Friday, March 30, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #14 "For a Wise Purpose"

Enos, Jarom, Omni, Words of Mormon

Here is my chart of the compilation of the Book of Mormon.  Hooray!  I was able to get Blogger to post it!  The post is too small to read, unless you have amazing vision, but you can click on it to pull it out of the blog, and then you can right-click and save it as a picture.  Then you print it as a full-page photograph.  (All the tricks we have to come up with to get around Blogger's and my limitations...!) 

(Thanks to our current ward Gospel Doctrine teacher who saved a copy of this from when I taught years ago!)


ENOS

The prophet Jacob, the brother of the prophet Nephi, stated at the beginning of his book the instructions given him by his brother.

“…Wherefore, Nephi gave me, Jacob, a commandment concerning the small plates, upon which these things are engraven.  And he gave me, Jacob, a commandment that I should write upon these plates a few of the things which I considered to be most precious; that I should not touch, save it were lightly, concerning the history of this people which are called the people of Nephi.  For he said that the history of his people should be engraven upon his other plates, and that I should preserve these plates and hand them down unto my seed, from generation to generation.  And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people.”  (Jacob 1:1-4)

When he passed the plates on to his son, Enos, he related those instructions.

“And, I, Jacob, saw that I must soon go down to my grave; wherefore, I said unto my son Enos: Take these plates.  And I told him the things which my brother Nephi had commanded me, and he promised obedience unto the commands…”  (Jacob 7:27)

A side note:  A French word suddenly appears at the end of Jacob:  adieu.  Weird, huh?  Why would Jacob have used a French word?  Well, he didn’t, of course.  French wasn’t even around then.  It was Joseph Smith who used the French word.  In translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith had to find words that conveyed the meaning of the Reformed Egyptian words.  The word adieu was in common usage in New England at the time, and it meant “towards God,” sort of like "God be with you."  Joseph obviously felt it a fitting equivalent to Jacob’s farewell in Reformed Egyptian.

Enos kept the commandment that his father had given him, and he chose to write about a specific personal revelation he received.

“And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.”  (Enos 1:2)

THE EFFECTS OF FAITH

The Book of Enos is a short study in faith:  How it is obtained, how it is used, and the effect it has upon a person.  Let’s work backwards to discover the process in Enos' life:


“And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest.  And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my father.  Amen.”  (Enos 1:27)

So we see the effect of great faith in a man at the end of his life:  He felt fully confident of receiving peace and joy in the next life and of hearing the welcoming praise of Jesus Christ at the judgment.  Wow!  Wouldn’t this be a great way to exit mortal life? 

Backing up just a little, we can see one effect faith had in the life of Enos:

“And I saw that I must soon go down to my grave, having been wrought upon by the power of God that I must preach and prophesy unto this people, and declare the word according to the truth which is in Christ.  And I have declared it in all my days, and have rejoiced in it above that of the world.”  (Enos 1:26)

His faith, which led him to preach the gospel all of his days, brought him great joy in his life, greater than the pleasures the world offers.

Enos had preached and prophecied because he had a great love for his people, the best definition of love being “seeking for the spiritual development of another.” 

“…I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them.”  (Enos 1:9) 

The Lord assured him that he would bless the Nephites “according to their diligence in keeping the commandments.”  So then, Enos’s heart went out in love to his enemies.

“And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord; and I prayed unto him with many long struggling for my brethren, the Lamanites.

“And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith.”  (Enos 1:12)

ASKING AND RECEIVING

Enos had asked that if the Lamanites should outlast the Nephites so that there was no more hope of the Nephites helping to convert them, that at least this record of their preachings and prophesying might be preserved and eventually reach them to bring them back to the Lord, “for at the present our struggling were vain in restoring them to the true faith.  And they swore in their wrath that, if it were possible, they would destroy our records and us, and also all the traditions of our fathers.” (Enos 1:14)

“Wherefore, I knowing that the Lord God was able to preserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsoever things ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.”  (Enos 1:15)

Really?  Anything we ask, we will receive?  Is prayer like a genie in a bottle, granting us all our wishes?  Not quite.  We must ask “in faith,” and “in the name of Christ.”  When we pray “in the name of Christ,” we are acting as his agents, praying for that which he would desire, just as if we had a power of attorney and were acting in the name of a relative who was out of the country, or as if we were a real estate agent and were making an offer on a home in the name of our client.  When we act in someone else’s name, we are doing what they would want done.

