Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 5 (Far from God)

13 For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

How often might we fall into this trap of claiming that we are disciples of the Lord but being a stranger to him? We are engaging in the sin of hypocrisy when we do so. We claim to be of Christ and yet our hearts and thoughts are really far from him.

We hurt ourselves through such hypocrisy as we lose out on opportunities to serve and to be transformed spiritually. But perhaps as significantly, we hurt those we care about. Because they can sense or deception and duplicity. They will know if we do not truly practice what we preach. We will shatter faith and wound those we hold most dear if we claim to serve the master but forget him in our day to day conduct.

This tendency is present in every one of us. It’s another manifestation of what King Benjamin described as the natural man.

Fortunately, Benjamin described a solution. Fitting his focus on service, he emphasizes that we must “be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works.” Our good deeds when done with proper faith in Christ help us remain grounded in the Gospel. For as we serve our fellowman, we are also in the service of our God.

It’s interesting to see the different emphasis that Benjamin puts on enduring to the end when compared with Nephi. Nephi is more concerned with making covenants, feasting on the word of God, and hearkening to the spirit. Benjamin focuses much more on service and Christian discipleship in practice. Both are true and essential.

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Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 5 (Disposition to Do Good)

2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

7 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.

King Benjamin’s people receive the Gospel with all of their heart and in that instant their desires are transformed. Because their hearts are changed, they have become sons and daughters of God and Christ. This is the very change that Benjamin described a few chapters ago when he spoke about no longer having a desire to harm one another, but to love in peace.

This disposition is one that I can testify comes as part of the process of conversion. But it is a hard one to maintain. The natural man always beckons. He always calls us to be selfish and self-centered. He lusts after temporal pleasure and praise. He calls us to envy and spite our neighbor. He leads us to quarrel and anger at those we care about.

But in moments when we seek to have his spirit to be with us, we can drive away the natural man and become a saint. In sacred places like church or the temple we can most acutely feel this tug or disposition to do good. We can over time slowly overcome the natural man and become saints. This process is slow, but it is essential. And it is only if we retain in remembrance our remission of sins that it becomes possible.

I’m grateful for a plan of salvation and a savior that allow me to overcome my weakness and folly. I am grateful for the grace of God that takes unworthy and sinful me and purifies me so that I can eventually become like my savior and like my father in heaven.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 4 (Cause thy Neighbor to Commit Sin Also)

“28 And I would that ye should remember, that whosoever among you borroweth of his neighbor should return the thing that he borroweth, according as he doth agree, or else thou shalt commit sin; and perhaps thou shalt cause thy neighbor to commit sin also.”

This is an example of a verse speaking about how one person choosing to sin can “cause” another to sin. King Benjamin’s recognized that we are flawed human beings and that one’s conduct can provoke or cause another to sin. This doesn’t excuse the person from the choice of sinning, but it does mean that we bear responsibility to not unduly provoke our brothers or sisters.

People today unfortunately reject this premise. They are deeply offended by the suggestion that one should control his conduct, dress, behavior, or attitude in order to not provoke others to sin. But this is a deeply Biblical and Book of Mormon rooted notion.

There is of course danger to blaming others for provoking sin. Ultimately, it is God that knows or hearts and our minds. He is one qualified to judge. We should avoid shaming or stigmatizing others. And we should cast the greater blame on the one that commits sin.

But the notion that we bear no responsibility for doing our part to prevent others from sinning is the lie that Satan told Cain. It is an unchristian hearsay.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 4 (Retain in Remembrance)

11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.
12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

I love King Benjamin’s description of both the joys that the Gospel brings into the believer’s life and what we must do to maintain that feeling. Benjamin understood that knowing Christ and being a member of his Church brings exceedingly great joy. Tasting of his love allows us to experience a remission of sins and true peace.

