Monday, October 29, 2012

Lesson 44: “I Speak unto You As If Ye Were Present” Mormon 7–9

Lesson 44: “I Speak unto You As If Ye Were Present”
Mormon 7–9

Mormon’s words to Israel
Mormon 7

The Nephites are destroyed as a people.  They have been killed or absorbed into the Lamanite culture.  Mormon and a handful survive for the moment.  He has more to say.

“…I would speak somewhat unto the remnant of this people who are spared, if it so be that God may give unto them my words, that they may know of the things of their fathers; yea, I speak unto you, ye remnant of the house of Israel…” (Mormon 7:1).

Mormon then shares the most important things he can share with them.

Know ye that ye are of the house of Israel.”

They are a part of the covenant people of God.  This is something they cannot escape, only run away from. In the last days, the people of the covenant will return, both spiritually and physically, into one people.  They will be eager to enter into the Abrahamic covenant, once again.  Today, as in the days of the Nephites, we enter the covenant via baptism.

 “Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved.”

Only in faith and repentance can they, or anyone else, be saved.  We are only made sinless and guiltless before God through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  All who repent and believe will be saved.  Once one is sinless, he is ready to receive the Abrahamic covenant through the ordinance of baptism.

 “Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you” (Mormon 7:2-4).

Why does Mormon focus on war, and not on sexual depravity, cannibalism, denying the Holy Ghost, or other heinous sins? To remain clean, we must “renounce war and proclaim peace” (D&C 98:16).  We cannot delight in killing and warfare, especially wars of revenge. Instead, we must learn to seek peace. “And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (3 Ne 12:9).  To bury one’s weapons of war brings us directly back to the words of the Lamanite king to the converted Lamanites.  They had to bury “their weapons of war, for peace” (Alma 24:19) and did so “because of their love towards their brethren” (Alma 26:32).  One cannot embrace violence and love at the same time.  Contention is of the devil (3 Nephi 11:29) and is the beginning of such hatred and revenge as we’ve seen destroy the Nephites.

For Americans and many others on earth right now, this is a very difficult teaching.  We are a war-like people.  We enjoy watching contentions, murder, and violence on television all the time.  Much of what we watch is not the classic good guy/bad guy battles where good overcomes evil, but a feast of bloodshed in horror movies and action films.  We seek violence for the sake of violence.  We seek ever more violent images, because our senses have become numb.   Many music videos promote angry displays of violence against society, against women, and others.  Sexual exploitation is a violence we often overlook in music, movies, and literature.

Mormon testifies of Christ

Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God….”

Again in our discussion of the gospel, we return to the basic and founding principles of the gospel: Faith in Christ and repentance.

 “And he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead, whereby man must be raised to stand before his judgment-seat.”

The resurrection brings all mankind back into the presence of God, as we will see further on in chapter 9. All will stand before God and be judged.  

 “And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end” (Mormon 7:5-7).

The world is redeemed.  Those found guiltless or justified in Christ through faith and repentance will be saved at the judgment day.  Again, the Book of Mormon brings us back to one of its key teachings: returning to the presence of God.  While Mormon does not divide up the kingdom of God into the Celestial, Terrestrial and Telestial, we do see that those who are saved will sing praises to the “one God”, which is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, or the Godhead.  Even the Telestial will be in the complete presence of the “one God”, even if only in the person of the Holy Ghost. 

However, Alma 36 shows Alma able to see God on his throne, once he believed and repented of his sins. He sees God from a distance, possibly because while he has repented and been made guiltless, he has not yet become holy enough (sanctified) to stand near God. Alma may have seen God from the Telestial seating in the theater, and rejoiced to be there (though he said he wished he could be closer).

To be saved, whether in a Celestial, Terrestrial or Telestial state is a “state of happiness which hath no end.”

“And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment” (Mormon 7:10).

Again, faith in Christ, repentance and receiving water baptism to enter into the Abrahamic covenant are the first principles and ordinance.  These are required to be justified or made guiltless in Christ’s blood.  Then, we receive the baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost, which is the key to sanctification, being made holy.  The greater we are cleansed and purified by the Spirit, the more holy we are and the closer we stand to the throne of God.  All who are justified and made guiltless will be saved in heaven.  Those who receive the Holy Ghost will be sanctified or made holy to an ever higher level of God’s glory.

Moroni’s first final farewell
Mormon 8

In this chapter is Moroni’s first final farewell.  He will have three farewells to us, as he adds the writings of Ether, and then his own book at the end of the volume.  He sees that all have died, including his father, at the hands of the Lamanites.  He is left alone, with no more plates to write on, and no ore to make additional plates.  Obviously, he finds the way to make more plates, as he does add the books of Ether and Moroni later.  He will travel about 40 years after the final Nephite destruction, and possibly find some people willing to help him or house him for periods of time among them.  It may be they may have helped him find ore to make more plates for the record.

At the time of his writing this chapter, Moroni notes that 15 years have passed since the final destruction.  Even to this point, he has not been able to obtain more ore to make plates.  He still mourns the loss of his father and people.  Over those 15 years, he’s watched the Lamanites (both biological and cultural Lamanites) hunt down the remaining Nephites. Verse 7 may suggest that some Nephite cities remained after the destruction, but were destroyed later by the Lamanites.

