Book of Mormon

Matthew 4: The Temptation of Christ and the Vision of the Tree of Life

Feb 9, 2019
4 min read

I’m not sure if anyone has made this connection before, but in studying Matthew 4, I noticed that there were some pretty striking similarities to what Jesus went through in the desert and the vision that Lehi and Nephi had.

The Wilderness

Both accounts begin in the wilderness.

  • Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness… (Matt 4:1)
  • I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness. And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him. And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. (1 Nephi 8:4-5)

Hunger and Fruit

In the desert, Jesus has fasted for 40 days and nights while in Lehi’s vision, he tastes the fruit of the tree after several hours (not days). This contrast between extreme hunger and the vivid description of tasting the fruit is striking.

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Prosper / Cut Off

Dec 5, 2018
3 min read

Lehi obtained an explicit promise from the Lord (2 Nephi 1:9) concerning his people, and in its concise form it reads:

Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments
ye shall prosper in the land;
but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments
ye shall be cut off from my presence.
– 2 Nephi 1:20

This promise is in the form of parallelism where the keeping or not keeping of the commandments brings prosperity or a state of being cut off from the presence of God.

You’ll notice that I have colored some particular words and phrases in each verse where I see some similar themes. The reward for keeping the commandments is prospering in the land, and earlier in verse 9 Lehi breaks down what this prosperity will entail:

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The Why of Weaknesses

Nov 20, 2018
4 min read

This past weekend I attended a conference at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX where President Nelson and others spoke. He made a particular point of talking about the weaknesses that we all have to one degree or another and segued his message into Ether 12:27.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.”

It’s probably one of the more well-known and quoted verses in the Book of Mormon, and I have pondered it off an on for as long as I have been aware of it. What weakness is God showing us? Will he reveal some hidden weakness that we don’t perceive? Perhaps. If we already see the weakness, what purpose would there be for God to show us something that we already see?

As I heard this verse read at the conference, the Spirit framed it in a particular way in my mind. One of my favorite spiritual gifts is the ability to see things in whole or in part as God sees them. I saw a connection between that gift and this verse.

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Truth is not found within

Oct 30, 2018
4 min read

There is an ideology today that I hear quite often and it is poor in principle and flawed in doctrine. You may recognize this ideology as it appears in the following forms:

  1. “Live your truth”
  2. “Be who you really are”
  3. “Be your most authentic self”

What if “your truth” is that only the strong survive and that whatever you can take from the weak you should? What if you are an angry person, short-tempered, or enjoy lusting after the flesh? What if you look at yourself as you are now and realize that you are incredibly narcissistic and do not truly care about the people around you? These ideologies initially feel warm and fuzzy, but they require you to cut yourself off from the greater realities of life and truth.Read Full Post

The Serpent and the Liahona: Look and Live

Aug 27, 2018
12 min read

Note the serpent on the side of this artistic depiction of the Liahona.

I have compiled a list of parallel themes between Moses’ serpent and Lehi’s Liahona that occur in Alma 33:19-23 and Alma 37:38-47. I’ve been studying this for a little while now trying to figure out how many of these parallels there, what this might mean, and how I might explain it.

After staring at a marked-up comparison between these two sets of scriptures for some time, I thought I’d go through each theme, write some ideas, and then include excerpts from the scriptures. This turned out to be a worthwhile way for me to explore these various themes and I have each of them here to share.

Type

The serpent and the Liahona were both considered to be a type; that which represents something else or a figure of something to come. This means that God caused them to be used for at least two reasons: 1. to solve an immediate problem and 2. to illustrate a greater meaning and truth. Alma is going to explain the details of all this for us.

Serpent – Alma 33Liahona – Alma 37
…a type was raised up…(vs.19)…is there not a type in this thing? (vs.45)

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When the Precepts of Men Get Placed Above the Commandments of God

Aug 21, 2018
6 min read

Nephi prophesied that in the last day groups would contend with one another and that they would be built up “not unto the Lord” (2 Nephi 28:3)

These groups have authorities that will “contend one with another, and they shall teach with their learning.” (vs.4) They will say, “Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept;” (vs.5) and “Behold, hearken ye unto my precept;” (vs.6)

They will teach that God “will justify in committing a little sin…and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (vs.8)

“Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines” (vs.9) They will be corrupted “Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their [groups] have become corrupted, and their [groups] are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.” (vs.12)

From this point on, Nephi is speaking the words of the Lord who explains, “they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (vs.14) He warns, “O the wise, and the learned, …and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!” (vs.15)

Strong language.