The key to retaining that feeling is  nothing more than simple humility. We must remember that we are dependent on God for grace. We must retain our dependence and call on him in daily prayer. We must truly believe in the promises of God. If this seems simple, its because it is. Yet, it is also deceptively difficult to do. For the natural man wants to rely on his own strength. Humility and turning to God are anathama. And so the struggle to retain the joy we felt when converted remains. The natural man must be overcome through the spirit.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 3 (As though he had already come)

13 And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them.

I’ve said this several times as I’ve posted about the Book of Mormon. But these verses again reveal one of the most radical doctrines of the Book of Mormon and of Latter-day revelation generally. Prophets throughout time knew and taught of Christ and moreover those who believed in him were blessed as though he had already come among them. While some blessings would need to wait Christ’s actual victory over death, most of the personal aspects of the Atonement were applicable from the dawn of time. Christ’s word and his bond as savior was so sure that all who came before his earthly ministry could with surety rely on his merits and grace. What confidence that inspires in the savior!

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 2 (Immediately Bless You)

23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

I love King Benjamin’s declaration that when we keep the commandment we are immediately blessed. But at first glance, this doesn’t accord with our reality. So many keep commandments and yet experience opposition and persecution. Some have even died for their commitment to keep the commandments of God. So in what way can we always say that immediate blessings come from keeping the commandments.

Ultimately, some answers come when we keep God’s plan of salvation in mind. The purpose of the plan is nothing more and nothing less than exaltation- transforming us into beings that are like our Father in heaven. In order to become like him, we must first learn to fully yield our hearts to him. We must become humble and teachable. We must show our willingness to hearken.

And when we choose to keep a commandment, we engage in some of that process of hearkening to the Lord. So in that sense, even if keeping a commandment leads to opposition and persecution we have still been rewarded. Our greater willingness to follow God is a reward in and of itself.

Truly, God can never be in our debt. He created this world for us and he does nothing save it be out of a desire to help us be exalted. Every good thing we do ultimately allows Heavenly Father to further conform our will to his. And of course, all of this is only possible because God created this world for us and provided a savior for us. Therefore, we are truly always in his debt.

Your Heart’s Desire

Elder Theodore M. Burton spoke of a question that he was often asked by a cousin of his: “If you had your heart’s desire and could take it with you out of this world, what would you take?” For Elder Burton, the answer was obvious, “My family and loved ones!”

I agree with Elder Burton, there is nothing I want more than to be with my family, both earthly and heavenly, for all eternity. And I am therefore so grateful for the knowledge that the “possibility of an eternal family relationship is what is meant by exaltation and eternal life.” It is truly the greatest gift of God and what he desires for all of us to achieve.

Paradoxically, in order to gain exaltation and eternal happiness, we sometimes must lose the presence and comfort of our family in this life. Countless have experienced the tragedy that comes when required to choose between following the Lord and keeping the love and admiration of family members. As a convert to the Church, I experienced this as my family responded negatively to my decision to join the Church. And with my decision to serve a mission in particular, I faced rebuke and rejection.

Yet, as I made the choice to serve, I knew that ultimately what I was doing was exactly what I needed to do in order to secure eternal happiness for myself and my family. I knew that one day those that rejected me would thank me for my decision.

I have long been struck by the savior’s words to the Rich Young Man that are repeated with minor variations in all three of the synoptic gospels:

Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.…'” (Mark 10:29)

As I have reflected on this promise in recent weeks as a result of my father’s passing, I have been again comforted and reassured that it is indeed true. If we are “[w]illing to pay the full price of exaltation,” which price is following the savior and being willing to lose all for his sake, then we there is no blessing that will be denied us. “eternal preservation of my family relationship can be my inheritance in God’s kingdom if I will pay the price to achieve it.”

If we remain true and faithful in spite of opposition, then we shall one day be as Isaiah promised “repairer[s] of the breach” and “restorer[s] of paths to dwell in.” We shall be able to “raise up the foundations of many generations” and make possible the exaltation of those we love dear.

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