Tag Archives: Second Coming

#BOMTC Jacob 6-Enos: Faith-Shakers VS Faith-Makers

BEWARE OF FAITH-SHAKERS! Faith-shakers take on many forms. In today’s reading Sherem is the personification of a faith-shaker. Jacob describes meeting the faith-shaker Sherem with these words:

“and he knowing that I, Jacob, had faith in Christ who should come, he sought much opportunity that he might come unto me… And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken(Jacob 7:3, 5, emphasis added)

Jacob 7:2 teaches us that faith-shakers attack Christ and His true doctrine. Faith-shakers are antichrists.

An antichrist is an opponent of Christ; he is one who is in opposition to the true gospel, the true Church, and the true plan of salvation. (1 John 2:19; 4:4-6) He is one who offers salvation to men on some other terms than those laid down by Christ. Sherem (Jacob 7:1-23), Nehor (Alma 1:2-16), and Korihor (Alma 30:6-60) were antichrists who spread their delusions among the Nephites.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed., p.39)

We may have faith-shakers in our life who are like Sherem, but I find that the more common and subtle faith-shakers that Christ’s disciples face today are FALSE DOCTRINE faith-shakers. Sure, a person can preach false doctrine, but it can also come from many other sources.

HOW Can False Doctrine Be a Faith-Shaker? President Boyd K. Packer, past President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has taught that:

“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior” (Ensign, Nov. 1986).

Therefore, believing false doctrines will change one’s attitude and behavior as well.

False doctrine is a great faith-shaker! What are some modern-day false-doctrine faith-shakers? Media, theories, environments, governments, etc. can all be faith-shakers. What false doctrines do they preach?  They speak of coincidental creation, overpopulation, redefining family and marriage, abortion, etc.

Robert L. Millet, a professor at BYU, put it this way:

I thought back on a few of the antichrists in the Book of Mormon–of Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor–and reconsidered their doctrine, their approach, their success, and their demise. I then broadened my scope a bit and realized that evil attitudes, as well as perverse teachings and false systems of salvation, also qualify as enemies of Christ. Such teachings as ‘We have not [prayed about this], for the Lord maketh no such things known unto us’; ‘All is well in Zion’; ‘Eat, drink, and be merry’; ‘Dig a pit for thy neighbor’; ‘We have received and we need no more’; ‘There is no devil; ‘Ye cannot know what ye cannot see’; ‘Do this or do that and it mattereth not,’ and myriads of others–these symbolize the slogans of an antigospel.” (Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth, p.68)

HOW Do Faith-Shakers Preach? Antifreeze is probably a good object-lesson to illustrate an answer this question (see Alma 30:53). Antifreeze is very toxic, but animals are attracted to its sweet taste–they temporarily find pleasure in that which kills them.

Jacob 7:2-7 helps us to identify some of Sherem’s faith-shaker tactics. President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time” (CR, Apr. 1975, 94–95).

How do I LEAVE Faith-Shakers and CLEAVE Faith-Makers? Most of us have not experienced the great manifestations that Jacob did which helped him to “not be shaken” in the faith (see Jacob 7:5). So how can we “not be shaken”? Jacob 7:10-12 identifies three things that every disciple of Christ has been given to help them “not be shaken” in the faith. President Benson identified them during a talk in general conference:

May I suggest three short tests to avoid being deceived. . . .1. What do the standard works [scriptures] have to say about it? . . . 2. The second guide is: what do the latter-day Presidents of the Church have to say on the subject—particularly the living President . . . 3. The third and final test is the Holy Ghost. . . . This test can only be fully effective if one’s channels of communication with God are clean and virtuous and uncluttered with sin” (Conference Report, Oct. 1963, 16-17).

Jacob 4:6, 8, 13,16 and 2 Nephi 9:40 all contain valuable insights that will help us to LEAVE Faith-Shakers and CLEAVE to Faith-Makers and become unshakable, like Jacob!

CLEAVE TO TRUE DOCTRINE! There are a few questions that one can ask to evaluate a doctrine that is being presented and discern if it is a faith-shaker or a faith-maker. Faith-maker doctrines receive a YES to each of the following questions:

  1. Is the doctrine clearly expressed in the standard works of the Church?
  2. Is the doctrine found within the official declarations, proclamations, or statements of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles?
  3. Is the doctrine clearly taught or discussed by current general Church leaders in general conference or other official gatherings of the Church?
  4. Is the doctrine found in the general handbooks or the presently approved curriculum of the Church? (Source: Sunday School: Spring 2005 President’s Message)

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

There is not anything in this world of as great importance to us as obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us search these scriptures. Let us know what the Lord has revealed. Let us put our lives in harmony with his truth. Then we will not be deceived” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:301).

Jacob 7:23 shows how this principle affected the Nephites after Sherem was revealed as a faith-shaker.

The late Robert J. Matthews, a well-respected Latter-day Saint scholar, wrote:

“The Book of Mormon was written specifically and pointedly for our time. The principles needed for salvation anciently are the same principles needed now. Likewise, the way of apostasy in ancient times is a pattern of apostasy in our day. The Book of Mormon shows how apostasies occur, and the terrible effects that apostasy has in the lives of individuals as well as in groups such as political governments and churches. Men such as Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor are notable examples of individual apostates in the Book of Mormon, and it clearly demonstrates their pride and sophistry. These were intellectual giants, but they were spiritually undeveloped and each fell victim to the cunning of the devil, who captured them with an appeal to their carnal and natural desires.” (Selected Writings of Robert J. Matthews: Gospel Scholars Series , p.359)

CLEAVE TO YOUR COVENANTS! During a very difficult time for the early Latter-day Saints, the Lord gave Emma Smith the following counsel:

“Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made.” (D&C 25:13)

#BOMTC Day 23, April 29~Jacob 6-Enos or Pages 133-138 (2)

Interestingly, Jacob’s Faith-Shaker VS. Faith-Maker account with Sherem is followed by the faith-making experience of Jacob’s son, Enos. Enos is a pattern for becoming a Faith-Maker (Enos 1:8, 11). A close examination of his experience provides an excellent illustration of the effort required to become an unshakable Faith-Maker.

After Enos receives a witness for himself of Christ, he begins the faith-making process of seeking the welfare of others (Enos 1:8-16). As you continue to look for examples of Faith-Shakers and Faith-Makers during your study the Book of Mormon, identify the things that you can do to become a Faith-Maker and avoid Faith-Shakers.

Want to learn more about these chapters? Check out these links…

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#BOMTC 2 Nephi 20-24: Be Aware and Beware of Pr-I-de

In these pages we see the destruction of the wicked nations of Assyria and Babylon as types and shadows of the destruction that will befall the worldly preceding the Millennial reign of the Messiah. What seems to lead to the imminent destruction of the wicked is illustrated quite well in 2 Nephi 24:12-17. You will notice that phrase, “I will,” repeated over and over with reference to Lucifer. This directly contrasts the Savior’s, “Thy will,” statement that represents His entire existence.

#BOMTC Day 16, April 22~2 Nephi 20-24 or Pages 91-96 My Way VS God's Way

Pride is an “I” problem! (“I will…”). This is easy to remember because “I” is at the center of pr-I-de.  In his Book, “How To Win Friends And Influence People”, Dale Carnegie writes “The New York Telephone Company made a detailed study of telephone conversations to find out which word is the most frequently used. You have guessed it: it is the personal pronoun ‘I.’… It was used 3,900 times in 500 telephone conversations. ‘I.’ ‘I.’ ‘I.’ When you see a group photograph that you are in, whose picture do you look for first?

#BOMTC Day 16, April 22~2 Nephi 20-24 or Pages 91-96 prIde

In General Conference President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “Past generations had their struggle with variations of egotism and narcissism, but I think today we are giving them serious competition. Is it any coincidence that the Oxford Dictionary recently proclaimed “selfie” as the word of the year?

