True Prosperity – 2 Nephi 4:1-4

You can read 2 Nephi 4:1-4 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi finishes speaking to Joseph and now, shortly before his death, blesses his grandchildren – the sons an daughters of Laman.
  • Lehi reminds them of the promise that the Lord has made concerning the promised land: if they keep the commandments, they will prosper in the land. If not, they will be cut off from God’s presence.

True Prosperity

In this chapter, Lehi recites a promise given to him:

“For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.” – 2 Nephi 4:4

I grew up a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I have heard this promise repeated over the years. Or, I think that I’ve actually only heard part of it repeated over the years. In my mind, the beginning of this promised is often emphasized: If we will keep God’s commandments, then we shall prosper in the land.

Often, I feel that this promise is interpreted as, if we keep the commandments, then will will prosper in a material way. I don’t know. I don’t want to speak for everyone. But I know that there have been times when people who are faithful but who aren’t prospering financially feel frustrated. Why aren’t they prospering if they keep the commandments?

To add to the confusion that can sometimes come, when reading the Book of Mormon, we know that when the people – in general – were righteous, they did prosper materially. They made more money, their crops did better, they became wealthy.

Of course, then, came a problem. Their prosperity seemed to blind them from God and His commandments, and they became proud. Their pride and sin would last for a while – seemingly without consequence. But, eventually their pride would hit a critical point where they would self-destruct. (Or they were weakened to the point that destruction from an outside source was significantly easier).

These patterns in the Book of Mormon seem to affirm the idea that when God says “ye shall prosper in the land.”

gilbert temple side

And yet, there is something that is bothering me about this interpretation. I suppose that I’ve already illustrated the potential problem. If this promise is all about material prosperity, then it gives way to pride. Not only do we see this in the Book of Mormon, but I think that if we closely look inward, we may see it in ourselves, too.

One – When we go through financial struggles, do we think why am I having this struggle, when I’m righteous? I pay my tithing!

Two – When we see others who are not seemingly righteous do we end up wondering how they have been financially blessed even though they aren’t keeping God’s commandments?

Three – When we see others who are poor but seemingly righteous, do we feel smug, thinking that they must be committing some kind of sin, otherwise God wouldn’t let them suffer in such a way?

Al of these scenarios may be traced back to the incorrect interpretation of Lehi’s prophecy.

Sedona AZ

Now, I don’t think that we need to ignore this warning. I don’t think that God is lying. He is neither promoting nor justifying the sin of pride. So – we need to take a closer look at the warning.

One – Keep My Commandments

So, first and foremost, we must keep the commandments. Which means that, even if prosperity can often tempt us into pride, we are not justified in being prideful. That is breaking a commandment!

Of course, Satan wants our failure. It shouldn’t come as a shock that he would tempt us to misuse that with which God blessed us.

I think that it is okay for us to desire a measure of temporal blessings. We need to stay alive!!!! We have basic biological needs – food, clothing, and shelter. It is a part of our life on earth to obtain these needs and help others to do so, too.

Not only that, but I think that this promise offers us comfort. We can trust the Lord. If we will keep the commandments, then we will be taken care of. It reminds me of what the Lord said in the New Testament:

“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:25-33

It’s not that if we are keeping the commandments everything will be easy. Instead, the Lord is imploring us to trust in Him. We shouldn’t set our hearts on riches. That leads us away from God. Instead, we need to 1) Love Him and 2) Love each other. And He assures us that as we do so, our very real temporal needs will be met.

Two – Ye Shall Prosper in the Land

I don’t want to dwell more on this, but I would ask what is true prosperity? What is true wealth? Is it having a lot of money, a big house, fancy cars, nice jewelry?

Is it health?

Is it loving relationships?

Is it a testimony in the true and living Christ?

Is it having a Book of Mormon?!

Is it peace and contentment – no matter our circumstances?

I’ll let you think of your own answers, but I will share one thought. I’ve had my own financial struggles. Very difficult financial struggles, despite doing all I can to keep the Lord’s commandments with exactness. During these times of financial stress, I woke up one morning, and realized I have everything I need. I am so abundantly blessed. I have a husband that loves me, and I love him. I KNOW THAT THIS IS A BLESSING!!!!!! I was in a terrible relationship in the past, and yet Heavenly Father saw fit to bless me by delivering me from the one that would have destroyed me. I have lived as a working single mom. I understand the pain of betrayal and loneliness.

This knowledge was not lost on me as I looked at my husband that morning. Though we very little by way of material blessings, I truly had everything I needed. I realized that my wealth exceeded my expectations. I have a family that I love and they love me.

So…What is prosperity??? Are we prosperous without knowing it???

