Monday, January 26, 2015

Keep on Reading!

Keep on Reading!

Dear ACAD Friends,

Thank you for the many months of following along with me as we read the Book of Mormon together.  I won't be posting daily anymore, but I will post here again from time to time as I continue reading the Book of Mormon and gain new insights on it.  I hope you found some things to think about as you read it this time.  And as you go forward, please feel free to jump into past posts and comment further about this wonderful glimpse at our Savior.

On that topic, I must share the following that I heard from someone at church a few months ago (sorry, but I don't know his name).  He declared:  "We call this the Book of Mormon.  But I call it the Book of Jesus Christ, because that's what it is."  I must say, I agree wholeheartedly.  And even though I'll continue to refer to it as the Book of Mormon, I know it really is a Book of Jesus Christ.  I hope you do, too.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Moroni 10

Whatever a person thinks about the Book of Mormon; whatever a person thinks about Joseph Smith, Jr., who produced it; whatever a person thinks about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who reveres it as scripture, there’s one thing we all have to admit as a fact:  the Book of Mormon exists.  So there are only two possibilities: either Joseph Smith, Jr. translated the Book of Mormon from metal plates and it is an ancient record of God’s dealings with His children in the Western Hemisphere, or it came about some other way and is not true.  It’s a question worth answering, and the Book of Mormon itself tells us how to find the answer to the question.  This chapter teaches that, first, we must remember how merciful God has been to mankind “and ponder it in [our] hearts” (v. 3).  Then we must “ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true” (v. 4).  An all-knowing God who is merciful would not only know the answer to the question, but would share that answer with anyone who seeks it.  But Moroni tells us we must “ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ” (v. 4). The promise for asking in this way is that God “will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost” (v. 4).

The take away is this:  once you know from the Holy Ghost the truth about the Book of Mormon, you’ll know how God uses the Holy Ghost to communicate truth to you, personally, for He will testify of the Book of Mormon in a way that you’ll be able to understand.  And once you know exactly how God uses the Holy Ghost to communicate truth to you, personally, you “may know the truth of all things” (v. 5).

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Moroni 9

The description of Mormon’s world at the end of his life is the most gruesome of all.  Moroni saw our day, and perhaps that’s why he chose to add this letter of his father’s to the record.  How do we and our loved ones survive a world that gets worse and worse?  Mormon wrote: “My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written (describing the events Mormon was witnessing) grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death, but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.

“And may the grace of God the Father…and our Lord Jesus Christ…be, and abide with you forever” (verses 25 – 26).

So it would appear that the atonement of Jesus Christ not only has the power to get us successfully to the next life, but it also has the power to get us successfully through this one.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Moroni 8

All Book of Mormon prophets have taught us about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.  Mormon also taught about faith, hope and charity (see Moroni 7).  In this chapter amidst some of the strongest reprimands for wrong thinking, Mormon blends all of this in very practical terms.  It goes like this:
  1. Repentance leads to Baptism.
  2. Baptism comes by having Faith that being baptized fulfills God’s commandments.
  3. Fulfilling commandments leads to Meekness and Lowliness of Heart.
  4. Meekness and Lowliness of Heart lead to the visitation of the Holy Ghost.
  5. The visitation of the Holy Ghost fills us with Hope and perfect Love.
  6. Love endures by diligence unto prayer until the end comes.

Indeed, couple this with the gospel of Christ (Jesus came to do the will of the Father, He suffered for our sins and died on the Cross, and He rose again the third day so all will live again) and you have the best recipe for Christianity.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Moroni 7

How do we distinguish good from evil?  Some things are obvious; others are not.  Mormon taught us in a speech that Moroni recorded here that judging between good and evil is as “plain as the daylight is from the dark night” (v. 15).  Simply put it’s this:  If something invites us to do good and to believe in Christ, it is something good (see v. 16).  If something invites us to do evil and not believe in Christ, but to deny Him, it is evil (see v.17).  Mormon further teaches that persuasion to do good does not come from the devil, nor his angels, nor his followers here.  So the litmus test is:  Good = God and Evil = devil. 

