Tag Archives: Nephites

#BOMTC 3 Nephi 3-5: PREPARED

Soon after the people saw the signs of Jesus Christ’s birth, they began to forget the witnesses they had received, and they hardened their hearts. Many of the Nephites and Lamanites rejected further signs and wonders and increased in wickedness. As a result, the Gadianton robbers grew so strong that Nephites and Lamanites were compelled to take up arms against them. The converted Lamanites joined with the Nephites and became known as Nephites.

Lachoneus, the chief judge of the Nephites, called on the people to repent and prepared them for battle. Because of their repentance, unity, faith in the Lord, and diligent preparations, the Nephites triumphed over the Gadianton robbers. Following their deliverance, the righteous Nephites and Lamanites acknowledged the power of God in their preservation.

 Joplin Saints Talk About Preparation

Members of the Joplin Stake share how being prepared blessed their lives and the lives of others in the wake of a devastating tornado. (3:40)

By this point in our study of the Book of Mormon you are probably seeing many similarities between our day and what was happening back then. We can definitely “LIKEN” these accounts to our life as we prepare for the Second Coming of the Lord. As the righteous Nephites and Lamanites prepared themselves physically and spiritually they received the “strength of the Lord” (3 Nephi 3:21; 4:10) to help them overcome their enemies and the wickedness that surrounded them. The video above demonstrates the importance of our physical preparation in the latter days preceding the Second Coming. The video below helps us to understand the importance of our spiritual preparation–which is even more important. It is one of my favorite talks about preparing for the Second Coming, and if you like to listen to Elder Dallin H. Oaks, then you will definitely want to review his message that was giving in 2004. Elder Oaks is indeed a Latter-day Lachoneus that is trying to help us be prepared for that which is to come.

Preparation for the Second Coming

Dallin H. Oaks

In modern revelation we have the promise that if we are prepared we need not fear (see D&C 38:30). I was introduced to that principle 60 years ago this summer when I became a Boy Scout and learned the Scout motto: “Be prepared.” Today I have felt prompted to speak of the importance of preparation for a future event of supreme importance to each of us—the Second Coming of the Lord.

The scriptures are rich in references to the Second Coming, an event eagerly awaited by the righteous and dreaded or denied by the wicked. The faithful of all ages have pondered the sequence and meaning of the many events prophesied to precede and follow this hinge point of history.

Four matters are indisputable to Latter-day Saints: (1) The Savior will return to the earth in power and great glory to reign personally during a millennium of righteousness and peace. (2) At the time of His coming there will be a destruction of the wicked and a resurrection of the righteous. (3) No one knows the time of His coming, but (4) the faithful are taught to study the signs of it and to be prepared for it. I wish to speak about the fourth of these great realities: the signs of the Second Coming and what we should do to prepare for it.

I.
The Lord has declared, “He that feareth me shall be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man,” signs that will be shown “in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath” (D&C 45:39–40).

The Savior taught this in the parable of the fig tree whose tender new branches give a sign of the coming of summer. “So likewise,” when the elect shall see the signs of His coming “they shall know that he is near, even at the doors” (JS—M 1:38–39; see also Matt. 24:32–33; D&C 45:37–38).

Biblical and modern prophecies give many signs of the Second Coming. These include:

1. The fulness of the gospel restored and preached in all the world for a witness to all nations.
2. False Christs and false prophets, deceiving many.
3. Wars and rumors of wars, with nation rising against nation.
4. Earthquakes in divers places.
5. Famine and pestilence.
6. An overflowing scourge, a desolating sickness covering the land.
7. Iniquity abounding.
8. The whole earth in commotion.
9. Men’s hearts failing them.
(See Matt. 24:5–15; JS—M 1:22, 28–32; D&C 45:26–33.)

In another revelation the Lord declares that some of these signs are His voice calling His people to repentance:

“Hearken, O ye nations of the earth, and hear the words of that God who made you. …

“How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, … and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!” (D&C 43:23, 25).

These signs of the Second Coming are all around us and seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity. For example, the list of major earthquakes in The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2004 shows twice as many earthquakes in the decades of the 1980s and 1990s as in the two preceding decades (pp. 189–90). It also shows further sharp increases in the first several years of this century. The list of notable floods and tidal waves and the list of hurricanes, typhoons, and blizzards worldwide show similar increases in recent years (pp. 188–89). Increases by comparison with 50 years ago can be dismissed as changes in reporting criteria, but the accelerating pattern of natural disasters in the last few decades is ominous.

II.
Another sign of the times is the gathering of the faithful (see D&C 133:4). In the early years of this last dispensation, a gathering to Zion involved various locations in the United States: to Kirtland, to Missouri, to Nauvoo, and to the tops of the mountains. Always these were gatherings to prospective temples. With the creation of stakes and the construction of temples in most nations with sizeable populations of the faithful, the current commandment is not to gather to one place but to gather in stakes in our own homelands. There the faithful can enjoy the full blessings of eternity in a house of the Lord. There, in their own homelands, they can obey the Lord’s command to enlarge the borders of His people and strengthen her stakes (see D&C 101:21; D&C 133:9, 14). In this way, the stakes of Zion are “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (D&C 115:6).

III.
While we are powerless to alter the fact of the Second Coming and unable to know its exact time, we can accelerate our own preparation and try to influence the preparation of those around us.

A parable that contains an important and challenging teaching on this subject is the parable of the ten virgins. Of this parable, the Lord said, “And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins” (D&C 45:56).

Given in the 25th chapter of Matthew, this parable contrasts the circumstances of the five foolish and the five wise virgins. All ten were invited to the wedding feast, but only half of them were prepared with oil in their lamps when the bridegroom came. The five who were prepared went into the marriage feast, and the door was shut. The five who had delayed their preparations came late. The door had been closed, and the Lord denied them entrance, saying, “I know you not” (Matt. 25:12). “Watch therefore,” the Savior concluded, “for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 25:13).

The arithmetic of this parable is chilling. The ten virgins obviously represent members of Christ’s Church, for all were invited to the wedding feast and all knew what was required to be admitted when the bridegroom came. But only half were ready when he came.

Modern revelation contains this teaching, spoken by the Lord to the early leaders of the Church:

“And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people.

“For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes. …

“And … the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds.

“And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people.

“And angels shall fly through the midst of heaven, crying with a loud voice, sounding the trump of God, saying: Prepare ye, prepare ye, O inhabitants of the earth; for the judgment of our God is come. Behold, and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (D&C 88:88–92).

IV.
Brothers and sisters, as the Book of Mormon teaches, “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; … the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32). Are we preparing?

In His preface to our compilation of modern revelation the Lord declares, “Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh” (D&C 1:12).

The Lord also warned: “Yea, let the cry go forth among all people: Awake and arise and go forth to meet the Bridegroom; behold and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord” (D&C 133:10; see also D&C 34:6).

Always we are cautioned that we cannot know the day or the hour of His coming. In the 24th chapter of Matthew Jesus taught:

“Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

“But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (Matt. 24:42–43). “But would have been ready” (JS—M 1:47).

“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 24:44; see also D&C 51:20).

What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What accounts would we settle? What forgivenesses would we extend? What testimonies would we bear?

If we would do those things then, why not now? Why not seek peace while peace can be obtained? If our lamps of preparation are drawn down, let us start immediately to replenish them.

