Sunday, December 9, 2012
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.
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.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
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:
- "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.
- "Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit,
- "And witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.
- "And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ,
- "Having a determination to serve him to the end." (Moroni 6:1-3)
"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.)
Sunday, November 25, 2012
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. And 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.
Monday, November 12, 2012
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 first. 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 me 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 complied; and through the Urim and Thummim, I obtained of the Lord for them [the revelation 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.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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
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 link. Then just hang little cut-out paper anchors from them with string.
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)”
- 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?”
- 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?”
- 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.
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.
Put the three puzzle pieces together on the board.
"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.
Friday, October 19, 2012
(Write on the board: "I know the Church is true," and "I know the gospel is true.")
We commonly say "I know the Church is true" and "I know the gospel is true" when we bear our testimonies. What do we really mean? Are they the same thing? What is the relationship between them if they are not the same? Once I heard a fairly knowledgeable speaker say that in his mind it was impossible to differentiate between them. Because he was smart and well-known, I thought he was right, but now I disagree.
THE CHURCH SET UP BY CHRIST
"And it came to pass that the disciples whom Jesus had chosen began from that time forth to baptize and to teach as many as did come unto them; and as many as were baptized in the name of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost. And many of them saw heard unspeakable things, which are not lawful to be written. And they taught, and did minister one to another; and they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another. And it came to pass that they did do all things even as Jesus had commanded them. And they who were baptized in the name of Jesus were called the church of Christ." (3 Nephi 26:17-21)
Webster's definition of "church": A building for Christian worship, or a body of people in Christian worship. The word "church" is from the Greek kriakon or house of the Lord, which is from kyrios or lord.
In this instance Christ is referring to the body of people.
"And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses' name, then it be Moses' church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel. [This explains why the Brethren would like us to make clear that the name of our church is not “the Mormon Church.”]
"Verily I say unto you, that ye are built upon my gospel; therefore ye shall call whatsoever things ye do call, in my name; therefore if ye call upon the Father, for the church, if it be in my name the Father will hear you." [Every ordinance and prayer we perform in the church is done in the name of Christ and through His priesthood.]
"And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it." (3 Nephi 27:8-10)
So the church and the gospel must not be the same thing. What is the gospel then?
DEFINITION OF THE GOSPEL GIVEN BY CHRIST
For the simple and clear definition of the gospel, “the good news,” continue reading. It has two parts. The first part is Christ’s role.
“Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to 1) do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
“And my Father sent me that 2) I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men 3) even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to 4) stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
“And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.” (3 Nephi 27:13-15)
“In this short statement [the scripture quoted above] the Master named four eternal verities upon which all else in his gospel is founded: 1) the relationship between himself and his father; 2) the fact of his atonement; 3) the universal resurrection; and 4) the judgment. As to the relationship between himself and his father, he said: ‘I came into the world to do the will of my father; because my father sent me.’ This verity, so simply put, is the cornerstone of his gospel…That the atonement was a fact is as essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ as is the Sonship of Jesus. We have the sacrament to remind us every week of his atonement. The only purpose, or at least the main purpose, for which Jesus came into the world was to make the atonement…The resurrection is inherent in the atonement…The purpose for which he was to be lifted up upon the cross was that he might draw all men to him. That he does through the resurrection. The purpose for which men are to come before him after the resurrection is that they may be judged of the works which they have done in the flesh…All men who believe in Jesus and want to be his followers will have to accept these our verities.” (Marion G. Romney, April 1955 General Conference, quoted in K. Douglas Bassett, Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon, p. 460)
“According to the theological liberal, [the Sermon on the Mount] is the essence of Christianity, and Christ is the best of human teachers and examples…Christianity is essentially ethics. What’s missing here? Simply, the essence of Christianity, which is not the Sermon on the Mount. When Christianity was proclaimed throughout the world, the proclamation was not ‘Love your enemies!’ but ‘Christ is risen!’ This was not a new ideal but a new event, that God became man, died, and rose for our salvation. Christianity is first of all not ideal but real, an event, news, the gospel, the ‘good news.’ The essence of Christianity is not Christianity; the essence of Christianity is Christ.” (Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue, quoted in Robert L. Millet, The Power of the Word, p. 195.)
We can participate in this Christianity, this gospel! That’s why it is such good news! The next few verses tell us how.
“And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled; and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.
“And he that endureth not unto the end, the same is he that is also hewn down and cast into the fire from whence they can no more return, because of the justice of the Father…
“Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy ghost that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.
“Very, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel…” (3 Nephi 27:16-17, 20-21)
So the church is the group or organization of people; the gospel is Christ’s Atonement.
