Establishing Truth – 1 Nephi 13:38-42

You can read 1 Nephi 13:38-42 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • Nephi sees that the Bible came forth to the seed of his brethren through the Gentiles.
  • Nephi then beholds other books that also helped to convince the Gentiles, the remnants of the seed of Nephi’s brethren, and the Jews that were scattered all over the face of the earth – that the Bible is true.
  • The last records that Nephi saw (the Book of Mormon) will help to bring understanding and will establish truth to the first (the Bible). The Book of Mormon does not compete with the Bible, but it compliments it.
  • There is one God and one Shepherd over the earth.
  • The Lord will manifest Himself to the Jews and then the Gentiles. And then again He will manifest Himself first to the Gentiles and then the Jews. The first will be last and the last will be first.

Establishing Truth

Establishing truth. Its an interesting concept. Earlier in 1 Nephi 13, we read that the Gentiles have a “book” – the Bible – that they are carrying with them. Even though this book is good, and it originally contained the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we read that many of the plain and precious parts of this book were taken away. We read why in 1 Nephi:

“And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 13:27

The Lord always honors our agency – even when that means we do not so good things. He even honored the agency of those who would change His word. Of course, there will be a consequence of this action, but He did allow it to happen. That is because the Lord allows us to make our choices – good our bad.

Why is that? I’m not sure, and that’s not really the point of the post, but we can take some consolation in the following scripture:

“…thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” – 2 Nephi 2:2

Yes, the Lord allows us to experience trials. He allows evil people to hurt good people. He allowed evil people to change His word – the Bible. Of course He didn’t want that – but He honors our agency and allows us to make our decisions.

wasatch beardtongue
Just the right time for a nice flower…

And sometimes, it could feel a little bit unfair to those who are hurt by the people who are exercising their agency in an evil way. Even though Heavenly Father honors agency – and allows bad things to happen to good people, we don’t need to fear. We can trust Him. He has offered a “fix.” He will consecrate our afflictions for our gain.

The Lord knew that there would be people who would exercise their agency in a way that was destructive to humankind for centuries. He knew that some power hungry people would choose to change His word, and that these changes would cause many to stumble. Though the Lord allowed this to happen, all hope isn’t lost.

The Lord inspired others, Nephi and his posterity, to keep records. Their record – the Book of Mormon – would establish truth. It doesn’t compete with the Bible, but helps to fill in some of the gaps that were deleted centuries before.

We read:

“And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.” – 1 Nephi 13:40

We are so blessed to live now, in these latter days! Even though there are plain and precious truths missing from the Bible, the Lord prepared a way for us to still have access to those truths. He prepared the Book of Mormon for us.

I’m not sure if you can tell by reading this, but I’m actually reticent to write a blog post about the way that the Bible has been changed over time. I don’t want to be misunderstood. I love the Bible. Some of my favorite scriptures are in the Bible. I know that it is the word of God, as long as it is translated correctly. And that’s the thing, though. There are so many translations and interpretations. There are so many disagreements. What are we supposed to think of all of this? Where is the truth?

Elder Callister in a conference talk stated:

“The Bible is one witness of Jesus Christ; the Book of Mormon is another. Why is this second witness so crucial? The following illustration may help: How many straight lines can you draw through a single point on a piece of paper? The answer is infinite. For a moment, suppose that single point represents the Bible and that hundreds of those straight lines drawn through that point represent different interpretations of the Bible and that each of those interpretations represents a different church.

What happens, however, if on that piece of paper there is a second point representing the Book of Mormon? How many straight lines could you draw between these two reference points: the Bible and the Book of Mormon? Only one. Only one interpretation of Christ’s doctrines survives the testimony of these two witnesses.

Again and again the Book of Mormon acts as a confirming, clarifying, unifying witness of the doctrines taught in the Bible so that there is only “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” – Tad R. Callister

The Lord, when He brought forth the Book of Mormon, established His truth. It is another witness, or the “second point” that can give us clarity on what is stated in the Bible.

The scripture in 1 Nephi says – the Book of Mormon will establish the truth of the first record (which is the Bible). So, if you love the Bible, then you will love the Book of Mormon – it testifies of the Bible. It stands next to the Bible as another witness of Christ and His gospel. It supports the Bible. I understand why, if I didn’t have the Book of Mormon, it would be easy to think that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of “stories.” But I have the Book of Mormon, it has helped to enlighten my mind about the doctrines laid out in the Bible. The Book of Mormon has strengthened my faith in Christ, and it has helped me to better understand the Bible and that it is truly the Word of God.

One final quote from Elder Callister:

“Would you like to have emblazoned on your soul an undeniable witness that the Savior descended beneath your sins and that there is no sin, no mortal plight outside the merciful reach of His Atonement—that for each of your struggles He has a remedy of superior healing power? Then read the Book of Mormon. …

Together with the Bible, the Book of Mormon is an indispensable witness of the doctrines of Christ and His divinity. Together with the Bible, it “teach[es] all men that they should do good” (2 Nephi 33:10). And together with the Bible, it brings us to “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” That is why the Book of Mormon is so crucial in our lives.” – Tad R. Callister

***

I like to consider myself a truth-seeker. I’m always looking for knowledge. In fact, I probably listen to too many podcasts, read too many books, do too much online research. I’m just overwhelmed (in a good way) by the potential that we humans, children of God, have on this earth. There is so much to learn! And every time I find more truth in my life, I feel richer.

The blessing of seeking and finding truth has blessed me abundantly.

While there are many great ways to improve your life – there really are great podcasts, self-help books, etc that will help you to make your life better – these podcasts and self-help books cannot do what the Book of Mormon does.

