Tag Archives: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

#BOMTC Moroni 8-9: “Labor Diligently”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#BOMTC Moroni 1-7: Moroni’s Handbook of Instructions

people sitting at table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

man reading book

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

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

For a great little article on the Church Handbook of Instructions used today, see “Church Handbooks: The Written Order of Things“.

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

open book with gold ribbon

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

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

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

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#BOMTC Ether 13-15: New Jerusalem–ZION as a Pattern for LIFE

There is a lot of bad stuff that happens in Ether 13-15, and it is not very fun to read about. The prophet Ether told the Jaredite king, Coriantumr, that his people would be destroyed because of their wickedness, and he admonished Coriantumr and his people to repent. When they refused to repent, war and wickedness escalated for many years until the entire Jaredite nation was destroyed. Only Ether and Coriantumr survived to witness the fulfillment of Ether’s prophecy.

#BOMTC Day 82, June 27~Ether 13-15 or Pages 513-518, Coriantumr Kills Shiz

The Last of the Jaredites: Coriantumr and Shiz

CAUTION: This short film would probably be rated PG-13

IF you watch this film about the last battle of Coriantumr and Shiz, you will notice a scriptural content error at the end. Understandably, it was most likely an intentional artistic edit to increase the drama of the already dramatic battle.

 

The prophet Ether’s record of the Jaredite civilization serves as a witness that those who reject the Lord and His prophets will not prosper. These chapters are also a fulfillment of God’s decree that “whatsoever nation shall possess [the land of promise] shall serve God, or they shall be swept off” (Ether 2:9).

However, what I would like to focus on in these chapters is great to learn about–NEW JERUSALEM (Ether 13:1-12). I love to learn and teach about New Jerusalem!

The Guide to the Scriptures, one of the study helps of the LDS scriptures, teaches the following about New Jerusalem:

The place where the Saints will gather and Christ will personally reign with them during the Millennium. Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent, and the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory (A of F 1:10). It also refers to a holy city that will come down out of heaven at the beginning of the Millennium.

#BOMTC Day 82, June 27~Ether 13-15 or Pages 513-518, New Jerusalem

New Jerusalem is mentioned in each of the books of scripture used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. In order to get a good understanding of New Jerusalem it is important to see what each book teaches about this holy city.

Where I find real relevance and immediate personal application for New Jerusalem–the City of Zion–is in the plat that was created by Joseph Smith for the organization of the holy city (History of the Church, Vol. 1 Chapter 26 [June 1833- July 1833]).

Plat of Zion with 24 temples at the center of New Jerusalem

This plat became the model for the early Saints as they built their first settlements. At the center of the plat of Zion for New Jerusalem there are 24 temples! Everything in the city is built around and focused on the temple. To help understand the relevance of this in one’s life it is important to remember that the temple is a symbol of the Savior. So if I am patterning my life after the plat of Zion, I am not just creating a temple-centered life, but rather a temple-centered life is a Christ-centered life.

I live in Salt Lake County, Utah. Salt Lake was surveyed and laid out according to the Zion plat pattern. The base and meridian points are found at Temple Square. When I give people my home address I am actually telling them how far my home is from the Salt Lake City Temple. For those who are not familiar with Salt Lake City, I will use the words of a visiting tourist who posted the following on his website:

#BOMTC Day 82, June 27~Ether 13-15 or Pages 513-518, salt lake city base and meridian

The Great Salt Lake Base and Meridian

When the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley after their epic journey across the continent, and Brigham Young proclaimed that, “Here we will build a temple to our God,” in 1847, it was at this exact spot [Base & Meridian stone]. A stake was placed into the ground immediately and it became the anchor for the LDS headquarters and all of their activities thereafter.

Great Salt Lake Base and Meridian Marker Photo, Click for full size

This same method also allows me to find my way to the temple by simply reversing the cardinal directions of most local addresses. If I am at Rice-Eccles Stadium (451 S 1400 E, Salt Lake City), then I just need to travel four-and-a-half blocks North and then 14 blocks West and I will arrive at the Salt Lake temple.

temple square mormon

Have you ever noticed what is on the cover of each of the booklets prepared for latter-day youth? The temple is on the cover of the For the Strength of Youth, Personal Progress, and Duty to God booklets. Again, remember that the temple is a symbol of the Savior.

ZION, the City of New Jerusalem, not only “sets forth an orderly pattern intended as an earthly reflection of the ideal religious community” (Far West Plat Reflects Inspired City Plan) but also a pattern for a Christ-centered lifestyle.

THE SAVIOR IS AT THE CENTER! Those who will build their lives around the temple will find that they have centered their lives on the Savior. They will become citizens of New Jerusalem before it is even built, and they will receive the wages of the “laborer in Zion“.

There is a simple symbol that is found in the Kirtland Temple that uses a similar theme to convey this same lesson of Savior-centered living.

DC 94, Kirtland Temple Concentric Squares

The concentric squares that are found on the interior decor of the arched windows of the Kirtland Temple are a simple and significant symbol that are said to represent sacred space with increasing zones of holiness.

DC 94, Kirtland Temple Concentric Squares

The squares represent the temple as a sanctuary from the world with areas in the temple being holier and holier, similar to the ancient temple’s outer court, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies. The following diagram of the layout of the Tabernacle of the Congregation is a good illustration of this.

