“One of the most enlightening discourses ever delivered in regard to the atonement. It should be carefully read by every person seeking salvation.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:57. Emphasis added.)
Well, that is a powerful statement, by a powerful prophet, about a powerful chapter, in a powerful book! I wrote that quote in my scriptures years ago so I would always remember and consider that before studying 2 Nephi 9.
Starting in verse 10 of 2 Nephi 9, Jacob seems to use a literary technique known as a foil (a person or thing that makes another seem better/worse by contrast). Jewelers do this visually when they put a diamond on black velvet. The black absorbs the light and the diamond refracts it, thus causing the diamond to stand out more than it normally would. Well, since Jacob’s original intent from the last reading was to help us “learn and glorify” the name of God, what would be the perfect foil for God? That’s right… Satan!
Returning our attention to 2 Nephi 9:10 we are able to see the genesis of this foil that Jacob will use: “O how GREAT the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this AWFUL monster” (emphasis added). As you continue reading from verse 10 you may want to pay attention to the words GREAT and AWFUL, and what they refer to. Jacob does not want us to miss out on God’s “greatness”, nor does he want you to be ignorant of how “awful” Satan really is. The use of our agency will determine the extent to which we rely on and access the Atonement of Jesus Christ to receive the blessings of the “merciful plan of the great Creator.”
“Remember the GREATNESS of the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 9:40, emphasis added). Life truly is GREAT with God, and AWFUL without Him!
“The Bible is one witness of Jesus Christ; the Book of Mormon is another. Why is this second witness so crucial? The following illustration may help: How many straight lines can you draw through a single point on a piece of paper? The answer is infinite.
“For a moment, suppose that single point represents the Bible and that hundreds of those straight lines drawn through that point represent different interpretations of the Bible and that each of those interpretations represents a different church. What happens, however, if on that piece of paper there is a second point representing the Book of Mormon? How many straight lines could you draw between these two reference points: the Bible and the Book of Mormon? Only one. Only one interpretation of Christ’s doctrines survives the testimony of these two witnesses. Again and again the Book of Mormon acts as a confirming, clarifying, unifying witness of the doctrines taught in the Bible.” (“The Book of Mormon—a Book from God,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2011, 75).
Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life identifies the “mist” that would affect the people of the latter days from seeing the “Lamb of God/Tree of Life“. The “mist” in the vision “blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men” (1 Nephi 12:17). Nephi was taught by the Spirit of the Lord that Satan tries to “blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men” by having “plain and precious” teachings “taken away” from the Bible (1 Nephi 13:24-29,32). The Spirit also taught Nephi that the Bible (the record of the Jews) contained the covenants of the Lord and many prophesies of the holy prophets, was of great worth, and contained the fullness of the gospel. Then many “plain and precious things from” the Bible began to be “taken away” over time (1 Nephi 13:40). Nephi was taught about another book (the Book of Mormon) that would be written by his seed and would restore the “plain and precious” things that had been “taken away”–a book that would be “hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles by the gift and power of the Lamb” (1 Nephi 13:35).
The Book of Mormon teaches plainly of the doctrine of Christ and restores the fulness of the gospel to the earth once again (see 1 Nephi 13:38–41). For example, the Book of Mormon helps us know that baptism must be performed by immersion (see 3 Nephi 11:26) and that little children do not need to be baptized (see Moroni 8:4–26 and Why We Need the Book of Mormon, New Era, April 2013. At the bottom of that article you will find other helpful video clips and links).
The Bible and the Book of Mormon work together as companion witnesses of Jesus Christ–The Lamb of God–and testify that “all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved… for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth” (1 Nephi 13:40-41). To add to this witness, chapter 14 teaches about the Apostle John, by name, and speaks of his future writings, explaining that “the things which he shall write are just and true” (1 Nephi 14:23, 27). The scriptures are our “de-MIST-ifiers”. They are the Iron Rod to which we must hold tight (1 Nephi 8:30). We must never allow Satan to “blind” us by keeping us from the “plain and precious” scriptures that are “just and true”!
The Book of Mormon Builds Faith in the Bible
A couple articles that may interest you and go well with these chapters are:
I know that most people would probably expect to see the picture of Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life, but I chose a picture that represents the whole reason for the vision. The image below is definitely “worth a thousand words”. (Hopefully it’s not too graphic for you.)