#BOMTC Day 16, April 22~2 Nephi 20-24 or Pages 91-96 Selfie

These Isaiah chapters that Nephi quotes seem to be teaching us that we need to eliminate unrighteous pr-I-de in our life. If we do we can enjoy an incredible Millennial experience with the Savior, Jesus Christ! As President Ezra Taft Benson pleaded with the Saints, “BEWARE OF PR-I-DE!

#BOMTC Day 16, April 22~2 Nephi 20-24 or Pages 91-96 Beware of Pride

Pride Simulation Center

A father takes his family to a futuristic center to learn about pride. Through a simulated experience, two young people discover aspects of pride in their own lives. Segment 1, Pride Simulation Center.

Steve’s Pride Simulation

Conclusion of Pride Simulation

#BOMTC Isaiah Survivor Award!

Post it proudly to your social media once you finish 2 Nephi 24

#BOMTC Isaiah Survivor Award! Post it proudly to your social media once you finish 2 Nephi 24.

You may enjoy learning more from the following :

DON’T FORGET TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS:

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#BOMTC 2 Nephi 10-14: “SNellFour”

As Jacob concludes his invitation to come unto Christ (2 Nephi 10), Nephi validates his words by letting us know that Jacob has seen the Promised Messiah (2 Nephi 11:3). Nephi also invokes the Law of Witnesses by stating that he has also seen the Redeemer (2 Nephi 11:2). In that same verse we are told that one of the reasons he loves the words of Isaiah so much are because Isaiah has also seen Christ.

Law of Witnesses, Isaiah, Nephi, and Jacob Are Witnesses of Christ

The Law of Witnesses: Isaiah, Nephi, and Jacob Are Witnesses of Christ.

To me, the key phrase in this chapter seems to be “my soul delighteth” (2 Nephi 11:2,4,5,6). This chapter precedes Nephi’s recording of 13 chapters from the writings of Isaiah (2 Nephi 12-24; Isaiah 2-14). You may want to see exactly what his soul delights in before you read these chapters so that you can LOOK FOR those elements in the writings of Isaiah that he will quote.

#BOMTC Day 14, April 20~2 Nephi 10-14 or (Pages 79-84) SNellFour

Try and see Jesus in this illustration. This exercise is similar to searching for SNellFour’s in scripture.

One insight that was shared with me many years ago by a colleague (Todd Davis) is found in 2 Nephi 11:4. He referred to this verse as SNellFour (if you break up the spelling of the name it is a clever abbreviation of the scripture reference: S=Second, Ne=Nephi, ll=11, Four=4). We learn from this verse that:

all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of Him [Jesus Christ]” (2 Nephi 11:4)

SNellFours help us to see Christ in the Scriptures.

SNellFours help us to see Christ in the Scriptures.

So the term SNellFour refers to any THING, PERSON, PLACE, etc. that is a type or shadow of Christ. This is one of the keys to understanding the writings of Isaiah, the Old Testament, and the Book of Mormon. For example, the Law of Moses typifies Christ and proves He shall come (Mosiah 13:27-35). Every prophet is a type and shadow of Christ (i.e. Jonah in the great fish for 3 days and subsequent release foreshadows the Savior’s entombment and resurrection). Christ points out that the Manna that gave their fathers life in the wilderness was a SNellFour meant to teach Israel about the Bread of Life that would come to them (John 6).

#BOMTC Day 14, April 20~2 Nephi 10-14 or (Pages 79-84) Jesus is MannaThe list of SNellFours seems endless. The great thing about such a large list is that each SNellFour points to different things that we can learn about the Savior and His attributes, ministry, mission, etc. As we read the writings of Isaiah that are quoted by Nephi, we will discover several things about the Savior by simply seeing these things, people, and places as SNellFours–types and shadows of the Savior Jesus Christ.

Christ in Hebrew and Greek

The English word “Christ” comes from the Greek “Christos”(χριστός), which has the same meaning as “Messiah”, which comes from the Hebrew (משיח). In both languages the words mean “anointed one.”

Take a moment to learn from from Dr. Todd B. Parker, a professor of ancient scripture, about SNellFours in the scriptures and the world around us. His insights and illustrations will help you understand this study skill of seeking the Savior in the scriptures:

The Temple in 2 Nephi 12 is a SNellFour—what do we learn about Christ when we remember that the Temple represents Christ? In chapter 13 Christ is both the Advocate and the Judge—what do these SNellFours teach us about Him and our relationship to Him? In chapter 14 Isaiah refers to a SNellFour that we are familiar with from the Exodus experience—what can we learn about Christ and His grace by referring to Him as “a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night”?

#BOMTC Day 14, April 20~2 Nephi 10-14 or (Pages 79-84) cloud by day fire by night

The second graphic that I have placed with this post has an image of Christ hidden in it, so you must look closely and examine it to see Him. It is the same with SNellFours. Once you are aware of what SNellFours are, and you begin to watch for them, you will develop a new appreciation for Isaiah, the scriptures in general, and the Savior specifically.

#BOMTC Day 14, April 20~2 Nephi 10-14 or (Pages 79-84) Jesus Christ is in the Old Testament

Ponder on the things you have read in the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon that are SNellFours. What SNellFours can you recognize from those memories? LOOK FOR SNellFours as you study Isaiah and you will discover things that you had never noticed before!

You may enjoy learning more from the following :

#BOMTC Isaiah Survivor Award! Post it proudly to your social media once you finish 2 Nephi 24.

DON’T FORGET TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS:

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#BOMTC 3 Nephi 3-5: PREPARED

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

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

 Joplin Saints Talk About Preparation

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

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

Preparation for the Second Coming

Dallin H. Oaks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Nephi 5:13

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#BOMTC Helaman 11-13: A Ride On the Pride Cycle

Helaman 11–13 covers 14 years of Nephite history in which the people passed through a cycle of righteousness and wickedness.

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Pride Cycle, BYU Studies

Because of their pride, the people refused to repent of their wickedness. Nephi sealed the heavens, causing a drought and famine. The drought and famine humbled the people, and they repented and turned to the Lord. Because they did not choose to be humble, the people began to easily forget the Lord their God until they were brought to a realization of how much they needed His help.

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Solution to the Pride Cycle

This history shows how quickly people can forget the Lord and how He chastens them to help them repent and return to Him. In His mercy, God chastens His people to bring them unto repentance and salvation.

 

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Pride Cycle, Figure Eight

Each of the diagrams above is a little bit different, but I like each one because each diagram has a special perspective on what Latter-day Saints have come to identify as the Pride Cycle. If we are honest with ourselves, we can probably identify many times in our lives when we have fallen victim to the Pride Cycle. By examining the diagrams closely we can also learn how to avoid a ride on the Pride Cycle, and instead enjoy the blessings of the Prosperity Cycle.

One of the many ways in which the Lord’s prophets profit us is by providing preaching that prepares us to prosper. When we do not follow the words of the prophets we will end up taking a ride on the Pride Cycle.

I have included an article below that shows what the prophets Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite did during this specific time period to try and help the people to be prepared and prosperous, rather than prideful and perilous. Because “the record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit [Helaman] reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1987, 4), we would do well to consider how our modern-day prophets are trying to help us to avoid the perils of the Pride Cycle like Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel all tried anciently.

“Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite”

Brian Best, Ensign, Dec 1977

They tried to prepare their people for the Lord’s coming.

Most of us are incurably romantic in our attitudes toward life. We like to mentally entertain happy endings, lucky breaks, effortless successes, and sudden character transformations. Some among us even seem to regard salvation as a matter of good fortune and hope God will be particularly merciful on that great and final judgment day.