Diagram of the Tabernacle of the Congregation with commentary notes

Diagram of the Tabernacle of the Congregation with commentary notes

The Tabernacle (Exodus 25-30)

A video explaining the Tabernacle and its importance.

Even the order of the Camp of Israel in the wilderness is an illustration of this symbol of sacred space with it’s increasing zones of holiness. The Tabernacle was at the center of the camp and was surrounded by the priesthood-bearing Levites, and the Levites were surrounded by the other Tribes of Israel.

Organization of the Camp of Israel (Numbers 1-10)

Organization of the Camp of Israel (Numbers 1-10)

These simple squares that symbolize sacred space should also represent our lives and serve as a pattern of priorities for this life. I invite you to discover how this symbol of concentric squares can help you to improve your life by placing Christ at the center. Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk entitled, “Good, Better, Best” that may be helpful for you to study and how each of the three concentric squares can represent those things in your life that are, “good, better, best” and ponder how to prioritized the the many aspect of your life using this pattern of the plat of Zion. If New Jerusalem is a pattern for you, then what do you need to do to become “NEW”?

Good, Better, Best

Most of us have more things expected of us than we can possibly do. As breadwinners, as parents, as Church workers and members, we face many choices on what we will do with our time and other resources.

I.
We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.

Jesus taught this principle in the home of Martha. While she was “cumbered about much serving” (Luke 10:40), her sister, Mary, “sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word” (v. 39). When Martha complained that her sister had left her to serve alone, Jesus commended Martha for what she was doing (v. 41) but taught her that “one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (v. 42). It was praiseworthy for Martha to be “careful and troubled about many things” (v. 41), but learning the gospel from the Master Teacher was more “needful.” The scriptures contain other teachings that some things are more blessed than others (see Acts 20:35; Alma 32:14–15).

A childhood experience introduced me to the idea that some choices are good but others are better. I lived for two years on a farm. We rarely went to town. Our Christmas shopping was done in the Sears, Roebuck catalog. I spent hours poring over its pages. For the rural families of that day, catalog pages were like the shopping mall or the Internet of our time.

Something about some displays of merchandise in the catalog fixed itself in my mind. There were three degrees of quality: good, better, and best. For example, some men’s shoes were labeled good ($1.84), some better ($2.98), and some best ($3.45).1

As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.

Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best. When the Lord told us to seek learning, He said, “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom” (D&C 88:118; emphasis added).

II.
Some of our most important choices concern family activities. Many breadwinners worry that their occupations leave too little time for their families. There is no easy formula for that contest of priorities. However, I have never known of a man who looked back on his working life and said, “I just didn’t spend enough time with my job.”

In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best. A friend took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most. The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. “The thing I liked best this summer,” the boy replied, “was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.” Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent.

The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.

Family experts have warned against what they call “the overscheduling of children.” In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together. Among many measures of this disturbing trend are the reports that structured sports time has doubled, but children’s free time has declined by 12 hours per week, and unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50 percent.2

The number of those who report that their “whole family usually eats dinner together” has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together “eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children’s academic achievement and psychological adjustment.”3 Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs.4 There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: what your children really want for dinner is you.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has pleaded that we “work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it.”

He continued: “I ask you men, particularly, to pause and take stock of yourselves as husbands and fathers and heads of households. Pray for guidance, for help, for direction, and then follow the whisperings of the Spirit to guide you in the most serious of all responsibilities, for the consequences of your leadership in your home will be eternal and everlasting.”5

The First Presidency has called on parents “to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles. … The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place … in … this God-given responsibility.” The First Presidency has declared that “however worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform.”6

III.
Church leaders should be aware that Church meetings and activities can become too complex and burdensome if a ward or a stake tries to have the membership do everything that is good and possible in our numerous Church programs. Priorities are needed there also.

Members of the Quorum of the Twelve have stressed the importance of exercising inspired judgment in Church programs and activities. Elder L. Tom Perry taught this principle in our first worldwide leadership training meeting in 2003. Counseling the same leaders in 2004, Elder Richard G. Scott said: “Adjust your activities to be consistent with your local conditions and resources. … Make sure that the essential needs are met, but do not go overboard in creating so many good things to do that the essential ones are not accomplished. … Remember, don’t magnify the work to be done—simplify it.”7

In general conference last year, Elder M. Russell Ballard warned against the deterioration of family relationships that can result when we spend excess time on ineffective activities that yield little spiritual sustenance. He cautioned against complicating our Church service “with needless frills and embellishments that occupy too much time, cost too much money, and sap too much energy. … The instruction to magnify our callings is not a command to embellish and complicate them. To innovate does not necessarily mean to expand; very often it means to simplify. … What is most important in our Church responsibilities,” he said, “is not the statistics that are reported or the meetings that are held but whether or not individual people—ministered to one at a time just as the Savior did—have been lifted and encouraged and ultimately changed.”8

Stake presidencies and bishoprics need to exercise their authority to weed out the excessive and ineffective busyness that is sometimes required of the members of their stakes or wards. Church programs should focus on what is best (most effective) in achieving their assigned purposes without unduly infringing on the time families need for their “divinely appointed duties.”

