Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mormon 9

Moroni makes a fascinating statement in verse 14, indicating that when we are judged at that last day, “he that is happy shall be happy still; and he that is unhappy shall be unhappy still.”  Happiness is largely a choice here in mortality, and I certainly want to be happy in the next life, so what can I do to make sure I’m happy at the Day of Judgment?  Earlier in the Book of Mormon, Alma taught us a few things about happiness.  He taught us that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).  He also taught that we could suppose that those who “die in the faith of Christ are happy in him” (Alma 46:41).  So, if I shun wickedness and have faith in Christ, I can be happy now? If I choose to be, yes. 

Moroni goes further in qualifying the life of a serious Christian in verses 28 and 29, which if we can follow would certainly lead us to be happy.  Being as we are “free to choose eternal life” (see 2 Nephi 2:27) let’s choose happiness now by following this wise counsel of Moroni.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mormon 8

Moroni has to be the loneliest man in all scripture. “I am alone.  My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not,” he wrote in verse 5.   These aren't the last words he wrote, though.  His last words to us in this record were written about 40 years later.  Judging by the rest of the words he chose to add to the metal plates on which he was writing, and judging by how spiritual they are, it is clear to me that Moroni did have one Friend:  the Savior.  He chose the rest of what he wrote specifically for us.  “Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing” (v. 35).   Then in verses 36 – 40 he describes our day with great detail.  So, even being the last Nephite, Moroni was not entirely alone.  He relied on his Heavenly Friend.  When we feel lonely, may we remember to reach for that precious, wounded Hand that is always extended to us.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Mormon 7

Though these aren't the last words we’ll hear from Mormon, they are the last words he will engrave on the sacred record.  After making such an incredible spiritual abridgment covering such doctrine as justice and mercy, the existence of God, opposition in all things, revelation, conversion and the very visit of Christ to his ancestors, what profound doctrine does Mormon end his writings with?  The simplest, and most spiritual of all:  “Believe in Jesus Christ” he wrote.  “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus.”  He describes baptism as with water, then fire and the Holy Ghost (see v.   10).  He also encourages us to follow Christ’s example (v. 10) and to lay hold upon the gospel of Christ (v. 8).  This last bit is very important and I believe it includes our understanding the atonement of Christ well enough for it to sustain us through the discovery of our own weaknesses.  Let us have faith in Christ unto repentance, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, lay hold upon the gospel of Christ and follow “the example of our Savior” so that, as Mormon’s last words indicate, “it shall be well with [us] in the day of judgment” (v. 10).

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mormon 6

What pathos is found in Mormon’s lamenting over the fallen Nephite nation!  I like his reference to Christ “who stood with open arms to receive you” (v. 17).  Our Savior is very long-suffering with us, as He was with the Nephites.  He stands, waiting for us to ask, then He comes running to us.  Knowing this should not make us complacent in following Him, though.  Mormon’s lamentation shows us how risky it is to wait too long.  But even in this past-time, Mormon spoke of the Lord’s mercy in verse 22:  “The Eternal Father of Heaven knoweth your state; and he doeth with you according to his justice and mercy.”  Mormon eventually gave up on the Nephites.  Perhaps I'm wrong, but I just can’t imagine the Lord doing so.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mormon 5

In this chapter of war, we find the Nephites having so declined as a people, that their wickedness will now lead them to total destruction.  Even so, they had some military success when they gathered together in cities that were strongholds.  In cities where the Nephites weren't gathered, the Lamanites completely destroyed them. 

Family is one way of gathering to protect ourselves.  It is easier to destroy an individual than it is to destroy a group of mutually minded people.  Can we make our family a stronghold?  We can as much as we collectively allow ourselves to be led by our Shepherd (see v. 17).

Friday, December 26, 2014

Mormon 4

After successfully defending themselves twice (with the Lord’s help), the Nephites began to “boast in their own strength” and decided to wage an offensive war for the first time in their history (see Mormon 3:9-10).  Seeing that they had completely forgotten the Lord, Mormon refused to lead them any longer.  Chapter 4 records the result of the Nephites’ fighting entirely in their own strength, and Mormon describes it as a “horrible scene” in which the Nephites were defeated.  Within eight years of continual fighting and bloodshed, the forgetful Nephites had become the most wicked they had ever been (v. 12).

The Nephites made two mistakes here.  First, they waged an offensive war.  The bigger mistake was to not acknowledge the blessings of the Lord.  It was for this bigger mistake that the Lamanites were allowed to prevail.   I believe that, notwithstanding their wicked ways, had the Nephites turned to the Lord, they could have continued to progress as a people.

Let us not forget the Lord, but as Moroni will later teach us, let us remember His mercies toward us, and ponder them in our hearts (see Moroni 10:3).

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Mormon 3

In 350 AD the Nephites entered into a treaty with the Lamanites and divided the land between them.  The Nephites inherited the Northern part of the land and the Lamanites inherited the Southern part of the land, with a “narrow passage” between the two.  Ten years later the Lamanites decided to attack again.  (I've often wondered when, with all the battles Mormon led, he found time to abridge the sacred record he had obtained into what we know as the Book of Mormon.  This peaceful decade would certainly have provided him ample opportunity.)  The two armies spent a year preparing for battle and Mormon gathered his forces in the “narrow passage” of land which was the border between the two.  This was sound military strategy, for the Lamanites couldn't penetrate the border to fight. Neither could they a year later when they tried it again. 

We can follow Mormon’s strategy in our own battles against the influences of the adversary.  Let’s not admit him into our hearts or entertain his temptations.  Rather let’s cut him off at the pass as soon as he begins his attacks.  The Lord is at the head of our army, and He will prevail.  Let’s help Him to do so by following Him.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mormon 2

In this chapter Mormon obtains a portion of the sacred record that had been hidden for safekeeping by Ammoron (4 Nephi 1:48).  As a child Mormon had learned about things of the Spirit and had learned of Jesus Christ.  Being rather tall and husky, he began leading the Nephite armies at the age of only 15, where he had limited success.  Then at about the age of 33, being close enough to the hidden record, he went to the place Ammoron had indicated and retrieved them.  It is interesting to me that he made a full record of the Lord’s dealings with the people on the plates of Nephi, as commanded by Ammoron (v. 2), and then took it a step further.  He studied the plates of Nephi and Lehi, and the brass plates and abridged it all into a concise record for us to have.  Undoubtedly it was the Lord who inspired this project. 

It is obvious that Mormon took to heart what he was reading and applied it to his own life.  Look at verse 23: “And it came to pass that I did speak unto my people, and did urge them with great energy, that they would stand boldly before the Lamanites and fight for their wives, and their children, and their houses, and their homes.”  Doesn't that sound like Moroni’s Title of Liberty found in Alma 46:11-13?  And note that he named his own son Moroni, undoubtedly after the most inspiring military leader in the record.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mormon 1

Today we consider very young leaders throughout the scriptures.  In the Old Testament we read of the child Samuel in Eli’s charge at the tabernacle at Shiloh (see 1 Samuel 3).  In the New Testament we find 12-year-old Jesus amazing adult scholars in the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:46-47).  In the Pearl of Great Price there’s the story of 14-year-old Joseph Smith, Jr.’s prophetic calling.  This young man would translate the Book of Mormon.  And in the Book of Mormon we have young Mormon, who, at the age of 15 “was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus!” (See verse 15).  I wonder how much each of these young lads had in common?  For example, were they all “sober…and quick to observe (v. 2)?  The Lord employs those who will follow Him to lead His people.  In many cases we see youth being the leaders.  Often this happens when the righteous are hard to find.  In Mormon’s case, the three Nephite disciples who would not taste of death were removed from among the Nephites because of the wickedness of the people, leaving young Mormon to follow the Savior alone (v. 13).  Like Joseph Smith, Jr., Mormon had to wait a few years before obtaining the sacred writings that would help him bring so many people to Christ (v. 3).

