Sunday, October 25, 2020

Come Follow Me: Mormon 1-6

 Come Follow Me: Mormon 1-6

 Consider these chapters in light of today's world, and the contentions, wars and problems there are. Also, consider how fewer people give heed to the prophets and other religious leaders that plead for them to repent and return to righteousness.

In Alma 34:35, the prophet teaches a very profound concept:

“For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked” (Alma 34:35).

A person or people may become so wicked and hard-hearted that the Holy Spirit withdraws completely.  Such a person has procrastinated the day of his repentance “even until spiritual death.”  What a contrast to the last several lessons of Jesus’ sojourn with the Nephites. In these chapters, we’ve seen the people renewed, reborn, and sealed to Christ.  They have been filled with the Spirit, which they prayed for and desired most of all (3 Nephi 19:9).  Christ has all power over the righteous Nephites for about 200 years time.  When they died, they were received into the bosom of Abraham, which is the final state of the righteous.

In our study of Mormon and Ether, we will see how a people become so depraved that the only solution for God is a mercy killing.  They are telestial beings at best, sons of perdition at worst.  They love evil and contention. They thirst for the blood of their enemies.  The Nephites have a love/hate relationship with Mormon.  They see him as their only hope for rescue from the Lamanites, and yet will not give heed to him.  Here are some of the things Mormon says concerning the Nephites of his day:

“The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea” (Mormon 1:7).

It seems the destructions occur only after the people have populated the land.  Today, we see over-crowding into cities causing a rise in gangs. Over-population can cause famine and poverty.  In this time, Nephites and Lamanites would seek to extend their kingdoms in hopes of dealing with the struggles just mentioned.  So, we have a premise for beginning war.

But wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people.  And there were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief” (Mormon 1:13-14).

Imagine the world without prophets, miracles, or gifts of the Spirit.  Imagine a world without faith, hope and charity.  Here is the situation Mormon finds himself.

 And these Gadianton robbers, who were among the Lamanites, did infest the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof began to hide up their treasures in the earth; and they became slippery, because the Lord had cursed the land, that they could not hold them, nor retain them again. And it came to pass that there were sorceries, and witchcrafts, and magics; and the power of the evil one was wrought upon all the face of the land, even unto the fulfilling of all the words of Abinadi, and also Samuel the Lamanite” (Mormon 1:18-19).

Signs leading to destruction include Gadianton robbers or gangs infesting the land.  Today, there are over 100,000 gang members in Chicago alone.  People turn to witchcraft and magic, because they do not have the gifts of the Spirit.  The Spirit of Satan (as opposed to the Holy Ghost) displays his power in the land.

“But behold, the land was filled with robbers and with Lamanites; and notwithstanding the great destruction which hung over my people, they did not repent of their evil doings; therefore there was blood and carnage spread throughout all the face of the land, both on the part of the Nephites and also on the part of the Lamanites; and it was one complete revolution throughout all the face of the land” (Mormon 2:8).

The people refuse to repent. They no longer are capable of repenting.  Repenting would require them to trust in God, rather than on their swords.  And yet, their swords and other treasure is slippery.  They cannot trust one another, nor can they trust God to deliver them.  In rejecting God and his power to save and order things, they rely on the power of Satan.  Revolution, or chaos, runs rampant.  As I’ve written elsewhere, God seeks to give order to the earth and all things.  The Creation is all about God creating order from chaos: light from darkness, earth from the chaotic waters, life from no existence, etc.  In the Nephite Millennium, we see God’s order hold sway. Now it has collapsed and completely replaced by Satan’s chaos.  Order leads to more life.  Chaos leads to destruction.  Or, in scientific terms, chaos leads to entropy.

… their sorrowing was not unto repentance, because of the goodness of God; but it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin.  And they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits, but they did curse God, and wish to die. Nevertheless they would struggle with the sword for their lives.  And it came to pass that my sorrow did return unto me again, and I saw that the day of grace was passed with them, both temporally and spiritually; for I saw thousands of them hewn down in open rebellion against their God, and heaped up as dung upon the face of the land. And thus three hundred and forty and four years had passed away” (Mormon 2:13-15).

They experienced misery and sorrow.  But they had no recourse for their misery.  Unlike the rebellious Alma, who suffered for three days in intense and exquisite pain, but then found peace and joy in repentance (Alma 36), these Nephites refused to believe and repent.  Instead of believing and repenting, they chose to “curse God, and wish to die.”  When Mormon states that “the day of grace was passed with them”, we must wonder if they are so far beyond the Spirit that Christ’s atonement can no longer reach any of them.  Perhaps in the Spirit World, some may believe and repent, but it seems that many would likely refuse Christ there, as well.  To be in “open rebellion against their God” suggests that they had a true and perfect knowledge of Christ – after all they just concluded centuries of perfect peace with Christ dwelling among them occasionally.  If they had such a witness, but then chose Satan – many joining the Gadianton robbers or just choosing to be as bad as the Gadianton robbers, suggests that they were “subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal [them] his”.

