Monday, December 10, 2012

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #1 "Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History"

Explanatory Introduction to D&C; D&C 1

I was about to copy out my notes about the structural development of the Doctrine and Covenants from a lecture given by Bruce Woolley at BYU Education Week, when I discovered that Duane Crowther has put the same information online.  That saves me a lot of work!  Thanks, Brother Crowther!

Here is the link:  Structural Development of the Doctrine and Covenants

In addition, please also see Robert J. Woodford, "How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Compiled", Ensign, Jan. 1985.


THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS

My dear old friend, Sadie Sproles, joined the Church many years ago while living on the East Coast.  The missionaries told her that Joseph Smith asked questions and the Lord gave him the answers, he wrote them down, and that is the Doctrine and Covenants.  She immediately said, "I want that book!"  They gave her a copy and she received a testimony of the truthfulness of the restored Church through reading the Doctrine and Covenants.  "You're not supposed to get your testimony from the Doctrine and Covenants!" she says.  "You're supposed to get it from the Book of Mormon!"  But that's where she got hers.

President Benson said, "The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ.  The Doctrine and Covenants brings men to Christ's kingdom."  (April 1987 General Conference, quoted by Steven E. Snow, "Treasuring the Doctrine and Covenants", Ensign, Jan. 2009)  President Gordon B. Hinckley called it, "The constitution of the Church."  (ibid.)

THE HISTORY OF THE DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS

Okay, never mind; I can't resist printing up my notes from Bruce Woolley's lecture after all.  Everything following comes from his lecture at BYU Education Week, given August 18, 2005.

Sections 20 and 22 of the D & C were called "Articles and Covenants" and were sustained as scripture at the first general conference of the Church, June 9, 1830.  They were read at the start of every general conference through Joseph Smith's and Brigham Young's tenures as presidents.  In July of 1830, Joseph Smith wrote down previously received revelations

Brother Woolley says there are two characteristics of Latter-day Saints:  1) We're packrats (think food storage), and 2) we all have to have our own copy of everything. The faithful early saints wanted their own copies of the revelations.  Oliver Cowdery handcopied them for himself.  Then David Whitmer did as well.  Others followed.  They called this the Kirtland Revelation Book.

BOOK OF COMMANDMENTS (1831)

Finally a special conference was held in which to decide whether the revelations should be printed and published at Hiram, Ohio, November 1, 1831.  There were 12 members in attendance, the most well-educated church members (excepting Joseph Smith who was uneducated).  There were four more revelations received during those three days.  The consensus of the conference was that the revelations should not be published as making them too freely available would be "casting pearls before swine."  But Joseph Smith was for publication, and his opinion was ratified by a revelation which is one of seventy revelations published in the History of the Church and not in the Doctrine and Covenants.

The decision was made to publish 10,000 copies initially.  (5,000 copies were printed of the first edition of the Book of Mormon.)  Olivery Cowderey, Sidney Rigdon, and William E. McLellin were assigned to write a preface for the revelations during a recess in the conference.  They were stymied and finally asked Joseph Smith to pray for help.  The preface was then revealed to Joseph Smith, the first revelation to be dictated as it was received, and thus we have the only book in the history of the world whose preface was written by God Himself, now Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Section 67 (the third revelation received at this conference) was given after the brethren were still balking at publishing the revelations because they thought the wording of them simplistic and unsophisticated.  It was then that Joseph Smith issued the challenge to the most educated, William McLellin, to write a prophecy which 1) came from the Lord, and 2) was new doctrine never before received on the earth.  Of course, we know the story:  Brother McLellin could not come up with a thing, and acknowledged that revelations received through the prophet were best as they were.

The fourth revelation received at this conference was called "Appendix to the Revelations," regards what will happen at the Second Coming, and is now Section 133. 

While they were preparing the book for publication, William W. Phelps, the printer, published parts of it in the periodical, The Evening and Morning Star, using his personal copy of the Kirtland Revelation Book, and therefore is not a perfect match with the Book of Commandments.  (Sections 65, 68, 72, 76, 83, and part of 80)

While living with her uncle A. Sidney Gilbert, 15-year-old Mary Elizabeth Rollins gained a great love and esteem for the revelations that were to be printed.  In her own words, "One evening the brethren came to Uncle's house to converse upon the revelations that had not been printed as yet, but few had looked upon them, for they were in large sheets, not folded. They spoke of them with such reverence, as coming from the Lord; they felt to rejoice that they were counted worthy to be the means of publishing them for the benefit of the whole world." (Mary Elizabeth Rollin Lightner Autobiography, published by Robert Barrett on FindaGrave.com)

When the typesetting of the Book of Commandments was done and the copies of five large sheets containing 32 uncut pages each (160 pages total) had been printed, the press was destroyed by enemies of the Church.  The pages were thrown out into the street, but were heroically rescued by Mary and her 13-year-old sister Caroline.  (See James E. Faust, "Courage in the Cornfield", Friend, July 2007)

More from Mary's autobiography: 

"The mob renewed their efforts again by tearing down the printing office, a two story building, and driving Brother Phelps' family out of the lower part of the house and putting their things in the street. They brought out some large sheets of paper, and said, 'Here are the Mormon Commandments.' My sister Caroline and myself were in a corner of a fence watching them; when they spoke of the commandments I was determined to have some of them. Sister said if I went to get any of them she would go too, but said 'They will kill us.' While their backs were turned, prying out the gable end of the house, we went, and got our arms full, and were turning away, when some of the mob saw us and called on us to stop, but we ran as fast as we could. Two of them started after us. Seeing a gap in a fence, we entered into a large cornfield, laid the papers on the ground, and hid them with our persons."