I find that life’s greater challenge is choosing between good and good, but that becomes easier by practicing faith, hope and charity, which are so excellently treated in the rest of this chapter.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Moroni 6

Attention all Bishops, Branch Presidents, Stake Presidents, Quorum and Auxiliary Leaders:  The Nephite General Handbook of Instructions is found in Moroni Chapter 6.  And it would be a good supplement to our current Handbooks.  After laying out the requirements to receive someone unto baptism, we’re told in verse 4 why their names were put onto a record of members – so they would be remembered and nourished by other members, “to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.”

What was the purpose of their Sacrament Meetings?   See verses 5 and 6 where we read that they met to remember the Lord Jesus through partaking of the sacrament and “to fast and pray and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.”

The Nephites did not allow iniquity to flourish among them.  In verses 7 & 8 we find that they dealt with iniquity head on and with fairness.

Their meetings were directed by the power of the Spirit.  Leaders listened and obeyed, and I’m certain the people were blessed (see v. 9).

Moroni 6 is the ultimate “how-to” guide in the scriptures for leading a Stake, Ward or Branch family to the Savior.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Moromi 5

At the Last Supper, Jesus explained that the wine He gave the disciples to drink was to remind them of His blood.  Though they didn't realize it at the time, very soon thereafter the blood that He would spill in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross would help pay the price necessary to wipe out everyone’s sins.  Because He paid the price, those who repent of their sins can be forgiven, as if those sins never happened.  Thanks to the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, we do not have to remain separate from Heavenly Father when we die, but can go home to Him, and go home clean. 

Speaking of clean, when we are baptized, the water symbolically washes away all of our sins just as the blood of Jesus actually did.  When we partake of the Sacrament, our first priority is to remember and appreciate the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  We also are to be reminded of our baptismal covenants.  In August 1830 Joseph Smith was warned not to purchase wine for use during the Sacrament service, but for the Latter-day Saints to make their own wine or to use some other drink, instead (see D&C 27).  

Today in our Sacrament Meetings you will find we use water to represent the Savior’s blood.  For me, using water during the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, I’m reminded not only of the Precious Blood, but of the water than cleansed me when I was baptized and personally covenanted to always follow Him.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Moroni 4

When members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints partake of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper every week it reminds us of the covenants we made at baptism.  There we covenanted 1) to take upon us the name of Christ, which is designed to help us to act better, 2) to always remember Him, which helps us to appreciate all He has done and continues to do for us, and 3) to always keep His commandments, which helps us to stay clean and to build the kingdom of God on earth.  Heavenly Father’s part of the baptismal covenant is to give us the Holy Ghost to always be with us, if we keep our part of the covenant.  Having the influence of this Heavenly Guide is invaluable to our day to day existence.  If you pay attention to the sacrament prayers, you can hear all these parts of the baptismal covenant during the blessing of the bread.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Moroni 3

When a man has been called and ordained to the office of elder in the priesthood, he has the right to ordain priests and teachers.  But it appears that laying on hands and pronouncing the prescribed words may not be enough to pass along priesthood power.  Verse 2 shows us that, first, an elder must pray to make the ordination efficacious.  Then verse 4 shows us how the power of the priesthood is passed along:  “they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them.” 

The power of the Holy Ghost is the power by which ordinances and all things pertaining to the gospel of Jesus Christ are effected.  It is how any of us can come to know truth (see Moroni 10:5).  It is how we know that Jesus is the Christ.  And in the next two chapters of the Book of Mormon we’ll be taught how each baptized member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can obtain and retain the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Moroni 2

When Christ visited the Nephites, He gave the twelve disciples power to bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost on others (see 3 Nephi 18:37).  Thanks to Moroni, we have the actual words He spoke to them as He bestowed this priesthood power.  Notice that He told them they had to pray mightily before they could begin using the power He’d given them.  It’s a little like receiving a new debit card in the mail.  It is valid for transacting your bank business when you receive it, but before you do, you have to activate the card by calling a number on a little sticker on the card.  Once activated, you’re free to use the card.  The Nephite disciples were free to use the priesthood power Christ had given them once they had “activated it” through mighty prayer.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Moroni 1

I love to watch the special features included with movies I purchase:  deleted scenes, bonus materials and the director’s commentary, among others.  The Book of Moroni is like the special features section of the Book of Mormon.

