Nephi’s Witness of Christ – 1 Nephi 19:8-12

In 1 Nephi 19, Nephi has received a new commandment from God. This is after his arrival to the Promised Land with his family. He has been given the commandment to make another set of plates – another record.

He was already keeping one record – and it contained all of the history of his life and people. It was an exhaustive record of what was going on with him and his family.

Despite this record, the Lord commanded Nephi to make a second, smaller record – this a record of the ministry of his people. The Lord didn’t really want Nephi to spend much time on a historical record in this set of plates. Instead, the Lord wanted a really plain and pure record of the gospel, Nephi’s testimony, and other spiritual experiences of his and of the people’s.

So – this is kind of an interlude-ish chapter, where Nephi tells us that this record he is keeping will be of great worth to some, and it will be meaningless to others – depending on how we feel about the Savior.

And in this chapter, we get a beautiful prophecy of Christ from Nephi.

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The Coming of Christ

Nephi writes:

“And behold he cometh, according to the words of the angel, in six hundred years from the time my father left Jerusalem.” – 1 Nephi 19:8

Nephi and his people knew that the Lord would come. Not only that, but they knew approximately when the Lord would come. And the Lord did come about 600 years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem.

The Lord reveals His secret unto His servants, the prophets. They knew when the Savior would come to the earth. They had time to prepare for His coming.

Christ is Long-Suffering

Nephi continues:

“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” – 1 Nephi 19:9

This is kind of sad, but it is just one of the facts of Christ’s coming to this earth. Because of the iniquity of the people, Christ – their promised Messiah was overlooked. He was scourged, smitten, and spit upon. The people were completely ignorant of the fact that they were doing this to their God.

I think of the concept that President Nelson has brought up from time to time – they are like goldfish completely unaware of who feeds them. And then maybe it is even worse. They are like a goldfish killing the very hand that feeds them.

Nephi puts this beautifully, though. Christ suffers their judgement, their scourging, their smiting, their spitting and reviling. Why does He do this? Because He loves us.

What does that even mean?

Well – I guess it means that because the Savior has so much love for us, He voluntarily came to this earth, lived a perfect life, ministered to the people, taught His Gospel, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, brought people to life, took on the sins of the world in the garden of Gethsemane, hung on the cross and died for the sins of the world, stayed in the spirit world for three days, was resurrected – He did all of this for us. He did all of this because we need Him. He did all of this for the reason given by Paul:

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” – 1 Corinthians 15:22

He suffered these silly ignorant judgments and subjected Himself to death so that He could overcome death and offer us salvation.

Christ was Crucified

We read more of Nephi’s record:

“And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea, more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel.” – 1 Nephi 19:10

There is so much to say about this single verse!

First of all – notice – Nephi is quoting prophets we aren’t particularly familiar with: Zenock, Neum, and Zenos. This was from the writings of a prophet included in the Plates of Brass but it has been lost from modern-day records in the Bible.

Second of all – Nephi makes sure to let us know that he is talking about the Messiah, JEHOVAH. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It is important for us to understand that He is God – and that HE yielded himself up into the hands of wicked man to be crucified. The wicked pharisees and Jews of Jerusalem didn’t catch a man in sin. They didn’t punish and put to death a powerless human being. Christ allowed himself to be judged and scourged. He did this because it was His work. As Matthew recorded:

“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” – Matthew 16:21

Even the apostles didn’t quite understand. Peter responded:

“Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” – Matthew 16:22-23

The Lord knew what His work was. Though Peter loved Him and didn’t want to see His Master die, Peter misunderstood. This was the very mission, role, and work of the Messiah. If Christ saved His own life, then everything in His Father’s plan would have been frustrated.

The Savior yielded Himself because He loves His Father and He loves us. He yielded to wicked men and rebuked Peter because He understood His work and that the entire world would have been wasted if Christ didn’t yield Himself up.

Nephi understood this thanks to the scriptures. These prophets testified of the death and burial of Christ and of the physical signs that would accompany this historical event.

Christ Would Visit All of His People

We read in Nephi’s record:

“For thus spake the prophet: The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up.” – 1 Nephi 19:11

Not only did Nephi know that the Lord would be crucified and buried in a sepulcher for three days, but he also knew because of the prophecies contained in the Plates of Brass that the Lord would visit all of the House of Israel when these events occurred.

Nephi adds his own witness to these prophecies – that the Lord would “visit” the scattered tribes of Israel with his voice, tempests, fires, darkness, earthquake, and other natural disasters. Because we have the Book of Mormon, we know that these prophecies were fulfilled on the American continent. They were all signs of the Savior’s death.

The God of Nature

Nephi writes:

“And all these things must surely come, saith the prophet Zenos. And the rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God, to exclaim: The God of nature suffers.” – 1 Nephi 19:12

Even though the people on “the isles of the sea” wouldn’t interact with Christ during His life, they would have signs of both His birth and His death. When the signs of His death came, they would understand through the Spirit of God that the God of nature suffered.

For some reason I love this idea. That our God is also the God of nature. I’m reminded of a scripture in Alma:

“…and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” – Alma 30:44

We don’t have to rely on only the witness of the prophets. (Although, those are some very great and valid witnesses!) But everything around us witnesses of the Savior. He created this earth, and the earth witnesses of Him. We can, if we will look, if we will not be like ignorant goldfish unaware of the one that feeds them, we will see God in the beauty of the world around us.

Creosote

Creosote

Fall Flowers

Fall Flowers in the Mountains

Mountain Stream

Mountain Stream

Oahu

The Pacific Ocean from Malaekahana

Phoenix at Night Date Palm

Date Palm on a Phoenix Night

Plumeria

Plumeria

Snowy Day

Snowy Day in the Mountains

The Grand Canyon

Rainbow over the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

I can’t help but think about the experiences I had while taking these pictures – overwhelmed at the majesty of a mountain or the intricacy of a flower. I can feel the ocean breeze on my face, the heat of the desert, and the cool sting of snow. I can smell the pine forests, the desert creosote after rain, and the fragrant plumeria. I can hear the roar of the ocean, the yelps of a coyote, and the birdsong of finches, jays, and chickadees.

Our God, the God of nature, created this earth in all of its beauty, and it testifies of Him.

And when I think of these creations, I am more committed. I don’t want to cause the God of nature, my God, my Savior, Jesus Christ to suffer. I want to keep His commandments and partake of the Atonement He has offered to us – because of His long-suffering and loving-kindness. I want to be a better mother, daughter, wife, woman.

***

I’m so grateful for the Book of Mormon. I’m thankful that it turns my thoughts to the Savior every time I open its pages. It has taught me so many truths about both His gospel and the World. It has given me hope, peace, correction, and clarity. I know that the Book of Mormon is a witness of Christ.

I love this selection today because we see that Nephi’s witness of Christ didn’t only come through the amazing prophetic experiences that he had (like when he saw the vision of the tree of life), but Nephi’s witness of the Savior came through his own study of the scriptures. He knew Christ the same way we can come to know Christ: through personal experience , through the witnesses of others including His prophets, and through the world around us.

 

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The Lord Wants to Answer Our Prayers – 1 Nephi 15:11

Right now, as I read The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, I’m reading roughly six pages a day so that I can finish it by the end of the year.

As I read, I’m also looking for mentions of Jesus Christ – by that name or any of his other titles. I’m looking for things He says, and things that we learn about Him.

You learn a lot about the Savior in six whole pages of the Book of Mormon – too much for me to really write about and ponder in one sitting. So, I just pick one thing that really stands out to me and study it.

Today, I’m really interested in something that Nephi teaches us about how the Savior works in our lives.

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Sermon on the Mount, by Harry Anderson

First, though a bit of background…Nephi had just finished having the vision where he learned the interpretation of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. He learned about Christ’s birth, life, and death. He learned about the scattering and gathering of Israel. He saw the rise and then the fall of his own civilization in the promised land.

After this amazing vision, he went to the tent of his father, where his brothers were all arguing with each other.

Nephi was kind of stressed out because of some of the things that he saw in his vision (the complete collapse of his people). He finally asks his brothers what they are arguing about. And we read:

“And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.” – 1 Nephi 15:7

Nephi asks them the obvious thing – Had they inquired of the Lord. Of course they hadn’t. Nephi asks them a few questions…How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of God? and How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?

Okay. And then we get to the point of today’s post. As Nephi speaks to his brothers, we learn about the Savior. We read:

“Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” – 1 Nephi 15:11

This isn’t just Nephi’s opinion of the matter. This isn’t Nephi asking his brothers “how is it that…” This is Nephi reminding his brothers of what the Lord, Himself had taught and promised.

The Lord Wants to Answer Our Prayers

Let’s look at this in reverse. At the end, Nephi states, “surely these things shall be made known unto you.”

The result is that they will know.

There are loads of other scriptures offering this same promise. Here is what the Savior said when He gave the Sermon on the Mount:

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” – Matthew 7:7-8

Again, let’s look at the result:

  • it shall be given you
  • ye shall find
  • it shall be opened
  • everyone that asketh receiveth
  • he that seeketh findeth
  • to him that knocketh it shall be opened

It sounds like a good deal here. Before we even approach the Lord, we can rest assured that the Lord wants to answer our prayers. So – now let’s see what we need to do in order to qualify for such a blessing.

Harden Not Your Hearts

First, we have to have a soft heart. What does this mean? Well, let’s check the dictionary.

