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.”

1 Nephi 9

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 9.

This chapter is another monologue from Nephi.  He again puts down his writing-on-metal-plates pen and looks up to talk to us directly.  The story is on pause, while he takes a minute to explain the process of writing.

Basically, he is talking about how his writing is going to be organized.  There are two sets of plates, he says.  One is a more secular history (“the larger plates”), and one contains more sacred things (“the smaller plates”).

The larger plates of the secular history include the reigns of the kings and the wars and contentions of the people.   The smaller plates of the “sacred things” are more about the ministry to the people and other teachings.

This is very much like the Old Testament, where we have entire books that are histories of people, and accounts of their wars and the story of different kingdoms, and other books that are just the work and words and messages of prophets.

But for some reason, Nephi says, the Lord wants me to organize my writing this way and make two copies of my record, each containing a different perspective of the same events.  And so he does.

In verse 5, he says “the Lord hath commanded me to make these plats for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.”

So Nephi is saying, “I don’t understand why we have to do it this way, but it is the way the Lord said to do it, so I am doing it.”

We have the benefit of hindsight, long after the life of Nephi, and we know what that “wise purpose” was, in part, the lost pages.

The Lord already knew all this would go down the way it did, and He provided a way for Nephi’s writings to be protected.  He prepared the way, long before anyone understood why.

Verse six closes the chapter with this:

“The Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words.”

I love this chapter, because it reflects one of my all time favorite Hebrew names for God:

Jehovah-Jireh, or, The God who provides what you need before you know you need it.

That’s powerful.

1 Nephi 8

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 8.

So now Lehi has the family records, and Nephi and his brothers have wives.  The families have reunited in the wilderness, and they have taken the time to thank the Lord.  Now that they all back together, and settled in (as much as you can be while journeying in the wilderness), Lehi tells them he has had a dream.

This dream is the “seed” of the fruit to come (the understanding of why we are here and who we are and where we are going, or – in other words – the plan of salvation).

This dream continues the same theme, with Lehi expressing his confidence in Nephi’s decisions to follow the Lord and his efforts of behavior that proves him a child of the covenant, as well as his concerns about Laman and Lemuel continuing to refuse.

So this is Lehi’s dream:

There is a dark and dreary wilderness.

After many hours of traveling in the darkness, he prays to the Lord asking for mercy “according to the multitude of his tender mercies”.

This last piece is important, because that is how it works for us.  The tender mercies are like tiny little blessings meant just for us, specifically for us, unique to us, and they show us the way and give us direction and understanding and hope.  They are, for Lehi in this dream, a “light” in the darkness, shedding just enough light on the path that he knows where to step next – or that it is safe to do so.

Finally, Lehi (still dreaming) sees a field, with a tree in it.  The fruit of the tree makes people happy.  Lehi tasted it, and it was sweet, and he was happy.

It was so good, and made him so happy, that he wanted to share it with his family.  Verse 12 says, “And as I partook of the fruit thereof, it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.”

So he looks around for his family, and sees them a ways away.  He sees his wife, and Nephi, and one of Nephi’s (good) brothers.  When he looked at them, he could tell they did not know what way to go.  He calls out to them, and tells them to come to where he is and to taste this fruit.  They do.

Lehi keeps looking, because Laman and Lemuel are missing!  When he finally sees them far away, they refuse to come to him to taste the fruit.

Then Lehi sees a “rod of iron” that leads along the path to the tree where Lehi stands trying to pass out the happy fruit.  He sees how people can cling to this iron rod to stay safely on the path, even when the mists of darkness come.  He sees how people wander away or get lost when they do not hold on to the iron rod.

He sees also, a “great and spacious building”, floating in the air.  It is filled with all kinds of people, and these people have attitudes of mocking and pointing fingers at those trying to get to the happy fruit or those who have tasted the happy fruit.  They are scoffers and scorners, these people in the great and spacious building.

Then verse 29 is a tiny monologue, as if Nephi looked up from the metal plates upon which he had been writing.  Nephi lets us know that he is not sharing the whole story of his father’s dream, just a part.