Monday, December 22, 2014

4 Nephi

Watching Star Trek as a youth, I was always impressed by how peoples’ race and gender had no bearing upon their jobs on the Federation Star Ship Enterprise.  On that show, the earthlings were all part of the human race.  I long to see a day when people are always judged on their own merits without regard to their gender or the color of their skin.  The closest thing I've seen to it so far is the description of life among Lehi’s descendants 100 years after Christ was born. 

In 4 Nephi we read that there was no contention, “no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness” and this was possible “because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people” (verses 15 – 16). 
It goes on to further explain that “there were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there any Lamanites, nor any manner of –ites” (v. 17).  This was a people who judged others on their merits, and not on their backgrounds.  How could they do it?  They “were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God” (v. 17).

Having the love of God in our hearts and realizing we can be joint-heirs with Christ are key to overlooking differences.  If I live long enough, maybe I’ll see such a people, who, like these followers of Christ it can be said: “there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”

Sunday, December 21, 2014

3 Nephi 30

Chapter 30 contains words that Christ personally directed be included in the Book of Mormon.  It shows the infinite love of Christ toward all mankind.  By repenting and coming unto Him, and being baptized in His name, we will receive a remission of our sins and be filled with the Holy Ghost.  This invitation and promise are not reserved only for the pure in heart.  Because of His loving atonement, Christ is able to make this invitation and promise to people who are or who have been wicked, evil, liars and deceivers; to people who have committed whoredoms, or who have been involved in secret abominations, idolatries, murders, priestcrafts, envyings and strifes.  This is a message of great hope for anyone who has gone amiss, or who grieves over a loved one who has gone amiss.  Therefore, let us come unto this loving Savior and then dedicate our lives to bringing others as close to Him as they are willing to come.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

3 Nephi 29

Keeping our word is important.  Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ can be trusted to always keep their word.  We have proof of their honesty.  For centuries the Lord promised those who were keeping the Nephite record that it would come forth at a future time to bless their posterity with the knowledge of their forefathers’ testimony of Jesus Christ.  Verses 1 and 2 of this chapter repeat that promise.  And we’re told that when that happens, it will be evidence that His promise of the gathering of the House of Israel has begun to be fulfilled.  With that evidence, we can know that the Lord fulfills all His word. This promise came true when the Book of Mormon was published in 1830 among Gentiles first.  Since the Lord kept His promise about bringing forth the Book of Mormon, which we can hold in our hands, we can be sure he’ll keep all his other promises.  Let’s follow His example and keep our promises, too.

Friday, December 19, 2014

3 Nephi 28

When we seek a blessing of the Lord, let us be humble in our seeking and allow Him to bless us as He sees fit rather than as we see fit.  Often, the blessing the Lord has in mind for us is even greater than the blessing we seek.  In chapter 28 we see a good example of this.  Before leaving His followers in Bountiful, the Savior offered his 12 disciples a blessing of their choosing.  Three of them simply desired to “bring the souls of men unto [Him], while the world shall stand” (v. 9).  Notice that their desire wasn't self-serving.  It was a desire to serve others.  Christ not only blessed them that they would each live long enough to do as they asked, He blessed them with the greater blessing He wished to bestow: “ye shall never taste of death….but when I come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father.  And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world” (verses 7 – 9).  If we are worthy, we will be blessed.  If we are humble and allow the Lord to bless us as we see fit, we will be more blessed.  If we seek to serve others instead of ourselves, we will be more greatly blessed.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

3 Nephi 27

For centuries Christians have debated the merit of grace vs works.  This chapter gives us the Lord’s own commentary on works when He defines His gospel to the New World disciples (see verses 13 - 22).  Christ came to be crucified so that all men might be judged of their individual works.  Because of the justice of the Father (see verse 17) no one can be saved by their works, yet it is by our works that we will be judged.  As works cannot save us, we need the grace of Christ.  How do we obtain that?  We must repent and be baptized.  The Lord promised that if such a person “endureth to the end, behold him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world” (v. 16).  Notice that endurance to the end, which must include love and its resulting good works, does not render us guiltless.  Rather such endurance allows the Lord to apply His grace and to hold us guiltless when He judges us.  This is why He came here among us, to die sinless having first taken upon Him all our guilt, and then to live again to apply saving grace to His final judgment of us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

3 Nephi 26

Lest we forget how precious children are, we have 3 Nephi 26.  After being individually blessed by the Savior, then being surrounded by fire and ministered to by angels in chapter 25, a record of Jesus’ teaching to the Nephite and Lamanite children is found in this chapter (see verses 14 – 16).  The record shows that Jesus opened their mouths, even the mouths of babies, and they taught their parents even greater things than Jesus had taught.  What He taught them couldn't be written, it was so sacred.  The little children who heard King Benjamin’s speech back in the book of Mosiah didn't understand it, and within one generation, the people had rebellion among them, chiefly brought on by these same children, then grown.  But among this people, whose children were taught by Jesus Christ Himself, it would be 200 years before rebellion would come again.  Let us remember how precious our children are, and teach them about the Savior, Jesus Christ and His love for them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

3 Nephi 25

When the wicked are destroyed at the Lord’s Second Coming “it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (v. 1), or, you could say, without ancestry nor posterity.  But with some preparation, that curse can be avoided by individuals.  A few verses later, the way for genealogical research is established, indicating its importance.  “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.  And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (verses 5 – 6).

Family is that important!

Monday, December 15, 2014

3 Nephi 24

We usually read this chapter looking forward to the Lord’s Second Coming, to which it refers.  But how interesting it is to try to read it from the point of view of the Nephites and Lamanites who had just survived three days of the earth’s upheaval in total darkness!  At Jesus’ death entire cities had been sunk into the sea or buried in the earth while others had been burned.  The more righteous among them survived the tumults, and sometime after the earthquakes stopped and the light returned, some of them made their way to the temple in Bountiful, where they encountered the resurrected Jesus.  Imagine what they felt when reminded by Him of Isaiah’s words: “The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple.”  “Who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth?”  “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”  You know these people were aware that the Lord was able to fulfill these prophecies, for they had just lived through some of them.  And think of their joy at hearing things like this: “And they shall be mine…in that day when I make up my jewels; I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (v. 17).  Talk about likening the scriptures to yourself!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

3 Nephi 23

The Lord meant for all scripture that testified of Him to be made available for any who might seek Him.  During His visit to the Americas, He wanted the faithful people at Bountiful to understand the scriptures that testify of Him.  He asked Nephi to bring him the record that had been so carefully kept for 600 years.  In reviewing it, the Savior discovered a prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite concerning a sign of His death that Nephi had failed to record.  He asked Nephi to add that testimony to the record.  Then Christ “expounded all scriptures in one” (v. 14), or explained to the people all the scriptures they then had.  And finally, He gave them additional scripture from the Old World they didn't have access to, such as part of the Book of Malachi.  Thus armed these people were able to live in peace for nearly 200 years after Christ’s visit to them. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