Hard hearted: Lacking in sympathetic understanding, unfeeling, pitiless – Merriam-Webster

Stubbornness. That could also be a way to describe what hard heartedness is.

All I know is, the Lord can help us with our heart condition. He doesn’t expect us to simply soften it ourselves. We soften it by turning our hearts to Him, and then He does the softening. We read in 1 Nephi:

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

Nephi turned to the Lord, and the Lord helped to make Nephi’s heart soft, pliable ground – fertile for faith.

This is how we must go to the Lord – willing, more than anything else. He will soften our heart. And a soft heart is essential if we want to have answers to our prayers – if we want to understand more of the will and mysteries of God in our lives.

Ask Me In Faith

Asking in faith is more than asking. Asking in faith means we believe – we believe in God’s power. We believe in His ability to answer our prayers. And, I think most importantly of all, we believe and accept the answers that we receive.

I used to think that If I had enough faith then I would just get whatever it is what I wanted. Slowly, I’m learning that faith is indeed moving forward as a creator in my own life, and then if I don’t get exactly what I want, believing and trusting in God – that what I have received is actually what will best answer my prayers and put me on a course headed to Him and the happiness He offers each of us.

So – We must not harden our hearts, and we must develop faith. Then we are led to the next point:

Believing that Ye Shall Receive

What is the point of asking if we don’t believe it will happen anyway? What kind of faith are we expressing if we don’t believe we will receive?

This is obvious, and we might not all be that skeptical.

But maybe this happens in our lives in a more subtle way. I was thinking of a metaphor recently.

Sometimes life is like making a cake, but we don’t know how to do it. So we go to the Lord, and He instructs us how to make a cake – one step at a time. Each step is a leap of faith – you receive the instruction to cream together butter and sugar, and after this first step (but before you understand how it fits in to the whole cake-making operation), you think – AHHH! This isn’t a cake! And now – look at my butter! It’s ruined.

Of course, it isn’t. You just aren’t finished with the cake.

The cake making endeavor takes a bit of faith – you “ruin” plenty of ingredients – beating eggs, butter, sugar, and flour…and then placing them into the oven hoping that the heat will magically make this mess of batter into something delectable.

You do the work, you wait while it cooks, and then the buzzer dings – time to get out the cake! When it’s a cake, it’s easy to just take it out of the oven and then enjoy it. But sometimes in life, we get to that point where it’s time to take out the cake, and we might think that we don’t deserve it!

I think that I have fallen into this trap – that yes the Lord is capable of blessing me, but that I shouldn’t expect the blessing. I sometime mistakenly think that suffering and being a “martyr” is somehow more saintly than receiving.

In this way, there are times when I subtly ask, but I don’t really believe that I’ll receive.

We stop ourselves short. We might have a soft heart. We might have faith. But we don’t believe that we should receive – what follows? Perhaps self-sabotage, or perhaps a refusal of the blessing that the Lord extends to us.

In any case, we need to believe that we shall receive, and then be ready to receive when the Lord gives us answer to our prayers.

With Diligence in Keeping my Commandments

This is important for so many reasons. Of course, first of all – the diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord is a demonstration of our soft hearts, faith, and belief that we shall receive. So it is important.

I think that diligence in keeping the commandments also helps us to remain worthy for the answer of prayers (having a soft heart, faith, and belief that we will receive aren’t one-time checklist items. It’s a continuous effort).

But…here’s another thing…Two scriptures:

“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” – Doctrine and Covenants 82:10

AND

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—

21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” – Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21

Another important aspect of commandment keeping is that it might just be how our prayer is answered! There are times, as we seek the Lord diligently, He gives us impressions and promptings – personal commandments. Often, we see these things as a test of our faith, and I suppose in a way they are.

However, they might also be the way to have the blessing we desire. God cannot bless us willy-nilly. He is governed by universal laws, and He has let us know this fact in the Doctrine and Covenants. If we want to be blessed, then we need to keep the law upon which that blessing is predicated.

And, if we do what the Lord says, then He is bound to bless us accordingly.

So – keeping the commandments not only keeps us soft hearted, faithful, and believing that we will receive – keeping the commandments may just be the way that the Lord is able to answer our prayers.

***

Now, I realize that this scripture isn’t really about a specific characteristic of Christ. Instead, it is a promise that the Savior has made to us. But I think that by looking at this promise – that the Lord will answer our prayers – helps us to understand more about the Savior. He wants to empower us. He wants to bless us with knowledge. And He has instructed us how to access more understanding and power in our lives.

Nephi is an example of this. He did just as the Lord instructed. He softened his heart. He asked the Savior in faith. He believed he would receive. He kept the commandments – general and personal – that the Father had given Him…and he received according to his righteous desires.

I’m grateful to know that we have a God who loves us. He isn’t arbitrary or power hungry. He isn’t moody or irrational. He lives according to a set of laws that He has also given to each of us. We can know more of His mysteries and live a better life, if we simply seek Him and ask. In fact, He aches to be able to answer our prayers, which is why He has pled with us to ask, seek, and knock.

Instead of making the assumption that “he taketh no such thing known unto us,” and then not asking in the first place, we can follow this pattern set forth by Nephi to access the influence of the Lord in our lives.

Lehi’s Prophecy of Christ – 1 Nephi 10:4-15

Before really getting into Lehi’s prophecy of Christ, it might be helpful to think about what led up to it:

  • Lehi had been truly converted to the gospel, saw the Lord in vision, and discovered that Jerusalem – because of its wickedness – would be destroyed. As a result of this experience, he began to prophesy in Jerusalem.
  • The people of Jerusalem weren’t particularly receptive to Lehi’s message. They wanted to kill him, so the Lord warned Lehi in a dream to flee Jerusalem.
  • Lehi’s flight was quick. Once a safe distance away, Lehi and his family camped. There, the Lord gave Lehi a command: to have his sons go back to Jerusalem to get the plates of brass – the records kept by the elders of the Jews.
  • Laman, Lemuel, Nephi, and Sam return to Jerusalem to get the plates. Once they return back to Lehi, he begins to study them. It seems to me that he started studying them pretty intently.
  • Lehi receives another command – that his sons will return to Jerusalem another time to get Ishmael and his family, too. They do, and they all are now in the wilderness with Lehi. – This probably took months. Who knows how long. One thing that we can guess is that while Lehi’s sons were gone, Lehi probably spent that time in the wilderness studying the scriptures even more.
  • Lehi has the vision of the tree of life.
  • After telling his family about the vision he had, Lehi prophesies.

I bring up all of this background because, I think that maybe what we read in 1 Nephi 10 is a culmination of studying the scriptures. I’m not sure what Lehi was like before the conversion we read about in 1 Nephi 1. I don’t know what he knew about the Savior or the scattering and gathering of Israel. However, it seems like his knowledge and testimony really grew while in the wilderness.

And then, Nephi shares this prophecy that his father gives of the Savior. Lehi prophesies that the Lord will come in six hundred years. He prophesies that this is the Savior of the World and that we need Him. Lehi continues on also prophesying of the Lord’s baptism, death, and the scattering and gathering of Israel.

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Son of Man, J. Kirk Richards

One – 600 Years from the time Lehi Left Jerusalem

Lehi prophesied:

“”Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews—even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.” – 1 Nephi 10:4

We have the hindsight to know that this prophecy came true. The Messiah, the Savior of the world was raised up among the Jews. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem nearly 600 years after Lehi left Jerusalem.

Two – Prophets Testify of Christ

We read:

“And he also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world.” – 1 Nephi 10:5

This is what makes me think that Lehi had become more acquainted with the scriptures. He had been studying the brass plates and was now familiar with the many prophecies of the Savior given by the prophets.

This reminds me of another scripture spoken by Lehi’s own son:

“…Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ.” – Jacob 7:11

The scriptures, the records of the prophets all spoke and prophesied of Christ – His coming, His life, His mission. Lehi is prophesying of the Savior to his children, and they don’t have to take only his word for it – all of the other prophets have prophesied of this same Messiah and their testimonies have been recorded in the scriptures.

Three – The Reason we Need a Savior

Lehi teaches:

“Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.” – 1 Nephi 10:6

Why prophesy of a Messiah? Why would so many prophets share this exact same message? Because the entire world depends on Him. We need Him. Without the Savior, we have no hope. Without the Savior we remain fallen, lost, and dead.

The Savior is hope. Lehi knew that He would come. We can know that He did come. The prophets tell us about the Savior not only to give us hope, but also so that we can know the way to have this hope take effect in our lives.

Four – The Savior would Be Baptized

It’s interesting to me that one of the key parts of Lehi’s prophecy is that the Lord would be baptized. Lehi said:

“And he spake also concerning a prophet who should come before the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord—

8 Yea, even he should go forth and cry in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight; for there standeth one among you whom ye know not; and he is mightier than I, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. And much spake my father concerning this thing.

9 And my father said he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan; and he also said he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water.

10 And after he had baptized the Messiah with water, he should behold and bear record that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world.” – 1 Nephi 10:7-10

We will learn more about this later, but it is good to note that it is part of Lehi’s prophecy. The Savior of the World would be baptized. And John the Baptist would witness that he had baptized the Lamb of God – who would take away the sins of the world.

Five – The Jews would Kill the Messiah, and then the House of Israel would Dwindle and Be Scattered

A part of understanding the coming of the Savior is what would happen after He came to the earth.