Dandelions

Three – Not Keep My Commandments

This is pretty self explanatory since we already discussed keeping the commandments. But let’s remind ourselves:

One – Love God

Two – Love One Another

We have other commandments too, but they all fall under these two basic commandments. Are we living the laws that the Lord has given us? Are we living the law of sacrifice, chastity, the gospel, etc.? Are we cultivating faith, hope, and charity? Do we live the higher law that the Lord taught both in the New Testament and to the Nephites in 3 Nephi?

Are we listening to the whisperings of the Spirit?

If not, then….

Four – Ye Shall be Cut off from God’s Presence

Okay. This stands out to me. The warning does not say that if we keep the commandments, we’ll prosper and if we don’t keep the commandments, then we won’t prosper.

If so, then we could make the assumptions as stated above about material prosperity and righteousness.

Instead, God says, that if we keep the commandments, we’ll prosper, and that if we don’t keep the commandments, we’ll be cut off from His presence.

That’s different.

That means that maybe we can keep God’s commandments, be poor, but still have the constant companionship of His Spirit.

It also means that maybe we can break God’s commandments, and be rich; however, we will not have His Spirit, His happiness, His contentment or joy with us.

Perhaps by thinking about this aspect of the warning and promise, we can better understand what God means by “prosperity.”

field and hose.jpg

***

I need to end this. I don’t have a firm conclusion on anything, but that actually happens a lot when I study the scriptures. This concept will, no doubt, percolate in my mind and spirit for a while. This will give way to more studying and a better understanding of what God desires.

What I know right now is that I do want prosperity – as God defines and gives it. I’m grateful for the blessings that I already enjoy. I do not want to be cut off from the Lord or His Spirit. I’m grateful for the promises of God, and that we can learn about them in the scriptures.

The Fall Was a Good Thing – 2 Nephi 2:19-24

You can read 2 Nephi 2:19-24 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, shortly before his death, is still speaking to Jacob and his other children.
  • After Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, they were driven out of the garden of Eden.
  • Adam and Eve brought forth children – the family of all the earth.
  • The days of the children of men were prolonged, according to God’s will, so that we could repent while in the flesh. It seems that this is the most effective way for us to repent.
  • All of us were lost because of Adam’s transgression.
  • If Adam would NOT have transgressed, then he would not have fallen; however, everything would have remained in this holding pattern state in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve would have remained in a state of innocence, no children, no joy, no misery, no good, no sin, no knowledge.
  • God’s allowance of the fall was a good thing.

The Fall was a Good Thing

I grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I went to primary and church as a kid. I was baptized when I was eight. I went to seminary, institute, etc. I have grown up knowing that the fall of Adam, though it was a transgression against God’s commands regarding the Garden of Eden, was a good thing for all of mankind. This, however, is not a commonly held belief among all Christian denominations.

But it’s true!

Lehi teaches:

“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.” – 2 Nephi 2:22-23

I love this point of doctrine. I love knowing that Adam’s and Eve’s wasn’t this terrible mistake that surprised God and doomed man. It was always a part of the plan!!!

And how do we know that? Well, look at what it says in verse, 23. Had Adam and Eve stayed in the Garden of Eden, then they would have had no children.

The first commandment God gave to them was to multiply and replenish the earth. They needed to find a way out of the Garden of Eden so that they could have children, so we could have a chance to be here on this Earth!

family

Paradoxical Commandments

When the Lord created Adam and Eve, He gave them two commandments.

One – Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. They weren’t supposed to remain in the garden alone. Life on earth wasn’t only about Adam. In fact, in order for Adam and Eve to find the most fulfillment and joy in life, they would need to both multiply and replenish the earth. They needed to have a family. They needed to get married and have children. They needed to create – both individually and together. This is what would bring them joy – to fulfill their measure of their creation.

In the garden of Eden, according to the scriptures, having a family wasn’t yet a possibility. I’m not sure why. Life in the Garden may have been blissful, but it wasn’t joyful, and this is because they couldn’t fulfill the measure of their creations – they couldn’t live with purpose.

So God commanded them to be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth.

Then, God gave them a seemingly contradictory commandment.

Two – Do Not Eat of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
Why would the Lord tell them this if it is impossible for them to keep the first commandment? Both of these commandments cannot be kept. They conflict with one another.

Well…here’s my theory – the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a condition of living in the Garden of Eden and being in the presence of God.

God created Adam and Eve, He gave them the commandment, then he planted the Garden of Eden for them and placed them there. The Lord also dwelt in the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve could essentially “hang out” with the Lord – face to face, in the flesh. They were not mortal. They were not fallen. They were still “clean” and capable of enduring the presence of God.

When Satan tempted Eve with the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he did so out of rebellion and to thwart the plan of God (he didn’t realize that her choosing to partake was essential in God’s plan of happiness for us!)

When Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, it wasn’t out of rebellion. She still loved God, but she was seeking more. She wanted knowledge. She wanted happiness. Happiness was not a possibility before the fall – even in the idyllic Garden of Eden. Adam’s and Eve’s eyes needed to be “opened” if they wanted to experience happiness or joy.

