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.