Thursday, November 13, 2008

Book of Mormon Study: 1 Nephi 12-15

Chapter 12 is sad to me. Imagine viewing the destruction of your own family, your own descendents. Nephi is forced to face some hard truths throughout the vision he describes in these chapters.

1 Nephi 14:7 says that the marvelous work and wonder of the gospel will convince us either to peace and life eternal or will deliver us to the captivity of the devil. Peace and life that really what we're offered and what we're able to achieve through living the precepts of the gospel? It's such a clear choice, when stated like that. The choice gets so muddied by life. It can seem so unclear. But like one of the children of Israel needing to simply look at the serpent Moses raised on the staff to have their lives spared, sometimes just choosing to look seems so hard. Look to God and live. It's a simple proposition, but sometimes it's hardly simple in practice.

In chapter 15, Nephi's vision has ended and he has to return to his daily life. I empathize with him. Verse 4 & 5 say, "And now I, Nephi, was grieved because of the hardness of their hearts, and also, because of the things which I had seen, and knew they must unavoidably come to pass because of the great wickedness of the children of men. And it came to pass that I was overcome because of my afflictions, for I considered that mine afflictions were great above all, because of the destruction of my people, for I had beheld their fall." He had heavy things in his heart, and then he has to go talk to the brothers that he knows will become his enemies, and their children will become his children's enemies. Heavy heart. Heavy responsibility. Did he hope that SOMETHING he might say might change the outcome of what he had just experienced? My heart aches for Nephi, and also for his brothers.

But by chapter 16 verse 5, Nephi says, "And it came to pass that they did humble themselves before the Lord; insomuch that I had joy and great hopes of them, that they would walk in the paths of righteousness." Hope springs eternal...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Book of Mormon Study: 1 Nephi 9-11

Chapter 9 is the first time we learn about the separate plates Nephi keeps. His large plates focus on the history of his people, the secular happenings. Then, the Lord commands Nephi to keep a separate set of plates to center on the spiritual life of Nephi and his people. Nephi doesn't know why, but he goes along with the Lord's request. V. 6 says, "But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words."

True? Yes. Do we always live according to this belief? No. Or at least I don't.

In Chapter 10, Nephi relates Lehi's prophecies, including prophecies about the Savior. These are among the truths about Christ that Lehi tells his family:
1. Christ would be Jewish.
2. Christ would be born 600 years after Lehi's family left Jerusalem.
3. He would be the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
4. Many prophets have testified of the Savior's coming.
5. The Messiah would be baptized by a prophet.
6. Christ would take away the sins of the world.
7. Christ would be killed by His own people.
8. He would rise from the dead.
9. He would manifest himself to the Gentiles, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
10. The Savior was the Son of God.
11. He would also be called the Redeemer of the world, the Lamb of God.

After Lehi's amazing prophecies, Nephi wants to know these things for himself. The only way to really know these kinds of things is by the power of the Holy Ghost (spiritual knowledge is different than any other kind of knowledge.) I love verse 19: "For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round."

One of the teachings of Joseph Smith that I love is that over the course of human history, many people have received truths through God as they have searched "diligently". The First Presidency taught in 1978 that "The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God's light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals. The Hebrew prophets prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, who should provide salvation for all mankind who believe in the gospel. Consistent with these truths, we believe that God has given and will give to all peoples sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation, either in this life or in the life to come."

I'm grateful for the understanding of God's inclusivity, that He loves all of His children and has prepared a way to Christ's salvation for each of us.