Our Profit and Learning – 1 Nephi 19:21-24

You can read 1 Nephi 19:21-24 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi testifies that the Lord has shown the prophets concerning the people of Jerusalem – these prophecies are recorded in the plates of brass.
  • Nephi taught his brethren what was written in the plates of brass so they could know concerning the Lord.
  • Nephi read many things that were written in the books of Moses.
  • To persuade his brethren to believe in Jesus Christ, Nephi read that which was written by Isaiah.
  • Nephi applied the scriptures to himself for his profit and learning and encouraged his brethren to do the same.
  • Nephi spake to his brethren: Hear ye the words of the prophet.

Our Profit and Learning

I’m not exactly sure when 1 Nephi 19 was written – somewhere between 588-570 BC. I bring this up because sometimes I think that all of these chapters are like diary entries – just happening as they happen.

However, as I’ve been studying the Book of Mormon lately, I keep remembering that this is an abridgment. The small plates of Nephi are an abridgment that the Lord commanded him to make. Most likely, Nephi is writing this record long after the events occurred.

Not only that, but sometimes a lot of time passed between events in chapters. (Like obtaining the brass plates, for example). In fact, the first 18 chapters of 1 Nephi are marked with events – leaving Jerusalem, obtaining the plates, returning to the tent of Lehi, getting Ishmael and his family, Lehi’s Dream, the broken bow, traveling in the wilderness, building a ship, crossing the sea.

Now, after chapter 18, we don’t have as many events, but we have teachings. The families of Nephi and his brothers and sisters have all grown. There are people to teach! This is what he taught them:

“Now it came to pass that I, Nephi, did teach my brethren these things; and it came to pass that I did read many things to them, which were engraven upon the plates of brass, that they might know concerning the doings of the Lord in other lands, among people of old.” – 1 Nephi 19:22

Nephi taught from the scriptures so that they could know the doings of the Lord. And why is that important? Well, here’s a good reason why:

“3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” – John 17:3

Nephi taught the scriptures, so that his people could know the doings of the Lord. And knowing the doings of the Lord will help us – not to perish, but to have eternal life.

brazil-family-studying-scriptures-1374752-gallery
The Words of Eternal Life

Nephi continues:

“And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.” – 1 Nephi 19:23

Today, I’d like to do something different. I’m going to pick out a few key words and study what those words really mean and how they can hopefully help each of us.

Persuade

The dictionary tells us the definition of persuade:

“Persuade transitive verb: to move by argument, entreaty, or expostulation to a belief, position, or course of action
2 : to plead with : URGE” – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

I have to admit – the concept of persuasion has been super intriguing to me lately. I think it’s because 1) I’m a parent, and it’s my job to do a lot of teaching and persuading. 2) Persuading sometimes gets a bad rap. 3) We are always being persuaded. When we understand the mechanics of persuasion, we can have better discernment.

I’m going to start with point two right now – persuading gets a bad rap. It’s kind of funny – even as I wrote point 1—that I’m a parent and I have to be persuasive—I felt a little reticent to write that. I don’t want to come off as manipulative.

But that’s the thing. Persuasion does not have to be manipulation. Persuasion is simply pleading with. Urging. Moving by argument (not a fight, but logic), entreaty, or expostulation to a belief.

Parents must persuade their children to eat dinner. Parents must persuade their children to go to sleep. Parents must persuade their children to do their chores, homework, and brush their teeth.

This isn’t a power-hungry move for control. It is because we are deemed with the responsibility to raise our children in such a way that they can be stewards of themselves one day.

Persuasion is simply the act of moving another to a belief, position, or course of action.

I think that the reason that persuasion gets a bad rap is because there are plenty of people and other entities persuading us to do bad things! Persuasion isn’t the enemy – we have to discern the belief, position, or course of action that we are being moved to! The belief, position, or course of action (and the perhaps the person giving it) is the potential enemy!

Of course, there are times when people use bad methods to persuade others. There are times when people lie and manipulate in order to move another to a belief. Sometimes we even use these bad methods to move to a good belief. Of course, this is a terrible practice. When we use bad persuasion tactics, we will often have bad results.

Not only that, but sometimes people confuse persuasion with compulsion. Compulsion is the act of compelling.

Compel transitive verb:to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly
Hunger compelled him to eat.
The general was compelled to surrender.
2 : to cause to do or occur by overwhelming pressure
Public opinion compelled her to sign the bill.” – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Now – this is a problem. When we persuade, we don’t drive or urge forcefully. This is Satan’s way! When we persuade, we shouldn’t use so much overwhelming pressure that the person we are trying to persuade can’t think or feel for themselves. We shouldn’t use guilt trips and other below-the-belt tactics to compel another to do what we want them to do (even if what we want them to do is good!)

As the Lord explained:

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—” – Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42

We shouldn’t use our power – as parents, priesthood holders, or whatever power it is we have – in a way that compels and forces. Instead, we should persuade with gentleness, meekness, and genuine love. We should be kind, have knowledge, and teach without hypocrisy and guile.

Nephi tells us in 1 Nephi 19:23 that he is trying to persuade us—to believe in the Lord our Redeemer. This is a good cause, and Nephi uses good tactics. What he is doing is a-okay.