Yet, over and over, the scriptures demonstrate that life is not a romantic fairy tale, but a law-abiding and largely predictable reality. Mercy is not something to be bestowed upon us gratuitously at the day of judgment, but something that has already been offered through the atonement of Christ, and we are able to receive that mercy only upon conditions of repentance and obedience.

In its unwavering insistence on the conditions that govern justice and mercy, the Book of Mormon is perhaps the most emphatically antiromantic book ever written. On nearly every page it drives home the all-important lesson that the choices we make operate unerringly in a universe of law to bring about predictable consequences. To the writers of the Book of Mormon, nothing is more insidiously false than the notion that God dispenses mercy freely no matter what we do and that our salvation depends chiefly upon his tenderheartedness. Prophet after prophet emphasizes the contrary: that justice cannot be robbed and that mercy can be granted only according to laws and conditions. Alma speaks for them all when he explains:

“According to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:13.)

The book of Helaman vigorously illustrates this same teaching: that man must use his agency to choose the way of salvation according to the conditions upon which mercy is based; otherwise, he will forfeit the proffered blessings according to the laws and judgments of a just God. As Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, pursue the duties of their ministry, and as Samuel the Lamanite joins with them later in their largely futile efforts to prepare a rebellious people to accept the coming Christ, we see that even God is unable to reclaim those who refuse to accept the conditions that would allow them a place in the merciful plan of redemption.

But if the teetering of man between the claims of justice and the claims of mercy were all the scriptures offered for our edification, the reading might have very little human appeal. It is often difficult to get excited about abstract principles, even when they affect our eternal destiny. Fortunately, the Book of Mormon, like all the scriptures, has another dimension that makes it possible for us to share feelingly in the conflict. When we read the book of Helaman, for instance, we do not just read of the conflict of good and evil; we read of people involved in that conflict, people who feel strongly about what is happening to themselves and to others.

Nephi, the son of Helaman, through whose eyes (though at times with Mormon’s editorial comment) we see most of the events, is not just a recorder, not a computerized robot collecting and storing up evidence for and against the children of men; he is a dedicated and caring human being. When we read his words or those which he quotes from the teachings of Samuel the Lamanite, we are permitted to share in more than just historical or doctrinal observations and judgments; through these words we also experience the proper and powerful feelings of a servant of God and come to know more fully how it feels to be righteous and obedient. Through sharing vicariously the aspirations and disappointments, the joys and sorrows of Nephi or Samuel, we discover more fully the love of virtue which we ourselves possess and come to recognize more expertly and cherish more earnestly the behavior and feelings which constitute that virtue.

In order to relate more completely to the problems of Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel as recorded in the book of Helaman, let us become familiar with the historical setting of the book. It begins about 52 b.c. with a brief summary of the events that precede Helaman’s becoming chief judge over the Nephites and introduces us to the newly organized band of robbers begun by the assassin Kishkumen and continued after his death by Gadianton. In a parenthetical note, Mormon tells us that as we read on through the Book of Mormon we will see that this band of robbers finally causes the entire destruction of the Nephite nation. (Hel. 2:12–14.) But in Helaman’s day the band is small, only a minor threat to political stability.

At the death of Helaman, about 39 b.c., Nephi, his eldest son, becomes the chief judge. (Hel. 3:37.) Nine years later, recognizing the inability of law to govern an overwhelmingly lawless society, and realizing also his inability to be fully effective as both judge and prophet, Nephi yields up the judgment seat to Cezoram and with his brother, Lehi, begins an untiring thirty-year ministry to try to convert his people from their sinful ways. (Hel. 5:1–4.) The difficulty of their task is overwhelming—much like trying to eliminate crime, governmental corruption, immorality, and unbelief from a modern nation.

In fact, the Nephite nation was very much like those we are familiar with. Its representative form of government depended for its stability on its laws and on the integrity of its citizens and public officials. (Hel. 5:2.) Moreover, the Nephites were in a time of great prosperity and, except for a few minor conflicts, were enjoying peace following a devastating war that had occurred about twenty years earlier. (See Alma 48–62.) Crime, in the form of the Gadianton robbers, was making rapid advances, even among members of the church. And finally, because of their wealth and prosperity, the people were becoming increasingly proud, worldly, rebellious, and contemptuous of the poor and the humble believers in Christ. Add to these circumstances the fact that prophets were foretelling the imminent coming of Christ—within about forty years, as it turned out—and we see how similar their day was to our own.

One other note should perhaps be added. The Nephites were becoming increasingly wicked; yet, like people nowadays, they seem not to have recognized how far they had degenerated from the truths they had once known. Even at the height of their wickedness, shortly before the birth of Christ when Samuel the Lamanite was preaching of their impending destruction, they still seem to have retained some semblance of religious belief. According to Samuel, they said among themselves, “If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.” (Hel. 13:25.) To hear them talk, one would surmise that they thought of themselves as enlightened, civilized, and properly religious. As in our day, pride, worldliness, and sin seem to have captured them unawares. Thus, to them, the prophets who called attention to their sins seemed to be madmen or schemers deserving of persecution (see Hel. 13:26); to them, those who taught of the birth of one to be called Christ, the Son of God, seemed to be teaching unreasonable doctrines or attempting to impose a fable upon the people in order to keep them in subjection through superstition. Their criticism of Samuel’s teachings about the coming of Christ and the marvelous signs that would attend his birth illustrates well how their faulty religious attitudes and beliefs kept them from comprehending the truth of Samuel’s message:

“We know that this is a wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass, but not among us, but in a land which is far distant, a land which we know not; therefore they can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot witness with our own eyes that they are true.

“And they will, by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one, work some great mystery which we cannot understand, which will keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them, for we depend upon them to teach us the word; and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives.” (Hel. 16:20–21.)

This is not the speech of persons who admit they have abandoned religion and are rebelling willfully against God. It seems very likely that the great wickedness of these people was not very different from what the world today accepts as normal. And in that world, where the pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasure is the norm and where religion is mostly a formal ritual, it is usually the true prophet, not the sinner, who is made to appear abnormal.

Therefore, Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel were neither popular nor very successful in the long run in their efforts to save their society, although the power of the miracles that attended their ministry did result temporarily in great conversions among both the Nephites and the Lamanites.

In contrast to the shifting, unstable, materialistic ways of the people generally is the steadfastness and stability of these three prophets and the few who faithfully follow them. They seem to be a race apart—a different kind of being altogether than the other souls they walk among. They are spiritual men, sons of God; those who reject them are natural men, or enemies of God. Walking in obedience to divine law, these prophets participate more and more fully in the mysteries of God, “having many revelations daily” (Hel. 11:23), while the foolish masses lose even the knowledge they once possessed, until, as Alma warned, they “know nothing concerning his mysteries; and … are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12:11). In fact, so far did these people go in their rejection of the word of God that they were about to place themselves outside the saving power of either justice or mercy. Samuel prophesied that were they to continue in their sins and not repent, they would soon find it said of them:

“Your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” (Hel. 13:38.)

Notice that Samuel did not tell them they had offended God and were about to be cut off from his love; rather, he told them that their behavior was contrary to the nature of happiness and righteousness, or that they had gone contrary to eternal law and were separating themselves from that which is the nature of God.

Not only did these people reject divine law; they also rejected the witness of many signs and miracles. And Samuel explained to them that even greater signs would be given as the birth of Christ drew nearer, “to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men.” (Hel. 14:28.) Then, stressing once more the laws by which the destiny of men is governed, Samuel explained that these many signs and wonders would be given so “that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment may come upon them.” (Hel. 14:29.) Finally, detailing the laws according to which salvation or damnation is administered to mankind, he admonished:

“Remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.

“He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.” (Hel. 14:30–31.)