 Picture from lds.org

"The corn was from five to six feet high, and very thick; they hunted around considerable, and came very near us but did not find us. After we satisfied ourselves that they had given up the search for us, we tried to find our way out of the field, the corn was so high we could not see where to go, looking up I saw trees that had been girdled to kill them. Soon we came to an old log stable which looked as though it had not been used for years. Sister Phelps and children were carrying in brush and piling it up at one side of the barn to lay her beds on. She asked me what I had. I told her. She then took them from us, which made us feel very bad. They got them bound in small books and sent me one, which I prized very highly."

As well she should!  Besides being of great spiritual value, they are the most expensive antique books relating to Church history today.  Only twenty are known to exist.

Those pages which were hand-cut, hand-assembled, and sewn together were printed up as the Book of Commandments. The Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has published replicas through their Herald House printing company. 


My replica of the Book of Commandments--
much smaller than the present day triple combination.



Title Page


First page of the revelations

Because only the first 160 pages had been printed before the mob destroyed the press, this book ends abruptly at Section 64, verse 47 in the middle of a sentence.



You can see that in the original handwritten manuscript which W.W. Phelps was using, that final word "Ephraim" had been circled--the point at which he had stopped for the day.  (Herald House includes a facsimile of this page in their replica book.)


 (If you want your own copy of this replica book--and let's face it: why wouldn't you?--buy it from Herald House and skip Amazon where it's 2 to 10 times the price.)

DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS (1835)

A second special conference was held August 17, 1835 in Kirtland to discuss republishing the revelations in a new book.  Each revelation was read and ratified by the First Presidency, then the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, then the Seventy, and on down through the whole membership of the church.  They stood and voted in turn to sustain the book as scripture.  There is no evidence that there was a single negative vote.

The first edition of this book called Doctrine and Covenants was printed that summer.  It contained two sections: Joseph Smith's Lectures on Faith, and 102 revelations, divided into "chapters" rather than "sections".  Frederick G. Williams was the printer.

This replica is also published by Herald House printing.
(They also publish the original hymnal Emma Smith compiled,
which is teeny-tiny.)

In 1844 the second edition of this book was published in Nauvoo, the last one that was proofread by Joseph Smith.  The wording has never been changed.  Two more editions were published from these same plates in 1845 and 1846.

In 1876, 26 sections were added.

In 1908, the "Manifesto" was included.

In 1921 the printing was put into double columns and the book included 136 sections and the Manifesto.  Lectures on Faith were now left out.  James E. Talmadge was the editor.

In 1930 a different edition was published called Latter-day Revelation.  It omitted the personal revelations.  It was never sustained as scripture, however, and did not last.

Our current Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1981.




Sunday, December 9, 2012

New Youth Curriculum

I have launched another blog of teaching aids for the new youth "Come Unto Me" curriculum.  While I won't treat every discussion topic since I'm still doing this blog, I will have at least a couple of ideas for each month.  Follow the link on the upper right of this blog to get there.

Christmas Lessons

If you have more weeks than lessons in the month of December, here are some ideas for a Christmas lesson:

The Purpose of Christmas

Unto You Is Born a Savior

The Measure of Our Faith

Book of Mormon Lesson #48 "Come Unto Christ"

Moroni 7-8; 10

IDEAS FOR STUDY OF CHAPTER SEVEN

And now I, Moroni, write a few of the words of my father Mormon, which he spake concerning faith, hope, and charity; for after this manner did he speak unto the people, as he taught them in the synagogue which they had built for the place of worship.” (Moroni 7:1)

This is Mormon's great discourse on faith, hope and charity, almost identical in parts to another chapter of scripture—Where? 1 Corinthians 13, written by Paul, and D&C 46 revealed to Joseph Smith. The writing is so similar, we can only conclude that they must have gotten it from the same Source.  Here is a thought regarding these triplet chapters on faith, hope, and charity: They both follow instructions on how church organizations are to run, how meetings are to be conducted, and/or how church members are to view each other. What can we learn from that?

BRIEF OVERVIEW OF CHAPTER EIGHT

The text of chapter eight is a letter from Mormon lambasting a terrible wickedness among the people. “Wo unto such, for they are in danger of death, hell, and an endless torment. I speak it boldly; God hath commanded me. Listen unto them and give heed, or they stand against you at the judgment-seat of Christ.” (Moroni 8:21) What is this terrible wickedness? It's infant baptism! Why is this so awful? (Wait for class response.) 

The answer can be found in verse 20: “And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption.” Because of their mortal fallen state, being pure and sinless is not enough to save infants, but it is enough to qualify them to be saved by Christ through the Atonement. Saying that children need baptism denies the power of Christ. Those who believe thus do not know Christ, and knowing Christ is essential to being saved in his kingdom. Therefore, they are consigned to hell and endless torment.

CHAPTER TEN: MORONI'S FAREWELL

Gratitude (Remembering) Increases Faith.
Chapter 10 contains some scriptures that are very familiar to us. This is Moroni's great farewell, his parting words, his exhortations to us. Probably most class members could finish this sentence: “I would exhort you...” (Probably class members will respond with “that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true...”) This is the exhortation that we are most familiar with; however, there are eight exhortations in this chapter, and the first one is not to pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. There is something else that we must do first, or it will not do any good to pray about the Book of Mormon. (Ask the class to glance over the page to find the first instance.)

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.” (Moroni 10:3)

Why must we remember and ponder first? Because we can have no faith that the Lord will answer our prayers unless an understanding of the character of the Lord is firmly established in our minds. We must know Him to have faith in Him. Moroni teaches us an important principle here about the importance of remembering and the power of thoughts. The more we notice and remember the mercy of the Lord in our thoughts, the greater our faith will become. Alma 32 teaches us that if we nourish the seed, or the word of God, it will grow. It is not that the word needs our nourishment to mature into a tree. It's that it cannot grow within us without our nourishing it and providing an ever-enlarging space for it in our garden. Thus, remembering and pondering—or we might call it gratitude—increases faith. (Write “Gratitude” on the left of the board and “Faith” in the center with an arrow going from Gratitude to Faith.)