We can only anticipate that at the end of the final Millennium, when Satan is loosed for a season and many choose to follow the devil in that final act of open rebellion, those will also become sons of perdition.

And now, because of this great thing  (beating the Lamanites) which my people, the Nephites, had done, they began to boast in their own strength, and began to swear before the heavens that they would avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren who had been slain by their enemies. And they did swear by the heavens, and also by the throne of God, that they would go up to battle against their enemies, and would cut them off from the face of the land.  And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination…. And when they had sworn by all that had been forbidden them by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that they would go up unto their enemies to battle, and avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren, behold the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying:  Vengeance is mine, and I will repay; and because this people repented not after I had delivered them, behold, they shall be cut off from the face of the earth”  (Mormon 3:9-15).

Instead of thanking God for their victories, they boasted in themselves.  Worse, instead of being on the defense, they chose to begin an offensive war of revenge.  You’ll note they still believe in God, as they swear by God’s throne and the heavens.  Yet, they want God to work on their terms.  They sought to destroy the Lamanites completely.  Mormon recognized that this evil desire would become the beginning of the end for the Nephites, and refused for a time to be their leader.

Because the Nephites attacked the Lamanites in seeking revenge and to destroy them, Mormon explains,

“But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed” (Mormon 4:5).

When war comes, it is always the wicked who start it.  They stir men’s hearts to bloodshed, rather than into defending themselves.  They seek to inflict the world and the innocent with the chaos of war.  In doing so, hearts are hardened, people lose faith, the wicked destroyed and the innocent suffer.

And it is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites; and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually.  And there never had been so great wickedness among all the children of Lehi, nor even among all the house of Israel, according to the words of the Lord, as was among this people” (Mormon 4:11-12).

Mormon’s pleas are useless.  They will not listen:

“Behold, I am laboring with them continually; and when I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it; wherefore, I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them.  For so exceedingly do they anger that it seemeth me that they have no fear of death; and they have lost their love, one towards another; and they thirst after blood and revenge continually” (Moroni 9:4-5).

Idolatry, Torture and Cannibalism

Mormon then gives us a glimpse of some of the worse violence provided:

“…they (The Lamanites) did also march forward against the city Teancum, and did drive the inhabitants forth out of her, and did take many prisoners both women and children, and did offer them up as sacrifices unto their idol gods” (Mormon 4:14).

Women and children are the victims.  Men are as sons of perdition, as they love only evil things.  They are like Cain:

“And Cain loved Satan more than God….  And Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan, and he gloried in his wickedness.  And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him. And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands” (Moses 5:18; 31-33).

The Solution for all times, places and people

Mormon tells us there is a solution.  In fact, there is only one solution.  There is a way to avoid the great destructions and violence that inflicts our world even today. 

“…that they may be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; that the Father may bring about, through his most Beloved, his great and eternal purpose, in restoring the Jews, or all the house of Israel, to the land of their inheritance, which the Lord their God hath given them, unto the fulfilling of his covenant;  And also that the seed of this people may more fully believe his gospel, which shall go forth unto them from the Gentiles….” (Mormon 5:14-15).



Sunday, October 18, 2020

Book Review: Miracles Among the Rubble, by Carol R. Gray

 Book Review: Miracles Among the Rubble - Bringing Convoys of Humanitarian Aid, Hugs, and Hope to a War-torn Region, by Carol R. Gray

Miracles Among the Rubble: Bringing Convoys of Humanitarian Aid, Hugs, and Hope to a War-torn Region

This is very different from many of the recent book reviews I've done. Most of the books I review tend towards gospel teachings or the scriptures. In this book, published by Greg Kofford Books, we get an entirely new experience. It is a semi-autobiographical look at some of Carol's experiences leading convoys of humanitarian aid to the devastated areas of Bosnia and Croatia, during the civil war with the Serbs.

The book is divided into 26 short chapters, each describing a trip to Bosnia, bringing truckloads of food, medical supplies, clean water, and other needed assistance to the region. The chapters share the heartbreak of war and the hope that is renewed by Carol and her crew of volunteers, as they travel from England, across Europe, and to the dangerous regions.

