Sunday, December 09, 2012

Lesson 48: “Come unto Christ” Moroni 7–8; Moroni 10

Lesson 48: “Come unto Christ”
 Moroni 7–8; Moroni 10

With this final lesson on the Book of Mormon, we read the final thoughts of Moroni.  This is his final farewell to us.  Perhaps in these final chapters of the Book of Mormon, we read the key concepts to lead us to Christ and exaltation in God’s kingdom. 

Real Intent, Faith, Hope and Charity
Ch 7

What we get first are more of the words of Mormon, who sent letters, teaching and advice to his son in the last few years before the final destruction.  Moroni is quoting his father decades after the final destruction. Perhaps these are Mormon’s final words to his son, and Moroni wishes to share them with us.

At some point in Mormon’s life, there were synagogues and true believers in Christ for him to address.  It may be that these few believers were among the few true believers that would later be hunted down by the Lamanites for not denying the Christ.

“…by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.  For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing” (vv 5-6)).
There are two key points to being a good person.  First, being involved in good works or behavior. Second, that there is real intent, or pure intentions behind the works.  When watching bad or evil behavior, it is easy to determine a person is bad.  We see someone kill or steal, and we think it is a bad person, because the works are evil.  But real intent is also important, and Moroni will note this again in what is perhaps the most well known LDS missionary scripture in the Book of Mormon: Moroni 10:3-5. Without real intent, we are giving lip service at best, and are hypocrites at worst.  How often do we praise a famous wealthy person for doing what appears on the outside as a great act, such as donate money or time to a worthy cause, only to find they have done it for their own benefit to pursue their own wealth and fame.

To only be doing good on the outside for one’s own glory, and not for the glory of God, means our hearts are not in the right place.  We must, therefore be careful in how we consider others.  Just doing or saying something that seems good, does not mean the person is seeking God’s path.

But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God” (v 13).

Fortunately, Mormon tells us there is a way to see what is good and what is evil.  The things which are truly good, do not just seem good on the outside.  They will also encourage and invite us to “do good continually” and to “love God.”   So, if a person does something that seems good, but they do it to receive glory and praise from the world, then it is not of God. It is an act of man that may do good things on the surface, such as feed little children or provide a benefit to the poor, but it does not touch the soul of man. 

And that is the problem with much of the effort in the world today: they focus on the flesh, but not on the eternal welfare of others.  They feed the body, but the spirit dies of starvation.  So it is with some of the government programs we have.  We feel we benefit people by giving them food stamps and welfare assistance, and in some sense we do.  But do we satisfy their bodies, while allowing the spirit of man to wither and die?  The prophets have encouraged us to be self reliant, and that work is good for man, for instance.  Do we help or hurt people by giving a partial solution that looks great on the outside, but still leaves them starving for God on the inside?

Is the solution that Babylon, or the world, offers one that feeds the natural man, but not the eternal nature of man?  Perhaps a study in the differences between the welfare programs of the Church and that of the world’s governments may be insightful on how we are doing true good that leads people to love God, and an evil that leads people to worship the governments and celebrities of Babylon.

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.  But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.   And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.  Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ” (vv 16-19)
What encourages us to believe in Christ and do good works is of God.  All else is not celestial.

And now, my brethren, how is it possible that ye can lay hold upon every good thing?  And now I come to that faith, of which I said I would speak; and I will tell you the way whereby ye may lay hold on every good thing” (vv 20-21).
There is no way to lay hold upon good things or to do good things without faith, hope and charity.  What kind of faith? Only that faith which leads us to believe in Christ.  Again, there is one way to do truly good works, and that is with real intent.  Real intent comes from the person or persons who seek Christ and to live a Christ-like life.  Feeding hungry people is not in and of itself a good or eternal work.  Feeding both their bodies and spirits is a good work.  Leading them to Christ is a good work, which all Christians may do.  And as others do good works and seek to lead people to God, they also may perform good works to the level of understanding of God they have.

As we develop faith, hope becomes the anchor to our faith (Ether 12:4), which helps carry us through trying times.  As we grow in faith and hope, we desire to be more Christ-like, and so learn to develop the love of Christ, which is charity.

