They Were Armed with Righteousness – 1 Nephi 14:8-17

You can read 1 Nephi 14:8-17 here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is seeing the vision of the tree of life and learning its interpretation.
  • The Angel asks Nephi if he remembers the covenants of Heavenly Father to the House of Israel. Nephi responds that yes, he does.
  • The Angel shows Nephi that the Devil is the founder of the “great and abominable church” – a proverbial church which is literally anything that fights against the Lord and tries to hurt people.
  • The Devil and his “church” has influence all over the earth.
  • The Saints of God are also found on the earth, but their numbers are few.
  • The Devil will inspire those who follow Him to fight against the Lamb of God.
  • The power of the Lamb of God, however, will be with the covenant saints of the Lord. They will be armed with righteousness and the power of God.
  • Nephi witnesses wars and conflicts all over the earth.
  • The Lord would commence in preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants – which He made with the House of Israel.

They Were Armed with Righteousness

There is a lot in this scripture block that I’m not one hundred percent sure of. I have my opinions. I don’t think that the “great and abominable church” is a specific church. I just think that it is anything that is actively working against Good.

I also think that that there are a lot of good people in this earth that may not have the gospel in their lives. They may not have covenanted with God. I don’t think that people who haven’t covenanted with God are evil. I think that the Lord looks on our hearts.

All of that being said, I do believe that evil exists. I know that there are true influences trying to coax us into sin, pain, and misery. I also know that we aren’t left alone on this earth.

In 1 Nephi, we read:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” – 1 Nephi 14:14

I find this so interesting. First of all, we must understand that the Power of the Lamb of God descended on the saints of the church.

If you are not familiar with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we consider anyone who covenants with God a saint. You don’t need to be canonized to be a saint. You simply need to be committed to Christ and striving.

Also, according to this scripture, the power of God goes to the Saints – all over the earth. They don’t need to live in Utah or in the U.S. If you have covenanted with the Lord, and if you are living up to your covenants, then you the power of God will descend on you – no matter where you are.

Okay. Anyway – the things I find interesting…

Armed with Righteousness

Armed. The saints of God – their “weapon” is righteousness. I’m reminded of the scripture in Ephesians where Paul teaches to put on the whole armor of God:

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” – Ephesians 6:11-17

This really relates to what we are reading in 1 Nephi. Paul teaches that the whole armor of God will enable to withstand the “wiles of the devil.”

We don’t fight flesh and blood – but against spiritual wickedness – in other words, against “the church of the devil.”

If we will covenant with God, and keep His covenants, then He offers to arm us with righteousness – armor of truth; a breastplate of righteousness; boots of the preparation of the gospel of peace; a shield of faith; a helmet of salvation; and a sword of the Spirit.

With this armor, we cannot fail. We won’t be deceived. We will be destroyed by the enemy of us all (Satan!). The only “issues” with this armor is our agency. Heavenly Father won’t force us to covenant with Him. He won’t force us to become saints.

But if we do, we are armed. And there is no better protection than righteousness.

***
PS Didn’t proofread. Please excuse any mistakes.

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The Terror of the Wicked (Mormon 6:7-8)

There is less and less joy to be found in the people of the Ancient Americas (as recorded in the Book of Mormon. This is because of their wicked decisions and rebellion against God.

We read:

“And it came to pass that my people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them.

And it came to pass that they came to battle against us, and every soul was filled with terror because of the greatness of their numbers.” – Mormon 6:7-8

These people are standing and awaiting their death. They are filled with terror. It sounds like absolutely horrible conditions.

Compare this with those Lamanites who had been converted several hundred years before:

” And they did look upon shedding the blood of their brethren with the greatest abhorrence; and they never could be prevailed upon to take up arms against their brethren; and they never did look upon death with any degree of terror, for their hope and views of Christ and the resurrection; therefore, death was swallowed up to them by the victory of Christ over it.

Therefore, they would suffer death in the most aggravating and distressing manner which could be inflicted by their brethren, before they would take the sword or cimeter to smite them.” – Alma 27:28-29

The rebellious Nephites were terror-filled and blood-thirsty. The faithful and converted Lamanites (from years before), revered the sanctity of life and had no fear of death whatsoever.

