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This blog is devoted to people like us who need a daily spiritual outlet and motivation to keep up with our personal scripture study.
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

2 Nephi 2

Summary: Redemption cometh through the Holy Messiah—Freedom of choice (agency) is essential to existence and progression—Adam fell that men might be—Men are free to choose liberty and eternal life. Between 588 and 570 B.C.

First of all, this is a hefty chapter in terms of doctrinal understanding but I find it interesting how it was specifically given to Jacob, Lehi's "first-born in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness" (v.1). Lehi recognized all the turmoil his young son had witnessed at the hand of his brothers and as any loving and God-fearing father would do Lehi is blunt in expounding on the topic of agency to this tender-aged son who is about to lose his father in death. Lehi reminds and reassures Jacob that, "...thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain. Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God" (v.2-3).

When I took a Teachings of the Living Prophet religion class at BYU-Idaho from then-President David A. Bednar he taught us how to look for the 1)doctrine 2)principles 3)applications in the teachings/writings from our modern and ancient prophets. This chapter is loaded with all 3. Instead of taking the fun out of it for you, I will mention a few and leave the rest to you to do in your own study. (With conference coming up this is also fun to do for every talk given by our leaders- find the overarching doctrine/topic, the principles/sub-topics, and the specific application of each in your life.)

Doctrine 1: Redemption(v.6)
Principles of Redemption: Agency(v.5), Atonement(v.8/10), Repentance (v.7), Punishment(v.10), Grace(v.6), Truth(v.6), the Holy Messiah(v.6), Resurrection(v.8), Intercession(v.10), Plan of Happiness, Justice of God(v.12), Enticement(v.16), Judgement (v.10)
Application: Recognizing opposition in all things(v.11), knowing/teaching/choosing good from evil (v.5), broken heart and a contrite spirit (v.7), believing in Him(v.9), living righteously(v.13), acting for ourselves/choosing the good despite enticement from bad(v.16)

Do you see of fun this could be? I could go on and on and I could change the doctrine to Repentance or Agency and different principles would apply and the application would change slightly. Do you see how different doctrines work as principles for other doctrines? I love how the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so interconnected and purposeful. Every practice, belief and doctrine we live and believe in has a profound purpose that helps us live our daily lives in accordance with His will in order to become more like Him, so we can return to live with Him again.

This chapter points out the importance of one of our greatest gifts that we came to earth with: agency and what it is, when, why, and how to use it for our good/happiness. Agency is the RIGHT TO CHOOSE GOOD FROM EVIL, not just to choose. There is so much power in that. Lehi explains in verse 17 that according to his understanding the devil was an angel of God who fell from heaven because he sought that which was evil before God (to strip us of agency, which we know we already had in the pre-existence). This chapter makes me even more grateful for Adam and Eve and their CHOICE to partake of the forbidden fruit together for them and us. The scripture mastery verses sum the fall's purpose of nicely:

22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23 And they would have had no achildren; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no bjoy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no csin.
24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who aknoweth all things.
25 aAdam bfell that men might be; and men care, that they might have djoy.

This knowledge helps us to understand the importance of the redemption however, explained in verse 26, that a Messiah would come to redeem us from the Fall so we truly could be free forever if we would choose correctly. This verse also explains that there are 2 ways to freedom of choice:
1) knowing good from evil
2) to act for themselves and not to be acted upon
Think about that for a while.

I have a great (lengthy) quote from Elder George Q. Cannon that I'll sum up my remarks with. In relation to verse 27 (scripture mastery) about how men are free to choose liberty and eternal life or captivity and death, think on this:

"It is a remarkable fact, that there is no blessing that God has promised unto us that any human being, that any angel, or any devil can take from us... But man himself, by sinning, can rob himself of his blessing; he can prevent its fulfillment; but no human being can do it beside himself. Remember this, Latter-day Saints; remember it, and treasure it up in your hearts, that you have salvation within your own keeping. If you are damned, you damn yourselves; you will be the instrument of your own damnation. It will not be because God will damn you; it will not be because Satan has such power that he can take away every blessing from you; it will not be because of anything of that kind. How will it come about? It will come to every soul by wrong-doing on the part of that soul. He or she alone can bring condemnation on himself or herself. There is no other power can do it. Hence if we are damned we shall have no one to blame but ourselves..."
(Elder George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 26, p. 249-250).

There is so much power in our choices. We can bring upon ourselves the happiness we seek or the damnation we long to avoid. It all boils down to if we choose the good over the evil AND how and if we act or if we are acted upon.

I love how Lehi explains that this discourse on agency to all his sons is his only "object, save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls" (v.30). His life seems to be the ultimate symbol of agency (I mean whose isn't, right?) but he lead lead his family into the wilderness, crossed a sea to the promised land, got the Liahona which depended on choosing good, had the vision of the tree of life which encompassed the doctrine of Agency, and was father to vary diverse sets of sons who chose good and evil consistently. As a mother I couldn't think of anything better to infuse into my children... because the doctrines, principles, and applications of the gospel of Jesus Christ are so much a part of agency that there is no avoiding the other doctrines of salvation.

***I have a great testimony building story about verse 14 that I'll share in the comments. Please don't miss it and feel free to add yours.***


Holly said...

When I was about 12 years old my parents took us to our family cabin in the AZ mountains and challenged us to take a 2 hour solo-time. Before we embarked on our solo experiences my father explained how he came to gain his own testimony and challenged us to ponder and build our own. With journals, scriptures, and pens in hand my 4 other siblings and I embarked on an experience I will never forget.

