What are we?

This blog is devoted to people like us who need a daily spiritual outlet and motivation to keep up with our personal scripture study.
Join us as we begin and discuss the Book of Mormon daily--an online Institute class of sorts!

We welcome your comments, your experiences, and your thoughts.

Monday, March 30, 2009

1 Nephi Chapter 22

Alrighty... the last chapter of 1 Nephi!

I am so excited because I just got a copy of Sacred Truths of the Book of Mormon by Leaun G. Otten and C. Max Caldwell... who is a former General Authority and just happens to have married my grandma! He is a man who knows his stuff, I'll tell you what. FHEs or any scripture studies with him are so enlightening! I've been wanting a copy since my parents got theirs, but just got our copy today (as a late birthday gift for my husband). Just in time for my little schpiel on chapter 22!

I'll be totally honest, a whole lot of this chapter went right over my head. I understand that the House of Israel will be gathered in a literal and spiritual sense. The Gentiles will play a big part in bringing the House of Israel the gospel of Jesus Christ (v.9).

But the part that caught my interest, are the promises made to the righteous in the last days (yep! That's us!) among the wars and persecutions.  Some of those promises are:

  • He will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous (v16)
  • He will apreserve the brighteous by his power (v17)
  • the righteous need not fear... they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire. (v17)
  • the righteous shall not perish; for the time surely must come that all they who fight against Zion shall be cut off. (v19)
  • the Lord will surely aprepare a way for his people (v20)
  • the righteous need not fear, for they are those who shall not be confounded (v22).

I find it interesting that it is repeated that the righteous need not fear. Fear seems like a never-ending thing to overcome. But I also find that Faith replaces fear. The more faith I have, the less I fear. I, personally, feared losing my children or my husband, but more than that, I have faith that if I did, I would absolutely be with them again. I feared not having enough funds to pay rent or buy food, but I have faith that if I pay my tithing and live frugally, everything will work out! I have many examples of how faith has replaced fear in my life, but I think the point is made. But I also think that if we are not doing what the Lord asks and keeping his commandment, we definitely have reason to fear. Which, hopefully, will motivate us to make things right.

I also found it reassuring in versus 25 and 26 that after those who fight against Zion are destroyed, Christ will "gathers his sheep" and "because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; wherefore he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he has no power of the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth." (bold and italics added be me).  How wonderful that time will be! If I am not there, for whatever reason, I pray that my children or grandchildren will be!!!


How to Read Isaiah

I was doing research for my chapter, and I came across this wonderful talk by Bruce R. McConkie. He gives and explains ten ways to understand the Isaiah chapters.

It really helps! Take a look. Some of them are time-consuming (so I haven't tried them yet), but some are not. It is really worth a read. We have quite a bit of Isaiah to go through yet, and I'm hoping it will be more of a walk-through feeling than a slog-through feeling!

Ten Keys to Understanding Isaiah

1 Nephi Ch. 21

(Read it here)
Summary: Messiah shall be a light to the Gentiles and shall free the prisoners--Israel shall be gathered with power in the last days--Kings shall be their nursing fathers--compare Isaiah 49.

This is a good chapter. To be honest, it is significantly harder for me to really enjoy the Isaiah chapters as much as the other ones, and I think this is due to the fact that Isaiah uses a lot of symbolic description in his writing.

BUT, here's an interesting tidbit I learned. Bruce R. McConkie points out that Isaiah's writings in Nephi are in an even more perfect form than found in the bible because Nephi got them directly from the brass plates. Nephi actually quoted about a third of Isaiah's writings and paraphrased 3%.

Isn't that neat? It almost makes me wish that we could have an entire biblical record as copied directly by one of the Book of Mormon prophets.

This chapter deals a lot with the Restoration, the scattering and gathering of Israel, and the millennial era. I always wonder what it is about these chapters that compels Nephi to copy them down word for word. I think this time I discovered part of the answer.

We've just spent several chapters watching Nephi first learn that their descendants were going to fall away, then we saw how Nephi tried repeatedly to get Laman and Lemuel to have a change of heart and hearken to Lehi's teachings. We've seen Nephi's anguish over their unfaithfulness. He must have been feeling very discouraged at times.

BUT, this chapter, to me, is all about HOPE.

It talks about the Lord's mercy (vs. 10, 13), His Faithfulness to us (vs. 7), and that His compassion for us (vs. 15).

It talks about how even the "captives of the mighty" and the "prey of the terrible" shall be delivered (vs. 25).

It talks about how the places of desolation and waste will be too small to hold us (19).

It talks about how the Lord will raise a standard--will show us the way, and the children we have lost will be brought to Him (21-22).

In verse 9, it talks about how even those in spirit prison will have a chance for salvation.

This chapter, in essence, is all about how our earthly suffering will not last forever. The Lord is mindful of us, the way a nursing mother is mindful of her children. Isn't this a fantastic way of putting it? We all have had "suckling babies" (bottle fed, breast fed, all the same). Don't we all know what it is like to truly be mindful of our small children? And, that we are so mindful of them, we can't help but me moved to compassion for them? The Lord says "Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel" (vs. 15). We can stray, we can hurt our brothers and sisters, but the Lord will not forget us.

I love that. I think of the welling up of love I have for my small children--how they shape my thoughts, how they are always present in my mind somewhere, how their tears can move me, how I desperately want the best for them. In a much larger and infinitely more perfect way, this is how our Lord feels about us. It is a beautiful feeling.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

1 Nephi 20

Chapter 20

This was a very difficult chapter for me to wrap my brain around. Reading it over and over, it's still hard! So I will pick out a few verses that stuck out to me.

First of all, this chapter is the same as Isaiah 48. To me, that says that the message in it was for all of Israel, both in Isaiah's time and in Nephi's time. But also, it means it's a timeless message that applies to us too, because we are partakers of the blessings that the Lord promises the children of Israel.

I think the beginning verses are talking about how Israel tends to be hard-hearted. Then in verse 10, the Lord says "For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." The Lord knows our tendencies to be hard-hearted. We know that "the natural man is an enemy to God," etc. But here the Lord tells us that he has chosen us, and will give us trials and afflictions that will refine us into the potential that he sees for us. This made me wonder how my current trials and afflictions are supposed to refine me. The hardest one for me currently is my health and my daughter's health--we both have a really bad cold. Sounds like a small thing to be worried about, but for me currently, it's my biggest trial. And how have I dealt with it? By being whiny and snapping at my husband a lot. Reading this made me determined to handle this sickness with more patience and faith that it's not some cruel divine joke, it's just another trial to better me.

I also like verse 18. "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." This made me pause to think about that symbolism. I think he must use the image of a river because it is ever-flowing. But it is also ever-changing. Maybe peace comes in different ways throughout life--I don't know, it's just a thought. And then "righteousness as the waves of the sea:" Waves are also a constant thing. I really like the message in this verse--if we follow the commandments we will have peace and righteousness. Simple, yet written so poetically.

Lastly, the final verse says that there is no peace to the wicked. This is definitely a world without peace. People are always trying to find it, but fail. We know we can have peace through the Gospel and through the love of God.

That's all for now. I hope other people had some insights into this chapter too.


Friday, March 27, 2009

1 Nephi 19

Click HERE to read this chapter...