However, the book starts unexpectedly with an unrelated, but key, event in Carol's life. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 29. She was only to have weeks left to live. It helped her to focus on the most important things, such as family. Six years later, as a Relief Society president in England, she became focused on the Balkan war. The Spirit whispered to her to help, so she found a charity that would transport items to Bosnia that she could obtain, by rallying Latter-day Saint members from her region. As the day approached to hand the supplies over to the Charity organization, they rescinded their offer of transporting the donations.

Distraught over this news, she prayed as to what to do next. The Spirit gave her the inspiration to obtain some trucks and volunteers and drive the supplies to Bosnia herself. That first trip turned into over 40 trips over several years, often bringing a dozen or more large trucks of aid to areas close to the front lines of the war.

Her first trip was taken with her college age daughter, Samantha, who eagerly agreed to go with her mother. As some of the truck drivers were happy to drop off their supplies at the border, Carol sensed she needed to go further into the country, where the most destitute would be found, and ensuring the items got into the hands of the needy, rather being placed on the black market.

In the chapters, she describes various people she met, dangers in traveling due to hidden landmines, shelling and machine gun fire. On more than one occasion, she found herself driving over makeshift bridges, put together with tires, oil barrels and planks of wood. All of her chapters end with a spiritual message of a truth she and others learned on the trips.

For example, for one trip, she was asked to bring toiletries and cleaning supplies. It was for a new village that was quickly built for about 100 women and their children. Carol was surprised to find that the women and children had been freed from the Serbian rape camps. The women and children feared men, and so the men on the convoy initially stood apart, until the Bosnian women personally welcomed them into their village.

On another trip, a Bosnian friend of Carol had opened her home on the Dalmatian Coast to the injured. Carol's friend worked tirelessly, comforting the wounded soldiers and civilians who found their way to her house. Carol could not imagine how a beautiful place as this, could be so uprooted by violence. It showed her that people in dire situations can make a huge difference for others.

Even those driving in the convoys  were often changed by the experience. Carol notes a man named Fred, who was an alcoholic and close to losing his family and work. He begged to drive with her. The experience changed him greatly, as he hugged and comforted children and others, who really needed a shoulder to cry on. After the trip, he had sworn off drinking and returned to his family and work.

Another gentleman, who was in the military and was very stern and strict, told her that he was not a hugger. However, over the two week trip, his heart softened. As they pulled into their first Bosnian village, he jumped from the truck and began hugging the people. 

She also shares how triumph can come from tragedy. In one place, she heard a child screaming. As she went to check it out, she found that the child's leg was being amputated, the child having stepped on a landmine. The surgery was being performed without anesthesia, as there was none available. This shook Carol. She thought and dreamed about it all the way back to England. Once there, she prepared a convoy of medical equipment needed in Bosnia.  

Each time a special item was required, the Lord provided it to her, often just in the nick of time. She describes the doors that opened for her, as she saw a new need appear. Her list of miracles in the book is quite impressive, even though they obviously do not begin to number all the miracles that occurred in the lives of the drivers, the medical personnel, and especially, the people of Bosnia.

Carol finally succumbed to cancer in 2010, and the book was lovingly finished by her daughter, Samantha.

After reading this book, I stopped to reflect on the service I have given. Was it enough? Was I willing to enter into dangerous places, in order to serve those most in need? Was I willing to give up some of my creature comforts and idle time to make a difference in the lives of others?

It brought me pause. 

I highly recommend this book. It will make you uncomfortable, as it did for me. Yet, it will also enrich you, seeing that one person can make a big difference in bringing Christ-like love and service to others that perhaps live far away and are currently strangers. It doesn't require us to enter war-torn nations to experience such things as Carol writes in her book. It can be those affected by wildfires, hurricanes, floods, poverty, or hatred. But this book becomes a wonderful eye-opener to the possibilities of what each of us could do to bring down a little heaven on earth to those in true need.


Available at:

Greg Kofford Books


Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 27-4 Nephi

Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 27-4 Nephi


The Things of God, Man and the Devil
3 Nephi 27

The twelve disciples fasted and prayed, wishing to know what the Church should be called.  Obviously, there was contention on the matter among the members of the Church, and perhaps even among the Twelve.  Sadly, this occurred even after Jesus commanded them not to contend when he first visited in 3 Nephi 11. The Lord reappeared, telling them to stop their disputing.  He explained that if a church is named after Moses or someone else, then it belongs to that person.  Therefore,

“…if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel” (3 Ne 27:8).

This might seem like a no brainer issue, but something similar happened in Paul’s day (1 Corinthians 3).  Even in the early days of the Church, it changed its name from “The Church of Christ” to “The Church of Latter-day Saints” and finally to “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”, but only after the Lord commanded it.