Faith Brings Peace

Moroni's father Mormon had seen terrible atrocities in his day, just about the worst things that you can imagine: cannibalism, rape, murder, slaughter of children. And yet, Mormon's words teach us that it is possible to enter into “the rest of the Lord” on this earth, in this life! Read carefully:

Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” (Moroni 7:3)

This correlates with the message the angels proclaimed at the birth of Christ: “Peace on earth, good will to men,” which is more aptly translated, “Peace to men of good will.” Amid terrible strife in the world, Mormon and Moroni knew peace because they knew the Lord. (Write “Peace” on the right side of the board with an arrow going from Faith to Peace.)

In chapter ten, Moroni gives us a lot of information about the Lord that he hopes we will use to build our faith. Each time he exhorts us to do something, he reveals a little more about the character of God. We discussed the first two already:
The Lord...
  1. (Verse 3) ...is merciful.
  2. (Verse 4) ...will reveal truth.
  3. (Verse 7) ...has power.
  4. (Verse 8) ...gives us his power through gifts of the Spirit.
  5. (Verse 18) ...gives us everything that is good.
  6. (Verse 19) ...is predictable.
  7. (Verse 27) ...will hold us accountable.
So the concluding exhortation is...

(Verse 30) Come unto Christ! (The theme of our youth curriculum!)

Ways to Increase Gratitude, and therefore Faith, and therefore Peace

When we remember experiences, write them, or tell them to others, the experiences increase in size in our consciousness and have an effect on us and our relationship with any other people involved in the experience. Often people will say, “When I was growing up, we always...” [Fill in the blank with “...gathered around the piano to sing carols”; “...went on a picnic up the canyon” ; or whatever cherished memory they choose.] In fact, they only did that thing a few times, but they have enlarged the memory of it by recalling it so often an so fondly. Unfortunately, sometimes people will use this principle to their disadvantage in nursing a grudge: “She always...” [Fill in the blank with whatever bad treatment she gave the person on occasion.] The offense grows greater with remembering.

Just like thinking, writing, and telling about incidents with other people influence our relationship with them, thinking, writing and telling about “what great things the Lord hath done for us” influences our relationship with Him. It is wise to write the Lord's mercies in our journals, recount them to others, and remember them frequently in quiet moments. This is why Elder Eyring has counseled us to record such things in our journals, and why we have testimony meetings every month.  (See "O Remember, Remember", from October 2007 General Conference.)

A study of the scriptures can also enlarge our memories and increase our gratitude to the Lord. The title page of the Book of Mormon declares that the book was written to “show...what great things the Lord hath done for [our] fathers.” The conclusion to the first chapter of the Book of Mormon testifies, “Behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord or over all those whom he hath chosen...” (1 Nephi 1:20)

CONCLUSION

Let's read Moroni's very last words (you may also want to read verses 32-33): “And now I bid unto all, farewell, I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead, Amen.” (Moroni 10:34) (Then you can show the first 4 minutes and 45 seconds of the video “How Rare a Possession,” ending where Moroni deposits the plates in the ground and the screen goes dark.)

Now we've buried the plates—in January we'll dig them back up! Get ready to study Church History and the Doctrine and Covenants.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #47 "To Keep Them in the Right Way"

Moroni 1-6

A PRIESTHOOD HANDBOOK

After recording the story of the Jaredite civilization, Moroni was surprised to find himself still alive and decided there must be something else he could contribute to the record.  Perhaps he considered that he was the last member of the Church before an apostasy, and that the Church would have to be restored from the ground up, so he added a brief Priesthood handbook, chapters 1-5.

It is very interesting to think that his society, so different than ours today, had the exact ordinances that we do, and with the exact wording.  This was also revealed to Joseph Smith (a revelation possibly initiated by his reading Moroni's words), so we know we are supposed to do the ordinances in the same way.  In our worldwide church, we have many, many different societies, many different cultures, and yet we all participate in the very same ordinances.  Beyond that, our meetings, unlike those of many other denominations, are conducted under the direction of the Spirit.  (Moroni 6:9)

If you have a well-traveled member in your ward, you may like to ask him or her to share some experiences of attending church in other wards and branches around the world.



 REQUIREMENTS FOR BAPTISM

Moroni then listed five requirements for prospective members to meet if they desired to join the Church through baptism:
  1. "And now I speak concerning baptism.  Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.
  2. "Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit,
  3. "And witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.
  4. "And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ,
  5. "Having a determination to serve him to the end."  (Moroni 6:1-3)
 And then he gave the expectations for those who were already in the Church regarding the new members: 

"And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken..."

Why was this important?  To meet a quota?  To make sure their tithing got collected?  No.  It was so the members could be aware of them in order to follow the Savior's injunction in the New Testament to "feed my lambs."

"...that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith."  (Moroni 6:4)


"All of us have tried at some time to nourish another person’s faith. Most of us have felt the concern of others for our own faith, and with it we have felt their love. More than a few of us have had a child look up to us and say, 'Would you like to go to church with me?' or, 'Would you pray with me?' And we have had our disappointments. Someone we love may not have accepted our attempts to nourish his or her faith. We know from painful experience that God respects the choice of His children not to be nourished. Yet this is a time to feel renewed optimism and hope that our power to nourish will be increased.

"The Lord through His living prophet has told us that He will preserve the bounteous harvest of new converts entering the waters of baptism. And the Lord will do it through us. So we can have confidence that by doing simple things, things that even a child can do, we will be granted greater power to nourish tender faith...