Liken

Again to the dictionary:

Liken transitive verb: to represent as similar : COMPARE” – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

Not only did Nephi read the scriptures, he likened the scriptures unto himself. In other words, he compared what was happening to the scriptures to his own life.

We know that Nephi derived power from likening the scriptures. Nephi urges his brothers to go back to Jerusalem to get the plates from Laban by saying: let us be strong like unto Moses;…” (See 1 Nephi 4:2.) Later on, when building the ship, Nephi reiterates the story of Moses and the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt – Nephi asks his brothers “And now, if the Lord has such great power , and has wrought so many miracles among the children of men, how is it that he cannot instruct me, that I should build a ship?” (See 1 Nephi 17:51.)

Nephi knew that he could trust in God because of the witnesses of the prophets. He knew that the scriptures were more than old books to be read. He knew that the scriptures were not simply myths or tales. Nephi knew that if he studied the scriptures and really compared them to his own life, then he would be able to apply the wisdom found in the scriptures to strengthen his own life.

We now sing about Nephi being courageous. Likening the scriptures to himself is what helped to bring him the faith that could give him the courage to get the brass plates, make a bow, build a boat, and sail across the sea.

We can do the same – we can take the time to really liken the scriptures. We can compare what we read to our own lives. As we do so, the Lord will teach us how they can apply to us and empower us.

Profit

Once more to the dictionary:

Profit noun:: a valuable return : GAIN
2 : the excess of returns over expenditure in a transaction or series of transactions” – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

(There are other definitions that I didn’t include – as they are all about money and ratios…not super applicable.)

Again, profit can be a loaded word. We know that the Lord doesn’t want us to be selfish or seek to “get gain.” And yet, Nephi uses the word “profit.” I suppose we need to be sure to understand what is meant here. This is why I really like the definition above.

When we study and liken the scriptures, we make a transaction. We give our faith and time to the Lord, and then He will give us a return (wisdom, knowledge, courage, etc.) This is the profit of which Nephi speaks.

This is a great deal for us! We invest a little time and a little trust and we gain—a testimony! strength! courage! hope! wisdom! healing! Indeed, a valuable return. Indeed, a profit.

This post is getting really long, so I’ll end it now…Nephi closes chapter 19 with an invitation. I hope that we will consider everything that Nephi has written up to this point and then take him up on his invitation as we read the chapters of Isaiah that Nephi quoted.

Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye who are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch who have been broken off; hear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom ye have been broken off; for after this manner has the prophet written.” – 1 Nephi 19:24.

Truly the prophets persuade us to believe in Christ. As we liken these scriptures to ourselves, we will profit. We will gain faith, hope, and the courage we need to endure.

Scripture Power – 1 Nephi 17:23-42

You can read 1 Nephi 17:23-42 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • After Laman and Lemuel tried to dissuade Nephi from building the boat, Nephi responds to them in faith.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers of their ancestors – which records were kept in the scriptures. He talks about how Moses and the children of Israel escaped from Egypt and were delivered to their own promised land.
  • Nephi recounts a few of the miracles that the Lord did to help the children of Israel – parting the Red Sea, leading them by day and giving them light by night, giving them manna, providing water for them in the wilderness, etc. Everything was done according to the word of the Lord.
  • Nephi also reminded Laman and Lemuel that the reason why the Lord let Israel inhabit a land filled with other people is because those people had become wicked. The Lord esteems all flesh in one. He is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t favor a group of people because of their pedigree. He favors those that keep His law. And those who do not keep the commandments cannot be protected by Him.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers that the Lord created the earth to be inhabited. We have been blessed to be able to possess the earth.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers that the Lord loves and will covenant with those who will have Him be their God. He covenanted with their fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • The covenant isn’t just a set of carte-blanche blessings. When the children of Israel hardened their hearts in the wilderness, the Lord straitened them with the rod. He sent fiery flying serpents among them, they were bitten, and he prepared a way for them to be healed. All they had to do was look, but many didn’t—choosing to perish instead.
  • The children of Israel, from time to time, hardened their hearts against God and His prophet, Moses.
  • Despite their rebellion from time to time, the children of Israel were eventually led away from bondage in Egypt and to a land of promise.

Scripture Power

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints look up to Nephi. He was faithful, optimistic, and courageous. In fact, there is a song that the children sing: Nephi was courageous.

Nephi's courage
The Lord Commanded Nephi to Go and Build a Boat…

I like Nephi. And I do think that he was courageous. That Nephi was courageous is indisputable. But I do think that sometimes we mythicize Nephi in a way that is unfair to him. I think that sometimes we just call him courageous, and end it there – as if he was magically courageous. As if it came naturally and easy to him. I think this inclination is a bit problematic.

I think that we forget he was a normal dude, and because of the choices he made, he was strengthened. What I mean is – he wasn’t just magically courageous. Through his experiences and through the strength of the Lord, Nephi cultivated courage. He actually made choices and did things that we can also do! We can become courageous like him.

In the children’s song, “Nephi’s Courage,” the the third verse states:

“. The Lord gives us commandments and asks us to obey.
Sometimes I am tempted to choose another way.
When I’m discouraged, and think I cannot try,
I will be courageous, and I will reply:
“I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.
I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.” – Bill N. Hansen, “Nephi’s Courage”

I really like this song. We can learn from Nephi. He truly was courageous. And yes, it is simple. We can choose to trust in God. We can choose to be courageous.

