1 Nephi 18

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 18.

So in the last chapter, the Lord tells Nephi to build a ship.  His brothers make fun of him, get a little rough, and threaten his life.  Nephi teaches them, they repent, and we are all back on the same team again.

Now we are back to Nephi building his ship.  He knows the Lord has the blueprints, and so Nephi just keeps praying for the tools and the know-how to do it what the Lord has asked.  It is an excellent example to us all.

“And it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship” (verse 1).

Nephi then says, specifically, he did not build his ship according to the custom or learning of his day, nor did he build it the usual way.  But he built after the pattern the Lord provided.

To get instruction, Nephi went to the mount (Temple) often, to pray to the Lord and to learn… “wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things” (verse 3).

When Nephi finished his ship, and his brothers saw that it was done and that it was good, “they did humble themselves again before the Lord” (verse 4).

Sometimes those closest to us don’t understand or believe until they see the evidence, until they see the good “work” that has been accomplished.

It is Lehi, of course, since he is the leader of this little tribe – the prophet, even, for this group of people – it is Lehi that receives the word from the Lord that it is time to go to the ship.  So they prepare all they need, from food to seeds, all kinds of provisions.  Everyone brought what they had, according to their age, and went to the ship along with their wives and children.

Also, Lehi now has two more sons, named Jacob and Joseph (named after the patriarchs in the Old Testament).

All the people get on the ship, and it begins to head towards the promised land.

The wind drives the ship for days and days, and in the easy rest of traveling by ship – compared to difficult nomadic, hunting, or agrarian lifestyles – Nephi’s brothers get comfortable.  Too comfortable, in fact.  So much that the brothers and their wives begin to “make themselves merry”, speaking “with much rudeness”, and forgetting “by what power they had been brought thither” (verse 9).

Nephi knows that this is unacceptable behavior, and he knows the rules of the covenant.  He knows the Lord expects them to be obedient, and that there are consequences when they aren’t.

“And I, Nephi, began to fear exceedingly lest the Lord should be angry with us, and smite us because of our iniquity, that we should be swallowed up in the depths of the sea” (verse 10).

He does what he always does: he tries to teach his brothers.  They don’t want anything to do with it, though, and say that he can’t boss them around.  Then, as if that isn’t enough, Nephi’s brothers tie him up and get rough with him again.

Nephi shows his courage and strength when he says, “the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word” (verse 11).

All of us have been in some circumstance or another, some situation or experience, that is painful or difficult or scary or uncomfortable.  This is when we can practice the courage of Nephi in keeping an eternal perspective, that “all things work together for the good of those who love God” (Romans 8:28).  Can we be so brave as to say that the Lord has allowed it to happen, or suffered along with us through the experience, in order to “show forth His power, unto the fulfilling of His word”?  Wow!

When Nephi’s brothers tie him up, their compass that shows where to go stops working.  Then a great storm blows up, so big a storm that the brothers get scared.  Fraidy cats.

“And it came to pass that we were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea. And after we had been driven back upon the waters for the space of four days, my brethren began to see that the judgments of God were upon them, and that they must perish save that they should repent of their iniquities; wherefore, they came unto me, and loosed the bands which were upon my wrists, and behold they had swollen exceedingly; and also mine ankles were much swollen, and great was the soreness thereof” (verse 15).

Nephi is sore from being tied up!  And still his brothers do not let him go.

Yet even now, Nephi remains faithful.

“Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions” (verse 16).

Lehi tries intervening, but the brothers threaten anyone who tries to defend or rescue Nephi.

So now, because they have refused the prophet, further calamities and destruction come: the brothers all get very sick.

This is NOT to say that all sickness or affliction are because of sin or wrong-doing.  Such an idea is false doctrine.  We read this verse with verse 11 in mind, that sometimes it is just to teach us something or to in some way demonstrate who God is and what power is His.

But in this case, we know the illness is related to their bad behavior.  And they were so sick they almost died.  Even Lehi’s sons and wife and Nephi’s own children all become sick.

“And there was nothing save it were the power of God, which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts; wherefore, when they saw that they were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea they repented of the thing which they had done, insomuch that they loosed me”.

So the brothers, again, repent.

And Nephi, again, forgives.

Nephi had every reason to be upset, and every reason to hold a grudge.

Nephi had every reason to punish, to retaliate, to kick his brothers off the boat and let them drown.

But he didn’t.  He forgave them.  He let it go.

Not only did he let it go, but he moved on: as soon as he was untied, he goes right to the compass and prays for the Lord to make it work.  Soon as he prays, the storm settles down and the water is calm.

Nephi guides the ship towards the promised land, and they are all very glad to arrive.  They pitch their tents, worship, and begin to work hard.  They till the earth and plant seeds and build their homes.  The whole family is blessed in provision as the plants grow, and in provision as the animals are found for food.  They also find metal materials that will help them in their work.

Lehi’s family – Nephi and his brothers and their wives – have safely arrived in the promised land, and they are blessed beyond abundance.

This, of course, is a type pointing to the peace we can have in our mortal journey while traveling towards eternal life, and the blessings and joy we will have once we arrive.

It’s a miracle, this journey of life.

We can either bring on the storms by murmuring about everything along the way, and tying up those meant to help us, or we can do the hard work of guiding our ship towards home.

1 Nephi 17

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 17.

So Lehi and his family, including Nephi and his brothers and their new wives, get back to traveling through the wilderness.  They travel for years and years, even having children along the way.  The Lord provided for them along the way, so that even the women and children were strong and well.

“And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.”

This begins a fun pattern in this chapter, where almost anytime it says “wilderness” you could replace it with “mortality” and re-read the verse for yourself, as if it were for you right now today.

You can also replace “the promised land” with “celestial-ness”.

The more you read and study the Book of Mormon, the more everything gets defined, so that it becomes as if you are studying a hundred books at once as you read.

So Nephi’s family is traveling through the wilderness, and comes to the seashore.  They are glad to stop and rest.

While he is there resting, the Lord tells Nephi to go to the Temple.  I mean to say, the Lord tells him to go to the mountain (always a symbol for the Temple, especially in the context of one character being set apart (made sacred! consecrated!) from the others).  “Arise, and get thee into the mountain.  And it came to pass that I arose and went up into the mountain, and cried unto the Lord” (verse 7).  So Nephi has gone to the Temple to pray and to receive instruction.

Instruction comes, and the Lord tells Nephi to build a ship.  The Lord says that He will show Nephi the pattern, so that it can safely carry the whole family across the waters (ocean).

Nephi doesn’t question.  He simply asks for the tools.  He knows the Lord has the blueprints, and He knows the Lord will keep His promise of teaching him.  But He does ask for the tools.  The Lord shows Nephi where to go find ore, so that he can make tools.

The Nephi gives another famous monologue, where he pauses the story to look up at the audience and address us directly.

He quotes what the Lord did tell him:

“And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led” (verse 13).

This “light in the wilderness” is the same sheckinah as the presence of the Lord that led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.  Consider that while substituting the words to liken it the Savior speaking to you: “And I will also be your light in mortality; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the celestial kingdom; and ye shall know that ye are led”.

Verse 14 continues this pattern:

“Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.”

This applies to Nephi and his travels with his family through the wilderness.

But it also applies to us, and judgment day.  When that time comes, we will know the truth of all things, and we will see clearly what He has done for us.  We will know He has delivered us, and that it is by His work that we are able to live again in the presence of our Heavenly Father.

It applies to me even this day, knowing that the Lord did deliver me from destruction (pre-baptism) and lead me to the promised land (this life of happiness, despite the challenges of the journey).

“Wherefore, I, Nephi, did strive to keep the commandments of the Lord, and I did exhort my brethren to faithfulness and diligence” (verse 15).

It is obedience that qualifies us for the Spirit of the Lord, for that sheckinah presence that leads us through mortality.

Then, as if there were not layers and layers more to those two verses, Nephi goes back to his story, jumping right back to how he was making tools to build his ship.

When his brothers saw him starting to build a ship, the murmuring started up again (reminds us of Noah and the ark).  Murmuring and complaining, they continued to try to get out of helping because they did not want to work.  Nephi points out how this proved their lack of faith: “for they did not believe that I could build a ship; neither would they believe that I was instructed of the Lord” (verse 18).

As always when his brothers start to have their hard hearts lacking faith instead of soft hearts  growing in faith, Nephi grieves.

The more he grieves their sad spiritual state, the more his brothers mock him.

So now they are not just murmuring, but also lacking faith; they are not only mocking him, but blaming Nephi’s behavior on being like their father, “led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart” (verse 20).  They keep complaining, saying that if they were back home in Jerusalem, they could be enjoying their inheritance by now.

Because his brothers will not keep the commandments, Nephi tries to help them at least remember them.  He reminds them of who God is, so that they can find their testimony.  He reminds them of what God has done for them, including the being led out of bondage and slavery in Egypt.

“Now ye know that the children of Israel were in bondage; and ye know that they were laden with tasks, which were grievous to be borne; wherefore, ye know that it must needs be a good thing for them, that they should be brought out of bondage” (verse 25).

Again, it reads a lot like our pattern in mortality: being in bondage and being laden with difficult tasks.

But, says Nephi, it is a good thing for them, and helps them be brought out of bondage.

Nephi reminds them of the crossing of the Red Sea, and of the manna in the wilderness.