But here is a caution for families. Suppose Church leaders reduce the time required by Church meetings and activities in order to increase the time available for families to be together. This will not achieve its intended purpose unless individual family members—especially parents—vigorously act to increase family togetherness and one-on-one time. Team sports and technology toys like video games and the Internet are already winning away the time of our children and youth. Surfing the Internet is not better than serving the Lord or strengthening the family. Some young men and women are skipping Church youth activities or cutting family time in order to participate in soccer leagues or to pursue various entertainments. Some young people are amusing themselves to death—spiritual death.

Some uses of individual and family time are better, and others are best. We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.

IV.
Here are some other illustrations of good, better, and best:

It is good to belong to our Father in Heaven’s true Church and to keep all of His commandments and fulfill all of our duties. But if this is to qualify as “best,” it should be done with love and without arrogance. We should, as we sing in a great hymn, “crown [our] good with brotherhood,”9 showing love and concern for all whom our lives affect.

To our hundreds of thousands of home teachers and visiting teachers, I suggest that it is good to visit our assigned families; it is better to have a brief visit in which we teach doctrine and principle; and it is best of all to make a difference in the lives of some of those we visit. That same challenge applies to the many meetings we hold—good to hold a meeting, better to teach a principle, but best to actually improve lives as a result of the meeting.

As we approach 2008 and a new course of study in our Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Societies, I renew our caution about how we use the Teachings of Presidents of the Church manuals. Many years of inspired work have produced our 2008 volume of the teachings of Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of this dispensation. This is a landmark among Church books. In the past, some teachers have given a chapter of the Teachings manuals no more than a brief mention and then substituted a lesson of their own choice. It may have been a good lesson, but this is not an acceptable practice. A gospel teacher is called to teach the subject specified from the inspired materials provided. The best thing a teacher can do with Teachings: Joseph Smith is to select and quote from the words of the Prophet on principles specially suited to the needs of class members and then direct a class discussion on how to apply those principles in the circumstances of their lives.

I testify of our Heavenly Father, whose children we are and whose plan is designed to qualify us for “eternal life … the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7; see also D&C 76:51–59). I testify of Jesus Christ, whose Atonement makes it possible. And I testify that we are led by prophets, our President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog, Fall and Winter 1944–45, 316E.
2. See Jared R. Anderson and William J. Doherty, “Democratic Community Initiatives: The Case of Overscheduled Children,” Family Relations, vol. 54 (Dec. 2005): 655.
3. Anderson and Doherty, Family Relations, 54:655.
4. See Nancy Gibbs, “The Magic of the Family Meal,” Time, June 12, 2006, 51–52; see also Sarah Jane Weaver, “Family Dinner,” Church News, Sept. 8, 2007, 5.
5. “Each a Better Person,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2002, 100.
6. First Presidency letter, Feb. 11, 1999; printed in Church News, Feb. 27, 1999, 3.
7. “The Doctrinal Foundation of the Auxiliaries,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 10, 2004, 5, 7–8; see also Ensign, Aug. 2005, 62, 67.
8. “O Be Wise,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2006, 18–20.
9. “America the Beautiful,” Hymns, no. 338.

If what I have written has either confused your or left you wanting to learn more, then I would encourage you to review the following sites. They are some of my favorites (just a few of my favorites on this that have not been mentioned yet). Please feel free to leave a link to one of your favorites, or one that you feel is informative on this topic, in the comments section.

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

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#BOMTC Ether 11-12: How to Have AWEsome Faith

It is somewhat surprising and interesting that the book of Ether does not introduce the prophet Ether until chapter 12 (of 15). It is only after recounting many years of Jaredite history that Moroni introduces the ministry of the prophet Ether.

#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512, Ether 12~4

After just a few verses (Ether 12:1-5) Moroni then pauses in his historical account and records some of the blessings that come to those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ (Ether 12:6-22).

#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512, Ether 12~6In humble prayer, Moroni expresses a concern. He worries about the weakness he perceived in his writing and in the writing of other Book of Mormon prophets. The Lord promised Moroni that He strengthens the weaknesses of all those who humble themselves before Him and have faith (Ether 12:27).

#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512, Ether 12~27

Ether 12 is one of those chapters that I feel I can never quite do justice to. Its almost better to just say, “Well, you read it. You felt the Spirit. You should have learned something from it. Now go and do it!”

BUT, I can’t let you off the hook that easily–especially when we only have a couple more days left in the Challenge!

So here are some insights on FAITH from Elder David A. Bednar. If you have never seen the graphic below, it is one that you are going to want to dedicate to memory or save digitally. It is simple, and yet mind-blowing once Elder Bednar explains and expounds upon it.

Are you interested? Then read on and see how it augments your study of Ether 12!

#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512, Helix of Faith

“Seek Learning by Faith”

Elder David A. Bednar

Address to CES Religious Educators • February 3, 2006

I express my love to and for you—and the gratitude of the Brethren for the righteous influence you have upon the youth of the Church throughout the world. Thank you for blessing and strengthening the rising generation.

I pray that the Holy Ghost will bless and edify us as we share this special time together.

Companion Principles: Preaching by the Spirit and Learning by Faith

We are admonished repeatedly in the scriptures to preach the truths of the gospel by the power of the Spirit (see D&C 50:14). I believe the vast majority of us as parents and teachers in the Church are aware of this principle and generally strive appropriately to apply it. As important as this principle is, however, it is only one element of a much larger spiritual pattern. We also frequently are taught to seek learning by faith (see D&C 88:118). Preaching by the spirit and learning by faith are companion principles that we should strive to understand and apply concurrently and consistently.