We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming. And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult—the spiritual. A 72-hour kit of temporal supplies may prove valuable for earthly challenges, but, as the foolish virgins learned to their sorrow, a 24-hour kit of spiritual preparation is of greater and more enduring value.

V.
We are living in the prophesied time “when peace shall be taken from the earth” (D&C 1:35), when “all things shall be in commotion” and “men’s hearts shall fail them” (D&C 88:91). There are many temporal causes of commotion, including wars and natural disasters, but an even greater cause of current “commotion” is spiritual.

Viewing our surroundings through the lens of faith and with an eternal perspective, we see all around us a fulfillment of the prophecy that “the devil shall have power over his own dominion” (D&C 1:35). Our hymn describes “the foe in countless numbers, / Marshaled in the ranks of sin” (“Hope of Israel,” Hymns, no. 259), and so it is.

Evil that used to be localized and covered like a boil is now legalized and paraded like a banner. The most fundamental roots and bulwarks of civilization are questioned or attacked. Nations disavow their religious heritage. Marriage and family responsibilities are discarded as impediments to personal indulgence. The movies and magazines and television that shape our attitudes are filled with stories or images that portray the children of God as predatory beasts or, at best, as trivial creations pursuing little more than personal pleasure. And too many of us accept this as entertainment.

The men and women who made epic sacrifices to combat evil regimes in the past were shaped by values that are disappearing from our public teaching. The good, the true, and the beautiful are being replaced by the no-good, the “whatever,” and the valueless fodder of personal whim. Not surprisingly, many of our youth and adults are caught up in pornography, pagan piercing of body parts, self-serving pleasure pursuits, dishonest behavior, revealing attire, foul language, and degrading sexual indulgence.

An increasing number of opinion leaders and followers deny the existence of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and revere only the gods of secularism. Many in positions of power and influence deny the right and wrong defined by divine decree. Even among those who profess to believe in right and wrong, there are “them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isa. 5:20; 2 Ne. 15:20). Many also deny individual responsibility and practice dependence on others, seeking, like the foolish virgins, to live on borrowed substance and borrowed light.

All of this is grievous in the sight of our Heavenly Father, who loves all of His children and forbids every practice that keeps any from returning to His presence.

What is the state of our personal preparation for eternal life? The people of God have always been people of covenant. What is the measure of our compliance with covenants, including the sacred promises we made in the waters of baptism, in receiving the holy priesthood, and in the temples of God? Are we promisers who do not fulfill and believers who do not perform?

Are we following the Lord’s command, “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly”? (D&C 87:8). What are those “holy places”? Surely they include the temple and its covenants faithfully kept. Surely they include a home where children are treasured and parents are respected. Surely the holy places include our posts of duty assigned by priesthood authority, including missions and callings faithfully fulfilled in branches, wards, and stakes.

As the Savior taught in His prophecy of the Second Coming, blessed is the “faithful and wise servant” who is attending to his duty when the Lord comes (see Matt. 24:45–46). As the prophet Nephi taught of that day, “The righteous need not fear” (1 Ne. 22:17; see also 1 Ne. 14:14; D&C 133:44). And modern revelation promises that “the Lord shall have power over his saints” (D&C 1:36).

We are surrounded by challenges on all sides (see 2 Cor. 4:8–9). But with faith in God, we trust the blessings He has promised those who keep His commandments. We have faith in the future, and we are preparing for that future. To borrow a metaphor from the familiar world of athletic competitions, we do not know when this game will end, and we do not know the final score, but we do know that when the game finally ends, our team wins. We will continue to go forward “till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done” (History of the Church, 4:540).

“Wherefore,” the Savior tells us, “be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom—For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that I come quickly” (D&C 33:17–18).

I testify of Jesus Christ. I testify that He shall come, as He has promised. And I pray that we will be prepared to meet Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

#BOMTC Day 65, June 10~3 Nephi 3-5 or Pages 411-416 3 Nephi 5~13

3 Nephi 5:13

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#BOMTC Helaman 16-3 Nephi 2: “Watch Steadfastly”

Before departing out of the land, the prophet Nephi (the son of Helaman) passed the records to his oldest son, Nephi. When the time drew near for the fulfillment of Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy about the Savior’s birth, believers watched for the signs Samuel had said would come. The unbelievers plotted to put the faithful to death if the prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus Christ were not fulfilled by a certain day. Nephi pleaded with the Lord on behalf of the believers. In answer to Nephi’s prayer, the voice of the Lord came to him, declaring that the sign would be given that night. In fulfillment of the prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite, when the sun set there was no darkness and a new star appeared. Despite Satan’s continued attempts to destroy the faith of the people, “the more part of the people did believe, and were converted unto the Lord” (3 Nephi 1:22). But two years later, the Gadianton robbers began to lead many Nephites and Lamanites into wickedness.

#BOMTC Day 64, June 9~Helaman 16-3 Nephi 2 or Pages 405-410 On the Marrow

I am always amazed at the unwavering faith that was demonstrated by the “believers” in 3 Nephi 1. I think that every single time I read it I pause to consider if I would have been found among the “believers” that were willing to “watch steadfastly” in the face of death.

#BOMTC Day 64, June 9~Helaman 16-3 Nephi 2 or Pages 405-410 New Star

Sometimes it may seem that the sun is setting before the promises of God have been fulfilled in our lives. But this account shows me that we need to endure to the end and wait for the sun to set with full confidence that the Lord will fulfill all His words.

One of my favorite talks that helps me to “watch steadfastly” as the sun sets spiritually sometimes in my life comes from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. His talk was titled, “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,” and was given at a BYU Devotional. I will include a link to the video and a copy of the transcript for those of you who may need a boost for your faith as you watch the sun set in your life.

“Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence”

There is a lesson in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision which virtually every Latter-day Saint has had occasion to experience, or one day soon will. It is the plain and very sobering truth that before great moments, certainly before great spiritual moments, there can come adversity, opposition, and darkness. Life has some of those moments for us, and occasionally they come just as we are approaching an important decision or a significant step in our lives.

In that marvelous account which we read too seldom, Joseph said he had scarcely begun his prayer when he felt a power of astonishing influence come over him. “Thick darkness,” as he described it, gathered around him and seemed bent on his utter destruction. But he exerted all his powers to call upon God to deliver him out of the power of this enemy, and as he did so a pillar of light brighter than the noonday sun descended gradually until it rested upon him. At the very moment of the light’s appearance, he found himself delivered from the destructive power which had held him bound. What then followed is the greatest epiphany since the events surrounding the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ in the meridian of time. The Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith, and the dispensation of the fulness of times had begun. 1

Most of us do not need any more reminders than we have already had that there is one who personifies “opposition in all things,” that “an angel of God” fell “from heaven” and in so doing became “miserable forever.” What a chilling destiny! Because this is Lucifer’s fate, “he sought also the misery of all mankind,” Lehi teaches us. 2

The Fight Goes On

An entire article could be devoted to this subject of the adversary’s strong, preliminary, anticipatory opposition to many of the good things God has in store for us. But I want to move past that observation to another truth we may not recognize so readily. This is a lesson in the parlance of the athletic contest that reminds us “it isn’t over until it’s over.” It is the reminder that the fight goes on. Unfortunately we must not think Satan is defeated with that first strong breakthrough which so dramatically brought the light and moved us forward.