Then Nephi goes back to the sheckinah:  “And notwithstanding they being led, the Lord their God, their Redeemer, going before them, leading them by day and giving light unto them by night, and doing all things for them which were expedient for man to receive…” (verse 30), they hardened their hearts and blinded their minds, andreviled against Moses and against the true and living God.

Nephi talks about how the Lord loves all people, even as one people; but it is those that reject the words of God that lose (or do not earn) blessings.

Then Nephi goes back to his litnay about who God is, that the Lord (Jehovah) created the world, and that He will lead the righteous people to His “Promised Lands”.

“And he loveth those who will have him to be their God” (verse 40).

Nephi then reminds them of their covenants, and of their “fathers”: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

After all this reminding, Nephi says “Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words…”

And that just made those brothers MAD.

The brothers tried to grab Nephi and drown him!

But Nephi says, “In the name of the Almighty God, I command you that ye touch me not, for I am filled with the power of God” (verse 48).

Nephi tells his brothers to stop murmuring and complaining, and to help do what the Lord has asked!

Nephi says that he KNOWS that the Lord can accomplish His work in His way in His timing.

He KNOWS it.

And we will see it play out in the next chapter, when the ship is finished!

Pillar of Light Butterflies

I have finally, this morning, submitted to reading ovary-information from my doctor’s office.

Cancer, as horrible as it can be, is actually a fairly simple thing.

Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them.

When cells grow old, they die, and new cells take their place.

But with cancer, this orderly process goes wrong.

New cells form when the body does not need them, and old cells do not die when they should.

When things get all out of whack, the cells not doing what they should (or doing what they shouldn’t) destroy the good, well-behaved cells.

That’s why cancer is a predator, because of the destroying of well-behaved cells.

I think I have dated Cancer before.

Anyway, it seems to me that Cancer needs some therapy about good boundaries, some mormon missionary lessons on the Law of Obedience, and to be kicked right in its mutated p53.

(p53 is the protein that helps regulate the cell cycle; when it is missing or mutated, cells can divide uncontrollably.)

In this making-it-simple approach, all kinds of cancers get one of three labels:

1.  Benign (non-cancerous, meaning it does not spread – though it can become malignant later),

2.  Malignant (cancerous, meaning it has the potential to spread throughout the body), or

3.  Metastatic (cancerous, and has already spread to other parts of the body from where it originated).

Ovarian cancer usually happens either in the cells on the surface of the ovaries (epithelial carcinoma) or in the egg cells themselves (malignant germ cell tumors).

It is more common for women to have cysts, which are benign and non-cancerous.

Cancer is not hereditary.  You can’t pass it on to your children.

However, there are genetic predispositions, such as passing on a mutated copy of a gene (BRCA1 and BRCA2).  But most cancers go through 6 to 9 mutations before becoming cancer, so it needs more than just that first copy to become cancer.  This is why cancer happens in older people more often than young people, because there has been more time for mutated copy to get copied again, until it becomes more and more mutated.  So cancer happens because of the accumulation of all those mutations.  Gross.

Lymph nodes get checked for cancer-ness to see if cancer has spread because the vessels of the circulatory and lymphatic systems work like a pipeline, and that’s how cancer can move from one site to another.

Chemotherapy works by blocking a cell’s ability to break down the mitotic spindle, which is how the cell segregates duplicated chromosomes to form new “daughter” cells.  Since it can’t separate into these new seedlings, it blocks the cell from copying, or repeating itself.  It’s stops the cell cycle before it makes more of itself, and so it stops the cancer from getting worse.

Here is what it that (healthy) spindle process looks like (picture from Absolute Astronomy):

I love this because it shows how, when everything is working right, this tiny process, happening in our bodies a gazabillion times everyday, looks just like a firefly-butterfly-angel.

It’s beautiful.

It’s a snapshot of how we are made of Light, and how are very cells are like entire solar systems.

It brings a whole new understanding to being at-one.

As soon as I saw this picture, I understood how – for me – I could find the “spiritual” in the temporal experience of cancer-ness.

This brings us to an Official Blog Flashback to 24 November 2010, when I already learned this but didn’t yet understand why (Emily World Train of Thought Warning: it will make your brain hurt, and be just this side of crazy, so feel free to skip below the italics for the rest of the current blog):

In considering this, I realize that if pre-mortality prepared me for mortality, then mortality prepares me for eternity.

We know that this life is the time to prepare to meet God.

Preparing to meet God takes me back to the prodigal son returning home.  It takes me back to the Temple.

It takes me, in a way that surprised me, back to the creation story.

When I think of “meet”, I think not only of the embrace of the prodigal son and his father, but also of Adam and Eve.  I think of Adam and Eve because I think of “helpmeet”, and remember that helpmeet means “a companion who is equal and necessary in full partnership”.

Then I realize why I think of Adam and Eve when I am thinking of the prodigal son being embraced by his father, for because the prodigal son is – in that very moment – restored to his place in the family.

This is what the atonement does for me; it restores me to my place in the family of my Father.

But anytime I think of Adam and Eve, I am reminded that I am not yet married and commanded to do so.  But in this context, it is less harsh for not yet having done so and more in preparation for teaching me why and how and for what purpose.

For because, we may know in our heads that husband and wife are companions who are equal and necessary in full partnership, but we know in our hearts that husbands and wives are very different!

But this takes me back to sheckinah, for because this is part of the answer to my question about how to be a “light”.

And if you know anything about light, you know that it is made up of two very different properties, yet one without the other does not explain light.  Light has both particles and waves!  Light needs both properties to be light, to function as light, to exist as light.  Even though they are nearly opposite properties, so much that they even work differently more than work together, it is in the together-ness that they make up light.

It is so very male and female, in an un-scientific kind of way, with one piece of the whole being the packets that go out (the priesthood, the power, the authority), and the other piece being waves (the emotion, the spirit-ness, the intuition).

But even more fascinating, is how – like light – we are commanded not just to keep the commandments, but to OBSERVE the keeping of the commandments.  Mathematically, scientifically, the act of observing changes the results.

Oh!  Look at this silly cartoon clip that explains it:


Know what other dimension requires an observer?


Time is only a measurement, which requires someone to do the measuring.  It is a measurement between events.  Time only exists when there is an outside observer who thinks they are inside, sort of like being in your own black hole.

The only reason this relates at all, in this long Emily World random writing, is because of the symbol of the circle in the square, of heaven meeting earth, reminds us of the second law of thermodynamics.  Except that the square is moved out, because really its an ongoing process while the symbol itself is more like a postcard.  But if you had the postcard in 3D, you could see the process itself, how one is constantly changed by giving up itself and becoming something new. 

It’s like a mathematical picture of the tesseract, the self-transforming that occurs when a four dimensional object moves within our three dimensional perception:

If we combined what we know of this with what we know of light, if we were playing around with the math of it…

It would mean that through self-transformation, you meet your opposite, which actually completes you into one being.

It is the mathematical evidence of a Mother with the Father.

It mathematically proves a white hole to the black hole, excepting that white holes cannot exist because of the second law of thermodynamics… UNLESS you moved the square back over the circle, like the symbol of the Temple.

And that, not getting into nerdy wormhole science, creates this (diagram from National Science Foundation):

If you take out the science fiction, this is mathematically where and how a new universe would be born.  That’s why it is fascinating to us, because of the shape it creates, which is a symbol we have been given and has been interpreted even in the most ancient of art.  Even more so, the other shape it reveals.  It is the ancient shape of our Heavenly Parents, the symbol of creation itself.

So we see, on a grand scale, this effect in space, out there.  Here is the brand new 2010 image done by Andrew Hamilton (Colorado) and John Hawley (Virginia).  CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO SEE IT MOVE.

Now that is incredible, to input mathematical formulas into a computer and be able to get an image of a pillar of light, in a context that requires opposition and observation (implying agency) and in so doing makes creation possible.  Fascinating and familiar concept.

So this is what takes us back to sheckinah, and to Adam and Eve, so that not only is that the same as us, but also photons are always moving, but interactions with atomic scatters will cause them to either be delayed or advanced.  How is that not mortality?! 

How is that not our work to climb the ladder?!

And we even see that in the diagram of the light itself:

Which, if you turned it up vertically, would give the same DNA-shape of Jacob’s Ladder-turned-spiral-staircase (through ongoing repentance). 

It’s lovely!

Also, photons can be absorbed by nuclei or molecules, which provokes nerve impulses (discovered by George Wald in 1958 as he worked with the retina).   This science-information is fascinating when considering the 1879 talk by Erastus Snow in which he said “the wonderful mechanism of the nervous system, through which the spirit makes its impressions upon the body…”

All of that to say that what I learned from the Oaks talk was about being judged not just based on what I do here, but also what I accomplish and who I become.  Judged not only for how I lived this life, but judged to determine what I qualify for in eternity… which means I must let the atonement work – not just in cleansing me from the past, but also in becoming something of my potential.

For example, while my mother was here, we watched a movie about Queen Victoria.  This is one thing my mother and I have always enjoyed together, my whole life, the study of the history of the royalty and especially the queens, with Queen Elizabeth always being one of my favorites (of course!).  But when I study these Queens, one thing that is evident is that everyone always knew whether the Queen would be good or bad by what kind of student they were as a child, and how willing they were to be taught, and how well they could channel their passions for the greater good.   They knew what kind of Queen she would be based on her own response to her family dynamics regardless of what they did, and how well she played with others.

Always, her wisdom was not measured by success, but her success was measured by wisdom (not the same as knowledge).  And her wisdom was measured by her ability to discern the true nature of things and respond accordingly, including how and when and from whom to accept help… as well as her ability to endure the experiences that developed that discernment.