Powerful image of the Lamb of God. Take a closer look to see why. (Scapegoat Studio – Behold the Lamb of God by Jonathan Mayer)
Dr. David Bokovoy, a colleague of mine who studied at Brandeis University, taught me about something called “leitwort” (leading/theme word)–the intentional use of a word, over and over again to highlight a theme within a text (many examples are found in the Bible and other Hebrew texts). Without a doubt (to me), Nephi’s use of the “Lamb” of God is to bring us back, over and over, to the central figure of the vision of the Tree of Life—Jesus Christ—so that we don’t get lost in the vision–like so many others literally did.
The Lamb of God suffers in Gethsemane.
By the time Nephi’s vision ends in chapter 14, one will have read the word “Lamb” over 43 times. That is some serious “Leitwort”! This is indeed an indicator of the leitwort that makes up The Book of Mormon—Jesus Christ.
Red highlights reference Jesus Christ. Click the photo to find out more.
My wife, Hilary, once read the entire Book of Mormon and marked each reference to Jesus Christ by His many titles. She would tally the total at the end of each page. It is incredible to flip through the pages, with so much marked, and realize that she was only marking references made to the Savior. Perhaps you have done the same.
“Finding Christ in the Book of Mormon”. Click on the pic for more info.
A study conducted by Dr. Susan Easton Black determined that 101 names for Jesus are found in 3,925 references in the Book of Mormon’s 6,607 verses–an average of once every 1.7 verses–from the first reference to Him as “Lord” (1 Ne. 1:1) to the final name of “Eternal Judge” (Moro. 10:34). Maybe you will want to make marking references to the Savior a part of your personal Book of Mormon Translation Challenge study. If not, it would at least be worth your time to mark the references made to the “Lamb” of God in these pages.
Don’t forget about leitwort as you continue reading. Leitwort can help you identify the intent of the author and the message that they wished to convey. The video below will be very helpful for those seeking to understand the connection between lambs and the Lamb of God. Happy reading!
Sacrifice and Sacrament
A man goes back in time to teach his younger self about the purposes of sacrifice and sacrament. By understanding the symbolism of animal sacrifice in the Old Testament, we come to realize its similarity to the sacrament—to remember the Savior and to commit ourselves to him.
A couple articles that may interest you and go well with these chapters are:
Today’s reading from 1 Nephi 7-10 reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham. In this case however, it is the patriarch-prophet Lehi who is desirous that his family partake of the fruit of the tree of life. He experiences the sweetness and joy of the fruit of the tree of life and he wants his loved ones to “partake of the fruit” and experience the same happiness that it brought him.
Lehi Exhorts His Posterity to Righteousness by Philip Leaning
This is the same reason that I put so much effort into creating the Book of Mormon Translation Challenge and all of the resources associated with it. I love the Book of Mormon! Every time that I read it I feel the same way that Lehi feels when he describes the fruit from the Tree of Life: “desirable to make one happy”, “sweet”, “filled my soul with exceedingly great joy”, “desirable”.
Lehi eats of the fruit of the Tree of Life
As Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon brings us to THE Tree of Life–Jesus Christ. HE is what makes the book a source of happiness, sweetness, joy, etc. My desire, like Lehi’s, is that my family and friends will “come… and partake of the fruit which is desirable above all other fruit”. By making the Book of Mormon a regular part of daily scripture study they can more fully come unto Christ–the source of all goodness.
So now I play the same roll as Dr. Seuss’, “Sam I Am”. But instead of Green Eggs and Ham, I invite people to try reading the Book of Mormon. “You do not like [it]. SO you say. Try [it]! Try [it]! And you may. Try [it] and you may, I say.” WILL YOU TRY IT???