That’s the thing…Nephi didn’t know how he would make a boat, but he had full trust in the Lord. This trust in the Lord came from his humility and willingness to pray (we read about that in 1 Nephi 2); it came from his willingness to exercise his faith and put the Lord to the test (and succeeding! – we read about this many times – when he got the plates in 1 Nephi 3 and 4 for starters); his trust in the Lord was cultivated when Nephi took time to notice and remember the tender mercies of the Lord (which he recounts in 1 Nephi 15).

This trust in the Lord is what makes Nephi courageous in the face of trial, danger, and what seems to be “the impossible.”

In 1 Nephi 17, we read of another source of Nephi’s courage and trust in God. He has seen the Lord work in the lives of other people. These experiences inspire Nephi, give him hope, and facilitate his trust in God. They encourage Nephi to believe that the Lord will empower him, as well. The experiences that inspire Nephi were recorded and handed down from generation to generation. They are the scriptures.

The primary children also sing a song called “Scripture Power,” and I can’t help but think of Nephi when I hear the words of this song…specifically the line “scripture power is the power to win!”

Nephi already had the strength and the faith to complete the task that the Lord gave him, I know this. But I really think that the scriptures were a major part of the strength and faith that Nephi had cultivated in his life. And now that his brothers are mocking and questioning his obedience, Nephi uses the scriptures to persuade his brothers that they can obey and they can build a boat.

Nephi reminds Laman and Lemuel of their own ancestors – the children of Israel – and their flight from Egypt. There was nothing logical about this escape. It was miraculous. It was all dependent on their faith and trust in God.

Nephi reminds his brothers that:

  • Moses and the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea on dry ground.
  • The Egyptians followed the Israelites and were drowned in the Red Sea.
  • The children of Israel were fed in the wilderness with manna from heaven.
  • Moses smote the rock and it brought forth water for the Israelites.
  • The Lord led them in a cloud by day and gave them light by night.
  • The Lord punished them and blessed them according to their faith and His word.
  • The children of Israel not only escaped from bondage, but were led to a promised land. The Lord fulfilled His promises.

Though Nephi had never before built a boat, their situation was not unprecedented. The Lord has power to deliver and has delivered, strengthened, and supported his people throughout time. Nephi knew that the Lord was capable of delivering him and his family because He had done it before. Nephi knew that if the Lord could free the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, if the Lord could part the Red Sea, if the Lord could feed them manna from heaven, if the Lord could bring them water from rocks, if the Lord could lead the children of Israel through the wilderness to a promised land, then the Lord could help Nephi build a boat. The Lord could deliver Nephi and his family.

And what is the condition for such deliverance?  Strict obedience to the words of the Lord. If Nephi wanted to be delivered (which I think he did!), then he needed to obey the commandments that the Lord gave him. In this instance, the commandment was to build a boat. So that is what Nephi must do. It may sound insane, but Nephi knows through his own experiences and through the testimonies recorded in the scriptures that nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Nephi’s faith and trust in the Lord gives him the courage he needs to get the job done – and to persuade his brothers to help!

***

I love this example. I have needed it in my own life. I can’t even begin to guess how many times the stories of the scriptures have helped me to cultivate the faith I needed to have courage through my own trials. The Lord gives us commandments – both general and very specific, and He wants us to obey. And why does He want us to obey…so He can bless us! So we can be happy!

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend. I had a very distinct impression:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5

So often, when we face obstacles in our lives, they may be overcome in more than one way. The Lord will help us to overcome our obstacles, that is the truth. However, I am learning that He doesn’t always do the thing that seems to be the most intuitive to us. Maybe His way takes longer than we would like. His way might cost us more money, more time, or other sacrifices. Often His way requires more faith!

But we must trust in the Lord and not lean to our own understanding. We must have courage in the face of affliction. We must trust His inspiration when facing and overcoming the obstacles in our lives. Why? Well, because He is interested not only in our immediate successes in life, but also in the big picture. He has a work and a glory – to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life.

If we will do things His way, then we can rest assured that we will be delivered from the real problem: death and hell. We can rest assured that we will do our work on earth and receive comfort and joy – both now and in the life to come.

Nephi always trusted in the Lord. He didn’t fight with the Lord to do things his way. Yes – there were times when Nephi had to figure out solutions to his problems. But this was not done at the expense of inspiration he received from God. Nephi’s courage to keep the commandments with exactness is what enabled him to be delivered from the trials of the wilderness and inherit a promised land.

If we will have the courage to trust God and obey Him with exactness, then we will also be enabled, empowered, and delivered.

I’m so thankful for the scriptures! We have the example of Moses. We have the example of Nephi. We have the examples of so many who did and who did not follow the Lord! If we will utilize the scriptures in our lives as Nephi did, then we will also have the power to win!