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God Stepping Down

Jul 15, 2018
3 min read

“Knowest thou the condescension of God?”

This question was posed to Nephi in a vision by one he refers to as the Spirit of the Lord. (1 Nephi 11:16) I’ve read this verse many, many times and I’ve often heard young people mispronounce it as “condensation” which always cracks me up.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately though as I’ve been hovering around the tree of life vision for several months now; I keep coming back to it and finding things that interest me.

The wording of this question always struck me as somewhat awkward, and what is being implied by the word “condescension” isn’t clear. In fact, in all of scripture, we only find it 5 times and all of those occurrences are in the first three books of the Book of Mormon.

Lately, I have been struck by how shocking this question may have initially been to Nephi. In the course of his vision, he is shown the same tree from his father’s vision, then a beautiful woman, and then he gets asked this question that at this point seems out of the blueRead Full Post

The Three Things Required to Build Upon The Rock of Christ

May 18, 2018
13 min read

There are 3 things that Jesus taught that enable one to build upon what he called his “rock.”

Building upon his rock is critical to find safety from the floods and winds that cause one to fall and be received into “the gates of hell.” (3 Nephi 11:39-40,14:27,18:13)

The fact that Jesus mentions building upon his rock 3 times in his visit to the ancient American survivors soon after his resurrection should catch our attention. The number 3 is associated with themes such as divine influence or emphasis and structure. When things come in threes, take note because something important is being shared!

1. The Rock of His Doctrine

The first way to build upon the rock of Christ is mentioned in 3 Nephi 11 and is part of the first things that he taught the gathered survivors in Bountiful. Jesus expresses his concern about disputations and contention (3 Nephi 11:29-30) among the people and desires to abolish it by clearly defining what his doctrine is and mentions the phrase “my doctrine” 8 times and “this is my doctrine” 4 times.

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The Simplicity of Scripture: Information, Interpretation, and Inclination

Mar 18, 2018
7 min read

In Alma 37, Alma the Younger describes the meaning of certain relics to his son, Helaman who is about to come into possession of them.

The Liahona, Interpreters, and Gold Plates were among the items placed in Moroni’s box that was later unearthed by Joseph Smith. Missing from this list is the sword of Laban which I think the Nephites probably possessed their entire history up until Moroni. Why is it not mentioned? I’m not sure but this led me to wonder if the items that were listed had any significance or were related in any way.

Personally, I find Alma to be a very sharp individual and it isn’t uncommon to find many complex layers of meaning in his writings. He presents three particular kinds of relics to Helaman, three sets of metal plates, the Interpreters, and the Liahona. What I took from my latest reading of Alma 37 is the idea that these relics are representative of three essential elements that are necessary to make the best use of scripture: information, interpretation, and inclination.

In his list of items, the Liahona is key because it is a prime illustration of how our own inclinations determine the efficacy of scripture in our lives.

Information

Alma had many records in his possession and he highlighted the plates of Nephi, the plates of brass, and the Jaredite record which consisted of 24 plates of gold. Alma emphasized that it was important to keep a general record of their people for a sacred and wise purpose. The brass plates contained their scripture and genealogy. Not only did the brass plates Read Full Post

The Conditions of Moroni’s Promise

Dec 17, 2017
3 min read

Moroni chapter 10 is just excellent in many ways, but I wonder if we are too quick to gloss over some important points.

We love Moroni 10:3-5 and even call it “Moroni’s promise,” and indeed it is a kind of promise. Note that Moroni wrote chapter 10 to a specific audience: “I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites…” (vs.1) The title page of the Book of Mormon says that it is “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile…” so I think this ‘promise’ can also apply to anyone else in that same sense.

Typically, I see people focusing on verses 4 and 5 which deal with praying and receiving an answer.

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

What they tend to gloss over is the importance of verse 3 which contains additional conditions that must be met to ‘know the truth’ of the Book of Mormon.

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.”

The first line is interesting, and I think I’ve read it wrong forever. Typically when I readRead Full Post

Potential Literary Patterns in Helaman 5

Nov 26, 2017
5 min read

I was reading the words that Helaman taught to his sons, Nephi and Lehi and noticed some potential patterns. Helaman appears to have taught many things to his sons but we only have a few of these words recorded in Helaman 5:6-12. Whether these patterns were intended or not is unknown. Literary patterns breathe life into mere words by incorporating techniques that produce vivid imagery and emotional effects. Chiasmus is a tool used to draw attention to a particular point or theme and there appears to be some use of it by Helaman.