The Lamanites continue to war, fighting amongst themselves, suggesting they were not one people, but many peoples that were united culturally.  In ancient Mesoamerica, ancient peoples would often go to war to extend their boundaries or to seek food.  Slash and burn techniques for creating farmland often left the land barren, forcing entire cities to up and move elsewhere, where the lands are more fertile.  Fertile lands were precious and often fought over. Others would go to war against the sovereign ruler, seeking to either free themselves or to become leader of a new hegemony.  Here we see that the Lamanites continued fighting, not as one group, but as several fragmented groups.  Moroni notes that the Gadianton robbers continue as one of these groups, as well.  However, they are distinguished from the Lamanites.  Are they made up of other people that are only culturally unlike the Lamanites, or are they an entirely separate people that live near the Lamanite and Nephite lands? When Mormon and Moroni speak of the future promises to the Lamanites, does this include the Gadianton Robbers as Lamanites?

Moroni and the Scriptures

Moroni looks forward to the promise that the words of his father will come to light in the last days.  He uses the word “light” a lot in this chapter regarding the plates.  He encourages us to “search the words of Isaiah” and especially connects this request to Isaiah 29, interpreting Isaiah’s message through Nephi’s eyes and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.  He insists that the restoration of the Book of Mormon will occur in a day when miracles are no longer believed.  In Joseph Smith’s day, few believed in the gifts of the Spirit or angelic visitations.  He warns that there will be secret combinations in the world when the plates come forth.  Such dangers and sins have only increased, as technology has spread both truth and evil upon the earth.

Yea, it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts; yea, even in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches.  Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke in foreign lands; And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places.  Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day” (Mormon 8:28-31). 

Today we can see defiled churches that promote and embrace sexual sin and other evil as acceptable. They seek to get gain, just like Gadianton robbers and secret combinations of old.  People can have free love and “it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day.”  We see some very wealthy church leaders who promote the gospel of wealth and greed, and “it mattereth not.”  There are wars and rumors of wars in all areas of the world, and “it mattereth not.”  Great physical, spiritual and emotional pollutions affect our world, and “it mattereth not.”   All crimes will happen, and many will look the other way on them, for “it mattereth not.”

We live in a world that does not accept consequence for its choices. It expects government and church to not only absolve them from their sins, but to save them from the consequences and pay for their indiscretions.  Parents allow government and church to raise their kids.  Government is expected to supply contraceptives for sexual promiscuity, and abortions for any inconvenient pregnancies. Churches are expected not only to forgive, but to embrace any and all kinds of sexual behavior. If people sleep around, is that not a kind of whoredom? Truly, such “are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity.”

 And as always, the first sign of apostasy from God is the fine clothing:

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. 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 8:36-37).

Worst of all, those who should be called Christians are embarrassed to be Christian:

“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?” (Mormon 8:38).

In embracing sin as the norm, many Christians (including LDS Christians) have polluted the church by accepting sin as normal.  The Church today gets attacked frequently today, even from within, by those who seek to normalize sinful behaviors. We are seeing the break down of the family and of individual lives because sin is now accepted as the norm. 

We have become a violent society.  Such violence is as atrocious as the violence that Mormon and Moroni describe of their own people.  We are commanded to shun violence, and many people openly protest the unpopular wars we are engaged in (often with good reason), yet think nothing of the violence that occurs every day in our own society.  

To the Unbelievers
Mormon 9

Moroni now writes to the unbelievers of the future.  He testifies that the day of destruction will come.  In that final day, there will be no time to repent, for judgment will be at hand.  For those who refuse to believe and repent, Moroni teaches:

“Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell” (Mormon 9:4).

As we read in Alma 12, the wicked would rather have the mountains fall upon them and hide them from the presence of God, than to stand in his presence.  And I would note that for many who profess Christ, but insist on living in wickedness, they are among those who do not believe.  They have not embraced the gospel of Christ, but a gospel of their own mingled with scripture.  You cannot proclaim Christ and yet believe and teach sin.

 O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day” (Mormon 9:6).

There is only one road to salvation: believe and repent. Only in being justified and made sinless in Christ’s blood can we escape the judgment.

“And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues” (Mormon 9:7).

Our modern prophets are human, and sometimes make mistakes. However, there are some who dismiss anything the prophets may say, which they disagree with, as not being from God.  I would suggest that we risk denying the revelations God gives to our prophets, if we dismiss them too quickly.  As noted above, some would insist that the Lord’s anointed is wrong in regards to behaviors currently accepted by society, but condemned by the Lord through his prophets.  Sometimes to be on the Lord’s side means we must humbly follow and believe, even if we don’t fully understand.

“I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are” (Mormon 9:11).

What are the miracles that Moroni speaks of?  Yes, it includes healings and tongues.  But it more speaks of the Abrahamic covenant and the Gospel of Abraham given to mankind in all ages wherein we have prophets.  All the prophets have revealed to them that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah and Redeemer of the world.  They have revealed to them the things necessary to return to the presence of God and to be like Him.  Too many Christians, including too many Mormons, just do not fully believe that God speaks to his prophets today.  And what does God command them to teach?  Believe in Christ.  Repent of all your sins.  Be justified and made clean/guiltless/sinless in the blood of Christ.  Receive baptism and the other ordinances to enter into the covenant of Abraham.  Receive the Holy Spirit to sanctify and make you holy, so you can stand in the presence of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost.

We live in the last days of the world.  Whether it ends in my life or not, someday I will come to the end of my mortality.  At that time, I will know whether I have truly believed in Christ and humbled myself sufficiently to repent of all my sins.  Even one sin can keep me from being fully made clean in Christ, so I must give them all away.  I must believe in the revelation of Christ, sent to living prophets and accept their teachings so that I may enter the Abrahamic covenant and be cleansed in Christ.  I then must seek to be made holy through the Holy Ghost, that some day I may again stand in God’s presence and be like him.

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