I don’t know that I need to say much more other than – it’s obvious that I’d rather be like the Lamanites. Who wants to be filled with terror? Who wants to be bloodthirsty? Why not be righteous and then be filled with the confidence and peace of God?

There is No Happiness in Iniquity (Helaman 13:38)

I Looooooooovvvveeee this scripture.

“But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.” – Helaman 13:38

Pure doctrine. Truth. Universal Law.

You cannot find happiness in iniquity.

It’s as simple as that. Sure, you can find pleasure and excitement in iniquity. But it is short lived, and it is not happiness. Not only that, but after the “high” of pleasure and excitement, we must come down to reality. And if this pleasure and excitement came from iniquity, then we will crash into the reality of our poor choices. Those are never fun.

It’s just the way that it is.

The laws governing happiness and joy are as universal as gravity. They are non-negotiable. We can live in denial. We can defy it. But, ultimately, these laws win. Because they are laws. They are facts. The sooner we simply accept that, the sooner we can find joy and happiness in our lives.

Otherwise, we’ll be like the Nephites that were warned by Samuel the Lamanite. We will pass the day of our probation, we’ll procrastinate salvation until it is too late. We will experience destruction, and then find ourselves lost – looking for something that is unobtainable: happiness in iniquity.

The Need for Personal Righteousness over Governmental Regulation (Helaman 5:3)

The culture of the Nephite continues to decline. There are short periods of humility, righteousness, and prosperity followed by periods of wickedness, war, and misery. I think that if we looked at our own societies, we can see the exact same cycles.

During on particularly bleak downturn, we read:

“Yea, and this was not all; they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.” – Helaman 5:3

The people had become so wicked that they couldn’t be governed by law or justice. No law, no regulation, no punishment could motivate them. The bright democratic culture of the Nephites is becoming a dangerous anarchy.

This resonates with me, actually. I think that here in the U.S., we’ve lived through stages similar to this. I’m reminded of Elder Christofferson’s talk given shortly after the recent economic collapse. Elder Christofferson taught:

“In most of the world, we have been experiencing an extended and devastating economic recession. It was brought on by multiple causes, but one of the major causes was widespread dishonest and unethical conduct, particularly in the U.S. housing and financial markets. Reactions have focused on enacting more and stronger regulation. Perhaps that may dissuade some from unprincipled conduct, but others will simply get more creative in their circumvention. There could never be enough rules so finely crafted as to anticipate and cover every situation, and even if there were, enforcement would be impossibly expensive and burdensome. This approach leads to diminished freedom for everyone. In the memorable phrase of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, “We would not accept the yoke of Christ; so now we must tremble at the yoke of Caesar.”

In the end, it is only an internal moral compass in each individual that can effectively deal with the root causes as well as the symptoms of societal decay. Societies will struggle in vain to establish the common good until sin is denounced as sin and moral discipline takes its place in the pantheon of civic virtues” – D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Discipline,” October 2009

If we want to save our society, we can learn from our own mistakes and from the mistakes of the past. We don’t need to add copious amounts of regulations that probably won’t work. We need to think of the elegant and effective solution – live righteously and teach our children the same.

Oh, and I don’t want this post to simply be some political diatribe. I want to say that this will bring us joy. Imagine the society we could live in – if we chose to be righteous?! If we chose to serve one another and love one another! Imagine the kind of happiness and joy we would have if we were not selfishly chasing after our lusts and other wicked notions. Imagine if we each, individually committed to being righteous.

We would be happy – both on a personal level; and on a societal level.

A Righteous Society is a Happy Society (Alma 50:21-23)

Mormon teaches us a little lesson during these stories about the wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites:

” And we see that these promises have been verified to the people of Nephi; for it has been their quarrelings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations, which were among themselves, which brought upon them their wars and their destructions.

And those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times, whilst thousands of their wicked brethren have been consigned to bondage, or to perish by the sword, or to dwindle in unbelief, and mingle with the Lamanites.

But behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni, yea, even at this time, in the twenty and first year of the reign of the judges.” – Alma 50:21-23

In this scripture passage we see that:

One

Wickedness results in destruction. This doesn’t sound super joyful. Even in verse 21, before the destruction occurs, we read about “quarrelings, contentions, murderings, plunderings, idolatry, whoredoms, and abominations. Even if destruction never came – this sounds like a pretty miserable state. Fighting, murdering, robbing, broken families. Sad, sad, sad.