The Liahona Part One – 1 Nephi 16:25-33

You can read 1 Nephi 16:25-33 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • After Nephi fashioned a bow and arrow out of wood and sticks and then went to his father for direction, Lehi went to the Lord. The Lord chastised Lehi for murmuring and complaining against him. Lehi was extremely sorrowful.
  • The Lord told Lehi to look at the ball of curious workmanship (the Liahona) that he had provided them. When Lehi looked at it, he read a message that was written on it. He feared and trembled because of what it said – as did Nephi’s brothers and the sons of Ishmael and the wives.
  • Nephi beheld that the Liahona worked according to faith, diligence, and heeding the directions that it gave.
  • There was a new writing on the Liahona – it was plain to read and gave them understanding concerning God’s ways. The message written on the Liahona changed from time to time, and it likewise worked according to their faith, diligence, and heed.
  • By small and simple means the Lord can bring about great things.

The Ball of Curious Workmanship

There is so much that can be studied from this text. We can learn about faith and loyalty from Nephi. We can learn about the real temptations that face all of us – to murmur and complain during trials – from Lehi. We can learn about chastisement and trial. But today, I think that I would like to focus on that little “ball of curious workmanship” – the Liahona.

Liahona
Liahona, by David A. Baird, Click here for source.

God Communicated with Lehi and His Family Through the Liahona

After Nephi fashioned a bow and arrow out of sticks, he went to his father to ask where he should hunt for food. Lehi then went to the Lord.

Lehi had been murmuring. I can’t imagine the suffering and trial that Lehi must have been going through to push him to this edge. We can learn from him. We must trust in the Lord. Lehi was chastised most likely because of his lack of trust in God’s words—despite the witnesses and miracles he had experienced. After being chastised, the Lord commanded:

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball, and behold the things which are written.” – 1 Nephi 16:26

Unfortunately, the message that Lehi read on the ball was one that caused him to “fear and tremble exceedingly.” But we see here that the Lord communicates with them through the Liahona.

It’s interesting. The Lord had just been communicating with Lehi – without the Liahona. And then he tells Lehi to read what is written on the Liahona. It seems that others saw what was written on it, too. It was a message for all of them.

***

Not everything that was written on the Liahona was a rebuke. We read:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.

29 And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, …” – 1 Nephi 16:28-29

For the most part, the Liahona communicated a positive message with Lehi and his family. The pointers on the Liahona literally guided them on their path to the promised land. The writing on the Liahona was plain to be read – it was written in the language that they could understand. This writing helped Lehi and his family to understand the ways of the Lord, and it was written and changed from time to time.

Notice that phrase, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and then recall the scripture in 1 Nephi 2:

“And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” – 1 Nephi 2:12

The Lord, in His mercy, gave Lehi and his family another way that they could understand His ways, His dealings. Even though I don’t know exactly what the words on the Liahona said, I am guessing that the additional understanding they received from these words brought them comfort. So, the Liahona not only guided their path, but gave them understanding, and comfort.

Modern Day Liahonas

When I read about the Liahona, I can’t help but think I wish I had one. Wouldn’t it be nice? On my own proverbial journey to the promised land, there are times I don’t know where to go. It would be so easy to simply look at a compass, see the spindles, read the words, and know that I need to go that way next.

But, I don’t have a Liahona. At least not in the same way that Lehi had. However, we do have many things that serve the same function as a Liahona in our lives.

Scriptures

Nearly five hundred years after the Liahona was used by Lehi to guide his family to the promised land, Alma taught his son about the “Liahona” that they had in their lives:

“38 And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.

39 And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.

44 For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.

45 And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.” – Alma 37:38-39, 44-45

Alma teaches that the word of God can function as a Liahona in our own personal lives and on our personal journeys to the ultimate “promised land.” And just imagine. Alma taught this to his son – in the New World – about 74 years before the Savior was born. They had the brass plates and the words of the prophets, but compare that to now!!!

The word of God that we have available to our fingertips is astounding. We have the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. We have the transcripts of talks given by modern day prophets at general conference. We have other good blogs and testimonies of friends – both real life and virtual. We have so many ways to get the word of God in our lives.

The amazing thing about the scriptures is that they were written thousands of years ago, but can have specific and personal application now.

For the most part, when I study the scriptures, I have found that the words aren’t directly related to what I’m experiencing in life. HOWEVER, the words of the scriptures bring the Spirit. My choice to study them opens a conduit between my heart and the Spirit of the Lord. And then, I’m able to receive specific instruction and inspiration that applies directly to my life.

In this way, I believe that the impact of the scriptures in our lives is cumulative rather than singular. (or at least usually). When we go to the scriptures day after day, that conduit is opened day after day. We have more inspiration flowing between our hearts and the Spirit day after day.

Even though I think that, on the whole, scripture study is a cumulative experience, I have also had the rare singular experience while reading the scriptures. If you want to read about one of those experiences you can here.

So – the scriptures are a “liahona” in our lives. And yet, I can’t help but find myself still kinda wishing that I had a real liahona in my life. (Please forgive me, I understand that this is probably not the most faithful sentiment…but I’m being honest).

This feeling – why can’t we have these personal liahonas in our lives – I promise isn’t a thought of complaint or murmur against God. I’m seriously wondering about it. Lehi and his family had one. Why did they have this access to God? Do we have the same access?

And even though I just said that we have the Liahona – in the form of scriptures – Lehi and his family also had the scriptures. Wasn’t that enough? Yet the Lord, in His love and mercy, provided them with a Liahona. Do we have other, more personal Liahonas today?

As I ponder this question – Do we have other, more personal Liahonas in our lives today, I can’t help but feel that the answer is…YES!