The Book of Mormon testifies purely, simply, elegantly of the Savior. I have read the Book of Mormon. In fact, I have read it more times than I can even count. I share this because I want to say that I know it is true. I know that it is the word of God. There are a lot of things that I don’t know. There are a lot of things that the Lord is patiently teaching me.

But He doesn’t have to convince me about the Book of Mormon because I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that it was written by Nephi, Jacob, and others – and that it was abridged by the hands of Mormon. I know that this book contains truths, principles, and illustrations that will bring us guidance and peace. The Book of Mormon testifies of Christ – His deliverance, His mercy, and His Atonement. It has brought me peace, enlightenment, guidance, and hope.

I know that the Lord will bless us with truth if we seek truth. In fact, the Lord implores us to come unto Him and receive truth. He created a way for each of us to have truth in our lives. Long before wicked and prideful people changed the Bible – deleting many of its plain and precious truths, the Lord prepared a way for us to have truth. We don’t have to stumble. We don’t need to be confused. The Book of Mormon offers a perspective that will give clarity to the Bible and establish its truth.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – How Beautiful Upon the Mountains – 1 Nephi 13:37

You can read 1 Nephi 13:37 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • This is one of my favorite scriptures.

How Beautiful Upon the Mountains

Today’s scripture study is one verse. It’s one of my favorite scriptures, and I’m excited to study it.

“And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.” – 1 Nephi 13:37

I am not completely sure why it is one of my favorite scriptures. Maybe it’s because I have been seeking Zion and I want to help build it. I want to have the gift of the Holy Ghost in my life. I want to be lifted up and saved. Maybe it’s just because I like the idea of publishing peace. I like sharing my joy. And I really want to be beautiful on the mountains. Oh well…just gonna study it for now.

IMG_4172Heber Valley Golden Hourchurch of dirtimage-44AB1F89AD-31DC-485F-99EA-F952CA2EB34BWasatch Mountain

Hope you liked the mountain top pictures…now to the studying.

And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day

The first part of the scripture tells us about a group of people – those who seek to bring forth Zion.

Who are these people?

Well…When we covenant with God through baptism, I think that we say that we will do this. In Mosiah 18, Alma the elder is explaining the baptismal covenant to the people:

And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” – Mosiah 18:8-10

Bearing one another’s burdens. Mourning with those that mourn. Comforting those that stand in need of comfort. Standing as a witness of God… These are ways that we share the love of God with others. These are ways that we build God’s kingdom – by building up others.

As I write this, it is also not lost on me that I have made sacred covenants in the temple. One of the covenants that I’ve made is that I would use the opportunities and talents that the Lord has given me to build His kingdom. (You can learn more here.)

And why? Why is it so important to seek to build up Zion? Well, maybe it is helpful to remember God’s work and glory – our immortality and eternal life. Heavenly Father’s whole purpose is for us to return to Him and be happy. This is why we are here on earth. He wants to bless us with His greatest blessings. In fact, He delights in it.

So – He has given us a path on how everlasting joy is accomplished. We need a body, first of all – which is why we are all here on earth. And then, He has given us the commandments. They are part of the path back to Him. He has also given us the gift of the Atonement through His Only Begotten Son. He has created a way for us to return to live with Him and have joy. This is only achieved when we actually follow His path.

So – why is it so important to build Zion? Because it is the path to joy! Because it is the purpose of why we are here. Because, if we really believe in our Father in Heaven, and if we really love Him, then we want others to feel this great joy, too.

We have an example of a Zion-state society in the scriptures:

“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

16 And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.” – 4 Nephi 1:15-16

This is the result of Zion. Happiness. Confidence. Love. Safety. Peace. Trust. Growth. Loyalty.

Yes – blessed are those who seek to bring forth Zion! Imagine what it would look like if we lived in a world where we had that in common – we were all trying to build Zion! It would be pretty amazing. We can make the corners of our own worlds more amazing by seeking to bring forth Zion. Zion building has to start somewhere, it might as well start with us!

For they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost;

One of the blessings of seeking to bring forth Zion – is to be able to have both the gift and power of the Holy Ghost. Recall the scripture from above. Alma taught the people:

“Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” – Mosiah 18:10

When we serve God and keep His commandments, then he pours His Spirit upon us.

And what’s the big deal about that? Well…a few things I guess:
One – God’s Nature is the Nature of Happiness
In Alma, we read:

“And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.” – Alma 41:11

Alma taught his son that going against the nature of God is going against a nature of happiness. From this, we learn that God’s nature is a nature of happiness! His Spirit will bring us more happiness because it is His spirit! I really like that. I want to be happy in life. I like happiness!

Of course, it is important to remember what happiness actually is. It’s a deep, abiding peace and joy. It is the kind of happiness that gets us through hard times and easy times. It isn’t fleeting pleasure, but real confidence and purpose.

Mormon taught Moroni about the blessings of the Comforter. (by the way…that name: the Comforter. That title tells you a ton! Who wouldn’t want that as a constant companion. Comfort. Peace. Love. AMAZING!)

“And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.” – Moroni 8:26

The Holy Ghost is a comforter. He fills us with hope and love. When we seek to build Zion – which is the gospel – not only are we filled with the Spirit, we are sharing a gospel that will help the recipient be filled with the Spirit.

It’s an upward cycle. It’s really cool.

And if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb

That sounds nice. I’d like to be lifted up. I really would like to be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb.

Not much to say here…well except that – notice: the first two parts of this scripture – seeking to build up zion and then being filled with the Gift and Power of the Holy Ghost – is the secret to enduring to the end!

So, the Lord gives us a commandment – to build Zion. And the blessing of doing this is having the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Which gift will help us to endure to the end.

Which then will lift us up at the last day.

So often we talk about our lives on earth as a “test.” We are being tested and tried, it is true. But I think that we overlook the fact that this is an open book test! Heavenly Father has given us everything that we need to succeed.

And whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.

This is the part that I really like. I love the imagery of it. But what does it mean?

Publish Peace
Publishing peace is a lot more than going around with a sign that says “make love, not war.” In fact, most of our modern “peacemaking” techniques will never work in the long-term. They are like fad-diets. They show promising results, but are impossible to maintain…because they miss the real point.

When I think of “peace” the first scripture I think of was uttered by the very Prince of Peace

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27

When we publish peace, we are not just saying “can’t we all just get along?!” We are sharing real Peace, the Peace of Christ. This peace lacks confusion. It passes all understanding. It enlightens and uplifts. It calms our anxiety and fear.

Richard G. Scott described peace as follows:

“God wants each of His children to enjoy the transcendent blessing of peace of conscience. A tranquil conscience invites freedom from anguish, sorrow, guilt, shame, and self-condemnation. It provides a foundation for happiness…

Peace of conscience is the essential ingredient to your peace of mind. Without peace of conscience, you can have no real peace of mind. Peace of conscience relates to your inner self and is controlled by what you personally do. Peace of conscience can come only from God through a righteous, obedient life. It cannot exist otherwise. On the other hand, peace of mind is most often affected by external forces such as concern for a wayward child, economic pressures, real or imagined offenses, deteriorating world conditions, or more to do than sufficient time to do it. An unsettled mind is temporary, transitory. Peace of mind is restored by resolving the external forces that disturb it…

It is well to remember that even with peace of conscience you can have temporary periods when your peace of mind is interrupted by external concerns. Your understanding of the causes can relieve much of the pressure they generate. As your personal life conforms to the teachings of the Lord, you can seek His help in resolving the troubling issues. Thus your faith in the Lord and in His teachings will yield peace of mind. Your efforts will be stepping-stones to greater personal growth as Spirit-guided solutions are found…

In summary, you can regain peace of conscience by repenting of personal transgressions that cause you internal turmoil. Then peace of mind can be secured by resolving the external pressures that cause you temporary anxiety, worry, and distress.” – Richard G. Scott

Peace, on a variety of levels, can come to us – but only through Christ.

Tidings of Great Joy
The tidings of great joy – Christ! Christ came to this earth. He was born in a lowly stable. He descended below all. He lived a life – growing little by little. He served others. He healed the sick. He taught the people. He established His church. He suffered for our sins. He died on the cross. He was resurrected. He overcame death and hell, so that we could overcome death and hell.

There is hope! This life isn’t it. There is so much more than our earthly experiences. Because of the Savior, all will be made right – at one point or another. Because of the Savior we can return to Heavenly Father and live in a state of happiness.

Tidings of great joy!

The people who do all of this – seek to bring forth Zion, are filled with the gift of the Holy Ghost, endure to the end, are raised at the last day and saved in God’s kingdom, who publish peace and tidings of great joy…how beautiful! Can you imagine a more beautiful life? Filled with the Spirit! Filled with hope. Filled with joy. Yes – there are trials. Of course there are trials. You can’t get to the tops of the mountain without climbing a mountain!… But the Lord comforts us, gives us peace, and strengthens us. And it is beautiful.

Mountain Tops

Blogging the Book of Mormon – The End of Lehi’s Civilization and Its Connection with His Dream 2: Mists of Darkness – 1 Nephi 12:12-23

Phew…long title.

You can read 1 Nephi 12:12-23 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • Nephi saw many of the fourth generation (from the time of Christ’s coming) of his people pass away in righteousness.
  • Nephi saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.
  • Nephi saw his the people of his seed gathered together in war against the seed of his brethren.
  • The Angel teaches Nephi the meanings of the fountain of filthy water, the mists of darkness,and the great and spacious building.
  • Nephi saw the seed of his brethren – that they overcame his own seed.
  • Nephi saw wars and rumors of wars among the seed of his brethren. Many generations passed away.
  • Nephi saw the remainder of his civilization dwindle in unbelief. They became a dark, loathsome, and filthy people.

The Mists of Darkness

After showing Nephi the destruction of his people (which wouldn’t happen for hundreds of years), the Angel explains a few of the symbols of Lehi’s dream. Of course, it is always interesting and helpful to examine the meanings of each symbol, but I’m curious – why would the Angel tell Nephi these meanings after showing him the destruction of the Nephite civilization? What do they have to do with one another.

We studied the first symbol – the fountain of filthy water here.

Today, we will investigate the second symbol – the mists of darkness.

We read:

“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.” – 1 Nephi 12:17

It’s kind of interesting. I’m reminded of the summer of 2018. Where I was living, smoke filled the skies. Most of this smoke was filling up the valley because the entire west happened to be on fire. Fires raged in California, Utah, and other western states. Because I lived in a valley east of California, the jet stream would bring all of California’s smoke into our valley. Usually, the Heber Valley enjoyed incredibly clear skies, but that summer it was so smoky, it was impossible to breathe without drying out and coughing a little bit.

016 Smoky Skies
Smoky Skies

I can’t help but think of the smoky air when I read about the mists of darkness. It’s crazy to think about the mists of darkness – obscuring everything from view.

The Nephites literally experienced this after the death of the Savior, and before His visitation to the Americas. First there were fires, earthquakes, and tempests. Then we read:

“And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;

21 And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;

22 And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.

23 And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually; yea, great were the groanings of the people, because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them.” – 3 Nephi 8:20-23

So much destruction had come to pass that it took three days, essentially, for the dust to settle. Many people were killed during theses seismic and terrible events. Finally, after three days, the darkness lifted. We read:

“And it was the more righteous part of the people who were saved, and it was they who received the prophets and stoned them not; and it was they who had not shed the blood of the saints, who were spared—” – 3 Nephi 10:12

Those who made it through the literal mists of darkness did not let go of the iron rod. They received the prophets and the words of the prophets.