3 Nephi 22

At a time when peace is constantly threatened, how wonderful it is to have the Book of Mormon account of the Savior’s commentary on Isaiah 54. One criticism often heard about the Book of Mormon is that so many chapters in it are devoted to war.  It’s been said that the Book of Mormon was written for our day, and ours, I’m afraid, is a day of war; wars between nations, wars between gangs, “wars” between family members and “wars” with our own shortcomings and temptations.  Perhaps we can find a way to cope with our tumultuous time by learning how the Lord worked with people in the tumultuous times of the Book of Mormon.   Even though the Savior’s teachings in 3 Nephi 22 were given in a day of peace to be followed by centuries of peace, the surviving Nephites and Lamanites had just suffered the most tumultuous days in the history of the earth to that time (in my opinion).  So knowing that war would eventually follow, the Lord reminded these people of Isaiah’s “heritage of the servants of the Lord” (see verse 17).  This teaching contained in verses 10 – 17 contains beautiful references to the Lord’s support and protection from any that seek to harm His followers.  Perhaps the most comforting of all is verse 13, which states: “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.”  The time is come to teach all of God’s children about the Lord, the Savior, Jesus Christ.  He is the Prince of Peace.  In Him is found peace.  He is our support and our refuge.  As we come to understand this our own peace will increase.   

Friday, December 12, 2014

3 Nephi 21

How the Lord knows men!  Throughout all scriptures can be found countless examples of “if the people do this, that will happen; but if the people do that, this will happen.”  This chapter contains Christ’s teaching about the latter-day Gentiles: if they accept the Book of Mormon things will go one way (verses 22 – 29), and if they don’t things will go another way (verses 11 – 21).  Verse 10 of this chapter illustrates how very well the Lord knows men.  It states “I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.”  The scripture cross-reference there takes us to the Doctrine & Covenants where the Lord tells the prophet Joseph Smith not to re-translate 116 pages of the Book of Mormon transcript he had lost (see D&C 10:43).  Without re-translating those pages, the information contained in them wasn’t even lost.  How?  1500 years earlier Mormon double-recorded on the gold plates what Nephi had double-recorded 800 years before that.  The 116 pages had come from Lehi’s writings that Nephi kept and which were passed down with the brass plates and the records the Nephites were keeping.  The portion we have at the beginning of the Book of Mormon are from Nephi’s account of the same things Lehi had written about. 

The Lord has always known men.  In the Garden of Eden, if the adversary thought he had destroyed the Father’s plan by convincing Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, he was mistaken.  The Father had already made plans for the Atonement of Jesus Christ to cover that transgression.  The Lord still knows men today.  We can take comfort in knowing that, as explained in D&C 3:1, the purposes of God cannot be frustrated.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

3 Nephi 20

Many Bible scholars over many centuries have faithfully studied and commented on every doctrine taught in that Holy Work.  In 3 Nephi 20, Jesus Christ, Himself, comments on the writings of Isaiah.  He does so in other places in the Book of Mormon, also, but here He comments specifically on Isaiah’s prophesies of the gathering of Israel found in Isaiah 52.  Generally speaking, the Savior teaches that when the prophesies of Isaiah are fulfilled, then will the Abrahamic Covenant be fulfilled.  Specifically, all kindreds of the earth shall be blessed through Abraham’s seed by the “pouring out of the Holy Ghost through [Christ] unto the Gentiles” (v. 27), and through the gathering of the House of Israel to the lands of their inheritance.  The “Jews” are to be gathered to Jerusalem (v. 33) once they receive the fullness of the gospel, believe in Christ and begin to pray to the father in His name (verses 29 – 33, etc.).  The “Nephites” are to be gathered to the New Jerusalem (v. 22), in the Western Hemisphere.  The part of the Abrahamic Covenant that deals with posterity is not specifically mentioned in this chapter, but through the gathering, it is implied.  How wonderful to have access to the Savior’s thoughts on a portion of the writings of Isaiah!    How incredible it must have been to listen to Him comment on the scriptures in the temple when He was twelve!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

3 Nephi 19

It is hard not to contrast the Savior’s experience in this chapter with His experience in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In both occasions He removed himself apart from His followers to pray alone, apart from them, but in their sight.  And in both instances He returned to His followers to again ask them to pray and to watch.  In Gethsemane, He found them asleep each of the three times He came back to them.  But not in Bountiful.  Each of the three times He came to them, they were still praying.  The disciples in Jerusalem were very tired.  It was after a meal and late at night.  No doubt that some of the disciples in Bountiful were also very tired, as surely some of them had been among the large group of people that had spent the night going from house to house to tell their neighbors of the Savior’s visit and invite them to the next day’s meeting with Him.  How lonely the Lord must have felt in Gethsemane, and what joy He must have felt in Bountiful!  The prayer He prayed in Gethsemane was to prepare Him for the ordeal to come as He completed His atoning sacrifice for the world.  But the prayer He prayed in Bountiful was more like the great Intercessory Prayer found in John 17 where He asked the Father’s greatest blessings upon His followers.  Both 3 Nephi 19 and John 17 are beautiful chapters.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

3 Nephi 18

Prayer is a powerful way to resist temptation and to bless others.  Prayer is like a silver bullet to the adversary’s plans.  In this chapter the Lord encourages us to 1) pray unto the Father in His name, 2) to pray in faith, 3) and to pray for those who seek the truth.  To let our light shine before the world, in verse 24 the Lord encourages us to follow His example, and to do the things we've seen Him do.  And the first of His examples we should follow is prayer.

Monday, December 8, 2014

3 Nephi 17

After preaching the Sermon on the Mount to the 2500 people Christ found at the temple in Bountiful, He explained to his listeners that it was time for Him to leave them until the next day.  Perceiving they couldn't understand all the incredible doctrine He had just taught them, He recommended that they go home, pray for understanding, and prepare to listen again the next day.  Before leaving, He “cast his eyes” on the multitude and understood they wanted Him to stay longer.  He did stay longer.  And in this first day’s encore Christ healed their sick, blessed their children, instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and gave twelve disciples the power to bestow upon people the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Undoubtedly the Savior would have done all these things eventually among these faithful people, but because He took note, they received these blessings earlier.  And because He took note, Jesus Himself was blessed with fullness of joy (see verses 20 – 21).

As we serve others may we follow Christ’s example to take the time to see, then be flexible enough to respond to the needs we recognize.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

3 Nephi 16

Because the House of Israel would reject the Savior, provisions were made to teach the gospel to the Gentiles through the Nephite record, that would one day become the Book of Mormon.  But in this chapter we see that ultimately the Gentiles will also reject Him, at which time the House of Israel will again be blessed.  Verse 13 contains the beautiful promise that “if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.”  Another beautiful verse is verse 6 which explains “blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father.”  So we see that the Gentiles would learn of and accept the Savior through the ministering of the Holy Ghost.  By following the Savior through the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and by coming to know Him more fully through what the Book of Mormon teaches about Him, we can rejoice in the Good News as described at the end of the chapter which quotes a few verses from Isaiah: “Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem” (v. 19).  Let us come to know the Savior more fully by doing His works and forgiving others with His forgiveness.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

3 Nephi 15

The Savior told the multitude that the Abrahamic Covenant hadn't been fulfilled yet, but that the Law of Moses had been fulfilled in His coming (see v. 8). He said, “Behold, I am the law and the light.  Look unto me and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life (v. 9).

