. Things will work out. If you keep trying and praying and working, things will work out. They always do.” (in Dew, Go Forward with Faith, 423)

Life lesson #3 from the book of Ether: Learn to Hang “Tight” (Ether 2:17; 6:7)

Brother S. Michael Wilcox explains this so well:

Now I have a tendency, because I’m an English major, to edit almost everything I read. It’s just a habit I can’t get out of with whatever I read—textbooks, newspapers, novels, biographies—I’m always editing. I edit the scriptures as I’m reading them. There are actually times where I say, “Lord, I could fix this verse for you if you would like me to.” And one of the verses that I used to think I would edit is Ether chapter two, the seventeenth verse; the description of the Jaredite barges. Can you realize what word I might write if I were editing this? This is how it reads:

“They were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish”—that’s once. “And the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish”—twice. “And the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish”—three times. “And the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish”—five times.

I would have written redundant. We get the impression they are waterproof. It’s like taking a jar and sealing it and throwing it. These are not submarines; they float light like a fowl, we are told, on the water. But the problem is that great waves are going to be washing over them, and so they need to be waterproof.

Now being ‘Tight like a dish’ causes two problems for the Jaredites’ crossing of the sea. Number one, minor problems, it was probably Mrs. Moriancumer who pointed them out to her husband: “We can’t breathe in here, and we can’t see, so unless we are going to get the Promised Land in sixty seconds, we’ve got big problems. Did you get the instructions right?”

And so Moriancumer, the brother of Jared, goes back to the Lord, and he presents his two problems. Now you learn something about your Father in Heaven in the solution or the handling of these two problems. Of the two problems—no air and no light—the Lord solves one of them just because He is asked. He tells them to put the holes in so they can have air. And sometimes when we go to the Lord, we simply ask and we will receive. He tells us the solution. The second problem we have to seek and find; for the second problem the Lord says, “You come up with a solution.” Now He put some parameters on that. He tells them, “You can’t go by windows”—probably not invented yet, and the second, “You can’t go by fire”—oxygen is a problem anyway. All that tossing around in the sea with coals flying everywhere probably wouldn’t be good, so you come up with a solution.

Now you are the brother of Jared. I want you to listen with his mind at what the Lord says because the twenty-fourth verse is a really interesting verse of Ether chapter two:

“Behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.”

Now the reason they need ‘Tight like a dish’ ships is because there are going to be mountain waves. Now what causes mountain waves in the ocean?—wind and storm. And what did the Lord just say the source of the winds were? “The winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and the rains and floods have I sent forth”—do you have a solution to the problem?

If I were the brother of Jared, I would have said, “Lord, we don’t need these ‘Tight like a dish’ ships at all. Since waves are the problem, and waves are caused by wind, and wind comes out of your mouth—blow softly. Blow softly. Breeze us to the Promised Land. We’ll sit on deck, we’ll fish, we’ll get tanned, we’ll play shuffleboard.” How many here want the first watch cruise version of life?—that’s me; I’m a first watch person. I don’t like mountain waves.

And then the great lesson: We know God can still the storms of our lives—we know that; there are precedents. But he prefers to do something else:

“Behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

What we need to understand about our Father in Heaven is that He prefers to prepare us to face the storms of life, the contrary winds, rather than to still them. So if you are past your fourth watch and He has not come, don’t assume that He is not there, that He doesn’t care, He doesn’t listen, or that you are not worthy. Assume your ship is tight like a dish. You will not sink.  Somewhere in the past of your life, experiences have been placed by a wise and foresighted Father in Heaven to prepare you to face the very things that you are facing. As the lion and the bear came to David, before Goliath, to prepare him to face Goliath, so will lion-and-bear moments come in your lives before the Goliath moments come. Because if your ship was not tight like a dish and you have reached the fourth watch, He will come to you and still the storm. So if the storm is not still, we must assume our ship is tight like a dish. (Bread or Stones: Understanding the God We Pray to)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Jaredite Barges

Life lesson #4 from the book of Ether: Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn (Ether 2:18-25)

“God’s children should learn to listen, then listen to learn from the Lord… The wise listen to learn from the Lord.” (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Listen to Learn,” Ensign, May 1991)

As the Brother of Jared performed the work the Lord had commanded him, he realized that there were a few “details” that needed to be addressed regarding their voyage in the “tight like unto a dish” vessels: no light, no steering, no fresh air. Each of these are major problems when crossing the “great sea which divideth the lands,” but only one of them is immediately life-threatening: no fresh air.