Priesthood Blessings

Patriarchal Blessings

President Thomas S. Monson taught:

“The same Lord who provided a Liahona to Lehi provides for you and for me today a rare and valuable gift to give direction to our lives, to mark the hazards to our safety, and to chart the way, even safe passage—not to a promised land, but to our heavenly home. The gift to which I refer is known as your patriarchal blessing. Every worthy member of the Church is entitled to receive such a precious and priceless treasure. …

“… Your blessing is not to be folded neatly and tucked away. It is not to be framed or published. Rather, it is to be read. It is to be loved. It is to be followed. Your patriarchal blessing will see you through the darkest night. It will guide you through life’s dangers. … Your patriarchal blessing is to you a personal Liahona to chart your course and guide your way” – Thomas S. Monson

I’m so silly! I sit and get somewhat jealous that Lehi and his family had a “ball of curious workmanship” which pointed directions and had messages written on it from time to time. And yet, I have a patriarchal blessing!

This blessing has been recorded, and I have a copy of it. I’m afraid to admit that I’m guilty of what President Monson advised us not to do. My blessing is folded neatly and tucked away. And I am even more ashamed to admit that I can’t remember the last time I read it.

I say that I want personal instruction in my life – AND I HAVE IT!!! Silly, silly me.

I do love my patriarchal blessing, and I haven’t always forgotten to read it. My blessing has been a help for me and my life ever since I received it. Like the Liahona, it has helped to guide my path, it has helped me to better understand the Lord, and it has brought me great comfort.

Priesthood Blessings
Because I’m still somewhat unsatisfied, I keep noticing the following phrase about the words written on the Liahona:

“…and it was written and changed from time to time,…” – 1 nephi 16:29

Yes, we have scriptures that can be like a Liahona in our lives. And yes, we have Patriarchal Blessings that are very personal, and can also act as a Liahona in our lives. But these – the words in them – are both static. Even if different things stand out to you each time you read them – in either the scriptures or your patriarchal blessing – the words are actually the same each time.

Yet, the words on the Liahona were not always the same. It wasn’t one word inscribed in stone. These words “changed from time to time.”

Do we have “Liahonas” in our lives that act this way? Once again – YES!!! Priesthood blessings.

Priesthood blessings can help to guide us, help us to understand God, and can bring us considerable comfort. Priesthood blessings are given to us in real time. They are another “Liahona” for our lives!

President Oaks taught:

“What is the significance of a priesthood blessing? Think of a young man preparing to leave home to seek his fortune in the world. If his father gave him a compass, he might use this worldly tool to help him find his way. If his father gave him money, he could use this to give him power over worldly things. A priesthood blessing is a conferral of power over spiritual things. Though it cannot be touched or weighed, it is of great significance in helping us overcome obstacles on the path to eternal life.” – Dallin H. Oaks

I feel so fortunate to live in a time when the priesthood has been restored, and we have access to these blessings. I have received priesthood blessings from bishops, home teachers, and my husband. I’m so grateful for blessing to know good men who are worthy to give these blessings. And it is important to note, these blessings don’t come from the men who give them, the words of the blessings come from the Lord.

The words in priesthood blessings may change from time to time – just as the words of the Liahona did. This doesn’t nullify earlier blessings. It is simply newer information that will help to guide our paths.

I want to make a quick mention that these blessings are blessings! They aren’t magic. They aren’t fortunes. They aren’t oracles. They are blessings from God – given to us to help us have comfort, wisdom, and guidance. We need to respect the Priesthood and the blessings of the priesthood.

***

Tomorrow – I’ll explore how the Liahona worked in the Lives of Lehi – and how it relates to our modern Liahonas as well.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – Nephi’s Purpose – 1 Nephi 6

Read 1 Nephi 6 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is a descendant of Joseph (as in Joseph, son of Israel, who was sold to Egyptians by his brothers). He doesn’t say anything more specific because his father has already given the genealogy of their ancestors.
  • Nephi doesn’t give a full account of what his father wrote. He will only write the things of God.
  • Nephi commands his seed that these plates, the small plates of Nephi, shall only contain that which is of worth to the children of men.

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Nephi’s Purpose in Writing

In this chapter, Nephi gives his purpose in writing on these plates. He states:

“For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.” – 1 Nephi 6:4

If we want to understand the Book of Mormon, then this is what it is all about – coming unto the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In other words, it’s all about coming unto Christ and being saved.

And if we keep this in mind as we read 1 and 2 Nephi, we will be able to get more out of our studying.

Additionally, Nephi gives the following charge:

“Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.

Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 1:5-6

Nephi isn’t looking for accolades or validation. There isn’t a person on earth he is trying to please. He only wants to please God.

Now, of course there are many who do find the Book of Mormon pleasing. I know that I do! But that’s because the word of God is pleasing. It is a message of love, hope, and salvation. So, it is in this sense that Nephi’s words and the words that follow – throughout the rest of the Book of Mormon – are pleasing.

Finally, notice the last phrase: “that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men” (emphasis added). This phrase – “not of worth” really makes me pause. It makes me wonder – what is it that I consider to be “of worth?” If I were to write a book for my children and posterity, what would I include? What would I consider to be “of worth” and “not of worth.”