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World.  When we are in darkness of any kind, we can look to His light for help.  In His Light is life.  When we are sad or depressed we can look to Christ and live.  His support is immediate.  His Light rekindles our lives.  And if we endure to the end, He promises us Eternal Life.

Friday, December 5, 2014

3 Nephi 14

The Joseph Smith translation of Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount that Christ taught in the Western Hemisphere doesn't tell us not to judge, but not to judge unrighteously (see JST Matthew 7:1).  That seems to fit when you consider the remainder of this chapter, which teaches us how to judge righteously.
  1. We will be judged in the same way we judge others (v. 2).
  2. We should clean up our own problems before trying to help others with theirs (verses 3 - 5).
  3. We shouldn't cast pearls before swine (v. 6).
  4. Ask, seek, knock (verses 7 – 11).
  5. Do unto others as we would have them do to us (v. 12).
  6. We can tell which the strait gate is because hardly anyone is there (verses 13 – 14).
  7. By their fruits we shall know them (verses 15 – 20).
  8. They who do God’s will are the ones who will enter the kingdom of Heaven (verses 21 – 23).

The Lord ends this most incredible of sermons with encouragement to live our lives by the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, for that is the way we build ourselves on the strongest foundation.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

3 Nephi 13

Repeating His teachings to His followers in the New World, verses 22 and 23 speak of light in our eyes, and how if our eyes are single (to the Glory of God, according to D&C 88:67) then our bodies will be filled with light.  These verses are sandwiched between verses that speak of treasure and verses that speak of serving God instead of Mammon (see verses 19 – 24).  The placement of the verses about light indicate perhaps that the correct attitude and use of money can be a way to keep our eyes single to God.  As to what the correct attitude and use of money might be, see verse 24 which states “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

3 Nephi 12

After the Savior called and gave authority to baptize to twelve New World disciples, He addressed the multitude saying, “Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of the twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you and to be your servants” (v. 1).  These followers wouldn't have access to the teaching and writings that the Apostles in Jerusalem and Galilee gave.  How wonderful that He called twelve special men to lead the New World people in His absence. 

Not only do we have access to the words of some of the Lord’s Apostles and to some of those recorded by His Disciples in the Book of Mormon, but in our day there are another twelve men whose words we can heed.  Twice a year at our General Conferences, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the privilege of current teachings of modern-day Apostles and Prophets.  Blessed are we if we give heed to the words of all those whom the Lord has chosen, regardless of when or where He did so.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

3 Nephi 11

After Christ’s visit to the Nephites and Lamanites in the Americas, the people lived in peace for 200 years.  When He appeared to them, they all fell to the earth to worship Him.  Christ said to them, “Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world” (v. 14).  Some people don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth rose again after His death.  Some say His body was stolen and hidden away.  Others say He faked His death.  In the verse just quoted the resurrected Christ testified that he had been “slain for the sins of the world.”   Twenty-five hundred people came forward and felt His wounds and learned for themselves that He was speaking the truth.  He then gave a handful of men the authority to baptize and gave an explanation of His doctrine (verses 31 – 34).  He also taught the Sermon on the Mount.  These experiences combined with the miracles of the next few days to even more people had an impact so great as to cause peace for 200 years.  It makes me wonder, what greater things will occur at the Second Coming to allow those survivors to live in peace for 1,000 years?

Monday, December 1, 2014

3 Nephi 10

3 Nephi 10

The Lord’s patience is manifest when of the Nephites and Lamanites who survived the calamities and darkness that were the sign of the death of the Savior He asks, “how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings…” (v. 4), and “how oft would I have gathered you…” (v. 5), and “how oft will I gather you…if you will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart” (v. 6).  Let us follow the Lord’s example, and extend mercy often to those whom we love.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

3 Nephi 9

Over and over again we read in the Book of Mormon about Lamanites who joined the Church and never fell away.  How did they manage it?  Surely an understanding of the Savior’s forgiveness and acceptance would have gone a long way to help them achieve this record.  Their change of lifestyle would have certainly contributed.  Not only did they change from warriors to farmers, but they also moved, in many cases, from their homes and, one could assume, their former acquaintance to begin new, different lives afresh. 
But I think there is something more particular that happened with the Lamanites that allowed them to be so fully converted, and that thing, I think, is explained by the Lord Himself in verse 20, where He discloses that, at the time of their baptism, the Lamanites had also been baptized with the Holy Ghost, but had not known it.   Interesting it is that the Lamanites received the companionship of the Holy Ghost prior to the death of the Savior.  Christ explained to His Old World disciples that the Holy Ghost would accompany the faithful in the absence of the Savior’s presence (see John 16:7).  Maybe it was because these New World followers were so distant from where Jesus served His ministry that the Holy Ghost accompanied them .  Whatever the reason, it appears the Holy Ghost has inspired people throughout the history of the world.

Having the companionship of the Holy Ghost gives one great advantage in trying to endure to the end.  There is no greater example of this truth than the faithfulness of the Lamanites.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

3 Nephi 8

Thirty-eight years before the events of this Chapter, Samuel the Lamanite had predicted in great detail the calamities that would happen in the New World at the crucifixion of the Savior.  3 Nephi 8 describes in great detail how these calamities actually happened, showing that the Lord keeps His word even to the most minute detail.  How faithful is the Lord!  Not only in this example, but in all His words He is completely reliable.

Friday, November 28, 2014

3 Nephi 7

During the time of the ministry of Jesus in the Old World, and during a time of great political upheaval and spiritual darkness among the Nephites in the New World, there arose a prophet we tend to overlook. This Nephi (we've now seen four men of this name) must have been an incredible person!  He began keeping the Nephite record upon receipt of the plates from his father, about the time Jesus was born.  We don’t really hear much about him again until 30 years later, when he begins testifying boldly of Jesus Christ.  In the name of Jesus, Nephi performed miracles similar to those being performed at that time by Jesus and His disciples half a world away.  Nephi even raised his brother from the dead.  The people, in their wickedness, were very angry with Nephi because he was more powerful than they were.  Verse 18 tells us that so great was Nephi’s “faith on the Lord Jesus Christ that angels did minister to him daily.”   These administrations had given him power “that he might know concerning the ministry of Christ” (v. 15).  With this faith and his testimony Nephi taught in such a way that it was “not possible that [his listeners] could disbelieve his words” (v. 18).  This powerful instrument of the Lord re-established and rebuilt the Church during the three years’ of Jesus’ mortal ministry.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

3 Nephi 6

When the people willfully sinned against God, prophets were inspired to go among them and preach.  Of all the religious topics they could have chosen to preach, these prophets preached of the upcoming atonement (death and resurrection) of Jesus Christ.  This preaching must have had pretty good effect, for certain judges secretly – and illegally – had these prophets put to death.  

The doctrine of the atonement is the biggest gun a Christian has!  We should focus on it more as we combat the evils in our lives.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

3 Nephi 5

The Nephites had been fully converted.  They all believed that Christ had been born, according to the sign given of His birth, and that all other prophesy would be fulfilled.  They had conquered the Gadianton Robbers, and their faith had caused them to repent and “serve God with all diligence day and night” (v. 3).  The Nephites imprisoned the surviving Robbers and preached the gospel to them.  Those who repented and covenanted were set free.  Those who weren't converted were somehow dealt with, and “thus they did put an end to all those wicked, and secret, and abominable combinations” (v. 6).