What we can learn here is that when God gets specific we need to take note, because it is probably a life-or-death situation (physically or spiritually). In other words, where the stakes are high (physically or spiritually) you get specific instructions from God.

Did you catch that? Is it true?

Ordinances are a great example to illustrate this principle. In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing.  Each of these soul-saving ordinances include very specific wording and instruction because they are essential for our exaltation.

The Lord gave the Brother of Jared very specific instructions on how to take care of the air! The only wise thing to do then was to follow it, to the specifics. “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise.” (Prov. 19:20.)

So that we don’t miss these specific types of soul-saving instructions, God will usually invoke the Law of Witnesses in our lives. The Law of Witnesses is helpful in at least two ways here: it gives validity to the specific instructions being given, and it allows us to catch a specific message that we may have missed the first time it was given. “When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention.” (President Henry B. Eyring, “Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997)

As a final example of this principle, consider the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. (By the way, it is not just for the youth. It is STRENGTH FOR YOU!) In just about every section you will find “specifics” like the ones I have mentioned. Things that they Lord has told us through multiple witnesses, very specifically, that we should do or not do. These are NOT suggestions. They should be likened unto the dilemma of the Brother of Jared, who referred to such dilemmas with the words, “therefore we shall perish” (Ether 2:19). And indeed we will “perish” (physically or spiritually) if we ignore them.

  • Agency and Accountability: “Have the moral courage to stand firm in obeying God’s will, even if you have to stand alone.”
  • Dating: “You should not date until you are at least 16 years old.”
  • Dress and Appearance: “Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest.”
  • Entertainment and Media: “Avoid pornography at all costs. It is a poison that weakens your self-control, destroys your feelings of self-worth, and changes the way you see others. It causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit and can damage your ability to have a normal relationship with others, especially your future spouse. It limits your ability to feel true love. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.”

The list goes on and on. Those who have not followed these types of specifics have learned from “sad experience” that when God gives specific instructions we need to follow them to the specifics.

Our rule should be the rule that the Prophet Joseph made for himself: “I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 160.)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, I made this my rule when the lord commands do it

Life lesson #5 from the book of Ether: Learn to Take Important “Things” to God (Ether 3:1-6)

Once the Lord gave the “specifics” to the Brother of Jared about how to obtain fresh air, He proceeded to explain that He would “steer” them forth to the promised land. Brother Wilcox did a great job of covering that subject above. Sometimes God just “prepares” us for what is to come and steers us with His wind and waves (Ether 2:25). What I would like to discuss for a moment is the importance of taking important “things” to the Lord.

Why do I use the word “things” in quotes? Well, because when the Brother of Jared had “molten out of rock sixteen small stones,” the took them to the Lord and said, “behold these THINGS which I have molten out of the rock.” (Ether 3:3) How had the Brother of Jared come to this point? Well, the Lord had already told him what he could NOT do, and then left him with the question, “What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25)

The Brother of Jared was left to make a decision, a very important decision, and the Lord trusted him to make the right one!

Here is how I liken and apply this principle to myself. When I have an important decision to make (or other significant “thing”), I study it out with due diligence and make a decision regarding the “thing” (compare Ether 2:23-24 & 3:4 with Genesis 6:16, footnote a). Then I “cry” unto the Lord “upon the top of the mount” (Ether 3:1), and I ask Him to “touch” the “thing” that I have brought to Him. When He doesn’t touch it, I go back to the metaphorical drawing board. When He does touch it, I go forward with faith!