I can’t say that I can totally put my finger on what I’m trying to understand here. (that happens a lot…sometimes it takes a bit of time to figure something out). But there is just something to that phrase not of worth that has me wondering about my own definitions of “worth.” It has me wondering about how I spend my own time and days. Am I focused on what is of worth?

***
Often when studying the scriptures, there is a phrase or idea that stands out to me that causes me to ponder for a long period of time. I might come across something – like this phrase “not of worth” – and it stands out, but I can’t quite figure out why. And it’s okay if I can’t figure it out today. I have a feeling that it is something that I will figure out over time as I continue to study.

So – it will be a question in the back of my head – as I read the Book of Mormon – what is “of worth”? What is it that the authors of the Book of Mormon feel is “of worth”? Why have they chosen to write about what they wrote about? How is it valuable to me in my life?

I think that as I continue to study, the answers will become clear to me.

Blogging the Book of Mormon – Courage from Scriptures – 1 Nephi 4:1-6

You can read today’s scripture block here – 1 Nephi 4:1-6

Context and General Information

  • Nephi tries to encourage his brothers to do as the angel said and go back into Jerusalem to obtain the plates.
  • Nephi reminds his brothers of Moses who delivered Israel from Egypt.
  • Nephi makes the connection – the same God that delivered Israel has promised to deliver them.
  • Laman and Lemuel are murmuring. They are wroth. They begrudgingly go with Nephi and Sam to the walls of Jerusalem.
  • Laman, Lemuel, and Sam hid themselves. Nephi crept into the city of Jerusalem without a plan, only with the Spirit.

A Source of Nephi’s Courage

There is a song – widely sung – by the young children of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Nephi’s Courage
The Lord commanded Nephi to go and get the plates
From the wicked Laban inside the city gates.
Laman and Lemuel were both afraid to try
Nephi was courageous, this was his reply:
I will go!
I will do!
The thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way,
He wants me to obey.
I will go!
I will do!
The thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way,
He wants me to obey.

If you are not a latter-day saint, I’ll give you a bit of insight. Nephi was a prophet – not unlike the prophets of the Bible. He was faithful as a young man, and then grew to be a great prophet of God. His family was led out of Jerusalem by God to the American continent around 600 years before the coming of Christ.

Nephi was courageous. We members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints talk about it. We sing about it. I grew up in this Church, and I think that there were times when I didn’t really understand. In a way, I think that I sold Nephi short.

Nephi was courageous, yes, but this is something he cultivated. He wasn’t just magically more courageous and faithful than his brothers or you or me. He was a normal dude who made choices that softened his heart, grew his faith, and gave him courage.

One – Prayer
In 1 Nephi 2, we read:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” – 1 Nephi 2:16

This is the first thing we learn about how Nephi developed his courage. He desired and he prayed. I go into greater detail about this here.

Through earnest prayer, the Lord softened Nephi’s heart.

Two – Exercise Faith
Another way that Nephi develops faith and courage is by exercising it. Nephi’s approach to his faith is not merely conceptual. In 1 Nephi 3, he is asked to put his faith to the test by going back to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass.

Nephi’s immediate response:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” – 1 Nephi 3:7

Nephi declares that he knows the Lord will support him in keeping the commandments, then Nephi goes to Jerusalem to exercise this very knowledge.

Three – The Scriptures
Nephi still has to put his faith to the test, as he and his brothers have been unsuccessful in getting the plates of brass twice.

It would be so easy to be demoralized, defeated, and disheartened. Nephi has been the one to be excited about fulfilling this errand of the Lord’s. He boldly testified that he knew that the Lord would give no commandment to the children of men without a way to keep that commandment. Yet so far, they have not been able to do what they were commanded to do.

Now, because of Nephi’s faith (which I’m sure that Laman and Lemuel might have taken for naïveté), they have no money and they have a man who is actively trying to kill them.

Yet, Nephi doesn’t back down. Laman and Lemuel murmur. I have to guess that this had the potential to break Nephi. Even though Nephi doesn’t have the support of his brothers, he finds support in the scriptures.

Nephi said to his brothers:

“Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.

Now behold ye know that this is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt? Let us go up; the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians.” – 1 Nephi 4:2-3

Nephi not only knows the stories of the scriptures, but he applies them to himself. This gives him strength and hope.

One last thing – it is important for us to read the scriptures in a way that helps us to remember the reality of these stories. Nephi didn’t have some kind of false modesty – thinking The Lord helped Moses, but he can’t help me. Moses was a mighty prophet, and I’m just a boy.

I think a lot of us do it. We shroud ourselves in false modesty saying, “I’m not worthy of such and such…” And we forget that the power of God is extended to anyone and everyone who will choose to be faithful!

Nephi doesn’t feel like he can’t get help. He uses the scriptures exactly as they are intended – to support and strengthen him to accomplish what he needs to accomplish.

We need to have a similar approach. Instead of making our prophets into mythical beings, we need to remember that they were real – they had struggles, they had to build their faith over time. Were they great men and women – yes. But not in some unfair way. They were great because they turned to the Lord, and the Lord made them great.

I know that Heavenly Father sees all of us not only as we are and were, but what we have the potential to be. I know that he gives us commandments and allows us to experiences various adversities and blessings so that we can fulfill the measure of our creation. I know that as we do so, we are filled with joy.