Summary: Nephi makes plates of ore and records the history of his people—The God of Israel shall come six hundred years from the time Lehi left Jerusalem—Nephi tells of His sufferings and crucifixion—The Jews shall be despised and scattered until the latter days, when they will return unto the Lord. Between 588 and 570 B.C

What an amazing chapter. There could be so much to discuss in this chapter! ....and I am feeling far from a scriptorian at the moment. :) I will give it my best shot. I am realizing that there could be hours of research to go along with this chapter, but here we go!

Verses 1-5 explain how Nephi was commanded to make a second set of plates and he tells of what kinds of records he is keeping on each set of plates....all for a "wise purpose" in the Lord. It is said that, again, the reason Nephi was commanded to make another set of plates is because of the experience that Joseph Smith had with losing the first 116 pages he had translated out of the book of Lehi. I am trying to find that history online so I can link you to it...

Then starting in verse 8 he tells of the prophesies of the Messiah. That he should come to the earth 600 years after the time his father left Jerusalem. Wow, what a prophecy. I wondered if it was incredible to Nephi that it would still be six-hundred years.

He continues through verse 11 telling of how Christ will be crucified. He will allow it and suffer it "because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men." And the earth will mourn because their God suffers. And those that turned their hearts aside and crucified the Lord "shall wander in the flesh, and perish, and become a hiss and a byword, and be hated among all nations.

What I thought was neat about his recordings is that he also mentions the prophets of the Bible: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Zenock, and Zenos. Sometimes I think about investigators that are reading through the Book of Mormon for the first time. It must be neat to see it connect with familiar biblical prophets.

Finally in verse 15 Nephi explains that when the people finally turn their hearts no more, then will the Lord remember the covenants made with their fathers.

Verse 18: Why does Nephi write these things? So that his people would remember the Lord, their Redeemer.

As the chapter comes to a close, Nephi tells how he teaches his brethren. He even teaches from the books of Moses and Isaiah...and he did "liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning. "

What a good example Nephi is to us. He tells of how he studies the writings of the ancient prophets - including Moses, to Isaiah who only lived just 100-200 years before him. Now isn't that a neat perspective? Maybe we could put it this way - just for fun. Isaiah was to Nephi as Joseph Smith is to us. Joseph Smith was born about 200 years ago and Isaiah was living about 100-200 years before Nephi. So you can see how Nephi looked up to these prophets...and how Isaiah really was more of a "modern-day prophet" to him. Interesting, isn't it?

But finally, I love how he reminds us to liken all the scriptures to ourselves. I appreciate how so many blog posts have done this, and it reminds me that I need to be better at likening the scriptures to my own life. I truly believe that when we do this, we find answers, hope, peace, comfort, and guidance in any aspect of our lives. That's why reading the scriptures DAILY is so very important. We need to fill our buckets! I'm so grateful for this opportunity!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

1 Nephi 18

There seems to be a trend around here.... perhaps it's a tough week for all mommies everywhere. Sorry for the delay (on top of the scheduled blogger outage yesterday, I didn't pull it together), but this was a great chapter.

Read it HERE.

Summary: The ship is finished—The births of Jacob and Joseph are mentioned—The company embarks for the promised land—The sons of Ishmael and their wives join in revelry and rebellion—Nephi is bound, and the ship is driven back by a terrible tempest—Nephi is freed, and by his prayer the storm ceases—They arrive in the promised land. About 590—589 B.C.

I love how this chapter begins with an explanation of how Laman and Lemuel were humbled before the Lord, worshiped Him, then got to work helping Nephi build the ship. As I began reading this chapter I got to thinking: What is my "ship"? What thing has the Lord commanded me to "build" to get my family to safety? The rest of the chapter sunk deep into my heart as I pondered those questions. (Try it.)

Then verse 2: "Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men."

This verse is packed in light of the previous question. Whatever we build, be it our testimony, our family, our faith, our obedience, our love of God, our marriage, etc.; it should be after the manner the Lord has shown us, not after the manner of the world. Nephi describes how he did this in verse 3--by going into the wilderness often to pray, and the Lord showed him what and how to accomplish this "curious workmanship." Once the ship was done his brothers were again humbled and recognized they'd done a good job at the hand of the Lord.

The Lord commanded Lehi to get his family on that ship, but beforehand they had PREPARED every needful thing. Sound familiar? They gathered fruits, meats, honey, seeds, and all the provisions the Lord had commanded them according to their age before taking their families on the ship. (Can you say a year's supply? And how much harder would that have been without all the luxuries and resources we have today? Then again they were used to living on the land, but the sea is much different.)

In verse 7 Nephi quickly inserts how he also gained 2 younger brothers while in the wilderness (his parents begat Jacob and Joseph). Oops, he forgot to mention that earlier but wanted to be sure it was recorded.... and they were on the boat.

Not long after boarding the boat Nephi's older brothers and Ishmael's sons and wives began their merriment-- began dancing, singing, and speaking rudely. Their pride got the best of them and Nephi feared that the Lord would have them all swallowed up in the sea. He tried speaking to them in much soberness but they were too angry and once again they use the excuse that:

"We will not that our younger brother shall be a bruler over us"(vs. 10). I don't think it matters if Nephi was younger or older, they still wouldn't have listened to him through their pride.

Unfortunately, Nephi is bound by his own brothers with cords and treated with harshness. Hence, the Liahona stopped working, they couldn't steer the ship, a great storm rose up, they were driven back for 3 days but they still would not loose Nephi! On the 4th day the storm was even worse:
15"And it came to pass that we were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea. And after we had been driven back upon the waters for the space of four days, my brethren began to asee that the judgments of God were upon them, and that they must perish save that they should repent of their iniquities; wherefore, they came unto me, and loosed the bands which were upon my wrists, and behold they had swollen exceedingly; and also mine ankles were much swollen, and great was the soreness thereof.
16 Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did apraise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions."
The entire ordeal had grieved Lehi and Sariah so much that they fell sick, even near to death. Their younger brothers Jacob and Joseph were so distraught by their parents' sickness, along with Nephi's wife and young children, but Laman and Lemuel still wouldn't soften their hearts.

As soon as he was loosed Nephi took the Liahona and it worked, so he prayed to the Lord and then the storm ceased and their was a great calm. Nephi guided the ship towards the promised land once again.

After many days they finally reached the promised land, pitched their tents, tilled the earth, planted seeds, were blessed in abundance, and found wild beasts of every kind for the use of men in the wilderness. They also found "all manner of bore, both of cgold, and of silver, and of copper" (vs. 25). This is significant because pure gold was softer to write on and they would continue the record of their dealings in the promised land FOR US.

The take home messages I got out of this chapter were:
1) you can't build a ship in 1 day, meaning it takes time to properly prepare every needful thing including gathering revelation from the Lord on how and what to prepare. We need to constantly be building our relationship with the Lord (spiritual preparation), while also preparing every temporal needful thing for the "storms" of life (i.e.- get out of debt, build a year's supply, teach my family correct principles, build my own testimony line upon line).

2) Nephi was a very patient, forgiving, and understanding man who constantly faced trials and frustrations despite his own obedience and faithfulness. His brothers brought many physical challenges and calamities upon him long before they even separated as "ites". There is much to learn from his persistent example. Even when we are faithful and do all the Lord asks doesn't mean we will avoid hardships... but that we will face many because of our preparation.