In Samuel’s pleading tone, we see again that the power of the book of Helaman lies in its concern for real human souls, not just in its concern with abstract principles of good and evil. We see it unfolding through the eyes, minds, and hearts of righteous men who, fired by the vision and power of God, are doing all they can to avert catastrophe and are being frustrated every step of the way by the very persons they are laboring so diligently to save. The pain of the irony alone is at times almost overwhelming.

Because the book of Helaman is largely taken from the record of Nephi, we know more of his personal battle against the evils of his day than we do of his brother, Lehi. Although Lehi undoubtedly labored and suffered in much the same way that Nephi did, we know nothing of his personal feelings but are told only generally of his diligence and righteousness. Along with Nephi, he determined to “preach the word of God all the remainder of his days” (Hel. 5:5); he accompanied Nephi in his preaching in the land Bountiful and the land southward; he assisted in the conversion of many dissenting Nephites and 8,000 Lamanites in and around the land of Zarahemla; and he shared with Nephi a remarkable spiritual experience in a Lamanite prison. He also accompanied Nephi on the futile mission to the land northward and continued with Nephi in the ministry around Zarahemla, experiencing many revelations and doing much preaching among the people. We are told that he “was not a whit behind [Nephi] as to things pertaining to righteousness.” (Hel. 11:19.)

An even greater lack of information hampers our efforts to come to know Samuel’s personality. We know little of the man except what we can glean from the brief summary of his activities and the extensive quotations from his preaching. We know that he was a man of courage and determination and that he was obedient to the Lord’s commands. After he had preached to the Nephites for many days, “they did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land” (Hel. 13:2); but when the voice of the Lord came to him, commanding him to return and continue his prophesying, he immediately obeyed (Hel. 13:3). A lesser man might have been daunted by the refusal of the populace to let him enter the city, but Samuel, determined to obey the Lord, climbed upon the city wall and “cried with a loud voice, and prophesied.” (Hel. 13:4.)

We discover that Samuel was close to the Spirit and sensitive to its promptings: he preached and prophesied “whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart.” (Hel. 13:4.) We know, too, that he was commanded and instructed by an angel of the Lord (Hel. 14:9, 28), and that the power of the Lord protected him from physical harm: when the rebellious Nephites tried to kill him, “the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows.” (Hel. 16:2.)

The portion of Samuel’s prophecies contained in Helaman 15 is a sobering warning to those who have been called the people of God. Samuel reminds the Nephites that they “have been a chosen people of the Lord” (Hel. 15:3) in contrast to the Lamanites, whom the Lord has not favored “because their deeds have been evil continually … because of the iniquity of the tradition of their fathers” (Hel. 15:4). The Nephites have no cause for pride, however, because the Lamanites are steadfast and firm “when they are once enlightened” (Hel. 15:10), and Samuel declares that “it shall be better for them than for you except ye repent” (Hel. 15:14).

Samuel’s exhortation and warning do not come from any cultural smugness, however, but from love for the Nephites—his “beloved brethren.” (Hel. 15:1.) Only when the Lord no longer restrains him and when the Nephites make an attempt on his life does he return to his own country—where he begins “to preach and to prophesy among his own people.” (Hel. 16:7.)

Thus, through Nephi’s quotations from the preaching of Samuel, we are able to perceive the tenacity and depth of devotion and feeling of that great prophet; but our insight into his personality is necessarily limited because we are seeing him through the eyes of another. Nephi himself remains central throughout the book of Helaman; it is his personality that dominates. If we are to share the feelings of a prophet, if we are to taste personally the joy of seemingly great missionary successes and then the pain of watching all those successes disintegrate as a society plummets toward destruction, we must do so through him.

When the account of this Nephi begins, we learn of the riches and pride within the church and the wickedness of the people generally—and we learn of Nephi’s choice to yield up the judgment seat and turn to preaching, since he had become “weary” because of the iniquity of the people. (Hel. 5:4.) We at once can see the human element in Nephi’s choice: we see that his turning to full-time preaching is not only the right or reasonable thing to do, it is the thing he must do because of his feelings about extremely distressing circumstances. The record then tells us more about this man whose emotions are involved in his decisions. He and his brother recall the words of Helaman, their father. We notice that these words are urgent and tender. Over and over we hear a loving, dedicated parent entreating: “My sons … my sons … my sons” (see Hel. 5:6–8); “O remember, remember, my sons” (Hel. 5:9); “and now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation” (Hel. 5:12). Is it surprising that sons of such a father would also feel deeply and urgently the need to preach repentance to a society falling into unbelief?

Moreover, these men were not merely preaching doctrine learned by rote; they, like their father, had experienced personally the power and wisdom of God. Nephi tells us that he and his brother preached with “great power and authority, for they had power and authority, given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them.” (Hel. 5:18.)

A particularly impressive witness of the power of God occurred when they found themselves in a Lamanite prison, kept “many days without food.” (Hel. 5:22.) When the Lamanites and the Nephite dissenters came to the prison to put them to death, suddenly they found themselves “encircled about as if by fire.” (Hel. 5:23.) In the way the following sentence repeats certain words, notice traces of the amazement they must have felt: “Nephi and Lehi were not burned; and they were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned.” (Hel. 5:23.) These men were human. In the prison they experienced hunger, fear, apprehension, then amazement and hope as they participated in this mighty miracle. “When they saw that they were encircled about with a pillar of fire, and that it burned them not, their hearts did take courage.” (Hel. 5:24.)

Recognizing that “God [had] shown … this marvelous thing” (Hel. 5:26), they began to preach with boldness. Suddenly the earth trembled, the walls of the prison shook, and a cloud of darkness overshadowed the prison. (Hel. 5:27–28.) Through this cloud a voice was heard: “Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare good tidings.” (Hel. 5:29.) The voice spoke again. Nephi tries to share with us the unusual nature of this voice and the power with which it affected him. This voice, he says, was “not a voice of thunder, neither … a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but … a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul.” (Hel. 5:30.) Yet each time the voice spoke, the walls of the prison trembled as if they were about to fall. The voice came a third time, speaking “marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man; and the walls [of the prison] did tremble … and the earth shook as if it were about to divide asunder.” (Hel. 5:33.) Through all this, the people in the prison were so awestruck and fearful that they could not move. Then through the cloud of darkness they saw the faces of Nephi and Lehi, and “they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels.” (Hel. 5:36.)

Who can read of this experience, allowing his mind’s eye to picture it, without feeling more deeply about the reality of God, about Nephi and Lehi, and about the significance of his own life. Vicariously, we experience something of what Nephi and Lehi experienced. We participate in a real-life drama with living prophets, and like them we are amazed, overjoyed, exalted in our feelings. In brief, we learn more than just doctrine.

With this miraculous event, the great work of conversion among the Lamanites commenced. The three hundred persons who witnessed these miracles in the prison were converted and began to testify among their brethren. Before long the entire Lamanite nation was filled with believers. (Hel. 5:49–50.) Their hearts changed, they laid down their weapons, yielded up the lands they had won by conquest from the Nephites, and returned to their own lands. (Hel. 5:51–52.) Lamanite missionaries then began to testify to the Nephites. (Hel. 6:4–5.) Surely Nephi is reflecting his own intense feelings of joy when he writes: “The people of the church did have great joy because of the conversion of the Lamanites, yea, because of the church of God, which had been established among them. And they did fellowship one with another and did rejoice one with another, and did have great joy.” (Hel. 6:3.)

Imagine the happiness of Nephi and Lehi about 29 b.c. as they beheld the results of their labors: “peace in all the land, insomuch that the Nephites did go into whatsoever part of the land they would, whether among the Nephites or the Lamanites.” (Hel. 6:7.)