To make my point a little more vividly, may I go to another passage of scripture, indeed, to another vision. You will recall that the book of Mosesbegins with him being taken up to “an exceedingly high mountain” where, the scripture says, “he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses.” What then followed was what happens to prophets who are taken to high mountains. The Lord said to Moses:

“Look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands. … Moses looked, and … beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God. And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not.” 3

This experience is remarkable by every standard. It is one of the great revelations given in human history. It stands with the greatest accounts we have of any prophet’s experience with Divinity.

But Moses’ message to you today is: Don’t let your guard down. Don’t assume that a great revelation, some marvelous, illuminating moment, the opening of an inspired path, is the end of it. Remember, it isn’t over until it’s over.

What happens to Moses next, after his revelatory moment, would be ludicrous if it were not so dangerous and so true to form. Lucifer—in an effort to continue his opposition, in his unfailing effort to get his licks in later if not sooner—appears and shouts in equal portions of anger and petulance after God has revealed Himself to the prophet: “Moses, worship me.” But Moses is not having it. He has just seen the real thing, and by comparison this sort of performance is pretty dismal.

“Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? … Where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?

“For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me. … But I can look upon thee in the natural man. …

“Where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God. …

“Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not.”

The record then depicts a reaction that is both pathetic and frightening:

“And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.

“And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God [the very phrase used by Joseph Smith], he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.

“And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook. …

“And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence,” 4 always to come again, we can be sure, but always to be defeated by the God of glory—always.

Do Not Draw Back

I wish to encourage every one of us regarding the opposition that so often comes after enlightened decisions have been made, after moments of revelation and conviction have given us a peace and an assurance we thought we would never lose. In his letter to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul was trying to encourage new members who had just joined the Church, who undoubtedly had had spiritual experiences and received the pure light of testimony, only to discover that their troubles had not ended but that some of them had just begun.

Paul pleaded with those new members in much the same way President Gordon B. Hinckley is pleading with new members today. The reminder is that we cannot sign on for a battle of such eternal significance and everlasting consequence without knowing it will be a fight—a good fight and a winning fight, but a fight nevertheless. Paul says to those who thought a new testimony, a personal conversion, a spiritual baptismal experience would put them beyond trouble—to these he says, “Call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions.” Then this tremendous counsel, which is at the heart of my counsel to you: “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.

“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. …

“… If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

“… We are not of them who draw back unto perdition.” 5

In Latter-day Saint talk that is to say, Sure it is tough—before you join the Church, while you are trying to join, and after you have joined. That is the way it has always been, Paul says, but don’t draw back. Don’t panic and retreat. Don’t lose your confidence. Don’t forget how you once felt. Don’t distrust the experience you had. That tenacity is what saved Moses and Joseph Smith when the adversary confronted them, and it is what will save you.

I suppose every returned missionary and probably every convert reading these words knows exactly what I am talking about. Appointments for discussions canceled, the Book of Mormon in a plastic bag hanging from a front doorknob, baptismal dates not met. And so it goes through the teaching period, through the commitments and the baptism, through the first weeks and months in the Church, and more or less forever—at least, the adversary would pursue it forever if he thought he could see any weakening of your resolve, any chink in your armor.

This opposition turns up almost any place something good has happened. It can happen when you are trying to get an education. It can hit you after your first month in your new mission field. It certainly happens in matters of love and marriage. It can occur in situations related to your family, Church callings, or career.

With any major decision there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.

The Spirit of Revelation

To help us make our way through these experiences, these important junctures in our lives, let me draw from another scriptural reference to Moses. It was given in the early days of this dispensation when revelation was needed, when a true course was being set and had to be continued.

Most Latter-day Saints know the formula for revelation given in section 9 of the Doctrine and Covenants—the verses about studying it out in your mind and the Lord promising to confirm or deny. What most of us don’t read in conjunction with this is the section which precedes it: section 8.

In that revelation the Lord has said, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” I love the combination there of both mind and heart. God will teach us in a reasonable way and in a revelatory way—mind and heart combined—by the Holy Ghost. “Now, behold,” He continues, “this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.” 6

Why would the Lord use the example of crossing the Red Sea as the classic example of “the spirit of revelation”? Why didn’t He use the First Vision? Or the example from the book of Moses we just used? Or the vision of the brother of Jared? Well, He could have used any of these, but He didn’t. Here He had another purpose in mind.

Usually we think of revelation as a downpour of information. But this is too narrow a concept of revelation. May I suggest how section 8 broadens our understanding, particularly in light of these “fights of affliction” we have been discussing.

Questions Often Precede Revelation

First of all, revelation almost always comes in response to a question, usually an urgent question—not always, but usually. In that sense it does provide information, but it is urgently needed information, special information. Moses’ challenge was how to get himself and the children of Israel out of this horrible predicament they were in. There were chariots behind them, sand dunes on every side, and a lot of water immediately ahead. He needed information to know what to do, but it wasn’t a casual thing he was asking. In this case it was literally a matter of life and death.

You will need information too, but in matters of great consequence it is not likely to come unless you want it urgently, faithfully, humbly. Moroni calls it seeking “with real intent.” 7 If you can seek that way and stay in that mode, not much that the adversary can counter with will dissuade you from a righteous path. You can hang on, whatever the assault and affliction, because you have paid the price for real conviction.

Like Moses in that vision, there may come after the fact some competing doubts and confusion, but it will pale when you measure it against the real thing. Remember the real thing. Remember how urgently you have needed help in earlier times and you got it. The Red Sea will open to the honest seeker of revelation. The adversary has power to hedge up the way, to marshal Pharaoh’s forces and dog our escape right to the water’s edge, but he can’t produce the real thing. He cannot conquer if we will it otherwise. Exerting all our powers, the light will again come, the darkness will again retreat, the safety will be sure. That is lesson number one about crossing the Red Sea by the spirit of revelation.

Do Not Fear

Lesson number two is closely related. It is that in the process of revelation and making important decisions, fear plays a destructive, sometimes paralyzing role. To Oliver Cowdery, who missed the opportunity of a lifetime because he didn’t seize it in the lifetime of the opportunity, the Lord said, “You did not continue as you commenced.” Does that sound familiar to those who have been illuminated and then knuckled under to second thoughts and returning doubts? “It is not expedient that you should translate now,” the Lord said in language that must have been very hard for Oliver to hear. “Behold, it was expedient when you commenced;but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now.” 8

Everyone runs the risk of fear. For a moment in Moses’ confrontation with the adversary, “Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell.” 9 That’s when you see it—when you are afraid.

That is exactly the problem that beset the children of Israel at the edge of the Red Sea, and it has everything to do with holding fast to your earlier illumination. The record says, “And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid.” Some (just like those Paul described earlier) said words to this effect: “Let’s go back. This isn’t worth it. We must have been wrong. That probably wasn’t the right spirit telling us to leave Egypt.” What they actually said to Moses was: “Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? … It had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.” 10And I have to say, “What about that which has already happened? What about the miracles that got you here? What about the frogs and the lice? What about the rod and the serpent, the river and the blood? What about the hail, the locusts, the fire, the firstborn sons?”