The people always loved best the Queens who loved them well.

As we talked about in Institute, I was PREPARED in pre-mortality to succeed in mortality, prepared for what I needed to do here, for my role here.  In the same way, my mortal life does prepare me for what is to come – and how well I am prepared will determine how much of that I get to do, who I get to be.

So considering the sheckinah: because Moses had seen the Light, he knew the Glory.  Because he knew that Glory, he was also able to discern false lights and knew the difference.  When Satan tried to impersonate the Lord, Moses said, “Where is your glory” (Moses 1:12-15)… but he could say that because he knew the difference.  He knew what Light was.

So we, I think, should work to learn the difference.

I need the atonement to be able to stand the Light.  It must cover me, so that I can know.  The more I seek the Light, then the more I can discern what is NOT the Light.  This protects me, but also helps me to become.

This is why I need mortality to learn that Light.

Always I must come back to it, through repentance, climbing ever upward through that spiral.

So do you see?!  The firefly-butterfly-angel of Light that is changing me by coping good cells, so that I am physically changed and physically renewed, where I-who-am-me is actually becoming more, better, new, changed.

All of me, all of my being, is constantly replicating more of itself.  I can choose to make more and more goodness, to CREATE more and more Light, and in so doing be literally changed in the process.

Or I can choose to self-destruct, to destroy myself, by replicating mutations until I am further and further away from who I was created to be.

I can be Light, and bring healing – even creation.

Or I can be Cancer, and destroy.

I want to choose Light.

But it turns out, whether you are talking about grand events in space or tiny events at the cellular level, that “it is in the small and simple things that great things are brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).

So it would seem that whether you have cancer or not, we are constantly becoming what we choose.  Our choices shape us and change us.  What and who and how we interact with affects whether we continue to develop as we were created to become, with healthy cells making new healthy cells, or whether we begin to copy mutations and become something or someone else.

It’s also why we “die” if we are not testifying, because our becoming depends on creating more Light.

And it’s the small things that make a difference.

Like an ovary that is only the size of an almond, and that make girls crazy whether the ovaries are working or not.

And, and, and – No wonder chemotherapy feels so awful, because it turns out the light on these magic firefly-butterfly creatures.

It stops the creation of new cells.

And any woman knows that the absence of life is death.

So that is a long, dark night for a woman’s purpose in living is removed, her ability to function is put on pause, and her depth and intuition are silenced.  It is cruel and horrible.  It ceases her existence, and yet keeps her alive to observe her own non-existence.  That is torture.

But only temporarily, allegedly, and only to prevent her from being eaten by monsters.

Even in this a woman becomes a type for the atonement, that life is given in order to save it.

And so it is, that a woman would follow the Pattern of a Mother and enter divine silence in order to protect the creation process.

Now I will imagine that instead of being eaten by monsters, my very cells are creating this Light by making pillar-of-Light copies of goodness and love and butterflies.

Because I like butterflies.  They don’t even bite.

And to think that there are life-creating butterflies, that by the very process of the work that they do, give off the pillar-of-Light through which angels travel… well, that is just astonishing.

1 Nephi 16

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 16.

The last chapter, 1 Nephi 15, was PACKED full of deep doctrine and layers of principles and tons of revelation-inspiring-thoughts-to-ponder.  Even for someone who WANTS to know, it is a lot to soak in.  For someone who doesn’t want to know, like the murmuring brothers of Nephi, it is almost too much.

The first verse of this chapter opens with their response “Thou has declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear.”

Nephi points out to them that these things are only hard to those who don’t want to know them, but that these teachings give hope to those who want to know the truth.

So, says Nephi (still not giving up on his brothers), if you want to be righteous and if you are willing to hear the truth, then do it!  But he also calls them out by saying that if they were already walking uprightly before God, then they would not be murmurming.  He encourages them to keep the commandments of the Lord with all diligence.

This turns out to be a good talk for his brothers, and “they did humble themselves before the Lord; insomuch that I had joy and great hopes for them, that they would walk in the paths of righteousness” (verse 5).

That verse always gets my attention, because I know that feeling – like Lehi wanting his family to taste the fruit… but I also wonder if those who helped me get baptized ever felt that way about me, having joy and great hopes for me, that I might walk the paths of righteousness.  I know it is the love and care and teaching of so many that have helped me along the way, and I do thank the Lord for using them to accomplish His work, and do try to pay attention to what the Spirit teaches me through these people.

So now, after all this teaching, after all this Spirit tuturing, the adventures continue.  Thus far Lehi’s family has left Jerusalem, his sons went back to fetch the records, they brought back wives for marriage, Lehi shared his dream-vision, Nephi prayed about what it meant, and the murmuring brothers are once again quite and obedient (temporarily).

Now back to the story: Nephi says that he and his brothers got married, and that Lehi tells everyone it is time to journey into the wilderness.

“And it came to pass that as my father arose in the morning, and went forth to the tent door, to his great astonishment he beheld upon the ground a round ball of curious workmanship; and it was of fine brass. And within the ball were two spindles; and the one pointed the way whither we should go into the wilderness” (verse 10).

So they follow the way this ball points, traveling through the wilderness.

While in the wilderness, Nephi and his brothers use bows and arrows to obtain food, as well as slings with stones.

When his brothers cannot get food, they go back to complaining, to murmuring.

When Nephi is ready to go get food (before even trying, you might notice) he asks his father (priesthood holder and prophet) where to get food.

He and his father pray about it to know where to go.

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord said unto him: Look upon the ball… And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them” (verse 26, 28).

I love this story, because it is this ball that works like a compass, except instead of it pointing north it points in the direction that the Lord wants them to go.  It is a type, symbolic of the Spirit.  For us, the Holy Spirit uses revelation, scriptures, leaders and each of us for each other as ways of showing us which ways to go.  But even now, that only works if we are paying attention and doing what it says.  The Holy Spirit (and the revelatory process) works only in response to the faith, diligence, and heed (obedience) we give it.

“And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things” (verse 29).

So Nephi goes where he is told, and is able to get food for his family.  When he brings the food back, they are full of joy (I would be!), and “they did humble themselves before the Lord, and did give thanks unto him” (verse 32).

They continue the journey, but soon mourn the loss of Ishmael, the friend from Jerusalem who came along for the journey.  His daughters, now married to Nephi and his brothers, grieve their father.  However, they let the grief get the better of them, rather than working it out in healthy ways and honoring their loss.  They begin to complain about all the “afflictions in the wilderness”, and so the murmuring starts again.  So much destruction comes from murmuring!  These girls murmur so much, and get everyone else so stirred up, that people want to go back to Jerusalem.

So the murmuring brothers, Laman and Lemuel, plot to kill Lehi so that they can go back to Jerusalem.  They also want to kill Nephi.

This is how they did “stir up their hearts to anger” (verse 38).

“And it came to pass that the Lord was with us, yea, even the voice of the Lord came and did speak many words unto them, and did chasten them exceedingly; and after they were chastened by the voice of the Lord they did turn away their anger, and did repent of their sins, insomuch that the Lord did bless us…” (verse 39).

1 Nephi 15: Holiness to the Lord, House of the Lord

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 15.

This chapter changes gears.  After Nephi’s pondering of his father’s vision, after his prayers to understand that vision, after the revelation that comes in response… after the unfolding of all these things, then Nephi must “go and do” again.

Always, these things are very internal, very deep inside of us, and change us, but we are not called to a monastic lifestyle.  We are called to share, to testify, to teach, to edify.  So while we can go deep within ourselves, we must return to the surface and interact with the real and present temporal world once again.

So Nephi leaves his private, solitary place and returns to the tent of Lehi his father, where his family is.

There he finds his brothers not just murmuring, but now fighting and arguing over what Lehi’s vision and teachings had met.

There are two things interesting about this:

1.  They are arguing instead of edifying.  Always, we are to be testifying, or sharing, what we are learning and what are experiencing.  Not just one to another, like teacher-student, but all of us to each other, so that we are all built up and encouraged and lifted.  This is mutual edification, and what you are learning teaches me more about what I am learning, and what I am learning teaches you more about what you learning.  Because it is one Spirit, if we are at-one with each other, and in tune (at-one) with the Spirit, then truths and revelations should becoming even as we speak to one another about what God is doing in our lives.  Here, the brothers are doing the opposite: complaining and arguing about what it means, instead of asking the Lord, instead of doing the work to be tutored by the Spirit.  Look at how much – chapters and chapters – Nephi learned, just because he asked.  And then asked again.  And then asked again.

2.  It feels like a lot of time has passed because Nephi learned SO MUCH over several chapters.  But really, he has just gone for a stroll.  It may have been a few moments or a few hours, but all that Spirit-tutoring happened in a relatively short amount of time.  It does not take a great deal of “time” to be instructed or tutored by the Spirit, so much as it takes availability and willingness.  Nephi was worthy of the Spirit’s instruction (through obedience and faithfulness), and he sought it out.  He studied in his mind what he was learning, he prayed about it, and he asked what it all meant.  If we live in such a state as to be LOOKING FOR, even expecting, the Lord to be communicating to us, we will become more and more sensitive to recognizing it.  We will see, hear, and understand a great deal in very little time.  We will be able to see clearly and discern what is of God and what is not, and what it means if it is of God and how to find our escape if it is not of God.

“For he (Lehi) truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought” (verse 3).