Though the two commandments seem paradoxical, and of course in some ways they are, I don’t think that they were a set-up. Instead, I think it was probably a point of maturation. God created Adam and Eve. He gave them a commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. They had a purpose. Being new creatures, they were not really aware of their purpose the moment they were created.

The Lord put them in a place of safety where Adam and Eve could start having experiences and learn about this new world. However, because this was a place of relative safety, and with very little opposition (the only opposition being the fruit of the tree of knowledge and that serpent!), it was not a place that they could grow – long term. They lacked opposition and would also lack knowledge. They couldn’t have a family there.

It wasn’t until they were ready that the fruit started to appeal to Eve.

We read:

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.” – Moses 4:12

We don’t know how long Adam and Eve dwelled in the Garden. But we know at some point, Eve finally saw the fruit of the tree as desirable. Why? Because she sought wisdom. And though the serpent beguiled her into thinking that if she ate she wouldn’t die, it was a blessing that she partook. She wouldn’t have knowledge or wisdom without this choice to leave her parents and strike out on her own.

The fall was a critical part of God’s plan for our happiness. Adam’s and Eve’s having knowledge was a critical part of God’s plan for our happiness. Adam’s and Eve’s ability to procreate and bring children into this world was a critical part of God’s plan for our happiness!

Finally, I love what we learn from Adam and Eve themselves:

And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.

And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” – Moses 5:10-11

We can join in Adam’s and Eve’s praise for the fall. Without it, we wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t have knowledge. We wouldn’t have joy. And we wouldn’t have the chance at eternal life with our Father in Heaven.

Opposing Forces: God and Satan (1/2) – 2 Nephi 2:14-18

You can read 2 Nephi 2:14-18 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, shortly before his death, teaches Jacob.
  • There is a God.
  • He has created all things: heaven and earth, all things in them, and things both to act and things to be acted upon.
  • To bring about God’s eternal purposes, He allowed for opposition.
  • Likewise, to bring about His eternal purposes, He gave us agency. But we really couldn’t act for ourselves if we didn’t have choices.
  • An angel of God, according to the the scriptures that Lehi had read (Isaiah!), had fallen from heaven and became a devil.
  • This devil sought that which was evil before God. (This was the purpose of his being thrust out of Heaven.)
  • Because of the fall from heaven, the devil became miserable forever and sought the misery of all mankind. He wanted to destroy God’s work and glory.
  • The devil, therefore, tempted Eve by lying to her about the effects of partaking of the forbidden fruit.

Opposing Forces: Heavenly Father and Satan

So, last time, we pondered the concept of opposition. You can read it here.

We live in a world full of opposing forces – day and night, sleep and wake, high tide and low tide, summer and winter, north pole and south pole, etc. These opposing forces also include good and evil. And the ultimate examples of opposition in all things are God and the devil.

Today, we will study the verses above to learn more about God.

There is A God

First and foremost, we have to understand that there is a God. This is the basis of it all. If there was no God, then there would be no devil. There would be nothing. None of this would matter. But there is a God.

We have the witness of the prophets, the world around us, and the Holy Ghost that tells us there is a God.

He Hath Created All things

The God we believe in created all things – the Heavens, the earth, everything in the earth, and all of the things on the earth.

Columbine Flower

Look Up

Heber Valley Golden Hour

Late Summer Sunflower

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IMG_9136-2

Quick note: I’m constantly amazed and filled with hope when I contemplate that the God we believe in created the earth. Look around – look at the sweeping views or look at the tiniest details and ponder the fact that these are God’s creations.

Included in Gods creations: each of us!!!

birthday

What a comfort it is to know that the ruling force of this entire universe is the God that created us and He loves us.

Let’s think about that a second more. Our Heavenly Father, the ruler of this universe, governs with faith, hope, charity, benevolence, justice, patience, and mercy. His is a nature of happiness. I know that there are more qualities that can describe our God, but when we think of our Heavenly Father we ought to keep these traits in mind. We will be studying the devil next – and he also has a host of qualities. We will contrast those traits with Heavenly Father’s.

For now, though, take a moment to think of Heavenly Father, and the way He governs and guides.

The Lord Gave Us Agency

Lehi teaches:

“Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” – 2 Nephi 2:16

When I think of the many things that God has done – the creation of the earth, for example – the thing that I find most amazing is that He gave each of us the gift of agency. He created this earth, the solar systems, the galaxies. He created our bodies, our organs, our tissues, our cells. He has infinite understanding – from the most massive concepts (like the universe) to the smallest concepts (sub-atomic).

He did all of this work, and then He gave us agency.

He lets us choose our own paths, attitudes, decisions – even if we mess everything up.