How soon we forget. It would not have been better to stay and serve the Egyptians, and it is not better to remain outside the Church, nor to put off marriage, nor to reject a mission call or other Church service, and so on and so on forever. Of course our faith will be tested as we fight through these self-doubts and second thoughts. Some days we will be miraculously led out of Egypt—seemingly free, seemingly on our way—only to come to yet another confrontation, like all that water lying before us. At those times we must resist the temptation to panic and give up. At those times fear will be the strongest of the adversary’s weapons against us.

“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. … The Lord shall fight for you.” In confirmation the great Jehovah said to Moses, “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” 11

That is the second lesson of the spirit of revelation. After you have gotten the message, after you have paid the price to feel His love and hear the word of the Lord, go forward. Don’t fear, don’t vacillate, don’t quibble, don’t whine. You may, like Alma going to Ammonihah, have to find a route that leads an unusual way, but that is exactly what the Lord is doing here for the children of Israel. Nobody had ever crossed the Red Sea this way, but so what? There’s always a first time. With the spirit of revelation, dismiss your fears and wade in with both feet. In the words of Joseph Smith, “Brethren [and sisters], shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!”12

God Will Help Us

The third lesson from the Lord’s spirit of revelation in the miracle of crossing the Red Sea is that along with the illuminating revelation that points us toward a righteous purpose or duty, God will also provide the means and power to achieve that purpose. Trust in that eternal truth. If God has told you something is right, if something is indeed true for you, He will provide the way for you to accomplish it. That is true of joining the Church or raising a family, of going on a mission, or any one of a hundred other worthy tasks in life. Remember what the Savior said to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. What was the problem in 1820? Why was Joseph not to join another church? It was at least in part because “they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” 13 God’s grace is sufficient! The Lord would tell Joseph again and again that just as in days of old the children of Israel would be “led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. … Therefore, let not your hearts faint. … Mine angels shall go up before you, and also my presence, and in time ye shall possess the goodly land.” 14

What goodly land? Well, your goodly land. Your promised land. Your new Jerusalem. Your own little acre flowing with milk and honey. Your future. Your dreams. Your destiny. I believe that in our own individual ways, God takes us to the grove or the mountain or the temple and there shows us the wonder of what His plan is for us. We may not see it as fully as Moses or Nephi or the brother of Jared did, but we see as much as we need to see in order to know the Lord’s will for us and to know that He loves us beyond mortal comprehension. I also believe that the adversary and his pinched, calculating little minions try to oppose such experiences and then try to darken them after they happen. But that is not the way of the gospel. That is not the way of a Latter-day Saint who claims as the fundamental fact of the Restoration the spirit of revelation. Fighting through darkness and despair and pleading for the light is what opened this dispensation. It is what keeps it going, and it is what will keep you going. With Paul, I say to all of you:

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward.

“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” 15

I acknowledge the reality of opposition and adversity, but I bear witness of the God of glory, of the redeeming Son of God, of light and hope and a bright future. I promise you that God lives and loves you, each one of you, and that He has set bounds and limits to the opposing powers of darkness. I testify that Jesus is the Christ, the victor over death and hell and the fallen one who schemes there. The gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and it has been restored.

“Fear ye not.” And when the second and third and fourth blows come, “fear ye not. … The Lord shall fight for you.” 16 Cast not away therefore your confidence.

Notes

  1. See JS—H 1:15–17.
  2. See 2 Ne. 2:11, 17–18.
  3. Moses 1:1–2, 4, 8, 27–28.
  4. Moses 1:12–16, 19–22
  5. Heb. 10:32, 35–36, 38–39; emphasis added
  6. D&C 8:2–3; emphasis added.
  7. Moro. 10:4.
  8. D&C 9:5, 10, 11; emphasis added
  9. Moses 1:20.
  10. Ex. 14:10–12.
  11. Ex. 14:13–15; emphasis added
  12. D&C 128:22.
  13. JS—H 1:19.
  14. D&C 103:17, 19–20.
  15. Heb. 10:35–36.
  16. Ex. 14:13–14.

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#BOMTC Helaman 1-3: The Beginning of the End

The events in the book of Helaman begin at about 52 B.C. At this point in our reading we have about 30% still left in the Book of Mormon, but as Mormon points out, the secret combinations that were being organized at that time would lead to the eventual overthrow of Nephite nation (Hel. 2:13-14).

President Ezra Taft Benson said, “The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” (“The Savior’s Visit to America“, Ensign, May 1987). One of the major points emphasized in this book is the evil caused by secret combinations.

Satan LOVES secrets! Many times we keep something a secret in an effort to save ourselves in some way.  But secrets do not save us; they enslave us! We become a slave to a secret. We would do well to understand what Mormon teaches us about secret combinations so that we can recognize modern-day secret combinations and do everything in our power to combat them–especially the secret combinations that we may produce in our own lives.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles warned of the dangers of secret combinations in our day:

“The Book of Mormon teaches that secret combinations engaged in crime present a serious challenge, not just to individuals and families but to entire civilizations. Among today’s secret combinations are gangs, drug cartels, and organized crime families. The secret combinations of our day function much like the Gadianton robbers of the Book of Mormon times. … Among their purposes are to ‘murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God’ (Helaman 6:23).

“If we are not careful, today’s secret combinations can obtain power and influence just as quickly and just as completely as they did in Book of Mormon times. …

“The Book of Mormon teaches that the devil is the ‘author of all sin’ and the founder of these secret combinations (Helaman 6:30). … His purpose is to destroy individuals, families, communities, and nations (see 2 Nephi 9:9). To a degree, he was successful during Book of Mormon times. And he is having far too much success today. That’s why it is so important for us… to take a firm stand for truth and right by doing what we can to help keep our communities safe.

“… [We can] ‘stand as witnesses of God’ by [1] setting an example, [2] keeping Church standards, and [3] sharing our testimony with those around us (see Mosiah 18:9)” (“Standing for Truth and Right,” Ensign, Nov. 1997).

Bro Simon Bonus:

My “current favorite” verses from the Book of Mormon come from Helaman 3:27–30. Mormon often used the phrases “thus we may see,” “thus we see,” and “we see” to point out truths he wanted us to learn. In Helaman 3:27–30 these phrases are used a number of times. What message do you think Mormon wants you to take away from these verses?

27 Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.

28 Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God.

29 Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—

30 And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out.

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

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

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

F.Y.I., Alma 63:4–10

Hagoth and his descendants

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

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

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

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#BOMTC Alma 59-61: “But It Mattereth Not”

Choose Not to Be Offended

“During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran ‘by the way of condemnation’ (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, ‘Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart’ (Alma 61:2, 9) (Elder David A. Bednar, “And Nothing Shall Offend Them“, Ensign, Nov. 2006. Emphasis added.).

WOW!!! If only we could have, “but it mattereth not,” attitudes in such situations. How many misunderstandings, grudges, conflicts, offenses, etc. could be avoided with a simple, “but it mattereth not“?

I invite you to ponder some profound principles from Elder David A. Bednar on this matter of “but it mattereth not”. The weird thing about his message is that you will have to make sure that you are not be offended by it. He is very tactful, but also very direct. ENJOY!!!

“And Nothing Shall Offend Them”

This afternoon I pray that the Holy Ghost will assist me and you as we review together important gospel principles.

One of my favorite activities as a priesthood leader is visiting members of the Church in their homes. I especially enjoy calling upon and talking with members who commonly are described as “less active.”

