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.

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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

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mormon 4 (Delight in Bloodshed)

11 And it is impossible for the tongue to describe, or for man to write a perfect description of the horrible scene of the blood and carnage which was among the people, both of the Nephites and of the Lamanites; and every heart was hardened, so that they delighted in the shedding of blood continually.
The Nephites and Lamanites had both reached such a hardened condition that they not only fought but delighted in warfare. This condition is a new one even among the Lamanites. Previously, conflict had been primarily tribal or territorial. Even when led by depraved leaders like Amalickiah, the Lamanites had been motivated by specific grievances and disagreements. One does not sense that the people as a whole took pleasure from warfare. And the Nephites likewise fought only in defense of liberty. By contract, the blood list that enveloped the people meant that warfare became an end rather than simply a mean. In such a condition, it is no wonder that the people were beyond feeling and unable to repent or change.

Journey through the Book of Mormon: Mormon 3 (In Vain)

2 And it came to pass that the Lord did say unto me: Cry unto this people–Repent ye, and come unto me, and be ye baptized, and build up again my church, and ye shall be spared.
3 And I did cry unto this people, but it was in vain; and they did not realize that it was the Lord that had spared them, and granted unto them a chance for repentance. And behold they did harden their hearts against the Lord their God.

Mormon was commanded to do something even though the result was certain failure. Do we sometimes wonder when we feel prompted to do something only to not have that thing work out? Such experiences can cause us to doubt the influence of the Lord in our lives. But they shouldn’t. Instead. We should have confidence that the Lord sees the end from the beginning and knows the impact of our actions far more than we do.

We read repeatedly that the people did not repent as a result of Mormon’s preaching, and that is likely true on the aggregate. But I do wonder if Mormon’s actions nevertheless affected individuals in ways that he never understood. Regardless, I think we can have confidence that God fully sees the bigger picture. He knows exactly the experiences we need to have and how we can best impact others.

Satan’s Triumph

Elder Elred Smith shared a fable that really struck close to home:

” The story is told that Satan called a council of his agents and asked how they would combat the forces of righteousness. One said, “I’ll go and tell them it isn’t true.” Satan said, “No, that wouldn’t do.” The second said, “I’ll tell them it’s only half true.” “No,” Satan said, “that’s not enough.” The third said, “I’ll go and tell them it’s all true, but there is no need to hurry.” “Go,” Satan said. “That will get them every time.””
Satan is devious and will try anything to destroy faith. His most pernicious strategy is to cause us to be distracted or lose focus.

The early members of the church had an incredible sense of urgency that propelled them to act. It seems to me that we have become far more complacent in our day. We are far enough from the events of the restoration that they are distant past. And though the second coming is nigh, it still feels like a distant dream. We therefore do not have that same fire or urgency. We wait and believe that we can serve tomorrow rather than today. And when Satan persuades us to do so, he achieves a great victory.

Just One Drop

Today at sacrament meeting as they passed around the water trays, I noticed that the cups were barely filled with water. As I took the cup to my lips, I thought about the story of the woman with a blood issue who knew that if she touched the garment of the savior she would be healed (Matthew 89)

20 ¶And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment:

21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.

22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.

Like her, we can have confidence of the healing power of the savior. Each week, as we partake of the sacrament we can come unto the savior and metaphorically touch the helm of his garment. And just as the woman knew that just one touch was all that was needed, we can be confident that only one drop is enough.  

Why Not Believe?

We are now moving on to the October 1974 General Conference.  And the first session began with a bang with a very forceful call to repentance. The theme that stood out to me the most while reading the talks is that it is so easy to rationalize away our conduct. But at the end of the day, we are called to repent and change now and we can be confident that the Lord will help us to do so now.

President Kimball spoke about the need to refrain from many of the prevalent sins and transgressions of the world, and especially about sexual sin. His words remain timely even though they are even more likely to discomfort today. But what stood out to me was this moving passage:

“Remember that the coming of the Lord approaches, and some difficult-to-answer questions will be asked by a divine Judge who will be hard to satisfy with silly explanations and rationalizations. He will judge justly, you may be sure.”

Elder Maxwell’s talk “Why Not Now?” hit some very similar notes and did not with elder Maxwell’s characteristic rhetorical flourish:

“Indeed, one of the most cruel games anyone can play with self is the “not yet” game—hoping to sin just a bit more before ceasing; to enjoy the praise of the world a little longer before turning away from the applause; to win just once more in the wearying sweepstakes of materialism; to be chaste, but not yet; to be good neighbors, but not now. One can play upon the harpstrings of hesitations and reservations just so long, and then one faces that special moment—a moment when what has been sensed, mutely, suddenly finds voice and cries out with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.’ (Mark 9:24.)

The truth is that “not yet” usually means “never.” Trying to run away from the responsibility to decide about Christ is childish. Pilate sought to refuse responsibility for deciding about Christ, but Pilate’s hands were never dirtier than just after he had washed them.”

We are in this mortal existence precisely to make us choose in the scope of time. We do not have eternity to make choices because this life was given to us as a day of choosing. Of course, we do believe that those deceased can continue to hear the message, but nevertheless, we need to know living righteously is to be done now rather than later. We must love the Lord enough to make whatever changes are necessary.

Elder Maxwell closed with a clever take on the second coming: “And, if you sense that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, why not do so now? For in the coming of that collective confession, it will mean much less to kneel down when it is no longer possible to stand up!”

If we will bow down eventually, then why wait?