Now I am not suggesting that you take every “thing” to God. I have been trying to stress that I am referring to important “things”, like having light in your life. Here are three quotes that help me when the Lord places me in these types of situations about important “things”. I hope they will provide proper balance to this principle:

“The Lord counsels us on balance. Faith is vital, but it must be accompanied by the personal work appropriate to the task. Only then do we qualify for the blessing. The appropriate approach is to study as if everything depended upon us and then to pray and exercise faith as if everything depended upon the Lord.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 11)

“In the past I have tried to figure out whether I should go into business or into teaching or into the arts or whatever. As I have begun to proceed along one path, having more or less gathered what facts I could, I have found that if that decision was wrong or was taking me down the wrong path—without fail, the Lord has always let me know. On the other hand, there may have been two or three ways that I could have gone, any one of which would have been right and would have been in the general area providing the experience and means whereby I could fulfill the mission that the Lord had in mind for me. Because he knows we need growth, he generally does not point and say, “Open that door and go twelve yards in that direction; then turn right and go two miles…” But if it is wrong, he will let us know—we will feel it for sure. So rather than saying, “I will not move until I have this burning in my heart,” let us turn it around and say, “I will move unless I feel it is wrong; and if it is wrong, then I will not do it.” By eliminating all of these wrong courses, very quickly you will find yourself going in the direction that you ought to be going.” (Elder John H. Groberg, Speeches, 1979, 97-98)

“If I ask [God] to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, …and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.” (Teachings Of Presidents Of The Church: Brigham Young, p.41)

#BOMTC Day 78, June 23~Ether 2-3 or Pages 489-494, Take Your Important THINGS to the Lord

Life lesson #6 from the book of Ether: Learn to Answer God’s Questions (Ether 3:7-26)

If God knows everything (which He does), then why does He ask questions? Elder Jeffrey R. Holland is our next guest speaker! He will help us understand why God asks questions so that we can appropriately answer them:

One of the greatest prophets in the Book of Mormon goes unnamed in the record that documents his remarkable life. He is identified only as “the brother of Jared.” Yet the revelation that unfolded before his eyes was so extraordinary that his life and legacy have become synonymous with bold, consummate, perfect faith.

In the dispersion from the Tower of Babel, the people of Jared arrived at “that great sea which divideth the lands,” where they pitched their tents, awaiting further revelation about crossing the mighty ocean. For four years they awaited divine direction, but apparently they waited too casually, without supplication and exertion. Then came this remarkable encounter: “The Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.”

It is difficult to imagine what a three-hour rebuke from the Lord might be like, but the brother of Jared endured it. With immediate repentance and prayer, this prophet again sought guidance for the journey they had been assigned and those who were to pursue it. God accepted his repentance and lovingly gave further direction for their crucial mission.

For their oceanic crossing, these families and their flocks would need seaworthy crafts similar to the barges they had constructed for earlier water travel-small, light, dish-shaped vessels identical in design above and beneath so they were capable of staying afloat even if overturned by the waves. These “exceedingly tight” crafts were obviously of unprecedented design and capability, made under the direction of him who rules the seas and the winds to the end that the vessels might travel with the “lightness of a fowl upon the water.”

As miraculously designed and meticulously constructed as they were, these ships had one major, seemingly insoluble limitation. Such a tight, seaworthy design provided no way to admit light for the seafarers.

“The brother of Jared . . . cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?”

Then came an extraordinary and unexpected response from the creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are, he who boldly declared to Abraham, “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”

“And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” Then, as if such a disarming inquiry from omnipotent Deity were not enough, the Lord proceeded to articulate the very problems that the brother of Jared knew only too well. He said, “Behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.

“For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. . . .

“Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?”

Clearly the brother of Jared was being tested. God had done his part. Unique, resolutely seaworthy ships for crossing the ocean had been provided. The brilliant engineering had been done. The hard part of the construction project was over. Now the Lord wanted to know what the brother of Jared would do about incidentals.

After what was undoubtedly a great deal of soul-searching, the brother of Jared came before the Lord-perhaps hesitantly but not empty-handed. In a clearly apologetic tone, he said, “Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; . . . O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness; but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock.”