Then Nephi, accompanied by Lehi, began a six-year missionary journey in the land northward (Hel. 6:6, 7:1), during which the people there “did reject all his words” (Hel. 7:3). Undoubtedly discouraged, Nephi returned to Zarahemla, only to find that the peaceful situation he had left such a short time before had degenerated considerably. He found “the people in a state of … awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats—having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God.” (Hel. 7:4.) Here we get one of our most intimate glimpses of the man Nephi. The record states:

“Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years; and when Nephi saw it, his heart was swollen with sorrow within his breast; and he did exclaim in the agony of his soul:

“Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord—

“Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren.

“But behold, I am consigned that these are my days, and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow because of this the wickedness of my brethren.” (Hel. 7:6–9.)

Recall that Nephi uttered this lament upon a tower in his garden, pouring out his soul to the Lord in his agony. People passing by happened to overhear him and marveled at the depth of his mourning. Hurriedly, a multitude gathered to discover the cause of such great grief. (See Hel. 7:10–11.) Read Nephi’s words (see Hel. 7:13–29) as he chides these people for their unbelief and wickedness. The words are not just “doctrine” to be learned by chapter and verse; they are the passionate overflowing of a man’s sorrow, and they range from desperate pleading (“O repent ye, repent ye! Why will ye die?”) to amazement and exasperation (“O, how could you have forgotten your God in the very day that he has delivered you?”).

Picture Nephi’s frustration as he tried to convince the people that he was indeed the Lord’s messenger by prophesying the murder of the chief judge (Hel. 8:27–28), only to find himself accused of being an accomplice and cast into prison (Hel. 9:16–20). Picture then the results of his second prophecy regarding the man who had committed the murder. (See Hel. 9:25–36.) When the prophecy turned out to be true, Nephi was hailed as a great prophet; some even called him a god. (Hel. 9:40–41.) But in their controversy over exactly what Nephi was, the people became angry with one another, divided into disputing parties, and went their ways, “leaving Nephi alone, as he was standing in the midst of them.” (Hel. 10:1.) Left alone, isolated from his fellow beings, Nephi perhaps felt very lonely and discouraged.

Yet notice how the command of God prevailed over all Nephi’s moods and disappointments. Nephi started toward his home, “pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him.” (Hel. 10:2.) Suddenly, a voice spoke to him, saying: “Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people.” (Hel. 10:4.) Certainly the Lord knew of Nephi’s personal grief and chose this moment to buoy him up. But more! This time it is obvious that the Lord was regarding his servant in a new and very special way:

“Because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

“Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.” (Hel. 10:5–6.)

One is reminded of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s comment: “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150.) And then, obedient to the Lord’s command, Nephi turned around, without even returning to his home, and began again to preach repentance to the people.

With only intermittent successes, this mighty prophet continued to serve faithfully, once asking the Lord to bring a famine upon the people in order to bring a halt to their wickedness and warfare, rather than destroy them. (Hel. 11:4–5.) Yet, never one to give up hope, Nephi readily consented to plead with the Lord to end the famine when, three years later, the people showed some evidence of repentance. (Hel. 11:7–9.) His prayer for them shows how deeply he could love his people even in their iniquity:

“O Lord, thou didst hearken unto my words when I said, Let there be a famine, that the pestilence of the sword might cease; and I know that thou wilt, even at this time, hearken unto my words, for thou saidst that: If this people repent I will spare them.

“Yea, O Lord, and thou seest that they have repented, because of the famine and the pestilence and destruction which has come unto them.

“And now, O Lord, wilt thou turn away thine anger, and try again if they will serve thee? And if so, O Lord, thou canst bless them according to thy words which thou hast said.” (Hel. 11:14–16.)

But within ten years all was corrupt again, and the whole of chapter twelve of Helaman records a powerful lamentation which contrasts human frailty with God’s goodness. There is some question as to whether this chapter is a quotation of Nephi’s words or a commentary by the abridger, Mormon. But even if the passage is not Nephi’s work, it seems to reflect the attitudes and philosophy which must undergird the kind of life he lived. Beginning with a general comment on the “unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men,” the author seems to offer an apology for the human race; nevertheless, he goes on hopefully to assert his faith that “the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.” (Hel. 12:1.) This law he regards as a certainty, and though most of the rest of his lamentation bemoans man’s foolishness, pride, and disobedience, he concludes by praising “our great and everlasting God” and reasserting his faith in the everlasting nature of God’s eternal law and the absoluteness of his word:

“And behold, if the Lord shall say unto a man—Because of thine iniquities, thou shalt be accursed forever, it shall be done.

“And if the Lord shall say [unto a man]—Because of thine iniquities thou shalt be cut off from my presence—he will cause that it shall be so.

“And wo unto him to whom he shall say this, for it shall be unto him that will do iniquity, and he cannot be saved; therefore, for this cause, that men might be saved, hath repentance been declared.

“Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved. …

“And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord;

“Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation. And thus it is. Amen.” (Hel. 12:21–23, 25–26.)

It is sobering that the narrative of Nephi’s loving and untiring service in behalf of his people must end with this passage reaffirming the immutability of God’s laws and man’s inability to be saved except through obedience to those laws.

While the signs and wonders increased as the time of the birth of Christ drew near, Nephi continued to preach and baptize whatever converts had responded to the teaching of Samuel and himself. (It is interesting that there is no record of Samuel’s ever having baptized any of the people who were converted through his preaching: “As many as believed on [Samuel’s] word went forth and sought for Nephi … desiring that they might be baptized.” [Hel. 16:1; see also Hel. 16:3–5.]) Lehi may have died, since he is not mentioned toward the end of the book of Helaman. Yet “notwithstanding the signs and the wonders which were wrought among the people of the Lord, and the many miracles which they did, Satan did get great hold upon the hearts of the people upon all the face of the land.” (Hel. 16:23.)

Nephi’s mission ended sometime during the year before Christ’s birth. After “giving charge unto his son Nephi, who was his eldest son, concerning the plates, … he departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth.” (3 Ne. 1:2–3.) Like Moses, this special servant of God seems to have been taken by the Lord for special purposes.

It would be difficult to find in all of scripture a more devoted and powerful prophet than Nephi, the son of Helaman. As we read his account of his own labors, as well as the labors of Lehi and Samuel the Lamanite, our hearts are touched by the intensely human concern of these prophets for the people to whom they are sent to minister. Yet, with all their humanity, they stand as unfaltering witnesses of the irrevocability of eternal law—not only of the just law that judges and condemns the unrepentant, but of the law of mercy by which glory enters and transforms the lives of all those who choose to obey the commandments of God.

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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 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398: A Ride on the Pride Cycle

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398

Helaman 11–13 covers 14 years of Nephite history in which the people passed through a cycle of righteousness and wickedness.

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Pride Cycle, BYU Studies

Because of their pride, the people refused to repent of their wickedness. Nephi sealed the heavens, causing a drought and famine. The drought and famine humbled the people, and they repented and turned to the Lord. Because they did not choose to be humble, the people began to easily forget the Lord their God until they were brought to a realization of how much they needed His help.

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Solution to the Pride Cycle

This history shows how quickly people can forget the Lord and how He chastens them to help them repent and return to Him. In His mercy, God chastens His people to bring them unto repentance and salvation.

 

#BOMTC Day 62, June 7~Helaman 11-13 or Pages 393-398 Pride Cycle, Figure Eight

Each of the diagrams above is a little bit different, but I like each one. Each diagram has a special perspective on what Latter-day Saints have come to identify as the Pride Cycle. If we are honest with ourselves, we can probably identify many times in our lives when we have fallen victim to the Pride Cycle. By examining the diagrams closely we can also learn how to avoid a ride on the Pride Cycle, and instead enjoy the blessings of the Prosperity Cycle.