He would be judged and then killed. Then, after being killed by His own covenant people, He would rise from the dead with healing in His wings. He wasn’t merely brought back to life, He was resurrected. He overcame death.

Unfortunately, as a result of their wickedness and killing of their Savior, the House of Israel would become completely apostate. They would then be scattered throughout the world. Some of the scattering of Israel would even happen before the coming of Christ.

Lehi recognizes that his family is a part of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the scattering. He mentions that the House of Israel would be like an Olive tree, and this allegory that was recorded on the plates of brass is quoted at length by Jacob later on.

Six – After the Appointed Time, the Lord would Gather Israel and Bring Back His Covenant

What does the scattering of Israel have to do with the Messiah? Well, I suppose it’s simply a part of His work (on a big scale!). His work is our salvation and exaltation, and the scattering and gathering of Israel is a crucial part of His work – bringing the hope of the Gospel to all people.

The Lord, after the great apostasy would (and did!) bring His gospel to the “Gentiles.” After they had received the gospel, then they would take it back to the other nations of the earth and gather scattered Israel.

As a part of this process, the Gentiles would also covenant with God – thereby creating a way for all of God’s children to be blessed by the Savior: His Atonement and His Covenant.

***

These prophecies are beautiful and exciting. They are the basics of the gospel. The Savior loves us all.

The effects of the fall – we can think of them like gravity – they have a hold on us whether or not we believe or know what it is. You don’t need to know how to explain gravity, you don’t even need to believe in gravity for it to still have effect in your life! You can jump up, and you’ll still come down. You can take a step off the edge of the Grand Canyon, and still…yikes.

The fall is the same way. We are all effected by it. And if we want to overcome the effects of the fall, we can’t just wish it away. We need the Savior. He answers the demands of the fall while extending us mercy and hope.

And His scope is so much more than the group of people anciently known as Israel. His scope is that every single one of us can be saved by His miraculous power and Atonement.

So – he has revealed Himself and His work to the prophets. He came to earth. He fulfilled all righteousness. He chose and covenanted with a group of people. He even allowed them to rebel. And then, He brought his covenant to another group of people, promising that it would eventually go to all – even to those who initially had the covenant and then rebelled against it.

I’m so grateful for the Book of Mormon, and how it helps us to understand the work of the Savior. Even though talking about this big huge plan doesn’t feel particularly personal, it does have a personal impact in our lives. And in understanding it, we can better understand our Savior and our covenants with Him.

Nephi’s Vision of Lehi’s Vision – An Overview – 1 Nephi 11-14

You can read 1 Nephi 11-14 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.

Nephi’s Vision of Lehi’s Vision

For the past MONTH we have been studying Nephi’s vision of Lehi’s vision (of the tree of life). The record of Nephi’s vision comprises chapters 11-14 in the book of Mormon. So, we have taken about a week per chapter.

I love studying the scriptures slowly in depth. You learn a lot. You find connections. You often spend time in other scriptures. You can see how the gospel is radial and elegant.

That being said, there is something I also like about reading the scriptures quickly. I know that it is more popular to say things like, “Don’t try to just read the scriptures.” or “It’s good to spend time even reading one verse in depth. You don’t need to read a chapter a day.” I think that you get the idea. For some reason, we kind of belittle the advantage of reading the scriptures quickly.

I’m not suggesting that when we read the scriptures quickly, we just let our eyes glaze over and we don’t try to take in the scriptures at all. Instead, I think it is okay to read the scriptures like a book – to find the story! Sometimes when we get too slow, we get myopic. We forget the bigger picture.

So – my opinion is – read the scriptures! Read them quickly – hanging on the edge of your seat. Read them slowly – really chewing on every morsel. Read them! Study them! Incorporate them into your life. Let them be your guiding light, your Liahona. Let the Spirit speak to you through the scriptures!

***

Soapbox done.

***

So, since I just spent a month on four chapters, I now want to spend a day on the same four chapters – an overview. I think that it will just help to “sum up” what is going on.

Background – Nephi Desires to Know

This whole vision started because Nephi wanted to know and understand what his father was talking about! Without this desire, then none of the revelations would have followed. We can desire, and we can ask. The Lord implores us to ask, and He will reveal according to our desires and intentions.

The Symbols and Their Meanings

The Tree of Life = The Love of God

(1 Nephi 11:8-23)

When Nephi was taught the meaning of the tree of life, the Angel didn’t simply say: It’s the Love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts f the children of men; where it is the most desirable above all things. 

In fact, the Angel never said any of that!

He simply showed Nephi the coming of the Savior to the world. He showed Nephi a vision of Mary – and then he showed her holding the baby Jesus in her arms.

After Nephi saw this HE made the statement from above! He understood the meaning of this tree. And the angel added Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.

The Iron Rod = The Word of God

(1 Nephi 11:24-25; 13:12-42; 14:1-8)

In 1 Nephi 24-25, Nephi sees the Savior ministering among the children of men. The Angel then teaches Nephi that the rod of iron is the word of God. He teaches Nephi that this rod of Iron will lead the people to the fountain of living waters (Christ) and to the tree of life (the Love of God).

In chapter 14, Nephi sees that the Lord would manifest Himself to Gentiles through His Holy Ghost.

Now, just as a reminder, in chapter 13, Nephi saw the end of his civilization. His brother’s posterity still lived on, but they didn’t have the gospel and became “dark and loathsome.” Now, in chapter 14, he sees the Gentiles, and they have a “book.”

This book is the Bible – we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. In chapter 14, we learn that wicked people sought to destroy the church of God. They would masquerade as God’s church, but then pervert and change the Bible – leading many to stumble because these plain and precious truths were lost.

The Gentiles ignorantly stumbled because of these lost truths.

If we think of it in terms of the vision of the tree of life – it is as if the iron rod had GAPS MISSING IN IT! How would we make it through the mists of darkness if the iron rod had rusted and rotted away? We wouldn’t know where to go, what step to take. We would stumble.

Heavenly Father, of course, had a plan. In chapter 14 and 15, we read about the marvelous work and wonder that would go forth. We read that God would restore His gospel to the earth. We read of “another book” (the Book of Mormon) that would come forth and establish the truth of the first.

The Book of Mormon fills those gaps that were taken away. We don’t have to wander in the mists of darkness alone. The Lord has established His Word.

Living Waters = The Love of God

(1 Nephi 11:24-31)

The Angel also explained the meaning of the Living waters to Nephi. Then, Nephi saw the Savior among the children of men – teaching them, healing them, casting out evil spirits. The living waters will heal us, too.

Great and Spacious Building = Pride of the World

(1 Nephi 11:32-36; 12:18-23; 13:1-9; 14:3-4)

Some of these scripture references may not be the most accurate, but I’m running out of time.

When the Spirit taught Nephi about the meaning of the great and spacious building, he showed Nephi the judgment and death of Christ. He saw that the devil tricked many into fighting against the Savior and against His twelve apostles.

The Angel explains that the great and spacious building represents the pride of the world.

This is further illustrated with the creation of a “great and abominable church.” Some people speculate that this is a specific church, but the Spirit explains – it is the church of the devil. I suppose that this means anyone who doesn’t worship God. The First commandment is for us to love God – and to have no other Gods before Him. When we keep this commandment, then we belong to “his church.”

The “great and abominable church” fought against the Savior. And why? The angel explains:

“And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.

9 And also for the praise of the world do they destroy the saints of God, and bring them down into captivity.” – 1 Nephi 13:8-9

For the praise of the world. For money. For shiny stuff. These are the motives of the great and abominable church. Silly. Sometimes we really aren’t much smarter than raccoons.

The root of this – is pride. If we give into pride, if we care more about the praise of the world than God, then we will experience the same end as those in the great and spacious building. They had no foundation. NONE. And it came crashing down to the earth.

Mist of Darkness = Temptations of the Devil That Blind Eyes and Harden Hearts

(1 Nephi 12)

Nephi sees the end of his civilization here. Because of their choice to be proud, they gave into temptation, and then they became extinct.

After seeing this, the Angel explains the mists of darkness.

We don’t need to be captive to these mists. We should choose to humbly press on with a firm grasp of the iron rod.

Filthy Water and River = Depths of Hell

(1 Nephi 12)

Again, the Angel teaches about the meaning of these two symbols, which Lehi didn’t even really notice during his dream. But they were there. They are the depths of hell. This is where the people who let go of the Iron rod end up for the most part.

Which would you prefer? Depths of hell? or Love of God?

Hold to the rod!!!

The Gathering of Israel – Marvelous Work and Wonder

I’m not sure if I stated this clearly above, but there is a strong connection between the gathering of Israel and the Iron Rod.

The Scattering of Israel is a result of pride and temptations. (Mists of darkness, great and spacious building, and the river/fountain of filthy water).

The Gathering of Israel occurs when the Lord restores His gospel and His word. He “patches up” the portions of the rod of Iron that was destroyed by the great and abominable church when they extracted plain and precious truths of the Bible.

There is hope.

We get to live in the time of hope! The Lord has restored His gospel. The Iron Rod is whole and stronger than ever. We have the word of God, and it leads to His Tree – His Love – which is the sweetest and most joyous to the soul.

The End of Nephi’s Record of the Vision

Remember, at the end of 1 Nephi 14, we learn that Nephi sees more, but he can’t relate any more of his vision. Instead, that will be left to John the Revelator to do. You can read John’s revelation to get more information.