Click here to visit a blog with a complete version of Green Eggs and Ham adapted to become, “Brother Lurch and the Mormon Church”
Here is just one thing that you will learn to love about the Book of Mormon if you try it: These pages testify over and over of the Messiah! The Messiah is at first seen in Lehi’s vision as a Tree, the Tree of Life (1 Nephi 8:10). Lehi is well aware of the Messiah’s ministry and mission (1 Nephi 1:9,19) even before this time. Lehi has a vision in which the Tree of Life–the Messiah–is the focal point. Everything is taught in relation to the Tree. It is the point of reference for all other things in the vision (1 Nephi 8:13,19,20,21,22,24,30). His description of the fruit that the Tree bears is quite descriptive of what the Messiah offers all who will come unto Him (1 Nephi 8:10-12). Lehi’s only desire after partaking of the Messiah’s fruit is to share it with his family (1 Nephi 8:12,15).
After he relates the vision of the Tree of Life (Messiah) to his family, he testifies with great clarity and power to them of the coming of the Messiah and the events surrounding His ministry and mission (Note the use of the word Messiah in 1 Ne 10:4,5,6,7,9,10,11,14,17).
Terms such as “Messiah”, referring to Jesus Christ, are used every 1.7 verses in the Book of Mormon (every 1.3 in 1 Nephi!). It is indeed “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”!
Is that a true statement? To me the key word that makes that statement true is the inclusion of the word “understood”. I think that as we understand a doctrine then we will begin to feel the need to change. The discussion that Alma has with his son Corianton seems to be a great illustration of this.
As Alma warned his son Corianton about the consequences of sin (Alma 39), he also taught about the doctrine of life after death (Alma 40). He explained that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ (doctrine), all mankind will be resurrected (doctrine). He taught about the spirit world (doctrine), where the dead, depending on their choices in mortality, wait in either paradise or prison until the resurrection. Alma also taught that the plan of restoration (doctrine) includes not only physical resurrection but also a spiritual restoration (doctrine) in which our eternal state reflects our mortal actions and desires (Alma 41). Alma emphasized the principle that wickedness can never lead to happiness (see Alma 41:10).
Alma concluded his counsel to his son Corianton by explaining that Heavenly Father had provided a way for those who sin to obtain mercy (doctrine). He taught that the justice of God demands that sinners be cut off from the presence of God (doctrine). He then testified that Jesus Christ would “appease the demands of justice” (Alma 42:15) by suffering for all who have sinned and by providing mercy to the penitent (doctrine). Once Corianton “understood” all of this “true doctrine”, he returned to the ministry that he had previously forsaken (Alma 42:31). Twenty years later, he was still faithfully ministering the gospel. (see Alma 49:30; Alma 63:10)
A portrayal of the analogy Elder Boyd K. Packer used in his April 1977 general conference address. A young man who fails to pay a debt is saved from the grasp of justice through the mediation of a friend. (10:44)
My message is about a father and a son. Alma, the father, was a prophet; his son, Corianton, a missionary.
Two of Alma’s sons—Shiblon and Corianton (the youngest)—were on a mission to the Zoramites. Alma was greatly disappointed at the failure of his son Corianton to live the standards of a missionary. Corianton forsook his ministry and went to the land of Siron after the harlot Isabel (see Alma 39:3).
“This was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted” (Alma 39:4).
Alma told his son that the devil had led him away (see Alma 39:11). Unchastity is “most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost” (Alma 39:5).
“I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime.” He then said: “I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good.
“But behold, ye cannot hide your crimes from God” (Alma 39:7–8).
He sternly commanded his son to accept the counsel of his older brothers (see Alma 39:10).
Alma told him that his iniquity was great because it turned away investigators: “When they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words. And now the Spirit of the Lord doth say unto me: Command thy children to do good, lest they lead away the hearts of many people to destruction; therefore I command you, my son, in the fear of God, that ye refrain from your iniquities” (Alma 39:11–12).
After this severe rebuke, Alma the loving father became Alma the teacher. He knew that “the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else” (Alma 31:5). So Alma taught Corianton.
He spoke first of Christ: “My son, I would say somewhat unto you concerning the coming of Christ. Behold, I say unto you, that it is he that surely shall come to take away the sins of the world; yea, he cometh to declare glad tidings of salvation unto his people” (Alma 39:15).
Corianton asked how they should know about the coming of Christ so far in advance.
Alma replied, “Is not a soul at this time as precious unto God as a soul will be at the time of his coming?” (Alma 39:17).