3) Our Heavenly Father cares for us deeply and fully. He will help us "build" our "ships" telling us how to work curious workmanship (even when we have little or no experience), and then will guide us in preparing to live in the "wilderness"... "everyone according to his age". He will then (symbolically) see us through the tempests, storms, pride cycles of our brethren, sickness of our parents, heartache of our younger brethren, and then the arrival at our promised land where we will be blessed in abundance. But.... that cycle will only continue and we must continually trust and rely on our Elder Brother and Heavenly Father to see us through once (or twice or thrice) more.

1 Nephi 17

Sorry for the delay!
Summary: Nephie is commanded to build a ship. His brethren oppose him. He exorts them by recounting the history of God's dealings with Israel. He is filled with the power of God. His brethren are forbidden to touch him, lest the wither as a dried reed.

God is wonderful. I love verse 2: "And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea even like unto the men..."
It continually amazes me how the Lord strengthens us in our times of need. He does not expect us to bear our trials alone. He will always be there to support us and give us heavenly strength beyond what we are capable of alone. He "provides means whereby [we] can accomplish the thing which he has commandes [us]" (v. 3)

I have really come to appreciate Nephi's incredible example. When the Lord asked him to build a ship, he didn't even hesitate to obey. He simply said, show me what to do and where I can find what I need. I just love that! He never doubts!

v. 13-14: "And I will be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led...After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you..." This makes me think that the Lord gives us trials so that we will remember Him and remember that we are dependent on Him.

vs. 41 contains a very important lesson. The people were bitten by serpents, and all they had to do to be healed was look at the rod. But many doubted because the task was so simple. As a result, they died. We need to trust in the Lord. Especially nowadays, it seems that we need to be more mindful of the small miracles that occur everyday innstead of waiting for something huge. Remember: "By small and simple means are great things brought to pass!"

I love how Nephi is so in tune with the spirit. He literally has faith to move mountains. He has faith to use the power of God to teach his brothers. He knows exactly what his purpose is in life and always puts the Lord first. I hope one day that we can have this kind of faith!

I hate to be so brief, but I have 2 crying, sick babies today. I will be more on top of it next week!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

1 Nephi 16

Read it HERE.

The wicked take the truth to be hard—Lehi’s sons marry the daughters of Ishmael—The Liahona guides their course in the wilderness—Messages from the Lord are written on the Liahona from time to time—Ishmael dies; his family murmur because of afflictions. Between 600 and 592 B.C.

They are all still in the Valley of Lemuel (v6) when Lehi is commanded to "take his journey into the wilderness". The next morning he finds the Liahona.

versus 14-33 - Nephi's bow breaks and everyone gets mad at Nephi because they' are so hungry and tired. Nephi was the problem solver and created his own bow and arrows and slings with stones. Then instead of just inquiring of the Lord himself, he goes to his father and asks him "Whither shall I go to obtain food?".(v.23). And Lehi "was truly achastened because of his murmuring against the Lord, insomuch that he was brought down into the depths of sorrow." (v.25).  Lehi then receives direction from the Lord via the Liahona.

Nephi brings back food for everyone, then they humble themselves and thank the Lord (v32).

Laman and Lemuel have already gone through the "pride cycle" 2 times in this chapter... and they're about to go through it again! After Ishmael dies, the daughters of Ishmael and his sons want to return to Jerusalem. Which proves that they just don't get it. I wonder how so many children of such spiritual men can want something to contrary to what the Lord has instructed? I find it interesting. But not only do they want to go back, they plot to kill Nephi and Lehi (36-38).

39 And it came to pass that the Lord was with us, yea, even the voice of the Lord came and did speak many words unto them, and did achasten them exceedingly; and after they were chastened by the voice of the Lord they did turn away their anger, and did repent of their sins, insomuch that the Lord did bless us again with food, that we did not perish.

How forgiving is the Lord! How many times do Laman and Lemuel go through this cycle and the Lord continues to bless them when they "repent".

Here's a thought/question. My understand of Repentance is that you have to "sin no more" to truly repent. So I would dare say that Laman and Lemuel do not truly repent all these times when it says they repented. Does that make sense? I found this talk by President Uchtdorf on Repentance. What are your thoughts on this? I don't think Laman and Lemuel (and the others that rebel with them) really repent, so why does the Lord bless them?

Monday, March 23, 2009

1 Nephi 15

Lehi's seed are to recieve the gospel from the Gentiles in the latter days--The gathering of Israel is likened unto an olive tree whose natural branches shall be grafted in again--Nephi interprets the vision of the tree of life and speaks of the justice of God in dividing the wicked from the righteous.

(read this chapter here)

This is a great chapter. In it, Nephi discovers that his brothers are arguing over the vision that Lehi had and the things he told them. Nephi points out that the things Lehi told Laman and Lemuel were great, and could be understood if they opened their hearts and asked of the Lord.

Keep in mind that Nephi had just seen his vision in which their descendants fall away, and the pain he was experiencing from that knowledge must have still been quite raw. What impresses me is that Nephi didn't give up trying to get Laman and Lemuel to truly understand. He didn't stop explaining things to them, didn't stop loving them, and didn't stop ecouraging them to soften their hearts. It would have been easy to give up on them. But, I think we can all agree that Nephi doesn't take the path of least resistance.

I love the way Nephi describes this:

v. 25: "Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the faculty which I posessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always and in all things."

So, how can we be less like Laman and Lemuel and more like Nephi? I think we have a pretty good outline of what not to do in verse 11:

1) They have hardened their hearts

2) They haven't asked the Lord in faith, believing that they will receive an answer

3) They have not had diligence in keeping the commandments--not perfection, but diligence.

These are the things I would like to address today.

1) Hardened Hearts.

What is is that makes a heart hardened in the first place? Elder Gerald N. Lund gave a wonderful talk on this during April 2008 General Conference. I think it is my favorite of that session. He says:

"The heart is a tender place. It is sensitive to many influences, both positive and negative. It can be hurt by others. It can be deadened by sin. It can be softened by love.

"The Lord noted three natural consequences of having one’s heart set on the things of the world: First, we seek to hide our sins instead of repenting of them. Next, we seek to gratify our pride and vain ambitions rather than seeking the things of God. Finally, we begin to exercise unrighteous dominion over others.(D&C 121:36-37)

"Note that pride is a natural consequence of setting our hearts on the things of the world. Pride quickly desensitizes our hearts to spiritual promptings."

And, this is my favorite point that Elder Lund made in his talk:

"Nephi taught, “When a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.”11 Elder David A. Bednar noted the use of the word unto: “Please notice how the power of the Spirit carries the message unto but not necessarily into the heart."

He goes on to emphasize that our agency is so sacred, Heavenly Father will never force the human heart, though man might try.

(read the rest of the talk here)

Helaman talks about what happens when hearts are hardened:

6 Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath acreated them, should brule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at cnaught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.

I think this describes Laman and Lemuel perfectly. They did not desire to submit to Heavenly Father and His teachings. They have a God-given desire to make decisions (that comes with agency), but they allow the "natural man" to overpower with them and set their sights on things that are not of eternal value.