So if we are praying “in the name of Christ,” as Enos was, and we are praying for what Christ wants anyway, what is the point of praying?  Why did Enos have to cry unto the Lord “continually” over a long period of time?  The Bible Dictionary answers our question:

“Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.  The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”  (Bible Dictionary, p. 752-753)

Enos continued:

“And I had faith, and I did cry unto God that he would preserve the records; and he covenanted with me that he would bring them forth unto the Lamanites in his own due time.  And I, Enos, knew it would be according to the covenant which he had made; wherefore my soul did rest.

“And the Lord said unto me: Thy fathers have also required of me this thing; and it shall be done unto them according to their faith; for their faith was like unto thine.”  (Enos 1:16-18)

FORGIVENESS BREEDS CHARITY

What made Enos care so much about the welfare of the Nephites and the Lamanites?

Enos, early in his life, had prayed for his own welfare, for a forgiveness of his sins, and was told by the Lord that he was forgiven (Enos 1:4-5).  His relief was immense and almost incredulous.

“And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.  And I said: Lord, how is it done?

“And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ…wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Enos 1:6-8)

Enos’s story contains the sequence found over and over in the scriptures:  As soon as one obtains a forgiveness of his sins and thereby is filled with the Spirit and the accompanying pure love of Christ, he is then immediately filled with a desire to help those in his sphere of influence, because that’s what the love of Christ is and does; he desires to bless others as he has been blessed.  (See for example Mosiah 28.)

Enos’s story also illustrates the truth that faith in Jesus Christ must precede repentance (see Article of Faith 4).  But beginner faith will do.  Enos’ faith is shown by the mere fact that he prayed for repentance and that he had some knowledge of God, for example he knew “that God could not lie.”

THE IMPORTANCE OF PARENTAL TEACHING

And now we are back at the beginning of the story, where we find out how Enos received this first bit of faith, this knowledge that changed his life and the lives of those who heard him preach and those who have read his words.

“Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart, and my soul hungered…” (Enos 1:3-4)

There is no way to know whether Enos was a rebellious or irreligious young man prior to this experience (we all have need of repentance), but his father Jacob planted words in Enos’s mind which came back to him at the time they were needed.  This was not an unlikely or unusual occurrence that has no relevance to our lives: it is a promise the Lord has repeatedly made to parents.

“If parents will continually set before their children examples worthy of their imitation and the approval of our Father in Heaven, they will turn the current, and the tide of feelings of their children, and they, eventually, will desire righteousness more than evil.”  President Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 208

“More than we can imagine, our faithful effort to offer to our family the testimony we have of the truth will be multiplied in power and extended in time.”  President Henry B. Eyring, April 1996 General Conference

“What a mother teaches a child doesn’t get erased.”  Sheri Dew, No One Can Take Your Place, p. 36

“If you mothers will live your religion, then in love and fear of God teach your children constantly and thoroughly in the way of life and salvation, training them up in the way they should go, when they are old they will not depart from it.  I promise you this; it is as true as the shining sun, it is an eternal truth.”  President Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 206

Do remember the “old” part of that promise!  We don’t know how “old” our children may be when they finally cling to the gospel truths, in fact:

“Not all problems are overcome and not all needed relationships are fixed in mortality.  The work of salvation goes on beyond the veil of death, and we should not be too apprehensive about incompleteness within the limits of mortality.”  Elder Dallen H. Oaks, October 1995 General Conference

This knowledge can remove our terror of having “an empty chair in heaven.”  Things that are beyond our control as parents, are not beyond the control of Heavenly Father.