How I wish our faith would lead us to serve God diligently and repent in such a fashion that we could “imprison” our sins and shortcomings until we had conquered them or made them strengths, and otherwise dealt with them.  Then we could put an end to the sins and weaknesses that cause us so much suffering.  How do we imprison our sins?  Turning to God goes a long way, for as James wrote, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

3 Nephi 4

When the attacking, and powerful Gadianton Robbers found the Nephites prostrate on the ground instead of on their feet to fight them, the Robbers took heart and attacked with confidence an army they thought feared them.  But these gathered and prepared Nephites weren't cowering in fear, they were praying for protection.  With that prayer they met the attacking army “in the strength of the Lord” (v. 10).  The Nephites prevailed in the battle, and they knew it wasn't their doing that gave them the victory, but the protection of God because of their repentance and humility (v. 33).

We can meet each day in the strength of the Lord if we are similarly repentant (not perfect, notice), humble, gathered and prepared.  Let us follow this excellent example of the Nephites and get our lives in order (prepare), surround ourselves with a worthy support group (gather), be repentant and humble, and begin our day in supplication to the Lord for protection.

Monday, November 24, 2014

3 Nephi 3

To offset Chapter 2’s formula for failure, Chapter 3 gives us a formula for success!  Again, the Gadianton Robbers can be representative of the adversary.  The success formula is this:  1) Call upon the Lord for strength, 2) Gather or join with good friends, 3) Fortify ourselves by living the commandments, and 4) Guard against attack by not getting distracted by things that lead us away from the Lord.  It worked for the faithful Nephites and Lamanites.  It will work for us as well:  Pray, Gather, Fortify and Guard.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

3 Nephi 2

It almost seems incredible that the adversary would be able to convince anyone, let alone so many of the people, that the incredible sign of Christ’s birth was some sort of trick not to be believed.  How could that happen?  Well, it took three years to whittle away at the peoples’ belief in the first place.  Secondly, “the people began to wax strong in wickedness and abominations.”  And third, remember those younger ones, who two years previously began to become “for themselves?” 

Twelve years after the amazing sign of the Savior’s birth, the Gadianton robbers were such a threat to the believers that the people “were in a state of many afflictions, and the sword of destruction did hang over them, insomuch that they were about to be smitten down by it” (v. 19).  It’s another formula for failure:  1) Disbelieve Christ, 2) Wax strong in wickedness and abominations, which leads us to 3) contentions and dissensions. 

Unfortunately, while thus distracted, the Nephites were about to be taken over.  While similarly distracted the adversary can take us over.  The solution?  Go for the first problem: strengthen our faith in Christ.  With that kind of focus, we won’t be so distracted that the adversary can overtake us.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

3 Nephi 1

After the sign of the birth of the Savior had been given, it was more difficult for the adversary to lead the people astray, but he did have some success among the children of the Lamanites as they grew up and “became for themselves” (v. 29).  Wouldn't it be wonderful if, as they grow up, we could teach our children to “become for Christ” instead of for themselves?  Church service, such as serving a full-time mission, helps us to do so.  Let’s help the young men and the young women who will be influenced by us to “become for Christ” before they go out on their own.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Helaman 16

Interesting!  Satan hardened the hearts of the more wicked part of the Nephites, then persuaded them to argue that the prophesied upcoming signs and miracles would be worked “by the cunning and the mysterious arts of the evil one” to “keep us down…and…in ignorance” (see v. 21). Thus are the limitations of those who “depend upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom: (v. 15).
The truth is that faith in Jesus Christ release us from bondage and expands our knowledge.  No wonder the adversary desires to keep us from faith in the Savior.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Helaman 15

This chapter demonstrates the fairness of the Lord as our judge.  Traditionally the Lamanites had not been supported by the Lord because of their wicked deeds, while the Nephites had been loved of the Lord because, in the beginning, they followed Him.  But when the Lamanites became converted through the preaching of the Nephites, they became permanently converted and would not be turned away.  Therefore, in the final judgment, the Lord will take into consideration where people began when He judges them.  Realizing that the Lamanites’ wickedness came about through false teaching, He will judge them accordingly.  Whereas the Nephites’ wickedness will be judged more harshly because they were taught the truth from the beginning.  This chapter is further evidence of the Savior’s teaching that to whom much is given, much is required (see Luke 12:48).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Helaman 14

In verse 13 Samuel the Lamanite explains to the Nephites that it is through Christ’s merits that we receive a remission of our sins.  We've already seen that phrase several times in the Book of Mormon.  What are Christ’s “merits?”  If you follow the footnote in Helaman 13 to D&C 19:16 it looks to me like Christ’s “merits” may be His atoning sacrifice.  Perhaps it isn’t our Savior’s love that redeemed us, but rather what that love led Him to do for us that redeemed us.

In scouting the boys and girls receive merit badges, not for their intentions, but for their accomplishments.  When the merit badges are displayed we can recognize the various accomplishments of the individual scouts.  Does the Savior have merit badges?  Yes.  They are in His hands, and His feet, and His side.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Helaman 13

I like the drive and the creativity displayed by Samuel the Lamanite as he strove to complete the assignment given him by the Lord.  Samuel preached as a missionary “many days” in the land of Zarahemla before the people simply cast him out of their city.  As he was headed home, “the voice of the Lord” told him to return to Zarahemla and preach whatever the Lord put into his mouth.  Samuel obeyed.  And when he couldn't gain entrance to the city of Zarahemla did he start home again and tell the Lord “I tried?”  No, he was determined to obey, and it led him to find another way to fulfill the assignment.  Samuel didn't stop until he had preached an incredible sermon.  He had to climb to the top of the city wall, but he did it.  And afterwards he did leave, never to return, but he left in peace knowing he’d accomplished what the Lord had sent him to do.  May we be equally tenacious in our assignments from the Lord.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Helaman 12

Very sad, but true it is, that people tend to put the Lord on the back burner until we need Him.  When we’re satisfied and all is going to suit us, we sometimes have to make a conscious effort to remember the Lord, from whom all our blessings come.  Yet when we suffer afflictions, such as death or terror, or famine or pestilence, we’re more quick to call on His name (see verse 3).  Well did Helaman call us foolish and vain for this (verse 4).  Everything else on the Earth, even down to the very dust, hearkens to the Lord readily, Helaman tells us.  It is man, with all his freedom, that goes his own way and doesn't give the Lord His due.  Why do we require such drastic measures as a society before we rally together to call on the Lord?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Helaman 11

In verses 10 – 16 we find an example of prayer that shows Nephi working things out with the Lord.  He a) makes a case, b) makes a request, c) expresses faith and then d) repeats the case.  “The people have repented” he states in verse 10, then he describes their repentance to a God who already knows about it.  In verses 11 – 13 he makes the request: “Turn away thine anger; send rain.”  Verse 14 declares his faith: “Thou listened to me before, Thou wilt listen to me now.”  Then in verses 15 – 16 Nephi repeats his case: “The people have repented; please turn away thine anger.”