When Nephi saw this, he was “grieved because of the hardness of their hearts” (verse 4).  He was sad that they did not understand, when it was so good to understand.  He was sad they did not ask the Lord.  He was sad they were still negative and argumentative and murmuring-ish.  He was sad they were missing out on such joy and happiness so easily available to them.  He was sad they lacked faith.  He was sad for all the consequences that will come from this.

He spoke to them, to ask why they were fighting.

They said it was because “we cannot understand the words which our father has spoken” (verse 7).

Specifically, they are confused about the natural branches of the olive tree (Jews) and the Gentiles.

Nephi slams them, every so gently and appropriately, asking if they have asked the Lord yet.

They say no.  But they don’t just say no.  They say they haven’t asked the Lord because the Lord hasn’t answered them.

This is silliness.  It is stubborn-head-ed-ness.

The Lord is waiting to answer them, but first they must ask.

But it also shows that they do not experience revelation.  This is significant, and worth grieving!

The reason they do not experience revelation is not because the Lord is silent, but because their hearts are not soft and ready to receive the answers He has to give.  Living worthy of the Spirit (being obedient, being faithful, doing what it says when it prompts you to do something, refraining from doing something when it warns you) is not just NOT doing really big, bad things.  It is also the small and simple things like being kind, being generous, and having gratitude.  Things like negativity, complaining, arguing, disrespect, ingratitude, and murmuring are a good way to turn the lights out on revelation.

The Spirit works to enlighten us, to uplift us, to brighten our understanding/minds/hearts/spirits.

If we do things or say things (or use a tone or say things in a certain way) that are not uplifting and enlightening and brightening and ennobling, then we are not prepared for the Spirit to give us such a gift.

It is a commandment to live in such a way that we have access to the help and guidance of the Spirit.  This is what keeps us on the course.  This is what corrects, instructs, and guides.  This is what shows us the way.  This is what keeps us company.  This is what equips us with the tools we need to survive mortality.

So Nephi says to them, “How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?  Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?  If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you” (verses 10 and 11).

It is a promise that we will receive revelation, that God will enlighten us so that we know the way, so that we know what to do, so that we know who to become.

When there is a commandment with a promise, that means there is something WE are supposed to do and something HE is supposed to do.

That’s a covenant.

We have a covenant with the Lord that we will be obedient (keep our hearts soft and submissive to Him, do what He says, ask in faith, be kind and good and positive and encouraging and gentle and soft, ponder and pray and ask, expect answers, and diligently seek answers) and that He will provide understanding and knowledge through the Holy Spirit.

We will see, we will hear, and we will know.

We will KNOW.

That’s the covenant.

Now that the brothers are paying attention, Nephi is able to teach them.  Because now they want to know, and have closed their arguing-fussing-complaining-negative mouths long enough to listen, to RECEIVE understanding, Nephi teaches them.

So Nephi says that in Lehi’s visions and teachings, the house of Israel was compared to an olive tree, and the scattering of the tribes of Israel is like branches breaking off the tree.

He teaches them that the Gentiles will get grafted in, so that it is really one tree.

This teaching has TONS of layers, and is packed with more than what I can share in this blog.  But here are the four most important pieces:

1.  The literal teaching of the physical scattering of the tribes of Israel, with the future implication of the Gospel being shared with Gentiles as well as Jews (thank you, Paul, in the New Testament), and then the present day gathering of all believers as one people (the restoration of the full Gospel in the present (latter) day.

2.  The spiritual aspect of being born in the covenant (original tree) (growing up in the Church) but still needing to choose the covenant (be grafted in) as an individual doing their own conversion work.

3.  The process of those who did not grow up in the church converting to the church.

4.  “The house of Israel” is an important piece.  In Moses 6:57, it refers to Heavenly Father as “Man of Holiness”, meaning He-who-is-holy.  Then it says that the Lord, who is the Only Begotten Son, has a title, a name like His Fathers: “the Son of Man”.  In the New Testament, all four gospel books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) refer to the Lord – at some point – as the “Son of Man”.  But Moses 6:57 clarifies for us the full title:  if Heavenly Father is called “Man of Holiness” and his son is called “Son of Man”, then the full title for the Lord is “Son of Man of Holiness”.  From this we get mankind, kindred, kin, all meaning like-one-another, or the-same-as-the-pattern.  So we get this:

Heavenly Father = Man of Holiness
Lord = Son of (Man of Holiness)

In the same way, if we – who are “the House of Israel” by birthright – do the work to choose the covenant, then we become more than the House of Israel.

We become the House of the Lord.

The House of Israel is a genetic lineage, with promised blessings.

The House of the Lord is a chosen adoption, with claimed blessings.

How do we get from promised blessings to claimed blessings?

By being “adopted”.

How do we get adopted?

We choose.

How do we choose?

We take His name upon us.

How do we take His name upon us?

At our baptism, we declare ourselves willing to take His name upon us.  At the Temple, we actually do so.  At Sacrament, we remember that we have done so.

We are “adopted” at the Temple.

At the Temple, we become the People of Holiness.  We become the House of the Lord.

He gives to us His righteousness, and we give Him our Holiness.  This makes us The House of the Lord.

Holiness to the Lord.
The House of the Lord.

“The House of the Lord” has, like all things – ALL things, both a temporal (physical) and spiritual meaning.

It is, physically, the House of the Lord.  It is a consecrated, set apart space that is His holy house.

But it is also, spiritually, the place we go to become His people, to be adopted, to choose the covenant, to become His people: “the House of the Lord”.

“And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved” (verse 14).

“And then at that day will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation? Yea, at that day, will they not receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine?  Yea, will they not come unto the true fold of God” (verse 15)?

“Behold, I say unto you, Yea; they shall be remembered again among the house of Israel; they shall be grafted in, being a natural branch of the olive tree, into the true olive tree” (verse 16).

So Nephi explains to his brothers that what Lehi meant was that all this would not come to pass until after the scattering of the Jews.

Now the brothers are paying attention, even participating.  So they ask another question:  In Lehi’s dream-vision, what was the “rod of iron” that lead to the tree?

Nephi explains to them that this was the “word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (verse 24).

This is one of my favorite examples of the Book of Mormon clarifying Biblical text: if you understand the “rod” as being the word of God (words of the prophets, scriptures, etc.), then it brings a whole new understanding to Proverbs 13:24 and what it means to “spare the rod”.  Now we understand the verse doesn’t mean that you should beat your children; rather, it means that you should teach your children the words of God.  Teach your children scripture, and they will know the way to go.  Teach them to hold onto the rod (the words of God), and they will be led to the tree of life (back to the presence of our Heavenly Father).  Chasten them with scripture principles that are true, and it will teach them how to make their own choices and guide their own lives by scripture principles that lead them to safety and happiness.  It’s a powerful understanding once you have the definition!

President Hinckley said, “The more surely you rear your children in the ways of the gospel of Jesus Christ, with love and high expectation, the more likely that there will be peace in their lives,” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 99).

So this is what Nephi wants to teach his brothers.

“I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things” (verse 25).

Exhorting is more than just teaching.  It is a kind of pleading, a kind of clarifying, a kind of urging forward.  It’s a pleading-explaining.

And Nephi did it with everything in him, wanting his brothers to remember and obey God, to keep His commandments ALWAYS in ALL things.

Always.  In all things.

It’s not a buffet.  It’s not a pick-and-choose which things we want to obey.   It’s not a when-it’s-easy kind of choice.

Always. In all things.

Nephi’s brothers are still participating, and so they ask what the river in the dream represents.

Nephi explains that it is the separation between what is not of God and what is of God.  He says that this is hell, to be separated from God’s presence.  Not that hell is so much a place, as much as the feelings one has when they are separated from God.

This really gets the attention of the brothers, and so they ask for more: They ask if this means “the torment of the body (guilty and negative feelings) in the days of probation (mortal life, this lifetime, now)” or does it mean “the final state of the soul after the death of the temporal body” (verse 31).

Nephi answers that it means both.  When we do something wrong, and feel guilty, that – right there in the now moment – is part of judgment, part of our paying the price.  It is us being aware of our separation from God.  It is our awareness that we have removed ourselves from the House of the Lord, from being the people of Holiness.

But it is also the state of the soul after death: if one is not worthy to enter the presence of God, then it cannot happen.  God is holy, and nothing not-holy can enter His presence.  God wants us to be happy, and we will judge ourselves for what quality of life we will experience later.  We will be judged according to our works in this life.  Our “works” is not just what we do, or “good works” as some interpret it, but rather what LAW we follow.

This is our work, to follow His laws.  Each law has a corresponding blessing, or inheritance (state of being and/or kingdom).  Together, all the laws demonstrate our love for Him and for others.

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

So what are the laws the prophets have given us?  There are only 5.  Everything else comes from these 5.

1.  The Law of Obedience – this law was given to all of us premortally, and we all followed it enough to earn the opportunity to come to Earth.  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.”

2.  The Law of the Gospel – this law is for all people who ever lived or will live on Earth.  It is the premortal covenant that Christ would atone for our sins (which He did), and that we would testify of it (which we should be doing in our words and by how we live).  It is the story of where we came from, why we are here, and what happens to us when we die.  It is the Atonement.  It is the good news that our Heavenly Father wants us back home, and has promised to provide a way for us to succeed.

These two laws are for ALL people.

All people who were born on earth get immortality because Christ conquered the powers of death.  He gave life to us all.

But the quality of that immortality is determined by how many (which) of the other three Laws we follow.

