Wednesday, September 30, 2009

1 Nephi 13

1 Nephi 13

I always enjoy reading chapter 13 which includes a bit of American history. In Nephi's vision he sees Christopher Columbus (1 Ne 13:12) and other pilgrims who came to the Promised Land (1 Ne 13:13) and guided by the Spirit of God.

The Gentiles (Europeans) scattered the Native Americans (1Ne 13:14) and the Gentiles prospered and obtained the land (1 Ne13:15). Nephi sees the Revolutionary War (1 Ne 13:17-19).

Nephi also sees that the Gentiles bring a book--the Bible. Here we learn that many "plain and precious" truths were left out or changed (1 Ne 13:26) since it came forth in it's pure form from the Jews. These mission truths have led to a perversion of the gospel.

In discussing this with my husband, we thought that perhaps these truths were some of those changed by the Nicean Creed--a perversion of the nature of God. We also thought that another missing truth is that of eternal families.

In his vision, Nephi also sees the Book of Mormon brought forth to the Gentiles (1 Ne 13:35). The Book of Mormon will reveal those plain and precious things left out of the Bible. The Latter-day Saints will be saved by the Book of Mormon (1 Ne 13:37). Nephi also sees "other books" brought forth--could they be the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price?

Friday, September 25, 2009

1 Nephi 9-12

1 Nephi 9 - 1 Nephi 10 - 1 Nephi 11 - 1 Nephi 12

In chapter 10, Lehi prophesies of the coming of the Messiah--Jesus Christ and also of John the Baptist. Lehi also talks of the scattering and gathering of Israel.

The part that struck me the most was about the power of the Holy Ghost--which has been on the earth since the beginning of time. It is the gift given to those who "diligently seek him" (1 Ne 10:17). "The mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them by the power of the Holy Ghost" (1 Ne 10:19).

It is through the power of the Holy Ghost that I know the Book of Mormon is a true book; that Jesus is the Christ and Savior of the World; that Joseph Smith is a prophet who restored the true church in the latter-days; that Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet today; that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true; that I am a child of God.

I can't honestly remember when I didn't believe. My parents taught me as a child and I simply believed. But the Holy Ghost has borne witness to me of the truthfulness of these things hundreds of times--in the warmth and joy I feel inside as I read the Book of Mormon; listen to the prophet speak in General Conference; see the beautiful faces of my little ones so fresh from God; sit in worship in his holy temple; partake of the sacrament; sing the hymns of worship; pray with my eternal companion; and countless other experiences I have on a daily basis. I cannot deny it. I know it.

In chapter 11, Nephi asks the Lord for the vision Lehi had and is shown the vision of the Tree of Life. Nephi includes his interpretation of the Tree of Life. Nephi also sees the birth, baptism, ministry and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

In chapter 12, Nephi see the Land of Promise and the people--his descendants. He sees Christ's ministry to them after His resurrection; the following four generations of righteousness and then the wickedness and destruction of his seed. How saw it must have been for Nephi to witness the fall of his people. I can only imagine how awful it must be to see your children and descendants turn away from God. My husband mentioned that he had read that Joseph F. Smith would rather see on of his children dead than immoral. My husband went on to say that when he was young, he thought was foolish but now thought that Joseph F. Smith was correct. How devastating to have a child turn away from the commandments of God--to reject the fruit of eternal life and God's love. I pray that our children will be faithful. I pray that my husband and I will be able to teach them, lead them and guide them and that they will develop their own testimonies of Jesus Christ and choose to follow Him. I pray for His guidance and help as we tackle the job of parenting in the midst of this decadent and evil world.

In 1 Nephi 12:17 it reads "...hardeneth the hearts of the children of men and leadeth them away into broad roads..." We learn that the narrow path is what leads to eternal life. It's opposite is the "broad road". Is it broad because it encompasses so many ideas contrary to the teachings of Christ? Is it broad because of the masses who choose to walk it? Is it broad because it's so easy to go along with the flow of the world? Often we are accused by the world of being narrow minded. Is that a bad thing? We hear of tolerance; of celebrating diversity. Yes, we should love our fellow men. Yes, we should celebrate the uniqueness of each individual. But the world wants us to embrace these worldly alternative life styles; to be open minded and broaden our horizons to new definitions of the family.

In my additional reading right now, I am reading "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis and "Covenant Hearts" by Bruce C. Hafen. Both books have talked about how the devil wants to destroy the family. The world gives a negative connotation to words such as "puritanical", "intolerant", "narrow minded", "prude" to make those who oppose changes to the basic family structure look stupid, and "Unchristian". Some people seem so afraid of being labeled "intolerant" that they cease to stand up for the moral values they once believed in.