Note the language Nephi uses to express his faith in verse 14.  It indicates someone comfortable with the Lord.  May we learn from Nephi’s example and become that comfortable with the Lord!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Helaman 10

Why do we beat ourselves up for the things we don’t get done and forget all about what we have been able to accomplish?  The Lord blessed Nephi for the things he had done (see verses 4-5) without mentioning any of the things Nephi hadn't gotten to yet.  We simply cannot do everything.  But we can focus on the things of greatest priority (realizing that the priorities will change from time to time), and be confident the Lord will bless us along the journey.  How can we hear the Lord’s whisperings of acceptance when we’re so busy beating ourselves up?  We can’t.  Let’s trust in the atonement and accept ourselves with our limitations.  Let’s realize the Lord loves us as we are now.  He’s not waiting until we cross a certain threshold of achievement before He loves us.  He loves us regardless of how we feel about ourselves.  Let’s let Him love and bless us.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Helaman 9

In chapter 8 Nephi had explained that the people could believe that Christ would come as Jeremiah, among others, had prophesied because other things he had prophesied had clearly come true (Helaman 8:20-21).  Upon Nephi’s prediction that the chief judge had been murdered, five men in the audience were sent to verify if it was so.  These five men didn’t believe Christ would come, despite what Jeremiah had prophesied.  Still they used Nephi’s reasoning on their way to confirm his claim of the chief judge’s death. “If the chief judge is dead, we’ll believe everything else Nephi has said.” Finding the murdered chief judge, they believed.  Their belief was solid, too, as they later effectively confounded the judges who sought to arrest Nephi (see verse 18).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Helaman 8

Speaking of the prophets of old, Nephi testified that Christ “is God, and he is with them, and he did manifest himself unto them, that they were redeemed by him, and they gave unto him glory, because of that which is to come” (v. 23).  We have records of physical manifestations to some of the prophets, such as the brother of Jared (in the book of Ether) and Moses, but to most of them the Lord’s manifestation was different.  His voice and His influence were with them and they knew Him as our Redeemer.  They all gave glory to Him for the redemption that was to come (from their historical perspective), which redemption was the atonement.

The Lord manifests Himself to us today through His Holy Spirit as we seek to do His will.  His redemption is real.  He deserves the glory the prophets have given Him.  We should also give Him glory.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Helaman 7

Because they had become so wicked, the Lord withdrew His support of the Nephites and left them to fight in their own strength.  Even so, in verse 23 He explained that they could receive His strength again if they would repent of their sins and hearken unto His words.  To hearken to the Lord’s words indicates more than merely hearing the Lord speak to us through scripture, the still, small voice, etc.   To hearken indicates following the Lord’s suggestions.  The promise to the reader here appears to be that if we will hearken to the words of the Lord, He will give us the strength to obey them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Helaman 6

This chapter shows an interesting study.  After peace was declared between the Nephites and Lamanites and both nations became followers of Christ, the tables turned and the Lamanites began preaching the gospel to the Nephites.  Both nations became prosperous, and without the threat of war between them, they began to “seek to increase their riches above each other” (v. 17).  Enter again the secret combinations of murder.  The converted Lamanites used every means available to them to destroy this new batch of Gadianton robbers, but the Nephites supported them until they obtained “the sole management of the government” (v. 39).  About this note two things: 1) the Nephites’ downfall happened very quickly, in about a year’s time, and 2) the Lamanites “utterly destroyed” the Gadianton robbers, not by war, treachery or revenge, but by preaching “the word of God among the more wicked part of them” (v. 37).

Monday, November 10, 2014

Helaman 5

The amazing story in this chapter teaches us, among other things, the power of prayer to disburse darkness.  Overshadowed by a literal cloud of darkness, Aminadab explained to his fellow Nephite dissenters that if they would pray, the darkness would go away.  And it did (see verses 40 – 43).  In addition to actual darkness, prayer has the power to dispel other kinds of darkness, such as doubt, fear, disbelief and confusion.  After reading in the Book of Mormon for a while, a young friend of mine who didn't believe any God existed, decided to ask Him if He did.  On a cold February day, while sitting in an open window seat, she prayed and asked Heavenly Father if he existed.  She described a penetrating warmth that filled her entire body and stayed with her for about a half hour.  During that time, she didn't feel the coldness of the air coming in through the window next to her.  When the feeling of warmth left her, she no longer wondered, she knew there was a God and that He loved her.  As prayer disbursed her darkness of disbelief, let us remember to pray and allow the Light of Christ to do away with our darkness, whatever it may be.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Helaman 4

This chapter gives a great formula for failure:
  1. Pride over riches
  2. Oppression to the poor beginning with

a. Not helping them, then
b. Actually harming them
      3.  Mocking sacred things
      4.  Murder
      5.  Plunder
      6.  Lying
      7.  Stealing
      8.  Committing adultery
      9.  Rising up in contention.

Find an individual or a society like this, and you have found an individual or a society whose path is pointed straight for failure.  So, if this is a formula for failure, what’s a formula for success?
  1. Humility
  2. Find strength in the Savior
  3. Seek and follow His will.  Remember what Paul wrote: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:13).

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Helaman 3

In verses 29 and 30 of this chapter we’re taught by Mormon that the word of God can lead the man of Christ to dwell with God in the kingdom of heaven.  I think verse 35 gives us an idea of what is required to become a man – or a woman, or a child – of Christ.  In addition to scripture study, we see that humility is required.  That apparently is developed through coupling fasting with prayer, which increases faith, fills one’s soul with joy and consolation, and purifies and sanctifies one’s heart.  Look for one whose faith gives them joy, and you may have found a man, or woman, or child of Christ.  Let us allow prayer and fasting to strengthen our humility and faith so that we may find joy and solace from the Savior of mankind.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Helaman 2

Over the centuries the secret band of murderers had worked under varying leaders, but it is known by the name of only one of them: Gadianton.  We are told he became the leader because he was “exceedingly expert in many words” and exceedingly expert in his craft, which was “to carry on the secret work of murder and of robbery” (v. 4).  Today in our world leaders are sometimes chosen because of their experience and background; sometimes because of their beauty or charisma; and sometimes simply because of the political party that backs them.  The Lord has His own way of choosing leaders.  Sometimes the leaders He chooses do possess solid experience, and have already proven their ability to lead (President Gordon B. Hinckley, for example).  He more often chooses a leader for the talents they can develop and their willingness to be led by Him (President Gordon B. Hinckley, for example).  Many times the followers are completely surprised at the selection of a leader, often no more so than the chosen leader himself or herself.  A word of advice to leaders:  Don’t spend valuable time wondering why you were chosen.  Trust the Lord and seek His will.  Do that, and let everything else take care of itself.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Helaman 1

Here’s another example of the vital importance of freedom.  When Paanchi was “about to flatter away the people” in rebellion against their brethren, he was arrested, tried and condemned to death. He hadn't even gathered an army yet, but he was still executed “for he had sought to destroy the liberty of the people” (v. 8).  Breach of freedom was a capital offense in Nephite law.  How important is freedom to you and me?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Alma 63

Verse 12 states that the writings on the gold plates were published throughout the land while Helaman, Jr. had possession of them.  This appears to have happened after large numbers of Nephites migrated to the north and to the sea.  Those who remained in Zarahemla and its vicinity, which is where the rest of our story will take place, would have had access to at least as much of the Book of Mormon as we have now read.  We will see a great conversion of the Lamanites in the chapters to come.  Did access to the writings of these prophets in the Western Hemisphere make that missionary work easier?  We will also see a great wickedness among the Nephites to whom these writings were published.  How vital it must  be to study the scriptures we have!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Alma 62