One of the many ways in which the Lord’s prophets profit us is by providing preaching that prepares us to prosper. When we do not follow the words of the prophets we will end up taking a ride on the Pride Cycle.

I have included an article below that shows what the prophets Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite did during this specific time period to try and help the people to be prepared and prosperous, rather than prideful and perilous. Because “the record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit [Helaman] reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1987, 4), we would do well to consider how our modern-day prophets are trying to help us to avoid the perils of the Pride Cycle like Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel all tried anciently.

“Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite”

Brian Best, Ensign, Dec 1977

They tried to prepare their people for the Lord’s coming.

Most of us are incurably romantic in our attitudes toward life. We like to mentally entertain happy endings, lucky breaks, effortless successes, and sudden character transformations. Some among us even seem to regard salvation as a matter of good fortune and hope God will be particularly merciful on that great and final judgment day.

Yet, over and over, the scriptures demonstrate that life is not a romantic fairy tale, but a law-abiding and largely predictable reality. Mercy is not something to be bestowed upon us gratuitously at the day of judgment, but something that has already been offered through the atonement of Christ, and we are able to receive that mercy only upon conditions of repentance and obedience.

In its unwavering insistence on the conditions that govern justice and mercy, the Book of Mormon is perhaps the most emphatically antiromantic book ever written. On nearly every page it drives home the all-important lesson that the choices we make operate unerringly in a universe of law to bring about predictable consequences. To the writers of the Book of Mormon, nothing is more insidiously false than the notion that God dispenses mercy freely no matter what we do and that our salvation depends chiefly upon his tenderheartedness. Prophet after prophet emphasizes the contrary: that justice cannot be robbed and that mercy can be granted only according to laws and conditions. Alma speaks for them all when he explains:

“According to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:13.)

The book of Helaman vigorously illustrates this same teaching: that man must use his agency to choose the way of salvation according to the conditions upon which mercy is based; otherwise, he will forfeit the proffered blessings according to the laws and judgments of a just God. As Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, pursue the duties of their ministry, and as Samuel the Lamanite joins with them later in their largely futile efforts to prepare a rebellious people to accept the coming Christ, we see that even God is unable to reclaim those who refuse to accept the conditions that would allow them a place in the merciful plan of redemption.

But if the teetering of man between the claims of justice and the claims of mercy were all the scriptures offered for our edification, the reading might have very little human appeal. It is often difficult to get excited about abstract principles, even when they affect our eternal destiny. Fortunately, the Book of Mormon, like all the scriptures, has another dimension that makes it possible for us to share feelingly in the conflict. When we read the book of Helaman, for instance, we do not just read of the conflict of good and evil; we read of people involved in that conflict, people who feel strongly about what is happening to themselves and to others.

Nephi, the son of Helaman, through whose eyes (though at times with Mormon’s editorial comment) we see most of the events, is not just a recorder, not a computerized robot collecting and storing up evidence for and against the children of men; he is a dedicated and caring human being. When we read his words or those which he quotes from the teachings of Samuel the Lamanite, we are permitted to share in more than just historical or doctrinal observations and judgments; through these words we also experience the proper and powerful feelings of a servant of God and come to know more fully how it feels to be righteous and obedient. Through sharing vicariously the aspirations and disappointments, the joys and sorrows of Nephi or Samuel, we discover more fully the love of virtue which we ourselves possess and come to recognize more expertly and cherish more earnestly the behavior and feelings which constitute that virtue.

In order to relate more completely to the problems of Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel as recorded in the book of Helaman, let us become familiar with the historical setting of the book. It begins about 52 b.c. with a brief summary of the events that precede Helaman’s becoming chief judge over the Nephites and introduces us to the newly organized band of robbers begun by the assassin Kishkumen and continued after his death by Gadianton. In a parenthetical note, Mormon tells us that as we read on through the Book of Mormon we will see that this band of robbers finally causes the entire destruction of the Nephite nation. (Hel. 2:12–14.) But in Helaman’s day the band is small, only a minor threat to political stability.

At the death of Helaman, about 39 b.c., Nephi, his eldest son, becomes the chief judge. (Hel. 3:37.) Nine years later, recognizing the inability of law to govern an overwhelmingly lawless society, and realizing also his inability to be fully effective as both judge and prophet, Nephi yields up the judgment seat to Cezoram and with his brother, Lehi, begins an untiring thirty-year ministry to try to convert his people from their sinful ways. (Hel. 5:1–4.) The difficulty of their task is overwhelming—much like trying to eliminate crime, governmental corruption, immorality, and unbelief from a modern nation.

In fact, the Nephite nation was very much like those we are familiar with. Its representative form of government depended for its stability on its laws and on the integrity of its citizens and public officials. (Hel. 5:2.) Moreover, the Nephites were in a time of great prosperity and, except for a few minor conflicts, were enjoying peace following a devastating war that had occurred about twenty years earlier. (See Alma 48–62.) Crime, in the form of the Gadianton robbers, was making rapid advances, even among members of the church. And finally, because of their wealth and prosperity, the people were becoming increasingly proud, worldly, rebellious, and contemptuous of the poor and the humble believers in Christ. Add to these circumstances the fact that prophets were foretelling the imminent coming of Christ—within about forty years, as it turned out—and we see how similar their day was to our own.

One other note should perhaps be added. The Nephites were becoming increasingly wicked; yet, like people nowadays, they seem not to have recognized how far they had degenerated from the truths they had once known. Even at the height of their wickedness, shortly before the birth of Christ when Samuel the Lamanite was preaching of their impending destruction, they still seem to have retained some semblance of religious belief. According to Samuel, they said among themselves, “If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.” (Hel. 13:25.) To hear them talk, one would surmise that they thought of themselves as enlightened, civilized, and properly religious. As in our day, pride, worldliness, and sin seem to have captured them unawares. Thus, to them, the prophets who called attention to their sins seemed to be madmen or schemers deserving of persecution (see Hel. 13:26); to them, those who taught of the birth of one to be called Christ, the Son of God, seemed to be teaching unreasonable doctrines or attempting to impose a fable upon the people in order to keep them in subjection through superstition. Their criticism of Samuel’s teachings about the coming of Christ and the marvelous signs that would attend his birth illustrates well how their faulty religious attitudes and beliefs kept them from comprehending the truth of Samuel’s message:

“We know that this is a wicked tradition, which has been handed down unto us by our fathers, to cause us that we should believe in some great and marvelous thing which should come to pass, but not among us, but in a land which is far distant, a land which we know not; therefore they can keep us in ignorance, for we cannot witness with our own eyes that they are true.

“And they will, by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one, work some great mystery which we cannot understand, which will keep us down to be servants to their words, and also servants unto them, for we depend upon them to teach us the word; and thus will they keep us in ignorance if we will yield ourselves unto them, all the days of our lives.” (Hel. 16:20–21.)

This is not the speech of persons who admit they have abandoned religion and are rebelling willfully against God. It seems very likely that the great wickedness of these people was not very different from what the world today accepts as normal. And in that world, where the pursuit of wealth, power, and pleasure is the norm and where religion is mostly a formal ritual, it is usually the true prophet, not the sinner, who is made to appear abnormal.

Therefore, Nephi, Lehi, and Samuel were neither popular nor very successful in the long run in their efforts to save their society, although the power of the miracles that attended their ministry did result temporarily in great conversions among both the Nephites and the Lamanites.

In contrast to the shifting, unstable, materialistic ways of the people generally is the steadfastness and stability of these three prophets and the few who faithfully follow them. They seem to be a race apart—a different kind of being altogether than the other souls they walk among. They are spiritual men, sons of God; those who reject them are natural men, or enemies of God. Walking in obedience to divine law, these prophets participate more and more fully in the mysteries of God, “having many revelations daily” (Hel. 11:23), while the foolish masses lose even the knowledge they once possessed, until, as Alma warned, they “know nothing concerning his mysteries; and … are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12:11). In fact, so far did these people go in their rejection of the word of God that they were about to place themselves outside the saving power of either justice or mercy. Samuel prophesied that were they to continue in their sins and not repent, they would soon find it said of them:

“Your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” (Hel. 13:38.)

