2 Nephi 9: tsedeq Poem

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 9.

This chapter closes out Jacob’s famous “covenant speech” (verse 1).  He tells the Nephites that the reason he gave the speech is so that everyone will know that the Lord established these covenants from the beginning, always teaching the people through prophets.  He says that if we make and keep covenants, and heed the words of the prophets, we will make it home again – home being our return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.  This is the Plan of Happiness.

He says that he wanted to teach these things to the people because he knows the people have searched and searched for truth, and that people want to know what will happen in the end times.  We know that our bodies will die, but they will also be resurrected because the Savior has given the gift of immortality to all and “in our bodies we shall see God” (verse 4).  So this has been the plan all along: that to fulfil the merciful plan of the great Creator, there must needs be a power of resurrection, and the resurrection must needs come unto man by reason of the fall; and the fall came by reason of transgression; and because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord” (vere 6).

So because of the transgression in the Garden of Eden, we all fell… and that falling is away from His presence.  We are separated from Him.

To be reunited with Him again, we need His “infinite atonement” (verse 7), the at-one-ment, to make us at-one with Him again.

Part of the atonement is the gift of immortality to all.  Jacob points out that if there were no resurrection, and our bodies just wasted away to nothing, then our spirits would be left abandoned, and we would be no different than the spirits who fell with Lucifer and never obtained bodies.

It goes back to Isaiah 14:12-15 and Revelation 12:7-9, where we learn that Lucifer, or Satan, was literally a spirit son of God, he was at one time “an angel” in authority in the presence of God; however, he rebelled in the premortal life, at which time he persuaded a third of the spirit children of the Father to rebel with him, in opposition to the plan of salvation championed by Jehovah (Jesus Christ). “Thus came the devil and his angels” (D&C 29:37). They were cast out of heaven, and were denied the experience of mortal bodies and earth life (Isa. 14:12–15; Rev. 14:4–9; 2 Ne. 2:17; 9:8; D&C 29:36–38; 76:25–26; 93:25; Moses 4:1–4; Abr. 3:27–28). (Bible Dictionary).

In contrast, the other 2/3rds of the Spirits – the ones who were not cast out – that was us.

This was the War in Heaven.

Heavenly Father had a plan for us all to come to earth, and develop real love for Him by choosing to love Him.  This ability to choose is called agency.  But because we would not be able to do this perfectly, we needed the atonement.  We needed someone to pay the price, and it was our eldest brother – Jehovah (Christ) – who volunteered.

But His volunteering was not just to pay that price, but to do it Heavenly Father’s way, for Heavenly Father’s glory.

Lucifer, on the other hand, wanted to force everyone to love Heavenly Father, and then keep the glory for himself since everyone would make it back.  This was not Heavenly Father’s way.

So we fought to defend Jehovah’s way, and Lucifer was kicked out.

Part of those consequences was that Lucifer – and those that followed him – was that they did not get to come to Earth to be born in bodies and to “gain earthly experience” (Family Proclamation) because they had already rejected Heavenly Father’s plan and Jehovah’s offering to be the sacrifice for us.  Because they rejected the sacrifice, they did not get the opportunity to live on earth and get bodies.  This means they missed out on our preparation for coming to earth, including the assigning of the “bounds of time and place”, the premortal covenants, and the ordinances that established those covenants.  They missed out on all the training that prepared us to come to earth to receive our bodies and learn to make good choices.

So, back to Jacob’s speech, if there was no resurrection, then after our bodies decayed then our spirits would be as body-less as Lucifer and his spirits.

A resurrection of our bodies, and the reuniting of our bodies and spirits into one being, has always been a part of the plan.

Our whole being must be perfected – made whole, completed – to re-enter the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Without the resurrection, we would be trapped away from Him!

“O how great the good of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit” (verse 10).

And so Heavenly Father always had the resurrection of our bodies as part of the plan, and the Savior conquered death to provide us with this immortality that had been promised from the beginning.

This was always part of the plan!

“O how great the plan of our God!” (verse 13).

This is the great plan of our God: that “the spirit and the body will be restored to itself again… incorruptible and immortal” (verse 13).

We will be living souls!  Not just alive, but this is present progressive: we will be in the process of continuing to be doing the work of living.

And in this way, we will be as we are now – except that, as we continue to progress, “our knowledge shall be perfect” (verse 13).

This doesn’t just mean we will be perfect, as in brilliant and smart and know everything.

It means perfect, as in whole, as in complete.  We will understand… not everything, like know-it-alls, but everything about us and our relationship with God.

We will “have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness” (verse 14).   We will understand our sin, our transgression, what we have done, and what we have failed to do.  We will understand how very far we have “fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We will understand – participate in, even – our judgment, and we will agree with that judgment.  We will know we deserve it.

Excepting God is not ONLY a just God.

He is also a merciful God.

And so there is also the mercy of His great atoning sacrifice, which does pay the price we owe.

But He is also a gracious God.  So that not only does He pay our debt, but He also gives us more as well.  As we give our sins and transgressions and failures to Him in the Great Exchange, the burden (curse) of our coming short of the glory (presence) of God is cut off (Isaiah 22:23, 25).  In exchange for giving up all that, He gives us HIS righteousness.  We are not righteous; we are not good.  We cannot do it without Him.  But His righteousness will save us.  This will be our joy, and this we will also perfectly understand.

“and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness” (verse 14).

Using what we learned in the previous chapter, we could re-read this from Hebrew using the tsedeq from Isaiah, and it would read as this poem:

and the righteous
(the Melchizedek priesthood-ers)
shall have perfect knowledge
(will be taught the priesthood knowledge)
of their enjoyment
(state of enter-into-joy-ment = celestialness)
and their righteousness
(their Melchizedek priesthood-ness)
being clothed with purity
(even according to the laws of the covenant)
yea, even with the robe of righteousness
(yes, even with the robes of the Melchizedek Priesthood)

And this, Jacob says, is what is required to pass the judgment-seat.

He says, “And it shall come to pass that when all men shall have passed from this first death unto life, insomuch as they have become immortal, they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel; and then cometh the judgment, and then must they be judged according to the holy judgment of God” (verse 15).

The judgment seat comes from the Old Testament, all the way back to Moses.  Before that, too, but Moses and his tabernacle in the wilderness is where it is famous.  The ark of the covenant had upon it two angels, and between them was a “seat”.  This was the judgment seat, or mercy seat, or kapporeth – literally the seat of atonement.  It is here that Moses met with God and communed with Him.

On the Jewish calendar, on the Day of Atonement, the sins of the people were symbolically placed on the scapegoat who was then sent out of camp.  This “took away” the sins of the people.  It’s where we get the word “scapegoat” the way we use it today.  But taking away the sins was not enough.  There also had to be a sacrifice, and the blood from that sacrifice was sprinkled onto the judgment seat, or mercy seat.

This was a type of Christ, foreshadowing what He would do for us.

The kapporeth (seat of atonement, judgment-seat, mercy-seat) in Greek is hilasterion.

Read this:

All Greek nouns which end in -erion mean the place where something is done. Dikasterion means the place where dike, justice is done, and therefore a law court. Thusiasterion means the place where thusia, sacrifice is done, and therefore the altar. Therefore hilasterion can certainly mean the place where hilasmos, expiation, is done and made. Because of that, both in the Old and New Testament, hilasterion has a regular and a technical meaning. It always means the lid of gold above the ark which was known as the mercy-seat. In Exodus 25:17 it is laid down of the furnishings of the tabernacle: ‘Thou shalt make a mercy-seat ( hilasterion ) of pure gold.’ In only one other place in the New Testament is the word used, in Hebrews 9:5 , and there the writer speaks of the cherubim who overshadow the mercy-seat. The word is used in that sense more than twenty times in the Greek Old Testament. . . .

“If then we take hilasterion to mean the mercy-seat, and, if we call Jesus our hilasterion in that sense, it will mean, so to speak, that Jesus is the place where man and God meet, and that specially He is the place where man’s sin meets with the atoning love of God.” (Barclay, The Mind of St. Paul, pp. 87–88.)

This ultimate at-one-ness is required for us to enter the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Think flaming sword guarding the Tree of Life.

Think Aaronic priesthood boys guardian the doors at sacrament.

Think cherubim guardian the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant.

So, Jacob is telling us, that we must be clothed in the robes of righteousness – tsedeq (Melchizedek) – to pass by these angels guarding the way.

In Exodus, we learn that anyone with the priesthood would always be clothed in priesthood clothes.

That did not, however, give them permission to enter the Holy of Holies.

Only the High Priest could enter, he could only enter when wearing the robe of the word of God, as the bearer of divine testimony, upon which the covenant fellowship with the Lord was founded (OTSM).

To enter His presence, we must be dressed in the tsedeq robes – which is to be declared righteous by Him (His testimony!) and this must be evidenced by our righteousness (our testimony, through words and behavior!) of making and keeping covenants.

“O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel!  For he delivereth his saints…” (verse 19).

And so then, to close his covenant speech, Jacob shows how all of this must come about through the principles and ordinances of the Gospel.

“And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel” (verse 23).

But having a commandment requires a law, and having a law requires a punishment.  Having a punishment gives meaning to the atonement by which we are delivered (verse 25).

But such a gift brings with it a warning!

“Wo unto him that has the law (covenant!) given, yea, that has all the commandments of God” (verse 27) and wastes the days of this life!

Then is one of my favorite chastize-ment verses:

“O that cunning plan of the evil one!  O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men!  When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not.  And they shall perish.  But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”  (verses 28-29).

Similar warnings go out to the rich who do not help the poor and make life harder for the “meek” (verse 30).

Also, warnings to those who refuse to hear what the Lord says or see what He shows them.

Then, warnings for those who do not keep their covenants, break their covenants, do not live up to their covenants, or put worldly things before their covenants.

Jacob urges the people to hearken (hear and do, not just listen only) the word of the Lord.  As if maybe he remembers his older brothers murmuring against his brother Nephi or his father Lehi, Jacob says “Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you…” (verse 40).   This reminds us of when Nephi says the truth is only hard to those who don’t want it; the commandments are hard only to those who do not know the Lord from which those laws come.

“O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One.  Remember that his paths are righteous.  Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate…” (verse 40).

His paths are righteous… this is the tsedeq robes of covenant and testimony that are required to pass by the angels at the mercy seat, which really is the Savior Himself, who did give the great atoning sacrifice which we need to get back home.  We can only get there through Him.

“And whoso knocketh, to him will he open…” (verse 42).

It is by keeping covenants that we return home to His presence.

But we cannot keep covenants without first making them.

This, Jacob says, is what I am sent here to tell you.  “Remember my words” (verse 44).

Then, like the later saying of “I wash may hands of it”, he basically says, “Listen. I taught you all I can teach you.  You know better now.  It’s not my problem; it’s your problem.  I am choosing for me.  You have to choose for you.  My responsibility was testifying to you, was telling you the truth.  I have now done that, so the ball is in your corner.  It’s your responsibility now.”

“I am rid of your blood”, he says (verse 44).

But still, he continues to invite.  He compares this to our need to “shake off the chains” of the adversary, who wants to drag us down with him.

Instead, he says, “come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation” (verse 45).

So it’s time to get ready.  Now is the time to prepare to meet God.

“Prepare your souls for that glorious day when justice shall be administered unto the righteous, even the day of judgment, that ye may not shrink with awful fear; that ye may not remember your awful guilt in perfectness, and be constrained to exclaim: Holy, holy are thy judgments, O Lord God Almighty—but I know my guilt; I transgressed thy law, and my transgressions are mine; and the devil hath obtained me, that I am a prey to his awful misery.  (verse 46)

“But behold, my brethren, is it expedient that I should awake you to an awful reality of these things? Would I harrow up your souls if your minds were pure? Would I be plain unto you according to the plainness of the truth if ye were freed from sin?   (verse 47)

“Behold, if ye were holy I would speak unto you of holiness; but as ye are not holy, and ye look upon me as a teacher, it must needs be expedient that I teach you the consequences of sin.  (verse 48)

“Behold, my soul abhorreth sin, and my heart delighteth in righteousness; and I will priase the holy name of my God.  (verse 49).

These, he says, are the great covenants of the Lord (verse 53).

In this way, he says, covenants demonstrate His grace and mercy, while providing, protecting us.

And there are promises He makes.  So many promises.

2 Nephi 8: tsedeq (Melchizedek = Righteousness)

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 8.

Jacob’s “covenant speech” continues in chapter 8, and it parallels Isaiah 51 which can be split up into three poems:

Verses 1-8: Creation (The Plan of Salvation)
Verses 9-16:  Prophets  (The Way of Salvation)
Verses 17-23: Zion (Israel’s History and Destiny: Salvation)

These layers all culminate in the promise of salvation, which is a great relief after the previous chapter.

But, like the last chapter, it isn’t automatic.  We have to wake up, look, receive, act, do the work of obtaining that salvation.  Even though it is waiting for us, we must do the work to receive it.

This is the message of Isaiah’s poetic words, of which Jacob reminds us as he starts reciting the first poem:

“Hearken unto me, ye that follow after righteousness. Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit from whence ye are digged” (verse 1).

This is both type and shadow.   The Savior is the “rock”, while Satan wants to drag us down to the pit.  This is metaphorical language we know from recent chapters.

In applying this to ourselves, we know that the substance from which we are made is our Heavenly Parents and the covenants we have made to love them by doing the work to return back to them.  This is what we should be made of, and it is the substance of which we are carved – shaped – created – sanctified as the Spirit works in us as we choose our covenants.

The hole of the pit is how far we have come since being “rescued”.  As a convert, this is easy for me to see in lots of ways.  I know the pit I was in before, and how great a hole He had to dig to rescue me out of there.  This is the working of the atonement – not in a looking-back-like Lot’s wife kind of way, but in an acknowledging that the atonement has brought me out of that pit kind of way.

“Look unto Abraham, your father, and unto Sarah, she that bare you; for I called him alone, and blessed him” (verse 2).

This is covenant language.

Look to our covenants!

Our covenants shape us, mold us, create us into who we are promised to become.

As we are obedient to our covenants, He will bless us with that becoming-ness.

“For the Lord shall comfort Zion, he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody” (verse 3).

This is our comfort: that it is possible to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.

This is our comfort: that he has dug us out of that pit.

This is our comfort: that the atonement changes us, that we are being created out of rock – solid substance built on the Savior.

This transformation of our wilderness into Eden, our desert into a garden – this is the work of the atonement.  It is the Great Exchange of our sins, lost-ness, and chaos (wilderness and desert) for His righteousness (Eden, garden, His presence).  It is the exchange of our separation from God for our at-one-ment with Him.

This is our joy and gladness, to be reunited – embraced by – the Lord once more.

In His presence will we find joy and gladness, and give thanks!

“Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation; for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light for the people” (verse 4).

But to return to His presence, we must keep our covenants.

Listen and do; go and do.

It is by His covenants, through His covenants, that He does protect and provide for us.

It is by His covenants, through His covenants, that He does make a way for us to return to Him.

So it is by these laws (of the covenants) that we are judged (as to whether we have followed the way to return to Him).

In this way, His laws are a light to our path, leading to His rest (presence).

“My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth…” (verse 5).

He is near, waiting to justify us, waiting to give us His righteousness, waiting to save us.

But we must look and see.  We must open our minds, ears, and hearts to receive.

“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner.  But my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished” (verse 6).

His salvation is forever.

This is not just a permanent, un-ending state.

His salvation, what He offers, has already been defined in the earlier Isaiah verses as like a garden, like Eden itself.

Gardens grow.

Eden was the heart of creation, producing fruit and life of all kinds.

This isn’t just a state of non-death.

It is the ongoing process of creation.

His salvation is forever means even the very act of creation will continue, like a garden that continues to produce.

But righteousness – the Great Exchange of the atonement, so that we are at-one, His righteousness is required for that garden-state-of-being.

We all will have immortality; His resurrection accomplished that.

But we must exchange what is in us that is not of God – that must be exchanged for His righteousness if we are going to return to His presence, going to get to live in this garden, going to get to BE this garden, the garden that continues creation by continuing to (re)produce.

What qualifies us for the ongoing celestial style living that is eternal life – as in the process of eternal living – more than just only immortality (never dying)?

The next verse tells us:

“Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart I have written my law, fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings” (verse 7)..

 How do we qualify?

By becoming like Him.

How do we become like Him?

By listening and doing what He says.

That verse says “ye that know righteousness” – this is not for those who are not members of the church, or who do not know or understand.  This is for the church, for the covenant people, for those who do know and understand!

Who are the people that know righteousness?

“the people in whose heart I have written my law”

Again, He is speaking directly to the covenant people, to those who have already received His law!

We can see it better in Hebrew, where this word righteousness is tsedeq, which is the root for the name “Melchizedek”.

That is what qualifies us!

The second poem then begins, and it is about how the Lord – who is faithful in keeping HIS covenants (and so is both our example as well as already fulfilling His promises to us) – has worked with the children of Israel. Specifically, we get the story of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt.  This is what ties this poem in with the first poem, because we know this crossing of the Red Sea was the mikveh, or baptism, for the Israelites.  So the covenant language continues, through the use of symbols for ordinances.

“Awake, awake! Put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days. Art thou not he that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?” (verse 9).

This is a prayer, this is the people crying out to the Lord.  They are asking for His protection and deliverance, by acknowledging it was the Lord who “cut our arrogance” (Rahab) and killed the Pharaoh (dragon).  Interestingly, it says “wounded” the dragon, which refers to the type of Christ in that the Pharaoh’s wound was the death of his firstborn son and the loss of all the Israelites who chose to leave.  In the same way, Heavenly Father experienced the death of His firstborn, but it as in order to bring all His children home again.

“Art thou not he who hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?” (verse 10).

Just as the Israelites passed through the Red Sea unharmed, so we will pass through mortality unharmed (though not without its own difficulties).  But we are unharmed only when we do the work of keeping our covenants, because it is our covenants that free Him up to protect and provide for us.

“Therefore, the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their heads; and they shall obtain gladness and joy; sorrow and mourning shall flee away” (verse 11).

So it is by His power, His plan, His way, His LIGHT – that we are able to pass through mortality and return to His presence.

This will be our joy.

“Holiness shall be upon their heads”  = Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord

We will be holy because we will become His people.

He will comfort us, because we will be HOME.  We will no longer be in exile, or captive, or in bondage.

We will be HOME.

The third poem in the final verses of this chapter

He will say to us, “Thou art my people” (verse 16).

This is the ultimate at-one moment, to be claimed as His people, the people of the covenant, the people of Holiness, the House of the Lord..

Verses 18-21 compare the rebellious people – those of us who should know better – as the sons of the drunken woman.  The drunken woman is Jerusalem (a feminine word in Hebrew), which symbolizers all of us who are of the covenant, but in a stupor, not worthy, careless, staggering, distracted by excess, and unable to speak (not testifying).  When we act like that, we deserve the rebuke of God.  Because we area already the covenant people, so we should already know better.

If we do not wake up, and if we do not step up, then we will be delivered over to those who oppress us.

We must wake up: “awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion” (verse 24).

We must be purified, sanctified, justified, so that we can be made holy.

And this is done through ordinances (participating frequently and often) and keeping our covenants.

2 Nephi 7

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 7.

This chapter parallels Isaiah 50. Remember that Isaiah’s teachings would be familiar to both Jacob and the Nephites from the copies of scripture they had and from Isaiah being the prophet around the time Jacob’s father, Lehi, took his family out of Jerusalem.

Jacob’s teaching to the Nephites, the big Covenant Speech, continues in this chapter, as he quotes chapter 50  in which Isaiah preaches in first person as if he were the Messiah.  Isaiah wasn’t confused and thinking that he was, but he was just delivering the message of the Lord in first person directly to the people.  However, chapter 50 of Isaiah almost cannot be understood fully without reading it along with chapter 51, because the chiasm goes through both chapters, pulling them together as one unit:

50:4-9 A
50:10-11 B
51:1-2a C
51:2b-3a D
51:3b C’
51:4-6 B’
51:7-8 A’

These are beautiful verses, and ones I need to read often.

They are verses where the Lord reminds us we are not forgotten.

At the end of chapter 49, the Lord says, “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty or the lawful captive delivered?” (verse 24).

This means “who can take the prize away from the winner?  Who still needs saving if they are already safe?”

These are rhetorical questions the Lord is asking, patiently responding to our disbelief that He is enough for us, that His great atoning sacrifice was big enough – even for me.

So chapter 49 is about Zion (the Lord’s covenant people), symbolized by Jerusalem, will put itself into captivity (symbolized by Babylon), by thinking – murmuring, even – that the Lord has forgotten them.

We put ourselves in bondage, into captivity, into misery, when we believe the Lord has forgotten us.

But, whether we believe it or not, the Lord has *NOT* forgotten us.

So in 2 Nephi 7, Jacob opens with the verses that continue the Lord’s urging us to believe Him.

“Yea, for thus saith the Lord: Have I put thee away, or have I cast thee off forever? For thus saith the Lord: Where is the bill of your mother’s divorce?” (verse 1).

Here the Lord is asking the rhetorical questions continued from Isaiah 49.  He is asking if we really believe He is just going to quit on us, give up on us, let us go.  Do we really believe He is just trying to get rid of us?  Like seriously, really, after Gethsemane and the crucifixion and the whole entire atonement process, now He is just going to give up?

No.

But, if we are separated from Him, what caused it?

Is it because His atonement wasn’t big enough?

No.

It is our not obeying the laws of the covenant, or not living up to the privileges of the covenant.   This is the divorce: our straying from, leaving, or abandoning the covenant.  It’s not because His atonement isn’t big enough, but because we are using our agency to NOT believe it, to NOT apply it, to NOT consider it adequate for us.

Maybe the atonement is great for other people, but I am too naughty, too bad, too far lost, too far gone, so it doesn’t count for me.

FALSE, says the Lord.

“To whom have I put thee away, or to which of my creditors have I sold you? Yea, to whom have I sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away” (verse 2).

Again, He has not put us away.  He has not sent us away.  To the contrary, He is constantly and consistently inviting us to Him.

But it is the apostasy of Israel, or our own iniquities, that separate us from God.

And when we are separated, we are not at-one.

When we sin, or fail to live up to our covenants, we are selling ourselves.

Interestingly, in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “iniquity” in this case is most often associated with specific forms of idolatry: pride from money (or dependence on it so that you are in bondage to debt or failing to fulfill family obligations because you are working too much) and adultery (in our day this would include emotional attachments to someone who is not our spouse and also pornography).

Breaking our covenants isn’t just about being bad, and more than just slacking off.  It’s about not living up to the privileges and promises HE offers – about not doing our part so that He is not able to do His part.

Romans 9:31 describes this as when the people “did not attain the law of righteousness”.

This reminds me also of Romans 3:23, where we “come short of the glory of God”.

His promises of the covenant, dependent upon our keeping our part of the covenant, is His glory.  His presence is His glory.  The immortality and eternal life (celestial-ness) is His glory.

When we come short or do not attain, this is breaking our covenants.

This is removing ourselves from His presence.

This is selling ourselves.

Because we ourselves have done it to ourselves, we cannot blame God for quitting on us or abandoning us.

He is still there.

He is still waiting.

He is still inviting.

But we must answer when He calls.

“Wherefore, when I came, there was no man; when I called, yea, there was none to answer. O house of Israel, is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem, or have I no power to deliver?” (verse 2).

He is there, waiting and inviting.  He wants us to answer, and He continues calling.

So more rhetorical questions: is His hand too short (too small, not big enough) to redeem us?  Is He not strong enough, big enough, powerful enough, God enough to redeem us?

The Lord answers His own rhetorical question in Isaiah 59:1, when He says, “NO!  My hand is not shortened!” and “Yes! I do hear your prayers!”

He is enough.  His atonement is enough.  Even for me.

D&C 35:8 says, “For I am God, and mine arm is not shortened; and I will show miracles, signs, and wonders, unto all those who believe on my name.”

He is there, waiting.  The moment we believe, He will show us.

There is evidence of Him, but we must act in faith and look to see.

“I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering” (verse 3).

A dark night is the opposite of His Light, the sheckinah of His presence.

Sackcloth was goatskin used in shame or mourning in the old days.

So He is speaking here of the shame and grief experienced when separated from His presence.

It is a rebuke!  He is chastizing us for refusing His message.  He is reminding us of His power.  It is the twitter update version, in 140 characters or less, of the parable of the 10 Virgins.  He came, and no one was home.  He knocked, and no one answered.  He called, and the phone just rang and rang and rang.  He appeared, and no one saw.

He is waiting to give you EVERYTHING that He has, but cannot until you accept the gift.

For us, it could be the call to faith – to really believe.  It could be the call to service, to cheerfully and willingly do what He needs us to do so that He can accomplish His work.  It could be the call to obedience, so that He can bless us through protection and provision.  It could be the call to repentance, so that we might turn around and see Him, so that we might be embraced by Him so that we can again be at-one with Him.

“The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned…” (verse 4).

This reminds us of all the prophets, who like Moses, had some human-ish flaw so that they felt inadequate to be His messenger.

Yet still, they were called to the work.

We must, if we truly believe, we must know that His atonement was big enough – even for us.

“The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned…” (verse 4).

We know from Luke 21:15 that wisdom comes from the Lord.

The Hebrew in the Isaiah 50 parallel indicates “learned” as being “one who is qualified to teach others”.

This is premortal covenant language, speaking of one qualified to teach others by wisdom they receive through the Lord.

We are talking about testifying.

It reminds me also of 2 Nephi 9:28, which we will study in just a few chapters:

When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

We must open our ears to the Lord, and hearken (listen AND obey!) to the counsel He gives us and sends to us.  Then we must go and do.

The Hebrew for this verse in the Isaiah 50 parallel is this:

אדני יהוה נתן לי לשון למודים לדעת לעות את יעף דבר יעיר בבקר בבקר יעיר לי אזן לשמע כלמודים׃

The Jewish Bible in English translates it this way:

Adonai ELOHIM has given me the ability to speak as a man well taught, so that I, with my words, know how to sustain the weary.

How is that not a verse I need every morning before I go to work?!

How is that not a verse we should hold in our hearts before interacting with anyone, be it spouse or child, parent or friend?

This takes us to the “go and do” part, where we should be using that testifying to lift up the weary, to teach those who want to be taught, to make the world a better place, to bring ourselves and our families and those around us (within our “bounds” of “time and place”) to be more at-one with the Savior, more at-one with our Heavenly Father.  We should be sustaining, comforting, and refreshing those around us.  When we do so, we are becoming that Light, as we are led by the sheckinah-ness of the Lord.

Even me, with literal cochlear implants, I must turn them ON to hear.

Even turning them on isn’t enough – the batteries must be charged and connected.

And spiritually (all things are temporal and spiritual, right? even cochlear implants!), the question is not how well can I hear, but how well do I obey?

“The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back” (verse 5).

D&C 58:1 says that this hearkening is not just for obedience, but that through the process of hearkening we can learn from Him what He wants for us and what He has promised for us.  We can know Him, ourselves, and His purpose for us.  This is huge and amazing, but we must listen to understand.

Part of listening is doing.

When the Savior says He was not rebellious, He is taking us to Gethsemane, where He prayed “not my will” and where He submitted to His Father’s will.

He submitted to His Father’s will, to the greater purpose, to the plan His Father had for ALL His children, even when it was great sacrifice to Him.

“I gave my back to the smiter, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (verse 6).

He endured physical lashings, cultural disrespect (pulling out hairs from the beard), public shame, and the personal offense and gross-ness of spitting.

We, like Him, should be obedient despite the persecution that may come at us, and no matter its form.

“For the Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded. Therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed” (verse 7).

He is our help.

Not being confounded means no one can argue against us.

No matter what other people may say, no matter how others may bring up our past, no matter the persecution that may come…

If we have faith enough to believe atonement is big enough – even for us – then we can be at-one with Him.

When we are at-one with Him, then He has removed the curse that we earned (mercy, see Isaiah 22:23,25) because He has already taken our punishment for us.

Because He has already done it, it is finished.  It is all said and done.  No one can argue against us because the price has been paid.

In this way, the Lord has justified us.

“And the Lord is near, and he justifieth me” (verse 8).

This brings us to Romans 8:32, which shows that His justification of us is not only mercy (removing the punishment we deserved by taking it for us), but also grace (giving us what we do not deserve).

He wants to give us EVERYTHING.

Everything He has, He wants to give to us.

“Who will contend with me?  Let us stand together” (verse 8).  I love this because He is showing how those who argue against can be made at-one.

“Who is mine adversary?  Let Him come near me, and I will smite him with the strength of my mouth” (verse 8).

The strength of His mouth is His words.

His words are His instructions and promises of the covenant, which say He will crush the adversary through the atonement.

Satan is called the adversary because he is adverse (against) the atonement.  He doesn’t want the atonement to be an option, and so he will try to make us adverse to it, even if by thinking it is not big enough for us, or we are too bad, or we are not good enough.

But the Savior, the Savior Himself, declares that we are right.  This is Him justifying us, declaring us to be right, declaring us to be holy, declaring us to be His.

We are right because of that great exchange in Isaiah 22:23,25.  We are “right” because of His righteousness.  We are “right” because He has declared (justified) us to be right.

“For the Lord God will help me. And all they who shall condemn me, behold, all they shall wax old as a garment, and the moth shall eat them up” (verse 9).

We must trust in the Lord’s provision and protection.

We must believe that He has a plan for us, that we can discover our purpose, and that He will enable us to accomplish that purpose.

In this way, the Lord asks one more rhetorical question in verse 10:

“Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light?”

Who can come to know the Lord, and not obey Him?

How can we obey Him, and not know Him better?

How can you walk a path toward light, and it not get lighter along the way, the closer you get to that light?

The parallel verse in Isaiah 50:10 adds: “let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.”

That “stay” means “be supported by”.

So even in the process of learning who God is, and learning how to obey Him, we must have faith in the atonement and let Him support us along the way, throughout this journey.

“Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled.  This shall ye have of mine hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow.”

This final verse of this chapter would be confusing if we didn’t understand the parallel poetry going on.  Now, instead of comparing human learning against the wisdom of God, the Lord is saying that we can only walk by His light.  If we make up our own light, we will be burned.  Doing things our own way will lead to destruction.  We must do it His way to succeed, and doing so will bring us provision and protection.

When we listen and do what the Prophets tell us, and when we heed (act on) the promptings of the Holy Spirit, we will walk in Light.  We will enjoy the presence of the Lord, and He will provide for us and protect us along the way as we do His work, as we testify of Him.  That’s the covenant.

2 Nephi 6

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 6.

This chapter has our first real shift in authorship as Nephi’s plates get handed down.  Years and years and years have now passed since Lehi took his family and left Jerusalem.  Now Jacob, one of Nephi’s younger brothers, has taken over the writing on the plates.

Chapter 6 is a speech that Jacob gave to the people of Nephi, those we will soon begin calling Nephites.

For context, it helps to read the chapter heading given before the chapter starts:

Jacob recounts Jewish history: The Babylonian captivity and return; the ministry and crucifixion of the Holy One of Israel; the help received from the Gentiles; and the Jews’ latter-day restoration when they believe in the Messiah. About 559–545 B.C.

So that’s Jacob’s speech, a review of the history.

This is always the pattern for HOW the Lord brings His covenant people to be at-one with Him.

This is the pattern:  there is a recounting or a review of the history of the people, then Laws are given to establish the covenant nature of the relationship between the Lord and His people, the people then cry out to the Lord in prayer, and then in response the Lord gives them specific instruction that leads them (and grants them permission) to enter His presence.

We see this pattern in this chapter.

But before Jacob can start speaking to the people, first he clarifies that he has the authority to do so.

“Behold, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, having been called of God, and ordained after the manner of his holy order, and having been consecrated by my brother Nephi…” (verse 2).

Before Jacob can speak to the people as a Prophet, first he is called of God, ordained to do so, and consecrated (set apart).

And then he begins.

And when he begins, he begins by saying that he is “desirous for the welfare of your souls.  Yea, mine anxiety is great for you; and ye yourselves know that it ever has been.  For I have exhorted you with all diligence; and I have taught you the words of my father; and I have spoken unto you concerning all things which are written, from the creation of the world” (verse 3).

So, beginning with the creation of the world, Jacob teaches the people by taking them through this pattern that is always used to bring the covenant people into His presence.

Jacob starts out with the idea that we should study the words of the Prophets – in this case, Jacob mentions Isaiah specifically – and that we should liken their words unto our own lives.  This means we should take those long ago words, and see what they mean for us in this present moment.  We should take the Scriptures and keep them real in our very own lives in this very moment.

Jacob says we can do this because Isaiah was writing to the House of Israel, and we are the House of Israel.

The “House of Israel” is “the covenant people” of the Lord.

As we become covenant people, we are made holy.

As we are made holy, we become the House of Israel – or, being made holy – and bringing this Holiness to the Lord, we become the House of the Lord.

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

And so we see how he does make us holy, through this pattern.

Jacob follows the pattern, that sacred pattern that brings people into the presence of the Lord.

So, in following that pattern, Jacob begins at the beginning, reviewing the history of the people and where they came from.  He goes all the way back to Jerusalem.  Jacob reminds the Nephites that they left Jerusalem because they believed the Lord and His words.  Jacob reminds them that all of what was prophesied came true, and will come true, even the destruction of Jerusalem.

So, likening this to ourselves, Jerusalem represents that time or place in our lives where we used to be, but from which the Lord has called us.  Where (or what or whom) has the Lord asked you to leave, to change, to let go?  In what ways has following Him sent you into the wilderness so that you may learn to depend on His word alone?

But the Lord does not abandon us in the wilderness, whether literally or in the metaphor meaning mortality.

He provided a way to save us from the destruction that came to Jerusalem, a  way to save us from the destruction we caused when we were not following Him.

This is the mercy that balances out judgment.  This is the mercy that has always been a part of the Plan of Happiness.  This is the atonement.

The Lord is the way.  He is the one who saves us.

“Nevertheless, the Lord has shown unto me that they should return again. And he also has shown unto me that the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, should manifest himself unto them in the flesh; and after he should manifest himself they should scourage him and crucify him, according to the words of the angel who spake it unto me” (verse 9).

But to return to Him, to repent, we must let Him soften our hard hearts; we must bow down in submission, letting our stiff necks loosen up.

Hard times and challenges in life are not always things we earned or deserved in some negative connotation of a negative perspective on life.

But, the Lord can use these experiences to teach us.

“Wherefore, after they are driven to and fro, for thus saith the angel, many shall be afflicted in the flesh, and shall not be suffered to perish, because of the prayers of the faithful; they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated; nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance” (verse 11).

Gathering-for-healing is the opposite of scattering-to-destruction.

“the people of the Lord shall not be ashamed.  For the people of the Lord are they who wait for him; for they still wait for the coming of the Messiah” (verse 13).

But, Jacob says, the Messiah will come “a second time to recover them” (verse 14).

The whole purpose of us being GATHERED is so that He can “recover” us.

And when the Messiah comes again, Jacob says, the Lord will “manifest himself unto them in power and great glory” (verse 14).

The problem with God demonstrating power and glory is that it will overcome you if you are not prepared for it.

For believers and covenant keepers, the return of the Messiah will be an amazing and powerful thing.

For non-believers or those outside the covenant, they will be driven to fear and confusion and chaos for not understanding the “signs of the times”.

“And they that believe not in him shall be destroyed, both by fire, and by tempest, and by earthquakes, and by bloodsheds, and by pestilence, and by famine.  And they shall know that the Lord is God, the Holy One of Israel” (verse 15).

We know from Revelation and other sources that these kinds of signs of the times are the Earth’s testimony that the Savior returns very soon.

But those who do the work to become covenant keepers – they will be gathered and delivered and saved, rather than scattered and destroyed “for the Mighty God shall deliver his covenant people” (verse 16).

2 Nephi 5

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 5.

This chapter begins with Nephi in the raw emotions of feeling the sting of meanness from those he loves most and the grief of watching them reject what he knows is good for them.

“Behold, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God, because of the anger of my brethren” (verse 1).

The murmuring brothers are now being so mean and angry that they are trying to kill Nephi.

They don’t like Nephi telling them what is good and right.  They don’t want to hear it.  They don’t want to change.  They don’t want to live differently or feel better.  They like being miserable.

It gets so bad that the Lord warns Nephi he is in danger.  Nephi heeds the warning, taking those of his father’s family who had chosen to be covenant people into the wilderness for safety.  Nephi’s family goes, Zoram and his family go, and his brothers Sam, Jacob, and Joseph all go.

“And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the warnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words” (verse 6).

They travel through the wilderness to a new place of safety, and settle in tents in this new place.  They name this new place after him, calling it Nephi.

Because the place was called Nephi, the people who lived there were the people of Nephi, who came to be called Nephites.

This is an important piece because sometimes we think the Nephites were just the descendants of Nephi.  That isn’t exactly the case.  The Nephites were the descendants of all these families, as well as others who had chosen or later convert to the covenant.  So for now, rather than meaning biological relation to Nephi himself, the term “Nephites” more accurately reflects those who chose the covenant, the people who follow the Lord, the people who were members of the church.

“And we did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the commandments of the Lord in all things, according to the law of Moses” (verse 10).

And because they were obedient, they enjoyed the presence of the Lord and were blessed.

“And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind” (verse 11).

So as life goes on, Nephi continues keeping the records of his people.  They grow and spread out over time.  They built buildings, and could work with wood and iron and copper and brass and steel.  They had access to gold and silver and other ores and metals.

Most importantly, they built a temple.

“And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine” (verse 16).

Then, a small verse that shapes how we as LDS live, how the world sees our mormon lives: “I, Nephi, did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands” (verse 17).

Nephi made sure the people were hard workers!  Self-reliant!  Industrious!

Because Nephi was so good at teaching them and leading them, the people began to want him to be their king.

This is what happened in the Old Testament, too!  The Lord’s pattern was that He would call prophets, and the people would follow the prophets (and continue developing their own individual relationships with the Lord as well, of course).  However, the people always began to demand kings.  This happens in the Old Testament over and over (think Samuel and Saul), until the people had removed themselves from the Lord’s protection and demanded secular and political structure instead.

Nephi knows the pattern, and refuses to be their king.  He urged them not to have a king.  In his teaching the people, he used this to teach them how following the Lord “sets apart” (makes holy!) the covenant people of God.  He is able to compare them to those who had refused to follow the Lord, and now instead of a successful and industrious people like they were, the others had become “an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety” (verse 24).

“And the Lord God said unto me: They shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction” (verse 25).

So the people decided to follow the Lord’s pattern, and Nephi’s brothers Jacob and Joseph were set apart as priests and teachers over the people and Nephi remained in the role of a prophet instead of being made king.

“And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness” (verse 27).

This is the plan of happiness!  Even through hard circumstances or challenging experiences, we can have happiness when we are living the Lord’s way.  When we are willing to submit to His will, and willing to do what He says, and obedient to what He asks for us, it moves us into a position of being “in order”.  This “order” is more than just organized, and more than just the proper hierarchy or roles and tasks defined.  It is about His Order, the Order of the Priesthood.  It is about becoming a people of holiness.  It is about Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

As time passes, the Nephites become this people-of-holiness, the people of the covenant.

Those who did not follow Nephi, but remained with the murmuring brothers Laman and Lemuel become known as the “Lamanites”.  Like the Nephites, the Lamanites are more than just the descendants of Laman and Lemuel.  The term “Lamanites” comes to mean those who are outside the covenant.

For now.

What we know as the Book of Mormon unfolds is that the Nephites are the covenant people as long as they do the work required to keep those covenants.

But later in history, as the Book of Mormon unfolds, we see the destruction of the Nephites because they do not keep their covenants.

We will also see the conversion of the Lamanites, which Lehi had prophesied of before his death.

The story of all of this is what Nephi records on his metal plates, and then hands down to his son.  These records get passed down one generation after another, and it is this family history record that we know have and know as “The Book of Mormon”.

Verse 30-32:

And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people.

Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things.

And I engraved that which is pleasing unto God. And if my people are pleased with the things of God they will be pleased with mine engravings which are upon these plates.

These are the plates that got passed down and added to, until finally being hid for safety during the final days of the war that destroyed the Nephites.

These are the plates Moroni hid in the hill so that they would be safe, even if he were killed in the war.

These are the plates that Moroni told Joseph Smith about, and these are the plates that Joseph Smith dug up out of the hill and translated.

These are the plates we are reading when we read “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ”.

And so it begins, the “wars and contentions” (verse 34) between the Nephites and the Lamanites.

It’s classic Old Testament stuff:  whenever we keep our covenants, we are “gathered” and provided for and protected.

When we do not keep our covenants, we are “scattered” and destroyed.

It’s one of the most basic principles in life, and it unfolds on every level: physical, emotional, professional, mental, social, relational, literally, figuratively.

When we keep our covenants, we are “gathered” and “saved”.

When we do not, we are “scattered” and “destroyed”.

It’s really that simple.

2 Nephi 4: Nephi’s Psalm

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 4.

This chapter completes Lehi’s blessings to his children and their families, and records his passing.

Nephi opens the chapter with his own testimony that Lehi truly was a prophet, that Lehi really did prophesy concerning his descendants.

Then, Nephi says, Lehi called all his children to gather around him for one last blessing:

“For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence” (verse 4).

This is important to Lehi, his last effort at raising his children.  He says that he cannot die without giving them a blessing, because “I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it” (See Proverbs 22:6).

This is a powerful moment.

Lehi straight up tells them that he knows what his job is as a parent, and so he gives them this blessing, so that the responsibility of their consequences falls on him instead of them.   That’s a powerful gift for one to give another.  It is a type of the atonement, pointing to the Savior, but also a beautiful example of a tender, loving father.

(Note the parallel in verse 33 below, when the Savior becomes that “father” embracing him/us like the father embracing the prodigal, the arms “encircled about”… that is the embrace of the at-one-ment.)

And in this way, Lehi blessed each of his children and their families, and even their descendants not yet born.

“And it came to pass after my father, Lehi, had spoken unto all his household, according to the feelings of his heart and the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, he waxed old. And it came to pass that he died, and was buried” (verse 12).

This sweet moment doesn’t last long before the murmuring begins again.

Nephi has been teaching his brothers again, which they needed, but they didn’t much want to be taught.

Their refusal to submit to, listen to, or heed the words of the Lord continues to grow in sharp contrast to Nephi’s focus, diligence, and faithfulness.

“For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.   Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard” (verses 15 and 16).

Then come some of my most favorite verses in all of scripture, but all below depends on verses 15 and 16.  The rest of the unfolding cannot happen without delighting in the Scriptures, pondering them, writing them, studying them, learning them.  They have to be a part of you before they can unfold.

But they are some of my most favorite verses:

 17  Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

 18  I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.

 19  And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

 20  My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.

 21  He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.

 22  He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.

 23  Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.

 24  And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.

 25  And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.

 26  O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

 27  And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

 28  Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.

 29  Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

 30  Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

 31  O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?

 32  May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!

 33  O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!  O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.

 34  O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

 35  Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

2 Nephi 3

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 3.

This chapter continues the dying blessings Lehi is giving to his sons.

The blessing in this chapter is specifically for his youngest son, Joseph.  Joseph is special to Lehi because Joseph was born during “the days of my greatest sorrow” (verse 1).  It has been a hard experience, leaving Jerusalem and traveling through the wilderness.  But they have now arrived in the promised land, and that is what Lehi promises to Joseph “for thy security forever, if it so be that ye shall keep the commandments of the Holy One of Israel” (verse 2).

Lehi specifically promises that Joseph’s descendants will not be destroyed.

Lehi begins reminding his son Joseph about Joseph in Egypt (as in “the coat of many colors”), and Lehi also prophesies about another Joseph that will be in the future.  He says to his son, “For behold, thou art the fruit of my loins; and I am a descendant of Joseph who was carried captive into Egypt. And great were the covenants of the Lord which he made unto Joseph” (verse 4).

Then Lehi explains pieces of those covenants the Lord made with Joseph in Egypt:

“Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom” (verse 5).

So Lehi is telling his son Joseph, that even their family is a partial fulfillment of the promises the Lord made to Joseph in Egypt.

But there is more to come, Lehi says.

Because the Lord also promised Joseph in Egypt that his descendant would be a prophet to the people.

“Yea, Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers” (verse 7).

If we break this down in time frame, with a future prophet to come later, and Lehi and his family being in the middle, and Joseph in Egypt being in the past… then we understand how Lehi is explaining to his son Joseph that the covenants with the Lord that He made with Joseph in Egypt will be restored through a prophet in the future.  This also implies the knowledge will be lost for a time, as it cannot be restored without being lost.  We know about this apostasy from the previous blessings Lehi gave to his other sons.

Lehi continues telling his son about this future prophet that will restore the knowledge of the covenants:

“And he shall be great like unto Moses, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel” (verse 9).

Here the delivery is a spiritual delivery from what we now know is the apostasy, and the delivery comes in the form of the restoration.

It is also a physical delivery, as the lost tribes of Israel are gathered through Temple work and identified through Patriarchal blessings, which can only be given through the restored priesthood.

This prophet, says Lehi, will not just have the power to bring forth the word of God, but also to convince people about the word of God “already gone forth among them” (verse 11).  We understand this, in our day, to refer to how the Book of Mormon helps us understand the Biblical scriptures we already had access to before the restoration.

So, says Lehi, the Book of Mormon and the Bible will be companions, scriptures that go together.  We have the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Another Testament.

“the fruit of my loins shall write” (such as Nephi is already keeping the records of what we know hold as the Book of Mormon)

and

“the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write” (the Biblical scriptures given to us from the Jews)

“and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together” (all of it together being Scripture)

“unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace… bringing them to … the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord” (verse 12).

The reason history holds so many battles about Scripture and doctrine is because pieces had been lost or twisted by men along the way.

The Book of Mormon helps us iron out these wrinkles, so that we understand the Bible as far as it is translated correctly.  The Book of Mormon sheds light on the Biblical text, explaining and defining what it means, giving the whole story, so that there is no longer doctrinal confusion.  False doctrines are confronted, and our questions are answered.  This brings us the peace of truly knowing our Heavenly Father and being able to have an accurate understanding about Him, ourselves, and His plan for us.

And, Lehi says, like many other prophets before him (such as Moses, already given as an example), this future prophet will be made strong by the Lord in the places where he is weak:  “And out of weakness he shall be made strong…” (verse 13).  This is a promise that applies to us all when we apply the atonement!

So, Lehi says, Joseph of Egypt prophesied about this future prophet that will come in the latter days.   Lehi says that Joseph of Egypt said, “his name shall be called after me; and it shall be the name of his father” (verse 14).   So we know that the future prophet who will bring forth this book of records Nephi is now writing and will pass on to his descendants – that book will be brought forth to all the people by a prophet named Joseph, just like Joseph of Egypt, and also named after his father.

Joseph Smith, the prophet, was really Joseph Smith, Jr.   His father’s name was Joseph Smith, Sr.   So we see this fulfilling of the prophecy, as Joseph Smith, Jr., was a prophet of God who brought forth the Book of Mormon.

Like Moses, the Lord promises to help the prophet Joseph (Smith) get his message delivered despite his weaknesses – but not necessarily remove his weaknesses.  “I will give power unto him in a rod; and I will give judgment unto him in writing. Yet I will not loose his tongue, that he shall speak much, for I will not make him mighty in speaking. But I will write unto him my law, by the finger of mine own hand; and I will make a spokesman for him” (verse 17).

Not only that, but Lehi says the words will “cry out from the dust” (verses 19 and 20), and we know that Joseph Smith found the buried plates of Nephi, the Book of Mormon, buried in the earth.

Lehi says, “Wherefore, because of this covenant thou art blessed; for thy seed shall not be destroyed, for they shall hearken unto the words of the book” (verse 23).

And Lehi again refers to Joseph Smith in verse 24:

“And there shall rise up one mighty among them, who shall do much good, both in word and in deed, being an instrument in the hands of God, with exceeding faith, to work mighty wonders, and do that thing which is great in the sight of God, unto the bringing to pass much restoration unto the house of Israel, and unto the seed of thy brethren.”

Lehi closes his blessing to this son Joseph by reminding Joseph that he is still young, and so to pay attention to the words of his older brother Nephi.

These are almost the final words of Lehi, as in the next chapter he then gives the final blessings to his children and their families as a group, before passing from this life.

2 Nephi 2

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 2.

In this chapter, Lehi continues his final blessings to his sons.  This chapter is the final blessing given to his son Jacob,  the son born to him in the wilderness after they left Jerusalem.

In verse 1, Lehi brags on Jacob, reflecting on how Jacob suffered many things because of growing up on their journey and because of his mean murmuring brothers.   But in verse 2, Lehi gives Jacob the promise of the principle of compensation: that when we are obedient and faithful, he will consecrate our afflictions to bless us in some way.

There are layers and layers to this, but for another blog.

“Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi; and thy days shall be spent in the service of thy God. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer; for thou hast beheld that in the fulness of time he cometh to bring salvation unto men” (verse 3).

This is the promise, that despite the afflictions of the past, he will get the fullness of a life centered on the Savior.  It hints at a mission, at work in the Temple, and family.  There are a thousand cross-references that develop what this patriarchal blessing means for Jacob.

I love the part in the middle, where it says “thou art redeemed, because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer”.   We are not redeemed because of us, or because of our righteousness.  We are redeemed because of HIS righteousness.  It takes us back to the great exchange of Isaiah 22:23 and 25.

The beginning of verse 4 repeats the end of verse 3, about how Jacob has BEHELD the glory of the Lord.

Lehi also reminds Jacob that the Spirit is the same spirit yesterday, today, and forever – reminding us that Heaven is not closed, that we still can see visions and dream dreams, that we still can receive personal revelation from the Holy Spirit.  What comfort this is!  What strength it brings!

Then Lehi says, “the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free” (verse 4).

We know that “the way”, or the Atonement, was planned pre-mortally, before we ever came to Earth.  The atonement was always part of the plan of salvation, and we have always known it.

The Family Proclamation says:

In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.

We have always known.

Not only have we always known, but even since being on Earth, we are instructed sufficiently to know good from evil (verse 5).

The law has been given to show us who God is, by showing us what is not of God.

But because there is the law, we can never measure up – because we are still learning.  We are not yet like Him.

This is why we need the atonement, the redemption that “cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth”.

The truth is the whole story of who God is, the mercy with which He balances out justice.

His grace is the salvation we did not earn.

“Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (verse 7).

That great exchange requires our giving up of ourselves, so that we can be filled with His righteousness.

It is how we become like Him.

He has kept His promise of doing the work of His great atoning sacrifice.  We knew, from before the beginning, that this was part of the plan.  Because He has kept His promise, we must also keep ours: which is to testify of that atonement.

This is our premortal covenant: that He would complete the work of the atonement, and we would testify of it.

“Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise” (verse 8).

Lehi reminds Jacob that the sacrifice of the Savior is the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrifices, that these sacrifices have always pointed to the Savior and what He would (did) do for us.  And because He has paid the price, because He fulfilled the Law in that way, He is able to intercede for us, to advocate for us, to bridge the gap between us and Heavenly Father.

It is this intercession that makes it possible for us to even approach God, much less return to His presence.

“And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement” (verse 10).

The “punishment” is the opposite of “happiness”, he says.

We know that happiness is to be in the presence of Heavenly Father.

Holiness is required to be in His presence.

So what is not holy, cannot be in His presence.

That is the “punishment”.

In this way, we kind of choose – now – our own punishment for then – by how holy we choose to become in this life.

We are, of course, a work in progress, and “fall short of the glory of God”.

But it is that exchange, that ongoing process of sanctifying to become holy, it is that atoning for what is not-holy (mercy) and give us of His righteousness (mercy) that makes it possible.   But we have to choose it, and do the work it requires.

We do that work by making good choices.

This brings us back to the Law of Opposition.

Without opposition, we cannot make choices.  We need opposing choices of good and of what is not-good, in order to choose the good.  Without a choice of what is not-good, there would be no good to choose.

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility” (verse 11).

But because there is a choice of good and not-good, that means we need a Law that says what is of God and what is not of-God.

But because there is a Law, that means there is the fulfilling of the Law, and the transgression of the Law.

This is how opposition plays out.

So because there is transgression against the Law, we need the atonement to make things right again.

“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away” (verse 13).

This, Lehi says, is “for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon” (verse 14).

But to bring about all this, that chain of consequences of opposition had to start somewhere.  So we have Adam and Eve with the forbidden fruit.

This was the beginning of agency, or the ability to make choices.

It is the whole reason we all came to planet Earth, to learn how to make choices.

(Also to receive our bodies, of course.)

We learn to make choices by overcoming the temptations of the devil.

The devil was kicked out of heaven for trying to usurp God.  That is consistent in most all Christian religions, and many other religions as well.  We know that story.  In LDS beliefs, we have more details of this, in that we know Heavenly Father presented this plan – even for us to come to Earth to receive our bodies and gain experience (learn to make choices).   He explained the plan, even the need for the atonement.

Jehovah, our eldest brother, offered Himself as the sacrifice as the atonement.  This way Heavenly Father’s plan could unfold as He designed it, and we could all make choices and work our way back home to Him.  Each of us making it back home would bring glory to Heavenly Father, for He had accomplished His work and glory.

Lucifer, however, didn’t want to do it Heavenly Father’s way.  He wanted to FORCE everyone to choose God.  Forcing us to choose God would remove our agency, and negate the need for an atonement.  It would also mean Lucifer himself would get all the glory for getting us back home by force, rather than Heavenly Father getting the glory because we demonstrated our love for Him.

This is why Lucifer and his followers got kicked out of Heaven, and why they did not get to be born into bodies.

They are mad about this, and want us as miserable as they are.   So they like to trick us into surrendering our agency or using it poorly.

“And I, Lehi, according to the things which I have read, must needs suppose that an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.  And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind” (verses 17 and 18).

So this is how LDS view Eve differently than other Christian perspectives.

We all agree she took the first bite, so to speak.

We even agree that in some way, this caused our “fall”.

But others believe this was a bad thing, and because of her we are all miserable.

This is a horrible and oppressive and twisted view on women in general, especially our most honored first woman, the mother of us all.

In contrast, LDS honor Eve in that she did what she had to do to enact the plan of salvation, to start that process of opposition so that we all could make choices.

And so through this, we were all able to come to earth, to learn to make choices and learn how to demonstrate our love to Him by doing what He says, and by turning to Him through repentance when we fail to do what He says.

“And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents” (verse 21).

But this means that if they had remained in their state of innocence, they never even would have had children.

Without the fall, none of us would have ever been born.

In the same way, they would have never known joy or happiness, because they would have never experienced sadness or pain.

There has to be opposites.

“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.  And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin” (verses 22 and 23).

And so in this way, Eve transgressed a lesser law in order to follow a higher law.

In this way, Eve taking the first bite was actually being obedient to the overall plan.

In this way, we know that the forbidden fruit was put in the Garden of Eden for a reason.  He had a plan when He planted it there!  He knew what the plan was, and Adam and Eve understood what the plan was.

“Behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things” (verse 24).

Even the forbidden fruit was part of the plan.

The “Fall” of Adam and Eve was really part of the process of us leaving our premortal presence with Heavenly Father, so that we could come here to learn to make choices.  We needed the agency – the ability to make choices, to choose or not, so that our love could really be love – because it was a choice.  And this is our whole point of being on Earth, so that we can find this joy of choosing to love our Heavenly Father.

This leads us to one of the most famous verses in all of LDS scripture, verse 25, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”

But that joy comes through the atonement of Christ.

He was always part of the plan.

“And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given” (verse 26).

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (verse 27).

It says “men are free according to the flesh”.  This means that because the Savior conquered death through His resurrection, by His divine nature, we all will experience immortality.  That is His free gift to everyone.

But eternal life – the quality of that immortality – that we must choose, and now is when we choose it.

How do we choose eternal life?

“And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit…” (verse 28).

We choose eternal life by obeying the commandments, by being faithful to Him (and our premortal covenant of testifying).  We are ABLE to do this because of the help we receive from the Holy Spirit.

But if we do not obey, if we are not faithful, if we do not listen to the Holy Spirit, then we are instead allowing the devil to have power to “captivate”, with those chains that lead to death and destruction, to be reigned over by him instead of living with Heavenly Father in the celestial kingdom.

And these words are his testimony to all his sons, “in the last days of my probation” (this time on Earth to prove that we have learned to make choices, to show that we choose Heavenly Father).  “I have chosen the good part, according to the words of the prophet.  And I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls.  Amen” (verse 30).

2 Nephi 1

To see earlier posts about the Book of Mormon, look in the right column of this page, and scroll down past the blog comments to where it says “Blog Categories” (second to last thing displayed in column to the right).  You can click on that, select “Book of Mormon” as the category, and it will display all the posts from 1 Nephi listed by chapter.  Hope that helps!

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 1.

Just as 1 Nephi was an account of Lehi and his son, Nephi, and the rest of their family leaving Jerusalem and traveling into the wilderness, so is 2 Nephi an account of the final days of Lehi, Lehi’s death, and Nephi’s continued journeys.  In this way, 2 Nephi is about the passing of the torch from Lehi to Nephi.  The family records are passed down to Nephi, and he continues to document the family story.

In 1 Nephi, the bad behavior of these boys consistently played out opposite Nephi’s good behavior.  The characters of these brothers are “types” of the Law of Opposition, showing how the opposition plays out, showing what each side looks like.  It helps us to learn what the opposite choices are, enables us to discern what consequences follow, and empowers us to make our own good choices.  This is how we avoid bondage by learning the lessons from their experiences; unless we do not learn by their example, then we still must repeat the pattern until we get it for ourselves.

But now, in 2 Nephi, the same thing starts to play out on a grander scale.  Instead of just representing the opposites of good guy / bad guy, these brothers begin to point to a higher pattern.  No longer simply playing opposites in their choices, the brothers are now opposites as a result of their choices.  Rather than simply representing opposing choices, the brothers now represent opposing consequences.  Instead of just being the good guy, Nephi now is a prophet pointing to the Savior, a “type” of the Savior, or representing the people of the Church.  Instead of just being the bad boys representing the bad choices, Lamen and Lemuel now represent those who are rejecting the prophets, not of the covenant, and even mocking the Church.

Verse 1 of chapter 1 opens 2 Nephi by explaining this transition:  “And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of teaching my brethren, our father, Lehi, also spake many things unto them, and rehearsed unto them, how great things the Lord had done for them in bringing them out of the land of Jerusalem.”

But then, in verse 2, Lehi does something that I love very much, something that I need reminding of everyday: he calls out the naughty boys, those murmuring and rebellious brothers of Nephi.  He calls them out for their bad behavior on the ship, back when they were mean and rude and tied Nephi up (1 Nephi 18).  But here is the part I love: Lehi calls them out on it, but then points them back to the Savior.  Rather than focus on shaming them, or getting stuck in the reprimanding, Lehi follows the pattern we are given by disciplining and then demonstrating an increase in love (See D&C 121:43).  In this moment of meekness (for to be meek is “strength under control”, and he had plenty of reasons to just blast them), Lehi straight up calls out the boys for their bad behavior, but then rather than isolating them or shaming them for this, uses it to teach a character trait of God.  He teaches them about God’s mercy.

In the context of justice (as opposed to “tender mercies” which is a different thing), “mercy” is when we do not receive what we should.

This is in contrast to “grace”, which is when we receive what we did not earn.

The atonement includes both grace and mercy:  He did it for us even though we did not deserve it (grace); because He did it, we will not receive the full punishment we should have (mercy).

It is grace when my mother gets me a chocolate shake even though I fussed at her early that morning.

It is mercy when my mother grounds me for only 1 day instead of 3 days for fussing at her.

Mercy is when the full punishment is not dished out.

So in verse 2, Lehi is saying that the bad behavior of those naughty boys earned a severe punishment from God.   If we remember that story, we know the storms came and threatened the ship and everyone on it.  But God showed mercy and did not destroy them (even though they had earned it).

Lehi used that past experience – very fresh and relevant to his children and their families – to explain what God was doing for them now (line upon line!).

In verse 3, Lehi talks about their safe arrival in the land of promise, and how this showed the mercy of God because He had warned them to leave Jerusalem before it was destroyed.

This is the mercy of God: that He gave them commandments, and their obedience saved them.

This is how He delivers His people through covenants.

We know that anytime the Scriptures talk about the land of promise, or the promised land, we know it is referring not only to that physical deliverance of those people at that time, but also to the ultimate deliverance of all of us returning to the celestial kingdom to be with our Heavenly Father.

In the same way, whatever or whoever is being destroyed in that physical moment of that historical time becomes a representation of “the world”;  just as the covenant people must flee from those lands/oppressors/cities, so we must also be “set apart” from the world to be delivered to the promised land.

To be “set apart” means to be “holy”, so it is this “setting apart” from the world that transforms us into becoming holy, into becoming the people-of-holiness.

(See this blog on 1 Nephi 15)

It is the journey, it is the “setting apart” that makes us holy, that makes us become the covenant people He has called us to be.

Keeping all that in mind, we re-read verse 3:

“And he also spake unto them concerning the land of promise, which they had obtained—how merciful the Lord had been in warning us that we should flee out of the land of Jerusalem.”

So we learn that it is HIS MERCY that enables us to be “set apart”, that makes us holy, that transforms us into a covenant people.

It is also a reminder that His Laws, the principles by which we live, and the commandments we know are good for us, and that they are given to us by His MERCY, so that we can be delivered.

It brings us back to the image of the Passover, and of how being obedient saves us.  We see it in every commandment given to us – CLICK HERE to read my favorite talk EVER on the Word of Wisdom, by my favorite-est I-can-talk-Hebrew-Greek-and-English-in-the-same-sentence scholar, Hugh Nibley.

So this is the lesson, that in God’s mercy, He gives us commandments to keep us safe – both temporally and spiritually.  It’s really that simple.

In verse 4, Lehi tells his family that he has seen a vision in which Jerusalem has been destroyed.  So he knows that what he prophesied has now happened.  And, it really did.  This is all just after 600 BC, and we know that in this time, Jerusalem really was taken captive by Babylon.  This is the time of Jeremiah the prophet, and the captivity will last through the days of Zedekiah and until the rebuilding of the Temple.

So, Lehi says, “had we remained in Jerusalem, we should also have perished” (verse 4).

This opens up a layer of prophecy, where Lehi is talking about the land of Americas as well as this “promised land” being a type of the future celestial kingdom.

He says, “Dude. This was a hard trip.  It’s been really hard.  We had lots of hardships along the way.  But we got here safely, and were delivered out of the destruction that went down back there.  We are grateful and glad for His mercy that provided a way for us to make it here, and grateful and glad for this provision of a place to live. The Lord keeps His promises.”

“But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord” (verse 5).

Then come his powerful words of prophesy: “according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord” (verse 6).

This land, he says, is a promised land.  The Lord will lead people here, and that is how the people will find it.  Then, as long as the people continue to be obedient and acknowledge Him, He will protect them here in this land because they are His people and this is His land.  But if they refuse to become His people, they must leave the land because it is His.”

This, like all other others, applies in a temporal (here and now) and spiritual (celestial kingdom) sense.

The Lord is holy.  We cannot be in His presence if we are not also made holy.  To return to His presence, we must become the people-of-holiness.

In the same way, this land is consecrated (set apart, made holy) for His people.  If His people continue to be His people, the land will remain as a symbol of freedom to them, a “land of liberty”.  Can you see Moroni raising the flag in Alma 46?  But if they lose their freedom and liberty, it will be because of iniquity.  Yet even still, it is promised to His people, so those who become His people, people-of-holiness (the House of the Lord), will inherit the land.  It’s a promise.

“Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.”

Thus unfolds the drama (as in story) of the entire Book of Mormon.  The whole rest of the Book of Mormon is the story of how the Law of Opposition, played out by the descendants of Nephi (Nephites) and descendants of Lamen and Lemuel (Lamanites) affects who has the land or not.  It is how these groups of people, the Nephites and the Lamanites, are blessed or not by the choices they make and the covenants they keep (or not).

“Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever.”

This is a beautiful promise, a powerful promise.

It is also concerning, for we know the consequences of falling away from God as a nation, and it seems in-process even now.

The Family Proclamation says:

We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

That time is here.  That time is nearly now.

We are no longer in the latter days.  We are in the latter days of the latter days.  Time is running out.  The signs are here, the earth is testifying, and the prophet and apostles are exponentially speeding up preparations in every way.

Lehi said, “But behold, when the time cometh that they shall dwindle in unbelief, after they have received so great blessings from the hand of the Lord—having a knowledge of the creation of the earth, and all men, knowing the great and marvelous works of the Lord from the creation of the world; having power given them to do all things by faith; having all the commandments from the beginning, and having been brought by his infinite goodness into this precious land of promise—behold, I say, if the day shall come that they will reject the Holy One of Israel, the true Messiah, their Redeemer and their God, behold, the judgments of him that is just shall rest upon them” (verse 10).

The Lord can only show us mercy if we are listening and obeying and doing what He says.

Mercy works by delivering us through warnings, which means doing what we are supposed to do BEFORE the consequences come.

If we do not, then all that is left is the consequences, which is justice-only.

The time for mercy is NOW.  They time for obedience is NOW.

The time to be delivered is NOW.

But Lehi’s family was delivered because they heeded the warnings when they came, not because they waited until Jerusalem was invaded.

If they had waited, it would have been too late.

Now is the time to prepare to meet God.

It pre-echos the urging of Alma 5.

This life is the time to prepare to meet God (Alma 34:32).

If we do not, it will be the same as is always the pattern of those who refuse the Lord: rather than being GATHERED and DELIVERED, there will be SCATTERING and DESTRUCTION.

“Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten” (verse 11).

We have to wake up!  We have to remember!

Lehi said, “O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe” (verse 13).  These “chains of hell” he is talking about is defined in Alma 12:12:

And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.

If our hearts are soft, we are given a “greater portion of the word” (understanding of Scriptures, Spirit-tutoring in the Scriptures, and deeper layers of meaning).

If our hearts are hard – if we will not obey – then we are given less.  Why would he give us more, if we do not care about or pay attention to what He has already given?

Why would He ask more of us, if we do not do what He has already commanded?

In the Hebrew, “mysteries” refers to two things: first, the things of God; second, ordinances of God.

So the more we humble ourselves before the Lord, and heed (listen and do!) what the Spirit teaches (instructs, corrects, and guides), then the more soft our hearts will be.  The more soft our hearts are, the more easily He can IMPRESS upon them.

When my house was being built, I carved my initials into my driveway.  It was easy because the cement was wet and soft.  I could not go out there today, a year later, now that the cement is hard and dry, and so very easily carve my name into the cement.  Is it possible?  Yes, I could.  But not in the same way, the same ease as when it was wet and soft.  Now it would be a hard process, rough, and require painful carving the way a flower must feel when I pull off its dead blossoms so that new blossoms can burst forth.  It’s much easier to impress upon something that is soft.

This is Lehi’s call to his children and their families; this is Lehi’s call to us:  be soft, let the Spirit impress upon your hearts, so that the Lord can teach you line upon line, so that you can become the people-of-holiness, so that you can get home safely to Heavenly Father.

He calls out, “Awake! And arise from the dust!” (verse 14)

This is our being lifted up.  As we are sanctified, by His Spirit, and by His atonement, we are changed.  He lifts us up, transforming us from what we were into who we were created to be.  We must shake off the dust from our tears of repentance, and we must exchange our sackcloth for white robes.   This is His work and glory, to bring about the immortality and eternal life of all of us.  It is His work of making us at-one again.

We see the at-one-ness in verse 15:  “the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love”.   I am encircled about in the arms of his love.  This is the embrace, the bringing into His presence.  It is the prodigal son being reunited with his father.  It is the moment of at-one-ness.

In his last words before dying, Lehi repeats all of this in a parallel poem kind of way, emphasizing the tender urging of a “trembling parent” (verse 14):

“And I desire that ye should remember to observe the statutes and the judgments of the Lord; behold, this hath been the anxiety of my soul from the beginning…  My heart hath been weighed down with sorrow from time to time, for I have feared, lest for the hardness of your hearts the Lord your God should come out in the fulness of his wrath upon you, that ye be cut off and destroyed forever;  Or, that a cursing should come upon you for the space of many generations; and ye are visited by sword, and by famine, and are hated, and are led according to the will and captivity of the devil” (verses 16-18).

Rather, Lehi pleads, choose the way of the Savior.  Turn to Him, love Him, serve Him, do what He says “that that these things might not come upon you, but that ye might be a choice and a favored people of the Lord. But behold, his will be done; for his ways are righteousness forever.  And he hath said that: inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence” (verses 19, 20).

This is an important, subtle piece because it again reflects and points out the attribute of mercy the Lord has.

It’s not a pass/fail exam.

“Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land” could read “to the degree that you keep my commandments, you will prosper in the land”.

This is not old-school mad-Jesus Heaven-or-Hell.

This is the mercy of God, that He provides a way, and our choices determine how far along that path we get and how quickly.

He makes it possible for us to return to Heavenly Father, but our choices determine how close we get.

Look, and see –

My mother has always been my mother, but after things like running away (my “Fall”), getting adopted by her made it all legal again.

That made her my mother, but it is our time together, our positive interactions, our choices in taking care of each other – that is what makes us friends.

Heavenly Father has always been our Heavenly Father, but the atonement pf the Savior makes my adoption possible.

But it is our time together (scripture study), our interactions (prayer and heeding promptings), our choices in taking care of each other (obedience, covenant-keeping) that makes us friends.

ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (Romans 8:15).

I will call you friends, for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me (D&C 93:45).

This is the embrace of at-one-ness, the work of the atonement.

But we have to do our part.

Because that’s how covenants work.

We know He will keep His promises.

But we have to keep ours.

“And now that my soul might have joy in you, and that my heart might leave this world with gladness because of you, that I might not be brought down with grief and sorrow to the grave, arise from the dust, my sons, and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things” (verse 21).

This is at-one-ment!

Then Lehi sums up his whole plea, repeating the pattern once more so that they might see how it works.

First, what happens when we are not at-one:

“that ye may not come down into captivity; That ye may not be cursed with a sore cursing; and also, that ye may not incur the displeasure of a just God upon you, unto the destruction, yea, the eternal destruction of both soul and body”

And then, rather, how to become at-one:

“Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.  Rebel no more against your brother, whose views have been glorious, and who hath kept the commandments from the time that we left Jerusalem; and who hath been an instrument in the hands of God, in bringing us forth into the land of promise; for were it not for him, we must have perished with hunger in the wilderness; nevertheless, ye sought to take away his life; yea, and he hath suffered much sorrow because of you” (verses 22-24).

The armor of righteousness, the robes of righteousness, the armor of God.

Rebel no more against the prophet, against those that warn you.  Listen, and heed (go and do!).

Keep the commandments because that is HOW the Lord delivers you.

Testify of the Lord working in your life, and the Spirit will testify to their spirit that you are a servant of God (Preach My Gospel, p. 158).

Lehi urges his sons and their families to turn to the Lord and obey His commandments.  He has explained how the commandments are given to protect them, to keep them safe, to teach them to depend on spiritual things.  He has explained how it is through commandments that we are delivered.  He has reminded them of examples of this.  Now he says that Nephi’s example of doing this well and teaching his brothers how to do this is not “for power nor authority over you, but he hath sought the glory of God, and your own eternal welfare” (verse 25).

So again, Nephi is a type pointing to Christ, who has given us commandments that are for our eternal welfare, for the glory of God.

Lehi confronts the murmuring of his sons against Nephi once more:

“And ye have murmured because he hath been plain unto you. Ye say that he hath used sharpness; ye say that he hath been angry with you; but behold, his sharpness was the sharpness of the power of the word of God, which was in him; and that which ye call anger was the truth, according to that which is in God, which he could not restrain, manifesting boldly concerning your iniquities” (verse 26).

The words of God are only “sharp” and difficult and too hard when we are not doing what He says.

It’s only oppressive when it isn’t what we really want.   It’s only oppressive when we are out-of-sync.

That’s why it is “inasmuch”, or to the degree to which you obey, because He is not out to oppress us or make us miserable.  He wants us happy, and He wants us to succeed.  He lets us choose.

When we are “kicking against the goads” or “kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5), it hurts and we are uncomfortable and we do not like it.

But when we submit, and take upon us His equal yoke, designed just for the being we are, then our load is made lighter and we are able to progress forward (Matthew 11:30).

“And it must needs be that the power of God must be with him, even unto his commanding you that ye must obey. But behold, it was not he, but it was the Spirit of the Lord which was in him, which opened his mouth to utterance that he could not shut it” (verse 27).

We are called to listen to the prophets and leaders who teach us, guide us, and correct us.  It is by the Spirit that they speak.

In the same way, we should be filled with the Spirit of the Lord, so that we also testify.  Always, being filled with the Spirit is a call to some kind of sharing, some level of passing-it-on, some type of testifying, whether or not we actually use words.  Receiving the Light and Becoming the Light is all part of the same process.  We are called to be a light unto the world.

We read in Matthew 5:14-16:

 14Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

 15Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

What is interesting about this is how we, collectively, a covenant people of the Temple (a city on a hill), are the light of the world.  We cannot be hidden; we cannot be silenced.   Our primary influence is a collective influence.

But, the only way that can happen, is for us as individuals to shine.

We must shine, even to each other within the church, to our brothers and sisters of the covenant (“all that are in the house”).   We cannot be acting like the world, when we are supposed to be acting like a city-on-the-hill (Temple).  We should be demonstrating attributes of the Savior – goodness, kindness, loving-ness, forgiving-ness, soft-ness, service-ness – unto all those around us.  Not drama, not bickering, not hatefulness, not ugliness.  We should be reflecting the Savior, so that all may glorify our Father-in-Heaven.

And if we do so, even listening to the prophets, doing what the Scriptures say, heeding the promptings of the Spirit, then “ye shall not perish” (verse 28).

Now Lehi is dying, and gives his final blessings to his sons.

He also blesses Zoram, the servant of Laban (the guy who had the records and wouldn’t give them up).  He even thanks him for being a “true friend” to Nephi.  He declares Zoram to be a convert to the covenant “because thou has been faithful, and so they seed shall be blessed… and nothing, save it be iniquity among them… shall harm or disturb their prosperity upon the face of this land forever… if ye shall keep the commandments of the Lord, the Lord hath consecrated this land for the security of thy seed with the seed of my son” (verses 31 and 32).

In this way, the close of the chapter that opens 2 Nephi, we see how the covenant is open even to converts, and that in some way all must convert.  We see being born into the covenant is not enough, but one must be faithful to the covenant.

I was talking with a friend about how my mother always urged me to get the CA-125 tumor marker test because of her experience with ovarian cancer, and how it came up now – in this time in this place – because of my father’s cancer.  My friend pointed out that if I had not worked through the past, if I had not done my part at becoming at-one with my parents, I might not have known anything about all this until it was too late.  It was because of being at-one with my mother, and doing the work of loving my father, that I was protected by this early intervention.  My friend said, “There are often reasons for doing what is hard – but right – that we are oblivious to at the time.”  This is what Lehi has tried to teach his sons in this chapter, that the mercy of the Lord works in us as we are rescued and delivered by being obedient to His commandments.

I Have Faith in America

I really did rest, finally, as if I am learning how.

I know it’s a shocker, but I wore myself out.  Completely.

I came home from my talks yesterday, and got home just after 5pm.

I laid down, just to take a quick nap, and didn’t wake up until 10am this morning.

That means I missed Sacrament meeting!  I slept FIFTEEN HOURS!

I was glad I had taken my shower last night, and I threw on my clothes, brushed my teeth and hair, and made it to Sunday School by 1015, just as it was starting.  WHEW.

I get to go to the new marriage and family class.

That’s a lot of marriage-and-family training I am getting, from all the talks and classes, and it is fascinating to me.  I am not married, and there is no one to date, but I am being so very prepared.

Maybe it is like my baptism, and I just need that much preparing before it ever happens.

I am okay with that, really.  I am grateful for all the help I can get before I have to try it out.  Yikes.

After Sunday School, I took Sacrament with the young singles ward (ironically enough), and then made it to the last half of Relief Society.

When I got home from church, I laid down just for a minute, and slept another hour!  Then I had some soup, and then slept three more hours!

I slept NINETEEN of the last 24 hours.

That is some serious exhaustion.

And, I feel as ready for bed now as I ever do, though I am an hour late because of the whole Bin Laden thing.

The news tonight interrupted my simple routine as much as the news did that morning ten years ago.

Just as this blog must change mid-writing, so did everything change that morning.

I don’t write about politics very much, because people get so touchy.  I would very much like to talk about it more, only so I could learn.  But it seems America has lost the art of discussion, so much that now we can no longer civilly discuss things like politics.  I like to work my way through it, see all the sides, understand the under-layers, and dig into to understand.  That’s hard to do when you don’t have anyone willing to discuss different perspectives, or willing to explain why they choose the way the do without getting mad at you in the process.  I miss the days of civil discussion about all topics, when it really was an art of conversation.

So when I say what I am going to say, know that I am not picking sides.  That’s not what this is about, not what I am saying.

Also, I know that our troops are working hard at the assignments given them, and I have family and friends out there literally fighting for my freedom to even say what I want to say.  I am proud of them, and I love them, and I am grateful to them.

Also, I know that Bin Laden was a really bad dude, and the things he paid for and organized were beyond horrific.

Also, I understand that we have been trying to catch him and stop him since before I was born almost, and so congratulations to the people who have worked so hard to accomplish this assignment that has been so difficult.  That’s a job well done, and I totally cry with pride when I see the people outside the white house shouting, “USA, USA! USA!”.

Like everyone else, this moment flashes me back to where I was on September 11th that year.

I was working nights at a group home for autistic and other developmentally delayed adults.  I had my bachelor’s degree in Human Development, and in process of my med training, and was working nights to pay for my Master’s.  It was a hard schedule, where I worked all day, went to class, slept a few hours, then worked all night, did my homework in the early pre-dawn hours, then went back to my day job.  It was probably the most sleep-deprived time in my life (says the girl who slept fifteen hours last night).

I had been up all night changing adult diapers and cleaning the home and preparing breakfast that then had to be run through the food processor for feeding tubes and bottles and spooned mush.  I had already set out medications and doses and preparing syringes and done my med check and finished the med counts for that morning.  My work was done until the clients began to wake up, and so it was the rare moment of the early hours where I got to sit on the couch and study for my GRE and look over immigration papers from Australia.  I had applied to move there permanently, to become a citizen.  I was looking forward to moving to Sydney, and had already met friends there. I wanted to continue my theological studies over there, and pursue my degree in psychiatry.  I was going to work with the Aborigines.  I was going to save the world.

That was before I watched the world be destroyed, right on the television set in front of me.

Also, I was not in contact with my biological family.  That’s why it is fascinating to me that now, once I am finally at-one with my family, now is when the other bookend happens that closes the chapter on Bin Laden.

So that’s where I was on September 11th.

When the news came on, with the chaos of no one knowing (or believing) what was happening, I watched smoke come out of that first building.  Then we saw the plane hit the other one.  Then we saw them fall.   Before we could even process this, we saw the pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania.

It was all so much, so traumatic, so fast.

I had only had a few hours sleep in the days previous, so I thought it was a bad dream.  The shock of it all could not penetrate into my sleepy brain.  I could not wake myself.

None of us could wake from it.  Because it was real.

The experience was traumatizing, and united us as a nation.

I remember that day.  I had two friends there, one who died and one who survived.  I have three friends who had parents there, one who survived and five (of the three sets of mothers and fathers) who died.  So I get it, on a tiny scale for someone who wasn’t there directly, of how bad it was.

And I know Bin Laden was a bad dude, a seriously bad dude who did seriously bad things.

I do not at all mean to make light of that.  Not at all.

I want to stress the bad-ness, actually, which may or may not be un-charity-able of me.

But what I want to say is that I am not sure that killing Bin Laden was a good thing.

I mean, I know he was bad, I know he earned his consequences, and I know we have worked hard for a long time to catch him and put a stop to these awful, terrible things.  And I commend our troops that sacrifice so much to protect us.  Again, I have both family and friends serving over there now, and it is because of there service that I am an educated female free to move about as I please and allowed to write a blog where I can say anything I want.  And I thank them.

So they did a good job.  Really.

I just mean that we have now martyred someone that those people were already willing to die for.  The people he organized, trained, and paid to do the awful things they did are not going to say, “Oh, well, we had a good run, so let’s all go home now.”  They were already willing to die for him, and now we have made him a martyr.  We really don’t want to feed a martyr to a group of people already in the context of a religion-turned-fanatical.

Note: the real religion of the real people is actually very amazing, and very similar to LDS – we actually have a lot in common, just some big pieces inside out in differences, but our Muslim brothers and sisters actually have a great deal in common with us LDS folk, but that would be another blog entirely.

So I think this could really escalate things, and escalate them quickly.

Far worse than they were before.

I said, “the Latter-days, baby!”   Yikes.

So it may not have been a good thing.  But it may have been a necessary thing.

Chopping off Laban’s head was not “good” in and of itself, but it was necessary – even commanded.

So, that being said, it is fascinating to watch the world realize, at some level, that America is so definitively connected to the holy land.  Most don’t have the whole story yet, but it is exciting to watch it unfold, since we already know the end of the story.  And the best way to break through brick walls – like getting the gospel into countries that never had it before – is for there to be huge, mega, political unrest and upheaval like there has been all over the mid-east this year.  The oppressive regimes that have suppressed and twisted truth are falling like dominoes, at an unbelievable rate.

So even though I say it may be a rough ride, it really is, after all, a good thing.

The Muslim friends I have don’t like Bin Laden giving them a bad name for his twisted version of their beliefs anymore than I like fundamentalists or other versions of “Mormons” (groups who are not a part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) giving us a bad name by doing things that Latter-day Saints know we are not to do.

The online chatter is already saying this development will actually improve US-Muslim relations.

That would be a miracle, and it may very well be unfolding.

But if that is true, then get ready for the ride.

I don’t just mean political stuff escalating.

I mean if we are going to bring the gospel to these brothers and sisters, then we better step it up.

Know why we haven’t gotten into that culture yet, why we can’t convert them yet?

Because they are way better at keeping covenants than we are.

We may have the “full gospel”, but they are a covenant keeping people.

Remember how the Lamanites (who were supposed to be the bad guys) actually got the Gospel and conquered the Nephites (who had started out as the good guys but hadn’t kept their covenants)?

This is what we are watching unfold, on a larger scale.

From an LDS perspective, we would say the Muslims (of the good sort, not the building-blowing-up sort) have good truth and follow many of the same laws we do… just not the full gospel story or the restored priesthood.

However, they – as individuals and as a people – are very, very good at keeping the covenants they have made thus far in their progression.

We may have the full gospel, but how good are we at keeping covenants?

We may say they do not have the full story, but they are faithful to what they do have.

We may have the full story, but how faithful are we?

It makes me think of Alma… his whole entire life, actually, but specifically this:

“We can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things” (Alma 24:30; see Alma 9:15—23; 46:8; 47:36; 50:21; 53:9).

The Nephites were told straight out that they would always have the Lamanites to “stir them up to remembrance” (1 Nephi 2:24).  Then we see it unfold:  the descendants of Nephi (who was good, and truly converted to the covenant) did not keep their covenants and the descendants of Laman and Lemuel (or, really, all those outside of the Nephites) were not born into the covenant because their ancestors had not chosen it… and yet they themselves converted to it.

This is the same pattern for us: being born into the covenant is not good enough.

We must become people of the covenant.

So how good are you at keeping the 10 commandments?  Because the Muslims are really, really good at it.

How good are you at keeping the word of wisdom?  Because the Muslims are really, really good at it.

How good are you at fasting?  Because the Muslims are really, really good at it.

How good are you at utilizing your Temple clothes “regularly and often”?  Because the Muslims do it constantly.

If it’s a full-gospel contest, like a who-has-the-right-answer-in-seminary game, then we might have some points.

But if it’s a contest for who can “go and do”?   We might be a lap or two behind.

And if it’s a contest about who can keep the covenants they know about so far?  We are going to be asking for makeup work.   And we’re gonna get it.  Soon.

Because we know that every time the Nephites tried to rid themselves of the Lamanite threat, they suffered greater losses than ever before.  The Lord kept telling them that wasn’t the way to go about it, but they kept not listening, suffering greater and greater losses each round, until they finally exterminated themselves.

Don’t get me wrong: I am NOT saying we are doomed.

I am saying it is time to step it up.

Like our brave soldiers fighting literally and physically over there every day, we should be fighting spiritually from where we are, whatever the “bounds of time and place” are in our lives.

We can’t be whiny little children anymore.  We can’t be spiritually lazy bums.

It’s time to wake up, to stand up, to shout out the truth in ways that invite others to the Savior.

It’s time to get on our knees, refrain from excess, give to those in need, become at-one with our families, and raise the title of liberty that defines our faith.

It’s time to go to the Temple, time to take your ancestors through the Temple, time to be empowered at the Temple.

It’s time to step up; it’s time to shiny up.

It’s time to love America, even if men fail, and even if calamities come, because we know the whole story.

Harold B. Lee said:

Men may fail in this country, earthquakes may come, seas may heave beyond their bounds, there may be great drought, disaster, and hardship, but this nation, founded on principles laid down by men whom God raised up, will never fail.

This is the cradle of humanity, where life on this earth began in the Garden of Eden. This is the place of the new Jerusalem. This is the place that the Lord said is favored above all other nations in all the world. This is the place where the Savior will come to His temple. This is the favored land in all the world. Yes, I repeat, men may fail, but this nation won’t fail.

I have faith in America; you and I must have faith in America, if we understand the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are living in a day when we must pay heed to these challenges. I plead with you not to preach pessimism. Preach that this is the greatest country in all the world. This is the favored land. This is the land of our forefathers. It is the nation that will stand despite whatever trials or crises it may yet have to pass through.

These are the words that come to my mind and heart as I watch people shouting “USA!  USA!  USA!”

These are the words that I say out loud:  I have faith in America.

.

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P.S.  THIS ARTICLE was my favorite Bin-Laden-is-Dead article if you are looking for a good one.

P.S.  Also, that was one of the most bomb-diggity presidential speeches ever… well, at least in my lifetime.  You can WATCH THE VIDEO HERE if you missed it, and you can read the FULL TEXT HERE.

One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.  SNAP!

MORNING AFTER UPDATE:  Schadenfruede does not look good on you, USA.  Be careful.

Proverbs 24:17-18… “Rejoice not when thing enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the Lord see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.”