So when we say “the church is true,” what do we mean? We mean the worship organization of people we belong to is based upon the Atonement, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and run with His “power of attorney”, His Priesthood leadership. (Although many Christian churches are truly based upon learning and living the gospel of Jesus Christ, ours is the only one with the Priesthood and its power to give the Gift of the Holy Ghost and carry out all the gifts of the Spirit, including revelatory governance of the Church. But here we are just talking about the Church and the gospel. If you're worried about this distinction, or if it comes up in discussion, just add a foundation labeled "Priesthood Authority.")
THE THREE NEPHITES
Christ gave instructions to the disciples, the governing body of His church:
“And know ye that ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.
“And now I go unto the Father. And verily I say unto you, whatsoever things ye shall ask the Father in my name shall be given unto you. Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” (3 Nephi 27:27-29)
Asking is a commandment and is prerequisite to receiving. However,
“’Ask, and ye shall receive’ does not assure that you will get what you want. It does guarantee that, if worthy, you will get what you need, as judged by a Father that loves perfectly, who wants your eternal happiness even more than do you.” (Richard G. Scott, October 1995 General Conference)
The apostles immediately obeyed Jesus’ command to ask, and three in a particular way asked to be like Him. The first nine asked not to have to die, but to be immediately taken to heaven at the end of their lives. This is a very understandable request which I’m sure a lot of us would like to make because, as my friend C. Gary Bennett is fond of saying, “No one is going to get out of this life alive, and we’re not going to die of good health.” But these are nine men who did.
The other three asked to tarry beyond their normal lifespan, as Christ had tarried with them beyond His planned visit. (See 3 Nephi 17:5) They followed Christ’s admonition to be like Him in the utmost.
Christ said that He had a “fullness of joy” in this generation of Nephites. (See 3 Nephi 27:31) The Three Nephites were told that they, likewise, would have a “fullness of joy” because of the souls they would bring to the Father. (See 3 Nephi 28:10) Christ sorrowed because the fourth generation of Nephites would follow Satan into great sin. (See 3 Nephi 27:32) The Three Nephites were promised that their only pain would be sorrow for the sins of the world. (See 3 Nephi 28:9)
Wouldn’t it be a fascinating read if the Three Nephites and John the Beloved kept a record of what they’ve been doing for the past 2,000 years? I’ll bet they’ve had a LOT of fun.
THE POST-RESURRECTION NEPHITE CHURCH:
EXTREMES IN RIGHTEOUSNESS AND WICKEDNESS
“And it came to pass that thus they did go forth among all the people of Nephi, and did preach the gospel of Christ unto all people upon the face of the land; and they were converted unto the Lord, and were united unto the church of Christ, and thus the people of that generation were blessed, according to the word of Jesus.” (3 Nephi 28:23)
How long did this take? 2 years. (See 4 Nephi 1:2) Talk about “the best two years!” They became a Zion society, which is briefly defined in 4 Nephi 1:2-5. Their church was true, because it was based upon the gospel, and because they followed the teachings of that church, or in other words, lived the gospel, they had a beautiful life. It lasted for 200 years. Exactly.
“And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride…” (4 Nephi 1:24) The universal sin! They began to care whether they were rich, whether they looked fine. They quit sharing with others, they divided themselves into classes, they built churches to support their own “ethics”, and they began to deny the Christ. How did this happen??
“And this [group of churches] did multiply exceedingly because of iniquity, and because of the power of Satan who did get hold upon their hearts.” (4 Nephi 1:28)
(You can draw more little churches with people inside them, but no gospel foundation underneath them.)
Compare this to the Zion society they had previously enjoyed:
“And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” (4 Nephi 1:15)
The gospel is based on love, Christ’s Atonement being the ultimate example. Priestcraft, or Satan’s power, is based on selfishness, his desire for the Father’s glory being the ultimate example.
We waver like (hopefully not to such a great degree) in our personal lives, in our families, in our wards, shifting back and forth from being filled with love to allowing selfishness and pride to seep in. We can be in the church but not founded upon the gospel, and then we find ourselves outside the church.
(You can rearrange the stick figures, moving them outside the true church.)
If we find that we have individually or as a group (ward, nation, family), the Lord has left a message for us. Mormon was commanded of the Lord to write this message, right before this book of 4 Nephi in which we see the extremes in righteousness and wickedness.
“Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceiving, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envying, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations…”
--That is a long and mighty horrendous list of sins!—
“…and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of the Lord.” (3 Nephi 30:2)
Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, upon which the Church is founded, you can always go home again.
(You can move the stick figures back into the true church.)