Alma had inquired of God concerning the Resurrection and told Corianton of the First Resurrection and of other resurrections. “There is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead” (Alma 40:4).
He had inquired as to “what becometh of the souls of men from this time of death to the time appointed for the resurrection” (Alma 40:7).
He then told Corianton, “All men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life” (Alma 40:11). The “righteous are received into a state of happiness” (Alma 40:12), and the evil are “led captive by the will of the devil” (Alma 40:13). The righteous remain “in paradise, until the time of their resurrection” (Alma 40:14).
“Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world” (Alma 34:34).
Alma told his son “that there is a space between death and the resurrection of the body, and a state of the soul in happiness or in misery until the time which is appointed of God that the dead shall come forth, and be reunited, both soul and body, and be brought to stand before God, and be judged according to their works” (Alma 40:21).
“The soul”—that is, the spirit—“shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul” (Alma 40:23). “This,” he said, “is the restoration of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets” (Alma 40:24). Alma said that “some have wrested the scriptures, and have gone far astray because of this thing” (Alma 41:1).
Alma then said: “And now, my son, I perceive there is somewhat more which doth worry your mind, which ye cannot understand—which is concerning the justice of God in the punishment of the sinner; for ye do try to suppose that it is injustice that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery.
“Now behold, my son, I will explain this thing unto thee” (Alma 42:1–2).
He told Corianton about the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Adam and Eve: “And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will” (Alma 42:7).
Alma then explained why death is absolutely necessary: “If it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord” (Alma 42:11).
Alma taught Corianton about justice and mercy: “According to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men” (Alma 42:13).
Alma explained that “the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also” (Alma 42:15).
Alma taught Corianton about the unwavering standard of eternal law (see Alma 42:17–25).
He very bluntly explained why punishment was necessary: “Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul” (Alma 42:16).
Alma knew personally the pain of punishment and the joy of repentance. He himself had once greatly disappointed his own father, Corianton’s grandfather. He rebelled and went about “seeking to destroy the church” (Alma 36:6). He was struck down by an angel, not because he deserved it but because of the prayers of his father and others (see Mosiah 27:14).
Alma felt the agony and guilt and said: “As I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. …Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost” (Alma 36:17–21, 24).
Alma asked Corianton, “Do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice?” (Alma 42:25). He explained that because of the Atonement of Christ, both could be satisfied by eternal law.
“Moved upon by the Holy Ghost” (D&C 121:43; see also Alma 39:12), Alma had rebuked Corianton with sharpness. Then, after plainly and patiently teaching these fundamental principles of the gospel, there came the abundance of love.
The Prophet Joseph Smith was taught through revelation that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death” (D&C 121:41–44).
Alma said: “O my son, I desire that ye should deny the justice of God no more. Do not endeavor to excuse yourself in the least point because of your sins, by denying the justice of God; but do you let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering have full sway in your heart; and let it bring you down to the dust in humility” (Alma 42:30).
Corianton’s grandfather, also named Alma, was among the priests who had served the wicked King Noah. He heard Abinadi the prophet testify of Christ, and he was converted. Condemned to death, he fled the evil court to teach of Christ. (See Mosiah 17:1–4.)
Now Alma, in turn, was the father pleading with his son Corianton to repent.
After sternly rebuking his son and patiently teaching the doctrine of the gospel, Alma the loving father said, “And now, my son, I desire that ye should let these things trouble you no more, and only let your sins trouble you, with that trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance” (Alma 42:29).
In agony and shame, Corianton was brought “down to the dust in humility” (Alma 42:30).
Alma, who was Corianton’s father and also his priesthood leader, was now satisfied with Corianton’s repentance. He lifted the terrible burden of guilt his son carried and sent him back to the mission field: “And now, O my son, ye are called of God to preach the word unto this people. … Go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness. … And may God grant unto you even according to my words” (Alma 42:31).
Corianton joined his brothers, Helaman and Shiblon, who were among the priesthood leaders. Twenty years later in the land northward, he was still faithfully laboring in the gospel. (See Alma 49:30; Alma 63:10.)
It is a wicked, wicked world in which we live and in which our children must find their way. Challenges of pornography, gender confusion, immorality, child abuse, drug addiction, and all the rest are everywhere. There is no way to totally escape their influence.