"Those new members of the Church are His children. He has known them and they have known Him in the world before this one. His purpose and that of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is to have them return to Him and to give them eternal life if they will only choose it. He has led and sustained His missionaries by the Holy Spirit to find and teach and baptize them. He allowed His Son to pay the price of their sins. Our Father and the Savior see those converts as tender lambs, purchased with a price we cannot fathom.

"A mortal parent may appreciate, in some small way, the feelings of a loving Heavenly Father. When our children come to the age when they must leave our direct care, we feel anxiety for their safety and concern that those who are to help them will not fail them. We can feel at least some of the Father’s and the Savior’s love for the new members of the Church and the trust They place in us to nourish."  (Elder Henry B. Eyring, "Feeding His Lambs", February 2008 Ensign.)

This would be a great time to have class members share times when they or members of their family were "remembered and nourished by the good word of God" through members of their congregations.

"We can by simple obedience help the Lord to take the lambs, His lambs, into His hands and take them in His arms home to their Father and our Father. I know that God will pour out the powers of heaven upon us as we join in preserving that sacred harvest of souls."  (Elder Eyring, ibid.)

(Pictures in this post are from lds.org and are legal to use for teaching purposes.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #46 "By Faith, All Things are Fulfilled"

Ether 7-15

HISTORY

If you have a chess game, it might be a good eye-catcher to display on the classroom table.

Although the Jaredite civilization overlapped the Nephite civilization timewise, they had a totally different society.  They did not come from Jerusalem.  They did  not even descend from Abraham.  They moved to America a couple of hundred years before Abraham was born.  They, of course, spoke an entirely different langauge, the Adamic language.  It is interesting to note that the names of the people in the book of Ether are quite different than the names in the rest of the Book of Mormon.  And the way their civilization was governed and the way they warred was different as well.

Many kings are mentioned as Moroni gives his rapid-fire history of the Jaredites.  Among them, there is an interesting phenomenon: kings serving in captivity.  Seven of the kings mentioned were overthrown and, rather than being killed in the coup, were captured and imprisoned.  Some of them managed to rise up and gain their kingdoms back; some of them spent the rest of their lives in captivity; one line of kings spent six generations living as captives (Hearthom in chapter 10).  This is similar to the Asiatic civilizations.

"Such is the practice...of keeping a king prisoner throughout his entire lifetime, allowing him to beget and raise a family in captivity, even though the sons thus brought up would be almost sure to seek vengeance for their parent and power for themselves upon coming of age....It seems to us a perfectly ridiculous system, yet it is in accordance with the immemorial Asiatic usage....Benjamin of Tudela tells how the khalif, the spiritual ruler of all western Asia, arranged for 'the brothers and other members of the khalif's family' to live lives of ease, luxury, and security: 'every one of them possesses a palace within that of the khalif, but they are all fettered by chains of iron, and a special officer is appointed over every household to prevent their rising in rebellion against the great king.'...It was the custom of Turkish kings, as was long doubted by scholars but has recently been proved, to allow their defeated rivals to sit upon their thrones by day, but lock them up in iron cages for the night!"  (Hugh Nibley, quoted in Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon, p. 495, originally printed in Lehi in the Desert, p. 201-203)

And  why did they do this?  Brother Nibley explains:

"Moving back to the earliest records of all, we find a large class of legends all over the ancient world telling how a victorious god in the beginning bound and imprisoned his rebellious relatives--not killing them, since they partook of his own divine nature..." 

The last of these captive kings mentioned was Coriantor, who was born into his father's captivity and spent his whole life a captive.  Into this environment was born his son, Ether.  (See Ether 11:23.)  We know Ether, not as a captive king, but as a mighty prophet of God.

"And Ether was a prophet of the Lord; wherefore Ether came forth in the days of Coriantumr, and began to prophesy unto the people, for he could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him."  (Ether 12:2)

Ether had a vital message for his people:

"For he did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed, saying unto them that by faith all things are fulfilled--Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God." (Ether 12:3-4)

Moroni stopped his narrative of history right here and took this concept Ether so wanted his people to understand--by faith all things are fulfilled--and expounded upon it for us in his own words. 

FAITH PRECEDES THE MIRACLE

"And now I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith."  (Ether 12:6; see also verse 12)

In this chapter, Moroni gives twelve examples of faith preceding miracles:
  1. Christ's resurrection [v. 7]
  2. The bestowal of the Holy Priesthood [v. 10]
  3. The Law of Moses [v. 11]
  4. Alma and Amulek [v. 13]
  5. Nephi and Lehi [v. 14]
  6. Ammon and his brethren [v. 15]
  7. Disciples who are unnamed [v. 16]
  8. The Three Nephites [v. 17]
  9. The brother of Jared [v. 20]
  10. Many others like him [v. 19]
  11. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon which hadn't yet happened [v.22]
  12. The disciples who saw Christ in the Book of Mormon [v. 31]
Seven times in this chapter, Moroni reminds us that faith comes before miracles:  verses 6, 7, 12, 17, 18, 30, 31.

FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY BRING US UNTO CHRIST

Moroni expressed his worries to the Lord that those who read the Book of Mormon might notice flaws in the writing (verse 25), but the Lord did not say he would fix them all.  Instead, he said, "Behold, I will show until the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me--the fountain of all righteousness."  (verse 28)

The Lord told Moroni that the important thing was to have charity.  Whether or not the gift of the Book of Mormon was received well, all that mattered was that Moroni had completed his own mission and prepared it with the pure love of Christ.  "If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean.  And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father."  (verse 37)

On the way to Carthage Jail, Hyrum Smith read verses 36-38 aloud to Joseph Smith, and turned down the page corner (Class Member Study Guide).  This scripture has lent strength to the greatest of our dispensation. 