After about thirteen years of war with the Lamanites this go-around, Moroni discovered a problem that was hampering the Nephite government.  Happy that the problem wasn't with the government itself, Moroni moved swiftly to resolve the internal problem that had stopped the flow of sorely-needed resources to the armies.  Once the internal problem was resolved, the Nephite army was able to successfully end this long, long war.  The Nephites ended the war by using the new resources to re-take one city at a time.  This reminds me a little of trying to get out of debt.  We will always have a need to provide for ourselves housing and transportation, food and clothing.  It’s when we add the “internal problem” of credit card and other revolving and installment debt that our resources become strained, and our battle against debt can be as long and hard as this terrible war was.  One way out is to “leave Lehi and Teancum in charge of what we have control over” (that is, continue making regular payments on housing, transportation, etc.) and focus on our revolving debt one account at a time. Once all of that is gone, we have the resources we need to deal with other little problems that come up.  Let’s attack our debt as methodically and with the kind of fervor Moroni displayed.  Then perhaps we, like he, can end our days in peace.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Alma 61

In verse 14 we find this counsel from Governor Pahoran to Moroni:  “Let us resist evil…that we may retain our freedom.”  Some people feel that the commandments of God are restrictive, and that following one’s own desires makes a person free.  But succumbing to evil causes us to lose a portion of our freedom, for we then become subject to the consequences of evil.   An effective way to resist evil is to choose the right, instead.  When we choose good, we become subject to the consequences of good.  The consequences of evil shackle us by limiting our future choices.  (Fortunately, thanks to the atonement of Jesus Christ, those shackles can be removed!)  The consequences of good, on the other hand, build on our freedom by opening up our choices.  So, let us resist evil, as Pahoran said, by choosing the right and retaining our freedom.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Alma 60

This chapter contains a very comforting scripture in verse 13 that helps me not blame the Lord when I see terrible things happen to good people.  It reads, “For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God.”  Elder David W. Patten, the first apostle in this dispensation to be martyred, understood this concept.  As he lay dying he recommended that his loved ones not cry for him, but instead to cry for those who had apostatized from the Church.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Alma 59

After reading Helaman’s letter, Moroni was joyful because of the success Helaman described in his arena of the war, but sorrowful because of the extra struggle the reduced numbers were causing his part of the army.  Moroni did two things in this chapter that merit note.  First he spread the good news to everyone “that they might rejoice also” (v. 2).  What a great idea, for amidst a struggle, any boost is a welcome relief, “the pause that refreshes,” so to speak.    Moroni did what he could to help his army cope.  The second noteworthy thing he did was to respond to Helaman’s expressed need.  And verse 3 tells us that Moroni’s response time was “immediate.”  What a good example!  How often do we treat the needs of others as an item on our To Do List?  Unable to leave where he was to go to Helaman’s aid, Moroni did what he could, and that was send a letter to the government asking that their resources be employed in helping Helaman’s army.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Alma 58

How good is the Lord to us?  I don’t think we could measure His goodness, but the scriptures are full of snippets that help us to understand it to a degree.  In Helaman’s letter to Moroni, he described a situation that was desperate with the odds really stacked against his soldiers.  The government had delayed in sending further provisions to the struggling men.  As they waited, the army “did pour out [their] souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen [them] and deliver [them] out of the hands of their enemies” (v. 10).  And now, observe the Lord’s goodness in verse 11: “the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.” 

Peace during war!  The Lord is very good to us!  Many times in our lives it is necessary for us to wait.  Helaman’s example shows us that, for the asking, the Lord is willing to help us through those waiting periods.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Alma 57

This chapter shows the astonishing preservation of Helaman’s young warriors.  In a battle where thousands of Nephite soldiers are killed, none of Helaman’s 2,060 novice fighters are.  Helaman tells Moroni it is because of their faith.  What had they been taught by their mothers (who are the ones credited with teaching them)?  They had been taught to believe that there is a “just God, and whosoever [does] not doubt…should be preserved by his marvelous power” (see v. 26).  Helaman said it was their faith in that belief that caused God to preserve them.  In this chapter we are shown a lot about that faith and how these young men exercised it.
  1. They fought most desperately
  2. They were firm and undaunted
  3. They obeyed and performed every word of command with exactness.  (See verses 9 -21).

How were these young men able to express their faith in this way?  Verse 27 indicates that
  1. They were young – generally speaking, it’s during our youth that we take the greatest risks (daredevil attempts, and not so conservative when investing savings are two examples of young risk-taking)
  2. Their minds were firm – that is, they had a clear and confident understanding of the gospel, and
  3. They put their trust in God continually – this is the most important in the list.

Just imagine the miracles the Lord could work through us if we were confident of His will for us, were courageous enough to do that will, and completely trusted that the Lord would uphold His end of the bargain!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alma 56

Back a couple of chapters when Moroni tried to negotiate a prisoner exchange that include the captured family of a soldier, I assumed these civilians had been captured from their homes.  In reading this chapter, I’m not so sure.  In Helaman’s letter to Moroni he explains that Zarahemla sent 2000 soldiers to be added to Antipus’ force, and that they brought provisions with them for the soldiers, “their wives and their children” (v. 28).  This would indicate that these Nephite families accompanied their fighting men.  What an interesting concept to have civilians so close to the battle!  In our armies, when a soldier is stationed at a particular base, his or her family can be housed on that base.  It appears the Nephites may have used a similar system.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Alma 55

The thought of the Nephites on the offensive makes me a little nervous, because of the danger of that turning into a lust for power and goods.  But never fear!  Moroni is here!  Though he says in verse 3 “I will seek death among them…” he qualifies the threat with “…until they shall sue for peace.”  That he puts the peoples’ safety above his own ego is shown in a couple of places in this chapter.  First, he doesn't charge right out to attack the Lamanites, but spends a year using clever strategies to strengthen his army first.  Then, when it would have been really easy to kill the Lamanite guards when they were down and out drunk, he wouldn't, for “Moroni…did not delight in murder or bloodshed, but delighted in the saving of his people from destruction, and for this cause he might not bring upon them injustice, he would not fall upon the Lamanites and destroy them in their drunkenness” (v. 10).

Monday, October 27, 2014

Alma 54

There are some very interesting departures from the norm in this chapter. 
  1. Moroni and the leader of the Lamanites negotiate the exchange of prisoners.
  2. Moroni brings religion into the conversation, which is odd, until you remember that Ammon isn't a Lamanite by birth, but a Nephite dissenter.  As a matter of fact, in verse 24 Ammon declares that despite his ancestry, “behold now, I am a bold Lamanite.”
  3. Moroni has always trusted the Lamanites when they make an oath to him to stop fighting.  He would stop fighting them and let them go in peace.  Not this time.  In this chapter Moroni basically tells Ammon to stop fighting, or be annihilated.  Why?  It’s explained in verse 8 where Moroni states: “as ye have once rejected these things, and have fought against the people of the Lord, even so I may expect you will do it again.”
  4. For the first time, we see the Nephites preparing to go on the offensive.
These are all adjustments in policy that were necessary due to it being a very dangerous time for the Nephite army.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Alma 53

After the Nephites’ great victory in ejecting their enemies completely from their lands, we see Moroni redoubling efforts to strengthen their cities in preparation for future battles.  Do we do those daily things required to fortify ourselves against the constant attacks of the adversary?  Later, the Lamanites again gained some ground over the Nephites because of another round of internal intrigues and dissensions among them.  Let us watch ourselves internally, and see to those daily strengthenings we need such as prayer and scripture study.  Such simple things, but so very, very important.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Alma 52