Ultimately, though, it is hope. The Lord reigns. This world, this earth, will go through a lot, but the Savior of the World will be the victor.

***

I have to end now, but this is what Nephi saw in a really quick nutshell. I mean, really quick. But it is helpful to understand. What Nephi saw in vision changed his life. Really. This opened up a new paradigm for him. After seeing this vision, Nephi can’t ever go back. Now he knows – he knows the condescension of God. He knows the sweetness of the fruit.

I’m so grateful that Nephi sought to understand this dream. I’m grateful that Nephi didn’t shirk at the warning that the Angel gave him – that after seeing this vision, he would need to testify of the Savior. Instead, Nephi took on the responsibility of seeing this dream. I’m grateful that Nephi lived with full intent, and then he did as he intended to do. I’m grateful that Nephi shared with us his vision. Now, we have seen it, too.

***

Can’t take the time to proofread today, so please excuse any problems. If there is some glaring mistake, feel free to comment and let me know, and I’ll fix it! Thanks for reading!

How Beautiful Upon the Mountains – 1 Nephi 13:37

You can read 1 Nephi 13:37 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • This is one of my favorite scriptures.

How Beautiful Upon the Mountains

Today’s scripture study is one verse. It’s one of my favorite scriptures, and I’m excited to study it today.

“And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.” – 1 Nephi 13:37

I am not completely sure why it is one of my favorite scriptures. Maybe it’s because I have been seeking Zion and I want to help build it. I want to have the gift of the Holy Ghost in my life. I want to be lifted up and saved. Maybe it’s just because I like the idea of publishing peace. I like sharing my joy. And I really want to be beautiful on the mountains. Oh well…just gonna study it for now.

IMG_4172Heber Valley Golden Hourchurch of dirtimage-44AB1F89AD-31DC-485F-99EA-F952CA2EB34BWasatch Mountain

Hope you liked the mountain top pictures…now to the studying.

And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day

The first part of the scripture tells us about a group of people – those who seek to bring forth Zion.

Who are these people?

Well…When we covenant with God through baptism, I think that we say that we will do this. In Mosiah 18, Alma the elder is explaining the baptismal covenant to the people:

And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” – Mosiah 18:8-10

Bearing one another’s burdens. Mourning with those that mourn. Comforting those that stand in need of comfort. Standing as a witness of God… These are ways that we share the love of God with others. These are ways that we build God’s kingdom – by building up others.

As I write this, it is also not lost on me that I have made sacred covenants in the temple. One of the covenants that I’ve made is that I would use the opportunities and talents that the Lord has given me to build His kingdom. (You can learn more here.)

And why? Why is it so important to seek to build up Zion? Well, maybe it is helpful to remember God’s work and glory – our immortality and eternal life. Heavenly Father’s whole purpose is for us to return to Him and be happy. This is why we are here on earth. He wants to bless us with His greatest blessings. In fact, He delights in it.

So – He has given us a path on how everlasting joy is accomplished. We need a body, first of all – which is why we are all here on earth. And then, He has given us the commandments. They are part of the path back to Him. He has also given us the gift of the Atonement through His Only Begotten Son. He has created a way for us to return to live with Him and have joy. This is only achieved when we actually follow His path.

So – why is it so important to build Zion? Because it is the path to joy! Because it is the purpose of why we are here. Because, if we really believe in our Father in Heaven, and if we really love Him, then we want others to feel this great joy, too.

We have an example of a Zion-state society in the scriptures:

“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

16 And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.” – 4 Nephi 1:15-16

This is the result of Zion. Happiness. Confidence. Love. Safety. Peace. Trust. Growth. Loyalty.

Yes – blessed are those who seek to bring forth Zion! Imagine what it would look like if we lived in a world where we had that in common – we were all trying to build Zion! It would be pretty amazing. We can make the corners of our own worlds more amazing by seeking to bring forth Zion. Zion building has to start somewhere, it might as well start with us!

for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost;

One of the blessings of seeking to bring forth Zion – is to be able to have both the gift and power of the Holy Ghost. Recall the scripture from above. Alma taught the people:

“Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” – Mosiah 18:10

When we serve God and keep His commandments, then he pours His Spirit upon us.

And what’s the big deal about that? Well…a few things I guess:
One – God’s Nature is the Nature of Happiness
In Alma, we read:

“And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.” – Alma 41:11

Alma taught his son that going against the nature of God is going against a nature of happiness. From this, we learn that God’s nature is a nature of happiness! His Spirit will bring us more happiness because it is His spirit! I really like that. I want to be happy in life. I like happiness!

Of course, it is important to remember what happiness actually is. It’s a deep, abiding peace and joy. It is the kind of happiness that gets us through hard times and easy times. It isn’t fleeting pleasure, but real confidence and purpose.

Mormon taught Moroni about the blessings of the Comforter. (by the way…that name: the Comforter. That title tells you a ton! Who wouldn’t want that as a constant companion. Comfort. Peace. Love. AMAZING!)

“And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.” – Moroni 8:26

The Holy Ghost is a comforter. He fills us with hope and love. When we seek to build Zion – which is the gospel – not only are we filled with the Spirit, we are sharing a gospel that will help the recipient be filled with the Spirit.

It’s an upward cycle. It’s really cool.

and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb

That sounds nice. I’d like to be lifted up. I really would like to be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb.

Not much to say here…well except that – notice: the first two parts of this scripture – seeking to build up zion and then being filled with the Gift and Power of the Holy Ghost – is the secret to enduring to the end!

So, the Lord gives us a commandment – to build Zion. And the blessing of doing this is having the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Which gift will help us to endure to the end.

Which then will lift us up at the last day.

So often we talk about our lives on earth as a “test.” We are being tested and tried, it is true. But I think that we overlook the fact that this is an open book test! Heavenly Father has given us everything that we need to succeed.

and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.

This is the part that I really like. I love the imagery of it. But what does it mean?

Publish Peace
Publishing peace is a lot more than going around with a sign that says “make love, not war.” In fact, most of our modern “peacemaking” techniques will never work in the long-term. They are like fad-diets. They show promising results, but are impossible to maintain…because they miss the real point.

When I think of “peace” the first scripture I think of was uttered by the very Prince of Peace

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27

When we publish peace, we are not just saying “can’t we all just get along?!” We are sharing real Peace, the Peace of Christ. This peace lacks confusion. It passes all understanding. It enlightens and uplifts. It calms our anxiety and fear.

Richard G. Scott described peace as follows:

“God wants each of His children to enjoy the transcendent blessing of peace of conscience. A tranquil conscience invites freedom from anguish, sorrow, guilt, shame, and self-condemnation. It provides a foundation for happiness…

Peace of conscience is the essential ingredient to your peace of mind. Without peace of conscience, you can have no real peace of mind. Peace of conscience relates to your inner self and is controlled by what you personally do. Peace of conscience can come only from God through a righteous, obedient life. It cannot exist otherwise. On the other hand, peace of mind is most often affected by external forces such as concern for a wayward child, economic pressures, real or imagined offenses, deteriorating world conditions, or more to do than sufficient time to do it. An unsettled mind is temporary, transitory. Peace of mind is restored by resolving the external forces that disturb it…

It is well to remember that even with peace of conscience you can have temporary periods when your peace of mind is interrupted by external concerns. Your understanding of the causes can relieve much of the pressure they generate. As your personal life conforms to the teachings of the Lord, you can seek His help in resolving the troubling issues. Thus your faith in the Lord and in His teachings will yield peace of mind. Your efforts will be stepping-stones to greater personal growth as Spirit-guided solutions are found…

In summary, you can regain peace of conscience by repenting of personal transgressions that cause you internal turmoil. Then peace of mind can be secured by resolving the external pressures that cause you temporary anxiety, worry, and distress.” – Richard G. Scott

Peace, on a variety of levels, can come to us – but only through Christ.

Tidings of Great Joy
The tidings of great joy – Christ! Christ came to this earth. He was born in a lowly stable. He descended below all. He lived a life – growing little by little. He served others. He healed the sick. He taught the people. He established His church. He suffered for our sins. He died on the cross. He was resurrected. He overcame death and hell, so that we could overcome death and hell.

There is hope! This life isn’t it. There is so much more than our earthly experiences. Because of the Savior, all will be made right – at one point or another. Because of the Savior we can return to Heavenly Father and live in a state of happiness.

Tidings of great joy!

The people who do all of this – seek to bring forth Zion, are filled with the gift of the Holy Ghost, endure to the end, are raised at the last day and saved in God’s kingdom, who publish peace and tidings of great joy…how beautiful! Can you imagine a more beautiful life? Filled with the Spirit! Filled with hope. Filled with joy. Yes – there are trials. Of course there are trials. You can’t get to the tops of the mountain without climbing a mountain but the Lord comforts us, gives us peace, strengthens us. And it is beautiful.