Now, in order for the agency to have any kind of effect on our lives, then Heavenly Father also had to allow for the forces that opposed His good ones. Meaning He had to allow another being to reign with qualities that included doubt, despair, pride, hate, injustice, impatience, and cruelty. Heavenly Father had to allow another – whose nature was that of misery.

So he did. And we will study this being in the next blog post.

But for now, so that we don’t end on such a depressing note, we can remember the Lord. We can remember that He is a force and power available to us, if we will use our agency to choose Him.

the-second-coming-39618-gallery

Imagine No Opposition – 2 Nephi 2:10-13

You can read 2 Nephi 2:10-13 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, shortly before his death, is speaking to his son Jacob.
  • Because of Christ’s intercession for all, we can come to God to stand before Him and be judged according to the truth and holiness which is in Him.
  • We will receive according to the law – punishment or happiness – all to answer the end of the Atonement…(Remember, happiness is only possible because of the Atonement. Otherwise, we we all receive punishment.)
  • There is an opposition in all things, and there must be.
  • Without opposition: no righteousness, no wickedness, no holiness, no misery, no good, no bad. All things would be compound in one, and the body would be as if it were dead – having neither life nor death, no corruption nor incorruption, no happiness nor misery, no sense nor insensibility.
  • In other words, we would have been created for nothing. There would be no purpose in the end of our creations.
  • No opposition would destroy the wisdom of God and His eternal purpose, power, mercy, and justice.
  • No opposition…nothing.

Imagine No Opposition

Whenever I really study and think about these verses, I also think of the song “Imagine,” by John Lennon. I really don’t like that song.

I know, I know. It’s supposedly a song about peace and love, but the thing is, it completely ignores reality and the universal laws that govern this earth. Simply put, there is opposition in all things. And that is actually a good thing.

First of all, maybe it is good to think about the fact that opposition is a pretty universal fact – not only spiritually, but temporally.

Think of Isaac Newton’s laws of motion. The third law states, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Pacific Ocean

In the natural world, we have high tide and low tide. We have day and night. We have summer and winter. We have spring and fall. We have sleep and awake. We have life and death. I’m sure that we could think of more examples of opposition in the world around us.

What I love about looking at these laws of opposition, is that we can do so without any attachments. It is easy to see why both are good for us. Imagine the health of the ocean and coastal regions if it was always high tide. Imagine the health of our entire planet if it was always day and never night. On a more personal level, if we were always awake and never slept, then we’d experience deleterious effects within just a few days.

We need opposition in this world. Opposition is what keeps this world alive and functioning well.

Spiritual Application

Lehi teaches:

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” – 2 Nephi 2:11

Just as we need both high and low tide, night and day, inhaling and exhaling…we need opposition in more abstract ways. Without the possibility for wickedness there is no possibility for righteousness. Without misery, no holiness. Without bad, no good. Without death, no life. Without corruption, no incorruption. Without misery, no happiness. Without insensibility, no sensibility.

It is easy to love the idea of a life without misery, but is that what we really want? Or when we say we don’t want misery, do we mean that we want happiness. Do we really want an indifferent, robotic life? Or do we want the messiness that comes with beauty and joy?

joy is messy
Sometimes joy is a little messy.

And remember, it is impossible to separate the two.

Think of a coin – on the coin, we have a heads and a tails. You cannot pick up “heads” without also picking up tails. They are inseparably connected. Without tails, there would be no heads!

Or a magnet. It will always have both a north and a south pole. You can’t pick up a magnet and choose only to have the north pole. You will have the south pole of the magnet as well.

So – think of these abstract concepts as being the ends of a stick. On one end is misery, the other is joy. If you want to pick up that joy stick (haha! joystick!), you will also be picking up misery. They are connected and cannot be separated.

Now, the purpose of this post isn’t to be frustrated or depressed about the reality of opposition. Instead, understanding this will liberate us! Think – it is only through understanding the law of gravity and applying its laws that we have been able to fly. In much the same way, when we learn to understand the laws of God and this universe, then we can apply them to our own lives in a way that is beneficial.

So – let’s take an example. Say you are being “beat” with this misery stick. When we understand that misery and joy are connected, we will realize that on the other end of the misery stick is joy! Through this understanding, we will be able to see clearly enough to make the choices that will allow us to be blessed with joy rather than beat with misery.

Or, another example. When every “coin” we find in our lives is coming up tails, and we are feeling like a loser, instead of being frustrated we can remember that heads and tails are connected. We can use this knowledge to flip the coin!

As we begin to understand and accept opposition in all things, we will then understand what Lehi taught—that opposition is necessary in order for God to fulfill His eternal purposes.

When we understand the need for opposition, we won’t “imagine no heaven, no hell, nothing to live for, nothing to die for.” We will realize that imagining no opposition only yields nothing. Nothing bad means there is nothing good. No beauty. No life. No peace. No growth. No joy.

