Journey through the Book of Mormon: Ether 1 (His Brother)

34 And the brother of Jared being a large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord, Jared, his brother, said unto him: Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words.
35 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded.

The Brother of Jared is clearly the spiritual superstar in this story. His prayers ensure that the language of his family was not scattered. His prayers lead them to the promised land. His prayers lead him to see Christ.

But I am equally impressed by Jared himself. He had the faith to ask his brother to pray to God. And he had the insight to ask to be led to a promised land. 
Sometimes it is just as hard or harder to have faith in the spiritual strength of others as it is to develop that strength in oneself.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mormon 9 (Racked with Guilt)

3 Then will ye longer deny the Christ, or can ye behold the Lamb of God? Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?4 Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.
We all rationalize our mistakes and excuse our poor behavior. No one wants to admit that he was in the wrong. We are also reluctant to admit our dependence on God and our need for him in our lives. We want to be perfect and perfectly independent. But Mormon’s warning is stark. At the end of the day, all those rationalizations and excuses will melt away. We will be brought before God and forced to confront how we used our time on earth. Were we kind and compassionate towards our fellow man? Did we serve and love others? Did we serve and love Christ? If not, then we will be condemned – not by another but by ourselves. We will feel great guilt and shame.

The solution is both simple and difficult to implement:

“6 O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day.”

We must turn to God and be cleansed by him. That require mighty effort and prayer. And it requires a willingness to serve and follow him. But it is the only way that we can be cleansed in the final day.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mormon 8 (Canker the Soul)

” And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.

For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.

O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies–because of the praise of the world?”

I don’t know if I ever fully appreciated how applicable these verses were to us and our day. Truly, the love of money is the canker on the souls of so many. The desire for status and prestige is pandemic. And that is true even within the Church. We live in a culture where having the New and hottest thing is everything. We would rather be wealthy on earth than wealthy eternally. We would rather serve mammon than God.

But the praise of the world is of little value. It leads to endless misery. It leads to guilt and regret. If we focus our hearts on those things, then we are denying ourselves the opportunity to truly serve and do good to others.

Yesterday, I saw a production of The Christmas Carol. That story teaches powerfully that the love of money is a destructive force that eats away at our soul. Instead, we must realize that we are on this earth not for ourselves but to serve and help others. We are here to be disciples of Christ.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mormon 7 (It Shall be Well with You)

Mormon’s final invitation to the remnant of his people is poignant and beautiful. It is also unmistakenably direct. He wants there to be no doubt, that the remnant of his people remains part of covenant Israel, and that they will be accepted if they turn to Christ, repent, and follow him.

” 5 Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up. …

10 And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment. Amen.”

Despite the passing of centuries, Mormon’s promise still resonates with those who have been broken off from the house of Israel. His invitation also touched my soul, as a member of the Jewish people. God has not forsaken his people. He will not forsake us. His arms are outstretched to us always.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mormon 6 (Awful Fear of Death)

“7 And it came to pass that my people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them.”

This verse reminded me of Elder Bednar’s recent talk about fear. As Elder Bednar explained, fear can be dispelled by faith in Christ. On the other hand, those that are without Christ do not have reason to hope. Therefore, when they are facing death, they are filled with horror. By following Christ, we can avoid that feeling, and we can be hopeful even in the face of temporal destruction.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mormon 5 (Like Chaff)

16 For behold, the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world; and they are driven about as chaff before the wind.
17 They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father.
18 But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they.
I wanted to point out this beautiful extended metaphor. When the Nephites had faith, they were led by God and had Christ as the good shepherd. Therefore, they were purposefully led by a masterful hand. Now, they are led by Satan and driven too and fro without a true guide. 

Satan’s path can be exhilarating because it takes us upon the stormy waves. But unlike the Lord’s way, following Satan’s direction will not lead us to where we want to go. We will be in his power without the ability to steer or direct ourselves.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mormon 5 (Care for the House of Israel)

10 And now behold, this I speak unto their seed, and also to the Gentiles who have care for the house of Israel, that realize and know from whence their blessings come.
Mormon speaks at length in this chapter about our day and the conditions of the world when the Gospel will come forth. One condition would be that many of the gentiles would have a feeling of stewardship for the Jews and a newfound recognition that the blessings of Christendom all flow from the Jewish people. 

It seems that with such an increase there was also a corresponding increase in anti-semitism and hatred for the Jewish people– culminating in the holocuast.

Nevertheless, the past 200 years have seen a stunning reversal of centuries of ill will between Jew and Gentile, as Gentile nations worked for the restoration of Israel. God has inspired many people with a great love and care for his chosen people