Friday, March 2, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #11 "Press Forward with a Steadfastness in Christ"

2 Nephi 31-33

THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST

In Chapter 31 of 2 Nephi, Nephi tells us that he has written all that he feels necessary except for one thing:  the doctrine of Christ.  He wants to write plainly so that everyone can understand because it’s important (2 Ne. 31:2).

 Nephi reminds us that Christ would be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost.

“And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me.  Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?  And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.  And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.” (2 Ne. 31:10-12)

So, the doctrine of Christ is basically the Fourth Article of Faith:

1.      Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

2.      Repentance

3.      Baptism

4.      Receipt of the Gift of the Holy Ghost

Plus enduring to the end.

“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done?  Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. 

“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  [Did you notice faith, hope, and charity in that sentence?]  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.  And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end.  Amen.”  (2 Ne. 31:19-21)

So the chapter begins and ends with the doctrine of Christ.  (The chapter is actually chiastic.)

It’s all very simple.  But I think we’re all like Nephi predicted we would be, and we say, “But how?”

“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after ye have entered in by the way.”  (2 Ne. 32:1)

WHAT IS THE TONGUE OF ANGELS?

Read this carefully.  Remember Nephi has been writing about the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, the doctrine of Christ.

“Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels?  And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? (See 2 Ne. 31:13)  Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.  Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:2-3)

So, the tongue of angels comes through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Angels speak the words of Christ. 

We are to feast upon these words and they will tell us everything we need to do.

Usually we look at this phrase and automatically assume that feasting upon the words of Christ means studying the scriptures, and that’s definitely important, but Nephi has actually said nothing about the scriptures here.  He has been writing about the Holy Ghost.

To speak the language of the angels is to speak what the Holy Ghost tells us.  When we read about heavenly beings, we discover that their words and their actions are the same.  God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  Everything is done “by the power of his word.”  (See Jacob 2:9.) There is complete integrity between what God says and what He accomplishes, and it should be the same with us:  our actions should align completely with the words of Christ.  So to speak with the tongue of the angels is also to do what the Holy Ghost tells us. Feasting upon the words of Christ means to completely digest and make a part of ourselves everything that the Holy Ghost reveals to us—truths and actions. 

Nephi restated it to make sure we understood:

“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.  For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.  Behold this is the doctrine of Christ…”  (2 Ne. 32:4-6)

But we’re still confused.  “The words of Christ” sounds so much like the scriptures to us! So Nephi gives us an example.

“And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts, and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing.  For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray.  For the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.”  (2 Ne. 32:8)

So if we are to communicate with Christ as the angels do (“speaking with the tongue of angels”), He will tell us His counsel for us (“the words of Christ”) through the Holy Ghost (“the Spirit that teaches us to pray”).

Of course, we want to study the scriptures!  Of course we want to listen to the prophets!  But it is the tongue of angels, the power of the Holy Ghost, that will tell us these things are true.

“…for 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.  But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught.”  (2 Ne. 33:1-2)

THE SIMPLICITY OF THE WAY

So the doctrine of Christ is indeed simple, if not always easy:

1.      Exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

2.      Repent of sin

3.      Be baptized and keep that covenant

4.      Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost

5.      Endure, or “press forward continually,” until the end of our lives with faith, hope and charity, while following the constant guidance of the Holy Ghost, or “feasting upon the words of Christ”given  to us personally

And then we’ll have eternal life.  (See 2 Ne. 31:20.)

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE HOLY GHOST

After he died, Joseph Smith came back to visit Brigham Young in a dream. The purpose of this visit was to urge President Young to give a vital message to the Saints. After Brigham Young died, he came back to visit John Taylor in a dream. The message he wanted delivered to the Saints was the same one President Smith gave to him, “Tell the people to get the Spirit.”  (See this link for references and more quotes from other prophets.) 

This is the same vital message that Nephi wanted to impress upon his readers in the last pages of his record.

(An interesting note about Nephi’s basic character:  His record begins and ends with his profession of obedience to the Lord—1 Ne. 3:7, and 2 Ne. 33:15)

Elder Richard G. Scott has written: 

“Your happiness now and for the eternities will unquestionably be determined by whether or not you follow the spiritual guidance of the Lord communicated through the Holy Ghost… 

“The counsel of others and the programs of the Church are useful aids but not the best source of fundamental direction in your life. That guidance comes from the Lord through the Holy Ghost.

“Spirituality yields two fruits. The first is inspiration, that is, to know what to do. The second is power—the power of God or the capacity to do what one has been instructed to accomplish.”  (Richard G. Scott, Finding Peace, Happiness, and Joy, p. 39-40)

It is absolutely essential to our mission on earth that we know what the Lord wants us to do through the Holy Ghost, and that we have the power to do it through the Holy Ghost.  This is feasting on the words of Christ, or communicating and living in the language of the angels.

(For more on following the Spirit, please see Listening to the Spirit.)

(Don't ask me why those last paragraphs are so tiny.  I have no idea...)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

A great and insightful help-love the focus on the Spirit and Doctrine of Christ!

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a refreshing insightful take on the message. I was at a complete stalemate with this lesson, but now I finally feel inspired to teach it this Sunday! Thank you!