I can’t speak for John Lennon, but I would guess that he didn’t really want to sacrifice the beauty, life, growth, and joy of this world only to eliminate the forces that oppose each good thing. Without the valleys and steep climbs, there are no mountain tops. Is that what we would really want to give up???

Of course not.

Lehi further teaches:

“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” – 2 Nephi 2:13

Because of the law and because of opposition in all things, we can take comfort and joy! There is purpose to our lives. There is a God. He created this earth. He created each of us. And He is our loving Father in Heaven. He has taught us His law, so that we don’t hurt ourselves unnecessarily. Sure, we may stumble and fall from time to time, but through His Atonement, He picks us back up.

Because there is opposition in all things, the world is available to us. And because of our agency, we can choose which end of the magnet to focus on. We can choose to flip our coins. We can choose to see the joy in painful experiences. We can use our agency to have more life, happiness, and peace in our lives.

Imagine no opposition? No thanks.

Good and Evil – 2 Nephi 2:5

You can read 2 Nephi 2:5 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi, shortly before his death, is teaching Jacob for a final time.
  • People are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.
  • The Law is given unto us.
  • By the law no flesh is justified, or it is cut off – from God.
  • By the temporal law we are cut off, and by the spiritual law, we are cut off. So without a redemption from Christ, we would be miserable forever.

Good and Evil

This phrase is standing out to me today:

“And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil.” – 2 Nephi 2:5

Just so you know, I usually write these blog posts a few weeks/months in advance. It is just the schedule I’m on. And, as I’m writing this post, here in the U.S., we have had two mass shootings in less than 24 hours. Mass shootings get a lot of sensational coverage, but unfortunately, they overshadow other problems. I read an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and I really agree with the sentiment expressed:

“In a tweet on Monday morning, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the shooting in Elmwood [Philadelphia] “everyday” gun violence and the shooting in Gilroy a “mass shooting.” The implication is that there is something normal or routine in 20-year-olds being shot while filming a music video — while a mass shooting is a completely unpredictable event that targets the truly innocent.

Both the shooting in Elmwood and the shooting in Gilroy are “mass shootings” and neither should be thought of as an “everyday” occurrence.” – The Inquirer Editorial Board

Gosh, it’s sad. And I don’t like putting such sad things on my blog that is usually focused on “that good part!”

But these acts of violence stood out to me today, as I read “And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil…”

I don’t really know exactly why it stands out to me – other than I need to study it and I’ll find out. So, come along on this journey with me.

budding tree and blue sky
Maybe a pretty picture will lighten things up.

The Spirit of Christ

The first place we can look is the footnote that we read in 2 Nephi 2:5. The footnote is a cross reference to Moroni 7. We read:

“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.” – Moroni 7:16

This spirit of Christ is given to all people – all humankind – so we can know good from evil. Even if we don’t believe in Christ, we have this innate understanding of good and evil. Another way to describe the Spirit of Christ – it’s our conscience. It’s that light we’re born with.  We all have it. We can decide to quash it or to nurture it.

But you know, as I study this I’m noticing something. Look at that again: For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil;”. Maybe I was misunderstanding. Maybe this statement implies that we have the ability to discern, but we will still have to express agency in order to really know good from evil. Making sense?

In other words, we are given the tool (the Spirit of Christ) that will help us to know good and evil, but that doesn’t mean this tool is automatically in use in our lives. We must choose to use it. If we don’t learn to discern, then this tool goes useless. Worse yet, if we don’t choose to discern correctly, then we might abuse the tool.

This is exactly what happens! Those mass shooters, for example, they know that what they are doing is wrong. And then they are manipulating their knowledge to find ways to target vulnerable people and kill them. Yes, they did have the Spirit of Christ with them at one point, and they defied it. They have chosen to embrace evil rather than good. Sad, sad, sad.

sleeping baby monk seal
A cute monk seal to lift our spirits.

What the Spirit of Christ will Teach Us

Moroni teaches us how to discern. It is of utmost importance.

Good

  • Everything that invites us to do good is from God
  • Everything that invites us to believe in Christ is from God.

Evil

  • Anything that persuades us to do evil is from Satan.
  • Anything that persuades us not to believe in Christ and to deny Him is from Satan.
  • Anything that persuades us not to serve God is from Satan

What’s the big deal then? Who cares? Well, here’s the thing – Christ is life. Christ is good. Christ will bring us joy and peace. Christ builds us up and encourages us to build up others. Remember what the King Benjamin taught about service:

“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” – Mosiah 2:17

When we serve others, we are serving God. We are doing the Savior’s work. We are doing good. And it is in us to know it. We will feel good!

On the other hand, Satan wants us to be miserable. He is death. He wants us to be captive – and so he entices us to be bound by our appetites and other sins. Satan will never want us to do good. He wants to destroy, he wants chaos, he wants sadness, he wants death, he wants misery. When we give into evil and the things of the devil, we will not feel good!