***

Now, the Angel is telling Nephi about the mists of darkness while showing him the final destruction of the Nephite people – which happened about 400 years after Christ came to the Americas.

They didn’t experience a literal mist of darkness. However, the proverbial mists of darkness experienced by the Nephites were far worse. This led to their ultimate extinction.

Let’s look at the scripture in Nephi again:

“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.” – 1 Nephi 12:17

The Mists of Darkness are the Temptations of the Devil

One thing to understand is that the mists of darkness are temptations of the devil. A mist of darkness is not sin, itself. What I mean by that is – there are times when we must endure a period of darkness – just as the Nephites who lived when the Savior came to the Americas did. We may have to endure periods of “darkness” and temptations in our lives, but we don’t have to give in to them. 

Also, just because we endure temptations, doesn’t mean that we are wicked. Remember, the mists of darkness simply appeared while the people traveled towards the tree of life. All of the people who were on the journey were exposed. We read:

“And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.

24 And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:23-24

In order to endure temptations, we need to catch a hold of the iron rod and press forward confident in God’s Word.

Paul taught:

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Though we will all endure temptation during this life (even the Savior did!) experiencing temptation is not a judgment on us. Don’t forget! – being tempted doesn’t mean we are sinners – it means that we are on the path to the tree of life. The Lord has given us a way through temptations – and that is His gospel. If we will stay true to our faith and press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, then we will make it safely through the mists of darkness. These experiences will even make us better and stronger.

However, giving into the temptations of the devil come with deleterious consequences.

Two – The Result of Giving into Temptation

From the Angel we learn that if we give into the temptations of the devil – or mists of darkness – then we will become blind, our hearts will be hard, and we will wander off into strange roads and perish.

The Nephites, at the end of the Nephite civilization did give into the temptations of the devil – even though they knew better! Because of their rebellion, because they deliberately let go of God’s Word and they persecuted the faithful, they were blind, their hearts became hard, and they perished. In fact, this was such a wide-scale problem, that every single Nephite besides Moroni, died. An entire group of people became completely extinct – after having a flourishing civilization that lasted about 1,000 years.

So…What’s the Point

So – what’s the point of studying this? What’s the point of knowing this about the Nephites, a group of people who all died off about 1,600 years ago? Why did Nephi need to see this? And why do we need to read it?

Well – it’s an extreme but also effective example.

Maybe it will help if I just think about this for myself…Likewise, you can apply this to yourself.

I need to remember that while I’m on the path toward the tree of life – toward eternal salvation and joy – I will experience times when I must travel through mists of darkness. There will be times when life is hard, I experience trials and tribulations. These trials and tribulations may even result in elevated temptations.

While Satan will tempt me in various ways, ultimately, his goal is the same: to get me to let go of the Iron Rod.

When I was a teenager, and I was in high school, I was tempted to drink, party, use drugs, be immoral. Those very real temptations are no longer temptations any more. I passed through that mist of darkness thanks to the Iron Rod – in the form of seminary, mutual, General Conference, and friends who were also navigating this time in their lives with faith.

When I was in my twenties, I experienced the “mists of darkness” in my first marriage and divorce – where I was tempted to give in to the self-loathing that comes when you are married to a serial adulterer. I’ve been tempted while trying to navigate challenges such as the shift into motherhood, I’ve been tempted to give up on myself and even God when I went through my divorce and the most painful time of my life. However, I passed through that mist of darkness with the help of the scriptures, my bishop, hobbies like running, and funny movies like Napoleon Dynamite.

In my thirties, and happily married, I experienced new types of “mists of darkness.” These were interesting. They weren’t as obviously evil – as drugs or immorality. They weren’t as painful as betrayal and divorce. These mists of darkness were more like the smoke that filled our valley during that smoky summer. These temptations were the temptations to be overwhelmed – by things that even seem good! Goals, desires for my life, activities and responsibilities for my children, etc. While none of these things are bad, sometimes I have felt so much pressure to be whatever it is I think that I’m supposed to be that I just want to give up. I don’t want to go out and commit some kind of atrocious sin, but the temptations that I have faced in my thirties still have made me want to do the same thing as the temptations I faced in my teens and twenties – let go of that Iron Rod.

But, I have been blessed – again with the scriptures, with prayer, with a loving and supportive husband, and with the gift of the Holy Ghost that helps me to discern between truth and error – especially when the error I’m facing looks like something good (commitments and great expectations) rather than something so obviously bad (drugs).

I’m now in my 40s. I know that I have not yet made it to the tree of life. Still, there will be times when I have to travel through mists of darkness. Though these mists and temptations may look different, they all are trying to get us to do the same thing – let go of the Iron Rod. Satan wants us to let go of the only sure and good thing in this world.

Though his temptations may be attractive, there is no substance to them, and they will only lead us to blindness, hardness, and eventually death.

Thankfully, the solution is just as simple – hold on. Keep holding on to the Savior. Press forward with steadfastness in Christ. We don’t have to run. We don’t have to be swift. We just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We just keep walking toward that tree, while holding on to The Savior and His Word.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – The End of Lehi’s Civilization and Its Connection with His Dream 1: Filthy Water – 1 Nephi 12:12-23

That title is a mouthful…

You can read 1 Nephi 12:12-23 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • Nephi saw many of the fourth generation (from the time of Christ’s coming) of his people pass away in righteousness.
  • Nephi saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.
  • Nephi saw his the people of his seed gathered together in war against the seed of his brethren.
  • The Angel teaches Nephi the meanings of the fountain of filthy water, the mists of darkness,and the great and spacious building.
  • Nephi saw the seed of his brethren – that they overcame his own seed.
  • Nephi saw wars and rumors of wars among the seed of his brethren. Many generations passed away.
  • Nephi saw the remainder of his civilization dwindle in unbelief. They became a dark, loathsome, and filthy people.