One thing we sometimes do not understand is that faith, hope and charity are gifts.  We cannot develop them on our own, no matter what works we do.  Instead, they are given to us, as we grow closer to God. Mormon encourages us to pray with all the energy of heart to have charity (Moroni 7:48) and God will pour out the gift of love upon us.  If we knock, if we ask, if we seek it, God will give it to us as a free gift.  But we must have real intent.  We must truly desire it, and not just give lip service.  To the level we are ready to receive it, God will bestow it upon us, as he will provide all other gifts we seek.

Little children are saved in Christ
Chapter 8

Moroni provides to us a letter from his father, which Mormon sent him soon after he was ordained an elder, possibly over his own synagogue, and regarding baptism of children.  It may seem an anachronistic 19th century attack aimed on some Christian faiths, but there are elements that go beyond the modern Protestant view.  Mormon and Moroni’s world is falling into an apostate state, and Moroni has asked his father about the practice of some to baptize their little children.  It is not a modern problem, but a sign of apostasy that occurs when people do not understand the atonement of Christ.

Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me” (v 8).

Note that there IS a curse of Adam.  There is a falling of man from God’s presence. Mankind cannot return back to God because of his fallen nature.  All are dead physically and spiritually. They need a physician to heal them.  They need to follow the prescription given by the physician: faith, repentance, covenants, ordinances, and receiving the Holy Ghost.

However, through Christ, little children are automatically saved in Christ.  There is no need for circumcision or baptism for little children, because Christ’s gift resurrects all of them.  Because of Christ’s gift, temporal and spiritual death have no power over little children, as they are incapable of sinning.  Only when they reach the age to understand right from wrong, and are able to sin, will they also need to repent and receive the covenants and ordinances of God. Only then will they need the physician to heal them, so they can live forever with their little children.

So, what does this have to do with Moroni’s emphasis on faith, hope and charity in these last chapters?  We must learn to have the faith, hope and charity of a little child, in order to be saved with them through Christ.

Gifts of the Spirit
Chapter 10

In verses 3-5, we learn that faith in Christ and his gospel begins with real intent.  We cannot discover God and his eternal truths without real intent and desire not only to know, but to do whatever it is that God reveals to us.

Again, Moroni speaks on faith, hope and charity. As we seek with real intent, we receive these and other gifts of God through the Holy Spirit.  “And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things” (v 5).  We learn these things through the gifts we are given.

If we are not receiving some of the gifts of the Spirit in our lives, we should ask ourselves: why not?  Are we not spiritually preparing ourselves?  Are we not seeking the gifts of the Spirit?

President George Q. Cannon noted:

How many of you are seeking for these gifts that God has promised to bestow? How many of you, when you bow before your Heavenly Father in your family circle or in your secret places, contend for these gifts to be bestowed upon you? How many of you ask the Father in the name of Jesus to manifest Himself to you through these powers and these gifts? Or do you go along day by day like a door turning on its hinges, without having any feeling upon the subject, without exercising any faith whatever, content to be baptized and be members of the Church and to rest there, thinking that your salvation is secure because you have done this?
“I say to you, in the name of the Lord, as one of His servants, that you have need to repent of this. You have need to repent of your hardness of heart, of your indifference and of your carelessness. There is not that diligence, there is not that faith, there is not that seeking for the power of God that there should be among a people who have received the precious promises we have….
“If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect. Have I imperfections? I am full of them. What is my duty? To pray to God to give me the gifts that will correct these imperfections…. They are intended for this purpose. No man ought to say, "Oh, I cannot help this; it is my nature." He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things and to give gifts that will eradicate them…. That is the design of God concerning His children. He wants His Saints to be perfected in the truth.
“The Lord has said in a revelation to the Church that the Saints should "seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given; for verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments…
"How many Latter-day Saints are there who supplicate the Lord for the gifts which they need? …Every defect in the human character can be corrected through the exercise of faith and pleading with the Lord for the gifts that He has said He will give unto those who believe and obey His commandments.” (Millennial Star, 23 Apr. 1894, 260). 