I know that courageousness is not limited to Nephi. We can learn from him – we can pray, we can exercise our faith, and we can center our faith on the experiences that the Lord has had with others to give us the courage we need as we negotiate our own faith building experiences.

A Clue to Understanding Jacob 5

I was in Sunday School recently, and we were studying Jacob 5. The conversation began with how intimidating Jacob 5 – the Allegory of the Olive Tree/Vineyard – can be.

Olive Tree

Obviously, I’ve been there, too. I’m not going to pretend like I got it right away. Jacob 5 is a story. A long story. Perhaps the most intimidating part of it is that the chapter is 77 verses long. Maybe we’d be less frightened if Jacob 5 was 15 verses.

No matter the reason, it seems like a lot of people feel a bit of anxiety when reading this chapter. What is it about? Why does Jacob include this chapter – this gigantic chapter – in his record? We know that it was difficult for them to etch into the plates, so why did Jacob make the effort to include this in his record? Why is it so important for us to know this allegory? What is an allegory?!

The questions are endless.

Today, I was reading in 1 Nephi 15 when I noticed some familiar complaints and a big clue…

And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.

And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?

And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.

Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?

Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.

Behold, I say unto you, that the house of Israel was compared unto an olive tree, by the Spirit of the Lord which was in our father; and behold are we not broken off from the house of Israel, and are we not a branch of the house of Israel?” – 1 Nephi 15:7-12

The Context

Here, in 1 Nephi 15, Nephi returned to the tent (after having a vision that taught the meaning of his fathers dream) of his father where his brothers were all disputing one with another.

Nephi was feeling weighed down and overcome by what he had seen in vision. And then, he goes to his father’s tent – most likely for some kind of support, and there his brothers are arguing.

Nephi asks them what’s up, and they say that they can’t understand what their father meant when he spoke about the olive tree. (See 1 Nephi 10:2-15, especially 14.)

Hmmm….an olive tree.

We know that Lehi had been studying the Brass Plates ever since Nephi and his brothers had obtained them and brought them to Lehi. I’m guessing that this study must have influenced what he spoke to his children about the House of Israel being compared to an Olive tree.

The Confusion of Nephi’s Brothers

So, Nephi’s brothers are confused and debating because they say that they can’t understand their father’s words: “concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.”

In other words, they don’t understand. They don’t get this analogy, this metaphor. And what does it matter?

This kind of sounds familiar. I’ve heard, and maybe have even been guilty of skipping Jacob 5. I’m not familiar with olive trees or olive groves. I don’t know how to dung or prune or graft new branches in a tree. I haven’t really disputed with others concerning Jacob 5, but I’ve been tempted to skip over it, and I know that I’m not the only one.

It seems so hard to understand.

The Clues to Understanding – Nephi’s Response to His Brothers (and Maybe to Us, too)

Clue One – Inquire of the Lord In response to his brother’s complaint, Nephi asks, “Have ye inquired of the Lord?”

Good question. And maybe we ought to ask ourselves that, when we say that Jacob 5 (or Isaiah, or anything spoken by the prophets anciently or currently) is “hard to understand,” – have we inquired of the Lord? Instead of complaining about it, are we opening our minds and hearts to understand by asking the Lord for guidance and help?

The brethren of Nephi answer that they haven’t asked because the Lord won’t tell them.

(This is crazy to me! How did they know what the Lord would or wouldn’t tell them? They haven’t even asked!!!!)

(And yet – as crazy as it sounds, I think that sometimes we might be guilty of this, too. We don’t ask, and then we still put the blame on God – because He hasn’t told us…Silly. But good to recognize.)

Clue Two – Be humble, Have a Soft Heart!
After hearing his brothers’ excuse on why they haven’t inquired of the Lord, Nephi asks a question that seems to be rhetorical in nature, but is worth considering:

“How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?” – 1 Nephi 15:10

Now, I don’t want to make assumptions about anyone, but these are good questions to ask, especially when we might be saying that some concept being taught by a prophet is “hard to understand,” and when we have followed this thought up with the admission that we haven’t prayed to understand it.

Having a soft heart is crucial to understanding. A soft heart is the fertile ground needed for a seed of faith. As we soften our hearts, then we will be able to understand. Nephi had this experience himself:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” – 1 Nephi 2:16

When we allow our hearts to be softened, then we are able to believe the words of the prophets. This is what enables us to understand. (For more insight on this idea, see Mosiah 2:9.)

We need to have a soft heart. And why not? Really, what’s the risk? We run a much bigger risk when we have hard hearts? As Nephi asks, Why perish because of the hardness of our hearts? Again, it’s kind of silly. Just have a soft heart. Be believing. Ask the Lord. And perish not.

Clue Three – Ask in Faith
As you can see, these three clues are very closely related. We need to ask; we need to be humble enough to ask; and we need to ask!

Nephi reminds himself of the pattern that the Lord so often beckons each of us to follow:

  1. Harden not Your Hearts
  2. Ask God in Faith
  3. Believe that Ye Shall Receive
  4. Diligently Keep the Commandments

…then…

  • Surely these things will be made known unto you.

Had Nephi’s brothers followed this pattern, then they wouldn’t have been disputing in their father’s tent. They would have had peace and understanding. They would have known what was important for them to know. They would have been able to be taught by the Spirit.