I suspect we emphasize and know much more about a teacher teaching by the Spirit than we do about a learner learning by faith. Clearly, the principles and processes of both teaching and learning are spiritually essential. However, as we look to the future and anticipate the ever more confused and turbulent world in which we will live, I believe it will be essential for all of us to increase our capacity to seek learning by faith. In our personal lives, in our families, and in the Church, we can and will receive the blessings of spiritual strength, direction, and protection as we seek by faith to obtain and apply spiritual knowledge.

Nephi teaches us, “When a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth [the message] unto the hearts of the children of men” (2 Nephi 33:1). Please notice how the power of the Spirit carries the message unto but not necessarily into the heart. A teacher can explain, demonstrate, persuade, and testify, and do so with great spiritual power and effectiveness. Ultimately, however, the content of a message and the witness of the Holy Ghost penetrate into the heart only if a receiver allows them to enter.

Brothers and sisters, learning by faith opens the pathway into the heart. Tonight we will focus upon the individual responsibility each of us has to seek learning by faith. We also will consider the implications of this principle for us as teachers.

The Principle of Action: Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

The Apostle Paul defined faith as “the substance of things hoped for, [and] the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Alma declared that faith is not a perfect knowledge; rather, if we have faith, we “hope for things which are not seen, [but] are true” (Alma 32:21). Additionally, we learn in the Lectures on Faith that faith is “the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness” and that it is also “the principle of action in all intelligent beings” (Joseph Smith, comp., Lectures on Faith [1985], 1).

These teachings of Paul and of Alma and from the Lectures on Faith highlight three basic elements of faith: (1) faith as the assurance of things hoped for which are true, (2) faith as the evidence of things not seen, and (3) faith as the principle of action in all intelligent beings. I describe these three components of faith in the Savior as simultaneously facing the future, looking to the past, and initiating action in the present.

Faith as the assurance of things hoped for looks to the future. This assurance is founded upon a correct understanding about and trust in God and enables us to “press forward” (2 Nephi 31:20) into uncertain and often challenging situations in the service of the Savior.

For example, Nephi relied upon precisely this type of future-facing spiritual assurance as he returned to Jerusalem to obtain the plates of brass—“not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do. Nevertheless [he] went forth” (1 Nephi 4:6–7).

Faith in Christ is inextricably tied to and results in hope in Christ for our redemption and exaltation. And assurance and hope make it possible for us to walk to the edge of the light and take a few steps into the darkness—expecting and trusting the light to move and illuminate the way (see Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 54). The combination of assurance and hope initiates action in the present.

Faith as the evidence of things not seen looks to the past and confirms our trust in God and our confidence in the truthfulness of things not seen. We stepped into the darkness with assurance and hope, and we received evidence and confirmation as the light in fact moved and provided the illumination we needed. The witness we obtained after the trial of our faith (see Ether 12:6) is evidence that enlarges and strengthens our assurance.

#BOMTC Day 81, June 26~Ether 11-12 or Pages 507-512, Helix of Faith

Assurance, action, and evidence influence each other in an ongoing process. This helix is like a coil, and as it spirals upward it expands and grows wider. These three elements of faith—assurance, action, and evidence—are not separate and discrete; rather, they are interrelated and continuous and cycle upward. And the faith that fuels this ongoing process develops and evolves and changes. As we again turn and face forward toward an uncertain future, assurance leads to action and produces evidence, which further increases assurance. Our confidence waxes stronger, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.

BRO SIMON SAYS SIDEBAR: When I teach this, instead of using the word “Action” I replace it with the word “Work”. Then the pattern creates the acronym: “A.W.E.” (Assurance, Work, Evidence), and I call it a lesson about How to Have “A.W.E.some Faith”!

We find a powerful example of the interaction among assurance, action, and evidence as the children of Israel transported the ark of the covenant under the leadership of Joshua (see Joshua 3:7–17). Recall how the Israelites came to the river Jordan and were promised the waters would part, or “stand upon an heap” (Joshua 3:13), and they would be able to cross over on dry ground. Interestingly, the waters did not part as the children of Israel stood on the banks of the river waiting for something to happen; rather, the soles of their feet were wet before the water parted. The faith of the Israelites was manifested in the fact that they walked into the water before it parted. They walked into the river Jordan with a future-facing assurance of things hoped for. As the Israelites moved forward, the water parted, and as they crossed over on dry land, they looked back and beheld the evidence of things not seen. In this episode, faith as assurance led to action and produced the evidence of things not seen which were true.

True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to action. Faith as the principle of action is highlighted in many scriptures with which we are all familiar:

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26; italics added).

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22; italics added).

“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith” (Alma 32:27; italics added).

And it is faith as the principle of action that is so central to the process of learning and applying spiritual truth.

Learning by Faith: To Act and Not to Be Acted Upon

How is faith as the principle of action in all intelligent beings related to gospel learning? And what does it mean to seek learning by faith?

In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of agency—the capacity and power of independent action. Endowed with agency, we are agents, and we primarily are to act and not only to be acted upon— especially as we seek to obtain and apply spiritual knowledge.

Learning by faith and from experience are two of the central features of the Father’s plan of happiness. The Savior preserved moral agency through the Atonement and made it possible for us to act and to learn by faith. Lucifer’s rebellion against the plan sought to destroy the agency of man, and his intent was that we as learners would only be acted upon.