Mountain Tops

In Them Shall Be Written the Gospel – 1 Nephi 13:20-36

You can read 1 Nephi 13:20-36 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • Nephi witnessed that the Gentiles would come from their Gentile lands to the Promised Land where Nephi’s posterity dwelt.
  • The Gentiles would prosper in the land, and Nephi saw that they had a book that they carried with them.
  • The angel asked Nephi if he knew what the meaning of the book was.
  • Nephi didn’t know. The angel explained that it was a record of the Jews – it was the Bible. It contained the covenants of the Lord which he had made with the House of Israel. The Gentiles, though not of the House of Israel, valued this book greatly.
  • The angel explained that when the book originally proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jews, it was pure and contained the fulness of the Gospel of the Lord. However, over time people with bad intentions took many parts which were plain and precious away from the book.
  • After the plain and precious parts were taken from the book, it went forth among all of the nations of the Gentiles. Even though there was so much good in this book, and even though it was highly valued, because many of the plain and precious things had been taken out of the book, the Gentiles stumbled.
  • On another note, the Lord promised that the Gentiles, though they would come to the promised land and disrupt the lives of the posterity of the Lamanites, the Lord wouldn’t allow the Gentiles to utterly destroy them.
  • Additionally, the Lord wouldn’t allow the Gentiles to remain in a state of blindness – because of the lack of the plain and precious truths of God’s Gospel. The Lord would be merciful to the Gentiles.
  • The Angel then explains that after Christ visits the people in the Americas with judgment – for their rebellion against Him – and after the Gentiles stumble exceedingly (this was the great apostasy – where no full truth could be found). After all of this, the Lord would be merciful and bring His gospel back to the Gentiles. This would happen in a unique way: The Lord would manifest Himself to the Nephites shortly after His resurrection and they would record this event. (See 4 Nephi). Over time, the Nephites would eventually dwindle in unbelief and be destroyed. When this happened, the Lord would have the records that were kept by the prophets hidden up – to come forth to the Gentiles by the gift and power of God and according to His own due time.
  • The record kept by the Nephites would have the gospel.

In Them Shall Be Written the Gospel

So – this section of chapter is pretty interesting – in a historical context. You can read through the list above for information. I will apologize in advance if what I write next is more or less a repeat of what is above. But this is just how I synthesize information. When we synthesize and analyze the scriptures, then we will be able to apply them…that may come today. But it might not come until tomorrow…we’ll see.

Scattering

Nephi had already witnessed the destruction of his seed – The Nephites. And then his brethren’s seed -the Lamanites – became a loathsome people – in that they were no longer keeping the covenants. They lost their culture and religion.

And we know that this happened. Now please don’t misunderstand me. There are many beautiful things about every culture. And often cultures have a lot of the truth in their culture. However, when a culture is without God and Jesus Christ, there are some pretty gaping holes. Even in our culture – one that is primarily Judeo-Christian, there are gaping holes. There is more wickedness and hate than should exist.

This is what happened to the Lamanites. If you study history, you will find that when the Spanish first arrived in what is now Mexico, many native people rejoiced. They thought that these white men would help to protect them from the Aztecs – who regularly gave human sacrifice. It wasn’t an easy or safe culture for a lot of people.

I won’t sit here and say that things were done right or wrong – when they happened 600 years ago. It doesn’t really matter. It’s a moot point to sit and criticize what the early explorers did. Of course, I don’t condone any kind of brutality. But I don’t think that we do anything of value when we sit and criticize them either. We can’t possibly understand the mentality of either the native americans or the Eurpoeans during the late 1400s and early 1500s. It is truly impossible to wrap our heads around. I mean, I can’t even wrap my head around life without a television. How could I possibly understand the time of the discovery of the new world? Things are just so different.

Nephi sees this happen though. I think that it is important to note that Heavenly Father doesn’t condone the destruction of people. He loves His children. That being said, He allows us to live our own lives – both on the micro and macro levels. He allows us to make good decisions and bad ones. He allowed the Gentiles to come to the Americas. And He even allowed them to be a scourge to the Native Americans.

And it might also be good to remember that this happens a lot. Heavenly Father allows things to happen. Heavenly Father allowed Joseph Smith to be martyred. He allowed Abinadi to be burned at the stake. He allowed Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son, to be crucified. He honors our agency completely. And He allowed the history of the Americas – both the good and the bad – to happen.

Even though the Lord allowed the Gentiles to come to the Americas and scatter the seed of the Lamanites, He didn’t allow the Gentiles to obliterate them completely. This is according to the covenants that He made with Lehi and others – thousands of years before.

In fact, this scourge, this scattering – is one of the grandest examples of the scripture:

“…thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.” – 2 Nephi 2:2

Even though the Lord allowed this great affliction to happen to the seed of the Lamanites, He would also consecrate that very affliction for their gain…back to that in a second.

A Book

When Nephi sees these Gentiles that come to the promised land and scatter the remnants of his people, he sees that the Gentiles have a book with them. This book is the Bible.

Which is good.

Here’s the thing though… The Bible, originated as a source of wisdom and the gospel – containing the covenants that God made with His people. But, over time, wicked people with wicked intentions took parts of the Bible out. In fact, the most plain and precious truths of the Bible were omitted over time. We learn about the consequences of such omissions:

“And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.” – 1 Nephi 13:29

The Gentiles, though they had the Bible, stumbled because many of the truths were missing. They only had a part of the recipe. They aren’t inherently wicked people, they are just misinformed.

Mercy

God allowed all of these things to happen. He allowed wicked people with wicked intentions to pervert His word. He allowed the Gentiles to stumble because of their misinformed ideas. He allowed the Gentiles to come and scatter and smite the seed of the Lamanites. I don’t think that He is always happy with these things that happen, but He honors our agency, and He allows it.

And then, because we have a loving God, at the right time, he extends mercy – to the Gentiles and to the House of Israel.

Eventually, the Lord would bring forth another record – with His covenant, to the Gentiles. This would be a record written by Nephi and his posterity. This book would not compete with the Bible. Neither would it replace the Bible. It would simply help to clarify and bring to light the plain and precious truths that had been lost. Still – there is so much good in the Bible. I love the Bible. And we believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly.

But the fact of the matter is, the Bible had lost some of its truths over time. So the Lord had prepared another Book to help clarify and restore His gospel. This book is the Book of Mormon. About the Book of Mormon, we read:

“And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.” – 1 Nephi 13:36

***
It’s amazing. We have the Book of Mormon AND the Bible now – which means we have the Gospel, His rock. His Salvation. We have the covenants. We have the truths that we need in order to receive salvation. Through the coming of the Book of Mormon, the Lord would consecrate the afflictions (of the remnants of the Lamanites) for their gain.

Though Nephi saw the destruction of his people, he had hope. They would one day be able to return to God and to their covenant. This would happen through a series of afflictions – stumbling and scattering. But it is through the stumbling of the Gentiles and the scattering of the House of Israel that either group became humble enough to accept the word of God and His gospel.

The Power of the Lord Was with Them – 1 Nephi 13:1-19

You can read 1 Nephi 13:1-19 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • The Angel told Nephi to look.
  • Nephi looked and he saw the many nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles.
  • Nephi saw the formation of a great church.
  • Corruption was rampant.
  • Nephi saw that a man – of the Gentile nations – was “wrought” upon him and he went forth on the ocean – to the promised land.
  • Many of the Gentiles then came to the promised land. The seed of Nephi’s brethren were scattered and smitten by the Gentiles.
  • The Gentiles prospered in the land.
  • The Gentiles who had gone out of their mother countries humbled themselves. They battled against their mother countries, and they won. These poor settlers of the Americas (the promised land) were no longer captives of their “mother countries” (European countries).

The Power of the Lord Was with Them

This section of scripture is an interesting prophecy that Nephi receives – of what will happen in relatively modern times – the “discovery” of the Americas and then the migration of people from Europe (and other continents) to the American continents.

It’s interesting, and worth investigating, but that really isn’t my focus for today. This isn’t a comprehensive study of the Book of Mormon – and what it is about. Instead, I’m really studying the Book of Mormon for me. And instead of keeping my scripture journal private, I’m sharing it here on the blog with all of you.

So – here’s what I’m interested in today:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.” – 1 Nephi 13:16

So – back to the context for a minute, then I think we can learn more.

The Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity – the people who came to the Americas from Europe – did humble themselves before the Lord. After doing this, the power of the Lord was with them. How was this manifest? Well, let’s just think about it for a minute.

The scriptures then teach:

“And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.

18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.

19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.” – 1 Nephi 13:17-19

In case you didn’t already know, I’m an American. So, I can’t help but read this with the framework of being from the U.S. I can’t help but think of the Redcoats, the Patriots, and the revolutionary war. I can’t help but think of a world-class navy that was defeated by a rag-tag but blessed group of men who wanted freedom from taxation and control by a faraway land. I can’t help but think of 1776, the Declaration of Independence, and then the following Revolutionary War.

I mean, I used to live in the Philadephia area. I used to live in Boston. I still have family in both cities. When I read these scriptures, I can’t help but think of the absolutely miraculous history of our country, and I can echo what was taught to Nephi – The gentiles who had come to the Americas humbled themselves before the Lord, and the power of the Lord was with them.

Humbled Before the Lord

So, we learn that the Gentiles humbled themselves before the Lord. What does this mean, exactly?

The first thing that comes to my mind is that they were prayerful. I can’t think of anything that shows more humility than true, honest, faithful, meaningful, intentional prayer. (I know – there were a lot of adjectives there. But really, I mean it! I don’t want to be mistaken. I’m not talking about the things that we sometimes “say” and then call a prayer. I’m talking about true communion with God.

And I want to openly admit, right here, that I’m the worst when it comes to communion with God through prayer. My prayers are not great right now. I say them, yes…but sometimes they may be more on the “vain repetition” end of the spectrum rather than humble prayer.