“For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (D&C 115:4). 

Because of the name change away from the Church of Christ in the 1830s, there were some members in Kirtland Ohio that felt the Church had strayed from its roots and believed Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet.  This is how important a name can be, anciently and today. There is purpose in our modern prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, calling us to use the full name of the Church of Jesus Christ, and not to call ourselves Mormons. While Mormon rolls easier off the tongue, it isn't descriptive of what our Church really is all about. Nonmembers often are surprised to find we are Christian, because they only know us by the nickname. It is imperative that we pronounce firmly and decisively that we are not followers of Mormon, but are the disciples of Jesus Christ, seeking to be saints in these last days before the Second Coming of Christ in glory.

But just because a church calls itself after Christ’s name, does not mean it is his Church. It must also be “built upon my (Jesus’) gospel.”  To the extent that a church strays from that directive, it is less and less the Lord’s church.  A Church built upon the gospel will show forth the Father’s works.

if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return. For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you” (3 Ne 27:11-12).

Here, the Lord gives us an insight on not only the churches that are in the world, but all organizations and things found on earth.  All things are founded upon the Lord’s gospel, man’s gospel, or Satan’s gospel.  Of the three, only the Lord’s gospel promises eternal joy and peace.  The other two are temporary, and one may find “joy” {perhaps “pleasure” is a better word} in those things. But eventually the things of man corrode and fall apart, while the works of Satan will all end tragically.

How do we determine the things of man?  A simple illustration might help us see this.  Many eons ago, my youngest son asked me to buy him the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle game for his Nintendo system.  He told me that it would make him the happiest person on earth.  So, for his birthday, I purchased it for him. Indeed, he seemed like the happiest kid in the world when he unwrapped it.  For days he played the game, almost without stop.  After a couple weeks, I noticed he wasn’t playing it. I asked him why he wasn’t.  He responded that he now had beaten the game several times and was bored with it.  No longer did I see the face of the happiest kid in the world, but someone who needed his next “fix.”  In a world of avarice and greed, this is now ubiquitous. Today, we find people looking for happiness in the things they buy or rent, the number of vacations they have, the number of kills on their current video game, the nice restaurants they frequent, the size of their house and SUV. Yet, even though most Americans are wealthier now than when my son was 8 years old, they are more miserable than ever. Pleasure does not equal lasting joy.

Meanwhile the scriptures explain to us that the things of God fill us with the Holy Spirit, which brings us joy and peace.  King Benjamin insisted that happiness only comes from turning to Christ and His gospel, believing and repenting, then receiving the ordinances and the Holy Ghost as a constant companion (Mosiah 2-5).  A person who continually walks with the Spirit never becomes bored with spiritual experiences, even though they may come in very simple packaging and little fanfare or marketing.

Meanwhile, the things of Satan addict people to evil.  Whether it is sexual perversion, violence, greed, or any other immoral practice, does not matter. Satan gives the person big sensations to experience.  Such feelings are often addictive, which is why people become addicted to sex, drugs, violence, and a variety of other things.  Once ensnared, Satan no longer has a need to support the person, and allows the person’s world to collapse. Satan is miserable and seeks to make the rest of us miserable with him (2 Nephi 2).

It is possible that some churches work under the power of God, or partially under his blessing.  It may be that others work under the doctrine of man’s gospel – not evil, but not virtuous, either.  Then there are some practices and beliefs that are totally wicked.  Here are the three choices set before most of us: Telestial, Terrestrial or Celestial life.

I am lifted up

Jesus continues by explaining, 

“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.   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” (3 Ne 27:15-17).

All men will return back into the presence of God, to be judged of their works.  There are two parts of this judgment: those who repent and are baptized, and those who endure to the end.  The first part notes the Justification of Christ’s atonement.  Those who believe and repent (symbolized by baptism) are made guiltless, or sinless.  They are saved from Outer Darkness and spiritual death.  Meanwhile, those who also seek to endure to the end, keeping the commandments and being righteous, are Sanctified by Christ’s atonement and the Holy Ghost.  As a person seeks to grow in righteousness, they receive a greater portion of the Holy Ghost, making the person more holy and sanctified than before.

For those who do not believe, repent, nor endure to the end, there is only one place for them: Outer Darkness.  Because we have this life and the Spirit World, we have time to be justified and rescued from eternal hell fire.  However, the longer we wait, the less time we will have to become sanctified to a higher level of heaven than just the Telestial.  So, it is important not to waste our probationary period here on earth.  These teachings are made clearer by Jesus:

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end (Justification)  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 (Sanctification)” (3 Ne 27:19-20).