Things. The brother of Jared hardly knew what to call them. Rocks undoubtedly did not sound very inspiring. Here, standing next to the Lord’s magnificent handiwork, the impeccably designed and marvelously unique seagoing barges, the brother of Jared offered for his contribution rocks. As he eyed the sleek ships the Lord had provided, it was a moment of genuine humility.

He hurried on: “And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.

“Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.”

For all of his self-abasement, the faith of the brother of Jared was immediately apparent-in fact, we might better say transparent in light of the purpose for which the stones would be used. Obviously Jehovah found something striking in the childlike innocence and fervor of this man’s faith. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.” In a sense there may be no more powerful expression of faith spoken in scripture. It is almost as if the brother of Jared was encouraging God, emboldening him, reassuring him. Not “Behold, O Lord, I am sure thou canst do this.” Not “Behold, O Lord, thou hast done many greater things than this.” However uncertain the prophet was about his own ability, he had no uncertainty about God’s power. This was nothing but a single, assertive declaration with no hint of vacillation. It was encouragement to him who needs no encouragement but who surely must have been touched by it. “Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this.”

What happened next ranks among the greatest moments in recorded history, surely among the greatest moments in recorded faith. It established the brother of Jared among the greatest of God’s prophets forever. As the Lord reached forth to touch the stones one by one with his finger-an action coming in undeniable response to the commanding faith of this man-“the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.”

The Lord, seeing the brother of Jared fall to the earth, commanded him to rise and asked, “Why hast thou fallen?” The reply: “I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.”

Then came this marvelous declaration from the Lord: “Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?”

The brother of Jared answered, “Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.” Following this remarkable exchange and prior to the full revelation to come, the Lord confronted the brother of Jared’s faith one more time with a most intriguing question: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?” he asked him. Not “Believest thou the words which I have already spoken” but a much more rigorous request: “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?”

Preparatory faith is formed by experiences in the past-by the known, which provides a basis for belief. But redemptive faith must often be exercised toward experiences in the future-the unknown, which provides an opportunity for the miraculous. Exacting faith, mountain-moving faith, faith like that of the brother of Jared, precedes the miracle and the knowledge. He had to believe before God spoke. He had to act before the ability to complete that action was apparent. He had to commit to the complete experience in advance of even the first segment of its realization. Faith is to agree unconditionally-and in advance- to whatever conditions God may require in both the near and distant future.

The brother of Jared’s faith was complete. Committing to the words God would yet speak, he answered, “Yea, Lord.”

Then the Lord removed the veil from the eyes of the brother of Jared and came into full view of this incomparably faithful man.

“Behold,” he said, “I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.

“And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after my own image.

“Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.”

Understanding the Brother of Jared’s Experience

Before examining the doctrinal truths taught in this divine encounter, it will be useful to note two seemingly problematic issues here, issues that seem to have reasonable and acceptable resolutions.

The first consideration rises from two questions the Lord asked the brother of Jared: “Why hast thou fallen?” and “Sawest thou more than this?” It is a basic premise of Latter-day Saint theology that God “knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.” The scriptures, both ancient and modern, are replete with this assertion of omniscience. Nevertheless, God has frequently asked questions of mortals, usually as a way to test their faith, measure their honesty, or develop their knowledge.

For example, he called to Adam in the garden of Eden, “Where art thou?” and he later asked Eve, “What is this that thou hast done?” Yet an omniscient Parent clearly knew the answer to both questions, for he could see where Adam was, and he had watched what Eve had done. Obviously the questions were for the children’s sake, giving Adam and Eve the responsibility to reply honestly.

Later, in trying Abraham’s faith, God would repeatedly call out about Abraham’s whereabouts, to which the faithful patriarch would answer, “Here am I.” God’s purpose was not to obtain information he already knew but to reaffirm Abraham’s fixed faith in confronting the most difficult of all parental tests. Such questions are frequently used by God, particularly in assessing faith, honesty, and the full measure of agency, allowing his children the freedom and opportunity to express themselves as revealingly as they wish, even though God knows the answer to his own and all other questions.

