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)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson #43 "O Ye Fair Ones"



Mormon 1-6, Moroni 9

CLASSROOM PREPARATION

If you want to pique the class’s interest and help them better remember the lesson, decorate the room in advance with several paper boats with sails and anchors hanging from the ceiling.  If you want to be extra clever and make origami yachts like the one pictured below, go to this linkThen just hang little cut-out paper anchors from them with string.



JIGSAW LEARNING

Jigsaw learning is learning about a topic from several different angles. You can combine this with an actual jigsaw puzzle.  Cut a poster board into three puzzle pieces.  On the front of each piece write one of the three categories below.  On the back put the corresponding questions and scripture helps.    Divide the class into three groups.  Give each group a puzzle piece to study and prepare for the first 10 minutes or so of the class period.

Puzzle Piece 1:  “AGE”
Assignment:  “Give us a biographical sketch of Mormon (include ages)”
Scriptures:
  • About his name:  Mormon 1:5 and 3 Nephi 5:12
  • About the name he chose for his son:  Mormon 6:6 and Alma 48:11-13, 17
  • About his ancestry:  3 Nephi 5:12
  • About his calling:  3 Nephi 5:13
  • About the plates:  4 Nephi 1:48 through Mormon 1:4
  • About at what ages he did which things.  Mormon 1:2 takes place in the year 320.  From there you can figure out what age he was during the following events:
  • Mormon 1:15
  • Mormon 2:1-2
  • Mormon 2:9
  • Mormon 2:15
  • Mormon 2:28
  • Mormon 3:1-3
  • Mormon 3:8
  • Mormon 4:1
  • Mormon 4:15
  • Mormon 4:17
  • Mormon 4:23-5:1
  • Mormon 6:6
Puzzle Piece 2: “ENVIRONMENT”
Assignment:  “What challenges did Mormon face because of his environment?”
Scriptures:
  • About the church: Mormon 1:13-14
  • About the people’s attitude: Mormon 1:16; 2:14-15, 3:8-10
  • About the environment Mormon grew up in: Mormon 2:18
  • Compare Mormon 4:1, 4-5 and Alma 48:14
  • About their wickedness in comparison to laman and Lemuel, King Noah, or any other Book of Mormon people: Mormon 4:9-13
  • About their basic motivation in life: Moroni 9:3-5
  • About how they treated their prisoners of war: Mormon 4:14, Moroni 9:8-10
  • About how they treated their widows and fatherless: Moroni 9:16
  • About how they felt about themselves: Mormon 3:9

Puzzle Piece 3: “RIGHTEOUSNESS”
Assignment:  “What do you most admire about Mormon’s character?”
Scriptures:
  • About why Mormon is writing and to whom he is writing: Mormon 3:17-21
  • About Mormon’s desires: Mormon 1:15-16, 3:22
  • About how Mormon felt towards his wicked fellowmen: Mormon 2:10-13, 3:12-16, 5:1-2, 6:16-18, 9:20-21
  • About how Mormon fulfilled his calling: Moroni 9:6
  • About Mormon’s faith: Mormon 2:19 and 5:23

BIOGRAPHY OF MORMON

Have the group with puzzle piece 1 share what they learned.  Encourage class members to write Mormon’s age in the margins of their scriptures beside each scripture shared by the “AGE” group.  You may add that the word "Mormon" means "more good." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 300)  Here are the answers, in case they don’t get them all:
  • Mormon 1:15 age 15, visited of the Lord, forbidden to preach
  • Mormon 2:1-2 age 16, leader of military
  • Mormon 2:9 age 20, led battle of 42,000 vs. 44,000 Lamanites (he won)
  • Mormon 2:15 age 24, sorrow at 1,000s dead
  • Mormon 2:28 age 39, treaty
  • Mormon 3:1-3 age 49, allowed to preach and give another chance
  • Mormon 3:8 age 51, battle
  • Mormon 4:1 age 52, Nephites on offense
  • Mormon 4:15 age 56, Nephites on offense
  • Mormon 4:17 age 64, battle
  • Mormon 4:23 age 64, removed records
  • Mormon 6:6 age 74, hid records in Cumorah

CHALLENGES MORMON FACED IN HIS ENVIRONMENT
Have the group with puzzle piece 2 share what they learned.  Here are some things they should have noted:
The nation was declining.  Wickedness prevailed, miracles ceased. There were no longer gifts of the Spirit, or even the Holy Ghost.  The Nephites willfully rebelled.  They were only sorry for the consequences of their sins, not for the sins themselves.  The Lord was not with them in battle; instead they boasted in their own strength, sought revenge rather than just defense, and delighted in killing and war.  The lost the ability to love, and were therefore completely without civilization.

VIDEO PRESENTATION
Show “O Ye Fair Ones” (5 minutes long) from Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Video Presentations, available on DVD or online at LDS.org

CHARACTER OF MORMON

Have the group with puzzle piece 3 share what they learned.   They will have noticed that he was writing to prepare the 12 tribes for judgment, that they would believe in the gospel of the Atonement, and to witness of Christ.  He loved his people with the love of God.  He prayed for them, but without hope.  When he "repented of" the oath he had made, it did not mean he had sinned in making the oath; it simply means he changed his mind or turned from.  Even though his duty was fruitless and hopeless, he never gave it up.  Despite his trials, he knew he would be lifted up at the last day, and he knew that the Lord was in charge.

Put the three puzzle pieces together on the board.

CONCLUSION

"For behold, the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world: and they are driven about as chaff before the wind.  They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father.  But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they."  (Mormon 5:16-18)

Compare the Nephite nation, “without sail or anchor,” to Mormon who had both.  The sail pushes us forward where we want to go.  The anchor keeps us from drifting from where we should be.  Our goals and actions are the sail.  What we center our life around is the anchor.  Mormon’s sail (his righteous desires) and his anchor (Christ) overcame his age and inexperience as well as his wicked environment, and we can certainly learn from his great example.