Tag Archives: Nephites

#BOMTC Day 83, June 28~Moroni 1-7 or Pages 519-524: Moroni’s Handbook of Instructions

#BOMTC Day 83, June 28~Moroni 1-7 or Pages 519-524, Moroni's Handbook of Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#BOMTC 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

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

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

Click on the graphic to study 3 Nephi 3-5

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

ON THIS DAY IN 1829: Fayette, New York. Joseph Smith received Doctrine and Covenants 17, a revelation to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris that prepared them to become witnesses of the gold plates and other sacred objects.

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#BOMTC Day 64, June 9~Helaman 16-3 Nephi 2 or Pages 405-410: “Watch Steadfastly”

Click on the graphic to study Helaman 16-3 Nephi 2

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 Day 58, June 3~Helaman 1-3 or Pages 369-374: The Beginning of the End

Click on graphic to read Helaman 1-3

Click on graphic to read Helaman 1-3

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, somehow.  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.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles warned of the dangers of secret combinations today:

Elder M. Russell Ballard

“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 Day 57, June 2~Alma 62-63 or Pages 363-368: “All These Things Were Done”

Click here to read Alma 62-63

Click here to read Alma 62-63

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

Latter-day prophets have said that Hagoth’s people settled on the islands that are now known as New Zealand.

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.

ON “ABOUT” THIS DAY IN 1829: Fayette, New York. Joseph Smith received Doctrine and Covenants 14, 15, and 16, revelations for David, John, and Peter Whitmer Jr., respectively, concerning their calls to missionary labor.

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#BOMTC Day 56, June 1~Alma 59-61 or Pages 357-362: “But It Mattereth Not”

Click graphic to read Alma 59-61

Click graphic to read Alma 59-61

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 preaching 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.

ON “ABOUT” THIS DAY IN 1829: Harmony, Pennsylvania. David Whitmer arrived, met Joseph Smith for the first time, and satisfied himself of the Prophet’s divine inspiration. Fayette, New York. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery moved into the home of Peter Whitmer Sr., where Joseph resumed translation of the Book of Mormon.

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