Saturday, November 28, 2020

Come Follow Me: Moroni 1-6

 Come Follow Me: Moroni 1-6


Having wandered for almost 40 years, 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. We can imagine that along his long journey he stopped to dedicate a future temple in what is now Manti, Utah. He would have stopped to make more plates to write upon, as previously he said he was running out of space. Perhaps he stayed with friendly Native Americans in what is now modern United States. Is it possible that in his journeys, he converted Zelph, who would become a Lamanite prophet, according to Joseph Smith?

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, without 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.
The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. It is he who introduces us to the Father and the Son. He testifies of them, and prepares us to receive the 2nd Comforter, even Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Ghost who prepares us to commune and become one with the Godhead.


In chapter three, we see how ordination of priests and teachers occurred. These were not priests and teachers as we know them now: i.e., 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. We learn more about the foreordination of priesthood authority in Alma 13. Those who showed forth exceeding faith in the premortal existence were foreordained to the priesthood. All are called to receive it, but only those who are faithful and believing fully receive the authority and power that God shares with mankind.

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.  It is a renewal of covenants and ordinances (foreordinations) received in the premortal existence. 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 salvation is a personal experience, eternal family and exaltation are communal experiences.

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.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Come Follow Me: Ether 12-15

 Come Follow Me: Ether 12-15

 Ether 12 - On Faith in Jesus Christ

In the days of the last Jaredite king, Coriantumr, we find Ether is the prophet. In just the first few verses, we see just how dedicated he is to his holy calling:

"Ether was a prophet of the Lord; wherefore Ether came forth in the days of Coriantumr, and began to prophesy unto the people, for he could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him.

"For he did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun, exhorting the people to believe in God unto repentance lest they should be destroyed, saying unto them that by faith all things are fulfilled." (Ether 12:2-3)

Moroni begins his discourse on faith by telling us about Ether. Here, we see some important points regarding faith in Christ.  In reviewing them, we find:

First, he "could not be restrained because of the Spirit." Other prophets have experienced such a power, such as Nephi and Abinadi. However, what seemed to be an occasional power for others seems to have been a continual and daily event for Ether. It may be due to the greater danger Ether found himself in, still it shows that God's power can give great and constant power when the need arises.

Second, Ether "did cry from the morning, even until the going down of the sun," showing his diligence in doing the Lord's command. God could give Ether great power, because Ether didn't waiver in his faith nor in his efforts. Ether knew that great destruction would come upon the people, and there was only one thing that could save them temporally and spiritually.  Declaring repentance and faith in Christ was the only solution to the pandemic of sin.

What does it mean that by "faith all things are fulfilled?" God has a plan. He works his plan through the agency of people. The plan, according to the Book of Mormon, is to bring people to the Promised Land (or into the Presence of God). In creating a new people with a new covenant, he often has to wipe the slate clean on a people that have totally rejected him and his covenant. Only through faith in Christ can the covenantal promises be fulfilled. 

Think of the many prophets in the Book of Mormon that preached to Nephites and Lamanites regarding repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. When they obeyed, the people were blessed. When they rejected Christ, calamities set in: wars, plagues, famine. Only repentance and faith in Christ can save a people from annihilation and self destruction.

It is the concept of Creation again. God creates a new people and places them in a promised land with a covenant, just as he did with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Lehi. In Creation, God takes Chaos and reforms it into Order. Through faith, God is able to create worlds, life, and everything else necessary for Order to exist and thrive. To maintain order, which includes life and civilization, sentient beings must believe in Christ, his commandments, and keep the covenant they've made with him. In sinning, people cause an increase in Chaos and Evil, reducing the Order of God. In repenting, Order is restored and the covenant remains intact.

Hope in Christ

Along with faith in Christ comes Hope in Christ. Sometimes we struggle to distinguish between the two, as they seem so interrelated.

"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)

Faith in Christ is a source of power that allows God and his disciples to create, to save, to serve and to bring order out of chaos. Hope in Christ gives us a vision of future that anchors us in the troubling presence. This is very important for Moroni, as he sees himself in Ether. Both would preach faith and repentance to their peoples. Both would see the destruction of their peoples. Both would be in hiding for years from their enemies. Both were alone. It was Hope in Christ that gave them the strength to continue on even when it seemed all was gone. Even when Moroni said farewell to his dying father, Mormon, or Ether watched as Coriantumr slew Shiz among the Jaredite corpses strewn for miles around, they both had hope in Christ. They hoped for a glorious resurrection. They hoped to be reunited with loved ones, with God, and to dwell in peace after a lifetime of watching violence and evil occurring.