Come Unto Christ

Finally, Moroni encourages and invites us to “come unto Christ and be perfected in him” (v 32).  Of all the gifts of God, the gift of Christ’s atonement is the greatest.  As we have studied the Book of Mormon over the past year, we have found the Nephite prophets bringing us back to this concept time and again.  From Lehi first seeing the Messiah descend from God’s throne to bring him his prophetic calling in 1 Nephi 1, to the resurrected Jesus inviting the Nephites to come to him and touch the wounds in his hands and feet and be healed by him in 3 Nephi, to Moroni’s final words to us in this last chapter, we are invited to believe in Christ and his atonement. 

It is a free gift to any who will humbly ask for it, repent, and allow the Lord to give them a mighty change of heart: from a heart of stone to a heart of pure gold.  Christ can heal us, if we will let him.  He has suffered through all the pains and infirmities in the world, so he can succor us (Alma 7).  He is the only path back to the presence of the Father and eternal life.  He is the Resurrection and the Life.  He is the Way.  He is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father.  He is the center of our faith and hope. 

The message of the Book of Mormon is this: We invite all to come to Christ and be perfected in Him.  We invite all to come to Christ and be healed by him.  We invite all to Christ, and let him bring you back into the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Come unto Christ.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson 47: “To Keep Them in the Right Way” Moroni 1–6

Lesson 47: “To Keep Them in the Right Way”
 Moroni 1–6

Moroni now comes to his third and final farewell.  In his first farewell, he shared the writings of his father, Mormon. In the second, he shared his abridgement of the Book of Ether. Now, he really has come to the end of his writings, and provides teachings in two major sections, with the first being dealt with in this lesson.  In this lesson, Moroni deals with important teachings regarding ordinances of the gospel.  

He notes in chapter one that the Lamanites are killing those Nephites, who will not deny the Christ.  This is 40 years after the destruction of the Nephites as a people. Obviously, Moroni is not exactly alone among the survivors. However, they are a continually dwindling group, and it seems that at this point, they are being actively searched for and destroyed.  Moroni must now be constantly on the move to preserve his life.  Most LDS scholars believe the Nephites’ final battle was in Central America, and that the original hill Cumorah (where the final battle occurred) is there.  Moroni would then have wandered off and on for decades, eventually arriving in what is now New York State, and burying his few plates on the modern hill Cumorah.

These writings are for the future Lamanite descendants.  They need to know how to recognize the proper forms and ordinances.

The Holy Ghost

So, what is the first and most important ordinance Moroni shares?  It is receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those with Christ’s authority. Without the Holy Ghost, the other ordinances are meaningless, as they cannot sanctify us or make us holy.  Yes, we can repent and become guiltless through Christ’s atonement. However, with the power of the Holy Ghost, no one can become holy enough to be exalted.  It is by the power of the Holy Ghost that angels speak, and without the Holy Ghost, we cannot speak with the tongue of angels.


In chapter three, we see how ordination of priests and teachers occurred. These were not priests and teachers as we know them now: young men in the Aaronic priesthood. Rather these were positions in the Melchizedek Priesthood among the Nephites.  Note that the 12 disciples were known as the “elders of the Church”, much as Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were known as the first and second elders of the Church, when it was first organized. We do not read specifically how other elders were chosen and ordained, but can imagine it was similar.  The key here is the importance of authority.  There is a hierarchy to God’s work upon the earth.

The Sacrament

In the Lord’s visit to the Americas, he and his disciples provided the Sacrament on more than one occasion. We were taught the importance of partaking it worthily, as a covenant between us and Christ.

Now, in chapters 4 and 5, Moroni will teach the future Lamanites the sacramental prayers. These are very important for us, otherwise Moroni would not have included them in his final words.  The sacrament is a renewal of our covenants.  All of our covenants.  We do renew our baptismal covenant, but it goes beyond to reflect our receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, the priesthood, and the temple ordinances.  While baptism by water tends to be viewed as an individual’s ordinance and covenant with Christ, the Sacrament is a communal experience.  It is here that we recognize not just our own covenant as an individual, but as a people.  It strengthens Nephi’s teachings regarding the baptismal covenant as becoming one as a people in Christ.  It is here that we become a holy people together, as we join to renew the covenants of baptism, priesthood and temple.

While the prayers on the bread and water are similar, there are some significant differences.  Why is it that the prayer on the bread includes, “keep his commandments which he hath given them”, while the prayer on the water/wine does not?