What can we learn from this? I think we learn that in order to have a softened heart, we need to practice being close to the spirit and recognizing when the Lord is teaching us through the Holy Ghost. Elder Packer says,

"As an Apostle I listen now to the same inspiration, coming from the same source, in the same wa, that I listened to as a boy. The signal is much clearer now. . .

No message is repeated more times in scripture than the simple thought, 'Ask and ye shall receive' " (Ensign Nov. 1979, p. 21)

I think sometimes we imagine that the Apostles are always witness to great and magnificent divine events to receive their inspiration. They have been witness to some glorious things--that is part of their mission. However, they have had to practice being sensitive to the spirit, having open hearts, and recognizing the Holy Ghost. (And this talk was given 30 years ago! Imagine how much better he is even now.)

So, what are the ways you recognize the spirit? What does inspiration feel like to you? How do you recognize what is right? How do you know when your heart is softened? I'll put my answer down below in the comments. I think it is valuable to write down (somewhere; it doesn't have to be here) what spiritual manifestations feel like to us personally. It helps us recognize them more often, which helps us keep our hearts opened to more inspiration. If you would like, leave a comment about how you feel when you are feeling the spirit. We would love to hear!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

1 Nephi 14

So sorry for being a day late. I had a very sad, sick baby yesterday. Nothing serious, just a fever and cold symptoms, but she hasn't been that clingy for her mom in a long time. She's sitting on my lap now sucking on her blanket.

1 Nephi 14

In this chapter we hear a lot about the Gentiles, Jews, and the great abominable church. This reminds me of a discussion I had with my husband a few months ago, where I asked him whether he thought of himself as a Jew or a Gentile when we read the scriptures. After all, we know that as members of the Church, we are of the House of Israel, but when we read these chapters about the gospel being given to the Gentiles, I always think of myself as a Gentile. Interesting.

In v.1-2 the Lord promises the same blessings to the Gentiles as he gives to the Jews if they accept the gospel. So even if I am a Gentile originally, because I have accepted the gospel, I will receive the same blessings for being faithful.

v. 10-11--We first hear about the great and abominable church, which is spread across the whole earth. I don't know about you, but this imagery always kind of scared me as a kid. And then there's always people that spout Bruce R. McKonkie, who said it was the Catholic church, and then later on rescinded that (after all, the Catholic church as we know it now didn't even exist until several centuries AD). We know it isn't one particular church. Rather, I think it is any church that professes to worship God, but shows by its actions and doctrines that it really brings people closer to the devil.

I found an article by Stephen E. Robinson all about this, called "Warring against the Saints of God." Here is a lengthy quote that I found really enlightening:

"Actually, no single known historical church, denomination, or set of believers meets all the requirements for the great and abominable church: it must have formed among the Gentiles; it must have edited and controlled the distribution of the scriptures; it must have slain the Saints of God, including the Apostles and prophets; it must be in league with civil governments and use their police power to enforce its religious views; it must have dominion over all the earth; it must pursue great wealth and sexual immorality; and it must last until close to the end of the world. No single denomination or system of beliefs fits the entire description. Rather, the role of Babylon has been played by many different agencies, ideologies, and churches in many different times. It should be clear that the great and abominable church that Nephi described in chapter 13 is not the same historical entity that crucified the Savior or that martyred Joseph and Hyrum.

It would be an error to blame some modern denomination for the activities of an ancient great and abominable church. The other error is to go too far the other way, dehistoricizing the abominable church altogether. The term then becomes merely a vague symbol for all the disassociated evil in the world. We cannot, in the face of the scriptural evidence, accept this view. For if we do, we shall not be able to recognize the categories and know who is playing the role of Babylon in our own times or in times to come. Thus, we must, on the one hand, avoid the temptation to identify the role of the great and abominable church so completely with one particular entity that we do not recognize the part when it is played by some other entity. At the same time, we must remember that the role will be played by some entity or coalition, and we must be able to tell by their characteristic fruits which is Zion and which is Babylon."

According to him, 1 Nephi 13 talks about this church as being one among many, whereas this chapter talks about it being the only other church besides the church of God. Brother Robinson says that one use is historical, one is symbolic. Basically, what we can gain from this is that there was once a church that fit these descriptions, and in today's world, the same sort of influences exist, though probably not from the same source.

Moving on. One of my very favorite verses is v.14, which says "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." I love this scripture and find it so inspirational. I had a stake president a few years back who created a theme for the stake: A More Covenant People Unto the Lord. The focus was on living our covenants better and becoming closer to God. This verse makes me think of that.

Crying baby, so I need to hurry. The last few verses discuss Nephi seeing John the Revelator, who will have the same vision that Nephi has. Nephi records part of the vision, and John records the other. I think it's really cool to know they go hand in hand.

That's all for today, I don't even have time to proofread! I'm missing church today, so I'm glad I had the opportunity to do this, even though it's a day late. Have a wonderful Sabbath!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Yay for missionaries!!!

I am just bursting with excitment right now. One of my friends from North Carolina sent me a message on facebook last night to tell me she is getting baptized! I am just so happy for her. I had to call her to get the details. She is going to dental school right now, which is awesome, and she has a lot of BYU/people from Utah in the program with her. She said one of them invited her to go to church with her, and she did. Then she started the discussions...and now she is getting baptized in 2 weeks. Just knowing what I know about the Gospel and how lost I would be without it makes me so happy that one of my friends will now get to share in that joy. I felt prompted to share a little bit of my testimony with her, so I just told her how important it was to me and I know it will change her life. She told me that she was worried about how her parents would react, but they are actually really happy for her. That makes the whole thing even more wonderful. I also felt so happy as we were talking, just thinking: "We are going to be sisters in the gospel now. I can't wait to share this with you!" I just had to share with you guys. Elise, she is actually going to school in Virginia at VCU. Maybe you could look her up? Her name is Katie Berkelhammer. It's probably a long shot, but you never know!

Friday, March 20, 2009

1 Nephi 13

Summary: Nephi sees in vision: the church of the devil set up among the Gentiles; the discovery and colonizing of America; the loss of many plain and precious parts of the Bible; the resultant state of gentile apostasy; the restoration of the gospel, the coming forth of latter-day scripture, and the building up of Zion. Between 600 and 592 B.C.

This chapter is a continuation of Nephi's vision.

In verses 1-10 the angel shows him the nations of the Gentiles, and the great abominable church that is built up. The characteristics of this church include: the slaying of the saints of God for the praise of the world, bringing people into captivity, and desiring gold, and silver, and silks, and scarlets, and fine-twined line, and all manner of precious clothing and harlots.

Then, in verse 12, the Spirit of the Lord came down and wrought upon the man. This is referring to Colombus. Isn't that amazing? And it says that he was separated from the Gentiles and came across the waters to the seed of Nephi's brethren, in the promised land.

And then many Gentiles came over -specifically the white people. And they did prosper in the promised land, because they humbled themselves after coming out of captivity in their previous lands. So the power of God was with them.

So what comes next? Well, the revolutionary war!

17 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.

Wow, that is so neat!

The angel then shows Nephi the "book" that is being carried by these Gentiles in this land. It is the bible. The angel explains that it is a lot like his brass plates, yet not as many engravings. (Can you imagine that? I think the Bible is huge!) Unfortunately, the abomidable church took many precious things out of the bible.