Moroni had no idea, as he scrambled to abridge the record of Ether, that he would be able to add even more to the plates that Joseph Smith would receive.  And thank goodness he was spared long enough to add these things!  Chapters 2 – 6 are deleted scenes that his father didn't find the time to add to his abridgment. Chapters 7 – 9 are sermons and letters from our beloved Mormon that are so nice to have, the bonus features, if you will.  And Chapter 10 is Moroni’s own “director’s commentary” as he takes one last opportunity to read the book.

In Chapter 1 we get some sense of the life Moroni led as the last of the believers.  The Lamanites had turned to slaughtering each other, and if they happened across a Nephite who would not deny Christ, they put him to death.  What an example Moroni was to us in verse 3 where we read, “And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ,” even though it meant his death if captured.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ether 15

Because of the twin restraints of the difficulty of writing on the plates and being forbidden to share certain things, Moroni shared with us not even the hundredth part of the Book of Ether (see v. 33).  Can you imagine not being allowed to share all you know about the Savior with others who are interested?  I am acquainted with someone who spent part of her mission in a refugee camp, where she was not allowed to discuss anything religious, but was only allowed to teach English.  She found that restriction very, very difficult, but was able in her off-hours to spend some very spiritual time in that situation.  I think Moroni’s adding the Book of Ether to the Nephite record must have given him much comfort.  He found himself not alone in being the last survivor of a people.  Verse 34 reads, “Now the last words which are written by Ether are these:  Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh, it mattereth not, if it so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God.  Amen.”  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ether 14

This must have been very painful for Moroni to record.  Here we have Coriantumr, who the Lord has cursed with not being able to be killed.  And on the other hand there’s Shiz, who is determined to kill him.  The entire land is cursed because of the iniquity of the people, which is a natural result of the secret combinations that raged through the land.  And Coriantumr has to survive to see everyone else die. 

Moroni, who had lived through very similar circumstances, warned his readers, “And thus we see that the Lord did visit them in the fullness of his wrath, and their wickedness and abominations had prepared a way for their everlasting destruction” (v. 25).   From this man who saw ancient history repeat itself in his lifetime, and had been allowed to see our day, also, let’s take heed.  Let’s understand that just as wickedness and abomination prepare a way for the everlasting destruction of a society, so righteousness and good works can prepare a way for the exaltation of a society, as evidenced by the City of Enoch (See Moses 7:69).  But regardless of the type of society in which we find ourselves, let us, like Moroni, choose Christ and the Father’s plan of happiness.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ether 13

This chapter contains a great prophesy of the prophet Ether.  Even though Ether’s prophesy was written many years before Lehi left Jerusalem, in abridging the record, Moroni connects the two.  Ether described the future land where Moroni was then living as a land that had become very choice after the Flood in Noah’s day.  Ether saw the days of Christ and prophesied of a New Jerusalem that would be built on the land. 

Moroni wrote of the life of the prophet Ether, who of all the individuals described in the Book of Mormon, is the most like Moroni.  A follower of Christ, Ether was cast out by the very people who he was trying to help.  He had to spend the rest of his life alone and in hiding, because they sought his life.  He lived to see his people completely annihilate themselves.

I’m sure that Moroni, in very similar circumstances, found comfort in Ether’s writings.  I hope that we can take advantage of that same comfort as we continue to read and study the Book of Mormon.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ether 12

Life sure has a way of piling up and occasionally throwing us for a loop.  Be it terrorism or disease, crime or depravity, injury or loss of income, death, divorce – you name it, how can we prepare ourselves to cope with whatever may be headed for us individually or collectively?  Ether chapter 12 provides some great clues for spiritual preparation.  Beginning in verse 3, which exhorts us to believe in God unto repentance, we move on to verse 4, which explains why we should.  We learn there that faith in God brings hope, which acts as an anchor to our souls, making our souls sure and steadfast.  People who can cope with the problems of everyday living are better able to abound in good works and help the Lord in His work to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, whereby we glorify God (see Moses 1:39).  With Moroni, I “would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written” (v. 41), for He is our coping power.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ether 11

By this chapter, the Jaredites had become so wicked that the Lord sent prophets among them three times to raise the voice of warning.  Each time prophets were sent the message became more severe, ranging from great destruction of the people to utter destruction with permanent loss of their land to another people. The messages of the prophets did help somewhat each time they were sent.  The people would begin to repent, “and inasmuch as they did the Lord did have mercy on them” (v. 8).  Even so, wickedness always resurfaced.  And in this time of great wickedness and general rejection of prophets among the people, the prophet Ether was born.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ether 10

