Journey through the Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 16 (They Do Not Ask)

4 And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer.
This verse is quite sobering. Jesus is saying that the people in Jerusalem could have had knowledge of the Nephites and the Lamanites as well as other scattered disciples of Christ, but they chose not to learn about them because they were unwilling to ask. They could not look beyond their vision of Israel and inquire more deeply into the words of the Lord.

What knowledge and insight are we missing because we are not willing to ask?

We don’t have the full story here due to the limited amount of early Christian records. It is very possible that the Apostles did ask and knew more than we can see in our scriptures today. If John the Revelatory saw the restoration and spoke of the Angel Moroni as we believe, then it is possible that he and others knew of the Nephites
I am also comforted by the fact that the Lord will always provide a way for vital knowledge to come forth in due time – even if that knowledge has to come from out of the dust. He will not leave us guideless or comfortless. 

The Gift of Prophecy and of Revelation

In April 1974, Spencer W. Kimball was sustained as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.  As a result, many of the talks focused on the inspired nature of President Kimball’s call.  In particular, at least three speakers (Elder Petersen, Elder S. Dilworth Young,  and Elder McConkie) during the Saturday Afternoon Session spoke about the process of foreordination in the calling of a Prophet as well as the calling of others to the work of the Gospel. These three sermons paint the picture of a Savior actively at work leading and guiding his Church.

Elder Young also focused on how many of the Prophets had been told early on in their lives that they would rise to a prominent position in the Church. Elder Young noted that,

“There have been many occasions when people have had direct revelation to themselves as to important events to take place in their own lives about which they had no previous warning. Many men and women in this audience can testify that they knew beforehand of the call to be made upon them and the requirements of the call. As with Enos, “the voice of the Lord came into [their] mind[s]. …” (Enos 1:10.) In each case, the words were sure and clear to the recipient.

And finally unto many of the faithful comes the inspiration as to callings and positions to be given to people who are important to the Church. Men and women have known by the power of the Holy Ghost who would fill an apostolic vacancy or one of stake or ward importance. They do not voice these inspirations, but have the deep satisfaction of recognizing the source and the joy of having the Lord share with them, in advance, the foretold action.”

This talk made me reflect on some of the spiritual experiences that I have had where I have felt the Lord’s hand in my calling. Such experiences were especially common as a missionary. I remember vividly the night when I was transferred away from my first area. That evening I had a distinct spiritual impression that I was being transferred.  The assistants to the mission President decided to pull a prank on us and called and relayed fake transfer information. When I spoke to them, I knew that what they were saying was not right. I went into the other room and prayed further about it. As I did so, I knew for sure that I was going to be transferred. I thought in my mind about the various cities in the mission and knew exactly where I was going to be transferred. Our mission president called a few minutes later and told me that I was going to be transferred to that city.

I felt similar promptings before I was transferred again, and called as a district leader. I later had a similar prompting that I would not be transferred despite having basically been told the exact opposite by my Mission President at the start of the transfer. Every time that I had such a prompting it ultimately was fulfilled.

More than any other experience in my life, my mission most clearly revealed to me that the Lord was aware of me and my call. He knew where he needed me. He would direct me and give me the comfort and guidance needed to make difficult changes or accept initially undesirable calls.

We can experience such promptings in our ministry in the Church. We can come to know the Lord’s will for us. We can be led and inspired by the spirit. As Elder Young explained,

“All of these variations of the gift of prophecy come to those whose lives merit the presence of the Holy Ghost. Was it not the Prophet Joseph who said that the spirit of the Holy Ghost is the spirit of prophecy? All of us should court it and be enveloped in its beneficent influence.

All of these prophecies, great and small, bear witness that the Lord has known the end from the beginning and has warned and forewarned those who would listen of the solemn and sure march of the work of Christ to its certain and ultimate conclusion. We who sit here today are a part of that great movement. If we play our part well and sustain the Lord Jesus Christ and his living prophet, all will be well with us.”


Journey through the Book of Mormon:3 Nephi 15 (I am the light)

When I was a missionary in the Russian city of Krasnoyarsk, we had an investigator named Leonid. He liked a lot of things about the Church and would come frequently. But he big hangup was the fact that we worshipped on Sunday rather than Saturday. For him, God’s word regarding Sabbath worship on Saturday could never change.

As we taught him, I shared the saviour’s message to the Nephrite’s. I tried to explain to him that Christ was the lawgiver and that in our day he has one again given us a new orded of worship based on Sunday worship. But he could not get past his strongly held notion of an engaging word of God.

This chapter answers his concerns more than any other I know. Christ makes it clear that he is the one that was lawgiver. He is also the law fulfiller.

“5 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfil the law; therefore it hath an end.”

It is Christ that we follow. He is a living God who gives us the perfect path to follow. He gives us the commandments we need for our day and time. If we will follow him, he will lead the way back:

“9 Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.”

I love this promise. Christ himself is telling us to focus on him. He will lead us and we will be his.






Journey through the Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 14 (What Man?)

“9 Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?

10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
Today in my Sunday School class we spoke about the Savior’s use of metaphors/parables and also his use of questions. These verses illustrate the savior’s brilliant teaching approach. Here, he uses rhetorical questions that are modeled after real world scenarios. He wants to invoke in his listeners a visceral reaction. He doesn’t want passive listeners.