How close we get to live to Heavenly Father later depends on how close we live to him now.

It’s no different than my own quality of life now.  If I had never finished high school, I would be living a very different lifestyle.  I might still be happy and comfortable, but I would not have access to the things (blessings) or freedoms that I have access to now.  Or, if I had finished high school but not finished college, and was still working at Subway, my life might be a little better, but still not access to this full “promised land” of my shiny yellow house.  If I had finished college, but not gone to grad school, then I would be better off than if I had dropped out of high school, and probably would have gotten a job better than just Subway.  But I wouldn’t have the paycheck, benefits, and flexibility in scheduling that I have now.

In the same way, our quality of life later will differ by what we choose now.  Our choices every day are eternal: not just for the moment now, in the illusion of impulse, but our choices now are actually our own judgments of ourselves.  Our choices now prove what laws we are able to follow, what quality of life we qualify for later.

To work at Subway, I didn’t need a high school diploma.

To work at my first job with autistic kids, I had to have a high school diploma and a college diploma.

To be a therapist, I have to have a college diploma, a grad school diploma, and a license.

I had to qualify for that level of profession.

So while the first two laws are for everyone, the last three laws are the ones that show what kind of immortality-experience, or what eternal life, we qualify for.  These three laws determine what quality of life we choose (now) to experience later.  The laws are not just consecutive, but progressive.  Each one builds on the one before, so that the second law includes the first but is higher than the first; the third law includes the first two, but is the highest of the three.  In the same way, the inheritance for each is greater in a progressive sense.  You cannot live a higher law without first being able to live a lower law.

1.  The first Law of the first inheritance is the Law of Sacrifice.

While this was ultimately fulfilled in the great atoning sacrifice of Christ, we are to emulate it by our own sacrifices for His kingdom.

After Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden of Eden, “he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord.  And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.  And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.  And then the angel spake, saying, “This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth” (Moses 5:5-7).

Just as His sacrifice was required for the remission of our sins, our sacrifice (in honor of His) is required to retain that remission of sins. To sacrifice means “to make sacred”, and we are made sacred (set apart) through obedience.  So even this law hinges upon both the Law of Obedience (to make ourselves sacred through obedience) and the Law of the Gospel (remission of sins is made possible by His atonement).

In this way, sacrifice is a prerequisite to revelation:

“Whenever the Lord revealed Himself to men in ancient days, and commanded them to offer sacrifice to Him, … it was done that they might look forward in faith to the time of His coming, and rely upon the power of that atonement for a remission of their sins” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 60–61; see also page 58).

Knowing HIS sacrifice (of the Atonement) does bring us to OUR sacrifice, which is a “broken heart and contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:19-20).  This means not only repentance and obedience, but also loving others well, being kind, being gentle, being compassionate, and keeping a spirit of gratitude.  These are the traits we must develop to retain a remission of our sins.

We need a remission of our sins if we are to become holy, right?  And as we become holy – as we become the people of holiness – as we become the House of the Lord – then we take upon His name. If He knows our Name, then what is our adoption certificate?  Our adoption certificate is our Temple Recommend, which includes the verification of our physical sacrifice of tithing.  Tithing is so critical, such a part of following the Law of God, that D&C 85:3 says tithing actually enrolls our names with the people of God.  It is tithing that enrolls our names as being adopted into the House of the Lord; it is the sacrifice of tithing that proves we are people of holiness.  Not only that, but just as the blood of the Lamb protected the House of Israel at Passover, so will tithing protect the House of the Lord when the Messiah returns for the Second Coming.

“Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man (of Holiness), and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming”(D&C 64:23).

The first law has its own inheritance promised, and we know the first level of promised inheritance is called “the Telestial Kingdom”.  Those who are able to follow the first law will gain the first inheritance.  They will be happy there, and enjoy that life because they know they can live at that level of moral code, of spiritual expectations. They will be confident because they have already achieved

2.  The second law (for the second inheritance) contains sacrifice within it.  It is the Law of Chastity (or Fidelity to one’s spouse).

Chastity requires an internal purity.

This internal purity is a purity at the physical, emotional, and mental levels of experience.

Chastity means not DOING anything physically (sexually) with someone to whom you are not married.

But, Jesus pointed out that even THINKING about it is the same as doing it (Matthew 5:27, 28).

In the world of therapy, we make a triangle by connecting thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.  These three things cannot be entirely separated.  What you think about is what you feel, and what you do is based off that.  In a simple way, we see how people who THINK negative thoughts, complain, and murmur FEEL miserable.  Then they ACT mean or hateful or yell or isolate or behave in some negative way to show (“act out”) how bad they feel, which reflects what ugly, dark thoughts they are having.

In the same way, someone who is thinking about someone else inappropriately will start to have feelings related to those thoughts.  Someone in this kind of inappropriate emotional attachment or emotional affair will act out that affair – whether it is escalating to an actual affair, or whether it is isolating from their current spouse.  Emotional attachments can be as dangerous and unhealthy as an actual affair, and in many ways worse because they can be so secretive and long-lasting.

However, we know because thoughts, feelings, and actions are so intensely connected, you only need to change one to change the others.

If you focus on positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts, you feel better.

If you focus on good feelings in appropriate contexts, you will have healthy attachments that are appropriate.

If you make good choices, you have experience more happiness.

Chastity develops a unified core of self that is pure on the physical, emotional, and mental levels.

These skills must be developed because they are required for the next law.  The previous law (Sacrifice) empties you of all of “you”, gives up what is yours in order to acknowledge (in gratitude) that everything you are and have comes from God.  This law cleanses and purifies what is left of you, sanctifying you as holy, as set apart, as dedicated.  It is the holy purity of what is not-violated.  The next law gives that holiness to Him as we become His people, “Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord”.

You can see how one law naturally flows into the next, how learning to meet the requirements of one law develops the ability to meet the requirements for the next.

Meeting the requirements for this second law qualifies you for the second (and better, higher) inheritance, the Terrestial Kingdom.

3.  This third law (or 5th of all 5 Laws) contains within it both sacrifice and purity: the Law of Consecration.

D&C 109:12 defines consecrated as “to be holy, that thy holy presence may be continually in this house”.

“Offer your whole souls as an offering unto [God]” (Omni 1:26; see also Mosiah 2:24).

“Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom. 12:1).

This is the giving of our whole being (both existence and experience of it) to God.  This is the exchange: we give our whole being, all that is us and all that is ours, to Him, and then he does cause “a might change” in us so that we become a new person ” – justified, sanctified, and born again with His image in our countenances (see Mosiah 5:2; Alma 5:14; Moses 6:59–60).

When we become like Him, holy as He is holy, when we become adopted into the House of the Lord, it is then that we qualify to enter His presence.  We do not qualify in and of ourselves, but because He has adopted us and so we have the rights of inheritance.  It is by the atonement that we are covered.  We give Him our sins and transgressions and failures, and He gives us His righteousness.  The Holy Spirit works this into our very being, so that we are changed, so that we become as He is.  When we are holy as He is – by the power of what He has accomplished in and for us – it is only then that we qualify to enter His presence, to return home to the promised land of the celestial kingdom.

These are the things Nephi teaches his brothers.

These are the things which are “the greatest of all the gifts of God” (verse 36).

1 Nephi 14

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 14.

Nephi’s vision of the future unfolding for the Gentiles continues in chapter 14.  We are in the midst of reading the same pattern as always given in the Old Testament: when people are obedient and follow the Lord, they are healed and gathered and blessed; when they are not obedient and do not follow the Lord, they are scattered and sent into some form of bondage.

But always, the moment we return to Him, He is there waiting – has been there waiting – all along, like the prodigal son returning to his father.  And like that father, our Father is waiting and watching, so that He sees us even when we are still “a great way off” (Luke 15:20).

Let’s take apart verse one to see how it unfolds:

“if the Gentiles shall hearken (listen to His words, obey what He says to do or not do, act in faith in response to what we learn)
unto the Lamb of God (the Savior, the words of the Savior)
in that day he shall manifest himself unto them in word (through Scripture, through prophets, through personal revelation),
and also in power (through the Savior, through the Holy Spirit, through the Temple, through revelation in response to obedience),
in very deed (the reality of His work being accomplished in us and around us in everyday life),
unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks (delivering us from a variety of forms of bondage, making us strong where we are weak, atonement for our sins).”

And so we see how when our hearts are hard against the things of God, we remove ourselves from experiencing the workings of God, and so deny ourselves the understanding the things of God.

But when our hearts are soft and turned toward God, we experience His working in our lives, and so we then also begin to understand the things of God.  It changes us, and it leads us home.

This is covenant language, right there in verse one.

We know it is because it describes what we should do, and what the Lord will do.

If we will do this…., He will do this….

This covenant language is emphasized in verse two, when it says that IF WE do not harden our hearts against the Savior (if we do what He says), then HE WILL count us as as children of Abraham: they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel.  This is the Abrahamic covenant, the covenant that was around since before the beginning of time but named after Abraham because he was so faithful in keeping it.  This is the difference between Nephi and his murmuring brothers who were also born into the covenant: Nephi chooses to become part of the covenant by being like Abraham, which means to be obedient and faithful to the Lord.  We now have the New Testament, with the example of the Lord Himself, and so do strive to be obedient and faithful by following the example of Christ.  This is how we choose, regardless of biological lineage, to become “children of Abraham”, to become a covenant people.  We can only do so by being obedient and faithful.