Jesus then explains we are judged from the books.  The apostle John noted that the Book of Life AND the books of works were brought forth in the final judgment.  Those who have been Justified are found in the Book of Life.  Those not found in the Book of Life are cast out into Outer Darkness.  For those who are in the Book of Life, they are then judged according to the books of works, to determine how holy and sanctified the individual has become (Revelation 20:12-15).

Transfiguration and Translation
3 Nephi 28

The Twelve desired a gift.  Nine of them wanted to live to old age, and then be received into heaven. They were granted this blessing.  However, three of the group wished to dwell upon the earth until the last day. 

Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven.  And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father.  And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand: (3 Ne 28:7-9).

Here we learn some important concepts of Translation:
1.       They do not “taste of death.”    It means they will not experience death.  They shall die and be reborn in a twinkling of an eye, so quick there is not time to experience what death is.
2.       They will live in a translated state until God accomplishes all of his work and Christ comes in glory at his Second Coming.
3.       Satan has no power over them.
4.       They do not endure normal pain, but will experience the pains and sorrows of the world.  Experiencing sorrow for the sins of the world seems to suggest they somehow experience, at least in part, the sorrow and pain Jesus felt in taking upon himself the sins of the world.

We are told that the translation experience required they be transfigured or changed from a mortal to an immortal body.  Transfiguration is normally expressed in temporary events, such as when Moses or Joseph Smith saw God.  They both returned to their mortal state, but weakened from the experience.  For those who are translated, the transfiguration is a permanent transformation, making them holy and sanctified both spirit and body.  Though not resurrected, they are in between the resurrected and mortal states.

For these three, this was an ascension event.  They likely were brought up to the throne of God where the change from mortal to immortal was made.  It is actually an event that is anticipated in the LDS endowment, when the members are asked to put the temple robes on top of their normal white clothing.  This change from mortal appearance to immortal appearance, or to a transfigured or translated or resurrected state, is important to recognize.

Mormon speaks to us of the forthcoming Book of Mormon
3 Nephi 29-30

Mormon returns to share his thoughts with us.  He focuses on the works of his hands, the abridgment of the large plates of Nephi.  He explains briefly the main and key events and teachings therein.  The Lord lives and all which his prophets have foretold will come to pass.  When the Book of Mormon comes forth, then Israel would no longer be spurned by God.  Since its publication in 1830, we see that the Jews are returning to Israel. They again have their own nation.  Hundreds of thousands of Lamanites (both direct DNA and cultural descendants) have read the Book of Mormon and know that they are of the House of Israel.

Can you imagine how that sounded at the time Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery translated Mormon’s words?  Only a handful of people believed in the work they were doing.  No one but Joseph saw the metal plates until the Three Witnesses. The early Saints were persecuted and driven from place to place, and still there is this prophecy in the book itself stating that its words would come to the House of Israel, and help prepare them for the Second Coming!

And ye may know that the words of the Lord, which have been spoken by the holy prophets, shall all be fulfilled; and ye need not say that the Lord delays his coming unto the children of Israel. And ye need not imagine in your hearts that the words which have been spoken are vain, for behold, the Lord will remember his covenant which he hath made unto his people of the house of Israel.  And when ye shall see these sayings coming forth among you, then ye need not any longer spurn at the doings of the Lord, for the sword of his justice is in his right hand; and behold, at that day, if ye shall spurn at his doings he will cause that it shall soon overtake you” (3 Ne 29:2-4).

With the coming of the Book of Mormon, God is beginning to fulfill his work and covenant with Israel.  What a bold statement to make, if this book were made by a fraud.  Instead, we see it coming true.

One thing Mormon does warn Israel and Gentile alike: do not take lightly the revelations and miracles of God.

Yea, wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost!  Yea, and wo unto him that shall say at that day, to get gain, that there can be no miracle wrought by Jesus Christ; for he that doeth this shall become like unto the son of perdition, for whom there was no mercy, according to the word of Christ!” (3 Ne 29:6-7).

In chapter 30, Mormon briefly calls upon the Gentiles to repent.  They must become a part of spiritual Israel, or be destroyed at his Second Coming.  The path is as described many times in the Book of Mormon: faith in Christ, repentance, baptism for remission of sins, and receiving the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

Fourth Nephi – the Nephite Millennial Zion

In Fourth Nephi, we begin by seeing the results of the great destruction among the Nephites, followed by the coming of the resurrected Lord, and finally through the teaching of the Twelve.  People throughout the lands of the Nephites and Lamanites repent.  They have a “Millennium” of more than 200 years, before things begin to break down.

What constitutes the key factors behind this Zion period?

