Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Weakness and Strength

As I close up my emails to all of you, I'm very grateful for the opportunity I've had to share these things with you throughout my Book of Mormon class this semester. I hope that they have helped to inspire or motivate you wherever you are.

This week, we talked about one of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon, found in the 12th chapter of Ether. Moroni, in verse 24, confesses one of his weaknesses to the Lord, comparing his writing to the writing of the Brother of Jared:

24 And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.

The response of the Lord to Moroni teaches us many important principles:

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

As I said before, I have always liked Ether 12:27, but so much meaning is added when we read it with Ether 12:24, where Moroni talks about weaknesses. From this chapter, we learn the pattern of making weaknesses to become strong: The Lord tells us to humble ourselves and have faith in Him! It's really that simple.

I love how the Lord doesn't tell Moroni he is wrong, that he shouldn't look at things as weaknesses. He teaches us that it is okay to believe you have a weakness, but it is your job to turn that weakness into a strength through his grace. This process is what brings humility, which is required to be in the Lord's presence!

I hope that we all can continue to identify our weaknesses and turn them into strengths instead of becoming discouraged!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Fast unto thy Father

This week, in my Book of Mormon class, we continued in 3rd Nephi with the teachings of Jesus Christ among the Nephites. As I said last week, I have always enjoyed 3rd Nephi and have especially enjoyed as we've discussed in depth the teachings of Christ. This week there were a few verses in the 13th chapter that really stood out to me concerning fasting. Jesus Christ teaches the following about fasting:

16 Moreover, when ye fast be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father, who is in secret; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
This verse is interesting because it comes in the middle of other commandments that Christ is giving unto the people. In verse 16, he talks about what our motivations should be for fasting: are we fasting because we love the Lord or are we fasting so other people think we are keeping the commandments? In verse 17 and 18, he talks about the process of fasting and what we SHOULD do instead of appearing to fast, which is to fast in secret. Ironically, if we fast in secret, the Lord will reward us openly.
From growing up in the church, I have fasted many times throughout my life. The majority of these times, especially before my mission, I acted very weak or always talked about how hungry I was. Fasting to me seemed like a large sacrifice that didn't make a lot of sense. Over the last few years, though, and especially from reading this verse, we learn that fasting is an amazing opportunity. It is an opportunity for spiritual renewal. It is a chance for the Spirit to overcome the desires of the natural man, the desires of our bodies trying to tell us that we are hungry. It helps us to renew ourselves for the upcoming month, which is why I love that it is at the first of every month.
We can all continue to fast with more purpose as we realize the doctrinal reasons for fasting instead of thinking about what we are going to eat later or how hungry we are. I know that by doing this, the Lord will truly "reward (us) openly."

Monday, April 3, 2017

How Oft

This week, in my Book of Mormon class, I learned something very interesting as we studied from 3rd Nephi that I would like to share with you. 3rd Nephi has always been one of my favorite sections of the Book of Mormon, especially the coming of Jesus Christ starting in Chapter 11. The scriptures that I found very interesting, however, happen in the chapter previous to that: 3 Nephi 10. In this chapter, there is silence for many hours throughout all of the land. After this silence, the people here the voice of Christ. In the verses that I'm going to share, the voice of Christ is speaking. As you read these, notice which tenses (past, present, future, etc) he uses to talk about when he gathers them.

O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you.
And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.
O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart.
If you look for the tenses, you come to find that Christ uses the past tense in verse 4 (how oft have I), the present tense or a tense close to that in verse 5 (how oft would I have), and the future tense in verse 6 (how oft will I). To me, this is a way for Christ to say that him and the Father are the same "yesterday, today, and forever." We find this pattern throughout the Book of Mormon and Bible, but it is interesting to see it in this way. These verses show me that Christ will always and always has watched over us.

Now what does that mean for us? It means that we need to make sure we are aware of all of the things Christ has done for us, that he is now doing for us, and that he is yet to do for us. Perhaps these people had forgotten the blessings they had or the opportunities they had been given in life. Perhaps Christ felt as if they would forget if they were not reminded. Regardless, it is our duty to know that Christ is the same now and always will be and that he will always gather us "as a hen gathereth her chickens."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Building Upon The Rock

This week, in my Book of Mormon class, we dissected one of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon, found in Helaman 5:12. It is a verse that we hear and repeat often while growing up in the church, a scripture mastery verse that has a lot of power. In many of the verses in Chapter 5, Nephi is remembering the words which his father, Helaman, told to him and his brethren. That is what is happening in verse 12, a very powerful bit of counsel and advice:

12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

As I mentioned, this is a verse that we hear repeated often, at least in parts. There are a few things that stood out to me this time, though, that I hadn't noticed before. The phrase "that when the devil shall send forth..." is interesting because there is another way that it could've been stated but wasn't which is "if the devil shall send forth..." Why wasn't it stated like that? Well, it shows us that the devil WILL send forth storms and misery, there is no question about it. But, in response, if we are built upon Christ as our rock, "(we) cannot fall." It doesn't say that "(we) might not fall." These two observations go hand in hand, showing us the laws that work in our mortal lives: Satan will always try to deceive us, Christ will always protect us if we build upon him.

Reading this verse again helped me to reflect on where I am building my foundation and what I am doing to make sure I build upon Christ, our rock and Redeemer. I hope that it does the same for you and that we can all avoid the "hail and...mighty storm(s)" from the adversary.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Title of Liberty

Growing up, one of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon was always the Title of Liberty. In Alma 46, Moroni is preparing the people for war and speaking out in the name of freedom. Amalickiah has created a lot of wickedness and desires to be king. In verse 12, Moroni does the following in response:

12 And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.

Obviously, the reasons that Moroni and the Nephites were fighting were just: God, religion, freedom, peace, wives, children. However, something that was pointed out to me that I hadn't noticed before is the order that these motives are placed in. As you go from item to item, you realize that the previous item you read is necessary for the item proceeding it. For example, in order for there to be religion, there must be God. In order for there to be true freedom, religion must be allowed. For peace, freedom is required. It is so interesting that this order is chosen because we realize that all of these things are things that we enjoy and sometimes seem to take for granted living in the United States in 2017. Sure, things don't always seem to be ideal in politics because people are never completely in agreement, but we can definitely say that we enjoy these things that Moroni stood for so many years ago.

Without God, none of these things would be possible. The Nephites knew that they were fighting "in memory of (their) God" because they knew that was the only way they could survive. For us, this means that we must look at the order of priorities that we place: if we were to fight for our rights and freedoms, which would be the most important for us? Which do we hold closest? As we do so, we will realize what we need to do to become more like Moroni and be able to hoist our own Title of Liberty.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Offering Up All of our Sins

 This week I learned a very important principle about sacrifice and what we are willing to give up in order to know our Heavenly Father. Lately in my Book of Mormon Class, we have been studying the Book of Alma. We were reading the 20th and 22nd chapters of Alma, the teachings of Aaron to the father of Lamoni. Lamoni's father is known to be a hard man that didn't seem interested in learning about the Gospel at all in Chapter 20 but softens up by Chapter 22. We can see this contrast between the chapters by reading these verses:

Alma 20:23 - Now the king, fearing he should lose his life, said: If thou wilt spare me I will grant unto thee whatsoever thou wilt ask, even to half of the kingdom.

Here in Chapter 20, the king offers up half of his kingdom (a temporal sacrifice) to have his life spared. However, here is what he asks in Chapter 22:

Alma 22:15 - And it came to pass that after Aaron had expounded these things unto him, the king said: What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.

Now, after hearing about the amazing message of the Gospel, he is willing to offer up ALL of his kingdom in exchange for being "born of God." Aaron then asks him to pray, and here is his prayer:

Alma 22:18 - O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead.

Here, the king offers up a spiritual sacrifice: ALL of his sins. He knows that the Lord doesn't need to have his kingdom, he just needs a spiritual sacrifice and that is what he is willing to make! I feel like we can all use these verses to look at our own sacrifices and what we are offering up to God: are we offering up only half of our kingdom? All of our kingdom? Or even better, are we offering up ALL of our sins unto him? I hope that we can all get to the point of being able to say that we "will give away all (our) sins to know thee."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Feeling Wronged

This week we talked about a very interesting pattern that happens with the Lamanites throughout the Book of Mormon. The verses that will help me explain this pattern is found in the 10th Chapter of Mosiah. This chapter is describing the current state of the Lamanites, shortly after King Laman passes away. Verses 12 and 17 teach us something very interesting when read together:

 12 They were wildand ferocious, and blood-thirsty people, believing in the tradition of their fathers, which is this—Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren,and they were also wronged while crossing the sea....

17 And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi.

The Lamanites felt completely wronged and betrayed! The verses that are missing here, verses 13-16, talk about more reasons that they felt wronged, but I feel like verse 12 states it well enough: they felt that Nephi and Lehi had wronged Laman and Lemuel. Now, what is the consequence of this? Verse 17 shows us that because of this belief, they were taught to hate and murder the Nephites.

What we learn from this is the danger of perceived wrongs. Because of the wicked tradition of the fathers of the Lamanites, they perceived that they had been wronged. Even if this would've been real, they have held onto that hatred for so many generations that it has continue to grow inside of them. This principle is similar to the way we interact with other people. Are we actually be wronged or just perceiving it that way? If we are actually wronged, why haven't we forgiven them? Are we letting that grow into a hatred?

The Book of Mormon teaches us things TO do and things NOT to do, and this is one of the things that we learn not to do. Let us all forgive others and never perceive wrongs that aren't actually there.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Christ: Our Father

Throughout growing up as a member of the Latter-Day Saints, I have always known Christ to be my elder brother and have usually only referred to him as such. However, this week in my Book of Mormon class, we talked about how Christ is sometimes referred to as our father and it takes on even more meaning to the love that Christ has for us.

In Mosiah 5:7, King Benjamin states the following:

And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.

As I said before, these are some of the last words from King Benjamin after gathering all of his people together. We often hear that we are "children of God" or "children of our Heavenly Father." King Benjamin, however, refers to the believers as "children of Christ...for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you." Someone who is a father is somebody involved in the birth of a child or the raising of a child. To me, this means that through the life of Jesus Christ, he gave us a "spiritual rebirth" and thus become our Father in a sense. How beautiful that is! Christ is not only our elder brother, he is also our Father in the sense that he has helped us to progress and grow, he has given us a rebirth.

As we strive to see Christ in numerous different perspectives, our love for him continues to grow! There are hundreds of different words that describe him throughout the scriptures and the more we learn about these names the more we will come to know our Lord and Savior, our Redeemer, our elder brother, and in a way, our Father.

Friday, February 17, 2017

"That Our Children May Know"

This week, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the words of 2nd Nephi, Chapter 25, verse 26. In this scripture, Nephi is giving us a theme of his teachings along with all of the teachings of the Prophets of the Lord. He says:

26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

Earlier in the chapter, Nephi talks about he glories in plainness. Isn't verse 26 about as plain as it gets? Everything that we do centers around the message of Jesus Christ. I specifically like how he says that the reason all of this is done is so that "our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins." To me, this shows that not only do we learn about Christ for ourselves, we talk about Christ so that our children and others around us can know of him as well. It is interesting that this takes the focus off of ourselves and gives us a reason to do missionary work: Why not share the Gospel so that others can also rejoice in Christ? I love that principle that Nephi teaches. It is so important for us to realize that everything in the Gospel is an appendage of Jesus Christ himself.

It is for us to decide whether we feel that all we do is "talk, rejoice, and preach of Christ" in our daily lives. Do we let Christ into our lives as much as Nephi says that we do? I'm grateful for scriptures like this that cause us to reflect and become better. Let us all continue to "write according to our prophecies" so that "(others) may know to what source they may look" for eternal happiness.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Isaiah Chapters

Throughout my life, I have read the Book of Mormon multiple times. With each of these experiences, there is a common thing that seems to happen to most members of the church: when we get to the Isaiah chapters in 2nd Nephi, our interest level goes down. For the most part, Isaiah can be difficult to understand and not as "entertaining" as other chapters in the Book of Mormon. During my Book of Mormon class this week, however, I learned some valuable lessons about studying from Isaiah.

The Book of Mormon verse that I've chosen to highlight this week is in 1 Nephi 19:23. This is Nephi talking about his instruction that he is giving to his brothers. He says:

23 And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.

Notice how he starts off by saying that they read from the Books of Moses (the beginning of the Old Testament) but then says that the way he was going to be able to help his brothers "believe in the Lord their Redeemer" was through "that which was written by the prophet Isaiah." We are told by Christ himself in his visit to the Americas that we should study Isaiah. But why do we seem to usually skip over the Isaiah chapters?

An interesting principle here is that as we study the scriptures diligently and with a prayer of understanding in our heart, the words of Isaiah can be opened to us! We are promised that the scriptures can be expounded to us and that their meaning can touch our very hearts. As we studied Isaiah this week, I understood the words so much more than I ever have! I know that is because of the promise we've been given that as we study, we will learn from the Holy Ghost.

I'm so grateful for the Isaiah selections in the Book of Mormon, and I can promise that as we pray for understanding and search his words with all of our heart, we will learn things that will bless every aspect of our lives.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

"The Atonement of Jesus Christ"

One of the most essential things in the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Atonement that was offered by our Lord and Savior. This week in my Book of Mormon class, we talked about how too often we forget that it is not simply the Atonement that saves us from the fall, it is Jesus Christ, our older brother. The Atonement was the means for him to save, but he is the Savior.

A scripture that stood out to me during our discussion of the Atonement came from Alma in Chapter 34. Amulek is teaching about how Christ will be our salvation, describing the Atonement and how it will save. I love the way he puts it:

 10 For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.

For it to be an infinite and eternal sacrifice, it would take a perfect being, not just a normal human. This scripture, in my interpretation, means that there was only one being that could perform this Atonement: Jesus Christ. There was no backup plan! He was the plan and we relied on him to accomplish it.

Because it is infinite and eternal, it provides us with a way to progress and grow in the Gospel. Because of Jesus Christ, we understand the balance of justice and mercy and know that it has been met. This scripture teaches us that the Atonement was "a great and last sacrifice."

We so often hear about how we should apply the Atonement into our lives every day, but how often do we take full advantage of that gift? Jesus Christ lived a sinless life so that he could save us from the Fall. He went through the effects of the Fall all at once, there in the Garden of Gethsemane. I'm so grateful for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I testify that he made an infinite and eternal sacrifice for all of mankind! In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

"The Tree of Life"

This week, I was reflecting often on 1 Nephi 8, the Vision of the Tree of Life. In my Book of Mormon class, we talked about this vision in so much depth that it made me think about the amazing lessons that it teaches.

In the beginning of 1 Nephi 8, Lehi is explaining to his sons that he has had a vision. It appears that Nephi had a good role in the vision, but that Laman and Lemuel seemed to have struggled in some way. The rest of the chapter describes the vision, talking about the "rod of iron" that leads to the "tree of life."

I have heard or read about this vision many times during the course of my life. In fact, I often wonder if this is the vision in the scriptures that I have heard the most about! But we talked about something I had never thought of as we compared verses 24 and 30. There are two different types of people that arrive at the Tree of Life. In the first group, they grasp onto the rod and push forward towards the fruit of the tree. In the second group, they fall on their knees as they reach the tree and partake of the fruit. We talked about the difference in how the second group seemed to see it for more as a tree: they realized that it was the Savior or at least a representation of Him. The first group ended up leaving the tree because of the mocking and scorning of the people in the building across the river.

How often do we do this? We seem to avoid seeing things as they really are, taking the Lord out of things that he has played such a big role in. We often are so caught up in the tree that we forget it is really our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ himself. Are we grasping for dear life onto the rod of iron? Or are we holding steadfast and trusting that we will make it as we obey the commandments we've been given?

Although the Vision of the Tree of Life was given thousands of years ago, it still has such an application to us. I think it wise to imagine where we would be on that path at this given time. How will we make it to the tree? How will we see the tree as the Savior? What can we do to get back on the path if we aren't currently on it? These questions will help us see how we can improve. There is nobody that can't come back to the path! It takes a lot of work, but let us all make those improvements necessary and continue onto the Tree of Life.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Highly Favored of the Lord"

I recently returned from serving a full-time mission in the Maryland Baltimore Mission. I now attend Brigham Young University, where I am currently taking a religion class on the Book of Mormon. This blog served as a way to record my thoughts about my mission and it will now serve as a way to record my thoughts as I am home from my mission and involved in studying the Book of Mormon.

This week, I realized once more why the Book of Mormon is so powerful. Every single verse, without fail, seems to teach us something of eternal purpose. This rang true to me as we dissected the very first verse of the very first chapter of the Book of Mormon. 1 Nephi 1:1, an introduction in the words of Nephi himself, states:

"I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days."

In class, we talked about the difference between the word "therefore" and "nevertheless." The word therefore is a word that is used to show a direct relationship between two different things, sometimes almost a cause-and-effect relationship. Nephi says that because he was born of goodly parents, he was taught in the learning of his father. The word nevertheless seems to do the opposite, combining two things that don't usually seem to go together. In this verse, he talks about seeing afflictions for his entire life, however he feels that him and the entire family of Lehi have been "highly favored of the Lord."

To me, this verse teaches us a lot about perspective and attitude. We are taught the principle of faith that is centered in Jesus Christ: when we trust in the Savior and Redeemer, we begin to have an eternal perspective on things. We realize that because of the Fall, we will experience afflictions throughout our lives. At the same time, however, we realize that because of the Atonement, we will be able to know and understand that we are all highly favored of the Lord. The ultimate decision of whether or not to have an eternal perspective is up to us. I challenge all this week to look inward to be able to find where to improve to be able to have the kind of perspective and faith that Nephi had! I know that as we all strive to show that faith, we will be able to say that we have been "highly favored of the Lord in all (our) days."