One reason may be that the bread represents and focuses on the body or flesh.  We are symbolically made of two parts: flesh and water.  The body is bound to the temptations of the flesh, and as with the law of Moses, requires law to control it.   The water or wine would possibly represent the blood that gives life to the body.  There is no law required with the blood, especially regarding the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ cleanses our blood, or us, of all sin through repentance.  Of course, flesh and blood do not live alone, except they are revivified by the Spirit, which is promised to all who willingly subject their flesh to the commandments, and their life blood to the cleansing blood of Christ.


In chapter 6, Moroni speaks of baptism.  This is a very important discourse, as short as it is, because it speaks of what is required of a person prior to baptism. 

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 6:2-3).
Then, we become numbered among the saints, once baptized and received the Holy Ghost. Baptism is a covenant of the people, not just of the individual.  Moroni then explains what they, as a covenant people do to strengthen each other and become a Zion people.  The Holy Ghost was the key to them becoming one people, whether praying, preaching, or singing.  So it is with the Church today.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson 46: “By Faith All Things Are Fulfilled” Ether 7–15

Book of Mormon Lesson 46: “By Faith All Things Are Fulfilled”
Ether 7–15

The righteous and wicked reigns of Jaredite kings
Ether 7-11

Orihah becomes the first Jaredite king.  He rules in righteousness among the people, but only 2 generations later, we begin to see intrigue, secret combinations, and the intense search for getting gain.

Corihor rebelled against his father Kib, son of Orihah.  This is just the first of many overthrows in their system, which will eventually lead to their destruction.

    Jaredite/Nephite names

One thing to note here are some of the names which expand across the Jaredite destruction to the Nephites.  In the previous discussion on the Book of Omni, when King Mosiah I discovered the Mulekites and Zarahemla, I noted that this was the beginning of the use of Jaredite naming conventions among the Nephites.  There I suggested that the Mulekites dwelt among the Jaredites for several centuries until the Jaredite destruction.  Now, we’ll look at another possible theory that may also tie in here.

We note that among those who rebel and seek to overthrow the Jaredite kings are people who are also recognized as chief among the Nephite bad guys:

Corihor who moves to the land of Nehor to prepare for his overthrow. Compare him with Korihor, who was steeped in the teachings of the apostate Nehor.

Noah fights his righteous uncle, King Shule, and obtains the land of first inheritance. Later, Noah captures Shule and reigns over all the kingdom. He is later killed by the sons of Shule.  In Nephite times, King Noah obtains the land of Nephi, the first inheritance in the Promised Land.  Noah is later slain by the righteous and the kingdom is restored to the righteous.

Morianton (Ether 10) would also begin a war to overthrow the king, who was of a different lineage.  In the Book of Mormon, the man Morianton and his city, fought against the city of Lehi over border disputes.  Eventually, Captain Moroni would have to step in and settle the affair.

It seems that Mormon and Moroni may have used Jaredite names to describe wicked people of Nephite time, or used the names of wicked Nephites to name wicked Jaredites.

Can you regulate morality?

Recently, a friend of mine noted that “you cannot regulate morality” to explain some of his political positions.  As I pondered that position, I read the story of Shule in Ether 7.  Here was a righteous king, who sought to help his people be righteous.  The people had grown immensely. It is likely the Jaredites had absorbed many native groups already in the Americas when they arrived. 

And also in the reign of Shule there came prophets among the people, who were sent from the Lord, prophesying that the wickedness and idolatry of the people was bringing a curse upon the land, and they should be destroyed if they did not repent.  And it came to pass that the people did revile against the prophets, and did mock them. And it came to pass that king Shule did execute judgment against all those who did revile against the prophets.  And he did execute a law throughout all the land, which gave power unto the prophets that they should go whithersoever they would; and by this cause the people were brought unto repentance” (Ether 7:23-25).

Only because the king regulated and judged those who fought against the prophets, it compelled the people to be humble and repent.  This is the same concept that we read of in Alma 32.  People are blessed when they are compelled to be humble, but more blessed when they repent without being compelled.  Those who are compelled to be humble tend to remain so, only as long as they are regulated.  So, my friend did have a point on this regard.   On the other hand, to lift all regulation that dictates morality also means it opens the door for ever increasing sin and wickedness.  The people can be blessed by a strict set of moral rules, or they can be compelled through the threat of destruction by God.  When a society becomes wicked, then it does not give little children the chance to grow up in peace and goodness.  They learn early on about sin, as many children are swept up in the moral decay of the nation.