If we want to be able to discern between evil and good, then we need to search deep within us, for we each have that light that will help us to discern.

Let’s not Confuse the Two

Of course, like so many other things in life, this is all easier said than done. Sometimes the good thing to do feels hard. Satan usually tempts us to believe that the evil thing is easier and therefore better. Isaiah warns:

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” – Isaiah 5:20

We can say whatever we want to say, but that won’t make something true. We can justify our sins, we can justify evil. But that will not actually make evil good. It will only make us more and more susceptible to misery, pain, and death.

Instead, we need to truly embrace good, light, and sweet.

nutella sandwich
Embracing the sweet!

I know – this is easy to say. I don’t think anyone would say that they are purposely embracing evil, darkness, or bitterness. So, let’s think about it more deeply? Are we unwittingly embracing evil, darkness, or bitterness?

I’ll give an example at the risk of alienating many. There are times when I have heard people justify the bad actions of a political leader because their opponent has done the same thing. They might say something like, “Who cares if Donald Trump had an affair – Bill Clinton did, too.” As if one wrong will justify the wrong of another. This is called the “tu quoque” fallacy – in simpler terms, “two wrongs make a right.” Of course, we know that this isn’t true! Now, remember – this is just an example so that we can ask ourselves

Am I embracing good or evil?

Really think about it. Think about your actions. I’ll think about mine, too. Let’s ask ourselves: what are the kinds of articles I read? What are the kinds of entertainment that I consume? What are the kinds of politicians I endorse? What are the kinds of words that I speak about others in my home? What are the kinds of principles I’m teaching to my children? What am I doing behind closed doors?

It is given to each of us to know good and evil. What a blessing this is. We don’t have to go through life confused by the sophisticated arguments and deceptions given by those who are not good. We can learn to look toward God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We can learn to embrace good. We can learn to promote good. This, I feel, is the only way to overcome the sad news that we seem to see each day. It starts in our in our towns, in our homes, and in our hearts.

lilac bloomwinter sunset timpwishes

Wake Up! – 2 Nephi 1:13-14

You can read 2 Nephi 1:13-14 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Lehi is speaking to his sons shortly before his death.
  • Lehi pleads with his sons to “awake” from the deep sleep of hell, to shake off the chains that bind them and that are bringing them down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.
  • Lehi pleads with his sons to wake up, rise from the dust, and listen to the words of a trembling parent – he is about to die.

Wake Up!

I’ve always found these scriptures very interesting. Maybe it’s the imagery. Maybe it’s the pleading. I’m not sure, but I think it will be interesting to study them today.

We read:

“O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.

Awake! and arise from the dust, and hear the words of a trembling parent, whose limbs ye must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return; a few more days and I go the way of all the earth.” – 2 Nephi 1:13-14

I think that I want to start with verse 14 then go to verse 13.

Lehi is pleading with his sons – especially his elder sons Laman and Lemuel – to wake up!!!

They aren’t kids anymore. Lehi isn’t young. He’s about to die. Their rebellious decisions aren’t just little inconsequential choices. Their rebellions will have real consequences for them – eternally. They need to wake up!

I know why I like these verse. It’s the symbolism and imagery. I think that it is always easier to understand abstract gospel concepts with interesting concrete images. So – we will study these concrete images and what they symbolize.

Awake

First of all, Lehi gives his sons the command to awake. Does this mean that they are literally asleep? No. It is symbolic.

In the dictionary, we learn the definition of awake:

intransitive verb
1 : to cease sleeping : to wake up
// She awoke late that morning.
// The next day we awoke to the sound of drums.
— Sarah Ferrell
2 : to become aroused or active again
// when the volcano awoke
3 : to become conscious or aware of something
// awoke to the possibilities
At the same time, Italian prosecutors awoke to the international magnitude of their Sicilian underworld …
— Selwyn Raab

transitive verb
1 : to arouse from sleep or a sleeplike state
// He was awoken by the storm.
2 : to make active : to stir up
// an experience that awoke old memories” – Merriam-Webster.com

Thanks. I really like looking at and thinking of definitions. Lehi wants his sons to wake up. He wants them to become aroused, active, conscious, aware.

Deep Sleep; the Sleep of Hell

“Deep sleep” is obviously related to wake up. This is what Lehi is arousing them from.

In my mind, the “deep sleep” can possibly symbolize two things.

One
The “deep sleep” of Laman and Lemuel is their unawareness of God.

Think about Laman and Lemuel for a minute. We have Nephi’s record (which, by the way, is an abridged account. Remember, he wrote another account as did his father. This account that we have is a shorter record focusing on the ministry rather than the happenings). So, we have Nephi’s record. And we can see what Lehi and the rest of his family have gone through.