Verse 30 continues the dream-story again, as Lehi describes that those who “press forward” along the rod of iron are they who make it to the tree to taste the fruit.

But Lehi’s concern about his sons Laman and Lemuel continues to grow, as in his dream they refuse to taste the fruit.  Lehi is scared for them, that they will not be able to enter the presence of the Lord.  So he preaches to them, prophesies to them, and urges them to keep the commandments.

Then he is done, having said all he could say.

This “rod of iron” dream of Lehi’s is classic mormon culture literature.  The different pieces of the dream itself get interpreted a few chapters later, and it is worth the way!  But this is a big piece to LDS theological concepts.  We even sing a song about it!

Here is part of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing it:

1. To Nephi, seer of olden time,
A vision came from God,
Wherein the holy word sublime
Was shown an iron rod.

Hold to the rod, the iron rod;
’Tis strong, and bright, and true.
The iron rod is the word of God;
’Twill safely guide us through.

2. While on our journey here below,
Beneath temptation’s pow’r,
Through mists of darkness we must go,
In peril ev’ry hour.

3. And when temptation’s pow’r is nigh,
Our pathway clouded o’er,
Upon the rod we can rely,
And heaven’s aid implore.

4. And, hand o’er hand, the rod along,
Through each succeeding day,
With earnest prayer and hopeful song,
We’ll still pursue our way.

5. Afar we see the golden rest
To which the rod will guide,
Where, with the angels bright and blest,
Forever we’ll abide.

(Text: Joseph L. Townsend, 1849–1942; Music: William Clayson, 1840–1887)

Music of the Spheres

It turns out that the horrible, scary sound that happens inside my head when I take off my cochlear implant processors…. is really actually only the music of the stars.

It’s good to know.  Comforting, actually.

CLICK HERE to see this just released (short) video of clips of actual star sounds.  Scientists are using these to measure the structure of stars, which is fascinating.

Most of all, I love how this sound does remind me of the voice that is like “the rushing of great waters” from The Living Christ (top paragraph of right column), or verses like Ezekiel 1:24 or Ezekiel 43:2 or Revelation 1:15 or Revelation 14:2.  Beautiful.

It is the sound of nature declaring the purpose of their creation, singing their song of testimony.

The stars are echoing the earthquakes.

It is the sound of poetry, the sound of judgment, the voice of mercy.

It is the prophetic sound of a voice declaring the work of the atonement accomplished.

It is the music of the greatest love there is, like a testimony.

It is the sound of God coming near.

Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King!  And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness.  Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy!  And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever!  And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!

~ Doctrine & Covenants 128:23

And so my heart does sing:

This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all natures sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.

1 Nephi 7

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 7.

In chapter 7, Nephi has finished his short (but powerful) monologue, and is back to telling the story of his family.

Before the family can move along in their wilderness journey, they have a tiny problem to solve:

Lehi has a family full of boys who are now grown and itchin’ to get married.

The solution seems simple enough:  go back to Jerusalem to the family of Ishmael, who was like Lehi’s BFF back in the day and who just so happens to have a brood full of daughters, and bring the family to travel with them.

The plan: let the kiddos mingle.

The end of verse one has both immediate and celestial implications:  “that they might raise up seed unto the Lord in the land of promise.”

Remember, “the land of promise” always refers to the immediate end of their physical wandering in the actual wilderness, as well as to the celestial kingdom of heaven following our mortal lifetime journey.

So what happens next?  Yep, you guessed it.  Nephi and his brothers get sent back to Jerusalem AGAIN.  Only this time there is no murmuring going on, because they are going to see the ladies.  Boo-yah.

So they go to Ishmael’s house, and gain his favor.  They even get to “speak unto him the words of the Lord”.  This is important because it means they are talking with him about what the prophets have said, and what it means for Jerusalem.  So Ishmael isn’t leaving his home just to marry off his daughters, but because he believes the words of the prophets.