Consider the question posed by Heavenly Father to Adam in the Garden of Eden, “Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9). Obviously the Father knew where Adam was hiding, but He, nonetheless, asked the question. Why? A wise and loving Father enabled His child to act in the learning process and not merely be acted upon. There was no one-way lecture to a disobedient child, as perhaps many of us might be inclined to deliver. Rather, the Father helped Adam as a learner to act as an agent and appropriately exercise his agency.

Recall how Nephi desired to know about the things his father, Lehi, had seen in the vision of the tree of life. Interestingly, the Spirit of the Lord begins the tutorial with Nephi by asking the following question, “Behold, what desirest thou?” (1 Nephi 11:2). Clearly the Spirit knew what Nephi desired. So why ask the question? The Holy Ghost was helping Nephi to act in the learning process and not simply be acted upon. (I encourage you at a later time to study chapters 11–14 in 1 Nephi and notice how the Spirit both asked questions and encouraged Nephi to “look” as active elements in the learning process.)

From these examples we recognize that as learners, you and I are to act and be doers of the word and not simply hearers who are only acted upon. Are you and I agents who act and seek learning by faith, or are we waiting to be taught and acted upon? Are the students we serve acting and seeking to learn by faith, or are they waiting to be taught and acted upon? Are you and I encouraging and helping those whom we serve to seek learning by faith? You and I and our students are to be anxiously engaged in asking, seeking, and knocking (see 3 Nephi 14:7).

A learner exercising agency by acting in accordance with correct principles opens his or her heart to the Holy Ghost—and invites His teaching, testifying power, and confirming witness. Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion and not just passive reception. It is in the sincerity and consistency of our faith-inspired action that we indicate to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, our willingness to learn and receive instruction from the Holy Ghost. Thus, learning by faith involves the exercise of moral agency to act upon the assurance of things hoped for and invites the evidence of things not seen from the only true teacher, the Spirit of the Lord.

Consider how missionaries help investigators to learn by faith. Making and keeping spiritual commitments, such as studying and praying about the Book of Mormon, attending Church meetings, and keeping the commandments, require an investigator to exercise faith and to act. One of the fundamental roles of a missionary is to help an investigator make and honor commitments—to act and learn by faith. Teaching, exhorting, and explaining, as important as they are, can never convey to an investigator a witness of the truthfulness of the restored gospel. Only as an investigator’s faith initiates action and opens the pathway to the heart can the Holy Ghost deliver a confirming witness. Missionaries obviously must learn to teach by the power of the Spirit. Of equal importance, however, is the responsibility missionaries have to help investigators learn by faith.

The learning I am describing reaches far beyond mere cognitive comprehension and the retaining and recalling of information. The type of learning about which I am speaking causes us to put off the natural man (see Mosiah 3:19), to change our hearts (see Mosiah 5:2), and to be converted unto the Lord and to never fall away (see Alma 23:6). Learning by faith requires both “the heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34). Learning by faith is the result of the Holy Ghost carrying the power of the word of God both unto and into the heart. Learning by faith cannot be transferred from an instructor to a student through a lecture, a demonstration, or an experiential exercise; rather, a student must exercise faith and act in order to obtain the knowledge for himself or herself.

The young boy Joseph Smith instinctively understood what it meant to seek learning by faith. One of the most well-known episodes in the life of Joseph Smith was his reading of verses about prayer and faith in the book of James in the New Testament (see James 1:5–6). This text inspired Joseph to retire to a grove of trees near his home to pray and to seek for spiritual knowledge. Please note the questions Joseph had formulated in his mind and felt in his heart—and which he took into the grove. He clearly had prepared himself to “ask in faith” (James 1:6) and to act.

“In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it? . . .

“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right . . . and which I should join” (Joseph Smith—History 1:10, 18).

Notice that Joseph’s questions focused not just on what he needed to know but also on what he needed to do. And his very first question centered on action and what was to be done! His prayer was not simply which church is right. His question was which church should he join. Joseph went to the grove to learn by faith. He was determined to act.

Ultimately, the responsibility to learn by faith and apply spiritual truth rests upon each of us individually. This is an increasingly serious and important responsibility in the world in which we do now and will yet live. What, how, and when we learn is supported by— but is not dependent upon—an instructor, a method of presentation, or a specific topic or lesson format.

Truly, one of the great challenges of mortality is to seek learning by faith. The Prophet Joseph Smith best summarizes the learning process and outcomes I am attempting to describe. In response to a request by the Twelve Apostles for instruction, Joseph taught, “The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching” (History of the Church, 4:425).

And on another occasion, the Prophet Joseph explained that “reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God” (History of the Church, 6:50).

Implications for Us as Teachers

The truths about learning by faith we have discussed thus far have profound implications for us as teachers. Let us now consider together three of these implications.

Implication 1. The Holy Ghost is the only true teacher.

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead, and He is the teacher and witness of all truth. Elder James E. Talmage explained: “The office of the Holy Ghost in His ministrations among men is described in scripture. He is a teacher sent from the Father; and unto those who are entitled to His tuition He will reveal all things necessary for the soul’s advancement” (The Articles of Faith, 12th ed. [1924], 162).