We cannot embrace or even ignore these blatant attacks on the family. We must stand up and fight--at the very least in our own family so that we can preserve our eternal family.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

1 Nephi 7-8

1 Nephi 7 - 1 Nephi 8

Lehi's Vision of the Tree of Life (Lehi):

v5 "a man" = the Lord (Dan 10:5)
v7 "a dark and dreary waste"
v9 "a large and spacious field" = the world (Matt 13:38)
v10 "a tree whose fruit was desirable to make one happy" = the love of God
v13 "river of water" = the depths of hell (1 Ne 12:16)
v19 "rod of iron" = Word of God, scriptures (1 Ne 8:30)
v20 "strait and narrow path" = leads to eternal life (1 Ne 31:18)
v23 "mist of darkness" = temptations of the devil (1 Ne 12:17)
v26 "great and spacious building" = pride of the world (1 Ne 11:36)

Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life remains one of my children's favorite lessons in Family Home Evening. They love to draw their own versions of the field, path, river, building and finally the Tree of Life brimming with yellow fruit. The vision is full of symbolism that is simple for even the youngest to understand.

In verse 14, Lehi says he saw Sariah, Sam and Nephi, "and they stood as if they knew not whither they should go." Lehi calls to them and they come and partake of the fruit. My husband asked if Lehi's role was as a prophet or as a father. I think his duty is now as a father. His duty to the Jews was absolved when he was told to leave Jerusalem. And so since we are to liken scripture unto us, it becomes the father's responsibility to lead and guide his family to the Tree of Life. A father can teach, lead and guide his family to the tree but he cannot force someone to partake of the fruit.

Partaking of the fruit is an act of one's own free will and choice. Lehi showed his family the way and some (Sariah, Sam and Nephi) ate the fruit. Surely Lehi begged and pleaded but Laman and Lemuel chose not to eat the fruit. Lehi can force them to physically follow him into the wilderness (1 Ne 2:14) but he cannot and we cannot force someone into righteousness.

Lehi describes the fruit as "desirable to make one happy" (1 Ne 8:10). What is "happy"? I think happiness has become a convoluted term in our current society. We're happy if we have a new car; go on a trip; get a raise; have a good time, etc... but in reality happiness, true happiness is only in coming unto Christ and obtaining exaltation. In Nephi 2:13, Lehi tells his sons "and if there be no righteousness there be no happiness" and in Alma 41:10 we read "wickedness never was happiness". If I can remember what true happiness is, I can do the things that bring happiness. I can find joy in my family; in fulfilling my callings; in studying the scriptures; in serving others and in sincerely striving to become a better person and come unto Christ.

Monday, September 21, 2009

1 Nephi 5-6

1 Nephi 5 - 1 Nephi 6

Why did Nephi include his mother's complaining against Lehi? Was it to show the anguish and difficulties his family faced--leaving their home, wealth, friends, family and then a mother's added fear of losing her sons? Is it easy to be a prophet's wife--bearing such sacrifices? Perhaps Emma Smith can begin to understand the trials, sadness and fear that Sariah expresses. I wonder if this chapter ever brought comfort to MaryAnne Young as she crossed the plains and journeyed in the wilderness between Nauvoo and Salt Lake City.

Sariah was nearly overcome with mourning but the Lord blessed her with the safe return of her sons and she gained her own testimony of the truthfulness of Lehi's words and the commandments of the Lord (1Ne 5:8). It's Sariah's conversion. We are given another example of how each person needs to get his/her own testimony and be converted to the truth.

Lehi's family now has the Brass Plates in their possession. The scriptures include the books of Moses, a record of the Jews and words of the prophets. The genealogy is included--Lehi is a descendant of Joseph.

Lehi prophesies about the importance of the Brass Plates for his family and their descendants. The Brass Plates are written for them--will be of "great worth" (1Ne 5:21) for them.

Likewise, the Golden Plates--the Book of Mormon is for us. The people of Nephi did not have the Golden Plates. They were written for the Latter-days--specifically for us. Chapter 6 includes Nephi's desires for the Golden Plates. He will include only "the things which are pleasing unto God" (1Ne 6:5). His purpose is to bring men unto God.

Lehi talks about the importance of the scriptures to his family and his sons and then his son begins to write scripture. I think Lehi could consider that I successful Family Home Evening.

This is just one more testimony to the importance of having and studying scripture--it is important enough to send your sons on a very dangerous mission, risking their lives, because with the written Word of God nations will know of the commandments of God and be able to come unto Him.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

1 Nephi 3-4

1 Nephi 3-1 Nephi 4

I read chapters three and four tonight which tell the story of the sons of Lehi returning to Jerusalem to get the Brass Plates--a record of the Jews and a genealogy. The Brass Plates are scripture.

There are several quick lessons for me in this section. First, 1 Nephi 3:7 (Seminary Mastery Scripture), Nephi reaffirms his obedience to the commandments. The Lord will not give us a commandment that we cannot obey. No matter how difficult, the Lord will provide a way.

I think it's interesting that the brothers knew the job would be difficult. They obviously knew Laban and knew he would not be willing to give them the plates easily. Who is Laban? The keeper of the Brass Plates. A man who commands fifty (1 Ne 3:31). A mighty man. A man with many servants. A man who meets with the elders of the church at night wearing full armor and carrying a sword. A man who drinks. A relative of Lehi? I know little about this history, but I find it intriguing. My husband suggested that perhaps Laban had once been a good man entrusted with the plates and meeting with the elders. Or is his duty just a matter of lineage? Obviously by this point, Laban is not righteous. In 1 Ne 4:13, Laban is called "wicked" and the Lord considers it "...better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief." Nephi is convinced by the Spirit to kill Laban and obtain the Brass Plates.

A new man is introduced--Zoram. Nephi says Zoram spoke to him many times about the elders of the church. In fact, Nephi mentions this twice. Was Zoram interested in the affairs of the church? A religious man? When Zoram gives his oath that he will stay with Nephi and his brethren, they trusted him (1 Ne 4:37). Is this because of the power of one's word of honor in the culture or is this because Zoram is a particularly honorable man?

Of course Nephi does obtain the Brass Plates. Nephi shows remarkable faith and trust that yes, the Lord will help him. But I'm always curious about the opposite reaction of his brothers. An angel of the Lord has just appeared to them and told them that the Lord will deliver the plates to them (1 Ne 3:29). An angel! Then, as soon as the angel leaves, they begin to murmur and say there's just no way they'll be able to get the plates from Laban.

It's so hard to believe that they would be so quick to lose faith, and yet so many times I have witnessed miracles and the power of God in my own life and then later doubt that I can do what I'm supposed to do. I need to be more like Nephi. I need to have faith that with the Lord's help and by being obedient to the commandments that I can be a good mother and raise righteous, successful children. It's my greatest desire.

The second lesson taught by the story of the Brass Plates, the Lord establishes that one evil man can not stand in the way of His purpose and work. In 1 Nephi 4:13, we see that God is not a respecter of persons. The exaltation of many is more important than one man.

Third, that the written word of the Lord (the scriptures) is most important. I am so grateful to have free access to the scriptures. I can only imagine the darkness one might have felt during the age when only the monks had access to the written word of God. I do love the scriptures and I am resolving to become better about making time each day to read and study the Book of Mormon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1 Nephi 1-2

1 Nephi 1-1 Nephi 2

I read these chapters every time I start to read the Book of Mormon. Sometimes I've done well and I've read the entire thing. Often I've gotten side-tracked in my reading and then I start over when I get back to it. So, obviously I've read the beginning chapters more than any other. I imagine that many people are similar to me and do this as well. I think the Lord knew human nature and so packed the beginning with so much good stuff.

One of the thoughts I had when I read the first chapters of the Book of Mormon is about Lehi. Who is he? What was his position in society? What are his thoughts about leaving his homeland to go into the wilderness? I lament the loss of the 116 pages of manuscript--the Book of Lehi. Did he cry in despair regarding the spiritual loss of his oldest sons? Would he have offered comfort to latter-day parents grieving over their own children? Would he give more details of his vision of the Tree of Life--perhaps a clearer and even more frightening description of the Great and Spacious Building? And the amazing vision where he saw God sitting on His throne and the book he was given? I suppose we may not be ready for that knowledge.

Perhaps all we really need to know of Lehi we can glean from the writings of his son Nephi. Lehi and Sariah are "goodly parents" (1 Ne 1:1) meaning wealthy. Lehi had lands of inheritance, gold, silver and precious things (1 Ne 2:4). Lehi was a prophet; called to prophesy repentance unto the people (1 Ne 1:5). He was given many amazing visions including a vision of God and the Tree of Life. The Lord thought highly enough of him to save his family from the destruction of the Babylonians and bring them to a new promised land. And still he had to sons who were spiritually lost.

I often see Lehi depicted in artwork as a small, old man, but I wonder how accurate it is. From the few glimpses in the first few chapter of Nephi, I picture Lehi as a strong, but humble man. He was strong enough to endure the mocking of the Jews and strong enough to escape the physical harm of stoning--a fate other prophets had not escaped. (1 Ne 1:19-20) Obviously, his strength came from his faith in God, but Nephi describes his father as "mighty". Lehi was also strong enough to force Laman and Lemuel to leave Jerusalem and go with the family into the wilderness. But 1 Nephi 2:14 describes how Lehi "...did confound them, that they durst not utter against him; wherefore, they did as he commanded them." Again, filled with the Spirit, Lehi became mighty.

One of the great lessons from these beginning chapters of 1 Nephi is the difference between being forced to do something and gaining one's own testimony and then being obedient. In 1 Ne 2:14 we see how Laman and Lemuel were forced by their father to leave Jerusalem with the rest of the family. Throughout their journey and in the Americas, they are rebellious; they murmur continuously murmur and eventually fall away from the gospel and the family completely.

In contrast, Nephi hears his father's word and then goes to the Lord asking for himself is his father's words are true. He gains his own testimony; believes his father and is obedient. I would imagine that Nephi had his own initial reservations about leaving his homeland and his wealth, but he "...did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart..." (1 Ne 2:16). The key words being "cry" and "soften".

So often I am asked/commanded to do something that is hard, uncomfortable or difficult (say, like serving in the nursery) but by following Nephi's example I can receive strength from the Lord and He will "soften my heart". It's easier to do what is right when we have our own testimony. I should follow Nephi's example to go to the Lord in prayer with a great desire to know the truth for ourselves.

As a child, I often wondered why Lehi made Laman and Lemuel come with the family. It seemed like they could have been spared so much trouble and turmoil later. There were probably several reasons.

1. They were Lehi's sons and he and Sariah loved them.
2. Left behind, they might alert authorities of where Lehi had gone. How trustworthy were they?
3. In the wilderness, the family needed their strength.
But the main reason is clear in 1 Nephi 2:24--so they could humble the Nephites when they forgot to be righteous.

In a literary context, the first two chapters of 1 Nephi are excellent at setting up the rest of the book. In the first chapters, Nephi introduces himself; testifies to the truth of the book; and introduces the main characters and the main conflict.

Nephi is the clear protagonist--he's young, large, religious, soft hearted, faithful, obedient, diligent, a ruler and a teacher. He is open to the spirit.

Laman and Lemuel are the antagonists--stiffnecked, murmuring against their father, rebellious.

The main conflict is that the Lord has told Lehi to take his family out of Jerusalem and into the wilderness but already a subconflict between brothers is already introduced (1 Ne 2:22) "thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over they brethren".

I find the addition of the naming of the valley and river interesting. Lehi could have named the valled or river after Sam or Nephi--who were "continuously running into the fountain of all righteousness" (1 Ne 2:9) and "firm and steadfast, and immovable in keeping the commandments of the Lord." (1 Ne 2:10) But Lehi named them after Laman and Lemuel--showing Lehi's hope for their spirituality. Obviously, he still had hope for his children. This offers a lesson to parents dealing with the spiritual loss of a child--don't give up hope.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I was visiting with my mom a few weeks ago and she told me that her stake president had recently challenged the members of her stake to complete the new "Virtue Value Project" from the Young Women Personal Progress before the end of the year. This year (2009) the church has added an eighth value to the Young Women Theme. This newest value is Virtue. The Virtue Value Project is as follows:

"The Savior chose to live a virtuous life. Follow His admonition to 'learn of me' (D&C 19:23) by reading the entire Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Liken the scriptures to your life and circumstances. As you read, record your thoughts regularly in your journal. Note the example of the Savior's life and mission. What did the Redeemer and those who followed Him do to live virtuous lives? At the completion of your reading, record your testimony in your journal."

I have attempted to keep a journal while studying the scriptures before. I made it all the way through Second Nephi about five years ago. I have wanted to finish this project for some time. Inspired by the Young Women Personal Progress, my parents' stake president and the desire to become a better person, I decided to do my own virtue project. Since I find that I am able to quickly express my thoughts better at the computer and I am comfortable with the blogging format, I have decided to use it for my medium.

I do this for myself and my own personal and spiritual growth.

If you happen to come upon this journal and would like to leave a comment, please be respectful.