Another thing that comes to mind is the following scripture:

“19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” – Mosiah 3:19

When we humble ourselves to the Lord, we will put off the natural man. When we humble ourselves, we become as a child (which, by the way WE ARE! we are His children, and when we take the time to remember that, it becomes more natural to accept, love, and trust our Father in Heaven as a Father in Heaven!

The Power of the Lord

When we humble ourselves to the Lord, then we become open to having His power with us. (WE MUST BE HUMBLE!) Humility isn’t a hack. So you can’t “act” humble and then expect His power.

It’s interesting, too. I don’t know how to say it, so hopefully my train of thought will be easy enough to follow. I’ve had the following scripture on my mind for the past few days:

“3 Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—” – Doctrine and Covenants 45:3

In this scripture, we learn that the Savior is our advocate with the Father and that He is pleading our cause.

An advocate is someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. In this case, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, the Redeemer, the Creator is our Advocate. Which means that we are His cause. And He is publicly supporting our Cause – to His Father.

The Gentiles, or European settlers humbled themselves to the Lord, the Advocate, and He pleaded their cause – freedom from their “mother countries” – to His Father in Heaven.

And, we have hindsight. We know it worked. We know that against all odds, The United States defeated the British. This led to nearly every other country in the Americas eventually winning their freedom from the European countries that had colonized them. We know that the power of the Lord was with them! They succeeded!

Personal Application

I’m so grateful for this example. I’m not trying to be so US-centric here, but it is just the history that I am the most familiar with since it is my country. If I was from another country, I’m sure I would have another story to share here. Anyway that doesn’t matter.

I’m so grateful for this example because I have my own prayers that need to be answered. There are miracles that I’m praying for. I think that we all have them. And this example – of the gentiles defeating their mother countries – is probably one of the most extreme examples of God’s power that we can find.

The United States militia should not have defeated the British. It wasn’t their experience, technology, or resources that helped them win the Revolutionary war. It was their hearts – that had been humbled to the Lord. The Lord strengthened them.

Now, this didn’t happen magically. The Revolutionary Patriots didn’t just say a prayer, “Gosh…I hope we can be free” and then go on with their day just as they had done the day before.

No – not even close. These patriots threw tea into a harbor. They declared their independence. They fought. Many of these patriots humbled themselves before God and pleaded their cause to the Advocate – with their own blood.

We can’t think that we can just say “I’m humble…now give me what I want.” We have to show our humility through our words (prayers) and our deeds (an extension of our prayers).

And when we do, we can rest assured that our Advocate will plead our cause, and that His power will be with us. We will succeed.

***
PS…this is another un-edited, un-proofread blog post. Maybe I’ll come and look at it later. For now, I need to publish and scoot. So please be understanding!
 

Pride and Temptation – 1 Nephi 12:12-23

You can read 1 Nephi 12:12-23 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • Nephi saw many of the fourth generation (from the time of Christ’s coming) of his people pass away in righteousness.
  • Nephi saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.
  • Nephi saw his the people of his seed gathered together in war against the seed of his brethren.
  • The Angel teaches Nephi the meanings of the fountain of filthy water, the mists of darkness,and the great and spacious building.
  • Nephi saw the seed of his brethren – that they overcame his own seed.
  • Nephi saw wars and rumors of wars among the seed of his brethren. Many generations passed away.
  • Nephi saw the remainder of his civilization dwindle in unbelief. They became a dark, loathsome, and filthy people.

Temptation

We’ve been studying about the destruction of the Nephites in the past few blog posts. The Savior, after being resurrected, visited and ministered to the people of the Americas. As a result of the visitation from the Savior, the Nephites became one people. They lived in peace. There were no classes, no wars, no wickedness. They were very happy.

This joyful society lasted for about four generations, but then pride crept into the hearts of the people. Soon, they no longer had things in common. Class was reintroduced. Then, it wasn’t long before all manner of evils started to become commonplace again. Sin, wickedness, and pride spread through the people like a wildfire – with devastating effects.

Nephi sees some of this – one thousand years before it will happen. We read:

“And while the angel spake these words, I beheld and saw that the seed of my brethren did contend against my seed, according to the word of the angel; and because of the pride of my seed, and the temptations of the devil, I beheld that the seed of my brethren did overpower the people of my seed.” – 1 Nephi 12:19

The self-destruction of the Nephites

  1. They became proud.
  2. This pride set them against God, and they gave into the temptations of the devil.

As I read this verse, I am kind of fixated on that word: Temptations. It has a footnote – to the Topical Guide. I think that I will study a few of the entries here today.

Temptation is a Part of Mortal Life

Even before the foundation of this world, the Lord had a plan – we would come to the earth to be tried and tested.

“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;” – Abraham 3:25

God created the world and then created Adam and Eve. He set them in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve dwelt in His presence, but there was a condition – they could not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and then remain in His presence.

The Lord then allowed them to be tempted.

Temptation has been a part of our experience always. It is something we should simply accept. When we understand that temptation is a part of our experience, then we can have power over it.

We know that Adam and Eve were tempted, and they fell. This fall introduced death and sin into the world. But it had a positive effect, too – they were able to have children. The plan of salvation would move forward. We could all come to the earth to be tested and tried.

Pride and Temptation

We read in 1 Nephi 12 that because of the pride of the Nephites, they entered into temptation, and then they were overpowered by their enemies. In the Doctrine and Covenants a similar warning is given to Oliver Cowdery:

“1 Behold, I speak unto you, Oliver, a few words. Behold, thou art blessed, and art under no condemnation. But beware of pride, lest thou shouldst enter into temptation.” – Doctrine and Covenants 23:1

Why does pride lead us into temptation? I mean, really – I want to search that. Why does pride lead us into temptation?  Because, obviously it does. And, honestly, we don’t even need to know why in order to understand the pattern that when we have pride, we are more easily beset by sin and temptation. However, maybe if we understand the mechanics of it – maybe if we deconstruct it – then we will fight and rage against pride – so that we aren’t led into temptation – so that we don’t wander off, get lost, and become miserable.

I suppose that we first need to understand, really, what pride is. And I know that I’ve already studied this before, but it’s fine. I am feeling that I need to study this, so here we go. I love President Ezra Taft Benson’s explanation of pride:

Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. – Ezra Taft Benson

I love this explanation because I think that we often do get stuck on the first paragraph – we think of pride as being some kind of braggart-ly jerk. We think of someone who is conceited and cocky. We might think of an arrogant loud mouth boaster. We may even think of it more subtly – the “rat race” or someone who needs to “keep up with Joneses” by wearing a fancy watch and driving a nice car.

Even in the Book of Mormon, when we read that pride is creeping into the hearts of the people, they are described as wearing fine clothing. And yes – this is a part of pride.

But the jerkiness, the haughtiness, the boastful dude who talks trash to others, the subtle passive aggressive lady who gives back-handed complements, the name dropping, the nice cars, the peer pressure, the politics, the condescension and judgment of others – those are all symptoms. They are correlations, but not the causation of pride.

President Benson teaches more than the little outward symptoms of pride. He gets to the heart of the matter – which happens to be the heart. Pride is enmity toward God. And enmity toward God is anything that causes us to hate Him, have hostility toward Him, or put us in opposition against Him. When we really think of it that way, then we will begin to see that even if driving a supercar isn’t important to us, we may still be suffering from pride.

President Benson also explains:

“Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s.” – Ezra Taft Benson

It’s starting to get easy to see why giving into pride will then lead to giving in to other temptations. What chance do we even have to ward off temptation if we already have our wills pitted against God’s?

The first great commandment is to love God. The second is love others. When we allow pride into our hearts – our enmity may be directed toward God, which, of course, is breaking that first commandment. It is also possible to have our enmity directed to others. President Benson taught:

“Another major portion of this very prevalent sin of pride is enmity toward our fellowmen. We are tempted daily to elevate ourselves above others and diminish them. (See Hel. 6:17; D&C 58:41.)

The proud make every man their adversary by pitting their intellects, opinions, works, wealth, talents, or any other worldly measuring device against others. In the words of C. S. Lewis: “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. … It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1952, pp. 109–10.)” – Ezra Taft Benson

Does this sound familiar? I wish it didn’t to me. I have often found myself frustrated by the success and joy of others – rather than also joyful for them. This is a form of pride. Left untamed, it can lead to giving into more serious temptations – I mean, really, what is at the root of coveting? Pride. Adultery? Pride. Murder? Pride.

If you keep your hearts pure and full of charity, then you probably won’t go out and commit a gross sin against others. It just won’t be a temptation anymore. Well, actually maybe it will be a temptation. There are always temptations in life. But when we learn to get a handle on pride, then we also won’t succumb so much to temptation.

One more thing about pride. Not only is pride related to enmity, it is also very intimately related with fear. President Benson said:

” The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment. (See D&C 3:6–7; D&C 30:1–2; D&C 60:2.) “What will men think of me?” weighs heavier than “What will God think of me?”

“Fear of men’s judgment manifests itself in competition for men’s approval. The proud love “the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42–43.) Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest. Jesus said He did “always those things” that pleased God. (John 8:29.) Would we not do well to have the pleasing of God as our motive rather than to try to elevate ourselves above our brother and outdo another?” – Ezra Taft Benson

Sometimes we become at odds against God because we worry more about what others think than what He thinks. When we start worrying about others, we then might be led into temptation – we might say yes when the right thing is to say no, we may think that we need to live outside of our means, we might even be willing to hurt others if that pleases those we fear.