Usually when I see a word repeated many times or patterns of identical or contrasting text I stop and widen my scope to see if there is a pattern and how far it extends. It certainly causes me to spend more time with a particular section of text whether or not any legitimate literary patterns are being used or not. We don’t know for sure what the author was thinking and some of these patterns may just be coincidental. Nevertheless, they can provide an interesting way of playing with the text and examining the message.Read Full Post

Insights into Patterns of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

Nov 18, 2017
13 min read

I have been working off and on since Sept. 2015 with a particular way of analyzing Isaiah in the Book of Mormon using a couple of spreadsheets. Using this method, I discovered some patterns that reveal some impressive things about the text.

Key factors of analysis:

  • Identifying every single Isaiah reference in the Book of Mormon.
  • Comparing the Book of Mormon references to Avraham Gileadi’s 7-part literary structure.
  • Examining where these Book of Mormon references fall within the structure of Isaiah’s books and Avraham Gileadi’s 7-part literary structure.
  • Exploring how the 7-part structure themes flow through the narrative of the Book of Mormon.

Insights that came out of this process:

  1. There is a chiasm involving the names of the people that quote Isaiah that clusters around the chapters related to salvation and loyalty themes.
  2. Nephi is the only one that quotes from the negative themes (the first 33 chapters of Isaiah’s 66 chapters).
  3. Nephi and Jacob initially focus on the positive themes and then Nephi switches almost exclusively to the negative themes.
  4. The small plates of Nephi contrast 6 of the 7 negative themes with the salvation and loyalty themes.
  5. People in Mormon’s abridgment, namely Abinadi, Jesus, and Moroni, quote exclusively from the salvation themes.

I’ll get into further details involving all these points below with graphics to illustrate these points. First, I need to explain some of Avraham Gileadi’s Isaiah research.Read Full Post

Incomprehensible Joy

Nov 12, 2017
4 min read

I was actually listening to the audio version of the Book of Mormon while mowing my lawn and Alma 28:8 stuck out to me:

“And this is the account of Ammon and his brethren, their journeyings in the land of Nephi,

their sufferings in the land,

their sorrows, and

their afflictions, and

their incomprehensible joy…”

I love the juxtaposition of the items listed here, and the last one is so jarring that it catches your attention. This verse reminds me of life in a nutshell; the suffering, sorrow, and afflictions are par for the course. Then there is this incomprehensible joy, but what do we understand about it?

I believe that joy as mentioned in the Book of Mormon has a connection to being Born of God and receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost. No matter where we stand on earth, we’ll have the suffering, sorrow, afflictions, and periodic happy moments but this incomprehensible joy is something known only to those who find God and partake of the fruit of the tree of life. The word “joy” is mentioned more in the Book of Mormon than in any of the other standard works. Here are a few of my favorites:Read Full Post

Mormon’s Framing of Alma’s Story in the Context of a Vision

Nov 8, 2017
16 min read

I’ve been stuck in the Lehi/Nephi vision lately, not intentionally, I just keep finding things in the vision or other accounts that circle back around to it. I’m not complaining though because I’m having a great deal of fun with all these discoveries.

This latest one has been really fun and there is probably a lot more to discover here. What I noticed was a parallel between the conversion of Alma’s people in Mosiah 18 and the tree of life vision. What makes this more compelling to me is that I think Mormon intentionally used language to not only make this parallel but to inject another message, one concerning the meaning of his name: Mormon.

This chapter details the conversion and growth of Alma’s little group of saints but embedded in the telling of this story are suspiciously similar parallels to the tree of life vision. First, I think it is important to notice that this chapter is framed by the name Mormon which is mentioned 12 times in the chapter. Half of those occurrences happen in a single verse which I think was done to get our attention.

We already know that Mormon is the name of the one abridging this record, but we also learn that “Mormon” is also the name of a:

  1. Place (vs.4,30)
  2. King (vs.4)
  3. Fountain/Waters (vs.5,30)
  4. Thicket/Forest (vs.5,30)

Now let’s explore the many parallels between the story of Alma’s people and the vision of the tree of life. This is going to be a wild ride…Read Full Post

Lehi’s Firm Compassion via Junior Ganymede

Nov 5, 2017
4 min read

The following was written by G. at Junior Ganymede on Nov 2, 2017.

After Lehi’s boys went off to Jerusalem on their dangerous mission, Sariah, mother-like, started to imagine all that could go wrong. She expressed her worry by attacking her husband.

For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying:

Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.

And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father.