Laman and Lemuel have:

  • seen an angel
  • retrieved the brass plates through the power of God.
  • tied up Nephi in the wilderness only to have him miraculously loosed from the bands in which they tied him.
  • heard testimonies of Nephi, Lehi, and the women of Ishmael.
  • heard Lehi’s many prophecies and his dream.
  • had Lehi’s prophecies explained to them by Nephi.
  • turned to the Lord on many occasions – usually after some kind of negative experience.
  • been saved from death by Nephi’s thinking to make a bow.
  • used the Liahona – something that they didn’t have before leaving Jerusalem, but then it appeared while they were traveling. It directed them and it worked according to faith. So they have seen it work. And they have seen it not work.
  • built a ship according to the instruction of God.
  • been physically shocked by God’s power through Nephi.
  • repented and turned to the Lord repeatedly.
  • turned away from the Lord repeatedly.
  • tied up Nephi on the boat, only then to be in a storm for four days – that would have killed them.
  • seen the storm be calmed through Nephi’s prayers when they chose to be humble and release him.
  • arrived at the promised land—on the boat that they built through the direction of God!
  • lived in a promised land.

This is a lot of stuff! They have had so many experiences, but none of these experiences have woken them up to a lasting relationship with God. They are aloof, unaware, and spiritually unconscious.

Two
The deep sleep of hell makes me think of death. Specifically, spiritual death.

And how can we “wake up” when we are dead? Well, I suppose that this is where the Atonement of Jesus Christ comes in. He overcame death. He overcame hell. We don’t have to succumb to death and eternal “sleep.” We can wake up and follow the Savior instead.

Chains

Heavy_chains.jpg
Ch-Ch-Chaaaaaaiiiinnnnnns!

Again, another concrete image that helps us to understand an abstract concept.

Lehi pleads:

“…shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.” – 2 Nephi 1:13

Have you ever held a heavy chain? Have you ever wrapped yourself in a heavy chain? What does it feel like? Have you ever experienced the burden of a heavy chain? Though the chain is inanimate and inactive, it impacts us who wear them. It’s burden tires us out. Over time that burden will either destroy us, or we will choose what we must do to get them off.

Sin and Satan’s influence are like chains on our spirits. These chains will, as Lehi explained, drag us to hell if we don’t shake them off. Who wears chains? Prisoners, slaves, captives.

I can’t help but think of Jacob Marley from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Marley's Ghost
Marleys’ Ghost appears to Scrooge – in chains. (Artwork by John Leech)

Marley explains his chains:

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Laman and Lemuel are doing the same thing. They have chosen, through their own free will, to wear metaphorical chains. And these chains will weigh them right down to hell. They have had ample opportunities to break from the shackles of the chains of sin, but they haven’t consistently chosen the Lord.

I realize, we can’t really break free from these chains on our own. We need the Lord. We need His atonement, then He empowers us to be free from them. If Laman and Lemuel want to break these chains, if we want to break these chains – then we need to “wake up” by turning to Christ.

Eternal Gulf of Misery and Woe

This is where the chains will drag us to if we choose to wear them.

Sure, Lehi could have simply said “hell.” But once again, this image is so much more powerful than the abstract concept of hell.

Eternal – never ending – abyss.

Gulf – pit

Misery and woe – sadness, depression, anguish, despair, torment, torture, sorrow, grief, agony.

This is where Lehi’s oldest sons are headed if they will not wake up! Wake up guys! You’re headed down to anguish and despair!

Conclusion

Truly, Lehi is a loving parent – trembling with both fervor and love for his children – even in his old age. He cannot force his sons to wake up, no matter how much he is trying to arouse their faculties and wake them up. This is something that they must choose to do – awake!

I’m grateful for the scriptures – I know that some people don’t really care for symbolism, but I love it. These symbols can help us to better understand the abstract concepts of the gospel. Of course, I understand that Satan and sin – are bad for our souls with bad future consequences. But what a different it makes to think of sin as a chain and hell as an abyss of anguish, misery, and woe.

I hope that we will learn from Laman and Lemuel, and that we will choose to “awake!”, that we will look to the Lord and let His light and love shine on us.

The Lord’s Declaration of His Divinity (Part 1/3) – 1 Nephi 20:12-15

You can read 1 Nephi 20:12-13 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is quoting Isaiah – see Isaiah 48.
  • Through Isaiah, the Lord is speaking.
  • The Lord asks the house of Israel to listen to Him.
  • The Lord is HE. He is Jehovah.
  • The Lord is the first and the last.
  • The Lord created the earth and his hand spans the heavens.
  • The earth and the heavens obey Him.
  • The Lord pleads with us to hear.
  • The Lord will fulfill His word which he hath declared through the prophets.
  • The Lord has called prophets, and will bless them.

The Lord’s Declaration of His Divinity

I find today’s scriptures particularly powerful:

“12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called, for I am he; I am the first, and I am also the last.

13 Mine hand hath also laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens. I call unto them and they stand up together.

