Journey through the Book of Mormon: Helaman 10 (Unwearyingness)

4 Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

Twice in these verses God praises Nephi for being unweary. This is an important Christlike attribute that we don’t often focus on frequently enough. We all face frustration and disappointment in our lives. We all see that at times our efforts at being good fall short. Despite our desires and goals, we do not receive the fruit we hope for. 

What do we do then? Do we get frustrated? Do we doubt what we are doing? Do we doubt heavenly father’s promises? Or do we continue faithful as Nephi did. If we do so, then we will be blessed beyond measure because the Lord will then know that he can trust us no matter what. Nephi’s power came because the Lord knew that no matter the circumstances Nephi would do the right thing unceasingly. 
I long to be like him.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Helaman 9 (Circumcision of Heart)

21 But Nephi said unto them: O ye fools, ye uncircumcised of heart, ye blind, and ye stiffnecked people, do ye know how long the Lord your God will suffer you that ye shall go on in this your way of sin?
The fact that the label of “uncircumcised of heart” still had resonance among the Nephites suggests continued observance of the law of Moses and rituals such as circumcision. Otherwise this criticism would not have made sense.

I love the description of hardheaded individuals as uncircumcised. Circumcision is a symbol of willingness to subjegation the flesh and consecrate even your own body in the name of God. Circumcision symbolized the covenant relationship and the willingness to follow the will of God. These Nephites had made such covenants through circumcision and perhaps through baptism, but their hearts were nevertheless far from God. Nephi points out that despite their covenants, these Nephites were far from God. This is a powerful indictment of a covenant people.

Remembering Jesus

I haven’t written a post about a talk from the most recent general conference in quite a while. And if I want to finish before next conference I need to do so regularly again.

With Elder W. Christopher’s Waddell’s talk, I want to touch briefly on something that he said at the start of his talk.

He started with a story of a four year old who got kicked out of primary. The child was asked about his behavior, and he responded “Sometimes–Sometimes–it’s just hard for me to think about Jesus.”

This is a really profound quote. The pressures of our day to day life press upon us. In the crush of the ever present distractions of daily life, it does become hard to remember Jesus.

Following the savior provides incredible peace. But I’ve noticed that when I become obsessed with the things of the world, I lose the sense of inner peace. I become quick to anger. I lose that charity which comes through the grace of God. I gain deeper appreciation of Elder Waddell’s declaration that “our ability to travel this road in peace is, in large part, dependent on whether or not we too have a hard time thinking about Jesus. As Elder Waddell makes clear, we need to set a pattern for our lives that helps us to constantly remember Christ. Our happiness truly depeneds on that.

It Would not be Heaven

This week I volunteered at the Philadelphia temple open house. I also went there with my wife and daughters a few weeks ago for the tour. It was such a wonderful experience seeing that incredible house of the lord completed. I felt the spirit bear witness to me that the covenants that I made inside the temple are real and efficacious.

Before each tour, visitors watch a video about temples. I was struck by the powerful quote by Elder Holland that is featured prominently in that video. I don’t have the exact video before me, but I found that Elder Holland said something very similar as part of the PBS documentary “The Mormons.”;

“We believe that marriage is eternal. One of the fundamental premises of this church is that family is forever. I know, in my life, that it won’t be heaven without my wife, and it will not be heaven without my children, because that’s true, and if that’s some eternal principle, and if there’s something eternally splendid about that, then God in his goodness must have some way to let everybody share in as much of that as possible. And I believe that our doctrine points toward that.”

This doctrine truly does fill the soul with incredible gratitude and awe. For me, this doctrine is what helped me gain a witness of the restored gospel. My desire to be reunited with both my earthly and heavenly parents motivates me in all that I do. It is the most wondrous truth of the restoration.

I was reminded of Elder Holland’s quote when I read LeGrand Richard’s sermon “Revealed Truths of the Gospel” in the October 1973 conference. As frequently did, Elder Richards spoke of the truth that families are eternal.

Elder Richards felt that this principle was “plainly … taught in the holy scriptures.” I don’t know if I  agree with him on that point. I believe that eternal marriage is one of those precious truths that was lost or obscured with the passage of time. But I do believe that this principle is plainly taught in the hearts of mankind.

Elder Richards pointed out that even though few churches teach this doctrine, nevertheless many people believe it. He recounted conversations with pastors who admitted that they were not allowed to teach about eternal families in their churches, but nevertheless believed in it. He also quoted beautiful poetry reflecting this truth:

I wed thee forever, not for now

Not for the sham of earth’s brief years.

I wed thee for the life beyond the tears,

Beyond the heartache and clouded brow.

Love knows no grave, and it shall guide us, dear

When life’s spent candles flutter and burn low.