29 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.

And then finally, the Book of Mormon is brought forth to the people:

39 And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.

40 And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.

A bit of commentary:
One thing that I have been thinking about lately is: Every good thing comes from God.

I don't remember why I started thinking about this, but I remember the exact intersection that I was at the other day when I had these thoughts in my mind. Colombus may not have lived during a time when the church was on the earth, but he was a great instrument in the hand of God in discovering or "re-discovering" America. The spirit of God was upon him. He did not do it alone. Just as when our country won the Revoluntionary war. We did not win because of our own skill, luck, talent, strategy, etc. It's because of the hand of the Lord.

Even in modern days, discoveries, inventions, cures for diseases, scientific theorys, everything is because of the Spirit of the Lord. A man cannot take credit for his own talents, discoveries, or intelligence. They are all gifts from God to use for the good of mankind. God has his hand in all things. Even when people do not give Him credit. Every good thing comes from him.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

1 Nephi 12

Summary: Nephi has a vision of the land of promise and the ensuing righteousness, iniquity, and eventual downfall of its inhabitants; the coming of Christ, how the 12 disciples and apostles will judge Israel; and the awful state of those who dwindle in unbelief.

This chapter is essentially the "thesis statement" for the entire Book of Mormon, or the "statement"/chapter of purpose, intent, or main idea for the entire book.

As the chapter begins an angel tells Nephi to look, "And I looked and beheld the aland of promise; and I beheld multitudes of people, yea, even as it were in number as many as the bsand of the sea."

As Nephi continues to behold this vision of his people he sees them: battle each other, commence wars and rumors of wars, great slaughters, many generations pass away, mists of darkness, lightnings, thunderings, earthquakes, tumultuos noises, mountains tumbling to pieces, earth broken up, cities sunken, cities burned, cities tumble to the earth, vapors of darkness.

Suddenly in verse 6: "I saw the heavens open, and the aLamb of God descending out of heaven; and he came down and bshowed himself unto them." How comforting for Nephi to know and see that the Lord would not only come again but his coming would stop the mass destruction and wickedness of his posterity.... for a time.

Nephi sees how the church is established with Christ's 2nd coming: "I also saw and bear record that the Holy Ghost fell upon atwelve others; and they were ordained of God, and chosen.
8 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the Twelve Disciples of the Lamb, who are chosen to minister unto thy seed.
9 And he said unto me: Thou rememberest the aTwelve Apostles of the Lamb? Behold they are they who shall bjudge the twelve tribes of Israel; wherefore, the twelve ministers of thy seed shall be judged of them; for ye are of the house of Israel."

Nephi beholds 3, almost 4 generations pass away in righteousness. Then the multitudes of the earth (his seed and his brothers' seed) gather together to battle. I can't imagine literally watching my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on living their lives righteously and then falling into iniquity and rebellion, only to fight against their own family members. How frustrating!

Then, in verses 16-18 Nephi sees the application of his father's and his own previous vision of the tree of life. Actually, the symbols in the vision (the mist of darkness, the great and spacious building, and the river of filthy water) foreshadows the downfall of Nephi's seed.

Finally, Nephi sees how the pride of his seed and the temptations of the devil contribute to the downfall and overpower of his people by the seed of his brother. But, the people of his brother's seed continue in their destructive ways and the angel tells Nephi that they dwindle in unbelief. Still, a sad fate to learn that the truth and faith did not endure in your own seed, nor in the seed of any of your family members.

The last verse: "And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a adark, and loathsome, and a bfilthy people, full of cidleness and all manner of abominations." Although this depiction of the fate of your own posterity seems somewhat sullen and discouraging, it is also a comfort to know that the earth did not pass away this way and that a record of these mistakes was being kept to pass on to US.

I took the last verse as a challenge, it empowered me to avoid that same fate for myself, my children, and their children. I feel the increasing importance of teaching my children the correct principles found in the Book of Mormon and the Restored Gospel... and to teach them more often, simply, and with increased conviction. They may be young, but this is the most impressionable time of their life when I can mold them and indoctrinate them without them being tainted and imprinted on by the world and by Satan's subtleties in large doses. The things they learn are the things that will likely STICK (I hope and pray) when they begin to think on their own and find their own testimony, and when the storms of life begin to rage.

I am grateful for Nephi's courage, faith, conviction, moral uprightness, strict obedience, prayer, and pure example of faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ and his teachings. The way in which he continually sought the Lord's will through prayer and revelation is a great example to us as a people who intend to save our own seed from unrighteousness and destruction. If we will but look to the source and avoid the temptations of the Satan and the world, we too have the same promise Nephi did, that our seed will be saved.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

1 Nephi 11

Nephi sees the Spirit of the Lord and is shown the vision of the tree of life--He sees the mother of the Son of God and learns the condescension of God--He sees the baptism, ministry, and crucifixion of the Lamb of God--He sees also the call and ministry of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Immediately we see another example of Nephi's great faith: "I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and [believed] that the Lord was able to make them known unto me..." Then again in verse 6: "And blessed art thou, Nephi, because thou believest in the Son of the Most high God."

What happens next reminds me of how the Lord always blesses us more than we anticipate. Not only is Nephi going to be shown the vision of the tree of life, but He will also witness the Savior's entire life and ministry because of his faithfulness. How amazing is that! It just reminds me that when we are willing to exercise faith or make a sacrifice of something, whatever we give seems so small in the end when compared to the blessings we receive.

The next section is where symbolism comes in.
The tree of life: "The love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men...it is the most desirable above all things" (vs. 22)
The rod of iron: "The word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters" (vs. 25)
The living waters: "A representation of the love of God" (vs. 25)
The great and spacious building: "The world and the wisdom thereof." "The pride of the world."(vs. 35-36)

The next section is where Nephi witnesses Jesus' baptism, which is almost the exact account we read in the Bible. He then witnesses Jesus' ministry and crucifixion. Then, I believe, Nephi witnesses the start of the Great Apostasy when "the multitudes of the earth...were gathered together to fight against the apostles of the Lamb." (vs. 34)

A concept I also wanted to address from this chapter is "The condescension of God." I have always been a little unclear about this, so I researched it on lds.org and found the perfect talk by Bishop Richard C. Edgely. This is what he had to say:
Condescension is defined in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior.” President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) taught, “It means to descend or come down from an exalted position to a place of inferior station.”
He went further to explain what it means in the scriptures:
"As the angel taught Nephi, he may have been speaking of two condescensions—one of God the Father and one of the Son, Jesus Christ. Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles elaborates, “ ‘The condescension of God,’ of which the scriptures speak, means that the Immortal Father—the glorified, exalted, enthroned ruler of the universe—came down from his station of dominion and power to become the Father of a Son who would be born of Mary, ‘after the manner of the flesh.’ ” 2 God the Father also condescended by sending His Only Begotten Son to suffer the sins of the world. The Savior is God’s gift to us.

While God the Father’s condescension reflects His great love for all mankind by permitting His Only Begotten to be sacrificed for even the humblest and lowliest of His children, Christ’s condescension was more personal and visible—for He was the sacrifice. His condescension was manifest by who He was and the way He lived. His condescension can be seen in almost every recorded act of His 33 years of mortality."