When I first found my spot in the trees I knelt and asked my Heavenly Father for his spirit to accompany me and that I might be guided to find some answers to questions I had been pondering. I wanted to know FOR SURE... so that I could say that I KNOW... that God lives and that he loves me... and there is really a plan for ME. As I started writing in my journal about my feelings about God and his existence I was overcome with feelings that I had always known this to be true. Then I started looking around me and seeing creation in its simplest and finest form... a tree, the blue sky, the sun, a butterfly, rocks, the wind, the scriptures, ME. Then it hit me... I know God lives and that he created this world for my enjoyment and pleasure, but it wouldn't be complete without me. My purpose in life was to affirm that I knew He lived and loved me and to continually discover my purpose in life.

I realized I had my answer, but I wanted it to be confirmed.... and Heavenly Father is happy to bless us with his love and presence when we ask for it having acted for ourselves already. So.... I randomly flipped open my scriptures and began reading in 2 Nephi 2:14:
"And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon."

HOW COOL IS THAT? I had my answered confirmed immediately. My heart lept inside of me and tears filled my eyes. I was completely happy and filled with love, peace, and the spirit at that moment. I almost felt my Heavenly Father's arms envelope me at that moment in the trees. A circle.... of love, understanding, creation, life, testimony. I quickly got on my knees again and thanked Him for my answer and for confirming to me of His existence, not only in this world, but in MY LIFE.

There has never been a question in my mind since that moment about the existence of God, His Son Jesus Christ, or the matter of creation. I know He lives, He loves us, and He wants us to commune with Him. He has a specific and pertinent plan for our lives that will bring us joy, despite the occasional trip-ups.

I love this chapter of the Book of Mormon for this reason and many others... it helped me develop the beginnings of my testimony and my seedling experiences as a young women continually affirmed that testimony. To this day I am proud to say not that I belief, or I hope, or I testify.... but that I KNOW GOD LIVES AND THAT HE LOVES ME.

Holly said...

Consequently, from that experience I learned the pattern of revelation and communication with God. I learned how to pray, ask, and receive answers better. How to ponder, form questions, and be grateful for my knowledge. How to recognize answers and stupors of thought.

From that experience I was able to add other truths to my testimony such as: knowing Christ lived on the earth, set an example for us, atoned for us, was crucified, and that He lives again. That Joseph Smith was the prophet of the Restoration, that we have true and living prophets on the earth still just as in ancient times That the scriptures (especially the Book of Mormon) are a real record of a people who lived long ago and had challenges just as we do, that families are forever, that temple work is real and everlasting, that prayer is important, etc. etc.

So, share with me your testimony building experience(s).

Shauna said...

I am new here! What a great blog :)

Elise said...

Hi Shauna! Thanks for the comment. We hope to see more of you :).

Holly, EXCELLENT post. I loved it and have re-read it several times. Thanks also for sharing your spiritual experience. I love what [now Elder] David A. Bednar said.

As for mine. . .well, it is a little hard to think of one; it seems my life is comprised of many small experiences that my testimony is built on. One powerful experience I have had, though, is one I had around the time Joel and I got engaged. Chelsea was actually with me when I had the spiritual reassurance that I was making a good decision. Things with Joel just sort of worked out. . .and very quickly. Around the time he decided he loved me, I felt the same. Around the time he started thinking of marriage, I started thinking of it as well, without us having talked about it yet. And we're talking one or two weeks between these kinds of events to the next, not months. We were married a little less than four months after we first met.

So anyway, Joel and I talked about getting married, and it felt so right, and it felt like a "when" thing, not an "if" thing. I fasted one day and prayed about it so I could be sure I was getting an answer from the Lord. At the end of the day, I was talking about it with my roommates and felt an overwhelming assurance that I was making the right choice. It was as though I caught a glimpse into the eternities with this man, and I was overcome with tears (can anyone say cryfest?).

However, during the next week, I had an incredibly hard time with the decision that I had made. I felt physically ill all the time. I could think of nothing else and it was as though I had a sense of dread sitting like a brick in the middle of my stomach. I was overcome with Satan's influence and I was doubting beyond anything I would have expected.

And of course I prayed. I prayed hard and I prayed all the time that I would know again that things were right.

Even with all my earnest praying, I didn't get a clear answer. But, through the fog, it was as though I felt a voice telling me "Hold on, Elise, just hold on. Wait a little longer and you will see."

That was all I had to go on! That was it! That week was one of the hardest I have had in my life, and that was the answer I had. But, I did not think it wasn't enough, and I wasn't expecting a huge miraculous experience again. All I knew was that I needed to trust the Lord and follow Him, and it would be okay, just like He told me.

And you know what? It was. A week and a half later, when Joel put that ring on my finger, all of those worries and fears and overwhelming doubts had vanished. It was as though I could not remember my pain anymore, and I felt joy beyond belief.

I think of this experience often, because it is so much like life. We NEED to experience these things. Without them, we would not have joy, as Holly so eloquently said.

This experience really made me feel closer to Heavenly Father. I really felt during that week that He was anxious for me to know everything would be fine, but that I needed to experience this first. As I am becoming more and more of a mom, I am realizing a very small part of what this must be like for Him.

I knew and know that Heavenly Father loves me and is mindful of me. These experiences are invaluable.

Anyone else want to share?

Elise said...

Holy Long comment! Sorry folks. Got carried away. You know how it is when you're talking about getting engaged :).

Natalie Sue said...

Holly, amazing post! Thank you so much. I loved learning about how to study the scriptures by doctrine, principles, and application. I'm so excited to implement that!

What a neat experience too. I remember doing solo-time at camp. It's so neat that you family did that.