Some are led by curiosity into temptation, then into experimentation, and some become trapped in addiction. They lose hope. The adversary harvests his crop and binds them down.
Satan is the deceiver, the destroyer, but his is a temporary victory.
The angels of the devil convince some that they are born to a life from which they cannot escape and are compelled to live in sin. The most wicked of lies is that they cannot change and repent and that they will not be forgiven. That cannot be true. They have forgotten the Infinite Atonement of Christ.
“For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him” (D&C 18:11).
Each of us has a loving Father in Heaven. Through the Father’s redeeming plan, those who may stumble and fall “are not cast off forever” (Title Page of the Book of Mormon).
“And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!” (D&C 18:13).
“The Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; nevertheless” (D&C 1:31–32), the Lord said, “he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42).
Could there be any more sweeter or more consoling words, more filled with hope, than those words from the scriptures? “I, the Lord, remember [their sins] no more” (D&C 58:42). That is the testimony of the Book of Mormon, and that is my testimony to you, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Please leave your thoughts about a special verse, teaching, etc. that you enjoyed at one of the following:
The accounts in Alma 11–16 illustrate the sacrifice people are willing to make for their testimony of the truth. As Alma and Amulek began teaching the people of Ammonihah, they met with opposition. After they explained several eternal truths, many people “began to repent, and to search the scriptures” (Alma 14:1), including Zeezrom. However, most of the people were angry and sought to destroy Alma, Amulek, and those who believed in their words. Alma and Amulek warned the people of Ammonihah that if they failed to repent, the judgments of God would come upon them. Alma and Amulek were arrested, tried, and eventually imprisoned.
The wicked people in Ammonihah cast out the men who believed Alma and Amulek, and burned their wives, children, and scriptures while Alma and Amulek were forced to watch. After many days, the Lord delivered Alma and Amulek from prison and destroyed the wicked leaders of Ammonihah. Once the Lord delivered Alma and Amulek from prison, they went to preach to the people in the city of Sidom. There they found the believers who had been cast out of Ammonihah, including Zeezrom, who was suffering physically and spiritually because of his sins. When Zeezrom declared his faith in Jesus Christ, Alma healed him and baptized him.
Alma established the Church in Sidom, and then returned with Amulek to Zarahemla. Rejecting the call to repent, the people of Ammonihah were later destroyed by a Lamanite army, fulfilling Alma’s prophecy that the city of Ammonihah would be destroyed in a single day. In addition, the Lamanites captured some of the Nephites from the surrounding lands. Choosing to follow Alma’s prophetic guidance, the Nephite armies recovered the prisoners and drove the Lamanites from the land. During a period of peace, Alma, Amulek, and many others strengthened the Church throughout the land of the Nephites.
Mountains to Climb
Finding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will help us have the power to endure and overcome even the hardest trials in life.
“John asked if I would give him a priesthood blessing. I responded that I gladly would give such a blessing, but I first needed to ask some questions. I then posed questions I had not planned to ask and had never previously considered: “[John,] do you have the faith not to be healed? If it is the will of our Heavenly Father that you are transferred by death in your youth to the spirit world to continue your ministry, do you have the faith to submit to His will and not be healed?” (see video clip below…)
“To the sightless or hearing impaired, [God] sharpens the other senses. … With the loss of a dear one, He deepens the bonds of love, enriches memories, and kindles hope in a future reunion. You will discover compensatory blessings when you willingly accept the will of the Lord and exercise faith in Him”
Early in his childhood, Spencer W. Kimball suffered the pain that comes with the death of loved ones. When he was eight years old, his sister Mary died shortly after her birth. A month later, Spencer’s parents sensed that five-year-old Fannie, who had been suffering for several weeks, would soon pass away. Spencer later told of the day Fannie died: “On my ninth birthday Fannie died in Mother’s arms. All of us children were awakened in the early night to be present. I seem to remember the scene in our living room … , my beloved mother weeping with her little dying five-year-old child in her arms and all of us crowding around.”1
Spencer W. Kimball and his siblings, about two years before his sister Fannie died. Standing, left to right: Clare, Ruth, Gordon, and Delbert. Seated, left to right: Helen, Alice, Fannie, and Spencer.