We should always remember that the Holy Ghost is the teacher who, through proper invitation, can enter into a learner’s heart. Indeed, you and I have the responsibility to preach the gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter, as a prerequisite for the learning by faith that can be achieved only by and through the Holy Ghost (see D&C 50:14). In this regard, you and I are much like the long, thin strands of glass used to create the fiber-optic cables through which light signals are transmitted over very long distances. Just as the glass in these cables must be pure to conduct the light efficiently and effectively, so we should become and remain worthy conduits through whom the Spirit of the Lord can operate.

But brothers and sisters, we must be careful to remember in our service that we are conduits and channels; we are not the light. “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:20). It is never about me and it is never about you. In fact, anything you or I do as an instructor that knowingly and intentionally draws attention to self—in the messages we present, in the methods we use, or in our personal demeanor—is a form of priestcraft that inhibits the teaching effectiveness of the Holy Ghost. “Doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God” (D&C 50:17–18).

Implication 2. We are most effective as instructors when we encourage and facilitate learning by faith.

We are all familiar with the adage that giving a man a fish feeds him for one meal. Teaching the man to fish, on the other hand, feeds him for a lifetime. As gospel instructors, you and I are not in the business of distributing fish; rather, our work is to help individuals learn to “fish” and to become spiritually self-reliant. This important objective is best accomplished as we encourage and facilitate learners acting in accordance with correct principles—as we help them to learn by doing. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God” (John 7:17).

Please notice this implication in practice in the counsel given to Junius F. Wells by Brigham Young as Brother Wells was called in 1875 to organize the young men of the Church:

“At your meetings you should begin at the top of the roll and call upon as many members as there is time for to bear their testimonies and at the next meeting begin where you left off and call upon others, so that all shall take part and get into the practice of standing up and saying something. Many may think they haven’t any testimony to bear, but get them to stand up and they will find the Lord will give them utterance to many truths they had not thought of before. More people have obtained a testimony while standing up trying to bear it than down on their knees praying for it” (in Junius F. Wells, “Historic Sketch of the YMMIA,” Improvement Era, June 1925, 715).

President Boyd K. Packer has given similar counsel in our day:

“Oh, if I could teach you this one principle. A testimony is to be found in the bearing of it! Somewhere in your quest for spiritual knowledge, there is that ‘leap of faith,’ as the philosophers call it. It is the moment when you have gone to the edge of the light and stepped into the darkness to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two. ‘The spirit of man, ‘ as the scripture says, indeed ‘is the candle of the Lord.’ (Proverbs 20:27)

“It is one thing to receive a witness from what you have read or what another has said; and that is a necessary beginning. It is quite another to have the Spirit confirm to you in your bosom that what youhave testified is true. Can you not see that it will be supplied as you share it? As you give that which you have, there is a replacement, with increase!” (Ensign, Jan. 1983, 54–55).

I have observed a common characteristic among the instructors who have had the greatest influence in my life. They have helped me to seek learning by faith. They refused to give me easy answers to hard questions. In fact, they did not give me any answers at all. Rather, they pointed the way and helped me take the steps to find my own answers. I certainly did not always appreciate this approach, but experience has enabled me to understand that an answer given by another person usually is not remembered for very long, if remembered at all. But an answer we discover or obtain through the exercise of faith, typically, is retained for a lifetime. The most important learnings of life are caught—not taught.

The spiritual understanding you and I have been blessed to receive, and which has been confirmed as true in our hearts, simply cannot be given to another person. The tuition of diligence and learning by faith must be paid to obtain and personally “own” such knowledge. Only in this way can what is known in the mind be transformed into what is felt in the heart. Only in this way can a person move beyond relying upon the spiritual knowledge and experience of others and claim those blessings for himself or herself. Only in this way can we be spiritually prepared for what is coming. We are to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).

Implication 3. An instructor’s faith is strengthened as he or she helps others seek learning by faith.

The Holy Ghost, who can “teach [us] all things, and bring all things to [our] remembrance” (John 14:26), is eager to help us learn as we act and exercise faith in Jesus Christ. Interestingly, this divine learning assistance is perhaps never more apparent than when we are teaching, either at home or in Church assignments. As Paul made clear to the Romans, “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?” (Romans 2:21).

Please notice in the following verses from the Doctrine and Covenants how teaching diligently invites heavenly grace and instruction:

“And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.

“Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand” (D&C 88:77–78; italics added).

Consider that the blessings described in these scriptures are intended specifically for the teacher: “Teach . . . diligently and my grace shall attend you”—that you, the teacher, may be instructed!

The same principle is evident in verse 122 from the same section of the Doctrine and Covenants:

“Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege” (D&C 88:122; italics added).

As all speak and as all listen in a dignified and orderly way, all are edified. The individual and collective exercise of faith in the Savior invites instruction and strength from the Spirit of the Lord.

Seek Learning by Faith: A Recent Example

All of us were blessed by the challenge from the First Presidency last August to read the Book of Mormon by the end of 2005. In extending the challenge, President Gordon B. Hinckley promised that faithfully observing this simple reading program would bring into our lives and into our homes “an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God” (“A Testimony Vibrant and True,” Ensign, Aug. 2005, 6).

Please note how this inspired challenge is a classic example of learning by faith. First, you and I were not commanded, coerced, or required to read. Rather, we were invited to exercise our agency as agents and act in accordance with correct principles. President Hinckley, as an inspired teacher, encouraged us to act and not just be acted upon. Each of us, ultimately, had to decide if and how we would respond to the challenge—and if we would endure to the end of the task.

