Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Contrasting perspectives on the wilderness maternity ward

First Nephi 17: 1-3, 20

It is easy to wonder why their journey in the wilderness took 8 years.  Then we learn from Nephi that their wives had children in the wilderness and it makes more sense.  I'm sure that each third trimester and each newborn babe meant that they were camped for several months.  Nephi's perspective is ultimately positive, without glossing over the tough parts.  He says:
Giving birth in the wilderness, eating raw meat, wading through much affliction, and his perspective is "So great were the blessings of the Lord upon us".  Compare that to Laman and Lemuel on the same topic of childbirth:

Keep in mind they went through the same experience as Nephi - and their perspective on their wives is "It would have been better that they had died".

Is it better to die than to suffer?  That seems to be the wrong focus.  Nephi focuses on keeping the commandments, and in that light, suffering is just part of the Lord making you stronger.  Jesus Christ suffered more than anyone else.  Perhaps our own suffering can bring us closer to Him.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nephi and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat

First Nephi 16:38

There are parallels between Nephi's story and the story of his ancestor, Joseph of Egypt.  Similar to Joseph, Nephi was the youngest of his brothers and was told early on that he would be a "ruler and a teacher over (his) brethren". (2:22)  Coming from Nephi, this must have sounded quite egotistical to his brothers Laman and Lemuel, but actually, it seems an angel was the first to tell the brothers about Nephi's eventual reign.  "Know ye knot that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities?" the angel declared. (3:29)  Even so, Laman and Lemuel were not convinced!  Like Joseph's brothers, they plotted Nephi's death, even discounting the angel and Liahona - saying it was "cunning arts".  Their thinking on this whole matter is revealed in their plot to kill Nephi after Ishamel's death.  You can almost hear Joseph's brothers:

Nephi must have felt a kinship to Joseph after all this.  And like Joseph, the Lord preserved Nephi's life so he could eventually preserve theirs.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chasten them exceedingly

First Nephi 16:34-39

The death of Ishmael caused his daughters to "mourn exceedingly".  Unfortunately, it went beyond morning and became murmuring.  Laman took it from murmuring to murdering, or at least planning to murder his father and brother.  However this was not the first time, and would not be the last.   Previously they were prevented from killing their father or their brother by

1. Being confounded and shaken by the Spirit (2:14)
2. An angel (3:28-30)
3. Pleading of Ishmaels wife, a daughter, and a son (7:16-21)

This time, it was the very voice of the Lord, an amazing event:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Exodus of Lehi and Ishmael: Places and directions

The path Lehi's group travels is well documented by Nephi.  As they journey, they give unique names to places the camp.  Here is a summary of the names, directions, and events that decorate their journey to the promised land.

       Events: Lehi dwells all his days, departs
Traveled 3 days in wilderness near the borders by the Red Sea
The Valley of Lemuel and River of Laman
       Events: Retrieve brass plates, Zoram, and Ishmael's family, vision of tree of life, marriage, Liahona
Travel 4 days in a south-southeast direction
Traveled many days in the more fertile parts of the wilderness
Unnamed location
        Events: Nephi's Broken bow
Traveled many days nearly the same course as in the beginning
        Events: Ishmael is burried, voice of the Lord
Traveled nearly eastward from that time forth
Bountiful - they called the sea Irreantum
        Events: Nephi builds a ship

Nephi says the journey took 8 years.
One interesting note is Nahom.  It almost sounds as though Ishmael dies in an unnamed location and is carried to Nahom for burial.  Nephi says Ishmael was burried "in the place which was called Nahom".  Which suggests that it's name already existed before they arrived there.  Click here for archeological info on Nahom

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The burden of providing

First Nephi 16

The event of the broken bow as detailed in chapter 16 shows yet another example of a trial that was impossible, except someone should have faith.  Just like with the brass plates, they were unobtainable without the actions of faith.  In this case, the entire camp might have died of hunger if it weren't for Nephi's faith.  Nephi was the last one standing.  And what could be more stressful than being depended on to provide food to a hungry extended family, because if you don't, no one else will.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Text messages from God

First Nephi 16:9-10, 16, 26-29

After gathering seeds and getting married, it was finally time to leave the valley of Lemuel.  When Lehi is told to leave the valley, he wakes up to find "a round ball of curious workmanship".  Interestingly, Nephi never actually calls it the Liahona in his writings, but it's name is later revealed by Alma in Alma 37:38.
Nephi says that this is an example of how "small means the Lord can bring about great things"

We can speculate where it came from, or who made it, but that's not it's most interesting aspect.  Even if it was hand made by some wise man traveling from far, or delivered from the courts on high by an angel, the most interesting aspect is not it's physical qualities, or mode of arrival.  Those are the "small means".  The most interesting part is that  it receives communications from God.  The spindles aren't a traditional compass - they point the way this particular company should travel.  In addition, God's words are physically written on the ball, and changed from time to time.  Even our most sophisticated smart phones don't have that app.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Eternal Marriage

First Nephi 16:7-8

I have a feeling that, in addition to the amazing visions, Nephi was talking about his marriage when he said he had been blessed exceedingly.  It is also interesting that the marriage ceremonies took place before they began their journey into the wilderness.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ask me in Faith

First Nephi 15:1-11

Nephi returned from his vision to find his brethren disputing about the things Lehi had said.
The dialog between Laman and Lemuel and Nephi here can teach us lessons about ourselves as well.  They said "We cannot understand" to which Nephi could have done one of two things, he could continue their disputations by offering his own opinion, or he could show deference to the One who could help them all understand.  "Have ye inquired of the Lord?" was his response.  What a novel idea it must have been to them, to actually see the Lord as the source of knowledge, and as an entity that could join their conversation and end their disputes.  But isn't it also the most natural reaction?  When we are confused, who do we ask?  Why not ask God - about anything?  Shouldn't He know?  If anybody knows, it's Him, right?  Of course.  Yet it requires faith, and diligence.  Ask as though you will get and answer - "believing you will receive"

Nephi says these words came from the Lord - perhaps Lehi relayed them to his sons during their discussion on his vision of the tree of life.  Laman and Lemuel should have known them already.  It is apparent that Nephi knew these words, and was probably thinking about them when he desired to receive the same revelation as his father.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nephi faints

First Nephi 15:1-6

It seems that visions are physically draining - After Nephi witnesses such an amazing vision, he is brought sharply back to earth when he sees the same old contention, disputing, and lack of faith of his brethren.  Perhaps after witnessing the destruction of his seed, and the forever division his children will have from the children of his brothers, he is reminded that he is in the presence of the begining of it all: Laman and Lemuel.  His description of being "overcome" is similar to what Moses experienced on the mount, when he fell to the earth for many hours (Moses 1:9-10) and what Joseph Smith experienced when he fainted while crossing the field fence after a night of visits from the Angel Moroni.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Easy to the understanding of all men

First Nephi 14:18-27

More than 600 years before the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation, Nephi saw him, and what we would write about.  Nephi wasn't the only one to see the things that he saw in his vision.  But he was only allowed to write a "small part" of the things that he saw (v.28).  Others have seen them as well, and written them (v.26).  But their accounts are not available to us, they are sealed up for now.  The only surviving account we have a copy of is that of the apostle John as he wrote it in the book of Revelation in the Bible.  But this account might still remain fragmentary and lacking it's original clarity after his words were sifted and changed by unholy people (13:26).  Note how the angel says when they were written, they "were plain and pure, and most precious and easy to the understanding of all men".  This sounds like what Nephi wrote in the four previous chapters (11-14) - plain, pure, precious, easy to understand.  But it doesn't sound like what "all men" would say concerning our present day Book of Revelation.  Maybe the plain and precious parts haven't been restored yet so that we can use faith, prayer, work, and personal revelation to demonstrate to God our desire to understand, which demonstration will earn those most precious things.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The immediate future - wars and rumors of wars

Parts 1-3 are posted separately below

First Nephi 14 part 4


To recap: the saints of God are scattered upon all the face of the earth, the great mother of abominations gathers together multitudes to fight against the Lamb of God, the power of the Lamb of God descends to arm the saints.  So first there was an offensive, initiated by the church of the devil.  Then defensive measures provided to the saints by God.  Now there is a counter-offensive - a terrible reckoning for the great and abominable church.  Earlier in Nephi's vision, he witnessed the scattering and smiting of the seed of his brethren by the Gentiles.  The angel described it as the wrath of God (13:11,14).  The above verse indicates that the wrath of God will be poured out in these last days.  As could be said about each item in these few verses, these wars and rumors of wars may be in progress; however, note that it says "among all nations and kindreds of the earth".  The day this happens is the day that preparing for the fulfillment of the covenants commences.  The rest of Nephi's vision, (he says he only wrote a small part) is written by John the Apostle in the book of Revelation.

The immediate future - The power of the Lamb of God

First Nephi 14 - part 3


The preceding act of aggression in v.13, namely the gathering of multitudes to fight against the Lamb of God as directed by the "great mother of abominations", prompts the above defensive response.  The power of the Lamb of God descends to protect and arm the saints.  Certainly we can say this is already happening, but I believe it will be more pronounced when this prophecy is fulfilled to completion.  Remember that it occurs after the multitudes gather to fight.  It will occur in stark contrast, a defense proportional to the threatened offensive.  The power of God in great glory will be apparent.

The immediate future - fighting against the Lamb of God

First Nephi 14 part 2


Just as specific events such as Columbus, the revolutionary war, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon are described previously in Nephi's vision, there is no reason for us not to take the above verse literally.  It is describing something that, once we are either going through it or have gone through it, we will recognize as easily and plainly as the other historical events Nephi described.

Imagining mobs of people, upon all the face of the earth, among all nations is not difficult.  Earlier in Nephi's vision he described the multitudes of the earth, the house of Israel specifically, gathering to fight against the twelve apostles (11:34-36).  But imagining multitudes fighting against the Lamb of God, who is not on the earth, is more difficult.  The conditions for a worldwide protest against Jesus Christ, as directed by the church of the devil, have not been met yet.  How will they fight against Him?  Perhaps they will fight against his teachings, against the idea that he really existed, maybe even against his Church.

It is easy to wonder if we are currently experiencing this event, at least in some degree.  Surely we can say that multitudes are currently fighting against the teachings of Jesus Christ, against his divinity, and against his church.  Perhaps they (we?) gather together ignorantly.  Perhaps in movie theaters and night clubs, they unknowingly participate in the fight against holiness and virtue, against their conscience, the Light of Christ.  Perhaps they are multitudes gathered together online?  Gathered to a particular way of thinking?  Are we part of the fight against the Lamb of God or His teachings in our daily activities?  Do we fight against the whisperings of the Holy Ghost?  If so, let us put down our weapons and follow righteousness.

The immediate future - the saints of God

First Nephi 14 part 1

In hindsight, it is easy to see historical events as Nephi described them in his vision.  Events in the life of Christ, events in the establishment of America, Columbus, the revolutionary war, the restoration, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon - these events are plain to understand now that we are beyond them in time.  Nephi's vision points us yet forward, for a little way, before it is abruptly cut off and assigned to the Apostle John to write.  There are 4 specific occurrences that are either in the process of happening now, or will happen in the future.  The angel sets the stage by reminding Nephi twice about the covenants of the Lord unto the house of Israel.   By the end of these 4 events however, the angel says that it will be the day for the commencement in preparing the way for the fulfilling of the covenants.  The angel also sets the stage by describing that the great and marvelous work will divide men one way or another (v7), and the main actors on the stage are the church of the Lamb of God and the church of the devil, a.k.a. the great whore of all the earth, who has dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.  


There are several things here that we could say describe the Church as of this day - its numbers are few, its dominions upon the face of the earth are small.  And while it is in many nations, I don't know if it yet meets the condition of being upon "all the face of the earth".

Friday, May 4, 2012

To know the interpretation thereof

First Nephi 11-14

Nephi desired to see the things which his father saw, and to know the interpretation thereof.  Here is a list of symbols and their meaning as given to Nephi in his vision, also the event he saw that related to each symbol.  

The Tree:
The love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men.  It is the most desirable above all things. (11:21-22)  The interpretation was declared by Nephi after seeing the infant Savior with his mother, Mary.  

Rod of Iron: 
The word of God, which leads to the tree of life.  The interpretation was given after Nephi saw the Son of God going forth among the children of men, and many fall down at His feet and worship Him. (11:24-25)

Fountain of Living Waters:
The Love of God, or the tree of life.  The fountain of living waters is only mentioned once and has the same meaning as the tree.  The rod of iron leads to both (11:25)

Large and Spacious Building:
The world and the wisdom thereof; the pride of the world; vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men.  The interpretation was given in connection with the house of Israel - multitudes of the earth - fighting against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  The interpretation was also given in connection with the destruction of the Nephites.  It falls, and the fall thereof is exceedingly great. (11:34-36; 12:15-19)

Fountain of Filthy Water, River and Its Depths:
The depths of hell.  The interpretation was given while Nephi saw his seed destroyed by the seed of his brethren.  (12:15-19)

Mists of Darkness:
The temptations of the devil, which blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men, and leads them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.  The interpretation was given while Nephi saw his seed destroyed by the seed of his brethren.  (12:15-19)

Great and Terrible Gulf:
The word of the justice of the Eternal God.  It divides the large and spacious building from the tree of life.  The interpretation was given while Nephi saw his seed destroyed by the seed of his brethren.  (12:15-19)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Nephi's vision - 2,500 years of world history

First Nephi 11-14

Nephi's vision is mostly chronological, with events taking place on two continents until the events start overlapping. But this vision is not only the highlights of western history, it is also written as a perspective for our guidance today. It comes right up to our present time, perhaps a small way into the future. Within this framework, Nephi was given the meaning of the symbols of Lehi's dream. He then states that he cannot write more, but John the Apostle will (the Book of Revelation). Here's a rough outline:

Chapter 11: The Life of Christ (1BC - 33AD, Holy Land)
Chapter 12: The generations of Lehi's seed (~500BC - ~500AD, Americas)
Chapter 13:1-33 The Nations of the Gentiles (~100AD - 1830AD, Europe, America)
Chapter 13:34-14:4 The Restoration of the Gospel (1830AD - Present, World)
Chapter 14:5-17 The Covenants of the Father unto the House of Israel

 Nephi's writing ends on the day of the commencement of the work of the Father in preparing of the way for the fulfilling of His covenants unto the House of Israel (v.17). That day is a day of wars and rumors of war.  Nephi saw many more things which John also saw and wrote, and is forbidden to continue writing.  But this impressive vision was only a "small part" of what he saw.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Made white in the blood

First Nephi 12:9-12

The imagery of cleansing garments is used symbolically to describe the sanctifying and purifying our spirits go through when we have faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  The following verses note that during the Savior's post-mortal ministry to the Americas, many people exercised such faith required to have their garments "made white".  Note that it's not bleach that they are made white in, it's the Savior's blood.