Notice that Samuel did not tell them they had offended God and were about to be cut off from his love; rather, he told them that their behavior was contrary to the nature of happiness and righteousness, or that they had gone contrary to eternal law and were separating themselves from that which is the nature of God.

Not only did these people reject divine law; they also rejected the witness of many signs and miracles. And Samuel explained to them that even greater signs would be given as the birth of Christ drew nearer, “to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men.” (Hel. 14:28.) Then, stressing once more the laws by which the destiny of men is governed, Samuel explained that these many signs and wonders would be given so “that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment may come upon them.” (Hel. 14:29.) Finally, detailing the laws according to which salvation or damnation is administered to mankind, he admonished:

“Remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.

“He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.” (Hel. 14:30–31.)

In Samuel’s pleading tone, we see again that the power of the book of Helaman lies in its concern for real human souls, not just in its concern with abstract principles of good and evil. We see it unfolding through the eyes, minds, and hearts of righteous men who, fired by the vision and power of God, are doing all they can to avert catastrophe and are being frustrated every step of the way by the very persons they are laboring so diligently to save. The pain of the irony alone is at times almost overwhelming.

Because the book of Helaman is largely taken from the record of Nephi, we know more of his personal battle against the evils of his day than we do of his brother, Lehi. Although Lehi undoubtedly labored and suffered in much the same way that Nephi did, we know nothing of his personal feelings but are told only generally of his diligence and righteousness. Along with Nephi, he determined to “preach the word of God all the remainder of his days” (Hel. 5:5); he accompanied Nephi in his preaching in the land Bountiful and the land southward; he assisted in the conversion of many dissenting Nephites and 8,000 Lamanites in and around the land of Zarahemla; and he shared with Nephi a remarkable spiritual experience in a Lamanite prison. He also accompanied Nephi on the futile mission to the land northward and continued with Nephi in the ministry around Zarahemla, experiencing many revelations and doing much preaching among the people. We are told that he “was not a whit behind [Nephi] as to things pertaining to righteousness.” (Hel. 11:19.)

An even greater lack of information hampers our efforts to come to know Samuel’s personality. We know little of the man except what we can glean from the brief summary of his activities and the extensive quotations from his preaching. We know that he was a man of courage and determination and that he was obedient to the Lord’s commands. After he had preached to the Nephites for many days, “they did cast him out, and he was about to return to his own land” (Hel. 13:2); but when the voice of the Lord came to him, commanding him to return and continue his prophesying, he immediately obeyed (Hel. 13:3). A lesser man might have been daunted by the refusal of the populace to let him enter the city, but Samuel, determined to obey the Lord, climbed upon the city wall and “cried with a loud voice, and prophesied.” (Hel. 13:4.)

We discover that Samuel was close to the Spirit and sensitive to its promptings: he preached and prophesied “whatsoever things the Lord put into his heart.” (Hel. 13:4.) We know, too, that he was commanded and instructed by an angel of the Lord (Hel. 14:9, 28), and that the power of the Lord protected him from physical harm: when the rebellious Nephites tried to kill him, “the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows.” (Hel. 16:2.)

The portion of Samuel’s prophecies contained in Helaman 15 is a sobering warning to those who have been called the people of God. Samuel reminds the Nephites that they “have been a chosen people of the Lord” (Hel. 15:3) in contrast to the Lamanites, whom the Lord has not favored “because their deeds have been evil continually … because of the iniquity of the tradition of their fathers” (Hel. 15:4). The Nephites have no cause for pride, however, because the Lamanites are steadfast and firm “when they are once enlightened” (Hel. 15:10), and Samuel declares that “it shall be better for them than for you except ye repent” (Hel. 15:14).

Samuel’s exhortation and warning do not come from any cultural smugness, however, but from love for the Nephites—his “beloved brethren.” (Hel. 15:1.) Only when the Lord no longer restrains him and when the Nephites make an attempt on his life does he return to his own country—where he begins “to preach and to prophesy among his own people.” (Hel. 16:7.)

Thus, through Nephi’s quotations from the preaching of Samuel, we are able to perceive the tenacity and depth of devotion and feeling of that great prophet; but our insight into his personality is necessarily limited because we are seeing him through the eyes of another. Nephi himself remains central throughout the book of Helaman; it is his personality that dominates. If we are to share the feelings of a prophet, if we are to taste personally the joy of seemingly great missionary successes and then the pain of watching all those successes disintegrate as a society plummets toward destruction, we must do so through him.

When the account of this Nephi begins, we learn of the riches and pride within the church and the wickedness of the people generally—and we learn of Nephi’s choice to yield up the judgment seat and turn to preaching, since he had become “weary” because of the iniquity of the people. (Hel. 5:4.) We at once can see the human element in Nephi’s choice: we see that his turning to full-time preaching is not only the right or reasonable thing to do, it is the thing he must do because of his feelings about extremely distressing circumstances. The record then tells us more about this man whose emotions are involved in his decisions. He and his brother recall the words of Helaman, their father. We notice that these words are urgent and tender. Over and over we hear a loving, dedicated parent entreating: “My sons … my sons … my sons” (see Hel. 5:6–8); “O remember, remember, my sons” (Hel. 5:9); “and now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation” (Hel. 5:12). Is it surprising that sons of such a father would also feel deeply and urgently the need to preach repentance to a society falling into unbelief?

Moreover, these men were not merely preaching doctrine learned by rote; they, like their father, had experienced personally the power and wisdom of God. Nephi tells us that he and his brother preached with “great power and authority, for they had power and authority, given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them.” (Hel. 5:18.)

A particularly impressive witness of the power of God occurred when they found themselves in a Lamanite prison, kept “many days without food.” (Hel. 5:22.) When the Lamanites and the Nephite dissenters came to the prison to put them to death, suddenly they found themselves “encircled about as if by fire.” (Hel. 5:23.) In the way the following sentence repeats certain words, notice traces of the amazement they must have felt: “Nephi and Lehi were not burned; and they were as standing in the midst of fire and were not burned.” (Hel. 5:23.) These men were human. In the prison they experienced hunger, fear, apprehension, then amazement and hope as they participated in this mighty miracle. “When they saw that they were encircled about with a pillar of fire, and that it burned them not, their hearts did take courage.” (Hel. 5:24.)

Recognizing that “God [had] shown … this marvelous thing” (Hel. 5:26), they began to preach with boldness. Suddenly the earth trembled, the walls of the prison shook, and a cloud of darkness overshadowed the prison. (Hel. 5:27–28.) Through this cloud a voice was heard: “Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare good tidings.” (Hel. 5:29.) The voice spoke again. Nephi tries to share with us the unusual nature of this voice and the power with which it affected him. This voice, he says, was “not a voice of thunder, neither … a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but … a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul.” (Hel. 5:30.) Yet each time the voice spoke, the walls of the prison trembled as if they were about to fall. The voice came a third time, speaking “marvelous words which cannot be uttered by man; and the walls [of the prison] did tremble … and the earth shook as if it were about to divide asunder.” (Hel. 5:33.) Through all this, the people in the prison were so awestruck and fearful that they could not move. Then through the cloud of darkness they saw the faces of Nephi and Lehi, and “they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels.” (Hel. 5:36.)

Who can read of this experience, allowing his mind’s eye to picture it, without feeling more deeply about the reality of God, about Nephi and Lehi, and about the significance of his own life. Vicariously, we experience something of what Nephi and Lehi experienced. We participate in a real-life drama with living prophets, and like them we are amazed, overjoyed, exalted in our feelings. In brief, we learn more than just doctrine.