For most, his questions invoke a memory of a kindly parent or efforts to be generous and loving to one’s kids. These emotions crescendo in his declaration that we are evil. The natural man within us wants to resist. The natural man wants to believe that it is good and righteous. Yet, the light of Christ within us testifies of the truth of his words. And it is this tension that pushes the listener to self reflection. Ideally, it pushes the listener to recognize the goodness of God and to turn to him.

We can learn much more the Savior’s rhetoric and his questions.

Exchanging Guilt for Faith 

 I’ve now been a member of the Church for nearly 8 years, and in that time I’ve tried talking to all of my friends and to everyone I come in contact with about the Gospel. Despite that I’ve seen none of my friends express any real interest. And I haven’t experienced any miracles of that type spoken of in conference. For that reason, Elder Anderson’s talk on missionary work really resonated with me:

“Even with a strong desire to share the gospel, you may be less than happy with the success of your past efforts. You may feel like a friend who said, ‘I have talked to our family and friends about the Church, but few have shown any interest, and with each rejection, I have become more hesitant. I know I should do more, but I am stuck, and all I feel is enormous guilt.’”

I’ve not had success that fits into missionary statistics. Nevertheless, in that time I’ve also had incredible conversations about faith. I’ve been able to touch and strengthen others in ways that I would not have been able to otherwise. And I’ve been able to keep my desire and fire for missionary work strong. 

Elder Anderson warned that while guilt may be a motivator at first, we cannot continue onward with drive and purpose without a more powerful fuel:

“I suggest that you stop feeling guilty about any insufficiency you think you have in sharing the gospel. Rather, pray, like Alma taught, for opportunities ‘to stand as [a witness] of God at all times and in all things, and in all places … that [others] may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, [and] have eternal life.’ This is a much stronger motivation than guilt.”

If we continue to have faith in the message of the Gospel and in its power to bless others, then continued missionary work becomes easy. Despite discouragement or failure, we can continue resolute in our journey. We can never give up because we understand how great the stakes are, both for ourselves and others.

You Can Make It!

I loved Elder Cornish’s hopeful message that we truly can and will make it back to God through the power of the Atonement of Christ. As Elder Cornish notes, it is easy to often get discouraged when we fall short of God’s perfect standards. It is easy to begin to wonder whether we are good enough.

“As with my own experience, our members often ask, ‘Am I good enough as a person?’ or ‘Will I really make it to the celestial kingdom?’ Of course, there is no such thing as ‘being good enough.’ None of us could ever ‘earn’ or ‘deserve’ our salvation, but it is normal to wonder if we are acceptable before the Lord, which is how I understand these questions.”

At times, we can see the teachings at Church as disheartening because we recognize our failings. But the Lord does not want us to experience frustration. Instead, he simply wants us to be encouraged to get better:

“Sometimes when we attend church, we become discouraged even by sincere invitations to improve ourselves. We think silently, ‘I can’t do all these things’ or ‘I will never be as good as all these people.'”
Elder Cornish lays out the solution. That solution involves turning to God and seeking comfort from him rather than comparing our selves to others. It involves trusting him and his merits and grace:

“Please, my beloved brothers and sisters, we must stop comparing ourselves to others. We torture ourselves needlessly by competing and comparing. We falsely judge our self-worth by the things we do or don’t have and by the opinions of others. If we must compare, let us compare how we were in the past to how we are today—and even to how we want to be in the future. The only opinion of us that matters is what our Heavenly Father thinks of us. Please sincerely ask Him what He thinks of you. He will love and correct but never discourage us; that is Satan’s trick.”

If we turn to God and ask him what he thinks of us, then we can also know that we have reason to hope. We can also know that we will make it back to God.

“Let me be direct and clear. The answers to the questions ‘Am I good enough?’ and ‘Will I make it?’are ‘Yes! You are going to be good enough’ and ‘Yes, you are going to make it as long as you keep repenting and do not rationalize or rebel.’ The God of heaven is not a heartless referee looking for any excuse to throw us out of the game. He is our perfectly loving Father, who yearns more than anything else to have all of His children come back home and live with Him as families forever. He truly gave His Only Begotten Son that we might not perish but have everlasting life!1 Please believe, and please take hope and comfort from, this eternal truth. Our Heavenly Father intends for us to make it! That is His work and His glory.”

Journey through the Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi 13 (Take no Thought)

25 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked upon the twelve whom he had chosen, and said unto them: Remember the words which I have spoken. For behold, ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people. Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
In the Sermon on the Temple Jesus directs these remarks squarely to his disciples. 

I have always loved these verses for the bigger picture message that God will take care of us as we trust in him. As I worried about how I could afford law school without parental support as I contemplated leaving on a mission, these verses provided me with great comfort. I knew God would provide a way.

Yet, there is a danger if we take these verses to an extreme and begin to believe that God will simply give us things without effort or preparation on our part. God wants us to labor diligently over our stewardship. We cannot put off difficult labor and expect that God or others will provide. Such is the pathway to bitterness and disillusionment.

By directing his words to his disciples who are chosen to preach full time, the Savior makes clear that we are to be anxiously engaged in our daily labors. But we are to trust that ultimately God knows all things and will provide.