The End of the Nephite/Lamanite Civilization and Its Connection with Lehi’s Dream

In these verses, Nephi witnesses the collapse of his civilization. I really can’t imagine it. After all of the hard work, effort, and sacrifices that he made to get to the promised land, after obtaining the brass plates – so that his nation wouldn’t “dwindle and perish in unbelief,” after all of this – his people will simply choose not to have faith. They will choose worldliness and sin. They will choose to dwindle in unbelief.

This wouldn’t happen for many centuries after the life of Nephi, but it would still be a pretty sad thing to see. And Nephi witnesses that this will occur.

It is in this context that the Angel teaches Nephi about a few of the symbols in Lehi’s dream.

One – The Fountain of Filthy Water

We read:

“Behold the fountain of filthy water which thy father saw; yea, even the river of which he spake; and the depths thereof are the depths of hell.” – 1 Nephi 12:16

What’s interesting to me about this symbol is that in Lehi’s dream, there are two fountains of water. One is the fountain of water that sustains the tree of life. It is the living water. And it represents the Son of God. You can read more about it here. The other is the fountain of filthy water.

So you have these two fountains of water. They look alike. They probably sound alike. They feel alike. The difference between the two – the filthy and the living water – is probably noticeable on a micro-level.

Well, perhaps there are other clues, too.

The filthy water isn’t just “dirty” with mud and silt. I would imagine that it is polluted. That anything swimming in it would come up dead. Have you seen bodies of water like this? The first thing I think of is the Ala Wai Canal in Waikiki, Hawaii. I’m not sure if you are familiar with it, but this canal was created to drain Waikiki.

ala wai canal
Ala Wai Boulevard, click here for source

Waikiki really is a series of wetlands, but this canal was built, the wetlands drained, and now we have the booming tourist spot known as Waikiki. If you have been there, I’m sure you’ve seen this canal.

So – it’s just a canal with water. Innocent enough, right?

Well, there are some concerns regarding the canal. First of all, with all of the growth of Waikiki, the waters of the canal have become heavily polluted. Even though you may see some people using this canal – on boats and such – it is generally understood that you want to stay out of that water!

Sometimes, when the rains are really heavy the sewers around the Ala Wai Canal become a little overwhelmed and may even break. This happened years ago – so thousands and thousands of gallons of raw sewage were diverted into the canal and then eventually dumped into the ocean from there. As far as I understand, someone fell into these waters and died from a gross bacteria that was in the water. The Filthy Water.

The interesting thing about water is that it is the universal solvent. So, if the water is pure, then it offers us what we need – the minerals and benefits of the life-giving molecule. However, because water is such a great solvent, it can easily become polluted. And then, when we subject ourselves to polluted waters, we are poisoned. What once gave life will be the vehicle to our death.

Anyway – I’ve thought about this long enough. I just think that it is an interesting contrast – between the living waters and the filthy water. We have to have discernment to know which type of water we are drinking. And the discernment is critical – it is a difference of life or death.

***
So…what does this have to do with what Nephi is seeing – the eventual wickedness and death of his posterity?

Well…As I think about it, I suppose that we could make at least one conclusion. The people of Nephi did have the gospel. They had felt the Love of God – when they had experienced the visitation of Christ. In fact, we learn about the Nephites following the coming of the Savior:

“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” – 4 Nephi 1:15

At this point, every single person in the Nephite/Lamanite civilization were partaking of the living waters and the fruit of the tree of life. They were righteous. They were happy. We read:

“And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

17 There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” – 4 Nephi 1:16-17

The lives of the people reflected that which they were partaking of – the clean, living waters. This is what Christ offers to us. It nourished and sustained them. (Of course, I should mention, this is all symbolic).

But, within only a few generations, pride starts to seep in. The living waters aren’t totally polluted, but there are some pollutants that have dissolved into that water and are starting to have an impact on the people. They begin to form classes of people. Contentions start to arise. The Love of God is not dwelling in their hearts.

We read:

“And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.

25 And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them.” – 4 Nephi 1:24-25

And then, in only a few more generations after that, the people have become completely wicked. Instead of partaking of the waters of life – the waters have become utterly polluted. I would imagine bilge, sludge, microbial bacteria, toxic waste. I would imagine a stream of water – with dead fish floating in it, maybe the water even has a tinge of mutant-green to it. Absolutely nothing can live in this environment.

The pollutants of the spiritual “waters” were pride, hatred, contention, whoredoms, and secret combinations. Nothing can live in this environment.

We read of the extreme toxicity:

“And now I write somewhat concerning the sufferings of this people. For according to the knowledge which I have received from Amoron, behold, the Lamanites have many prisoners, which they took from the tower of Sherrizah; and there were men, women, and children.

8 And the husbands and fathers of those women and children they have slain; and they feed the women upon the flesh of their husbands, and the children upon the flesh of their fathers; and no water, save a little, do they give unto them.

9 And notwithstanding this great abomination of the Lamanites, it doth not exceed that of our people in Moriantum. For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—

10 And after they had done this thing, they did murder them in a most cruel manner, torturing their bodies even unto death; and after they have done this, they devour their flesh like unto wild beasts, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they do it for a token of bravery.” – Moroni 9:7-10

As Mormon described, the Nephites had become without civility.

***
So – this is getting depressing, I realize. But I just thought it might be interesting to understand the connection between the filthy waters and the destruction of the Nephite civilization. At first, I can’t say that I totally understood why Nephi saw the destruction of his civilization with this interjection of the meaning of the symbols of Lehi’s dream. But when we really study it out, the connection becomes clear.