The second issue that requires brief comment stems from the Lord’s exclamation “Never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger.” And later, “Never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast.”

The potential for confusion here comes with the realization that many (and perhaps all) of the major prophets living prior to the brother of Jared had seen God. How, then, do we account for the Lord’s declaration? Adam’s face-to-face conversations with God in the garden of Eden can be exempted because of the paradisiacal, pre-fallen state of that setting and relationship. Furthermore, other prophets’ visions of God, such as those of Moses and Isaiah in the Bible, or Nephi and Jacob in the Book of Mormon, can also be answered because they came after this “never before” experience of the brother of Jared.

But before the time of the brother of Jared, the Lord did appear to Adam and “the residue of his posterity who were righteous” in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman three years before Adam’s death. And we are left with Enoch, who said explicitly, “I saw the Lord; and he stood before my face, and he talked with me, even as a man talketh one with another, face to face.” We assume that other prophets between the Fall and the Tower of Babel saw God in a similar manner, including Noah, who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and “walked with God,” the same scriptural phrase used to describe Enoch’s relationship with the Lord.

This issue has been much discussed by Latter-day Saint writers, and there are several possible explanations, any one-or all-of which may cast light upon the larger truth of this passage. Nevertheless, without additional revelation or commentary on the matter, any conjecture is only that and as such is inadequate and incomplete.

One possibility is that this is simply a comment made in the context of one dispensation and as such applies only to the people of Jared and Jaredite prophets-that Jehovah had never before revealed himself to one of their seers and revelators. Obviously this theory has severe limitations when measured against such phrases as “never before” and “never has man.” Furthermore, we quickly realize that Jared and his brother are the fathers of their dispensation, the very first to whom God could have revealed himself in their era.

Another suggestion is that the reference to “man” is the key to this passage, suggesting that the Lord had never revealed himself to the unsanctified, to the nonbeliever, to temporal, earthy, natural man. The implication is that only those who have put off the natural man, only those who are untainted by the world-in short, the sanctified (such as Adam, Enoch, and now the brother of Jared)-are entitled to this privilege.

Some believe that the Lord meant he had never before revealed himself to man in that degree or to that extent. This theory suggests that divine appearances to earlier prophets had not been with the same “fulness,” that never before had the veil been lifted to give such a complete revelation of Christ’s nature and being.

A further possibility is that this is the first time Jehovah had appeared and identified himself as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with the interpretation of the passage being “never have I showed myself [as Jesus Christ] unto man whom I have created.” That possibility is reinforced by one way of reading Moroni’s later editorial comment: “Having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

Yet another interpretation of this passage is that the faith of the brother of Jared was so great he saw not only the spirit finger and body of the premortal Jesus (which presumably many other prophets had also seen) but also some distinctly more revealing aspect of Christ’s body of flesh, blood, and bone. Exactly what insight into the temporal nature of Christ’s future body the brother of Jared could have had is not clear, but Jehovah did say to him, “Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood,” and Moroni said that Christ revealed himself in this instance “in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.” Some have taken that to mean literally “the same body” the Nephites would see-a body of flesh and bone. A stronger position would suggest it was only the spiritual likeness of that future body. In emphasizing that this was a spiritual body being revealed and not some special precursor simulating flesh and bone, Jehovah said, “This body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit . . . and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.” Moroni also affirmed this, saying, “Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit.”

A final explanation-and in terms of the brother of Jared’s faith the most persuasive one-is that Christ was saying to the brother of Jared, “Never have I showed myself unto man in this manner, without my volition, driven solely by the faith of the beholder.” As a rule, prophets are invited into the presence of the Lord, are bidden to enter his presence by him and only with his sanction. The brother of Jared, on the other hand, seems to have thrust himself through the veil, not as an unwelcome guest but perhaps technically as an uninvited one. Said Jehovah, “Never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. . . . Never has man believed in me as thou hast.” Obviously the Lord himself was linking unprecedented faith with this unprecedented vision. If the vision itself was not unique, then it had to be the faith and how the vision was obtained that was so unparalleled. The only way that faith could be so remarkable was its ability to take the prophet, uninvited, where others had been able to go only with God’s bidding.