Pride just leads to temptation -plain and simple. If we want to have strength against temptation, then we need to attack it at the root – pride.

Prayer Wards of Pride

Both pride and temptation are thwarted by true prayer. Remember what we learned about pride – it is enmity against God. We have pitted our will against His.

Instead, prayer is an exercise where we align our wills with Gods. In the Bible Dictionary we learn about prayer.

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.” – Bible Dictionary: Prayer

First of all – prayer becomes more natural when we learn the true relationship. Think about pride right now – when we have pride in our hearts, are we remembering that we are children speaking to our loving Father in Heaven. When we understand the being that created us, prayer becomes more instinctive.

“Difficulties” about prayer arise from our own silliness – in forgetting that our Father in Heaven is our Father in Heaven!

Pride – plain and simple. So – when I pray, I need to remember that I am a daughter of God. Which means, He is my Father. Which means that He may have just a little bit more knowledge than I do.

The Bible Dictionary continues:

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” – Bible Dictionary: Prayer

When we try to pit our will against God’s – this is pride. When we try to change the will of God – this is pride! We have forgotten who we are and who He is. We have forgotten that He created this world! We have forgotten that His ways are higher than our ways, and that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We have become so puffed up and sure of ourselves that we foolishly believe that our knowledge and will to be better than God’s.

Prayer – real prayer – is a way that we can remember our relationship with God and realign our wills with His. It is a way that we can discover His will. (I don’t want to get into this now, but often I think that His will isn’t some specific point by point plan for our lives. We are co-creators. Yet, there is an ideal, and if we seek to understand His will, then we will be much better off!) Prayer can help to ward off pride.

Prayer Helps us Overcome Temptation

This post is rather long, but I want to finish with a few scriptures about the connection between prayer and temptation

One – Matthew 6:13

The Lord’s prayer is a pattern for us to follow. He specifically asks for help – not to be lead into temptation but delivered from evil.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” – Matthew 6:13 

I ask for a lot of blessings, and I do plead that the Spirit can be with me, but I’m not sure that I always ask for protection against evil and temptation.

Two – Alma 34:39

Amulek taught:

“Yea, and I also exhort you, my brethren, that ye be watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away by the temptations of the devil, that he may not overpower you, that ye may not become his subjects at the last day; for behold, he rewardeth you no good thing.” – Alma 34:39

Not only do we need to pray that we won’t be led into temptation, but we need to pray continually!

I love the phrase, that he may not overpower you. I have to admit, yesterday I was feeling a little overpowered. Overwhelmed. Things go great for a while, and then it’s just hard. And what is the problem – most likely my lack of prayer. I try to pray, really pray, each day. Usually, I’m pretty okay at it. Right now, I’m not living in my own house, I don’t have my own space, so sometimes it is hard for me to find the right time or place to pray in a way that I would really like.

So I get a little casual.

And then, it just adds up and I feel overpowered and overwhelmed. So….PRAY! The Lord will give us the strength or insight that we need so we don’t feel overpowered or overwhelmed. We will be guided on what we need to do to stay the course and be happy.

Three – Matthew 26:41

The Savior spoke the following words to Peter, James, and John after he found them asleep while He suffered in Gethsemane:

“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:41

At first glance, this seems like pretty pointed advice to the three apostles that were accompanying the Savior. Not only that, I kind of understand the plight of Peter, James, and John. Every single night, my husband and I try to watch a little episode of Psych or some other fun TV show. And every single night I fall asleep. Usually, I can’t even make it to the OPENING credits before falling asleep! I can get how it would have been hard for Peter, James, John to stay awake – because my flesh is weak.

And that’s the thing, though. This scripture probably applies to all of us in most situations. My flesh is weak. I need the Lord. I need His help. I am willing, but my flesh is so weak. This isn’t an excuse. It is actually meant as a motivation: PRAY! We can’t do it on our own.

When we pray, we are strengthened by the Lord and His spirit. We calm and clear our minds in thoughtful, humble prayer. We align our wills with His. We can feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost – to know what actions we should and maybe even should not take in life.

Our flesh is weak – and on our own, it is way too susceptible to temptation. But we haven’t been left alone. We have a loving Advocate who pleads our cause for us. However, He can’t plead our cause if we aren’t pleading it, too – in His name. The Lord will make us strong. He wants to make us strong. We just need to humble ourselves and pray.

***

I needed to read this today and to be reminded. I can see why the word “temptation” was standing out to me. I can see why I needed to study temptation, pride, and prayer. I need to remember to really pray and to really believe that Heavenly Father answers our prayers.

I needed to remember that Heavenly Father does allow us to be exposed to challenges and trials in our lives, but that we aren’t alone. We have His help, His constant companionship.

I needed to remember that His help doesn’t mean that He will navigate rough waters for me, but that He will enable me to do it, and that a big part of this is through prayer. Through prayer I will be able to come off conquer and not be overcome by temptation.

I’m so grateful for the scriptures. I know that they will help us every single day if we will just crack them open and listen to what the Lord wants to teach us. I also know that the Lord is guiding us. Every time I learn something in my personal scripture study, I realize that the Lord truly knows me, is mindful of me, and wants to answer my prayers – but He will not rob me of experience and growth when He does answer them. Understanding this helps to strengthen my faith and trust in Him.

I’m so grateful to know we have a loving Father in Heaven. I’m so grateful to know that we have a Savior who is also pleading our cause for us. I am so grateful to know that we don’t have to travel through our lives alone. I’m grateful to know that there is a way out of temptation. We have One we can turn to, and He’s only a prayer away.

The End of the Nephite/Lamanite Civilization and its Connection with Lehi’s Dream – Two: Mists of Darkness – 1 Nephi 12:12-23

Phew…long title.

You can read 1 Nephi 12:12-23 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • Nephi saw many of the fourth generation (from the time of Christ’s coming) of his people pass away in righteousness.
  • Nephi saw the multitudes of the earth gathered together.
  • Nephi saw his the people of his seed gathered together in war against the seed of his brethren.
  • The Angel teaches Nephi the meanings of the fountain of filthy water, the mists of darkness,and the great and spacious building.
  • Nephi saw the seed of his brethren – that they overcame his own seed.
  • Nephi saw wars and rumors of wars among the seed of his brethren. Many generations passed away.
  • Nephi saw the remainder of his civilization dwindle in unbelief. They became a dark, loathsome, and filthy people.

The Mists of Darkness

After showing Nephi the destruction of his people (which wouldn’t happen for hundreds of years), the Angel explains a few of the symbols of Lehi’s dream. Of course, it is always interesting and helpful to examine the meanings of each symbol, but I’m curious – why would the Angel tell Nephi these meanings after showing him the destruction of the Nephite civilization? What do they have to do with one another.

We studied the first symbol – the fountain of filthy water here.

Today, we will investigate the second symbol – the mists of darkness.

We read:

“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.” – 1 Nephi 12:17

It’s kind of interesting. Right now, where I live, the skies are filled with smoke. Most of this smoke is filling up our valley because the west is on fire. There are fires in California and Utah. Because we are east of California, the jet stream brings all of that smoke into our valley. Here the skies are usually clear. Now, it is getting so smoky, it’s hard to breathe without drying out and coughing a little bit.

016 Smoky Skies

Smoky Skies

I can’t help but think of the smoky air when I read about the mists of darkness. It’s crazy to think about the mists of darkness – obscuring everything from view.

The Nephites literally experienced this after the death of the Savior, and before His visitation to the Americas. First there were fires, earthquakes, and tempests. Then we read:

“And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;

21 And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;

22 And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land.

23 And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually; yea, great were the groanings of the people, because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them.” – 3 Nephi 8:20-23

So much destruction had come to pass that it took three days, essentially, for the dust to settle. Many people were killed during theses seismic and terrible events. Finally, after three days, the darkness lifted. We read:

“And it was the more righteous part of the people who were saved, and it was they who received the prophets and stoned them not; and it was they who had not shed the blood of the saints, who were spared—” – 3 Nephi 10:12

Those who made it through the literal mists of darkness did not let go of the iron rod. They received the prophets and the words of the prophets.

***

Now, the Angel is telling Nephi about the mists of darkness while showing him the final destruction of the Nephite people – which happened about 400 years after Christ came to the Americas.

They didn’t experience a literal mist of darkness. However, the proverbial mists of darkness experienced by the Nephites were far worse. This led to their ultimate extinction.

Let’s look at the scripture in Nephi again:

“And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.” – 1 Nephi 12:17

The Mists of Darkness are the Temptations of the Devil

One thing to understand is that the mists of darkness are temptations of the devil. A mist of darkness is not sin, itself. What I mean by that is – there are times when we must endure a period of darkness – just as the Nephites who lived when the Savior came to the Americas did. We may have to endure periods of “darkness” and temptations in our lives, but we don’t have to give in to them.

Also, just because we endure temptations, doesn’t mean that we are wicked. Remember, the mists of darkness simply appeared while the people traveled towards the tree of life. All of the people who were on the journey were exposed. We read:

“And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.

24 And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:23-24

How do we endure temptations – we need to catch a hold of the iron rod and press forward confident in God’s Word.

Paul taught:

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Though we will all endure temptation during this life (even the Savior did!) experiencing temptation is not a judgment on us. Being tempted doesn’t mean we are evil – it means that we are on the path to the tree of life. The Lord has given us a way through temptations – and that is His gospel. If we will stay true to our faith and press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, then we will make it safely through the mists of darkness. These experiences will even make us better and stronger.

However, giving into the temptations of the devil come with deleterious consequences.

Two – The Result of Giving into Temptation

From the Angel we learn that if we give into the temptations of the devil – or mists of darkness – then we will become blind, our hearts will be hard, and we will wander off into strange roads and perish.

The Nephites, at the end of the Nephite civilization did give into the temptations of the devil – even though they knew better! Because of their rebellion, because they deliberately let go of God’s Word and they persecuted the faithful, they were blind, their hearts became hard, and they perished. In fact, this was such a wide-scale problem, that every single Nephite besides Moroni, died. An entire group of people became completely extinct – after having a flourishing civilization that lasted about 1,000 years.

***

So…What’s the Point

So – what’s the point of studying this? What’s the point of knowing this about the Nephites, a group of people who all died off about 1,597 years ago? Why did Nephi need to see this? And why do we need to read it?

Well – it’s an extreme but also effective example.

Maybe it will help if I just think about this for myself…Likewise, you can apply this to yourself.

I need to remember that while I’m on the path toward the tree of life – toward eternal salvation and joy – I will experience times when I must travel through mists of darkness. There will be times when life is hard, I experience trials and tribulations. These trials and tribulations may even result in elevated temptations.

While Satan will tempt me in various ways, ultimately, his goal is the same: to get me to let go of the Iron Rod.

When I was a teenager, and I was in high school, I was tempted to drink, party, use drugs, be immoral. Those very real temptations are no longer temptations any more. I passed through that mist of darkness thanks to the Iron Rod – in the form of seminary, mutual, General Conference, and friends who were also navigating this time in their lives with faith.

When I was in my twenties, I experienced the “mists of darkness” in my first marriage and divorce – where I was tempted to give in to the self-loathing that comes when you are married to a serial adulterer. I’ve been tempted while trying to navigate challenges such as the shift into motherhood, I’ve been tempted to give up on myself and even God when I went through my divorce and the most painful time of my life. However, I passed through that mist of darkness with the help of the scriptures, my bishop, hobbies like running, and movies like Napoleon Dynamite.

In my thirties, and happily married, I experienced new types of “mists of darkness.” These were interesting. They weren’t as obviously evil – as drugs or immorality. They weren’t as painful as betrayal and divorce. These mists of darkness were more like the smoke that fills our valley right now. These temptations were the temptations to be overwhelmed – by things that even seem good! Goals, desires for my life, activities and responsibilities for my children, etc. While none of these things are bad, sometimes I have felt so much pressure to be whatever it is I think that I’m supposed to be that I just want to give up. I don’t want to go out and commit some kind of atrocious sin, but the temptations that I have faced in my thirties still have made me want to do the same thing as the temptations I faced in my teens and twenties – let go of that Iron Rod.

But, I have been blessed – again with the scriptures, with prayer, with a loving and supportive husband, and with the gift of the Holy Ghost that helps me to discern between truth and error – especially when the error I’m facing looks like something good (commitments and great expectations) rather than something so obviously bad (drugs).

I’m now about to turn 40. I know that I have not yet made it to the tree of life. Still, there will be times when I have to travel through mists of darkness. Though these mists and temptations may look different, they all are trying to get us to do the same thing – let go of the Iron Rod. Satan wants us to let go of the only sure and good thing in this world.

Though his temptations may be attractive, there is no substance to them, and they will only lead us to blindness, hardness, and eventually death.

Thankfully, the solution is just as simple – hold on. Keep holding on to the Savior. Press forward with steadfastness in Christ. We don’t have to run. We don’t have to be swift. We just keep putting one foot in front of the other. We just keep walking toward that tree, while holding on to The Savior and His Word.

They are Righteous Forever – 1 Nephi 12:1-11

You can read 1 Nephi 12:1-11 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • The Spirit tells Nephi to look, and he looks.
  • Nephi sees his posterity. They have multiplied exceedingly. They have had wars and contentions. They have built so many cities, Nephi doesn’t even number them. Many generations have passed away.
  • Nephi saw a mist of darkness cover the earth. He also saw various natural disasters. Many people died, but those were more righteous were spared.
  • Nephi saw the Savior come and show himself to the people.
  • Nephi saw twelve among his people who were ordained of God and chosen.
  • The Angel explains to Nephi that those 12 of his seed will be judged later by the apostles. He also tells that these will be righteous forever because of their faith in Christ.
  • Nephi also saw three more generations pass away (after the visitation by Christ) who were righteous because of their faith in Christ and His Atonement.

They Are Righteous Forever

I truly can’t imagine having the vision that Nephi is having right now. I can’t imagine seeing my posterity – years, decades, even centuries from now. The people that Nephi sees in vision are his posterity – either his directly or the posterity of his brothers. We will talk more about this in a later blog post, but I just want to say that I truly can’t imagine it.

As Nephi sees the distant future of the civilization that he started, he sees that the Savior will visit his people. The Savior will bless the Nephites with apostles – ordained and chosen to minister to the people. About these disciples we learn:

” And these twelve ministers whom thou beholdest shall judge thy seed. And, behold, they are righteous forever; for because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood.” – 1 Nephi 12:10

Not only that, but the remainder of the people were also righteous. We read:

“And the angel said unto me: Look! And I looked, and beheld three generations pass away in righteousness; and their garments were white even like unto the Lamb of God. And the angel said unto me: These are made white in the blood of the Lamb, because of their faith in him.” – 1 Nephi 12:11

Don’t you love that phrase: they are righteous forever?! It is my desire – to be able to achieve righteousness that lasts forever. Unfortunately, my righteousness usually lasts until about 15 minutes after I’ve partaken of the sacrament. By then, I’ve usually had some kind of judgmental thought that makes me need the ordinance again. Not to mention the ways that I stray from righteousness throughout the week.

But, interestingly enough, these disciples and Nephites aren’t righteous forever because of their own willpower and brute strength. It is through their faith in the Lamb of God. The idea of reaching some pinnacle of personal perfect righteousness kind of seems impossible.

Of course, it is.

And I often misunderstand. That isn’t what God expects in order for us to qualify for the blessings of salvation made possible through Christ’s sacrifice. Instead, the Lord asks us to have a “broken heart and a contrite spirit.” And, as we have read in this scripture today, we simply need to have faith in Christ – this faith will help to qualify us so that our “garments are made white” in the blood of the Lamb.

The Savior explained:

“And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.” – 3 Nephi 27:19-20

One – Faith

First, and foremost, we need to have faith. We need to believe in Christ – that He truly did come to the earth in the meridian of time. We need to believe that He lived a perfect life. We need to believe that He ministered to the poor, needy, sick, blind, and hungry. We need to believe that He taught by precept and example. We need to believe that He went into the Garden of Gethsemane and took on the sins of the world – so we could be provided a way to be saved. We need to believe that He willingly went on the cross and gave up His life so that He could take it up again – overcoming the sting of death and hell.

Not only do we need to believe in Christ, but we also need to have enough faith in Him to practice what He has taught.

Two – Repentance

Faith in Christ helps us to understand why we need Him. As our faith in Him grows, we become capable of seeing the need we have for a Savior. We then will heed His word:

“15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;

17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” – Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-19

Three – Baptism in Christ Name

After cultivating faith and then repenting, we will then be led to baptism – a covenant that has been made available through Christ. In baptism, we will receive a remission of our sins. This principle was taught in the Doctrine and Covenants:

“…and after thou hast been baptized by water, which if you do with an eye single to my glory, you shall have a remission of your sins and a reception of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands;” – Doctrine and Covenants 55:1

And baptism, then, leads us to…

Four – The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Often, when I think of the gift of the Holy Ghost, I think of the constant companionship of the Comforter. And, of course it is that. But think about that phrase – constant companionship. And think about the fact that the Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead.

We won’t just get the constant companionship of a member of the Godhead just because. We know that no unclean thing can dwell with God. And yes, we have been baptized by the time we have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, but another important facet of this gift is that the Holy Ghost sanctifies us. He makes us holy. We learn:

“Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.” – Alma 13:12

Now – notice this scripture, how it comes full circle with where we started. Just so you know, the context of Alma 13 is Alma teaching about the priesthood and those called to it (just like the disciples that the Angel showed to Nephi).

They had covenanted with God in the waters of baptism, and they had been sanctified through by Holy Ghost. These people were purified and sanctified which happens to each of us when we covenant with God and then live worthy of our covenants.

Such purification and sanctification then results in our desire to remain righteous – because then we remain both pure and holy.

I realize that there are many who misunderstand what it means to be pure and holy. Perhaps the important thing to emphasize here is that the apostles were made pure and holy through the blood of Christ. He doesn’t expect us to be some kind of extra-terrestrial being that is innately “pure.” Purity doesn’t mean prudishness or puritanism. Instead, we become pure as we go to the Lord with fulness of heart and real intent.

And then He makes us pure. We, then are made clean through His blood, and can be – if we will continually choose Him – righteous and happy forever.

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Thanks for reading today. This was probably a boring post, but I really like understanding what I believe in. The doctrine of Christ really is beautiful. There is so much mercy and love in it. There is sacrifice, yes – which leads to hope and joy.