Faith in Christ

As I noted above, faith is a power, even the power of God. Moroni lists many of the miraculous events that occurred because of others' faith in Christ. He discusses the great conversion work among the Lamanites and how the brother of Jared moved a mountain. This list is just a beginning of the powers which God shares with people of faith. 

Moroni speaks of the gift given to those of faith. We can be "partakers of the gift." What is the gift? In verse 10, we find that those with faith in Christ were called after the "holy order of God." It is a heavenly gift, the Priesthood after the Holy Order of the Son of God, also known as the Melchizedek Priesthood. Alma spoke about this priesthood, noting that in the premortal existence, righteous men of faith were foreordained to this priesthood (Alma 13). We find that this priesthood is the power of God, shared with mankind, so that we can learn to be like him in all things. 

With this pattern of faith in Christ, leading to priesthood ordination and a covenantal relationship with Christ, miracles happen.  Again, Moroni lists many that he's read about in the record of the Nephites that his father, Mormon, has abridged.

"And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God." (Ether 12:18)

Gentiles will Mock

Knowing the people of our day, Moroni knows that the writings in the Book of Mormon may not be powerful enough to convert the Gentiles.

"Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing;" (Ether 12:23)

Interestingly, the Lord intentionally allowed the Book of Mormon to reflect the weaknesses of Mormon, Moroni, and even Joseph Smith - who translated the plates through his own weakness. Moroni noted that the writings of the Brother of Jared were so powerful as to overwhelm the reader. That's not what God wants for the Gentiles. He can't save people, except through their own volition and repentance, based on faith in Christ. Yes, many Gentiles have mocked at the Book of Mormon. Many have mocked the Bible. Millions mock Jesus Christ. 

They turn back to the chaos. They insist on a creation without the order of God. They refuse to repent and believe. They can save themselves. They have their own morality and self determination. They can create their own Utopian society. 

Destruction always follows the wicked who will not repent. 

As God explained to Moroni:

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

"Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness." (Ether 12:27-28)

Again, it is faith in Christ and humility that bring us to repentance. It is repentance that brings the grace of Christ to us. Moroni will give a great discourse on faith, hope and charity in his own book. We'll discuss it in depth at that time.

Ether 13

We learn that Ether taught the people about the history from the Creation down to their time. Interestingly, the Jaredite and Nephite Land of Promise, or at least a portion of it thereof, had been under water at some point (during the Creation, during the great Flood, or other period), and was established by God as a Land of Promise to all who would come there with his covenant.

Ether saw that a portion of the House of Israel would replace the Jaredites as the covenant people, and that there would be a future New Jerusalem. This would be similar to the City of Enoch, which existed not long before Jared and his brother at the Tower. As mentioned in the previous lessons on the Book of Ether, Joseph Smith taught that when the City of Enoch was lifted into the air, escaping the great Flood, it was still visible in the sky in the days of the great Tower. Nimrod sought to build the tower, so he could ascend to the City of Enoch and cast God off his throne. It is this reason, according to Joseph Smith that God confounded the languages, ending the conspiracy and secret combination.

"Wherefore, the remnant of the house of Joseph shall be built upon this land; and it shall be a land of their inheritance; and they shall build up a holy city unto the Lord, like unto the Jerusalem of old; and they shall no more be confounded, until the end come when the earth shall pass away.

"And there shall be a new heaven and a new earth; and they shall be like unto the old save the old have passed away, and all things have become new.

"And then cometh the New Jerusalem; and blessed are they who dwell therein, for it is they whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who are numbered among the remnant of the seed of Joseph, who were of the house of Israel." (Ether 13:8-10)

Here we find how Moroni ties together the Jaredites with the Nephites, through the promises made to Joseph of old, and how they are then tied to us in our day. All of God's work, ever since the beginning, is tied together, as time is seen in cycles. Creation to Destruction to Creation, as new groups enter into covenant with God in a new Creation cycle. When that people rejects God, they are destroyed, in order to prepare for a new Creation. In these last days, the wicked Gentiles, those who refuse to repent and honor their covenant with God, will also be destroyed. The Gentiles, along with a weary and filthy earth, will be burned and cleansed, leaving room for a new Creation: the Millennium.

The New Jerusalem would be a holy city, similar to Enoch's. It will be a refuge from the violence and storms of the last days (D&C 45), a place where all the righteous will flee to for safety. It will be joined with the ancient Jerusalem in Israel, along with the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of Enoch, when it returns.

The Destruction of the Jaredites

Ether 14-15

We see the carnage that begins in a few places spread throughout the land. Where contention was primarily found in the opposition group for most of Jaredite civilization, we now see it everywhere. There no longer are any good people in either political party. There is no compromise. There is no compassion. Even when Coriantumr offers to give up his throne peacefully, the enemy insists on his head.

As we continue through the election of 2020, can we see just how contentious many in both major parties have become. Each insisting they have the solutions to the nation's ills, they have forgotten more important things: like forgiveness, brotherly love, and compromise. In the October 2020 General Conference, we see several of our prophetic leaders warning us about contention.

"Righteousness and unity are profoundly significant. When people love God with all their hearts and righteously strive to become like Him, there is less strife and contention in society. There is more unity" ("Hearts Knit in Righteousness," Elder Quentin L. Cook)


"For generations, Jews had been taught to hate their enemies, and they were then suffering under the domination and cruelties of Roman occupation. Yet Jesus taught them, “Love your enemies” and “do good to them that … despitefully use you.”

"What revolutionary teachings for personal and political relationships! But that is still what our Savior commands. In the Book of Mormon we read, “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another”

"....But how do we do this—especially how do we learn to love our adversaries and our enemies?The Savior’s teaching not to “contend with anger” is a good first step. The devil is the father of contention, and it is he who tempts men to contend with anger. He promotes enmity and hateful relationships among individuals and within groups....

"In a persuasive personal essay, the Reverend Theresa A. Dear of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has reminded us that “racism thrives on hatred, oppression, collusion, passivity, indifference and silence.” As citizens and as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we must do better to help root out racism." ("Love Your Enemies,"Pres Dallin H. Oaks)

"Reflecting on this (the destruction of the Nephites after 2 centuries of peace) and other examples of once flourishing societies that later foundered, I think it safe to say that when people turn from a sense of accountability to God and begin to trust instead in the “arm of flesh,” disaster lurks. Trusting in the arm of flesh is to ignore the divine Author of human rights and human dignity and to give highest priority to riches, power, and the praise of the world (while often mocking and persecuting those who follow a different standard). Meanwhile, those in sustainable societies are seeking, as King Benjamin said, to “grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created [them], or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.” ("Sustainable Societies," Elder D. Todd Christofferson)


"I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice. Today I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.

"The question for each of us, regardless of race, is the same. Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day? Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition? Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?" ("Let God Prevail," Pres M. Russell Nelson)

As an aggregate of such teachings, we can see that contention is of the devil. Those beliefs, feelings, and attitudes that divide us and keep us from viewing others as God's children and our spiritual siblings, will lead to our own demise, our own holocaust, our own final destruction. Only those who turn to Christ in faith and repentance, who humble themselves so that their weaknesses become strengths, who love their enemies, who let God prevail, will be a part of the New Jerusalem.

Without major changes in our own attitudes and faith, we risk being as the Jaredites and Nephites in their last years. We will change to where the "Spirit of the Lord ceases to strive" with us. At that point, we could still believe in Jesus, and still have our garments stained with the blood of our enemies. As it is, many Americans and others feel blood lust for those who are different than they are: political party, race, religion, etc. 

Only in and through Jesus Christ can society sustain itself. Only through faith in Christ and repentance, can we develop and maintain the covenant relationship God has made with us and our ancestors. Only through Christ can we enter into a new Creation of God's Order, escaping the Chaos and Destruction that comes with the natural man and Satan's power. Only through Christ can we build the one true Utopia: the New Jerusalem.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Come Follow Me: Ether 6-11

 Come Follow Me: Ether 6-11

The Creation Anew

"And thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness" (Ether 6:2)

With the beginning of this chapter, we see a new creation occurring. It is reminiscent of the Creation in Genesis chapter one. Everything that occurred in the Book of Ether thus far is similar to the preparations of God to create the world and the skies above. Now we have a repeat. Similarly, we find the same event occur with Noah and the ark, where ancient traditions suggest he may have had shining stone in the ark to give light.

In the barges, we find all things necessary for a new Creation: light, food (plants), animals, and everything needful for the journey. As the darkness and waters in the original Creation and in Noah's flood were chaotic, the shining stones brought order out of dark chaos, and the barges represented safety on dry ground from the chaos of the great waters.