Long story short, in these two verses, the Savior testifies of Himself. It might be helpful for us to study this testimony – so that we can improve our ability to Hearken unto Him.

Long story long – these two verses will comprise three separate blog posts. 🙂

I am He

The first thing that the Savior declares is: I am He.

That really stands out to me, and I want to learn more about it. The first thing we can do – go to the scriptures. If you look in 1 Nephi 20, you will find that there is NOT a footnote for that phrase. Strike One.

Now, if you go to Isaiah 48, you will see, that again, there is not a footnote for that phrase. Strike two. We aren’t going to strike out – don’t worry about that. Now, we just have to get more creative.

There are so many ways to study the scriptures. We can go to the footnotes first. We can go to the dictionary. I did check the dictionary, but it really doesn’t give any insight to this phrase either. Now, we can also go to the study helps in the scriptures. I can’t say that there are any entries in the Topical Guide or the Bible dictionary that are helping me with the phrase: I am He.

So – now, let’s let our minds wander. Sometimes, when the mind wanders, we might think of another scripture. Maybe the Spirit will guide us to a story or some other impression. I can’t say exactly how you should let your mind wander. How does it happen for me? Well, I kind of sit back and stare off into space with the general thought of hmmm…

In any case, I just want to illustrate – I don’t know what I’m thinking. I’m just kind of sitting and pondering, wondering. As thoughts come, it is good to follow down that path to see where it leads.

So – I have no idea why “I am He,” is standing out to me, but there is no denying that it does. Now what. After a little bit of staring and rubbing my mouth and chin (I have a thing where I tend to do that. It’s weird, yes. I’m also self conscious about it. Whatever). I have a thought. I’ll google “I am he. LDS”

(Note: I don’t google often. I really truly strive to let the Spirit work with my mind first and foremost. That being said, google can, at times, be a useful tool. Just follow the spirit.)

One of the results for my search is a talk from the April 1999 Ensign – titled “I am He,” by Jonathan Stephenson. The opening blurb quote:

“The Lord repeatedly declared with clarity that He was the Messiah—our deliverer and only source for salvation.” – Jonathan Stephenson, Ensign, April 1999.

Hmmm…already, we’re getting somewhere. I am He. It’s not just some generic thing that the Lord is saying. The Lord wants his covenant people to listen because it’s Him – It’s their God. It’s our Savior. It’s the Messiah. And He is declaring this with clarity.

Who is He?

One of the most critical aspects of pondering is asking questions. You don’t have to answer them immediately. But be your inner-four year old.

staying-at-home-all-day-with-a-4-year-old-is-4409481

So – the Lord, in 1 Nephi 20:12, declared “I am he.” Maybe we should ask who? Who is the Lord? Well, first and foremost – He is the Son of God. In the Bible Dictionary, we read:

“Jesus, who is called Christ, is the firstborn of the Father in the spirit and the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. …” – Christ: Bible Dictionary

So – Jesus Christ is the literal son of God.

The Bible Dictionary continues:

“He is Jehovah and was foreordained to His great calling in the Grand Councils before the world was. He was born of Mary at Bethlehem, lived a sinless life, and wrought out a perfect atonement for all mankind by the shedding of His blood and His death on the cross. He rose from the grave and brought to pass the bodily resurrection of every living thing and the salvation and exaltation of the faithful.

He is the greatest Being to be born on this earth—the perfect example—and all religious things should be done in His name. He is Lord of lords, King of kings, the Creator, the Savior, the God of the whole earth, the Captain of our salvation, the Bright and Morning Star. He is in all things, above all things, through all things, and round about all things; He is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; His name is above every name and is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved.” – Christ: Bible Dictionary

portrait-of-christ-carl-bloch-205065-gallery

So…let’s put that in bullet form:

Christ is:

  • The Son of God
  • Jehovah
  • The Son of Mary
  • A person who truly lived during ancient times
  • The One who performed the Atonement for us
  • The Resurrection
  • The Exemplar
  • The Lord of lords
  • The King of kings
  • The Creator
  • The Savior
  • The God of this earth
  • Salvation
  • Alpha and Omega

You could, no doubt, add more to this list.

All of the prophets have borne witness of Christ. And, above all, He bears witness of Himself. He does this – not to brag – but to let us know that His voice is the trusted voice.

When the Lord says, I am He, we could fill easily substitute “he,” with other titles. I am the Creator. I am the Resurrection. I am Salvation, etc.

So, in 1 Nephi 20:12, which is a quote of Isaiah 48:12, the Lord speaks. He doesn’t do it anonymously. He doesn’t expect us to have blind faith in an unknown being. He declares:

“12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called, for I am he;…” – 1 Nephi 20:12

Be beckons us to Hearken, and He give us His witness. He is the Savior. He is the Son of God. He is HE of whom the prophets have testified. Not only should we hearken, but we can take comfort because we know who He is.

More to come next time…