The living water is what fills our souls with joy, with the Love of God. The living water, just as physical pure, good water sustains life. We need it to stay healthy and alive. And it is good, even necessary that water is the universal solvent. Because of this property of water, we can gain the minerals and nutrients we need in order to perform and function well.

But, we must remember that because of the nature of water – because it is the universal solvent, if we start to introduce things that aren’t good, then the water will break that down, and we will start to ingest pollutants. Little by little, we will die. If the water becomes more and more polluted, then death may happen more dramatically and quickly. Filthy water is just a big fat lie! We thirst for water, because we need it. Filthy water looks like what we want, but instead of offering us life, it quenches our thirst as it kills us.

We can learn from the Nephites that little things – like just a little bit of pride – may not kill us immediately, but they start to introduce toxicity into that water. Then, it begins to poison us. If we aren’t careful, and we let our spiritual water become more and more toxic, then the effect is also more dramatic and deadly.

I’m grateful for the teachings of the Book of Mormon. I know that it is good and true. I know that if we will take time to ponder its words, then we will learn how to live with civility and joy. We will learn how to keep our living waters clean and pure. If we apply the words of the scriptures, then we will have the love of God in our hearts.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – They Are Righteous Forever – 1 Nephi 12:1-11

You can read 1 Nephi 12:1-11 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • The Spirit tells Nephi to look, and he looks.
  • Nephi sees his posterity. They have multiplied exceedingly. They have had wars and contentions. They have built so many cities, Nephi doesn’t even number them. Many generations have passed away.
  • Nephi saw a mist of darkness cover the earth. He also saw various natural disasters. Many people died, but those were more righteous were spared.
  • Nephi saw the Savior come and show himself to the people.
  • Nephi saw twelve among his people who were ordained of God and chosen.
  • The Angel explains to Nephi that those 12 of his seed will be judged later by the apostles. He also tells that these will be righteous forever because of their faith in Christ.
  • Nephi also saw three more generations pass away (after the visitation by Christ) who were righteous because of their faith in Christ and His Atonement.

They Are Righteous Forever

I truly can’t imagine having the vision that Nephi is having right now. I can’t imagine seeing my posterity – years, decades, even centuries from now. The people that Nephi sees in vision are his posterity – either his directly or the posterity of his brothers. We will talk more about this in a later blog post, but I just want to say that I truly can’t imagine it.

As Nephi sees the distant future of the civilization that he started, he sees that the Savior will visit his people. The Savior will bless the Nephites with apostles—ordained and chosen to minister to the people. About these disciples we learn:

” And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood.” – 1 Nephi 12:10

Not only that, but the remainder of the people were also righteous. We read:

“And the angel said unto me: Look! And I looked, and beheld three generations pass away in righteousness; and their garments were white even like unto the Lamb of God. And the angel said unto me: These are made white in the blood of the Lamb, because of their faith in him.” – 1 Nephi 12:11

Don’t you love that phrase: they are righteous forever?! It is my desire – to be able to achieve righteousness that lasts forever. Unfortunately, my righteousness usually lasts until about 15 minutes after I’ve partaken of the sacrament. By then, I’ve usually had some kind of judgmental thought that makes me need the ordinance again. Not to mention the ways that I stray from righteousness throughout the week.

But, interestingly enough, these disciples and Nephites aren’t righteous forever because of their own willpower and brute strength. It is through their faith in the Lamb of God. The idea of reaching some pinnacle of personal perfect righteousness kind of seems impossible.

That’s because it is.

And I often misunderstand. That “pinnacle of personal perfect righteousness” isn’t what God expects in order for us to qualify for the blessings of salvation made possible through Christ’s sacrifice. Instead, the Lord asks us to have a “broken heart and a contrite spirit.” And, as we have read in this scripture today, we simply need to have faith in Christ – this faith will help to qualify us so that our “garments are made white” in the blood of the Lamb.

The Savior explained:

“And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.” – 3 Nephi 27:19-20

One – Faith

First, and foremost, we need to have faith. We need to believe in Christ – that He truly did come to the earth in the meridian of time. We need to believe that He lived a perfect life. We need to believe that He ministered to the poor, needy, sick, blind, and hungry. We need to believe that He taught by precept and example. We need to believe that He went into the Garden of Gethsemane and took on the sins of the world – so we could be provided a way to be saved. We need to believe that He willingly went on the cross and gave up His life so that He could take it up again – overcoming the sting of death and hell.

pictures-of-jesus-smiling-1138511-gallery

Not only do we need to believe in Christ, but we also need to have enough faith in Him to practice what He has taught.

Two – Repentance

Faith in Christ helps us to understand why we need Him. As our faith in Him grows, we become capable of seeing the need we have for a Savior. We then will heed His word:

“15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” – Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19

Three – Baptism in Christ Name

After cultivating faith and then repenting, we will then be led to baptism – a covenant that has been made available through Christ. In baptism, we will receive a remission of our sins. This principle was taught in the Doctrine and Covenants:

“…and after thou hast been baptized by water, which if you do with an eye single to my glory, you shall have a remission of your sins and a reception of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands;” – Doctrine and Covenants 55:1

And baptism, then, leads us to…

Four – The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Often, when I think of the gift of the Holy Ghost, I think of the constant companionship of the Comforter. And, of course it is that. But think about that phrase – constant companionship. And think about the fact that the Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead.

We won’t just get the constant companionship of a member of the Godhead just because. We know that no unclean thing can dwell with God. And yes, we have been baptized by the time we have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, but another important facet of this gift is that the Holy Ghost sanctifies us. He makes us holy. We learn:

“Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.” – Alma 13:12

Now – notice this scripture, how it comes full circle with where we started. Just so you know, the context of Alma 13 is Alma teaching about the priesthood and those called to it (just like the disciples that the Angel showed to Nephi).