That appears to be Moroni’s understanding of the circumstance when he later wrote, “Because of the knowledge [which came as a result of faith] of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus.”

This may be one of those provocative examples (except that here it is a real experience and not hypothetical) a theologian might cite in a debate about God’s power. Students of religion sometimes ask, “Can God make a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it?” or “Can God hide an item so skillfully that he cannot find it?” Far more movingly and importantly one may ask here, “Is it possible to have faith so great that even God cannot resist it?” At first one is inclined to say that surely God could block such an experience if he wished to. But the text suggests otherwise: “This man . . . could not be kept from beholding within the veil. . . . He could not be kept from within the veil.”

This may be an unprecedented case of a mortal man’s desire, will, and purity so closely approaching the heavenly standard that God could not but honor his devotion. What a remarkable doctrinal statement about the power of a mortal’s faith! And not an ethereal, unreachable, select mortal, either. This was a man who once forgot to call upon the Lord, one whose best ideas were sometimes focused on rocks, and one who doesn’t even have a traditional name in the book that has immortalized his unprecedented experience. Given such faith, we should not be surprised that the Lord would show this prophet much, show him visions that would be relevant to the mission of all the Book of Mormon prophets and to the events of the latter-day dispensation in which the book would be received. (Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon, p.14-24)

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#BOMTC Day 77, June 22~Mormon 8-Ether 1 or Pages 483-488: “It Shall Come in a Day When…

#BOMTC Day 77, June 22~Mormon 8-Ether 1 or Pages 483-488, It Shall Come In a Day When

Click on the graphic to study Mormon 8-Ether 1

“IT SHALL COME IN A DAY WHEN”:

…it shall be said that miracles are done away

…the blood of saints shall cry unto the Lord, because of secret combinations and the works of darkness

…the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts

…leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches

…there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke in foreign lands

…there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day

…there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins (Mormon 8:26-32)

Doesn’t sound like a very good day does it? And yet, it is OUR DAY that is being spoken about in Mormon 8! After writing about the destruction of his people and the death of his father, Moroni prophesied of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Moroni saw that the Nephite record would come forth in a day of great wickedness. He testified that the Book of Mormon would be “of great worth” (Mormon 8:14) during the spiritually dangerous conditions of the last days. As you have read the Book of Mormon, I am confident that you have discovered that “great worth” for yourself.

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I love the lyrics to the song, “For Our Day”It describes well the purpose of the Book of Mormon “for our day”…

The words of a book like heavenly sounds,

have spoken to us from out of the ground.

This voice from the past, now heard in our day,

Is a work and a wonder today.

A voice we can trust, that cries from the dust.

And is speaking to us.

In our day when people hunger,

For our time when good men wander,

A book is designed to give help divine for our day.

The words of a book that shine as a light

have opened our eyes and restore our sight.

This light of the Lord that shows us the way

Is a marvelous work and a wonder.

A  light for our time, to brighten our minds.

It gives sight to the blind

This book of books, like an iron rod,

Leads to the fruit of the Love of God

In our day when people hunger,

For our time when good men wonder,

A book is designed to give help divine for our day.

Written for Us Today

President Ezra Taft Benson explained that the Book of Mormon was meant for our generation. We must, therefore, make it a center point of our study. (The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion)

#BOMTC Day 77, June 22~Mormon 8-Ether 1 or Pages 483-488, book-of-mormon

Prepared for Our Day

Elder L. Tom Perry also explained that the Book of Mormon was prepared for our day. (Blessings Resulting from Reading the Book of Mormon)

#BOMTC Day 77, June 22~Mormon 8-Ether 1 or Pages 483-488, Book of mormon

For Our Day

Latter-day Saint youth from around the world describe the influence and guidance the Book of Mormon provides in their lives.

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

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

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

Click on the graphic to study Mormon 5-7

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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