Sunday, April 05, 2020

Come Follow Me - Easter in the Book of Mormon

Come Follow Me - Easter in the Book of Mormon

Last week, I shared links to some of my New Testament articles on Easter week. Today, we will look at some of the teachings in the Book of Mormon.

Nephi's Vision of the Tree of Life

In 1 Nephi 11-15, Nephi experiences his father Lehi's Vision of the Tree of Life. The focus of these visions is a Tree that is white and whose fruit is white and most delicious. This is the Tree found in the Garden of Eden, guarded by an angel. It is also the Tree found at the end of the Book of Revelation, when the Millennium begins.

Nephi sees that the Tree is accessible NOW. We do not have to travel back to the Garden, nor forward to the end times to partake of the Tree.

In his vision, Nephi understands that the Tree represents the Mother of God (both Mary and Heavenly Mother). The fruit is the Love of God, which is a symbol of Jesus Christ.

14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul. (1 Ne 11:14-23)

What is the condescension of God? First, that Christ came to earth as a mortal being. He was born, with no memory of his divine past. He would be taught and raised by mortal parents. He would have to rediscover who he is, and then learn what his mission would be.

The second part of the condescension would be that he would choose to follow the path Heavenly Father set out.

26 And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God!
27 And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him. And the Lamb of God went forth and was baptized of him; and after he was baptized, I beheld the heavens open, and the Holy Ghost come down out of heaven and abide upon him in the form of a dove.
28 And I beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him; and I beheld that they cast him out from among them. (1 Ne 11:26-28)
 Jesus, though perfect and in no need for repentance, still fulfilled all righteousness by being baptized. Then, as with thousands of others who have followed him, Jesus served his mission to preach repentance and to bless others with the gospel. But then, the people turned on him.

32 And it came to pass that the angel spake unto me again, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record.
33 And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world.
 Nephi does not discuss Christ's resurrection in Jerusalem. Instead, his vision turns to the Americas, where he sees the contention, fighting and sin among his own people. It is during these great tragedies that the sun turns dark for several days, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other destructions cause a giant upheaval.

5 And it came to pass after I saw these things, I saw the vapor of darkness, that it passed from off the face of the earth; and behold, I saw multitudes who had not fallen because of the great and terrible judgments of the Lord.
6 And I saw the heavens open, and the Lamb of God descending out of heaven; and he came down and showed himself unto them.

 For Nephi, the resurrection's impact is upon his own people. Because of the crucifixion, the resurrected Jesus came to the Nephites and blessed them.

King Benjamin's Discourse on Christ

King Benjamin gathered the peoples of Nephi and Mulek prior to his death to teach them about Christ.
1 And again my brethren, I would call your attention, for I have somewhat more to speak unto you; for behold, I have things to tell you concerning that which is to come.
2 And the things which I shall tell you are made known unto me by an angel from God. And he said unto me: Awake; and I awoke, and behold he stood before me.
3 And he said unto me: Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy. (Mosiah 3)
The angel explains just what is the source of that great joy:

5 For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.
6 And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.
7 And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.
8 And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.
His mission was to condescend to earth, live a mortal life and serve a mission of mercy.  First, Jesus showed he could heal the physical diseases and demonic possessions and temptations.

Next, he suffered for our spiritual sickness. Sin is spiritual sickness. Imagine being in such pain that "blood cometh from every pore" as Christ anguished for our souls.

9 And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man, and say that he hath a devil, and shall scourge him, and shall crucify him.
10 And he shall rise the third day from the dead; and behold, he standeth to judge the world; and behold, all these things are done that a righteous judgment might come upon the children of men.
11 For behold, and also his blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned.
What does it mean for Christ to "come unto his own?" It means he prepared his entire mortal life for this final week leading up to Easter. They would "consider him a man" and reject his divinity and Messiah-ship. Christ was scourged by Roman soldiers and then crucified - the most painful and terrible torture imaginable.

But, through the tragedy of death came the triumph of the resurrection. Having descended first into mortality and then into death, Jesus now arose with healing in his wings. He becomes the Father of our salvation. He is the Judge of the earth. His mission is to save all mankind from death and hell. The only requirement for salvation is to turn to him for that salvation. He gives all mankind a free resurrection and rescue from death and hell based on our repentance and faith. Even those who die in ignorance will be saved through Christ's atonement and resurrection.  The only ones to be lost are those who become enemies to God, who refuse to turn to Christ and repent:

19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
In knowing that Jesus has offered not a cheap grace, but a costly grace: costly to Jesus, which only requires we turn to Him for that salvation, we can find joy, hope and peace throughout our mortal lives. This is the experience of Benjamin's people:

1 And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.
2 And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.
3 And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which king Benjamin had spoken unto them. (Mosiah 4)
 As they turned to Christ, they were forgiven, received a remission of their sins, and filled with joy and peace of conscience.

Alma Teaches us About the Atonement of Christ

Alma taught us important things regarding the atonement and resurrection. 
7 For behold, I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all—for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people. (Alma 7)

 While there were many things to come in the future, the coming of Jesus was the most important thing of all. The Spirit of God tells Alma to call the people to repentance and believe in Christ.

10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
Have you ever thought about the pains and sicknesses you have had in your life? Years ago, my younger sister suffered from cancer, which metastasized in her bones. Every movement caused pain. She suffered from seizures, one of which was so strong, it broke her thighbone. She spent months in intense pain, which no amount of pain medication could assuage.

Jesus experienced her pain. He took upon himself her pain, my pain, your pain. In doing so, he understands how to succor or assist and heal us. 

12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

The world is full of great injustices, all of which cause great suffering. Jesus descended below all things that he can understand, empathize, and heal us from those pains - either in this life or in the next. Jesus overcame death that he can also bring us back to life through the resurrection. So,  through the terrors of our life and death, he is with us in every moment.

And then, we see the witness of our Savior of his own work:

6 And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:
7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.
8 And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.
9 And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:
10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.
12 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven.
13 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto them saying:
14 Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
15 And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
16 And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:
17 Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him.(3 Nephi 11)
 "Hosanna" means, "Save Now." 

And Jesus has saved us. Happy Easter!

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