Friday, December 16, 2011

Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Lesson 1 part two “The Keystone of our Religion”

Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Lesson 1 part two “The Keystone of our Religion”

Key concepts from the keystone of our religion
More things to consider as we prepare for the Book of Mormon year.  For many Latter-day Saints, the Book of Mormon may be stories of Nephites and Lamanites who have lots of wars, and in the end the Nephites end up destroyed.  There are many levels of symbolism and key doctrine involved in the Book of Mormon.  Here are some major points to consider as we go through the year of study, as they illustrate why the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.

The Book of Mormon as a Prophesy of the Last Days

In general ways, we can see the events within the Book of Mormon as a cycle the world  (and especially the USA) now is going through.

The Book of Mormon tells the story of a people inspired to leave the old world and go to a promised land.  Whether it is Lehi or Christopher Columbus, the Book of Mormon shows inspired men led to find the New World. The Lord blesses the people in the promised land with prosperity, as they remain humble, yet they still must deal with those who hold tightly to the old ways (which include secret combinations).

Various “outsiders” enter into the picture of both the Nephites and America, trying to change the culture from one of righteousness and freedom to one of big government (king men) and wickedness.  We find cycles of righteousness and wickedness.  I recall as a new member in my teens, wondering how the Nephites could switch from good to evil in just a few short years.  Now seeing the world we live in, we can see it occurs in our day, as well.  For example, after the attacks of 9/11, Americans of all faiths and political beliefs humbled themselves, having days of prayer and repentance, united in moving the nation and our communities forward.  However, just a few short years later, Americans were back to greed and making the kind of decisions that led to the housing and bank crash of 2008. Different though, this time (as of Dec 2011) the nation hasn’t seemed to humble itself, but continues on its economic crazy path to bankruptcy and ruin.  Nephites also had periods where it took coming up to the edge of destruction, or at least the destruction of most of the wicked, in order to return to righteousness.

Of course, there are many wars, famines, and crises that occur along the way.  Many of the wars lead to issues of government growth.

With both the Nephites and the world in the last days, the resurrected Jesus will come in his power and glory.  As in the destruction of the wicked leading up to Jesus’ visiting the Nephites, we will have major natural disasters, earthquakes, storms, and the sun will be darkened. When the Savior comes to the remaining people, they repent, accept him, and there is a very long period of righteousness, peace, joy and unity.  We shall find as we study the Book of Mormon that these attributes of a righteous people are taught time and again, including in the Savior’s sermons to the Nephites.  There is a major focus on being One, even as the Godhead is One.

At the end of the Nephite “Millennium”, we find that Satan is loosed, he stirs up the people, and it leads to the final destruction of the wicked Nephites.  This opens up for a new world afterward.  For the descendants of Lehi, it meant a world of striving without God. For the world in the last days, it will mean the end of the old ways, and the final change of earth and heaven into celestial places.

So, we can use the Book of Mormon as a gauge toward events in the last days.

The Book of Mormon as an Ascension Text

As we proceed through the Book of Mormon, we are going to find that the Book of Mormon has much to do with the modern LDS temple.  Both teach us the concepts behind ascending to God’s throne and being in his presence.  Such an event is called a “theophany”. Whether we practice entering the celestial room of the temple and symbolically into God’s presence, or the Brother of Jared seeing Jesus Christ,  We will find many such experiences and teachings throughout the Book of Mormon, beginning in the very first chapter of the book (no fair peeking!), which we will discuss in the next lesson.

For those who have read my postings of both the Old and New Testament, you will see that the concept of ascension and theophany are very important concepts in ancient Judaism and Christianity, even though most modern Jews and Christians may not recognize that truth, as it is now rather foreign to many today.  We will occasionally discuss other ancient ascension texts, such as Revelation and  the Ascension of Isaiah, and how these are evidence of the Book of Mormon, because of the similar experiences and symbols.

Grace and Atonement through Jesus Christ

Perhaps the most important thing the Book of Mormon does for an unbelieving world is testify of Jesus Christ and explain his role in our lives and salvation.

Many traditional Christians think that Mormons believe they must save themselves through obedience and work.  Sadly, many Latter-day Saints also believe this.  Such was an over-emphasis on works and a de-emphasis on salvation through grace.  We are not discussing “cheap grace”, but the real grace that comes through Christ.

From King Benjamin’s sermon, we will find that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, as we are already in debt to God, and if we do something good, he blesses us and we are paid and remain in debt to him.  In this way, we are less than the dirt we are made of, for we are even made of the earth, yet God made that too.

We learn that all are justified in Christ’s blood through faith and repentance. This saves us from both physical and spiritual death, as we all will be resurrected from the grave, and those who repent and believe will be made guiltless/sinless through the atonement of Christ.  In LDS belief, there are levels of reward in heaven, or what we call degrees of glory.  Whether one is saved in the Telestial, Terrestrial, or Celestial kingdom, we are saved from death and Outer Darkness.  Latter-day Saints believe in a near universal salvation.
Then we learn about sanctification in the Book of Mormon.  Once we are saved from death and hell, we grow in faith and righteousness line upon line.  The more holy or sanctified we become through the atonement and Gift of the Holy Ghost, the greater glory we will receive in heaven.  

As Hugh Nibley once wrote, “work we must, but the lunch is free.”

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