BACK TO THE HISTORY

The world that Ether lived in was bloodthirsty and vengeful.  There were two warring factions.  Coriantumr was the king of the one, and the other had several kings, but in the end was led by King Shiz.  Ether prophesied to Coriantumr that all his household but himself would be killed if he would not repent (Ether 13:20-22).  But Coriantumr said, "No thanks.  I can handle this myself."  Until he realized he couldn't, and two million of his men had been killed, as well as their wives and children.  He finally wrote an epistle to his enemy, offering to surrender his kingdom in order to save the lives of the rest of his people.  That wasn't enough for King Shiz.  He offered to spare the people if Corantumr would give himself up. Coriantumr didn't want to do that, and the battles resumed (Ether 15:1-6).

This Jaredite society had a system of warfare different than most in the world today, and different than the Nephites, but similar to that of ancient Asia.  This type of warfare is where we the game of chess comes from.  Again, Hugh Nibley explains:

"The insane wars of the Jaredite chiefs ended in the complete annihilation of both sides, with the kings the last to go...This all seems improbable to us, but two circumstances peculiar to Asiatic warfare explain why the phenomenon is by no means without parallel: (1) Since every war is strictly a personal contest between kings, the battle must continue until one of the kings falls or is taken.  (2) And yet things are so arranged that the king must be the very last to fall, the whole army existing for the sole purpose of defending his person.  This is clearly seen in the game of chess, in which all pieces are expendable except the king, who can never be taken" (Quoted in Latter-day Commentary, p. 507).

 

And so the war continued, killing millions of people, until only the two kings remained, and Shiz had fainted from loss of blood, allowing Coriantumr to chop off his head (Ether 15:30).

In your scriptures you may want to write at the end of the Book of Ether, "The Rest of the Story:  Omni 1:20-22; Mosiah 21:25-28; Mosiah 28:11-19"

THE WARNING FOR US

Although the Jaredite society was very different from the Nephite society, which was very different from our societies, the same evil ruined both of them and can ruin us.  The warning of the book of Ether to us is found in chapter 8:

"Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain--and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction" (Ether 8:23).

This verse applies to us who are not actively involved in secret combinations, but who "suffer [allow] these things to be," who let them "get above you."

Do we have secret combinations in our world today?  Yes!  Any kind of organized crime or corrupt government or unethical business practices involve secret combinations where getting gain is more important than the good of the people being served. Even gossip is a type of secret combination, isn't it? What is the antidote?  The gospel of Jesus Christ!  

These chapters of Ether contain two opposing philosophies and their outcomes:  1) relying on secret alliances with men (secret combinations), and 2) relying on sacred alliances with God (faith).  It was through their reliance on God that both Ether and Moroni survived the horrific ordeal of watching the complete annihilation of their civilizations due to the secret combinations set up there for greed and power.  Secret combinations always deal in fear: the fear of loss of power or money or social standing, or the fear of not having a "father" figure or a gang "family" for protection, or even the fear of physical danger if a person does not comply with the rules of the secret combination.  But the Lord always offers his hand of help, if we will reach out for it.  It is our choice:  Do we choose faith, or do we choose fear?

You may want to share the example of one who chose faith after a life of secret combinations, Mario Facione, a mafia member who converted to the LDS church.  Follow this link to MormonWiki.com for the story.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #45 "Never Has Man Believed In Me As Thou Hast"

Ether 1-6


Why Ether is in the Book of Mormon

After Mormon died in battle, his son Moroni took charge of the records.  He finished his father’s record, or he thought he had finished it, with the Book of Mormon (the smaller book inside the whole Book of Mormon).   We can read the last few verses of Mormon and see that he thought he was through.  “Behold, I speak unto you as though I spake from the dead; for I know that ye shall have my words”.  (Mormon 9:30)   After that verse he talked about how we should treat the record and what he prayed that it would do for us.  And he closed with an “amen.”  But now we know what Moroni didn’t know, and that was that he was not through writing on the plates. 

After this, Moroni spent years wandering by himself, hiding from the Lamanites, as the last Nephite left.  What do you think he did with his time?  Well, aside from entertaining the Three Nephites once in a while (Mormon 8:10-11), and aside from getting food and eating it, he had stacks of plates in his keeping.  He had the scriptures, the best of books.  And so he undoubtedly read quite a bit.  And I suppose that as he was reading (after he thought he was through writing), he read through the story of the people of Limhi (See Mosiah 21).  Remember them? Limhi was the grandson of Zeniff, who had led a large group of Nephites to live among the Lamanites, foolishly believing that the Lamanites would be nice to them.  Well, by the time Limhi was king, the Lamanites, of course, had them in bondage. But no one was still alive who knew how to get back to Zarahemla, the land of the Nephites.  So Limhi managed to sneak out a group of scouts to try to find the way.  They didn’t find Zarahemla, but they did find a land whose civilization had been annihilated, and they brought back their records, 24 gold plates.  And in reading this record, Moroni would have read Mosiah 28:17-19:

“Now after Mosiah had finished translating these records, behold, it gave an account of the people who were destroyed, from the time that they were destroyed back to the building of the great tower, at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people and they were scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth, yea, and even from that time back until the creation of Adam.  Now this account did cause the people of Mosiah to mourn exceedingly, yea, they were filled with sorrow; nevertheless it gave them much knowledge, in the which they did rejoice.  And this account shall be written hereafter; for behold, it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account.” 

And then, in reading through the rest of the record, he must have realized that this account had not yet been included in the Book of Mormon, and that it must be part of his life’s mission to include it and write more.

This brings us to one of our topics for today, which is how the scriptures can help us know what to do, how they can be like a manual for us in our own lives.