And then, Elder Richards said something very similar to what Elder Holland would later say about his family:

“Now this great eternal principle is one of the great truths that has been revealed through the restoration of the gospel. Personally I would just as soon believe that death was a complete annihilation of both body and spirit as to think that I would have to live on forever and forever without a continuation of the love ties that bind my wife and me together, and our family and our loved ones here in this life. Heaven will only be a projection of our life here.”

These two testimonies separated by over 30 years unify together in a magnificent harmony. The deepest longing of the human soul is fulfilled through God’s eternal plan for us all.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Helaman 8 (He is with Them)

“23 And behold, he is God, and he is with them, and he did manifest himself unto them, that they were redeemed by him; and they gave unto him glory, because of that which is to come.”
Nephi’s testimony of Christ is one of those stunning passages in the Book of Mormon which really makes you appreciate the power of this book. It testifies that all of the prophets of old from Abraham on, knew of Christ and rejoiced in him. Not only that, he manifested himself them. And not only that, he is “with them.”

This suggests that the  spirits of the already departed were able to mingle with the savior as he prepared for his mortal ministry. Perhaps he was able to visit them as they breathlessly awaited his coming. Regardless, we know that they were redeemed even before his coming because of their great faith in him.

What an extraordinary doctrine! What an extraordinary book.

What Message Would Christ Share With Us Today?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie began his address during the October 1973 conference with a piercing hypothetical:

“If the Lord himself had chosen to come down, open the conference, and address the Saints, what message would he have delivered? If he had elected and chosen to come and speak at this session, what word would he have given us for our blessing and benefit and salvation?”

And Elder McConkie’s response was equally profound:

“[W]e … operate under the principle that the word of eternal truth which is given to the children of men, whether it comes by his own voice or the voice of his servants, it is the same. And I had it impressed upon me, when President Lee opened the conference yesterday, and again when President Romney bore the persuasive and powerful and true witness that has just come from his lips, that if the Lord himself were here, those statements which came from them are the very things that he would say at this time.”

We hear that the Prophet is Christ’s mouthpiece on the earth so often that this phrase has become trite and cliche. But do we really believe it? Do we really understand what this truth means for us?

When we read the Ensign, do we respond as if Christ is speaking to us through those pages? However imperfect our leaders are, do we really have confidence that they are receiving revelation for the lord? That their instruction is the will of the lord and the mind of the lord for our day?

Without that confidence, we will not have the strength to withstand the crush of the world. We will not have the strength to stand up for divine truth in the face of changing world conditions. We will not have the strength to endure to the end.

I am grateful to be in a Church led by a Prophet and Apostles who speak the words of God. I echo Elder McConkie’s powerful testimony:

When I think that the Lord has a living oracle guiding his earthly kingdom, and that there are apostles and prophets who walk the earth again; when I think that the Lord has given us—the gift and power of the Holy Ghost so that we have the revelations of heaven and the power to sanctify our souls; when I think of the unnumbered blessings—the gifts,the miracles, the promise that the family unit shall go on everlastingly, all the blessings that are poured out upon us,and offered freely to all men everywhere—my desire to praise the Lord and proclaim his goodness and grace knows no bounds.”

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Helaman 7 (Oh, that I could have had my days)

“7 Oh, that I could have had my days in the days when my father Nephi first came out of the land of Jerusalem, that I could have joyed with him in the promised land; then were his people easy to be entreated, firm to keep the commandments of God, and slow to be led to do iniquity; and they were quick to hearken unto the words of the Lord–
8 Yea, if my days could have been in those days, then would my soul have had joy in the righteousness of my brethren.

9 But behold, I am consigned that these are my days, and that my soul shall be filled with sorrow because of this the wickedness of my brethren.”

It’s easy to give oneself over to longing for a past glory day. It is easy to imagine that things would have been easier in decades past. Or to think that people were righteous or easy to be entreated.

And there may even be some truth to this. Mainstream culture and gospel values had a long period of overlap which has coincided with great church growth and improved standing. And when I read of restoration era America, I am shocked by the degree to which even the poor and poorly educated were biblically literate. In some ways, we have fallen from a great heyday.

But our days offer their own unique opportunities and challenges. We can communicate with people from around the world instantly. We can gain great knowledge from the treasured works of history in the palm of our hands. We are living in an era of incredible potential.

And lest we forget, that same biblically literate populace murdered a prophet. The ‘righteous’ people of Nephi’s day rebelled and was tempted by whoredoms. There have been righteous and wicked people in every generation.

Wherever we find our selves, or whenever, we must act our part. We must do whatever good we can where we have been placed. We must, to quote President Uchtdorf, lift where we stand. It won’t do to lament a halcyon past. We must improve the present and build a better future.