“Now, sometimes there are those [children] that are lost.  We have the promise of the prophets that they are not lost permanently, that if they are sealed in the temple ordinances and if the covenants are kept, in due time, after all the correction that’s necessary to be given, that they will not be lost.”  President Boyd K. Packer, Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Feb. 9, 2008

Sister Lant gave a beautiful summary of all the above promises, with which I will close:

“If our parenting is based on the teachings of the scriptures and of the latter-day prophets, we cannot go wrong…We will not be perfect at it, and our families will not always respond positively, but we will be building a strong foundation of righteous traditions that our children can depend on.  They can hold to that foundation when things get difficult, and they can return to that foundation if they should stray for a period of time…
“As we become ‘steadfast and immovable’ in keeping the commandments of the Lord, we will secure the blessings of heaven for ourselves and for our families.”  President Cheryl C. Lant, Primary General President, April 2008 General Conference

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #13 "The Allegory of the Olive Tree"

Jacob 5-7

ABOUT OLIVE TREES

Why did the Lord (and Jacob) take a whole lot of space on the golden plates to write such a long and drawn-out story about olive trees?  If you haven’t asked yourself this question, it’s only because you haven’t read Jacob 5 yet.

     
“The olive tree…is very hardy: drought-, disease- and fire-resistant, it can live to a great age. Its root system is robust and capable of regenerating the tree even if the above-ground structure is destroyed. The older an olive tree is, the broader and more gnarled its trunk appears. Many olive trees in the groves around the Mediterranean are said to be hundreds of years old, while an age of 2,000 years is claimed for a number of individual trees; in some cases, this has been scientifically verified…According to a recent scientific survey, there are dozens of ancient olive trees throughout Israel and Palestine, 1,600–2,000 years old.”  (Wikipedia)
This olive tree in Montenegro
is over 2,000 years old.

The olive tree is extremely valuable, with every part of the tree—the wood, the leaves, the fruit, and the oil of the olives—having important uses throughout history.
 “The leafy branches of the olive tree – the olive leaf as a symbol of abundance, glory and peace – were used to crown the victors of friendly games and bloody wars. As emblems of benediction and purification, they were also ritually offered to deities and powerful figures; some were even found in Tutankhamen's tomb.” (ibid.)
The olive leaf also has curative qualities and is used in medicine.


“Olive oil has long been considered sacred; it was used to anoint kings and athletes in ancient Greece. It was burnt in the sacred lamps of temples as well as being the "eternal flame" of the original Olympic Games. Victors in these games were crowned with its leaves. Today, it is still used in many religious ceremonies. Over the years, the olive has been the symbol of peace, wisdom, glory, fertility, power and purity.” (ibid.)

“Homer called it "liquid gold." In ancient Greece, athletes ritually rubbed it all over their bodies. Olive oil has been more than mere food to the peoples of the Mediterranean: it has been medicinal, magical, an endless source of fascination and wonder and the fountain of great wealth and power. Indeed the importance of the olive industry in ancient economies cannot be overstated.

“Olive oil, being almost pure fat, is dense in calories yet healthy, without adverse health effects. Unlike cereals which can be destroyed by humidity and pests in storage, olive oil can be very easily stored and will not go rancid for at least a year (unless needlessly exposed to light or extremely hot weather), by which time a fresh harvest will be available. The combination of these factors helped ensure that the olive industry has become the region's most dependable food and cash crop since prehistoric times.” (ibid.)


“Olive [trees] are now being looked at for use as a renewable energy source, using waste produced from the olive plants as an energy source that produces 2.5 times the energy generated by burning the same amount of wood. The same reference claims that the smoke released has no negative impact on neighbors or the environment, and the ash left in the stove can be used for fertilizing gardens and plants. The process has been patented in the Middle East and the US (for example).” (ibid.)