Second, in proffering the invitation to read and to act, President Hinckley was encouraging each of us to seek learning by faith. No new study materials were distributed to members of the Church, and no additional lessons, classes, or programs were created by the Church. Each of us had our copy of the Book of Mormon—and a pathway into our heart opened wider through the exercise of our faith in the Savior as we responded to the First Presidency challenge. Thus, we were prepared to receive instruction from the only true teacher, the Holy Ghost.

In recent weeks I have been greatly impressed by the testimonies of so many members concerning their recent experiences reading the Book of Mormon. Important and timely spiritual lessons have been learned, lives have been changed for the better, and the promised blessings have been received. The Book of Mormon, a willing heart, and the Holy Ghost—it really is that simple. My faith and the faith of the other Brethren have been strengthened as we have responded to President Hinckley’s invitation and as we have observed so many of you acting and learning by faith.

As I stated earlier, the responsibility to seek learning by faith rests upon each of us individually, and this obligation will become increasingly important as the world in which we live grows more confused and troubled. Learning by faith is essential to our personal spiritual development and for the growth of the Church in these latter days. May each of us truly hunger and thirst after righteousness and be filled with the Holy Ghost (see 3 Nephi 12:6)—that we might seek learning by faith.

I witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father. He is our Savior and Redeemer. I testify that as we learn of Him, listen to His words, and walk in the meekness of His Spirit (see D&C 19:23), we will be blessed with spiritual strength, protection, and peace.

As a servant of the Lord, I invoke this blessing upon each of you: even that your desire and capacity to seek learning by faith—and to appropriately help others to seek learning by faith—will increase and improve. This blessing will be a source of great treasures of spiritual knowledge in your personal life, for your family, and to those whom you instruct and serve. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

BONUS: For an abbreviated version of this talk see, Seek Learning by Faith, Ensign, Sept. 2007. As an added bonus you can check out this blog post from my friend, Brother Day: “Acts 12: Assurance, Action, Evidence

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

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#BOMTC Ether 8-10: Your “Stance” Determines Your Liberty or Captivity

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

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

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

Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 21, 2014

Dear Friends:

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

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

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

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

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

Clayton Christensen

Belmont, MA

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

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

Defenders of the Family Proclamation
By Bonnie L. Oscarson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defenders of the Family Proclamation, Bonnie L. Oscarson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#BOMTC Ether 4-7: “Commending Themselves unto the Lord”

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have always found the accounts in the book of Ether to be very easy to liken to my life. I find this particularly easy to do with Ether 6:1-12. Before you read what I have written for today, take a few moments to review Ether 6:1-12 and study it with the following perspective in mind: “If I am like a Jaredite vessel traveling toward the promised land of the Celestial Kingdom, then what can I learn from these verses about my journey through life?”

I will simply list a few selections from Ether 6:1-12 below and a brief thought about how I feel it applies to my life. You may want to make a similar list in your scriptures from your own insights:

  • he did put forth the stones into the vessels which were prepared, one in each end thereof; and behold, they did give light unto the vessels.
    • I like to compare these two stones to the “Light of Christ” and the “Holy Ghost”. Every person in the world can receive “light” from these two sources, which have been “prepared” by the Lord for our benefit.
  • thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.
  • when they had prepared all
    • I have to do everything that I can to be prepared for life.
  • they got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God.
    • I imagine it took a LOT of faith in God to get on/in those barges. As we undertook this journey of life in these earthly vessels, I imagine it took a LOT of faith as well. Now, each day when we continue our journey we need to make sure that we are “commending” (entrusting) ourselves to God with the same kind of faith every day.After all, isn’t that what our Savior Jesus Christ did every day, even unto His final breath? “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”   (Luke 23:46) What would our days be like if our morning prayers reflected the same commitment and desire?
  • the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land
    • Remember that when you feel like God is sending His furious wind, that it’s purpose is to move you “towards the promised land” of the Celestial Kingdom, not to blow you away.
  • thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.
    • Yes, there will be some “tossing” going on, but remember that the Lord has “prepared” you for it! You may get “sea sick” of it all, but He will never allow you to be tossed more than you can handle.
  • they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.
    • Sometimes we’re blown, sometimes we’re tossed, and then sometimes we are “buried”. BUT we are not dead! See the next one…
  • when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish
    • All the water in the world, 
      However hard it tried,
      Could never sink the smallest ship
      Unless it [gets] inside.
      And all the evil in the world,
      The blackest kind of sin,
      Can never hurt you the least bit
      Unless you let it in. (The Spirit of Revelation)
  • tight like unto the ark of Noah
    • Speaking to Noah, the Lord said, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.” (Genesis 6:14) What is “pitch”? The word “pitch” in the original Hebrew translation of this passage is “kaphar” (verb), meaning: to cover, purge, make an atonement, make reconciliation. In other words, what gives us the ability to be “tight like unto a dish” and “like unto the ark of Noah” isn’t anything that we do for ourselves. It is conditional upon our willingness to “pitch” our lives “within and without with [the Atonement]”. If we do not “cover” ourselves with the Atonement, then when the wind blows, and the waves toss, and we are buried in the depths of the sea we will sink.
  • therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.
    • See the explanation in the bullet-point above… Crying unto the Lord is one way that we can “kaphar” (Hebrew for “cover”) ourselves with the Atonement. As we do so God will bring us “forth again upon the top of the waters”. Joseph Smith once said,“Never be discouraged. If I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top,” (The Sure Sound of the Trumpet) as he did over and over, again.
  • the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters
    • God is mindful of me, and He will “never cease to blow [me] towards the promised land” of the Celestial Kingdom.
  • they did sing praises unto the Lord
    • My Grandma Simon gave me a lapel pin that says, “He who sings, prays twice!” I think that the Lord taught us the same principle when He revealed this truth to Emma Smith, “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” (D&C 25:12) It seems that the two main methods that God has given us to “praise” Him is prayer and song. So remember what Grandma Simon taught me, “He who sings, prays twice!”
  • he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.
    • It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters! The Brother of Jared had learned his lesson about remembering “not to call upon the name of the Lord” (Ether 2:14-15), so he knew how to react. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) “And they did admonish their brethren; and they were also admonished, every one by the word of God, according to his sins, or to the sins which he had committed, being commanded of God to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things.” (Mosiah 26:39)
  • no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them
    • Not only would God not allow that which He had caused to happen to hurt the Jaredites, but He also would not allow outside factors of the environment in which they were placed to “break” nor “mar” them. Even so it is with us. As you are blown, and tossed, and buried by God on the way to the promised land of the Celestial Kingdom, you will also be attacked by the “monsters” and “whales” surround you in the environment in which God has placed you. He knows that they are there, and He has provided a way for you to be safe from them.
  • they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.
    • Indeed we do have access to the “Light of Christ” and the “Holy Ghost” continually, no matter what our circumstances may be. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland put it so well when he said, “However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or distance from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines. Whether you are not yet of our faith or were once with us and have not remained, there is nothing in either case you have done that cannot be undone. There is no problem which you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized. Even if you feel you are the lost and last laborer of the eleventh hour, the Lord of the vineyard still stands beckoning. “Come boldly [to] the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16), and fall at the feet of the Holy One of Israel. Come and feast “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1) at the table of the Lord. . . . My beloved brothers and sisters, to those of you who have been blessed by the gospel for many years because you were fortunate enough to find it early, and to those of you who have come to the gospel by stages and phases later, and finally to those of you—member or not yet member—who may still be hanging back, to each of you, one and all, I testify of the renewing power of God’s love and the miracle of His grace. His concern is for the faith at which you finally arrive, not the hour of the day in which you got there. So if you have made covenants, keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time. Please listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling you right now, this very moment, that you should accept the atoning gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the fellowship of His labor. Don’t delay. It’s getting late.” (The Laborers in the Vineyard, emphasis added.)
  • they did land upon the shore of the promised land.
    • If we can but ENDURE TO THE END, and ENDURE IT WELL (as seen in the Jaredites example above), we too will someday find that we have landed “upon the shore” of the promised Celestial Kingdom! We don’t know how long that will take, and it may be a longer, harder trip for some, but we will ALL get there. Anyone can have Eternal Life, they just have to want it more than anything else! Elder Bruce C. Hafen said it this way: “We can have eternal life if we want it, but only if there is nothing else we want more.” (Atonement: All for All)
  • when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.
    • And I imagine that is pretty much what you will see when/if you happen to see me arrive to our Celestial Home On High!

Remember to LIKEN the scriptures as you study them. Ask yourself, “What is that ‘like’ in my life?” As you do so, the Lord will be able to help you through this journey of mortality and land you safely upon the shores of the promised land that He has prepared for you. So stop sitting on the beach! (Ether 2:14) Get on with your journey and “commend” yourself to God. Endure to the end and endure it well as He blows, and tosses, and buries you toward the promised land!

#BOMTC Day 79, June 24~Ether 4-7 or Pages 495-500, Come Out On Top, Joseph Smith

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#BOMTC Ether 2-3: Life Lessons

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

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

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

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

Bro Simon’s “Life Lessons” from Ether 1-3

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

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

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

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

Pray with the thought that 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brother S. Michael Wilcox explains this so well:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you catch that? Is it true?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The Lord counsels us on balance. Faith is vital, but it must be accompanied by the personal work appropriate to the task. Only then do we qualify for the blessing. The appropriate approach is to study as if everything depended upon us and then to pray and exercise faith as if everything depended upon the Lord.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 11)
  2. In the past I have tried to figure out whether I should go into business or into teaching or into the arts or whatever. As I have begun to proceed along one path, having more or less gathered what facts I could, I have found that if that decision was wrong or was taking me down the wrong path—without fail, the Lord has always let me know. On the other hand, there may have been two or three ways that I could have gone, any one of which would have been right and would have been in the general area providing the experience and means whereby I could fulfill the mission that the Lord had in mind for me. Because he knows we need growth, he generally does not point and say, ‘Open that door and go twelve yards in that direction; then turn right and go two miles’… But if it is wrong, he will let us know—we will feel it for sure. So rather than saying, ‘I will not move until I have this burning in my heart,” let us turn it around and say, “I will move unless I feel it is wrong; and if it is wrong, then I will not do it.’ By eliminating all of these wrong courses, very quickly you will find yourself going in the direction that you ought to be going.” (Elder John H. Groberg, Speeches, 1979, 97-98)
  3. If I ask [God] to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, …and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.” (Teachings Of Presidents Of The Church: Brigham Young, p.41)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding the Brother of Jared’s Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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