Lehi’s response is something we can learn from.Read Full Post

Shifting the “Because”: Overcoming the Victim Mentality

Oct 31, 2017
2 min read

In 2 Nephi 4, commonly referred to as “Nephi’s psalm,” there is an interesting pattern and reversal that centers around the word “because.” First, here is the list of things Nephi uses to justify his sorrows:

  1. my heart sorroweth because of my flesh;
  2. my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
  3. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins
  4. my heart groaneth because of my sins

Nephi appears to be placing the blame on external influences for how he feels. He sees himself as a victim of these influences and in so doing, allows them to have power over him. Then we see a change in focus as he begins to question his own perspective. Nephi then begins to recall all of the amazing things that God has done for him in his life. This new focus prompts several “why should” questions in regards to those “because of” justifications.

  1. why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?
  2. why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh?
  3. Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul?
  4. Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

Nephi isn’t getting an answer to prayer here, he isn’t doing anything spectacular, he is simply thinking. He is revolving these issues in his mind and weighing them. In this process, he finds the power to shift his perspective and reorient his trajectory. Fortified with a renewed resolve, Nephi drops some firm covenantal “do nots” in opposition to those “because of” justifications.

  1. Do not anger again because of mine enemies.
  2. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions.

Then, the final “because” comes into play:

“May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite!” (vs.32)

Nephi concludes that when you trust the arm of flesh, whether it is your own or that of others, you will experience failure and even tragedy. Nephi doesn’t mince words and straight up calls it a curse when you put your trust in fallible beings. Nephi realizes that even though he fails himself by giving in to sin, and others fail him by becoming his enemy, God has never failed him and never will.

“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” (vs.34)

Through this, Nephi escapes his mental prison of victimhood and realizes the power that comes from faith in God. He will still sin, and he may never make peace with his enemies but God will always walk beside him. One will never find true peace in this world, not really, not lasting and fulfilling peace. When we put our trust in God and allow him to prove himself to us, we will find that peace that we seek.

The Space Between the Rod and the Tree

Oct 28, 2017
4 min read

I was reading Elder Uchtdorf’s Three Sisters talk from this past General Conference and something he said prompted me to look at Lehi’s vision again. I went looking for a particular verse that illustrated the moment the people went from holding the rod to grasping the fruit of the tree.

“…they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” (1 Nephi 8:30)

Notice that the iron rod in this vision has a beginning and an end. I don’t think that means that God’s word has a beginning or an end so why use this as a metaphor? There could be many reasons, but I’ll focus on what comes to my mind.

First, consider what hands represent.Read Full Post

Bricolage and Eclecticism

Oct 19, 2017
4 min read

There was a conference that went on recently that my brother-in-law brought back to my attention called New Perspectives on Joseph Smith and Translation (His in-law are co-founders of FaithMatters.org). I was interested to hear what this panel of speakers had to say and compare it with an enjoyable MormonMatters podcast I listened to a couple of years back. If you are interested in theories about the mechanics of Joseph Smith’s translation process, these are intriguing resources.

Terryl Givens was a featured speaker at the New Perspectives conference, and I found his association of bricolage with the translation process to be intriguing. Bricolage is a French term that describes the construction of ideas by using whatever is at hand. (Merriam-Webster) In the past, Givens has regarding Joseph Smith being an “inspired eclecticist” and a “sponge.” (An Approach to Thoughtful, Honest and Faithful Mormonism) An eclectic will select “what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles” or will compose from “elements drawn from various sources; (Merriam-Webster)

The Book of Mormon came down to us with a mix of voices. Most notably we seeRead Full Post

God’s Justice as Taught by the Book of Mormon, Qur’an, and Joseph Smith

Oct 15, 2017
4 min read

These quotes have been sitting in my notebook for a while and a recent conversation with a friend brought them back to my attention. What I find remarkable is how nicely they fit together and convey this idea that all people on earth have been given a portion of God’s light and truth.

The Qur’an and Joseph quotes talk about a reconciliation in the afterlife when more will be revealed as to how this all works. Personally, I find these teachings bring great peace of mind and understanding when pondered.

I have found tremendous insights from other faith traditions around the world that have brought me closer to God and my fellow man. 

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The Lost in Nephi’s Vision

Sep 9, 2017
5 min read

“And I also beheld… a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world. And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree…” (1 Nephi 8:21)

It seems like this represents everyone in the world all searching for “the path” the truth and the meaning of life, a connection with the divine. Nobody begins on the path, they must search for it.

“And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree. And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.” (vs.22-23)

One group of people that found that path went forward and followed it, but thenRead Full Post