So, how does this relate to the parable?  We, the children of our Heavenly Father, the wild and tame olive branches, are extremely valuable to Him.  We have the potential to heal, to nourish, to energize, to bless, to comfort, and we are expected to do it.  There is a reason also that God chose one of the longest-lived trees on the earth in this allegory to show the extreme patience he uses in his work of helping us to achieve exaltation.  Normally the olive tree requires very little care—just an annual pruning and occasional fertilizing; they don’t even need to be watered—but the disappointing olive trees in the allegory needed a LOT of extra effort.  And yet, it was worth it to the Husbandman.

INTERPRETIVE NOTES ON THE ALLEGORY OF THE TAME AND WILD OLIVE TREES


The 9th edition of the Book of Mormon, published in 1906 in Liverpool includes footnotes on the allegory of the olive tree by Orson Pratt, Sr.  Although they should not be considered scripture, they provide very interesting commentary and instruction.  I have written them in the margins of my own scriptures in pink (to differentiate from my other marginal notes).  I will also list them in this blog entry in pink, as opposed to notes I have gathered from other sources or thought of myself, which will be in black.

Elder Pratt’s commentary makes it easy to see an outline of the history of the world played out in the story of the olive grove.

5:4—FIRST VISIT, PRE-CHRIST.  He cares about the tree.

5:7—House of Israel conquered by Asyrria, Babylon, Rome

5:13—Isles distant from Palestine.

5:14—Ten tribes in the north.  Some of Judah and Joseph in American.  Others, upon isles.

5:15—SECOND VISIT, EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH.  Six or seven centuries.

5:17—The Gentiles in the Apostles’ days

5:20—First group.  Place unknown

5:23—Second group.  Place unknown

5:24—Third group.  Place unknown

5:25—Fourth group.  America.  Tame fruit = Nephites.  Wild fruit = Lamanites.

5:26—Lamanites

5:29—THIRD VISIT, RESTORATION OF THE GOSPEL.  About 18 centuries.  Joseph Smith.

5:30—All sorts of fruit = Sects of Christendom.

5:38—Distant isles

5:40—Wild fruit = Lamanites.  Good fruit = Nephites.

5:43—Nephites.  America.

5:44—Jaredites.

5:45—Lamanites overcame the Nephites.

5:46—Present condition of the Indians (Present meaning, of course, the turn of the 20th Century, and Indians meaning Native Americans)

5:48—The branches tried to support themselves rather than relying on the root.

5:50—Christ is always our Advocate.

5:52—Branches whose fruit is most bitter = The more wicked portions of the Gentiles.

5:54—Roots = The scattered branches of Israel.  The branches of this tree = The believing Gentiles.  [Graft them in unto] them, the roots = Scattered Israel.
5:55—The believing Gentiles numbered with the believing of scattered Israel.

5:56—The believing of scattered Israel numbered with the believing of the Gentiles.

5:57—Those ripened for destruction.

5:63—The last that may be first = Gentiles.  The first that may be last = Israel.

5:70—Servant = Joseph Smith.  Other servants = Those called through Joseph Smith.  (I differ with Elder Pratt on this one: It makes more sense to me that the servant is always Christ, and Joseph Smith is one of the other servants.)

5:76—MILLENIUM.  For a long time = 1,000 years.

5:77—JUDGMENT

A PERSONAL PARABLE

Michael Wilcox (Institute instructor and author) suggests alternatively reading this chapter of the Book of Mormon as a parable, looking for words such as “nourish,” and “grieve,” and “joy,” and think of the olive trees as individuals rather than nations (BYU Education Week Lecture, August 2008, my personal notes, 9:96). As you read the chapter, you may see stages of your own life represented in the story.

Some people’s life situations are such that it is more difficult to grow spiritually than others who were planted in richer soil.  But the Lord will nourish those in poor spots so that they can bring forth good fruit. 
And He often will point out that there are others in poorer spots than they. 