In a perfect world, the people humble themselves and happily serve God and fellow man.  However, we do not live in that Utopia.  We live in a world rife with violence and sex.  With freedom must come responsibility, but wicked people only wish to have freedom to live their sins.  Eventually that house of cards collapses, as it did with the Nephites and Jaredites.  As a historian, I am interested in seeing why societies collapse.  Lifestyles of the powerful that strip the land of its true strength, and the poor willing to follow their wicked leaders down any path that promises them free stuff, leads a nation to stagnation, debt, crime, and instability, so that like the Soviet Union, it eventually crashes down.  What is left is a bunch of fragments of its former self, none of which can ever hope to become as great as they once were. Why not? Because they still have not learned to live upon the principles of righteousness and secret combinations continue.

Akish and the secret combination

Jared sought the kingdom of his father.  He temporarily obtained it, but lost it.  His daughter reminded him of the secret combination that was found in the records their ancestors brought with them.  We sometimes think that secret combinations disappear completely and are then miraculously brought back from out of the air.  More often, they are written down and later discovered by those seeking gain and power.

Jared asks Akish to set up a secret combination, in order to slay his father and give Jared the throne.  Akish succeeds, but then seeks the throne for himself with his new-found power.  In studying this combination, we read:

And it came to pass that they all sware unto him, by the God of heaven, and also by the heavens, and also by the earth, and by their heads, that whoso should vary from the assistance which Akish desired should lose his head; and whoso should divulge whatsoever thing Akish made known unto them, the same should lose his life.  And it came to pass that thus they did agree with Akish. And Akish did administer unto them the oaths which were given by them of old who also sought power, which had been handed down even from Cain, who was a murderer from the beginning. And they were kept up by the power of the devil to administer these oaths unto the people, to keep them in darkness, to help such as sought power to gain power, and to murder, and to plunder, and to lie, and to commit all manner of wickedness and whoredoms.  And it was the daughter of Jared who put it into his heart to search up these things of old; and Jared put it into the heart of Akish; wherefore, Akish administered it unto his kindred and friends, leading them away by fair promises to do whatsoever thing he desired. And it came to pass that they formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God;  For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man…..And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites…. And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed….” (Ether 8:14-22).

This is one of the great patterns we find in the Book of Mormon.  There is a repentance/sin cycle, wherein people are blessed by God, they become prideful, they are punished and humbled, they repent and the cycle starts over.  There are only two ways out of the cycle.  One way is to become a Zion people, who are united in all things.  The other way is for the people to no more exist as a people, because God has destroyed them.
Note that these secret combinations are had among many people.  They searched for them, often in the records that were already available.  The Lamanites and wicked Nephites could easily have obtained through records left by Gadianton (another Jaredite suffix:: anton).

Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up. For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning” (Ether 8:24-25).

Secret Combinations now spread quickly through the Internet.  There are gangs with signs and secrets, who seek to get gain.  Drug cartels seek power through secret combinations.  Radical jihadists seek gain using violent means through such secrets, believing God is on their side.  While righteous King Shule sought overall freedom for his people by regulating morality and compelling the people to listen to the prophets and repent, wicked people seek to overthrow true freedom (speech, religion, etc), and replace it with licentiousness.  We can see that secret combinations caused the Great Recession of our day, allowing a few to become extremely wealthy and more powerful, while stealing the wealth and freedoms of hard working Americans.  Sadly, many Americans now freely give up their freedoms in exchange for stuff the government promises to give them in return.  A mess of pottage in exchange for a heavenly birth right.

The Jaredite “Millennium” followed by the slow path to destruction
Ether 9-15

Prior to the Nephite Millennium, there was a giant destruction of the wicked.  It seems the Lord separated the people out, when the nation collapsed into tribes.  Some areas were more wicked than others, and therefore received a greater destruction.