They had covenanted with God in the waters of baptism, and they had been sanctified through by Holy Ghost. These people were purified and sanctified which happens to each of us when we covenant with God and then live worthy of our covenants.

Such purification and sanctification then results in our desire to remain righteous – because then we can remain both pure and holy.

I realize that there are many who misunderstand what it means to be pure and holy. Perhaps the important thing to emphasize here is that the apostles were made pure and holy through the blood of Christ. He doesn’t expect us to be some kind of extra-terrestrial being that is innately “pure.” Purity doesn’t mean prudishness or puritanism. Instead, we become pure as we go to the Lord with fulness of heart and real intent.

And then He makes us pure. We then are made clean through His blood and can be—if we will continually choose Him—righteous and happy forever.

***
Thanks for reading today. This was probably a boring post, but I really like understanding what I believe in. The doctrine of Christ really is beautiful. There is so much mercy and love in it. There is sacrifice, yes, but it gives way to hope and joy.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – The Pride of the World (2) – 1 Nephi 11:32-36

You can read 1 Nephi 11:32-36 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life.
  • The Spirit tells Nephi to Look! Nephi looks.
  • Nephi sees the Lamb of God judged of the world, lifted up on the cross, and slain for the sins of the world.
  • Nephi saw multitudes of people gathered to fight agains the apostles of Christ.
  • Nephi sees the multitude gathered in the great and spacious building.
  • The Spirit explains to Nephi that the great and spacious building is the world and its wisdom. Nephi then saw that the great and spacious building, which was the pride of the world, fell.

The Pride of the World

If you like, you can read The Pride of the World – Part One here.

I was struck, by the following:

“…And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world;…” – 1 Nephi 11:32

I think that I usually read things like “by the people” and “of the world” and I think that this means others. I mean, I tend to think of “worldliness” as a way to describe the outsiders – those who don’t participate in Christianity. Maybe I think of them as secular people. I’m not sure.

I just know that I don’t think of “the world” as being covenant members of the House of Israel.

Yet, if we take a few minutes to ponder this scripture and the circumstances of Christ, then we know that “the people” and “the world” were in fact covenant members of the House of Israel. The Egyptians didn’t come in and kill the Savior, for example. His own people took Him and judged Him.

***
Another phrase that stands out to me:

“…behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” – 1 Nephi 11:35

Notice in this verse – it is The House of Israel that has gathered to fight against the twelve apostles. It wasn’t some “other” group – It wasn’t the Romans, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Phoenicians, or any other group that came and fought against the twelve apostles of the lamb and the Savior. It is the House of Israel that fights – against their God, against their apostles. I know that there were times when the apostles and the Christians were persecuted by other faiths. That is to be expected. What is interesting to me, is how the disciples of Christ were persecuted by those of their own faith.

The Problem with Pride

So – I’ve been pondering a lot about pride, but what’s the big deal, really? Maybe it’s annoying, but what’s the problem with it?

Well, first of all, pride can lead us to do some pretty stupid things. For example, it was pride that motivated the Pharisees to have the Savior crucified. Probably one of the dumbest things to happen in history. Pride makes us blind. Jacob taught:

“3 Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name—should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God.

4 For should the mighty miracles be wrought among other nations they would repent, and know that he be their God.

5 But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.” – 2 Nephi 10:3-5

The pride of the people in Jerusalem made them blind to the greatest gift our world has ever received. It made them blind to the fact that they lived among the Son of God, the Creator of this world. If the Savior had come to any other nation or group, they would have recognized Him as God, but the pride of the people blinded them to the extent that they killed Him.

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It’s funny. They didn’t like Jesus’ message, so they killed Him. But the thing is – killing Christ doesn’t change the truth of the gospel or the precepts He taught.

The Romans could lock up Galileo, but it didn’t change the fact that the earth did indeed revolve around the sun.

If you hated gravity, you could have locked up and killed Newton, but killing Newton wouldn’t keep you from plunging to your death if you stepped off the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Pride is silly, and we see what happens to the pride of the world and the great and spacious building – even after they have “eliminated” their opponents:

“And the multitude of the earth was gathered together; and I beheld that they were in a large and spacious building, like unto the building which my father saw. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Behold the world and the wisdom thereof; yea, behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

36 And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” – 1 Nephi 11:35-36

Despite their efforts in fighting against the Lamb of God and His apostles, despite the martyrdoms and wars, truth still stands, and the great and spacious building falls.

The Antidote

So – what’s the point of studying all of this? Is there a solution? YES!

First of all, let’s remember this little fact about the great and spacious building:

“26 And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.” – 1 Nephi 8:26

This great and spacious building had no integrity. It was just standing on…nothing.

Contrast this with what we are taught later in the Book of Mormon:

“And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” – Helaman 5:12

If the wise man built his house upon the rock, and the foolish man built his house upon the sand, what did the prideful man build his house on?…nothing? Silly!!!

We can be wise. Instead of letting pride into our hearts – (and remember WE, covenant members of the house of Israel ARE susceptible to this problem) – we can root out pride and build our foundation on the rock of Christ. Christ is the only sure thing. If we build upon Him, we cannot fall. It is simple. It’s not sexy or exciting like that great and spacious building, but it is sure.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – The Pride of the World (1) – 1 Nephi 11:32-36

You can read 1 Nephi 11:32-36 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life.
  • The Spirit tells Nephi to Look! Nephi looks.
  • Nephi sees the Lamb of God judged of the world, lifted up on the cross, and slain for the sins of the world.
  • Nephi saw multitudes of people gathered to fight agains the apostles of Christ.
  • Nephi sees the multitude gathered in the great and spacious building.
  • The Spirit explains to Nephi that the great and spacious building is the world and its wisdom. Nephi then saw that the great and spacious building, which was the pride of the world, fell.