1.       “... And as many as did come unto them, and did truly repent of their sins, were baptized in the name of Jesus; and they did also receive the Holy Ghost”
2.       “…the people were all converted unto the Lord” – not just a few. One cannot have a Zion, if some of the people are not converted, truly converted, to the Lord.
3.       “…there were no contentions and disputations among them” – note they had contentions over baptism and the name of the Church, which Jesus had to settle for them.  Now, there were no contentions. Satan had no power over this people.
4.       “…every man did deal justly one with another.”   There were no Gadianton robbers seeking to get gain or advantage over another.  All were honest in their dealings with their fellow man.
5.       “And they had all things common among them….”  Note, this does not say whether the material goods were taken by government via taxes and redistributed.  More likely, they distributed to the poor via the Twelve disciples or an organization set up by them to manage it (local teachers and priests?).
6.       “…they were all made free….”  There were neither slaves nor servants among them. Remember, much of Nephite history deals with one form of slavery or another:  Lamanites seeking to enslave Nephites, Zoramites enslaving their poor, Gadiantons enslaving those who would not join them.
7.      "...There were no more -Ites..." People were not judged by class, race, culture, or nationality. Instead of looking at each other's differences, they were united by the things they had in common, most of all their faith in Christ. Today, we are so very far from this concept. We seek to divide ourselves, in order to make ourselves special and different from others. We declare our gender, our sexuality, our culture, our race, our wealth, our nationality. What Jesus wants from us is to recognize that each of us is a special and loved daughter or son of Heavenly Parents, and Jesus is our salvation.
8.  They were all “partakers of the heavenly gift”.  This is a phrase that we could spend lots of pages writing about.  The heavenly gift?  Is it the Holy Ghost?  The 2nd Comforter?  Perhaps.  But I think it more suggests the concept of Zion as a model of heaven.  Enoch’s Zion was made perfect, the whole people were translated (like the 3 Nephites just mentioned above), and Zion was lifted up and taken to heaven.  It was made into a Celestial temple.  Now, the Nephites had their own Celestial temple here on earth.  The heavenly gift is to dwell in unity among a Zion people, who have all things in common – material and spiritual things, who are all converted to Christ, and who are ready to become one with the Godhead. We discussed in the last lesson about us becoming part of the Divine Council of God, united and One, even as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are One. If we wish to partake of the heavenly gift, we must make ourselves ready to receive it.

And so we see that Christ’s teachings have led us to this point, where we find the people, no longer Nephites and Lamanites, but the people of Christ, living as the pure in heart in a perfect society of love, harmony and peace. They are as the Divine Council of seraphim in heaven (Isaiah 6), who are all agreed and focus on the things of God. They are of one heart and one mind.

Sadly, it only lasts a few centuries.  Then greed, contention and worldly desires set in.  The people quickly devolve from the finest in the world to the worst the world has ever known.  Once a people have been so enlightened by truth and witnessed Christ as they did, they can never again put the genie back into the bottle and be regular people.  There is only one direction, and that is straight down, as if they got too close to the edge of heaven, slipped, and fell straight to hell.

Herein we see a prophecy of the world today.  A people are led by God to discover the promised land. They prosper when they follow God, and suffer when they disobey their covenant with him.  They eventually come to a great destruction, followed by the Coming of Christ and a Millennial reign.  Afterward, Satan is loosed for a season, wherein the demons will gather those sons of perdition to his side.  All of this leads to a grand and ultimate fight at the end of the world, with the wicked destroyed, and the world is prepared for a new, reborn, people: a Celestial people living on a now Celestial earth.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 20-25


  Come Follow Me: 3 Nephi 20-25
The Sacrament again
3 Nephi 20

Jesus provides the bread and wine to the Nephites.  He administers to his twelve apostles, who then administered to the twelve groups of Nephites.  As noted in previous lessons, while baptism sometimes seems like an individual ordinance and covenant, we see in the renewal of those covenants via the Sacrament that it is a communal experience.  The people renew their covenants as a group.  This is part and parcel of Christ’s desire to make them one people, by having them covenant together as one.
Note that in this instance, Jesus blessed and gave the Sacrament to his Twelve, who were then commanded to bless the Sacrament and give it to the people. Here, Jesus is showing His Order. He does all things through his servants that is possible. While we seek God individually through prayer, study and meditation, there is a communal component to salvation that requires us to go through the proper chain that Christ has set forth.  
We can get close to Christ and be saved on an individual basis, but we cannot be exalted alone.  For example, Alma the Younger was able to escape hell by personally praying to the Lord for rescue, but when he saw the light, he saw Lehi with God and the Divine Council from a distance. Alma wished to be with them. This part required becoming part of the community, the divine council. To become part of the Community of God, one must become one with others in a communal covenant. This communal covenant is represented by the Sacrament, and shows that it is through Christ's flesh and blood AND through priesthood power (the Twelve, in this case) administering ordinances that we become one covenant people.

