In 1 Nephi chapter 4 right at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we encounter a narrative where a young man is instructed by God to kill an unconscious individual.
I have to admit, on the surface, this is not a very appealing idea to entertain. I would like to share some insights to this account in hopes that it can offer some reasons as to why this happened the way that it did and what Nephi’s motivations may have been.Read Full Post5 Comments
“Now, the decrees of God are unalterable; therefore, the way is prepared that whosoever will may walk therein and be saved.” – Alma 41:8
Alma said these words to a struggling son named Corianton who had committed some serious sins. There are three important principles outlined in this sentence that go along with some other observations I have made in recent weeks.
- God’s decrees cannot be altered.
- The way is prepared.
- Whoever walks in the way will be saved.
To some, the idea of God being unchangeable may sound constricting and limiting. But imagine how frustrating it would be if you were trying to design an airplane and the laws of physics just kept changing on you continually. Imagine trying to bake a cake when all of a sudden it required cold to cook instead of heat. Imagine if electricity all of a sudden worked like water and water like electricity.Read Full Post0 Comments
I can’t think of a more spot-on description of the virtual, media-fueled cloud of blabbering that surrounds us than the great and spacious building mentioned first in Lehi’s vision in the Book of Mormon.
The building had the characteristics of being large, spacious, and stood in the air, high above the earth. (1 Nephi 8:26) One implication is that this building had no foundation. It was filled will all kinds of people of every age and sex, and they all wore very fine clothes.
It seems that the principal activity of these people was to mock, scoff, and point their fingers at the people who were partaking of the fruit of the tree of life. (vs.27) Their mocking caused some people to feel ashamed and fall “away into forbidden paths” (vs.28) and become lost.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not about to put the blameRead Full Post2 Comments
“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” 
This statement appears on the introduction page of the Book of Mormon and anyone who has cracked open a copy is probably familiar with it. I’ve often wondered about what Joseph meant by “most correct” because that is quite a profound claim. I think a clue is in the latter half of the quote where he mentions “precepts.”
A precept is, “any commandment or order intended as an authoritative rule of action; but applied particularly to commands respecting moral conduct.”  What is moral relates to “the practice, manners or conduct of men as social beings in relation to each other, and with reference to right and wrong.” 
This isn’t just another book with some history in it; the Lord refers to it as a “new covenant.”  He says, “the whole worldRead Full Post6 Comments
We talk a lot about receiving and following revelation, but I’ve learned in my experience that the process itself is not as simple at it may first seem. There are real dangers involved because not all revelation that crosses our path comes from God.
The word revelation in Greek is apokalupsis and means “disclosure:–appearing, coming, lighten, manifestation.” The English word revelation comes to us from the French revelare around the 1300s and means to “unveil, uncover, lay bare.”  In its plainest sense, when revelation is happening, we are basically seeing something that was unseen before.
The trick is determining what exactly we are looking at, its source, and what we should do with it, if anything. If we simply swallow any new information without vetting it first, we are going to have potentially disastrous problems.Read Full Post0 Comments
Credit to JR Ganymede for bringing this to my attention (love that blog) and credit to Albert Jay Nock who wrote this essay in The Atlantic Monthly in 1936 (full essay). While the context of the original essay was political, I want to use Nock’s interesting summation of Isaiah’s situation to point out something related to the Book of Mormon. Here’s the excerpt that I’m drawn to:
In the year of Uzziah’s death, the Lord commissioned the prophet to go out and warn the people of the wrath to come. “Tell them what a worthless lot they are.” He said, “Tell them what is wrong, and why and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don’t mince matters. Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them good and strong and keep on giving it to them. I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you,” He added, “that it won’t do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life.”
Isaiah had been very willing to take on the job — in fact, he had asked for it — but the prospect put a new face on the situation. It raised the obvious question: Why, if all that were so — if the enterprise were to be a failure from the start — was there any sense in starting it?
“Ah,” the Lord said, “you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.”
So, I like this quite a bit and while you might find some inspiration to get you through today’s politically heated climate, turn your thoughts to the Book of Mormon. I would say that Isaiah’s mission mirrors several others in the Book of Mormon and five-six in particular come to mind: Lehi, Abinadi, Samuel, Nephi (the disciple), and Mormon/Moroni.
In each of these cases, they spoke to civilizations that each ended in destruction – they were the final warning. Their primary audience in large part, or in some cases, entirely, rejected their words but those words were carried to a remnant. Isaiah the prophet influenced each of these key players in Book of Mormon history, including Samuel. They were all involved in going forth to proclaim an unpopular message to a people that would turn their backs, but they were obedient nonetheless.
How much did reading and understanding Isaiah’s words give them the confidence to follow through with the Lord’s instructions? Did focusing on “the Remnant” help them to stand strong and even suffer death by fire to maintain their convictions? If so, think of what that can mean for us today when we find ourselves before a troubled world. Isaiah saw our day and so did the people of the Book of Mormon, perhaps that is a reason why their words are interwoven in the record we have before us today.
True are the words from Steven Kapp Perry’s song, “From Cumorah’s hill there comes a witness and a warning…”
To understand Isaiah better, I personally recommend brother Avraham Gileadi’s excellent translation and commentary of Isaiah that can be found free of charge at IsaiahExplained.com. Reading a modern translation straight from the Hebrew without the framework of “King James English” is phenomenal. Isaiah comes through clear as a bell and you’ll better understand why the Book of Mormon prophets and Jesus himself valued his words so much.1 Comment
In Jacob chapters 2 – 3 we find one of the most passionate and heart-wrenching sermons in the Book of Mormon. Jacob, the brother of Nephi, and the Lord himself speaks in condemnation of two major themes; the Nephite’s lust for riches and for taking many wives and concubines.
While the Book of Mormon as a whole condemns the practice of taking many wives and concubines, verse 30 of chapter two is said to indicate an exception to that rule. While the practice is condemned as a gross crime, a whoredom, and even an abomination, verse 30 appears to indicate that God will not only allow but command the men of his people to take on many wives and concubines to “raise up seed,” a reference to posterity. The phrase “raise up” is a bit enigmatic if you only look at this verse alone. Does “raise up” mean simply the act of bringing up children, does it mean increasing the population at a higher velocity, or could it be referencing something else entirely?
I believe that there is enough evidence within the text and supporting scriptures that provide an alternate interpretation. As with any post on this site, I am open to corrections if I am in error at any point. I don’t speak for the Church, I am not a scholar, and nobody should feel any obligation to believe anything I say. This blog is simply a place where I share some of the things I’m exploring.Read Full Post21 Comments
I would like to address the subject of modern idolatry in the form of wars of aggression, near-eastern emperor-vassal covenants, and voting your conscience.
The following is an excerpt from Spencer W. Kimball’s classic talk The False Gods We Worship. The whole talks is a remarkable and prophetic read, it pulls no punches and clearly hits every point soberly. This excerpt focuses on how we deal with our mortal enemies and the idolatry involved in our current policies that have degraded even more since the days of 9/11.
We are a warlike people
In spite of our delight in defining ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had—in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people—a condition most repugnant to the Lord.
We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:Read Full Post4 Comments
Alma the younger had an incredible conversion experience that has parallels to Saul of Tarsus’ conversion in a couple of interesting ways. Both involved a heavenly messenger appearing while they were traveling about, and they both told slightly different versions of their stories at a later time. I compare this to my own personal experiences and Joseph Smith’s various first vision accounts.
Saul’s experience was first told this way:
And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. (Acts 9:4-8)
Later, when he is recounting his experience to King Agrippa there are some slight differences:
And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. (Acts 22:6-10)
Both accounts start out almost exactly the same but the second account adds “of Nazareth” to Jesus’ quote and excludes Read Full Post0 Comments
“…the hearts of the people began to wax hard, and that they began to be offended because of the strictness of the word…”
I was listening to Alma 35 this morning on my way to work and this line stuck out to me. In today’s understanding the heart is more of a feeling thing, we distinguish it from the thinking done by the brain. We find the word leb translated as heart often in the Bible, it’s from lebab which is the organ in the middle of your chest.
Anciently the heart wasn’t just for feeling, leb means, “very widely for the feelings, the will and even the intellect; likewise for the center of anything.” So with the Nephites, their feelings, wills, and intellects were waxing (growing or passing from one state to another) hard, and they were beginning to be offended because the word was strict (or accurate; exact).
Twice we get the sense that this was gradual, it happened over time. The strictness, exactness, accurateness of the word did not offend them at one point, it didn’t until their feelings, wills, and intellects became hard and unbending.
I think this rings very familiar to the present day.1 Comment
I was driving with my daughters on the way to school and we were in a rush and had to pray in the car. My 8 year old offered a prayer and asked, “please bless us to do good in school and to make good grades and to be nice to people.”
I took the moment to point ask her to reflect on what she was asking God to do for her. I told her that is was ultimately up to her if she was nice to people or wanted good grades. God won’t suddenly make you nice or magically give you good grades. I needed to illustrate a different approach. Well, I shared 2 accounts with her that came to mind from the scriptures; the first is from Nephi’s account. I’m not driving so I have the luxury of including the actual text here:
But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren; yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am bound. (1 Nephi 7:17)
Nephi expresses his desire for deliverance, but he doesn’t expect it without Read Full Post2 Comments
I love reading anything by Margaret Barker, if you don’t know who she is then you need to look her up and buy some of her books or read some of her articles online. She’s a Methodist scholar and has brought some amazing insights into Judeo-Christian studies that have piqued the interest of LDS scholars. Over the years, she has made many wonderful contributions to LDS research and I am grateful for the interest and respect she has for LDS theology.
The following transcript is her analysis of how Joseph Smith’s contributions to an understanding of the ancient world match up with some of the things we have discovered in modern scholarship. Enjoy!
A Transcript of Her Response
The Worlds of Joseph Smith
An International Academic Conference at the Library of Congress
May 6, 2005
– – –
It isn’t easy to respond in twenty minutes to such a rich and interesting paper. Professor Givens has set Joseph Smith in the religious and cultural context of his time and has raised many important issues. I should like to take a few of these issues and set them in another context—Jerusalem, in about 600 BCE.
Do the revelations to Joseph Smith fit in that context—the reign of King Zedikiah, who is mentioned at the beginning of the First Book of Nephi? (King Zedikiah was installed in Jerusalem in 597 BCE.)
I am not a scholar of Mormon texts and traditions, and I must emphasize that. I’m a biblical scholar specializing in the Old Testament. Until some Mormon scholars made contact with me a few years ago I would never have considered using Mormon texts and traditions as part of my own work.
“Are the revelations to Joseph Smith consistent with the situation in Jerusalem about 600 B.C.E?”
Since that initial contact I have had many good and fruitful exchanges and have begun to look at these texts very closely. I’m still, however, very much an amateur in this area. What I offer can only be the reactions of an Old Testament scholar—“Are the revelations to Joseph Smith consistent with the situation in Jerusalem about 600 B.C.E?”
First, Professor Givens raised the question of ongoing revelation and an open canon. As far as we know there was no question of a canon in 600 BCE and ongoing revelation from the prophets was accepted, even if what the prophets said was uncomfortable.
One generation earlier there had been the great upheaval inRead Full Post0 Comments
“And now, when [King Lamoni] heard these words, he said unto [his servants]: Now I know that it is the Great Spirit; and he has come down at this time to preserve your lives, that I might not slay you as I did your brethren. Now this is the Great Spirit of whom our fathers have spoken.” (Alma 18:4)
King Lamoni was dead wrong about Ammon being the Great Spirit. He goes further than just stating this as a theory, he says, “Now I know that it is the Great Spirit,” but how can he say that he knows something that is later proven untrue?
How many times do we hear people testifying that they ‘know’ something? Maybe they do know, but then again, maybe they don’t, so what sense can we make of this?
Here’s where things get interesting to me, although Lamoni was wrong about Ammon’s identity, he was rightRead Full Post0 Comments
Junior Ganymede had a great post about Lehi’s Vision and the people pointing the fingers. The post author had been out with the missionaries and the woman they were teaching had some insights that were expounded upon, here’s a small snippet:
The fingers are being pointed to single out people for mockery. But she also saw it as a way of shifting responsibility. I think she is right.
The pointing finger is the finger that assigns responsibility. When it points to mock, it is designating the scapegoat. If the scapegoat is not explicitly given the blame, then the role of the scapegoat is to validate the existence of the inner circle by creating someone who is not part of the inner circle. And in an inner circle, by nature, questions of responsibility do not arise. One is not judged on merit but on membership.
The great and spacious building is key to understanding the modern structure (the Cathedral, That Hideous Strength, the Clerisy, the New Class, the Polygon, etc.). It explains its relationship to status. It highlights its divorce from reality, its existence in a purely social and symbolic world.
Understanding that the modern structure is a way of shifting blame and avoiding responsibility is also a valuable insight. It explains the victim sweepstakes and the grievance mongering. (A spiritually degenerative pursuit, obviously).
The blame-shifting aspect is what caught my attention. Today’s pointing fingers manifest themselves asRead Full Post2 Comments
I have put the words that I believe are related directly to the divine Mother motif in ALL CAPS AND BOLD. The following verses in this article area all connected to each other and certain key points have been emphasized.
I encourage you to open your scriptures and take the time to ponder them in context and look for other connections because they are everywhere.
The Tree and the Virgin
1 Nephi 11:7
which bore the fruit
which thy father tasted
1 Nephi 11:8
I looked and beheld a TREE
the beauty was far beyond
yea, exceeding of all beauty
and the whiteness thereof
did exceed the whiteness
of the driven snow
1 Nephi 11:13
I beheld a VIRGIN and she was
exceedingly fair & white
1 Nephi 11:15
A VIRGIN most beautiful and fair
above all other VIRGINS
1 Nephi 11:18
the VIRGIN which thou seest is the
MOTHER of god after the manner of the flesh [original manuscript & 1830 edition]
1 Nephi 11:20
I beheld the VIRGIN again
bearing a child in her arms (vs.7 – tree which bore the fruit)
1 Nephi 11:21
knowest thous the meaning of the TREE?
Note that the tree itself (not the fruit) and the virgin are both ‘exceedingly’ beautiful/fair and white (another word for pure). The virgin and the tree are synonymous but that isRead Full Post11 Comments
Today at the beginning of Sunday School I was handed a little white slip of paper with some scripture verses to read. Here’s what I read in class:
And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles; and they went forth out of captivity, upon the many waters. (1 Nephi 13:12-13)
It was reinforced in the class that the “man among the Gentiles” is Christopher Columbus. I suppose that in reading verse 12 you would think that the Spirit coming down and working upon someone would mean that they were righteous and sent by God to do good. In this country we celebrate Columbus Day and it seems as though many Latter-day Saints hold him with a kind of reverence, see him as a visionary, and perhaps even a prophet of sorts.
God does not always work upon people to bring blessings and happiness, sometimes he sends them as a scourge:
And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation… (2 Nephi 5:25)
Lehi prophesied about it:
“Yea, he will bring other nations unto them, and he will give unto them power, and he will take away from them the lands of their possessions, and he will cause them to be scattered and smitten.” (1 Nephi 1:11)
Wait a minute, am I suggesting that Columbus was sent as a scourge, how is that possible? Well I started outRead Full Post5 Comments
It’s happened to me several times, in fact, the first 17 years of my life were lived without any real sense of the presence of God; at least that was my perception at the time.
Time went on, and God did manifest himself to me many times and in many ways. Some of these experiences were subtle and sublime, while others sound like something you’d read about in the scriptures. But then something unexpected happens…
Life was at times like a sailboat on a vast ocean, the wind filled my sails and pushed me forward with purpose and vision. Then, for no apparent reason, the wind ceases and there is a perfect calm. Often it isn’t this sudden, the winds fade slowly, almost imperceptibly, until the profound stillness dominates the scene.
I’ve noticed that God appears to leave me alone at certain points in my life. Alone to the degree that there seems to be nothing I can do to bridge the gap and I find myself in a void. Prayers feel unheard and questions begin to enter the mind. What happened, where did he go? Did I offend him in some way, is there something I’m doing wrong? I tend to look inward during these times and take an inventory of my life.
While such a practice can be healthy, it can also turn to doubt, fear, confusion, disaffection, anger, and apostasy. I think that it is common for many to reach this state of windless waters and abandon ship thinking all is lost.
Like I said, I didn’t always know there was a God, but I do now. Yet I’ve felt a little hurt at times where I’ve been in these situations where I’ve felt like I needed answers and the heavens were quiet. I know that the heavens must hear me, but I don’t know why there is no perceptible reply.
What I’ve wanted to know is “why,” why this abandonment? I’ve been in this most recent void for a while now, surviving on rations of remembrance and continuing my pursuit of faith through exploration and just living life.
It is through that continued exploration that I think I found my answer. A thought hit me while ponderingRead Full Post4 Comments
For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time. (Mosiah 1:4)
I was listening to this chapter yesterday and then read it again today. I don’t know that I have anything profound to say about it but I wanted to point a few things out that I think are of interest.
The plates and the information they contained was critically important in perpetuating the covenants between the people and God. Lehi was taught in the language of the Egyptians, it never says how but that information might have been in the book of Lehi that was unfortunately lost.
This verse says that the engravings on the brass plates were in the Egyptian language, but I guess that somehow I missed that detail. I had speculated that perhaps Lehi knew Demotic and that was the language they wrote their plates in.
The brass plates might have been an unprecedented artifact, something akin to the Antikythera mechanism or the Codex Gigas, crafted by some passionate visionary and retained in a private treasury. Read Full Post2 Comments
There’s something interesting in 3 Nephi where Jesus starts quoting Isaiah (for three verses) and then stops because the people aren’t getting it. He then heals them, institutes the sacrament, calls apostles and then says that he’s returning to Isaiah but quotes several verses from Micah first. After all of this he picks up again where he left off on those three verses but he quotes them differently.
I’ll break this down, let’s start in chapter 16 of 3 Nephi.Read Full Post2 Comments
Why does my life feel like there is nothing but crap get dumped on me?
“I have digged about it,… and I have dunged it; and I have stretched forth mine hand almost all the day long…” Jacob 5:47
My best friend moved away and I lost a good week’s worth of work from the flu; why must there be so much loss in life?
“I will prune it, and dig about it, and nourish it, that perhaps it may shoot forth young and tender branches, and it perish not.” Jacob 5:4
Life was simple but now I have all these new situations to deal with. I’ve got these annoying new neighbors who just moved in and I just got this new calling that I reluctantly accepted. Why does all of this have to happen now?
“Now, if we had not grafted in these branches, the tree thereof would have perished.” Jacob 5:18
My life just feels like chaos and I don’t even know if God is aware of my circumstances.
“…it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard.” Jacob 5:51
***Phone rings***Read Full Post2 Comments