The Pride of the World

Well, I’m not exactly sure what to learn/write about today. But that’s just how it goes sometimes.

As I keep reading through this selection, I keep noticing the word pride.

This series of things that Nephi sees is pretty interesting. Nephi sees the Savior being taken by the people…His people, judged of the world, lifted up on the cross, and slain.

I think that it is crucial for us to really accept the fact that Jesus was killed by His own people. We need to remember this because we need to learn from it. Just because we are well-versed in the scriptures doesn’t really mean anything. We must have faith, and we must be doing all we can to strip ourselves of pride on a daily basis.

The people who fought (and were successful, by the way) to have Christ crucified were those who knew the prophecies of the Messiah, they were religious – so religious that they “enlarged their phylacteries.” (Meaning, they made sure to show others how pious and religious they were!) Their identity was religious, but the Lord accurately describes these so-called followers:

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” – Matthew 15:8

I know, and I’ve known for as long as I can remember that the Pharisees were antagonists to the Savior and, as the Bible dictionary states, “a major obstacle to the reception of Christ and the gospel by the Jewish people.” (See Bible Dictionary: Pharisees.) I’ve known this fact, but it is good to really think about it, and then maybe ask some further questions.

Like – are we really all that different today? Are there times when I act like a Pharisee rather than a disciple?

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Pharisees and Sadducees

We learn from the Bible Dictionary:

“They prided themselves on their strict observance of the law and on the care with which they avoided contact with things gentile. … They upheld the authority of oral tradition as of equal value with the written law. The tendency of their teaching was to reduce religion to the observance of a multiplicity of ceremonial rules and to encourage self-sufficiency and spiritual pride.” – Bible Dictionary: Pharisee

(Note: there were other groups that opposed the Savior (like the Sadducees, I realize). They were another “caste” among the Jews. As the Bible dictionary states about them, “They formed the Jewish aristocracy and were powerful, though quite small in numbers.” (See Bible Dictionary: Sadducees.)

Though the beliefs between the Pharisees and the Sadducees varied a little bit, what they had in common was pride. The Pharisees prided themselves on their overzealousness. The Sadducees were aristocratic. They were a class of Jews. If you think that it is bad to have “cliques” in your ward, imagine if we had entire “classes!” This completely goes against what the Savior teaches about Zion:

” And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” – Moses 7:18

So, I suppose that these are the questions that we must ask ourselves. Do we act like Pharisees and/or Sadducees?

Do We….

  • Do we pride ourselves on strict observance – to what we consider to be the traditions of the gospel – Notice, it isn’t a bad thing to obey the commandments. It is good for us to keep the commandments and covenants that God has given us. But do we “miss the mark” with our observance? Do we create our own “rules,” programs, and initiatives that get in the way of what we truly ought to be doing? Jacob taught:

    “But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.” – Jacob 4:14

  • Do we uphold “tradition” as if it were equal to the law?…and then judge against people who aren’t keeping tradition. Do we confuse to the two?
  • Have we reduced religion to a set of “ceremonious rules” rather than remember that the religion we claim to have is the doctrine of Christ -the pattern of salvation?
  • Are we so obsessed with our traditional rules that we begin to over-emphasize self-sufficiency and spiritual pride? Do we sometimes forget that we need the Savior?
  • Do we think that there is such a thing as “church royalty?” A group of select individuals – probably in local leaderships and such, that are just “model mormons?”

Unfortunately, I think that there is more Pharisee and Sadducee in our religion than there ought to be, and there are times when I get caught up in the traditions, the expectations, etc. I let a little bit of pride creep into my heart. And I lose focus on what we are really here to do.

I’ve been studying long enough for today, so I’m going to break this study up into two parts. But perhaps it is worth a little bit of self-reflection. It is so easy to become Pharisaical in our worship. We are human beings, social creatures, fallen people. We like to compare. Sometimes comparison can be a helpful way of gathering data.

But when it comes to our religion and our discipleship, comparison can be a way that the Adversary sneaks into our heart. If we aren’t careful, we might begin to think that our works are more important than our faith. We may forget the role of grace – that even after everything we can do, it isn’t enough. In fact, I feel kind of bad saying that “it isn’t enough.” But I don’t mean that in a derogatory “you aren’t perfect way.” I mean it in the way that we learn in the scriptures…

YOU AREN’T PERFECT! I’m not perfect! The Pharisees weren’t perfect. We all need Christ. We don’t have to be perfect to qualify for His grace. We just have to come unto Him. He is the one who will perfect us and make us whole. Sometimes our expectations are a bit Pharisaical, and we think that in order to qualify for grace, we need to be perfect. But if we were perfect, then there would be no need for grace.

This perfectionism, this overzealousness, is really just a form of pride. Pride is “enmity toward god.” And what is enmity?

“Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” – Ezra Taft Benson

I used to think of Enmity merely as “hatred toward or hostility to,” but it is only a part of the definition. Enmity is also “a state of opposition” against God.

I don’t think that the Pharisees thought that they hated or had hostility toward God. They were so obsessed with God and His commandments, they were trying to take each commandment and tradition, and “do one better.” While this overzealousness may not have been caused by their “hatred toward or hostility to” God, it did set them in a state of opposition” against Him. And then, the state of their opposition against God was so severe, they crucified their God.

We can learn from the Pharisees and the Sadducees. If we search within ourselves, we may just find some pride within us. And, if we search within ourselves and we do find pride, then we know that we can root it out with the help of our loving Savior.