For the Jaredites, Omer was a righteous king.  The Lord warned Omer, who fled with his good people to an uninhabited area.  Akish overthrew his father-in-law.

“For so great had been the spreading of this wicked and secret society that it had corrupted the hearts of all the people” (Ether 9:6).

Because of such wickedness, there was war for many years, until the vast majority of the people were slain.  The only survivors were those who repented and fled to Omer for safety.  Omer left the kingdom to his son Emer. Emer saw Christ, the “Son of Righteousness”, suggesting the beginning of their “Millennial” period.  Under his righteous and long reign, the people prospered.  From Emer to his son Coriantum to Com, there was righteousness and prosperity.

Sadly, pride, greed and envy end the long reigns of peace and joy we read of in the Book of Mormon.  It often is described as a period when the people experience over-crowding and have populated the whole area.  It suggests that a period of famine or hunger may have occurred, as the people may begin struggling over diminished resources. 

In Ether 10, we find that a sign of a failing nation is the “building of many prisons, and whoso would not be subject unto taxes he (the king) would cast into prison” (vs 6).  Some of the kings fought against the reappearance of secret combinations (Ether 10:33-34),

Coriantumr and Shiz

Can we imagine the final days of the Jaredites?  Millions have died, and yet the fighting continues.  Unlike in the days of Omer, there is no place for people to flee for sanctuary.  The Mulekites would have to slip across enemy lines and through the narrow pass of land to find an uninhabited place they named Zarahemla.

There was no place to hide one’s treasures, for all places were slippery, due to the thievery and magic in the land.  The people became homeless, as armies displaced them.  Women and children would be major victims, as they were with the Nephite and Lamanite armies.  When a people become so wicked that they cannot even live a telestial law, they have become Desolation itself.  There is no place left for them, but Perdition.  They fully reject God and his prophets, refusing to repent even when things are at their worst.  Instead, they curse God and wish to die.  Of such is Outer Darkness, if they will not repent and allow Christ to save them from themselves.

Ether and Moroni: symbols of faith and hope

Ether’s final words: “Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh, it mattereth not, if it so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God. Amen” (Ether 15:34).

Moroni will give us a few more words over the final lessons. However, he begins a key teaching in Ether 12: faith, hope and charity.  Think of this, Moroni has witnessed the utter destruction of his own people, and now is abridging the tale of the Jaredite destruction.  Decades have passed since Moroni last saw his family and friends alive.  He sees Lamanites warring all around him.  He is in danger for his life, for he will not deny the Christ.  Yet, he writes of faith, hope and charity!

He notes that “by faith all things are fulfilled” (Ether 12:3) and that hope derives from faith:

“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 12:4).

All it takes is faith in God to have “hope for a better world.”  Hope comes from faith, and becomes the anchor for us during extreme times.  Hope built from faith makes men “sure and steadfast” and even ready to glorify God in the midst of vast destruction and wickedness.

Our world will someday come to an end.  It will end in flames, as the wicked are destroyed.  Before that time, we will see more and more wickedness and sin.  We will see depravity on levels we never before could have imagined.  We will see wars and rumors of wars that will bring fear and doubt to many hearts.  In those tragic times, will we fall to despair?  Or will we allow our faith to be anchored by hope in God and his Christ?  Will we cower from the enemies of God, or will we be found “always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God”?

Faith and hope work side by side.  They feed upon one another.  Faith is the light, and hope is the fuel to keep that light burning.  These lead us to good work and glorifying God, which are the basics of charity.

We will have trials of our faith.  For Moroni, it was first to dwell in a wicked society.  Then it was to see world war close up.  It meant watching his father and people be destroyed.  Finally, it meant decades of solitary witness.  Yet, he believed, as did Ether, that they would someday resurrect and dwell in the presence of God and family.  Today, many are beginning to doubt their faith.  I encourage them to not give up, but to ponder on the hope of a better world, living with God and Christ.  Let such a hope permeate your every thought and fiber of being.  Let it fuel the flame of faith, so that you can withstand the barrage of sin and evil in the world, and look forward with an eye of faith and with hope to being in God’s presence.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson 45: “Never Has Man Believed in Me As Thou Hast” Ether 1–6