How the Lord Blesses Us when we Ask
So, inserted in this spot in the Book of Mormon, we find a “Reader’s Digest Condensed Version” of this record, the story of the Jaredites, called the book of Ether.  It is a very condensed version, because the Jaredites existed in America for probably more than 1,500 years.  (The Nephites were only there about 1,000.)  They came to America sometime after the flood, and were still there when the Nephites came, although they were unaware of each other.  Once again, this is a record that we can have in fullness after we have used up the Book of Mormon (See Ether 4:6-7.)

This week’s reading is the Jaredite history from the time of the Tower of Babel until they arrived in America.  Very briefly, because I think many of us are familiar with this story, but maybe not all of us—Jared and his brother, whom Joseph Smith said was called Mahonri Moriancumr, lived at the time of the Tower of Babel when the languages were confounded.  Undoubtedly, many people suffered greatly because of this confusion, although we don’t know many details, but Jared and his brother received many great blessings of the Lord at this time.  And why would this be?  (Have you been paying attention in class?  This is getting to be a familiar theme.)  Because 1) they were worthy and 2) they asked.  In chapter 1 verse 34, they asked not to have their language confounded.  In verse 36, they asked not to have their friends’ language confounded.  The Lord granted their request.  In verse 38, they asked the Lord where they should go, and they made a specific request that they might be directed by him to a land “which is choice above all the earth.”  And the Lord granted that request.  And, once again, why did he send them to the promised land? “And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.” (Ether 1:43)

They picked up their tents and traveled to the seashore to a land they called Moriancumer, probably after their leader, the brother of Jared.  And they stayed there for 4 years.  Why were they stuck there for so long?  They didn’t continue to ask the Lord what to do. 

“And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him.  And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord:   

“And the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done, and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him.  And the Lord said unto him: I will forgive thee and thy brethren of their sins; but thou shalt not sin any more, for ye shall remember that my Spirit will not always strive with man; wherefore, if ye will sin until ye are fully ripe ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.  And these are my thoughts upon the land which I shall give you for your inheritance; for it shall be a land choice above all other lands.” (Ether 2:14-15)

So after they repented, the Lord went ahead and told them what they had neglected to ask about, and that was how they were to get across the sea.  They were to build barges like the barges their people already used to transport freight. They built the barges, but the thought of crossing the sea in them would be almost like crossing the sea in a boxcar, or the trailer of a semi.  The barges were not built to carry living things.  They would be dark and airless.  Once again, the Lord did not tell them what to do until they asked the question of how they should breathe in the barges.  Then he told them to put a hole in the top and the bottom, and to unstop one of the holes when they needed air.  And then the brother of Jared asked the second question, what about light?

The Scriptures Answer Questions

The Lord left the Brother of Jared to figure out the light problem himself.  I have a theory on why, and I have never heard anyone else express this idea, so it’s probably wrong, but it’s kind of cool, I like it and it fits the theme of the lesson, so I’m going to toss it out to you anyway.  You can see what you think.

Joseph Smith said that we only inquire of the Lord when there isn’t a previous revelation to solve our problem.  (Teachings of Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 22)  The Brother of Jared brought records with him similar to what is at the beginning of our Old Testament, and similar to the Brass Plates the Nephites brought. 

“And as I suppose that the first part of this record, which speaks concerning the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower, and whatsoever things transpired among the children of men until that time, is had among the Jews—Therefore I do not write those things which transpired from the days of Adam until that time; but they are had upon the plates; and whoso findeth them, the same will have power that he may get the full account.” (Ether 1:3-4) 

Included in this record, then, would have been the story of Noah.  The brother of Jared’s situation was similar to Noah’s.  He would be sealed up in a boat for a long period of time.  Noah was told,

“And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.  A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.”  (Genesis 6:15-16)  It says here that Noah had a window in his ark.  Look at the little “a” footnote to verse 16.  It says that some rabbis believed that this word “window” described a precious stone that shone in the ark.  Maybe in the original language, that is the case.  That makes sense, because in the Book of Mormon, the Lord told the brother of Jared that a window would not work because it would be dashed to pieces by the storm.  So, I think it is possible that the Brother of Jared searched the scriptures, written in his language, and found his answer there in the story of Noah.  What do you think?  (Two readers added credence to this theory in the comments below.  I'm adding their links here for easy reference:  A quote from Hugh Nibley, and another from a Jewish blog.  Thanks, friends!)

When you’re working on the computer and you come up against a problem, how do you solve it?  If you’re like me, you get someone to tell you how to do it.  I’ll call my son who used to work for Dell and get him to show me how to do what I need to do.  I’ll even call the customer service number, if it doesn’t take too long for someone to answer it.  I hate to have to pore through the manual and figure it out myself.  Why?  Because I’m lazy.  It’s easier to have someone give the answer right to you. 

The Lord doesn’t want us to be lazy—he wants us to learn.  That’s what we’re here for anyway, isn’t it?  So he doesn’t want to hand everything right to us.  He doesn’t want us calling the great Customer Service in the Sky for every question we have.  He has given us The Manual.  We have the scriptures.  We need to use them to learn how to do things ourselves in life.

Now, don’t be confused.   He does want us to pray.  He wants us to pray all the time.  In fact, the brother of Jared, a major spiritual guy, got in trouble for not praying enough.  The Lord wants us to do what the prophets do.  President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I don’t know how to get anything done except getting on my knees and pleading for help and then getting on my feet and going to work.”  (Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 16)  But the “getting on my feet and going to work” part is important, too.

Well, whether he got the idea from the scriptures or not, the brother of Jared did figure out a plan for getting light into the barges.  But, as with most great and miraculous ideas and inventions, he knew that he required the Lord’s help for the plan to work.  Over time the Lord had always shown that he would grant the righteous requests of the Jaredites.  So he asked the Lord to touch the stones with his finger to bring light to them, and he had such great faith that the Lord would grant his request, that he was watching, totally believing that the Lord really would put his finger to the stones.  Therefore, when the Lord did, the brother of Jared saw it.