Jesus teaches of Isaiah

Afterwards, Jesus commands the people to study the words of Isaiah, especially in regards to the Lord’s promises with Israel (as we read in 3 Ne 16:18-20).

“…when they (Isaiah’s words) shall be fulfilled then is the fulfilling of the covenant which the Father hath made unto his people, O house of Israel” (3 Ne 20:12).

Isaiah foresaw the coming of the gospel to the Gentiles, their later apostasy. Now the Lord would return the covenant to the house of Israel and the few humble Gentiles that continue to believe.  The final gathering of Israel will occur at that time.  Currently, we are primarily involved in the spiritual gathering of Israel.  In the last times, we will see the physical gathering of Israel.  They will come to know their Lord and follow him.

As for the Gentiles, if they reject God and work against Israel, the Lord tells the Nephites:

Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver….And it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles….And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people (Israel); yea, even I will be in the midst of you.” (3 Ne 20:16-22).

Israel (whether the Jews or the descendants of the house of Joseph, etc.) will have the covenant with God.  He will make them powerful and lead them to victory.  Only those Gentiles who humble themselves and repent shall avoid the destructions of the last days.

Again, Jesus references the covenant with Abraham.  This covenant is all about the people as a group, and not an individual.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob symbolize the Godhead, and Israel are their children, invited to be the Divine Council.  When Israel learns to be one as a covenant people, they become holy and God can dwell in their midst.  In conjunction with the Abrahamic covenant, the Lord quotes Isaiah to place a well known quote into the context of the covenant people:

And then shall they say: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings unto them, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings unto them of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!” (3 Ne 20:40, Isa 52:7).

This is how the Divine Council will acclaim God's glory in these days and in the last days. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah was transported to the Celestial Temple, where he saw the chief angels (seraphim) surrounding the throne of God, praising Him and his works. After being cleansed, Isaiah joins the Divine Council and takes active part in bringing to pass God's plan. 3 Nephi 20:40 is a hymn or psalm from the Divine Council to their Lord Jesus Christ, and if we are true, we will also be invited to join that council someday.

Depart from Babylon

“And then shall a cry go forth: Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch not that which is unclean; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (3 Ne 20:41).

Here we see two concepts: leaving Babylon behind (both physically and spiritually).  Babylon represents the evils and sins of the world.  The Gentiles will forsake God in exchange for the wealth and prestige of Babylon.  They will spiritually decay and canker.

The “vessels of the Lord” represents the holy items connected to the Temple or Tabernacle (Ark of the Covenant, table of shewbread, Mercy Seat, Menorah, etc).  When the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, they took with them a portable temple, the Tabernacle of Moses.  The priests and Levites were the only ones allowed to carry the sacred items from one site to another.  Once reestablished, the priests were to offer sacrifice and perform other important ordinances within the holy sanctuary.  Whether carrying incense burners or the Ark of the Covenant, the priesthood holders were expected to be clean or holy.  When one priest offered strange fire to the Lord, he was destroyed.  As the Ark of the Covenant was being carried and tipped a little, a Levite tried to steady the ark. Since he was not allowed to touch it, he was not clean nor allowed to be near the ark.  The Lord destroyed him, as well. 

That these comments are tied to the Sacrament helps us to know just how sacred the bread and cup are. We are to be holy, as if we were to take upon ourselves the Ark of the Covenant, or to stand within the Holy of Holies in front of God's Mercy Seat between the two cherubim.

There are many Gentiles among us today who seek to steady the ark, even though they have not the authority.  Many heavily criticize the doctrines and teachings, the Brethren and other leaders, whom the critics see as weak or foolish.  These doctrines and leaders are not required to be perfect.  They are expected to be clean.  In humbly seeking to be holy, the Lord sanctifies them.  Meanwhile those who offer strange fire or steady the ark will find that the Lord will destroy them someday, if they do not humble themselves and repent. Our responsibility is not to divide the people of God, but to join ourselves to them, even if we have differences. We are to join our strengths to the people of God in humility, following his servants who are authorized of God, knowing that God will work out the imperfections over time.

The Gentiles and Israel
3 Nephi 21

“ behooveth the Father that it should come forth from the Gentiles, that he may show forth his power unto the Gentiles, for this cause that the Gentiles, if they will not harden their hearts, that they may repent and come unto me and be baptized in my name and know of the true points of my doctrine, that they may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel;
And when these things come to pass that thy seed shall begin to know these things—it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel” (3 Ne 21:6-7).