Lesson 45: “Never Has Man Believed in Me As Thou Hast”
Ether 1–6

Background on the Jaredites at the Tower

From what we read in the Book of Ether, Jared and his brother Mahonri Moriancumer, lived near the Tower of Babel.  Traditionally, the Tower of Babel was built by the great Babylonian King Nimrod. In ancient tradition, Nimrod inherited the garment of Noah, which Ham stole from his father.  The garment, which caused animals to trust the wearer, was used by Noah to gather them into his ark.  Nimrod is known in the Bible as a “mighty hunter” denoting this enhanced ability he received from wearing Noah’s garment.  
Nimrod built the Tower of Babel in order to obtain heaven.  He was ruler over much territory and saw himself as a god on earth.  He now desired to be god in heaven, and so organized his people to build the tower so as to overthrow God.  Nimrod’s version of a theophany was to force his way into God’s throne room, and then place himself on the throne as god and king.  Isaiah would compare Nebuchadnezzar to Nimrod in calling him “Lucifer”, and in Nebuchadnezzar’s desire to be the second Nimrod and to rebuild the tower in his day:

“That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!... How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!  For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isaiah 14:8-15).

Nimrod would be the arch nemesis of Abraham and his family.  In the traditions, the young Abraham would miraculously escape the machinations of Nimrod on many occasions. Eventually, Abraham would flee to dwell with Noah and Shem in safety.  Abraham’s grandson Esau would slay Nimrod, either as a hunting accident, or because he sought to own the garment of Noah and return it back to its rightful owner (himself).
In George Laub’s autobiography, he mentions the ancient historian Josephus explaining that Nimrod built the Tower to fight against God for bringing the great Flood. In addition, he explains what Joseph Smith related to him regarding Nimrod and the Tower.  

 “Now I will tell the story of the designs of building the tower of Babel. It was designed to go to the city of Enoch for the veil was not yet so great that it hid it from their sight so they concluded to go to the city of Enoch. For God gave him place above the impure air for he could breath a pure air and him and his city was taken, for God provided a better place for him. For they were pure in heart for it is the pure in heart that causes the Zion to be”.

If the City of Enoch, in being carried up to heaven, was still visible to people on earth, Nimrod could build a tower to reach it.  Nimrod could then seek to overthrow God (or at least Enoch as Metatron the archangel) on the city’s passage to heaven.

The tower would actually have been a Ziggurat, an ancient temple design.  Unlike most artistic depictions, Ziggurats are square.  As with temples, they represented the place between heaven and earth where the people could go to worship their god.  In Nimrod’s case, he built the tower of Babel to overthrow God, instead.

So, we see there is a very complicated and interrelated story line going on here in the ancient literature and revelations of Joseph Smith.  

God interrupts Nimrod’s plans

In the Bible and other LDS scriptures, we find that the story of the Tower of Babel introduces the concept of the confounding of languages. This becomes somewhat problematic in that there is written evidence of several languages preceding the Tower.  While Nimrod would probably have used Sumerian, other languages (Egyptian, etc) already existed.  Not all the people in the world were situated at the Tower, although the size of the city of Babylon may have seemed like it was the center of everything on earth.

Perhaps the way to read this is a more narrow way.  It is possible that Jared had sacred written records from earlier prophets.  We know that the original plates of Ether contained the story of man from Adam down to the Tower.  It may be that the confounding of languages occurred only in Babylon, as a method to stop the united effort to build a Ziggurat to overthrow God.  Speaking various languages would cause the people to disperse, meaning Jared’s company were just one of many to leave the area in order to find their own place for people who understood a similar language.  Jared’s request to not be confounded may mean he did not wish to lose their language, and therefore not be able to understand the sacred records they possessed. 

Jared’s company travel

The ancient city of Babel is situated south of modern day Baghdad, Iraq. They are first sent northward to a valley named Nimrod (obviously not named by them). It is possible this was a wilderness area favored by Nimrod for hunting, as the Jaredites are successful in catching animals and birds with snares.

The area would have been an oasis in the desert.  Perhaps they stopped at one of the few lakes northward of Babel.  Tharthar Lake is the closest large lake and is about 160 miles away.  Several hundreds of miles further north, one finds Lakes Urmia and Van. They must have been a people that were used to raising flocks and fishing, as they brought flocks with them and made a large container to carry fish with them. 