Two

Righteousness will protect us and enable the Lord to use His power to deliver us.

Three

Even during times of difficulty, when we are righteous, we can be happy through the blessings of God. Why not, right? We all have to endure this life. Why not choose to have joy even in the midst of trial? Why not protect our joy by remembering the Lord and His tender mercies and letting the lives we live be a reflection of this knowledge.

The Double Edged Sword of Truth (Mosiah 13:8)

In Mosiah Chapters 12-15, Abinadi the prophet is delivering a message to the wicked priests of King Noah.

Abinadi preaches a message of truth. It is, for the most part a message of hope. It is the message that Christ will come. It is the message of the gospel and how God’s commandments bring us joy and peace in this life and in the life to come.

Of course, the gospel of Christ is also a message of our agency. We don’t have to choose to keep the commandments. We don’t have to choose to covenant with Him. We can do whatever we want to do. However, we are warned that when we don’t keep the commandments, then we will experience pain and misery.

Abinadi is teaching the priests truth. This message is “laws of the universe” kind of stuff. That might not make sense. What I mean is – the connection between righteousness and joy is as sure of a universal truth as gravity is. You can’t really disagree with the law of gravity. It’s a law.

I mean, I guess you could disagree with it. But you are still susceptible to it, and must be obedient to it or else experience grave results. The Lord’s laws are just as sure. But not everyone accepts or rejoices in truth.

The Priests, who claimed to be preaching the gospel, didn’t rejoice at Abinadi’s words. They didn’t nod their heads and give an “amen.” Instead, we read:

” Ye see that ye have not power to slay me, therefore I finish my message. Yea, and I perceive that it cuts you to your hearts because I tell you the truth concerning your iniquities.

Yea, and my words fill you with wonder and amazement, and with anger.” – Mosiah 13:7-8

I’ll try to cut the priests some slack. Abinadi was calling them out on their wickedness. This is because they were ripening for destruction, and God loves His children. He sent a prophet to warn them – with the hope that they would repent and unite themselves again with a God who loves them and would protect them. It isn’t always easy to hear or take correction – especially if you’re somewhat fond of your sin.

So, I can learn a lesson from these wicked priests, and ask myself, Do I respond in like manner? When someone corrects me, am I filled with “wonder, amazement, and anger?” or do I swallow my pride, accept correction, and seek to repair my relationship with God?

Peace as a River (1 Nephi 20:18)

When we hearken to the commandments of God, we are filled with peace and righteousness. This sounds like a joyful situation to me.

Nephi quotes Isaiah:

“O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments—then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” – 1 Nephi 20:18

I like that. Peace as a river. Righteousness as the waves of the sea.

River
I recently went to a river and waterfall in the mountains. This has been a wet year, and it was rushing with water. The sound of it nearly demands peace. I mean, of course I snapped a few pictures, but for the most part I was transfixed by the sound of the running water.

It was peaceful.

I stood there, watching the water. It is such a miracle. It started in the mountains. No, it started in the sky, then fell to the earth onto mountain tops. These streams and rivers carried the water down the mountains and into lakes and eventually seas. All along the way, these little streams nourish and sustain all life. The wildflowers, the trees, the birds, the frogs. and let’s not forget – you and me.

Peace as a river.

Waves of the Sea
I’ve been blessed to be able to live by the sea. And the waves. That’s the best part, isn’t it?

I didn’t grow up by the ocean. I’ve been loads of times, but I hadn’t ever lived by the ocean until last year. One night, my husband and I were walking along the beach in the evening. It was dark. No one was out. We saw a seal. People were inside or at restaurants. Long gone were kids making sandcastles, people surfing, or soaking the sun.

For a split second, I thought, “the day is over, but the ocean is still going.” haha! Yes. The waves are still going. They will for as long as there is an earth. Every minute of every day. Sometimes the waves may be small, gentle, lapping waves. Other times, especially in places like Oahu’s North Shore, the waves may be 30′ tall displaying unfathomable power.

Either way, they never stop.

***
When we hearken and obey the commandments of God, we can have peace like a river. Our righteousness can become steady like the waves of the sea.

I’m not always the best at doing all I need to do, but this scripture brings me hope, peace, and motivation to continue to Hearken.