A list of kings and other rulers is given in this chapter; fourteen of them, to be exact.  There were righteous ones as well as wicked ones.  By and large, when the wicked ruled, the people did not prosper.  But when the righteous ruled, cities were built, industry and commerce were established, and the people prospered.  As a matter of fact, it was said of the people of righteous King Lib that there “never could be a people more blessed than were they, and more prospered by the hand of the Lord” (v. 28).  It’s just like we read in Proverbs: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Proverbs 29:2).  In societies where leaders are chosen by election, voters would do well to choose righteous ones.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ether 9

Here is a story of deep contrasts; of the blessing that follows having the Lord as your guide, and of the cursing that follows having the Adversary as your guide.  King Omer, who was a righteous king, was warned in a dream to flee, which he did.  The secret combination that took power after he left blew itself out after many years, allowing King Omer to return and live in peace for the last two years of his life.  His son Emer followed in his father’s footsteps and was so righteous that he was able to see Jesus Christ before he died (v. 22).  These are examples of the blessings of following the Lord.

On the other hand, Jared (the 2nd one we've seen), who wanted to kill King Omer and who became King himself, was killed by Akish while he was on the throne conducting business.  How much more wicked can you get than to kill someone in broad daylight in front of witnesses?  Three generations later, King Heth was so wicked, and the people with him, that the Lord sent, not only a great famine in the land, but also poisonous snakes to wake up the people (verses 30 – 31).  These are examples of the cursings of following the Adversary.

It would be wise to learn from the mistakes of others and not spend our time in pursuits that will curse us, but rather to pursue the path of the Lord.  It is a straight path, and doesn't require as much energy to traverse as a crooked one.  Let us enter “the rest of the Lord” by following His path.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ether 8

 In this chapter Moroni identifies another benefit the Book of Mormon would have in our day.  In his day secret combinations grew to the entire destruction of his people.  Moroni tells the “Gentiles” of our day that he is including information about secret combinations so that we can take heed and not be similarly destroyed (see verses 23 – 26).

President Ezra Taft Benson encouraged members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1986 to flood the earth with the Book of Mormon.  From reading this chapter, one gets a sense that doing so may be an important component in counteracting secret combinations in our day.  But wait, there’s more!  Studying the Book of Mormon and living by its teachings can help cause Satan to have no influence over a heart, thereby destroying the author of secret combinations.  No wonder President Benson felt such an urgency!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ether 7

First we learned about the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15:11-32).  Now we have the story of Corihor and his brother, Shule to teach us about forgiving wayward loved ones.  When Shule was born, his brother Corihor was holding captive their father, the king.  When Shule became a man, being mighty in judgment (v. 8), he fought Corihor and obtained the kingdom again for their father.  Daddy gave the kingdom to Shule, who reigned in righteousness and taught repentance to the people (v. 25).  During Shule’s reign “Corihor repented of the many evils which he had done” to the point that king Shule gave Corihor “power in the kingdom” (v. 13).  It appears that Corihor remained faithful to Shule, for when Corihor’s son, Noah, rebelled against king Shule, the record tells us he rebelled against them both (v.15).  Let us, like Shule and like the Prodigal Son’s father, be able to forgive repentant loved ones.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ether 6

I've always wondered why the first part of the Book of Ether is about the brother of Jared rather than about Jared.  The brother of Jared is clearly the religious leader of the Jaredites, but in this chapter Jared is shown as the legal leader of the people when he determines that the people should have a king, as they desired (see verses 21 – 24).  Among the ancient Israelites, leaders were chosen by God and kings were chosen by the people.  Given the opportunity to choose a king, the Jaredite people turned first to the sons of the brother of Jared, none of which would accept the job (verses 25 – 26).  Then the people turned to the sons of Jared where they finally convinced one of them to be the king.  The ruling of the Jaredites then continued through his progeny, and perhaps that is why we read about the Jaredites instead of about the brother-of-Jaredites.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ether 5