And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel.  And it came to pass that they did travel in the wilderness, and did build barges, in which they did cross many waters, being directed continually by the hand of the Lord.  And the Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise…” (Ether 2:5-7)

Here we see that before they arrived to the “sea in the wilderness” they crossed many large bodies of water by building barges.  What bodies of water could these have been that they would be forced to navigate, just to get to an area where they could then travel the ocean to the Americas?  Some LDS scholars think they traveled eastward into the wilderness, where they picked up some travelers of the Far East with them.  This is how some explain how most Native Americans today have DNA from the Far East (Siberia, Japan, etc). This, however, can be explained by other migrations, including those crossing the Bering Strait.
The problem with this direction of travel is, there are literally no large bodies of water between Iraq and Korea/China/Russia which require building barges for travel.  Some would suggest they went south to the coastline, and used barges to travel along the coastline until they needed arks to cross the Pacific Ocean.  Yet, why would the Lord send them north, and then into a wilderness where men had not been before, only to send them back into civilization among people?

Northward from the valley of Nimrod, we find the Black and Caspian Seas.  To me, it seems likely they would have traveled to the Black Sea. It would require barges to cross this body of water, or to use it for travel.  The Black Sea then brings the Jaredites to the Mediterranean Sea, or the “sea in the wilderness.” They were not to stop once they arrived on the coastline of the Iberian peninsula, but to then build the arks which would carry them across the Atlantic to the Americas.

God Speaks in a Cloud

As we just read above, God frequently spoke with Moriancumer in a cloud.  This is very representative.  It symbolizes Moses speaking to the burning bush and Israel being led by a pillar of cloud during the day.  It mostly symbolizes the ancient temple in Jerusalem.  The high priest was not allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies until after the incense filled the room with smoke.  This smoke would obscure the glory of God, allowing the person to enter and not die.  In Isaiah 6, the prophet finds himself in the heavenly Holy of Holies with the seraphim and God on his throne, but the smoke has not yet filled the room.  Isaiah instantly grieves, because he knows he will die for seeing God directly. However, an angel touches him with a coal from the incense and it transfigures him, so he becomes part of the divine council and able to stand in God’s presence.

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).

We often note how the Lord chastised Moriancumer for three whole hours for not praying.  Have you ever had God chastise you for not praying, and saying if you do not repent the Spirit will cease to strive with you and you will be destroyed and cut off from God’s presence?  It seems harsh, doesn’t it?

Yet this is exactly what we should expect in an experience regarding the Holy of Holies.  Anciently, the high priest would cleanse and prepare himself before entering the room.  His robes included bells, so that other priests could listen to see if he were still moving inside.  A rope was tied to the high priest, so if the other priests could not hear his bells and voice for a period of time, they could pull his corpse out of the Holy of Holies.  So sacred is the experience to be in God’s presence, even if he is hidden in a cloud, the unrighteous risk being forever cast out of God’s presence.  This would have left the Jaredites stranded in the wilderness, far from the Promised Land they long desired to reach, and without any assistance from God.

In Ether 3, we see that Moriancumer climbs a very high mountain, “which they called the mount Shelem.” In saying “they” does Moroni mean the Jaredites called the mount Shelem, or was it another people in the area who had already named it?  Note that temple endowments or theophanies are often experienced on an “exceedingly high mountain.” 

Moriancumer has previously discussed with the Lord his need for light in the arks or barges to cross the great ocean.  The Lord sent him to figure it out.  For us, we too often seek God’s help at the very beginning, without first offering a solution and then letting God perform what is not in our power. Moriancumer’s plan showed both effort and faith.  He didn’t just pick up 16 stones off the ground and ask God to change them.  He molted them from rock.  Once there was nothing else he could do, he went to the Lord.
His exceeding great faith, then, led to his theophany.  He saw Christ’s finger touch the stones and he gasped to find out God had a body like his own. Then God stepped out of the cloud, and as with Isaiah being cleansed and transfigured by a coal/stone from the holy incense, Moriancumer was cleansed and transfigured by the touch of the Lord upon his 16 stones.


Nimrod and the Garment of Adam/Noah:

Google Map of area around Babel: