Jacob 4

CLICK HERE to read Jacob 4.

Jacob now shares about the experience of keeping his record.  He talks about how it is difficult to engrave upon the plates (verse 1), and how because of this he must choose the most important things to share (verse 2).  He shares how “in this thing we do rejoice; and we labor diligently to engraven these words upon plates, hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts…” (verse 3).

What a gift to us!

So why does he write these things?  To testify of Christ, he says, “that they (us!) may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming…” (verse 4).  This is specific to LDS beliefs, that all the prophets before Christ, from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Isaiah – all of them knew of Christ.   Christ wasn’t just something that happened in the middle of the timeline, but they knew – at that time, when they were living – that everything was pointing to Christ’s coming, just as we know it all points to that He has come already (and will come again).

“Behold, they (all the prophets before Christ) believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name, and also we worship the Father in his name.  And for this intent we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him; and for this cause it is sanctified unto us for forgiveness, even as it was accounted unto Abraham in the wilderness to be obedient unto the commands of God in offering up his son Isaac, which is a simlitude of God and his Only Begotten Son” (verse 5).

Everything before Christ was a “type and shadow” that pointed to Christ.

And the people knew it.

This is why the study of the prophets, like in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah, is so very important.  Because it brings a whole new understanding and meaning to the Old Testament when you read it from the perspective of realizing they knew at that time what was going on, that they knew everything was pointing to the promised Messiah, to the Savior who would come.

“Wherefore, we search the prophets… and our faith becometh unshaken…” (verse 6).

But still, the reason our faith is strong is because it is in HIM.

Not because of ourselves, but because of HIM and His great atoning sacrifice.

“… we may know it is by his grace…” (verse 7).

Then Jacob gives a warning, to remind us not to “despise the revelations of God” (verse 8), because only God knows His ways.  His ways are not our ways.  So we can only know His ways by Him revealing them to us.

So we need to tune into His revelations – through scriptures and through the Spirit and through our leaders and through our families and all the ways He teaches us – and “take counsel from His hand” (verse 9) because “ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all of his works” (verse 10).   Even me.  Even you.

So we do very much need Him and His counsel.

Jacob pleads with us to be at-one with the Lord again, to repent and turn to Him for healing and forgiveness and counsel to learn and grow and progress.  “Be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ, His Only Begotten Son…” (verse 11).

Jacob throws in a little reprimand, reminding us not to be surprised that he would teach this (verse 12), because understanding the atonement of Christ is the most important thing of all.

Because it is most important, Jacob wants to be clear and speak to us in ways that we understand – even when at first we think these ways are harsh because they are hard to hear.  But the more aligned our will is with His will, the more in tune we are with His Spirit, the more we become our true selves by becoming more like Him, the easier that truth is to bear – because instead of a call to repentance, it becomes “well done, my good and faithful servant”.

“Wherefore, it (the Holy Spirit) speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls” (verse 13).

But, he says again, the “stiffnecked people” – stubborn and obstinate, refusing to submit to the will of God – these people “despised the words of plainness” and so God took away the plain teachings (verse14).

This how it works, as it has always worked:

If we refuse truth, He removes what little truth we had.

If we believe (accept and act upon) truth, He gives us more.

It’s that simple.

Jacob 3

CLICK HERE to read Jacob 3.

When Jacob opens with speaking to the “pure in heart”, he means he is talking to those who are of the covenant (and acting like it).  He instructs us to “Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith” (verse 1).  He says that if we do this, the Lord will “console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction”.  When we are given something we should do, and something the Lord will do if we keep up our part, that is a covenant.  This is covenant language!

So what should we do?

“Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith”.

Looking to God with firmness of mind is about staying on the “straight and narrow” (2 Nephi 9:41).

It reminds us of what we know about God: “For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said” (D&C 3:2).

So we should follow His example, and be like Him: “Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left…” (Joshua 23:6).

We when are able to look toward Him, and to be obedient by following His example, only then can we have faith.  Faith requires obedience, which is why our testimonies develop out of experiences of being obedient.  In Lecture 3 of Joseph Smith’s “Lectures on Faith“, he said that faith has three prerequisites:

First, the idea that he actually exists.

Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.

Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which one is pursuing is according to His will.

So we see why Jacob first instructs the people to look unto God with firmness of mind, because that kind of obedience is required before we can pray unto Him with exceeding faith.

This is always a stirring to repentance, so we know Jacob will be blasting them in that ever-so-gentle-but-very-serious kind of way that only a Prophet of God can do.  Because repentance is part of knowing that our lives are on course.  We are not perfect, and we are not finished.  But we are in process, and so part of being “in Order” is the continual process of being brought further in line, further in tune, further “in Order” even when we have not “arrived” yet.   Being in process of becoming more and more “in Order” is part of being “in Order”.  Being in process of becoming more and more like Him is pursuing life according to His will.

So, if we do that, or are in process of learning how to do so, what has the Savior promised?

He promised to “console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction”.

I have experienced the Savior consoling me in my afflictions in many, many ways.  I have had physical afflictions – like the pain after my cochlear implant surgeries – where I was consoled directly, consoled through friends who provided a hospital bed to relieve my pain, and consoled through priesthood blessings that brought me comfort and sweet sleep.  I have had emotional afflictions when I was grieving in some way and the Spirit did calm me and give me peace.  I have had temporal afflictions, from learning to live on a missionary budget to learning how to weedeat, where the Savior did console me by teaching me what to do and my job was to keep doing it.

I know that the Savior pleads my cause.  I know that He did it in Gethsemane, and that He continues to do so through the atonement as it continues to work for me and in me.  I know that He does it in specific cases, even so that I have been told in a blessing that the Savior was advocating for me.

In my professional work, advocates work with children to be sure the children receive all the rights they are entitled to.  The advocate is on no one’s side except the child, and only has the child’s best interest at heart.  Their sole job is to be sure the child receives all they are entitled to.

The Savior advocates for me in the same way.  I am a child of my Heavenly Father, and that divine relationship entitles me (and each of us) to certain rights, privileges, and inheritances.  So the Savior does advocate for me to be sure I receive these.  He does this through His great atoning sacrifice, through direct advocating for me even now, and through calling me to repentance so that I can prove myself a child of my Father-in-Heaven.

I have also had experiences where those who seemed to want my destruction received justice.  Sometimes this is consequences for their choices.  More often than not, this justice seems to come in the form of in some way learning the truth about themselves and the truth about God, so that not only did they receive justice – but they also received mercy, the same as I have.

And all that is just in verse one!  Since this chapter is written specifically to those within the covenant, it is PACKED full of layers for us to find and for the Spirit to unfold.

So, covenant people, or those “pure in heart”, “lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever” (verse 2).  This is classic Hebrew parallel poetry, ending in this verse with what we started out with in the first verse (firm minds).

It also teaches again that all things are both temporal and spiritual.  We can physically lift our heads because we do physically rejoice when spiritual understanding teaches us what marvelous thing the Savior has done for us.  We receive His words spiritually, but feast upon them physically (by obedience).  This unites our physical and spiritual selves in a kind of spiritual resurrection (from the darkened state in which we live when we do not feast upon His words), and leads us – literally, as eternal beings – to celestial-ness.

So this is where we get the “inasmuch” nature of covenants.  All through scriptures, it is always saying “inasmuch” as you do this, I will do that.   This is always how covenant language is worded.

It means that He will do what He has promised to the degree we do what we have promised.

I mean to say, that He does always keep His promises.  He has atoned for us, and He will bless us.

But those blessings come at the same rate, to the degree, “inasmuch” as we do obey Him.

So, for example, if we want our marriage and family blessed, we must obey the laws of chastity and/or fidelity.  If we follow the law of fidelity, then He blesses us with an intact family.  But if we follow the law of fidelity only physically, while having emotional attachments outside the marriage, then we have an intact family with failing emotional connections.  But if we follow the law of fidelity, including keeping our emotional attachments inside the marriage (not just body parts), then we will have an intact family that is also full of love and emotional support and presence.  But if we are absent emotionally, then our family will feel far away emotionally.  We do it to ourselves in that way, and Jacob will show us how later in this chapter.

Another example is the blessings of the Temple.  One of the blessings from the Temple is, again, blessing for our family.  If we go to the Temple because we have to, we will only stay in our families because we have to.  If we go to the Temple because we love being at the Temple, we will have a love for our families as well.  If we go to the Temple regularly and often, with a love for the Temple, we will have families that are much stronger than simply intact, because we will have families that FEEL like families “regularly and often”, and in which love overflows.

We choose.

We are blessed “inasmuch” as we obey.

“But, wo, wo, unto you that are not pure in heart, that are filthy this day before God; for except ye repent the land is cursed for your sakes…” (verse 3).  This reminds us of the Family Proclamation, which 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.

“And the time speedily cometh, that except ye repent they shall possess the land of your inheritance, and the Lord God will lead away the righteous out from among you” (verse 4).  We know this has been the warning since the time of Lehi, and we know we see this unfold throughout the rest of the Book of Mormon stories.

So now, having reminded the people of their covenants, and reminded them of the warnings of what happens when we do not keep our covenants, Jacob begins the blasting.

He picks up from the previous chapter (two), which talks about how Solomon and Abraham had more than one wife because they were authorized to do so.  At this time, Jacob is saying, and in our day, having more than one wife is not authorized.  In fact, anyone who does can lose their membership in the church.

So that’s the context, but watch how Jacob slams them with truth in the way only a Prophet can…

“Behold, the Lamanities your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness… are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord” (verse 5).

Watch how it unfolds!

First, Jacob is saying that the Nephites, who should know better, are hating on the Lamanites.

The biggest problem with this is that people of God should never be haters.

God is not a hater.

But not only are the busted for hating, they are also busted for not being covenant keepers.

We know someone who is being a hater is not someone who is keeping covenants because hating is not of God, and so when we do that we are not of God.  It’s a big, serious deal.

But the specific example Jacob uses has to do with families.

Jacob is saying that the Lamanites, who do not have the full story, who do not know the full Gospel, are at least keeping the commandments they do know… while the Nephites, who have the full Gospel, are not keeping the covenants they have made.

Do the Lamanites have the full story?  No.

Are they being obedient to the law they have thus far?  Yes.

Are the Nephites, who have the whole story being obedient?  No.

SNAP.

This reminds me of our Muslim brothers and sisters in our day.  So many so-called-Christians hate on the Muslims as a whole, without even knowing individual people.  Christians should not be haters.  God is not a hater.   And if we are going to stereotype Muslims into one population as a whole, then what the truth is about them is that they are way better at keeping covenants than we are.  We cannot and will not make an impression on them or share conversion stories with them until we first learn to keep our covenants as well as they already do.

“And now, this commandment they observe to keep; wherefore, because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them, but will be merciful unto them; and one day they shall become a blessed people” (verse 6).

What blessings do they receive?  Love.

“Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands” (verse 7).

Notice it doesn’t say that they stay married because they have to, or that they do married things because it’s what the other person wants, or that they do what they are supposed to do because it makes other people happy.

No.  It’s says they LOVE each other.

They also love their children:  “their husbands and their wives love their children”.

That’s the love of family that comes from complete obedience to God and complete fidelity to spouse.

That’s amazing.

Jacob then goes on to explain that “their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers” (verse 7).  The Lamanites are being faithful to what they know.  This goes all the way back to Lehi’s sons.  Nephi was obedient, including passing down the records of the family and the scriptures they had.   Laman and Lemuel were the murmurs who were not obedient and did not pass anything down.

So the Nephites got the memo, but the Lamanites didn’t.

Yet, now, the Lamanites are still being obedient to what they DO know, while the Nephites are NOT.

That’s a big problem.

The Lamanites are not held accountable for what they do not know; that is the sin of their fathers, not their own choice.

The Nephites, however, know better, but are not being obedient to what they know.

So Jacob asks, “how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?” (verse 7).

SNAP again!

Jacob outright tells them in verse 8 that all this means that the Lamanites are more prepared to meet God than the Nephites.  He tells them that the judgments the Nephites have made against the Lamanites are actually their own judgment.  So stop hating, he says!

“Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them… neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers” (verse 9).

So the guilt of the Lamanites is not their own (not their choice for what they do not know), but the the sin of the fathers for not teaching them.

However, the Nephites were taught, so it is their choice, which makes it their own sin.

So not only has Jacob shown them how their enemy is actually innocent, but now he tells them that it is they themselves who have actually become the enemy!

Not only that, but now they are the “guilty fathers” passing the sin on to their own children!   They are now doing what happened to the Lamanites!   They were depending on the faithfulness of their fathers instead of doing their own work, and so have not made the faith their own, and now have nothing to pass down to their children.

“Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day” (verse 10).

This is NOT talking about children who were taught the things of the covenant, and are straying by their own use of agency while in process of working out their own salvation.

This is talking about the failure to pass on faith to the children, which is failure to pass on the knowledge that God exists, the knowledge of who God is, and the knowledge that one’s life is in accordance with His will.

So Jacob slams them with the reality that they have become the enemy, even an enemy to God.

The judgments the Nephites were making against others turns out to be their own judgment.

The world calls this karma.

Psychology could call it projection or displacement.

Projection is when we don’t like something in ourselves, or don’t want to face the truth of something about ourselves, or are in denial about what we are doing wrong – and instead of fixing it – in effort to ignore it, quite-en it, silence it, avoid it – we put that problem on someone else instead.

Using Jacob’s example, it looks like someone who is doing fidelity with body parts only, so having an affair by inappropriate emotional attachments outside the marriage.  When this person is confronted, instead of seeing the truth or repenting of it, they accuse those around them of doing that same thing – of having an affair or some inappropriate emotional attachment.

This is how people are far more invisible than they think, revealing what is wrong inside by so loudly accusing others.  This is why it is drama, because it is avoiding the problem by hiding it somewhere else, by “projecting” it – like a moving from the projector onto the screen – other people become the “screen”, instead of just dealing with the issue directly.  So the person thinks they are putting the problem away from them, when really they are revealing it for the whole audience to see.

Displacement is when we do acknowledge the problem, but express it in the wrong place or at the wrong time or with the wrong people.  It might be when you are angry at your boss, but take it out on the kids.  It might be talking with your friends at work about how “far away” or “not understanding” your spouse is, instead of understanding that to be close to your spouse you must discuss those things  with them directly.  It is, again, the emotional affair, where instead of being emotionally connected to your spouse, you keep secrets from them and don’t talk about things with them and instead share private things to develop inappropriate relationships via text or email or facebook with those of the opposite gender and/or those from previous relationships before your spouse.

It’s serious enough that Jacob slams the truth into their faces, unaltered, and un-gentle-ized.  He wants them to see it, because it is that important, and that critical to their future.

Covenants are sealed by the Holy Spirit, not by the person representing the Lord doing the ordinance.

Without obedience, we cannot have such access to the Holy Spirit.

Without that access, those covenants cannot be sealed “for time and eternity”, even if we go through the motions.  It’s our very obedience, our very faithfulness, that enables the sealing power that makes them real, that makes them eternal.   It’s that important.

“O my brethren, hearken unto my words; arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death; and loose yourselves from the pains of hell that ye may not become angels to the devil…” (verse 11).

It’s that important.

Look at what Jacob says happens, when our covenants are not sealed by the Holy Spirit.  When we lose that shiny-ness, we are out of Order (of the Priesthood).   We are going through the motions (the slumber of death), but it is not real.  Instead of happiness and joy and peace, we have “the pains of hell”.  Instead of leading to celestial-ness, with ever-increasing love and joy and peace, we are slaves to the misery of the devil.

This is why, Jacob says, that he spoke to the people of Nephi, “warning them against fornication and lasciviousness, and every kind of sin, telling them the awful consequences of them” (verse 12).

It’s that important.

Jacob 2

CLICK HERE to read Jacob 2.

Jacob begins his ministry, following the death of Nephi, taking very seriously the Lord’s charge to rid himself of the responsibility of the sins of the people (verse 2).  This he does by teaching and by testifying.

We are responsible to do the same, as we should be “weighed down with much more desire and anxiety for the welfare of (the) souls” of those we love (verse 3).

This, Jacob says, is part of being obedient (verse 4).

We know this is obedience to the premortal covenant, when Jehovah promised to atone for us and we promised to testify of Him.

But Jacob, as the priesthood holder – as the Prophet – for these people, did understand what was happening with them, even where their weaknesses were and what danger it brought them.  He said, “I can tell concerning your thoughts, how that ye are beginning to labor in sin, which sin appeareth very abominable unto me” (verse 5).

It’s a big deal, he says.

“Yea, it grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker” (verse 6).  What grieves him?  That the truth he must testify of is the wickedness of our hearts.

Wickedness earns justice.

Righteousness receives mercy, because of that great exhange.  We give up what is not of God, and so are able to receive mercy because we are filled with His righteousness.

But when we do not stay righteous, and when we choose wickedness, then we put those we love and those who hold priesthood over us, we cause them to “use so much boldness of speech”.   When we do not want to hear it, we think it is “hard” (as Nephi gave examples of).   When we think the message is hard, we try to ignore it by discrediting the messenger or getting rid of the messenger in some way.

But, Jacob says, there is hope, because “the word of God… healeth the wounded soul” (verse 8).

So Jacob has a hard job to do, to speak words the people don’t want to hear.

In fact, he is straight up commanded, he says, “to admonish you according to your crimes” (verse 9).

And he does it through “the truth according to the plainness of the word of God” (verse 11).

But then he begs, “O that ye would listen unto the word of his commands, and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your soul” (verse 16).

Instead of destruction, we should be creating.

Instead of hating, we should be loving.

Instead of contention, we should be loving and healing and rescuing.

“Think of your brethren like unto yourselves…” ( verse 17) and “do good – (to) clothe the naked, and (to) feed the hungry, and (t0) liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (verse 19).

So again, love is what is most important.

Jacob 1

CLICK HERE to read Jacob 1.

So now it has been fifty-five years since Lehi took his family out of Jerusalem (verse 1).  Lehi handed down the records of the family (and their scriptures) to his son Nephi, who continued the record of their people.  Now it is time for Nephi to hand the records down to the next generation.

Nephi picks his younger brother Jacob, and instructs him to keep the records of the people.  Not just the history of the people, but more importantly, the spiritual development of the people.  This is what is “most precious” (verse 2).  And, of course, Nephi reminds Jacob to also pass the records on to the generation after him when it is time (verse 3).

I love how Jacob describes what is most important to record:  “preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying” (verse 4).  He also shares the purpose of keeping this record:  “for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people” (verse 4).

We are also instructed to keep records of our family through genealogy, as well as the history of our spiritual development through “books of remembrance”.  Any writing, any sharing, and record keeping counts as part of that effort, even a blog like this.

Because the point of the record is to testify.

That is the “for Christ’s sake” part, for because it is the testifying that gives Him the glory, as we acknowledge that only He could orchestrate events such as we experience, or only His Spirit that could teach us the things that we learn.

The “for the sake of our people” part is because those around us and those who come after us need our testimonies to learn and grow and become.

In Nephi’s case, he had already seen a vision of and prophesied about what would happen to later generations (verse 5), and so he understood the keeping of these records and the teaching of the scriptures as not only helpful but also necessary.

“Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest…” (verse 7).

So Jacob takes the mantle from Nephi, and begins to “fulfill the commandment of my brother” (verse 8).

This being his final task, Nephi prepares to die.   He anoints a new king (verse 9), and the people honor and celebrate Nephi because they have loved him very much (verse 10).  They love him because he has “been a great protector for them” and “labored in all his days for their welfare” (verse 10).   So part of their effort to honor him, each king was named after him in succession.

And we mourn the death of Nephi, while celebrating his life as he lived it and his life that continues.

The first thing Jacob does, in order to make his job of keeping the records easier, is to clarify that from this point forward, all those who “seek to destroy the people of Nephi” are called Lamanites, and all “those who are friendly to Nephi” are called Nephites.

Jacob does what he is told to do, by keeping the record, and shares that under this second king of Nephi, the people began to be indulgent (verse 15) and “lifted up in pride” (verse 16).

So Jacob, having now the prophet-mantle handed to him, must teach the people.  It’s his job to rebuke them, to teach them, to invite them back to the Lord.  It’s why God has always used prophets, and it is why He – the unchanging God who is the same as He has always been – still uses prophets today.

“Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord” (verse 17).

This is a critical verse, too often overlooked.

Start with the last part first:  “having first obtained mine errand from the Lord”.   This is demonstrating that Jacob wasn’t just out doing whatever he wanted, even though it was good and right things.  He was doing what the Lord commanded him to do:  he had been set apart and called to a specific assignment, and that was the assignment he was going to do.

Jacob further clarifies this in the next verse (18), stating that he had been consecrated, which is to be set apart by the Priesthood and within the Priesthood.  He had the authority, through the Priesthood, to be doing what he was doing.   That’s vital.

But not only did he have and work within the Priesthood, he magnified his office within the Priesthood.  Verse 19 is where that phrase is defined for all the rest of scripture!  What does it mean to magnify an office (or calling)?

  • take upon the responsibility;
  • answer the sins of the people – either by inviting them to the Lord so that the Lord can atone for the sins (and thus “their blood might not come upon our garments”), or answer the sins of the people by taking them on yourself if neglecting that invitation (and so their blood on our garments);
  • teach with all diligence; and
  • labor with your might.

This “answering the sins of the people” thing is a big deal, and definitely a “responsibility” that requires teaching “with diligence” and laboring with all our might.

Then go back to verse 17 and notice the first part of the verse: the people learned in the Temple.

The Temple is a “house of learning”, and when we worship there we learn.  We learn who Heavenly Father is, we learn who we are, and we learn about our relationship to Him and what that means for our relationships to others.

This is why we must go “regularly and often”.

The future depends on it.

Nephi said so.

And Jacob believed him.

And so do I.

2 Nephi 33

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 33.

This is the final chapter written by Nephi.  He closes his writings in a humble way, stating he has only written what he taught his people.  He says he is not skilled at writing or at speaking, but that he “speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost” and that it is the Holy Ghost who “carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men” (verse 1).

This is another cross-reference to D&C 18:35, that teaches us that when we testify… the Holy Spirit does testify to the spirits of others… or if we are listening to others testify, the Holy Spirit does testify directly to our spirits.

Spiritual things are communicated Spirit to spirit, directly.

This is why it is so vital that our heart be “soft” (both prepared and willing to receive – which includes being prepared and willing to obey, no matter the instruction), and so critical that we be worth of the Spirit’s communications – and experienced in receiving communication from the Spirit.

Because without all that, we are the ones getting in the way of Spirit-to-spirit communication.

“… there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them” (verse 2).

When this happens, things that are TRUTH seem like nothing.

It is the Holy Spirit that confirms the truth, that unfolds (unveils!) the meaning of the truth, and so without the Spirit, words of truth seem no different than any other words and hold no meaning.  The words seem empty, irrelevant, nada-ness.

“wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught” (verse 2).

But when you have the Holy Spirit confirming to you, teaching you, unfolding for you, unveiling for you, then you know these truths are of great worth – more important than anything else – and we depend on it to discern anything, everything, even to find our way.

And we know, too, that others need it as well.

And we grieve when they reject it.

“But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people.  For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry” (verse 3).

And so Nephi leaves his testimony with us, knowing the Holy Spirit will testify of the truth to those people who really ask.

“And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people.  And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good… and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal” (verse 4).

So it is the Holy Spirit testifying of the truth of Nephi’s words, and we know the role of the Holy Spirit is to correct, instruct, and guide.  Because of this, Nephi points out, those who do not want to make the changes (not willing to respond to what is revealed, not willing to obey no matter the instruction) will think his testimony is “hard”, that it “speaketh harshly against sin, according to the plainness of the truth” (verse 5).

When we are being submissive, and willing to do what the Lord instructs, then His words do not seem harsh to us.

When we are already guilty, or do not want to make changes, or refusing opportunities for progression that He offers, then His words seem harsh.

“wherefore, no man will be angry at the words which I have written save he shall be of the spirit of the devil” (verse 5).

When we understand clearly who He is, and what He has done for us, anything He asks of us seems a small thing.

“I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell” (verse 6).

And when we understand how He loves us, we better understand how to love others.

“I have charity for my people…” (verse 7).   We know from Moroni 7:47 that “charity” is defined as “the pure love of Christ”.  When we have faith in this pure love, and love others as He loves us, then others are also invited to him.   “I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat” (verse 7).

So Nephi urges all:  “hearken unto these words and believe in Christ… and they teach all men that they should do good” (verse 10).

This is Nephi’s hope.

This is his prayer, “that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day” (verse 12).

2 Nephi 32

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 32.

This book, of 2 Nephi, has only one more chapter in it after this one.  So these are Nephi’s final words, and it fascinates me what he chooses to include. He has poured himself into teaching the people the importance of the covenant and how to choose it, and now he tells them what to do next.

“I suppose that ye ponder somewhere in your hearts concerning that which we should do after ye have entered” (the covenant) (verse 1).

So what do we do next?

“Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (verse 3).

What are the words of Christ?

The scriptures, of course!  And the words of his prophets!

So we are to study His words, and we will know how to live our lives.

If we “cannot understand them, it will be because ye ask not” (verse 4).

So the asking is always part of understanding.

But we have the Holy Spirit that will reveal to us the answers to our questions.  So once we enter the covenant, “and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (verse 5).

It’s that simple.

“This is the doctrine of Christ” (verse 6).

And it grieves Nephi, just as it grieves our families or priesthood leaders, when we do not do the work of asking those questions and seeking to find the answers through study and revelation.

“… I am left to mourn because of the unbelief and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiffneckedness… for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness, even as plain as word can be” (verse 7).

So instead of being lost in not understanding, we simply need to seek the Spirit and hearken “unto the Spirit” (verse 8).  Then we can understand all things, even the very mysteries of God, as He unfolds them one layer at a time.

But we must study, and we must pray.

“I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint” (verse 9).

Not only should we be praying always, but we should pray before we do ANYTHING so that He will “consecrate” (verse 9) all that we do, and bless it for the welfare of our own souls as well.

2 Nephi 31

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 31.

This chapter begins Nephi’s farewell to his people, and he goes out with a bang.  His last words are words of doctrine, teaching the people what Christ will teach them.  Within these teachings are several promises to cling to and principles to remember (and apply).

Prophesying, or testifying, is plain and simple (verse 2).

This is how the Lord speaks to us, and it is how we should speak to each other.

“For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men” (verse 3).

Also, this is so all can understand in their own way:

“For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaking unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (verse 3).

And so, in order for all to understand, Nephi reviews the doctrine of Christ.

He starts with baptism, prophesying of John who would baptize the Savior “which should take away the sins of the world… And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfill all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!” (verse 5).

We see these words again in “The Living Christ“, in the second paragraph: “Though sinless, he was baptized to fulfill all righteousness”.

So, Nephi says, even though the Savior was holy, “he showeth… that he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments” (verse 7).

What is always the response from Heavenly Father to our demonstrating obedience?

The Holy Spirit, which “descended upon him in the form of a dove” (verse 8).

This is how one who was holy already still submitted to the Father’s plan, and this was the example set for us (verse 9).

And so to follow him means to also submit, to “be willing to keep the commandments of the Father” (verse 10).   And “Repent!” is what the Father commands (verse 11).

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism – yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost…” (verse 13).

Then something remarkable happens.

Nephi hears the voice of the Son of God, speaking of the important of following through on our commitment to be obedient and follow his example (verse 14).

Then, Nephi hears the voice of the Father confirming his son’s words (verse 15).

This is another example, like when the Savior was baptized, when we have in one place two separate and distinct beings as Father and Son.  Not only that, but the Son has just testified of the Spirit, separate and distinct from him, so that is a third being.  They are not all tangled into one, but are three separate and distinct personages.  They are, however, united in purpose.

And the purpose is to bring us back home to our Father-in-Heaven.

“Wherefore, do the things which I have told you” (verse 17).

Our being obedient will get us home, because it is the Savior’s example we follow, and He leads the way.  So as we are obedient, we are “relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save” (verse 19).

So we continue the journey of our mortality, following His example.

“wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (verse 20).

Eternal life = celestial-ness.

The scriptures always mean celestial-ness when they say “eternal life” because the life, for it to be eternal, has to be present progressive.  Our progression continues, even after the testing in this life.

“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God” (verse 21).

So not only do we follow His example, but also do so under His authority.

So even from the start – from baptism itself – it must be done not only His way (immersion), but also by His authority (under proper priesthood authority).

I always liken it to my work.

Anyone could be a therapist if they wanted.  All they would have to do is set up an office, set out a sign, and call themselves therapists.  They might even be really good at what they do, and be very organized and have a big caseload and be very popular.  They might be genius, skilled, and really help people.

That’s fine.

But it doesn’t make them licensed.

To be licensed, they have to not only go to school and not only set up an office and not only be good at what they do, but they also have to go through the proper authority to apply to be a therapist.  Once interviewed, and all the tests are passed, then they are granted permission by the proper authority to be a therapist.   Their work might even look very much the same as before they were licensed – but now they are, indeed, licensed, and have the authority to be working as a therapist.

In the same way, lots of churches do baptisms by immersion.

But the actual license – the authority – comes through the Priesthood only.

“And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ…” (verse 21).

2 Nephi 30

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 30.

Nephi continues his speech, making sure the Jews don’t think they are hot-shots just for being Jews.

For because the thing that sets a “chosen people” apart is BEHAVING like the chosen people.

This is true because there is mutual choosing going on: He is choosing us, and we are choosing Him.   That’s what makes a covenant.  If we do not keep up our end of the deal, if we do not keep our covenants, then there is no covenant which we can claim, then there is no chosen-ness to give us any rights.

In fact, the Lord says that Gentiles who repent can also become part of the covenant.

It reminds us of Acts 10, when Peter has his vision to take the gospel to the Gentiles.  The word for those Gentiles in Greek means “God-fearers”.  God-fearers were coverts to Judaism that supported the Jews in every way, and who had converted to the Jewish God in every way – except for circumcision.

In the same way, here Nephi tells the people that if you do not behave like covenant-keepers, then you will experience the consequences of those outside the covenant.   But if you are covenant-keepers, even if you are a convert to the covenant, then you will receive the blessings of the covenant.

He tells the people that he don’t swant them to “suppose that ye are more righteous than the Gentiles shall be.  For behold, except ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall all likewise perish…” (verse 1).

But also, that “as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord” (verse 2).

So it doesn’t matter if you were born a Jew or Gentile, or if you were a convert or not, or if you converted a long time ago or recently… none of that matters, not so much as whether you are in process of keeping your covenants and obeying the commandments.

“for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel” (verse 2).

Then Nephi prophesies that the book of his records “shall come forth”, even to the Gentiles, and “there shall be many which shall believe the words which are written” (verse 3).  This, Nephi says, is how the descendants will know their story – from his father Lehi bringing the family out of Jerusalem, to all the records that will be passed down (verse 4).

“And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ…” (verse 5).

“And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God…” (verse 6).

They rejoice because they know the blessings come as a result of the covenant.  In this way, not only are blessings gifts to us from the Lord, in and of themselves, but they are also evidence that a covenant is in place and that the Lord is keeping His part of it.  Even further, it is evidence that we are keeping our part of it, as best we can, through the atonement, and also as “judged” by the mercy of the Lord because of that atonement.

So blessings are not just blessings, but they are also evidence of covenants in process.

And this does cause us to rejoice!

And this does strengthen us and “quicken” us, so that we become “a pure and delightsome people” (verse 6).

But also the Jews, now scattered, shall begin to believe in Christ, and THEN they will be gathered (verse 7).

When we turn away from the Lord, we are scattered and destroyed.

When we turn to the Lord, we are gathered and rescued.

“And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth” (verse 8).

He wants to restore us to the place – the people – He created us to be.

He will return, physically, and the Earth will be renewed and restored to its celestial state, as will His people.   Part of that process will be the judgment of us all, with which we will agree and understand because He will be so fair and true to the laws He has given us.  Look at verse 9:

And with righteousness shall the Lord God judge…

He will be a fair and righteous judge.

(He will) reprove with equity…

All will be held to the laws they had and understood.

And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth

Nephi has already defined for us that the “rod” is the Scriptures, which is the word of God.  So again, it is by His own law that He has already given to us which will be the standard by which we are measured and the answer key by which we are graded.

In that way, too, our own choices now determine our judgment then.   Classes are not pass/fail so much as graded, A or B or C or D or F, and so this judgment will be the same.  We will be given the grade that we earn, and agree with that grade.  Our grade will be based on which laws we have proven that we are able to keep, and our reward will match our grade.

“For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people” (verse 10).   This has several layers to it.  First, there is the eternal layer such as the previous paragraph, where we will be divided by what “grade” we get, by which covenants we are able to keep.

Those who are able to keep the Telestial Law (obedience & sacrifice) will inherit the Telestial Kingdom.
Those who are able to keep the Terrestial Law  (chastity/fidelity) will inherit the Terrestial Kingdom.
Those who are able to keep the Celestial Law (consecration) will inherit the Celestial Kingdom.

Another way to see the “great division among the people” is considering the latter days in the context of Lehi’s dream, the one with the vision of the rod of iron.  In the beginning, we are all at the start together.  As we each start our journey along the iron rod, we are in line (in order of the Priesthood!).  But as we all end our journey, we are DIVIDED by our own choices either to stay near the iron rod to get to the tree of life, or to leave the iron rod and go to the great and spacious building.  The closer to the end of times, in these latter days of the Latter-days, there is more and more of a gap between that building and the iron rod – because we are that much closer to the tree of life, which is further and further away from that building.  So we will either cling to the iron rod – or by leaving it, be further away – and thus divided from the covenant people.

Back to verse 9 of this chapter, the last phrase is this:

And with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

If we know the rod of his mouth is His very words, the scriptures and the words of prophets, then we know the “breath of his lips” is the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit that “burns” within us when convicting us to move us toward repentance, and the Holy Spirit that will fill our hearts in the end when Satan is bound and can no longer tempt us (verse 18).

There are always both temporal and spiritual applications, and this example is no different.

The people will be separated into who is righteous and who is wicked.  The righteous will be spared, and the wicked will be destroyed.  “… he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire” (verse 10).

And then, when all the people are governed by and respond to righteousness and faithfulness (verse 11), then there will be a time of peace – even with the animals, now celebrating a higher state of being than what we now experience in the telestial world.  The “rules” of animals will be changed, because we will no longer be in this fallen state:

“And then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb; and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling, together; and a little child shall lead them.  And the cow and bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den” (verses 12-14).

When the Holy Spirit has so filled us, and when we are living in such a state, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (verse 15).

And if we are so full of knowledge, then “all things shall be made known” (verse 16).

And all things shall be revealed (verse 17).

We shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord!

2 Nephi 29

CLICK HERE to read 2 Nephi 29.

So in the last days, the Lord “shall proceed to do a marvelous work among them” (verse 1).

Anytime the scriptures use the word “shall”, that is covenant language, and it shows up in the very next phrase of the same sentence: “that I may remember my covenants which I have made unto the children of men” (verse 1).

So what was His covenant?

He promised to gather those who believe in Him (and their families, which is a profound topic for another blog).

So not only will the Lord remember His promises to Abraham, but also His promises to Nephi and his father (Lehi).

We know the covenants of Abraham, because they are restored to us today through the Temple.  (“that I would remember your seed” from verse 2).

But what was the promises made to Nephi?

“that the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed…” (verse 2).

So the promise is that the records Nephi and his descendants are keeping will continue to be passed on, all the way through the last days.   We know – in our time – that we call these records “The Book of Mormon”.

But many will reject it, saying, “A Bible! A Bible!  We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible” (verse 3).

Yet the Bible is only the record of the Jews that were descendants of Judah.

All the tribes kept records.

(Note that this has implications, again for another blog, that there is more scripture not yet delivered to us, which is confirmed through the teachings of modern prophets that we could get more scripture if all the covenant people would read and study what we have thus far.)

Nephi explains it as the records of each people being for them to learn their lessons through their own experiences, so each people need their own record because they have their own history and lessons.  “What do the Gentiles mean (understand)? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews?” (verse 4)  Of course they cannot; it is a rhetorical question.  The other peoples need their own records, because it is how God worked amongst them specifically.

But it is the same God, and so the same lessons and principles are taught, and everything points to Christ.

But all people everywhere are Heavenly Father’s children, and He loves all of them, and wants all of them to succeed.  So all people need access to Scriptures in order to learn about them, and all people need to keep their own record of how the Lord worked in the lives of their people.

“Know ye not that there are more nations than one?  Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, ahve created all men?” (verse 7).

Many people, same God.

Many records of the different experiences of (with) the same Christ.

“Wherefore murmurm ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word?  Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God… wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another” (verse 8).

It’s the same God, so He is going to tell all people the same things.

The Bible (from the Jews) and the Book of Mormon (from the Gentiles) are not going to be contradictory, because it is the same God who has authored them.  They are companion books, the same story given to different peoples, but go together in that the testify of Christ.

“And when the two nations shall run together, the testimony of the two nations shall run together also” (verse 8).   So we have the Bible and the Book of Mormon, which work together as Scriptures to us, proclaiming the Testament of Christ.

We have the Old Testament.

We have the New Testament.

And we have “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament”.

“And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to my own pleasure.”

Three testaments, in the above examples, but one God doing the testifying.

But He is testifying to different peoples: ancient tribes of Israel, Jews in Palestine, and Modern Gentiles.

“Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words, neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written” (verse 10).

The words of Scriptures are HIS words.

And He gives them HIS way.

“For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them…” (verse 11), and then according to these books of recorded words, He will judge us.

So He delivers to us the Bible (the record of the Jews) and the Book of Mormon (the record of the Nephites).  “And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall hear the words of the Jews…” (verse 13).

Everyone will have access to all His words that have been recorded and passed down generation after generation.

And knowing His words is what will gather us as the House of Israel, as we become His covenant people.

“And my word also shall be gathered in one” (verse 14).

In one what?

One family.

The family of Holiness.  (SEE HERE for the blog about the family of holiness.)

This is at-one-ness unfolding.