I could not have said that better myself by a long shot! This chapter is amazing, and I personally learned so much from it. I hope you can too!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

1 Nephi 9 and 10

Chapter 9

Nephi makes two sets of records... the larger plates contain the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of his people (v.4). Nephi is commanded that he should make the smaller plates "for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people. (v.3)" "Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which I know not. (v.5)"

Haven't we been commanded to keep a journal, or an account of our own lives and "people", for which purpose we may know not?"

I think verse 6 is a great one to have highlighted. This verse gives us insight into the character of our Heavenly Father...

(I'm going to go ahead and "highlight" this verse for added effect...)

1 Nephi 9:6- "But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And this it is, Amen."

  • The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning
  • He prepared a way to accomplish his "works" (or plans)
  • He hath all power

Chapter 10

verses 1-3 Lehi predicts the Babylonian captivity

v 4-6 He tells of the coming among the Jews of a Messiah, a Savior, a Redeemer

Messiah: An Aramaic word meaning the anointed.

Savior: One who saves.

Redeemer: Jesus Christ is the great Redeemer of mankind because he, through his atonement, paid the price for the sins of mankind and made possible the resurrection of all people.

verse 6 is another one to highlight:

1 Nephi 10:6 - "Wherefore, all mankind we in a lost and fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer." (Bold added for emphasis).

I think it is important to emphasize the word RELY.

What does it mean to rely on someone? I rely on my husband, for financial and emotional support. I trust him to be there for me. He is a part of my everyday life and knows me better than any other person on this earth. When times get rough for me, I rely on my husband to help me when I will fall short and do what I cannot...

hhmm... I think this is exactly the type of relationship we should have with our Savior! When we rely on "this Redeemer" that Lehi is teaching about, we will no longer be in a lost and fallen state. Interesting.

v. 7-10 Lehi also tells of the coming of the one who should baptize the Lamb of God... Who we know to be Christ's (2nd?)cousin, John the Baptist

I'm going to skip to verse 17 - 22 (bold added for emphasis)

"17 ...I, Nephi, was ddesirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the eHoly Ghost, which is the fgift of God unto gall those who diligently seek him, as well in times of hold as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.

  18 For he is the asame yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.

  19 For he that diligently aseeketh shall find; and the bmysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the cHoly Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the dcourse of the Lord is one eternal round.

  20 Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into ajudgment.

  21 Wherefore, if ye have sought to do awickedly in the days of your bprobation, then ye are found cunclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever.

  22 And the Holy Ghost giveth aauthority that I should speak these things, and deny them not. "

WOW! What an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving Father in Heaven we have! I love how the scriptures are full of information on the character of our Heavenly Father! We truly can grow to know Him as a friend and Father!


Monday, March 16, 2009

1 Nephi ch. 8

THE TREE OF LIFE--read this chapter here.

Quick Summary: Lehi sees a vision of the tree of life. He partakes of its fruit and desires his family to do likewise. He sees a rod of iron, a strait and narrow path, and the mists of darkness that enshroud men--Sariah, Nephi, and Sam partake of the fruit, but Laman and Lemuel refuse.

Quick Breakdown of symbolic elements in the dream:

Symbol & Interpretation
Dark and dreary waste (8:7)
Large and spacious field (8:9, 20): The World

Tree (8:10); Fruit of the tree (8:11-12): Love of God

River of water (8:13): Hell and the depths thereof

Rod of Iron (8:19): The word of God

Mist of Darkness (8:23): Temptations of the devil

Great and spacious building (8:26): The pride, wisdom, and vanity of the world

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In reading this chapter, I was struck by the different groups of people in Lehi's dream. Some were faithful for part of the time, some were faithful for all of the time, and some were not faithful at all.

In verses 31-33: These people did not even begin the path leading to the tree. They were "feeling their way" through the darkness to the great and spacious building. Many were drowned in the depths of the river, and many were lost, wandering in strange roads. What kind of people fit into this group? Perhaps these are the ones who want to take the "easy" route--perhaps the difficulty in reaching the Tree made them feel it wasn't worth the fruit. Perhaps these are the people who are "too busy" to nurture the spiritual side of their life. Perhaps these people are of the opinion that religion is good for some people, but that they don't need it to truly be happy.

In verses 21-23: These people were "pressing forward, that they might obtain the path that led to the tree", but when the mist of darkness arose (or temptations) they wandered off and were lost.

They had begun the path to the tree, they had good intentions, but nowhere in these verses does it say that they "held fast" to the rod. Nowhere does it say that they touched it or really even tried to follow it. And, because they were not clinging to it, they were easily overcome by temptation. Is it possible to reach the tree, to experience the fullness of God's love and the blessings He has for us, without holding steadfastly to the Iron Rod (His word)?

In verses 24-28: These people were also "pressing forward" but continued through the mists of darkness, clinging to the rod. I love the use of the word "clinging." I am a visual person, and it creates vivid detail in my mind about the state of these people--this rod must have been all they had, especially when traveling through the mists of darkness. They must have been exhausted.

And after persevering until they partook of the fruit--not until they reached the tree, but until they experienced the fruit (or, did all they could to receive a witness), what did they do? They cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed, then they fell into forbidden paths, and were lost. Why? Because suddenly they could see the people in the great and spacious building leering at them. But why else? What is it about this group of people that caused them to forsake everything they fought so very hard (were "clinging") for?

In verse 30: These are the people who held firm to the rod of iron, partook of the fruit, and remained faithful. I love the way this verse describes these groups of people:

"they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree" (emphasis mine)

I think if we were to ask these people, they would say that the journey to the tree was one of the hardest things they had ever done, but they would also say without hesitation that the fruit of the tree was worth many, many more of those trips.

These people were unaffected by the people in the great and spacious building. What is the difference between this group of people and the previous group, who reached the tree yet fell away? They had to have exercised faith at one point--you could not continue through the mist without it, since you could not see the tree at that time. What changed?

In trying to find this answer, I went to 1 Nephi Ch. 11, where Nephi learns more about the vision Lehi had. In verse 26, after having shown the Tree to Nephi again, the Angel asks Nephi to "Look and behold the condescension of God!"

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught that the tree of life is a symbol of Jesus Christ. He said: “The images of Christ and the tree [are] inextricably linked. … At the very outset of the Book of Mormon, … Christ is portrayed as the source of eternal life and joy, the living evidence of divine love, and the means whereby God will fulfill his covenant with the house of Israel and indeed the entire family of man, returning them all to their eternal promises” (Christ and the New Covenant [1997], 160, 162).

"When people are willing to commit this much of themselves to the gospel, they begin to have these rather overwhelming experiences Alma has described, feeling things they have never felt before. In their excitement about what is happening to them, they may think they now know “of a surety.” But Alma warns us not to stop here. We must not “lay aside” our faith; “for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.” (Alma 32:26.) The seed has not yet taken root, and falling away is a very real danger at this point."

In verse 42 Alma tells us that the fruit of the carefully nourished tree is “most precious, … sweet above all that is sweet, and … white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure.” His language is strikingly similar to that used by Lehi and Nephi, cited above. But then Alma tells us, “Ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” (Alma 32:42.) (Ensign, July 1980; by William Clayton Kimball).)