The Meaning of The Olive Tree Comparison

In 1 Nephi 15:12-20 Nephi briefly explains the comparison between the Olive Tree and the House of Israel. I actually won’t get into it here because you can read it yourself.

The important things to note are:

  1. Nephi understood this comparison
  2. We can also understand this comparison.

Jacob 5 doesn’t have to be “hard” to understand. None of the scriptures have to be “hard” to understand. Sure, we may not understand everything inside and out, but when we follow the clues that Nephi teaches here, we will understand exactly what we need to know. We will be filled with peace. We won’t be tempted to dispute with others or complain in Sunday School about how long or difficult a passage seems. We won’t be tempted to gloss them over. Instead, we will be able to have a positive experience with the scriptures, with God’s Spirit, and with a way to apply these things in our lives.

***
What helps you to understand the scriptures, especially “difficult” ones like Jacob 5 or Isaiah?

The Fruit of the Tree of Life and Joy

Joy and Thanksgiving ButtonJoin me for the next two weeks as we study Joy and Thanksgiving. This is part One of my thoughts as I study the assignments.

The scriptures, like any form of literature, is rife with symbolism. One symbol used often is the tree of life and it’s fruit. Studying this symbol will help us to learn more about joy and how to obtain it.

Soon this fruit will be filling me up with joy. :)
Soon this fruit will be filling me up with joy. 🙂

Lehi’s Dream

Before I really talk about Lehi’s dream, I want to discuss the end result: Lehi and others partake of the fruit of the tree of life. Nephi teaches us about this fruit:

“Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.

And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.” – 1 Nephi 11:22-23

So, not only does Lehi partake of the fruit of the tree of life, but this fruit is amazing. It tastes great and fills him with joy. He desires to share it, and many other people partake of the fruit.

Now, as this dream opens, Lehi is suffering in a dark and dreary waste. He suffers in this state for many hours until finally, he decides to pray. I wonder, is there a point that the Lord would have just shown him the tree of life, even if Lehi didn’t pray? I doubt it. I think that Lehi only progressed because He prayed, and the Lord answered His prayer.

Additionally, the Lord didn’t simply hand Lehi a piece of fruit after Lehi uttered his prayer, instead, Lehi had to embark on a journey. But the path was laid out before Him, and he was taken from the dark and dreary waste thanks to the mercy of God.

After going to the tree, Lehi was able to experience the opposite of what he suffered before. He partook of the fruit of the tree of life which was sweet, desirable, and better than anything he had ever tasted. It filled his soul with joy.

I love this example because it is a reminder to me that we must struggle a little bit before we are able to partake of the fruit of the tree. And when I struggle, I know where I can turn: the Lord.

The Struggle

We learn a little bit more about obtaining the fruit that Lehi ate. There are a few struggles that must be endured before partaking of the fruit.
The Mist of Darkness
Before partaking of the fruit of the tree of life, we must pass through the “mists of darkness.” In my life, I guess I could say that there have been mists of darkness that I have passed through–depression, difficulty, the death of loved ones, divorce, loneliness, sickness, etc. These are dark times, and it can be easy to feel lost as trial seems to choke your ability to see even the next step ahead of you.

The Great and Spacious Building
Not only do we pass through tribulations as we press forward to the Tree of life, but we must also endure the temptations of the world. This seems especially hard these days. We are bombarded with images and ideas that tell us if we just buy x then we’ll be happy.

An interesting thing to note, even when we partake of the fruit of the tree of life, we have the agency to accept it. Some of those who partook of the fruit then chose to feel embarrassment and shame as they allowed the voices of those in the great and spacious building to interrupt the joy of partaking of the sought-after fruit. As a result of this distraction, they left the fruit of the tree of life, then wandered off into strange paths and were lost.

The Lord won’t force us to choose happiness. It is always our choice.

Alma’s Analogy

Later on in the Book of Mormon, Alma taught the people about faith. He compared faith to a seed. Often, we think of this story solely as a story of faith, but it is so much more than that!

The seed of faith will eventually sprout, and if we nourish it, it will turn into a tree that produces fruit. Alma describes the fruit:

“the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” – Alma 32:42

Does this fruit sound familiar???

The sermon given by Alma is basically amazing. There is one part that especially struck me this time:

“And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.” – Alma 32:40, emphasis added

Looking forward with an eye of faith is the real way to one day partake of the fruit of the tree of life. This is the way that we will be able to make it through the mists of darkness. Having an eye of faith will help us to discern that the taunts of those in the great and spacious building are nothing but lies. We won’t be overwhelmed or distracted when we keep our eye on the prize: the fruit of the tree of life.

I struggle with this at times. I’m not the best at visualizing or imagining my success. I just think, “geez, I hope…” and then proceed with naivete. But the thing is, I realize that won’t be enough to get me to the tree of life. I want to partake of this fruit. It is the most difficult thing that any of us will ever do. It requires constant attention and effort. And, at this point in my life, I can see how we get burned out. I can see how, if we don’t have this vision in our hearts, then we can be overcome by the constant barrage of Satan’s temptations and distractions. We have to be able to envision this fruit if we want to someday experience it.

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What have you learned about Joy through the symbol of the fruit of the tree of life?