Exactly four centuries ago this month (November 11, 1620), 102 Pilgrims and others landed on Plymouth Rock. For them, the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a tiny and cramped ship, was akin to a new Creation. As the physical and cultural descendants of Jared, Lehi, Mulek, and others are scattered upon the New World today, so 35 million descendants of the Mayflower dwell today in the Americas. With each new creation, the dangers of physical and spiritual chaos had to be overcome, in order to obtain a new Godly Order. 

We are reliving the Jaredite and Nephite stories. We are reliving the cycle of Creation and Destruction.

The shining stones also symbolize Jesus Christ, the Light and Life of the World. It is through Christ that Jared, Nephi and the Pilgrims successfully traversed land and sea, through dangers and darkness,

 "And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water."(6:10)

Ancient tradition notes that in the Creation, God had to destroy the sea monster, Rahab the sea dragon (Isaiah 51:9). This monster symbolized the Chaos of darkness and water. 

Interestingly, even as the barges sank deep into the water, we see,

And they did sing praises unto the Lord; yea, the brother of Jared did sing praises unto the Lord, and he did thank and praise the Lord all the day long; and when the night came, they did not cease to praise the Lord.

 Even in the deepest and darkest times, they gave praise. It is a key to making it through our tough times, whether dealing with sickness (Covid), poverty, war, or other dangers, we can "always remember" Jesus Christ and give thanks. 

"And they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them." (6:12)

Seems reminiscent of the Pilgrim landing in what they also viewed as a "promised land."  Again, the cycle repeats and we do well to consider the stories of the Nephites and the Jaredites as our story.

That the people desired a king suggests a few things. First, after these many years in the New World, where would the people get the concept of wanting a king? For me, it is possible that by this time they had integrated with peoples already in the New World (as had happened with the Nephites), and saw that other groups had kings. For the Brother of Jared, the desire for a king was problematic. He had seen what King Nimrod had done at the Tower of Babel, creating a mighty people that fought against God (see my previous lesson). The Brother of Jared would have them led by a prophet and have God as their king. So concerning was this problem that all of Moriancumer's sons refused to be king. Only one of Jared's four sons would agree to be king, perhaps knowing that if any other took the throne there may not be a righteous person leading the people. 

And so 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, probably around 250 BC.  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?
A friend of mine once 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 in 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 in the 1990s, 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, a Creation/Destruction 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

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), 
Prophets are Sent
"And it came to pass that Coriantor dwelt in captivity all his days. 
"And in the days of Coriantor there also came many prophets, and prophesied of great and marvelous things, and cried repentance unto the people, and except they should repent the Lord God would execute judgment against them to their utter destruction;
"And they did reject all the words of the prophets, because of their secret society and wicked abominations.
 "And it came to pass that Coriantor begat Ether, and he died, having dwelt in captivity all his days." (Ether 11:19-23)

 The final group of prophets are sent to the people, who reject them. Destruction is now at hand. In predicting the destruction, the prophets also foresee the next Creation: the arrival of the Nephites and Mulekites. As we began this lesson with a discussion on the Creation cycle, so now we will see the ending. And its witness is Ether.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Come Follow Me: Ether 1-5

 Come Follow Me: Ether 1-5

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 when Noah was drunk in his tent.  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”, because of 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 early 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:

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Come Follow Me: Mormon 7-9

 Come Follow Me: Mormon 7-9

Mormon’s words to Israel
Mormon 7

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

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

The only one who is spared that will read his words is Moroni. The only other remnant will not read the words for 1400 years, when Joseph Smith translates and publishes the Book of Mormon. Mormon then shares the most important things he can share with them.
Know ye that ye are of the house of Israel.”

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

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

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

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

Why does Mormon focus on war, and not on sexual depravity, cannibalism, denying the Holy Ghost, or other heinous sins occurring in his day? To remain clean, we must “renounce war and proclaim peace” (D&C 98:16).  We cannot delight in killing and warfare, especially wars of revenge. Instead, we must learn to seek peace. “And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (3 Ne 12:9).  To bury one’s weapons of war brings us directly back to the words of the Lamanite king to the converted Lamanites.  They had to bury “their weapons of war, for peace” (Alma 24:19) and did so “because of their love towards their brethren” (Alma 26:32).  One cannot embrace violence and love at the same time.  Contention is of the devil (3 Nephi 11:29) and is the beginning of such hatred and revenge as we’ve seen destroy the Nephites.
Such a command from Mormon is very important in 2020, when the United States deals in endless warfare and contention abounds in government and in many cities across the nation. In fact, some glorify in the chaos and strife they create. It is time to repent and renounce the shedding of blood.