With this miraculous event, the great work of conversion among the Lamanites commenced. The three hundred persons who witnessed these miracles in the prison were converted and began to testify among their brethren. Before long the entire Lamanite nation was filled with believers. (Hel. 5:49–50.) Their hearts changed, they laid down their weapons, yielded up the lands they had won by conquest from the Nephites, and returned to their own lands. (Hel. 5:51–52.) Lamanite missionaries then began to testify to the Nephites. (Hel. 6:4–5.) Surely Nephi is reflecting his own intense feelings of joy when he writes: “The people of the church did have great joy because of the conversion of the Lamanites, yea, because of the church of God, which had been established among them. And they did fellowship one with another and did rejoice one with another, and did have great joy.” (Hel. 6:3.)

Imagine the happiness of Nephi and Lehi about 29 b.c. as they beheld the results of their labors: “peace in all the land, insomuch that the Nephites did go into whatsoever part of the land they would, whether among the Nephites or the Lamanites.” (Hel. 6:7.)

Then Nephi, accompanied by Lehi, began a six-year missionary journey in the land northward (Hel. 6:6, 7:1), during which the people there “did reject all his words” (Hel. 7:3). Undoubtedly discouraged, Nephi returned to Zarahemla, only to find that the peaceful situation he had left such a short time before had degenerated considerably. He found “the people in a state of … awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats—having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God.” (Hel. 7:4.) Here we get one of our most intimate glimpses of the man Nephi. The record states:

“Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years; and when Nephi saw it, his heart was swollen with sorrow within his breast; and he did exclaim in the agony of his soul:

“Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord—

“Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren.

“But behold, I am consigned that these are my days, and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow because of this the wickedness of my brethren.” (Hel. 7:6–9.)

Recall that Nephi uttered this lament upon a tower in his garden, pouring out his soul to the Lord in his agony. People passing by happened to overhear him and marveled at the depth of his mourning. Hurriedly, a multitude gathered to discover the cause of such great grief. (See Hel. 7:10–11.) Read Nephi’s words (see Hel. 7:13–29) as he chides these people for their unbelief and wickedness. The words are not just “doctrine” to be learned by chapter and verse; they are the passionate overflowing of a man’s sorrow, and they range from desperate pleading (“O repent ye, repent ye! Why will ye die?”) to amazement and exasperation (“O, how could you have forgotten your God in the very day that he has delivered you?”).

Picture Nephi’s frustration as he tried to convince the people that he was indeed the Lord’s messenger by prophesying the murder of the chief judge (Hel. 8:27–28), only to find himself accused of being an accomplice and cast into prison (Hel. 9:16–20). Picture then the results of his second prophecy regarding the man who had committed the murder. (See Hel. 9:25–36.) When the prophecy turned out to be true, Nephi was hailed as a great prophet; some even called him a god. (Hel. 9:40–41.) But in their controversy over exactly what Nephi was, the people became angry with one another, divided into disputing parties, and went their ways, “leaving Nephi alone, as he was standing in the midst of them.” (Hel. 10:1.) Left alone, isolated from his fellow beings, Nephi perhaps felt very lonely and discouraged.

Yet notice how the command of God prevailed over all Nephi’s moods and disappointments. Nephi started toward his home, “pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him.” (Hel. 10:2.) Suddenly, a voice spoke to him, saying: “Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people.” (Hel. 10:4.) Certainly the Lord knew of Nephi’s personal grief and chose this moment to buoy him up. But more! This time it is obvious that the Lord was regarding his servant in a new and very special way:

“Because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

“Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.” (Hel. 10:5–6.)

One is reminded of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s comment: “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150.) And then, obedient to the Lord’s command, Nephi turned around, without even returning to his home, and began again to preach repentance to the people.

With only intermittent successes, this mighty prophet continued to serve faithfully, once asking the Lord to bring a famine upon the people in order to bring a halt to their wickedness and warfare, rather than destroy them. (Hel. 11:4–5.) Yet, never one to give up hope, Nephi readily consented to plead with the Lord to end the famine when, three years later, the people showed some evidence of repentance. (Hel. 11:7–9.) His prayer for them shows how deeply he could love his people even in their iniquity:

“O Lord, thou didst hearken unto my words when I said, Let there be a famine, that the pestilence of the sword might cease; and I know that thou wilt, even at this time, hearken unto my words, for thou saidst that: If this people repent I will spare them.

“Yea, O Lord, and thou seest that they have repented, because of the famine and the pestilence and destruction which has come unto them.

“And now, O Lord, wilt thou turn away thine anger, and try again if they will serve thee? And if so, O Lord, thou canst bless them according to thy words which thou hast said.” (Hel. 11:14–16.)

But within ten years all was corrupt again, and the whole of chapter twelve of Helaman records a powerful lamentation which contrasts human frailty with God’s goodness. There is some question as to whether this chapter is a quotation of Nephi’s words or a commentary by the abridger, Mormon. But even if the passage is not Nephi’s work, it seems to reflect the attitudes and philosophy which must undergird the kind of life he lived. Beginning with a general comment on the “unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men,” the author seems to offer an apology for the human race; nevertheless, he goes on hopefully to assert his faith that “the Lord in his great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.” (Hel. 12:1.) This law he regards as a certainty, and though most of the rest of his lamentation bemoans man’s foolishness, pride, and disobedience, he concludes by praising “our great and everlasting God” and reasserting his faith in the everlasting nature of God’s eternal law and the absoluteness of his word:

“And behold, if the Lord shall say unto a man—Because of thine iniquities, thou shalt be accursed forever, it shall be done.

“And if the Lord shall say [unto a man]—Because of thine iniquities thou shalt be cut off from my presence—he will cause that it shall be so.

“And wo unto him to whom he shall say this, for it shall be unto him that will do iniquity, and he cannot be saved; therefore, for this cause, that men might be saved, hath repentance been declared.

“Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved. …

“And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord;

“Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation. And thus it is. Amen.” (Hel. 12:21–23, 25–26.)

It is sobering that the narrative of Nephi’s loving and untiring service in behalf of his people must end with this passage reaffirming the immutability of God’s laws and man’s inability to be saved except through obedience to those laws.

While the signs and wonders increased as the time of the birth of Christ drew near, Nephi continued to preach and baptize whatever converts had responded to the teaching of Samuel and himself. (It is interesting that there is no record of Samuel’s ever having baptized any of the people who were converted through his preaching: “As many as believed on [Samuel’s] word went forth and sought for Nephi … desiring that they might be baptized.” [Hel. 16:1; see also Hel. 16:3–5.]) Lehi may have died, since he is not mentioned toward the end of the book of Helaman. Yet “notwithstanding the signs and the wonders which were wrought among the people of the Lord, and the many miracles which they did, Satan did get great hold upon the hearts of the people upon all the face of the land.” (Hel. 16:23.)

Nephi’s mission ended sometime during the year before Christ’s birth. After “giving charge unto his son Nephi, who was his eldest son, concerning the plates, … he departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth.” (3 Ne. 1:2–3.) Like Moses, this special servant of God seems to have been taken by the Lord for special purposes.

It would be difficult to find in all of scripture a more devoted and powerful prophet than Nephi, the son of Helaman. As we read his account of his own labors, as well as the labors of Lehi and Samuel the Lamanite, our hearts are touched by the intensely human concern of these prophets for the people to whom they are sent to minister. Yet, with all their humanity, they stand as unfaltering witnesses of the irrevocability of eternal law—not only of the just law that judges and condemns the unrepentant, but of the law of mercy by which glory enters and transforms the lives of all those who choose to obey the commandments of God.

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