Monday, April 30, 2012

Judged of the world

First Nephi 11:31-33

Nephi points out a great irony at the close of the Savior's ministry:
The Son of God, who is the Eternal Judge, was judged "of the world". An ignorant judgement that continues today. He who was without sin was condemned to death. The tables will turn when all the world will face Him at the final judgement. Hopefully he will be more merciful to us then the mercy he was and is given by the world.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Angels descending

First Nephi 11:29-30

A curious verse interupts Nephi's vision of the Savior's ministry. He sees the Twelve Apostles, who are then abruptly hidden from his view:
After this isolated scene, the vision continues on as if uninterupted. Although this verse could be referring to anything at the time, it could be referring to the the Mount of Transfiguration. Instead of my own comments, here is a quote from the Bible Dictionary, which sums it up:

"This very important event in the New Testament occurred about a week after the promise made to Peter that he would receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:13–18; 17:1–9). On the mount (probably Mount Hermon) the Savior, Moses, and Elias (Elijah) gave the promised keys of the priesthood to Peter, James, and John, which enabled these brethren to carry forth the work of the kingdom on the earth after the departure of Jesus. These keys were later given to all of the Twelve.

The transfiguration occurred in about October, some six months before the death of Jesus. The brethren saw the Lord in a glorified and transfigured state. They also saw a vision of the earth as it will appear in its future glorified condition (D&C 63:20–21); saw and conversed with Moses and Elijah, two translated beings; and heard the voice of the Father bearing witness that Jesus is his beloved Son, in whom the Father is pleased, and commanding the brethren to hear (obey) him. See also Mark 9:2–10; Luke 9:28–36; 2 Pet. 1:16–18.

The event is important in many ways: Necessary priesthood authority was conferred upon Peter, James, and John; the significance of the Savior’s work was emphasized; and the unity of various dispensations and the close relationship of Jesus and his prophets was demonstrated. Few events in the Bible equal it in importance. A similar event occurred on April 3, 1836, in the temple at Kirtland, Ohio, where the same heavenly messengers conferred priesthood keys upon the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (D&C 110)."

They cast him out

First Nephi 11:24-33
Nephi's vision of the Savior's ministry summarized a stark contrast that when placed in a single verse causes pause. Read the first part of this verse and imagine an appropriate reaction: "I beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him..." How would you respond to such teaching? How did they respond? They cast him out. Could he have said anything that would have caused them not to cast him out? Could anyone teach with more power and glory? Let's not continue to cast him out from among us today.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Mother of the Son of God

First Nephi 11 Nephi saw Mary in the city of Nazereth 600 years from his time, as shown unto him by an angel:
Notice how the Angel qualified the title "Mother of the Son of God" with the phrase "after the manner of the flesh." It is interesting to distinguish her by this - a subtle reminder that there is the Mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the spirit.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

He spake unto me as a man speaketh with another

First Nephi 11:1-12
There are precious few scriptures describing the nature of the Holy Ghost. Nephi's vision is one of them. The Spirit is the third member of the Godhead. He has the form of a man, but no body. He was chosen in the premortal life to stand next to the Father and the Son and bear witness of them to us during our mortal journey. He is also called The Comforter. Through him, God's love and influence can be felt in more than one place at the same time. It is not inhibited by physical barriers. Actually, whether we feel his influence or not is more about us and less about the Spirit. Like the Father and the Son, he is constant, unchanging. His voice is always there, waiting to be heard and sought out. We are the ones who move, either toward his voice or away. We should cultivate a spiritual ear tuned to listen to his still, small promptings. Nephi was given a sacred experience: a personal face-to-face introduction to the voice he had been listening to.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Revelation = responsibility

First Nephi 11:7

The Spirit introduced the vision of the tree of life to Nephi. First, he confirmed that Nephi believed in the Son of God before promising that Nephi would see Him. But with that vision came an obligation: Nephi would bear record of the Son of God.

What does it mean to bear record? It means to tell others. For Nephi, he bore record by writing it. I am certain he also told others about it. What about us? Do we bear record of the revelations we have received? Do we share with others what the Holy Ghost has witnessed to us?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Prerequisites to Revelation

First Nephi 10:17-11:1
First Nephi 10:17:
Nephi shares some insight on how he received a great revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. We should follow the same in order to receive similar. (click on the text for previous posts about these items)
1. "I was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost" (10:17)
2. "Believing that the Lord was able to make them know unto me" (11:1)
3. "I sat pondering in mine heart" (11:1)
First Nephi 11:1:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

He that diligently seeketh shall find

First Nephi 10:17-22

Nephi nurtured the ability communicate with God, to receive revelations that taught him about his Heavenly Father. We have documented his spiritual growth starting with sincere prayer, the Holy Ghost softening his heart, hearing the Lord speak to him, seeing an angel, and having a real-time conversation with the Holy Ghost. Now he is about to see a vision. All of these events were created by Nephi's incredible faith.

"Fine" you might say, "Good for Nephi. That stuff can't happen to me." To which I ask, why not? Why wouldn't Heavenly Father want to reveal things to you? We receive revelations all the time. Do we recognize them as such? Answers to prayers, impressions from the Holy Ghost, a scripture that seems to be meant just for us, hearing the still small voice of the Spirit in our mind and in our heart; these are all forms of revelation. They are as sacred and serious as Nephi's revelations. The fact that they come to us is evidence of God's existence, and of His love for us. They are an invitation from Him to seek Him out to commune with Him and receive greater revelations. He desires for us to draw nearer to Him.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Physically Scattered, Spiritually Gathered

First Nephi 10

The context of Lehi leaving Jerusalem was that he was part of the "scattering" of the house of Israel. He knew this, and taught it to his children. In fact, Lehi wasn't the first to be broken off from the tree of Israel. This scattering had been prophesied by prophets of old and his fulfillment of those prophesies gave him great perspective. His teachings focused on the ultimate remedy of the scattering: gathering. This is fortunate for us who read it, because we are living in the time of the gathering.
The Book of Mormon prophets had the perspective that they were a branch of Israel, broken off and planted in another land. We are living in the era of gathering, spiritually, at least for now.

Grateful that Nephi kept the commandments

First Nephi 9

It's easy to forget about the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon. After all, they are lost. But we never really talk about their replacement, the small plates of Nephi.

Nephi didn't know why he was writing this second record - keep in mind he had already written his story in depth in his initial record, as the events occurred. The small plates were for the spiritual highlights of his life. The plates themselves were forged later - in the new world. It probably wasn't easy to make them, and to feel invested in writing things that were already written, but Nephi was obedient to God's commands, and for that I am grateful.
I am also grateful for the prophet Mormon. He wrote almost the entire Book of Mormon, an incredible accomplishment. But the book we have today is missing a significant portion of what he wrote. It's the 116 pages which were stolen from the Prophet Joseph Smith's scribe. It was a teaching moment for the young prophet, and the Lord provided a way to replace the missing pages, a way planned 2400 years in advance when he commanded Nephi to make the small plates. Not only did Nephi follow the promptings of the spirit when making the small plates, but Mormon also followed the spirit when he included them with his record. In the end, these plates of Nephi make up about 26% of the final version of the Book of Mormon. It could almost be called the Book of Nephi-Mormon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


First Nephi 8

Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life as first given is enhanced by the later interpretations taught to Nephi. It is a dream of symbols. The central conflict is the tree of life on one hand, and the great and spacious building on the other. The multitudes file off to proclaim their allegiance either way. Unfortunately because of the mists, they don't always make it to their destination. Actually everywhere but the tree is extremely life threatening. It seems the most terrible fate is getting lost, and the most common. Lehi describes it several times "they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost", "they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost", and "many were lost from his view, wandering in strange roads". So how do you and I avoid getting lost? First we have to find and hold onto the rod of iron. We learn later that the rod of iron is the word of God. But even that might not be enough - one group of people who made it to the tree via the rod of iron were ashamed because of the scoffing of those who were pointing the finger of scorn at them from the building. (v.28) "as many as heeded them had fallen away." (v34) However, one verse discribes a group of people who were successful at making it to the tree and staying there

How do you and I avoid getting lost in the mists of this world? Press your way forward. Hold fast to the word of God. Fall down at and partake of the fruit of the tree, and heed not what anyone else may say.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Two families united become one family divided

First Nephi 7
Ishmael's family chose to follow Lehi into the wilderness, after listening to his sons. We are given brief words about their choice, but can conclude it was a powerful spiritual experience not unlike the experiences of Lehi, Nephi, Sam, and Sariah. The Holy Ghost softened their hearts and motivated them to flee Jeruselum.
Unfortunately, they were joining a divided family - and Laman and Lemuel wasted no time in making them second guess their decision. In their rebellion, they were joined by two of Ishmael's daughters (future spouses of Laman and Lemuel?) and his two sons and their families. Three daughters and their parents remained committed to the cause.

Nephi wasted no time in going directly to the source of the rebellion and confronted Laman and Lemuel with words that were direct and frightening. For this, Laman and Lemuel tied him up to kill him by leaving him alone in the wilderness. Nephi exerted faith and escaped. As Laman and Lemuel sought to lay hands on him again, one of the daughters, (Nephi's future spouse?), one of the sons, and also their mother pleaded with them to stop.

After they came to their senses, they went completely the other direction emotionally, begging Nephi to forgive them. To Nephi's credit, he said he "frankly forgave them all that they had done". This whole experience gave Ishmael's family a good idea of what was in store for the rest of the journey.

What a sight it must have been for Ishmael's family: to set eyes upon the Valley of Lemuel for the first time. They must have seen Lehi's tent, the river of Laman, and the hand-crafted stone alter. Lehi, Sariah, and Zoram must have been anxiously awaiting them.  Two families becoming one under such circumstances could not have been easy, and the faithful must have relied a strong testimony from the Holy Ghost that Lehi had been directed by the Lord.  As when Lehi first came to the valley, and after Lehi's sons returned with the brass plates, we are again told they gave thanks unto the Lord, with burnt offerings and sacrifice.  An appropriate way to start to unite in following Lehi's spiritual leadership.

Monday, April 16, 2012

All things for His children

First Nephi 7:12

The Lord is able. In the verse previous to this, Nephi gives the example of getting the brass plates from Laban. Laman and Lemuel thought that Laban and his fifty were too powerful. To them it was an impossible task. Their failure to understand what Nephi understood ensured the impossibility of them ever succeeding in obtaining the plates: In order for the Lord to do all things for his children, they must first exercise faith in him.

Truly it was impossible...for Laman and Lemuel. It was impossible not because the Lord is not able, not because Laban was more powerful, but because Laman and Lemuel had no faith. For Nephi, it was possible. Because of Nephi's faith in the Lord, the Lord was able to help him.

The Lord can't do things for his children if they have no faith in Him. Not because the Lord doesn't have the ability, but because we don't have the currency: faith. Before we ask: "Is the Lord able to do this thing?" We should ask: "Do we have faith in him?" If so, then yes, if not, then no.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The fullness of mine intent

First Nephi 6:4-5

Nephi's reveals his intentions for writing his record: "to persuade men to come unto...God...and be saved." Then he reveals a truth about not only his writings, but the entire Book of Mormon: it is pleasing unto those who are not of the world. Many people will read the Book of Mormon, many will sincerely put effort into it. It is a great detector - those who are not of the world will find it pleasing.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A coming addition to the scriptures

First Nephi 5:10-22
The brass plates were "desirable", and "of great worth". Lehi wasted no time in searching them from the beginning - a good example of feasting upon the scriptures. Lehi also discovers his genealogy, another good example for us. After seeing all these things, he is filled with the Spirit. As you read the scriptures, or discover your genealogy, are you also filled with the Spirit? As he was, he prophesied something truly exciting for us today:

This prophesy has not yet been fulfilled. There are many nations, kindreds, tongues, and people of Lehi's seed that have yet to receive the brass plates, let alone those who are not of his seed. The day will come when we will have them in their entirety - larger than our current Old and New Testaments combined (1Ne 13:23). Are we ready to search them from the beginning?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sariah's Testimony: "Now I know of a surety"

First Nephi 5:1-9
Sariah's faith in the necessity of Lehi's exodus was tested just like the rest of the family. She needed to make a choice, like Nephi, who's side she would be on - Laman or Lehi. After her sons returned to Jerusalem, leaving her and her husband alone in the wilderness to fend for themselves, her words sounded a lot like Laman and Lemuel - almost verbatim: "he was a visionary man...thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness." Lehi knows she can be comforted with reassuring words, unlike his two eldest sons, who would only stop murmuring after Lehi confounded them by speaking in the power of the Spirit, until their frames shook before him.(1Ne2:14) He comforts her with his testimony "I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness."

When her sons do return, she considers it a sign, and is comforted by the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, who also gives her a testimony that what Lehi is doing is right. Her rhetoric switches from echoing that of Laman, to echoing that of Nephi in 1Ne 3:7

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Nephi and the Road to Emmaus

First Nephi 4:19-27
Dressed in Laban's garments, armor, and sword, Nephi wasn't recognized by Laban's servant Zoram. A great disguise? I believe Nephi was given a spiritual gift. Nephi says he spoke "in the voice of Laban" and "I spake unto him as if it had been Laban", and "he, supposing that...I was truly that Laban whom I had slain". Zoram wasn't able to recognize Nephi, similar to the event that happened to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-32.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Growing in Revelation

First Nephi 4:6-18

Nephi's experience with revelation from God grew step by step, line upon line, as it were.
1. First, he cried unto the Lord regarding the teachings of his father, Lehi. "And behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart". 1Ne2:16
2. Then, after his brothers would not hearken to his words concerning his experience above, he cried unto the Lord for them. This lead to direct revelation. "The Lord spake unto me" 1Ne2:19
3. He and his brothers were visited by an angel who gave them directions. 1Ne3:31 Note the stark differences in the brothers' reactions to the Angel's message.
Nephi had no idea what he would eventually do to get the brass plates, but the Spirit led him to Laban's house. 1Ne4:6
4. When he saw Laban drunken before him, the next revelation came as a real time communication from the Spirit, where Nephi was basically having a conversation. Ponder for a minute how that happens. Their communication was beyond impressions and feelings - he was able to hear direct and specific words in response to the thoughts of his heart. The voice of the Spirit not only gave him a direct commandment, but reasoned with him as to why he should do it.
This event of revelation built on Nephi's previous experiences with the Spirit as well as made it easier for him to have greater revelations in the future, such as his vision of the tree of Life, where he actually saw the Spirit face to face.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In a series of escalating events, reactions are revealing

First Nephi 3-4
Event: God commands Lehi's sons to bring the Brass Plates into the wilderness
Laman: Murmur
Nephi: I will go and do
Event: Laman talks with Laban, desires the brass plates, Laban tries to slay Laman
All: Exceedingly sorrowful
Laman: Return to Lehi
Nephi: "As the Lord liveth" will not return until commandment is fulfilled
Event: Attempt to trade riches for plates, Laban sends servants to slay them
Laman: Anger, violence
Event: An angel tells them the Lord will deliver Laban into their hands
Laman: Murmur, doubt
Nephi: Let us be faithful, Let us be strong, Let us go up
Laman: Wroth, Murmur

It is these last reactions that are so revealing. Any average person, even if they had such a violent temper, would be awestruck at the sight and words of an angel from God. Laman and Lemuel must have been so well practiced at staring spiritual experiences in the face and openly denying any effect they could have to soften their spirits. It almost sounds like they were ready to pick up their rods again and continue smiting their brothers as soon as the angel left. These events bring the difference between Nephi and Laman and Lemuel into sharp focus. How are your reactions? When something goes wrong, do you murmur like Laman, or have faith like Nephi? Your reactions to events reveal your faith.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Priceless Brass Plates could have been destroyed

First Nephi 3:17-20

What would have happened to the Brass Plates if Nephi hadn't taken them? If Jerusalem was going to be destroyed, would the Brass Plates have suffered the same fate? Could they have been lost to the world forever? These plates are priceless. Thankfully they were preserved through Nephi's faith and obedience. Although we only know a part of what was written on them today, they were a blessing to generations of people among the Nephites and Lamanites. Jacob 5 (the allegory of the olive tree) is a good example of the scriptures the brass plates have blessed us with. One day we will have them in their entirety, right alongside our other scriptures.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Lord Can't Force Us to Disobey

First Nephi 3:7

There are certain attributes God will always have, there are certain things he will always do, and there are things he will never do. Knowing these constancies allows us to have faith in Him. One of the things God will never do is force us to disobey him. To create a scenario where we can't obey would make him responsible for our disobedience. He would cease to be God. Commandments may seem impossible to us, but if the Lord has commanded it, it is always possible. It must be. If we are to be punished for disobedience, it is our fault. In the same way, the Lord will never force us to obey either.

Laman and Lemuel thought getting the brass plates was impossible. Nephi knew that because the Lord had commanded it, he would prepare a way.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Beyond softening of the heart, Hearing the Lord speak

First Nephi 2:18-24
The softening of Nephi's heart in v.16 sounds similar to what most people experience when they pray sincerely about something. The Holy Spirit speaks to their heart, they receive an answer to their prayer, or a witness of the truth. That is how I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and the truth of many other things. Anyone else can know by the same power. Nephi went a step further. He was diligent and humble, and during his next sincere prayer, the Lord spoke to him.

This was different than the softening of the heart he had experienced earlier. This was a message specifically tailored for him. Whether he saw the Lord, or heard an actual voice or not we don't know - It was a revelation from the Lord through the Holy Spirit. Joseph Smith received many revelations where the voice of the Lord was not audible.

Nephi's first revelation would permanently headline every page of the scriptures for his posterity, and is a recurring theme throughout the pages of the Book of Mormon due to it's simple message.

Friday, April 6, 2012


1 Nephi 2:7
Gratitude has a grounding effect. It put the blessings of your life into perspective and reminds you of your dependency on Heavenly Father. It humbles. One of the first things Lehi did after leaving Jerusalem is to thank the Lord. He built an alter of stones and offered burnt offerings, similar to what had been done from the days of Adam. I would assume that most of the burnt offerings Lehi offered to God in the past were offered on the alter in the temple, by a priest. Lehi building his own alter and offering his own burnt offerings was probably new to him and his family, but not strange- Lehi was starting a new dispensation, he was being separated from the tree of Israel and was now responsible for the spirituality of his branch. What better way to start than for Lehi to build an alter and thank the Lord for warning him to flee the destruction to come?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Nephi's Choice

Nephi's Choice
First Nephi 2:11-18

Each member of Lehi's camp needed to experience a turning point, a point of commitment. A point where they come to know for themselves that Lehi is an inspired prophet, sincere in his obedience in leaving Jerusalem. Each family member either gained their own testimony (Nephi), or fought back all the way to the promised land (Laman and Lemuel).

Three days traveling through the wilderness takes its toll on weak resolve. For Laman and Lemuel, sleeping in a tent, living off provisions, being alone, and homesickness for their inheritance caused the novelty of wilderness life to wear off quickly. The charge: that they were like unto the Jews at Jerusalem who sought to take away the life of their father, tells us everything we need to know - they were murderers in their hearts. I'm sure they rationalized that they would be doing their mother and siblings a service by preventing this "visionary man" (a derogatory term - not a compliment) from leading them to certain death in the wilderness.

So the lines in the desert sand were drawn. Lehi on one hand, Laman and Lemuel on the other. The rest of the family had to take sides. Who would Nephi side with?

Lehi dwelt in a tent - for how long? Until Nephi decided. It could have been weeks. Perhaps they thought their journey was over, that Lehi would dwell in the Valley of Lemuel while Jerusalem was destroyed. Nephi was under pressure to take a side. Would he just take his father's word for it? He had not murmured, its true, but by staying in the valley he was not neutral - he was effectively taking Lehi's side. But did he want to? He was forced to decide who's team he was on. Laman and Lemuel's decision must have been alarming to him. Would he follow his brothers in their rebellion? Interestingly, his decision-making included following the example and journey of his father by doing something Laman and Lemuel had not: by praying about the message to know for himself. In his own words:

Prayer is the answer. Our choice is similar today. On one hand we have visions, dreams, prophecies, and testimony, on the other we have the explanation that its all "foolish imaginations" of the heart. How do you feel about Jesus Christ? Is he the Son of God, just a prophet, just a man, or fictional? How about the Book of Mormon? Is it the word of God, or some more foolish imaginations? How about Joseph Smith? A modern day prophet commanded to restore Christ's Church, or a cunning inventor of false religion?

Many people today are like Laman and Lemuel, they "know not the dealings of that God who created them", neither do they desire to know. For Laman and Lemuel, that never changed, they never got their testimony because they never got on their knees to get it. They were given many opportunities for a turning point, incredible witnesses of God's power - an angel, the voice of the Lord, His Spirit causing them to shake, a life threatening storm, and so forth. These things tamed their murderous hearts, but didn't give them a true testimony. What was the difference between Laman and Lemuel and Nephi? Laman and Lemuel knew not the dealings of God. Nephi had great desires to know. That is the difference. It wasn't just that Laman and Lemuel didn't know, it's that they didn't desire to know.

What is desire? Can I cause a desire within myself simply by telling myself I should have desire it? Or am I born with or without certain desires? Do my choices affect my desires? Or do my desires determine my choices? I think that my desires do determine my choices, but desires are not absolute, or unchangeble. They can come and go, increase or decrease, change or fade, based on how our choices nurture or starve them. Our inner desires are changed by our use of agency. Our choices change us. Our choices have an effect on us. Our choices change who we are. Our choices change our desires. That is why we were given a body - so that we could change our spirits. True, our spirits are immortal, but they are not unchangeable. We change them with our choices. They are like clay when paired with a mortal body that can exercise agency. If those choices move us farther away from our Heavenly Father and his purifying Spirit, one day we will be so tired of the guilt we feel that we will try to justify our miserable condition by echoing what the world tells us: “I was born this way, and I can’t change.” But even at that point, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the ability to fundamentally change who we are. We can become completely new people. The atonement can change our very natures. That was the difference between Laman and Lemuel and Nephi. Their daily choices influenced them not to want to know. We may think we are born a certain way, but our desires are not unchangeable. They grow or shrink with every choice we make.

Sincere prayer can answer the questions above. Asking God for yourself is how you get a testimony, a witness. He will answer. Then you can stand on your own two feet and say "I know". Once Nephi received his testimony, he told Sam. Sam believed him. That is all we know of Sam's turning point. We will discuss Sariah's, Zoram's, and Ishmael's family's turning points in future posts. Once we get our testimony, let's be like Nephi and share it with others.

Lehi's exodus

Lehi's Exodus
First Nephi 2:1-7

Surely we can find parallels between Lehi's exodus of Jerusalem and modern missionaries heeding the call to serve. Both are willing to leave behind their house, the land of their inheritance, riches and precious things, and take nothing with them but what is necessary, in order to be obedient. In Lehi's case, he was planning on never returning. The Lord had shown him vividly the tragic destruction soon to befall his homeland. His family would have to decide if they believed him.