This chapter shows that no one understood better the purpose for keeping this sacred record than did Moroni.  Apparently it was he who sealed up that portion of the record the Lord intended to continue to be held back for now.  In chapter 3 Moroni was shown the history of the future of the earth, and was forbidden to share that information.  (I think others have seen that same vision, such as Nephi and John the Revelator.)  But he obviously saw in it the publication of the record he was adding to, for this chapter is written to the person who would translate and publish the record.  Moroni is almost obsessed with the publication of this abridged record.  His small contribution (compared to Nephi’s and Mormon’s) is pointedly written to those of us who would 1600 years later be reading it.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Ether 4

Mormon, in abridging the library of records into this smaller record known as the Book of Mormon, indicated that “it is expedient that all people should know the things written” in the Book of Ether (see Mosiah 28:19).  The events in the beginning of the Book of Ether happened at the time of the building of the tower of Babel and the confounding of man’s language.  This was many centuries before Lehi’s vision that begins the Book of Mormon.  I've often wondered why it is that the Book of Mormon doesn't begin with the Book of Ether.  It’s chronologically presented otherwise.  Why wait until the end of the book to tell us about what happened at the beginning of it?  Chapter 4 contains an answer to this question.  In verse 1 we learn that the Lord told the brother of Jared to write what he had learned in the amazing conversation of the previous chapter, but that these things were not to be shared with people until after Jesus had died on the cross.  So it was about 400 years after that terrible and blessed event that, Moroni, being alone, added the Book of Ether to the sacred record that he was keeping.  We have the portion of it that is available to us thanks to Moroni.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Ether 3

How beautiful is the relationship between the brother of Jared and the Savior of the world!  The brother of Jared seemed to understand what the Lord was capable of.  When the barges he had built to cross the ocean toward the Land of Promise needed air and light within them, the Lord answered the brother of Jared’s question with a design to improve the air quality.  As to lack of light inside, the Light of the world didn't give an answer, but asked the brother of Jared to offer a solution himself.  So, the brother of Jared obtained small stones and asked the Lord to touch them with His finger so they would glow in the darkness inside the barges.  Who would think to ask such a thing?  Obviously the brother of Jared knew the Lord very, very well.  Jesus touched each of the stones, and when He did so, the brother of Jared saw the Lord’s finger.  When the brother of Jared fell to the earth in fear, the Lord commended him for his great faith, and asked, “Sawest thou more than this?”  The response that surprises me, but not the Lord, is “Nay, Lord, show thyself unto me” (v. 10).  Before doing so, the Lord asks the brother of Jared “Believest thou the words which I shall speak?”  Notice that the question isn’t “Are you going to believe the words I am going to tell you?”  The question is “Do you already believe the words I am going to tell you?”  It’s easy to believe the words Christ has already spoken, for they have already proven themselves.  To receive greater knowledge from God requires us to believe it.  When we get to a point that we already believe the Savior’s future words, we arrive at a special place in our relationship with Him.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Ether 2

Have you ever found yourself turning to the Lord when you need something from Him, then going along your merry way barely thinking of Him when things are going well?  If so, you’re not alone.  Consider the brother of Jared in this chapter.  He constantly sought the Lord’s direction while travelling in the wilderness in search of a promised land.  But once they stopped in a place they called Moriancumer, they began to put down roots (v. 13).  Four years later, the Lord came to the brother of Jared and spoke to him from a cloud for three hours.  Part, if not all of this conversation consisted in the Lord’s chastising the brother of Jared for failing to call upon Him.  Clearly our Heavenly Father desires our company regularly, like any good friend.  May we remember that, and call upon Him in good times as well as bad ones.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ether 1

We now take a break in the narrative to go all the way back to the time of the confounding of languages at the time of the Tower of Babel.  We meet Jared, a man of faith, who asked his brother, a man of enormous faith, to pray to the Lord to learn where they should go to find a promised land.  When the brother of Jared prayed about this direction, the Lord told them to go to a certain place.  “And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth” (v. 42). 

Similarly, if we want to be led by the Lord we must meet Him in a certain “place,” which is reached by prayer, scripture study, serving our neighbors, and loving as the Lord loves.  From there He will “go before” us into that most promised land of Eternal Life.  For us to get there, He must carry us.  He carries us with His atoning sacrifice.  As these Jaredites, “let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for an inheritance” (v. 38).