Mormon testifies of Christ

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

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

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

The resurrection brings all mankind back into the presence of God, as we will see further on in chapter 9. All will stand before God and be judged. No one wlll be able to say they do not believe, for we will all see God face to face, even if but for a moment.
 “And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end” (Mormon 7:5-7).

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

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

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

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

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

Moroni’s first final farewell
Mormon 8

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

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

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

Moroni and the Scriptures

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

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

Today we can see defiled churches that promote and embrace sexual sin and other evil as acceptable. They seek to get gain, just like Gadianton robbers and secret combinations of old.  People can have free love and “it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day.”  We see some very wealthy church leaders who promote the gospel of wealth and greed, and “it mattereth not.”  There are wars and rumors of wars in all areas of the world, and “it mattereth not.”  Great physical, spiritual and emotional pollutions affect our world, and “it mattereth not.”  Racism, cultural division, riots, hatred, political intrigue, fake news, etc., "it mattereth not." All crimes will happen, and many will look the other way on them, for “it mattereth not.”  We especially see this in our current political situation, where many in both major parties have become coarse, rude, and contentious, and are proud of it. They justify their behavior and the behavior of their leaders and associated news outlets for crass  behavior.

We live in a world that does not accept consequence for its choices. It expects government and church to not only absolve them from their sins, but to save them from the consequences and pay for their indiscretions.  Parents allow government and church to raise their kids.  Government is expected to supply contraceptives for sexual promiscuity, and abortions for any inconvenient pregnancies. Churches are expected not only to forgive, but to embrace any and all kinds of sexual behavior. If people sleep around, is that not a kind of whoredom? Truly, such “are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity.”  Many in government and in religion embrace the endless wars we are engaged in. Unseen are the thousands of innocent people fleeing to refugee camps, or are slain by bombs dropped from a thousand feet in the air. Sanitized warfare that is not covered by the news, makes it seem so far away and harmless.

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

And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts. For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted” (Mormon 8:36-37).
Class warfare creates division and contention. Christ teaches unity, love and charity. The wicked embrace war and often give it a patriotic title to get the people to embrace it. Mormon just called us to lay down our weapons of war (especially for offensive wars, which America now engages in, as we remain long term occupying other lands).

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

“O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ?” (Mormon 8:38).
The people become so sinful, they are a pollution. Wherever they go, the clean and pure are defiled and made filthy.

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

We have become a violent society.  Such violence is as atrocious as the violence that Mormon and Moroni describe of their own people.  We are commanded to shun violence, and many people openly protest the unpopular wars we are engaged in (often with good reason), yet think nothing of the violence that occurs every day in our own society. 
Presidents Russell M. Nelson and Dallin H. Oaks have warned us about contention and hatred, particularly based on racism. President Oaks just stated that Black lives matter is an eternal principle. When I've tried teaching this concept over the past year, I've often been attacked and eviscerated by many who only saw the riots and violence and possible connections with Marxism. They refused to listen to the voice of the actual people, crying for relief from systemic racism and abuse. Even now, with prophets clarifying once again this week that we need to actively fight against racism, I've had a few attack me and others for saying, "Black Lives Matter," insisting we were supporting Marxist terrorists. Even after explaining that we did not support the socialist organization BLM, but only the statement and the movement to increase freedom and decrease racism, we were still attacked by some Latter-day Saints. Contention is alive and well, even in the Church. I fear we may lose many members over such prophetic teachings as this, simply because many refuse to change and repent. 
It is time for all Christians to look closely at our personal beliefs and see if they really are in line with Jesus Christ's gospel.

To the Unbelievers
Mormon 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We live in the last days of the world.  Whether it ends in my life or not, someday I will come to the end of my mortality.  At that time, I will know whether I have truly believed in Christ and humbled myself sufficiently to repent of all my sins.  Even one sin can keep me from being fully made clean in Christ, so I must give them all away.  I must believe in the revelation of Christ, sent to living prophets and accept their teachings so that I may enter the Abrahamic covenant and be cleansed in Christ.  I then must seek to be made holy through the Holy Ghost, that some day I may again stand in God’s presence and be like him.
We are reading some off the last words of two dying men: Mormon and his son Moroni. Nothing was more important to them to share at this time as we see in these chapters. Mormon's final words to us, and the last words Moroni thought he would be able to share with us.