The Scriptures Also Inspire Questions

The scriptures can lead to questions that inspire growth and revelation.  So sometimes, as we pray for guidance, we can find answers to our questions in the scriptures.  And actually, it can work in the reverse, as well.  Sometimes, as we read the scriptures, we can find questions that require revelation for the answers.  Just as Joseph Smith said that we never receive a revelation for which the answer already exists in the scriptures, he also said that we never receive a revelation without asking a question fist.  As Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon, question after question came up which  brought to pass revelations on how to set up the church.  The last book in the Book of Mormon, the Book of Moroni, is more or less a Priesthood handbook.  So what question presented itself to Joseph Smith when he read through these first six chapters of Ether?  Chapter 5 is written directly to Joseph Smith. Let’s read the entire thing.

1 AND now I, Moroni, have written the words which were commanded me, according to my memory; and I have told you the things which I have sealed up; therefore touch them not in order that ye may translate; for that thing is forbidden you, except by and by it shall be wisdom in God.
2 And behold, ye may be privileged that ye may show the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work;
3 And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God; wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true.
4 And in the mouth of three witnesses shall these things be established; and the testimony of three, and this work, in the which shall be shown forth the power of God and also his word, of which the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost bear record—and all this shall stand as a testimony against the world at the last day.
5 And if it so be that they repent and come unto the Father in the name of Jesus, they shall be received into the kingdom of God.
6 And now, if I have no authority for these things, judge ye; for ye shall know that I have authority when ye shall see me, and we shall stand before God at the last day.  Amen.

The writing here showed Joseph Smith that there were to be three witnesses and raised the question of who they should be.  Joseph Smith said, “Almost immediately after we had made this discovery, it occurred to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and…Martin Harris…that they would have my inquire of the Lord to know if they might not obtain of him the privilege to be these three special witnesses; and finally they became so very solicitous, and urged me so much to inquire that at length I compiled; and through the Urim and Thummim, I obtained of the Lord for them [the record recorded in Doctrine & Covenants 17].” –HC 1:52-53.  The entire organization of the church was not laid out for Joseph Smith, but was added bit by bit, piece by piece, as the scriptures raised questions in his mind.

Problem-solving can Bring Us to Christ

It is noteworthy that it was after the Brother of Jared came up against a huge problem, put all his effort into the solution of the problem, and exercised his faith in the Lord to help him with the problem—after all this dealing with a great problem, he received the most glorious vision of the Son of God that anyone had received to that day.  Problem-solving literally brought him to Christ.  The writer M. Scott Peck says that life is about solving problems. (The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, p. 1)  And so do the scriptures, such as this one. 

When we realize that that is what we are here to do—to solve problems and to exercise our faith in the Lord for help in solving them—it isn’t so frustrating to face a new problem every day.  Solving problems brings us closer to the Lord, because of the exercise of faith that problem-solving requires and because of the personal growth that problem-solving supplies.  As we do our best to solve problems, and as we ask the Lord for help, and as He gives it, if we are watching like the brother of Jared was, we will see that hand of the Lord, maybe not with our earthly eyes, but certainly with our spiritual eyes.

Putting Ourselves in the Hands of the Lord

The Jaredites headed off to sea in their barges, as chapter 6 verse 4 says, “commending themselves unto the Lord their God.”  They put themselves in the Lord’s hands.  And then what happened?  The Lord provided for them a mighty rough ride!

“And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.   And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.   it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish, and also they were tight like unto the ark of Noah; therefore when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.” (Ether 6:5-7)  They commended themselves unto the Lord, trusting that he would do what was best for them.  And what the Lord thought was best for them was a lengthy period of trial as they crossed the sea, a lot of difficulties and fearful situations that would require them to continue to ask for his help. 

But their response teaches us a lesson: while still experiencing these hard times, while still suffering in their freight cars on the ocean waves, they recognized the Lord’s help and thanked him for it without ceasing. 

“And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.  And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.  And thus they were driven forth, three hundred and forty and four days upon the water.” (Ether 6:9-11) 

They could not learn that no monster could break them, they could not learn that no whale could mar them, unless they actually encountered monsters and whales.  They learned what the Lord wanted them to learn from this trial, and that was that they could survive terrible situations because he would not forsake them.  For almost a year (344 days) in all of these extremities, “whether above the water or below the water,”  they had the light provided by his finger.  This is a great truth that we will also need to learn, and our trials will help to teach us. 

“And they did land upon the shore of the promised land.  And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.”  (Ether 6:12)

The Scriptures Help Us Have Faith Through Trials

Way back at the beginning of this study year, we read Nephi’s goal in keeping his record.  Chapter 1 of First Nephi closes with Nephi’s explanation of what he wanted to show by writing the story of his life and his great trials. It was simply this:

“But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” (1 Nephi 1:20)

The story of the brother of Jared is just one more example of how enriched we are when we recognize the tender mercies of the Lord despite of—or because of—our problems.

Book of Mormon Lesson #44 "I speak Unto You As If You Were Present"

Mormon 7-9

ATTENTION QUESTION

Post on the board before people enter the room:  "What is a Book of Mormon scripture or story that has blessed your life?"  Display a few gift-wrapped boxes.

RECEIVING GIFTS

When it comes to gifts, our second son is very easy to please.  When he was a little boy (and, really, still today in his 20s) we could buy him almost anything and he would be thrilled with it.  He was fun to shop for.  When he was about five, he unwrapped a birthday present and exclaimed with great joy--and this is an exact quote--"Oh, WOW!  It's just what I've always wanted!  What is it?"  Because of his attitude, he was delighted with every gift.