Even more difficult for young Spencer was the news he received two years later, when he and his brothers and sisters were called home from school one morning. They ran home and were met by their bishop, who gathered them around him and told them that their mother had died the day before. President Kimball later recalled: “It came as a thunderbolt. I ran from the house out in the backyard to be alone in my deluge of tears. Out of sight and sound, away from everybody, I sobbed and sobbed. Each time I said the word ‘Ma’ fresh floods of tears gushed forth until I was drained dry. Ma—dead! But she couldn’t be! Life couldn’t go on for us. … My eleven-year-old heart seemed to burst.”2
Fifty years later, Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, found himself far away from home, recovering from major surgery. Unable to sleep, he recalled the day his mother died: “I feel like sobbing again now … as my memory takes me over those sad paths.”3
Facing the deep sadness of such experiences, Spencer W. Kimball always found comfort in prayer and in the principles of the gospel. Even in his childhood, he knew where to turn to receive peace. A family friend wrote of young Spencer’s prayers—“how the loss of his mother weighed so heavily upon his little heart and yet how bravely he battled with his grief and sought comfort from the only source.”4
In his ministry, President Kimball frequently offered words of solace to those who mourned the loss of loved ones. He testified of eternal principles, assuring the Saints that death is not the end of existence. Speaking at a funeral, he once said:
“We are limited in our visions. With our eyes we can see but a few miles. With our ears we can hear but a few years. We are encased, enclosed, as it were, in a room, but when our light goes out of this life, then we see beyond mortal limitations. …
“The walls go down, time ends and distance fades and vanishes as we go into eternity … and we immediately emerge into a great world in which there are no earthly limitations.”5
Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball
In His wisdom, God does not always prevent tragedy.
The daily newspaper screamed the headlines: “Plane Crash Kills 43. No Survivors of Mountain Tragedy,” and thousands of voices joined in a chorus: “Why did the Lord let this terrible thing happen?”
Two automobiles crashed when one went through a red light, and six people were killed. Why would God not prevent this?
Why should the young mother die of cancer and leave her eight children motherless? Why did not the Lord heal her?
A little child was drowned; another was run over. Why?
A man died one day suddenly of a coronary occlusion as he climbed a stairway. His body was found slumped on the floor. His wife cried out in agony, “Why? Why would the Lord do this to me? Could he not have considered my three little children who still need a father?”
A young man died in the mission field and people critically questioned: “Why did not the Lord protect this youth while he was doing proselyting work?”
I wish I could answer these questions with authority, but I cannot. I am sure that sometime we’ll understand and be reconciled. But for the present we must seek understanding as best we can in the gospel principles.
Was it the Lord who directed the plane into the mountain to snuff out the lives of its occupants, or were there mechanical faults or human errors?
Did our Father in heaven cause the collision of the cars that took six people into eternity, or was it the error of the driver who ignored safety rules?
Did God take the life of the young mother or prompt the child to toddle into the canal or guide the other child into the path of the oncoming car?
Did the Lord cause the man to suffer a heart attack? Was the death of the missionary untimely? Answer, if you can. I cannot, for though I know God has a major role in our lives, I do not know how much he causes to happen and how much he merely permits. Whatever the answer to this question, there is another I feel sure about.
Could the Lord have prevented these tragedies? The answer is, Yes. The Lord is omnipotent, with all power to control our lives, save us pain, prevent all accidents, drive all planes and cars, feed us, protect us, save us from labor, effort, sickness, even from death, if he will. But he will not.
We should be able to understand this, because we can realize how unwise it would be for us to shield our children from all effort, from disappointments, temptations, sorrows, and suffering.
The basic gospel law is free agency and eternal development. To force us to be careful or righteous would be to nullify that fundamental law and make growth impossible.6
With an eternal perspective, we understand that adversity is essential to our eternal progression.
If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective.
Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?
If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.
If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good but not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, only satanic controls.
Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life and godhood.
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things … righteousness … wickedness … holiness … misery … good … bad. …” (2 Nephi 2:11.)
Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery. …
I love the verse of “How Firm a Foundation”—
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
[See Hymns, no. 5]
And Elder James E. Talmage wrote: “No pang that is suffered by man or woman upon the earth will be without its compensating effect … if it be met with patience.”
On the other hand, these things can crush us with their mighty impact if we yield to weakness, complaining, and criticism.
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven. …” (Orson F. Whitney)
There are people who are bitter as they watch loved ones suffer agonies and interminable pain and physical torture. Some would charge the Lord with unkindness, indifference, and injustice. We are so incompetent to judge! …
The power of the priesthood is limitless but God has wisely placed upon each of us certain limitations. I may develop priesthood power as I perfect my life, yet I am grateful that even through the priesthood I cannot heal all the sick. I might heal people who should die. I might relieve people of suffering who should suffer. I fear I would frustrate the purposes of God.
Had I limitless power, and yet limited vision and understanding, I might have saved Abinadi from the flames of fire when he was burned at the stake, and in doing so I might have irreparably damaged him. He died a martyr and went to a martyr’s reward—exaltation.
I would likely have protected Paul against his woes if my power were boundless. I would surely have healed his “thorn in the flesh.” [2 Corinthians 12:7.] And in doing so I might have foiled the Lord’s program. Thrice he offered prayers, asking the Lord to remove the “thorn” from him, but the Lord did not so answer his prayers [see 2 Corinthians 12:7–10]. Paul many times could have lost himself if he had been eloquent, well, handsome, and free from the things that made him humble. …
I fear that had I been in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, I might have deflected the bullets that pierced the body of the Prophet and the Patriarch. I might have saved them from the sufferings and agony, but lost to them the martyr’s death and reward. I am glad I did not have to make that decision.
With such uncontrolled power, I surely would have felt to protect Christ from the agony in Gethsemane, the insults, the thorny crown, the indignities in the court, the physical injuries. I would have administered to his wounds and healed them, giving him cooling water instead of vinegar. I might have saved him from suffering and death, and lost to the world his atoning sacrifice.
I would not dare to take the responsibility of bringing back to life my loved ones. Christ himself acknowledged the difference between his will and the Father’s when he prayed that the cup of suffering be taken from him; yet he added, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” [Luke 22:42.]7
Death can open the door to glorious opportunities.
For the one who dies, life goes on and his free agency continues, and death, which seems to us such a calamity, could be a blessing in disguise. …
If we say that early death is a calamity, disaster, or tragedy, would it not be saying that mortality is preferable to earlier entrance into the spirit world and to eventual salvation and exaltation? If mortality be the perfect state, then death would be a frustration, but the gospel teaches us there is no tragedy in death, but only in sin. “… blessed are the dead that die in the Lord. …” (See D&C 63:49.)
We know so little. Our judgment is so limited. We judge the Lord’s ways from our own narrow view.
I spoke at the funeral service of a young Brigham Young University student who died during World War II. There had been hundreds of thousands of young men rushed prematurely into eternity through the ravages of that war, and I made the statement that I believed this righteous youth had been called to the spirit world to preach the gospel to these deprived souls. This may not be true of all who die, but I felt it true of him.
In his vision of “The Redemption of the Dead” President Joseph F. Smith saw this very thing. … He writes:
“… I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth … but behold, from among the righteous He organized his forces … and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel. …
“… our Redeemer spent His time … in the world of spirits, instructing and preparing the faithful spirits … who had testified of Him in the flesh, that they might carry the message of redemption unto all the dead unto whom He could not go personally because of their rebellion and transgression. …
“I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption.” [See D&C 138:29–30, 36–37, 57.]
Death, then, may be the opening of the door to opportunities, including that of teaching the gospel of Christ.8
In times of trial, we must trust in God.
Despite the fact that death opens new doors, we do not seek it. We are admonished to pray for those who are ill and use our priesthood power to heal them.
“And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; and if they die they shall die unto me, and if they live they shall live unto me.
“Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection.
“And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them;
“And they that die not in me, wo unto them, for their death is bitter.
“And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed.” (D&C 42:44–48.)
We are assured by the Lord that the sick will be healed if the ordinance is performed, if there is sufficient faith, and if the ill one is “not appointed unto death.” But there are three factors, all of which should be satisfied. Many do not comply with the ordinances, and great numbers are unwilling or incapable of exercising sufficient faith. But the other factor also looms important: If they are not appointed unto death.