During the years I served as a stake president, I often would contact one of the bishops and invite him to prayerfully identify individuals or families we could visit together. Before traveling to a home, the bishop and I would kneel and petition our Heavenly Father for guidance and inspiration, for us and for the members with whom we would meet.

Our visits were quite straightforward. We expressed love and appreciation for the opportunity to be in their home. We affirmed that we were servants of the Lord on His errand to their home. We indicated that we missed and needed them—and that they needed the blessings of the restored gospel. And at some point early in our conversation I often would ask a question like this: “Will you please help us understand why you are not actively participating in the blessings and programs of the Church?”

I made hundreds and hundreds of such visits. Each individual, each family, each home, and each answer was different. Over the years, however, I detected a common theme in many of the answers to my questions. Frequently responses like these were given:

“Several years ago a man said something in Sunday School that offended me, and I have not been back since.”

“No one in this branch greeted or reached out to me. I felt like an outsider. I was hurt by the unfriendliness of this branch.”

“I did not agree with the counsel the bishop gave me. I will not step foot in that building again as long as he is serving in that position.”

Many other causes of offense were cited—from doctrinal differences among adults to taunting, teasing, and excluding by youth. But the recurring theme was: “I was offended by …”

The bishop and I would listen intently and sincerely. One of us might next ask about their conversion to and testimony of the restored gospel. As we talked, eyes often were moist with tears as these good people recalled the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost and described their prior spiritual experiences. Most of the “less-active” people I have ever visited had a discernible and tender testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. However, they were not presently participating in Church activities and meetings.

And then I would say something like this. “Let me make sure I understand what has happened to you. Because someone at church offended you, you have not been blessed by the ordinance of the sacrament. You have withdrawn yourself from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Because someone at church offended you, you have cut yourself off from priesthood ordinances and the holy temple. You have discontinued your opportunity to serve others and to learn and grow. And you are leaving barriers that will impede the spiritual progress of your children, your children’s children, and the generations that will follow.” Many times people would think for a moment and then respond: “I have never thought about it that way.”

The bishop and I would then extend an invitation: “Dear friend, we are here today to counsel you that the time to stop being offended is now. Not only do we need you, but you need the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Please come back—now.”

Choose Not to Be Offended

When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.

In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.

Thomas B. Marsh, the first President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation, elected to take offense over an issue as inconsequential as milk strippings (see Deseret News, Apr. 16, 1856, 44). Brigham Young, on the other hand, was severely and publicly rebuked by the Prophet Joseph Smith, but he chose not to take offense (see Truman G. Madsen, “Hugh B. Brown—Youthful Veteran,” New Era, Apr. 1976, 16).

In many instances, choosing to be offended is a symptom of a much deeper and more serious spiritual malady. Thomas B. Marsh allowed himself to be acted upon, and the eventual results were apostasy and misery. Brigham Young was an agent who exercised his agency and acted in accordance with correct principles, and he became a mighty instrument in the hands of the Lord.

The Savior is the greatest example of how we should respond to potentially offensive events or situations.

“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).

Through the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can be blessed to avoid and triumph over offense. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).

A Latter-Day Learning Laboratory

The capacity to conquer offense may seem beyond our reach. This capability, however, is not reserved for or restricted to prominent leaders in the Church like Brigham Young. The very nature of the Redeemer’s Atonement and the purpose of the restored Church are intended to help us receive precisely this kind of spiritual strength.

Paul taught the Saints in Ephesus that the Savior established His Church “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12–13).

Please note the use of the active word perfecting. As described by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, the Church is not “a well-provisioned rest home for the already perfected” (“A Brother Offended,” Ensign, May 1982, 38). Rather, the Church is a learning laboratory and a workshop in which we gain experience as we practice on each other in the ongoing process of “perfecting the Saints.”

Elder Maxwell also insightfully explained that in this latter-day learning laboratory known as the restored Church, the members constitute the “clinical material” (see “Jesus, the Perfect Mentor,” Ensign, Feb. 2001, 13) that is essential for growth and development. A visiting teacher learns her duty as she serves and loves her Relief Society sisters. An inexperienced teacher learns valuable lessons as he teaches both supportive and inattentive learners and thereby becomes a more effective teacher. And a new bishop learns how to be a bishop through inspiration and by working with ward members who wholeheartedly sustain him, even while recognizing his human frailties.

Understanding that the Church is a learning laboratory helps us to prepare for an inevitable reality. In some way and at some time, someone in this Church will do or say something that could be considered offensive. Such an event will surely happen to each and every one of us—and it certainly will occur more than once. Though people may not intend to injure or offend us, they nonetheless can be inconsiderate and tactless.

You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However, we do determine how we will act. Please remember that you and I are agents endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended.

During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran “by the way of condemnation” (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, “Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:2, 9).

One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, “it mattereth not.”

Two Invitations

I conclude my message with two invitations.

Invitation #1

I invite you to learn about and apply the Savior’s teachings about interactions and episodes that can be construed as offensive.

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. …

“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

“And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43–44, 46–48).

Interestingly, the admonition to “be ye therefore perfect” is immediately preceded by counsel about how we should act in response to wrongdoing and offense. Clearly, the rigorous requirements that lead to the perfecting of the Saints include assignments that test and challenge us. If a person says or does something that we consider offensive, our first obligation is to refuse to take offense and then communicate privately, honestly, and directly with that individual. Such an approach invites inspiration from the Holy Ghost and permits misperceptions to be clarified and true intent to be understood.

Invitation #2

Many of the individuals and families who most need to hear this message about choosing not to be offended are probably not participating with us in conference today. I suspect all of us are acquainted with members who are staying away from church because they have chosen to take offense—and who would be blessed by coming back.

Will you please prayerfully identify a person with whom you will visit and extend the invitation to once again worship with us? Perhaps you could share a copy of this talk with her or him, or you may prefer to discuss the principles we have reviewed today. And please remember that such a request should be conveyed lovingly and in meekness—and not in a spirit of self-righteous superiority and pride.

As we respond to this invitation with faith in the Savior, I testify and promise that doors will open, our mouths will be filled, the Holy Ghost will bear witness of eternal truth, and the fire of testimony will be rekindled.

As His servant, I echo the words of the Master when He declared, “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended” (John 16:1). I witness the reality and divinity of a living Savior and of His power to help us avoid and overcome offense. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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#BOMTC Alma 56-58: Modern-day Stripling Warriors

The young men that we refer to as “Stripling Warriors” were the sons of the converted Lamanites known as Ammonites (the People of Ammon, or the Anti-Nephi-Lehies) who became warriors under the prophet Helaman’s military charge (Alma 53:16-22; see also #BOMTC Alma 53-55,  Follow the Prophet!).

As pointed out in my previous post, we may give Helaman and these young men more physical credit than we do spiritual credit. The word “stripling” means, “a young man”. The only other attributes that are really mentioned about these young men are all of a spiritual nature. Their prophet/captain Helaman considered them worthy to be called his sons (See Alma 56:10), their mothers had taught them not to doubt the Lord’s ability to deliver them (See Alma 56:47), and they defeated the Lamanites and were preserved by their faith such that none were slain (See Alma 56:52–54, 56Alma 57:26).

These scriptures teach us that the young men had never fought in battle before but that they had not entered into the same covenant as their parents to not fight in war. If the Nephites considered them to be under the age of accountability, then that covenant would probably have excluded children under age eight (See D&C 68:25).

Some suppose that Helaman’s “stripling” warriors may have been about 20 years old because that was the minimum age for Israelite soldiers according to the Law of Moses (see Numbers 1:3).  According to the timetable of the book of Alma and an article in the Ensign, These “stripling warriors” could have ranged in age from twenty (using the law of Moses as the standard for the time) to about twenty-two (those who could have been about seven years old when the oath was taken by their parents) in the twenty-sixth year of the judges. Three years later, sixty young men joined Helaman’s two thousand stripling warriors (see Alma 57:6), perhaps having reached the age for military service. By the time that Helaman wrote his epistle to Moroni (see Alma 56:1), it seems possible that his youngest soldiers perhaps were age twenty-one, and his eldest, twenty-six.

Regardless of their age or stature, there is much that can be learned from the faith of these fine young men that is relevant to our lives today. Perhaps one of the most common “likenings” for this story is with today’s missionaries–sometimes referred to as “God’s Army”. Elder M. Russell Ballard gave what has become a landmark talk called, “The Greatest Generation of Missionaries“. I invite you to watch/listen/read it and see if there is something that stands out to you that can help you in life’s battles.

In one of the most powerful and instructive stories from the Book of Mormon, the people of Ammon had covenanted never again to take up weapons for the shedding of blood. But “when they saw the danger, and the many afflictions … which the Nephites bore for them, they were moved with compassion and were desirous to take up arms in the defence of their country” (Alma 53:13). Helaman and his brethren persuaded them to honor their covenant with the Lord.

The scriptural account doesn’t tell us who first pointed out that their sons had not made the same covenant their parents had made. I like to think that it was one of the young men who suggested the possibility that he and his peers be allowed to “take up arms, and [call] themselves Nephites.

“And they entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites, yea, to protect the land unto the laying down of their lives” (Alma 53:16–17).

This was an extraordinary task for a group of 2,000 young men, but they were extraordinary young men. According to the scriptural record: “They were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.

“Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:20–21).

The rest of the story tells how these young men fought valiantly against the much older and much more experienced Lamanite army. According to their leader, Helaman, “They … fought as if with the strength of God; … and with such mighty power did they fall upon the Lamanites, that they did frighten them; and for this cause did the Lamanites deliver themselves up as prisoners of war” (Alma 56:56).

Imagine that! These inexperienced young men were so spiritually and physically prepared, and so powerful, that they frightened their foes into surrendering! Although all 2,000 of the young men were wounded in battle at one time or another, not one was killed (see Alma 57:25). Again quoting Helaman, “And we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe—that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power” (Alma 57:26).

Brethren, today we are fighting a battle that in many ways is more perilous, more fraught with danger than the battle between the Nephites and the Lamanites. Our enemy is cunning and resourceful. We fight against Lucifer, the father of all lies, the enemy of all that is good and right and holy. Truly we live in a time of which Paul prophesied, when “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

“Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

“… lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:2–5).

Does this sound familiar, brethren? To me it sounds like a night of prime-time television.

These are “perilous times.” We battle literally for the souls of men. The enemy is unforgiving and relentless. He is taking eternal prisoners at an alarming rate. And he shows no sign of letting up.

While we are profoundly grateful for the many members of the Church who are doing great things in the battle for truth and right, I must honestly tell you it still is not enough. We need much more help. And so, as the people of Ammon looked to their sons for reinforcement in the war against the Lamanites, we look to you, my young brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood. We need you. Like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, you also are the spirit sons of God, and you too can be endowed with power to build up and defend His kingdom. We need you to make sacred covenants, just as they did. We need you to be meticulously obedient and faithful, just as they were.

What we need now is the greatest generation of missionaries in the history of the Church. We need worthy, qualified, spiritually energized missionaries who, like Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors, are “exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity” and who are “true at all times in whatsoever thing they [are] entrusted” (Alma 53:20).

Listen to those words, my young brethren: valiant, courage, strength, active, true. We don’t need spiritually weak and semicommitted young men. We don’t need you to just fill a position; we need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate missionaries who know how to listen to and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t a time for spiritual weaklings. We cannot send you on a mission to be reactivated, reformed, or to receive a testimony. We just don’t have time for that. We need you to be filled with “faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 4:5).

As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I call upon you to begin right now—tonight—to be fully and completely worthy. Resolve and commit to yourselves and to God that from this moment forward you will strive diligently to keep your hearts, hands, and minds pure and unsullied from any kind of moral transgression. Resolve to avoid pornography as you would avoid the most insidious disease, for that is precisely what it is. Resolve to completely abstain from tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs. Resolve to be honest. Resolve to be good citizens and to abide by the laws of the land in which you live. Resolve that from this night forward you will never defile your body or use language that is vulgar and unbecoming to a bearer of the priesthood.

And that is not all we expect of you, my young brethren. We expect you to have an understanding and a solid testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We expect you to work hard. We expect you to be covenant makers and covenant keepers. We expect you to be missionaries to match our glorious message.

Now these are high standards. We understand that, but we do not apologize for them. They reflect the Lord’s standards for you to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, to enter the temple, to serve as missionaries, and to be righteous husbands and fathers. There’s nothing new in them, nothing you haven’t heard before. But tonight we call upon you, our young brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood, to rise up, to measure up, and to be fully prepared to serve the Lord.

Many of you are already on this track, and we commend you for your worthiness and determination. For those of you who are not, let tonight be the beginning of your preparation process. If you find yourself wanting in worthiness, resolve to make the appropriate changes—beginning right now. If you think you need to talk to your father and your bishop about any sins you may have committed, don’t wait; do it now. They will help you to repent and change so you can take your place as a member of the greatest generation of missionaries.

Please understand this: the bar that is the standard for missionary service is being raised. The day of the “repent and go” missionary is over. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you, my young brothers? Some young men have the mistaken idea that they can be involved in sinful behavior and then repent when they’re 18 1/2 so they can go on their mission at 19. While it is true that you can repent of sins, you may or you may not qualify to serve. It is far better to keep yourselves clean and pure and valiant by doing such simple things as:

• Developing a meaningful prayer relationship with your Heavenly Father.

• Keeping the Sabbath day holy.

• Working and putting part of your earnings in a savings account.

• Paying a full and honest tithing.

• Limiting the amount of time spent playing computer games. How many kills you can make in a minute with a computer game will have zero effect on your capacity to be a good missionary.

• Giving the Lord more of your time by studying the scriptures and gaining an understanding of the marvelous message of the Restoration that we have for the world.

• Serving others and sharing your testimony with them.

Now, fathers, you have a vital role in this preparation process. We know that the most profound influence on helping young men prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood, marriage, and fatherhood is the family. If your sons understand the basic doctrines required to become a faithful father, they will surely be ready to serve as a full-time missionary. Unfortunately, far too many fathers abdicate this eternal responsibility. You may assume that the bishop and the seminary, Sunday School, and Young Men teachers and leaders are in a better position to motivate and inspire your sons than you are. That simply is not the case. While ecclesiastical leaders are important to your son’s priesthood and missionary preparation, the Church exists as a resource to you. It is not a substitute for your inspired teaching, guidance, and correction.

Consequently, if we are “raising the bar” for your sons to serve as missionaries, that means we are also “raising the bar” for you. If we expect more of them, that means we expect more of you and your wife as well. Remember, Helaman’s 2,000 stripling warriors were faithful because “they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:21)—and that instruction came in their homes.

Some fathers don’t think they have the right to ask worthiness questions of their children. They think that is the purview of the bishop alone. Fathers, not only do you have the right to know the worthiness of your children, you have the responsibility. It is your duty to know how your children are doing with regards to their spiritual well-being and progression. You need to monitor carefully the issues and concerns they share with you. Ask specific questions of your children regarding their worthiness, and refuse to settle for anything less than specific answers.

Too often our bishops have to instruct youth to talk to their parents about problems they are having. That procedure should actually flow the other direction. Parents should be so intimately aware of what is going on in their children’s lives that they know about the problems before the bishop does. They should be counseling with their children and going with them to their bishops if that becomes necessary for complete repentance. As divinely appointed judges in Israel, the bishop and the stake president determine worthiness and resolve concerns on behalf of the Church; but, fathers, you have an eternal responsibility for the spiritual welfare of your children. Please assume your rightful place as counselor, adviser, and priesthood leader in preparing your sons to bear the Melchizedek Priesthood and to serve as missionaries.

Now, a word to you bishops. I realize there are many young men who don’t have a faithful father in their home. In these cases, use the resources of the Church to see that these Aaronic Priesthood holders are taught by Melchizedek Priesthood brethren who can help them to prepare for their future priesthood service. Upon you bishops and you stake presidents rests the responsibility to recommend only those young men and women whom you judge to be spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to face today’s realities of missionary work. Brethren, judge wisely and remember: not every young man needs to be called to serve away from his home; some may best serve under your direction as ward missionaries.

To those of you who are currently serving as full-time missionaries, we thank you for your service. Tonight is a good time for each of you to take a close look at your performance; and if you are not measuring up, your mission president will help you make the necessary changes to be an effective, dedicated servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, to those of you who have already served, please remember that you were released from your missions but not from the Church. You spent two years as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. We expect you to always look and act like one of His disciples. Look the part. Act the part. Don’t follow worldly trends and fashions. You are better than that. If you have slipped, then do what is necessary to regain your spiritual balance. The rules for happiness and success after your mission are pretty much the same as they were during your mission: pray hard, work hard, and be obedient. Get busy now and find your eternal companion to enjoy life with. Serve the Lord together, and raise up the next great generation.

My brethren, I have spoken plainly tonight. I hope you can feel the love and the concern that emanates from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church leaders as we ask you to prepare now to join us in taking the blessings of the restored gospel to all the people on the earth. Each one of you is precious, and we want you to be successful and secure in the battle for the souls of our Heavenly Father’s children. May God bless you with the courage to be “true at all times” (Alma 53:20) and with the vision to realize who you are and what the Lord has for you to do, I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Here is a fun little activity called, “An interview with Helaman and his Stripling Warriors,” that some people have used for Sharing Time and Family Home Evening.

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#BOMTC Alma 53-55: Follow the Prophet!

“But behold, it came to pass they had many sons, who had not entered into a covenant that they would not take their weapons of war to defend themselves against their enemies; therefore they did assemble themselves together at this time, as many as were able to take up arms, and they called themselves Nephites. And they entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites, yea, to protect the land unto the laying down of their lives; yea, even they covenanted that they never would give up their liberty, but they would fight in all cases to protect the Nephites and themselves from bondage. Now behold, there were two thousand of those young men, who entered into this covenant and took their weapons of war to defend their country. And now behold, as they never had hitherto been a disadvantage to the Nephites, they became now at this period of time also a great support; for they took their weapons of war, and they would that Helaman should be their leader. And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him. And now it came to pass that Helaman did march at the head of his two thousand stripling soldiers, to the support of the people in the borders of the land on the south by the west sea” (Alma 53:10-22, emphasis added.).

It seems that many times we picture Helaman as a big, strong, experienced military leader. If that is the case, then it would make a lot of sense for a troop of young men who had never fought in battle to choose him as their general. But if we take a good look at Helaman’s resume we may picture him very differently and pause to ponder why such an inexperienced group would choose such a leader.

Resume of Helaman, the Son of Alma:

How do you visualize Helaman now? Perhaps even Arnold Friberg’s famous painting is a bit generous (maybe not…, who knows?). The point that I would like to make is that these young, novice, would-be warriors did not choose someone of vast previous military prowess and prestige. Instead they chose to make a prophet of God their leader in battle. Surely there is great scriptural support for such success, but very little worldly wisdom. Most military missions of this kind would end up a tragic headline. However, when we choose to “follow the prophet” we will always be successful.

The world may look upon us with wonder as we follow the prophets of God today. They see old men who seem to be “out of touch” and “old-fashioned”. Faithful disciples of Christ see “men of experience” who serve God and teach eternal truths. Just as the Army of Helaman found great success by choosing “the Lord’s mortal captain” as their captain, so we will find that we are able to come off conquerors in life’s great battles as we choose to “follow the prophet”. Some people may criticize this statement and say something like, “Shouldn’t you be saying ‘follow the Savior’?” Well, that is exactly what I am saying, for as President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captain—how close do our lives harmonize with the Lord’s anointed—the living Prophet—President of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency (see FOURTEEN FUNDAMENTALS IN FOLLOWING THE PROPHET).

So, who have you chosen as your leader? If we haven’t chosen the Lord’s prophet, then we haven’t chosen the Lord!

“Chosen to Bear Testimony of My Name”

In 1996 President Gordon B. Hinckley appeared on the national television news program 60 Minutes. Mike Wallace, an experienced and tenacious journalist, interviewed President Hinckley about a number of important topics.

Near the end of their conversation, Mr. Wallace remarked, “There are those who say, ‘This is a gerontocracy. This is a church run by old men.’”

President Hinckley responded cheerfully and without hesitation, “Isn’t it wonderful to have a man of maturity at the head, a man of judgment who isn’t blown about by every wind of doctrine?” (broadcast on Apr. 7, 1996).

My purpose is to explain why indeed it is wonderful to have older men of great spiritual maturity and judgment serving in the senior leadership positions of the restored Church of Jesus Christ—and why we should “hear” and “hearken” (Mosiah 2:9) to the teachings of these men whom the Lord has “chosen to bear testimony of [His] name … among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people” (D&C 112:1).

I pray we may all be instructed by the Holy Ghost as we consider together this significant subject.

A Lesson of a Lifetime

I speak about this topic from a decidedly distinctive perspective. For the last 11 years, I have been the youngest member of the Twelve in terms of chronological age. During my years of service, the average age of the men serving in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has been 77 years—the oldest average age of the Apostles over an 11-year interval in this dispensation.

I have been blessed by the collective apostolic, personal, and professional experience and insight of the quorum members with whom I serve. An example from my association with Elder Robert D. Hales highlights the remarkable opportunities I have to learn from and serve with these leaders.

Several years ago I spent a Sunday afternoon with Elder Hales in his home as he was recovering from a serious illness. We discussed our families, our quorum responsibilities, and important experiences.

At one point I asked Elder Hales, “You have been a successful husband, father, athlete, pilot, business executive, and Church leader. What lessons have you learned as you have grown older and been constrained by decreased physical capacity?”

Elder Hales paused for a moment and responded, “When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.”