The Lord gives the sign of the last days to Israel.  The Gentiles will receive the writings of the Nephites and deliver them to the lost tribes of Israel.  At that time, the fulfilling of the covenant with Israel shall commence.  When the Gentiles, by and large, reject the gospel truths they once embraced, then the house of Israel will be restored completely to the covenant.  Those Gentiles who humble themselves will become a part of the house of Israel.  This includes most of the members of European, Asian, and African heritage.
Finally, the Lord will do away with Babylon.  It will be destroyed.  Anyone involved with the enticements of Babylon risk being destroyed.  

In this last day, Jesus states that the “work of the Father shall commence.”  It is a work that is tied directly with the believers and followers, those of the spiritual and physical house of Israel. They shall learn, as a people, to call upon the Father in Jesus’ name.  This work is one of spiritually converting and physically gathering Israel to the promised lands: Jerusalem and Zion.  It is to make us one people, a Divine Council. The righteous will not have to leave in haste, as Lot had to escape Sodom.  But they will gather under the power of God in Zion and her stakes, as well as the Jews in Jerusalem.  This will be the refuge for the righteous. They will learn to be united, or they will not be Zion. Once united as a people, they then can be accepted by Christ as His people, and welcomed into the holy councils of God.

3 Nephi 23
Jesus again encourages the people to study the words of Isaiah. In the Book of Mormon we've been encouraged many times to study Isaiah. Nephi and Jacob quote him. Abinadi explains Isaiah's teachings on the Suffering Servant, and whose feet are blessed on the mountains for publishing peace. Yet, so many of us are leery to study Isaiah, because his prose and teachings seem so complex and confusing. We are as first graders given the challenge to learn algebra. The secret is not to give up, but to improve our focus. Seek the guidance of mentors, tutors, teachers, and experts. Little by little, we gain a greater grasp of what Isaiah teaches, until we are no longer first graders, but have become experts ourselves in spiritual algebra.

Jesus then peruses the records. Clearly, writings are of utmost importance. What records are we preparing and saving for future generations? Perhaps a refocus on writing occasionally in our journal, or blogging about key important spiritual issues, teachings and events (as I do with my blog here) is needed.

Note that Jesus finds that the teachings of Samuel the Lamanite are missing from the record. I gain two insights from this. First, what is missing from my own records that I need to write down and share? Is it time to write my life's spiritual history? What needs to be included in it and not left out?

Second, the Nephites did not include an important set of prophecies in their writings. Why? Did they presume the Lamanites would maintain their own records? Were they a bit prejudiced against Lamanites preaching to Nephites? While we do not have the answer, the question is important and can help us to consider those we exclude in our own lives.

3 Nephi 24-25

Malachi's prophesies regarding the Coming of Christ are the only ones found in all four books of Latter-day Saint scripture. In this instance, Jesus is already with the Nephites. He has come suddenly to his temple in Bountiful. Now he casts their minds to the future, when the final fulfillment of this prophesy will come to pass. There will be a great Coming of Christ to all the world, and it will be similar to His Coming in glory to the Nephites. It will be preceded by great destruction. Isaiah notes that the Sun and Moon will be darkened (Isa 13:10).  

We have seen some of this prophecy come to pass. Jewish tradition for Passover is to set aside a chair at the Seder (sacred dinner) for Elijah. A child is sent to the front door to check if he has arrived.  For Latter-day Saints, Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple during Passover (D&C 110). He gave them the power to turn the hearts of the fathers and children to one another, so that the earth would not be wasted at Christ's coming.  That power includes the sealing powers that united families and friends together for eternity in the Temples of God. This is God's work to create a united Zion people, a Divine Council, an eternal family all sealed to God through Christ.
As of this writing, there are 168 temples throughout the world. Twenty more will have ground breaking ceremonies in 2020. Others are in construction phases or recently announced. Brigham Young once foresaw that there would be hundreds of temples during the Millennium, with the work of God feverishly being done day and night, to offer up the ordinances of exaltation to any living or  deceased person willing to receive them. This is the work that is turning the hearts of the fathers to their children, as their children bring saving ordinances to their deceased ancestors. It is no wonder that during this time of Corona Virus quarantine, we are still encouraged to seek out our ancestors through genealogical research, and prepare them for the day when they also can have their ordinances performed vicariously, once the temples fully reopen again.

Meanwhile, we reach towards our children through home church, supported by programs and Sacrament meetings held in our chapels. 

We are building a Zion people on both sides of the veil. We are preparing a covenant people, ready to be One in Christ, a Divine Council.