Everyone must die. Death is an important part of life. Of course, we are never quite ready for the change. Not knowing when it should come, we properly fight to retain our life. Yet we ought not be afraid of death. We pray for the sick, we administer to the afflicted, we implore the Lord to heal and reduce pain and save life and postpone death, and properly so, but not because eternity is so frightful. …
Just as Ecclesiastes (3:2) says, I am confident that there is a time to die, but I believe also that many people die before “their time” because they are careless, abuse their bodies, take unnecessary chances, or expose themselves to hazards, accidents, and sickness. …
God controls our lives, guides and blesses us, but gives us our agency. We may live our lives in accordance with his plan for us or we may foolishly shorten or terminate them.
I am positive in my mind that the Lord has planned our destiny. Sometime we’ll understand fully, and when we see back from the vantage point of the future, we shall be satisfied with many of the happenings of this life that are so difficult for us to comprehend.
We sometimes think we would like to know what lies ahead, but sober thought brings us back to accepting life a day at a time and magnifying and glorifying that day. …
We knew before we were born that we were coming to the earth for bodies and experience and that we would have joys and sorrows, ease and pain, comforts and hardships, health and sickness, successes and disappointments, and we knew also that after a period of life we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart, eager to accept both the favorable and unfavorable. We eagerly accepted the chance to come earthward even though it might be for only a day or a year. Perhaps we were not so much concerned whether we should die of disease, of accident, or of senility. We were willing to take life as it came and as we might organize and control it, and this without murmur, complaint, or unreasonable demands.
In the face of apparent tragedy we must put our trust in God, knowing that despite our limited view his purposes will not fail. With all its troubles life offers us the tremendous privilege to grow in knowledge and wisdom, faith and works, preparing to return and share God’s glory.9
1. In Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball(1977), 43.
2. In Spencer W. Kimball, 46.
3. In Spencer W. Kimball, 46.
4. Joseph Robinson, in Spencer W. Kimball, 46.
5. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 40–41.
6. Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 95–96.
7.Faith Precedes the Miracle, 97–100.
8.Faith Precedes the Miracle, 100, 101, 102.
9.Faith Precedes the Miracle, 102–3, 105–6.
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After Amulek’s words brought Zeezrom “to tremble under a consciousness of his guilt” (Alma 12:1), Alma stood to expound upon what Amulek had taught. Because the people in Ammonihah had become so wicked, Alma focused on truths that would help them to repent of the hardness of their hearts and other sins. He emphasized the subtle snares of Satan, the judgments that befall the wicked, and the plan of redemption, which makes it possible for those who repent to be forgiven of their sins.
When Alma first taught the rebellious people of Ammonihah, they contended with him, asking, “Who art thou?” and questioned his authority (see Alma 9:1–6). They were in a state of full-blown apostasy, having embraced the order of Nehor—priestcraft, with its goal of personal gain (see Alma 1:2–15; 15:15; 16:11). In contrast to Nehor’s teachings, Alma taught the people about “the high priesthood of the holy order of God,” with its goal to help others repent and enter into the rest of the Lord (see Alma 13:6). Alma also taught about premortal existence and foreordination. He cited the example of the great High Priest, Melchizedek, who had preached faith and repentance and helped his people live in peace. Alma tried to teach the people of Ammonihah to have faith and hope and encouraged them to change so they could prepare to enter into the rest of the Lord.
In Alma 13:17 we see how Alma described the people in Salem (who’s meaning comes from the Hebrew word for “Peace”) when Melchizedek became their king. These words also describe the people of Ammonihah (see Alma 8:9; 9:28). It appears that Alma’s hope was that the people of Ammonihah will hearken to Amulek the same way that the people in Salem responded to Melchizedek’s preaching and efforts (See Alma 13:18).
It’s “A Tale of Two Cities”. So, which city will you be: Salem (the city that found “Peace” through following the Lord’s prophet and repenting) or Ammonihah (the city destroyed in just one day for rejecting the Lord’s servants and resisting repentance)?
Please leave your thoughts about a special verse, teaching, etc. that you enjoyed at one of the following: