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.
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
There is a lot of repetition in religious life from rituals to ordinances, practices, and even scripture reading.
Let’s take scriptures as an example and I’ll let you think about how the metaphor applies to other things. First, imagine you are looking into a mirror, what do you see? Well, you see yourself of course, your face is backwards but that’s you. If you come back five minutes later, there is your face once again, but maybe you notice something new, an out of place hair, a blemish, or perhaps something stuck in your teeth. Other than that, everything else seems just as it was.
The mirror itself doesn’t change, if you come back 5 minutes later or 50 years later, it will continue to reflect as it did before. The purpose of the mirror is not to change, but to enable observation. They enable us to perceive things in a unique way and to review changes over time. The mirror reveals new things, but those new things do not come from the mirror, they are already there, we just lacked the ability to perceive them.Read Full Post
The following is taken from Hugh Nibley’s Teachings of the Book of Mormon: Semester 1, pgs. 6-7. I’ve had this book for a long time and I went back to it to find this quote because it made a big impact on my thinking at the time and my motivations for journaling.
The book is the most remarkable invention ever made, as Galileo says. It is the miracle of miracles. “If anything is to be hailed as the greatest of all miracles, it would certainly be writing,” he said. In 26 simple symbols you can convey not only what happened and what people’s names were, but what they did (you can do that with TV), but their innermost thoughts and most sensitive feelings can be conveyed by these 22, 24, or 26 letters of an alphabet. Nothing else can do or ever has done that.
So writing comes to us as a special message and special emissary. That’s where you get this emphasis all the time in the Book of Mormon. They talk about the importance of the record, how it’s transmitted, how its handed down, the characters it’s written in, the trouble they have writing it (preserving the pages, etc.), because as they tell us,”this is the only way our knowledge can be preserved.” That’s why they had to go back and get the brass plates.
The only device that has defeated time and space–and it does that, as Galileo says. But it’s not a human invention of course. We are told it is a superhuman invention. That’s what put me onto this; I was referring to some other stuff. Writing is so minimal, so extremely simple. Any instrument that will make a scratch on any surface will record the most subtle message for any period of time over any amount of space. That’s astonishing what you can do. Of course, it has to be a rather permanent service and things like that, but it’s so simple. Are you have to do is scratch something on a surface, and you have done it.
To read it again you don’t need elaborate the electronic equipment or anything like that. But the price is this (this is where it comes, of course): How do you unravel it? You don’t need an elaborate electronic machine to feed it back into. You have to feed it back into yourself. You have to riddle (to read means to riddle; it’s the same word). You have to unriddle what is written there. That’s up to you; this is the thing. Reading is an act of faith. When you read, you riddle. You use your wits. That’s why to say you’ve read the book of Mormon doesn’t mean anything. It’s how much you have applied to it here. You have to extract the meaning, and you have to do almost all the work. There’s an immense lot of meaning in most of the verses in the Book of Mormon, an enormous lot.
These words awakened in me a sense of the miracle that writing truly is, particularly in its ability to transmit ideas from one mind to another. Speech possesses the same ability but it vanishes once the speaker is gone. Writing is far more sticky, after all, “The faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory” (Chinese proverb).
I thought of how reading an autobiography takes you into the mind of the writer, you can understand them, and get a peek into their mind through their words. It then became immediately clear why the scriptures were so important and so different than any other writing. Many of the words in scripture come directly from the mind of God, even if they arrive to us slightly corrupted by human language, transmission, and translation.
If we are sensitive, the words act as a catalyst for the Spirit which can iron out kinks and allow us to understand without obstruction; what a tremendous thing that scripture can do! Be careful to not be so distracted by the hands of men that you fail to discern the fingerprints of God.
For this reason, and in spite of my own weakness in self-expression, I write here on this blog and keep various journals chronicling my journey through life (large plates) and the words of the Lord delivered through his servants or to me personally (small plates). I refuse to leave this life without providing to my posterity a witness of my dealings with God and how I understood his role in my life. Mankind has been gifted a spectacular power and the love I have for my children compels me to use it.
“Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord God,
When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the Lord.
People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord,
But they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12 NASB)
Perhaps the restoration marks the beginning of the end of that spiritual famine. Nephi wrote that we should “press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ” (2 Ne. 32:20). Habukkuk prophesied that, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14 NASB)
Those of us living today have no excuse for going about spiritually hungry or thirsty.
Yet even in our days of plenty, where you can obtain virtually any kind of nourishing food you could ever want, so many are malnourished because they subsist on junk food. We eat all this processed “stuff” and consume massive amounts of sugar, leaving many overweight, sick, and lethargic.
I think there is a spiritual parallel that follows as well. Instead of feasting on the word, we take our inspiration from trite quotes and memes and consume massive amounts of worthless entertainment that is at best sugar and at worst poison for the mind.
When our salvation depends on obtaining the Mind of God, what do we invest time feeding ours?
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 Post
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 Post
“And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them from their sins because of repentance; therefore he hath sent his angels to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance,which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls.
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Helaman 5:11-12, emphasis added)
I’ve heard this scripture about a billion times and I’m not complaining, it’s a great one, but sometimes we can tend to overlook the value of things that we are too familiar with.
The phrase “shafts in the whirlwind” always made me think of tornadoes, but having a shaft inside of a whirlwind didn’t Read Full Post
Well, today was like Christmas for me when I noticed that a domain that I have been wanting for quite some time had dropped!
I’m now the owner of “LecturesOnFaith.com“! You can find the Lectures online, but the websites are pretty terrible. I was surprised that nobody has taken the time to make a site worthy of the Lectures. Within a few hours, I built a brand new site where anyone can read the Lectures on Faith for free! On the main page, be sure to read everything there to understand the history behind them.
They originally constituted the “Doctrine” portion of the Doctrine and Covenants and contain some of the most simple and profound teachings concerning faith and how one may exercise it in a manner to bring salvation to one’s soul.