So. . .after all of these (entirely too-lengthy) thoughts, this is what I think is the difference between the two groups of people we talked about:

The group who partook of the fruit but fell away did not continually feast upon it, as Alma says we need to do. They did not gain a testimony of the aspects of the Condescension of Christ--that is, they did not utilize the blessings of the Atonement, they did not gain a testimony of His ministry and His mission, and so, did not try to emulate Him.

Whew! That was a lot of information. If you want to read an excellent, excellent talk about the Condescension of Christ, go here. For more about partaking of the fruit, go here.

What do you think? Have you had any particular thoughts while reading this chapter, related or unrelated to this post? I love this chapter--there is so much symbolism (that we could never hope to cover all in one day). What strikes you the most?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Wonderful Message

Last night I attended our Stake Relief Society dinner/fireside. I had spent the day with my husband, kids and my in-laws and was "this close" to bailing. But I didn't. I had this feeling that I needed to be there... I thought the feeling came because I had just made some new friends whom I told I would be going, and I didn't want to disappoint them. Later, I would learned that this experience would change my life. So I rushed home and had 15 minutes to get ready before my ride would pick me up.

The evening started with dinner and visiting (or "talking story").  I met some more women in my new ward, and was able to chat with the friends I had made this past week at a little get-together the RS President had at her home. Because it was a Stake event, I was able to see a few friends from wards I was previously in! I can easily say I was enjoying myself. (Did I mention I was kid-free?!?!).

I had no idea what was in store for the evening. I didn't bother to look at the flyer or ask. But after dinner, the women gathered in the chapel and enjoyed one of the most inspiring and encouraging firesides I can remember!

The speaker was Jenny Philips. I hadn't heard of her before - but was anxious to hear what she had to say. My first impression is that she was simple. No striking features or distracting apparel but she's pretty and soft spoken. But there was "something" about her. 

I could go on and on about all the little moments... but I wont - in hopes that you will one day have the privilege of hearing her message for yourself. Her message is one of love and hope! We are daughters of a king in a literal sense - which makes each of us princesses...

Her book, The Parable of the Princesses is timeless.  Every home should have it, and the story should be read often. I cannot effectively express the impact this story can have on a girls and women alike. It has renewed my love for my Heavenly Father and Savior and the plan He has for us!

On top of such an inspirational book, she is a musician. She sings beautifully and the lyrics to her songs ring so true that it brought tears to my eyes. The spirit testifies of the truthfulness of her message. We are daughters of God, and he wants us to come home to Him.

She could probably perform in a concert setting - her voice is that good. She could probably fill a stadium and make millions. But she chooses to share her message through music and a parable, in a humble setting - in this case, a Relief Society fireside.

I really felt like I was at a free "concert' of sorts. The songs she sang made something within' me stir. Made me feel like I could take on the world. Like I am truly a Princess.

I imagine her eternal rewards will equal more than $millions$ with the lives she touches. But what a way to gain perspective on this life. The frivolity of the world mean nothing to the Lord.

She encouraged us to eliminate immoral TV shows from our lives, with a promise that if we did, our purpose would become more clear. She encouraged us to study "the book" our Heavenly Father has given us so we can remember him and feel close to him while we are "apart". Words of wisdom. So simple, yet I need to be reminded often.

She is the type of woman I want to be. I am truly grateful for the experience and do not intent to f0rget it anytime soon. What an example! Really, I have received a "reality" check. I know what I must do.

Visit her Website and join her mailing list for access to a free download and other goodies.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

1 Nephi 6 and 7

Chapter 6

Nephi explains his purpose in writing this history.

-The family of Lehi is descended from Joseph
-These plates are filled with the things of God, not men
-His intent is to persuade men to come unto God

My thoughts: I like how Nephi says that the things that are pleasing to the world will not be found in these scriptures. How true that is! And then he commands his posterity to only occupy the plates with things that are of worth to the children of God. On top of that, we know that Mormon arranged and condensed everything into the gold plates, so he must have had to skip over so much. What's left is what he thought was the most important. I have had assignments in school where I had a bunch of material that I needed to condense and summarize into a few short paragraphs. It was very daunting. And yet these prophets did that so that we might learn from their histories and dealings with God. I am very grateful for them. Through these words, it's so amazing how we can feel a connection with these people who lived thousands of years ago.

Chapter 7

Nephi and his brothers head back to Jerusalem to get Ishmael and his family. The brothers rebel again, tie Nephi up, and then he is freed by the power of the Lord. After he rebukes them, they beg his forgiveness.

I'm going to list thoughts I had along the way corresponding with the verses.

V.2-The Lord commands Nephi through his father-It is obvious to us that Nephi is a prophet of the Lord. But at this time, his father is the prophet and head of the family. He is the one who receives revelation for the whole family. Later we see with the Tree of Life vision that Nephi goes to the Lord and receives a witness of his father's revelations. This sets a precedence for us for line of authority--the father is the head of the house, the prophet is the head of the church, but we may receive our own confirming revelations.

V.4-6-They recruit Ishmael, and then L&L rebel again- I have always assumed that Lehi knew Ishmael, but this still had to take a lot of faith on the part of Ishmael. And it's not super clear how much of a relationship they had before. Also, Ishmael was obviously prepared for this years beforehand by the Lord--he had the perfect amount of daughters! One each for the four sons of Lehi and the oldest for Zoram.

V.8- Nephi calls his brothers' hearts hard and blind in their minds. That struck me with how they have no spiritual foresight. No vision. The Spirit really does help us have an eternal viewpoint that L&L were missing.

V.8-12-- They have 1. forgotten all the Lord has done for them, and 2. forgotten what the Lord is able to do. I think these go together. When we forget how the Lord has blessed us, we lose faith in his ability to bless us now or in the future.

V.17-18-Nephi asks for strength to burst his own bonds, and then the bonds are loosed- I like how Nephi asks for his own strength to be magnified, not for the Lord to get him out of the situation. I am guilty so many times of praying for my problems to go away, not for strength to get myself out of them. But then, it says that the bonds were loosed, not that he broke them. Maybe his own willingness to do his part resulted in the Lord blessing him by making the ropes fall off.

V.19-His brethren are mad but he is defended by one of the daughters of Ishmael, her mother, and her brother.-- I can't ever read this without getting a little giddy. By looking at the crossreferences in the footnotes, we assume that this is the same woman he married later on. Isn't that sweet? :]

V.21-Nephi forgives them- Sometimes, we have to just forgive people, even if we know by their patterns that they will likely do it again. This shows why Nephi is such a great man. I don't know if I could forgive someone over and over like he does. But that's what we have to strive to do.

V.22-They offer thanks and sacrifices- I know that sometimes after a trial where I have been praying for help a lot, when it's over, I am so relieved that I forget to thank the Lord. Then time will go by, and I think back, and wonder if I ever expressed my gratitude to the Lord. We should always try to have a thankful heart.

Lastly, this scripture really struck me: "12. Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him."

So simple! To me this is the recurring theme in these chapters--have faith, and the Lord will provide the way.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Tomorrow's post

Does anyone mind if I take 1 Nephi 6 and 7 tomorrow? I got mixed up and thought there were seven of us, so I prepared chapter 7 instead of 6. And then I realized 6 is so short that it would be easy to do both.