There was another gift-receiving concept that this son stumbled upon over the years and probably did not even realize it.  It is a little tricky, so listen up, here it is:  You get what you want if you learn to like the same things your dad does.  Dad liked guitar, therefore Nate liked guitar; therefore, Nate got access to great guitar stuff, tickets to guitar concerts, time to practice with Dad, and even his very own Seagull guitar when he got old enough.  Dad liked paintball, therefore Nate liked paintball; therefore, Nate got a great paintball gun, CO2 from Dad's tank sitting right in the garage, somebody to play paintball with, and transportation to paintball fields.  Dad liked winter camping; therefore Nate liked winter camping; therefore...you get the picture.


GIFTS FROM HEAVENLY FATHER


Nate's gift-receiving attitudes will serve us well in the Kingdom of God.  First, when it comes to the gifts that Heavenly Father surprises us with, we would do well to be like 5-year-old Nate and trust our Father's gift-giving ability.  He chooses the very best gifts for us.  We can say, "Oh, WOW!  It's just what I've always wanted!" even if we don't know what it is, or why he gave it, or what we are supposed to do with it.  He'll tell us if we ask.

Secondly, if we are one with Christ, we will want the same things he does, which are the same things Heavenly Father does, and we are going to receive them if we ask.  For example, the writers of the Book of Mormon all had the same desire, they all prayed for the same thing:  That their writing would help to bring their brethren back to the knowledge of Christ in the latter-days.  Has this request been granted?  Of course.  It is in process right now.  It's the same thing that Heavenly Father wanted.

"Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth."  (Mormon 9:21)  Remember that to ask "in the name of Christ" means to ask as a representative of Christ, which means you would ask for what Christ would want for you.

Many people today are confused about what the good gifts are.  In chapter 8, Mormon is writing to our day when he says, "For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted."  (Mormon 8:37)  He is calling us what we often call ourselves:  Consumers!  But when we get to the judgment day, the Lord is not going to consider "consumer" to be a good title.  "Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?"  (Mormon 8:39)  He's going to consider the title "philanthropist" to be better.  We are not to consume our material blessings, but to pass them on.

PROFESSING TO BELIEVE IN CHRIST

Now let's read the verse in between:

"O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?  Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ?  Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies--because of the praise of the world?"
(Mormon 8:38)

In all of these verses, Mormon is speaking to whom?  Those who profess to believe in Christ.  (You can see in verse 1 of chapter 9, that in that chapter he is changing his audience and speaking to non-believers.) 

"University of Wisconsin historian Thomas Reeves indicts popular religious belief and service.  'Christianity in modern America is, in large part, innocuous,' he writes.  "It tends to be easy, upbeat, convenient, and compatible.  It does not require self-sacrifice, discipline, humility, an other-worldly outlook, a zeal for souls, a fear as well as love of god.  There is little guilt and no punishment, and the payoff in heaven is virtually certain.'

"Former Secretary of Education William Bennett concludes that 'We have become the kind of society that civilized countries used to send missionaries to.'" (David Yount, Scrips Howard News Service, printed in the Herald Journal, September 5, 2000)

I am reminded of a popular church in Utah whose name speaks not of Christ or his gospel but of the beautiful mountain surroundings, and whose prominent billboards show that 1) they serve coffee at their service, 2) you can wear any type of clothing you like, and 3) you can go to their service at any time that is convenient for you.  There is no billboard that states anything about their doctrine or Christ or the scriptures.  Their advertisements give the impression that they are a social club that masquerades as a church.

 KEEPING PERSPECTIVE

It is very difficult in our society to keep a correct perspective.  It's hard to remain focused on eternal laws and eternal rewards.  Mormon knew that this would be so.

"Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not.  But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.  And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts." (Mormon 8:35-36)

This is why he had such a great desire to bring the word of God to us and to the Lamanites, via the Book of Mormon.

"And behold, these things which we have desired concerning our brethren, yea, even their restoration to the knowledge of Christ, are according to the prayers of all the saints who have dwelt in the land.  And may the Lord Jesus Christ grant that their prayers may be answered according to their faith; and may God the Father remember the covenant which he hath made with the house of Israel; and may he bless them forever, through faith on the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen." (Mormon 9:36-37)

Heavenly Father wanted the same thing, and so this request is being granted, and we have a most wonderful gift, the Book of Mormon.  (Add a Book of Mormon wrapped in a ribbon to the pile of gifts.)  The Book of Mormon is so great, because if we study it regularly, it can help us keep a correct perspective.  



(Follow this link for an optical illusion of the face of Christ.  There are several on the page.  I like the first one the best.  If you have internet and projection capabilities, you can just show it from the website; otherwise, print up the picture for your class.  Be sure to have them follow the instructions for viewing it and it is much more impressive.

You can also follow this link for an optical illusion of the name of Jesus.  Project it, print up, or make your own out of strips of cardstock on a poster paper.) 

The Book of Mormon can help us to see clearly the things of God, even in the confusion of our day.

Ask for volunteers to answer the question that is on the board:  "What is a Book of Mormon scripture or story that has blessed your life?"  Be prepared with one yourself if needed to get things started.

CONCLUSION

The Book of Mormon is a wonderful gift that has been dropped in our laps, tailor-made for us.  We ourselves did not have to do anything to bring it forth.  We owe a great debt to Mormon and Moroni, who risked their lives for the plates, and to Joseph Smith and the early saints who risked their lives for the translation and publication of the book.  We owe a great debt to whomever brought it to us personally, be it missionaries or ancestors.  Mostly, we owe a debt of gratitude to the Lord for granting all of their requests to preserve it for us.

With the Thanksgiving/Christmas season upon us, let's keep in mind the really great gifts that we have received and can receive if we ask for them--not material gifts only, but spiritual blessings of great eternal consequence.  Let us ask for and receive the very best gifts.

"Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth...

"O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need.  Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.  

"Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God." (Mormon 9:21, 27-28)