And when we are obedient and faithful, then we are “a blessed people” (verse two).

When we keep our covenants (by being obedient and faithful), then we are a people who receive the blessings of the covenant.

These blessings include that of the promised land, which has both the temporal and spiritual meaning of safety and protection and provision in our lives now (temporal) and returning to our Father’s presence in the celestial kingdom later.

But we must be obedient and faithful to receive these blessings, for the greatest bondage is to be separated from our Father-in-Heaven.  Choosing behaviors or habits or interactions that are not of Him, separates us from Him.  Choosing behaviors or habits or interactions that are of Him draw us closer to Him.  The more we act like Him, the more we become like Him.  We are embryos in that process, President Kimball said, but still we strive to become more like Him – to let Him make us holy – so that we can eventually be so purified from what is not of Him, so sanctified by what is Him – our sins exchanged for HIS righteousness – that the work of the atonement will be complete, and we can re-enter His presence because we will be as He is.

This does NOT mean we ever catch up to God, or we change who God is.

The more we become like Him, the more His glory increases.  He gets credit for the changes in me, because it is His work in me – not my work in myself.  So the more I change, the more I improve, the higher He lifts me – the more He Himself is elevated.

It is His work in me, and so any glory from that process is also His.

It is like our earthly parents: my mother will always be my mother.  When I was an infant, she cared for me and nurtured me into childhood, then my teenage years, then my awful young adult years, and then into the healing and growing years now.  But just because I finally got my act together (was “rescued”, as President Monson would say), or just because I reached the age my mother was when she had me, or just because now my mother and I are friends and at-one and have that peace and joy… none of that means I caught up to her.  She is still, and forever will be, my mother.  And all this time I have been working and learning and progressing, so has she.  Our becoming at-one does not change the fact that she is my mother, or that she is ahead of me in life experience or age progression.

Heavenly Father knew from the beginning that the atonement of the Savior would be needed for me to make it back home like the prodigal.  The Savior’s work of the atonement was an exchange that was in part immediate and final, and in part a process.  The immediate and final part was conquering death.  All of us will have immortality, and that work is already done and accomplished.  It’s settled.  The part that is still in process is my choosing to participate in the progress of Emily, the great exchange of my sins for His righteousness.  The more I let the atonement work in me, so that by the Holy Spirit working to sanctify me, to cleanse me, to purify me, so that I am more and more made of His substance, more and more filled with His righteousness rather than what is not of Him… the more I become like Him, which does qualify me to be closer and closer to Him as I continue that process.

We become more and more at-one.

But I can never catch up to Him, because He is my Father.

To be at-one is to have peace and joy.

That is what Satan wants to destroy, and how he so easily leads us away from at-one-ness, away from the working of the atonement, by trying to get us to choose things and behaviors and interactions that separate us from God so that we are not at-one.

But this is only a trick, an illusion.

Because the Savior has already come, and His work is already done.

The at-one-ment has already been made possible.

We just have to let it work; we just have to choose it.

It is the choosing it that softens us.

“if the Gentiles repent it shall be well with them” (verse 5).

But He lets us choose.  It’s part of wanting us to be happy and comfortable, to the degree we have developed that in ourselves.

“I will work a great and marvelous work among the children of men;
(His “work” is defined in Moses 1:39, as our immortality and eternal life)
a work which shall be everlasting,
either on the one hand or on the other –
(quality of eternal life we choose)
either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal,
or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds
unto their being brought down into captivity,
and also destruction,
both temporally and spiritually” (verse 7).

This is our choice, the angel says to Nephi in verse 10: to either follow God or not, to become obedient and faithful like Abraham or not, to follow the example of Christ or not, to choose the things of God or not, to become children of the covenant or not.

Nephi sees there are two churches, the true church (with the authority restored, as we learned in the last chapter) or not.

In verse 12 Nephi realizes that the numbers of Saints will always be fewer than the people of the world, but that the Saints will be stronger despite the numbers.

In verse 14, Nephi understands that the covenant people are strengthened by righteousness and the power of God.

This is powerful in several ways.

First, the actual story of what Nephi is seeing.

Second, the process by which Nephi is seeing this vision, that he is still receiving line-upon-line of revelation through pondering and obedience and prayer, by asking for more and more understanding and being diligent in the work to deepen his understanding further and further.

Third, the idea that it is righteousness that strengthens us and what it implies for us as covenant people.  It is no longer the child-understanding of “because He said so”, but the grown-up-understanding of “because it is good for us”.   If we follow Nephi’s pattern of seeking further revelation and deeper understanding to this, layers and layers will come like a book unfolding as its pages are turned.

Then, Nephi says, he sees how the people become divided into two camps (much like Nephi and his murmuring brothers, and the descendants that come after them).

The two camps are for-God and against-God.

We know this from since always.  Sometimes we call it “the War in Heaven”.  Before any of us came to Earth, Heavenly Father presented the plan for us to come to Earth and gain experience in making choices and prove that we could be obedient in all things, that we truly love Him by choice and not just default.

Jehovah, who is the Christ, presented His plan for the atonement, so that we could return to our Heavenly Father knowing it was by his grace and mercy that we made it back home.

Lucifer, who is Satan, presented his plan that he could force everyone (by removing agency, or the ability to choose).  The problem with this is that since he would be getting us back home by force, then all the glory would be his.  This is how he tried to steal glory from Heavenly Father.

And so we had the great war in heaven, in which we pleaded and urged our loved ones to choose Jehovah, to do it the way Heavenly Father designed.

Lucifer and those who chose his plan were thrown out, and did not get to be born on earth in bodies to learn how to make choices or practice being obedient.

The rest of us, all of us who are born into bodies, all of us here on Earth, chose Jehovah and the plan as Heavenly Father designed it, for HIS glory.

But we sometimes forget that same war still rages on.  Satan still tries to remove our agency, through ignorance or hard-heartedness or anything that tricks us into not having choices.  That’s why it is bondage: we get stuck without choice, or we give up our choices in exchange for something else.

In my office, I see this show up in many forms.  Sometimes it is financial bondage.  Sometimes it is addiction.  Sometimes it is Esau giving up his birthright (celestial kingdom blessings through the covenant of marriage) for a bowl of porridge (immediate gratification of an affair) (Genesis 25:34).

The same war rages on, and we continue to urge our friends and loved ones – the same friends and loved ones we have had since before the beginning of time – to choose the right.

That’s our premortal covenant: Christ would accomplish the atonement (He did), and we would testify of it (we must).

But the war will be won.

Verses 15-17 sound like verses from Revelation in the New Testament, talking about “wars and rumors of wars” in the end times.

Then the angel tells Nephi about John, who did write Revelation:

“… Behold, one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (verse 20).
“And he shall see and write the remainder of these things… and he shall also write concerning the end of the world” (verse 21, 22).
“… the things which he shall write are just and true; and behold they are written in the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew” (the Bible) (verse 23).

Then Nephi understands.  He knows.

This is the building of his testimony.

First it is believing.  But with pondering and revelation, faith becomes knowledge.

“And I, Nephi, heard and bear record, that the name of the apostle of the Lamb was John” (verse 27).

And this was only a “small part”, he says, of what he saw and learned and heard.

Can you imagine?

These amazing chapters culminating in this one are all a result of his pondering and study and praying.  These chapters describe for us not only what he saw and learned, but also the process of revelation that he experienced.  We are to ponder and study and ask for more, we are to listen and look and pay attention.  We are to ask what it means, what is true, and how to apply it to ourselves.

And then, when we understand, when we know, then we must “go and do”.  We must act in response to what we have learned.  We must testify of it.  We must share.

That’s what happens in the next chapter, when Nephi returns to his murmuring brothers in hopes of sharing what he has learned.

1 Nephi 13

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 13.

Chapter 13 continues Nephi’s tutoring session with the angel, with this chapter having a particular geographical/political/historical perspective.

In his vision, Nephi sees “many nations and kingdoms” (verse 1), and the angel clarifies that these are the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles (verse 3).

He sees the kingdoms setting up churches not of God, and political persecution of believers.  He sees Saints being martyred and tortured and imprisoned.

This is an important piece in Mormon perspective: it is the apostasy.

LDS beliefs acknowledge that there are many different kinds of churches, and even agree that many of them hold great pieces of truth.

LDS beliefs include the belief that anything that is good comes from God, and that all truth is from God.

However, we also understand the historical tracing back of different branches of different churches and how they came about.  In some ways, this was good and important and vital because most churches popular today were established during the time of the Reformation, and that was a vital and important movement in Christianity.  It led to the Great Awakening, the search for the true church, the demand for freedom to practice religion as one deems appropriate for themselves.  There were real problems, and the people wanted real answers.  All of this was very important historically, and vital in the search to return to our roots – to the church as the Savior Himself had established it when He was on the earth.

When the Savior was on the Earth, He established the pattern for church-ness.  He organized it, He called the leaders, He taught them the truths and the way things were to be done.  He taught us what kind of people we need to be.

Even more importantly, He had the authority to do this, and He gave authority to the leaders He chose for them to continue the work.

Between the time of Christ, and the beginning of church-ness as we know it today, that authority was lost.

People may have known or remembered what to do or how to do things, but that authority to do so was lost along the way.

In LDS world, this is called “the Apostasy”.

It is like someone practicing medicine without a license.  They may know what to do, and maybe even studied in school.  But they don’t have the license to practice.  They may know all the right things, and may be quite skilled, but they do not have permission from the those in charge to be doing what they are doing.  They do not have the authority to do what they are doing.