I was struck by the simplicity and comprehensiveness of his answer. My beloved apostolic associate shared with me a lesson of a lifetime—a lesson learned through the crucible of physical suffering and spiritual searching.

Human Limitations and Frailties

The limitations that are the natural consequence of advancing age can in fact become remarkable sources of spiritual learning and insight. The very factors many may believe limit the effectiveness of these servants can become some of their greatest strengths. Physical restrictions can expand vision. Limited stamina can clarify priorities. Inability to do many things can direct focus to a few things of greatest importance.

Some people have suggested younger, more vigorous leaders are needed in the Church to address effectively the serious challenges of our modern world. But the Lord does not use contemporary philosophies and practices of leadership to accomplish His purposes (see Isaiah 55:8–9). We can expect the President and other senior leaders of the Church will be older and spiritually seasoned men.

The Lord’s revealed pattern of governance by councils in His Church provides for and attenuates the impact of human frailties. Interestingly, the mortal limitations of these men actually affirm the divine source of the revelations that come to and through them. Truly, these men are called of God by prophecy (see Articles of Faith 1:5).

A Pattern of Preparation

I have observed in my Brethren at least a part of the Lord’s purpose for having older men of maturity and judgment serve in senior leadership positions of the Church. These men have had a sustained season of tutoring by the Lord, whom they represent, serve, and love. They have learned to understand the divine language of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s patterns for receiving revelation. These ordinary men have undergone a most extraordinary developmental process that has sharpened their vision, informed their insight, engendered love for people from all nations and circumstances, and affirmed the reality of the Restoration.

I have witnessed repeatedly my Brethren striving diligently to fulfill and magnify their responsibilities while struggling with serious physical problems. These men are not spared from affliction. Rather, they are blessed and strengthened to press forward valiantly while suffering in and with affliction.

Serving with these representatives of the Lord, I have come to know their greatest desire is to discern and do the will of our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son. As we counsel together, inspiration has been received and decisions have been made that reflect a degree of light and truth far beyond human intelligence, reasoning, and experience. As we work together in unity on perplexing problems, our collective understanding of an issue has been enlarged in marvelous ways by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I am blessed to observe on a daily basis the individual personalities, capacities, and noble characters of these leaders. Some people find the human shortcomings of the Brethren troubling and faith diminishing. For me those imperfections are encouraging and faith promoting.

An Additional Lesson

I have now witnessed six of my Brethren receive a transfer through physical death to new responsibilities in the spirit world: President James E. Faust, President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Elder L. Tom Perry, President Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Richard G. Scott.

These valiant Brethren devoted their “whole souls” (Omni 1:26) to testifying of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world. The totality of their teachings is priceless.

These servants shared with us in the concluding years of their mortal ministries powerful spiritual summaries of lessons learned through decades of consecrated service. These leaders imparted truths of great worth at a time when some may believe they had the least to give.

Consider the final teachings of great prophets in the scriptures. For example, Nephi concluded his record with these words: “For thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey” (2 Nephi 33:15).

Near the end of his life, Jacob admonished:

“Repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life.

“O be wise; what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:11–12).

Moroni completed his work of preparing the plates with a hopeful anticipation of the Resurrection: “I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead” (Moroni 10:34).

You and I are blessed to learn from the benedictory teachings and testimonies of latter-day prophets and apostles. The names today are not Nephi, Jacob, and Moroni—but President Faust, President Hinckley, Elder Wirthlin, Elder Perry, President Packer, and Elder Scott.

I am not suggesting the final messages of these beloved men necessarily were the most noteworthy or important of their ministries. However, the sum of their spiritual learning and life experiences enabled these leaders to emphasize eternal truths with absolute authenticity and great, penetrating power.

President James E. Faust

In his last general conference address, in April of 2007, President Faust declared:

“The Savior has offered to all of us a precious peace through His Atonement, but this can come only as we are willing to cast out negative feelings of anger, spite, or revenge. …

“Let us remember that we need to forgive to be forgiven. … With all my heart and soul, I believe in the healing power that can come to us as we follow the counsel of the Savior ‘to forgive all men’ [D&C 64:10]” (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 69).

President Faust’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and one of the most forgiving men I have ever known.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

President Hinckley testified in his last general conference in October of 2007: “I affirm my witness of the calling of the Prophet Joseph, of his works, of the sealing of his testimony with his blood as a martyr to the eternal truth. … You and I are faced with the stark question of accepting the truth of the First Vision and that which followed it. On the question of its reality lies the very validity of this Church. If it is the truth, and I testify that it is, then the work in which we are engaged is the most important work on the earth” (“The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 86).

President Hinckley’s witness affirms a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and know was a prophet of God.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

Elder Wirthlin delivered his final general conference message in October of 2008.

“I still remember [my mother’s] advice to me given on that day long ago when my team lost a football game: ‘Come what may, and love it.’

“… Adversity, if handled correctly, can be a blessing in our lives. …

“As we look for humor, seek for the eternal perspective, understand the principle of compensation, and draw near to our Heavenly Father, we can endure hardship and trial. We can say, as did my mother, ‘Come what may, and love it’” (“Come What May, and Love It,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 28).

Elder Wirthlin’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and who was a living sermon of overcoming difficulties through faith in the Savior.

Elder L. Tom Perry

Elder Perry stood at this pulpit just six months ago. At that time we could not have imagined his testimony would be his last in a general conference.

“Let me close by bearing witness (and my nine decades on this earth fully qualify me to say this) that the older I get, the more I realize that family is the center of life and is the key to eternal happiness.

“I give thanks for my wife, for my children, for my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren, and for … extended family who make my own life so rich and, yes, even eternal. Of this eternal truth I bear my strongest and most sacred witness” (“Why Marriage and Family Matter—Everywhere in the World,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 42).

Elder Perry’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and who understood through vast experience the essential relationship between family and eternal happiness.

President Boyd K. Packer

President Packer emphasized in general conference six months ago the Father’s plan of happiness, the Savior’s Atonement, and eternal families:

“I bear witness that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God. He stands at the head of the Church. Through His Atonement and the power of the priesthood, families which are begun in mortality can be together through the eternities. …

“I am so grateful for … the Atonement which can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated. The Atonement can put you free again to move forward, cleanly and worthily” (“The Plan of Happiness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 28).

President Packer’s final message is a lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and who emphatically and repeatedly declared that the purpose “of all activity in the Church is to see that a man and a woman with their children are happy at home, sealed together for time and for all eternity” (Ensign orLiahona, May 2015, 26).

Elder Richard G. Scott

Elder Scott proclaimed in his last general conference talk, in October 2014: “We came to mortal life precisely to grow from trials and testing. Challenges help us become more like our Father in Heaven, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to endure those challenges. I testify that as we actively come unto Him, we can endure every temptation, every heartache, every challenge we face” (“Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority,”Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 94).

Elder Scott’s message is a powerful lesson of a lifetime from a man I love and a beloved special witness of the name of Christ in all the world (see D&C 107:23).

Promise and Testimony

The Savior declared, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). May we hear and heed the eternal truths taught by the Lord’s authorized representatives. As we do so, I promise our faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will be fortified, and we will receive spiritual guidance and protection for our specific circumstances and needs.

With all the energy of my soul, I witness the resurrected and living Christ directs the affairs of His restored and living Church through His servants who have been chosen to bear testimony of His name. I so testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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