Now we have the family of Lehi and the family of Ishmael traveling together in the wilderness, and the children are mingling, and over time the kids decide who likes whom.

But still, there are growing pains.  Now that everyone is showing off for everyone else, the murmuring starts again.  And even the girls chime in, now that they are daydreaming about fairytale weddings – they want the big fancy event in Jerusalem, where all their friends can come.

Nephi “grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (verse 8), and calls them out on this nonsense.

He looks Laman and Lemuel right in the eyes, and schools them with, “DUDE!  You guys are older than me!  What’s your problem?  You should be my example, but I have to be an example to you.  Get with it, already!  Why won’t you listen to the Lord?  How is it you have seen an angel, and still won’t do what the Lord says?  Have you forgotten everything the Lord has done for us?  Have you forgotten everything we have seen and been through?  What’s the deal?!  We must be faithful to the Lord, puh-leeeeeze.”

He pleads with them and tries to reassure them with the promised blessings, saying in verse 13: “And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise…”

So again, this simple sentence contains a double meaning.  He is talking about now, in the present moment, being faithful, so that they will get through the wilderness to the promised land (like Moses and the Israelites).  But he also is referring to their mortal journey, that they must be faithful to get back to the presence of Heavenly Father.

He is saying, if you can’t do it in the small and simple things, how will you do it in the overall plan?  The overall plan is accomplished each and every day.   We become who we act like now.

In the same verse, he reminds them of why they cannot go back to Jerusalem (because it is going to be destroyed):  “and ye shall know at some future period that the word of the Lord shall be fulfilled concerning the destruction of Jerusalem; for all things which the Lord hath spoken concerning the destruction of Jerusalem must be fulfilled.”

Then, in verse 14, he uses Jerusalem as an example to give his brothers a stern warning: “… the Spirit of the Lord ceaseth soon to strive with them; for behold, they have rejected the prophets, and Jeremiah (of the Old Testament) they have cast into prison.  And they have sought to take away the life of my father, insomuch that they have driven him out of the land.”

The brothers know all this; they were there.  Nephi doesn’t have to tell them the latest status update from Jerusalem’s facebook.  They know all this.

Rather, Nephi is using Jerusalem as an example, warning his brothers that they are choosing to act the same as the people in Jerusalem, ignoring the words of prophets.

He is warning them that whether it is murmuring, or putting prophets in jail, neither is makes them worthy of the Spirit of the Lord.

He is warning them that if they are choosing a similar destruction.

But still, they have their choice, both literally and metaphorically.  But he tells them the consequences for either choice (to stay or to go back to Jerusalem).

This tells us more than just about the brothers and how they are doing.  It also tells us about Nephi.  Because Nephi is so full of the Spirit, he cannot NOT warn them.  That’s the job of a prophet, to warn.  Anyone who warns is a prophet (with a lowercase “p”); anyone who preaches about the use of agency and consequences for using it wisely or not, is a prophet.  Prophesying, or testifying, is a natural result from being filled with the Spirit of the Lord.  We cannot, if we are full, keep it to ourselves, because it is one message for all people.  It comes out of Nephi because that is who he is.

There is a quote I love by CS Lewis, which says, “creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection.  Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.”

This is an example of that quote.

Laman and Lemuel were born into the covenant, and they were obedient to their father in leaving – even though they were hesitant in doing so.  This does set them apart from the people in Jerusalem who tried to kill Isaiah and who threw Jeremiah in jail.  Laman and Lemuel are complaining, but at least they went along with the plan (begrudgingly).

However, Nephi then chose the covenant, which is more than just being born into it.  And he is not complaining, even though he faces the same hardships.  And he is doing the things – study and prayer and teaching and sharing – that develop him spiritually.  This is in sharp contrast to his brothers, who repeatedly just barely make the cut.

Laman and Lemuel don’t like Nephi calling them out.  He’s their younger brother, and nobody likes to be busted.  They are angry, it says.  I am a therapist, so I know that “angry” means embarrassed, hurt, ashamed, scared, confused, offended, lonely, abandoned, and all sorts of other things that run like a river beneath the shores of “angry”.