For things to really be legit, even when you know the truth, everything should be done on the up-and-up.

During the apostasy, or after the time all the original Apostles were hunted down and killed – martyred – the people continued to do what they knew to do, but the authority to practice these things had been lost.

But still, many remembered the pattern, and many continued going through the motions, and many had deep and powerful individual relationships with God.

We are grateful for these Saints, and for the things they teach us, and for their prayers and efforts and battles for the truth so that the principles and concepts were passed down.  It is because they gave their lives to study and writing that Scriptures were passed down.  It is because they fought for their beliefs that truth was not lost.  It is because of their efforts, even to the giving of their lives, that we have the Bible in every language in the world, and can hold it in our own hands.

But Satan, the angel tells Nephi (before all this happened), is going to try and stop it.

Of course Satan doesn’t want Scriptures to get passed down generation after generation!

Of course Satan wants to tweak and pervert and twist and change the things of God; it is what he has always done.

And so Nephi sees how there will be an Apostasy, after the time of Christ.  He sees the Apostles will be killed, Saints will be martyred, and sacred ordinances of the church will be twisted and changed and perverted.  He sees that there will be churches that rise up in pursuit of money instead of God, and he sees that there will be hypocrites in fine clothes instead of saints who care for the poor.  He sees church leaders seeking after the praise of the world, even by destroying the true saints, instead of building up the saints by seeking the things of God.

Nephi’s vision continues, and he sees the lands and kingdoms separated by seas and oceans.

Then it gets really exciting:

He sees his own descendants in the promised land to which his father is now leading them.

LDS believe that this “promised land” in the metaphorical sense is our returning to the presence of our Heavenly Father, and that in the temporal sense this promised land was the American continents.

Then he looks back across the seas and he watches the Spirit of God come upon a man who seeks to travel the ocean to Nephi’s own promised land, or to the American continents.

LDS believe this is a prophecy pointing to those who later discovered the American continents, as well as its native peoples who are Nephi’s descendents.

Nephi watches as “multitudes of the Gentiles” (verse 13) come to this promised land of the Americas, led there because of religious persecution.

He sees these immigrants become a great nation, and that they prosper in the land as long as they humble themselves before the Lord (which has always been the requirement, even in the Old Testament, not just the Book of Mormon).  Always, when the people are humble and repentant and acknowledge the Lord and do what He says, the people are gathered to receive their inheritance and they are blessed temporally (physically, now) and spiritually (now and later).  When they are not a humble people, then they are scattered, sent into bondage, and experience calamities.  This has always been the pattern since the beginning of time: the people are provided for and protected as long as they choose to remain in the care of their Shepherd, but are scattered and endangered when they decline His offers for help or remove themselves outside of His protection.  This truth applies to us as individuals, families, communities, and nations.

In verse 19, Nephi prophesies about the Americas fighting for Independence from Europe and free from religious persecution: “And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.”

And he sees these people having their Bible.

The angels asks Nephi if he knows what the book is, and Nephi says he doesn’t know.

So the angel explains, “The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophesies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass.”

So then Nephi understands, that these people will have a book that is a record like his metal plates.  The book is the history of the Jews, from creation forward, and includes the same writings of the prophets as what Nephi has (even Isaiah and Jeremiah, who are prophesying at the time of Lehi taking his family out of Jerusalem).

But the angel tells Nephi that the Bible will also have writings from the Apostles, as witnesses to the Savior.  These are the gospels and the letters to the new churches before the apostasy.   But then the angel also tells of the apostasy: “they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away… And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men” (verse 26 and 27).  It is then, says the angel, after the scriptures have been altered and many things left out or even changed, it is after that when the Bible will be published as one collection, one book, and it will be true – but missing many pieces.  It is true as far as it is translated correctly, but many will have tried to change it.

We know this is true from history, with the many councils that met to try and decide which sacred, holy writings would be included in the book that we now know as “the Bible”.

But, the angel says, the Lord does not want the Gentiles to “remain in that awful state of blindness” (verse 32).

And so, the angel says, the Lord will visit a descendant of Nephi.

That gets Nephi’s attention.

The Lord will visit a descendant of Nephi, and restore the full truth, the whole story, “the full Gospel”, back to the people.

“For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious..” (verse 35).

The angel describes how the record Nephi is now in process of writing, of keeping and preserving, of passing down to his son, and to his son after him, how this record will get passed down generations and then be hidden to be kept safe.  Then, in His own time, the Lord will bring this record out of hiding to restore the full Gospel to the people.

This, we know is how Nephi’s record, and the records kept generations after him, becomes the Book of Mormon.

And we know it literally was hidden, and found, and how it did restore the full story to the people.

It’s an amazing process to watch, to read, to experience!

It will “come forth”, the angel says, “by the gift and power of the Lamb.” (verse 36).

And those who study it will understand it by “the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost” (verse 37), which is why we work so hard to live worthy of the Holy Spirit, so that it can correct and instruct and guide and teach us as we study.  And when we do, like Nephi studying his father’s vision, and when we ponder and pray and ask with a heart and spirit that is worthy of influence from the Holy Ghost, then it is like the world coming into focus, and we begin to understand.  We receive revelation a bit at a time, building on each tiny piece before it.  As we continue to study, we begin to see whole chunks, as if glasses have been put on our eyes, lights have been turned on, and we learn to see colors and letters and words.

In this way, the Book of Mormon is a companion to the Bible, for it does explain pieces you don’t understand without it. Things you read for your whole life, have seen hundreds of times, never make as much sense as they do after reading the Book of Mormon and having that understanding to go with it.  It’s almost like the Book of Mormon explains the Bible, interprets the Bible, better than any other writing or dictionary or theological study.

Because the Book of Mormon is “another testament of Jesus Christ”.

And it does help a person understand how everything – EVERYTHING – in the Bible, even in the Old Testament, points to Christ.

“These last records (the Book of Mormon),” the angel tells Nephi, “shall establish the truth of the first (the Bible)” (verse 40).

And so really, we see them as ONE book.  The Bible and the Book of Mormon are one united book, with all of it pointing to Christ.

“they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth” (verse 41).

I am glad He is Shepherd of me.

1 Nephi 12

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 12.

In response to his pondering and seeking understanding, Nephi’s vision continues.

And in response to his asking for the interpretation of his father’s dream, the angel continues to explain to Nephi what the dream means.

Nephi sees his descendants, and the descendants of his brothers.  He sees them living in a “land of promise”, which refers to the physical and actual place where they live – and also is a metaphor for returning to the presence of Heavenly Father.  Because we know this, anytime you read in Scripture and it talks about “the promised land” or the “land of promise”, etc., you can know it is covenant language happening and that it may be talking about a physical, temporal palce, but also is a metaphor for the celestial kingdom.

In his own vision, Nephi sees “wars and rumors of wars”, and many cities after many generations have passed.

Then Nephi sees what we saw in the tornado storms last night: “I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises…”  (verse 4).  He goes on to describe earthquakes and other natural disasters.

This is the testimony of nature, the groaning of the Earth, the waiting for the Lord to return so that the Earth may be cleansed and her people gathered.

And the Savior does come, Nephi sees in his vision.

“I saw the heavens open, and the Lamb of God descending out of heaven; and he came down and showed himself unto them” (verse 6).

Nephi also sees the Holy Ghost coming upon “twelve others; and they were ordained of God, and chosen” (verse 7).  The angel goes on to explain that these twelve will judge the twelve tribes of Israel, and that Nephi’s descendants will be judged by them because he (Nephi) is of the House of Israel.  But judgment is not to be feared, for all will understand and agree with their judgments, and the quality of their eternal life will match that which they have prepared for and chosen now – so they will be comfortable and happy with their judgment, knowing eternal life is a gift of mercy.

And those that believe are “righteous forever” (verse 10) because of HIS righteousness gifted in exchange for their sins through the atonement, the at-one-ment, the work of the Savior.

The angel then continues explaining Leh’s dream…

The “mists of darkness” are the temptations of the devil (verse 17).

The “large and spacious buildings” is pride.

Nephi sees into the future, seeing his descendants.  He sees that when they “dwindle in unbelief”, they become a dark and filthy people who are full of idleness and do not do the things of God.

But there is hope in the symbols already interpreted in the last chapter: the “rod of iron” is the word of God, that is a “light” for the path.

The path leads to the tree, which represents the presence of Heavenly Father, and the happiness we have when we live at-one with Him.

1 Nephi 11

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 11.

So Nephi, now understanding more and more about the dream his father had – and the message his father and other prophets have always given – wants to understand more.

There is always more.

Nephi believes his father, that the Lord really made these things known unto Lehi, and Nephi wants to know for himself.

So he ponders.

Pondering leads to inspiration and revelation, which leads to testify for the benefit of others.

“Pondering” always makes me think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, “pondering these things in her heart”.  Her testimony came when a certain doctor named Luke came by to interview her about the life of her son.  This is why we have the book of Luke: it is the interview of Mary.  It is Mary’s perspective.  This is why the Christmas story we all read is from Luke’s version: because it is the mother’s story.

So Nephi is pondering these things in his heart, “believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me” (verse 1).

Then we get the pattern of the revelation, the pattern of the Testing, the pattern of the teaching and proving of faith.

This is the pattern of at-one-ment, of the embrace, of the seeing clearly, of the welcome-home.

The Spirit says, “What do you want?”