Sometimes those planted in good spots don’t bring forth good fruit, and that is a great disappointment. 

But the Lord and His Servant continue to fertilize, to weed, to graft, to transplant until the plant is nourished and productive.  What matters is not where we little olive trees are planted, but how we respond to the nourishment of the Lord.  It is available even in the nethermost parts of the vineyard.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #12 "Seek for the Kingdom of God"

Jacob 1-4

This life is a test, and it’s full of pop quizzes.  We never know when life is going to surprise us with one, so we need to constantly study the gospel, follow the spirit, pray, and have the scriptures firmly implanted in our minds so that we have the knowledge and faith we need to pass each test.  Doing well on today’s pop quiz will result in a sweet reward.  Doing well in life’s pop quizzes (many of the questions and answers of which are the same as this one today) will result in much sweeter rewards.

Two ways you can administer this quiz:

1.      Put the questions in a jar and have students draw them out randomly.  Toss wrapped candies to those who answer the questions correctly.  Even adults like catching candy—it keeps them awake!  If you have class members who thoroughly study the reading assignments, they may be able to get the answers on their own.  If not, give them the scripture references so they can find them.  Discuss each answer as it is found.

2.      Print up the questions and scripture references on papers to hand out to the students and have them look up and fill out the answers individually, then check them together and give a treat for each correct answer and discussing it.

POP QUIZ

·         Will you ever be punished for someone else’s sins?  (Jacob 1:19.  If you had a stewardship and did not fulfill it, you are at least partially responsible for the sins of those you failed to help.)

·         Were the only scriptures familiar to the Nephites the Books of Moses?  (Jacob 2:23.  They also had the stories of Solomon and David at least.)

·         Is the Book of Mormon a complete record of the preaching of the ancient American prophets?  (Jacob 1:4.  It is “headlines” only.)

·         Did Nephi live to old age?  (1 Ne. 2:16; Jacob 1:1; 12.  “Very young” in ancient Hebrew days would have been early teens or even younger.  Add 55 years to that; he probably didn’t live to age 70.)

·         Were being prideful, seeking for riches, and persecuting the poor the worst sins of the early Nephites?  (Jacob 2:13; 22-23.  Sexual impurity was considered much worse by the Lord.)

·         Under what condition is it okay to seek for riches?  (Jacob 2:19.  As a secondary goal after seeking for Christ, for the purpose of following Christ in ministering to the needy.)

·         How does the Lord treat victims of infidelity?  (Jacob 2:35-3:2.  He will console them and provide justice for them.  He will fill them with his love if they receive the pleasing word of God and keep their minds firm.)

·         What made the Lamanites more righteous than the Nephites and kept them from complete destruction?  (Jacob 3:5-7.  Their commitment to their families.)

·         How powerful was Jacob the prophet?  (Jacob 4:6.  He could command the elements.)

·         Is it possible for those whose sins are worse than the Lamanites’ to rise in the first resurrection and attain Celestial glory? (Jacob 4:11.  Yes, if they repent and are reconciled through the Atonement.)

·         The gospel is simple.  If we desire to complicate it, how will the Lord respond?  (Jacob 4:14.  He will allow us to become confused by complications if we insist upon it.)

·         Can excessive anxiety, even over very important troubles, distance us from the Spirit?  (Jacob 4:18.  Yes.)

·         Was Jacob’s sermon effective?  (It must have been; there is no further indication of polygamy being practiced in the Book of Mormon record.)

The subject of polygamy has always been confusing and disconcerting to Latter-day Saints, since the early Saints and many Old Testament saints were commanded by God to practice it, and yet now we are commanded not to.  This year I came across the best treatise I have ever read on the subject, and I highly recommend it to anyone troubled by or curious about God’s commandments regarding polygamy: 
V.H. Cassler, “Polygamy,” SquareTwo, Vol. 3 No. 1 (Spring 2010) available at this link: http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerPolygamy.html.




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 nore 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 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!  But 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 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” 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...)