Also, I keep trying to comment on people's posts and the security word won't load, so I'm going to try to fix that so I can comment!

1 Nephi 5

Summary: Sariah complains against Lehi—Both rejoice over the return of their sons—They offer sacrifices—The plates of brass contain writings of Moses and the prophets—They identify Lehi as a descendant of Joseph—Lehi prophesies concerning his seed and the preservation of the plates. Between 600 and 592 B.C

Three topics stood out to me in this chapter:
1: Sariah's murmering
2: Giving thanks
3: The importance of the scriptures

As we have started this study of the scriptures, I have realized how long it has been since I have been in 1 Nephi. I have"started" the Book of Mormon so many times, without finishing it that in more recent readings, I have skipped Nephi and started somewhere in the middle. Does that sound familiar to anyone? So I am really enjoying this study of the first book in the Book of Mormon.

And you know what I realized this time? I realized and appreciated Sariah's struggle. In the past I wondered how she could have ever doubted her husband, for he was a prophet! But reading it this time? Well, she became real to me. I could see myself in her shoes. Here her husband takes them away from their home, then sends her sons back to Jerusalem to face Laban, and all she can do is wait and wonder. This is when she complains. I almost saw my personality in her. I might have felt the same way. She was a mother fearful for her sons, and where there is fear, faith can be lost.

But then, her sons returned. I love these verses:

7 And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted.

8 And she spake, saying: Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.

For a moment she doubted, but then when her prayers were answered, and her sons returned, her testimony was strengthened so much.

And then? They remembered to give THANKS to Heavenly Father. What a good reminder. This is something I have been trying to focus on in my life. The hand of the Lord is in everything we do. I have tried to thank Him more as I see those blessings in my life. For it is all too easy to continue on in life, glad that our prayers were answered, and forget to sincerely thank the Lord.

Third, Lehi pours over the scriptures...and he starts from the beginning. He finds the books of Moses, prophecies....and something else very important to him: His geneology. Isn't that neat? It was of great significance that he knew who he came from.

And when he had seen all these things, he became filled with the spirit. We can also be filled with the spirit as we pour over the scriptures.

21 And we had obtained the records which the Lord had commanded us, and searched them and found that they were desirable; yea, even of great worth unto us, insomuch that we could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children.

The scriptures ARE of great worth to us. Without them, we would lose the core teaching and commandments of the gospel. The scriptures are what make the gospel pure and unaltered.

-Natalie Sue

Thursday, March 12, 2009

1 Nephi 4

In Summary: Nephi is commanded of the Lord to slay Laban and retrieve the brass plates. Laban's servant CHOOSES to join Lehi's family in the wilderness.

Synoptic Breakdown:
  • 1-3- Nephi's motivational speech to his brethren. Nephi showed his courage, dependability, and faithfulness, "Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be afaithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not bmightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands?"(v 1). He reminds them not only of Moses (stories from the scriptures) and applies it to their own situation, but he also reminds them that they'd witnessed an angel (their own testimony) and asks how they can doubt that the Lord would deliver them.
  • 4-6- Doubt and being led by the spirit. Laman and Lemuels' hearts are still unpricked and they continued to murmur, but they followed anyway and hid themselves. Nephi crept into the house of Laban, having no plan but being led moment-by-moment by the spirit.
  • 7-18- Nephi's inner thoughts wrestling with the spirit and the death of Laban. Nephi encounters the drunken, fallen Laban and took his sword. He was constrained by the spirit to kill Laban with his own sword, struggled with that thought, the spirit reminded him that the Lord had delivered Laban into Nephi's hands; a third time the spirit told him to slay Laban because, "the Lord aslayeth the bwicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is cbetter that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in dunbelief" (v. 13). Nephi remembers the Lord told him that if his seed would keep the commandments they would prosper in the land of promise, but they could not know the law unless they had the brass plates where the law was written. Nephi resolves that for this purpose he must slay Laban and secure the plates, so he smote off his head with his own sword.
  • 19-27- Securing the plates by strategy. Nephi dressed as Laban, went to the treasury and commanded the servant to obtain the plates so he could take them to his elder brethern. The servant believes Nephi to be Laban and obeys, following Nephi out of Laban's house.
  • 28-38- A bit of comedy, success, and a traveling partner joins the journey. Nephi's brothers were scared when they saw Nephi, and fled. Nephi called after them, the servant gets scared and begins to flee, but Nephi seized him and held him. Nephi explained to the servant Zoram that if he would listen, he would be spared; even that he would be free if he joined his family with them in the wilderness. Zoram took an oath and had courage to join them so the Jews would not know of their flight. Nephi and his brothers took the plates of brass and Zoram and departed to find the tent of their father.

My Thoughts: This is a significant chapter because it further elaborates on the personality and faith of Nephi and it also illustrates the extreme importance of obtaining the brass plates before continuing their sojourn in the wilderness. The death of Laban is significant not only for Nephi who slew him, but also for Jerusalem as a city. Nephi's firm reliance on the spirit shows his moral character and complete dependence on the Lord in all that he does. The strategy he used in girding himself in Laban's clothing and with his sword was an effective method of securing his safety and luring Zoram safely to his brethren hidden outside. Zoram's decision to join Lehi and his family allowed the necessary introduction of not only more faithful followers, but women for Lehi's sons to marry and have children with. Another testament to the fact that God knows our every needs and meets them on his timetable.

Laban's death is no doubt a graphic event (and we're only 4 chapters into the Book of Mormon), but it is also a controversial topic for many. As such a faithful, firm follower of Jesus Christ and as a future leader of his people many ask how could he commit murder? The answer is found in verse 13, where the Lord explains his reasoning ("it is better that one man perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief"), but Nephi adds his own reasoning:
1- The Lords promised to prosper his seed in the wilderness if they kept the commandments.
2- Keeping the commandments from the Law of Moses would be difficult unless they had the law.
3- The law was engraven on the plates of brass
4- This is why Laban had been delivered into Nephi's hands (and the spirited directed him 3 times to slay him).
Laban did not enter the house of Laban looking to murder him. He had no plan. He was not angry and divisive, but humbled before the Lord, willing to submit to the promptings of the spirit and that's just what he did when he slew Laban.

Application: How driven are you and I in our quest for the spiritual enlightenment? Are we constantly seeking the will of the Lord concerning our actions and choices in our daily lives? Do we truly understand the power in reading and living scriptural truths? Do we seek the Lord's plan for us, no matter the cost?

There is a great talk by Elder L. Tom Perry, titled "Give Heed Unto the Word of the Lord" that discusses these very questions. One great quote warns, "If we are not looking to the scriptures as a source of great spiritual power, we are missing wonderful opportunity for spiritual nourishment and strength. In this modern day and age, there is a greater need for spiritual power than perhaps at any time before in our history" (Perry, 2000, p.1). Furthermore, "When we know the scriptures, when we understand them, we get a feeling for what the Lord has revealed to His children through the ages of time. We learn His will for us. And we are strengthened spiritually" (Perry, 2000, p.1). For that very reason I am glad to be a part of this blog and to be engaged in understanding the scriptures better.