Nephi says what he wants: “I desire to behold the things which my father saw.”

The Spirit says, “Do you believe?”

Nephi says, “Yea, thou knowest that I believe all the words of my father.”

The the Spirit gives more words, many words, more than the simple answers after the first few questions.  He blesses Nephi for believing “in the Son of the most high God” (verse 6).

And then, because Nephi has passed the test, he gets what he wants, what he asked for in the first place: to see the things he has most desired, which is the presence of God as symbolized by the tree from Lehi’s dream.

And so, as is the pattern anytime the Lord establishes a covenant, Nephi is given a sign that represents what that covenant is about or symbolizes it in some way.  This is the pattern as it has always been, such as the rainbow when the Lord covenants with Noah that He will not ever again destroy the earth by water.  And so Nephi sees.

Nephi sees the tree as his father Lehi saw it, and it is beautiful and whiter than white.

Then the Spirit repeats the instructional pattern.  Just like our physical muscles in our bodies, our spiritual muscles develop and grow through repetition and focused use, regularly and often. So Nephi goes another round with the Spirit, who is training Nephi according to a specific pattern.

First, the Spirit asks what Nephi wants.

Nephi answers.

Then the Spirit shows Nephi more (the city of Jerusalem, the city of Nazarath, the mother of the Savior), and asks what that is.

Nephi names it.

Then the Spirit asks about “the condescension of God”, which refers to the atonement.  That the Lord would deign to come down to Earth, and be pierced – killed – with nails in His hands – all to rescue us and to bring us home again.

Nephi cannot answer the full question directly because he does not yet have the information.

So the Spirit does teach him and explains to Him that the mother is the mother of the Son of God.

Now that Nephi knows the full answer, the Spirit asks him again, “What is it?”

Nephi this time is able to give the meaning, which does unite him with the Savior, and does make him at-one with the love of God.

That is the pattern.

“It is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable of all things… the most joyous to the soul” (verse 22 and 23).

So now the tree with the fruit represents this love of God, and partaking of the fruit represents entering back into the presence of our Heavenly Father and the joy we have in His presence.

In verse 25, we get another interpretation: “I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God…”  So the rod of iron represents the Scriptures and the words of prophets, for it is by Scriptures that we are able to find our way home again to our Heavenly Father.  Psalms 119:105 says “thy word is a light unto my path and a lamp unto my feet”.   So we know that prophets are the “flaming sword” of Genesis 3:24 that guard the way back to Heavenly Father’s presence.

Nephi continues his learning in verse 27, when he sees “the Redeemer of the world” and “the prophet who should prepare the way before him”.  Nephi sees the Messiah being baptized, and the the Holy Ghost coming down in the form of a dove.  This is a prophetic vision, as it is still about 600 years before Jesus was born.  Nephi also sees the multitudes of people gathered to him him teach, and then he sees the people cast him out.  Nephi even sees the twelve disciples, and he sees Jesus and the disciples healing many.  He sees that Jesus is “lifted up on the cross and slain for the sins of the world” (verse 33).

Then comes Nephi’s understanding of the “large and spacious building” from his father Lehi’s dream, and that this represents the wisdom of the world that fights against the apostles of the Savior.  It is “the pride of the world”, and Nephi saw the building “fall”. He understands this represents “the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people that shall fight against” the Savior and His apostles (verse 36).

But still, there is more… more of Nephi’s receiving of the interpretation of Lehi’s dream in the next chapter!

1 Nephi 10

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 10.

In chapter 10, Nephi goes back to his story, back to the part of the story where Lehi has finished telling about his dream.  Nephi says that his father also prophesied, like Isaiah and Jeremiah of the Old Testament, of the coming destruction of Jerusalem.  But Lehi also promised, like other prophets, that one day the Jews would be brought back out of captivity and possess their land once again.

Lehi also promised that six hundred years after they (Lehi and his family) left Jerusalem, the promised Messiah would come to redeem His people.

This is powerful language, and like the Old Testament prophets, it points to the way the people will be rescued and delivered: not just brought out from captivity or delivered from bondage, but actually redeemed, or ransomed.  A price has to be paid, and the Messiah is going to pay it.  There is going to be a political exchange, both on the temporal and spiritual levels.  The Messiah is going to buy back His people, so that He can set them free.

We know He did this physically, conquering death so that all may experience immortality, so that all people can live forever.

But He also did it spiritually, so that those who exchange their sins for His righteousness may then qualify to return to our Heavenly Father.

This is the atonement, that we may be reconciled to God.  And when we are reconciled to God, we become at-one with Him, and He does embrace our prodigal selves like the Father who was waiting and watching all along.

Lehi says in verse six, “all mankind were in a lost and fallen state” and that all can be saved if they “rely on this Redeemer”.

Like the other Old Testament prophets, Lehi also prophesied of John the Baptist, that he would be a prophet who came before the Messiah, “to prepare the way of the Lord” (verse 7).  He prophesied the things John would say, and that John would baptize the Messiah (verse 8), and that afterward John would testify “that he had baptized the Lamb of God, who should take away the sins of the world” (verse 9).  Lehi spoke of the Messiah being killed, that “he should rise from the dead” (verse 11), and that He would manifest Himself even to the Gentiles.

Lehi talked about the Gentiles and the house of Israel (the Jews), and compared them to an olive tree.  He said the olive tree (the Jews) and its branches (the tribes of Israel) would be broken off and scattered across the Earth.  He told his family that their leaving Jerusalem was part of that scattering, and pointed out how it was an example of the fulfilling of prophecies made by prophets long before they lived.  But he also reminded his family that the prophecies also say that the tribes of Israel will one day be gathered again, but not until the Gentiles have received the full Gospel, or message of the Lord.  After the Gentiles are grafted into the olive tree (the house of the Lord), then also will the tribes of Israel be brought back through knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.

In verse 17, Nephi says that after hearing all this, and all about his father’s vision of the tree and the rod of iron, and all about the promised Messiah promised to come, that he “was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all who diligently seek him.”   Nephi describes God as being the same God that He has always been, which means that if God did manifest Himself to people in the past, then Nephi knew God could manifest Himself even to Nephi in some way.

He says in verse 18, “for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever”.

But then he adds his next thought, the revelation that comes through his pondering the truths of God, and declares that “the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.”  So we know that since the beginning, since before the beginning, the way for our deliverance has been part of the plan.  Taking it one step further, this would also mean that since the beginning, since before the beginning, we have known that He is our God and that we need to return to Him, that we want to return to Him.  It is His plan, this way prepared from the foundation of the world, that makes it possible.

This means that since before we came to Earth, we have known that the plan – an agreed upon plan that we all knew and understood – was to get back home to our Heavenly Father, and that we could do this by the power of the atonement.  It is through the promised Messiah that we can become at-one, and be embraced as we are welcomed home again.

But how?

Nephi tells us in verse 19, “For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost”.  Nephi says again, that the Lord will manifest Himself through the Holy Spirit to people today just as He did in the old days.  But you have to do the work to prepare for it and do the work to notice it.  That’s the diligence part.

The more familiar New Testament words from Jesus Himself sheds light on the process:  ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be answered.

This is the pattern of how the atonement works: ask for truth, and you will receive it; seek to understand and you will be taught; knock and you can enter His presence.

These are the “mysteries” of God, with “mysteries” meaning ordinances for how the things of God – gifts of God – are bestowed upon His people.

These are the ordinances of God: to ask for truth and receive it, to seek to understand and be taught, to knock and enter His presence.

It is the diligence that unfolds the mysteries; it is the diligence that unfolds the ordinances.

By the power of the Holy Ghost, these mysteries can unfold before you.  It’s like a scroll opening, ever so gently, ever so slowly, with each bit of unrolling revealing more and more of what the scroll says, and the more you study it the more it makes sense because the more pieces you have, until it becomes like a movie playing in the air above you, inside of you, instead of just something you hold in your hands.

So remember, Nephi says, remember.  We knew all this from the beginning, from before the world came into being, and Nephi urges us to do the work of remembering.

Listening to the prophets, whether it is reading the Scriptures or watching General Conference or memorizing any of those words or studying or any effort to make the words of ancient and living prophets a part of you, that is how to remember.  The more you remember their words, the more you will remember what you already knew before you came here to Earth.

Nephi then reminds us that because we knew the plan before we came and because prophets have been sent to remind us now, there is no excuse for not knowing.  The Messiah has accomplished His work of atonement.  He has conquered death, so we will all have immortality.  But our choices now determine the quality of that eternal life later.

Nephi says this life is our “probation”.  It’s a time of testing, of proving.  We were sent here to learn how to make choices, and to prove that we would choose God in all things.

But God is holy and pure, and no unclean thing can be in His presence.  So if we are to return to His presence, we must become as He is.

We, of course, in our own selves cannot do it. There is nothing in me that is god-like or god-ly.

This is why we need the great exchange.

The Savior took all the parts of us that are not worthy of Him, all the parts of us and that prevent us from being able to return to his presence.  He takes it away, He covers it, He wipes it off the record.  He removes it from us, so that without Him we are nothing.

But then He fills us back up.  In exchange, we get HIS righteousness, HIS purity, HIS holiness.  In this way, we become His people.  We become like Him because He has purified us, cleansed us, filled us up with good-ness.

It’s a process, though, and we have to choose to let Him do that work in us.

But this atonement, this exchange of our sins for His righteousness is what makes it possible to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.

This is Nephi’s testimony, which he declares in verse 22: “And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not.”