This chapter sees the Nephites attached by the Lamanites on several fronts.  In verse 9 Moroni, leading the fight in one sector, asked Teancum, the leader of another sector, to fortify the city of Bountiful and secure an important narrow pass so the Lamanites wouldn't be able to “harass them on every side.”  In our own personal struggles, we can learn good strategy in this.  Each of us has some area of our lives in which we do better than in other areas.  Let us not forget to “fortify” that area as we battle in others.  It’s not a bad idea, when we’re feeling close to defeat, to look at the things we’re doing right.  Taking note of our successes is one step in overcoming discouragement, thus preventing our enemy, whatever that is, from being able to “harass [us] on every side.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

Alma 51

It’s very tough to balance all the things we need to do so that each gets the proper amount of attention.  In this chapter we see Moroni’s struggle to correctly balance, with success.  When a rebellion broke out among his own people, Moroni had to pull resources being used to fortify cities and redirect them to countering the rebellion.  No sooner had his army succeeded in stopping the rebellion, than Amalikiah’s forces attacked and overtook some of the necessarily weakened Nephite cities.  But righteous Moroni had been wise in what he chose to attend to.  Had he not squelched the rebellion when he did, the Lamanites still would have attacked and he’d have been fighting two battles at once.  Those dissenters from the rebellion that were not killed or captured were compelled to take up arms to defend their country.  Verse 21 tells us they fought “valiantly for their freedom from bondage.”  Moroni didn't have the advantage of hindsight that we who read the Book of Mormon do.  He didn't know at the time how his shift in focus would turn out.

So when the struggle to juggle starts to get to us, let’s take heart.  It’s an age-old dilemma that people great and small have had to tackle.  Fortunately for us we have the faith-filled example of Moroni.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Alma 50

After winning another big battle, Moroni didn't let his armies rest.  He diligently fortified his cities during the lull, while at the same time conducting smaller battles to eradicate all Lamanites from within Nephite borders.  How often do we, while feeling secure, allow ourselves to let down our guard?  Perhaps the best time to strengthen our spiritual fortifications is when we feel most spiritual.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Alma 49

Alma 49

When the Lamanites, because of an oath they’d taken, were forced to attack the heavily fortified city of Noah, the slaughter among them was huge.  In verse 22 we read that the Lamanites began tearing down the banks of the earth to try and open a pass “that they might have an equal chance to fight.”  When we’re following God’s commandments we’re fortifying ourselves against attack by our adversary.  He tries to wear us down because he knows what will happen if he can get us on our own without the Lord’s protection.  Trust me when I say that we do not want to be on an equal footing with him!  Let us keep up our defenses and fortify ourselves in righteousness.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Alma 48

While Amalickiah was stirring the Lamanites up to severe anger against the Nephites, Moroni was also preparing his people.  Not only did he fortify the Nephite cities, he prepared “the minds of the people to be faithful to the Lord their God” (v. 7).  As a matter of fact, under Moroni’s leadership and Helaman’s preaching, the Nephites had so humbled themselves that we read that they were “highly favored of the Lord” (v. 20).  In verses 11 – 16 we find a recipe for preparing our minds and those of our loved ones to be faithful to the Lord.  We need a perfect understanding, a joy in liberty and freedom, a firm faith in Christ and a trust in His powers of delivery.  This is how hearts are fortified against evil (v. 17).

Monday, October 20, 2014

Alma 47

This chapter contains one of the most incredible stories of fraud imaginable.  It stars Amalikiah, a Nephite who knew all the teachings of Helaman and his brethren.  He knew about Christ and he knew the concept of freedom.  Being rich, he was also greedy for power.  First he thought he could destroy the free government of the Nephites to get his power.  Failing at that, he joined the Lamanites and deceived his way into becoming their King.  Amalikiah then incited the Lamanites to go to war against the Nephites.  With disaffected Nephites at their head, the Lamanites finally had a good chance to defeat their enemies.  They were being led by leaders more hardened and impenitent, more wild, wicked and ferocious than they’d ever known.  These Nephite dissenters were cut off from the Lord.  That means they were fighting and leading entirely on their own power.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Alma 46

Amalikiah, a very charismatic leader, wanted to destroy free government.  Captain Moroni realized that it was liberty that was at stake, and he raised the Title of Liberty and people flocked to the cause.  It is interesting to me that Moroni was considered to be a very righteous man (see Alma 48:17) even though he sought the death of Amalikiah.  Liberty, it seems, is that important to God’s Plan of Salvation.  Let us, as Moroni encouraged his people (v. 27), stand fast in the faith of Christ to preserve our own important liberty from the ultimate captor, sin.

Click here to see an artist's rendition of Captain Moroni raising the Title of Liberty.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Alma 45

As much as we would like to intervene on behalf of a wayward family member to bring them around, it just doesn't work that way.  The Lord has to intervene to affect that kind of change.  Alma the Younger is a spectacular example of this.  Here is a young man, brought around through divine intervention itself (which came as a result of parental and congregational prayer on his behalf).  The young man turns himself around and is forever faithful afterward.  So faithful, in fact, that it appears he may have been translated instead of buried (see verse 19).   Hang onto hope and never give up on a wayward loved one.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Alma 44

A few chapters back we learned that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).  In this chapter, Captain Moroni defines for us what happiness is, using the fascinating phrase, “the maintenance of the sacred word of God.”  Or in other words, keeping God’s commandments.

When we purchase an automobile, it usually comes with an owner’s manual.   Inside the owner’s manual we can find a maintenance schedule that tells when we should have certain components of vehicle checked, serviced or replaced to keep it running at its best.  Sacred writings are the owner’s manual for life.  They tell us how to work on ourselves to keep our spiritual engines running smoothly.  If we perform for ourselves “the maintenance of the sacred word of God” it will bring us the happiness that the gospel promises us.  Let us refer regularly to our “owner’s manual” so we can perform the necessary scheduled maintenance for ourselves.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Alma 43

We see that the Nephites had “a better cause” in their fight with the Lamanites.  Freedom of religious worship and protection of property figured heavily in this cause.  But I think the more emotional part of this cause was the Nephites’ desire to support and preserve their wives and their children.  Have you ever noticed that, willing as we are to defend ideals such as liberty and justice, it’s the threat to our families that most quickly gets us on our feet!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Alma 42

Corianton took the teaching “God is love” to mean that God loves us too much to punish us, and thereby he justified his sins of pride and fornication.  This chapter explains very well that justice and mercy both seek to claim us, but cannot do so together.  Because of the Fall of Adam, justice has the say and demands the price of that action.  God is just.  God is also merciful.  This is only possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ, who paid the price of Adam’s action with His own redeeming blood.   The atonement made it possible for God to be merciful to the penitent while being just to the unpenitent.  Or as Alma explained: “For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also claimeth all which is his own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved” (v. 24). As Alma said to Corianton, “let the justice of God, and his mercy, and his long-suffering…bring you down to the dust in humility” (v. 30).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Alma 41

Nephi taught that because of the Savior’s atonement, our spirit and our body will be restored in the resurrection (2 Nephi 9:12).  Corianton and others twisted that teaching to mean that in the resurrection our spirit and our body will be restored to good and dwell in the presence of God – so committing a little sin was no big deal.  In this chapter, Alma the Younger clarifies Nephi’s teachings.  “That which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored.  Therefore, the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all” (v. 15).  Fortunately “the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved” (v. 8).  This way is the atonement and teachings of Jesus Christ.  Specifically:  “see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall you…have mercy…justice…a righteous judgment restored unto you again” (v. 14).