They grab Nephi and tie him up, leaving him in the wilderness to die.

This reminds us what happens with Joseph, in Genesis 37, when his brothers throw him in the pit to die… only to barely have compassion enough to sell him as a slave instead.  Nice.

But Nephi prayed, “O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound.”  (verse 17)

This verse is PACKED.

First, Nephi’s immediate response was not to get upset or retaliate or give up and quit.

He prayed.

And he knew how to ask for help:  “according to my faith”.

In this moment, Nephi is relying on all those hours of study, all those early morning seminary meetings, all those “small and simple things” that have built up within him, “line upon line”, a great faith.  This great faith is what empowers him.

It is the power of the Lord, but Nephi has the right to call upon it because he has invested the time and energy and effort into claiming that power.  He is worthy of it, and he has worked hard to obtain it.  So this power is available to him, and he has the ability to use it.

He is also claiming who he knows God to be, stating that He knows the Lord is able to deliver him.

Nephi breaks loose, and undaunted, gets right back up and confronts his brothers him again.

Now they are even more angry!

Except by now, there has been such a commotion going on that the ladies have come out to intervene.

The ladies speak with Laman and Lemuel, softening their hearts.

This is the miracle of the divine work of women, truly.  There is something in us that has this special “divine attribute”, as it was called in General Conference last weekend.  It is meant to comfort and to soothe.  It is meant to create life-ness where there is nothing and to bring peace where there is destruction and division.

But I think that is also why there is such drama in girl world, and why we cause such severe destruction and pain when we fail to be life-givers and peace-makers.  It is not just a failure to do good, but it is a causing of harm.  In those moments when we lose our tempers, when we last out, when we act so ugly and mean… we are perverting the divine gifts within us.  It is our unrighteous dominion.  It is a terrible, terrible thing when we are negative and hateful and ugly.  When we act like that, we deny the basic nature of God.

Here, however, the ladies serve Him well.  They soothe the men, they help calm them down, and they help them understand what Nephi is trying to say.  They help them shift perspectives and understand the truth.  They help them see the reality of what they were doing, and the severe implications.

And they get sorry.  Really.  They even ask forgiveness.

Then, in verse 21, Nephi replies:  “And it came to pass that I did frankly forgive them all that they had done, and I did exhort them that they would pray unto the Lord their God for forgiveness.”

This is amazing:  Nephi doesn’t take it personally.  He gets beat up (again), tied up, and left for dead, and he doesn’t take it personally.  He sticks to his eternal message, and points them (again) back to the Savior.

They do pray for forgiveness, and the brothers are re-united.

This is at-one-ment.  This is the atonement at work.

This is a family in a healing moment.

They arrive back at their father’s tent, and the families celebrate.

What is amazing and interesting about verse 22, is HOW they celebrate.

They celebrate according to the Temple pattern.

“And after I and my brethren and all the house of Ishmael had come down unto the tent of my father, they did give thanks unto the Lord their God; and they did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto him.”

It’s almost like you can see the wilderness landscape, with the temporary tent-tabernacle (Temple) set up, and the families joined for the sealings of these new couples.

Maybe, if you have cochlear implants, you can hear the distant wedding bells, and the singing and dancing that followed.


1 Nephi 6

CLICK HERE to read 1 Nephi 6.

1 Nephi 6 is a short little chapter of only six verses!

It’s like a moment in a play on stage, where the story stops for just a moment while an actor turns and talks directly to the audience.  It’s a monologue to the reader, rather than part of the story he is writing.

We again have the very important “I, Nephi” statement, just as we did in chapters 1 and 3 (now again in chapter 6).  Why that matters will come later, but it is super important.  So remember it!

This is also an important moment because in verse one Nephi explains that the genealogy of his family, which we just read about Lehi studying in the previous chapter, is not recorded here.  Nephi states that his father Lehi has those records, and so Nephi is not going to repeat them here.

But he does say, in verse two, that they are descendants of Joseph, which would make them of the tribe of Ephraim or Manasseh.  These were the two sons of Joseph.

This brings up fun Jewish history.

In the Old Testament, we have Abraham who has a son named Jacob, who has a son named Israel.

Through Israel, we get the “twelve tribes of Israel”, which are really thirteen tribes.  The tribe of the Levites were not counted because they were to be exclusively devoted to the care of and service in the Tabernacle.  Jacob had twelve sons, and these are the twelve tribes of Israel; however, Joseph had two sons and thus two tribes.  Sometimes these two are counted together and the Levites are also counted, or sometimes the Levites are left out of the list and Ephraim and Manassah are counted separately.  It depends on the context.

But here, Nephi is simply saying they are descendants of Joseph, which means they are from the tribe of Ephraim or Manassah.

In verse 3, he uses the phrase “it mattereth not to me”.  I find this interesting because of the other times and places when this phrased is used in the Book of Mormon.  For example, we have that phrase when Ether writes in 15:34 that “it mattereth not” whether he dies or is translated, but only that he returns to the kingdom of God; and at the very end, when Moroni says in 8:4 he has finished the record and is going to hide the plates, and “it mattereth not” where he goes after that.

In all three cases, some task of the Lord is finished, has been accomplished, and so the seemingly trivial temporal matters really do not matter.  They are not that big of a deal.  They are not important.  It really doesn’t matter.  What mattered, more than their very lives, was protecting and preserving the word of God, testifying and recording the history of the Lord working amongst His people, and prophesying the consequences for those who do follow the Lord and for those who do not.

The only thing that matters to them, at the beginning – in the middle – and at the end of the Book of Mormon, the only thing that matters is that they have done what the Lord asked them to do.

So now Nephi is talking about the records his father has (their genealogy, and Old Testament writings, and other prophet writings that have since been lost), and has read and studied it for himself.

Now that he has read and studied it for himself, and received that learning (reference to the Temple pattern again, as it is a “house of learning”), and now that he has chosen and proven himself a child of the covenant, he wants to continue the record.

This is a natural next-step, and evidence of his progress.  He is testifying.  It is real to him, and he is sharing and teaching it in the ways he knows how.  He is being faithful by keeping his own family history (“book of remembrance”).  In a greater way, he is being faithful to his premortal covenant to testify of the atonement (which at this time, in 600 BC, has not yet happened but they know it will).

So he is explaining that he is going to continue the record, as is tradition. He is going to pick up where the record leaves off, and then pass it down as it was passed down to them.  This passing down of Lehi’s record, and what his descendants wrote as they protected and preserved this record, is what becomes for us the sacred record we now call “The Book of Mormon”.  That’s what the Book of Mormon is, these records Nephi wrote and what his children after him wrote.  It’s their family history.  It’s how the see and experience the Lord working in the lives of the family, and what happens in their family when they are obedient (being gathered and protected and blessed) or when they are not (scattered and destroyed).  It’s the same story we see play out in our everyday lives.

It’s like an amazing genealogy find, to read this ancient journal entry of him wanting to keep the record of his family history and how he wants to pass it down to his children, and their children, and to know we are really holding it right in our very hands!   It really did get passed down!  It’s better than my great-grandmother’s desk in my bedroom!

Specifically, he says, he doesn’t just want to write the story of his father, but “the things of God” (verse 3).

“For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.”

That’s covenant language.

That’s one of the reasons we, as LDS, say the Gospel has been “restored”.  This is what is being restored: the original covenant that has been since before the beginning.   Not just un-doing denomination bickering in the last 2,000 years, but since the beginning, since before the beginning.

When you really “get” that, it will take your breath away.

“Wherefore, the things which are pleasing to the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.”  (Verse 5)

Nephi finishes his monologue in verse six by saying that he will write the story of his family, and then pass these metal plates (upon which the records are written) down to his children for them to add to them their story.  But, he says, he will teach them only to write the things of God, and not to use up the space or time writing things which are not of true worth.

This is most important, he says.

Focus on what is most important, he says.

And then pass it on.